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Awareness

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For articles from 2011 to 2012, please see Awareness Archive

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France's Jews Flee As Rioters Burn Paris Shops, Attack Synagogue

“They were shouting: ‘Death to Jews,’ and ‘Slit Jews’ throats"

July 23, 2014

Huffington Post

By Jessica Elgot

France's politicians and community leaders have criticised the "intolerable" violence against Paris' Jewish community, after a pro-Palestinian rally led to the vandalizing and looting of Jewish businesses and the burning of cars.

It is the third time in a week where pro-Palestinian activists have clashed with the city's Jewish residents. On Sunday, locals reported chats of "Gas the Jews" and "Kill the Jews", as rioters attacked businesses in the Sarcelles district, known as "little Jerusalem".

Manuel Valls, France's prime minister said: “What happened in Sarcelles is intolerable. An attack on a synagogue and on a kosher shop is simply anti-Semitism. Nothing in France can justify this violence.”

Religious leaders gathered for an interfaith service on Monday to call for calm, and Haim Korsia, the chief rabbi of France, and Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy shook hands on the steps of the synagogue.

Francois Pupponi, the mayor of Sarcelles, told BFMTV that the violent attacks were carried out by a "horde of savages."

"When you head for the synagogue, when you burn a corner shop because it is Jewish-owned, you are committing an anti-Semitic act," interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters at a press conference at the local synagogue.

Eighteen people were arrested for attacks on shops, including a kosher supermarket, a Jewish-owned chemist and a funeral home. Rioters, who carried batons and threw petrol bombs according to eyewitnesses, were yards from the synagogue when they were driven back by riot police who used tear gas.

“They were shouting: ‘Death to Jews,’ and ‘Slit Jews’ throats’,” David, a Jewish sound engineer told The Times. “It took us back to 1938.”

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Well-known Italian philosopher:'I’d like to shoot those bastard Zionists'

July 23, 2014

Haaretz

By Anna Momigliano

MILAN, Italy — Italy’s most famous philosopher would like to personally kill Israelis and thinks Europeans should raise money “to buy Hamas some more rockets,” he recently said on the radio.

Gianni Vattimo, a well-known public intellectual and former member of the European Parliament, made the comments on a popular radio show as protests against Israel’s incursion into Gaza were held across Italy and the ruling left-leaning Democratic Party was moving toward a more pro-Israel position.

“I’d like to shoot those bastard Zionists,” Vattimo told Radio 24’s most successful show, “La Zanzara.” When asked by the hosts whether he would like to see more Israelis killed, Vattimo, who described himself on air as “a non-violent person,” responded: “Of course!”

Later, he said he “unfortunately can’t really shoot” because he was exempted from military service.

Vattimo also said he was planning to launch a fund-raising campaign to buy better weapons for Hamas, saying the militants are “fighting with toy rockets that don’t really kill anyone.” He suggested Europeans form international brigades to fight along with Hamas, just as foreign volunteers fought Franco during the Spanish Civil War, and said Israel was “a bit worse than the Nazis.”

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Pope demands justice for AMIA Jewish center attack

July 18, 2014

Times of Israel

By Nicole Winfield and Almudena Calatrava

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Pope Francis is demanding justice for the victims of Argentina’s worst terrorist attack, using what is increasingly becoming his signature way of communicating: an amateur smartphone video message, recorded on the fly by a visiting friend in the comfort of Francis’ Vatican hotel room.

To be aired Friday during the official commemoration of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people, the video is the latest evidence that Francis has no qualms about circumventing the Vatican’s media machine to get his message out — for better or worse.

A close friend of the pope’s, Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress, shot the video last month on his Samsung phone when he visited Francis at the Vatican. Epelman said he asked Francis, who was an auxiliary bishop in Buenos Aires at the time of the attack, if he would like to send a message to Argentina’s Jewish community to mark the anniversary.

“He thought about it for half a second and said, ‘Do you have your cellphone with you?’” Epelman told The Associated Press. “And I said ‘yes’ and then he said, ‘Good, let’s record it now!’”

In the message, the pope speaks off-the-cuff, with the hum of passing cars audible through the open windows of his hotel room. He condemns terrorism as “lunacy” and says Argentina must come to terms with the damage and pain the unsolved crime still causes.

“Today, together with my solidarity and my prayers for all the victims, comes my desire for justice. May justice be done!” he says.

Last year, Argentina and Iran approved a “truth commission” aimed at moving the investigation forward by enabling Argentine prosecutors to travel to Tehran to question former Iranian officials suspected of organizing the attack. But little progress has been made and Jewish groups say Argentina’s failure to press Iran guarantees impunity. Tehran denies any involvement.

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Paris synagogue firebombed in anti-Semitic attack

Anti-Semitic violence rises with intensified conflict in Gaza, as protestors against Gaza operation chant 'death to the Jews.'

July 14, 2014

Haaretz

By JTA

A firebomb was hurled at a synagogue near Paris, part of a string of anti-Semitic incidents in Western Europe coinciding with Israel’s assault on Hamas in Gaza.

The firebomb went off Friday night at the entrance to the synagogue of Aulnay-sous-Bois, a northeastern suburb of the French capital, according to the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA. No one was hurt and the fire resulted in minor damage, Le Monde reported.

On July 8, the day that Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza, a man described as having a Middle Eastern appearance assaulted a Jewish 17-year-old girl on a Paris street near the Gare du Nord train station by spraying pepper-spray on her face, BNVCA also reported.

The girl, identified by her initials, J.L., wrote in her complaint to police that the man, who was in his 20s, shouted: “Dirty Jewess, inshallah you will die.”

France and the Paris region in particular recently have seen an elevated level of anti-Semitic attacks. BNVCA President Ghozlan warned attacks may become even more frequent because of the fighting in Gaza.

“We have seen violence increase at periods of unrest in the Middle East and this is no small part the result of incitement and anti-Semitism at demonstrations against Israel,” he wrote.

In Belleville, an eastern suburb of Paris, a demonstration Saturday by a few dozen people against Israel’s attack on Hamas featured calls to “slaughter the Jews,” according to Alain Azria, a French Jewish photojournalist who covered the event. The crowd also chanted “death to the Jews,” he said.

In The Hague, the Netherlands, a few hundred people, most reportedly appearing to be of Middle Eastern descent, blocked a central shopping street while carrying signs that juxtaposed the Israeli flag with the flag of Nazi Germany. One sign read: “Stop doing what Hitler did to you.” Among the participants was Fatima Elatik, a local politician from Amsterdam and former member of the now defunct Jewish-Moroccan Network for dialogue, who posed for a picture with a demonstrator wearing a shirt that accused Israel of genocide.

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Iran Cleric: Jews Use Sorcery to Spy

A mullah at Tehran University told Iranians on official TV that Jews use jinns, or genies, for espionage. Young Iranians laugh, and cry, when they hear such things

July 7, 2014

The Daily Beast

By Azadeh Moaveni

Iran’s state broadcaster, known as Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, has never been the country’s most dignified institution. But even by its own standards, the network plunged into a fresh abyss of superstition and fear-mongering with a recent broadcast in which Valiollah Naghipourfar, a cleric and professor at Tehran University, discusses the use of jinns, or genies, in public life.

“Can jinns be put to use in intelligence gathering?” the presenter asks ingenuously, as though dragons can also serve as defense ministers and we’ve all entered the realm of the Hobbit.

The cleric nods, as though speaking about a species of exotic elf: “The Jew is very practiced in sorcery. Indeed most sorcerers are Jews.”

The conversation moves on, and Naghipourfar discusses how the Zionists deploy jinns to undermine the Islamic Republic, and how the Jewish faith is especially adept at the black arts.

Jinns, of course, are supernatural creatures, nearly always demonic or evil, with origins in Islamic mythology; in Iranian culture, there is great strength attributed to their nefarious ways, and many believe that sorcerers or magicians employ jinns to do everything from tormenting a meddling mother-in-law to sabotaging a romantic rival.

That such base prejudice and folk anti-Semitism could be peddled on state television is especially painful given Iran’s long history of religious tolerance among sects. Jewish Iranians arguably have fared better in Iran, and felt themselves more Iranian, than the region’s Arab Jews, who have largely abandoned their home countries and emigrated to Israel or the West.

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French comedian Dieudonne mocks Ilan Halimi, Holocaust in new show

July 6, 2014

JTA

Months after his comedy tour was banned for its anti-Semitism, comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala launched a new show that mocks the Holocaust and Jewish murder victims.

Dieudonne, who has multiple convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews, is planning to launch his new show, titled “The Impure Beast,” in the coming weeks, according to a report earlier this week by the France TV Info channel and the Le Point weekly magazine.

The show contains profanities connected to Ilan Halimi, a young Parisian Jewish phone salesman who was tortured and murdered in 2006 by a gang of kidnappers who targeted him because he was Jewish.

“If I knock down a Jewish journalist, it will be serious thing,” journalists who saw sneak previews of the news show quoted Dieudonne as saying on stage. “They will reopen the Nuremberg trials. They will even exhume Ilan Halimi. They’re going to find my DNA in his asshole.”

For many French Jews, Ilan Halimi remains a symbol of violent anti-Semitism that surged in France after the second Palestinian intifada.

In January, Dieudonne had to cancel the tour of his previous show after several mayors, acting at the request of France’s then interior minister, Manuel Valls, issued bans declaring the event an unlawful gathering that threatens public order.

Algeria to reopen shuttered synagogues, minister says

'There is a Jewish community in Algeria which is greeted in our cities and it has a right to exist,' says religious affairs minister.

July 6, 2014

Haaretz

By JTA

Algeria intends to reopen synagogues that were shuttered in the 1990s for security reasons, an Algerian minister said.

The statement about Algeria’s synagogues by Religious Affairs Minister Mohamed Aissa was published on Thursday on the online edition of the Algerian daily Liberte.

“There is a Jewish community in Algeria which is greeted in our cities and it has a right to exist,” Aissa is quoted as saying earlier this week at a conference organized in the capital Algiers by Liberte.

Algeria, he added, “is prepared to reopen Jewish places of worship.” But he said that “for the moment the state does not plan to do this right away because of security reasons. We need to first set up security arrangements before we open them up for worshipers.”

Tens of thousands of people died in terrorist attacks and government reprisals in Algeria during the 1990s, during an insurgency by the Armed Islamic Group.

The number of Jews living in Algeria is not known, according to the Jeune Afrique magazine, but historians estimate the country’s Jewish population is made up of a handful of people who practice their faith in secret for fear of being targeted by Islamic extremists.

Algeria used to have more than 100,000 Jews, but the vast majority of them left after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and during the country’s bloody war of independence against France.

Belgian Jewish community leader: Europe's Jews should prepare for more attacks

Maurice Sosnowski says rise in number of Jews leaving Belgium is 'negligible.’

July 3, 2014

Haaretz

By Judy Maltz

A month after the deadly shootings at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, the head of the Belgian Jewish community has warned that European Jews should brace for further attacks.

“I think that every Jewish community in the world today has to be prepared for such a kind of incident,” said Dr. Maurice Sosnowski, the leader of the 40,000-strong community, in an interview with Haaretz. “From what I’ve heard from all sorts of experts on terrorism, this kind of event will happen probably five times in Europe over the next two years, so that means everyone has to be prepared.”

Sosnowski, a professor of medicine at the Free University of Brussels, also serves as vice president of the European Jewish Congress. He was in Israel participating in a delegation of Jewish community leaders from around the world who met this past week with senior cabinet members.

