world war ii: holocaust

Hermann Goering’s Anti-Nazi Little Brother and Savior of Many.

“I spit upon Adolf Hitler! I spit upon my brother! And I spit upon the entire National Socialist regime!”

—Albert Goering

Perhaps one of the most infamous names of Word War II and Nazi Germany, Hermann Goering was Reichsmarshall of the Third Reich, head of the Luftwaffe (air force), and second in command under Adolf Hitler.  One of the most ruthless Nazi’s in history, he was responsible for the Holocaust and numerous war crimes.  It is a shame that his names should be remembered (albeit in a negative light) while his little brother is all but forgotten, ignored, or unknown to most.

While Albert Goering was the younger brother of Hermann Goering, he led his life in a completely different path than his kin.  Whereas Hermann was a staunch National Socialist who rose to the upper echelons of Hitler’s regime, Albert was vehemently anti-Nazi, and used his position to oppose Nazism in any way he could. Throughout World War II, Albert used his family name to rescue many Jews, dissidents, and any other people who were on Hitler’s death list.   Whenever he was caught by the Gestapo (secret police), he would use his brother’s influence to secure his release. After all, it would be quite a scandal if it was revealed that the Reichsmarshall’s brother was anti-Nazi who helped Jews escape the Third Reich. In one incident SS thugs raided a Jewish owned paint shop, forcing the elderly mother of the owner to sit at the entrance wearing a sign saying, “I am a filthy Jew”. Goering pushed his way through a jeering mob and removed the sign.  When the SS tried to stop him, he merely showed his identification, and they left him alone. One sly way he would have victims of the Nazi’s saved was to create “official” documents ordering the release of said person.  These orders were typed on Goering family stationary and signed simply “Goering”.  Most who received the order believed they were orders from Hermann Goering himself, and thus obeyed the order.

The height of Albert’s resistance against the Nazi’s occurred in 1943 when he was made chief export officer at the Skoda Works factory in Prague.  Albert used his position to smuggle weapons and money to the Czech Resistance, coordinate acts of sabotage, set up Swiss bank accounts for the people he rescued, and organized the escape of many victims of the Nazi government.  In a few incidents, he requested Jewish workers from local concentration camps.  Loading them up in trucks, he would drive them to a secluded location, then set them free.

Unfortunately no good deed goes unpunished. After the war he was arrested by the Allies and charged with war crimes merely for sharing the Goering name.  Originally he was slated to be charged during the Nuremburg Trials, but after a year of imprisonment he was released after those he saved testified on his behalf.  He was then imprisoned in Czechoslovakia for war crimes.  He was released in 1947 when once again those he rescued, as well as Czech Resistance members petitioned the government to set him free. For the rest of his life Albert was unable to make a decent living as his name barred him from gainful employment.  He sunk into a life of alcoholism and depression, dying a pauper in 1966.  Today his name still evokes controversy.  Recent requests for him to be awarded the title "Righteous Among Nations" have stirred debate among the Israeli Government and Holocaust organizations.  He doesn’t even have a grave to honor his memory.

Map 108: “Jewish Ghetto Revolts, 1942–1945”

Despite the overwhelming military strength of the German forces, many Jews, while weakened by hunger and terrorised by Nazi brutality, nevertheless rose in revolt against their fate, not only in many of the Ghettoes in which they were forcibly confined, but even in the concentration camps.

Martin Gilbert, ed. The Routledge Atlas of the Second World War, 2nd edition (2009)

Polish-Jewish Literature: I Had Dream by Itzhak Katzenelson

I had a dream,
a terrible dream:
my people was no more, my people
I rose screaming:
Ah! Ah!
What I have dreamed
is happening now!
Oh, God in heaven! –
Shuddering I shall cry:
what for and why
did my people die?
What for and why
in vain did it die?
Not in a war,
not in battle …
the young, the old,
and women and babies so little – –
are no more, no more:
wring your hands!
Thus I’ll cry in sorrow
both day and night:
What for, my Lord,
dear God, why?

Itzhak Katzenelson (1886-1944) - One of Poland’s Jewish poets and dramatists who wrote in both Hebrew and Yiddish. Prior to World War II he wrote mostly for children. During the war he was consigned to the Warsaw Ghetto and later to the camp at Vitel in France, whence he was sent to Auschwitz where he perished.

Visit to Dachau Concentration Camp

On my way home from a weekend in the Alps, we passed through Munich and I was able to visit Dachau Concentration Camp. I’ve wanted to see one in person since I was very young and began to learn about the Holocaust. 

All these decades later and there’s still a heaviness in the air. The day I went was also very cold and rainy, which only served to underline the misery of the place.

Gate at the entrance to the camp. It means “Work makes you free” or “Work sets you free” (depending on the translation you find, I personally don’t speak fluent German). 

The bunk beds, stacked 3 high, slept several people on each bed. The windows were single-paned and the walls were without insulation. Even in my heavy coat, boots, gloves, and scarf, it was freezing.

View from the bunkhouse.

Inside the gas chamber.


Book Spotlight: A Book That Made Me Ugly Cry (1/?)

