From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Purimfest 1946: Haunted by Haman

“Purimfest 1946!” was practically the last barb tossed by Nazi war criminal Julius Streicher before he was hanged at Nuremberg.

Death Cap Toadstool (Photo by Archenzo) 
Streicher had been a widespread disseminator of anti-Semitic propaganda long before World War II had even begun.  His publishing company had released a children’s book, Der Giftpilz (The Toadstool) - which compared Jews to attractive, yet poisonous, mushrooms.  Story upon story within this book was stereotypically designed to teach children hatred for the Jews.  Some of the book’s main themes include ways to
distinguish Jews from others, reasons to be on guard against Jews in various professions, false quotations from the Talmud,
and blame for everything from communism to the crucifixion.

For example, one excerpt from the book reads as follows:  Many Jews are bow-legged and flat footed.  They often have a low, slanting forehead, a receding forehead.  Many criminals have such a receding forehead.  The Jews are criminals too.  Their hair is usually dark and often curly like a Negro’s.  Their ears are very large and they look like the handles of a coffee cup.

Centuries before, here are the words from another book – the
Book of Esther.  These words were spoken by Haman, another
virulent anti-Semite, to the ancient Persian king:  There is a nation scattered and separated among the nations throughout your empire.  Their laws are different than everyone else’s, they do not obey the king’s laws, and it does not pay for the king to tolerate their existence.  If it pleases the king, let a
law be written that they be destroyed…

This is the very same logic that was used by the Nazi regime.  Haman whispering into the king’s ear might as well have been Streicher whispering into the ears of children across the land – children who then stood a much better chance of growing up to be full-fledged Nazi supporters.

Much has been written about Streicher’s final Purimfest barb.  Commentaries have often focused upon whether the ten Nazi war criminals who were hanged at Nuremberg were, in fact, the ten sons of Haman whom Esther condemned.  This we might never know for sure.  However, what we do know is that hanging alone can never extinguish hatred.

Haman is long dead, as are Streicher and his nine (plus many more) cohorts.  However, the poisonous toadstool of prejudice is still very much alive.  According to Wikipedia, contemporary U.S. Nazi leader, Gary Lauck, has produced an English translation of Streicher’s Toadstool publication, and is now looking to market it in many different languages.

How “successful” his endeavor might become will depend upon how well the lessons of Purim have truly been learned.  In the end, it’s not about victory over the Persians. It’s about victory over our own lower selves.


Copyright March 20, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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