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March 15: Yehuda Bauer

March 15, 2014

220px-Yehuda_Bauer_1Born in Czechoslovakia in 1926, secular Jewish leader and Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer migrated with his family to Palestine on this date in 1939, sneaking past Nazi officials. He was fluent at an early age in Czech, Slovak, and German, and later learned Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, and Polish. Bauer took time off from his undergraduate studies in Wales to fight in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, later returning to Israel to live on Kibbutz Shoval while doing graduate work at Hebrew University, where he became professor of Holocaust studies. Bauer was on the Central Committee of Mapam, the Marxist-Zionist junior partner of the then-ruling Labor Party, and was the founding editor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and an editor of the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, published by Yad Vashem, to which he is an academic adviser. He has written numerous books, and won the Israel Prize in 1998. Like Elie Wiesel, Hersh Smollar, and others, Bauer opposes the too-common perception that Jewish victims of the Holocaust — what he considers a unique occurrence of genocide — were passive. His research has uncovered much Jewish resistance, despite the many conditions that made it so difficult. Given Nazi atrocities and ferociousness of antisemitism (he insists the word be lower-case and unhyphenated), what is striking, Bauer says, is not how little resistance but how much resistance there was. Bauer vociferously asserts that a God who arranges or allows the Holocaust can be neither good nor just — and his solution to this theological dilemma is atheism; he has been active in the International Federation for Secular and Humanistic Judaism. To hear him speaking in favor of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, look below.

“Jewish religious thinking has absolutely no influence on science, because it is theology. It is the invention of God, and God doesn’t exist.” — Yehuda Bauer

Our thanks to Dan Brook for this Jewdayo entry.