Category Archive: Books

A star-studded ‘Night’ to honor Elie Wiesel in New York

Five-hour January 29 event at Museum of Jewish Heritage will feature diverse community reading of the slim 116-page volume that changed the world

wiesel-FEATUREMillions have read Elie Wiesel’s landmark Holocaust memoir “Night.” When Oprah Winfrey selected it for her book club in 2006, she turned it into an instant bestseller and countless students continue to read it as part of their high school curriculums.

But seldom is the slim volume about the author’s experiences in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald Nazi concentration camps read aloud.

A special event in New York on Sunday marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day (which takes place two days earlier on January 27) with a wide array of artists, actors, writers, community leaders, government officials, students, Holocaust survivors and survivors of other genocides. They will honor the memory of the late Wiesel in a unique community reading of “Night” at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

Co-presented by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, the reading will take place over five hours in the museum’s Edmond J. Safra Hall. It will be simulcast throughout the museum’s galleries and streamed via the internet to online viewers around the world. On-stage participants will take turns reading at least one page from the 116-page work. Most of the readers will read in English, and some will read parts of the text in Yiddish and French, in a nod to the languages in which “Night” was published before its translation to English and some 30 other languages.

Abraham H. Foxman, director of the Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage and former Anti-Defamation League national director, was instrumental in organizing the event honoring Wiesel, who died last July 2 aged 87.

Foxman told The Times of Israel he was overwhelmed by the uniformly positive response from the invited readers, as well as public demand to attend. The 1,000 allotted spaces are filled, and there is a waiting list of those still hoping to have a chance to personally hear a portion of the reading.

Foxman said it was evident from the start that “Night” would be the central element for the program marking the first International Holocaust Remembrance Day since Wiesel’s passing.

“Elie’s greatest impact on the universe was the testimony of ‘Night.’ It was obvious that we would use this as a vehicle. What Elie did was take a Jewish tragedy and place it on the world stage. He transposed Jewish pain to a universal scale. ‘Night’ is the most- read Holocaust-related book, or perhaps second only to ‘The Diary of Anne Frank,’” Foxman said.

Folksbiene associate artistic director Motl Didner said there was a strong connection between Wiesel and Yiddish culture. Wiesel attended numerous Folksbiene productions, and the theater staged a special tribute to him in 2010. On a more intimate level, Wiesel was a familiar presence in Folksbiene artistic director Zalmen Mlotek’s life as he grew up, as the Nobel Laureate was friendly with Mlotek’s parents, Yiddish Forverts editor Yosl Mlotek and Yiddish song expert Chana Mlotek.

“The Folksbiene has been a home for the survivor community for the 70 years since the end of the Holocaust and now serves the second, third and fourth generations,” said Didner.

“Elie Wiesel was a great inspiration to our community. Yiddish was his native language. It was the language in which he began his writing career. He even sang in Yiddish. It was only fitting that with his passing, especially given our new partnership with the Museum of Jewish Heritage, that we honor his memory by reading his most influential work,” Didner said.

Some of the readers participating in Sunday’s event knew Wiesel personally, while others never had the chance.

“I never had the pleasure and honor of meeting Mr. Wiesel, but I wish I had. So participating feels like a way of finally coming together,” said Tony, Oscar and Golden Globe-winning actor Joel Grey.

“Like most people, I too was devastated, and devastated by recollections of the Holocaust to this day,” said Grey, best known for his role as the Master of Ceremonies in both the stage and film versions of “Cabaret.”

Broadway actress Tovah Feldshuh, whom younger audiences will recognize as the overbearing mother in the current hit TV series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” knew and loved Wiesel. Her recollections of Wiesel as a man of moral and social courage, and also someone who always put concern for others first, inspired her to participate.

Feldshuh recalls how immediately after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Wiesel “held my face in his hands and said, ‘Tovah, how are you?’… that was his moment. The world was focused on him and he was so cellularly empathic that his first thoughts were naturally, effortlessly about ‘the other’ — in this case, it was lucky, lucky ‘I.’”

Sex therapist and media personality Dr. Ruth Westheimer also has fond memories of Wiesel, whom she called “a very important person in my life.” Westheimer praised Wiesel for everything he did for Jews and non-Jews alike, especially those who lived through the Nazi era.

As Westheimer reads her portion of “Night,” she will think of her friend Wiesel and miss him. She’ll especially miss the way he would greet her.

“I have met him many, many times, and I always got a kiss. What I miss most about him is his wonderful smile and the kiss on my cheek,” she shared.

The list of readers is crammed with famous New Yorkers from many different professional fields, from violinist Itzhak Perlman to New York Police Department commissioner James O’Neill to Ms. Magazine co-founder Letty Cottin Pogrebin. Israel will be represented by Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York.

At the end of the five hours, members of the Wiesel family concluded the reading.

Wiesel’s son Elisha Wiesel told The Times of Israel that he is pleased with how the Museum of Jewish Heritage and Folksbiene conceived of the event.

”I think my father would have appreciated the respect with which the Museum of Jewish Heritage is approaching the event. No musical interludes, no speeches, no performances – just the reading. Some messages are too important to dilute,” he said.

