“They only spoke rarely about their early lives … and they never felt totally safe. They knew how fast a country could change.”
– Nick Baumannn, writing about his Jewish grandparents who survived WWII in Germany and sought refugee status after the war in the U.S.
Refugees and the issues surrounding immigration and displaced persons will be the focus when Nick Baumannn, Senior Enterprise Editor at HuffPost and grandchild of WWII Era refugees tells his story in Muskegon on November 9. The event, sponsored by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies – Muskegon, begins at 6:30 and will be held at Muskegon Community College Downtown Center, 388 W. Clay in Muskegon. The event is free and open to the public.
Baumann has written pieces for Washington Monthly, The Atlantic, Slate and Commonweal. He also has blogged for the Economist and was a Senior Editor at Mother Jones Magazine. When he writes or speaks about refugees however, it’s personal. “Our Grandparents died when we were young, “ Baumann wrote along with his sister Rachel in a piece earlier this year in HuffPost. “We think about them a lot these days – and the people who chose to help them and the people who chose not to.”
Baumann will be interviewed by George Maniates, History Instructor at Muskegon Community College and Board Member for the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies-Muskegon. The evening promises to help the community understand the experiences of refugees while at the same time, grappling with the tough issues of immigration and border security policy using other historical experiences as a lens for viewing current issues.
The event is sponsored by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies – Muskegon, whose mission is to cultivate the values which diffuse hate and encourage diversity.
Nick Baumann’s Grandparents, Max Horst Segall and Frieda Esther Lopatka Segall.
Our guest this year was Renata (nee Polgar) Laxova. She was born on July 15th 1931 in Brno, in what was then Czechoslovakia. She was an only child in an average middle class Jewish family, raised to speak both Czech and German. Her father was an accountant, her mother stayed at home with her. She had a peaceful, happy, secure childhood and enjoyed swimming, ice-skating, gymnastics. When I was in second grade, in March 1939, Hitler marched into my country which became the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
Slovakia became an independent republic and a client state of Nazi Germany. Toward the end of my second grade, Jewish children were no longer allowed to participate in the school or community activities. Jewish children were no longer welcome at schools. Through Renata’s parents’ initiative, she was included in one of Sir Nicholas Winton’s Kindertransports.
On July 31,1939, she was taken to the Prague railway station and left – on the fifth Kindertransport from Czechoslovakia – for England. The war began on September 1, 1939. She spent 7 years, cared for by a Lancashire Quaker family, a father (a conscientious objector) mother, with their 5 ½ year old little boy.
Her parents survived the war. In 1941, they were accused by the Gestapo of being part of an international spy network and were expelled from Brno to Slovakia, her father’s birthplace. Her mother assumed a stranger’s identity and documents and survived as an unmarried nurse in Slovakia. Her father was sent to several labor and concentration camps. Her parents were reunited after Czechoslovakia was liberated in 1945.
Guest: Dr. Renata Laxova
A child survivor from Brno, Czechoslovakia who was rescued by the Kindertransport arranged by Sir Nicholas Winton in 1939.
She returned to her country and lived under Communist rule until the Prague Spring 1968 when she and her family left for England and then the United States.
April 23, 2017 – 3:30 PM – Commemoration Service
Samuel Lutheran Church
Corner of 8th Street and Muskegon Avenue
April 24, 2017: 6:30 PM – Witness and Conversation
First Evangelical Lutheran Church
April 25, 2017: 12:30 pm – Witness and Conversation
West Shore Community College, Ludington
For more information:
Call: Congregation B’nai Israel, 231-722-2702
Four years ago I received a letter from a person in the Muskegon community that they would no longer attend the Holocaust Commemoration Services because “Israel was doing the same thing Hitler did to the Jews”, I have recognized that there was a burgeoning new kind of antisemitism being fomented in the “liberal” community. It is one of the three “D’s” of antisemitism which are:
- Demonizing: when Israeli leaders are seen as devils, evil-doers and the nation is depicted as being an instrument of Satan; when Israeli leaders are compared to Hitler and Israeli soldiers dressed as the “SS-Gestapo”. The re-surfacing of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, a document written in France for use in Czarist Russia, which brings together the fiction of a global conspiracy by a secret Jewish organization to control the worlds finances.
- Double Standards: when Israel is held accountable for its actions in a selective manner, being singled out as a human rights offender while other well known offenders are ignored.
- When Israel’s right to exist is denied or questioned.
Antisemitism, such as we are experiencing now in the United States since the 2016 presidential campaign began, is three-fold:
- Terrorism: threats of violence and physical attacks on Jews, destruction of property such as synagogues, community centers and cemeteries.
- Denial of the Holocaust: people such as David Duke, and organizations such as Breitbart News, Institute for Historical review, have sneaky ways of denying the Holocaust whether it is calling into question the numbers of Jews murdered in the 5 death camps and the Einsatzgrupen in the Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Estonia
- Christian antisemitism: the use of myths like blood libel, dark magic and witchcraft, Jews as Christ-killers, Jews as “unfulfilled Christians, Jews as victims of apocalyptic fantasies, claims that the Covenant God made with biblical Israel is no longer valid and Jews do not have a right to exist. All these and more are still being preached from pulpits in the United States.
- A fourth kind is very active in the world:
Genocidal antisemitism: calling for the destruction of Israel and the murder of all Jews in Israel and beyond. ISIS, terrorist groups like Hezbollah.
The first three are alive in the US and the present atmosphere has emboldened activity.
The only way such activity can be addressed is through personal intervention – whether it is cleaning graffiti in subway cars, on the doors and outside walls of synagogues, on posters and signs, or words spoken in your presence at church, on the street or community gatherings. To remain silent and stand by is to encourage the continuance of hate and ignorance. Remember: Silence gives consent.
Commit to learn about antisemitism. Resolve to attend a Holocaust Commemoration. Listen to a survivor speak. bring your children and grandchildren to hear and meet a survivor. In bible studies when texts are read from the Gospel accounts and the letters, talk about the references to Jews, especially in Holy Week when the passion accounts are read. Christian antisemitism is still alive and well and it is being used by Christian Identity Churches, and other white power groups.
As contentious as these days are, we cannot shrink from the obvious silence to antisemitic actions in Saint Louis Missouri, Philadelphia Pennsylvania, the 160 plus threats by phone to Jewish centers, synagogues and pres-schools – just as we cannot put up with the hateful actions towards Muslims and their centers and mosques. Hate is infectious among groups who espouse nationalism and nativism whether is it economic or partisan politics.
I was taught, where there is an “ism” idolatry is sure to follow. To learn more about antisemitism you can go to the ADL (Anti-Defamation League)
“Forward” an online Jewish publication;
website at http://forward.com/
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: www.ushmm.org/learn/holocaust-encyclopedia
Pr. Chris Anderson
Chair, CHGS – Muskegon Michigan