I learn something new every day. In today’s news, I read about a talk that College professor Sigmund Tobias gave at the 27th annual Holocaust Commemoration in Holyoke, MA. The article was written by Mike Plaisance of The Republican and posted on the MassLive.com web site. Sigmund Tobias told a group of Peck Middle School students that he “was 5 when the Nazis put his father Moses Tobias in Dachau for trying to flee Germany.” I was always under the impression that the Nazis wanted the Jews to leave Germany, but apparently I was wrong.
According to the news article:
Authorities told the family the only way he could be freed was if they agreed to leave Berlin for the Japanese occupied section of Shanghai, China.
They lived there in a ghetto with 17,000 other Jewish refugees. It was one of the few places in the world willing to accept Jews fleeing Germany.
O.K. let me see if I understand this correctly: The Nazis put Moses Tobias into Dachau because he was trying to flee Germany, but then they told his family that the only way he could get out of the Dachau camp was if he agreed to leave Germany and go to Shanghai, China.
So the Nazis wouldn’t allow the German Jews to go to America in 1938? That’s not the way I heard it.
Ten years ago, I went to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The tour of the exhibits starts on the fourth floor where I saw a semicircular niche in the wall that was completely covered with a huge photograph of Lake Geneva. The title of this exhibit is “No help, No haven.” It is the story of the Evian Conference, which President Roosevelt organized in July 1938.
Representatives of 32 countries met at a luxury hotel to discuss the refugee problem after the Germans had taken over Austria in March and made it known that they wanted to get rid of all the Jews. Hitler jokingly offered to send all the German Jews on luxury liners to any country that would take them, but no country wanted the Jews. America had laws at that time, which were intended to keep Jews out, but after the conference, America did agree to admit the full quota of Eastern Europeans and Germans allowed by our immigration laws, which had not been done up to that time.
An exhibit called “Night of Broken Glass” is in the next section of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. The museum uses the Polish word “pogrom” to characterize this event which happened on November 9, 1938. A pogrom is a state organized or state sanctioned riot in which Jewish property is destroyed, and the Jews are beaten and killed in an effort to force them to leave a town or province, or in this case, a country. The exhibit does not make it clear that pogroms had been a regular occurrence in Europe for at least a thousand years, and that this was the Mother of all Pogroms.
The caption of the USHMM exhibit mentions that the Jews were sent to the three main German concentration camps, Dachau, Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald, where they were released if they agreed to emigrate quickly. The caption does not say that they could only go to Shanghai, China. Moses Tobias was probably arrested on the Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht) and he was one of the 10,911 Jews who were sent to Dachau.
The news article continues with this quote:
“The Japanese didn’t have the personal animosity and hatred to the Jews that the Germans did,” Tobias said.
Still, he said, while Japan resisted Germany’s demand that it execute the Jews, life in the ghetto was a struggle.
So the Nazis demanded that the Japanese kill the Jews for them? But the Japanese resisted? Like I said, I learn something new every day.
Another quote from the news article:
He showed slides of a trip to Dachau, which was destroyed but has been rebuilt, including the Nazi ovens.
I didn’t know that Dachau was destroyed and then rebuilt. I always thought that the “Nazi ovens” at Dachau were original, but I guess I was wrong.
According to the news article:
He read from his 1999 book, Strange Haven: A Jewish Childhood in Wartime Shanghai. Dolores R. Stein, of Holyoke, said that in the face of Holocaust deniers, such remembrances are necessary for each generation.