I mourn the loss of Hajo Meyer, a friend who fearlessly raised his voice to combat Zionism and to express his support for the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom and equality. Hajo passed away in his sleep on 23 August, just days after his ninetieth birthday.
Hajo was born in 1924 and had to flee alone from Nazi Germany at the age of 14 because the Nazis would not allow him to attend school anymore. His parents sent him to the Netherlands in January 1939.
A year later, the Netherlands was occupied by Germany. In 1943, Hajo went into hiding but was captured by the Gestapo in March 1944 and deported to the Auschwitz death camp where the Nazis tattooed number “179679” on his arm.
After the war, Meyer returned to the Netherlands where he had a long career as a physicist. He also took up making violins in his retirement.
In a previous interview with The Electronic Intifada, Hajo said: “For as long as I can, I will continue to utter my criticism of inhuman Zionist behavior.”
On 29 July, I traveled to Meyer’s home in Heiloo in the Netherlands, to discuss the Israeli onslaught on Gaza, where the tired Hajo gave The Electronic Intifada his last interview.
I asked Hajo how he felt. “I can’t answer you positively, due to old age which prevents me from any activity in supporting the Palestinians,” he replied. “To be that old comes with such great loss of capacities, it is quite a task,” he said.
He reflected on how lucky he was to survive Auschwitz with some comrades.
Reber Dosky, a Kurdish refugee residing in the Netherlands, made My Good Fortune in Auschwitz (2012), a short documentary about Hajo’s survival with his comrade Jos Slagter. In the documentary, Hajo plays one of the melancholic Yiddish tunes he used to test the sound of the violins he had made (watch it below — with English subtitles).
When I spoke to him, Hajo denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s accusations that the large demonstrations against Israel’s attacks on Gaza are an expression of an increasing hatred against Israel.
“If we want to stay really human beings, we must get up and call the Zionists what they are: Nazi criminals,” Meyer said. The hate of the Jews by the Germans “was less deeply rooted than the hate of the Palestinians by the Israeli Jews,” he observed. “The brainwashing of the Jewish Israeli populations is going on for over sixty years. They cannot see a Palestinian as a human being.”
While discussing Europe’s response to Israel’s policies, Hajo said that Europe should respond with “a much more large scale boycott of Israel” than a ban on settlement products. If we Europeans pretend to hold high the flag of humanity with what is happening in Gaza, Israel should be outcasted by us.”
I asked him if he had a message for the Palestinians, Israelis or human rights activists.
“My message for the Palestinians is that they should not give up their fight,” he replied. “If they give up, they might lose their self-esteem with the ongoing humiliations by the Israeli Nazis. Fight with human means. It is justified to show to the Israeli Zionists that you are a force to reckon with. Fight with stones, with weapons. Yes, also with weapons. If you don’t fight, you lose your self-esteem and will not be respected by the Israelis.”
“If we Western democratic societies don’t support the Palestinians in their fight, we must feel ashamed if the Palestinians are annihilated. The US and the European Union must show their teeth,” he added.
Hajo was one of more than forty survivors of the Nazi genocide who recently signed a letter condemning Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
In May, Hajo Meyer’s letters to his family written between July 1939 and 1945 were published in Germany.
Hajo Meyer, thank you for your humanity, your dignity, your love and your consistent support to defending human rights.