Posts Tagged ‘Yad Vashem’


Updated: Haredi Rabbi Lies About The Holocaust – Again

Meir Wikler

“According to some experts, between 50%-70% of those murdered by the  Nazis, were “traditionally religious Jews.” There is no reason to assume  the percentage of survivors who were religious was any less.”

Meir Wikler Rabbi Meir Wikler

Yad Vashem only honors Holocaust’s secular victims Haredim have authored their own Holocaust history books, developed their own curricula to teach it to their children and are building their own museums to memorialize the martyrs.

By Meir Wikler • Ha’aretz

When Yad Vashem in Jerusalem opened its new wing, known as The Holocaust History Museum, in 2005, it was much ballyhooed as a state of the art, multi-million dollar Holocaust museum to top all others. While praise for the new museum wing has poured forth from dignitaries and laymen, the unified opposition of so-called ultra-orthodox, or Haredi Jewry, has stuck out like a sore thumb. Why have Haredim been so upset?

While Jewish religious life before World War II is illustrated at the museum, the testimony of haredi survivors is largely missing.

According to some experts, between 50%-70% of those murdered by the Nazis, were “traditionally religious Jews.” There is no reason to assume the percentage of survivors who were religious was any less. But in the rooms of Yad Vashem only one of the 50-60 video monitors playing taped testimonies of Holocaust survivors shows a Haredi Jew. By choosing to record and display taped testimonies of mostly secular Jews, Yad Vashem is giving a distorted picture of the religious affiliations of the survivors. This gives the false impression that few ultra-orthodox Jews survived the Shoah.

The spiritual heroism of the Holocaust is almost completely overlooked. The abundant examples of incredible courage to study Torah and perform mitzvot despite unspeakable suffering and incredible hardships are relegated to footnote status and all but eliminated from the museum. The clandestine yeshivot and Torah study groups in the ghettos, the lighting of candles on Channuka, the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashana and the daily donning of tefillin in the concentration camps – all under the penalty of death – are not mentioned at all.

The massive rescue work of Haredi Jewry has effectively been purged from the historical record of the Holocaust as presented by Yad Vashem. Rabbi Michoel Ber Weissmandl, for example, and the heroic efforts of his Working Group, are impugned and dishonored. Instead of crediting them with successfully delaying the transports from Czechoslovakia by bribing and outsmarting the Nazis, the paragraph written about them makes it sound as if they were the ones who had been duped.

Yad Vashem’s responses to queries on this subject have been disappointing. At one meeting, the Yad Vashem representative requested that the discussion be kept “off the record.” The institution’s written responses to published critiques have attempted to obfuscate the issue. The spokesperson cited, for example, the online services available to the Haredi community. They also pointed to the special Orthodox division of their tour guide training school and they emphasized how many Orthodox students make use of Yad Vashem archives for research purposes.

Yad Vashem’s underlying motives for all of this are open to speculation. Some Herdim believe that Yad Vashem feels that dealing more favorably with ultra-Orthodox Jews is antithetical to their secular, Zionist agenda. Others see this as a reflection of the anti-Haredi bias of some segments of secular Israeli society. And still others suspect that Yad Vashem simply suffers from the, “We know best,” mentality, so prevalent today in Jewish establishment circles.

However, there have been a few improvements made to the new Museum wing. For example, the immodest pictures of victims which were originally on display when the museum opened have since been removed. In addition, while the new building opened with no videotaped testimonies from any Haredi survivors, now there is one.

Unfortunately, these changes fall far short of what is needed. As the premier Holocaust museum under Jewish auspices, Yad Vashem dishonors the memory of the six million by continuing to present a distorted and incomplete record of the Shoah. No, not all those who perished in or survived the Shoah were Haredim. But many more Haredim did survive than the 2% represented by the one videotaped testimony currently on display.

In spite of the extremely rare but highly publicized Haredi use of Holocaust imagery against the State, the overwhelming majority of Haredim today take Shoah remembrance seriously. Yad Vashem, however, is seen by many as irrelevant. As a result, Haredim have authored their own Holocaust history books, developed their own curricula to teach it to their children and are building their own museums to memorialize the martyrs.

