Category Archive: News

Chaim Ferster, survivor of 8 Nazi concentration camps, dies at 94

Screen-Shot-2017-02-07-at-3.10.24-PM(JTA) — Chaim Ferster, a Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivor who spent time in eight concentration camps, has died.

Ferster died Monday in Manchester, England, from pneumonia and a kidney infection, surrounded by his three sons and other family members, the BBC reported. He was 94.

He was born in Sosnowiec, Poland, in an Orthodox Jewish family. In 1943, the Nazis forced him to leave his home, and he spent time in concentration camps in Germany and Poland, including Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Ferster, his sister Manya and a cousin were the only members of their family to survive the Holocaust. Manya is now 92.

After World War II, Ferster moved to England, where he found work repairing sewing machines. He later set up “a series of successful businesses,” according to the BBC.

Ferster lectured about the Holocaust in schools and colleges.

“His greatest fear was that people would forget the horrors of the Holocaust,” his son Stuart told the BBC.

On Monday, the Greater Manchester Police shared a video of Ferster playing the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” on the violin during a Jan. 27 visit to its headquarters on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

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Jewish aide wrote White House Holocaust statement — report

Politico says Boris Epshteyn, a former Russian refugee who lost family to the Nazis, penned release that failed to mention Jews

Boris_Epshteyn-e1485850395557A Jewish aide reportedly wrote US President Donald Trump’s statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day which was widely condemned for failing to mention Jews or anti-Semitism.

Boris Epshteyn, a special assistant to the president, wrote the speech, a source told Politico on Monday.

In the speech Trump vowed to combat the forces of evil, and called on listeners to “make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world,” but failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism. The omission was condemned by Jewish organizations across the spectrum, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Democratic Virginia Senator Tim Kaine called it Holocaust denial.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended the speech on Monday, saying “the statement was written with the help of an individual who is both Jewish and the descendent of Holocaust survivors.” He also called protests over the omissions “pathetic” and “nitpicking.”

Earlier this month, Epshteyn was asked by The Daily Beast about anti-Semites supporting the Trump administration. He answered, “I’ve had family who died in the Holocaust.”

Formerly a New York-based investment banker and finance attorney, Epshteyn worked as a communications aide for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, focusing his efforts on the Arizona senator’s running mate, then-Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

Epshteyn was born in Russia and emigrated to the US in 1993, aged 11, as a refugee along with his family. In a 2013 US News article Epshteyn thanked Senator Frank Lautenberg for easing “the restriction on refugee states and thereby allowed for tens of thousands of Jews like me from the former USSR to come to America.”

Epshteyn has been criticized for his business ties with Russia and for claiming on CNN that Russia did not seize Crimea.

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The Trump Administration’s Holocaust without Jews

To mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day last Friday, the White House issued a statement that made no mention of Jews. Initially willing to give the new administration the benefit of the doubt, John Podhoretz chalked up the omission to “ignorance and sloppiness”—until one of President Trump’s representatives defended it:

The decision not to mention the Jews was deliberate, [the White House spokeswoman Hope] Hicks said, a way of demonstrating the inclusive approach of the Trump administration: “Despite what the media report, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered; . . . it was our honor to issue a statement in remembrance of this important day.”

The Nazis killed an astonishing number of people in monstrous ways and targeted certain groups—Gypsies, the mentally challenged, and open homosexuals, among others. But the Final Solution was aimed solely at the Jews. The Holocaust was about the Jews. There is no “proud” way to offer a remembrance of the Holocaust that does not reflect that simple, awful, world-historical fact. To universalize it to “all those who suffered” is to scrub the Holocaust of its meaning.

Given Hicks’s abominable statement, one cannot simply write this off. For there is a body of opinion in this country, and in certain precincts of the Trump coalition, [whose proponents] have long made it clear they are tired of what they consider a self-centered Jewish claim to being the great victims of the Nazis. . . . [T]he Hope Hicks statement does not arrive without precedent. It is, rather, the culmination of something: the culmination of decades of ill feeling that seems to center on the idea that the Jews have somehow made unfair “use” of the Holocaust and that it should not “belong” to them. Someone in that nascent White House thought it was time to reflect that view through the omission of the specifically Jewish quality of the Holocaust.

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Populist who urged end to Nazi guilt can stay, German party rules

Local AfD party chairman Bjoern Hoecke called Berlin’s Holocaust memorial ‘a monument of shame’

FILES-GERMANY-POLITICS-HISTORY-HOLOCAUST-AFDBERLIN, Germany — German right-wing populist party AfD decided Monday not to expel a leading member over a speech criticizing Berlin’s Holocaust memorial and urging the country to stop atoning for its Nazi past.

The AfD executive board held a three-hour telephone conference in which it voted 10-3 to instead impose “disciplinary measures” against Bjoern Hoecke, party chairman in the central state of Thuringia, sources told German media.

Amid an internal power struggle ahead of a September general election, AfD leader Frauke Petry had called Hoecke a “burden on the party” last week after his address in which he condemned the sprawling Holocaust memorial as a “monument of shame in the heart of the capital.”

“We need nothing less than a 180-degree shift in the politics of remembrance,” he added in the remarks Tuesday in Dresden to chants of “Germany, Germany.”

Hoecke’s comments met with an instant uproar, with Social Democrat vice chief Ralf Stegner accusing him of making a “hate incitement speech” — which is illegal in Germany — that called for history to be rewritten.

Germany’s Central Council of Jews also expressed outrage, saying Hoecke was trampling on the memory of six million Jewish Holocaust victims murdered by the Nazis.

But AfD deputy chief Alexander Gauland, who like Hoecke belongs to the hard nationalist wing of the party, defended the politician, telling national news agency DPA that he had “in no manner criticized the remembrance of the Holocaust.”

The AfD started out in 2013 as an anti-euro party, but has since morphed into an anti-immigration outfit railing against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal refugee policy which brought some 890,000 refugees to Germany in 2015 alone.

The party, which also disputes the place of Islam in Germany, is polling nationwide at around 12 to 15 percent ahead of a general election on September 24.

A poll Sunday in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper showed that 61 percent of Germans believed Hoecke should be kicked out of the AfD for his speech.

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Obama names aide Ben Rhodes to Holocaust Memorial Council

White House messaging guru on Iran deal and abstention in UN anti-settlements resolution to help lead nation in Shoah remembrance

AP20499823408-e1484674576749WASHINGTON — With three days left in his presidency, Barack Obama made his final appointments to administration positions, including adding 10 members to the Holocaust Memorial Council.

Most notable on that list is Ben Rhodes, a long-time Obama aide and speechwriter who managed the White House messaging on selling the Iran deal and explaining the US decision to abstain on a United Nations Security Council resolution last month that condemned Israeli settlements as illegal.

Rhodes, whose official title is deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, was a source of controversy after a New York Times Magazine profile portrayed him as bragging about misrepresenting the nuclear accord to shape American public opinion.

In the article, Rhodes spoke of creating an “echo chamber” of nongovernmental organizations, nuclear proliferation experts and journalists to gain support for the deal, as well as portraying a false impression of Iran’s regime.

A former graduate student enrolled in New York University’s creative writing program, Rhodes decided to enter the realm of public policy after witnessing the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

After spending some time in the Washington think-tank world, he became a foreign policy speechwriter for candidate Obama in 2007 and remained a staffer in his White House for the entirety of his tenure.

Obama also deployed the 39-year-old spokesman as a media envoy to explain his administration’s decision to allow a resolution that called for an end to all settlement construction in areas Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War.

Beyond a number of interviews with US broadcast media, Rhodes conducted a conference call with reporters moments after the motion passed, explaining that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ultimately created the outcome of the vote with the policies he instituted.

“Netanyahu had the opportunity to pursue policies that would have led to a different outcome today,” said Rhodes, who has a Jewish mother and Episcopalian father.

After the Israeli premier and other high-level officials said they had “ironclad” evidence the United States drafted and lobbied on behalf of the measure, Rhodes took to the interview circuit to deny the charges.

In a particularly personal dig, Israel’s ambassador to the United States and former GOP activist, Ron Dermer, told multiple news outlets that Rhodes was an “expert in fiction,” presumably alluding to his unsuccessful aspirations to be a novelist.

Congress created the Holocaust Memorial Council in 1980 in order to fundraise for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The 68-member council meets twice a year and consists of 55 members appointed by the president. They serve five-year terms.

Obama also appointed First Lady Michelle Obama’s long-time speechwriter, Sarah Hurwitz, to the council.

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‘German research institute trivializes Holocaust to attack Israel’

Max Planck Institute urged to cancel talk by academic Norman Finkelstein.

ShowImage (1)Israel’s embassy and leading deputies in the German parliament slammed a Max Planck Institute branch for stoking hatred of Israel and Jews with a series of lectures from a pro-Hezbollah US academic who trivialized the Holocaust and is popular among neo-Nazis.

“It is outrageous that a distinguished German institution [Max Planck Institute branch in Halle] gives a stage to someone who spreads, in the best case, science fiction, and in the worst, pure incitement against Israel. Supporting [Norman] Finkelstein to maintain his academic facade is highly dangerous and an abuse of the scientific standards,” the Israeli Embassy in Berlin told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

Michaela Engelmeier, a Social Democratic deputy in the Bundestag, told the Post she was astonished that “with our history it is possible to welcome academics who play down the Nazi regime’s murder of six million Jews and present it as trivial.”

She added that the fact that the anti-Israel academic is delivering talks close to International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27 is “especially insensitive.”

She urged the Max Planck Institute to cancel next week’s Finkelstein lecture titled “Gaza: An Inquest into its Martyrdom.”

Engelmeier cited Finkelstein’s support of the US and EU-classified terrorist organization Hezbollah. “In the past, Finkelstein compared the antisemitic terrorist organization Hezbollah with the resistance against the National Socialists. He compared Israel’s approach with that of the Nazis. He termed, in his most important work, the remembrance of Auschwitz as the ‘Holocaust Industry.’” Finkelstein’s remarks place him in the “center of right-wing radical deniers of the Holocaust and make him criminally liable in Germany,” Engelmeier said.

Volker Beck, a Green Party deputy who is the chairman of the German-Israel Parliamentary Group in the Bundestag, told the Post that the Max Planck Institute’s invitation to Finkelstein has nothing to do with “qualified academic expertise.” Finkelstein leveled “false contentions against the Jewish Claims Conference… he explained his solidarity with Hezbollah and considers Hamas a ‘peace offensive’ against Israel,” Beck said.

Beck said Finkelstein’s views are welcomed by “conspiracy theoreticians and neo-Nazis because Finkelstein is the son of Holocaust survivors.”

He questioned what motivated the Max Planck Institute to invite the American to speak. “One cannot comprehend the invitation,” Beck said, adding that he could not understand why the institute would have anything to do with fomenting “antisemitic prejudices.”

The group Alliance against Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism along with an anti-fascist student organization from the University of Halle protested on Monday against Finkelstein’s first talk. There were 30-50 protesters.

The regional paper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, where the Max Planck Institute Halle is located, wrote that the institute’s media department was “surprised by the intense reactions.” The Max Planck Institute told the paper that Finkelstein is “a smart academic.”

Marie-Claire Foblets, the managing director of the department of law and anthropology at the Max Planck Institute, played a key role in organizing Finkelstein’s talks and has vigorously defended him. She told the Post it is absurd to call Finkelstein an antisemite.

Post emails to Dr. Martin Stratmann, the president of the Max Planck Institute, were not immediately returned.

The indifference to antisemitism at the Halle branch has raised eyebrows among monitors of modern antisemitism in Germany such as Dr. Efraim Zuroff from the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, because the Max Planck Institute played a role in advancing the Hitler movement’s lethal antisemitism.

Christina Beck, a spokeswoman for the Max Planck Institute, told the Post the institute “comprehensively rejects any accusations of antisemitism. In our research organization, there is no place for any form of hatred or agitation. The Max Planck Society maintains excellent relations with Israel and has been involved in German-Israeli research collaborative projects for several decades, in particular through the Minerva Foundation. As an independent research organization we also support diversity of opinion and freedom of science.”

