The Holocaust Cloak

Mar 18, 2024
Jewish badge and hebrew word yizkor, for remember

In Australia, the ‘Anzac Cloak’ is appropriated, proselytised, prostituted and promoted far too often for perfidious reasons: to lend some dubious activity gravitas and shield it from criticism.

Internationally, another ‘Cloak’ has arisen from the horrific circumstances of the Holocaust. Instead of being the touchstone for solemn commemoration of the manifold injustices visited upon the world’s Jewish people, it is being used as a battle-standard to legitimise much that is in fact repugnant and antipathetic to the advancement of Jews as fine and upstanding world citizens, as most are.

It is no stretch to suggest that the current Ultra-Right Zionist (‘URZ’) government-military-settler alliance of Israel is as fascist as any that practised genocide and deprivation against Jewish people. Many informed Jews and others around the world regard Israel’s current political and military leaders as being, in practical terms, traitors to the future of their own people. A very recent example: Jonathan Glazer’s speech at the Oscars, where he (the director of a movie about the holocaust) stated that he and his producer: stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people.

Which, as is entirely predictable, caused an outbreak of rage from one of the (very, very many, worldwide) ‘organisations’ who claim jurisdiction to speak for all Jewish people.

The Holocaust Cloak smothers any atrocity, any criticism of Zionist excesses, any proposal from either external or internal sources) for peaceful co-existence. Use of the Anzac Cloak does not reach such excesses, thankfully.

For a significant coterie of URZ Jews seeking advantage in the world, the Holocaust Cloak is the base fabric that supports their endeavours. Their very existence is validated only by the Holocaust Cloak: so ‘Business is Business’.

This is not a C21 phenomenon.

My first exposure to the sordid prostitution of the Holocaust to someone’s ‘business’ interests came in about 1994. I was at that time the Registrar at the Australian War Memorial with a fairly wide-ranging spread of responsibilities, amongst which was the control of borrowed artefacts.

In 1992, the Memorial had determined to create an exhibition of children’s artworks from Auschwitz. Dr. Michael McKernan, the Deputy Director, went to Prague to negotiate the loan of many of those works; we regarded the exhibition as important for Australians to understand the extent of the Holocaust’s impact on the Jewish people.

Amongst the works was a painting we eventually borrowed from a very senior Holocaust museum in the USA.

The exhibition was curated, developed and toured around Australia. Following the Victorian showing, we received a moving letter from a Jewish lady from Melbourne.

The letter said that she had seen a work she had painted in Auschwitz – she had no idea that it had survived in the chaos of her liberation. She did not make a great moment out of gaining her own survival but the sense of the desperation of staying alive, let alone saving mementos, came across to me.

She had noted the lender of the work and asked us to seek that her work remain in Australia, to be donated to the (Australian War) Memorial and be available to all Australians as an artefact from Auschwitz with all that that entails. It seemed an eminently reasonable request and I duly penned a note to the Director of the museum outlining the circumstances and reproducing the request.

The return letter scorched my desk, accusing me of attempting to steal a valued exhibit from the museum and threatening to escalate the matter all the way through the USA Ambassador to the President if I did not instantly return the work.

I was gobsmacked by the ferocity of the response. I grew up in a family with many wonderful Jewish friends, amongst whom were counted some prominent benefactors of the emergent Israel and who had often talked with the family about the Jewish experience. They would have been appalled at that attitude.

My reply included my strongly unambiguous personal feelings about the inappropriateness of the reaction that placed owning the work above the attachment of the artist to the work.

Recognising that this was openly contentious in an official missive, I ran it past Dr. McKernan who was Acting Director at that time. His immediate reaction was on the lines of: ‘Good God, do you intend to send this?’

I said something like: ‘Yes, I believe it’s deserved – and we owe it to (the artist) anyway’. He replied (approximately): ‘Okay, send it. Let’s hope it doesn’t blow up in our face’.

Two weeks or so later, I received a letter authorising the transfer of the work to the AWM as a ‘donation’ from the museum. No apology for the disputation, no regret for having placed the interests of the museum ahead of those of the artist.

I had never imagined that owning a genuine Holocaust artefact would be transcendentally more important to an institution – a part of its ‘business’ – than be considered to be the legitimate property of the actual artist. But ‘Business is Business’ – right?

Looking at what Netanyahu’s government is bringing down upon the heads of its own people beneath the Holocaust Cloak, I find it hard to imagine that this is not, ultimately, treasonable business.

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