The Shmooze

ADL to Joan Rivers: Costco Isn't the Nazis

By Simi Lampert

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Joan Rivers

The Anti-Defamation League called out Joan Rivers out on her comparison between Costco and Nazi Germany, three days after the comedian made a public display outside a Los Angeles Costco store.

After Costco made the decision not to carry her book, “I Hate Everything…Starting with Me,” Rivers protested a local store by chaining herself to one of its shopping carts and shouting from a bullhorn.

In an interview outside the store, Rivers said: “People should have the right to have the literature they want. This is the beginning of Nazi Germany.”

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Madonna Sued for Le Pen Swastika

By Michael Kaminer

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Did Madonna “express herself” too much?

The BBC reports that France’s right-wing National Front party is suing the superstar “after an image at the US singer’s Paris concert showed party leader Marine Le Pen with a swastika imposed on her face.”

The image, in a video accompanying the song Nobody Knows Me, was followed by another resembling Adolf Hitler as Madonna was performing at the Stade de France in a Paris suburb on Saturday. National Front vice-president Florian Philippot told the BBC the party could not accept “such an odious comparison… This is just another provocation in Madonna’s world tour so that people will talk about her. Marine Le Pen will defend not only her own honor but her supporters’ and the millions of National Front voters.” Philippot said a lawsuit would be filed this week.

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Fallout From Madonna’s Swastika Stunt

By Margaret Eby

Joey McCoy via Wiki Commons

At Madonna’s Tel Aviv concert on May 31, the pop queen went one provocative image too far. According to the Telegraph, a photomontage displayed behind the singer as she performed “Nobody Knows Me” showed a photo of France’s National Front leader Marine Le Pen with a swastika etched on her forehead, dissolving into a portrait that resembled Adolph Hitler. Le Pen didn’t take the implication lightly: The French politician is threatening a lawsuit against Madonna if she repeats the gambit at her upcoming concert in Paris in July.

Though the photo only appeared onscreen for a second, sandwiched between images of Madonna’s face morphing into other politicians like Sarah Palin and China’s Hu Jintao, right-wing leader Le Pen responded furiously. “We understand how old singers who need to get people talking about them go to extremes,” Le Pen told The Daily Mail.

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Their Parents Were Nazis

By Michael Kaminer

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Raph Fiennes played Amon Goeth, whose real-life daughter is interviewed in a new BBC documentary.

Monika Hertwig remembers leaving a screening of Schindler’s List suffering from shock. “I kept thinking this has to stop, at some point they have to stop shooting, because if it doesn’t stop I’ll go crazy right here in this theatre,” she told the BBC this week.

Hertwig’s not a daughter of Holocaust survivors. She’s not even Jewish. Her connection to the film’s more insidious: The notorious Plaszow commander Amon Goeth, played by Ralph Fiennes in the film, was her father.

She’s just one haunted Nazi offspring profiled by the BBC; many of them also carry their forebears’ reviled surnames. “The names of Himmler, Goering, Goeth and Hoess still have the power to evoke the horrors of Nazi Germany, but what is it like to live with the legacy of those surnames, and is it ever possible to move on from the terrible crimes committed by your ancestors?” the BBC asks.

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Congressional Hopeful Denies Holocaust

By Michael Kaminer

The Holocaust never happened.

That’s one of the campaign platforms for Arthur Jones, a Lyons, Ill. insurance salesman gunning to become the Republican candidate to run against Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski in Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District this fall.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Holocaust is nothing more than an international extortion racket by the Jews,” Jones told Oak Lawn Patch. “It’s the blackest lie in history. Millions of dollars are being made by Jews telling this tale of woe and misfortune in books, movies, plays and TV. The more survivors, the more lies that are told.”

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Nazis, Art Theft and Clooney's Next Film

By Michael Kaminer

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A gritty tale of stolen Nazi artwork is about to get the big-budget treatment from Hollywood.

“The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History,” by author Robert M. Edsel, has been optioned by actor/filmmaker George Clooney, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Clooney and producing partner Grant Heslov will adapt the book into a screenplay; the film “will likely serve as a starring vehicle for the ‘Descendants’ star,” who will also direct, the Hollywood Reporter said.

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New Documentary Tracks New Zealand’s Nazi Criminals

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Wikimedia Commons

A new documentary film is telling the story of the unfruitful efforts to bring Nazi war criminals in New Zealand to justice. According to Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, “New Zealand was the only Anglo-Saxon democracy that faced this problem and chose to ignore it. There was absolutely no political will to take legal action against the Nazi war criminals who emigrated to New Zealand in the late 1940s and early 1950s, posing as refugees fleeing communism.”

