The fight to get citizenship for descendants of German Jews

Good long read largely recounting one case:

A British lawyer is accusing the German government of violating the country’s constitution by refusing to restore the citizenship of thousands of people descended from victims of the Nazis. He argues that the law began to be misapplied under the lingering influence of former Nazis in the 1950s and 60s, and that it’s still being misapplied today.

James Strauss has lived all his life in New York but in the 1930s his family ran an inn and butcher’s business in the town of Gunzenhausen, south of Nuremburg. It was here that an event known as the Bloody Palm Sunday pogrom took place in March 1934, with the inn at its epicentre. As Nazis rioted in the town, two Jews were murdered and Julius Strauss, James’s father, was beaten unconscious and locked up in the town’s jail.

The pogrom is recognised by historians as one of the worst anti-Semitic incidents in Germany prior to the Kristallnacht attacks in November 1938.

The ringleader, Kurt Baer, a member of a Nazi paramilitary force known as the SA, was tried and jailed – but soon released by a Nazi-sympathising judge.

He then returned to the inn to take revenge, shooting and seriously wounding the 27-year-old Julius and murdering his father Simon. (Baer was later sentenced to life imprisonment, but pardoned after four years.)

As soon as he was able to, Julius fled Germany in fear of his life and settled in New York, where he met and married another German Jewish refugee. But he never fully recovered from the attack as the lead bullets could not be removed from his body, and he died as a result of his injuries in 1956, on his son James’s ninth birthday.

Almost 60 years later, in 2015, James Strauss decided to make a trip to Gunzenhausen. “There I met lovely young people from the junior high school and local officials who had worked hard to commemorate this terrible incident,” he says. “I was blown away by their knowledge.”

Strauss returned to the USA with “good feelings” about modern Germany and decided that “in honour of his father and the positive work that had been done in Gunzenhausen,” he would claim his right to have the family’s German citizenship restored.

He thought he had a watertight case when he made his application in 2017. “But when I arrived with the papers at the New York consulate, I was advised there was a problem,” he says. Strauss was told he was not eligible because his father became an American in 1940 – before he had been officially stripped of his German nationality.

While legislation was passed as early as 1933 allowing for German Jews to be stripped of their citizenship – simply by publishing their names in a newspaper – in many cases it only happened in the mass denaturalisation of all Jews who had fled the country, in November 1941.

Article 116 of Germany’s post-war constitution says descendants of people deprived of their citizenship during the Nazi era “shall on application have their citizenship restored”, but the German authorities are refusing the descendants of people like Julius Strauss on the grounds that they left “voluntarily”. It’s an argument that flies in the face of historical realities. Had Julius Strauss stayed in Germany he would have perished in the Dachau concentration camp, along with the other Jewish residents of Gunzenhausen.

Strauss is furious and is determined to challenge the rejection. “This is a betrayal of not only my family but the new Germany and the school kids who have worked so hard,” he says.

For the past year, London lawyer Felix Couchman has been working overtime, flying back and forth to Germany and putting together a case to persuade – or force – the German government to stop excluding various categories of Jewish people from Article 116.

James Strauss is one of more than 100 descendants of Nazi victims who have had their applications rejected and have sought Couchman’s help. Scattered across the globe in the UK, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Israel and the USA, they have come to together in Couchman’s pressure group, the Article 116 Exclusions Group, in order to fight their case, if necessary, all the way to Germany’s constitutional court.

While Strauss’s application was spurred on by an admiration for the new Germany, in the UK the 2016 EU Referendum prompted a sharp rise in applications.

In 2018 1,506 applications for German citizenship were made in the UK, compared to 43 in 2015. But Couchman says that while Brexit was the catalyst in galvanising collective action, it is not simply a Brexit issue. Brexit has served only to reveal a practice that is “morally and ethically wrong”, he says.

The way Article 116 has been interpreted has gone against the spirit of the constitution, he argues, and ignores “how much these people suffered under the Third Reich”.

Judith Rhodes’s mother, Ursula Michel, came to the UK in 1939 on the Kindertransport, an operation that brought thousands of Jewish children to safety while their parents remained behind. “Her life was fractured and she never got over the guilt of surviving,” Rhodes says. Her family all perished in the Holocaust.

Rhodes, who lives in Yorkshire, is now active in Holocaust education in her mother’s home town of Ludwigshafen am Rhein – she shows pupils the little suitcase that her mother was allowed to bring with her.

To make it easier to continue doing this after Brexit, Rhodes decided to apply for German citizenship. But she was refused.

Rhodes’s application was rejected on the grounds that she was born before 1 April 1953, to a German mother married to an Englishman. If it had been the other way round and her father had been German it’s likely that her application would have been granted.

“I am furious because I think the ruling discriminates against women. This is the 21st Century and this sort of sex discrimination should not be allowed,” she says.

“I think the attitude of the German government is that Jews should have stayed in the Third Reich and not fled to safety. It is like an insurance company saying to a homeowner they would not pay up as they did not stay in their house as it burnt to the ground, fighting the fire.”

Ursula Michel's kindertransport passportImage copyrightJUDITH RHODES
Image captionUrsula Michel’s Kindertransport passport

Felix Couchman’s mother also came to the UK on the Kindertransport. He set up the Article 116 Exclusions Group when, like Judith Rhodes, one of his brothers was advised by the German Consulate in London that he would not be eligible to apply for German citizenship. Even though Article 116 says that descendants of Germans deprived of citizenship “shall… have their citizenship restored”, the consulate argued that under German naturalisation law citizenship could only be passed on through the father, up until the 1970s.

Although Couchman had not considered applying for German citizenship himself, and had never been involved in campaigning before, this spurred him into action.

“Although my mother died in 2001, I was acutely aware of what she would have expected me to do,” he says.

“I think the German government started off thinking we were a bunch of little old ladies drinking tea,” he laughs, “but the moral backbone of our campaign means we are not going away. They have been surprised by our determination.”


How the German government interprets Article 116

Automatic right to citizenship is denied to people:

  • Born out of wedlock, before 1993, to a formerly German father with a foreign mother
  • Adopted by formerly German parents before 1977
  • Whose ancestor acquired foreign citizenship before being stripped of German citizenship
  • Born before 1 April 1953 to a formerly German woman (and a non-German man) who fled Germany before being stripped of citizenship
  • Born after 31 December 1999
  • Whose ancestors were Jewish members of German communities annexed by the Nazis during their military expansion, such as Danzig and Czechoslovakia (non-Jewish Germans in these areas were naturalised en masse, but Jews were not)

Interest in the campaign has snowballed. Couchman’s wife, Isabelle, deals with the hundreds of people who have contacted the group. “Some are very elderly and have suffered a great deal,” she says. “Some of them lost their entire families in the Holocaust.”

While Couchman and a Cambridge University PhD student, Nic Courtman, lobby political parties in Germany, Isabelle runs a support network. “People are very emotional and they often cry on the phone when they contact me,” she says. “It can take months for them to decide if they want to pursue their battle.” Some are elderly Holocaust survivors, for example Kindertransport children, who are still traumatised by their experiences.

Central to Couchman’s case against the German government is the atmosphere in which Article 116 was implemented. “We have been told from varying sources of Nazi influence on the way the law was interpreted in the 1950s and 1960s,” he says.

The head of the Interior Ministry department that dealt with residence and asylum was at that time Kurt Breull, a former Nazi who had made his anti-Semitic views clear during the 1930s.

It was in this period that people like Julius Strauss, who had fled the country and taken another nationality before they were stripped of their German citizenship, were deemed ineligible – and also Jews who had lived in eastern territories occupied by Germany, such as Danzig (now Gdansk, in Poland).

“We have to understand how these exclusions arose in order to fix them,” says Couchman.

Nic Courtman has studied the German government’s own investigations into the failure of de-Nazification, finding documents that show the Interior Ministry was aware of controversy surrounding Article 116 in the 1950s, when a commission was set up to examine possible reforms.

That commission was led by Prof Ulrich Scheuner, a former Nazi supporter who, the documents reveal, supported the practice of trying to exclude certain groups. “That influence still filters down and affects decisions today as it set precedents,” Couchman says.

