As I watch the – if you ask me pretty vapid- discussion develop that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) started by using the term “concentration camps” to describe the places on the US-Mexico border where “migrants” are being held, and where some of them die, I think back. Now, I actually like AOC, because she’s young (29) and that means she’s the future, simple as that.
And if there’s anything America needs today it’s young people, not even more Joe Biden or Donald Trump or Nancy Pelosi. America’s young people need someone to speak up for them, and the old guard is not going to do that, if only because they have no idea what their grandchildren are thinking or doing.
Being just 29 also means AOC will say silly things and make mistakes, but more importantly it means she’s allowed to make mistakes. So when she calls the border facilities “concentration camps”, I don’t have a huge problem with that, certainly now that kids are actually dying in them. As I read has happened.
As bad as the Holocaust was, there’s no need to give anyone the exclusive right to use the “concentration camp” term. History has been rewritten enough to exclude the gays, the Roma, the gypsies victims etc etc who were “exterminated” in WWII, from our past. Could AOC have done better by using “internment camps” or some such term? Yeah, maybe, but she was going for the shock effect, and she wasn’t around in the immediate aftermath of WWII.
Was she perhaps wrong in going for the shock effect? Not that I can see. She just doesn’t understand it the same way older generations than hers do. Where she did slip is in blaming it all on Trump. Because what comes out now is how Obama was the master “extraditor”. Under his 8-year administration, countless -100s of 1000s, millions even?- migrants were extradited that the media didn’t pay attention to.
None of that excuses what is happening under Trump, but it does provide perspective. As does America’s long-term support for the very people whose ancestors were the victims of the actual WWII camps, in suppressing another people, the Palestinians, in much the same way their parents were suppressed and murdered . That is something I have a hard time comprehending. And that inevitably makes me wonder what Anne Frank would have made of it all. Who, far more than Benjamin Netanyahu, and far more than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, would be considered an authority on the topic.
I published the article below on January 11 2010, almost 9 1/2 years ago. Time doesn’t just fly, time has gone hypersonic. AOC’s focus is different from what that of older generations is. But you can’t hold that against her. She’s not trying to insult WWII victims, or their legacies. She should probably still be careful though, about swinging big terms like “concentration camps” around, and about blaming everything wrong on Trump. But, as I said, she’s allowed to make mistakes.
Here’s my take on the death of Miep Gies at the age of 100, whereas Anne Frank never made it beyond 15. Originally from Monday, January 11, 2010:
Ilargi: Miep Gies died today. She was 100 years old. Born Hermine Santrouschitz in 1909, Miep worked for Otto Frank in Amsterdam when WW2 started. She helped hide the Frank family in the “achterhuis” on the Prinsengracht, the secret room (annex) in the shadow of the Westerkerk church the family lived in for a long time, until they were betrayed.
After Anne was put on a train to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in 1944 and died there from typhus in March 1945, Miep managed to retrieve her diary, which she handed to Anne’s father, Otto, the sole survivor from the household, in 1945, after the war had ended. In 1947 Otto had his daughter’s diary published, and everything else, including now Miep Gies, is history.
Now I’m not Jewish, nor was I born and bred in Amsterdam proper, but I am an Amsterdammer nonetheless, and have for as long as I can remember been aware of what happened to the Jordaan neighborhood in the city that borders on the part of the Prinsengracht where the Westerkerk and the Anne Frank House are. To this day, there are a ton of words in Amsterdam that are unique to the city, and there are a ton more in the Dutch language at large, that are all joods, jiddish, yiddish.
Every Dutch person knows that Mokum means Amsterdam. A yiddish term. Like mazzel! (good luck), bajes (prison), gabber (mate, friend), gein (fun), geteisem (‘bad’ people), goochem (smart), jatten (to steal), kapsones (“hot air” behavior), penose (criminals), pleite (outtahere), schlemiel (dumbass), smeris (cop), smoes (excuse), sores (trouble), stiekem (stealthily), tof (nice!).
The Dutch language would be a hell of a lot poorer if not for the centuries of Jewish culture that enriched the country, and most of all Amsterdam. Rembrandt and Vermeer, and all of their 17th century peers, would not have created what they did without the Jews. The tulip bubble, well, perhaps, but the spice trade that made the city the center of the universe would never have happened without Amsterdam’s Jordaan people. And no, rich they were not. In fact, for most of them most of the time, they were the poorest of the poor.
And it’s all still there, the culture, the songs, the humor, the words. It’s just that the people are not. They were renditioned away.
Through the ages, Holland was a refuge for Jewish people from all over Europe. In the 1940’s, they were put on transport trains to camps, and 90% never came back, including Anne. The city center, and the Jordaan, may now be populated with well-to-do 21st century citizens, but if you take the time to stand still on one of the many bridges in the hood and you listen well, you can still feel the emptiness left behind by those who were forced to die like so much cattle.
And that, my friends, is my personal hinterland. That is me.
And don’t worry, I know about the Dutch part in the slave trade, and a 100,000 other despicable trades. My people are about as guilty as they come. And that is me too. But my people were also welcoming the Jews for centuries when they were cast out everywhere else.
History is a multi-pronged tool, a bird of many feathers and a beast of many moods. Nothing changed there, and nothing ever will. We are a blood-thirsty species, more, much more, than we are willing to allow. It will decide our way forward as it has our ways in the past. And we will not make it a pretty picture. We simply can’t. We’ll be cruel as can be. As we are.
But we will also have always another Anne Frank and another Miep Gies. One lived to be 15 years old, the other 100. Both saw, first-hand, more gratuitous violence than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes. There is some layer of comfort in there, and I hope you will forgive me for not being able to identify it off the bat. I’m just sure it’s there.
Here’s Miep Gies in her own words:
I am not a hero
‘More than twenty thousand Dutch people helped to hide Jews and others in need of hiding during those years. I willingly did what I could to help. My husband did as well. It was not enough.
There is nothing special about me. I have never wanted special attention. I was only willing to do what was asked of me and what seemed necessary at the time.”