Category Archive: JTA

‘Wonder’ author R.J. Palacio tells us why her new book is a Holocaust story

This story originally appeared on Kveller.

If your kids are of a certain age, they’ve probably read ‘Wonder,” the best-selling book about Auggie Pullman, a boy born with facial differences who, after being homeschooled his whole life, begins attending a school in fifth grade. It’s on our must-read list of books for kids and adults navigating disabilities and special needs — and it was made into a film in November 2017 starring Julia Roberts and Jacob Tremblay.

Since “Wonder” was published in 2012, the author, R. J. Palacio, has written a series of novels within the same universe, including “Auggie & Me,” a collection of three related stories. One of those stories centers on Julian, the school bully who is the antagonist in “Wonder.” In “Auggie & Me,” we learn about Grandmère, Julian’s grandmother, who was a Holocaust survivor. But we don’t get her full story — until now.

“White Bird,” a graphic novel by Palacio, is a deep dive into what happened to Grandmère — Sara — during World War II, and how she survived as a young Jewish girl in France.

In an interview with Kveller, Palacio explained why she decided to publish this particular story in 2019.

“It’s really important for kids to have the historical context with which to [understand] what’s happening now, so that they can make the direct correlations,” she said.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Palacio talks about her husband’s Jewish family, Holocaust education, the 2016 elections and more.

Kveller: Even though you yourself are not Jewish, you write in the author’s note about your husband’s family. How much did their story influence “White Bird”?

Palacio: It didn’t influence the actual, specific events; I was more influenced by when I [lived] in Paris for a year. But it did affect, very much, my passion for the subject. I was very close to my mother-in-law, and she lost much of her family in the Holocaust. Not that she knew them, but still I think, existentially, to have suffered that kind of profound loss affects generations. I could not stop thinking about her while I was working on this, wishing she could have lived to have seen it, cause I think she would have loved it.

What was your research process like?

I’d always been obsessed with stories in and around the Holocaust. Because A, it’s almost impossible to imagine the suffering that happened, and B, it’s even more impossible to imagine that it could have happened, and that people let it happen, that the world let it happen.

I remember reading Martin Gilbert’s book “The Rightenous,” which were stories about the gentiles who actually tried to shield Jews and rescue Jews, and sometimes Romani, from persecution. I’ve always been very moved by the call to goodness, and the strength it took for people to do the right thing. And those tie in very much to “Wonder”; “Wonder” is about kindness and, ultimately, standing up for your neighbors, standing up against intolerance — that’s also an extension of kindness. The kind of kindness that takes a little more courage.

Why do you think it was important to tell Sara’s story? 

This is a story about a little girl who was growing up feeling completely ordinary, very much like Auggie in a lot of ways, except she really was ordinary. She had loving parents, a great school, lots of friends and she was popular. And yet she, like her friends, was not especially nice or kind to the little boy at school who had polio and walked with two crutches.

Ironically, this is the very boy that ends up rescuing her when Nazis come for the Jewish kids one day. As she gets to know him, she realizes that first of all, she’d been kind of a jerk, but also what they actually had in common was that they were judged for things that were beyond [their] control. There’s a whole learning process for her and evolution for her as she realizes that she is alive because of the kindness of this boy and his family, who risk everything to shield her.

white bird

When there are so many harrowing, real-life survivor stories, why tell a fictionalized one?

Fiction is the world in which I live, and it’s important for me to tell the story within this historical context, but not try to take on a real-life story. I don’t feel like I would have been able to do it, and I don’t feel like I would have been the right person to do it. I think people should tell stories about their grandparents, and I hope my husband writes the story of his grandparents someday. That’s his story to tell.

Early in Sara’s story, her parents talk to her about what’s happening and the rise of Nazism. How do you talk to your kids about anti-Semitism? Do you have any tips for parents talking to their kids?

I have always taken anti-Semitism to be something that we all need to fight, whether you’re Jewish or not Jewish. It shouldn’t fall on Jewish people to remind people of the Holocaust. It shouldn’t fall on the victims of persecution to remind other people to do something to stop it. We’ve raised our kids always knowing about everything that happened. I encourage parents — I get so much that it’s a difficult subject, it’s so horrific, yet if we don’t teach our children about it, then we are relying on schools to do it, and them somehow imbibing this information from other sources which may or may not be accurate, especially nowadays.