According to a report in Stuff, a New Zealand news website, a two-year police and government task force investigation in the early 1990s yielded not a single prosecution, despite a comprehensive file prepared and handed over by the Wiesenthal Center on more than 40 Nazis believed to have been hiding in the country.

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Toy Nazi Soldiers for Sale in Rome

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Travelers preparing to take a train from Rome’s Termini Station can grab some food at a kiosk and pick up a magazine at a newsstand there. And while they’re at it, they can also buy for themselves some Nazi dolls as souvenirs of their stay in the Eternal City.

Barak Talmor, an Israeli studying in Rome, happened upon a shop next to the station in central Rome selling dolls (more like toy soldiers) dressed in SS uniforms. From the photos Talmor took and sent to Israel’s Channel 2 News, it appears that many are holding flags or standards with swastikas. Some are marching while others riding atop tanks. There is even one of Hitler himself giving the Nazi salute as he stands in the front seat of an open-top car.

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Looted Painting Returned to Jewish Heirs

By Michael Kaminer

What happened in this German casino will not be staying in this German casino.

A gambling establishment in a German spa town will return a Dutch Old Master painting to the heirs of a Jewish art dealer persecuted by the Nazis and forced to flee Germany, Bloomberg reports.

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Ikea Founder’s Nazi Ties Confirmed

By Michael Kaminer

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Shopping carts at Ikea Berlin.

You might want to sit down in your Skrurvska chair before reading this. A new book claims Ingvar Kamprad, the billionaire founder of cheap-furniture behemoth IKEA, “was a member of the Swedish Nazi party and was such a concern to secret service they opened a file on him,” reports the U.K. Telegraph.

While the 83-year-old businessman’s far-right leanings have long been public, a 1943 file proves for the first time that Kamprad “was an active member of Svensk Socialistisk Samling — the successor to the Swedish Nationalist Socialist Workers Party — even his membership number, 4013,” the Telegraph said.

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Swedish Queen Decides Father Wasn’t a Nazi

By Nathan Burstein

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The Swedish queen has wrapped up an investigation into her father’s alleged Nazi past, concluding — perhaps a bit conveniently — that one of his 1939 business deals was helping, not exploiting, a desperate German Jew.

Rumors have long swirled about the history of German-born Queen Silvia, whose father, Walther Sommerlath, was said by some to have joined the Nazi party in 1934. The queen reacted angrily last year to the Swedish broadcast of a documentary about her father, which suggested that he had participated in Hitler’s so-called “Aryanization” of seized Jewish assets. She changed course in May, saying she would look into the allegations.

The results of her investigation, released today, suggest that her father acted nobly — at least in her interpretation. In findings released to the Swedish media, the queen says her father purchased a Berlin factory owned by a German Jew, Efim Wechsler, so that Wechsler could flee Germany for the safety of Brazil. The deal included giving Wechsler ownership of property, including a coffee plantation, owned by the Sommerlath family in Brazil.

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Convicted Nazi War Criminal Convalesces in Alpine Nursing Home

By Renee Ghert-Zand

In Bad Feilnbach, a postcard-perfect spa town in the Bavarian Alps, residents are crying NIMBY. It’s not a cell phone tower or nuclear energy plant they are concerned about, but rather something many find even more toxic — convicted Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk.

The 91-year-old Demjanjuk, a free man while his appeal wends itself through the German court system, has been staying at the St. Lukas nursing home on the edge of this village just south of Munich since May 12. Demjanjuk was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the deaths of 28,060 people (the vast majority of them Jews) while he was a guard in the Nazi death camp Sobibor, in Poland. As a stateless person, he cannot leave Germany.

No one in town has seen Demjanjuk, as he has reportedly not left his room at the nursing home. Nonetheless, his being out of sight does not mean he has been out of mind among the local residents. While some are indifferent to the convict’s presence, others oppose it on either moral or practical grounds.

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'Dr. Death' Jack Kevorkian Dies at 83

By Michael Kaminer

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“Dr. Death” has finally lived up to his name. Jack Kevorkian, who has spent decades campaigning for the legalization of euthanasia, has died at 83. Kevorkian, who expired — unassisted — in a Detroit hospital, served eight years in prison and was arrested multiple times for helping more than 130 patients commit suicide between 1990 and 2000. His methods, according to the Washington Post: “Injections, carbon monoxide and his infamous suicide machine, built from scraps for $30.”

Kevorkian also gained notoriety for using the words “final solution” in a 1999 Michigan trial of administering a fatal injection. According to trial coverage in Northern California mag JWeekly, “This is the man who sought to mount an exhibition featuring paintings by none other than Adolf Hitler. Kevorkian has conducted experiments that evoke memories of the infamous Nazi doctors.” Ironically, the Council of Orthodox Rabbis of Greater Detroit was labeled “Nazis” by Kevorkian’s half-Jewish lawyer, Geoffrey Fieger, “for the unspeakable atrocity of stating that assisted suicide went against the Torah.” Kevorkian was convicted and sentenced to 10-25 years in prison in that case, according to Frontline.