If many ultra-Orthodox Jews see Yad Vashem as irrelevant, why are some so outspoken in their criticism of the new Holocaust History Museum? Millions of visitors, both Jew and non-Jew, stream through Yad Vashem each year. The vast majority of them would never visit a Holocaust museum under Haredi auspices. Yad Vashem needs, therefore, to make further corrections to the new building for those visitors. And world Jewry must insist on it.
Yom HaShoah observances are designed to memorialize the martyrs. Nothing would honor their memory more, however, than being remembered as they would have wanted. We cannot save a single life that was lost in the Holocaust. We can, however, protest the distortions at Yad Vashem that dishonor the memory of religious victims because they can no longer do that for themselves.

Dr. Meir Wikler is a Brooklyn based psychotherapist, author and lecturer.

Meir Wikler is dishonest. He’s also a fool.

As I noted in May of last year in response to an ‘interview’ of Wikler in The Jewish Week [the quotes are from that ‘interview’ but are similar to what he wrote now above]:

1. “At least half, if not more, of all survivors were haredi.” This is complete hogwash. At the dawn of WW2, 2/3 of Warsaw’s Jews were  secular. The number of secular Jews was even higher in Paris, Amsterdam  and Denmark. And most of Budapest’s Jews were secular, as well. Even  smaller cities like Munkatch had large secular populations. And all  these areas had large populations of what we would call Modern Orthodox  or Zionist Orthodox Jews, as well. The vast majority of Europe’s Jews in  1939 were secular or non-haredi Orthodox. There are to my knowledge no  studies, no academic research, and no evidence to back up Wikler’s  claim. But there is much evidence against Wikler. Satmar, Bobov,  Klausenberg, Chabad and other American hasidic groups were broken by the  Holocaust. Most of the people who today call themselves hasidim are  descended from people who were secular or non-haredi-Orthodox after the  Holocaust, but who were recruited by hasidic leaders, many of whom had  difficulty getting a quorum for prayer in 1946.

2. “The description of Harav [Rabbi] Michoel Dov Weissmandel,  of blessed memory, [who led an effort to save Jews from the Holocaust]  depicts him as having been naïve and duped by the Nazis. The truth is  just the opposite. He was a brilliant rabbinic leader who outwitted the  Nazis at every turn.” All available evidence shows Rabbi  Weissmandl – the Slovakian rabbi who was courageous and tireless as he  tried to save Jews from the Nazis – was, in fact, duped by the Nazis and  achieved little. The only way to interpret the evidence differently  (besides lying, of course) is to say that the Allies would have allowed  American and Palestinian Jews to give the Germans tens of thousands of  trucks and other war supplies in exchange for Jews in the middle of war  they were fighting against those Germans

3. “There are videotaped testimonies of only two haredi  survivors in the New  Wing of the museum. Compared with the 50 or 60  testimonies of  non-haredi survivors, it gives the mistaken impression  that hardly any  haredi Jews survived, and by extension, that haredi  Judaism did not  survive the Holocaust.” I’ve known dozens of  Holocaust survivors on three continents. They include parents of  friends, Jewish communal leaders, Holocaust educators, simple Jews, and  even a Nazi hunter. Only one or two could be honestly described as being  haredi after the war. Before the war that number would be four or five,  at best. What Wikler does is define haredi in terms so broad the word  no longer has meaning. Therefore anyone with a onetime connection to the  haredi community, no matter how tenuous it may be – even if that  ‘connection’ comes from grandparent’s affiliation only, or even if that  ‘affiliation’ comes from Wikler defining non-haredi Orthodoxy as haredi  for the purpose of his argument – is defined by Wikler as haredi. That  pumps up his numbers and allows him to  lambaste Yad Vashem for, in  effect, following the normative definition of the word and then acting  on it. On top of Wikler’s behavior, there is the overall behavior of the  haredi community that did survive the war. Their leaders generally  refused to cooperate with Yad Vashem, which means haredim are  underrepresented there – but not to the degree Wikler claims. The fault  is not Yad Vashem’s – it is Yoel Teitelbaum’s and the other haredi  leaders who refused to cooperate with it.

