Dagan’s Holocaust: A Monster That Will Not Die
I wrote last night about Meir Dagan’s famous office photo, ostensibly showing his grandfather on bended knee wrapped in his tallis before what appear to be German or Polish soldiers or police, one of whom wields a billy club. Dagan claims, according to Ronen Bergman and this Ynet story (thanks to IlanP for drawing my attention to it), that the photo was taken moments before his father was shot. Dagan uses the picture as a prop in his motivational speeches to Mossad operatives before they embark on important covert missions:
“Look at this photograph,” Dagan tells the Caesarea fighters. “This is what must guide us and lead us to act on behalf of the State of Israel. I look at the picture and vow that I will do everything I can to ensure that something like this will never happen again.”
In yesterday’s post I wrote about my disquiet at this use of such past personal family tragedy to justify Israel’s current political agenda. I have some further thoughts on this subject because the image and way Dagan uses/exploits it still bother me.
First, let me say that the Holocaust is undoubtedly a singular trauma in Jewish history and one that has left an indelible mark on all Jews, certainly today and likely for all time. There can be no doubt that survivors and descendants of survivors each have to find a way through the pain of this experience. In most cases, I refuse to judge the ways in which victims and those related to them (several great uncles and aunts of mine perished in the Holocaust though I never knew them) do this. But in the case of those who exploit the Holocaust for political or nationalist purposes, I draw the line.
Dagan, like Israel itself, treats the Holocaust not just as a historical event, but as one that continues to happen or threatens to happen to Israel today. Dagan’s enemies (and those of the State of Israel) are no different than the Cossacks, Nazis and Inquisitors who’ve inflicted pain on Jews throughout our history. The genocide perpetrated on our people during World War II is the same genocide that our current enemies (in Gaza or Iran) would inflict on us given half a chance.
Whatever one thinks of this psychological profile, one has to admit that it is a powerful one. One that roots itself indelibly in one’s identity and provides basic, rock-solid principles to carry one through life. It is how Dagan can be such a focussed, monomaniacal advocate (or killer) on behalf of his people.
But really when you look at this set of beliefs, it is pathological. It views the Holocaust as an event that happened but never ended. It views every possible threat to the Jewish people as a looming Holocaust. It sanctions grievous acts against our fellow human beings in order to protect us from these imagined dangers.
Here is the illness: the conditions and context in which Israel finds itself now have nothing to with the Holocaust. It has everything to do with where Israel finds itself in the contemporary Middle East. It has to do with the precise set of Arab neighbor states it has and their own political conditions. Israel must come to terms with the real conditions in which it finds itself, and not imagined historical ones which are irrelevant to latter-day circumstances.
If your policies are governed by historical trauma instead of clear-eyed analysis of where you find yourself at the present moment, you are doomed. You will be fighting the battles of 1938 instead of 2011.
The final grave disservice that the Holocaust-obsessed do to contemporary Israel is that they turn today’s enemies into eternal sworn genocidal monsters (i.e. Amalek). You cannot negotiate with a monster. You cannot make peace with a monster. Nazis were monsters. But Palestinians are not monsters. Iranians are not monsters. Neither people seek to annihilate the Jewish people as the Nazis did. Perhaps in their wildest dreams the most extreme among them might harbor such delusions. But rational human beings do not act based on what the most lunatic human beings do or say. They act out of pragmatic self-interest.
We must not let the Bibi Netanyahus or Meir Dagans turn the Israeli-Arab conflict into the Holocaust. This is not a Holy War nor a Crusade nor a fight to prevent the annihilation of the Jewish people (or even Israel). This is a political struggle over land and power. Political conflicts can be resolved. Existential conflicts between good and evil cannot. For the Dagans of this world it is a fight to the death between Israel and its enemies. We must not allow it to become that, because that way lie death and self-destruction.
66 thoughts on “Dagan’s Holocaust: A Monster That Will Not Die – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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i think you probably hit the nail squarely on the head here.
Most Israelis will probably see any enemy, real or imaginary as the next Hitler.
Whereas in previous major conflicts it was always “clear” who were the “goodies” and who the “baddies”, it will take a generation or two to convince Israelis that the Palestinians are not the “baddies” and that the conflict is not yet another anti-semetic event in the Jewish people’s long sad history.
I’m not over optimistic on this one, as History has a sad way of repeating itself.
Which is precisely why Israelis consistently view Palestinians as the “baddies” and vice versa. Israelis (we) are fearful for our future and overreact to any threat that rekindles the memory of the Holocaust. There is a very strong mindset of Us vs. The World. Us or Them. The possibility of living side by side next to Palestinians is a non-existent one to many Israelis. First Israelis must be convinced that not only is it a possibility, it’s what our future holds for us. For this to happen, there needs to be a bridge between the two peoples. One that currently hardly exists. How often do common Israelis and Palestinians interact with each other? Most of them not at all. There are forced and natural separations – the wall and the barrier of language. Population division (even within Israel) and cultural differences. These are the obstacles that need to be overcome before there is any hope to coexistence.
Dagan, like Israel itself, treats the Holocaust not just as a historical event.
Richard, I don’t know anything about your family’s history, but I do know mine. I have no idea how many family members of yours were murdered in the Holocaust, I know that on my mother side, my grandmother was the only one who survived from her family the only person out of 9 siblings, and my grandfather was the only one who survived on his family, only person out of 12 siblings.
