Polish court rebukes Canadian historian for defaming alleged Nazi collaborator

Sigh….

A Polish court order that an eminent Canadian historian and his co-editor apologize for suggesting a man helped kill Jews during the Second World World has angered Jewish human rights activists in Canada and abroad.

They say the ruling against Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking is part of an ongoing effort to obscure Polish complicity in the genocide of Jews during the Holocaust.

Michael Levitt, head of Toronto-based Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, called the ruling shocking and shameful.

“Poland cannot continue to bury the facts and silence Holocaust scholars,” Levitt said. “Its actions must be roundly rejected by Canada and the rest of the international community.”

The group said it was reaching out to senior government leaders urging them to speak out against “Holocaust distortion in Poland.”

At issue was a short passage in a 1,600-page book “Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland,” co-edited by Grabowski, a professor at the University of Ottawa, and Engelking, director of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research in Warsaw.

According to the passage, which Engelking wrote, Edward Malinowski robbed a Jewish woman during the war and contributed to the deaths of 22 other Jews hiding in a forest in Malinowo in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943.

Malinowski’s niece, Filomena Leszczynska, 81, argued her uncle was a Polish hero who had saved Jews, and that the scholars had defamed her and her family. She demanded a retraction and 100,000 zlotys – about C$34,000 – in compensation.

Judge Ewa Jonczyk, of the District Court in Warsaw, ordered the authors to make a written apology for “providing inaccurate information” and “violating his honour.” The judge, however, stopped short of imposing monetary compensation, saying it could hinder academic research.

Nevertheless, Mark Weitzman, with the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the ruling opened the door to further intimidation of Holocaust scholars and researchers.

“By ordering the scholars to ‘apologize,’ it puts both historians and victims on trial, and offers protection to the reputations of Poles and others who collaborated in the murder of Jews,” Weitzman said

Grabowski could not be reached for comment, although Engelking said they planned an appeal.

Grabowski, whose work on the Holocaust has attracted death threats, told The Canadian Press in 2017 that he would not allow fierce criticism of his research in Poland to deter him.

“I feel personally attacked but this is for me a much more dangerous and general problem that has to be dealt with,” Grabowski said. “It’s a pure and simple attack on basic academic freedoms, which we take for granted here in Canada. I’m dismayed.”

The Nazis slaughtered about three million Jews and another two million Christians in Poland during the war. While many Poles resisted the invaders, others collaborated with the Nazis.

Leszczynska was backed by the Polish League Against Defamation, a group that fights harmful and untruthful depictions of Poland. The league, which has previously attacked Grabowski’s work, is ideologically aligned with the ruling nationalist Law and Justice Party.

The researchers, however, viewed the case as an attempt to discredit their overall findings and discourage other researchers from investigating the truth about Polish involvement in the German mass murder of Jews.

Source: Polish court rebukes Canadian historian for defaming alleged Nazi collaborator

Future of Holocaust research in Poland hinges on libel case

Of note, ongoing disturbing trend:

Two Polish historians are facing a libel trial for a scholarly examination of Polish during World War II, a case whose outcome is expected to determine the fate of independent Holocaust research under Poland’s nationalist government.

A verdict is expected in Warsaw’s district court on Feb. 9 in the case against Barbara Engelking, a historian with the Polish Center for Holocaust Research in Warsaw, and Jan Grabowski, a professor of history at the University of Ottawa.

It is the first major legal test in the wake of a 2018 law that makes it a crime to falsely accuse the Polish nation of crimes committed by Nazi Germany. The law caused a major diplomatic spat with Israel.

Since it won power in 2015, the conservative ruling party, Law and Justice, has sought to discourage investigations into Polish wrongdoing during the wartime German occupation, preferring instead to almost exclusively stress Polish heroism and suffering. The aim is to promote national pride — but critics say the government has been whitewashing the fact that some Poles also collaborated in the German murder of Jews.

