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Football fans use Anne Frank in anti-Jew attack
In the latest in a series of anti-Semitic acts linked to football rivalries in Rome, offensive stickers showing Anne Frank, the Jewish teenager who died in a Nazi concentration camp, wearing an AS Roma shirt, have been emblazoned across the city.
December 9, 2013
By Catherine Edwards
The stickers, similar to the ones collected for a football annual, have been appearing across Rome over the last few days: on traffic lights, walls and street signs, La Repubblica reported. The area most affected is Rione Monti, one of the city's trendiest and most central neighbourhoods.
It is thought to be the work of fans of opposing team, SS Lazio, and is not the first time anti-Semitism has entered into the rivalry between Rome's football clubs.
Rabbi Barbara Aiello, Italy's first female rabbi, told The Local that a similar incident using the same photo occurred in 2005, alongside the slogan, “Anne Frank is not going to write anymore, but will buy a little bar of soap”, referring to Jews being turned into soap at Auschwitz.
Previous chants have also included “AS Roma Juden Club”, “Teams of blacks, Jewish fans” and “Auschwitz is your homeland, the ovens are your houses".
AS Roma fans are just as guilty, using slogans such as “Anne Frank supports Lazio”. In January 2006, when a match between Rome and Livorno took place during the Week of Holocaust Remembrance, the team's fans used a banner saying “Lazio-Livorno: same initial, same oven”.
Following complaints from residents and shop owners in the area, many of the stickers have now been removed, but some still remain.
Rabbi Barbara said the latest incident "is cause for alarm, as it’s legitimizing anti-Semitic hate speech and negative attitudes towards the Jews - it’s wrapping it up in sport, but it’s still as dangerous as it’s always been.”
She believes the internet, as well as the financial crisis, has helped propel anti-Jewish sentiment across Europe, and that this week's case could be in preparation for Holocaust remembrance day on January 27th, which marks the day the Jewish people were liberated from Auschwitz.
“It happened eight years ago, and now we’re seeing this kind of thing replicated all over the city. There is a rise in anti-Semitism all across Europe - I believe this is partly due to the internet, which over the years has been making it worse: the picture was the same one used before, it was pulled right off the web...it goes hand in hand with what Jewish people still fear today.”
It also came to light on the same day Nelson Mandela, who fought against white domination in South Africa and went on to become the nation’s first black president, passed away.
“Nelson Mandela’s life was a testimony to the fact that in justice, hate is not over - we have to be vigilant in every generation - we can’t assume our job is done.” Rabbi Barbara said.
Heinrich Boere, 92, Dies; Member of Nazi Hit Unit in Netherlands
“These were murders that could hardly be outdone in terms of baseness and cowardice,” the judge said in his ruling. Mr. Boere remained unapologetic.
December 7, 2013
Heinrich Boere, who murdered Dutch civilians as part of a Nazi Waffen SS hit squad during World War II but avoided justice for six decades, died on Sunday in a prison hospital in Fröndenberg, Germany. He was 92.
The North Rhine-Westphalia Justice Ministry announced the death.
Mr. Boere was on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of most-wanted Nazi war criminals until his arrest and conviction in 2010 on three counts of murder. He was serving a life sentence.
“It’s a comforting thought to know that Boere ended his life in a prison hospital rather than as a free man,” said Efraim Zuroff, the center’s top Nazi hunter.
During his trial, Mr. Boere admitted killing three civilians as a member of the Silbertanne, or Silver Fir, a unit of largely Dutch SS volunteers responsible for assassinating countrymen considered anti-Nazi. He told the court in a statement that he had had no choice but to obey orders.
But the presiding judge said there was no evidence that Mr. Boere had even tried to question his orders. The judge said that Mr. Boere and his accomplices, in civilian clothes, had surprised victims at their homes or workplaces in hit-style killings.
“These were murders that could hardly be outdone in terms of baseness and cowardice,” the judge said in his ruling. Mr. Boere remained unapologetic.
Where the Warsaw Ghetto once stood, Hanukkah candles light the night
"It was important for us to ensure that Hanukkah candles would be lit in a number of structures throughout Warsaw, and that this would be a joint project in which both Jewish and non-Jewish Poles take part.”
December 5, 2013
By Ofer Aderet
On a street in the former Warsaw Ghetto, a few abandoned buildings stand as testimony to the darkest chapter in the Polish capital’s history. Some Warsaw residents say ghosts haunt these houses.
Last week, with the start of Hanukkah, the buildings were filled with light once again. Lifted by cranes, young Poles lit Hanukkah candles on the houses’ windowsills.
The project was the brainchild of two architects, Noa Biran and Roy Talmon of the Talmon Biran Architecture Studio in Tel Aviv. They thought up the idea while spending time in Warsaw on a scholarship from the Polish Modern Art Foundation.
They proposed that artists live and create in Warsaw’s Keret House, which was built last year. That structure, considered the narrowest in the world, is named after its first guest, Israeli author Etgar Keret.
“As we wandered through the city, the abandoned houses caught our eye,” Biran and Talmon told Haaretz by email. “They stand as monuments commemorating the events of the past: not only the annihilation of the Jewish community, but also the destruction of the Jewish community’s culture, which was a significant part of Polish culture.”
The two architects call the lighting of Hanukkah candles in the abandoned buildings “guerilla art.”
They also want to “contribute to the much wider discussion of multiculturalism in Poland. From our encounters with Polish intellectuals, we got a strong impression that contemporary Polish culture still has strong ties to the Jewish culture that once flourished on Polish soil. So it was important for us to ensure that Hanukkah candles would be lit in a number of structures throughout Warsaw, and that this would be a joint project in which both Jewish and non-Jewish Poles take part.”
Biran and Talmon say their project is symbolic on a number of levels. “While the lighting of Hanukkah candles is clearly a Jewish custom and sometimes had to be performed in secret by a persecuted minority, here in Warsaw the candles are being lit openly in the windows of these houses,” they write.
Pope Francis Reaffirms Commitment to Jewish-Christian Relations, Regret for Anti-Semitism
November 28, 2013
Pope Francis on Tuesday released his widely anticipated first Apostolic Exhortation, which included a strong reaffirmation of dialogue with the Jewish people and an expression of regret for past anti-Semitism.
The 224-page comprehensive document, titled Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), outlines the pope’s vision for the Catholic Church.
“We [the Catholic Church] hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked,” Pope Francis wrote in the document.
The pontiff added, “Dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus’ disciples. The friendship which has grown between us makes us bitterly and sincerely regret the terrible persecutions which they have endured, and continue to endure, especially those that have involved Christians.”
The American Jewish Committee expressed a “warm appreciation” for the Pope Francis’s message.
“His emphasis on the ongoing Divine Presence in the life of the Jewish People and on the importance of the ‘values of Judaism’ for Christians, is particularly significant in further advancing the historic transformation in the Catholic Church’s approach towards the Jewish people,” said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs.
Romania unfit to lead Holocaust remembrance body, says Jewish group
Ukrainian Jewish Committee says Romania has not fully come to grips with its own blame for the Holocaust.
November 25, 2013
Ukrainian Jewish leaders said Romania was unfit to head a Holocaust remembrance forum because it has not done enough to come to grips with its own Holocaust-era culpability.
“Romania’s actions prove it is not ready to assume responsibility for the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust, when Romanian troops acted as an occupying force in large parts of Ukraine under orders from the country’s pro-Nazi leadership,” Oleksandr Feldman, a Ukrainian lawmaker and president of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, told JTA.
Feldman was reacting to reports that Romanian Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean was interested in having Romania head the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, or IHRA, in 2016. Canada currently heads the alliance.
Ukrainian Jewish Committee Secretary Eduard Dolinsky said that Romania’s embassy in Ukraine has rejected invitations by his organization to discuss ways to jointly commemorate the murder of Jews by Romanian troops.
“We are looking for recognition, apologies and common actions towards preserving the memory of the victims,” Dolinsky said. One possibility, he added, is for Romania to participate in the planned construction of Kiev’s first Jewish museum.
In Argentina, Catholics Opposed to Pope Francis Challenge His Legacy of Jewish Relations
Last week’s protest at a Buenos Aires Kristallnacht commemoration was a display of denial—and ignorance
November 22, 2013
By Natasha Zaretsky
In Argentina, Kristallnacht has come to be known as “el pogrom de noviembre”—the “November pogrom.” Last week, on the 75th anniversary of that tragic night, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires, a cavernous space in the symbolic center of the city, hosted an interfaith commemoration of the violence of that November pogrom convened by the archdiocese of Argentina and the nation’s B’nai B’rith.
Diana Wang, the daughter of survivors and president of the Argentine group Generations of the Shoah, was at the cathedral for the event and did not expect it to be different from any previous commemorations, including the one last year, which was led by then-Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio—now Pope Francis—and his friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka. As in other years, the cathedral was full, crowded with representatives of various Christian denominations, rabbis, Jewish community leaders, politicians, and Holocaust survivors.
But this year, for the first time in the nearly 20-year history of such memorials in Argentine churches, a protest erupted: Members of a far-right religious group, the Society of St. Pius X, staged a group prayer to oppose what they called “the profanation of this space.” According to Wang, it started as a murmur of “Our Father” and other prayers, and then the protesters began chanting the rosary louder and louder. Between 20 and 40 young men, some just teenagers, kneeled down and began praying fervently, their eyes fixed straight ahead.
The Society, an international organization formed in the wake of the Second Vatican Council by Catholics who opposed the liberalization of church doctrine, rejects the promotion of interfaith dialogue—strongly promoted by Pope Francis, who from Vatican City described Jews as “big brothers” to Catholics in his own observance of the Kristallnacht anniversary. It has gained a particular reputation for anti-Semitism. One of its bishops has been convicted of Holocaust denial in the German courts. In October, the Italian branch offered to hold a funeral for Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke, who had been extradited to Italy from Argentina.
The Kristallnacht protest at the Metropolitan Cathedral was a disruption of remembering, an assault on a key moment in Jewish history and Holocaust memory. But it was also a challenge to Pope Francis, on his home turf, and to the entire post-Vatican II infrastructure of interfaith dialogue Francis has reinvigorated since his election as pontiff earlier this year.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits Auschwitz memorial
The United Nations leader walked through the infamous ‘Work Makes You Free’ gate to see exhibitions that document the inhumane conditions. ‘I stare at the piles of glasses, hair, shoes, prayer shawls and dolls, and try to imagine the individual Jews and others to whom they belonged,’ he said.
November 21, 2013
OSWIECIM, Poland — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday visited the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz to pay tribute to Holocaust victims.
Ban walked through the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Makes You Free”) gate to see exhibitions that document the inhumane conditions that the inmates suffered there.
Housed in red brick barracks are the hair and belongings of the inmates, as well as an urn symbolically holding some of the victims’ ashes.
I stare at the piles of glasses, hair, shoes, prayer shawls and dolls, and try to imagine the individual Jews and others to whom they belonged,” Ban said.
“I stand in disbelief before the gas chambers and crematorium — and shudder at the cruelty of those who designed this death factory.”
Ban laid flowers at the executions wall, where thousands of inmates, mostly Polish resistance members, were shot.
He then went to nearby Brzezinka village, home of the former Birkenau death camp, with its crematorium ruins and a monument to the victims.
“Auschwitz-Birkenau is not simply a register of atrocities. It is also a repository of courage and hope. Today I say loud and clear: never again,” Ban said.
He also visited the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot synagogue, the only remaining building that testifies to the prewar vibrant Jewish life in the town of Oswiecim.
In its guest book, Ban wrote that he was leaving “saddened but also with huge determination to build this world of equality, human dignity and peace,” according to an image of the entry made available by the Jewish Center in the town.
Between 1940 and 1945, some 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, died in gas chambers or from starvation, disease and forced labor in Auschwitz and the adjacent Birkenau death camp that Nazi Germany built in occupied Poland.
Ban also visited Krakow, 31 miles from the Auschwitz memorial.
On Tuesday he will join a U.N. climate conference in Warsaw.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali was the first U.N. secretary general to visit Auschwitz in 1995.
Soldier: Minneapolis man ordered Nazi-led attack
November 18, 2013
By David Rising and Randy Herschaft
BERLIN — A retired Minnesota carpenter, shown in a June investigation to be a former commander in a Nazi SS-led unit, ordered his men to attack a Polish village, which was razed, according to testimony newly uncovered by the Associated Press. The account of the massacre, which killed dozens of women and children, contradicts statements by the man’s family that he was never at the scene of the 1944 bloodshed.
The June investigation by AP prompted official investigations in Poland and Germany. On Monday, the prosecutor leading Germany’s probe revealed that he will recommend that state prosecutors pursue murder charges against 94-year-old Michael Karkoc.
Thomas Will, the deputy head of the special prosecutor’s office that investigates Nazi crimes, said he had made his decision even before seeing the new testimony that Karkoc ordered his unit to attack the Polish village of Chlaniow.
AP’s initial investigation found that Karkoc entered the United States in 1949 without disclosing to American authorities his role as a commander in the SS-led Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion, which is accused of torching villages and killing civilians in Poland.
A newly unearthed investigative file from the Ukrainian intelligence agency’s archive reveals that a private under Karkoc’s command testified in 1968 that Karkoc ordered the assault on Chlaniow in retaliation for the slaying of an SS major. The major, killed by resistance fighters, led the Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion, in which Karkoc was a company commander.
A German roster of the unit confirms that Pvt. Ivan Sharko, a Ukrainian, served under Karkoc’s command at the time. An initial order was given by a separate officer, Sharko testified, before Karkoc told his unit to attack the village.
Saul Kagan, Who Won Holocaust Restitution, Is Dead at 91
November 15, 2013
By Paul Vitello
Saul Kagan, a former refugee who for decades led the Jewish service organization that was primarily responsible for securing more than $70 billion in restitution for Holocaust survivors and their heirs, died on Nov. 8 in Manhattan. He was 91.
His death was confirmed by his daughter, Julia Kagan.
Mr. Kagan, who arrived in the United States in 1940 and lost his mother and a brother to the Nazis, was the founding director of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which was created in 1951 to represent the World Jewish Congress, B’nai B’rith and other Jewish groups in an unprecedented legal action: demanding reparations from “the successor state of the Third Reich,” as they referred to West Germany, for the Nazi genocide against Europe’s Jews.
The accords Mr. Kagan signed over the next half-century would require the governments of West Germany and Austria and a phalanx of corporate profiteers to indemnify Holocaust survivors for the homes, businesses, furniture, art and other property taken from them in the Nazi years; to pay pensions, relief stipends and old-age benefits that would have been owed them had they not been persecuted; and to compensate hundreds of thousands of former Nazi prisoners (Jewish and non-Jewish) who had worked as slaves for German industrial giants like I. G. Farben and Krupp.
About 600,000 survivors received payments.
In a separate agreement, West Germany paid about $15 billion to the newly established state of Israel for the resettling there of several hundred thousand Jewish refugees after the war.
Mr. Kagan and other conference officials had to fight for every concession, colleagues said. The West Germans, eager to regain standing in world opinion, entered into talks willingly. But they were reluctant at first to acknowledge the scope of Nazi crimes. The first agreement they signed, in 1952, compensated only Jews who could prove that they were current or former German citizens.
But with a diplomatic approach that colleagues described as polite but relentless, Mr. Kagan eventually persuaded West Germany to acknowledge its debt to survivors in every European country formerly occupied by the Nazis; Austria to acknowledge its collaboration in Nazi persecution and agree to pay compensation; Swiss banks to concede that they had pocketed the assets of Holocaust victims and make amends; and German conglomerates to compensate those who had been slave laborers.
EU Study: Jews in Germany Fear Rising Anti-Semitism
A vast survey conducted by the EU's Agency for Fundamental Rights and published Friday contains troubling results almost exactly 75 years after Kristallnacht: Jews in Germany and seven other EU countries continue to live in fear of verbal or physical abuse -- whether in public or, increasingly, online.
November 9, 2013
By Barbara Hans
What is it like for Jews to live in Europe? Are they able to practice their religion without restraint? Seventy-five years after the beginning of the Kristallnacht pogrom, also referred to as the "November pogroms," how much harassment, discrimination and hate crime do they encounter?
On Friday, the Vienna-based European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) released a report titled "Discrimination and Hate Crime against Jews in EU Member States: experiences and perceptions of antisemitism." The online survey polled 5,847 self-selected individuals who identified as Jewish in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the UK, states in which an estimated 90 percent of European Jews live.
Coping with Anti-Semitism
The survey's results provide insight into the perceptions, experiences and self-conception of European Jews. Rather than supplying absolute figures on anti-Semitic attacks, the study focuses on the perceived danger of such attacks and how much the anxiety this causes affects their lives.
The study also examined whether these incidents made it into official statistics. The overwhelming majority of respondents (82%) said that they had not reported to any authority or organization "the most serious incident, namely the one that most affected them."
The Nazi Anatomists
How the corpses of Hitler's victims are still haunting modern science—and American abortion politics.
It’s the basis for a 2012 claim that Republicans in Congress threw like a piece of dynamite into the abortion debate: The idea that women rarely or never get pregnant from rape.
November 6, 2013
By Emily Bazelon
In 1941, Charlotte Pommer graduated from medical school at the University of Berlin and went to work for Hermann Stieve, head of the school’s Institute of Anatomy. The daughter of a bookseller, Pommer had grown up in Germany’s capital city as Hitler rose to power. But she didn’t appreciate what the Nazis meant for her chosen field until Dec. 22, 1942. What she saw in Stieve’s laboratory that day changed the course of her life—and led her to a singular act of protest.
Stieve got his “material,” as he called the bodies he used for research, from nearby Plötzensee Prison, where the courts sent defendants for execution after sentencing them to die. In the years following the war, Stieve would claim that he dissected the corpses of only “dangerous criminals.” But on that day, Pommer saw in his laboratory the bodies of political dissidents. She recognized these people. She knew them.
On one table lay Libertas Schulze-Boysen, granddaughter of a Prussian prince. She’d been raised in the family castle, gone to finishing school in Switzerland, and worked as the Berlin press officer for the Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She joined the Nazi Party in 1933. On a hunting party, she flirted with Hermann Göring, commander of the Luftwaffe, the German air force. But in 1937 Schulze-Boysen joined the resistance with her husband, Harro, a Luftwaffe lieutenant. They helped form a small rebel group the Nazis called the Red Orchestra. When Libertas started working for Hitler’s movie empire in 1941, she gathered photos of atrocities from the front for a secret archive. Harro was transferred to Göring’s command center and with other dissidents started passing to the Soviets detailed information about Hitler’s plan to invade Russia. The Gestapo decoded their radio messages in 1942 and arrested Harro at the end of August. They came for Libertas eight days later. Both she and her husband were sentenced to death for espionage and treason.
Now Harro’s body lay on another table in the lab. Pommer could see that he had been hanged and Libertas had been decapitated by guillotine. On a third table, Pommer identified Arvid Harnack, another member of the Red Orchestra who had been a key informant for the American Embassy as well as the Soviets. In the 1920s, Harnack had studied economics as a Rockefeller Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, where he wandered into a literature class by mistake and met a young American teaching assistant named Mildred Fish. They traded English and German lessons and got married on her brother’s farm. After the couple moved to Germany, Mildred also helped the resistance effort by carrying messages and trailing her husband to meetings to make sure he wasn’t being followed. They were caught in the same Gestapo operation that ensnared the Schulze-Boysens. "Can you remember Picnic Point, when we got engaged?” Arvid asked his wife in his final letter to her from prison. “And before that our first serious talk at lunch in a restaurant in State Street? That talk became my guiding star.” At the time, Mildred was serving a six-year sentence for her part in the Red Orchestra. Before he was executed, Arvid wrote to his family about his joy that her life had been spared. But Hitler refused to accept the sentence, and Mildred, too, would be beheaded on his order 15 months later.“I was paralyzed,” Pommer later wrote of the sight of the bodies. “I could hardly perform my task as an assistant to Professor Stieve, who did his scientific study as always with the greatest diligence. I could barely follow.”
Arendt & Eichmann: The New Truth
Levi tells the story of Chaim Rumkowski, the vain, dictatorial Jewish elder of the Łódź ghetto who printed stamps with his portrait on them, commissioned hymns celebrating his greatness, and surveyed his domain from a horse-drawn carriage.
November 6, 2013
By Mark Lilla
a film by Margarethe von Trotta
Hannah Arendt: Ihr Denken veränderte die Welt [Hannah Arendt: Her Thought Changed the World]
edited by Martin Wiebel, with a foreword by Franziska Augstein
Munich: Piper, 252 pp., €9.99 (paper)
Among Primo Levi’s virtues as a writer on the Holocaust was his skill at finding the point of historical and moral equipoise, most remarkably in his famous chapter “The Gray Zone” in The Drowned and the Saved. It is not easy reading. Besides recounting the horrifying dilemmas and unspeakable cruelties imposed by the Nazis on their victims, he also gives an unvarnished account of the cruelties that privileged prisoners visited on weaker ones, and the compromises, large and small, some made to maintain those privileges and their lives. He describes how the struggle for prestige and recognition, inevitable in any human grouping, manifested itself even in the camps, producing “obscene or pathetic figures…whom it is indispensable to know if we want to know the human species.”
Levi tells the story of Chaim Rumkowski, the vain, dictatorial Jewish elder of the Łódź ghetto who printed stamps with his portrait on them, commissioned hymns celebrating his greatness, and surveyed his domain from a horse-drawn carriage. Stories like these that others have told and others still have wished to bury are unwelcome complications. But Levi tells them without ever letting the reader lose sight of the clear, simple moral reality in which they took place. Yes, “we are all mirrored in Rumkowski, his ambiguity is ours, it is our second nature, we hybrids molded from clay and spirit.” But “I do not know, and it does not much interest me to know, whether in my depths there lurks a murderer, but I do know that I was a guiltless victim and I was not a murderer.”
Two recent films by major European directors show just how difficult this point of equipoise is to find and maintain when dealing with the Final Solution. Margarethe von Trotta’s Hannah Arendt is a well-acted biopic on the controversy surrounding Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem and its place in her intellectual and personal life. Claude Lanzmann’s The Last of the Unjust is a documentary about Benjamin Murmelstein, the last Jewish elder of the Theresienstadt concentration camp, who was considered a traitor and Nazi collaborator by many of the camp’s inmates, and was the only elder in the entire system to have survived the war. The directors have very different styles and ambitions, which they have realized with very different degrees of success. But neither has managed to replicate Levi’s achievement.
