Iraq cutting cooperation with U.S. over Jewish archives


Iraq said it is cutting archaeological cooperation with the United States because the U.S. has not returned Iraq’s Jewish archives.

Iraqi Tourism and Archaeology Minister Liwaa Smaisim is pushing for the return of the archives that were removed from Iraq following the 2003 U.S. Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the French news agency AFP.

Iraq was home to a large Jewish community prior to 1948 before most Iraqi Jews immigrated to Israel.

The archives, which were discovered in the flooded basement of Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, include Torah scrolls, and Jewish law and children’s books.  Seventy percent of the collection consists of Hebrew-language documents and 25 percent is in Arabic. The rest of the documents are written in other languages.

Smaisim, a member of the anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement, told AFP that Iraq will “use all means” to retrieve the archives.

“One of the means of pressure that I used against the American side is I stopped dealing with the American [archaeological] exploration missions because of the case of the Jewish archives and the antiquities that are in the United States,” Smaisim told AFP.

Asked for comment, U.S. Embassy spokesman Michael McClellan told AFP that the archives were in “the temporary custody of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration for conservation, preservation and digitization” and that “all the material will return to Iraq at the conclusion of the project.”

Commentary magazine donates archive to University of Texas


Commentary, the seminal neoconservative magazine, has donated its archives to the University of Texas at Austin.

Founded in 1945, the New York-based magazine has played an outsized role in American intellectual life as a venue for essays on politics, culture and Jewish issues. Commentary moved rightward along with its editor Norman Podhoretz, who took the helm in 1960, and the magazine became a leading voice of the emerging neoconservative movement.

The Commentary archive that the University of Texas is receiving spans material from 1945 to 1995, including correspondence with S. Y. Agnon, Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin, Saul Bellow, William F. Buckley, George Orwell, Philip Roth and Tom Wolfe.

The archive will be housed at the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum that already houses the papers of a number of prominent American Jewish writers, such as Norman Mailer, Bernard Malamud, David Mamet, Isaac Bashevis Singer and Leon Uris.

“The early decades of Commentary, especially its first 25 years, should prove to be an invaluable resource for the social and intellectual history of the postwar years and the gradual assimilation of Jews into the mainstream of American life,” said Morris Dickstein, distinguished professor of English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, said in a statement released by the Ransom Center on Monday.

Commentary was long published by the American Jewish Committee, though it had editorial independence. Commentary became fully independent of AJC in 2006 and is today edited by John Podhoretz, Norman’s son.

Holocaust archives volunteer arrested for document theft


A volunteer at a private Holocaust archives in Texas was arrested for stealing documents and selling them online.

Mansal Denton, 20, was a volunteer for a year-and-a-half at the Mazal Holocaust Library in San Antonio of the largest privately held Holocaust archives in the world, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Retired Mexico City businessman Harry Mazal, 73, owns the archives. He reportedly spent $1 million collecting the documents.

While scanning documents to post on the archive’s website, Denton allegedly stole the documents. In December, Mazal found some of the missing documents for sale by Denton on line. 

Denton continued to return to the archives until last week. He was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree felony theft.

Among the items Denton is believed to have stolen, the Chronicle reported, were a handwritten letter by Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler, a diary kept by Himmler’s daughter and documents related to the Nuremberg War Crimes trials.

Millions of Shoah records will finally be revealed


When Jews too weak to work were routinely marched from their concentration camp barracks into oblivion, when shrieking families with arms and fingers outstretched were torn apart during deportations, when the winds of politics and opportunity scattered refugees and survivors throughout the world, many rightfully thought that the story of their persecution and fate would be as indistinguishable as a single ash rising from a chimney.

Even though millions did not survive, much of their story did. The details are embedded within the miles of records housed by the International Tracing Service (ITS) located at Bad Arolsen, Germany.

But for 60 years those records have been secret, available only to survivors and their nuclear families tracing loved ones, and even then only after years of heartbreaking persistence.

After a decades-long international effort, the sensitive ITS archives will soon be pried open. The unlocking follows a hard-negotiated accord among the 11 nations that comprise the commission that owns the archive. Those countries are the United States, France, England, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland and Israel, plus the two former Axis powers, Italy and Germany.