Although the community reading was planned to coincide with a day memorializing past tragedy, its resonance with current events is at the forefront of the younger Wiesel’s mind.

“Listeners to this particular reading of ‘Night’ need only walk a few blocks to the site of the 9/11 Memorial to be reminded that hatred and murderous intent are unfortunately alive and well today,” said Wiesel.

“There are still political and religious leaders who irresponsibly defame the ‘other’ and seek to divide us along our fault lines: religion, skin color, nationality, class, gender, sexual preference, and political affiliation,” he said.


German schoolbook publisher apologizes for anti-Semitic illustration

Klett-Verlag says it will issue substitute page to cover image depicting euro as ‘Rothschild bank’ devouring Europe

000_DV2064123-e1435144059423BERLIN — A schoolbook publisher in the German capital has apologized for using an anti-Semitic illustration in a text about the euro crisis and said it will send a substitute page to schools.

On Thursday, Berlin-based Klett-Verlag also said it was halting all further deliveries of the book, calling the error “serious.”

The substitute page can be pasted in, and the book will not be removed from German schools’ bookshelves.

Klett-Verlag told Vice magazine blogger Philipp Frohn that the “regrettable mistake” would be corrected in a future edition, which will not come out for several years.

At issue is an image in the firm’s textbook about politics, called “Impulses 2.” It depicts the euro as a Pacman-like chomping mouth about to devour Europe superimposed over a symbol with the words “Rothschild Bank.”

The notion that the Jewish banking family is controlling the world for its own selfish purposes “is a classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that the Nazis made good use of,” Frohn wrote.

“The message to pupils … is clear: The driving force behind the whole nasty affair is a bank. A Jewish bank,” he added.

The book credits the notorious American illustrator David Dees, whose work the New York-based Anti-Defamation League called “anti-Semitic and conspiratorial” in a 2008 report. The ADL noted that Dees, on his own website, said he hoped his images would “wake others up about the onslaught of the elite’s power hungry world government plan of domination.”

His current illustrations include portrayals of Hillary Clinton as a zombie; Donald Trump chained around the neck by a golden fob bearing the words “The Fed” and a Star of David; and work suggesting that mass shootings in schools are a Jewish conspiracy against the NRA.

Frohn said the publisher reacted with surprise to his questions about how Dees’ illustration ended up in the textbook, which has been used in schools across Germany since 2012. The publisher responded after “internal discussions” to say that “the use of this caricature is in fact a regrettable mistake,” and promising to remove the image from its online version of the chapter “as soon as possible.” But it could take years before a new edition is published, a spokesperson added.

Furthermore, the spokesperson said the publisher no longer knows which external subcontractor was responsible for the content, but “we don’t work together anymore.”

“Schoolbooks should help students learn media literacy,” Frohn said. “And in times of right-wing propaganda, this skill should be more important than ever.”

The publisher is halting all further deliveries of the book and is sending a substitute page to all schools that are using the book, which can be pasted in. They described the error as “serious.”


The Christmas Cookie That Changed Jewish Lives

Lebkuchen have long been a Christmas treat in Germany. But for two Jewish families fleeing the Nazis, these cookies offered hope for the future in a new country.

Like many Americans before her, Sandy Lee stumbled into culinary nirvana while living abroad in Europe. But while most people return home raving about the spectacular cheese or wine or charcuterie, Lee fell in love with a cookie. The particular object of her fascination was lebkuchen—a complexly spiced cousin to gingerbread that is ubiquitous in Christmas markets across Germany.

Lee, a New Yorker who works in the world of advertising and finance but has a penchant for passion projects, first tasted the cookie while living in Berlin. “It was such a magical combination of flavors,” she said, speaking of lebkuchen’s ginger, cardamom, and cloves, its rich nuttiness, and candied citrus peel. “I kept going back and trying different kinds, and I got a little obsessed.” After discovering that lebkuchen are all-but-impossible to find in New York, she started to make them at home. Never mind that she had no German background and had never been much of a baker—she was on a mission.

Her deep dive into lebkuchen resulted in an impressive collection of vintage cookie tins and 19th-century German baking trade manuals, and a year’s worth of trial-and-error attempts to re-create the cookie she loved. “I would travel to Nuremberg to try every type of lebkuchen I could find, remember what I liked best, and reverse-engineer the recipe based on the ingredient lists,” she said. Lee’s research began as a personal quest but soon morphed into a business. In 2011, Lee launched Leckerlee, a boutique business that sells an authentic (and very delicious) take on classic lebkuchen throughout the Christmas season.

Through founding Leckerlee, Lee also tapped into an unexpected, and rather astonishing, side story. It turns out, her beloved Christmas cookie played an instrumental role in the survival of two families of Jewish Holocaust survivors.

Shortly after launching Leckerlee, Lee was contacted by a man named Bill Freund. Freund, now 90, is the former chief economist of the New York Stock Exchange and a retired economics professor. But he is also, as he told Lee over the phone, the author of a 2011 children’s book called The Cookie That Saved My Family. In 1937, his family left Nuremberg and the escalating persecution that Jews were facing there. In the weeks before their departure, his mother, Paula, whom Freund described as “a marvelous baker,” persuaded a local pastry chef to teach her how to make traditional lebkuchen—a recipe that tends to be closely guarded by those lucky enough to know it.

