The Shmooze

There Was a Miss Hitler Pageant — And it Just Got Cancelled

By Anne Cohen

Alina Voronina from Moscow poses for the contest

Last week, Vocativ reported that VKontakte, essentially Russia’s version of Facebook, was hosting a Miss Hitler Pageant.

As one would expect, people got a little upset about it.

Hosted on the site’s Adolf Hitler page, the Miss Ostland pageant, as it’s officially known, called on women “who hate Jews” to share their most “sexy Nazi pics” of themselves. Admirers of all things Hitler (the page had 7,000 followers) would then vote for the most beautiful anti-Semite in all the land (to see pictures of the main contenders, click here).

Fortunately, people seemed to have regained their sanity, and the contest has been cancelled. Vocativ reports that the page has been taken down. VKontakte’s head of public relations George Lobushkin told Vocativ that “loading, storing, publishing, disseminating, making available or otherwise using any information which: propagandizes and/or contributes to racial, religious, ethnic hatred or hostility, propagandizes fascism or racial superiority,” violates the site’s Terms of Service.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest Aryan of them all? I guess we’ll never know.

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Hoops Star Sorry for Holocaust Memorial Selfie

By Forward Staff

Danny Green poses for selfie at Holocaust Memorial in Berlin/Facebook

San Antonio Spurs star Danny Green went to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, where his team was playing an exhibition game. Nothing wrong with that.

He took a selfie amid the stark granite reminders of the millions who died in the Shoah. Nothing really wrong with that, although some might find his pose a bit insensitive, as noted by Deadspin, which first reported the incident.

Then he posted it to Instagram with the caption: “You know I had to do it one time lol #Holocaust.” Plenty wrong with that.

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Fleeting Jewish Fragments In 'The Notebook'

By Masha Leon

To my knowledge, there seem to be only two Hungarian films that address the plight of the country’s Jews during the Holocaust.

One is the 1983 gem “Revolt of Job.” Now, there’s the puzzling macabre “The Notebook” (“Le Grand Cahier”) which hints at Hungarian Jews’— one scene shows the Jewish population of a small rural town being taunted by their Hungarian neighbors, another, filmed by an overhead camera, shows men, women and children being herded through a narrow street passage — suggesting cattle being driven to slaughter.

With a cast of characters out of a Grand Guignol theatre piece, one of the few people in the film to show kindness to the film’s central characters — real life twin brothers Andras and Laszlo Gyemant — is the town’s Jewish shoemaker. Improbably another is a menshlich — and possibly a pedophile — Nazi officer.

Sony Pictures Classic

It’s WWII, and the boys have been brought by their loving, doting, cosmopolitan mother to their peasant grandmother for safekeeping. A huge grotesque apparition brilliantly acted by Piroska Molnar she singlehandedly manages a farm set on a bleak barren landscape. You recoil — yet can’t take your eyes off the screen — as in a modern day version of the Hansel & Gretel fairytale, the grandmother — aka “The Witch” — works the boys to within a breath of death. Still, the boys, as they had been joined in utero by an umbilical cord, continue to cling to one another training themselves to withstand the often hard-to-witness brutality at the hands of the townsfolk and others. Each day they write everything down in their notebook.

In a rare emotional display they exact brutal revenge for the murder of the Jewish shoemaker who had shown them kindness. Based on Agota Kristol’’s best- seller “The Notebook” (Le Grand Cahier) I was stunned by director Janos Szasz’s merciless j’accuse showcasing the brutality of his country and landsmen. Perhaps it is intended to validate what I have heard many a Hungarian survivor aver, “I will never again set foot in Hungary!”

In “Revolt of Job” it is a Christian child adopted from an orphanage by an elderly barren Jewish couple — in exchange for two cows —who, in the end, witnesses his adopted parents taken away by Hungarian authorities to what was understood to be their death. In “The Notebook” the ultimate cruel twist is the grotesque grandmother who wins the allegiance of the boys when their mother and later father — separately — –return to reclaim them, holding onto them for her own reasons.

Grippingly filmed by Christian Berger there is no resolution or answers at the end when the twins make an unexpected final decision about their post war future.

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Zara Pulls Striped 'Holocaust' Shirt

By JTA

The international clothing chain Zara has apologized for offering for sale a blue and white striped shirt with a six –pointed yellow star on the chest.

The shirt, for toddler boys, is identified on the Zara Israel website as a “striped sheriff t-shirt,” but Israelis on social media have called it everything from poor taste to anti-Semitic.

