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?

1 in 5 Canadian youths not sure what happened in the Holocaust, survey suggests

Whenever one asks a question about historical events, no matter how important, the level of ignorance is depressing:

One in five young people in Canada either hasn’t heard of the Holocaust or isn’t sure what it is.

That’s the conclusion from a new survey released ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday.

Historians believe the new data should be a wake-up call on how the systematic murder of six million Jews in Europe is taught in Canadian schools — and remembered more broadly.

“One of the surprising things was the awareness gap between millennials and older respondents …it’s shocking,” said historian Naomi Azrieli, CEO of the Azrieli Foundation, the charity behind the survey.

“I think older Canadians are more likely to have known a survivor or been around in World War Two,” she told CBC News. “With each generation, it becomes less living history and more remote.”

In Britain, a new survey by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust found that one in 20 adults in Britain do not believe the Holocaust took place.

The survey of more than 2,000 people released Sunday also found that nearly two-thirds of respondents either did not know how many Jews had been murdered or greatly underestimated the number killed during the Holocaust.

Chief executive Olivia Marks-Woldman described the results as “widespread ignorance and even denial.”

While there are debates among historians about exactly when the Holocaust began, the mass killing of Jews in the Second World War started in 1941 with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, according to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and continued until the Nazis were defeated in 1945.

Held on Jan. 27 annually following a United Nations resolution, International Holocaust Remembrance Day coincides with the day Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest complex of Nazi death camps, was liberated by Soviet forces in 1945.

Among other points, the Canadian survey found:

• Nearly six in 10 Canadians (57 per cent) said fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust than they used to.

• 15 per cent of Canadian adults and more than one fifth of Canadians under age 34 (22 per cent) haven’t heard about or are not sure if they have heard about the Holocaust.

• Nearly half of Canadian respondents (49 per cent) couldn’t name a single concentration camp. That’s roughly equal to the U.S., where 45 per cent couldn’t name one in a similar survey last year. There were over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust.

A crew member walks toward the National Holocaust Monument before the official opening in Ottawa on Sept. 27, 2017. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

• Nearly one quarter of all Canadians (23 per cent) believe substantially fewer than six million Jews were killed (two million or fewer) during the Holocaust, while another 24 per cent were unsure of how many were killed.

• Few Canadians believe there are many neo-Nazis in Canada today, while nearly half think there are many in the U.S. In fact, on a per capita basis, the two countries have roughly the same number of neo-Nazis, Azrieli said.

Reasons for optimism

With offices in Toronto, Montreal and Israel, the Azrieli Foundation commissioned Schoen Consulting to carry out the survey based on 1,100 interviews with Canadians over age 18 in September 2018. The margin of error was plus or minus three per cent.

While Azrieli was disappointed by the lack of knowledge about the Holocaust, especially among younger Canadians, she said the survey also offered plenty reasons for optimism.

More than 80 per cent of respondents believe all students should learn about the Holocaust in school and 85 per cent said it’s crucial to keep teaching about the Holocaust so it doesn’t happen again.

Azrieli wants to see a more comprehensive approach to how the Holocaust is taught in schools, potentially involving special professional development days for teachers to become more acquainted with its history.

With only around 5,000 Holocaust survivors alive in Canada today to tell their own stories about the mass killings, she said it’s more crucial than ever that schools and other institutions develop strong programs to teach the subject.

False beliefs

The need for better Holocaust education is especially intense due to rising anti-Semitic sentiment in much of the world, said Azrieli, whose father survived the Holocaust.

Since last year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, an 85-year-old French Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, was fatally stabbed in Paris and 11 Jews were gunned down in a Pittsburgh synagogue during Shabbat services, the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

Human Rights First, a U.S. organization, recalled those killings and warned that “today’s threats do not come solely from the fringe.”

“In places such as Hungary and Poland, once proudly democratic nations, government leaders are travelling the road to authoritarianism,” said Ira Forman, the group’s senior adviser for combating anti-Semitism. “As they do so, they are distorting history to spin a fable about their nations and the Holocaust.”

In Canada, hate crimes rose to an all-time high in 2017, according to a Statistics Canada report released in November. For hate crimes based on religion, Jews were the most targeted group in Canada, with more than 300 incidents reported to police.

Nearly one-third of survey respondents believed Canada had an open immigration policy for Jewish refugees fleeing Europe.

In fact, Canada had “one of the worst immigration records in the world” related to Jewish people, “worse than the U.S. or U.K.,” Azrieli said.

Canada allowed only 5,000 Jewish refugees into the country while allowing nearly 2,000 Nazi war criminals to immigrate to Canada after the Second World War, the Azrieli Foundation reported.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Canadian border guards had a saying about Jewish refugees, she said: “None is too many.”

Survey respondents thought Canada had been more welcoming toward Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis, as they considered Canada to be generally more open toward immigrants than other nations, given the country’s current policies.

