Geschichte der Hamburger Juden: Familie Levi in Altona

September 25, 2011

Betty Levi (née Lindenberger)

von Ulla Hinnenberg (Stadtteilarchiv Ottensen)

Betty Levi, geboren Lindenberger, geb. 10.3.1882, deportiert nach Auschwitz am 11.7.1942, Todesdatum unbekannt.

Betty Levi, Tochter von Isaac und Ernestine (Esther) Lindenberger, stammte aus dem ostpreußischen Labiau, einem Zentrum der Fischindustrie. Sie wurde im Standesamt als Berta registriert, nannte sich jedoch zeitlebens Betty Lindenberger, später Betty Levi.

Berufliche Gründe brachten einen Ortswechsel mit sich; der Vater wurde in Berlin Geschäftsinhaber in der Fischverarbeitungs- und -konservierungsbranche. Betty erhielt eine profunde, vielleicht professionell geplante, Ausbildung als Pianistin, die sie bei ihrer Eheschließung abbrach.

Die 22-jährige Berlinerin heiratete 1905 den neun Jahre älteren Altonaer Rechtsanwalt Dr. Moses Levi; die Brautleute kannten sich seit einem Hochzeitsfest, an dem sie als Gäste teilgenommen hatten. Moses Levi gehörte einer alteingesessenen Altonaer Familie an, deren Stammbaum mütterlicherseits bis in die Anfänge der Altonaer jüdischen Gemeinde zurückreichte und in direkter Linie und verwandtschaftlichen Verzweigungen eine Reihe von Rabbinern hervorgebracht hatte.

Das Ehepaar Levi bekam vier Kinder, geboren zwischen 1908 und 1916, und wohnte zunächst in einer Etage in der Königstraße 76, bis es 1920 das Haus Klopstockstraße 23, in bester Ottenser Elblage, erwarb.

Betty Levi lebte das Leben einer angesehenen bürgerlichen Hausfrau. Sie zog vier Kinder groß, führte den Haushalt, war eine Meisterin im Kochen und im Backen, widmete sich in Mußestunden dem Klavierspiel und ihrer zweiten Begabung, der Anfertigung kunstvoller Handarbeiten. Sie war eine Perfektionistin und legte in allen Dingen größtes Gewicht auf Sorgfalt in der Ausführung. Sie war auch eine Frau, die sich nicht duckte, als die Jahre der nationalsozialistischen Herrschaft anbrachen. So weigerte sie sich etwa beharrlich, den Namen des neuernannten “Adolf-Hitler-Platzes” zu verwenden oder auf ihn zu reagieren.

Im Mai 1932 verheiratete sich die älteste Tochter Elisabeth mit einem Studienfreund und zog mit ihm nach Kopenhagen. Die jüngste Tochter Herta musste im Herbst 1933 das Gymnasium verlassen; sie ging nach Berlin, wo sich ein Ausbildungsweg in der angestrebten musikpädagogischen Richtung auch ohne Abitur gefunden hatte. Der Sohn Walter wanderte 1936 nach England aus, um dort sein technisches Studium abzuschließen, was ihm in Hamburg nicht mehr möglich war.

Am 4. März 1938 wurde Betty Levi Witwe. Ihr Mann, der renommierte Strafverteidiger und ehemalige Notar Dr. Moses Levi, der 1933 Berufsverbot erhalten hatte, erlag einem Krebsleiden. 1939 konnten die Töchter Käthe und Herta mit einem Haushaltsvisum nach England emigrieren. Versuche, auch für die Mutter, die qualifizierte Hausfrau, eine Einreisegenehmigung zu erlangen, scheiterten an deren Alter.

So blieb Betty Levi allein zurück; ihre Lebensumstände wurden hoffnungslos, sie litt Hunger. Eigentümerin ihres Wohnhauses war seit 1938 die Hansestadt Hamburg, die es per Zwangsverkauf für einen geringfügigen Betrag an sich gebracht hatte; das enteignete Haus stand den geplanten Monumentalbauten der “Gau-Hauptstadt” im Wege.

Was von Geld und Vermögen in Sachwerten noch vorhanden war, hatte sie ebenfalls abliefern müssen.

Die einzige, die ihr vor und nach der “Übersiedlung” ins Hamburger jüdische Altersheim Sedanstraße 23 beistand, war eine couragierte ehemalige Hausangestellte, die ihr die Treue hielt und sie ein wenig unterstützen konnte.

Am 11. Juli 1942 wurde Betty Levi, sechzigjährig, von Hamburg aus ins Vernichtungslager Auschwitz deportiert.

Seit dem 27. Januar 1997, dem Gedenktag zur Befreiung des Lagers Auschwitz, gibt es in Sichtweite der Klopstockstraße ein Straßenschild “Betty-Levi-Passage”, das nach einer Feierstunde im Altonaer Rathaus von der Tochter Herta Grove aus Philadelphia enthüllt wurde.

