Tag Archives: Simon Wiesenthal Center

Special Report: Rise of far right in Europe being overlooked

Western mainstream media had been fully geared up to cover the expected victory of the far right presidential candidate, Norbert Hofer, in the recent Austrian election. The win of the Green party candidate, Alexander Van der Bellen, robbed them of the opportunity to cover what they had been predicting as the first European post-Second World War far right head of state election victory.

Norbert Hofer
Norbert Hofer

Yet, the rise of far right European parties and candidates into the established international realpolitik, rather than their traditional fringe position, is something that has been and is being fundamentally overlooked.

In France, the far-right National Front won 6.8 million votes in regional elections in 2015 – its largest ever popular endorsement.

The far-right Jobbik party who polled third in Hungaryorganises patrols by an unarmed but uniformed “Hungarian Guard” in Roma (Gypsy) neighbourhoods.

In Denmark, the government relies on the support of the nationalist Danish People’s Party and has the toughest immigration rules in Europe.

While, the leader of the nationalist Finns Party is the foreign minister of Finland, after it joined a coalition government last year.

Andrzej Duda
Andrzej Duda

Less than a year after Poland elected Andrzej Duda, a previously little-known right-wing politician as president, Warsaw’s nationalist government moved to strip a leading Jewish Holocaust scholar of a national honour for asserting simply what the previous Polish presidential incumbent, Bronislaw Komorowski, acknowledged. Namely, that Poland was in part responsible for Nazi war crimes against its Jewish population during World War II.

Perhaps one of most shocking situations currently exists in Croatia. During World War II, Croatia was ruled by the Ustashi, an axis-aligned regime that was every bit as bad as the Nazis. The Ustashi killed over 600,000 people, 500,000 of which were Serbs. The Ustashi-ruled Independent State of Croatia had a population of around 6.3 million, meaning the Ustashi killed around one in 10 of its own people. Eighty percent of the nation’s Jews were murdered.

Ustashi
Ustashi – axis-aligned regime during World War II, every bit as bad as the Nazis.

Now the Ustashi are making a comeback. It has now penetrated cabinet ministers and the mainstream media. Ognjen Kraus, the leader of Croatia’s Jewish communities, said that the government “is simply not doing anything” and that it “does not want to.”

The nation’s new right-wing coalition that came to power at the start of the year is responsible for much of this change. As part of that coalition, Zlatko Hasanbegović became Croatia’s culture minister in January. He was once a member of a small far-right, pro-Ustashi party.

Ustashi supporters in modern Croatia
Ustashi supporters in modern Croatia

Since taking office, Hasanbegović has cut funds for progressive groups and independent media and has endorsed a revisionist documentary film that denies the scale of the crimes committed by Croatia during its alliance with Nazi Germany in the 1940s.

Reporters Without Borders, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Serb and Jewish groups in the region have all condemned the new government.

The government’s tolerance of such a man as a minister in government is creating a climate of fear throughout the country.

Croatian soccer fans frequently chant Nazi-era slogans during games with only indirect criticism from the government. During one game with Israel, fans were heard to shout, “We Croats! Ustashi! Ustashi!”

Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s office in Israel and Eastern Europe, warned that Croatia is “a country where manifestations of fascism and anti-Semitism are very common, especially in the local soccer stadiums, but not easily identifiable by those ignorant of the country’s World War II and Holocaust history.”

In the UK much of the media coverage of anti-Semitic issues has focused attention to the political left following the storm that has engulfed the Labour Party. Equally, many in the western media, following mass immigration stories and terrorist outrages, have, unsurprisingly, concentrated on radical Islamist matters and any associated anti-Semitism. Yet, if world history, our history, tells us one thing, we cannot afford to ignore or overlook the rise of the far right. If the mainstream media will not do it we shall have to do it for ourselves.

One German bank – Two Jewish controversies

Bank Sparkasse, one of the largest banks in Germany, has managed to generate two separate controversies in a matter of months but with one common theme.

In the first, Israel’s embassy in Berlin together with local and international Jewish groups sharply criticized the banking group for allowing an opponent of the existence of Israel, who likened the Jewish state to the Third Reich, to deliver a talk in its office space titled “Jew against Zionism.”

In the second, a Sparkasse bank teller refused to open an account for an Israeli living in Berlin, telling him that Israeli passport holders are under embargo.sparkasse

Lilian Rosengarten, an activist from New York, spoke last year in a Sparkasse office of the town of Düren, near Aachen. She is a member of the International Anti-Zionist network.

Dr. Robert Neugröschel, the head of the 1,000-member Jewish community in greater Aachen, which includes Düren, told The Jerusalem Post at the time that the Rosengarten talk was a “disgrace and of course anti-Semitic.”

Hildegard Förster-Heldmann, a Green Party politician who heads the Darmstadt municipal cultural affairs committee, said, “A comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany is absurd, disrespects the descendants of the Nazi victims and belittles the criminality of Nazi Germany.”

Efraim Zuroff
Efraim Zuroff

The action of the bank came in for further criticism from Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi-hunter who suggested the people at Sparkasse “should know better.”

“The Ostfriesen paper wrote earlier this year about an exhibit addressing the banking network’s role under the Third Reich, saying that “Sparkasse loyally served the Nazi regime.”

A Sparkasse spokesman, Dirk Hürtgen, suggested the bank “Could not establish that anti-Semitic thoughts were expressed in connection with the Düren municipal museum.”

Asked by the Post reporter if he agreed with Rosengarten’s statement that Israel is an apartheid state, Hürtgen said, “I can’t judge that.” He asked “why is it relevant whether anti-Semitism took place” in the room and noted that there are “different opinions.”

Meanwhile, just today, Ynet News reported that Israeli, Yakir Avraham, went to the Sparkasse’s branch in the Alexanderplatz area of Berlin, and when he gave the teller his Israeli passport in order to open a bank account, the teller took the passport and went into another room to check it. She returned a few minutes later and said “I’m very sorry, but we cannot open up a bank account for you here. We aren’t allowed to open accounts for citizens of countries under embargo.”

Avraham was reported as saying, “I was in shock at first. How did it get to the point that they treat us like lepers? I took my passport and left the bank.”

The bank management were challenged as to whether there was a specific bank policy concerning Israel, and what they meant by “a country under embargo.”

The bank responded by claiming, “It’s clear that this isn’t our business policy. This is an unfortunate mistake made by a young colleague who is still in training, and who didn’t know how to deal with the situation properly. She deeply apologizes for the mistake. We hope that Mr. Avraham accepts our explanation and apology.”

 

 

 

Planned glorification of Lithuanian priest who organised Jewish massacre protested

Over the last 12 months there has been an escalation in rows over historical memory related to the Second World War and the glorification of some of those with highly suspect records. They predominantly relate to Eastern European nations the most recent of which was Hungary.

Now the small town of Moletai in Lithuania has come under fire for its announcement that it intends to name a street after Jonas Zvinys, a local priest accused of organizing a gang that murdered the city’s Jews in 1941.Moletai.12

Lithuanian writer Ruta Vanagaite launched an investigation into Zvinys at the behest of Simon Wiesenthal Center Nazi hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff, with whom she recently co-authored a book on Lithuanians and the Holocaust.

Speaking with The Jerusalem Post from Vilnius on Thursday, Vanagaite said that after searching through KGB archives she discovered that the priest indeed set up the gang in question, one of whose leaders was his own brother, who would later confess to his role in the massacre.

At Vanagaite’s urging, local news portal delfi.it investigated the matter as well, discovering that Zvinys had been awarded a colonelcy in 2002 by the office of the president at the behest of the country’s state-sponsored Study of the Genocide and Resistance of the Residents of Lithuania.

Delfi asked the center about Zvinys and was referred to the president’s office and the Moletai municipality, with the local mayor, who is related to Zvinys, asking why there should be a problem in honoring him if he was already feted by the government.

They were all throwing the ball to each other and no one wants to investigate without somebody else asking for it,” Vanagaite said. “I think it’s good because it shows that the whole system doesn’t work because there is nobody who takes responsibility to investigate without anybody asking for it and nobody asks for it.”

