Category Archive: American Gathering News

NY Met sued for return of $100-million Picasso sold by German Jew before WWII

Complaint says Paul Leffmann sold ‘The Actor’ under duress in 1938 to fund escape to Switzerland; museum argues it has ‘indisputable title’ to piece

picasso-theactor-e1475274025500-635x357The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan is facing a $100 million lawsuit for the return of a Pablo Picasso painting owned by a German Jewish industrialist living in Italy which he sold under duress in 1938 on the brink of World War II.

A great-grandniece of Paul Leffmann, who owned “The Actor,” from Picasso’s Rose Period in 1904 and 1905, filed the suit at the Manhattan Federal Court Friday.

Laurel Zuckerman, who handles the estate of Leffmann’s widow Alice, said he sold the painting for $12,000 to two art dealers in June 1938 while in Italy, where he and wife wife were living after fleeing Germany a year earlier. The money was to fund an escape to Switzerland from the Nazi-allied Mussolini regime.

The Leffmans settled in Zurich after the war and died in the city, the complaint noted.

The Met acquired “The Actor” in 1952 and said in a statement that it had an “indisputable title” to the painting and will defend its rights to it.

The suit claims that the Met failed for decades to investigate the origins of the piece, after in 2011 finally acknowledging Leffmann’s ownership and sale of the artwork.

Zuckerman had learned of the artwork in 2010 and demanded its return.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan is facing a $100 million lawsuit for the return of a Pablo Picasso painting owned by a German Jewish industrialist living in Italy which he sold under duress in 1938 on the brink of World War II.

A great-grandniece of Paul Leffmann, who owned “The Actor,” from Picasso’s Rose Period in 1904 and 1905, filed the suit at the Manhattan Federal Court Friday.

Laurel Zuckerman, who handles the estate of Leffmann’s widow Alice, said he sold the painting for $12,000 to two art dealers in June 1938 while in Italy, where he and wife wife were living after fleeing Germany a year earlier. The money was to fund an escape to Switzerland from the Nazi-allied Mussolini regime.

The Leffmans settled in Zurich after the war and died in the city, the complaint noted.

actorThe Met acquired “The Actor” in 1952 and said in a statement that it had an “indisputable title” to the painting and will defend its rights to it.

The suit claims that the Met failed for decades to investigate the origins of the piece, after in 2011 finally acknowledging Leffmann’s ownership and sale of the artwork.

Zuckerman had learned of the artwork in 2010 and demanded its return.

“We believe the painting is tainted by the history of the Holocaust, and the Leffmanns, given the circumstances under which they sold it, never lost title,” a lawyer for Zuckerman said in a statement to Reuters. The suit seeks the return of the painting or $100 million in compensation.

The Met said that while it “understands and sympathizes deeply with the losses that Paul and Alice Leffmann endured during the Nazi era, it firmly believes that this painting was not among them,” arguing that Nazi persecution was not a factor in the sale.

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Targeting students, Holocaust deniers up their game online

As disputers of the Shoah attract new adherents, historians such as ‘Denial’ protagonist Deborah Lipstadt warn against implementing European-style laws

german-memorialAfter every genocide, there comes a stage of denial. Embedded within genocidal programs enacted by some of last century’s most notorious regimes, the phenomenon of denial is not unique to the Holocaust, according to Gregory H. Stanton, a former US State Department official and founder of Genocide Watch.

“The perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses,” wrote Stanton. “They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims. They block investigations of the crimes, and continue to govern until driven from power by force, when they flee into exile,” he wrote.

This paradigm fits the actions of Nazi Germany, as well as regimes led by — for instance — Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and the Khmer Rouge, claimed Stanton, who outlined a ten-stage timeline of genocide that ends in denial. Far from being innocuous, denying that a genocide took place is “among the surest indicators of future genocidal massacres,” according to Stanton.

