On October 15, 1941 General Governor Hans Frank issued what is known as the Third Decree “concerning restrictions on residency in the General Gouvernement and introducing the death penalty for aid rendered to Jews.”
Recently, many Jews have left their designated Jewish residential areas. For the time, they are in the Warsaw District.
I remind you that according to the Third Decree of the General Governor’s concerning the residential restrictions in the General Government of 10/15/1941 (VBL; abbreviation for Verordnungsblatt Generalgouvernement, p. 595) not only Jews who have left their designated residential area will be punished with death, but the same penalty applies to anyone who knowingly provides refuge (a hiding place) to such Jews. This includes not only the providing of a night’s lodging and food, but also any other aid, such as transporting them in vehicles of any sort, through the purchase of Jewish valuables, etc.
I ask the population of the Warsaw Destrict to immediately report any Jew who resides outside of a Jewish residential area to the nearest police station or gendarmerie post.
I was reminded of this dark chapter of history this morning when I read about Teresa L. Todd, who was arrested in Texas for providing aid to a group of undocumented immigrants lost in the desert and caring for a sick sibling. And she’s not the only one who’s been harrassed:
As the Trump administration moves on multiple fronts to shut down illegal border crossings, it has also stepped up punitive measures targeting private citizens who provide compassionate help to migrants — “good Samaritan” aid that is often intended to save lives along a border that runs through hundreds of miles of remote terrain that can be brutally unforgiving.
Earlier this year, federal agents raided the home of a volunteer who provides meals, housing and other aid to migrants in the Texas border city of Brownsville. In Arizona, four volunteers with No More Deaths, a nonprofit based in Tucson, were convicted on misdemeanor criminal charges after leaving water and canned food for migrants hiking through the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Five other volunteers also faced charges, including one felony case now pending in Federal District Court in Tucson.
Todd, who the New YorkTimes points out is “both the city attorney of Marfa, Tex., and the county attorney of Jeff Davis County” is now facing federal charges for what she says was a case of trying “to be a good Samaritan.”
Thankfully, Todd has the support of her community, including the local sheriff, who says regardless of President Donald Trump’s aggressive efforts to punish those who help migrants,”if somebody’s hungry or thirsty or needs some help, we’re going to help them.”
But as the Trump administration cracks down harder and harder -and states like Georgia pass similar measures charging anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion with conspiracy to commit murder- one eventually has to ask the question my friend Joel Mathis raised nearly a year ago.
“At one point,” Mathis asks, “does ‘resistance’ mean we actively choose non-cooperation with government?” It’s no easy question for Mathis, who grew up as a Mennonite, and who, like many in that sect, is wary of outright confrontation.
When comes the point where you refuse to call the police? When you decide to hide a person from authorities? Especially when you know it could end up with you facing consequences of some sort?
When do you decide that sobbing 15-year-old girl might be the 21st century version of Anne Frank – or close enough, at least, that you have to invert the usual way of doing things?
We’re at a stage where we each have to make our own choices – about what you would do, about what you’re capable of doing, should the moment present itself.
No, it’s not likely that a young immigrant girl will appear in your home or workplace, begging not to be sent back to authorities. But it’s no longer a zero-probability chance, either. Now’s the time to decide.
Mathis acknowledges that the direct comparison to Anne Frank is an imperfect analogy. “Trump and his folks aren’t Nazis, in the sense they’re not committing genocide,” he writes (although I would add “yet” to that sentence).
But the situation has escalated from rhetoric, to family separation policies, to detention camps for children, to armed vigilante militias staking out the border looking for trouble, and now to Americans being hit with federal charges for helping people in desperate need, people that our president continually dehumanizes.
Someday -someday soon- you may have to make that choice. Which side are you on?