Nazi-looted trove of 1,500 artworks, worth $1.4B, seized in Munich
German government aiding probe of art reported to include Nazi-looted masterpieces
November 6, 2013
The German government says it is helping Bavarian prosecutors investigate a huge art find related to pieces seized by the Nazis from Jews and art that the Nazis considered "degenerate."
Focus magazine reported Sunday that about 1,500 works by such masters as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Emil Nolde were found in a Munich apartment in early 2011 but gave no sources for its information. The estimated value of the works is approximately €1 billion (about $1.4 billion Cdn).
Bavarian prosecutors declined to confirm or deny the report.
Asked about the Focus report on Monday, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said authorities in Berlin are aware of the case and are supplying "advice from experts in the field of so-called 'degenerate art' and ... Nazi-looted art."
According to local reports, police discovered the works during a raid of a house of a recluse who was suspected of tax evasion and whose father was an art dealer. Investigators say there are international warrants active for approximately 200 of the paintings.
Over the past decade, the worldwide art community has increasingly opened up to returning Nazi-looted art to rightful heirs.
Last week, following an intensive survey, Dutch museums identified 139 artworks in their collections — including paintings by French master Henri Matisse and Dutch impressionist Isaac Israels — that have dubious provenance and were likely snatched forcibly from Jewish owners during the Nazi regime.
German Synagogues Have Been Attacked Atleast 82 Times in Last Four Years
Report Is Just 'Tip of the Iceberg' in Anti-Semitic Crimes
October 26, 2013
There have been 82 reported attacks on synagogues in Germany from 2008 to 2012, according to a report requested by Left Party legislator and Bundestag Vice President Petra Pau.
But the reported number may actually be too low: An investigation by Germany’s main Jewish weekly, the Juedische Allgemeine, showed that several notable incidents were not included in the report from the German Interior Ministry that was released last week, including an attack on the Dresden synagogue in 2012, as well as desecration of synagogue property in Regensburg and Wuppertal that same year.
Most of the reported cases involved property damage and graffiti featuring banned Nazi slogans. According to the report, the main perpetrators are far-right extremists, credited with more than 90 percent of the incidents, though some cases originate in Muslim circles.
The lowest number of reported incidents was in 2010, with nine cases; and the peak over the past five years was in 2008, with 21 reported incidents. Most of the incidents occurred in the former West German states of North-Rhine Westfalia and Rheinland-Pfalz.
Pau told the Allgemeine that attacks on synagogues are the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to anti-Semitic crimes in Germany.
Pope Francis emails Jewish American professor about presence of God during Holocaust
October 19, 2013
By Elizabeth Tenety
Pope Francis reached out to an American Jewish leader, the son of two Holocaust survivors, in a recent e-mail exchange.
The pope contacted Menachem Rosensaft, an American professor specializing in the law of genocide and war crimes trials at Columbia and Cornell, after Rosensaft sent a sermon he delivered in September on believing in God after the Holocaust, along with a personal note, to the Vatican.
Vatican officials confirmed the e-mail.
In the short note, Francis alluded to Rosensaft’s reflection on the possibility of God’s presence during the Holocaust, which the professor believes gave his father strength to pray even during his imprisonment and torture, and his mother the courage to rescue and tend to 149 children, largely orphans, inside a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.
Francis wrote to Rosensaft, translated by The Post from Spanish:
“When you, with humility, are telling us where God was in that moment, I felt within me that you had transcended all possible explanations and that, after a long pilgrimage — sometimes sad, tedious or dull – you came to discover a certain logic and it is from there that you were speaking to us; the logic of First Kings 19:12, the logic of that “gentle breeze” (I know that it is a very poor translation of the rich Hebrew expression) that constitutes the only possible hermeneutic interpretation.
“Thank you from my heart. And, please, do not forget to pray for me. May the Lord bless you.”
In Jewish circles, the response to the theological questions raised by the Holocaust has ranged from a rejection of God’s existence to a teaching in some ultra-Orthodox circles that sees the Holocaust as divine punishment. But for others, like Rosensaft, the Holocaust gave rise to a new way of thinking about God’s faithfulness amidst profound suffering. Rosensaft said that the pope’s acknowledgement that God was present even during the time of genocide through acts of courage and kindness “is a tremendous spiritual gift” that gives meaning to survivors of any act of violence.
“What I have tried to say in my sermon, which is why it is so gratifying to have Pope Francis validate this, was that God was not the perpetrator of the horrors but God’s divine presence is in the continued humanity of the victims, that the divine presence was within those who rescued, who saved, who helped,” Rosensaft said.
The outreach of the leader of the Catholic Church to the Jewish community in the context of the Holocaust and its fallout is also historically consequential.
The legacy of the Catholic Church’s actions and inactions during the genocide that led to the death of 6 million Jews, and 5 million others targeted by Nazis, continues to shadow Catholic-Jewish relations.
Jewish and Sikh communities come together via soccer match
October 18, 2013
Jewish and Sikh communities in Montreal have decided that their religions should be a way to unite. The ban on turbans on the soccer pitch ended up by creating a friendly dialogue between the Jewish and Sikh communities.
Rather than following an increasingly worrisome trend of polarization and fear of the other, members of these two communities have chosen to get to know each other through a series of events, beginning with a "Turbans vs. Kippot" soccer game.It is being organized by Congregation Dorshei Emet together with Sikh community leaders Manjit Singh and Harjeet Singh Bhabra, as part of the Pierre Toth Memorial series. The soccer game will be followed by a picnic. Later in the fall, other dimensions of the Jews-and-Sikhs relationship will be explored via reciprocal presentations at Synagogue and Gurdwara by Rabbi Ron Aigen and Manjit Singh. As well, the Le Mood Festival of Jewish Learning on November 3 will feature “Holy Hair!” a panel presenting the two communities’ different religious understandings of hair. The Pierre Toth Memorial Series was created recently to honor a member of Congregation Dorshei Emet, Pierre Toth, who was a firm believer in the power of dialogue. He died suddenly in the fall of 2010. This series was put into place as a way of honoring his memory and continuing the work he began. The Pierre Toth Memorial Series is dedicated to keeping the spirit of Pierre alive through creative and innovative interfaith dialogue activities that emphasize people-to-people relationships and lay the groundwork for a more fruitful “vivre ensemble” in our pluralist society here in Montréal, Québec, Canada and beyond.
Italy may criminalize Holocaust denial
October 17, 2013
The Senate’s Justice Committee approved a bill to amend part of Italy’s criminal code to specify Holocaust denial as a crime, Il Fatto Quotidiano reported.
The move will strengthen a law which already says defending crimes against humanity can be punished by up to five years in prison.
Politicians from nearly all parties passed the amendment, the newspaper reported.
“This is an important response to all the historical revisionists, unfortunately present in Italy and in Europe, that want to distort history and memory,” said Monica Cirinnà, a committee member, was quoted by the website, Blitz Quotidiano, as saying.
The decision comes as Italy marks the 70th anniversary since Jews were rounded up from the Rome Ghetto and sent to concentration camps. Of more than 1,000 people deported, only 16 returned.
The news also follows the death on Friday of Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke in Rome, who was serving a sentence for his part in the Ardeatine caves massacre in 1944. A total of 335 Italians were killed in the massacre; a response to a partisan attack on German soldiers.
Priebke was himself a Holocaust denier and never showed regret for his actions.
Cirinnà said the Senate decision could help combat the former SS officer’s legacy: “The approval of the degree will be a conclusive response to the contents of Priebke’s will that could deny the existence of the gas chambers in concentration camps.”
Rome refuses to bury ex-Nazi
In his final interview released upon his death, he denied the Nazis gassed Jews during the Holocaust and accused the West of inventing such crimes to cover up atrocities committed by the Allies during the Second World War.
October 15, 2013
by Nicole Winfiled
ROME -- What to do with the body of a Nazi war criminal no one wants?
Rome's mayor, police chief and the Pope's right-hand man have all refused to grant former SS captain Erich Priebke a church funeral in the city where he participated in one of the worst massacres in German-occupied Italy. Now there's the added question of where to bury him, since Rome, his adopted homeland of Argentina, and his hometown in Germany won't take him.
Priebke spent nearly 50 years as a fugitive before being extradited to Italy from Argentina in 1995 to stand trial for the 1944 massacre at the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome, in which 335 civilians were killed. He died Friday at age 100 in the Rome home of his lawyer, Paolo Giachini, where he had been serving his life term under house arrest.
His death has raised a torrent of emotions over how best to lay to rest someone who perpetrated war crimes and denied the Holocaust that killed millions of Jews. It has tested the church's capacity for mercy and forgiveness and its need to prevent public scandal. There is a seemingly intractable conflict between respect for the dead and that owed to the millions of victims of the Holocaust.
Rome's archdiocese said Monday it had told Giachini to have the funeral at home "in strict privacy" and that Pope Francis' vicar for Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, had prohibited any Rome church from celebrating it.
But Giachini refused, pressing instead for a private church mass. The archdiocese responded by reminding all Roman priests they must abide by Vallini's decision.
Separately, Rome's police chief and the government prefect for the capital announced they would prohibit "any form of solemn or public celebration" for Priebke because of public security concerns. Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino said the city would accept neither a church funeral nor a burial for him.
Erich Priebke, Nazi Who Carried Out Massacre of 335 Italians, Dies at 100
Erich Priebke, a former SS captain who was sentenced to life in prison for helping to organize the execution of 335 men and boys at the Ardeatine Caves in Italy in 1944, died on Friday under house arrest at his home in Rome. He was 100 and the oldest surviving convicted Nazi war criminal.
October 13, 2013
Mr. Priebke was at the center of one of the most contentious Nazi war-crimes prosecutions of the 1990s, begun after an American television crew tracked him down in Argentina at San Carlos de Bariloche, a resort city in the foothills of the Andes.
Mr. Priebke fled to South America soon after World War II and had been living under his real name, owning a butcher shop and traveling to Europe — and even Italy — with a German passport.
He was extradited to Italy in November 1995 and ordered to stand trial before an Italian military tribunal the next year. The proceedings — described at the time as possibly the last Nazi war-crimes trial in Europe — centered on the massacre at the Ardeatine Caves, just south of Rome, on March 24, 1944. The men and boys were rounded up and killed in reprisal for an attack in which Italian partisans killed 33 members of a Nazi security force.
Herbert Kappler, the Gestapo chief in Rome, ordered the deaths of 10 Italians for every dead policeman. Seventy-five of the 335 victims were Jewish. By many accounts, the captives were led into the caves with their hands tied behind their backs, forced to kneel — many over the bodies of those already killed — and shot in the neck.
Mr. Priebke said he was responsible for exceeding the quota by five. “It went wrong,” he was quoted as saying in an article published in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung a week before his death.
The military tribunal that tried Mr. Priebke in 1996 ended up ordering him freed. While finding him guilty of involvement in the massacre, the court acquitted him of acting with premeditation and cruelty. Only a conviction on those counts would have sent him to prison because of a 30-year statute of limitations on murder charges.
His release caused an international outcry, and he was rearrested after an appellate court ordered another trial by military tribunal. In July 1997, the second military court sentenced him to 15 years in prison, but reduced that term to five years, saying there had been mitigating factors, including Mr. Priebke’s assertion that he had acted under orders.
Prosecutors appealed, and in March 1998 Mr. Priebke was sentenced to life, a verdict that was upheld by the Court of Cassation, Italy’s highest appellate court.
Because of his age, Mr. Priebke was put under house arrest. Two soldiers kept watch day and night outside the apartment block in western Rome where Mr. Priebke lived, and two police officers followed him whenever he left the residence, according to the account in Süddeutsche Zeitung, by Malte Herwig.
To the end of his life, Mr. Priebke expressed no remorse for his actions.
Israel Gutman, Who Survived and Documented Holocaust, Dies at 90
October 2, 2103
By Isabel Kershner
JERUSALEM — Israel Gutman, who took part in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, survived three Nazi concentration camps and became a prominent historian of the Holocaust, died on Tuesday at his home here. He was 90.
His death was confirmed by a spokeswoman for Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial, where Professor Gutman was chief historian from 1996 to 2000.
One of the last survivors of a generation that witnessed the Nazi atrocities and lived to document them, Professor Gutman wrote about the Jews of Poland, the Jewish resistance and Auschwitz, one of the camps where he was imprisoned.
He was also the editor in chief of the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, a monumental four-volume collection of scholarly articles first published in Hebrew and later in English in 1990. Yad Vashem described it as “comprehensive and groundbreaking.”
Israel Gutman was born in 1923 in Warsaw. His parents and older sister died in the ghetto there; a younger sister was taken into an orphanage. When the ghetto uprising broke out in 1943, Mr. Gutman was responsible for the security of a bunker where wounded were taken.
Once, when leaving the bunker, he and others were confronted by German soldiers, and he shot one of them. The soldiers threw a grenade, wounding him in the eye.
In a video recorded by Yad Vashem, Professor Gutman said of the Warsaw ghetto revolt, “We knew we had no chance,” but he added that “there was a sense of duty to participate in the uprising.”
After the fall of the ghetto, he was sent to the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland and then to Auschwitz. From there he was sent on the death march to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.
After the camp was liberated in May 1945, he took part in efforts to help Jews reach Palestine. He arrived there himself in 1946, shortly before the state of Israel was established, and joined a communal farm. He began his academic career at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and went on to head its department for the study of contemporary Jewry. He later helped found the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem.
Professor Gutman is survived by two daughters and three grandchildren.
Remembering the Holocaust -Bearing witness ever more
The study of the Holocaust is expanding worldwide—for differing reasons
October 1, 2013
ACROSS the globe, schoolchildren study the industrialised slaughter of Jews by the Nazis. Holocaust museums in America, Israel and Poland each draw more than a million visitors annually. The UN has passed two resolutions in the past decade to institutionalise memory of the Holocaust worldwide. Yad Vashem, an Israeli museum and remembrance authority, trains 10,000 domestic and foreign teachers every year. “Interest is growing immensely,” says Dorit Novak, the director-general. Membership of the Association of Holocaust Organisations (AHO) has increased from 25 in the late 1980s to over 300. Commemorative museums have opened from Germany and France to Brazil and Japan. Of the 16,000 books on the Holocaust listed in America’s Library of Congress, more than two-thirds were published in the past two decades.
In its immediate aftermath, the Holocaust went largely unacknowledged. Perpetrators and bystanders preferred to forget. Commemoration began in Israel, where many survivors had gathered. But even there it was done quietly. For the exuberant young country the slaughter of European Jews was an uncomfortable image of passivity and presumed feebleness. A 1960 study showed that barely a quarter of schools taught children about the Holocaust. Only when Israelis came to feel an existential threat during successive wars with Arab neighbours did that change.
In 1982, the education ministry made teaching about the Holocaust compulsory for all children. Coverage in history textbooks increased from 20 pages in the 1960s to 450 in the 1990s. Today, every Israeli schoolchild spends a semester studying the history of what they call the Shoah, along with further coursework in literature, music and art classes. Some 200,000 students and soldiers tour Yad Vashem annually, the soldiers carrying their guns. The state has managed to draw great strength from keeping alive the memory of the murdered.
Yet over time the depiction of mass slaughter has changed. When Israel was meek, it stressed the heroism of the Warsaw ghetto. Now, with reassuringly powerful armed forces, the focus is more on victimhood. Schools teach that “we need a strong army because the world hates us,” says Dan Porat, a professor of Jewish education in Jerusalem. Domestic critics have called some Israeli history teaching simplistic. The Holocaust is at times presented as evidence of a lack of Jewish national spirit, they say, rather than an excess of Germany’s. Government offices exhibit photos of Israeli air-force jets flying over the death camps of Auschwitz. On Holocaust memorial day, inaugurated five years after the founding of Israel, politicians routinely present the country’s foes as would-be annihilators. “All our [current] dangers are viewed through the prism of Auschwitz,” says Avihu Ronen, a lecturer in Jewish history at Haifa University.
Denmark Forced by History To Revisit Heroic Tale of Jewish Rescue From Nazis
September 25, 2013
By Paul Berger
Few nations have been so lauded for their stance during the Holocaust as tiny Denmark.
As October approaches, marking the 70th anniversary of the rescue of Danish Jewry, numerous events in Denmark and overseas commemorate the mass effort in which hundreds, possibly thousands, of Danes helped smuggle almost the entire Danish-Jewish community to coastal towns and villages and then across the Øresund strait to Sweden.
Because of their effort almost all of Denmark’s approximately 8,000 Jews survived Nazi Germany’s occupation of their country.
But something has happened in recent years to Denmark’s rosy view of itself. During the past decade, Danes have learned about harsher, previously little known aspects of the Jewish rescue as the last generation of survivors have revealed their wartime experiences, many for the first time.
No one disputes the key historical truth: Thanks to the Danes’ mass rescue of most of the Jews as well as to the Danish government’s effort to monitor the almost 500 Danish Jews sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, only about 100 Danish Jews — about 1% of the country’s Jewish population — perished during World War II.
But the Danish Jews’ recently emerging tales of trauma, loss and despair have made for a more nuanced picture. Their stories have added to criticisms raised by historians, journalists and others about what has been largely, up to now, a simple, feel-good morality tale.
Some survivors believe that for the first time, the more difficult stories of the 5% of Danish Jews who were left behind in Denmark or sent to Theresienstadt have appeared from beneath the shadow of the rescue of the 95%.
“Maybe the story about the Danish people supporting the Jews to escape is a bigger story than the people who were deported to Theresienstadt,” said Steen Metz, whose father, Axel Mogens Metz, died in the camp. “But my feeling is that it has been underpublicized to a great extent.”
One of the most surprising of the newly emergent aspects of the Nazi occupation is the tale of the Jewish children who were left behind with Christian families in Denmark during the war’s last years.
For the dignity of Roma people in Europe
September 23, 2013
Who can still ignore the racial discriminations striking Roma people everywhere in Europe? The list of the persecutions that they face, like a baleful litany, is ever-growing and could sink into despair.
In Romania, entire communities are rejected to secluded areas surrounded by walls, lacking water and electricity, like in Slovakia, where Roma women are sterilized. In Bulgaria, they are confined in urban ghettos. In the Czech Republic, they are targeted by an increasing number of neo-Nazi demonstrations. In Croatia, they get Molotov cocktails thrown at them. In Hungary, they are harassed and assaulted by the Jobbik paramilitary militia and therefore have to seek shelter abroad. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, they suffer daily discrimination like in Italy, Moldavia or Serbia. In France, the calls for hatred and even for extermination increase, and Roma people still suffer from stigmatizations and even expulsions similar to the ones that took place under the former government. Some of them are forced to go back to Kosovo, as a consequence of the on-going expulsions from Germany, Denmark or Sweden.
The violence of these persecutions varies according to the countries, but their nature remains the same everywhere. They draw their origins from the same stigmatizing representations and the same over-used stereotypes.
Marcel Reich-Ranicki, Literary Critic, Is Dead at 93
He became Germany’s leading literary arbiter, and in the process he helped pave the way for Jews to again play an important role in the nation’s culture and politics.
September 19, 2013
By Sam Dillon
Marcel Reich-Ranicki, a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto who left Poland to become a powerful cultural figure in postwar Germany as a distinguished literary critic and a popular television talk show host, died on Wednesday in Frankfurt. He was 93.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported the death but gave no further details. He had a long association with the newspaper, contributing reviews and columns as recently as last year.
A Polish-born Jew who grew up in Berlin, Mr. Reich-Ranicki had a lifelong love for the German classics. He read the poetry of Goethe and Heinrich Heine even while enduring the cruelest months of Nazi terror, when he saw SS troops march his parents off to the Treblinka gas chambers.
Over six decades he produced a stream of witty, sometimes barbed but consistently erudite commentary in a career that saw Germany through the cold war and national reunification. He became Germany’s leading literary arbiter, and in the process he helped pave the way for Jews to again play an important role in the nation’s culture and politics.
He said he lived with the irony of loving the masterpieces, even of artists whose views he detested.
“The biggest anti-Semite in the history of German culture was Richard Wagner,” Mr. Reich-Ranicki once told an interviewer. “And the greatest opera I know is his ‘Tristan and Isolde.’ ”
The novelist Günter Grass once questioned Mr. Reich-Ranicki at a literary conference.
“What are you really — a Pole, a German or what?” Mr. Grass asked.
“I am half Polish, half German and wholly Jewish,” Mr. Reich-Ranicki replied.
He later said that the statement was untrue, that he felt himself an outsider everywhere. It was a lifelong tension with his own identity that energized his work.
Spanish parliament to vote on mandatory Holocaust studies
Spain’s ruling People’s Party recently submitted the proposed amendment to the education law for approval by Spain’s lower house, according to a report.
September 13, 2013
Spain’s parliament is set to vote on an amendment that would make Holocaust studies obligatory for Spanish students.
Spain’s ruling People’s Party recently submitted the proposed amendment to the education law for approval by Spain’s lower house, according to a report Wednesday in the El Pais daily.
If passed, the proposed amendment would introduce the genocide of Jews by Nazi Germany into the curriculum “at various stages of basic education,” the Spanish news agency Europa Press reported Thursday.
The proposed amendment to the Organic Act for the Improvement of Educational Quality is part of a wider effort to include more materials that pertain to the prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts and values underpinning democracy and human rights, Europa Press reported.
Reports in Spanish media did not say when the vote is scheduled to take place.
The president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, Isaac Querub, said the proposal “certainly represents progress,” but added that the federation would have liked to see a “more comprehensive amendment, explaining the general history of the Jewish people,” according to Europa Press.
“Unless the Holocaust is contextualized, it will give a distorted image of the history of the Jewish people,” he said.
He added that recent polls indicating high levels of anti-Semitism in Spain meant the amendment is necessary.
A study conducted last year by the Anti-Defamation League among 5,000 respondents from 10 European countries suggested that anti-Semitism in Spain was considerably more prevalent than in other countries.
More than half of Spanish respondents to the ADL survey demonstrated anti-Semitic attitudes compared to 17 in Britain. The only country that topped Spain’s 53 percent score was Hungary, with 63 percent.
Quebec's Kippah Problem
September 12, 2013
By Rabbi Lisa J. Grushcow
In 1738, a young Catholic man named Jacques La Fargue came to New France. Jacques La Fargue turned out to be Esther Brandeau, a young Jewish woman who had disguised herself to come to the new world. When she refused to convert, she was sent back to France. Jews were officially allowed to settle in New France beginning in 1760, over 250 years ago. But Esther Brandeau’s were the first Jewish footsteps in what we today call Quebec.