For both my grandfather, my grandmother, and my mother who experienced the horrors in Europe, and for us the kids as a result, the holocaust wasn’t just an historical event, it was few pictures of relatives who were hanged on the wall at my grandparents residents inside black frame, it was tears that used to come to my grandparents eyes, it was the trauma that they carried with them that transpired to other parts of their life, it was many mental issues they carried with them as a result. In short it was something they confronted daily, and not an historical event.
The picture at Dagan’s office was a reminder, to what will happen if Jews would find themselves defenseless, at the mercy of other nations, ever again. It’s a reminder that we in Israel can’t gamble with our future, and all the decision we take must have a clear vision behind them.
You may feel differently, and that is totally fine. Even though we are both part of the Jewish people we do not share way of thought and values, that is way you reside in the US and Dagan reside in Israel.
From time to time cases come to light of (non-Jewish) people who pose as Jewish Holocaust survivors (or their children) in dramatic ‘autobiographical’ novels. (For some reason they never pose as Gypsy Holocaust survivors, which may tell us something about the relative status of the two groups in post-war society, or it may simply mean that people fear it will be harder to successfully pose as Gypsies.)
Although in some cases it may be no more than a cynical attempt to boost sales, I have read about cases where people started making up their imagined history many years prior to publicizing it. In short: It seems that some people seek to romanticize their personal history by putting on a cloak of tragedy. Sadly enough, the Holocaust is apparently irresistible for this purpose.
Although I do not question the fact that Dagan’s grandfather was murdered by the Nazi’s, I do have doubts as to the likelihood that this picture truly is of his grandfather. There are so many questions: It must have been taken by some German Wehrmacht photographer or private soldier, certainly not by any member of Dagan’s family, and surfaced from some archive after the war. Are the exact location and time when the picture was taken recorded, and is the identification based on this? (Did the famed German thoroughness really go that far?) Does Dagan’s family have surviving pictures of their grandfather in pre-war Europe for comparison with this (rather vague) picture? How likely is it that you would hang a picture like this on the wall of your office for display to all and everyone, if it were really a picture of the last moments of your own grandfather?
When other people can fall for the temptation to dramatize their background, it is not impossible that this happened to Dagan too, and that he ‘adopted’ this iconic picture to illustrate his family-background.
It is completely irrelevant whether this is Dagan’s actual grandfather in the picture or not.
The man in the photo is every Jewish person’s grandfather, or friend of his grandfather, and many Jews see the picture every day in front of them whether or not they have ever been inside Dagan’s office.
Non-Jews who fail to understand this most emotive ethos of the Jewish people will never understand Israel or Zionism and the lack of trust towards its neighbour or its critics.
I firmly believe that most Israelis would leave all occupied territories tonight if they felt the Palestinians would be good peaceful neighbours. As long as this lack of confidence exists (rightly based or not), peace talks will fail and mutual violence will prevail.
I can understand the emotions, certainly, and the attitude as well. But I do not think you can call this attitude an ethos as in a ‘moral philosophy’ if it leads to lack of trust in others.
(With “many Jews see the picture every day in front of them whether or not they have ever been inside Dagan’s office” you do not mean this particular picture: You mean pictures in their mind of what happened to their own family members, right?)
Maybe “ethos” was the wrong word, but I hope you and others understand the meaning behind what I meant.
Yes, of course I mean similar or figurative pictures of the Jewish people being or having been murdered.
This particular picture was unknown to me until Richard publicised it, and in case you are wondering, no, I’ve never been in Dagan’s office.
Elisabeth, your hints are simply disgusting.
Obviously you either don’t speak hebrew or just didn’t bother to follow the link that Richard provided.
The picture was given to Dagan’s father, when he visited the village of Lukov years after the war, and was given to him by a local who new him.
I’m sure that Dagan’s father was able to recognize his dad.
i know i would.
No I don’t read Hebrew.
I know that pictures of rounding up of Jews in my country were either taken secretly or by the Germans themselves. As this picture seems to have been taken in clear sight, I assumed the photographer was German. How the picture came into the possession of one of the villagers who knew Dagan’s father is therefore a mystery to me. I find it hard to believe that the film was developed, and prints produced (and given away) at the village of Lukow itself. More likely this happened months later. I do not think my questions about this picture are unfounded, but of course Dagan may be right. I guess my distaste for displaying his grandfather like that made me distrustful.
Elisabeth, there is a huge difference between asking questions, and accusing someone of lying, you accused Dagan, of lying. which i find very inappropriate with respect to his family. I guess you are just got used to people around you imposing as holocaust survivors.
as for the way Dagan displays his granfather picture, who are we to judge, we all deal with our grief in a different way, i had a picture of my Grandfather brother on my office wall, the scenery was different and it was a pre-war picture but still.
The way Israelis / Jews deal with the Holocaust is something a foreigner would never understand, if you were born until the early 80’s and your family originated in Europe you most likely had at least one relative who was barbequed in Europe and converted to ash. as a kid in 4th grade one of my classmate grandfather gave us a lecture during holocaust memorial day, and presented us with a soap made out of human fat, which they were given by the Germans (he was an Auschwitz survivor).
Those who didn’t experience would never understand, and i think you should have exercised a bit more respect in your criticism of Meir Dagan. As someone who lost most of his family there, i was offended to.
In fact i wish Richard would have never written this post.
Ilan, it sounds as if you think the war was a far-away thing for my family when you keep repeating that I would “never understand”, but that is not the case. My mother’s parents hid a Jewish girl during the occupation, the brother of my other grandmother was deported to Dachau, two of my father’s sisters became infertile because of starvation during puberty, and that is certainly not all.) I too grew up on a diet of stories from that period, and was deeply influenced by it.
