Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Crystal Ball of the Past

April 8, 2015

We do not have a crystal ball that allows us to see into the future. But we certainly have a crystal ball that allows us to clearly see the past and it is called history. While the facts and circumstances may change, there is much to be learned from the past as history often repeats itself. Unfortunately, this includes the evil perpetrated by man. For Jews, I am afraid, there are ominous signs that evil is once again in our midst. Now is a good time to look into the crystal ball of the past to help us see and understand the danger we face today.

European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s could not see into the future. Looking back on history, they were able to see the blood libels, expulsions and pogroms their forefathers had endured, but that could not have prepared them for the apocalypse that was to follow. Jews today do not have that excuse. Gazing into the crystal ball of the past, we should learn from the painful lessons of the Holocaust.

Studying the events of World War II and the Holocaust, scholars, historians and theologians have many common observations and questions. One of the more puzzling questions is how someone with such an insignificant and rebellious background as adolf hitler was able to so quickly rise to power, completely transform the country he ruled and lead it on the path to ultimate devastation and destruction. He was a poor student, failed artist and corporal in the German army in World War I. He was not even German, but was Austrian. He was unsuccessful, unemployed and poor and began his political career by rabble rousing with Nazi thugs. He had no meaningful accomplishments and some failures, yet was able to rise to rise to power and ultimately serve as dictator of a civilized and highly-cultured and educated country.

How was hitler able to obtain such political heights? He is credited with possessing very strong oratory skills. He used those skills to captivate and electrify the German people and exploit the masses based on prevailing conditions. Germany was suffering from wounded pride because of the Treaty of Versailles, which it entered into in defeat after World War I. That treaty, among other things, stripped Germany of some of its territories, held it responsible for monetary reparations for the war and restricted its military forces. Germany also was going through an economic depression, high unemployment and hyper-inflation. Its currency was all but worthless. The Fuhrer (leader) also played on Germany's Anti-Semitic past and successfully and deceptively portrayed the Jews as the cause of all of Germany's problems. The Nazi Party staged the Reichstag (German Parliament) fire and falsely blamed the Communist Party. They stoked the fear of a communist rebellion, which led to the passage of the Reichstag Fire Decree. That decree allowed hitler and the Nazis to eliminate the civil rights of the German people and to arrest their political opponents and incarcerate them in concentration camps created for that purpose. Very shortly after this, hitler was successful in passing the Enabling Act, which allowed him to enact legislation while bypassing the Reichstag and the German Constitution.

The Nazis believed in big government, which they used over time to ratchet up their intrusiveness into the daily lives of the German people. They relied on large amounts of government spending and an assortment of government programs to further their cause. Lies and propaganda were perfectly acceptable. No lie was too big as the ends always justified the means. Religion was shunned and mocked. The Fuhrer was the one to be revered by the German people.

Although hitler was the ruler and the mastermind, he was not alone. He surrounded himself with high-ranking leaders of the Nazi Party who shared his radical ideology and swore their allegiance to him. The power, while always remaining primarily with hitler, cascaded down from the Nazi elite to lower political and administration officials and military and police forces. The Nazis controlled the media and made effective use of propaganda. The result, as we all too well know, was that a highly-cultured and educated people was somehow led down the road of depravity and wickedness. As if it is not unfathomable enough that the German people could commit such atrocious acts against their Jewish friends and neighbors, soon such evil encapsulated all of Europe.

Many Jews and Jewish leaders of the time thought they could outlast hitler. They hoped and prayed that his time in office would be short and they could wait out what they believed to be a temporary danger. They held steadfast to these beliefs notwithstanding the fact that hitler made his radical ideology and intentions clear in his manifesto, Mein Kampf, and in speeches he delivered to the German people. They simply could not accept that such a highly-cultured and educated people living in a civilized and assimilated country would tolerate such violence and aggression against fellow citizens, whether or not they were Jews. Even so, many Jews fled or attempted to flee from Germany after hitler imposed increasingly hostile and oppressive Anti-Semitic laws throughout the 1930s. After Kristallnacht in November 1938, almost all of Germany's Jews knew there was no hope. Unfortunately, by that time, leaving Germany was harder to do. Jews who had previously fled Germany did not necessarily escape the inferno as the Nazis were embarking on their quest to conquer Europe. Building off of their prior success of the 1933 Reichstag fire, the Germans staged certain other fabricated events to help achieve their goals. In the Gleiwitz incident on August 31, 1939, the Nazis dressed some concentration camp inmates in Polish uniforms and made it appear as though they (Poles) attacked a German broadcasting station.  Naturally, these inmates were killed by the Nazis, who used the ruse as the pretext to invade Poland the next day. This was the start of World War II and, as we all too well know, led to the Shoah and the destruction of the vast majority of European Jewry. Ironically, in the end, hitler's promise to fundamentally transform his country came to fruition, but not how he or the German people envisioned it.

The foregoing discussion is only a very short synopsis of some of the facts and circumstances that led up to the Shoah and serves as a reminder of a part of our history that is most horrific. As part of our history, however, it has a place in the crystal ball of the past and should serve to educate us and help us live out the words "Never Again". I am afraid, though, that as history is threatening to repeat itself, many, if not most, Jews seem to prefer to not learn from our past. Instead, they seem oblivious to any danger the future may bring. They fail to see that although different antagonists, geography and facts are involved, the victims, Jews, could, G-d forbid, be the same.

