The Shoah and the Confusions of Warring

Ruth Hartleyantisemitism, Conflict, Displacement, Feminism, History, Politics, Power, War2 Comments

Full Metal Jacket and the dualities of being a human

The 1987 Kubrik film Full Metal Jacket stars Matthew Modine as Private Joker, an American soldier fighting in the Vietnam War. Netflix removed BORN TO KILL from his helmet and destroyed the film’s theme of the duality of human nature. Next to BORN TO KILL was the symbol of peace Private Joker’s statement about his war. This is like the human dilemma we face over the Gaza War. We will not help the Palestinian people by supporting Hamas. Hamas is an army of jihadis from many nations not just Palestine. who care so little for Palestinian women and children they use them as human shields, eat their food, and refuse a ceasefire. Jihadis murder writers like Salman Rushdie, publishers, cartoonists, civilians and people at music festivals like the Bataclan, Charlie Hebdo, and the Manchester Arena. Why we must ask. Can we help Palestinians by killing Jews anywhere or by driving Israelis out of Palestine and chanting from the River to the Sea? What can we learn? What can we understand? What can we change?

At the War Memorial

On May 8th 2024 Armistice Day at the War Memorial in our little village in France, our mayor, Robert Maisonneuve spoke about the rising anti-Semitism in Europe and he reminded us of the Shoah, the Nazi genocide of Jews in Europe. It took place less than a century ago right here, where we live, in civilised industrialised Europe. Do not forget this atrocity Mr Maisonneuve warned. Forgetting the dangers of anti-Semitism is a real threat to our peace, our democracy and our humanity.

Death Statistics

Consider these statistics. Between 5 and 6 million Jews were exterminated. Almost 3 million in Poland in the death camps alone. That was 50 % of European Jews and 40 % of world Jewry. Jews were murdered for trying to return to Poland after the war. Millions of displaced people had to find new homes and no country wanted any of them unless they had money. We all want to return to our roots, to where we belong and hope to be safe. It is estimated that there are 15 million Jews worldwide, over 8 million in the tiny country of Israel. Compare those figures to the size of Muslim countries and Muslim population. Muslims are responsible for most Muslim deaths.

Defeat and Victory

On 8th May 1945, Germany surrendered to the Allies but victory is not erasure says Sebastien Lecornu, Minister for the Armed Forces in France. The French had been defeated in 1940 and had to cope with betrayal by their own people. The courage to resist comes at a high personal price and most people cannot or will not make that sacrifice. Those who do, being human, may have mixed motives, may make bad decisions and cannot count on good results. After a victory or a revolution, we claim that we were always brave and on the “right “side but were we and can we carry on being right? We want to be as good as we can be in the situation we find ourselves in but making the world into a place where we can all be good seems inachievable. Labelling others as bad or evil is easier than admitting we might be mistaken and revengeful.  

Learning from our heritage

Lecornu ends by saying that commemorating the end of the war is nourished by both the history of the Free French and the Resistance and by the history of deportation and collaboration. Those opposing memories are our heritage and our lessons. According to Antoine de Sainte-Exupery –“The truth of tomorrow feeds on the mistake of yesterday.” but perhaps the truth of tomorrow is born compromised and if we can recognise that we can be wiser and kinder. The war stopped in 1945 but it did not finish. It left an enduring legacy of pain, suffering and wrongdoing and continues as a war for understanding, compromise, tolerance and forgiveness without which there can be no peace.

Wars against Women

Full Metal Jacket ends when Private Joker sees that the sniper he has hunted is a young girl. He kills her. It is a disturbing film. Ironically the war scenes in Full Metal Jacket were shot on an abandoned gasworks site in east London close to areas that were heavily bombed in WW2. Rape is a weapon of war used by Hamas on October 7th. It is used by men in every war. Child marriage, banning education for women, contraception and abortion for women are also weapons of war. Hamas, the Taliban, Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah use these weapons of war against their women now, today at this moment. Shockingly these weapons are used by followers of Donald Trump in the USA. The war that has to be won is not a war against Muslims, Jews, Christians, theists, atheists or agnostics. The war that we must win is against misogyny.

Night and Fog

A song written by Jean Ferrat, son of a Russian Jewish emigre murdered in Auschwitz was played at our War Commemoration

They were twenty and a hundred, they were in thousands,

Naked and wan, trembling, in sealed wagons,

Who tore at the night with their fingernails,

They were in thousands, they were twenty and a hundred.

They believed they were men, were nothing but numbers. . .

ls étaient vingt et cent, ils étaient des milliers,

Nus et maigres, tremblants, dans ces wagons plombés,

Qui déchiraient la nuit de leurs ongles battants.

Ils étaient des milliers, ils étaient vingt et cent. 

Ils se croyaient des hommes, n’étaient plus que des nombres.

2 Comments on “The Shoah and the Confusions of Warring”

  1. Aviva Ron

    This is an excellent and timely piece. Thank you, Ruth.
    Two days ago a 12-year old Jewish girl was raped by three young boys in Paris. One boy said he did this awful deed because the girl hid that she is Jewish. She didn’t hide – and she didn’t show she was Jewish by wearing a yellow star on her clothes.
    We will not not wear yellow stars again.
    Next week will anyone remember that the Jewish girl was raped .
    These are very sad and bad times and we need serious people to understand what is happening not just to Jews and Israel, but to humanity.

  2. m-f saint-laurent

    Yes Ruth, I find your text most interesting, we’re living such awful times. In the valleys, we keep oraganising meetings & dialogues in order to fight all the stereotypes agains foreigners & people in charge. Mass-tourism isn’t the best way to
    enhance understanding & empathy… We’re thinking of ways of talking to our neighbours who are so far away from our beliefs .
    Climate-change,respect for women, the need of getting properly informed are hated topics around us… We struggle together not to lose energy.
    Thank you for all the good texts you send me, please, don’t give up… Sororalement, marie-françoise.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.