Category Archive: Times of Israel

German band Rammstein blasted for concentration camp video

Jewish groups, government anti-Semitism official criticize as ‘tasteless’ hard rock band’s promotion video featuring members as Jewish inmates

German hard rock band Rammstein sparked protests from politicians, historians and Jewish groups Thursday with a video showing band members dressed as concentration camp prisoners with nooses around their necks.

Critics accused the Berlin-based group of a cynical publicity stunt playing with Nazi-era imagery to generate media hype and online clicks for their new single.

“With this new video, the band has crossed a line,” said Charlotte Knobloch, ex-president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

“The instrumentalization and trivialization of the Holocaust shown in the images are irresponsible,” she told Bild daily.

German Jewish community leader Charlotte Knobloch, seen in Jerusalem in 2009. (Wikimedia Commons)

“Rammstein is misusing the suffering and murder of millions for entertainment purposes in a frivolous and repulsive way.”

The industrial metal band founded in 1994 is known for their grinding guitar riffs, taboo-breaking antics and theatrical stage shows heavy on pyrotechnics.

Their songs have dealt with subjects from cannibalism to necrophilia, and the band name itself evokes the 1988 Ramstein air show disaster that killed 70 people and injured more than 1,000.

Frontman Till Lindemann, 56, asked in a 2006 interview whether the band would again dabble in Nazi themes, said: “No. Because I am fed up with allegations of being a right-wing band.”

However, in the new promotional clip, the band members are dressed in black-and-white striped concentration camp garb and seemingly awaiting their execution by hanging.

Germany’s special envoy on anti-Semitism Felix Klein. (Courtesy German Interior Ministry)

Lindemann is shown bleeding from a facial cut and guitarist Paul Landers, 54, wears a Star of David.

At the end of the 35-second clip, the song title “Deutschland” (Germany) appears in Gothic letters.

Bild quoted a lineup of politicians who voiced anger and disgust, with Jewish historian Michael Wolffsohn labeling it “a new form of desecration of the dead.”

Germany’s anti-Semitism commissioner Felix Klein called it “a tasteless exploitation of artistic freedom” that “represents the transgression of a red line.”

A year ago, German rappers Farid Bang and Kollegah sparked outrage with lyrics boasting that their bodies were “more defined than Auschwitz prisoners.” The scandal spelled the end of the German music industry’s sales-based Echo prize which had been awarded to the duo and helped spark large rallies calling for solidarity with Jews in Berlin and other cities.


FBI to return Nazi-stolen art to Jewish collector’s heirs

Salomon Koninck’s 1639 ‘A Scholar Sharpening His Quill’ was stolen from art collector Adolphe Schloss and sent to Hitler’s headquarters in Munich

Salomon Koninck's 1639 "A Scholar Sharpening His Quill, (Photo US District Attorneys Office)

Salomon Koninck’s 1639 “A Scholar Sharpening His Quill, (Photo US District Attorneys Office)

NEW YORK — A painting stolen from the family of art collector Adolphe Schloss by Germans during the World War II occupation of France will be returned to his descendants in New York, the French consulate said in a statement Tuesday.

The painting, Dutch artist Salomon Koninck’s 1639 “A Scholar Sharpening His Quill,” was part of an important collection of Flemish and Dutch works owned by Schloss, a Jewish man who lived in Paris.

The identities of Schloss’s descendants were not immediately available.

A collection of some 333 paintings owned by Schloss was originally stored in southern France during World War II before the Nazis found and seized it.

Some of those works, including the Koninck painting, were then sent to Hitler’s headquarters in Munich.

The painting resurfaced in November 2017 when a Chilean art dealer tried to sell it through a New York auction house, the Manhattan federal prosecutor said last year upon launching a formal procedure to return it to Schloss’s heirs.

The seller explained to authorities that his father had purchased the piece in 1952 from Walter Andreas Hofer, the man who was in charge of buying art for Nazi leader Hermann Goring, and a major player on the stolen goods market.

Millions of items owned by Jews and in art galleries were confiscated under the Nazi-aligned French Vichy government’s anti-Semitic laws during the German occupation.

With several major auction houses located in New York, Manhattan prosecutors regularly submit requests to return goods stolen during World War II.

Yad Vashem to break ground on new artifacts center on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Enlarged Shoah Heritage Campus to include millions of documents and artifacts, from a toddler’s shoe marked with the day she died to a portrait of a Nazi painted on a Torah scroll

During a behind-the-scenes tour of Yad Vashem’s new curatorial center this winter, the Israel Holocaust museum’s Sarah Shor held up a petite child’s shoe and pointed to a pair of knitted gloves. Shor told the group of Jewish journalists seated in the glass-walled room that they had once belonged to two-year-old Hinda Cohen, who was born to Tzipporah and Dov Cohen in the Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania on January 18, 1942.

The table was littered with dozens of artifacts, from a portrait of a Nazi soldier painted on a Torah scroll to the striped pajamas of a camp intern. Every item had a story behind it, attesting to the life of the former owner. But there are few things more chilling than seeing the physical remnants of a life cut too short: blue gloves with a purple design worked in by the hands of a loving mother, and well-polished minuscule shoes.

Father Dov etched the date into the shoe, found under her bed with scant few other items and vowed to keep it until his death, a promise he kept.

Yad Vashem’s Sarah Shor shows a group of journalists the ‘canvas’ for the portrait of a Nazi soldier — a Torah scroll, at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, December 18, 2018. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

Hinda and the children were taken to Auschwitz, where they were immediately murdered.

