Hoping To Remember

Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. A year ago, I recorded several hours of conversation with my grandmother, Kitty Goldberg. I edited, reorganized, and cut her language into the following oral history, Hoping to Remember. She died a few weeks ago and I hope never to forget her voice.

Stolen Childhood
The Germans stole my childhood. That's something I can't get back. I was born on April 25, 1929. I had a brother. My father was a jeweler. And my mother was a stay-at-home [mom]. My mother was a fantastic piano player. And she spoke four languages: Hungarian, German, English, and French. Four languages.

When I was five years old more or less, I went to a Jewish kindergarten. And when I was six, I started first grade in that same school. My brother was in high school already.

He was something--and I'm not just saying this because he's my brother--but he was something special. He was so smart. First of all, he could repair anything. One time my father brought home three watches. He repaired them! He never saw how to do it, but he repaired them. 

We vacationed in Poland. Summer vacations to the mountains or to Hungary. But everything finished in March '38, when Vienna was occupied by the Germans. And the Austrians were not much better than the Germans. In a way, they received them with open arms. 

Right away, they took Jews to clean the streets. And my mother was one of them. She had to be on her knees and scrub, scrub the Austrian sign that was painted on the streets. And the worst part was that a little boy was standing there by her and he said, "Now, you dirty Jew, now you have paid." And when my mother came home, she had a nervous breakdown. Screaming and screaming. That's when it really started.

A Darkening Austria
In the beginning, I was in a Jewish school, so I didn't really see anything. But they put signs on Jewish stores saying that non-Jews shouldn't buy from there. Certain stores were closed down already. Just taken away. 

At 7 in the morning on the tenth of November, we heard a lot of noise in the floor below. So my father got dressed right away and then [soldiers] came up to our apartment and the super came with them. And obviously he liked us because he told them, "There are no Jews living here" but they didn't believe him, so they knocked on the door. My brother came to the door because he had been listening, so he opened the door. And they came in and went into the dining room. My father was dressed and they started beating him up.

My mother was on her knees in the bedroom praying and we were each on one side of her crying. She was crying also. When they left, they told my father, "Go down to the truck." He went down, but instead of going out to the street, he went to the left side down to the coal cellar. In those times we had stoves that we had to heat with coal. 

He stayed there in that cellar for one month. He was afraid to go up because there were no more men in our house. They were all sent to Dachau. It was a concentration camp, but not like the others. It was [from] before the war, really. And my mother, she would go down and come back with a pail of coal. But at 10 o'clock in the evening, you don't go down for coal. 

I suppose she brought food for my father because otherwise he would have starved there. It was cold down there, so I'm sure she brought him clothing. But I didn't see it. In the evenings, we went to bed very early, my brother and I. I had to be in bed at 8 o'clock the latest. After we were asleep, that's when she went down. I went to see my father there also. I didn't bring down anything, but I went down to see him. We talked, you know. I was very close to my father. I would tell him about my school and friends. I didn't stay for hours and hours, but I visited him. 

There was a little temple in our building. Naturally, when the Hitler Youth came into the temple, they had every evening singing and we had to listen to it. But they never saw my mother going up and down. They were too busy with themselves. There was no suspicion.

In those times, they didn't say anything to children. Just play with your dolls and do your homework. And that was that. I didn't know anything. I was just nine years old. I don't know what I felt, to tell you the truth. I know I was afraid. Everyone was afraid. 

The First Escape
My father was--he went out on Christmas night, the 24th of December. Because he figured everyone would be drunk and at home. And my uncle and my aunt went with him. My mother's brother, Max, and his wife, Gertie. The three of them went to Germany and from Germany to the Belgian border because my father had a cousin in Antwerp. And the guy sent a car for him. My uncle and aunt smuggled themselves from the border to Antwerp, too. I know my father started working there. I don't know what he did, but it was some business related to diamonds. 

And we went with a kinder transport. Kinder means children. Kinder transport through Germany to Cologne to Antwerp. There were about ten children. I went with my brother. The whole transport was maybe 15 children. I know we were in a train from Vienna to Germany. And in Germany there were another few children who boarded as part of the same transport. I have no idea who organized the transport. I didn't know anything because there were no televisions and I never listened to the radio. I just did my homework and played with my grandmother. Everything was new to me. I'm sure my mother arranged it and since my father was in Belgium, he signed the warranty guaranteeing someone would be able to take us in. All of us had to be guaranteed. 

I was crying the whole time we were in the train compartment. But we heard singing from a group of young people going to Israel. My brother took me to that other compartment and there was one girl telling me not to cry. And in the meantime, I enjoyed the singing, but then I went back to my compartment to be with my brother. He is more important than singing. And when we arrived in Antwerp, we spent a day in an orphanage until the people who wanted to take me in came to pick me up. And then I was with them from February until the end of August. Seven months. Seven months with a Belgian family. 

My mother was still in Vienna. She stayed to liquidate everything and prove we didn't owe anything to the government. Everything was lies. Lies and lies. 

