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Category : In the News

Moral Emptiness of Holocaust Survivors Who Took on Israel: The True Face Behind a New York Times Ad

Forward, By Alvin H. Rosenfeld, August 28, 2014

Surviving: Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 85, attends a protest with fellow activists in Cairo on December 28, 2009 against Egypt’s refusal to allow a Gaza solidarity march to proceed.

Given Hitler’s voluminous rants about Jews, it is not surprising that one aspect of his obsession is less known: the pleasure he took in the spectacle of Jews deriding and defaming other Jews. Hans Frank, one of Hitler’s top aides, quotes him as saying:

“I am an innocent lamb compared to revelations by Jews about Jews. But they are important, these disclosures of the Jew’s most secret, always totally hidden qualities, instincts, and character traits. It isn’t I who say this, it is the Jews themselves who say it about themselves, about their greed for money, their fraudulent ways, their immorality, and their sexual perversions.”

Hitler’s words about the denigrating things Jews say about themselves came to mind as I perused an ad published in the New York Times on August 23 by IJSN or International Jewish Solidarity Network. Tellingly, the very same ad appeared in the British Guardian on August 15, under the imprint of IJAN, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. For an American, and especially the New York readership, the crafters of this hostile statement must have figured it best not to make explicit their true credentials as anti-Zionists. Its signers display no interest in the misdeeds that Hitler ascribes to the Jews but focus their anger on today’s target-of-choice for Jew-haters everywhere: Israel.

Most Holocaust survivors, like most Jews, are Zionists and are strongly devoted to the welfare of the State of Israel. The IJSN/IJAN group is exceptional in its fierce opposition to Israel and is hardly representative. That fact, however, did not keep the BBC from quickly publishing a story with the title “Holocaust survivors condemn Israel.” The impression conveyed is seriously misleading.

Headlined “Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of Nazi genocide unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza,” the Times ad lashes out at Israel from the first sentence to the last, repeatedly condemning the country for acts of colonialism, racism, and genocide; it associates unnamed “right-wing Israelis” with Nazis; and, in a full-throated voice of protest against Israel’s actions in Gaza, it angrily calls for a “full economic, cultural, and academic boycott of Israel.”

It aims, therefore, not just to censure but to punish. And as a special touch, it attacks a fellow survivor, the most famous one of all: Elie Wiesel. Why? Because Wiesel recently published an ad of his own in American newspapers, including the New York Times, criticizing Hamas for some of its brutal ways. IJSN pulled out all the stops in going after Wiesel, expressing “disgust” and “outrage” over Wiesel’s “abuse of our history” and “manipulation [of] the legacy of the Nazi genocide” to justify the unjustifiable: “the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people.”

Israel’s war with Hamas has exacted many casualties, but nothing remotely like “genocide” is taking place in Gaza. Why, then, charge Israel with a crime of this kind and magnitude? Those who are on to the rhetoric of “anti-Zionism” will instantly recognize this language for what it is: a collection of familiar political clichés employed time and again by the purveyors of anti-Israel vilification.

What makes the IJSN statement noteworthy, therefore, is not the litany of emotionally-charged accusations against Israel but the identities of those making these accusations. They present themselves as “Survivors,” “Children of survivors,” “Grandchildren of survivors,” “Great-grandchildren of survivors,” and “Other relatives of survivors.”

They total 327 people. Who are they, and what importance, if any, should attach to their proudly proclaimed pedigrees?

If we take their self-descriptions at face value, some (a small number) had been in the Nazi ghettos and camps or claim to have been resistance fighters. Others had been children spirited out of Europe on the Kindertransports or were hidden by Christians during the war. Some say they are “cousins of survivors,” or “friends of survivors,” or “relatives of victims,” or “relatives of many victims,” or the “spouse of a hidden child,” or grandchildren and great-grandchildren of “refugees.” One identifies herself as “the great niece of an uncle who shot himself”; another as a “3rd cousin of Ann [sic] Frank and grand-daughter of NON-survivors.”

