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September 30, 2016 / 27 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘WWII’

Venice Jews Mark 500th Anniversary of World’s First Ghetto

Monday, March 28th, 2016

The Jews of Venice are appealing on behalf of the Muslim immigrants who are reaching the shores of Italy as they prepare to mark the half-millennial anniversary of the first ghetto.

The event commemorates the opening of the Jewish ghetto of Venice, created on March 29, 1516 to separate the Jews from the primarily Christian population of the time.

A series of cultural events are slated to take place this Tuesday to mark that date. The Jews of Venice say they believe their history can teach Europe that minorities can integrate while preserving their identities.

University Professor Shaul Bassi told The National in an interview on Monday, “Those of us who have worked on this anniversary believe the ghetto has precious ethical and cultural lessons to educate the public about Jews as well as the broader question of cross-cultural dialogue, co-operation and co-existence.

“Today, Italian Jews are proof that a minority can keep its identity and still integrate in a process of reciprocal influence,” he said.

“Elsewhere in Europe Jews were treated worse, and Venice to some extent was a safe harbor,” said Paolo Gnignati, leader of Venice’s Jewish community. “The city wanted them to come because they needed access to Jewish trading networks; it was good business on the part of the doges.

“We were deprived of our rights here, but contributed to Europe’s identity and we are still here,” Gnignati said. “We can serve as an example to newcomers who want to participate in Europe while preserving their original identity.”

The word “ghetto” in Italian is “geto” from “gettare,” the verb “to cast.” The Jews were forced into a cramped, polluted area surrounded by canals for the next 300 years. They were locked in at night and forced to pay the wages of their Christian guards.

During the day they were required to wear yellow caps to identify them as Jews (does any of this sound familiar?) as they entered the rest of the city. They were also ordered to use Christian architects to build the five synagogues in the ghetto itself, which remain today. Because the ghetto was so small, the Jews ended up creating the first skyscrapers, building apartments one on top of the other in order to accommodate the growing population. Some of the buildings, eight or nine stories high, are still the tallest in the city.

Napoleon knocked down the gates of the ghetto when he occupied Venice in 1879, allowing Jews to live where they chose.

By the time of World War II, the city’s Jewish population had dropped from 5,000 to just over 1,000. During the war, 246 of the city’s Jews were sent to die in the concentration camps. Only eight returned.

Today in Venice only 450 Jews remain, with just a handful in the ‘ghetto.’ The five synagogues there are still open, and Venetian Jews say they’re urging incoming Muslims to learn from their history in order to survive.

Hana Levi Julian

European Jews Shocked at Anti-Semitic Statue in Hungary

Monday, December 14th, 2015

European Jews expressed shock Monday at a statue of Balint Homan, a notorious anti-Semite.

The Balint Homan Foundation in Szekesfehervar, west of Budapest, plans to honor Homan, who served as Hungary’s Minister of Religion and Education before and during World War II.

Homan was a proponent of anti-Jewish laws, a supporter of the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Jews and a Nazi enthusiast to the end of the war. Subsequently he was jailed and died in prison in 1951.

European Jewish Congress president Dr. Moshe Kantor said in a statement, “It is a shocking display of insensitivity towards the Jewish People that a man who played a direct role in the killing of so many people is being honored in such an open and public manner. It is sending a strong message that Jewish lives do not matter.

“These people were Hungarian citizens so to call this man a Hungarian patriot is simply disturbing and unconscionable.

“Hungary must do a far better job of dealing with its past and this statue is turning back the clock and engaging in direct Holocaust revisionism by rehabilitating a man with so much blood on his hands,” Dr. Kantor continued.

“It is not a private matter when mass murderers are being lauded and celebrated in an open space and the Government must remove it immediately.”

A U.S. envoy also told Reuters the Washington was “shocked” at the plans. Ira Forman, U.S. special envoy against anti-Semitism, called on the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party to block the construction of the statue.