I wonder what Esther Brandeau would make of the current controversy over the Parti Quebecois (PQ) government’s proposed Charter of Quebec Values. The ads in the Montreal metro proclaim, in two starkly-opposing posters: “Church. Synagogue. Mosque. These are sacred,” and, “Religious neutrality of the state. Equality of men and women. These are also sacred.” The self-proclaimed goals of the Charter are to set clear rules on religious accommodations; affirm Quebec values; and establish the religious neutrality of the state. The most controversial aspect of the proposal is the limitation of the wearing of “conspicuous religious symbols.” Namely, any employees of the state — which, in Quebec, includes not only public servants but teachers, professors, daycare workers, and doctors — cannot wear a hijab; a turban; a kippah; or a large crucifix. Small religious symbols are acceptable, though exact measurements are not provided. The crucifix in the Quebec National Assembly, along with the iconic cross on top of Mount Royal, are exempted as expressions of Quebec’s Catholic heritage.
It would be easy to look at this proposal and laugh; it would be equally easy to cry. But the reality is much more complex. The minority PQ government is trying to rally its base as it comes towards an election with a crumbling infrastructure and a weak economy. It is by no means certain that the government will garner enough votes to pass this legislation, and there is significant opposition among both French-speaking and English-speaking Quebecers. On a deeper level, those outside Quebec may not understand the existential concerns of a French-speaking majority who comprise less than two percent of the population of North America as a whole. Alone in an English-speaking continent, Quebec has a distinct language and culture. For that society to dissolve in the sea of internationalism would be a profound loss.
From Italy, a Vintage Redolent of Horrors
“It’s history, not propaganda,” Andrea Lunardelli insisted during an interview on a warm August morning in his family’s modest wine cellar where a lone employee was busy attaching labels — Hitler giving the Nazi salute; a portrait of Hitler with his autograph; another portrait with the motto “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer” (one people, one nation, one leader) — on bottles waiting to be boxed and shipped.
September 7, 2013
By ELISABETTA POVOLEDO
COLLOREDO DI PRATO, Italy — Vini Lunardelli is no stranger to controversy. Every year, it seems, usually during the summer, a tourist will happen upon its wines with their outrageous labels and make a fuss that is then picked up by the local — and sometimes national and international — media.
This year, the fuss picked up some extra heft when it was raised by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Infuriated by wine labels that portray Hitler and sundry members of the Nazi hierarchy, the Los Angeles-based Jewish human rights group called on distributors this month to stop handling Lunardelli wines.
Though Lunardelli has been selling Nazi-themed wines for 20 years, the once-idiosyncratic marketing device is even more intolerable these days, center officials said, with the rising incidence of anti-Semitism in Europe.
“What is the condition of Jewish life in Europe: is it getting better or worse? It’s getting much worse,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Wiesenthal center, citing recent disturbing episodes in France, Greece, Hungary, Eastern Europe and Spain, where earlier this week a banner appeared at a bullfight with the slogan: “Adolf Hitler was right.”
“This is not a time where we can say we defeated anti-Semitism, we are being marginalized,” said Rabbi Hier. “This is not the time to drink wine with Hitler’s image. It’s an insult and the desecration of the memory of the Holocaust.”
But the winemakers believe they are doing nothing wrong.
“It’s history, not propaganda,” Andrea Lunardelli insisted during an interview on a warm August morning in his family’s modest wine cellar where a lone employee was busy attaching labels — Hitler giving the Nazi salute; a portrait of Hitler with his autograph; another portrait with the motto “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer” (one people, one nation, one leader) — on bottles waiting to be boxed and shipped.
Syria's darkest hour: Hundreds of children's bodies piled high after nerve gas attack near Damascus leaves up to 1,300 dead
Activists claim 1,300 killed in government rocket strike on residential area
August 22, 2013
By Sam Webb
The world has looked on in horror as graphic images emerged showing the aftermath of a dawn poison gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus that wiped out 1,300 people as they lay sleeping in their beds.
Syrian activists accuse President Bashar al-Assad's forces of launching the nerve gas attack in what would be by far the worst reported use of poison gas in the two-year-old civil war.
Activists said rockets with chemical agents hit the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar before dawn.
The accounts could not be verified independently and were denied by Syrian state television, which said they were disseminated deliberately to distract a team of United Nations chemical weapons experts that arrived three days ago.
Syria's Information Minister called the activists' claim a 'disillusioned and fabricated one whose objective is to deviate and mislead' the UN mission.
Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from neighbouring Jordan, said there were videos allegedly showing both children and adults in field hospitals, some of them suffocating, coughing and sweating.
Continue reading warning - graphic images
Polish philosopher rejects honorary degree over anti-Semitic attacks
University of Lower Silesia rector calls Zygmunt Bauman’s refusal 'a capitulation to the extreme right.'
August 20, 2013
Polish-British philosopher Zygmunt Bauman rejected an honorary doctorate from a Polish university because of anti-Semitic attacks against him on the Internet.
Bauman, who agreed in January to accept the degree from the University of Lower Silesia in Wroclaw, asked the school in a letter to cancel the honor, according to the Gazeta Wyborcza.
Bauman, 87, lost his professorship at the University of Warsaw following a 1968 anti-Semitic campaign against him organized by the Communist Party of which he had been a member. He first immigrated to Israel, where he taught at Tel Aviv University, then moved to England to serve as the chair in sociology at the University of Leeds.
Following the announcement of the honorary doctorate at the University of Lower Silesia, Bauman was attacked in Internet forums and social media. Among the more mild anti-Semitic comments were “I cannot stand the Jewish Bolshevik,” “Death to the Zionist plague of mankind” and “Down with Judeo-Communism,” according to the Gazeta Wyborcza.
The ceremony was scheduled for October 24, and the university Senate had already passed a resolution approving the granting of the honor.
In his letter, Bauman said he based part of his decision on his desire not to harm the reputation of the university with the “unnecessary uproar,” according to the Gazeta Wyborcza.
University Rector Robert Barberry called Bauman’s rejection of the honorary doctorate “a capitulation to the extreme right.”
Egypt’s Islamists target Christian churches, schools in backlash
While the Christians of Egypt have endured attacks by extremists, they have drawn closer to moderate Muslims in some places, in a rare show of solidarity.
August 20, 2013
By Hamza Hendawi
After torching a Franciscan school, Islamists paraded three nuns on the streets like “prisoners of war” before a Muslim woman offered them refuge. Two other women working at the school were sexually harassed and abused as they fought their way through a mob.
In the four days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Islamists have attacked dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority. The campaign of intimidation appears to be a warning to Christians outside Cairo to stand down from political activism.
Christians have long suffered from discrimination and violence in Muslim majority Egypt, where they make up 10 per cent of the population of 90 million. Attacks increased after the Islamists rose to power in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power, emboldening extremists. But Christians have come further under fire since President Mohammed Morsi was ousted on July 3, sparking a wave of Islamist anger led by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Nearly 40 churches have been looted and torched, while 23 others have been attacked and heavily damaged since Wednesday, when chaos erupted after Egypt’s military-backed interim administration moved in to clear two camps packed with protesters calling for Morsi’s reinstatement, killing scores of protesters and sparking deadly clashes nationwide.
One of the world’s oldest Christian communities has generally kept a low-profile, but has become more politically active since Mubarak was ousted and Christians sought to ensure fair treatment in the aftermath.
Many Morsi supporters say Christians played a disproportionately large role in the days of mass rallies, with millions demanding that he step down ahead of the coup.
Despite the violence, Egypt’s Coptic Christian church renewed its commitment to the new political order Friday, saying in a statement that it stood by the army and the police in their fight against “the armed violent groups and black terrorism.”
While the Christians of Egypt have endured attacks by extremists, they have drawn closer to moderate Muslims in some places, in a rare show of solidarity.
Hundreds from both communities thronged two monasteries in the province of Bani Suef south of Cairo to thwart what they had expected to be imminent attacks on Saturday, local activist Girgis Waheeb said. Activists reported similar examples elsewhere in regions south of Cairo, but not enough to provide effective protection of churches and monasteries.
Bialystok opera honors ghetto uprising with Bernstein’s 'Kaddish’
Also, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski awards Israeli for lifetime of nurturing Polish-Jewish relations
August 18, 2013
By Hagay Hacohen
BIALYSTOK, Poland - A Polish opera has performed Leonard Bernstein’s “Kaddish“ to mark the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Bialystok Ghetto, an event that sparked the second largest ghetto uprising in Nazi-occupied Poland.
The Podlaska Opera and Philharmonic accompanied the text by Bialystok-born Holocaust survivor Samuel Pisar, which was delivered Friday night by Polish actor Roman Gancarczyk.
The 1963 Bernstein symphony is a powerful accusation against God, who is portrayed as indifferent to human suffering in the Holocaust and other human calamities. It includes the travails of Pisar, who laments the murder of his parents and all his schoolmates. Nearly one-third of Bialystok’s residents before World War II were Jews.
Under the leadership of Mordechaj Tenenbaum and Daniel Moskowicz, Jewish fighters fought the Nazis in a hopeless battle over a few days. Most of the ghetto residents were taken to Treblinka, Majdanek, Auschwitz and Theresienstadt; only a few hundred Jews from Bialystok survived the war.
The performance Friday was also attended by Jacob Kagan, the head of the Israeli society of former Bialystok residents. Kagan, whose father was shot when he was a child, was honored Friday night by Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski for a lifetime of promoting Polish-Jewish relations.
"I must say that the city of Bialystok did a fine job in promoting the legacy of the Holocaust and commemorating the memory of the hundreds of thousands of Jews here who were slain in the Holocaust,” Kagan told Haaretz. “For me personally this means a great deal."
Hosted as part of commemorative events that included a performance of Hasidic jazz and an exhibition created by the Warsaw-based Jewish Historical Institute, the symphony was also attended by Archbishop Edward Ozorowski of Bialystok.
Remembering Toronto's Christie Pits Riot
When the gang of young men revealed the dark symbol on that warm summer evening in the park, they surely knew it would incite rage.
August 11, 2013
By DANIEL BITONTI
It was Aug. 16, 1933, and the St. Peter’s baseball team was beating Harbord Playground, a predominantly Jewish team, in a semi-final game for the junior city championships at Willowvale Park in Toronto, what’s now known as Christie Pits.
When the game ended with a St. Peter’s win, the Pit Gang, a group of trouble-making young men, went up onto a knoll at the southwest edge of park and unveiled a white sheet. In the middle: a large, black swastika. The supporters of the Harbord Playground team – mostly young Jewish men – ran straight for them.
What ensued was a massive melee – arguably the largest in Toronto’s history – which saw both the Jewish men and the Nazi sympathizers call in hundreds of reinforcements. For nearly six hours, hundreds fought in and around the park, picking up whatever they could find to use as a weapon. At the time, the media reported that thousands had descended on the park that night. It was the culmination of racial tensions that had been building over several weeks that summer.
“This represented, in terms of the people we spoke to, a very significant change,” said Cyril Levitt, who co-authored the book The Riot at Christie Pits, interviewing dozens of people who participated. “Basically the message was ‘you don’t have the impunity you had before’ … people felt a sense of pride that they fought back.”
This Friday marks the 80th anniversary of what became known as the Christie Pits Riot. On Sunday, the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto will host a baseball game at the park to mark the anniversary, featuring local Toronto celebrities and members of the Jewish community.
To be a Jew in Toronto in 1933 was to be a second-class citizen, says Joe Black, an 87-year-old Toronto native who was seven at the time of the riot.
“Anti-Semitism was acceptable …You’d hear ‘dirty Jew’ all the time,” he said, adding that it wasn’t uncommon for neighbourhood boys to beat him up on the way home from school, simply because he was Jewish.
Justice in Hungary: Neo-Nazis Get Life for Roma Murder Spree
A court in Budapest sentenced three neo-Nazis to life in prison on Tuesday for a murder spree directed against Hungary's Roma minority in 2008 and 2009. Although the victims' families praise the decision, they criticize official foot-dragging in the investigation.
August 10, 2013
Sometimes, when Tibor Nagy and his children have a little extra money, they drive to the grave, straighten its wooden cross, lay a few flowers and stand there in silence. The grave is nothing more than a pile of sand, the crucifix is gradually weathering.
Nagy and his children would prefer to have a proper gravestone for Éva Nagy, his wife and their mother, something more fitting. But they can't affort it. A neighbor once offered to sell them the gravestone of her exhumed husband. "But it didn't work out," says Krisztina Nagy, the eldest daughter.
On the night of Nov. 3, 2008, Éva Nagy, a 40-year-old mother of four, was shot dead in Nagycsécs, a village in northeastern Hungary. Attackers first set the family's house on fire with petrol bombs. As the family fled, they were fired on with shotguns. Éva and her brother-in-law were killed. Tibor was severely wounded. Only the daughter, who is deaf and cannot speak, was miraculously unharmed. "They didn't just kill our mother; they also destroyed our lives," Krisztina says in a trembling voice. "And just because we are gypsies."
On that same night, Nagycsécs was just the first place to be afflicted by a series of gruesome murders directed at Roma, which make up about 7 percent of a population of 10 million and the country's largest minority. In 2008 and 2009, right-wing extremist terrorists in Hungary killed six Roma, including a 4-year-old boy, and wounded 55 people, almost all of them Roma. Some of the wounds were life-threatening. These were followed by a long series of botched investigations, and Hungarian authorities only arrested the suspects in August 2009.
Acid attack victims Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup return home as Zanzibar police hold five men
Mr Trup said the girls were dressed appropriately and had been warned not to wear anything that gave away their Jewish background, including the Star of David.
August 10, 2013
By Paul Bignell
Two British teenagers who were attacked with acid on Zanzibar returned home today as five men were being questioned by police on the Indian Ocean island.
Volunteer teachers Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup, both aged 18, flew in to RAF Northolt in London to be reunited with their families. The women had been attacked by men on a motorcycle as they walked along a road in the island’s main city, Stone Town, on Wednesday night. Both suffered burns to their faces, chests and hands.
Katie thanked supporters for their good wishes with a post on Twitter which said: "Thank you for all your support x".
The student sent the message from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London where she and her friend were receiving treatment for their burns inflicted in an unprovoked attack while they were on a volunteering holiday.
Zanzibar police have offered a reward of 10m Tanzanian shillings (£3,970) for information leading to the capture of the attackers.
The teenagers were taken to the burns unit where consultant surgeon Andy Williams said: “We’re still assessing their injuries. Both girls are well and their families are with them.”
Earlier yesterday Katie’s mother, Nicky Gee, 45, said: “I am just glad she is home. I want to get inside and see her. We spoke this morning and she said she was OK. It has been a terrible ordeal.”
Marc Trup, Kirstie’s father, described the girls as being “inconsolable”. He said: “We couldn’t get anything out of them because they had been burnt. Both girls are very shocked and very frightened. She [Kirstie] can still see and she is not dead. Whatever it is we will cope with it.”
The victims, both from London, were two weeks into a three-week trip as volunteer teachers for the charity Art in Tanzania.
Mr Trup said the girls were dressed appropriately and had been warned not to wear anything that gave away their Jewish background, including the Star of David. “We know it’s a Muslim country, they were Western girls. Unfortunately they went out during the month of Ramadan,” he said. “There has been a huge alert in African countries with potential threats. Maybe it’s connected, maybe not.”
Internment camp for Jews in Second World War a little-known piece of New Brunswick history
Internment Camp B70 housed more than 700 Jews in the early months of the Second World War. More than 70 years later, it’s a piece of New Brunswick history rarely spoken of and little known about.
August 8, 2013
ANDREW VAUGHAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS
A sign marks the Second World War internment camp in Ripples, N.B near Minto. Internment Camp B70 housed more than 700 Jews and later 1,200 captured prisoners and Canadians who spoke out against the Second World War.
By Kevin Bissett
RIPPLES, N.B.—As a 15-year-old facing the threat of Nazi Germany in Austria, Fred Kaufman could barely imagine that he would soon find himself separated from his family, peering through the barbed wire fence of an internment camp deep in the woods of New Brunswick.
Internment Camp B70, located in Ripples, N.B., housed more than 700 Jews in the early months of the Second World War. More than 70 years later, it is a piece of New Brunswick history rarely spoken of and little known by many.
As the situation for Jewish families in Austria worsened in the months leading up to the war, Kaufman’s father decided to send his son to England — one of 10,000 Jewish boys taken to the United Kingdom as part of a relief effort known as the Kindertransport.
“It was a tough decision to split up the family,” Kaufman said in an interview from his home in Toronto.
But then-British prime minister Winston Churchill was worried there could be spies among the Jews, and he asked Canada and Australia to house them as internees.
Kaufman was one of 711 men and boys who found themselves stepping off a train on Aug. 12, 1940, and led on foot to an internment camp in Ripples, an isolated community about 30 kilometres east of Fredericton.
“The camp was in the middle of the woods and we spent our days chopping down trees into heating-sized cords of wood,” Kaufman said. “It was cold.”
150 Dutch teen cyclists visit Nazi transit camp Westerbork
July 29, 2013
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) – Some 150 teenagers from The Netherlands visited Westerbork, a transit camp for Holocaust victims, in an activity designed to combat recent expressions of anti-Semitism in the city’s schools.
The teens from the eastern Netherlands city of Arnhem arrived at Kamp Westerbork on bicycles on Thursday carrying white roses provided to them by the organizers of the activity, which was planned in cooperation with the Jewish community of Arnhem.
They left the roses on the railway track of the camp, from which approximately 100,000 Jews were transported to Nazi death camps. Among the notable inmates at Westerbork was the teen diarist Anne Frank, who with her family was sent to Auschwitz.
Holland’s chief interprovincial rabbi, Binyomin Jacobs, told JTA that the teens reacted emotionally to the experience.
“I told them what happened to children just like them in Westerbork and I also told them ‘Shalom’ means ‘hi’ but also ‘peace,’ and they all said ‘shalom’ when we parted — some of them with tears in their eyes,” Jacobs told JTA.
In February, Dutch television aired interviews with high school students from Muslim homes in the Arnhem area in which the students expressed anti-Semitic views. One interviewee said he was “happy about what [Adolf] Hitler did to the Jews.”
The interviews prompted the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, a watchdog on anti-Semitism, to request the government study and address the problem of anti-Semitism in schools. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he would launch a plan “to discuss anti-Semitism with young people.”
The visit was organized by the Arnhem Jewish community and those responsible for the Uncle Joop Tour, an annual 310-mile bicycle trip that was first held in 1950.
It was the first time the tour passed through Westerbork, but Jacobs said it could become an annual event.
Greece's Golden Dawn Party Plays Nazi Anthem 'Keep The Banner Flying' Outside Central Athens Offices
July 25, 2013
By DEREK GATOPOULOS
An extreme-right political party in Greece played a Nazi anthem during a charity event Wednesday that authorities had attempted to ban.
A Greek version of the Horst Wessel song – known as "keep the banner flying" in Greek – was played on loud speakers outside the central Athens offices of the Golden Dawn party, where members handed out bags of food and clothing.
A video of the event, including the sound of the song, was posted on the party's website.
The song remains banned in Germany, along with Nazi symbols.
Party members distributed the food parcels after checking recipients' identity cards to insure that non-Greeks were excluded.
Golden Dawn, which has campaigned aggressively against illegal immigration and Greece's international economic bailout, has seen a surge in support during the financial crisis and its dramatic rise in poverty and unemployment.
The party won nearly 7 percent of the vote in general elections last year, with popular support continuing to rise, according to opinion polls.
City authorities and the Greek police had banned Golden Dawn on Wednesday from using a nearby square to stage the charity event and set up a large police cordon to prevent possible protests against the decision. But large crowds of supporters gathered outside the party building chanting, "Foreigners out of Greece."
French mayor's Hitler remark to Roma triggers inquiry
July 24, 2013
A French prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation after a mayor was recorded telling a group of itinerant Roma parked illegally near his town that Hitler had not killed enough of them.
Gilles Bourdouleix, who is also a lawmaker for of the centrist UDI party, made the comments during an altercation with the group, which had parked more than 100 cars on a field near Cholet, local media reported.
His remarks were broadcast across France as President Francois Hollande moves to defuse growing anger over illegal Roma camps from conservatives and frustrated taxpayers, who, in a time of austerity, feel that social services provided by the state are being abused.
On a recording posted on various media websites, Bourdouleix could be heard saying "Hitler maybe didn't kill enough of them".
But the mayor told a television channel his comments had been misinterpreted.
"I mumbled something like, 'if it was Hitler he would have killed them here', meaning, 'thank goodness I'm not Hitler' and so there's no reason to call me Hitler," he told BFM news TV. "This is shameful score-settling which aims to smear me."
He was not immediately available for comment to Reuters.
"This is not a slip of the tongue," Interior Minister Manuel Valls told news channel i>Tele TV.
"A case has been brought before the courts because this is praise for the crimes of World War Two. It's praise for Nazis, and coming from a mayor it's unbearable," he said.
Angers prosecutor Yves Gambert later confirmed that a preliminary investigation had been opened into whether Bourdouleix was an "apologist for crimes against humanity".
A person found guilty of such a crime can face up to 45,000 euros ($59,500) in fines, a year in jail, or both.
Singing Holocaust Poetry at Terezin Teaches Interfaith Harmony to a New Generation
July 19, 2013
Who better to teach us the consequences of hate than children who were victims of the Holocaust. Though the Nazis attempted to conceal the reality of concentration camp horrors at the time, poetry written by children in the camp of Terezin survives them and provides the purest account of their experience of persecution and hate. Recently, two regional youth choirs traveled to the Terezin concentration camp, reviving the poetry children wrote while they were detained. Singer and CPWR intern Sarah Levenstam shares the lessons and experiences of how musical harmony can transcend persecution.
At the Camp
Our stage is barren—stone stairs lead to a concrete platform, overlooking a gravel-filled wasteland. This is where the children played. Our choir of children sings, with tear-streaked faces and frog-filled throats, to honor the children of the concentration camp at Terezin, the music of the Terezin children’s poetry fighting against the wind and empty space. The Youth Choral Theatre of Chicago and the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus studied, practiced, memorized the words on the pages, words that blossomed with new purpose and value in striking contrast against the desolate grey of the children’s residences and yard.
I Never Saw Another Butterfly
The piece we performed, titled “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” is a collection of poems written by children who lived in the concentration camp in Theresienstadt, poetry later put to music. Terezin housed many artists and scholars: this helped the Nazis deceive the Red Cross that the camp was an environment where creativity thrived. In reality, the Nazis sent 144,000 Jews to Terezin, and through living in uninhabitable conditions, about 33,000 died in the camp. Another 88,000 were sent to extermination camps, and only 17,247 inmates survived. Children were not shielded from the terror—approximately 50,000 entered the camp, only 280 were spared. A prominent archway marking entry into the male work yard is inscribed “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Makes You Free”); the irony of this gate, that many men died there working to build the site of their own demise, is not lost on today’s visitors.