The International Red Cross was given custody and control of the archive, but only pursuant to the agreement.

Only an estimated 25 percent of the prodigious ITS collection relates to Jews. The remainder covers the fate of Gypsies, Poles, Dutch and numerous other groups targeted for oppression and destruction.

The implications for Holocaust and Nazi-era research are staggering.

Among the many by-products of the ITS revelations is vast additional proof of IBM’s minute-to-minute involvement in the 12-year Holocaust, new insights into the corporate beneficiaries of Germany’s slave and forced labor programs, an explosion of evidence that insurance companies participated in and benefited from the decimation of the Jews and the dark details of persecution suffered by millions of individuals who would have otherwise disappeared into the bleak vastness of Hitler’s war against humanity.

Some of the most important archival details of the nearly impenetrable archives have finally been revealed, exclusively to this writer.

At the forefront of the campaign to open the ITS files has been a passionate group of senior officials of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). These include director Sara J. Bloomfield; senior adviser Arthur Berger; Paul Shapiro, director of the museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies; and the State Department’s Edward O’Donnell, an ex-officio member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.

Berger, in an interview, recalled his part in the frustrating struggle to open the archive: “We tried for years to work quietly behind the scenes — since 1991.” He added, “Paul Shapiro went with a group, and they refused to even let him tour the archive.”

A USHMM senior official, speaking on background, specified with irritation that the 11-member nature of the governing commission “would meet once per year for one day, each year in a different city. They received a dog-and-pony show from the ITS director, had a good lunch and went home. It was run like many a company board of directors.”

Finally, Berger went public on March 7, 2006, issuing a press release openly criticizing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), charging, “the ITS and the ICRC have consistently refused to cooperate with the International Commission board and have kept the archive closed.”

Momentum and pressure resulted in a multinational agreement initiated May 16, 2006, to finally “open the archives,” allowing a full copy to reside in each nation’s designated archive. USHMM officials took center stage, vowing that America’s copy would be in their possession within months. Despite the inflated publicity, the digital transfer of the records has not happened and is not scheduled any time soon.

Bad Arolsen sources, in mid-January 2007, said the prodigious task of digitizing their mega-million record collection is progressing only slowly and is years from being complete. Sources on both sides of the Atlantic say the inter-governmental paperwork is not nearly complete.

The ICRC, for its part, has scoffed at the museum’s tactics, including Berger’s March 2006 press release. Asked if the press release attacking the Red Cross was accurate, one senior ICRC official in Geneva quipped, “I wouldn’t believe everything you read.”

Indeed, this reporter determined that USHMM guesswork had been the source of much of the inaccurate and unverified reporting in the media about ITS holdings. For example, Shapiro stated that the ITS held “30 [million]-50 million pages of records” divided into three collections: prisoner records; forced and slave labor; and displaced persons, but no one knew the details because the ITS has refused to reveal any information. Shapiro stated he based his remarks on “various statements by various people.”

In point of fact, this reporter has exclusively determined that ITS records number approximately 33.6 million pages divided into four record groups:

Section 1, dubbed “Incarceration Records,” concern concentration camps and other forms of imprisonment, totaling more than 4.42 million pages, dated 1933 to 1945, constituting 12.5 percent of the holdings.

Within Section 1, record subgroup 6 is a trove of prisoner cards organized by numbers and not names. These numbers were by and large assigned according to the Hollerith punch card system designed by IBM engineers. Forty-nine camps and ghettos are listed in this section, most assigned an alphabetically sequential number by the ITS. The Amersfoort police torture camp in Holland leads the list, numbered 1.1.1; the trio of Auschwitz camps in occupied Poland is 1.1.2, but those records hail mainly from the transport camp, with very little from the Birkenau death camp, and almost nothing from the Monowitz labor camp. The Warsaw Ghetto is listed as 1.1.4. Buchenwald is listed as 1.1.5.

Section 1’s subgroup 1.2.1 includes prisoner transport lists that were organized by IBM Hollerith and generally referred to in Nazi documents as “Hollerith transfer lists.” Subgroup 1.2.3 contains Gestapo registrations.

