Category Archive: JTA

Polish town accused of turning Jewish cemetery into soccer field

By Cnaan Liphshiz

Polish school children at a ribbon cutting ceremony at the field in Klimontow, Poland, Sept. 6, 2018. (Courtesy of the Municiplaity of Klimontow)

(JTA) — A state-funded sports complex was built on a disused Jewish cemetery in southeastern Poland, several Jewish groups complained.

The complex, comprising a basketball and soccer court, was inaugurated on Sept. 6 at a ribbon- cutting ceremony in Klimontow, a town located 20 miles northeast of Krakow, according to the municipality’s website. It said the project has received more than $90,000 in government funding.

But according to the Shem Olam Holocaust museum near Hadera in Israel, the complex is located atop the former Jewish cemetery fo the town, which before the Holocaust had thousands of Jewish residents.

“This is deeply offensive to the Jewish People,” the museum’s director, Rabbi Avraham Kriger, wrote to the municipality last week, the news site Kipa reported.

Meir Bulka, an Israeli Holocaust commemoration activist and founder of the J-Nerations organization, told JTA that he believes the municipality was aware of the cemetery’s location when it built the complex on it. “They laid down piping there. There is no doubt they encountered graves,” he said Friday.

The municipality of Klimontow did not reply to telephone calls and an email from JTA requesting their reaction to the claims.

Yaakov Haguel, acting director of the World Zionist Organization, said he holds the Polish government responsible for the construction in Klimontow, which he called “a kick delivered to Polish Jewry Poland.”

In a statement, he noted the passing in January in Warsaw of a law prohibiting blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes, calling it “an attempt to blur history, compounded by insensitivity to Polish Jews” in Klimontow. “The Polish government must respect Jews as it does any other citizen. Such events must not be allowed to recur in Poland and beyond,” he added.

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/09/21/default/polish-town-accused-turning-jewish-cemetery-soccer-field

2 Republican congressmen attended fundraiser with Holocaust denier

(JTA) — Two Republican congressmen who have been criticized for associating with a Holocaust denier attended a fundraiser with him.

The far-right activist Charles Johnson was invited to and attended the yacht fundraiser in Newport Beach, California, for Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida on July 20, according to a report Thursday by the Mother Jones magazine. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California also attended.

Last October, news reports revealed that Rohrabacher had welcomed Johnson to a Capitol Hill meeting with Sen. Rand Paul. In response, the Anti-Defamation League urged Rohrabacher to “discontinue any association with Johnson and repudiate his views.”

Gaetz had also invited Johnson to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech in January.

Gaetz was criticized for the invitation in light of Johnson’s assertions on Twitter in 2017 about Holocaust victims.

“I do not and never have believed the six million figure,” he wrote. “I think the Red Cross numbers of 250,000 dead in the camps from typhus are more realistic. I think the Allied bombing of Germany was a ware [sic] crime. I agree … about Auschwitz and the gas chambers not being real.”

Referring to Johnson’s presence at the July 20 event, Jason Pitkin, Rohrabacher’s campaign finance director, told Mother Jones: “I don’t remember who invited him there.” Asked whether Johnson had come at the invitation of Gaetz, Kip Talley, the chief of staff for Gaetz’s re-election campaign, replied in an email, “It was a private event and you’re welcome to check the FEC reports to see who donated. Thanks for reaching out.”

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/09/14/news-opinion/2-republican-congressmen-attend-fundraiser-holocaust-denier?utm_source=JTA%20Maropost&utm_campaign=JTA&utm_medium=email&mpweb=1161-6021-185509

Yad Vashem questions honors for 3 Poles as Holocaust-era rescuers of Jews

Jonny Daniels

Jonny Daniels’ From the Depths organization honored three Poles last month for risking their lives to save Jews. Israel’s Yad Vashem museum took issue with the move. (Jonny Daniels/Facebook)

(JTA) — Israel’s state Holocaust museum expressed concerns over a Polish group honoring three people it did not recognize as having risked their lives to save Jews.

Joel Zisenwine, the director of the Yad Vashem museum’s Righteous Among the Nations department, said there is “fear that these actions may lead to misleading the public” in an email he sent this month to Holocaust commemoration activist Meir Bulka in Israel, who runs the JNerations group.

Bulka had written to Zisenwine to complain about the honoring of three people in Warsaw last month by the From the Depths organization, which was founded by Jonny Daniels, an Israeli-British Holocaust commemoration activist. Daniels has said the three honorees saved some 3,000 people by granting them documents that allowed them to escape.

“The basis for Daniels’ awarding of honors to rescuers of Jews is entirely unclear,” Zisenwine wrote.

One of the honorees, Julian Kulski, reportedly “had been appointed by the Nazis as acting mayor of Warsaw, demanding the leadership of the local Ghetto to reduce its size, vacate apartments etc.” Zisenwine wrote.

