Category Archive: Hate Crimes

Notorious Nazi’s house of horrors to become a luxury villa

Developer plans to move his family into house used by Krakow-Płaszow camp commander Amon Goeth, featured in ‘Schindler’s List’

Amon_Göth-prisoner_1945The Poland home of a Nazi concentration camp commander who tortured and murdered Jewish captives in the building, is reportedly being renovated and restored as a luxury family home, to the dismay of Holocaust education activists.

Last year real estate developer Artur Niemyski bought the building, located in Plaszow, a suburb of Krakow, and plans to move in with his family when the repair work is complete, the Daily Mail reported Wednesday.

From 1943 to 1944, Amon Goeth, who held the rank of Hauptsturmfuhrer in the SS, lived in the house while serving as the commandant of the Krakow-Płaszow concentration camp. After the Krakow ghetto was liquidated on March 13, 1943, those considered still fit to work were sent there. Goeth’s cruel treatment of prisoners earned him the nickname “The Butcher of Płaszow.”

Survivors of the camp told of his brutality, which included shooting Jewish prisoners for sport and torturing others inside the villa. On one occasion he shot dead a Jewish boy for leaving a room without permission and kept two guard dogs that he would occasionally order to tear victims apart.

Oskar Schindler, who is credited with saving some 1,200 Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust, was able to do so by taking advantage of his friendship with Goeth. Schindler was a frequent visitor to the home and many of those he saved by employing them in a munitions factory were prisoners in the camp.

The villa was depicted in the 1993 Steven Spielberg movie “Schindler’s List,” in which actor Ralph Fiennes, playing Goeth, was famously shown shooting Jewish prisoners from the balcony of the two-story building.

“My opinion is that this building was occupied for a small period by the Nazi, which should not influence this property forever,” Niemyski was quoted as saying.

“Many houses in the area were occupied by Nazis. Officers from the camp lived in all the houses in the street. Bad things may have happened in the old properties, but basically these were living compounds. Generally, I want to restore the house to be once again a Polish family house and keep it like this,” he said.

Niemyski added that while he will no longer allow educational tours to enter the home, he won’t be bothered if they gather outside.

“They can take photos from the outside, this is their right,” he said. “But I will not allow them to come in. Why should I allow people to look into my private property?”

He had no intention to cause offense, he added, noting his good ties with Jews.

“I used to be on good terms with the Jewish community. I have project-managed the renovation of a synagogue and I met at the time groups from Israel, New York, all over the world,” he said. “I don’t want to make somebody feel bad about what we are doing.”

Rabbi Naftali Schiff, founder of the British charity JRoots, said the renovation of the home was whitewashing its sinister past.

“We welcome dialogue with the owner, but he has made it clear to us that he wants the world to forget what happened there,” he told the Daily Mail.

The charity, which organizes Jewish heritage pilgrimages, has in the past brought groups to view the dilapidated building. JRoots has launched a campaign to have the villa preserved as a memorial site.

“We aim to inspire young people to light candles there and bring light into a dark place, to sing Jewish songs there that Goeth would have had you killed for singing. We ask young people to make a pledge in that house of cruelty to return to Britain and make society a better place,” he said. “Now all of this education has been lost. History is being erased before our eyes.”

Much of the testimony on Goeth’s crimes inside the home came from his two Jewish maids, Helen Horowitz and Helen Jonas-Rosenzweig, who both survived the war after being saved by Schindler.

On one occasion Goeth stabbed Horowitz in the leg for not setting enough places for dinner.

“I overcame the pain and ran into the kitchen,” she said, according to the Daily Mail report. “And then I saw he’d cut through a vein.”

Another time he assaulted her.

“He was a sadist, indescribable sadist,” she said. “He started beating me and threw me with all his strength.”

The maids were kept in the basement of the building, which is now being renovated for use as either a workshop or a wine cellar.

Former maid Jonas-Rosenzweig, who backs the memorial plan for the villa, spoke to the Mail of her experiences in Goeth’s captivity.

