Canadian historian joins uproar in Israel over Polish Holocaust law

There is so often a Canadian connection given the number of immigrant and ethnic communities:

University of Ottawa history professor flew to Israel this week, right into the eye of a brewing diplomatic storm involving the Jewish state and Poland over a controversial bill dealing with remembering the Holocaust.

Jan Grabowski has spent years examining the Holocaust in Poland, where he was born, focusing on Polish-Jewish relations. His research has brought death threats against him and his family and angry letters to his employer demanding he be fired.

But in an interview with CBC News hours after arriving from Canada, Grabowski vowed to press on with his work, outlining the focus of his next book, which will examine the role of the Polish Blue Police during the Second World War.

“It’s about 20,000 people who were armed and who inflicted horrific suffering on the Jews,” he said.

Controversial Polish legislation

Israeli leaders are leading the charge against a piece of legislation passed by the Polish Parliament earlier this month that made it illegal to assert that Poland bore any responsibility for atrocities committed by Nazi Germany.

Six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and many of those victims were Polish. Some of the most notorious extermination camps — Auschwitz-Birkenau and Treblinka to name two — were built on Polish soil.


Many Poles have long complained when atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, such as the killings at the Auschwitz death camp, have been linked to the Polish nation. ( Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images)

But for decades Poles have chafed at references linking their nationals to the crimes of the Holocaust. Former U.S. president Barack Obama issued an apology in 2012 when he used the term “Polish death camp”.

While most scholars, including those at Yad Vashem, the official Israeli memorial to the Holocaust, agree that labelling concentration camps as Polish is misleading, critics say what’s more worrisome is the crux of the new Polish law that imposes fines or prison terms of up to three years for linking “the Polish nation” to crimes committed during the Holocaust.

‘No Polish bystanders’

Grabowski notes that the prison sentence is the same duration Poles could expect to serve behind bars before the Second World War for “insulting the Polish nation.”

At his Tel Aviv press conference. the Polish-Canadian dual citizen discussed a newspaper article from 1936, detailing the case of a Jewish woman who was evicted from a Polish university.

“As she was evicted, she shouted ‘Polish animals.’ They beat her up, but she was the one the police arrested,” Grabowski said. “She was put in prison for two months for insulting the Polish nation.”

Grabowski, who is in Israel for a conference on Holocaust history, has faced much criticism from some Polish historians for his years of research, including his controversial conclusion that 200,000 Polish Jews were killed — directly or indirectly — by Poles during the war.

“There are no Polish bystanders to the Holocaust,” he told reporters.

Poland’s embassy to Canada, in Ottawa, has criticized Grabowki for offering “groundless opinions and accusations.”

“In reality, there was no free Poland during the Second World War, and the Holocaust was the murder by Nazi Germany of six million Jews,” the mission wrote in a statement to Macleans magazine. “Poland, unlike many countries, was never an ally of Nazi Germany and never had a collaborative regime.”

While he questioned the legal effect of the new Polish legislation, calling it “nonsense,” Grabowski does worry about a chilling effect.

“This law was an embodiment of the growing frustration of nationalists in power [in Poland] who simply are trying to find tools with which to freeze the debate, knowing that they cannot refute historical evidence,” he said. “What they can do is they can try to silence people who would like to undertake research in these areas.”


Hey, Mike Pence, the Holocaust Didn’t Happen for Your Benefit

Sharp and warranted commentary:

Nothing good came out of the Holocaust. The mass murder of Jewish people, Roma, gay people, the disabled, and other targeted groups was an atrocity of unimaginable proportions, an orgy of needless suffering, cruelty, grief and horror. Genocide doesn’t make the world a better place; it makes the world a worse place.

That should be obvious, you’d think. And yet, in America, we compulsively try to turn the Holocaust into a moral lesson or an inspirational parable. Yes, we say, the Holocaust was evil. But look at the good that came out of it! Hitler’s crimes, we insist, gave us all the chance to be better people. The piles of corpses are an abomination, of course; but even so, if we climb them together, we will ascend to a new moral awakening.