“From the U.S. government perspective we feel very strongly that history and the damage that this man did to Hungarian citizens who happened to be Jewish cannot be ignored, and to put up that statute seems incomprehensible,” Forman said.

Hana Levi Julian

Archaeologists Uncover Tale of Ancient Mikveh and WWII Australian Soldiers

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Archaeologists excavating a construction site near the Ha’Ela Junction have uncovered a curious tale that entwines the fate of an ancient mikveh with that of two Australian soldiers who somehow ended up in the same spot in World War II.

The ancient ritual pool (“mikveh” in Hebrew) was recently uncovered at the Ha’Ela Junction during the routine excavations that are always carried out prior to construction in Israel, in this case to widen Highway 38.

Nearby, an enormous 1,700-year-old water cistern was also revealed, with graffiti scrawled on the ceiling of the reservoir, apparently by Australian soldiers during World War II.

The excavations are being carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority and are financed by the Netivei Israel Company, which is involved in the construction.

Yoav Tsur, IAA excavation director at the site, explained, “We exposed a mikveh in which there are five steps, with the fifth step being a bench where one could sit at the edge of the immersion pool.

“We found fragments of magnificent pottery vessels there, dating to the second century CE – among them lamps, red burnished vessels, a jug and cooking pots.

“Apparently the mikveh ceased to be used during the second century CE, perhaps in light of the Bar Kokhba revolt.

“A rock-hewn opening was exposed south of the mikveh, which appears to have been the entrance to a large water cistern. It seems that in an early phase it was a smaller reservoir and functioned as the “otzar) (water collection area) for the mikveh. When the mikveh ceased to be used, the cistern’s original cavity was increased to its current large dimensions and an extensive surface was built nearby, which facilitated drawing water.”

The archaeologists were also surprised to find during their excavations some graffiti engraved on the ceiling of the cistern, indicating that the site had been exposed at least until the 1940s.

Graffiti carved into ceiling of ancient cistern by Australian soldiers during World War II.

Graffiti carved into ceiling of ancient cistern by Australian soldiers during World War II.

The inscriptions were read by Assaf Peretz, an archaeologist and historian with the Israel Antiquities Authority, who said that two English names were carved in the rock: Cpl Scarlett and Walsh.

“Next to the names are caved the initials RAE and two numbers: NX7792 and NX9168. The date 30/05/1940 appears below the graffiti.”

The IAA inquired with authorities who confirmed that the numbers engraved in the cistern were indeed serial numbers of two actual soldiers, and that RAE stands for Royal Australian Engineers.

A search in government archives revealed that Corporal Philip William Scarlett was born in Melbourne in 1918, was drafted into the army in 1939, survived the war and died in 1970, shortly before his fifty-second birthday.

His comrade, Patrick Raphael Walsh, was born in 1910 in Cowra, was drafted in 1939, survived the war and passed away in 2005 at the age of 95.

It seems the two were members of the Australian Sixth Division. They were stationed in the country at the time of the British Mandate and undergoing training prior to being sent into combat in France.

Because France surrendered before the troops were ready they were ultimately sent to Egypt in October 1940 where they fought at the front in the Western Desert.

The archaeologists added, “If the relatives of these people are acquainted with the story, we’ll be happy if they contact us and we’ll share with them the warm greetings left behind by Scarlett and Walsh.”

Tsur pointed out that the finds from the excavation tell an exciting tale indeed: they “allow us to reconstruct a double story – about the Jewish settlement in the second century CE, probably against the background of the events of the Bar Kokhba revolt, and another story no less fascinating, about a group of Australian soldiers who visited the [same] site c. 1,700 years later and left their mark there.”

Hana Levi Julian

Did the Chinese Communists Really Save Jews Fleeing the Holocaust?

