When Hitler’s Henchman Called the Shots in Hollywood


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

via When Hitler’s Henchman Called the Shots in Hollywood

Holocaust Museum Director Faces Rising Anti-Semitism – The Forward

Good, thoughtful interview:

Sara Bloomfield joined the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in its early stages, years before the project turned into one of the nation’s most visited landmarks on the National Mall in Washington.

Now, after serving as director of the museum for 18 years, Bloomfield, 67, is tasked with leading the institution during a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in America, and when political forces are slow to condemn manifestations of racism.

In the past year, the Holocaust museum has found itself stepping into the debate over the response to white supremacist marches and speaking out against acts of vandalism directed at Jewish institutions. At the same time, it has entered another political minefield after issuing, and then retracting, a report critical of the Obama administration’s response to the Syrian civil war.

Bloomfield talked with the Forward’s Nathan Guttman about these developments and how the Holocaust museum has responded.

Nathan Guttman: How do you see the responsibility of the Holocaust museum in light of the wave of anti-Semitism America is experiencing?

Sara Bloomfield: There’s no doubt we’re experiencing a resurgence of anti-Semitism in the United States and in Europe and in the Middle East. The most important thing we can do right now is to get our message about Holocaust education to an even broader audience and reach people that we’ve never reached before, whether they are in the United States, Europe or the Middle East. We want people to look, not just at the fact that the Holocaust happened, but what made it possible. And obviously anti-Semitism is key to that. Another important lesson we as Holocaust educators have here is not only about what happens when anti-Semitism goes unchecked — obviously the Holocaust being the ultimate example of that — but also Holocaust history teaches that the hatred started with the Jews, but it did not end with the Jews. That’s a very important lesson for all societies in all times, but obviously we’re experiencing a unique moment in American and world history right now.

Does the fact that young Americans were marching in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting “Jews will not replace us” indicate a failure of the Holocaust education system?

Anti-Semitism has been appropriately called “the longest hatred.” That it never really goes away, that it will always be around, that it’s a very convenient explanation. If you look at Nazism, the Jews became the simple answer to complex questions. They were the perfect scapegoat to their problems. I think Jews will always serve that role, unfortunately. Anti-Semitism never goes away, because it serves this useful function in times of great fear and huge dislocation and change. So, I’m not optimistic that anti-Semitism will ever be eliminated; I think it’s an ineradicable disease. I don’t think the Holocaust museum alone can end this problem, but I think we’re an important institution that must contribute to the addressing of it. I think we must always be vigilant.

It’s very shocking. I don’t want to minimize what we’re seeing, but for us, Charlottesville wasn’t only shocking, it was a moment to educate the public on the historical significance of what happened in Charlottesville. They were chanting “Blood and soil”; I don’t think many well-meaning Americans understood what that meant. But if you study Holocaust history you understand exactly what that means. It was an opportunity for us — what do they call it? A teachable moment.

Has your work become more difficult, given the questions of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial that became intertwined in the political debate?

I’ve been at the museum 31 years and a lot has changed in America, and my observation is that the Holocaust transcends partisan issues. Everybody recognizes that it is a moment of utter failure in human history that we must all learn from, and I think that’s why there’s a Holocaust museum on the National Mall, because people believed that this was such an unprecedented event in Western civilization, it happened in a country that was highly educated and had a democratic constitution, and yet, look what happened there. So this is a lesson, certainly about what happened to the Jews of Europe, but this is also a lesson for humanity that is timeless. We were timeless when we opened 25 years ago, we’re very timeless today and I believe we will be timeless in 25 years, because I always say “The world always changes, but human nature never does.”

Do you feel constricted by politics when speaking out about Charlottesville, about anti-Semitism in the political campaign?

There is no place in American society for neo-Nazism, absolutely no place in this society, and we’ve said so after Charlottesville, and we also issued a second statement because within 48 hours after Charlottesville, the Holocaust memorial in Boston was vandalized. There was a trend and we were concerned about that trend. We don’t issue a lot of statements, we’re very careful and judicious because we realize we’re a memorial for the victims and we want to use that voice very, very carefully, and I’m not sure I remember a time when we issued two statements so closely, but we felt that at that moment we had to speak out twice.

We’re educators, we’re not advocates. We believe that education is the important way to get people to understand the consequences of unchecked anti-Semitism, of what Nazism really wants, what are the historical roots.

