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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She didn’t always feel this secure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polish government invites top rabbi to event honoring accused Nazi collaborators

Rabbi Michael Schudrich blasts ceremony for Swietokrzyska Brigade, held under auspices of Polish president; condemns ‘dangerous’ historical revisionism

Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich speaks at a gala celebration marking the opening of an American Jewish Committee office for Central Europe in Warsaw, Poland, March 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich speaks at a gala celebration marking the opening of an American Jewish Committee office for Central Europe in Warsaw, Poland, March 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland — The chief rabbi of Poland on Wednesday criticized plans by the country’s right-wing government to honor a group of ultra-nationalist underground fighters accused of collaborating with the Nazis during World War II.

Rabbi Michael Schudrich said he felt “insulted” by an invitation from the Polish veterans’ affairs ministry to a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Swietokrzyska Brigade, also known as the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade.

“The organization of these ceremonies insults the memory of all Polish citizens killed in the fight against Germany,” Schudrich said in a letter addressed to Veterans’ Affairs Minister Jan Kasprzyk.

“I regard being invited to take part in them as a personal insult,” the rabbi said in the letter carried by Polish media.

President Duda has come under fire from opposition politicians for agreeing to back the controversial ceremonies.

Polish president Andrzej Duda speaks during a ceremony in the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, as Israel marks annual Holocaust Memorial Day, on April 12, 2018. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Kasprzyk on Wednesday flatly denied the unit had ever worked with the Nazis, telling Poland’s public broadcaster TVP that “the Swietokrzyska Brigade never collaborated with the Germans.”

The Brygada Swietokrzyska was part of the National Armed Forces (NSZ), a WWII underground Polish ultra-nationalist and anti-communist armed group that fought the Nazis, the Red Army as well as the Polish communist anti-Nazi resistance.

The Swietokrzyska brigade, comprised of some 850 to 1,400 men, is accused of collaborating with the Nazis against the Soviets as the Red Army advanced from the east across Polish territory towards the end of the war.

The brigade was at odds with and refused to join the Home Army (AK), the main Polish underground anti-Nazi resistance that was allied with Poland’s government in exile in London.

Members of the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade take part in a parade in 1945. (Public domain, Wikipedia)

“These (NSZ) anti-communists, they killed Germans, Russians and they killed Jews” who were Polish citizens, Schudrich told AFP.

“There are so many other Polish heroes, we don’t need to choose the ones who actually killed other Poles, and in this case, many of them of the Jewish religion,” Schudrich said, dubbing the ceremonies “dangerous” historical revisionism.

In February 2018, Poland’s right-wing Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, a staunch anti-communist, triggered a storm of criticism in Poland and Israel when he became the first Polish official to publicly recognize the Swietokrzyska Brigade by laying flowers on the graves of members near Munich.

Meanwhile, Jewish leaders in Lithuania announced Tuesday they were temporarily closing the Vilnius Synagogue and the community’s headquarters amid a highly-charged public debate over commemorations for Lithuanian wartime officials, who the Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC) claims were involved in the Holocaust.


One researcher holds that there’s a possibility that there was no informant. The Franks and their friends may have been found by accident, during a search concerning fraudulent ration coupons.

View of a room inside the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, November 21, 2018.

View of a room inside the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, November 21, 2018. Picture taken November 21, 2018.. (photo credit: REUTERS/EVA PLEVIER)

