Days of Remembrance, 2013: 'The Warsaw Ghetto Is No More'

It was all perfectly open.

In a Berlin speech on January 30, 1941 commemorating the eighth anniversary of his rise to power, Adolf Hitler elegantly marketed his plans for the "New Order" -- a euphemism for world domination encompassing mass enslavement and extermination of Untermenschen (subhumans) which would play out with the concurrent invasion of most of Europe -- to a clapping, appreciative crowd.

Though the Holocaust has come to generally signify the connection of Nazis with mass killing in the minds of most people, it originated in the special targeting of Jews, of whom six million perished in the New Order. Sealed ghettos and extermination camps were the means for organized genocide. Warsaw was the largest ghetto and transit camp for Jews deported from cities throughout Poland.

In one of the few known instances of armed resistance to the Nazis, a courageous, starving remnant of Jews fought back in what is known as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The uprising occurred on April 19, 1943, triggered by the final liquidation of the ghetto, perversely scheduled by the Germans for the eve of Passover and ending on May 16, 1943 with the equally symbolically perverse demolition of the Great Synagogue on Tlomacki Street.

General Jürgen Stroop proudly presented to Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, pedantic top Nazi responsible for carrying out the New Order, a beautifully bound volume covered in black pebble leather containing an introductory narrative, thirty-two detailed teletype communiqués, and fifty-four black and white still photos, most captioned in perfect hand-lettered Gothic calligraphy on deckle-edge Bristol paper.

This masterpiece is exuberantly titled, The Jewish Quarter of Warsaw Is No More! It was translated from the German, with an introduction by Polish translator, literary and drama critic Andrzej Wirth, and published by Random House from the original album that Himmler received.

It is designed to impress. German casualties in the Warsaw Ghetto -- between 400 and 700, as compared to approximately 300,000 Jews deported or murdered by German authorities between July 22 and September 12, 1942 -- are minimized within Stroop's meticulously typed lists. The victims are never referred to as simply Jews. In the Nazi verminization so vital to the Holocaust, there must always be moral justification; there are only "Jews and bandits." A typical pathetic pile of dead women and children in winter clothing, thrown onto rubble: "Bandits destroyed in battle." Bodies lying at the base of an outside wall: "Bandits who jumped."

"Never again" starts, and restarts, with lessons learned.

Established by the United States Congress in 1982, this past week's Days of Remembrance marked the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising according to the Hebrew calendar. To quote from the United States Holocaust Memorial site:

The United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance as our nation's annual commemoration of the Holocaust and created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the victims. Holocaust Remembrance Day is Monday, April 8, 2013. The Museum designated "Never Again: Heeding the Warning Signs" as the theme for the 2013 observance. In accordance with its Congressional mandate, the Museum is responsible for leading the nation in commemorating the Days of Remembrance, and for encouraging and sponsoring appropriate observances throughout the United States.

Now as then, atrocities occur all around us; now, as then, they're not real until they happen to be reported. Initially, we're upset, but it takes too much time and energy to sustain that -- we begin to tune out. Then comes rationalization; then, denial. Newtown becomes the new normal. The new order.


Image of title page from the first edition of mass-published The Stroop Report, ©1979 by Random House, Inc.

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