Another political issue the museum found itself involved in was the report about the Syrian civil war. What is the lesson you have drawn from this experience?

Our goal was to generate a constructive conversation on the Syrian catastrophe. It became clear to me early on that we really missed the mark on achieving this goal because our study was conceived to be politicized, it was insensitive to the victims. I deeply regret that. So the minute I saw it was clear we are not achieving our goal, I said we have to take the study down and we have to reassess it and we’re in a reassessment process. We had a miss here and we have to look at what went wrong with our process; we need to engage more stakeholders internally and externally, but I’m very committed we will learn from this experience. We are not going to be deterred from our work on Syria. We have an exhibit opening in November and we will move forward.

I think about Elie Wiesel and his vision for the museum, which was to try to do for victims today what was not done for the Jews of Europe, and we won’t be complacent in that, we will continue to work on it. I feel badly that we missed the mark on this, but we will not let it deter us, and we will learn from it.

via Holocaust Museum Director Faces Rising Anti-Semitism – The Forward

Holocaust-denying prof reinstated at University of Lethbridge – The Canadian Jewish News

Questionable decision but appears that investigation ongoing (B’nai Brith appears to have been overly political in their initial reaction compared to CIJA):

The University of Lethbridge has reinstated a professor who had been suspended more than one year ago for questioning the Holocaust and suggesting there was a Zionist connection to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Anthony Hall, a tenured professor in the university’s globalization studies program, was reinstated following a hearing before a labour arbitrator.

Published reports stated that the university’s board of governors and the faculty association issued a joint statement saying that issues concerning Hall’s activities will be addressed in a faculty handbook.

Contacted by The CJN, the faculty association stated that, “It’s a personnel matter and its confidential.”

Hall was originally suspended in October 2016 over his Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories. At the time, the university issued a statement saying, “From the findings of that assessment, the board has decided to proceed with a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission against Dr. Hall for publishing statements, alone and in collaboration with others, that could be considered hateful, contemptuous and discriminatory.”

The faculty association contested the suspension and, following a court decision in September, an arbitrator was appointed and a hearing was held earlier this month.

B’nai Brith Canada slammed Hall’s reinstatement and blamed the government of Alberta for passing legislation that brought faculty under the province’s labour-relations laws.

“Premier (Rachel) Notley and her government bear direct responsibility for placing a discredited conspiracy theorist back in a university classroom,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “We repeatedly warned the government of the likely outcome of its actions, but they sadly chose to ignore our warnings and expose Alberta university students to anti-Semitism and discrimination instead.

“Despite this setback, we expect the University of Lethbridge to continue fighting anti-Semitism on campus, and to do whatever it takes to ensure that Hall has no podium for his unhinged anti-Semitic nonsense.”

In an email cited in a news release by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Premier Notley stated, “There is no question that the views of this individual are repulsive, offensive and not reflective of Alberta. Our classrooms are a place for freedom of speech and expression but that does not mean individuals get to stand at the head of the class and spread lies and conspiracy theories. I am terribly disappointed to learn that this individual has been reinstated, but let me be clear that legislation that our government introduced did not give him his job back. I can confirm that this individual is now under investigation by a committee at the university.”

For its part, CIJA stated that Hall’s reinstatement was “a direct result of an agreement between Hall, the faculty association and the university. We have also confirmed that Hall will not be teaching or interacting with students. He is continuing to be investigated by the university and his future is far from certain.”

via Holocaust-denying prof reinstated at University of Lethbridge – The Canadian Jewish News

Austria accepted its Holocaust guilt. So why is its far right on the rise? | Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Good long read:

When it comes to the Holocaust, Austria has made a lot of progress assuming responsibility.

In recent years, Austrian officials have consistently acknowledged their country’s support of Adolf Hitler, an Austria native, and his war of annihilation against Jews. In the early 2000s, the government dropped the claim that the country was mostly a victim of German Nazism, citing “the special responsibility imposed on Austria by its recent history.” Instead, teaching about the Holocaust has become mandatory, with visits to former death camps and teacher training in Israel.

The government has paid nearly $1 billion since 2005 in compensation to Holocaust victims, and since 2012, Holocaust memorial projects have popped up at an unprecedented rate. They include the opening of a learning center at the Mauthausen former death camp, a monument for Vienna’s deported Jews and an international exposition, commissioned by the national railway firm, on its own role in murdering some 65,000 Austrian Jews.

