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Roger L. Simon

Welcome to the 1930s

August 3rd, 2014 - 9:40 pm


When I was a kid, I mean a little kid, my favorite nurse in my father’s office — he was a doctor — was Mrs. Mindus. I’m not sure how old she was or even how she spelled her name — I was about six and the year was 1950 — but she was a sweet woman and very welcoming to me when I visited the radiology office. She used to bring me crayons and a coloring book and sometimes candy as if I were her own child. The only other things I remember about her were that she spoke with an accent and she had a string of numbers tattooed on her arm.

I wondered what the numbers were. I had never seen anything like that on a grownup’s arm. She explained to me she had been in a concentration camp — Auschwitz — and felt lucky to have gotten out, maybe guilty as well, because the rest of her family had been gassed. My father told me about it too — about Mrs. Mindus’ dead husband and their dead children and so forth. I think he wanted me to know about it.

This was, as you might imagine, hard for a six-year old boy to wrap his mind around. But those macabre numbers on Mrs. Mindus’ arm had a profound effect on me. I thought of them frequently growing up and I think they had some influence on what I did in life, joining up with the civil rights movement at the age of twenty and then later making some movies about the Holocaust.

Often, however, as with many memories, Mrs. Mindus faded from my mind as I enjoyed my life, living la vida artistica, writing novels and films, traveling abroad. Those horrifying events were in the past. It could never happen again. Even when Israel was at war in 1967 and again in 1973 I never really worried. (Later histories by Michael Oren and others have taught me otherwise.) Anti-Semitism was, for the most part anyway, a thing of the past, of concern only to the Anti-Defamation League and similar organizations. They could take care of the rare outbreaks.

How naive I was!

Now more than ever in my life I am haunted by Mrs. Mindus. The tatooed numbers spook me, not because I expect to see friends and family being carted off to the camps, but because I see a world of anti-Semitism metastasizing so quickly across the globe there might not be time for that. From Paris to Caracas, from Brussels to Bangkok we hear chants of Jew-hating as loud, ugly and perhaps even more wide-spread than we did in the 1930s. Paris has even had a new Kristallnacht. And in dear old Blighty, “Hamas! Hamas! Jews to the gas!” goes the cry on the London streets with Jewish Labor Party leader Ed Miliband for all intents and purposes leading the band himself!

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It is almost the 9th of Av.
Already in my neighborhood there has been a drive by shooting and an attack on a bus by a tractor. Shortly I am going to Synagogue to pray and begin the fast.
I want to take a moment to thank many of the posters on this thread and on so many others here at PJM who, by their comments, have elevated my soul in a very personal and profound way.
Your kind words and remembrances have touched my heart and will remain with me forever.
As kind and noble a bunch of folks as I have ever met.
My greatest wish is to welcome each and everyone one of you to Yerushalayim when you come to visit.
From my heart I thank you, each and every one.

My the G-d of Abraham hold you and your families dear. May you know only health and prosperity. May you be Blessed in every way.

Thank you.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
I never saw the tattoos but I saw the pictures of family members of my father's employers who died in The Holocaust. My father was handicapped. He was born with clubbed feet which were somewhat surgically corrected by the Shriner's Hospital in Atlanta. He wore heavy metal braces for much of his young life, and I can only imagine what that must have been like for a young boy in the rural South of the '20s and '30s; it was cruel enough when I was a kid there in the '50s and '60s. He was 4-F and spent WWII building Liberty Ships. After the war, he came home to our small town, built a house with his savings, and settled in the help farm the family place with my grandfather. But you really can't support two families very well on a single-family farm so he sought wage work to help out and wound up being employed by the Rosenberg family who owned one of several Jewish-owned "dry goods' stores in my home town. The family had a special affection for my father and later for me and my sister. Mr. Rosenberg died either just before I was born or when I was very young. The store was one of those typical small-town retail stores from the late 19th, early 20th Centuries with 20 foot ceilings, bunches of paddle ceiling fans, and a mezzanine-like second floor in the back which housed the store office, from which you could overlook the sales floor, and stock rooms. I was allowed up there sometimes and sometimes I just sneaked up there. Mrs. Rosenberg kept it almost has a shrine to her late husband, and while she ran the business from it, she kept it as if she expected him to return to work tomorrow. He had pictures of people in quaint, to me, clothing, lots of Jewish newspapers in both English and, I think, Hebrew, and pictures, lots of pictures, of the horrors the liberating troops found. I knew little about The Holocaust, almost nothing really, because the horrors of WWII just weren't talked about, and especially not with children, in those days. All I knew was that the Germans were bad, had done bad things to the Jews, and we had defeated the Germans. The Rosenbergs were very interested in Israel, and even my poor family paid for a few trees to be planted in Israel.