Four people, including an Israeli couple, were killed in the May 24 shooting outside the museum. A week later, a French national with reported links to Islamic radical groups was arrested in connection with the attack.

In wake of the attack, Sosnowski said he had demanded that the government help finance the costs of upgrading security in buildings and institutions that could be targeted in the future because of their links to the Jewish community. This included 50 buildings in Antwerp and another 30 in Brussels, the two major centers of the local Jewish community. “They are now investigating how much this will cost,” he said, noting that in several other European countries, such security costs are covered by the government.

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Welcome to Berlin's House of One – a church, synagogue and mosque

Three religious leaders are pinning their faith on a single place of worship

June 22, 2014

Independent

By Tony Paterson

It has been dubbed the "Wonder of Berlin". And if a Protestant pastor, a rabbi and an imam can realise their shared dream, the world's first house of prayer for three religions will open its doors in the German capital in four years' time, with the building costs being paid for by donations.

The unique project is called the "House of One", and its aim is to provide a place of worship and contemplation for adherents of the world's three main monotheistic faiths, although the building will also be open to all. It will house a church, a synagogue and a mosque under one roof.

"Berlin is the city of wounds and miracles," said Rabbi Tovia Ben-Chorin, one of the three behind the project. "It is the city in which the extermination of the Jews was planned. Now, the first house in the world for three religions is to be built here," he added.

The fundraising drive was launched this week, with a symbolic handing over of the first brick. The House of One's backers hope to raise the €43.5m (£35m) needed to construct the hexagonal-shaped brick building, on a site next to Berlin's central Museum Island, entirely through sponsorship. Anyone can donate money online. A single brick costs ¤10.

The idea was born in 2009, when archaeologists excavating a section of ground on Museum Island unearthed the remnants of Berlin's earliest church, the Petrikirche, and the city's Latin school, which dates back to 1350.

"We quickly agreed that something visionary and forward looking should be built on what is the founding site of Berlin," said Gregor Hohberg, the Protestant pastor who initiated the project. He was convinced that multicultural, multi-faith Berlin was the right city in which to open a house of worship for three religions.

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A ‘new anti-Semitism’ rising in France

June 21, 2014

Washington Post

By Anthony Faiola

PARIS — “I am not an anti-Semite,” French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala says with a devilish grin near the start of his hit show at this city’s Théâtre de la Main d’Or.

Then come the Jew jokes.

In front of a packed house, he apes Alain Jakubowicz, a French Jewish leader who calls the humor of Dieudonné tantamount to hate speech. While the comedian skewers Jakubowicz, Stars of David glow on screen and, as the audience guffaws, a soundtrack plays evoking the trains to Nazi death camps. In various other skits, he belittles the Holocaust, then mocks it as a gross exaggeration.

In a country where Jewish leaders are decrying the worst climate of anti-Semitism in decades, Dieudonné, a longtime comedian and erstwhile politician whose attacks on Jews have grown progressively worse, is a sign of the times. French authorities issued an effective ban on his latest show in January for inciting hate. So he reworked the material to get back on stage — cutting, for instance, one joke lamenting the lack of modern-day gas chambers.

But the Afro-French comedian, whose stage name is simply Dieudonné, managed to salvage other bits, including his signature “quenelle” salute. Across Europe, the downward-pointing arm gesture that looks like an inverted Nazi salute has now gone so viral that it has popped up on army bases, in parliaments, at weddings and at professional soccer matches. Neo-Nazis have used it in front of synagogues and Holocaust memorials. Earlier this year, bands of Dieudonné supporters flashed it during a street protest in Paris while shouting, “Jews, out of France!”

"Dieudonné - Palestine (english subtitles)." French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala's shows have been banned by French authorities for inciting hate. This video, called "Palestine" is from the show "Sandrine" in 2009. (YouTube/LaughinTranslation)

“Dieudonné is getting millions of views on his videos on the Internet and is spreading his quenelle,” said Roger Cukierman, president of the Council for Jewish Institutions in France. “Something very worrying is happening in France. This is not a good time for Jews.”

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China reopens 105-year-old synagogue as a concert hall
Harbin synagogue served one of the largest of Jewish communities in Far East until it was torched by anti-Communist Russians in the 1930s.

June 21, 2014

Haaretz

By JTA

The Chinese city of Harbin reopened a 105-year-old synagogue to the public after an extensive restoration.
The Main Synagogue on Harbin’s Tongjiang Street was reopened last week after 12 months of renovations at a festive ceremony featuring a performance by the String Quartet of the State Glazunovs Conservatory from the city of Petrozavodsk in Russia, the Xinhua news agency reported.
In 19th and 20th centuries, thousands of Jews immigrated to the northeastern city of Harbin to escape persecution in Europe and Czarist Russia, establishing there one of the largest Jewish communities in the Far East.
The Chinese government conducted the restoration project with help from Dan Ben-Canaan, an Israeli scholar who has lived in Harbin for more than decade and works there as director of Heilongjiang University’s Sino-Israel Research and Study Center.
The restored synagogue, he told Xinhua, “looks exactly the same as when the synagogue first opened in 1909, making this a unique location.”
Once an Orthodox synagogue seating up to 450 people, the building’s exterior boasts a Star of David sitting atop the rooftop dome.
Inside, the women’s gallery on the second floor, the men’s prayer hall and rabbi’s bimah platform have all been restored, complete with safety rails featuring elaborate decorations that combine Jewish and Chinese symbols.
However, the reopened synagogue is not meant to function as a place of worship but as a concert theater, according to Xinhua.
The synagogue was damaged in 1931 by a fire that, according to Ben-Canaan, was started by gangs of anti-Communist Russians. It was renovated after the fire and closed down in 1963. It was converted into a hospital and a hostel, leaving its interior badly damaged, the report said.


Of guns and ballot boxes

Jews are unnerved, but Europe is not sinking into violent anti-Semitism

June 12, 2014

Economist

FOR many Jews, it was a weekend of double horror in Brussels. On May 24th a gunman entered the Jewish Museum in the Sablon and opened fire with a Kalashnikov, killing four people. The next day, the first results of the European elections flashed up on a giant screen showing that far-right parties, including avowed neo-Nazis, had scored big electoral victories.

To some, the events seemed connected: Europe was reverting to ugly old ideologies and the shooting was proof, if it were needed, that Europe is no longer safe for Jews. Israeli leaders said the killings were the result of “constant incitement” against the Jewish state. An American journalist, Jeffrey Goldberg, caused a stir with a tweet: “At what point do the Jews of America and the Jews of Israel tell the Jews of Europe that it might be time to get out?”

To many European Jews, the idea is preposterous. Yet thoughts of leaving are not far below the surface. Returning to the Promised Land is at the heart of Jewish tradition and modern Zionism. A survey last year by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency showed that nearly a third of Jews had considered leaving in the previous five years because they did not feel safe. Three-quarters felt that anti-Semitism was worsening, with the situation in Hungary and France especially bad.

For years there has been a particular worry about France, home both to Europe’s biggest Jewish community and to its largest Muslim minority. The controversy over performances by the comedian, Dieudonné, and his popularisation of the “quenelle” gesture (supposedly a modified Nazi salute) stokes belief in entrenched hatred of Jews. French criticism of the Israeli government, plus an EU-wide campaign for boycotts of products from Jewish settlements, has led some to argue that anti-Zionism is a hidden form of anti-Semitism. The success of the National Front, which came first in the European election, is a new cause for concern. It is part of a wider surge across Europe, including the election of neo-Nazis in Greece, Hungary and even Germany.

Israel’s Jewish Agency says there has been a fourfold increase in the number of French Jews emigrating to Israel in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period last year. French is often heard in fashionable districts of Tel Aviv. How much of this flow is attributable to fear of anti-Semitism, and how much to the economic stagnation of France, is hard to judge; many French citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish, are abroad, not least in London.

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Jewish teens sprayed with tear gas in Paris suburb

June 11, 2014

JTA

Two Jewish teenagers reported that they were sprayed with tear gas in an attack in Sarcelles, a northern suburb of Paris.
The teens, who were wearing kippahs, said they were attacked on Saturday night, according to a report posted Monday on the website of the National Bureau of Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA.
The attack, which was captured by a nearby security system, reportedly was perpetrated by a group of youths aged 8 to 17 of “North African origin,” according to the BNVCA.
It comes less than a week after two Jewish teens told police that they were chased on Shavuot eve by a hatchet-wielding man and three others in Romainville, a northeastern suburb of Paris.
Last month, BNVCA and SPCJ, the watchdog of France’s Jewish communities, documented two suspected anti-Semitic beatings of Jews in the Paris suburb of Creteil. Also last month, police received a report about three men who were filming the entrance to the Jewish school in Creteil, Otzar Hatora.

Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf at centre of fresh controversy

As copyright expires, debate rages over whether book should be studied or buried

June 8, 2014

CBC

By Sean Prpick

It's one of the biggest bestsellers of all time, going through more than 1,000 editions and selling more than 12 million copies between its original publication in 1924 and 1945. Like the works of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, it still sells strongly long after its creator’s death and — every publicity person’s dream — remains in the public eye as it continues to generate news coverage and commentary.

Just one problem: It’s one of the most despicable works of literature of all time, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

And nearly three-quarters of a century after the author took his own life, it’s still causing legal and political uproar in Germany.

Munich graduate student Giles Bennett points across a square known as Prinzregentplatz. As it’s been for more than a century, this is still a swanky residential neighbourhood.

Directly in front of him stands a handsome five-storey apartment building. In it, Hitler’s old flat (or what we’d call in North America these days a luxury condo), which has been turned into a neighbourhood police station.

As Bennett told the CBC, immediately after the war the Free State of Bavaria scrambled to seize all of Hitler’s assets.

“Since this was Hitler’s final private official residence registered with the authorities, when after the war de-Nazification procedures were begun,”  Bennett said, “everyone, including the defence, agreed that his entire property, despite what his last will and testament said, was confiscated on behalf of the Free State of Bavaria.”

Included on this list were all of his copyrights, including the one to his infamous biography-cum-manifesto Mein Kampf.

Since Bavaria controlled copyright on the book, it controlled publication. It has allowed virtually no legal versions of the führer’s screed to be produced in Germany since the end of the war.

But in Germany, copyright disappears at the end of the 70th anniversary year of the author’s death. Hitler’s suicide in his Berlin bunker in the spring of 1945 meant Bavaria loses control of Mein Kampf at midnight of December 31, 2015.

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We mourn the passing of Judith Weiszmann on May 27, 2014 and reprint the following article in her memory:

Saved by Raoul Wallenberg

Survivor Judith Weiszmann shares optimism – and concern.

Jewish Independent

By Karen Ginsberg

No matter the audience, Judith Weiszmann has three key messages when she speaks about the Holocaust: always remember the good that one person can do in the world, pay attention to the pockets of antisemitism springing up in some parts of Europe and North America, and remember that living in peace with your neighbors is much better than the alternative.

Judith and her husband Erwin, z”l, both structural engineers who emigrated to Canada after the Hungarian Revolution, were frequent speakers about the Holocaust for schools and service clubs in Winnipeg, where Judith still lives and continues to be an outreach speaker. The families of both Judith and Erwin were saved by Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish businessman-turned-diplomat who came to Hungary towards the end of the war and managed to issue thousands of Schutzpasses (a document identifying the bearer as a Swedish citizen rather than as a Jew) to Hungarian Jews who were on the brink of being deported to concentration camps.