“Nuremberg is the lebkuchen capital of the world,” Freund told me. “And she was thinking of ways to make a living in our new home.” Although he was just a child at the time, Freund has distinct memories of the baker coming to his house to instruct his mother on which spices to use and how to properly form and glaze the cookies.

Upon arriving in Manhattan, Freund’s parents took menial jobs to scrape by. But in 1939, when WWII broke out and German goods could no longer be imported to the United States, they started a bakery called Paula’s Lebkuchen in their Washington Heights neighborhood. Open from Labor Day through January, they sold the Christmas cookies and other turnovers to the neighborhood’s heavily German immigrant population.

Meanwhile, 10 miles away and across the East River, another Jewish lebkuchen story unfolded in Jackson Heights, Queens. In 1939, Ed Klugman said goodbye to his parents and his hometown of Nuremberg and boarded a kindertransport train to England. It would be one of the last before the war began. As he left, his parents gave him a book of recipes with the urgent instruction to keep it safe until the family could be reunited in the United States. The book, which came from a high-end pastry shop, was fat and heavy, filled with detailed illustrations for decorating pastries and cakes—and a recipe for lebkuchen. Klugman’s father was in the liquor business in Nuremberg but, like Freund’s mother, had researched other possible professions to pursue in America.

“I’m not sure how my parents originally got the recipe book, but it was a wise move,” Klugman, 91 and a retired professor of early childhood development, said. “It would become the backbone of my father’s new career in the United States.” Indeed, the Klugman family, who reunited in New York in 1940, would eventually open the Liberty Brand Cookie Company in Jackson Heights, a bakery that specialized in lebkuchen and other high-end cookies.

According to Luisa Weiss, a Berlin-based food writer and author of the recently published cookbook Classic German Baking, lebkuchen is a blanket German term for gingerbread, encompassing “multiple dozens” of spiced and honeyed cookies baked during the Christmas season. They date back to the 13th century, where they originated in German monasteries. As Gil Marks wrote in The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, the monks often “maintained not only baking ovens, but also apiaries and orchards, which provided honey and walnuts” for baked goods.

The most renowned variety, and the one that Lee re-creates at Leckerlee, is Elisenlebkuchen from Nuremberg—a dense, chewy pastry made primarily from almond paste and ground hazelnuts, studded with candied orange and citron peel, and covered with a thin sugar or velvety chocolate glaze. They are baked on top of small, edible wafers called oblaten, Weiss told me, which helps keep the batter from spreading in the oven. Oblaten are very similar in shape and composition to the communion wafers used in Catholic services. Freund told me that after World War II began, the oblaten his family had imported from Holland became unavailable. “We went to a Catholic Church and asked where they got their wafer from,” he told me. “They pointed us to a manufacturer in Chicago.” Problem solved.

There is no denying that lebkuchen are a Christmas specialty. But they were also enjoyed in Germany’s Jewish communities. According to Marks, Jewish families began baking different varieties lebkuchen as early as the 15th century, preparing them at home so as to avoid the monasteries. “Its pareve nature made it ideal for meat occasions,” he wrote. The cookie was served on Rosh Hashanah because of the honey it contained, and also during Hanukkah since it was Christmas-adjacent. The earliest Jewish American cookbooks, from Aunt Babette’s Cook Book to The Settlement Cook Book (both written by German-Jewish immigrants) contained recipes for lebkuchen.

For decades, when neighborhoods like Washington Heights and Yorkville on Manhattan’s Upper East Side were home to sizable German immigrant populations, lebkuchen were widely available. Today, imported versions (and also Lee’s lebkuchen) are sold at a few specialty shops like Schaller & Weber. But without Lee’s renewed enthusiasm for the cookie, they would have been essentially lost to New York history. Meanwhile, without Lee, Freund and Klugman would never have connected. Despite their geographical proximity and parallel histories, Freund and Klugman had never heard of one another, nor of their competing businesses, until Lee connected them over the phone. “What amazes me is how well we were both able to fare, despite the odds,” Klugman told me. “I’m grateful.”

Two Jewish boys from Nuremberg, two recipes for lebkuchen shuttled across the Atlantic Ocean, two unlikely stories of survival. You might just call it a Christmas miracle.



Report on Anne Frank’s capture sparks frustration among experts

Following release of study suggesting Holocaust diarist and her family were not betrayed, Anne Frank House responds to criticism of its ‘obvious mistakes’

amsterdam-132-e1400073323897-847x543Exactly how the Holocaust’s most famous victim came to be captured by the Nazis has intrigued the public for decades. A new study produced by the Anne Frank House is providing the latest set of theories to embroil researchers yet again.

Released earlier this month, the report examines events and people surrounding the arrest of Anne Frank, her family and four other Jews who hid in the backrooms of an Amsterdam office building belonging to the company of Anne’s father, Otto Frank. Unlike most prior studies, the new report focuses on possibilities other than the traditionally accepted “betrayal phone call” narrative, wherein someone who knew of the Jews in hiding reported them to authorities.