About the soap story: I took that for established truth as well for years, and also that the initials on the soap were RJF, and stood for Reines Juden Fett (Pure Jew Fat) until I came across a quite serious article a while ago which mentioned that it was a myth. I looked around on the net just now, and found that Yad Vashem officially states that the German concentration camp authorities at no time made soap from the dead bodies. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum too refutes the story.
Apparently, during the war, when Germany suffered a shortage of fats and the production of soap came under government supervision, bars of soap were imprinted with the initials RIF Reines Industrielles Fett (Prue Industrial Fat). A few people mistakenly read the initials as RJF and the rumor spread. (They mention that the lamp-shade story however, is true.)
After what you translated for me, I think that Dagan really believes the picture shows his grandfather. I am not sure that it is true, for the reasons that I mentioned. There are many examples from the past of mistaken memories.
though it was very admirable by your grand parents to hide Jews risking their own lives while doing so, you describe a totally different set of experiences. and yes i still stand by my opinion that someone who didn’t experience it first hand, will never understand.
as for the soap, i know that, but the soap i have seen had no abbreviation on it, and i do know that the Germans did experiment with the idea, and tested the ability to produce that. that fact is confirmed by wikipedia which stats ” Evidence does exist, however, which indicate the possibility that research facilities had developed a process for the industrial production of soap from human bodies”
(search for Soap made from human corpses)
you miss the point about Dagan, he’s father knows who is father was, and he has no reason to lie about who is in the picture. Many people i came across my life time, had the same attitude without having a picture on the wall.
so you would have to understand that it is one of those things for which you have no explanation, but it doesn’t make them a lie.
the difference between you and Richard, is that Richard was being very respectful with his allegations, almost apologizing for bringing it up, you behaved like a bull in a china shop.
I don’t want to disparage Dagan or his memory & I have no way of proving conclusively that this isn’t his grandfather. So I won’t. But I think it would be just as easy for this either to be a deliberate fabrication or else based on an error in someone’s memory. For it to actually be his grandfather a German soldier would’ve actually had to have taken the picture, someone would’ve had to recognize and identify Rabbi Ehrlich in the picture & then conveyed that information either to Yad Vashem or Dagan’s family. Not impossible, but also not a slam dunk by any means. And as for knowing the image was taken moments before the Rabbi’s death, again someone would’ve had to have witnessed the shooting of the picture & his death & then conveyed that information in the same way as above. This is even less likely to be true.
History is bloody enough w/o embellishing it in the ways that may’ve happened with Dagan’s fanciful midrash on family history.
“…The final grave disservice that the Holocaust-obsessed do to contemporary Israel is that they turn today’s enemies into eternal sworn genocidal monsters (i.e. Amalek). You cannot negotiate with a monster. You cannot make peace with a monster. Nazis were monsters. But Palestinians are not monsters. Iranians are not monsters. Neither people seek to annihilate the Jewish people as the Nazis did. Perhaps in their wildest dreams the most extreme among them might harbor such delusions. But rational human beings do not act based on what the most lunatic human beings do or say. They act out of pragmatic self-interest…”
Beeing a descendant of the “Nazi-Monsters” please allow me the following questions, Richard:
From which moment or point on, the Nazis turned from human beeings to monsters (1933, 1936, 1939 or 1945)?
For beeing lunatic and not rational they caused a lot of problems for the rest of the world, didn’t they?
If your judge history (the past) from today (the present) you will allways have the advantage to know the results, the outcome before making your judgement.
But if you do so, you automatically cannot exclude Palestinians, Iranians, Chinese, not even the Americans from becoming “Monsters” in the future. Only HE knows!
I think, with declaring the Nazis beeing “Monsters” you are totally in line with the acting of the present Israeli government regarding the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular…
I save the title “monster” for a very small, “select” group including Nazis, Khmer Rouge, etc. And I don’t include the entire nation within the category, just the perpetators & executors of genocide.
As for being in line w. the Israeli gov’t in regard to anti-Arab rhetoric, that’s nonsense since I specifically ruled out any comparison bet. Palestinians & the Nazis.
Thanks Richard, for your explanation! The “why” and “how” questions are moving me my whole lifetime as an adult german. Hitler had his highest supporting rate during the second half of the thirties. His supporters made large groups of the society. His intention to exclude the jewish fellow citizens from the german society was a part of the “official” public nazi propaganda and could have been read in his bestseller “Mein Kampf” from the beginning on! But “officially” the jews should be sent to Palestine, Madagaskar, Kenya or elsewhere. Even as they were sent “to the east”, the “final solution” as a cruel, barbaric form of ethnic cleansing, the nazis tried to avoid, to hide existence of the extermination camps. The average german of that time could, but must not necessarily have known about it, a quite comfortable position for the time after 1945.
There must have been necessarily more than one Eichmann to keep that system running and alive. Conclusion:
If your bacic trust is shattered as a victim of the holocaust, as it happened to the jews, you will not risk your life or that of your beloved ones by trusting in the wrong people for a second time.