Over 30 people have been accused of betraying the Franks and their friends. In 1947 and in 1963, investigations were opened to find if an overly-curious warehouse employee who worked beneath the hiding place betrayed the group. Wilhelm Geradus van Maaren said that he wasn’t the informant and due to a lack of evidence, he remained uncharged.
Lena Hartog-van Bladeren, another suspect who helped manage pests in the warehouse was said to have suspected that people were hiding in the warehouse and started a rumor, but it was never confirmed that she knew that anyone was hidden there until the raid.
The rest of the suspects also remained uncharged due to a lack of evidence to prove or disprove any involvement.
The Cold Case Diary team, a group of over 20 forensic, criminology and data researchers are working to narrow down the suspect list. Led by retired FBI agent Vincent Pankoke, the team is working the case like a modern cold case. They’ve been searching through archives and interviewing sources while using more up-to-date technology to crosscheck leads. They’ve even created a 3-D scan of the hiding place to see how sounds may have traveled to nearby buildings.
The forensic team is also using artificial intelligence to find connections between people, places and events connected to the case.
A data science company, Xomnia, made a custom program that, among other functions, analyzes archival text to create nuanced and layered network maps.
“What you can do is try to see how often, for example, words or names are used together. If certain names are used together a lot, you can create kind of a network and do some kind of network analysis,” says a lead data scientist at Xomnia Robbert van Hintum. One possibility is to cross-reference addresses with family relations and police reports to see who might have been involved or aware of various occurrences in the neighborhood.
“By adding all these dimensions together, an image emerges which you weren’t able to see before,” explained the Xomnia researcher.
The Cold Case Diary team will announce the findings in a book expected to be published next year.
The lead researcher with the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Gertjan Broek, actually believes that the focus on looking for an informant may actually be keeping researchers from finding the real reason that the hidden rooms were found.
“By asking ‘Who betrayed Anne Frank?’ you actually assume tunnel vision already. You leave out other options,” said Broek.
The researcher holds that there’s a possibility that there was no informant. The Franks and their friends may have been found by accident, during a search concerning fraudulent ration coupons.
The few facts that have been verified from the day support this theory. For one, the German and Dutch officials who arrived at the scene did not have transportation ready for the hidden people and had to improvise on the spot. Also, one of the three officers known to be at the raid was part of the unit the investigated economic crimes. Two men who provided the hidden people with black-market ration coupons were arrested, although one of their cases was dismissed for unknown reasons. It could be that a deal was made by one of the men.
Although it’s a plausible theory, Broek cannot prove it, according to National Geographic. “No conclusive evidence in the end, of course, unfortunately,” said the researcher. “But the more flags you can pin on the map, the more you narrow the margins of what’s possible and that’s the main virtue.”
Although it may be too late to bring the informant to justice, the research may still serve a purpose. “By better understanding what happened there, we can learn how people treat each other and prepare for the future,” said Emile Schrijver, the general director of the Jewish Historical Museum and the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam.

Anne Frank and her family hid in the secret annex on Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, where she wrote the bulk of her famous diary. Frank and her family, along with four other people and the family’s helpers, Johannes Kleiman and Victor Kugler were arrested on August 4, 1944.
Anne Frank and her family were deported to Auschwitz on September 3, 1944.
Frank eventually died from typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp the following February.

German Jews accuse Der Spiegel of spreading anti-Semitic stereotypes

Prominent news magazine criticized for cover photo of Hasidim, weeks after coming under fire for article on ‘aggressive lobbying’ by pro-Israel group

The Central Council of Jews in Germany accused news magazine Der Spiegel of spreading anti-Semitic stereotypes with this recent cover illustration. (Twitter screenshot)

The Central Council of Jews in Germany accused news magazine Der Spiegel of spreading anti-Semitic stereotypes with this recent cover illustration. (Twitter screenshot)

The preeminent Jewish communal representative body in Germany has accused popular news magazine Der Spiegel of propagating anti-Semitic stereotypes after it ran a cover illustration portraying local Jews as Eastern European Hasidim.

The group, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, tweeted on Friday that the image “unfortunately uses stereotypes of Jews,” raising the question “what Der Spiegel intends with this photo selection and titling.”

The story in question dealt with the history of German Jewry and painted a portrait of contemporary Jewish life in the European country, which is largely secular.

US Ambassador Richard Grenell also criticized the cover, which featured an image of two ultra-Orthodox men with long beards accompanied by the title “Jewish life in Germany,” tweeting that “anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism grows.”

“What is this title photo? So this is what we Jews look like in Germany?” tweeted prominent German-Jewish journalist Richard C. Schneider.