Now, on Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, the day commemorating the loss of six million Jews in the Holocaust, Israel’s Yad Vashem will break ground on a new state-of-the-art subterranean center to house and conserve millions of artifacts such as these. The more than 210 million documents, 500,000 photographs, 131,000 survivor testimonies, 32,400 artifacts and 11,500 works of art in Yad Vashem’s collections to date bear witness to the lives of those lost to the Nazis’ genocide, not only their deaths.

“The German Nazis were determined not only to annihilate the Jewish people, but also to obliterate their identity, memory, culture and heritage,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev in a press release.

“For many, all that remains are a treasured work of art, a personal artifact that survived with them, a photograph kept close to their person, a diary, or a note. By preserving these precious items – that are of great importance not only to the Jewish people, but also to humanity as a whole – and revealing them to the public, they will act as the voice of the victims and the survivors, and serve as an everlasting memory.”

A shoe and gloves belonging to two-year-old Hinda Cohen, who was killed at Auschwitz on March 27, 1944. Her father Dov etched the date on the sole upon discovering his daughter was taken during a ‘Children’s Aktion.’ (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, was founded in 1953 and immediately began gathering such artifacts. Today, its storerooms are overflowing and conservationist Shor told the journalists that her team does not have the resources to properly treat items on site.

This overflow is in part due to a wildly successful eight-year campaign, “Gathering the Fragments,” which urges the public to deposit Holocaust-related artifacts with the museum. The granddaughter of Tzipporah and Dov harkened the call and brought the etched shoe and pair of gloves to the museum as part of this campaign.

After a groundbreaking ceremony on Yom HaShoa, which this year falls on the evening of May 1 until sundown May 2, a new primarily underground structure will be built. According to a Yad Vashem press release, it will cover an area of 5,880 square meters and “allow for optimal control and supervision of the conservation climate required for preservation of the artifacts.”

A portrait of a Nazi soldier painted on a Torah scroll, at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, December 18, 2018. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

Other benefits of the planned center include the ability to “streamline the process of receiving, preserving and cataloguing items collected by Yad Vashem, with the express goal of making them accessible to the public.” In addition to vast, climate-controlled storage spaces, the center will include hi-tech preservation laboratories, which will apparently be accessible in some way to visitors.

According to a Yad Vashem spokesman, there are other upgrades planned for the Mount of Remembrance, including a renovation of its auditorium and a new gallery for families and children.

The campus-wide construction and facelift is meant to be completed by the summer of 2021. According to Yad Vashem, funding has been secured already for much of the project. The institute is confident it will find the rest of the needed money.

“The Holocaust is a very particular story with a deep universal meaning,” remarked Shalev to the group of journalists this winter.

There are few symbols more universal than the little shoe that once belonged to Hinda Cohen.

This shocking exhibit reexamines age-old anti-Semitic trope of Jews and Money

Opened March 19, the show at London’s Jewish Museum doesn’t shy away from revealing to the public the extent of vicious anti-Semitic portrayals, past and present


Clockwise from lower left:'No. 44 Le baron James,' France, 1900 (Courtesy USHMM); Rembrandt, 'Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver,' 1629, (Courtesy National Gallery London); '11th Commandment: Get all you can, keep what you get, give away nothing,' England, 1830 (Courtesy Jewish Museum London)

Clockwise from lower left:’No. 44 Le baron James,’ France, 1900 (Courtesy USHMM); Rembrandt, ‘Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver,’ 1629, (Courtesy National Gallery London); ’11th Commandment: Get all you can, keep what you get, give away nothing,’ England, 1830 (Courtesy Jewish Museum London)

LONDON — If there were ever two words that sound toxic when put together, they would be “Jews” and “money.” But add the word “myth” into the mix, and you’ve got the daring exhibition. “Jews, Money, Myth” opened March 19 at London’s Jewish Museum and examines the tortured and tangled relationship between the words.

The timing couldn’t be more appropriate, with a trending rise of Jewish stereotyping by both the far right and far left in the United Kingdom.

Prof. David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at London University’s Birkbeck College, says the idea was “to examine the deeply entrenched anti-Semitic stereotypes and myths relating to Jews and money, and the malignity which has affected Jews in that context.”

The Pears Institute worked closely with the Jewish Museum to develop the narrative of the exhibition.

But as Abigail Morris, the Jewish Museum’s energetic director, explains, “Jews, Money, Myth” was an idea she had more than three years ago, following a cutting-edge exhibition the museum did about blood and its place in both uniting and dividing Jews.

“I think there’s something very exciting for a museum to tackle difficult subjects, but also to take the long view,” Morris says.

Abigail Morris, director of The Jewish Museum, London. (Courtesy JML)

“Exciting” barely describes the vicious anti-Semitic material that is on display in this exhibition, guaranteed to both draw crowds and shock them. British Jews, in particular, once used to the casual, easygoing tolerance of British society at large, are likely to be horrified at the entrenched anti-Semitism of 19th century Great Britain.

‘The New and Fashionable Game of the Jew,’ 1807. (Courtesy Jewish Museum of London)

Perhaps the most dramatic of the exhibits is “The New and Fashionable Game of the Jew,” a children’s dice game made in London in 1807. It features a stereotypical Jewish banker in the middle of the board, hoarding money. This game is from the Jewish Museum’s own collection, but the composer Steven Sondheim, who owns a copy, says “this is a game which taught kids to be anti-Semitic.”