The Israeli Holocaust museum Yad Vashem said the legal effort “constitutes a serious attack on free and open research.”

A number of other historical institutions have condemned the case as the verdict nears, with the Paris-based Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah describing it Tuesday as a “witch hunt” and a “pernicious invasion into the very heart of research.”

The case on a 1,600-page, two-volume historical work in Polish, “Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland,” which was co-edited by Grabowski and Engelking. An abridged English version is due to be published in a few months.

Grabowski and Engelking say they see the case as an attempt to discredit them personally and to discourage other researchers from investigating the truth about the extermination of Jews in Poland.

“This is a case of the Polish state against freedom of research,” Grabowski told The Associated Press on Monday.

Grabowski, a Polish-Canadian whose father was a Polish Holocaust survivor, has faced considerable anti-Semitic harassment by nationalists, both online and at lectures in Canada, France and elsewhere.

The niece of a man in the village of Malinowo, whose wartime is briefly mentioned, is suing Grabowski and Engelking, demanding 100,000 zlotys ($27,000) in damages and an apology in newspapers.

According to evidence presented in the book, Edward Malinowski, an elder in the village, allowed a Jewish woman to survive by helping her pass as a non-Jew. But the survivor is also quoted as saying that he was an accomplice in the deaths of several dozen Jews.

The niece, Filomena Leszczynska, has been backed by a group, the Polish League Against Defamation, which receives funding from the Polish government.

That organization argued that the two scholars are guilty of “defiling the good name” of a Polish hero, whom they claim had no role in harming Jews, and by extension harming the dignity and pride of all Poles. The lawsuit was filed in court free of charge as allowed under the 2018 law.

Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called “Night Without End” a “meticulously researched and sourced book … that details thousands of cases of complicity by Poles in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.”

“The proceedings against these two scholars of international repute are nothing more than an attempt to use the legal system to muzzle and intimidate scholarship on the Holocaust in Poland,” Weitzman said.

Germany occupied Poland in 1939, annexing part of it to Germany and directly governing the rest. Unlike other countries occupied by Germany, there was no collaborationist government in Poland. The pre-war Polish government and military fled into exile, except for an underground resistance army that fought the Nazis inside the country.

Yet some people in Poland collaborated with the Germans in hunting down and killing Jews, in many cases people who had fled ghettos and sought to hide in the countryside.

Grabowski said “Night Without End” is “multi-faceted, and it talks about Polish virtue just as much. It paints a truthful picture.”

“The Holocaust is not here to help the Polish ego and morale, it’s a drama involving the death of 6 million people — which seems to be forgotten by the nationalists,” he said.

A deputy foreign minister, Pawel Jablonski, described the case as a private matter.

“It is everyone’s legal right to seek such a remedy before (a) court if they feel that their rights have been infringed by (another) person or entity,” Jablonski told the AP in an statement Monday. “The government is not involved in the proceedings, it is a private matter to be decided by the court.”

Yet those who fear that the case could stifle independent research take a different view.

“The involvement in this trial of an organization heavily subsidized with public funds can be easily construed as a form of censorship and an attempt to frighten scholars away from publishing the results of their research out of fear of a lawsuit and the ensuing costly litigation,” said Zygmunt Stepinski, director of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

Source: Future of Holocaust research in Poland hinges on libel case

Germany: Anti-Semitism commissioner calls for removal of Nazi law leftovers

Of note:

Germany’s anti-Semitism commissioner called for the removal of 29 Nazi-era paragraphs that remain in the country’s laws in comments published on Sunday.

Felix Klein, appointed two years ago by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet, said the worst example was a 1938 Nazi remnant in Germany’s present-day law on changing a person’s name.

Jews in Nazi Germany were required under a 1939 regulation stemming from that law to insert a “typical” Jewish forename, Israel for men, and Sara for women, if their first name was not on a “typical” list maintained by the-then Interior Ministry.

