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Eva Levine's birthday - July 6 - always follows hard on our own American Independence Day. I commemorate Eva's birthday, as I do every year, by reflecting on the Holocaust, in which millions of Jews lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis.
When I visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., an exhibit at the time was "The Collaborators." On display were grainy films, black-and-white photographs, newspaper clippings and vintage posters depicting the campaigns of whispers, the parades of shame, and the lies of propaganda that marked even the earliest days of Jewish persecution.
Neighbors turned on neighbors, because they supported the ideology of the Third Reich or feared persecution themselves. Employees and employers eyed each other with suspicion. Some, envious of others' valuables, turned in the owners for a share of the loot.
Ordinary German citizens became vigilantes, dealing out their own concepts of righteousness against a group of people demonized by the country's leader. Fear of "the other" pervaded society to the point that these ordinary citizens collaborated with Hitler's regime to exterminate a whole population, often taking punishment into their own hands.
If there are parallels to be drawn today - and I believe there are many - they are that, once again, a segment of society is being demonized, once again because of their heritage and religious beliefs, and that so-called ordinary citizens are have taken to meting out their own punishments.
Yes, you can tell me (and many people have) that the Jews of Nazi persecution weren't terrorists, and I would agree. I would also point out that the two young Muslim women on the train in Portland were not terrorists, young women for whom strangers intervened when they were threatened by an attacker. Two of the three men who came to their aid were killed by a knife-wielding extremist American citizen.
Who was the terrorist here?
Recently, another deranged hate-filled individual who carried a list of targeted U.S. Congress members opened fire at the Republican softball practice. Several people were wounded and Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise was re-admitted to intensive care just today.
Members of Congress were understandably shocked and shaken that they had become targets, applauding House Speaker Paul Ryan's resounding declaration that "an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us."
I agree, Mr. Ryan, but in a broader context. An attack on any American (even, or perhaps especially, by a fellow American), is indeed an attack on all of us. Attacks on Muslim Americans, Jewish Americans, Black Americans, gay Americans, female Americans, and American journalists are attacks on all Americans.
Eva Levine was rounded up and transported because she was Jewish. She lost her husband and the rest of her family in the brutality of the Nazi death camps. After she was liberated by the British in 1945, Eva emigrated to the U.S. in 1950.
I wonder what Eva Levine would think about the administration in her adopted country demonizing a segment of the population, proposing registries, decrying an entire religion, tolerating and even inciting violence. Yes, a member of our government, Rep. Clay Higgins (R.-La.), has publicly urged people to kill anybody they suspect could be a radicalized Muslim. And he is not the only one.
When we attack one another, we are making the task of those who hate Americans that much easier. Let each of us strive not to become collaborators, and to fight against persecution, in any form.
Andrea Doray is a writer who also wants us to remember the WWII internment camps - some right here in Colorado - where thousands of American citizens were relocated and imprisoned for no reason other than that they were Japanese. Contact Andrea at email@example.com.
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