Faith of the Condemned

Copyright © 2009.  By Charles S. Weinblatt

At the behest of the German government, more than six million Jews were systematically exterminated, in addition to at least four million additional "undesirables," including Roma, homosexuals, political prisoners, Russians, criminals, the mentally challenged, etc.

Consider the plight of European Jews. They were not expelled from society, forced to change their religion or given an injection to speed their way into a painless death. Deemed an “inferior race,” they were exterminated, like annoying insects. They were gassed to death, because that was the most efficient way to dispose of six million men, women and children – who happened to be Jewish. For centuries, these Jews had been good German citizens and neighbors, fighting and dying in Germany's wars and contributing to Germany's artistic, scientific and business success. By 1938, they had become vermin, to be exterminated.

Jews in German-controlled lands were ousted from their schools, jobs and homes, and forced to live in squalid ghettos. Their homes, money and possessions were looted by the German government and local citizens. The captured Jews were transported to concentration camps, where they were often forced to work as slave laborers. Finally, they were transported to death camps, where they were gassed to death or shot and their bodies cremated.

We know this to be true, not simply from the anecdotal recollection of survivors and eyewitnesses, but from captured German documents. The German government carefully recorded the name of each Jew, in each concentration camp, on their inevitable road to premature death. Jews were rounded up by the Nazi's civilian thugs, better known as Einsatzgruppen. The Einsatzgruppen were groups of local criminals and gangsters, who uncovered Jewish men, women and children, capturing them for the SS. Sometimes, they were told to shoot the Jews and bury them in trenches. One such location of the mass murder of Jews was a place called Babi Yar, not far from my mother's birthplace, in the Ukraine.

Women, the elderly, the sick, the frail and children were often the first into the gas chambers. Men and hardy women were kept barely alive for their value as slave laborers. As long as they remained strong enough to work, they were employed as laborers for the benefit of the military and German industrialists. Some of those German companies exist today. When there was no more work, or the victims became ill or weak, they were shot or gassed to death.

My mother experienced anti-Semitism as a child in Russia. Cossacks and local citizens persecuted Jews in the towns and villages of the Ukraine. My mother and her sisters survived by leaving Europe and immigrating to America before the Holocaust. However, almost two entire generations of her family died in the Shoah, the Hebrew word for Holocaust.

I hold this genocide close to my heart. It is a cumbersome stone attached to my soul, a burden of remarkable proportions. It is why I created a book called, Jacob’s Courage. Through the words of "Jacob's Courage" my ancestors cry out for justice. This terrible story cannot be told without revealing the brutality and indignity of the Holocaust in every detail. It is a terrible and yet at times beautiful story, filled with heroes and villains, love and laughter, horror, tragedy and survival.

The genocide of six million innocent people must be told and remembered. If not, there would be nothing to prevent more genocide, and then more after that. We cannot allow our progeny to embrace the worst characteristics of human nature. This tragedy must be indelibly imprinted upon our children and they must pass it along to their progeny. The only way to eliminate hatred and instill tolerance is through thoughtful and well-planned education.

This does not demean the importance of other Holocausts. The Armenian genocide was no less tragic, only smaller in scope. Those innocent people who were murdered in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur were just as blameless. All genocides create important questions. Why would German citizens allow their neighbors to be annihilated? How much did they know about death camps and when? Why didn’t they try to prevent it? How deeply-rooted was anti-Semitism?

How can we learn to value the differences among us, rather than fear them? When will we stop ostracizing people because of their religion, race, gender, orientation or ethnic heritage? In the 21st century, we must become better than that. We must acquire tolerance and compassion, rather than teach our children to continue to fear, abhor and hate people who are different.

We surround ourselves with romance and comedy, playing to the healthier parts of our emotional identity. Yet, repugnance, despair and obscurity exist within human nature. We learn nothing about ourselves if we do not examine that dark side of our psyche. If any benefit can come from the Holocaust it is that we can examine the furthermost extent of human depravity. We can measure its immorality, degeneracy and malevolence.

Deep within the fear and panic of the Holocaust were vastly critical decisions about ethical behavior, revealing our concept of morality. Unlike animals, humans are governed by principles, ethical beliefs and veracity. We are not clouded by delusions of integrity, but governed by them. To understand human behavior, we must explore the human response to terror, as well as the alluring beauty of passionate love and the driving power of religious devotion. After all, we are profoundly influenced by each of these passions.

Our lives are complex - even within the garish trap of the Holocaust. Not all Jews were innocent victims. Not all Germans were rabid anti-Semites, bent upon the destruction of the Jewish "race." Some Jews were themselves evil and became concentration camp "kapos." Some gentiles were compassionate and rescued many Jews.

In reality, the world is seldom seen in black and white, or shades of gray - especially during the Holocaust. In the midst of terrible anguish, beauty existed. Within beauty, despair can exist. And, while many Jews in the abyss of the Holocaust worshipped God, some condemned God. While it might be easy to claim that God works in mysterious ways, how is one to focus on religious constructs when the veneer of all that is good in life has been stripped away? How does one continue to love a God who allows the murder of every loved one, who allows us to be starved, beaten, tortured, denigrated, disfigured and emotionally destroyed? Perhaps this was the ultimate test of faith.

Holocaust survivors lost everything, but perhaps somehow gained something as well. Certainly an honest examination of the Holocaust must reveal torturous brutality, starvation, sickness and death. Most Holocaust survivors lost all of their loved ones. The facade of life’s beauty had been stripped away, revealing an incomprehensible abyss of revulsion.

Yet here, in the bowels of terror, the Jews of the Holocaust hit a wall and continued to run. Despite the onslaught of lasting evil, in the face of certain death, Jewish victims of the Holocaust fabricated a make-believe world for their children. Deep within the horrid transit concentration camps of Nazi Germany, such as Theresienstadt, the Jews of Europe continued to practice their religion, to teach their children and to love one another. Lovers married, amidst the shadows of death and the stench of decay. This is where the Jews of Europe, condemned to certain death, continued their everlasting worship of God in the manner of their ancestors for countless centuries. Here, waiting to be sent to the gas chambers and crematoria, one can feel hope for the survival of the human spirit. These singular moments rise like a fabulous phoenix, from the ashes of annihilation.

Those poor souls trapped within the terror of the Holocaust were faced with the most perfidious forces. Deceit, brutality, cruelty, sickness, starvation and the death of loved-ones were the daily companions of Holocaust victims. Yet, in the midst of utter despair, there was life, love, passion, desire, religious fervor and the excitement known only to children. Even in such hopeless desolation, there was love of God, infatuation, romance and longing for all of the things that humans crave. Jews fabricated their ethnicity within the drumbeat of the slow, steady march to the Nazi gas chambers. They refused to allow the fabric of Jewish society be torn by relocation, forced labor, starvation, sickness and the endless threat of demise. They created schools, orchestras, athletic events, synagogue and prayer, weddings and funerals, dances and theatre, study groups and debates; to every hellhole the Jews were sent; they took their values and their faith with them. Rather than give in to the Nazis, Jews trapped within ghettos and concentration camps courageously re-created their culture and religion. Some of the most ardent examples of constructive human nature can be found in these terrifying Holocaust moments.

