Monday, September 07, 2015

Thinking about my father, the refugee ... by gimleteye

At Eye On Miami, we have written nearly ten thousand blog posts. Very few of mine have been personal stories. Here is one.

Seventy odd years ago, as World War II fizzled to an end, my father had a choice. He had survived the last of a series of slave labor camps and returned to his city in Hungary where all the Jews had vanished in the final convulsions of the Holocaust. He decided to walk to Munich. He was in his early twenties, thin and gaunt and barely survived the winter of 1944. He was somewhere in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania when the Soviet army overtook the fleeing Nazis.

My father embarked on the same walk to Germany as tens of thousands of fleeing Syrians, Afghanis, and Libyans today. In just about every way his walk was different from the one on television news. He possessed nothing of his own. Not his shoes. Not his clothes. There was no media present. No photographs to document what he would later describe as a petrifying march through fields laced with German mines, staying off roads patrolled by the Soviets looking for slaves of their own to ship to Siberia.

To his dying day, my father was grateful to the US Army. He enlisted to help repatriate Jewish survivors or facilitate their route to Palestine. Two years later, he emigrated to the United States. The rest is family history, including the quiet, comfort and security from which I write these words.

The exodus from the Mideast today is horrifying on its own levels. It is a perfect storm; a tangle of contradictions and difficulties from which clarity seems impossible to extract.

First of all, Syrian government and their brutal adversaries, ISIS -- are sworn enemies of Israel.

Germany, responsible for the Holocaust in which my grandparents perished, has been buckling for decades under the costs of absorbing Muslim refugees from the Mideast, including Turkey. And not just Germany. France. Denmark. Italy. Greece.

Second, democracy in the United States has been badly weakened by the rise of right-wing extremism. For instance while GOP candidates for president struggle to outdo each other with how great America is, income inequality paints an entirely different story: voters struggling to make ends meet, turned off from civic participation, and fearful.

Thirdly, the mass migration is turning into a flood with no sign or prospect of ending. To ISIS, Al Qaeda and other ultra violent factions; history counts for nothing. By blowing up temples and cultural landmarks, by randomly killing civilians with whatever form of asymmetrical weaponry is available; they are determined to chase millions out of a resource-starved region buckling under a fourth factor: climate change.

Global warming is the game changer. Every strategy Western and Eastern politics have adopted to delay and obfuscate the consequences of carbon economies could be dissolved by mass migration, but even if we -- miraculously -- adapted away from fossil fuel based economies, it still will not address the migration crisis.

Israel is America's anchor in a region of the world where US foreign policy, for at least a century, has organized to protect an industrial system based on cheap Mideast oil. Lastly, the intransigence of two major players, Russia and China, makes effective, coordinated response to terrorism impossible. Russia could have solved the Syrian tragedy decades ago, but it was too welded to an alliance with Syria and Iran, implacable enemies of Israel, to do anything constructive. Today, Russia is paralyzed by a thuggish, unpredictable dictator and doing less than any other nation in Europe to carry the costs of the mass migration. The government of China is too caught up in its own vortexes; its leadership fearful of losing control of its own unstable economy.

This, in brief, retraces the path my father took seventy years ago, out of Hungary -- a nation that spurned its Jews -- to Germany and freedom in the United States.


Mr. Freer said...

I think you meant 1944, not 1994.

Excellent analysis!

Anonymous said...

When my father's POW camp was liberated, he had a choice - walk to the Soviet lines or the longer road to get to the Allied lines.

Any soldier who chose to go towards the Russians, disappeared and presumably died.

Life is a mix of choices and luck.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to refugee populations throughout history: If Israel is America's anchor in the region, we are really in trouble. A Prime Minister who travels to the US to sabotage white house policy, and continued illegal settlements in occupied territories- occupation of the largest population for the longest period in history. This in defiance of US brokered peace agreements for a Palestinian state, that Israel now rejects.

Gimleteye said...

To commenter 3, we really are in trouble. To commenter 2, my father's crossroad came in a field where the Soviets had herded refugees they found in the countryside. They divided the men into two groups; one relatively healthy and one group, sick. My father had been traveling with a friend. His friend was assigned a seat in the sickly group. My father was ordered to line up with the other healthy men. As my father's group was being marched, he slipped out of the line and sat down next to his friend without being noticed. The group of healthy men were marched to a train and Siberia. The sickly group were told to get lost. The Soviets didn't want to waste any food on them.

CATO said...

Gimspierre I enjoyed your post. Until you turned it into the usual partisan dribble. BOTH the Ds and the Rs are in Wallstreet Interest and Insurance Industry pockets. BOTH are equally responsible for the destruction of the middle class, The Iraq War (R but Ds voted for it too), Patriot Act (Rs created it Ds for most part went along) OBAMACARE (D), Bailouts (R but continued by Ds ), politicising FNMAE, FREDDIEMAC(R and D), Deficit Spending (Both (R.D) Guilty but Obama has out done them all), Student Loan fiasco (easy money leads to higher tuition its that simple R & D)), I could go on and on.

Despite my usual disagreement with your partisanship I am glad your dad made it here (and helped make you also). I hope those refugees find what they are looking for. Middle East is a mess there's lots of blame to go around, US, Israel and Arab leadership or lack there of.

Israel and US share certain traits and history BUT they don't always share the same interest (IE Jonathan Pollard USS Liberty etc, I'm sure Israel can point to some discrepancies as well). It doesn't help Israels cause to have its prime minister come here and blast POTUS. And I don't particularly like the POTUS (can't remember one I have).

Anonymous said...

The present refugee crisis in Europe is more then I ever expected to see again in my old age. Thoroughly disheartening.

As for your political comments about the middle east, it might help to read about who helped create the mess there.

cyndi said...

I lived in Israel for a year when I was 19. We had a multi cultural group- many who were there to stay. My friend Alex's parents were in mental hospitals in Russia. They were scientists who tried to leave. Everyone welcome was welcome. Getting upset with Bibi and calling that Israel is like people who thought every American was like George Bush.
Thank you for the sharing the amazing story of your father. People need to look beyond the obvious headlines unless they are actually on the ground in the middle of something.