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“Stop This Madness”: Holocaust Survivor Marione Ingram, 87, Condemns Israeli Assault & Calls for Peace

StoryNovember 08, 2023
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We speak with 87-year-old Holocaust survivor Marione Ingram, who has been protesting outside the White House calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Ingram says experiencing anti-Jewish hate, losing family members to the Nazi killing machine and surviving the Allied bombing of Hamburg as a child all inspire her to speak out for peace. “What Israel is doing will not end this conflict. It will only exacerbate it,” says Ingram. She calls the vote to censure Palestinian American Congressmember Rashida Tlaib “shameful” and describes her as a “hero.” We also hear from leading Holocaust scholar Omer Bartov, who recently signed an open letter warning of the potential for genocide in Israel’s assault on Gaza. “The refusal of the Israeli government to find any kind of compromise with the Palestinians … is what led and keeps leading to this ongoing and increasingly violent confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians,” says Bartov.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

As we continue to cover Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, we’re joined by two guests: one, a Holocaust survivor, the other, one of the world’s leading genocide scholars. Omer Bartov is a professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Brown University. He’s the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Genocide, the Holocaust and Israel-Palestine: First-Person History in Times of Crisis. He is an Israeli American scholar who’s been described by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum as one of the world’s leading specialists on the subject of genocide. He recently signed an open letter warning of Israel committing a potential genocide in Gaza.

We’re also joined by Marione Ingram. She’s an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor who’s been protesting outside the White House calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, longtime activist who was an organizer with SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, in the 1960s. She’s the author of The Hands of War: A Tale of Endurance and Hope from a Survivor of the Holocaust and Hands of Peace: A Holocaust Survivor’s Fight for Civil Rights in the American South.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! We’re going to begin with Marione Ingram. Before we talk about the ceasefire in Gaza, I’d like you to respond to the censuring of the only Palestinian American member of Congress, Rashida Tlaib, whose speech we just played.

MARIONE INGRAM: I totally support her comments. And I think it is, on top of that, shameful that her justified defense of human lives is considered antisemitic. It is pro-human beings. I find it horrific that the politicians have the nerve to censure righteous voices for peace and for the lives of Gazans, who are being murdered. It is slaughter that is happening. And Rashida Tlaib is, in my eyes, a hero.

Netanyahu’s government, Israel’s policies for decades has been the suppression of Palestinians, land grabs, deprivation of Palestinians. It is painful for me, as someone who has experienced all of the terrors that Gazans are experiencing, and even the horrific attacks in Israel by Hamas. But Hamas’s attack on Israel does not justify the slaughter of women and children, especially children. I was a child of war. I have experienced all of these things. I have also known for a fact that what Israel is doing will not end this conflict. It will only exacerbate it. It will increase resistance to anything.

I think that Biden needs to defund all of the money that is given to Israel. I think he should not only call for a ceasefire; I think he needs to start thinking about peace. We cannot continue to make wars and then call for ceasefires, only to have wars start again after the ceasefire ends. We’ve experienced this over and over and over again. I am so tired of having to protest everything — wars, gun violence, the war against women. It is ridiculous that we are not able to think clearly.

My husband has an expression, and that is, “all about the Benjis.” I think that the happiest people in the universe must be the manufacturers of armaments, and probably are also complicit in the promotion. The fact that the United States is complicit in this murder of children is, to me, a horrific indictment of inhumanity. And I applaud Rashida Tlaib with all of my heart, with all of my being. I think she’s fantastic. I just wish that there were more voices to join her in the House.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Marione Ingram, I wanted to ask you — you grew up in Hamburg, Germany, in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Could you tell us and to our audience some of your experiences that shaped and determined and made you want to participate in these protests in Washington against the Israeli bombardment and invasion of Gaza?

MARIONE INGRAM: Because I am a Jew, my mother was a Jew, my family was murdered in 1941. My Jewish family was murdered in 1941. Hamburg Jews were sent to Minsk in Belarusia. Upon arrival, they were stripped and then shot and dumped into a mass grave. My grandmother was taken by two Gestapo who came to my mother’s apartment and took her away the night before I turned 6 years old. From about the time I was 3 years old, I was aware that I was the object of hate of the German government, the German country. It was made clear by a playmate who told me that she wouldn’t play with me because I was a dirty Jew pig. I had no idea what she was talking about.

This horrific war against Jews and Germans who protested the Nazi regime progressed. It got worse. My mother had to go to the Gestapo every week. The only reason we were not taken in 1941 was because my mother had married a non-Jew. And this saved us in 1941. But in 1943, the Nazis said that all Jewish spouses were to be exterminated, as well. And in 1943, in the summer of 1943, my mother got our deportation order to Theresienstadt.

