Posts Tagged ‘Auschwitz’

Letter From New York 03 13 16 Quieter but not more peaceful…

March 13, 2016

It is grey and overcast outside; warmish but not so much as yesterday, a bright and beautiful day in the Hudson Valley.  Yesterday, with my friend, Pam, I went down to the Farmer’s Market, still held this time of year in the Parish Hall at Christ Church, purchasing a ganache for dessert, a freshly baked baguette and a few other things.

Since I have volunteered to lead the charge for Easter Brunch at church, I tarried while Sally Brodsky, the chief kitchen person at Christ Church, showed me how to operate the stove and ovens, which had befuddled me.

As I type this on Sunday morning, I am sitting in the living room with shards of sun slipping between the clouds.  Pamela is showering and Tory is catching a few more winks of sleep.  In a bit of time, I will be taking them down to the Hudson Train Station, sending them off to New York, where both have business this week.

They have been together for twenty-six years; Tory and I have known each other for thirty-one.

As everyone does these days, we talked politics as the fantastic scenario of this year plays out.

Trump rallies have grown violent, left wing protestors and Trump supporters clashed in Chicago.  Conservative reporter Michelle Fields has claimed that Trump’s campaign manager assaulted her when she tried to pose a question to the candidate.

Marco Rubio is making Tuesday’s Florida primaries a make or break it for him, as Kasich is doing in Ohio.  If they cannot carry their home states, what hope is there?

Just moments ago, former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, endorsed Kasich.

There seems to be an effort by many Republicans to rally around Ted Cruz in an effort to stop the Trump momentum, a thought only slightly less scary than having Trump as the Republican nominee.

Hillary Clinton made an appearance at Nancy Reagan’s funeral and absurdly praised the Reagans for their leadership in the AIDS crisis which unfolded during his administration.  Anyone who lived through that era, and I did, will remember that they were famously silent on AIDS. 

What was Hillary thinking?

While all eyes here are focused on the race for the presidential nomination for the Democratic and Republican parties, there are major elections happening today in Germany, a major test for Angela Merkel’s open door to refugees and migrants.

I don’t think of the Ivory Coast as a vacation spot but in that country, Grand-Bassam, is a popular destination for Ivorians and foreigners.  Gunmen roamed its beaches and killed many; the number still undetermined and for reasons still unknown.

Suspicion, of course, goes immediately to IS for this kind of attack.  At the same time, it has been revealed that IS is forcing females to use birth control so that pregnancy will not interfere with their use as sex slaves.  You can’t rape a woman if she’s pregnant, so birth control is being use to prevent pregnancy and allow for continued rape.

The world’s oldest man is a 112 year old survivor of Auschwitz, a former confectioner, living in Haifa, Israel.  It took awhile to confirm his status as so many records were scattered during the war.  But he has been now affirmed, a living monument of a terrible time.  The oldest living person is a 115 year old American woman, who was born in 1899.  What they have seen…

Not so long ago, the head of IS’s chemical attack force was captured.  It did not prevent them from launching a chemical attack in which 600 were wounded, a child died and thousands fled their homes.

I’m home now, after dropping Tory and Pam off at the train station for their trip into the city.  We had lunch at Vico, on Warren Street, where we all had a great burgers and wonderful fries.

In the time since I’ve left home, now about three hours, the Ivory Coast has confirmed 14 dead and there has been a suicide bombing in Ankara that has killed at least 27 and wounded 75. 

So the world beat goes on, while I am now seated on the deck, looking at the creek slowly passing by, a mallard having just taken flight to the north, bleating as it ascended into the sky.

When I came here, there were hundreds of mallards.  Most are gone now.  It is quieter but somehow less peaceful.

Letter From New York 04 21 15 A city in sunshine instead of rain…

April 21, 2015

The very first thing I did today was look at the Weather Channel app on my phone. It told me that New York was going to have a rainy morning and cloudy afternoon. Well, all day the sun has been pouring down joyfully and relentlessly upon the city, to my great delight. I hope it stays that way.

Just now, it was announced that the Saudis are stopping their month long aerial attack on Yemen’s Houthis, called “Operation Decisive Storm” and replacing it with “Operation Restoring Hope.”

Yemen needs some hope. Its feeble infrastructure has been overwhelmed by the attacks and food and medical supplies are in short supply due to the Saudi sea blockade, holding up ships to make sure they weren’t carrying arms. Yemen is desperate for hope.

However, while the bombing is over the fight may not be. The Saudis are still determined to keep the Houthis from power.

In Egypt, former President Morsi has been ordered to spend twenty years in jail. He still faces several more trials on accusations against him from his year in power.

In 2005 a then 83-year-old German denounced Holocaust deniers and spoke of having seen the gas chambers and the ovens with his own eyes. Today, at 93, Oskar Groening, went on trial in Germany for his role as a bookkeeper for the Nazis at Auschwitz.