“The media exposure that this case has generated may serve as a deterrent to other towns interested in glorifying Holocaust collaborators”, she said.

Follow this link to the original article source.

Holocaust denier and White supremacist gets VIP funeral

Willis Carto, one of the United States’ most prominent Nazi sympathizers, anti-Semitic hatemongers, Holocaust denier and white supremacist thought leader was laid him to rest in the United States most famous military cemetery, Arlington National on Wednesday.

cartoCarto, who died at age 89 in October, was wounded as an Army soldier in the Philippines during World War II, earning him a Purple Heart medal.

Purple Heart recipients are among those veterans and family members of veterans who may be interred at Arlington’s military burial site — as long as they were subsequently honorably discharged, and not convicted of a state or federal crime.

The Huffington Post reported on a request to bury Carto in Arlington in November. Jennifer Lynch, a spokeswoman for the cemetery, said at the time that a person’s political views did not have any bearing on their eligibility for burial.

After World War II, Carto even renounced the cause for which he’d fought, “Hitler’s defeat was the defeat of Europe. And of America,” Carto wrote in a letter published in 1966.

Through a number of initiatives — including the Liberty Lobby, a white supremacist organization Carto founded, and the Institute for Historical Review, a group he started to promote Holocaust denial — Carto enjoyed influence among a marginal but significant population of American bigots especially motivated by anti-Jewish hysteria.

At the height of the Liberty Lobby’s popularity in the 1980s, there were 400,000 subscribers to its newsletter, according an obituary for Carto in The New York Times.

Todd Blodgett, who managed advertising for the Liberty Lobby and spied on Carto for the FBI from 2000 to 2002, said the deceased anti-Semitic leader wanted to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery because of the “irony,” given his pro-Nazi views.

“He was laughing about it: ‘I’m probably America’s biggest Hitler fan, but I’ll be buried alongside all these World War II vets,’” Blodgett told HuffPost in November.

Ironically, while people gathered to remember Carto on one floor of the cemetery’s administrative building, right above them, a much larger crowd was memorializing Dorothy Goldstein, the recently deceased wife of a retired career Army officer. Goldstein was Jewish.

One mourner, a retired career Army officer who was a classmate of Goldstein’s husband at West Point, said it “disappointed” him to learn that a famous Nazi sympathizer was being memorialized in the same building as his friend.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called Carto’s burial in Arlington National Cemetery a “national disgrace.”

“For a person who supported a man responsible for the greatest mass murder in the history of mankind to be buried in the sacred ground where service members who fought to do everything to defeat this man, it profanes the cemetery,” Hier said.

“If Hitler had won the war, defeating first Britain and then the United States, Willis Carto would have been a perfect candidate to be a cabinet member in Hitler’s government,” he added.

Read more here.

Antisemitism on Europe’s doorstep – ASW warns about ‘navel gazing’

coollogo_com-23172872We here at ASW.com believe that only by understanding the wider global context of Antisemitism can we properly start to understand and challenge this evil. Only by moving away from navel gazing in just our own back yard can progress be made. All too frequently people and organisations appear to trouble themselves simply about what is going on in their locality. It is a start but it is not enough. Through our global horizon scanning ASW is able to begin the process of ‘joining the dots up’ to make a real difference!

In our latest find ASW brings you a report about the hostility minorities, including Jews, face currently in the Baltic states and the on-going attempts by some in those countries to rewrite Holocaust history.

Efraim Zuroff
Efraim Zuroff

Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, writing for i24news explains this year marks the 25th anniversary of Baltic independence and more than a decade of full membership in the European Union and NATO. If the assumption was that those developments would cure Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian society from the scourges of fascism, racism, and anti-Semitism, the events of the past month clearly show that these plagues have not been eradicated. During this period, four separate neo-Nazi/ultra-nationalist marches were held in the Baltics, all of which I attended as a monitor/protester, and I believe that it is important to publicize what I saw and attempt to evaluate the importance and potential dangers posed by those events.