Calling the betrayal “an assumption that simmers on,” the Anne Frank House’s chief researcher, Gertjan Broek, told The Times of Israel the topic of the arrest is “one of the most frequently asked questions.”

To prepare their report, Broek and his team spent two years looking into details tied to the Nazis’ August 4, 1944, raid on the Secret Annex. According to Broek, there is no hard evidence behind a phone call having taken place, and it is just as likely that authorities descended on the office to investigate illegal workers, forged ration coupons, or other suspicious business practices.

In other words, Anne Frank and her family were not necessarily “betrayed,” but could have been the victims of happenstance in a Nazi-occupied city brimming with resistance activities. In Amsterdam, “everything was a risk, everything. [People could not] evade taking chances or risks,” said Broek.

However, the focus on possibilities other than a betrayal has irked some researchers, including Germany-based Melissa Müller, author of an acclaimed biography on Anne Frank published in 1998. According to Müller, the Anne Frank House’s new study is short on new facts and makes “obvious mistakes,” she said.

“This theory is not new at all, and there are not enough reliable sources to switch over to these ‘new’ explanations for the raid on the Prinsengracht,” said Müller. The Prinsengracht is a winding Amsterdam canal along which Frank’s office building resided, adjacent to a neighborhood — the Jordaan — filled with black market and resistance activity during 1944.

According to Müller and researcher Gerlof Langerijs, with whom she partnered to answer The Times of Israel’s questions, mistakes and “a lack of proof” in the Anne Frank House’s report have damaged its credibility.

“The reactions in the Netherlands are very negative,” said Müller. “[Broek] does not have any proof and is just causing confusion,” she said.

For instance, Müller took issue with Broek’s claim that the two-hour raid on the canal building was significantly longer than a normal Nazi arrest of Jews in hiding. According to Müller, two hours for such a raid was “not long at all, measured in 1944 circumstances and slower life speed,” said the author.

Müller also disagreed with the report’s claim that a lack of working telephone lines in Amsterdam during early August 1944 would have made a betrayal phone call unlikely. In Müller’s opinion, this is an example of researchers boosting a theory with questionable assumptions.

Müller does, however, agree with Broek that the betrayal phone call is something of a red herring, or, as she put it, “a mystification, and a typical example of how a story is passed on from one person to the next,” said Müller.

Another point of contention for Müller and Langerijs is the study’s assessment of workers in the warehouse below the Secret Annex, as well as travelling sales representatives who regularly visited the building. That some of these men and women were under the gaze of authorities for illegal activities has been known for decades, said Müller, yet there is still no evidence connecting one of them to the raid.

“Saying that there was ‘messing around with ration cards and illegal workers’ [as the study] suggests much, but proves nothing,” said Müller.

According to Broek and others at the Anne Frank House, the new research “doesn’t make claims that can’t be substantiated,” and possibilities such as the arrest being tied to something other than a phone call about Jews in hiding should be considered.

“Despite decades of research, betrayal as a point of departure has delivered nothing conclusive,” said Annemarie Bekker, spokesperson for the Anne Frank House, one of the Netherlands’ top tourist attractions.

“Our new investigation does not refute the possibility that the people in hiding were betrayed, but illustrates that other scenarios should also be considered,” Bekker told The Times of Israel. “Hopefully more researchers will see reason to follow up on new leads,” she said.

The ultimate ‘cold case’

For several decades, according to biographer Melissa Müller, the Anne Frank House “thought it was not their task to do any deeper research on the story by themselves, although they had some fine researchers on their staff,” she said.

“Back then the suggestions to take a deeper look into certain subjects were constantly put off the table,” said Müller. “To go public with this kind of research is new to them,” she said, referring to the report released this month about the fateful raid on Otto Frank’s office building.

In 2002, researchers including Müller’s colleague, Gerlof Langerijs, presented the Anne Frank House with a flowchart of possible “external factors,” or leads, which the Nazis might have been pursuing when they decided upon a raid, said Müller.

That it took the Anne Frank House 14 years to pursue these leads is “remarkable,” said Müller, who published an updated and expanded edition of her Anne Frank biography in 2013.

“In the past there were more and more urgent moments to point out this possibility,” said Müller.

“Many people think it is not much more than a publicity attempt,” said Müller of the study. “Just another theory after many theories have already been published — lacking convincing facts. In their letters to the editor, people complain about the study’s conclusion [being] based on ‘coincidences,’” she said.

According to Broek, he and Müller have met several times to discuss “every detail of Anne Frank’s life, and [the arrest] is always a part of the conversation,” he said. Broek emailed Müller a series of questions related to his study one year ago, to which the author responded, he said.

“I have not heard of any confusion inside of the Netherlands or outside of it,” said Broek about Müller’s claim the study is causing confusion.

Among other researchers of Anne Frank and the Nazi occupation in Amsterdam, there is general admiration for the arrest study. However, there is also frustration about an ongoing lack of closure.

“I still have the same opinion as I had before the publication of the new study of the Anne Frank House,” said Ad van Liempt, an expert on the deportation of Jews from the Netherlands during WWII and author of the book, “Hitler’s Bounty Hunters.”