The sad truth is, that even a bunch of “inhuman monsters” need helpers, need a kind of “cruel normality and rationality” to run such a killing-business on such a high-number scale. Many researchers and scientists, much more intelligent than I am, have investigated this phenomena. My personal conclusion is: It can happen again! Another people, other uniforms, other circumstances…
The actual discussion about migration from muslim countries in Germany and Europe reminds me in some parts to the beginning of this whole tragedy, the exclusion of a minority by the majority of an area. And this is what also happens in Israel…
The nazis were not extraterrestrians! Remember Eichmann…
This is a sensible theme and my limited ability to express my thoughts exactly in english language, may cause unwanted misunderstandings by me? If so, sorry for that!
Oh yes, I don’t mean to say that the Holocaust was a unique historical experience. There have been genocides before it & sad to say there have been more since.
You’re doing just fine.
I think that any group that creates death camps with their logistics would be considered monsters.
and this has nothing to do with being in line with the Israeli government, it has a lot do to with simple human values.
Can you run a country, educating your people etc, while defining THIS as your core rational and purpose in life and stay within normallity? I think not. In other words the country and its leaders suspected as being certifiably insane. Thats great that is. This explains a lot. I really think it does.
RE: “…when you look at this set of beliefs, it is pathological…If your policies are governed by historical trauma instead of clear-eyed analysis…you are doomed.” – R. Silverstein
SEE: “Defamation” (2009), by Yoav Shamir, 91 minutes
FROM A FILM REVIEW BY GILAD ATZMAN:
ENTIRE FILM REVIEW – http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/defamation-must-be-seen-a-film-review-by-gilad-atzmon.html
“Defamation” can be streamed from Netflix – http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Defamation/70117001
This is indeed one of the most revealing films I ever watched on the subject. I have watched this film 2 or 3 times just to make sure it wasn’t a bad dream or something, but its all real. Its hard to find words to describe it. I think Gilad Atzmon’s review is spot on. It’s just incredible. Sad and incredible!
RE: “It’s just incredible. Sad and incredible!” – Ex Israeli
MY COMMENT: Personally, I consider that trip by teens to Auschwitz to be child abuse! I wouldn’t do that to a dog. The “security” (actually ‘insecurity’) guy [from Shin Bet, I think] struck me as a very manipulative sadist. I can’t believe the mental health professionals in Israel don’t raise objections to that kind of sick stuff. Perhaps the Israeli government agrees with Scientology that psychiatry is a “Nazi science”.
1) Elderly Palestinian women called “whores” on Yad Vashem tour, while racism explodes across Israel, 12/30/10 – http://maxblumenthal.com/2010/12/never-again-elderly-palestinian-women-called-whores-on-yad-vashem-tour-while-racism-explodes-across-israel/
2) Israeli Teachers: “Racism…is growing among young people in Israel. We are witnesses to this growing racism in education”, 12/31/10 – http://maxblumenthal.com/2010/12/israeli-teachers-racism-is-growing-among-young-people-in-israel-we-are-witnesses-to-this-growing-racism-in-education/
“Defamation” aka “The Industry of Antisemitism” came to my mind instantly, too.
I figure that everytime Meïr Dagan sends off the Mossad to kill some Palestinian – who’s fighting for his people, too – he maybe gets the impression of taking revenge on the Nazis.
At a certain moments Yoav Shamir asks some of the young students in a hotel room in Poland what those trips are all about, and one of them – still capable of critical thinking – says that one of the purposes is maybe to prepare them for the army and dealing with the Palestinians as THE enemy. (Those are my words, I haven’t seen the film recently, but that’s the meaning).
For people who haven’t the possibility of streaming the film, here’s the English/Hebrew version with Frencn subtitles, but the sound is very clear.
use: qsdfgh84: 9 videos: 3/page 1 & 6/page 2
Article on the documentary:
Thanks for the YouTube link. I like to post YouTube links for people who are not Netflix members. Unfortunately, the last time I did a search for ‘Defamation’ on YouTube, I don’t believe anything turned up.
P.S. Much of the time the French subtitles don’t really obscure the original English subtitles that appear when Hebrew is being spoken.
“Defamation” was broadcasted on the French-German public channel “Arte” sometime during 2010. Only public channel still worth watching, occasionnally. I think that’s where the YouTube links come from.
Interesting, I watched “Defamation” and saw it in a very different light to all you who commented here.
It exposed how ignorant these 17 y-o were, before this trip to Poland, about the Holocaust in spite of the evident attempts of educators to imbibe them with an understanding of such a colossal event in recent Jewish history. It proves the need for these trips to give as near to first hand understanding as possible so that the lessons of unwarrented hatred can be learned.
I have 6 kids who have been to these trips(one through IDF), and all have them have returned with a deeper understanding of the Holocaust, and a better insight to modern Israel and its attitude to the I-P conflict (from both sides – what Israelis do to Palestinians, and how Israel and jews are in danger existentially from generation to generation).
As for dancing on the way to Aushwicz (actually it was Majdanec), there is no contradiction here. Were it to have been on the way back, criticism would be justified. But these kids are on a dual mission, one to explore the Jewish roots in Poland (3 million before WW2, thousands of synagogues and yeshivot, thriving culture, etc.), and the other to understand the extermination of all this, much of it by Poles and not Nazis. They had come from various ex-Jewish centres, probably heard Hassidic stories, visited places where famous Jewish scholars lived and taught, and were on a “high” before the shock yet to come. No reason not to dance and sing on the bus ride which is about 5 hours long and to express in the Jewish way happiness. For those who do not know, the anniversary of the death of famous Jews is celebrated (not commemorated) by dance, song and ample food and drink. Jews do not languish in mourning, but get on with life through remembrance. The Baal Shem Tov said that the secret of Redemption (Geulah) is in Remembrance (Zchirah).
