After 62 Years, an Eye-Witness Account of Theresienstadt Appears in English

July 13 2017

During the three years he spent as an inmate of the Theresienstadt Ghetto, the Prague-born German-language writer H.G. Adler (1910-1988) did what he could to document the horrors that went on there; after surviving the final months of the war at Auschwitz and various forced-labor camps, Adler used his notes and collection of documents to compose his 1955 study Theresienstadt 1941-1945: The Face of a Coerced Community. Unlike other ghettos, which were meant to hold Jews until they could be murdered conveniently, in the hope that some or most would die of disease or starvation in the meantime, Theresienstadt—hellish though it was—served as a Potemkin ghetto where Red Cross personnel (and others) were allowed to visit, and thus given a pretext for feigning ignorance of European Jewry’s fate. Adler’s book is being published in English for the first time. Peter Filkins writes:

Should you wish to know the average daily caloric intake from potatoes for children (168 calories) in Theresienstadt, you will find it here. Should you wish to know the names of the first council of elders at the ghetto’s founding in late 1941, as well as their duties, individual character traits, and nationalities, you will find it here. Should you wish to learn about the sham bank set up in Theresienstadt, or the equally dubious café, post office, grocery, and clothing store, you will find it here. You will also find samples of poems written by inmates, the titles of hundreds of lectures delivered, descriptions of the many concerts given, and a detailed account of the efforts made to dupe the International Red Cross when it inspected the ghetto in June 1944. And of course, if you wish to learn about the deportations and the fate of the 140,000 prisoners who passed through Theresienstadt (only 15 percent of whom survived), you will find that here as well.

There was and remains no book quite like Theresienstadt 1941-1945. . . . Part history, part sociological study, and part psychological analysis (the book’s three sections are organized under these disciplines), it is encyclopedic in scope yet riveting in its underlying narrative; relentlessly objective and quantitative in its research, yet searing in its moral indictment of the Nazi and Jewish leadership alike; and in the end it both argues the dangers of the modern bureaucratic state and simultaneously rises to the level of what Hermann Levin Goldschmidt called a prophetic “indictment” of what Adler referred to as “the latest unfathomable calamity to befall the Jewish people.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: History & Ideas, Holocaust, Red Cross, Theresienstadt


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount