August 18, 2016: Learning Lessons

Readers respond to the latest Jersualem Post articles.

August 18, 2016 22:39
3 minute read.

Letters. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Learning lessons

With regard “‘Nobody would really have stood up to the Nazis,’ Goebbels’s secretary says” (August 17), I would like to point out that there were many who did at least attempt to stand up to Nazi ideology, either by direct confrontation or through hidden support for persecuted Jews.

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One case in point was the group of German college students and friends, probably contemporaries of 105-year-old Brunhilde Pomsel, known as the White Rose. They created a counter- Nazi movement by secretly publishing and distributing anti-Nazi flyers and leaflets.

Their movement was, unfortunately, short lived, and eventually the students met a tragic end. But they certainly did speak out, and determinedly so.

Ms. Pomsel’s thesis that few knew about the final solution in Germany during the Holocaust contradicts a plethora of documentation to the contrary, especially the recent multitude of soul-searching memoirs written by the children and grandchildren of some of the perpetrators and bystanders.

In regard to her “fond” memories of Joseph Goebbels and his family, it is well known that even the Nazi guards at Auschwitz enjoyed going back to their loving families after a day of killing, and even enjoying the music forcibly performed for them by Jewish inmates.

Indeed, what are the lessons to be learned from the Holocaust if not to prevent similar occurrences by studying the behavior not only of the victims and the perpetrators, but of the bystanders – who do have a choice.


Beit Shemesh
The writer is a gallery educator at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage/A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, and author of The Story of Harry Reiss and the Creation of the Rockland Center for Holocaust Studies.

Lesser evil?

It was shocking to read that you think judicial activism is a lesser evil than the excessive influence of small political parties over government decisions (“Judicial activism – The lesser evil?” Editorial, August 16).

Women at the Western Wall? What’s next? LGBT, Messianic, Buddhist Jews at the Wall? Right now, every Jew (even non-Jews) can go to the Wall, touch it and pray. You just can’t bring along your Hare Krishna drums and tambourines.

Our Wall isn’t big enough for all the factions that would want to proudly march under whatever flag allowed by judicial activism; we’d have to build a bigger Wall – and what would the UN say about another Israeli wall-building endeavor? First, democracy is the political environment in which freedom of the press thrives. The Jerusalem Post and most other media are dependent on that democracy.

Our democracy also allows small parties to participate in elections and be represented in our Knesset.

Restrictions on small parties through minimum thresholds, whatever the benefits, are a fundamental restriction on democracy, on the voices of whatever groups they represent.

Second, judicial activism by an oligarchy of unelected jurists is decidedly undemocratic.

It dangerously cedes quasi-legislative or, at least, veto authority through the back door, potentially promoting one political agenda over another.

One could argue that a fractious, multi-party condition is even more democratic (truly representative) than the often gridlocked two-party American example.

That system has led to another type of abusive legislative activism by the US president through executive orders and administrative activism by government agencies, such as the IRS, for political purposes, to the disadvantage of politically rightist and pro-Israel organizations.

Israel has brought together people from over 100 countries.

They have a wide-ranging spectrum of political, religious and social values. For better or for worse, we are not a melting pot. It is to be expected that our parties will represent that extreme range of views.

What you describe as excessive influence of small parties is perhaps better described as the weakness of our somewhat larger parties that have till now failed to win the hearts of a majority of Israelis. I doubt very much that your editorial would extol the undemocratic virtues of judicial activism if the political pendulum swung the other way.


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