originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press
On the morning before the Jewish New Year, I walked into a neighborhood grocery store and was greeted by a customer with “Heil Hitler!” and a Nazi salute. My stunned silence prompted the man to shout “Heil Hitler” even louder. He eagerly came closer to me, repeating the Sieg Heil salute, which was adopted in the 1930s to signal national obedience to Adolf Hitler. The crowd waiting in line for the cashier giggled. I gagged, and hoped it was all just a bad joke.
But it wasn’t. He turned to the crowd and explained why they should join him. “Hitler could rally the crowd, inspire everyone to join him. So follow me, Heil Hitler, then we’ll all say a prayer.” Hearing this linking of Hitler to faith and prayer, the cashier turned green. I turned purple.
Continue reading Counteracting the “Heil Hitler” phenomenon – by Deborah Levine
Antisemitism goes back long before the term was coined by a German historian in 1781. Violent attacks and expulsions of Jewish communities span centuries. The Babylonians exiled Jews from Zion, the earliest use of the term, into Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions. The Romans forced Jews into Europe. Blamed for causing the Black Plague, Jews were driven out of England, France, Germany, and Italy. They fled to Eastern Europe but experienced violent pogroms and isolation into The Pale. Throughout it all, the elements of antisemitism rarely changed.
For example, the Blood Libel dates as far back as the Temple in Jerusalem with claims that Jews sacrificed Greeks. It reappeared in the Middle Ages when an English cult announced that Passover Seder wine was actually Christian blood. Centuries later, a mob destroyed a synagogue in Damascus for this blood libel. As recently as 1928 in New York, Jews were accused of kidnapping and ritually killing a young girl.
Continue reading Explaining antisemitism – by Deborah Levine
After my father’s eightieth birthday, he told me that he was transcribing his World War II letters for me. My father, the son of an immigrant traveling shoe salesman, went to Harvard, and was trained at a secret US military intelligence camp. He wrote to my mother when he was a military intelligence officer deployed to France, Belgium, and Germany. Assigned to interrogate Nazi prisoners of war, he saw more than one death camp in the process. His letters are now more relevant than ever.
Continue reading The Liberator’s Daughter Writes Post-Charlottesville – by Deborah Levine