Hidden from the SS, concentration camp Jews observed the covenants and rituals of Judaism. They prayed on the Sabbath and during the major holidays, celebrated marriage ceremonies, arranged burials and even ritual circumcisions. Along the dark, terrifying, relentless path to the gas chambers of Nazi-occupied Europe, Jews lived, loved, learned and died, behaving as though their lives would continue unabated. In their darkest moments, concentration camp Jews fabricated a “normal” life for their progeny. Despite their impending mortality, they created an ordinary world on the inside to protect children from the raging genocide on the outside. Such was the nature of their love, faith and devotion. Indeed, this worship transcended parental affection. Into the gas chambers and crematoria, the Jews of the Holocaust emptied their faith and continued to worship the God of their ancestors.

The human spirit strives for autonomy and freedom. Yet, to understand human nature, one must descend into the depths of depravity and terror. We cannot appreciate humanity without comprehending its wicked flaws. Deep within the darkest recesses of brutal genocide, we discover a faint flicker of light representing love, passion, desire, hope, worship and reverence. Here is the essence of humanity, in the midst of the dark whirlwind of malevolence – a flicker of light representing morality, faith, love, compassion and righteousness.

This is why we must always tell stories of the Holocaust. Such narratives represent the very worst of human vilification and the very best of compassion. Holocaust stories teach us how to recognize the worst examples of humanity, but also how to be a righteous person. The terror of genocide is not necessarily an inevitable human outcome. We must learn from the mistakes of our past, rather than repeat them. As long as we teach our children about the Holocaust, there is hope that it will never happen again. In the words of writer and philosopher George Santayana, "Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it."

Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, “Jacob's Courage”
http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/

The Saddest Holiday

Tisha B’Av: Judaism’s Saddest Day
© 2009, Charles S. Weinblatt

The ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av has come to be known as Tisha B’Av. It begins at sunset on the eighth of Av and ends at sunset on the ninth. It has come to be known as the saddest day in the Hebrew calendar.

Throughout Jewish history, the ninth of Av has been recognized as a day of tragedy. Many dreadful events occurred or began on this day in history, including the destruction of the First (586 BC) and Second Temples (516 BC), the razing of Jerusalem by Romans (70 CE), the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition (1492) and the beginning of World War I (1914), which presaged events leading to the Holocaust. During the First Crusade, 10,000 Jews were murdered on Tisha B’Av (1095). In 1290, Jews were expelled from England on Tisha B’Av. It is also said to be the day that Moses returned from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments and discovered his people worshipping idols. During the Holocaust, deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Nazi Treblinka death camp began on Tisha B’Av (1942). More recently, the deadly bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires occurred on Tisha B’Av (1994).

In addition to fasting during Tisha B’Av, observant Jews refrain from washing, working, drinking, using electricity, shopping and having sexual relations. Jews mark the day as they would during a shiva, the Jewish period of mourning. Torah study is forbidden and Jews often bury old and damaged prayer books on this day. Many Jews sit on low stools or sleep on the floor. They refrain from greeting visitors and read the scroll of Eicha (Lamentations). During the three weeks before this holiday, Jews are forbidden to marry. This period of mourning begins with another fast day, the 17th of Tammuz, when the Second Temple walls of Jerusalem were breached in 70 CE.

Orthodox Jews believe that Tisha B’Av will remain a day of mourning until the messiah arrives and the temple is rebuilt. At that time, it will turn into a day of celebration forever. Although Reformed Judaism has never assigned this type of significance to the destruction of the temple, Tisha B’Av is still observed as a day to recall Jewish tragedies.

While Jews observe Tisha B’Av by looking backwards on the calendar, the holiday can have significant contemporary meaning. When fasting, Jews can comprehend the pain and suffering of destitute people around the world. This realization can be turned into compassion and charity. Having been victims of genocide many times in the past, Jews can use this holiday as a time to aid contemporary victims of ethnic, religious, racial and gender persecution. Jews can also realize how fortunate they are compared with their ancestors. Although anti-Semitism is increasing today, Jews are not persecuted to the same extent as they were throughout history.

Coming to terms with disaster is never easy. No race or religion has had more historical experience with disaster than the Hebrew people have. Repeatedly, Jews have been conquered, enslaved, massacred, tortured and expelled. Somehow, despite all efforts to destroy this tiny religion, Jews found a way to survive and even prosper. The Jewish people found a way to turn disaster into survival and survival into a new nation, rebuilt over the crumbling rocks of the ancient Jewish kingdoms of David and Saul.

It has been more than 2,000 years since the destruction of the temples in ancient Israel. During that time millions of Jews have been slaughtered by Greeks, Romans, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust. Despite the indignity of historical perspective, Jews continue to exist. They worship the same God, recite the same prayers, observe the same holidays and perform the same rites and rituals as their courageous ancient ancestors did. This astonishing chronicle of survival may be one of the greatest legends of human history.

Although Tisha B’Av is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, it can also be considered, through careful reflection, as a day to be grateful for the survival of the Jewish people. Despite civilization’s persistent attempts to destroy Jews, this tiny, persistent religion has found a way to survive, prosper and contribute to the cultures of countless societies. In this regard, Tisha B’Av can also be observed as a day to be thankful for the resilient endurance of the “chosen people.” Always persecuted, never destroyed; the Jewish people march on through history, unabated, undeterred and ever grateful for the influence of their ancestors.

Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, Jacob’s Courage
http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/

Happiness and the Human Mind

Humans are frenzied islands of consciousness, possessing characteristics both good and evil. If we wish to contemplate reality, then we must accept that our good characteristics are balanced with flaws, faults and limitations. Conversely, the malevolent side of our nature possesses some beneficial qualities, as well. It is this balance of the good and wicked sides of our personality that we must understand. But, we must dig deeper to truly comprehend the complex foundation of our behavior.

There is a great deal more to our personality than the ubiquitous battleground of good versus evil. We are not one or the other, but a combination of both. We are attractive and hideous, comforting and horrifying, wicked and compassionate; we can love and we can loathe. Unlike animals, humans are complex creatures ruled by principles, moral beliefs and veracity. We are governed by ideations of probity, integrity and honor. Yet, how can we know that our beliefs are virtuous? If we were raised by criminals, would ruthlessness become a virtue? How can we tell if we are a good person?

