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Category : In the News

This Day In Jewish History – Suss,’ Most Virtuoso of anti-Semitic Films, Premiers in Berlin

“Jud Süss” movie poster

Haaretz, September 24, 2015

On September 24, 1940, the notorious “Jud Süss,” the most insidious of Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda films, had its premiere in Berlin. The movie was one of a small number of feature films of the era intended specifically to stir up anti-Semitic emotions, in particular among German soldiers about to head off to the front and among citizens of lands newly occupied by the Germans.

Unlike the far more crude Ewige Jud (“The Eternal Jew”,) of the same year, which was so repellent in its depiction of Jews that many Germans found it difficult to watch, “Jud Süss,” was, though hardly subtle in its message, made with sophistication and artistry, and thus much more effective in hitting home.

“Jud Süss” was the title of a 1925 novel by the Jewish-German writer Lion Feuchtwanger (1884-1958,) a fictional account of the life of the real-life Joseph Süss Oppenheimer, a Jewish financier and political adviser to the 18th-century Karl Alexander, Duke of Württemberg, who fell from grace after the duke’s death and was executed in a gruesome popular spectacle.

Anti-Nazi Fighters the History Books Forgot About

Szymon Drenger, left, and Aharon Liebeskind, two members of the Fighting Pioneer, Krakow. Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum

Haaretz, by Ofer Aderet, September 19, 2015

The name Szymon Drenger, a leader of an underground group during World War II, isn’t exactly a household name. Other anti-Nazi heroes such as Mordechai Anielewicz and Abba Kovner have overshadowed him.

The fact that Drenger’s group was the first to resist the Germans — even before the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising — didn’t forge him a place in Israel’s collective memory. The fact that he took part in a daring revenge attack that killed 20 Germans didn’t transform him from an anonymous Holocaust victim.

Late last month, 73 years after the group’s founding, people who remember the members of Hechalutz Halochem — the Fighting Pioneer — gathered in Netanya. For the first time, a street in Israel would be named after them.

“We were the first to act in Europe. Can you imagine the courage required of anyone in those days to do this? Especially for young people, the oldest of whom was 24,” says 91-year-old Yehuda Maimon, one of the few partisans still alive.

In Europe, Issues of Emigration, Not Extermination

New York Times, by Laurel Leff, September 9, 2015

To the Editor:

Having researched the unsuccessful struggle of the world community to find homes for the hundreds of thousands of Jews trying to flee Hitler’s Europe, I am as horrified as anyone by today’s scenes of refugees crammed onto unsafe boats and huddled in crowded camps.

Much in the current tragedy evokes that previous refugee crisis: the hardened, bureaucratic attitude of immigration officials, the willingness of individuals, and even some countries, to profit from other people’s misery by promising them passage in unseaworthy vessels or unventilated trucks or to unwelcoming ports.

Likewise, we see then and now government leaders’ appeal to populist fears of refugees of different religions, cultures and backgrounds, and the failure of any one country or international body to take a lead in finding a solution.

Some of the parallels to that time and to that crisis, however, are just not appropriate, including several in “Treatment of Migrants Evokes Memories of Europe’s Darkest Hour” (news article, Sept. 5). Taking a local train routed to the outskirts of Budapest is not the same as being shoved into a freight car on the way to a death camp in Poland; having numbers written on your arm in a transit center is not like being tattooed at the gates of Auschwitz.

Walking the Cobblestones of My Great-Grandparents’ Berlin

Image: Courtesy Yermi Brenner

Forward, Culture, by Yermi Brenner, September 4, 2015

I am 35 years old, but until recently, all I knew about my great-grandparents, Carl and Paula Brenner, was one vague, frightening sentence: They lived in Berlin and tried to escape the Nazis but were murdered in the camps.

I grew up in Israel, and relocated to the German capital one year ago. Since becoming a Berliner, I have grown more and more interested in the lives of my Berliner ancestors. As I explored different neighborhoods in my adopted city, I often wondered if Carl and Paula had walked the same streets. I tried to imagine what their lives looked like, how they made a living, and who they socialized with. Most of all, I was eager to understand why they did not flee Germany.

The little that I did know about them came from their son Walter Brenner, my grandfather, who fled Germany in 1937 for the United States. But Saba Walter, who passed away in 1993 in Israel, shared little information about his parents’ lives. The heroic Holocaust survival story of Alice Licht — Walter’s wife and my Savta — was told and retold in my family. But the story of Walter’s parents was barely mentioned.

Everything changed when my father, Gary Brenner, who is Carl and Paula’s only grandson, received an email informing him that his grandparents would be commemorated in a Holocaust memorial project called Stolpersteine (or “stumbling stones”). Through this project, created by artist Gunter Demnig, anyone may pay a fee to sponsor a cobblestone-sized memorial. These memorials are embedded into sidewalks near homes where Jews had lived before the Holocaust. Each memorial is engraved with the names, birth years, and fates of the former inhabitants of the locations where the stones are set.

Treatment of Migrants Evokes Memories of Europe’s Darkest Hour

Police officers on Friday guarded a so-called reception center for migrants in Roszke, Hungary. Some migrants were tricked into boarding trains for such camps. REUTERS

New York Times, by Rick Lyman, September 4, 2015

BUDAPEST — In Hungary, hundreds of migrants surrounded by armed police officers were tricked into boarding a train with promises of freedom, only to be taken to a “reception” camp. In the Czech Republic, the police hustled more than 200 migrants off a train and wrote identification numbers on their hands with indelible markers, stopping only when someone pointed out that this was more than a little like the tattoos the Nazis put on concentration camp inmates.