In August, the Article 116 Exclusions Group won their first battle. Two decrees issued by the German government, after pressure from the group, permit some of the descendants of Hitler’s victims to apply for discretionary naturalisation under the Nationality Act.

The German government says the decrees facilitate the acquisition of German citizenship “for those claimants who suffered similar historical injustices to those set out in [Article 116] but are not entitled to restoration under that Article due to legal reasons”.

A statement provided to the BBC, says that the government “highly appreciates” the fact that descendants of victims of National Socialist persecution now wish to acquire German citizenship, and states that the new decrees “provide a swift, directly applicable rule… reducing citizenship requirements for eligible persons to a minimum”.

Judith Rhodes is one of those who might meet the requirements, but only if she takes a series of language and citizenship tests. She says this is still discriminatory and resents “being asked to jump through hoops”.

For Couchman the concessions are “a partial resolution but do not cover all the exclusions”. Adopted children, for example, are still not considered eligible.

“This is a discretionary act that you have to go in begging for,” he says. “What we want is our constitutional right under Article 116.”

Short presentational grey line

Couchman’s group has some powerful allies and has managed to gain the support of opposition parties – the Greens, Die Linke and the FDP – who are leading a parliamentary investigation into the issue. It is still seeking the support of the partners in Germany’s governing coalition, the CDU and the SPD.

Couchman points out that in September Austria’s parliament unanimously ratified a law that extends citizenship to the descendants of Nazi victims who fled Hitler’s Third Reich.

“If Austria is able to pass legislation to rectify the issues over the restitution of citizenship on cross-party lines, I do not see why this cannot be done in Germany,” he says.

The fight has taken over the Couchmans’ lives. The couple work weekends and late into the night. Their two teenage children make sure there is dinner on the table in between studying for their exams.

It is the family’s personal story that drives them forward. Couchman’s grandfather, Fritz Beckhardt, was a German flying ace and World War One hero, but after the Nazis came to power his war record was wiped from the history books.

Couchman’s mother, Suse Beckhardt, was born in 1930 in Wiesbaden. When she was seven, her father had an affair with an Aryan woman, which was a crime under the Nazis, and he was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp.

“An Air Force chum, a prominent Jewish lawyer, Berthold Guthmann, decided to appeal to Herman Goering, one of the most powerful Nazi leaders, who was one of their wartime colleagues,” says Couchman.

Extraordinarily, Fritz was released from Buchenwald in 1940 and told to leave the country. Before he left, he promised his sister and parents-in-law that he would return. None of them survived the Holocaust. Nor his did his friend, Guthmann, who was sent to Auschwitz.

Beckhardt and his wife arrived in the UK in 1940 but were interned with other German nationals on the Isle of Man. It was not until 1943 that they were eventually reunited with their children, who had fled on the Kindertransport before the war.

Suse Beckhardt's Kindertransport paperImage copyrightFELIX COUCHMAN
Image captionSuse Beckhardt’s Kindertransport paper (she disliked her first name, Hilda)

Determined to keep his promise to his family, Fritz Beckhardt returned to Germany in the 1950s to fight for the restitution of the family property and their business.

“He fought and fought,” says his grandson, Couchman, whose mother remained in the UK. “The shop was not profitable because people still did not like to shop in Jewish shops in the 1950s but he did not close the business. You fight for what you believe is right.”

Source: The fight to get citizenship for descendants of German Jews

Jacques Chirac’s courage: Acknowledging France’s role in the Holocaust

Good reminder by Erna Paris:

“The criminal madness of the [Nazi] occupier was seconded by the French, by the French state. Those black hours soiled our history forever. … France … committed the irreparable.”

These words were spoken by French president Jacques Chirac on July 16, 1995, and in the days since his death, he deserves credit for moral courage. The occasion was the anniversary of the infamous Vélodrome d’Hiver roundups of Parisian Jews on July 16 and 17, 1942, when French police incarcerated more than 13,000 Jewish men, women and children in a sports stadium on orders of the occupying Nazis. Before the war ended, 76,000 Jews had been deported to Nazi concentration camps with French collaboration. Only about 3,000 returned.

Everyone understood the significance of Mr. Chirac’s words. He said France was responsible. In speaking from the highest office, he exploded the postwar myth that the terrors committed on French soil were uniquely the work of the occupying Nazis and their collaborationist henchmen in Vichy and had nothing to do with the true France, which had resided in London with the government-in-exile of General Charles de Gaulle from 1940 until 1944 while aided at home by the French Resistance. In effect, Mr. Chirac had shattered the half-century-long taboo against an official acknowledgment of the truth.

The birth and demise of France’s long-standing fairy tale remains instructive, for all nations fashion a historical narrative of who they are and were, especially after times of crisis, and their stories ordinarily retain their power until overwhelmed by undeniable evidence. In the latter category, the following was fact: From May, 1940, France was occupied by the Nazis and governed at Vichy by General Philippe Pétain, a hero of the First World War. Pétain was adored by a majority of the French, and the collaboration of his government with the Nazis, including police actions against Jews, was broadly accepted as national protection. Yes, there was resistance. As historians later verified, about 1 per cent of the population participated in military-style resistance networks, just as about 1 per cent willingly participated in the collaboration by marching around in real or virtual jack boots helping the Nazis carry out atrocities. As for the rest of the population, they made small gestures in either direction or sat on the proverbial fence waiting to see which way the wind would blow.

Gen. de Gaulle created the myth of an all-encompassing resistance to the Nazis because he believed a shared narrative of winning the war would promote peace among his divided countrymen. On June 14, 1944, the day he landed at Bayeux, he identified himself and his resistance with “France” and with the “final victory of the Allies.” Only a tiny handful of traitors had sold out to the enemy. These would be duly tried and excised from the collective.

The die was cast, but still the story sat uneasily, for untold numbers of known upper- and lower-level collaborators had moved into positions of prominence in the postwar era. On the other hand, everyone won, including the collaborators who now said they had been playing a “double game” and had in reality been resisting.

Unsurprisingly, the first accurate history of the Vichy era did not appear until 1972 and was written by a foreigner, U.S. historian Robert Paxton. A second groundbreaking book, Vichy France and the Jews, followed in 1981, also written by Mr. Paxton, with a colleague, Canadian historian Michael Marrus. Notably, both works caused scandal and recriminations that eventually set in motion a train of trials, starting with the Nazi Klaus Barbie, in 1987, culminating with the Vichy-era French bureaucrat, Maurice Papon, in 1998, and underscored in 1995 with the first official statement by a French president on the subject of France’s complicity in the Holocaust.

Because timing and perceived sincerity matter, Mr. Chirac’s formal acknowledgment of his country’s mythologized history was a standout moment in the life of postwar France. Fifty years later, his sorrowful, truthful evocation would help his countrymen recalibrate long-time historical distortions and face their nation’s history, however painful.

Trapped inside a contemporary world of lesser moral clarity, we may admire Mr. Chirac’s principled act.

Canadian officials honour Nazi collaborators in Ukraine, angering Jewish groups

Not quite as simple as portrayed: see tweet from former Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine, Andrew Robinson:

The Canadian Forces and Global Affairs Canada are facing criticism after honouring members of Ukrainian organizations that helped the Nazis in the Second World War.

Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuk spoke at an Aug. 21 ceremony that unveiled a monument in Sambir to honour members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), two groups that are linked to the killing of tens of thousands of Jews and Poles.

The event has been condemned by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the Ukrainian Jewish Committee who warn the memorial whitewashes the role of Ukrainian collaborators in the Holocaust.

“All Jews of Sambir were murdered by Nazis and their collaborators from OUN and UPA,” Eduard Dolinsky, director-general of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee based in Kiev, told Postmedia.

The monument, which is at the edge of a cemetery holding the remains of more than 1,200 Jews murdered by the Nazis and Ukrainian collaborators, is a desecration and “double murder of the Jewish victims,” Dolinsky said. “It’s like putting a monument to killers on the top of the graves of their victims.”

