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December 11, 2016 / 11 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘author’

Letters, Postcards, Show a Jewish-Identified, Pro-Zionist Author Stefan Zweig Who Prophesied Rise of Nazism

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

In 1921, Austrian Jewish novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer Stefan Zweig received a letter from a 16-year-old fan named Hans Rosenkranz, who was seeking advice on becoming a writer. Zweig, who was 40 at the time, wrote back, beginning a long correspondence that turned into a mentoring relationship. From 1921 until Adolf Hitler seized power in 1933, Zweig offered Rosenkranz professional, moral, and even financial support.

The 26 letters and six postcards – all previously unknown, have recently been given to the National Library of Israel. They shed new light on Zweig’s personality, his attitudes toward Judaism and Zionism, and his political prophecy, as he alludes to the rise of Nazism 12 years before the harrowing event.

The letters have been donated to the National Library of Israel by Hannah Jacobcon, Rosenkranz’s step daughter, who lives in the coastal city of Bat Yam, Israel. At the time, Zweig gave Rosenkranz, who had become a publisher, the right to print and market the German version of Anatole France’s “Joan of Arc,” translated by Friderike Zweig, the author’s his first wife.

In their correspondence, Zweig discussed Jewish topics, such as his note in his first response letter: “There is nothing I hate more than the self-worship of nations and their refusal to recognize a variety of forms of peoples and the types of human beings and to experience them as the beauty of being. In terms of history, it is simply clear to me that certainly Judaism is now thriving culturally and flourishing as it has not flourished for hundreds of years. Perhaps this is the flare up before extinguishing. Perhaps this is nothing other than a brief burst in the eruption of the world’s hatred. […] The Jew must be proud of his Judaism and glorify in it – yet it is not appropriate to brag about accomplishments you have achieved with your own hands, not to mention the accomplishments of a mass and homogenous body to which you belong. […] Anti-Semitism, hatred, internal strife are all ancient elements of our historical destiny – always problematic. […] We must therefore look for a way out; we must be brave to remain within our destiny. If Judaism is a tragedy, let us live it.”

In response to Rosenkranz’s inquiry about Zweig’s opinion regarding immigrating to the Land of Israel, Zweig, who had never visited then Mandatory Palestine, was not in favor of the idea, telling the younger man about the death of the son of a friend who had immigrated there, which left his father “a broken vessel.”

On the other hand, Zweig admired Theodore Herzl, writing his protégé: “In recent days I have read Herzl’s diaries: so great was the idea, so pure, so long as it was just a dream, clean of politics and sociology. […] We, who were close to him, were hesitant to hand all of our lives over to him. […] I told him that I cannot do anything which is not complete. […] Art and the world as a whole were too important for me to devote myself to the nation and nothing else. […] Go there only if you believe, not out of disgust from this German world nor due to bitterness seeking an outlet through escape.”

However, according to Amos Elon, Zweig called Herzl’s book Der Judenstaat an “obtuse text, [a] piece of nonsense.”

Rosenkranz was unable to fulfill his literary ambitions. In the early 1930s, he married Lily Hyman, a divorcee and mother of a very young daughter. The family immigrated to Palestine in December 1933 and several years later Rosenkranz joined the Jewish Brigade of the British Army as an officer in a unit that fought in Italy during World War II. During the war, he contracted lung disease from which he never fully recovered.

 

Casa Stefan Zweig, the last residence of Stefan Zweig and his wife in Petrópolis (Brazil), where the couple committed suicide in 1942.

Casa Stefan Zweig, the last residence of Stefan Zweig and his second wife in Petrópolis (Brazil), where the couple committed suicide in 1942.

According to the National Library of Israel, which invites the public to come and view the new collection, Hans Rosenkranz committed suicide in 1956, after having immigrated to Israel. Fourteen years earlier, in 1942, Zweig, on the day after completing his memoir, The World of Yesterday, also committed suicide, together with his wife Lotte Altmann. Rosenkranz’s step daughter Hannah Jacobsohn, a retired police officer, told National Library archivists that her stepfather had a very broad education and vast knowledge of literature and art. In addition to his long correspondence with Zweig, she has learned that Rosenkranz also corresponded with writers Thomas Mann, Klaus Mann, and Franz Goldstein, to name a few.

