ARIZONA

Arizona recently “refurbished” its gas chamber built in 1949 which has not been used since 1999. The plan is to execute prisoners with cyanide and other gases. This is the same gas combination (Zyklon B) used by the Nazis to murder more than one million men, women, and children during the Holocaust. Is this worthy of a democracy?

Lethal injection is the death of choice for Arizona prisons and the state has paid over $1.5 million on lethal injection drugs despite its Department of Corrections facing a budget crisis. Executions have been on hold in the state since the lethal injection execution of Joseph Wood was badly botched in 2014. Now the state plans to offer a choice . . . gas chamber or lethal injection.

Arizona last used its gas chamber for the execution of Walter LeGrand in 1999. At that time The Tucson Citizen reported “agonizing choking and gasping” during the execution. It took LeGrand eighteen minutes to die.

Frank Atwood and Clarence Dixon are the next people to be executed in Arizona and while their lawyers attempt to raise legal arguments the two men have a choice to contemplate. Which way will they choose to die if their appeals fail? In my opinion, both are cruel and unusual punishments for us to inflict upon other human beings.

Source: Death Penalty Information Center

Violins of Hope

Violins of Hope

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a concert by the Louisville Orchestra led by conductor Terry Abrams. That is always a delightful experience but last night’s performance was extra special in that it caused one to reflect on a dreadful past and to hope for a future that is free for all people. The program was entitled Violins of Hope.

Violins have long been a favorite instrument of the Jewish people and they were present during the holocaust. Many of these violins belonging to Jewish prisoners have been saved even when their owners were not. Over the past fifty years, these instruments have been reclaimed from that horror and repaired by Amnon Weinstein and his son Avshalom, who spoke last evening.

Several of these consecrated violins that brought the hope of music to prisoners of war were on display and some were even played by members of the Louisville Orchestra.

The program honored the Jewish people and their struggle for survival. The orchestra performed the music of Klezmer Rondos, the ballet Judith, three pieces from Schindler’s List and a narration from the Diary of Anne Frank. It was an extremely moving performance.

We were fortunate indeed to have these violins and their message of hope in Louisville for a short while. Below are photos of a few taken from a Louisville Orchestra program.

“Wherever there were violins, there was hope.” Amnon Weinstein

 

Book Review: Our Crime Was Being Jewish

“OUR CRIME WAS BEING JEWISH” BY Anthony S. Pitch

Followers of this blog have probably figured out I read a lot of books about the Holocaust and World War II. This book which I have read twice is among the most impactful for me. The author, Anthony S. Pitch has assembled the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and published them for the world to read.  These are testimonies that comprise the film “Testimony” at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

What I found so compelling in reading the accounts of these survivors is each tells their own story as only they can. They speak for no one else. These testimonies are not grouped in any specific way by age, gender, chronology or geography. Pitch states he has not used an index in his book because “many who should have been included were silenced by murder.” These are the stories of those who survived and the thing they have in common is being Jewish.

I highly recommend this book. It is heart-breaking, but so enlightening. I wish each citizen of the world could read it and remember, lest it is repeated.

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“Yet, nearly 6 decades after the Holocaust concluded, Anti-Semitism still exists as the scourge of the world.” Eliot Engel

Nearly a century later not only anti-semitism still exists, but also genocide. Think of Rwanda, Bosnia, and Cambodia.   

Holocaust Novel

“All My Love, Detrick” by Roberta Kagan

Most of my reading about the Holocaust is factual but I decided to try this best-selling novel and I’m glad I did. As the title indicates it is a love story. Detrick, an Aryan, falls in love with Leah, a Jewish girl, and their struggles to be together are very realistic. There are parallel love stories of other couples that unfold smoothly throughout the book. There is plenty of love-making but also tragedies among the characters of all ages.

I enjoyed the book and would rank it four stars out of five. I know I’m a hard critic for a book must be great literature for me to give it five stars. “Sunflower” and “Night Trilogy” come to mind in that category.

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“Love is like a beautiful flower which I may not touch, but whose fragrance makes the garden a place of delight just the same.” Helen Keller

Book Review – The Night Trilogy

Elie Wiesel

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (1928-2016) authored 57 books. He was a Nobel Peace Prize winner and recipient of numerous other awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

After his time in concentration camps, he received asylum in France where he completed his education. His career included being a journalist and later a professor of Humanities at Boston University. His most important work, however, was as an activist and defender of human rights.  

The Night Trilogy Contains:

  • “Night” – a memoir of Wiesel’s year as a prisoner in Auschwitz and Buchenwald 
  • Dawn” – a novel about the Jewish resistance in Palestine during English rule
  • “Day” – a novel about a Holocaust survivor’s obsession with death

The novels, “Dawn” and “Day” were captivating. They each reflected the permanent pain and disability from being a prisoner during the Holocaust. There are fragments which one knows are true to Wiesel’s personal anguish. 

“Night” was heartbreaking as the young Elie tells of the horrors of daily life in the concentration camps. His mother and younger sister were killed. His father died of starvation while in captivity during a brutal winter.

Originally a 900-page book entitled “And The World Remained Silent,” it was written in Yiddish then translated in this abridged version to English and thirty other languages. 

The inhumanities suffered by Wiesel and other prisoners are difficult to accept but should be read by everyone lucky enough to live free. 

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“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Elie Wiesel