As regarding ADL – I think the cute elderly lady summed it up when she realised that the Holocaust and anti-semitism are the milestones of many American Jews identity, and thus they have the need to see anti-semitism as a major threat (while at the the same time understanding that just beacause one is paranoid it doesn’t mean that no one is persecuting one…)
So personally I found the film fascinating and no way shocking.
Sorry for being so wordy this time.
Sorry, I don’t buy it. I visited Theresinstadt & saw Israeli flags everywhere even in the crematoria (the camp didn’t have full-fledged crematoria, but rather small ovens). THIS I’m afraid is what Israeli kids are taught. That the only Jewish answer to the Holocuast is Israel. Stick an Israeli flag in a crematora and you’ve somehow redeemed the evil. Not so. Israel itself has perpetrated evils though not on the same scale. Israel is not the redemption of the Holocaust. It is only one possible answer, not the only one. And I as a Jew deeply resent Israelis shoving those flags in my face & forcing me to look at them. It’s like ugly graffiti on a monument. It defaces the value of the experience. It falsified the meaning of the Holocaust. If they want to believe these things, let them. But let them keep them to themselves & not force us to look at it.
I strongly doubt that any Israeli who visits a camp comes to “explore Jewish roots in Poland.” They’re coming to mourn over the destruction of the community & learn the lesson that there’s only one way to prevent such a catastrophe & [let’s say it together] it’s ISRAEL!! Nonsense. If they really wanted to explore Polish Jewry they’d go about it in an entirely diff. way & do so seriously & not with a hidden agenda in mind.
I think “Pulsemedia” hit the nail:
” … the active propagation of fear and threats inside Israel, the indoctrination of the teenagers is extraordinary. They are inculcated to see discrimination where none exists. What we see is a dangerously bellicose culture . . . the film points to the consequences of a chauvinist (and, though not explored here, supremacist) ideology in which self-appointed Jewish ethnic campaigners like Foxman promote a Jewish identity around the dangerous notion of being ALWAYS ethnically hated and defamed.”
If Shmuel doesn’t see that, but merely finds the film ‘fascinating’, it’s maybe that he has interiorized the whole propaganda 😉
Remarkable and enligtehning.
The Holocaust indeed is cynically and wrongly used as a primordial myth of existence in Israel.
The holocause is not studied as History in Israel. It is not studied as a horrible traumatic universal event which should teach us the depths of evil that humanity can get used to.
It is not studied through the eyes of Primo Levy, or through Nazism and Fasicm’s rise to power due to the decay and destruction of the european democracies.
Rather, It is understood as a Mythic, almost religous event, that is but a part of the ever-going Jewish war againts a constantly chagning enemy. It is almost a Jewich Dialectics:
The jewish struggle started with the greeks, continued with the romans (alongwith the famous Masada so called “heroic” myth, the middle ages and the spanish inquisition, The Holocaust, and currently – the struggle of Israel againts Iran, Palastine, and even “anti-semi” europe.
through these myths the common Israeli relates to history or to current political events. The fundementals in Iran are not fighting a war againts modern western capitlism, but just continue the anti-semi tradition. The palastinians are not victims of Colonialism, but a part of an international plot to destroy Israel and to kill all jews. Human rights organizations are not concerned of human rights, but serve as a tool for modern anti-semites. Criticism of Israel’s extereme right winged goverment is not criticism but also hatred of jews.
This is what makes most Isralies blind to injustice, blind to violence, blind to democracy and blind to a possible normal future: This is the basic fear that constitutes that basic Israeli Identity, this is why even completely secular people beleive in some mystic jewish identity as part of their being Israelis, including even my own parents.
You can not talk logically about this basic problem becuase it is so strongly rooted in the Israeli minds that you are automatically become a sort of a Holocaust denier in the eyes of this dogma. It is like saying that God is a concept to catholics,or that capitalism is a bad idea to common americans.
I thank you for this article and stronglly hope that perhaps some day (perhaps after the newly-reborn Fasicm in Israel will be opressed) we could see the truth. that the lesson we should have learned from the horrible massacure of 6 million, was not that the jews will always be hated, but that we should be the defenders of the universal human right to live equally and freely regardless of race, color or gender instead of it’s opressors.
Getting back to the photograph….it looks odd to me. The soldier on the left looks like he’s wearing the correct overcoat for a camp guard, but the hat looks Serbian and he looks to me like he is wearing a thick moustache. In most of the concentration camp photos I’ve seen the guards have no mustaches at all (probably for fear of lice) and the SS officers wearing very trim ones as was the style of the 1940s. The other guard on the far right is also wearing the early Wehrmacht dark collar overcoat and the Serbian cap. I see a wall in the background and part of a steepled building, but none of the four-legged guard towers or the curved barbed wire posts, just birch trees. The caps bother me because everybody who worked in the Nazi camp system would wear standardized uniforms, and that included the “schiff” folding sidecap, which was later replaced with the visored “einheitsmuetze” cap. Neither of those caps look like the ones these two men are wearing. I also cannot see an SS eagle on the shoulder of the soldier on the right.
The other issue is that the rabbi in the center almost looks like he’s been pasted in; he is far lighter then anybody in the background and he looks a little too sharp. That written, if it was faked, they made certain the light was hitting the man from about the right angle. Of course, we know nothing about when/where this photo was taken, what the lighting conditions were, what sort of camera took it, etc. I’m not a photoanalyst, and I’m not looking at the original, just the scanned copy at the Israeli site. It needs examination by experts.
