ICYMI: Anne Frank’s Family Was Thwarted by United States Immigration Rules, New Research Shows

Not that surprising (Canada was no more welcoming):

Attempts by Anne Frank’s father to escape the Nazis in Europe and travel to the United States were complicated by tight American restrictions on immigration at the time, one of a series of roadblocks that narrowed the Frank family’s options and thrust them into hiding, according to a new report released on Friday.

The research, conducted jointly by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdamand the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, details the challenges faced by the Frank family and thousands of others looking to escape Europe as Nazi Germany gained strength and anti-refugee sentiment swept the United States.

Otto Frank, Anne’s father, was never outright denied an immigration visa, the report concludes, but “bureaucracy, war and time” thwarted his efforts.

In order to obtain a visa, Mr. Frank would have had to gather copies of family birth certificates, military records and proof of a paid ticket to America, among other documents, and be interviewed at the consulate.

In one instance, an application that Mr. Frank said he submitted in 1938 languished in an American consulate in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, amid a swell of similar applications and was lost in a bombing raid in 1940. Mr. Frank wrote to a friend that the extensive papers he had gathered as part of a visa application “have been destroyed there.”

In 1941, as Mr. Frank was again attempting to navigate the matrix of paperwork and sponsors necessary to immigrate, the United States government imposed a stricter review of applications for visas, grew suspicious of possible spies and saboteurs among Jewish refugees, and banned applicants with relatives in German-occupied countries.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned at the time that Jewish refugees could be “spying under compulsion,” and the report states that “national security took precedence over humanitarian concerns.”

Mr. Frank had sought help from an influential friend, Nathan Straus Jr., who was the head of the United States Housing Authority, a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt’s and the son of a Macy’s co-owner. Despite Mr. Straus’s connections, Mr. Frank wrote to him that “all their efforts would be useless” given the immigration climate, the report states.

“We wanted to learn more about the process in itself and what documentation an applicant (e.g. Otto Frank) had to produce,” said Gertjan Broek, a researcher with the Anne Frank House who worked on the latest findings. “In the report, we point out how complex and tedious the process was and how the bombing of the Rotterdam consulate disrupted things.”

The report was released 76 years after the Frank family went into hiding on July 6, 1942. Researchers drew on dozens of pages of correspondence between Mr. Frank and friends, much of which was first made public in 2007, as well as records involving United States immigration policy.

Anne Frank’s diaries describing her time in hiding gave a voice to millions who died at the hands of the Nazis. She was eventually discovered and she died in a concentration camp in 1945, when she was 15.

Mr. Frank was the only member of the immediate family to survive the concentration camps.

News about the Frank family continues to captivate the public, despite challenges in educating younger generations about the Holocaust.

“She has allowed millions of people, maybe hundreds of millions of people, to identify with persecution at the worst level,” said Richard Breitman, a professor emeritus at American University who has written about the family’s attempts to immigrate to the United States. “Any time there is a glimmer of new information, it’s a big story.”

The new research comes at a time when President Trump’s attempts to curb immigration have been likened to those in the World War II era. Mr. Trump has repeatedly sought to justify letting fewer people into the country by arguing that criminals and terrorists could be among the immigrants and refugees seeking to enter.

Mr. Breitman underscored those similarities, pointing to debates over immigration policy today and after Sept. 11. Mr. Breitman said that as Mr. Frank was trying to get to the United States, the country was instituting an “extreme cutback” on immigration.

“It wasn’t just extremists and wackos who believed that there was a serious threat to the security of the United States in 1940 that justified an immigration cutback,” Mr. Breitman said. “You can fill in the rest of it after 9/11 and today.”

Mr. Broek said the researchers did not intend to highlight parallels.

“The Anne Frank House researches into the life of Anne Frank and her family, to tell her story as accurate as possible,” Mr. Broek said. “The attempted immigration is a part of that story too.”

Poland’s ‘Holocaust law’ caused an outcry. Now, surprisingly, it’s being largely reversed

Better late than never in removing the most egregious aspects. But the fundamental denial remains:

When the Polish government pushed ahead with a controversial Holocaust speech law at the beginning of the year, the outcry was so swift and intense that even Polish lawmakers themselves appeared surprised. Besides Israel’s strong rejection of the Polish legislation, U.S. condemnations hit Warsaw policymakers especially hard.

And yet, for months, there were few signs of backtracking, even as the issue emerged as a key obstacle to Poland’s desire to bolster its security ties to the United States. But after an unexpected intervention by Poland’s prime minister on Wednesday, the law that was never enforced is now being largely walked back.

After the country’s right-wing governing party submitted a new draft, the lower house of parliament voted to remove criminal provisions Wednesday morning. This would stop courts from being able to use the law to impose prison terms of up to three years.

In caving in to international and domestic pressure, Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party is taking a political gamble. While the changes are meant to soothe tensions with strategically important allies such as the United States and the European Union, Law and Justice also appeared eager to limit the political fallout among the party’s more extreme right-wing supporters.