One of the things I found very moving was the epilogue about border separations — particularly the last panel, where Julian holds up a NEVER AGAIN sign. What went into that decision?

I decided to actually do this whole story, to write “White Bird,” for a couple of reasons. I first introduced Grandmère and her story very briefly in “The Julian Chapter” of “Auggie & Me,” which was published in 2014 — before Trumpism, before we knew about border separations or anything like that.

I remember it was my husband’s Uncle Bernard, who had been a New York City principal for many years, told me that I should do it as a larger story because it was an excellent first introduction to the Holocaust for younger kids, like fourth- and fifth-graders. In curriculums across the country, for a lot of kids, it isn’t until the seventh or eighth grade, with “The Diary of Anne Frank,” that they actually first learn about the Holocaust.

In any case, I thought about [writing Grandmère’s story] … and then 2016 happened. And almost immediately, in January 2017 when Trump took office, there was a call for a Muslim ban, and there was a call to kick trans soldiers out of the military. And even before that, we started hearing all this anti-immigrant rhetoric. We started seeing American Nazis marching in Charlottesville. This was all happening very quickly. I could not stop thinking about it — I could not stop seeing all the dots connecting back to 1938 Europe. The rise of intolerance always leads right to anti-Semitism. If you’re a student of history, you know that that’s true.

So what brought you back to this story?

The story that Grandmère told suddenly became very relevant: The story of a little girl who becomes a refugee in her own country, who suddenly becomes illegal and loses her rights, and is facing deportation and mass roundups.

I see the direct connection between what’s happening now and what happened in the events leading up to the Holocaust in Germany and much of Europe. I thought that it was time to do what my husband’s Uncle Bernard had suggested, to tell the story of “White Bird,” so that kids could have a historical context with which to view what’s happening today, especially since a lot of them — and a lot of readers of “Wonder” who did not grow up in New York who don’t have Jewish friends, and certainly that’s a big swath of the country — may never have really heard about the Holocaust.

What do you hope kids take away from this? 

It’s very important for kids to understand that they have to speak up; they have to sort of have some agency in what’s going on. I feel powerless, so I can imagine how kids must feel right now. Which is why I’m so inspired by Greta Thunberg and the Parkland kids — kids who are saying, “Well, you know what? We have to take this into our own hands because the grown-ups aren’t doing enough.” That’s what I’m hoping, for kids to get inspired and never let [something like the Holocaust] happen again.

https://www.jta.org/2019/10/02/culture/wonder-author-r-j-palacio-tells-us-why-her-new-book-is-a-holocaust-story

How the late French president Jacques Chirac started France’s reckoning with the Holocaust

VIENNA, Austria (JTA) — Jacques Chirac, the former French president who died on September 26 at age 86, had only been in office two months when, on July 16, 1995, he delivered a speech that began a vital reckoning with one of the darkest aspects of France’s recent history.

Breaking a 50-year taboo on acknowledging France’s role in the Holocaust, Chirac said that “the criminal folly of the occupiers” — including the July 1942 Vel’ d’Hiv roundup, during which 4,500 French police arrested nearly 13,000 Parisian Jews, confining them in crowded, unsanitary conditions prior to their deportation to Auschwitz — “was seconded by the French, by the French state.”

“France, the homeland of the Enlightenment and of the rights of man, a land of welcome and asylum, on that day committed the irreparable,” Chirac said of the roundup. “Breaking its word, it handed those who were under its protection over to their executioners.” France owes the victims “an everlasting debt.”

With these words, Chirac shattered the myth of French innocence his predecessors on the left and right of French politics, from Charles de Gaulle to François Mitterrand, had, in the name of national unity, created and nurtured for decades.

When the Nazis occupied France in June 1940, so the story went, the Republic ceased to exist. All the crimes committed on French soil — the anti-Jewish laws, the arrests, the deportations, the near-75,000 dead French Jews — were therefore the responsibility of Nazi Germany and the puppet Vichy regime, not France. To quote former French President François Mitterrand, “In 1940, there was a French state, this was the Vichy regime, it was not the Republic.”

