Category Archive: Times of Israel

Before her suicide, Dutch Holocaust scholar saw deep threats to her life’s work

Italy’s Holocaust executioners revealed in ‘historiographical counterblast’

After decades of silence about Italian citizens’ role in the Holocaust, author Simon Levis Sullam restores the record in a book to be published in English on August 28

During World War II, Italian Jews at forced labor in the Italian camp at Gorizia (public domain)

During World War II, Italian Jews at forced labor in the Italian camp at Gorizia (public domain)

Mussolini and Hitler during a parade celebrating their alliance (public domain)Mussolini and Hitler during a parade celebrating their alliance (public domain)

Thousands of Italian civilians helped the Nazis murder the country’s Jews during the Holocaust, according to a recently translated Italian book. The book directly contradicts commonly held beliefs that Italians did not cooperate with the genocidal killing machine.

In “The Italian Executioners: The Genocide of the Jews of Italy,” author Simon Levis Sullam examined the fate of more than 6,000 Italian Jews who were tracked down, deported, and murdered during the last two years of World War II. The modern history professor first published his so-called “historiographical counterblast” in 2015, helped to overturn myths about so-called “good Italians” who refrained from persecuting their Jewish neighbors.

In “The Italian Executioners,” Levis Sullam focuses on local Holocaust history, naming the leading anti-Semites in several cities, and quoting from radio broadcasts, political speeches, and anti-Semitic schoolbooks.

“Jews be burnt, one by one, and their ashes scattered in the wind,” intoned a broadcaster on Radio Roma in 1938 that is quoted in the book. Three years before the Holocaust began in conquered Soviet lands, Italians in all strata of society were already isolating and persecuting their country’s Jews, according to Levis Sullam.

“The Italian Executioners,” first published in Italy in 2015 (courtesy)

“The anti-Jewish polemic was as present in the Fascist press, the mouthpiece of the militants, functionaries, and the higher echelons of the Social Republic, as in the papers combining Catholicism and Fascism and in cultural reviews,” wrote Levis Sullam in a chapter on the ideological context of genocide.

As in Germany, wrote Levis Sullam, “the key political importance of labelling Jews ‘foreigners’ and ‘enemies’ was echoed in the constant repetition of prejudices, accusations, and anti-Semitic myths and the invocation of radical solutions as the mobilizing and defining factors behind the revived Fascist movement.”

‘They could double their earnings’

The Holocaust was implemented in Italy beginning in 1943, by which point the population had been absorbing anti-Semitic vitriol for half a decade.

As in other parts of Europe, civilians played an essential role in not only identifying and informing on Jews, but sometimes arresting Jews for themselves. For nearly two years, citizens served as truck drivers, transit camp guards, train conductors, or in numerous other capacities to enact the “Final Solution” in Italy.

“The majority of Italian executioners were not necessarily ideologically motivated,” wrote Levis Sullam. “The genocide was widely carried out by bureaucratic means, through police measures and actions: actions that represented political imperatives for some, for others simply orders from superiors, and for yet others an opportunity for profit or vendetta.”

Italian civilians are arrested in Rome by German soldiers following a partisan attack on Nazi forces during World War II (public domain)

In Milan, wrote Levis Sullam, “Fascists would prowl around the city in search of Jews or tips.” By “tips,” the author meant information about Jews in hiding, from which the denouncers could profit handsomely.

The chapter “Hunting Down Jews in Florence” outlines several roundups of Jews that took place in November of 1943. The mass arrests were carried out by German military personnel and Italian Fascists, including members of the notorious Carita gang, “one of the most vicious actors” of the era, according to Levis Sullam.

“On the night between November 16 and 17, the infamous gang took part in the raid on the Franciscan convent in the Piazza del Carmine where numerous Jewish women and their children had taken refuge,” wrote Levis Sullam. “They were held prisoner in the convent for four days before being transferred to Verona by truck –the Fossoli [transit] camp was not yet operational — and deported from there to Auschwitz.”

