see: "The Russian Roots of Nazism:" Revisionist History Newsletter No. 39
Judaic Communists: The Documentary Record
Why Did the Heavens Not Darken
"Stalin's Jews: We mustn't forget that some of greatest murderers of modern times were Jewish"
Fairfield police first in state to train at U.S. Holocaust Museum
By Cindy Mindell - Jewish Ledger
Published: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 9:00 PM EDT
FAIRFIELD n When Joshua Zabin first joined the Fairfield police in 1986, his grandmother Francis told him, “Be good to the Jews.”
“I didn’t have a full understanding of what she meant until I saw a photo at the Holocaust Museum,” says now-Sgt. Zabin. “It was taken in the streets of Berlin, of local police executing searches of Jewish homes, and there was an officer standing in the street, photographed from behind, and his leather jacket, hat, and boots were identical to ours. I literally said from the back of the room, ‘That could be me.’ That is why my grandmother said that to me. I think she was trying to say that police officers in Eastern Europe were not looked at as being kind to Jewish people. It all came totally full circle.”
Last month, Zabin and 10 fellow officers from the Fairfield Police Department became the first law-enforcement professionals from Connecticut to take part in “Law Enforcement and Society: Lessons of the Holocaust.” The joint training program is designed by the United States Holocaust Museum and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to remind officers of the pivotal role they have in society in protecting both freedoms and security.
The message, as Zabin had discovered, was how easy it was for police, sworn to protect individuals’ rights and public safety, to collaborate with the Nazi regime.
Zabin, raised in a Jewish home in Fairfield, had first visited the museum two years ago. He had personal reasons to do so: Francis and her parents had come to the U.S. from the former Prussia years before the Nazis’ rise to power, but the rest of the family perished. Her brother is thought to have been involved in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Her brother-in-law, the late Dr. Alexander Zabin, was part of the U.S. Army’s surgical unit that liberated Dachau. An archive of the film he shot of the camp is part of the U.S. Holocaust Museum’s collections.
After that initial visit, Zabin’s father told him about the training program for law enforcement, and Joshua suggested it to his superiors.
Last autumn, Fairfield Police Chief David Peck was taking part in the training with the FBI Academy. “He was at the museum and called me the same day, he was so moved,” Zabin recalls. “He asked me to organize a group of our officers for the spring.”
Zabin wanted to plan the visit close to Yom HaShoah. Chief Peck announced the opportunity, but indicated that participants would not be paid for their time, and would have to cover the expense of their own lodging and meals.
“I wanted those to go who really wanted to go,” he says. “It filled up immediately, and there are many others want to go now.”
Taking personal responsibility
On April 3, a group of 11 officers made the trip to Washington, Peck and Zabin among them. They were accompanied by Fairfield Police Commission Chairman Samuel Lazinger, and Fairfield First Selectman Ken Flatto. Lazinger is the child of Holocaust survivors, and Flatto’s wife, Liz, lost several relatives to the Nazis.
Created in 1999 at the request of Washington, D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey, the museum’s program is designed to help law-enforcement officers better understand their personal and professional responsibilities in a pluralistic American society. So far, educators in the cooperative program have trained nearly 38,000 federal, state and local police officers and recruits, and 7,000 FBI agents. The program is a required part of training for all new FBI recruits, military academy training officers, and the D.C. police department. Three hundred Maryland state judges have gone through the training, and there are similar programs for New York and Illinois benches.
The training began with a short film about Hitler’s rise to power. Facilitators led the group on a private tour through the museum, discussing the photographs and documents through the eyes of a police officer. One of the facilitators was a young man from Austria who had chosen to serve in the museum in lieu of his mandatory military service back home.
After the tour, the officers met with museum staff and an ADL educator to debrief and discuss the dangers of stereotyping.
“The facilitator asks very pointed questions,” Zabin says: “What, in your mind’s eye, stood out the most? Why do you think law enforcement worked hand-in-hand with the occupying government? Did they do it willingly or were they forced or threatened? Why did some of the police officers keep their jobs, even after committing atrocities? Questions you’d ask yourself today: What decisions would I make in those situations, considering that my family depends on me?”
The group discussed the ethical dilemmas faced by police officers then and now. How do you stand up for what is right?
Zabin says he and his colleagues were most struck by the fact that law-enforcement officers worked hand-in-hand with the Nazi killing machine.
“That was a real eye-opener, part of the shock and disbelief,” he says. “I was already aware that local law-enforcement agencies were working in conjunction with the army, but they actually were part of the death squads. It’s hard to swallow because our role is to be trusted and we’re given a tremendous amount of power.”
The officers examined the role of stereotyping in a totalitarian government’s grip on power. “The facilitators asked, ‘What do you want others to think of you? and we answered things like honest, trustworthy, dedicated,” says Peck. “Then they asked, ‘What do you think people think of you?’ and we said things like lazy, dishonest, always eating donuts. We applied this thinking to the Nazi government: This was one of the tools they used to target certain groups. We’ve seen this happen in the U.S. as well. It’s what happens when people take stereotyping too seriously.”
Taking it to the streets
Peck sees the benefits of the training as two-fold. The department works closely with the Jewish population of Fairfield and dealt with security at synagogues and cemetery vandalism.
“After the training, we can look at these things from a different perspective,” he says. But there’s a larger message as well. “The power we hold can be easily abused and can lead to atrocities if not kept in check,” says Zabin.
“We are given so much power as police officers,” says Peck. “We take it for granted; I myself am going on 30 years of service. You go about your daily business, but you forget how much people fear you or how much you control others. If the government you’re working for is giving you guidance and orders on the fringes of what’s legal, you could very quickly go in that direction.”
Both Peck and Zabin were impressed with the enthusiasm of their fellow participants. “It was an extremely diverse group of officers who chose to go down, in terms of religion, ethnicity, gender, and ranking,” says Zabin “I was pleasantly surprised to see some of these people go and have an interest in the training.”
Peck plans to allow all his officers who are interested to take the training, “twice a year until everyone has had a chance,” he says. “It’s so important to reflect on what happened in the Nazi regime. It reminds you of your responsibilities in a democratic government. You take an oath to uphold all rights, of the individual and of the group. The training reminded us of the authority we have.”
More ADL police programming here: