There has been concern (though little surprise) about a statement put out by Jeremy Corbyn on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day which neglects to mention Jews;
Editor of the Jewish Chronicle Stephen Pollard strongly criticised this message though he later retracted;
I’ve deleted this tweet from yesterday. In his statement on the day @jeremycorbyn did not mention Jews. But I’ve now been shown the #HMD brochure and in that he does. In fact his message is admirable. I got this wrong pic.twitter.com/BljZxkWHJN
— Stephen Pollard (@stephenpollard) January 26, 2018
Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Tweeted her comments on the issue of mentioning Jews though without naming Jeremy Corbyn;
When you talk about the Holocaust, it’s obvious to mention Jews, isn’t it? It was afterall, 6 million Jewish men, women and children who were brutally murdered by the Nazis — Karen Pollock (@KarenPollock100) January 25, 2018
The statements I’ve seen from him today show care has been taken to mention Jews:
Holocaust Memorial Day is a time to reflect on the evil that occurs when we forget our common humanity. The 20th Century produced no evil greater than the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people. My full statement: https://t.co/qp7kexD9wN #HMD2018 #WeRemember — Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) January 27, 2018
And in the Holocaust Memorial Day brochure:
He has put up another statement on his Facebook page regarding the Holocaust, some of the comments underneath are quite upsetting however;
Naturally there is linkage with Israel/Palestine. This idea that the Israelis are perpetrating genocide is nonsense, obviously. Chas Newkey-Berdon wrote, for me, the definitive piece on how vile the idea that Jews should have learned from the Holocaust how to treat others;
Let us strip the “they-of-all-people” argument down to its very basics: gentiles telling Jews that we killed six million of your people and that as a result it is you, not us, who have lessons to learn; that it is you, not us, who need to clean up your act. It is an argument of atrocious, spiteful insanity. Do not accept it; turn it back on those who offer it. For it is us, not you, who should know better.
It’s interesting that Corbyn chose to quote the Bundist (member of the Jewish Socialist Party) Szmul Zygielbojm. I suppose the fact that he wasn’t a Zionist probably made him more attractive to Corbyn. He killed himself in May 1943 after learning that his wife and one of his sons were murdered by the Nazis during the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto. The Daily Mail has an excellent article detailing his activities as one of the two Jewish members of the Polish Government in Exile (the other was Ignacy Schwarzbart who was a Zionist) and his work informing the British public and government about the Holocaust.
Szmul Zygielbojm was a Polish Jew who fled Warsaw in 1939 after being made a member of the Warsaw Judenrat by the Germans. On the monument commemorating him at the graveyard where his ashes remain are the words taken from his suicide note;
“My comrades in the Warsaw Ghetto fell with arms in their hands in their last heroic battle. It was not given to me to die together with them, but I belong to them and to their mass graves. By my death I wish to express my strongest protest against the passivity with which the world observes and permits the extermination of the Jewish people.”
I have thought a lot about Corbyn’s inclusion of Zygielbojm, the fact that he was a Jewish socialist, the fact that his suicide was an act of protest against the way he felt the great powers weren’t doing enough to stop the Holocaust. Perhaps these things appealed to Corbyn as a dig at the current world powers and their attitudes towards human rights. One thing I do know is that Zygielboim spent his last few years lobbying on behalf of the Jews who were suffering under the German onslaught against them. He forced the great leaders of the world to take notice.
I wonder, had Corbyn been a contemporary of Zygielboim’s would he have paid attention to him? Perhaps this is unfair, Corbyn also quotes Roza Robota, a member of the Zionist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair, she smuggled (along with some friends) the gunpowder used to destroy one of the crematoria in Auschwitz. Her cry at her hanging “be strong and have courage” is pronounced in Hebrew Chazak Ve’e’matz and is a Zionist battlecry.