‘I was a prisoner in this house and a victim. I want the world to learn what happened there,” she said.

Jonas-Rosenzweig served Goeth, who was married twice, and the mistress he lived with, beautician Ruth Irene Kalder. The Nazi often held extravagant parties for other SS officers. She was also tasked with taking care of the fearsome dogs.

“One was black and white. He was so big,” she recalled. “I brushed the dog, I fed the dog.

“He would give this order to the dog, Ralph, and it would tear people apart. Tear people apart, grab them by parts of the body.”

She recalled how one day Goeth told her he was going to start shooting from his balcony at slave laborers digging ditches along the road next to his garden.

“He said to me, ‘Look at those pigs. If they don’t start working in a few seconds, they are all going to be dead,’” she said. The maid ran out to warn the workers and so prevented a shooting spree.

On September 13, 1944, Goeth was removed from his position at the camp and charged by the SS with the theft of Jewish property that, under Nazi law, belonged to the state, as well as with the mistreatment and abuse of prisoners under his command. But before he could be brought to trial, World War II ended and he was arrested by the US military in May 1945. He was put on trial and sentenced to death for “personally killing, maiming and torturing a substantial, albeit unidentified number of people.” He was hanged 10 days later, on September 13, 1946.

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NY commuters clean Nazi graffiti off subway car with hand sanitizer

nyc-subway(JTA) — Commuters on a New York City subway used hand sanitizer to clean away swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti drawn in permanent marker on the train’s maps, advertisements and windows.

The Manhattan subway riders discovered the graffiti on Saturday night.

“The train was silent as everyone stared at each other, uncomfortable and unsure what to do,” one of the commuters, Gregory Locke, wrote in a post on Facebook. “One guy got up and said, ‘Hand sanitizer gets rid of Sharpie. We need alcohol.’ He found some tissues and got to work.”

Locke’s post continued: “I’ve never seen so many people simultaneously reach into their bags and pockets looking for tissues and Purell. Within about two minutes, all the Nazi symbolism was gone.”

“Nazi symbolism. On a public train. In New York City. In 2017,” he wrote.

At least one of the messages said “Jews belong in the oven,” according to the New York Daily News.

Locke disputed one of his fellow travelers, who said while they were cleaning, “I guess this is Trump’s America.”

He responded in his post: “No sir, it’s not. Not tonight and not ever. Not as long as stubborn New Yorkers have anything to say about it.”

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Poles drive message on German death camp culpability

Billboard featuring Auschwitz merged with Hitler hair and mustache taken on road trip across Europe

Aushwitz-copy-e1459578104555A Polish non-government organization has launched an eye-catching campaign aimed at dispelling the common assumption that Nazi-era death camps in Poland were run by Poles.

The use by foreign media of the phrase “Polish concentration camps” has became particularly galling to Polish citizens and the country’s government.

In effort to stamp out the association, the Town and Country Tradition Foundation has mobilized a rolling billboard depicting the Auschwitz death camp merged with Hitler’s signature haircut and mustache together with the slogan, in English, saying “Death Camps Were Nazi German,” Radio Poland reported Thursday.

“The idea of our campaign is simple. We demand the historical truth, we oppose the use of the term ‘Polish concentration camps,’ which is commonly used by Western media,” said Dawid Hallmann of TCTF.

The billboard is to be driven through Germany and Belgium before making its way on to Britain.

Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II, losing six million of its citizens, including three million Jews in the Holocaust.

Polish officials routinely request corrections when global media or politicians describe as “Polish” former death camps like Auschwitz set up by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland.

Even if used as a geographical indicator, Warsaw says the term can give the impression that Poland bore responsibility for the Holocaust, whereas it was one of the greatest victims of the slaughter.

Last month Poland published the first online database with the names and other personal details of nearly 10,000 staff who ran the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi German death camp.

The database, which the IPN says contains 9,686 names, “is just the beginning of a wide-ranging project” that will cover the staff of other death and concentration camps that Nazi Germany set up in occupied Poland, Institute of National Remembrance chairman (IPN) Jaroslaw Szarek told reporters in Krakow at the time.

In August 2016 Poland’s rightwing government said it would seek fines or jail terms of up to three years against anyone who refers to Nazi German death camps as Polish.

Under the new initiative, a “public attribution to Poland, in violation of the facts, of bearing joint responsibility” for Nazi Germany’s crimes could result in jail time, as well as fines.

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When Jewish immigrants were detained, and Jews took to the streets

Immigrants at Ellis Island(JTA) — When Jews joined the protests around the country this weekend against President Trump’s executive order on immigration, they were largely doing so on behalf of Muslim refugees and migrants who found themselves in a legal limbo and barred from entering the United States.

But nearly 100 years ago Jewish protesters gathered to demand the release of fellow Jews, who were caught up in a legal drama eerily similar to the one that has played out in airports and courts since Friday.

On Nov. 15, 1923, 2,000 Jews rallied at the Lower Manhattan headquarters of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society to protest the detention of 3,000 of their relatives at Ellis Island.

They appealed directly to President Calvin Coolidge, a Republican, presumably asking him to ease the strict moratorium on immigration that had been put in place in 1921 under the “Emergency Quota Act” aund re-upped the following year. Anti-immigrant groups had long argued that immigrants from poorer and “backward” regions of southern and eastern Europe were a drain on American resources and brought with them radical ideas like anarchism, communism and socialism. Some labor unions, too, joined the anti-immigrant spirit, arguing that cheap labor would depress wages.

Like Muslim travelers detained at U.S. airports this week or left in limbo in transit countries as a result of Trump’s executive order, Jewish and other immigrants often set sail unaware of changes in the immigration law, or aboard ships whose unscrupulous operators didn’t inform them that there were strict quotas already in place.

According to the JTA story on the 1923 protest — which appeared the next day — leaders of the demonstration “urged that a large delegation be sent to Washington to request that the detained immigrants be admitted. They are planning a protest mass meeting if the Government deports their relatives.”

JTA also printed an appeal that was to be sent to Coolidge, urging the release of the immigrants:

On behalf of the immigrants, blood relatives of citizens and declarants, facing deportation because of the exhaustion of quotas, I appeal to your well-known exemplification of American sense of justice to admit them to this country.

These unfortunates who have given up their all to be reborn to the ideals of liberty and freedom are the innocent victims of circumstances over which they had no control. Humanitarianism prompts the plea for their admission.

On Dec. 3, JTA reported that Secretary of Labor James J. Davis approved the deportation of hundreds of the detained immigrants to Canada. Others were sent to Cherbourg, France, “whence they are returnable to the countries from where they embarked for the United States.” By 1924, with the passage of the fiercely nativist Johnson-Reed Immigration Act, immigration from outside of Western Europe slowed to a trickle.

A month after the protest outside HIAS headquarters, Rabbi Nathan Krass of New York’s Temple Emanu-El gave a fiery sermon, quoted in JTA, railing against the anti-immigrant fervor of the day. “Imagine what would have happened if a committee of Indian immigration officers had stood on Plymouth Rock, and, after admitting ten Pilgrim Fathers, had said, ‘Your quota is full. The rest of you go back to England,’” said Krass. “Yet we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants. An American means any one who is born in America, or who, hailing from other lands, takes out citizenship papers and swears allegiance to the Constitution. This recent attempt to delimit Americans on the basis of religion or race is an outrageous insult to the intelligence of people of this land and treachery to the ideals of the founders of this Republic.”

HIAS, meanwhile, continues to assist immigrants, processing more than 4,000 refugee asylum applications annually – most of them for non-Jews, and many of them impacted by last week’s executive order.

