When the World Did Nothing

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My wife and I just saw the film “In Darkness,” which tells the true story of a Polish man who saved a dozen Jewish men, women and children from the Nazis by hiding them for 14 months in sewers. The heroism of the man is clear, but so is the depressing state of a world that forced human beings to hide in sewers.

Hitler rearmed Germany, thus breaking the treaty that ended World War I. Then he reoccupied the Rhineland. Then he seized part of Czechoslovakia, and then the rest of it. Still the world did nothing, hoping the Nazi regime would be satisfied. But its appetite was merely whetted. Before the Nazis were defeated, at least 40 million people were dead, including one-third of all the Jews in the world, and four out of five European Jews.

At first, Hitler wanted the Jews to leave, “For all I care, on luxury liners.” But with few exceptions, no nation admitted them. In 1938, delegates from 32 nations, including the United States, met in the French resort town of Evian. The result: no one did anything. Whenever I see a bottle of Evian water, I think about apathy in the face of evil, and I remember this quote from Leon Wieseltier:

Obama seems to think that there is some force in the admonition that the world is watching; but history plentifully demonstrates that when the world is watching, all the world does is watch.

During his 2009 trip, President Obama visited the site of the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald. Over 56,000 civilians and prisoners of war were murdered there. The president declared that no one should deny the Holocaust.

But the purpose of remembering the Holocaust is to prevent a recurrence. The leaders of Iran threaten to wipe Israel off the map, and at the same time are developing nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. What is the “world community” doing about it?

With Holocaust 2 on the horizon, it does no good to remember Holocaust 1, while making the same mistake that allowed it to occur − attempting to appease aggressors. What are we doing about Iran? Economic sanctions are proving useless. Meanwhile, President Obama distances himself from Israel.

The strong make demands of their enemies. The weak make demands of their friends. The strong evoke anxiety in their enemies. The weak evoke anxiety in their friends. As a result, the weak have more enemies and fewer friends.

History tends to repeat itself, because human nature doesn’t change. There are variations on the themes, but the themes recur with depressing regularity:

● When tyrants make promises, we shouldn’t listen.

● When tyrants make threats, we should listen.

● When tyrants threaten mass murder based on myths of racial or religious superiority, we should listen carefully.

● When tyrants build weapons with which to carry out their threats, we are fools if we don’t act before the weapons are operational.

What is the lesson of the Holocaust? To people of good will, it is: Never again. But to people of ill will, the lesson is: It succeeded. Four out of five European Jews were murdered, and the “world community” did nothing. Do you believe that the leaders of Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah haven’t studied that lesson attentively? What reason are we giving them to believe that things will be different this time? None. What reason are we giving them to believe that they can’t murder another six million? None.

I wonder what many people in many nations, including our own, are really thinking. Could it be this? − “Let the crazies in Iran build their nukes. Let them eradicate Israel, which is just a pain in the backside. Then we’ll do something, in case they’re serious when they chant, ‘Death to America.’ We can serve tea and cookies, and collect money for the few survivors, just like last time. That will make us feel really self-righteous. And we can build an annex to the Holocaust Museum. It’s the least we can do. Literally.”

For every Evangelical or Jew who wants Obama to do something before Iran nukes Israel, there is at least one closet anti-Semite who wants Obama to do nothing until after Iran nukes Israel. We hear much about the pro-Israel lobby, but there is also an anti-Israel lobby that is at least as powerful. Which will prevail remains to be seen.

Even if Iran acquires nuclear weapons but doesn’t use them, its neighbors will be terrified and rush to acquire nukes themselves. The Mideast is unstable now − imagine what it will be like with nuclear-armed Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf States. If Iran blocks the Strait of Hormuz, who will dare to break the blockade? Regardless of what happens to Israel, this prospect is frightening.

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  • UCSPanther

    One huge difference: The Jews of today are well armed, and there is one name that should strike terror into their enemies should it be unleashed: Jericho.

    In a fight for survival, no mercy should be given and none should be expected. If the maniacs in Tehran are so eager to get their 72 virgins, so be it. If they are foolish to start a nuclear fire, I don't think the Russians and Chinese are going to be too eager to save their hides.

  • Joe Keysor

    What is the right and sensible thing to do? That is the thing that will not be done.

