His father and uncles escaped Nazis fascism during the Second World War, immigrating to the United States as refugees from their homeland in Poland, as Hitler’s Third Reich slaughtered millions of European Jews.
Now, decades later, Oak Parker Sidney Wax and his family continue suffering the fascist hatred of anti-Semitism.
On Wednesday, Oct. 31, he attended the funeral of his cousin, Melvin Wax, 88, who was gunned down, along with 10 others, at Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, on the morning of Oct. 27.
Police have arrested Robert D. Bowers, 46, who faces a 44-count indictment in the massacre, which also left six injured. Bowers was armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and several handguns.
Media outlets have reported that Bowers frequently took to the internet to voice his anger towards Jews, stating on one website: “Jews are the children of Satan.”
Wax, 65, tells Wednesday Journal that Melvin, known by his friends as Mel, was his first cousin on his father’s side of the family.
“He was much older than me,” Wax said, explaining that his father and two brothers left their home in Hrubieszow, Poland, to escape the Nazi Holocaust. “My father lost his first family in the Holocaust and remarried here.”
Wax said Mel attended services of the New Light Congregation at the Tree of Life Synagogue regularly and assisted with the ceremony and the Sabbath.
He said losing his cousin in a mass shooting was “surreal” and “not something you ever expect to live through.”
“Mel’s father and my father, who were brothers, escaped the Holocaust. Now he’s killed by somebody who espouses Nazi views, it’s really … it’s unbelievable.” Wax said in a telephone interview.
Wax described his cousin as “kind of a quiet guy” who was well-liked. He was a veteran who served in Germany during the Korean War, Wax said. He had a daughter and a grandson.
Mel Wax worked as an accountant and graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill.
Wax said he attended the memorial on Oct. 30, noting that the synagogue displayed Stars of David for each person slain at the temple. He said he walked through the area where protestors demonstrated against the presence of President Donald Trump.
Wax, who said he has been politically active since the 1960s, got caught up in the demonstration. “I didn’t purposefully attend the demonstration, but I completely concur with it,” he said.
The political rhetoric in the United States coming from Trump has created an atmosphere for the kinds of violent attacks that took his cousin’s life, Wax said.
“When there’s an equivalency between the Nazis and the protesters against Nazis in Charlottesville, it’s a green light,” Wax said. “When you accept David Duke and you don’t really speak out against somebody like David Duke, it’s a green light against the African Americans, Jews, immigrants, Latinos, whoever, to be killed.”
Wax said he does not blame the administration for the shooting itself, but for “sanctioned hatred.”
“That to me is the most traumatic thing of all,” he said.