Our choir is composed of children from approximately 8 to 18 years old, along with a few alumnae, travelling from Chicago and Grand Rapids to honor the child-victims who wrote the poetry in “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.” The Youth Choral Theater of Chicago has performed a variety of impressive repertoire, from South African freedom songs to Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem, but this piece has a special resonance with Paul Caldwell, director of the Youth Choral Theater.
War crimes court reinstates genocide charge against former Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic
The UN's war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia has reinstated a genocide charge against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.
July 13, 2013
By Barbara Miller
Judges at the tribunal in The Hague said there was evidence Radovan Karadzic had "genocidal intent" in a campaign against Muslims and Croats at the start of the Bosnian war in the early 1990s.
The decision reverses an acquittal on one of two genocide charges the former Bosnian Serb leader is facing.
Karadzic, 68, now faces 11 charges, including two counts of genocide, as well as accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
He denies the allegations against him, all of which relate to his role in the Balkan country's 1992-95 inter-ethnic war, in which 100,000 people were killed and some 2.2 million others left homeless.
The first genocide charge relates to a campaign to "permanently remove" Bosnian Croats and Muslims from towns and cities, collectively referred to as Bosnia's "municipalities", and claim the land as Bosnian Serb territory.
A second genocide charge covers the 1995 massacre at eastern Bosnia's Srebrenica, where almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and buried in mass graves.
Judges last year dropped the first genocide charge, saying there was no evidence to convict Karadzic for genocide in the municipalities.
But appeals judges on Thursday said the decision "resulted in a miscarriage of justice".
They said there was evidence from meetings attended by Karadzic in the early 1990s "that it had been decided that one third Muslims would be killed, one third would be converted to the Orthodox religion, and a third will leave on their own."
Judge Meron added that based on evidence during Karadzic's trial - including reports of rape and violent beatings of Bosnian Muslims and Croat detainees having their "heads hit against walls" - "no reasonable trial chamber" could have concluded that the evidence was insufficient.
Berlin begins building memorial to victims of Nazi 'euthanasia'
Officials have gathered in Berlin to lay the foundations for a monument to the people killed as part of the Nazi "euthanasia" programs. The symbolic site was chosen as it was the headquarters of the original project.
July 10, 2013
An artists rendering of the monument
Building work began in Berlin on Monday for the city's fourth official monument to victims of Adolf Hitler's National Socialist government.
The planned exhibit at Tiergartenstrasse 4 in the capital will be dedicated to the victims of the "euthanasia" program used by the Nazis to kill those with physical or mental illnesses. Hitler's Nazi regime killed more than 200,000 people who were either psychotherapy patients or physically disabled between January 1940 and August 1941.
The euthanasia program was run out of the same Tiergartenstrasse address and was even codenamed "T4." A commemorative plaque has adorned the site since 1986.
The German minister for cultural state affairs, Bernd Neumann (pictured), attended the laying of the foundation stone on Monday, saying that the monument should set a sign "against hate, delusion and coldheartedness - and for tolerance, empathy and a respect for life."
The vice president of the lower house of German parliament, Wolfgang Thierse; the government's special representative for the disabled, Hubert Hüppe; and Berlin's senator for integration, Dilek Kolat, also attended the ceremony.
The planned monument will be a long, blue glass wall - designed by the architechts Ursula Wilms and Heinz W. Hallman, along with the artist Nikolaus Koliusis. The federal government plans to contribute 500,000 euros ($643,200) to the project. The finished site is tentatively scheduled for inauguration in the second half of 2014.
Muslim Jewish Conference Meets In Sarajevo To Combat Islamophobia And Anti-Semitism
Muslim and Jewish youth: "Believe something is possible that everyone says is impossible."
July 7, 2013
Students and young professionals from around the world have gathered in Sarajevo, Bosnia to exchange experiences and fight prejudice and hatred. They represent different cultures and races and speak dozens of languages, but they share either one of two identities: they are all Muslims or Jews.
As religious tensions flare and Islamophobia and snti-Semitism plague societies, these courageous young people are determined to forge a future of greater peace and understanding.
The conference is the fourth organized by The Muslim Jewish Conference (MJC), a Vienna-based organization whose goal for the conference, according to their website, "is to provide the next generation with a learning experience for life and a positive outlook for establishing intercultural relations and sustaining Muslim-Jewish partnerships."
In three years, the MJC has attracted more than three hundred young leaders from fifty countries to lead and participate in conferences in Vienna; Kiev, Ukraine; Bratislava, Slovakia, and now Sarajevo.
Jay Schultz, an American currently living in Israel, and Shanza Ali, who is from London, spoke to The Huffington Post from the conference. Both explained how they have taken advantage of this unique opportunity for an open and honest dialogue with the "other" that seems impossible at home.
"I came to the conference from Israel where I don't get to interact with Muslims outside the Israel Arab debate," Jay explained. "But for me, the theology is so interesting, what it means to both the be the descendants of Abraham and work together together to create 'chesed' or kindness in the world. Being able to discuss how to work hand-in-hand is not something I get to do with Muslims in Israel because of the conflict."
For Shanza, the university life in the United Kingdsom is where she finds the divide between Muslims and Jews. "The conference gives me the opportunity to interact with Jews from so many backgrounds, but most of all I have made some incredible friends. I am in the gender and religion project at the conference and we are working together to find solutions to mutual problems we face on that topic. The conference has proven intellectually and spiritually beneficial."
French Students Stage 'Grossly Anti-Semitic' Play
Money Changers and Cohens 1 and 2 in La Rochelle Drama
July 1, 2013
A French university has defended a student theater production which has been labeled “grossly anti-Semitic.
“The humor is difficult to handle but this is not an anti-Semitic show,” Catherine Benguigui, vice president of the University of La Rochelle, told local newspaper Sud Ouest in an article published last week.
She was reacting to a statement by Richard Prasquier, former president of the CRIF umbrella organization of French Jewish communities, who said a theater play entitled “Your Children’s Role in the Global Economic Recovery” was “grossly anti-Semitic.”
“How else would one describe a play in which a greedy money dealer called Goldberg presses a family to invest their life savings in repugnant causes,” Prasquier wrote. He added that the play included a reference to two Nazi-hunters named “Cohen 1 and Cohen 2,” who abandon their cause for cash.
Produced by students of La Rochelle with state subsidies and with help from the Institute Francais, the play was put on five times last month at a theater festival in La Rochelle, about 100 miles from Bordeaux, where it attracted some 500 theater goers, according to the university.
In a statement sent to JTA, the university wrote it “does not censor” students and that the students who produced the play were “not anti-Semitic nor was their intention to promote anti-Semitism.” The university “regrets seeing its reputation tarnished unjustly,” read the statement, adding that the play was meant to “caricaturize” stereotypes.
Prasquier wrote: “Maybe soon we will hear that the Sturmer and Mein Kampf are so ridiculous that they serve to deconstruct anti-Semitic preconceptions.”
The play also was criticized by Michel Goldberg, a teacher of biotechnology at the university. “Those stereotypes have killed people before,” he wrote.
Goodbye to Berlin: Postcards from Nazi Germany tell story of the Kindertransport
To mark the 75th anniversary of the Kindertransport, which saw 10,000 children escape from Nazi Germany to the UK, a new book brings to light the heartbreaking postcards sent by one Jewish father in Berlin to his son in Swansea.
June 28, 2013
By Donald Macintire
They are, if nothing else, a tangible testament to a father's love. From 3 February 1939, when "little Heini" arrived in Swansea after leaving Berlin for the last time, until 31 August, when war made such communication impossible, Max Lichtwitz wrote a stream of postcards to his young son. They have left a unique record of his determination to maintain the parental bond with the boy whose life he had saved by sending him to a strange country and parting with him, as he feared, for ever.
What can the journey have been like for a bewildered six-year-old? Henry Foner, as little Heini Lichtwitz would become, remembers the German border guards searching the train passengers and his one small suitcase, the Dutch women on the other side of the crossing handing out "delicious" sausage rolls, a helmeted bobby on the quay at Harwich, the large hall where he waited to be collected, but nothing of the painful departure from Berlin. "It's a strange thing; if you talk to people like me, the traumatic memory is of parting with their parents, and I can't remember it at all. It must have been traumatic and I must have forgotten because I remember the journey very well, but I can't remember saying goodbye to my father and my grandmother." (His mother had died two years earlier.)
The "people like me" to whom Foner refers were the 10,000 Jewish and "non-Aryan" children of the "kindertransport" who, between December 1938 – in the wake of the Kristallnacht pogrom which had terrorised Jews across Berlin – and September 1939, escaped the coming Holocaust, leaving their families in Nazi Europe by train and ferry for Britain, accompanied by youth workers and unemployed Jewish professionals who risked their lives by returning again and again to remove other groups of children to safety.
In a series of events to commemorate the programme's 75th anniversary, some of the children, most now in their eighties, will convene with their families at London's Jewish Free School today in a gathering addressed by David Miliband and Maureen Lipman, and at St James's Palace tomorrow for a reception given by the Prince of Wales.
The young Heinz Lichtwitz, as he then was, was destined for the home of a Jewish couple in Swansea, Morris and Winnie Foner. Despite the comforting postcard with "1,000 kisses" his father sent him as soon as he knew he was safely with the Foners, his arrival cannot have been easy. He spoke only German, his new foster family only English and Yiddish.
UNESCO recognizes Yad Vashem's Holocaust testimonies
Pages of Testimony at Yad Vashem Holocaust museum added to the Memory of the World Register, which recognizes archives with 'outstanding universal value.'
June 20, 2013
JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Yad Vashem Pages of Testimony memorial repository was included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
Yad Vashem has collected the Pages of Testimony — forms that were filled out in memory of Jewish Holocaust victims — since 1954. Some 2.6 million names have been documented.
It is the first time that an Israeli collection has been included in the registry, which was founded in 1995 and includes 299 items endorsed by the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Along with other documentation, Yad Vashem has been able to identify by name 4.2 million of the 6 million Jewish Shoah victims.
The repository is housed in the Hall of Names at the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. The collection was uploaded to the Yad Vashem website as part of the Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names and is available in English, Hebrew, Russian, German and Spanish.
“For many Holocaust survivors and their families, Pages of Testimony are the only tangible evidence that their murdered loved ones once lived,” Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said. “The Nazis and their collaborators strove to murder each and every Jewish man, woman and child, and to erase any vestige of their existence. These pages, together with information gathered from around the world as part of our names recovery efforts, restore to them their names, their identities.”
Italian Righteous Gentile Put on Path To Sainthood by Church
Odoardo Focherini Saved More Than 100 Jews During WWII. Believed to be first Righteous Among the Nations and first person who was murdered for saving Jews to be beatified.
June 16, 2013
An Italian Catholic activist and journalist who was declared a Righteous Among the Nations for saving Jewish lives during World War II has formally been put on the road to sainthood by the Roman Catholic church.
Odoardo Focherini was beatified – the step before sainthood – at a ceremony Saturday in his hometown of Carpi, near Modena in northern Italy.
Declared a martyr by the church, Focherini is believed to be the first Righteous Among the Nations, and the first person who was murdered for saving Jews, to be beatified.
Born in 1907, Focherini saved about 100 Jewish during World War II by establishing a rescue network and arranging false papers to help them flee to Switzerland. He was arrested in March 1944 and sent to a series of Nazi camps. He died at the camp at Hersbruck, Germany, in December 1944.
Yad Vashem recognized him and a parish priest who helped him as Righteous Among Nations in 1969.
Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree attesting to Focherini’s martyrdom in 2012.
Renzo Gattegna, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, said in a statement that Focherini’s memory “will also continue to be a source of inspiration for future generations.”
In a statement, the Rome office of the American Jewish Committee said Focherini “acted selflessly in accordance with the highest moral principles shared by our two fraternal religions. This act will create yet another bond between Christians and Jews, further enriching our deepening dialogue. May the recognition and memory of Odoardo Focherini’s profound faith and humanity be a blessing to all the world’s peoples.”
German Parliament Passes Anti-Semitism Measure
Bundestag Vote Vows To Support Jewish Life
June 16, 2013
By Don Snyder
The German Bundestag today approved a resolution vowing to combat anti-Semitism and support Jewish life in Germany, and to deepen the country’s special relationship with Israel.
The resolution, which passed by an overwhelming margin in a voice vote during a poorly attended session, signaled the government’s recognition of anti-Semitism’s continued existence in the country responsible for the Holocaust.
According to a government-sponsored study presented to the Bundestag in January 2012, 20% of Germans harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.
The most active anti-Semites come from the extreme right, according to the resolution. While noting that Muslim members of Hamas and Hezbollah foment anti-Semitism through attacks on Israel that go well beyond legitimate criticism, the resolution fails to recommend initiatives to combat Muslim extremists.
The resolution, which specifically condemns Israel-related anti-Semitism, stresses the critical importance of education in counteracting prejudice against Jews. It calls for better education in schools and other institutions, including improved teaching about the Holocaust, expansion of existing curricula on Jewish life and German-Jewish relations, and expanded cooperation with Action Reconciliation Service for Peace, a volunteer organization that gives support to Holocaust survivors.
“Education, education,” emphasized Bundestag member Gitta Connemann, a member of the Christian Democratic Union, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s majority party, during the floor debate that preceded the vote. Speaking with firm conviction, she said that German children must not just learn about the dead, but must also learn about all aspects Jewish life in Germany today
Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s office in Berlin, hailed the resolution as “a welcome public acknowledgement of the importance of fighting anti-Semitism in all forms, including anti-Zionism.”
Berger, whom several of the lawmakers thanked for her role in shaping the resolution, stressed that it remained for the government to now implement the educational measures it outlined, including programs on Jewish life, Jewish history and Holocaust education.
Hairdos and Movies: The Carefree Life of a Teen in Wartime Berlin
The diary of Brigitte Eicke, a Berlin teenager in World War II, is an account of cinema visits, first kisses, hairdos and dressmaking, along with a brief, untroubled reference to disappearing Jews. Recently published, it highlights the public indifference that paved the road to Auschwitz.
June 16, 2013
"The school had been bombed when we arrived this morning. Waltraud, Melitta and I went back to Gisela's and danced to gramophone records."
Young girls are made of stern stuff. In December 1942, while Allied bombs rained on Berlin and Nazi troops fought for control of Stalingrad, 15-year-old Brigitte Eicke began keeping a diary. For the next three years, the young office apprentice wrote in it every single day.
Now published in German as "Backfisch im Bombenkrieg" -- backfisch being an old-fashioned term for a girl on the cusp of womanhood -- it adds a new perspective to Germany's World War II experience and shows not only how mundane war can become but also how the majority of Germans were able to turn a blind eye to Nazi brutality.
Until relatively recently, accounts of Germans' own wartime suffering were considered something of a taboo, their own trauma eclipsed by the horror of the Holocaust. But now that the wartime generation is dying, every slice of first-hand social history has inherent value.
Gerda Kanzleiter works at Berlin's ZeitzeugenBörse (ZZB), a non-profit organization that collects and documents eyewitness testimonies. "We've lost many of the elderly people we've worked with already, and we're losing more every month," she says. "Very soon now, none of them will be left."
Eicke's diary was discovered in the nick of time, when she sent it to writer and local historian Annet Gröschner, who co-edited and annotated the published version. "The paper was yellowed and had virtually disintegrated," says Gröschner. "It was almost unreadable."
But it proved quite a find. "What is striking about the diary is its authenticity," she says. "It's very different from personal accounts of World War II that were written with the benefit of hindsight and with later generations in mind."
And as Gerda Kanzleiter from the ZBB points out, anecdotal history is often much more revealing than scholarly research, let alone fiction and drama. For Germany, which took decades to reach a point where it could face its demons, it has played a key role in understanding the war in all its facets.
That includes its ordinariness. For long stretches, Eicke's diary reflects an astonishingly normal teenage existence, evoking a life on the home front that is humdrum and hair-raising in equal parts. She nonchalantly notes her frequent cinema visits as diligently as she logs the length of air raid warnings, and seems no more riled by the havoc wreaked on her city by the "Tommys" than by her mother's bad moods. But her phlegmatic commentary belies the grim reality of the time.
Alfred Rosenberg Diary Found: U.S. Finds Long-Lost Documents Of Top Nazi Leader And Hitler Aide
June 16, 2013
By John Shiffman
WASHINGTON, June 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. government has recovered 400 pages from the long-lost diary of Alfred Rosenberg, a confidant of Adolf Hitler who played a central role in the extermination of millions of Jews and others during World War Two.
A preliminary U.S. government assessment reviewed by Reuters asserts the diary could offer new insight into meetings Rosenberg had with Hitler and other top Nazi leaders, including Heinrich Himmler and Herman Goering. It also includes details about the German occupation of the Soviet Union, including plans for mass killings of Jews and other Eastern Europeans.
"The documentation is of considerable importance for the study of the Nazi era, including the history of the Holocaust," according to the assessment, prepared by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. "A cursory content analysis indicates that the material sheds new light on a number of important issues relating to the Third Reich's policy. The diary will be an important source of information to historians that complements, and in part contradicts, already known documentation."
How the writings of Rosenberg, a Nazi Reich minister who was convicted at Nuremberg and hanged in 1946, might contradict what historians believe to be true is unclear. Further details about the diary's contents could not be learned, and a U.S. government official stressed that the museum's analysis remains preliminary.
But the diary does include details about tensions within the German high-command - in particular, the crisis caused by the flight of Rudolf Hess to Britain in 1941, and the looting of art throughout Europe, according to the preliminary analysis.
The recovery is expected to be announced this week at a news conference in Delaware held jointly by officials from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Justice and Holocaust museum.
The diary offers a loose collection of Rosenberg's recollections from spring 1936 to winter 1944, according to the museum's analysis. Most entries are written in Rosenberg's looping cursive, some on paper torn from a ledger book and others on the back of official Nazi stationery, the analysis said.
Greek PM, ruling party drop opposition to anti-racism law
Bill outlaws Holocaust denial and clamps down on racist attacks; could threaten members of anti-Semitic Golden Dawn party.
June 10, 2013
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his conservative New Democracy party dropped their opposition to a new anti-racism bill that outlaws Holocaust denial.
The about-face on Thursday apparently was in response to widespread condemnation over the party’s stance from the European Union, as well as Greek and international Jewish groups that had urged Athens to take stronger steps against the ultranationalist, neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.
New Democracy had refused to back the bill sponsored by two smaller parties in the ruling coalition, saying that existing legislation was sufficient to deal with racist attacks that have been spawned by Golden Dawn.
The proposal would add stricter jail time and fines for inciting and carrying out racist attacks and, for the first time, makes “approving or belittling the seriousness of Nazi crimes, the Jewish Holocaust, and other genocides” a crime under Greek law.
Politicians or political parties with members convicted under the law would not be eligible for state funding, according to the bill. However, state bodies and the Greek Orthodox Church would be exempt.
The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece has called on “all democratic forces in the country to overcome their differences and pass legislation that will display zero tolerance to racist violence, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.”
New Israeli film debunks myth that Nazis made soap from Jews
Legend was spread by guards as psychological torture of Jewish inmates, as director Eyal Ballas' movie shows.
June 10, 2013
By Roy Arad
"Soaps," a new film by director Eyal Ballas, searches for the root of the myth that Germans used the bodies of Jews to manufacture soap.
Contemporary historians think the Nazis did not produce soap on an industrial scale using dead human bodies, a position shared by Yad Vashem. But the myth continues to hold sway with the big segments of the public.
The movie shows that in many places in Israel and the world, people light memorial candles beside soaps they believe were created from the bodies of Jews. Chemical analyses show they are actually made of vegetable materials.
The soap myth dates all the way back to World War I, when Germans were first rumored to be turning bodies into the stuff. During World War II, SS guards often tormented concentration camp prisoners by threatening to turn them into soap. The rumor gained further credence when at the end of the war the Soviet Red Army discovered a horrifying laboratory near Gdansk, Poland, with body parts alongside soap made from humans.
Some experts believe the institute served to test the feasibility of creating soap from human fat but never reached the stage of industrial production.
Yehuda Bauer, Israel's leading Holocaust historian, says it is more likely that the soap was a byproduct of the decay of the bodies and that it was used to clean the institute on local initiative.
Either way, the institute did not use the bodies of Jews, but those of Poles and Germans from the not-far-away Stutthof concentration camp.
Time to confront Croatia’s hidden Holocaust
Ultimately, the Ustashe murdered more than 30,000 Jews, or 75 percent of the country’s prewar Jewish community.
June 5, 2013
By Michael Freund
Just over a month from now, on July 1, a historic event will take place in the heart of Europe, when the EU welcomes Croatia as its 28th member state.
The move will mark the culmination of a grueling decade long process, one in which the former Yugoslav republic had to implement widespread changes in a number of fields – ranging from intellectual property law to the free movement of capital – to bring itself in line with accepted EU practice.
But however much the Balkan state may have tweaked its legal system and upgraded its food safety and environmental protection standards, there is one thing Croatia has demonstrably failed to do: come to terms with its disgraceful record of mass murder during World War II.
Most of us are aware of camps such as Birkenau, Dachau, Treblinka and Bergen-Belsen, where the Germans and their henchmen systematically slaughtered millions of innocents.
But how many of us have heard of Jasenovac or the horrors that were perpetrated there by Croatian fascists? Known as “the Auschwitz of the Balkans,” it was the largest of a network of camps established by the independent state of Croatia, which the Nazis set up on April 10, 1941.
Hitler assigned the task of ruling Croatia to Ante Pavelic, head of the fascist Ustashe movement, which vowed to rid the country of Serbs, Jews and other minorities.
Following in the Germans’ footsteps, Pavelic passed racial laws against the Jews, imposed restrictions on their freedom of movement and banned them from various professions.
Ultimately, the Ustashe murdered more than 30,000 Jews, or 75 percent of the country’s prewar Jewish community.
But it was the two million Serbs then living in Croatia who were the primary targets of Pavelic and his quislings.
With a bloodlust rivaled only by that of their Nazi patrons, the Ustashe set about the task of “cleansing” Croatian soil by torching Serb villages, beheading priests and herding Serbian worshipers into Orthodox churches before setting them alight. Over 200,000 Serbs were forcibly converted to Catholicism, with the active help and encouragement of the Archbishop of Zagreb, Aloysius Stepinac.