Far from cultivating a culture of remembrance, the leaders who rebuilt France after World War II and presided over it in subsequent decades sanctioned an official culture of denial and forgetting. As late as 1992—50 years after the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup and long after Germany had begun its own process of coming to terms with the past—Mitterrand pointedly avoided acknowledging France’s role in a major speech marking the event. “The dead hear you,” Mitterrand was warned by his longtime friend Robert Badinter, the president of the Constitutional Council.

The Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld condemned Mitterrand as someone who was only “faithful to himself.” Prior to joining the French resistance in 1943, Mitterrand had been a civil servant in the Vichy regime. The urge not to remember was therefore in part self-serving.

Chirac, on the other hand, was only 11 at the time of France’s liberation in 1944. He was the first of a new generation of French leaders unencumbered by the experience of World War II. His 1995 address, Klarsfeld would say, “contained everything we hoped to hear one day.”

Chirac in general was far from an honorable man. He was a political chameleon and a hypocrite. The same politician who gave the notoriously racist “le bruit et l’odeur” speech in 1991 was the anti-racist option when he campaigned for the presidency against the far-right’s Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002. And he was corrupt, as a French court found in 2011 when it found him guilty of embezzling public funds to illegally finance his neo-Gaullist political party.

But when successive French presidents, from François Hollande (“The truth is that this crime was committed in France, by France”) to Emmanuel Macron (“It was indeed France that organized this”), speak so openly of France’s complicity in the Holocaust, they do so because of Chirac.

“To recognize the errors of the past and the errors committed by the state and not to hide the dark hours of our history, that is plainly the way to defend a vision of man, of his freedom and dignity,” he said in 1995.

A complicated figure, to say the least, this aspect of his legacy cannot be negated.

https://www.jta.org/2019/09/26/opinion/how-the-late-french-president-jacques-chirac-started-frances-reckoning-with-the-holocaust

Polish minister says Jewish museum’s director ‘politicized’ it

BY KATARZYNA MARKUSZ

WARSAW (JTA) — Poland’s culture minister accused the head of the country’s main Jewish museum of politicizing his institution and said it’s why the director’s tenure has not been extended.

The minister, Piotr Glinski, said Dariusz Stola, who heads the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews, “runs a very aggressive politics at the museum and that “did great harm to this institution by politicizing it.”

Stola made his remarks Tuesday during a radio interview.

In May, a search committee recommended keeping Stola, who became director a year after the museum opened to acclaim in 2013. The Culture Ministry has not yet said whether it will accept the recommendation.

Last year, the museum organized an exhibition on the anti-Semitic campaign of March 1968, as a result of which several thousand Jews left Poland. The exhibition also showed examples of contemporary anti-Semitism.

In a recent interview with The New Yorker, Stola said he has been criticized by both the right and left: the “marginal left” because the museum “did not sufficiently highlight the history of anti-Semitism in Poland” and the “marginal right” demanded more stories about Poles who rescued Jews.

 

https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/polish-minister-says-jewish-museums-director-politicized-it

Gymnast Agnes Keleti survived the Holocaust to win 10 Olympic medals. At 98, she’s as feisty as ever.

Keleti yanks anyone who is foolish enough to grasp her hand with enough force to throw them off their balance.

Then she replies: “I’m fine, thanks. Yourself?”

Such agility, defiance and humor are traits that helped Keleti, 98, survive the Holocaust in hiding and become Hungary’s most successful living athlete. She has no fewer than 10 Olympic medals as a gymnast — most of them won after she reached the relatively ripe age of 30. She is also among the most decorated female Jewish Olympians of all time, behind U.S. swimmer Dara Torres’ 12 medals.

Keleti, who left Hungary in 1957 and lived in Israel, is now celebrated as a national hero here, where she returned three years ago to be with one of her two sons.

In Budapest, Keleti leads a comfortable life in a central apartment that she shares with a female caretaker and about 40 orchids that had been discarded but rescued and nursed back to health by both women.

“I have a good life here, I feel at home,” Keleti told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week after lighting the Olympic flame at the European Maccabi Games. The quadrennial Jewish sporting event is being held in this capital city and ends Wednesday.

Keleti is entitled to a monthly stipend of $13,000 in accordance with a law that compensates Olympic athletes proportionately to the number of medals they won. (Only she and the late fencer Aladár Gerevich have won 10.)

She is interviewed regularly on national television here and invited to official events. A giant portrait of Keleti adorns the side of a building in Budapest alongside those of other living Olympic champions.

She didn’t always feel this secure.

Keleti has dementia that impacts her short-term memory, but has not changed her positive and cheerful outlook and disposition. Nonetheless, she recalled in the interview with JTA that she had left Hungary in 1957 because “there was a lot of anti-Semitism.”

“It wasn’t a good atmosphere to be Jewish, even for a star athlete,” she said.

Growing up in a well-to-do family, Keleti delighted her parents with her musical talent, which emerged as early as age 3 and led her to become a gifted cello player. Her athletic capabilities emerged at 4, when her father taught her to swim during a vacation near Lake Balaton.

“My father had two girls, and he raised me like a boy,” she said.

The outbreak of World War II, when Keleti was 18, halted her athletic development.

She survived the Holocaust thanks to falsified identity papers, pretending to be from the countryside and having little education.

She worked as a maid (“I was strong and I worked hard. Nobody asked questions,” she recalled) at an estate and later at a munitions factory. Keleti’s mother and sister were saved by the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Her father and uncles were murdered at Auschwitz.

Keleti resumed her training as a gymnast in 1946. She was prevented from competing at the London Olympics in 1948 because she broke her collarbone in training.

Four years later she won her first Olympic gold medal, in the floor exercise, at the 1952 Helsinki Games. Keleti was 31 and competed against athletes 10 years younger. She also won a silver medal and two bronze medals in other events, including uneven bars.

This would have been a respectable pinnacle for the career of any professional athlete.

But for Keleti, it was merely the warm-up to her spectacular performance at the ’56 Olympics in Melbourne. At 35, competing against gymnasts half her age, she collected four gold medals and two silver.

A video about Keleti’s Olympic career created by JTA’s sister site Kveller has been viewed more than 29 million times on Facebook.

“I drove myself hard,” Keleti said in reply to a question about the secret to her success. “I drove the girls I taught hard, too,” she added, referencing her years as the head coach of Israel’s national gymnastics team. “It’s the only way to get performance. Being nice and motherly doesn’t do it.”

Sergiusz Lipczyc, an Israeli former professional boxer who attended the Maccabi Games, recalls watching Keleti motivate her trainees at the Wingate Institute near Netanya in the 1960s.

“She was a tough cookie,” he said. “I remember her correcting one girl’s exercise by saying in front of everybody, ‘Don’t open your legs like that, it’s not nighttime just yet.’”

Two years shy of a century, Keleti still has a sharp tongue that makes it challenging to find suitable caretakers, her younger son, Raphael, said during the interview with his mother.

“It took a while to find someone who was emotionally unshakable,” he said.

Dismissing him with a wave of her hand, Keleti told JTA, “Never mind him, you’re not here to interview him, direct your questions to me.”

In retrospect, Keleti said the girls she trained were too young and that the teenagers competing internationally today are a crucial two years younger than they ought to be for their own physical and mental health.

“The girls begin too early in life and the exercises they do are too straining,” she said. “It’s become a circus. Training needs to begin at 16 and the earliest competing needs to happen is at 18.”

The world’s current best all-around woman gymnast, American Simone Biles, won her first World Championship at 16.

Keleti is credited with essentially founding the national gymnastics team in Israel. She said her arrival there was largely circumstantial.

While competing in Melbourne, the Red Army quelled an anti-communist uprising in Budapest. Keleti filed for asylum and stayed in Australia, where a former teacher from the Jewish Gymnasium in Budapest, Zoltan Dikstein, looked her up and persuaded her to attend the 1957 Maccabi Games in Israel.

The country was so poor and Keleti’s sport so undeveloped that she had to bring her own bar and rings.

Her arrival was a rare feather in the cap of Maccabi organizers and the Israeli media couldn’t get enough of Keleti. Her stardom helped secure her teaching position at the Wingate Institute, where she trained several generations of gymnasts.

It was in Israel that she met her late husband, Reuven Shofet, with whom she had two boys.

“I grew up knowing my mother was Wonder Woman,” Raphael said. “She ran the household, she taught us music, helped with our homework, cooked meals so tasty that all the neighbors’ kids wanted to stay for dinner. Oh, and in her spare time she was an international and local celebrity who traveled to coach athletes at the Olympic Games. No biggie.”

Keleti has visited dozens of countries in her lifetime. The ability to travel out of communist Hungary when few others could leave was a major reason she became a professional athlete in the first place, she said. But she hasn’t seen enough of the world, Keleti told JTA.

“I want to see more. I want to see South America. I want to go to New York,” she said.

In 2017, she won the Israel Prize, the Israeli government’s highest civilian distinction, in the sports category.

Keleti was still able to perform a leg lift and a split that year, but she said her skin has since become too thin to safely attempt such feats now. The problem is keeping her from exercising for the first time in her life.

“But who cares,” she said. “There’s more to life than sport.”

https://www.jta.org/2019/08/06/global/gymnast-agnes-keleti-survived-the-holocaust-to-win-10-olympic-medals-at-98-shes-as-feisty-as-ever

Norway’s state broadcaster airs ‘Jewish swine’ cartoon

BY CNAAN LIPHSHIZ

(JTA) — Norway’s public broadcaster NRK defended a cartoon in which a Scrabble player forms the word “Jewish swine.”

The video, posted online earlier this month by the state-owned NRK  network, is titled “Scrabble” and was captioned “tag a Jew” on the Facebook page of the animators who created it, Norske Grønnsaker.

In it, a grey-haired man wearing a yarmulke and dressed like a haredi Jew is playing Scrabble with a younger man in shorts. The Jew is frustrated over how long his opponent is taking to construct a word. The camera switches to the young man’s point of view to reveal that he’s constructed the word “Jew swine” (one word in Norwegian) but has not revealed it yet.

The young man sighs in frustration as the Jewish player taunts him over his Scrabble skills. “We are clearly on different cognitive levels,” the Jew exclaims.

The cartoon’s airing by NRK, which has long been said to espouse a left-wing editorial line, evoked unusual support and praise by far-right figures, including the anti-Semitic Holocaust denier Hans Jørgen Lysglimt Johansen.

Ivar Staurseth, a journalist for the Minerva newspaper, on Facebook suggested the video was anti-Semitic. ”It’s not for nothing that suffix ‘swine’ doesn’t appear together with other groups/minorities,” he wrote.

NRK Entertainment editor Charlo Halvorsen rejected the allegation, telling Aftenpost Wednesday: “The Scrabble player made an indecent and indefensible word that we can’t and shouldn’t use. But he’s tempted to win.”

https://www.jta.org/quick-reads

A Jewish family sold this Kandinsky painting to survive the Nazis. Amsterdam is keeping it anyway.

That was in 1940, several months into the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, when Klein and her husband sold “Painting with Houses” for the modern-day equivalent of about $1,600 because they needed money to survive the Holocaust.

In its ruling last November, the Dutch Restitutions Committee accepted the family’s account.

But in an unusual and controversial departure from universal practices, the committee also determined  that the painting should not be returned to the family. It cited “public interest” in keeping the work on display at the Stedelijk, among other arguments.

It was the latest of several such refusals by the Netherlands based on what the Dutch Restitutions Committee introduced in 2013 as a “weighted interest” approach to looted art.

It has prompted outrage and concern by some experts, claimants and their representatives. They fear a precedent and see injustice by a country that used to be considered a model implementer of art restitution practices.

“These developments risk turning the Netherlands from a leader in art restitution to a pariah,” Anne Webber and Wesley Fisher wrote in a December op-ed in the Dutch daily NRC Hadelsblad. Webber is an art restitution expert and Fisher is the director of research for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Their essay was titled “It’s a scandal that this stolen art hangs at the museum.”

It is “particularly disturbing,” Fisher told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, that this is happening in the Netherlands, which is one of only five countries (the others being Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom and France) that set up committees to determine the provenance of suspect artworks. Such committees were a key requirement of the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art – a landmark document agreed upon in 1998 by 44 countries.