The yellow star has the word sheriff cut out in small letters.

The company has removed the stock from its warehouses and plans to destroy it, according to the Israeli business daily Globes. The shirt also was available on Zara’s French, Albanian and Swedish websites.

“We express our sincere apologies for any hurt to our customers’ feelings,” the company said in a statement.

The shirt remained on the Zara Israel internet site as of early Wednesday afternoon.

In September 2007, Zara removed a handbag with swastikas embroidered in it. The handbags were manufactured in India and inspired by commonly used Hindu symbols, which include the swastika.

In 2009, the Spanish retailer removed Christmas trees from the windows of its stores in Israel after complaints from customers.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Anti-Defamation League made a statement about the shirt.

“The shirt emblazoned with the yellow star is in poor taste and is deeply offensive to Jews and Holocaust survivors. To anyone who knows their history, this kind of imagery should be off-limits. We welcome Zara’s recognition of the shirt’s potentially offensive imagery and removal from sale,” said ADL National Director and Holocaust survivor, Abe Foxman.

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Nazi-Themed Spaghetti? Why Not.

By Anne Cohen

How about a side of Hitler with your pasta?

Taiwan restaurant owner Tsao Ya-sin caused quite an uproar when she unveiled her latest Italian special: “Long Live Nazi Spaghetti.”

Why the Third Reich theme? Tsao explains that the dish has German sausage in it.

Tsao was also quoted as saying that she just “wanted to get customers attention” — but sharp reprimands from both the Israeli and German embassies in Taiwan was probably not was Ya-sin had in mind.

What’s more, the dish has apparently been on the menu since Rock Hill’s grand opening — last year. But don’t worry: In light of the controversy, the dish has been renamed to “World Champion Spaghetti” —  in honor of Germany’s World Cup victory.

{h/t Grubstreet]

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Robin Williams' Most Jewish Moments

By Rachel X. Landes

Robin Williams wasn’t Jewish. But he was close.

Though raised Episcopalian in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (his mother was a Christian Scientist), the comedian had an affinity for Jews which shaped and even defined many of the roles he took on. He used Yiddish, danced a mean hora and did a killer Barbra Streisand impression.

With his death — in the words of Steve Martin (also not Jewish — but, come on) — we have lost a “mensch, a great talent and genuine soul.”

Let’s take a look at Robin WIlliams most Jewish moments.

1) Mrs. Doubtfire: Robin does “Fiddler”


2) The Crazy Ones: “Rabbi Robin” hosts a bar mitzvah



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Who Would Pay $26K for Lampshade Made of Holocaust Victim's Skin?

By JTA

A Romanian watchdog on anti-Semitism complained to police about the sale online of an item advertised as a lampshade made of the skin of a Holocaust victim.

The lampshade was advertised online by an unidentified individual from Targu Jiu, located 145 miles northwest of Bucharest, who priced the lapshade at $26,800, the Antena 1 news channel reported on Saturday.

The Center for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism in Romania, or MCA Romania, wrote a letter to the county’s police and to Romanian Police Chief Viorel Salvador Caragea to prevent “this despicable trade,” which MCA Romania said is “outrageous and macabre.”

The group was not able to verify the claim that the lampshade is made of human remains, Maximillian Marco Katz told JTA.

“We will let the authorities to deal with it,” he said. “The fact is that the ad is still published so the seller was not bothered by the TV’s inquiry of the matter. Even if this is a hoax, the seller should be brought to justice for abusing the Holocaust for personal gains.”

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'The Passenger': Holocaust On And Below Deck

By Masha Leon

Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s 1968 opera “The Passenger,” which Lincoln Center Festival and Park Avenue Armory co-presented at the Armory, offered a soupcon of “Titanic” vibes with its 1960’s Brazil-bound ocean liner’s huge white funnel and its first class carefree passengers — elegant in all-white suits and gowns — waltzing to an orchestra’s calming beat.

Among the dancers, Walter (Joseph Kaiser), a 50-year old German diplomat and his 37-year old wife Liese (Michele Breedt) who suddenly panics when she recognizes one of the passengers –a former inmate of Auschwitz—at a time when she was a 22-year-old SS Overseer.

The below deck set is a can-almost taste, smell, and touch recreation of a concentration camp setting with women’s barracks housing an assemblage of multinational, head-shaved, inmates in striped garb: Polish Marta 34, French Yvette 22, Czech Vlasta 20, Polish Krystina 28, Bronka, 50, 21-year old Russian partisan Katya, 18-year old Jewish Hannah and 25-year old Teadeus, Marta’s fiancée.