Calling the study “well done and very interesting,” van Liempt added, “it is disappointing that there is no concrete conclusion. We cannot blame Mr. Broek and his research team. They did a good job, offered us a new view but couldn’t prove it. That is what, unfortunately, often happens in history research,” said van Liempt, who provided feedback to the Anne Frank House during the report’s creation, according to Broek.

“We know about thousands of Jews in the Netherlands, whether they were betrayed or not,” van Liempt told The Times of Israel. “But we don’t know about the most famous family of all, and sure, this bothers. I am still very curious, but I am afraid that I will never know what happened in this case,” said van Liempt.

Researchers close to Anne Frank’s story have expressed similar frustration, along with concerns that future research be directed toward appropriate ends.

“I cannot imagine that this new theory of happenstance rather than betrayal would have made one iota of difference to Miep Gies and the rest of the helpers, much less to Anne and the other six people in hiding who were murdered,” said journalist Steve North, referring to the Dutch woman who took care of the Jews in hiding and rescued Frank’s diary after the arrest.

North was the last journalist to interview Miep Gies before her death in 2010. He told The Times of Israel that Gies — were she still living — “might question why a new vague and ambiguous ‘research study’ was necessary at this particular time,” said North, whose 1998 interview with Gies took place in her Amsterdam apartment, where some of the Frank family’s furniture remained after the war.

‘I can only hope that this study was motivated by the search for an historical truth, and not by a need to keep the rewarding business of Anne Frank well-marketed’
“I can only hope that this study was motivated by the search for an historical truth, and not by a need to keep the rewarding business of Anne Frank well-marketed and flourishing,” said North.

Another writer who interviewed Gies is Alison Leslie Gold, author of the 1987 book, “Anne Frank Remembered,” in which Gold partnered with Gies to tell Frank’s story from the perspective of the woman who hid and cared for eight Jews in the Secret Annex and — rarely mentioned — an “underground” Dutch student who hid in her and husband Jan Gies’ apartment.

“I hesitate to weigh in,” said biographer Gold, “since analyzing the arrests from this ‘new’ angle — though it might shut some doors — also opens new doors, presents new implications, poses new questions,” Gold told The Times of Israel.

“It seems as if many more dots need to be connected before we reconfigure the tragedy that ended or blighted the lives of so many,” said Gold.


Author P.G. Wodehouse’s apologia of Nazi-Germany broadcasts revealed

Branded a traitor in his native England, humorist began an unpublished memoir of his time being held in Berlin, but manuscript never saw the light of day

p-g-_wodehouse_1930-e1483039390735-635x357Details from an unpublished work by author P.G. Wodehouse — in which he reveals his feelings over controversial radio broadcasts he made while held by the Nazis in Germany that saw him branded a traitor in Britain — came to light this week.

The Times of London was given access to the pages which Wodehouse stopped writing after just a few chapters when friends advised him against revisiting his controversial war years.

Wodehouse, who gained fame on both sides of the Atlantic with his tales of bumbling aristocrat Bertie Wooster and inimitable butler Jeeves, made a series of radio broadcasts from Berlin in the summer of 1941 titled “How to be an Internee Without Previous Training” in which he gave a light-hearted account of his experiences while being held prisoner by the Germans.

The original typed sheets held by the New York Public Library were never published, but a copy has now been placed in the British Library.

The pages — an incomplete memoir and apologia defending himself against accusations of being a Nazi sympathizer — include the comedy writer’s responses to critics of his wartime actions. Wodehouse’s most notable critic was his former friend, A.A. Milne, who authored the Winnie-The-Pooh children’s stories.

Although Wodehouse never expressed any support or sympathy for the Nazi cause, the programs went down badly in Britain that had just suffered the Blitz, the heavy German air raids during 1940 and 1941. He was vilified in parliament, his work banned from the BBC and some libraries removed his books from their shelves.

In prose typical of his style, Wodehouse wrote “the global howl that went up as a result of my indiscretion exceeded in volume and intensity anything I have ever experienced since that time in my boyhood when I broke the ­curate’s umbrella and my aunts started writing letters to one another about it.”

Wodehouse admits in the papers that the broadcasts were a grave mistake but notes that it did not occur to him that there was any harm in them at the time.

“I overlooked completely the dangerous possibility that a wave of pro-German sentiment might be created in the United States by such revelations on my part as that when in camp I read Shakespeare, that when internees ran out of tobacco they smoked tea, that the Kommandant at Huy had short legs and didn’t like walking up hills, and that there was an unpleasant smell in my cell at Loos prison.”

Wodehouse, and his wife Ethel, were living in Le Touquet, France when the Germans invaded in 1940. The couple tried to escape but their car broke down and they were unable to make another attempt before being captured by the Germany army.

The Germans interned all male enemy nationals under the age of 60 and that included Wodehouse who was born in 1881. He was sent first to a former prison in Loos, a suburb of Lille, then moved through Belgium and finally held at Tost in Upper Silesia, German-held at the time, now Polish territory. Wodehouse was later moved to a hotel in Berlin and he made the broadcasts from the city. He remained in Germany with his wife until September 1943 after which he was allowed back to Paris and was in the city when it was liberated in August 1944.