The anti-Semitic tropes on display are not only confined to history, but are right up to date. One image on display famously triggered an uproar against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn — a street art mural in which obviously Jewish bankers sit around a board game balanced on the backs of the oppressed poor.

The image, by the American artist Mear One (born Kalen Ockerman), was entitled “Freedom for Humanity,” and appeared in East London in 2012. As the Jewish Museum exhibition says, “The stereotypically Jewish features of the bankers recycled age-old tropes positioning Jews as exploitative and motivated by greed. The artist denied any antisemitic intent, saying the mural was a critique of ‘class and privilege.’”

But it was the initial response of Corbyn, who disagreed with the local council’s plan to remove the mural, which led to a recent upsurge in both claims of anti-Semitic abuse from the far left, as well as counterarguments that those accusations are unsubstantiated and motivated by politics. Jewish MP Luciana Berger, who raised the issue of the mural with Corbyn, quit the party last month, citing “a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation.”

Kalen Ockerman's mural 'The Enemy of Humanity' (photo credit: YouTube screen shot)

Kalen Ockerman’s mural ‘The Enemy of Humanity,’ which uses anti-Semitic imagery. (photo credit: YouTube screen shot)

Despite its impact on Britain’s contemporary politics, the Mear One image is situated in a section devoted to 19th century anti-Semitism. Also scattered through the gallery are some thought-provoking works by the British artist Ryan Gander, including a bronzed wallet and phone which are stuck to a bench, intended as a comment on the ties between morals and money.

Without doubt this is the Jewish Museum’s most ambitious show to date, and its importance can be judged by the quality of the loans on display.

There is a stunning Rembrandt, “Judas Returning the 30 Pieces of Silver,” painted when the artist was just 23. It has been loaned by a private collector and has not been on public show for 40 years. The lender, says Morris, is not Jewish but believed it was important to discuss the subject.

Rembrandt, ‘Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver,’ 1629, (Courtesy National Gallery London)

Or there is an extraordinary public treasury roll dating from 1233, an unprecedented loan from Britain’s National Archives.

“It’s one of the most iconic images of Christian-Jewish relations of medieval times. Someone has effectively doodled onto the roll a drawing of a three-headed demon Jew,” says Morris.

The sketch shows Isaac of Norwich, one of the wealthiest men in England, who appears at the top as a crowned, three-faced anti-Christ figure. A devil touches the noses of Isaac’s agent Mosse Mokke, who wears a spiked hat, and a Jewish woman called Avegaye. A figure on the left may be weighing coins on a pair of scales. Isaac and Mokke were both accused of charging excessive interest.

The writing on the document shows the sums that the Exchequer of the Jews, a tax institution set up by the Crown, received from individual Jews in each county.

Feldman, the historian who has worked closely with the museum on developing the narrative for the exhibition, says its twin aims were to “confront and debunk — and to explore the real historical relationship between Jews and money, and between wealth and poverty.”

Prof. David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at London University’s Birkbeck College. (Courtesy)

The central overarching myth, of course, is what has fed into the stereotype of the rich, grasping Jew — from medieval times all the way to George Soros — that all Jews have money and control the world.

But the truth, as the exhibition shows, is that there were uncountable numbers of Jewish poor, particularly in Britain, and that many made their living selling old clothes and rags, and, interestingly, as the main sellers of dried rhubarb — though nobody seems clear as to the reason for the latter.

Dr. Dave Rich, head of policy at Britain’s Community Security Trust (CST), who has run scores of education and training seminars about Jew-hatred, says that he has “definitely realized how little knowledge and recognition of anti-Semitism there is.”

Rich is the author of “The Left’s Jewish Problem, Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Antisemitism.”

“I think that the exhibition can only be a good thing in talking about such things, because we need that education. So much of what is going on in the Labour Party at the moment is people using language they don’t understand,” he says.

Dave Rich, head of policy at Britain’s Community Security Trust. (Courtesy CST)

One of the repeated tropes of current-day anti-Semitism, says Rich, is the invocation of the Rothschild name as a sort of catch-all to represent the greedy Jew.

“I think the Rothschilds are a classic case,” he says. “They have no profile in public life. They are not an important bank, they are not involved in big public works — and yet the name Rothschild resonates over and over again. It is remarkable how the name still has a cultural meaning, completely detached from what the Rothschilds actually are.”

In research released by the CST in January this year, Rich says they found that Google searches for Rothschild were up by 39 percent in the last three years.

“It’s virtually all people looking for conspiracy theories and negative stereotypes that Jews are both rich and mean, and that they use their money to pull strings,” says Rich. The constant subtext, he says, is that Jews “will use their money for underhanded purposes.”

‘No. 44 Le baron James,’ France, 1900 (Courtesy USHMM)

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in some of the depictions of Nathan Mayer Rothschild, the legendary founder of the bank, who made his home in London in the early 19th century. What the Jewish Museum calls “probably the most obscenely antisemitic of all” is a repellent carved figurine dating from Paris in 1833, on loan from the French capital’s Musee Carnavalet. Rothschild is shown as a writhing, demonic figure, teeth bared and grasping at piles of cash.

Intriguingly, Morris and the show’s curator, Jo Rosenthal, have chosen to highlight what would normally be behind-the-scenes conversations about the design of the show, by putting those conversations on display.

For the Carnavalet Rothschild, there was intense discussion. The exchange is recorded:

Rosenthal: “I’m worried about the ethics of showing this much anti-Semitic material. The Rothschild sculpture is so gruesome I wonder if we should even show it.”

Morris: “I know what you mean. That sculpture is really upsetting. I wonder if we should find a different way to display it. How about using a mirror in the showcase and displaying the object with its back to us? That way it won’t be clearly on show, people will have to make a particular effort to look at it and will see themselves looking back as they look.”

Not everything in “Jews, Money, Myth” is related to anti-Semitism. There is fascinating material from the Jewish Museum’s own collection relating to positive relationships between Jews and money, from the special coins used at a Pidyon HaBen (redemption of the first-born) ceremony, to a section on the importance of charity in Jewish life.

’11th Commandment: Get all you can, keep what you get, give away nothing,’ England, 1830 (Courtesy Jewish Museum London)

But again and again the exhibition returns to difficult themes, from Judas to Shylock and Fagin, or to what Feldman calls the “utterly mainstream” conspiracy theories such as “a widespread belief that the Boer War was fought for Jewish financial interests through their alleged control of the press.”

Feldman, who was vice chair of the 2016 Chakrabarti inquiry into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, says he hopes the exhibition has a message for Jews and non-Jews alike. But he acknowledges that there might be a particular message for the leadership of the Labour Party.

“The problem that part of the Labour leadership face is that of recognizing what is in front of them, and their expectation of the form that racism takes,” he says.

“For them, racism is about the poor, people of color and victims of colonialism. It is difficult for them to recognize people coded as white and possibly affluent [as victims of anti-Semitism]. This exhibition ought to help people understand how to recognize anti-Semitism,” says Feldman.

It is, agrees Morris, probably the first time such material has been assembled in one place by Jews, rather than by anti-Semites. She says a number of people have asked her whether the Jewish Museum should be staging such an exhibition.

“We have been incredibly careful. But [anti-Semitism] is not going away, and I feel it is incredibly important for us to build bridges, and not retreat into our echo-chamber silo,” she sighs.

“Jews, Money, Myth” runs until July 7, 2019 at the Jewish Museum in London.

Lipstadt: Jews need factual ‘ammunition’ to combat anti-Semitism

On the heels of her book, ‘Antisemitism: Here and Now,’ Deborah Lipstadt urges Jews not to panic about the resurgence of Jew-hatred in the US, but to arm themselves with knowledge


American historian and author Deborah Lipstadt poses for photographer at the Rome Film festival in Rome, October 17, 2016. (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

American historian and author Deborah Lipstadt poses for photographer at the Rome Film festival in Rome, October 17, 2016. (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

Historian Deborah Lipstadt’s “Antisemitism: Here and Now” is an accessible take on what’s been called the world’s oldest hatred. Pointing fingers of blame equally at the political Left and Right, Lipstadt concisely frames anti-Semitism’s resurgence on both sides of the Atlantic.

The book is written as an exchange of letters between Lipstadt, one of her students, and a concerned professor-colleague. A section called “Taxonomy of the Antisemite” portrays all sorts of modern-day Judeophobes, including the “dinner party” anti-Semite and the “clueless” Jew-haters.

According to Lipstadt, comparable to elastic, the intensity of anti-Semitism operates at different frequencies depending on the time and place of its outbreak.

“Like a fire set by an arsonist, passionate hatred and conspiratorial worldviews reach well beyond their intended target. They are not rationally contained,” wrote Lipstadt in an opening note to readers.

Throughout history, anti-Jewish vitriol is likely to spread in atmospheres where other minorities are targeted, according to Lipstadt.

The author of several Holocaust-related books refutes notions of “simple solutions” to eradicating “a long hatred [that] has consumed millions of lives,” Lipstadt told The Times of Israel. The scholar is best known for successfully defending herself against Holocaust denier David Irving in Britain’s High Court, as portrayed in the 2016 film “Denial.”

Rachel Weisz as Deborah Lipstadt in court. (YouTube screenshot)

“The idea that a bunch of Jews sitting around a conference table in New York City or Jerusalem or a professor working on a book can come up with a ‘solution’ belies the nature of the problem,” said Lipstadt.

One aspect of anti-Semitism’s complexity, wrote Lipstadt, is the notion that Jews cannot be victims because most of them are white. Calling this belief “The  Corbyn Syndrome,” after Britain’s controversial Labour leader, Lipstadt noted that Jews are often viewed as “privileged members of the elite [who] cannot possibly be considered victims… If anything, they are victimizers.”

Antisemitism: Here and Now, by Deborah Lipstadt

Increasingly, anti-Semites are channeling their Jew-hatred onto the world’s only Jewish state, according to Lipstadt. For example, they will demonize Israel behind a mask of concern for the human rights of Palestinians, holding the Jewish state to double-standards not applied to any other country.

This cloaking of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism, along with other developments, spurred Lipstadt to pen her book as a form of intellectual “ammunition” against the evolving face of Judeophobia.

“This book is an attempt to give people the ammunition to realize how pernicious this threat is and how absurd [anti-Semitism] is,” Lipstadt told The Times of Israel.

“Anyone bothered by this hatred — and for that matter any hatred — must become the ‘unwelcome guests’ at the dinner party. Speaking up, challenging, pointing out the irrationality of what we are hearing. We must be persistent. My hope is that the book gives people the ammunition to do that,” said Lipstadt.

‘The vise with no escape’

Among the “tools” used by anti-Semites to demonize Jews and Israel, the  Holocaust figures prominently, according to Lipstadt. Whether by denying the scope of the genocide or accusing Israel of perpetrating another Holocaust against the Palestinians, the murder of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany has become a rhetorical weapon against the Jewish state.