Performed in English by members of the Houston Grand Opera, directed by David Pountney with Patrick Summer conducting the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, the program notes inform that the work was “deemed a perfect masterpiece by Weinberg’s mentor Dmitri Shostakovich”. In the realm of Holocaust re-creation, the presentation of the wretched women with their heads shaved and loose striped dresses ”The Passenger” stands alongside the visceral cinematic “Shoah” masterpiece “The Last Stop” “(Ostatni Etap”) by Wanda Jakubowska which she shot in 1948 at Auschwitz (using some of the camp’s survivors) and the only Holocaust film directed by a woman.

Polish-Jewish Weinberg — who escaped from Warsaw and ended up in the Soviet Union during WWII — never lived to see the opera performed. In the program notes Pountney notes “the Soviets didn’t want anything to do with pity for the Jews’ anything that did no actively further the Communist agenda was officially condemned as ‘Abstract Humanism’” a phrase Pountney noted “used by the Nazis vis a vis Red Cross inspections of the camps.’” Admitting that “The Passenger” is not a modern opera but a “time capsule,” he mounted its first full production in 2010 at the Bregenz Festival in Austria.”

Liese’s brutality to the woman as an SS Overseer is staggering. There is a love sub-plot, but mainly the opera is a musical j’accuse plea. As each woman prisoner sings her lament—the Russian (Kelly Kaduce) opts for a lullaby —the depth of each woman’s despair and hope is spelled out in a plea “Do not forget!” and to the fellow women prisoners, the promised: “I swear I will never forget you!

Most likely the nearly 1000-strong audience sitting on the floor-to-Armory ceiling highly raked tiered seats will not forget “The Passenger” operatic voyage.

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3.2 Gazillion 'Nazi' Jokes on Twitter for World Cup

By Rachel X. Landes

As Germany hammered Brazil during the World Cup match yesterday 7-1, Twitter exploded in reaction tweets. With a record 36.6 million tweets were sent out during the match, the Germany-Brazil match became the most discussed sports event in Twitter history.

Unsurprisingly a large fraction of those tweets were, well, Nazi jokes.

Of course the ever obvious:

Some pointed out the problem of Holocaust jokes:

And others attempted to be clever:

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A Concentration Camp Poster For Your Home, On Sale at Walmart

By Gabe Friedman

Walmart has always had a knack for building its reputation as a soul-crushing corporation.

Nevertheless, it is still shocking to find that they are selling a poster with an image of the gate of one of the Holocaust’s most notorious concentration camps — Dachau.

Screenshot via Heeb

The description reads “Gate with inscription Arbeit Macht Frei, Dachau Concentration Camp, Dachau” and mentions that the poster “would make a great addition to your home or office.” That’s right – because why wouldn’t you want to be constantly reminded of the Shoah every time you enter one of your favorite rooms?

Heeb reports that some concerned customers complained to Walmart customer service and got some unintentionally humorous responses. One heard back that they “have this product in stock because there are some customer[sic] who like to buy this type of item, but this doesn’t mean [Walmart] are supporting any ideology related to this item.”

Another heard back that customer service had “escalated this matter to [their] corporation so they can release the nazi related propaganda.” Release? Through a bit of inference one can realize that they mean that they would get rid of the posters, but on a touchy subject like this, they should probably rethink their word choice.

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Eric Clapton Headlines Auschwitz Music Festival

By Rachel X. Landes

Eric Clapton headlined the fifth annual Life Festival in Oswiecim, Poland late this month. Yes, you read that right. Eric Clapton just played Auschwitz.

Well, kind of.

The Oswiecim Life Festival started in 2010, and was created by Darek Maciborek, a radio DJ, who wanted to change the negative associations brought up by his hometown. Because of its close proximity to Auschwitz, Oświęcim, has always carried part of the legacy of the death camp, which was where over 1 million people died, 90% of whom were Jewish.

The Life Festival Oswiecim is meant to combat anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia through music and the arts. Various Polish and foreign bands play in the festival. James Blunt played in 2011, and Peter Gabriel in 2012. Last year, the festival pulled in Sting to headline.

Clapton preformed the closing number at the festival, which was his final stop on his four-month world tour.

More than 10,000 people came out for the event, which took place from the 25th – 28th of June.

