mercredi 29 juillet 2015


Quand les fictions deviennent méthode 

Rencontre avec Ivan Jablonka

Vos grands-parents sont des anonymes broyés par la Shoah, parmi des millions d’autres. Comment l’historien que vous êtes peut retracer la vie de ces gens qui seraient restés de parfaits inconnus s’ils ne vous avaient eu pour descendant ?


Message from Holocaust found on attic door

Man renovating his home in Dutch town of Bilthoven discovers text written on wooden panel by Jewish couple who hid in house in 1942; Yad Vashem records reveal couple was likely murdered in Auschwitz.

Jelle Kapitein, who lives in the Dutch town of Bilthoven, began renovating his house recently. During the renovation, one of the laborers dismantled a wooden panel of the door frame in the attic and spotted an old, unclear text.

A restoration of the panel revealed the pencil-written request from a couple of Jews who had hid in the house during the Holocaust: Locate our family.

The couple, Levie Sajet and Ester Zilberstein, wrote their personal details, dates of birth and address in the message in 1942, and asked that whoever found it would try to find their relatives after the war. They added a blessing for the person who would discover their message, saying: "The God of Israel, have mercy upon your humiliated brothers."

he house's owner, who failed to find information about the couple's fate and whether they or their relatives survived the Holocaust, turned to a local television station and invited a crew to take pictures of the old door with the text left by the couple, hoping that their family members would hear about it.

"I would like to contact their relatives and relay the message to them," Kapitein said.

The list of Pages of Testimony on the Yad Vashem website contains names identical to the ones of the Jewish couple which hid in the Bilthoven attic. According to the Friends of Yad Vashem association in Holland, Levi Sajet and Ester Zilberstein were murdered by the Nazis in the Auschwitz death camp.,7340,L-4678122,00.html


Goethe University in Frankfurt Establishes Professorship Devoted to Holocaust Studies

The post is the first of its kind in Germany and begins in 2017

According to German paper The Local, Goethe University in Frankfurt will be the first German university to host a professorship devoted purely to the study of the Holocaust. The news was announced last week by the Hessian Ministry for Science and Arts, who confirmed that funding had been secured to establish the position. Although a number of institutions in Germany have departments devoted to the study of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, Goethe University’s permanent professorship in Holocaust research will be the first of its kind. The candidate, who will start in 2017, will also head Frankfurt’s Fritz-Bauer Institute, an organization devoted to documenting the history of the Holocaust, reported Haaretz.

According to German publication Deutsche Welle, the professorship will have “a specific focus on the repercussions that have followed the Holocaust through to the present day.” And Olaf Kaltenborn, a spokesperson for Goethe University, commented, “This is a milestone in German Holocaust research.”

Boris Rhein, the science minister of Hesse State in Germany, said that coming 70 years after the Holocaust, the professorship is “long overdue.” According to Deutsche Welle, he added people should not forget what happened in the “land of the perpetrators.” However, a press release from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, highlighted that a number of German Universities stress that the new professorship does not mean research into the Holocaust wasn’t already being carried out. For example, TU Berlin has a Center for Research on Antisemitism, and the Munich Institute for Contemporary History has a department exclusively devoted to the Holocaust. The statement also points out that many German professors are known, although not exclusively, for their research on Holocaust-related topics.

Still, Goethe University in Frankfurt is also seen as an ideal location to house the new academic chair because of the history of the institution. In a statement, Goethe University Vice President and Professor Manfred Schubert-Zsilavecz said that he university was opened in 1914 as a citizen’s foundation by a predominantly Jewish group of founders. The Times (UK) also reported that one of the university’s current buildings was previously utilized by the Third Reich to manufacture Zycklon B, the pesticide used in the Auschwitz gas chambers. (The university took hold of the buildings in 1998 and re-opened after renovations in 2001.)

Schubert-Zsilavecz applauded the decision of the new professorship as an important step forward in German academia. “It gives us the important impetus to better understand discrimination and oppression in the world by looking at the structure of the domination of Nazi control during the war,” he said.

mardi 28 juillet 2015


In Search of Slovakia’s Jewish Heritage

Tomas Stern was born decades after World War II, decades after Nazi Slovak militia fired bullets into a pile of hay, narrowly missing his father — not yet 5 years old — who lay trembling beneath the straw.

