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In Hungary, Antisemitism Rises Again: Marianne Szegedy-Maszak, New York Times, Oct. 29, 2013 — My father, Aladar Szegedy-Maszak, a Hungarian diplomat, dined with Adolf Hitler three times. And then he went to the concentration camp at Dachau.
Teaching About the Holocaust as an Antidote to Rising Hate in Europe: Shimon Ohayon, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 9, 2013— A shadow many thought resigned to the dustbin of history is currently spreading over the European continent. Politicians, steeped in National Socialism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, are taking seats in European parliaments across Europe.
Why Europe Needs Israel: Richard Mather, Arutz Sheva, Nov. 1, 2013— Zeev Elkin, Israel's deputy foreign minister is worried that the chasm between the EU and Israel will continue to grow if there is no solution to the new EU criteria concerning Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. I think Elkin is worrying too much. Yes, Israel is heavily dependent on trading agreements with Europe, but it’s just as true to say that Europe is dependent on Israel.
France: Antisemitism Now Mainstream: Guy Millière, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 30, 2013
The Righteous: Shula Kopf, The Jerusalem Report, Sept. 29, 2013
Soviet Defector Fled Russia to Start a New Life in Canada-Now He’s Helping to Restore an Old Jewish Cemetery in Siberia: Joe O’Connor, National Post, Oct. 29, 2013
Book Review: Wonder of Wonders: a Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof: Alisa Solomon, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 29, 2013
New York Times,, Oct. 29, 2013
My father, Aladar Szegedy-Maszak, a Hungarian diplomat, dined with Adolf Hitler three times.
And then he went to the concentration camp at Dachau. As secretary to the Hungarian ambassador to Germany from 1932 to 1937, my father watched the rise of the Führer. He encountered him socially at a reception and two dinners — the first time on Feb. 10, 1933, at Hitler’s first speech as chancellor. He remembered how sweat poured from Hitler’s face, soaking his uniform. The speech left my father cold, but also deeply unsettled by the rhapsodic reactions of the audience. “This was my first personal experience that we were dealing with a quasi-religious mass movement,” he wrote, “or perhaps more accurately, a mass psychosis.”
My father knew how devastating Nazi rule would be for the Jews. Hungarian Jews came to his office in droves, imploring him for advice as to how they could help themselves as property was seized and small businesses destroyed. He met movie directors and actresses; small-business owners; a landlord who owned a block of houses in a workingmen’s neighborhood of Berlin who was told that if he didn’t leave, he would be charged with molesting women. There was nothing he could do.
The hardy perennial of anti-Semitism has made a dramatic comeback in Central Europe. Germany has recently reiterated its friendship with Israel, in response to recent anti-Jewish activity. Far-right political parties in France and Austria have gained force. In Hungary, a virulently anti-Semitic party, Jobbik, is now the third-largest in Parliament. One party official has called for a list of all Jewish legislators, to assess their loyalty — a move that even the right-wing government condemned. (Earlier this month, the government pledged, in the face of global criticism, to crack down on anti-Semitism.)
This all would have been troubling yet familiar to my father and other relatives of his generation. They came of age in a country that was a stew of anti-Semitism. After World War I, Communists ruled for more than four months, and since most of those in power were Jews, the link between Communism and Judaism was forged in many minds. For many Hungarians, to be anti-Communist meant being anti-Semitic. My father was not a convinced anti-Semite, but as a Hungarian Christian from a strong family tradition of support for the monarchy, he flirted with anti-Semitism as a young man — a fact he was ashamed of his entire life. The experiences in Berlin, he wrote, “extinguished the last, minimal remnants of anti-Semitism that I had had as a teenager during the counterrevolution.” His years in Berlin, and his two other encounters with Hitler, were antidotes to any vestiges of anti-Semitism he had once harbored.
At a diplomatic reception in September 1934 before the Nuremberg rally that Leni Riefenstahl famously memorialized in “Triumph of the Will,” my father could not reconcile the old-fashioned, modest, almost shy Hitler with the raving lunatic he had seen at rallies. The final time he met Hitler was June 7, 1942. The prime minister of Hungary was invited on an official visit to the Führer’s wartime headquarters in East Prussia and asked my father — now deputy head of the political division in the Foreign Ministry — to go with him. They ate in Hitler’s dining car and my father saw what he later referred to as “the Satanic nature of his character.”
Hungary was an ally of Germany, but an extremely unreliable one. Its officials refused to deport Jews to concentration camps. My father, known for his opposition to Nazism, had attempted to organize an effort to negotiate a separate peace with the Allies, an effort that failed and led to his arrest after the Germans invaded Hungary, on March 19, 1944. After a regime of Hungarian Nazis took over in October 1944, voices of moderation were jailed or killed. Some 440,000 Jews were deported. Members of the gendarmerie were enthusiastic participants in the process. Ultimately some 600,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered.