The most extreme example of “weaponizing” the Holocaust is the allegation it did not take place. Here, Lipstadt beseeches readers to differentiate between “hard-core” Holocaust deniers — such as David Irving — and the more subtle, “soft-core” types.

Deborah Lipstadt, author of ‘Antisemitism: Here and Now’ (courtesy)

A “soft-core” denier might downplay the extent of the genocide by claiming that far fewer than 6 million Jews were murdered. Likewise, he may distort other aspects of Hitler’s “war of annihilation” against the Jews during World War II.

When asked by The Times of Israel if she thought Holocaust education in the US was equipped to deal with denial and distortion, Lipstadt responded in the negative.

“My sense is that much of [Holocaust] education is simplistic,” said Lipstadt. “I think there are a lot of references to ‘the Shoah.’ Leaders mention it or use code words, e.g., ‘the 6 million,’ but there is too little real learning about how it evolved, the pressures faced by Jews, the true nature of the horror, the vise with no escape, etc.”

At Emory University, Lipstadt has long taught a course on Holocaust history. According to the professor, even those of her students with “intensive Jewish educational backgrounds” are “flabbergasted by that they learn,” she said.

“They have heard a lot but learned little,” said Lipstadt. “Remember, the person teaching about it in day school or Hebrew School is probably not a historian and not really equipped to take them past [a certain] point,” she told The Times of Israel.

According to Lipstadt, “facile” understandings of the Holocaust can be detected — for example — among people who believe that German Jews “sat idly by while the slaughter unfolded. They did not. They desperately tried to find ways to get out,” said Lipstadt.

‘The whole nation turned itself inside out’

An eye-opening section of Lipstadt’s book deals with the battle for Israel on campus, an evolving frontline where the Jewish state is under assault from professors and students alike.

In her assessment of efforts made to combat BDS measures on campus, Lipstadt disagrees with some of the tactics deployed by pro-Israel activists. Specifically, she is against the strategy of “boycotting the boycotters,” wherein pro-Israel advocates attempt to outlaw or ban groups that call for boycotting the Jewish state.

Deborah Lipstadt at Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Jerusalem, June 11, 2017. (Renee Ghert-Zand/TOI)

“By urging boycotts of anti-Israel groups, the anti-BDS advocates surrender the academic moral high ground — support of academic freedom and freedom of inquiry — to their opponents,” wrote Lipstadt.

From Lipstadt’s perspective, anti-BDS laws passed in state legislatures across the US have no place in academics settings, where such measures “may well fail, if not backfire.” She is also against efforts to prevent Jewish students from enrolling in courses taught by pro-BDS professors.

“Some Jewish organizations have compiled lists of professors who have signed BDS resolutions and have urged Jewish students to boycott the classes of those teachers,” wrote Lipstadt. “This non-nuanced approach… assumes that professors are unable to separate what they teach from their personal politics.”

In “contextualizing” the state of anti-Semitism for her readers, Lipstadt urges Jews to “reject victimhood” and focus on the positive.

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers leads a gathering in Hanukkah songs after lighting a menorah outside the Tree of Life Synagogue on the first night of Hanukkah, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018 in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. A gunman shot and killed 11 people while they worshipped Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018 at the temple. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

“Despite the fact that only seven decades ago one out of every three Jews on the face of the earth was murdered, the Jewish people thrive today as a culture, a community, and a nation,” wrote Lipstadt.

Having completed her book before the attack on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue in October, Lipstadt still believes in the relative safety of Jews living in the US — especially compared to some countries in Europe.

“I don’t think America will become like [those countries],” Lipstadt told The Times of Israel. “Look at the reaction to Pittsburgh. This whole nation turned itself inside out in the aftermath. Non-Jews showed up in shuls in droves.”

Lipstadt said she is “not so naïve to believe” that anti-Semitism does not exist in the US, but that it takes on different forms. Whereas most Americans were “appalled” by the Pittsburgh attack, said Lipstadt, other forms of anti-Semitism — including the “toxification of Israel” and “thinking Jews are not loyal to the US” — have deepened their roots in recent years.

“Sometimes [anti-Semitism] may present itself as a passion,” wrote Lipstadt. “In other instances, it may present itself as normative. But whatever form it takes, we must always insist that antisemitism has never made sense and never will. Fight it. But don’t elevate it or its purveyors in importance.”

In terms of being level-headed in the face of threats that seem to be growing daily, Lipstadt urges Jews and their allies to keep a steady hand.

“It’s easy to be shrill, it’s easy to panic,” said Lipstadt. “It’s natural to yell and scream. But that’s not what I aimed to do. I aimed to educate, to make people aware, to get them to think… and speaking softly is a better way of doing that, I believe.”

Romania lights the way in fighting Holocaust revisionism

Croatia, Poland, and Hungary should take note of Bucharest’s critical lessons on how to accept their guilt

Roundup of Jews during a pogrom in Iasi, Romania, June 1941

Roundup of Jews during a pogrom in Iasi, Romania, June 1941

Brussels – It’s a surprising success story.

While my new study on Holocaust revisionism details how many other Central European governments are rehabilitating World War II collaborators and minimizing their own guilt in the death of Jews, one former communist country has gone in the other direction – Romania.

It has recognized the findings of an international commission that the country’s wartime government is responsible for the murder of up to 380,000 Jews and more than 11,000 Roma. Laws outlaw revisionism and rehabilitation of war criminals. Holocaust educational programs are widespread, even at the National College of Defense, where the army’s top officers learn about wartime history and the responsibility to disobey illegal, immoral orders.

The Romanian example offers important lessons about what countries need to do to accept their guilt – and how this acceptance helps them both at home and abroad. It is a path to be followed by other Central European countries such as Croatia, Poland, and Hungary, recently liberated from communism, but who have now fallen into the grip of ugly nationalist populism.

Romania now holds the six-month rotating European Union Presidency and brought its fight to Brussels at a crucial moment, when anti-Semitism is rising across the continent. In a survey addressing more than 16,000 Jewish people in 12 European countries late last year, the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency found 90% of respondents felt anti-Semitism was growing in their country and 30% had been harassed. Over a third avoided going to Jewish events or sites because of safety fears.

But the danger goes beyond these attacks. Issues that, on the face, have nothing to do with Jews – migration or a protest movement sparked by fuel prices – suddenly are made to be all about the Jews. Centuries-old stereotypes have reappeared: the conniving Jewish financier, the all-powerful Jewish conspirator buying political influence or acting as “globalist,” pulling the levers of power for their own enrichment. The common theme is that the Jewish people are an Other who do not belong within European society.

During World War II, these themes infected Romania. In November 1940, the country joined the Axis alliance. Anti-Semitic laws proliferated. The Romanian Iron Guard attacked the Jewish population. Under General Ion Antonescu, Romania joined forces with the Germans in June 1941 for the invasion of the Soviet Union. Romanian and German troops together began a systematic massacre of the Jewish population in Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, deporting the survivors to Romania operated concentration camps. The Antonescu regime extended the deportations to Southern Bukovina and Dorohoi. Between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were murdered or died during the Holocaust in Romania, with an additional 135,000 Romanian Jews in Northern Transylvania perishing.

Under the communists, Jewish victims were ignored. In 1957, a court convicted Radu Dinulescu, a notorious war criminal responsible for organizing and carrying out the deportations of Jews from Bukovina and Bessarabia. His second sentence was not for killing Jews, but for his “intense activity against the working class and the revolutionary movement.”

After communism fell, Antonescu was rehabilitated as a great military strategist, a fighter against communism, and often credited with saving the Jews in Romania. The country began to rehabilitate war criminals. In 1998 and 1999 respectively, the Supreme Court of Romania acquitted notorious war criminals Radu Dinulescu (chief of the Second Section in the General Staff of the Romanian Army) and his assistant, Gheorghe Petrescu. In 2003, President Ion Iliescu stated that “the Holocaust was not unique to the Jews.”

The country began to come clean about its past when Romania negotiated entry into NATO and the European Union. Romania responded like a star student. It joined the International Holocaust and Research Alliance (IHRA) in 2004, chaired the alliance in 2016, and adopted the IHRA’s working definition of Antisemitism in 2017.

Crucially, in 2003, the Romanian government appointed Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Romanian Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel to preside over an International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania. The Commission found Romanian civilian and military authorities responsible for the murder of up to 380,000 Jews and more than 11,000 gypsies. The Romanian government recognized the report’s findings.

Since then, Romanians have, for the most part, come clean about the dark spots in their past. The country has created alternative and unprecedented educational programs at the National College of Defense. Since 2002, the college has trained Romanian military leaders about what their predecessors did during World War II. Three years ago, it began to organize training with magistrates, policemen, judges, and prosecutors. Similarly, the Elie Wiesel Institute organizes training with police officers and each year holds a summer course. Police officers can choose from among various topics, one of which is on the Holocaust.

Another important current initiative is a new Museum of the Holocaust in Bucharest, which is under construction and soon to be opened. A small Museum of the History of the Jews and the Holocaust already exists in a synagogue.

Romania today holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Council. It has made the fight against anti-Semitism and Holocaust revisionism a priority. It recently hosted a major conference inside the European Parliament. Another conference is underway this week in Bucharest.

Compare this with its neighbors Hungary and Croatia. Both countries refuse to appoint an independent commission to study their troubled Holocaust pasts. Both continue to rehabilitate war criminals. Both continue to deny their own responsibility.

Romania shows that they can improve. An important first step for its neighbors would be to appoint an independent Commission to study its past. Let the facts fall where they might. This would help depoliticize the debate over the past and move it onto a solid, impartial ground.

Polish right-wing newspaper’s front page teaches ‘how to recognize a Jew’

Anti-Semitic nationalist weekly, Tylko Polska, or ’Only Poland,’ appears at Polish parliament as part of press kit for lawmakers


Historian Jan Gross on the front page of a Polish weekly that instructs readers on how to recognize Jews. (Misiek Kaminski/via JTA)

Historian Jan Gross on the front page of a Polish weekly that instructs readers on how to recognize Jews. (Misiek Kaminski/via JTA)

JTA — A right-wing newspaper with national distribution in Poland ran on its front page an article that instructs readers on “how to recognize a Jew.”

The Polish-language weekly, Tylko Polska, or “Only Poland,” lists on its front page “Names, anthropological features, expressions, appearances, character traits, methods of operation” and “disinformation activities.”

The text also reads: “How to defeat them? This cannot go on!”

The page also features a headline reading, “Attack on Poland at a conference in Paris.” The reference is to a Holocaust studies conference last month during which Polish nationalists complained that speakers were anti-Polish. That article features a picture of Jan Gross, a Polish-Jewish Princeton University scholar of Polish complicity in the Holocaust and a frequent target of nationalist attacks.