Klein, who last year, with Social Democrat Eva Högl and Christian Democrat Thorsten Frei, demanded removal of such wording used to persecute Jews, told the magazine Der Spiegel parliament had already been sent a reformulations catalog.

“The name change law is the most blatant of all,” said Klein, adding that the latest version — dated 2008 and still accessible on the Justice Ministry website — still mentioned the “German Reich” and the “Reich Minister of the Interior,” terminology proscribed by the defeated Hitler regime.

In last year’s appeal, Klein, Högl and Frei wrote that the occupying Allied Control Council had sought to annul that law, but it lingered under Article 125 of Germany’s postwar constitution or Basic Law.

“Anyone who wants to change their first or last name in Germany today is [still] confronted with this anti-Semitic-motivated law from 1938,” they said.

Instead, an amendment should state the “Federal Republic of Germany” and the “Federal Minister of the Interior,” Klein told Spiegel in his latest appeal.

Naturopathy law also tainted

As further lingering examples, Klein cited Nazi-era paragraphs riddling Germany’s current law on naturopathic healing practitioners, its gambling casino ordinance, and a mutual Greek-German law on civil legal assistance.

Klein said the aim of the omnibus legislation before the Bundestag was to review and remove all such leftover Nazi-era passages.

In their 2020 joint appeal, Klein, Hogl and Frei said a further aim was to avoid wording that defined Germany’s postwar federal interior ministers as “successors” of the Nazi-era Reich interior minister and convicted war criminal Wilhelm Frick.

It was Frick, convicted at the Allied Nuremberg trials and executed in 1946, who from 1930 in the-then Thuringia state sought German nationality for the Austrian-born, but stateless, Adolf Hitler, regarded by Prussia as an undesirable alien.

Hitler finally got German nationality in 1932, via the-then-adjacent state of Braunschweig, becoming a year later chancellor and seizing power.

Source: Germany: Anti-Semitism commissioner calls for removal of Nazi law leftovers

Israel’s Pick to Head Holocaust Memorial Stirs International Uproar [petition includes 19 Canadian signatories, some notable non-signatories]

Striking and disappointing that none of the Canadian delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance signed the petition, including the recently appointed head, Irwin Cotler nor any of the participating organizations. The 19 Canadian signatories are largely academics:

For years, his name was synonymous with intolerance and right-wing extremism.

So when Israel’s conservative-led government nominated Effie Eitam to be chairman of Yad Vashem, the country’s official Holocaust memorial and one its most hallowed institutions, it prompted an uproar.

Mr. Eitam, a 68-year-old retired brigadier general and former minister, has spent the last decade in the private sector. But his provocative statements from the early 2000s advocating the mass expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and barring Israel’s Arab citizens from politics linger on the public record.

The appointment could have “devastating consequences,” said Israel Bartal, a professor of modern Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who said he would be forced to cut all contacts with Yad Vashem’s research institute after years of cooperation. “An institute headed by a person with such extreme opinions and controversial human values will never be taken seriously within the global academic community,” Mr. Bartal said.

Holocaust survivors, Jewish organizations and an international array of historians have denounced the appointing of such a contentious figure to head Yad Vashem. They say that in addition to recognizing the Nazi genocide of six million Jews as a unique event, the institution is also responsible for upholding universal moral values and educating people about anti-Semitism and racism.

Yet despite the pushback, a government appointments committee vetted and approved Mr. Eitam’s candidacy in mid-November. Only a cabinet vote now stands between him and the post.

“This is more than a colossal mistake — it’s a tragedy,” said Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta who has written several books on the subject. “Appointing Eitam to this position would be a blot on Yad Vashem’s reputation and Yad Vashem’s record.”

Mr. Eitam and Yad Vashem declined to comment on the appointment.

