Norwegian Police apologize for deporting Jews to Auschwitz

The Norwegian Police for the first time have apologized for rounding up Jews and sending them to their deaths during the Holocaust.

“On behalf of the Norwegian police and those involved in the deportation of Norwegian Jews to concentration camps, I wish to express regret,” Norway’s newly appointed police commissioner, Odd Reidar Humlegard, told the newspaper Dagsavisen.

Humlegard said about 300 police officers handled the deportation of 772 Jews to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in Poland. Only a handful survived.

His interview with Dagsavisen appeared on the 70th anniversary of the main deportation, when more than 500 Jews were loaded aboard an eastbound ship at the port of Oslo.

The Oslo Jewish Museum opened an exhibition on the deportation at 2:55 p.m. Monday, the ship’s exact time of departure. In total, 40 percent of Norwegian Jewry was deported; only a handful survived, according to the museum. The remaining 60 percent fled to neutral Sweden.

The exhibition focuses on the deportation itself, which was conducted by Norwegian police and militia members, according to Mats Tangestuen, the museum’s historian, and includes video interviews with 21 survivors.

A small part of the exhibition examines the life of about 900 Norwegian Jews who lived in exile in Sweden.

Earlier this year, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg formally apologized for his country’s role in the Nazi persecution of Jews.

Norway attacks spotlight far-right outreach to Jews, Israel

For decades after World War II, far-right political movements in Europe stirred up for Jews images of skinheads and Nazi storm troopers marching across the continent.

But in recent years, as European xenophobia has focused on the exploding growth of Muslims on the continent, right-wing anti-Semitism has been replaced in some corners by outreach to Jews and Israel. It’s part of an effort in far-right movements to gain broader, mainstream support for an anti-Muslim alliance opposed to the notion of a multicultural Europe.

Indeed, in the anti-Muslim manifesto attributed to Anders Behring Breivik, the accused perpetrator of the July 22 deadly attacks in Oslo and the nearby Norwegian island of Utoya, the pseudonymous author expresses sympathy for Israel’s plight and cites numerous critiques of the Palestinians.

“Aided by a pre-existing anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, European media have been willing to demonise the United States and Israel while remaining largely silent on the topic Eurabia,” the author writes in his manifesto, titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence.”

Later, he lists four potential political allies among Israel’s political parties: Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas and National Union.

Breivik’s apparent proto-Zionist viewpoint is shared by a number of far-right leaders around Europe.

“The Arab-Israeli conflict illustrates the struggle between Western culture and radical Islam,” Filip Dewinter, the head of Belgium’s far-right, anti-immigrant Vlaams Belang Party, said last December during a visit to Tel Aviv.

“Israel is of central importance to us,” German Freedom Party head Rene Stadtkewitz told JTA last year. What Israelis do to fight terrorism, he said, “is what we would have to be doing here. And I am very thankful that they are doing it.”

But after the deadly attacks in Norway, which authorities say left at least 76 people dead, the dangers of making common cause with movements where extremists like Breivik can find an ideological home and where some supporters are known for being violent is all too clear, some Jewish figures are saying.

“A large-scale hate crime attack such as the one in Norway demonstrates the clear and present danger of incitement against political, ethnic and religious groups,” said Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations. “Hate crimes are among the most insidious of dangers to democracy.”

To be sure, Breivik is an extreme example of the anti-multicultural tide rising in Europe, and far-right leaders say they eschew the killing of innocents in their crusade to restore Europe to its pre-heterogeneous state. But some watchdog groups say that European far-right movements provided the ideological underpinnings to Breivik’s attack and they must be held to account.

“Breivik was clearly influenced by an ideological movement both in the United States and Europe that is rousing public fear by consistently vilifying the Islamic faith,” warned the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman.

The fact that Breivik attacked those he viewed as collaborators with Muslims rather than Muslims themselves shows just how dangerous extremist ideology can be, the ADL suggested in a statement.

