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Bradford Muslims Rally To Save Synagogue From Closure
May 24, 2013
With only just over thirty members and an extravagant Grade II listed Moorish building, the tiny Jewish community of Bradford have for many years been in despair about their finances - until the local Muslim community stepped in to help.
The grand-looking Reform synagogue, is on an unassuming street, between the Yorkshire Tandoori, Al-Hijaab Islamic Clothing and the Jamia Shan-E-Islam Educational Centre.
Built in 1880, it has long been under threat of closure, but several Muslim organisations in the city have pledged to stop it falling into ruin, with donors giving £2,000 to save the synagogue's roof.
Zulfi Karim, the secretary of the Bradford Council of Mosques, said he hoped that the story of local collaboration, amid global Muslim-Jewish tensions, would be an inspirational one, and one that would improve the image of the city.
"Many people do seem to be massively taken aback that the Jewish and Muslim community are working hand-in-hand, when all you seem to hear about Bradford are the nasty things," he told HuffPost UK.
"We want to make sure this synagogue is protected, long-term, a heritage site for the whole community."
Rudi Leavor, chairman of the synagogue, told HuffPost UK he had originally begun to talk to his Muslim neighbours when they lobbied together to stop the conversion of a local building into a restaurant, and they successfully stopped the planning application.
"When I told him about the parlous state of our finances because of low membership, he referred me to the Carlisle Business Centre.
"He sat on the committee and though the organisation was nominally non-denominational, it was Asian orientated. I was awarded several hundred pounds," he told HuffPost UK
Since making the contacts, Leaver said the synagogue had received a lot of assistance from different Muslim organisations, and has formed a close relationship with Mahmood Mohammed, a development officer for Bradford Council.
Leavor told HuffPost UK: "At the time, rain has entered through a faulty roof and an adjacent building costing about £2,000 to repair most urgently. Mahmood said he had an anonymous donor who would underwrite the cost.
"In the mean time he introduced me to Karim, of Bradford Council of Mosques. He met me at the Synagogue and was impressed with the building."
"There's been a Jewish community in Bradford for 100 years, and now there's barely a trace. I was so impressed by the architecture and the history of the synagogue, we couldn't let this go to waste," Karim told HuffPost UK
The anonymous benefactor turned out to be Kahlid Pervaiz, owner of the Drummond Mills Complex near the Synagogue, who also offered its members free parking.
Leaver said that if their collaboration can "contribute just a little towards peace and harmony, then so much the better."
Vandalism at Poland's Blonie cemetery destroys last traces of a Jewish past
Local police have yet to find clues as to who smashed the cemetery's five remaining tombstones - the final vestiges of a once 1,200-strong community that was taken by the Nazis to the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941.
May 24, 2013
By Roman Frister
WARSAW - The Jewish cemetery in the Polish town of Blonie, one of the smallest and most ancient in the country, was, to all intents and purposes, destroyed in April after vandals smashed its five remaining tombstones. In fact, the destruction of the cemetery took with it the final remnants of the area's once 1,200-strong Jewish community, transported by the Nazis to the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941.
Police in Poland believe the act of vandalism was carried out on the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Authorities have further requested that anyone with information as to the perpetrators' identity call a hotline. So far, no calls have been received.
Local residents refused to answer Haaretz's questions about the event. The Mayor of Blonie, Zenon Reszka, also refused to respond. His office replied that the area was not owned by the municipality and that therefore it was not responsible for its safekeeping. The office of the regional governor announced it had no responsibility either, despite the fact that the cemetery was the last resting place of Jewish soldiers in the Polish army, who perished in the battles against Nazi Germany in the beginning of the Second World War.
Two years ago, employees of the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews found 40 tombstones in the overgrown vegetation of the Blonie cemetery, and transferred them to be safeguarded elsewhere. All the other tombstones were stolen throughout the years, and probably used for private construction. Museum employees discovered signs of digging in some of the open graves. It is believed that these were searched for hidden treasures.
Vladimir Nabokov and the Jews
'Lolita' Author Was Outspoken Critic of Anti-Semitism
May 18, 2013
By Benjamin Ivry
Vladimir Nabokov, the Russian American author of such novels as “Lolita,” “Pnin,” and “Pale Fire,” was a compassionate observer of modern Jewish history. This has been established in such works as Stacy Schiff’s “Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov),” a 1999 study of the writer’s much beloved Jewish wife; essays by critics Maxim Shrayer and Shalom Goldman, and a majestic two-volume biography of Nabokov written by Brian Boyd and published in 1991 by Princeton University Press.
Supplementing these is a new study, “The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov.” Written by Andrea Pitzer, “The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov” is a good excuse for revisiting just how esteeming Jews and fighting their persecutors became second nature for Nabokov.
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Nabokov came from a family of high-ranking civil servants who courageously opposed anti-Semitism. His grandfather Dmitri Nikolaevich Nabokov, minister of justice for Czar Alexander II, fought for Jewish rights, while his father, the lawyer and statesman Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, decisively condemned two 1903 events — the publication of the notorious anti-Semitic tract “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and the Kishinev pogrom, in which dozens of Jews were murdered and hundreds injured, in the then-capital of the Bessarabian province.
Growing up in a privileged and enlightened family, Nabokov would oppose anti-Semitism not just on moral grounds, but also for aesthetic reasons, as a sign of “philistinism in all its phases… crude, moronic, and dishonest,” as he explained in 1967 to the Cleveland-born American Jewish author Herbert Gold.
Nabokov’s notion of anti-Semitism as crass philistinism made it natural for the author, starting from his early years as a writer, to characterize Jews sympathetically and despise their haters. During studies at Cambridge University, followed by residence in Berlin, Paris, New York and Montreux, Nabokov stoutheartedly resisted noxious ideological appeals.
One such came from a Cambridge roommate who urged him to read “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” not realizing that Nabokov’s grandfather had rejected that forgery decades earlier.
Geza Vermes, Hungarian Bible Scholar Who Returned to Jewish Roots, Dies at 88
Vermes befriended and worked with Paul Demann, a scholar, like him, of Hungarian Jewish origins. Together with a third collaborator, Renee Bloch, they battled doggedly against the anti-Semitic content in Catholic education and ritual of the time. The Second Vatican Council would later accept many of the trio’s theological arguments.
May 18, 2013
By Benjamin Ivry
The renowned Hungarian Jewish biblical scholar Geza Vermes, who died of cancer May 8 at age 88, disproved the old canard “You can’t go home again,” at least when it comes to Judaism.
Born in the town of Makó in southeastern Hungary in 1924, Vermes was 7 when his family converted to Catholicism in what would prove a failed attempt to sidestep anti-Semitism. The scholar, whose parents were murdered in Nazi concentration camps, told Rachel Kohn of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1999: “In fact, I never was anything but a Jew with a temporary sort of outer vestment. I realized I ought to recognize my genuine identity.”
Vermes’s outer vestment included attending a Catholic seminary; by 1942, when he was of college age, Jews were no longer accepted into universities in Hungary, which had allied itself with the Nazis. Refused admission after graduation into the Dominican or Jesuit orders because of his Jewish origins, Vermes was accepted by the Brothers of Sion, a French/Belgian community focused on praying for the Jews.
In Paris, Vermes studied with the eminent Jewish scholar Georges Vajda, a graduate of the Rabbinical Seminary of Budapest. When the manuscripts that eventually became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls were first made public, in 1947, Vermes was fascinated. Starting in 1950 he began translating the texts, writing what became in 1953 the first-ever doctoral dissertation on the subject. In 1962 he completed a first translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, later much augmented.
Also in Paris, Vermes befriended and worked with Paul Demann, a scholar, like him, of Hungarian Jewish origins. Together with a third collaborator, Renee Bloch, they battled doggedly against the anti-Semitic content in Catholic education and ritual of the time. The Second Vatican Council would later accept many of the trio’s theological arguments.
Vermes also wrote a series of books looking at the Jewish roots of the Christian messiah, including “Jesus the Jew,” which, as he told Kohn, described Jesus as a “totally Jewish person with totally Jewish ideas, whose religion was totally Jewish and whose culture, whose aims, whose aspirations could be understood only in the framework of Judaism.”
Wagner Controversy: Opera Cancels Holocaust Staging of 'Tannhäuser'
A staging of Richard Wagner's "Tannhäuser" -- set during the Holocaust and including a gas chamber and a shooting scene -- shocked audience members so badly that some had to be given medical attention. The theater has now cancelled the production out of fear it will damage its artistic reputation.
May 9, 2013
Düsseldorf's Deutsche Oper am Rhein opera house announced late Wednesday it was cancelling a highly controversial staging of Richard Wagner's "Tannhäuser" after outraging audiences at its premier on Saturday.
Director Burkhard Kosminski set the production in the time of the Nazi regime in an effort to address the controversial but popular composer's anti-Semitism and the later influence he would have on Nazi ideology. The staging depicted the character Tannhäuser as a Nazi war criminal and it even included a gas chamber on stage.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein said its managers had been conscious ahead of the premier that the production would be controversial. "We are reacting with the utmost concern to the fact that a few scenes, particularly one involving a very realistic depiction of a shooting scene, appears to have created such a strong stress for numerous visitors, both psychological and physical, that they had to receive medical attention afterwards."
The theater said that after "intensive discussions," director Kosminski, also a well-known German actor, refused to tone down his staging and that the opera must respect his artistic freedom, also for "legal reasons".
"After considering all the arguments, we have come to the conclusion that we cannot justify such an extreme impact of our artistic work," the statement read. The controversy is the biggest ever faced by the Düsseldorf opera house, which is not traditionally known for productions that have caused outrage.
…Among the staging's most shocking scenes is a sequence during the famous "Tannhäuser" overture, in which nude actors are lowered to the floor on a cross made of glass cubes that are slowly filled with fog to represent the gas chambers. The Venusberg, the site of hedonistic love in Wagner's opera, becomes the site of a brutal shooting scene. Venus, who is decked out in a Nazi uniform, and her SS henchmen murder a family and then force Tannhäuser to kill as well.
Greece to weigh anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial bill
Legislation would not grant parliamentary immunity, which means members of the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party could be imprisoned, and the party could be diminished.
May 8, 2013
By Judy Maltz
Supporters of Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party celebrating election results in June, 2012. Photo by AP
BUDAPEST – A new legislative initiative in Greece promises a radical crackdown on anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in the country, David Saltiel, the head of the country’s Jewish community revealed on Tuesday. The legislation will be submitted to parliament in the coming days, following the Easter holiday break.
The legislation was drawn up by Costas Karagouni, the Greek deputy justice minister, following consultations held with Saltiel, who serves as president of the Central Board of the Jewish Communities of Greece. Saltiel told Haaretz that he was able to convince Karagouni that the recent surge of anti-Semitism in the country threatened more than the future of the country’s Jewish community, most of which was wiped out during the Holocaust.
“I explained to him that when we talk about anti-Semitism, it’s not only about the Jews, but also about democracy,” he said. “He understands that the situation today requires a change in legislation.”
Saltiel noted, in an address to delegates at the World Jewish Congress on the final day of their three-day plenary assembly, that the legislation does not provide parliamentary immunity. This means members of the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party could be imprisoned or otherwise punished if found in violation of the new law.
According to the legislation, any individual or group that incites against or acts violently toward other individuals or groups “because of their racial origin, the color of their skin, their religion and/or their sexual preferences” could be punished with three months to six years in jail and be fined up to 20,000 euros. The same punishments would apply to Holocaust denial and the National Socialist salute. The legislation also stipulates that if a parliamentary party chief is found to be in violation, public funding for his or her party would be suspended.
Miami Doctor, convert to Judaism, kept secret for years his father’s past as a Nazi
May 8, 2013
'Hatred starts with a word uttered quietly, and then louder, if left unchallenged it is followed by deeds that become habits which lead to social norms where the entire group condones the attitudes, as in Nazi Germany.'
Dr Bernd Wollschlaeger’s 14 year old son wanted to know his saba. For the first time Bernd shared the story of his life and his Nazi father. He was afraid of rejection but his son thought his story was cool. Three weeks later was Family History Day at his children’s school. Called into the office to meet with the principal and the Rabbi, he was worried that they would repudiate him. They suggested that his son was delusional and was making up a story about his grandfather the famous Nazi. Bernd related the whole story to the enraptured school leaders. Since that time he has been sharing the story regularly and finds a weight has been lifted from his shoulders. World War II was a verboten topic in the Wollschlaeger home. Any questions were met with silence, and yet Bernd’s father considered a hero by his buddies, was decorated with the Iron cross by Hitler himself. Bernd was 14 when the Munich Olympics, meant to reinstate Germany amongst the civilized world, were the scene of the massacre of the Israeli team. The headlines read “Jews Killed in Germany Again.” Young Bernd was confused, it happened before? Unable to get a response from his parents, the answers were forthcoming in school. Horrified by what happened to the Jews at the hands of the Germans, he needed to find out his father’s involvement. A raging alcoholic, his father could be tricked into opening up at that point of shikerness, before becoming totally drunk. Finally the truth came out, “We are German, representatives of a pure race, with a historic obligation to clear up the riff raff in the east. The only mistake was in using the train capacity to transport the Jews to the camps, instead of bringing supplies to our troops. The Jews made us lose the war.”
Bulgarian Honor Bid in DC Stirs Holocaust Debate
May 8, 2013
By Associated Press
A request by the Bulgarian Embassy to name a Washington intersection after a favorite native son — a man credited with helping save the country's Jewish population from deportation — has gotten tangled up in a broader debate about whether the nation is accurately accounting for the actions of its leaders during the Holocaust.
The debate involving the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has played out behind the scenes as the D.C. Council prepares this month to consider honoring Dimitar Peshev. The discussion underscores not only the complexities of Holocaust history but also the difficulty countries face reconciling the heroic deeds of an individual during World War II with the record of a nation as a whole. It also comes as historians and Jewish organizations encourage nations to take unvarnished stock of their actions in Nazi-era Europe.
"You have to tell both sides and people have to understand, try to understand, what the complexity is. That's why it's critical," said Frederick Chary, a retired professor at Indiana University Northwest who specializes in Bulgarian history.
The issue arose in December when the embassy voiced support for naming an intersection for Peshev in a letter that put a favorable spin on Bulgarian treatment of Jews during World War II. The letter was partially drafted by a real-estate agent with an interest in Bulgarian history, put on embassy letterhead and signed by the ambassador. But the Holocaust museum, invited by the D.C. Council to review the accuracy of the letter, said the request — along with a recent declaration by Bulgaria's Parliament — glossed over a more checkered history.
As vice president of the Parliament, Peshev publicized a secret deportation order that would have sent tens of thousands of Jews of Bulgarian origin to German death camps in Poland. He circulated a protest petition among fellow legislators in 1943 as clergymen, students and others united in support of the Jewish population. The deportations were suspended and King Boris III sent Jews to labor camps in the country but refused to turn them over to the Nazis, saying he needed them as construction workers.
Hundreds of Jews Gather at Tunisia Synagogue
April 27, 2013
Africa’s oldest synagogue is playing host to that rarity in the Arab world - a religious gathering of hundreds of Jews drawn from Europe and Israel.
Guarded by armed Tunisian police, Jewish revellers chant and dance in a three-day pilgrimage to the El Ghriba synagogue at an island resort 500 km south of Tunis.
In 2011, after the uprising that toppled former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the annual celebration was cancelled and in 2012 only a few dozen Jews attended out of fear of possible attacks by hardline Islamists.
In 2002 militants linked to al Qaeda attacked the synagogue with a truck bomb killing 21 Western tourists. Security for this year’s pilgrimage is tight, with hundreds of police on duty.
“The strong presence of security is a positive step and sends a message to the Jews in the world that Tunisia protects us even if its leaders are Islamists”, Perez Trabelsi, the head of the Jewish community in Djerba, told Reuters.
“Jews in the world will see the government’s efforts to make the celebration safe and will return in their thousands over the next few years and will not pay attention to any threat,” he added.
On Sunday Tunisia’s tourism minister is due to take part in the celebrations, which have attracted dozens of Tunisian Muslims.
“We are here to send a message of peace and tolerance embracing everyone,” said a Tunisian woman named Zahayra Lakhel, putting on a Jewish head scarf before she entered the synagogue.
“We also want to change the image of Muslims who have been associated with violence and terror. The Jews have been our friends for years and we are here to remember old and beautiful memories away from religious and political tensions.”
Huge Hungary Rally Denounces Anti-Semitism
April 21, 2013
Tens of thousands of Hungarians rallied on Sunday to protest against what they said was growing anti-Semitism in the country which will host the plenary meeting of the World Jewish Congress next month.
The annual March of the Living, which remembers the victims of the Holocaust and usually has a few thousand participants, attracted a much bigger crowd this time, with thousands walking from a square near parliament along the river Danube, carrying Israeli and European Union flags.
“We have more people here than ever, but this means that there is big trouble,” Gabor Gordon, chief organizer of the event told the crowd. “Racism, anti-Semitism… we need to stop these while we can.”
A far-right association of motor cyclists had also planned a rally for Sunday.
But Prime Minister Viktor Orban ordered the interior minister to ban the bikers from rallying on the day when the country remembers the death of more than 500,000 Hungarian Jews in Nazi death camps in World War Two.Orban has said no event should be allowed that could hurt the dignity of the participants of the March of the Living
Hundreds flock for first glimpse inside Museum of the History of Polish Jews
April 21, 2013
By Ofer Aderet
WARSAW, Poland − Hundreds of people, including many journalists and foreign tourists, waited in long lines and filled the square outside the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which opened Sautrday for the first time.
The visitors weren’t disturbed by the fact that the $100 million museum’s permanent exhibition has not been installed yet; they came to see the building itself, which was designed by Finnish architect Rainer Mahlamaki, and whose construction began in 2009. They also came to see a film about the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt hero Simcha Rotem, who on Friday was awarded the Grand Cross of the Polonia Restituta by Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski in the main ceremony marking the uprising’s 70th anniversary.
Many of the visitors sported one of the 50,000 yellow flowers handed out at the museum in recent days. “It’s not a yellow star, there was no yellow stars in the Warsaw Ghetto,” Nili Amit, an Israeli who is a coordinator at the museum, is at pains to stress. “It’s the symbol of the Warsaw Ghetto, and I for one am moved by it. The Warsavites wear it with pride,” she adds.
Hagay Cohen, an Israeli who lives in Warsaw and works for Polish National Radio, explains that the custom began when a Jewish woman gave the uprising’s commander, Marek Edelman, a yellow flower after he saved her child’s life. It will be months before the permanent exhibition will be ready for public viewing, and for now the museum’s most important exhibit is literally an underground secret.
To reach it, one must go from the back of the building through a construction site. Amit led us safely in and agreed to reveal, for the first time, the “astonishing” exhibit she says will be the museum’s focal point.
It is there, in the middle of the room: a precise replica of the wooden ceiling and roof of a 17th-century synagogue from the Polish town of Gwozdziec, complete with murals. Before the Holocaust, there were many wood-roofed synagogues in Poland. None has survived, but, thanks to a Boston company specializing in restorations using period materials as well as students who came from around the world to recreate the paintings, a part of the Gwozdziec synagogue has been brought back to life.
The new museum’s eight galleries will show, in chronological order, 1,000 years of Jewish life in Poland. “The Shoah gallery will be the largest of all,” Amit says. She stresses that the Polish government, not wanting to be seen as influencing the content, did not interfere with the development of the exhibits.
Hell on Earth': Poland Remembers Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Poland commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising on Friday, marking the day by bestowing honors on survivors and opening a new Jewish history museum.
April 21, 2013
Poland marked the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising on Friday, honoring the armed revolt by Jews against Nazi German forces with ceremonies and the opening of a new Jewish history museum.
Throughout the Polish capital church bells rang and sirens sounded in tribute to the fighters who began the first and largest armed insurrection by Jews against the German troops in World War II on this day in 1943.
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, two uprising survivors and other officials commemorated the event at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, a ceremony that was part of larger efforts to rally collective remembrance of the fighters and the horrors that Jews suffered during the war.
Komorowski gave one of the country's highest honors, the Grand Cross of the Order of the Rebirth of Poland, to 88-year-old survivor Simha Rotem. "The Nazis made a hell on earth of the ghetto," Rotem said in a speech. "Persecuting the Jews appealed to the lowest of human instincts."
The new Museum of the History of Polish Jews also opened its doors on Friday at the site of the former Warsaw ghetto, where Jews were held in the Nazi-occupied city. In today's Warsaw, there are few signs that it was once home to one of Europe's largest Jewish communities. But the museum aims to introduce visitors to their 1,000-year history in the country, one that is often overshadowed by the Holocaust and Nazi death camps like Auschwitz, which was located in Poland.
According to curators, the museum will also try to educate visitors about Jews to help overcome the anti-Semitic ideas held by some in the largely Catholic country. "I want this museum to be a museum of life, not a museum of death," museum director Andrzej Cudak told news agency Reuters.
Eventually put down after a month, the Warsaw ghetto uprising was staged by some 750 poorly armed Jews inside as German forces moved to liquidate the enclosure and transport its remaining residents to the Treblinka extermination camp. After the revolt was crushed, the ghetto was razed and the remaining residents killed.These fighters "knew that they had to die, but they wanted to leave a trace of their existence, hence those acts of heroism, a testimony to honor," Jakub Gutenbaum, an 83-year-old survivor of the uprising, told news agency AP on Thursday.Gutenbaum lost his mother and brother to the gas chambers of the Majdanek concentration camp, but he managed to survive and was eventually liberated by the Soviet Red Army at another camp."The fact that I survived is a matter of luck," he told AP. "Maybe I was at the wrong places, or rather at the right places at the right times."More than 90 percent of Poland's 3 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and a 2011 census found that there are now just 7,500 living in the country.