So finally in August, [my mother] was finished with [the liquidation] and she and her mother, my grandmother, smuggled themselves from Vienna to Germany. From Germany to Holland, they had to walk through the woods. [pauses] And then they had a car that took them from the border into Belgium. There were six or seven people in the car. And one of the soldiers from the border shouted "Stop!" but the driver was a smuggler. He didn't want to stop. So he continued driving and the soldier shot at the car, but instead of hitting one of the wheels, the bullet went into the car and my mother got it. So she died in her mother's arms.

When I saw my grandmother, [she] told me that my mother was dead. So naturally I started crying. And they had to call the police. They took out the bullet. I have the bullet at home. And then she was buried in Antwerp. And that was in August '39. 

I could live with my father in the same house because he had one room, so there was space for me too. I was sleeping with my father and my brother had a bed that folded out. And my grandmother came everyday to cook and do laundry. But in the evening, she went back to her son--my uncle and my aunt--and she stayed with them every morning. My uncle lived just a few doors down and my grandmother had a tiny, tiny room there. My grandmother was a very heartfelt person and helped because there was no woman in that apartment. I would've made a monument for her if I could. 

On the tenth of May, the war broke out. All men from 16 up with German and Austrian nationality had to go to a certain place. My brother and I went with my father, but we thought, they have to register and that's it. To see if they are spies or whatever. And then in the evening, he'll be back. But he did not come back. Belgium didn't have room to have camps for that many people, so they sent everyone to the south of France. Then we found out that my uncle and my father are in the barracks of that camp. They were sent by train and I'm sure they didn't know what would happen to them.

My aunt found out they were in the south of France somehow. They were there nearly a year. Most of them left afterwards. My uncle came back from south of France to Antwerp. But my father remained there and rented a room. He sent us papers, but the Germans didn't let my brother and I out of Germany. My father had taken with him some gold pieces--maybe he knew something was not kosher--so he could rent a room with that money. I don't know what work he did in the south of France, but he did speak French, so that must've helped. 

Jews and non-Jews wanted to escape the Germans. We tried to escape to the seashore, thinking that maybe we can get a boat to England. Naturally, we were walking. It was more or less 40 kilometers--I don't know how much that is in miles. 

There were a few hundred people on the road. On the way we stopped to rest in barns with horses and cows. They weren't sleeping right next to us, but close by. We were there three weeks because we were walking all that way. The villagers also gave us food. Not just to us, but to whoever asked for it.

We wanted to get to France, to be with the men. So we went to the French border and there were English soldiers and one of them was a Jew. And that soldier told us, "The Germans are in Paris already." So we knew that we could not get to the south of France. So we walked around and went to the seashore like all the other Belgians. And when we arrived there, the last ship to England had left. So we knew, that's it. We have to return. 

During our walk [back], there were German trucks and they started to be nice. They probably knew that no one liked them--not the Jews, but not the non-Jews either. They said, "Come on the truck and we'll take you wherever you have to go." There were religious Jews also and they took the religious Jews also. So we came back to Antwerp.

Herded to Zelem
At that time it was '41. In November, while my uncle was working in Brussels, we got papers that we had to be at the train station at so-and-so time and we can take a suitcase with us. So, okay, we went. My uncle Max volunteered because he didn't want his mother to go with two children. Max and Gertie went with us [instead]. We had to be at the train station at noon. And we were allowed to take 20 kilos in a suitcase. And the train was pretty full. We had no idea where the train was going. We got to the German-Belgian border. And the train stopped there, but we didn't know what was going to happen. We were stranded there a whole day. Nobody knew where we were going or what was happening. At around 10 o'clock at night, the train started going back into Belgium. In each village, they deposited so-and-so many Jews, which the village could absorb, so to speak. There were quite a few stops before us. But we didn't see how many people got off at each stop because it was so dark out. [My brother and I] went to a village with the name of Zelem. And that was at 11 o'clock at night. We had a member of that village waiting at the train station and crowd of people showed up because they had never seen a Jew before and thought we had horns.  

I think that when we went by train to the border, they wanted to send us to Poland, but the concentration camps were not ready yet. It was too early. It was 1940. So then from January until April, we were in Zelem.

We had a big bag of jewelry from my mother, from the shop of my father. Gold pieces. And I had some savings, which I got for my birthday and holidays. And my brother had savings, the same kind. So we took the savings, put them together, and like that we paid the rent.  

Max and my brother went to see how we could leave. They went to Brussels. My brother had a friend from school there, in Brussels, who found us a room with a big kitchen and a bathroom. So my brother picked us up from Zelem and we went to live there. This was April, after four and a half months. We had to go to Brussels, not Antwerp anymore, because the Germans wanted all of us in one place. 

In a way, we lived in peace. In Antwerp I had gone to a Jewish school and then I went to the convent [in Zelem], but in Brussels I went to a regular school. A government school, so to speak. There I started learning Flemish. My teacher was fantastic. Afterwards, it became dangerous to go to school. But I still visited my teacher because she was very friendly and we bonded. She told me a few times that she could hide me in a convent. And I said, "Thank you very much, but no. I cannot leave my grandmother." And she answered, "Whatever will happen to her will happen to you. You can't save her." And I said, "I don't mind. Whatever will happen to me will happen and that's that." 

