People tend to think of the Holocaust as an event, or a constant: Hitler came to power, next stop Auschwitz. This is far from historical fact, however. The Holocaust was a process, with a beginning, a middle and, if not an end, then at least a near-culmination. There was an arc that took European societies from accepting Jews as neighbors, fellow citizens and even prominent members of the community — if with a dogwhistle here and there, and occasional down-home Jew-hating talk — to wholesale slaughter, with a side serving of unbridled abuse, rape, torture and gleeful psychological sadism. It didn’t happen overnight.
The proto-Nazis spent the 1920’s spreading vicious, (literally) cartoonish anti-Semitic propaganda. Those were the Der Stürmer years. Relentlessly, the future “winners” of the German state called Jews animals, vermin, criminals, racial degenerates, ideological enemies of society. The first race laws began to be enacted in 1933. Then, in 1935, Jews, Roma and other “undesirables” were stripped of their citizenship and civil rights. Then came the pogroms. Then came the ghettos. And then the murders began. Sporadic mass executions were followed by systematic, mechanized slaughter of human beings throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.
You know what I don’t get? On this 120-ish day of the Trump Presidency, his administration is running around like a chicken without a head, a Special Prosecutor (a good one!) has been appointed to excavate Trump’s sordid Russia stuff, yet most of what I hear in the liberal circles has to do with the tenuous likelihood of impeachment. The pessimism is puzzling. Right now, the Democrats are in as good a position as they’ve been since the election, and impeachment — much less a successful one — is probably the last thing we want.
My family came to the United States during the early 1990’s recession. My father had been a railroad engineer back in Russia, mostly working the geriatric section of the network, the track between Moscow and (then) Leningrad. In the States, he discovered to his chagrin that the railroads and the train industry were in the crapper, and so the only job he could find that matched his education and skills was for a custom air-conditioning company, which offered him $8.25 an hour with no benefits — provided he first worked for them for six months without pay, “as a volunteer”. And so, like many youngish Soviet immigrants at that time, my father became a livery driver.
If you haven’t seen Netflix’s ten-part documentary, Making a Murderer, about a man who spent eighteen years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, and was later very likely framed for another crime, go see it now. Have plenty of liquor and cute bunny pictures on hand; you are going to need both. It is one of the most affecting documentaries of all time and a wholly infuriating look at the American criminal justice system.
If you have seen it, then you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the prosecutor in Steven Avery’s and Brendan Dassey’s trials for the murder of Teresa Halbach, Ken Kratz, has come to know the wrath of the Internet (the usual: furious Yelp reviews, harassing e-mails, death threats, and so forth). And so, The Kratz is fighting back. Read more…