Tuesday, August 01, 2006

August 1

Wikipedia erroneously claims that on August 1, 1619, “20 and odd” Africans arrived at Jamestown Colony in Virginia. This group of indentured servants, believed to be the first Africans to inhabit the mainland of British North America, actually arrived on August 20, as described briefly in John Rolfe’s journal. Wikipedia’s error, however, does nothing to diminish the profoundly awful essence of August 1, a date that should perhaps be stricken from the calendar out of decent respect for its victims.

On this date in 1492 -- two days before Christopher Columbus commenced his first voyage to the Western Hemisphere -- Spain’s unconverted Jewish population lost its right to remain in the kingdom of Ferdinand and Isabella. According to the edict issued by the crown in late April, malingering Jews would be sentenced to death by hanging. According to the memoirs of an Italian Jew writing in 1495, Isabella was approached at the last minute by the Prior of Santa Cruz, who objected to the expulsion and pleaded with her to reconsider. The queen, unmoved, replied that
"The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water. God turneth it withersoever He will." She said furthermore: "Do you believe that this comes upon you from us? The Lord hath put this thing into the heart of the king."

Then they saw that there was evil determined against them by the King, and they gave up the hope of remaining. But the time had become short, and they had to hasten their exodus from Spain. They sold their houses, their landed estates, and their cattle for very small prices, to save themselves. The King did not allow them to carry silver and gold out of his country, so that they were compelled to exchange their silver and gold for merchandise of cloths and skins and other things

On August 1, 1933, Adolf Eichmann began training with an illegal paramilitary group known as the Austrian Legion. Nine years later, on August 1, 1942, Eichmann -- by then a captain and “Transportation Administer” in the SS -- ordered that all Belgian Jews be loaded onto trains destined for Auschwitz, Poland. That very day, Gerhart Reigner, director of the Geneva office of the World Jewish Congress, received a secret telegram from Germany detailing the use of Zyklon B gas in the numerous camps to which expelled Jews were being delivered. When Reigner passed word of the Final Solution to the United States Department of State, his reports were suppressed for months for fear that “interested groups” might demand action.

It is entirely possible that while Reigner stared in disbelief at the August 1 telegram, Anne Frank was composing the last sentence of her remarkable diary:
When everybody starts hovering over me, I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I’d like to be and what I could be if . . . if only there were no other people in the world.

Meir Kahane, racist founder of the Jewish Defense League and the terrorist Kach Party in Israel, celebrated his tenth birthday on 1 August 1942. Kahane, a New Yorker who emigrated to Israel in 1971, believed Arabs to be “strangers” in the Holy Land and advised that only their cleansing from Eretz Israel would assure his nation’s survival. On the subject of terrorism, Kahane wrote in 1979 that
[w]e cannot allow the situation to continue. Every victim is a beloved one who leaves behind loved ones and sorrow and tragedy. Every victim is a fellow Jew. Every death and outrage is a Hillul Hashem, a desecration of the name of the L-rd, G-d of Israel. Our apathy, our acceptance of the situation, only guarantees further and worse inflation of terror. It guarantees further deaths, cripples, and agony and anguish. It cannot continue, and it must as long as Arabs are allowed to live and wander freely in the Land. The solution is ultimately only one: The removal of the hostile and dangerous Arab minority from the Land of Israel . . . .

On 1 August 1967, Israel annexed East Jerusalem, contravening the Fourth Geneva Convention. Five thousand Arab residents were driven from the city, their homes destroyed to improve security access to the Wailing Wall.