söndag 29 januari 2017

You, the surviving survivors - this is for you

On 27 January 1945 Auschwitz/Birkenau was finally liberated. There were a few thousand people left in the camp, but many had been driven out, to die on roads and in ditches during death marches. The ashes of the 1.5 million who had been murdered were scattered over the fields and the waters surrounding the gigantic camp complex.

Europe was forever changed. The vibrant, energising European Jews were no more. 1000 years of culture, songs, music, schools and cities were gone, never to be seen again - they are gone forever.

The next generations of Europeans will read about it in history books but soon it will be forgotten. Again.

Why did God let it happen - and how can anyone possibly survive as a Jew after all those horrors?

Those of you who came here to Sweden - including the young woman who would one day become my mother, after six months in Auschwitz/Birkenau and eight months in other camps and death marches - you are the survivors. But how to keep on living, what was to become of you?

I have worked at a Jewish retirement home as a registered nurse and I am also a psychotherapist. This retirement home is today home to many of those who came to Sweden as a human wrecks in May 1945 from the Nazi death camps of Europe. Emaciated and poor, with nothing but the clothes on their backs, handouts from the Red Cross.  Planet Sweden was definitely something quite different from the planet Auschwitz.

You were between 20 0ch 30 years and you survived. You were - and you are - survivors.

You were survivors because you were the right age, basically healthy, with no families of your own and you were strong - and this is why you survived. And yes, I know you do not wish to be regarded as heroes - but my friends, you are. You are not only surviving, you are also survivors, and you are an example to all of us - we who were miraculously born after the Holocaust. We, the generation that was never supposed to exist.

You came to a country that had managed to remain outside of the war and here you met people unaware of the evil doings in it. The 8 000 Jews who lived here were stunned when they began to understand the magnitude of it. To start over, to begin living a Jewish life as a survivor, was very difficult.

You, whom I meet in your homes at the the retirement home, are now between 90 and 100 years old, some even older. It is now 72 years since you arrived in this country.

How have you successfully managed to survive and live on? How did you do it?

Well, God knows that you are still suffering. Most of you are still being hunted prey by Nazis at night, you still miss your families who are long gone, most of you miss the security of your childhood that you once had - I dare say that you are all suffering - yes, everyone suffers in one way or another. The conversations I have had with you are countless - endless. You tell the most horrific stories and every one of you talk about how you miraculously were rescued; how you were found by the Americans on piles of corpses, how you were shot but when morning came the Germans were gone and you were somehow still alive - and when train cars were opened you suddenly found yourself in Heaven - Heaven in Denmark, without having a clue as to where you were. And so on.

- If I could have a night without the Nazis persecuting me, I would be so happy. Just one night!

I listen, I distribute tranquilizers and the night staff sit with you. By day, some of you are angry and some almost vicious. The haunting dreams of the night before, and those before that, live on in everyday life. The anxiety takes over.

The staff huffs and puffs but keep up a good face. They smile as they go through their daily chores, and when they take your hand and sit with you. They know why some of you are the way you are, even if they know they can never even begin to imagine the horrors you have been through. They don’t take it personally when you snap at them. What a fantastic job they do, the staff, but they never really hear it. When was the last time someone took the time to say thank you for all the hard work you do, and for all the love you lavish on these brittle human beings that you care for? I ask you, readers - when? But my friends, you really are amazing, you are angels, you are so professional, the Creator lives through you. You who sit with them, and I as a nurse try to support you, the residents and the relatives who get anxious because of their anxiety. You guards, who behind several locked gates will stop those who still to this day want to hurt these people. You policemen, who in the past years on several occasions with your submachine guns have been guarding us against external threats.

All of you there, who stand by our side, and especially now as that hatred against us is clawing its way back and rearing its ugly head - thank you.

And then again: YOU are the survivors.

And although God let it happen - the extermination of the Jews of Europe - you still refused to turn your back on the Creator.

