Amazon Bans, Then Reinstates, Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ The retailer is trying to do two contradictory things: Ban hate literature but allow free speech.

Can’t be on both sides of the fence, particularly given its size and dominance, and company clearly has difficulty in being clear about its content guidelines, admittedly hard to develop and apply consistently:

Amazon quietly banned Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf” late last week, part of its accelerating efforts to remove Nazi and other hate-filled material from its bookstore, before quickly reversing itself.

The retailer, which controls the majority of the book market in the United States, is caught between two demands that cannot be reconciled. Amazon is under pressure to keep hate literature off its vast platform at a moment when extremist impulses seem on the rise. But the company does not want to be seen as the arbiter of what people are allowed to read, which is traditionally the hallmark of repressive regimes.

Booksellers that sell on Amazon say the retailer has no coherent philosophy about what it decides to prohibit, and seems largely guided by public complaints. Over the last 18 months, it has dropped books by Nazis, the Nation of Islam and the American neo-Nazis David Duke and George Lincoln Rockwell. But it has also allowed many equally offensive books to continue to be sold.

An Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement on Tuesday that the platform provides “customers with access to a variety of viewpoints” and noted that “all retailers make decisions about what selection they choose to offer.”

“Mein Kampf” was first issued in Germany in 1925 and is the foundational text of Nazism. The Houghton Mifflin edition of “Mein Kampf,” continuously available in the United States since 1943, was dropped by Amazon on Friday.

“We cannot offer this book for sale,” the retailer told booksellers that had been selling the title, according to emails reviewed by The New York Times.

After disappearing for a few days, “Mein Kampf” is once again being sold directly by Amazon. But secondhand copies and those from third-party merchants appear to be still prohibited, a distinction that sellers said made no sense.

But on Amazon’s subsidiary AbeBooks, which operates largely independently, hundreds of new and used copies of “Mein Kampf” are available.

“It’s ridiculous how the greatest e-commerce company in the world has such lousy control of their platforms,” said Scott Brown, a California bookseller who sells on Amazon. “They somehow can’t prevent price gouging and they can’t prevent people from selling counterfeit goods and they can’t manage to — or don’t want to — effectively implement a Nazi ban.”

Anti-Semitism chief slams university lecture on Hitler’s lover

I think the title was the most objectionable aspect even if a quote:

The German government’s anti-Semitism commissioner, Felix Klein, has dubbed a planned lecture on Adolf Hitler’s lover Eva Braun as “completely incomprehensible and ahistorical,” according to the Sunday edition of Bild newspaper.

The lecture was expected to be given at the Technical University of Braunschweig (TU) as part of a series about women in world history. TU, however, rejected the accusation that the university was advancing Nazi ideas. “In conclusion, this is a contribution against right-wing extremist legends,” it said in a statement.

The university also said it was “sincerely sorry” for the “ineptly worded” event, titled “‘… I, the mistress of the greatest man in Germany and on Earth … Comments on Eva Braun.'”

The lecture was ultimately canceled due to illness on the part of the lecturer.

The university is also considering how the researcher behind the lecture could manage to explain his role in the event, “namely to critically reflect on why a historically insignificant woman like Eva Braun still receives a lot of media attention to this day.”

Braun, who ate a cyanide pill, and Hitler, who shot himself, died by suicide just 40 hours after they were officially married. The relationship was largely unknown to the public until after their deaths.

During Hitler’s rise to power, Braunschweig — then a regional state in the-then Weimar Republic — was where Adolf Hitler received German citizenship on February 25, 1932, two weeks before running for the role of German president.

Source: Anti-Semitism chief slams university lecture on Hitler’s lover

Amazon in Holocaust Row About ‘Hunters’ Series, Anti-Semitic Books

I am more concerned about the anti-semitic books and items that Amazon sells than the fictionalized series “Hunters” but others may disagree:

The Auschwitz Memorial criticized Amazon on Sunday for fictitious depictions of the Holocaust in its Prime series “Hunters” and for selling books of Nazi propaganda.

Seventy-five years after the liberation of the Nazi German Auschwitz death camp by Soviet troops, world leaders and activists have called for action against rising anti-Semitism.

“Hunters”, released on Friday and starring Al Pacino, features a team of Nazi hunters in 1970s New York who discover that hundreds of escaped Nazis are living in the United States.

However, the series has faced accusations of bad taste, particularly for depicting fictional atrocities in Nazi death camps, such as a game of human chess in which people are killed when a piece is taken.

“Inventing a fake game of human chess for @huntersonprime is not only dangerous foolishness & caricature. It also welcomes future deniers,” the Auschwitz Memorial tweeted.

“We honor the victims by preserving factual accuracy.”

The Auschwitz Memorial is responsible for preserving the Nazi German death camp in southern Poland, where more than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, perished in gas chambers or from starvation, cold and disease.

The Memorial also criticized Amazon for selling anti-Semitic books.

On Friday, the Memorial retweeted a letter from the Holocaust Educational Trust to Amazon asking that anti-Semitic children’s books by Nazi Julius Streicher, who was executed for crimes against humanity, be removed from sale.

“When you decide to make a profit on selling vicious antisemitic Nazi propaganda published without any critical comment or context, you need to remember that those words led not only to the #Holocaust but also many other hate crimes,” the Auschwitz Memorial tweeted on Sunday.

“As a bookseller, we are mindful of book censorship throughout history, and we do not take this lightly. We believe that providing access to written speech is important, including books that some may find objectionable,” an Amazon spokesman said in a comment emailed to Reuters. Amazon said it would comment on “Hunters” later.

In December, Amazon withdrew from sale products decorated with images of Auschwitz, including Christmas decorations, after the Memorial complained.