I can’t understand why you went to the trouble of analysing a photo in such detail, especially as you claim not to be an expert.
What are you trying to prove? That Meir Dagan’s grandfather is still alive and hiding in Israel? That there’s a major conspiracy to forge thousands of Holocaust photos for zionist propaganda purposes?
Or maybe you are more subtle and are a “holocaust denier” trying to look cultured and humane by just pointing out a “minor” problem with some incidental photo.
I don’t buy it, don’t insult my family and the other 6 million.
I agree with you shmuel!
It leads to nowhere to discuss this (problably 50 ASA) black- and-white-foto on basis of a web-resolution. Alt least I was unable to see, to recognize all this details mentioned above by Strelnikov in the foto, despite my professional background as a graphic engineer in the printing industry.
I would like to clarify that “the soldier on the left” I meant is the one holding the truncheon. The soldier on the far left has a hat that is very strange and looks nothing like any of the caps worn by the Yugoslavian Royal Army, the Polish Army, nor the SS or Waffen-SS. That may be a camera or processing error, or the real proof this is either a misidentified or composited photograph, I don’t know. It’s just more proof that this image needs to be examined by a historian and a photoanalyst.
It’s not a concentration camp. It’s the Polish village of Lukov. That’s why I say it’s either Nazi soldiers or police (possibly Polish or German).
To be clear, I’m not saying that the photo is a fake. I’m sure it’s genuine. What I’m unsure about is whether it’s of Dagan’s grandfather & whether it was taken moments before his death.
Richard, you don’t have the ability to judge weather or not the man on the picture is Dagan’s grandfather.
Dagan’s father however who was the one who received the picture had that ability, for you to doubt that, is unbelivable. why would Dagan lie about such a thing, what would be his reason. the holocaust was / is a huge motivator for israeli’s for years, with or without pictures of grandfathers who were murdered there. You wacthed the movie, Amir Eshel had no picture on the wall, still holocaust was big part of his life.
as for the other question you mentioned was his grandfather exsecuted few min’s after, or was they gathered in the town and sent to a concentration camp, it is really irelevant, He was still murdered in cold blood.
looking at the links posted by elisabeth, it is obvious that the pictures were taken by the germans themselves, look at the big smile on the soldier faces.
this entire post is very disrespectful in my opinion.
No, I’m afraid it’s not irrelevant. When a Mossad director exploits a story or narrative fr. Jewish history for purely political purposes it’s extremely important to know whether the story is accurate in all its particulars.
We have a bunch of unsupported claims about how the picture came into Dagan’s hands. They may be true or not. All I’m saying is that this picture may be Dov Ehrlich or it may not be. I’d lean toward giving Dagan the benefit of the doubt. But I’d like more documentary evidence supporting the claim to feel comfortable accepting it.
If it bothers you so much, feel free to contact Yad Vashem.
they would be more then happy to inform you how did they obtained the picture. They most likely would be even able to inform you when Dov Erilch died. most of the things in Yad Vashem are documented with evidence.
To think that Dagan is lying about this, makes no sense what so ever. His speech would be as credible without a picture. this is called a zionut speech, and many young officers are given such a speech prior to heading on an operations.
i guess you never went to look up your European roots, i did to Poland and Ukraine. and stories like the story of Dagan’s grandfather are not that rare.
Your problem is with Dagan’s alleged exploitation of the Holocaust, not the possible faking of the picture he supposedly uses as an exploit. What does it matter whether it is real or fake? If it were confirmed to be real, would you be a-ok with its use?
No, I think I’ve said that pretty clearly here and in an earlier post.
Yes – that’s my point. If you have no way to prove it either way – to be real or a forgery, why bother at all? That’s not even your issue with it.
Shmuel, I am not denying the Holocaust; it happened. My issue is that this is an unverified photograph and it looks odd to me; if it is a fake, then history is being falsified. If that is true, then it becomes easier for the Holocaust deniers to make their claims stick. I never said it was a hoax photo, it just looked odd to me, which is why it needs to be examined by a photoanalyst and a historian.
I wondered about the clothes of the two soldiers too as they are clearly not uniforms of ss-officers, while the Bergman article mentions “two German SS officers, one holding a club and the other a pistol”.
(Richard noticed this too as he speaks of German or Polish soldiers.)
I don’t know what the uniforms are. My only conclusion was that probably not Dagan himself but more likely the people who experienced the ritual in Dagan’s office, or the person to whom they told this story changed ordinary solders to the much more famous SS officers in the retelling. This is how memory works; we construct a story even without the intent to lie. I think something along this line may have happened in the identification of the victim on this picture, from “this could have been your father” to “this must have been my father” or from “this could have been Mr. Ehrlich” to “this was your father”.
As to your remark about watchtowers, I do not see the point: This is not supposed to have taken place in a camp but in a small town.
I searched for Lukow and found some things that surprised me:
“The systematic liquidation of the Jewish community in Łuków started on 5th October 1942. At that time, 5,000 people were sent to the death camp in Treblinka and also five-hundred were killed on the spot. At that time, the last rabbi (since 1937) of the Jewish community in Łuków, Aaron Note Freiberg, was killed.”
(According to Dagan, shortly after the photo was taken, on October 5, 1942, his grandfather was murdered by the Nazis. Are you sure that Dagan’s grandfather Dov Ehrlich was a rabbi, Richard?)