“Jews with kippas and sidelocks — the classic ‘genre photo’ in editorial offices when it comes to an article about Jews. If one were to show us ‘completely normal’ then the majority society would probably have a problem,” he said. “For anyone who thinks the photo on Spiegel History is fine: Jews in [Germany] did not look that way for the past 200 years, only [Jews] in the ’20s after the [First World War], who came from the East. So even ‘historically’ this is not representative.”

Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, the American Jewish Committee’s European director, also criticized the image, tweeting, “Everything is wrong with this cover” along with an emoji of a woman covering her face in embarrassment.
In response, Spiegel tweeted a statement explaining that the publication had tried to “show an aspect of the rich diversity of German-Jewish history” and that the story had examined “many other facets” of the Jewish experience in Germany.

“We did not want to use an anti-Semitic cliché [and] if this impression was created, we are sorry,” the magazine said. “That was not our intention.”

That Spiegel story suggested that two Jewish groups, Werte Initiative and Naffo, used “aggressive lobbying methods” to get lawmakers to vote for the resolution in May.

The non-binding resolution compared the BDS campaign’s economic boycott of Israel and Israeli products to campaigns in Germany against Jewish-owned businesses before the Holocaust. Schuster told Germany’s Bild newspaper at the time that he thought the Spiegel article “clearly uses anti-Semitic clichés” and was “irresponsible and dangerous.”

In an editor’s note defending the story, Der Spiegel asserted that its “article does not paint the image of a ‘Jewish lobby’ or a ‘Jewish world conspiracy,’ as critics suggest. The religious or other affiliation of the persons involved does not play a role in our reporting. It’s about lobbying and its methods. We strongly reject the suggestion that such reporting would support incitement or acts of violence against Jews in Germany.”


The findings add to an ongoing debate about the psychological effects of trauma.

Holocaust survivors more likely to develop dementia – new study

Polish-born Holocaust survivor Meyer Hack shows his prisoner number tattooed on his arm during a news conference at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem June 15, 2009.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The findings, recently published in The Journal of Traumatic Stress by Dr. Arad Kodesh, Prof. Itzhak Levav and Prof. Stephen Levine, add to an ongoing debate about the psychological effects of extreme adversity.

Some scientists hypothesize that those who experience horrific events may develop mechanisms that make them resistant to neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia, which is characterized by a decline in cognitive ability and a decrease in daily activity. Others argue, however, that the risk of developing these diseases may increase with exposure to trauma, Levine explained.

The University of Haifa researchers found that 16.5%  of those who were exposed to the Holocaust – more than 10,000 participants, or about one-fifth of the total study pool – contracted dementia, compared with a rate of 9.3% among the other participants.

The results of the study are therefore consistent with the hypothesis that exposure to the trauma of genocide increases vulnerability to the risk of dementia later in life.

The researchers analyzed registry data on 51,752 Israeli residents who were born between 1901 and 1945 and who did not have a history of dementia during the period 2002 and 2012, but who were still alive in 2012. They then reexamined whether those people developed the disease between January 2013 and October 2017.

The researchers classified participants by their exposure to the Holocaust based on government recognition and assigned hazard ratios from Cox proportional hazards-regression models to quantify risk of dementia, with adjustments made for demographic factors such as sex and age.

“The study findings are clinically significant in terms of the long-term identification of dementia among Holocaust survivors, and they may also be relevant regarding crimes against humanity in general,” Levine said. “The findings highlight the need for careful monitoring of cognitive decline in risk populations that experienced extreme and protracted trauma in general, and Holocaust survivors in particular.”

What one US sailor did when a German ocean liner flew the Nazi flag in 1935 NYC

In a new book, journalist Peter Duffy tells how 84 years ago merchant marine Bill Bailey risked jail to tear a swastika from a ship carrying Rockefellers, movie stars, and nobility

A symbol of hate over the Hudson River, the swastika flag fluttered from the bowsprit of the German luxury liner S.S. Bremen in the summer of 1935. At the time, the Bremen made regular visits to New York, and many Americans ventured on board to marvel at this floating symbol of the Reich’s technology.

