Anti-Semitism and the Olympics

There was a large outcry at the London Games because there was no memorial shown by NBC for the athletes killed by the terrorists in the 1972 Olympic Massacre.

Jim McKay told the story better than anyone else:

Sad. Terrorism is now a part of our everyday life in the world, for some, especially those in the Middle East, it’s rampant. To not mention the 40th anniversary of this tragedy is indeed distasteful. And thoughts of whether this could have been done purposefully because of anti-semitic tendencies could be accurate.

The IOC themselves have a long history of anti-semitism unfortunately. It dates back to Avery Brundage the head of the IOC for many years. In 1936, Hitler had come to power and Berlin was the site of the Olympiad. Two Jews, Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman (who later became a famed sportscaster in New York and was my broadcast coach at Fordham) were members of the American 4×100 relay. They were told they would not run. The excuse was that Brundage told them that the Germans were hiding athletes and that they needed their best athletes out there. Namely the famed Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalf.

Owens objected. “I’m tired. Marty and Sam deserve the chance.”

“You’ll do as your told.”

Glickman also objected: “You can’t hide world class athletes. We’ll beat them by 5 yards!”

Jesse Owens has captured a bunch of medals already and Hitler, already embarrassed that a black man had won medals, wasn’t about to be embarrassed by two Jews. Brundage, later revealed to be a Nazi sympathizer, put the act in motion.

Glickamn and Stoller were told that they wouldn’t run and with World War II breaking out, they never got another chance.

Fast forward many years later and the New York Football Giants played an exhibition game in Berlin. They invited Marty to the game, played at the same stadium he would have run in. He even got to sit in Hitler’s box, in a nice twist of irony. While walking on the track, Glickman reported that some kind of “spell” came over him. And he began to curse and yell and cry out all kinds of things. Perhaps it was an old wound that needed to be reopened in order for him to have closure.

I once said to him, “But two good things happened!”

He looked at me with some disdain and said “What!?”

“Well, how many people can say that Jesse Owens stood up for them?!”

“Fair enough!” Glickman said.

“And the second one is more important.”

Glickman looked puzzled.

“Dude! You pissed off Hitler! How many Jews would want to have THAT experience!?”

He laughed heartily, patted me on the back.

“You just made my day!” he said. “But I really would’ve loved to stick it to him by winning that race.”

Marty had a lot of old stories from his sportscasting days and he loved to tell them. Many with a smile on his face and a lilt in his voice…

But he never, EVER, told that story with a smile on his face. He always referred to Brundage and Dean Cromwell, the track coach as “the American Nazis.”

Here he tells the story:

Glickman refers at the end to the countless Jewish athletes who were later killed in the Holocaust many years later by the Nazis.

I hope NBC the Olympic television committee overlooked the 72 disaster because they plan to do something bigger on it for the 50 year anniversary.

Polish Catholic to Be Honored Posthumously by President Obama

On Monday this story slipped by me. President Obama made these remarks at the Holocaust Museum, which by the way, if you’ve never been there, it’s someplace you should visit.

I say this as a President, and I say it as a father. We must tell our children about a crime unique in human history. The one and only Holocaust — six million innocent people — men, women, children, babies — sent to their deaths just for being different, just for being Jewish. We tell them, our children, about the millions of Poles and Catholics and Roma (Gypsies) and gay people and so many others who also must never be forgotten. Let us tell our children not only how they died, but also how they lived — as fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters who loved and hoped and dreamed, just like us.

We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen — because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts, and because so many others stood silent. Let us also tell our children about the Righteous Among the Nations. Among them was Jan Karski, a young Polish Catholic, who witnessed Jews being put on cattle cars, who saw the killings, and who told the truth, all the way to President Roosevelt himself.

Jan Karski passed away more than a decade ago. But today, I’m proud to announce that this spring I will honor him with America’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

A bit more about Jan Karski, who deserves to have his story told when for years it was not. Karski was a Polish Catholic who was sent early by anti-nazi underground forces to provide undercover information to the Polish government in exile (in Paris and London) and to other governments including the United States. He even provided early information to the allied forces early about the hidden extermination of the Jews in Poland and especially the dismantling of the Warsaw ghetto. Despite his reports which he filed at great person risk of his own life, people still did not believe that this could have been possible and delayed sending help to end the war. His story reveals that the world knew about the extermination of the Jews and either chose not to act or found it too overwhelming to believe that this could actually be happening.

From this interview:

When I brought my report to London, and I was twice in the Warsaw Ghetto and in a concentration camp and saw what happened to Jews in World War I, such a thing never happened in the entire history of the world. There were pogroms, the Inquisition, expulsions, mass murders (Genghis Khan, in Turkey against the Armenians), but never such a phenomenon in a civilized country like Germany where there was conceived a plan by the highest government authority to destroy an entire population. I had this feeling from Eden, and Lord Cranborne (Conservative Party) a dignified man, a very rich man and Lord Selbourne who was very anti-Nazi — what I was telling them I had the feeling that they were thinking that I had exaggerated, they thought that it was anti-Nazi propaganda, they couldn’t believe what was actually happening.

