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Election Watch 2016

Holocaust survivor inspires retired U.S. generals, admirals to line up for Trump

By John Stryker Meyer/

The number of retired U.S. military generals and admirals endorsing Donald Trump in an open letter has grown from 90 to 162, says the only Holocaust survivor signing it, retired Green Beret Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, a key proponent behind the effort. Shachnow and retired Rear Admiral Charles Williams organized the letter and signature collection earlier this month, citing Trump’s commitment to rebuilding the military, securing the borders, defeating Islamic supremacy and restoring law and order.

Fourteen Medal of Honor recipients are among the 72 new signatories, Shachnow told from his North Carolina home.

Shachnow is a 40-year Army veteran, who spent 32 of those years with U.S. Army Special Forces – the Green Berets. During World War II, he was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp in his native city of Kovno, Lithuania from age 7 to 10. Only five percent of the people in the Kovno concentration camp survived the war. He and his family endured a 2,000-mile, six-month trek across war-torn Europe to eventually land in Salem, Mass. As a Green Beret, he was assigned to the ultra-top-secret Detachment “A” beginning in 1956 through 1984, when it was called the Physical Security Support Element, Berlin.

Shachnow, now 82, participated in clandestine missions behind enemy lines and later commanded secret missions conducted by Green Berets from Det. “A” and the 410th.

One of his favorite stories while serving in Det. “A” as a young major stems from an unauthorized mission that he and a few non-commissioned officers took into the subterranean network of underground tunnels and sewers to get the upper hand on East German police.

“We were told the subterranean system was off limits, but I decided in my infinite wisdom that we’d go down there anyway…it was like a desert in that there were no points of reference,” he said. “We ended up using the Hansel and Gretel method of keeping track of where we had been.”

The unauthorized mission brought them into East Germany, and also brought Shachnow before the top commanding general for West Germany, where he was reprimanded for the mission. The reprimand, however, didn’t slow down his service nor his promotions.

Shachnow was the commanding general of the Berlin Brigade when the Berlin Wall, which the Communists began building in 1961, began to be torn down on Nov. 9, 1989, and it’s where he had a clarion moment in his life.

He was sitting with his Russian counterpart from the Soviet Army and senior KGB officers. “There was a moment when they were laughing and I asked what was so funny,” Shachnow said. “The general pointed out the personal irony for me then. I was a Holocaust survivor living in the villa that Hitler’s Finance Minister, General Fritz Reinhardt, owned and which was Hermann Goering’s headquarters, and I was having dinner with my Russian counterpart and senior KGB officers. The general said, ‘Here you are, a Jew. You were liberated by us, by the Russians (from the Kovno concentration camp). Now you are defending the Germans who had incarcerated you and committed atrocities against your people while you are getting ready to fight us, your new enemy.’ I’ll never forget that.”

In his book Hope and Honor, he wrote about having worked with Communists to transition from a military-seize footing in East Germany to an open society. When he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his exceptionally meritorious leadership during that period, from December 1989 to August 1991, from Army Gen. John M.D. Shalikashvilli, Shachnow wrote: “I stood proudly as General Shalakashvilli awarded me the Distinguished Service Medal. But, I was even more grateful for the next award” when he presented the Army’s Outstanding Civilian Service Medal to his wife, Arlene, for her devotion and care of military members serving in Germany during those tumultuous years.

John Stryker Meyer is a combat veteran, who served two tours of duty during the Vietnam War with Special Forces serving in the secret war in Laos, Cambodia and N. Vietnam under the Military Assistance Command Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (SOG). He is the author of Across the Fence: The Secret War in Vietman and co-author of On the Ground: The Secret War in Vietnam.


Donald Trump Jr. ripped for ‘gas chamber’ remark

(JTA) – Donald Trump Jr. was slammed by Democrats and the Anti-Defamation League for using the term “gas chamber” in a complaint about how the media treat Republicans and his father. He said the media have “let her slide” on Clinton’s alleged lies. “If Republicans were doing that, they’d be warming up the gas chamber right now,” the younger Trump said.

