Remembering a Giant of Jewish Scholarship: Prof. Frederick Krantz, CIJR, June 10, 2015— As the old adage has it, deaths come in threes, something sadly borne out recently in the world of Jewish historical scholarship and Israel-related political advocacy.
Could World War II Have Ended Sooner Than It Did?: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, June 11, 2015 — Seventy-one years ago, the British, Canadians, and Americans landed on the Normandy beaches to open a second ground front against Nazi Germany.
When a Piece of Paper Meant Life or Death: Rafael Medoff, Algemeiner, June 4, 2015 — “It is a fantastic commentary on the inhumanity of our times,” journalist Dorothy Thompson wrote at the height of the 1930s European Jewish refugee crisis, “that for thousands and thousands of people a piece of paper with a stamp on it is the difference between life and death.”
Why Don’t Our Children Learn About the ‘Farhud’?: Edy Cohen, Jerusalem Post, June 1, 2015 — The outbreak of mob violence against Baghdad Jewry known as the Farhud, or “violent dispossession,” broke out on June 1, 1941.
A Passionate Defender of the Jewish People: Manfred Gerstenfeld, CIJR, May 22, 2015
Giuliani vs. Lew and Caroline Glick vs. Everyone Else: A Quick Look at the Jpost Conference: Jerusalem Post, June 9, 2015
Spain Passes Law of Return for Sephardic Jews: Times of Israel, June 11, 2015
The Miraculous Story of the Jews of Zakynthos: Leora Goldberg, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 13, 2009
Prof. Frederick Krantz
CIJR, June 10, 2015
As the old adage has it, deaths come in threes, something sadly borne out recently in the world of Jewish historical scholarship and Israel-related political advocacy. First came the passing of the remarkable Israel scholar Barry Rubin, then of the superb Churchill biographer, Holocaust authority, and historian of Israel Martin Gilbert, and now, suddenly, of our time's greatest student of the nature and history of antisemitism, Robert Wistrich.
I was away at sea recently and initially unaware that Robert, author of the recent, magisterial The Lethal Obsession: Antisemitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (2010), had suddenly been taken from us at the today relatively young age of 70. He was in Rome, where he was about to address the Italian Senate on the growing dangers of an Israel-centered and Islamist-influenced global antisemitism.
Head of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, he was descended from a Polish-Jewish family, born in Kazakhstan in 1945, raised in London and educated at Cambridge and the University of London, where he took his doctorate.
He worked initially at the Institute for Contemporary History and the Wiener Library, with Walter Laqueur, and received tenure at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1982. A scholarly polymath, Robert published a large number of books and articles on a vast range of subjects, from modern Austrian- and German-Jewish history and politics, Leon Trotsky, and Theodor Herzl, to socialism and the Jews, and key studies on the Nazis and Nazism.
His work on antisemitism blossomed into the path-breaking The Longest Hatred (1994), which tracked antisemitism from its beginnings in pre-Christian Greek and Roman times through early and medieval Christianity, and down into the early modern and modern periods and of course, the Holocaust, with final chapters on the post-1945 and contemporary periods, and the impact of Israel. He was also instrumental in transforming the book into a powerful nine-hour British-American television documentary of the same name, which was shown first on the BBC and then across Europe, including Germany, and North America (PBS), extending the impact of his work to an audience of millions.
Robert also played a key role on the International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission, set up from 1999-2001 by the Vatican to examine documents pertaining to the problem of Pope Pius XII’s relation to the Holocaust, generally and in Italy. And he supported withdrawing from the project when complete access to the existing documentation was not provided by the Church.
I knew Robert Wistrich for over a quarter of a century, and was honored by his presence at a number of CIJR conferences, not least the major International Conference on the New Global Antisemitism I organized here in Montreal, held jointly with Federation-CJA in 2004. There Robert─with Natan Sharansky and in the company of superb students of Jewish history and antisemitism like Alvin Rosenfeld, Ruth Wisse, and Bat Ye'or, among others─delivered an incisive portrait of contemporary Israel-centered antisemitism and its new Arab-world Islamic component. His remarks─in the guise of a Keynote address─were also a powerful and eloquent call to arms, to devote all our energies to opposing the new antisemitism.
Robert was one of the giants in this crucial area of study, whose remarkable oeuvre justifies placing him in the pantheon of the truly great scholars, from Jules Isaac, Marcel Simon, and Leon Poliakov, to Jacob Katz, Haim Ben-Sasson, and Louis Feldman. He understood that his was a field, and a historical reality, which was still, unfortunately, very much alive, one paradoxically re-energized by the very Zionist success of a miraculously reborn democratic Jewish Israel. And he saw his intellectual and scholarly work, including the strenuous series of talks and lectures he delivered to major events and audiences around the world, as a key part of the unending effort not only to keep alive the memory of antisemitism's victims, but also to rally all people of good will to defeat a resurgent movement seeking first to delegitimize, and then to destroy, the sovereign Jewish state.