  • davarino

    You dont kow tow to bullies and you dont pacate tyrants. At the very least, the only thing that would happen to iran is that their nuke facilities would be destroyed. Its not like whole cities will be fire bombed. It doesnt even equate to Dresdan. Israel has few options left, except to hope the next president isnt Obama.

  • maturin20

    If Mr. Stolinsky hates America so much, why doesn't he move to Israel? A quick survey of all of his articles indicates that in between watching movies, all he does is praise Israel and complain about every aspect and policy of America.

    • http://www.stolinsky.com David C. Stolinsky

      If you can find ONE example of my articles "praising" Israel, I will donate $100 to your favorite charity. I also didn't "praise" the poor souls who hid in the sewer during World War II — I felt empathy with them. Didn't you? You need to look into your own heart. Do you hate Israel so much that you want people who scream "Death to America!" to acquire nuclear weapons, with the hope that they will nuke Israel first?

      • maturin20

        Sadly, my reply vanished. I shall try to reconstruct it:

        I read your 1994 bio on OrthodoxyToday, and it motivated me to apologize for oversimplifying your position. I feel suckered though, because based on this Holocaust 2 article and the four articles showcased on your website, there is not ample evidence in those polemics that you are half the interesting person as evidenced in your bio, nor do the same seasoned and largely agreeable cultural criticisms therein shine through on the website or this article. This is the same way I feel suckered when I read the books of Horowitz and find them to be well-written, thoughtful, and somewhat factual polemics, but here I find nothing but racism, warmongering, shoddy blogging and histrionic hyperbole.

        We stand on the brink of WWIII with Israel proposing a Morganthau Plan of starvation on Iran as it argues for its five-fisted attack against every magnified threat from Palestine, to Syria, to Lebanon, to Iran, to Sudan. Iran is supposed to avoid developing a domestic energy source, and is supposed to sell oil to the West at a loss, and submit to European Banking cartels, all with the expenditure of force of American citizens who will neither benefit from a peace dividend nor see an end to fuel price shocks. Your article Creels on behalf of Israel that we should make Iran reap the whirlwind, when in fact a short list of magnates will simply reap a windfall and life will be much richer for Ben Bernanke, Lloyd Blankfein, John Watson, and Avigdor Lieberman, but the rest of us will still have TSA checkpoints, a broken currency, a destroyed stock market, prohibitive fuel prices and an endless cycle of war. It is all too easy to see your article as cheapening the Holocaust to generate sympathy for our own demise.

        • http://www.stolinsky.com David C. Stolinsky

          In other words, the Jews cause all the wars in the world. Mel Gibson said the same thing, but at least he was drunk.

          • maturin20

            So, it is impossible for Jews to wage war because a racist once said it?

        • CanadConserv

          "Sadly, my reply vanished." You mean fortunately. But then you had to reconstruct your rant, revealing yourself as an anti-Semite pretending to be factual and rational. Like all anti-Semites, like all racists. How typical you are.

          • maturin20

            You do realize of course that in this day and age, nobody cares if they are called an anti-Semite, right?

          • CanadConserv

            Anti-Semites and racists have little self respect, so being labeled for what they are can't diminish what minimal self-esteem they possess.

          • maturin20

            As though they were dipped in the waters of the Styx, they are the perfect invulnerable warriors for an overmediated age.

  • Marty

    Israelis I've spoken to are increasingly convinced that they are on their own. It's a sensible assumption. They have also been persuaded, after evacuating gaza in 2006 and then enduring thousands of rockets intended to murder schoolchildren and hospital patients, that the palestinians are interested only in destroying the only democracy in the middle east rather than achieving a just peace with it. The next Holocaust is being planned in tehran and riyadh and is the fondest hope in ramallah. There is no reason for Israel to offer further concessions of territory or principle. Neither has worked before. A democracy cannot seek compromise with those dedicated to its annihilation. This is an old lesson that goes back at least to 1938 in munich.

  • dave

    The awful thing is that Israel will be blamed either way. If they attack in a pre-emptive strike, the world will hate them for 'starting' a nuclear war. If they do nothing, they could be nuked but then blamed, as their mere existence has done nothing but upset everyone and 'what did they expect'.

  • lisag

    The Jews are still God's chosen people. Christians are their brothers and sisters. Christians are dieing in Muslim counties all around Israel. Israel offers the only safety net for Christians. I don't know what is going to happen, but something will because God will not forsake his children.

    • maturin20

      She forsook quite a few over the years.

