70 Years Later, Hitler’s Ghost Looms Large

70 Years Later, Hitler’s Ghost Looms Large

Guest Column / By Rabbi Abraham Cooper

Rabbi Abraham Cooper for Atlanta Jewish Times
Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Seventy years after the end of World War II, the first and last documents authored and signed by Adolph Hitler continue to impact on events and the hearts and minds of men.

At 4 a.m. April 29, 1945, the man who had vowed that his Third Reich would last a thousand years signed his political will and testament. Later that day, he married Eva Braun, and the next day they committed suicide rather than be captured by the Soviet army.

Despite the fact that the genocidal monster had succeeded in destroying two out of three European Jews, including Anne Frank and 1.5 million other Jewish children, Hitler still blamed the Jews for the catastrophic global conflict he had unleashed.

And then Hitler added these words about his archenemy the Jews: “Centuries will pass away, but out of the ruins of our towns and monuments, the hatred against those finally responsible whom we have to thank for everything, international Jewry and its helpers, will grow.”

The Fuehrer was wrong. It didn’t take centuries but a mere 70 years for history’s oldest hate to ferociously re-emerge on the streets of Europe. Respected polls indicate that at least 150 million Europeans harbor anti-Semitic and/or extremely anti-Israel views

Anne Frank, who perished in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp just before British troops “liberated” the skeletal survivors, penned these words in her diary: “I keep my ideals because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

But even as millions of tourists stream into Anne’s hiding place in Amsterdam, Dutch Jews who openly display their Jewishness find themselves under assault. Chief Rabbi Benjamin Jacobs, who sports a long beard and kippah, laments, “Forty years ago when I came to Holland it never, ever happened that someone would call me in the street a dirty Jew or curse me because I am visibly Jewish,” but now it is a regular occurrence.

Down the street from the Anne Frank House, many young Muslim students refuse to sit through lessons about the Shoah, mock Anne Frank and even spout on national TV that “Hitler should have finished the job.”

Last summer the streets of Berlin and Frankfurt echoed those sentiments at pro-Hamas rallies with chants of “Hitler was right” and “All Jews to the gas.” Despite the strongest anti-hate laws in Europe, German authorities took no action.

This Yom HaShoah, Jews cry not only over past martyrdom, but also to mourn the growing number of European Jews killed by Islamist terrorists: a rabbi and 8-year old girl executed on a Jewish school playground; a volunteer guard gunned down at the entrance to a Copenhagen synagogue where a bat mitzvah celebration was taking place; four Jewish shoppers slaughtered at a kosher supermarket in Paris; and four people killed outside the Jewish Museum in Brussels.

It is true that today’s terror is different. It is not launched by a government but by transnational, theologically fueled terrorists. Increasingly, however, many European Jews are feeling the frigid chill of apathy, the type of which encouraged Hitler in the 1930s and paved the way for the genocide of the 1940s.

This Yom HaShoah, community leaders wonder what good is it to have politicians shed a ceremonial tear for dead Jews when they don’t take steps to protect live ones.

On May 8, President Obama and other world leaders will travel to Germany to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Nazi tyranny. Many eloquent words and symbolic-rich moments will be beamed around the globe.  But Holocaust survivors and world Jewry would give it all up — for the following words from President Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister David Cameron and President Vladimir Putin to the Ayatollah Khamenei:

“On the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the Nazi Holocaust, the P5+1 will sign no nuclear deal, will end no sanctions unless and until you publicly end your stated goal of annihilating the Jewish state of Israel.”

Which brings us to the first document signed by Hitler: It was in 1919, when he was still in the German army and was assigned to present an analysis of the Jews, who, despite serving Germany loyally during the war, were already being scapegoated for “stabbing Germany in the back.” In a lengthy “analysis” Hitler typed and signed, he wrote:

“Anti-Semitism stemming from purely emotive reasons will always find its expression in the form of pogroms. But anti-Semitism based on reason must lead to the systematic legal combating and removal of the rights of the Jew, which he alone of the foreigners living among us possesses (legislation to make them aliens). Its final aim, however, must be the uncompromising removal of the Jews altogether. Both are possible only under a government of national strength, never under a government of national impotence.”

No one took the unknown corporal seriously. Later, the world dismissed his “Mein Kampf” as bombast and in 1938 embraced the promise of “peace in our time” despite the evidence that Hitler was preparing for war. The next year, Hitler launched World War II and his genocide against the Jewish people.

Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, where he read the original 1919 letter.  The world’s failure to take on Hitler’s Jew-hatred then is the key to understanding Bibi’s and our refusal now to believe any spin that the ayatollah’s anti-Semitic threats are mere posturing.

It’s not too late for President Obama to break the silence. Now is the perfect time to signal the Iranians that never again means never again.


Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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