Archive for ‘racism’

May 21, 2012

Even Nazis have mamas.

Ich bin kein Nazi, Riko kept repeating. I am not a Nazi. But his tattoos showed otherwise and above all, when he asked me, a dog-park conversation, where I’m from and I said, Tel Aviv and he didn’t know anything about Tel Aviv, so I said Israel and then he hugged me and said – ein mensch ist ein mensch – a man is a man, a sure thing for showing you’re racist. and I laughed out loud and said – obwohl ich Juden bin, ah? – even though I’m Jewish, and he said no, no I am not a Nazi.

It’s been a long time since the German railway reminded me of Concentration Camps and water was preferably served without gas. The train is now more of a romantic adventure, picturing myself traveling with a weekend suitcase and a round hat case, being served Alpen mineral water. I’ve been back in Israel for four long years, experiencing the Middle Eastern jungle. Adding to that some history studies made me look at the world in a different, less naive way, eventually leaving me no other choice by to cancel the newspaper subscription, piling up on my table, not wanting to read more news, more realities of rape, murder, corruption and general unfairness. And above all – blindness to the pain of other animals, non-human animals.  I realized more than ever that people are just monsters, no matter where they are or where they come from. It is my proof to Nilse and to myself that I am not a racist – for me all people deserve the same amount of contempt and dislike. Sure, some might be more inclined towards violence, or killing, some may be more corrupt, but at the end of the day, people are selfish, cruel animals, not deserving protection, not deserving fighting for.

On his arm, just where my grandma had been marked with a number, Riko has a Swastika. Old and sun-faded, but it’s there. And I asked what does it mean for him and Riko said Adolf Hitler and saluted to the dead Führer. And I said na ja, well I don’t like it. And he said, yeah I know, I was 14, it was against the DDR, these were hard times, you know. And I said, trozdem and asked what it means for him. He said, it means I am German. I asked, against others and he said no, not against others, people say ich bin ein Nazi Schwein, I am a Nazi pig, but I’m not. And I said Adolf Hitler murdered my family and he said yeah, Adolf Hitler was dumb, that’s why. Just dumb. And I laughed and felt sorry for that man, drunk already so early in the evening, so used up. Speaks not a word of English for the Russians toughed them all Russian. And Riko went down on his knees and took my hands in his and he had long, skinny fingers and repeated, ich bin kein Nazi. I will remove the tattoo. Versprochen. Promise. Then his phone rang and he answered hallo mama and told me she’s sick. He sounded worried and caring and I thought, even Nazis have mamas.

And he said his family were all in the SS and I thought, my family was murdered by the SS. And he said his Father sent Juden to Russia, to Stalingrad and I said it wasn’t to Russia it was to death. And he said the soldiers didn’t know, don’t blame the soldiers, the soldiers are not responsible, they did what they were told and I thought, what a cliché, and I said soldiers took my family to the forest and shot them. He said nothing.

He said no one knew what was happening. I said everyone knew and had to think of different kinds of trains and trucks, today, at this very moment, carrying different kinds of animals, to death and people, they say, we didn’t know, it’s not like that. But everyone knows. It’s easier to not believe.

And I went home to my German Nilse and locked the door, a double lock, and felt nauseated, weak. Felt afraid. As if these monsters I saw in films or read about in books, became three dimensional. Alive. That damn Swastika has so much power. Is it the movies or my family’s history that give me fear? Does the Swastika have extra strength because humans gave it more power through art and stories? So many times I have heard Israelis send each other to be burnt or gassed, sent me, a damn lefty Askenazi, Hitler should have finished the job. Is it less frightening because Israelis wouldn’t actually get up and do it, because they are not so motivated, don’t have the organizational skills that Nazis had? Just too lazy, perhaps. That’s our luck, my Mother always says about the Arabs who surround Israel and don’t necessarily like this Jewish state. That’s our luck, that they are not so.. well, efficient. I’ve seen many neo Nazis in Berlin, while living there years ago, but never really conversed with one. Not knowingly, that is. Riko asked me to marry him five or six times during that talk and said that in Merseurg you don’t meet such people like me, so eine schoene Frau, and that made me think that with all our complexities, we are such simple beings. And remember what my sister always says – that a dick is still a dick. Racist, Nazi, Xenophobic – a hard-on is still a hard-on.