The distance from Auschwitz and Treblinka grows as the list grows and, with it, the credibility of those on the list plunges. Nevertheless, all claim some special connection, however remote, to Jewish suffering during the Hitler era, and they expect others to recognize their anti-Israel diatribe as the product of unique insights they now possess by right of such suffering. Invoking the historical and moral weight of the Holocaust by speaking “as Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors,” they apply their presumed authority to the present war between Israel and Hamas and “unequivocally condemn” Israel.

Two thoughts come immediately to mind: Whenever someone begins a sentence with the words “as a Jew…,” what follows is likely to be full of political posturing and should be met with skepticism. The same often holds true when someone opens a sentence with the kindred formula, “as a Holocaust survivor….” On hearing those words, one no doubt is inclined to pay attention to what follows; but as IJSN’s ad demonstrates, the status of Holocaust survivor, let alone the status of the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and other assorted relatives and friends of survivors, carries no special entitlement to superior ethical insight or elevated political awareness.

The signatories to IJSN’s ad, however, invoke just such an entitlement as they ostentatiously pull rank as Holocaust survivors in condemning Israel. In inflating and exploiting a status they regard as privileged, they are guilty of doing precisely what they falsely accuse Elie Wiesel of doing: “manipulating the legacy of the Nazi genocide to justify the unjustifiable.” Their abuse of Jewish suffering for contemporary political ends comes especially to the fore whenever they proudly parade forth their pedigrees as survivors to defame Israel. Some have been doing so for years — way before Gaza. To reflect briefly on just two of them:

Hajo Meyer, whose signature is the very first on the list, is the author of a book entitled “The End of Judaism: An Ethical Tradition Betrayed,” which argues that Zionism and Judaism are radical opposites and incompatible with one another. Meyer equates Zionism with “fascism” and “criminality” and believes that Zionists “have given up everything that has to do with humanity.” “As a confirmed atheist,” he boasts that he “has never been a Zionist.” And as a Holocaust survivor — he was in Auschwitz for 10 months as a young teenager — he is certain that Israelis “have no idea about the Holocaust. They use the Holocaust to implant paranoia in their children.”

In innumerable speeches and interviews (the words quoted here are from interviews on the websites “Intifada: The Voice of Palestine” and the “Electronic Intifada”), he charges Israel with all of the sins that are now part of the standard package of anti-Zionist accusations: the carrying out of willful massacres, ethnic cleansing, racist and apartheid policies, and other “blood and soil” nationalistic actions (“just like the Nazis”). He is so convinced of Israeli wickedness that he can “write up an endless list of similarities between Nazi Germany and Israel.” And what if other Jews object to his smearing the Jewish state with the Nazi brush? Meyer considers it a “high honor” to be put in the company of Jimmy Carter, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and other prominent opponents of Israel and even jokingly says that he is “very proud” to be called an anti-Semite.

Hedy Epstein, who has also signed on to the Guardian statement, likes garnering public attention as a “survivor,” although whether she is one is debatable. Like Meyer, she was born in Germany in 1924, but she left the country in 1939 on a Kindertransport and spent the war years in Great Britain. Since coming to America in 1948, she has thrown herself into political activism, often on behalf of such celebrated Palestinian causes as the 2008 “freedom flotillas” that were meant to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza, the “Gaza Freedom March” in Cairo in 2009, and various anti-Israel activities on the West Bank and elsewhere sponsored by the radical International Solidarity Movement.

Like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who inevitably show up at high-profile rallies organized by others, Hedy Epstein “marched” in St. Louis in mid-August, 2014 to demonstrate her solidarity with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. When stories broke headlining “Holocaust Survivor Arrested in Ferguson Protests,” it was a foregone conclusion that it was Hedy Epstein. She seems to thrive on flashing her dubious credentials as a “survivor” and, even at age 90, will step forward to join protests, especially if they are against Israel.

It’s hardly new that there are Jews who lend their endorsement to causes that prove harmful for most other Jews. There is a long history of such betrayal and the damage it has caused within Jewish communities, so what we are seeing today has an unhappy lineage that dates back over many centuries. One thing, however, is new:

The endorsement of the most reckless charges against Israel — e.g., Israelis are like Nazis and are carrying out a genocide against Palestinians — by members of a people who themselves were victims of the twentieth century’s most determined attempt at genocide is unprecedented and can be hugely harmful unless it is seen for what it is: an unseemly exercise in the spread of propagandistic lies.