According to survivor accounts, “the Fascists guarding the prisoners subjected the women to sexual molestation and extortion.”

The Italian transit camp Fossoli, a site of imprisonment for Italian Jews about to be deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where almost all of them were murdered upon arrival, 1943-45 (public domain)

Another Holocaust role performed by at least hundreds of Italians involved posing as “guides” to smuggle Jews across the border to safety. The cottage industry of betraying Jews in this manner filled a chapter called, “On the Border: Jews on the Run,” in which Levis Sullam outlined the lethal scam.

“Guides generally demanded between five and ten thousand lire per person to accompany people across the border, although the fee could rise to forty thousand if the route was particularly difficult,” wrote Levis Sullam. “They could double their earnings by betraying their clients: they would pocket the fee as well as the reward for turning them in.”

By the end of the Holocaust, 8,869 Jews had been deported from Italy. Of those individuals, 6,746 were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and nearly all of them were murdered in the gas chambers upon arrival. An additional 303 Jews were killed in massacres committed on Italian soil.

‘Not considered a crime or a specific offense’

In the assessment of author Levis Sullam, the Italian state has not done enough to atone for the role of thousands of its citizens during the Holocaust. In comparison to Germany, he believes, there has been a lack of “self-critical gestures” recognizing what took place during the war.

Mussolini and Hitler during a parade celebrating their alliance (public domain)

The whitewash of Italians’ role in the Holocaust began early, according to Levis Sullam, fueled by the passage of a 1946 amnesty. Although half of Italy’s murdered Jews were arrested by Italians, as opposed to Germans, “the persecution of Jews was not considered a crime or a specific offense” after the war.

“On Holocaust Remembrance Day, or on similar occasions, there is rarely any specific mention of the roles and responsibilities of the thousands of Italians who all played varying but crucial parts in the tragic process that resulted in genocide,” wrote Levis Sullam. “The only exception is an unavoidable and hasty mention of the racial laws of 1938, and occasionally an allusion to collaboration with the Germans…”

For decades, Italy sought to portray itself as a former hotbed of resistance against Nazism, according to Levis Sullam. However, wrote author, the resistance movement in Italy lasted for only 18 months, engaging relatively few people in only parts of the occupied country. By way of comparison, the Fascist movement lasted for two decades and spread to all of Italy, enrapturing millions of followers.

Italians rejoice in Rome following Liberation in 1945 (public domain)

Far too many of the Holocaust era’s leading Italian anti-Semites were rehabilitated after the war, according to Levis Sullam. On a related note, he wrote, there is a tendency to focus “collective memory on the saviors at the expense of the executioners.” (By “saviors,” the author is referring to Italians who helped rescue Jews, including more than 400 men and women who have been recognized by Israel’s Yad Vashem since 1994.)

In general, Levis Sullam believes that Italy moved from the “era of the witness” — as epitomized by Primo Levi — into the “era of the savior,” without passing through an “era of the executioner.” Unlike Germany’s comparatively robust confrontation with its past, wrote the author, Italy has largely “bypassed” the work of reckoning with its homegrown Holocaust perpetrators.

German police record sharp rise in anti-Semitic attacks, mostly by far-right

Jewish leader contests figures, say police misclassifying hate crimes perpetrated by Muslim extremists; attacks up 10.7%

Illustrative: A participant wears a kippah during a 'wear a kippah' gathering to protest against anti-Semitism in front of the Jewish Community House on April 25, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images via JTA)

Illustrative: A participant wears a kippah during a ‘wear a kippah’ gathering to protest against anti-Semitism in front of the Jewish Community House on April 25, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images via JTA)

The number of anti-Semitic hate crimes in Germany has risen substantially in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period last year, according to German police data released on Wednesday.

German police said 401 anti-Semitic crimes were reported throughout the country in the first half of this year, a 10.7 percent increase from the 362 hate crimes reported in the first six months of 2017.

But Jewish officials were contesting that claim, saying many more attacks were carried out by Muslim extremists than recorded by police.