Determined by genetic predisposition and acquired emotions, our personality is formed at a young age. By the time we are a teenager, our complex personality has been fully formed. It will never change, barring a very significant life event. We learn to act in ways that mimic our parents and close relatives. Their beliefs become the basis for our morality, our interactions and, ultimately, our happiness. Morality can also be powerfully influenced by outside forces. For example, many Europeans accepted Hitler’s propaganda and believed that Jews were evil. Thus, our concepts of ethical morality can be twisted to achieve dark goals.

In addition to morality, our personality is influenced by powerful emotions churning within our consciousness. Emotions alter our relationships and inspire or prevent virtuous behavior. No emotion pushes us to behave more powerfully than does guilt. Not love. Nor anger. Not even happiness drives us to act more influentially than does guilt. Our minds are aggressively provoked by contemplation of our culpability and this remorse becomes a primary motivator in decision-making. The surprising aspect of this reality is that we fail to recognize it. We can ignore guilt or learn from it, but we can never escape from it. Even the most innocent of us are burdened by thoughts of guilt and remorse. When we dwell upon these forces of compunction, our behavioral balance becomes tilted toward sorrow and anger. We become depressed, paralyzed and tormented.

Humans are faced with treacherous forces throughout life. We are, at times, victims of deceit and cruelty. We face the loss of a career, a home or a loved one. Our lives are precarious and the only thing that we can count on is change. Yet, in the midst of despair, there also exists love, desire, and hope. Even in desperate misery, there can be faith and compassion; things that humans crave. Those of us who find a way to balance the rollercoaster ride of emotions and who possess a sound concept of morality are the happiest. Of course, this is easier said than done.

Life is tragic, exciting, wonderful, and terrifying - all at the same time. Yet our journey throughout the passage of time allows us to act in ways that benefit others. All of us have the capacity to act in ways that benefit others. We can be honorable, empathetic and loving individuals. This can be our goal. Compassion and empathy are the most valued characteristics of humanity; including all societies and all of our religions. We can teach the significance of empathy and tolerance to our children. While that might not be our destiny, it is within our capacity to achieve.

Making decisions is the only true freedom that any of us have. The consequences of our decisions frame our character and form our legacy. We can reason and act in wise and virtuous ways. But, we must challenge the authenticity of our acquired morality. We must do what so many Europeans did not do during the Holocaust. It has always been easier to fear and hate, than to value and tolerate. We must reflect upon incoming propaganda and determine if it truly reflects esteemed concepts of human compassion and empathy. This is not a purpose, but a gift possessed only by humans.

Happiness has a great deal to do with our principles and morality. We have the capacity to grow beyond our self-centered ego. As a child, we desire that which makes us feel good. As an adult, we should realize that virtue derives from compassion. Fulfillment comes from the knowledge that we have improved the world in some way; that we made someone’s life better. The fact that we have only one shot at life makes each moment, each interaction, critically precious.

Our actions echo through eternity in those who remember us. Happiness results from the discovery of our inner balance between emotions and values. But the road to contentment lies not just in maintaining a balance between emotions and values, but also in finding ways to act in a righteous manner. For the more we love others, the more we will be loved in return. The more virtuous we are, the greater our importance to society and the planet. Contentment is a gift that each of us can control. It is achieved, ironically, by making others happy. Each of us has this capacity. It’s always within reach. We attain it by understanding why we behave and how we can change our actions to enhance the lives of others. In this regard, happiness is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, Jacob's Courage
http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/

Why We Exist

Why am I here? What should I do? Where should I go? With whom? What will happen when I am gone? Why is there so much pain? What is the meaning of life?

We are fortunate to have become sentient life forms. Evolution allowed us to reach this point. However, the capacity to comprehend does not lend any more purpose to our existence than has an ant, a fish or a bird. Our purpose in life is, quite simply, procreation. Make more humans and we have accomplished our reason for being here.

Yet, we have the capacity to do more, to be more, and to act in ways that benefit others. We can appreciate our existence, manipulate our environment and improve the lives of others. We can be moral, compassionate and ethical. Some may describe this as egocentric nihilism. So, be it. It can be in our nature to enhance the condition of humanity and improve the quality of our environment.

Some of the most beautiful and gifted people perish at a young age. Some of the most terrible monsters enjoy long comfortable lives. There is no rhyme or reason to the symphony of life. It is tragic, electrifying, magnificent, and terrifying - all at the same time. Are we confined to the role of observant passenger throughout the passage of time? Can we act in ways that impact society, benefiting future generations? Can we impart this value to our progeny? Whether or not this is our destiny, the prospect exists and its meaning calls through the silence of time to all of us.

We do not exist to do something or to be someone. Although we have innate gifts, randomness plays a critical role. We are born into to wealth or poverty. Our parents love us or beat us. The randomness of our birth condemns us to poverty or places us in circumstances of great wealth; we receive superior guidance from a loving family, or we are thrown into the cold, dark world as orphans. Yet there are those who overcome such travesties of unfortunate circumstance. Some of the most depressed people are wealthy beyond avarice, as are many of the physically beautiful. Conversely, some of the most unattractive, deprived people are also the happiest. We strive to consume, to own and to possess. We learn, work and achieve. But, are we fulfilled?

Our destiny is created through decisions. It is the only true freedom that any of us have. The consequences of our decisions create or deny opportunities. We can overcome severe impediments by virtue of our ability to reason and act wisely. This is not our purpose. Rather, it is a gift. How we use this gift determines our legacy.

A metaphysical explanation for death, heaven, God, alternate dimensions or a parallel universe is not required for us to feel satisfied. Happiness has little to do with ideations of conscience or delusions of morality. The Torah teaches us that whoever saves a person saves the whole world in turn. If there is any meaning in life it is that we have the capacity to help others. We can touch lives and make them better. The context of this morality is compassion. Compassion ennobles humanity and enhances its significance. The human soul does not thrive on value (Nietzsche). It thrives on love and compassion. We have the capacity to grow beyond our self-centered ego. What we do with our lives echoes throughout eternity in those who remember us. The doorway to this reward is ethical behavior. Yes, it is subjective. But reason and logic alone leave us wanting.

The currency of life is empathy. The more we give, the more we receive. Anyone can be wealthy in this regard. Environmental conditions and strength of purpose allow someone with a short, miserable life in painful squalor to become happy and fulfilled. Accomplishment comes from the knowledge that one’s presence in life improved the world in some way. A search for further meaning is superfluous.

Time is the fire in which we slowly burn. Its flames prick our skin always. Time surrounds us in silent, smoldering malevolence, ever gaining upon our retreat. There is no escape. Death is liberation, not exoneration. The fact that we have only one shot at life makes each moment, each interaction, critical. There are no second chances.