JNi.Media

The Rise And Fall Of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood: An Interview with Author Eric Trager

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Five years ago, many in the West were hailing the “Arab Spring,” viewing the wave of uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere as the harbinger of a new liberal democratic era for the Middle East. No such era ensued. In Egypt, for example, the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime led not to a liberal government but to one run by the radical Muslim Brotherhood. And in 2013, Egypt’s military – headed by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood and returned the country to autocratic rule.

Eric Trager, a fellow at the Washington Institute, did research in Egypt during the Arab Spring, interviewing dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members, including the future Egyptian president, Muhammad Morsi. He analyzes the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise and fall in Egypt in his recently-published “Arab Fall: How the Muslim Brotherhood Won and Lost Egypt in 891 Days” (Georgetown University Press).

The Jewish Press: For those who know little about the Muslim Brotherhood, what can you say about it by way of introduction?

Trager: The Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamist organization founded in Egypt in 1928 at a time when Muslim thinkers were pondering why the Islamic world had fallen behind the West. One of the answers a certain group of thinkers gave was that reviving Islam required reviving the Sharia [Islamic law] and that reviving Islam and Islamic practice would ultimately enable the Muslim world to stand alongside and even challenge the West.

So the Muslim Brotherhood seeks to Islamize Egyptian society in order to establish an Islamic state in Egypt and then use that state as a foothold for establishing a global Islamic state.

How does it do that, practically speaking?

By recruiting very dedicated members. Every Muslim Brother goes through a 5-8 year indoctrination process, at the end of which he swears an oath to obey orders from the organization’s leaders. Those members are then distributed in a nationwide command chain in which cells of followers march to the orders of a central leadership known as the Guidance Office.

The important point here is that the Muslim Brotherhood is the only organization of this kind in Egypt. In other words, it is the only organization that up until recently had a nationwide command chain that directed very dedicated foot soldiers on the ground. And that’s why it rose to power so closely after the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

You argue that the Muslim Brotherhood is a radical group. Many in Washington, though, regarded it as a moderate group during the Arab Spring. In fact, the Obama administration welcomed the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt. Why?

After 9/11, various analysts in Washington and academia argued that the way to fight jihad was to engage Islamist groups that spoke the same political dialect but renounced violence. So the Muslim Brotherhood was seen as one of these groups because it had renounced violence to some extent in the 1970s.

The problem with calling the Muslim Brotherhood moderate, though, is that in this context it really just means the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate relative to al Qaeda – which is not much of a standard of moderation. But rather than saying the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate compared to al Qaeda, many analysts simply declared it moderate – and that left Washington unprepared when the Muslim Brotherhood won power and governed in a very autocratic and ultimately radical fashion.

Many in the West regarded the Arab Spring as a liberal movement seeking democracy. What is your view?

There’s no question that during the early Arab spring protests there was a strong sentiment against autocracy and in favor of political reform. But the most important thing to remember about the Arab Spring is that masses of people came together against something – namely dictatorship – but once the dictator was gone, they were unable to coalesce around any other type of consensus. That’s why a very well organized group such as the Muslim Brotherhood was able to take advantage and win power very quickly.

What is the situation like now in Egypt?

It’s very difficult. The political situation is very autocratic and repressive and the economic situation is deteriorating. But the difficult experience of the Arab Spring has made many Egyptians wary of calling for another uprising. It’s difficult to say how long that will last, but I think the lesson of the Arab Spring is that uprisings don’t always make things better and can, in fact, make things much worse.

What’s the status of the Muslim Brotherhood today in Egypt and in the Middle East more broadly?

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was crushed since Mohamed Morsi was removed from power on July 3, 2013. Its hierarchy has been decapitated, tens of thousands of its members are in prison, and many thousands more are probably in exile. Perhaps over a thousand have been killed. So while you have many thousands of Muslim Brothers who are still living in Egypt, they are laying low politically.

In Istanbul, some Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood members have congregated and tried to resurrect he organization from abroad and have established four to five satellite media channels that broadcast their message.

Muslim Brotherhood groups are also active in Tunisia, Jordan, Gaza, the Syrian sphere, and beyond. So even though the Brotherhood has been crushed in Egypt, that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the organization.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) presents itself as a moderate group, but some conservatives claim it is something of a Muslim Brotherhood front. What’s your opinion?

