AMSTERDAM (Press Release)–Anti-Semitism in the Netherlands nearly doubled in 2009 compared to 2008. Police said that 209 incidents had been documented last year, accounting for nearly a tenth of all discriminatory incidents in the country. Experts said this increase might only be “the tip of the iceberg”.
This represented a 48 per cent rise year-on-year against Jews and Jewish sites. During Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip in January 2009, 98 attacks were documented, including nine physical assaults. Other incidents in 2009 included vandals damaging synagogues and spraying graffiti on Jewish monuments.
The Jewish community in the Netherlands numbers around 30,000, less than 0.3 per cent of the country’s total population.
Meanwhile, the Dutch Foreign Ministry canceled a visit by Israeli mayors to the Netherlands because the delegation was to include leaders of West Bank settlements. Participants in the delegation, sponsored by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, would have included the heads of 30 small local councils, including from Arab communities.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress
By Rabbi Ben Kamin
SAN DIEGO — Muslims themselves should not take too much solace in President Obama’s recent avowal of support for the Cordoba House and mosque project at the cusp of ground zero. Spoken in the midst of a Ramadan gathering at the White House, the president‘s jaw driven outward in a now trademark signal of thrust conviction, his eyes staring upward rather than at the audience he is actually addressing, he nonetheless began to disavow his guttural outburst almost immediately.
I didn’t actually say I was in favor of that mosque, what I meant was even though I do feel Muslim Americans should build a mosque wherever they e pluribus unum, I probably was thinking more generally though I may or may not have had the ground zero mosque, er, community center in my mind. Or maybe not.
Jews should mark the occasion with a great deal of interest and concern. We heard from the president’s soul when he was so uncharacteristically “incautious” at the White House. We heard from his political advisers when he cynically back-pedaled on his revelatory burst so expediently.
In Holland, for so long wrongfully considered a benevolent place via its exported Anne Frank / anti-fascist mythology, Muslims account now for 10% of the population and the bulk of its harrowing wave of anti-Semitic harassment, hate-mongering, and personal violence. A lot of extremist Muslims, including those building a nuclear weapon in Iran, will see the ground zero mosque as nothing less than Koranic affirmation of their unhinged war against Judeao-Christian civilization.
We see stark evidence of radical Islamic brutality via the systematic mutilation of women’s faces, breasts, and reproductive organs—not to mention stoning to death. Blackberry units, You Tube, and rock music are shut down, from northern Africa to Saudi Arabia. Our efforts to save Afghanistan from its Taliban essence (Mr. Obama’s benighted and/or naïve strategy at the expense of American lives) are doomed, even as we share goals with the country’s thoroughly corrupt and ungrateful presidential-despot.
No, President Obama is not a Muslim, and these charges about his background are ignorant and devilish. That whole discussion is steeped in bigotry and contempt. But if he is deeply sympathetic to a highly questionable and hurtful project that insults American sensibilities and memories, that gives the radical Muslims who want us all vaporized or veiled a stunning triumph at the expense of our 9/11 grief, let him just say so.
Who are you, Mr. President? We want to know more than whom you are not.
Rabbi Kamin is a freelance writer based in San Diego
JERUSALEM–Some basic definitions useful for living in civilized societies and on their fringe:
Politics is a way of dealing with conflict without violence. It involves discussion, negotiation, voting for the purpose of deciding which individuals or groups ought to have the most influence, and then deciding on matters of dispute in ways to preserve at least a minimum of the comity necessary to avoid violence.
Comity is a sense of community. It assumes a sufficient sharing of culture, language, and values to provide mutual trust that allows participants in conflict to believe one another, at least enough to give up some preferences for the purpose of keeping matters that are subjects of conflict from straying into violence.
The matter is not only an issue at the upper levels of national and international politics. It also bothers us folks down in the neighborhoods of Jerusalem, where cultural clashes tempting violence are never far away.
“On the roof, there were yeshiva boys. Young orthodox boys with yalmakas and tzitzit and pay-itz around 12-15. As soon as he opened the door without any exchange of words, they started swearing at him and taunting him.”
Americans and having to maneuver around one another.
Jews that Jerusalem and Israel be better places than elsewhere.
Unfortunately, their persistence, combined with their ignorance, may prod the locals to make things worse. It is best to leave us alone. Good is good enough.
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University
By Joseph Toltz
MELBOURNE, 26 July – A special performance of the music of the Theresienstadt Ghetto (Terezin) was presented in Melbourne on Sunday, July 25.
Terezin, a small garrison town built in 1780 by Emperor Franz-Josef II, lies peacefully among
meadows and gardens, 38 miles northwest of Prague. To us, its German name is well known:
Theresienstadt, one of the most infamous Nazi ghettos, a place where 148,000 people lived.
Eighty-eight thousand passed through on their way to Auschwitz-Birkenau and other death and labour camps, while 33,000 died of disease and malnutrition in the camp. On May 8, 1945, the Soviet army liberated 17,247 people on the verge of starvation.
Terezín was the holding camp for Bohemian and Moravian Jews proud, sophisticated communities who had existed in the Czech lands for more than 800 years, embracing full emancipation under the enlightened rule of President Tomás Masaryk’s First Czechoslovak Republic. Joining the Czech Jews in Terezín were 57,000 ‘privileged’ German and Austrian Jews the elderly, decorated war veterans, prominent Jewish intellectuals, community leaders and famous musicians.
In time, Jews from Holland, Luxembourg and Denmark arrived to add to the mix. The intensity of artistic ability that came to Terezín was harnessed by the inmates, for the inmates,
through the organisation of ‘leisure time activities’ music, theatre, cabaret, sports,
art classes, lectures by academic experts. The cream of Central European intellectual life,
those who could not escape the Nazi talons did not sit idly by in this ghetto they created,
formed and breathed life into the most unique and amazing creations.
On July 25, I directed and performed in a concert presented by the Jewish Museum of
Australia that was inspired by the cultural life of Terezín; it complemented the museum’s current exhibition “Theresienstadt: Drawn from the Inside,” a series of intimate artworks by Paul Schwarz and Leo Lowit bequeathed to the museum in 1980 by Regina Schwarz. What made the concert unique was that it was not just a presentation of the music created in Terezín, but it provided a diverse journey into the musical lives of survivors, discussing the importance of music to maintaining hope, providing distraction and entertainment,
offering an opportunity for spiritual resistance, as well as providing an outlet for processing
what was happening to them at the time.
For the past four years, my doctoral dissertation has involved interviewing survivors of the
Holocaust about musical experiences in ghettos and camps. My journey began 12 years ago, with survivors of Terezín, who discussed the place of Brundibár a children’s opera composed by Hans Krasa, a Czech Jew in their hearts and minds. They referred me to other survivors from soloists from the children’s opera all the way to the two most esteemed pianists in the camp, the 96-year-old Edith Steiner-Kraus (in Jerusalem) and the 104-year-old Alice Herz-Sommer. Two years after our interview, Alice is still playing piano three hours a day, living independently in London. Over the course of four years, 25 Terezín survivors spoke to me of their incredible journeys in music in those years of hardship and trial, and their observations coloured our concert.
SO what was music in Terezín? It was an entire world of creativity, from the Jazz of Coco
Schumann and the Ghetto Swingers, to everyday pub songs and work songs. The first musical revues in 1941 were directed by the choral conductor Rafael Schächter and the Czech cabaret artist, Karel Svenk; in time they were joined by German cabaret artists such as Kurt Gerron (co-star in the 1920s with Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel), Willi Rosen and others who had escaped Berlin to Holland in 1938 sadly, not far enough away from Germany. Our concert featured some of these cabaret and jazz works.
There were four orchestras, including a famous Terezín string orchestra conducted by Karel An erl. An erl survived Auschwitz and other camps, and following liberation, rose to become
conductor of the Czech Philharmonic until his escape to Toronto in 1968. The concert featured a recorded performance by An erl’s orchestra, filmed as part of the 1944 propaganda
film made by the Czech Aktualita company.
Music became an essential part of children’s pedagogy through the opera Brundibár, the musical play Brou ci (the Fireflies) and participation in the children’s choirs. Adults also formed choirs all male, all female and mixed. Such choirs were devoted to Zionist or Socialist songs,
others sang Yiddish lider (many of the residents singing the language of their grandparents for
the first time) or Jewish liturgical works, and the larger choirs undertook the great oratorios
of the repertoire. At our concert, the King David School Chamber Choir presented excerpts of some of this choral repertoire, including a small section of Brundibár.
There were hundreds of chamber music recitals, from baroque and rococo repertoire, all the way to completely new music composed and performed in the ghetto by students of Janá ek and Schönberg, and former members of the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Concertgebouw (a concert hall in Amsterdam) and other orchestras. The
brightest stars of new Czech composition Gideon Klein, Pavel Haas, Hans Krása and Viktor Ullmann all were featured in our concert, performed by Anne Gilby, Eidit Golder and the A La Corda Quartet.
Music was not enough to help one survive though. If you were lucky enough to be in demand, then you could avoid resettlement (i.e. transport to Auschwitz), but by September 1944 this protection had evaporated and the vast majority of Terezín’s musicians were deported and murdered in the months of September and October.
In my discussions with survivors from Terezín here, in the UK, in Israel and the USA, I have
learnt one very important fact: music was an aspect that preserved the humanity for many
living in the appalling, conditions of the ghetto. Even if you weren’t a performer, music
provided an outlet, be it escape, hope, anger, and helped you process and adapt to the
conditions. It played a vital role for some in keeping their humanity alive, and it was the
preservation of that humanity that they carried throughout such terrible times, clinging to it, in order to remain sane.
Our concert was not just some missing link, providing the continuity in Jewish artistry and creativity in middle Europe. Nor was it a dry academic exercise, presenting an odd set of compositions that survived beyond all probability. Instead, it brought back to life the
humanity that existed in Terezín, against all odds. A humanity that we rarely think of when
considering life in the camps and ghettos, but a humanity that must have existed in order for our parents and grandparents, our uncles, aunts and cousins to have survived, to be able to build new lives and contribute so much of their own, rich musical culture to a place 12,000 miles away from the land of their birth.
This concert brought back to life the voices of the composers of Terezín. For the first time
in Australia, the Terezín polka sounded, forgotten by all except those interned in the camp, but notated by the sister of the composer who migrated to Tasmania after the war. The heritage of Czech Jewry lives in our Australian musical experience. Rudolf Pekarek, one-time
conductor of the Prague Radio Orchestra migrated to Australia with his wife after the war and
became the first conductor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, and later the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Coco Schumann moved to Melbourne in 1950, where for four years he played successfully with Leo Rosner and his Gypsy Band. Karel An erl toured the Czech Philharmonic to Australia in the 1970s, to great acclaim. Hundreds of Czech survivors made their home in Australia, ordinary people who brought with them a love and devotion to music and the arts. This concert was dedicated to them and their memory and
also as a legacy to those who died, whose music carries a unique voice for future generations to hear.
Joseph Toltz is a professional singer and academic.
Editor’s Note: Greg Gross, a retired reporter of the San Diego Union-Tribune recently visited Amsterdam and was moved to write a letter to Anne Frank after visiting the house in which she hid from the Nazis. His letter is reprinted with permission from his new blog “I’m Black and I Travel.”
Paid a visit to your house this morning, along with a few thousand other folks, the one where you hid for two years during the German occupation in World War 2, until one of your neighbors ratted you out to the Nazis and they shipped you all off like cattle to Bergen-Belsen.
I saw the rooms in which you lived behind shuttered, darkened curtains day and night, not daring even to let a pinprick of light escape. I try to understand how that must have weighed on your spirit, the conflict you must have felt as a young girl who wanted to run and dance and laugh — and knowing that you dare not do any of those things.
Even after seeing your house, Anne, it is hard to imagine your life.
I saw the stairs you climbed up and down to get to and from the hiding places that also served as hearth and home. My God, but they were steep! More like the ladders aboard the Navy ships I used to visit as a boy who dreamed of going to sea.
I picture you and your sister, Margot, lightly and silently bounding up and down those stairs in all your youthful agility. I’m sorry to report that neither youth nor agility have remained with me here. But in that perpetual memory that you left behind in your diary, I still see you now as you were then, young and effortless in defying gravity up those steep, wooden stairs.
The world will forever see you that way, Anne. Young. Alert. Observant and insightful beyond your years.
It’s sad to think of what you might have gone on to create and achieve had you lived to the age that I am now, or even half of it. But I prefer not to be sad when I think of you. I’d rather dwell on the incredible record of life you left behind.
You said you wanted to be a journalist and later a writer. Well, Anne, you were both. You faithfully recorded the times and circumstances of your life — and in doing so, you spoke for millions. Maybe you never knew the joy of cashing that first paycheck in return for your writings, but you were in fact a journalist, and a writer. I’m addressing you here as a colleague, not a child.
I saw that you left behind an unfinished novel in your house, which is fitting. Not just because your young life ended as an unfinished work, but because the struggle to rid the world of hatred, the same hatred that turned you from a child into a fugitive, also remains unfinished.
You’ve probably heard a lot of talk these days about “tolerance,” how we should replace hate in the world with tolerance. I don’t know, Anne. Tolerance seems a little negative somehow, a little inadequate. It’s as if we’re saying “I still see you as a cockroach, but I’ll put up with your existence.”
I think we might do better if we forgot about tolerance and focused on acceptance. Acceptance of one other just as we are, just as you saw us all. As human beings.
Anyway, thank you for being who you were, for the writing that you did, for the humanity you maintained in spite of everything. One day, we will meet, you and I, and talk shop. One writer to another. We’ll have fun.