Six generations of my family have suffered anti-Semitic murder and hate – I’m angry, scared, and feel so isolated

Six generations of my family have suffered anti-Semitic murder and hate – I’m angry, scared, and feel so isolated

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ON Saturday morning I woke up to the news of a Hamas terror attack in Israel.

Knowing that some of my Israeli relatives lived near the Gaza border, I was concerned.

Hilary says she and her friends keep bursting into tears since the attack on Saturday
KFAR AZA, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 10:  Israeli soldiers remove the body of civilian, who was killed days earlier in an attack by Palestinian militants on this kibbutz near the border with Gaza, on October 10, 2023 in Kfar Aza, Israel. Israel has sealed off Gaza and conducted airstrikes on Palestinian territory after Hamas attack killed hundreds and took nearly 100 hostages. On October 7, the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel from Gaza by land, sea, and air, killing over 700 people and wounding more than 2000. Israeli soldiers and civilians have also been taken hostage by Hamas and moved into Gaza. The attack prompted a declaration of war by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and ongoing retaliatory strikes by Israel on Gaza killing hundreds.  (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)
The news coming out of Israel last weekend became increasingly shocking

Then my mother Vivien rang in a panic.

Nobody could get hold of her first cousin Gitit, 76, who lived on Kibbutz Kfar Aza, she said.

The news coming out of Israel was now becoming increasingly shocking.

This wasn’t a small or isolated incident. Thousands of people had been slaughtered, raped, kidnapped and brutalised.

And soon it became clear that my cousin’s kibbutz was at the heart of it. It was still under siege, a firefight taking place.

I Googled frantically for information. Online photos showed an old lady in a pink blanket being taken off in a golf buggy by terrorists.

The images were grainy and, for a while, we weren’t sure if that poor lady might be my cousin.

It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon, 36 hours after the attack had begun, that we learned that, miraculously, Gitit and her husband Amnon were alive.

They had spent 30 hours barricaded in a safe room in their house before being rescued.

But there was also terrible news. Gitit’s son, Zafrir, and daughter-in-law Maia, had been visiting for the weekend with their two young children.

At 6am, when the terrorists infiltrated the kibbutz, Maia, 48, had been shot dead — murdered.

‘Afraid and angry’

The details are still sketchy, but it seems she was killed through the door of the safe room.

Her children, aged seven and nine, had cowered in the room with their father and grandparents while their mother’s dead body lay outside.

picture supplied by Hilary shows:.great grand parents Geni and Chaim with 5 children .Geni was deported to Riga, Latvia, where she was shot into a pit in 1942, together with my great-grandfather, Chaim...front right grandmother Matilde.back right girl with bow Regina (died in auschwitz).front middle Lene.front left - sister Frietl.back left- Leo
Hilary’s great-grandmother Geni was born in Poland in 1890, and was later shot dead into a pit in 1942
Hilary Freeman
Hilary Freeman family collects:
great great grandparents in germany circa 1930s
Great Great Grandfather Moshe
Great Great Grandmothers name- unknown
Geni’s parents moved to Germany, hoping to escape pograms – violent anti-Semitic attacks
Hilary Freeman
Hilary Freeman collect photos
picture shows Rachel Stern, daughter of Geni Nussbaum - who died in Auschwitz at 5 years old.
Geni’s daughter Regina died in Auschwitz with her family, including five-year-old daughter Rachel
Hilary Freeman

And then, on Tuesday, journalists were finally allowed into Kfar Aza, and the true extent of the horrific massacre that had taken place there became clear.

More than 100 people — out of a total population of 750 — had been murdered, including 40 babies.

They were killed in the most appalling ways, their bodies mutilated.

Countless others had been kidnapped into Gaza.

Gitit is still too traumatised to talk. Not only has she lost her daughter-in-law, she has also lost her home and her community.

The people you have read about and seen in newspaper reports and TV bulletins — the people tied up, killed in their beds, beheaded, burned alive and taken hostage — are her friends and neighbours.

As I reeled from this knowledge, I realised something else, something that chilled me.

Gitit’s grandchildren are now the sixth generation of my family — that I know details of — to be the target of anti-Semitic violence.

Not one generation for 130 years has been spared.