Global Affairs Canada said the Sambir event was intended to assist efforts by the Jewish community in Canada and Ukraine to build public support to create an eventual memorial for the Jewish cemetery in the town. That was the reason for Waschuk’s attendance and to suggest otherwise would be false, the department said.

The memorial is to 17 members of the OUN who the Ukrainians say were killed by the Nazis. Waschuk, in his speech at the ceremony, paid tribute to the murdered Jews, Ukrainians who tried to help them and “those Ukrainians who fought against the Nazi regime as members of OUN-UPA.”

Members of the OUN-UPA supported the Nazis and helped round up and execute Jews after the Germans invaded Ukraine, according to Holocaust historians. At one point, they broke away from their support of the Nazis, but later joined forces again with Germany. In 1943 the UPA started massacring Polish civilians, killing an estimated 100,000 men, women and children, according to historians.

The Canadian Forces said in a statement that military personnel were requested by the Canadian embassy in Ukraine to attend. The attendance was “part of a whole government effort to champion tolerance in a democratic Ukraine and reiterate that totalitarian regimes (in both past and contemporary times, and under all guises) have done injustices to Ukrainians,” the statement said.

Jewish organizations have been trying for years to erect a memorial at the Jewish cemetery. But Sambir locals have resisted that, removing the Star of David at the site and instead erecting three large Christian crosses on the Jewish cemetery. A compromise was eventually reached; in exchange for removing the crosses, a memorial to the dead OUN-UPA would be erected.

Waschuk called the memorial “a monument of love to one’s motherland. And a motherland must know how to defend itself so that it does not suffer again from waves of inhuman totalitarian terror as happened during World War 2.”

It’s not the first time that Canadian actions in Ukraine have raised concerns.

In June 2018 the Canadian government and military officials in Ukraine met with members of the ultranationalist Azov Battalion, which earlier that year had been banned by the U.S. Congress from receiving American arms because of its links to Neo-Nazis

The Canadians were photographed with Azov battalion members, images which were shared on the battalion’s social media site.

In a statement to Postmedia the Canadian Forces noted the meeting was planned by Ukrainian authorities and Canadian representatives had no prior knowledge of those who would be invited. The Azov battalion has been connected to war crimes by the United Nations.

Various Jewish groups have warned about efforts to whitewash Nazi collaborators in eastern European countries, portraying them as heroes instead of those who aided in the Holocaust. Earlier this year, the Canadian government added its voice to those condemning an annual parade in Latvia’s capital honouring members of the Nazi SS, saying it opposes any such event glorifying Adolf Hitler’s regime.

Around 1,000 people marched in the parade in Riga on March 16 in honour of the Latvian SS divisions which fought for the Nazis in the Second World War. Some in the parade wore swastikas and other Nazi insignias.

Source: Canadian officials honour Nazi collaborators in Ukraine, angering Jewish groups

How Deadly Were the UK’s Secret Nazi Concentration Camps?

Valid critique of a shallow treatment:

Six million Jews died in the Holocaust, and yet not a word about them is spoken during Adolf Island, a new documentary special premiering on the Smithsonian Channel (June 23) that investigates the only SS-run concentration camps on British soil—specifically, on the island of Alderney, 60 miles off the south coast of England. According to the program, the men and women rounded up by the Nazis were “dissidents and outsiders” and “political opponents,” but as for Jews, well, they don’t warrant a single mention, even in passing—an omission that epitomizes the speciousness of this hour-long program.

Adolf Island claims that it wants to uncover long-buried WWII Alderney atrocities in order to pay tribute to the experiences of the slain. However, it goes out of its way to not actually identify the types of people who might have perished on the island. The northernmost of the inhabited Channel Islands, Alderney boasted two work camps, Borkum and Helgoland, plus two concentration camps, Norderney and Sylt. Sylt was operated by the SS—and housed Jews. Regardless, the show only discusses these facilities’ victims in the most general way, even as archival footage depicts gaunt concentration camp inmates. Its narrative-warping silence is all the more striking considering its purported goal, articulated by a Washington, D.C., Holocaust Museum interviewee: to learn more about small concentration camps because “one of the things that we really try to do here is bring back people’s identities, humanize them. That they’re not just numbers, but that they’re actual people who had lives.”

That they did—many of them Jewish lives!—although good luck finding out much about them here. Adolf Island details the work of professor and forensic investigator Caroline Sturdy Colls, whose research previously led to the discovery of mass graves at the Treblinka concentration camp. As Colls explains, Hitler invaded Alderney in 1940 as part of his larger takeover of the Channel Islands, which he planned to fortify as military bases that would help him control the English Channel. Archival footage of German officers having their car doors opened by British police officers certainly proves chilling, as does present-day imagery of the remnants of the German occupation—concrete barrier walls, gun turrets and army barracks—that still pepper the windswept locale’s landscape.

Colls arrives in Alderney with the hope of excavating near a cemetery at Longis Common where 336 German prisoners were buried, because she suspects that the actual body count was far greater. Given the Nazis’ homicidal ruthlessness, Colls’ suspicions seem perfectly valid. The actual evidence she has to suggest this is true, however, only amounts to her familiarity with Nazi practices, and a few anecdotal accounts about which we’re briefly informed. Nonetheless, Colls acts as if she’s on the verge of making monumental history. “This is probably the biggest murder case on British soil in the modern age,” she proclaims at the outset.

An impediment to Colls’ research soon arises in the form of the local Alderney government, via a letter denying her request to perform archaeological digs; only non-invasive measures are permitted. This is cast by Colls, and Adolf Island, as a blatant denial of history and cover-up of wartime horrors, because doing so allows Colls to present herself as a persecuted crusader. The problem is, we never directly hear from the Alderney government about its reasoning, which makes this David-vs.-Goliath dynamic feel as false and manufactured as the many shots of Colls walking around Alderney. Never fear, though, as Colls enlists the help of an expert team of drone operators (their airborne devices equipped with LIDAR technology) to photograph the sites in question—techniques that afford never-before-seen views of the structures hidden beneath Alderney’s brush-covered surface.

The results, you’ll be stunned to hear, are… underwhelming. Moreover, they fail to achieve Colls’ stated aims: to comprehend the true scale of the camp (which remains only vaguely known); to deduce how it functioned (the best she can tell, it was a labor camp, and sometimes sent prisoners back to Germany’s Neuengamme camp); and to determine who its victims were (again, maybe… Jews?!?). Rather than providing real insight into its central questions, Adolf Island provides unsubstantiated tidbits as a means of implying that the fluff it’s serving viewers is concrete proof of something. That’s never more true than during the finale, when Colls reports that she’s “identified features that have characteristics of unmarked burials”—and then the narrator baldly triples down by stating that Colls has unearthed “a crime scene” and that her data “confirm the presence of the mass grave.”

Speaking of the narrator: rarely has voiceover been as bluntly expository. Everything is relayed in the most loaded, portentous and/or overblown language imaginable, and that goes for Colls as well. Practical maps, cursory newsreel clips and ominous music round out this unimaginative package. While it’s easy to excuse such crude aesthetics as part and parcel of a reality-TV production designed for easy digestion—replete with post-commercial recaps of the prior action, for those viewers just tuning in—they stand in sharp contrast to the more daring non-fiction artistry that can be found, on a routine basis, on HBO, Netflix, and numerous other small-screen outlets.

In effect, Adolf Island is a lot like those dishonest ghost-hunting cable shows that overhype the importance of their sleuthing, treat each new development like a bombshell (before speeding on to the next one), and then end by making definitive conclusions that aren’t supported by the preceding findings. Colls comes across as sincerely interested in examining and exposing hitherto ignored Nazi malevolence. Nonetheless, by trading in faux-revelations, and treating common-sense logic as headline-deserving news—I mean, can you believe Himmler gave SS commandants the authority to kill concentration camp prisoners?—her Alderney inquiry comes across as a disingenuous attempt to give voice to those who died in the Holocaust.

The vast majority of whom were, you know, Jews.

Source: How Deadly Were the UK’s Secret Nazi Concentration Camps?

Seventy-five Years Later, Hungary Still Hasn’t Come to Terms with its Role in the Holocaust

Good long and disturbing read by Anna Porter:

On the 75th anniversary of the extermination of most of Hungary’s Jews—including the Auschwitz deportations, which began in May, 1944—we should also take note of the Hungarian government’s apparent determination to distort the country’s historical record. In some circles, this effort includes even the rehabilitation of Miklós Horthy, the longtime Hungarian Regent who governed Hungary during the Holocaust.

A former admiral and adjutant to the Habsburg Emperor-King, Horthy entered Budapest in dramatic style with his army on November 16, 1919, astride a white horse. His army defeated the ragtag Bolshevik forces that had imposed 133 days of “Red Terror” upon the country, but also inflicted its own “White Terror,” in some ways more brutal than its communist predecessor. Early during Horthy’s rule, Hungary enacted some of Europe’s first 20th-century anti-Jewish laws. Jews were capped at 6% of university admissions, and subsequent measures limited Jewish participation in elite professions to the same benchmark.

Jews also were prohibited from working in the public service and judiciary, or as high school teachers. During World War II, an additional law was passed prohibiting marriage or sex between Christians and Jews, on the grounds that such unions were harmful to the “national soul.”

Horthy arrives in Budapest, 1919

Even before Hungary actively rallied to the German war effort, most of Hungary’s young Jewish men had been dispatched to so-called labour battalions, serving unarmed near the front, where they were as likely to be killed by their commandants as by enemy fire. In 1941, the Hungarian army rounded up about 17,000 Jews who couldn’t prove they were citizens, and dumped them across the border into Ukraine, where they were systematically massacred by German death squads. By 1942, labour service had been extended to all Jewish men under the age of 45. All this happened while Horthy—an “exceptional statesman,” according to current Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán—ran the country.

Meanwhile, Hungary’s participation in the invasion of the USSR led to the extermination of the flower of Hungarian youth. At the 1942 battle of Voronezh and subsequent operations, the underequipped Hungarian 2nd Army was practically wiped out as it launched itself against Russian defences in support of the ultimately disastrous German thrust toward Stalingrad. By late 1944, Russian troops got to the outskirts of Budapest, which suffered through a 50-day siege before Axis forces surrendered on February 13, 1945. Almost 40,000 civilians died during this period, and much of the city was destroyed.

By this time, most of the country’s Jews already had been deported to concentration camps. In all, an estimated 565,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. Historical documents show that even some Germans were amazed by the speed and efficiency of the Hungarian government’s co-operation, and by the cruelty of its gendarmerie.

Horthy and Hitler, in 1938

Some of the few elderly Hungarian Jews who survived in the Budapest ghetto can still remember scenes of rats feasting on the unburied dead in Klauzal Square, and the trigger-happy young men guarding the gates. I have spoken to many survivors, including Max Eisen, a Canadian Holocaust educator, who was a young teenager when his family was rounded up and sent to Auschwitz. He still remembers the terror of being crammed into a boxcar, standing-room only, a hundred to a car, with no water, food or sunlight. To this day, Eisen has nightmares about his mother holding his nine-month-old sister during that three-day journey. Most of his family was murdered mere hours after arriving on the platform at Birkenau. His father’s last words to him were: “If you survive, you must tell the world what happened”—which is what Eisen did with his devastating 2016 book, By Chance Alone.

But Horthy, who survived the war and lived till 1957, had different memories to relate. In his Memoirs, he pompously declared of the mid-1930s that “though times had changed considerably since I had been aide-de-camp to His Majesty Emperor Francis Joseph, my concepts of honour, law and justice…had not altered.” Of meeting Hitler in 1936, he wrote: “It was not my task to stand in judgment upon the man who, since he had come to power, had shown nothing but goodwill towards Hungary, and who had sent me an extremely friendly telegram on the 15th anniversary of my entry into Budapest. I decided, therefore, to avail myself of an Austrian invitation to a chamois [goat-antelope] shoot in August, 1936, to seize the opportunity of paying a personal visit to Herr Hitler. The Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg had offered me the choice between three hunting preserves; I chose Hinterriss, which is famous for its chamois and to which Bavaria affords the only access.”

In concrete terms, the German “goodwill” consisted of allowing Hungary to reclaim parts of historical territories it had lost after throwing in with the losing side in World War I. Horthy’s primary concern was to restore Hungary’s former borders, even if that meant joining the Nazi war effort. As such, his strong nationalism has a certain appeal to modern populists such as Orbán.

In his Memoirs, Horthy uses terms such as “regrettable excesses” to describe massacres of Jews. He claims that he told Hitler, in early 1944, that “a violent solution [to Hungarian Jews] would be contrary to humanity and morals would not only undermine law and order but would have a deleterious effect on production.” He also claimed that in mid-1944—after he had been marginalized by the Germans, who by now were taking direct control of the country—that he did what he could to save the Jews who remained.

On October 15, 1944, Horthy announced over the radio that he had decided to sign a separate peace treaty with the Allies and withdraw Hungary from the conflict. He talked of the grave injustices inflicted by the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, which had set the fate of Hungary following the First World War. He blamed everyone except himself for the tragedies that had unfolded. His one passing reference to the slaughter of his nation’s Jews was contained in this sentence: “In the shelter of German occupation, the Gestapo tackled the Jewish question in a manner incompatible with the demands of humanity, applying methods it had already employed elsewhere.” It was lost on no one that Horthy was changing sides in the war only after it had become obvious that the Nazis would lose.

Many Jewish survivors recall the forced marches to the Austrian border that began in November, 1944. There were women and children, grandmothers and toddlers. It took more than three days to cover the distance from Budapest. A woman named Aviva told me that those who could not move were shot, and the ditches were lined with bodies. There was no food or shelter. Young Hungarian men stood guard along the route. These were members of the Arrow Cross Party, the far-right Hungarian movement that would run the country from late 1944 to March, 1945.

Near the border, Aviva’s group was joined by a rag-tag group of labour-service men who had been force-marched from the Bor copper mines—more than 300 of them having already been killed. One of the survivors was the young Hungarian poet Mikos Radnoti. He was murdered near Gyor in Western Hungary. When his body was found in a mass grave, his pockets were filled with scraps of paper—his last poems.

Memorial at Liberty Square

Hungary does not deny the fate of its Jews. Indeed, 2014 was declared to be a year of official Holocaust remembrance. But a memorial commissioned by Viktor Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party and erected in Budapest’s Liberty Square has provoked controversy, and even outrage. It presents Hungary in the guise of a thin, languid Archangel Gabriel-like figure being seized upon by a nasty-looking German bronze eagle with outstretched wings and terrifying claws—a symbol plainly meant to suggest Hungary was an innocent party that had been preyed upon by an evil outside force. Historian Krisztian Ungvary has called it a “living horror,” and it has attracted regular protests. But the message is consistent with the larger agenda of Orbán, who wants to promote a new, whitewashed form of national history, according to which the suffering of the Jews was no more nor less brutal than that endured by the entire country under Nazi and then Soviet rule.

Not far from the monument, there is a bronze bust of Horthy at the entrance to a Hungarian Reformed church: At the 2013 unveiling ceremony, leading members of Orbán’s government were in attendance. But also nearby is a monument commemorating the orgy of killing by Hungarian cadres, even as German troops retreated from Budapest under Soviet bombardment in the last months of the war. This year, Hungary’s Jewish community was given permission to bury bones found in the river during the 2016 reconstruction of the Margaret Bridge across the Danube.

During this final spasm of senseless slaughter, thousands of Jews were marched to the Danube and shot, or just pushed into the icy waters to die. It’s important to remember that the killers weren’t German soldiers, but members of Hungary’s own Arrow Cross movement. During my research, I interviewed a survivor—a 4-year old-child at the time—who remembers being taken to the river with his mother. To this day, he thinks it was his childish voice that saved his family when he asked, “Mr. Arrow Cross, when can we go home?” he and his relatives were then ushered out of the line of fire, and he survived to tell the story.