4. It isn’t just that haredim do not commemorate Yom HaShoah. For  years, they did things that flew in the face of it, just as for years  haredim refused to stand still and be silent for the one minute of  silence observed for Israel’s fallen soldiers.

Past all this, Wikler ignores key facts that surely influenced and continue to influence Yad Vashem:

A. Haredim propagated and continue to propagate the most base and  bizarre conspiracy theories to ‘prove’ Zionists collaborated with the  Nazis and to delegitimize Israel. The ‘facts’ these conspiracy theories  are based on are largely false, and the little that is true is taken out  of context. They do this because the existence and success of the State  of Israel is an existential threat to the validity of their theology.

B. Any fair representation of haredi behavior during the Holocaust  must include the behavior of hasidic rebbes who ordered their flocks to  stay in Europe and then fled, leaving their followers to die horrible  deaths. The Satmar Rebbe did this. So did the Belzer Rebbe and his  brother. So did the Lubavitcher Rebbe.  And then there was Rabbi Elchanon Wasserman, a non-hasidic haredi  leader who forbade his followers from fleeing Europe, even telling  students not to accept offers to study at Yeshiva University in New  York. Wasserman hated YU because it was Zionist and because it was  Modern Orthodox. On a visit to New York, Wasserman himself turned down a  teaching position there and went back to Lithuania. He and many of his  students were killed by the Nazis shortly after.

C. There were rabbis – some haredi, some hasidic, some Modern or  Zionist Orthodox – who refused to leave their followers and accompanied  them to the killing fields and death camps. Most of them who survived  came out of that hell as Zionist or Zionist leaning.

D. Scholars who study the haredi reaction to the Holocaust –  including at least one haredi academic, Esther Farbstein – note that  haredi rabbis’ strong opposition to Zionism before the war, coupled with  Israel’s subsequent success and the poor behavior of the rabbis noted  in section B above, largely account for the haredi community’s rejection  of Holocaust studies and Holocaust memorials and its ambivalent and  sometimes hostile relationship with Yad Vashem. And, as I noted in  section A above, it is this cognitive dissonance that is the foundation  for the bizarre anti-Israel and anti-Zionist conspiracy theories common  in haredi communities.

Wikler lies with appalling regularity.

The sad thing is that haredi leadership and the haredi rank and file don’t even care.

Update 12:22 pm CDT – Here’s Yad Vashem’s response to Wikler’s lies:

Yad Vashem responds: We do pay tribute to Holocaust’s ultra-Orthodox victims Meir Wikler’s op-ed that the museum is biased toward the secular Jews who perished in the Holocaust is full of misinformation, writes Yad Vashem spokeswoman. By Iris Rosenberg • Ha’aretz

Meir Wikler’s latest article on what he perceives as bias against Haredim at Yad Vashem is replete with misinformation.

For example, Wikler says there is only one testimony of a Haredi survivor in the Holocaust History Museum; this is not true. He claims that blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, donning tefillin, lighting candles on Hannukah “are not mentioned at all”. Again, this is false.

Rabbi Weissmandl and the Working Group’s efforts, under impossible circumstances, to rescue Jews are respected by Yad Vashem and all the guides trained here. It’s unfortunate that Wikler chooses to see insults and slights where none exist.

To state that “spiritual heroism of the Holocaust is almost completely overlooked” is wrong and misleading, demonstrating a perception unrelated to reality. Yad Vashem seeks to meaningfully impart the story of the Shoah in all its complexity and variety with a special emphasis on spiritual heroism. The activities of Yad Vashem – its museums, exhibitions, online material (viewed by over 12 million people last year), educational approaches, publications, and more – prove the contrary.

Wikler says that Haredim have authored their own Holocaust history books, developed curricula and teach their children. Indeed, for nearly a decade, an ultra-Orthodox department in Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies has been working closely with Haredi educators and leaders to prepare educational material such as the multi-volume textbooks Years Wherein We Have Seen Evil in Hebrew and English and seminars – at Yad Vashem and elsewhere – serving Haredi educators and students throughout Israel.

