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Holocaust Survivors Speak: Lessons From The Death Camps

Hitler’s Holocaust is one of the most iconic examples of human cruelty, systematic desensitization and social manipulation in human history. That such brutality could possibly take place in our modern world is a testament to the power of a lie repeated often enough.

Humanity must learn from the horrors of our past so as not to repeat them time and again. So when those who survived the Holocaust speak, we, collectively, should listen. [tweet this]

This video conveys the words of Holocaust survivors and their family members. These are their words, their stories, their lessons. I urge you to watch the video for the full impact and to see Alex Hershaft speak, but their words are reproduced here.

“What do they know—all these scholars, all these philosophers, all the leaders of the world? They have convinced themselves that man, the worst transgressor of all the species, is the crown of creation. All other creatures were created merely to provide him with food, pelts, to be tormented, exterminated. In relation to them [the animals], all people are Nazis; for the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka.” [tweet this]

-Isaac Bashevis Singer, Yiddish author, Nobel Laureate, & Holocaust survivor

“I spent my childhood years in the Warsaw Ghetto where almost my entire family was murdered along with about 350,000 other Polish Jews. People sometimes will ask me whether that experience had anything to do with my work for animals. It didn’t have a little to do with my work for animals, it had everything to do with my work for animals.”

-Alex Hershaft, Farm Animal Rights Movement founder & Holocaust Survivor

Linking the human Holocaust to our treatment of animals has long sparked controversy, disgust and outrage. Opponents view the connection as belittling and disrespecting the experience of Holocaust victims and survivors. But what do we say when those making this connection are themselves survivors?

“I totally embrace the comparison to the Holocaust. I feel that violence and suffering of innocents are unjust. I believe that the abuse of humans and animals and the earth come from the same need to dominate others. I feel that I could not save my family, my people, but each time I talk about cruelty to animals and being vegetarian I might be saving another life. After knowing what I know about the Holocaust and about animal exploitation I cannot be anything else but an animal rights advocate.

-Susan Kalev, who lost her father and her sister in the Holocaust

One survivor, known only as by his code name “Hacker” when he participated in the Animal Liberation Front raid on the University of Pennsylvania head injury lab (footage in video above), stated,

“I believe in what Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote, ‘In their behavior towards creatures, all men are Nazis.’ Human beings see their own oppression vividly when they are the victims. Otherwise they victimize blindly and without a thought.” [tweet this]

-“Hacker,” Animal Liberation Front member & Holocaust survivor

“When I see cages crammed with chickens from battery farms thrown on trucks like bundles of trash, I see, with the eyes of my soul, the Umschlagplatz (where Jews were forced onto trains leaving for the death camps). When I go to a restaurant and see people devouring meat, I feel sick. I see a holocaust on their plates.” [tweet this]

-Georges Metanomski, a Holocaust survivor who fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Marc Berkowitz and his twin sister Francesca were among Josef Mengele’s victims, forced to undergo brutal medical experimentation. He watched his mother and other sister march to their death in the gas chambers.

In fighting for the lives of Canada Geese in danger of being killed, Berkowitz said,

“I dedicate my mother’s grave to geese. My mother doesn’t have a grave, but if she did I would dedicate it to the geese. I was a goose too.”

-Marc Berkowitz, Animal activist & survivor of Josef Mengele’s “twin experiments”

“In 1975, after I immigrated to the United States, I happened to visit a slaughterhouse, where I saw terrified animals subjected to horrendous crowding conditions while awaiting their deaths. Just as my family members were in the notorious Treblinka death camp. I saw the same efficient and emotionless killing routine as in Treblinka, I saw the neat piles of hearts, hooves, and other body parts. So reminiscent of the piles of Jewish hair, glasses and shoes in Treblinka.”

-Alex Hershaft, Farm Animal Rights Movement founder & Holocaust Survivor

“For most of the society, life was lived as if none of this was happening. People had regular jobs, concentration camp workers went off to work in the morning and came home at night to loving families, a home-cooked meal, a warm bed. It was a job for them as it is for the animal experimenter, the trapper, game agent, or the factory farm worker.”

-Anne Muller, who lost many of her family members in the Holocaust

“It is wrong to harm others, and as a matter of consistency we don’t limit who the others are; if they can tell the difference between pain and pleasure, then they have a fundamental right not to be harmed. … Unless you believe in fascism, that might makes right – we do not have a right to harm others.”