Diese Ehrung Betty Levis geschah zugleich stellvertretend für die große Gruppe der Hamburger und Altonaer Opfer, die als Hausfrauen und Mütter ein alltägliches Leben als Gleiche unter Gleichen führten, bis ihnen durch Staatsverordnung Menschenwürde und Lebensrecht genommen wurden.


Die “Endlösung der Judenfrage” in Frankreich: Razzia der Pariser Winter-Radrennbahn (1942)

July 17, 2010

Daß die Juden, wenn sie wollten – oder, wenn man sie dazu zwänge, wie es die Antisemiten zu wollen scheinen –, jetzt schon das Übergewicht, ja ganz wörtlich die Herrschaft über Europa haben könnten, steht fest; daß sie nicht darauf hinarbeiten und Pläne machen, ebenfalls. Einstweilen wollen und wünschen sie vielmehr, sogar mit einiger Zudringlichkeit, in Europa, von Europa ein- und aufgesaugt zu werden, sie dürsten darnach, endlich irgendwo fest, erlaubt, geachtet zu sein und dem Nomadenleben, dem ‘ewigen Juden’ ein Ziel zu setzen –; und man sollte diesen Zug und Drang wohl beachten und ihm entgegenkommen. (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Als Rafle du Vélodrome d’Hiver (frz. Razzia der Winter-Radrennbahn) wird die am 16. und 17. Juli 1942 in Paris durchgeführte Massenfestnahme durch die französische Polizei (auf Anordnung des Generalsekretärs der Polizei des Vichy-Regimes René Bousquet – der nach dem Krieg eine steile Karriere machte und leider 1993 erschossen wurde, bevor man ihn den Prozess machen konnte) und darauf folgende Deportation von 13.000 französischen Juden, darunter über 4.000 Kinder, in die Gaskammern nach Auschwitz bezeichnet.

Die aktive Beteiligung der französischen Vichy-Regierung sowie französischer Polizeibeamter – ohne ausdrücklichen Befehl der nationalsozialistischen Besatzungsmacht – an diesem Verbrechen war jahrzehntelang ein Tabu in Frankreich.

Am 16. Juli 1995 entschuldigte sich der französische Staatspräsident Jacques Chirac öffentlich im Namen der französischen Republik

Am 16. Juli 1995 entschuldigte sich Staatspräsident Jacques Chirac öffentlich im Namen der französischen Republik.

 “Von diesem Moment an konnte man beginnen, echte Fragen zu stellen, wurde den Opfern der Opfer-Status zuerkannt. Erst dann konnte die Arbeit der Erinnerung, der historischen Auseinandersetzung und die Trauerarbeit der jüdischen Familien wirklich beginnen. Ich nenne das eine „Befriedung“. Denn seit der Erklärung des Staatspräsidenten Jacques Chirac fühlen sich viele Juden mit ihrer Geschichte versöhnt, mit der Geschichte ihres Landes, des Landes, in dem sie leben.”, bemerkte Jacques Fredj, Direktor des Mémorial de la Shoah, ein Gedenk-, Forschungs- und Dokumentationszentrum zur Geschichte des Holocaust.

Jacques Chirac & Simone Veil vor der Mauer der Namen in Paris

Jacques Chirac mit der französischen Politikerin, einstigen Präsidentin des Europäischen Parlamentes und Auschwitz-Überlebende Simone Veil vor dem Pariser Denkmal Mur des Noms (Mauer der Namen)

***

Am 16. Juli 1995, hielt der französische Staatspräsident Jacques Chirac eine sehr bewegende Rede, in der er auf die Verstrickungen des französischen Staates in dieses Verbrechen einging.

Rede des französischen Staatspräsidenten Jacques Chirac

Monsieur le Maire,

Monsieur le Président,

Monsieur l’Ambassadeur,

Monsieur le Grand Rabbin,

Mesdames, Messieurs,

Il est, dans la vie d’une nation, des moments qui blessent la mémoire, et l’idée que l’on se fait de son pays.

Ces moments, il est difficile de les évoquer, parce que l’on ne sait pas toujours trouver les mots justes pour rappeler l’horreur, pour dire le chagrin de celles et ceux qui ont vécu la tragédie. Celles et ceux qui sont marqués à jamais dans leur âme et dans leur chair par le souvenir de ces journées de larmes et de honte.

Il est difficile de les évoquer, aussi, parce que ces heures noires souillent à jamais notre histoire, et sont une injure à notre passé et à nos traditions. Oui, la folie criminelle de l’occupant a été secondée par des Français, par l’Etat français.

Il y a cinquante-trois ans, le 16 juillet 1942, 450 policiers et gendarmes français, sous l’autorité de leurs chefs, répondaient aux exigences des nazis.

Ce jour-là, dans la capitale et en région parisienne, près de dix mille hommes, femmes et enfants juifs furent arrêtés à leur domicile, au petit matin, et rassemblés dans les commissariats de police.