Section 2, dubbed “Forced Laborers,” with documents dating from 1939 to 1947, includes corporate involvement and insurance matters, and totals more than 4.45 million pages, or 13.5 percent. These files include the names of companies that benefited from slave labor. They are divided mainly by the Allied zone of occupation that captured the files. The American Zone is subgroup 2.1.1; the British Zone is 2.1.2. Nazi employment bureau records, such as the Employment Exchange in Warsaw numbered 2.3.3, are also contained in this collection. An IBM customer site in almost every concentration camp organized slave labor through the Abteilung Hollerith or Hollerith Department in each camp’s Labor Assignment Office. IBM personnel serviced the machines on site in the camps. These documents often carry IBM’s stamp of authenticity, “Hollerith erfasst,” that is, “registered by Hollerith.”

Briefs: Journalist: West Is losing ‘War of Ideas;’ Daniel Pipes comes to Pepperdine


Journalist: West Is Losing War of Ideas

The conflict between the West and terrorist Islam is not about terrorism, land or economic grievances but about fundamental ideas — and the West is losing.

So posits Melanie Phillips, a feisty British journalist, who backed up her thesis in an hour of rapid-fire arguments and examples at UCLA on Monday.

Phillips is the author of “Londonistan,” a book that has triggered heated discussions in her native country by indicting the alleged blindness and fecklessness of British society in the face of an increasingly hostile Islam at home and abroad.

Under the banner of “multiculturalism,” academe, the church and the media have transformed the meaning of the term from a decent respect for all cultures to the politically correct rule that the minority is always right and the majority always wrong, Phillips said.

In Britain, Europe and the United States, conventional thinking now has it that no religious or social demand by an aggrieved Muslim population can be refused because they are the victims of oppression.

“This is the dialogue of the demented,” she declared.

While most Muslims are not terrorists or direct supporters of terrorism, even those mislabeled as “moderates” believe that the Jews dominate the West, that the West wants to destroy Islam, and therefore Jews, as “a metaphysical evil,” are to blame for the Islamic world’s problems, she said.The West, including Israel, has not recognized that Islam wants ultimately to establish a medieval caliphate, and is “ceding the battleground of ideas,” Phillips warned. “We’re on a cliff and going over the edge.”

During an extended question-and-answer period, only one person, Hillel Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, suggested a more conciliatory approach toward Islam.

The rest of the audience of some 70 students and faculty seemed supportive of Phillips’ arguments. There were no hostile questioners, as those who might have been were likely occupied with the simultaneous opening of Islamic Awareness Week on campus — whose main lectures carried such titles as “Qur’an (Koran): The True Message of Jesus” and “Muhammad: The Inheritor of the Judeo-Christian Tradition.”

Sponsoring Phillips’ appearance were Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a national pro-Israel organization that has just formed a UCLA chapter, the UCLA Political Science department and the activist group StandWithUs.

Phillips also spoke in the evening at the Wilshire Theater, at a public event sponsored by the American Freedom Alliance and the Temple of the Air, part of her national tour with stops in New York, Detroit and Atlanta.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Islamists’ Critic Comes to Pepperdine

Middle East expert Daniel Pipes, who is among most prominent scholars to have warned of the growing threat of radical Islam to the West before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and a lightening rod for criticism among some Muslim groups, is spending the spring semester at Pepperdine University in Malibu as a visiting professor. Pipes, who received his doctorate from Harvard, is teaching a graduate seminar on Islam and politics.

The founder and director of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank that publishes Middle East Quarterly, Pipes has won supporters for his warnings of possible dangers emanating from the Muslim world. Some Muslim groups have characterized him as intolerant.

“Over the years, Pipes has exhibited a troubling bigotry toward Muslims and Islam,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group. “He perceives Islam, and not just extremism, as a threat.”

Pipes said CAIR is a radical organization that “lies.” He rejects the notion that he is anti-Islam.

Through his writings and speeches, Pipes has waged a multi-pronged campaign against “Islamists,” whom he argues want to subvert democracy and impose Islamic law on their respective societies.

“My effort is to try and isolate them,” Pipes said, “and convince politicians, the media, the academy and other institutions that this is an outlook that should be spurned, shunned.”

— Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

Wiesenthal Center Adds Persian-Language Information

Following an Iranian government-sponsored conference late last year questioning the existence of the Holocaust, local Iranian Jewish activists have provided a Persian-language translation of 36 questions and answers regarding the Holocaust for the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Web site (www.wiesenthal.com/36questionsinfarsi). Iranian Jewish activist George Haroonian provided the translation, directed at Iranians surfing the site for facts about the Shoah.

“This is important because we not only need to counter the propaganda and lies being spread by the Iranian government about the Holocaust, the Jewish people and Israel, but we also need to present younger Iranians with the truth,” Haroonian said, adding that he hopes the translations will encourage other Web sites to repost the information for those who do not understand English.

Haroonian’s Council of Iranian Jews collaborated with the Wiesenthal Center last year by inviting Persian-language media outlets based in Los Angeles to visit the Museum of Tolerance to learn about the Holocaust.

In the last two years, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly denied the Nazi genocide and called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

— Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

Web Archive Brings Voices of Past to Present

Want to listen in on conversations with the late Bella Abzug, George Burns and Abba Eban? Want to watch a video of the historic Freedom Sunday Rally for Soviet Jewry in 1987, when 250,000 Jews from around the country gathered in support of their Russian brethren? Want to listen to a broadcast of a Jewish religious service conducted by American GIs on liberated German soil?

Thanks to the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) new archival Web site (www.ajcarchives.org), you now can with only a few clicks of a computer mouse.

Nazi Hunter Wiesenthal Dies at 96


Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust-survivor-turned-Nazi hunter who always spoke of justice, not vengeance, is dead at 96.

Wiesenthal died in his sleep at his home in Vienna, his office announced Tuesday. Working with a small staff from his cramped three-room office, Wiesenthal sifted through tens of thousands of documents and followed countless leads, compiling archives that helped bring some 1,100 Nazi criminals to justice.

“Simon Wiesenthal was the conscience of the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. The center, named for Wiesenthal, came to embody the thrust of his work as a Jewish human rights organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust by fostering tolerance and understanding.

Officials at the center pledged this week to continue Wiesenthal’s work and also to maintain his legacy. Hier said he last spoke with Wiesenthal only two weeks ago. An exhibit on the Nazi hunter’s life has been set up at the center’s sister organization, the Museum of Tolerance, where a memorial service also is planned for next week.

Wiesenthal “was a hero who carried the torch of justice at a time when there was a paralysis of conscience over responsibility for the Holocaust,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and himself a Holocaust survivor. “No Nazi war criminal, big or small, was able to rest peacefully because he never knew when Wiesenthal’s voice of moral outrage would find him…. He brought a measure of justice to the 6 million victims of the Nazi genocide,” Foxman said.

Wiesenthal devoted more than half a century to tracking escaped Nazi war criminals. He and his wife lost 89 members of their families in the Holocaust.

“When the Holocaust ended in 1945 and the whole world went home to forget, he alone remained behind to remember,” Hier said. “He became the permanent representative of the victims, determined to bring the perpetrators of the history’s greatest crime to justice. There was no press conference and no president or prime minister or world leader announced his appointment. He just took the job. It was a job no one else wanted.”

“Justice Not Vengeance,” which was the title of Wiesenthal’s autobiography, became his motto and guiding principle for a commitment he considered unending.

“Survival is a privilege which entails obligations,” he wrote in the 1990 autobiography. “I am forever asking myself what I can do for those who have not survived. The answer I have found for myself (and which need not necessarily be the answer for every survivor) is: I want to be their mouthpiece, I want to keep their memory alive, to make sure the dead live on in that memory.”

Wiesenthal was best known, perhaps, for his role in tracking down Adolf Eichmann, the Gestapo technocrat who had supervised the implementation of the “Final Solution.” Wiesenthal helped trace Eichmann to Argentina, where he was abducted by Israeli agents in 1960. Eichmann was tried in Israel in 1961, convicted of war crimes and hanged for his role in the slaughter of 6 million Jews.

Though Wiesenthal had begun gathering and preparing evidence on Nazi atrocities for the War Crimes Section of the U.S. Army immediately after World War II, it was the success in bringing Eichmann to justice that prompted him to open his Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna and devote his life to hunting war criminals.

