It has occurred to me – I’m certainly not the first – that the Holocaust could possibly have happened in any country in Europe and it just happened to be in Germany.  Without question, Jewish history is filled with expulsions, discrimination, humiliation, and vicious, brutal, sadistic violence, often at the hands of friends and neighbors.  (In some respects, Zionism was a response to this history, that response being, “Screw this, we’re outta here.”)  

You could say that Europe never worked out for the Jews, which the possible exception of the 19th Century, when Jews were “emancipated” and received equal rights all over Europe, and of course we all know how that turned out.

World War II changed everything in Europe.  Everywhere I visited, you don’t have to look very far to see signs of the war and you don’t have to talk to someone for very long before the subject comes up:  the Soviets got this far during the war, hence the peculiar path of the Berlin Wall; during the war this or that building was destroyed (or spared); my parents survived in this or that particular way during the war; this used to be a synagogue/Jewish neighborhood/kosher butchery/cemetery before the war.

The war rendered Jews in most of Europe nearly extinct.  A friend of mine, who was in Berlin about the same time as I was, visited the Jewish Museum in Berlin and was struck by how it felt like he was in a museum for Native Americans.  Then again, he noted, in Europe the Jews are like Native Americans so I guess that fits. 

My dad has remarked many times that Germany was the safest place in Europe for the Jews until the rise of Nazism.  That fact gives me pause when I think to myself that such a thing could never happen in America.  Unfortunately, I think it could.  Maybe there is something in the German psyche that allowed it to happen that is not present in the American pysche.  But ask the Japanese who we so readily “interned” here during the war, or black people, or Arab-Americans today.  Unfortunately, I fear that it’s not something in our character so much as how our system is structured, with its checks and balances designed to decentralize power and prevent fascism.  That’s why I think it’s so important to work to preserve this system and for social justice, democracy, good governance, and all that.  In other words, VOTE DEMOCRAT. 

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