Tag Archives: Holocaust

People of the Book: Interview with Julie Orringer

By Symi Rom-Rymer

Sitting on a faux cowhide bench with rock music blaring at full volume in a small coffee shop in one of Brooklyn’s hipper neighborhoods, it would be hard to feel further away from the turbulence and romanticism of 1930s Paris.  But I was swept back to that era as I spoke with Julie Orringer, whose debut epic novel—The Invisible Bridge, among the New York Times’ 100 best books of 2010—I wrote about in a recent post.   Inspired by her grandparents’ experiences before and during the Holocaust, Invisible Bridge follows the fate of Andras Lévi, a young Jewish Hungarian architectural student on the cusp of a new life in interwar Paris.  Refreshingly, unlike many Holocaust novel protagonists, Lévi is not from the East European shtetl.  He is urban, ambitious and, like many of his peers, seeking a better life for himself in Western Europe.  Yet, just as he is establishing that life, he is forced to return to Hungary and becomes quickly subsumed by the onslaught of the Second World War.  Though her tale is ultimately tragic, Orringer populates her story with such vivid personalities and so evocatively recreates the atmosphere of interwar and wartime Paris and Budapest that it’s difficult to put the book down for long.  I know. I tried.

In between researching her next book and playing with her new baby,  Julie Orringer took time to talk with me about her inspiration for the book, her research process and how people never ask her about humor during the Holocaust.

Why did you choose the Holocaust as the subject of your first novel? What drew me to the story was hearing about my grandfather’s experiences when he was younger.  Despite the fact that I grew up in a Hungarian family, I just didn’t know much about what had happened to Hungarian Jews during the war.  Like a lot of families with Holocaust survivors, those years just weren’t discussed in my family.  My grandparents certainly alluded to them and I heard bits and pieces about their survival, but I didn’t really have a sense of the whole picture because my grandparents didn’t talk about it.  Once I started asking them questions about what had happened, they really wanted to tell their story.  They wanted the novel to be written.  But initially, I didn’t think I was going to write a book about the Holocaust.  I wanted to write about a young man who moved to Paris who tries to study architecture and loses his scholarship, which is what happened to my grandfather.  I thought his life was so fascinating and wanted to learn everything I could about how he got by and what he studied and how he managed to live. That was the initial impetus for the book.  Of course I knew that there was the weight of history behind the beginnings of that story.  Because I’m a fiction writer, once I started telling that story, the experiences of my characters became different from those of my grandfather.  That was when I really had to start thinking about how the war was going to affect my characters and change the course of their lives.

What do you think fiction can tell us about the Holocaust that non-fiction can’t? I would like to answer the question without the qualifier of ‘Holocaust.’ The reason I chose to write the book as a novel rather than as a book about my grandfather’s experience, is that fiction has the ability more than any other art form to really place the reader inside the character’s experience.  E.M. Forster writes beautifully about this in his book, Aspects of the Novel in which he writes that fiction is unique among other forms in its ability to inhabit the human psyche and do to so from within, instead of in a more distant way.  I wanted to suggest something of what it would be like to be a young man, building a life at that time, falling in love, studying architecture, making close friendships, and then to have all that fall apart when historical circumstances got in the way.  It would certainly be possible to do something similar in non-fiction, but when we read a piece of historical non-fiction, there’s a sense of foreknowledge of what comes later.  In this case, even though the reader knows what comes later, the character doesn’t know and he’s able to inhabit a more innocent space then I would have been able to communicate otherwise. Continue reading

The Holocaust Today

By Symi Rom-Rymer

January 27th marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by Soviet troops.  In 2005, 60 years after the liberation, the United Nations General Assembly designated that date International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  As many have said before, the Holocaust is almost impossible to comprehend, let alone recreate in such a way so that others might understand.  Nevertheless, every year a new crop of novelists, memoirists, and academics pour their emotions, research and analysis into works that aim to shed new light on the well-worn subject.

In commemoration of this day, I have compiled a short list of recent books about the Holocaust that I have found particularly compelling.  These works, both fiction and nonfiction, successfully face the daunting task of retelling or challenging our views on the history that seems so familiar and yet, for most of us, so alien.  This is not meant to be a comprehensive catalog, but rather the spark for a longer list and deeper discussion.  I encourage each of you to add your own thoughts and suggestions of additional books in the comments section.

Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw, 1940-1945, by Gunnar S. Paulsson
In Secret City, Gunnar Paulsson, former Fellow at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, takes his readers into a subject beset by myths and often left unexplored by most historians: The underground life of Jewish Poles in Warsaw during the war.  Using diaries, memoirs, records of Jewish and Polish organizations that helped fugitives, and testimonies, he demonstrates how 28,000 Polish Jews, out of roughly 380,000, were able to escape the ghetto and hide in Warsaw itself with the help of converted Jewish and Polish families.   In contrast to traditional assumptions, he argues that many more Poles helped rather than hindered Jews to escape and how many Jews with even just one Polish friend had an avenue for escape.  According to his calculations, more than 11,000 Jews survived the war in Warsaw.  Written academically, Secret City is not a quick read.  But its careful use of sources, statistics, and strong narrative voice makes a compelling argument for this new understanding of the Jewish experience in wartime Warsaw.

The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer
Named one of the New York Times’ best 100 books of 2010, Julie Orringer’s epic novel sweeps readers into her world and refuses to let go.  Andras Lévi, a brilliant architectural student whose departure for architecture school in Paris in the late 1930s unleashes the plot.  Unlike most Holocaust novel protagonists, Lévi is neither from Western Europe nor from an East European shtetl.  He is an educated, cosmopolitan Hungarian Jew who, like many of his era, sought a better life for himself elsewhere in Europe.  Orringer refreshingly breaks with convention further by choosing Hungary as Lévi’s point of origin.  The story of Hungary’s Jews is a less familiar one to the American and Western European  public (see our post Jewish Ghosts of Budapest) and by placing the novel in Hungary, she avoids the traditional Holocaust progression: home, ghetto, concentration camp.  While no less cataclysmic, readers are offered an opportunity to revisit the era through Lévi, through a more unusual lens.  The Invisible Bridge may be 600 pages long and ultimately tragic but Orringer populates her story with such vivid personalities and so evocatively recreates the atmosphere of interwar and wartime Paris and Budapest that the characters haunt you long after the book is closed.

The Pages In Between, by Erin Einhorn
“I was always loved,” was Erin Einhorn’s mother’s standard response about her experience during the Holocaust.  Left in the care of a Polish couple as a baby, she grew up never knowing stability and peace.  Whisked away to the United States after the war by a father she barely knew, she clung to her rose-tinted vision of her childhood through most of her life.  Einhorn’s narrative tries to break through that vision and discover what really happened to her mother, and to her mother’s protectors, during the war.  In an attempt to reconnect with the family who saved her mother from the Holocaust, Einhorn travels to Poland only to find the situation much more complicated than she anticipated.  She gets sucked into to a protracted legal battle over the ownership of the apartment building where the elderly son of the family who saved her mother still lives.  But this is not only a memoir about retracing the steps of a Holocaust survivor.  This is also about how each generation tries to make sense of its family’s Holocaust legacy on their own terms. While Einhorn confronts the anti-Semitic attitudes she was brought up to expect, she also discovers, and becomes friends with, young Poles who are deeply interested in Judaism and Jewish culture.  One of them even ends up converting to Judaism.  Einhorn is respectful of her mother’s experiences, but at the same time she insists on confronting the country, and its personally difficult legacy, from her own perspective.  For many American Jews, Poland and Polish attitudes towards Jews remain frozen in time.  This engaging and thought-provoking memoir brings us up to date and shows just how multi-layered the story truly is.

Learning the Right Lessons?

By Symi Rom-Rymer

In a recent poll, 30% of Israeli Arabs, out of 700 questioned, don’t believe the Holocaust happened.  As the Associated Press reported earlier this week, Yad Vashem is trying to change that.  The poll’s creator, Sammy Smooha, insists that the high rate of denial has more to do with a repudiation of Israel’s policies than with true Holocaust negation.  But as the article points out, for many Israeli Arabs, accepting the Holocaust is equivalent to acknowledging Jewish claims to Israel.  In an effort to place the issue of the Holocaust within its proper historical framework, rather than within the flashpoint of Middle East politics, the museum is launching a new initiative aimed at Israeli Arabs educators.