The largest number of the anti-Semitic crimes were carried out in Berlin (80), and the second highest (43), were carried out in the southern German state of Bavaria, according to police figures.

The figure in Berlin corresponds to one-fifth of the 401 anti-Semitic incidents reported nationwide.

The police data was released in response to a freedom of information act request from left-wing lawmaker Petra Pau, amid concerns in the rise of anti-Jewish incidents in Germany, which some say has been exacerbated by the recent influx of over a million predominantly Muslim refugees.

An Arabic-speaking man is seen preparing to whip a kippah-wearing non-Jewish man in an anti-Semitic attack in Berlin, in a video published on April 18, 2018. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Jewish groups have increasingly urged authorities to combat anti-Semitism in Germany, particularly in schools, which have also seen a sharp uptick in anti-Jewish bullying incidents in 2018.

Berlin Jewish official Sigmount Königsberg told German newspaper Deutsche Welles on Wednesday that a much larger percentage of anti-Semitic incidents were committed by Muslim extremists than indicated by police data, and that the increase in religious bullying in schools was driving the overall surge in anti-Semitic incidents.

“I would say at least five out of ten anti-Semitic incidents have got a Muslim background. Sometimes even more – for example in schools it would be eight out of ten,” he told the paper.

He said German police were incorrectly categorizing offenses as “right-wing,” thanks to an outdated classification system. Königsberg noted that police labeled a 2016 Salafist rally as a “far-right Nazi incident” because participants displayed the Nazi salute.

Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, speaks during the “Berlin wears kippa” event, with more than 2,000 Jews and non-Jews wearing the traditional skullcap to show solidarity with Jews on April 25, 2018 in Berlin after Germany has been rocked by a series of anti-Semitic incidents. (AFP PHOTO / Tobias SCHWARZ)

Some of the anti-Semitic attacks in recent months have shocked Germany and drawn condemnation from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In April, a Syrian migrant lashed out with his belt at an Arab Israeli man who was walking around Berlin wearing a kippa in a social experiment. Video of the street assault, filmed by the victim on his smartphone, sparked widespread public condemnation and triggered street rallies in solidarity with Jews.

A court later convicted Knaan al-Sebai, 19, a Syrian migrant of Palestinian origin, on assault charges and he was sentenced to four weeks of juvenile detention for the attack.

Last month, a man wearing a Star of David necklace was violently attacked by a group of men in a Berlin park. The perpetrators — who spewed “anti-Semitic insults” at the man and tore off his necklace while they beat him — were all identified in German media reports as Syrian migrants. Berlin police arrested 10 people in connection to the attack days later.

Days after the Berlin park attack, the German government announced an increase in state funding for the Central Council of Jews in Germany for the first time since 2011.

Muslim woman Iman Jamous fixes the Jewish kippa on her head during a demonstration against antisemitism in Germany in Erfurt, Germany, April 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

Central Council President Josef Schuster said the 3 million euro increase in funding would mainly go towards school-based programs to fight anti-Semitism.

Earlier this year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Israeli TV that she was “saddened” her country has not been able to snuff out anti-Semitism for good, and that to this day, Jewish schools, kindergartens, and synagogues require police protection.

“We have refugees now, for example, or people of Arab origin, who bring a different type of anti-Semitism into the country,” she said. “But unfortunately, anti-Semitism existed before this.”

How Holocaust experts want to help Zuckerberg solve Facebook’s denial dilemma

After Facebook chief told interviewer he doesn’t think Holocaust deniers are ‘intentionally getting it wrong,’ 6,000 individuals and institutions call for content’s removal

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Idaho, July 14, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/via JTA)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Idaho, July 14, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/via JTA)

Holocaust experts want to meet with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the social network’s unwillingness to automatically remove anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial material.

The heads of organizations and experts involved in Holocaust and genocide education offered to meet with Zuckerberg and help raise Holocaust awareness within the Facebook community.