In 2011, the Swedish government issued a stamp commemorating the 100th birthday of Wallenberg. It featured a picture of Wallenberg in the foreground and an image of a Schutzpass in the background, complete with a picture of the 14-year-old bearer of the pass, Judith Kopstein, who later became Judith Weiszmann. Serendipitously, Judith had presented a copy of her Schutzpass to Wallenberg’s half-sister Nina 10 years previously when Nina attended the unveiling of a statue in her brother’s honor in Toronto. Upon returning to Sweden, unbeknown to Judith, Nina framed her Schutzpass and hung it in her home. Years later, the Swedish Postal Services made use of the image and Canada also issued a stamp using the same Schutzpass, never imagining that the young girl pictured in it was still alive. When Canada Post learned that Judith, then 83, was very much alive, and tremendously honored to appear on a Canadian stamp with Wallenberg, they held a special ceremony for her in Toronto to mark the connections.

Since the issuing of the Wallenberg stamps, Judith has received a wide-ranging number of speaking requests – requests she is only too glad to oblige. In her words, they provide her with an opportunity to “bear witness” to the selflessness of Wallenberg and remind her audiences that forces of evil can take root again if we are not vigilant.

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At Yad Vashem, Pope compares tragedy of Holocaust to idolatry, begs for divine mercy

Pope lays wreath in the Hall of Remembrance and greets six Holocaust survivors.

May 26, 2014

Jerusalem Post

By Sam Sokol

Speaking at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum on Monday, Pope Francis compared the Holocaust to idolatry and expressed shame in “what man, created in [God’s] own image and likeness, was capable of doing.”

Francis’ remarks came during his brief visit to the site, where he laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance and greeted six Holocaust survivors.

Following the address, Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev presented the pope with a reproduction of a painting of a hassid engrossed in prayer that was painted in the Lodz ghetto by a teenage victim of the Shoah.

Speaking in the presence of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Holocaust survivor Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau – the former chief rabbi – Francis further beseeched God to “grant us the grace to be ashamed of what we men have done.” He added that the Nazi genocide was “massive idolatry” that must never happen again.

In the gloom of the large hall, the massive stones and concrete of its construction looming above him, the pontiff looked small and frail, an old man dwarfed by the immensity of the issues of theodicy and divine justice inherent in an examination of the Holocaust.

Standing illuminated by spotlights and the glow of the memorial flame he had lit only minutes before, Francis questioned the role of God in the slaughter.

“The Father knew the risk of freedom, he knew that his children could be lost, yet perhaps not even the Father could imagine so great a fall, so profound an abyss,” he mourned.

Addressing mankind collectively as the biblical Adam, the pontiff asked “who led you to presume that you are the master of good and evil?” “Who convinced you that you were God? Not only did you torture and kill your brothers and sisters, but you sacrificed them to yourself, because you made yourself a god. Today, in this place, we hear once more the voice of God: ‘Adam, where are you?’” “Hear Lord and have mercy,” Francis intoned. “We have sinned against you.

You reign for ever.”

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Belgian Prosecutors Say Fatal Shooting at Brussels Jewish Museum to be Investigated as Terrorist Attack

May 26, 2014

Algemeiner

Belgian prosecutors announced on Monday that they are treating Saturday’s deadly shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium as a terrorist attack. Four people, including two Israelis, were killed in the assault.

The investigation will now be handled by federal rather than regional prosecution, Bloomberg reported.

“The analysis of the camera images shows that we are dealing with an individual acting in cold blood and who is very determined in his actions,” Ine Van Wymersch, a spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecution office, told journalists in the Belgian capital. “The identification of the victims and their nationalities is a complementary element” in deciding that the case should be elevated to a national level, she said.

Investigators on Sunday released video footage showing the unidentified killer entering the Jewish Museum, removing an assault rifle from a bag, firing it and then leaving the scene on foot. Witnesses described the attacker as young, Bloomberg reported.

Police detained one suspect late Saturday but he was subsequently released and is now considered a witness, according to NBC News.

“We call on the whole population to help identify this person,” Wymersch said. A Brussels police spokesperson added, “We are studying the film. Everything is being done to find him,” the U.K.’s Express noted.

A number of Jewish groups responded to the shooting by calling for European leaders to take more vigorous action against rising anti-Semitism on the continent. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack and said it was the result “of endless incitement against Jews and their state.”A similar assertion was made by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Beirut's only synagogue set to reopen, local Jews hope for rejuvenation

The Magen Avraham synagogue, located in the former Jewish quarter of the city, was opened in 1926 but partially destroyed at the beginning of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war in 1975.

May 22, 2014

Haaretz

By Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Beirut’s only synagogue is set to reopen following a five-year renovation.

The Magen Avraham synagogue, located in the former Jewish quarter of the city, was opened in 1926 but partially destroyed at the beginning of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war in 1975, according to Israeli media, via an Arabic report in London’s A-Sharq al-Awsat.

The Lebanese Jewish community now has 100 members. Isaac Arazi, the community’s leader, said Jews, Christians and Muslims all donated to the project, estimated to cost $1 million. The renovation began in 2009.

Arazi hopes the synagogue will rejuvenate Jewish life in Lebanon. He said he is proud to be Lebanese, and conveyed antipathy toward Zionism and Israel.

“You can rest assured that if I was a Zionist Israeli, I would not stay in Lebanon for a second,” said Arazi, according to Israeli media. The Lebanese Jewish community “has no connection to those who wanted to live in Palestine and kill innocent people. We identify as Lebanese 100 percent.”

Jewish pilgrimage in Tunisia grows despite debate

Annual rite in Ghriba synagogue draws 2,000 Jews, including 1,000 from abroad.

May 19, 2014

Haaretz

By the Associated Press

A Jewish pilgrim pray at the Ghriba synagogue, in the resort of Djerba, Tunisia.  AP

Despite years of security concerns and a harsh debate over Israeli passports, officials said Sunday the number of Jewish pilgrims taking part in an annual rite in Tunisia is up dramatically for the first time in years.

Rene Trabelsi, who helps organize the trek to the Ghriba synagogue, Africa's oldest, said 2,000 people, including 1,000 from abroad, took part in the three-day pilgrimage ending Sunday.

"The pilgrimage of 2014 has definitely been a success. It is a great day," he said, thanking security forces for protecting the event.

The pilgrimage to the island of Djerba, site of the synagogue, was canceled in 2011 after the revolution and in subsequent years there were only hundreds attending, down from a peak of 7,000 in 2000.

In 2002, al-Qaida militants set off a truck bomb near the synagogue, killing 21 people, mostly German tourists — and badly jolting the now-tiny Jewish community

This year was the first time that Israeli pilgrims have been allowed to use their passports rather than a special document issued by the Tunisian government, prompting an outcry among some lawmakers. Tunisia has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

Iris Cohen, who runs an Israel-based travel agency, said it was the first time she had done the pilgrimage since the revolution.

"I thank the tourism minister who made it easier for Israeli pilgrims to come," she said.

Jews have been living in Djerba since 500 B.C. The Jewish population has shrunk to 1,500, down from 100,000 in the 1960s. Most left following the 1967 war between Israel and Arab countries, and the economic policies adopted by the government in the late 1960s also drove away many Jewish business owners.

Djerba, a dusty island of palm trees and olive groves, lures hundreds of thousands of tourists every year — mainly Germans and French — for its sandy beaches and rich history. The Ghriba synagogue itself, said to date to 586 B.C., once drew up to 2,000 visitors per day, Jewish leaders have said.

The site is rich with legend. The first Jews who arrived were said to have brought a stone from the ancient temple of Jerusalem that was destroyed by the Babylonians. The stone is kept in a grotto at the synagogue. Women and children descend into the grotto to place eggs scrawled with wishful messages on them.

100th Anniversary of the Empress of Ireland Tragedy

May 8, 2014

Empress 2014

On the 28th of May 1914, the R.M.S. (Royal Mail Ship) Empress of Ireland was docked in Quebec. Loaded onboard were 1,100 tons of general cargo, including 252 ingots of Silver and 2,600 tons of coal necessary for the voyage.
The Empress was under command of Captain Henry George Kendall. 

Even though he had 25 years sea time and 12 years with CPR, he was new to this ship. 

He was promoted and put in command of the Empress of Ireland at the beginning of the month and this was to be his first time down the St. Lawrence River in command. He was with the pilot Adélard Bernier, a crew of 420, of which 53 were sailors and 6 Officers.
There were 1,477 people aboard when the Empress of Ireland weighed anchor at 16h30 for Liverpool, England. With a decor rich in wood panels, fireplaces, flowers, full of pagentry, first class offers a music and writing room, a library, a café, and a smoking parlour. No stateroom carries the number nor adds to 13. 

Meals were served in the grand dining room on the sheltered deck. Among the 87 1st class passengers were Mr. Lawrence Irving, a well know actor, his wife Mabel Hackney, and Sir Henry Seton Karr, a very rich English gentleman returning from a hunting trip in Canada. 

For the 253 Second class passengers, the Empress of Ireland had comforts comparable to 1st class on many other ships. The men had a smoking parlour, the ladies a music room. Meals were served in a dining room equal to 1st class with a restrained decor.

In 2nd class, there were no aristocrats but 170 members of the Salvation Army including an orchestra of 39 musicians on route to a convention in London. 

In third class, life was agreeable but could not compare to the other two. Life was a lot more tolerable than 20 years previous. The 717 people in 3rd class formed a very diverse group, of these, 300 were temporarily laid off Detroit Ford workers returning to Europe. Also there were many failed immigrants returning to their homelands.

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Growing up near Treblinka inspired priest's Holocaust research

April 29. 2014

Catholic News Service

By Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The Nazis' Treblinka concentration camp has always been a part of Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik's life.

Growing up in the shadow of the camp, located just three miles from his home in northeastern Poland, Father Rytel-Andrianik, now 37, would listen to his grandfather's account of his eight-month imprisonment there and how he contracted typhus under inhumane conditions.

The priest's grandfather, Stanislaw Rytel, was jailed for failing to collaborate with the Nazis, ultimately to be saved by a friend and fellow prisoner, who convinced camp guards that Rytel was his brother and his labor was needed to build a new barrack at the camp.

Such stories have inspired Father Rytel-Andrianik to learn more about people who risked their lives to save Jews and others during Europe's Nazi era.

Father Rytel-Andrianik, professor of Scripture at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, is collecting the stories and building lists of names of average people, priests and nuns who risked their lives to save Jews. In 2011, he published a book about the heroic acts of Poles protecting Jews, "I Will Give Them an Everlasting Name (Isaiah 56:5) Poles Savings Jews in the Area of Treblinka." It was written in Polish with Hebrew and English summaries.

The priest spoke with Catholic News Service in April in Jerusalem, where he regularly visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority and interviews Holocaust survivors.

Working with a small team of researchers, the priest recently completed the Priests for Jews project, with support from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Subcommittee on the Church in Central and Eastern Europe and the Saeman Family Foundation. He discovered the names of 1,000 priests who saved Jews from certain death. The completed project is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2014 and will include a book and a website with archival documents and firsthand testimonies.

He also is compiling a list nuns who helped saved people, building on the work of Polish researcher Ewa Kurek, whose own research uncovered that nearly two-thirds of the 85 women's religious communities in 360 convents in Poland during World War II were engaged in rescue work.

Father Rytel-Andrianik said the Auschwitz concentration camp in southern Poland is better known than Treblinka, because all that remains of the second camp is a 26-foot memorial in Poland's northeastern forest.

"This is the atmosphere I grew up with. I always wanted to know more and more about what happened in Treblinka. I read and listened. My mother always reminded me that I was given a life because someone saved my grandfather's life," he said.