Why do we fear death? Death is simply the normal end to life. It is a release for many and a desire for those who suffer. We mourn lost loved ones. The gaping emptiness is unbearable. Yet, through the sadness and mourning, despite the certainty that they are gone forever, we can rejoice in the way that they touched our life. We can remember their love and pass it along to others.

Humanity grasps an optimistic picture of existence after death. Captivated by a fabricated ideation of heaven, we blunder through life assuming that our ends will more than justify the means. We blindly assume that a “good” deity would always take us into his bosom, allowing us to partake of heavenly bliss. In reality, we are responsible for everything that we do or say. Our actions have consequences. We can help or hurt, assist or ignore, tolerate or hate. And, while it may appear that death is a brick wall upon whose edifice all of our lives must crash, our actions in life echo through eternity. Our behaviors resonate through time, reflecting and refracting across everyone that we encounter and those whom they meet. The resulting clarity becomes the character of our legacy. Good or bad, right or wrong, the remote memory of our existence will be defined by our past and current actions and attitudes.

The noblest effort in our meager existence is to impart value to our progeny’s existence. We can teach our children to respect and honor humanity in all forms; and, to value the differences among us, not fear them. If we are successful, then our lives will be fulfilled. And, when we are gone, our children will rejoice in the way that we touched their lives. This is the meaning of our existence - to touch others in a positive way and to be remembered as a person who values life and improves the world.

Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, Jacob's Courage

Why Do People Hate?

As a Holocaust author and researcher, I appreciate a thorough examination of morality. Darkness, hatred and fear are common characteristics of human nature. Holocaust victims were faced with perfidious forces, deceit, brutality, cruelty, starvation, sickness and the death of loved-ones. Terror was the daily companion of concentration camp prisoners. What culture could allow this to happen to innocent men, women and children? How did so many people go along with this horrific plan to isolate and exterminate the Jews of Europe? How could millions more turn their backs to the immorality of using camps to exterminate an entire religious group? Some people were unaware of the nightmare on the other side of the fence. But, most Europeans (especially in Poland and Germany) could smell death regularly. The scent of burning flesh wafted over Eastern Europe for years, during the early–to-mid 1940’s. These people allowed Nazi Germany to exterminate the Jewish population – men, women and children. They lifted no finger to stand in the way. Many individuals saved Jews (especially Jewish children) at great risk to themselves. But they were the exception, not the rule. We learn nothing about ourselves if we do not examine this dark part of our psyche.

It is safe to say that large portions of the European population in the early 20th century disliked Jews. Pogroms were ubiquitous and largely ignored by society, the police and armed forces. In fact, in some pogroms the armed forces cooperated (Einsatzgruppen, Cossacks, etc.). Jews were significantly mistrusted, disliked and ostracized. They were the butt of jokes and the subject of innuendo. Yet, Jews represented no threat of any reasonable nature or definition to Europeans. At that time, Jews amounted to about 2% of the population in Europe; they possessed a very small percentage of the money, influenced no governments and had no armed forces or militia. They could not have been a threat to any potion of gentile Europe if they had wanted to. So, why did so many Europeans hate Jews? How could so many people find it easy to loathe millions whom they knew nothing about and that they had never met? Were they automatons, eagerly lapping up propaganda drivel proffered by Nazis? Or, were they intelligent humans, with the capacity to comprehend nuances of their society’s actions and still reach the conclusion that Jews were bad people who deserved to be rounded up, incarcerated and annihilated? Yes, these people acted in evil ways. But, what precipitated the hate? Was it a genetic predisposition or evil acquired later in life?

We are complex beings. I believe that there is a great deal more to us than the ubiquitous battleground of good versus evil. Most of us are not one or the other, but both. We are beautiful and ugly, soothing and terrifying, brutal and caring; we love and we despise. Unlike animals, humans are governed by principles and moral beliefs. We are not motivated by delusions of morality, as much as governed by them. So what brings a person to despise a stranger? Why do some people hate and fear those who are different in color, religion or ethnic origin? Why do so many people find it easier to hate than to tolerate?

My instinct tells me that some people acquire racism because they were taught at a young age to hate, by parents, siblings, relatives, friends or any other portion of their social network. At some point in their juvenile existence, they learned to despise minorities from people close to them. And, many of these racists continue to hate without questioning the veracity of their loathing. Being recognized as a bigot makes some individuals popular with desired social groups. Research reveals that a high percentage of racists are poorly educated. Yet, not all racists are ignorant or mentally slow. Some people with a postgraduate education delude themselves with manifestations of detestation towards minority groups. The dark side is filled with ignorance and deception. And, while many people are taught to be bigoted as children, some acquire it later in life, despite having a liberal, tolerant social network in their youth.

Could we be little different from the final vestiges of our primordial ancestors? Like many animals, humans originally had to fight and control others in order to maintain territorial superiority. Perhaps the need to be superior is an innate mental mechanism, acquired biologically. This Darwinian factor could be a reason for bigotry, although it may be difficult to prove. Evolution teaches us that we are governed by the principle of survival of the fittest. Is human behavior dominated by an inborn fear of others? Is social responsibility, tolerance and compassion simply an aberrant acquired social behavior, employed most often by liberals and religionists? Are the better angels of our conscience nothing more than bizarre adaptations to our dark and “natural” survival instinct?

I believe that people find it easy to hate because tolerance requires effort. Haters live with haters, in a community of malevolence. The more they hate, the more they are approved by their social group. Toleration would require analyzing each individual, based upon his or her merits, rather than despising every member of a race, color or religion. But, it is easier to hate. We despise those different from ourselves. And, we teach our descendants to do the same. This creates an endless, vicious cycle, guaranteed to generate bigoted progeny. Ironically, we hate in order to be valued by our peers.

But, we outsiders, who value tolerance, can break the bonds of bigotry one person at a time, with education, conversation and engagement across all media. We can use the Internet’s social networking and web sites to our advantage. We can fight the innate fear and bigotry of others by generating compassion for the individual, regardless of milieu. We can promote the significance of each person as a unique entity, with unlimited potential, rather than a member of a religious or social class, with preconceived expectations. We can promote tolerance of each individual’s soul. Only when we make an effort to understand and value the differences among us will racism and bigotry end. Only when we accept the value of each person, regardless of background, will our culture be meaningful and rewarding.

Fear may be at the heart of racism and bigotry. We fear that which we do not understand. We fear anyone who might be perceived as better than we are. We therefore use the tools of bigotry to become superior to others. Our fear drives us to prove that we are better than the “others” are. It feels good to be superior. Yet, in order for one person to feel superior, another must be subjugated. In order to feel better, we must dominate someone. The easiest way to dominate is to hate those who are not a threat. We use an innocent and defenseless group as our target for scapegoat. And, it feels good to make them live in fear. We rationalize the minimization of our fear by inflicting greater fear on the victim. If they are inferior, we must be better. We climb upon their social cadaver in order to feel superior.