But Mr. Eitam’s defenders say he is the victim of a kneejerk left-wing campaign purely because he is right-wing and religious. They view him as a war hero and an experienced manager who could steer Yad Vashem out of a severe financial crisis that has been compounded by government budget cuts and a drop-off in donations because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The upshot is that Yad Vashem, an almost sacred institution that world leaders are expected to visit while in Jerusalem, has gotten caught up in the political and culture wars of a polarized country where the dominant right-wing battles the liberal left and is increasingly at odds with the more liberal streams among world Jewry.

Worse, experts say, it comes at a time when anti-Semitism is resurgent and far-right forces in other parts of the world are promoting Holocaust denial.

“You don’t play politics with the Shoah, and this is playing politics with the Shoah,” Professor Lipstadt said, using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.

Worse, experts say, it comes at a time when anti-Semitism is resurgent and far-right forces in other parts of the world are promoting Holocaust denial.

“You don’t play politics with the Shoah, and this is playing politics with the Shoah,” Professor Lipstadt said, using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.

She is one of 750 historians, Jewish studies experts and cultural figures who signed a petition protesting the appointment, which was submitted to Yad Vashem’s board of trustees and Israel’s Parliament this month.

Yad Vashem’s current chairman, Avner Shalev, 81, is a respected, apolitical figurehead. He announced in June that he was stepping down after a 27-year tenure.

Zeev Elkin, the minister with responsibility for Yad Vashem from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party, chose Mr. Eitam with Mr. Netanyahu’s full support.

Still, government approval may not be imminent. Because of coalition infighting, all senior appointments are frozen, and Benny Gantz, who leads the centrist Blue and White party in Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition, is likely to block Mr. Eitam’s advancement by denying him a majority if it comes to a cabinet vote.

But Mr. Elkin and Mr. Netanyahu insist that he is still their sole candidate. 

Mr. Eitam, a resident of a settlement in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, grew up as a secular Jew and became observant after the 1973 Middle East war.

He was decorated for his role in one of the war’s most desperate battles and later took part in a raid to free mainly Israeli hostages in Entebbe, Uganda. Mr. Netanyahu’s older brother, Yonatan, a legendary figure in Israel, was killed while leading the raid.

But Mr. Eitam once compared Israel’s Arab citizens to a cancer and a “ticking bomb” and said Israel would ultimately have to expel most Palestinians from the West Bank.

During the first Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s, when he was a brigade commander, some of his soldiers were prosecuted for beating a Palestinian man to death. The soldiers said they had beat him on the commander’s orders.

Ultimately, Mr. Eitam received a severe reprimand, and his promotion to the rank of brigadier general was long stalled. Yet his military career spanned nearly three decades.

Mr. Elkin, the minister responsible for Yad Vashem, denounced what he called an “ugly” and “hypocritical” campaign spearheaded by political forces who never objected to appointments from the left wing of the political spectrum.

“True, he made a few unsuccessful remarks,” Mr. Elkin said of Mr. Eitam in a telephone interview, “but that was 15 or 20 years ago.” Mr. Elkin also said that some of those statements had been taken out of context.

Mr. Elkin cited as a reference point Joseph “Tommy” Lapid, a Holocaust survivor and acerbic leader of a liberal, secular, centrist party who went on to become chairman of Yad Vashem’s advisory council. Mr. Lapid once said that Palestinians “might begin to think” of the effects if 10 car bombs were to go off in 10 Palestinian cities and kill 500 Palestinians.

“That’s a more shocking statement to my mind,” Mr. Elkin said, “and nobody opposed his appointment.”

One leader of the campaign against the appointment is Colette Avital, a former Israeli diplomat and Labor party lawmaker who now chairs the Center Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, an umbrella group for 58 Holocaust organizations. She said she had suggested alternative candidates to Mr. Elkin from the political right.

“There are people who don’t represent the left but can project an image of tolerance, understanding and moderation,” she said. Regarding the claims against Mr. Lapid, she said, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Other apolitical bodies have criticized Mr. Eitam’s nomination, including the Anti-Defamation League and some Yad Vashem donors.