Separately, prosecutors launched an investigation into a primary school in the town of Labunie, which staged a reenactment of Auschwitz with children dressed as prisoners being gassed, local media reported.

The school is accused of promoting fascism in the performance in December. It could not immediately be reached for comment.

Belgian city of Aalst says anti-Semitic parade ‘just fun’

Really?

A Belgian city has defended as “just fun” a carnival featuring caricatures of Orthodox Jews wearing huge fur hats, long fake noses and ant costumes.

Israel, Jewish groups and Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès were among many who strongly condemned the costumes in Sunday’s parade in Aalst.

Some critics said likening Jews to ants was similar to Nazi anti-Semitism, which persecuted Jews as “vermin”.

The Aalst mayor’s spokesman told the BBC “it’s our humour… just fun”.

Peter Van den Bossche said “there isn’t a movement behind it” and “we don’t wish harm to anyone”.

“It’s our parade, our humour, people can do whatever they want,” he said. “It’s a weekend of freedom of speech.”

Aalst carnival satire of Jews and Western WallImage copyrightAFP
Image captionCritics called this mockery of Orthodox Jews and the Western Wall anti-Semitic

Aalst lies 31km (19 miles) northwest of Brussels – the heart of the EU – and is run by the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), a nationalist party pushing for Flanders independence.

The city drew much criticism for parading caricature Jews last year – so much so that it was dropped from Unesco’s cultural heritage list in December. After the outcry, Aalst itself had asked to be taken off the list.

Unesco – the UN’s educational and cultural agency – was also satirised in the parade on Sunday.

Other floats mocked UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brexit, climate activist Greta Thunberg, and Jesus Christ on the cross.

There were also people parading in Nazi SS uniform – despite the fact that, in World War Two, the Nazis deported about 25,000 Jews from occupied Belgium to the Auschwitz death camp, where most were murdered.

Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionAalst mocks Brexit, with a float featuring Boris Johnson and the Queen

In Sunday’s parade some caricature Jews posed with a mock-up of the Western Wall – often called Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall, a holy site for Jews. It was labelled “the wailing ant”, in Dutch “de klaugmier”. The Dutch for “wailing wall” is “klaagmuur”.

“This doesn’t encourage anti-Semitism; the reaction last year was over the top,” Mr Van den Bossche said. “Two hundred percent it’s not anti-Semitic.”

Mock-Nazis parading in Aalst, 23 Feb 20Image copyrightEVN/RTBF
Image captionMock-Nazis parading in Aalst – in a country that was terrorised by the Nazis

He underlined that the carnival themes were based on news events as seen in Aalst – hence the mockery of Unesco.

When asked about the Nazi characters in Sunday’s carnival, he said: “Those symbols – normally we don’t accept that, we condemn that.

“We say: what can we do about it? Put people in prison? No.”

Israel’s foreign ministry director-general Yuval Rotem tweeted that Aalst had indulged in “despicable anti-Semitic exhibitions”.

Belgian PM Sophie Wilmès said the pretend Jews in the Aalst parade “harm our values and our country’s reputation”.

“The use of stereotypes stigmatising communities and groups based on their origins leads to divisions and endangers our togetherness,” she said.

Joël Rubinfeld, head of the Belgian League against anti-Semitism, said: “It is sad, deplorable, shameful that 50 persons are tainting an entire carnival, a popular celebration. It gives a catastrophic image of the city of Aalst and also of our country abroad.”

Source: Belgian city of Aalst says anti-Semitic parade ‘just fun’

‘Most Visible Jews’ Fear Being Targets as Anti-Semitism Rises

Not surprising but no less reprehensible. Likely same phenomenon with respect to the most visible Muslims:

A rabbinical student was walking down a quiet street in Brooklyn last winter, chatting on the phone with his father when three men jumped him from behind. They punched his head, knocking him to the ground before fleeing down the block.

When police officers arrested three suspects later that night, the student, a Hasidic man who asked to be identified by his first name, Mendel, learned that another Hasidic Jew had been attacked on the same block in Crown Heights just minutes before he was. Video of the earlier attack showed three men knocking a man to the ground before kicking and punching him.

The victims in both attacks were “very visibly Jewish,” said Mendel, 23, who has a beard and dresses in the kind of dark suit and hat traditionally worn by Hasidic men. That, he said, made them easier targets.

“You could ask everyone if they’re Jewish,” he continued, “or you could just go after people who you don’t have to ask any questions about because you can just see that they dress like they’re Jewish.”

Anxiety is increasing in Jewish communities around the United States, fueled in part by deadly attacks on synagogues in Poway, Calif., last April and in Pittsburgh in 2018. Anti-Semitic violence in the New York area has been more frequent lately than at any time in recent memory, with three people killed in a shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, N.J., and five injured in a knife attack at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, N.Y.

But the rise of anti-Semitism has affected different parts of the Jewish community differently. Although synagogues of all denominations have been subjected to threats or vandalism, community leaders say the risk of street violence is greater for Orthodox Jews who wear religious clothing like yarmulkes; black suits and hats; and wigs or other hair coverings in their daily lives.

“We know there are over one million Jews in New York City alone, and a couple hundred thousand of those are Orthodox,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, using a term that encompasses Modern Orthodox as well as Hasidic Jews. “They are being singled out in disproportionate numbers to their percentage of the population.”

Jewish people were the victims in more than half of the 428 hate crimes in New York City last year, with many of the crimes committed in heavily Orthodox neighborhoods, according to the Police Department. Community leaders said most of the victims in the Monsey and Jersey City attacks were Orthodox.

The tempo of such incidents increased as 2019 ended and the new year began, with 43 across New York State from Dec. 1 to Jan. 6, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

No organization tracks the number of attacks on Orthodox Jews, said Jennifer Packer, a spokeswoman for the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center. But Jewish leaders said the heightened risk to the Orthodox was clear in the pattern of incidents.

Nathan J. Diament, the executive director for public policy at the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, said in testimony to Congress last month that “the most visible Jews,” including those who wear hats, yarmulkes, wigs or wear long beards or sidelocks, “have been subject most to these physical and verbal assaults.”

“Anxiety about this new reality is present in Orthodox Jewish communities in all of your districts and across the entire country,” Mr. Diament testified.

Many of the incidents in New York have happened in sections of Brooklyn that have been popular with generations of Hasidic families, like Crown Heights and Williamsburg. Jewish pedestrians in the neighborhoods have been assaulted or harassed, women have had hair coverings ripped from their heads and synagogues have been vandalized.

Community leaders said that the violence reminded them of anti-Semitic acts in Europe, where in recent years Jews have been attacked by followers of the far right in Germany and killed by jihadists at places like the Jewish museum in Belgium.

“We thought the things that happen in Europe would never happen in the United States and definitely not in New York City,” said Rabbi David Niederman, the president of United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn. One of those killed in Jersey City, Moshe Deutsch, volunteered for his organization. “But unfortunately, we were in dreamland.”

Most of the anti-Semitic incidents in New York have not been perpetrated by jihadists or far-right extremists, but by young African-American men, Mr. Greenblatt said. Local leaders said that phenomenon grows out of tension in areas where longstanding African-American and Jewish communities have been squeezed by gentrification.

“You have this mixture of African-Americans and Hasidic people, and then you have gentrification,” said Gil Monrose, an African-American pastor at Mt. Zion Church of God 7th Day who lives in Crown Heights. “All of this is colliding in Crown Heights and it leads to young people committing crimes where they live.”

“Sometimes people want to blame different groups for the fact that they are being priced out of the neighborhood, but the Jewish community is not to blame for that because the Jewish community is being priced out too,” he said. “That’s why they went to Jersey City.”

In November, the Anti-Defamation League expanded an anti-bias education program it started in Brooklyn in 2018 with a goal of bringing it to 40 schools. Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, praised the program when the expansion was announced.

“Since extremist, hate-filled rhetoric has become awakened and stoked across this country — particularly in Crown Heights right here in Brooklyn — this unacceptable behavior is increasingly becoming the norm for some,” Mr. Adams said in a statement.

The rise in anti-Semitic attacks has been not limited to Brooklyn.

Jeff Katz, the treasurer of the Stanton Street Shul, a small Orthodox synagogue on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, said that he was riding the subway one day last fall when another passenger erupted at him.

“He was saying, ‘Why aren’t you looking at me?’” said Mr. Katz, who wears a yarmulke. “And I thought, ‘We’re on the subway, I don’t want any part of this. Then he started saying, ‘What? Do you think you’re superior, Jew boy?’”

Mr. Katz said that a friend who also wears a yarmulke had been slapped by a stranger as he was walking on Delancey Street in Manhattan a few weeks later, during Hanukkah.

“A lot of these incidents don’t get reported,” Mr. Katz said. “I’m going to call the police and say someone bothered me in the subway? What are the police going to do?”

That sentiment is common, Rabbi Niederman said. But his organization urges victims of bias crimes to file police reports as soon as possible.

“The first thing we tell people when there is an incident is don’t hide it under the rug,” he said.

Attorney General William P. Barr came to Brooklyn last month to announce federal hate-crime charges against a woman whose case has helped stoke criticism of recent bail reform laws.

The woman, Tiffany Harris, was arrested on suspicion of slapping three Orthodox women in Crown Heights in December. After being released without bail, she was arrested the next day in connection with another assault.

Mendel, who studies at the World Headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, said that almost everyone in Crown Heights seemed to know someone who had been harassed or attacked on the street. But he said few of those incidents were reported.

He praised the response of the Police Department, which arrested the three suspects quickly in his case last January. But he expressed frustration at the comparatively slower pace of the district attorney’s office. The suspects have yet to go to trial, according to court records.

Crown Heights has been a center of Hasidic life in New York since the 1920s, and Mendel and others in the area said that it remained so despite gentrification and the increasing prevalence of anti-Semitic incidents.

“People are concerned,” Mendel said during an interview at a bagel shop crowded with Hasidic families at midday. “I do look around when I go out, I don’t go out too late at night. But it is a beautiful community. I don’t think this anti-Semitism should mar or put a stain on the beautiful community that Crown Heights is.”

Putin at the World Holocaust Forum

Of note:

Earlier this month, some ten days after the World Holocaust Forum held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem to commemorate the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz, the museum issued an unusual apology for a film presentation that contained “inaccuracies” and “created an unbalanced impression”—by, among other things, memory-holing the 1939 division of Poland between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and the Soviet occupation of the Baltics in 1940.

The apology letter, signed by Professor Dan Michman of Yad Vashem’s International Institute of Holocaust Research and published in Haaretz, referred to this assault on historical facts as a “regrettable mishap.” But the presentation was actually part of a much bigger problem: the degree to which the forum was turned into a showcase for Russian President Vladimir Putin, his revisionist history, and his friendship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The January 23 forum—funded mostly by Russian Jewish billionaire, European Jewish Congress president, and Putin ally Moshe Kantor, and organized in partnership with the Israeli government—more or less channeled the Kremlin propaganda narrative of World War II, in which Soviet Russia was virtually the single-handed victor over the Nazis and rescuer of the Jews. There was no mention of Soviet collusion with Nazi Germany in 1939–1940 under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, or of Soviet war crimes such as the massacre of 22,000 Polish officers and elite professionals—including, by the way, about 900 Jews—at the Katyn Forest.