“That was a very interesting finding of this survey,” said Azrieli, “And an important indication that our own history is not well known to most Canadians.”

Steven Spielberg on Storytelling’s Power to Fight Hate

Good long read and interview with Spielberg:

Pinchas, how old are you?” Steven Spielberg asked the wall screen, a life-size video image of an elderly man in a cardigan, who blinked and answered without missing a beat.

“I was born in 1932, so you can make your own arithmetic,” responded Pinchas, in a Polish accent.

“He asked me to do the math!” Mr. Spielberg laughed. “How did you survive when so many did not?”

“How did I survive?” the screen responded. “I survived, I believe, because provenance watched over me.”

The chat went on for five minutes, and while the artificial intelligence looked eerily reminiscent of Mr. Spielberg’s earlier films, the goal wasn’t entertainment — it was education. On the sound-sensitive screen was an interactive biography of Pinchas Gutter, a Polish Holocaust survivor and part of a tour the director was leading through the redesigned headquarters for the U.S.C. Shoah Foundation, the organization he founded in 1994 to collect testimony from Holocaust survivors. Now Mr. Spielberg has expanded the foundation’s footprint on the University of Southern California campus, along with its mission and public focus: to fight hate, which he says has become commonplace globally.

“The presence of hate has become taken for granted,” Mr. Spielberg said. “We are not doing enough to counter it.”

The prerecorded video conversation is part of a series using playback technology that invites visitors to converse with 16 survivors of genocide, based on specific word patterns and more than 2,000 questions that vary from views on God to personal history. Earlier this month, the testimony of Pinchas was displayed at the United Nationson the 70th anniversary of the adoption of genocide laws, a storytelling tool to raise awareness.

While the foundation continues to archive stories from victims of anti-Semitism, and advocate on their behalf, it is also collecting what Mr. Spielberg calls “living testimony” from modern genocide victims. “The Holocaust cannot stand alone,” he said with conviction. “We decided to send our videographers into Rwanda to get testimony. From there we went to Cambodia, Armenia — we’re doing a critical study in the Central African Republic, Guatemala, the Nanjing massacre. Most recently, we’re doing testimony on the anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar and the current anti-Semitic violence in Europe. We’re expanding our scope to counter many forms of hate.”

The 10,000-square-foot space — which opened to the public last month — is a far cry from the organization’s beginnings following “Schindler’s List,” in 1993. Mr. Spielberg sent an army of videographers around the globe to record Holocaust survivors’ stories. Betamax tapes of the interviews were stored at his Amblin Entertainment offices on the Universal Studios lot, and then at a storage company before the foundation’s move to U.S.C.’s Leavey Library in 2006. (There are a little over 51,000 recordings of Holocaust survivors in the visual history archive, a staggering 115,000 hours.)

Today the group has 82 employees and an annual budget of about $15 million, which includes $3 million from the university. It also has received millions in donations. Its new home — part office, part media lab — is packed with video testimonies from 65 countries in 43 languages, along with survivor-inspired artwork (a hanging steel sculpture by the British artist Nicola Anthony incorporates phrases from filmed testimony.) Visitors can tour the offices Monday through Friday, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“Everyone thinks the Shoah Foundation is about archiving the past but it’s about understanding empathy and using testimony to shine a light,” Stephen D. Smith, its executive director, said.

Reflecting its founder’s legacy, the organization has produced multiple films, including the recent documentary “The Girl and the Picture,” about 88-year-old Xia Shuqin, who witnessed the murder of her family in the Nanjing Massacre in 1937. It was directed by Vanessa Roth, whose mother was an interviewer for the foundation in the early 1990s. “The Last Goodbye,” a virtual reality memorial screening at Holocaust museums in Florida, New York, Illinois and California, takes audiences into the Majdanek concentration camp in German-occupied Poland, with Pinchas Gutter as guide, using thousands of photos and 3-D video to explore a railway car, gas chamber and barracks. David Korins, the scenic designer of the musical “Hamilton,” is now the foundation’s director of museum experiences, with the goal of getting the collection of archival footage into more museums.

Rising anti-Semitism is providing fresh impetus for the foundation’s relaunched efforts. “Not only are people willing to forget about the Holocaust, they’re willing to deny it,” said Aaron Breitbart, a senior researcher at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the human rights organization that has worked with the foundation since the 1990s. “The Shoah Foundation has made a great contribution in that battle for memory.”

The relaunch coincides with the theatrical rerelease of “Schindler’s List.” In her 1993 review of the film for The Times, Janet Maslin wrote: “Rising brilliantly to the challenge of this material and displaying an electrifying creative intelligence, Mr. Spielberg has made sure that neither he nor the Holocaust will ever be thought of in the same way again.”