Robert concluded his remarks at the 2004 International Conference in Montreal by citing how traditional themes of antisemitism and Judeophobia today are feeding into an Islamist-inspired apocalyptic contemporary antisemitism, which asserts─ reflecting the revival of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion─ that aggressive and bloodthirsty Jews, now reinforced by the state of Israel, "are at the root of so many of the crises of the world, such that sixty per cent of Europeans say Israel is a great danger to world peace". And, given that "it is unlikely that this situation will improve a great deal on its own", fighting it will "depend on the ability of the Jewish people to mobilize all of its resources, and that includes obviously all of its cultural and intellectual and moral, as well as its political and financial, resources" in order to counter-act the new antisemitic offensive.
Citing the Biblical story of Purim, Robert concluded by noting that, "based on our tradition and our heritage, it is possible even in the most adverse circumstances for the Jews to triumph over their enemies, by determined action, by political action, and by the conviction that they have no other choice. Purim is a reminder to us of what we are obligated to do, and of what we are able to do. We can turn the tide". May his memory, and his example, be a blessing to us all.
Victor Davis Hanson
National Review, June 11, 2015
Seventy-one years ago, the British, Canadians, and Americans landed on the Normandy beaches to open a second ground front against Nazi Germany. Operation Overlord — the Allied invasion of Western Europe — proved the largest amphibious operation in military history, dwarfing even Xerxes’s Persian invasion of Greece in 480 B.C. Brilliant planning, overwhelming naval support, air superiority, and high morale ensured the successful landing of 160,000 troops on the first day — at a cost of about 4,000 dead.
Three weeks after the June 6 landings, nearly a million Allied soldiers were ashore, heading eastward through France. Hitler’s once-formidable Third Reich seemed on the verge of collapse. On the Eastern Front, the German army was imploding under the weight of 5 million advancing infantrymen of Russia’s Red Army. At the same time, Allied four-engine bombers, with superb long-range fighter escorts, at last were beginning to destroy German transportation and fuel infrastructure.
Yet Hitler held off for another eleven bloody months. Why? What followed the D-Day landings was as confused as the initial assault was superbly carried out. Planners had underestimated the impassable terrain of the French boscage — dense thickets planted along huge earthen berms — just miles beyond the American-sector beaches. It would take most of June and early July for the stalled Americans to cut through the nearly impassable, well-defended hedgerows. The stalled Allied armies had given time for the arrival of crack German Panzer reinforcements to bottle up the invaders. Finally, the Allies broke out with the help of massive carpet-bombing of German positions some six weeks after D-Day.
Unfortunately, the command structure of the Allied invasion force was topsy-turvy. The swashbuckling U.S. general George S. Patton — in the doghouse for the slapping of ill GIs a year earlier during the Sicily campaign — came to Normandy late. His superb Third Army was relegated to a supporting role and assigned the longest route into Germany. In contrast, the professional (but slow and methodical) General Bernard Montgomery won the pivotal position in the north to break through to the Ruhr on the shortest path into the Third Reich.
Meanwhile, U.S. general Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of the Allied Forces, and his subordinates, generals Omar Bradley and Courtney Hodges, were reconciled to a slow, incremental slog through France along a broad front. Patton, however, would have none of it. By early August, the Third Army was unleashed and off to the races — in a series of brilliant armored outflanking movements that encircled and bypassed stunned German divisions. Taking great risks, the mercurial Patton outsourced the protection of his flanks to the U.S. Air Force. Patton plowed ahead, seeking to stun, bewilder, and collapse German resistance.
It almost worked. The Third Army “rolled” with Patton right through France to near the largely unguarded German border. An exuberant American media dreamed that the war in the West might be over by autumn 1944. Hundreds of thousands of trapped Germans either surrendered or were killed by Allied pincers. British and American fighters blanketed the skies above nearly 2 million Allied soldiers, most of them motorized and protected by thousands of tanks and artillery pieces.
But then the wondrous American August came abruptly to an end. Allied planners had never found a way to recapture intact the key French ports on the Atlantic Coast from besieged German defenders. The farther Patton and other Allied armies advanced from the beaches, almost 400 miles away, the longer their supply lines grew — and the easier it became for the enemy to support its own retreating forces. Shorter late-summer days, inclement weather, mounting casualties, supply shortages, and the need to help liberate occupied France all slowed down the once-rapid American advance.