He has told the court he feels morally guilty even though he did not actually kill anyone personally. It is, he said, up to the court to find him legally guilty or not.

Italian courts will decide if the captain of the migrant smuggling vessel that capsized this week is guilty of human trafficking, reckless homicide and causing a shipwreck. He was one of the 28 survivors; as many as 950 may have perished.

In the last six days alone, almost 11,000 people have been pulled from the Mediterranean, attempting to reach the Italian coast.

The European Union will now play a bigger role rather than leaving it to Italy to shoulder this burden alone.

Almost all the human smuggling originates in Libya, which is in chaos and where IS has made some gains even as they have had to pull back in Iraq. There are conflicting reports today regarding Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-styled Caliph of the self-styled IS Caliphate. He either was or was not gravely wounded in a March air attack near Mosul.

Whether he is gravely wounded or not, the war with IS grinds on and there is fighting around Ramadi with residents torn between returning and staying away. They fled by the thousands as IS entered the city’s center. Now Iraqi forces seem to have retaken most of the town but there is still fighting going on.

At least six died in Mogadishu, Somalia as a result of a car bombing. Al Shabaab takes responsibility.

Certainly not dead or wounded is Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 89 today though the country celebrates her birthday in June. There has been a royal tradition that if a monarch is born during the winter months, celebrations will be in the summer, when the weather is better.

There were numerous gun salutes today while Her Majesty celebrated quietly with her family at Windsor Castle, where she has been in residence the past month.

Crowds are already lining up outside the hospital where Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William, is due to give birth to their second child. Some people have already been there for two weeks.

While the overall popularity of the British Royal Family is not in question, the popularity of the American President has not been so good of late. However, it is up right now, back in positive territory for the first time in months. As is the public’s view of Obamacare.

And in the world of entertainment, if you were a fan of “Full House” which ran on network television from 1987-1995, it will be returning for 13 episodes on Netflix, interestingly described in one news article as an “online network.”   Not all cast members are signed on; some are, some are still in negotiation. But with or with out the full cast, “Full House” will return to Netflix.

Since I never watched it on network television maybe I will have to see what the fuss is about when it reaches Netflix. But that will be awhile in the future. Tonight I am off to the theater to see Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane in “It’s Only A Play.”

Letter From New York 01 27 15 On the 70th Anniversary…

January 27, 2015

A light dusting of snow continues to fall but we did not have the major storm that was predicted; it veered at the last minute to the east, sparing both the city and Claverack. I’m still waiting for the plowman to come and do the drive but that’s minor compared to what might have been. All is calm.

The deer are scampering across the drive as I type, continuing their restless wanderings. Jazz plays on Pandora and I have a fire in the Franklin stove. It has been a lazy day. Trains weren’t running into the city this morning. It was, in effect, a snow day.

Sipping morning coffee, I read the Times and finished last week’s edition of The Week, my favorite magazine. In the afternoon, while doing some household things, a British mystery played. It seemed like that kind of day.

It is snowy and cold and winter desolate. Perhaps not unlike the January 27th of seventy years ago when Russian troops liberated Auschwitz. German soldiers were lining up prisoners about to gun them down when the warning came that the Russians were coming and they fled.

58,000 were forced on a death march from Auschwitz to other camps. 15,000 of them died before reaching other camps. Left behind were thousands deemed too ill or weak to walk.

Today, about 300 survivors of Auschwitz gathered in a white tent for ceremonies to mark the anniversary. The Presidents of France and Poland as well as the American Director, Steven Spielberg, of the famous Shoah Project, are joining them.

It is possibly the last major anniversary that will be attended by survivors of the camp; they are aging and passing from the scene. Many are in their 80’s now; the youngest in their 70’s. Soon time will have silenced their voices.

Let us hope the memory of what happened doesn’t fade and that we never again allow such things to happen.

But the signs aren’t good. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, perhaps now at the highest levels it has been since the end of World War II. Jews are leaving Europe at a faster pace than ever, frightened by the events around them. This was underscored during the Charlie Hebdo terrorist action in Paris where hostages were taken in a Jewish grocery store, with four being killed.

One of the stories I read today stated that Anti-Semitism is not returning to Germany; it never left. But there was a time when boys weren’t afraid to wear their yarmulkes and now some are.

90% of those who died at Auschwitz were Jews. The others were of Romani descent, political dissenters, homosexuals and others the Nazis hated. They hated extravagantly.

One survivor asked the question of how men could spend their days slaughtering human beings and then go home to their wives and children, eat dinner and listen to music? Because we are human beings, capable of extraordinary dichotomies, including the ability to do just that. Many days at Auschwitz 6,000 human beings were killed. In the end over 1.1 million died there, 15 square miles devoted to death. And those who did the killing went home at night and seemed to live normal lives. Is it possible? Yes, because it happened.