-Henry (Noah) Spira, animal activist and Holocaust survivor

“I know firsthand what it’s like to be hunted by the killers of my family and friends, to wonder each day if I will see the next sunrise, to be crammed in a cattle car on the way to slaughter. In the midst of our high-tech, ostentatious, hedonistic lifestyle, among the dazzling monuments to history, art, religion, and commerce, there are the black boxes. These are the biomedical research laboratories, factory farms, and slaughterhouses – faceless compounds where society conducts its dirty business of abusing and killing innocent, feeling beings. These are our Dachaus, our Buchenwalds, our Birkenaus. Like the good German burghers, we have a fair idea of what goes on there, but we don’t want any reality checks.

– Alex Hershaft, Farm Animal Rights Movement founder & Holocaust Survivor

So what should lessons should we take from the horrific and unthinkable tragedy of Hitler’s Holocaust?

“The point of understanding the Holocaust in Europe is to prevent and halt other ones, not to remain narrowly focused on that particular one, traumatic though it was.”

-David Cantor, who lost family in the Holocaust

“That’s the real lesson of the Holocaust, isn’t it? That people could do everything and anything to those that they deemed ‘sub-human.’ Which is, of course, what we do to animals.”

-Barbara Stagno, northeast director of In Defense of Animals, who lost her grandparents in the Holocaust

Not everyone has learned the same lessons as the survivors we’ve heard from today. Albert Kaplan, a passionate vegan animal activist who lost family members in the Holocaust wrote,

“The vast majority of Holocaust survivors are carnivores, no more concerned abut animals’ suffering than were the Germans concerned about Jews’ suffering. What does it all mean? I will tell you. It means that we have learned nothing from the Holocaust. Nothing. It was all in vain. There is no hope.”

-Albert Kaplan, Vegan animal rights activist, lost family members in the Holocaust

“And then, it finally dawned on me. “Never again” is not about what others shouldn’t do to us. “Never again” means that we must never again perpetrate mass atrocities against other living beings. That we must never again raise animals for food or for any other form of exploitation. And that’s when I became an activist for animal rights.”[tweet this]

-Alex Hershaft, Farm Animal Rights Movement founder & Holocaust Survivor

——

Please see the videos below for more information on what the animals are going through right this very moment all over the world. Share this video around so that these lessons are not in vain.

Many of the quotes I shared today are from Holocaust Educator Dr. Charles Patterson’s book “Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust,” a powerful, respectful and thoroughly researched text. If you wan to help support this activism, see the support page or join us in the Nugget Army on Patreon.

Now go live vegan, hear their voices, and I’ll see you soon.

see ya next nugget!

 

 

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Featured Videos/Resources:
Open Your Eyes
Through A Bird’s Eyes
Through A Cow’s Eyes
Through A Pig’s Eyes
Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and The Holocaust by Charles Patterson
From the Warsaw Ghetto to the Fight for Animal Rights talk by Alex Hershaft

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21 Comments

  1. Tara O'Reilly on 02/5/16 at 12:41 am

    So well done, Emily ? Executed Tastefully and very touching.

  2. Harel on 02/5/16 at 4:29 am

    Having lost about one hundred of my Jewish relatives who were murdered by the Nazis I not only support the message of this compassionate sensitive video but feel morally compelled to voice that support, for the same reasons I am morally compelled to speak up for the rights of Palestinians not to be abused: because if my voice might carry even a little bit more weight in the ears of some, then the responsibility is that much more on my shoulders to raise my voice against violence and murder, to raise my voice for compassion and empathy and kindness.

    I know some will attack this video or others like it. To be effective for AR we must distinguish between dishonest fake outrage meant to just attack animal rights, versus the understandable shock at having something they consider normal that they do every day (eating animal products) with something they know is horrifically evil. Instead of counter attacks out of being defensive, we must have a heart to listen to their shock and if they are sincere, to listen to their outrage, and then to gently and with compassion, explain why the comparison is being made. This video is a great powerful tool to add to what we have in explaining, in being heard.

    Lastly…As an aside..for decades I avoided reading about the Holocaust…focused on existing justice issues, environment, anti-war, Animal Rights and more as mentioned above..found a very special book, about it, such an exception, I got several extra copies, to share with others, got used copies online. One copy was for sending to Emily but I got sidetracked with projects…But it was a used copy..so a young child recorded her reaction in the inside back cover. It may bring a tear to your eye. What did this little (from handwriting) girl write in a small number of words? She probably eats meat and therefore, doesn’t fully know what her words mean, hopefully some day she will..but she wrote, how horrible this Holocaust was..and how the Jews were herded, were treated….”just like animals” ;-(

    So even those who don’t ‘get’ about AR, on some deeper level they get it..hopefully some day she will, as you often put it, more fully “make the connection”

  3. Pjarmas on 02/6/16 at 6:03 am

    Awesome work Emily. …..