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Renault Grandchildren Sue French Government for Seizing Company After WWII

By Michael Kaminer

Sure, French automaker Renault made about 30,000 trucks for the Nazis, and even repaired German tanks during World War II. But does that make founder Louis Renault a collaborator?

His granddaughter doesn’t think so. So along with seven other Renault grandchildren, Helene Renault-Dingli is suing the French government over what she calls “the illegal confiscation of the company in November 1944” after claims that it had backed Germany’s war effort, the UK Telegraph reports.

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'Persona Non Grata': Von Trier Booted From Cannes for Anti-Semitic Comments

By Nathan Burstein

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Here’s how it seems to work at the Cannes Film Festival: organizers are happy to show your film even if you’re famously anti-Semitic — please just don’t make any weird comments on the premises.

That’s one way to interpret the events of the last few days, particularly after today’s announcement that Lars von Trier, the oddball Danish director, has been officially declared “persona non grata” at the festival.

The designation follows von Trier’s totally bonkers performance yesterday at a press conference for “Melancholia,” his latest film, at which he — jokingly? — said he can “sympathize” with Hitler. (Poor Kirsten Dunst was trapped onstage, squirming with increasing discomfort as his bizarre remarks went on.)

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Sweden's Queen Agrees To Investigate Royal Family's Alleged Nazi Ties

By Nathan Burstein

A year after issuing an angry denial, Sweden’s Queen Silvia will investigate her family’s alleged Nazi past, including her father’s 1939 acquisition of a Jewish-owned factory in Germany.

Rumors about her family history have long trailed the German-born queen, who last year protested a Swedish television documentary that looked into her father’s role in Germany’s “Aryanization” program, in which Jewish property was seized and taken over by other Germans.

The documentary, “Kalla Fakta” (“The Cold Facts”), investigated reports that the queen’s father, Walther Sommerlath, had obtained the factory after returning to Germany from Brazil. Following the documentary’s broadcast, the queen wrote a letter of protest to the channel’s general manager. She has long denied any family connections to the Nazis, as did her father, who was rumored to have joined the party in 1934.

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Will Galliano Go To Jail?

By Nathan Burstein

John Galliano could be headed from the fashion house to the big house.

French prosecutors have confirmed they’ll press charges against the disgraced designer, who was fired from Christian Dior this week after the release of a video that showed him launching an anti-Semitic tirade at a Paris cafe last fall. Galliano told shocked onlookers, “I love Hitler,” and that their relatives would have been “f—ing gassed” by the Nazis.”

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What’s the Deal With Celebrities and Anti-Semitism?

By Nathan Burstein

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Who knows what evil lies in the hearts of celebs? In the age of cell-phone cameras, radio talk shows and YouTube, the answer is: nearly everyone.

At least in the last couple weeks, that evil has been a familiar one: anti-Semitism, with everyone from Charlie Sheen to (allegedly) Julian Assange to a Japanese rock band making what were at best questionable statements (sartorially or otherwise) about Jews and/or Nazis.

The Shmooze, in recent days, has come to resemble nothing so much as a running tally of anti-Semitic celebrity behavior, as well as a log of other celebrities making excuses for the anti-Jewish ranters and ravers.

What gives? (Or as our editorial yesterday asked, “Who raised these guys?”) A quick scan of the news rules out the normal explanations. Relations between Israel and its neighbors are relatively calm, for once, with the main drama in the Middle East unfolding in repressive Arab police states. The global economy, sadly, is still limping along, but there haven’t been any specific developments that would stir up the old hatreds and conspiracy theories.

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Scottish Soccer Club Accidentally Used Nazi Image on Program

By Josh Tapper

Here in North America, sports franchises use the most obvious cover art for their game day programs. New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter fist-pumping after a playoff victory. Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson doused in champagne.

Surely things are the same over in the UK, but last week Scottish soccer club Airdire United attempted something a little more historical with its program in honor of Remembrance Day. The commemoration backfired. Airdire officials thought last Saturday’s program portrayed jubilant Australian troops returning by train from a World War Two battlefield. Instead, the photo features German soldiers – ahem, Nazis.

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Klee Drawing Returned to Owner's Estate by Israel Museum

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

A drawing by Swiss artist Paul Klee, who was villfied by the Nazis, who also stole his work from Jewish collectors, has finally been returned to its rightful owner by the Israel Museum.

According to this AP story, the drawing, entitled “Veil Dance,” had been owned by German Jewish telephone maker Harry Fuld, Jr.

When Fuld fled Nazi Germany in 1937, the story says, he:

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