Education Minister in Warsaw: 'Imagine this square if they were still with us'
Attending Poland's official ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Shai Piron speaks of 'deep commitment to peace and human dignity' that motivated Warsaw Ghetto uprising fighters.
April 20, 2013
By Ofer Aderet
Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron was in Warsaw on Friday, representing Israel at Poland's main ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The ceremony was held in Ghetto Heroes Square, which houses a museum commemorating Poland’s Jewish community. In a speech given in Hebrew in front of an audience including the Polish president and prime minister as well as representatives of the European Union, Piron talked about the murder of Polish Jews during the Holocaust.
“Since the Babylonian exile there hasn't been a place like, in which Jews created such a great intellectual and spiritual enterprise," he said. "We lost six million people in the Holocaust, among them 1.5 million children. I would like us to imagine what this square would have looked like now if they were still among us. Close your eyes and picture the trailblazing intellectuals, the great rabbis, musicians and artists who could have been standing here were it not for the enormous tragedy which befell us, which no words can describe.
“It’s empty, nothing. A great void opened in the soul of the Jewish people after the murder of most of Poland’s Jews," Piron said. "They were very diverse and heterogeneous, including orthodox, secular, Zionists, communists, anti- Zionists – the Nazis made no distinctions, seeing them all as Jews.
Reflecting on the ghetto fighters, Piron said: “The uprising was an expression of the fight against evil, of not accepting injustice, of the striving to change history in the name of morality and purity. The fighters were murdered, but the spirit of their uprising and their legacy has inspired many generations of freedom fighters and lovers of mankind. Their story commands us to make demands of ourselves, before demanding of others, to take responsibility and construct an exemplary society and engage in tikkun olam [repairing the world]."
Piron also spoke about the approximately 6000 Righteous Gentiles in Poland.“In the great darkness which descended over Europe, they glowed and shone as candles in the dark, maintaining humanity and dignity," he said. "They showed us all that even in the face of evil one can stand up, occasionally even at the cost of one’s own life."
Israeli researchers take conservative approach to defining anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitism isn’t a function of what Israel does or what happens in the Middle East. That’s a superficial and unprofessional way of looking at the subject,” says Dina Porat, director of the Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center Database on Antisemitism and Racism.
April 8, 2013
By Ofer Aderet
How should we distinguish between an anti-Semitic incident and a criminal act? How should we avoid classifying every harsh statement about Israel as anti-Semitism?
Every year on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center Database on Antisemitism and Racism publishes a report on anti-Semitism worldwide. According to the paper for 2012, the number of anti-Semitic incidents jumped 30 percent last year after two years of declines.
“We don’t just count the incidents. We also take a deep look at the culture that gave birth to anti-Semitism,” says Dina Porat, the head of the database.
She notes that "if you say ‘dirty Jew’ in Kiev, nobody will report that as an anti-Semitic incident. It’s in the culture; it’s an expression that has been used for centuries. But if you say ‘dirty Jew’ in Paris, that’s bad.”
…According to Porat, “An incident must focus on a Jewish person or Jewish property to be considered anti-Semitic. If someone in Russia draws a swastika and writes ‘dirty Jew’ on street signs, we don’t necessarily consider that an anti-Semitic incident. But we'll take it into account in analyzing the anti-Semitic atmosphere in the country.”…
Since 1989, when tabulations began, only 2009 produced a greater number of incidents than 2012. The first two and a half weeks of 2009 were marked by Israel's Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. “Our graph shows a link between current events and an increase in anti-Semitism, such as with Operation Cast Lead,” Fireberg says.
But Porat notes that there isn't always such a link; for example, Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza last November. "It hardly raised the graph at all. Anti-Semitism isn’t a function of what Israel does or what happens in the Middle East. That’s a superficial and unprofessional way of looking at the subject,” she says.
“Economic, social, political and local factors are what matter. If there’s a financial crisis in a certain country, the new groups that arise are usually ones on the radical right that slip into anti-Semitism.”
The team also highlights the difference between anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism. “This year, we noticed that it had nothing to do with the Middle East — these were truly expressions of anti-Semitism," Porat says.
Let my people be shown: Film on Egyptian Jews should not be banned
Egyptian authorities suspended the screening of a documentary on Egypt’s Jewish community. This damages the push-back against strong anti-Jewish sentiment gripping the country, while failing to remind Egyptians of a past era of diversity and tolerance.
April 7, 2013
By Khaled Diab
The Jews of Egypt, the ‘reel’ history of Egypt’s Jewish minority, was due to be screened in Egyptian cinemas last week, after the documentary had successfully featured in a number of domestic and international festivals.
Sadly, however, it looks like this might not happen after all. Even though Jews of Egypt had received the necessary green light from the censor (and had even been viewed by the Minister of Culture as recently as December 2012), national security stepped in at the last moment and called off the release. Whether or not the film has actually been banned remains unclear.
As someone who is keenly interested not only in the Arab-Israeli conflict, but also its human ramifications and implications, I had been looking forward with anticipation to the opportunity to see this much-awaited and ground-breaking documentary upon my next visit to Egypt. In fact, so keen was I to view this documentary, and to meet its maker, that I travelled especially to Rotterdam a couple of months ago, but through some misunderstanding, director Amir Ramses did not manage to make the rendezvous.
“I was very enthusiastic for the commercial release,” a jet-lagged Ramses told me from Cairo, shortly after getting off the plane from New York. “I thought that three years of work might finally be worth something and that the message I wanted to transmit was going to reach audiences on a larger scale.”
And the film’s message? Through a mix of personal testimonies from Egyptian Jews in exile, statements from historians specialising in the era and archive footage, Ramses sought to shed light on a largely forgotten chapter of Egyptian history. He wanted to show that once upon a time Jews were an integral part of Egypt’s cosmopolitan social fabric and felt just as Egyptian as their Muslim and Christian compatriots.
Greek PM promises Jewish leaders a law against Holocaust denial
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said the proposed legislation would bar parties that denied crimes against humanity, such as the Holocaust-denying Golden Dawn, from running in future for the Greek parliament.
April 6, 2013
By Anshel Pfeffer
THESSALONIKI - The premier of Greece promised Jewish leaders on Sunday that he would introduce a new law to prevent Holocaust-denying parties from running for parliament in his country.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was participating in a commemoration service at Thessaloniki's Monastiriotes Synagogue marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the deportation of the town's Jews to the German death-camps.
Over 90 percent of the 53 thousand Jews living in Thessaloniki on the eve of the Second World War perished in the Holocaust.
In what was the first visit by a serving Greek prime minister to a synagogue, Samaras said that "Greek society has been infected by voices that seek to resurrect racism" and that "neo-Nazis have reappeared once again in Europe."
His government would "continue to legislate towards complete intolerance of violence and racism," Samaras said.
He did not however directly refer to the neo-Nazi and anti-immigration Golden Dawn party which won seven percent of votes in the last Greek election.
The event was attended by members of the executive committee of the World Jewish Congress which helped sponsor the commemorative events organized by the local Jewish community and the city council of Thessaloniki.
Beyond lambs and lions: Jewish resistance in the Holocaust
Jewish resistance in the Shoah went beyond those who took up arms, to include spiritual resistance, acts of escape, hiding and the forging of false papers, all in the context of war and the unique plight of the Jews stuck in it.
April 6, 2013
By Robert Rozett
In the first decades after the Shoah, two extremes of Jewish response were commonly portrayed in public discourse: those who passively went to their deaths, offering no resistance, and those who took up arms against their persecutors. The former were mostly pitied and disparaged, and the latter were generally lionized as the epitome of heroic behavior. Neither type of response was really understood in its complexity or in its context.
Since the 1970s, other aspects of Jewish resistance that had been investigated within scholarly contexts but had remained marginal in terms of the public consciousness, began to come to the fore alongside the sole focus on Jewish resistance as armed resistance, adding another layer of complexity and context. Both spiritual resistance - underground education, cultural events, religious services and so on - and unarmed acts - escape, hiding, and forging false papers - began being regularly included in discussion about Jewish resistance, now often under the rubric of the Hebrew word amidah, which roughly translates into taking “a stand.” When teaching the Shoah today, both in Israel and in many other countries, significant space is given to amidah, since it emphasizes the fact that Jews were not mere dehumanized objects during the Shoah years, but active players in the unfolding drama that engulfed them.
One of the most compelling aspects of Jewish resistance is the context in which it occurred. As the events of the Shoah evolved, amidah emerged from a savage abyss that increased in savagery as time went on. The broad framework of the Shoah and inter alia Jewish resistance is the ferociousness of the war itself.
Polish president sponsors Warsaw Ghetto Uprising commemoration
The month-long festivities will feature performances by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and will be attended by Simcha Ratajzer-Rotem, a hero of the uprising who lives in Israel.
April 6, 2013
By Roman Frister
WARSAW – Polish President Bronisław Komorowski this week announced his sponsorship of events commemorating the 70th anniversay of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Nazis' destruction of Warsaw's Great Synagogue.
Komorowski welcomed in advance the delegations from around the world that will attend the events, scheduled to take place between April 18 and May 16. Among the honored guests will be European Parliament President Martin Schulz, representatives of the German Bundestag and British House of Lords and one of the heroes of the uprising, Simcha Ratajzer-Rotem, who will be coming from Israel.
Rotem, who is now 89 years old, was a member of the Zionist Akiva organization in his youth and is famous principally for his role, together with Bund activist Marek Edelman, in leading 30 of the uprising's last fighters through the city's sewers and out of the burning ghetto after the rebellion had been suppressed. Rotem is also an honorary citizen of Warsaw.
An official announcement of the president's sponsorship of the events was published this week in most media outlets here, except papers and weeklies with a nationalist bent.
A unique resource, German Holocaust archive seeks new lease on life
The barely-known International Tracing Service, whose archives contain clues to the fates of 17.5 million people, is struggling to get the attention academics say it deserves.
April 6, 2013
George Jaunzemis was three and a half years old when, in the chaotic weeks at the end of World War Two, he was separated from his mother as she fled with him from Germany to Belgium.
He grew up in New Zealand with no memory of his early years, unaware the Latvian woman who had emigrated with him was not his real mother.
Then in 2010, a letter from the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen changed his life. He discovered his real name was Peter Thomas and that he had a nephew and cousins in Germany.
"I was astonished, thrilled. After all this time, I was an uncle," Jaunzemis, 71, told Reuters. "You don't know what it's like to have no family or childhood knowledge. Suddenly all the pieces fitted, now I can find my peace as a person."
Yet it took Jaunzemis over three decades of tenacious searching to find the vast archive in this remote corner of Germany where his past was buried.