What defines the Muslim Brotherhood is a rigid command chain and a membership that has gone through a specific indoctrination process. I don’t believe those two features apply to CAIR. However, it may be the case that individuals affiliated with various Brotherhood organizations are within CAIR. It’s very difficult to say, though, because many Muslim Brothers – in the West as well as in some Middle Eastern countries – don’t identify themselves as such.

Elliot Resnick

Kastner: Holocaust Hero Or Nazi Collaborator? – An Interview with Author Paul Bogdanor

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

In 1952, an elderly Hungarian Jew, Malchiel Gruenwald, published a pamphlet accusing Rudolph Kastner – a spokesman for Israel’s Ministry of Trade and Industry – of collaborating with the Nazis during the Holocaust. The Israeli government sued Gruenwald for libel, expecting the trial to last a couple of days.

It didn’t. It lasted a yearAnd at its conclusion, instead of exonerating Kastner, Judge Benjamin Halevi found that Kastner had “sold his soul to the devil.” The trial led to the government’s collapse and the assassination of Kastner in 1957.

Although six decades have since passed, the Kastner Affair remains highly controversial. Some continue to see Kastner as a collaborator while others – like Israel’s Supreme Court, which overturned Halevi’s ruling by a vote of 3-2 in 1958 – argue that Kastner’s dealings with the Nazis enabled him to save over 1,500 Jews. The latest to weigh in on the debate is Paul Bogdanor, an independent researcher in England and author of the recently released “Kasztner’s Crime” (Transaction Publishers).

The Jewish Press: Many Jews know about Rudolph Kastner from the riveting book Perfidy, by Ben Hecht. Are your book’s findings in consonance, or in conflict, with those of Perfidy?

Bogdanor: What Perfidy says about Kastner is accurate. Its accusations against the Zionist movement as a whole, however, are not so accurate.

For example, Perfidy accuses Ben-Gurion and his colleagues of deliberately sabotaging a mission by Kastner’s colleague Joel Brand to convey Eichmann’s “goods for blood” offer to the West. This was an offer by the Nazis to release a million Jews in exchange for 10,000 trucks and other goods from the West. Hecht says the Zionist leadership willingly sabotaged this mission, and thus doomed the Jews to extermination.

But the opposite is true. Ben-Gurion and his colleagues went all out to further the “goods for blood” offer. In doing so, though, they fell into a Nazi trap since these trucks were going to be used on the Eastern front against the Soviets in an effort to split the Allied coalition at a crucial point of the war.

Furthermore, Eichmann told Brand that he would not murder Hungary’s Jews until he had a definite answer on the “goods for blood” offer when, in fact, he had already started deporting thousands of Hungarian Jews a day to Auschwitz even before Brand left Budapest to convey Eichmann’s offer to the Zionist leadership. In other words, the Nazis used this offer as a way of keeping the Jewish leadership busy while it went about murdering Jews.

You write that Brand might have been naïve but you offer no such excuses for Kastner. You regard him as an outright Nazi collaborator. Why?

Because he deliberately misled scores of thousands of Jews into boarding the trains to Auschwitz. And because throughout the mass deportation from Hungary to Auschwitz he sent Nazi disinformation to his Jewish contacts in the free world with the aim of aborting any successful rescue effort.

How so?

For example, at the height of the deportations – when 12,000 Hungarian Jews every day were being driven onto death trains and sent to Auschwitz – he wrote that the deported Jews were alive in “Waldsee,” which was a Nazi camouflage for Auschwitz. At one point he even claimed to have received 750,000 postcards from these Jews saying they were alive and well. So Kastner’s Jewish contacts abroad read these letters and were misled about what was going on.

Is it clear that Kastner knew the Nazis intended to exterminate these Jews?

Absolutely. There’s no doubt about that because he admitted it. After the war he said Eichmann repeatedly told him that Hungarian Jews were being exterminated in Auschwitz. He also knew that escapees from Auschwitz had warned that the camp was being prepared to receive – and murder – massive numbers of Hungarian Jews.

If Kastner knew the Nazis planned on exterminating Hungarian Jewry, why didn’t he sound the alarm? He negotiated with the Nazis to save 1,684 select Jews on board what later became known as the “Kastner Train,” but why didn’t he warn all of Hungarian Jewry to go underground or resist boarding the deportation trains to Auschwitz?