The film ran in about 1,000 theaters in mid-December and was screened free for students nationwide. Although it was digitally remastered in 4K resolution, Mr. Spielberg said, “I didn’t touch a frame.” The original version of the film is currently available on Netflix.

A quarter century on, it remains a complex depiction of Nazi horrors.

“We were surprised that somebody even attempted to make a film about it,” said Renee Firestone, 94, whose story is told at the foundation.

Despite the expansion, some challenges remain, Mr. Smith said. Most testimonies are unavailable online, which means they can only be seenat the foundation or the 146 partner libraries and universities (links are free for families of those interviewed). There are no transcripts of the recordings yet, but the foundation is spending $10 million building a free online platform for researchers, schools and the general public starting in late 2019, Mr. Smith said.

Days before Mr. Spielberg’s 72nd birthday, wearing a suede jacket and 1860s-style boots from his 2012 opus, “Lincoln,” the director munched a granola bar at the foundation’s headquarters. The color of his beard is now saltier, he has a few more inches around the middle, but his gray-green eyes still shine boyishly when he’s discussing his foundation and his seminal film. These are edited excerpts from that conversation.

Why expand the mission of the Shoah Foundation?

I think there’s a measurable uptick in anti-Semitism, and certainly an uptick in xenophobia. The racial divide is bigger than I would ever imagine it could be in this modern era. People are voicing hate more now because there’s so many more outlets that give voice to reasonable and unreasonable opinions and demands. People in the highest places are allowing others who would never express their hatred to publicly express it. And that’s been a big change. There’s all kinds of efforts to take the truth and subvert it to twisted ideology. We saw it happen in Europe first, in France, then Poland again — I never thought it would come back home to us like it has existed over the last two years.

Many groups are clamoring that they have it harder than others — how do we overcome that?

We can commiserate with each other about suffering and pain, but we should never compete that way. Being marginalized, being discriminated against, having racist and anti-Semitic slurs hurled is something that unites [all people]. Everything against black society is also against the Jewish community. Everything against the gay and lesbian, LGBTQ community is against black and Jewish communities. Hate is hate and the spillover makes us all responsible for watching each others’ backs and standing up for each other. None of us could ever be bystanders again.

How can Hollywood combat this?

Look how many movies are now telling the stories of women. There’s a huge shift that is gender-centric, and we saw it happen at the beginning of the Harvey Weinstein downfall. Storytelling is fundamentally human. But the art of listening is what I’m hoping the Shoah Foundation is able to inspire.

[In 2018, Amblin Television, a division of Amblin Partners, Mr. Spielberg’s production company, was one of three parties to a $9.5 million settlement agreement with an actress on the CBS show “Bull” who was dropped after she confronted its star about inappropriate comments. A representative for Amblin declined to comment, directing inquiries to CBS, “the sole owner of the show.”]

You are rereleasing “Schindler’s List” after 25 years. Do you believe it can still make an impact?

At the Tribeca Film Festival, I experienced my first audience in 25 years watching “Schindler’s List.” It was a full house, and the reaction — I turned to Kate [Capshaw, his wife] and said “Oh my God, they’re still listening.” With this renewed cycle of hate, and initiatives at the Shoah Foundation, I thought it could open up a conversation that genocide can happen anywhere when an ordinary society goes wrong. Charlottesville and the aftermath made a huge impact on wanting to reissue the film.

If you made the film today, what are the things you would have changed?

No. There’s nothing I would have changed, absolutely nothing. I stand by the film as it has stood its own test of time.

What sticks with you 25 years later about filming in Poland, where the carnage happened?

In four months’ filming in Krakow, the hair on the back of my neck never went down. It was really hard every morning to simply get out of the car and walk to the set. I wanted to use the locations where Schindler stayed in Krakow, including the Jewish Ghetto, even shooting very close to the Płaszów forced labor camp. We shot just outside Auschwitz, building a barracks and backing the train into Auschwitz proper, so when the train exits Auschwitz, it appeared in the film as if it’s entering the death camp. That was one of the coldest nights I ever experienced. That mournful silence within the company of actors — you could hear a pin drop.

The foundation decided to include modern testimonies about genocide when it already has over 51,000 testimonies on record about anti-Semitism. My grandparents were filmed by the foundation in 1996; is video the best teacher?

Look, we’re all storytellers. There’s no one alive who isn’t a storyteller, even if they don’t think they are. Every day is a story. Maya Angelou said: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

What are your earliest memories of being different?

My grandmother taught English to Hungarian Holocaust survivors in Cincinnati. I was 2 or 3, and I would sit with them around the table. That’s where I learned my numbers — on the arm of an Auschwitz survivor who showed me the numbers of his forearm. That was my “Sesame Street.” That’s how I first learned to count.

What more can we do? What do you plan to do?

