Brit-Am Historical Reports (18 August, 2014, 22 Av, 5774)
1. Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)
2. When Irish eyes smiled on the country's 'secret Jews' by Carl Hoffman
3. Hitler's Plan to Invade Switzerland
1. Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)
August 11, 2014 5:52 pm 27 comments
Author: David Meyers
It's hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,Â but German historian Gotz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II.
Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people's envy and hatred of Jews led directly to the Holocaust. ... He cites various authors in the 1800s who seem to presage the Holocaust, Â both anti-Semites and those who supported the Jews, but saw the inevitable tragedy that was to come.
Aly argues that envy, the crassest motivation of all, was at the heart of the Holocaust. Remarkably, he quotes many anti-Semites of the period arguing that Jews were, in fact, superior to the Germans in their intellectual ability, love of education, and willingness to engage in hard work to forge successful careers. This, the anti-Semites claimed, was exactly the reason that Germany needed to limit the ability of Jews to have the freedom to compete in German universities, businesses, and politics. According to Aly, Germans were jealous of the Jews and wanted the money, success, and influence they had achieved; and the Nazis took it all in the most horrific of ways.
Aly also traces some more familiar causes of anti-Jewish sentiment in pre-Holocaust Germany: economic destitution that arose from the misguided Versailles Treaty (which John Maynard Keynes predicted would destroy Germany and possibly lead to another war); the stab-in-tbe-back theory regarding Germany's loss in World War I (since no Allied soldier ever reached Germany, someone must have sabotaged the war effort, Â namely, the Jews); and the need for Germans to find a scapegoat for their ills. Aly makes a convincing case that age-old religious strife between Christians and Jews had little to do with the Holocaust.
In his book, Aly posits that the race-based eugenics championed by the Nazis was simply a rationale given to the German people to justify their anti-Semitism. While there are many valid criticisms of Israel to be had, it's hard not to think that at least some of the people lashing out at Israel are simply using the concept of 'anti-Zionism' to mask other feelings.
Is it really possible that raging anti-Semitism, which existed for hundreds of years before the Holocaust (and which is based, at its core, on envy of the Jews) no longer exists? Or does it simply live on today in a new, latent form? Even if most of Israel's critics truly oppose Israel only because of its policies, it's hard to imagine that the pre-Holocaust level of anti-Semitism has truly been banished for good. It seems to be only a matter of time before it raises its ugly, murderous head yet again.
2. When Irish eyes smiled on the country's 'secret Jews'
by Carl Hoffman
The Spanish Inquisition sought to punish Jews who had converted to Christianity but were not really 'sincere' in their conversions. The Christians began to call converted Jews 'New Christians' to distinguish them from the 'Old Christians' i.e. themselves. Derogatorily, Jewish converts to Christianity were called conversos meaning 'converts', or worse yet, marranos, meaning 'pigs'.
... the surprising revelation that emerged recently at an international conference, 'The Secret Jews of Ireland', held at Netanya Academic College. The conference, jointly sponsored by the International Institute for Secret Jews (Anusim) Studies and Casa Shalom Institute for Marrano-Anusim Studies, enthralled a large audience with a state-of-the-art overview of this fascinating but little known subject.
... The first historical record of Jews on the island dates from the year 1079 when, according to the Annals of Inisfallen, five Jews 'came from over the sea' with gifts for Tairdelbach, King of Munster and grandson of Brian Boru, the previous High King of Ireland. Historians believe that these visitors were likely to have been merchants from Normandy. Whoever they were and from wherever they may have come, these Jews apparently did not sojourn in Ireland for very long. The Annals record that after coming from over the sea and presenting their gifts to the king, 'they were sent back again over the sea'. Nearly 100 years later, English accounts mention a certain 'Josce Jew of Gloucester' as having financed an expedition from England to Ireland in defiance of a prohibition by King Henry II who forbade the expedition and later fined 'Josce' 100 shillings for bankrolling it.