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December 22, 2008

– Of Changing Our Views or Changing Our Friends –

“If you have a racist friend, now is the time for your friendship to end. Change your views or change your friends…,,

Tocotronic.

Many people would agree with this song, but only a few would say the same thing about meat eating friends.

Obviously I wouldn’t share a table with a person who tells me that “Jews control the American economy”, then why be friends with someone who believes that factory farms are a necessity? That drinking milk from a cow, who’s children were taken from her to be slaughtered is something we, in this world, must have because this person “really loves cheese”?

We meet new people all the time and choose who to befriend. We should influence our friends and our family. We should have vegan holiday meals and show how easy and fun it is being a vegan, not some sacrifice we must make, cause it really isn’t.

Many new vegans come to the point in which they have to deal with their old meat eating friends and think twice before they make new ones. Should we depart from our old meat eating friends since our views have changed? Or should we have faith that they too, will change? Because it’s not really about whether or not seeing meat on the table bothers us or not, it’s about knowing that this person, which you call your friend, has speciesist views.

So just how tolerant should we be when it comes to speciesism? Sadly enough, I just don’t know.

April 1, 2008

-Part III: Only fifteen minutes from Buchenwald –

Two summers ago, while visiting a gray place called Belfast I have managed to encounter an astounding array of antisemitic observations. As far as I could gather, the excuse for this maddening racism is Catholic Irish solidarity with the Palestinians as occupied people. Since those who chose to inflict their racism upon me were Catholic and not Protestant, I couldn’t help but wonder: Would the antisemitic stop if the government of Israel works to establish a free Palestinian state? The sad truth is that the answer is no. After all, throughout history Catholics were those who gave Jewish people trouble everywhere in Europe (and, in fact, also to Gypsies in Prussia, Muslims in medieval Spain and witches in Victorian Massachusetts). Solving the issues between Israel and Palestine will not have a great affect on the fundamental beliefs of religious extremists. It will not change the basic hate some have for those who do not follow the same messiah.

Taking the ferry back to Liverpool I have to admit feeling relieved to go back to ‘safety’. Maybe other Israeli tourists just come around, enjoy the greenery and the beer and disregard the insane amount of anti-Israeli graffiti. As a visitor to the West Bank and an appreciator of anti-occupation graffiti, it was quite moving to see how some are active for others on such a far corner of the world.
But there was one in particular, which read: “Palestine – the largest concentration camp in the world”. Since it is a direct comparison to the Nazi Concentration Camps I must protest: in Palestine there are no gas chambers and there are no medical experiences conducted on the inhabitants. I am willing to accept the ‘Ghetto’ comparison, taking into account that Ghettos existed long before WW2, even during the Middle Ages. I am also aware that it wasn’t the Germans who invented the term “concentration camps”, it was actually invented by the Brits. In any case, I am in awe when people use this term to describe Palestine and even more so, when these people are using Palestine as an excuse for antisemitism.

In Berlin, a city that at some dark time in history, allowed Jewish people entry only through the garbage gates, how could it be that in these dark times of today, it served as a safe place for them?
It does indeed seem that Germany has become Israel’s best friend (after the US, that is). Secretly selling us weapons and openly apologizing for Germany’s gruesome history: Only a week ago did Angela Merkel give a speech in the Knesset saying that Germans feel ashamed of their past.
But Germany’s past cannot protect me from the present. Back at the language school in Schöneberg, I sat in class with some Irish teenagers who were eagerly checking me out. But when my turn came to introduce myself and say where I was from, they all turned away and never spoke to me again.

During this last year in Berlin, the past haunts me as well, and when my dear man wants to take me around Germany, I am reluctant. I want to see Germany, for her mountains, cultured cities, rivers, lakes and beer gardens, but these names on the map bring up harsh associations. Weimar is where I wanted to go, the home of Goethe (even though he did send Heine away when the last came to visit his hero). Making trip plans I checked out http://www.weimar.de and was instantly given recommendations to come and visit Buchenwald. This reminded me of a good friend of my Mother’s, who was invited by a German man to participate in a theater festival he was managing. “Only fifteen minutes from Buchenwald!”, he promised repeatedly.

The town of Weimar we never got around to visit.