At least rhetorically, the Polish government stood by its arguments that led to the law’s passage earlier this year.

“Those who say that Poland may be responsible for the crimes of World War II deserve jail terms,” Prime Minister said Wednesday. “But we operate in an international context, and we take that into account.”

The Polish government, Morawiecki emphasized, would continue its “fight for the truth” about the Holocaust regardless of possible changes to the legislation.

In this file photo taken on April 12, 2018 participants are wrapped into an Israeli flag as they arrive to the memorial site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in Oswiecim to attend the annual “March of the Living.”

The bill’s international critics had long argued that it violates freedom of expression by essentially banning accusations that some Poles were complicit in Nazi crimes committed on Polish soil, including in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, where more than 1.1 million people died. Germany operated six camps in Poland where Jews and others whom the Nazis considered enemies were killed.

Polish officials emphasized early on that artistic and historical research work would not be affected by the ban, but critics cautioned that the law provided courts with too much room for interpretation and may silence debates on the issue, even though some scholars agreed that the Polish government was right in emphasizing that crimes were committed by individuals rather than the Polish state and that the term “Polish death camps” was wrong.

Poland was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany in 1939, but unlike in other European countries, there was no collaborationist Polish government. About 6 million Polish citizens were killed during the Second World War, about half of them Jews.

Throughout years of Nazi occupation between 1939 and 1945, a number of Polish underground movements resisted the Nazis. It is that chapter of history that the Law and Justice Party wants to emphasize.

But historians have long argued that it is not the full story: Some Poles, they say, were complicit in the Nazi crimes. Historians have pointed to incidents, including a 1941 atrocity in the town of Jedwabne, in which Poles rounded up and killed their Jewish neighbors. Critics also said that the legislation was mainly intended to fuel nationalistic sentiments in the country.

In an early response to the law in February, the State Department similarly said that the phrase “Polish death camps” was “inaccurate, misleading, and hurtful.” But it also cautioned that the bill “could undermine free speech and academic discourse.”

In Israel, the reaction was even fiercer. “One cannot change history, and the Holocaust cannot be denied,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement in February. Other Israeli officials even compared the legislation to Holocaust denial.

The strong reactions eventually resulted in less outspoken Polish defences of the law itself, even as the government has stood by its reasoning to pass it.

Source: Poland’s ‘Holocaust law’ caused an outcry. Now, surprisingly, it’s being largely reversed

ICYMI: Sweden funds Holocaust memorial trips to tackle anti-Semitism – The Local

Useful initiative:

Sweden wants as many young people as possible to visit Holocaust memorial sites in an effort to tackle anti-Semitism in the Nordic nation, where neo-Nazi activities have been intensifying in recent years.

The government said it would invest 15 million kronor (1.4 million euros, $1.7 million) on projects over three years to raise awareness about Nazi crimes against Jews, Roma communities and other groups.

“Nazism and racism are growing and spreading. We are therefore launching this investment so that more youth can be equipped with the knowledge to tackle the anti-democratic forces that are growing in Sweden,” Culture Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke said in a statement.

The Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism will receive 12.8 million kronor to organise trips to Holocaust remembrance sites, and the Living History Forum, a public authority, is to offer educational tools and resources.

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

At the centre of this is the Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR), described as the most violent neo-Nazi organisation in Sweden by the anti-racism magazine Expo.

Openly promoting a racist and anti-Semitic doctrine, the group organised demonstrations on the sidelines of an annual book fair in Sweden’s second-largest city of Gothenburg in September and held an authorised protest at a political forum on the island of Gotland last year.

Expo estimates that the organisation’s core consists of barely 80 members, but says it was more active last year than ever before.

A Swedish court in July last year sentenced three neo-Nazi activists for up to eight and a half years in prison over bomb attacks against refugee shelters that left one person seriously injured.

A 1997 study found that 66 percent of Swedish secondary school students were unsure whether the Holocaust actually happened.

The Living History Forum, which was established in 2003 to provide accurate information in schools about the Holocaust, recently launched a similar study, the results of which will be released later this year.

via Sweden funds Holocaust memorial trips to tackle anti-Semitism – The Local

Canadian government comes to the defence of Nazi SS and Nazi collaborators but why?

Good question:

In late April more than 50 members of the U.S. Congress condemned the government of Ukraine’s ongoing efforts to glorify “Nazi collaborators.”

The letter, signed by both Republicans and Democrats, outlined concerns about ongoing ceremonies to glorify leaders of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army as well as 14th SS Galizien Division (aka 1stGalician/Galizien or the 1st Ukrainian Division). “It’s particularly troubling that much of the Nazi glorification in Ukraine is government-supported,” noted the letter to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. The letter was initiated by Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California and David Cicilline of Rhode Island.

Contrast that to how the Canadian government handled a related issue last year when the Russian Embassy in Ottawa tweeted out that, “There are monumets (sic) to Nazi collaborators in Canada and nobody is doing anything about it.”