Yet in spite of this increased sensitivity, nationalism still has a firm grip on Austrian society: The far-right Freedom Party, which was founded in 1956 by a former Nazi SS officer, is on the rise. In last month’s national elections, the party garnered 26 percent of the vote with a platform that included denouncing “forced multiculturalism, globalization and mass immigration.

As a natural ally of the center-right People’s Party, which won the most votes, the Freedom Party is poised to enter Austria’s government for the second time — it was part of the governing coalition in 2000.

Amid the ascendancy of far-right populism across Europe, its revival in Austria is seen as particularly alarming, as it suggests a failure by society to learn from its recent history. After all, if a country that does nearly everything “right” when it comes to Holocaust education can fail to inoculate itself to the kind of hatred that makes genocide possible, what hope is there for other countries in the region, such as Hungary and Poland, which face rising nationalism amid complicated reckonings with their own Holocaust legacies?

Experts on Austria say the rise of its xenophobic far right is connected to fears over Muslim immigration, as well as a perceived need to protect the nation’s sovereignty from an increasingly interventionist European Union. But it’s also connected to the Austrian government, which deflected its guilt for decades and failed to purge Nazi supporters from positions of influence.

Unlike neighboring Germany, Austria did not have an organized, judicial denazification effort in the aftermath of World War II — in fact, no one has been convicted of Nazi war crimes in Austria in more than 35 years.

“In Germany, and quite a few of the countries that were under Nazi occupation, many people involved in Nazism were convicted or at least not permitted to be civil servants, teachers, police officers, etc.,” said Tina Walzer, a Vienna historian. “But this has never happened in Austria and we are witnessing the results of this crucial difference.”

This has entrenched populist ideas in a way that has seemed resistant to increased Holocaust awareness.

“When you look at the population as a whole, you don’t feel there has really been a change,” said Milli Segal, founder of the newly opened For the Child museum in Vienna honoring the young Holocaust refugees who fled to Britain through an arrangement known as the Kindertransport.

“Well, there’s change, but in very, very small steps,” she added after a pause. “It makes you feel voiceless.”

Many in Austria share Segal’s feeling of powerlessness over the Freedom Party’s recent successes. Its strong showing last month follows an even greater electoral feat in last year’s presidential elections in which the party’s candidate, Norbert Hofer, won 49.7 percent in the first round of voting. Hofer lost in the second round to the left-leaning candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, 53 percent to 46 percent.

The close election indicates that far-right populism is a “ticking political bomb,” warned Barbara Wesel, a senior Europe correspondent for Germany’s Deutsche Welle broadcaster.

The Freedom Party, for its part, rejects claims that it plays on Nazi and other racist sympathies. Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache has vowed to kick out members caught engaging in racist rhetoric, and has indeed done so to a former lawmaker who supported online the assertion that “Zionist money-Jews worldwide are the problem.”

The Jewish Community in Vienna considers the Freedom Party a racist entity, according to Oskar Deutsch, the community leader, who has called on Chancellor-elect Sebastian Kurz to prevent the Freedom Party from reaching power.

“It’s a facade,” Deutsch told JTA of Strache’s statements against anti-Semitism and racism. “Despite this talk, they position themselves as the go-to address for people with Nazi sympathies.”

A case in point: On Nov. 9, when the outgoing chancellor, Christian Kern, spoke in parliament to commemorate the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht — a series of pogroms that the Nazis carried out in Germany and Austria — the Freedom Party’s lawmakers were the only ones who demonstratively did not applaud.

“These subtle signs are how they signal and excite their supporters,” Segal said. “If the Freedom Party will be part of the government, it will become difficult to commemorate the Holocaust in the same dignified way that we have now in Austria.”

The dissonance between Austria’s Holocaust commemoration efforts and the far-right’s popularity can be unsettling.

On Oct. 19, for example, a Vienna city official inaugurated a Holocaust memorial installation outside the Herminengasse subway station, near an alley in which the Nazis imprisoned hundreds of Jews during the war. From there they were taken to be deported as non-Jewish locals watched from their balconies. The inauguration ceremonies were held during election season; nearby hung a giant poster of a smiling Strache bearing the slogan “Fairness.”

Does the party’s recent success suggest that such commemoration projects are ultimately failing to make a difference politically?

“You might say so,” Deutsch said. “But the Jewish community will not remain silent.”

To Efraim Zuroff, a hunter of Nazis and historian for the Simon Wiesenthal Center who is based in Israel, the success of the far right in Austria reflects how Holocaust commemoration projects in urban areas hardly reach people who live in smaller towns — the Freedom Party base.

“Holocaust education, which only recently really began developing in Austria, happens there in pockets — in the big cities, in the artists’ scene,” he said. “It has big visibility but isn’t penetrating the way it has in Germany, where the effort was much more robust.”

Zuroff said this has a lot to do with Austria’s failure to prosecute Nazis.

“Holocaust education efforts in Austria are having limited impact because they are done in two voices,” he said. “There was a belated admission of guilt by politicians. But the judiciary, whose work sends a much stronger message in society, was a total failure.”

To some activists against racism, the Freedom Party’s rise is motivation to invest even greater efforts in Holocaust commemoration.

The far-right’s success in Austria “only strengthens our resolve,” said Brigitte Prinzgau, an artist who designed the newly inaugurated Aspang Railway Station Memorial, near where 47,035 Austrian Jews were dispatched from Vienna to death camps. “Now educators and artists will make even more monuments confronting fascism and xenophobic populism.”

via Austria accepted its Holocaust guilt. So why is its far right on the rise? | Jewish Telegraphic Agency

B’nai Brith Canada condemns rash of pro-Nazi postering in B.C.

Another disturbing incident:

B’nai Brith Canada has condemned the actions of whoever put up anti-Semitic posters and chalkboard drawings at the University of British Columbia over the Remembrance Day weekend in Vancouver.

On Nov. 11, the student newspaper called the Ubyssey reported that the entrances to the War Memorial Gym were plastered with posters glorifying Nazi Germany.

One poster touts Nazi soldiers as the “true heroes of WW2” and offers links to hateful websites. Another bore a swastika and described Nazism as “anti-degenerate.”

The posters were found Saturday, the same day the school hosted Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Philip Steenkamp, vice-president of external relations for the University of B.C. — said campus security took down the posters as soon as they were made aware of them, and that the university takes incidents of hate and racism very seriously.

Two days earlier, on the anniversary of Kristallnacht or the “night of broken glass” on Nov. 9, 1938 in Germany — the night violence broke out against Jews which resulted in thousands of businesses and synagogues trashed and looted — a chalk drawing was found in the UBC forestry building with a “Heil Hitler” message.

RCMP investigated both incidents, but could not find any suspects, said UBC RCMP Const. Kevin Ray.

“Once again, we see anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism raising their ugly heads at a B.C. university,” said Michael Mostyn, chief executive officer of B’nai Brith Canada.

A neo-Nazi poster put up at the University of British Columbia just before Remembrance Day. (The Ubyssey)

“These disturbing incidents constitute a threat to Jewish students and other minorities on campus, as well as an unforgivable insult to Canadian veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice to defeat Nazi tyranny.”

Earlier in November, posters targeting Jews were found at the University of Victoria.

Publicity around the removal of those posters was followed by a “tidal wave” of hateful comments on social media, according to anti-racism activists, who fear the far-right rallies seen this summer in Charlottesville, Va. — which saw similar posters plastered around many U.S. universities — may be emboldening racists in Canada.

via B’nai Brith Canada condemns rash of pro-Nazi postering in B.C. – British Columbia – CBC News

Friedman: Why Canadians should be proud of the Holocaust Monument

Rabbi Daniel Friedman is Chair of the National Holocaust Monument Development Council puts the plaque controversy in context:

Last month, Canada unveiled our incredible Holocaust Monument. Let me tell you about my proudest moment that day. It wasn’t when, for the very first time, I walked into the awe-inspiring monument. It wasn’t when, alongside our prime minister, I addressed the nation. And, despite my great reverence for them, it wasn’t when I met the hundreds of inspiring survivors and generous donors.

My proudest moment was watching Justin Trudeau step off stage after his speech. Just then, he noticed a familiar face towards the back of the room, that of Tim Uppal. Uppal is the former MP who introduced the Holocaust Monument bill in Parliament. When Trudeau spotted him, he strode up to the back of the room, grabbed Tim by the hand, and escorted him to the front. At the end of the ceremony, the prime minister turned and gave him a big hug.

