When information broke that former President Donald Trump had dinner with antisemites Ye and Nick Fuentes final month, I puzzled whether or not potatoes have been on the menu.
Imprisoned as a toddler within the Bergen-Belsen focus camp throughout the Holocaust, my grandmother developed a method: Although fairly actually ravenous, she would place herself behind the road for meals. Ready till the top, she as soon as defined to me, elevated her probabilities of getting a number of items of potato in her bowl reasonably than simply liquid, as a result of they’d sink to the underside of the vat from which the soup was served. Meager because it was, a number of bites of potato might be the distinction between life and demise.
Antisemitic incidents at the moment are so rampant that we’ve got needed to postpone deliberate classes on the historical past of the Holocaust to deal with the current.
Adolf Hitler and his Nazis took many issues from my grandmother: her mother and father, most of her siblings, many pals and her childhood. However they couldn’t take her intuition for survival. She was too sturdy. She made it out alive.
“I really like Jewish folks, however I additionally love Nazis,” Ye, the rapper previously referred to as Kanye West, proclaimed Thursday on right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ present, maybe emboldened by his dinner with Trump and Fuentes. “I see good issues about Hitler, additionally.” He then took to Twitter and posted a swastika earlier than being banned from the platform on Friday.
I discover myself returning to my grandmother’s story as Ye continues to reward the monsters behind the Holocaust, and antisemitism extra broadly makes a frightful resurgence in America. True, antisemitism dates again hundreds of years. True, the Nazis got here so near exterminating the whole Jewish inhabitants that the world needed to invent a brand new phrase, genocide, for what Winston Churchill referred to as “against the law with no identify.” True, antisemitic assaults in the US reached an all-time excessive in 2021. True, a former and potential future president broke bread with distinguished antisemites a number of days in the past.
However right here is one other reality: Adherents of antisemitism have by no means achieved their final purpose. All through historical past, our will to reside has outlasted their futile makes an attempt to destroy.
It’s a will that has triumphed as a result of we’ve got summoned it day after day. For my grandparents and their compatriots, Holocaust survival didn’t finish at liberation; it started there. The trauma it imposed was ever-present. The sensation of loss by no means dissipated. However they picked up the items of their shattered existence and, to the extent potential, put their lives again collectively.
My grandmother met my grandfather — a fellow Holocaust survivor who was liberated from Buchenwald after spending many of the warfare present process compelled labor at a munitions manufacturing unit — at a camp erected for displaced individuals in Belgium following World Conflict II. They got here to America with little household and no cash, by no means having set foot on the opposite aspect of the Atlantic and talking not a phrase of English.
Over 58 years of marriage, they raised a son, constructed their very own dry-cleaning enterprise, saved sufficient for a summer season dwelling and traveled broadly. They doted on their three grandchildren. They made pals and constructed a group.
Their lives have been outlined largely by the Holocaust. However by surviving every day of its aftermath, they continued to refute Hitler’s grasp plan by additionally experiencing happiness and pleasure, discovering that means and objective, and giving love whereas receiving it in return.
To honor my grandparents’ legacy, I train a seventh-grade Holocaust class at my native Hebrew college. Annually, I remind my college students that, whereas the Holocaust occurred a number of many years in the past, the antisemitism that fueled the Nazis’ rise to energy may be very a lot with us as we speak. These days, it has change into all too simple to make that time. In truth, antisemitic incidents at the moment are so rampant that we’ve got needed to postpone deliberate classes on the historical past of the Holocaust to deal with the current.
A number of weeks in the past, we spent most of 1 class studying by the Anti-Defamation League’s real-time tracker of anti-Semitic vandalism, harassment and assault. It isn’t a simple learn, particularly when a few of these incidents are occurring proper in our yard — together with one case in November of swastikas and hangmen spray-painted only a few minutes away from our synagogue. Afterward, I posed the identical query to every of my college students: What is going to you do within the face of all these assaults on our folks?
Their solutions would have made my grandparents proud.
“Educate my household and pals what I’ve realized.”
“Communicate up after I hear somebody say one thing dangerous about us.”
“Be a superb individual.”
At that second, they joined the ranks of the survivors like Frieda and Morris Zimmerman who had come earlier than them. Although the room was quiet, in case you listened arduous sufficient, you may hear the crashing sound of antisemitism happening to defeat as soon as extra.