On verra des scènes atroces: les familles déchirées, les mères séparées de leurs enfants, les vieillards – dont certains, anciens combattants de la Grande Guerre, avaient versé leur sang pour la France – jetés sans ménagement dans les bus parisiens et les fourgons de la Préfecture de Police.

On verra, aussi, des policiers fermer les yeux, permettant ainsi quelques évasions.

Pour toutes ces personnes arrêtées, commence alors le long et douloureux voyage vers l’enfer. Combien d’entre-elles ne reverront jamais leur foyer? Et combien, à cet instant, se sont senties trahies? Quelle a été leur détresse?

La France, patrie des Lumières et des Droits de l’Homme, terre d’accueil et d’asile, la France, ce jour-là, accomplissait l’irréparable. Manquant à sa parole, elle livrait ses protégés à leurs bourreaux.

Conduites au Vélodrome d’hiver, les victimes devaient attendre plusieurs jours, dans les conditions terribles que l’on sait, d’être dirigées sur l’un des camps de transit – Pithiviers ou Beaune-la-Rolande – ouverts par les autorités de Vichy.

L’horreur, pourtant, ne faisait que commencer.

Suivront d’autres rafles, d’autres arrestations. A Paris et en province. Soixante-quatorze trains partiront vers Auschwitz. Soixante-seize mille déportés juifs de France n’en reviendront pas.

Nous conservons à leur égard une dette imprescriptible.

La Thora fait à chaque juif devoir de se souvenir. Une phrase revient toujours qui dit: “N’oublie jamais que tu as été un étranger et un esclave en terre de Pharaon”.

Cinquante ans après, fidèle à sa loi, mais sans esprit de haine ou de vengeance, la Communauté juive se souvient, et toute la France avec elle. Pour que vivent les six millions de martyrs de la Shoah. Pour que de telles atrocités ne se reproduisent jamais plus. Pour que le sang de l’holocauste devienne, selon le mot de Samuel Pisar, le “sang de l’espoir”.

Quand souffle l’esprit de haine, avivé ici par les intégrismes, alimenté là par la peur et l’exclusion. Quand à nos portes, ici même, certains groupuscules, certaines publications, certains enseignements, certains partis politiques se révèlent porteurs, de manière plus ou moins ouverte, d’une idéologie raciste et antisémite, alors cet esprit de vigilance qui vous anime, qui nous anime, doit se manifester avec plus de force que jamais.

En la matière, rien n’est insignifiant, rien n’est banal, rien n’est dissociable. Les crimes racistes, la défense de thèses révisionnistes, les provocations en tout genre – les petites phrases, les bons mots – puisent aux mêmes sources.

Transmettre la mémoire du peuple juif, des souffrances et des camps. Témoigner encore et encore. Reconnaître les fautes du passé, et les fautes commises par l’Etat. Ne rien occulter des heures sombres de notre Histoire, c’est tout simplement défendre une idée de l’Homme, de sa liberté et de sa dignité. C’est lutter contre les forces obscures, sans cesse à l’oeuvre.

Cet incessant combat est le mien autant qu’il est le vôtre.

Les plus jeunes d’entre nous, j’en suis heureux, sont sensibles à tout ce qui se rapporte à la Shoah. Ils veulent savoir. Et avec eux, désormais, de plus en plus de Français décidés à regarder bien en face leur passé.

La France, nous le savons tous, n’est nullement un pays antisémite.

En cet instant de recueillement et de souvenir, je veux faire le choix de l’espoir.

Je veux me souvenir que cet été 1942, qui révèle le vrai visage de la “collaboration”, dont le caractère raciste, après les lois anti-juives de 1940, ne fait plus de doute, sera, pour beaucoup de nos compatriotes, celui du sursaut, le point de départ d’un vaste mouvement de résistance.

Je veux me souvenir de toutes les familles juives traquées, soustraites aux recherches impitoyables de l’occupant et de la milice, par l’action héroïque et fraternelle de nombreuses familles françaises.

J’aime à penser qu’un mois plus tôt, à Bir Hakeim, les Français libres de Koenig avaient héroïquement tenu, deux semaines durant, face aux divisions allemandes et italiennes.

Certes, il y a les erreurs commises, il y a les fautes, il y a une faute collective. Mais il y a aussi la France, une certaine idée de la France, droite, généreuse, fidèle à ses traditions, à son génie. Cette France n’a jamais été à Vichy. Elle n’est plus, et depuis longtemps, à Paris. Elle est dans les sables libyens et partout où se battent des Français libres. Elle est à Londres, incarnée par le Général de Gaulle. Elle est présente, une et indivisible, dans le coeur de ces Français, ces “Justes parmi les nations” qui, au plus noir de la tourmente, en sauvant au péril de leur vie, comme l’écrit Serge Klarsfeld, les trois-quarts de la communauté juive résidant en France, ont donné vie à ce qu’elle a de meilleur. Les valeurs humanistes, les valeurs de liberté, de justice, de tolérance qui fondent l’identité française et nous obligent pour l’avenir.