If she would be killed, then we would be killed together. I was not afraid. I don't know why. We didn't know what happened after Jews got deported, but we knew they didn't come home. Even when the bomb sirens went off, I didn't go to the shelter. I was on the third floor and figured whatever will happen, will happen. I wasn't tired, I just had suffered too much already. I didn't really care about the future even though I was very young. I became indifferent. My grandmother didn't feel the same way, but she wouldn't go down to the bomb shelter if I didn't go. Working with my uncle in his coat shop helped with the waiting. 

Jewish Targeting
In June, we had to pick up the yellow star from the Jewish Community Center. And we had to put it on our clothing. At the beginning, we went out with the star and I was very proud. I was proud to be a Jew! I was proud to have a star. But it was too dangerous, we started hiding the star with our arm, or a book, or something. Finally we took it off our clothing because it was useless. We didn't want to show it. That was in July. 

Towards the end of August, my brother received a paper from the Jewish Committee, they brought it--I suppose they had to--that said he needed to go to the train station in 24 hours and if he's not there, his family will be taken. And he said, "I'm young, I can work." They sent him and everyone else who got those same papers, to Maylin. That's between Antwerp and Brussels. And at the end of August, they sent them on a train towards Poland. Well, they didn't know where they were going, but when they came to the German border, my brother threw out three letters from the train. In German. But on the other side, he wrote in Flemish, "Please, whoever finds these letters, please send it to my little sister. She will pay the postage." 

And we got the letter with a stamp on it. They just sent it to us. And in the letter, he wrote, "In Maylin, they are treating us well. And on the train, they went with a private train." Not in a box car. A regular train. That's what he wrote. And that's how they transported them. Anyway, that was the second letter. And he wrote that whoever gets the same letter he got should take a lot of food because they will take away half of it and then leave some for them. And they took away his fountain pen, his harmonica, and whatever money he brought. But they treated him rather normally. The third letter was a short one because he didn't have much paper. And it said, "We are in--I don't remember now the name of the town--and we are going to Poland." We didn't know anything, but we knew one thing: if you get to Poland, you don't come home alive. That's it. How we knew that, I don't know. It was a rumor. But it was not a rumor, it was the truth. And that was it. We didn't hear from him anymore. 

In the meantime, Max came back to Belgium, he smuggled himself through Paris and then to Brussels. My father remained in the south of France. He rented a room and sent us papers. My father didn't want to come back to the Germans, even though that's where his children were.

My brother and I would write to my father in France, but mostly my brother wrote. I would add a few lines. I had to write the whole letter by myself to tell my father what had happened to my brother. He had to know.

All of my father's running and hiding didn't even matter in the end because someone denounced him, so he went to a German concentration camp, Blechhammer. I had never heard the name before.

[In Brussels] I started working. The daughter of my boss had also been deported, but she came back and was in the store with me. A friend of hers came to visit. And I said that my brother had also been deported and asked her, "Do you know something about him?" And she asked, "When was he deported?" And I said the date. And she said, "Don't have any hope. That was the first transport from Belgium and they went straight to the gas." And she was in the second transport, that's how she knew it. So I knew he was not going to come back. 

Close Calls
Life was scary. When you saw a car with a license plate of the Gestapo, your heart fell into your pants. But once when I was out shopping for food, I saw a car across the street from where we lived. I was so afraid to go into our house. There was a Jew who collaborated with the Germans. His name was Jacques. And he recognized Jews by the way they were walking, don't ask me how. So I didn't want to even walk near the car in case they caught me. 

The Germans took whatever was in that package of jewelry that my mother had. It was hidden above the shop where Max was working. Since I couldn't go to school, he would take me along to the shop. I was thirteen years old, what else would I do? So I learned how to sew on a sewing machine. Gertie told a girlfriend where the jewelry was. She knew that girlfriend from when they were children together in Vienna and they were together in Brussels also. When they [the Germans] came to the front of the store, they said, "You have Jewish fortune hidden and if you're not going to tell us where it is, you will not see your children anymore." And to tell you the truth, I don't think I would have acted differently from her. If you're told you'll never see your children again. Jewelry stolen, but children are children. I understand that. At that time, I didn't, but now I do.  

When Germans took away the jewelry, they sent a letter for my grandmother to go to the Gestapo to confirm that it was hers. So the boss where I worked, he went with my grandmother and he said goodbye to her because once you went there to the Gestapo, you didn't come out anymore. So you can imagine how I felt saying goodbye to my grandmother. And they asked her, "Why didn't you declare it before?" And she said, "It's not mine, it's my grandson's." And he had been deported already, so it didn't matter what she said. So she came back out. It was like--how can I tell you--a miracle. They sent us a letter from the Gestapo, that the fortune from us went to the benefit of the German country. I still have that letter. 