A monument in Oakville commemorates those who served with the 14th SS Galizien Division. Another monument in Edmonton honors Roman Shukhevych, the leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

As my Postmedia colleague Marie-Danielle Smith discovered, the Russian tweet sent bureaucrats at Global Affairs Canada into overdrive as they tried to defend the SS unit and Ukrainian Nazi collaborators. Documents she received through the Access to Information law show government officials were under a lot of pressure from the “Centre” (the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister’s Office) to counter the news about the monuments to Nazi collaborators. The bureaucrats came up with a strategy. The would label the tweet as “disinformation” and they came up with a plan to spread the word to the news media as part of their efforts to defend Ukraine’s Nazi collaborators.

Now as I have written before, the Russians are more than happy to try to embarrass the Canadian government, which has steadfastly stood behind the Ukrainian government in the ongoing conflict in the region. Suggesting that Canada allows monuments to Nazi collaborators seems to fit that bill.

But in this case the Russian tweets aren’t “fake news” or “disinformation.” They are accurate.

As those members of the U.S. Congress have pointed out, the Ukrainians who served in the SS Galizien Division were indeed Nazi collaborators.

So too was Roman Shukhevych.

Before going to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, Shukhevych was commander of the Ukrainian battalion called Nachtigall. The men of Nachtigall rounded up Jews in Lviv in June 1941, massacring men, women and children. The Simon Wiesenthal Center estimates that the Nachtigall Battalion, along with their German military counterparts, managed to murder around 4,000 Jews in Lviv. Other historians put the estimate at around 6,000.

Shukhevych was later assigned to a new unit whose role in Germany’s war, according to one Holocaust expert, was “fighting partisans and killing Jews.” Shukhevych later turned against the Nazis.

Then there is the SS Galizien Division. They were eager Nazi collaborators. Some 80,000 Ukrainians volunteered to join the SS but only those who could meet the strict requirements were selected.

The SS used some of its most seasoned killers to oversee the development of its new division. SS Gen. Jurgen Stroop, who would later be executed as a war criminal for his brutal destruction of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, was brought on as an advisor.

Other commanders of the division were all versed in the murder of Jews throughout occupied territories in eastern Europe. “Many of the Ukrainian officers, like SS- Haupsturmfuhrer Michael Brygidryr, had previously served in SS Schuma battalions, routinely used to kill partisans, burn down villages and, when the opportunity arose, murder Jews,” wrote award-winning author Christopher Hale in his 2011 ground-breaking book, Hitler’s Foreign Executioners.

SS Galizien Division was used by the Nazis in a variety of operations, one of the most controversial being the 1944 destruction of the village of Huta Pieniacka. Huta Pieniacka was considered a “Polish” village that just months before had been the shelter for several hundred Jews, Hale noted. The SS units surrounded the village. Men, women and children, who had taken refuge in the village church, were taken outside in groups and murdered. Kids were executed in front of their parents, their heads smashed against tree trunks, one witness testified. Others were burned alive in houses. Around 850 people were murdered.

Some Ukrainians dispute that the SS Galizien Division took part in the killings or they argue that only small elements from the unit – and under Nazi command – were involved.

A Ukrainian military board heard testimony in 1944 that members of the Galizien Division did take part in the attack. But that action was justified, the board was told since the inhabitants of Huta Pieniacka had been killing Ukrainian peasants. “By the way, the Jews were hiding in the village,” a Ukrainian officer added in his testimony describing the destruction of the village inhabitants.

Some Ukrainians see Shukhevych and SS Galizien Division members as heroes. They argue that those individuals served the Nazis because they saw them as liberators from the Russians. Their ultimate goal was an independent Ukraine.

But to claim that these individuals were not Nazi collaborators is something else. They served Hitler.

In May 1944, SS leader Heinrich Himmler addressed the Ukrainian SS recruits in a speech.  “Your homeland has become more beautiful since you have lost – on our initiative, I must say – the residents who were so often a dirty blemish on Galicia’s good name – namely the Jews,” said Himmler. “I know that if I ordered you to liquidate the Poles, I would be giving you permission to do what you are eager to do anyway.”

Himmler speech was greeted with cheers from the Ukrainian recruits.

Equally disturbing are the details contained in the book, The Holocaust Chronicle, published in 2003 and written by 7 top scholars in the field of Holocaust studies. They noted that Ukrainian SS were also sent to help kill Jews during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The Chronicle published a photo of two of Ukrainian SS members standing over the bodies of Jews murdered during that uprising. See the photo below:

But this issue of Ukrainian collaboration with the Nazis is not new. Since 1986 the Nazi-hunters with The Simon Wiesenthal Center have warned about efforts from those in Ukraine and in the Ukrainian community in Canada who want to deny involvement of the SS Galizien Division with the Nazis.

The Latvian government is also trying to use the “fake news” label to whitewash the reality of Latvian collaboration with the Nazis.