Bad Arolsen contains 30 million documents on survivors of Nazi camps, Gestapo prisons, forced laborers and displaced persons. It rivals Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust center and the Washington Holocaust Memorial Museum in historical value.
The life and death of 'the Jew Seuss'
For nearly three centuries, the saga of Joseph Suesskind Oppenheimer served time and again as a vehicle for anti-Semitism in Germany. Only now has the original version of events surfaced.
April 6, 2013
By Yair Mintzker
“The Story of the Passing of Joseph Suess, of Blessed Memory,” which appears here in full in English for the first time, is an extraordinary document. It concerns the arrest of Joseph Suesskind Oppenheimer in March 1737, his 11-month incarceration, his encounter with two Jews in prison and his execution the following day.
Oppenheimer, who already during his imprisonment began to be known derisively as “Jew Suess,” was born in Heidelberg to a middle-class Jewish family, probably in 1698. Starting in the third decade of the 18th century, Oppenheimer served as a court Jew to several German princes. In 1732 he met and befriended Carl Alexander, the future duke of Wuerttemberg, a state in southwest Germany. When Carl Alexander ascended the throne the following year, Oppenheimer transferred the lion’s share of his activities to Stuttgart, the capital of Wuerttemberg, where he received from the Catholic duke privileges and protection during the latter’s political struggle against the local Protestant population.
The duke’s protection was to Oppenheimer’s detriment. On March 12, 1737, Carl Alexander died of a sudden stroke, and that very evening Oppenheimer was placed under arrest. He spent the following 11 months in prison, first at the Hohenneuffen fortress south of Stuttgart, then at the Hohenasperg fortress north of the city and finally in the Herrenhaus in Stuttgart itself. Convicted of unspecified “misdeeds,” Oppenheimer was executed by hanging outside Stuttgart on February 4, 1738, before an audience of nearly 20,000 spectators. His body was left on display in a gibbet north of Stuttgart for six more years.
The death of “Jew Suess” quickly became the focus of hundreds of stories, poems and pamphlets. “The Story of the Passing of Joseph Suess, of Blessed Memory” stands apart from them all in that it is the only document we know of that was written by Jews, almost certainly on the instructions of Oppenheimer himself, on the eve of his execution. We thus have before us for the first time the story of Oppenheimer’s death as he himself would have wished to tell it, in utter contrast to the numerous contemporary sources that described the bitter end of “the sweet Jew” (the meaning of the name “Jew Suess” in German) from a very hostile point of view.
Historic Damascus synagogue damaged, looted
April 1, 2013
A Jewish synagogue in Damascus believed to be thousands of years old has been damaged and looted as clashes have consumed the surrounding neighborhood, a Syrian official and an anti-government activist said Monday.
Damage to the Jobar Synagogue, which tradition holds was built by the biblical prophet Elisha, is the latest example of Syria's rich cultural heritage falling victim to the civil war between President Bashar Assad's regime and rebels seeking his ouster.
Syria is home to thousands of years of civilizations at the crossroads of the Levant and boasts important cultural sites dating back to the Bible, the ancient Roman empire, the Crusaders and the arrival of Islam.
Before the Syrian conflict started two years ago, these sites attracted international tourists. Many have since been damaged as the conflict evolved into a civil war. Combatants have garrisoned in historic castles, turning them into targets. And street battles raged last month near Aleppo's landmark 12th century Umayyad Mosque in the walled Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The mosque itself was heavily damaged last year, soon after a fire gutted the city's famed medieval market.
The Jobar Synagogue, in the neighborhood of the same name in northeastern Damascus, is a relic of the area's once sizeable Jewish population. Tradition holds that the biblical prophet Elisha built the first structure on the site over a grotto in which his teacher, the prophet Elijah, had sought refuge.
"It was a very prestigious synagogue to hold a pulpit in and there were great rabbinic scholars who held court there over the centuries," said author Joseph Braude, who has written about Jewish history in the Arab world. "Long after Damascus ceased to be central to Jewish learning, the synagogue continued to be an important pilgrimage site and a place of worship for Jews living in Damascus."
Bizarre ‘Jew in the Box’ educational exhibit in Germany draws criticism despite positive aim
The exhibit, officially called 'The Whole Truth, everything you wanted to know about Jews,' was designed to help educate Germans about Jewish culture. But its strange format, which includes a Jewish man or woman seated inside a glass box for two hours a day to answer questions, is drawing the ire of the country's 200,000 Jews.
March 31, 2013
By Associated Press
BERLIN — “Are there still Jews in Germany?” ‘’Are the Jews a chosen people?”
Nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, there is no more sensitive an issue in German life as the role of Jews. With fewer than 200,000 Jews among Germany’s 82 million people, few Germans born after World War II know any Jews or much about them.
To help educate postwar generations, an exhibit at the Jewish Museum features a Jewish man or woman seated inside a glass box for two hours a day through August to answer visitors’ questions about Jews and Jewish life. The base of the box asks: “Are there still Jews in Germany?”
“A lot of our visitors don’t know any Jews and have questions they want to ask,” museum official Tina Luedecke said. “With this exhibition we offer an opportunity for those people to know more about Jews and Jewish life.”
But not everybody thinks putting a Jew on display is the best way to build understanding and mutual respect.
Since the exhibit — “The Whole Truth, everything you wanted to know about Jews” — opened this month, the “Jew in the Box,” as it is popularly known, has drawn sharp criticism within the Jewish community — especially in the city where the Nazis orchestrated the slaughter of 6 million Jews until Adolf Hitler’s defeat in 1945.
“Why don’t they give him a banana and a glass of water, turn up the heat and make the Jew feel really cozy in his glass box,” prominent Berlin Jewish community figure Stephan Kramer told The Associated Press. “They actually asked me if I wanted to participate. But I told them I’m not available.”
Slovak court moves toward imprisoning war criminal in Hungary
March 31, 2013
A Slovak court has commuted a death sentence against Laszlo Csatary, a war criminal whom Slovakia wants extradited from Hungary for his complicity in murdering thousands of Jews.
A Czechoslovakian court in 1948 sentenced Csatary in absentia to death for torturing Jews and helping to deport them to Auschwitz when he served as police commander in the eastern Slovak city of Kosice. For decades, Csatary, now 98, escaped the sentence until Hungarian authorities detained him and put him under house arrest in Budapest last July. He has denied any guilt.
The sentence was changed this week to be in line with modern Slovak law, Reuters reported on Friday. Czechoslovakia abolished the death penalty in 1990, three years before its division into Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Kosice prosecutor's office spokesman Milan Filicko said.
"Once the decision takes effect, the court will decide whether it will issue an arrest warrant or how it will get him to serve the sentence," he said.
Filicko said Csatary could appeal the decision, which would send the case to the Slovak High Court. Slovakia's Jewish community has called for Csatary to be extradited.
Berlin - Poles Blast German TV Drama 'Trying To Spread Holocaust Responsibility'
Many critics have praised the series as a milestone in Germany’s troubled reckoning with its past and an overdue examination of individual guilt in the war. But the drama’s depiction of Polish resistance fighters as anti-Semites and Russian soldiers raping the German nurse have drawn particularly angry reactions in Eastern Europe, which suffered the most from the slaughter.
March 29, 2013
Berlin - With the wartime generation rapidly disappearing, a television drama about five young Germans in World War II has revived debate in Germany about the role ordinary men and women played in the Nazis’ murderous campaign to conquer Europe.
Millions tuned in last week to watch the three-part series “Our Mothers, Our Fathers,” which follows five young Germans - two brothers, a nurse, an aspiring female singer and a Jewish tailor - as they struggle through one of the bloodiest conflicts in history.
Three of the characters, including the Jew, survive - disillusioned and physically broken - to confront each other and their own demons in the final episode in the ruins of Berlin.
The series begins in 1941, as the Nazis launch their doomed assault on the Soviet Union, with each character slowly realizing that the world they believed in is falling apart. The brothers learn that the German army isn’t as noble as they thought; the nurse regrets betraying a Jewish colleague; the singer’s liaison with an SS member turns sour; and the Jew has to fight his fellow Germans to survive.
The mixed reactions to the series underscore how, nearly 70 years after World War II, the conflict remains a source of bitterness in Europe, even for people born after the fighting ended.
any critics have praised the series as a milestone in Germany’s troubled reckoning with its past and an overdue examination of individual guilt in the war. But the drama’s depiction of Polish resistance fighters as anti-Semites and Russian soldiers raping the German nurse have drawn particularly angry reactions in Eastern Europe, which suffered the most from the slaughter.
In Germany, meanwhile, some accuse the film of sidelining the Holocaust and depicting Germans as victims rather than a nation responsible for starting a war and committing genocide.
“A film about World War II that omits the bothersome question of six million dead Jews,” remarked columnist Jennifer Nathalie Pyka in Juedische Allgemeine, Germany’s leading Jewish weekly.
Exploiting the Holocaust has become all too acceptable in Canada
March 19, 2013
By Tema Smith
In a 2011 lecture delivered to the National Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, Professor Michael Marrus, one of Canada’s foremost experts on the history of the Holocaust, made a statement that could be interpreted as a caution: “However the Holocaust is remembered . . . there is nothing more important than that memory be consistent with the truth about the Holocaust . . . its course, its character and its place in the history of its time.”
As Canada assumes the chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance this month, Mr. Marrus’s admonition takes on an increasingly urgent tone. This high-profile international role comes at the same time that the face of Holocaust education and remembrance is undergoing a critical transition as it moves away from reliance on first-person testimony as the generation of survivors passes away.
Of course, the memory of the past can help us to better our future. However, in today’s Canada, the exploitation of the Holocaust has become all too acceptable, as we see various people and groups taking it up as a foil for unrelated political ends.
In too many instances, the Holocaust is used, in media and politics, to deliver a message about the present time: That our enemies are out there, and that it is our duty as Canadians to be on guard at home and abroad for threats to our way of living. These purported threats that come in many forms: the erosion of Canadian values through imported religious traditions, the targeting of our troops in Afghanistan, the increasingly sophisticated methods of international terrorist recruitment, and the delegitimization of the state of Israel and the prospect of military action against it.
Pope Francis I Speaks on Holocaust, Israel and Jews in Only Book
Remarkably, almost no attention has been paid to the fact that the only book written by the Pope currently in print is a dialogue in Spanish between the then-cardinal Bergoglio and a rabbi.
March 17, 2013
By Alan Brill and Ronnie Perelis
“Sobre El Cielo Y La Tierra (Regarding Heaven and Earth)” is structured as a transcript of a conversation between then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, the rector of the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano.