My next door neighbor had a son who worked for the underground. The Gestapo came to our door and I answered it. They asked where François was and I said, he's not here now and I don't know where he went. His mother is at church, so you can always ask her if you want. And like I said, my Flemish was very good. Like a native. So the Gestapo just left. And I went back upstairs and my grandmother was trembling. But they came back for him--he was caught and was put in jail. He sent a postcard asking his mother for clothes, food. And one day in '43, my girlfriend, Lisa, went down and she opened the door. "Where's François?" they said. "Not here," she said. "Prove it." So they went up to the apartment next to our apartment. Lisa, my friend, took out every drawer from the kitchen and threw it on the floor until she found that postcard. And when they read the postcard, they saw that it's true. So they left. But until then, can you imagine? My grandmother and I heard every word. We always had a suitcase packed, just in case. So that night we took out the suitcase, ready to be caught, and we waited. And that fear--I can't explain it. I thought, that's the end. Because if the Germans wanted to search for somebody, they go room by room, roof to cellar. But in the end, they left. And I always say, I was saved by a postcard. 

We were liberated when I was 14, in '43. 

The years go by and you can't forget. You can't think about it constantly. But it's there still. You never, ever forget. Sometimes this detail you remember, sometimes another. But very seldom do you remember everything at once because it's too much to remember. Some nights I dream about my brother. I dream much more often about him than my parents. Don't ask me why, that's just how it is. I don't remember the dreams, just whom I dream about. I just see people. I never remember the dreams.

"As If I Were Some Dishonored Vagabond": Exile and Identity in Homer's Iliad and Virgil's Aeneid

Home requires more than just a physical place in order for a people to thrive. In Homer's Iliad, home means belonging, comfort, and the recognition of honorable behavior. Homecoming for the Achaians is a reward for a glorious victory over the Trojans. Since victory would be winning back the stolen Helen, Homer personifies home as a Greek woman. The Achaians have a home, though; they have just been temporarily displaced due to military travel. In contrast, in Virgil's Aeneid, Troy has been completely destroyed by war. Home means settling down, which brings patriotism and national history. The Fates have predetermined the new Trojan homeland, unrelated to their sentiment. In both epics, home is intangible and not limited to a geographical place, though location does play a part in imagining homeland.

The conceptual construction of a homeland has the power to shape a people's sense of self. The journeys in Homer's Iliad and Virgil's Aeneid trigger nostalgia, with visual and verbal arts used by the characters as an outlet. Through characters' reflections on artwork and through storytelling, homeland becomes a shared national memory. That memory endures and cannot be obliterated, though it can be manipulated to enhance the imagination of home. In addition, the shared struggle of being displaced or a refugee alters identity. Feeling foreign accentuates discomfort, creating a need to fit in a culture as well as to find land. Homeland allays conflict by unifying those who are lost. Though place anchors identity, Homer and Virgil prove that the imagined elements of homeland strengthen and shape identity and belonging while in exile.

No Love For Syrians in Istanbul Streets

Sabeen sat cross-legged on the Istanbul sidewalk, her back facing the döner kebob stand across the road. Tissue packets were spread on the ground in front of her knees. Each one sold for three Turkish lira.

Her left forearm had a gray-blue tattoo with “love” written in Arabic and English, the words slanted on her left wrist and spilling over toward her palm. Her right arm held her 3-year-old son, Radwan. Sabeen’s grasp on Radwan was tight, not a comforting embrace, but a claw.

Once pedestrians had bought up all her tissue packets, she would walk 15 minutes with Radwan back to the hotel where she stayed. In her hotel room, she kept a cardboard box of 200 packets that she bought wholesale at a supermarket on the other side of the Bosphorus River, in Asia. After collecting another 10, she would return to that same sidewalk near Taksim Square to keep selling.

In Gezi Park, 2 blocks from where Sabeen was selling her tissue packets, Zeinah stood as tall as her 5-foot-3 frame could. Her children, Asil and Fathi, tossed water bottles to each other from the shopping cart that she pushed around Gezi Park. Asil and Fathi stopped only when they saw the candy in my hand. Then they took turns on my lap as I sat on the park’s fountain with Zeinah.

Both Sabeen and Zeinah assumed I worked for the Turkish police. Only government officials trying to rid Istanbul of refugees ever stop to ask a Syrian her story.

Zeinah’s apartment was right on Taksim Square, which made it more expensive than Sabeen’s distant hotel. But Zeinah needed a place where she could keep her water bottles cold. Otherwise, no one would buy them. Four other Syrians shared the apartment with Zeinah and her two children.

Sabeen barely spoke, for fear of the police. She saw everyone as undercover police, but she continued selling without a permit because she was hungry. Her husband looked for a job during the day, leaving her to earn money for the hotel room in the interim.

She did not know how long the interim would last. Sabeen could barely comprehend how she got to an Istanbul sidewalk in the first place, having previously enjoyed life as a housewife with an electrician husband in Aleppo, Syria.

According to the Turkish deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay, there were over 1 million Syrians in Turkey as of June 2014. The Turkish government believes far more live in the country unregistered.