My mother tried to commit suicide, in the hopes that my father’s relatives would take in her children, in the hope that she would be able to save her three daughters. She had sent me off to one of the relatives, who was instrumental in helping us. And I had not been allowed to be outside since the Nazis came to power, and it struck me as very odd — I was seven-and-a-half — that she let me take my baby sister to my father’s cousin. And I turned around, and I found my mother with her head in the gas oven, and I pulled her out. And my mother lived and never had another such moment and was horrifically strong.

Right after that, the Allies bombed the city of Hamburg. It was called Operation Gomorrah. The Brits bombed at night. The Americans bombed during the day. It was a 10-day and 10-night uninterrupted bombing. My mother and I were not allowed in a bomb shelter. We were forced to run through flaming streets. The Allies dropped phosphorus, and I saw human beings jumping into the lake, in the canals, and coming up. They were like human candles. Their bodies were in flame. And every time they jumped into the canals and lakes, the flames would be doused, but the minute they came up for air, they would be in flames. As a seven-and-a-half-year-old, I saw more dead bodies burned to a crisp.

Two things: I’m a pacifist, and it is ironic that this horrific revenge attack on civilians — it was entirely targeted on civilians — saved my life, because there were so many burned bodies that could not be identified that I was able to go into — we were able to go into hiding. This was arranged. My father was in the underground. He had managed to arrange for us to be hidden in a sort of exurban farm outside the city of Hamburg by communist underground members. The elderly couple who hid us were not pro-Semitic, but they were virulently anti-Nazi.

And we were in hiding in a tar paper shack, when there were no people around. When there were people around, we had to go hide in an earthen dugout. And on my eighth birthday, on 19th November, 1943, in the earthen dugout, I told my mother that if I lived, I would never, ever be quiet, and that I wanted to become a peacemaker. Well, I’ve never — I’ve kept that promise. I have not been able to figure out how I can get governments to make peace, but I continue to battle on all fronts. I have battled — when I came to America as a 17-year-old, I saw that America was a racist country, and I became active in the civil rights movement. I thought —

AMY GOODMAN: Marione, in Part 2

MARIONE INGRAM: Yes, sorry.

AMY GOODMAN: — of our conversation, we’re going to talk about your history in the civil rights movement. But just before we go to the Israeli American genocide historian, Omer Bartov, just if you could share a message to the world about what “never again” means to you?

MARIONE INGRAM: To me, it would mean never again to repeat the horrors that we have committed throughout my lifetime, and certainly before that. Nothing has been learned from the atrocities of the mid-20th century, the continued atrocities in Vietnam, Iraq, in Afghanistan.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ve been holding signs of you calling for a ceasefire.

MARIONE INGRAM: Yeah, I want more than that. I want peace. I’m disgusted at the fact that not a single nation, not a single leader has even mentioned that word, as though that is a word of — a dangerous word. There has to be a way of bringing together warring parties. When the Allies attacked Hamburg, Germany, thinking that that would weaken the military conflict, it only strengthened it. What Israel is doing in Gaza, in the West Bank, and has been doing, is only going to strengthen the attack on Israel. You cannot expect that people will be quiet after what we’ve all witnessed. I say stop, stop this madness.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I’d like to bring in professor Omer Bartov, one of the most prominent scholars of Holocaust and genocide studies. Your sense, Professor Bartov, of what Israel is doing right now in Gaza?

OMER BARTOV: Well, good morning, and thank you for having me.

Look, what Israel is doing right now, according to its own political leaders and military commanders, is attempting to destroy Hamas, which is the hegemonic power in Gaza at the moment. And it claims to be doing it, A, as retaliation for the heinous attack on October 7th, where over a thousand civilians were butchered and 240 people were kidnapped and are still kept in Gaza. But it claims to be doing it also because it feels that without doing that, it would be permanently under threat from that organization. So, that’s its own position.

The problem with this position is not only is there massive and excessive and disproportionate killing of civilians, of Palestinian civilians, in Gaza during this operation, but also that it doesn’t have any clear political horizon. It is not clear what the day after would look like. And the reason the Israeli government does not want to talk about that is that it does not want to have any sort of compromise with the Palestinians. And that has been the policy of the Netanyahu administration, or many administrations, for decades now.

And Netanyahu actually kept Hamas quite strong and kept the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank quite weak, so that he could say that he could not find any representative of the Palestinians who would be willing to sit down and find a compromise, while at the same time he was busy — he and, of course, the settlers, who are now heavily represented in his government, could keep settling in the West Bank. So, the larger context of this is that the refusal of the Israeli government to find any kind of compromise with the Palestinians, and, frankly, the indifference of the large part, the majority of the Israeli population to the occupation, is what led and keeps leading to this ongoing and increasingly violent confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Omer Bartov, we’re going to continue with Part 2 of our conversation and post it at democracynow.org, Brown University professor of Holocaust and genocide studies, called by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum one of the world’s leading specialists on the subject of genocide. And Marione Ingram, 87-year-old Holocaust survivor, about to turn 88. We thank you for sharing your experience. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

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