This is not the first time that the museum has tried to engage the Israeli Arab community over the Holocaust, but previous efforts suffered from bad timing.  Just as Yad Vashem opened an exhibit on the Muslim rescue of Jews in Bosnia, Israel began its three-week offensive in Gaza.  Anger over the conflict led most potential visitors to boycott the museum and its exhibit.  They are hoping this attempt will be more successful.

There are several aspects about this initiative, however, that are troubling.  First of all, by emphasizing the Holocaust, Yad Vashem’s project plays into the erroneous belief held by many Arabs that Israel exists only because of the Holocaust; that the ties Jews feel to the land of Israel does not go back thousands of years, but rather only 60 years: to the destruction of European Jewry.  Instead, the museum should seek to create a more comprehensive curriculum that places the Holocaust in a larger context that addresses not only the role it played in the establishment of Israel but that also discusses the deeper historical bonds between Jews and Israel.   Moreover, it is not enough to teach the history of the Holocaust and with it, hope that through those lessons Arabs will see their fellow citizens in a different light.   It is unclear how stories of Jewish discrimination and persecution in Europe will engender feelings of sympathy towards Israeli Jews when many Arabs feel discriminated against by the very people with whom they are meant to sympathize.

There is certainly an argument to be made for why Arab students should know about the Holocaust.  To teach them about that era is not only important to understand a crucial era that continues to deeply influence Jews in Israel and around the world but also to allow Arabs to get insight into the Jewish Israeli mindset; to help contextualize their outlook.   It is not enough, however, to insist that Arabs learn about the Holocaust.  In order to foster better relations between Jewish and Arab Israelis, it is similarly critical that Jews learn about the history of their Arab neighbors and gain better insight into their mindset.  One way to do this would be to teach the Nakba, the so-called disaster Arabs associate with the foundation of Israel, which the majority of Jewish schools do not cover.  This should not be presented as an equivalent to the Holocaust, but rather as an acknowledgment of the traumatic Arab experience from the Jewish population and a genuine desire to understand that history and its impact on the current situation.

A few efforts already exist to try and bridge the gap through education but they are small and isolated.  At Kibbutz Lohamei HaGhetaot, a settlement founded by Holocaust survivors and home to the Ghetto Fighter’s Museum, for instance, they’ve launched a course for Jewish and Arab students, a rarity in a country where most education is segregated at an early age (see Moment‘s in-depth feature on Arab Israeli education).  The course involves a year-long study of the Holocaust as well as an additional second year that focuses on the Israeli-Arab experience.  A tandem curriculum such as this would allow students to explore and better understand the other point of view, within the safety of the classroom environment.

Despite the problems outlined above, Yad Vashem’s effort to reach out to Israeli Arabs is a step in the right direction.  The issues it seeks to address are pressing, especially in the wake of reports this week of a swell of support by Israeli Municipal Rabbis for the proposal to ban Jews from renting apartments to gentiles (seen by many as directed specifically at Arabs).   The ban and its supporters only further highlight the obstacles the museum faces as it seeks to overcome the distrust that often seems insurmountable.   While Yad Vashem’s latest undertaking is not perfect, at least it is seeking to build a bridge between two communities that live side-by-side, yet in vastly different worlds. Perhaps with the right approach and care, this project can begin to make those vastly different worlds feel ever so slightly closer together.

Israel’s Other Refugee Problem

by Daniel Kieval

On Monday night, a few days after thousands marched for human rights in Tel Aviv, Israel deported about 150 refugees back to their country of origin, Sudan. Israel has said that all of the people involved are leaving voluntarily, that it has ensured they will be returning to a safe environment, and that it is providing each family with $500 to help them readjust to life in Sudan. Still, the action is likely to draw criticism from human rights advocates, especially coming just two weeks after the government announced plans for a new detention center for illegal border-crossers in southern Israel. It is the latest event in a saga that is now several years old, in which Israel has struggled with the economic and social consequences of accepting Sudanese refugees and the ethical consequences of not accepting them.

Over 2 million Sudanese have fled north to Egypt since the genocide in Darfur began in 2003. Even there, however, many have faced harsh conditions, discrimination, and violence from Egyptian citizens and authorities, leading thousands to seek asylum a second time in Israel. While Israel has accepted some refugees (about 1,200 Darfuris currently live in Israel, according to the Jewish Virtual Library), many others have been deported, detained, or chased back across the border where they are shot or arrested by Egyptian border police.

