Uncovering a Family’s Lost Holocaust History

Over the course of the pandemic, Jessica Shaw took on a project: identifying and retracing the route through which her father escaped Paris during the Holocaust. She writes:

By the time my father was born in 1934, the Jewish population in Paris had grown to about 200,000, most of whom, like my grandparents, were immigrants from Eastern Europe. Yes, there was anti-Semitism throughout the country (the Dreyfus Affair, when a Jewish soldier was wrongly convicted of treason, wasn’t that far in the past), but there was also a Jewish socialist prime minister in Léon Blum. Even as Hitler amassed power to the east and Kristallnacht shattered any notion that Jews would be safe in Germany, many Jews in France felt safe enough.

But by June 1940, Hitler’s army had defeated France, and with the Franco-German Armistice, the country was divided into the German-controlled north and the Vichy-controlled south, which, though independent, collaborated with the Nazis. The persecution came swiftly: in October that year, the military lay the groundwork of “Aryanization”: taking away Jewish businesses. The next year, six synagogues in Paris were bombed in one night. The Jews who stayed in France were ordered to wear a yellow star marked “Juif” by 1942, if they were not among the approximately 76,000 who were deported, primarily to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland.

The French government recognized the best-known Pyrenees crossing, the “Chemin de la Liberté” or “Freedom Trail,” 50 years after the war ended, as an official path of escape during World War II. Several adventure-travel companies in Europe now offer guided group trips across the route, often for those wanting to commemorate a relative’s journey. The hikes begin in Saint-Girons, France, in the Pyrenees foothills, about 50 miles south of Toulouse, and meander through forests, boulder fields, and the occasional snowy mountain top to altitudes of 8,000 feet before crossing the border into Vielha, Spain.

Read more at New York Times

More about: French Jewry, Holocaust, Vichy France

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security