When the Nazis occupied Hungary in 1944, Kastner tried to negotiate the rescue of all of Hungary’s Jews. At the very first meeting with Adolf Eichmann’s officer, Dieter Wisliceny, on April 5, 1944, Kastner and Brand made four demands: no executions, no concentration in ghettoes, no deportations, and permission for Jews to emigrate.

Wisliceny, though, told Kastner that the Jews could only emigrate if the emigration was disguised as a deportation. Kastner agreed, and from that moment on he had to collaborate with the Nazis because he had to make sure Jews boarded the deportation trains. But of course, once the Jews were on these trains, the Nazis could do whatever they wanted with them, and they sent them to Auschwitz.

Perhaps Kastner thought he had no choice. Perhaps he believed the Nazis would most likely kill everyone and that only by negotiating and cooperating did he stand a chance of rescuing at least some Hungarian Jews.

First of all, if the Jews were going to be killed, they didn’t have to be killed with Kastner’s help. And secondly, there was an opportunity to save many thousands of Hungarian Jews in north Transylvania. There was an escape route across the border to Romania, but on May 3, 1944, Wisliceny told Kastner to tell the Jewish leaders in Kolozsvar – Kastner’s hometown – that the escape routes had been blocked.

Kastner gave this false information to the leaders in Kolozsvar who immediately ended all the escapes. Kastner directly obeyed a Nazi instruction to sabotage the escape routes from his hometown.

Didn’t Kastner realize at some point that he was being used? After all, the Nazis exempted him from wearing a yellow star and allowed him use of a phone and car. At one point, they even convinced him to hand over two rescue activists – Yoel Palgi and Peretz Goldstein – who had been smuggled into Hungary by the Zionist leadership. Didn’t this close relationship with the Nazis make Kastner suspicious?

Exactly. Kastner must have understood he was serving the interests of the Nazis and that his rescue negotiations were gaining time, not for the Jewish victims but for the Nazis to exterminate them. And I argue that he understood this very early on in the rescue negotiations.

So what are we to conclude – that Kastner was an evil man?

My conclusion is that he was motivated partly by his pessimism about the possibility of saving any Hungarian Jews and partly by his megalomania. You have to remember that before the Nazi occupation of Hungary, Kastner was an underground rescue activist. He wasn’t a major figure among Hungarian Jews; he was a minor figure operating illegally. As soon as the Nazis occupied the country, though, he suddenly became the most important figure in Hungarian Jewry because he was the only person (after Brand’s departure) allowed to negotiate officially with Eichmann on the fate of the Jews of Hungary.

Even Kastner’s enemies usually give him credit for saving 1,684 Jews aboard the “Kastner Train.” You don’t. You argue, provocatively, that this rescue train was actually a Nazi hostage operation. How so?

Elliot Resnick

‘What America Can Learn from Israel’: An Interview with Author and Commentator Pete Hegseth

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Those who love America often love Israel as well. Pete Hegseth is in a singular position to appreciate the shared uniqueness of the two countries.

A military veteran who holds two Bronze Stars and a Combat Infantryman Badge for his service in Iraq and Afghanistan, he is a former CEO of the Concerned Veterans for America and a former chairman of Vets for Freedom as well as a graduate of Princeton University with a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Hegseth writes regularly for National Review and FoxNews.com in addition to being a Fox News contributor and analyst. His new book, “In the Arena,” is an ardent plea for citizen commitment in an era of apathy. And it is an apt description of Hegseth’s enthusiasm as he eagerly entered the arena of Israel advocacy on his recent fact-finding mission to Israel attended by this reporter and organized by Dr. Joseph Frager, Dr. Paul Brody, and Odelya Jacobs.

 

The Jewish Press: What can you tell us about your background and how it influenced your relationship with Israel?

Hegseth: My parents come from a small town in Minnesota where I grew up as a Baptist. I never met a Jewish person until I went to college. When I did, the first thing I said to him was, “I read about you in the Bible!” It was from there and beyond that I gained a true understanding of Jews. Growing up an evangelical, I obviously had an enormous amount of respect and understanding of the historical resonance of Abraham and religions and how they’re intertwined.