“Yad Vashem should stay above Israeli politics and keep its irreproachable record and moral high ground,” Joel Herzog of the Swiss Friends of Yad Vashem wrote in an email.

Critics are baffled as to why Mr. Elkin settled on Mr. Eitam. But it might signal a desired shift that would bring the institution more in line with the government after some recent run-ins.

In 2018, Yad Vashem issued a stinging critique of a joint statement by the prime ministers of Israel and Poland that was meant to resolve a rift between the countries over a Polish law criminalizing some statements on the Holocaust. Complicating matters, Yad Vashem’s chief historian, Prof. Dina Porat, was involved in drafting the joint statement, apparently in a private capacity.

Supporters of Mr. Eitam said that he could project a more muscular, Jewish and Zionist-centric image from Yad Vashem for Israel’s battle against anti-Semitism. Mr. Elkin said Mr. Eitam’s whole army career had been devoted to the lesson of the Holocaust summed up by the phrase “Never again.”

“That is something fundamental in his character, the essence of his character,” Mr. Elkin said.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/28/world/middleeast/israel-yad-vashem-eitam.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage

After Ottawa monument is vandalized, Ontario adopts International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s ‘working definition of anti-Semitism’

Of note despite some of the valid concerns that the definition may be interpreted too broadly with respect to legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies:

The Ontario cabinet has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s “working definition of anti-Semitism” after recent vandalism at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa.

Government House Leader Paul Calandra said Premier Doug Ford’s ministers “took swift and decisive action” Monday to recognize the definition even before the passage of legislation currently before the house.

“After a heinous act of anti-Semitism at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa … it is crucial that all governments be clear and united in fighting anti-Semitism and our adoption of the working definition has done just that,” Calandra said Tuesday.

“The government of Ontario is proud to adopt and recognize the working definition of anti-Semitism. We stand with Ontario’s Jewish community in defence of their rights and fundamental freedoms as we always have and always will,” he said.

Four years ago, the IHRA, an intergovernmental organization with 34 member nations, including Canada, adopted the definition that reads: “anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.”

“Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities,” the definition continues.

While MPPs are currently reviewing Bill 168, the proposed Combating anti-Semitism Act, Calandra said the cabinet wanted to move more quickly with a largely symbolic gesture.

Ontario is the first province in Canada to use the working definition.

In a statement, Michael Levitt, president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, said “we applaud the government of Ontario for joining the dozens of other governments around the world in adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, a vital tool in the ongoing fight against hatred and discrimination targeting the Jewish community in Ontario.”

“Jews continue to be subjected to vile rhetoric and propaganda and still remain the minority group most targeted by hate crime, which is nothing less than an affront to our basic democratic values as Ontarians,” said Levitt, a former Liberal MP.

Not everyone was happy with the move.

While the New Democrats supported Bill 168, they expressed concern that the “government secretly adopted the definition, behind closed doors and passed it by Ford edict instead of by democratic vote.”

“Anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic acts of hate are growing in Ontario, and we need to take concrete actions as a province to stomp out this growing, racist movement,” said NDP MPP Gurratan Singh (Brampton East).

Source: After Ottawa monument is vandalized, Ontario adopts International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s ‘working definition of anti-Semitism’

Facebook Bans Holocaust Denial, Reversing Earlier Policy

Long overdue. Similar action needs to be take with respect to other forms of racism and hate on Facebook and other platforms:

Facebook is banning all content that “denies or distorts the Holocaust,” in a policy reversal that comes after increased pressure from critics.

Just two years ago, founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview that even though he finds such posts “deeply offensive,” he did not believe Facebook should take them down. Zuckerberg has said on numerous occasions that Facebook shouldn’t be forced to be the arbiter of truth on its platform, but rather allow a wide range of speech.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Zuckerberg said his thinking has “evolved” because of data showing an increase in anti-Semitic violence. The company said it was also in response to an “alarming” level of ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people. It pointed to a recent survey that found almost a quarter of people in US aged 18-39 said they believed the Holocaust was either a myth, had been exaggerated or were not sure about the genocide.

