Category Archive: Times of Israel

Israel’s first virus fatality named as 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Even

Aryeh Even, Israel's first fatality in the coronavirus pandemic (Courtesy)

Aryeh Even, Israel’s first fatality in the coronavirus pandemic (Courtesy)

Israel’s first fatality in the coronavirus pandemic was on Saturday named as 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Even.

In a statement, Even’s family said they regretted that they were unable to be by his side for his final moments.

Even immigrated to Israel alone from Hungary in 1949. He is survived by four children, 18 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center said late Friday that Even had been admitted in very serious condition with multiple preexisting conditions. Despite intensive treatment, including being resuscitated from heart failure, his state deteriorated rapidly and he died, the hospital said.

Medical staff seen after the arrival of a patient to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, over suspicions she may be infected with the Coronavirus on January 27, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Even was among several residents of the Nofim Tower senior home in Jerusalem who have contracted the virus.

The virus generally only shows mild symptoms in the young and healthy, but can cause serious respiratory issues and death in older adults and those with underlying conditions.

According to the Health Ministry’s latest figures released Saturday, there have been 883 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Israel, with 15 people in serious condition.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/israels-first-virus-fatality-named-as-88-year-old-holocaust-survivor-aryeh-even/

Auschwitz closes to visitors over coronavirus fears

Memorial and camp to remain shut until at least March 25; March of the Living already postponed

The ruins of gas chambers and crematoria at the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau, January 28, 2020. (Yaakov Schwartz/ Times of Israel)

The ruins of gas chambers and crematoria at the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau, January 28, 2020. (Yaakov Schwartz/ Times of Israel)

The Auschwitz Memorial and the site of the former Nazi camp have been closed to visitors due to concerns over the coronavirus.

The memorial announced on Wednesday that it would shut down until March 25.

Last month, the memorial called on organizers of trips to the site to refrain from bringing visitors from countries that have been affected by the coronavirus. And earlier this week, the March of the Living announced that it had postponed this year’s event.

“After consulting with the relevant health bodies and officials, it is with a heavy heart that we are forced to announce the postponement of this year’s March of the Living in Poland,” March of the Living World Chair, Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, said in a statement.

People participating in the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, on May 2, 2019. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90

“Our primary concern is the health of the many participants and the Holocaust survivors who would be joining them. Given that this is an international event involving 110 delegations from around the world, we have a responsibility to take precautionary measures in accordance with the guidelines given by authorities in various countries,” he added.

A rescheduled date for the annual commemoration, which was originally set for April 21 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, has yet to be announced.

Last month, Israel’s education minister, Rafi Peretz, ordered the cancellation of all high school trips to Holocaust memorial sites in Poland due to the global spread of the coronavirus. Over 3,000 students had been set to travel to Poland in the coming weeks.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/auschwitz-closes-to-visitors-over-coronavirus-fears/

FBI: Jews were victims of most religion-based hate crimes in 2018

But despite Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, bureau records drop in the overall number of anti-Semitic incidents in America from 2017

A young boy looks at the fenced off entrance to the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2019, the first anniversary of the shooting at the synagogue, that killed 11 worshipers. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

A young boy looks at the fenced off entrance to the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2019, the first anniversary of the shooting at the synagogue, that killed 11 worshipers. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

JTA — Despite the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting last year, hate crimes against American Jews decreased 11 percent overall in 2018, according to the FBI’s annual hate crimes report.

But Jews were again were the victims of the majority of hate crimes that were based on religion last year in the United States.

But hate crime murders totaled 24 — the highest number since the FBI began tracking statistics in 1991, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL said that the high number was attributable to the 11 victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October 2018.