Others, however, looked beyond the gleaming decks and Oompah bands, and focused on what was happening across the Atlantic, as the Nazis assaulted Jews in bloody riots.

The incident made worldwide headlines. The United States government repeatedly apologized to the outraged Nazi regime. Bailey and five co-participants, collectively nicknamed the Bremen Six, were put on trial and eventually acquitted by Judge Louis B. Brodsky.

But despite the celebrated nature of the event, Bailey was soon forgotten by history.

His audacious act is revived in a new book, “The Agitator: William Bailey and the First American Uprising Against Nazism,” by New York-based author and journalist Peter Duffy. In an interview with The Times of Israel, Duffy called Bailey “so far-seeing, generous, openhearted — a great example of a sympathetic individual who saw what others couldn’t see.”

Author and journalist Peter Duffy. (Courtesy Peter Duffy)

Born in 1915, Bailey lived to be nearly 80 and struggled for many causes during his colorful life. In addition to his heroism aboard the Bremen, he fought Spanish dictator Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War, served his own country at sea in World War II, and continued his activism into the closing decades of the 20th century. When he died at his San Francisco home in 1995, his “lifelong commitment to social and economic justice” was noted in the House of Representatives by congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.

A French newspaper’s fanciful illustration of Bill Bailey’s strike against the swastika. (Pèlerin)

“The Agitator” interweaves Bailey’s story with the ever-worsening situation in Hitler’s Germany, and continues a theme of anti-Nazi resistance explored in Duffy’s nonfiction work. His first book, “The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Saved 1,200 Jews, and Built a Village in the Forest,” chronicled a heroic fraternal trio and their rescue work in Eastern European ghettos during WWII.

The Bielski Brothers “did impel me to think about compiling who rose up to say something [about the Nazis] way before the troops were landing on D-Day,” Duffy said, “at a time when the US government did everything it could to ignore, apologize for what was going on in Germany.”

Duffy learned about the flag incident through an interview Bailey gave for the documentary “The Good Fight: The Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War,” about international volunteers who took up arms against Franco. Intrigued, Duffy read the entire interview transcript at the Tamiment Library at New York University.

Bill Bailey in fascist Italy, 1935. (Michael Bailey)

He discovered that Bailey’s act had been an “international incident, something top levels of our government were very keen to know every little detail about,” he said.

There were State Department files, court proceedings and an extensive New York Police Department report incorporating the actions of policemen aboard the Bremen that night — including Jewish detective Matthew Solomon. Duffy also interviewed Bailey’s son, Michael — whose mother, Bailey’s second wife, Ruth (Kujawsky) Kaye, was the daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants to the US. Duffy said the key point in his research was locating the trial transcript in the National Archives.

“To find a transcript of a magistrate court decision and proceedings from 1935 New York was a pretty slim possibility,” Duffy said.

But it was there, all 1,000 or so pages of it, because of the interest around the nation and world, with New York City, New York State and the State Department all getting involved.

At the epicenter stood Bill Bailey, an impoverished Irish-Catholic son of Manhattan and Hoboken, New Jersey, who toiled in the engine rooms of merchant vessels and led efforts for their crews to unionize. (He also joined the Communist Party, although he would sever his ties several decades later.)

Bailey was distressed by racial segregation he witnessed aboard a ship docked in the American South, and by the mistreatment of an Indian stowaway that resulted in suicide. And in 1935, Bailey became increasingly concerned about outrages committed by the Nazi regime.

That year, Hitler’s government arrested a US sailor, Lawrence Simpson, aboard an American ship, imprisoning him in the Fuhlsbuettel concentration camp for planning to disseminate anti-Nazi messages. The Berlin Riots in July resulted in the death of Polish Jew Moritz Kleinfeld, with dozens injured and Jewish property destroyed. Nazi roundups of Catholic clergy were protested by the Vatican, which led Luftwaffe head Hermann Goering to criticize the Catholic Church. All of this caused Bailey to participate in an epic mission of defiance against the vessel whose Nazi flag was at that moment flying over Pier 86 in Manhattan.