Yad Vashem had considered a request for recognition by the man’s son, but rejected it in the 1980s “due to conflicting testimonies and contradictions with other sources, that give a slightly different picture of his attitude to Jews,” Zisenwine said.

Among those who said Kulski helped saved the lives of Jews was Duda Falik, who told Yad Vashem in 1980 that Kulski hid her parents from 1940 to 1944.

Daniels told JTA that his group did not give any titles but defended its decision “to say thank you” to Kulski and any other person that it deems worthy of such a gesture based on its research and that of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance.

Recognition of Poles for saving Jews in the Holocaust is a sensitive issue.

Efforts in this field by Poland’s right-wing government have exposed it to criticism by some Jews who say it is highlighting Holocaust-era heroism to eclipse complicity.

Yad Vashem has recognized 6,863 Polish Righteous — far more than in any other country. But in February, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that Warsaw alone had 90,000-150,000 people who risked their lives to save Jews.

Daniels’ advocates say he has made partnerships that reduce anti-Semitic rhetoric there. His critics, including Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, have accused him of helping the government politicize debate over the Holocaust, including in its passing this year of a controversial law making it illegal to blame Poland for Nazi crimes.

Daniels, who in February criticized a statement by Morawiecki as a form of “Holocaust denial,” defended his work as apolitical and devoted to preserving the memory of the Holocaust, as well as building cultural ties between Poland and Israel.

“We wish there were more Jewish foundations stepping forward to say thank you,” Daniels told JTA about the Yad Vashem criticism. His group, which interviews survivors and rescuers for testimonial films, will be holding additional events in the coming weeks to express gratitude to those it considers rescuers, he said, as “time is absolutely running out.”

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/09/13/news-opinion/yad-vashem-questions-honors-for-3-poles-as-holocaust-era-rescuers-of-jews

Polish city of Lublin sees first Jewish wedding in decades

LUBLIN, Poland (JTA) — The city of Lublin in eastern Poland, once a hub of Jewish learning, saw what the local media called its first real Jewish wedding in decades.

Yohanan Petrovsky-Stern and Anastasiia Simferovska, two academics with Ukrainian roots, wed last month in Lublin’s old city at a ceremony described as “probably the first after Holocaust,” the TVP television station reported. Michael Schudrich, the chief rabbi of Poland, conducted the ceremony on Po Farze Square.

A wedding celebration for several dozen guests was held at Ilan, a kosher-style hotel that the Jewish Community of Warsaw opened in 2013 inside what used to be the Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva, staff told JTA on Wednesday. The building, a massive structure built in the Eclecticist style of the 1920s, was opened in 1930 in Lublin, whose 40,000 Jews constituted at least half of its population.

Today, only several dozen Jews live in Lublin. Locals periodically organize fake Jewish weddings here during heritage festivals as a tribute to the city’s rich Jewish past.

The yeshiva once was the most prestigious in Eastern Europe. It also was revolutionary in that its six floors featured a luxurious synagogue, a library with more than 20,000 volumes, spacious classrooms and dormitories, freeing students from worrying about rent and allowing them to immerse themselves in the study of Jewish scripture.

The Nazis confiscated the building in 1939 and burned the library and other artifacts on a square adjacent to the synagogue. The fire raged for 20 hours.

Communists took over the building, at one point turning it into a movie theater. It was finally returned to the Jewish community in 2003; the synagogue reopened in 2007.

Today, the hotel operating there is a 4-star establishment with 42 rooms, 22 staff and an Israeli restaurant. It is a major attraction for Jewish and non-Jewish tourists who arrive in buses from across the region.

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/09/07/news-opinion/polish-city-lublin-sees-first-jewish-wedding-decades

Sweden to create Holocaust museum

(JTA) — Sweden has plans to launch a Holocaust museum with a focus on Holocaust survivors from the Scandinavian country and a center devoted to the diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.

Announcing the decision to create the museum, Swedish Minister of Social Affairs and Sports Minister Annika Strandhall‏ said Tuesday on Twitter that the news “feels more important than ever.”

The museum is likely to be built in Malmo, a city of approximately 350,000 where dozens of anti-Semitic incidents are recorded annually. It is tentatively slated to be ready to open in 2020, the Dagen news website reported.

A center on Wallenberg, who saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust, is expected to attract international visitors, according to Dagen.

The museum will focus on surviving Swedes and collect items, interviews and documents about their experiences. Many of these objects are now scattered at museums, archives and private homes.

In Malmo, first- and second- generation immigrants from the Middle East make up one-third of the population. Several hundred Jews live there.

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/09/06/news-opinion/sweden-build-holocaust-museum

Polish candidate fires aide over anti-Semitic Facebook post he wrote as a teen

WARSAW (JTA) — A Warsaw mayoral candidate has fired one of his campaign aides over a 2010 Facebook post advocating the murder of Jews when he was 15.