In late July, Zuckerberg said in an interview published online that he would not automatically remove Holocaust-denying posts from the social network he founded.

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“Facebook must not allow complete and utter falsehoods about the Holocaust, and about the Jewish people, to go systematically unchecked,” the letter dated Tuesday to Zuckerberg says. “Virulent antisemitism is a proven pathway that leads from rhetorical hatred to actions of violence. Freedom of speech laws are not a reason to do nothing — inaction is always the opportunity for evil to flourish. All genocide starts with distortion of the truth and prejudice.”

The experts later say: “We offer you tangible, rapidly executable steps towards Facebook becoming part of the solution. We can deliver proven educational resources in multiple languages, ready for digital deployment with Facebook — important as you may wish to break the task down by different jurisdictions with different laws.”

They also offer “cost-free professional development programs for educators on Facebook to give them resources, skills and confidence to tackle hate and prejudice, and to teach empathy, understanding and respect.”

Among the signers are Simon Bentley, head of Yad Vashem UK; Peter Schafer of the Jewish Museum Berlin; Stephen D. Smith, executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation; Laura Marks, chairwoman of the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Trust; and Diane Lee, director general of the Imperial War Museum in London.

In an interview published on the Recode website, Zuckerberg had told tech journalist Kara Swisher: “I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened. I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong.” He said, “I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”

Zuckerberg later clarified his comments, saying “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.”

Meanwhile, some 6,000 educational institutions, museums and individuals from around the world signed a petition started by the New York-based Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect along with the Association of Holocaust Organizations, and Holocaust Learning and Education Fund calling on Zuckerberg and Facebook to stop hosting Holocaust denial on the social network.


Lithuania pays tribute to a genocidal monster

Jonas Noreika, whose granddaughter confirms he murdered more than 14,000 Jews, is honored as a national hero

First exposed by the German magazine Der-Spiegel in 1984, it has long been known that Noreika was culpable in the murder of his Jewish neighbors in Northwestern Lithuania. Yet Noreika officially and legally remains one of Lithuania’s greatest national heroes, and is honored with a plaque on the Vilnius Library of the Academy of Science building. Over a decade ago, this incongruous adulation of a genocidal monster struck me, a Jewish Lithuanian citizen, as reprehensible. I immediately began my campaign to remove this monument. I had no idea that the official conversion of monsters into heroes was a deliberate Lithuanian agenda.

My appeals to Lithuanian officials and diplomats went unanswered and articles in the international press were ignored. In 2015, nineteen of Lithuania’s leading citizens, including Lithuania’s own member of the European Parliament, the late philosopher Leonidas Donskis, signed a public statement calling for the removal of a monument that glorifies a  mass murderer.

The responsibility for examination of genocide in Lithuania lies with the “Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania,” under the leadership of Terese Birute Burauskaite. Her public response to the petition, posted on the Center’s Facebook page reads:

The contempt being shown for Lithuanian patriots is organized by neighbors from the East. They are assisted by some Jews, but also by a sufficiently large number of Lithuanians, (their last names [are] listed below the request to rescind the Award [Order] [remove the plaque] in defamatory press articles. Some do it consciously, others – out of stupidity.

My appeals to Lithuanian President Grybauskaite were referred back to Burauskaite. The State Supreme Court and the State Security Agency then also confirmed Noreika’s heroic status. All investigative roads were directed back to Burauskaite and her staff of ideological historians who hue to the orthodox and approve national narrative.

During the late 1990s, Lithuania created a truth and reconciliation commission, The International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania. The Commission collapsed after Lithuanian authorities declined to punish murderers of Jews, and instead investigated Jewish resistance fighters for possibly having committed crimes in order to survive. Under the shadow of international scandal, the Commission dissolved and was later re-constituted. The new executive director of the Commission, Ronaldas Račinskas, recently stated in writing that data showing Noreika’s murderous acts are inaccurate, unreliable, and claims against Noreika  are “total fake.”

Recognizing that appeals to remove the monument of Noreika for moral reasons were futile, I then approached Lithuania’s Heritage Department, to ask for removal simply because the monument did not meet legislated aesthetic standards. Somehow, the Heritage Department was unable to determine their own stated standards and fought three separate court cases which I brought against them. Ultimately, the suits were rejected by the Lithuanian Courts. It was clear that the Courts and Heritage Department agreed with the President, the State Security Department, the Supreme Court, the Genocide Center and the Executive Director of the Lithuanian Commission that Jonas Noreika should remain an unblemished hero.

Rejecting all presented documentary evidence of his crimes, the government proposed that I undertake my own academic study and I agreed. Eight months of professional, objective and independent study of many thousands of documents in Lithuania’s own archives produced incontrovertible evidence of Noreika’s guilt. A government spokesperson then posted a response on the Genocide Centers webpage. I was now accused of having possibly contravened Lithuanian law, and the Lithuanian Constitution, by submitting a report which was itself proposed by the government. The government’s response was then not to address a single document containing Noreika’s signature showing his crimes against humanity. I proudly stand in the company of remarkable Jewish Lithuanian partisans in being accused of possible crimes for stating the truth about Lithuanian Holocaust complicity.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has publicly entered the debate, confirming that Noreika was definitely a Holocaust perpetrator. Without knowing of the multitude of other Holocaust perpetrators who have also been transformed into national heroes, Noreika’s granddaughter describes Lithuania’s historical revisionism as “one of the greatest cover-ups of the 20th century.”

In September 2018, Pope Francis will visit Lithuania. One wonders how he will react when he passes the monument for Noreika. What story will President Grybauskaite invent when asked about the Holocaust denial of Lithuania, if she runs for the Presidency of the European Council in 2019?

Surely, an intricate web of lies will soon be exposed.


After complaints, Amazon removes swastika pendants, onesies with burning crosses

Advocacy groups say retail giant’s ‘weak and inadequately enforced’ policies allow racist, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic groups to generate money and spread ideas

A Pewter Swastika Pendant Necklace marked "currently unavailable" at on August 5, 2018

Amazon says it has removed items with Nazi or white supremacist symbols from its website after criticism from advocacy groups.

An Amazon executive said the company blocked the accounts of some retailers and might suspend them. Such items were still listed and displayed on as of August 5, 2018, though some were marked unavailable.

Democratic US Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota complained to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos last month. The company’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, responded to Ellison, telling him that Amazon prohibits listing products that promote or glorify hatred, violence or intolerance.

A spokeswoman for Seattle-based Inc. declined to comment further on Sunday.

In early July, the Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race and the Economy highlighted Amazon listings including swastika pendants, baby onesies with burning cross logos and a costume that makes the wearer look like he has been lynched — the model appears to be a black man.

The groups said that Amazon’s “weak and inadequately enforced” policies allowed racist, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic groups to generate money and spread their ideas.

Ellison, who is deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, asked Bezos how much money Amazon made from selling material including books published by hate groups since 2015, and whether it would destroy such merchandise at its warehouses.

Huseman said Amazon “makes a significant investment” in enforcing seller policies, including automated tools to scan listings and automatically removing those that violate its policies.

The executive said Amazon was preventing the sale of the items in question and was in the process of removing them from fulfillment centers.


How Britain’s Nazi-loving press baron made the case for Hitler

The Daily Mail was once the country’s highest selling newspaper, but owner Lord Rothermere was more concerned with ‘Bolshevik troublemakers’ than an impending genocide

LONDON — When Adolf Hitler entered the Reich Chancellery on January 30, 1933, the cheers of the Nazi stormtroopers in Berlin were echoed in Northcliffe House, the home of Britain’s then highest-selling newspaper.

The Daily Mail was not the only national daily to adopt an overly tolerant attitude towards Hitler during the 1930s, a position which reflected widespread public support for the government’s appeasement policy.

But it went far further than any other newspaper in sympathizing with the Nazis and it did so at the insistence of its overweening proprietor, Harold Harmsworth, the first Viscount Rothermere.

Lord Rothermere was a staunch admirer of Hitler and Mussolini, who also briefly flirted with fascism in Britain. Born 150 years ago this summer, Rothermere was also, alongside Lord Beaverbrook, the most powerful press baron during the interwar years.

As historian Piers Brendon has suggested, the two were “mad, bad, dangerous-to-know beasts in the newspaper jungle who did what they wanted.”

Stanley Baldwin, the Conservative prime minister with whom the two men frequently tangled, publicly accused them of seeking “power without responsibility — the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”

Rothermere launched the Daily Mail in 1896 with his elder brother, Alfred Harmsworth, who was later named Lord Northcliffe. By 1930, they owned 14 daily and Sunday newspapers, and a substantial share in three more.

With Northcliffe’s death in 1922, Rothermere’s writ ran across his newspaper stable unchallenged. The peer, a 1938 study concluded, issued “general instructions to his editors and [gave] massive broadsides in the form of articles in the Daily Mail, which [were] duly reproduced by other papers in the group.”

Thus, as Martin Pugh suggests in his history of British interwar fascism, Rothermere was “perhaps the most influential single propagandist for fascism between the wars.”

Rothermere’s support for Hitler and Mussolini stemmed from his deep fear and loathing of Bolshevism and the Soviet Union, against which he saw the dictators as a critical bulwark.

Shortly after Mussolini came to power, Rothermere laid his cards on the table. In an article in the Mail entitled “What Europe Owes to Mussolini,” he expressed his “profound admiration” for Italy’s new leader.

“In saving Italy he stopped the inroads of Bolshevism which would have left Europe in ruins… in my judgment he saved the whole Western world,” Rothermere declared.

His frequent visits to Italy seemed only to further stoke Rothermere’s enthusiasm for the Duce.

“He is the greatest figure of the age,” Rothermere proclaimed in 1928. “Mussolini will probably dominate the history of the 20th century as Napoleon dominated that of the early 19th.”

Hitler and Mussolini in Munich, Germany, June 18, 1940. Hitler was at a high point, as his army accomplished a string of victories and was completing its conquest of continental Western Europe. (Shutterstock)

Rothermere initially believed that Britain was “not suited” to fascism, but a general strike in 1926 and a fear that Baldwin was displaying “the feebleness which tries to placate opposition by being more socialist than the Socialists,” led him to reappraise this view as a new decade dawned.

The Mail’s first portrayal of Hitler was not an altogether flattering one. Interviewing the Nazi leader in 1923, the paper’s Berlin correspondent, Rothay Reynolds, was distinctly underwhelmed. Hitler did not possess the “genius” of Mussolini, he wrote. “When I left the headquarters I felt as if I had left a madhouse.”

But, as Will Wainewright describes in his book “Reporting Hitler: Rothay Reynolds and the British Press in Nazi Germany,” the Mail’s enthusiasm for the Nazis would grow as their support in Germany surged.

By the 1930 election, when the Nazis’ seats in the Reichstag jumped from 12 to 107, Rothermere was a convert.

“[The Nazis] represent the rebirth of Germany as a nation,” Rothermere wrote in the Mail. The election, he correctly prophesied, would come to be seen as “a landmark of this time.”

Grateful for this unusual support from the foreign press, Hitler granted Reynolds an exclusive interview, and showered his proprietor with praise for his “intuitive statesmanship.”

Rothermere responded with further warm words. His backing for the Nazis, he dismissively wrote, “had shocked the old women of three countries — France, Germany, and our own.”

In Weimar, Germany, Adolf Hitler participates in a Nazi party rally, 1930 (public domain)

Nonetheless, he also sounded a note of caution which suggested he did not fully understand the nature of the beast with which his newspaper had got into bed.

The Nazis’ “Jew-baiting,” Rothermere warned, was “a stupid survival of medieval prejudice.” Of course, he also added, the Jews had brought the Nazis’ displeasure on themselves, having shown “conspicuous political unwisdom since the war.”

