Polish city of Lublin sees first Jewish wedding in decades

LUBLIN, Poland (JTA) — The city of Lublin in eastern Poland, once a hub of Jewish learning, saw what the local media called its first real Jewish wedding in decades.

Yohanan Petrovsky-Stern and Anastasiia Simferovska, two academics with Ukrainian roots, wed last month in Lublin’s old city at a ceremony described as “probably the first after Holocaust,” the TVP television station reported. Michael Schudrich, the chief rabbi of Poland, conducted the ceremony on Po Farze Square.

A wedding celebration for several dozen guests was held at Ilan, a kosher-style hotel that the Jewish Community of Warsaw opened in 2013 inside what used to be the Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva, staff told JTA on Wednesday. The building, a massive structure built in the Eclecticist style of the 1920s, was opened in 1930 in Lublin, whose 40,000 Jews constituted at least half of its population.

Today, only several dozen Jews live in Lublin. Locals periodically organize fake Jewish weddings here during heritage festivals as a tribute to the city’s rich Jewish past.

The yeshiva once was the most prestigious in Eastern Europe. It also was revolutionary in that its six floors featured a luxurious synagogue, a library with more than 20,000 volumes, spacious classrooms and dormitories, freeing students from worrying about rent and allowing them to immerse themselves in the study of Jewish scripture.

The Nazis confiscated the building in 1939 and burned the library and other artifacts on a square adjacent to the synagogue. The fire raged for 20 hours.

Communists took over the building, at one point turning it into a movie theater. It was finally returned to the Jewish community in 2003; the synagogue reopened in 2007.

Today, the hotel operating there is a 4-star establishment with 42 rooms, 22 staff and an Israeli restaurant. It is a major attraction for Jewish and non-Jewish tourists who arrive in buses from across the region.

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/09/07/news-opinion/polish-city-lublin-sees-first-jewish-wedding-decades

Sweden to create Holocaust museum

(JTA) — Sweden has plans to launch a Holocaust museum with a focus on Holocaust survivors from the Scandinavian country and a center devoted to the diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.

Announcing the decision to create the museum, Swedish Minister of Social Affairs and Sports Minister Annika Strandhall‏ said Tuesday on Twitter that the news “feels more important than ever.”

The museum is likely to be built in Malmo, a city of approximately 350,000 where dozens of anti-Semitic incidents are recorded annually. It is tentatively slated to be ready to open in 2020, the Dagen news website reported.

A center on Wallenberg, who saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust, is expected to attract international visitors, according to Dagen.

The museum will focus on surviving Swedes and collect items, interviews and documents about their experiences. Many of these objects are now scattered at museums, archives and private homes.

In Malmo, first- and second- generation immigrants from the Middle East make up one-third of the population. Several hundred Jews live there.

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/09/06/news-opinion/sweden-build-holocaust-museum

Putin grants authors partial access to secret Soviet archives on Hitler’s death

Investigative journalists Jean-Christophe Brisard and Lana Parshina dig deep into classified Russian materials that are still part of an ongoing Cold War-esque propaganda battle

Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun with their dogs, June 1942. (Bundesarchiv bild)

Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun with their dogs, June 1942. (Bundesarchiv bild)

On May 2, 1945, it was announced to the world that Adolf Hitler and his newlywed wife Eva Braun had committed suicide.

The bearer of the news — Nazi military commander of Berlin Gen. Helmuth Weidling — said that the couple had taken their lives in the Fuhrer’s underground bunker a few days earlier on April 30. According to survivors of the bunker, the bodies of both Hitler and Braun were burned to prevent them from ever being found.

“The Death of Hitler” is a book fundamentally rooted in both these questions.

Written by two investigative journalists and documentary filmmakers from France and Russia — Jean-Christophe Brisard and Lana Parshina — it explores how the cryptic case of Hitler’s burned corpse became a political football between East and West during the Cold War.

French investigative journalist Jean-Christophe Brisard, co-author of ‘The Death of Hitler.’ (Courtesy)

Of course, the mystery of Hitler’s death didn’t end along with the Cold War. It is a subject that still haunts geopolitics in Russia today.

“This story of Hitler’s death really shouldn’t be so sensitive at this moment of history because it’s now [over] 70 years old, but incredibly it still is,” Brisard tells The Times of Israel in a conference call with both authors.

On April 4, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree stipulating that the management, publication, and declassification of all State Archive documents fell directly under the powers of the president himself.

Russian investigative journalist Lana Parshina, co-author of ‘The Death of Hitler.’ (Courtesy)

Both authors believe that Putin overseeing access to the Russian State Archives at this time is no coincidence. They say the Russian president wants to convince the world that the decomposed head that the Russian State Archives currently holds in its possession belongs to Hitler.

Parshina and Brisard both claim that seven decades after Hitler’s death, the narrative has become an important propaganda tool, boosting Putin’s obsession with reconstructing old Stalinist myths into newfound nationalist sentiment in 21st century Russia.

“Putin is using this story so he can rewrite the past,” says Brisard. “Hitler’s death is political. And it was in the Putin Administration’s interest to allow us to dig in their archives.”

Although the pair received incredible access to the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation archives, Brisard says, “I’m almost certain that the [Russian government] is hiding something concerning files on the death of Hitler.”

“We would like to further our investigations,” Brisard says. “But it is very hard to deal with the Russians. It’s so complicated to understand their minds on this issue. But we definitely would like to end this case with the skull and the blueprint on Hitler’s teeth.”

