Thursday, June 11, 2009

"I live in a crazy time"

said Anne Frank. And events from yesterday sadly reflect that we still do.

On the day a play about Anne Frank's life was planned at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, an 88 year old man tried to enter the museum . Special police officer Johns opened the door for the man, who opened fire on the officer. According to witnesses, he then shot at other security guards who fired back near the front of the museum. Visitors to the museum fled in the other direction, toward the "Remember the Children" exhibit, trying to find families and friends who came with them. Some visitors dropped and hit the floor. In the words of a witness:

"No one was standing up; no one dared move; we were all very scared. Finally, I ran back towards where my grandparents were to see if they were OK, and there we stayed until further instructions about how to exit the building safely."

They were told by guards to run and headed outside toward the lawn, some weeping. A security guard was killed. The shooter is hospitalized in critical condition.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center, quoted yesterday as knowing about James von Brunn, the shooter in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum , said he "has an extremely long history with neo-Nazis and white supremacists. He's written extremely incendiary publications, raging about Jews, blacks and the like."

The Center publishes a hate groups map on its site. They report that there were 926 active hate groups across the U.S. in 2008 which they counted. Their statistics do not include individuals, just groups.

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The play to be performed, entitled Anne and Emmett, "is an imaginary conversation between Jewish girl Anne Frank, who wrote her famous diary about hiding from Nazi occupiers in Amsterdam, and Emmett Till, a black boy lynched in Mississippi in 1955", playwright Janet Langhart Cohen said.

Emmett Till was a 14 year old black boy who was killed in 1955 for flirting with a white woman in Mississippi. He was brutally murdered, his eye gouged out, shot in the head, beaten, and thrown into the Tallahatchie River with a 70 pound cotton gin fan tied to his neck with barbed wire. His body was found three days later in the river and police tried to convince people that the body was not his.

Anne Frank would have turned 80 years old tomorrow. Although we often talk about Anne Frank, the exact number of Jews systematically killed in the Holocaust has never been able to be determined, but is estimated at six millon. By 1945, 2 out of 3 European Jews were killed. Others also died.

As many as one-half million Gypsies, at least 250,000 mentally or physically disabled persons, and more than three million Soviet prisoners-of-war also fell victim to Nazi genocide. Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Social Democrats, Communists, partisans, trade unionists, Polish intelligentsia and other undesirables were also victims of the hate and aggression carried out by the Nazis.

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The museum remains closed today in honor of the slain security guard, with the flags at half mast. There is no doubt, according to witnesses, that the 39 year old security guard who was killed, Stephen Tyrone Jones, laid down his life to protect the visitors and fellow security guards. After telling the armed man to drop his weapon, the guards fired their weapons near the front of the museum. Jones, shown at left, worked at the museum for six years.


The President issued a statement:

"This outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms. No American institution is more important to this effort than the Holocaust Museum, and no act of violence will diminish our determination to honor those who were lost by building a more peaceful and tolerant world."

The Anti-Defamation League said the shooting "reminds us in the starkest way where the spread of hatred can lead."

Occurring "at the very place that was created to remember and teach about evil in the world," the attack "is an immediate reminder that words of hate matter, that we can never afford to ignore hate because words of hate can easily become acts of hate, no matter the place, no matter the age of the hatemonger."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned "this apparent bias-motivated attack" and said it stands "with the Jewish community and with Americans of all faiths in repudiating the kind of hatred and intolerance that can lead to such disturbing incidents."

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