Monday, December 8, 2008

The Kapo on the Staten Island Ferry and Martin Indyk: No Comparison!!

A coworker once told me about a fateful ride taken by his father on the Staten Island Ferry.
His father was sitting on deck when he saw a man from his past. He felt a sinking feeling in his stomach an a sense of foreboding. His heart started pounding as the memories flooded back. The man was a kapo, a Jew employed by the Nazis in the concentration camps to help maintain order.

My friend's father stared at the man with a heat that made all of his doubts after decades apart evaporate. Eventually, the eyes of the two men locked.

"Do you know who I am?!" My friend's father asked reining in his rage.
The man did not know.
"Were you in Auschwitz?" my friend's father asked.
The man replied in the affirmative and didn't deny being a kapo.

"You beat the living daylights out of me!!" hissed my friend's father accusingly." Why? I could hardly walk!!

The kapo was an old man. He did not have the fearful look of years before. Age and infirmity had lessened his stature in the eyes of his former victim. He explained that his beatings were staged to satisfy his bosses, who would not have thought a second before killing a camp inmate. His harsh beatings were actually intended to save the lives of those he attacked. Upon reflection, his former victim admitted to himself that the man had never killed anyone. Circumstances and the proximity of German officers at the time of the beatings seemed to vindicate his claim. Both the former Kapo and my friend's father parted with kind words, those of two old men catching up on old times.

The term kapo is often used as an epithet for a Jew who causes harm to other Jews through his efforts to seek favour with anti-Semitic authorities. Some kapos did indeed hand over other Jews to be killed. They were faced with life and death dilemmas that are hard to imagine today. Some are indeed criminals, but it is hard for those of us born after the war to understand the world in which they made their flawed decisions. Some of them were paying for each day of life with the blood of others. In many cases they were broken and fearful men driven mad by their suffering and the evil of their age.

In America, thankfully we have no one telling us to kill or be killed. There is no need or excuse to be a kapo.

I would not compare any American Jew alive to the kapos of yesteryear. But there are however some who have sunk far beneath the level of a kapo. They trade treachery against Israel not for another day of life but for career advancement and a day in the public spotlight.

One such individual is Martin Indyk, a former ambassador to Israel who is quoted by Agence France Press as follows.

Indyk Quote

Israel can no longer expect "blank cheques" from Washington once president-elect Barack Obama's administration takes over in January, a former US ambassador to the Jewish state said on Sunday.

"The era of the blank cheque is over," said Martin Indyk, director of the Centre for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute who is considered close to incoming secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

"The Obama administration intends to be engaged, using diplomacy to try to bring about a safer and more peaceful place, that is different from the seven years of the (George W.) Bush administration," he said on public radio."


Indyk pointedly uses the language of a "blank check" in times of financial crisis, subtly shifting the thoughts of his listeners not to the blood with which Israel pays for peace but towards money. In the end, Israel is being urged by the likes of Indyk to give up more and more land from which rockets are fired upon Israel.

Indyk and his ilk urge Israel to set free murderers who have killed Israeli civilians. He urges "painful concessions from a nation of refugees. Not only have Israelis fled from Europe to Israel but from Arab countries as well . Instead of demanding to return, they have gotten on with their lives and built a new country.

Indyk is selling his Jewish name as window dressing for policies that will cost Jewish lives. He is practicing a diplomacy which equates an accidental civilian death mourned by inadvertent perpetrators with gleeful murders celebrated in the Arab street.

I would not impugn the residual decency of kapos in the concentration camps by comparing them to Martin Indyk. It is bitter to me that this filthy excuse for a man has drawn breath in the Holy Land and in turn exhaled such malevolence upon its peaceful inhabitants. He is not selling his name for another day of life. He is not even trying to save his own family by turning over other Jews. He is turning over other Jews to be murdered in exchange for a pat on the back.

It is a disgrace to our generation that men (I use the term in the chromosomal sense) such as Indyk are noted and quoted. He has risen in public life to such a place where he could have created peace and understanding. What has he done instead? His fame is for himself.

Queen Esther in the book of Esther was faced with a similar decision. She could have walked away from the Jews and lived a life of luxury. Mordechai's words to her were clear.

"Mordechai sent back word to Esther: "Don't imagine that you alone among the Jews will escape to the king's palace, and that this will save your life.

14 "Even if you are silent now, the Jews will get relief and rescue some other way, and you and your father's house will be lost. And who knows? Maybe it was for just such an occasion that you were made queen!"


The greatest miracles have been when G-d rescues us from ourselves. Mordechai's words have a resonance in our time. They speak to the events of our generation. We have been rescued from external enemies, and from enemies within.

In the Haggadah it says "For not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand!"

G-d has not abandoned us in this generation. We must not abandon him. And we must not abandon each other. Sphere: Related Content

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

isn't it sad that now Gaza, in the words of the Vatican, is a "modern day concentration camp"??

Magdeburger Joe said...

It has been a long time since the Vatican ever had any moral authority in the Middle East. Its clerics regularly voice support for Israel's enemies. The hardships sufferd by the inhabitants of Gaza are self inflicted