September 3, 2018, 4 am, Cornelia, Georgia, USA
Tonight I dined with an amazing Israeli couple, here in "no mans' land" (in terms of Jewish communities). Providence provided me with this Israeli couple who prepared for me a kosher Israeli vegetarian meal. While sipping Turkish coffee and chatting with Danielle she mentioned that her grandmother was "the only remnant of the family" in their native Ukraine.
Sadly that is not unusual. Each one of us has a story, each one of us can recount how few of our extended family survived the Holocaust, we are the small remnant of a Jewish world that was destroyed, a Jewish world that had existed for millennium but is no longer.
Every Jew you meet will have a story, a tragic story. Every Jew you meet will be descended from the "remnant of the family that survived the Holocaust".
Florida, just a few days earlier, I am sitting and chatting with a dear friend, a good man, one of our Krav Maga instructors, and he brings up a difficult topic. Friends of his have been sending him information on how "the Holocaust has to be an exaggeration", how "it simply is not mathematically possible that 6 million were killed as the Jews claim".
Two visits, two conversations, two different realities.
My friend was asking me to explain the topic as he was not well versed in it.
Well first, it is not a Jewish claim, it is a universally accepted historical fact acknowledged by all legitimate historians and extremely well documented. It is not a "Jewish claim". We have enough tragedies without having to create fictional ones.
I am not a scholar, I am not a historian or a professor of Holocaust studies but I am a Jew who lives the Holocaust on a daily basis and I have studied the Holocaust since a young age. I attempted to answer this difficult question.
First it was not only the Germans who perpetrated the Holocaust, that is a key point one must understand. In nearly all the lands were Jews lived the local populations played a key role in the murder of the Jews, a role that today they make every attempt to deny. But the truth shall not be denied. The blood cries up from the ground and shall not be silenced.
My father's family, between Tarnopol and Lvov, as soon as the news arrived that the Germans were the new authorities the locals went into action. Before the Germans actually began their efforts to "round up the Jews" the local population of Ukrainians and other related peoples were hard at work massacring "their" Jews. Throughout Eastern Europe local populations went to work killing their Jewish neighbors and plundering their homes and businesses. Thus it was not only the highly efficient German "war machine" that killed the Jews, it was also countless "ordinary" people.
To continue to answer the question how could so many be killed we must look at the German records themselves. Read the biography of the commandment of Auschwitz Rudolf Höss, he documents quite well the Nazi leaderships demands on him and the quotas of deaths he had to meet. He often complains in his autobiography of the challenges he faced in having to exterminate so many Jews in such a short amount of time, but "to his credit" he succeeded. It is all documented and no intelligent person can dispute this.
He tested and carried into effect various methods to accelerate Hitler's plan to systematically exterminate the Jewish population of Nazi-occupied Europe, known as the Final Solution. On the initiative of one of his subordinates, SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) Karl Fritzsch, Höss introduced pesticide Zyklon B containing hydrogen cyanide to the killing process, thereby allowing SS soldiers at Auschwitz to kill 2,000 people every hour. (source: Browning, Christopher R. (2004). The Origins of the Final Solution : The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939 – March 1942. Comprehensive History of the Holocaust. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-1327-1.)
The Nazis knew what they were doing, give them their due, they knew how to kill. Just look at modern farming today and the billions of animals slaughtered each year.
Over 56 billion farmed animals are killed every year by humans. More than 3,000 animals die every second in slaughterhouses around the world.
While many of us can recite the names of the leading death factories, known as concentration camps, most do not know that there were an estimated 15,000 such "camps" throughout occupied Europe. Do the math, it is actually believed today that more than 6 million Jews and millions of other undesirable groups were murdered.
Another day, another visit, this time with cousin Joe in Cleveland. We sit, we chat, we are family. And Joe tells how he saw his mother, little sister, older sister and her baby, friends and relatives, how they each faced the notorious Angel of Death, Dr. Josef Mengele and were sent to the quick deaths. This is real. This is personal testimony.
Of my great grandfathers' family, of 11 siblings, only one survived the war. One died a natural death while the rest were murdered. That is only one quarter of my story. Do the math, see how quickly the numbers add up. My best friend Harry, before the war the family numbered 300, after the war just 6. Do the math, multiply by all the Jewish families you know, the numbers add up fast.
Auschwitz-Birkenau, Ravensbruck, Plaszow (where my sister in laws family perished, may God avenge their death), Bergen-Belsen (Anna Frank) Oranienburg, Mauthausen, Majdanek, Belzec, Buchenwald, Chelmno,
Say it out loud, in each one of the places Jews were brought to be gassed, starved, murdered.
Dachau, Sobibor, Sachsenhausen, Terezin, Treblinka, Janowska, Jasenovac, ....only some of the better known.
It happened, and it can happened again. The truth must be spoken.
Moshe Katz visiting Auschwitz, where many of his relatives breathed their last.