Research conducted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) suggests that as many as one-fifth of Americans possess “some indifference toward the remembrance of the Holocaust and negative attitudes toward Jews in relation to the Holocaust.” In addition to claiming that “knowledge of the Holocaust in the US is quite low relative to European countries,” the museum regularly warns about the explosive growth of Shoah denial on the Internet.

corpses-burnedThe seeds of denial were sown by the Nazis early on, most notably with “Special Action 1005.” Starting in early 1942, prisoners dug up and incinerated the corpses of three-million Jews murdered by SS-Einsatzgruppen squads or in death camps. At Treblinka, Babi Yar, and elsewhere, techniques were developed to destroy as many corpses as quickly as possible.

During an October 1943 speech given to SS generals in Poland, SS chief Heinrich Himmler referred to “the extermination of the Jewish people” and the need for continued silence. Similar to the murderous purge of Hitler’s political enemies in 1934, the Nazis’ “Final Solution” to the Jewish question was to be an unwritten page of German history, intoned Himmler.

‘Freedom for offensive people to be offensive’


According to Holocaust deniers, the Nazis had no formal policy to eliminate Europe’s Jews, and the number of Jews who died during the war is an order of magnitude lower than six million. As a specific point of contention, deniers claim that gassing installations were not used to mass-murder Jews.
While some historians choose to ignore these claims, others refute the deniers’ assertions head-on. A third group fights fire with fire and focuses on delegitimizing the deniers and their methods, including by shedding light on their motivations.

In the new film “Denial,” the delegitimization approach is used by historian Deborah Lipstadt and her legal team in a British court. Following Lipstadt’s labeling of historian David Irving as a falsifier of history in her 1993 book, “Denying the Holocaust,” Irving brought a libel suit against Lipstadt and her publisher. As portrayed in the film, the defense team’s strategy was to expose Irving’s bigotry, bias, and falsifications of evidence.

“We need not waste time or effort answering the deniers’ contentions,” Lipstadt has said. “Their commitment is to an ideology and their ‘findings’ are shaped to support it.”

Denying the Holocaust is illegal in many European countries and Israel. In Hungary, for instance, a court blocked almost two-dozen Holocaust denial websites this month. More than 500,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered with collaboration from the government and many Hungarians, yet Holocaust denial is rampant in that country, home to 50,000 Jews today.

‘I am convinced that freedom of speech means nothing unless it includes the freedom for offensive people to be offensive’

In the US, more than a few academic institutions harbor Holocaust deniers who teach students their beliefs. Some of these faculty members are monitored by anti-hate groups seeking to combat Holocaust denial on campus. With barely half of the world’s population having heard of the Nazis’ genocide of European Jewry, these “academic” deniers have a built-in audience, including among international students.

Although Holocaust denial might be expanding in cyberspace and some far-left corners of academia, most historians and Jewish leaders are against the passage of European-style laws against genocide denial.

“I am convinced that freedom of speech means nothing unless it includes the freedom for offensive people to be offensive,” said Lipstadt during an Oxford Union Society debate in January.

“We who are offended by [Holocaust deniers], must accept that, as a cost of living in a free society,” said Lipstadt, who teaches at Emory University in Atlanta.

‘How much is false about the Holocaust?’


With no laws against Holocaust denial to impede them, Americans are free to say the Holocaust did not occur in any forum they choose.

A prominent early Holocaust denier was the founder of the America First Party, Gerald L.K. Smith. In his “Cross and Flag” magazine, the one-time presidential candidate claimed that six million Shoah victims actually immigrated to the US, and were not killed in Europe. He frequently railed against Jews and Israel, deploying anti-Semitic trope after trope.

“If the reader wants to know what the organized Jew in power would do to the United States if he came to absolute control, all he needs to do is to study the morality of the Zionist Jew in the Middle East in which these Christ-hating tyrants have violated all the rules of decency, all established civilized precedent, and all ethics having to do with the relationship of one man to another,” wrote Smith in 1959.