Bailey and his fellow conspirators, 50 in all, planned to infiltrate the Bremen on its midnight sail, a type of farewell party held on ships the evening before their departure. An estimated 7,000 people filled the ship that night. Guests included two-year-old William Donner Roosevelt, whose grandfather was president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as well as members of the Morgan and Rockefeller financial dynasties, Hollywood star Elissa Landi and a Honduran nobleman, Humberto Fombona-Blanco.

As the crew began clearing the decks for departure, Bailey and his mates had to improvise a new plan. While some staged a diversion, Bailey led a group to take down the flag. Risking a tumble into the depths, he climbed a rickety ladder, but could not tear down the emblem completely, having lost his razor blade. Luckily, fellow seaman Adrian Duffy cut the flag loose with a switchblade and Bailey flung it into the Hudson.

The German luxury liner S.S. Bremen at Pier 86 in New York. (Acme Newspictures)

The author writes that the flag incident was Bailey’s favorite story, “a parable about the ragged effort in the early days of the Nazi regime to convince the world that Adolf Hitler had to be confronted.” Yet the immediate aftermath looked bleak for the participants. The flag was quickly retrieved and reattached, and the US apologized to an incensed Nazi Germany.

The resulting trial of the Bremen Six was “hugely covered at the time,” Duffy said, resulting in high drama in the court of Judge Brodsky, a Jewish justice whom the author calls a moderate Democrat. To acquit the defendants, Brodsky found a precedent from almost 200 years earlier — the Boston Tea Party of 1773, which helped spark the American Revolution.

‘The Agitator,’ by Peter Duffy. (Courtesy PublicAffairs)

Duffy noted that both protests took place on board ships, and both were followed by court proceedings. And, he said, just as the tea that American colonists dumped into Boston Harbor was a symbol of the despised taxes levied by the British, so was the flag that Bailey tossed into New York Harbor a representative of a larger threat — “a symbolic emblem of a hated regime.”

The patriots of the Boston Tea Party were celebrated in life and continue to be venerated in American history. Bailey, by contrast, lost his livelihood as a merchant seaman during the anti-communist Red Scare, and was called upon to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Bailey renounced his communism after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Duffy said he identified with the Hungarian protestors, not with the Soviets in the tanks who repressed them.

Bailey did enjoy a late-in-life renaissance. He became a local hero in San Francisco, with Pelosi, among others, donating funds to publish his autobiography. He even appeared in several Hollywood films, including “On the Edge” with Bruce Dern.

“It almost makes sense that at the end of his life, he’s cast in Hollywood films,” Duffy said. “’On the Edge,’ I thought he steals that film. He has not just a bit part, but a key part. It’s an indication of the larger-than-life aspect to him.”

Newly uncovered testimony casts doubt on Nazi Reichstag fire claims

In affidavit published by German newspaper, Nazi official clears Dutch communist of starting the 1933 blaze that Hitler used to consolidate power

The Reichstag building is shown as it goes up in flames, February 27, 1933, in Berlin. (AP Photo)

The Reichstag building is shown as it goes up in flames, February 27, 1933, in Berlin. (AP Photo)

BERLIN — Newly found German testimony from 60 years ago has cast fresh doubt on Nazi-era claims a Dutch communist was responsible for the 1933 fire that gutted the Reichstag building, German media reported on Friday.

The Reichstag blaze remains a source of controversy in Germany as Adolf Hitler used the fire to claim a Communist plot and consolidate his influence with a crackdown.

Germany’s RND newspaper group on Friday published an affidavit of a former Nazi paramilitary dating from 1955 and found in the archives of a Hanover court, which confirmed its authenticity.

In his testimony, the Nazi official clears Dutch trade union member Marinus van der Lubbe of setting fire to the Reichstag.