These softly expressed qualms did not, however, curb Rothermere’s enthusiasm. Returning from Germany in July 1933, when Hitler’s consolidation of power was complete and democracy had been extinguished, Rothermere published an article in the Mail under the headline “Youth Triumphant.”

“Under Herr Hitler’s control,” he suggested, “the youth of Germany is effectively organized against the corruption of Communism.”

He contrasted Hitler’s fortitude with Baldwin’s weakness: “No strong anti-Socialist policy can be expected from a Conservative party whose leaders are themselves tainted with semi-socialist doctrines.”

Despite his former mild reservations, the press baron was also now parroting the Nazis’ anti-Semitic slurs.

Germany had been “falling under the control of alien elements,” Rothermere argued. There were 20 times as many Jews in government positions than there had been before the war.

The aftermath of the ‘Kristallnacht’ pogrom in Germany, November 1938 (public domain)

“Israelites of international attachments were insinuating themselves into key positions in the German administrative machine,” he noted darkly. “It is from such abuses that Hitler has freed Germany.”

The Jews were not just a problem in Germany. The menace they posed was much more widespread, he felt.

“The Jews are everywhere, controlling everything,” Rothermere wrote in private correspondence.

Unsurprisingly, given its proprietor’s naked anti-Semitism, the Mail did not delve too deeply when it came to reporting the Nazis’ growing threat to Germany’s Jews. Its report of the boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933 even contained a statement from Hitler’s spokesman arguing that allegations of “the mishandling of Jews” were “barefaced lies.”

Reynolds, who did not share Rothermere’s adoration of Hitler, was increasingly sidelined by G. Ward Price, a correspondent more ideologically in tune with his proprietor’s Nazi sympathies and more willing to do his bidding. Price soon became a favorite of Hitler and Goebbels.

It wasn’t hard to see why the Mail’s fawning coverage of the Nazis so delighted the Fuhrer — the paper uncritically reported the butchery of the Night of the Long Knives.

Illustrative: Nazi Stormtrooper chief of staff Ernst Rohm, killed by Hitler during the ‘Night of the Long Knives,’ or ‘Rohm Purge.’ (CC-SA-Bundesarchiv Bild)

“Herr Adolf Hitler, the German Chancellor, has saved his country,” began its story on the frenzy of extrajudicial killings, and cheered the Nazis on as they trampled the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles.

When German troops marched into the Rhineland in March 1936, the Mail suggested Hitler had “cleared the air” and warned against “Bolshevik troublemakers.” It offered a glowing report of the Anschluss two years later — penned by Price, who had hitched a ride in Hitler’s convoy as it sped towards Vienna.

And the Mail showed no sympathy for the Czechs as the Nazis dismembered their country shortly thereafter.

“Czechoslovakia is not of the remotest concern to us,” Rothermere told the paper’s readers as Hitler hungrily eyed the Sudetenland. When Britain and France caved in to Hitler’s demands at Munich in September 1938, the Mail said the agreement they had struck with Germany “brings to Europe the blessed prospect of peace.”

The Mail’s support for appeasement was by no means unique in the British press. The Times, for instance, was unwavering in its support of Neville Chamberlain’s policy. And other newspapers ran headlines and pieces that today cause red faces: “Judea declares war on Germany: Jews of all the world unite in action,” Beaverbook’s Daily Express headlined a story about a 1933 boycott of German goods organized by the Nazis’ overseas opponents.

But only the Mail and its owner were so consistently and avowedly pro-Nazi. Rothermere met Hitler for the first time in 1933 and they met several more times and struck up a warm correspondence.

Following his meetings, Rothermere believed Hitler — a “simple and unaffected man” and a “perfect gentleman” — to be “obviously sincere” in his desire for peace. “There is no man living whose promise given in regard to something of real moment I would sooner take,” he later argued.

It is impossible to know whether Hitler regarded Rothermere as anything other than a useful idiot. Still, he did his best to appear sincere in his gratitude for the press magnate’s backing.