After being in the military and having served in Iraq, I saw other views of the world and started to understand where Israel fits and where anti-Semitism comes from; how it is fostered in higher education and how lack of support for Israel is very indicative of other things. Through meeting wonderful people like Joe [Frager] and leaders in the senate and government, I have come to really appreciate the Jewish heritage and the Jewish state. I understand how geopolitically we are linked and how critical it is that we stand by such a strong ally.

From the perspective of a news commentator, how important is telling Israel’s story in the media?

I learned from serving in the Iraq war that you can’t refute what’s happening on the ground. Truth prevails. But it’s a matter of punching through the overwhelming wet blanket of the leftist mainstream media. I served in Iraq in 2005-2006. I came home from my tour during what looked like the darkest, most difficult days in Iraq in 2006, when the antiwar movement was at its height and when everyone said the war was inevitably going to fail. Yes, there were a lot of problems, but I saw seeds of progress. I saw that we could turn the corner with the right strategy and enough troops. I came back and led an advocacy group to make the case for a new counter insurgency strategy and more troops on the ground. Just so happened that we had a president at that moment who thankfully decided to do the exact same thing.

That taught me that even the overwhelming weight of the predictions by The New York Times and others that we were going to lose can be overcome by a concentrated view backed by a dedicated mission and the willingness to speak truth and then amplify it. But you’ve got to have people in the media and on the ground willing to amplify it. Because you can win on the ground, but if you’re not telling that story at home people will be seduced into whatever storyline they’re being told by news broadcasts and websites. You got to get the facts first so that you can beat the spin second.

Israel faces an unconventional enemy in the form of isolation through BDS, lawfare, campus intimidation, etc. With your background in the media and the military, what would you recommend to best fight this enemy?

There has been a long history of bipartisan support for Israel in the United States and I would want that to be the case now. Unfortunately, it’s become much more of a partisan issue. We have given away so many of our educational institutions that the next generation of citizens and voters in our country are not fortified with the basic beliefs and building blocks of previous generations. That is a scary thing and it makes what I do at Fox that much more important as we attempt to educate the next generation.

There are seeds of anti-Semitism that are still found in higher education. We’re taught about tolerance and safe spaces on college campuses except for things like anti-Semitism. We have to provide and support alternative viewpoints regarding Israel on campuses. We need veterans – who have actually seen the enemy and understand what our allies look like and what they’re facing – to articulate it throughout our institutions. We have to be more willing to publicly talk about Israel among citizens who think of it as an abstraction, who don’t truly understand the existential threat to it. And what can Israel do? Keep bringing more Americans to Israel in order to truly understand it and then they can go back to the U.S. as spokesmen. The more groups that can bring Americans here – evangelical Christians, Republicans, Democrats, Jews – the better. Because seeing is understanding.

How does seeing biblical and historical facts on the ground in Israel impact your impressions of the Holy Land?

It reaffirms the ties the Jewish people have to this land that have historical and real geopolitical resonance today. This is not some mystical land that can be dismissed. It’s the story of God’s chosen people. That story didn’t end in 1776 or in 1948 or with the founding of the UN. All of these things still resonate and matter today.

The facts on the ground and the truth of what actually happened can settle debates. It’s just a matter of affirming it. Because if you can rewrite history you can rewrite anything. If you can prove and demonstrate something, that changes the discussion completely.

Sara Lehmann

Rabbi Maurice Lamm – Prominent Spiritual Leader, Author, And Teacher – Passes Away

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Rabbi Maurice Lamm, a major presence in the American Orthodox rabbinate in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, as well as a teacher to hundreds of thousands through his immensely popular Jewish books, died last week. He was 86.

Rabbi Lamm authored The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, on the laws and practices of burial, shiva and mourning, which has sold over 750,000 copies since its first printing in 1969.

Additionally, he wrote The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage, The Power of Hope, Becoming a Jew, and Consolation. Each of these was also a best-seller in the Jewish world.

From 1972 to 1985 Rabbi Lamm served as head rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, Calif., one of the largest Orthodox synagogues in America. He also connected with and influenced the Orthodox community at large through his affiliation with the Rabbinical Council of America, the journal Tradition and several other boards and organizations. He was also recognized as a first-class orator, lecturing abroad and overseas, from Israel to Australia to several countries in Europe.

