Today our electoral college, our last line in defense of fascism will officially elect a fascist dictator to the US presidency. Our country is on the precipice of its final destruction as a democracy. An authoritarian regime is about to take over. One so completely divorced from democracy that they currently aim to harm the very people who elected them. So does this mean we are doomed? No. We can descend into fascism, but we can also descend into chaos. Or we can repeat the last 8 years and descend into gridlock with a bad taste in our mouths. Nevertheless we should be prepared for the worst. It leads me to contemplate the fate of the most vulnerable for they will surely bear the brunt. Time has taught us that the ‘vulnerable’ are not the poor or the downtrodden they are the ‘different’. Think your wealth will protect you? I am sure the rich Jews of Germany thought exactly the same thing. So using that analogy, if this were Nazi Germany (and it very well may be) what kind of Jew will you be?
There were Jews who disbelieved in what was happening. Surely this cannot happen here? They cried to themselves even as they were being herded onto trains, to experience exactly what they could not fathom. These were the believers in civil society, the believers in institutional safeguards. The vast majority of the 9,500,000+ Jewish population (https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005161).
There were Jews who desperately tried to escape. Some succeeded and went to another country where they could get on with their lives while the rest of Germany crashed and burned. Of those who escaped not all fared well. Many were miserable refugees, some, like Stefan Zweig and his wife, committed suicide, and yet others found they had not escaped far enough like Anne Frank’s father Otto who escaped to Amsterdam only to be captured there and sent to a concentration camp.
There were also those Jews slow on the uptake. “Oh my god, this is really happening!” they would realize in various degrees of too late. For these Jews a dilemma came up: they had to fight their fate but how? Some went into the underground. Some went into hiding. Some tried marrying Aryans (some 4,700). Others tried forged papers, and even went so far as to fight in the army for the Germans.
There were also the apathetic, the apolitical, the ones with their heads in the sand or up their ass. They simply reacted to consequences as they appeared. They went into hiding when kicked out of their homes. They stole food when they were deprived of money. They were shoved into lower and lower levels of pragmatic survival. (about 1,400 of these survived living in Berlin throughout the war). (http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/berlin.html)
Then there were these special class of Jews, call them delusional, call them the elites, call them the traitors. They thought working with the Germans would be the way to help attenuate the circumstances. They enjoyed privilege for so long they were useful to the Germans. They gave an air of legitimacy for the fellow disbelievers that it really wasn’t so bad. Their leaders after all would protect them. But nobody could protect them. Even this Jewish elite, somewhat serendipitously called in German the Jewish Rat, could not protect them nor themselves. (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/judenrat.html They were actually called the Judenrat or Jewish Council) Though some did abuse their ‘privileges’ to help their friends or themselves, others wanted to only to find out that wasn’t so easy. They ended up helping the Nazi cause more than they ever hurt it. Of course these Judenrat members did not find these jobs very cushy and were often subjected to the same intimidation, torture and murder as the others. And to be fair, many were forced into the Judenrat, I am referring to those who more willingly participated in them thinking they could reform the Nazis from within.
Then there was those Jews who opposed the system from the very beginning. They became the easiest targets of retaliation and often used as symbols of the impending martyrdom to follow. They certainly died with clear consciences. They raised awareness. They disabused the disbelievers, allowing many of them to take action. Many of them won credibility among the underground and as resistance fighters often got free passes from the underground to safer ground. That was surely the fate of Victor Lazlo, the secondary hero of Casablanca.
So the question remains. Given on impending Trump presidency: what kind of Jew do you aspire to? Or are you confident this can’t happen here, and certainly not to you?