My colleague Scott Taylor has recently written several articles about the Latvian Legion (15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian) et al) and Latvian killers like war criminal Herberts Cukurs as well as the members of the Arajs Kommando, who murdered an estimated 26,000 Jews.

According to Karlis Eihenbaums, Latvia’s Ambassador to Canada, Taylor is spreading “fake news” and “disinformation.” Eihenbaums has also tried to smear Taylor by suggesting that he is under the “influence” of the Russian government.

Taylor’s research into the Latvian SS Legion and the Latvian murderers of Jewish men, women and children is solid.  It is a well-documented historical fact that many of the killers from the Arajs Kommando went to the Latvian Legion. These Latvians served Hitler. No number of claims of “fake news” can change that fact.

Photo below shows Latvian SS:

The controversy over the Latvian Legion and the annual parade held in Riga to celebrate these Nazi collaborators is well known and has been going on for two decades, long before the term “fake news” was even coined. In 1998 the parade caused a storm of protests around the world, particularly in Israel, where Holocaust survivors couldn’t understand Latvia’s desire to celebrate such ruthless killers. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President Jacques Chirac were among those that year to protest the Latvian parade. The Times of Israel reported on this year’s Latvian SS parade in Riga, which took place mid-March.

So much for “fake news.” Did Helmut Kohl and Jacques Chirac spread “disinformation” when they denounced the SS parade in Latvia? Of course not.

This whole issue isn’t about “fake news” or Russian “disinformation.” It is about nations trying to whitewash their Nazi collaboration and rewrite history, while attacking journalists who don’t want to let that happen.

It is a positive development that members of the U.S. Congress could see through these efforts to glorify members of the SS. They are speaking out.

But in Canada, the federal government is more than happy to play along with defending Himmler’s SS divisions and Nazi collaborators.

What would our soldiers who fought during the Second World War to help rid the world of this scourge think about that?

Source: Canadian government comes to the defence of Nazi SS and Nazi collaborators but why?

Given all its other apologies, when will Ottawa finally apologize to the Jews? Farber

Bernie Farber on the need for an apology (one apology understandably leads to another ….). The Conservative government-funded projects under the Community Historical Recognition program to commemorate the MS St. Louis (along with funding to other communities affected by wartime internment or immigration restrictions); the Liberal government has focused more on apologies (e.g., to Indo-Canadians for turning back the Komagatu Maru):

Ethical nations must confront their history with moral rectitude. It is time for Canada to offer an official apology to Jewish Holocaust survivors, their families and the families of those who were murdered. Because our hands are not clean.

May 13th will mark 79 years since the ill-fated MS St. Louis set sail from Hamburg, Germany, on a journey to Havana, Cuba. Aboard the ship were 937 passengers, mostly desperate Jewish refugees fleeing Germany, a country consumed by vicious anti-Semitism, controlled by a raving, genocidal dictator who vowed to rid the world of its “Jewish problem.” Each passenger possessed a valid travel visa to enter Cuba. They had every reason to believe they’d escaped.

As the St. Louis made its way across the Atlantic Ocean, unbeknownst to the passengers, the Cuban government, facing a huge anti-Semitic backlash and beset by a corruption scandal relating to visas, cancelled the entry permits for the refugees. When they finally arrived, after a week at anchor offshore, the vast majority of the passengers were told they would not be permitted to disembark.

Their choices were limited. The MS St. Louis was barely a 90-minute sail from the shores of Miami. Surely, thought the ship’s German captain — Gustav Schroeder, a decent man who understood the plight of his distraught travellers — the United States, a country which held the hope of sanctuary for so many, would extend a hand of freedom and safety to his passengers.

A photo of Jews aboard the MS St. Louis.

Instead, the American government rejected any request for asylum. To ensure that this message would not be misunderstood, a Coast Guard vessel was ordered to very visibly follow the ocean liner.

Like today, the media became the moral watchdog of a willfully blind nation. The New York Times wrote in a heartfelt editorial, “We can only hope that some hearts will soften somewhere and some refuge be found. The cruise of the St. Louis cries to heaven of man’s inhumanity to men.”

Prominent Canadians began calling for the refugees be admitted here. But the prime minister, William Lyon McKenzie King, accepted the position of his director of immigration: “No country could open its doors wide enough to take in the hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who want to leave Europe: the line must be drawn somewhere.” The St. Louis, although only two days from Halifax on its way back across the Atlantic, sailed on, forced by necessity to return to Europe. Some passengers allowed into the United Kingdom found safety. The others landed in Holland, Belgium and France,. Those countries were later overrun by the Nazis. They rounded up the Jews and send them to concentration camps. More than 250 of those passengers that Canada, and others, refused to help, were murdered.

Professors Irving Abella and Harold Troper have studied this grim part of our history, and noted our anti-Semitic immigration policies during the Holocaust in their seminal study None is too Many. “It was a Canada,” as Abella wrote elsewhere, “with immigration policies that were racist and exclusionary, a country blanketed by an oppressive anti-Semitism in which Jews were the pariahs of Canadian society, demeaned, despised and discriminated against.”