Maurice Lamm was born in 1930, the second of four children to Sam and Peppy Lamm in Brooklyn. Lamm studied for many years at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, and then at Yeshiva University under Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, from whom he received semicha in 1954. Later in life he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University, from which he held bachelors and masters degrees.

Rabbi Lamm was very close with Rabbi Soloveitchik, of whom he frequently asked many halachic questions. Rabbi Lamm used to recall that when he would ask Rabbi Soloveitchik a particularly strange question, the latter would reply, “They do things in an interesting way in California.”

Rabbi Lamm married Shirley Friedman, the daughter of Rabbi and Mrs. M. Friedman of New Haven, Connecticut, in 1955.

After receiving semicha, Rabbi Lamm served as a chaplain first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. After his discharge he served as rabbi in Puerto Rico and then Floral Park, New York. It was there that Rabbi Lamm started his writing career by publishing And I Shall Glorify Him, an 89-page companion work to Herman Wouk’s This Is My God.

In 1966 Rabbi Lamm assumed the pulpit at the Hebrew Institute of the Bronx. It was around this time that scores of Orthodox Jews were moving out of the South Bronx, to Riverdale and elsewhere. The Lamms moved out as well, to Yonkers, but Rabbi Lamm continued to walk to the Hebrew Institute every Shabbos.

Meanwhile, the Jewish Welfare Board asked Rabbi Lamm to became its field director of military chaplains with the civilian equivalent of major general. He started traveling to meet, bring aid, and comfort and teach U.S. chaplains in countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines.

In 1972, Beth Jacob of Beverly Hills came calling, and the family – Shirley and Maurice and their three children, David, Judith, and Dodi – moved to Los Angeles. The Lamms bought a home in Beverly Hills and fixed it up. Shirley felt they should purchase their own home rather than have the shul buy it for them. She decorated it herself. One of their first guests was Elie Wiesel, who came to lecture at a shul event.

After 13 years at Beth Jacob, during which time the synagogue’s membership rose from 400 to more than 1,000, Rabbi Lamm established The Desert Synagogue in Palm Springs, Calif., where he served as the rabbi for several years. He then retired from the rabbinate to the East Coast. But his career continued to thrive; for many years he held the chair in professional rabbinics at YU’s rabbinical school, RIETS, as well as serving on the faculty at Stern College for Women. He also continued to write and publish books. His last one, Consolation – in some ways a sequel to The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning – has been one of his most critically acclaimed and popular volumes.

Shlomo Greenwald

Holocaust Author and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel Dead at 87

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel who in 1986 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, is dead, according to a Saturday announcement by Yad Vashem. He was 87 years old. Wiesel died in his New York home. He was survived by his wife, his son and two grandchildren.

Wiesel was born in in Sighet, Transylvania (Romania), in the Carpathian Mountains, on September 30, 1928. Wiesel’s mother, Sarah, was the daughter of a Vizhnitz Hasid who spent time in jail for helping Polish Jews enter the country illegally. Wiesel’s father, Shlomo, encouraged him to learn Hebrew and to read literature, while his mother encouraged him to study the Torah. Wiesel had three siblings – older sisters Beatrice and Hilda, and younger sister Tzipora. Beatrice and Hilda survived the war and were reunited with Wiesel at a French orphanage. They eventually emigrated to North America, with Beatrice moving to Canada. Tzipora, Shlomo, and Sarah did not survive the Holocaust.

In 1944, the German army deported the Jewish community in Sighet to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Wiesel and his father were sent to the work camp Buna, a subcamp of Auschwitz III-Monowitz. He managed to remain with his father for more than eight months as they were shuffled among three concentration camps in the final days of the war.

On January 28, 1945, just a few weeks after the two were marched to Buchenwald, Wiesel’s father was beaten by an SS guard as he was suffering from dysentery, starvation, and exhaustion. He was also beaten by other inmates for his food. He was later sent to the crematorium, only weeks before the camp was liberated by the US Third Army on April 11.

