Switzerland: Calls grow to ban Nazi symbols and salutes

Of note:

At a rally protesting against anti-Covid measures in September 2021, a demonstrator made a Nazi salute – right in the middle of Bern’s Old Town. The public prosecutor’s office consequently issued the demonstrator with a penalty order for improper behaviour. However, the man successfully contested the notice. There was no legal basis for a conviction, a local court ruled.

A neo-Nazi who made the same salute in 2010 on Rütli Meadow in the canton of Uri also ended up being acquitted. The Swiss Federal Court ruled in 2013 that the man had been expressing his own convictions among like-minded people, and that this was not a criminal offence. Had he been making the salute to spread Nazi ideology on the other hand, he would have been punished under Swiss anti-racism laws.

These examples show that Switzerland has a certain tolerance threshold when it comes to making Nazi symbols and gestures. Nazi salutes, swastikas, etc. are banned only when used for propaganda purposes. Political efforts to scrap this distinction have been ongoing since 2003. Majorities in the Federal Council [Swiss government] and parliament have so far judged freedom of expression to be more important, but the perception seems to be shifting now. Three motions on the issue have been submitted in parliament – one from the centre right and two from the left.

Spate of incidents during the pandemic

Parliamentarian for The Centre, Marianne Binder, set the ball rolling in winter. Binder wants a complete ban on Nazi gestures, flags and symbols, both in the real world and online. Explaining her motion, she said: “Anti-Semitic incidents have increased and took on a new dimension during the pandemic.”

The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG) and the Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism (GRA) confirm this. According to their Report on Anti-Semitism, 2021 saw a proliferation of anti-Semitic incidents in Switzerland. There were 806 reports of online anti-Semitic content including anti-Semitic conspiracy theories – a more than 60% increase on the previous year.

There were 53 real-world anti-Semitic incidents, which included verbal abuse, public statements and offensive graffiti on synagogues. Anti-vaccine protesters wore Stars of David inscribed with the word “unvaccinated”. And in a Zurich suburb, they graffitied “Impfen [vaccination] macht frei” – a play on words on the infamous gate at Auschwitz – next to a swastika. People argue that the protesters need not have had anti-Semitic motives, says Binder. “You can plead stupidity, but how blind to history can you be?” she asks, adding that it constitutes an intolerable trivialisation of the Holocaust.

Binder deliberately restricted the motion to focusing on symbols and gestures related to Nazism and the Holocaust, whereas previous motions had targeted symbols and gestures encouraging racism and violence in general. Otherwise, it would have been difficult to list every single possible infraction. But Nazi symbols and salutes are unambiguous. “They certainly do not come under freedom of expression.”

Parliamentarians Gabriela Suter and Angelo Barrile, both from the Social Democratic Party, doubled down with similar parliamentary initiatives. The SIG endorsed the motions in January 2022, the first time it has explicitly put its weight behind initiatives of this type. Far-right extremists at protest rallies and concerts were specifically taking advantage of Switzerland’s legal loophole, it said. “This is particularly hurtful and bewildering for the minorities affected.”

The Council of the Swiss Abroad, which represents the interests of the “Fifth Switzerland” via-à-vis the authorities and the general public, also expressed support in March for criminalising all use of Nazi symbols and gestures in public. On behalf of the delegation from Israel, Ralph Steigrad noted that Switzerland had been debating the issue for almost 20 years: “It now needs to act and follow the examples of other countries.” This did not mean stopping symbols from being shown in teaching material for purely educational purposes, he stressed.

However, the Federal Council initially wanted to leave things as they were for the time being and rejected Marianne Binder’s motion. Even though Nazi symbols and salutes were “shocking”, they had to be tolerated as an exercise of freedom of expression, it wrote in reply. Educating people was better than enacting a ban.

Experts are divided

Legal and extremism experts are divided over the issue. Some say that far-right extremists might even feel vindicated if criminal proceedings were brought against them, and that a sweeping ban potentially moves us to a kind of penal law focused on punishing offenders’ attitudes or belief systems instead of the act itself.

Others argue that Nazi symbols pose a threat to peaceful, democratic society and are unacceptable in any country governed by the rule of law. And lo and behold, the Federal Council appears to have overcome its initial hesitancy amid reports that Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter is looking into the matter after all. She said her ministry would now see what legal options are available.

Keller-Sutter also wrote a reply to the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) – via which the Council of the Swiss Abroad had expressed its concerns to the Federal Council –assuring it that the government was well aware of the increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Switzerland.

By all means you can prevent anti-Semitism and ban Nazi symbols at the same time, says Binder. It is necessary to do both. Building a Holocaust memorial (see box) while continuing to allow Nazi symbols and salutes defeats the object. Parliament is set to debate Binder’s motion in its summer session.

Source: Calls grow to ban Nazi symbols and salutes

Photos That Helped to Document the Holocaust Were Taken by a Nazi

Of interest, and the importance of what is “outside the frame” and context to understanding these and other photographs:

On June 20, 1943, bewildered and terrified families, laden with baggage and branded with yellow stars, were forced into Olympiaplein, one of this city’s most recognizable public squares. Few knew where they were going, or for how long, so they wore their winter coats despite the blazing sun as they registered with the Nazi authorities.