The first question in that regard is the legal status of these marches. Those in Latvia (in Riga on March 16, to honor Latvian SS veterans) and in Lithuania (in Kaunas on February 16 and in Vilnius on March 11, both days on which Lithuanian independence is celebrated) have been a subject of controversy since they were launched, in Latvia in the 1990s and in Lithuania in 2008. Local courts decided to allow the marches on the basis of freedom of speech, and all attempts to have them banned, or at least moved out of the city center, including my appeals this year to the mayors of both Lithuanian cities, have not achieved any practical results.

The second question concerns the sponsors of the events and the number and identity of the marchers. With the exception of Estonia, where the march was organized by the Blue Awakening youth movement, closely linked to the new Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), the organizers in Lithuania and Latvia are not officially connected to political parties, but clearly identify with those on the extreme right. In the past, there were government ministers who participated in the SS veterans’ march in Latvia, but since the annexation of Crimea, the government has forbidden such participation and last year it cost a minister his post. This year quite a few MP’s from the right-wing All for Latvia party marched, and the ministers of justice and of culture, along with Parliament Speaker Ingrida Murnietse, attended a memorial service for the SS.

The number of marchers ranged from 200 in Tallinn to 500 in Kaunas and 1,500 each in Vilnius and Riga. In Estonia, the overwhelming majority of marchers were young – most appeared to be high school students – whereas in Lithuania, most were young adults and in Riga there were also many elderly supporters. One must remember, however, that for every person marching, there are at least several hundred Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians who fully agree with the marchers’ ideology. Thus, for example, in Estonia’s election several days after the march, the EKRE obtained seven parliamentary seats (out of 101), after garnering more than 46,000 votes.

Two dangerous themes were dominant in practically every event. The first was the open hostility toward local minorities – Poles, Russians and Jews in Lithuania, the latter two in Latvia and Estonia. The second was support for ongoing efforts throughout much of post-Communist Eastern Europe to rewrite the narrative of World War II and the Holocaust. These are designed to hide or minimize the extensive crimes by local Nazi collaborators, promote the canard of equivalency between Nazi and Communist crimes (erroneously classified as genocide), and glorify those who fought against the Soviets regardless of whether they had murdered Jews during the Holocaust.

“Section of the march gets underway at Vilnius’s Cathedral Square on the March 11th independence day event organized by neo-Nazi and far-right elements with state acquiescence.”

Thus, Latvian SS veterans are portrayed as freedom fighters who paved the way for independence, even though the Nazis had absolutely no intention of granting the Baltic countries sovereignty, and marchers in Kaunas carried a huge banner with the image of Juozas Ambrazevicius, the prime minister of a short-lived provisional Lithuanian government, who publicly supported the Third Reich and lethal measures against Lithuanian Jews. In both Lithuanian cities many marchers wore swastikas, and in Vilnius, a large black SS flag was displayed. Only in Estonia was this theme missing, but each summer an international gathering of SS veterans from all over Europe is held, including from countries in which such meetings are legally banned.

The final question relates to the reactions to the demonstrations. Unfortunately, with the exception of Riga where about two dozen protesters symbolically “fumigated” the Freedom Monument after the SS march, there were very few counter-protesters, 12 individuals in Kaunas, no one besides myself in Tallinn, and about 20 in Vilnius, almost all of whom came thanks to the dedicated efforts of Prof. Dovid Katz, the editor of www.defendinghistory.com who is the sole active Jewish voice in the Baltics against Holocaust distortion.

The only good news was that for the first time since Faina Kukliansky assumed the post of Chairperson of the Lithuanian Jewish community, she issued a statement denouncing the march in Vilnius (after ignoring the one in Kaunas), and several community officials participated in our protest. There was only silence from the Jewish communities of Latvia and Estonia, as well as from the Israeli embassies in Vilnius, Riga and Helsinki.

Outside of the region, with the exception of Russia, there were no official responses despite numerous international media reports, especially about the Riga march. I can only surmise that perhaps the incessant, and to a large extent justified (albeit often exaggerated) criticism from Moscow of this phenomenon, has silenced those in the West, who long ago should have been the first to object.