“I’ve struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Drawing the right lines between what is and isn’t acceptable speech isn’t straightforward, but with the current state of the world, I believe this is the right balance.”

Facebook has been under increased pressure to act more aggressively on hate speech, misinformation and other harmful content. The company has recently strengthened its rules to prohibit anti-Semitic stereotypes, and banned accounts related to militia groups and QAnon, a baseless conspiracy theory movement.

This summer, a group of Holocaust survivors, organized by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, launched a social media campaign urging Zuckerberg to remove Holocaust denial from Facebook.

On Monday, the group tweeted: “Survivors spoke! Facebook listened.”

In addition to removing Holocaust-denying posts, Facebook will begin directing users who search for terms associated with the Holocaust or its denial to “credible information” off the platform later this year, Monika Bickert, head of content policy, said in a blog post. She said it would take “some time” to train Facebook’s enforcement systems to enact the change.

Critics say how effectively Facebook polices its rules is the big question.

“We are seeing a trend toward Facebook listening to their critics and ultimately doing the right thing. That’s a trend we need to encourage,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, which has been pushing Facebook to crack down on Holocaust deniers for years, told NPR.

“Ultimately, Facebook will be judged not on the promises they make, but on how they keep those promises,” he said.

Source: Facebook Bans Holocaust Denial, Reversing Earlier Policy

When Senator Joe McCarthy Defended Nazis | History

Good long read over a lessor known incident near the end of WW II and how the role of former Senator Joe McCarthy in undermining the truth, not without parallels today:

Annihilate the enemy. That was Adolf Hitler’s standing order to his elite Waffen-SS as the Wehrmacht sought to break the Allies’ tightening grip in late 1944 by crashing through enemy lines in an audacious counteroffensive that would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. The Führer’s edict was enforced in the ice-encrusted fields outside the Belgian city of Malmedy. On the afternoon of December 17, a battle group of the armored First SS Panzer Division ambushed a band of lightly armed U.S. troops. The overwhelmed American GIs’ only option was to raise white flags.

The Nazis accepted their surrender and assembled the American prisoners. Most, they mowed down with machine guns. They used their rifle butts to crush the skulls of others. Those seeking refuge in a café were burned alive or shot. Earlier that day, outside the nearby town of Honsfeld, an American corporal named Johnnie Stegle was randomly selected from a line of captives by an SS soldier who summoned his best English to yell, “Hey, you!” Then he raised a revolver to Stegle’s forehead, killing him instantly. By day’s end, the toll exceeded 150, with 84 murdered at the deadliest of those encounters: the ill-famed Malmedy Massacre.

The remains of American prisoners of war murdered in December 1944 near the Belgian city of Malmedy. The bodies were identified by number for use in war crimes trials brought against more than 70 Nazi soldiers by the U.S. military.
The remains of American prisoners of war murdered in December 1944 near the Belgian city of Malmedy. The bodies were identified by number for use in war crimes trials brought against more than 70 Nazi soldiers by the U.S. military. (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Courtesy NARA)

The Allies saw Malmedy as a metaphor for Nazi heinousness and American justice. The frozen corpses of slaughtered POWs had been retrieved and carefully autopsied. Intrepid U.S. investigators gathered evidence and conducted in-depth interviews of survivors from both sides. Military prosecutors laid out a vivid portrait not just of this act of barbarity, but of the modus operandi of the SS, the most savage of Hitler’s war-makers.