The sweeping book skips quickly from discussions of God, fundamentalism, sin, homosexuality, capitalism, money, the poor and many other topics. The future pontiff addresses the role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust, Argentina’s so-called dirty war and the Mideast conflict in an unscripted, eye-opening way that couldn’t be further from the carefully crafted messages that usually emerge from the Vatican
The most intriguing aspect for Jews may be that the first words the world may read by the new leader of the 1.2-billion member church is a constructive conversation with a rabbi, in which both men encourages interfaith amity. The Pope also shows his familiarity with Judaism and Jewish authors, especially the works of Abraham Joshua Heschel.
The cardinal takes pains to discuss the Holocaust and its impact on the Catholic church in great detail. Bergoglio says that the great question we must all ask about the Holocaust is not “Where was God? But where was man?”
“The great powers just washed their hands — they knew much more than they said they did,” Francis says.
Universalizing the tragic period, the Cardinal declares: “The shoah is a genocide like the other genocides of the 20th century.” But at the same time he acknowledges that “There is something special about an idolatrous construction against the Jewish people.”
The cardinal says Nazism hold a special place in the annals of totalitarianism because of its emphasis on racial purity and its placement of race on a higher plane than the divinity.
“The ideals of a pure race are the idols upon which the Nazis formed themselves … Every Jew that was killed is a strike against the living God in the name of the idols,” he says. “The devil was present in the idols which eased the human conscience.”
When Skorka asks the cardinal about the church during the Holocaust years, the cardinal praises the activities of Pius XI who wrote an encyclical on the eve of the war against racism and anti-Semitism.
Francis is more circumspect about Pius XII, the Nazi-era pope whom some have criticized for failing to take a strong enough stand against the Holocaust. The cardinal reminds readers that Pope Pius XII was praised by Golda Meir and notes the mixed feelings many Jews and Catholics alike have to this day.
“The Church did not say everything that they could have said,” Francis acknowledges. But he then backtracks by offering a defense of the pontiff: “Others say, ‘They could not say more.”
The cardinal agrees wholeheartedly with the need to open up the church’s archives of the wartime years and unequivocally stresses the importance of clarifying the historical record. If Pope Francis follows up on his clearly stated desire, it may help Jewish organizations push for a speedy opening of the Vatican archives, which some have resisted up to now.
“Opening the archives of the Shoah seems reasonable,” the future pope says. “Let them be opened and let everything be cleared up. Let it be seen if they could have done something [to help] and until what point they could have helped. If they made a mistake in any aspect of this we would have to say, ‘We have erred.’ We don’t have to be scared of this- the truth has to be the goal.”
Film urges Romanians to acknowledge Holocaust role
March 17, 2013
By Agence France-Presse
Director Florin Iepan says his new documentary on the execution of thousands of Jews in Odessa, Ukraine -- one of the worst World War II massacres -- is a plea for his fellow Romanians to acknowledge their role in the Holocaust.
"Odessa", a 55-minute documentary, "is a protest against the authorities' lack of reaction to this episode... probably the grimmest in Romania's history," Iepan told the audience after the film's premiere this week in Bucharest during the One World Romania documentary festival.
"We live in a vulnerable society. Intolerance, hatred or xenophobia can still flare up" unless Romanians assume their past, he told AFP.
Alternating poignant accounts and ironic comments, the documentary puts under the spotlight the 1941 massacre of 22,500 Ukrainian Jews by Romanian troops, in retaliation for the blowing up of the Romanian army's headquarters in Odessa.
Around 100 Romanian and Soviet soldiers were killed in the blast, which pro-Nazi marshal Ion Antonescu blamed on the Jewish community.
On October 23, 1941, thousands of Jewish civilians -- men, women and children -- were driven into a dozen warehouses on the outskirts of Odessa and burnt alive.
Those who managed to escape were gunned down.
"I recall the thousands of women marching in column, in deep silence," towards their death, said a Romanian witness, aged seven at the time.
He added it was only much later that he realised "where that persistent stench of burnt flesh came from."
Passed over by Romanian textbooks, this tragic episode prompted Iepan to embark on a long journey trying to raise awareness about the horrors of the Holocaust.
Being a Jew under Chávez
March 14, 2013
By Ayelet Ben Naim
…Chávez's many anti-Jewish statements in the media, like calling Jews pigs, denying the Holocaust and accusing Israel of genocide against the Palestinians, contributed to an atmosphere of anti-Semitism that grew worse year by year. Suddenly it became frightening to walk down the street after dark, for fear of being harassed. Our synagogues and Jewish community buildings were spray-painted with swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans and there was a feeling that Chávez was egging on the populace and speaking the "people's language" against the Jews.
He was always quick to say that Venezuela's large businesses are controlled by Jews "stealing the nation's money," and we felt the results directly in our bottom lines. Everyone in the Jewish community felt their financial situation decline over time. I particularly remember the closing of a large Jewish-owned shopping mall in Caracas. Chávez decided to nationalize the property for the benefit of the state. Because many of the mall's shop owners were Jewish, we felt that the motive was anti-Semitism, pure and simple.
The Jewish community did not merely suffer from economic harassment. Government operatives would frequently follow children from rich Jewish families in order to kidnap them and demand ransom. In other instances, after Chávez had gained control of the police and the army, the defense forces would occasionally place a closure on the Jewish community schools, with the children inside and their parents unable to gain access to them. The pretext was that the Jews had hidden weapons inside and that searches had to be conducted to confiscate them.
Göring's List: Should Israel Honor a Leading Nazi's Brother?
Leading Nazi Hermann Göring was instrumental to Hitler's reign of terror, but research suggests his brother Albert saved the lives of dozens of Jews. Israel must now decide whether he deserves to be honored as one of the "Righteous Among the Nations."
March 9, 2013
By Gerhard Sporl
…His name was Albert Göring. He was the younger brother of leading Nazi Hermann Göring, the second-in-command after Adolf Hitler. Hermann Göring commanded the air war against England and prepared Germany's industry and economy for a war that he wanted as much as Hitler did. In 1941, he gave the order to "make all necessary preparations for a final solution of the Jewish question in Europe." Hermann Göring also played a major role in the rise of the Nazis.
Albert Göring was the opposite of his brother. He hated the Nazis, and he said early on that Hitler would mean war and ruin. He didn't join the Nazi Party, and he despised his brother for bowing to Hitler. He distanced himself from Germany, first going to Austria, where he took Austrian citizenship. After the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany, he moved to Prague, and from there to Budapest and Bucharest. Wherever he went, he helped those in desperate need, both before and during the war.
On the few occasions that the Göring brothers saw each other in the 12 years between the Nazi takeover and Germany's surrender to the Allies, it was at family gatherings. But Albert needed Hermann, and he also used him. He would have been lost without his brother. Without his support, the Gestapo -- which knew exactly what Albert Göring was doing and with whom he associated -- would have arrested and executed him…
…It is difficult to say how many people he saved, Jews and non-Jews. He probably didn't know himself, because he didn't know all the people he helped. He retrieved some from concentration camps and helped others escape abroad. He set up bank accounts for them in Switzerland so that they could survive while in exile. He gave money to members of the resistance, and he looked the other way when they committed sabotage or stole weapons for their illegal struggle at the weapons factory where he held a high-ranking position.
In Knesset, setting the record straight on a defamed Holocaust hero
MK Merav Michaeli, in her maiden speech to the Knesset, made a bold statement about her lineage, thus redeeming the legacy of her grandfather Rudolf Kastner.
March 6, 2013
By Dan Laor
Israel society traveled a long and bumpy road until the moment MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) stood erect, her head held high, on the Knesset podium and introduced herself to her fellow Knesset members and the public as the granddaughter of Dr. Yisrael Kastner.
In the State of Israel’s early years, everyone looked up to “the fighters and the rebels.” They were the ones identified with heroism during the Holocaust, to be set apart from the masses of Jews who allowed themselves to be passively herded to their deaths. Most of all, these rebels were to be distinguished from the members of the notorious Judenrat, the Jewish leadership that was compelled to cooperate with the occupying Nazi forces.
All of this was distilled in the Kastner affair. Israel Kastner, who lobbied in Budapest and other places to save Jews – successfully rescuing thousands from their deaths – was condemned as a criminal and a traitor. Judge Benjamin Halevy wrote in his historic verdict in the Kastner-Malchiel Gruenwald trial, in which Kastner was bizarrely transformed from a witness to a defendant: “Kastner sold his soul to the devil.” Although the verdict was several hundred pages long, that one sentence was the bottom line. And while Levy wrote the verdict on his own, his statement expressed the feelings of many.
The person held up as a role model at that time was Hannah Szenes, who had been arrested on the Hungarian border shortly after she crossed it illegally, without having had the opportunity to save even one Jew. Hannah Szenes surely was and is worthy of admiration, but the special treatment she was given, at the expense of others, shows how distorted Israeli thinking was at the time. Hannah Szenes became the standard by with Yisrael Kastner was measured, and held up to that ruler, he was found wanting. That mindset was expressed in the trial itself during the testimony of Catherine Szenes, Hannah's mother, and even more so in Judge Halevy's ruling.
The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking
March 1, 2013
By Eric Lichtblau
THIRTEEN years ago, researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began the grim task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe.
What they have found so far has shocked even scholars steeped in the history of the Holocaust.
The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945.
The figure is so staggering that even fellow Holocaust scholars had to make sure they had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings at an academic forum in late January at the German Historical Institute in Washington.
Inspirational French writer Stephane Hessel dies at 95
February 28, 2013
Stephane Hessel, the former French Resistance fighter whose 2010 manifesto Time for Outrage inspired social protesters, has died aged 95. Hessel died overnight, his wife Christiane Hessel-Chabry told France's AFP news agency in Paris. A German by birth, he was imprisoned in Nazi camps during World War II for his activities in France.
In Time for Outrage, he called for a new form of "resistance" to the injustices of the modern world.He expressed outrage at the growing gap between haves and have-nots, France's treatment of illegal immigrants and damage to the environment.
The Indignados protest movement in Spain was inspired by Hessel's manifesto, according to Spanish media.
The 95-year-old's name was the top trending term on Twitter in Spain and France on Wednesday morning, as admirers paid tribute with quotes such as: "To create is to resist, to resist is to create."
…A naturalised French citizen from 1939, Hessel became a prominent Resistance figure, says French news agency AFP. He was arrested by the Gestapo and later sent to the Buchenwald and Dora concentration camps.
After surviving the war, Hessel worked as a French diplomat at the UN, where he was involved in compiling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Warsaw Jewish community takes ownership of 18th century cemetery
As part of the transfer, the city of Warsaw will provide funds to renovate the cemetery, which has been targeted by vandals in recent years.
February 28, 2013
By Roman Frister
WARSAW – Ownership of an 18th century Jewish cemetery is being transferred to the Warsaw Jewish community this week. In exchange, the community will yield rights to a plot of land no longer accessible due to the residential buildings and roads built on it.
The city will also pay the Jewish community 15 million zlotys (around NIS 12 million) as part of the deal, part of which will be used to renovate the cemetery, which has been targeted by vandals several times in recent years.