Israel has many good reasons to be strict about whom it allows over its borders. The Darfur refugees are only a portion of the thousands of African migrants who try to enter Israel, many for economic reasons. As in any country, and especially in such a small one already full of demographic tensions, immigration can put stress on economic, social, and political systems if not handled carefully and systematically.  Moreover, Israel certainly seems justified in arguing that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which is officially responsible for supporting refugees and finding them a permanent home, should do more to resolve the issue rather than leaving it to Israel, especially since other countries have repeatedly rejected Israel’s requests to take in some of the refugees. Add to this list the importance of Israel’s borders for national security and the fact that Sudan is officially classified as an “enemy state” because it harbors terrorists, and Israel seems to have plenty of reasonable justification for its strictness toward the refugees.

Yet for many, these justifications do not override the moral imperative to help Darfur’s victims. A country whose very founding was meant, in part, to provide a safe haven for victims of genocide and whose Law of Return permanently engraves its status as such a haven for anyone with a Jewish ancestor might do well to remember its foundational principles in a situation like this one. It is true that Israel only finds itself in this situation because several other parties have not tried hard enough to mitigate it—the UNHCR, Egypt, and other nearby countries, to say nothing of Sudan itself. It may also be true that managing the refugees would be very difficult for Israel (when is a refugee situation easy?).

Perhaps, though, it is precisely because no one else seems willing to that Israel should step into the role of safe haven for Darfur’s victims. To truly be a Jewish state, Israel must embody Jewish values even when they run counter to international trends. In Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) it is written, “In a place with no worthy persons, strive to be a worthy person.” As the state of a people who have spent more than their fair share of time as refugees in search of a haven, Israel has even more reason to be that “worthy person.”

 

It’s 1979, do you know where your Nazis are?

By Symi Rom-Rymer

By 1948, World War II had been over for three years, yet hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons remained scattered throughout the wrecked and scarred European landscape.   The United States Congress responded with one of its most far reaching immigration laws, the Displaced Persons and the Refugee Relief Acts, which brought over 600,000 of those refugees onto its shores.  But among the Nazi victims and self-defined anti-Communists who sought shelter in the US, were perpetrators of war crimes who were also eager to start a new life in a new country.  Slipping by the overworked and overwhelmed US consular officers, they gained entry to the US where they lived peacefully until their past lives caught up with them.  This week, the New York Times released the complete 617 page report from the Office of Special Investigations that, starting in1979, was responsible for their reversal in fortune.

In the 1970s, a series of high-profile events including the deportation of Hennine Braunsteiner Ryan, a Nazi death camp guard turned New York City housewife, and an Immigration and Naturalization Service cover-up of Nazi criminals turned US citizens, sent shockwaves through American society.  As a result, the OSI, under the auspices of the Department of Justice, was born.   As the recently released report describes, the purpose of OSI was not to try and deport anyone who had links to the Nazis or those who fought on their behalf, but rather target those who directly and actively participated in the persecution of civilians under the auspices of the Nazi regime.

Much of the attention about the report has focused on the reluctance of the Justice Department to release it until a potential lawsuit finally forced it to last month.  But the report itself makes for discomforting reading.  Some cases, such as that of Arthur Rudolph, father of the Saturn V rocket and winner of NASA’s highest honor, may be more widely known, but the deep involvement of the US government in bringing him and others like him to the US and supporting them bears revisiting.  Rudolph, brought to the US through Operation Paperclip, a War Department-sanctioned program designed to “exploit” Nazi scientists and their knowledge base, was a senior scientist involved in the creation of the V-2 rocket.  But he was no ordinary scientist locked in a lab.  He was the Operations Manager of the Mittlewerk underground complex that produced the V-2s and, despite later pleading ignorance, he knowingly asked for and used slave labor from the Dora Nordhausen concentration camp.

Even after OSI exposed Rudolph’s involvement in Nazi crimes, US politicians and government officials (including Pat Buchanan and Ray Cline, the former deputy director of the CIA) rushed to his support.  As Cline said at the time, “I am inclined to think he [Rudolph] should have been recognized as having paid whatever debt to society his World War II activities deserved because of his very deliberate effort to contribute his science and technology, which was of great genius to the United States and to the strategic defenses of this country in the troubled period after World War II.”  Nevertheless, Rudolph was deported to West Germany and died there in 1996; the only Paperclip scientist to be prosecuted by OSI.