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European Jewish Congress: Amid rising anti-Semitism, Jewish life in Europe unsustainable

A third of Jews polled in the FRA study refrained from wearing religious garb or Jewish symbols out of fear, and 23 percent avoided attending Jewish events or going to Jewish venues

April 27, 2014

Jerusalem Post

By Sam Sokol

“Normative Jewish life in Europe is unsustainable,” European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor said on Sunday. Presenting the results of a study on worldwide anti-Semitism in 2013 by the eponymous Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, Kantor cited increasing anti-Semitism and rising  “fear and insecurity” as factors leading to a European Jewish decline.

Citing a November study by the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights which showed that almost a third of Jews in several European countries are mulling emigration, Kantor  asserted that “Jews do not feel safe or secure in certain communities in Europe.”

According to that survey, almost half of the Jewish population is afraid of being verbally or physically attacked in a public place because they are Jewish and 25% of Jews will not wear anything that identifies them as Jewish or go near a Jewish institution for fear of an attack,” he said.

“European governments must be pressed to address this issue with utmost urgency.”

A third of Jews polled in the FRA study refrained from wearing religious garb or Jewish symbols out of fear, and 23 percent avoided attending Jewish events or going to Jewish venues.

While 66% reported anti-Semitism as having a negative affect on their lives, 77% did not bother reporting abuse or harassment. Almost a third were mulling emigration as a response to heightened anti-Jewish sentiment.

The countries facing the worst anti-Semitism are Hungary, France, Belgium and Sweden, the ministry asserted, quoting the FRA study.

The FRA came under fire from Jewish organizations as well as the state of Israel for dropping a working definition of anti-Semitism from its website last year.

Kantor said that he believes that it is easy to ignore hate and incitement when there are no “direct victims” but that such manifestations of anti-Semitism can easily be converted into action.

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How My Great-Grandfather’s Lost Shoah Stories Resurfaced 50 Years After His Death

Thousands of Holocaust stories have been published. Many, like ‘Sky Tinged Red,’ are rescued from oblivion by family.

April 25, 2014

Tablet

By Jonah Shai Newman

In April 1960 my great-grandfather Isaia Eiger was lying in a Minneapolis hospital bed, dying from colon cancer, and began telling stories about Auschwitz to my grandmother, who wrote them down in English. He told her about a Greek Jew he met in the camp named Zidkiyahu. He relayed the story of a brave woman who, standing naked in the anteroom to the gas chamber, rebuffed the advances of an SS man and then shot him dead with his own pistol.

What he didn’t tell her was that, years earlier, shortly after the war, he had written a complete chronicle of the two-and-a-half years he spent in Birkenau from April 1942 to November 1944. He also didn’t tell her that there were three typed copies of his 116-page manuscript—which her brother David would eventually find among their father’s other writings three years after his death. And he didn’t tell her about the rest of the book—hundreds of narrow, yellowing pages containing thousands of handwritten words in his impeccable Yiddish script, which he never managed to type (he left his Yiddish typewriter in Germany when he immigrated to the United States in 1949) and that it would take her nearly 50 years to recover.

In 1963, when David found the three typed copies of a lengthy Yiddish manuscript in a box of his father’s writings, among newspaper clippings, drawings, and handwritten poems, it stood out for its heft and its format. But he didn’t have time to take a closer look. He brought one copy to my grandmother and left the other two in the box. My grandmother tried to read the manuscript, but she struggled to distinguish a reysh from a dalet. She only understood a third of the words—enough to know this was a narrative of her father’s experience in Birkenau, but not enough, she thought, to translate it. So, she put it away. In 1968 she and my grandfather took a trip to Israel for their 25th wedding anniversary, and she brought the third typed copy of the book to Yad Vashem. Donating her father’s writing to the museum’s archives gave her a sense of closure, even though she still had little idea of what the handwritten pages contained.

But about 15 years later, something triggered her memory, and she went back to the box and pulled out her copy of the manuscript. I suspect a bit of guilt had been nagging at her over the years, a sense that she had let down her father, whom she still speaks of today with the wide-eyed awe of a little girl talking about her hero. She decided to try again to translate her father’s memoir. The Yiddish was still difficult to read, but she came up with a plan. She would first transliterate the words into English letters, and then she would translate them. The two-step approach allowed her to focus on one or two words at a time and to make sense of them without trying to fit them into the larger context of the sentence.

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A Yiddish Poem From The Holocaust

April 25, 2014

CMHR

Blog by Jeremy Maron, Curator

Stan Zynoberg and CMHR Researcher-Curator Dr. Jeremy Maron with a copy of Herschel Zynoberg’s poem

Source: CMHR

This year, Sunday April 27 marks the beginning of Yom ha-Shoah—a day devoted to the memory of the Holocaust . As such, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss an object the Canadian Museum for Human Rights recently acquired—a Yiddish poem from the Holocaust, written on January 13, 1943 by Herschel (Harry) Zynoberg.  

Herschel was born in Radom, Poland in 1917. His family was caught up in the Holocaust after the Nazi invasion in 1939. During the Second World War, Herschel was sent to the Warsaw Ghetto, and then to Auschwitz, where his life was spared due to the fact that the Nazis required his skills as a tailor. After the war, Herschel ended up in a displaced persons camp in Stuttgart, Germany. He came to Canada with his wife (also a survivor) in 1948, and passed away in 1999.

When Herschel’s son Stan rediscovered the poem in 2012, he said the thought was almost immediate—he wanted to donate it along with its English translation to CMHR and approached us with the offer. We excitedly decided to accept the poem into our permanent collection, as it very clearly fits with our human rights mandate. Not only is it a unique piece of personal history directly from the Holocaust, but it exemplifies the persistence of human dignity. It embodies Herschel’s retention of his religious, cultural and linguistic identity, even in the face of the Nazis’ brutal campaign to eradicate all traces of precisely this identity.

Given that Herschel wrote this poem in the midst of his experiences during the Holocaust, one of the most compelling aspects is how it interweaves despair and hope.

The poem vividly conveys the sense of hopelessness in the ghetto—“The darkness still hung over the surroundings. The sad sky still hung over the ghetto.” It describes the young and old, fathers and mothers awaiting the Angel of Death (“Malech Hamavos”). It also speaks to the threat of violence in the ghetto, describing the “white snow turn[ing] red” after hearing “a boot moving in the frosty snow.”  

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Ukraine rabbi seeks end to anti-Semitism row - in vain

Ukrainian PM blasts anti-Jewish leaflets, demands to bring those responsible to justice.

April 20, 2014

Haaretz

By Reuters

A Ukrainian rabbi whose congregation was the target of an anti-Semitic leaflet that drew global media interest and condemnation from the U.S. government believes it was a hoax and wants to put the matter to rest.

But five days after the incident in the restive eastern city of Donetsk, Ukraine's prime minister, anxious to maintain U.S. support against Russia, issued a statement accusing Moscow and told a U.S. TV channel he would find the "bastards" responsible.

Following earlier Russian allegations of anti-Semitism aimed at the new Ukrainian leadership, the rabbi's call for an end to the furor seems unlikely to prevent mutual accusations over minority rights continuing to inflame the conflict.

On Monday evening, as Jews left a synagogue after a Passover service, masked men handed out fliers purported to be from pro-Russian separatists who seized the regional authority building in Donetsk and styled themselves as its government.

In an echo of the Holocaust which devastated Ukraine's Jews, it ordered all Jews to register with them or face deportation.

Denis Pushilin, head of the separatist Donetsk People's Republic, said it was a fake, presumably by supporters of the Ukrainian government, that was meant to discredit his movement.

Pinchas Vishedski, chief rabbi of the Donetsk area's 15,000 Jews, told Reuters on Saturday that while it was initially shocking, he was now satisfied it was a political hoax - "a crude provocation" - though its authorship was still unclear.

"I'm asking those behind this not to make us tools in this game," he said. Anti-Semitic incidents in the Russian-speaking east were "rare, unlike in Kiev and western Ukraine", he said.

Quoted on the community's website, Vishedski had said on Thursday: "Since it's only a smear, we should react responsibly - draw a line under it and close the matter."

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Pope targeted on anti-Semitic website

April 16, 2014

ANSA

Prosecutors in northern Italy have charged seven people with racial discrimination and defamation against figures including Pope Francis. Using an anti-Semitic website called Holywar, the suspects in Bolzano depicted the pontiff in photoshopped images dressed as a bearded Orthodox Jew waving the Israeli flag with a swastika at the center of the Star of David. Other figures targeted on the site included three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi, sitting Premier Matteo Renzi, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi and Oscar-winning performer Roberto Benigni. Prosecutors said the suspects spanned the length of Italy.

Palestinian university students’ trip to Auschwitz causes uproar

A university student who went on the trip but asked not to be named because of the charged atmosphere said the visit changed him. “You feel the humanity. You feel the sympathy of so many people killed in this place because of their race or religion.”

April 15, 2014

Washington Post

By William Booth

Professor Mohammed S. Dajani took 27 Palestinian college students to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland a few weeks ago as part of a project designed to teach empathy and tolerance. Upon his return, his university disowned the trip, his fellow Palestinians branded him a traitor and friends advised a quick vacation abroad.

Dajani said he expected criticism. “I believe a trip like this, for an organized group of Palestinian youth going to visit Auschwitz, is not only rare, but a first,” he said. “I thought there would be some complaints, then it would be forgotten.”

But the trip was explosive news to some, perhaps more so because it took place as U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians were in danger of collapse, and emotion surrounding the decades-old conflict is high.

Controversy was also heightened by rumors — untrue — that the trip was paid for by Jewish organizations. It was paid for by the German government.

Dajani said that many Palestinians think the Holocaust is used by Jews and Israelis as propaganda to justify the seizure of lands that Palestinians say are theirs and to create sympathy for Israel. Others, he said, think the Holocaust is exaggerated or just one of many massacres that occurred during World War II.

“They said, ‘Why go to Poland? Why not teach our young people about the Nakba?’ ” Dajani said.

The Nakba, or catastrophe, refers to the events of 1948 when the Arabs and Israelis fought a war. The Arabs lost, the state of Israel was born, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes and became a people of a diaspora, living even today as refugees here and across the Middle East.

An online version of an article about the trip published in the major Palestinian newspaper al-Quds was taken down by the publishers, reportedly because of heated invective in the comments section.

One reader said that taking Palestinian students to Auschwitz was not freedom of expression but treason.

Other critics of the trip included newspaper columnists, TV analysts and fellow researchers in the West Bank.

While the Palestinian students were visiting Auschwitz, a parallel group of Jewish Israeli students from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Tel Aviv University ventured to Bethlehem to hear Palestinians from the Dheisheh refugee camp tell their story. The responses of both groups of students — Israelis and Palestinians — would then be analyzed.

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Teacher to Jewish student: You'll go to 'gas chamber' if you cut in line

The remark was made by a teacher at London’s prestigious North London Collegiate School to a girl who was allegedly trying to jump the queue for lunch. The school and the teacher have since apologized to the incident the girl’s father called ‘very unpleasant, very uncalled for and very unfortunate.’

April 13, 2014

New York Daily News

By David Harding

A teacher at a top London girls' school told a Jewish student she would send her to "one of your gas chambers" for jumping a line in the dining hall.

The outburst was made by the teacher at the North London Collegiate School.

Former pupils include Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour and actress Rachel Weisz, and charges around $10,000 a term.

The incident happened as the teacher passed by pupils lining for food.

The teacher saw the pupil apparently trying to jump the line, then rushed up to her and said: "Don't do that or I'll have to send you to the back of the queue or to one of your gas chambers."