Racism, hatred, intolerance and bigotry are the artifacts of fear. Eliminate fear and there will no longer be a need for the tools of bigotry. This is our challenge. We must convince the haters that they have no reason to fear minorities. This is the greatest and most noble challenge of our generation. The reward for success is tolerance, respect and mutual recognition. We can share our planet together as equals. This will be our legacy.

But, if we fail, our children will inherit a world dominated by the dark angels of our nature. If we fail, our progeny will be doomed to a life surrounded by fear, suspicion, hatred and death. We cannot end our generation sharing the same values as our early 20th century European ancestors had. We can and must be better than that. We must evolve into a tolerant society. Our children’s future depends upon it.

Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, Jacob's Courage

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The Meaning of Passover

Each Passover, Jews retell the story of the exodus from Egypt. This is a story of a people who emerged from slavery to freedom and from oppression to liberty. The Passover story gives us pause to reflect upon a spiritual adventure that began with Moses and ended in the promised land of Israel. It fabricates the basis of contemporary Judaism and Christianity. The Passover story describes the Jews’ seemingly insurmountable victory over a vastly superior enemy, a tale of wandering in the wilderness and of redemption with God’s Ten Commandments. Those Ten Commandments lie at the heart of contemporary Judeo-Christian beliefs. They are the groundwork of our morality and the foundation of desired ethical behavior. And, when the Jews wandered for forty years in the wilderness – when they became idolaters and lost their moral compass, it was the Ten Commandments that brought them back, figuratively and literally.

Like the victory of the Hebrew Maccabi, the exodus from Egypt seemed impossible. Yet, somehow the Jews survived. In every generation, the enemies of the Hebrew nation have attempted to annihilate them. Time after time, the Jews have been defeated, evicted and enslaved. Yet, each time, they manage to survive as a people. Each time, they return to Israel from the Diaspora. The rallying cry at each Passover Seder is, “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Every Jew is bound to retell the Passover story each year as though it was happening to them. And the physical focus for this goal is always the land of Israel. Despite the fact that Jews are less than 2% of the global religious community, they somehow manage to survive and maintain their hold upon this tiny fragment of land. Today, surrounded by enemies, the Hebrew nation is in the same predicament. How do they survive? How does their spirit continue through pogroms and genocide? And, what is the true meaning of Passover?

Persecution is intensely malevolent and pervasive. Humans are particularly wicked with each other. Three thousand years ago, Moses pleaded with Pharaoh to free his people from persecution and slavery. The ten plagues that followed forced him to release the Jews. Yet even after the worst plague of all, the destruction of the firstborn of Egypt, Pharaoh pursued the Jews into the Red Sea, where his soldiers were swept away. Evil can be just as powerful a motivator as love is. During the Spanish Inquisition, anyone suspected of being a Jew was imprisoned, tortured and put to death. Nazi Germany systematically annihilated millions of Jews. What purpose is served by inflicting pain and suffering upon innocent people? What promotes such evil hatred? Why is animosity aimed at the Jewish people? And, how do the Jews manage to survive repeated attempts to destroy them?

Like Easter, Passover occurs each year in the springtime. The concept of renaissance is ubiquitous. From sacrificial lambs to the presence of an egg on the Seder plate, the symbolism of devotion and rebirth is palpable. While the overriding message of Passover is freedom, gratitude and spiritual devotion, the concept of renewal allows each of us to observe the holiday by perform acts of kindness. From generation to generation, Jews retell the Passover story and revel in the miracles that led to their redemption as a people. The Passover Seder requires that each Jew place himself or herself in the position of being a slave in Egypt. Every Jew must experience the plagues and walk through the wilderness. The Seder brims with imagery and metaphors. But what does this mean for us today? Can we identify with our three thousand year old ancestors?

Good and evil exist in the world. We don’t need to look very far to see it or feel it. The exodus of the Jews from Egypt is an example for us to follow forever. Yet, humanity continues to enslave, maltreat and murder the innocent. One might have guessed that the Holocaust would put such immorality to an end. Surely humankind should be repelled by the vast horror and the murder of millions of innocent people. Yet, holocausts continue unabated. Since the Nazi Holocaust, we have experienced holocausts in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. Anti-Semitism is again growing throughout the world. Why don’t we learn? When will it end? Why do the Jewish people play a significant historical role as victims in genocides? And, what can be done to stop it? What can any of us do to reduce religious persecution?

Prejudice, bigotry and racism create an environment in which persecution thrives. This Easter and Passover, each of us can vow to promote goodwill and acceptance. The foundation of freedom lies in our value for liberty and unity in the face of hatred and intolerance. Instead of waiting for a miracle, let us create our own. Let each of us retell the story of the Passover as though we were personally a part of it. Moreover, as we retell the Passover story and celebrate Easter, we can place ourselves in the minds of current victims of genocide, slavery and intolerance. We have the power to defy fanaticism. We have the courage to fight for freedom. This is the meaning of Passover. We can make our own miracles by fighting to free the oppressed.

Humans are not God. But we have the power of choice. We can use it to enslave or to liberate. We can persecute or accept others. This Easter and Passover, let us vow to use our power of choice to fight for mercy, justice and liberty. If the meaning of Passover is spiritual redemption and rebirth, then let us be reborn to stop prejudice. Let us promote tolerance and encourage everyone to value the differences among us. In this way, the spirit of Passover will live on through our progeny. As we enjoy Passover and Easter this spring with our families, let us pause for a moment to ask what each of us can do to eradicate the evil that surrounds us. The rebirth of this spirit is the true meaning of Passover.

Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, “Jacob's Courage: A Holocaust Love Story”
http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/
Jacob's Courage: A Holocaust Love Story

Charles S. Weinblatt, a retired university administrator, is the author of an epic novel, Jacob's Courage: A Holocaust Love Story (Mazo Publishers, 2007; ISBN-978-965-7344-24-8). This book is sold through all major booksellers, and is distributed in The United States through Ingram.

Jacob's Courage chronicles the dazzling beauty of passionate love and enduring bravery in a lurid world where the innocent are brutally murdered (Amazon site). This is a tender coming of age story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria. The historical novel presents accurate scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. Follow Jacob and Rachael from their comfortable Salzburg homes to a decrepit ghetto, from there to a prison camp where they became man and wife. Revel in their excitement as they escape and join the local partisans. Finally ride the fetid train with them to the terror of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Stung by the death of loved-ones, enslaved and starved, they have nothing to count on but faith, love and courage.