“Next, two-thousand people were transported to Treblinka on the 8th of October. After that action, the size of the ghetto in Łuków was reduced. The Jews from the neighborhood villages of Kock, Wojcieszków, Adamów, Stanin, Tuchowicz, Trzebieszów and Ulan were next sent to the town. On 26-27 October and 7-11 November, three-thousand people were transported to Treblinka and two-hundred Jews were shot in front of the town hall and at the Jewish cemetery.”
Somewhere else I found that Lukow Ghetto was liquidated in May 1943 and most of the Jews were deported to Treblinka death camp.
At http://www.zwoje-scrolls.com/shoah/towns.html two pictures are shown with the subtitle:
“Shortly before deporting the 7,000 Jews of Lukow, Poland, to their death in Treblinka, 1943”, so they seem to have been taken at the time of the liquidation of the ghetto in 1943.
One of them is the same picture as in Dagan’s office, the other is a picture shot of the same man and others from the front, making clear that the men were forced to pose in order to mock them. (It is really sickening.)
This just raises more and more questions: Is the picture of October 1942 or May 1943? Did the neighbor give Dagan’s father two pictures and did the Dagan family supply them to the site of the Museum of Family History or some other archive, or was it the other way around?
It would be interesting to find out from the Museum of Family History where those two pictures originated from.
Thanks for the interesting history.
The Hebrew Ynet article quoted a relative of Dagan’s calling Dov Ehrlich a rabbi. Being a rabbi doesn’t necessarily mean you have an official position. It merely denotes that you’ve passed smicha and have mastery of texts & have been sponsored & examined by 3 rabbis. Anyone can become a rabbi if they meet these criteria though it isn’t necessarily easy.
Yeah, the guys in trenchcoats don’t really look German. They could be Polish or Ukrainian fascists I suppose as there were a lot of those around & they were only too happy to kill Jews.
I think some assumptions are not right here:
The German were not “animals”, they were people and did what people do.
I can name at least 2 or 3 examples of such behaviour in more recent history. For example ruanda (civil war) and Vietnam (Kmer-Ruje self inflicting).
Those two examples are not of the same sevirity but are certainly real and horrific.
This imply that the a similar thing can happen anytime, when the situation is “right”.
Israelies say: Never again, and they mean that.
They also say: When genocide happens, no one will save you, but yourself. It is true for all 3 examples I gave there. It is also true for Darpur (and many other). So we make sure we do our best to be secured.
BTW, listen to what Iran leader say, and see for yourself it is not that far from German leaders of that time.
No, actually its very specifically not true. The genocide in Kosov ceased when NATO intervened. It ceased in Bosnia when the west intervened. It ceased in Rwanda when the opposition marched in & ceased power. In Cambodia (not Vietnam as you noted), the Vietnamese invaded which stopped the Khmer Rouge genocide. Now, one may argue that intervention was tardy, that lives were needlessly lost, that the west betrayed its values in allowing so many lives to be lost. But the fact is that today there is more likelihood genocide will be arrested before it plays itself out completely as it did during WWII. By no means am I boasting about how well we do in such situations. In reality, our unwillingness to intervene earlier in Rwanda was shameful. But we do better than Roosevelt did.
Stop the nonsense about Iran & Nazi Germany. I have no patience for it.
comment deleted for violating comment rules
You are what seems like the 50th person to bring up this nonsense. I’m not going to get dragged into the 5th round of debates about this quotation. We’ve gone over around & through this issue numerous times before here & we’re not doing it again.
Besides this comment is off topic. Move on.
I beleive that what you do here is just to spread hatred.
As was said, exploring the origins of this photograph, that you present as asking questions, is actually trying to question the one of the most horiffic and terifying events in history, or rather to make it appear less important.
Your alleged “Questioning” has nothing to do with Silversteins argument. The Nazis had murdered at least 6 million jews using concetration camps and other means of murder. this is a fact.
Whether or not it actually was Dagan’s Grandfather, Whether or not the soldiers are Nazies or Facists, it doesn’t matter.
The issue was the misuse of the holocaust, not the holocaust itself. and if you question the holocaust I think you have no buisness in talking about human rights.
@Richard and Elisabeth
I admit it; I screwed up. I did not read the “GQ” article which pointed out which village the photograph was taken in, and I looked at the zwoje-scrolls.com photos and the second one is a much better copy of Dagan’s photo. In the good print the “truncheon” is actually a stick, the soldier on the left has no moustache, and the “Serbian” hat he is wearing is just a “schiff” folding cap with a crease in it. You can now see they are wearing Wehrmacht belts and what look like Luger pistol holsters. I don’t think they are Poles or Ukrainians; they look like Wehrmacht soldiers on temporary duty to assist with the deportation (though it was long denied, members of the regular German Army did participate in war crimes of this type not only assisting the SS, but killing Jews on their own during “anti-partisan” operations.) I agree with Elisabeth, it looks like they were humilated, photographed, and probably shot by these men afterward.
Sorry to have wasted your time.
I got really uncomfortable when you started about things being ‘pasted in’ in this pictue. But it seems you were right about the uniformed men being outside of the regular army:
The website of a historian from Vanderbilt University shows one of the pictures with the information:
5th October 1942 (so not 1943)
The Reservists from the 1st Company of the 101st Police Battalion from Hamburg, commanded by the captain Julius Wohlauf, are forcing a group of the Jews to take a picture before the deportation to the death camp in Treblinka
(The memorial book Sefer Lukow, Tel Aviv 1968)
There is even a list on a German website of the men who served in that unit, so now we know who the perpetrators were.
