Never Forget – Never Forgive the Cynical Exploitation of Immigrant Children


Up to now, I have viewed the regressive’s attempts to gin up an issue that would have political legs, as stupid and sophomoric, but still within the bounds of decency. Their current attempt to analogize the situation of immigrant children, with the war crimes of the Nazis, has crossed the line of decency and civilized behavior. It shows an ignorance and intellectual dishonesty, and a trivialization of the most horrific, inhumane and subanimal attempt to torture and exterminate a culture. Above all, it is an inexcusable insult to those that perished and those that survived the Holocaust.

Arleah and I recently returned from a trip to Ukraine. We went there for a number of reasons, one of which was to deepen our knowledge of what happened to the Jewish community, particularly during the second world war. My heritage is both Ukrainian and Russian, and I grew up hearing bits of information about how horrendous it was, but I had no context and no depth of understanding of the range of atrocities committed by the Nazis. (The community I grew up in, was peopled by survivors of the Holocaust in Western Europe and parts of Eastern Europe.)

We spent most of our time in Odessa, which was a strategic focus of the Nazis because of its location on the Black Sea. Our guide throughout our experience, was a child during the Ukrainian Holocaust, and her articulation of what happened, was, at times, emotionally overwhelming for us. A number of times I was emotionally blindsided, and could not contain my grief. Here is what we learned.

At the beginning of the war, the people of Odessa were subjected to indiscriminate saturation bombing which lasted for over a month. Its purpose was to sufficiently terrorize the population in preparation for the Nazi occupation. One of the first things the Nazis did was to force some of the Jews to construct a number of house-like structures – simply primitive buildings with four walls and a large interior space. They then herded hundreds of families into these structures, telling them that the Nazis would be back to transport them elsewhere.

The people were jammed in so tightly that they could barely breath. The Gestapo locked the doors and then set the buildings on fire – burning everyone alive. A survivor wrote, after the war, that the screams of the children were unbearable.

A number of courageous gentile families hid Jews in their homes, hoping to spare them from the horrors of the Nazis. When the Gestapo discovered a family hiding Jews, they took them to a public square and shot them; as an example of the foolhardiness of trying to hide from the occupiers. The Gestapo then returned to the gentile family, shot the parents in the head, and left their children sobbing and screaming over the dead bodies of their mother and father.

There is a monument in a park in Odessa, called “The Fountain of Tears.” At the top is a sculpture of a family; emaciated and huddled together, with their arms intertwined around each other. Just below the sculpture, fully surrounding it, is a band of barbed wire; thick and wide – the real thing. And at the base of the monument is four words: “Never Forget, Never Forgive.”

The immigrant children currently held in government custody are being fed, clothed, receiving medical and counseling care, and in many centers, provided with teachers. Those that came with parents will be separated from them for approximately twenty days.

They are not being abused, maltreated or tortured; nor are they being targeted for extermination. The use of them, by regressives, to get the policy of “catch and release” reinstated, is cynical, dishonest and unbelievably callous. It is, ultimately, emotional bottom feeding, with no where lower to go.

As brutally manipulative as the use of these children is, I am not without hope. There is a backlash developing which feels that a line has finally been crossed – that this idiocy has gone too far. For myself, I will keep voicing my protests, and encouraging others to reject these hysterical and corrosive attacks on the core values of our culture.

Morrie Shechtman

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