Zeinah’s husband did not know she was in Turkey. And she did not know where her husband was. He had enlisted in the Syrian Armed Forces, but left after basic training. President and Commander-in-Chief Bashar al-Assad sent a warrant for his arrest on desertion charges. Zeinah did not know where he went after that or if he was still alive. She could not contact him, and life in Syria without him became too terrifying to bear.

Life in Turkey was terrifying, too, but Zeinah bore it.

Sabeen did not know any Syrians in the city besides her husband and son. She felt a loneliness she could not escape or change. Everyone literally looked down on her, with her tissue packets in a neat row in front of her.

Sabeen’s son Radwan placed the kebob I bought for him on the sidewalk, unrolling the pita and picking at the chicken with his fingers. He fed his mother roasted peppers and onions. She pushed her leopard-print headscarf out of the way to accept the bites of food.

The Turkish people have grown tired of Syrians driving down wages and taking their jobs. Bakery lines are longer and hospitals are crowded. According to Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu in a statement on July 16, 2014, the Syrians wandering the streets of Istanbul “are damaging their [Syrians’] image as a refugee.”

The Turkish also believe the Syrians have tarnished Turkey’s image as well, with their dirt and confusion, disease and despair.

The Turkish government admitted in August 2014 that there was no long-term plan for the Syrian refugees. They are not legally refugees, according to a technicality in the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, but “guests.” The government assumes the Syrians, as guests of Turkey, will return to Syria after the conflict abates. In the meantime, no Syrians receive the rights and benefits of refugee status, such as protection against deportation and resettlement aid.

Sabeen and Zeinah do not feel like guests. Sabeen said to me that she did not want to talk to me anymore because I could not prove my intentions. The government has begun cracking down on beggars, forcibly removing them from the streets and putting them in Syrian refugee camps.

Zeinah heard about anti-Syrian protests in Istanbul and its suburbs in July and did not understand why the people were so angry. Turkish locals destroyed Syrian shops and cars, threatened to lynch a Syrian man and injured five Syrian women. Their anger should be towards Assad, Zeinah said.

Zeinah insisted her husband did not desert. Now she has deserted him. And the world has deserted her.

Anti-Semitism: Seen in Istanbul, Absent in Prague

            The Czech guard leaned against the Staranovà Sinagoga (Old New Synagogue) in Prague, Europe's oldest active synagogue, and stared at me with crossed arms. Though I already had shown through an identification card that I had the most Jewish name imaginable, the guard that had pulled me aside remained unconvinced. After fourteen rapid questions ranging from my biography and my rabbi's biography to my religious habits and traditions, he asked me if I was armed and checked my bag when I said no. The second Czech guard opened the door, finally, and pointed to the women's section of the service that had begun without me.
            The largest place of Jewish worship in Istanbul, Neve Şalom Sinagogu (Neve Shalom Synagogue), does not allow entrance to any guest, Jewish or not, armed or not, who has not called in advance. That synagogue has survived a shooting incident in 1986 and bombing incidents in both 1992 and 2003. Now, no one answers any of the seven steel doors that line the synagogue's façade, covered in Star of David patterns. In my case, no one answers the phone either. In Turkey, Jews need to make an appointment to pray. In Turkey, Jews can walk into any mosque or church. No one checks bags, identity, intent. Just cover up conservatively with scarves or pants.
            What the Jews in Istanbul cover up is their religion. In contrast, the starkly separated Jewish Quarter of Prague, donned with a red rug in the middle of the street to mark the difference in cobblestone, allows Jews a space to cover themselves according to Jewish law, but unfurl their Judaica. Sidewalk stalls with marionettes, a typical Prague knickknack, have rabbi figurines alongside Eastern European children or fairytale animals.
            The Jews I spoke to in both countries say they feel safe. Some admitted being afraid, and some expressed mere frustration at the rising anti-Semitism in France, Belgium, the UK and other parts of Europe and the Middle East that international news reports have brought to light.