An alternative telling of the story arose during and after the proceedings, however, that made it the most controversial war-crimes trial in U.S. history. The new version of the incident flipped the script, casting as malefactors the Army investigators, prosecution team and military tribunal. In this story, American interrogators cruelly tortured the German defendants—they were said to have kicked their testicles and wedged burning matches under their fingernails—and the German confessions were coerced. The United States was out for vengeance, this theory held, which shouldn’t have been surprising given that some of the investigators were Jews. Yes, war was brutal, but any atrocities committed that December day in 1944 should be laid at the feet of the Nazi generals who issued the orders, not the troops who followed them. Yes, America had won the war, and it was imposing a classic victor’s justice. The primary advocates of this alternative narrative were the chief defense attorney, the convicted perpetrators and their ex-Nazi supporters, some U.S. peace activists and, most surprising, the junior senator from Wisconsin, Joseph R. McCarthy.

The trial, held from May to July 1946 in the former concentration camp at Dachau, Germany, charged German generals along with rank-and-file soldiers. All but one of the defendants was found guilty; within a decade, all walked free.
The trial, held from May to July 1946 in the former concentration camp at Dachau, Germany, charged German generals along with rank-and-file soldiers. All but one of the defendants was found guilty; within a decade, all walked free. (Ullstein Bild via Getty Images)

Three years after the verdicts, the Army appointed a commission to sort out the conflicting interpretations of the Malmedy prosecutions. That probe spawned more lurid news accounts of alleged coercion of testimony and mistreatment of the German inmates, which led the Army to name yet another review panel. With political pressure building, in March 1949 the Senate convened a special investigatory subcommittee made up of Raymond Baldwin of Connecticut, Estes Kefauver of Tennessee and Lester Hunt of Wyoming. McCarthy, who’d been intensely interested from the start, was granted special authorization by the panel to sit in as an observer.

At the time, McCarthy was less than halfway through his first term in the Senate, and he hadn’t yet launched the reckless crusade against alleged Communists that would turn his name into an “ism.” Relegated to the status of a backbencher after Democrats took control of the Senate in 1949, McCarthy was thirsting for a cause that would let him claim the spotlight. The cause that this ex-Marine and uber-patriot picked—as an apologist for the Nazi perpetrators of the bloodiest slaughter of American soldiers during World War II—would, more than anything he had done previously, define him for his fellow senators and anybody else paying close attention. But so few were paying him heed that no alarms were sounded, and in short order his Malmedy trickery was overshadowed by his campaign against those he branded as un-American, an irony that lends special meaning to this forgotten chapter in the making of Joe McCarthy.

* * *

Source: When Senator Joe McCarthy Defended Nazis | History

Construction of Austrian Holocaust victims’ memorial begins

Long overdue:

Construction of Austria’s first public monument naming all the country’s Holocaust victims began on Monday, a further step by Adolf Hitler’s native land towards confronting an issue it has long struggled with.

For decades after World War Two, Austria denied responsibility for crimes committed by the Nazis, arguing that it was their first victim despite the enthusiasm with which many citizens had welcomed annexation by Hitler’s Germany in 1938.

The country now recognises that Austrians were perpetrators as well as victims of Nazi crimes but it has not confronted that chapter of its history as openly or directly as Germany.

“Berlin has one. Paris has one. Vienna had none. But the day has finally come today,” Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Community (IKG), the body officially representing Austria’s Jews, said at a ceremony marking the start of construction work.

The new monument, located in a park next to Austria’s central bank, will comprise a ring of upright stone slabs around an island of trees, and will name all 64,259 Austrian victims of the Holocaust. It is due to be inaugurated in a year’s time.

“Remembering means commemorating the victims of the Shoah. This remembering and our history increase our responsibility, the responsibility daily and together to do everything to ensure that something like this never happens again,” said Deutsch.

Ironically, the project was first backed in 2018 by a previous coalition government of current Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservatives and the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), which was founded in the 1950s by former Nazis and whose first leader had been an SS officer.

Although the FPO says it has abandoned its anti-Semitic past and now denounces the Holocaust, it has been plagued by racism and anti-Semitism scandals, and the IKG still refuses to deal with party officials. The FPO crashed out of government last year and Kurz now governs in coalition with the Greens.