A Holocaust center director had this to say about Jacob's Courage: “In each setting, the vivid portrayals of the travails of the characters bring the experience of the Holocaust to life on a personal level. The people that populate the novel are not merely two-dimensional archetypes or clich├ęs but fully formed humans with frailties and shortcomings in addition to positive qualities. The characters are faced with hard choices of life and death, betrayal and loyalty. The events of the novel are gut wrenching and heart rending. At the end of the read one feels both hope and admiration for the human spirit.”

One editor described the novel as, “Gone with the Wind for the Holocaust.” Jewish Book World had this to say, “Mixed among the detailed descriptions of the surreal atrocities inflicted upon the Jews of Europe is a tender coming of age tale.” The Association of Jewish Libraries wrote, “The reader sees events through the eyes of archetypal participants: a doctor forced to experiment on his own, a Sonderkommando, and a hero. The length of the book might deter some readers, but the work is well worth the effort.” An Amazon reader said, “The historic references appear to be well researched. Hats off to a fine effort from Mr. Weinblatt.” A reviewer commented that it is “well researched, well thought out and thought provoking.” Yet another editor said, “The author maintains a driving, relentless pace as Jacob and his beloved Rachael try to escape the madness of Nazi Germany while maintaining their humanity.”

Charles S. Weinblatt was an administrator at The University of Toledo, retiring in 2004. He created and led the Division of Organization Development, was a program manager in the University of Toledo's Human Resource Development Center and an education & training counselor for UAW-Chrysler. He was also a successful regional employment consultant, a vocational rehabilitation counselor and a psychiatric counselor. Weinblatt appeared dozens of times on Toledo television news stations as an expert on business and labor-management issues. He is also the author of Job Seeking Skills for Students (Kendall-Hunt Publishing Company, 1986: ISBN-0-8403-4445-7). Weinblatt received his Bachelor of Arts degree (Psychology) from The University of Toledo in 1974. His biography appears in the Marquis Who's Who in America and Who's Who in American Education. More information is available here.

Weinblatt continues to write in retirement and is currently creating additional works of fiction. He lives in Ohio.

Why We Must Always Speak of the Holocaust

We spell the Holocaust with a capital “H” because it represents the single most vast and devastating example of genocide in history. It was not “a’ holocaust, but “THE” Holocaust. At the behest of the German government, more than 6 million Jews were systematically exterminated. That’s not to mention the murder of at least four million additional undesirables (gypsies, homosexuals, political prisoners, Russian prisoners, criminals, etc.) But for the moment, let’s just consider the plight of European Jews. They were not hung or shot to death. They were not given an injection to speed their way into a painless death. They were exterminated, like annoying insects. They were gassed to death, because that was the most efficient way to dispose of six million men, women and children – who happened to be Jewish.

Because of the way they praised God; six million innocent people were murdered. Women, the elderly, the sick, the frail and children were often the first into the gas chambers. Men and hardy women were kept barely alive for their value as forced labor. Those able to work were employed as slaves for the benefit of the military and German industrialists. Some of those German companies exist today, albeit with different names. Some still have the same name. When there was no more work, they too were murdered.

My mother experienced brutal anti-Semitism as a child in Russia. I heard many stories about the brutal Cossacks, who persecuted Jews in the towns and villages of the Ukraine. My mother and her sisters barely survived, and then flourished in America. However, most of her remaining family perished in the Holocaust. So, genocide is close to my heart. I hold it for eternity, as a cumbersome stone attached to my soul. It is a burden of remarkable proportions. My ancestors cry out for justice. They want you to know what happened to them and their children. But, I cannot tell this story without revealing the Holocaust in every possible way. It is a terrible and beautiful story, filled with heroes and villains. I called it, “Jacob's Courage.”

I wrote the novel precisely because I had to tell a story that no one wanted to hear. Why would anyone want to think about the Holocaust, particularly when they can listen to their iPod or tune out the poignant world with movies, laptops and television? Yet, the death of six million innocent people MUST be told. If not, there would be nothing to prevent more genocide, and then more after that! Everyone must hear this tragedy. Otherwise, our progeny might embrace the worst of human nature.

This does not demean the importance of other Holocausts. Those innocent people who were murdered in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur were just as blameless. When will we lose apprehension over those who are dissimilar? When will we learn to value the differences among us, rather than fear them? When will we stop ostracizing people because of their religion, race or ethnic heritage? After all, this is the 21st century! We’re better than that. We must be better than that.

I appreciate books that offer a frank, emotional examination of morality. Humans are not good or bad, but good and bad. We surround ourselves with romance and comedy, playing to the healthier parts of our emotional identity. Yet, repugnance, despair and obscurity exist within human nature. We learn nothing about ourselves if we do not examine the dark side of our psyche.

My novel explores how humans behaved during the most brutal and horrendous genocide in history. If any benefit can come from the Holocaust it is that we can examine the furthermost extent of human depravity. We can measure its immorality, degeneracy and wickedness. Yet, humans are complex beings. There is a great deal more to our nature than the ubiquitous battleground of virtue versus malevolence. We are not one or the other, but a combination of both. We are beautiful and ugly, soothing and terrifying, brutal and caring, kind and iniquitous; we love and we despise.

Deep within the fear and panic of the Holocaust were vastly critical decisions about ethical behavior and our concept of morality. Unlike animals, humans are governed by principles, ethical beliefs and veracity. We are not clouded by delusions of integrity, but governed by them. In "Jacob's Courage," my characters explore the human response to terror, as well as the alluring beauty of passionate young love and the driving power of religious devotion. Our lives are complex - even within the garish trap of the Holocaust. Not all Jews were innocent victims. Not all Germans were rabid anti-Semtites, bent upon the destruction of the Jewish "race."

In reality, the world is seldom seen in black and white, or shades of gray - especially during the Holocaust. In the midst of terrible anguish, beauty existed. Within beauty, despair can exist. And, while many Jews in the abyss of the Holocaust worshipped God, some condemned God. While it might be easy to claim that God works in mysterious ways, how is one to focus such conviction when the veneer of all that is good in life has been stripped away? How does one continue to love a God who allows the murder of every loved one, who allows us to be starved, beaten, tortured, denigrated, disfigured and emotionally destroyed? Could this be the ultimate test of faith?

Holocaust survivors lost everything, but perhaps somehow gained something as well. Certainly an honest examination of the Holocaust must reveal torturous brutality and death. Most Holocaust survivors lost all of their loved ones. The facade of life’s beauty had been stripped away, revealing an incomprehensible abyss of revulsion. Yet here, in the bowels of horror, the Jews of the Holocaust hit a wall and continued to run. Despite the onslaught of evil, in the face of certain death, these Jews fabricated a make-believe world for their children. Deep within the horrid concentration camps of Nazi Germany, the Jews of Europe continued to practice their religion, to teach their children and to love one another. Here, among the gas chambers and crematoria, one can feel hope for the survival of the human spirit. These singular individuals rise like a fabulous phoenix, from the ashes of annihilation.