Scribbled Hate
            Czech Jews do not feel the ramifications of the Israeli government's decisions, but the Turkish Jews certainly do. The Jewish identity, a religious affiliation and a cultural tradition, holds a political charge as well--a charge that has sparked and caused (metaphorical) fires around the world. The conflict in the Gaza Strip between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas fighters, a terrorist organization, has escalated far beyond the hotly contested Israeli borders.
            In Czech Republic, the casualties of war have not been bodies, but desecrated walls. Anyone can see anti-Semitic graffiti, of which there have been four documented incidents in Czech Republic after Operation Protective Edge began on July 8, 2014. Petra Koutská Schwarzová, who works for the Security Department of the Prague Jewish Community Center, has noticed an increase in anti-Semitic vandalism since Operation Protective Edge. Schwarzová shared the photographic evidence with me in confidence, noting that none of the incidents were "medialized." The Security Department of the Prague Jewish Community Center publishes an annual report, which will provide more details of summer 2014 incidents when the document is released.
            Chief Rabbi David Peter, a 38-year-old Prague native and former professional dancer, received a threatening anonymous letter in one of these incidents. The paper showed a swastika inside a Star of David, with "GAZA" scribbled beneath. Rabbi Peter, who was elected Chief Rabbi by the Prague Jewish community on August 5, 2014, does not seem concerned by this statement or the two "small" anti-Israel protests that occurred in Prague.
            Some Czechs have not even noticed any anti-Semitic events. Milan Walter, an employee at the Prague Jewish Museum Library, has only heard about "2 or 3 such incidents" over the last 20 years. In light of escalations in Gaza, Walter observed demonstrations in Prague in support of the Israeli state, but no "anti-Jewish mood connected to the war in Gaza."
            Turkey does not have a report about anti-Semitic expressions on its streets, but I passed five graffiti of swastikas and references to Nazis and the Führer during my week in Istanbul. Additionally, the bigotry runs rampant on virtual walls. Facebook and Twitter has become a forum for hate speech in Turkey, as documented by an NGO focused on bigotry in Turkish media, Hrant Dink Foundation. In their last hate speech report from September to December of 2013, with data gathered from every Turkish print media source, they counted 57 instances of anti-Semitic language--the same number as hateful language against Armenians.
            Zeyne Parslon of Hrant Dink Foundation has noticed an increase in anti-Semitic tweets parallel to escalations in Gaza. The hashtag #TurkeyPrayingforGazze trended on Twitter, with language that shocked Asli Tunç, a professor of media studies at Istanbul Bilgi University. With pursed lips of worry that accentuate her dimples, Tunç says, "You see how intolerant we became," referencing the tweets and retweets that compare Israel to Hitler, the conflict to genocide or massacre, and Jews as the "curse of our community." One tweeter views Jews as the "illegitimate child" of the Middle East. Another considers Israel "the Hunchback of the world," which "shall be humbled." Many post political cartoons showing Israelis as terrorists and murderers, as well as disturbing photographs of dead children.

Safety Without Concerns
            "Don't worry about him, he's paranoid," Czech Kosher restaurant owner Aaron Günsberger assured me a few steps away from the Staranovà Sinagoga after services, commenting on the (Staranovà Sinagoga) security guard there. Seeing my tape recorder as I spoke to the few Jews who had prayed who were Czech--most of the attendees were tourists--the (security) guard had pulled me aside again to ask me more rapid-fire questions, including whether or not I'm a Russian spy.
            Shifting his weight from leg to leg in excitement, Günsberger dismisses bigots in Prague as "just a few stupid people." To a bystander who shouted, "Go home!" during a pro-Israel demonstration, which four hundred people attended, Günsberger had responded, "What do you mean go home? My family has been here for eight generations. We have papers that say 1650. I'm Jewish, but I'm Czech.”
            The cantor of Staranovà Sinagoga, whose job is to lead the synagogue in prayer, also dismissed the tense security guards. Baruch Weiss finds them unnecessary and feels safe in Prague. Given Czech Republic's past positive stance on Israeli politics, Weiss has faith in his country to continue supporting Israel and Czech Jews.
            Weiss explains in a soft British accent the historical understanding Czechs have towards Israelis. The betrayal in the Munich Agreements, which allowed for the invasion and seizing of land by Germany, "gives the Czech people an understanding of how it feels to be surrounded by hostile neighbors," says Weiss.
            The Czech sympathy towards Israelis translates to sympathy towards Jews as well, though not many remain in the country. Czech Republic has had muted reactions to Israel's war in Gaza. There were two small anti-Israel protests in Prague, both with less than one hundred people. There were no anti-Semitic chants, negative reference to the Jews, or violence. The demonstrations were "pathetic," according to Daniel Kumermann of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who previously held the ambassadorship position in Jerusalem.
            Czech Jews are not concerned about the future nor think about leaving. Having converted to Judaism as a young adult, the 66-year-old Kumermann has vague recollections of witnessing anti-Semitism over the decades, but dismisses it as a "product of idiocy more than strong ideology."
            But Weiss admits, "Somebody called me the anti-Christ, which I just thought was funny. I have noticed [hate speech] more since the last month or so, with what's happening in Israel. I feel a bit more worried about security. You have to be prepared to speak out for Israel at any moment because people may say something to you at any time."
            "I've run a Kosher restaurant for 25 years and sometimes I'm also a bit anti-Semitic. It's really hard to survive such a kind of business," Günsberger jokes. Günsberger displays an Israeli flag outside his restaurant and the IDF symbol on his motorbike, but realizes his behavior is risky.
            Czechs feel at ease about the hostility towards Jews because they read about it more than they experience it, given the Czech government support and continued upkeep of the Jewish Quarter.
            In contrast, as Asli Tunç of Istanbul Bilgi University points out, "Anti-Semitism is embedded in Turkish society. The language isn't censored because it's acceptable." With such strong cultural ties, hate speech does not meet the same shock as in Czech Republic or other European countries.
            Similar to Czech Republic, Turkey has a dwindling Jewish community: the number has gone down to about 17,000, and 15,000 of them live in Istanbul. The Turkish population is more than 76 million. There are no areas of the city where Jews historically were obligated to live, which allows the Jews to disappear among the population. Andrew Finkel, a journalist who has covered Turkey for many decades, believes that the Turkish Jews are protected by their blending in because "there's not that many Turkish Jews to begin with. You'd have to find them first to be violent against them."
            The number of Jews will certainly decrease. The coordinator of the Ottoman-Turkish Sephardic Culture Research Center, Karen Sarhon, believes that the Jewish presence will diminish even more "especially after these Gaza events and with Erdoğan as President. People are trying to figure out a way to leave before something bad happens. It might not, but you can never be too sure." Sarhon has not experienced or heard about any violence, but "people shout, 'Go away, we don't want you here.'"
            The Ottoman-Turkish Sephardic Culture Research Center looks like an artifacts museum, as if all the Turkish Jews had already disappeared. The center lies hidden in an apartment building. A doorman checks identification and bags, and uses both a phone and a walkie-talkie to alert the center of visitors. After an elevator ride, a locked gate buzzes open, only to allow access to a staircase that leads to a locked entrance door. Books in Hebrew and Turkish about Jewish philosophy and history, Jewish holidays and traditions, Israeli politics, and by authors as diverse as Hannah Arendt and Paul Auster, stack the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that flank the whole office. Menorahs, skullcaps, and awards decorate the books. A glass case in the middle of the room protects mezuzahs, Torah pointers, and silver and cobalt necklaces and bracelets.
            None of the synagogues in Istanbul offer services every day anymore: some are weeknights only and others unlock their doors just for the Sabbath. Most Turks have never met a Jew or don't think they have. Rifat Bali, a scholar of non-minority Turkish groups and anti-Semitism, thinks the level of prejudice has remained consistent and just "the social media has made it more visible," which is "why one has the sensation that anti-Semitism increased."