Today we have a different Canada, one that values diversity and pluralism. Canada today is offering official apologies for policies that were bigoted, racist and homophobic. It has been a steep learning curve for Canadians. Yet with historic apologies to Indigenous peoples for a cultural genocide committed against them through the residential school system, and with  similar national apologies to the Sikh, Japanese and LGBTQ communities for historical wrongs, Canada has become a leader in teaching the world of the power of a simple phrase: “We’re sorry.”

A recent poll by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, a respected Jewish organization, shows that fully “one-fifth of millennials either haven’t heard of or are not sure if they have heard of the Holocaust.” And recently released hate crimes statistics collected by Canadian police have once again placed the Jewish community on top of the haters lists. An official national public apology for Canada’s actions against Jewish refugees during the Holocaust would be a powerful lesson for all, especially the young Canadians who are most at risk of forgetting the painful historical lessons we were supposed to have learned. Owning up to the errors of our past will help ensure that such evil, discriminatory policies never again see the light of day.

Source: Given all its other apologies, when will Ottawa finally apologize to the Jews?

Canadian historian joins uproar in Israel over Polish Holocaust law

There is so often a Canadian connection given the number of immigrant and ethnic communities:

University of Ottawa history professor flew to Israel this week, right into the eye of a brewing diplomatic storm involving the Jewish state and Poland over a controversial bill dealing with remembering the Holocaust.

Jan Grabowski has spent years examining the Holocaust in Poland, where he was born, focusing on Polish-Jewish relations. His research has brought death threats against him and his family and angry letters to his employer demanding he be fired.

But in an interview with CBC News hours after arriving from Canada, Grabowski vowed to press on with his work, outlining the focus of his next book, which will examine the role of the Polish Blue Police during the Second World War.

“It’s about 20,000 people who were armed and who inflicted horrific suffering on the Jews,” he said.

Controversial Polish legislation

Israeli leaders are leading the charge against a piece of legislation passed by the Polish Parliament earlier this month that made it illegal to assert that Poland bore any responsibility for atrocities committed by Nazi Germany.

Six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and many of those victims were Polish. Some of the most notorious extermination camps — Auschwitz-Birkenau and Treblinka to name two — were built on Polish soil.

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Many Poles have long complained when atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, such as the killings at the Auschwitz death camp, have been linked to the Polish nation. ( Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images)

But for decades Poles have chafed at references linking their nationals to the crimes of the Holocaust. Former U.S. president Barack Obama issued an apology in 2012 when he used the term “Polish death camp”.

While most scholars, including those at Yad Vashem, the official Israeli memorial to the Holocaust, agree that labelling concentration camps as Polish is misleading, critics say what’s more worrisome is the crux of the new Polish law that imposes fines or prison terms of up to three years for linking “the Polish nation” to crimes committed during the Holocaust.

‘No Polish bystanders’

Grabowski notes that the prison sentence is the same duration Poles could expect to serve behind bars before the Second World War for “insulting the Polish nation.”

At his Tel Aviv press conference. the Polish-Canadian dual citizen discussed a newspaper article from 1936, detailing the case of a Jewish woman who was evicted from a Polish university.

“As she was evicted, she shouted ‘Polish animals.’ They beat her up, but she was the one the police arrested,” Grabowski said. “She was put in prison for two months for insulting the Polish nation.”

Grabowski, who is in Israel for a conference on Holocaust history, has faced much criticism from some Polish historians for his years of research, including his controversial conclusion that 200,000 Polish Jews were killed — directly or indirectly — by Poles during the war.

“There are no Polish bystanders to the Holocaust,” he told reporters.

Poland’s embassy to Canada, in Ottawa, has criticized Grabowki for offering “groundless opinions and accusations.”

“In reality, there was no free Poland during the Second World War, and the Holocaust was the murder by Nazi Germany of six million Jews,” the mission wrote in a statement to Macleans magazine. “Poland, unlike many countries, was never an ally of Nazi Germany and never had a collaborative regime.”

While he questioned the legal effect of the new Polish legislation, calling it “nonsense,” Grabowski does worry about a chilling effect.

“This law was an embodiment of the growing frustration of nationalists in power [in Poland] who simply are trying to find tools with which to freeze the debate, knowing that they cannot refute historical evidence,” he said. “What they can do is they can try to silence people who would like to undertake research in these areas.”

Hey, Mike Pence, the Holocaust Didn’t Happen for Your Benefit

Sharp and warranted commentary:

Nothing good came out of the Holocaust. The mass murder of Jewish people, Roma, gay people, the disabled, and other targeted groups was an atrocity of unimaginable proportions, an orgy of needless suffering, cruelty, grief and horror. Genocide doesn’t make the world a better place; it makes the world a worse place.