Vice President Mike Pence provided a particularly repulsive example of this logic in a tweetover the weekend commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day. “A few days ago, Karen & I paid our respects at Yad Vashem to honor the 6 million Jewish martyrs of the Holocaust who 3 years after walking beneath the shadow of death, rose up from the ashes to resurrect themselves to reclaim a Jewish future,” Pence declared. Pence turned the Holocaust into a triumphant story of bravery, a monument to Israeli nationalism. The Holocaust here is not a tragedy, but a triumph.

Many Jews have pointed out that Pence, who is an evangelical Christian, imposes a Christian narrative on the Holocaust, comparing victims of the Holocaust to Jesus. His tweet also paints Jewish victims of the Holocaust as martyrs for Israel, as if every Jew who died was an ardent Zionist, deliberately laying his or her life down for a future Jewish state. Pence treats the Holocaust as a holy validation of evangelical support for Israel. Many American evangelicals believe that Israel has a role to play in the apocalyptic end times. The Holocaust, then, for Pence becomes a kind of providential working out of God’s divine plan for the Jews. Israel makes the Holocaust worth it, at least from an evangelical perspective. Hallelujah.

Pence is unusually blunt in framing the Holocaust as Christian resurrection narrative, but he’s not the only one to try to turn Auschwitz into inspiration porn. The majority of high-profile films and fictional narratives about the Holocaust focus on upbeat endings and salvation. Films like Defiance (2008), The Zookeeper’s Wife ( 2017) and, most famously Schindler’s List (1993) all tell stories about people who saved Jews during the Holocaust. They all end, ritually, with text informing the viewer how many people the protagonists rescued from death in the camps.

“Pence is unusually blunt in framing the Holocaust as Christian resurrection narrative, but he’s not the only one to try to turn Auschwitz into inspiration porn.”

All these films are based on true stories; Otto Schindler and others did save some Jews. Every life saved is precious—but every life that wasn’t saved is precious, too, and there were, horribly, a nightmarish number of people who weren’t saved from the Holocaust. The obsessive focus on the handful who escaped gives the Holocaust, over and over, a happy ending. The main characters dodge the Nazis; Israel rises up. The death camps may have been horrible, but they gave good people a chance to demonstrate their goodness.

That’s the message of Lois Lowry’s hugely influential Holocaust novel Number the Stars (1989). The book tells the fictional story of Annemarie, a Danish girl who (like many in Denmark) helps a Jewish friend escape the Nazis. “Young people rejoice when Annemarie takes a deep breath, enters the woods, faces the danger, stands up to the enemy, and triumphs,” Lois Lowry wrote in an introduction. The Holocaust gives young people the chance to vicariously brave danger and do the right thing. It’s heartwarming. But should we really be always be looking to the Holocaust to warm our hearts?

The impulse to find lessons in the Holocaust is natural and almost unavoidable. We’re meaning-making creatures, and the Holocaust was so huge and so terrible that we feel like it must have some sort of moral takeaway, some nugget of truth we can pass on to our children. Even the much-repeated mantra “Never forget” suggests that the Holocaust has some use. If we keep the camps in mind, we hope, it will help us to make better choices, or at least enable us to defend ourselves against similar threats.

Ruth Klüger, a Holocaust survivor, rejects this logic in her memoir Eline Jugend, or Still Alive (1992). “Auschwitz was no instructional institution…” she writes. “You learned nothing there, and least of all humanity and tolerance. Absolutely nothing good came out of the concentration camps…They were the most useless, pointless establishments imaginable. That is the one thing to remember about them if you know nothing else.”

Similarly, survivor Alain Rensais’ documentary Night and Fog (1956) treats the Holocaust as a horrible, bemusing puzzle, a bleak, heavy lock without a key. “We survey these ruins with a heartfelt gaze, certain the old monster lies crushed beneath the rubble,” the voice over of the film muses. “We pretend to regain hope as the image recedes, as though we’ve been cured of the plague of the camps.”