Media Coverage
            Social media has changed citizens' view of war: connectivity allows those formerly removed to sympathize more closely with those amidst a conflict. For Operation Protective Edge, the world has become involved in a war that is just one tragedy in a complex dilemma. The issue in Gaza is more than a hashtag.
            Most news agencies in the Czech Republic and Turkey, as well as other parts of the world, do not present the full picture of the two sides or their motivations and the context for this latest conflict. This leads citizens to choose sides and engage in political debates online and on the streets with incomplete information. Ignorance fuels hatred.
            Czech news takes a pro-Israel stance in its coverage, according to the head of the Security Policy Department at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Veronika Kuchynova Smigolova. Local papers "report with sympathy towards Israel and the IDF," though "Czech media in general pays less attention to the Middle East than other places in Europe and the US. The Ukrainian crisis is reported on more."
            Speaking in a calm and even tone, unusual for this emotional subject but typical among diplomats, Smigolova finds the Czech press to be the "exception to the rule" of poorly portraying Israel's policies and rationale for the conflict. Yet she considers the clearer visibility of anti-Semitic sentiments made apparent by the international media outlets to be "good because people used to say there is no anti-Semitism, but now it's more acknowledged as a problem."
            Despite the positive stance Czech news takes on Israeli affairs, many Jewish citizens still feel frustrated by the skewed negative coverage or lack of press coverage of the Israeli point of view. Czechs often read international news along with, or instead of, local Czech outlets. Nili Klemperer, a Czech-Israeli currently working for an Israeli company in Prague, doesn't "bother reading" anymore because there is "hardly any truth about Israel and about the conflict. People have no idea what Hamas is doing all year long to Israel."
            Due to television reports that Klemperer believes colors Israel as "a really bad state" caused by failure in covering the reasons behind Israel's rocket attacks to Gaza, Klemperer experienced two anti-Semitic incidents: people making pig noises behind the back of Klemperer's orthodox Jewish friend and a non-Jewish coworker pinning a yellow "NO JUDE" sticker on the coat of another Czech Jew.
            Similarly, Rifat Bali, a scholar of Turkish minorities, finds that "the local Turkish media reporting of the news is extremely biased. It takes as a fact that Israel is the aggressor and a rogue state and reports accordingly." And since the IDF is equated with all Israelis, who are equated with all Jews, Turkish Jews become the target of bigotry every time Israel becomes front page news, according to Zeynep Arslan, a soft-spoken and visibly empathetic member of the media hate speech NGO, Hrant Dink Foundation. Slanted news articles in Turkish papers about Israel unleash anger towards the Turkish Jewish community, says Arslan.
            The Turkish press has been unfettered in its anti-Semitism during Operation Protective Edge, such as the July 2014 newspaper headlines "Poisonous statements from Israeli PM" on Hürriyet's front page, "Germany had one Hitler, how many are there in Israel?" from Yeni Akit, "Occupation, blood, and revenge" from Daily Sabah, "How can I not be antisemitic?" from Yeni Akit, "Herzl's heritage is blood and tears in Gaza" from Star, and "Is killing Zionists licit?" from Yeni Akit, all translated by the international digital forum based out of Israel, The Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism.
            The Şalom newspaper aims to reverse prejudice by covering underreported news related to the Jewish community. An editor, who wished to remain anonymous for this article, says that the mission of Şalom is "to create a paper for the Turkish-Jewish community, where they can receive news they can't find anywhere else in Turkey. And we're the only open window to the community at large, like a diplomat. The only Jew [Turks] know is the Israeli soldier with a gun that they see on Turkish TV." The vast majority of Şalom's online readership identifies as not-Jewish.
            Şalom is located above the Ottoman-Turkish Sephardic Research Center, accessible through another spiral staircase. Five desks just fit in a sparsely decorated white office. Şalom collaborates with its downstairs neighbors by publishing a page of its weekly Turkish paper in the Ladino language. On the other hand, the Ottoman-Turkish Sephardic Research Center publishes a weekly paper solely in Ladino called Amaneser that supports the Şalom mission, but also reports on current events unrelated to Jewish affairs.
            Despite the scope of Şalom's paper, the editor still restricts articles devoted to the Gaza conflict and reactions to the war. She admits that, "We self-censor, but not because we're Jewish. The way Turkish media is now, we all have to restrict the coverage of Gaza." The Şalom editor feels hopeless for the future, she says, especially with the presidential election of former Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
            "Which prime minister would say things like ours?" Sarhon asks, referencing Erdoğan's July statement in which he called upon Turkish Jews to apologize for the war in Gaza. Sarhon adds, "Everyone's aware that we're not responsible for the Israeli government, but people still think that we have the power to call Netanyahu and tell him to stop the bombing." She has stopped watching Turkish television because of how skewed the information is, Sarhon says, calling the obvious media bias "weird and funny and tragic."
            And as Sarhon puts it, "the Arabs haven't won the war, but they have definitely won the media.”

