The Intimate Horrors of the Holocaust, Caught on Camera

Feb. 17 2021

In The Ravine, the historian Wendy Lower documents the results of her search for the details behind a single photograph, showing the murder—by German soldiers and their local helpers—of a Jewish woman and her two children in the Ukrainian town of Miropol in 1941. Susie Linfield writes in her review:

The scene was not unusual; neither was the photograph. During the war, German soldiers took troves of photographs—perhaps hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions—some of which memorialized, indeed celebrated, their cruelties, tortures, and crimes. Nazi authorities forbade these unofficial images, but to little avail; they circulated widely to friends and families back home. These celebrations of sadism—which shake our ideas about an innate human capacity for either shame or guilt—are sometimes referred to as “trophy photos,” though I think “atrocity selfies” is a better term.

Lower shows that it takes a lot of people to kill a lot of people. There are the Ukrainian teenage girls forced to dig the mass graves; the Nazi customs guards (including volunteers) and Ukrainian policemen who rounded up the Jews and forced them to the death site; the Ukrainian neighbors who plundered their homes and “assaulted them—throwing stones and bottles.” Then there are the Ukrainian militia who, “armed with clubs, tools, and Russian rifles, chased Jews, bludgeoning some to death. . . . They chased young Jewish women, ripped off their clothes, and raped them.”

The town rang out—who could miss this?—with gunshots, “yelling, screaming, and howling.” This was not the bureaucratic killing many associate with the Holocaust. This was mass murder at its most intimate: the Ukrainians “taunted the victims by name. . . . The victims were known to them from the dentist’s office, the cobbler’s shop, the soda fountain, and the collective farm. They grabbed small children and babies by the legs and smashed their heads against the trees.”

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Holocaust, Photography, Ukrainian Jews

 

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam