Category Archive: JTA

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez compared the migrant caravan to Jews fleeing Nazi Europe. Is it a fair take?

Migrant children play as Mexican riot police look on outside the El Chaparral port of entry in Tijuana, Mexico, Nov. 22, 2018. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is just one of 435 members of the incoming U.S. House of Representatives, but her youth, surprise primary win in her Bronx-area district, socialism and, above all, outspokenness have attracted outsize attention.

So when Ocasio-Cortez, 29, likened the crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico to Jewish refugees that the United States turned away before World War II, the reactions came thick and fast.

“Asking to be considered a refugee & applying for status isn’t a crime,” Ocasio Cortez said Sunday on Twitter after U.S. border agents repelled Central American migrants with tear gas. “It wasn’t for Jewish families fleeing Germany. It wasn’t for targeted families fleeing Rwanda. It wasn’t for communities fleeing war-torn Syria. And it isn’t for those fleeing violence in Central America.”

Attached to her tweet was a now viral Reuters photo of a mother fleeing the tear gas clutching two toddlers, one in diapers.

A number of conservatives seized upon the tweet to suggest that Ocasio-Cortez was likening the migrants that President Donald Trump has labeled as “invaders” to the 6 million Jews who perished in the Nazi Holocaust.

“New York Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Sunday compared members of the migrant caravan attempting to enter the United States to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany during the Holocaust” was how the conservative online news site the Daily Caller framed its report on Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet.

“I recommend she take a tour of the Holocaust Museum in DC,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is close to Trump, said Monday in his own tweet. “Might help her better understand the differences between the Holocaust and the caravan in Tijuana.”

Here’s the thing: The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum wasn’t exactly distancing itself from Ocasio-Cortez’s comment.

Asked for comment on whether it is appropriate to liken the Central American refugees to Jews fleeing Germany, a museum spokesman pointed to its statement in 2017 when Trump announced plans to shrink refugee access to the United States. The statement suggested it is not out of place to liken the flight of Jews in the 1930s to subsequent refugee crises, even if the conditions in the home countries of the asylum seekers differ in scale or torment.

“The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is acutely aware of the consequences to the millions of Jews who were unable to flee Nazism, as noted in our November 2015 statement on the Syrian refugee crisis,” the 2017 statement said. “The Museum continues to have grave concern about the global refugee crisis and our response to it. During the 1930s and 1940s, the United States, along with the rest of the world, generally refused to admit Jewish refugees from Nazism due to antisemitic and xenophobic attitudes, harsh economic conditions, and national security fears.”

The Twitter account of Auschwitz, the museum and memorial at the site of the former Nazi concentration camp, also appeared to back Ocasio-Cortez in a tweet Tuesday.

“When we look at Auschwitz we see the end of the process,” the tweet read. “It’s important to remember that the Holocaust actually did not start from gas chambers. This hatred gradually developed from words, stereotypes & prejudice through legal exclusion, dehumanisation & escalating violence.”

The most famous case is that of the St. Louis, the German “voyage of the damned” turned away from the United States and Canada in 1939. (Historians estimate that a third of the 900 or so Jewish refugees aboard the St. Louis perished in the Holocaust.) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently apologized for his nation’s decision to turn away the ship; no U.S. president has.

Melanie Nezer, a vice president of HIAS, the lead Jewish refugee organization, said the laws governing how nations accept and process refugees were determined with the Holocaust as an immediate memory.

“The laws we have today in this country were based on the U.N. convention of 1951, which was based on Jewish refugees being turned away during World War II,” she said.

Migrants climb up a bank of the nearly dry Tijuana River as they attempt to make their way past a police blockade to the El Chaparral port, Nov. 25, 2018. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

That’s why, Nezer said, it made sense for Ocasio-Cortez to invoke not only the Jews turned away in the 1930s and ’40s, but subsequent refugee crises.

“The point she was making, and I think it was an appropriate one, was that countries must hear asylum claims,” said Nezer, who added that the Trump administration’s shutdown of the border at Tijuana was unprecedented in recent history and, in the view of HIAS, illegal.

Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America and the son of Jewish refugees, has become the most outspoken defender of Trump’s immigration policies among Jewish organization heads. In a series of tweets Sunday, Klein suggested that the Central American migrants aren’t actually refugees.

“Stop illegal immigration. They’re mostly healthy looking young men,” he said in one tweet, referring to the migrants at Tijuana.

He also asserted, “If these illegals were all conservatives who would likely vote republican, none of these leftwing supporters of these illegals would be supporting the illegals. None!”

Later, however, Klein conceded that seeking asylum in the U.S., with or without legal status, is not illegal. What’s new is a Trump policy saying those who enter the United States from Mexico between ports of entry are ineligible for asylum.

“Any person who is facing serious danger or oppression should be given every opportunity for asylum in the United States, just as my parents, survivors of the Holocaust, from Poland and Czechoslovakia, were given asylum,” Klein tweeted Sunday.

Nezer said the Central American refugees were denied the opportunity to apply for refugee status from a distance the way Jewish refugees could from the relative safety of a displaced persons camp. Others say the current system is not designed to facilitate the processing of large numbers of asylum seekers at the designated crossing points — especially families — although the administration counters that many of the migrants are gaming the system by falsely claiming persecution back home.

“A refugee is someone who has crossed a border because they don’t feel safe in their country,” Nezer said, obviating the prospect of the Central Americans applying for refugee status in their home countries.

She said the refugees have little choice but to turn up at the border and exercise their right to request asylum.

“There are no displaced person camps, Mexico is not safe for asylum seekers, particularly along the border,” where gangs and drug smugglers proliferate, Nezer said. “There’s no safe place for people to be processed, you’re not providing them a safe alternative place for them to apply.”

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/11/26/news-opinion/politics/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-compared-the-migrant-caravan-to-jews-fleeing-nazi-europe-is-it-a-fair-take

Claude Lanzmann’s posthumous ‘Shoah’ sequel ‘Four Sisters’ is sadly relevant

Hanna Marton in “Noah’s Ark,” one of the four films that make up Claude Lanzmann’s “Four Sisters.” (Cohen Media Group)

(JTA) — Before Steven Spielberg, there was Claude Lanzmann.

Prior to the birth of what is now the USC Shoah Foundation — Spielberg’s Holocaust testimony archive, which was funded originally by the Oscar-winning director’s share of his “Schindler’s List” profits in 1994 — Lanzmann’s landmark 1985 documentary “Shoah” provided an earlier opportunity for survivors to share their harrowing World War II testimonies, as well as to document the mass extermination of Jews.

Over the course of its nine-plus hours, “Shoah” conveyed the horrors to a world that didn’t believe — or didn’t want to. Six million dead is unimaginable, but the words of one person at a time are more difficult to ignore. Like politics, genocide is local.

In the more than three decades since “Shoah,” Lanzmann — who passed away in July at 92 — released a series of ancillary films with footage not used in the original, such as “A Visitor From the Living” and “Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4 p.m.”

The latest installments, “The Four Sisters,” is about four women who aren’t related by blood, just by their wartime experiences. The series of four separate films opens this week in New York and next week in Los Angeles, followed by a national release. All four films will be available in theaters, and moviegoers can see two of them per ticket.

Lanzmann’s approach here is different in format from the original. In “Shoah,” he used many voices to tell the larger story, splicing in interviews with survivors and perpetrators. With this project, he has given each “sister” her own film — her own opportunity to tell her horrifying and powerful story. They vary in length from 52 to 89 minutes.

Another stark difference: “Four Sisters” involves female perspectives, which were largely missing from the original “Shoah.”

But like “Shoah,” the “Four Sisters” films are difficult to watch. In “Baluty,” Paula Biren, originally of Lodz, Poland, tells Lanzmann that she hoped England or France would have stepped in to help after the German invasion.

“Poland had pacts with both countries,” she notes.

The two powers did declare war on Germany, but there were no large-scale military actions for months. All the city’s Jews were transferred to the infamous Lodz Ghetto. However, the Nazi-appointed head of the Jewish community, Chaim Rumkowski, made a deal with the Germans — to forestall deportation to the camps, Jews would engage in hard slave labor. It was a Faustian bargain: Some 45,000 Jews died of starvation or other causes in the ghetto.

When the Nazis said they were going to send every child younger than 9 to a special camp, Paula describes how one mother pulled her daughter back. An SS officer grabbed the mother by the neck, turned her around and shot her in front of her daughter.

But because of the deal, Paula attended a special high school and later was recruited to become a police officer. Upon realizing that she had unwittingly become complicit in sending black market merchants she had arrested to their deaths, Biren quit. But her guilt lingered.