Jewish leaders in Europe, who in recent days have taken pains to distance themselves from Breivik’s proto-Zionism, long have warned that even far rightists who do not espouse anti-Semitism are dangerous for the Jews.

Far rightists “want a Sweden for the Swedes, France for the French and Jews to Israel,” Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, told JTA last October.

“Islamism certainly is a danger to the Jews and to Western democracy,” Stephan Kramer, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told JTA last year. “The way to fight [Islamists] is not, however, to demonize and ostracize all Muslims.”

Not all Jews have gotten the memo, however. Polls show that a small minority of European Jews supports some far-right parties, and a few far-right figures have gained a certain measure of respectability among some Jews.

When firebrand Geert Wilders, the leader of Holland’s Freedom Party, spoke at an event in Berlin last year, former Israeli Knesset member Eli Cohen of the Yisrael Beiteinu party was one of the featured speakers.

Wilders also has his Jewish fans in America. One is Daniel Pipes, a columnist and director of a think tank that warns of the dangers of domination by radical Muslims, or Islamists.

In a column last year for The National Review titled “Why I Stand with Geert Wilders,” Pipes called the controversial Dutch political figure “the most important European alive today” and the man “best placed to deal with the Islamic challenge facing the continent.”

Pipes’ writing was quoted extensively in Breivik’s manifesto. Reached this week by JTA, Pipes declined to comment for this story.

As for Wilders, he was quick to condemn last Friday’s attacks in Norway.

“That the fight against Islam is conducted by a violent psychopath is disgusting and a slap to the face of the global anti-Islamic movement,” Wilders said in a statement. “It fills me with disgust that the perpetrator refers to the [ Freedom Party] and me in his manifesto. … We fight for a democratic and nonviolent means against the further Islamization of society and will continue to do so.”

Of course, not all far-right parties in Europe are trying to make common cause with Jews. Many, like Jobbik, a far-right movement in Hungary, lump Jews with Gypsies, Muslims and others as undesirables.

Far-right parties in Europe have varying degrees of support, but polls show their political backing is rising across the continent. In Norway, the anti-immigrant Progress Party is now the second-largest in parliament. In Hungary, Jobbik won nearly 17 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections last year, making it the country’s third-largest party.

In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s sagging popularity and the collapse of the anticipated presidential candidacy of Dominique Strauss-Khan following rape charges were filed against him in New York gave Marine Le Pen—leader of the anti-immigrant National Front party and daughter of Holocaust-minimizer Jean-Marie Le Pen—a lead in some polls of French presidential contenders.

In June 2009, far-right parties across Europe captured a sizable share of seats in the European Parliament, a development attributed to rising xenophobic sentiment fueled by the global economic downturn. Among the winners were the neo-fascist British National Party and the Austrian Freedom Party, which campaigned with posters reading “FPO veto for Turkey and Israel in the EU.”

The appeal of far-right political positions is not relegated to the political fringes. Anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim stances have permeated mainstream political discourse and influenced government policies.

In Switzerland, the far-right Swiss People’s Party is the largest party in the National Council, one of two federal legislatures. Two years ago the party helped spearhead a national referendum that succeeded in outlawing the construction of minarets on newly built mosques.

Earlier this year, France outlawed the wearing of the niqab, the Muslim full-face veil. Last summer, Sarkozy launched a campaign to strip French nationality from foreign-born individuals who attacked police officers and started a program to rapidly deport Gypsy—or Roma—migrants to Romania and Bulgaria.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel declared last fall that Germany’s experiment with multiculturalism had failed.

It’s still not clear how the deadly attack in Norway will impact Norwegian politics, much less the rest of the continent. That will depend on how well far-right parties are able to draw a sharp distinction between Breivik’s violent attacks against multiculturalists and their own opposition to immigrants, Muslims and multiculturalism.