Sanctioning such propaganda by stamping it with the moral authority that supposedly belongs to Holocaust survivors does not turn these lies into truth. What it does instead is expose as fraudulent the claims of certain Holocaust survivors and their kin to possessing an enlarged moral and political consciousness. In fact, it is unlikely that many people emerged from Hitler’s camps ennobled or enlightened. To believe otherwise and to arrogate to oneself as a “survivor” or a relative of a “survivor” some special access to wisdom and virtue is, as IJSN’s ad shows, little more than moral pretense.

Alvin H. Rosenfeld is a professor of English and Jewish Studies and director of Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism at Indiana University.

Education Ministry expands Holocaust study in schools

Israeli teens on the March of the Living in Poland. Photo by Moshe Milner/GPO

Haaretz, By Or Kashti | Aug. 27, 2014

Prof. Hanna Yablonka: ‘For the students, history begins and ends with the Holocaust.’

As part of Education Minister Shay Piron’s new “national program for significant learning,” it was recently decided to expand the portion of the school curriculum devoted to the Holocaust. History classes are to focus more closely on the World War II era and its impact on the Jews, without reducing the amount of time devoted to these topics in other classes. History teachers say that as a result the emphasis will be on study of the Holocaust, at the expense of other topics.
Holocaust historian Prof. Hanna Yablonka of Ben-Gurion University was critical of what she described as the educational and historical conservatism of the new plan. “For the students, history begins and ends with the Holocaust,” she said.
The curriculum changes were drawn up about four month after the Education Ministry, in cooperation with the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, unveiled a mandatory program to teach the Holocaust starting in kindergarten.
The “significant learning” program gives elementary schools greater educational and administrative autonomy and institutes far-reaching changes in high schools. It eliminates the bagrut matriculation exams for 10th-graders, and stipulates that 30 percent of each student’s final matriculation grade is to be based on criteria other than the standardized test, such as independent study projects or final exam grades. Seventy percent of the subjects on the matriculation exam will be mandatory, while the remainder will be subjects that will be explored in depth based on curriculum developed by the staff from each school.
“The subject of anti-Semitism, World War II, totalitarianism and the Holocaust have been chosen to be a subject for in-depth study and choice,” Orna Katz-Atar, the Education Ministry official responsible for history instruction in the state school system, wrote to teachers recently. And despite the reference to a number of major school subjects in her letter, she then addressed only Holocaust instruction.
Under the heading “Considerations for Subject Selection,” with regard to the topics that are up to the individual schools to choose, Katz-Atar wrote that Holocaust instruction in the school curriculum “’corresponds with’ and complements” high class trips to Poland that are organized by a large number of schools. “Such a special program will enable schools to create points of interface between the community-school trip and what is studied in class,” she said, adding that the process “corresponds” with social involvement programming for the students and students can be “recruited” to help Holocaust survivors in particular and the elderly in general. “Holocaust instruction entails instilling Jewish and humanistic values,” Katz-Atar said, and will provide an opportunity to teachers to emphasize the values that they find particularly important.
“In recent years, we have had a great deal of positive experience in teaching the Holocaust as a school program,” she stated. “We have a range of excellent teaching materials at our disposal prepared by various entities including institutes for the teaching and remembrance of the Holocaust, academic institutions, and of course the teaching staff themselves.”
In addition to the “significant learning” Holocaust studies, as part of the regular curriculum on the Holocaust and on anti-Semitism and World War II, three curriculum material units will be released within the next several months providing an overview on the period of the rise to power of the Nazis in Germany, the early war years, and the period from 1941 to 1945. They will be part of the 70 percent of the curriculum that is mandatory for the schools to teach and will be tested on the matriculation exams, Katz-Atar stated.
The subjects available for more intensive study include 41 subsections that teachers can use to build their own program for the school and the community, she added, of which the teachers must choose at least six. Most of the subsections, about two-thirds, relate directly to the Holocaust. The remaining ones, dealing with the war more generally in chapters about the characteristics of a totalitarian regime, the Nazis’ use of terror, the establishment of concentration camps, actions taken against the regime’s opponents and the extermination of the Gypsies (or Roma as they are commonly referred to now) are the exception. The largest number of chapters fall under the heading “World War II and the Final Solution from the Summer of 1941 to the German and Japanese Surrender in 1945.” Of this chapter, about 80% relates to the Holocaust.