  • Ghostwriter

    By in large,the Nazis did their Holocaust in secret,away from prying eyes. Don't forget,if ANYONE spoke out against the Nazis,they disappeared either into a prison or concentration camp. It wasn't a good idea to be critical during the Third Reich. Most likely,you ended up dead. There were a few brave souls who did speak out and paid for it with their lives. Most Germans knew this and kept their mouths shut. The lucky ones ended up in jail. Hitler and the Nazis made dissent a capital offense.

    • Emptor Preempted

      Rural populations of eastern Europe knew about, welcomed, profited from, and took active part in the killings of Jews. According to historian Jan Gross, many Poles who had saved Jews during the war were afterwards persecuted as traitors by their Polish neighbors. The supposedly heroic Armia Krajowa reportedly murdered Jewish partisans who asked to join. The prevalent attitude in the more civilized West was one of polite indifference.

      • Emptor Preempted

        Sorry for the bad grammar. I originally had "The rural populations of eastern Europe" and meant to change it to "Rural populations in eastern Europe." :-(

        • tagalog

          Just watch the Polish farmer being interviewed in the movie "Shoah," who says he used to work in the fields outside Treblinka or Auschwitz, and watch the trains pulling the cattle cars full of doomed Jews into the extermination camp. He claimed to be sympathetic to those he saw, but he gives himself away when he says that he would stand in the field, face the people peering out between the wooden slats of the railroad cars, and draw the edge of his hand across his throat, showing a big grin, the same grin he undoubtedly was using at the time.

      • tagalog

        Ask any Jew who survived the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, who made his way through the poison-gas-filled sewers to get outside of Warsaw into the woods, who tried to join the partisans, Communist and non-Communist alike, what was done to most of the Jewish refugees who stood up with arms against the Nazis and managed to escape their revenge.

  • Luis Hernandez

    NO difference than what the USA is doing to undocumented Immigrants, sending them in to hidding; entire families, Elderly and children !!!!! This is becoming a humanitarian issue. Some of this Families don't have any help in any other contry. They don't have food or shelter or any medical attention. Sounds familiar ???

    • intrcptr2

      No, actually it doesn't.

      Please go read a history book or two on the Nazi prelude to war; there is absolutely no parallel to what Americans supposedly do to illegal immigrants.

    • tagalog

      My favorite story of undocumented aliens being "done to" is the story of how Stalin sent out an invitation to the industrial workers of the United States, the most advanced industrial nation in the world in the 1930s, to come to the Soviet Union to work at industrializing that country. Thousands upon thousands of American Communists and communist sympathizers and fellow-travelers responded to the call of the Workers' Paradise and emigrated to the USSR. There, their passports were taken from them (thus they became "undocumented" alien workers), and they went to work for a few years in the factories. Around the time the Great Terror began in 1937, Stalin put them all in the gulag. Nearly all of them died in the camps. I don't think America has done anything like that.

    • tagalog

      Just so all those poor folks (who, at some point, decided to break into this country illegally in order to take advantage of whatever they thought they could hustle for themselves here) can get medical help: every state that I know of has a written law that requires hospitals to provide emergency health care to anyone who comes to them for help, regardless of legal status. Also, it seems like impermissibly loose use of language to imply that the USA is "sending them into hiding." The USA isn't doing that; in fact, in many places, law enforcement would like to know where these people are so that they can be sent back to where they came from. Anybody regardless of legal status can apply to many, many help providers for food and shelter. The Red Cross has shelters as do many other organizations, as do pretty nearly every church. They typically don't ask any questions.

      Pass the word around among those poor illegals, will you?

  • tagalog

    The proper stance of the United States in the face of Islamic bully-boy tactics of the various types we see and hear these days is for the U.S. to declare its support for the State of Israel loudly and effectively. Effectively, by joining in joint military exercises with the Israeli armed forces, by seeking U.S. bases in Israel, where U.S. forces can work side-by-side with Israeli forces, and by putting naval forces in the eastern Mediterranean, and in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Along with whatever we can do diplomatically and politically to show the world that we're going to help Israel with everything we've got.

    • maturin20

      There is no Crane stance when it comes to international relations.

  • tagalog

    I suppose not; but there is the guy standing at the doorway with his loaded rifle in hand, safety off, ready to defend his friend from the scumbags of the earth.

  • Dispozadaburka