That should be obvious, you’d think. And yet, in America, we compulsively try to turn the Holocaust into a moral lesson or an inspirational parable. Yes, we say, the Holocaust was evil. But look at the good that came out of it! Hitler’s crimes, we insist, gave us all the chance to be better people. The piles of corpses are an abomination, of course; but even so, if we climb them together, we will ascend to a new moral awakening.

Vice President Mike Pence provided a particularly repulsive example of this logic in a tweetover the weekend commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day. “A few days ago, Karen & I paid our respects at Yad Vashem to honor the 6 million Jewish martyrs of the Holocaust who 3 years after walking beneath the shadow of death, rose up from the ashes to resurrect themselves to reclaim a Jewish future,” Pence declared. Pence turned the Holocaust into a triumphant story of bravery, a monument to Israeli nationalism. The Holocaust here is not a tragedy, but a triumph.

Many Jews have pointed out that Pence, who is an evangelical Christian, imposes a Christian narrative on the Holocaust, comparing victims of the Holocaust to Jesus. His tweet also paints Jewish victims of the Holocaust as martyrs for Israel, as if every Jew who died was an ardent Zionist, deliberately laying his or her life down for a future Jewish state. Pence treats the Holocaust as a holy validation of evangelical support for Israel. Many American evangelicals believe that Israel has a role to play in the apocalyptic end times. The Holocaust, then, for Pence becomes a kind of providential working out of God’s divine plan for the Jews. Israel makes the Holocaust worth it, at least from an evangelical perspective. Hallelujah.

Pence is unusually blunt in framing the Holocaust as Christian resurrection narrative, but he’s not the only one to try to turn Auschwitz into inspiration porn. The majority of high-profile films and fictional narratives about the Holocaust focus on upbeat endings and salvation. Films like Defiance (2008), The Zookeeper’s Wife ( 2017) and, most famously Schindler’s List (1993) all tell stories about people who saved Jews during the Holocaust. They all end, ritually, with text informing the viewer how many people the protagonists rescued from death in the camps.

“Pence is unusually blunt in framing the Holocaust as Christian resurrection narrative, but he’s not the only one to try to turn Auschwitz into inspiration porn.”

All these films are based on true stories; Otto Schindler and others did save some Jews. Every life saved is precious—but every life that wasn’t saved is precious, too, and there were, horribly, a nightmarish number of people who weren’t saved from the Holocaust. The obsessive focus on the handful who escaped gives the Holocaust, over and over, a happy ending. The main characters dodge the Nazis; Israel rises up. The death camps may have been horrible, but they gave good people a chance to demonstrate their goodness.

That’s the message of Lois Lowry’s hugely influential Holocaust novel Number the Stars (1989). The book tells the fictional story of Annemarie, a Danish girl who (like many in Denmark) helps a Jewish friend escape the Nazis. “Young people rejoice when Annemarie takes a deep breath, enters the woods, faces the danger, stands up to the enemy, and triumphs,” Lois Lowry wrote in an introduction. The Holocaust gives young people the chance to vicariously brave danger and do the right thing. It’s heartwarming. But should we really be always be looking to the Holocaust to warm our hearts?

The impulse to find lessons in the Holocaust is natural and almost unavoidable. We’re meaning-making creatures, and the Holocaust was so huge and so terrible that we feel like it must have some sort of moral takeaway, some nugget of truth we can pass on to our children. Even the much-repeated mantra “Never forget” suggests that the Holocaust has some use. If we keep the camps in mind, we hope, it will help us to make better choices, or at least enable us to defend ourselves against similar threats.

Ruth Klüger, a Holocaust survivor, rejects this logic in her memoir Eline Jugend, or Still Alive (1992). “Auschwitz was no instructional institution…” she writes. “You learned nothing there, and least of all humanity and tolerance. Absolutely nothing good came out of the concentration camps…They were the most useless, pointless establishments imaginable. That is the one thing to remember about them if you know nothing else.”

Similarly, survivor Alain Rensais’ documentary Night and Fog (1956) treats the Holocaust as a horrible, bemusing puzzle, a bleak, heavy lock without a key. “We survey these ruins with a heartfelt gaze, certain the old monster lies crushed beneath the rubble,” the voice over of the film muses. “We pretend to regain hope as the image recedes, as though we’ve been cured of the plague of the camps.”

As Resnais says, much discussion of the Holocaust seems designed to provide a cure, or offer some sort of world-historical closure. The Holocaust was terrible—but Israel rose up, and (the Christian) God is great. The Holocaust was terrible—but some people saved some victims, and children can learn valuable lessons from that. It was terrible but—it’s done now, and we’ve learned from it, and we’re moving on. Isn’t that inspiring?

The answer, again, is no. The Holocaust was not inspiring. The people murdered by Hitler did not die to advance some greater cause, or to teach us courage. Remembering the Holocaust is a moral imperative, because to forget evil is to collaborate with evildoers. But while memory is a necessity, it’s not clear it protects us. There have been other genocides since Hitler’s. Trump flirts with anti-Semitism and fascist demagoguery while his Vice-President dragoons Holocaust dead for his own political purposes. Evil people still take inspiration from the Nazis; they marched in Charlottesvile and murdered yet another woman there. Hitler’s been dead for 70 years, but his death toll keeps mounting.