Norway’s Jews oppose circumcision law amendment

The umbrella organization for Jews in Norway is opposing a proposed amendment that would ban ritual circumcision on boys younger than 15.

The Mosaic Religious Community, the umbrella for Norway’s Jewish community and Jewish organizations, has sent a letter to Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store and Justice Minister Knut Storberget outlining its opposition to the amendment proposed by the country’s state ombudsman for children, the English-language website News and Views from Norway reported.

The age limit would be part of a proposed change in the law made last week that would allow ritual circumcision in public hospitals, which is currently banned. Under the proposed change, parents could either have only a doctor present or have religious circumcisers present to carry out the procedure under the observation of medical professionals, the website reported.

Jewish boys are circumcised on the eighth day of life. Muslim boys are usually circumcised sometime before their 15th birthday.

“This suggestion is going to go to Jewish media all over the world and support the idea that Norway is a ‘Jew-hating country,’ ” Mosaic Religious Community’s letter reportedly said. “And we agree—this will in practice mean that ‘Jews don’t have access to the kingdom’ again.”

Better late than never, Theodor Herzl, children reunited in death; Ex-N.J. Governor McGreevey’s Isra

Theodor Herzl, Children Reunited in Death
Two of Theodor Herzl’s children were reinterred in Jerusalem after decades of debate. Hans and Pauline Herzl, who died in 1930 and were buried in France, were laid to final rest alongside the Zionist visionary at the cemetery that carries his name in Israel’s capital. Theodor Herzl, who launched the modern Zionist movement and wrote “The Jewish State” a few years before dying in 1904, had expressed the wish to be buried next to his children. But Israeli authorities, after reinterring Herzl himself in 1949, were reluctant to do the same for Hans and Pauline given the controversy over their deaths. Pauline died of a drug overdose in what might have been a suicide, prompting her brother to shoot himself. Hans’ conversion to Christianity shortly before his death further stoked religious opposition to his burial in Israel. But rabbis recently ruled that Hans had disavowed Christianity before dying, and that Pauline’s demise was a result of mental disturbance.
“Having brought in the remains of Pauline and Hans, we are completing the mission and achieving historical closure,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the burial ceremony.
Ex-N.J. Governor McGreevey’s Israeli ‘Lover’ Denounces Book
An Israeli who was James McGreevey’s declared love interest attacked the former New Jersey governor’s memoir. McGreevey, who stepped down in 2004 after declaring he was gay, published a memoir this month titled, “The Confession.” In it, he details an affair he said he had with Golan Cipel, an Israeli whose appointment to serve as homeland security adviser in New Jersey raised eyebrows. But Cipel, who says he is straight and suffered sexual harassment by McGreevey, issued a statement attacking the book as a “pack of lies.”
Cipel said: “I strongly hope that the gay community rejects this obvious and shameless ploy from a man who has engaged in acts of deception, sexual violence and intimidation.”
Latino Jews React to Miami Radio Caricature
Hispanic Jews in Miami formed a group to monitor Spanish-language media for anti-Semitism. The establishment of the Hispanic Jewish Initiative comes after Jews said they were offended by Goldstein, a Jewish character on the top-rated 95.7 FM show, known in English as “The Morning Hijinks,” local media reported. A Web page, until recently linked to the show, depicts a black character, Al Jackson, with the mug shot of a man whose lips balloon from his face. In place of a photo for Goldstein is a Nazi eagle and swastika.
The group, created under the state chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, will monitor and address other concerns of Florida’s Spanish-speaking Jewish population.
Israel Unmoved by Irish Boycott Call
Israel’s education minister downplayed an Irish call for Israeli academics to be boycotted. In an open letter published by the Irish Times newspaper earlier this month, 61 local academics urged their country, as well as the European Union, to impose a moratorium on ties with Israeli educational institutions until Israel “ends the occupation of Palestinian territories.”
The letter also deplored Israel’s “aggression against the people of Lebanon” during the recent war against Hezbollah. Israel’s education minister, Yuli Tamir, said she would meet the Irish ambassador to discuss the boycott call but played down its importance.
“At this time, I don’t see a real danger to Israel’s academic ties, though any boycott is despicable and we have to make sure it is lifted,” she told Army Radio.
Four Men Charged In Norway Synagogue Attack
Norwegian police charged four men in the shooting attack on an Oslo synagogue. The men were initially charged with vandalism Sept. 21, but the charge was upgraded to organizing an act of terrorism, an offense punishable by up to 12 years in prison. Police said one suspect was Norwegian, and the others had different backgrounds. They declined to provide more information about the suspects. However, Norwegian news outlets have reported that one suspect was a 29-year-old Norwegian of Pakistani origin who had been held briefly in Germany in June on suspicion of planning an act of terrorism against the soccer World Cup. No one was hurt in the Sept. 17 incident.
Czechs on Security Alert During High Holidays
The Czech Republic went on high alert for a terrorist attack during the High Holidays. The government announced the alert in the early hours Saturday and said it would continue for some time, with no specifics given. Czech officials noted that the Czech alliance with the United States in its war on terror might have made it a target, but there was also media speculation that an attack was planned to coincide with Rosh Hashanah. A government spokesman reportedly hinted that the alert was connected to the arrest of four men charged with shooting at an Oslo synagogue last weekend. Norwegian authorities have said the men were plotting to blow up U.S. and Israeli embassies in other cities. Thousands of additional police are present in the streets of Prague and are particularly noticeable near Jewish sites, such as synagogues and the Jewish community headquarters.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Norway to Pay Shoah Victims