“Shoes on the Danube” memorial

Orbán’s favorite historian, Maria Schmidt, is in charge of the museum known as House of Terror, at 60 Andrassy Boulevard in Budapest. It commemorates both the Nazi terror and the Communist terror, and includes material about Hungarian victims of the Holocaust. Five of the museum’s 17 rooms contain exhibits relating to this subject. But the same historian is also in charge of another, more controversial museum—the House of Fates, which originally had been set to open its doors five years ago. Its initial mandate had been to commemorate the Hungarian experience of the Holocaust. Israel’s Yad Vashem, Washington’s Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the distinguished Hungarian-American professor Randolph Braham (1922-2018) were invited to collaborate. But almost from the beginning, the government’s local appointees reportedly began to push for a new version of the narrative, one by which Hungarians were largely blameless victims of German and Soviet aggression. The whole project fell into limbo, seemingly hostage to opposing historical voices. A Yad Vashem official declared that, from what he’d seen, “visitors to the House of Fates are to be shown and taught that, except for a tiny, criminal and fanatic minority, the citizens of Hungary were essentially blameless for what was inflicted upon their Jewish neighbors.”

As someone who grew up under Hungary’s communist dictatorship, I have a complicated relationship with the past—as my memories of family and friends are intermingled with the fears of saying the wrong thing in a country where judges, schools, the judiciary and the education system were all controlled by the government. And I can see why the country itself also has a complicated relationship with the horrors that its citizens witnessed, endured—and inflicted. But the only way to start healing from these crimes is to acknowledge how they happened.

Source: Seventy-five Years Later, Hungary Still Hasn’t Come to Terms with its Role in the Holocaust

Prague TV tower under fire as dark reminder of city’s antisemitic past

Another Holocaust legacy a government having difficulty addressing:

It has been called one of the world’s ugliest structures, pointing above Prague like a jabbing metallic finger while offering visitors panoramic views of the Czech capital’s more aesthetically pleasing sites.

Now the city’s looming 216-metre (709ft) television tower – one of the most distinctive architectural legacies of communism – is the subject of renewed complaints from the Prague Jewish community, which says it is a brooding reminder of the antisemitism of the regime that ruled the former Czechoslovakia for more than 40 years and whose dark history needs to be officially recognised.

“Part of our community is still present under the ground here and people should know about it,” said Pavel Vesely, a history and tourism coordinator with the Prague Jewish community. “It reflects our history in the second half of the 20th century, when there was pressure – part state-organised antisemitism, part anti-religion – to erase the remnants of a Jewish presence in Prague. And the communists did a thorough job, because if you speak to people visiting the tower, they have no idea a Jewish cemetery was here.”

The ancient Prague Jewish cemetery as it was before it was turned into a tower. Also shows the site when the tower’s foundations were being dug.. Sent by Robert Tait.
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The ancient Prague Jewish cemetery before the tower was built over it, involving the disinterment of human remains. Photograph: Archive of the City of Prague

Local officials are calling for a memorial acknowledging that the tower, believed to have been conceived partly as a cold-war gambit to block western TV and radio broadcasts, stands on what was once Prague’s biggest Jewish cemetery, where rabbis, distinguished scholars and leading industrialists, among others, were laid to rest.

Graves in the former cemetery in the Žižkov neighbourhood were disturbed after workers began drilling in 1985 to lay the tower’s foundations. While some remains were reburied in other cemeteries, others were reportedly dumped in a landfill site outside Prague, in violation of Jewish law forbidding the disinterment of buried bodies.

The Jewish community sold the site, under pressure from the communist authorities, to the state broadcaster after it was deemed the ideal location for the tower. Most of the headstones in the once sprawling cemetery – first established in 1680 and the burial place for about 40,000 people – had previously been flattened and grassed over in the early 1960s to convert it into a park, also at the demand of the communist regime.

By the time the tower was completed in 1992, the cold war had ended after communist regimes in Czechoslovakia and other eastern bloc countries lost power. It is now marketed as a tourist attraction, boasting an observatory, a restaurant and even a one-bedroom hotel.

It stands at the centre of a square hosting a restaurant, an underground parking facility and a mini-golf course, part of which is said to be sited where the grandest tombstones once stood. There is also an ice rink in winter.

The cemetery’s oldest section survived the developments and remains in relative obscurity at one end of the square, Jewish community leaders having spent heavily to rescue it from the decay it had fallen into during the communist period.

However, they say a memorial is needed out of respect for the much larger, disappeared part of the cemetery, and as a reminder of what is seen as a state-sponsored effort to erase the last vestiges of Jewish identity after the Holocaust.

Some local schools have taken pupils on tours of the site to raise awareness. Magdalena Novotná, a teacher leading a group of nine-year-olds around the cemetery as part of a class project, said: “The communist regime was not sensitive to spirituality or religious traditions. What touches me is that we know the Jewish belief that we cannot move bodies once they are in the soil, but they moved them completely. This is what we teach the children in the project.”

Anna Tumova, a spokesperson for České Radiokomunikace, the tower’s owners, said the company had not been approached, but that it would consider any proposal for a memorial. A plaque on the body of the tower itself would need permission from its architect, Václav Aulický.

The structure already carries the figures of several sculpted “babies” designed by a Czech artist, David Černý, copies of which were refitted earlier this year after the originals were removed.

The tower is the latest focal point of the Jewish community’s drive to restore scores of cemeteries, synagogues and other cultural sites destroyed or allowed to fall into ruin under communism. Some 105 synagogues were demolished during the communists’ reign – compared with 70 during the Nazi occupation.

Stonework for many abandoned sites was sold and later reused for private gardens, car parks or pedestrianised streets. Prague city council recently agreed to allow Jewish community leaders to examine cobbled paving stones dug up for a forthcoming redevelopment of Wenceslas Square. Some stones are believed to have been taken from Jewish cemeteries and repurposed for the pedestrianisation of the area carried out by the communist regime in the 1980s.

Source: Prague TV tower under fire as dark reminder of city’s antisemitic past

Polish nationalists protest against US over Holocaust claims

Disheartening:

Several thousand nationalists rallied in Warsaw on Saturday against a US law on the restitution of Jewish properties seized during the Holocaust, fuelling concerns about anti-Semitism in the country.

Far-right supporters who marched from the prime minister’s office to the USembassy waved banners reading “No to claims”, “Shame” and “Stop 477”.

The latter refers to the US Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act which requires the US State Department to report to Congress on the progress of countries including Poland on the restitution of Jewish assets seized during World War Two and its aftermath.

The protest took place amid a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic hate speech in public life in Poland and it appeared to be one of the largest anti-Jewish street demonstrations in recent times. It also comes as far-right groups are gaining in popularity, pressuring the conservative government to move further to the right.

‘Biggest European anti-Jewish demonstration in recent years’

Poland was a major victim of Nazi Germany during World War II and those protesting say it is not fair to ask Poland to compensate Jewish victims when Poland has never received adequate compensation from Germany.

“Why should we have to pay money today when nobody gives us anything?” said 22-year-old Kamil Wencwel. “Americans only think about Jewish and not Polish interests.”

The protesters shouted “no to claims!” and “This is Poland, not Polin,” using the Hebrew word for Poland.

Rafal Pankowski, a sociologist who heads the anti-extremist group Never Again, called the march “probably the biggest openly anti-Jewish street demonstration in Europe in recent years.”

One couple wore matching T-shirts reading “death to the enemies of the fatherland,” while another man wore a shirt saying: “I will not apologise for Jedwabne”   a massacre of Jews by their Polish neighbors in 1941 under the German occupation.

Among those far-right politicians who led the march were Janusz Korwin-Mikke and Grzegorz Braun, who have joined forces in a far-right coalition standing in the elections to the European Parliament later this month. Stopping Jewish restitution claims has been one of their key priorities, along with fighting what they call pro-LGBT “propaganda.” The movement is polling well amongst young Polish men.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki echoed the feelings of the protesters at a campaign rally Saturday, saying that it is Poles who deserve compensation.

Poland was the heartland of European Jewish life before the Holocaust, with most of the 3.3 million Polish Jews murdered by occupying Nazi German forces. Christian Poles were also targeted by the Germans, killed in massacres and in concentration camps.

