TEL AVIV – A 94-year-old Holocaust survivor penned a letter rejecting controversial remarks made by Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan (pictured above, right) during a Holocaust Remembrance Day address in which he compared Israel to pre-war Germany.
In her letter, first published in French weekly Le Petit Hebdo, Rachel Zaney demands the IDF officer revisit his position that the “horrifying developments that took place in Europe are beginning to unfold” in Israel.
She counters Golan’s argument by saying that the discrimination her family was subjected to in pre-war Germany does not in any way compare to that faced by minorities in Israel. Further, she contrasted her experiences at the hands of brutal Nazi doctors with her experiences in a hospital in Jerusalem where doctors provided equal care to all patients, including “the terrorist who lay in the bed next to” her.
In his speech, Golan came under fire for calling on Israelis to reconsider society’s treatment of “the other.”
“If there is something that frightens me in the memory of the Holocaust, it is identifying horrifying processes that occurred in Europe … 70, 80, and 90 years ago, and finding evidence of their existence here in our midst, today, in 2016,” Golan said.
“There is nothing easier than hating the other,” he said. “There is nothing easier than raising fears and sowing terror. There is nothing easier than becoming callous, morally corrupt, and hypocritical.”
Zaney recalled the atrocities committed not only by the Nazis themselves but by enablers in other parts of Europe, including France and Hungary.
“I remember the Hungarian leadership that forced the Jewish lawyers to clean the streets with toothbrushes. I witnessed the sadism of the commander of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp, who sicced his dog on my friend to rip her breasts off to the backdrop of shouts of ‘Jude!’ My nephews described how the Hungarian soldiers managed to turn the ‘Blue Danube’ to a red river from the blood of the Jews they would slaughter.”
Zaney points to the brutality of the French police “who sent the Jewish children to their deaths, even when the Nazis did not request it.”
She ends her letter with a plea to Israel to maintain a strong and compassionate army “in the name of my father Alder Chenki, who believed in democracy and paid with his life at the Sobibor concentration camp. And my sister Chanah, who was slaughtered in the gas chambers at Auschwitz when she was pregnant. And my eight-year-old cousin Andre, who also went to the gas chambers because no one taught him how to fight with a knife,” she writes, “so that no more Jewish children have to die.”
Zaney also extended an invitation to Golan to come to her house so she could share more of her experiences with him.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led the outcry against Golan, calling his remarks “fundamentally baseless,” “outrageous,” and claiming that they contribute to “contempt for the Holocaust.”
However, following calls to sack Golan from right-wing politicians including Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), Netanyahu seemed to step back from his condemnations.
“The story of the speech is behind us. I see this as a one-off thing, and from here we’ll all continue together,” Netanyahu told a pre-Independence Day toast in which he shook Golan’s hand.