(Hat tip to Adam Soclof)

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In Trump’s push for ‘America First,’ troubling echoes of anti-Semitic chapter

The president’s rallying cry recalls the 1940s America First Committee, which saw known bigots such as Charles Lindbergh blame the Jews for US involvement in WWII

America-FirstBOSTON — Donald Trump stood on the red and blue draped steps of the US Capitol to give his inauguration address as the 45th President of the United States and declared, “From this day forward it’s going to be only America first.” He then paused and repeated with deliberation those last two words: “America First.”

Cheers rippled through the crowd below.

But the pithy slogan Trump has embraced to define his new foreign policy also served as the rallying cry in what is now considered a dark chapter in American history, when an isolationist movement of the same name blamed American Jews for conspiring to pressure the government to join World War II against the interests of America.

“The concept of standing up for American rights is a legitimate concept, but the words themselves have historical relevance because of what happened in the 1930s and 1940s,” said Kenneth Jacobson, the deputy national director of the Anti-defamation League. Jacobson has been with the ADL for 45 years and serves as something of its resident historian.

“The new president has every right to consider the direction of American policy but it’s better not to use this phrase,” said Jacobson. “Unfortunately, the emotional connections are there.”

The ADL went on record last spring when Trump first brought up the term to remind Americans, most of whom have no living memory of the term or movement, why there is a visceral reaction against it.

The isolationism embraced by some Americans following World War I that helped birth the America First Committee was not unique in American history. Opposition to American involvement in overseas conflict dates to the colonial era and continues to the present day.

Founded by a group of Yale University students in the fall of 1940, the America First Committee arose as the country was steeped in intense dispute over whether to join the British in fighting Nazi Germany. By then Germany had already rolled its way over Poland and into Western Europe including France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and persecution of the Jews had begun with some already being arrested and shipped to concentration camps.

At the time the movement arose, it tapped into the unhappiness many Americans felt about the United States’ entry into World War I.

Professor James Kloppenberg, a professor of American history at Harvard University an author of the recent “Toward Democracy: The Struggle for Self-Rule in European and American Thought,” said that with this discontent came, “a great deal of animosity towards those who were considered to have been war profiteers. And as has been true since the Middle Ages, Jews became targets for their associations with banking and loans.”

What began as an anti-war profiteering movement, he said, “morphed into alliances that were pretty ugly between the Nazi movement and anti-war sentiment.”

Meanwhile, the America First Committee gained in membership and popularity, especially in the Midwest.

As Susan Dunn, a professor of humanities at Williams College and author of “1940: FDR, Willkie, Lindbergh, Hitler — The Election Amid the Storm” noted in an essay published by CNN, among America First’s executive committee members were initially two powerful men and known anti-Semites — Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, and Avery Brundage.

Ford was responsible for printing and distributing half a million copies of the anti-Semitic propaganda text “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

As chairman of the US Olympic Committee, Brundage prevented two Jews on the 1936 US Olympic team from running in the finals of the 400-meter relay race in Berlin.

Brundage and Ford were later removed from the committee as the movement tried to distance itself from charges of anti-Semitism.

But cementing America First Committee’s anti-Semitic association for the ages was Charles Lindbergh, a member of the executive committee who was prized as the dashing American pilot-turned-national hero, celebrated for making the first solo Transatlantic flight.

Lindbergh had become enamored with Nazi Germany during visits in the late 1930s, even briefly planning to move there. He lobbied the US government to remain neutral, arguing that Germany’s victory in Europe was inevitable.

On September 11, 1941, he made a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, that revealed the extent of his anti-Semitism.

“The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt Administration,” he said. Lindbergh continued that “Instead of agitating for war, Jews in this country should be opposing it in every way, for they will be the first to feel its consequences. Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.”

His comments were widely condemned. Just three months later the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the debate over whether or not to enter the war was over.

Laurel Leff, a professor with a joint appointment in Journalism and Jewish Studies at Northeastern University has written about this period in her book, “Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper.”