Hundreds of tombstones have been broken or stolen to be used for construction and hundreds more were thrown into the nearby Vistula River. Recently several stones were fished out of the water and preserved. No suspects in these incidents were ever arrested.
Because of the security problems, the municipality was interested in giving up responsibility for the graveyard but the Jewish community hesitated to absorb the cost and effort of maintaining it. When funding was offered, however, it agreed to do so.
The 325-acre cemetery, located in the Brudno neighborhood on the eastern side of the Vistula, far from downtown, was founded by financier Shmuel Zbytkower in 1780. It was used, along with the larger, main cemetery, until World War II. When Warsaw was liberated from the Nazis, the communist regime turned the area into a resort.
Rebels Stand Alone
February 26, 2013
By Chris Hedges
...Although history has vindicated resistance groups such as the White Rose and plotters such as von dem Bussche, they were desperately alone, reviled by the wider public and forced to defy the law, their oaths of national allegiance, and public opinion. The resisters, once exposed, were condemned in vitriolic terms by most of the German public, and their lopsided trials were state-choreographed lynchings. Von dem Bussche said that even after the war he was spat upon as he walked down a city street. He and those like him who made a moral choice to physically defy evil teach us something extremely important about rebellion. It is, when it begins, not safe, comfortable or popular. Those rare individuals who have the moral and physical courage to resist must accept that they will be pariahs. They must live outside the law. And they must be prepared to be condemned. –
“Somebody, after all, had to make a start,” one of the White Rose members, Sophie Scholl, said on Feb. 21, 1943, at her trial in a Nazi court. “What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.”
Von dem Bussche, who died in 1993, took part as a 20-year-old lieutenant in the invasions of Belgium, Luxembourg, France—where a French sniper blasted off his right thumb and he was shot through the shoulder—and Poland. He was stationed after the invasion of Poland in the town of Dubno in the western Ukraine. His military unit was ordered to secure an abandoned air base, and the young officer watched as the SS took some 2,000 Jews into the airfield.
“The Jews were trucked in from the surrounding countryside, stripped and forced by the black-uniformed officers toward long, deep trenches,” von dem Bussche told me when I interviewed him. “They were shot in their heads by an SS officer with a machine pistol and then the next row was made to lie down and shot in their heads. It is not an easy memory to live with, especially as I considered myself, as an officer of the German army, to be an accessory to these murders.”
It was then that he decided to defy Hitler. But it would only be in 1943, when it was clear that the Germans were losing the war, that he and a small group of other officers led by Col. Claus von Stauffenberg began to plot to assassinate Hitler. The conspirators did not defy the Nazi regime on behalf of the Jews, von dem Bussche conceded, but to save the country from defeat, dismemberment and catastrophe.
Poland memorial to shed light on Warsaw Ghetto during Nazi occupation
A unique memorial is in the works dedicated to the archive of Polish-Jewish historian Emanuel Ringelblum, which includes 30,000 documents about life and death in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation.
February 19, 2013
By Roman Frister
A unique memorial is in the works dedicated to the archive of Polish-Jewish historian Emanuel Ringelblum, which includes 30,000 documents about life and death in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation.
Work has recently begun on the memorial, which will consist of an underground concrete pit, dug two meters deep, that is meant to symbolize the cellar where Ringelblum and others collected and hid wartime documents. A copy of each of the documents will be showcased in a glass vitrine placed within the concrete pit.
The memorial is being built on Nowolipki Street in Warsaw, where the rare collection – which was added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in 1999 – was hidden in 1942 and 1943. The collection is safeguarded at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, which makes it accessible to researchers.
Polish artists conceived the idea and the design for the memorial and also helped raise funds for the project, for which they have waived payment (they are, however, retaining copyrights for the work).
Ringeblum, a doctor of philosophy and activist in the Marxist Zionist Jewish workers movement Poalei Zion, was born in 1900. He was prominent in shaping the Jewish intelligentsia in Poliand and also worked with international Jewish institutions. When World War II broke out, he was attending a Zionist meeting in Switzerland, but he returned to his home in Warsaw, via Italy and Hungary, even after the Nazis invaded Poland.
The ever-changing face of Holocaust studies
The road to Ruin
February 18, 2013
By David Cesarini
At meetings across the country on Holocaust Memorial Day, worthies intoned the “lessons of the Holocaust” and warned that we must “learn from the past”. But ask most historians and they will blanche at the thought of anything as static or as simple as “lessons”. Over the past five decades, “Holocaust studies” have altered almost beyond recognition and explanations for what occurred have changed significantly.
In the 1950s, most people regarded the Third Reich as a criminal regime that had been run by crazed sadists. Nazi anti-Semitism, it was thought, had been a device to distract the masses. And it was widely believed that few Germans or inhabitants of conquered countries had sympathised with the assault on the Jews. As for the Jews themselves, they had gone to the gas chambers like lambs to the slaughter.
This narrative was both a legacy of the Nuremberg trials and a convenient fiction used to justify Cold War alliances and enmities. At Nuremberg, the surviving “top Nazis” took the fall for the crimes of the regime. Former Axis powers or belligerents now within the Nato fold were presented as having been unwilling or unwitting accomplices of the Nazis.
The first crack in this facade came with the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961- 62. The Israeli authorities orchestrated the hearings to present every dimension of Jewish life under Nazi rule, with the emphasis on forms of resistance. They arranged for Nazi collaboration to be exposed, while “bystanders”, particularly the Allied powers and the Vatican, were shamed by evidence of their inaction.
However, the impact of the trial was shaped most decisively by the reporting of Hannah Arendt, who wrote about it for the New Yorker. She saw in Eichmann a living vindication of her earlier analysis of totalitarianism. His unthinking obedience was the reflex of totalitarian man, the “banality of evil”. Arendt’s (erroneous) description of Eichmann’s character irritated historians who detected rather more ideology and animosity in his conduct. And she provoked outrage with her claim that the Jewish leadership had colluded in their own destruction.
What the Dead Have To Say to Us
Yale’s pioneering archive of Shoah testimonies reshaped the way tragedies are remembered. But are we listening?
February 11, 2013
By Geoffrey Hartman
…Most Holocaust research immediately after the liberation of the concentration camps centered on the perpetrators: to identify, find, and prosecute them; also to help historians trace the evolution of the Shoah. But the survivors who played an essential role in providing this evidence were seldom asked about their present lives or concerns relevant to rebuilding families and communities. The one major exception was David Boder, a psychology professor who interviewed in 1946 over 100 Jewish and non-Jewish survivors in European displaced-persons camps. His work, however, remained largely unknown because he published only eight translated excerpts of his interviews in 1949 with the title I Did Not Interview the Dead. In 1961, the Eichmann trial brought the personal experiences of survivors to the fore. Radio-broadcast in its entirety, with over 100 witnesses testifying, the interviews allow the survivors’ distinctive voices and personalities to break through. They were viewed as individuals again, rescued, as Haim Gouri remarked in his account of the trial, Facing the Glass Booth, “from the danger of … being perceived as all alike, all shrouded in the same immense anonymity.”
The Fortunoff Archive recast Holocaust survivor testimony as an extra-juridical genre—an oral and populist form of expression that opened the way for survivors or other eyewitnesses to tell what they knew. In doing so, the archive and its dedicated collaborators have done more than contribute to Holocaust studies. They also helped to expand the concept and appreciation of oral history, of memory and trauma studies, and what has recently been named “media witnessing.”
Jewish cemetery desecrated in Tunisia, in second such incident in fortnight
Ten graves are desecrated less than two weeks after more than 68 graves were ransacked and looted, according to local media.
February 8, 2013
Photo by Reuters
On February 4, unidentified individuals smashed and overturned ten gravestones in Kef in Western Tunisia, according to the Tunisia News Network.
An earlier incident in the coastal Tunisian town of Sousse left more than 68 Jewish graves ransacked and looted on January 23, according to the Tunisian Shems FM radio station.
The last Jew left Kef in 1984, according to Dreuz.info, a French new site. It quoted Yves Kamhi, a Jewish lawyer, as saying some human skeletons were found outside their graves.
Some 1,700 Jews live in Tunisia, according to the European Jewish Congress. They numbered 100,000 in 1948.
For Iran, the Holocaust is just another tragedy - if it ever happened
Iran apologists contend that the Iranian regime behaves rationally and is therefore a fitting partner for nuclear negotiations. But there is nothing rational in Teheran's constant embrace of virulent anti-Semitism and outright Holocaust denial.
February 7, 2013
By James Kirchick
On Monday, I invited Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to visit Berlin's Holocaust Memorial. Salehi was addressing a packed audience at the German Council on Foreign Relations, delivering a peculiarly titled speech, "Iran's Role in Regional Peace and Balance of Power." Peculiar, because it is Iran which is supplying weapons, soldiers, and tactical support to Syrian President Bashar Assad (whose regime has murdered upwards of 60,000 people over the past two years) and because it is Iran which arms the terrorist organizations Hezbollah and Hamas that destabilize Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, respectively. "Your president is a Holocaust denier," I said, "and your government has hosted a Holocaust denial conference." In light of these facts, I asked, would Salehi be willing to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to see the memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in downtown Berlin? "Any holocaust is a human tragedy," the MIT-educated Salehi answered. "Are there more than one?" moderator Sylke Tempel, editor of the German magazine Internationale Politik, asked incredulously. "Well, it's up to you to find out," Salehi replied. When Tempel pressed Salehi to stop "evading the question" and answer if he would visit the memorial and "acknowledge that there was a mass murder of Jews in Europe," Salehi merely reiterated his pat line about "any holocaust" being a "tragedy." Salehi was no doubt aware that denying the Holocaust is a crime in Germany, which is why he probably chose obfuscation over an outright endorsement of his president's views. While Salehi is protected by diplomatic immunity, he wanted to avoid causing controversy and bringing further embarrassment upon his country. Yet while stopping short of denying the Holocaust in the country which perpetrated it, Salehi trivialized its unique horror through relativization, conceding that if something did in fact happen to European Jews 70 years ago it was no worse than any tragedy that has befallen anyone else.
‘Unprecedented’ Holocaust tribute by French imams
In the first such event in France, some 30 French Imams visited the Holocaust Memorial at Drancy near Paris on Monday. The visit comes at a time of high tension between France’s Muslim and Jewish communities
February 5, 2013
By Tony Todd
Some 30 French Imams on Monday visited the Holocaust Memorial at Drancy near Paris in an effort to improve Islam’s image to a sceptical French public.
The visit was unprecedented and comes at a time of high tensions towards the country’s large Muslim community following the killing in March 2012 of seven people, including three Jewish children, by French Islamist militant Mohamed Merah.
An IPSOS poll for respected daily Le Monde in January had 74% of respondents saying the Muslim faith was not compatible with the values of the French Republic.