Those poor souls trapped within the terror of the Holocaust were faced with the most perfidious forces. Deceit, brutality, cruelty, sickness, starvation and the death of loved-ones were the daily companions of Holocaust victims. Yet, in the midst of utter despair, there was life, love, passion, desire, religious fervor and the excitement known only to children. Even in such hopeless desolation, there was love of God, infatuation, romance, passion and longing for all of the things that humans crave. Jews fabricated their ethnicity within the drumbeat of the slow, steady march to the gas chambers. They refused to allow the fabric of Jewish society be torn by relocation and the threat of demise. They created schools, orchestras, athletic events, synagogue and prayer, weddings and funerals, dances and theatre, study groups and debates; to every hell-hole the Jews were sent; they took their lifestyle with them. Rather than give in to the Nazis, Jews trapped within ghettos and concentration camps courageously re-created their culture. Some of the most ardent examples of constructive human nature can be found in these terrifying Holocaust moments.

Hidden from the SS, concentration camp Jews observed all of the covenants and rituals of Judaism, including prayer services on the Sabbath and during the major holidays, marriage ceremonies, burials and circumcisions. Along the dark, terrifying, relentless path to the gas chambers of Nazi-occupied Europe, Jews lived, loved, learned and died, behaving as though their lives would continue unabated. In their darkest moments, the Jews of Nazi concentration camps fabricated a “normal” life for their progeny. Despite their impending mortality, they created an ordinary world on the inside to protect children from the raging genocide on the outside. Such was the nature of their love, faith and devotion. Indeed, this worship transcended parental affection. Into the gas chambers and crematoria, the Jews of the Holocaust emptied their faith and continued to worship the God of their ancestors.

The human spirit strives for autonomy and freedom. Yet, to understand human nature, one must descend into the depths of depravity and terror. We cannot appreciate humanity without comprehending its wicked flaws. Deep within the darkest recesses of brutal genocide, we discover a faint flicker of light representing love, passion, desire, hope, worship and reverence. Here is the essence of humanity – a flicker of light representing morality, faith, love and righteousness, in the midst of the dark whirlwind of malevolence.

This is why we must always tell the stories of the Holocaust. Such stories represent the very worst of human vilification and the very best of our compassion. Holocaust stories teach us how to recognize the worst examples of humanity, but also how to be a good person. The terror of genocide is not necessarily an inevitable human outcome. We must learn from the mistakes of our past, rather than repeat them. As long as we teach our children about the Holocaust, there is hope that it will never happen again.


Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, “Jacob's Courage” (2007, Mazo Publishers)

The Characterization of the Human Spirit

As the author of a Holocaust novel ("Jacob's Courage: A Holocaust Love Story"), I appreciate books that offer a frank, emotional examination of morality. Repugnance, despair and darkness exist within human nature. We therefore learn nothing about ourselves if we do not examine this part of our psyche.

"Jacob's Courage" explores how humans behaved during the most brutal and horrendous genocide in history. We are complex beings. There is a great deal more to us than the ubiquitous battleground of good versus evil. We are not one or the other, but a combination of both. We are beautiful and ugly, soothing and terrifying, brutal and caring; we love and we despise.

Deep within the fear and panic of the Holocaust were decisions about ethical behavior and our concept of integrity. Unlike animals, humans are governed by principles, moral beliefs and veracity. We are not clouded by delusions of morality, but governed by them. In "Jacob's Courage," my characters explore the human response to terror and morality, as well as the alluring beauty of passionate young love and the driving power of religious devotion. Our lives are complex - even within the garish midst of the Holocaust. Powerful passion and tender love also existed during times of horror and despair. So did a deep commitment to our relationship with faith and God. These powerful motivators churn within the consciousness of my characters, creating powerful new relationships and inspiring virtuous behavior. Yet, the world is seldom seen in black and white, or shades of gray - even during the Holocaust. In the midst of terrible anguish, beauty exists. Within beauty, despair can exist.Holocaust survivors lost everything, but perhaps somehow gained something as well. Certainly an honest examination of the Holocaust must reveal torturous brutality and death. Yes, many Holocaust survivors lost all of their loved ones. However, life is not always so simple. Deep within the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, the Jews of Europe continued to practice their religion, to teach their children and to love one another. Here, one can feel hope for the survival of the human spirit, among the ashes of destruction. In an age of realism, readers seem to have a passion for books about real-life characters. As a child of this generation, I tend to agree. I have nothing against classic stories about good versus evil. Certainly good and evil exist always. Yet, today's more discerning reader expects characters to be more like themselves – multifaceted, often chaotic individuals who possess characteristics both good and bad. Novels should not always be about traditional heroes and villains. If we wish to emulate reality, then our good characters should become complex humans, with flaws, limitations, imperfections and faults. Our villains should possess some good qualities, as well. No emotion pushes us to behave in a stronger sense than does guilt. I constructed characters aggravated constantly and aggressively by guilt. We are forever tortured by our past and guilt is the primary motivator in our decisions about the future. We can ignore it or learn from it, but we can never escape from it.

I believe that it is impossible to write about the Holocaust, or any human nature, without exploring guilt. In “Jacob's Courage” all of my characters are burdened by guilt – even the most innocent. Holocaust victims were faced with the most perfidious forces; deceit, brutality, cruelty, sickness, starvation and the death of loved-ones were the daily companions of concentration camp prisoners. The victims felt guilt for living when their loved ones had been murdered. Each of them must have wondered why they deserved to live when those they worshipped were gone. Worse yet were the prisoners who assisted the Nazi guards. These "kapos" must have born unwavering guilt. And, then we have the "Sonnderkommando," prisoners forced to undress, beat gas, carry and burn their fellow prisoners. And., there were others. In "Jacob's Courage," Jacob was forced to play in the Auschwitz orchestra every day as the trains unloaded new prisoners. He was massively burdened by guilt while playing violin for the everpresent queue, waiting their turn to die. The survivors carried lifelong guilt for surviving. At least subconsciously, many must surely have wished that they had perished with their loved ones.

Novels about this time are by causality dark and precarious. Yet, in the midst of this despair, there was life, love, passion, desire, religious fervor and the excitement known only to children. Even in such hopeless desolation, there was love of God, infatuation, romance and passion and longing for all of the things that humans crave. Characters such as these must by nature embellish the wide range of human attributes. Such was the complex state of being in a Nazi death camp."Jacob's Courage” describes the Holocaust through the eyes of a normal Jewish family. If we speak only of heroic individuals battling against dark forces, then we dismiss the truth of our nature. Humans are far more complex than such generic characters imply. Not all Jews imprisoned and tortured by Nazi Germany were good. Some became “kapos,” more ruthless than the SS. Not all Germans were bad. Some Germans were riddled with guilt and some expressed tender compassion for the imprisoned Jews. Yet, below the surface of brutality, we find the human instinct for life, liberty, love and compassion.