Ces valeurs, celles qui fondent nos démocraties, sont aujourd’hui bafouées en Europe même, sous nos yeux, par les adeptes de la “purification ethnique”. Sachons tirer les leçons de l’Histoire. N’acceptons pas d’être les témoins passifs, ou les complices, de l’inacceptable.

C’est le sens de l’appel que j’ai lancé à nos principaux partenaires, à Londres, à Washington, à Bonn. Si nous le voulons, ensemble nous pouvons donner un coup d’arrêt à une entreprise qui détruit nos valeurs et qui, de proche en proche risque de menacer l’Europe tout entière.


Unsung Hero of World War II: Hiram Bingham IV

March 7, 2010

An American Vice-Consul stationed in Marseille, France in 1940, Hiram Bingham IV defied U.S. policy and issued false life-saving visas for thousands of Jews fleeing the Nazis, among them Hannah Arendt, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst and the family of the writer Thomas Mann.

Even after Washington lost patience with him and shuffled him off to Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1941, Bingham continued to annoy his superiors by reporting on the movements of Nazis there. Eventually, he was forced out of the American diplomatic service.

Because he went against U.S. policy, he never received national credit, and because he was a man of action and not of words, his story went with him when he died in 1988. That is until his son, Robert Kim Bingham Sr., 67, discovered some of his father’s documents hidden in the family farmhouse in Salem, Connecticut, and embarked on a journey to bring his father’s heroic story to light.

Hiram Bingham as young diplomat in Marseille

Hiram Bingham as young diplomat in Marseille

7 Questions: Unsung Hero
by Jenny Hazan, Canadian journalist and editor living in Tel Aviv

Jacques Bodner's visa issued by Hiram Bingham IV on Feb. 27, 1940

Jacques Bodner's visa issued by Hiram Bingham IV on Feb. 27, 1940

Q1: Describe the drama of discovering your father’s documents.

In 1996, eight years after my father’s death, my mom, a few of my 10 siblings and I started finding documents at the farmhouse in Salem. There were letters, visa papers, and photos from my father’s time in Marseille. Until then, our family was aware that he had a hand in the rescue of a handful of luminaries, but we had no idea of the scope of his activity, that he was sought out by thousands of people who went to him for their one last chance to live. We had no idea that he was sought out by thousands of people who went to him for their one last chance to live.

We found out that in addition to issuing false visas, he sheltered Jews in his home in Marseille and worked with the French underground to smuggle Jews out of France into Spain, or across the Mediterranean. He even contributed to their expenses out of his own pocket. I have heard estimates that he saved anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 people.

About five years ago, we found a letter to him from Leon Feuchtwanger, an anti-Nazi writer, thanking my father for hiding him and his wife Marta in my father’s residence for some six weeks while my father prepared a false visa for him under the name of ‘Wet Cheek’. Feuchtwanger had written the letter while on board the Excalibur, heading to New York City, and signed it ‘Mr. Wet Cheek’.

My mother and brother, Thomas, sent some of the Marseille documents to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, and to Eric Saul, curator of the Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats Project and the Jewish Rescuers Project, who should really be credited with bringing my father’s story to life.

Q2: How did the remembrance project get started?

In 1998 I went to Israel, on the 50th anniversary of the country, as part of a mission of diplomat children. I was very moved when I saw the exhibit at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. My father had been singled out for special honor. It was the first time I was really struck by what he had done.

There were many people who were so grateful to him for what he did during the early days of the nightmare of the Holocaust, and many people stepped forward to tell me so. We heard wonderful stories in different parts of the country of righteous gentiles, and it was as though it was my father’s turn to be recognized. That trip to Israel is what triggered my whole incentive to go forward with the remembrance project.

Q3: What is the remembrance project?

The unveiling of postage stamps in honor of righteous diplomats at Yad Vashem gave me the idea to petition our own government to issue a stamp in honor of my father. I started a stamp drive in December, 1998, and in May, 2006, a stamp in honor of Harry Bingham IV was finally minted.

Forty representatives of government and 40 U.S. senators forwarded their support for the stamp to the Postmaster General. We had the entire legislature of Connecticut supporting the drive. It was a thrilling bipartisan experience for me.

My book, Courageous Dissent: How Harry Bingham Defied His Government to Save Lives (2007) was part of the same effort.

Q4: What is your primary drive behind all of this?

For over 50 years, the U.S. State Department resisted any attempts to honor my father. To them, he was an insubordinate member of the U.S. diplomatic service.

At the same time, my father didn’t reveal any details. It was typical of diplomatic families that we traveled with that the fathers did not bring to light their activities to their children. I guess because it was such a terrible period and the memories must have been overwhelmingly negative, perhaps because of those they could not rescue.

Our family thought he deserved to be honored; he put humanity above his career.

For me personally, as a former government employee in the U.S. — I retired in July after 41 years of service as Inside Counsel to the Department of Homeland Security — it impressed upon me what my father had done.