Shortly after the liberation Wodehouse was questioned on separate occasions by British intelligence officers from MI6 and MI5 who both concluded that while the broadcasts were folly, there was no reason to prosecute him. However, the public animosity in his homeland remained and Wodehouse moved to the US in 1947, never returning to Britain. He was eventually honored with a knighthood in 1975, a month before his death. The MI5 report exonerating Wodehouse was only made public in 1980.

Feuding with Milne

The document also brought to light some details of his feud with fellow author Milne.

Wodehouse and Milne had been friends before the war but their relationship soured as a result of the broadcasts. One undated exchange came after Milne had recalled that Wodehouse, who had no children, once told him he would like a son but only if the boy was born aged 15.

“You see the advantage of that,” Milne wrote, according to the report. “Bringing up a son throws considerable responsibility on a man, but by the time the boy is 15 one has shifted the responsibility on to the housemaster.”

In response, Wodehouse skewered Milne for including his own son, Christopher Robin, in the Winnie-The-Pooh books.

“You misunderstand me, Mr [sic] Milne,” he wrote. “I was simply talking as one businessman to another. When we ­authors have infant sons, our first thought is to cash in on them, and what I meant was that you had nipped in first and cleaned up on your infant son so thoroughly that the racket was busted.

“By the time you had finished exploiting the commercial possibilities of the young Milne, infant sons had reached saturation point and there was no more money in the game. The public will accept one Christopher Robin going hoppity hoppity hop, but not a sort of Russian ballet of the offspring of rival authors going hoppity hoppity hop, too.”

Wodehouse explained his reasons for making the broadcasts, saying he wanted to express gratitude to his US fans who wrote to him while he was held and also that a speech using the same themes he made to some 200 fellow British prisoners when he was held in Tost had been very well received.

“I remember at the time being conscious of a slight smugness at the thought that I had it in me to treat internment lightly, a sort of complacent feeling that by not making heavy weather about it I was keeping my end up and proving myself worthy to associate with these fellow internees of mine,” he wrote. “But if you are going to condemn authors for being smug, you will hardly know where to start.”


Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ is German bestseller, again

First reprint of Nazi leader’s anti-Semitic manifesto since WWII sells 85,000 copies in year, topping nonfiction list

000_jk1ti-635x357BERLIN, Germany (AFP) — The first reprint of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in Germany since World War II has proved a surprise bestseller, heading for its sixth print run, its publisher said Tuesday.

The Institute of Contemporary History of Munich (IfZ) said around 85,000 copies of the new annotated version of the Nazi leader’s anti-Semitic manifesto had flown off the shelves since its release last January.

The respected institute said that far from promoting far-right ideology, the publication had enriched a debate on the renewed rise of “authoritarian political views” in contemporary Western society.

It had initially planned to print only 4,000 copies but boosted production immediately based on intense demand. The sixth print run will hit bookstores in late January.

The two-volume work had figured on the non-fiction bestseller list in weekly magazine Der Spiegel over much of the last year, and even topped the list for two weeks in April.

The institute also organized a series of presentations and debates around “Mein Kampf” across Germany and in other European cities, which it said allowed it to measure the impact of the new edition.

“It turned out that the fear the publication would promote Hitler’s ideology or even make it socially acceptable and give neo-Nazis a new propaganda platform was totally unfounded,” IfZ director Andreas Wirsching said in a statement.

“To the contrary, the debate about Hitler’s worldview and his approach to propaganda offered a chance to look at the causes and consequences of totalitarian ideologies, at a time in which authoritarian political views and rightwing slogans are gaining ground.”

‘Not reactionaries or radicals’

The institute said the data collected about buyers by regional bookstores showed that they tended to be “customers interested in politics and history as well as educators” and not “reactionaries or rightwing radicals.”

Nevertheless, the IfZ said it would maintain a restrictive policy on international rights. For now, only English and French editions are planned despite strong interest from many countries.

The institute released the annotated version of “Mein Kampf” last January, just days after the copyright of the manifesto expired.

Bavaria was handed the rights to the book in 1945 when the Allies gave it control of the main Nazi publishing house following Hitler’s defeat.

For 70 years, it refused to allow the inflammatory tract to be republished out of respect for victims of the Nazis and to prevent incitement of hatred.

But “Mein Kampf” — which means “My Struggle” — fell into the public domain on January 1 and the institute said it feared a version without critical commentary could hit the market.

Partly autobiographical, “Mein Kampf” outlines Hitler’s ideology that formed the basis for Nazism. He wrote it in 1924 while he was imprisoned in Bavaria for treason after his failed Beer Hall Putsch.

The book set out two ideas that he put into practice as Germany’s leader going into World War II: annexing neighboring countries to gain Lebensraum, or “living space,” for Germans, and his hatred of Jews, which led to the Holocaust.

Some 12.4 million copies were published in Germany and from 1936, the Nazi state gave a copy to all newlyweds as a wedding gift.