Most of the Jews in Nazi concentration camps comprehended that they would not survive. Yet, within the camps, the Jews constructed synagogues, schools, and orchestras. They had civic leaders, medical clinics, commerce and religious celebrations. Hidden from the SS, the Jews observed all of the covenants and rituals of Judaism, including holidays, marriage ceremonies, burials and circumcisions. Along the terrifying, dark path to the gas chambers of Nazi-occupied Europe, Jews lived, loved, learned and died. Yet, in their darkest moments, the Jews of Nazi concentration camps fabricated a “normal” life for their progeny. Despite their impending mortality, they created a normal world on the inside to protect children from the raging genocide on the outside. Such was the nature of their love. Yet this love transcended parental affection. Judaism cannot survive without Jewish children.

The Holocaust cannot be described without inflicting horror upon the reader. Such books are not for the faint of heart. The human spirit strives for autonomy and freedom, of course. Yet, if one is to search for an understanding of human nature, then one must descend into the depths of depravity and terror. We cannot understand humanity without comprehending its wicked flaws. Deep within the darkest recesses of brutal genocide, the reader will discover a faint flicker of light representing love, passion, desire, hope and reverence. Here is the essence of "Jacob's Courage" - an examination of morality, love and righteousness, in the midst of the dark whirlwind of malevolence.

Why Were Jews Persecuted?

The Holocaust is the worst episode of genocide in history, not because of its brutality, but because of its remarkable scope. The Holocaust is spelled with a capital “H” because it represents the single most vast and devastating example of religious genocide in history. Six million Jews (and at least four million gypsies, homosexuals, political and Russian prisoners) were systematically exterminated. No merciful, quick ending was in store for these poor souls. They were not shot to death or hung. They were exterminated, like annoying insects or disgusting rodents. They were gassed to death, because that was the most efficient way to dispose of millions of innocent people.

These Jews were not criminals. They had broken no laws. They represented a threat to no one – but were instead a valuable resource for their societies. For countless generations, Jewish men served and died in the German armed forces. German Jews were counted among the leaders of business, government, education, science and the arts. However, because of the way they served God, millions Jews were systematically murdered. The elderly, frail women and children were often first into the gas chambers. Able-bodied men and women were kept barely alive for their value as forced labor. Those able to work were employed as slaves for the benefit of the military and German industrialists. Some German companies that used Jews as slaves exist today. When there was no more work to perform, or when the brutalized prisoners became sick and frail, they were gassed and burned, like bothersome pests.

My mother experienced vile anti-Semitism as a child in Russia. I heard many stories about vicious Cossacks who persecuted Jews in the Ukraine. She and her sisters survived and later flourished in America. Most of the remaining family, however, perished in the Holocaust. So, you see, the Holocaust is close to my heart. I bear it as a cumbersome stone attached to my soul - a lifelong burden of significant proportions. My ancestors cry out for justice. They lost everything that they treasured - their homes, valuables, jobs, freedom, relatives and finally – their children. They want you to comprehend the unspeakable evil that utterly destroyed them. I wonder what their precious progeny might have accomplished, had they been allowed to live. What lost treasures were burned with those tender, young bodies? Might one of them have cured cancer or discovered a swift end to global warming? Those innocent children deserved a chance to live, to love, to learn and to share their faith. Rather than a danger to society, they represented its best hope.

I cannot tell this story without revealing the Holocaust, in every possible way. To gloss over the devastating brutality of the Nazi genocide, or the overwhelming psychological demoralization, would inflict yet another injustice upon my relatives. The only way that I can tell this story is with the truth. But, tales of shocking violence are not everyone’s cup of tea. In essence, I had to tell a story that no one wants to hear. Why would anyone yearn for a novel about the Holocaust, when they can tune out the world’s problems with their iPod or dismiss the fabric of cruelty with light-hearted movies and television comedy? Yet, the death of six million innocent people MUST be told. If not, there would be nothing to prevent more genocide, and then more after that! Everyone must hear this tragedy. Otherwise, we might one day again embrace the worst of human nature.

Jacob's Courage explores how humans behaved during the most brutal and horrendous genocide in history. We are complex beings. There is a great deal more to us than the ubiquitous battleground of good versus evil. We are not one or the other, but both. We are attractive and hideous, comforting and horrifying, vicious and compassionate; we worship and we loathe. We are not clouded by delusions of morality, but governed by them. So, when will we stop ostracizing people because of the way they praise God, or by virtue of the color of their skin? When will we learn to value the differences among us rather than fear them? We’re better than that. We must be better than that.

Perhaps above all, Jacob's Courage is a powerful and passionate love story. In 1939, seventeen-year-old Austrians Jacob Silverman and Rachael Goldberg are bright, talented, and deeply in love. Because they are Jews, their families lose everything; their jobs, possessions and money, contact with loved ones, and finally their liberty at the hands of the Nazis. Jacob and Rachael "grow up" during the Holocaust. As teenagers, they survive the beatings, rapes, and murderous acts of the Nazis, enjoy the physical and spiritual pleasure of being in love and are able to become husband and wife in the Theresienstadt Ghetto, before being imprisoned in Auschwitz. Eventually Jacob and Rachael become Partisans to fight the Nazi enemy. Theirs was a love for the ages. Stung by the death of loved-ones, enslaved and starved, they have nothing to count on but faith, love and courage.

Holocaust survivors were forced to examine every aspect of life, while they endured the unendurable, waiting for a slow, torturous death. This horror led some to curse God, even while others continue to praise God. Within this impenetrable abyss, many Jews continued to live out their faith, to practice the religion as best they could. The managed to summon the courage necessary to continue living, to suffer the intolerable. They refused to allow the foundation of their society to be destroyed. Within the Nazi camps, Jews created their own schools, orchestras, political leadership and medical clinics. On the road to certain death, they found a way to teach their children how to fulfill their religious commandments. This is profound courage not seen elsewhere in history, except for those brave Jews at Masada. Some of the most ardent examples of constructive human nature can be found in these terrifying Holocaust stories.

We must always tell the stories of the Holocaust. They represent the devastatingly worst and the extraordinarily best examples of the human spirit. These stories instruct us to recognize the inherent evil of humanity, lest it never be used again. As long as we teach our progeny about the Holocaust, there is hope for the future.

Jacob's Courage is available at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Jacobs-Courage-Holocaust-Love-Story/dp/9657344247/ref=sr_1_1/002-8189239-3149614?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1174846034&sr=1-1

Barnes & Noble http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Jacobs-Courage/Charles-S-Weinblatt/e/9789657344248/?itm=1