A Dutch photographer, Herman Heukels, moved through the crowd, taking pictures of people who would soon be deported to concentration camps. His images would be the final portraits of many of these people, who were among 5,500 sent that day from Amsterdam to Westerbork transit camp, and then on to “the east.” The vast majority would never return.

Heukels’s photos are some of the strongest visual evidence used by historians to illustrate the Holocaust in the Netherlands, which took the lives of more than 102,000 of the estimated 140,000 Jewish civilians who lived in the country before World War II.

Yet despite their ubiquity in books and films, few people outside of scholarly circles know that these images were actually taken by a Dutch Nazi. He intended to depict Jews in a demeaning light. Instead, he ended up paying stark witness to the atrocities of the Third Reich.

“These are very famous photos, some of the most requested photos in our archive from across the whole world,” said René Kok, a researcher at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam. The institute holds an archive of about 30 original Heukels photos from the Dutch Ministry of Justice, which confiscated them as part of his postwar collaboration trial.

In recent months, a deeper sense of Heukels’s beliefs and motivations has emerged from a biography published in Dutch this spring that reveals how an ordinary young man from Zwolle became radicalized as a member of the Dutch Nazi party. The book, by Machlien Vlasblom, a Dutch World War II historian, provides new insights into how Heukels betrayed Jewish people from his town, looted their businesses and property, and recorded their history as a press photographer for the Dutch S.S.

“He captured them at their weakest moments,” Vlasblom said in an interview, “and the way he acted there was rude and brutal. Of course, he put the Nazi ideology into these images.”

How does this new information change the way we might look at these photos? Or how historians might use them, or contextualize them in the future?

The photos are “quite exceptional,” said a NIOD researcher, Kees Ribbens, a professor of Popular Historical Culture and Mass Violence at Erasmus University Rotterdam, because they “show the Holocaust taking place in a very well-known place in the center of Amsterdam. They show how the whole bureaucracy of deportation worked.”

Yet, these are “not innocent images,” said the Amsterdam-based Israeli artist Ram Katzir, who recently used one of Heukels’s pictures as the foundation for a memorial he created for the site of deportations. The artwork, “Shadows,” unveiled on the 79th anniversary of the raid in June, reproduced the shadows of the deportees from the photos, in the exact locations on Olympiaplein where they were last documented alive.

“We had no names of any of the victims,” said Katzir, so he deliberated a lot about whether to include Heukels’s name on the information plaque. In the end, he decided to do so. “It’s a double-edged image; and if you hide that, you hide the role of the collaborator.”

Katzir added, “When you look at the information plaque, you’re standing exactly where the photographer stood.”

In fact, a majority of the surviving images of Jewish persecution in the Netherlands were “made from the point of view of the persecutor,” Ribbens said. These include those by Bart de Kok, a member of the Dutch Nazi Party, known as N.S.B., and a German press photographer, Franz Anton Stapf, who captured some of the last images of Amsterdam’s Jewish community before it was decimated.

Janina Struk, author of the 2005 book “Photographing the Holocaust: Interpretations of the Evidence,” said that in the postwar period, photos taken by bystanders, perpetrators and victims were “all kind of mixed together,” and hardly anyone asked who had shot the photos or for what purposes.

“Until quite recently, historians have not really been so concerned about who took the pictures, and why they took them and what they were for,” she said. “It’s been rather historians using pictures as illustrations of a text, rather than being a text themselves.”

In recent years, she added, there has been a greater emphasis on contextualizing the images, explaining how they were made, so that viewers have a better understanding of what they’re looking at — and so people can make better ethical choices about how to present them.

Ribbens said that in learning that Heukels’s aim was to publish his photos in Storm S.S., a Dutch Nazi propaganda weekly (they were never published there), we can think about what he chose to leave out of the frame. In his series, he said, we don’t see the Nazi officials or the Dutch police who were forcibly rounding up civilians.

It doesn’t automatically raise the question: Who organized this, who is responsible for this persecution?” he said. “People show up, and it’s not clear what kind of stress they’re under, why they’re sent here, what choice did they have in leaving their homes, why they didn’t find a hiding place? What was so threatening about it?”

The official policy of the German occupiers was that no images of Jewish people could be published in the “legal” Dutch press, explained NIOD researcher and photography expert Erik Somers. Propaganda newspapers, however, could print such images alongside articles with expressly antisemitic content.

As a result, a high proportion of Holocaust images, both in the Netherlands and elsewhere, were taken by Nazi-endorsed propaganda photographers who had explicit permission to carry cameras, Struk said. Other images came from German soldiers who specifically sought out “souvenir” images of Jews who they thought fit a physical stereotype.

“We know that the Germans used photography as a weapon, and they invested a great deal in propaganda photography,” said Sheryl Silver Ochayon, program director for Echoes & Reflections, an educational arm of Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel.

“Photographs never killed anyone,” she added, “but what photographs can do is they can justify an ideology. If you present your victims as low or passive, or like vermin, you can justify a genocidal plan of action, as the Germans did.”