A seminal moment for Holocaust denial came in 1976, when a Northwestern University electrical engineering professor named Arthur R. Butz published a book calling the Shoah “the hoax of the century.” Cloaked in the illusion of academic rigor, the book encouraged deniers to publish materials and organize groups like the California-based Institute for Historical Review, a leading convener of deniers for decades.

Since 1987, the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust has paid for denial ads in campus newspapers, including at Harvard University. Placed by committee head Bradley R. Smith, these “How much is false about the Holocaust?” ads have been rejected by some newspapers, but the committee has had success placing them online.

The most recognizable American Holocaust denier might be white supremacist David Duke, who sold denial literature out of his legislative office in Louisiana. Duke’s anti-Semitism has long garnered headlines, including this summer, when the Ku Klux Klan icon endorsed Donald Trump’s candidacy for president.

Duke’s statements about Jews, blacks and other minorities are intended to dehumanize those groups. This “dehumanization” stage is required for genocide to take place, according to Stanton’s ten-stage timeline. However, claimed the Genocide Watch founder, in democratic societies where free speech is permitted — even dehumanizing hate speech — a march toward genocide is unlikely to occur.

“In combating dehumanization, incitement to genocide should not be confused with protected speech,” wrote Stanton. “Genocidal societies lack constitutional protection for countervailing speech, and should be treated differently than democracies.

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Mournful Ukraine marks 75 years since Babi Yar massacre

President tells ceremony in Kiev that country cannot forget 1941 slaying of 34,000 Jews by Nazis, aided by locals, at edge of ravin

ukrain-presKIEV — Ukraine on Thursday marked the 75th anniversary of the single largest single mass shooting by Nazi forces during the Holocaust in a somber ceremony attended by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and other world leaders.

The massacre of nearly 34,000 Jews on September 29-30, 1941 in Kiev’s Babi Yar ravine was unprecedented in its scope — even for Nazi Germany’s notoriously brutal genocide of European Jewry — and has been a source of controversy over the participation of local Ukrainian collaborators in the mass killing.

At the ceremony, Poroshenko addressed the sensitive issue, saying “there have been those [in Ukraine] for which one felt shame. And this, too, cannot be erased from our collective memory.

“No Ukrainian has the right to forget this tragedy,” he said.

Earlier, Poroshenko tweeted that “we Ukrainians very well understand the grief of the Jews and take it as our own.”

German President Joachim Gauck told the thousands gathered at the site on Thursday evening that the Nazis “even used nationalist Ukrainians as assistant police.”

“But we also admit that not only special fences [of death camps], but ordinary Wehrmacht [soldiers] were involved in these crimes,” Gauck said. “Germans have to approach the Babi Yar massacres with unspeakable guilt.”

In his address, World Jewish Congress chief Robert Singer also urged for “all the countries involved, not just Ukraine, (to) take responsibility for their actions during that dark time.”

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin was in Ukraine earlier in the week to attend a number of memorial events, but cut short his visit to attend the funeral of his predecessor Shimon Peres. Poroshenko himself will travel to Israel to attend Friday’s funeral of Peres.

Rivlin’s ‘undiplomatic’ comments


Rivlin, before leaving Ukraine, drew criticism for making “undiplomatic” comments about Ukrainians’ role in the massacre.

Rivlin on Tuesday told lawmakers in Kiev that “many of the crimes were committed by Ukrainians” during the Holocaust. “They victimized the Jews, killed them, and in many cases reported them to the Nazis,” he said at the Ukrainian parliament.

In September 1941, as Hitler’s forces advanced toward Moscow on the eastern front, 33,771 Jews were gunned down over the course of just two days. Along with locally recruited Ukrainian policemen, SS troops brought Jewish men, women and children to the Babi Yar ravine where they forced to strip naked and lined up at the edge of the ravine and shot in the back.

Just 29 people managed to escape the execution by either falling into the mass grave before being shot or by wearing crosses to hide their identities.

“We heard the shooting behind us, but (my) granny — she kept holding me — did not look back and kept running until she fell exhausted among the graves in a nearby cemetery,” said Raisa Maistrenko, the last survivor of the tragedy still alive in Kiev.

