Daily Archives: January 12, 2006

Night and Day

Oddly enough, I’ve been reading Elie Wiesel this month.

From Night: [arrival at Birkenau]

Suddenly, someone threw his arms around my neck in an embrace: Yechiel, brother of the rabbi of Sighet. He was sobbing bitterly. I thought he was weeping with joy at still being alive.
“Don’t cry, Yechiel,” I said. “Don’t waste your tears. . . .”
“Not cry? We’re on the threshold of death. . . . Soon we shall have crossed over. . . . Don’t you understand? How could I not cry?”

From Dawn: [Gad’s indoctrination speech on Movement ideology during terrorist instruction]

” … We can rely only on ourselves. If we must become more unjust and inhuman than those who have been unjust and inhuman to us, then we shall do so. We don’t like to be bearers of death; heretofore we’ve chosen to be victims rather than executioners. The commandment Thou shall not kill was given from the summit of one of the mountains here in Palestine, and we were the only ones to obey it. But that’s all over; we must be like everybody else. Murder will be not our profession but our duty. In the days and weeks and months to come you will have only one purpose: to kill those who have made us killers. We shall kill in order that once more we may be men. . . .”


I see in the news that our facility at Guantanamo is now four years old.

I call it a concentration camp.

I understand that this is controversial, calling it a concentration camp. My brother especially objects to any such characterization, any such comparison to Dachau or Auschwitz. But I do so deliberately.

I also do so almost comfortably. I certainly am no scholar of the Shoah, but I have read a book or two. From Anne Frank to Miep Gies, to the Art Spiegelman Maus books, to Martin Gilbert’s The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War. Okay, so I didn’t finish The War Against the Jews by Lucy Dawidowicz, but I did read Treblinka by Jean-Francois Steiner; Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka by Yitzhak Arad; and The Theory and Practice of Hell by Eugen Kogon. I made it through the utterly overwhelming Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust by Yaffa Eliach.

I think I understand that there were differences among the various camps operated and controlled by the Nazis. Some were to concentrate prisoners in one place, some were to organize prisoners as laborers, and some were simply to exterminate people. Some camps were all three.

Strictly speaking, the original Auschwitz facility was a concentration camp. Later they added Birkenau, the extermination camp. There was also a separate labor camp. Dachau was from 1933 to 1941 a concentration camp, after 1941 becoming the death camp.

And but so I maintain that Guantanamo is a concentration camp.

And yes, okay, Guantanamo is not nearly as bad as Auschwitz. I’ll grant you that. But is that the best we can do? Only a few hundred have been imprisoned? Only a few dozen have been tortured? Only a handful have been killed? That’s not so bad, then, compared to the millions of Jews.

This is progress?