The parents of the girl, who have remained anonymous, said the teacher's behavior was "very unpleasant, very uncalled for and very unfortunate," reported Metro.

The teacher has apologized and the school said it had taken appropriate action, but did not specify what that was.

Spanish village called 'kill Jews' mulling name change

Village of Castrillo Matajudios will convene its 60 families to vote on name dating back to Spanish Inquisition.

April 13, 2014

Haaretz

By JTA

A Spanish village is considering removing the phrase “kill Jews” from its name.
The village of Castrillo Matajudios near Leon in northern Spain will convene its 60 resident families at a town hall meeting next week to discuss and vote on the first formal proposal to change the village’s name, the regional daily Diario de Burgos reported Friday.
Mayor Lorenzo Rodriguez, who submitted the proposal, suggested changing the village’s name to Castrillo Mota de Judios, which means “Castrillo Jews’ Hill.” He said this was the village’s original name, but it was changed during the Spanish Inquisition.
In parts of Spain, and especially in the north, locals use the term “killing Jews” (matar Judios) to describe the traditional drinking of lemonade spiked with alcohol at festivals held in city squares at Easter, or drinking in general.
Leon will hold its “matar Judios” fiesta on Good Friday, April 18, where organizers estimate 40,000 gallons of lemonade will be sold.
The name originates from medieval times, when converted Jews would sometimes be publicly executed in show trials at around Easter, Maria Royo, a spokesperson for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain told JTA.
“Regrettably, this type of expression exists in Spain in ceremonies and parties,” she said, but added that “the people saying it are mostly unaware of the history. It is a complicated issue that is ingrained in local culture.”
The federation is in contact on this issue with authorities, but given the popularity of the expression, “it is impossible to forbid this language” in that context, she added.
Last month, Ramon Benavides, the president of a local associations of hoteliers, told the news agency EFE: “When ‘killing Jews,’ it’s best to take it slow and keep track of how much you drink to avoid excesses and its consequences the next day.”


Muslim community centre in east end Montreal vandalized

April 9, 2014

The Gazette

MONTREAL — Muslims who turned up for morning prayers at an Islamic Community Centre on Tuesday morning received a nasty surprise. Vandals threw an axe through a window at the Centre communautaire islamique Assahaba on Bélanger St. in the east end. No one was injured, but the words “F--- Liberals and “we will scalp Muslims” were written on the axe, according to Commander Ian Lafrenière of the Montreal police. Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime, he said.

Jewish delegation thanks Shanghai for WWII refuge

Former refugees gather at city's Jewish museum and recount their childhood in a city that offered a safe haven from the Nazis.

March 28, 2014

Haaretz

This vintage photograph, circa 1940, shows Jewish refugees arriving in Shanghai, then under Japanese occupation.

Photo AP

A delegation of Jewish refugees and their families arrived in Shanghai on Wednesday to show their gratitude to the city that took them in as refugees fleeing the Nazis.

The visitors, headed by Shanghai-born Rabbi Chaim Walkin who organized the trip, gathered at the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum. There, they shared their memories at a press conference with the museum's curator.

Between 1933 and June 22, 1941, roughly 20,000-25,000 Jewish refugees escaped Nazi persecution to Shanghai. Because of its extra-territorial status prior to Japanese occupation in 1941, Shanghai was one of the few places in the world that would accept Jewish refugees without requiring hard-to-get immigration visas.

Mickey Abraham from New York City, who was born in Shanghai in 1942, told China's Global Times that "Shanghai's people were very nice" to his family, "and they respected Jewish customs very much."

Chaya Small, another member of the delegation and Rabbi Walkin's sister, recounted her childhood years in the city. “I lived a normal life here. I went to school and shopping. I’m so grateful to the people of Shanghai who provided us a haven to live and continue our lifestyle and our family," she told the Shanghai Daily.

New Dutch Holocaust monument to bear names of 102,000 victims

The memorial, the first of its kind in the Netherlands, will cost about $6.9 million and will be designed by architect Daniel Libeskind.

March 28, 2014

Haaretz

By Reuters

A Holocaust monument will be erected in the Dutch capital next year naming 102,000 victims of the Nazi occupation, giving long overdue recognition to those deported to death camps, campaigners said on Wednesday.

The "Holocaust Names Monument," the first of its kind in the Netherlands, will be designed by Jewish American architect Daniel Libeskind. It is to be completed in 2015, 70 years after the end of World War Two, authorities in Amsterdam, home of Anne Frank's house, said in a statement.

"In percentage terms, The Netherlands had the highest deportation rate in Western Europe, but there is no such monument here to honour their memory," said Jacques Grishaver, chairman of the Dutch Auschwitz Committee.

"Their names had vanished into thin air. Now the family members of the victims will have a place to go and a name on a plaque to touch."

Like similar monuments in other European cities, the Dutch memorial will list the full names of all 102,000 Jews, Roma and Sinti who were deported from the Netherlands to Nazi concentration and death camps, the committee said.

Among those deported from the Netherlands was Anne Frank, a Jewish teenager who hid in an Amsterdam canal house until being deported with her family.

The monument will cost roughly 5 million euros ($6.9 million), which the committee hopes to pay for with donations from private individuals, corporations, foundations and governments.  

Russia Plays the Anti-Semitism Card

March 18, 2014

Huffington Post

By Abraham Foxman

When the Serbs and Croats were involved in conflict in the early 1990s, prior to the Balkan war spreading to Bosnia, the Jewish community in America was getting calls from Serbian Jews urging our communal defense organizations to support the Serbs because of Croatian treatment of its Jews during the Holocaust.

We responded that it is indeed true that Croatian behavior during the Holocaust was among the worst in Europe, but that did not justify what Milosevic, the Serbian ruler, was doing to stoke conflict. Eventually, when ethnic cleansing in Bosnia became a central theme of the Yugoslav conflict, we spoke out forcefully.

I think of that now as the situation in Ukraine deteriorates. There is no doubt that Ukraine, like Croatia, was one of those places where local militias played a key role in the murder of thousands of Jews during World War II. It is also true that anti-Semitism has by no means disappeared from Ukraine. In recent months there have been a number of serious anti-Semitic incidents and there are at least two parties in Ukraine, Svoboda and Right Sector, that have within them some extreme nationalists and anti-Semites.

Having said that, it is pure demagoguery and an effort to rationalize criminal behavior on the part of Russia to invoke the anti-Semitism ogre into the struggle in Ukraine. In fact, it is fair to say that there was more anti-Semitism manifest in the worldwide Occupy Wall Street movement than we have seen so far in the revolution taking place in Ukraine.

For Russian President Vladimir Putin to play the anti-Semitism card is of a piece with his claim that Russian troops had to invade Crimea to protect ethnic Russians from alleged extremist Ukrainians. With one difference: When he speaks about alleged oppression of Russians in Ukraine, he is rallying his own countrymen primarily. And it is working, as reports indicate a surge in Russian patriotism and support for the president.

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Marois won't condemn controversial, anti-semitic comments by PQ candidate

March 16, 2014

CJAD News

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois is refusing to condemn the controversial comments of her candidate in the Montreal riding of Gouin.

Louise Mailloux had recently confirmed in a La Presse interview she still stands by past comments in which she said baptism and circumcision are akin to rape.

But Marois said those are Mailloux's views, not those of the PQ.

"She has long held these positions and has written eloquently and extensively about them," Marois told reporters at her daily news conference during a stop in Pointe-St-Charles, referring to Mailloux's opinions on secularism.

"These are her views. I respect that she has these points of view. She supports our (proposed secularism Charter) and I appreciate her support."

Mailloux is also being taken to task for her views on the so-called "kosher conspiracy." The Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs cites her past comments describing kosher certification as robbery and a scam that inflates the prices of kosher foodstuffs and bilks Quebeckers out of their tax dollars for the benefit of the Jewish community.

"(It's) completely untrue and it's really a form of anti-semitism," said spokesperson Eta Yudin.

Marois tried to distance her and her party from Mailloux's viewpoints.

"We are not, the Parti Quebecois is not an anti-semitic party," Marois said.

"I have very good relations with the leaders of this community and with all the leaders of all the different communities in Quebec."

Marois would not offer an opinion on Mailloux's declarations.

"She has her point of view and the Parti Quebecois has their own orientation," Marois said.

Yudin said Marois is not only party leader but the premier of all Quebeckers and should have come out against the comments.

"It's a little bit concerning that in our day and age there seems to be a place for this kind of propagation of these kinds of tales which only gives them legitimacy in the eyes of those who want to pick up this offensive discourse against the Jewish community," Yudin said.

"We would expect our government and its leadership to do the right thing."

A petition on change.org is calling for Mailloux to bow out of the race in Gouin.

Holocaust Denier Runs for Paris City Council

National Front's Pierre Panot 'Hasn't Changed' Pro-Nazi Views

March 14, 2014

Forward

By JTA

France’s far-right National Front party placed a Holocaust denier on its list of candidates for the municipal elections in Paris.

The candidate, Pierre Panet, wrote in 2012 that he “shares the analysis of Roger Garaudy,” a convicted Holocaust denier. The L’Express daily reported on his candidacy Wednesday.

The same year, he told the AFP news agency: “I haven’t changed. I always credit Robert Faurisson but I refrain from elaborating these theses because it is forbidden by law.”

Faurisson was also convicted of denying the Holocaust. He claimed the gas chambers were an invention. Panet is running for election on the National Front’s ticket for the 12th arrondissement in eastern Paris. Municipal elections are scheduled to be held on March 23 and March 30.

The party leader in the arrondissement, Christian Vauge, told AFP he has instructed Panet to adhere strictly to the party’s platform.

“I told him, let’s forget all that you thought in the past. I asked him to stick to the official line,” he said.

Separately, the center-right UDI party dropped a former candidate from their list for the municipality of Schiltigheim near Strasbourg after regional prosecutors said she would stand trial for inciting racial hatred in connection with anti-Semitic statements they suspect she made online.

The candidate, Hayat Belaredj, is believed to have written on Facebook: “The Jewish danger, what a disgrace” about outgoing mayor Raphael Nisand, who is Jewish, Le Monde reported on Tuesday.

Germany rejects reparation claim from Greek Jews extorted by Nazis

The Jewish community of Thessaloniki said Tuesday it had sued Germany at the European Court of Human Rights for compensation over a forced ransom paid to Nazi occupation forces.

March 8, 2014

By Ruchama Weiss and Rabbi Levi Brackman

 Ynet

Germany on Wednesday rejected a fresh Nazi-era reparation claim by a Greek city’s Jewish community but offered the group cooperation on future projects. “With regard to issues of reparations, there are no new developments and all these questions are answered,” a German Finance Ministry spokesman told a press conference.

The Jewish community of Thessaloniki said Tuesday it had sued Germany at the European Court of Human Rights for compensation over a forced ransom paid to Nazi occupation forces. It said Jewish residents had paid 2.5 million drachmas to a Nazi commander in July 1942 to secure the release of thousands of Jewish men submitted to brutal forced labor.

Despite the payment, raised from donations and property sales, most of the victims were later transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland where they perished.

A German foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday that Berlin was ready to work on unspecified new projects with the city’s Jewish community, independent of the legal bid.

 “It’s our express proposal to pursue forward-looking projects with the Jewish community of Thessaloniki,” he told reporters.

The finance ministry spokesman said Germany has always indicated an awareness of its historical responsibility for World War II crimes.

“In the relationship with Greece, questions about the future play the fundamental role,” he said.