[h/t Tablet]

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Mengele: Handsome Psychopath in 'The German Doctor'

By Masha Leon

In documentaries and live testimonials, survivors of Dr. Joseph Mengele’s “Right [life]-Left [death]” selection at Auschwitz, remember him as exceptionally handsome.

And so is Spanish actor Alex Brendemuhl, who eerily and seductively portrays the toxic physician in Lucia Puenzo’s film “The German Doctor.” An uncanny Mengele Dopplelganger, Brendemuhl — a Spanish actor working in Germany — had to learn Argentinean Spanish and finesse Mengele’s German articulation.

Meeting Puenzo, — author of the book on which the film is based — what struck me was how young (37), tall and beautiful she is. She said: “I need to say that the German community…helped us make this film. All the actors speak [German] by phonetics.”

Did they know who Mengele was? “I remember in secondary school we knew who Mengele was, what happened during the war [but] I could not remember one fiction film about the subject in Argentina.”

Karen Leon
Lucia Puenzo

Were members of the German community that helped with the film descendants of the earlier [Nazi] Germans? “No! No!” she was adamant. “These are Germans who had no connection at all…something very delicate for them. There is the misconception that every German in Argentina has to have a Nazi background…. They want to defend the idea that it was not all of them.”

Why did she name the little girl— on whom Brendemuhl/Mengele experiments with growth hormones— “Lilith”? Puenzo mused: “I know everything that goes around the name, but strangely, when I began to write the novel, that’s the name that appeared. I tried to change it but it came back as Lilith…. certain characters are born with a name.”

Was Lilith supposed to be Jewish? “No! No! …but she is a victim.” And the Israeli woman, Nora, who suspects the doctor’s identity? “She is based on a real live character…. She was a volunteer from the Mossad…They all say she was murdered…. [that] people from the Israeli embassy took her body [from the lake].

Was she influenced by “The Boys from Brazil” in which Gregory Peck portrays Mengele? Puento responded: “I saw the film several times…a very strange film…. what I don’t like about that film is the idea of the stereotype…from the moment I wrote the novel — and film — I did not want to stereotype this man as a monster who had the word written across his forehead — but a very complex psychopathic personality….

“For me, most horrifying was that when all these men {Nazis] began to be found in Argentina —  forty years after being such a monster — people said [of Mengele] ‘He was such a lovely man, such a good citizen!’”

Has it been seen in Germany? The film has been released in 35 countries,” she replied. “It’s been seen by Germans, but has not been released in Germany.”

Currently playing at Lincoln Center Cinemas and IFC Centers. Go see this eerily fascinating film.

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'Reich Friends' Re-Casts Sitcom With Hitler and Goebbels

By Anne Cohen

I was once of the mind that there is no such thing as a bad “Friends” mashup. I was wrong.

Behold “Reich Friends”, a spoof of the much-loved sitcom brought you by Spanish-language comedy collective Marca Blanca. Using historic footage of Adolf Hitler and his besties, Himmler, Goebbels, Göring and Eva Braun, the group recreates the opening credits, complete with “I’ll Be There for You” by The Rembrandts (you probably know it as “The Friends Theme Song.”)

Hitler’s Bavarian retreat, The Eagle’s Nest is the new Central Perk. In the wise words of Chandler Bing: Could this BE any more offensive?

[h/t A/V Club]

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How Shirley Temple Helped Me Come to America

By Masha Leon

Shirley Temple in 1988 // Photo by Karen Leon.

Shirley Temple Black — who died at 85 on February 10 — may have indirectly helped my mother and me get a visa to America.

I became a Shirley Temple fan after seeing her in “The Little Colonel” in pre-war Warsaw. For weeks I ran around singing “Polly Wolly Doodle” in a Yiddish-Polish-English gibberish. During the bombing of Warsaw I grabbed my Shirley Temple doll as we fled our firebombed building — a doll my mother later traded for food and shelter. In Soviet-occupied Vilno [Vilnius] in 1940, I saw her in “The Little Princess” in which her character searches for her missing father. It was just after my father had been arrested by the Soviet NKVD (precursor to the KGB) and his whereabouts were unknown.