“They got some information that there are some Jews hiding there, so they ran into the stable,” Stern explained. “They were too lazy to look around, so they were shooting into the heap.” The childhood trauma left Stern’s father a stutterer who as an adult memorized poetry to overcome his disability.

This, perhaps, is why Stern decided to become a healer; he trained as a physician. But in 2006 he took on a different sort of restoration project.

He decided to salvage the 200-year-old Stupava synagogue, long abandoned and in ruins — one of the few of its type left in Europe.

“I realized that if nobody is doing something with the synagogue, it will collapse,” explained Stern, who lives in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, about a 15-minute drive away.

I stood with Stern in this cavernous space, with its distinctive nine vaulted bays, their blue paint still bright in places, as he talked about his rescue project. After World War II, only four or five Jews returned to this village, he said. At one time, a third of the population had been Jewish.

That part of the story is one I know well, for Stupava was the home of my great-grandparents — the place where a Geiringer brother and sister married a Hindels sister and brother. The two couples gave birth to a large tribe of doubly related cousins, and although many moved away to big cities such as Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest, they would return each spring to celebrate a raucous Passover with the grandparents.

Until the Holocaust. None of my family returned to Stupava. Many can be found among the ashes of Auschwitz and other death camps. The survivors are scattered around the world, with their children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren living in Australia, Canada, France, England and the United States.

Until a few weeks before meeting with Stern in this small village, I had no idea that a synagogue even existed in Stupava.

I did know about the cemetery. I also knew, from relatives who had visited our great-grandparents’ graves, that it was locked, that the man who lived next door had the key, and that no one in my family knew his name or how to reach him. Worrying that I would travel here for naught, I searched the Internet, hoping to find someone in Stupava — or Stampfen, as it was known during the Austro-Hungarian Empire — who could lead me to the neighbor.

Instead, I found Dr. Tomas Stern and his not-for-profit organization, Jewrope, along with a surprising trove of new information, new research and newly formed organizations focused on Slovakia’s Jewish heritage. In 2005, for instance, Maros Borsky of Bratislava wrote an exhaustive doctoral dissertation that became a book — “Synagogue Architecture in Slovakia: A Memorial Landscape of a Lost Community.” It catalogs some 100 synagogues and prayer halls in Slovakia, of which only a handful are still in use for Jewish worship, often irregularly.


In Lviv, a Dubious Anti-Semitic Demonstration

Ukrainian Jewish leader : ‘In this region there does not exist even the slightest manifestation of xenophobia or ethnic intolerance’

Late last week, an anti-Semitic demonstration, widely considered to be a bogus provocation, was held outside of the regional administration building in the western Ukrainian capital of Lviv where an estimated 100-150 protesters clutched oblong and professionally printed banners. Two of these featured anti-Semitic slogans. The signs were aimed at the administration of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his allies. On one of the posters were inscribed the assumed “authentic” Jewish names of a dozen of Ukraine’s political leaders. Other banners accused the “Jewish fraternity of selling off Ukraine’’ and another cautioned against the advisability of “Jews in power.” But the only prominent member of the Poroshenko government who is Jewish is parliament speaker Volodymyr Groysman.

The demonstration was organized by a civic organization called “Active Element,” which had been newly registered in January 2014 by a man called Oleh Onats. The news portal interviewed Onats, who admitted to being a “co-organizer” of the event, but declined to provide the names of his partners. He also denied that money had been paid to protestors for participating even though the news channel had apparently filmed such transactions. During the protest, police were present en force but did not move to make arrests as the demonstrators had previously filed for a legitimate permits even though they were careful to not specify the exact nature of their grievances. (This demonstration did not seem to be in coordination with the ultra-nationalist Right Sector demonstrations taking place in Kiev at about the same time.)

lundi 27 juillet 2015


Ukraine : un village aménagé pour les réfugiés juifs

Des milliers de Juifs ukrainiens qui ont tout perdu au courant de la guerre civile sont devenus des refugiés. Leur maison dans l'est du pays se trouve au milieu d'un champ de bataille et leurs biens ont été nationalisés.

Plusieurs organisations juives se sont mobilisées pour leur venir en aide, dont Habad, le Joint, l'Agence Juive et la fondation 'Hakeren Layedidout' (International Fellowship of Christians and Jews).

Mais il faut trouver des solutions à long terme. Cela sera sans doute possible grâce à l'initiative du rabbin Moshé Reouven Asman qui a acheté avec des amis, pour la somme de 6 millions de dollars, un terrain qui pourrait accueillir ces démunis près du village d'Anatevka. Un nom très symbolique qui est également celui de la petite localité où vivait Tevye le laitier dans la fameuse comédie musicale "Un violon sur le toit" inspirée du livre de Sholem Aleichem.

En se rendant sur place, le rabbin Asman a découvert qu'un village juif avait existé à cet endroit et qu'un rabbin connu y était enterré: il s'agit du Rav Mordehaï Motel Twersy de Tchernobyl. Anatevka se trouve à une demi-heure de distance de la ville de Kiev.

Dans le nouveau complexe d'habitations qui va voir le jour, il est prévu de construire 76 appartements et une vingtaine de chambres d'hôtel pour des séjours provisoires. Il est également question d'ériger sur place une école, un  orphelinat, une maison de retraite, une synagogue et un bain rituel.

Le projet a été lancé l'an dernier et les travaux progressent rapidement. En attendant, de nombreux Juifs ont été pris en charge et plus de 200 sont montés en Israël avec l'aide de l'Agence Juive.

Claire Dana-Picard /

dimanche 26 juillet 2015


Don’t Forget to Laugh

Facing protests, Mel Brooks’s ‘The Producers’ reminds us 

that the art of a good joke is all about context

Mel Brooks originally unleashed The Producers on the world in 1968 as a film, for which he won the Academy Award for best original screenplay. In 2001, he adapted the script for the stage, earning a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The Producers remains one of the most popularly and critically successful musicals ever made. Which means that plenty of us really like laughing at Hitler.

The plot is simple enough: Max and Leo, two Broadway producers, scheme to become millionaires by putting on the worst flop Broadway’s ever seen. Their search for a lousy script leads them to Springtime For Hitler: A Gay Romp With Eva and Adolf at Berchtesgaden, a love letter to Hitler written by Nazi sympathizer Franz Liebkind. After procuring the exclusive rights to the script from Liebkind—which they earn by swearing their eternal allegiance to Hitler—they convince the flamboyantly gay and notoriously lousy director Roger de Bris to sign on to the production, with permission to make Springtime for Hitler “just as gay as anyone could possibly want.” But though Max and Leo are sure Roger’s antics will offend audiences and force their show to close immediately, camping up Hitler backfires. Audiences love the show, and critics rave. Max and Leo learn a lesson as their flop becomes a hit: Hitler, in the right hands, can be a real treat for audiences.

Alas, not everyone understands the humor in seeing the 20th century’s cruelest dictator prance around stage like a mincing queen, as I discovered this summer during a regional production I’ve been performing in at the Olney Theatre Center in suburban Maryland. Several weeks into our run, our company management and a few of our actors began receiving messages via email and Twitter from a man who was concerned about our willingness to joke about such sensitive material.


How a French Museum Whitewashes Le Corbusier's Anti-Semitism

Le Corbusier — the Swiss-French master of modernist architecture — was a fascist sympathizer who had an office in Vichy during the Second World War and displayed anti-Semitism in his private correspondence. But an exhibition currently running at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, “ Le Corbusier: Mesures de l’homme, ” won’t tell you any of this.

The revelations about Le Corbusier’s political beliefs have come to light in books published this year — 50 years after his death — including “ Le Corbusier, un fascisme français ” by Xavier de Jarcy and François Chaslin’s “ Un Corbusier. ” These studies of archived material sparked a national debate in France over the architect’s legacy and exposed the connection between Le Corbusier, anti-Semitism, fascism and the Vichy regime.

During the 1920s Le Corbusier, along with his friend, the doctor Pierre Winter, became tied up with Le Faisceau, a short-lived fascist party with sympathies for Mussolini, and later the Parti fasciste révolutionnaire. With Winter, in the 1930s, Le Corbusier created the architectural journals “Plans” and “Prélude.” It was in these journals, de Jarcy uncovered, that Le Corbusier wrote pieces in support of Nazi anti-Semitism and contributed other “hateful editorials.”