Greece has said in recent years it reserves the right to claim more wartime reparations, arguing it was forced to accept unfavorable terms during negotiations with Germany in the 1950s.

Open letter of Ukrainian Jews to Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin

And we certainly know that our very few nationalists are well-controlled by civil society and the new Ukrainian government – which is more than can be said for the Russian neo-Nazis, who are encouraged by your security services.

March 5, 2014

Voices of Ukraine

To the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin

Mr. President!

We are Jewish citizens of Ukraine: businessmen, managers, public figures, scientists and scholars, artists and musicians. We are addressing you on behalf of the multi-national people of Ukraine, Ukraine’s national minorities, and on behalf of the Jewish community.

You have stated that Russia wants to protect the rights of the Russian-speaking citizens of the Crimea and all of Ukraine and that these rights have been trampled by the current Ukrainian government. Historically, Ukrainian Jews are also mostly Russian-speaking. Thus, our opinion on what is happening carries no less weight than the opinion of those who advise and inform you.

We are convinced that you are not easily fooled. This means that you must be consciously picking and choosing lies and slander from the entire body of information on Ukraine. And you know very well that Victor Yanukovich’s statement used to describe the situation after the latest treaty had been signed – “…Kyiv is full of armed people who have begun to ransack buildings, places of worship, and churches. Innocent people are suffering. People are being robbed and killed in the streets…” – is simply a lie, from the first word to the very last.

The Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine are not being humiliated or discriminated against, their civil rights have not been infringed upon. Meanderings about “forced Ukrainization” and “bans on the Russian language” that have been so common in Russian media are on the heads of those who invented them. Your certainty about the growth of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, which you expressed at your press-conference, also does not correspond to the actual facts. Perhaps you got Ukraine confused with Russia, where Jewish organizations have noticed growth in anti-Semitic tendencies last year.

Right now, after Ukraine has survived a difficult political crisis, many of us have wound up on different sides of the barricades. The Jews of Ukraine, as all ethnic groups, are not absolutely unified in their opinion towards what is happening in the country. But we live in a democratic country and can afford a difference of opinion.

They have tried to scare us (and are continuing their attempts) with “Bandera followers” and “Fascists” attempting to wrest away the helm of Ukrainian society, with imminent Jewish pogroms. Yes, we are well aware that the political opposition and the forces of social protests who have secured changes for the better are made up of different groups. They include nationalistic groups, but even the most marginal do not dare show anti-Semitism or other xenophobic behavior. And we certainly know that our very few nationalists are well-controlled by civil society and the new Ukrainian government – which is more than can be said for the Russian neo-Nazis, who are encouraged by your security services.

We have a great mutual understanding with the new government, and a partnership is in the works. There are quite a few national minority representatives in the Cabinet of Ministers: the Minister of Internal Affairs is Armenian, the Vice Prime Minister is a Jew, two ministers are Russian. The newly-appointed governors of Ukraine’s region are also not exclusively Ukrainian.

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German newspaper is accused of anti-Semitic propaganda over cartoon depicting Mark Zuckerberg as big-nosed octopus

Süddeutsche Zeitung accused of anti-Semitism for another image last year

February 25, 2014

Daily Mail

by Kate Lyons

The German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, has been accused of anti-Semitism after it published a cartoon depicting Mark Zuckerberg as an octopus controlling the world.

The cartoon was published in the newspaper last Friday after the announcement that Facebook had purchased Whatsapp. Two versions were published, one with the caption ‘Krake Zuckerberg’, the other ‘Krake Facebook’ – Facebook Octopus and Zuckerberg Octopus.

In the drawing, the 29-year-old Facebook founder is portrayed with a hooked nose, fleshy lips and curly hair, features ascribed to Jewish people in Nazi cartoons.

The cartoon was ‘starkly reminiscent’ of anti-Semitic Nazi era cartoons, Efraim Zuroff from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre told the Jerusalem Post.  

If anyone has any doubts about the anti-Semitic dimension of the cartoon, we can point to Mark Zuckerberg’s very prominent nose, which is not the case in real life,’ said Mr Zuroff who added that he found the cartoon, 'Absolutely disgusting!'

The cartoon depicts Mr Zuckerberg, who was raised Jewish but now describes himself as an atheist, as an octopus grasping at computers around him. In one of his tentacles he holds the logo of Whatsapp, the instant messaging service his company recently purchased for $19billion.

‘The nefarious Jew/octopus was a caricature deployed by Nazis. That was used pretty much as a staple by the Nazis in terms of their hateful campaign against the Jews in the 1930s. [An] exaggerated Jewish nose removes any question if this was unconscious anti-Semitism,’ Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre told Algemeiner.

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THE LAST OF THE MONUMENTS MEN

February 22,, 2014

The New Yorker

By Emily Greenhouse

The other day, Harry Ettlinger took a hired car from his home in Rockaway Township, New Jersey, to a screening at the Center for Jewish History, in Greenwich Village. He was running late, but the movie—“The Monuments Men,” directed by George Clooney, starring Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, and Lord Grantham, from “Downton Abbey”—probably wouldn’t have started without him.

Ettlinger is, in his words, the only “healthy, living monument man” left. In his eighty-eight years, he’s had good timing. In 1938, he said, he “was the last bar-mitzvah boy in Karlsruhe, Germany, before the synagogue was burned down” during Kristallnacht; his rabbi granted the family permission to flee that day, even though it was the Sabbath. (His parents had been lucky enough to secure visas at the American consulate in Stuttgart on the final day that applications were accepted.) The Ettlingers sailed to America and ended up on Manhattan’s uppermost street, 218th, at Seaman Avenue.

Ettlinger joined the Army after he graduated from high school, in Newark, and became an American citizen in boot camp. On his nineteenth birthday, while he was in a truck heading east from France to southern Belgium, a sergeant came running and ordered him off the convoy. Ettlinger had been selected to be a translator at the trials at Nuremberg, but he hit Munich first and, bored by the waiting that characterizes war—“eating, sleeping, and goofing off,” as he puts it—volunteered his services to an American who needed help decoding German documents. That was James Rorimer, who went on to become a curator at the Metropolitan Museum. Hitler had been amassing art stolen from Jews for an eventual Führermuseum, an Albert Speer-designed complex that would include an opera house, a parade ground, and a Hitler hotel. Rorimer became one of the three hundred and forty-five people, from thirteen countries, who tracked down and returned more than five million looted art objects. Ettlinger was happy to join him.

Over a rushed supper, Ettlinger, who is bald and speaks with a heavy German accent, sat with Dorothy Kahan, his companion of ten years, and talked about his upcoming trip to Europe. He would meet Clooney at a special screening of “The Monuments Men” in Berlin. And Baden-Wuerttemberg, his home state, was bestowing upon him the rare Staufer Medal in Gold, its highest order of merit for service to the state. Speaking about his childhood to Rachel Lithgow, the director of the American Jewish Historical Society, he exclaimed, “I used to swim in the Rhine River!”

Kahan said, “Harry’s family goes back to the fifteen-hundreds in Germany.”

“Fourteen!” he corrected. “1450.”

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The 2014 European Elections: A Jewish Manifesto

February 21, 2014

The Board of Deputies of British Jews

The 2014 European Elections A Jewish Manifesto

The 2014 European Parliament Election will take place on 22 May 2014 in the United Kingdom. These elections matter. The EU makes up to 50% of laws enacted in the UK and controls an annual budget of around €150 billion (or £125 billion).

This manifesto is aimed at informing existing and prospective Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) about Jewish interests and concerns. The Board of Deputies hopes that the manifesto will empower our elected representatives to understand and champion these causes.

Some of these are live topics, whereas others are matters that could potentially arise. In each

section, the manifesto outlines in bold the commitments that the Board of Deputies would like

to see from MEPs, summarised below.

Executive Summary: Key Jewish Aspirations in Europe

We ask our MEPs and prospective MEPs to commit to the following:

1. Religious Freedom

 MEPs should defend religious freedom in the European Union and around the World.

 MEPs should promote a culture of respect for diversity, including reasonable

accommodation of individuals’ rights to wear religious symbols and observe religious festivals and the Jewish Sabbath.

 MEPs should defend the right of Jews to practice Shechita (religious slaughter of animals

for food.)

 MEPs should not stigmatise religious or other minorities through labelling. If it is

genuinely consumer choice that is desired, all methods of slaughter should be labelled.

 MEPs should defend the right of Jews to practice circumcision.

 MEPs should advance the cause of human rights across the World.

 MEPs should support the EU and Member States in recognising the diversity of different

denominations within Judaism, drawing on expert advice where necessary.

2. Extremism, Racism & Antisemitism in Europe

 MEPs should be alert to extremism, racism and antisemitism in Europe.

 MEPs should support coordination between member states to prevent and prosecute

hate crimes and acts of terrorism.

o MEPs should act on the concerning findings from the European Union Agency for

Fundamental Rights (FRA) report, including unreservedly condemning antisemitism in all

its forms and challenging member states who do not address and monitor antisemitism.

 MEPs should look to secure adequate assistance and funding to European institutions

such as the EU’s FRA, ensuring that it is able to conduct its survey of Jewish experiences

and perceptions of a ntisemitism in the EU every five years as planned.

 MEPs should be particularly wary of the risk of increased antisemitism at times of

heightened conflict in the Middle East.

 MEPs should be alive to hate as expressed on new social media.

 MEPs should help to ensure that assistance is provided to third-party reporting bodies

and security agencies that monitor and protect vulnerable groups, including the Jewish

community.

 MEPs should support initiatives which promote dialogue and understanding between

different groups in society, to prevent tensions and promote cooperation.

3. Post-Holocaust Issues

 MEPs should lend their support to Holocaust education, remembrance and research.

 MEPs and prospective MEPs should take the time to show solidarity with all the victims

of Nazi persecution, including Jews, Roma, homosexuals, disabled people and political

opponents of Nazism.

 MEPs should use the moral authority of their position to call for a just and speedy

conclusion to the issue of restitution across Europe and to press the institutions of the

European Union to do the same.

 MEPs should challenge their European colleagues on those narratives that seek to

minimise or downplay the Holocaust.

 MEPs should support initiatives to find unmarked graves, including helping to unlock EUfunding

and working with MEP colleagues from other countries to overcome some of

the bureaucratic and political obstacles to this work.

4. EU-Israel Relations

 MEPs should promote peace, security, prosperity and equality for Israel and its

neighbours.

 MEPs should mobilise EU structures to promote Middle East peace at both the

leadership level and at the grassroots.

 MEPs should oppose boycotts of Israel, which are divisive and promote a negative

incentive structure that militates against peace.

 MEPs should be aware of the uniquely complicated threats to Israel’s security, and

should encourage EU institutions to take account of these threats.

 MEPs should raise concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme, its financing of

international terror and its human rights record with the the High Representative of the

Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

 MEPs should act to proscribe Hezbullah in its entirety, damaging its abilities to launch

attacks in Europe, the Middle East and around the World.

 MEPs should refuse to meet with Hamas politicians, officials or supporters, until the

movement recognises Israel; agrees to abide by previous agreements; and desists from

terrorist attacks.

 MEPs should support and nurture the growing trade between Israel and the European

Union.

 MEPs should be constructive partners in the pursuit of greater integration and equality

in Israel by offering financial and political support to initiatives aimed at Arab-Jewish

coexistence, and helping to support projects that empower and advance the position of

Arab citizens within Israeli society.

MEPs should call on the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and

Security Policy to ensure that international institutions such as the UNHRC act with

integrity and do not disproportionately focus on Israel.