For ten years after the war, Wiesel refused to write about or discuss his experiences during the Holocaust. However, a meeting with the French author François Mauriac, the 1952 Nobel Laureate in Literature, and a discussion he had with the Lubavitcher Rebbe were turning points for him. His first memoir, in Yiddish, titled, And the World Remained Silent, was published in Buenos Aires. He rewrote a new version of the manuscript in French, which was published as La Nuit, and translated into English as Night. Wiesel had trouble finding a publisher and the book initially sold only a few copies.

In 1960 Hill & Wang agreed to pay a $100 pro-forma advance and published it in the United States in September that year as Night. The book sold only 1,046 copies, but attracted interest from reviewers, leading to television interviews with Wiesel and meetings with literary figures such as Saul Bellow. “The English translation came out in 1960, and the first printing was 3,000 copies,” Wiesel said in an interview. “And it took three years to sell them. Now, I get 100 letters a month from children about the book. And there are many, many millions of copies in print.”

Night has been translated into 30 languages. By 1997 the book was selling 300,000 copies annually in the United States alone. By March 2006, about six million copies were sold in the United States. On January 16, 2006, Oprah Winfrey chose the work for her book club. One million extra paperback and 150,000 hardcover copies were printed carrying the “Oprah’s Book Club” logo, with a new translation by Wiesel’s wife, Marion, and a new preface by Wiesel. On February 12, 2006, the new translation of Night was No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list for paperback non-fiction and the original translation placed third.

Wiesel and his wife started the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. He served as chairman for the Presidential Commission on the Holocaust (later renamed US Holocaust Memorial Council) from 1978 to 1986, spearheading the building of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, during which he pleaded for US intervention in Yugoslavia after a visit there in 1992.

Wiesel and his wife invested their life savings, and the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity invested nearly all of its assets (approximately $15.2 million) through Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, an experience that caused Wiesel deep pain.

JNi.Media

Hunting Nazis To Their Dying Day: An Interview with Author Andrew Nagorski

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Major Wilhelm Trapp, who led of one of the most notorious Nazi killing squads in Poland, once said to his driver, “If this Jewish business is ever avenged on earth, then have mercy on us Germans.”

Most Nazis never did meet justice on this earth. That even a few did is largely thanks to a small group of individuals – both Jews and non-Jews – who refused to forget and forgive. They are the subject of a new book by award-winning journalist and author Andrew Nagorski, “The Nazi Hunters” (Simon & Schuster), available in bookstores on May 10.

The Jewish Press: What was the immediate reaction of Jews to their Nazi tormentors after the Holocaust?

Nagorski: Many people had a natural urge to seek vengeance. One of the characters I interviewed for the book told me he saw a group of concentration camp prisoners who, after their liberation, put an SS officer on a metal tray and fried him alive in the crematorium.

So that was the first impulse. But pretty quickly it transformed into an impulse not for vengeance but for justice. They felt there had to be individual accountability and there had to be a record of what had happened because the greatest fear of many survivors was that the world would quickly forget or even deny its existence.

The Allies tried a number of Nazi leaders after World War II but soon soured on holding trials and even commuted the sentences of some of those who had already been convicted. Why?

At first there was the question: What do you do with these people? Stalin suggested we just take out a whole bunch of them and have them shot. Then there was talk of trials, but Churchill was reluctant because he was afraid they would be show trials. The Americans, though, said we have to show that these people are responsible.

So that was implemented in the Nuremberg and Dachau trials. But with the advent of the Cold War, both the Soviets and the Americans were much more concerned about recruiting German scientists and getting West Germany or East Germany lined up on their side, so there was a lot of pressure to commute some of these sentences and stop some of the trials.

In the book you write about the Adolf Eichmann trial at some length and note that some prominent individuals – Isaiah Berlin and Erich Fromm, for example – were morally opposed to Israel trying him. Why?

Many people said it was going to look like vengeance. But Ben-Gurion’s government felt they needed this for internal consumption as much as anything else. Gabriel Bach, who is the last surviving member of the team that prosecuted Eichmann, told me there was almost a feeling of shame about the Holocaust in Israel, especially among the younger generation. They didn’t understand how Jews could go “like sheep to the slaughter.”

The Eichmann trial gave Israel a chance to educate a whole generation about how the Holocaust transpired – how Jews were deceived at every turn, how it was impossible in most cases to resist, and how when there were possibilities to resist, people did.