  4. Friderike on 02/6/16 at 8:43 am

    Dear Emily,
    Thank you so much for this video. I am very moved. And dear Harel, your words have also deeply moved me. Thank you both.
    Love from Friderike

  5. Marilyn on 02/6/16 at 9:53 pm

    Posted this on my FB page and someone responded, “Now I understand you, Marilyn.”
    Such a wonderfully moving piece that I hope will reach many viewers so they can truly understand the ethics behind choosing vegan.

  6. Rina Deych, RN / Vegan Nurse on 02/7/16 at 8:35 pm

    Thank you for this eloquent, moving film. Whenever I’m at a protest for animals and someone asks “why don’t you do something for people?” I answer: I’ve been a nurse for 36 years. I became a nurse because I can’t stand to see anyone suffer without trying to help. I became a vegan for the same reason. Compassion is compassion.

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on 02/8/16 at 11:58 am

      Thank you so much for this. And it’s interesting that people think you can’t do both! Also, the people saying you should do something for people and not animals usually aren’t doing anything for either.

  7. Stefan on 02/9/16 at 11:23 pm

    Hallo Emily,

    ich schreibe dir in deutsch. Ich weiss, dass du das lesen kannst. Du bist für mich eine grosse Inspiration! Deine Beträge bringen mich zum Lachen und auch zum Weinen.
    Niemand spricht so gut zu Kindern wie DU. Das gibt mir Hoffnung für all die Tiere, die so grausam leiden.

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on 02/12/16 at 3:51 pm

      Stefan, vielen, vielen Dank! Es freut mich, daß du auf Deutsch geschrieben hast. Danke für deine netten Worte. Ich werde weiterhin mein Bestes tun, um zu erziehen!

      • Stefan on 02/15/16 at 8:45 pm

        Emily,
        you’re awsome.
        Thank you!!!

  8. Kathy on 02/12/16 at 11:54 pm

    Wow. Just wow. So powerful, so well done. Thank you.

  9. Anne Fein on 02/16/16 at 3:39 am

    I absolutely do think the message has been heard in Israel, where the vast majority of Holocaust survivors and their relatives live. Israel has the largest per capita population of vegans! I have always loved Israel but the past few times I visited I couldn’t believe how many vegan restaurants there are there now, and not just in Tel Aviv. The largest vegan fest ever took place in Israel last year. We are making progress. Thank you this inspiring post.

  10. Linda O'Dell on 03/14/16 at 5:37 pm

    This is a good one for vegan advocates- we need more ways to relate veganism to people, since some people think it’s silly to talk about animals.

  11. Grace Culver on 09/13/16 at 4:22 pm

    Hi Emily. Thank you for posting this as a quick reference. As a black person, I find the reaction I get to comparing animal slavery to black slavery extremely frustrating. In that, people can so easily see why slavery is wrong when it happens to humans, but are offended when you point out that, slavery in America, for example, was an extension of farming practices that persist to this day. I often make references to Holocaust survivors who commented on animal agriculture to explain that it is not just an inflammatory tactic, it is the epiphany of many survivors of the worst tragedies in human history. I don’t know if you already have made a video about this, but I would like to see your thoughts on the meat industry/chattle slavery comparison. –Best Regards

    • Emily Barwick on 09/19/16 at 4:17 am

      Thank you so much Grace. I haven’t broached that subject yet but it is on my list. I’m sure you’ve hear of The Dreaded Comparison? Seems one of the more “iconic” texts on this. But I so appreciate your advocacy and understand the frustration. It’s interesting as the offense itself speaks to speciesism… that being “compared to an animal” (which as you know isn’t the intention anyway) is offensive, implies an inferiority to humans.

      Anyways, I appreciate your thoughtful comment and so sorry for the delayed response!

  12. Jack on 10/1/16 at 11:16 pm

    I just wanted to let you know that this is what convinced me to go all the way with being vegan. For the past couple of weeks, I was experimenting with a vegan diet because a lot of my friends are vegan and I decided to temporarily give it a try. But reading this article is when I thought “I will never eat meat again.”

    • Emily Barwick on 10/3/16 at 3:18 pm

      WOW! Thank you so much for sharing this with me. That is so incredible to hear and I can only credit the survivors who have so graciously shared their testimonies. Many thanks to you for being open to listening and changing!

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