My great-grandma, Geni Nussbaum, was born in 1890 in Poland.

Her parents fled to Germany from pogroms — violent attacks on Jews.

They thought they’d be safe there, but then, in 1933, Hitler came to power.

Geni was deported to Riga, Latvia, where she was shot into a pit in 1942, together with my great-grandfather, Chaim.

My other great-grandfather was murdered there too.

Geni had five children, including my grandma, Mathilde, who escaped to safety in the UK in 1939 after witnessing Kristallnacht, the night the Nazis destroyed Jewish shops and businesses.

Her son, Leo, was beaten up by stormtroopers that night.

One of her other daughters, Regina, and her family, including a five-year-old daughter, Rachel, died in Auschwitz.

Three of Geni’s children, including my great-aunt Lene, fled to what was then the British Mandate of Palestine, now called Israel.

I remember sitting in the beautiful garden of her house in Netanya, with her and my uncle Alfred, when I was a child.

It seemed an idyllic place. Lene was Gitit’s mother.

If you didn’t know about anti-Semitism, you’d call what my family has experienced terribly bad luck.

But we all know it’s not about luck. It’s about the fact that people hate Jews.

Hamas is just the latest in a long line of terror groups and Nazi organisations that want to see Jews wiped from the face of the earth.

Make no mistake, Hamas does not care about the Palestinian people.

They are Jihadists. All they really care about is killing Jews.

It’s right there, in black and white, in article seven of their founding charter: “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them.”

The PR rebranding in 2017, changing Jews to Zionists, isn’t kidding anybody. As they say, actions speak louder than words.

I haven’t slept properly since Saturday. Not one of my Jewish friends has.

We keep bursting into tears, having panic attacks, suffering headaches and stomach upsets. We are heartbroken.

We are also afraid and wounded and angry. There are a mere 277,000 Jews in the UK and only 15million worldwide, half of whom live in Israel.

We all have relatives and friends there, and we all know at least one person who was killed, kidnapped or is missing.

Scientists now recognise that all the trees in a forest are connected.

They communicate through their roots, through the soil.

‘Never felt so alone’

They feel each other’s pain and when one tree dies, its neighbour often follows.

It is the same with the Jewish people, whether we live in the UK, Europe, America or Israel.

We are all connected. And when one of us is attacked, we all feel it.

But as a British Jew, I have never felt so alone, so isolated.

People who waved a blue and white flag for Ukraine, expressed their shock at 9/11 or the Bataclan attack, are silent for the murdered people of Israel, even for the children.

The response on social media has been depressingly familiar.

Some people say the victims deserved what they got.

They justify rape and baby killing as an understandable reaction to a political struggle.

Or else, they say we’re lying, exaggerating, that it never happened.

They even demand pictures of dead babies!

This is exactly how anti-Semites talk about the Holocaust.

Except this time, those making such comments aren’t neo-Nazis, they are supposedly decent British people, often people who like to think of themselves as anti-racists.

Jews now know that when people said, “Never again” after the Holocaust, they didn’t really mean it.

It was just a slogan. Because if they’d meant it, they wouldn’t have remained silent last Saturday when Jews were being slaughtered in their thousands.

They wouldn’t be making excuses for why it’s happened.

They wouldn’t victim blame. They wouldn’t refuse — like the BBC — to call Hamas terrorists.

As we feared and predicted, the violence is now spreading in the UK too, with a reported rise of more than 300 per cent in anti-Semitic attacks since the weekend.

Our children are being warned not to wear their Jewish school blazers, and they are being given counselling and terrorism training in schools, which are already patrolled by security guards.

Our synagogues are more like fortresses than places of worship.

My grandparents, both refugees from Nazi Germany, are now dead.

I’m glad they didn’t live to see the resurgence of anti-Semitism across the world.

I’m relieved my grandma’s sister, Lene, didn’t live to see what happened to her daughter, Gitit, and her great-grandchildren on their kibbutz last weekend.

On Monday, my eight-year-old daughter, who is the only Jewish child in her East London school, said: “Mummy, I don’t want anyone to know I’m Jewish. I want to keep it a secret.”

“It broke my heart. But how can I promise her that she will be safe?

How can I protect her?

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