Irma Klein sold “Painting with Houses” by Wassily Kandinsky during the Holocaust. (Courtesy of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam)

The principles are significant because they form the basis for handling countless claims that cannot be resolved in court because of statutes of limitations.

The document’s effect on restitution efforts remains inconclusive. More than 21 years after its publication, more than 100,000 paintings out of approximately 600,000 that the Nazis stole remain unreturned, according to Deutche Welle. Some of them hang in museums and private collections across Europe and beyond. Others are the subject of drawn-out legal fights.

Interviews with visitors to the Stedelijk suggest there is widespread support for the Dutch approach of resisting restitution to ensure public access to art.

“Art is meant to be viewed,” said Chloe van der Vlugt, a 19-year-old art student from Miami, Florida, who is in favor of keeping the disputed Kandinsky in the Stedelijk. The 1909 painting by the Russian artist features a mysterious figure crouched sorrowfully in a field opposite houses with radiant facades.

“A lot of pillage happened in art, whole countries have lost their treasures,” she added. “We need to move on.”

During two days of interviewing at random some 50 admirers of Kandinsky, JTA did not encounter a single person who favored returning the painting to the family after being informed of the dispute’s details. Those interviewed came from 10 countries, including Israel.

“I think it should stay here, Kandinsky belongs to all of humanity,” Liad Eini, 19, an Israeli art lover on leave from the army, said passionately during a visit – the second in two days — to the Stedelijk. The city-owned modern art museum, housed in a structure resembling a huge bathtub, is considered one of the world’s leading institutions of its kind.

Eini’s mother, Dorit, a teacher, hushed her son, reminding him to speak softly.

“Paintings reach museums at the end of sad stories and tragedies,” she said. “The Holocaust happens to be famous and evocative to us Jews, but it’s no exception to the various calamities behind many of these paintings all around us.”

All those interviewed said, however, that Klein’s family should be offered monetary compensation.

But the elaborate ruling of the Dutch Restitutions Committee, an advisory body whose establishment by the government in 2002 helped make Holland a pioneer in art restitution, offered no reference to compensation, according to Gert-Jan van den Bergh, the lawyer for the claimants, who do not wish to be named. His clients do not rule out a monetary settlement, he said.

(The value of the painting is not known, van den Bergh said, as it has never been appraised. But a Kandinsky painting similar in style to “Painting with Houses” and created the same year fetched $26 million at a London auction in 2017.)

The Stedelijk museum in Amsterdam had nearly 700,000 visitors in 2018. (Flickr)

Fisher, the Claims Conference representative, said the committee’s failure to  discuss a monetary settlement did not give the impression of good will.

“There are a good many ways in which a museum can agree that a painting belongs to the family but nonetheless retain the artwork,” he said. “It is not reasonable that the family in this case is not receiving anything.”

Queried about the possibility of compensation, Eric Idema, the general secretary of the Dutch Restitutions Committee, said he “cannot comment on this specific case.” Generally, he added, the committee has no mandate to offer compensation. Fisher, however, insisted that even a vague recommendation on a settlement would have put pressure on the Stedelijk Museum to offer the family some money.

Stedelijk has not made such an offer, van den Bergh said.

The museum, which is being sued by the family, has said it will keep to the letter of the binding recommendation of the Restitutions Committee, which said the museum is excused from any further action on Klein’s Kandinsky.

The committee also cited the failure of Klein, a Holocaust survivor who died in Amsterdam in 1983, to claim the painting, which the committee determined “had not been stolen or confiscated.” However, the committee did find that “the sale of the painting cannot, on the one hand, be considered in isolation from the Nazi regime,” but also owed to the dire financial straits faced by Klein and her husband in 1940.

It also said the Amsterdam municipality “bought the painting in good faith.”

Unusually, the committee then cited the painting’s prominent placement to explain its decision not to return it, saying in a statement that the artwork “has a significant place in the Stedelijk Museum’s collection.”

“The Committee concluded on the grounds of these interests that the city council is not obliged to restitute the painting,” the statement said.