But it was at the Jasenovac camp that the Croats unleashed their most bestial cruelty, by many accounts killing at least several hundred thousand people in an orgy of indescribable savagery.
A New Movie Perpetuates the Pernicious Myth of Hannah Arendt
June 5, 2013
By Saul Austerlitz
Can a filmmaker make a biopic with a book as its protagonist? Margarethe Von Trotta’s film, Hanna Arendt, is a film with a limited scope, following Arendt during the publication of her book Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1963. The film stacks the deck decidedly in its protagonist’s favor, but its methods expose the threadbare hero it hallows. Eschewing any serious consideration of the sustained critical response to Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt prefers hagiography. It is a one-sided argument, so intent on ensuring Arendt’s victory that it adulterates the very nature of the conflict over Eichmann, and over the legacy of Arendt’s thought.
Arendt’s primary purpose in Eichmann, a book that emerged from a series of New Yorker pieces, was to demonstrate “the banality of evil”—the ways in which a simple Nazi clerk could play handmaiden to mass murder without ever understanding or acknowledging the horror of his deeds. Eichmann, by her reckoning, bore the Jews no special animus, intent merely on carrying out his duties to the utmost.
The book makes for good philosophy, but shoddy history, as many have asserted in the decades since its publication. As historian Deborah Lipstadt observes of Arendt in The Eichmann Trial (2011), “The only way she could have concluded that Eichmann was unaware was to give more credence to his demeanor and testimony at the trial than to what he actually did during the war.” According to Lipstadt’s book, Eichmann’s chief Israeli interrogator stated the defendant would “lie until defeated by documentary proof.” He believed that “whenever Eichmann vigorously protested something was not true, it probably was”—a direct contradiction of the crux of Arendt’s argument. Arendt’s most controversial assertion in the book was that the Jewish leaders known as the Judenrat were, to a large degree, complicit in the Holocaust in their cooperation with the Nazi authorities. This, too, has been widely disputed. Tony Judt, in an otherwise admiring essay on Arendt, describes her as “indifferent, perhaps callously so, to the dilemmas Jews faced at the time.”
Hannah Arendt is sympathetic to many of the claims Arendt makes in her notorious book, but it is the film’s handling of the Judenrat controversy (which arose after Arendt’s articles first appeared in The New Yorker) that most clearly demonstrates its allegiance to the myth of Arendt as fearless truth-teller. Forever surrounded by tottering piles of trial transcripts, her opinions are presented here as above debate. “But it’s a fact,” Arendt insists to one of her critics about her Judenrat allegations, puzzled that anyone could take umbrage at her line of argument. Her work is in the service of truth, where others’ is presented as nefarious and self-interested.
Light in All the Dark Places
The extraordinary metamorphosis of Hitler's nephew's grandson
June 5, 2013
By Yitta Halberstam
It's said that the "truth will set you free," but when an intrepid Israeli reporter browbeat Dr. Daniel Brown (name has been changed) into going public five years ago, the aftermath was traumatic. "I had always been open about my identity with both my family and friends," he recalls, "and no one had ever been less than supportive and warm. But this particular Israeli newspaper misrepresented its agenda to me. I didn't know that it intended to publicize or sensationalize my interview the way it ultimately did. The story was printed in the weekend edition of the paper, and all day long on Thursday and erev Shabbat radio commercials continually blasted every 15 minutes: Hitler's nephew's grandson -- right here in Israel -- and a Jew! The repercussions left my family shaken."
Brown's sons -- enrolled in a modern Orthodox yeshivah in Jerusalem -- were spat upon by several of their classmates and called "Nazis." A handful of neighbors studiously avoided Brown when they encountered him on the street. And in shul the Shabbat after the story aired, a number of social acquaintances who normally greeted him with hearty handshakes turned the other way.
"To these people, who had known me as Jewish for 25 years, I had become -- overnight -- a pariah," says Brown. "I thought I was sharing a valuable lesson with others: that the past can be recreated and that a person always has the opportunity to change. But actually, it was I who was taught the lesson: Some people will never let you change." (Not surprisingly Brown wanted to use a pseudonym in this article.)
Still, the incident becoming a litmus test for the varieties of human behavior, the responses were not uniformly negative. "In the same synagogue that Shabbat, I was also the recipient of a clearly symbolic act of acceptance," says Brown. "I was given the first aliyah. This told me in no uncertain terms that the majority of the shul members regarded me as a full Jew and an accepted member of the community. Sadly, however, the decency of the majority didn't nullify the crude conduct of the minority. We were badly wounded by what happened.
Bradford Muslims Rally To Save Synagogue From Closure
May 24, 2013
With only just over thirty members and an extravagant Grade II listed Moorish building, the tiny Jewish community of Bradford have for many years been in despair about their finances - until the local Muslim community stepped in to help.
The grand-looking Reform synagogue, is on an unassuming street, between the Yorkshire Tandoori, Al-Hijaab Islamic Clothing and the Jamia Shan-E-Islam Educational Centre.
Built in 1880, it has long been under threat of closure, but several Muslim organisations in the city have pledged to stop it falling into ruin, with donors giving £2,000 to save the synagogue's roof.
Zulfi Karim, the secretary of the Bradford Council of Mosques, said he hoped that the story of local collaboration, amid global Muslim-Jewish tensions, would be an inspirational one, and one that would improve the image of the city.
"Many people do seem to be massively taken aback that the Jewish and Muslim community are working hand-in-hand, when all you seem to hear about Bradford are the nasty things," he told HuffPost UK.
"We want to make sure this synagogue is protected, long-term, a heritage site for the whole community."
Rudi Leavor, chairman of the synagogue, told HuffPost UK he had originally begun to talk to his Muslim neighbours when they lobbied together to stop the conversion of a local building into a restaurant, and they successfully stopped the planning application.
"When I told him about the parlous state of our finances because of low membership, he referred me to the Carlisle Business Centre.
"He sat on the committee and though the organisation was nominally non-denominational, it was Asian orientated. I was awarded several hundred pounds," he told HuffPost UK
Since making the contacts, Leaver said the synagogue had received a lot of assistance from different Muslim organisations, and has formed a close relationship with Mahmood Mohammed, a development officer for Bradford Council.
Leavor told HuffPost UK: "At the time, rain has entered through a faulty roof and an adjacent building costing about £2,000 to repair most urgently. Mahmood said he had an anonymous donor who would underwrite the cost.
"In the mean time he introduced me to Karim, of Bradford Council of Mosques. He met me at the Synagogue and was impressed with the building."
"There's been a Jewish community in Bradford for 100 years, and now there's barely a trace. I was so impressed by the architecture and the history of the synagogue, we couldn't let this go to waste," Karim told HuffPost UK
The anonymous benefactor turned out to be Kahlid Pervaiz, owner of the Drummond Mills Complex near the Synagogue, who also offered its members free parking.
Leaver said that if their collaboration can "contribute just a little towards peace and harmony, then so much the better."
Vandalism at Poland's Blonie cemetery destroys last traces of a Jewish past
Local police have yet to find clues as to who smashed the cemetery's five remaining tombstones - the final vestiges of a once 1,200-strong community that was taken by the Nazis to the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941.
May 24, 2013
By Roman Frister
WARSAW - The Jewish cemetery in the Polish town of Blonie, one of the smallest and most ancient in the country, was, to all intents and purposes, destroyed in April after vandals smashed its five remaining tombstones. In fact, the destruction of the cemetery took with it the final remnants of the area's once 1,200-strong Jewish community, transported by the Nazis to the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941.
Police in Poland believe the act of vandalism was carried out on the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Authorities have further requested that anyone with information as to the perpetrators' identity call a hotline. So far, no calls have been received.
Local residents refused to answer Haaretz's questions about the event. The Mayor of Blonie, Zenon Reszka, also refused to respond. His office replied that the area was not owned by the municipality and that therefore it was not responsible for its safekeeping. The office of the regional governor announced it had no responsibility either, despite the fact that the cemetery was the last resting place of Jewish soldiers in the Polish army, who perished in the battles against Nazi Germany in the beginning of the Second World War.
Two years ago, employees of the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews found 40 tombstones in the overgrown vegetation of the Blonie cemetery, and transferred them to be safeguarded elsewhere. All the other tombstones were stolen throughout the years, and probably used for private construction. Museum employees discovered signs of digging in some of the open graves. It is believed that these were searched for hidden treasures.
Vladimir Nabokov and the Jews
'Lolita' Author Was Outspoken Critic of Anti-Semitism
May 18, 2013
By Benjamin Ivry
Vladimir Nabokov, the Russian American author of such novels as “Lolita,” “Pnin,” and “Pale Fire,” was a compassionate observer of modern Jewish history. This has been established in such works as Stacy Schiff’s “Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov),” a 1999 study of the writer’s much beloved Jewish wife; essays by critics Maxim Shrayer and Shalom Goldman, and a majestic two-volume biography of Nabokov written by Brian Boyd and published in 1991 by Princeton University Press.
Supplementing these is a new study, “The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov.” Written by Andrea Pitzer, “The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov” is a good excuse for revisiting just how esteeming Jews and fighting their persecutors became second nature for Nabokov.
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Nabokov came from a family of high-ranking civil servants who courageously opposed anti-Semitism. His grandfather Dmitri Nikolaevich Nabokov, minister of justice for Czar Alexander II, fought for Jewish rights, while his father, the lawyer and statesman Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, decisively condemned two 1903 events — the publication of the notorious anti-Semitic tract “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and the Kishinev pogrom, in which dozens of Jews were murdered and hundreds injured, in the then-capital of the Bessarabian province.
Growing up in a privileged and enlightened family, Nabokov would oppose anti-Semitism not just on moral grounds, but also for aesthetic reasons, as a sign of “philistinism in all its phases… crude, moronic, and dishonest,” as he explained in 1967 to the Cleveland-born American Jewish author Herbert Gold.
Nabokov’s notion of anti-Semitism as crass philistinism made it natural for the author, starting from his early years as a writer, to characterize Jews sympathetically and despise their haters. During studies at Cambridge University, followed by residence in Berlin, Paris, New York and Montreux, Nabokov stoutheartedly resisted noxious ideological appeals.
One such came from a Cambridge roommate who urged him to read “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” not realizing that Nabokov’s grandfather had rejected that forgery decades earlier.
Geza Vermes, Hungarian Bible Scholar Who Returned to Jewish Roots, Dies at 88
Vermes befriended and worked with Paul Demann, a scholar, like him, of Hungarian Jewish origins. Together with a third collaborator, Renee Bloch, they battled doggedly against the anti-Semitic content in Catholic education and ritual of the time. The Second Vatican Council would later accept many of the trio’s theological arguments.
May 18, 2013
By Benjamin Ivry
The renowned Hungarian Jewish biblical scholar Geza Vermes, who died of cancer May 8 at age 88, disproved the old canard “You can’t go home again,” at least when it comes to Judaism.
Born in the town of Makó in southeastern Hungary in 1924, Vermes was 7 when his family converted to Catholicism in what would prove a failed attempt to sidestep anti-Semitism. The scholar, whose parents were murdered in Nazi concentration camps, told Rachel Kohn of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1999: “In fact, I never was anything but a Jew with a temporary sort of outer vestment. I realized I ought to recognize my genuine identity.”
Vermes’s outer vestment included attending a Catholic seminary; by 1942, when he was of college age, Jews were no longer accepted into universities in Hungary, which had allied itself with the Nazis. Refused admission after graduation into the Dominican or Jesuit orders because of his Jewish origins, Vermes was accepted by the Brothers of Sion, a French/Belgian community focused on praying for the Jews.
In Paris, Vermes studied with the eminent Jewish scholar Georges Vajda, a graduate of the Rabbinical Seminary of Budapest. When the manuscripts that eventually became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls were first made public, in 1947, Vermes was fascinated. Starting in 1950 he began translating the texts, writing what became in 1953 the first-ever doctoral dissertation on the subject. In 1962 he completed a first translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, later much augmented.
Also in Paris, Vermes befriended and worked with Paul Demann, a scholar, like him, of Hungarian Jewish origins. Together with a third collaborator, Renee Bloch, they battled doggedly against the anti-Semitic content in Catholic education and ritual of the time. The Second Vatican Council would later accept many of the trio’s theological arguments.
Vermes also wrote a series of books looking at the Jewish roots of the Christian messiah, including “Jesus the Jew,” which, as he told Kohn, described Jesus as a “totally Jewish person with totally Jewish ideas, whose religion was totally Jewish and whose culture, whose aims, whose aspirations could be understood only in the framework of Judaism.”
Wagner Controversy: Opera Cancels Holocaust Staging of 'Tannhäuser'
A staging of Richard Wagner's "Tannhäuser" -- set during the Holocaust and including a gas chamber and a shooting scene -- shocked audience members so badly that some had to be given medical attention. The theater has now cancelled the production out of fear it will damage its artistic reputation.
May 9, 2013
Düsseldorf's Deutsche Oper am Rhein opera house announced late Wednesday it was cancelling a highly controversial staging of Richard Wagner's "Tannhäuser" after outraging audiences at its premier on Saturday.
Director Burkhard Kosminski set the production in the time of the Nazi regime in an effort to address the controversial but popular composer's anti-Semitism and the later influence he would have on Nazi ideology. The staging depicted the character Tannhäuser as a Nazi war criminal and it even included a gas chamber on stage.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein said its managers had been conscious ahead of the premier that the production would be controversial. "We are reacting with the utmost concern to the fact that a few scenes, particularly one involving a very realistic depiction of a shooting scene, appears to have created such a strong stress for numerous visitors, both psychological and physical, that they had to receive medical attention afterwards."
The theater said that after "intensive discussions," director Kosminski, also a well-known German actor, refused to tone down his staging and that the opera must respect his artistic freedom, also for "legal reasons".
"After considering all the arguments, we have come to the conclusion that we cannot justify such an extreme impact of our artistic work," the statement read. The controversy is the biggest ever faced by the Düsseldorf opera house, which is not traditionally known for productions that have caused outrage.
…Among the staging's most shocking scenes is a sequence during the famous "Tannhäuser" overture, in which nude actors are lowered to the floor on a cross made of glass cubes that are slowly filled with fog to represent the gas chambers. The Venusberg, the site of hedonistic love in Wagner's opera, becomes the site of a brutal shooting scene. Venus, who is decked out in a Nazi uniform, and her SS henchmen murder a family and then force Tannhäuser to kill as well.
Greece to weigh anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial bill
Legislation would not grant parliamentary immunity, which means members of the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party could be imprisoned, and the party could be diminished.
May 8, 2013
By Judy Maltz
Supporters of Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party celebrating election results in June, 2012. Photo by AP
BUDAPEST – A new legislative initiative in Greece promises a radical crackdown on anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in the country, David Saltiel, the head of the country’s Jewish community revealed on Tuesday. The legislation will be submitted to parliament in the coming days, following the Easter holiday break.
The legislation was drawn up by Costas Karagouni, the Greek deputy justice minister, following consultations held with Saltiel, who serves as president of the Central Board of the Jewish Communities of Greece. Saltiel told Haaretz that he was able to convince Karagouni that the recent surge of anti-Semitism in the country threatened more than the future of the country’s Jewish community, most of which was wiped out during the Holocaust.
“I explained to him that when we talk about anti-Semitism, it’s not only about the Jews, but also about democracy,” he said. “He understands that the situation today requires a change in legislation.”
Saltiel noted, in an address to delegates at the World Jewish Congress on the final day of their three-day plenary assembly, that the legislation does not provide parliamentary immunity. This means members of the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party could be imprisoned or otherwise punished if found in violation of the new law.
According to the legislation, any individual or group that incites against or acts violently toward other individuals or groups “because of their racial origin, the color of their skin, their religion and/or their sexual preferences” could be punished with three months to six years in jail and be fined up to 20,000 euros. The same punishments would apply to Holocaust denial and the National Socialist salute. The legislation also stipulates that if a parliamentary party chief is found to be in violation, public funding for his or her party would be suspended.
Miami Doctor, convert to Judaism, kept secret for years his father’s past as a Nazi
May 8, 2013
'Hatred starts with a word uttered quietly, and then louder, if left unchallenged it is followed by deeds that become habits which lead to social norms where the entire group condones the attitudes, as in Nazi Germany.'
Dr Bernd Wollschlaeger’s 14 year old son wanted to know his saba. For the first time Bernd shared the story of his life and his Nazi father. He was afraid of rejection but his son thought his story was cool. Three weeks later was Family History Day at his children’s school. Called into the office to meet with the principal and the Rabbi, he was worried that they would repudiate him. They suggested that his son was delusional and was making up a story about his grandfather the famous Nazi. Bernd related the whole story to the enraptured school leaders. Since that time he has been sharing the story regularly and finds a weight has been lifted from his shoulders. World War II was a verboten topic in the Wollschlaeger home. Any questions were met with silence, and yet Bernd’s father considered a hero by his buddies, was decorated with the Iron cross by Hitler himself. Bernd was 14 when the Munich Olympics, meant to reinstate Germany amongst the civilized world, were the scene of the massacre of the Israeli team. The headlines read “Jews Killed in Germany Again.” Young Bernd was confused, it happened before? Unable to get a response from his parents, the answers were forthcoming in school. Horrified by what happened to the Jews at the hands of the Germans, he needed to find out his father’s involvement. A raging alcoholic, his father could be tricked into opening up at that point of shikerness, before becoming totally drunk. Finally the truth came out, “We are German, representatives of a pure race, with a historic obligation to clear up the riff raff in the east. The only mistake was in using the train capacity to transport the Jews to the camps, instead of bringing supplies to our troops. The Jews made us lose the war.”
Bulgarian Honor Bid in DC Stirs Holocaust Debate
May 8, 2013
By Associated Press
A request by the Bulgarian Embassy to name a Washington intersection after a favorite native son — a man credited with helping save the country's Jewish population from deportation — has gotten tangled up in a broader debate about whether the nation is accurately accounting for the actions of its leaders during the Holocaust.
The debate involving the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has played out behind the scenes as the D.C. Council prepares this month to consider honoring Dimitar Peshev. The discussion underscores not only the complexities of Holocaust history but also the difficulty countries face reconciling the heroic deeds of an individual during World War II with the record of a nation as a whole. It also comes as historians and Jewish organizations encourage nations to take unvarnished stock of their actions in Nazi-era Europe.
"You have to tell both sides and people have to understand, try to understand, what the complexity is. That's why it's critical," said Frederick Chary, a retired professor at Indiana University Northwest who specializes in Bulgarian history.
The issue arose in December when the embassy voiced support for naming an intersection for Peshev in a letter that put a favorable spin on Bulgarian treatment of Jews during World War II. The letter was partially drafted by a real-estate agent with an interest in Bulgarian history, put on embassy letterhead and signed by the ambassador. But the Holocaust museum, invited by the D.C. Council to review the accuracy of the letter, said the request — along with a recent declaration by Bulgaria's Parliament — glossed over a more checkered history.
As vice president of the Parliament, Peshev publicized a secret deportation order that would have sent tens of thousands of Jews of Bulgarian origin to German death camps in Poland. He circulated a protest petition among fellow legislators in 1943 as clergymen, students and others united in support of the Jewish population. The deportations were suspended and King Boris III sent Jews to labor camps in the country but refused to turn them over to the Nazis, saying he needed them as construction workers.
Hundreds of Jews Gather at Tunisia Synagogue
April 27, 2013
Africa’s oldest synagogue is playing host to that rarity in the Arab world - a religious gathering of hundreds of Jews drawn from Europe and Israel.
Guarded by armed Tunisian police, Jewish revellers chant and dance in a three-day pilgrimage to the El Ghriba synagogue at an island resort 500 km south of Tunis.
In 2011, after the uprising that toppled former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the annual celebration was cancelled and in 2012 only a few dozen Jews attended out of fear of possible attacks by hardline Islamists.
In 2002 militants linked to al Qaeda attacked the synagogue with a truck bomb killing 21 Western tourists. Security for this year’s pilgrimage is tight, with hundreds of police on duty.
“The strong presence of security is a positive step and sends a message to the Jews in the world that Tunisia protects us even if its leaders are Islamists”, Perez Trabelsi, the head of the Jewish community in Djerba, told Reuters.
“Jews in the world will see the government’s efforts to make the celebration safe and will return in their thousands over the next few years and will not pay attention to any threat,” he added.
On Sunday Tunisia’s tourism minister is due to take part in the celebrations, which have attracted dozens of Tunisian Muslims.
“We are here to send a message of peace and tolerance embracing everyone,” said a Tunisian woman named Zahayra Lakhel, putting on a Jewish head scarf before she entered the synagogue.
“We also want to change the image of Muslims who have been associated with violence and terror. The Jews have been our friends for years and we are here to remember old and beautiful memories away from religious and political tensions.”
Huge Hungary Rally Denounces Anti-Semitism
April 21, 2013
Tens of thousands of Hungarians rallied on Sunday to protest against what they said was growing anti-Semitism in the country which will host the plenary meeting of the World Jewish Congress next month.
The annual March of the Living, which remembers the victims of the Holocaust and usually has a few thousand participants, attracted a much bigger crowd this time, with thousands walking from a square near parliament along the river Danube, carrying Israeli and European Union flags.
“We have more people here than ever, but this means that there is big trouble,” Gabor Gordon, chief organizer of the event told the crowd. “Racism, anti-Semitism… we need to stop these while we can.”
A far-right association of motor cyclists had also planned a rally for Sunday.
But Prime Minister Viktor Orban ordered the interior minister to ban the bikers from rallying on the day when the country remembers the death of more than 500,000 Hungarian Jews in Nazi death camps in World War Two.Orban has said no event should be allowed that could hurt the dignity of the participants of the March of the Living
Hundreds flock for first glimpse inside Museum of the History of Polish Jews
April 21, 2013
By Ofer Aderet
WARSAW, Poland − Hundreds of people, including many journalists and foreign tourists, waited in long lines and filled the square outside the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which opened Sautrday for the first time.
The visitors weren’t disturbed by the fact that the $100 million museum’s permanent exhibition has not been installed yet; they came to see the building itself, which was designed by Finnish architect Rainer Mahlamaki, and whose construction began in 2009. They also came to see a film about the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt hero Simcha Rotem, who on Friday was awarded the Grand Cross of the Polonia Restituta by Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski in the main ceremony marking the uprising’s 70th anniversary.
Many of the visitors sported one of the 50,000 yellow flowers handed out at the museum in recent days. “It’s not a yellow star, there was no yellow stars in the Warsaw Ghetto,” Nili Amit, an Israeli who is a coordinator at the museum, is at pains to stress. “It’s the symbol of the Warsaw Ghetto, and I for one am moved by it. The Warsavites wear it with pride,” she adds.