Razor-wire fences rise along national borders in Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary and France. Many political leaders stoke rising nationalism by portraying the migrants as dangerous outsiders whose foreign cultures and Muslim religion could overwhelm cherished traditional ways.

“It was horrifying when I saw those images of police putting numbers on people’s arms,” said Robert Frolich, the chief rabbi of Hungary. “It reminded me of Auschwitz. And then putting people on a train with armed guards to take them to a camp where they are closed in? Of course there are echoes of the Holocaust.”

Europeans are facing one of the Continent’s worst humanitarian crises since World War II, yet many seem blind to images that recall that blackest time in their history.

Australia’s Jews Fume After PM Says ISIS Worse Than Nazis

Haaretz, by AP, September 3, 2015

Australia’s prime minister angered some Jewish leaders on Thursday by suggesting that the Islamic State movement was worse than Nazis during World War II.

It is the third time this year that gaffe-prone Prime Minister Tony Abbott has riled Jewish Australians with Nazi analogies.
Abbott used an interview with Sydney Radio 2GB on Thursday to credit Nazis with a sense of shame for atrocities they committed.

“The Nazis did terrible evil, but they had a sufficient sense of shame to try to hide it,” Abbott said. “These people boast about their evil, this is the extraordinary thing,” Abbot said of Islamic State fighters.

“They act in the way that medieval barbarians acted, only they broadcast it to the world with an effrontery which is hard to credit,” he added.

Poland’s mixed feelings over memorial to rescuers of Jews

AP, by Venessa Gera, August 30, 2015

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — As a Catholic Pole, Elka shouldn’t even have been in the ghetto of Czestochowa, in southern Poland. But the nanny was so devoted to the 12-year-old Jewish boy she had raised since infancy that she refused to leave. She ended up being sent to the Treblinka death camp — where she was murdered with the Jews.

Today the boy, Sigmund Rolat, is an 85-year-old Polish-American businessman and philanthropist on a mission. He aims to build a memorial in heart of Warsaw’s former ghetto to his beloved Elka and the thousands of other Polish Christians who risked their lives for Jews during World War II.

While the project has the blessing of Poland’s chief rabbi, it has also sparked strong opposition. Many scholars and some Jews fear that a monument to Polish rescuers at Warsaw’s key site of Jewish tragedy will bolster a false historical narrative that Poles largely acted as rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. In reality, many Poles were indifferent to the plight of Jews during the war and some participated in their persecution.

Official Polish narratives about the Holocaust already typically highlight the Poles who risked their lives to save Jews. Poland has been actively promoting the memory of Jan Karski, a resistance fighter who brought proof to the West of the destruction of Poland’s Jews.

Op-ed: New German film ‘Look Who’s Back,’ which satirizes Hitler, should not have been made for same reasons Charlie Chaplin regretted making ‘The Great Dictator.’

YNet News, by Noah Klieger

In October, “Look Who’s Back”, a satire based on the bestselling novel by Timur Vermes, which describes Adolph Hitler’s return after decades of deep sleep, will be screened in Germany. Our reporter in Berlin, Eldad Beck, has noted that the promotion machine has already begun on the Internet in order to inform the public about the upcoming event.

Cinematic satire about Hitler? I have difficulty accepting this. In any event I do not see films or plays about the Holocaust, because I think that the destruction of six million Jews should not be material for the screen or the stage, whatever the intentions of the artist.

I also don’t buy any one of the so-called explanations that accompany such films: Directors talk about the importance of the story, in part because it raises the question of whether the Germans would receive the teachings of the Führer today and follow him as they did in the past.

This Day in Jewish History, 1903 Herzl Proposes Kenya (Not Uganda) as a Safe Haven for the Jews

Uganda: This could have been a Jewish homeland, for a while, if the idea touted by the British and promoted by Herzl had caught on. Credit: Ed Wright, Wikimedia Commons

Haaretz, By Alona Ferber, August 26, 2015

On August 26, 1903, the founding father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, proposed British East Africa as a safe haven for Jews, speaking at the Sixth Zionist Congress. The “Uganda scheme,” as it is usually called – even though the territory proposed was in part of today’s Kenya – caused bitter controversy within the Zionist movement. 

In 1896, Herzl published his book “Der Judenstaat” – “The Jewish State”, and convened the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland the next year. That congress adopted what became known as the Basel Program, which aimed to establish “a legally assured home in Palestine” for the Jewish people.

The secrets of Ukraine’s shameful ‘Holocaust of Bullets’ killing centre where 1.6million Jews were executed

Please note, this is a text only version. To read the article with archival photographs (many of which contain graphic content), click here.

The Daily Mail, By Will Stewart, August 24, 2015

Seventy years on from the end of the Second World War the full, shocking scale of the Nazi-inspired Holocaust in Ukraine is finally being revealed – thanks to pioneering work by a French Catholic priest to research the truth of the industrial-scale killing.

Around 2,000 mass graves of Jewish victims have been located where men, women and children were shot and buried by the Germans and their collaborators.

But there maybe up to 6,000 more sites to uncover, with victims of this ‘Holocaust of bullets’ – so called because unlike in Poland and Germany where gas chambers were used as the means of slaughter – here most were summarily shot and buried nearby.

In many cases, the Jews were ordered to dig pits and then to strip naked before they were mown down by their murderers.

Some were buried in the unmarked plots while still alive.