Looted property ‘continues to benefit Polish economy’

Many Poles to this day have a feeling that their suffering has not been adequately acknowledged by the world, while that of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust has, creating what has often been called a “competition of victimhood.”

Many of the properties of both Jews and non-Jews were destroyed during the war or were looted and later nationalised by the communist regime that followed.

Protesters said paying compensation would ruin Poland’s economy. But Jewish organisations, particularly the World Jewish Restitution Organisation, have been seeking compensation for Holocaust survivors and their families, consider compensation a matter of justice for a population that was subjected to genocide.

Poland is the only European Union country that hasn’t passed laws regulating the compensation of looted or national property, and the head of the WJRO, Gideon Taylor, noted Saturday that such property “continues to benefit the Polish economy.”

At least two US Confederate flags were visible at Saturday’s protest, which began with a rally in front of the prime minister’s office before the protesters walked to the US Embassy. Men in Native American headdress held a banner with a message pointing to what they see as US double standards: ‘USA, Practice 447 at home. Return stolen lands to the descendants of native tribes.”

With pressure building on this issue, the US State Department’s new envoy on anti-Semitism, Elan Carr, was in Warsaw this past week, telling leaders and media that the US is only urging Poland to fulfil a non-binding commitment it made in 2009 to act on the issue. He also said the US recognises that Poland was a victim of the war and is not dictating how Warsaw regulates compensation.

Source: Polish nationalists protest against US over Holocaust claims

Why Is the Vatican Opening the Files on ‘Hitler’s Pope’?

Interesting analysis of this major and overdue decision:

When Pope Francis announced that he’d be opening the Vatican’s secret archives from the World War II papacy of Pius XII, many wondered, “Why now?”

Papal archives traditionally are opened at least 70 years after a pope’s death, meaning no one expected the secrets of Pius XII, who died in 1958, to be made accessible until 2028.

By deciding to open them on May 2, 2020, Francis seems to be sending a message, though no one is quite certain just what that is.

— Plaque on a building where Jews were held in sight of the Vatican walls

In his announcement, Francis acknowledged that the archives of Pius, who is often dubbed “Hitler’s Pope,” may not be entirely favorable, but he claimed the Church is “not afraid of history.” He said Pius had “moments of grave difficulties, tormented decisions of human and Christian prudence, that to some could appear as reticence.”

Whatever might be revealed in the secret archives, it remains an indisputable fact that thousands of Jewish people were pulled from their homes in Rome and taken to the concentration camps under the shadow of the Vatican. A poignant plaque on the Via Lungara, just a stone’s throw from the gates of Vatican City, still commemorates one of the most horrific incidents: “On 16 October 1943 entire Jewish Roman families were ripped from their homes and brought to this place and then deported to concentration camps. Of more than 2,000 people, only 16 survived.”

Rabbi Abraham Skorka, an Argentine rabbi and professor at the St. Joseph’s University Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations in Philadelphia, is a longtime friend of the pope from the pontiff’s days as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in Buenos Aires. The two co-authored the 2000 book on contemporary theology On Heaven and Earth.

Skorka told The Daily Beast he is “not sure opening the archives will substantially modify the polemic” that still rages regarding the wartime actions of Pius XII, who some Catholics claim may actually have helped save Jewish lives by notcondemning Hitler publicly.

But Skorka says the simple answer is: promises made, promises kept. “He said he’d do it. It is that simple. This is further evidence of the commitment Bergoglio has with the truth itself, more than with the results that may emerge from any investigation of the material.”

Francis, who met with a delegation from the American Jewish Committee the day after announcing the opening of the archives in Rome, lamented recent incidents of anti-Semitism as part of a “climate of wickedness and fury, in which an excessive and depraved hatred is taking root.”

According to Skorka, “What Bergoglio says is, ‘We have to open the archives and see what really happened and the truth must flourish in all its aspects.’ He’s saying, ‘Let us move ahead and learn from history.’”

Francis said he is sure that upon further study, scholars would find “during periods of the greatest darkness and cruelty, the small flame lit of humanitarian initiatives, of hidden but active diplomacy.”

But Lorenzo Cremonesi, a member of the Vatican-appointed commission of Catholics and Jews that, in 2000, revealed that Pius XII knew about the Holocaust as early as June 1942, cautioned against giving the Catholic Church credit for “the initiatives of local churches in many countries who on their own took action to save Jews.”

“Church machinery,” he said, was something else.

Pius has been stalled on the Vatican trajectory towards sainthood since Pope Benedict XVI, a German, endorsed him in 2009 and thus made him “venerable.” Benedict was just 12 years old when Pius was elected, and he often has referred to him as “my first pope.” Benedict has been a long-time backer of Pius’s innocence during the war, and instead has consistently said that the pope worked behind the scenes to protect Jews.

Some believe the opening of these archives early is a special favor to the retired pope, whose health has been failing since he resigned in 2013. If the archives prove that Pius did work to protect Jews, his cause for sainthood would surely advance–he already has several miracles credited to him. A Vatican source told The Daily Beast that Benedict would love to be alive for the beatification of Pius, but that won’t happen until the archives of his papacy are opened.

For the old group of Argentine friends that remain in close contact with the current pope, Pius’ reputation seems of lesser interest than that of Francis. And Benedict’s legacy is of even less interest.

Another of Bergoglio’s old friends from Buenos Aires, Alberto Zimerman, head of interreligious dialogue for the umbrella association of Jewish organizations in Argentina (DAIA), said that Francis had decided upon this “risky course for the church” not having seen any of the classified documents himself.

“We could find anything there,” Zimerman told The Daily Beast, invoking the pope’s willingness to “undertake any challenge.”

For decades, scholars studying the World War II pope’s actions have argued that the Vatican did nothing to stop the atrocities, and while some Catholics tout Pius’s “secret diplomacy,” many Jews see it quite differently.

Rabbi David Rosen, the International Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, who has advocated for the archives’ opening for more than 30 years, and who met with Pope Francis last week, said that there was only “the greatest respect and collaboration” between Jewish groups and the Vatican team now cataloging the documents. But “in the end,” he told The Daily Beast, “there is a debate between the church and the Jewish people regarding what Pius XII did.”

“For the Catholic Church, he made a tactical decision he thought would be best,” Rosen says. “For Jews, the very thought that anything could be worse than the Holocaust means we will never have a shared historical view of this moment.”

Rosen specified that there are questions of historical fact still “lacking in clarity,” including “instructions emitted from the Vatican, areas where Pius XII may have been directly involved, and information transmitted and actions taken, not necessarily by the pope but by other agencies of the Vatican.”

The same Jewish group that met Francis in Rome last week has, for years, pressured the Vatican to reveal what many assume will be Pius XII’s blind eye to the atrocities that unfolded under the reign of both Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini during his papacy.

In a recent radio interview, David Kertzer, author of The Pope and Mussolini, likened the church’s approach to the atrocities of the Holocaust to those of the clerical sex abuse scandal now ravaging the church’s reputation.

“In this case maybe there’s some parallel to the more recent pederasty sex scandal in the Church,” Kertzer said. “The perspective of the Vatican was largely ‘the first priority has to be to protect the institutional Church and everything else comes second.’”

Kertzer told The Daily Beast that he would be among the first to visit the archives. He believes Pius was concerned that the Nazi regime would work against the church and so did what they could to work against its power base without taking into account the helpless victims caught in the middle. “I think we may well find more documentation that will show that this is exactly the kind of consideration that was overriding the Pope’s decision making at the time.”

Opening the archives will not satisfy everyone.  I think they will hide a lot of things,” says Cremonesi, a special envoy for the Italian daily Corriere della Sera and an expert on Vatican-Jewish relations. “We know that Pius XII was very open to the German cause—not to Hitler—but to Germany, because he saw the Germans as a bastion against the Communists, and the Communists were the primary concern of the Vatican.”

Explaining the church’s indifference to the genocide of European Jewry, Cremonesi said, “Pius really believed that the only good Jew was a converted Jew.”

Rabbi Israel Zolli, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, who famously survived the war under Vatican protection and later converted to Catholicism, “was the paragon for Pius,” Cremonesi says. “Perfection.”