Identity Crisis
            Given the Palestinian PR tactics that international media proliferates, perceptions of Jews have shifted to become more stereotyped. Those with either a religious or secular Jewish identity are paralleled with the IDF. In Czech Republic, national identity coexists with religious affiliations. In Turkey, however, members of the Jewish community have been forced to reconsider what it means to be Turkish, since it is at odds with the Jewish community.
            Aaron Günsberger boasts that Czech Republic is "quite unique" and that on Facebook, "all the discussions--99%--are pro-Israel." Gesticulating all his explanations, he prides himself on being Jewish and is proud of his country for making him feel protected. But reading the news of anti-Semitism in France, Belgium, Germany, and the United Kingdom has shocked Günsberger, who realizes that since Czech Republic is such a small country, more powerful European countries might eventually influence Czech politics.
            Nili Klemperer, the Prague-born employee of an Israeli company, feels more at home in Israel. The former Czech ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kumermann agrees that Israel is his "real home, but I don't feel foreign in Czech Republic." The Czech people I interviewed emphasize that anti-Semitism is still known as something to be condemned, and that hate speech can be quelled before any violence occurs
            Anti-Semitism is well known in Turkey. Karen Sarhon of the Ottoman-Turkish Sephardic Culture Research Center explains that since the Ottoman Empire, Turkish Jews were considered the "other" and lawfully labeled as "dhimmi." Though the Turkish government abandoned the term in 1923, Zeynep Arslan of the Hrant Dink Foundation has noticed that notions of the "other" have become more and more widespread in Turkey
            The concept of a Turkish Jew has "always been a question mark," Sarhon says. She prefers to have multiple identities instead of trying to be one, since the idea of Jews as citizens has never been culturally accepted by the Turkish. The Jews segregate as well, according to Sarhon, viewing themselves as "we" and the Turks as "them."
            Sarhon has been relieved to send her daughter off to a war zone, where she has just begun studying at Tel Aviv University.
            On the other hand, the Şalom editor notices that even though anti-Semitism thrives "deep inside" Turkish society, there has been a social media backlash against hate speech.
            Louis Fishman, an Israeli-American professor living in Istanbul, has noticed the support Turkish people provide after a wave of anti-Semitic language sweeps the media. After Fishman wrote an article for the Israeli paper Haaretz, the Turkish professor Ali Ihsan Göker tweeted the response "Treblinka will be ready soon. Constructing the railway to transport jews at the moment." Fishman says social media has provided a "flip side" by giving an outlet for Turks who support "all Turkish citizens" to publicly defend Fishman and other threatened Jews. Reply tweets call Goker's language "disgusting" and "shameful."
            The government clearly delineated Turkish Jews from the Israeli government on July 19 to further support the community, when Erdoğan declared Jews to be "citizens of this country." But despite this governmental intervention, Erdoğan controls most of the local media and these outlets demonize the IDF. The language is not as shocking as Goker's tweet and other stinging remarks on Twitter and Facebook, but "you read between the lines," Fishman explains. "Erdoğan is giving those editors a rubber stamp, moral support. It was like a sea tide--Erdoğan was drawn into this defamatory language we read now."

            Like a sea tide, Operation Protective Edge has washed up an animosity towards Israel and towards Jews in Turkey, but this hatred does not have to be an assumed narrative. The Czech Republic's calm waters show that effective leadership and press laws can quell an anti-Semitic storm.