Vlasblom began her research when a friend from church, Gerard Visser, asked her to look at a box of family letters he had inherited. Although he knew the papers concerned his two great-uncles, Herman Heukels and Jan Heukels, who was also a Nazi collaborator, he said in an interview, “I didn’t really know the family structure, so I didn’t know who sent what to whom or why.”

Not everyone in Visser’s family is pleased that Vlasblom’s book, “We waren supermannen (We Were Supermen),” which also includes information about Jan Heukels, called attention to these two ancestors who were collaborators.

“You hear all the heroic resistance stories from Holland,” Visser said, “but there are people like the Heukels, who really did bad things. I felt that part of a country’s history should also be told.”

Does knowing more about Herman Heukels’s personal biography imply that historians should use these photographs in a different way — or even use them less often?

Somers from the NIOD, the Dutch archive, said these images continue to be a valuable historical source, but the Heukelses’ story underscores the importance of providing context to pictures.

“You have to find out from the beginning the elements of those photos,” he said, “who made the photo and for what purpose, and in what context?”

Struk added, “We need to move away from the idea that a photograph is just a window on the world. It isn’t. It’s a very edited version of what the photographer chose to photograph.”

Source: Photos That Helped to Document the Holocaust Were Taken by a Nazi

Quebec judge says Crown failed to prove Nazism led to Holocaust in hate speech trial

Odd, to say the least, given that this is settled history:

The prosecution in the trial of a Montreal man accused of fomenting hatred against Jews failed to establish that the murder of Jews by the regime of Adolf Hitler was a consequence of Nazi ideology, a Quebec court judge said Friday.

The case involves Gabriel Sohier Chaput, 35, who faces one count of wilfully promoting hatred in connection with an article he has admitted to writing that was published in 2017 on the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer. The blog post included racist images and comments about Jews throughout, and the website displayed photos of Hitler and other images associated with Nazism.

Prosecutor Patrick Lafrenière said it was common knowledge that the Daily Stormer is a far-right website and that Nazi ideology led directly to the murder of millions of Jews.

But Judge Manlio Del Negro wasn’t satisfied. “You (Mr.) Lafrenière, did not present an expert opinion,” the judge said.

“The Crown is asking a lot,” Del Negro said. “You are making arguments that have not been put into evidence (…) I am not convinced that doing what you are asking me to do does not prejudice the accused.”

Sohier Chaput’s defence lawyer, Hélène Poussard, jumped into the discussion, telling the judge that, “today, Nazism is used to describe everything. We mix the Holocaust with Nazism.”

Poussard added that, “it’s not because Jews were exterminated that it was part of the ideology.” She then suggested that Jews were killed in Nazi concentration camps “to save money.”

The judge rebuked her: “You have crossed the line!” he said.

Then the judge turned to Lafrenière. “You see, (Mr.) Lafrenière, it’s your fault. It would have been easy to prove that the Daily Stormer was a far-right site. It would have been easy to bring a historian to prove that Nazism was behind the extermination of the Jews.”

The two sides agreed to return to court on Aug. 29 to fix a date for a debate as to whether it is common knowledge that the Daily Stormer is a far-right website and that Nazism did indeed lead to the Holocaust.

Earlier on Friday, Lafrenière delivered his closing arguments, attempting to demonstrate that the text written by Sohier Chaput and the context in which it was published were hateful. The article said 2017 would be the year of “non-stop Nazism, everywhere.”

“You have to take the context into account,” Lafrenière said. “Nazism is the largest manifestation of hate toward the Jews.”

The article’s degrading comments, its aggressive tone and its description of Jews as “our enemies,” the lawyer said, “are likely to promote hatred” against the Jewish community.

Poussard delivered her closing arguments in March, stating that her client was being ironic and was trying to make his readers laugh.

Sohier Chaput, meanwhile, testified during the trial that the Daily Stormer was a “parody site.”

Lafrenière said Friday that the site is by all appearances a serious website and not intended to be a joke.

Sohier Chaput, who wrote under the pen name Zeiger, published around 1,000 articles on The Daily Stormer, making him one of the site’s most prolific contributors.

Lafrenière said the accused wrote the entirety of the article and that certain derogatory terms used toward Jewish people were not added by an editor, as Sohier Chaput has claimed.

About 40 demonstrators identifying with the anti-fascist movement were in front of the Montreal courthouse to express their lack of confidence in the judicial system “to combat the influence of the far-right and the fascist threat.”

Source: Quebec judge says Crown failed to prove Nazism led to Holocaust in hate speech trial

Why Canada’s plan to criminalize Holocaust denial could be unconstitutional — and redundant

Good discussion of some of the issues involved.

Reminds me of Holocaust denier David Irving suing Deborah Lipstadt for libel in her book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, and the legal strategy involved which ensured that she herself would not take the witness stand to maintain the focus on Irving:

Sidney Zoltak, who has spent a significant part of his life recounting his experiences as a child survivor of the Holocaust, says he’s not sure how he would characterize the effort by some to deny the historical genocide.

“I don’t know what to call it … whether it’s a crime, a shame, a lie — what would be more appropriate,” said Zoltak, 91. As a child, he, along with his family, escaped the Jewish ghetto set up by Nazis in his Polish hometown and went into hiding.

“But what kind of a crime it is, I am not a legal person, not a lawyer, so I wouldn’t know how to legislate that.”

Yet, that’s what the federal government will attempt to do, and join several countries in Europe, including Germany, that make Holocaust denial a crime. However, like any legislation that seeks to curb expression, it could be subject to Charter challenges.

‘Probably unconstitutional’

The Holocaust refers to the state-sponsored initiative by the Nazi government during the Second World War that led to the murder of more than six million Jews and millions of others, such as Roma. 

The government’s plan to criminalize denial of those events — outside of private conversation — was first unveiled inside this year’s 280-page federal budget. Along with a number of initiatives to fight antisemitism, including $20 million for a new Holocaust museum in Montreal, the budget also revealed the government’s intent to amend the Criminal Code. Currently the Criminal Code makes it illegal to communicate statements in public that wilfully promote hatred against any identifiable group.

The amendment would “prohibit the communication of statements, other than in private conversation, that willfully promote antisemitism by condoning, denying or downplaying the Holocaust.”

But while many advocates welcome the legislation, some legal experts question its constitutionality.

“I think it’s problematic to criminalize Holocaust denial,” said Cara Zwibel, lawyer and director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “That’s not to say that that kind of expression is not harmful. But the truth is, we don’t criminalize lying for the most part.”

“I think if it adds things that sort of go beyond the narrow definition of what the court has said is hate speech, then it’s probably unconstitutional.”

‘Reliable predictor of radicalization’

The news was welcomed by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which said the amendment would “provide the necessary legal tools to prosecute those who peddle this pernicious form of antisemitism.”

“Denying the Holocaust is a reliable predictor of radicalization and an indication that antisemitism is on the rise,” Gail Adelson-Marcovitz, chair of the national board of directors of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said in a statement.

Record levels of antisemitism took place in Canada in 2021, according to an annual audit by Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith. The number of violent incidents toward Jews last year increased by more than 700 per cent.

Sarah Fogg, a spokeswoman for the Montreal Holocaust Museum, said while the organization was surprised to see such a measure in a federal budget, they welcomed the news as an “important step.”

“It’s a really meaningful legislative effort to combat antisemitism,” she said. “I think this this sort of makes that link really obvious between Holocaust denial and antisemitism.”

Putting the Holocaust on trial

But Zwibel warned the legislation could give Holocaust deniers a platform.

She cited the case of Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, who was tried twice in the 1980s for publishing the pamphlet Did Six Million Really Die? The Truth At Last. Although convicted, Zundel was eventually acquitted when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country’s laws against spreading false news as a violation of free speech.

His trials also put the Holocaust on trial, with the crown bringing in Holocaust researchers and survivors to support their case, while the defence put noted Holocaust deniers on the stand.

“What being prosecuted did for [Zundel] was give him a big platform and basically allow him to parade a bunch of witnesses in court to try and prove that the Holocaust didn’t happen and have the government put survivors before the court. It’s atrocious,” Zwibel said.

Zwibel also suggested there could be problems with how the amendment would define terms such as “condoning’ and “downplaying” in relation to the Holocaust.

“There’s a lot of different questions to try and figure out what would be caught here.”

Geneviève Groulx, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, said ultimately, the courts will assess what words like “downplay” mean

“But generally it is understood to encompass actions that try to make (something) appear smaller or less important than in reality and to minimize (something). A court would have to conclude that the downplaying wilfully promotes antisemitism,” she said in an email.

Richard Moon, a University of Windsor law professor whose research focuses on freedom of expression, said any such law that restricts speech will likely be challenged at some point to determine whether that limitation can be justified under Section 1 of the Charter.

But Moon questioned whether the proposed amendment would add anything to what is already covered in the Criminal Code, other than to potentially specify or clarify in some way.

“So one possibility, it’s not actually doing anything new,” he said.

“The way this is framed, it sounds like someone being prosecuted under it, the prosecution would have to establish what they already have to establish under the existing Criminal Code.”

Zoltak and his family were some of the lucky few to survive the Holocaust. His family was on the run for two years, staying with different villagers, forced to change locations every few months. They eventually found one Polish family that hid them for 14 months in an underground bunker, where they did not see daylight for half that time.

When they were liberated and returned home, only 70 Jews remained in their village from the 7,000 prior to the war.

We know a number of nations around the world have made Holocaust denial a crime,” Zoltak said. “And they have been living with that for quite a while. And it works for them. And why should we be shying away from that?”

‘Has to be bulletproof’

Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian AntiHate Network, said while any tool that can deal with antisemitism is worthwhile, the legislation will have to be carefully thought out.

“It has to be kind of bulletproof in terms of the constitutionality test,” he said. “I think it’s all going to be in the wording of the  legislation.

“I accept this in principle. I think it’s a long time coming. But people do have the right to be stupid and offensive. And if people want to say that the Holocaust didn’t happen, that’s kind of their business. But that said, we know that these are, antisemitic dog whistles. And it’ll be really important in terms of the wording of the legislation on how it traces back to antisemitism.”