These are not new subjects in the curriculum but rather a new format through which they are being taught, but they are also expected to increase the portion of history studies devoted to the Holocaust.
“It’s a declaration of principles on the part of the Education Ministry,” said one teacher who asked to remain unidentified. “It’s a clear message that only the subject of the Holocaust is ‘significant,’ while all the other subjects are less so. Up to now, the Holocaust was studied in 11th grade, but many schools will start the “significant learning” program in the 10th grade. The result will be that from the students’ standpoint, a substantial portion of history in general and Jewish history in particular will consist of the Holocaust. We are raising generations of students with a victim’s consciousness. It’s irrational.”
For her part, Yablonka, the Ben-Gurion University history professor, who is a former chairwoman of the Education Ministry’s professional advisory committee on history instruction, expressed disappointment over what she said was the conservatism of the program and its “disconnect from any social context in which it appears.” Racism in Israeli society is apparent to everyone, she claimed, at least within the past couple of years, if not before. “But the program doesn’t deal with it. It’s a wonderful bubble,” she said.
The program also doesn’t provide a format to ask questions such as what obligation the Jews have as a result of their being victims of the Holocaust. “I think more than anything the Holocaust requires me, on a daily level, to look inside of myself, and at the society that I am living in and the actions and words of the politicians,” Yablonka said. “The school system has never dealt with questions like these. And when you don’t ask questions, the result is that Israeli society is growing in a sort of ghetto in which the world is against us, always persecuting us, and always will be, and where this hatred is our sorry fate. It’s a post-Zionism conception because the essence of Zionism is taking our fate into our own hands.”
When asked about the contention that the Holocaust as a subject in the “significant learning” program meshes with the social involvement project, particularly with respect to helping Holocaust survivors, Yablonka responds as follows: “We don’t need to recruit the students to help the survivors. Rather we need to listen to them,” apparently referring to the survivors themselves. “Most of the survivors are well provided for, having established generations of successful children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and having seen the fruits of their lives as people and Israelis. They don’t need charity. Instead of wallowing in catastrophe or cycles of revenge and destruction, the survivors have chosen to rehabilitate themselves and create life. The message is being a winner rather than a wretched soul. The memory of the Holocaust needs to be taught as an empowering human and moral experience instead of an experience encouraging despair, cultivating hatred over being a victim, which alienates Israelis from any one who is not like them.”
Prof. Moshe Zimmermann of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who specializes in German and Holocaust history, had his own take on the curriculum changes, stating somewhat sarcastically: “It reinforces the trauma of the Holocaust and deepens a consciousness of the purported connection between the results of the Holocaust and the need for a strong Israel, of the type that doesn’t pay attention to marginal subjects like justice and law.”
Zimmerman also said he totally disagrees with the assumption that it is only the “significant learning” program that relates to the high school trips to Poland. “There are things related to World War II that don’t belong to the Holocaust, but it appears that in the curriculum, the war is only a mantle for the story of the Holocaust.”
Although asked for comments, the Education Ministry did not respond for this story.

A Debate Over Tiananmen Finds Echoes in Germany’s Fascist Past

Ney York Times, By Didi Kirsten Tatlow, August 27, 2014

Army tanks hold positions on an overpass in Beijing on June 6, 1989, two days after the crushing of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. VINCENT YU / ASSOCIATED PRESS

The military suppression of the Tiananmen Square democracy protests in June 1989 was a ‘‘one-off’’ in China’s recent history. Its leaders lost control of the situation. China is freer today than in 1989. Its people have the right to forget.
That was the gist of recent articles by Frank Sieren, a Beijing-based German media consultant and columnist for Deutsche Welle, a German state-run broadcaster, the first of which ran on the station’s website on June 4, the 25th anniversary of the killings in Beijing.