Rivlin’s statement caused an uproar among nationalist politicians and other key figures in Ukraine.

“What Rivlin did can unambiguously be interpreted as spitting in the face of Ukrainians” at a time when the people he accused of perpetrating crimes are no longer alive to defend themselves, said Bogdan Chervak, the first deputy chairman on the State Committee for Television and Radio of Ukraine.

Rivlin also noted the actions of Ukrainian non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Israel’s Holocaust commemoration authority, Yad Vashem, has awarded 2,544 Ukrainians with the title of Righteous among the Nations for such actions. Ukraine has the fourth largest number of righteous gentiles, as they are called, after Poland, the Netherlands and France.

Poroshenko on Friday called on the international community to financially support the creation of the Holocaust memorial museum in Babi Yar.

“I urge the Ukrainian and world community to join this initiative,” he said during the presentation of the film about the massacre.

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Holocaust survivor, 90, fights off purse snatcher

Gina Zuckerman, attacked near Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, says she would have shared the $10 she had in cash, if only the robber had asked

gina-zuckerman-635x357JTA – Don’t mess with this bubbe. Gina Zuckerman, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor from Poland, was pushing her shopping cart near New York’s Washington Square Park on Tuesday when she was jumped by a large woman. The attacker, who was trying to steal her purse, dug her nails deeply into Zuckerman’s arm, causing her to bleed and bruising her.

The assailant tried to convince passers-by that she was Zuckerman’s aide, and the nonagenarian was eventually thrown to the ground, according to reports in DNAinfo and The New York Post.

But Zuckerman didn’t give in. She escaped — purse and all.

“I wouldn’t give it to her. I fought her off. I was stronger than her,” she told the Post. “No woman is going to attack me!”

She only had $10 in her purse and said she would have given the woman five of them if she “needed it badly.”

Of course, Zuckerman has been tough for a long time. After the Nazis invaded her home country in 1939, she spent six years in a German labor camp. She has lived in New York for the past 60 years, currently in a studio apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood. She worked in the advertising industry for 28 years as a Girl Friday, as she called it.

“In those days, it was called a Girl Friday — a girl who had to have answers to everything, know everything,” she told DNAinfo.

At the hospital, Zuckerman needed five stitches and a tetanus shot.

“I have a pacemaker!” she added. “Can you imagine, I didn’t faint!”

Her secret tip for staying strong? Dancing and gymnastics, which she used to practice back in the day.

“I’m a fighter,” she said.

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Kiev’s last survivor of Nazi ‘path to death’ revisits Babi Yar 75 years on

Ahead of official memorials commemorating the murder of 34,00 Jews, Raisa Maistrenko recalls her slain family and her non-Jewish grandmother’s lifesaving bravery

 KIEV, Ukraine (AFP) — “We were gathered here, and sent along ‘the path to death,’” says Raisa Maistrenko, pointing to a Kiev ravine that 75 years ago witnessed one of the worst atrocities of World War II.

Maistrenko was only three when the Nazis, helped by local collaborators, slaughtered 34,000 Jews — mostly elderly, women and children — on September 29-30, 1941, as Hitler’s forces advanced toward Moscow on the eastern front.

Maistrenko is the Ukrainian capital’s last survivor of the 29 people who managed to escape execution, either by falling into the ravine before they were shot in the back, to lie on top of thousands of corpses and later flee, or wearing crosses to hide their true religion.

The 78-year-old’s 18 relatives never returned from Babi Yar — a site that unnervingly stands next to Kiev’s main TV tower and is rarely mentioned by modern locals.

Cart in hand


After entering Kiev, Nazi troops told the nearly 200,000 Jews who made up a quarter of the city’s population to pack up their documents, money and warm clothes and go to the ravine or face death.

“All the Jews decided to go because they thought they would be evacuated by train as the railway station was nearby. Nobody could possibly assume there would be a mass execution,” Maistrenko says in slow, hushed tones.