Q5: What drove your father to take such risks?

He came from a long and illustrious line of risk-takers. His father, Hiram Bingham III — on whom the Hollywood character Indiana Jones is based — discovered the ruins of the Inca city of Machu Picchu, Peru in 1911.

My father was a deeply religious man who saw his role as saving lives during that nightmare. He felt tremendous compassion for human beings and that each person had a spark of divinity.

Q6: What is one of your fondest memories of your father?

He taught all of his 11 children that we should live according to the golden rule. One instance that made a deep impression on me goes way back to when I was six years old. We used to go to the beach in Connecticut, near an amusement park called Ocean Beach.

We were walking along the sand and snuck into the park without paying the three-cent ‘pedestrian fee’. When he found out he was very angry with us. It’s one of many examples of my father’s deep moral fiber.

Of course I loved my father. He was a wonderful father and we all adored him.

Q7: Is your father finally getting the recognition he deserves?

Besides the stamp, the State Department made a 180-degree turn in 2002 and Colin Powell invited our family to Washington to present us with a posthumous ‘Constructive Dissent’ award in my father’s honor. I was happy about that. He has also been honored by the United Nations and by the State of Israel. Yad Vashem opened an exhibit in his honor called ‘Harry’s Wall’.

But more than these things are the people who continue to come forward and tell us that our father saved their family. During the stamp drive, one 85-year-old lady told us that she and her sister were just teens when they got visas from my father.

Last October, one of my daughter’s professors at Harvard, the Dean of the Literature College, originally from Austria, told her that her grandfather had saved his family. The two of them cried together. It is very emotional. He is alive today because of my father. When we hear these stories, it comes very close to home.

Reprinted with kindly permission of Aish HaTorah International.


World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder calls on Pope Benedict XVI to clarify Vatican’s stance on Pius XII

January 17, 2010

 

Pope Benedict & Ronald S. Lauder

Pope Benedict & Ronald S. Lauder

The following opinion article by World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder was published by the leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on the eve of Pope Benedict’s visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome.

Time for a few illuminating words

By Ronald S. Lauder

When a Catholic bishop visits the main synagogue in his diocese it is first and foremost a mark of friendship and an expression of the good relationship between the two local religious communities. Things are somewhat different when such a visit occurs in Rome, as the Bishop of Rome is also pontiff of the Catholic Church, representing more than a billion Catholics world-wide.

It is therefore important to Jews around the world what Pope Benedict XVI has to say this Sunday in Rome’s main synagogue on the Jewish-Catholic relationship and on a number of sensitive issues has already caused a sensation during his pontificate thus far.

Benedict XVI has often emphasized how important good relations to Judaism are to him. Through his trips to Israel, to Auschwitz, and his visits to synagogues in Cologne and New York, he has proved that he is sincere.

The German-born Pope has always been an outstanding theologian and a sharp-witted thinker. And yet, sometimes we see another Benedict, one who surprises us with decisions that – even for the well-meaning amongst us – are difficult to comprehend.

We Jews are generally very sensitive folk; some would say over-sensitive – although history has given us enough reason to be vigilant, given that anti-Semitism was very widespread and deeply rooted in the higher echelons of the Christian churches until a few decades ago.

Moreover, we Jews are an emotional people, and in public life we don’t always judge a statement or a decision made by the Pope by purely rational or intellectual criteria which perhaps are the hallmarks of a theological seminary. We pay close attention to gestures and symbols, especially from a Pope of German origin.

And we are quick to interpret his decisions in a certain way, even when they do not appear entirely obvious to us, because we always fear that others will deliberately interpret them in a way that one could regard as offensive to us.

All of this wouldn’t matter much had not dissent and controversies between our religions often served as justification for exclusion, persecution, and even violence. We need to make sure that we overcome former divisions and do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Certain reasoning and decision-making by the Pope that is perfectly logical within the framework of Catholic theology and teaching can have a completely different meaning for the outside world (the same also applies to Jewish thinking), hence the need to explain and communicate these decisions in a comprehensible fashion.

When the Pope allows the use of the Good Friday Prayer of the old Tridentine liturgy, which calls for Jews to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Savior of all men, some of us are deeply hurt.

When the Pope decides to lift the excommunication of bishops of the ultra-conservative and anti-Semitic Society of St. Pius X, among them a notorious Holocaust denier, we are upset.

When we have the impression that the beatification process of Pope Pius XII is being rushed through before all the documentation kept by the Vatican on this pontificate is revealed, many of us are disturbed. During that Pope’s pontificate, six million Jews in Europe were murdered by the Nazis, and there is an on-going debate about whether Pius XII really did all in his power to save at least some of them.

Holocaust survivors in particular feel upset when “heroic virtues” are accorded to Pius XII, even though that may make perfect sense within the inner-Catholic framework and may have nothing to do with his actions during World War II. To be clear: is it neither up to us Jews, nor to other outsiders, to decide who should be declared a hero or a saint of the Catholic Church. I also do not presume to be in a position to render a final judgment on Pius’ actions – or inaction – during World War II.

