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Jewish Journal

The Hitler Letter

by Nicole Behnam

November 10, 2011 | 11:44 am

I am more than familiar with the persecution Jews have faced historically. My parents sent me to private Jewish schools since kindergarten. Chronologically, in first grade, I learned that Jews were once slaves in Egypt. It sounded horrific, but they were freed so I paid no further attention to that topic.

In second grade during Purim, I learned that the Jews were persecuted by Haman, but to be honest, it was more fun running around in funny costumes and eating the triangle-shaped pastries, so I didn’t care to delve deeper into the subject.

In fourth grade, however, I heard about how a man named Adolf Hitler killed 6 million Jews. And for the first time, I was not distracted by the happy ending or holiday associated with the Jews’ freedom. For the first time in my life, I was terrified by a story.

Even when I was in fourth grade, the Holocaust was disturbing on a number of levels. As I got older, the Holocaust affected me even more. In high school, I went on a trip with 6 Holocaust survivors and visited the death camps where most of them witnessed their family members brutally murdered by Nazis.

And two weeks ago, I walked through the interactive exhibit at the Museum of Tolerance with my dad. The experience was eye-opening, to say the least.

What stood out to me was their display of “The Hitler Letter”—a letter that changed the world. I read the letter several times as my dad went ahead and looked through short biographical displays chronicling the lives of individual Holocaust survivors.

I hate to use laudatory adjectives when describing Hitler, but he really was an evil genius. He was charismatic, intimidating, and very, very powerful. His political savvy helped him expel, segregate, and methodically destroy a majority of the Jewish population in Europe.

For the third time, I read the letter, and though I didn’t agree with any of Hitler’s statements, they must have been pretty convincing in 1919, six years before the publication of his book, Mein Kampf:

Everything which makes men strive for higher things, whether religion, socialism, or democracy, is for [the Jew] only a means to an end, to the satisfaction of a lust for money and domination. His activities produce a racial tuberculosis among other nations.

Essentially, Hitler is claiming that a Jew only values money, and that every expression of good or act of kindness is executed in pretense, as a front, or as a means to acquire more money than he already has. It’s unfortunate and upsetting that so many leaders were ignorant enough to believe this diabolical nonsense, but I can see why an uninformed leader would want to corroborate with Hitler’s despicable attempt to scapegoat the Jew.

Here’s some more nonsense from the letter:

If the danger represented by the Jews today finds expression in the undeniable dislike of them felt by a large section of our people, the cause of this dislike is on the whole not to be found in the clear recognition of the corrupting activity of the Jews generally among our people, whether conscious or unconscious; it originates mainly through personal relationship, and from the impression left behind him by the individual Jew which is almost invariably unfavorable.

How ironic that Hitler’s impression left behind HIM is utterly and invariably unfavorable in the eyes of every human being with a soul, with a mind, and with a heart.

Of course reading the letter is disturbing, but I urge you to visit the museum, to read the letter in its entirety, and to familiarize yourselves with the voice of cruelty, because it will never die out—but the least we can do is speak out against evil. Look what happened when we didn’t.

 

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