Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Imams' Auschwitz visit tells half the story

Muslim leaders have travelled to Germany and Poland to see and hear for themselves about the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust, the BBC reports. While visits like this are vital in combating Holocaust denial in the Arab and Muslim world, they are more remarkable for what they conceal than reveal. They have the unfortunate side-effect of projecting the Holocaust as a purely European story.  I'll wager that the question of sympathy with Nazism, even complicity, of key Arab figures, is not touched on, nor is the postwar ethnic cleansing of Jewish communities in the Arab world as a result of Nuremberg-style laws mentioned; nor the legacy of Nazi-inspired Islamo-fascism, still very much with us today.

The 11 imams, sheiks and religious teachers from nine countries met a Holocaust survivor and Poles whose families risked execution to save Jews from the Nazis, in the Polish capital's Nozyk Synagogue as part of the tour.(..)

"The main aim is to get Muslims who are leaders all over the world, particularly in the Middle East, to acknowledge the reality of what happened here and to be able to teach it to the people that they lead," said trip organiser Rabbi Jack Bemporad, who is executive director of the US-based Center for Interreligious Understanding.

He was standing underneath the red brick watchtower over the main entrance to Birkenau, the largest of more than 40 camps that made up the Auschwitz complex. This was where the Nazis installed four gas chambers and crematoria to speed up the murder and disposal of people, who were mostly Jews, from across Europe.

Auschwitz-Birkenau, set up by the Germans in Nazi-occupied Poland, is largely intact and is now a museum. Historians estimate 1.1 million people were killed there - one million of them were Jews but there were also Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and others.

"I think that when someone wants to deny the Holocaust or think that it is exaggerated, which many of them do and certainly many of their followers do, when they come here and see it, their experience is such that they can no longer think that," Rabbi Bemporad said.

Muslims pray during a trip to Auschwitz  
The visitors stopped to pray beside an execution wall. 
 
Beside the ruins of one of the gas chambers - the Germans blew them up as they retreated, in an effort to hide their crimes - the Muslim leaders paused for a moment's silence.
"You may read every book about the Holocaust but it's nothing like when you see this place where people were burned," said Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America.
"This is the building, the bricks. If they were to speak to you and I, they would tell you how many cries and screams they have heard."

Mr Magid, who is originally from Sudan, first visited Auschwitz-Birkenau during a trip organised for American imams in 2010. He said the experience had led him to hold an annual Seder, a Jewish ceremonial meal, at his mosque in Virginia where he invites people to listen to the story of a Holocaust survivor who was saved by a Muslim family.

"We go back more committed to human rights and more understanding of conflicts and how to resolve them, but also to be careful of a curriculum that teaches racism and hatred," he said.

 
Earlier, the group had taken photos as they walked around an exhibition in the red brick barrack blocks at Auschwitz, about 2 miles (3kms) from Birkenau.

They made comments such as "Can you imagine?" and "It's beyond comprehension" as they saw a great pile of hair shorn from women prisoners that was used to make rudimentary textiles. They shook their heads as they saw faded children's shoes and dolls in glass cases.

After they had seen just two of the 14 exhibition blocks, some of the group asked for a break and they knelt in prayer beside the camp's execution wall.

Barakat Hasan, a Palestinian imam and director of the Center for Studies and Islamic Media in Jerusalem, said he "didn't know many details about the Holocaust" before the trip.

Barakat Hasan, a Palestinian imam and director of the Center for Studies and Islamic Media in Jerusalem  
 Barakat Hasan, a Palestinian imam, said he would share what he had learned on the visit
 
"I felt my heart bleeding when I was looking at all this. I was fighting back tears," he said through an interpreter. "As a Palestinian living under occupation, I feel sympathy for the pain and injustice that was inflicted on the Jews," he added.

Mr Hasan said he did not believe there were people in the Muslim world who denied the Holocaust happened, but he said there was discussion in his community about whether the commonly quoted figure of six million Jewish victims was correct.

"Maybe now after seeing what I've seen, maybe the numbers are correct also," he said, adding that he would write articles and mention his trip on Facebook.

As he walked along the railway line and unloading ramp at Birkenau - where the trains hauling cattle cars crammed with Jews arrived - Ahmet Muharrem Atlig, a Turkish imam and secretary general of the Journalists and Writers Foundation in Istanbul, said he wept when he saw a photograph that showed children looking scared as they got off a train.

"Unfortunately the Muslim communities and congregation don't know much about the Holocaust," he said.

"Yes, we've heard something. But we have to come and see what happened here. It's not just about Jews, or Christians, this is all about human beings because the human race suffered here."

Read article in full 

A Libyan Holocaust survivor's story 

Hitler has never left the Middle East 

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

That Palestinian imam should go on a tour of Jasenovac. That was the camp that was staffed with guards recruited by Haj Amin

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Jasenovac was a camp built by the Croatian Ustashi Nazi collaborators. They governed Croatia and Bosnia under Nazi German sponsorship during the war. The camp murdered Jews, Gypsies, and --most of all-- Serbs. The Ustashi worked very hard to get rid of the Jews in Bosnia and Croatia. And for this they had the eager help of the Handschar [khanjar] SS division which was made up of Bosnian Muslims, recruited with the help of Haj Amin el-Husseini. See Jenny Lebel on Husseini. Also see George Stein, The Waffen SS, for info about the Handschar.

Anon, of course, Haj Amin el-Husseini recruited among Bosnian Muslims for the Handschar which was a wholly Muslim SS unit. But I had never read or heard of them being guards at Jasenaovac. I would like to check it out.

Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia:

"

Ustaše militia executing people over a mass grave near Jasenovac concentration camp

The camp was constructed, managed and supervised by Department III of the Ustashka Nadzorna Služba or UNS (lit. "Ustaše Supervisory Service"), a special police force of the NDH. Vjekoslav "Maks" Luburić was head of the UNS. Individuals managing the camp at different times included Miroslav Majstorović and Dinko Šakić. The camp administration in times used other Ustaše battalions, police units, Domobrani units, auxiliary units made up of Bosnian-Muslims, and even the aid of German and Hungarian Nazis."

So, not the Hanjars specifically, but other Muslims. And the Hanjars did assist in rounding people into Jasenovac.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Interesting.
By the way, Soviet Muslims were recruited into the Nazi einsatzgruppen, mass murder units that followed the Wehrmacht into Jewish towns in Belarus, Ukraine, etc.