The farther Patton and other Allied armies advanced from the beaches, the longer their supply lines grew — and the easier it became for the enemy to support its own retreating forces. In an unwise move, Eisenhower in early September had diverted gasoline and ammunition from the American sector to Montgomery’s theater. Montgomery, in a risky gambit, planned to leapfrog across the Rhine from Holland into the German Ruhr Valley, hoping to paralyze Germany’s industrial heartland and end the war outright. The result, however, was the disastrous Operation Market Garden, or “A Bridge Too Far, catastrophe.
Meanwhile, Patton’s advance sputtered by early September and ran out of gas. The Third Army, like other American forces, prepared for a mostly static war near the German border for the next six months. The American nightmares of fighting in the Hürtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge lay ahead, as the war eventually turned into a World War I-style bloodbath until March 1945. The stalled Allies would lose more casualties from autumn 1944 to the end of the war than they had in the rapid advance from Normandy to the German border. But for a brief moment in August 1944, everything seemed possible, as the American military had never experienced a breakthrough quite like George Patton’s roll through German-occupied France 71 years ago this summer.
Algemeiner, June 4, 2015
“It is a fantastic commentary on the inhumanity of our times,” journalist Dorothy Thompson wrote at the height of the 1930s European Jewish refugee crisis, “that for thousands and thousands of people a piece of paper with a stamp on it is the difference between life and death.” Seventy-five years ago this month, president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s newly appointed assistant secretary of state sent his colleagues a memo outlining a strategy to “postpone and postpone and postpone” the granting of that “piece of paper” to refugees. Breckinridge Long’s chilling memo, more than any other single document, has come to symbolize the abandonment of the Jews during the Holocaust.
Long, a personal friend of Roosevelt’s and a major donor to his first presidential campaign, was rewarded with the post of U.S. ambassador to Italy. Long’s dispatches to Washington from Rome in the early and mid 1930s praised the Mussolini regime for its “well-paved” streets, “dapper” black-shirted stormtroopers, and “punctual trains.” Eleanor Roosevelt once remarked to the president about Long, “Franklin, you know he’s a fascist”—to which an angry FDR replied, “I’ve told you, Eleanor, you must not say that.”
In early 1940, Roosevelt promoted Long to the position of assistant secretary of state, putting him in charge of 23 of the State Department’s 42 divisions, including the visa section. Long joined a department that was well-schooled in suppressing immigration. From 1933-38—the first five years the Nazis were in power—the Roosevelt administration had gone out of its way to restrict Jewish immigration from Germany to levels far lower than what the law allowed. By adding extra requirements and layers of bureaucracy, the German quota of 25,957 was only 5 percent filled in 1933, and 14 percent filled in 1934. The only year that Roosevelt permitted the German quota to be filled was 1938-39, and only then because of tremendous international pressure, following the German annexation of Austria and the Kristallnacht pogrom.
By the time Long assumed his post at the State Department in early 1940, the old practice of actively suppressing immigration below the quota had returned. In addition to the administration’s general hostility toward immigration—especially Jewish immigration—there was now the added fear of Nazi spies reaching the U.S.
The quick collapse of France in the spring of 1940 triggered a wave of alarm in the U.S. about German “fifth columnists” undermining the U.S. from within. The press was filled with wild stories about Hitler planning to send “slave spies” to America. Attorney General Robert Jackson complained to the cabinet about “the hysteria that is sweeping the country against aliens and fifth columnists.” But FDR himself was fanning the flames. In a series of remarks in May and June, he publicly warned about what he called “the treacherous use of the ‘fifth column’ by persons supposed to be peaceful visitors [but] actually a part of an enemy unit of occupation.” The notion that German spies would reach America disguised as refugees was baseless. There was only one instance in which a Nazi successfully posed as a Jewish refugee in order to reach the Western hemisphere—and he was captured in Cuba and executed.
On June 26, 1940, assistant secretary Long composed a memo explaining to his colleagues how to keep out the Jews. “We can delay and effectively stop for a temporary period of indefinite length the number of immigrants into the United States,” he wrote. “We could do this by simply advising our consuls to put every obstacle in the way and to require additional evidence and to resort to various administrative devices which would postpone and postpone and postpone the granting of the visas.” Long’s plan was to use the “postpone and postpone” method as a temporary measure, until a way could be devised to make it permanent. And that’s exactly what happened.
Three days after Long’s memo, the State Department ordered U.S. consuls abroad to reject applications from anyone about whom they had “any doubt whatsoever.” The new instruction specifically noted that this policy would result in “a drastic reduction in the number of quota and non-quota immigration visas issued.” It worked as intended. In the year to follow, immigration from Germany and Austria was kept to just 47 percent of the quota, and the following year it was held to under 18 percent.