Top secret teeth

‘The Death of Hitler,’ by Lana Parshina and Jean-Christophe Brisard. (Courtesy)

Constant secrecy surrounding Hitler’s death has been the dominant theme of this story. Immediately following Hitler’s death, conspiracy theories flourished as the Cold War intensified. Figuring out exactly how Hitler died became yet another Cold War showdown between East and West.

The Soviets always had the upper hand because they controlled the terrain where Hitler killed himself. Berlin remained under their control until the Potsdam conference on July 1945. Even after it was divided into four zones, the district around the Chancellery, where the Führerbunker was located, remained under Russian command.

In October 1945, the British intelligence services reported that Hitler killed himself by firing a pistol into his mouth. The Russians, meanwhile, claimed Hitler died by swallowing cyanide. This latter narrative fit neatly with the unquestioning postwar Stalinist consensus that Hitler ran from the might of his Communist enemies when he saw that military defeat was upon him.

There have been numerous theories debated at length by historians and conspiracy theorists over the last seven decades about how exactly Hitler committed suicide. One theory combines the British and Soviet intelligence and suggests Hitler took cyanide at the same time that he put the gun to his mouth.

Parshina doubts this theory. “Hitler was showing signs of Parkinson’s in his last days, so how could he possibly shoot himself with his right hand if it was shaking so much from Parkinson’s?” she asks.

“We wanted to use DNA analysis to close this chapter for good, and answer the question: Did Hitler take cyanide or did he shoot himself?” she says.

The so-called ‘Führerbunker’ in the garden of the Reich Chancellery, destroyed in World War II. (Bundesarchiv bild)

“We didn’t find any samples of [bullets] in the mouth,” Brisard adds. “We also know from the testimonies of the witnesses that Hitler had an impact in the temple. So it’s quite possible that he asked his valet, Heinz Linge, to shoot him after he took the cyanide.”

A skull fragment, but whose?

Parshina and Brisard begin their book in April 2016 in the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), where both authors were confronted with a fragment of a skull said to be that of Hitler.

There were numerous reasons for both investigators to disbelieve the legitimacy of this claim. In 2009 an American scientist asserted in a history documentary that the skull belonged not to Hitler but to a woman in her 40s.

In an attempt to answer remaining questions about Hitler’s skull with certainty, both Brisard and Parshina called in a globally renowned forensic scientist, Philippe Charlier, who was given unprecedented access to FSB archives.

Adolf Hitler’s teeth. (Russian State Archives)

The forensic scientist’s medical analysis confirmed the teeth contained within the Russian State Archives match the Nazi dictator’s dental records. Charlier could also confirm that the examination of Hitler’s teeth show no signs of material that would indicate a bullet entered his mouth before death.

Brisard explains the finer technical details. “It’s a historical result,” he says, “Because it’s the first time that a scientist took some [forensic] examples of Hitler’s teeth to analyze them.”

“Philippe Charlier was able to prove, with scientific analysis, that the teeth were not a replica created by the KGB [Soviet State Security],” Brisard says.

“He confirmed that these teeth are from someone from the same time period in which Hitler died, and that they are similar to dental X-rays of Hitler’s teeth that are currently held in archives in Berkeley, California,” he says.

But with the limited evidence that both journalists presently have, trying to identify with scientific exactitude the skull said to be Hitler’s is a step too far.

“We initially got authorizations to analyze this skull with Philippe Charlier,” says Brisard. “But then the officials at GARF decided eventually to oppose us to do so.”

A purported remnant of Adolf Hitler’s skull. (Russian State Archives)

“The people at the Russian State Archives explained to us that for many years this fragment of the skull was a state secret,” he says.

Hitler is definitely dead

Going on the scientific analysis that Charlier was able to come up with so far, both Brisard and Parshina can reach some conclusions — albeit not definitive ones.

Firstly, they can put to bed for good the notion that Hitler faked his own death.

The bullet theory, however, still remains debatable. To categorically prove it would require even more testing on Hitler’s teeth. Further tests on the skull, meanwhile, could potentially unlock a number of questions both authors have — something Moscow isn’t prepared to allow.

“For the skull, we cannot move forward on this matter,” says Brisard.

Both journalists believe the Russian government’s reticence to allow the story the full transparency it deserves is rooted in typical paranoid Soviet historiography.

On May 27, 1945, Joseph Stalin held an official report in his hand from SMERSH — a Soviet war time counterintelligence organization — confirming Hitler’s death was official.

But the Soviet dictator would continue to claim to the world — especially to his political counterparts in Washington at the Potsdam conference in July 1945 — that Hitler was still alive and well, hiding out in Argentina with other prominent Nazis.

A US soldier looks over Hitler’s bed in his underground shelter in Berlin. At right are the remains of his safe. Picture was taken in July 1945. Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945. (AP PHOTO)

Indeed, right up until his own death in 1953, Stalin never publicly admitted that Hitler was dead.

“It was a deep state secret,” says Brisard. “Stalin never talked about it. So this is the very first time we have proof of this huge historical lie.”

Brisard and Parshina’s book has all of the classic ingredients of a vintage Cold War spy novel: treachery, double crossing, bureaucratic confusion, and stark East-West divisions. The book brings numerous testimonies from the three Nazi officers who were the final witnesses before Hitler died: Heinz Linge, Otto Gunsche, and Hans Baur.