When I came to the United States in 1943, I had a meeting with a Justice of the Supreme Court, Frankfurter, who was a Jew, and he told me at a meeting at the Polish Embassy, “Do you know who I am? Yes. Do you know I am a Jew? Yes. Please tell me what is happening.” After 20 minutes I told him all I saw. He was interested only in what happened to Jews. After 20-25 minutes, a moment of silence, I remember every word — “Mr. Karski, a man like me talking to a man like you, I want to be totally frank — I am unable to believe you.” My ambassador said, “Felix, you don’t mean it. You cannot say such a thing. You cannot call him a liar.” “I did not say he is lying. I am just unable to believe what he told me.” Then he reached out to shake my hand, but I couldn’t.

So, it was difficult to believe for those who were far away. Why, when I now hear, today, when people use the term Holocaust, in many cases I feel offended — “abortion is a Holocaust” or the Armenians suffered a Holocaust — all this is blasphemy, there is no comparison.

Wiesel said it the best, “All nations had victims, but all Jews were victims. ” The word Holocaust cannot be used by any nation. It means the destruction of Jews.

Which is exactly why one should never make comparisons to the Holocaust on any situation that is actually not like the Holocaust and why so many Jews are angry with Bishop Jenky this week. Rightfully so.

Regardless, President Obama is honoring Karski with the highest award given to a civilian. It is only disappointing that Mr. Karski is no longer living to receive it. He went on to work as a Professor at Georgetown for more than 35 years.

I guess President Obama is really anti-life and really, really hates Catholics. He hates us so much that he’ll give a Catholic an award for standing up against the extermination of an entire race of people.

A race of people that he did not even belong to.

Denying Holocaust Heroes

A touching and sad story of combating the world’s worst hatred and of a failure to understand all that was risked in doing so.

Eva Weisel writes in an op-ed of a man, Khaled Abdul Wahab, an Arab Muslim, who protected and saved her and her family from the Holocaust at great personal risk in Tunisia.

A snip from The Times Op-ed:

As luck would have it, however, a German unit arrived in the area not long after we did. Our host told us to get rid of our yellow stars, stay inside the farm walls and keep far away from the main house. He had his own strategy for dealing with the Germans. A bon vivant and world traveler, he invited German officers for evenings filled with food and drink. While nearly two dozen of us were hiding in one part of the farm, he protected himself from the prying eyes of the Germans by entertaining them on the other side of the farm.

Our host’s strategy worked well, until the night a couple of drunken German officers wandered away from the main house.

In the courtyard outside the stables, they started banging on the courtyard door and shouting, “We know you are Jews and we’re coming to get you!”

My grandmother started screaming “Cachez les filles!” — “Hide the girls!” I remember being shoved under the bed, trembling and sobbing as I tried to hide under a blanket.

At that moment of unspeakable fear, as our hearts pounded and tears poured from our eyes, a guardian angel came to the rescue. Out of nowhere, our host appeared. A strong, powerful man who projected authority and commanded respect, he stopped the Germans and managed to lead them away.

The next day, our host came to the stables. We rushed to express our thanks to him, but he was more eager to apologize to us. He said he was sorry that we had to face the terrifying ordeal of the Germans’ threats, expressed relief that he had intervened in time to prevent a horrible tragedy, and promised that it would never happen again. We never found out how he fulfilled his promise — perhaps he bribed the Germans — but he did. We passed the rest of the German occupation at our host’s farm, without incident.

The suggestion is that Yad Veshem, the Israeli Holocaust memorial has refused to recognize him as one of the “righteous” because he is a Muslim. And that indeed is shameful.

Karl Rahner, the great Vatican II theologian, was a student of Heidegger, who was later found to be a Nazi sympathizer. It was the great anxiety of his life that the Catholic Church in Germany did not do enough for the Jews. He often would ask his students to “pray for his happy death.” It seems if upon reflection, Rahner could understand how important it was for the members of church to so SOMETHING to save the Jews (and others), then perhaps it’s equally important for everyone to honor and recognize what many people DID do.

Yad Veshem claims that Abdul Wahab didn’t risk his life to save the Jews. Which doesn’t reach the qualifications they’ve required for him to be honored. I think that’s speculative and ridiculous. What if the Nazis had caught him? What if a larger group of German soldiers had found the barn? What if they decided that his money was no good to them? Nobody knows what could have happened and Abdul Wahab did the right think without knowing what would happen either.

Doing the right thing is usually hard. Perhaps honoring an Arab Muslim when so many Arab Muslims deny the Holocaust or at least deny the numbers of dead and claim the the Jews use it as some kind of advantage. But not honoring Abdul Wahab denies something too. We call that heroism, bravery and having a moral compass.

Perhaps not denying that, is a good example for all of us and helps heal relations between Arabs and Jews who long for a lasting peace?

Or we can continue to cycle of denying.