They prompted outrage among Chinese political exiles and rights activists in Germany, and an impassioned exchange ensued on the broadcaster’s website between Mr. Sieren and Chang Ping, a Chinese journalist.

The dispute raises questions that go to the heart of ideas of historical crimes and responsibility: Can a massacre and its aftermath — hundreds, possibly thousands, died in Beijing — ever be explained, even excused, in this way?

‘‘The massacre of June 4, 1989, was no one-off,’’ ran the headline of Mr. Chang’s first retort. Mr. Chang is a former editor at a Chinese newspaper, Southern Weekly, and his writings have been banned by the authorities.

Instead, the killings showed a ‘‘systematic continuity’’ in the nature of Communist Party rule that persists to this day, he wrote, citing the state’s vast ‘‘stability maintenance’’ program, which snares common criminals, justice-seekers and political dissidents alike.

Censorship means Chinese are not allowed to remember what happened, Mr. Chang wrote: How can they have the right to forget, if they don’t even have the right to remember?
Germany is proud of how it has dealt with its own troubled history, a process known as ‘‘Vergangenheitsbewältigung,’’ or ‘‘coming to terms with the past.’’ Its historians track such issues closely. Some historians see in the debate over Tiananmen echoes of Germany’s struggles with fascism and Communism.
Among them is Marion Detjen, an author and researcher who specializes in contemporary history at Humboldt University in Berlin. To her, to describe Tiananmen as a one-off is ‘‘outrageous.’’
‘‘It’s morally and intellectually totally unacceptable to describe crimes as ‘one-off’ events, to relativize and excuse them,’’ she wrote in an email.

‘‘The crime happened,’’ she wrote. ‘‘Why and how it came to that is remembered, and demands a historical coming-to-terms. The fact that it happened is enough to make clear it is a symptom and an expression of problems in the political culture.’’
Describing Tiananmen, which he made clear he views as a tragedy, Mr. Sieren used a historically loaded term used by some postwar historians to explain Nazism: Ausrutscher, or ‘‘one-off,’’ ‘‘lapse,’’ even ‘‘blooper.’’ China’s government, some Chinese and some foreigners, particularly those with business interests in the country, have long explained Tiananmen as a necessary response to an emergency.

It’s treacherous territory, Ms. Detjen said.
‘‘The idea of a ‘one-off’ has strong connotations in German history,’’ she said. ‘‘Until far into the 1960s, Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust were seen as a ‘one-off’ within Germany’s otherwise positive history and tradition,’’ she said, citing the historians Hans Rothfels and Friedrich Meinecke.

There was an expression for it: the ‘‘little man from Mars theory,’’ as if Nazism had occurred randomly, without connection to the German social or political context.

That view changed only as society began to accept that there was more to it, that Germany had within itself certain elements that had made fascism, and the pogrom against Jews, possible.

Mr. Sieren said he was unaware of such connotations of Ausrutscher, and had not heard of its use to describe the Nazi era. ‘‘If it were of any importance I would have heard about it,’’ he said in a telephone interview in Beijing.
Instead, his aim had been to highlight that Tiananmen ‘‘happened only one time, in the 1980s. It never happened again, which is a fact. They never used tanks against their own people again.’’

‘‘I think it’s very bad that the government puts people in prison,’’ he continued. But it isn’t true to say, as Mr. Chang did, ‘‘that nothing has changed.”

Who is a Holocaust survivor — and does it matter?