Sincere dialogue between Yad Vashem and the leadership of Haredi Jewry and their representatives over the years has resulted in productive educational activity with the Bais Yaacov and other Haredi educational systems, and many Haredim participate in seminars at Yad Vashem, in genuine partnerships with Agudath Israel of America and the Belz community in Israel, to name just a few.

To claim, as his headline does, that “Yad Vashem honors only Holocaust’s secular victims” is outrageous and can only be a result of an unfounded bias.

I invite Haaretz readers to join the hundreds of thousands of people, including Haredim and other Jews and non-Jews of all backgrounds, who visit the Holocaust History Museum, and other sites at Yad Vashem, and experience it for themselves.

Iris Rosenberg is the Spokesperson at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.


Strange bedfellows: new nexus between Israel and far Right

My fol­low­ing essay ap­pears in today’s Crikey:

Amid the acres of com­men­tary on the ex­change of IDF sol­dier Gilad Shalit and more than a thou­sand Pales­tin­ian pris­on­ers, one com­ment stands out: “Let the WORLD know about Is­rael’s hu­man­ity and the ter­ror­ists’ in­hu­man­ity — SHARE this one with EVERY­ONE you know, friends!” What makes it note­wor­thy is that it fea­tured on the “Geert Wilders In­ter­na­tional Free­dom Al­li­nace” Face­book page, where sup­port­ers of the far-Right Dutch politi­cian gather, one of many mes­sages of fa­nat­i­cal pro-Is­raeli com­men­tary.

The grow­ing ap­peal of Is­rael to the world’s right-wing com­mu­nity has been de­vel­op­ing for some years. Nev­er­the­less, some ex­am­ples are eye-pop­ping. In July 2011, a Russ­ian neo-Nazi del­e­ga­tion trav­elled to Is­rael, after an in­vi­ta­tion by far Right Is­raeli politi­cians and an ed­i­tor of a pro-set­tler news ser­vice. The Holo­caust de­niers vis­ited Is­rael’s Holo­caust cen­tre, Yad Vashem, de­spite being pho­tographed pre­vi­ously giv­ing Nazi salutes and pub­lish­ing songs cel­e­brat­ing Adolf Hitler on their web­site.

The pair was in­ter­viewed on Is­raeli TV. One said that the idea of the Jew­ish state “ex­cites me” be­cause it in­volves “an an­cient peo­ple who took upon it­self a pi­o­neer pro­ject to re­vive a mod­ern state and na­tion”. The TV jour­nal­ist then asked how a neo-Nazi could now em­brace Zion­ism. The other Russ­ian quickly re­sponded by ex­plain­ing the com­mon enemy they both faced: “We’re talk­ing about rad­i­cal Islam which is the enemy of hu­man­ity, enemy of democ­racy, enemy of progress and of any sane so­ci­ety.” In De­cem­ber 2010 a much larger del­e­ga­tion of Eu­ro­pean far Right politi­cians, in­clud­ing a Bel­gian politi­cian with clear ties to SS vet­er­ans and a Swedish politi­cian with con­nec­tions to the coun­try’s fas­cist past, also paid their re­spects at Yad Vashem. They were wel­comed by some mem­bers of the Is­raeli Knes­set and agreed to sign a “Jerusalem De­c­la­ra­tion”, guar­an­tee­ing Is­rael’s right to de­fend it­self against ter­ror. “We stand at the van­guard in the fight for the West­ern, de­mo­c­ra­tic com­mu­nity” against the “to­tal­i­tar­ian threat” of “fun­da­men­tal­ist Islam”, read the doc­u­ment.

The sig­na­to­ries were some of Eu­rope’s most suc­cess­ful anti-im­mi­gra­tion politi­cians who long ago re­alised that back­ing Is­rael was a clever way to guar­an­tee re­spectabil­ity for a cause that risked being framed as ex­trem­ist or racist. One Is­raeli politi­cian who met the del­e­ga­tion, Nis­sim Zeev, a mem­ber of ul­tra-Or­tho­dox, right-wing party Shas, em­braced the group: “At the end of the day, what’s im­por­tant is their at­ti­tude, the fact they re­ally love Is­rael.”