“To embrace this movement,” she said of Trump’s embrace of the America First slogan, “is either ahistorical or, more frighteningly, is picking up on anti-Semitic sentiment.”

Whether intentional or not, the new president’s continued use of this slogan — and what it represents — remains to be seen.

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US Jews see ‘tragic irony’ in refugee ban on Holocaust Remembrance Day

ADL chief invokes doomed passengers of MS St. Louis, says he will roll out plan to combat policy ‘in the coming days’

Protestors Rally At Boston's Logan Airport Against Muslim Immigration BanWASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees from entering the United States left much of the American Jewish community horrified — particularly as the announcement came on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The order — titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” — immediately suspends all refugee resettlement from seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days and forbids those from war-ravaged Syria from entering the country indefinitely.

The Anti-Defamation League’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt vowed in a statement Thursday to “relentlessly fight this policy,” noting “our history and heritage compel us to take a stand.” The ADL, a Jewish civil rights group, monitors and combats anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry across the globe.

But that was before it was announced, when rumors were circulating that Trump would soon fulfill his controversial campaign pledge, which started as a “Muslim ban” and then morphed into a proposal to halt immigration from territories, particularly in the Middle East, where terror groups have a foothold.

On Saturday, Greenblatt, who was not shy to speak out against Trump during the election, noted with revulsion that the presidential executive order was signed on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, likening it to passengers of the MS St. Louis, a German ship filled with 937 Jewish refugees, who were denied entry into the United States, as well as Cuba and Canada, in 1939.

“It’s impossible to ignore, whether intentional or not, the tragic irony in executing the kind of order that kept Jews out of America, like those who perished on the St. Louis and countless others, on the day when we remember the unspeakable tragedy that befell European Jewry and the Jewish people,” he told The Times of Israel.

“The tragic irony of this order being executed on the same day is, at best striking, and sad to see,” he added. “[It is] a policy that is in direct contravention to our core values as a country and all that we’ve learned in the years since the Shoah.”

On Twitter, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the head of the Union of Reform Judaism, compared the order to the Dred Scott court decision upholding slavery in the antebellum South and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

The American Jewish Committee also spoke out swiftly against the order, calling it “both unjust and unwarranted” in a Friday statement.

Trump, said the organization’s CEO David Harris, is justified in wanting to assure a secure border that properly vets those who enter the country. But such blanket action is beyond the pale, he indicated.

“Blanket suspensions of visas and refugee admission would suggest guilt by association – targeted primarily at Muslims fleeing violence and oppression,” he said. “AJC regards such actions, contrary to international perceptions of a compassionate America and reinforcing anti-Muslim stereotypes, as both unjust and unwarranted.”

Trump’s executive action includes a provision that allows the US to admit refugees on a case-by-case basis during the freeze, as the government will process requests from people claiming religious persecution, but only if the religion of any such individuals is a minority religion in the respective country.

Greenblatt found that disturbing.

“It’s impossible not to see this as a broad brush that paints all Muslims from these countries with the same regard,” he said. “All of us are struggling to make sense of a policy that is at odds with the values of our country.”

The ADL, he explained, is preparing a course of action to combat that policy of the Trump administration and will be rolling out its plan this week.

“We’ll be clarifying that in the coming days,” he said.

B’nai B’rith International also voiced its objections, saying it was “deeply concerned” by the “drastic” plan.

“While we acknowledge the very real threat posed by terrorists who aim to exploit our nation’s humanitarian instincts, a more nuanced and balanced approach to helping those seeking a safe harbor is clearly preferable, and more in keeping with America’s values, than the sweeping ban being imposed by the administration,” B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin said in a joint statement.

“Our country has a great, though sometimes imperfect, tradition of welcoming those fleeing oppression, persecution and unending civil wars,” they said.

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Congressman: Trump refugee ban ‘disgusting’ on Holocaust Remembrance Day

“It’s pure hypocrisy, because he’s doing exactly what caused a lot of deaths by the Nazis when we turned away Jews in the 30s.”