Overall, hate crimes decreased slightly, to 7,120 in 2018 from 7,175 the previous year, with the majority based on race. Almost 19 percent were based on religion and nearly 17 percent on sexual orientation.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/fbi-jews-were-victims-of-most-religion-based-hate-crimes-in-2018/

Netflix docuseries probes life of Nazi guard John Demjanjuk

‘The Devil Next Door,’ set to be released November 4, examines the trials of the Ukrainian-born man mistaken for ‘Ivan the Terrible’ who had his death sentence overturned in Israel

A new Netflix docuseries examines the trials of convicted Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk, who was mistaken for the notoriously brutal guard “Ivan the Terrible” of the Treblinka extermination camp and had his death sentence overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court in 1993.

“The Devil Next Door” will be released on November 4.

But in 1993, Israel’s top court unanimously ruled Demjanjuk was not “Ivan the Terrible,” overturning the 1988 verdict and returning him to the US after it received evidence that another Ukrainian, not Demjanjuk, was that Nazi guard.

Demjanjuk later went on to be convicted in Germany of being a low-ranking guard at the Sobibor death camp, in a legal precedent that made him one of the best-known faces of Nazi prosecutions.

The conviction of the retired Ohio autoworker in a Munich court in May 2011 on 28,060 counts of being an accessory to murder, which was still being appealed upon his death at 91 in 2012, broke new legal ground in Germany as the first time someone was convicted solely on the basis of serving as a camp guard, with no evidence of involvement in a specific killing.

John Demjanjuk in Israel's Supreme Court in 1991. Demjanjuk was convicted by a German court for serving as a Nazi death camp guard. (photo credit: Flash90)

John Demjanjuk in Israel’s Supreme Court in 1991. Demjanjuk was convicted by a German court for serving as a Nazi death camp guard. (photo credit: Flash90)

It has opened the floodgates to hundreds of new investigations in Germany, though Demjanjuk’s death serves as a reminder that time is running out for prosecutors.

Demjanjuk steadfastly maintained that he had been mistaken for someone else — first wounded as a Soviet soldier fighting German forces, then captured and held as a prisoner of war under brutal conditions.

When they overturned his conviction in Israel, the Supreme Court judges said they still believed Demjanjuk had served the Nazis, probably at the Trawniki SS training camp and Sobibor. But they declined to order a new trial, saying there was a risk of violating the law prohibiting trying someone twice on the same evidence.

After he was released in Israel, Demjanjuk returned to his suburban Cleveland home in 1993 and his US citizenship, which had been revoked in 1981, was reinstated in 1998.

Demjanjuk remained under investigation in the US, where a judge revoked his citizenship again in 2002 based on Justice Department evidence suggesting he concealed his service at Sobibor. Appeals failed, and the nation’s chief immigration judge ruled in 2005 that Demjanjuk could be deported to Germany, Poland or Ukraine.

Signs in eight languages at the site of the Sobibor death camp in Poland. (Flickr/Sgvb)

Prosecutors in Germany filed charges in 2009, saying Demjanjuk’s link to Sobibor and Trawniki was clear, with evidence showing that after he was captured by the Germans he volunteered to serve with the fanatical SS and trained as a camp guard.

After his conviction in May 2011, Demjanjuk was sentenced to five years in prison, but was appealing the case to Germany’s high court. He was released pending the appeal, and died a free man in his own room in a nursing home in the southern Bavarian town of Bad Feilnbach.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/netflix-docu-series-probes-life-of-nazi-guard-john-demjanjuk/

Ex-SS guard: I saw people led to gas chamber, didn’t know they were being gassed

‘I didn’t see anyone come out,’ says Bruno Dey, 93, being tried on 5,230 counts of accessory to murder for killings while he was at Stutthof camp

93-year-old former SS guard Bruno Dey in the concentration camp Stutthof near Danzig, arrives at the regional court in Hamburg, Germany, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. The prosecution accuses the 93-year-old man of aiding and abetting the murder of 5,230 people. (Daniel Bockwoldt/dpa via AP)

93-year-old former SS guard Bruno Dey in the concentration camp Stutthof near Danzig, arrives at the regional court in Hamburg, Germany, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. The prosecution accuses the 93-year-old man of aiding and abetting the murder of 5,230 people. (Daniel Bockwoldt/dpa via AP)

BERLIN  — A 93-year-old former guard at the Nazis’ Stutthof concentration camp testified at his trial Friday that he once saw people being led into the gas chamber, followed by screaming and banging sounds behind the locked door.

Bruno Dey, a former SS private, went on trial Oct. 17 at the Hamburg state court. He faces 5,230 counts of accessory to murder for killings while he was at Stutthof from 1944 to 1945.

He said he heard screams and banging shortly after, but added: “I didn’t know that they were being gassed.”

Dey said that about 20 or 30 prisoners were led in, and that they didn’t resist. He said he couldn’t say whether they were men or women, because their heads were shaved, or whether they were Jews or other prisoners. And he also couldn’t say what happened afterward.

“I didn’t see anyone come out,” he said.

Gas chamber at Stutthof (Courtesy)

He testified that, on another occasion, he saw a group of 10 or 15 men being led into the gas chamber, but they then came out and were taken to the crematorium building by people in white overalls. He heard that the prisoners were supposed to work outside the camp and had to be checked first, he said.

Dey said he and around 400 other soldiers were brought to Stutthof in June or July 1944 and he didn’t know at the time what kind of people were incarcerated there. He said he heard only “rumors” that they included political prisoners and Jews.

Though there is no evidence that Dey was involved in a specific killing at the camp near Danzig, today the Polish city of Gdansk, prosecutors argue that as a guard he helped the camp function.

Despite his age, Dey is being tried in a juvenile court because he was 17 when he started serving at Stutthof.

He faces a possible six months to 10 years in prison if convicted. There are no consecutive sentences under German law.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/ex-ss-guard-on-trial-i-saw-people-led-into-gas-chamber/

Seattle Holocaust center vandalized with white supremacist graffiti

‘Obscure’ symbols discovered on building as teachers’ seminar was taking place inside

Screen capture from video of alleged white supremacist graffiti discovered sprayed on The Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, October 2019. (YouTube)

Screen capture from video of alleged white supremacist graffiti discovered sprayed on The Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, October 2019. (YouTube)

The Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle was vandalized with what it said was white supremacist graffiti.

The graffiti was discovered on Wednesday, the center said in a letter released the following day.

It is the first time in the building’s 30-year history that it has been targeted, local news station KIRO Channel 7 reported.

The Seattle Police Bias Unit is investigating.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/seattle-holocaust-center-vandalized-with-white-supremacist-graffiti/

Court blocks sale of Holocaust letter by Yad Vashem board member

Ruling comes after prominent Haredi activist declined to give the letter by 16-year old victim Rachel Mintz to her family or to Yad Vashem archive

This letter, written by Rachel Mintz when she was 11, five years before she was murdered in the Holocaust, stands at the center of a court battle between a Haredi activist and the victim's relatives. (Courtesy of Adva Lotan)

This letter, written by Rachel Mintz when she was 11, five years before she was murdered in the Holocaust, stands at the center of a court battle between a Haredi activist and the victim’s relatives. (Courtesy of Adva Lotan)

The Tel Aviv District Court issued an injunction against the sale of a letter written by a young girl killed in the Holocaust after her surviving relatives sued to prevent a prominent Haredi activist from bringing it to auction.

The letter, one of several that was set to be auctioned off as a lot on Tuesday evening, was written by Rachel Mintz, a Jewish girl from Poland, when she was 11 years old. It described life in 1937 Poland and her desire to immigrate to Israel.

The letter was found along with other letters sent by Jewish children from Poland and were intended to be delivered to children at a school in Haifa. The school principal took the letters home, and after his death, they ended up into the hands of a merchant who sold them.

From there they came to Dudi Zilbershlag, a Haredi businessman, activist and journalist who is a member of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum council. He in turn offered them to the Dynasty auction house.