Zoltak and his family were some of the lucky few to survive the Holocaust. His family was on the run for two years, staying with different villagers, forced to change locations every few months. They eventually found one Polish family that hid them for 14 months in an underground bunker, where they did not see daylight for half that time.

When they were liberated and returned home, only 70 Jews remained in their village from the 7,000 prior to the war.

We know a number of nations around the world have made Holocaust denial a crime,” Zoltak said. “And they have been living with that for quite a while. And it works for them. And why should we be shying away from that?”

Source: Why Canada’s plan to criminalize Holocaust denial could be unconstitutional — and redundant

Expert says genocide is part of humanity, often result of propaganda

Unfortunately true, as recent history illustrates, whether Rwanda, China in Xinjiang, or as Russia is trying to do in Ukraine:

As the images of mass graves and murdered civilians in Ukraine flash across our screen, we think of those who commit genocide as pure evil.

But a man who has dedicated his life to fighting the bigotry that causes genocide and has discovered more than 3,100 execution sites and interviewed more than 7,400 victims around the world knows better.

“A human being has the capacity to heal people, to save people, but also the capacity to do the worst crimes,” Father Patrick Desbois said. “The first thing to accept is that genocide is inside humanity.”

Desbois, an author and founder of Yahad-In Unum (Together In One), a non-profit organization dedicated to discovering genocidal practices, spoke Monday night inside the Arizona Ballroom of the Memorial Union as part of Genocide Awareness Week, put on by Arizona State University’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

Desbois, who has received several awards for his work documenting the Holocaust, including the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor, said the perpetrators of genocide often are ordinary people who become embroiled in extraordinary situations.

He cited the case of Sabrina Harmon, a former U.S. Army reservist who was convicted of war crimes for her involvement in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Baghdad during the Iraq war.

“I always say to my students (at Georgetown University) that I’m sure she was a normal girl,” Desbois said. “I’m sure she was not a monster. Genocide is not in a hell place away from everything. It’s not true.”

Genocide often is the result, Desbois said, of propaganda feeding brainwashed minds. It was that way in Nazi Germany, in Angola in the 1970s, in Sudan and in Ukraine, where Russian president Vladimir Putin justified his country’s invasion with the propaganda that Ukraine is “openly pro-Nazi.”

“Hitler never missed people to do the job,” Desbois said. “There is no country where Hitler said, ‘Oh, nobody wants to do the job for killings. He found people to do everything, to dig the mass graves, to fill the mass graves, and even if Jews are not dead, they are buried alive, to take the belongings and sell them by auction, etc. etc.

“Because when you brainwash people, when you make propaganda to designate a target, you wake up the criminals. And you find clients for everything … Why are young soldiers coming from Russa doing awful things in public, under cameras from CNN? Why can Putin deny it every day?

“Propaganda is still strong. Propaganda has a capacity to whitewash the brain. And when people are brainwashed, any violence is possible … Everybody can be a victim. Everybody can be a killer. It depends where you are.”

Desbois said propaganda – and the resulting Neo-Nazi movement — is in part responsible for the rise in anti-Semitism around the world, including the United States. According to FBI statistics in 2020, Jews living in America are the target of 58% of all religiously motivated hate crimes.

Desbois said that when he posts something about the Holocaust on his Facebook page, “there’s always somebody who denies it, for any reason.”

“I will never forget the first time I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “I took a cab from the airport and had an Arab driver. I gave the address, and he brought me to the museum. After I went to pay, he told me, ‘You go to a place which shows the genocide that never existed.’”

That attitude, Desbois said, is why it’s important to teach high school and college students about the Holocaust. Already, he said, the Holocaust is not taught in schools in Mexico, Asia, China, India, Russia, most African countries and most Arab countries.

“I see year after year students (at Georgetown) know nothing about the Holocaust,” Desbois said. And the young generation, they will have very few chances to meet a (Holocaust) survivor. They will meet people who say, ‘Ha, it never existed. It’s a Jewish trick to make money to build Israel.’

“So, it’s a strong responsibility to teach, to train a generation of leaders and to do it so that they have the capacity to resist the huge movement of hate.”

Holocaust by Bullets,” a program and exhibit by Yahad-In Unum, can be seen in the Hayden Library through April 17. Members of the ASU community can access the free exhibit any time during library hours. Non-ASU community members can access the exhibit during docent-led tours from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays.

Source: Expert says genocide is part of humanity, often result of propaganda

‘They’re Authoritarians, Dammit!’ Art Spiegelman On the School Board That Cancelled ‘Maus’

Worth noting:

In the four decades since Art Spiegelman began Maus, the graphic novel has sold millions of copies, won a Pulitzer Prize, and secured a place in the Western canon. The book communicates the history of the Holocaust through the history of his family— Polish Jews, who are rendered as mice, sent to death camps by Nazis, who are rendered as cats. Maus is taught in thousands of schools, including, until recently, to eighth-graders in Tennessee’s McMinn County, where the local school board voted 10-0 on Jan. 10 to remove it from the middle school curriculum. With predictable results.

