Friday, May 29, 2015

Going Dutch?

Dedicated to my grandparents Sylvia and Lester Seinfeld whose yahrzeits are tomorrow and Monday, respectively.
(To dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email.)
2300MARGRATEN0525.jpg?uuid=0XHIEgJxEeWT9PJNSvf5fQWhile I'm still on the "finish that dissertation already" leave of absence and not supposed to do this, I just wanted to share with you something that touched me, and may touch you and yours at the dinner table.

(From the Washington Post)
They haven’t forgotten. For 70 years, the Dutch have come to a verdant U.S. cemetery outside this small village to care for the graves of Americans killed in World War II.
On Sunday, they came again, bearing
Memorial Day bouquets for men and women they never knew, but whose 8,300 headstones the people of the Netherlands have adopted as their own.
For the American relatives of the fallen, it was an outpouring of gratitude almost as stunning as the rows of white marble crosses and Jewish Stars of David at the Netherlands American Cemetery. Each grave has been adopted by a Dutch or, in some cases, Belgian or German family, as well as local schools, companies and military organizations. More than 100 people are on a waiting list to become caretakers.
At the cemetery’s annual commemoration, 6,000 people poured onto the 65-acre burial grounds just a few miles from the German border, including scores of descendants of American war dead who had traveled here from all over the United States. They were eager to pay tribute to parents or grandparents who had died to defeat the Nazis. But they also wanted to thank the Dutch families who had been tending the graves of their loved ones, often passing the responsibility from one generation to the next.
For Arthur Chotin, 70, who had come from Annapolis, Md., to finally meet the couple caring for his father’s resting place, the devotion of the Dutch was a source of awe.

“What would cause a nation recovering from losses and trauma of their own to adopt the sons and daughters of another nation?” asked Chotin, the only American descendant to speak on Sunday. “And what would keep that commitment alive for all of these years, when the memory of that war has begun to fade? It is a unique occurrence in the history of civilization.”

The bodies arrived in a procession of trucks and trailers. Everyone in Margraten could smell the death.
It was November 1944, two months after the village’s 1,500 residents had been freed from Nazi occupation by the U.S. 30th Infantry Division.
NetherlandsAmericanCemetery3But the war wasn’t over. In late 1944 and early 1945, thousands of American soldiers would be killed in nearby battles trying to pierce the German defense lines. Booby-traps and heavy artillery fire, combined with a ferocious winter, dealt major setbacks to the Allies, who had already suffered losses trying to capture strategic Dutch bridges crossing into Germany during the ill-fated Operation Market Garden.
Now, the U.S. military needed a place to bury its fallen.
Read the rest of the story here.

You may also want to read this.

Question for your table: Do you think the Dutch will still be lining up to care for those graves 50 years from now? 100?

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, May 08, 2015

VE Day or DDE Day?

Ohrdruf_ViewSorry this blog has been sporadic while I try to complete my dissertation. But I felt I needed to say something about this momentous anniversary.

On Tuesday this week I paid a visit to a senior living facility that I must have driven by hundreds of times and never paid attention to.

Inside I saw something that broke my heart.

Sitting around the lobby, dozens of faces lit up when I walked in. I was there for a meeting and didn't have time to shmuze. They looked so hopeful that maybe someone had come to visit with them.

One of the greatest thing that seniors suffer is loneliness, especially in their 80s and beyond. Many of their friends have passed away. They may have no family in town.

Some of those I saw are surely vets. I heard on the radio today that there are still 1,000,000 WWII vets alive today.

The stories they can tell.

Some of those I saw may be Survivors.

The stories they can tell.

Here's a WWII story that isn't told enough.

The first camp to be conquered was July 24, 1944, the Majdanek camp near Lublin Poland, by the Soviets. Before they retreated, the Germans tried to destroy evidence by taking survivors on a death march and burning the camp to the ground. The Germans continued this practice as the Allies slowly advanced on both fronts, and as the weather got colder, more Jews died in these death marches.

Until April 4, the Americans had heard reports from the Soviets but assumed they were exaggerated.

On April 4, 1945, the Americans entered Ohrdruf camp - that the Germans had created only five months earlier! - and learned the opposite was true, that the horrors had been vastly understated.

On April 12, 1945, Generals Eisenhower, Patton and Bradley toured the camp.

Click here for liberation photos:
Click here for other useful links:

I saw Eisenhower go to the opposite end of the road and vomit. From a distance I saw Patton bend over, holding his head with one hand and his abdomen with the other. And I soon became ill. I suggested to General Eisenhower that cables be sent immediately to President Roosevelt, Churchill, DeGaulle, urging people to come and see for themselves. The general nodded.
- Lt. Colonel Lewis H. Weinstein, chief of the liaison section of General Eisenhower's staff

"I have never felt able to describe my emotional reaction when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency...I visited every nook and cranny of the camp because I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to testify at first hand about these things in case there ever grew up at home the belief or assumption that the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda."
- General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to Chief of Staff George Marshall, April 12, 1945
"We continue to uncover German concentration camps for political prisoners in which conditions of indescribable horror prevail. I have visited one of these myself and I assure you that whatever has been printed on them to date has been understatement....The things I saw beggar description....The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to 'propaganda.'
- DDE Cable to George C. Marshall, 4/19/45

Question for your table:

One day there will be no more living vets or survivors.... At that point, will we "know" that WWII and the Holocaust happened, or will it become a "belief"?

Shabbat Shalom