Dudi Zilbershlag, an ultra-Orthodox advertiser, journalist, publisher, activist public, on January 16, 2011. (Abir Sultan/Flash 90)

When Mintz’s remaining family found out about the sale, they say they asked it instead be placed in a public institution such as Yad Vashem, but the auction house denied their request. The family sued for custody of the letter but at an initial hearing, representatives of the auction house offered to sell it to them for $10,000. They declined the family and judge’s request to transfer the letter to Yad Vashem.

During an initial hearing, the judge, Erez Yakuel, asked Zilbershlag: “Is it because you are part of Yad Vashem that I should teach you to do a mitzvah and present Yad Vashem the letter instead of selling it?”

“I want you to understand that this letter is not just a collectible item. It’s a personal, family memory, maybe the last one ever of our family member who perished in the Holocaust,” Edva Lotan, Mintz’s niece, wrote on Facebook.

“I sincerely ask to stop the sale of this letter and help us ensure that it does not go into private hands, but will be kept in a place that honors my aunt’s memory.”

In response, Zilbershlag stated that stopping the sale would cause him “irreparable” financial damage. This, however, did not stop the judge from calling a halt to the sale and ruling that Zilbershlag must negotiate with the family to find a solution.

“It is morally unacceptable and highly distasteful that anyone should trade in personal items, artifacts or documents of Holocaust victims or from the Holocaust era,” Yad Vashem said in a statement.

“The appropriate place for these historical and delicate pieces is in reputable and professional institutions such as Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, where they can be thoroughly researched, expertly preserved and ultimately utilized as historical testimony for the purposes of research, education and commemoration,” it said. “Yad Vashem has contacted the person holding the letters, and explained that their proper place is in the Yad Vashem Archives.”

Yad Vashem emphasized that Zilbershlag was not an employee of the institution.

“He serves in the directorate and council committees,” a spokesman said. “These positions are via political appointment and on a volunteer basis.”

https://www.timesofisrael.com/court-blocks-sale-of-holocaust-letter-by-yad-vashem-board-member/

Board fires Florida principal who said couldn’t confirm Holocaust was ‘factual’

Official reason for William Latson’s termination is his failure to return messages from district officials in the days after his comments became public

Palm Beach County School principal William Latson, October 31, 2019 (WPTV Screen grab via CNN)

Palm Beach County School principal William Latson, October 31, 2019 (WPTV Screen grab via CNN)

(JTA) — The high school principal in Boca Raton, Florida, who told a parent that “Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened” was fired.

The Palm Beach County School Board voted 5-2 to terminate William Latson’s employment, according to minutes of the meeting posted online. His firing will take effect on November 21.

The official reason for Latson’s termination was not the comments that appeared to justify denying the Holocaust but his failure to return messages from district officials in the days after his comments became public, according to the Palm Beach Post.

The church at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland, former site of Nazi SS headquarters during the Holocaust, May 2019 (Matt Lebovic/The Times of Israel)

The school, which has about 2,500 students, is said to have one of the largest Jewish student populations in the county, according to the Palm Beach Post, which first reported the incident in July 2018, three months after it occurred.

Latson, in an email, told the mother of a student that “Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened,” in response to an inquiry about the Holocaust not being taught at the school.

“I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in the position to do so as a school district employee,” he wrote. “You have your thoughts, but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs.”

“The Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, which represents scores of individuals whose families were killed in the Holocaust, commends the move to fire” Latson, Matt Levin, Federation CEO told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “We are grateful for Superintendent Donald Fennoy’s leadership and commitment to a thorough investigation resulting in this vote by the school board. Latson’s abhorrent denial of the Holocaust is unacceptable, and there is no place in our community, and certainly not in our education system, for such unethical ignorance.”

Latson’s attorney said he will appeal the firing in state administrative court, calling it arbitrary and driven by political expediency.

Latson has been with the school district for 26 years and had been principal of Spanish River since 2011.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/board-fires-florida-principal-who-said-couldnt-confirm-holocaust-was-factual/