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UN panel accuses North Korea of human rights abuses resembling Nazis

February 17, 2014

The Guardian

North Korea's leadership is committing systematic and appalling human rights abuses against its own citizens on a scale unparalleled in the modern world, crimes against humanity with strong resemblances to those committed by the Nazis, a United Nations inquiry has concluded.

The UN's commission on human rights in North Korea, which gathered evidence for almost a year, including often harrowing testimony at public hearings worldwide, said there was compelling evidence of torture, execution and arbitrary imprisonment, deliberate starvation and an almost complete lack of free thought and belief.

The chair of the three-strong panel set up by the UN commissioner on human rights has personally written to North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, to warn that he could face trial at the international criminal court (ICC) for his personal culpability as head of state and leader of the military.

"The commission wishes to draw your attention that it will therefore recommend that the United Nations refer the situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [the formal name for North Korea] to the international criminal court to render accountable all those, including possibly yourself, who may be responsible for the crimes against humanity," Michael Kirby, an Australian retired judge, wrote to Kim.

At a press conference to launch the report, Kirby said there were "many parallels" between the evidence he had heard and crimes committed by the Nazis and their allies in the second world war. He noted the evidence of one prison camp inmate who said his duties involved burning the bodies of those who had starved to death and using the remains as fertilizer.

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Denmark to ban halal and kosher slaughter methods

February 14, 2014

Halal Focus

Denmark’s Agriculture and Food Ministry has announced that as of Monday the Jewish and Muslim traditional method of animal slaughter will be banned in the country, following similar measures already in place in Poland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

A new law requires that all animals are stunned before being slaughtered, which is contrary to Islamic and Jewish teachings. This means that observant Muslims and Jews living in Denmark will no longer be able to purchase their meat from local butchers, and will have to buy imported halal and kosher meat instead.

The ministry argues that halal and kosher slaughter methods are unethical and that religious rights do not come before animal rights. However, Muslims and Jews insist that their slaughter methods cause minimal suffering to the animals.

European Commissioner for Health, Tonio Borg, condemned the ban, saying that it “contradicts European law.”

Agriculture and Food Minister Karen Hækkerup, acknowledged that Muslims and Jews were upset by the new measures, but vowed that the ministry would not change its policy.

Jewish Passengers on Belgian Train Told to Get off at Auschwitz

February 13, 2014

Tablet

By Stephanie Butnick

Jews on a recent train in Belgium were treated to a twisted announcement on the train’s speaker system: that they should get off at Auschwitz and take a shower. JTA reported the bizarre incident, which is believed to have been the work of adolescents who stole the keys that operate the loudspeaker.

The incident of Jan. 31 prompted the Belgian rail company SNCB to file a complaint with police over incitement to hatred, the RTL broadcaster reported Tuesday.

According to RTL, the suspects gained access to the speaker system during rush hour, at 5 p.m., while traveling from Namur to Brussels. One of the passengers said in French, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are approaching Auschwitz. All Jews are requested to disembark and take a short shower.”

The most disturbing part of the story is that this has happened before, in 2012, on the same train line. “Welcome to this train heading to Auschwitz,” the loudspeaker hijackers were reported to have said. “All Jews are requested to disembark at Buchenwald.” Though why a hypothetical train to a concentration camp in Poland would need to deposit passengers in Germany is beyond me. Perhaps the train company could invest in a better security system, or at least a few geography lessons.

Pope Francis: Breaking New Ground in Jewish-Catholic Relations

The Holy Father’s friendships and strong tradition of dialogue with Jewish leaders are already having an impact, building on the foundation provided by previous popes.

February 3, 2014

National Catholic Register

NEW YORK — The bonds between Jews and Catholics have never been stronger in the Church’s 2,000-year history, but some Jewish leaders say that, with Pope Francis, the best is about to get even better.
Blessed Pope John XXIII reset Catholic-Jewish relations in the 1960s, seeking to reconcile the grievances of the past, in which Catholics had treated Jews less like beloved brothers and more like strangers — or worse, as enemies. The Church approved that outreach in 1965 at the Second Vatican Council with the document Nostra Aetate, and Popes Paul VI, Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI all continued efforts to deepen those relations.
But Pope Francis’ pontificate represents a new chapter of deeper understanding and friendship between Jews and Catholics.
“Pope Francis has very close personal friends from his days as cardinal who are rabbis, who are leaders in the Jewish community,” said Menachem Rosensaft, general counsel for the World Jewish Congress (WSJ). “The dialogue and the relationship have been unprecedented in terms of warmth and closeness.”
Rosensaft said the Pope’s relationship with Jews in Buenos Aires reveals “a totally new model that we’ve never seen before.”
“The relationship is not a formal or intellectual one. But in addition to being intellectual, or symbolic, it is also heartfelt and intuitive,” he said. “That makes a tremendous difference.”

Rabbi Skorka

Few things highlight Pope Francis’ relationship with the Jews more than his deep, abiding friendship with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires. The two men started a friendship in the late 1990s with a joke over their favorite soccer teams, and they published a book in 2010 called On Heaven and Earth, revealing their interreligious dialogue on 29 different topics.

“He does what he says, and he speaks what’s on his mind and what he feels in a very direct and clear way,” Rabbi Skorka told the Register in an exclusive interview. “He’s a respectful person who respects me, really, in everything he says. He’s a lovely person, very simple and highly spiritual.”

The Pope and Rabbi Skorka made history by sharing meals and praying together during Sukkot and Sabbath at the Vatican — making Pope Francis perhaps the first bishop of Rome to do so, since St. Peter himself.

Rabbi Skorka has been in the United States sharing his experiences with Pope Francis at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York on Oct. 29 and at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, where he received an honorary degree.

The book co-written by Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka reveals how they feel dialogue should be conducted: by becoming acquainted with the person, viewing him as having something good to say, but not compromising one’s different identity while finding common ground together.

Rabbi Skorka said he and Pope Francis have discussed that the next step in their dialogue “will be a theological one”: what a Catholic means to a Jew and what a Jew means to a Catholic.

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Far-right Italian suspected of sending pigs' heads to synagogue

February 1, 2014

Reuters

Italian police have identified a far-right radical they suspect of sending pigs heads last week to Rome's Grand Synagogue, Israeli embassy and a museum with a Holocaust exhibition, authorities said on Friday.

Police said the 29-year-old Roman, whom they did not name, had links to far-right political groups and planned to found a new one. Anti-terrorism police were investigating him and charges were being prepared, they said.

The man has not been taken into custody for sending the parcels in the run-up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, they added.

Officials said that anti-Semitic graffiti were also scrawled on the walls of a municipal building in the city last Friday.

Nicola Zingaretti, president of Lazio region including Rome, called the sending of pigs' heads "a vile and cowardly act that offends the Jewish community and all Romans on the eve of the memorial day."

Like other European countries, Italy, whose fascist government was an ally of Nazi Germany during World War Two, has seen sporadic acts of anti-Semitism in recent years although mainstream political leaders have always firmly condemned them.

'Jews, Out of France!'

Chilling video shows hundreds of anti-Semites on the march in Paris, illustrating the frightening rise of anti-Semitism in France.

January 30, 2014

Israel National News

By Ari Soffer

A video, taken on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, shows masses of French protesters marching down a Paris thoroughfare chanting openly anti-Semitic slogans and calling on Jews to get out of France.

Chants include "Jews, France is not yours!" "Jews out of France" and "The story of the gas chambers is bull***!" At one point, in a show of raw, seething hatred, the crowd simply spits out the word "Jew, Jew, Jew!" 

Many of the marchers can be seen giving the "quenelle" inverted Nazi salute popularized by anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne. The gesture is seen as a way for anti-Semites to give a Nazi salute without incurring the wrath of authorities - although one demonstrator can be seen giving a full-on Nazi salute as well.

t was part of a "Day of Anger" called by anti-government activists in protest of a variety of "anti-establishment" causes. French police estimated that around 17,000 people had attended the march, and said that 250 had been arrested. Police told AFP news agency that 19 police officers were injured in clashes with demonstrators, one seriously.

Despite claims by Dieudonne and some of his supporters that it is simply an innocent "up yours" or "anti-establishment" gesture, it has been adopted by a vast range of anti-Semites, from the far-right to Muslim extremists, many of whom post online pictures of themselves making the salute in front of sensitive sites such as Holocaust memorials, synagogues, and even the school in Toulouse at which an Islamist gunman murdered a rabbi and three Jewish children.

Dieudonne himself has a long history of anti-Semitic comments and shows, including a recent video in which he implies the Jewish victims of the Holocaust may themselves  be to blame for their own genocide.

Apart from the quenelle gestures, the marchers can clearly be heard singing a song mocking the Holocaust composed by Dieudonne, entitled "Shoananas". The song is yet another masterful attempt by Dieudonne to trivialize and legitimize anti-Semitism; it is a play on the Hebrew word for the Holocaust (Shoah) and the French word for pineapple (ananas).

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For the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, Monday, 27 January 2014 Statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay

January 25, 2014

United Nations Human Rights

“Today, we honour the memory of the millions of people - men, women and children - brutally murdered seven decades ago for the simple fact of being Jewish, Roma, Slav or homosexual, because they had disabilities, or were Jehovah’s witnesses or political opponents.

I visited Auschwitz a few months ago, and I have a simple message for all those who deny that the Holocaust happened, or who engage in anti-Semitism or other forms of religious, racial or ethnic intolerance or discrimination:  visit this historic and terrible place. It is a truly humbling and harrowing experience to feel the chill of evil and immense tragedy that permeates its walls and grounds. It is important to feel -- not just to know in an abstract way -- where such behaviour can lead.

Each year, on 27 January, we take time to remember the victims of the Holocaust and to reflect on how it came about, and how the world at large failed so dismally to prevent it.  The Holocaust stands as a searing reminder of the perils of discrimination and intolerance, and of just how powerful and deadly the incitement to racial hatred can be. It also should make us more aware of the importance of reacting quickly and firmly to manifestations of discrimination, hostility or violence against individuals and entire communities, wherever they occur.

In the decades since the end of World War II, and the revelation of the full horror of the Holocaust, the flames of hatred and persecution have risen again to consume other countries, people and societies – from the killing fields of Cambodia, to the forests of Srebrenica and the hills of Rwanda.

Even today, in many places around the world, people are persecuted or discriminated against because of their race, religion, origin, sexual orientation or political opinions, and in countries such as Syria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, people are still being maimed and slaughtered because of the group to which they belong.

We need to stop turning a blind eye to the warning signs of serious human rights violations whenever and wherever they appear. That much, at least, we can do to honour all those millions murdered en masse by their fellow human beings, who attempted to justify war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide with hate-inspired political philosophies and propaganda. We must also be aware that the seeds of such hatred are often sown in times of peace as well in times of war.”

Hungary at UN apologizes for role in the Holocaust

"Institutions in the then-Hungarian state were responsible for the Holocaust," says Ambassador Casba Körösi.

January 25, 2014

Jerusalem Post

By MAYA SHWAYDER, SAM SOKOL

The Hungarian ambassador to the UN said in New York on Thursday his nation took responsibility for its role in the Holocaust, days after the country’s Jewish community accused the government of engaging in Holocaust revisionism.

He spoke at a event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Hungarian Jews, sponsored by the UN Department of Public Information for NGOs.

Ambassador Casba Körösi, who became unusually emotional for a diplomat during his remarks, conveyed the sincere apologies of the Hungarian state for the crimes committed, and admitted the state’s guilt in both its complicity in standing by and its assistance to the criminals.

“Institutions in the then-Hungarian state were responsible for the Holocaust,” Körösi said. “This apology must be made part of the national memory and identity of the Hungarian state.”