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

During his visit to China last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recalled that the city of Shanghai was “one of the few places that opened its gates” to Jews fleeing Hitler. Officials of the Chinese Communist government, standing nearby, beamed with pleasure at the expectation that people all over the world would read how their regime rescued Jews.

But is it true?

As the prime minister noted, the port city of Shanghai was a haven for many European Jewish refugees during the Hitler years, at a time when most other countries, including the United States, closed their doors to all but a fortunate few. It is important to note that much of China was under Japanese military occupation from 1931 until 1945, and immigration to Shanghai was controlled by the Japanese government, not the Chinese. The Japanese, hoping to improve their relations with the U.S. and the American Jewish community, permitted about 20,000 German and Austrian Jews to settle in Shanghai during the 1930s.

This immigration was made possible in part by false documents given to Jews by the Dutch consul in Lithuania, Jan Zwartendijk, and by transit visas to Japan provided, without official sanction, by Japan’s acting consul-general in Lithuania, Sugihara Chiune. Officially the visas were good for only eight to 12 days, but the Japanese authorities allowed the refugees to remain in Japan for up to eight months until they found other destinations. Many went to Shanghai, including 500 rabbis and students (and their families) from the famous Mir Yeshiva.

Beginning in 1943, most of the Jews in Shanghai were confined to a two-square-mile section of the city known as the Restricted Area. Conditions were harsh but certainly not comparable to what Jews suffered in Europe. These Jews were saved from the Holocaust because of Japan’s – not China’s – policies.

There were several individual Chinese citizens who came to the aid of the Jews during the Holocaust. But they were nationalists, not Communists; they were associated with the anti-Communist forces led by Chang Kai-Shek, who later lost the Chinese civil war and fled to Taiwan in 1949.

One was Dr. Li Yu Ying, a prominent scholar and president of Soochow University. While living in the United States in the 1940s, he served as one of the co-chairmen of the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe (better known as the Bergson Group), an activist movement that held rallies, lobbied in Washington, and sponsored hundreds of full-page newspaper advertisements promoting rescue of Jews from the Nazis. Dr. Ying had previously served the Chang Kai-Shek government in several capacities, including as China’s representative to League of Nations meetings.

Two other Chinese citizens have been honored by Yad Vashem for assisting Jews during the Nazi era. One was Pan-Jun-Shun, who moved from China to Russia in 1916 (more than thirty years before the Communists took over in China). He was living in the city of Kharkov, in the Soviet Ukraine, when the Germans invaded in 1941. Pan saved a Jewish girl named Ludmilla Genrichovna from the Nazi round-ups by hiding her in his home.

The other Chinese rescuer was Dr. Feng Shan Ho, who served as China’s consul-general in Vienna from 1938 to 1940. He issued unauthorized visas to Jews trying to escape Nazi-controlled Austria, enabling them to reach the safety of Shanghai. Dr. Ho represented the Chang Kai-Shek government. And after the nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949, he served as Taiwan’s ambassador to Egypt, Mexico, and other countries.

When Dr. Ho was posthumously honored by Yad Vashem in 2001, the Communist Chinese ambassador attended the ceremony – and insisted that the ambassador from Taiwan be excluded. The Beijing government-controlled press gave prominent coverage to the honoring of Ho, whom it identified as “a Chinese diplomat,” erroneously implying that he was associated with the Beijing regime.

It is not hard to understand why Beijing’s rulers would falsely seek to take credit for what the Chinese nationalists and the Japanese did to help the Jews. Xu Kuangdi, an official of a government agency called the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, explained after visiting the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum last fall, “The spreading of this story plays an active role in promoting the understanding and friendship between the Chinese and people from all over the world.”

Dr. Rafael Medoff

The Shadow of the Gun

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Every day another one of the stories comes in. A teacher panicked by a plastic gun, an army man on a cupcake, a t-shirt, a pop tart chewed into the shape of a gun or a finger gun hits the panic button. Suspensions and lectures quickly follow as the latest threat to the gun-free zone, usually in the form of a little boy, is tackled to the ground and lectured to within an inch of his life.