Already alert to a flurry of previous efforts to remove titles deemed inappropriate by state and local politicians—including a Texas state lawmaker’s demand that every school district “investigate” some 850 books dealing with race or sexuality—liberals smelled a rat. Public school curriculums feature prominently in the culture wars that many Republicans are hoping to ride to electoral victory. Progressives may argue for an unvarnished instruction of U.S. history, but in Maus, one member of the McMinn County school board found “it looks like the entire curriculum is developed to normalize sexuality, normalize nudity and normalize vulgar language. If I was trying to indoctrinate somebody’s kids, this is how I would do it.”

“Who’s the snowflake now?” Spiegelman shot back in one interview.

The cartoonist, who turns 74 on Feb. 15, spoke to TIME the morning after headlining a webinar that had attracted an audience of 17,000 before crashing the Facebook page of the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga, which had hosted the conversation along with an array of Tennessee clergy, rabbis, and local activists Spiegelman found so enlightened and reasonable he said he might “have to jettison my caricatured notion of them all as Lil’ Abner-style hillbillies.”

TIME: How much are we dealing with caricatures here?
Art Spiegelman: Well, we’re dealing with everything from vile, racist and antisemitic caricatures to caricatures of what children are. And on the other end of the spectrum, maybe caricatures the way Walt Kelly and Herb Blockapplied them.

Have you ever been to eastern Tennessee?
Never.

You read the minutes of the meeting?
Yes I did. Several times.

What do you think is actually going on?
That’s what left me so filled with flop sweat before the conversation last night, because I kept veering back and forth. Am I just a total Pollyanna naive idiot? Or are these people really idiots? Or are they actually sinister forces that have gathered to, like, kill America for their own profit? Or what are they? I don’t know to what degree they’re genuinely out to destroy America and to what degree they’re actually just like I the metaphor I used last night: If you saw somebody like a psycho killer, strangling a loved one of yours, and you couldn’t reach that person to stop them. And your only response was, “God, did you see the fingernails on that creep’s hands? They’re dirty.”

Do you think it would help to meet the people?
Through bulletproof glass, yeah.

We refer to it as a ban. Is it a ban?
It’s not banned in its broadest meaning, but it is a ban of sorts to use authority to keep people from things. Yes, it’s a ban. And yet it’s not a book burning.

The board later put out a statement that their decision “does not diminish the value of Maus as an impactful and meaningful piece of literature.” Do you take them at their word?

I don’t know. That’s where I started this conversation with you. I don’t know. I don’t know. Did they rewrite their minutes to get rid of all the terrible things actually said to each other in order for us to sanitize the meeting minutes, two or three weeks later? How would I know? My guess is that what they did was the law of the land still is based on the 1982 decision that you can ban things further affect young minds and whatever but you can’t on the basis of content. So they focus on how terrible it was to see what they described as a nude woman—what I saw as the naked corpse of my mother in the bathtub having slashed her wrists in that bathtub. And to call her nude, it made me angry. Naked, which means a kind of vulnerable lack of covering, is enough to get you livid, because look, what do they want me to show, like her upside down in the bathtub? Or wearing a bathrobe splattered with blood in the bathtub? Which didn’t make any sense. They didn’t want to show it. And that was a problem.

I just can’t tell to what degree this carried water for more whacked out people than they are, the ones who really stand to profit from getting more charter schools in the area that teach religion, thereby taking money away from a public education that needs far, far more to do its job well. I don’t know. So we’ll have to see how this plays out. I don’t think I’ve changed and hearts and minds. What this thing last night did show is that caricatures aren’t the way through unless you really know how to use them. It’s like these people that I met last night are wonderful … talking about building bridges rather than blowing bridges up.

Some of the people in the webinar appeared quite pleased. Was that because they have a battle that has been joined?
Yeah. They’re fighting not to burn the book burners or whatever, but really trying to make some kind of bridge—although I think it might be a bridge too far—it’s such an admirable thing to do. They’re better people than I am. I tried to rise to the occasion. But the caricature thing is: caricatures can be used be used to subvert themselves, you know, like the caricature of reducing Nazis and Jews to Cats and Mice. But by showing the caricatures as masks with humans underneath it, and pointing to that more and more as the book goes on, dissolves whatever their caricature is by creating a kind of self-destructing metaphor. But you’re play with dynamite when you’re playing with caricature.

It’s such a personal book. Is the offense personal?

Yes. Because when they’re really most focused on me yelling at my father when he destroyed my mother’s diary and finally confessed to it. I say something like “God damn you, murderer, you murdered her a second time!” The memories that she had managed to preserve for me, because what she said when she was young ,when she died, reoccur, and were destroyed so my cursing is there. And I’m cursing at my mother. I’m calling her a bitch, in the confusion of finding out that my mother had just died that day by killing herself. And there’s a a turmoil, there’s a turmoil of remembering my early childhood, of what the reasons might be, ranging from premenopausal depression to life in the camps damaging her so badly.

That I felt was a little place they had really focused. But why? Because I believe, they were upset that I was breaking the commandment to honor thy father and mother. And that was usurping their authority. They’re all parents. They don’t want their kids talking to them like that, thank you. Authority is what they like the most. They’re authoritarians, dammit.