But the pictures of the relatives that were killed or who just disappeared and the horrible pictures of the camps stuck me deeply and later on I became quite interested in The Holocaust and fairly knowledgeable of it. I the late '90s, I took a class called "Seminar on The Holocaust." The requirement was 12 hours of History or the Professor's permission. I got in on the 12 hours, but most of the rest must have gotten in on permission. It was a senior-level class, so other than adults like me, everybody would have been a junior or senior. Few could have put The Holocaust in the Second World War, put WWII in the right century, told you who the major combatants were; it was simply appalling, and these were students interested enough to be taking a class they didn't have to take unless they were a History Major.

I know none of my kids got any real History in High School, and you can get through college without any History these days in many schools, and those that require some History as a general requirement only require survey classes that seem to be at about the Junior High level, or at least the junior high level as it was forty or fifty years ago.

So, Roger, you're talking about things that almost nobody in America under the age of 50 or so knows much about and much of what they know is wrong. To the extent they even know of anti-Semitism as a concept, it is something practiced by the KKK and other White Christians when they aren't lynching Blacks. Israel is a mean, nasty, rich country that picks on the poor countries that surround it, and the US backs Israel because of the influence of rich Jews in America. Rich Jews in America are rich, therefore they must have cheated poor people somehow to get rich and are therefore bad people. No, Roger, it is worse than the '30s. At least in the '30s most people had some moral and religious underpinnings and knew a little history, so they could draw logical conclusions. That ability is gone in much of the US res publica.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
People of the Book are under assault.

Christians are being murdered, persecuted, maimed and mutilated.

Jews are being shown the rage that has been simmering beneath the surface of leftism for decades. The propagandists hid the hate behind a wall of lies and deception. But make no mistake, some of us have been pointing at it for years.

I first saw the tattooed numbers as a little boy as well. Maybe 10 or 11. I was the sports "hero" of my town. Baseball, football, basketball. A very quiet neighbor asked my father if he could give me a gift of a new glove his company manufactured. He had built a sports manufacturing business from scratch. My father sent me to his home.

We sat at his kitchen table and he brought out some samples, asked me questions about my life outside of sports...but he seemed to already know me. Then, he saw me catching glimpses of his numbers. I was brought up to be too polite to stare and too respectful to ask.

He looked at me with kindness and told me how they escaped. They gave their baby daughter (who was 6 or 7 years older than I was as I sat there) a sedative and placed her in a casket.

They then "funeral marched" hoping to get past the checkpoints and any other guards or random SS.

If the baby awoke or cried out, it would likely be the end of all of them. They had lost parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. They made the walking trek of a few miles to the last checkpoint. A guard insisted they open the casket. None before had done so...a brief hint of humanity in the beastiality, I suppose. But, this last guy had none.

They pleaded to no avail. The baby was so young that her breathing was very shallow. The guard did not lift her or jostle her. He only looked. He then looked at the father. And closed the casket.

I had a favorite glove made by Wilson (an Aparicio) in those days. And a favorite bat by Louisville Slugger (a Clemente)...but I never used them in a game for two or three seasons. I used a strange looking black bat and a glove nobody ever heard of. It was my honor to do so.

Funny, but had I used the Aparicio and Clemente I don't know if anyone would have noticed. Maybe they would have, but not nearly the number who asked me about the black bat and the no name glove.

And I told that story over and over. It was my honor to do so.

Still is.