Tellingly these incidents rarely take place in the inner city schools where teenage gang members walk through metal detectors at the start of the day. The safety officers in those schools, big weary men with eyes that look everywhere at once, don’t waste their time on toys. Not unless those toys are full-size, painted black and filed down to look like real guns.

It’s usually the schools where a shooting is wholly unlikely; where gun violence is not a daily reality, but an unlikely convergence of horror, that institutional vigilance hits an irrational peak as every school imagines that it could be the next Columbine or the next Sandy Hook.

The NRA’s initial proposal of armed school guards was met with an irrational chorus of protests. More guns aren’t the answer, was the cry. And the leading crier was the White House’s expert skeet shooter. In a country where law enforcement is heavily armed and gunmen are stopped by gunmen in uniforms, a strange Swedenization had set in. The problem was not the man, it was the gun. Get rid of the guns and you stop the killing. Schools across the country are banning not the gun, but the idea of the gun. It is a conceptual prohibition that is meant to push away the threat of gun violence by eliminating any mention of the G word. Gun-free zones mean places where guns cannot be mentioned, depicted or even symbolized as if the refusal to concede the existence of a firearm will eliminate the threat of it being used on the premises.

This isn’t a precautionary attitude, but a pacifist one. Gun horror is not a productive emotion, but learned helplessness disguised as moral superiority. Rather than teaching children to hate killers, schools are instead teaching them to hate guns. And reducing murders to instruments rather than morals, children are left with no sense of right and wrong, only an instinctive horror of violence.

Pacifists have always demonized armies rather than invaders. During WWI they obsessed over gas. During WWII, it was the bomber and the tank. During the Cold War they demonized nuclear weapons. In the War on Terror, they target the drone. By dealing with the object rather than the subject, they are able to avoid the question of moral responsibility. Rather than hold the Nazis, Communists or Islamists accountable for their actions, they extended a blanket condemnation over the weapons-wielders.

The American G.I. was just as bad as the S.S. man or the Kamikaze pilot or the Political Commissar. The only difference was in who had the bigger guns. And the one with the bigger guns, was also the most to blame.

That same attitude can be seen today when Israel is blamed for every battle with Islamic terrorists because it has the bigger guns. Rather than evaluating the nature of a conflict and the values of both sides, the pacifists score every war based on firepower.

While the left likes to indulge in stereotypes of gun-toting rednecks and bomb-brandishing generals, the only people who judge the worth of a man by his weapon are the pacifists, the gun-fearers and gun-hiders who mythologize weapons as black agents of evil.

To believe that there is no such thing as constructive violence is to reject free will. Without accepting the necessity of constructive violence, there is no good and evil, only armed men and unarmed men. Without constructive violence, two boys playing cops and robbers in the schoolyard are not acting out a childish morality play, they are becoming desensitized to murder, and without it a child with a pop tart chewed into the shape of a gun is on the way to being a school shooter.

If there is no such thing as constructive violence, then the police officer is not the solution to crime, he is part of the cycle of violence. And if that cycle of violence does not begin with a man choosing to use a gun for good or evil, then it must begin with the gun. The man becomes the object and the gun becomes the subject. American ICBMs become just as bad as Russian ballistic missiles. An Israeli soldier killing a suicide bomber is just as bad as the terrorist. There are no good guys with guns. To have a gun is to be the bad guy.

For decades the gun-control lobby has brandished assault rifles at press conferences and spent more time describing their killing power than their manufacturers have. The rifle has been upgraded to the assault rifle and now, in the latest Orwellian vernacular used by the White House and the entire media pyramid beneath it, weapons of war.

The dreaded assault rifle or weapon of war or killing machine of mass death actually kills rather few Americans. The average shooter doesn’t bring an AR-15 to a Chicago gangland dispute. Despite the number of these weapons in private hands, most of the killing takes place with handguns in the same parts of the country where large amounts of illegal drugs are sold, women trafficked and stores robbed.

