Yom ha-Shoah, and why I shouldn’t try to be thought-provoking on FaceBook.

I debated putting a post up on Facebook last night. After all, it seems trite for a twenty-something who has lived most of her life in peaceful Australia to dare comment on atrocities which happened seventy-five years ago. In the end, I did. Because, you know, why not? Many other people are making posts about Holocaust Memorial Day. Plus, I thought, it would be a good lead-in to ANZAC Day today. And yes, once I find biscuits and/or rosemary to photograph, there probably will be a post there about ANZAC Day.

Another reason was to get people thinking. The Holocaust wasn’t just about the Jews. It’s not that I have anything against Jews – quite the opposite, in fact; and I’ve studied Hebrew, worshipped at Synagogues, and been raised by a (sort of) Torah-observant parent – but simply that a lot more happened during the Holocaust than just the Jews.

Perhaps it was wrong of me not to list all the minority groups targeted by Nazi policy. But then, even though I’m going to try to mention most of them now, I’ll probably still miss some. And bearing in mind, I’m not an expert. I’m just compiling some (very) easily-available information.

– black people (of course), even though Jesse Owens faced greater persecution in the US than in Nazi Germany. Up to 25 000 black people were living in Germany when the Nazis came to power, and although there are records of horrific incidences, such as 400 mixed-raced children forcibly neutered in the Rhineland, and black prisoners of war were especially targeted, there was no systematic attempt to kill them all and I haven’t been able to find numbers as to how many died.

– pretty well any non-Germans except the Japanese, as well as a few “ideal Aryan” groups such as Afrikaans and certain South Americans of “obvious Aryan descent”. Even though Swedes were considered an Aryan ideal and “interbreeding” was encouraged, many of the up to 12 000 children were taken from their Swedish mothers to be raised as Germans.

– after 1943, Italian nationals such as partisans and soldiers were sent to concentration camps.

– 7000 Spanish republicans were killed in concentration camps, as well as Spanish Civil War refugees.

– as well as the 300 000 or so disabled people who were killed, around 350 000 were forcibly neutered.

– 1 000 000 gay German men were targeted, 100 000 of them arrested, 50 000 of them imprisoned, and up to 15 000 sent to concentration camps – although it’s not known how many of them died. Gay women (lesbians) were rarely imprisoned, although some were. Homosexuals liberated from concentration camps weren’t compensated for loss of family members and educational opportunities, as other Holocaust victims were.

– German Communists were some of the first people sent to concentration camps.

– up to 5000 Jehovah’s Witnesses were killed in concentration camps for their pacifism.

– Christians – all Catholics, and any Protestants who refused to join the state-approved Nazi-compatible church; especially in annexed regions such as Austria (where many priests were sent to Dachau), Poland (where thousands of clergy, nuns, and lay leaders were arrested after the Night of Long Knives killed hundreds), and the Netherlands (where about 100 Catholics were sent to Auschwitz). About 400 German priests were killed. One of my Lehrerinnen told of how her parents, along with the rest of the Catholic youth group, were chased around their small south German town by the Hitler Junge with intent to injure and kill, because they refused to renounce their faith.

– anyone who spoke Esperanto, because it was created by a Jew; some Esperanto-speakers were sent to camps.

– some Germans and Austrians who had spent most of their lives abroad were also sent to concentration camps.

Have I covered everyone? No, almost certainly not, and this post is already too long for FaceBook. But there’s something else I need to address. The statement that anti-homosexual laws were not repealed until the 70s while other Nazi laws were repealed in the 40s is not only misleading, but simply wrong.

Here’s a Nazi law I’ve had personal experience with. One of my classmates at Deutsche Schule, an Austrian-born dual national, had an older brother who had turned eighteen and cannot go home to his own country because he would be subject to Wehrpflicht – mandatory conscription. The laws were in force in Germany until 2010.

Due to Nazi policies on the indoctrination of children, homeschooling is still illegal in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and parents who choose to homeschool are fined thousands of euros, face prison sentences, and have their children taken into custody.

The Holocaust was an awful time, Nazi ideology affected everything, and perhaps it was wrong of me to even mention it when I obviously have no authority to speak to it at all. I posted a short thing to get people thinking about it, because it was Holocaust Memorial Day. The fact that someone decided to pick a fight with a young student who was only trying to do a good thing late at night after a long day of classes shows a hobby-horse and a lack of judgement. The fact that said someone continued banging on about the same point even after it was explained might hint and bigger issues than just a desire for truth on the internet.

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One thought on “Yom ha-Shoah, and why I shouldn’t try to be thought-provoking on FaceBook.

  1. Jo Creek says:

    My take on this is the only thing “wrong” was the omission of some sub-groups, including that particular one – and I put the word wrong in inverted commas because you explained it was it was not deliberately excluded. Without emotion, you very clearly explained your points. That the person concerned was passionate about the topic does not indicate a failure on your part and, I believe, an explanation was all that was needed, not an apology.
    On Facebook it is easy enough to touch upon topics that someone else will have rational or irrational thoughts about. That’s one nature of what Facebook is about – sharing ideas. I’m not saying you disagreed with the person, but one aspect of Facebook – or any discussion – is having differing opinions and the ability to “agree to disagree”. I would not avoid such topics.
    How this incident, in particular, was handled by yourself was a positive reflection on your character and I thought you did well, Rachel.

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