Canadian Jews have reacted with indignation to a federal judge in Quebec who said that during the Holocaust, Jews were put to death in gas chambers “without suffering.”
Superior Court Judge Jean Bienvenue made the comments while sentencing a woman for second-degree murder. The 35-year-old woman was convicted of fatally slitting the throat of her estranged husband with a razor blade in July 1994.
“At Auschewit-Birkenau, which I once visited in horror, even the Nazis did not eliminate millions of Jews in a painful and bloody manner; they died in gas chambers without suffering,” Bienvenue said, referring to the murder case.
Jewish groups in Montreal called for the judge’s resignation.
Reisa Teitelbaum, chairman of the Canadian Jewish Congress Quebec region, immediately called upon Bienvenue to retract his statements and apologize.
“It is clear than Judge Bienvenue displays a serious lack of sensitivity in his thinking on this issue,” Teitelbaum said. “To state that Jews who died in a Nazi concentration camp in Poland did so without suffering demonstrates the judge’s grave misunderstanding of the reality of the Holocaust.”
The League for Human Rights of B’nai B’rith Canada also expressed its outrage. Chairman Allan Adel also called for Bienvenue’s dismissal, adding that remarks such as the judge’s fueled anti-Semitism.
Rabbi Reuben J. Poupko, president of the Rabbinical Council of Montreal, said that “invoking the Holocaust was wrong and an insult to those who perished in the Holocaust and to the survivors.” Montreal has one of the largest communities of survivors outside Israel.
Bienvenue said last Friday that the howls of indignation against him are “totally unwarranted.”
Of the gas chamber comment, he said, “I still maintain there is no pain involved when gas drops on you from a shower nozzle. It’s like people who end their days by poisoning themselves by turning on their car engine and closing the garage door.”
He said it was much more painful for the man whose throat was slit, who took “three full minutes to bleed to death.”
Studies have shown that those put to death during the Holocaust by Zyklon-B gas did not die painlessly.
It took people crowded into the gas chambers anywhere from eight to 13 minutes to die, which followed the initial hysteria once the gas was released and the painful last gasps for breathable air.