Norway has begun accepting applications for the approximately $60 million fund it created in March for Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Applicants will be eligible for as much as $25,500. Further information is available from: The Ministry of Justice, Civil Department, P.O. Box 8005 Dep, 0030 Oslo, Norway.

As in other occupied countries, Norway’s Jews were stripped of their assets and businesses when the Nazis invaded, in 1942. About 2,200 Jews were arrested during the occupation. Of the 767 who were shipped to death camps, only 30 survived.

Filing Date Set for Survivors

Needy Holocaust survivors in Israel can begin applying next month for payments from a special $180 million fund set up by Swiss banks and industry in 1997, according to an Israeli Finance Ministry official.

Those survivors with a monthly income of less than $875 will be eligible to apply, the official said Monday. The head of an umbrella organization for Israeli survivors, Noah Flug, complained that the application process is beginning months after American survivors received money from the same fund. Flug blamed Israeli bureaucracy for the delay.

U.S. General Has Jewish Roots

The American general leading the NATO military operation against Yugoslavia discovered his Jewish roots as an adult, The New York Times reported Monday.

Gen. Wesley Kanne Clark, who was raised as a Protestant in Little Rock, Ark., embraced his background when he learned of it in his 20s, according to several family members.

His grandfather, Jacob Nemerovsky, fled Russia in the 1890s during an anti-Semitic pogrom, the paper said.

Bombs Near Moscow Shuls

No one was injured in two bomb attacks that exploded near Moscow’s two largest synagogues last Saturday night.

The attacks did not appear to target the synagogues themselves, according to Russian officials, but Jewish leaders were quoted as saying the attacks were aimed at the synagogues and that only increased security prevented more damage and injuries. One of the shuls, the Marina Roscha synagogue, has already been damaged by bombs several times earlier this decade.

Jewish Jordan’ May Transfer

A high school basketball star known as the “Jewish Jordan” is considering transferring out of his yeshiva.

The possible move by Tamir Goodman comes after board members at his school, the Talmudical Academy in Baltimore, were reportedly upset over the amount of attention that basketball is receiving at the school as a result of Goodman’s exploits.

The University of Maryland said earlier this year that it would consider not playing games on Shabbat after Goodman enrolls there, which he plans to do in the fall of 2000. — JTA reports