As Resnais says, much discussion of the Holocaust seems designed to provide a cure, or offer some sort of world-historical closure. The Holocaust was terrible—but Israel rose up, and (the Christian) God is great. The Holocaust was terrible—but some people saved some victims, and children can learn valuable lessons from that. It was terrible but—it’s done now, and we’ve learned from it, and we’re moving on. Isn’t that inspiring?

The answer, again, is no. The Holocaust was not inspiring. The people murdered by Hitler did not die to advance some greater cause, or to teach us courage. Remembering the Holocaust is a moral imperative, because to forget evil is to collaborate with evildoers. But while memory is a necessity, it’s not clear it protects us. There have been other genocides since Hitler’s. Trump flirts with anti-Semitism and fascist demagoguery while his Vice-President dragoons Holocaust dead for his own political purposes. Evil people still take inspiration from the Nazis; they marched in Charlottesvile and murdered yet another woman there. Hitler’s been dead for 70 years, but his death toll keeps mounting.

We aren’t wiser because of the Holocaust. We aren’t kinder, or braver, or more noble. Evil diminishes us—not least when, like Pence, we act as if the senseless death of millions of people somehow made the world a better place.

via Hey, Mike Pence, the Holocaust Didn’t Happen for Your Benefit

‘One cannot change history’: Israel slams bill that would send people to prison for blaming Poles for Holocaust

Rightfully so. Poland continues to decline in recognizing its past and antisemitism. Those who do not acknowledge their history …:

Israeli leaders angrily criticized pending legislation in Poland that would outlaw blaming Poles for the crimes of the Holocaust, with some accusing the Polish government of outright denial Saturday as the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the proposed law “baseless” and ordered his country’s ambassador to Poland to meet with Polish leaders to express his strong opposition.

“One cannot change history, and the Holocaust cannot be denied,” he said.

The lower house of the Polish parliament on Friday passed the bill, which prescribes prison time for using phrases such as “Polish death camps” to refer to the killing sites Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland during World War II.

A group of children at the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp on Jan. 27, 1945, just after the liberation by the Soviet army.

Many Poles fear such phrasing makes some people incorrectly conclude that Poles had a role in running the camps. But critics say the legislation could have a chilling effect on debating history, harming freedom of expression and opening a window to Holocaust denial.

The bill still needs approval from Poland’s Senate and president. However, it marks a dramatic step by the country’s current nationalist government to target anyone who tries to undermine its official stance that Poles only were heroes during the war, not Nazi collaborators who committed heinous crimes.

Netanyahu’s government generally has had good relations with Poland, which has been recently voting with Israel in international organizations.

At Auschwitz on Saturday evening, Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari, abandoned a prepared speech to criticize the bill, saying that “everyone in Israel was revolted at this news.”

In Israel, which was established three years after the Holocaust and is home to the world’s largest community of survivors, the legislation provoked outrage.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, noting that exactly 73 years had passed since the Auschwitz death camp on Polish soil was liberated, cited the words of a former Polish president about how history could not be faked and the truth could not be hidden.

“The Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the entire world must ensure that the Holocaust is recognized for its horrors and atrocities,” Rivlin said. “Also among the Polish people, there were those who aided the Nazis in their crimes. Every crime, every offence, must be condemned. They must be examined and revealed.”

Today’s Poles have been raised on stories of their people’s wartime suffering and heroism. Many react viscerally when confronted with the growing body of scholarship about Polish involvement in the killing of Jews.

In a sign of the sensitivities on both sides, Yair Lapid, head of Israel’s centrist Yesh Atid party and the son of a survivor, got into a heated Twitter spat Saturday with the Polish Embassy in Israel.

“I utterly condemn the new Polish law which tries to deny Polish complicity in the Holocaust. It was conceived in Germany but hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered without ever meeting a German soldier. There were Polish death camps and no law can ever change that,” Lapid wrote.

