In 1899, Mincie Fidelman, nine months pregnant, boarded a train, leaving behind her Russian home, most of her family, and everything she had ever known. She was running for her life and for the life of her child. I only know this because my husband’s mother, Molly, was born on that train, somewhere in Germany by then, a day or perhaps two at most, after Mincie had handed her ticket to the conductor and relinquished her life to whatever lay ahead. Between 1880 and 1910, nearly two million Jews fled Russia, desperate to save the lives of their children, born or, as yet. unborn.
At that time, Amos Elon writes, “Russian was the only European country that banned foreign Jews from entering…,” (The Pity of It All – published 2002). It was also the only country where “recurrent anti-Semitic pogroms were government-inspired diversions from the miseries of daily life.” Pogrom is a Russian word meaning devastation but was soon to enter the book of internationally recognizable words, this one meaning a violent outrage against a particular ethnic group. In other words, also internationally recognized: rape, torture, murder, destruction of property, devastation of soul, obliteration of hope.
In the news this week was the 1982 interview with Rae Kushner, the grandmother of Trump’s son-in-law Jared. She remembered the Germans entering their town, searching for the Jews. Her father was a shop keeper. Other Jewish shop keepers had already sold up and left. They said to my father and mother, “Sell everything and run.” But Rae’s family didn’t go. They told us, “they’re killing Jews.” We didn’t believe them. We said, “What kind of people would do that.”
We in the US have had it good so far, but we’re beginning to find out just what kind of people would round up human beings on the basis of their religion, color, clothing, culture, place of birth. There’s Jered Kushner, for one.
I’ve never been able to stomach racists Jews. In my mind, they belong in a circle of Hell designated for those who refuse to remember their own history and therefore are forced to repeat it. How could any Jew judge an entire group of people as one entity? People stand as individuals and should be judged as individuals. I raised four children. They were all born within five years of each other. Still, each of them is as different from the other as a Mexican mother is different from a Saudi father. And as similar, too.
This was 1941, right after the Germans invaded. The Germans took the 50 girls to the town square. Every town had a square where the people used to take walk, usually on a Saturday. On saturdays all of the Jewish people would walk in the square. The Germans took us to the square and there was music playing, a whole orchestra. The Germans had gathered all of the intelligent people together. There where maybe 100 or 150 doctors, lawyers, professors, and teachers together. The German shot them as the music was playing. The blood was running on the square on the stones. We, the 50 girls, were supposed to wash the blood from the stones. We put the dead bodies on a wagon. The heads of the people were hanging off the back of the wagon. We knew these people. The music continued to play and we washed the blood off the stones of the square. The Germans had a ball in the square. They were dancing in the square.
Our similarities are, at times, difficult to detect. But don’t fool yourselves. This MO of Trump’s and Bannon’s and the rest of the power-happy contingent isn’t new—tried and true, as a matter of fact. And if the schools had had any interest in teaching history, more people might recognize these old and un-masked methods.
This administration, the one which Rae Kushner’s grandson Jared eagerly supports has already begun hunting the vulnerable with its selective ban on Muslim travel. It’s already begun its attack on Knowledge. It’s begun undermining our Constitutional rights. It’s begun threatening those who raise dissident voices, e.g., artists, intellectuals, journalist. It’s unleashed hatred and set it free on innocent people beyond our borders. It’s given a rabid idiot with limited information the right to send death squads out in to lands far from here, seeking to destroy the children of the enemy because, as he says, “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorist, you have to take out their families.”
Pogroms, Jared, are government instigated attacks on people, whole families, of a certain ethic identity calculated to distract their citizens from the Truth. Your grandmother should have explained this to you. Maybe she did you were too thick to catch on. Well, at least you’ve bought yourself some time. Others aren’t as lucky.