No one questions the importance of the Soviet Union’s role in the defeat of Nazi Germany after 1941. Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz and were the first witnesses to its horrors. But nor is there any serious dispute about the darker side of the USSR’s role in World War II. In his prime-slot forum speech, Putin not only asserted that it was the “Soviet people” who “liberated Europe from Nazism”; he also attempted to position Russia, in seamless succession to the Soviet Union, as having a special role in Holocaust remembrance. (Along the way, he made the blatantly false claim that about 40 percent of Jews murdered in the Holocaust were Soviet citizens, which quickly drew protests from historians: The actual figure is estimated at 15 to 25 percent.)

What Putin conveniently left out is the Soviet regime’s long record of covering up and minimizing the genocide of Jews in order to keep the focus on Nazi war crimes against the Soviet people—as well as Stalin’s persecution and murder of Jewish anti-Nazi activists in the postwar years. At first, after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Soviet leadership was anxious to mobilize prominent Jews—particularly cultural and intellectual figures—for propaganda purposes to win foreign support for its war effort and its alliance with Western democracies. In August 1941, two dozen Soviet Jewish writers, journalists, and artists, led by actor and theater director Solomon Mikhoels, issued an appeal to Jewish communities around the world to support the Soviet Union in its fight against Germany. (As the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe notes, “To allow Jews to appeal to their fellow Jews was an extraordinary step for the Kremlin.”) They formed the core of the Jewish Antifascist Committee, officially created in April 1942. In 1943, Mikhoels and fellow JAC member poet Itzik Feffer went on a seven-month tour of the United States, Mexico, Canada, and England; they met with Jewish leaders as well as renowned public figures such as Albert Einstein, Marc Chagall and Charlie Chaplin, headlined a rally of 50,000 in New York, and raised millions of dollars in aid.

But as the war drew to a close, with Soviet forces victorious and Western alliances secured, the Jewish “antifascists” had outlived their usefulness—and their work to collect evidence of the Nazis’ targeted extermination of Jews was met with barely disguised hostility. The Soviet leadership’s attitude toward this issue is can be gleaned from the fact that the Soviet special report on the “monstrous crimes in Oświęcim” (Auschwitz), issued on May 8, 1945, did not contain a single mention of Jews. It referred to Auschwitz as a “camp for the extermination of captive Soviet people” and described the victims as “citizens of the Soviet Union, Poland, France, Belgium, Holland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Rumania and other countries.”

When JAC completed the “Black Book” documenting German atrocities against Jews on Soviet territory, compiled by journalists Ilya Ehrenburg and Vasily Grossman, the volume was reluctantly approved for publication in early 1946 after revisions to ensure that it followed the party line. But before a single copy could be printed, it was banned for “grave political errors,” and the typeset galleys were destroyed. (The book did appear in English in New York the same year; its first Russian-language edition was published in Israel in 1980.) Meanwhile, the Ministry of State Security, or MGB—the KGB’s predecessor—was sending reports to Communist Party leadership accusing JAC of “bourgeois nationalism” and contacts with foreign intelligence.

JAC was disbanded in November 1948; Mikhoels had been murdered by MGB agents several months earlier, his death officially blamed on a hit-and-run accident. There soon followed a massive anti-Semitic campaign against “rootless cosmopolitans.” This coincided with the Soviet leadership’s reversal of its initially friendly stance toward the new state of Israel, a turnabout due to several factors—from Israel’s pro-American position and failure to embrace Soviet-style socialism to suspicions of disloyalty among Soviet Jews, particularly after tens of thousands turned out to see Israeli envoy Golda Meir on her visit to Moscow’s Choral Synagogue. (Meir’s request to Stalin to permit Jewish emigration to Israel added more fuel to the fire: no one could seek to exit the workers’ paradise.)

In the general persecution of Jews, former members and staffers of the JAC were especially hard hit: over a hundred were arrested, and more than a dozen, including Feffer, were executed in 1952. Prominent Jewish doctors were accused of deliberately murdering patients; even the Jewish wife of Politburo member Vyacheslav Molotov, Polina Zhemchuzhina, was arrested as a “Zionist agent.” There were rumors of a planned mass deportation of Soviet Jews to the “Jewish Autonomous Republic” in Siberia (ostensibly to save them from the wrath of the people).

Stalin’s death in March 1953 brought a halt to the Soviet war on Jews, but Soviet virtual silence about the Holocaust continued. There was no commemoration, for example, of the massacre at Babi Yar, the site near Kyiv where some 33,000 Jews were slaughtered in two days in September 1941 (an event mentioned in Putin’s speech). In 1961, Yevgeny Yevtushenko briefly broke this silence with his poem “Babi Yar,” published in the weekly Literary Gazette; it explicitly identified the victims as Jews and described the murders as part of the long history of anti-Semitic violence. In response, the poet was viciously trashed in the Soviet press for fomenting ethnic division, and the editor who had accepted and printed the poem was fired “for insufficient vigilance.” At a meeting with writers and artists, then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev himself assailed the author for his ideological lapse. While Yevtushenko eventually found his way back into the regime’s good graces, “Babi Yar” was not included in any of the Soviet-era editions of his poetry except for one three-volume collection. (Incidentally, the poem’s opening line—“No monument stands over Babi Yar”—remained true until the fall of the Soviet Union. The first memorials on the site were built in an independent Ukraine.)