Her father had been drafted into the Soviet army and she lived with her mother in her grandparents’ apartment.

Her grandfather Meer decided that the family should follow the Nazis’ orders and led the death march to Babi Yar with his old cart packed with belongings in hand.

Maistrenko’s non-Jewish grandmother Tanya volunteered to accompany her granddaughter — and eventually saved her life.

Noise and horrible screams could be heard as the mournful procession approached the grave site that was tightly-cordoned by Nazi soldiers — after getting in, there was no way out.

Perhaps already knowing their fate in advance, “my mom and her sister still kept their mother going because she had sore legs,” Maistrenko says.

“But my granny, she held me firmly in her arms and did not let go,” Maistrenko recalled next to the Babi Yar Menorah, a sacred Jewish candelabrum that was installed at the site of executions.

‘Don’t look back’


“At some point, we found ourselves separated from the rest of the family. The troops were beating us with batons to drive us to the place where the shots were being fired,” Maistrenko says, her eyes welling with tears.

Furious and struck with horror, grandmother Tanya began shouting “I am Russian!” and clinging Maistrenko with both hands.

“A soldier tried to hit me with a rifle butt, but my granny shielded me with her shoulder and fell to the ground together with me,” Maistrenko recalls.

The grandmother then stood up, kept crossing herself and shouting “I am Russian” while pushing through the flood of future victims and the armed Nazis troops and Ukrainian auxiliaries.

“We heard the shooting behind us, but granny — she kept holding me — did not look back and kept running until she fell exhausted among the graves in a nearby cemetery.”

Maistrenko said they hid there until sunset before finding their way back home under the cover of darkness.

There, to their relief and eventual survival, no one reported them to the Nazis.

“There were two big houses in our courtyard filled with multi-national families, but all were very friendly to each other,” Maistrenko said.

“When the raids occurred, we took shelter in the basement,” she added, until the Soviet army retook Kiev in November 1943.

As part of events marking 75 years since the mass murders, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will meet his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko at the administration building Tuesday, ahead of an official memorial at the site Thursday.

“Over this visit we will commemorate the past, but we will look to the future,” Rivlin said before departing on Monday.

Others attending will include the presidents of Germany, Hungary and the European Union’s Donald Tusk, as well as a 100-strong delegation from the World Jewish Congress in New York.

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Holocaust survivor, 100, takes the oath in order to vote

After 16 years in the US, Menia Perelman of South Florida, a Romanian-born Holocaust survivor, becomes a citizen in time for November elections

asdsadasd-e1474842837111-635x357A 100-year-old Holocaust survivor has officially become a US citizen in order to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

Menia Perelman of South Florida, who arrived in the United States at the age of 84, told local media that she wanted to become a citizen so she could vote in the November election.

She took the oath of citizenship in Florida on Friday with more than 100 other new US citizens.

“I am Jewish, my name is Perelman and I went through many difficult times for so many years,” Perelman said after the ceremony.

Perelman was born in Romania and survived the Holocaust, including four years in a concentration camp. After World War II she was not able to enter the United States due to restrictions on the number of refugees, and instead moved to Panama then Peru and later Venezuela. She came to the United States in 1993 to be closer to her daughter after the death of her husband.

Perelman was joined by four generations of her family at the swearing in: her two daughters and their husbands, her granddaughter and her husband, and her six-month old great-granddaughter.

Asked by the CBS local affiliate whom she would be voting for, Perelman replied that she preferred the Democratic nominee. “You know, it’s a personal secret, but I will tell you. Hillary. Hillary Clinton.”

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‘Second Generation’ leader tells of need to keep Shoah memory

menachem-rosensaftOne of the most prominent leaders of the children of Holocaust survivors has attacked people who attempt to “pervert the memory of the Holocaust”.

Menachem Rosensaft described as “obscene” those who “wish to twist and distort” the Shoah for political purposes.

Mr Rosensaft, a lawyer, who was the guest of the Holocaust Educational Trust at its fund-raising dinner on Wednesday, was born in the Displaced Persons (DP) Camp at Bergen-Belsen in 1948, and his birth there was against all odds.