Among other high-profile fugitives he helped find were Karl Silberbauer, the Gestapo officer who arrested Anne Frank, and Franz Stangl, the commandant of the Treblinka and Sobibor concentration camps in Poland, whom Wiesenthal helped locate in Brazil.

Over the decades he also spoke out loudly against neo-Nazism and racism.

“The only value of nearly five decades of my work is a warning to the murderers of tomorrow that they will never rest,” he said in 1994. His prominent public stand sparked death threats and hate mail. In 1982, neo-Nazis left a bomb on his doorstep.

Although he maintained his office and staff in Vienna, Wiesenthal recently created something of a stir when he said that his work hunting Nazis was over. That’s not the position of the Wiesenthal Center, which Simon Wiesenthal did not direct. The center is still aiding international efforts to track down any last Nazi-era war criminals who could still be brought to justice. This month, a Spanish police unit was searching for one of the most-wanted figures still at large. A Spanish national police spokesman said new evidence points to the possibility that Aribert Heim, 91, may be living undercover somewhere near the Mediterranean coastal city of Alicante.

The Wiesenthal Center ranks Heim as the No. 2 most wanted Nazi war criminal, after Alois Brunner, an aide to Eichmann. During World War II, Heim murdered hundreds of people, largely via lethal injection, at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.

But there’s no question that the job of tracking down living Nazi war criminals is timing out.

“I found the mass murderers I was looking for, and I have outlived all of them,” Wiesenthal said. “If there’s a few I didn’t look for, they are now too old and fragile to stand trial. My work is done,” he told an Austrian magazine.

Leaders around Los Angeles and world this week said that Wiesenthal’s work would have lasting, universal impact well beyond its value to Jews around the world.

“He never restricted the genocide numbers to 6 million and he always insisted that people remember that Jews were not the only ones who were exterminated,” said Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom, who himself has worked to highlight Christians who rescued Jews in the Holocaust. Wiesenthal “felt it was important that people were accountable, that you simply don’t escape into the air and conceal your crimes and your obscenities.”

Though Wiesenthal’s zeal for justice was unflagging, Schulweis said, “he was not a man of vindictiveness. He was not vindictive.”

Schulweis said he had the honor of meeting Wiesenthal twice. In person, the man projected humility. He was “certainly not the Jewish Sherlock Holmes. There was something very modest. He was not concerned with solving any crimes to show how bright he was, but so that the killers of a dream should be brought to justice.”

California’s Austrian-born Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he and his wife “are deeply saddened at the passing of our great friend. Simon was a lion of a man, a survivor and a conqueror, a hero in every sense of the word. Simon turned the tables on the Nazi torturers and tormentors. Though he often seemed alone in its pursuit, he did not falter and he never wavered from his goal…. I will always be grateful that I knew one of the greatest men of our time.”

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II knighted Wiesenthal last year, one in a long series of international honors testifying to the power and importance of his often uphill and once solitary battle.

“The extraordinary thing about Simon Wiesenthal is how little help he had, and how few resources, just a long memory and tremendous determination,” said John Macgregor, Britain’s ambassador to Austria, on the occasion of the knighthood.

Announcing the award, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw praised Wiesenthal’s “untiring service to the Jewish communities in the U.K. and elsewhere by helping to right at least some of the awful wrongs of the Holocaust.”

“If there is one name which symbolizes this vital coming to terms with the past it is Simon Wiesenthal’s,” Straw said.

Lord Greville Janner, chairman of Britain’s Holocaust Educational Trust, said at the time that “no one in this world deserves it more than he.”

Wiesenthal was born on New Year’s Eve, 1908, in the town of Buczacz, now in Ukraine. He became an architect, married Cyla Mueller in 1936 and worked in an architectural office in Lvov.

After suffering under anti-Jewish purges following the nonaggression pact signed between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in 1939, both Wiesenthal and his wife were separated during the war and each barely survived the Holocaust before reuniting. They remained a devoted couple until Cyla Wiesenthal’s death in November 2003. Indeed, part of Simon Wiesenthal’s life story was a love story.

“Everyone who knew them at 17 had no doubt that the tall, dark Simon Wiesenthal and small, fair Cyla Mueller — so obviously besotted with each other — would one day marry,” Alison Leslie Gold wrote in “Fiet’s Vase and Other Stories of Survival: Europe 1939-1945,” which was published in 2003.

