Monday, April 16, 2007

Yom ha-Shoah

Emmanuel Ringelblum ז"ל

Today, Jews in Israel and in the diaspora commemorate the millions who were murdered by the Nazis and their allies in the Second World War. In the United States, many synagogues and Jewish community centers will hold remembrance ceremonies and lectures tonight. In Israel, an official commemoration ceremony is held at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial. At 10 am on Monday, a siren sounded for two minutes, and people stood silently to mark the day.

Yom ha-Shoah is usually observed on the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan. Because that day fell on a Sunday this year, which means that the day of mourning would have begun Saturday night just before the conclusion of the Sabbath (in Jewish tradition, a day begins on the evening before), the observance was pushed to Nisan 28, 5767 (April 16, 2007).

If you want to take this opportunity to learn something about the Shoah, Yad Vashem has a new online exhibit on Emmanuel Ringelblum's "Oneg Shabbat" or, in Ashkenazi pronunciation, "Oyneg Shabbos" [lit., "pleasure of the Sabbath"] archive in the Warsaw Ghetto. Ringelblum (1900-1944) was a young Polish-Jewish historian, who devoted his time in the ghetto to systematically recording the trials, tribulations, and occasional triumphs of everyday life under the most cruel circumstances. He directed a large team of contributors, who secretly gathered material for the archive, and successfully hid most of its contents in milk canisters and metal crates, which were recovered after the war, in 1946.

A page from Ringelblum's diary. The first 1942 entry, from January 8-26, begins:
January 1942. The conditions for the refugees are simply unbearable. Because of the shortage of coals, they are freezing to death.
The title of the exhibit is "Let the world read and know," an excerpt from a longer statement by an Oneg Shabbat activist that appears in the archives:
It must all be committed with not a single word omitted. And when the time comes - as it surely will - let the world read and know what the murderers have done
The photographs are from Emmanuel Ringelblum, Ktavim fun Geto, Volume 1: Togbukh fun Varshever Geto, 1942-1939 (Warsaw, 1961). Thank you, Judy, for this gift.

I recently received a link to a very moving recording obtained by NPR from the Smithsonian. Taped by a British reporter in April 1945 at Bergen-Belsen, shortly after its liberation, it preserves for posterity the voices of Jewish camp survivors singing "Hatikvah," which later became the anthem of the State of Israel. Note that they are singing an earlier version, which has slightly different lyrics in the second stanza. Thank you, Ms Dessen.

In the English Wikipedia entry on Yom ha-Shoah, you can read the following gem:
Most of the Jewish community consider the day a Jewish religious holiday. Non-Zionist Orthodox Jews do not, instead remembering the victims on days that were already days of mourning before the Holocaust, such as Tisha b'Av in the summer, and the Tenth of Tevet, in the winter. It deliberately ignores other victims of the Holocaust such as Gay people, Gypsies, the Mentally Ill, the Disabled or Easter Europeans sent to the Gas Chambers.
It's amazing to me how even the commemoration of the Shoah can be turned into an attack on the Jewish people, along the old canard that the Jews are misanthropes who care only about their own suffering. I'm not going to get into how misleading and tendentious the second sentence is.

Yad Vashem Council Chair Tommy Lapid, a former Israeli parliamentarian and minister, said that
even after the Holocaust we witnessed genocide in Biafra, Cambodia, Rwanda, and we must cry out against the genocide currently being committed in Darfur in Sudan.
MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra'am-Ta'al) called the Holocaust "the greatest crime in the history of humanity," and condemned those who deny the Shoah (Ha'aretz).

Friday, April 13, 2007

Serge Sarksian remplace Markarian dans ses fonctions de Premier Ministre

La nouvelle date d'il y a quelques jours déjà, mais je dois avouer que le manque de surprise dans le développement cette affaire m'a fait passer l'envie d'écrire à ce sujet. Alors qu'au lendemain du décès de Markarian, une tension semblait se dessiner au sein de l'administration, qui aurait pu placer Hovig Abrahamian dans la course pour le poste, c'est en définitive sans heurt aucun que Kotcharian a reporté son choix sur l'éternel Ministre de la Défense Sarksian. Ce geste rend nulles les suppositions quant à une rivalité entre le futur Président sortant et l'actuel Premier Ministre qui sera à n'en pas douter, reconduit dans ses fonctions à l'issue du scrutin législatif du mois prochain. Le verrouillage des postes en prévision de l'élection présidentielle de l'année prochaine se confirme, et selon toute vraissemblance, Sarksian se donne une garantie de plus due à un -heureux?- hasard de placer toutes les ressources administratives de son côté. Quant à Kotcharian, qui lui aura apporté un soutien indéfectible en dépit des légères tensions d'il y a quelques mois, il s'assure sans doute un "parachute doré" pour sa sortie de la Présidence, et assurer la continuité du travail gouvernemental pour les 5 années suivantes. Pendant ce temps, l'opposition, prévoyant comme d'habitude sa victoire en cas d'élections transparentes, a pour la enième fois appelé les gens de la rue en perspective d'un renversement révolutionnaire après les élections, avec la même crédibilité que depuis 2003... L'immobilisme politique en Arménie est toujours aussi fort.