All that history was missing from Putin’s speech. So was the well-known role of Soviet propaganda in fomenting anti-Jewish vitriol—under the guise of “anti-Zionism”—from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s. Putin did, however, find the time to take swipes at ex-Soviet republics that currently refuse to march to Russia’s orders—Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia—by pointedly noting their populations’ complicity in the Nazi slaughter of Jews. (Nazi collaboration in Russia and in mostly Russia-friendly Belarus got a pass.) He may have also subtly taunted Poland by referencing the Nazi massacre at the Belarusian village of Khatyn—a name almost identical to Katyn. Many historians believe the Soviets deliberately amplified the Khatyn tragedy in the late 1960s because of the name similarity, in the hope that the confusion would distract from the matter of Katyn.

For Putin, such distortions and lies are business as usual. But abetting them was a shameful moment for the Israeli government—especially since, as Times of Israel editor David Horovitz noted, the Kremlin strongman was clearly “the dominant presence” at the January 23 event. Before the start of the forum, Putin was greetedon the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport by Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, who offered his personal thanks for the Soviet Army’s liberation of Auschwitz. He was the star speaker at the inauguration of a memorial to victims of the German siege of Leningrad, with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin and prime minister Netanyahu at his side. Then, arriving slightly late at the forum itself, he was introduced and escorted to his seat by Rivlin. He got, as Russian Jewish commentator Ilya Milshtein wrote on the independent Russian website Grani.ru, “a Tsar’s welcome.”

The indecency of this spectacle was compounded by the fact that Putin was allowed to posture as the savior of Kremlin hostage Naama Issachar, whom he pardoned after his trip. (The 26-year-old Israeli, arrested during a brief layover at a Moscow airport over a few grams of marijuana in her checked luggage to which she did not even have access on Russian soil, had received a draconian seven-year sentence; her release apparently involved Israeli concessions in a dispute over a valuable religious site, the Alexander Courtyard in Jerusalem.) Writing about Putin’s moment as “the Tsar-liberator of the Jewish people” in a blogpost widely reprintedin the Russian-language Israeli press, Ukrainian Jewish journalist Vitaly Portnikov called it “an abomination.” Strong language, perhaps. But the fact that Putin’s self-congratulatory spin was allowed to color an event commemorating the dead of the Holocaust deserves no less.

Netanyahu has long courted anti-liberal leaders, from Putin to Hungary’s Viktor Orban to Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, who are willing to support Israel in the face of growing antagonism from liberal democracies. One may sympathize with this quest, at least if one believes—as I do—that the current efforts to isolate Israel are unjust and rife with double standards. But the scandal at the World Holocaust Forum is a reminder that fraternizing with authoritarians has its price.

Source: Putin at the World Holocaust Forum

Before we hurl insults around about ‘transphobes’ let’s be clear about what we mean

Definitions can be helpful but can also be divisive as we have seen the shift from the IHRA antisemitism working definition to one that has been adopted by governments and institutions:

When anti-semitism still appeared to be the Labour membership’s most glaring problem with intra-party prejudice and related mudslinging, great importance attached to definitions. What might seem to some members a perfectly allowable comment on the Israeli state might to others, using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, be manifestly hateful and targeted.

The party’s adoption of that definition was itself disputed. Labour took on the IHRA definition in 2016, then argued about adopting its examples of antisemitic behaviour. As ugly as this difficulty with internationally agreed terminology might look from outside, the interest in precise wording represented some common ground. On the definition of antisemitism, Labour’s factions were at least able to communicate.

More recently, the party has adopted a working definition of Islamophobia advanced by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims (after consultation with more than 750 British Muslim organisations, 80 academics and 50 MPs). The group’s co-chair Wes Streeting dismissed objections that free speech would suffer. “While our definition cannot prevent false-flag accusations of Islamophobia to shut down reasonable debate and discussion, it does not enable such accusations. In fact, it makes it easier to deal with such behaviour,” he said. “Our definition provides a framework for helping organisations to assess, understand and tackle real hatred, prejudice and discrimination.”

There could hardly be a better case for another considered definition – after a week in which its meaning has been both stretched and contested – of what should be understood by transphobia. Unless we want to leave that job to the courts. Is it allowed, for instance, to satirise self-ID, as in the case of Harry Miller? Yes, says Mr Justice Knowles. And in a passage that might have been inspired by Labour’s pledges: “Some… are readily willing to label those with different viewpoints as ‘transphobic’ or as displaying ‘hatred’ when they are not.”

There are obvious implications for the unprecedented debates prompted by a proposed reform to the Gender Recognition Act, facilitating gender self-identification (ID). Can it be damagingly transphobic – if Miller is not – for people to meet and discuss the possible implications for women-only spaces and safeguarding? Should people be able to meet, without fear of abusive crowds, to share concerns about early gender dysphoria diagnosis/affirmation? Is it actionably bigoted – unlike Miller – to question the fairness of male-bodied athletes competing in women’s elite sport?

ICYMI – UK: Anti-Semitic abuse at record high, says charity

Of note:

The number of anti-Semitic incidents logged in Britain last year hit record levels yet again amid accusations the opposition Labour Party had failed to tackle the issue within its ranks, a Jewish advisory body said on Thursday.

The Community Security Trust (CST), which advises Britain’s estimated 280,000 Jews on security matters, said there had been 1,805 incidents in 2019, a rise of 7% and the fourth consecutive year the figure had reached a new high.

CST chief executive David Delew said the record came as no surprise and the organization believed the real number was likely to be far higher.

“It is clear that both social media and mainstream politics are places where anti-Semitism and racism need to be driven out, if things are to improve in the future,” he said.

World leaders warned last month of a growing tide of anti-Jewish sentiment, driven both by far-right white supremacists and those from the far-left, as they commemorated victims of the Holocaust in World War Two.

In Britain, the CST said there was an increase in incidents in months when Labour’s problems with anti-Semitism were in the news.

Ever since veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn, an ardent supporter of Palestinian rights, became leader in 2015, the party has faced accusations that it has failed to stem anti-Semitism among some members.