If anti-Communism represented one side of hatred for Jews, anticapitalism represented another. My mother’s family, the highly assimilated children and grandchildren of the Hungarian Jewish industrialist Manfred Weiss, fell into the latter category. My maternal grandfather was transported to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria after the invasion of Hungary, but he was lucky. He and his family were granted safe passage to Portugal after making, in effect, a deal with Heinrich Himmler for freedom in exchange for their property. Before this deal was made, my maternal grandmother had disguised herself as a Hungarian peasant during the Nazi occupation. She met the wife of the anti-Semitic former prime minister (and Nazi collaborator) Bela Imredy, with whom my mother’s family had once socialized (albeit not with great closeness). My grandmother asked if there was anything Mrs. Imredy could do to save my grandfather. Mrs. Imredy replied that she couldn’t. And as they parted she turned and said, ominously and elliptically, “Now it’s our turn.”
My parents married at the end of 1945, after my father was liberated at the war’s end. He later became the Hungarian ambassador to the United States. He resigned in 1947, after the Communist takeover. He and my mother managed to remain in America. My father died in 1988, my mother in 2002. I wonder what they would make of Hungary today. The same stereotypes of the past — the association of Jews with Communism and capitalism — fuel the support for Jobbik today.
Into this caldron has stepped the great conductor Ivan Fischer, himself a Hungarian Jew. He recently composed and performed an opera entitled Red Heifer that chronicles the story of a small group of Jews in the 19th century who were wrongly accused of the murder of a Hungarian girl from the countryside. It is a true story, one that uses the distant past to illuminate a dark time in the present.
Of course it is unlikely to change any minds. But the simple fact of it is an affirmation of the power of art to accomplish what decent politicians cannot. It is also an example the terrible persistence of a state of mind, a kind of psychopathy that did not begin with Hitler and, tragically, did not end with him.
Jerusalem Post, Oct. 9, 2013
A shadow many thought resigned to the dustbin of history is currently spreading over the European continent. Politicians, steeped in National Socialism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, are taking seats in European parliaments across Europe. Parties like the Golden Dawn in Greece, Svoboda in Ukraine and Jobbik in Hungary have gained significant political representation in their respective parliaments and portals of power. They are also parties steeped in hate and violence. Among their recent activities are calling for lists of Jews to be drawn up, holding intimidating midnight torch rallies, beating up minorities and allegedly even murdering dissenters. While these actions may be undertaken by a few, the party platforms of the neo-Nazi parties are attempting to offer hope to a Europe reeling from a massive economic depression.
As we well know from the past, this is another strong echo of the past; the Nazis were able to gain power in Germany because of dire economic circumstances. In some parts of Europe, unemployment among youth is over 50 percent, and these parties are specifically targeting the malcontents among their populations. As someone who has spent the whole of his professional life in education, I sincerely believe that the greatest shield against hate is knowledge. The more people, particularly the younger sectors of society, understand about the true consequences of Nazi ideology, the more likely they are to abhor it.
A short time ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Balkan region. While I was in Macedonia I was particularly impressed with the attitude of the Macedonian government toward commemorating those Jews who perished in the Holocaust. I was particularly touched by the government initiative for schools to visit the Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of Macedonia in Skopje. Every year since its opening, thousands of Macedonian schoolchildren visit the center to learn about the Holocaust and particularly about the murder of thousands of Macedonian Jews at the Treblinka death camp. Speaking to my parliamentary colleagues in Macedonia and some of the participants on these visits, it is clear that these visits have a chilling yet vital effect.
While the Holocaust is a very well known subject in Israel, in parts of Europe the average schoolchild will not be familiar with even its most basic details. These visits put the children face to face with the consequences of hate and evil. They are taught to disavow hate, racism and xenophobia because of the information they absorb during these short trips. In 2006, three Scottish academics began studying whether educating high school students about the Holocaust has an impact on pupils’ citizenship values and attitudes, and particularly those values and attitudes relating to various minority or disadvantaged groups. The study found that there were positive dispositions ascertained toward minorities in the aftermath of the lessons on the Holocaust. In terms of comparing the core sample with their peers who had not had the opportunity to study the Holocaust, there is evidence that the core sample had stronger positive values, were more tolerant and more disposed to active citizenship by their understanding of individual responsibility with regard to racism. The authors of the study wrote to the Scottish authorities in their conclusions that the evidence “certainly suggests that learning about the Holocaust in primary school can have both an immediate and lasting impact on pupils’ values.”
There are many similar studies which demonstrate that learning about the Holocaust and visiting Holocaust memorials or even concentration camps has a positive effect on the moral compass of individuals and can prove to be an important buttress to the steadily growing neo-Nazi propaganda. In 2000, the now renamed International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an inter-governmental organization, signed the Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust. The stated aims of the IHRA are to mobilize and coordinate political and social leaders’ support for Holocaust education, remembrance and research at national and international levels.
While the IHRA was originally created to fight ignorance and denial with regard to the Holocaust, the teaching of the Holocaust can have a much wider impact on European society. It can be an antidote against the hate that is on the rise in large parts of Europe. It can militate against the feelings of despair neo-Nazi groups are feeding off of. European countries should follow the Macedonian model of sending as many children as possible to Holocaust museums and concentrating resources on Holocaust education. As Jews, we applaud the study of this great tragedy that befell our people. However, European leaders should welcome and increase these initiatives for their own reasons, primarily to teach the values of tolerance and to stem the rise of the growing neo-Nazi phenomena. They are an vital investment in the European future.
As the essayist George Santayana famously said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Europeans must remember this dark chapter of history because there are events taking place every day which are eerily reminiscent of the National Socialists’ amassing of political power leading up to the Holocaust. Europeans must be taught the past so they can stand in the way of these groups in ways that their ancestors did not, before it is too late.
Arutz Sheva, Nov. 1, 2013
Zeev Elkin, Israel's deputy foreign minister is worried that the chasm between the EU and Israel will continue to grow if there is no solution to the new EU criteria concerning Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. I think Elkin is worrying too much. Yes, Israel is heavily dependent on trading agreements with Europe, but it’s just as true to say that Europe is dependent on Israel. Why? For the simple reason that Europe must become a dynamic knowledge economy if it is to compete with Asia and the US, and the best way to achieve this is for the EU to work closely with its neighbor and economic partner, Israel.
After all, when it comes to knowledge-based industries, Israel is one of the most competitive economies on the planet thanks to its remarkable capacity for innovation. Indeed, it is no secret that Israel is a world-leader in the hi-tech and start-up sectors. Israel’s remarkable laboratories and scientific institutes are the envy of the world and a magnet for international investment. Let’s look at the facts. Israel boasts around 4,000 technology start-ups, which is more than any other country outside the US. Not surprisingly, half of Israel's exports are of the hi-tech variety. Israel leads the world in patents for medical equipment and is a supplier of inexpensive but crucial medicines to Europe (such as Copaxone for multiple sclerosis and Actos for type 2 diabetes). And it has attracted the most venture capital investment per capita in the world, 30 times more than Europe.
In the years and decades to come, Israeli engineers, computer scientists, inventors, chemists and biologists will drive not only Israel’s economy but will provide benefits to Europe and the world at large. The UK for example is quietly building solid trade links with Israel amid talk of a stronger partnership between British and Israeli companies in the areas of innovation, hi-tech and science. (The fact that a young and tiny country like Israel is well ahead of the UK in terms of research and development speaks volumes about the lackluster nature of British industry.) If Europe wants to compete with China and the US in the areas of medical technology, homeland security, communications and aviation, then it must cooperate with Israel and jettison its pointless obsession with Palestinian Arabism. On one level, the EU is well aware of this. This is why Israel was the first non-European country to be associated to the EU’s Research and Technical Development program. It is also why the EU wants Israel involved in the Horizon 2020 program. But there is a problem. In July the EU issued guidelines (due to come into effect next January) that say any agreement between the EU and Israel must include a clause in which Israel relinquishes its claim over East Jerusalem and Judea-Samaria. This is unacceptable to Israel and has jeopardized Israel’s involvement in Horizon 2020, the EU’s flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness.
Antonio Tajani, the European Commission’s vice president for enterprise and industry, has pledged to strengthen industrial cooperation between the EU and Israel. Indeed, the whole point of his recent two-day mission to Israel was to procure Israel’s cooperation in the areas of space technology, communications and water technology. The implication is that without Israeli input, EU industry will lag behind the rest of the world. Tajani specifically wants Israel to sign the Horizon 2020 agreement because Europe needs Israel’s cooperation in the areas of job creation and scientific research. In other words, Israel’s involvement in the flagship scheme would not only benefit the Jewish state, it would boost prosperity in Europe. This is echoed by Elmar Brok, a German Christian Democrat politician and foreign policy adviser to Angela Merkel. He has publicly stated that Israel’s participation in Horizon 2020 is important to Europe. “I think it is a European interest. It would be stupid of us if we do not continue this cooperation,” he said, before adding: “Because it is very much to our advantage.”
The deadline to sign Horizon 2020 is the end of November, which is why the EU is trying desperately to reach a compromise solution in the coming weeks. Without Israel, Europe is less competitive. And in the aftermath of a global recession and a continuing Eurozone crisis, a return to economic competitiveness is vital for the well-being of Europe and the rest of the world. The EU leadership must be realistic and abandon the insane boycott of Judea and Samaria and concentrate instead on building solid relations with the world’s leading innovator, Israel.
France: Antisemitism Now Mainstream: Guy Millière, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 30, 2013— When a leading Jewish organization complained about "a dangerous trivialization of anti-Semitism," the President of the TV channel responded by saying that the Jewish community had "no sense of humor."
The Righteous: Shula Kopf, The Jerusalem Report, Sept. 29, 2013— It is 50 years since the State of Israel began to express the gratitude of the Jewish people to those rare individuals who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
Soviet Defector Fled Russia to Start a New Life in Canada-Now He’s Helping Restore an Old Jewish Cemetery in Siberia: Joe O’Connor, National Post, Oct. 5, 2013— Vladimir Rott is an engineer and, lately, an author, and if he were to add anything else to his career list a good fit might be high stakes poker player. Mr. Rott, see, has got guts. Nerve.
Book Review: Wonder of Wonders: a Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof by Alisa Solomon: Shelly Salamensky, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 29, 2013— As he lay dying, my father made my mother pledge that the soundtrack from Fiddler on the Roof would be played at his funeral.
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