You started over. Some of you went to Israel in 1948 and participated in the defence of the newly formed Jewish state. Thank you for that. Where did you find the strength and the motivation!? After all that you had been through. You built new lives. You educated yourselves, you fell in love, you started families, you had children and your children inherited the Jewish way of life - despite all the great, great hardship that entails. Since we are the children of survivors, we also live in anxiety - 20 percent of us, according to surveys, have developed PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

Many have lived religious lives, others have not, but most people have with their way of life done what Jews have always done. YOU have done what Jews have always done. You have protested by consecrating life! You have protested by sanctifying life and made it our - we who were born later - sworn duty to do the same.

You protest by sanctifying life - it bears repeating one more time! You protest by safeguarding life; you are all different, some of you are wonderful people, some less pleasant to be around - for that is how we humans are and different people handle life and experiences in different ways. But you all have shown us, your children and grandchildren and future generations that the way back to life is to with tremendous power refuse to abandon our God and Creator by stubbornly sticking to the Jewish way of life - that all people have equal value and the right to a life of dignity, that there is a higher morality and the sanctity of life is sacred and inviolable.

You have shown us that even though God sometimes has seemingly turned his back on us, we do not turn our backs on him. But please God - can you not give these people a single quiet night, now 72 years after the liberation? A night of peaceful sleep? Just one single night! They are so worth it, every one of them. It hurts so much to see them haunted by these demons - the Nazis and their collaborators.

May it never happen again - we must continue to protest evil by sanctifying life and carry this with us wherever we go - we will, I promise you.

The author and his mother, an Auschwitz/Birkenau survivor

Ni överlevande och överlevare - detta är till er

Den 27 januari 1945 befriades Auschwitz/Birkenau. Det fanns några tusen människor kvar. De levande hade drivits på flykt och askan av de 1,5 miljoner som mördats låg utspridd på åkrarna och i vattendragen runt det gigantiska lägerkomplexet.
Europa var för evig förändrat. Det levande, energigivande och det för Europa judiska folket fanns inte mer. 1000 år av kultur, sånger, musik, skolor och städer var borta och kommer aldrig att återuppstå.
De kommande generationerna européer kommer att läsa om det i historieböckerna men ganska snart förpassa det bak i minnet.
Varför lät Gud det ske och hur kan man leva vidare som jude efter detta?

Ni som kom hit till Sverige - bland andra min blivande mamma, efter sex månader i Auschwitz/Birkenau och åtta månader i andra läger - är överlevande - men vad gjorde ni av detta?
Jag har jobbat på ett judiskt äldreboende som sjuksköterska. Här bor idag många av dem som kom till Sverige som mänskliga vrak i maj 1945 från nazieuropas dödsläger. Utarmade till kropp och själ. Planeten Sverige var någonting annat än planeten Auschwitz.
Ni var mellan 20 0ch 30 år och ni var överlevande.
Ni var överlevande. Ni hade rätt ålder, friska, utan familj och ni var starka - därför överlevde ni. Och ja, jag vet att ni inte vill ses som hjältar - men mina vänner, ni är inte bara överlevande, ni  är också överlevare och ni är föredömen för oss alla - vi som mirakulöst föddes efter Förintelsen. Vi, som tillhör den generation som aldrig skulle finnas.

Ni kom till ett land som stått utanför kriget och ni träffade människor som var omedvetna om ondskan. De 8000 judar som då bodde här i landet var förstummade. Att börja leva ett judiskt liv var mycket svårt.
Ni som jag träffar på hemmet är nu mellan 90 och 100 år gamla. Det är nu 72 år sedan ni kom hit.
Hur har ni lyckats leva vidare?

Jo, Gud ska veta att ni fortfarande lider. De flesta av er är jagade av nazisterna på nätterna, ni saknar er familj, de flesta av er saknar er barndoms trygghet - jag vågar påstå att alla lider - jo, alla lider. De samtal jag har haft med er är otaliga - otaliga. Ni  berättar de mest fasansfulla historier och varenda en av er berättar om hur ni mirakulöst räddades; ni hittades av amerikanare på likhögar, ni skulle skjutas men just den morgonen kom ryssarna och tyskarna hade stuckit och när tågvagnarna öppnades var ni himlen - i himlen i Danmark utan att ha en aning om var ni var. Och så vidare.

- Om jag fick en natt utan att nazisterna förföljde mig, så skulle jag vara glad. Bara en natt!

Jag lyssnar, delar ut lugnade tabletter och nattpersonalen sitter hos er. På dagarna är den del arga och nästan elaka. Nattens drömmar hänger med in i vardagen. Ångesten tar över.
Personalen pustar och håller god min. Åh, vilket fantastiskt jobb de gör, personalen, utan att få höra det. När tackade någon er? Jag frågar er som läser - när? Men mina vänner, ni är fantastiska, ni är änglarna på jorden, ni är så proffsiga, genom er lever Skaparen. Ni som sitter hos dem, och jag som sjuksköterska försöker stötta er, de boende och de släktingar som får ångest av deras ångest. Ni vakter, som bakom flera grindar stoppar dem som vill de överlevande illa. Ni poliser, som det senaste åren vid flera tillfällen med era k-pistar har vaktat oss mot hot utifrån.
Alla finns ni där nu när hatet mot oss är på väg tillbaks.
Å andra sidan: NI är överlevare.

Trots att Gud lät det ske - utrotandet av judarna i Europa - så vägrade ni att vända ryggen åt Skaparen.
Ni  började om. En del av er har varit i Israel 1948 och deltagit i försvaret av den nybildade judiska staten. Tack för det. Var hittade ni styrkan och motivationen!? Ni byggde upp nya liv. Ni utbildade er, ni bildade familj, ni fick barn, de barn som av er fick ärva det judiska sättet att leva - trots stora, stora umbäranden. Eftersom vi som är barn till er överlevande också lever i ångest - 20 procent av oss har enligt undersökningar utvecklat PTSD (posttraumatiskt stressyndrom).

Många har levt religiösa liv, andra inte, men de flesta har med sitt sätt att leva gjort det som judar alltid har gjort. Ni har gjort det som judar alltid har gjort! Ni har protesterat genom att helga livet! Ni protesterade genom att helga livet och det gör att det är vår, vi som är födda senare, förbannade skyldighet att göra detsamma.

Ni protesterar genom att helga livet - det tål att upprepas en gång till! Ni protesterar genom att värna livet; ni  är alla olika, en del av er är underbara människor, andra mindre trevliga - för det är så vi människor är och olika människor hanterar livet och erfarenheterna i det på olika sätt. Men ni har  alla visat oss, era barn och barnbarn och kommande generationer, att vägen tillbaks är att med obändig kraft vägra att överge Gud och Skaparen genom att envist hålla fast vid det judiska sättet att leva - att alla människor har ett lika värde, att det finns en högre moral och att livet är heligt.

Ni har visat oss att även om Gud till synes har vänt oss ryggen så vänder vi inte ryggen åt honom. Men snälla Gud - kan du inte ge dem en enda lugn natt, nu 72 år efter befrielsen? Bara en enda natt! De är så värda det, varenda en av dem. Det gör så ont att se dem jagade av sina demoner, av nazisterna och deras medlöpare.

Aldrig får det hända igen och vi ska protestera genom att helga livet - det bär vi alla med oss vidare - det lovar jag er.

söndag 15 januari 2017

Reply from Minister Wallström. Or rather, one of her minions.

Hello Stefan,
Thank you for your e-mail to Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. I work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minister's Office and has been asked to respond. Ministry and Ministers receives every year large volumes of letters and e-mails, making the answer might be. I'm sorry you had to wait for a response.
First of all, I regret that your family suffered during World War II. The heinous acts carried out against Jews must never be repeated.
The foreign minister do not feel bad about Jews or Israel, it is a wrong idea. Margot Wallström has since she first made a visit to Israel, worked against anti-Semitism and some of her oldest and closest friends are Jews. The government pursues an open, free and inclusive society where all people can feel welcome and safe. The government takes clear distance from anti-Semitism and will continue to tirelessly fight its manifestations and grounds, as well as other forms of xenophobia and intolerance. Something such as Foreign Minister, together with Interior Minister Anders Ygeman underscored earlier this year in the following debate article, http://www.regeringen.se/debattartiklar/2016/01/kampen-mot-antisemitism-och-rasism-ar-standigt-aktuell/.
Anti-Semitism is in direct contradiction to the fundamental values ​​on which our democracy is based and therefore is basically a threat to the democratic society in which all people have equal value.
Thank you for your dedication.
Michael Nordenberg
Desk Officer
Hello Michael,
Thanks for your reply.
I assume that the Foreign Minister is behind your answer.

