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'Not in my name'

Interview: Gero Schliess / gsw
August 26, 2014

In an open letter published as an ad in the "New York Times," Holocaust survivors condemned Israel's Gaza offensive as "genocide." Edith Bell, born in 1923 in Hamburg, talks with DW about why she co-signed.

Gaza children
Image: Reuters

DW: Why did you decide to sign a letter that openly condemns Israel and the US in the strongest terms?

Edith Bell: I am very upset about what is going on in Israel and Gaza. And I feel very strongly that military might is not going to solve any of these problems. And I especially feel resentment that the Holocaust - my suffering during the war - is going to be used to justify killing innocent people.

You refer to Elie Wiesel, who compared Hamas with the Nazis. What is your argument?

I grew up in Germany. My father fought in World War I - the Great War that was supposed to end all wars. We found out that more fighting brings more fighting. It's not going to solve anything.

And to me, I've worked most of my adult life for peace and justice, to prevent that this would ever happen again to a human being: may they be Native Americans, African Americans, gays and lesbians or Jews and Arabs.

Edith Bell
Edith Bell says she has dedicated her adult life to peace and justiceImage: privat

Why do you believe Israel's attack on Gaza can be referred to as genocide?

Because they are killing people at random - a whole population is being killed. My Israeli nephew told me 20 years ago: You killed your Indians. Well, yeah. Two wrongs don't make a right.

One can read so much furor between the lines in your answers. Why is that?

Well, I don't want people doing these kinds of things in my name, and my tax money goes to it. Our US government seems to think that AIPAC represents all Jews, and it doesn't. It's the organization that has great influence on the US Congress, and they claim to represent the American Jews, which they do not, obviously.

Would you call on Congress and the US president to end support for Israel?

Yes. Actually, I'm a long-time member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and we're speaking out to end the illegal occupation of Gaza and to stop this onslaught. We stand for a ceasefire, negotiations by all parties, multi-national humanitarian aid to Gaza, accountability required of the US and Israel.

Chancellor Angela Merkel from Germany strongly supports Israel and its right of self-defense. Do you think she should change her policy?

Israel's self-defense is very lopsided. Israel is the most powerful nation in the Middle East right now. Gaza, Palestinians have no army, no air force, no navy, no weapons to compare with those of Israel. Gazans are a population living in a constant state of siege. They've been driven from their homes, into decades-long refugee camps, where they've been denied sufficient food, potable water, electricity, medical supplies, et cetera. They're now driven even from those homes, from where they have no other place to go.

As a survivor of the Holocaust, how have your experiences shaped your view of what is happening in Gaza

I grew up in Hamburg and moved to Amsterdam, and then the Germans took my parents. My father died in Theresienstadt; my mother died in Auschwitz. I survived several concentration camps by sheer luck. And as I said before, we were treated as sub-human. Your conscience didn't bother you when you mistreated these creatures because they were not regarded as human, and so I feel very strongly that that should never happen again through any other human being.

Edith Bell is a Holocaust survivor who was confined in concentration camps including Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. After the end of the war, she emigrated first to Israel before settling in 1954 in the US. She now lives in Pittsburgh.

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