Over the years, the guilt has transformed to anger.

“I felt then I had no choice,” she says. The world “should feel guilty for what was done to me.”

Ruth Elias, given the spotlight in “The Hippocratic Oath,” was 19 when the Nazis invaded the small town where her family lived for generations. Soon afterward, her father was barred from the sausage factory he owned  — by workers he had employed for years.

Ruth eventually was deported to Theresienstadt, where she witnessed drunken SS soldiers invade the women’s block and rape whomever they wanted. When it was discovered she was pregnant, Josef Mengele — the Nazi physician who performed horrific experiments on prisoners and became known as the “Angel of Death” — took over her care.

After she delivered her child, Mengele had her breasts strapped so she could not nurse the baby. He wanted to learn how long a newborn could survive without food. A Jewish camp doctor gave her medication that allowed her to kill her own child so she wouldn’t have to watch it suffer.

Paula Biren shown in “Baluty.” Lanzmann’s original “Shoah” film largely involved male testimonies. (Cohen Media Group)

In “Noah’s Ark,” Hanna Marton, like Paula, is guilt-ridden because she realizes that her survival was purchased at the expense of the 450,000 Hungarian Jews murdered in the late stages of the war. Her husband worked with Rudolf Kasztner, who had negotiated a deal with Adolf Eichmann that rescued nearly 1,700 Jews for a fee of $1,000 each.

“The Merry Flea” tells the story of Ada Lichtman, one of only three woman selected to work at Sobibor from among an estimated 250,000 Jews gassed there. Their job was to clean and refurbish the dolls stolen from Jewish children before they were sent to Germany. Dolls became constant reminders of what she went through.

It’s difficult not to view this new project in relation to the recent Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Questions like “do we need another Holocaust film?” assume, wrongly, that their lessons have been learned. The Jews of Pittsburgh would disagree, as would parents of Jewish students at Pascack Valley High School in suburban New Jersey, where a set of swastikas was discovered for a second time in six weeks.

In an essay from 1981, Lanzmann wrote, “Like the indestructible phoenix, anti-Semitism is arising virtually everywhere from its own ashes.” He probably could have written the same essay today.

In an ironic twist, “Four Sisters” was released in Europe on July 4, and Lanzmann died the next day. It was as if he recognized his job was done, or that he had done all he could. Our job continues.

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/11/14/life-religion/claude-lanzmanns-posthumous-shoah-sequel-four-sisters-sadly-relevant

This German group renovates Holocaust survivors’ homes in Israel for free

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski, right, wrote a Facebook post about his conversation with a German man who travels to Israel to renovate Holocaust survivors’ apartments. (Wishedski)

(JTA) — Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski had an unexpected encounter on a recent flight to Israel.

Wishedski, who was flying on Monday from Basel, Switzerland, where he works as a Chabad emissary, was praying when a man seated next to him handed him a piece of paper.

The note was from an organization called the Saxon Friends of Israel and described how the group brings volunteers from Germany to Israel to renovate Holocaust survivors’ apartments for free.

The two started talking and the man, a house painter named Roland, said that he had been traveling to Israel twice a year for around five years from his home in the south German state of Baden-Wurttemberg to do the volunteer work.

“I cannot change or repair the whole world, I cannot repair all my people did 70 years ago,’” the rabbi recalled 54-year-old Roland telling him. “All I can do is painting. It’s what I’m doing, bringing a little bit of good to the world.”

Wishedski, who was born in Israel but has been living in Basel for 16 years, was touched by the selfless story.

“This was very, very good because sometimes we give up because we can’t change the entire world, and he told me that if you can change the house of one woman, it’s worth it,” the rabbi told JTA.

Wishedski snapped a selfie with Roland and shared it on his Facebook profile. The post, which he wrote in Hebrew, received over two thousand likes. Writer and public speaker Emanuel Miller translated it into English in a post that received over three thousand likes.

JTA attempted to contact the Saxon Friends of Israel to get in touch with Roland but did not receive a response.

Meanwhile, Wishedski has been fielding calls from journalists from Israel and the United States.

“I’m enjoying my 15 minutes [of fame],” he said.

This promotional video from 2013 gives a little more information on the Saxon Friends of Israel and shows them in action fixing Holocaust survivors’ houses. One volunteer explains that both of his parents were avid Nazis and that he is the only one in his family who wants to “deal with the issue.”

When Dutch Jews found haven in an anti-Semitic Hungary

A Jewish family reunited in Budapest in 1943 following the arrival there of family members from Holland. (Courtesy of Willy Lindwer)

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — When her classmates were sent from occupied Holland to death camps, Emmy Korodi and her Dutch-Jewish family were safe in Hungary — one of Nazi Germany’s closest allies.

Her family were among some 90 Jews who, at the height of World War II, survived for the unlikeliest reasons: They fled the Germans and local police in the Netherlands — a country that many people credit for its population’s efforts to save Jews — and found safety in Hungary, a perceived perpetrator nation of the Holocaust.

The story of the Dutch-Jewish refugees in Hungary was told for the first time this year in a documentary titled “The Train Journey” by the award-winning Dutch-Israeli filmmaker Willy Lindwer. The film’s premiere on the Dutch memorial day in May was accompanied by the publication of a book by Lindwer under the same title and generated intense interest in Dutch media.

Coming amid new revelations about Europe’s Holocaust-era record, the film’s story highlights in a striking manner the complexity and ambiguity of the Holocaust in countries with checkered histories.

“Compared to life in Holland, life in Budapest was fantastic,” Korodi, a Holocaust survivor who was a child when her family fled to Hungary in 1942, said in the documentary. “We could go out, there was a wonderful swimming pool between Buda and Pest with hot springs. You’d see there men playing chess in the water.”

Holland’s collaborationist police force left the Korodis alone in Holland and later allowed them to come to Hungary because they were Hungarian citizens under the active protection of Hungary’s pro-Nazi government under Miklos Horthy. Hungarian Jews in Holland were even exempted from wearing the yellow star.

The murder of Hungarian Jewry began in earnest in May 1944, under Horthy. Between May 15 and July 9, about 430,000 Hungarian Jews were deported, though not from Budapest.

Horthy defended the vast majority of Budapest’s Jews from being murdered. Nevertheless, Horthy was a hardened anti-Semite whose policies of exclusion earned Hungary its reputation as one of Europe’s most anti-Semitic nations. Years before the Nazis’ rise to power, Hungary under him became the first European country to implement a quota on Jews in higher education and some professions.

Anki Tauber is among 73 Jews from Holland who survived the Holocaust in pro-Nazi Hungary. (Courtesy of Willy Lindwer)

His policies led thousands of Jews to leave Hungary — including for Holland. One of them was Korodi’s father, a retired army officer who set up a business selling dentures in the Netherlands.

“When he came to Holland he saw it’s a lovely place, there was no anti-Semitism and after World War I he moved here,” Korodi said of her father.

“Horthy protected the interests of all Hungarians living abroad – even the Jews,” said Willy Lindwer, the filmmaker. A “convinced anti-Semite,” Horthy’s “nationalist feelings were nevertheless stronger,” Lindwer added.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, a democracy whose relative tolerance had drawn Emmy Korodi’s father to settle there before the Germans occupied it in 1940, local police and volunteers were hunting for Jews — including Hungarian ones.

In 1942, Korodi recalls Dutch police arresting her and her father briefly — until her mother got them freed on account of their Hungarian citizenship.

As the Netherlands became increasingly dangerous for the Hungarian Jews, their government told them it could no longer vouch for their safety in Holland and arranged special trains to bring them back.

Hungarian-Jewish men, including the ones who returned from Holland, were drafted to special labor units supervised by police and the military. Many died from as a result of the grueling conditions suffered by those drafted. Anyone caught dodging the draft would be summarily shot, sometimes with their relatives.

But at least their children and wives were safe.

Living in Hungary also meant more and better food than in the Netherlands, where some 22,000 people died of famine during World War II.

“We were extremely happy because there was food [in Budapest],” said Vera Gyergyoi-Rudnai, another person who survived the Holocaust by fleeing from Holland to Hungary.

But the overthrow of Horthy in 1944 and his replacement with the Nazi puppet government of Ferenc Szalasi of the fascist Arrow Cross movement again threatened the survival of the some 360,000 Jews who were then living in Budapest. Notorious for their thirst for Jewish blood, Szalaszi’s men murdered thousands of Jews in Budapest.

Willy Lindwer’s film examines both Holland and Hungary’s Holocaust records. (Courtesy of Willy Lindwer)

Emmy Korodi in 1944 very nearly became one of the victims of the Arrow Cross, who would mutilate Jews on the street and shoot them in groups on the banks of the Danube river.

Running errands for her family because she was blonde and did not look stereotypically Jewish, she was nonetheless arrested by the dreaded Arrow Cross, who said she had escaped the ghetto.

Normally, any person facing the accusation would be immediately killed.

Korodi remembers seeing the bodies of an entire Jewish family who had been shot by Arrow Cross militiamen and then propped up on a park bench, either as a perverse joke or attempt to terrorize other victims.

Yet she and many of the Dutch refugees were able to survive even that purge thanks to another twist in their fateful story: They obtained life-saving documents from Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews by issuing them visas of sorts to Sweden.

“I let them see the Wallenberg papers and they let me go,” Korodi recalls in the documentary, which will next year begin its international distribution, including in Israel and the United States.

Of the 89 Jews who fled Holland to Hungary, 73 survived World War II.

None of them remained in Hungary.

To Lindwer, the story of the 89 Jews who fled Holland to Hungary illustrates how the “sheer complexity and unpredictability” of the Holocaust “defies both sweeping generalizations and popular perceptions,” he said.

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/10/18/news-opinion/dutch-jews-found-haven-anti-semitic-hungary

Nazis’ aerial photography is helping map and preserve Jewish cemeteries

By Cnaan Liphshiz

Photographers capture a ceremony at a Jewish cemetery in Frampol, Poland. (ESJF)

LUBLIN, Poland (JTA) — When German air force pilots took aerial photographs of western Ukraine in 1941, they did it to help Nazi Germany defeat the Soviet Union in a war that saw the genocide of 6 million Jews.

But in a twist of fate, the German government has recently started funding an effort that uses the photographs to identify and preserve Jewish cemeteries.

The effort, in which the Luftwaffe archives are only one of several ingenious tools, began in 2015 with the establishment of an organization called the European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative, or ESJF. The largest-ever international project of its kind, ESJF has since fenced more than 100 Jewish cemeteries in seven countries on a modest annual budget of approximately $1 million.

And in Eastern Europe, fencing Jewish cemeteries is “not as straightforward as it may sound,” according to Philip Carmel, a British former journalist, the organization’s CEO since its creation.

Even determining the location of such graveyards can be challenging in towns with entire Jewish populations that were murdered and cemeteries plundered for construction material and then stolen for development.

That’s where the Luftwaffe aerial photographs enter the picture, Carmel said.

“Obviously they were taken to help the German war effort,” Carmel said of the prints and negatives that he pulled from German state archives. “But they were accurate enough to help us identify some Jewish cemeteries right before the destruction.”

In the western Ukrainian town of Buchach — the birthplace of the Jewish Nobel Prize laureate Shmuel Yosef Agnon and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal — Jews for generations buried their dead atop a mound that in 1941 stood on the town’s northern margins.

But after the murder of the area’s 10,000 Jews during the Holocaust, the forest adjacent to the cemetery was allowed to swallow it up, leaving exposed only a few dozen headstones. Fragments of others used to lie in piles on the shoulders of the potholed asphalt road that snakes along Buchach’s Torgova Street.

The forest’s progression and the destruction caused to the headstones – locals throughout Eastern Europe steal them to use as sharpening stones or building material – complicated efforts to map the cemetery. The Luftwaffe aerials show its borders clearly, explained Carmel, who last year oversaw its demarcation. It is now set for fencing later this year, complete with retaining walls.

Jewish communities in Eastern Europe are struggling to maintain crumbling heritage sites from the prewar era. (ESJF)

ESJF recently began using engineering drones that can map a Jewish cemetery in a fraction of the time and cost that a team of surveyors would require.

Fencing is crucial, Carmel said, because it prevents further damage. While it neither helps restore damage nor prevent people who are determined to get in from climbing the fence, “It shows ownership, it indicates interest and it vastly reduces the chance of vandalism,” he said.

Jewish communities in Eastern Europe are struggling to maintain crumbling heritage sites from an era when the local Jewish population was many times greater than it is today, as are activists working to preserve Jewish cemeteries.

But ESJF is the best-funded and first international effort of its kind, active in an area with well over 10,000 Jewish cemeteries in various degrees of risk. And it is by far the most transparent, as per stringent reporting demands by the German treasury.

Whereas the bulk of the damage to Jewish cemeteries happened during World War II and under communism, they are still being degraded today at an alarming rate due to unregulated construction and vandalism.

Earlier this month, the construction of a state-funded sports complex in the town of Klimontow, Poland, was completed atop what activists say was a disused Jewish cemetery. Last year, a judge in Belarus cleared the way for the construction of apartments atop two former Jewish cemeteries in Gomel. And in Lithuania, the government is ignoring an international outcry over its plan to build a conference center on what used to be one Vilnius’ largest cemeteries, which the communists razed.

About a quarter of all Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe were destroyed during the Nazi and Soviet periods, according to Rabbi Isaac Schapira, the Israel-based founder and chairman of the ESJF board.

“Most of those that have remained lie neglected principally because their communities were wiped out in the Holocaust,” he said.

This is also the reason the German government decided to bankroll ESJF, according to Carmel.

As a rule, ESJF does not get involved in cemeteries featuring a legal or territorial dispute, like the ones in Klimontow, Gomel or Vilnius.

“Our objective is to fence as many Jewish cemeteries as possible in as little time as possible for the lowest cost,” Carmel said.

Instead of duking it out with local authorities and developers, ESJF tries to find compromises.

On a recent project, ESJF even purchased a small and cheap plot of land in a small Ukrainian town so it could serve as a Christian cemetery. It was the simplest way of getting the local Orthodox church, which did not want to bury Seventh-day Adventists in its Christian cemetery, to stop burying them atop older graves at a disused Jewish cemetery, Carmel said.

When it comes to halachah, or Jewish law, ESJF is strict in observing its rules on burial, Carmel said. But whenever possible, he said, the organization tries to compromise, keeping with its view that local partnerships are the only guarantee for the organization’s long-lasting impact.

“The cemeteries we fence, they are not being guarded,” Carmel said. “Ultimately the only way of making sure these places don’t get destroyed is to get the local population to think of their local Jewish cemetery as part of their own heritage.”

One success has been in Frampol, Poland, where dozens of schoolchildren joined ESJF’s fencing and cleanup of the local Jewish cemetery.

Another is the story of Katy Kryvko, a 17-year-old high school student from the Ukraine village of Derazhne, located about 100 miles north of Buchach. Two years ago Kryvko, who is not Jewish, contacted ESJF about a Jewish cemetery behind her home that the local children used as a playground.

“I was shocked when I realized that kids are playing literally at the cemetery,” she told JTA. “I didn’t understand why it was neglected and nobody cared about it.”

Her interest in the cemetery led Kryvko to study the tragic history of the region’s Jewish population, and to ESJF, which cleaned it up and fenced it last year.

“It’s so important for me because I know that I’m the only one person who can save the cemetery,” she said. “I mean, who can take care of it.”

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/09/26/news-opinion/nazis-aerial-photography-helping-map-preserve-jewish-cemeteries

Ex-Nazi soldier loses final appeal to keep Canadian citizenship

MONTREAL (JTA) — A former Nazi who lied to enter Canada decades ago lost his appeal to keep his citizenship and faces deportation.

Canada’s Federal Court ruled Thursday that it was “reasonable” that Helmut Oberlander, 94, of Waterloo, Ontario, be stripped of his citizenship.

It was the first time Oberlander lost an appeal in four tries since 2001, when the Canadian government first ruled to revoke his citizenship.

Oberlander was appealing a decision made in July 2017.

Oberlander was an interpreter for the Einsatzkommandos, mobile killing squads that targeted Jews in the former Soviet Union during World War II, although he was never charged himself with killing Jews.

“This is a very positive decision from the court,” said David Matas, legal counsel for B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights. “The federal government must now take the next step towards removing Oberlander from Canada immediately.”

An ethnic German born in Ukraine, Oberlander claims to have been a low-level interpreter for the Einsatzkommandos who was conscripted under duress, that he never took part in killings and he would have been shot had he tried to escape.

He served with the squad as an interpreter from 1941 to 1943. He later was an infantryman in the German army.

Oberlander immigrated to Canada in 1954 and became a citizen in 1960 without disclosing his wartime record. His case rose to prominence in 1995.

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/09/28/default/ex-nazi-soldier-loses-final-appeal-keep-canadian-citizenship

This year’s Oscar foreign film race is full of movies on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism

Christopher Lambert, right, portraying a German Nazi officer in “Sobibor.” (Courtesy of Rosiya Segondiya)

(JTA) — Russia nominated a film about the Nazi death camp Sobibor as its entry for the Academy Award for best foreign language film.