Adolf Hitler's mother was regularly treated by a Jewish doctor, Dr Eduard Bloch. A doctor who Adolf Hitler regarded as a highly skilled and trusted physician. He was what Hitler described as an ”Edeljude”, in other words a ”noble Jew”. Hitler helped this doctor move from Austria to the United States during the war. Dr Eduard Bloch was even  protected by the Gestapo until he left the country.

Can we thus conclude that Adolf Hitler was not an anti-Semite? But this is of course an absurd notion!

What you do is what you are responsible for - at least in the Jewish world.
To build your arguments on which friends you have, as evidence of your way of thinking or acting, is really not very mature - and if this is the level that the Foreign Minister and the State Department have as a base for their decisions, then our country, Sweden, is in even more danger than I first thought when I initially wrote to you, Mrs Minister.

Anti-Semitism is changing over time. Using racial theories is not politically correct today, nor are the religious arguments Martin Luther used meaningful in this day and age - well, that's not entirely correct as replacement theological thoughts of course are no small part of the Christian world.
In Swedish society today however, it is entirely politically correct to use the same old stale anti-Semitic stereotypes but nowadays in disguise as criticism of the state of Israel. This tiny democracy in a sea of ​​dictatorships - dictatorships that have nothing in common with each other except the ambition that we Jews will again be exposed to a Holocaust during the destruction of the country we have built. This is a tragedy since Israel could function as an injection of development in the entire region in a number of areas, from medicine, nursing, irrigation, freedom of religion, protection of minority rights; for example, gay people’s self-evident right to a life on the same terms as heterosexual people, and so on.

I was in Tel-Aviv during the Pride festival last summer and watched as 150,000 participants from around the world marched through the city and fill its streets, squares and beaches with life and joy - all in harmony with us heterosexuals, permanent residents as well as tourists, without contradictions, without violence, without hate.

But to describe the state of Israel in the above terms is just not done in Sweden, especially since there is a greater value in blowing up a single religious person's attempt to murder a homosexual in Jerusalem, during the same period. The fact that this person was and is severely mentally ill and has been treated for long periods in psychiatric care and is also convicted of attempted murder in a psychotic state is, of course, ignored.
What on earth makes this newsworthy in Sweden?

Well, it is an attempt to discredit and reinforce the perception of Israel as a country where extremism is the basis for coexistence between people - not a country where people coexist and all have equal value. It is precisely this type of selective writing of what is to be lifted politically, that our foreign minister is so good at. Generalisations and reinforcement of an Israel that is based on the classic anti-Jewish stereotypes.

Or it can also be described: straining at gnats and swallowing camels.
The Foreign Ministry does not have the ability or the will to realise the modern antisemitic expressions and see its consequences, scares me. The Foreign Minister's view of Israel is absurd and completely wrong. If she were really as positive as you claim, it would be nice if she could actually show it.

The consequences of her actions result in - apart from the improbability that she actually managed to unite the whole land of Israel, both Jews and Arabs, from the extreme left to the extreme right, with her absurd statement on extrajudicial killings, while she simultaneously celebrates the Swedish police who shot the terrorist killer in Trollhättan - the hateful tone and the threats against Jews intensifies.
There are always people who are willing to convert the spoken words into action and it is these actions we must guard against.

It is with mixed feelings I have greeted and thanked the young Swedish policemen and women armed with submachine guns, that on many occasions during the past years have guarded Jewish institutions in Sweden.

I lecture as often as I can about the Holocaust and its consequences, and about my love for the state of Israel. I am ready at any moment to come to you in order to develop my thinking in these areas, thus highlighting a different perspective on the situation than the Foreign Ministry supports.

Best regards
Stefan Lindmark

This was originally posted on this blog on March 12, 2016