Dutch Communist Marinus van der Lubbe, who was convicted for starting the Reichstag fire, is seen on March 3, 1933. (AP Photo)

A Nazi court found Van der Lubbe guilty of arson and treason and he was beheaded in 1934. But his case remained controversial.

Some historians say he admitted to starting the blaze alone in an attempt to stir Germans to rise up against the Nazis. Others believe he was a scapegoat for a fire the Nazis started themselves to justify the crackdown.

In 2008, Germany posthumously pardoned him under a law introduced in 1998 to lift unjust verdicts dating from the Nazi era.

In his testimony, the former paramilitary Hans-Martin Lennings, who died in 1962, said he took Van der Lubbe from an infirmary to the Reichstag where they noticed a strange burning smell on arrival.

According to Germany’s DPA news agency, which also said it has a certified copy of the document, Lennings protested like his comrades against the arrest of the Dutchman.

Adolf Hitler right, and his leading ministers Dr. Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Goering arrive at the Reichstag on February 27, 1933, after news that the parliament buildings were ablaze. (AP)

“We were convinced that Van der Lubbe could not have been the arsonist since we had noticed that the fire was already lit at the Reischtag when we delivered Van der Lubbe,” it said citing testimony.

He said he and other colleagues were detained because of their protests and forced to sign a paper saying they were unaware of anything about the incident.

The Reichstag, the imposing stone building which housed the Nazi-controlled parliament, was gutted by the fire on February 27, 1933.

It re-opened as the seat of the lower house of the parliament of a reunited Germany in 1999 after it was extensively renovated and capped by a glass dome.

The Catholic doctor whose ruse saved Jewish lives

The documentary-maker Stephen Edwards’s most distinguished musical work is the score for his Requiem for My Mother (2017). The Requiem was premiered in the Vatican, and his award-winning television documentary, based on the premiere, was broadcast on the PBS network. It’s a breathtaking work, reminiscent of Duruflé but original and memorable.

Now Edwards, composer of nearly 100 film and television soundtracks, has another documentary in the making, entitled Syndrome K. It’s about a little-known story of World War II heroism, which as he put it, “captured my soul”.

During the Nazi occupation of Rome, three Italian doctors at Fatebenefratelli hospital invented a “deadly and contagious” disease called Syndrome K, in order to protect some Jewish patients from the Nazis.

The “patients” had escaped from the Nazi round-up in Rome by fleeing across the Tiber to the hospital, where the doctors put them in beds. The Nazis never entered the ward, and the supposed patients survived the war.

If the ruse had been discovered, the doctors and patients would surely have suffered the same fate as that of the 1,023 people deported from the Jewish ghetto by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz. Only 16 survived.

Portions of Edwards’s soundtrack have already been recorded in London, Belgrade and Prague, with sessions scheduled for Rome and Moscow. Edwards says the music for Syndrome K is intended “to help convey feelings and emotions that are so crucial to this amazing story”.

Edwards interviewed survivors and descendants of survivors, including the 98-year-old Adriano Ossicini, the last surviving doctor, and Pietro Borromeo, son of the head doctor at the hospital. As the trailer attests, these interviews, combined with archive footage of Nazi soldiers in the ghetto and the US 5th Army fighting up the Italian coast towards Rome, promise to present a powerful depiction of courage and sacrifice in the face of Nazi horror.

Dr Ossicini, a Catholic and already known for being anti-fascist, not only coined the name “Syndrome K” but also helped establish a secret radio room in the hospital to communicate with the Allies. He enlisted the help of Catholic friars to provide cover for the ruse.

The other two doctors involved were Giovanni Borromeo and Vittorio Sacerdoti. Dr Borromeo was the hospital director who agreed to Dr Ossicini’s plan. Dr Sacerdoti was himself a Jew who worked at the hospital with forged papers that were known only to Borromeo.

In 2004, Borromeo was posthumously recognised by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.

Meanwhile,  Stephen Edwards has financed the film from personal funds to date. To raise the balance to complete and release it, he launched a campaign on Kickstarter. Those interested in reading more about the film, or supporting the effort can go to and search “Syndrome K”.