As to the victims: The book Sefer Lukow; gehelikt der khorev gevorener kehile (The book of Lukow; dedicated to a destroyed community), Tel Aviv, 1968 is the source of the two photographs. It was edited by B. Heller and published by former residents of Lukow in Israel and the USA.
As it was published by former residents, it may contain the exact names of the men that were forced to pose.
And now things get rather odd: this is the unit Daniel Goldhagen wrote about in “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”; he chose them because they were not hardened Ostfront types nor fanatical SS racists, just a mediocre reserve police batallion. But let’s leave the controversies about that book for a later date.
If only one of these cops had opened his greatcoat it would have been easy to identify him as one; the police uniform of the period had more buttons, and the insignia for police was different for the sidecap. They also had a special shoulder patch for the left arm and a collar insignia similar to the Wehrmacht’s, but in green. Being ancillary troops they lacked submachine guns and it looks like not all of them were armed with rifles, just pistols. The October date explains why they were wearing those greatcoats….interestingly Richard was somewhat right about the Poles and the Ukrainians; the unit was assisted by “volunteers” (“Hilfswillige”) from an SS training camp at Trawniki. Those men were Red Army POWs or remnants of the old Polish army released from work camps. So armed slaves, more or less.
I apologize about the pasting remark, it’s just that I’ve seen a lot of old-style forgeries* and there seemed to be something off about rabbi; I should have taken into account a) how painful this all is, and b) that the photo on the Ynet site is a photo of an enlarged 3″x5″ picture so the bright and dark values would be out of whack. The story Dagan says about how he got the photograph reminds me of how many tourists in Thailand were approached with photos (for sale) of alleged American POWs in Vietnam or how the same people sold posed photos of “Cambodians” working in collective farms to credulous news agencies. The difference here is we now know the photo is real, and that it was shot in Lukow in October of 1942. Now all we have to do is put names to faces.
* Soviet airbrushings, turn of the century ghost photographs made by double exposure, many “this person shaking that person’s hand” pictures fabricated for scandal, the list goes on.
Yes, now that’s the sort of evidence I was talking about. Thanks so much for all your sleuthing. I feel much more comfortable saying it’s who Dagan says it is. And now we know that journalists & possibly Dagan himself are being historically inaccurate when they claim the photo was taken just before his grandfather was shot.
“I feel much more comfortable saying it’s who Dagan says it is.”
Me too, and I do not feel sorry for looking into it. One reason is that it would be naive to think that anyone who lost a loved one in the Holocaust would be above adding a bit to his family history if it could serve a purpose. I also think that when such claims start to be widely circulated (and used to argue for something) it becomes relevant whether they have a convincing basis or not.
Another reason is that I was touched to find out how much painstaking and careful research has been made publicly available, often by private persons who devoted a lot of time to documenting what happened. Really impressive.
Yes, & this is something like what Palestinians are trying to do in documenting Nakba.
You’ve wasted mostly your own… but my question to you is, WHY did you forcibly try to find these things?
My questions to you are who are you, and what are you doing here? Furthermore, why do you think I am wasting my time?
As I wrote three-quarters of the page up, I was interested in the photo because it looked strange to me, I’ve seen a lot of Holocaust photos and there were elements that were odd. Now that we have answered those questions, the final part is getting that book (which my library does not have) and having it translated so we can know who the rabbi in the center of of the picture was.
Answer your question?
I’m Shai, and I’m a reader & commenter and have been for several months. I think you wasted your time because you tried to find that which is not there for reasons that I do not understand. Things seemed a little odd so you went to conduct a research @ full thrust? That’s what’s a bit odd. Conspiracy theory much?
I have been perturbed by this story- since it was much publicised in the Israeli press. As far as I know- and I am proceeding with research on this matter- this is a mistake. As regards the photos- and testimony has been supplied to this effect- (the photos have been known for several decades) – they were taken in another town- Tarnow (not Lukow, as claimed re Dagan)- and the kneeling Rabbi is Rabbi Aazik Wrobel (a known person), and not Dagan’s grandfather. The reliable testimony was given by a 12-13 year-old (then), who is alive to-day, and was a Bar mitvah boy taught by the rabbi. Further evidence exists, re the identification, in the Wrobel family. All this information exists & requires further research. However, one thing is clear- that the journalistic story re Dagan is based upon NO RELIABLE ACTUAL TESTIMONY from any Dagan relative & Dagan himself was born after his grandfather’s death. I was concerned as to the publicity given this story- as if any of it was true, then surely a family member would have supplied the details a long time ago to Yad Vashem- yet no-one has. It it totally unsubstantiated- thus clearly the reliable existing information, re Tarnow, must be preferred. I hope, eventually, this will be properly researched- I suspect, because of the significance of the photo’s meaning for Dagan- some people have been carried away- but it’s correct identification and provenance are important- as holocaust images & events need be documented as accurately as possible. The tendency to a certain inaccuracy or misguided ascriptions of materials is perhaps a phenomenon which need be contended with… The publicity conscious press should have done more research- and not presented the Dagan story- which is probably incorrect- in this way.
This is fascinating & I’m very interested in the results of your research. Naturally, the Wrobel family may feel squeamish about stepping on Dagan’s toes, but I’m very interested to know whether the photo can be identified any more conclusively. I’m also curious, if the Wrobel claim turns out to be true, how Dagan may’ve developed the notion that this was HIS grandfather.
Refreshing read. Thanks for the article, Richard.