A genuine community appears to have been up and running by 1232 when King Henry III granted Peter de Rivall the office of Treasurer and Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer, supervisor of the king's coasts and ports, as well as custodian of the 'King's Jews' in Ireland. The grant stipulated that henceforth all Jews in Ireland would be responsible to de Rivall as their 'keeper in all things touching the king'. While no direct evidence is known to exist, historians believe that when the Jews were expelled from England in 1290, they probably had to leave Ireland as well.
Jewish people were back in numbers, however, at the end of the 15th century, after the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, and then from Portugal in 1496. They landed, by and large, on Ireland's southern coast. As the Inquisition arose to root out and punish Jewish converts to Christianity deemed insincere in their new faith, the story of Ireland's secret Jews began.
According to Gloria Mound, director of Casa Shalom and principal speaker at the conference, Ireland seems to have offered a relatively convenient refuge for persecuted Marranos fleeing the Inquisition. As one looks at the geographical location of the country and takes into account the Jewish persecutions in Spain and Portugal, it can easily be seen that there must have been times when the Irish shores held easier escape possibilities than elsewhere. We know by the family names that the first Irish synagogues were formed by Sephardim. Other secret Jews arrived later," Mound says, "disguised as Huguenots, French Protestants, another persecuted minority fleeing from Catholic France." She notes the graves of two members of the Labato family, known Jews and purveyors to the army of King William of Orange, in the small recently restored Huguenot cemetery in Cork.
In addition, Mound says, 'It's almost certain that when the Spanish Armada foundered on the west coast of Ireland in 1588, there were Marranos amongst the crews who managed to save themselves, and they sent for their families. And possibly it is from that time that you get Jewish-sounding names like Donlevy, Castle, Castillio, Medina, Saunders and Levi. Amazingly, there always seems to have been somebody who kept the family histories.'
While England, Ireland's ruler, periodically mistreated Jews, subjecting them to a bloody pogrom in 1190, expelling them in 1290, readmitting them later, but imposing numerous restrictions, Ireland remained tolerant and permitted its Jews to live and worship more or less openly as Jews. Not surprisingly, many secret Jews rejoined their co-religionists and became part of the local Jewish communities.
Others, however, did not. Says Mound, 'It would seem that in the ensuing centuries, secret Jews often lived outwardly a Christian life, but in a number of places they went to rather isolated places and lived as clans, making little or no attempt to be part of the synagogue or a community.'
This desire to remain separate is reflected in a story related to Mound in a letter from the descendent of one such family whose records in Ireland go back to the year 1520. 'When the clan came to Ireland, they would not let the Jews stay in cities overnight, so the clan became mobile, living in horse-drawn caravans, going from town to town, selling livestock, mostly horses. Later, the ban against Jews in cities was lifted, but by then the clan said, 'No thanks.' There was some intermarriage from outside after conversion, but generally the clan was very strict, and very clannish.'Â The family followed Sephardic customs, had little or no contact with the later-arriving Ashkenazi Jews, and mostly emigrated from Ireland during and after the potato famine of the 1840s.
Some families of secret Jews have remained secret to the present day, often only vaguely aware of, or even denying outright, their Jewish heritage and ancestry. Mound cites the history of one such family, furnished by an informant from the U.S. state of Colorado, who asks that his present surname remain secret. The family emigrated from Ireland to the United States through Ellis Island, settled, developed businesses and became prosperous. They also brought with them certain odd family traditions that later intrigued one member of the family enough to want to uncover the reason why no one was allowed to delve into the family's past.
To all outward appearances they were Protestant Irish, though they never went to church except for funerals and weddings. They were not considered religious Christians, but Christians nevertheless. Yet their idiosyncratic traditions included elaborate family meals on Friday nights, with the lighting of candles and a prayer. They ate no pork or shellfish, avoided mixing meat and milk, and circumcised all male children.