Corbyn, who is stepping down as leader in April, has said anti-Semitism is “vile and wrong” but the party is now under investigation by Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Last February, a number of Labour lawmakers left the party citing the issue as a reason, while ahead of December’s national election, Britain’s chief rabbi said Corbyn was unfit to be prime minister.

Of the total number of incidents, 224 were connected to Labour, said the CST, which has collated such data since 1984.

“It is hard to precisely disaggregate the impact of the continuing Labour anti-Semitism controversy upon CST’s statistics, but it clearly has an important bearing,” the report said.

The charity said the main reason for the overall increase in incidents was a sharp rise in online anti-Semitism.

But there were also 157 assaults – a 27% increase on 2018 – with almost 50% of these occurring in just three areas of the country – Barnet and Hackney in London and Salford in northern England which are home to some of the largest Jewish communities.

A rise of intolerance after Britons voted in the 2016 referendum to leave the European Union and the Brexit discourse since, which brought nationalism and immigration to the fore, had also led an atmosphere where people might have felt able to express their “hatred of otherness”, the report said.

Source: Anti-Semitic abuse at record high, says charity

In Amazon’s Bookstore, No Second Chances for the Third Reich The retailer once said it would sell “the good, the bad and the ugly.” Now it has banished objectionable volumes — and agreed to erasing the swastikas from a photo book about a Nazi takeover.

Some transparency on their criteria needed, given the size and impact of Amazon. Strikes me as over-reach with the respect to the scrubbing of Nazi symbols in the “The Man in the High Castle” tribute book given that they are so central to the original novel and television series.

Other examples more clear cut:

Amazon is quietly canceling its Nazis.

Over the past 18 months, the retailer has removed two books by David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as several titles by George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party. Amazon has also prohibited volumes like “The Ruling Elite: The Zionist Seizure of World Power” and “A History of Central Banking and the Enslavement of Mankind.”

While few may lament the disappearance of these hate-filled books, the increasing number of banished titles has set off concern among some of the third-party booksellers who stock Amazon’s vast virtual shelves. Amazon, they said, seems to operate under vague or nonexistent rules.

“Amazon reserves the right to determine whether content provides an acceptable experience,” said one recent removal notice that the company sent to a bookseller.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been roiled in recent years by controversies that pit freedom of speech against offensive content. Amazon has largely escaped this debate. But with millions of third-party merchants supplying much of what Amazon sells to tens of millions of customers, that ability to maintain a low profile may be reaching its end.

Amazon began as a bookstore and, even as it has moved on to many more lucrative projects, now controls at least two-thirds of the market for new, used and digital volumes in the United States. With its profusion of reader reviews, ability to cut prices without worrying about profitability and its control of the electronic book landscape, to name only three advantages, Amazon has immense power to shape what information people are consuming.

Yet the retailer declines to provide a list of prohibited books, say how they were chosen or even discuss the topic. “Booksellers make decisions every day about what selection of books they choose to offer,” it said in a statement.

Gregory Delzer is a Tennessee bookseller whose Amazon listings account for about a third of his sales. “They don’t tell us the rules and don’t let us have a say,” he said. “But they squeeze us for every penny.”

Nazi-themed items regularly crop up on Amazon, where they are removed under its policy on “offensive and controversial materials.” Those rules pointedly do not apply to books. Amazon merely says that books for sale on its site “should provide a positive customer experience.”

Now Amazon is becoming increasingly proactive in removing Nazi material. It even allowed its own Nazi-themed show, “The Man in the High Castle,” to be cleaned up for a tribute book. The series, which began in 2015 and concluded in November, is set in a parallel United States where the Germans and the Japanese won World War II.

“High Castle” is lavish in its use of National Socialist symbols. “There’s nothing that there isn’t a swastika on,” the actor Rufus Sewell, who played the Nazi antihero, said in a promotional video. The series promoted its portrayal of “the controlling aesthetic of Hitler” in its nomination for a special effects Emmy.

But in “The Man in the High Castle: Creating the Alt World,” published in November by Titan Books, the swastikas and eagle-and-crosses were digitally erased from Mr. Sewell’s uniform, from Times Square and the Statue of Liberty, even from scenes set in Berlin. A note on the copyright page said, “We respect, in this book, the legal and ethical responsibility of not perpetuating the distribution of the symbols of oppression.”

An Amazon spokeswoman said, “We did not make editorial edits to the images.” Titan, which wanted to market the book in Germany, where laws on Nazi imagery are strict, said Amazon approved the changes.

Some fans of the series said they found reading the book as dystopian as the show itself. “If you can’t even have swastikas shown in a book about Nazis taking over America, please do not make books ever again,” wrote one reviewer.

When Amazon drops a book from its store, it is as if it never existed. A recent Google search for David Duke’s “My Awakening: A Path to Racial Understanding” on Amazon yielded a link to a picture of an Amazon employee’s dog. Amazon sellers call these dead ends “dog pages.”

Some booksellers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said they had no problem with the retailer converting as many offensive books to dog pages as it wished.

Mr. Delzer, the proprietor of a secondhand store in Nashville called Defunct Books, has a different view. “If Amazon executives are so proud of their moral high ground, they should issue memos about which books they are banning instead of keeping sellers and readers in the dark,” he said.

The bookseller said he only knew Amazon was forbidding titles because he received an automated message from the retailer, saying two used books he sold seven years ago — “Conspiracy of the Six-Pointed Star: Eye-Opening Revelations and Forbidden Knowledge About Israel, the Jews, Zionism, and the Rothschilds” and “Toward the White Republic” — were now proscribed.