That sparked the Embassy to respond: “Your unsupportable claims show how badly Holocaust education is needed, even here in Israel.”

“My grandmother was murdered in Poland by Germans and Poles,” Lapid responded. “I don’t need Holocaust education from you. We live with the consequences every day in our collective memory. Your embassy should offer an immediate apology.”

To which the embassy retorted: “Shameless.”

Israel’s foreign ministry said the deputy Polish ambassador to Israel had been summoned for a clarification.

For decades, Polish society avoided discussing the killing of Jews by civilians or denied that anti-Semitism motivated the slayings, blaming all atrocities on the Germans.

In this photo provided by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, people walk on a commercial street in the Lublin ghetto near a sign forbidding entry, in Warsaw, Poland.

A turning point was the publication in 2000 of a book, “Neighbours,” by Polish-American sociologist Jan Tomasz Gross, which explored the murder of Jews by their Polish neighbours in the village of Jedwabne. The book resulted in widespread soul-searching and official state apologies.

But since the conservative and nationalistic Law and Justice party consolidated power in 2015, it has sought to stamp out discussions and research on the topic. It demonized Gross and investigated whether he had slandered Poland by asserting that Poles killed more Jews than they killed Germans during the war.

Holocaust researchers have collected ample evidence of Polish villagers who murdered Jews fleeing the Nazis. According to one scholar at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, of the 160,000-250,000 Jews who escaped and sought help from fellow Poles, about 10 per cent to 20 per cent survived. The rest were rejected, informed upon or killed by rural Poles, according to the Tel Aviv University scholar, Havi Dreifuss.

The memorial issued a statement Saturday night opposing the Polish legislation and trying to put into historical context the “complex truth” regarding the Polish population’s attitude toward its Jews.

“There is no doubt that the term ‘Polish death camps’ is a historical misrepresentation,” the Yad Vashem memorial said. “However, restrictions on statements by scholars and others regarding the Polish people’s direct or indirect complicity with the crimes committed on their land during the Holocaust are a serious distortion.”

Source: ‘One cannot change history’: Israel slams bill that would send people to prison for blaming Poles for Holocaust

Holocaust must be bigger part of migrant courses: German minister

Will be interesting to see how the revised Canadian citizenship study guide portrays antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of racism and discrimination:

More emphasis should be placed on the Holocaust in integration courses for migrants, Germany’s justice minister said, reflecting heightened unease among leading politicians about a spate of anti-Semitic acts including Israeli flag burnings.

More than a million migrants have arrived in Germany in the last three years, many of them fleeing conflict in the Middle East, causing concern that anti-Semitism could increase.

German police have reported protesters setting Israeli flags ablaze and using anti-Semitic slogans in Berlin and other cities in demonstrations against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In a piece for weekly magazine Der Spiegel, Justice Minister Heiko Maas wrote that the Holocaust, in which the Nazis killed six million Jews, and its significance needed to become an even more important part of integration courses and migrants should be tested on it in the examination at the end of their course.

“The lessons from the Holocaust need to be one of the guiding ideas in those lessons and not just some chapter of German history,” he said.

“Racism has no place in Germany, so everyone who wants to stay in Germany for the long term needs to be clear that we fight the Neonazis’ anti-Semitism and we won’t tolerate any imported anti-Semitism from immigrants either,” Maas added.

Jens Spahn, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), told Der Spiegel he thought immigration from Muslim countries was one of the causes of recent anti-Semitic demonstrations in Berlin.

via Holocaust must be bigger part of migrant courses: German minister

When Hitler’s Henchman Called the Shots in Hollywood


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

via When Hitler’s Henchman Called the Shots in Hollywood

Holocaust Museum Director Faces Rising Anti-Semitism – The Forward

Good, thoughtful interview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good long read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another disturbing incident:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friedman: Why Canadians should be proud of the Holocaust Monument

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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