Yes­ter­day’s anti-Semi­tes have re­formed them­selves as today’s cru­sad­ing he­roes against an un­stop­pable Mus­lim birth-rate on a con­ti­nent that now sees Islam as an in­tol­er­ant and ghet­toised re­li­gion. These in­creas­ingly main­stream at­ti­tudes have mar­i­nated across Eu­rope for at least a decade — most starkly ex­pressed in the writ­ings of the Nor­way killer An­ders Breivik, who slaugh­tered nearly 70 young left-wingers on Utøya is­land in late July this year.

Breivik’s in­ter­est in Is­rael wasn’t an ac­ci­den­tal quirk of his Google search terms. It was re­flec­tive of years of in­doc­tri­na­tion from that fate­ful Sep­tem­ber day in 2001 on­wards. None of Breivik’s right-wing he­roes openly praised his killings — po­lit­i­cally speak­ing, half-hearted con­dem­na­tions were the order of the day — be­cause their vi­sion of open war with Islam was ar­guably even more clin­i­cal. They cheered as Amer­ica and Is­rael used the vast power of the state to at­tack, bomb, drone, kid­nap, tor­ture and mur­der lit­er­ally count­less Mus­lim vic­tims in the past decade in Pak­istan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pales­tine, So­ma­lia and be­yond.

Breivik’s ad­mired this Is­raeli “can-do” at­ti­tude but equally dis­missed left-wing Jews who sup­ported Pales­tin­ian rights. “Were the ma­jor­ity of the Ger­man and Eu­ro­pean Jews [in ’30s Eu­rope] dis­loyal?” he asked in his “2083” man­i­festo. He went on:

“Yes, at least the so-called lib­eral Jews, sim­i­lar to the lib­eral Jews today that op­poses na­tion­al­ism/Zion­ism and sup­ports mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. Jews that sup­port mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism today are as much of a threat to Is­rael and Zion­ism (Is­raeli na­tion­al­ism) as they are to us. So let us fight to­gether with Is­rael, with our Zion­ist broth­ers against all anti-Zion­ists, against all cul­tural Marx­ists/mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ists. Con­ser­v­a­tive Jews were loyal to Eu­rope and should have been re­warded. In­stead, [Hitler] just tar­geted them all.” (p 1167)

Breivik mir­rored the fa­mil­iar sep­a­ra­tion of “good Jews” and “bad Jews” that ap­pear in West­ern di­a­logue over the Is­rael/Pales­tine con­flict. The na­tion­al­is­tic, Arab-hat­ing Jew who be­lieves in the never-end­ing oc­cu­pa­tion of Pales­tin­ian land is praise-wor­thy but the ques­tion­ing, anti-Zion­ist Jew is a threat that must be elim­i­nated. The com­men­ta­tors, jour­nal­ists and politi­cians who re­ceive main­stream ac­cep­tance and ap­pear reg­u­larly in our media such as Daniel Pipes, who calls for the bomb­ing of Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, are wel­comed into the club of pop­u­lar Is­lam­o­phobes be­cause they speak the lan­guage of dom­i­na­tion and vi­o­lence re­flected in our media and po­lit­i­cal dis­course on a daily basis.

My enemy’s enemy is my friend

Breivik’s con­vic­tion that he was a friend of Zion­ism cre­ated a moral chal­lenge for many of those he had quoted in his man­i­festo. It was not a chal­lenge many faced well. One of the more no­to­ri­ous, Amer­i­can blog­ger Pamela Geller, con­demned the killings as “hor­rific” but not so sub­tly in the same post re­minded read­ers that the young stu­dents who at­tended sum­mer camp at Utøya were ac­tu­ally wit­ness­ing an “anti-Se­mitic in­doc­tri­na­tion train­ing cen­tre”. How? Nor­way’s For­eign Min­is­ter Jonas Gahr Store had vis­ited the camp and called for an end to the Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion of Pales­tin­ian land, ap­par­ently mak­ing him an anti-Semite by de­f­i­n­i­tion. Reg­u­lar Jerusalem Post colum­nist Barry Rubin sim­ply called the youth camp, “a pro-ter­ror­ist pro­gram”.