“This product was identified as one that is prohibited for sale,” Amazon told him. Failure to immediately delete listings for these books, the company said, “may result in the deactivation of your selling account” and possible confiscation of any money he was owed.

Amazon said it didn’t really mean any of that about “Toward the White Republic.” “We did not intend to imply the book itself could not be listed for sale,” it said in a statement.

As for “Conspiracy of the Six-Pointed Star,” which is widely available from other online booksellers, Amazon said the book did not comply with its “content guidelines.”

Mr. Delzer said the email, which he posted on an Amazon forum,was clear and Amazon was dissembling about “White Republic.”

A bookseller since 2001, Mr. Delzer said he does not condone white supremacist material but believes people should be free to read what they want. The biggest seller in his shop at the moment is by Greta Thunberg, the young climate activist.

“Amazon wants its customers to trust Amazon,” he said. “The place that sells books doesn’t want much critical thinking.”

In 1998, when Amazon was an ambitious start-up, its founder, Jeff Bezos, said, “We want to make every book available — the good, the bad and the ugly.” Customers reviews, he said, would “let truth loose.”

That expansive philosophy narrowed over the years. In 2010, when the news media discovered the self-published “Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure” on the site, the retailer’s first reaction was to hang tough.

“Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable,” it said at the time.

That resolution wilted in the face of a barrage of hostility and boycott threats. Amazon pulled the book.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said Amazon has the same First Amendment right as any retailer.

“Amazon has a First Amendment right to pick and choose the materials they offer,” she said. “Despite its size, it does not have to sponsor speech it finds unacceptable.”

Physical bookstores rarely stock supremacist literature, for no other reason than it would alienate many customers. The question is whether Amazon, because of its size and power, should behave differently.

“I’m not going to argue for the wider distribution of Nazi material,” said Danny Caine of the Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kan., who is the author of a critical pamphlet, “How to Resist Amazon and Why.” “But I still don’t trust Amazon to be the arbiters of free speech. What if Amazon decided to pull books representing a less despicable political viewpoint? Or books critical of Amazon’s practices?”

Amazon’s newfound zeal to remove “the ugly” extends beyond the Nazis. The order page for the e-book of The Nation of Islam’s “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews” stated last week, “This title not currently available for purchase.”

“The Man in the High Castle” was based on a 1962 novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick, whose stories are often about the slippery nature of reality and how it will be controlled in the future by governments and corporations. One character in the streaming series was Mr. Rockwell, the American Nazi Party founder.

In photos in “Creating the Alt World,” the tribute book, the swastika around Mr. Rockwell’s neck was removed. The real life Mr. Rockwell has been largely removed from Amazon’s bookstore as well.

After a complaint by a member of Congress in 2018, a children’s book that Mr. Rockwell wrote disappeared from Amazon. So did his book “White Power.” Other Rockwell material, like The Stormtrooper Magazine, is described as “currently unavailable.”

Some sellers circumvent the blocks by listing titles with a word or two changed, other booksellers said. One seller said he recently received a message from Amazon that several titles by Savitri Devi, also known as “Hitler’s Priestess,” were forbidden. But they are now on the site. And a copy of “Toward the White Republic” recently popped up on Amazon, for $973 plus postage.

There is still an abundance of other Nazi material available on Amazon, much of it with favorable reviews. There is the “SS Leadership Guide,” many editions of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and Joseph Goebbels’s “Nature and Form of National Socialism,” to name just a few.

That only underlines how hard it can be to tell exactly what Amazon’s rules are. The confusion is reinforced by AbeBooks, the biggest secondhand book platform outside of Amazon itself.

Some of the books dropped from Amazon are available on Abe. Recently, there were 18 copies of Mr. Duke’s books on Abe, at prices up to $150. Amazon, which owns Abe, declined to comment.

Source: In Amazon’s Bookstore, No Second Chances for the Third ReichThe retailer once said it would sell “the good, the bad and the ugly.” Now it has banished objectionable volumes — and agreed to erasing the swastikas from a photo book about a Nazi takeover.By David Streitfeld

Albert Speer, the Hitler Henchman Who Enabled the Holocaust, Bears Another Look Today

A good look back on Speer and some general points on complicity:

The last of the Auschwitz survivors to revisit the extermination machine in Poland have left. Now very old men and women, they returned to mark the 75th anniversary of the infamous death camp’s liberation last Monday.

Memory inflicts no greater pain than is theirs. The day they were freed in 1945 was both an end and a beginning: the end of terror and the beginning of remembering.

And one of the things to remember is not just the vast horror of the Holocaust but the fact that it was conducted as an industrial enterprise by managers and bureaucrats with a chillingly impersonal attention to detail. Adolf Hitler’s demonic program of genocide would have come to nothing without his enablers.

On Feb. 6, 1944, SS Obergruppenfuhrer Oswald Pohl, who headed the part of the Nazi terror machine given the bland name Office of Economic Administration, wrote a report with the title “Utilization of Textiles: Used Clothes from the Jewish Resettlement.”

He complained about the condition of “material so far obtained from the Jewish resettlement in the camps in the Lublin area, and Auschwitz.” Much of it, “particularly for men, is much diminished by the fact that many clothes are rags…”

Speer’s story reminds us in a timely way that it’s not only the knowingly depraved who gather around a tyrant.
The SS controlled the distribution of the clothes and possessions taken from the Jews as they arrived at the death camps. Every train delivering prisoners left on its return journey loaded with those possessions. Items of value, like jewelry, gold, including gold teeth, and foreign currency mostly ended up in the Reichsbank in Berlin, their worth carefully noted in ledgers. The clothes, if at all serviceable, went to the “foreign workers” who were part of a gigantic program of forced labor producing weapons and munitions.