I love you, Israel. And the Jewish people. And no, I will never forget.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (175)
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I grew up near Skokie IL where many Jews settled after WWII. I too, saw firsthand, the number tattoos on the women who worked in the yummiest bakery ever but only in the summer when they wore short sleeves. To see is to believe. Wake up America!
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr Simon, here in France, we frenchmen, jews, christian, atheists, moderates but not liberals ( not the same meaning as in the USA ) have no time left for nostalgia. The European Union rules our country from Brussels, France is nowadays a puppet-state like all the others 27 countries members of the EU. All decisions concerning immigration are taken in Brussels and translated in local idioms . France is crumbling under a 7-8 million muslim immigrants wave , all legalized with french citizenship . Their electoral weight is crushing all the previous schemes about integration, french culture, tolerance , assimilation. From a single unified country we are morphing into a communities patchwork where ethnic identity is the key. The muslim french are deeply anti-jews and anti-Israel . Therefore the left parties will automatically adapt their platform to please this constituency; the right parties are cowardly and covertly doing the same . So Anti-zionism, anti-Israel, pro-djihad speeches are " trendy " . In the new France a community of 7-8 million muslims have much more voice than a feeble half a million jews who define themselves firstly as frenchmen and not as jews.You understand the cards are trumped. In 20 years from now french jews will be less than half of today. " Political correctness" is just a camouflage for adapting to the new demographic reality. So I repeat, we have no time left for nostalgia. We must act now.Emigration is contemplated by the lucid ones .
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nine million Jews lived in Europe in 1900. There are about 1 million there today, largely in France and Britain, the rest scattered around the continent. Yet Jew hatred is still Europe's default position if not it's national pastime. Over the next 10-15 years most will emigrate, many to the US and Canada and the remainder to Israel. Then Europe will no longer have to be concerned with the "Jewish Problem" , they instead will have the Muslims all to themselves.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's not just the Democrats. The Republican establishment IS COMPLICIT.
I know this because they censored me for exposing precisely this genocide. They pulled all my work and never told me why. You'd think the GOP would want to hammer Obama on his, to put it mildly, disastrous foreign policy. But you'd be wrong....

Here's what the GOP is covering up for Obama...
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
The "extreme right" was never behind the Nazis, who were the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Since when are socialists rightwing anything? Of course, it might be defined differently in Europe, but here in the States "right" is toward less government and more personal freedom, "left" is toward more government and less personal freedom. The Nazis were DEFINITELY into maximum government control and minimum personal freedom.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's not exactly true. Ernst Rohm, who was the homosexual brawler of the SA, was the socialist. Hitler was not a socialist... nor was he a military man. He was a community organizer.
The Right in Germany, the militarists who could not get over losing WWI, were largely responsible for empowering Hitler. They wanted to re-fight the lost war, the loss of which they blamed on the Jews and the Communists.
The NSDAP, also known by its Social Democrat slang, "the party of Hot Brothers," was kind of a gay nationalist party that eventually won the respect of nationalists, then the support of industrialists (who Hitler saw were paid well).
The Holocaust, in earnest, only began after two events 1) when the Wehrmacth made contact with the Soviets in Poland, 2) when the Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al Husseini, convinced Hitler to kill, not deport, the Jews. Husseini had been a pioneer in mass murder during the Armenian genocide.
These, unfortunately, are true facts.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
I hope it never comes to that - I doubt it will in this country - but understand this Christian redneck and his shotgun will stand guard outside your Synagogue on the Sabbath so you can pray.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Islamic jihadists are not as organized as were the Nazis. They will not bother with tattooed numbers when they slaughter Jews and others.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
While living in Germany 25 years ago, I remember walking past an old Hebrew Cemetery almost everyday. It sat above the town's municipal cemetery, and all of its inscriptions were in Hebrew. Once, an elderly man stopped me and we conversed in the local dialect. He was an old War vet, perhaps 80 years old. He told me about the local synagogue, and how it was destroyed after all of the local Jews were hauled out on trains to the death camps in the East. After the war, the local town, feeling guilty, fixed up the old cemetery, and spent quite a few bucks replacing all of the ancient tomb stones. However, the place was Judenfrei by then. If any of the Jews were lucky enough to survive, they never returned. The old man didn't speak with much remorse. He himself, survived a long time in Russian captivity (He was captured in 1943), and he had many good things to say about the Russians; but, he had nothing to say about his old Jewish neighbors who were exterminated.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
From when I was a small boy, I remember the numbers on the arms of the Jewish couple, who ran the deli when I was growing up in Queens. The numbers were nowhere as neat and round as those above. Legible, neat, but ugly, disfiguring tattoos. When my mother explained to me, without embellishment or drama, what they meant, I was horrified. I have a life long immunity to antisemitism.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's not conservatives sir, it's those few left of us Christians who respect the chosen nation so often chastened for the honor and we too are slowly being herded toward those out of sight out of mind places. Like He said,"when I return, will I find faith on earth?"
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
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