Following the example of Jean-Moise Braitberg, we ask that our grandmother’s name be removed from the wall at Yad Vashem. Her name is Gertrud Neumann. Your records state that she was born in Kattowitz on June 6, 1875 and died in Theresienstadt.
M. Braitberg delivers his request with excellent reasons and eloquent personal testimony. His words are inspiring, but they give you – and those who stand with you – too much credit. I will instead be brief. Please take this as an expression of my disgust and contempt for your state and all it represents.
Our grandmother was a victim of that very ideal of ethnic sovereignty in whose cause Israel has shed so much blood for so long. I was among the many Jews who thought nothing of embracing that ideal, despite the sufferings it had inflicted on our own race. It took thousands of Palestinian lives before, finally, I realized how foolish we had been.
Our complicity was despicable. I do not believe that the Jewish people, in whose name you have committed so many crimes with such outrageous complacency, can ever rid itself of the shame you have brought upon us. Nazi propaganda, for all its calumnies, never disgraced and corrupted the Jews; you have succeeded in this. You haven’t the courage to take responsibility for your own sadistic acts: with unparalleled insolence, you set yourself up as spokesmen for an entire race, as if our very existence endorsed your conduct. And you blacken our names not only by your acts, but by the lies, the coy evasions, the smirking arrogance and the infantile self-righteousness with which you embroider our history.
In the end, you will give the Palestinians some scrap of a state. You will never pay for your crimes and you will continue to preen yourself, to bask in your illusions of moral ascendancy. But between now and the end, you will kill and kill and kill, gaining nothing by your spoilt-brat brutality. In life, our grandmother suffered enough. Stop making her a party to this horror in her death.
I join my brother, Michael Neumann, in asking that any reference to our grandmother be removed from Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial.
I have been to this memorial. Its buildings, paved courtyards and plazas spread themselves authoritatively over many landscaped acres. It frames the Holocaust as a prelude to the creation of the state of Israel. It embalms memorabilia of the death camps and preserves them as national treasures. That treasure does not belong to Israel. It is a treasure only if it serves as a reminder never to permit any nation to claim an exemption for its chosen people from the bounds of morality and decency.
Israel has twisted the Holocaust into an excuse for perpetrating more holocausts. It has spent the treasure of the world’s sympathy for the victims of the Holocaust on a fruitless effort to shield itself from all criticism as it massacres and tortures Palestinians and suffocates them under a brutal occupation. I do not wish to have the memory of my grandmother enlisted in this misbegotten project.
I grew up believing that Jews were that ethnic group whose historical mission was to transcend ethnicity in a united front against Fascism. To be Jewish was to be anti-Fascist. Israel long ago woke me from my dogmatic slumber about the immutable relationship of Jews to Fascists. It has engineered a merger between the image of Jewish torturers and war criminals and that of emaciated concentration camp victims. I find this merger obscene. I want no part of it. You have forfeited the right to be the custodian of my grandmother’s memory. I do not wish Yad Vashem to be her memorial.
The Braitberg letter, in French can be found at
and the translaton here:
Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at a Canadian university. He is the author of What’s Left: Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche and The Case Against Israel. He also contributed the essay, “What is Anti-Semitism”, to CounterPunch’s book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Osha Neumann is a defense lawyer in Berkeley and author of Up Against the Wall MotherF**ker: a Memoir of the 60s with Notes for Next Time.