The Halle Jewish community called the lectures a “disgrace” and refused to meet with Finkelstein. Foblets advocated a meeting between Halle’s Jewish community and the anti-Israel activists.

Engelmeier reminded the Max Planck Institute that many “artists, academics, social democrats, communists, journalist, and Sinti and Roma were victims of National Socialism. These Nazis’ murder of these victims was not disputed by Finkelstein, rather only the Jews, she said.

“Finkelstein blames Israel alone for the terrorism in the Middle East. With this position, he illustrates his passion to deny facts and to deny the terrorist attacks of the antisemitic organization Hamas, and equates Israel’s defensive measures with the annihilation of the Nazis,” she said.

Sebastian Striegel, a Green party deputy in the state government in Saxony-Anhalt, told the Post that “a public institution should not invite Finkelstein, because he relativizes the Holocaust.”

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Neo-Nazi blogger resigns over revelation his wife is Jewish

Mike Enoch was considered one of the three most influential figures in the “alt-right” movement.

ShowImageThe founder of the popular right-wing blog The Right Stuff resigned over the revelation that his wife is Jewish.

Mike Enoch, who also co-hosts “The Daily Shoah” weekly podcast, was outed over the weekend as Mike Peinovich, a website developer from New York. On the podcast, which has about 100,000 regular listeners, Peinovich as Enoch talked about killing Jews and spouted neo-Nazi invective.

The release of Peinovich’s personal details came after the identities of the other podcast panelists were made public earlier in the week by a rival website called 8chan. The invented surname reportedly is a reference to Enoch Powell, a far-right British politician.

Enoch was considered one of the three most influential figures in the “alt-right” movement along with Daily Stormer creator Andrew Anglin and Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist think tank. Spencer is a co-creator of the alt-right label, which describes a far-right movement whose followers traffic variously in white nationalism, anti-immigration sentiment, anti-Semitism and a disdain for “political correctness.”

Peinovich came clean with readers of The Right Stuff, posting a message in a password-protected forum that was reprinted in part by Salon.

“As I am sure you all know, I was doxxed and an ill advised attempt to fool the media about my identity led me to not talk to you people and to try to simply ride it out by being silent,” he said. “This was irresponsible and a disservice to all of you. Yes my wife is who they say she is, I won’t even bother denying it, I won’t bother making excuses. If this makes you want to leave the movement, or to have nothing to do with TRS, then I understand.

“Don’t lie for me. Don’t try to defend me to those attacking me. Don’t jeopardize your own reputation by defending things that you don’t think you can. I could try to explain my whole life for the last ten years to you but what difference at this point would it make. Life isn’t perfect.”

The Right Stuff has popularized many right-wing memes, as well as the triple parentheses known as the echo symbol used by white supremacists and anti-Semites on Twitter to identify Jews.

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‘British Schindler’ Honored by Royal Mail Commemorative Stamp

Sir Nicholas Winton rescued 669 Jewish children from Europe in 1939 shortly before the outbreak of the Holocaust.

ShowImage (2)The British Royal Mail postal service has issued a stamp honoring Sir Nicholas Winton, who rescued 669 Jewish children from Europe in 1939 shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Winton arranged for eight trains carrying the children to travel from Prague to the UK, utilizing Britain’s Kindertransport program allowing for refugees under 17 from the continent to gain asylum if they had a hosting family.

Winton bribed Nazi officials, arranged for forged travel documents and found families to take the children in and pay a £50 deposit for their eventual return travel fees.

The families of most of the children rescued were murdered during the Holocaust Winton, who died last year aged 106, is one of six humanitarians honored in the Royal Mail’s presentation pack issued on Tuesday, including Sue Ryder, John Boyd Orr, Eglantyne Jebb, Joseph Rowntree, and Josephine Butler.

“Sir Nicholas Winton was a true hero of our time and it is fantastic that Royal Mail is recognizing this remarkable man in such a special way,” said Karen Pollock MBE, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust in the UK.

“The Holocaust Educational Trust is thrilled that this commemorative stamp is now available for everyone to purchase and spread the story of Sir Nicholas’s extraordinary selflessness far and wide.”

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