That’s the epitome of Canadianism. You see, Tim Uppal was a Conservative MP. Trudeau could have snubbed his former rival and basked all alone in the glory of his government’s day in the sun. But he chose to include him, making sure that he was every much a part of this historic hour.

That’s why Canadians deserve the monument we’ve built together. Many in the world today pay lip service to eradicating hatred and promoting love, respect and tolerance for all humankind. But they never miss an opportunity to attack those who don’t agree with their views, attacks often having little to do with any real matter of substance.

The monument is the product of a partnership between many organizations. Designed by the Lord Cultural Group and Daniel Libeskind, built by the National Capital Commission, facilitated by Canadian Heritage, and overseen by the Monument Development Council, a lot of people have coordinated their efforts to build this piece of our nation.

Along the way we had disagreements. Some bigger, some smaller. Along the way, we made mistakes. Some bigger, some smaller. Along the way we switched governments, which meant a whole host of new players and opinions entering the fray. But we’re Canadians. And we figured it out. We didn’t point fingers. We didn’t politicize things. We were proud of the fact that the Monument bill passed unanimously.

On the big day, we suddenly realized that an egregious error had been made. In amongst the debates over wording and plaque positioning, somehow the one plaque that introduced the others – and made no sense outside the context of the plaques detailing the Nazi genocide of six million Jews along with homosexuals, the disabled and others – ended up mounted all on its own on a separate wall. Visitors to the site were rightly disturbed to encounter this major injustice to the memory of the six million Jews for whom the monument was built. All of the parties involved are deeply remorseful and we apologize unconditionally for the pain we have caused by this oversight.

I want to thank the Trudeau government for acting expeditiously to amend the plaque as soon as the error was brought to its attention. Mistakes happen; most can be fixed quickly and decorously. Without questioning, the government did the right thing, which has been our experience with Trudeau’s government throughout. And that’s why when I saw his interaction with Tim Uppal at the unveiling, my respect for our leader grew ever stronger.  The man is a true Canadian. The man is a mensch.

Canadians don’t look for fights. We seek opportunities to embrace and boost other people who are different from us, whether those differences involve political views, religion or skin colour. The last thing we would want to politicize is the Holocaust.

The National Holocaust Monument was initiated by the Stephen Harper government. It was brought to fruition under the Trudeau government. We live in the most tolerant country in the world, and probably, of all time. Let us never take that blessing for granted. Let us be a little more forgiving of one another. And let us continue to work together, across party lines, ethnic lines and religious lines, to lead the international community, and make this world a better, safer place for all peoples.

Source: Friedman: Why Canadians should be proud of the Holocaust Monument | Ottawa Citizen

Government hastily removes Holocaust plaque that doesn’t mention Jewish people 

Oops. That should have been caught at the bureaucratic and political levels. Quick corrective action, however.

Any plaque should emphasize the devastating impact on Jews but at the same time should mention that other groups were affected. The US Holocaust Museum notes: “During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived “racial inferiority”: Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.”

Having visited the Memorial this week, amidst all the scuffle regarding the plaque, it seems no one has read the interpretative panels which, IMO, are excellent both overall as well as having the appropriate emphasis on the impact on Jews as well as other communities:

The federal government has removed a plaque inaugurating Ottawa’s new Holocaust memorial that failed to mention anti-Semitism or Jewish people.

Conservative MP David Sweet raised the issue in question period on Tuesday, asking if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be correcting this “profoundly obvious omission.

“If we are going to stamp out hatred toward Jews, it is important to get history right,” said Sweet.

The plaque originally commemorated the “millions of men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust” and the survivors who made it to Canada “after one of the darkest chapters in history.”

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly said the plaque has been taken down and will be “replaced with language that reflects the horrors experienced by the Jewish people.”

The monument was inaugurated last Wednesday. Canada had been the only allied power from the Second World War that did not have a national Holocaust monument.

A similar mistake was made by U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this year, although the Liberals’ quick reversal is in contrast to Trump’s response. Administration spokesperson Hope Hicks told CNNthat Jews and anti-Semitism weren’t mentioned in a White House statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day because “despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered.”

After opening the monument, the Liberals are also expected to apologize for the Canadian government’s 1939 decision to turn away a boat holding 900 Jews seeking asylum from Germany, according to the Canadian Press.

The ship was turned away from Cuba and the United States before a group of Canadians tried to convince then-prime minister Mackenize King’s government to let it dock in Halifax.