Yet those who view Pius XII and his behavior during that period critically – among them many historians – should be heard before irreversible decisions are taken hastily. Until all papers relating to Pius XII during the crucial period are accessible, the Vatican would be well advised to pause for a moment. Otherwise, even Catholics might have great trouble in recognizing the “heroic virtues” of Pius XII, and the reputation of the present Pope would consequently also suffer some damage.

Despite all these differences in opinion between Catholics and Jews – and it is only normal that they exist – the relationship between Jews and the Vatican is based on a solid foundation. We have managed, since the 1965 Declaration Nostra Aetate, to maintain a dialogue based on mutual trust. This dialogue is much more advanced than that with other Christian denominations, or with Islam.

I harbor no doubts whatever about the positive attitude and open-mindedness of Pope Benedict XVI vis-à-vis the Jews. He is more than welcome in our synagogues and I hope there will be many more such important occasions in the future.

However, on Sunday, when he pays a visit to Rome’s main synagogue on the invitation of the local Jewish community, we would welcome a few illuminating answers to some of the questions I outlined above. That could help dispel some of the irritations of the past months that have unnecessarily strained Jewish-Catholic relations.

Many Jews would recognize that as a small “heroic virtue” of the Pope.


Pope Benedict XVI under pressure

February 2, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI is under increasing pressure following his decision to revoke the excommunication of several leaders of the ultra-conservative Society of Pius X, among them a Holocaust denier.

Several Catholic bishops expressed their unease over Benedict’s decision ten days ago to allow back in Richard Williamson and others into the Catholic Church. Williamson recently denied that the Holocaust occurred and said that Nazi Germany had never used gas chambers.

Israel’s minister for religious affairs, Yitzhak Cohen, has threatened to suspend relations with the Vatican, the German news magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ reports. Cohen said he recommended “completely cutting off connections to a body in which Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites are members.” The Chief Rabbinate of Israel last week broke off official ties with the Vatican to protest the Pope’s decision.

British-born Richard Williamson is one of four bishops who are members of the Society of Pius X, a traditionalist Catholic order, whose excommunication was lifted a week ago. Williamson, who now lives in Argentina, had claimed in a television interview that historical evidence was “hugely against six million having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler … I believe there were no gas chambers”. Williamson was excommunicated 20 years ago after being ordained a bishop by the French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent.

The Vatican said it had been unaware of Williamson’s views on the Holocaust when the decision was made to readmit the group, and the Pope quickly distanced himself from the comments and expressed “full and indisputable solidarity” with Jews. However, condemnation from Jewish groups was widespread.


Presseerklärung von Holocaust-Überlebenden zu den Anti-Israel-Demonstrationen in Deutschland

January 18, 2009

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

am 27. Januar 2009 findet der diesjährige Auschwitz-Gedächtnistag statt.

Ich möchte Sie aus diesem Anlass auf die Holocaust-Überlebende Frau Fanny Englard hinweisen, die für Interviews zur Verfügung steht.

Frau Englard, geboren 1925 in Köln, ist Mitglieder der Organisation of Former Nazi Prisoners Tel Aviv und Leiterin der Organisation Perpetuation of Memory of the Holocaust. Sie lebt in der Nähe von Tel Aviv, ist über Email nicht zu erreichen, erlaubte mir aber, Ihnen ihre Telefonnummer weiterzugeben: 00972 – 3 96 46 438.

Frau Englard wurde am 4. Dezember 1941 von Hamburg aus (gemeinsam mit dem Hamburger Rabbi Dr. Carlebach) in das KZ Jungfernhof bei Riga deportiert. Sie überlebte das Ghetto Riga und das KZ Stutthof.

Frau Englard gehört zu den wenigen Holocaust-Überlebenden, die sich intensiv mit dem islamischen Antisemitismus beschäftigen und die Welt hierüber aufzuklären suchen. Sie ist zu einer Stellungnahme zum gegenwärtigen Gaza-Konflikt bereit.

Am 17. 10. 2008 erklärte sie in einem Brief:

Ich bin als 20-jährige am 8. Mai 1945 aus der Hölle befreit worden und habe meine Familie gesucht, aber ohne Erfolg. Denn mit der Zeit musste ich mich damit abfinden, dass mein Vater im Ghetto Warschau sein Leben lassen musste. Meine Mutter wurde mit meinem 10-jährigen Bruder – und mit der Großmutter, Tanten und Kusinen – in den Gaskammern von Belzec (Polen) vergast. Zwei Brüder, 15 und 13 Jahre alt, wurden in Weißrussland nicht weit von Minsk im Walde Bayoutschina 1942 erschossen. …

Ich kam 1947 im Mai in das Land Israel – damals britisches Mandat – und heiratete, um eine neue Familie zu gründen als Ersatz für die ermordete Familie, die dem Judenhass zum Opfer gefallen war. Hier in Israel haben viele Holocaustüberlebende eine neue Familie (als Ersatz für ihre ermordeten Familien) gegründet und wir haben nicht die neuen Familien gegründet, um sie dem Kriege zu opfern, zu dem uns der Judenhass von Hitlers islamistischen Erben immer wieder provoziert.