I corresponded with her during her tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Ghana (1975), but did not meet her until June 1988 at an American Booksellers Association Convention in Anaheim, California, where she was feted as author of her autobiography “Child Star.” It was a banner year for celebrity authors that included Ladybird Johnson, Natan Sharansky, Charles Schulz, Jane Russell, Shirley MacLaine, Maurice Sendak, Dr. Theodor S. Geisel (a/k/a/ Dr. Seuss) E. L. Doctorow, Betty White, and U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist gymnast, Mary Lou Retton that was capped by extraordinary parties including (“Scruples”) author Judith Kranz’s then $50,000 party held at a hangar at the John Wayne Airport.

Karen Leon
Autographed photo of Shirley Temple given to Masha Leon.

But it was meeting Shirley Temple who was mobbed by fans at her autograph session that has remained an indelible memory. She stopped to listen as I told her how she might have unwittingly been instrumental in my coming to America. I also sang a fragment [English version] of “Polly Wolly Doodle” that got her laughing.

When after V-E Day in 1945, at which time my mother’s and my “Duration of the War” visas in Canada expired, we were informed by the government that we were being repatriated to Poland! We did not know where my father was — or if he was even alive. Our families had been exterminated in the Warsaw Ghetto and by Einzatzgruppen [execution squads] in what is now Belarus. There was no one and nothing to return to.

My mother ordered me: Shreyb Mrs. Roosevelt. (write to Mrs. Roosevelt!). “Bist meshuge?“ —  “Are you nuts?” — I countered. “Write! and tell her our plight!” she insisted. I wrote a 14-page handwritten letter — which I was informed is now at the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Archive stating, “I want to come to America because of Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire and Shirley Temple.”

A week later, my mother and I were called into the U.S. Consulate in Montreal and were greeted with: “So you are the little girl who wrote to Mrs. Roosevelt who wants to come to America because of Shirley Temple!” He showed me the letter in our dossier. A cousin in Chicago provided affidavits for us.

Mrs. Black smiled, shook my hand warmly, wished me luck and continued signing autographs.

She was a light during some of my darkest moments.

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Steven Spielberg Calls for Action on Holocaust Remembrance Day

By Anne Cohen

Steven Spielberg called on the world to act on the lessons of the Holocaust during a keynote address to a special UN General Assembly marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Mass graves don’t have to open up before we act,” he said. “It is a great accomplishment of our species that the testimonies [of survivors] can be heard in the high chambers of society.”

“Genocide is an evil. But, the greatest evil is when people who have been spared the horrors commit themselves to despair,” Spielberg continued. “We know despair and remembering are a choice. But we need to confront and act on what we learned.”

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World War II Through a German Prism

By Masha Leon

“Generation War” (a hit in Germany as “Our Mothers Our Fathers”) is a must see for those who view World War II /Holocaust films as a kind of cinematic rosary of remembrance.

With a Tolstoyan “War & Peace” sweep, its brutal battles as bloody and grim as those in Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan,” it is also a nod to the wrenching 1987 Byelorussian Holocaust film “Come and See.” The film’s author Stefan Kolditz, noted that he wanted the film to “open a conversation with the generation that lived during World War II in Germany.”

“Generation” follows a quintet of friends — brothers Wilhelm (Volker Bruch) and Friedheim (Tom Schilling), Charlotte (Miriam Stein), Greta (Katharina Schuttler), and assimilated Jew Victor (Ludwig Trepte) who greets everyone with an anachronistic glitch — “Shalom” — with them, in turn, replying the same —this in 1940s Nazi Germany ‘s Berlin!

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Sigmund Rolat Receives Jan Karski Award

By Masha Leon

Recipient of the Spirit of the Jan Karski Award at the November 18 David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies 10th Anniversary Dinner was survivor, philanthropist, Sigmund Rolat.

In his acceptance speech Rolat — who unveiled a monument dedicated to Czestochowa’s 40,000 Jewish citizens who perished in Treblinka, restored the city’s philharmonic–naming it after Bronislaw Huberman (founder of what became the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra) and brought Joshua Bell (with Huberman’s violin) to perform there, and has been the driving force behind the about-to-open Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw — dubbed Karski as “One of the major figures of World War II.”

Karen Leon
Jan Karski

In 1942 Karski, a member of the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) was ordered to go to the West and report on — among other issues — the plight of Polish Jewry under the Nazis. He met with a Zionist leader and a Bundist and was then smuggled into the Warsaw ghetto by Leon Feiner, a lawyer and Bundist activist, to be an eyewitness to the Jews’ doomed fate.