About 500 of the ship’s passengers ended up back in Germany, half of whom did not survive the Holocaust.

Source: Government hastily removes Holocaust plaque that doesn’t mention Jewish people | National Post

Marine Le Pen: France ‘not responsible’ for deporting Jews during Holocaust – The Washington Post

Sigh … hope French voters react:

The Velodrome d’Hiver is an eternal stain on French history.

After dark on July 16, 1942, French police rounded up about 13,000 Jews from across occupied Paris and deposited them in the “Vel d’Hiv,” a famous indoor stadium that had hosted the 1924 Summer Olympics and where the likes of Ernest Hemingway would come to enjoy the races. From the stadium, not far from the Eiffel Tower, the vast majority of these interned Jews in 1942 were deported to Auschwitz. Most would never return from that World War II Nazi concentration camp.

The reason the Vel d’Hiv lingers in France’s national memory is that the roundup was carried out by French police — not by the German occupiers.

In a republic devoted to the lofty ideals of equality and universal citizenship — and that had legally emancipated its Jews long before any of its European neighbors — the Vel d’Hiv roundup exposed the deadly hypocrisy of collaboration with the Nazi regime. In 1995, speaking at the site of the stadium, then-President Jacques Chirac put it this way: “France, the homeland of the Enlightenment and of the rights of man, a land of welcome and asylum — France, on that day, committed the irreparable. Breaking its word, it handed those who were under its protection over to their executioners.”

Now enter Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front party, who is making a run for the presidency in the April 23 election.

“I don’t think that France is responsible for the Vel d’Hiv,” she declared Sunday on French television. “I think that in general, more generally, if there were those responsible, it was those who were in power at the time. This is not France.”

In remarks that elicited outrage across the French media, Le Pen went further: “France has been mired in people’s minds for years. In reality, our children are taught that they have every reason to criticize her, to see only the darkest historical aspects.”

“I want them to be proud to be French again.”

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is among the top contenders in France’s presidential campaign. Here’s what you need to know about her.(Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

Israel condemned Le Pen’s remarks, saying they reflect rising anti-Semitism that, “unfortunately, is once again raising its head.”

Holocaust Organizations, Scholars Slam Possible Defunding of Anti-Semitism Office

Will be surprising if the Trump administration pursues defunding as they should have learned from previous mistakes (i.e., not mentioning Jewish victims of the Holocaust, delayed condemnation of antisemitic acts and hate crimes). But who knows:

As President Donald Trump prepared to enter the White House, reports began to circulate about what his first budget proposal would look like. The day before his inauguration, The Hill reported on plans of the incoming administration to make drastic cuts in government spending, including the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities and reductions in funding and program eliminations within the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Transportation, Justice and State.

Within this last department, Bloomberg reported late last month, the administration was considering whether to eliminate several special envoys, including one on anti-Semitism. On Monday, more than 100 Holocaust organizations, educators and scholars released a statement in response, following similar efforts by the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J.). William L. Shulman, president of the Association of Holocaust Organizations, tells Newsweek it took the intervening time to put together the statement, edit it and circulate it for signatures.

“We are alarmed by reports that the President plans to defund the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, an office that tracks and counteracts anti-Semitism abroad,” the Association of Holocaust Organizations wrote. “We urge the U.S. government to maintain and strengthen the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and to create a new office to address this urgent issue domestically.

The office in question was created via the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, which expressed “the sense of Congress [that] the United States should continue to support efforts to combat anti-Semitism worldwide through bilateral relationships and interaction with international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)” and that “the Department of State should thoroughly document acts of anti-Semitism that occur around the world.” The act directed the Secretary of State to establish an Office to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism, which would be headed by a special envoy, to take on the role of tracking, reporting on and combating anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism is not only a Jewish problem,” Ira Forman, who served as the most recent Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism under former President Barack Obama, is quoted as saying in the release. “Jew-hatred—like other forms of religious and ethnic prejudice—is a threat to the very foundations of liberal democracies.” Speaking to Jewish Insider about the possible defunding, Forman said, “I can’t believe someone at the White House won’t have better sense than to realize that this is a disaster…. This is as bipartisan an issue as you can get, and I just hope folks at the White House come to their senses.”