Hagay Cohen, an Israeli who lives in Warsaw and works for Polish National Radio, explains that the custom began when a Jewish woman gave the uprising’s commander, Marek Edelman, a yellow flower after he saved her child’s life. It will be months before the permanent exhibition will be ready for public viewing, and for now the museum’s most important exhibit is literally an underground secret.
To reach it, one must go from the back of the building through a construction site. Amit led us safely in and agreed to reveal, for the first time, the “astonishing” exhibit she says will be the museum’s focal point.
It is there, in the middle of the room: a precise replica of the wooden ceiling and roof of a 17th-century synagogue from the Polish town of Gwozdziec, complete with murals. Before the Holocaust, there were many wood-roofed synagogues in Poland. None has survived, but, thanks to a Boston company specializing in restorations using period materials as well as students who came from around the world to recreate the paintings, a part of the Gwozdziec synagogue has been brought back to life.
The new museum’s eight galleries will show, in chronological order, 1,000 years of Jewish life in Poland. “The Shoah gallery will be the largest of all,” Amit says. She stresses that the Polish government, not wanting to be seen as influencing the content, did not interfere with the development of the exhibits.
Hell on Earth': Poland Remembers Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Poland commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising on Friday, marking the day by bestowing honors on survivors and opening a new Jewish history museum.
April 21, 2013
Poland marked the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising on Friday, honoring the armed revolt by Jews against Nazi German forces with ceremonies and the opening of a new Jewish history museum.
Throughout the Polish capital church bells rang and sirens sounded in tribute to the fighters who began the first and largest armed insurrection by Jews against the German troops in World War II on this day in 1943.
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, two uprising survivors and other officials commemorated the event at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, a ceremony that was part of larger efforts to rally collective remembrance of the fighters and the horrors that Jews suffered during the war.
Komorowski gave one of the country's highest honors, the Grand Cross of the Order of the Rebirth of Poland, to 88-year-old survivor Simha Rotem. "The Nazis made a hell on earth of the ghetto," Rotem said in a speech. "Persecuting the Jews appealed to the lowest of human instincts."
The new Museum of the History of Polish Jews also opened its doors on Friday at the site of the former Warsaw ghetto, where Jews were held in the Nazi-occupied city. In today's Warsaw, there are few signs that it was once home to one of Europe's largest Jewish communities. But the museum aims to introduce visitors to their 1,000-year history in the country, one that is often overshadowed by the Holocaust and Nazi death camps like Auschwitz, which was located in Poland.
According to curators, the museum will also try to educate visitors about Jews to help overcome the anti-Semitic ideas held by some in the largely Catholic country. "I want this museum to be a museum of life, not a museum of death," museum director Andrzej Cudak told news agency Reuters.
Eventually put down after a month, the Warsaw ghetto uprising was staged by some 750 poorly armed Jews inside as German forces moved to liquidate the enclosure and transport its remaining residents to the Treblinka extermination camp. After the revolt was crushed, the ghetto was razed and the remaining residents killed.These fighters "knew that they had to die, but they wanted to leave a trace of their existence, hence those acts of heroism, a testimony to honor," Jakub Gutenbaum, an 83-year-old survivor of the uprising, told news agency AP on Thursday.Gutenbaum lost his mother and brother to the gas chambers of the Majdanek concentration camp, but he managed to survive and was eventually liberated by the Soviet Red Army at another camp."The fact that I survived is a matter of luck," he told AP. "Maybe I was at the wrong places, or rather at the right places at the right times."More than 90 percent of Poland's 3 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and a 2011 census found that there are now just 7,500 living in the country.
Education Minister in Warsaw: 'Imagine this square if they were still with us'
Attending Poland's official ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Shai Piron speaks of 'deep commitment to peace and human dignity' that motivated Warsaw Ghetto uprising fighters.
April 20, 2013
By Ofer Aderet
Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron was in Warsaw on Friday, representing Israel at Poland's main ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The ceremony was held in Ghetto Heroes Square, which houses a museum commemorating Poland’s Jewish community. In a speech given in Hebrew in front of an audience including the Polish president and prime minister as well as representatives of the European Union, Piron talked about the murder of Polish Jews during the Holocaust.
“Since the Babylonian exile there hasn't been a place like, in which Jews created such a great intellectual and spiritual enterprise," he said. "We lost six million people in the Holocaust, among them 1.5 million children. I would like us to imagine what this square would have looked like now if they were still among us. Close your eyes and picture the trailblazing intellectuals, the great rabbis, musicians and artists who could have been standing here were it not for the enormous tragedy which befell us, which no words can describe.
“It’s empty, nothing. A great void opened in the soul of the Jewish people after the murder of most of Poland’s Jews," Piron said. "They were very diverse and heterogeneous, including orthodox, secular, Zionists, communists, anti- Zionists – the Nazis made no distinctions, seeing them all as Jews.
Reflecting on the ghetto fighters, Piron said: “The uprising was an expression of the fight against evil, of not accepting injustice, of the striving to change history in the name of morality and purity. The fighters were murdered, but the spirit of their uprising and their legacy has inspired many generations of freedom fighters and lovers of mankind. Their story commands us to make demands of ourselves, before demanding of others, to take responsibility and construct an exemplary society and engage in tikkun olam [repairing the world]."
Piron also spoke about the approximately 6000 Righteous Gentiles in Poland.“In the great darkness which descended over Europe, they glowed and shone as candles in the dark, maintaining humanity and dignity," he said. "They showed us all that even in the face of evil one can stand up, occasionally even at the cost of one’s own life."
Israeli researchers take conservative approach to defining anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitism isn’t a function of what Israel does or what happens in the Middle East. That’s a superficial and unprofessional way of looking at the subject,” says Dina Porat, director of the Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center Database on Antisemitism and Racism.
April 8, 2013
By Ofer Aderet
How should we distinguish between an anti-Semitic incident and a criminal act? How should we avoid classifying every harsh statement about Israel as anti-Semitism?
Every year on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center Database on Antisemitism and Racism publishes a report on anti-Semitism worldwide. According to the paper for 2012, the number of anti-Semitic incidents jumped 30 percent last year after two years of declines.
“We don’t just count the incidents. We also take a deep look at the culture that gave birth to anti-Semitism,” says Dina Porat, the head of the database.
She notes that "if you say ‘dirty Jew’ in Kiev, nobody will report that as an anti-Semitic incident. It’s in the culture; it’s an expression that has been used for centuries. But if you say ‘dirty Jew’ in Paris, that’s bad.”
…According to Porat, “An incident must focus on a Jewish person or Jewish property to be considered anti-Semitic. If someone in Russia draws a swastika and writes ‘dirty Jew’ on street signs, we don’t necessarily consider that an anti-Semitic incident. But we'll take it into account in analyzing the anti-Semitic atmosphere in the country.”…
Since 1989, when tabulations began, only 2009 produced a greater number of incidents than 2012. The first two and a half weeks of 2009 were marked by Israel's Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. “Our graph shows a link between current events and an increase in anti-Semitism, such as with Operation Cast Lead,” Fireberg says.
But Porat notes that there isn't always such a link; for example, Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza last November. "It hardly raised the graph at all. Anti-Semitism isn’t a function of what Israel does or what happens in the Middle East. That’s a superficial and unprofessional way of looking at the subject,” she says.
“Economic, social, political and local factors are what matter. If there’s a financial crisis in a certain country, the new groups that arise are usually ones on the radical right that slip into anti-Semitism.”
The team also highlights the difference between anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism. “This year, we noticed that it had nothing to do with the Middle East — these were truly expressions of anti-Semitism," Porat says.
Let my people be shown: Film on Egyptian Jews should not be banned
Egyptian authorities suspended the screening of a documentary on Egypt’s Jewish community. This damages the push-back against strong anti-Jewish sentiment gripping the country, while failing to remind Egyptians of a past era of diversity and tolerance.
April 7, 2013
By Khaled Diab
The Jews of Egypt, the ‘reel’ history of Egypt’s Jewish minority, was due to be screened in Egyptian cinemas last week, after the documentary had successfully featured in a number of domestic and international festivals.
Sadly, however, it looks like this might not happen after all. Even though Jews of Egypt had received the necessary green light from the censor (and had even been viewed by the Minister of Culture as recently as December 2012), national security stepped in at the last moment and called off the release. Whether or not the film has actually been banned remains unclear.
As someone who is keenly interested not only in the Arab-Israeli conflict, but also its human ramifications and implications, I had been looking forward with anticipation to the opportunity to see this much-awaited and ground-breaking documentary upon my next visit to Egypt. In fact, so keen was I to view this documentary, and to meet its maker, that I travelled especially to Rotterdam a couple of months ago, but through some misunderstanding, director Amir Ramses did not manage to make the rendezvous.
“I was very enthusiastic for the commercial release,” a jet-lagged Ramses told me from Cairo, shortly after getting off the plane from New York. “I thought that three years of work might finally be worth something and that the message I wanted to transmit was going to reach audiences on a larger scale.”
And the film’s message? Through a mix of personal testimonies from Egyptian Jews in exile, statements from historians specialising in the era and archive footage, Ramses sought to shed light on a largely forgotten chapter of Egyptian history. He wanted to show that once upon a time Jews were an integral part of Egypt’s cosmopolitan social fabric and felt just as Egyptian as their Muslim and Christian compatriots.
Greek PM promises Jewish leaders a law against Holocaust denial
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said the proposed legislation would bar parties that denied crimes against humanity, such as the Holocaust-denying Golden Dawn, from running in future for the Greek parliament.
April 6, 2013
By Anshel Pfeffer
THESSALONIKI - The premier of Greece promised Jewish leaders on Sunday that he would introduce a new law to prevent Holocaust-denying parties from running for parliament in his country.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was participating in a commemoration service at Thessaloniki's Monastiriotes Synagogue marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the deportation of the town's Jews to the German death-camps.
Over 90 percent of the 53 thousand Jews living in Thessaloniki on the eve of the Second World War perished in the Holocaust.
In what was the first visit by a serving Greek prime minister to a synagogue, Samaras said that "Greek society has been infected by voices that seek to resurrect racism" and that "neo-Nazis have reappeared once again in Europe."
His government would "continue to legislate towards complete intolerance of violence and racism," Samaras said.
He did not however directly refer to the neo-Nazi and anti-immigration Golden Dawn party which won seven percent of votes in the last Greek election.
The event was attended by members of the executive committee of the World Jewish Congress which helped sponsor the commemorative events organized by the local Jewish community and the city council of Thessaloniki.
Beyond lambs and lions: Jewish resistance in the Holocaust
Jewish resistance in the Shoah went beyond those who took up arms, to include spiritual resistance, acts of escape, hiding and the forging of false papers, all in the context of war and the unique plight of the Jews stuck in it.
April 6, 2013
By Robert Rozett
In the first decades after the Shoah, two extremes of Jewish response were commonly portrayed in public discourse: those who passively went to their deaths, offering no resistance, and those who took up arms against their persecutors. The former were mostly pitied and disparaged, and the latter were generally lionized as the epitome of heroic behavior. Neither type of response was really understood in its complexity or in its context.
Since the 1970s, other aspects of Jewish resistance that had been investigated within scholarly contexts but had remained marginal in terms of the public consciousness, began to come to the fore alongside the sole focus on Jewish resistance as armed resistance, adding another layer of complexity and context. Both spiritual resistance - underground education, cultural events, religious services and so on - and unarmed acts - escape, hiding, and forging false papers - began being regularly included in discussion about Jewish resistance, now often under the rubric of the Hebrew word amidah, which roughly translates into taking “a stand.” When teaching the Shoah today, both in Israel and in many other countries, significant space is given to amidah, since it emphasizes the fact that Jews were not mere dehumanized objects during the Shoah years, but active players in the unfolding drama that engulfed them.
One of the most compelling aspects of Jewish resistance is the context in which it occurred. As the events of the Shoah evolved, amidah emerged from a savage abyss that increased in savagery as time went on. The broad framework of the Shoah and inter alia Jewish resistance is the ferociousness of the war itself.
Polish president sponsors Warsaw Ghetto Uprising commemoration
The month-long festivities will feature performances by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and will be attended by Simcha Ratajzer-Rotem, a hero of the uprising who lives in Israel.
April 6, 2013
By Roman Frister
WARSAW – Polish President Bronisław Komorowski this week announced his sponsorship of events commemorating the 70th anniversay of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Nazis' destruction of Warsaw's Great Synagogue.
Komorowski welcomed in advance the delegations from around the world that will attend the events, scheduled to take place between April 18 and May 16. Among the honored guests will be European Parliament President Martin Schulz, representatives of the German Bundestag and British House of Lords and one of the heroes of the uprising, Simcha Ratajzer-Rotem, who will be coming from Israel.
Rotem, who is now 89 years old, was a member of the Zionist Akiva organization in his youth and is famous principally for his role, together with Bund activist Marek Edelman, in leading 30 of the uprising's last fighters through the city's sewers and out of the burning ghetto after the rebellion had been suppressed. Rotem is also an honorary citizen of Warsaw.
An official announcement of the president's sponsorship of the events was published this week in most media outlets here, except papers and weeklies with a nationalist bent.
A unique resource, German Holocaust archive seeks new lease on life
The barely-known International Tracing Service, whose archives contain clues to the fates of 17.5 million people, is struggling to get the attention academics say it deserves.
April 6, 2013
George Jaunzemis was three and a half years old when, in the chaotic weeks at the end of World War Two, he was separated from his mother as she fled with him from Germany to Belgium.
He grew up in New Zealand with no memory of his early years, unaware the Latvian woman who had emigrated with him was not his real mother.
Then in 2010, a letter from the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen changed his life. He discovered his real name was Peter Thomas and that he had a nephew and cousins in Germany.
"I was astonished, thrilled. After all this time, I was an uncle," Jaunzemis, 71, told Reuters. "You don't know what it's like to have no family or childhood knowledge. Suddenly all the pieces fitted, now I can find my peace as a person."
Yet it took Jaunzemis over three decades of tenacious searching to find the vast archive in this remote corner of Germany where his past was buried.
Bad Arolsen contains 30 million documents on survivors of Nazi camps, Gestapo prisons, forced laborers and displaced persons. It rivals Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust center and the Washington Holocaust Memorial Museum in historical value.
The life and death of 'the Jew Seuss'
For nearly three centuries, the saga of Joseph Suesskind Oppenheimer served time and again as a vehicle for anti-Semitism in Germany. Only now has the original version of events surfaced.
April 6, 2013
By Yair Mintzker
“The Story of the Passing of Joseph Suess, of Blessed Memory,” which appears here in full in English for the first time, is an extraordinary document. It concerns the arrest of Joseph Suesskind Oppenheimer in March 1737, his 11-month incarceration, his encounter with two Jews in prison and his execution the following day.
Oppenheimer, who already during his imprisonment began to be known derisively as “Jew Suess,” was born in Heidelberg to a middle-class Jewish family, probably in 1698. Starting in the third decade of the 18th century, Oppenheimer served as a court Jew to several German princes. In 1732 he met and befriended Carl Alexander, the future duke of Wuerttemberg, a state in southwest Germany. When Carl Alexander ascended the throne the following year, Oppenheimer transferred the lion’s share of his activities to Stuttgart, the capital of Wuerttemberg, where he received from the Catholic duke privileges and protection during the latter’s political struggle against the local Protestant population.
The duke’s protection was to Oppenheimer’s detriment. On March 12, 1737, Carl Alexander died of a sudden stroke, and that very evening Oppenheimer was placed under arrest. He spent the following 11 months in prison, first at the Hohenneuffen fortress south of Stuttgart, then at the Hohenasperg fortress north of the city and finally in the Herrenhaus in Stuttgart itself. Convicted of unspecified “misdeeds,” Oppenheimer was executed by hanging outside Stuttgart on February 4, 1738, before an audience of nearly 20,000 spectators. His body was left on display in a gibbet north of Stuttgart for six more years.
The death of “Jew Suess” quickly became the focus of hundreds of stories, poems and pamphlets. “The Story of the Passing of Joseph Suess, of Blessed Memory” stands apart from them all in that it is the only document we know of that was written by Jews, almost certainly on the instructions of Oppenheimer himself, on the eve of his execution. We thus have before us for the first time the story of Oppenheimer’s death as he himself would have wished to tell it, in utter contrast to the numerous contemporary sources that described the bitter end of “the sweet Jew” (the meaning of the name “Jew Suess” in German) from a very hostile point of view.
Historic Damascus synagogue damaged, looted
April 1, 2013
A Jewish synagogue in Damascus believed to be thousands of years old has been damaged and looted as clashes have consumed the surrounding neighborhood, a Syrian official and an anti-government activist said Monday.
Damage to the Jobar Synagogue, which tradition holds was built by the biblical prophet Elisha, is the latest example of Syria's rich cultural heritage falling victim to the civil war between President Bashar Assad's regime and rebels seeking his ouster.
Syria is home to thousands of years of civilizations at the crossroads of the Levant and boasts important cultural sites dating back to the Bible, the ancient Roman empire, the Crusaders and the arrival of Islam.
Before the Syrian conflict started two years ago, these sites attracted international tourists. Many have since been damaged as the conflict evolved into a civil war. Combatants have garrisoned in historic castles, turning them into targets. And street battles raged last month near Aleppo's landmark 12th century Umayyad Mosque in the walled Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The mosque itself was heavily damaged last year, soon after a fire gutted the city's famed medieval market.
The Jobar Synagogue, in the neighborhood of the same name in northeastern Damascus, is a relic of the area's once sizeable Jewish population. Tradition holds that the biblical prophet Elisha built the first structure on the site over a grotto in which his teacher, the prophet Elijah, had sought refuge.
"It was a very prestigious synagogue to hold a pulpit in and there were great rabbinic scholars who held court there over the centuries," said author Joseph Braude, who has written about Jewish history in the Arab world. "Long after Damascus ceased to be central to Jewish learning, the synagogue continued to be an important pilgrimage site and a place of worship for Jews living in Damascus."
Bizarre ‘Jew in the Box’ educational exhibit in Germany draws criticism despite positive aim
The exhibit, officially called 'The Whole Truth, everything you wanted to know about Jews,' was designed to help educate Germans about Jewish culture. But its strange format, which includes a Jewish man or woman seated inside a glass box for two hours a day to answer questions, is drawing the ire of the country's 200,000 Jews.
March 31, 2013
By Associated Press
BERLIN — “Are there still Jews in Germany?” ‘’Are the Jews a chosen people?”
Nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, there is no more sensitive an issue in German life as the role of Jews. With fewer than 200,000 Jews among Germany’s 82 million people, few Germans born after World War II know any Jews or much about them.
To help educate postwar generations, an exhibit at the Jewish Museum features a Jewish man or woman seated inside a glass box for two hours a day through August to answer visitors’ questions about Jews and Jewish life. The base of the box asks: “Are there still Jews in Germany?”
“A lot of our visitors don’t know any Jews and have questions they want to ask,” museum official Tina Luedecke said. “With this exhibition we offer an opportunity for those people to know more about Jews and Jewish life.”
But not everybody thinks putting a Jew on display is the best way to build understanding and mutual respect.
Since the exhibit — “The Whole Truth, everything you wanted to know about Jews” — opened this month, the “Jew in the Box,” as it is popularly known, has drawn sharp criticism within the Jewish community — especially in the city where the Nazis orchestrated the slaughter of 6 million Jews until Adolf Hitler’s defeat in 1945.
“Why don’t they give him a banana and a glass of water, turn up the heat and make the Jew feel really cozy in his glass box,” prominent Berlin Jewish community figure Stephan Kramer told The Associated Press. “They actually asked me if I wanted to participate. But I told them I’m not available.”
Slovak court moves toward imprisoning war criminal in Hungary
March 31, 2013
A Slovak court has commuted a death sentence against Laszlo Csatary, a war criminal whom Slovakia wants extradited from Hungary for his complicity in murdering thousands of Jews.
A Czechoslovakian court in 1948 sentenced Csatary in absentia to death for torturing Jews and helping to deport them to Auschwitz when he served as police commander in the eastern Slovak city of Kosice. For decades, Csatary, now 98, escaped the sentence until Hungarian authorities detained him and put him under house arrest in Budapest last July. He has denied any guilt.
The sentence was changed this week to be in line with modern Slovak law, Reuters reported on Friday. Czechoslovakia abolished the death penalty in 1990, three years before its division into Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Kosice prosecutor's office spokesman Milan Filicko said.
"Once the decision takes effect, the court will decide whether it will issue an arrest warrant or how it will get him to serve the sentence," he said.
Filicko said Csatary could appeal the decision, which would send the case to the Slovak High Court. Slovakia's Jewish community has called for Csatary to be extradited.
Berlin - Poles Blast German TV Drama 'Trying To Spread Holocaust Responsibility'
Many critics have praised the series as a milestone in Germany’s troubled reckoning with its past and an overdue examination of individual guilt in the war. But the drama’s depiction of Polish resistance fighters as anti-Semites and Russian soldiers raping the German nurse have drawn particularly angry reactions in Eastern Europe, which suffered the most from the slaughter.
March 29, 2013
Berlin - With the wartime generation rapidly disappearing, a television drama about five young Germans in World War II has revived debate in Germany about the role ordinary men and women played in the Nazis’ murderous campaign to conquer Europe.
Millions tuned in last week to watch the three-part series “Our Mothers, Our Fathers,” which follows five young Germans - two brothers, a nurse, an aspiring female singer and a Jewish tailor - as they struggle through one of the bloodiest conflicts in history.
Three of the characters, including the Jew, survive - disillusioned and physically broken - to confront each other and their own demons in the final episode in the ruins of Berlin.
The series begins in 1941, as the Nazis launch their doomed assault on the Soviet Union, with each character slowly realizing that the world they believed in is falling apart. The brothers learn that the German army isn’t as noble as they thought; the nurse regrets betraying a Jewish colleague; the singer’s liaison with an SS member turns sour; and the Jew has to fight his fellow Germans to survive.
The mixed reactions to the series underscore how, nearly 70 years after World War II, the conflict remains a source of bitterness in Europe, even for people born after the fighting ended.
any critics have praised the series as a milestone in Germany’s troubled reckoning with its past and an overdue examination of individual guilt in the war. But the drama’s depiction of Polish resistance fighters as anti-Semites and Russian soldiers raping the German nurse have drawn particularly angry reactions in Eastern Europe, which suffered the most from the slaughter.
In Germany, meanwhile, some accuse the film of sidelining the Holocaust and depicting Germans as victims rather than a nation responsible for starting a war and committing genocide.