Teachers and parents who need to take responsibility for the acceptance of hatred in the fabric of society. I’m working with the Discovery Channel and the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney on a six-hour study called “Why We Hate.” I’m not planning any more dramatization on the Holocaust itself. I’m putting all my attention on the documentary format.

ICYMI: Invoke the Holocaust if you must: Teitel

A variant of Godwin’s law and Teitel makes a convincing case that it is appropriate in the current political climate:

Is it ever OK to invoke the Holocaust in a discussion about modern political events, and if so when? This question has a way of surfacing again and again and again in the era of U.S. President Donald Trump and its answer is almost always the same.

If you’re a person condemning the dehumanization of marginalized groups, the answer is a hard yes: Hate and violence do not manifest overnight. There are signs. Invoke the Holocaust if you must.

But if you’re someone on the other side of the debate, someone with a tendency to defend the dehumanizing tactics of the Trump administration, your answer to this question is a hard no: the Holocaust should never be invoked because this (the recent tear-gassing of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, children among them) is not that (the systemic mass murder of millions by the Nazis during WWII).

By now, you’ve probably seen the photo (captured by photojournalist Kim Kyung-Hoon) of Honduran migrant Maria Lila Meza Castro running away from tear gas at the border this month, holding onto her small daughters, both of whom are barefoot in diapers. However, it’s Castro’s state of dress that’s most striking. The 39-year-old mother is wearing a T-shirt bearing the faces of characters from the blockbuster Disney film Frozen; i.e. an American movie whose core lesson is learning to accept other people’s differences.

So much for that. Needless to say, the photo has shocked and enraged a lot of people, among them U.S. Congressmember-Elect, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In fact, it was Ocasio-Cortez, a rising star in Democratic politics, who brought the aforementioned invocation debate back into public discourse this week, when she tweeted the following, advocating on behalf of migrants trying to enter the United States and condemning an administration that routinely vilifies them: “Asking to be considered a refugee & applying for status isn’t a crime. It wasn’t for Jewish families fleeing Germany. It wasn’t for targeted families fleeing Rwanda. It wasn’t for communities fleeing war-torn Syria. And it isn’t for those fleeing violence in Central America.”

Ocasio-Cortez may have invoked several atrocities to make her point but it was her allusion to the Holocaust in particular that offended Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. He clapped back on Twitter: “I recommend she [Ocasio-Cortez] take a tour of the Holocaust Museum in DC. Might help her better understand the differences between the Holocaust and the caravan in Tijuana.”

What happened next is the only proof you need that social media can be a source of great good in the world. Guess who entered the debate (albeit indirectly) after Graham? None other than the Auschwitz Memorial itself. The official account of the Polish concentration camp memorial tweeted the following only a few hours after Graham and other outspoken Republicans took Ocasio-Cortez to task for her remarks. “When we look at Auschwitz we see the end of the process. It’s important to remember that the Holocaust actually did not start from gas chambers. This hatred gradually developed from words, stereotypes & prejudice through legal exclusion, dehumanization & escalating violence.”

It’s hard to believe this was a coincidence. Assuming it’s not — assuming the staff of the Auschwitz Memorial itself are of the belief that Ocasio-Cortez was in the right — Lindsey Graham and other like-minded Republicans should probably be alarmed that a memorial and museum dedicated to preserving the history of a horrific event does not appear to share their view. When a Holocaust memorial seems to suggest your opinions about the event in question are incorrect it may be time to step back and re-evaluate those opinions. But defenders of Trumpian policy are not known for their introspection nor for their interest in facts. Indeed, what’s so infuriating about this reoccurring Holocaust invocation debate is that it is precisely the keepers of facts who appear to not only condone but also encourage invocation and yet they are consistently ignored. As Orthodox Jewish writer and activist Elad Nehorai points out, again, on Twitter, “Holocaust scholars, Holocaust museums, Holocaust survivors … they all want us to be able to apply the Holocaust to modern-day situations, even if they don’t 100% align. And yet, somehow, there has been a widespread idea that *nothing* is comparable. So much for “Never Again.”

Nehorai is right. What’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border is vastly and profoundly different from any of the atrocities mentioned in Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet but the common thread through every one of these events — from Rwanda, to Germany, to the modern United States — is the dehumanization of certain people. Invoking the Holocaust is appropriate in this moment because the president of the United States regularly dehumanizes refugees with rhetoric that sounds at times like it was written by a Nazi propagandist. Will someone in the Trump administration be the architect of the next Auschwitz? I seriously doubt it. But wherever dehumanization begins, it’s not a bad idea to point out where it can end.

Source: Emma Teitel: Invoke the Holocaust if you mustInvoking the Holocaust is appropriate in this moment because the president of the United States regularly dehumanizes refugees with rhetoric that sounds at times like it was written by a Nazi propagandist, Emma Teitel writes.

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

Not that surprising (Canada was no more welcoming):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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