While it will take a year for the Vatican to catalogue the hundreds of thousands of documents, there is still worry that the Vatican won’t be entirely up front. The entire archives are already indexed, a librarian with the Vatican archives told The Daily Beast on background. There would, in essence, be no way to cover up huge gaps since many historians are going to be checking the files against already available documents–unless those record were destroyed long ago.

Many countries that had diplomatic relations with the Holy See during World War II have already made those documents available. Now scholars want to know what internal memos the Vatican attached to notes it received at the time concerned that the Vatican was not doing enough.

“We know the attitude of the church,” Cremonesi said, using as an example the 1904 encounter between Pius X and Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, who described the meeting in a detailed diary entry.

“When you go to the Vatican to look it up, there’s nothing,” Cremonesi said, chuckling. “No little note like you find in British archives saying ‘document classified,’ or even a line saying ‘this morning his Holiness held meetings.’ There is nothing.”

“I put my hands in fire,” he says: “If there is anything annoying in those papers, the Vatican will not reveal it.”

Skorka noted that Francis, 82, the first non-European pope, grew up in the melting pot of Buenos Aires, with Jewish friends from childhood. He recalled that during the conversations that led to the publication of their book, Bergoglio said that of the “many genocides in the 20th century”—he mentioned the Armenians—”the genocide of the Jews is singular. It set about to eliminate the Jewish people and the spirituality that transcended from its history.”

“For people like him and me, who believe in the God of Israel, it means the Holocaust was an attempt to destroy this God on earth,” Skorka said.

Pope Francis’ decision to open the Vatican archive, Skorka implied, is an attempt to restore that God for humanity.

Source: Why Is the Vatican Opening the Files on ‘Hitler’s Pope’?

David Pugliese: Nazi whitewash gathers momentum as memory of the Holocaust fades

Good article by Pugliese:

With the horrors of the Holocaust a distant memory, and many Canadians no longer aware of the crimes that took place in the name of the Third Reich, an opening has emerged for those who want to rewrite the history of Adolf Hitler’s regime and those who served it.

A movement is afoot to claim that the Nazi collaborators and the SS units made up of Ukrainians, Latvians and other eastern Europeans, were actually nationalistic heroes and in no way associated with the Nazis. I have written a number of articles exposing the role of these collaborators in the Holocaust and their complicity in murdering tens of thousands of Jewish men, women and children.

I have received emails from Ukrainians and Latvians who claim the Holocaust never took place. Others write that while Jews were indeed killed, they deserved the death and destruction the Nazis brought down on their communities.

And then there are others who claim that journalists who write articles about the Ukrainian and Latvian SS units – and the parades that are held in those nations to this day honouring these Nazi collaborators – are “pro-Russian” or somehow spouting Kremlin propaganda.

I’ve had the distinction of being singled out as such in a recent report on Russian disinformation by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute of Ottawa, a right-wing think-tank.

The report’s author, Marcus Kolga, claims my articles about the role of Ukrainians and Latvians in the Holocaust and their service in SS units has parroted the Kremlin’s narrative and has “been critical of Canada’s support for states targeted by Kremlin aggression.”

For starters, the articles I have written about Ukrainian and Latvian Nazis who butchered Jews don’t even mention Canada’s support for those two countries, let criticize that support.

My articles are about those who would deny that Ukrainians, Latvians, and others from eastern Europe eagerly participated in the Holocaust and supported Adolf Hitler. The articles also expose those who would declare these Nazi collaborators as some kind of heroes.

To be sure, the Ukrainian and Latvian governments were not happy about my articles, considering they exposed their nations’ dark past in supporting the wholesale slaughter of Jews.

And the Macdonald-Laurier Institute has received funding from the Latvian Ministry of Defence. In addition, the Embassy of Latvia in Canada has also provided sponsorship for the institute.

What is going on in Latvia and the Ukrainian and other east European nations is a Nazi whitewash designed to rehabilitate those from these countries who took part in some of the most heinous crimes in history.

Here’s how it works.

Ukrainian and Latvian militia and police units were among the most brutal in helping the Nazis hunt down and murder Jewish men, women and children.

They were good at killing defenceless people. So good, that the Holocaust Chronicle, published in 2003 and written by 7 top scholars in the field of Holocaust studies, noted that Ukrainians were also sent to help kill Jews during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April 1943. 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:

SS General Jurgen Stroop, later executed as a war criminal, was very pleased with the Ukrainian, Latvian and Lithuanian volunteers who helped him and his men murder and hunt down 56,000 Jews. In his diary Stroop wrote that these killers were not only “nationalists and anti-Semites” but among his best troops. They were “wild at heart and with a tendency towards base things. But nevertheless obedient,” Stroop gushed about his Ukrainian, Latvian and Lithuanian killers.

The Ukrainian militias who murdered Jews in the ghetto and elsewhere went on to serve in a new SS unit created by the Nazis, the 14th SS Galizien Division. Stroop was brought on as an advisor to the newly created division.

A similar development happened in Latvia. The members of Latvia’s Arajs Kommando, who had killed an estimated 26,000 Jews for the Nazis, went on to serve in the Latvian SS legion.

These SS units were sent to fight the Russians as they closed in on the Third Reich.

Decades later the whitewash began. The Ukrainians and Latvians who fought for the SS – as the whitewash explains – weren’t really Nazis. They instead were nationalists fighting for their own country against the Russians. And of course none of them committed any type of crime, or so the whitewash explains, carefully ignoring the previous role of the individual members in these SS units in the mass murder of tens of thousands of Jews.

Last year, Karlis Eihenbaums, Latvia’s Ambassador to Canada, launched an attack on Canadian journalist Scott Taylor who wrote 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. Like the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Eihenbaums suggested such articles were “fake news” and “disinformation.” And like the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Eihenbaums tried to smear the journalist by suggesting he was under the “influence” of the Russian government. Eihenbaums also targeted my articles.

As I have written before, the eager participation of some Latvians in the Holocaust is not “fake news.” It is a well-documented historical fact that many of the killers from the Arajs Kommando went to the Latvian Legion. These Latvians, Ukrainians, Estonians and others from eastern Europe nations served Hitler and his war aims. No number of claims of “fake news” can change that fact.

These days there are parades in Latvia and Ukraine to honour these SS units who fought under the Swastika. These parades and memorials, which have attracted the support of Neo-Nazis and other fascist groups, have long been controversial and questioned by many throughout Europe. See the photo below and note the white pride shirt on the young Ukrainian with the Ukrainian SS veteran.

For instance, the controversy over the Latvian Legion and the annual parade held in Riga (each March) 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 last year’s Latvian SS parade in Riga, which took place mid-March.

So much for “fake news.” Did Helmut Kohl and Jacques Chirac spread Russian “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 individuals and nations trying to whitewash their Nazi collaboration and rewrite history, while attacking journalists and other organizations who don’t want to let that happen.

While the Macdonald-Laurier report carefully ignores the crimes of Ukrainians and Latvians who supported Hitler’s Third Reich and butchered Jewish men, women and children by the thousands, there are those in the U.S. Congress and Jewish community speaking out against the Nazi whitewash.

In late April 2018 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.

In the summer of 2018 B’nai Brith Canada’s chief executive officer Michael Mostyn called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to use his trip to Latvia that year to push back against that country’s glorification of Nazi collaborators as well as attempts to deny the nation’s role in the Holocaust.

Mostyn called on the Canadian government to speak out more forcefully to denounce parades in Latvia and other eastern European nations that honour units who fought with the Nazis during the Second World War.

“We must challenge all those who distort the historical record on governments, military units or organizations that fought with, supported or sympathized with the Nazis during World War II,” Mostyn wrote to Trudeau. “This includes government leaders who acquiesce in, or fail to condemn, a process of Nazi glorification that amounts to Holocaust distortion.”

“Those who glorify the record of such organizations or units cannot dismiss criticism as ‘fake news’ “,added Mostyn. “The fact is that some organizations and their leaders, now glorified for their fight against the Soviet army, were also involved in atrocities against Jewish civilians or embraced ideologies that were deeply anti-Semitic and perpetuated social hostility towards their Jewish populations. This is why B’nai Brith rejects any efforts to constrain historians and the media from researching what happened and publicly explaining it in an objective manner.”