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Forbidden Auschwitz Art on the Move

By Masha Leon

“This is the second time I am here,” Poland’s ambassador to the United States, Ryszard Schnepf said from the bimah of Park East Synagogue at the November 12th launch of the New York exhibition of “Forbidden Art” created by prisoners of Auschwitz-Birkenau. to Holocaust survivor and Kristallnacht witness Rabbi Arthur Schneier, the assemblage and diplomats from 18 countries.

First seen in Poland, the exhibit of 20 rare and fragile items out of 2,000 original works is part of a nationwide awareness campaign that prompted President Obama to declare: “Exhibitions like ‘Forbidden Art” bring to light the stories of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters and brothers and sisters who endured the unthinkable cruelty of concentration camps” and had ambassador Schnepf amplify: “It is our responsibility to remember the suffering of all people in concentration camps. Remembering them promises a light to a time of no anti-Semitism, a future free of hatred.”

Karen Leon
Polish Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf

Quoting Elie Wiesel, Israel’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations David Roet said, “No other people has such an obsession about remembering.” Gazing down from the bimah he recounted how his father had been saved by a baker in his village “because of a priest’s directive” and that “what helped his father survive in Auschwitz was the memory of the Shabbat and the dates where/when each family member died. But memory is not enough. What is necessary is standing up with Israel so it never happens again.”

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Holocaust Selfies Are an (Awful) Thing

By Toby Axelrod

(JTA) — Smiley selfies from Auschwitz and Buchenwald? They’re trending, apparently

Blogger Hektor Brehl, writing for the German version of Vice magazine, has a piece about the tendency of young travelers to post pics taken at Holocaust memorials in which they show off their new sneakers and crack “uncool” jokes.

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Governor Cuomo Raises Alarm About Anti-Semitism at Wiesenthal Dinner

By Masha Leon

In what was its most successful event, the October 16 Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Humanitarian Award dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria raised a whopping $1.6 million.

Dinner chair Nelson Peltz introduced the Center’s Distinguished Service Award recipient —New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo who good humouredly led off with: “When Nelson [told me] ‘I didn’t vote for you,’ I thought it was a joke. He wasn’t kidding.” Cuomo touted Peltz, CEO and founding partner of Trian Fund Management LLP, as “an icon of the American dream, a great American and New Yorker, a great philanthropist.”

Touting the Wiesenthal Center as “a living memorial to the memory of a great man — Simon Wiesenthal — who died eight years ago at the age of 96, sixty years after his liberation,” Cuomo said: “Now some will say that the Center’s mission is complete.” Apropos the emergence of anti-Semitism worldwide, Cuomo cited incidents in France when “last month a group of Jews were attacked by a gang of teenagers…in Spain two months ago…’Adolf Hitler was right’ was painted across a bullfight arena…. It is very much a real threat in the world we live in…. So Simon Wiesenthal was right and you are right to be here this evening. We need a strong Israel and we need a strong America…working hand-in-glove because they are the bulwarks for democracy on this globe.”

Karen Leon
Nelson Peltz, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rabbi Marvin Hier

“Anti-Semitism around the world has never been stronger and more dangerous,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, declared. His documented scroll of statistics included: “an estimated 150 million Europeans harbor anti-Jewish sentiments…. Seventy years after the Holocaust, in the same country that initiated the Holocaust, a study showed that 20% of Germans living today are anti-Semitic.”

Speaking with the help of an interpreter, 86-year old Medal of Honor recipient Czeslawa Zak — who was a young girl in Warsaw when her parents helped harbor 14 Jews from 1940-1944 — played down her family’s heroism. The family was designated as Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem. During the reception I got to chat with Ambassador Yehuda Avner author and star of the Moriah Film documentary “The Prime Ministers” and shared some pre-war Warsaw memories with Zak, who joined me in singing Polish folk songs.

Keynote speaker Vernon Jordan Jr. Senior Managing Director, Lazard presented the 2013 Simon Wiesenthal Center Humanitarian Award to Kenneth Jacobs, Chairman and CEO, Lazard.

The Wiesenthal’s newly opened exhibit/installation in Los Angeles in memory of Anne Frank brought back my 1982 visit to the Anne Frank house where we chanced on an elderly British couple musing: “One wonders if it really happened?” I retorted: “Does one also wonder about the London Blitz?” They apologized. “Yes. Yes. It must have happened.” In Litvishn Yiddish I asked an elderly German woman [from Aachen] with granddaughter in tow, why she came. In German she replied: “My neighbors, my friends, they were taken away in the night to Theriesenstadt…” Tearfully she added: “Ach ja! She needs to know this.”

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