Shootings in America are not caused by guns, they are caused by crime. Guns really do not walk off store shelves and go on killing sprees. That’s what criminals are for. But the trouble with that discussion is that it takes us into moral territory. Talking about guns is easy, talking about souls is not. If guns don’t kill people, then we have to ask the difficult question of what does kill people.

It’s a bigger question than just Adam Lanza pulling the trigger in a classroom full of children. It is a big question that encompasses the Nazi gas chambers and the Soviet gulags, the Rape of Nanking and September 11. It is a question as big as all of human history.

Pacifists once used to be able to address such questions, but they have become obsessed with the technology of violence, rather than the spiritual origin of violence. And the technology of violence is largely beside the point. Guns do not motivate people to kill. Nor do they represent that much of a quantum increase in death.

Some of history’s worst massacres happened long before firearms became useful for more than scaring off peasants. The heavily armed Americans of the 50s had lower per capita murder rates than medieval London. It isn’t the gun that makes the killer. It’s not the hand that kills, but the mind.

The gun-free society has little interest in individuals. Its technocratic philosopher-kings want big and comprehensive solutions. Their answer to gun violence is to feed a horror of guns. Their answer to obesity is to ban sodas. Their solutions invariably miss the point by treating people like objects and objects like people.

In the Middle Ages, rats were put on trial for eating crops. Today we put guns on trial for killing people. The left has tried to reduce people to economics, to class and then race, gender and sexual orientation. It has done its best to reduce people to the sum of their parts and then to tinker with those parts and it has failed badly. The best testimony of its profound spiritual failure is that the worst pockets of gun violence are in urban areas that have been under the influence of their sociologists, urban planners, psychologists, social justice activists, community organizers and political rope-pullers for generations. And what have those areas brought forth except malaise, despair, blight and murder?

Banning guns will do as much for those areas as banning drugs did. It is not the shadow of the gun that has fallen over Chicago, but an occlusion of the spirit. Social services have had generations to save the city and they have failed because the technocracy can reach the body, but it cannot reach the soul.

The gun-control activists drew the wrong lesson from Newtown as they drew the wrong lessons from WWII and September 11. The lesson is not that weapons are bad, the lesson is that people in the grip of evil ideas are capable of unimaginable horrors regardless of the tools at their disposal. A single man can kill a classroom full of children with a gun and a few men can kill thousands with a few box cutters. It isn’t the tool that matters. It’s the man.

Unwishing the gun brings us back to the sword. Unwishing the sword brings us back to the spear. Unwishing the spear brings us back to the stone club. And what then? When every weapon that ever existed or will exist is undone, all that remains is the deadliest weapon of all. The mind of man.

The gun, the sword, the spear and the club took countless lives and saved countless lives. Civilization has always balanced on a future made possible by little boys playing cops and robbers and playing with little green army men. They can either grow up to be the protectors of the future or the frightened men who will stand aside and do nothing when they hear the screams begin to come because they have been told that all violence is evil.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Daniel Greenfield

A Jewish American Veteran

Friday, August 17th, 2012

They are known as the Greatest Generation, and for good reason. As children of the Depression, they learned to make do with little, and lacked, most significantly, a sense of entitlement. As they came of age, they were called upon to serve and defend their country, and they did so magnificently, many with their very lives. They then went on to raise families and build the country into the superpower it has become – all with little noise and fanfare; continuing, through it all, to quietly do their duty.

For an example, par excellence, of this Greatest Generation, meet Harry Rosenthal.