The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz) has been involved in a high-profile dispute with President Viktor Orbán’s administration over a series of incidents which it believes show a tendency towards downplaying their countrymen’s role in the genocide of Hungarian Jewry.

Last week the Mazsihisz threatened to boycott all events associated with their government’s yearlong commemoration of the Holocaust. Hungary has declared 2014 to be the Hungarian Holocaust Memorial Year, with special attention paid and new memorials erected to the child victims.

The ultimatum, delivered via the website of the Mazsihisz on Sunday, comes in response to a statement by Sándor Szakály, director of the state-sponsored Veritas Historical Research Institute, allegedly minimizing the Holocaust.

Szakály reportedly termed the deportation and massacre of tens of thousands of Jews in Kamianets-Podilskyi, Ukraine, during World War II, “police action against aliens.”

Mazsihisz and other Jewish organizations have demanded that Szakály apologize and step down.

The Jewish community was further incensed by Orbán’s decision to push ahead with the erection of a statue depicting a Germanic eagle descending on the Angel Gabriel, a Hungarian symbol, in Budapest.

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Heinrich Himmler's missing letters surface

"Die Welt" exclusive: 69 years after Heinrich Himmler's suicide his private letters and photographs have surfaced in Israel. They provide insight into the life of one of the main orchestrators of the Holocaust.

January 25, 2014

Die Welt

Heinrich Himmler was one of the most powerful Nazi leaders in Adolf Hitler's inner circle. He was the ruthless organizer of the Holocaust, head of the Waffen-SS, Gestapo and the police - responsible for the concentration camps and the death of millions of people. Himmler's private documents have been lost for decades. Only now hundreds of private letters, notes and photos from the private collection of the man who played the decisive role in the mass extermination of Jews have surfaced.

"Die Welt" obtained copies of the previously unpublished documents that have been kept in the private home of an Israeli Jew for a very long time. Eventually they came into the possession of a private archive and are now stored in a bank vault in Tel Aviv. In addition to the letters Himmler wrote to his wife Margarethe (Marga) from 1927 to five weeks before his suicide in 1945, there are many previously unknown photographs, and the estate of Himmler's foster son and other papers such as recipe books.

According to the German Federal Archive's (Bundesarchiv) expert assessment, there is verifiable proof that the documents are authentic. President Michael Hollmann told "Die Welt": "We are sure about these documents." In the expert opinion of the world's most important institution dealing with the written legacy of the "Third Reich", it says: "There is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the documents in Tel Aviv. "

There is conclusive evidence that traces the material to its origin. The letters are often signed "Dein Heini" ("Your Heini") or "Euer Pappi" ("Your Daddy") and the handwriting matches other known documents of Himmler perfectly. His letters also complement exactly his wife's letters, which are kept in the German Federal Archive for many years.

The Berlin historian and Nazi expert Michael Wildt describes the find as "a dense body of private documents. There is nothing like it for any other member of the Nazi leadership." Adolf Hitler and his official deputy Hermann Göring left virtually no personal records. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, the fourth leading Nazi, left a huge inventory of handwritten diaries and daily dictations. But they are almost, without exception, material for future propaganda and not really private documents.

The hundreds of pages of private correspondence between Heinrich Himmler and Marga only seem mundane at first glance. Especially in the first years of their relationship, when Himmler was not yet at the top level of the Nazi hierarchy, they wrote many seemingly ordinary love letters. But time and again there were signs of Himmler's immeasurable anti-Semitism and his obsessiveness in these early letters of the years 1927/28. The documents do not change the overall picture of the Nazi reign of terror, but they certainly add countless previously unknown details and help getting a better idea of what type of person the SS leader was, his everyday life and his surroundings.

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Auschwitz museum adds Arabic, Persian to online program

'When it comes to the number of visitors, the entire area of the Arab states and Iran almost do not exist in our statistics,' museum’s director says.

January 23, 2014

Haaretz

By JTA

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum added several languages, including Arabic and Persian, to its online educational programs about the camp’s history.

Along with Arabic and Persian, the new lessons are now available in Spanish and Portuguese. The programs had been available only in English and Polish.

“When it comes to the number of visitors, the entire area of the Arab states and Iran almost do not exist in our statistics,” said the museum’s director, Andrzej Kacorzyk.

“At the same time, we realize that it is often there where the history of the Holocaust is shown in a very distorted way, or even it is doubted and used politically.”

The program focuses on the history of Auschwitz and the mass extermination of Jews there. It features video footage of interviews with survivors, graphics and photos.

Poland Poll Reveals Stubborn Anti-Semitism Amid Jewish Revival Hopes

63% See Jewish Conspiracies and Back Old Canards

January 19, 2014

Forward

By Don Snyder

A majority of respondents in a recent Polish national survey believe that there’s a Jewish conspiracy to control international banking and the media. And 90% of these Poles say they’ve never met a Jew.

The national study, conducted by the Center for Research on Prejudice at Warsaw University, found that in Poland, the belief in a Jewish conspiracy remains high – 63% in 2013 – and relatively unchanged from 2009 when 65% of respondents held this belief.

The study also found an 8 percent increase in more traditional forms of anti-Semitism, including blaming Jews for the murder of Jesus Christ and the belief that Christian blood is used in Jewish rituals. Some 23% were found to hold such traditional, religious-based beliefs about Jews.

The study’s findings were presented to the Polish Sejm, or parliament, on January 9 by Michal Bilewicz, director of the Center for Research on Prejudice. Bilewicz, an assistant professor on the faculty of psychology at the University of Warsaw, is co-author of the report.

In an email, Bilewicz said that most members of the Polish parliament praised the study and many suggested education measures to fight prejudice. The one skeptical voice, he said, was that of Dorota Arciszewska-Mielewczyk, a center-right Law and Justice Party member, who “suggested that Polish Jews are represented by the Knesset rather than the Polish parliament.”

In January 13 phone interview, Arciszewska-Mielewczyk claimed her remarks were taken out of context. Speaking through an interpreter, she said she had expressed her hope that representatives from the Knesset would come to Poland and join the campaign to stop calling the Nazi camps in Poland “Polish concentration camps” — a common complaint among Poles, especially on the right, who take umbrage when camps set up and operated during World War II by the German regime in occupied Poland are labeled as Polish.

According to Arciszewska-Mielewczyk, a Jewish group that was present when she spoke had a “negative and allergic reaction” to her remarks. They also claimed “they had nothing to do with the Knesset,” she said, adding that she then asked for clarification about the Knesset’s status as a body that represents the Jewish nation worldwide.

Pope Francis hosts Argentine Jewish leaders at Vatican

At kosher lunch, Buenos Aires-born pontiff and Jewish leaders focused on strengthening interfaith dialogue.

January 17, 2014

Haaretz

Pope Francis on Thursday hosted a delegation of 15 Jewish leaders from his native Argentina for an informal kosher lunch at the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse.

The conversation with the pontiff, who was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, focused on strengthening interfaith dialogue, according to Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress.

Epelman is also the World Jewish Congress official in charge of dialogue with the Catholic Church.

It was an “extraordinary gesture by Pope Francis to take more than two hours out of his busy schedule for a conversation with Jewish leaders from his native Argentina,” said Epelman, who organized the lunch with Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka.

Pope Francis expressed hope that “this meeting will help nurture the seeds we have planted together” and said he was looking forward “with great expectations” to his visit to Israel in May.

At the end of the lunch, the group intoned Psalm 133 in Hebrew, which says, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”

Argentina's Jewish community is the largest in Latin America.

Greek school to present diplomas to Holocaust survivors

Documents of 157 Jewish students who fled Thessaloniki or were deported to Nazi death camp were found by Greek teacher.

January 7, 2014

Haaretz

By JTA

A teacher at a school in Greece will present recently discovered graduation certificates to 157 Jewish students who fled Thessaloniki or were deported to Nazi death camps, or to their descendants.

Antonio Crescenzi, a teacher at the Italian School in Thessaloniki, found a trove of old documents by accident about a decade ago. After sorting through them he realized their significance, he told the Israeli Maariv daily.

Crescenzi said he has recently managed to track some of the students and their descendants, and plans to finally present them with their certificates in a special ceremony later this year.

Thessaloniki, also known as Salonika, was a major center for Sephardic Jewry in the Balkans with a prewar Jewish population of some 55,000. The Nazis deported nearly 50,000 Jews to Nazi death camps; only some 2,000 survived.

The newly found documents relate to students born between 1912 and 1928 who studied at the school, one of two Italian schools that operated in the port city before the war.

The Warsaw Ghetto Revolt is no myth

Historians should have corrected the exaggerated narrative that developed in Israel about the Jewish uprising in the Warsaw ghetto in April 1943, but the fact remains that there was a revolt, and it was heroic.

January 1, 2014

Haaretz

By Moshe Arens

The article by Eli Gat, “The Warsaw Ghetto myth,” is an important commentary on the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt and the Jewish tragedy during World War II, but its conclusion is wrong: The Warsaw ghetto uprising is no myth. It is a compelling tale of Jewish heroism against insuperable odds, the first major uprising against German occupation during World War II, and has rightfully taken its place in the history of World War II.

The narrative of the uprising, as defined by Zivia Lubetkin, a ghetto fighter, at her passionate speech in Kibbutz Yagur in 1946, and repeated by her husband, Yitzhak “Antek” Zuckerman, at Kibbutz Na’an in 1947 – and reiterated by both at the Adolf Eichmann trial in 1961, and accepted in Israel as the defining narrative of this important event – strays quite far from what really happened in the Warsaw ghetto in April 1943. It is this narrative that is a myth.

Gat is correct in stating that, of the 50,000 Jews in the Warsaw ghetto who had succeeded in evading the deportations to Treblinka in the summer of 1942, only a few hundred participated in the fighting that broke out in the ghetto on April 19, 1943.

An important comment by Gat that nonetheless misses the mark is his claim that the uprising “interfered with the survival strategy of the masses of Jews in the ghetto.” The fact is that what Gat calls “survival strategy” was simply a desire of Jews who were witnessing the murderous actions of the Germans to try and save themselves and their families as long as that seemed possible. Sauve qui peut.

The recognized Jewish leadership of all the political and religious parties had fled Poland as the German army approached Warsaw in the first week of the ground invasion, leaving Polish Jewry leaderless.

The fact is that, unlike Charles de Gaulle, who instructed the French resistance in occupied France from his headquarters in London, and the Polish government-in-exile in London, which commanded the Polish underground from London, the Zionist leadership in Jerusalem did not choose to assume the role of leadership and provide guidance to Jews who were under German occupation. The Jewish Agency had an office in Geneva throughout the war and was in communication with Jews in occupied Poland, but it did not issue guidance of a general nature, a call to resistance, or a call for unity of the different political groups in the face of the German onslaught. Each family was left to its own devices. That’s what Gat calls a “survival strategy of the masses”. Gat’s description of the uprising, including the part played by ZZW, will probably be rejected immediately by those Israeli historians who dismiss out of hand any writings about the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt by those not considered “professional” historians. However, these “professional” historians fail to explain why, with all the relevant evidence before them for many years – the daily communiqués of SS General Jürgen Stroop; his final report; the report he gave to the U.S. military in Wiesbaden on May 1, 1946; the transcript of his conversations with survivors of the Warsaw ghetto while awaiting trial in Warsaw for war crimes committed during the destruction of the ghetto; and his testimony at the trial prior to his execution – they did not correct the partial narrative of the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt as it had been presented by Lubetkin and Zuckerman on their arrival in Palestine after the war.

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