Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Nazi war criminal, the Nuremberg prosecution expert… and a shared love of Bach

[from The Guardian]

A new collaboration between human rights lawyer Philippe Sands and opera director Nina Brazier sheds light on the parallels between Hans Frank, a key player in the Holocaust, and Hersch Lauterpacht, one of the prosecution team at his trial.

In the dock at the Nuremberg trials of 1945 and 1946: Hans Frank, born in Karlsruhe; once Adolf Hitler’s lawyer and governor general of Poland for the Third Reich, now charged with crimes against humanity for his part in the murder of three million people, including those in the death camps at Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec and Majdanek.

For the prosecution: Hersch Lauterpacht, who grew up in the Austro-Hungarian empire, near the city now known as Lviv in Ukraine, and who, after studying law in Vienna and London, went on to teach at Cambridge. He was a key figure in developing the idea of “crimes against humanity”, laying the foundation stones for international law and the modern laws of war. In his 40s, he was part of the British prosecution team at the trials of Frank and others.

There were strange connections between the two men, on opposite sides in the courtroom. The area in which Lauterpacht had grown up had been invaded by the Germans in June 1941. Lauterpacht was in England during this period and had been unaware that most of his family had been among the three million exterminated on Frank’s orders.

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A small miracle in the tortured history of Polish-Jewish relations

[from The Guardian]

Mir zaynen do!” (“We are here!”) The defiant Yiddish refrain of a Polish Jewish partisan song, written in the darkest days of the second world war, rings out in the winter sunlight, echoing between a sombre monument to the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto rising and the shining, brand-new Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The words are spoken, with passion, by a Polish Jewish survivor of Auschwitz, Marian Turski, who remained in Poland after the war. Here, still here, or here again, where so much of European Jewish life was lived for so many centuries. If an electric tingle does not go up your spine at such a moment, there is something wrong with your spine.

Then we pass into the museum, through a giant twisting canyon of sand-like stone, conceived by the architect to recall Moses’s parting of the Red Sea. Down a curling marble staircase we find a multimedia exhibition that documents 1,000 years of Polish Jewish history. The Holocaust is there, of course, but the story does not begin or end with the Holocaust. “It is not a museum of the Shoah,” says the president of Israel, at this opening ceremony. “It is a museum of life.”

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Book Review: How I Stopped Being a Jew by Shlomo Sand and Unchosen: The Memoirs of a Philo-Semite by Julie Burchill

Interesting book review (not strictly related to this blog’s core topic, but interesting nonetheless)

[From the Guardian]

Review by Will Self

In 2006, as the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) were undertaking their second major incursion into Lebanon, I resigned as a Jew. I did it publicly in an article for the London Evening Standard. My resignation wasn’t a protest against Israeli aggression – why would they care about such a gesture? – but aimed, I believed, against prominent leftwing English Jews, who, despite the complete contradiction between their espoused values and the undemocratic, apartheid and territorially expansionist policies of the so-called Jewish homeland, continued vociferously to support Israel. A couple of years earlier, on Question Time, I had also challenged Melanie Phillips over her campaign to force British Muslims to take a loyalty oath, saying: if British Muslims, why not British Jews? But on that occasion, when she had accused me of being an antisemite, I was still able to play my trump card: I’m Jewish.

The reaction to my resignation was pretty muted. I did receive an email the following morning from a pressure group called Jews for Justice in Palestine, urging me to reconsider on the basis that it was perfectly possible for me to retain my Jewish identity while objecting to the activities of the Zionist state. In fact, I’d been surprised by my own apostasy (if it can be called that), and it’s only now, having read Shlomo Sand’s elegant and passionately felt essay, that I’ve come to understand why it is I resiled from … what? This heritage? Or is Jewry a people, a religion, or possibly – if pejoratively – a tribe?

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