The president-elect wants special registration for Muslims, especially foreign Muslims. My wife and I are ready to stand in line, ready to sign up.
Although we’re Jewish, we want to ensure that we don’t have a repeat of what happened in Nazi Germany. Registration of Jews and other seemingly unimportant laws in the 1930s predated the death camps of the ’40s. Never Again!
I was born in Germany, just as Hitler and his party were elected to power. I remember the special registration cards for Jews. I remember the large “J” for Jude. I show my mother’s identification card to anyone who cares to see. It looks just like my father’s and my grandmother’s and those of all the other Jews in Hannover, Germany. The same pose. Always that half profile. Always the fingerprint of the right and left forefinger. Always the eagle and swastika. Always that large “J.”
My mother was assigned a middle name by the Nazis, the same middle name assigned to all Jewish women. Her Jewish identity card required that she sign her middle name as “Sara.” Both my grandmothers registered with the same middle name. All Jewish males were assigned the middle name of “Israel.” My father’s middle name became “Israel.” My uncle’s middle name became “Israel.” The Jewish tailor down the street was assigned “Israel” as his middle name.
My middle name became “Israel.”
A Jew who was caught not carrying the special registration card was subject to instant arrest. Police had the authority to shoot on sight. Jews were outsiders marked with a special identification card as well as a cloth Star of David.
All this happened before Auschwitz was built, before the death camps, before the barbed wire, before the skeletons, before the Zyklon B gas. First, the ID cards and laws that took away our citizenship. Then Jews were not allowed to marry non-Jews. Jews were forbidden radio ownership, and then the Gestapo visited our home and then … . Step by step we moved deeper toward a Holocaust.
What does it matter if Muslims are required to register with the government? A small inconvenience. Will it assure greater safety? Probably not, but what’s the harm?
However, I wonder who will be required to register next. I wonder what additional minor inconveniences Muslims might experience next. What civil liberty will vanish next in our United States?
No special registration has been implemented yet. So far it’s just promises. However, we can make that promise ineffective if we all promise to register as Muslims. How does the government implement a special registration if everyone is “special”?
I am reminded that Christian X, king of Denmark during World War II, threatened to personally wear a Star of David if German invaders forced Jews to wear them, as they did in most other parts of Europe. The king wrote in his diary:
“When you look at the inhumane treatment of Jews, not only in Germany but occupied countries as well, you start worrying that such a demand might also be put on us, but we must clearly refuse this due to their protection under the Danish constitution. I stated that I could not meet such a demand towards Danish citizens. If such a demand is made, we would best meet it by all wearing the Star of David.”
Let us all promise now that if any group is required to participate in a special registration, we will join that special group. We will be ready to defend equal protection under the law. We will not stand by. We will stand up.
We commit ourselves to NEVER AGAIN!
Fred Amram, of Minneapolis, is a retired University of Minnesota professor and board member of World Without Genocide. He is author of “We’re In America Now: A Survivor’s Stories.”