JTA, by Talia Lavin, August 21, 2014
When she was arrested earlier this week during a peaceful St. Louis demonstration against police actions in Ferguson, Mo., Hedy Epstein grabbed national attention.
That was partly because, as a 90-year-old white woman, Epstein was not the typical advocate for a young unarmed black man killed by the police. But her Holocaust past — she fled Nazi Germany as a child — arguably played an even bigger role.
Nationwide news sources — including JTA — focused not just on her age, but her background: “Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein arrested in Ferguson protest,” read Newsweek’s headline, and images of Epstein, clad in a black T-shirt that read “Stay Human,” and gazing steadily at the camera while cuffed between two burly policewomen, instantly went viral.
While some pundits might disagree with Epstein’s politics — in addition to police brutality, she has also spoken out against Israeli treatment of Palestinians – other critics went further. Recognizing that much of the attention drawn to Epstein’s arrest hinged on her status as a Holocaust survivor, something she publicizes on her website, some commentators went so far as to question that status itself. Ultra-conservative publication Frontpage Mag called her a “fake” Holocaust survivor “desperate for attention.”
The attacks on Epstein’s status as a Holocaust survivor point to a significant phenomenon: the moral gravitas we tend to accord Holocaust survivors. Surviving Auschwitz — coupled with his extraordinary skills as a speaker and writer — lent Elie Wiesel the authority to serve as a voice for world Jewry, and raise worldwide consciousness of Nazi atrocities. With the exception of Holocaust deniers, few people question the unique power that survivors, as victims of a morally indefensible atrocity, have to command attention for the political and moral causes they embrace.
So it’s not surprising that Epstein’s critics would question her Shoah bona fides. (Indeed, her Holocaust survivor identity has come under fire before.) As the years since World War II pass, and the number of living witnesses to its horrors dwindle, the question of who “counts” as a Holocaust survivor — whether the term can be applied to refugees and hidden children or if one has to have spent time in concentration camps or ghettos — has achieved greater import.
There is much at stake. Beyond the concrete legalities of reparations and social programs, there is a wide spectrum of who is considered a Holocaust survivor, and the whole question — with its often unseemly judgments about how much suffering is required for one to earn the title – has spawned complicated debates.
At the more inclusive extreme is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which defines a Holocaust survivor as “any persons, Jewish or non-Jewish, who were displaced, persecuted, or discriminated against due to the racial, religious, ethnic, social, and political policies of the Nazis and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945… includ[ing], among others, people who were refugees or were in hiding.”
On the opposite end is Czech-Israeli Holocaust expert Yehuda Bauer, who defines Holocaust survivors solely as “those people who were physically persecuted by the Nazis or their cohorts,” in ghettos, concentration camps or labor camps. Some survivor counts include only those persecuted by Nazis in continental Europe; other estimates encompass all who were subject to discriminatory laws under Nazi satellite governments in North Africa and elsewhere.
Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, acknowledges this ambiguity in its Shoah Resource Center, admitting that “it is difficult to define the term Survivor” – and leaving it at that.
By necessity, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which distributes monetary compensation to Nazi victims, has a highly specific approach. Its tiered system entitles those “who fled Nazi invasion or lived under curfew” to a one-time “Hardship Fund” payment, while ongoing pensions are reserved for those who “were interned in a concentration camp or ghetto, performed forced labor, or lived in hiding or under false identity.”
But beyond the distinctions necessitated by reparations, are strict requirements for claiming a Holocaust survivor identity necessary?
Hedy Epstein’s story is instructive.
Epstein was 8 and living in Freiburg, Germany when Hitler came to power. A year after Kristallnacht, she was sent to England in a children’s transport. Like many others sent on the Kindertransport, Epstein never saw her family members again.
The flight, trauma and loss Hedy Epstein experienced as a young woman undoubtedly changed her perspective on the world. Is that enough to garner our respect – that and the fact that, at age 90, she’s still showing up for protests? Given that an increasing proportion of the Holocaust witnesses who remain alive were children during World War II, and thus less likely to have made it through the concentration camps (where those too young to work were usually killed immediately), folks like Epstein will soon be all that’s left.
Whether we call refugees and hidden children “survivors” or something else, the fact is they still have been shaped by their experiences and often have an important perspective to add to global discourse.
And even they won’t be around all that much longer.

Ignoring pleas of local Jews, Greece swears in anti-Semitic minister

Makis Voridis Photo by Makis Voridis’s Facebook page

Haaretz, By Danna Harman | June 9, 2014

A lawyer by training, the 49-year-old Makis Voridis went into politics in 1994, founding the far-right Hellenic Front party – its motto was ‘Red Card to the Illegal Immigrants.’