We’ve all been there, quietly reading along when suddenly WHAM! FEELS! And suddenly you’re sobbing and snotting into your book, cursing the author and yourself for reading this beautiful and terribly painful book.

That’s how Code Name Verity was for me, at least.  I don’t usually cry in books, and I avoid the really heart-wrenching books about cancer and death, so it’s needless to say I wasn’t expecting to be hit so fully in the gut by the ending.  But oh man, I was.  This book carved out my heart, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it, leaving me a sobbing, snotting mess on my couch at 2pm on a Friday afternoon.

And now I’m recommending it to you all.  Here’s a quick synopsis from goodreads:

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine - and I will do anything, anything to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France - an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

Go read this book immediately.  It is beautiful and heart-wrenching and one of my top favorites of all time.

★★★★★ 5/5

Honorable mention:

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

The companion to Code Name Verity, this is also beautifully sob-worthy.  However, I didn’t cry quite as much while reading it.  Still cried, though.  Elizabeth Wein is a cruel, cruel woman to make me feel such things.

Book Spotlight Masterpost
‘If I Sleep for an Hour, 30 People Will Die’
The story of a Jewish resistance forger who saved thousands of lives.

PARIS — It’s 1944, in occupied Paris. Four friends spend their days in a narrow room atop a Left Bank apartment building. The neighbors think they’re painters — a cover story to explain the chemical smell. In fact, the friends are members of a Jewish resistance cell. They’re operating a clandestine laboratory to make false passports for children and families about to be deported to concentration camps. The youngest member of the group, the lab’s technical director, is practically a child himself: Adolfo Kaminsky, age 18.

If you’re doubting whether you’ve done enough with your life, don’t compare yourself to Mr. Kaminsky. By his 19th birthday, he had helped save the lives of thousands of people by making false documents to get them into hiding or out of the country. He went on to forge papers for people in practically every major conflict of the mid-20th century.


That’s what the emperors had. A man stole something, he’s brought in before the emperor, he throws himself down on the ground, he begs for mercy. He knows he’s going to die. And the emperor, pardons him. This worthless man, he lets him go. That’s power, Amon. That is power.

Schindler’s List (1993) dir. Steven Spielberg

Hungarian Jewish men and boys from Carpathian Ruthenia (now, largely in Ukraine) arrive by cattle car to Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp and await selection. Those deemed unable to work due to age, infirmity, or due to labor quotas already filled were sent directly to the gas chamber to be killed. Those selected by SS doctors as fit for labor were sent into the camp, where they were registered, deloused and distributed to the barracks. Auschwitz concentration camp, Auschwitz (Polish: Oświęcim), Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland. 27 April 1944. Image taken by either SS photographers E. Hoffmann or B. Walter.

Mizrahi Jewish People in the Holocaust

The Israeli school system teaches the average 11th grader all there is to know about the Holocaust and World War II, yet seems to nearly neglect mentioning the Holocaust in non European countries such as Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Iraq.
A classmate did a class presentation the other day, talking about her grandmother who’s a Holocaust survivor from Libya. My white, Jewish, American teacher’s response was “oh, i didn’t know the holocaust was there too” or something equally as ignorant.

The Nazi policy didn’t spare Jewish people outside of Europe -  the 400,000 Jewish people in France’s territories in North Africa (French Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) were included in the number of “the Final Solution to the Jewish Question in Europe”.
Jewish people in Libya, that was under Italian rule, suffered from Anti Semitism and economic restrictions as Italy’s relations tightened with Germany. In 1942, laws of racial discrimination were activated in Libya, men were recruited to forced labor and Jews were transferred to concentration camps.
The Vichy rule in Algeria from 1940 cancelled the Jews citizenship and activated the same restrictions that applied to the Jews of France.
The Vichy rule in Tunisia was pro Nazi and in 1942, the Nazis occupied 
French Tunisia. The commander of Tunis was then Walther Rauff, who was involved in the development of death gas vans and the Final Solution in Eastern Europe and instituted anti Jewish policies.
Iraq was for a short term under the Nazi allied regime of Rashid Ali Al Gaylani. Among its results was the Farhud which was a pogrom that killed 180 Jewish people.

You will not be taught about Mizrahi Jewish people in the Holocaust, although it is as important to know.

People like to praise Germany for recognizing the Holocaust and making sure that their country remembers the horrors of Nazi Germany. And it’s true, Germany has done a great job. But did it ever occur to anyone that Germany did this because, after World War II, the rest of the world held them accountable for it?

Do you think if Germany wasn’t subjected to the Nuremberg Trials or all of the other consequences they faced that the country would still be even acknowledging the Holocaust? You don’t think that if Germany had the chance to sweep the Holocaust under the rug, they would have?

I mean, Turkey doesn’t recognize the Armenian Genocide and the United Stares doesn’t recognize the Native American genocide. In both cases, neither country faced (or is facing) international pressure to recognize or even acknowledge the awful parts of their history.

If Turkey and the United States faced the international pressure that Germany did after World War II, people on social media wouldn’t have to start campaigns for the genocides to just be acknowledged. We would be reading it in our textbooks, there would be many memorials, and we would be having guest speakers at our schools.