“At a time of growing racism and fear of Islam in France, we are saying ‘no, it is possible for us all to live together’,” said Hassen Chalghoumi, who is imam for Drancy and France’s first leading Muslim figure to call for reconciliation between religions.
“Today, we are demonstrating that Islam in France is not necessarily subject to foreign influence or interference,” he added. “Most French Muslims aren’t fanatics. We represent an Islam that values human life; that rejects fundamentalism, racism and barbarity.”
‘Imam for the Jews’
Chalghoumi, labelled France’s “Imam for the Jews” by his detractors, is head of the Conference of Imams in France, an unofficial organisation that is not recognised by the state-created French Council of the Muslim Faith.
He caused controversy in 2010 in supporting then-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s law banning Islamic veils that cover the entire face.
Germany marks 80th anniversary of Hitler's rise to power
Once Hitler became chancellor, the road to dictatorship was short
January 30, 2013
By Karen Pauls
Germans are marking the 80th anniversary of the rise of Adolf Hitler with a look back, a vow never to forget and a commitment to protect democracy in the future.
It was on Jan. 30, 1933, amid great political instability, that Hitler was appointed chancellor by then president Paul von Hindenburg.
The very next day, Hitler withdrew his Nazi party from the coalition government and asked the president to dissolve the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament.
"Now it will be easy," propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary. "Radio and press are at our disposal. We shall stage a masterpiece of propaganda."
In her weekly podcast, current Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany must continue to take responsibility for the crimes committed by the Nazis.
"Naturally, we have an everlasting responsibility for the crimes of national-socialism, for the victims of World War II, and above all, for the Holocaust," she said as the world marked International Holocaust Memorial Day on Jan. 27. That’s the date in 1945 when the Soviet army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp in then occupied Poland.
Italy police nab extremists planning to rape Jew
Right wing extremists are suspected of inciting racist hatred, planning to beat and rape a Jewish student in Naples.
January 28, 2013
ROME – Italian police arrested on Thursday right-wing extremists in several cities on charges of inciting anti-Semitic and anti-foreign hatred and violence and planning to rape a Jewish student.
About 10 people, all between the ages of 21 and 33, were arrested on January 24 in dawn raids in Naples, Salerno and Latina, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.
According to the Italian media, surveillance tapes of meetings captured “anti-semitic phrases and speeches full of racist hatred.”
One recording caught a speaker proposing “to beat and rape a student whose only ‘guilt’ is to be Jewish,” stated the news site leggo.it.
"They were systematically indoctrinating young militants to hate foreigners and Jews at meetings in which, among other things, they discussed Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf," the site quoted Naples Assistant Prosecutor Rosario Cantelmo as saying.
Jewish Film Broadcast into Iran on Eve of Holocaust Memorial Day
For first time ever, Simon Wiesenthal Center's Academy Award-winning Holocaust documentary has been broadcast to Iran with Farsi subtitles
January 27, 2013
By Rachel Hirshfeld
For the first time in history, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Academy Award-winning Holocaust documentary has been broadcast to Iran with Farsi subtitles.
“Genocide,” a Holocaust film that won the best documentary feature Oscar in 1982, aired on Iran’s NTV Simay Azadi on Friday, as well as on satellite broadcasts and streaming online.
Also known as “Nasl Keshi” in Farsi, the sobering film, narrated by Elizabeth Taylor and Orson Welles, was aired in an effort to combat the rampant Holocaust denial emanating from the Iranian regime.
The Wiesenthal Center, one of the leading global Jewish human rights organizations, coordinated the showing to coincide with International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27.
The film juxtaposes a unique combination of actual accounts told by Holocaust survivors along the backdrop of footage captured by Nazi cameras.
Europe losing its memory
Op-ed: Day of remembrance highly disconnected from what European societies really feel about Holocaust
January 27, 2013
By Riccardo Dugulin
It is becoming a habit to mark January 27 as the international day dedicated to the six million innocent victims of the Holocaust. European cities and capitals annually host a series of events meant to highlight the remembrance of the terrible crimes that took place between 1939 and 1945. One day, just one day appears to be sufficient for the younger generations to feel no longer concerned by the darkest hour of European History.
Moreover, one day seems to be enough for European politicians paying a visit to museums and remembrance sites as it comforts them in the socially accepted idea that those who perpetrated these massacres were alien to the overall mentality of their respective societies. At the same time, one day is certainly more than any teacher or professor will spend in high schools presenting his students with what really happened throughout those six years during which a continent’s social fabric rotted in front of a murderous surge of hatred.
his day of remembrance appears to be highly disconnected from what European societies really feel in regard to the Shoah. Some 90% Polish Jews exterminated; 95% Belarusian Jews exterminated; French assimilated Jewish children marked with a yellow Star of David and sent to the death camps by French officials; the Romanian death trains and the ultimate horrors of Auschwitz and Buchenwald are all facts that are today considered as an intangible past. This situation is not always the direct fault of uninterested or self-blinded citizens, as politicians play a major part in downplaying the role the Shoah needs to have in European societies.
As an example, France has sanctified the concept of “resistant” setting into stone the official discourse, which erases all responsibility of French citizens for the deportation of thousands of innocent Jews to the eastern killing centers. While the Raffle du Vel’d’Hiv’ has been a complete French initiative operated by French officials, it is highly unlikely that any representative of the Republic will address this issue on January 27, preferring to emphasize the role played by the small portion of the population which stood up to fight against the maddening reign of terror which overtook the European psyche in those years.
War Crimes: How Nazis Escaped Justice in South America
After World War II, dozens of Nazi criminals went into hiding in South America. A new study reveals how a 'coalition of the unwilling' on both sides of the Atlantic successfully stymied efforts to hunt and prosecute these criminals for decades.
January 27, 2013
By Felix Bohr
All it took was a transposed number -- 1974 instead of 1947 -- for Gustav Wagner to be allowed to stay in Brazil. It was a mere slip of the pen by the man who had translated the German document into Portuguese that prompted Brazil's supreme court to deny West Germany's request to extradite the former SS officer. And yet Wagner stood accused of complicity in the murders of 152,000 Jews at the Sobibor extermination camp in German-occupied Poland.
Josef Mengele, the notorious concentration camp doctor at Auschwitz, also benefited from mistakes and delays because French officials with Interpol, the international police force then headquartered in Paris, refused to conduct international searches for Nazi war criminals. And, in the case of SS Colonel Walther Rauff, who helped developed mobile gas chambers used to kill Jews, it was an official with the German Foreign Ministry who sabotaged his own government's extradition request to Chile for 14 months.
As a result of these breakdowns, all three of these Nazi thugs were never tried in German courts after the war. Wagner, the "beast" of Sobibor, died in São Paulo, Mengele drowned in Brazil, and Rauff died of a heart attack in Chile. Of the hundreds of guilty Nazi officials and mass murderers who had fled to South America after the surrender of Nazi Germany, only a handful of them were ever held to account.
How could so many criminals manage to go unpunished, even though they were clearly guilty? It's a conundrum that mystifies academics to this day. Was it because of the lack of cooperation by West German officials? The lack of interest on the part of South America regimes? Were there even secret ties and collaboration between Nazis on both sides of the Atlantic?
Historian Daniel Stahl has conducted research in European and South American archives in the process of writing a new book entitled "Nazi Hunt: South America's Dictatorships and the Avenging of Nazi Crimes." The work supplies a certain and disgraceful answer to what has long been suspected: that there was a broad coalition of people -- across continents and within the courts, police, governments and administrations -- that was unwilling to act or even thwarted the prosecution of Nazi criminals for decades.
Opera on Nazi Crimes Against Disabled Youth Premieres in Vienna
An opera about Nazi atrocities against handicapped children had its world premiere in Vienna on Friday.
January 27, 2013
By Rachel Hirshfeld
Austrian lawmakers gathered Friday to watch the premiere of an opera depicting how Nazis systematically tortured and killed mentally or physically handicapped children at a hospital in Vienna after Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II.
"Spiegelgrund" by contemporary Austrian composer Hannes Androsch, was performed at the Austrian parliament. The composer has dedicated the work to his great-grandfather, who died in a Nazi concentration camp.
The opera details the atrocities at the Am Spiegelgrund clinic in Vienna between 1938 and 1945, where thousands of frail children, mostly Jewish, were murdered as part of the Third Reich's "euthanasia" program designed to rid society of people deemed unfit to live.
"It is the duty of each generation to confront the tragedy of the Holocaust," said the 50-year-old composer, according to AFP.
In the opera, Androsch wanted to trace the continuing horror of atrocities against children from antiquity to Nazism.
His work includes descriptions by Plutarch of the draconian treatment of children in the Greek state of Sparta, and traditional children's songs evoking the mistreatment and the memories of those who survived the Vienna hospital, AFP reported.
The opera was unveiled as the world prepared to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday, January 27, the date in 1945 when the Soviet army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp in then-occupied Poland.
If a ghetto is liquidated and no one lives to remember it, can it be memorialized?
The new online Hebrew version of a special encyclopedia tries to tell the story of the 1,200 Jewish ghettos during the Holocaust.
January 27, 2013
By Ofer Aderet
…As part of International Holocaust Remembrance Day today, Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research is unveiling its online Encyclopedia of the Ghettos. The encyclopedia, six years in the making, provides the first Hebrew account of 1,200 ghettos during the Holocaust.
The vast majority were small ghettos whose names are little known. Prof. Dan Michman, head of Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research, says the encyclopedia changes our understanding of the concept of a ghetto. “The Nazi ghetto should not be seen as one uniform phenomenon,” he wrote when discussing the new encyclopedia. “The word ghetto, which originated in the early modern period, changed in the period when it was used by the heads of anti-Jewish states” during the Holocaust.
…The online encyclopedia is the product of research done with the support of the Claims Conference - the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Parts of the work were published a few years ago in the English version of the encyclopedia, edited by Prof. Guy Miron. The Hebrew edition is an updated version. Yad Vashem is releasing the Hebrew encyclopedia online; an English version will also be released in print. “This is a genuine leap to a new level,” says Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. “The use of the Internet is designed to make more accessible this huge bank of information, one that provides a fascinating portrait of the lives and deaths of Jews during the Holocaust.” Shalev hopes the Encyclopedia of the Ghettos will be an important resource for Holocaust researchers, while attracting general readers, including young people. As Prais puts it, “This is the last living testimony from small communities, one that we are bringing back from oblivion.”
Watchdog decries ‘anti-Semitic whirlwind’ on Mexican Twitter
'The hashtag #EsdeJudios exposes the antisemitisim of Mexican Tweeter surfers,' says a statement by the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism
January 25, 2013
A Spanish phrase about Jews set off “a whirlwind of anti-Semitic” messages on Twitter and became the second-most popular hashtag among Mexican users, according to a watchdog.
“The hashtag #EsdeJudios exposes the antisemitisim of Mexican Tweeter surfers,” said a statement by the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism.
