Surviving The Holocaust Does Not Make You A Holocaust Survivor

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The Guardian tells us of an old man who is being evicted from his apartment in California. Apparently the very idea is just terrible, that a landlord should be able to ask someone to pay market rent. Such glorious societies have been built by ignoring the use of the price system in solving scarcity of course.

But the really interesting thing about this extended whine is that he’s a Holocaust survivor:

The Holocaust survivor, 87, facing eviction in California: ‘Will they throw me to the ground?’

That’s the headline. They’re making something of this surviving the Holocaust thing.

Musiy Rishin knows how to survive. He narrowly escaped the Nazis’ massacre of Jews in the Ukraine in 1941.

Well, yes, he did.

“Will they start literally throwing me to the ground?” the disabled Holocaust survivor said on a recent afternoon, seated inside his living room of 17 years in Alameda.

It’s a bit too much on that Holocaust survivor bit I think though.

“I have a lot of elderly clients, but I have never seen anything this outrageous,” said Sarah McCracken, a tenants’ rights lawyer with Centro Legal de La Raza, who is representing Musiy. “It’s disturbing and senseless. This man is an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor … who has experienced all kinds of trauma.”

Just a tad de trop. For what actually is his Holocaust survival?

Musiy is deeply familiar with unstable living conditions, starting with his childhood in Dnepropetrovsk in Ukraine during the second world war. “It is so hard for me to talk about,” he said, recalling the day when he was nine years old and Nazi bombers closed in on his city. He broke down as he remembered the rush to escape, and the crowd that was so dense that they could hardly move. He and his family managed to board a train: “We dropped everything and fled.” Relatives who didn’t make it out were killed.

Well, yes, and lucky to have beaten the Holodomor as well. But that’s not what we usually call Holocaust survival. Never in a camp, never in hiding, not slave labour, not that rarity someone who was left when the death camps simply closed. Rather, someone who never fell into the hands of the Nazis in the first place. By this standard Einstein was a Holocaust survivor.

Note what is not being said, that he didn’t suffer during that war. Or afterwards, in post WWII Uzbekistan. Rather, that his vague proximity to the Holocaust is being used as a virtue shroud to be waved over the story itself. And in doing so rather cheapening that memory of the Holocaust itself. A nasty thing to do I submit.

There is also that surviving the Soviet Union’s housing for 60 odd years and comparing it to the evils of capitalist landlordism would make an interesting story. But not one that would make the political point The Guardian wishes of course.

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Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

My Grandmother caught the last train out of Paris as the Germans were arriving from the other direction. My Grandma’s a Holocaust survivor!!!!

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

I remember every detail. The Germans wore grey, you wore blue.

Matt
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Matt

Formatting is visible inside []s — a “feature” of switching away from WordPress?