MUQ4MDkwRkYwREUxQjg3QjM0RTEwRjVBNTlBNzU2Mjg=WASHINGTON – Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-New York) was swimming against the current at John F. Kennedy International Airport Saturday night, lobbying for the release of vetted refugees and visa holders who hoped gain entry to the US as President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning their entry.

He succeeded in securing the release of Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi national who worked for the United States Army as a contractor and interpreter for nearly a decade.

Darweesh was detained for 14 hours after the president on Friday directed the Department of Homeland Security to turn away all citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

There were at least 10 additional foreign nationals stuck at JFK on Saturday morning.

But “more and more people are being detained,” Nadler said in a phone interview. “And we heard there’s a plane full of Iranians en route.”

The scope of Trump’s executive order has caught state and federal law enforcement officials off guard. Citizens from these countries – which together comprise of 134 million people – will not be allowed entry into the US even if they are green card holders, or hold dual nationality with countries that are not listed.

“The whole executive order is disgusting and unconstitutional,” Nadler said. “The whole thing is just wrong – its religious discrimination. And it’s unconstitutional, because Muslims can’t come in but Christians can.”

Particularly irksome to Nadler, one of Congress’s most prominent Jewish voices, is the president’s decision to sign the order on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“The mitzva most often repeated is, ‘You shall not oppress the stranger, for you were strangers in Egypt’ – and what are we doing?” Nadler asked. “It’s pure hypocrisy, because he’s doing exactly what caused a lot of deaths by the Nazis when we turned away Jews in the ’30s.”

Several major American-Jewish organizations have joined Nadler’s cause: The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee both released strong statements of disapproval, characterizing the order as cruel and contrary to Jewish values.

Nadler expects to lead a “raucous” revolt against the measure in the House, and said he expects a class action suit would proceed in the Eastern District of New York.

“There are good grounds for saying this is unconstitutional,” Nadler said, still at the airport.

“We’ll fight it.”

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Anti-Semitism seen on the rise in Poland

University of Warsaw researchers discover sharp spike in negative attitudes, acceptance of hate speech toward Jews

Poland-Anti-Semitism_Horo-e1372833437144WARSAW — Poland has seen a rise in anti-Semitism over the last two years, partly fueled by Europe’s migrant crisis, according to a study released on Tuesday.

The University of Warsaw’s Center for Research on Prejudice found acceptance for anti-Semitic hate speech — especially among young Poles on the internet — rose from 2014 to 2016 compared to previous years.

Their study was based on a sample of 1,000 adults and 700 youths. The number of surveyed Poles who declared positive attitudes towards Jews dropped from 28 percent in 2015 to 23% in 2016.

Researchers attribute the increase to a spike in Islamophobia and anti-migrant sentiment triggered by Europe’s worst migrant crisis since World War II. Many of the migrants were from conflict-ridden countries like Syria and Libya.

Politicians in eastern EU states, notably Poland’s populist leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, were quick to raise the specter of Islamic State militants carrying out terror attacks once inside the bloc.

Very few refugees or migrants arrived in Poland after Kaczynski’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party refused them entry.

Yet, the Warsaw University researchers concluded that “fear of Muslims that arose between 2014 and 2016 has increased negative feelings towards Jews among people regardless of their age or political affiliation.”

The study found that 37% of those surveyed voiced negative attitudes towards Jews in 2016 compared to 32% the previous year.

Fifty-six percent said they would not accept a Jewish person in their family, an increase of nearly 10 points compared to 2014.

Nearly a third (32%) said they did not want Jewish neighbors, compared to 27% in 2014.

The Jewish community in Poland, with a population of 38 million, has fewer than 10,000 people.

Prior to the Holocaust, it boasted 3.3 million members, or around 10% of the Polish population. Up to 300,000 Polish Jews survived the war, but most then fled the country, many to Israel.

Around 11% of adults and 24% of younger Poles admitted to making occasional anti-Semitic remarks.

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