In 1941, invading Germans forced the Wiesenthals and other Jews into a ghetto, Gold wrote. “In fall of 1941, they were abruptly separated — without time for a real parting — and forced onto separate trucks, he with men, she with women.”

Early in 1942, the Nazi hierarchy formally decided on the “Final Solution,” the regime’s decision to exterminate all Jews. Throughout occupied Europe the genocide machine was put into operation. In August 1942, Wiesenthal’s mother was sent to the Belzec death camp. By September, most of his and his wife’s relatives were dead.

The Wiesenthals were deported to a newly built concentration camp — Janwska, then later transferred to a forced-labor camp in the same city. Wiesenthal realized that the Germans were targeting women and children, so he made plans to get his wife out. In exchange for maps and plans needed to blow up railroad yards and junctions, Gold said, Wiesenthal was able to obtain forged papers for Cyla, who was given a new identity as a Polish woman. She moved to Lublin and later to Warsaw.

She lived under the name Irena Kowalska in Warsaw for two years and later worked in Germany’s Rhineland region as a forced laborer without her true identity being discovered. Her blond hair helped her pass as a non-Jewish Pole.

The British liberated her from a labor camp in Solingen, Germany, in April 1945.

Wiesenthal escaped from the Ostbahn camp in October 1943, just before the Germans began liquidating all the inmates. In June 1944, he was recaptured and sent back to Janwska where he would almost certainly have been killed had the German eastern front not collapsed under the advancing Red Army. Knowing they would be sent into combat if they had no prisoners to justify their rear-echelon assignment, the SS guards at Janwska decided to keep the few remaining inmates alive. With 34 prisoners out of an original 149,000, the 200 guards joined the general retreat westward, picking up the entire population of the village of Chelmiec along the way to adjust the prisoner-guard ratio.

Few of the prisoners survived the westward trek through Plaszow, Gross-Rosen and Buchenwald, which ended at Mauthausen in upper Austria. Weighing less than 100 pounds and lying helplessly in a barracks where the stench was so strong that even hardboiled SS guards would not enter, Wiesenthal was barely alive when Mauthausen was liberated by an American armored unit on May 5, 1945.

By then, Simon and Cyla each had been told by friends that the other was dead.

“I had no hope my wife was alive,” Wiesenthal told Gold. “When I thought of her, I thought of her body lying under a heap of rubble and I wondered whether they had found the bodies and buried her.”

It was at that point that Wiesenthal began gathering information about Nazi war crimes. Through a series of coincidences, the couple was reunited in Linz, Austria. Both called the reunion a miracle.

The Wiesenthals settled in Vienna and had a daughter, Pauline, in 1946.

Wiesenthal’s Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna was a nondescript, sparsely furnished three-room office with a staff of four, including Wiesenthal. Contrary to popular belief and to some dramatic films based loosely on his life, Wiesenthal did not usually track down Nazi fugitives himself. His chief task was gathering and analyzing information. In that work he was aided by a vast, informal, international network of friends, colleagues and sympathizers, including German World War II veterans, appalled by the horrors they’d witnessed. He even received tips from former Nazis with grudges against other former Nazis. A special branch of his Vienna office documents the activities of right-wing groups, neo-Nazis and similar organizations.

Wiesenthal was never a man who looked only at the past. He always perceived his mission as larger than helping Jews and the victims of yesterday.

“For your benefit, learn from our tragedy,” he said. “It is not a written law that the next victims must be Jews. It can also be other people. We saw it begin in Germany with Jews, but people from more than 20 other nations were also murdered. When I started this work, I said to myself, ‘I will look for the murderers of all the victims, not only the Jewish victims. I will fight for justice.'”

He once told the Jerusalem Post: “The only value of nearly five decades of my work is a warning to the murderers of tomorrow, that they will never rest.”

Correspondent David Finnigan, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the Wiesenthal Center contributed to this article.

 

Stanley Kubrick’s Unrealized Vision


When Stanley Kubrick died in March 1999 during the post-production of his final film, “Eyes Wide Shut,” he left behind several pet projects he had been working on for decades. These included a science-fiction riff on “Pinocchio” (later finished by Steven Spielberg as “A.I.”), a historical biopic of the life of Napoleon and a Holocaust project with the working title “Aryan Papers.”

