Uncovering a Family’s Lost Holocaust History

March 10 2022

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


How the U.S. Is Financing Bashar al-Assad

Due to a long history of supporting terrorism and having waged a brutal and devastating war on its own people, the Syrian regime is subject to numerous U.S. sanctions. But that doesn’t stop American tax dollars from going to President Bashar al-Assad and his cronies, via the United Nations. David Adesnik explains:

UN agencies have spent $95.5 million over the past eight years to house their staff at the Four Seasons Damascus, including $14.2 million last year. New Yorkers know good hotel rooms don’t come cheap, but the real problem in Damascus is that the Four Seasons’ owners are the Assad regime itself and one of the war profiteers who manages the regime’s finances.

The hotel would likely go under if not for UN business; Damascus is not a tourist destination these days. The UN claims keeping its staff at the Four Seasons is about keeping them safe. Yet there has been little fighting in Damascus since 2017. A former UN diplomat with experience in the Syrian capital told me the regime tells UN agencies it can only guarantee the safety of their staff if they stay at the Four Seasons.

What makes the Four Seasons debacle especially galling is that it’s been public knowledge for seven years, and the UN has done nothing about it—or the many other ways the regime siphons off aid for its own benefit. One of the most lucrative is manipulating exchange rates. . . . One of Washington’s top experts on humanitarian aid crunched the numbers and concluded the UN lost $100 million over eighteen months to this kind of rate-fixing.

What the United States and its allies should do is make clear to the UN they will turn off the spigot if the body doesn’t get its act together.

Read more at New York Post

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations