Bintel Blog

Jewish 'Fans' of Auschwitz?

By Devra Ferst

It seems like an oxymoron to be a Jew and be a “fan” of Auschwitz, but there are thousands of such fans.

They’re not fans of the infamous concentration camp, but rather “fans” of the Auschwitz Memorial page on Facebook. The Auschwitz Museum in Poland launched the page earlier this week, and museum officials have since posted on it historical facts about the Holocaust, a discussion board and a photo gallery.

“If our mission is to educate the younger generation to be responsible in the contemporary world, what better tool can we use to reach them than the tools they use themselves?” Auschwitz Museum official Pawel Sawicki told Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot.

The Auschwitz Museum first reached out to a younger audience online with a YouTube channel earlier this year.

Other Holocaust memorials and museums, such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem, have already branched out to Facebook, but none as successfully as the Auschwitz Memorial, which has already surpassed the number of fans of the other two.

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Poll: Israeli Ill Will Toward Germany Is Dissipating

By Nathan Jeffay

Is bad will towards Germany vanishing from Israeli society?

Once, it was common to hear people say they refuse to buy German goods. A new Hebrew University poll reveals that today only 6% of Israeli citizens today do so.

In fact, Israelis are pretty engaged with German culture. A third of respondents said they had watched a German movie of recent.

Among Jewish Israelis, pollsters found that some 61% are very satisfied with how Germany has dealt with Holocaust memorial and four in five think that Germany today is a “different Germany” to that which carried out the Holocaust. When the same pollsters asked that question on several occasions during the 1980s, the figure was always fifty-something percent.

In the new poll, when asked about German’s role in the Middle East, Jewish Israelis were very positive. Some 54% said they have confidence in Germany — 9% more than have confidence in France. Interestingly, only 27% of Israeli Arabs said they have confidence in Germany. This reflects a feeling among Arabs that Germany is pro-Israel. But it goes deeper.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Richard Koebner Minerva Centre for German History, Israel, Germany, Holocaust

Elie Wiesel Interviewed by a Fiery Evangelical

By Nathan Guttman

During the 2008 presidential campaign fiery evangelical leader John Hagee got into trouble after a sermon had surfaced in which he suggested that the Holocaust was a divine act meant to drive the Jews to the land of Israel.

This sermon led Republican presidential candidate John McCain to reject Hagee’s endorsement and distance himself from the controversial pastor.

Hagee, the leader of Christians United for Israel, has since worked to explain his views and prove his credentials to the Jewish community.

This week, Hagee invited Nobel laureate Ellie Wiesel to be his guest for an hour-long interview on his TV show.

The highlight of the interview: Hagee repeatedly attempts to make a tie between the Holocaust era and the current threats facing Israel from Iran. Wiesel stresses there is no comparison you can make to the Holocaust, although he is also alarmed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

And more on Hagee and the Holocaust remembrance: Last month his group sponsored a two week trip for Christian students to Poland and Israel, similar to the March of the Living trips taken by many Jewish teens.

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Madonna at Auschwitz

By Jay Michaelson

The Jewish blogosphere is abuzz with reports that Madonna has plans to take her children, Lourdes (12) and Rocco (9) to Auschwitz, when the singer visits Poland as part of an upcoming tour. According to a report initially published in the British Daily Mirror, but circulated widely in the Jewish community by Ynetnews, a source close to the signer says that “It won’t be an easy trip but it is an ultimate life affirming experience, and one Madonna — because of her strong Kaballah [sic] beliefs [sic] – does not want to ignore.”

It’s easy to criticize Madonna’s choice. Is nine too young to understand the gravity of the holocaust? (Not according to my grade school teachers.) Is anything connected with Madonna and/or Judaism and/or Kabbalah to be treated with derision? Personally, though, having just returned from a trip to Auschwitz myself (see related ‘Polymath’ column), I think the decision is a sound one. It’s all well and good to study Kabbalah and mysticism on sunny summer days – but can your theology and spirituality withstand the truth of the holocaust? And while the subtleties of Nazi genocide may well be lost on pre-teen kids, the general narrative will not be.

I just hope Madonna also gets to enjoy the sights of Krakow – there’s a great nightclub called “Kitsch” that I think she’d enjoy, plus the grave of the RaMaH, a great Torah sage. I guess there aren’t that many people who would appreciate both – but I bet Madonna would.

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Study: Children of Survivors Fare Better Than Expected

By Nathan Jeffay

It’s a story you hear time and time again in Israel and in the Diaspora. Somebody made it through the Nazi death camps and went on to lead a relatively normal life after the war, but for years, did not speak of their experiences to their nearest and dearest. In numerous cases, the survivor in question carried them to the grave.

For many years after the Holocaust, it was extremely common for survivors to keep silent about their experiences. Then in recent decades the prevailing opinion has been that it is good to talk — especially in a family setting. The survivor’s silence, goes the theory, results in a damaged relationship with his or her children, who often suffer effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

A new piece of Haifa University research takes issue with this now-mainstream view: Only 20% of survivors’ children suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and they don’t really have an emotional need to hear their parents’ experiences, according to Haifa sociologist Carol Kidron, whose research on the subject has just been published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Current Anthropology.

Kidron interviewed 55 children of Holocaust survivors, the vast majority of whom revealed that their only knowledge of their parents’ Holocaust experiences was transmitted to them via taken-for-granted everyday interpersonal interaction.

This, she found, leads to a “knowledge” and presence of the Holocaust that, despite remaining unspoken, contributes to the life experiences and shapes the personality of the person exposed to it.

The people interviewed were able to get a sense of their parents’ experiences through the unspoken. One recalled hearing a parent’s nightly cries; another remembered wondering about the numbers branded on a parent’s arm; several described watching their parents reminiscing or looking through old photographs or memorabilia.

The silent day-to-day presence of Holocaust memories that the descendents of Holocaust survivors gleaned sufficed, Kidron argued in her report: As children, they frequently felt no need to question their parents in depth. They had no desire to document their families’ Holocaust history. An overwhelming majority of interviewees — 95% — said that they were not interested in telling the story of their parents’ Holocaust experiences in the public domain, or their own.

In Kirdon’s words: “By forming an experiential matrix, these silent traces maintain an intimate and non-pathological presence of the Holocaust death-world in the everyday life-world.”

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Impressed by Israel, Not Sold on the Holocaust?

By Nathan Jeffay

Earlier this month, the Bintel Blog reported that Israeli Arabs were overwhelmingly impressed by the achievements of the State of Israel and keen to continue living here. It’s indicative of the increasingly complex identity of Israeli Arabs that new research out shows that the percentages who are prepared to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is taking a sharp downturn.

Even more noteworthy is the fact that two out of every five Israeli Arabs claims that the Holocaust never occurred.

Haifa University’s index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel carries out an annual survey of attitudes among the Israeli Arab public. When it was launched in 2003, 65.6% recognized Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. This year, the percentage dipped to 41%.

The percentage claiming this year that the Holocaust never happened — 41% — is a sharp increase from the 26% who made this claim in the 2006 survey. Some 37% of those denying the Holocaust in this year’s survey are products of post-secondary school and higher education.

In other statistics, 53.7% of Israeli Arabs recognize Israel’s right to exist as an independent state, compared to 81.1% in 2003. Just 56% agree that the right of return of Arab refugees should only be to a future Palestinian state — and not to Israel — compared to 72.2% in 2003.

Some 41.4% said that they participated in the past year in protests, compared to 28.7% who did so in 2003.

Regarding the use of violence, 12.6% support use of all means, including violence, in the struggle to improve their situation, compared to 5.4% in 2003.

The survey also indicated that Israeli Arabs are becoming less enthusiastic about social interaction with Israeli Jews. The percentage opposed to the idea of having a Jewish neighbor has almost doubled since 2003, from 27.2% to 47.3%.

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Joint Ventures: Green Leaf vs. Green Leaf Graduates

By Nathan Jeffay

You have probably heard the joke about the Jew on a desert island who built two synagogues, so he could attend one and assiduously avoid the other. That’s all the explanation you need as to why there are more than 30 parties running in Israel’s election next Tuesday.

Parties here split more regularly then amoeba. Last year here was a breakaway from the Pensioners Party. From the sublime to the ridiculous, in the run-up to this election the party campaigning for the legalization of marijuana has split.

Now the original party, Green Leaf, decided to go for some bold electioneering. Its campaign video shows a party activist on the grave of Israel’s first Prime Minister David smoking what appeared to be a joint; it implies Ben-Gurion’s posthumous support for the party’s platform.

Not wanting to be outdone by their former allies, the breakaway faction, Green Leaf Graduates, invoked some even more emotive backing. “For us, the Holocaust survivors, our moral obligation is to legalize it [marijuana],” says an elderly man, Yaakov Kfir, in their election video.

In fact, Green Leaf Graduates have actually merged their party for purposes of the election with the Holocaust Survivors Party, which is fighting for pension rights for survivors. The survivors felt that a joint ticket was the best way of getting high support for their cause.


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Bishop Williamson in His Own Words

By Nathaniel Popper

Richard Williamson, who recently had his excommunication from the Catholic Church revoked, denies the reality of the Holocaust. Here are a few of his controversial statements.

I think that two to three hundred thousand Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps but none of them by gas chambers. -*Richard Williamson, 2009 interview *

A portion of that interview follows.

In the Catholic Middle Ages the Jews were relatively impotent to harm Christendom, but as Catholics have grown over the centuries since then weaker and weaker in the faith, especially since Vatican II, so the Jews have come closer and closer to fulfilling their substitute-Messianic drive towards world dominion. -Richard Williamson, 2001 letter

To read the letter in its entirety, click here.

There was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies. The Jews created the Holocaust so we would prostrate ourselves on our knees before them and approve of their new State of Israel. -Richard Williamson, 1989 speech


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Oprah Speaks Out on Holocaust Memoir Hoax

By Eleanor Goldberg

It’s been nearly a month since Berkley Books pulled Herman Rosenblat’s fictionalized Holocaust memoir, “Angel at the Fence.” But only now is the defamed author — whose Nazi-era love story was exposed as a hoax in the New Republic — facing an even more daunting consequence of his actions: Oprah Winfrey’s verdict.

Oprah had interviewed Rosenblat and his wife, Roma, twice on her show; she hailed their tale as “the single greatest love story, in 22 years of doing this show, we’ve ever told on air.”

But aside from a December 27 disclaimer on Oprah.com, the talk show queen only recently opened up about the incident. “I’m very disappointed,” she told her audience, during the taping of a January 15 episode. “That’s what happens with lies. They get bigger and bigger and bigger.”

According to Oprah, Rosenblat offered to “explain himself” on her popular daytime show, but his lawyer ultimately squashed the plan.

Oprah’s response to Rosenblat was a mere peep in comparison to her on-air chastising of “James Frey, whose memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” was discredited after it had been featured prominently on “Oprah.”


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Yom HaShoah

By Daniel Treiman

Here’s the view from Jerusalem on this somber day, courtesy of Jewlicious.

Here is a selection of Yom Hashoah-related news and commentary:

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Tony Judt’s Particularism Problem

By Daniel Treiman

First, historian Tony Judt griped that the character of the Israeli state was too Jewish, labeling it the “an anachronism.”

Now, he’s complaining that the lens through which we view the Holocaust is too Jewish. He warns that we’re exaggerating the threat posed by contemporary antisemitism, and that in tying “the memory of the Holocaust so firmly to the defense of a single country — Israel — that we are in danger of provincializing its moral significance.”

Read Tony Judt’s latest New York Review of Books polemic against particularism (Jewish particularism in particular) here.


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Sneak Peek: The Bielski Brothers on the Silver Screen

By Alana Newhouse

Have a look here at the trailer for “Defiance,” Ed Zwick’s take on the story of the Bielski brothers, who organized what is widely considered to have been the largest group of Jewish partisans during World War II. The movie stars Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber, among others, and is set for release in late 2008.

Hat tip: Ricky Bell-Peled, my long-lost friend from high school and a grand-niece of the Bielski brothers.


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Yoko Ono’s Lens on the Holocaust

By Aram David

Yoko Ono has decided to donate a pair of eyeglasses to a Liverpool exhibit aimed at raising awareness of the Holocaust, and is also giving £10,000 to aid in the production of the event. According to the Liverpool Echo, several other celebrities, such as Stephen Fry, Ronnie Corbett and Jerry Springer, will be donating glasses for the RESPECtacles display at Liverpool’s Town Hall.

The idea behind the display is to mirror the pile of glasses from Holocaust victims at Auschwitz. Organizers of the RESPECtacles display have already collected more than 1,000 pairs of glasses. The glasses will eventually be donated to people who need glasses in the developing world.

“It is an honour to be part of such a symbolic piece of artwork which will help people to learn how important it is never to forget the horrors of the Holocaust and to challenge hatred and prejudice wherever it arises,” Ono said.


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Reparations and the Couch

By Daniel Treiman

A group representing children of Holocaust survivors is demanding that Germany cover the costs of psychiatric treatment to alleviate cross-generational trauma they suffer. The group filed a class-action lawsuit in Tel Aviv calling for establishment of a fund to pay for regular therapy sessions for 15,000 to 20,000 people, Time magazine reports.

Commentary’s Gabriel Schoenfeld thinks the lawsuit is “preposterous.”


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Worst… Book Title… Ever

By Daniel Treiman

mobile modernity

Wondering what the book’s about? Fortunately, there’s this informative back-cover testimonial from Stanford literature professor Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht:

Reading the texts of a culture that could only achieve its Germanness by being so utterly Jewish, along the lines of the 20th-century’s terminal mass migrations, Todd Presner’s book opens our 21st-century eyes to a new way to narrate — and to be obsessed with — the Holocaust, i.e. that which will never be arrested in concepts because it forever exceeds our conventional thought and imagination.

Thanks for clarifying, Prof. Gumbrecht!


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The Rebbe and the Shoah

By Daniel Treiman

There have long been those within ultra-Orthodox Jewry who regarded the Holocaust as divine punishment for what they saw as the sins of the Jews: Zionism, liberalism, irreligiosity, religiosity they disliked, etc. Most recently, former Israeli chief Sephardic rabbi, Mordecai Eliyahu, placed the blame for the Nazi genocide on Reform Judaism.

According to a respected Holocaust scholar, the most famous (and also most controversial) figure produced by 20th-century ultra-Orthodoxy, the Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, articulated similar views. In an article in the Israeli daily Haaretz, historian Yehuda Bauer writes:

On the subject of the Holocaust, the Rebbe wrote as follows: “It is clear that ‘no evil descends from Above,’ and buried within torment and suffering is a core of exalted spiritual good. Not all human beings are able to perceive it, but it is very much there. So it is not impossible for the physical destruction of the Holocaust to be spiritually beneficial. On the contrary, it is quite possible that physical affliction is good for the spirit” (“Mada Ve’emuna,” Machon Lubavitch, 1980, Kfar Chabad).

Schneerson goes on to compare God to a surgeon who amputates a patient’s limb in order to save his life. The limb “is incurably diseased … The Holy One Blessed Be He, like the professor-surgeon…seeks the good of Israel, and indeed, all He does is done for the good…. In the spiritual sense, no harm was done, because the everlasting spirit of the Jewish people was not destroyed.”

The Rebbe’s stance, therefore, is clear: The Holocaust was a good thing because it lopped off a disease-ravaged limb of the Jewish people — in other words, the millions who perished in the Holocaust — in order to cleanse the Jewish people of its sins.

Read Bauer’s full article here.

UPDATE: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov of Uruguay’s Beit Chabad wrote this response to Bauer’s article.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Holocaust, Chabad, the Rebbe, Yehuda Bauer




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