Friday, April 27, 2007

They lifted her shirt and drew a cross on her abdomen 

Swastika daubed on French Jewish woman in anti-Semitic attack

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz Correspondent
Fri., April 27, 2007 Iyyar 9, 5767

A young Jewish woman was viciously attacked on Thursday by unidentified assailants in a train station in Marseilles. The attack was described by one observer as the "worst anti-Semitic incident in France since the murder of Ilan Halimi" over a year ago.

French police investigating the incident have imposed a gag order on all details of the attack, but David Roche, a Jewish Agency representative in France who is in touch with officials there said the incident is being described as an anti-Semitic attack.

According to details received from Roche, the attack occured in the afternoon when a 22-year-old woman arrived at the metro station of the La Rose district - which has a mixed Muslim and Jewish community.

According to reports, two unidentified men of Middle Eastern appearance approached the woman and began abusing her. At some point, they began hitting her, and one report states that she was dragged by the hair.

When they saw a Star of David on her neck, they lifted her shirt and drew a cross on her abdomen. One of the witnesses said it was a swastika.

The two assailants fled the scene.

In a telephone interview from Paris, Roche told Haaretz that Marseilles police have set up a special investigation squad and are searching the La Rose district.

The young woman gave testimony to the police for many hours, and sources at the Jewish Agency say she was confused and found it difficult to tell her story.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Whitewashing the Nazi past 

They won't allow history to be rewritten

By Leonie Schultens
Mon., April 23, 2007 Iyyar 5, 5767

How do you turn a former Nazi prosecutor into an opponent of Hitler's regime? It seems that Gunther Oettinger, the minister president of the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, thought the death of former German politician Hans Filbinger at age 93 justified such historical revisionism. In a eulogy honoring Filbinger's life, Oettinger said: "Hans Filbinger was no National Socialist. On the contrary, he was an opponent of the Nazi regime. However, he was unable to evade the regime's tight control, as were millions of others."

Hans Filbinger, it should be recalled, enjoyed a very prosperous postwar career in the ranks of Germany's Christian Democratic Party (CDU) of current Chancellor Angela Merkel. Filbinger led Baden-Wuerttemberg from 1966 until he was forced to resign in 1978 after the media uncovered his activity as a naval judge in Hitler's Germany.

In his graveside speech, Oettinger claimed that contrary to popular belief, no verdict issued by Filbinger ever led to the death of German soldiers. As it happened, many Germans, and especially the German media, disagreed with his evaluation, especially in light of the fact that the sister of one of Filbinger's victims expressed her outrage at the eulogy. In 1945 Filbinger oversaw the execution of 22-year-old Walter Groeger for intending to desert to Scandinavia.

The amount of pressure German politicians and the media exerted on Oettinger after his speech was remarkable. The "Filbinger Affair" remained front-page news a whole week, prompting calls for Oettingers resignation and even the establishment of a fact-finding committee to investigate Filbinger's role in Nazi Germanys naval courts.

The head of the opposition Social Democrats in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Ute Vogt, called for Oettinger's resignation. "It is one thing that Filbinger was unable to recognize his injustice, quite another that Oettinger is also unable to differentiate," she said. Chancellor Merkel also publicly criticized her fellow party member, saying that while Filbinger's achievements should be honored, his eulogy should have raised several critical questions with regard to Germanys Nazi past.

The German historian Hans Mommsen accused Oettinger of "national blasphemy," a fitting description for the minister president's eulogy which turned Filbinger from a spineless Nazi follower - and implementer, as the judgment against Groeger shows all too clearly - into someone who was opposed to the Nazi regime.

While Oettinger could have very distastefully claimed that during the Nazi era Filbinger was forced to act in certain ways - and even this would have been a poor argument - it is impossible to turn the former marine judge into an opponent of the Nazi era. Because the war was nearly over, Filbinger did not need to issue a death sentence on Groeger, and he certainly did not have to be present to witness the execution.

It is encouraging to see Germans of all political convictions rally together to oppose the rewriting of history. Oettinger tried to justify his speech by saying that cultural norms hold that when eulogizing someone, the positive aspects of the person's life should be highlighted. While this may be true for people outside the public limelight, it is not applicable to public figures, and it is certainly not permissible for politicians to whitewash or even erase the dark spots in a person's biography - even more so if these are marked by swastikas.
While it is regrettable that ministers of Oettinger's standing consider it "permissible" to make such statements today, viewing the past as water under the bridge, what should be remembered about this episode is not the view of one individual, but the great extent of public pressure brought to bear on him.

True, the German political establishment cannot make an example of every individual who wishes to forget about or even glorify the Nazi past. To some, this may be a serious shortcoming, but one which, sadly, is difficult to rectify, especially considering that public discourse and education have for years condemned Nazi horrors. But by not allowing Oettinger to get away with his statements, the German government is showing that such attitudes are neither tolerated nor condoned.

Oettinger, in the end, had to issue a public apology for his remarks. He has not likely heard the last about his sympathetic speech honoring Filbinger's death. For one, the union for the victims of Nazi military justice has announced that it will file a petition against him for insulting and defaming Nazi victims. And when, one day, people will write Oettinger's eulogy, they will be sure to mention the short, but intense, debate that turned a conservative German politician into a historical revisionist.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Attacks on Jews rise during 2006 

'Alarming' rise reported in attacks on Jews in 2006

By Yigal Hai
Mon., April 16, 2007 Nisan 28, 5767

The number of physical attacks on Jews worldwide last year was more than double those that occured in 2005, according to an annual report released yesterday by Tel Aviv University's Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism.

The 270 assaults recorded took place primarily in schools, in the work place and near Jewish institutions, according to the report, which classifies the rise as "perhaps the most alarming finding that emerges from the 2006 data." Compiled in coordination with the World Jewish Congress and released to the public on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the report states that crime-scene evidence indicates that Muslims constitute a disproportionately high amount of the perpetrators.

Some 590 acts of violence and vandalism against Jewish targets around the world took place in 2006, compared to 400 in 2005 - marking a record high in anti-Semitic incidents since October 2000, the report found. It said 19 of the incidents were classified as major attacks perpetrated with a weapon and involving intent to kill, an increase over the 15 such incidents recorded in 2005. The total number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2005 totaled 400.

Prof. Dina Porat, who heads the institute for the study of anti-Semitism and racism, cited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial and this summer's war in Lebanon as the major factors spurring anti-Semitic violence.

The greatest increase in the incidence of such violence, according to the report, took place in Australia, Canada, Britain and France. Of the 442 incidents in Australia, 47 were violent attacks targeting individuals and community facilities, while Canada saw the number of violent incidents rise from 44 to 74.

The report found that anti-Jewish sentiments have been increasing particularly in the French-speaking areas of Canada.

The level of anti-Semitism in South Africa hit a peak in 2006, when it recorded the highest number of related incidents since officials began keeping detailed records two decades ago, according to the report.

It said 79 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded there last year, compared to 20 in 2005 and 37 the previous year, and that they reached a peak during and after this summer's war in Lebanon. The number of major incidents of violence and vandalism also rose, from three in 2005 to 15 last year, the report found.

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