November 13, 2007
Auschwitz, Kitziot, and the War Against the Jews
By Abraham Cooper*
Six decades later, the trauma of the Nazis’ systematic murder of 6 million kindred during World War II remains a central pillar in the consciousness of every Jew. Nothing enrages and so unites Jews around the world than those who label the martyrdom of their loved ones as a fraud. No surprise, then, that Israel’s enemies would rush to embrace the bizarre but insidious, alternate reality of Holocaust Denial.
Indeed, Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s popularity has soared among many Arabs from the day he launched his “Holocaust is a myth” campaign that includes Holocaust cartoon contests and multimillion dollar miniseries.
Yet despite the wholesale embrace of this “Big Lie,” there is another cottage industry of hate among Arab and other critics who don’t deny the Holocaust. Instead, they seek to co-opt it by casting Israel as today’s Nazi genociders and Palestinians as today’s Jews. When vandals recently scrawled on the Kalandia checkpoint north of Jerusalem the infamous Auschwitz Death Camp inscription "Arbeit macht frei" (“work liberates”), Machsom Watch, a self-appointed NGO monitoring group, denied responsibility, but a spokesperson added: “Of course, I agree with the comparison.”
Now, Khaled Amayreh, writing in Al Ahram, talks about a riot by 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners at Israel’s Kitziot Prison most of whom are directly linked to suicide bombings and other terrorist acts as “much like Auschwitz.” "The Prison," he alleges, is “a real concentration camp minus gas chambers” because the Israeli authorities used tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons to restore order after the prisoners rioted rather than submit to a routine inspection.
Of the 1000 rioters, nine suffered “serious or significant” injuries. One received a fatal head injury. Are there prisons in any other country around the world that would not use similar measures to put down an inmate riot? Would prison authorities anywhere else around the world be accused of being “Nazis” for having done so, despite the unfortunate injuries?
Amayreh claims to know, first-hand, what went on in Kitziot Prison because one prisoner called on a cell phone from behind bars to tell him: “I don’t know what a Nazi concentration camp looked like, but I imagine that Kitziot looked very much like a concentration camp.” So far as we know, the inmates of Nazi concentration camps never managed to make outgoing calls during the Holocaust to register their complaints to the outside world.
Here are a few inconvenient truths about Kitziot that Al Ahram did not choose to include: The prisoners can attend group prayers and sermon on Fridays. Inmates can send and receive photos and even videos from family members. Many “attend” open Universities, receive medical and dental care, and watch TV. They can see members of their families once every two months. Pleasant: Hell No! But Auschwitz?
Having confirmed for his readers, that Israel runs Nazi-like concentration camps, Amayreh extends the equation to the entire Gaza Strip where, we are told, “Israel continues its slow-motion genocide of the occupied territory's estimated 1.5 million persecuted inhabitants.”
Perhaps Israel was naïve when it thought it would gain a peace dividend from unilaterally leaving Gaza. Quite the contrary. The fault we learn lies exclusively with Israelis redefined as “Nazis”: “Here the Jews are starving us to death,” one unemployed resident laments, “Gaza is a large concentration camp. It is very much like Auschwitz. Yes, there are no gas chambers and crematoria. But people are dying for lack of food and lack of medicine. . . . And I am 100 per cent sure that hadn’t it been for the world media and international public opinion, or whatever is left of it, Israel would have disposed of us a long, long time ago.”
In the minds of those who believe this, the “Final Solution” of Palestinians is now being planned. Amayreh asserts that, for such a big job, Nazi/Israel looks to evil allies including Americans and even Egyptians but especially to world Jewry: “Israel doesn’t want to take sole responsibility for exterminating the people of Gaza. The Israeli government has been inciting the powerful Jewish lobby, which deeply influences American policies and politics, to pressure Egypt to seal its border with Gaza so that the concentration camp can be perfected.”
Palestinian suffering much of it cynically orchestrated by Hamas to provoke a global backlash against Israel is real, and must be meliorated to the degree possible. Israeli policies should be open to scrutiny and legitimate criticism. But there is no “slow motion genocide” akin to Auschwitz. For Amayreh to suggest otherwise is a travesty of history and an obscenity against the memories of the million Jews murdered there.
So what was Auschwitz really like? Here are two entries from the diary of SS-Doctor Johann Kremer:
2 September 1942
3.00 a.m. attended my first "Sonderaktion". Dante's Inferno seems to me almost a comedy compared to this. They don’t call Auschwitz the extermination camp for nothing! ["Sonderaktion" were Nazi special extermination actions.]
5 September 1942
In the morning attended a "Sonderaktion" from the women’s concentration camp (Muslims); the most dreadful of horrors. Hschf. Thilo army doctor was right when he said to me this is the “anus mundi” [anus of the world].
“Muslims” indeed died in droves at Auschwitz. No, these victims were not followers of Islam. “Muslims” was the term the SS used for emaciated, doomed inmates, awaiting gassing or starvation.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Arab and Muslim world was not hermetically sealed off from the unfolding Holocaust. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al Husseini, allied himself with Hitler, toured the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, recruited 20,000 Bosnian Muslims to serve in the Waffen SS which murdered Jews and Serbs in the Balkans. On the other hand, Khaled Abdelwahhab, a Tunisian Arab who sheltered his Jewish neighbors from the Nazis, was among “the Righteous Among the Nations” from Nazi killers.
There is plenty of room for the narratives and aspirations of two peoples in the Holy Land. But there is no hope for authentic dialogue and coexistence until people like Mr. Amayreh stop their propaganda blitz that continues Hitler’s War Against the Jews.
*Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center