Source: Holocaust Organizations, Scholars Slam Possible Defunding of Anti-Semitism Office

Warsaw’s Populist Right Whitewashes Holocaust History – The Daily Beast

More disturbing news about Poland:

Katarzyna Wielga-Skolimowska was given 24 hours to clear out her office, until the end of the month to vacate her flat, and is forbidden to talk to the press about any of it.

The elegant redhead, who is credited for her knowledge of architecture and theater, was abruptly fired from her job as director of the Polish cultural institute in Berlin last week. Did her programs have “too much Jewish content,” as Israel’s Haaretz headlined bluntlyThe Forward in the United States made that a question: “Was Polish Culture Institute Director Fired for Too Much ‘Jewish-Themed Content’?”

As various theories circulate in Berlin about why, one thing is clear—that this is the latest attempt of Poland’s radical nationalist government to revamp its image abroad, not least by playing down any Polish role in the Holocaust. A law proposed last summer, for instance, would make it a crime to use the phrase “Polish death camps” for, say, Auschwitz, which was a Nazi death camp in occupied Poland.

“Everything points to the fact that the dismissal [of the Polish Institute Director] was politically motivated,” Berlinische Galerie director Thomas Köhler tells The Daily Beast. “Her contract would have ended next year. This was clearly intended as a punishment—It’s really bad form.”

Together with other leading culture fanatics in the capital, Köhler signed a protest letter that expressed “dismay“ and “irritation“ at the sudden dismissal. Cilly Kugelmann, who directs the Jewish Museum in Berlin, initiated the letter.

Last year, the Polish Institute screened “Ida,” an Oscar-winning Polish film about a Catholic woman who discovers she is the Jewish child of Holocaust victims. But while showing the film may have gone down well in Berlin, it could have been another strike against Wielga-Skolimowska for Warsaw.

Since Poland’s Law and Justice Party won elections in 2015, the Warsaw government has been going to great pains to “recalibrate many of the ways in which Poles think, talk and learn about their own history.” And to some, it looks like Law and Justice wants to whitewash a lot of the country’s history, even the Shoah, by appealing to nationalist pride.

The way in which “Ida” was broadcast on public television in Poland this year has provided one ground for such suspicion. The film that had won best film prize at the Polish Film Academy in 2013 was this time accompanied by a 12-minute clip in which three critics tore into it, warning about supposed historical inaccuracies.

In October, Wielga-Skolimowska received a damning internal evaluation by the newly appointed Polish ambassador to Berlin, Andrzej Przylebski. Among other things, he warned her, “not to overdo the emphasis—particularly in Germany, which should not receive the role of mediator—on the importance of Polish-Jewish dialogue as the main example of intercultural dialogue which takes place in Poland.“

So this week, the left-leaning Berlin paper TAZ chose the provocative title “Warsaw Purges in Berlin” to report on Wielga-Skolimowska’s dismissal. Two other papers followed suit and claimed that Wielga-Skolimowska was fired for over emphasizing Jewish topics. The theme, as noted, was picked up by the Israeli press. And the Polish embassy was not happy. Both the Berliner Zeitung and the Tageszeitung received a letter demanding a correction.

Law and Justice is not generally considered an anti-Semitic party, not least because it is very pro-Israel. And according to political scientist Janusz Bugajski, despite Poland’s shady new attitude to historical accuracy, there is also “sensitivity that Germany is still evading a full accounting of World War II war crimes and that Poles as a nation are depicted as anti-Semites.”

In his evaluation, Ambassador Przylebski also accused Wielga-Skolimowska of having done a bad job inviting guests and choosing topics. “The blind imitation of nihilistic and hedonistic trends does not lead to anything good in terms of civilization.” he wrote, rather mysteriously and apocalyptically. “Poland must resist this.”

Wielga-Skolimowska is the 14th out of 24 Polish Institute directors around the world to be fired this year, and the reasons vary. Vienna was forced to stop working with an Austrian journalist and writer after he criticised “Law and Justice” in his articles. But the director in Madrid already had to go for not focusing enough on Chopin.

“The Polish government is really celebrating national pride now,” Köhler muses, “and you can understand that: the country has a nasty history. But I expect that now they’ll be doing a very conservative backwards program, with uncritical writers, artists, and Chopin evenings. I don’t know if I’ll still feel like going.”

Bugajski, the political scientist, notes that Ambassador Przylebski, at the very least, seems to be “repeating the kind of language that communists used against ‘decadent Western bourgeois art.’  He adds, “It just shows you that politicians should not try to be culture critics.”