Patryk Jaki, the deputy justice minister in Poland, dismissed Michal Szpadrowski on Thursday, the Polish news site Wiadomosci reported Thursday.

Szpądrowski joked in the post about shooting Jews with an assault rifle after a friend wrote on his Facebook page that “tomorrow is the raid of the Jews on Warsaw! A Boeing 747-400 is arriving from TLV. If you want, we will go at 6.20am to the airport and welcome them with gas.”

“If it was not so early,” Szpądrowski replied, “I would greet them with a … Kalashnikov.”

In this 2010 Facebook post, Michał Szpądrowski joked about shooting Jews with a Kalashnikov. (Wiadomosci)

Following his firing, Szpądrowski tweeted that his remarks were “shameful” and he had made a donation to the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland. He also declared that he was a “decisive enemy” of totalitarian ideologies and deeply respected the Jewish nation, “its suffering, history and culture.”

View image on Twitter

Michał Szpądrowski@MichalSzpader
Jaki, a member of the ruling Law and Justice Party, is a right-wing populist who has said that Poland’s controversial law on Holocaust rhetoric, which bans falsely blaming the Polish state and people for “crimes against peace, crimes against humanity or war crimes” committed during World War II, provided his country with “catharsis.”

“I am not saying that we shouldn’t speak about difficult moments in the history of any country, any nation,” he told Reuters in February. “But if we are to build our international image as a state, we should base it on positive things.”

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/08/23/top-headlines/polish-candidate-fires-aide-anti-semitic-facebook-post-wrote-teen#.W4AkNU_-BQE.email

Holocaust memorials atop mass graves in Estonia torched, vandalized with swastika

(JTA) — Unidentified individuals scrawled anti-Semitic slogans and symbols on monuments for Holocaust victims in Estonia.

The incident occurred sometime last week at the Kalevi-Liiva village in the Harju County near Tallinn, the capital of the Baltic nation of Estonia, the website News-Front reported Thursday.

The monuments, erected at sites of mass killings of Jews during the Holocaust, were also damaged with a blowtorch. One monument was defaced with a swastika. Another read: “Juden,” German for Jews. A third had the words “Sieg Heil,” a Nazi greeting, written on it.

Virtually all of the 4,500 that had lived in Estonia before the Holocaust were murdered by January 1942, when it became the first country in Europe to be declared “Jew-free” by the Nazis.

Separately, in the Netherlands a 23-year-old man who on Adolf Hitler’s birthday this year drew a shape reminiscent of a cross on the main Holocaust memorial monument of the The Hague was sentenced to 20 hours of community service. The man, identified in the media as Jordi A., denied that he had targeted the monument because it was for Jews, AD reported. Prosecutors requested he be handed a month-long prison sentence for his actions in The Hague on April 20.

Jordi A. “has been convicted of a similar offense in the past,” the judges wrote in his sentence, handed down Thursday. But “there are signs suggesting psychiatric or personality disorders” in his behavior, they added.

The Federative Jewish Netherlands group protested what it described as a light sentence.

“This is a lenient punishment that invites new anti-Semitic vandalism. An embarrassment,” the group wrote on Twitter.

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/08/24/news-opinion/holocaust-memorials-atop-mass-graves-estonia-torched-vandalized-swastika#.W4Aj5EROXYc.email

Romanian police nab suspect in anti-Semitic vandalism of Elie Wiesel’s home

Elie Wiesel’s childhood home in Sighet, Romania was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti on August 3, 2018. (Screenshot via Realitatea.net)

(JTA) — Romanian police arrested a 37-year-old man whom they suspect wrote anti-Semitic slogans on the childhood home of Elie Wiesel.

The man, whose name police did not release, is believed to have written in fluorescent pink graffiti the words “public toilet” and “Nazi Jew lying in hell with Hitler” as well as “Anti-Semite pedophile.”The Memorial House Elie Wiesel is in Sighet in eastern Romania.

Wiesel died in 2016 at the age of 87. A Nobel peace prize laureate for his body of work on activism on behalf of fellow Holocaust survivors and those who were killed, he was honored last year by locals in his hometown. They marched from the museum, which was built where Wiesel was born and grew up, to the train station where in 1944 he and his family boarded a train to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.

The suspect was arrested last week for the vandalism, which was discovered on Aug. 4, the news site digi24 last week reported.

The arrest “comes as a relief,” said Chaim Chesler, co-founder of Limmud FSU. Chesler’s group, which organizes cultural events for Jews across the former Soviet Union and other places where many Russian-speaking Jews live, was responsible for the 2016 memorial march for Wiesel in Sighet.

The graffiti incident “caused pain and outrage all over the world but it is reassuring to see that justice is being served,” Chesler added.

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/08/17/news-opinion/romanian-police-nab-suspect-anti-semitic-vandalism-elie-wiesels-home#.W3b4faCkIjk.email