Dieser Judenhass zwingt uns zum Lebenskampf, der kein Krieg ist, um andere zu töten. Es ist ein Lebenskampf für die sichere Zukunft der neuen Familie. Wir haben doch nicht überlebt und eine neue Familie gegründet, um sie dem Judenhass wieder zu opfern.

Weiter unten habe ich eine von Fanny Englard verfasste Presseerklärung über die antisraelischen Demonstrationen in Deutschland dokumentiert.

Falls Sie Fragen haben sollten, stehe ich Ihnen gern zur Verfügung.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

Dr. Matthias Küntzel

***

Presseerklärung vom 8. Januar 2009 zu den antiisraelischen Demonstrationen in Deutschland

Die Stimme der Shoah-Überlebenden

Israels Regierung ist für unseren Schwur NIE WIEDER verantwortlich. Nachdem Hamas acht Jahre lang Israel mit Raketen provoziert hatte, ermahnte das Gedenke NIE WIEDER Israel an seine Pflicht.

Und wer hat ein Recht, sich unserem Schwur entgegenzustellen, wenn die Hamas Israel zum Lebenskampf – Sein oder nicht Sein – zwingt?

Wo gehobelt wird, fallen Späne und wo Raketen fliegen, fließen Tränen – auf beiden Seiten.

Und die Stimme Deutschlands?

Wo ist sie, wenn Hitlers islamistische Erben (zu denen auch die Hamas gehört) in den Straßen Deutschlands gegen Israel mit dem Vergleich GAZA/SHOAH demonstrieren?

Ist dies etwa im Sinne Deutschlands – Missbrauch der Shoah zum Vergleich mit der Situation in Gaza?

Wer sich diesem Vergleich nicht entgegenstellt, gibt dem antisemitischen Islamismus die Legitimation zur Verfälschung der Tatsache der Shoah.

Israel will Frieden, aber wo Hass gesät wird, kann man keinen Frieden ernten und die Juden heute als ein freies Volk wollen sich nicht wehrlos diesem Hass beugen.

Sind wir deshalb als Kriegsverbrecher anzuklagen?

Fanny Englard, Perpetuation of Memory of the Holocaust, Moshav Beth Chanan, 76868 Israel, Tel.: 00972 – 3 96 46 438

Jacob Silberstein, Organisation of Former Nazi Prisoners Tel Aviv


Shame!

January 11, 2009


An op-ed by David A. Harris
Executive Director, American Jewish Committee
The Jerusalem Post, January 11, 2009

There is an interesting juxtaposition this month.

As Israel pursues its military operation against Hamas, preparations are under way around the world for Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27. The two are not disconnected. Israel’s policy should be scrutinized like any other states, and the loss of any innocent life should be mourned. But some of Israel’s fiercest critics go far beyond the limits of what might be termed rational debate. They have obscenely tried to turn the Holocaust on its head, portraying Israel as committing Nazi-like crimes, the ultimate libel against the Jewish state.

A Catholic cardinal and leading Vatican official refers to Gaza as a concentration camp.

A Greek newspaper entices readers with the banner headline Holocaust, referring to Israel’s alleged actions in Gaza.

A Brazilian newspaper publishes two cartoons, one of Hitler wearing an armband emblazoned with the Star of David and swastika, saluting, Heil Israel!; the other of a Star of David casting a shadow in the form of a swastika over the Gaza Strip.

On his website, white supremacist David Duke reacts to the Gaza crisis by lamenting that Hollywood portrays Jews as Holocaust victims rather than perpetrators.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez calls on Venezuela’s Jewish community to denounce “the Holocaust being committed in Gaza”.

Posters equating the Star of David with the Nazi swastika are ubiquitous at anti-Israel rallies around the world.

A demonstrator in Holland confidently asserts that Anne Frank would be turning over in her grave, if she saw what was happening in Gaza.

Shame!

Israel seeks to defend itself in a highly complex environment, where the adversary, Hamas, cravenly uses civilians as shields and mosques as armories. For that right to protect its citizens, which any sovereign nation would exercise under similar circumstances, it is labeled as the successor to the demonic force that wiped out two-thirds of European Jewry, including 1.5 million children.

How many times does it need to be said?

Israel left Gaza in 2005. Israel has repeatedly renounced any territorial ambitions there. Israel gave Gazans the first chance in their history to govern themselves.

Israel has a vested interest in a peaceful, prosperous, and developing Gaza. This point cannot be stressed enough. After all, the two are destined to share a common border.