Even as late as 1956 all three were brought back from the Soviet Union, where they were imprisoned, to Berlin. There they were interrogated with psychological and physical torture. The sole aim was to get from the witnesses a narrative that matched how the Soviet Union envisioned Hitler’s suicide — a cowardly death by poison.

Parshina recalls how she read through all of the interrogation transcripts from the three remaining Nazi witnesses who were present during Hitler’s final hours at his Berlin bunker.

“In one report we read from one of the spies that shared a cell with Linge [that] Linge wanted to die because he could not take any more interrogation,” she says.

“[The interrogations] were usually at night or in the early hours of the morning, when they were sleep deprived,” Parishna says. “It was also incredible to read just how loyal these prisoners were to Hitler until the end, too. For example, Baur said to the other two witnesses, ‘Never say what really happened.’”

Operation Archive

Brisard and Parshina point out how the KGB secretly moved Hitler’s body a number of times over many years and incinerated it further. Several top classified documents are reproduced in their book detailing this. Remarkably, one comes from as late as 1970, under the name “Operation Archive.”

The destroyed ‘Fuhrerbunker’ in the garden of the World War II Reich Chancellery. (Bundesarchiv bild)

“Operation Archive tells the story of the elimination of whatever remains there were [in 1970] of Hitler’s body,” Parshina says. “The reasons for this were twofold. For starters, the Soviets kept moving their bases within Germany.”

“But there was also the fact that if the remains of Hitler within Germany became known, neo-Nazi groups might start a place of worship and use it as a temple,” Parshina continues. “Just like the way the Soviet Union has a temple in the Lenin Mausoleum in the center of Moscow.”

“At that time, the corpse of Hitler was an irritation for the Soviets because Stalin decided to lie to the rest of the world about Hitler’s death,” Brisard says. “So the Soviets had to keep the story a top state secret. Maybe the Soviets preferred to destroy the evidence of Hitler’s corpse to be sure that nobody would discover Stalin’s lie.”

Investigating the story of Hitler’s death may well be the book’s main premise — but analyzing the subtle leveraging of power by the Kremlin in controlling this narrative is a background leitmotif that runs parallel to the book’s central thread. Arguably, it’s just as important.

“Does this mean there are still some secrets regarding the fate of Hitler’s corpse?” Brisard asks as the interview reaches its conclusion.

“I’m quite sure there are,” he says. “Mainly because there are no pictures at all documenting either Hitler’s corpse or Eva Braun’s.”

Illustrative: Joseph Goebbels with his daughters, Hilde (center) and Helga, at a Christmas celebration in Berlin, 1937 (JTA/German Federal Archives)

Brisard points out how there are numerous pictures and videos available of Joseph Goebbels’s corpse. He committed suicide along with his wife Magda Goebbels; the couple took all six of their children to the grave with them by giving them poison at the Führerbunker on April 30.

The fact that there are pictures of Goebbels’s corpse, but none of Hitler’s, is rather strange, Brisard points out.

“I’m sure the [Russians] are hiding some state secrets inside the Lubyanka,” he says. “What exactly they are — well, we still don’t know the answer to that.”

How the German Jews failed to combat pre-Shoah hatred

By David Aberbach

1893 marked the founding of the C.V – one of the most important Jewish organisations of the pre-Holocaust age. We look at it’s failure to respond effectively to antisemitism.

German infantrymen near Verdun in northern France, scene of a bloody battle between French and German troops (Photo: Getty Images)

The emergence of antisemitic political parties in the 19th century followed increased enfranchisement and free elections: in a democracy, an antisemitic electorate will elect antisemites. By the end of the 19th century there were about 50 antisemitic European parties, and antisemitism as a vote-getter could help win elections.

The German Jews, being the most thoroughly assimilated in the 19th century, were among the most troubled by the rise of antisemitism as it threatened their newly-won emancipation and rights as Germans in the newly-unified state (as of 1871).

To deal with the problem, they founded in 1893 the official communal representative of German Jewry, the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (known as the C.V.).

This became one of the most important Jewish organisations of the pre-Holocaust age (by 1933 the C.V. had about 50,000 members in a community of about 600,000). The C.V. aimed to defend the German Jews against antisemitism – or, as its charter put it, to achieve “the protection of the civil and social rights of the German Jews”.

So, why did the C.V. fail?

Part of the difficulty involved self-image: the C.V. presented itself as a German organisation representing a fiercely patriotic community that saw itself as German first and imagined itself German by nature and could not be anything else. The problem was that most Germans disagreed. Maximilian Horwitz, first president of the C.V., summed up the reality of a hostile society in which Jews were unwanted: “Stepchildren must behave themselves.”

With a highly professional legal team, the C.V. set out to fight antisemitism, rationally, systematically, legally, as Germans, in German interests, out of ‘patriotic duty’ – for anti-Semitism gave Germany a “bad name”.

The C.V. aimed to educate Germans to overcome the “misunderstandings” behind their aversion to Jews. It used all possible legal means to bring antisemites to justice and supported Liberal, Progressive and Social-Democratic parties against the antisemitic German conservatives and nationalists.

To avoid the antisemitic charge of dual loyalty, the C.V., breaking with other Jewish organisations, abandoned the age-old Jewish solidarity world-wide, stating in its 1893 charter that it would give no aid to non-German Jews.

Decades later, Hannah Arendt accused the C.V. of betraying the Jewish people: ‘“When one is attacked as a Jew,” she wrote, “one must defend oneself as a Jew.” In the 1890s, however, when the C.V. was founded, most Jews who fought antisemitism as Jews were Zionists, a tiny minority. The C.V., committed as it was to a “symbiosis” of Jews and Germans, could never accept a Jewish national ideology separating them from their self-perceived German identity.

Until 1933, the C.V. opposed Zionism more strongly than most Arabs in the early 20th century. It attacked Herzl, founder of political Zionism, not for the “toxic infection” of his Jewish self-hatred, as Ernst Pawel called it, but as a dangerous utopian dreamer, effectively serving the interests of antisemites, for he allegedly aimed to give up Jewish emancipation and return to the ghetto. Herzl’s view (expressed in the JC in 1896) that anti-Semitism was ‘the force we need’ for a Jewish national revival was anathema to the assimilated German Jews represented by the C.V.

Perhaps the most important lesson learned by the C.V. is that legal opposition to antisemitism, however successful, is of limited use in an antisemitic society, especially in periods of crisis, military and economic. Prejudice is stronger than facts and reason and cannot easily be defeated by either.

The poison of political antisemitism, writes the historian David Blackbourn, entered the middle classes and nationalist movements, and prepared the way for the Holocaust long before Hitler. Antisemitic language was so widespread, and had been for so many centuries, that it was impossible to classify it as hate-speak.

Subject to the law and protected by the liberal principle of freedom of expression, antisemitic publications were published freely and widely read.

The powerlessness of the C.V. against German antisemitism became especially clear during the 1914-1918 war.

German Jews, over 10 per cent of whom were front-line soldiers, were libelled as malingerers. The C.V. produced irrefutable evidence to the contrary: in a community of 600,000, about 100,000 had served in the German army, 12,000 died and more than 30,000 won the Iron Cross. Once the German public understood that German Jews were staunch patriots and had given everything “in property and blood” – an Gut und Blut – the “misunderstanding” would be cleared up.

The leading C.V. spokesman for “symbiosis” of German and Jewish identity was Eugen Fuchs (1856-1923), who, typically of German Jews, believed that the German side in his make-up was stronger than the Jewish side and that he had more in common with Germans than with Jews. Fuchs was repelled by Zionism and by the taint of a Jewish national identity which might give antisemites ammunition for the expulsion of the German Jews.

The correct response to antisemitism, in Fuchs’ view, was not flight but greater patriotism, more uncompromising deutscher Gesinnung, and suppression of everything that made Jews different. To assimilated Jews like Fuchs, antisemitism was practically justified in relation to the Ostjuden, the Eastern European Jews with their odious Jewish loyalties, described by Zygmunt Bauman as “a large refuse bin of human characteristics into which all that nagged the conscience of the Western Jew and filled him with shame was dumped”.

Factual proof that antisemitic beliefs were based on lies and error could not uproot prejudice. There was also little point in arguing with a racial antisemite that Jews are not a race.

Racists will not hate Jews less if they are shown irrefutable proof that many have blond hair and blue eyes or that their level of criminality is lower than that of the general population; or that they pay more tax, or give more to charity than average; or that most Jews are neither capitalists nor socialists.

It was also futile to prove that the German Jews fought bravely in large numbers at the front. Antisemites, including Hitler, would continue to accuse them of being shirkers.

The C.V. was helpless in the face of popular antisemitism and mainstream intellectual antisemitism, justifying racism and genocide, which pervaded Europe in the century prior to the Holocaust.

A yellow CV sticker translates as ‘Hatred of Jews arises from envy, stupidity and incompetence’ (Photo: PA)

The C.V. did not diminish the influence of intellectual antisemites who justified the destruction of European Jewry, including Jakob Friedrich Fries, Heinrich von Treitschke, Eugen Karl Dühring and Paul de Lagarde. C.V. efforts to prove antisemites wrong might even have encouraged Jew-hatred, rousing suspicions of non-Jews as to why Jews needed the C.V. to protest so emphatically their patriotism. It is striking how widespread, not just in Germany, prejudice of all kinds was in the decades before the Holocaust.

In Germany, “enemies” were everywhere – including the “barbaric” Russians and especially the “decadent”French. France reciprocated with its own hatreds, quite apart from the Jews, among whom the Germans and the Italians took first place.

In England, similar language was common: in World War I, Rudyard Kipling condemned the Germans as “germs of any disease” and after the Russian Revolution, Churchill attacked Bolshevism as a “plague bacillus”.

Even the C.V. itself, committed as it was to fighting prejudice, inadvertently revealed that it had absorbed popular German prejudices, not excluding the Jews.

Its official paper, Im Deutschen Reich, condemned “Russian malice, French thirst for revenge, English deviousness”, and “Serbian lust for murder.”

The aforementioned Eugen Fuchs used even stronger language, as befitted a “German down to my bones”: “murderous Russia”, “insidious England”, “bloodthirsty France”, even Japan’s “yellow highway robbers.”

Contempt for foreign countries and ethnic groups contributed to both world wars. As prejudice was widespread, it could not easily be seen as an evil to be eradicated; consequently, many warnings were ignored and Jews remained loyal to their hate-filled Fatherland.