Only Poland is published by Leszek Bubl, a fringe nationalist political candidate and sometime musician who has sung about “rabid” rabbis. The paper was spotted Wednesday at the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, as part of this week’s packet of periodicals.

Michał Kamiński, a conservative lawmaker, protested the article and its presence at the Sejm, Polsat news reported.

The Sejm Information Center responded by saying that “the Chancellery of the Sejm will request the publication’s removal from the press kit.”

How one Swiss nurse hid hundreds of pregnant women and their kids from the Nazis

‘The Light of Hope’ shares the little-known story of Elisabeth Eidenbenz, who saved young refugees during the Spanish Civil War and WWII through her French maternity clinic


When refugees fled the Spanish Civil War and World War II, a brave Swiss nurse provided crucial help in southwest France to a niche group of displaced persons — pregnant women and their children.

Despite hostility from Vichy France and Nazi Germany, Elisabeth Eidenbenz is credited with saving the lives of almost 600 children — 400 Spanish refugees and 200 Jewish refugees — through the Maternity of Elne, her maternity hospital in the French municipality of Elne.

Relatively little-known, Eidenbenz (1913-2011) lived to be nearly 100 and was honored by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations in 2002. A new historical dramatic film aims to amplify her heroism.

The 2018 Spanish film “The Light of Hope” shares Eidenbenz’ story with audiences across the US this year. It made its New York premiere at the New York Jewish Film Festival in January, and was screened at the Chicago JCC Jewish Film Festival on March 9.

In an interview with The Times of Israel, Spanish director Sílvia Quer called Eidenbenz a woman and a heroine “silenced by society.”

Elisabeth Eidenbenz, founder of la Maternité d’Elne in southwest France, who saved hundreds of women and children during World War II. (Facebook)

“I felt that it was necessary to make this film,” she said.

Quer read an interview between the then-90-year-old Eidenbenz and Catalan journalist Assumpta Montellà, and also found an inspirational quote from a child who had lived in the Maternity of Elne: “My mother gave me life, motherhood gave me milk, and Elisabeth gave me the hope.”

To play Eidenbenz, Quer found Swiss actress Noémie Schmidt, a 2015 nominee for a French César award for best supporting actress.

“For the character of Elisabeth, it was important that the nationality of the actress be Swiss,” Quer said, adding, “Noémie read the script and had no hesitation in participating.”

Elisabeth Eidenbenz (2nd row: 2nd from left) meeting Swiss Red Cross staff, Château de la Hille, 1941 (Archive Swiss Red Cross / Archiv SRK, via wikipedia)

The other cast members, Quer said, include acclaimed Catalan actresses along with the talented child actors who portray three friends living at the Maternity: Pat, Neus and David.

Pat, the most innocent of this trio, is the narrator of the film. Neus is a witness to the horrors of the notorious Rivesaltes concentration camp in France, and David is a Jewish refugee whose pregnant mother, Maya, is acutely aware of the particular dangers her family faces.

Of the three children, Quer said, “Through their games [which we see in the movie] they complement each other and learn from one another.”

The same can be said for the others living at the Maternity as the film unfolds.

Shot in Catalonia to evoke southwestern France, “The Light of Hope” depicts Eidenbenz trying to help the women she cares for: Maya, who fears for her son and newborn daughter; Victoria, who considers giving military aid to the Resistance, which is prohibited at the Maternity; and Aurora, who suffers the tragedy of a stillbirth.

In this still from the new historical dramatic film ‘The Light of Hope,’ Swiss nurse Elisabeth Eidenbenz speaks with Pat, one of the children at her maternity hospital that she ran for refugees from 1939 to 1944 in Elne, France. (Courtesy)

Beyond the hospital walls, its existence is threatened by a persistent Vichy commissioner and his Nazi overlords. The Maternity is ordered to close. Eidenbenz comes up with a plan to save the hospital, which hinges on her exposing a scandal to France — the atrocities of the Rivesaltes concentration camp.

Civilians including Catalans, Jews and Algerians were detained at the camp in its grim history spanning 70 years. In 1942, the year the film opens, 2,251 Jews, including 110 children, were transferred from Rivesaltes to the Drancy concentration camp and then to Auschwitz.

Children in Rivesaltes camp during World War II. (Courtesy Midas Films)

Throughout these tensions, Eidenbenz tries to preserve a measure of community for the hospital with a midsummer celebration on St. James’ Day. The ensuing climax reveals tragedy and valor by adults and children alike.

The real-life Eidenbenz showed plenty of courage in trying circumstances.

In this still from the new historical dramatic film ‘The Light of Hope,’ Swiss nurse Elisabeth Eidenbenz, right, is shown at her maternity hospital in Elne, France, with one of the children she cares for, Neus, who has escaped from the notorious Rivesaltes World War II concentration camp. (Courtesy)

“Elisabeth was only 25 years old when she founded [and] opened [the] Maternity,” Quer said. “You have to be very brave to accept this work.”

The daughter of a Swiss Protestant minister, Eidenbenz initially volunteered to help the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War — a cause that became desperate with the fall of Barcelona in 1938. In January and February of 1939, a half-million Republican refugees fled on foot to France. On the way, they were bombed by Nationalist and Italian planes — an exodus, termed “La Retirada” (The Retreat), that is being commemorated this year, eight decades later.

French authorities allowed refugees to cross the border but interned them at camps with names that became infamous: Argelés-sur-Mer, Rivesaltes and Saint-Cyprien.