“A film about World War II that omits the bothersome question of six million dead Jews,” remarked columnist Jennifer Nathalie Pyka in Juedische Allgemeine, Germany’s leading Jewish weekly.
Exploiting the Holocaust has become all too acceptable in Canada
March 19, 2013
By Tema Smith
In a 2011 lecture delivered to the National Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, Professor Michael Marrus, one of Canada’s foremost experts on the history of the Holocaust, made a statement that could be interpreted as a caution: “However the Holocaust is remembered . . . there is nothing more important than that memory be consistent with the truth about the Holocaust . . . its course, its character and its place in the history of its time.”
As Canada assumes the chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance this month, Mr. Marrus’s admonition takes on an increasingly urgent tone. This high-profile international role comes at the same time that the face of Holocaust education and remembrance is undergoing a critical transition as it moves away from reliance on first-person testimony as the generation of survivors passes away.
Of course, the memory of the past can help us to better our future. However, in today’s Canada, the exploitation of the Holocaust has become all too acceptable, as we see various people and groups taking it up as a foil for unrelated political ends.
In too many instances, the Holocaust is used, in media and politics, to deliver a message about the present time: That our enemies are out there, and that it is our duty as Canadians to be on guard at home and abroad for threats to our way of living. These purported threats that come in many forms: the erosion of Canadian values through imported religious traditions, the targeting of our troops in Afghanistan, the increasingly sophisticated methods of international terrorist recruitment, and the delegitimization of the state of Israel and the prospect of military action against it.
Pope Francis I Speaks on Holocaust, Israel and Jews in Only Book
Remarkably, almost no attention has been paid to the fact that the only book written by the Pope currently in print is a dialogue in Spanish between the then-cardinal Bergoglio and a rabbi.
March 17, 2013
By Alan Brill and Ronnie Perelis
“Sobre El Cielo Y La Tierra (Regarding Heaven and Earth)” is structured as a transcript of a conversation between then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, the rector of the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano.
The sweeping book skips quickly from discussions of God, fundamentalism, sin, homosexuality, capitalism, money, the poor and many other topics. The future pontiff addresses the role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust, Argentina’s so-called dirty war and the Mideast conflict in an unscripted, eye-opening way that couldn’t be further from the carefully crafted messages that usually emerge from the Vatican
The most intriguing aspect for Jews may be that the first words the world may read by the new leader of the 1.2-billion member church is a constructive conversation with a rabbi, in which both men encourages interfaith amity. The Pope also shows his familiarity with Judaism and Jewish authors, especially the works of Abraham Joshua Heschel.
The cardinal takes pains to discuss the Holocaust and its impact on the Catholic church in great detail. Bergoglio says that the great question we must all ask about the Holocaust is not “Where was God? But where was man?”
“The great powers just washed their hands — they knew much more than they said they did,” Francis says.
Universalizing the tragic period, the Cardinal declares: “The shoah is a genocide like the other genocides of the 20th century.” But at the same time he acknowledges that “There is something special about an idolatrous construction against the Jewish people.”
The cardinal says Nazism hold a special place in the annals of totalitarianism because of its emphasis on racial purity and its placement of race on a higher plane than the divinity.
“The ideals of a pure race are the idols upon which the Nazis formed themselves … Every Jew that was killed is a strike against the living God in the name of the idols,” he says. “The devil was present in the idols which eased the human conscience.”
When Skorka asks the cardinal about the church during the Holocaust years, the cardinal praises the activities of Pius XI who wrote an encyclical on the eve of the war against racism and anti-Semitism.
Francis is more circumspect about Pius XII, the Nazi-era pope whom some have criticized for failing to take a strong enough stand against the Holocaust. The cardinal reminds readers that Pope Pius XII was praised by Golda Meir and notes the mixed feelings many Jews and Catholics alike have to this day.
“The Church did not say everything that they could have said,” Francis acknowledges. But he then backtracks by offering a defense of the pontiff: “Others say, ‘They could not say more.”
The cardinal agrees wholeheartedly with the need to open up the church’s archives of the wartime years and unequivocally stresses the importance of clarifying the historical record. If Pope Francis follows up on his clearly stated desire, it may help Jewish organizations push for a speedy opening of the Vatican archives, which some have resisted up to now.
“Opening the archives of the Shoah seems reasonable,” the future pope says. “Let them be opened and let everything be cleared up. Let it be seen if they could have done something [to help] and until what point they could have helped. If they made a mistake in any aspect of this we would have to say, ‘We have erred.’ We don’t have to be scared of this- the truth has to be the goal.”
Film urges Romanians to acknowledge Holocaust role
March 17, 2013
By Agence France-Presse
Director Florin Iepan says his new documentary on the execution of thousands of Jews in Odessa, Ukraine -- one of the worst World War II massacres -- is a plea for his fellow Romanians to acknowledge their role in the Holocaust.
"Odessa", a 55-minute documentary, "is a protest against the authorities' lack of reaction to this episode... probably the grimmest in Romania's history," Iepan told the audience after the film's premiere this week in Bucharest during the One World Romania documentary festival.
"We live in a vulnerable society. Intolerance, hatred or xenophobia can still flare up" unless Romanians assume their past, he told AFP.
Alternating poignant accounts and ironic comments, the documentary puts under the spotlight the 1941 massacre of 22,500 Ukrainian Jews by Romanian troops, in retaliation for the blowing up of the Romanian army's headquarters in Odessa.
Around 100 Romanian and Soviet soldiers were killed in the blast, which pro-Nazi marshal Ion Antonescu blamed on the Jewish community.
On October 23, 1941, thousands of Jewish civilians -- men, women and children -- were driven into a dozen warehouses on the outskirts of Odessa and burnt alive.
Those who managed to escape were gunned down.
"I recall the thousands of women marching in column, in deep silence," towards their death, said a Romanian witness, aged seven at the time.
He added it was only much later that he realised "where that persistent stench of burnt flesh came from."
Passed over by Romanian textbooks, this tragic episode prompted Iepan to embark on a long journey trying to raise awareness about the horrors of the Holocaust.
Being a Jew under Chávez
March 14, 2013
By Ayelet Ben Naim
…Chávez's many anti-Jewish statements in the media, like calling Jews pigs, denying the Holocaust and accusing Israel of genocide against the Palestinians, contributed to an atmosphere of anti-Semitism that grew worse year by year. Suddenly it became frightening to walk down the street after dark, for fear of being harassed. Our synagogues and Jewish community buildings were spray-painted with swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans and there was a feeling that Chávez was egging on the populace and speaking the "people's language" against the Jews.
He was always quick to say that Venezuela's large businesses are controlled by Jews "stealing the nation's money," and we felt the results directly in our bottom lines. Everyone in the Jewish community felt their financial situation decline over time. I particularly remember the closing of a large Jewish-owned shopping mall in Caracas. Chávez decided to nationalize the property for the benefit of the state. Because many of the mall's shop owners were Jewish, we felt that the motive was anti-Semitism, pure and simple.
The Jewish community did not merely suffer from economic harassment. Government operatives would frequently follow children from rich Jewish families in order to kidnap them and demand ransom. In other instances, after Chávez had gained control of the police and the army, the defense forces would occasionally place a closure on the Jewish community schools, with the children inside and their parents unable to gain access to them. The pretext was that the Jews had hidden weapons inside and that searches had to be conducted to confiscate them.
Göring's List: Should Israel Honor a Leading Nazi's Brother?
Leading Nazi Hermann Göring was instrumental to Hitler's reign of terror, but research suggests his brother Albert saved the lives of dozens of Jews. Israel must now decide whether he deserves to be honored as one of the "Righteous Among the Nations."
March 9, 2013
By Gerhard Sporl
…His name was Albert Göring. He was the younger brother of leading Nazi Hermann Göring, the second-in-command after Adolf Hitler. Hermann Göring commanded the air war against England and prepared Germany's industry and economy for a war that he wanted as much as Hitler did. In 1941, he gave the order to "make all necessary preparations for a final solution of the Jewish question in Europe." Hermann Göring also played a major role in the rise of the Nazis.
Albert Göring was the opposite of his brother. He hated the Nazis, and he said early on that Hitler would mean war and ruin. He didn't join the Nazi Party, and he despised his brother for bowing to Hitler. He distanced himself from Germany, first going to Austria, where he took Austrian citizenship. After the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany, he moved to Prague, and from there to Budapest and Bucharest. Wherever he went, he helped those in desperate need, both before and during the war.
On the few occasions that the Göring brothers saw each other in the 12 years between the Nazi takeover and Germany's surrender to the Allies, it was at family gatherings. But Albert needed Hermann, and he also used him. He would have been lost without his brother. Without his support, the Gestapo -- which knew exactly what Albert Göring was doing and with whom he associated -- would have arrested and executed him…
…It is difficult to say how many people he saved, Jews and non-Jews. He probably didn't know himself, because he didn't know all the people he helped. He retrieved some from concentration camps and helped others escape abroad. He set up bank accounts for them in Switzerland so that they could survive while in exile. He gave money to members of the resistance, and he looked the other way when they committed sabotage or stole weapons for their illegal struggle at the weapons factory where he held a high-ranking position.
In Knesset, setting the record straight on a defamed Holocaust hero
MK Merav Michaeli, in her maiden speech to the Knesset, made a bold statement about her lineage, thus redeeming the legacy of her grandfather Rudolf Kastner.
March 6, 2013
By Dan Laor
Israel society traveled a long and bumpy road until the moment MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) stood erect, her head held high, on the Knesset podium and introduced herself to her fellow Knesset members and the public as the granddaughter of Dr. Yisrael Kastner.
In the State of Israel’s early years, everyone looked up to “the fighters and the rebels.” They were the ones identified with heroism during the Holocaust, to be set apart from the masses of Jews who allowed themselves to be passively herded to their deaths. Most of all, these rebels were to be distinguished from the members of the notorious Judenrat, the Jewish leadership that was compelled to cooperate with the occupying Nazi forces.
All of this was distilled in the Kastner affair. Israel Kastner, who lobbied in Budapest and other places to save Jews – successfully rescuing thousands from their deaths – was condemned as a criminal and a traitor. Judge Benjamin Halevy wrote in his historic verdict in the Kastner-Malchiel Gruenwald trial, in which Kastner was bizarrely transformed from a witness to a defendant: “Kastner sold his soul to the devil.” Although the verdict was several hundred pages long, that one sentence was the bottom line. And while Levy wrote the verdict on his own, his statement expressed the feelings of many.
The person held up as a role model at that time was Hannah Szenes, who had been arrested on the Hungarian border shortly after she crossed it illegally, without having had the opportunity to save even one Jew. Hannah Szenes surely was and is worthy of admiration, but the special treatment she was given, at the expense of others, shows how distorted Israeli thinking was at the time. Hannah Szenes became the standard by with Yisrael Kastner was measured, and held up to that ruler, he was found wanting. That mindset was expressed in the trial itself during the testimony of Catherine Szenes, Hannah's mother, and even more so in Judge Halevy's ruling.
The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking
March 1, 2013
By Eric Lichtblau
THIRTEEN years ago, researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began the grim task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe.
What they have found so far has shocked even scholars steeped in the history of the Holocaust.
The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945.
The figure is so staggering that even fellow Holocaust scholars had to make sure they had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings at an academic forum in late January at the German Historical Institute in Washington.
Inspirational French writer Stephane Hessel dies at 95
February 28, 2013
Stephane Hessel, the former French Resistance fighter whose 2010 manifesto Time for Outrage inspired social protesters, has died aged 95. Hessel died overnight, his wife Christiane Hessel-Chabry told France's AFP news agency in Paris. A German by birth, he was imprisoned in Nazi camps during World War II for his activities in France.
In Time for Outrage, he called for a new form of "resistance" to the injustices of the modern world.He expressed outrage at the growing gap between haves and have-nots, France's treatment of illegal immigrants and damage to the environment.
The Indignados protest movement in Spain was inspired by Hessel's manifesto, according to Spanish media.
The 95-year-old's name was the top trending term on Twitter in Spain and France on Wednesday morning, as admirers paid tribute with quotes such as: "To create is to resist, to resist is to create."
…A naturalised French citizen from 1939, Hessel became a prominent Resistance figure, says French news agency AFP. He was arrested by the Gestapo and later sent to the Buchenwald and Dora concentration camps.
After surviving the war, Hessel worked as a French diplomat at the UN, where he was involved in compiling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Warsaw Jewish community takes ownership of 18th century cemetery
As part of the transfer, the city of Warsaw will provide funds to renovate the cemetery, which has been targeted by vandals in recent years.
February 28, 2013
By Roman Frister
WARSAW – Ownership of an 18th century Jewish cemetery is being transferred to the Warsaw Jewish community this week. In exchange, the community will yield rights to a plot of land no longer accessible due to the residential buildings and roads built on it.
The city will also pay the Jewish community 15 million zlotys (around NIS 12 million) as part of the deal, part of which will be used to renovate the cemetery, which has been targeted by vandals several times in recent years.
Hundreds of tombstones have been broken or stolen to be used for construction and hundreds more were thrown into the nearby Vistula River. Recently several stones were fished out of the water and preserved. No suspects in these incidents were ever arrested.
Because of the security problems, the municipality was interested in giving up responsibility for the graveyard but the Jewish community hesitated to absorb the cost and effort of maintaining it. When funding was offered, however, it agreed to do so.
The 325-acre cemetery, located in the Brudno neighborhood on the eastern side of the Vistula, far from downtown, was founded by financier Shmuel Zbytkower in 1780. It was used, along with the larger, main cemetery, until World War II. When Warsaw was liberated from the Nazis, the communist regime turned the area into a resort.
Rebels Stand Alone
February 26, 2013
By Chris Hedges
...Although history has vindicated resistance groups such as the White Rose and plotters such as von dem Bussche, they were desperately alone, reviled by the wider public and forced to defy the law, their oaths of national allegiance, and public opinion. The resisters, once exposed, were condemned in vitriolic terms by most of the German public, and their lopsided trials were state-choreographed lynchings. Von dem Bussche said that even after the war he was spat upon as he walked down a city street. He and those like him who made a moral choice to physically defy evil teach us something extremely important about rebellion. It is, when it begins, not safe, comfortable or popular. Those rare individuals who have the moral and physical courage to resist must accept that they will be pariahs. They must live outside the law. And they must be prepared to be condemned. –
“Somebody, after all, had to make a start,” one of the White Rose members, Sophie Scholl, said on Feb. 21, 1943, at her trial in a Nazi court. “What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.”
Von dem Bussche, who died in 1993, took part as a 20-year-old lieutenant in the invasions of Belgium, Luxembourg, France—where a French sniper blasted off his right thumb and he was shot through the shoulder—and Poland. He was stationed after the invasion of Poland in the town of Dubno in the western Ukraine. His military unit was ordered to secure an abandoned air base, and the young officer watched as the SS took some 2,000 Jews into the airfield.
“The Jews were trucked in from the surrounding countryside, stripped and forced by the black-uniformed officers toward long, deep trenches,” von dem Bussche told me when I interviewed him. “They were shot in their heads by an SS officer with a machine pistol and then the next row was made to lie down and shot in their heads. It is not an easy memory to live with, especially as I considered myself, as an officer of the German army, to be an accessory to these murders.”
It was then that he decided to defy Hitler. But it would only be in 1943, when it was clear that the Germans were losing the war, that he and a small group of other officers led by Col. Claus von Stauffenberg began to plot to assassinate Hitler. The conspirators did not defy the Nazi regime on behalf of the Jews, von dem Bussche conceded, but to save the country from defeat, dismemberment and catastrophe.
Poland memorial to shed light on Warsaw Ghetto during Nazi occupation
A unique memorial is in the works dedicated to the archive of Polish-Jewish historian Emanuel Ringelblum, which includes 30,000 documents about life and death in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation.
February 19, 2013
By Roman Frister
A unique memorial is in the works dedicated to the archive of Polish-Jewish historian Emanuel Ringelblum, which includes 30,000 documents about life and death in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation.
Work has recently begun on the memorial, which will consist of an underground concrete pit, dug two meters deep, that is meant to symbolize the cellar where Ringelblum and others collected and hid wartime documents. A copy of each of the documents will be showcased in a glass vitrine placed within the concrete pit.
The memorial is being built on Nowolipki Street in Warsaw, where the rare collection – which was added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in 1999 – was hidden in 1942 and 1943. The collection is safeguarded at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, which makes it accessible to researchers.
Polish artists conceived the idea and the design for the memorial and also helped raise funds for the project, for which they have waived payment (they are, however, retaining copyrights for the work).
Ringeblum, a doctor of philosophy and activist in the Marxist Zionist Jewish workers movement Poalei Zion, was born in 1900. He was prominent in shaping the Jewish intelligentsia in Poliand and also worked with international Jewish institutions. When World War II broke out, he was attending a Zionist meeting in Switzerland, but he returned to his home in Warsaw, via Italy and Hungary, even after the Nazis invaded Poland.
The ever-changing face of Holocaust studies
The road to Ruin
February 18, 2013
By David Cesarini
At meetings across the country on Holocaust Memorial Day, worthies intoned the “lessons of the Holocaust” and warned that we must “learn from the past”. But ask most historians and they will blanche at the thought of anything as static or as simple as “lessons”. Over the past five decades, “Holocaust studies” have altered almost beyond recognition and explanations for what occurred have changed significantly.
In the 1950s, most people regarded the Third Reich as a criminal regime that had been run by crazed sadists. Nazi anti-Semitism, it was thought, had been a device to distract the masses. And it was widely believed that few Germans or inhabitants of conquered countries had sympathised with the assault on the Jews. As for the Jews themselves, they had gone to the gas chambers like lambs to the slaughter.
This narrative was both a legacy of the Nuremberg trials and a convenient fiction used to justify Cold War alliances and enmities. At Nuremberg, the surviving “top Nazis” took the fall for the crimes of the regime. Former Axis powers or belligerents now within the Nato fold were presented as having been unwilling or unwitting accomplices of the Nazis.
The first crack in this facade came with the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961- 62. The Israeli authorities orchestrated the hearings to present every dimension of Jewish life under Nazi rule, with the emphasis on forms of resistance. They arranged for Nazi collaboration to be exposed, while “bystanders”, particularly the Allied powers and the Vatican, were shamed by evidence of their inaction.
However, the impact of the trial was shaped most decisively by the reporting of Hannah Arendt, who wrote about it for the New Yorker. She saw in Eichmann a living vindication of her earlier analysis of totalitarianism. His unthinking obedience was the reflex of totalitarian man, the “banality of evil”. Arendt’s (erroneous) description of Eichmann’s character irritated historians who detected rather more ideology and animosity in his conduct. And she provoked outrage with her claim that the Jewish leadership had colluded in their own destruction.
What the Dead Have To Say to Us
Yale’s pioneering archive of Shoah testimonies reshaped the way tragedies are remembered. But are we listening?
February 11, 2013
By Geoffrey Hartman
…Most Holocaust research immediately after the liberation of the concentration camps centered on the perpetrators: to identify, find, and prosecute them; also to help historians trace the evolution of the Shoah. But the survivors who played an essential role in providing this evidence were seldom asked about their present lives or concerns relevant to rebuilding families and communities. The one major exception was David Boder, a psychology professor who interviewed in 1946 over 100 Jewish and non-Jewish survivors in European displaced-persons camps. His work, however, remained largely unknown because he published only eight translated excerpts of his interviews in 1949 with the title I Did Not Interview the Dead. In 1961, the Eichmann trial brought the personal experiences of survivors to the fore. Radio-broadcast in its entirety, with over 100 witnesses testifying, the interviews allow the survivors’ distinctive voices and personalities to break through. They were viewed as individuals again, rescued, as Haim Gouri remarked in his account of the trial, Facing the Glass Booth, “from the danger of … being perceived as all alike, all shrouded in the same immense anonymity.”
The Fortunoff Archive recast Holocaust survivor testimony as an extra-juridical genre—an oral and populist form of expression that opened the way for survivors or other eyewitnesses to tell what they knew. In doing so, the archive and its dedicated collaborators have done more than contribute to Holocaust studies. They also helped to expand the concept and appreciation of oral history, of memory and trauma studies, and what has recently been named “media witnessing.”
Jewish cemetery desecrated in Tunisia, in second such incident in fortnight
Ten graves are desecrated less than two weeks after more than 68 graves were ransacked and looted, according to local media.
February 8, 2013
Photo by Reuters
On February 4, unidentified individuals smashed and overturned ten gravestones in Kef in Western Tunisia, according to the Tunisia News Network.
An earlier incident in the coastal Tunisian town of Sousse left more than 68 Jewish graves ransacked and looted on January 23, according to the Tunisian Shems FM radio station.
The last Jew left Kef in 1984, according to Dreuz.info, a French new site. It quoted Yves Kamhi, a Jewish lawyer, as saying some human skeletons were found outside their graves.
Some 1,700 Jews live in Tunisia, according to the European Jewish Congress. They numbered 100,000 in 1948.
For Iran, the Holocaust is just another tragedy - if it ever happened
Iran apologists contend that the Iranian regime behaves rationally and is therefore a fitting partner for nuclear negotiations. But there is nothing rational in Teheran's constant embrace of virulent anti-Semitism and outright Holocaust denial.
February 7, 2013
By James Kirchick
On Monday, I invited Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to visit Berlin's Holocaust Memorial. Salehi was addressing a packed audience at the German Council on Foreign Relations, delivering a peculiarly titled speech, "Iran's Role in Regional Peace and Balance of Power." Peculiar, because it is Iran which is supplying weapons, soldiers, and tactical support to Syrian President Bashar Assad (whose regime has murdered upwards of 60,000 people over the past two years) and because it is Iran which arms the terrorist organizations Hezbollah and Hamas that destabilize Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, respectively. "Your president is a Holocaust denier," I said, "and your government has hosted a Holocaust denial conference." In light of these facts, I asked, would Salehi be willing to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to see the memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in downtown Berlin? "Any holocaust is a human tragedy," the MIT-educated Salehi answered. "Are there more than one?" moderator Sylke Tempel, editor of the German magazine Internationale Politik, asked incredulously. "Well, it's up to you to find out," Salehi replied. When Tempel pressed Salehi to stop "evading the question" and answer if he would visit the memorial and "acknowledge that there was a mass murder of Jews in Europe," Salehi merely reiterated his pat line about "any holocaust" being a "tragedy." Salehi was no doubt aware that denying the Holocaust is a crime in Germany, which is why he probably chose obfuscation over an outright endorsement of his president's views. While Salehi is protected by diplomatic immunity, he wanted to avoid causing controversy and bringing further embarrassment upon his country. Yet while stopping short of denying the Holocaust in the country which perpetrated it, Salehi trivialized its unique horror through relativization, conceding that if something did in fact happen to European Jews 70 years ago it was no worse than any tragedy that has befallen anyone else.