Zionism, which created at least the possibility of Jewish self-defence against antisemitism, was rejected by most assimilated European Jews as it required that they give up their patriotism and acknowledge a shared national identity with people with whom they, at best, felt no affinity and, at worst, detested. In Germany even after 1933, the C.V. feared that Zionism endangered the standing of German Jews as loyal patriots.

Only when the Nazis forced emigration to Palestine on increasing numbers of German Jews did the C.V. begin to accept that Zionism might be a solution to the Jewish Problem. Even then, the C.V. tended to view emigration as Kopflose Panik – unthinking panic – and many of the older C.V. leaders, fixed in lifelong patriotic devotion to Germany, continued to oppose Zionism with almost the same vehemence with which they fought antisemitism.

Until the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, the C.V., like other German Jewish communal organisations, aimed to support Jews to remain in Germany and to limit emigration. They issued declarations of loyalty to the Nazi regime. Their leaders, including Zionists, tended to see mass emigration as an abdication of responsibility, a weakening in the Jewish struggle for equal rights, and even a betrayal of the Fatherland.

Even those like Rabbi Leo Baeck, religious leader of the German Jews, who pronounced in 1933 the end of German Jewry – Das Ende des deutschen Judentums ist gekommen – did not call for emigration.

It is true that German Jews under Nazi rule found some encouragement in the fact that public opinion in many parts of Germany was sympathetic to and opposed violence. The anti-Jewish boycott was frustrated in 1934–6; courts often ruled in favour of Jews who appealed against anti-Jewish signs, many Germans continued to buy from Jewish shops, and traders traded with Jews. And in general, to the chagrin of Nazi officials, Jews continued to be seen as human beings. Yet, after 1933, the original aim of the C.V. – to fight antisemitism as patriotic German Jews – no longer had credibility in face of the Nazi demonisation.

Hannah Arendt, in a pre-war study of the German Jews, concluded that their patriotism had led them to the delusion that they were “nothing but Germans”. The historian, Peter Gay, who as a child had lived in Berlin, tried to answer the post-war reprimand . . . “and you still thought, after the Nuremberg Laws and other horrors, that you were Germans?’: “But we were Germans. The gangsters who had taken control of the country were not Germans – we were … my parents and I did not think we were living a delusion.”

By 1942, German Jewry was destroyed and Zionism was adopted by most Jews and Jewish organisations, or at least was no longer vehemently opposed. And when the full dimensions of the Holocaust became known, Zionism was accepted faute de mieux as the only political answer to antisemitism. To the present day, there has been no other plausible answer, and antisemites blinded by hatred continue, in effect, to justify Zionism through their hatred.

The failure of Jewish organisations such as the C.V. to respond effectively to antisemitism has haunted diaspora Jewish communities since the war.

For although German-Jewish attachment to Germany was extreme, the pattern of loyalty and reluctance to emigrate was repeated in Jewish communities throughout Europe, even at the moment of betrayal. Even in death, many German Jews continued to dream of Deutschtum and Judentum united.

Paul Celan’s Todesfuge is a death dream joining the German murderer hunting his Jewish victim with Goethe’s golden-haired Margarete and Shulamith from the Songs of Songs, with ashen hair:

a man in the house your golden hair Margarete

he hunts us down with his dogs in the sky he gives us a grave

he plays with the serpents and dreams death comes as a master

from Germany

your golden hair Margarete

your ashen hair Shulamith

Source: https://www.thejc.com/news/news-features/german-jews-failed-combat-pre-holocaust-hate-centralverein-deutscher-staatsb%C3%BCrger-j%C3%BCdischen-glaubens-1.469030

Hundreds of neo-Nazis rally in Stockholm, met by counter-protests

Demonstration ahead of general election fizzles after a couple hours; no violence reported

Supporters of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement chant slogans during a demonstration at the Kungsholmstorg square in Stockholm, Sweden on August 25, 2018. (AFP/ TT News Agency / Fredrik Persson)

Supporters of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement chant slogans during a demonstration at the Kungsholmstorg square in Stockholm, Sweden on August 25, 2018. (AFP/ TT News Agency / Fredrik Persson)

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Around 300 neo-Nazis demonstrated in central Stockholm on Saturday, drawing boos from counter-protesters and politicians.

Under the close watch of a detachment of police in riot gear, members the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM), an anti-European Union, anti-gay, and anti-immigration group, gathered in Kungsholmstorg square in the Swedish capital.

The movement had applied for permission to host a rally for some 3,000 members, far more than the several hundred the event drew, according to Swedish broadcaster SVT.

A six-hour rally was approved by Swedish police, who deployed a strong security presence around Stockholm’s Kungsholmstorg Square. But after just a few hours, the crowds wilted and a march was canceled.

At the edges of the square, hundreds of counter-demonstrators gathered behind a security cordon, shouting slogans and banging the metal barriers in a bid to drown out the NRM speeches.

Among the protesters was Swedish Culture Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke, who was born to a Gambian father and a Swedish mother.

Both the rally and the counter-protests ended peacefully without incident, an AFP correspondent said.

The rally took place ahead of Sweden’s September 9 general election, in which immigration is a key issue.

Supporters of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement hold flags during a demonstration at the Kungsholmstorg square in Stockholm, Sweden on August 25, 2018. (AFP/ TT News Agency / Fredrik Persson)

Sweden, which boasts a long tradition of welcoming refugees and persecuted groups, is experiencing a creeping rise in neo-Nazi activities in public and on social media.

NRM, which was founded in 1997, is a political party which openly promotes a racist and anti-Semitic doctrine and has been described as the country’s most violent Nazi organization by Swedish anti-racism magazine Expo.

Although the group counts a core membership of barely 80 members, it was more active than ever before in 2017, the magazine said earlier this year.

NRM says it wants to usher in a national socialist government.

For the first time in its 21-year history, the NRM will present a list of 24 candidates to run in the elections, although the party is unlikely to pass the 4.0 percent threshold to enter parliament.

One of its candidates is facing a police investigation for raising a flag on April 20 in honor of Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

Writing on Facebook on Saturday, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he wanted to ban neo-Nazi organizations.

“Democracy has always had the right to protect itself from the forces willing to resort to violence to destroy it,” he said.

The neo-Nazi march was among dozens of events held across Stockholm on Saturday, including an animal rights’ march that drew 500 people.

Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/hundreds-of-neo-nazis-rally-in-stockholm-met-by-counter-protests/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=da99ae250c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_08_26_12_32&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-da99ae250c-55812549

Video game swastikas stir unease in Germany

Gaming community welcomes eased censorship rules regarding Nazi symbols, but some fear lifting longstanding ban could fuel far-right radicalization

Founder and game designer at Paint Bucket Games Joerg Friedrich is reflected in a screen displaying a screenshot of his historical resistance strategy game 'Through the Darkest of Times,' featuring officers wearing the Nazi swastika, in Berlin on August 17, 2018. (AFP/John MacDougall)

Founder and game designer at Paint Bucket Games Joerg Friedrich is reflected in a screen displaying a screenshot of his historical resistance strategy game ‘Through the Darkest of Times,’ featuring officers wearing the Nazi swastika, in Berlin on August 17, 2018. (AFP/John MacDougall)

COLOGNE, Germany (AFP) — The first video game to depict Germany’s 1933-45 Nazi era uncensored, showing the swastika and Adolf Hitler, has stirred up debate over whether it’s an advance for artistic freedom or a new danger of radicalization.

“Through the Darkest of Times” was presented this week at Gamescom, Europe’s biggest trade fair for interactive games and entertainment.

In previous games the black swastika on a white-and-red background was replaced with other symbols like triangles, to comply with a German law that generally bans such “anti-constitutional” symbols.

The German edition of last year’s alternative-history blockbuster “Wolfenstein 2” had renamed Hitler and sheared off his signature mustache.

But now regulations have eased and the virtual Nazis wear their authentic symbol on their armbands, and their leader’s facial hair and name have been reinstated.

Founder and game designer at Paint Bucket Games Joerg Friedrich speaks to a reporter next to a screen displaying a screenshot of his historical resistance strategy game ‘Through the Darkest of Times,’ featuring officers wearing the Nazi swastika, in Berlin on August 17, 2018. (AFP/John MacDougall)

“Developers used to be afraid to say what they were talking about, they just made up fantasies,” said Joerg Friedrich, one of the developers of the new game.

“Hitler wasn’t named Hitler but Heiler and had no moustache, there were no more Jews…. That’s problematic, because an entire facet of history has simply been hushed up.”

‘Artistic freedom’

Since early August, the taboo has been broken in Germany.

Pressure from publishers and video game players finally convinced Germany’s entertainment software self-regulation body USK to grant the art form the same freedoms afforded to cinema or theater.

“For the first time, games that take a critical look at the events of the past can be granted approval” in the name of “artistic freedom,” USK director Elisabeth Secker said.

A 1998 court ruling had blocked video games from using Nazi symbols, with judges fearing at the time that children “will grow up with these symbols and insignia and grow accustomed to them.”

Gamers have long chafed at the restrictions, which have often meant a different experience for German players than for those abroad.

“It’s a past that we don’t necessarily have to hide, it can also be a warning,” said Gamescom visitor Michael Schiessl.

Others argue that the swastika should remain taboo, fearing real-world consequences.

Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler is seen in front of a Nazi flag in the video game ‘Wolfenstein II’ (Screen capture: YouTube)

“We shouldn’t play with swastikas,” Family Affairs Minister Franziska Giffey told the Funke newspaper group on Thursday.

Germans above all must “always be conscious of their particular historical responsibility, even today,” she added.

Stefan Mannes, who runs an online information portal on the Third Reich named “The Future Needs Remembrance,” was blunter.

He asked how one could explain to youths who are exposed to swastikas in video games “that they’ll be prosecuted if they spray one on a wall?”

“One doesn’t become a Nazi just by seeing a swastika,” countered Klaus-Peter Sick, a historian at Berlin’s Marc Bloch Centre, a Franco-German social sciences research center.

“Players are intelligent and know how to tell the difference” between fiction and reality, he added.

‘No long wants to return’

What’s more, the USK has only slightly loosened its rules.

There will be no general permission for Nazi signs, but case-by-case decisions on whether their use is “socially appropriate.”

Other art forms have already blazed a trail in recent years, with many movies for the first time daring to satirize the dictator.

Films like “My Fuehrer: The Really Truest Truth about Adolf Hitler” (2007), “Heil: A Neo-Nazi farce” (2015) and “Look Who’s Back” (2015), based on the best-selling novel of the same name, have packed cinemas.

And a new edition of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” — accompanied with reams of historical annotations — was published in 2016.

On the other hand, concern is growing over a resurgent and newly emboldened right-wing extremist and anti-immigration movement.