Grandma’s Lost Challah, Found

How I discovered a recipe for the sourdough bread my grandmother made, before she died in the Holocaust

challah_051412_620pxRich Sourdough Barches (Challah)

My mother had always insisted that her mother was an amazing baker, and her challah was second to none. So, when I first started baking challah, I wanted my grandmother’s recipe. But my grandmother wasn’t available for asking. She was dead, murdered by the Nazis.

Back in the late 1980s, when I was a new bride, I phoned my mother long distance, from my home in Jerusalem to her home in New York. “I don’t have a recipe,” she told me. “Why potchke? Buy! The bakery makes such good challahs.”

But I wanted to bake. I wanted to stretch my muscles, dirty my fingers, and knead my prayers into my dough as I imagined my grandmother had done.

“Are you sure you don’t remember?” I prodded.

My mother remembered one detail about my grandmother’s technique: “She used to save a piece from the dough and put it into the next week’s dough.”

From Torah classes, I knew about the Showbread of the Holy Temple, the Lehem HaPanim, and about the Matriarch Sarah’s challah—both of which remained fresh throughout the week. Since my grandmother was a rabbi’s daughter, I imagined that by saving this piece, my grandmother was copying Sarah and the ancient Temple priests. But who could be sure? I never imagined that I’d solve the mystery of this esoteric ritual—and that it would lead me to a deeper connection with my grandmother.


Born at the turn of the 20th century in Czenger, in northeastern Hungary, Cecilia Tzirel Blau was the fourth of six children. An intelligent child, she attended school until she was 16, a long time in those days. In her early twenties, she married Chaim Bleier, a handsome former yeshiva student and World War I veteran who was 10 years her senior. Less than a year later, she gave birth to a son and named him after Theodor Herzl; he died in infancy.

During childbirth, my grandmother contracted puerperal, or childbed, fever, which almost killed her. Her doctor ordered her to stop having children, but the following year she became pregnant again. Like the biblical matriarchs, her desire to give life outweighed her desire to live. Again, she became ill, but this time both she and the baby survived. That baby was my mother, my grandmother’s only child.

In 1930, my grandfather immigrated to America illegally. He planned to bring over the rest of the family, but by the time he could afford boat tickets, war had broken out. In the spring of 1944, my mother and grandmother were deported. Upon their arrival at Auschwitz, a man approached them. “Nisht a tochter und a mama—shverstern,” he said: You aren’t mother and daughter—tell the Nazis that you are sisters. The Nazis were only interested in keeping young people alive, so they could work; if they’d known my grandmother’s actual age, she would have been sent to the gas chambers.

The scam nearly worked. My grandmother survived for six months. Then in October 1944, as she and my mother were being moved to another camp, my grandmother vanished. “I turned around and she was gone,” my mother recalled. No one knows whether she was shot or gassed or beaten to death. Every year on the day after Simchat Torah, my mother lights a yahrzeit candle.

I am my mother’s first child and only daughter. From my grandmother, I inherited my name—Carol is an Anglicization of Tzirel—my high cheekbones, my curly hair, my love of books and, according to my mother, a passion for baking challah.

Over time, I’ve learned about other challah recipes, shapes, and braiding techniques. I’ve heard of 12-braid challah, challah baked with chocolate chips, challah shaped like a hangman’s noose (for Purim), but I could never find a recipe that mentioned my grandmother’s practice of saving dough.

Until now. Reading Inside the Jewish Bakery: Recipes and Memories From the Golden Age of Jewish Baking, which came out several months ago, I found a sentence in the challah chapter that seemed to bop me over the head: “In the west of the Yiddishe heym—Germany, Austria, Hungary …. Barches were … leavened with wild yeast, giving it a pronounced sourdough flavor.”

From my own research into Jewish culinary history, I knew that barches was a European name for challah, an acronym of the phrase birkat Hashem hi teasher—the Lord’s blessing brings riches. But I’d never heard of sourdough challah. I knew enough about baking, however, to know that sourdough involves a starter, essentially a bit of fermented dough that’s saved from week to week. Could it be, I wondered, that my grandmother’s saved piece of dough was actually sourdough starter?

I phoned my mother. Like a detective ferreting out evidence, I was careful in my questioning.

“That dough your mother saved,” I asked, “what kind of container did she store it in?”

That would be a telltale sign. Sourdough starter required an earthenware or glass home to survive.

“It was a crock,” she told me.

That was it. My story about my grandmother emulating Sarah the Matriarch, carrying on the ancient tradition of the Showbread from Temple days, was as phony as Bernie Madoff’s stock fund. But I didn’t care. I was thrilled! There was no grave to visit, and only some photographs and tablecloths as mementos of a woman I never met, so this recipe would take me as close as I could ever get to her.

I got to work making my first ever batch of sourdough starter. Following the instructions in Joy of Cooking, I combined flour, water, and yeast into a substance that looked suspiciously similar to beige house paint. For a week, my starter sat on my windowsill shrouded with a white dishtowel. Like an anxious mother of a newborn, I checked it constantly, stirring it every so often with a wooden spoon to bring on the desired chemical reaction.