The international organization said the phrase, which means “just like Jews,” was second-most popular in Mexico on Jan. 18.
The Forum documented Holocaust jokes on Twitter feeds from Mexico and elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world. One of them, by a user identified as Erik Negrete Ozuna, said the difference between Jews and pizzas was that the latter don’t scream in the oven.
“There appeared again the ovens, the soaps and the ashes,” the statement by the Forum read, “but there were also classical antisemitic labels: stingy usurers for example, and references to Israel as an occupying force.’
Nahui Ollin, another Twitter user, attached the hashtag #JustlikeJews to a tweet reading “making films about the evil Nazis and shooting down Palestinians to steal their land."
On Friday, the hashtag's frequency was between five and ten times an hour and some of the tweets condemned anti-Semitism or were pro-Jewish and pro-Israel.
Separately, a Jan. 24 French court order required the micro-blogging platform to divulge details about users who violate French law by spreading hate speech.
The Union of French Jewish Students filed the lawsuit after anti-Semitic jokes and statements proliferated among French Twitter users under the hashtag #unbonjuif (“a good Jew”).
Report: Dramatic rise in convictions of Nazi war criminals
2012 marked a fivefold increase in the number convicted worldwide to a total of ten, nine of which were in Italy
January 25, 2013
By Ofer Aderet
The number of Nazi war criminals convicted in the past year increased fivefold to a total of ten, according to a report by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which follows related investigations and prosecutions worldwide.
The release of the report, authored by Nazi Hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff, covering the period between April 1, 2011 and March 31st, 2012, coincides with the upcoming International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which will be held on Sunday.
Italy convicted nine Nazi war criminals, while Germany convicted one, raising the total number of convicted Nazis in the world to 99 since 2001. Seven countries handed down convictions since 2001 with Italy leading the pack at 45, followed by the U.S. at 39
Additionally, in 2012, six suspects were indicted for alleged Nazi-related war crimes: five in Italy and one in Spain. 63 investigations were opened; 45 in Germany, 9 in Austria, 6 in the U.S., and the remainder in Argentina, Hungary, Italy, and Canada.
At least 1138 investigations are ongoing against suspected Nazi war criminals. The majority, 528, are in Germany. Poland follows with 458 investigations and then the U.S. with 74.
SPIEGEL Debate: What Is Anti-Semitism?
Just how strongly are Germans allowed to criticize Israel? Accusations of anti-Semitism against SPIEGEL columnist Jakob Augstein have brought the question to the fore. He debates the issue with Dieter Graumann, the leader of Germany's Jewish community.
January 19, 2013
Since the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center placed German journalist Jakob Augstein, 45, on its list of the world's top 10 anti-Semites, Germany has been embroiled in controversy over his columns for SPIEGEL ONLINE. Augstein, publisher of the Berlin-based weekly magazine Der Freitag and a prominent shareholder of the SPIEGEL publishing house, has attacked Israeli policies on a number of occasions. Dieter Graumann, 62, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, voices criticism of Augstein's articles and engages in a debate with him on the sensitive issue.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Augstein, are you an anti-Semite?
SPIEGEL: Mr. Graumann, do you think Jakob Augstein is an anti-Semite?
Graumann: No. To make it clear right from the start, he doesn't belong on the list of top 10 anti-Semites that was recently compiled by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. But I find his column entries despicable and repugnant. He is recklessly fueling anti-Jewish sentiment.
Augstein: That is a serious allegation. What makes you say that?
SPIEGEL: Is there a litmus test for anti-Semitism? Henryk Broder, a former SPIEGEL journalist who is now a regular columnist for the conservative daily Die Welt, summed it up as follows: From now on, I determine what constitutes an anti-Semite. Broder, whose expertise played a role in the Wiesenthal Center's rating ...
Graumann: ... is a gifted polemicist. He has also sharply criticized me on occasion. I survived -- and I still think highly of him.
Augstein: I can't take this quite so lightly. Broder wrote that I could have made my career with the Gestapo and been of service on the ramp (a reference to loading Jews onto rail cars headed for concentration camps). Is that what you mean when you say that he is a gifted polemicist?
SPIEGEL: Let's get back to the definition of anti-Semitism.
Graumann: Anyone who senses a pervasive, worldwide Jewish conspiracy or who holds "the Jews" responsible for all bad things that transpire among nations. Anyone who denies Israel's right to exist, demonizes it or is prepared to accept its annihilation. Anyone who makes plump comparisons with Nazis to condemn Israeli policies.
Augstein: I agree with that definition. Indeed, you have also defined who is not an anti-Semite, namely anyone who views Israel like any other state and criticizes it when its government violates international law. In other words, anyone who does not apply a double standard to Israel. And I would say that this definition applies to me.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Graumann, is this type of normality desirable?
Graumann: If it were as Mr. Augstein describes it -- but that is unfortunately not the case. He absolutely does not treat Israel like any other state. He conveys an image of Israel that is simplistic and distorted. In fact, he conveys -- and I find this particularly pernicious -- anti-Jewish clichés. If I were to rate the cold contempt with which he treats Israel on a scale from 1 to 10, I would give him a solid 13.
For first time, rare Warsaw Ghetto Uprising diaries unveiled
In one diary, a 37-year-old lawyer described ghetto life and the fight against the Nazis; second diary by an anonymous woman, previously read only by researchers; ceremony attended by President Peres, 70 years after the uprising
January 17, 2013
By Ofer Aderet
Warsaw Ghetto 1944 Photo courtesy Reuters
A rare journal written by an unknown Jew in the Warsaw Ghetto during the uprising there was unveiled Thursday morning at a ceremony at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum in the presence of President Shimon Peres. In the diary, the writer, a 37-year-old Jewish lawyer, describes life in the ghetto, the Jewish underground fighters who were active there and his march to deportation.
The journal is 38 pages long and written in Polish. It was also released Thursday on the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum website, 70 years after the first phase of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – “The January Revolt” – which constituted the start of the resistance to the Nazi regime. During the course of the deportation from the ghetto, armed fighters engaged German soldiers in brutal close-quarters combat. In the struggle, Jews who were being led in convoys to a gathering point succeeded in escaping.
The author of the journal, some of whose family members were murdered in the Holocaust, was later sent to the Trawniki concentration camp. His fate remains unknown.
He wrote in his journal, “A volley of shots. The bullets hit the paving stones in the street. The ghetto fighters are struggling in a battle of a few versus many. On the roof an automatic rifle is rattling. The fighter will exact a high price in return for his life. Beside him are small flags – a red and white Polish flag and a blue and white Zionist flag.
“Tomorrow at this time everything will already be over. I am calculating coldly. Now it is 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon. I am looking at the clear April sky. They will take us to Treblinka tonight. When the dawn breaks I will no longer be alive. The calculation is simple – for the last time I am seeing the blue sky between the clouds.”
“April 19, 1943,” he wrote at another point in the diary. “In a week’s time I will be 37. Nu, fine, what difference does that make? A new group of people has been taken to the Umschlagplatz [death camp]. Among them are friends, acquaintances, people who managed to survive in the ghetto, who they haven’t yet managed to eliminate. They are telling me: Your mother has been shot. I am not shocked. I am beginning to realize that she suffered from July to April, nine months. She survived the death of her daughter, the death of her husband, the necessity of hiding – in stinking, suffocating lairs. In vain she suffered the torture of the constant fear. Suddenly I understand that I was not sensitive enough towards her, that the ghetto deprived me of tenderness and sensitivity, that cruelty reigned over everything and I absorbed it into myself like Roentgen rays.”
How Well Do We Know Anne Frank?
Anne Frank is a figure of hope whose diary has been read by millions of people around the world. Two new books, an upcoming film and a soon to open museum seek to create a contemporary, complicated -- and more Jewish -- image of the Holocaust victim.
January 6, 2013
By Georg Diez
For Buddy Elias, she was the girl with the smile, the girl with whom he played hide and seek, the girl who was determined to go ice skating with him; and she was his cousin, who he is still trying to protect to this day. In her diary, she even drew a picture of the dress she would like to wear if she were to go ice skating with him.
Elias beams when he talks about her, but his eyes reveal a sense of sadness. For years, Elias has been talking about his favorite cousin Anne, speaking to schoolchildren who are amazed that he exists and that Anne Frank was even a real person. Of course, they know she existed, because they've read her diary. The book has transported them to back house, or Secret Annex. Her words have spoken to them and they have perhaps even trembled as she once did as they read her story. Some people even claim to have seen here, in Manila or Buenos Aires, and they are convinced that Anne Frank survived.
Anne Frank is the face of the Holocaust.
In her room at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam, where she hid with her parents, her sister Margot, the Van Pels family and Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist, from July 6, 1942 to Aug. 4, 1944, she had a photo of Greta Garbo as well as many other pictures pinned to the wall. Like most teenagers, she dreamed about Hollywood.
Buddy Elias went on to become a star in the Holiday on Ice skating show. He was an actor in the theater and on television, and he lived Anne's dream. To this day, it seems to inspire him, although it isn't clear whether he wasn't in fact running away, during all those years spent on tour in Egypt and America, before he became the man who is Anne Frank's cousin. It's the role of his life. For Elias, who is 87, Anne Frank was family.
EXPOSÉ: No-go Areas for Jews in Europe
January 1, 2013
By Giulio Meotti
In the enlightened Europe of today, there is witch hunt against any authentic Jew with a beard and a skullcap.
Jewish students have been advised not to wear a kippa in the streets in Germany either. The Jewish Abraham Geiger Theological College in Potsdam advises its rabbis against wearing a kippah in public, while the orthodox Or Avner school in Berlin has issued similar guidelines.
Whenever its pupils go on trips to the zoo or the museum, Jewish pupils are warned: "Speak German, not Hebrew, put a baseball cap over your kippah so you don't give stupid people something to get annoyed about." Camouflaged in this way, young Jews travel on Berlin's metro trains. The rector of the school has explained that "it is safer to not appear to be a Jewish person".
A few days ago Finland's Jewish community was advised not to wear the skullcap in public for fear of anti-Semitic attacks.
In Malmö, Sweden, the country which once gave the world saints like Raoul Wallenberg, members of the local synagogue decided not to keep on their kippahs upon exiting their synagogue.
Norway's Jewish Community has advised its members against speaking Hebrew loudly on the streets or wearing Jewish emblems. Norwegian police have just increased security around Oslo’s main synagogue.
A teacher, Inge Telhaug, who was wearing a Magen David around his neck under a T-shirt, was informed by the Kristiansand Adult Education Center that wearing the star could be deemed a provocation towards the many Muslim students at the school.
In France several Jews were attacked and beaten in the streets after wearing the skullcap. In Paris it is safer for young Jewish men to walk in groups, not alone. They should wear baseball caps instead of the traditional head covering to avoid being attacked by anti-Semites. In many neighborhoods of Marseille and Lyons, it is no longer safe for Jews to walk the streets.