These are words that those at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute should pay attention to.

Mostyn letter is here:

https://www.bnaibrith.ca/canada_must_counter_the_glorification_of_nazis_in_european_nato_countries

Source: Nazi whitewash gathers momentum as memory of the Holocaust fades

What would it have looked like if the Holocaust had come to Canada?

An interesting mix of historical fact and reasoned hypotheses of what could have happened:

There were only 52 Jews in Trois-Rivieres, Que. during the Second World War, but Nazi Germany knew.

This week, Library and Archives Canada unveiled its newest acquisition: A 137-page book once owned by Adolf Hitler that seems to represent the first outlines of a Nazi plan to bring the Holocaust to Canada. “It undoubtedly breaks the myth viewed by many at the time that the Holocaust and WWII were only Europe’s problems,” said Mina Cohn, director of the Centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship at Carleton University.

Canadian troops participated in the liberation of Nazi concentration camps, including Bergen-Belsen. Canada also became a postwar haven for tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors. But Canada of the early 1940s was also a viciously antisemitic country with one of the world’s worst records of admitting Jewish refugees.

Below, some chilling details of what the Nazis intended to do with Canadian Jewry — and how willing Canada might have been to stop them.

The Nazis were apparently planning something for North America’s Jews
“I don’t think it’s a crazy claim to say that governments and militaries, especially during wartime, don’t do research for no reason,” said Michael Kent, the Library and Archives Canada librarian who acquired the German book. Entitled Statistics, Media, and Organizations of Jewry in the United States and Canada, the book includes a detailed accounting of Jewish newspapers and organizations in Canada, as well as a census of Canada’s Jewish population and where they could be found. Cities as small as Moose Jaw, Sask., for instance, are noted to have 96 “Juden.” The book, which appears to have been commissioned for senior Nazi leadership, is similar to other censuses that Nazi authorities used to organize the deportation and murder of Jews in occupied countries. Prior to the planned invasion of Great Britain, for instance, the SS prepared a lengthy “arrest list” of British citizens, including prominent Jews such as Sigmund Freud. Of course, a Nazi conquest of Canada would have been virtually impossible. If Nazi German forces couldn’t mount an invasion across the English Channel, it’s much more unlikely they could handle one across 4,000 kilometres of ocean. Nevertheless, the book was commissioned right around the time when Germany was dispatching saboteurs to North America, and when Nazi planners were investigating the possibility of an “Amerikabomber”; an extremely long-range bomber that could lay waste to cities such as New York.

The book was likely looted by a U.S. soldier after the Allied liberation of Berchtesgaden, site of Hitler’s mountain hideout.

France, Norway and even occupied British territories all willingly participated in the Holocaust
In occupied Norway, it was Norwegian police who organized the deportation of 772 Jews and the seizure of their property. The collaborationist Vichy regime in France started cracking down on its Jewish population even without orders from Berlin. When French Jews started being shipped to Auschwitz, the French national railway took the contract to deport them east. Even in the British Channel Islands, occupied by the Germans during the war, local authorities handed over information on Jewish residents without protest. Although none of these places would have perpetrated a genocide on their own, their collaborationist governments ultimately proved remarkably willing to comply with German demands. “Why would Canada of that time be any different from all the other western civilized counties in Europe?” said Mina Cohn. Hilary Earl, a Holocaust researcher at Nipissing University, is more skeptical. Denmark rescued almost its entire Jewish population. Fascist countries such as Spain and Italy sheltered Jews. The Netherlands strongly resisted the Holocaust, but still wound up losing a higher percentage of their Jewish population than almost anyone else. “It is impossible to know for certain what would have happened and who would have pushed back,” Earl said. “Antisemitism does not automatically beget genocide, it facilitates it for certain, but it isn’t the only factor.”

Canada was much more antisemitic than we know it now 
McGill University had quotas to limit Jewish enrollment. Toronto Island and other Ontario vacation spots brazenly featured “gentiles only” signs. Alberta premier William Aberhart openly blamed Jews for the Great Depression. Newspaper editorials in mainstream publications such a Le Devoir called Europe’s Jewish population “a very serious problem.” Prime Minister Mackenzie King was deeply antisemitic, objecting to the introduction of “foreign strains of blood” and even believing that the United States was too much in the thrall of “Jews and Jewish influence.” “The vast majority of Canadians have no lived memory of a Canada in which antisemitism was widely and legally tolerated,” wrote the authors of the groundbreaking 1983 book None is Too Many. The meticulously researched book framed Canada as having the worst record among Western democracies for accepting Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. Only 5,000 Jews were admitted to Canada from 1933 to 1945, compared to 200,000 accepted by the United States and 70,000 by the U.K. Still, while Canada did not like Jews, this was far from the preconditions for participation in a genocide. “Antisemitism to a degree was universally present in the 1940s but cooperation in the Holocaust was not,” Tomaz Jardim, a Ryerson University Holocaust scholar told the National Post by email.

Canada already had a fair bit of experience with rounding up ethnic groups
During the First World War, the federal government interned 8,000 Ukrainian-Canadians and forced others to carry special identity papers. During the Second World War, more than 31,000 Italian-Canadians were forced to register as enemy aliens. West Coast authorities also forcefully rounded up Japanese-Canadians into transit centres, seized their property and then deported them to remote internment camps. Internees at the time even complained that they were being given the “same treatment the Nazi’s gave the Jews.” A French gendarme rounding up Parisian Jews for the gas chambers might have been able to take comfort in the Nazi fiction that they were simply being sent to agricultural colonies in the east. Similarly, Canadian police in the 1940s carried out mass deportation orders without full knowledge of where detainees were going. “I would hope that Canada would have proven itself to be another Denmark and resisted persecution of its Jewish population at all costs, even under extreme duress, but given the internment of Japanese-Canadians and the anti-Semitic sentiment that was widely accepted within mainstream Canadian life at the time, one can imagine a Canada engaging in anti-Jewish activity that would fill us with horror and regret today,” said Rebecca Margolis, president of the Association for Canadian Jewish Studies.

Japanese-Canadians being deported into the B.C. interior via open truck.

There were already Jews behind barbed wire on Canadian soil
During the Second World War, 2,300 Jewish men of German and Austrian origin lived in internment camps in Quebec and the Maritimes. They had come to Canada as refugees from Nazi oppression, but were detained as “enemy aliens” due to their country of origin. Had Canada fallen to Nazi occupation, these camps could have functioned as the first hubs of Canadian Final Solution. This precise scenario is what happened to the Netherlands. Shortly after the Nazi invasion of Poland, the Dutch set up Westerbork, an internment camp for the more than 400 Jewish refugees who had entered the Netherlands illegally across the German border. After Germany conquered the Netherlands in 1940, Westerbork was converted into a transit camp and its internees transferred to killing centres in occupied Poland.

Killings probably would have been carried out on Canadian soil
The Nazis prioritized efficiency above all else when it came to genocide. Initially, Jews were murdered in mass shootings conducted in open areas by German military units. Later, to assuage the psychological burden of soldiers killing hundreds of civilians per day, Nazi military scientists experimented with mobile killing vans that would asphyxiate victims with carbon monoxide. By war’s end, Nazi authorities had settled on the method of deporting Jews to centralized killing centres. The expense of moving Canadian Jews to occupied Eastern Europe would likely have been prohibitive, so German genocide planners would likely have settled on a made-in-Canada solution. “Parts of remote areas could have been turned into enormous camps where people could have been starved and left to die of the cold,” said David MacDonald, a researcher in genocide studies at the University of Guelph. At the time, the Soviet Union’s gulag system had already proven the utility of using remote northern areas to make thousands of people disappear. And Canada’s own experience of Indian Residential Schools showed that it was indeed possible for early 20th century Canadians to dig the occasional child mass grave without anybody asking all that many questions.

Source: What would it have looked like if the Holocaust had come to Canada?