We aren’t wiser because of the Holocaust. We aren’t kinder, or braver, or more noble. Evil diminishes us—not least when, like Pence, we act as if the senseless death of millions of people somehow made the world a better place.

via Hey, Mike Pence, the Holocaust Didn’t Happen for Your Benefit

‘One cannot change history’: Israel slams bill that would send people to prison for blaming Poles for Holocaust

Rightfully so. Poland continues to decline in recognizing its past and antisemitism. Those who do not acknowledge their history …:

Israeli leaders angrily criticized pending legislation in Poland that would outlaw blaming Poles for the crimes of the Holocaust, with some accusing the Polish government of outright denial Saturday as the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the proposed law “baseless” and ordered his country’s ambassador to Poland to meet with Polish leaders to express his strong opposition.

“One cannot change history, and the Holocaust cannot be denied,” he said.

The lower house of the Polish parliament on Friday passed the bill, which prescribes prison time for using phrases such as “Polish death camps” to refer to the killing sites Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland during World War II.

A group of children at the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp on Jan. 27, 1945, just after the liberation by the Soviet army.

Many Poles fear such phrasing makes some people incorrectly conclude that Poles had a role in running the camps. But critics say the legislation could have a chilling effect on debating history, harming freedom of expression and opening a window to Holocaust denial.

The bill still needs approval from Poland’s Senate and president. However, it marks a dramatic step by the country’s current nationalist government to target anyone who tries to undermine its official stance that Poles only were heroes during the war, not Nazi collaborators who committed heinous crimes.

Netanyahu’s government generally has had good relations with Poland, which has been recently voting with Israel in international organizations.

At Auschwitz on Saturday evening, Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari, abandoned a prepared speech to criticize the bill, saying that “everyone in Israel was revolted at this news.”

In Israel, which was established three years after the Holocaust and is home to the world’s largest community of survivors, the legislation provoked outrage.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, noting that exactly 73 years had passed since the Auschwitz death camp on Polish soil was liberated, cited the words of a former Polish president about how history could not be faked and the truth could not be hidden.

“The Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the entire world must ensure that the Holocaust is recognized for its horrors and atrocities,” Rivlin said. “Also among the Polish people, there were those who aided the Nazis in their crimes. Every crime, every offence, must be condemned. They must be examined and revealed.”

Today’s Poles have been raised on stories of their people’s wartime suffering and heroism. Many react viscerally when confronted with the growing body of scholarship about Polish involvement in the killing of Jews.

In a sign of the sensitivities on both sides, Yair Lapid, head of Israel’s centrist Yesh Atid party and the son of a survivor, got into a heated Twitter spat Saturday with the Polish Embassy in Israel.

“I utterly condemn the new Polish law which tries to deny Polish complicity in the Holocaust. It was conceived in Germany but hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered without ever meeting a German soldier. There were Polish death camps and no law can ever change that,” Lapid wrote.

That sparked the Embassy to respond: “Your unsupportable claims show how badly Holocaust education is needed, even here in Israel.”

“My grandmother was murdered in Poland by Germans and Poles,” Lapid responded. “I don’t need Holocaust education from you. We live with the consequences every day in our collective memory. Your embassy should offer an immediate apology.”

To which the embassy retorted: “Shameless.”

Israel’s foreign ministry said the deputy Polish ambassador to Israel had been summoned for a clarification.

For decades, Polish society avoided discussing the killing of Jews by civilians or denied that anti-Semitism motivated the slayings, blaming all atrocities on the Germans.

In this photo provided by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, people walk on a commercial street in the Lublin ghetto near a sign forbidding entry, in Warsaw, Poland.

A turning point was the publication in 2000 of a book, “Neighbours,” by Polish-American sociologist Jan Tomasz Gross, which explored the murder of Jews by their Polish neighbours in the village of Jedwabne. The book resulted in widespread soul-searching and official state apologies.

But since the conservative and nationalistic Law and Justice party consolidated power in 2015, it has sought to stamp out discussions and research on the topic. It demonized Gross and investigated whether he had slandered Poland by asserting that Poles killed more Jews than they killed Germans during the war.

Holocaust researchers have collected ample evidence of Polish villagers who murdered Jews fleeing the Nazis. According to one scholar at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, of the 160,000-250,000 Jews who escaped and sought help from fellow Poles, about 10 per cent to 20 per cent survived. The rest were rejected, informed upon or killed by rural Poles, according to the Tel Aviv University scholar, Havi Dreifuss.

The memorial issued a statement Saturday night opposing the Polish legislation and trying to put into historical context the “complex truth” regarding the Polish population’s attitude toward its Jews.