That program was designed and overseen with clinical efficiency by Albert Speer, the Reichsminister for Armaments and Munitions,

Five days later he wrote to Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, complaining that he needed all the steel, wood and manpower he could get for building arms factories: “We must therefore carry out a new planning program for construction within the concentration camps… [that] will require a minimum of material and labor. The answer is an immediate switch to primitive construction methods.”

Pohl, not Himmler, replied with a furious reminder that Speer had himself signed off on all the plans for building the camps and said a switch to primitive materials was “unrealistic.” He continued: “…we have 160,000 prisoners and are constantly battling against epidemics and a disproportionately high death rate, both largely due to impossible sanitary conditions.”

Of all those involved in the Nazi terror machine, Albert Speer was, literally, the most elusive—elusive because he escaped a death sentence at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals, and elusive because until the end of his life (he died in 1981) he was never able to display any guilt about his role as an accomplice to genocide.

Late in 1943, when Speer had brought about a dramatic revival of German arms production, the issue of Hitler’s succession was being discussed quietly by his generals and some lower level ministers.

At this point they were not talking about a coup, but a planned succession with Hitler’s consent. They ruled out the founding Nazi psychopaths, Himmler, Goebbels, Bormann and Goering. One minister told Speer he thought Hitler himself favored Speer—nobody else had such a close relationship with him. Speer did not disagree, but the moment never came.

Speer’s story reminds us in a timely way that it’s not only the knowingly depraved who gather around a tyrant. Equally dangerous are those, like Speer, who provide the system with their intellect while in denial about the consequences. Some people do this because the tyrant helps them to advance their own agendas; others do it just because being in the same room delivers the craved-for embrace of power.

Once Speer fell within Hitler’s spell he enjoyed his proximity to absolute power, no matter how vile its actions.

Speer had first endeared himself to Hitler as an architect.  They shared a taste for the Greco-Roman style of triumphal buildings. This culminated in Speer’s plan to replace Berlin with a new capital city called Germania for the thousand-year Reich. At its center—roughly where Berlin’s Reichstag now sits—there was to be a Great Hall with a massive dome nearly 1,000 feet high (the U.S. Capitol dome is 284 feet high).

Speer was always resistant to self-doubt. Once he fell within Hitler’s spell he enjoyed his proximity to absolute power, no matter how vile its actions. And Hitler clearly enjoyed his frequent communion with Speer. In these moments of spiritual kinship, talking of art and architecture, Hitler was flattered by Speer into thinking that he was an aesthete at the head of an Aryan empire purged of all racial impurities.

He claimed that he had not been present at a conference in 1943 when Himmler spoke of ‘wiping Jews from the face of the earth.’

On the night of Oct. 16-17, 1946, ten of Hitler’s closest associates were hanged in the gymnasium of Nuremberg prison, having been found guilty of war crimes. Speer was there and heard their names being called out. But he was spared, given a 20-year sentence to be served in Spandau. (Oswald Pohl was executed in June 1951.)

Afterward it emerged that the principal American judge, Francis Biddle, and the Soviet Union’s judge, General Iona Nikitchenko, had voted to sentence Speer to death, but another American judge, John Parker, and a British judge, Norman Birkett, argued for clemency, apparently because he seemed to them too refined to be a mass murderer. Also taken into consideration was his cooperation with Allied intelligence. The jail sentence was a compromise reached after a two-day argument among the judges.

Speer was released in 1966. He published a self-serving best-selling version of history, Inside the Third Reich, and became wealthy, considered by many as the rare “Good Nazi” who had done what he could to curb the worst of Hitler’s instincts. He had always acknowledged that his industrial plan had depended on slave labor, including many Jews, working under appalling conditions, often dying on the job, but denied any knowledge of the scale of the Holocaust.

He claimed that he had not been present at a conference in 1943 when Himmler spoke of “wiping Jews from the face of the earth.” But 25 years after his death a newly discovered cache of letters revealed that he had, indeed, been present. The master dissembler was finally exposed as the monster he was.

It’s always questionable to introduce the Nazi regime as a caution when looking at our own present carelessness with the values of our republic. The Holocaust was a crime of such enormity and singularity that we can too easily trivialize it by invoking any historical comparison.

Nonetheless the message from Auschwitz was reinforced by its anniversary: Ronald Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, said he was worried that the lessons were being forgotten: “Auschwitz is a beacon of where anti-Semitism can lead, we can’t rewrite history but we can be much more forceful today.”

A wave of anti-Semitic attacks and hate crimes in the U.S. has followed the massacre of 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue in October 2018. Three people were killed last December in a shooting at a kosher grocery in Jersey City and at least 10 anti-Semitic incidents took place in the New York area over Hanukkah.

One issue raised by several of the Holocaust survivors at Auschwitz was how such a barbaric crime could happen in a country that, until then, was regarded as both civilized and an intellectual powerhouse. It seemed all too easy for the Nazis to operate with the silent consent of a majority of the German people.

Speer addressed this in an interview with the British journalist Gitta Sereny, who spent 10 years studying his life for a riveting book, Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth. He was responding to a charge that he tried to present himself as the prototype of the new technological man while he had conveniently overlooked the connection between technology and a program of mass extermination. He argued that the machinery of murder had nothing to do with technology, it was too primitive. And then he said:

“Eighty million people were not persuaded to follow Hitler because they knew he was going to murder people in lime ditches and gas chambers; they did not follow him because he seemed evil, but because he seemed extraordinarily good. And what convinced them of this was Goebbels’ brilliant propaganda, his unprecedented use of modern means of mass communication.”

It’s terrifying to think what Goebbels could have done using today’s means of mass communication. But perhaps we already know

Source: Albert Speer, the Hitler Henchman Who Enabled the Holocaust, Bears Another Look Today