Group of internees at Rivesaltes camp in France in March 1941. (AP Photo/Vitchy)

“There was nothing at most but barbed wire and guards,” said Soledad Fox Maura, a professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature at Williams College whose specialties include the Spanish Civil War, and Women’s and Gender Studies. “Spanish Republicans interned in the camps had to build very basic shelters to protect themselves, try to survive on cold beaches in the middle of winter.”

“People died of disease, hypothermia, the cold,” said Alejandro Baer, the Stephen C. Feinstein Chair of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota, adding that “it was common to see bodies piled up, left out in the open, in the area of the camp.”

In this still from the new historical dramatic film ‘The Light of Hope,’ Jewish inmates at the Rivesaltes concentration camp in France are deported on boxcars during World War II. In 1942, the year the film begins, over 2,200 Jews, including 110 children, were sent from Rivesaltes to the Drancy concentration camp near Paris and then to Auschwitz. (Courtesy)

“Being on beaches, there was not proper hygiene, warmth, any kind of health care — at first, at least,” Fox Maura said. “Many people died, many babies and children,” with an infant mortality rate of over 95 percent.

She said that “eventually it really became a scandal in the French press. Women were being mistreated, many raped by guards. There were just horrific conditions for women.”

Eidenbenz initially helped these refugees through the organization Swiss Aid. Fellow volunteer Karl Ketterer bought a castle that was “half in ruins,” Fox Maura said. It would become the Maternity, with each room named after a Spanish city including Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao.

Group of children is at the Rivesaltes camp for internees in France on May 7, 1941. (AP Photo)

The first pregnant woman arrived in January 1939. There would be many more under the care of Eidenbenz and her staff of 12. Expectant mothers arrived four weeks before their delivery date; they could stay up to four weeks after giving birth, after which Eidenbenz would look to place them in a job to keep them out of the camps. The hospital would see 20 births each month in 1940 and 1941.

By this time, the Spanish Civil War had given way to WWII, and the Maternity became funded by the Red Cross. New refugee populations needed help, but Eidenbenz was constrained by the Red Cross’ policy of not aiding political refugees, which excluded Jews.

Jewish refugee Maya Cohen, right, and her son David are shown in this still from the new World War II historical dramatic film ‘The Light of Hope.’ (Courtesy)

“She hid the identities of most of the refugees to circumvent these laws,” Fox Maura said, describing the hospital as “funded by the Red Cross and at the same time working around it.”

The Nazis were harder to overcome.

“Elisabeth had many threats from the Gestapo but did not go down,” Quer said. “[She] hid Jewish women and their children when they were banned. Elisabeth faced the head of the police, fought for deported women.”

The Germans ultimately ordered the Maternity closed in 1944. Eidenbenz returned to Switzerland but continued fighting on behalf of “unprotected children,” according to Quer.

Section of women’s barracks at Rivesaltes camp for internees in France in March 1941. (AP Photo/Vitchy)

On Easter 2002, 60 former refugees who had lived as children at the Maternity of Elne returned to the town for a celebration of their rescuer, Eidenbenz.

“They all gathered to honor her,” Fox Maura said. “It was very moving.”

In 2006, University of Minnesota professor Baer, a native of Spain, visited the site of the Maternity. Taking a tour of the building with a group of Spanish educators, he said that it still had an “incredible aura” of “la memoria del bien,” the memory of good.

A still from the new historical dramatic film ‘The Light of Hope,’ screening at the Chicago JCC Jewish Film Festival. (Courtesy)

“It’s very moving to visit that place,” Baer said. “It’s why I think it should be known more, especially by those who are close by, and also by people who visit Spain.”

“Fortunately, nowadays school groups are going there,” he said. “I think the effort should be much more, it should multiply. The kind of lessons from that time are worth remembering. There was so much evil — and light in the midst of evil.

“As an educator, [regarding the] way we should remember the Holocaust, WWII, the [Spanish] Civil War, they are completely different historical events.” But, Baer added, in “figures like Eidenbenz, we see a common, incredible value. We can recognize one history in one person. There’s so much to learn.”

Fox Maura notes that “exiles last so much longer than we give credit for, unfortunately. It’s always more recent than we think it is in terms of consequences. The Spanish Civil War ‘ended’ in 1939; [but] it didn’t end in 1939 for the refugees, it ended a lot later.”

Eighty years after La Retirada, and the events that precipitated the Maternity of Elne, many people might not recognize Eidenbenz’s name or her work with refugees. Baer said that “stories of helpers, saviors … unless there’s a specific effort by certain individuals and organizations to bring [these stories] to the public, they will go unnoticed.”

In this still from the new historical dramatic film ‘The Light of Hope,’ Victoria, who considers aiding the French Resistance during World War II, rides her motorcycle through the municipality of Elne. (Courtesy)

Individuals like Eidenbenz “did what they thought was normal,” Baer said. “They did not think they were heroic. We think and look back at it as heroic, an incredible act.”

And, he said, such people did not personally try to publicize their story: “Others need to shed light. It’s an important task. Eidenbenz and others are not visible to the general public. It’s a task for scholars, activists, organizations and advocates, to pursue efforts that mean so much. They embody crucial lessons for our time.”

Quer illustrates one such lesson in the closing credits, connecting Eidenbenz with volunteers helping refugees in Europe today. She said that humanity “does not learn from the acts of the past.”

As she explained Eidenbenz’s heroism 80 years ago: “Elisabeth did not make distinctions between nationalities, race, religion. She wanted to help all women who were pregnant to maintain self-esteem, to fight for the children they had in exile, far from home.”