"To our fellow Jews, in North America, in Israel, and around the world: What side are you on?" -- Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman

My ancestors are Jewish.

Most of my relatives live in the Netherlands, in Belgium and in Ecuador.

A few years ago, a Dutch relative performed an exhaustive genealogy of the Levy-de Wind family.

I already knew that some of the de Wind family members had been murdered by the Nazis at their killing camps during the Holocaust.

A close Dutch relative, Loekie de Wind, had already told me how her father, Louis de Wind, had been hauled off to Auschwitz in September 1944 in a train from the Nazi transit camp of Westerbork in the Netherlands. That cattle-freight train would be the last train to Auschwitz from Westerbork.

Original boxcar used for transports to the Nazi concentration camps (Commons – Wikimedia, Fort van Breendonk, Belgium)

Loekie had already shown me the letter her father had written in the cattle car he and hundreds of other Jews were crammed in, a letter he had been able to throw out of the train. Loekie never saw her Dad again.

Mrs. Loekie de Wind reading her father’s letter

I was grieved.

Still, I did not know the extent of the tragedy that befell my family during World War II – until I carefully examined the family tree:

I soon made the sad and haunting discovery that among the Dutch Jews who were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust, there were 124 de Winds.

This may not seem like a large number, until one realizes that the name de Wind is quite an uncommon family name in the Netherlands, that virtually all the de Winds in the Netherlands have common roots and that the number 124 represents a significant proportion of an entire de Wind generation.

This summer, we visited friends and relatives in The Netherlands and in Belgium.

Of course, we got into “Trump politics.”

Most of them dislike this man for the same reasons we – my wife and I — do.

I was surprised, however, that some approve of Trump because of his alleged support of Jews and of Israel.

Some of that illusion certainly vanished for us in the aftermath of Charlottesville.

This morning, I read another letter, an “Open Letter to Our Fellow Jews” by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, that helped erase in my mind any remaining vestiges of hope that this president is a true friend of Jews or of the state of Israel.

Here is the letter in full. Hopefully it will be read by my doubting Thomas friends and relatives, bless their hearts.

To our fellow Jews, in the United States, in Israel, and around the world:

We know that, up to now, some of you have made an effort to reserve judgment on the question of whether or not President Donald Trump is an anti-Semite, and to give him the benefit of the doubt. Some of you voted for him last November. Some of you have found employment in his service, or have involved yourself with him in private business deals, or in diplomatic ties.

You have counted carefully as each appointment to his administration of an avowed white supremacist, anti-Semite, neo-Nazi or crypto-fascist appeared to be counterbalanced by the appointment of a fellow Jew, and reassured yourself that the most troubling of those hires would be cumulatively outweighed by the presence, in his own family and circle of closest advisors, of a Jewish son-in-law and daughter.

You have given your support to the President’s long and appalling record of racist statements, at worst assenting to them, at best dismissing them as the empty blandishments of a huckster at work, and have chosen to see the warm reception that his rhetoric found among the hood-wearers, weekend stormtroopers, and militias of hate as proof of the gullibility of a bunch of patsies, however distasteful.

You have viewed him as a potential friend to Israel, or a reliable enemy of Israel’s enemies.

You have tried to allay or dismiss your fears with the knowledge that most of the President’s hateful words and actions, along with those of his appointees, have targeted other people — immigrants, Black people, and Muslims — taking hollow consolation in how open and shameless his hate has been, as if that openness and shamelessness guaranteed the absence, in his heart and in his administration, of any hidden hatred for us.

The President has no filter, no self-control, you have told yourself. If he were an anti-Semite– a Nazi sympathizer, a friend of the Jew-hating Klan — we would know about it, by now. By now, he would surely have told us.

Yesterday, in a long and ragged off-the-cuff address to the press corps, President Trump told us. During a moment that white supremacist godfather Steve Bannon has apparently described as a “defining” one for this Administration, the President expressed admiration and sympathy for a group of white supremacist demonstrators who marched through the streets of Charlottesville, flaunting Swastikas and openly chanting, along with vile racist slogans, “Jews will not replace us!” Among those demonstrators, according to Trump, were “a lot” of “innocent” and “very fine people.”

So, now you know. First he went after immigrants, the poor, Muslims, trans people and people of color, and you did nothing. You contributed to his campaign, you voted for him. You accepted positions on his staff and his councils. You entered into negotiations, cut deals, made contracts with him and his government.

Now he’s coming after you. The question is: what are you going to do about it? If you don’t feel, or can’t show, any concern, pain or understanding for the persecution and demonization of others, at least show a little self-interest. At least show a little sechel. At the very least, show a little self-respect.

To Steven Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, and our other fellow Jews currently serving under this odious regime: We call upon you to resign; and to the President’s lawyer, Michael D. Cohen: Fire your client.

To Sheldon Adelson and our other fellow Jews still engaged in making the repugnant calculation that a hater of Arabs must be a lover of Jews, or that money trumps hate, or that a million dollars’ worth of access can protect you from one boot heel at the door: Wise up.

To the government of Israel, and our fellow Jews living there: Wise up.

To Jared Kushner: You have one minute to do whatever it takes to keep the history of your people from looking back on you as among its greatest traitors, and greatest fools; that minute is nearly past. To Ivanka Trump: Allow us to teach you an ancient and venerable phrase, long employed by Jewish parents and children to one another at such moments of family crisis: I’ll sit shiva for you. Try it out on your father; see how it goes.

Among all the bleak and violent truths that found confirmation or came slouching into view amid the torchlight of Charlottesville is this: Any Jew, anywhere, who does not act to oppose President Donald Trump and his administration acts in favor of anti-Semitism; any Jew who does not condemn the President, directly and by name, for his racism, white supremacism, intolerance and Jew hatred, condones all of those things.

To our fellow Jews, in North America, in Israel, and around the world: What side are you on?


Michael Chabon
Ayelet Waldman

Berkeley, California, 8/16/17

Lead photo: Rails and watchtower at the former Nazi transition-camp Westerbork in the Netherlands. (Commons-Wikipedia)

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
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