Eric Cooper’s assertion (“Love thy neighbor,” Letters to the Editor, Oct. 23) that “Jews in the Holocaust died for their faith. Faith was important. Faith was everything to them” cannot go unanswered, whether you are a believer or an atheist, a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or an animist. It is just wrong, and a huge misrepresentation of the Holocaust and the millions of Jews who were rounded up, tortured and murdered by the Nazis, including several from my own family that certainly wasn’t religious in the least, let alone had “faith.” (Early Christians and others died for their faith; not millions of Jews.)
They died because of their names and ancestries. Many of them were atheists who never practiced their or any religion. In France, Germany and Holland, for example, “many” is probably an understatement to be replaced by “most,” but I am not a historian, and don’t have figures; in 20th century Europe, a great number of Jews were non-practicing, and profoundly assimilated into their respective countries. As shown in many books and films, they were utterly stunned when they were rounded up, and often failed to flee their countries because they could not fathom what was happening or about to happen.
The Levys, Kahns, Gougenheims, Aarons, Francks of my family didn’t celebrate a thing, and knew precious little about Judaism. I wasn’t raised with any religion, nor were my siblings and cousins. We are not an exception. When I was growing up, I hardly knew any practicing Jews. I didn’t even know about basic Jewish holidays and customs until I came to this country. As shocking as it sometimes is to American Jews, most of us had Christmas trees, like everyone else around.
Again, religious beliefs and religious “faith” had nothing to do with the massacre of Jews, on either the victims’ or their assassins’ sides, who believed that the Aryan race should dominate the world, and eliminate all non-Aryans.