“There is no doubt that the term ‘Polish death camps’ is a historical misrepresentation,” the Yad Vashem memorial said. “However, restrictions on statements by scholars and others regarding the Polish people’s direct or indirect complicity with the crimes committed on their land during the Holocaust are a serious distortion.”

Source: ‘One cannot change history’: Israel slams bill that would send people to prison for blaming Poles for Holocaust

Holocaust must be bigger part of migrant courses: German minister

Will be interesting to see how the revised Canadian citizenship study guide portrays antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of racism and discrimination:

More emphasis should be placed on the Holocaust in integration courses for migrants, Germany’s justice minister said, reflecting heightened unease among leading politicians about a spate of anti-Semitic acts including Israeli flag burnings.

More than a million migrants have arrived in Germany in the last three years, many of them fleeing conflict in the Middle East, causing concern that anti-Semitism could increase.

German police have reported protesters setting Israeli flags ablaze and using anti-Semitic slogans in Berlin and other cities in demonstrations against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In a piece for weekly magazine Der Spiegel, Justice Minister Heiko Maas wrote that the Holocaust, in which the Nazis killed six million Jews, and its significance needed to become an even more important part of integration courses and migrants should be tested on it in the examination at the end of their course.

“The lessons from the Holocaust need to be one of the guiding ideas in those lessons and not just some chapter of German history,” he said.

“Racism has no place in Germany, so everyone who wants to stay in Germany for the long term needs to be clear that we fight the Neonazis’ anti-Semitism and we won’t tolerate any imported anti-Semitism from immigrants either,” Maas added.

Jens Spahn, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), told Der Spiegel he thought immigration from Muslim countries was one of the causes of recent anti-Semitic demonstrations in Berlin.

via Holocaust must be bigger part of migrant courses: German minister

When Hitler’s Henchman Called the Shots in Hollywood

Fascinating:

When Germany, Japan, and Italy formed the Axis alliance in November 1937, four months after Japan invaded China, the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo partnership appeared poised to take on the rest of the world.

With the Reich on the move, propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels tightened his command over his government’s image at home and abroad. In April 1937, he transferred control of all German film companies to the government and appointed himself as overseer of all productions. Henceforth, the content of domestic films would “fulfill with distinction the National Socialist idea.” As Fritz Wiedemann, now vice president of the Reich Film Chamber, boasted, “There is no such thing as public taste; we can shape that as we will. We have determined political taste; we can do the same with artistic taste.”

Goebbels wanted to keep the United States neutral for as long as possible. That meant stopping Hollywood from producing films intended to sway American public opinion against the Hitler regime. The propaganda chief knew there were many kinds of battles to be fought during the course of war, and he considered the battle to control the mind among the greatest. Goebbels understood a basic truth about the power of cinema: Movies matter the most about the things that people know the least. Many Americans got their first glimpse of what a Nazi rally or storm trooper looked like by watching movies or newsreels. Whether they thought of these people and their ideas as good or bad might well be determined by what they saw and heard on the screen.

By shaping the content of American films, Goebbels hoped to shape the ways in which Americans thought about Hitler and his policies.

With movies being seen by 88 million Americans a week in 1937, and by 150 million people throughout the world, Goebbels feared that a powerful anti-Nazi campaign by Hollywood studios could prove disastrous to German ambitions. Consequently, the propaganda minister turned to Georg Gyssling, German general consul in Los Angeles, for help in manipulating the American psyche. Gyssling cajoled, threatened, and did everything in his power to ensure that the Jewish-dominated studios followed Production Code Administration (PCA) regulations and made no film attacking Hitler or his government.

By 1937 the motion picture business reigned as the nation’s fourth largest industry, with over $2 billion in capital investments. Lavishly paid movie industry leaders accounted for 40 of the 63 Americans earning more than $200,000 in 1937. Topping the list was Louis B. Mayer at $1.3 million, making him the highest paid employee in America. The MGM head earned more in salary that year than the entire U.S. Senate combined. As the number of American films shown in Germany steadily dropped from 61 in 1933–34 to 36 in 1936–37, the moguls were forced to deal with Gyssling if they wanted to protect their studios’ bottom lines and their own high salaries.

During his first three years as consul, Gyssling repeatedly used the threat of imposing Article 15, which refused permits for any film deemed “detrimental to German prestige,” to hammer the moguls into compliance. As German military aggression increased after the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Gyssling became even more aggressive with Hollywood, intimidating individual actors and studio employees. When he heard that Malvina Pictures was preparing to release I Was a Captive of Nazi Germany in July 1936, Gyssling contacted the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association and demanded they stop the filming. Based on a true story, the movie recounts the harrowing experience of American journalist Isobel Steele, who was arrested and imprisoned by Nazi authorities on charges of espionage in August 1934. Steele spent four months in solitary confinement at Berlin’s infamous Moabit prison and was deported only after the intervention of the U.S. State Department. Upon her return home, the celebrated journalist wrote numerous stories describing her experiences in Nazi Germany.

via When Hitler’s Henchman Called the Shots in Hollywood