His private correspondence from the period demonstrated support for Italian fascism and Nazism. “Hitler can crown his life with a great work: the planned layout of Europe,” he wrote to his mother in October 1940. Le Corbusier also made overtures to Mussolini. In 1934, Le Corbusier was invited to Rome by Mussolini to lecture, and that same year he attempted to meet the Italian dictator in order to get the job of designing Pontinia, a new town built on drained marshland. Two years later, and three months after the Italian conquest of Addis Ababa, the architect wrote to Mussolini offering his vision for a future planned city in Ethiopia.

And then comes Vichy. Between 1940 and 1942, Le Corbusier sought work in this rump puppet state run by the loathsome Maréchal Philippe Pétain, the cowardly Lion of Verdun. He kept an office in Vichy, and drew up plans there for the regenerations of Algiers — a city he described as “the leprous sore which had sullied the gulf and the slopes of the Sael” — that were ultimately rejected. His Unité d’habitation in Marseille was later seen as “as a perfect expression of the Fascist program” by vichyistes.

Need it be said that a man with such close ties to fascism had none-too-savory views about Jews? As early as 1910, he wrote to a friend to discuss installing “smoking rooms for fat Jews.” In August 1940, in correspondence with his mother, Le Corbusier wrote, “money, Jews (partly responsible), Freemasonry, all will feel just law.” He wrote of 1943, which came during the period of mass deportation of Jews from France to the extermination camps of the East, as “a year in which nothing special happened.”

“ Le Corbusier: Mesures de l’homme ” does not touch on any of this. It chooses to present the architect’s development and evolution within the artistic and architectural context of the age. Le Corbusier, the exhibit claims (in a purple and near-incomprehensible language that only exists, and indeed thrives, in art galleries), “drew on the organic laws of human perception and cognition to define the principles of a multi-faceted creativity at the origins of modernism.”

This included a design principle Le Corbusier named the Modulor, a system of measurement on the scale of the average man that he became oddly obsessed with after he conceived it in 1943. This Monsieur Tout-le-monde, or Everyman, with a height of 183 cm, or 226cm with his arm in the air, was presented by Le Corbusier as a matter of philosophical, scientific and historical fact, since he claimed it to be based upon classical systems. The Modulor would be used in the conception of his greatest work, the Unité d’habitation — perhaps the finest piece of modernist architecture built in Europe in the 20th century — as well as the planned city of Chandigarh in northern India.

What the exhibition should say, but doesn’t, is that the Modulor was born 1943, in a period in which two ideologies dominated Europe with ideas related to the perfectibility of man and the standardization and rationalization of the human form: communism and fascism; homo Sovieticus and the Aryan race. Modernism had been rejected by the Nazi regime as degenerate, but its principles echoed through many of their grand design projects, including the colossal beach resort at Prora. The connection between totalitarianism and an architectural form that seeks to shape man rather than be shaped by man’s needs is inescapable.

Given Le Corbusier’s fascist sympathies, this seems like a rather important concept and connection to leave out. With all we know about the architect, to try and explain his work, and especially the Modulor, without considering both the political and historical context in which he operated, as well as his own ideological sympathies, is fundamentally dishonest and a total obfuscation. It makes the exhibition a grand lie.

“ Le Corbusier: Mesures de l’homme ” believes itself to be innovative to the extent that modernist architectural principles are rarely considered with the human dimension in mind. The exhibition, therefore, is an attempt to humanize and personalize the work of a man considered detached and theoretically-minded. If the curators have managed to achieve this goal — and that much is disputable — it is only by excluding elements of his biography they must have deemed problematic, that would undermine the image of Le Corbusier they are trying to shape of him as paternalistic and humanistic.

Everything that is difficult has therefore been erased, and for shame, since the curators have barred the patron from an opportunity to understand Le Corbusier’s work in full. Without an actual examination of the relationship between Le Corbusier’s architectural and political ideas, his Modulor and his vichyisme, this exhibition is more or less worthless.

Liam Hoare is a frequent contributor to the Forward.

vendredi 24 juillet 2015


Le Pen sera jugé pour ses propos sur les chambres à gaz

France : Le leader historique de l'extrême droite va être de nouveau jugé en correctionnelle pour avoir déclaré, le 2 avril, que « les chambres à gaz étaient un détail » de la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

Jean-Marie Le Pen a nouveau dans le boxe des accusés. Il va être de nouveau jugé pour avoir répété, malgré de précédentes condamnations, que «les chambres à gaz étaient un détail» de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale, a appris vendredi l'AFP de source judiciaire. Le parquet de Paris a cité à comparaître il y a quelques semaines le patriarche de 87 ans, cofondateur du Front national (FN) aujourd'hui présidé par sa fille Marine, pour contestation de crime contre l'humanité.