Trump later told Katy Tur, an NBC reporter, that he was referring to capital punishment, not to the Holocaust. Already under fire on social media for the comment, his Jewish and Democratic critics were not buying the explanation.

“Everybody knows to what Donald Jr. was referring when he mentioned ‘a gas chamber,’ and there’s only one word for it: deplorable,” Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the senior Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement sent to the media.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League CEO, told Trump Jr. on Twitter that “trivialization of the Holocaust is out of line.” Asked by JTA if he accepted Trump Jr.’s explanation that the reference was to capital punishment, Greenblatt replied: “Perhaps someone could ask if he knows which states use gas chamber as primary means of execution.” The answer is none, suggesting that Greenblatt believed Trump Jr. was being disingenuous.

Trump Jr., more than Trump’s other children, has been involved in a number of scrapes involving extremists or language deemed offensive. Last week he included in a tweet a depiction of him and his father and other campaign backers posing heroically with Pepe the Frog, an image that in recent months has come to be identified with white supremacists.


NY attorney general: Trump ‘opened door’ to antisemitic rhetoric

WASHINGTON (JTA) – New York State’s attorney general said Donald Trump “opened the door” to antisemitic rhetoric. Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat who is investigating Trump University, tweeted on Friday that that Trump’s behavior was “deeply disappointing.”

Schneiderman has been the target of online harassment by Trump supporters since he confirmed he was investigating the Republican presidential nominee’s charitable foundation for illegally contributing to the election campaign of the Florida attorney general. The tweet links to an article detailing the harassment.

The Jewish attorney general is investigating whether the donation led Pam Bondi to decline to investigate alleged improprieties at Trump University, a pricey real estate seminar run using Trump’s name and his endorsement. He is also investigating Trump University for fraud, and has been subject to antisemitic abuse for that as well.


NYC makes voting registration forms available in Yiddish

NEW YORK (JTA) – The New York City Board of Elections has made voting registration forms available in Yiddish. The forms were available starting Sept. 19, according to a statement by state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat.

Hikind, who is Jewish, said he requested in December that the Board of Elections provide the forms in Yiddish. “There are thousands of Yiddish speakers in my district and New York State,” Hikind said in the statement. “Everyone deserves the right to have their voice heard and be able to vote. Now Yiddish-speaking constituents can now register with ease.”

The Board of Elections is required to provide the document, which city residents must fill out in order to vote, in English, Bengali, Mandarin, Korean and Spanish, according to its website. It also provides forms in 11 additional languages, now including Yiddish.

In July, the city made voter registration forms available in five new languages inorder to expand access to voting.


Jewish World War II POW appears in Clinton ad

(JTA) – A Jewish World War II prisoner of war appeared in an ad for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, saying her rival Donald Trump “insulted all of our military.” The ad released Friday, Sept. 16 on social media shows Joel Sollender, 91, of San Diego, Calif., watching Trump, the Republican nominee, disparaging Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., last year during the lead-up to the primaries. McCain and Trump differed on immigration issues, and Trump had called McCain a “dummy.”

The ad includes a segment of a political event in Iowa in which Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster, challenges Trump for using the pejorative and says that McCain is a war hero. Trump replies, “He’s not a war hero. He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”

“Apart from the outrage of the insult to prisoners of war,” a choked-up Sollender says in the ad, “he insulted all of our military.”

“He’s everything I would not want to be or emulate, and I would hope we would not adulate a man like him and put him into the most precious office in our country,” he says.

The ad does not mention it, but Sollender, who was captured after taking out a German bunker with a grenade during the Battle of the Bulge, feared that his captors would discover he was Jewish. “I was apprehensive that they would find out I was Jewish,” Sollender told the Union Tribune of San Diego, where he lives and has been active in local philanthropic causes, in a 2015 interview.

In recent weeks, Trump and Clinton have each cited dozens of endorsements from top military and national security personnel.


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