Fighting Nazism Outside the Movies
Menu JTA Search

Fighting Nazism Outside the Movies

I’ve been reading some of the reviews and stories associated with Quentin Tarrantino’s new flick, “Inglourious Basterds” and have quite mixed feelings. Here is a movie, a fictional movie at that, about WW II, Nazis, and the Holocaust. Apparently this is what it takes for many Jews to see themselves exacting some measure of vengeance and justice upon Nazis. This is so sad as to be laughable. Do people wish to believe that Nazism and its adherents disappeared with the conclusion of WW II? Well it did not. Nazism remains alive and with us still today. This is why I do not understand why Jews such as Eli Roth, who portrays Donny Donowitz, a.k.a. The Bear Jew, in the movie, don’t look on the internet and find out when and where some group of neo-Nazis are gathering if they actually do wish to exact revenge or justice.

Maybe I am lucky, I guess. Growing up my family situation was difficult and I found myself getting into fights at school. People intervened and tried to “help me.” I decided at a certain point that I would try to limit my fighting to “Jewish causes” or “anti-Semitism.” Sure enough in tenth grade I heard a young man, I will call him John, making comments during gym class. These comments were directed towards another student, whom I will call Joel. We were playing volleyball at the time and I was not certain that I heard what I thought I had heard. Then gym class ended. It seemed that John was making derogatory remarks about Jews and directing them at Joel. The next time we were on the volleyball courts however I distinctly heard the derogatory comments. I went over to John and I said to him, ‘What did you say about my religion?’ I then proceeded to tackle and try to beat the anti-Semitism out of John. What I later found out, ironically, was that John was dating a Jewish girl at that time. Also ironic was my girlfriend had told me about a guy in one of her classes whom she thought to be quite humorous. Guess what? It was John. Further irony was that John and I became friends during junior year. Yes, he was quite funny and actually a terrific guy. I recently found out that around twenty years ago John married another girl from our high school. Yes, she was also Jewish.

This fight did not conclude my personal battle against “anti-Semitism” however. In fact in eleventh grade, I was hanging out with a Jewish friend, whom I will call Steven, in a music classroom after school. There was a rehearsal going on and most of us in there were in fact Jewish. In the back or this room, on a wall by the piano was a small sticker. The sticker read, “Freedom for Soviet Jewry- Help Us Fight!” Steven and I witnessed as one young man, whom I will call Sal, proceeding to write on this sticker: “Fight your Own War You F—kin’ Hebes.” Steven said to me, ‘Don’t do it.’ This advice was exactly what I had determined was out of the question. Here was a room, while not full, contained mostly Jews and I believe that the young man writing on this sticker knew this quite well. I refused and I continue to refuse to follow in the footsteps of six million Jews, and do as most of them did, which was nothing. Hence I proceeded to lean in after Sal finished writing and attempted to punch him in the face. Sal was bigger than I was, though I was no slouch. The fight was quickly broken up however.

Around this same time I joined the Jewish Defense League (JDL), though the only action I ever engaged in with them was going to Skokie in 1978 to protest the Nazis march there. Skokie I had found out was a predominantly Jewish suburb of Chicago with a large percentage of Holocaust survivors. Those who were there for this protest ended up protesting against these seven Nazis who were surrounded and protected by about seven rows of Chicago police. This took place in Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago, instead of Skokie after the Nazis permit to rally in Skokie was revoked. I’ll not soon forget saying to the black police officer in front of me, “they’ll get you too.” If he heard me though, he showed no reaction.

I also recall why I soon departed from the JDL. One meeting they spoke about planning to attack Jews for Jesus. While I considered both my ethnicity and my religion to be Jewish at the time, there was no way that I would take part in attacking a group simply for expressing their fundamental right of religious freedom. In fact this actually encouraged me to eventually join the Jews for Jesus movement for a time.

I was also slowly realizing that fighting could only take things so far. I strongly suspected that religion was a key ingredient in this fight. As much as I wanted to avoid entangling myself in religion, I was going to have to do so and do my best to survive the experience. This however is a topic for another story, another day.

My point here is that if Jews of today want vengeance or justice upon Nazis they can find more than enough Nazis right here in the good ‘ol U.S. of A. Except to gain some sort of pride from a fictional account of Jews killing, scalping, or blowing up Nazis is frankly embarrassing and sad.