The recently released “Stanley Kubrick Archives,” an unwieldy coffee-table tome published by Taschen, sheds new light on the famously secretive director’s failed project. An essay by Jan Harlan, Kubrick’s brother-in-law and producer, details Kubrick’s longtime pursuit of the Holocaust as a subject for a film. Harlan writes of traveling to New York in 1976 to try and interest Isaac Bashevis Singer in contributing an original screenplay. What Kubrick sought from Singer was a “dramatic structure that compressed the complex and vast information into the story of an individual who represented the essence of this manmade hell.”

Singer, who—unlike many of his friends—was not a Holocaust survivor, gratefully declined, saying, “I don’t know the first thing” about the Holocaust.”

Kubrick shelved the project until 1991, when he read Louis Begley’s short novel, “Wartime Lies,” about a Jewish boy and his aunt who survive the war by snaking their way through Poland, pretending to be Catholics. Begley’s autobiographical tale so intrigued Kubrick that he was willing to shoot the project abroad—a dramatic decision for the director, who hadn’t left England for more than three decades. Kubrick got the go-ahead from Warner Bros.—which publicly announced the project as “Aryan Papers” (a reference to the documents required to escape deportation) in 1993—and he got fairly far along in the pre-production, hiring set and costume designers and casting several of the main roles. For the role of the boy’s aunt, Tanya, Kubrick considered Julia Roberts and Uma Thurman. However, preparations ceased when it became known that Spielberg had started working on “Schindler’s List.” Fearing competition, Kubrick shelved the project for a second and final time, and devoted his energies to “Eyes Wide Shut.”

Kubrick’s lifelong fascination with the Holocaust coexisted with extreme doubt as to whether any film could do justice to the subject. In 1980, he told the author Michael Herr that what he wanted most was to make a film about the Holocaust, “but good luck in putting all that into a two-hour movie.” Frederic Raphael, who co-authored the screenplay for “Eyes Wide Shut,” recalls Kubrick questioning whether a film truly can represent the Holocaust in its entirety. After Raphael suggested “Schindler’s List,” Kubrick replied, “Think that’s about the Holocaust? That was about success, wasn’t it? The Holocaust is about 6 million people who get killed. ‘Schindler’s List’ is about 600 who don’t. Anything else?”

The scholar Geoffrey Cocks has written extensively about Kubrick’s fascination with the Nazi era. In numerous essays and a book, “The Wolf at the Door: Stanley Kubrick, History and the Holocaust,” he argues that the Holocaust serves as the “veiled benchmark of evil” in many of Kubrick’s films, specifically “The Shining.” According to Cocks, the failure to bring “Aryan Papers” to fruition had to do with a profound awareness of “the problem of how to do ethical and artistic justice to the depiction of the horror of mass extermination,” a problem that has—in one form or another—plagued all postwar artists. Unlike Harlan, who recalls Kubrick’s great enthusiasm for the project, Cocks quotes Kubrick’s widow, Christiane, as telling him that Kubrick was horribly depressed throughout his work on “Aryan Papers.”

The Holocaust was such a sensitive issue that Kubrick’s reaction took the form of approach and avoidance, Cocks argues. Though Kubrick never confronted the subject head-on—and the scant appearance of Nazis in his films take the form of parody (as in “Dr. Strangelove” and “Lolita”)—Cocks writes that “[a]s a Jew in a gentile world, Kubrick would use his position as an outsider with a deep sensitivity to social injustice to expose the dark underside of society.”

A quote from Kubrick on the connection between rape and Beethoven in “A Clockwork Orange” illustrates Cocks’s assertion: “[It] suggests the failure of culture to have any morally refining effect on society. Hitler loved good music and many top Nazis were cultured and sophisticated men, but it didn’t do them, or anyone else, much good.”

Kubrick was a master at exploring the darker side of human nature, whether it was sexual obsession (“Lolita”) or the will to power (“2001: A Space Odyssey”) or human cruelty (“A Clockwork Orange”). It’s fascinating and terrifying to imagine what Kubrick’s Holocaust might have looked like.

Reprinted with permission from The Forward.
A.J. Goldmann is a writer living in New York.