Geller was fur­ther in­censed that he even called “Pales­tini­ans” Pales­tin­ian, be­cause for her and her fel­low trav­ellers the Pales­tini­ans aren’t a real peo­ple de­serv­ing rights or a home­land. “Utøya camp was not Is­lamist,” Geller as­sures us, “but it was some­thing not much more whole­some.” Thus Is­lam­o­pho­bia seam­lessly mor­phed into blind and racist Zion­ism.

In Aus­tralia like­wise, the Is­rael lobby skirted around this un­com­fort­able re­al­ity, both pub­licly re­pulsed by the mur­ders but they re­main on the record as ar­gu­ing for bound­aries on Mid­dle East de­bate. Oth­ers sim­ply de­nied that Breivik’s sym­pa­thises for right-wing Zion­ism was ir­rel­e­vant to un­der­stand­ing his crimes.

Of course this was ab­surd. Ex­ag­ger­at­ing a clash of civil­i­sa­tions has be­come the bread and but­ter of count­less key­board war­riors in the past decade, with ever-more bru­tal Is­rael placed at the fore­front of this strug­gle. De­mon­is­ing Mus­lims and call­ing for their death on a reg­u­lar basis has con­se­quences. Mus­lims re­plac­ing Jews as the sup­posed enemy aim­ing for world dom­i­na­tion will come with a price.

Is­raelophilia in the ser­vice of Is­lam­o­pho­bia

The mes­sage em­a­nat­ing from the Zion­ist crowd was at times con­flicted yet clear; Breivik could be for­given for think­ing that Is­rael was striv­ing for racial per­fec­tion. The Jerusalem Post pro­vided clar­i­fi­ca­tion after the at­tack in a star­tling ed­i­to­r­ial. It claimed mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism had failed in Eu­rope, Mus­lims were a threat to so­ci­etal har­mony and clearly im­plied that an eth­noc­racy, such as Is­rael, was the ideal global model:

“While there is ab­solutely no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the sort of heinous act per­pe­trated this week­end in Nor­way, dis­con­tent with mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism’s fail­ure must not be dele­git­i­ma­tised or mis­tak­enly por­trayed as an opin­ion held by only the most ex­trem­ist el­e­ments of the Right.”

The Post seemed to de­fend the mind­set, if not the ac­tions, ex­pressed by Breivik, as a com­mon and un­der­stand­able at­ti­tude of sim­ply want­ing to “pro­tect unique Eu­ro­pean cul­ture and val­ues”. These val­ues did not in­clude Islam or being proud of a racially di­verse land. (A week later, the paper is­sued an apol­ogy ed­i­to­r­ial after a mas­sive back­lash against its po­si­tion. Be­lat­edly, the ed­i­to­r­ial noted that “Jews, Mus­lims and Chris­tians in Is­rael and around the world should be stand­ing to­gether against such hate crimes”.)

An­ders Breivik’s real mo­ti­va­tions may never be fully un­der­stood but his love for Is­rael didn’t ap­pear out of the blue. It was be­cause Zion­ism and its clos­est fol­low­ers have cul­ti­vated an image of a coun­try that can only sur­vive with­out in­te­gra­tion, peace with its Arab neigh­bours or an end to the oc­cu­pa­tion. Racial dom­i­na­tion is the dream. Breivik took this call to a dev­as­tat­ing con­clu­sion and his man­i­festo makes clear that his sup­port for Is­rael is couched in the lan­guage of sur­vival against an un­for­giv­ing, in­tol­er­ant and high Mus­lim birth-rate world.

You can hear these views on any day of the week on Face­book, on Twit­ter — and in the Is­raeli Knes­set.

*This is an ex­tract from an essay in On Utøya: An­ders Breivik, right ter­ror, racism and Eu­rope, edited by Eliz­a­beth Humphrys, Guy Run­dle and Tad Ti­etze, an ebook to be pub­lished on Oc­to­ber 26. The book will be launched by Sen­a­tor Lee Rhi­an­non and Antony Loewen­stein , 6.30pm Wednes­day, Oc­to­ber 26 at the Nor­folk Hotel, Cleve­land Street in Surry Hills, Syd­ney.

via Strange bedfellows: new nexus between Israel and far Right — Antony Loewenstein.