As Irma Rombauer writes in Joy of Cooking, sourdough is for the “adventurous, persistent and leisurely cook.” After a full week, my starter bubbled and let out a strong smell, which I hoped indicated that the desired fermentation had occurred.

Using the starter, I tried the Rich Sourdough Barches recipe from Inside the Jewish Bakery, which the authors say is adapted from the Trumat HaDeshen, the writings of 15th-century sage Rabbi Israel ben Petachiah Isserlein. Excited as I was to be taking this journey into culinary history, the cookbook’s description of a “pronounced sourdough flavor” made me fear that my challah would taste acidic, and the dough’s firmness and long rising time made me worry that my barches would be tough. So, I hedged my bet and made sourdough barches rolls instead. Since rolls weren’t quite as majestic as full-sized challahs, I reckoned that I wouldn’t feel quite as devastated if they ended up in the trash.

Throughout the baking, I kept opening the oven door to check that my rolls were rising. When they finally puffed up, I could hardly wait to taste them. I hoped they’d be good; I didn’t want to think that my grandmother, in whose memory I was doing this, baked lousy bread.

I wasn’t disappointed. Savory and strongly flavored, the rolls were wonderfully hearty, like good country bread. The following Thursday, I used the recipe to bake two wonderful loaves of challah. Since then, I’ve become a little addicted to sourdough, replenishing the starter and baking every week.

They say that the dead know the affairs of the living. Could it be that my grandmother watches me as I try to copy her? If she is, I hope she’s smiling.



New study casts doubt on whether Anne Frank was betrayed

Research indicates Nazi raid in which teenage diarist was caught may have been part of probe into illegal labor or falsified ration coupons at house where she and other Jews hid

baptizing-the-dead-an_horo-635x357THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Anne Frank may not have been betrayed to Nazi occupiers, but captured by chance.

A new study published Friday by the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam says that despite decades of research there is no conclusive evidence that the Jewish diarist and her family were betrayed to the Netherlands’ German occupiers during World War II, leading to their arrest and deportation.

Ronald Leopold, Executive Director of the Anne Frank House museum, said in a statement that new research by the museum “illustrates that other scenarios should also be considered.”

One theory is that the Aug. 4, 1944, raid that led to Anne’s arrest was part of an investigation into illegal labor or falsified ration coupons at the canal-side house where she and other Jews hid for just over two years.

Anne kept a diary during her time in hiding that was published after the war and turned her into a globally recognized symbol of Holocaust victims. She died in the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp at age 15, shortly before it was liberated by Allied forces.

The new research points to two men who worked in the building on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht canal and dealt in illegal ration cards. They were arrested earlier in 1944 and subsequently released, Dutch records show. The arrests also are mentioned in Anne’s diary.

Such arrests were reported to an investigation division based in The Hague and the report says that, “During their day-to-day activities, investigators from this department often came across Jews in hiding by chance.”

Another possibility raised by the report is that the raid was part of an investigation into people being allowed to work to prevent them being called up as forced labor and sent to Germany.

The report adds that, “The possibility of betrayal has of course not been entirely ruled out by this, nor has any relationship between the ration coupon fraud and the arrest been proven,” and says further research is necessary.

“Clearly, the last word about that fateful summer day in 1944 has not yet been said,” it adds.

The findings are potentially controversial because the story of Anne Frank is seen as emblematic both of Dutch heroism during the Holocaust and of collaboration with the Nazis – for which Dutch prime ministers have consistently declined to apologize despite calls to do so.

“The question has always been: Who betrayed Anne Frank and the others in hiding? This explicit focus on betrayal, however, limits the perspective on the arrest,” the Anne Frank House wrote in the five-page summary of the new study, which relies also on entries from Anne’s diary.

The entries, the study suggests, show the hiding house on Prinsengracht 263 was tied to activities punishable under the Nazi occupation in addition to Dutch underground fighters’ sheltering of Jews there.

“Anne Frank’s diary did provide an interesting new clue,” the study reads. “Beginning on March 10, 1944, she repeatedly wrote about the arrest of two men who dealt in illegal ration cards. She calls them ‘B’ and ‘D,’ referring to the salesmen Martin Brouwer and Pieter Daatzelaar.”

The two men represented Gies & Co., a company that was affiliated with the Opekta firm owned by Anne Frank’s father, Otto, and located on Prinsengracht 263.

“B. and D. have been caught, so we have no coupons,” Anne Frank wrote on March 14, 1944. “This clearly indicates that the people in hiding got at least part of their ration coupons from these salesmen,” the study states.

Other evidence shows that people associated with Prinsengracht 263 were punished by the Nazi occupation for evading work.

“A company where people were working illegally and two sales representatives were arrested for dealing in ration coupons obviously ran the risk of attracting the attention of the authorities,” the author of the new study wrote. “While searching for people in hiding, fraud with ration coupons could be detected since they were often dependent on clandestine help.”

Yet, “until now the assumption related to this matter” has always been that agents working for the occupation “were specifically looking for Jews in hiding” when they raided the hiding place, the authors continued.

Over the years, researchers have presented various hypotheses on who may have betrayed the Franks to the Nazis, though none of the suspects were accepted as consensus.