Unable to sleep, I’d opened my cell phone to Facebook for an early morning browse. There was the usual array of unread news bits, posts from my friends, and ads for everything from lingerie to potatoes.
Then something popped up I never expected; a portrait of Adolf Hitler on the cover of his infamous 1925 book Mein Kampf. “Biggest sale of the year!” the ad proclaimed, only 666 pesos. And, just below it, sat an array of Nazi memorabilia complete with golden eagles, brown-shirted uniforms, and flags bearing enormous black swastikas.
I’m no fainting daisy. I understand that the book—in which the future German dictator first laid out his plans to annihilate the Jews of Europe in what would become the Holocaust—is a work of historic interest. Still, the timing was curious.
Everywhere, antisemitism is breaking out. As Israel pursues its vital goal of wiping out the Islamic terrorist group, Hamas, responsible for the deliberate, unprovoked torture, murder, and kidnapping of more than 1,400 Israeli civilians, campuses and cities worldwide are erupting in protests calling for death to Israel and the Jews. Recently, a Jewish man carrying an Israeli flag was killed in a confrontation near Los Angeles, California. And I’m seeing daily posts from frightened Jewish friends and relatives wondering whether we’re on the brink of another Holocaust.
Hardly the ideal time for Lazada—the Philippines’ leading online retailer—to roll out its hot new line of antisemitic Nazi products. Do Filipinos not understand the horrific message this sends?
Curious to find out, I conducted a private poll at the dinner table last night. Seated with me were four Filipino relatives and a close family friend, three of them college graduates and another a bright high school senior. “Who here knows about Hitler?” I asked. “Have any of you heard of the Holocaust?”
To my utter astonishment, the only one who knew what I was talking about was an eleven-year-old nephew who said he’d heard about it on YouTube.
Part of my surprise, of course, comes from a knowledge of the special historic relationship between the Philippines and the Jews. This island nation, in fact, was one of the few that welcomed victims fleeing slaughter during World War II. And its 1947 UN vote played a crucial role in establishing the modern State of Israel.
And yet some recent Filipino writing on the subject is truly appalling. “Yesterday’s oppressed have become today’s oppressors,” columnist Randy David bellowed in the Philippine Inquirer, commenting on Israel’s efforts to defend its citizenry by putting Hamas permanently out of commission. “We cannot, by our silence or neutrality, be complicit in this heinous crime.”
Like so many others, David blindly points to the tragic loss of civilian life in the Gaza Strip. Which, of course, empowers and encourages Hamas’ strategy of maximizing those deaths by using civilians as shields prevented from heeding Israel’s warnings to flee. Would he have been equally outraged by the massive death toll in Manila when the Allies liberated it from the Japanese in 1944?
“Many were massacred in atrocities by Japanese troops,” the Los Angeles Times has reported, “but many also were pulverized by U.S. artillery barrages. Countless others were maimed, impoverished and traumatized.” The final toll; at least 100,000 unarmed Filipino civilians—10% of the population—dead in the streets of that nearly flattened city.
I don’t recall a huge public outcry against America following that horrific event. Nor were there massive protests when the Allies bombed Berlin at the end of World War II; instead, they were universally hailed as conquering heroes. Why then this double standard whenever Jews are involved?
During my trip to Germany earlier this year to help memorialize family members murdered in the Holocaust, I was impressed by the German penchant to teach and learn from history rather than sweep it under the rug. Unfortunately, that healthy impulse may now be jeopardized by a new upsurge of antisemitic sentiment fueled, in part, by massive immigration from the Middle East.
And yet I felt buoyed by another Facebook post on the recent 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the notorious night in 1938 that kicked off the Holocaust. Nie Wieder Ist Jetzt! read the slogan emblazoned in lights on Berlin’s notorious Brandenburg Gate, the historic icon of Nazism.
The translation: Never Again is Now. It’s a notion I heartily endorse.
David Haldane’s latest book, A Tooth in My Popsicle, is available on Amazon and Lazada. A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an award-winning journalist, author, and radio broadcaster with homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where this column appears weekly in the Gold Star Daily.