Ignoring the pleas of Greece’s 5,000 strong Jewish community, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras promoted far-right politician Makis Voridis to his cabinet Monday as part of a re-shuffle intended to shore up support for his precarious government. Voridis, who is said to consider France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen a mentor and friend, is known for promoting anti-Semitic views. He has publicly questioned the authenticity of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” and suggested “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” should be studied by historians. He will be sworn in Tuesday as the country’s new health minister. (more…)

Did Auschwitz trip lead to Palestinian professor’s resignation?

Prof. Mohammed S. Dajani at Al-Quds University. Photo by Matthew Kalman

Haaretz, By Matthew Kalman | June 8, 2014

Mohammed Dajani, the Al-Quds University professor who led the first organized group of Palestinian university students to Auschwitz, tenders resignation.

Mohammed Dajani, the Al-Quds University professor who received plaudits and threats earlier this year after leading the first organized group of Palestinian university students to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, has resigned from the university after weeks of mounting pressure.

He heads the Department of American Studies and is the director of the Al-Quds University Library, which has just moved into an impressive new building.

Professor Dajani told Haaretz he felt he had no choice after the university authorities refused to back up their private assurances with a display of public support after what he described as a campaign of “incitement” against him from some members of the university faculty. (more…)

President Obama quotes Pinchas Gutter, Holocaust survivor who participated in the March of the Living, at USC Shoah Foundation Dinner

Remarks by the President at USC Shoah Foundation Dinner

Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel
Los Angeles, California – May 7, 2014

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you so much. Please, please, everybody have a seat.

Well, thank you, Steven, for your incredibly generous words, for this great honor, for your friendship, and most importantly, for the extraordinary work which brings us here all tonight. To Robert Katz and all the members of the board and staff of the Shoah Foundation; to President Max Nikias and everybody at USC; to all the distinguished guests and to all the friends that I see in this audience — it is an incredible honor to be with you as we pay tribute to a remarkable institution and one that makes claim on our moral imagination. (more…)

Righteous Reunion: A Survivor Reunites with his Rescuer

Watch the CBC broadcast

When Auschwitz Was a Jewish Town

Shopping in Auschwitz: Many homes and shops near Oswiecim’s market square were owned by Jews. During the German occupation, Rynek (ring square) was renamed Adolf Hitler Platz. (Collection of Lukasz Szymanski)

The Forward, By Anna Goldenberg, May 21, 2014

Town Was a Polish Center of Orthodox Life Until Nazis Came

Of all the things and places to give an endearing Jewish name, Auschwitz would seem the most unlikely. Oshpitzin — which comes from the Aramaic word for guest, ushpizin, and is the name of a traditional Sukkot prayer that welcomes guests — was how Jews once referred to Oswiecim, the Polish town that would become the location of the Nazis’ deadliest camp.

Oswiecim, as we learn in a small, new exhibition of photographs at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, was home to a thriving Jewish community from the mid-16th century until the Holocaust. Jewish life in the Polish town flourished from 1867, when Jews in the Habsburg Empire were awarded full religious rights and Galicia became a de facto autonomous region, up until the outbreak of World War II. Estimates show that the Jewish population reached an all-time high in 1939, when the majority of the town’s 14,000 residents, was Jewish. (more…)

Anti-Semitism No Longer Taboo in Hungary as Jobbik-Led Culture War Rages

Stones of Memory: An elderly man lights a candle on the Szabadsag square, where Hungarian government’s plans to build up a memorial site which critics say symbolises a whitewashing of the state’s role in the Holocaust. (Getty Images)

The Forward, By Marton Dunai, May 21, 2014

Community Vibrant But Old Hatreds Bubble Below Surface

(Reuters) — Budapest’s Jewish community is vibrant, visible and patriotic; and yet seven decades after the Holocaust, the taboo about expressing anti-Semitic views is breaking down among many fellow Hungarians.

Some Jews and academics blame this on the far-right Jobbik party, which has come from nowhere to become the second most popular party as one recession after another has held Hungarians’ living standards far below the European average.

Jobbik, which is expected to perform strongly in European Parliament elections this weekend, denies accusations that its rhetoric is allowing open anti-Semitism to become accepted in modern day, democratic Hungary. (more…)