The board’s attorney said the book could be salvaged if the author approved “extensive edits,” like whiting out “bitch.” Maybe we should just put in “blintz” or “bagel.” Make for a more wholesome Jewish cultural experience.

You have a long history with censorship, right? The Comics Code?
The Comics Code is what made me. Yes, the burning of comic books literally in the 40s and 50s by teachers, clergyman, parents. There were several bonfires across the country. I have a photo of one in Binghamton, N.Y., where I was in college till I got kicked out. That was an important moment because comics had been perceived as being for children, although adults—certainly, GIs, and young women who read true romance magazines were reading romance comics—were probably reading them more than children. But it was focused on the same thing these school board people focused, on we have to protect the children as opposed to educate them, and not let them actually follow their fantasies.

But those comic books that they were burning were pretty far out there and getting more far out as they lead into the more adult audience. You know, the horror comics and some of the very lurid images in many of those comics more and more were among the comics I love the most, because they were kind of on the edge of the forbidden, because they were showing me things to their most exaggerated. And I love those comics, the horror comics. And mainly the horror comics companion from the same publisher:MAD. If there was one of these Citizen Kane biographies about me, like the rosebud at the end would be a copy of MAD comics.

This controversy has boosted sales, hasn’t it?
I think enormously. I haven’t seen it yet. But you know the cynical side of this is like: “Oh man you just got to get your book banned, it’ll really do wonders.” I can envision a future in which there are book galleys going out to people saying publication date, April 5, ban date May 1 .

I didn’t need the uptick in sales. Maus has been really selling steadily since 1986, when the first volume came out, even more so after it won the Pulitzer Prize. I didn’t need to boost my income. It’ll give me more money to donate to things like voter registration.

But the other thing about the forbidden is that it’s it’s it’s always richer if you have to sneak it right? I had to hide MAD magazine from my mom.

As my friend oldest, closest friend, who is now dead, would say, there was a point where he had to hide MAD inside a school book, and a point where he had to hide MAD inside his copy of Playboy.

Which you’ve also worked for, as the school board noted.
Yes, they sure did note it! The roster of authors who have appeared there probably are on their banned list. They include Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Margaret Atwood, Shel Silverstein. It’s an honorable company to be in, even though I understand how Playboy hasn’t aged well in our current moment. Great one to be able to throw at me.

Source: ‘They’re Authoritarians, Dammit!’ Art Spiegelman On the School Board That Cancelled ‘Maus’

Regg Cohn: Ignoring antisemitism hasn’t made it go away

Good reminder:

We haven’t heard much about deep-seated antisemitism in Canada since the notorious Jim Keegstra. Infamous and unforgettable, he taught Holocaust denial in Alberta classrooms and testified to it in Alberta courtrooms.

Well that was decades ago, you think. Not in Ontario today, you say?

You’ve likely never heard of Joseph DiMarco, because you probably haven’t seen his story anywhere.

DiMarco is an Ontario teacher fired for preaching Holocaust denial and spouting antisemitism in a Timmins Catholic school. After earning his education certificate at Nipissing University 16 years ago, he taught his students to question the deaths of six million Jews in the Holocaust.

After a hearing last November, based on an agreed statement of facts (DiMarco did not attend or contest the charges), the provincial regulator revoked his licence to teach. In the weeks since, there’s been barely a ripple in the mainstream media — I’d not seen anything on this until someone passed on a recent story in the Canadian Jewish News online.

“When students tried to challenge or question the … assertions about the figure of six million deaths not being accurate, the (teacher) was dismissive, reminding the students how much research he had done,” a discipline committee of the Ontario College of Teachers concluded.

The regulator noted that DiMarco “provided students with learning material about the Holocaust from disreputable and unapproved sources which contradicted the facts.”

He tried to justify his conspiracy theories as merely anti-Israel and anti-Zionist, not antisemitic as such. But he knew what he was doing when he curated his own “Zionism slide show” as a teaching tool.

DiMarco ridiculed a school field trip to a Nazi concentration camp as evidence that the “powers that be” were spreading propaganda. He also taught his students that Israel was the evil force behind the 9/11 attacks that killed thousands in the U.S.

The regulator quoted from DiMarco’s email to the school chaplain explaining that “If some people actually understood who was pulling the strings, and the truth came out — antisemitism will return with a ferocity seldom seen throughout history.”

What’s noteworthy is that his teachings, and his firing, never seemed especially newsworthy. 

We read a great deal in the media about the rise of racism and white supremacy in society today. Yet when we come across someone who denies the genocide that claimed six million Jewish lives in pursuit of Nazi ideals of white supremacy — in the guise of Aryan purity — it barely rates a mention.

Is it because most Jews immigrated and integrated so long ago that they are deemed well entrenched, and hence less deserving of coverage? Does the old media credo to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” diminish journalistic interest in Jews (or anyone else) who might be comfortably established?

If Jews have agency, is there less urgency?