When Rothermere applauded Germany’s withdrawal from the League of Nations, Hitler wrote of his appreciation — and that of “countless Germans” for his “wise and beneficial” public support. But he could never quite match Rothermere’s penchant for flattery.

After the Munich agreement, Rothermere wrote to thank Hitler for the “bloodless solution” which had been reached.

Trudi lost her teeth to a Nazi and found her calling

The free dental clinic she founded in Jerusalem lifts children out of poverty

Illustrative. Child brushing her teeth.

As 12-year-old Maya slipped into the dental chair, Yosef Levy’s quiet smile and whispered reassurances belied the worry and guilt roiling just below the surface. His daughter, the first patient of the day at Jerusalem’s Dental Volunteers for Israel (DVI) clinic, had suffered from tooth pain for more than a week while Levy stood by helplessly. As a hotel janitor with six other children ranging in age from 18 months to 16 years, Levy couldn’t afford dental care for his family. He could barely afford some of life’s essentials. Although Levy didn’t feel like a statistic, he was among the one-in-five Israelis living in poverty.

It was excruciating for Levy to imagine Maya starting to have missing teeth and entering her teenage years feeling like an ugly duckling. Thanks to Holocaust survivor Trudi Birger’s vision and dedication, that scenario could be put to rest. Maya received a root canal, free of charge, from DVI, with the help of the volunteer endodontist that day. After an unsettling hour of drilling, Maya’s tooth sported a final restoration from the pediatric dentist the following week, at the same DVI clinic.

Although Birger passed away in 2002, she would have recognized the glimmer of hope in Maya’s new smile. Birger knew about pain, poverty, and despair. And she understood the economic impact and psychological trials that accompany poor dentition. As a child in the Stutthof concentration camp, Birger lost her teeth when a Nazi guard knocked them out. Then and there, the seeds of DVI were sown.

When Jerusalem’s budget constraints forced the city’s dental clinic to close in the late 1970s, Birger stepped in to fill the gap. With the help of Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, Birger opened the DVI clinic for pediatric dental care in 1980. To this day, the clinic reflects her interpretation of tzedakah (charity), which is to give destitute children the same level of care she would want for her own children — and to treat all young people equally.

The DVI clinic’s core mission is to provide free dental services to Jerusalem’s neediest youngsters, regardless of ethnicity or religion. But solving dental problems is just one part of the equation. The organization is equally committed to preventing dental disease by delivering regular oral health education to at-risk youth. For most of DVI’s patients, their first encounter with a dentist — or a regular use of a toothbrush — is in the clinic. The young person’s agreement to maintain good dental hygiene constitutes their “payment.” This combination of restoring dental health and preventing future disease opens up educational and job opportunities that give children like Maya their best chance of escaping the cycle of poverty.

In keeping with Birger’s tzedakah philosophy, the DVI clinic is staffed with volunteer dentists from around the globe, and only specialists perform procedures like Maya’s root canal. In 2017, more than 130 dentists performed more than 11,000 treatments, improving the lives of thousands of low-income youth across Jerusalem.

I was fortunate to serve as Maya’s endodontist during the week that I volunteered at the DVI clinic. Throughout my time in Jerusalem, Trudi Birger’s experience reverberated in my heart and soul. From the ugly memories of the Holocaust and the savagery of Nazism, she was able to create a program that fosters tolerance, delivers hope, and provides a brighter future for patients and their families. It was deeply fulfilling to see how my dental education helped Maya and lifted a burden of worry and guilt from Yosef Levy’s shoulders. His relief in knowing that his daughter’s tooth was saved was palpable, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to help.

The DVI clinic provides a gift to each child it serves. It provides a gift to each parent who suffers when their child suffers. It provides a gift to the volunteer dentists by experiencing a meaningful impact that their tzedakah makes for young children in need. And it provides a gift to the holy city of Jerusalem, which has the highest poverty rates of any developed nation.