Studying the crystal ball of the past, it is not hard to see potential cataclysmic events, even as they appear to be in their gestational phase. This time around, the villains, or rather some of them, are radical Islamic terrorists. The world community, much to its discredit, is growing accustomed to the daily atrocities committed by and in the name of radical Islam. All across the globe, barbarism and savagery are making a dramatic return. The Middle East and Africa, in particular, are in turmoil. But radical Islamic terrorism is not limited to these areas and one should not have a false sense of security anywhere. Islamic terrorists are rapidly branching out and infiltrating additional countries. Many experts fear for the future of Europe. Even in the United States now, there are frequent news reports of terrorists who were, thankfully, thwarted before they could act. As we have learned from 9/11 and other terrorist attacks on our soil, we will not always be so lucky. These terrorists openly threaten the existence of Israel and world Jewry. The threat posed by radical Islamic terrorists could not be more obvious. And yet, there is another related threat to Israel and world Jewry that is obvious, but is either not seen, ignored or denied by many Jews.

Future historians, scholars and theologians may one day ask how the United States changed so abruptly and woefully. They also may ask, who was Barrack Hussein Obama? How did a person with such an enigmatic and unaccomplished background rise to such complete power? Why was his shady past of associating with radicals and rabble rousers who spewed nothing but venom and hate for America totally ignored? And why did the highly-cultured and educated people of such a free, proud and wonderful country so badly desire that it undergo a total makeover?

To start, they will see that Obama was widely hailed for his oratory skills. Obama, using these skills to tout his anti-capitalism agenda, benefitted tremendously when he first ran for executive office in 2008, which was a time when the United States and Europe were experiencing a "financial crisis". He had select scapegoats for the country's problems, Wall Street, capitalism and the "wealthy", the last of which was subsequently modified to include the "top one percent". He shamelessly appealed to part of the population, while falsely blaming all of the country's problems on the rest of the population. He made many of his liberal intentions known, such as his plans to "redistribute the wealth" and raise taxes on the "wealthy" so that they would finally "pay their fair share". But he did not propose to restrict his radical liberal ideology to economic matters and made his other social, racial and foreign policy beliefs known as well. In fact, he promised to "fundamentally transform America".

Students of history will see that after Obama came to power, he acted consistently and aggressively to accomplish his mission of imposing his far-left ideological beliefs on the country. They will learn of a country that had been making much social progress, but that was successfully divided by Obama. Big government through unlimited spending and programs was constantly promoted while the government increased its intrusiveness into the lives of the population. Lies, even blatant lies, were acceptable and the norm. Religion was ridiculed and trumped by social progressive issues.

These students of history will see that Obama surrounded himself with high-ranking officials he could depend on. Officials who, as scandals and reports will demonstrate, prosecuted those opposed to the regime and gave a pass to its supporters. These Administration officials either shared Obama's ideological beliefs, were not smart enough to do anything differently or were indifferent. All, however, were complicit. These future students of history will see from their crystal ball of the past how Obama and his Administration exploited a media largely devoted to his propaganda. They will pause when they arrive at the point in time when Obama professed that his pen and phone would replace the country's constitution. They will derive conclusions when they see how Obama skirted Congress and no longer considered it to be an equal branch of government. They will acknowledge that this was a ruler of a country who really was determined to act quickly and decisively to transform it. They will then be expecting to arrive at the point in time when Obama was no longer content on only fundamentally transforming America, but expanded his message to fundamentally transform the world. And they will not be disappointed as he has said as much.

In studying Obama, these students of history will see that his true pro-Muslim and Anti-Semitic beliefs and actions eventually became blatant, to the point where he could no longer control them. His hostilities toward Israel finally erupted after Israeli elections in March of 2015. Statements made by the incumbent prime minister leading up to the election were used as the pretext for threatening to take actions against Israel that could cause its demise. The students will see that this was not the first ruse Obama used against Israel or its Prime Minister. Acting to placate and reach a deal with Iran, the largest state-sponsor of terrorism, that would sooner or later allow it to obtain nuclear weapons while treating Israel as a long-time enemy, threatening to force indefensible borders and a one-sided two-state solution on Israel, and equating terrorism with self-defense were all part of Obama's radical ideological agenda. He ignored radical Islamic terrorist atrocities. He even refused to acknowledge that radical Islamic terrorists were the ones committing the acts of terrorism. Instead, he condemned Israel, which was the only real ally of America and the only real democracy in the Middle East. Looking into the crystal ball of the past, these students of history will be surprised to see just how obvious and blatant Obama was.

I believe that this is where we are with history in the making. There will be plenty of people who say I am off base, to put it politely. I hope they prove to be correct and current events take a sharp turn for the better. But, just in case those people are wrong, we should not ignore eerie similarities to the past. Additionally, with the current world crisis that we are in, keep in mind that the threat is not limited to Jews. Instead, any "non-believers", as characterized by radical Muslims, are in danger. As we continue to make strides with technology, threats to annihilate nations and to wipe them off of the map are easier to accomplish and need to be taken seriously. Allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons could spark an arms race in the Middle East, which could make it more likely that there will not be too many historians, scholars and theologians left to reflect on the next disaster to Jewry and the world, which, G-d willing, never occurs. It would be wise to study the crystal ball of the past to help prevent such a calamity from occurring.

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