Behold the risk of complacency: After the terror of a rabbi and Jewish worshippers being taken hostage in a Texas synagogue this month, by a gunman ranting online about the putative power of Jews, the FBI reassured Americans that this was not, actually, an antisemitic act. The media dutifully, uncritically, incredibly, reported that as fact — until, days later, the FBI reassessed and recanted.

And yet according to FBI statistics, 60 per cent of all victims of anti-religious hate crimes in 2019 were targeted because of anti-Jewish bias. About 13 per cent were victims of anti-Muslim bias.

Well that’s just America with its own peculiar blinkers, you think. Not in Canada, you say?

A recent headline proclaimed: “Toronto saw an ‘unprecedented’ spike in hate crime in 2020, including rise in anti-Asian and anti-Black incidents, police say.”

Yet the headline skipped over the reality — noted in the story — that antisemitic attacks were as high as ever, and disproportionately so: “Although Jewish people represent just 3.8 per cent of Toronto’s population, the community saw 30 per cent of reported hate crimes in 2020” — less newsworthy because they’ve always been historically high, and hence old news?

I first wondered about this phenomenon last year after writing a column about the continued Islamophobic attacks on two high-profile Toronto Muslims — Paramount Fine Foods founder Mohamad Fakih, and Walied Soliman, chair of the Norton Rose Fulbright Canada law firm. The unprecedented success of these two in counterattacking in court — effectively silencing and subduing their tormentors — received remarkably little coverage despite the recent proliferation of racism stories.

Antisemitism and Islamophobia are close cousins. Will journalistic indifference to the same old same old antisemitism translate, increasingly, into a similar kind of Islamophobia fatigue if the targets are prominent, or prosperous, or well-protected?

None of this is to diminish the impact of discrimination on other groups or individuals. But auspicious archetypes and hateful stereotypes have a way of blurring our vision and vigilance — Muslims aren’t all well-connected, just as all Jews aren’t well-established — and even if they were, would the hate be any less harmful? 

Intolerance strikes in all shapes and sizes — and all social classes of all societies. I got into journalism to “comfort the afflicted.” But not even the comfortable, of any race or religion, deserve the affliction of discrimination and persecution.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2022/01/24/ignoring-antisemitism-hasnt-made-it-go-away.html

UN defines Holocaust denial in new resolution

Significant, at least symbolically:

The UN has adopted a resolution aimed at combating Holocaust denial and is urging member states and social media firms to help fight anti-Semitism.

The resolution, put forward by Israel and Germany, was passed without a vote by the 193-member General Assembly.

The move sends “a strong… message against the denial or the distortion of these historical facts”, the UN said.

Six million Jewish people died in the Holocaust – Nazi Germany’s campaign to eradicate Europe’s Jewish population.

“Ignoring historical facts increases the risk that they will be repeated,” Germany’s UN Ambassador Antje Leendertse said.

The text commends nations that preserve sites that once served as Nazi death camps and concentration camps and urges member states to provide educational programmes on The Holocaust.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid, said in a joint statement they were concerned by a recent dramatic increase in Holocaust denial.

The resolution lists distortion or denial of The Holocaust as:

  • Intentional efforts to excuse or minimise the impact of The Holocaust or its principal elements, including collaborators and allies of Nazi Germany
  • Gross minimisation of the number of the victims of The Holocaust in contradiction to reliable sources
  • Attempts to blame the Jews for causing their own genocide
  • Statements that cast The Holocaust as a positive historical event
  • Attempts to blur the responsibility for the establishment of concentration and death camps devised and operated by Nazi Germany by putting blame on other nations or ethnic groups

While the resolution was adopted by the UN General Assembly, Iran – a member of the organisation – said it was disassociating itself from the text.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they began to strip Jewish people of all property, freedoms and rights under the law. At the Wannsee Conference in Berlin in January 1942, the Nazi leadership decided to exterminate the entire Jewish population of Europe, and deportations of Jews to extermination camps began.

Source: UN defines Holocaust denial in new resolution

Document suggesting students learn positive aspects of Nazi Germany deleted by Alberta education officials

Striking that the document dates from 1984 with multiple revisions without anyone noticing or taking action:

A document that suggested Alberta students learn about the positive aspects of Nazi Germany has been deleted from the Ministry of Education’s website, following criticism from multiple groups.

The document, a set of guidelines for “recognizing diversity and promoting respect,” suggested considering whether a given educational resource addressed “both the positive and negative behaviours” of various groups.

“For instance,” it read, “if a video details war atrocities committed by the Nazis, does it also point out that before World War II, German government’s policies substantially strengthened the country’s economy?”

Source: Document suggesting students learn positive aspects of Nazi Germany deleted by Alberta education officials

Vienna Opens First Public Memorial Listing Holocaust Victims’ Names | World News | US News

Of note:

Austria on Tuesday opened its first public memorial listing the names of all 64,440 Austrian Jews killed in the Holocaust.

The country where Adolf Hitler was born was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938 and Vienna was a crucible of Third Reich anti-Semitism. Yet Austria was slow to recognise its role, and for decades it called itself the first victim of Nazism.

Source: Vienna Opens First Public Memorial Listing Holocaust Victims’ Names | World News | US News