Une « persécution supplémentaire »

La date de son procès en correctionnelle devant le tribunal de grande instance de Paris n'a pas encore été fixée. Interrogé par l'AFP, Jean-Marie Le Pen a réagi en dénonçant une «persécution supplémentaire» à son encontre.

La première des nombreuses sorties du tribun d'extrême droite sur le sujet remonte au 13 septembre 1987, quand il avait déclaré : «Je n'ai pas spécialement étudié la question, mais je crois que c'est un point de détail de l'histoire de la Seconde Guerre mondiale».

Elle lui avait valu une condamnation judiciaire quatre ans plus tard, suivie d'autres en 1997 et 1999, en France et en Allemagne, après la répétition de propos similaires. M. Le Pen avait ensuite encore récidivé en 2008 dans un magazine français et en 2009 au Parlement européen.

Un énième dérapage

Interviewé le 2 avril dernier par un journaliste du groupe de radio-télévision RMC-BFMTV qui lui demandait s'il regrettait ces propos, le tribun d'extrême droite avait refusé de se renier.

«Ce que j'ai dit correspondait à ma pensée que les chambres à gaz étaient un détail de l'histoire de la guerre, à moins d'admettre que ce soit la guerre qui soit un détail des chambres à gaz», avait-il déclaré.

Ce énième dérapage assumé avait suscité la colère de Marine Le Pen, engagée dans une stratégie de 
« dédiabolisation » du Front national pour favoriser ses ambitions à l'élection présidentielle de 2017.

A la suite de ces propos, Jean-Marie et Marine Le Pen sont entrés dans une guerre politico-familiale ouverte. La présidente du FN a fait suspendre son père du mouvement, mais ce dernier a récemment obtenu l'annulation de cette décision par la justice.

jeudi 23 juillet 2015


The true story of one of Berlin’s vanished Jews

The essence of the Holocaust always has been the personal and heart-wrenching stories of its victims. In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, those who, against all odds, had survived did not speak about their tragic experiences; it was too painful and often too humiliating. That changed in the ensuing decades with the advent of oral history collections, Holocaust museums and the publication of memoirs. Still, some survivors, like Marie Jalowicz Simon, who was 11 years old and living in Berlin with her middle-class Jewish family when Hitler came to power in 1933, refused to tell her own children the remarkable tale of how she had eluded death. Then, one day in 1997, her son, Hermann Simon, a historian, turned on a tape recorder and urged his mother to tell him her story. And, in a candid interview that used 77 tapes and stretched into many months, completed only a few days before her death in 1998, Marie related her incredible ordeal as Jew in hiding in Berlin during the war.

Hermann’s interview with Marie was transformed into a book published in German in 2014 and aptly entitled Untergetaucht (“Submerged”). From mid-1942 on, when Marie, alone following the death of her father in 1941 (her mother had died in 1938), symbolically ripped off her Star of David marking her as a Jew, she was akin to a U-Boat, as the writer and free-speech advocate Lisa Appignansei explains in the book’s introduction. Marie was one of 1,700 vanished Jews in Berlin, who somehow stayed under the acute Nazi radar.

Described here with penetrating insight and frankness, Marie’s survival as a young Jewish woman relied on several factors: enormous courage and daring that tempered the chilling fear that nearly consumed her; the brave and dangerous assistance of many non-Jewish resisters—all described with delicious, novelistic detail—who supplied her with shelter, food and fake identification papers; and sheer luck, which played a part in the survival of many European Jews during the Holocaust. She endured forced labour, encountered indifferent Nazis who ignored her obviously phony identification papers, repeatedly evaded the Gestapo and its numerous spies, lived side-by-side with Nazi sympathizers whom she fooled, and suffered through a self-inflicted miscarriage.

When the war ended, Simon emerged from hiding and, like other survivors, gradually rebuilt her shattered life in what was soon to be East Germany. She married and became a professor. “I would have liked to weep for joy and relief,” she recalled about her liberation, “but I felt no emotion at all.”