Then, in June 1941, the Roosevelt administration adopted a harsh new policy, known as the Close Relatives Edict. It barred the entry of anyone who had close relatives in German-occupied territory, on the grounds that the Nazis might hold those relatives hostage in order to force the immigrant to become a spy for Hitler. No such cases were ever discovered, but in the meantime, countless Jews with relatives in Europe were automatically declared ineligible for immigration to America. Another “piece of paper” helped trap millions of Jews in Hitler’s Europe.
Jerusalem Post, June 1, 2015
The outbreak of mob violence against Baghdad Jewry known as the Farhud, or “violent dispossession,” broke out on June 1, 1941. During the two days of violence, rioters killed 180 Jews, wounded 600 others and raped an undetermined number of women. They also looted some 1,500 stores and homes. The Farhud was the beginning of what became a broad Nazi-Arab alliance in the Holocaust. The Farhud was both Nazi-inspired and encouraged by a prominent Arab leader, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who escaped from the British in Palestine and arrived in Iraq in October 1939.
While everyone is familiar with the Palestinian Nakba, few in Israel are aware of the tragic history of the Farhud or the fate of the Jews from Arab countries who were chased from their homes, leaving all their property and possessions behind. This, even though these Jews and their descendants constitute over 55 percent of Jewish Israeli citizens today.
Approximately 900,000 Jews left their homes in Arab countries between the years 1948-1970. Some of them came to Israel while others immigrated to other countries. Many were forced to leave behind property of great value – property that was sometimes seized by the governments of the countries they fled.
Unfortunately nothing is taught by the Education Ministry about the pogroms suffered by the Jews in Arab countries, or of their rich and unique culture. Pupils are not exposed to the Farhud riots. They are not taught about the riots in Egypt and Libya in which hundreds of marauding Muslims desecrated, burned and destroyed synagogues in November 1945. Hundreds of Jews were killed just because they were Jews.
The tragedy of these Jews has been downplayed and almost unheard of for many years. No one talks about the suffering of these refugees who were ousted from these Arab countries. No one speaks of the tremendous amount of Jewish property and wealth that was left behind. No one mentions the hundreds of synagogues or holy places, the numerous cemeteries or the communal property that was confiscated by the Arab governments, mainly by the Iraqi and Egyptian governments.
There is a need to create a national committee to investigate the following subjects: the value of the property the Jews left behind; a documented list of personal and communal property of Jews in each country; the integration of the rich culture and legends of these Jews in the programs of the Education Ministry; the creation of a Jewish Cultural Center for Jews from the Arab countries; preservation of synagogues that remain in Arab hands; keeping watch over the holy places and shrines of the righteous and rabbis in these countries; and the restoration and prevention of the destruction of cemeteries in these countries.
The question remains: why has Israel not demanded compensation for the Jewish properties left behind or stolen in Arab countries? Israel did little to break the silence about the dire circumstances of the Jewish exodus from Arab countries. Last year State Comptroller Joseph Shapira issued a scathing report on the state’s failure to take action toward the restoration of property that was lost when hundreds of thousands of Jews living in Iran and the Arab states came to Israel in the years after Independence in 1948.
In his report Shapira wrote: “Israel is dealing with the issue lackadaisically, not paying it sufficient attention. It has not set any policy or budget, nor has it allocated resources toward researching and documenting the assets or collecting information about the rights of the Jews who came from those countries.” Shapira described the situation as “bleak,” a “fiasco” that could be “a perpetual tragedy.”
I urge the Knesset and the Israeli government to create a National Restoration Committee for Jews from Arab countries whose property was stolen. I also urge Education Minister Naftali Bennett to introduce more elements of Mizrahi Jewish culture into the education system. Our children must learn the culture of their grandfathers.
CIJR Wishes All Our Friends and Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!
A Passionate Defender of the Jewish People: Manfred Gerstenfeld, CIJR, May 22, 2015 —Professor Robert Wistrich was the leading historian of anti-Semitism, and published important books in other fields of history as well.
Giuliani vs. Lew and Caroline Glick vs. Everyone Else: A Quick Look at the Jpost Conference: Jerusalem Post, June 9, 2015
Spain Passes Law of Return for Sephardic Jews: Times of Israel, June 11, 2015—Spain’s lower house gave final approval to a law offering citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews Thursday.
The Miraculous Story of the Jews of Zakynthos: Leora Goldberg, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 13, 2009—I needed a break at the end of a long and exhausting semester. My family was off to the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula, to an unknown island in Greece.