“Sobibor,” a multimillion-dollar production with state funding, centers on the 1943 escape by Jewish inmates from the camp under the leadership of Russian inmates. It was one of only two such occurrences during the Holocaust, with the other happening that same year in Treblinka.

The two-hour film features Konstantin Khabenskiy, one of Russia’s best-known actors, along with an international cast as well as unusually gory visuals. It is based on historical research of the history of the camp in Poland, where SS guards and Ukrainians murdered 250,000 Jews.

The Holocaust and anti-Semitism featured in the submissions of five other European countries: The Netherlands, Austria, Romania, Slovakia and Switzerland.

The Dutch submission is “The Resistance Banker,” based on the actions of Walraven van Hall, a banker who financed the resistance during Nazi occupation, including efforts to save Jews. He was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations — Israel’s title for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust – in the 1970s.

Austria’s “The Waldheim Waltz,” by the Austrian-Jewish director Ruth Beckermann, is a biographical drama about former U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, and the controversy of his participation and role in the Nazi regime during World War II.

“I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians” tells the story of a theater director seeking a re-enactment of the barbaric massacre of thousands of Jews in Odessa by occupying Romanian troops.

Slovakia’s “The Interpreter” follows a Jewish man’s efforts to find the Nazi officer who may have killed his parents.

“Eldorado,” the Swiss submission, looks at the hardships faced by modern-day immigrants to Europe but juxtaposes their situation with the realities experienced by asylum seekers during World War II, including many Jews.

Hungary’s submission, “Sunset,” was directed by Laszlo Nemes, a Jewish-Hungarian filmmaker whose previous feature, “Son of Saul,” won the category’s 2016 Oscar. The later film is set in 1913 Budapest and follows the trials of Irisz Leiter, a newcomer to the city whose parents’ shop is burned.

“Throughout the film, Irisz and those around her make so much of her name that one wonders if the Leiters were Jewish, casting a dark shadow over” the fire, The Hollywood Reporter wrote in a review this month. “But this is never explicitly stated in the film and remains only a possibility.”

Israel’s submission is “The Cakemaker,” which centers on a German pastry maker who travels to Jerusalem in search of the wife and son of his dead lover. It is Israel’s 51st submission to the award; the country has received 10 nominations but has yet to win.

The Palestinian submission is “Ghost Hunting,” a documentary about prisoners from Israeli detention reliving their incarceration and alleged torture.

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/09/20/top-headlines/years-oscar-foreign-film-race-full-movies-holocaust-anti-semitism?utm_source=JTA%20Maropost&utm_campaign=JTA&utm_medium=email&mpweb=1161-6135-185509

After foot-dragging, Romanian Holocaust victims got $10 million since 2015

(JTA) — Romanian Holocaust survivors have received $10 million in payments since 2015, the World Jewish Restitution Organization said.

The funds have been distributed to thousands of recipients from that country, which after decades of resistance and foot-dragging has in recent years taken some major steps toward offering compensation to victims of the genocide perpetrated by its former ally, Nazi Germany, and local collaborators.

During the High Holidays, WJRO distributed extra aid among 142 impoverished recipients, including a 104-year-old who lives alone in Israel, the organization said.

“These funds help Holocaust victims live with the dignity they deserve,” Gideon Taylor, WJRO chair of operations, said in a statement last week.

Over the past three years, payments of over  $1,900 were made to 1,393 needy Holocaust survivors from Israel from funding obtained after 2015. Another 1,067 needy survivors reveiced $600 payments.

In 2017, extra funds for Romanian Holocaust survivors living outside Israel and Romania were set aside and $600,000 distributed among those recipients. Another $1.3 is to be given out to the same group this year.

The program for Romanian Holocaust survivors is administered by the Claims Conference on behalf of the Caritatea Foundation, which was formed as a partnership of the WJRO and the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania.

In 2016, legislation making it easier for Holocaust survivors to press restitution claims passed in Romania’s Parliament.

But Romania has not addressed heirless or unclaimed property left by victims of Holocaust persecution. Years after the expiration of a deadline for filing claims for private-owned property stolen during the Holocaust, Romanian authorities have processed less than half of some 250,000 claims.

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/09/21/default/romanian-holocaust-victims-got-10-million-since-2015