Mr. Rosenthal served for three years in the U.S. military during World War Two as a member of the 100 Signal Company, where he repaired radios for the military. After the war, he married and settled in Brooklyn, where he raised his son, while playing an integral role in building up The Jewish Press, both as its director of advertising, as well as by bringing in many new printing jobs, essential to the paper’s financial viability. But what strikes one most upon speaking with him and his wife Rivi (long-time political cartoonist for The Jewish Press) is their humility. Refreshing in today’s age of self-promotion, there is a lot to learn from Mr. Rosenthal’s self-deprecating smile and shrug, and the strong conviction he gives over, that, far from doing anything great, he was merely doing his duty.

But, then again, having that sense of duty is the beginning of greatness.

Ita Yankovitch: How did your serving in the military during WWII come about?

Harry: Unlike many others at the time, who were drafted, I actually enlisted in the army. There was a radio repair course I was interested in taking, and in order to register for it, one had to enlist. In the end, it was actually a blessing in disguise because due to this course, I learned a specialized skill which spared me from being on enemy lines or from being drafted to G-d knows what location. I served from 1942-1945.

Can you tell us about a little about your background?

I was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to Russian parents. I attended Torah Voddath high school and then Brooklyn College. Let me tell you, it was a different world then. We were poor, of course, but it was the Depression, and everyone was poor. My father bought a house on Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg, but after a while he couldn’t afford the mortgage so he sold it and we moved into an apartment. Not only did I not have my own room; I didn’t even have my own bed! I shared one with my brother. Still, poverty didn’t stop my mother from helping out needy immigrant families. She did this so modestly that I didn’t even find out about it until her funeral, when I saw some unfamiliar faces crying, and I learned how she’d been helping them.

I sang in a boys’ choir, performing in shuls and at weddings. We got paid for the wedding performances – ten whole dollars! Actually, that was a nice amount of money in those days. Seymour Silbermintz, one of my fellow choir members, later became a name in his own right, going on to direct his own choir. Many years later, he even had my granddaughter in one of his elementary-school choirs.

What was your parents’ reaction to your enlistment?

My mother passed away before the war. My father was not too happy about it.

How did the neighborhood react to you joining the army?

People didn’t have strong opinions on the matter. Citizens today don’t respect veterans like they used to. I recall feeling, while serving, that society appreciated my duty. They didn’t let soldiers pay for anything in those days. I went to a baseball game and a Broadway show for free and I remember being charged $1 for eating at a fancy restaurant. Today there is a shift in attitude.

What was the overall Jewish reaction to you joining the war?

Many had ways to avoid being drafted. I remember one guy from yeshiva who was puzzled as to why I enlisted and asked why I don’t sit and learn to avoid serving. But I could never do that. I don’t harbor any ill feelings towards those that did and I don’t judge them, but I could never do that.

Ita Yankovich

Vladimir Putin Coming to Netanya Monday

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Jewish leaders from around the world will unveil the brand-new ‘Victory Monument’ in Netanya, Israel this Monday, June 25.

The Monument design was the first-ever joint initiative between Israel and Russia to commemorate the Red Army. The newly elected President Putin will be visiting Israel specifically for the inauguration ceremony.

The Monument was funded by major Jewish philanthropists, led by Keren Hayesod – UIA, and the World Forum of Russian Jewry.

A world-class design commemorating the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany in WWII, the Monument honors the millions of Red Army soldiers who perished in the war, among them 120,000 Jews.

Alexander Levin, President of the World Forum of Russian Jewry and an American citizen, will be representing Russian-speaking Jews from North America.

“This incredible monument symbolizes the historical and ever-important role the Red Army played during WWII and its part in defeating the Nazis and their horrors. Millions of Russian Jews around the world are united at this moment in solidarity for the brave Red Army soldiers,” said Levin.

More than half a million Jewish soldiers fought with the Red Army in WWII against the Nazis – 120,000 were killed.

About two years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed the idea of the monument to President Putin on his visit to Moscow. Putin promised to come to Israel for the inauguration ceremony.

Jacob Edelist

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/vladimir-putin-coming-to-netanya-monday/2012/06/21/

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