Israel has only one overarching concern in Gaza: Does it pose a security threat to neighboring Israel? The answer, tragically, is clear. That was the result of a decision taken in Gaza, not Israel. Hamas was chosen to rule, and choices have consequences. After all, Hamas denies Israel’s right to exist.

Why were tunnels built across the Egyptian border? What are the Iranian-made Grad missiles going through those tunnels to Gaza meant for? And why are Hamas fighters going through those tunnels in the other direction for training in Iran and Lebanon?

More than 10,000 rockets, missiles, and mortars have been fired at southern Israel from Gaza in the past eight years. Towns and villages have lived under constant threat. If some of those projectiles were crude and missed their targets, it was not for lack of trying. Their aim is to kill, maim, and intimidate as many civilians as possible. Everything is fair game—homes, hospitals, schools, playgrounds. The trauma this has created cannot be adequately described.

And for what? To liberate Gaza? Well, Gaza is already under Hamas, not Israeli, rule. No, more likely, to eventually liberate Israel from Israeli rule.

But wait.

What about all the clergy, cartoonists, protesters, and politicians so concerned about the human rights of those in Gaza? Have they ever uttered a peep while those 10,000 rockets, missiles, and mortars were raining down on southern Israel? Did they ever take to the streets to support the human rights of Israelis? Did they ever read the Hamas Charter and hear the echoes of Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, two European books that helped to condemn Jews to their death?

Did they ever put two and two together and ask what would happen if Hamas married its annihilationist goals with ever more advanced weaponry? And did it occur to them that, yes, nearly six million Israeli Jews would be in the crosshairs?

To ask these questions is to answer them, which probably means one of two things.

Either the accusers are totally clueless about the Holocaust and, therefore, incapable of understanding why their words and actions are so outrageous.

Or they are deliberately manipulating history, distorting the truth, and twisting facts for a larger political purpose.

What could that purpose be?

Well, for starters, extreme right, extreme left, and radical Islamic groups have found something to agree on—the Holocaust complicates their goals.

For the extreme right, by seeking to deny or minimize the Holocaust, the crime of their predecessors, they have tried to burnish their credentials as a responsible element in more mainstream society.

For the extreme left, the Holocaust is seen as a basis for the subsequent creation of the State of Israel, a nation whose right to exist they single-mindedly deny.

And for radical Islamic groups, the Holocaust is regarded as a perennial source of sympathy for Israel, undermining efforts to chip away at its legitimacy.

These three movements can’t agree on much, but they seem to have a convergent interest in hijacking the Holocaust and using it against Israel.

And there are others, especially in Europe, who don’t fit into any of these three categories but may have their own Holocaust-related agenda.

Perhaps it’s an effort to get out from under the moral weight of the genocide. After all, it was the sins of commission by the perpetrators, abetted by the sins of omission on the part of bystanders, that amounted to the Final Solution. How could Europe, especially the Europe that today sees itself as a source of such enlightenment and reason, have been the stage for such a monstrous crime against humanity just a few short decades ago?

And, of course, the Europe in which the Holocaust unfolded was a continent already haunted by the crowded presence of Jewish ghost victims of centuries of expulsions, pogroms, ghettos, pales of settlement, inquisitions, forced conversions, discriminatory laws, professional restrictions, conspiracy theories, blood libels, and the teaching of contempt.

Pinning a swastika on Israel, and, by extension, its supporters, can be unburdening. It allows for a catharsis of the spirit. Given a measure of power, the argument goes, the Jews behave no differently than the Nazis. According to this inverted, not to mention perverted, logic, the only lesson of the Holocaust is to stand up for targeted victims. And who is that targeted victim today? The Palestinians of Gaza, of course.

The Holocaust taught several lessons. This January 27th would be a good time to remind the world of what they are.

First, sometimes people mean what they say. Hitler spelled out his ambitions well in advance. Too few took him seriously. Until late in the day, there were those leaders in Europe who believed that he could be reasoned with, that his words were simply hyperbolic, that negotiations were possible, and that compromises could be reached. Is it possible that Hamas and its patron, Iran, actually mean what they say when they speak of a world without Israel?

Second, there is such a thing as a just war. War should be the last option, but there are times when it must remain an option. Had the Allied nations not declared war on the Third Reich, how would the world have looked? Mind you, that war was neither clean nor surgical, and Allied leaders were hardly preoccupied with debates over proportionality.

As diplomacy offered no solution and restraint met with no reciprocity, what was Israel supposed to do in the face of Hamas’ arms buildup and daily barrage of fire? Simply accept the role of sitting duck so that it might aspire to the moral high ground of victimhood?

And third, defenselessness is no strategy. Jews were defenseless against the Nazi onslaught. They had no army, no recourse to weapons, and few who sought to defend them. Jews learned, at high cost, never to permit such vulnerability again.

So, as January 27th approaches, and we recall the six million, spare us the lip service and the crocodile tears from those who would accuse Israel of Nazi-like crimes.

Remembering dead Jews is important, yes, but protecting living Jews is no less significant.

© 2009, The Jerusalem Post