Leading figures of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party have attacked Germany’s culture of remembrance of Nazi crimes and even sought to rehabilitate its soldiers of the two world wars.

Historian Sick nonetheless sees the video gaming move as another sign of “normalization” in Germany’s relationship with its dark past.

“This society is able to read ‘Mein Kampf’ without becoming nostalgic. The dedicated Nazis are dead,” he argued.

“It’s a generational question: society has transformed itself and is now far from this period to which it no longer wants to return.”

Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/video-game-swastikas-stir-unease-in-germany/

As Holocaust raged, UK officials blamed Jews for rising wartime anti-Semitism

A classified file recently released to a British newspaper lifts the lid on complacency and prejudice at the heart of Winston Churchill’s propaganda ministry

Jews study while taking shelter in an East End wine cellar, London, 1940 (IWM Ministry of Information Second World War Official Collection/ Bill Brandt)

LONDON — British government officials were repeatedly warned of a rising tide of anti-Semitism on the home front during World War II, but took no action to counter it, newly released documents have revealed.

Instead, they said Jews themselves were to blame for any increase in prejudice, and belittled reports of it.

The file, “Anti-Semitism in Great Britain,” contains internal documents from the wartime Ministry of Information, which was charged with monitoring public opinion, pumping out propaganda to maintain morale, and censoring news and information.

Its discovery, The Times reported, “will revive nagging doubts about whether, had the Nazis invaded, Britons would have betrayed or rescued their Jewish neighbours.”

In a May 1943 report to Brendan Bracken — a close confidant of Winston Churchill who served as Minister of Information for much of the war — the ministry’s top civil servant suggested that “there had been a considerable increase in anti-Semitic feeling” since the outbreak of the conflict nearly four years prior.

Brendan Bracken was warned about rising anti-Semitism. (Wikimedia commons/ Yousuf Karsh)

But, continued Cyril Radcliffe, the ministry’s director general, regional officials he had called to a meeting on the subject “regard it as quite beyond argument that the increase of anti-Semitic

feeling was caused by serious errors of conduct on the part of Jews.”

Only Northern Ireland and the northeast of England appeared not to have seen an increase in anti-Semitism. The picture appeared similar in both rural parts of the country and the big industrial cities, as well as in areas, such as Manchester and Leeds, with long-established Jewish communities, and others where few Jews lived.

During the course of the war, as the East End of London was subject to heavy German bombing and mothers and children were evacuated, many Jews were sent to live in areas without large Jewish populations. It has been estimated that half of those evacuated from the East End — the epicenter of the capital’s Jewish community at the time — were Jews.

Radcliffe suggested that resentment against Jewish evacuees was a factor in stoking tensions. Jews, he advised Bracken, had displayed “a lack of pleasant standards of conduct as evacuees.” A further source of complaints reported to him by the ministry’s regional civil servants was the allegation that Jews had “an inordinate attention to the possibilities of the ‘black market.’”

Rationing had produced an illegal trade in goods such as food, clothing and petrol, which allowed those who could afford it to escape the worst of wartime shortages and restrictions.

“I reminded them,” Radcliffe said of his meeting with the officials, “that it was part of the tragedy of the Jewish position that their peculiar qualities that one could well admire in easier times of peace, such as their commercial initiative and drive, and their determination to preserve themselves as an independent community in the midst of the nations they lived in, were just the things that told against them in wartime when a nation dislikes the struggle for individual advantages and feels the need for homogeneity above everything else.”

Radcliffe recommended a low-key approach of action. “I thought that our main contribution from headquarters would be to try to keep before people’s minds the recollection that anti-Semitism was peculiarly the badge of the Nazi,” he wrote to Bracken.

He also appeared to fear that countering Jew-hate might simply publicize anti-Semitic myths.

Heaps of rubble and the toppling skeletons of ruined houses were all that remained of what were working-class homes in the Hudson Road, Canning Town, East End of London, on March 26, 1941. (AP Photo)

Referring to a March 1943 stampede at a bomb shelter in the East End’s Bethnal Green that killed 173 people — and which had been falsely blamed on panicking Jews — Radcliffe wrote: “If specific stories hostile to the Jews could be traced and pinned down as untruths, such as the recent canard of the Jews being responsible for the London shelter disaster, this should be done by countering it with the individuals who were putting it about, not by giving it general publicity.”

Another document unearthed by The Times drips with contempt for British Jews’ fears about anti-Semitism.

After a high-profile black market case in Salford in Greater Manchester, a local Ministry of Information civil servant reported to London that there had been “anxiety among the Jews culminating in the visit of two representative Jews to the regional office.”

At the meeting, the community’s emissaries suggested employers were discriminating against Jews, highlighting the fact that local councils were — despite shortages — failing to employ Jewish nurses.

A brigadier with Canadian units in England, February 10, 1941, receives a wallet as a token from evacuated East End London children. (AP Photo)

Their concerns went unheeded. “It appears that the Jewish leaders are so anxious to avoid admitting that ‘The People’ have been especially blameworthy in black markets that they are unwilling to take strong spiritual and communal action,” the memo suggested. “Blindness to facts and alternate periods of arrogance and whines are unlikely to endear the Jewish cause to Britain.”

A London civil servant noted approvingly the “reasoned arguments put forward in this memorandum.”

At other times, officials simply displayed complacency. Shortly after Radcliffe’s memo to Bracken, the minister invited Margaret Corbett Ashby, a Liberal party politician, feminist and suffragette, to a committee he had convened to advise him on the problem.

Corbett Ashby told Bracken and his officials of her alarm about increased anti-Semitism. The latter subsequently did their best to downplay her warnings.

One civil servant examined the weekly reports of the Special Branch, the police unit which works with Britain’s security services to combat extremism and subversion at home, for examples of anti-Semitism.

He listed six instances dating back over the previous six months. They included stickers plastered on doors and windows of businesses in the heavily Jewish area of Shoreditch in the East End which featured two Jews and the words: “Britannia rules the waves — yeth, but we rule Britannia”; a fascist publication; a far-right pamphlet which blamed Jews for anti-Semitism; and anti-Semitic graffiti such as “Down with the filthy Jews” and “burn the Jews” in parts of London, Manchester and Hove, a seaside town in southeast England with a large Jewish population.

“You will agree that there is nothing in all this to suggest anything in the nature of organised activity, at any rate on an important scale,” the official wrote. The colleague to whom his memo was passed wrote dismissively on it: “I did not think that Mrs. Corbett Ashby’s account showed signs of careful consideration.”

The file indicates politicians sometimes lent the community a more sympathetic ear than their civil servants.

Winston Churchill’s first Minister of Information, Duff Cooper, lent the community a sympathetic ear. (Public domain)

Bracken’s predecessor, Duff Cooper, supported a Jewish homeland in Palestine and had resigned from prime minister Neville Chamberlain’s cabinet in protest of the 1938 Munich Agreement which appeased Hitler’s aggression towards Czechoslovakia. In early 1941, Anthony de Rothschild, who had founded the Central British Fund for German Jewry to assist the Nazis’ first victims, wrote to him laying out the UK community’s anxieties.

“There is an impression that there has been of recent weeks a growth of anti-Semitism in the country and there is some reason for supposing that it may not be unconnected with enemy propaganda, although this is hard, of course, to establish,” de Rothschild argued.

“Representatives of the Jewish community in London have considered the matter and are naturally perturbed from their own point of view, but it also seems to them that developments on this line help the enemy and damage the war effort,” he wrote.

He proposed a radio broadcast labeling anti-Semitism as a threat to Britain.

Cooper’s response was warm. “My dear Tony,” he began, “I shall be very pleased to have a talk with you about the important matter.” Four months later, however, Churchill moved him to another government post.

As The Times notes, “the depths of the horrors uncovered by the liberators” in 1945 meant that “anti-Semitism became taboo.” However, the paper added, “there was a price to pay for the British authorities’ tolerance of anti-Semitism” during the war. It cited the anti-Jewish rioting which occurred in 1947 in the UK after the Irgun hanged two British sergeants in mandate-era Palestine in retaliation for the execution of three of its members.

Although nobody was killed, the violence — which was worst in Liverpool and Manchester in northwest England and the Scottish city of Glasgow — shocked many. Even the newspapers which had sensationalized the British soldiers’ murder swiftly called for calm, branding the weekend’s disturbances “a national disgrace.”

Moreover, while events in Palestine had been the immediate cause, the link between wartime anti-Semitism and its thankfully brief violent post-war manifestation was a clear one. Britain was already struggling under the weight of the cost of the war and reconstruction, with austerity imposed by the government and rationing and controls still largely in place. In 1947, these difficulties were compounded by a sharp economic downturn and rising unemployment.

Jews, historian Tony Kushner has suggested, became a scapegoat, being seen as “black marketeers gaining from the war but not contributing to the effort.”

While the Ministry of Information had closed its doors the previous year, the anti-Semitic myths it failed to tackle during the war lingered on.

Polish candidate fires aide over anti-Semitic Facebook post he wrote as a teen

WARSAW (JTA) — A Warsaw mayoral candidate has fired one of his campaign aides over a 2010 Facebook post advocating the murder of Jews when he was 15.

Patryk Jaki, the deputy justice minister in Poland, dismissed Michal Szpadrowski on Thursday, the Polish news site Wiadomosci reported Thursday.

Szpądrowski joked in the post about shooting Jews with an assault rifle after a friend wrote on his Facebook page that “tomorrow is the raid of the Jews on Warsaw! A Boeing 747-400 is arriving from TLV. If you want, we will go at 6.20am to the airport and welcome them with gas.”

“If it was not so early,” Szpądrowski replied, “I would greet them with a … Kalashnikov.”

In this 2010 Facebook post, Michał Szpądrowski joked about shooting Jews with a Kalashnikov. (Wiadomosci)

Following his firing, Szpądrowski tweeted that his remarks were “shameful” and he had made a donation to the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland. He also declared that he was a “decisive enemy” of totalitarian ideologies and deeply respected the Jewish nation, “its suffering, history and culture.”

View image on Twitter

Michał Szpądrowski@MichalSzpader
Jaki, a member of the ruling Law and Justice Party, is a right-wing populist who has said that Poland’s controversial law on Holocaust rhetoric, which bans falsely blaming the Polish state and people for “crimes against peace, crimes against humanity or war crimes” committed during World War II, provided his country with “catharsis.”

“I am not saying that we shouldn’t speak about difficult moments in the history of any country, any nation,” he told Reuters in February. “But if we are to build our international image as a state, we should base it on positive things.”

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/08/23/top-headlines/polish-candidate-fires-aide-anti-semitic-facebook-post-wrote-teen#.W4AkNU_-BQE.email