Driven by curiosity, the family member decided to start by investigating the claim that the family was from among Ireland's so-called 'black Irish'. That was how the family explained their black hair color and the often appearing 'hooked' nose. He was immediately told by his relatives that it was the family's tradition not to discuss their life in Ireland or their ancestry. He was advised that it was important to focus on the present and not the past.
Unsatisfied, he traced the surnames in the family and discovered that his ancestors had come from Portugal and arrived in Ireland's south coast in 1496. They had changed their Spanish surname to its Anglo-Irish equivalent. Thus Castillo became Castle, enabling the family to leave their Iberian background behind and hide the Jewish identity that had caused them to be stigmatized and persecuted by the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal.
The now rapt investigator discovered that the family had gradually left the south of Ireland, choosing to move north to the more Protestant areas of the island. They had apparently wanted to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the Catholics who had made their lives Hell in Spain and Portugal.
Having unequivocally determined that his and his family's forebears had been secret Jews, the man hadÂ announced his discovery at a family gathering in New Jersey. His shocked relatives had summarily declared that he was crazy, warned family members to avoid him, and effectively expelled him from the family. He remains ostracized by them to this day.
Mound concluded her remarks at the conference on Ireland's secret Jews by noting that much more research and investigation remains to be done, 'as more and more young people, descendents of these secret Jewish families, desire to come and live here in Israel, and to finally, after many generations, come out of the closet. In addition, I think that many of the people in Ireland today who spout anti-Israel policies may well find that they themselves have Jewish connections to be proud of.'
3. Hitler's Plan to Invade Switzerland
In 1815, Europe's powers gathered in Vienna, Austria, in an attempt to draw long-standing, mutually agreed upon political borders which had blurred due to decades if not centuries of warfare.Â This group, called the Congress of Vienna, ended up agreeing to an act which not only rearranged Europe's borders and territorial rights, but also did a few other things, such as condemn the trade of slaves and ensure the neutrality of Switzerland.Â Switzerland has not been at war since.
If Adolf Hitler had has his way, that would not have been the case.
Hitler was not one to care much about treaties and agreements, and his aspirations, total control of Europe, if not the world, Â simply did not jibe with the idea of a neighbor, neutral, sitting on Germany's border.Â While Hitler's pre-World War II statements assured the Swiss that their neutrality would not be compromised, his tune changed as the war matured.Â Even though the Swiss stance of neutrality benefited Germany in some regards, Â for example, by providing financial services to Nazis, Hitler wanted to own Switzerland.
Taking Switzerland, however, was a fool's errand.Â The Swiss topology is not very conducive to invasion by tanks, which were some of Nazi Germany's stronger assets. On top of that, while Germany would have been able to take Switzerland (although not without suffering significant casualties, as Switzerland's populace was well armed), Switzerland was prepared to blow up much of its own infrastructure if invaded.Â So even though Switzerland is wedged between Germany and France, the strategic value of occupying the neutral nation was tiny.Â Â But when France surrendered to Germany on June 25, 1940, the strategic value of Switzerland became moot. Momentarily, Hitler's focus switched to Germany's neighbors to the southwest, with Germany planning its Switzerland invasion that same day.
The plan, titled Operation Tannenbaum, went through many revisions over the next few months, but by October, a plan had been set: Germany would invade Switzerland with 11 divisions of troops with Italy providing additional support.Â In total, the proposed Axis forces may have numbered as many as 500,000 men.
While Hitler was apparently repeatedly interested in invading Switzerland, he never gave the go-ahead to invade, Â and we don't know the precise reason why.Â There are many theories. Perhaps he was too busy focusing on other battles, Â the final Operation Tannenbaum plan was completed around the same time Germany lost the Battle of Britain, and just a few months before Hitler decided to invade the Soviet Union. Maybe others convinced Hitler that Swiss neutrality was a valuable asset, or that the fact that the Swiss had 20% of the adult male population under arms meant that any invasion would simply be too costly.Â Or perhaps he never got around to it.