There are Holocaust memorials in Vienna but the only one naming the Jews who lived in Austria and were murdered is in the city’s main synagogue.

Source: Construction of Austrian Holocaust victims’ memorial begins

Vatican minimised Shoah reports due to antisemitism, researchers find

Having access to the Vatican archives was a long-term objective for many Holocaust researchers and good that these are being opened up with not surprising evidence of antisemitism and arguably wilful blindness and rejection of evidence:

German researchers working in the Apostolic Archive have found that the Vatican was handed reports about the extent of the Holocaust in 1942, but dismissed some of the information they contained.

The seven-person team from the University on Münster found that the Vatican had minimised information on the massacres of Jews, considering that Jewish and Ukrainian sources could not be trusted.

The conclusions hinge on a 1942 American démarche to the Holy See.

The team found that on September 27, 1942, the Holy See was passed a report by the American envoy to the Vatican, detailing the murder of Jews in occupied Poland and asking if the Catholic Church could independently confirm the crimes it outlined.

The report outlined how Jews were being taken out of the Warsaw Ghetto, and murdered outside of the city in camps.

The report, read by Pius XII on the day that it was received in Rome, said that 100,000 Jews had been murdered and that 50,000 had been murdered in Lviv, in what was then eastern Poland, and is now western Ukraine.

The report added that there were no Jews remaining in eastern Poland, and that Jews from Germany, Slovakia and the Low Countries had been transported to Eastern Europe where they were murdered.

The Vatican Apostolic Archives, which until October were known as the “Secret Archives”, contain up to 2 million pages of documents from Pius XII’s papacy. The Vatican threw open their doors, which were due to remain closed until 2028, on 1 March.

The researchers, led by priest and professor Hubert Wolf, a historian of the Catholic Church, spent a week working in the Apostolic Archive from March 2 before it was closed due to coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Wolf’s team found documents showing that the Holy See had received two letters independently confirming reports of massacres of Jews from Warsaw and Lviv.

In August 1942, it had received a letter from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archbishop of Lviv, Andrey Sheptysky, who wrote of 200,000 murdered. The following month, an Italian businessman spoke of “butchery” of Jews in Warsaw.

Despite these reports, the Vatican informed the American envoy that it was unable to confirm the reports.

Internally, a rationale justified that the information remained “to be verified”, in the words of a Papal adviser, as Jews “exaggerate” and that “Orientals” – referring to the Ukrainian Uniates – “are really not an example of honesty”.

Pius XII’s papacy ran from 1939 until 1958, and he never publically condemned the Holocaust, despite historians agreeing that the Vatican was aware of the murder of Jews across Europe.

Debate hinges on whether the Vatican remained too silent during the Holocaust and newly uncovered documents in the Apostolic Archive will contribute to peeling back a curtain of uncertainty on the role and knowledge of the wider Catholic Church during the Holocaust.

Documents from Pope Pius XII's pontificate have been opened to historians since March 1
Documents from Pope Pius XII’s pontificate have been opened to historians since March 1 (Photo: Getty)

Professor Wolf suggested that documents such as those his team had uncovered had been left out of the official Vatican compendium of Pius XII’s wartime role in a bid to preserve his legacy.

“This is a key document that has been kept hidden from us because it is clearly antisemitic and shows why Pius XII did not speak out against the Holocaust,” Wolf told Münster’s Catholic Kirche + Leben.

Mr Wolf noted in an interview with German Catholic newswire KNA that there was also potentially embarrassing information on the Church’s participation in the ‘Rat Lines’, networks that spirited high-ranking Nazis to Italy and on to Latin America.

Mr Wolf suggested, based on reports from the Papal Nuncio in Argentina, that the “the Vatican might have been able to get them passports,” and wondered whether “the nuncio was the middle man?”

Source: Vatican minimised Shoah reports due to antisemitism, researchers find

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We honor the victims by preserving factual accuracy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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