We Must Speak Out the Unspeakable

The sleepy town of Tiszafured lies along the Tisza River in Eastern Hungary, almost 100 miles east of Budapest on the Great Plains that sweep to Romania.

My great uncle, Jacob Epstein.

If you drive the road into town you will not know the dark history of this place.

In the blink of an eye, 70 years ago all of the Jews of Tiszafured were rounded up and herded onto transport trains. They were enroute to Auschwitz.

This is personal to me because my grandmother’s five siblings along with their spouses and children were on those trains.

All of them, except two of my cousins Erzebet and Veronica, were killed as soon as they arrived on those infamous train tracks at the entrance to death camp. Erzebet and Veronica survived the war and were rescued by the Swedish Red Cross in May, 1945.

So you will understand when I respond to anything in my culture and society that even faintly reminds me of this darkest of time in modern history.

The U.S. Presidential Election increasingly has stark parallels with Germany ofthe late 1920s. Hitler promised to make Germany great again after the punitive Treaty of Versailles after World War I. Today Donald Trump promises to make America great again. (And while I can draw more parallels between the two men I refrain here because it makes me sick to my stomach).

And now Mr. Trump is asking his tens of thousands of supporters at rallies to raise their right hand and pledge that they will vote for him.

Photos of white people (some with shaved heads, others with baseball caps, some standing in front of confederate flags) pledge allegiance to Mr. Trump and what he stands for. I keep waiting to wake up from a nightmare.

Trump spews insults at his political opponents, denounces specific ethnic groups (e.g. Mexicans and Muslims), and rants and raves with vulgarities, which further emboldens his audience. A protester is removed from a rally and Mr. Trump states that “in the good old days” the protester would have been roughed up by police or others.

Sound familiar?

Should We Ban People?

This comes in the aftermath of Mr. Trump and other candidates vowing to bar people of a specific religion (Islam) from entering the country.

When was the last time a leader sought to ban a people from a country because of their religion? Yes, Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler who convinced people that, “the Jews are our misfortune.” To be more personal, Hitler stated that my family in Hungary was the “misfortune” of another people group (of Aryan descent).

It is frightening to me that many of Mr. Trump’s supporters are working class white people in America. Most of them are also of Aryan background. In South Carolina, an exit poll of people who voted for Mr. Trump showed that 16% (1 out of 6) believe that “white people are superior to other races.”

Someone wrote to me and said, “I don’t like Trump the person, but I agree with many of his ideas.” My hunch is that a fair number of people are supporting Trump for this very reason. My question is simple: Which ideas do you like and agree with?

  • Is it the idea that Muslims should be denied entrance to the U.S.?
  • Is it that people should pledge with unwavering support for Trump by raising their hand at a rally?
  • Is it that the U.S. should build an impenetrable wall between the U.S. and Mexico so that Mexicans cannot enter the country? And is it the idea that we will force Mexico to pay for it? And is it the idea that the wall will get taller and taller the more the Mexican government criticizes Mr. Trump?
  • Or is it to make America strong again and to keep our borders safe? And at what cost?

Imagine This

Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany in 1932 and took power in 1933.

The infamous Kristallnacht progrom occurred in 1938, more than 6 years after Hitler’s election. Shortly after that Jews were forced to wear the star of David on their clothes to identify themselves.

In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland and World War II was started.

It was seven years between Hitler’s election and the greatest brutality toward Jews. The Holocaust happened one day at a time - slowly - without many people really noticing what was occurring right under their noses.

Most of us simply cannot imagine that such atrocity could be repeated in the Western World. We refuse to consider the possibility, especially if we are in the majority and hold the power in a society.

I do not hold that power. I am part of a minority that has known tremendous persecution. The response of many Jews has been to make our way into places of great influence and power in the world. Consider how disproportionately represented Jews are in politics, business, and the entertainment industry.

And yet we are still a tiny minority everywhere in the world except in Israel.

I never thought I would say this about my country, but I am declaring it today: If you are a minority in the United States you have good reason to be concerned for your future here.

  • If you are a Muslim, you should be concerned.
  • If you are Mexican, you should be concerned.
  • If you are African American, you should be concerned.

Perhaps it is easier to say who should NOT be concerned for your future: If you are white, nationalistic, from a “European background,” and most likely Protestant you need not fear if Donald Trump is elected President.

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