Both of his parents, who came from Chasidic families, had been married and widowed previously – in his mother’s case losing her husband and her daughter in Auschwitz. Menachem’s father, Josef Rosensaft, became the head of the central committee of liberated Jews, first in Bergen-Belsen and then in the DP camps in the whole of the British zone in post-war Germany.

Menachem’s mother, Hadassah Bimko, who studied medicine in France before the war, was appointed by the British to work with the skeleton medical team working in the DP camps after liberation.

Before Belsen was liberated by the British army in April 1945, Hadassah was in charge of the children’s barracks at the camp and took in, against the regulations, the then-14-year-old Mala Helfgott and her little cousin from whom she refused to be parted.

Mala Tribich, as she is today, was reunited with Menachem Rosensaft at Wednesday evening’s event.

“My parents decided that they would not leave the DP camp until all the survivors had been taken care of,” he said.

“Many Jews were repatriated very quickly but the British were only allowing a trickle of people into Palestine and the US had quite draconian immigration laws.”

In the event, the DP camp stayed open until 1950, and Menachem was one of 2,000 babies born in that period to survivors of the camps.

In July 1948, Josef was a delegate to the second plenary of the World Jewish Congress, which took place in the quiet Swiss town of Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva. Josef fell in love with the peaceful atmosphere and moved his family to Switzerland, where they stayed until Menachem was 10, subsequently moving to the United States.

Mr Rosensaft became an eminent lawyer and law lecturer, as well as general counsel to the World Jewish Congress. Today, aged 68, he is one of the leading figures of the so-called Second Generation, although he dislikes the term.

“We, as children or grandchildren of survivors, have to remember that we are not survivors.

“We never suffered; we did not see people killed. We don’t have any of the privileges of survivors.

What we do have is obligation. We are able to absorb their memories and are responsible for passing them on for a purpose – the legacy that it brings to the entire Jewish people.”

He is particularly keen on highlighting the bond between survivors and their grandchildren, saying that often survivors would tell their grandchildren things they could not share with their children.

He took his own daughter, Jodi, to Auschwitz-Birkenau six months after his mother died in 1997, and was amazed when she told him that she recognised parts of Birkenau “just as my mother had described it to her.”

This “transfer of memory”, he says, is the most important way to keep alive the legacy of the Holocaust, even when every survivor has died. “We have to ensure that the lessons of the Shoah become a wake-up call for the world.”

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s dinner, Karen Pollock, the chief executive of the HET, said she was delighted and proud that the organisation had been able to bring Ms Tribich and Mr Rosensaft together, describing them as “two inspirational individuals”.

She said: “Because of Menachem’s mother’s kindness, Mala lived to see the liberation of Bergen-Belsen by British troops in April 1945”.

Writing in the appeal dinner’s programme, Prime Minister Theresa May praised the HET for “ensuring that the memory of the Holocaust lives on.”

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Fund begins reimbursing survivors shipped to Nazi camps via French rail

US administering reparations to those who were not entitled to make claims under existing programs in France

nazi-campPayments have started issuing from a US-run compensation fund for Holocaust survivors deported to Nazi camps via the French rail system.

The $60 million compensation fund established in December 2014 has approved 68 claims and is processing an estimated 700 in total, Stuart Eizenstat, the secretary of state’s special adviser for Holocaust issues, said in a conference call Thursday.

The money comes from France, but the United States is administering and distributing the funds to eligible Americans, Israelis and other foreigners, their spouses and heirs who were not entitled to make claims under existing French programs.

In return, the United States protects France from American lawsuits related to Holocaust deportations of Jews from the country. Several US state governments banned their local transportation services from contracting with the French railway SNCF, a major exporter of rail cars, until the reparations issue was resolved.

Survivors can receive $204,000 under the program, while their spouses can receive $51,000.

The deadline for filing claims has been extended to January. The claims form and other instructions are available on the State Department website.

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