To bear witness means to see through personal presence, to see and not to be able to stop oneself from seeing. Standing in the Mauthausen concentration camp in central Austria, I could only visualize faces of those I never knew. I could see the photos of my great-grandparents and great-aunt who were murdered to the east in Auschwitz. What was wrong with me? I did not want to recall the humanity of loved ones in a place that spoke to their very dehumanization perpetrated by the Nazi regime. But I could not stop, and my tears ricocheted to the children’s trampoline standing innocuously to the side of the road. At that moment, my eyes detached from the rest of my body and I could not fathom the vestiges of a living hell.
The Iranian nuclear threat seems to be receiving an obvious response a variety of people and societies all over the world. War seems very probable and the Americans appear willing to entertain the idea of a greater conflict. Meanwhile, Europeans may still hope to be a bit removed but nevertheless realize the precariousness of the situation.
However, those who do truly realize the danger of the Iranian threats are the Israelis. They are most certainly the first probable victims of Iran’s aggression. Being pro-Israeli or not, all Jewish communities and each Jewish person ought to be on the Israeli side here. A danger to Israel signifies a danger for the entire Jewish people, and Iran represents an absolute danger.
There was a lot of talk of miracles at the Chanukah party hosted by the new Austrian Consul General in New York, Peter Brezovszky, on the second night, December 21.
The theme, of course, lends itself as we celebrate the unlikely defeat of the Romans at the hands of the Maccabees, and the oil that lasted eight nights. But on this occasion, a few other layers of history were pealed back and in the process, some tender wounds exposed along with hopes that healing may be at hand.
David Harris, AJC’s Executive Director, came to the party, which was filled to capacity with over 150 ACCESS and Austrian guests. He recalled his late father, whose work in physics as a young man in Vienna was put to an abrupt end with the Anschluss. In the 1960s, David returned to the city to help Jews in transit who were escaping the Soviet Union for safer harbors. He recalled lighting the Chanukah menorah with families who had just arrived on free soil – their first open Jewish act after hiding their faith for so many years.