The argument for keeping art accessible in resisting restitution claims is not new in court cases, according to Orna Artal, a co-founder of Ramos & Artal, a dispute resolution firm in New York and an expert on provenance and restitution of Nazi-looted art.

However, such reasoning is unusual to be invoked by a state-created restitution committee, Artal and Marika Keblusek, a lecturer from the University of Leiden who specializes in the study of looted art, confirmed.

According to the lawyer van den Bergh, it’s happening in the Netherlands in reaction to a massive restitution claim in 2006: Some 202 paintings were yanked from Dutch museums in favor of the Goudstikker family, whose claim was affirmed by the Restitutions Committee.

The first use of the “weighted interest” approach came seven years later, when the committee recognized that paintings belonging to the late Jewish art collector Richard Semmel were looted, but agreed to return only one. Four paintings that Semmel lost because of the Nazis were kept on display, citing the museums’ interest in keeping them accessible to the public.

It was a watershed moment for the Dutch Restitutions Committee, which has made about 170 recommendations, most of them binding rulings, pertaining to some 1,500 items. (Among the binding rulings, 84 were fully or partially in the applicants’ favor and 56 were to reject the claim in full.)

The introduction of the weighted interest approach means that “ownership of looted art outweighed rightful ownership,” Webber and Fisher wrote in their op-ed. And while the committee has ruled since 2013 in favor of returning some looted art, they added that weighted interest in principle means that “[n]o Dutch museum would ever need to return a single work of art ever again.”

https://www.jta.org/2019/07/18/global/a-jewish-family-sold-this-painting-to-survive-the-nazis-amsterdam-is-keeping-it-anyway

Oregon passes law mandating schools teach about the Holocaust

BY CNAAN LIPHSHIZ

(JTA) — Oregon will require its public school students to learn about the Holocaust and other genocides.

Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill on Monday initiated by a 14-year-old girl who had struck up a friendship with a 92-year-old survivor. Claire Sarnowski, from suburban Lake Oswego, met Alter Wiener four years ago when she attended one of Wiener’s talks about surviving the concentration camps. Wiener died last year after he was struck by a car.

The measure mandates the instruction in response to spikes in anti-Semitic incidents across the country, CNN reported Tuesday.

Beginning in the 2020-21 term, schools must provide such teaching to “prepare students to confront the immorality of the Holocaust, genocide, and other acts of mass violence and to reflect on the causes of related historical events.” Schools also must encourage cultural diversity and emphasize the importance of protecting international human rights, according to the bill.

Sarnowski told lawmakers earlier this year that Holocaust education should be required in all schools to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.

“Learning about genocide teaches students the ramifications that come with prejudice of any kind in society,” she said.

Eleven other states require Holocaust education in schools, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Washington state’s governor signed a law in April that “strongly encourages” teaching the Holocaust.

https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/oregon-passes-law-saying-schools-must-teach-the-holocaust

Daily Stormer publisher must pay $14 million to Jewish woman he told readers to harass

BY CNAAN LIPHSHIZ

(JTA) — The publisher of a neo-Nazi website who instructed readers to troll a Jewish real estate agent must pay the victim $14 million, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch also recommended that the court order Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer to remove all posts and photos that he used to victimize Montana resident Tanya Gersh, her husband and her 12-year-old son in 2016. The website had called on readers to unleash a “troll storm” on Gersh.

Trolling is the act of harassing people on social network.  The Daily Stormer is one of the most-read white supremacist websites in the world.

In order to take effect, Lynch’s recommendations must be approved by the U.S. District Court, the New York Post reported.

Gersh said in a statement, “This lawsuit has always been about stopping others from enduring the terror I continue to live through at the hands of a neo-Nazi and his followers. I wanted to make sure that this never happens to anyone else,” she added.

She sued Anglin after she said her family received scores of threatening and anti-Semitic messages.

The threats began after Anglin accused Gersh of trying to force out the mother of a white nationalist from the mountain resort community of Whitefish.

Anglin unsuccessfully argued that his actions were protected under the First Amendment.

Of the recommended $14 million payout, Lynch said Gersh deserves $10 million in punitive damages and $4 million for lost earnings, pain and suffering.

https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/daily-stormer-publisher-made-to-pay-14m-to-jewish-woman-he-helped-harass