‘Unprecedented’ Holocaust tribute by French imams
In the first such event in France, some 30 French Imams visited the Holocaust Memorial at Drancy near Paris on Monday. The visit comes at a time of high tension between France’s Muslim and Jewish communities
February 5, 2013
By Tony Todd
Some 30 French Imams on Monday visited the Holocaust Memorial at Drancy near Paris in an effort to improve Islam’s image to a sceptical French public.
The visit was unprecedented and comes at a time of high tensions towards the country’s large Muslim community following the killing in March 2012 of seven people, including three Jewish children, by French Islamist militant Mohamed Merah.
An IPSOS poll for respected daily Le Monde in January had 74% of respondents saying the Muslim faith was not compatible with the values of the French Republic.
“At a time of growing racism and fear of Islam in France, we are saying ‘no, it is possible for us all to live together’,” said Hassen Chalghoumi, who is imam for Drancy and France’s first leading Muslim figure to call for reconciliation between religions.
“Today, we are demonstrating that Islam in France is not necessarily subject to foreign influence or interference,” he added. “Most French Muslims aren’t fanatics. We represent an Islam that values human life; that rejects fundamentalism, racism and barbarity.”
‘Imam for the Jews’
Chalghoumi, labelled France’s “Imam for the Jews” by his detractors, is head of the Conference of Imams in France, an unofficial organisation that is not recognised by the state-created French Council of the Muslim Faith.
He caused controversy in 2010 in supporting then-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s law banning Islamic veils that cover the entire face.
Germany marks 80th anniversary of Hitler's rise to power
Once Hitler became chancellor, the road to dictatorship was short
January 30, 2013
By Karen Pauls
Germans are marking the 80th anniversary of the rise of Adolf Hitler with a look back, a vow never to forget and a commitment to protect democracy in the future.
It was on Jan. 30, 1933, amid great political instability, that Hitler was appointed chancellor by then president Paul von Hindenburg.
The very next day, Hitler withdrew his Nazi party from the coalition government and asked the president to dissolve the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament.
"Now it will be easy," propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary. "Radio and press are at our disposal. We shall stage a masterpiece of propaganda."
In her weekly podcast, current Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany must continue to take responsibility for the crimes committed by the Nazis.
"Naturally, we have an everlasting responsibility for the crimes of national-socialism, for the victims of World War II, and above all, for the Holocaust," she said as the world marked International Holocaust Memorial Day on Jan. 27. That’s the date in 1945 when the Soviet army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp in then occupied Poland.
Italy police nab extremists planning to rape Jew
Right wing extremists are suspected of inciting racist hatred, planning to beat and rape a Jewish student in Naples.
January 28, 2013
ROME – Italian police arrested on Thursday right-wing extremists in several cities on charges of inciting anti-Semitic and anti-foreign hatred and violence and planning to rape a Jewish student.
About 10 people, all between the ages of 21 and 33, were arrested on January 24 in dawn raids in Naples, Salerno and Latina, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.
According to the Italian media, surveillance tapes of meetings captured “anti-semitic phrases and speeches full of racist hatred.”
One recording caught a speaker proposing “to beat and rape a student whose only ‘guilt’ is to be Jewish,” stated the news site leggo.it.
"They were systematically indoctrinating young militants to hate foreigners and Jews at meetings in which, among other things, they discussed Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf," the site quoted Naples Assistant Prosecutor Rosario Cantelmo as saying.
Jewish Film Broadcast into Iran on Eve of Holocaust Memorial Day
For first time ever, Simon Wiesenthal Center's Academy Award-winning Holocaust documentary has been broadcast to Iran with Farsi subtitles
January 27, 2013
By Rachel Hirshfeld
For the first time in history, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Academy Award-winning Holocaust documentary has been broadcast to Iran with Farsi subtitles.
“Genocide,” a Holocaust film that won the best documentary feature Oscar in 1982, aired on Iran’s NTV Simay Azadi on Friday, as well as on satellite broadcasts and streaming online.
Also known as “Nasl Keshi” in Farsi, the sobering film, narrated by Elizabeth Taylor and Orson Welles, was aired in an effort to combat the rampant Holocaust denial emanating from the Iranian regime.
The Wiesenthal Center, one of the leading global Jewish human rights organizations, coordinated the showing to coincide with International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27.
The film juxtaposes a unique combination of actual accounts told by Holocaust survivors along the backdrop of footage captured by Nazi cameras.
Europe losing its memory
Op-ed: Day of remembrance highly disconnected from what European societies really feel about Holocaust
January 27, 2013
By Riccardo Dugulin
It is becoming a habit to mark January 27 as the international day dedicated to the six million innocent victims of the Holocaust. European cities and capitals annually host a series of events meant to highlight the remembrance of the terrible crimes that took place between 1939 and 1945. One day, just one day appears to be sufficient for the younger generations to feel no longer concerned by the darkest hour of European History.
Moreover, one day seems to be enough for European politicians paying a visit to museums and remembrance sites as it comforts them in the socially accepted idea that those who perpetrated these massacres were alien to the overall mentality of their respective societies. At the same time, one day is certainly more than any teacher or professor will spend in high schools presenting his students with what really happened throughout those six years during which a continent’s social fabric rotted in front of a murderous surge of hatred.
his day of remembrance appears to be highly disconnected from what European societies really feel in regard to the Shoah. Some 90% Polish Jews exterminated; 95% Belarusian Jews exterminated; French assimilated Jewish children marked with a yellow Star of David and sent to the death camps by French officials; the Romanian death trains and the ultimate horrors of Auschwitz and Buchenwald are all facts that are today considered as an intangible past. This situation is not always the direct fault of uninterested or self-blinded citizens, as politicians play a major part in downplaying the role the Shoah needs to have in European societies.
As an example, France has sanctified the concept of “resistant” setting into stone the official discourse, which erases all responsibility of French citizens for the deportation of thousands of innocent Jews to the eastern killing centers. While the Raffle du Vel’d’Hiv’ has been a complete French initiative operated by French officials, it is highly unlikely that any representative of the Republic will address this issue on January 27, preferring to emphasize the role played by the small portion of the population which stood up to fight against the maddening reign of terror which overtook the European psyche in those years.
War Crimes: How Nazis Escaped Justice in South America
After World War II, dozens of Nazi criminals went into hiding in South America. A new study reveals how a 'coalition of the unwilling' on both sides of the Atlantic successfully stymied efforts to hunt and prosecute these criminals for decades.
January 27, 2013
By Felix Bohr
All it took was a transposed number -- 1974 instead of 1947 -- for Gustav Wagner to be allowed to stay in Brazil. It was a mere slip of the pen by the man who had translated the German document into Portuguese that prompted Brazil's supreme court to deny West Germany's request to extradite the former SS officer. And yet Wagner stood accused of complicity in the murders of 152,000 Jews at the Sobibor extermination camp in German-occupied Poland.
Josef Mengele, the notorious concentration camp doctor at Auschwitz, also benefited from mistakes and delays because French officials with Interpol, the international police force then headquartered in Paris, refused to conduct international searches for Nazi war criminals. And, in the case of SS Colonel Walther Rauff, who helped developed mobile gas chambers used to kill Jews, it was an official with the German Foreign Ministry who sabotaged his own government's extradition request to Chile for 14 months.
As a result of these breakdowns, all three of these Nazi thugs were never tried in German courts after the war. Wagner, the "beast" of Sobibor, died in São Paulo, Mengele drowned in Brazil, and Rauff died of a heart attack in Chile. Of the hundreds of guilty Nazi officials and mass murderers who had fled to South America after the surrender of Nazi Germany, only a handful of them were ever held to account.
How could so many criminals manage to go unpunished, even though they were clearly guilty? It's a conundrum that mystifies academics to this day. Was it because of the lack of cooperation by West German officials? The lack of interest on the part of South America regimes? Were there even secret ties and collaboration between Nazis on both sides of the Atlantic?
Historian Daniel Stahl has conducted research in European and South American archives in the process of writing a new book entitled "Nazi Hunt: South America's Dictatorships and the Avenging of Nazi Crimes." The work supplies a certain and disgraceful answer to what has long been suspected: that there was a broad coalition of people -- across continents and within the courts, police, governments and administrations -- that was unwilling to act or even thwarted the prosecution of Nazi criminals for decades.
Opera on Nazi Crimes Against Disabled Youth Premieres in Vienna
An opera about Nazi atrocities against handicapped children had its world premiere in Vienna on Friday.
January 27, 2013
By Rachel Hirshfeld
Austrian lawmakers gathered Friday to watch the premiere of an opera depicting how Nazis systematically tortured and killed mentally or physically handicapped children at a hospital in Vienna after Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II.
"Spiegelgrund" by contemporary Austrian composer Hannes Androsch, was performed at the Austrian parliament. The composer has dedicated the work to his great-grandfather, who died in a Nazi concentration camp.
The opera details the atrocities at the Am Spiegelgrund clinic in Vienna between 1938 and 1945, where thousands of frail children, mostly Jewish, were murdered as part of the Third Reich's "euthanasia" program designed to rid society of people deemed unfit to live.
"It is the duty of each generation to confront the tragedy of the Holocaust," said the 50-year-old composer, according to AFP.
In the opera, Androsch wanted to trace the continuing horror of atrocities against children from antiquity to Nazism.
His work includes descriptions by Plutarch of the draconian treatment of children in the Greek state of Sparta, and traditional children's songs evoking the mistreatment and the memories of those who survived the Vienna hospital, AFP reported.
The opera was unveiled as the world prepared to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday, January 27, the date in 1945 when the Soviet army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp in then-occupied Poland.
If a ghetto is liquidated and no one lives to remember it, can it be memorialized?
The new online Hebrew version of a special encyclopedia tries to tell the story of the 1,200 Jewish ghettos during the Holocaust.
January 27, 2013
By Ofer Aderet
…As part of International Holocaust Remembrance Day today, Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research is unveiling its online Encyclopedia of the Ghettos. The encyclopedia, six years in the making, provides the first Hebrew account of 1,200 ghettos during the Holocaust.
The vast majority were small ghettos whose names are little known. Prof. Dan Michman, head of Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research, says the encyclopedia changes our understanding of the concept of a ghetto. “The Nazi ghetto should not be seen as one uniform phenomenon,” he wrote when discussing the new encyclopedia. “The word ghetto, which originated in the early modern period, changed in the period when it was used by the heads of anti-Jewish states” during the Holocaust.
…The online encyclopedia is the product of research done with the support of the Claims Conference - the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Parts of the work were published a few years ago in the English version of the encyclopedia, edited by Prof. Guy Miron. The Hebrew edition is an updated version. Yad Vashem is releasing the Hebrew encyclopedia online; an English version will also be released in print. “This is a genuine leap to a new level,” says Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. “The use of the Internet is designed to make more accessible this huge bank of information, one that provides a fascinating portrait of the lives and deaths of Jews during the Holocaust.” Shalev hopes the Encyclopedia of the Ghettos will be an important resource for Holocaust researchers, while attracting general readers, including young people. As Prais puts it, “This is the last living testimony from small communities, one that we are bringing back from oblivion.”
Watchdog decries ‘anti-Semitic whirlwind’ on Mexican Twitter
'The hashtag #EsdeJudios exposes the antisemitisim of Mexican Tweeter surfers,' says a statement by the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism
January 25, 2013
A Spanish phrase about Jews set off “a whirlwind of anti-Semitic” messages on Twitter and became the second-most popular hashtag among Mexican users, according to a watchdog.
“The hashtag #EsdeJudios exposes the antisemitisim of Mexican Tweeter surfers,” said a statement by the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism.
The international organization said the phrase, which means “just like Jews,” was second-most popular in Mexico on Jan. 18.
The Forum documented Holocaust jokes on Twitter feeds from Mexico and elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world. One of them, by a user identified as Erik Negrete Ozuna, said the difference between Jews and pizzas was that the latter don’t scream in the oven.
“There appeared again the ovens, the soaps and the ashes,” the statement by the Forum read, “but there were also classical antisemitic labels: stingy usurers for example, and references to Israel as an occupying force.’
Nahui Ollin, another Twitter user, attached the hashtag #JustlikeJews to a tweet reading “making films about the evil Nazis and shooting down Palestinians to steal their land."
On Friday, the hashtag's frequency was between five and ten times an hour and some of the tweets condemned anti-Semitism or were pro-Jewish and pro-Israel.
Separately, a Jan. 24 French court order required the micro-blogging platform to divulge details about users who violate French law by spreading hate speech.
The Union of French Jewish Students filed the lawsuit after anti-Semitic jokes and statements proliferated among French Twitter users under the hashtag #unbonjuif (“a good Jew”).
Report: Dramatic rise in convictions of Nazi war criminals
2012 marked a fivefold increase in the number convicted worldwide to a total of ten, nine of which were in Italy
January 25, 2013
By Ofer Aderet
The number of Nazi war criminals convicted in the past year increased fivefold to a total of ten, according to a report by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which follows related investigations and prosecutions worldwide.
The release of the report, authored by Nazi Hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff, covering the period between April 1, 2011 and March 31st, 2012, coincides with the upcoming International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which will be held on Sunday.
Italy convicted nine Nazi war criminals, while Germany convicted one, raising the total number of convicted Nazis in the world to 99 since 2001. Seven countries handed down convictions since 2001 with Italy leading the pack at 45, followed by the U.S. at 39
Additionally, in 2012, six suspects were indicted for alleged Nazi-related war crimes: five in Italy and one in Spain. 63 investigations were opened; 45 in Germany, 9 in Austria, 6 in the U.S., and the remainder in Argentina, Hungary, Italy, and Canada.
At least 1138 investigations are ongoing against suspected Nazi war criminals. The majority, 528, are in Germany. Poland follows with 458 investigations and then the U.S. with 74.
SPIEGEL Debate: What Is Anti-Semitism?
Just how strongly are Germans allowed to criticize Israel? Accusations of anti-Semitism against SPIEGEL columnist Jakob Augstein have brought the question to the fore. He debates the issue with Dieter Graumann, the leader of Germany's Jewish community.
January 19, 2013
Since the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center placed German journalist Jakob Augstein, 45, on its list of the world's top 10 anti-Semites, Germany has been embroiled in controversy over his columns for SPIEGEL ONLINE. Augstein, publisher of the Berlin-based weekly magazine Der Freitag and a prominent shareholder of the SPIEGEL publishing house, has attacked Israeli policies on a number of occasions. Dieter Graumann, 62, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, voices criticism of Augstein's articles and engages in a debate with him on the sensitive issue.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Augstein, are you an anti-Semite?
SPIEGEL: Mr. Graumann, do you think Jakob Augstein is an anti-Semite?
Graumann: No. To make it clear right from the start, he doesn't belong on the list of top 10 anti-Semites that was recently compiled by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. But I find his column entries despicable and repugnant. He is recklessly fueling anti-Jewish sentiment.
Augstein: That is a serious allegation. What makes you say that?
SPIEGEL: Is there a litmus test for anti-Semitism? Henryk Broder, a former SPIEGEL journalist who is now a regular columnist for the conservative daily Die Welt, summed it up as follows: From now on, I determine what constitutes an anti-Semite. Broder, whose expertise played a role in the Wiesenthal Center's rating ...
Graumann: ... is a gifted polemicist. He has also sharply criticized me on occasion. I survived -- and I still think highly of him.
Augstein: I can't take this quite so lightly. Broder wrote that I could have made my career with the Gestapo and been of service on the ramp (a reference to loading Jews onto rail cars headed for concentration camps). Is that what you mean when you say that he is a gifted polemicist?
SPIEGEL: Let's get back to the definition of anti-Semitism.
Graumann: Anyone who senses a pervasive, worldwide Jewish conspiracy or who holds "the Jews" responsible for all bad things that transpire among nations. Anyone who denies Israel's right to exist, demonizes it or is prepared to accept its annihilation. Anyone who makes plump comparisons with Nazis to condemn Israeli policies.
Augstein: I agree with that definition. Indeed, you have also defined who is not an anti-Semite, namely anyone who views Israel like any other state and criticizes it when its government violates international law. In other words, anyone who does not apply a double standard to Israel. And I would say that this definition applies to me.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Graumann, is this type of normality desirable?
Graumann: If it were as Mr. Augstein describes it -- but that is unfortunately not the case. He absolutely does not treat Israel like any other state. He conveys an image of Israel that is simplistic and distorted. In fact, he conveys -- and I find this particularly pernicious -- anti-Jewish clichés. If I were to rate the cold contempt with which he treats Israel on a scale from 1 to 10, I would give him a solid 13.
For first time, rare Warsaw Ghetto Uprising diaries unveiled
In one diary, a 37-year-old lawyer described ghetto life and the fight against the Nazis; second diary by an anonymous woman, previously read only by researchers; ceremony attended by President Peres, 70 years after the uprising
January 17, 2013
By Ofer Aderet
Warsaw Ghetto 1944 Photo courtesy Reuters
A rare journal written by an unknown Jew in the Warsaw Ghetto during the uprising there was unveiled Thursday morning at a ceremony at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum in the presence of President Shimon Peres. In the diary, the writer, a 37-year-old Jewish lawyer, describes life in the ghetto, the Jewish underground fighters who were active there and his march to deportation.
The journal is 38 pages long and written in Polish. It was also released Thursday on the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum website, 70 years after the first phase of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – “The January Revolt” – which constituted the start of the resistance to the Nazi regime. During the course of the deportation from the ghetto, armed fighters engaged German soldiers in brutal close-quarters combat. In the struggle, Jews who were being led in convoys to a gathering point succeeded in escaping.
The author of the journal, some of whose family members were murdered in the Holocaust, was later sent to the Trawniki concentration camp. His fate remains unknown.
He wrote in his journal, “A volley of shots. The bullets hit the paving stones in the street. The ghetto fighters are struggling in a battle of a few versus many. On the roof an automatic rifle is rattling. The fighter will exact a high price in return for his life. Beside him are small flags – a red and white Polish flag and a blue and white Zionist flag.
“Tomorrow at this time everything will already be over. I am calculating coldly. Now it is 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon. I am looking at the clear April sky. They will take us to Treblinka tonight. When the dawn breaks I will no longer be alive. The calculation is simple – for the last time I am seeing the blue sky between the clouds.”
“April 19, 1943,” he wrote at another point in the diary. “In a week’s time I will be 37. Nu, fine, what difference does that make? A new group of people has been taken to the Umschlagplatz [death camp]. Among them are friends, acquaintances, people who managed to survive in the ghetto, who they haven’t yet managed to eliminate. They are telling me: Your mother has been shot. I am not shocked. I am beginning to realize that she suffered from July to April, nine months. She survived the death of her daughter, the death of her husband, the necessity of hiding – in stinking, suffocating lairs. In vain she suffered the torture of the constant fear. Suddenly I understand that I was not sensitive enough towards her, that the ghetto deprived me of tenderness and sensitivity, that cruelty reigned over everything and I absorbed it into myself like Roentgen rays.”
How Well Do We Know Anne Frank?
Anne Frank is a figure of hope whose diary has been read by millions of people around the world. Two new books, an upcoming film and a soon to open museum seek to create a contemporary, complicated -- and more Jewish -- image of the Holocaust victim.
January 6, 2013
By Georg Diez
For Buddy Elias, she was the girl with the smile, the girl with whom he played hide and seek, the girl who was determined to go ice skating with him; and she was his cousin, who he is still trying to protect to this day. In her diary, she even drew a picture of the dress she would like to wear if she were to go ice skating with him.
Elias beams when he talks about her, but his eyes reveal a sense of sadness. For years, Elias has been talking about his favorite cousin Anne, speaking to schoolchildren who are amazed that he exists and that Anne Frank was even a real person. Of course, they know she existed, because they've read her diary. The book has transported them to back house, or Secret Annex. Her words have spoken to them and they have perhaps even trembled as she once did as they read her story. Some people even claim to have seen here, in Manila or Buenos Aires, and they are convinced that Anne Frank survived.
Anne Frank is the face of the Holocaust.
In her room at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam, where she hid with her parents, her sister Margot, the Van Pels family and Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist, from July 6, 1942 to Aug. 4, 1944, she had a photo of Greta Garbo as well as many other pictures pinned to the wall. Like most teenagers, she dreamed about Hollywood.
Buddy Elias went on to become a star in the Holiday on Ice skating show. He was an actor in the theater and on television, and he lived Anne's dream. To this day, it seems to inspire him, although it isn't clear whether he wasn't in fact running away, during all those years spent on tour in Egypt and America, before he became the man who is Anne Frank's cousin. It's the role of his life. For Elias, who is 87, Anne Frank was family.
EXPOSÉ: No-go Areas for Jews in Europe
January 1, 2013
By Giulio Meotti
In the enlightened Europe of today, there is witch hunt against any authentic Jew with a beard and a skullcap.
Jewish students have been advised not to wear a kippa in the streets in Germany either. The Jewish Abraham Geiger Theological College in Potsdam advises its rabbis against wearing a kippah in public, while the orthodox Or Avner school in Berlin has issued similar guidelines.
Whenever its pupils go on trips to the zoo or the museum, Jewish pupils are warned: "Speak German, not Hebrew, put a baseball cap over your kippah so you don't give stupid people something to get annoyed about." Camouflaged in this way, young Jews travel on Berlin's metro trains. The rector of the school has explained that "it is safer to not appear to be a Jewish person".
A few days ago Finland's Jewish community was advised not to wear the skullcap in public for fear of anti-Semitic attacks.
In Malmö, Sweden, the country which once gave the world saints like Raoul Wallenberg, members of the local synagogue decided not to keep on their kippahs upon exiting their synagogue.
Norway's Jewish Community has advised its members against speaking Hebrew loudly on the streets or wearing Jewish emblems. Norwegian police have just increased security around Oslo’s main synagogue.
A teacher, Inge Telhaug, who was wearing a Magen David around his neck under a T-shirt, was informed by the Kristiansand Adult Education Center that wearing the star could be deemed a provocation towards the many Muslim students at the school.
In France several Jews were attacked and beaten in the streets after wearing the skullcap. In Paris it is safer for young Jewish men to walk in groups, not alone. They should wear baseball caps instead of the traditional head covering to avoid being attacked by anti-Semites. In many neighborhoods of Marseille and Lyons, it is no longer safe for Jews to walk the streets.