Several years after the Eichmann trial, Israel pursued and killed Nazi-collaborator Herbert Cukurs, who was known as the “Butcher of Riga.” Why didn’t they try him like they did Eichmann?

Cukurs had escaped to Latin America, and in 1965 someone posing as an Austrian businessman lured him to a house in Uruguay where a group of Mossad agents standing only in their underwear – so that no blood would get on their clothes – killed him. They then left a note saying this was vengeance for what he did.

This operation has always been cloaked in mystery since this was not the way the Mossad normally operated. When I talked to Rafi Eitan, who was the Mossad agent on the Eichmann case, his only explanation was that it must have been something personal. Maybe the parents of someone high up in the Mossad died at the hands of Cukurs.

After Eichmann, number 1 on the list of many Nazi hunters was Dr. Josef Mengele. He, however, managed to elude their grasp. Can you talk a bit about him and the efforts to find him?

He was known as the “Angel of Death” and was a particularly vicious person who sent countess Jews to their deaths and conducted really horrible experiments on people, especially twins.

After catching Eichmann, the Israelis made some efforts to find Mengele. A couple of agents were on his trail – one of them thinks he may have even seen Mengele walking on a country path – but then they were called away to work on a child custody case [the Yossele Schumacher affair].

Mengele drowned off the coast of Brazil in 1979, and his remains were definitively identified in 1985.

In addition to describing Israel’s forays into Nazi hunting, you profile a number of individual Nazi hunters in your book, including Simon Wiesenthal. Wiesenthal is somewhat of a polarizing figure among Nazi hunters with some regarding him as a hero and others as a publicity-seeking hound. What’s your take?

Even those who quarreled with Wiesenthal – including, most famously, Isser Harel, the head of the Mossad – give him credit for pressuring governments to put Nazi war criminals on trial, especially in the 1950s and ‘60s when most governments were turning away from this whole issue.

He kept up the momentum when it could’ve died and, with it, the whole era of Nazi-hunting. The fact that we have trials of elderly Auschwitz guards in Germany today is to a large extent the product of the early efforts of Nazi hunters – Wiesenthal foremost among them – not to allow the public to forget.

Perhaps the most interesting Nazi hunters featured in your book are Serge and Beate Klarsfeld. Can you talk a bit about them?

They are a fascinating couple. Beate, who isn’t Jewish, was born in Germany. Her father served in the Wehrmacht, and when she was growing up her parents didn’t speak much about the war or the Holocaust. When she about 20, though, she went to Paris to strike out on her own and met her husband Serge whose father had died in Auschwitz. At that point, Beate started discovering what had happened during the war and became this really radical Nazi hunter.

One of her more brazen actions took place in 1968 when she was so outraged that the German chancellor – Kurt Georg Kiesinger – had been a member of the Nazi party that she got a press pass to the Christian Democrats’ convention, walked up to the chancellor, and slapped him in the face.

Later, as a couple, the Klarsfelds went after top Nazis – most prominently Klaus Barbie – who had served in occupied France and were responsible for the murder of [tens of thousands of] Jews. They personally tracked Klaus Barbie down in Latin America and kept up the pressure on the French government to have him extradited and put on trial. He was, in fact, ultimately put on trial and died in prison.

A 94-year-old Auschwitz guard, Reinhold Hanning, is currently being tried in Germany for his role in the Holocaust. Some people wonder if putting such an elderly man on trial for crimes he committed 75 years ago makes sense. How do contemporary Nazi hunters today see it?

Each of these cases is seen as a way to bear witness to what happened. And since there are only a few of these people still left – just as there are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors left – these cases become even more important. Individual testimonies are the most powerful tool to educate the world about what happened.

It’s interesting, by the way, that the Germans courts have finally accepted something they did not accept before. Today you no longer have to prove that an individual Nazi killed or tortured a specific person. It is enough just to show that his role was essential for the mass killing. So if you served as a guard in Auschwitz, for example, you were part of the killing machinery and can be held accountable.

Once this legal principle [was accepted in 2011], Germany started looking through the records of Auschwitz guards and other guards to see who was still alive, who was mentally capable, and who was in Germany. That’s where the Reinhold Hanning trial originated.

Elliot Resnick

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/hunting-nazis-to-their-dying-day-an-interview-with-author-andrew-nagorski/2016/04/27/

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