The report also highlights the limitations that OSI faced as it was established thirty years after the war was over.  By that time, survivors were already elderly and their testimony, already considered to be unreliable, was treated with skepticism.  In addition, its early operations occurred during the Cold War when much of the information about Nazi war crimes was still in the Soviet bloc and therefore inaccessible by American lawyers.  But despite these and other obstacles, the report lays out both OSI’s successes and failures as it recounts its efforts to prosecute and deport naturalized citizens accused of Nazi war crimes.

While its focus is on the Holocaust era, the report’s relevance cannot be overstated.  It will live on not only within the context of Holocaust study and research but also as a blueprint for investigating and prosecuting other war criminals from other genocides.   Indeed, according to the report, OSI’s work has already played an influential role in war crimes trials in Rwanda.  In 2003, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda cited OSI cases in its conviction against three propagandists for inciting genocide.   But with much of its World War II related work coming to an end, the ongoing John Demjanjuk case not withstanding, the OSI is turning its own attention elsewhere.   In 2004, the OSI became a permanent part of the Department of Justice and will be involved in prosecuting more contemporary war criminals.  Sadly, it is clear that OSI may never become irrelevant.  But because of this report, we have at least learned how fortunate we are that it exists at all.

Symi Rom-Rymer writes and blogs about Jewish and Muslim communities in the US and Europe.

The Human Touch

By Merav Levkowitz

Tuesday (November 9th) marked seventy-two years since Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass,” which marked the beginning of the Holocaust in Germany. The first manifestation of Nazi-led violence against the Jews, Kristallnacht saw destruction and vandalism of synagogues and Jewish businesses. Over the past few days, Jewish communities around the world have gathered to remember Kristallnacht and the Holocaust. While “Never Forget” has become a mantra for the Jewish people in particular, I, as many others, fear that as time goes on, we risk distancing ourselves from the Holocaust in a dangerous way.

While the Holocaust remains at the root of much of contemporary Jewish thought and action, for many of us it lives on as part of collective memory, which causes pain but is very much intangible. As American Jews in particular, the realities of 1940s Europe are remarkably distant.

Though I am not a descendant of concentration camp survivors, my paternal grandparents escaped to Israel from Poland just before World War II. On both sides, their large families perished at the hands of the Nazis. While I did not grow up seeing the direct imprints (tattoos, even) of the Nazis, the Holocaust was made real for me by my father’s stories of growing up without grandparents. Beyond the stories of what happened, I was struck by what could have been—that is, the way world Jewry, and on a small scale, my own family, would have been different if not for the Nazis.

Museums, monuments, organizations, and films that seek to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, those who perished, and those who acted righteously are crucial to the preservation of knowledge and memory. But they are often sterile; there is nothing like the human touch. In the vast hallways of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, among the statistics and the photographs, I get the chills, but it is when I hear a survivor’s personal account—a story of being separated from parents, for example—that my heart aches and I cry.

My generation is the last that will have the opportunity to meet Holocaust survivors in person. As we lose these contacts, I fear that our understanding of the Holocaust risks fading like old photographs and becoming diluted. It is our duty to maintain our ties with survivors for as long as possible and to preserve their stories. Even in a globalized, virtual world, the human connection continues to reign supreme. Reach out and connect, so that we never forget.

A Familiar Injustice

by Ben Goldberg

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  If that’s the case, Italy and France’s recent treatment of Roma (aka gypsies) should give us pause.

Originally from South Asia, the Roma are a nomadic people who have settled all across Europe.  Often linked to crime, the Roma have a long history of being persecuted.  In the Holocaust, they suffered proportional losses greater than any ethnic group besides the Jews.

65 years later, they are being persecuted once again.

France has deported more than 1,000 Roma to Bulgaria and Romania, linking the ethnic group to high incidents of crime. Despite condemnation from Human Rights watchdog groups, the Italian city of Milan quickly followed suit, demolishing and bulldozing several Roma camps.  Meanwhile, the Serbian government has forcefully evicted Roma gypsies from their homes in Belgrade, demolishing the houses while the families looked on. Most of the Roma in Belgrade came only after being expelled from other parts of Europe.

Anti-immigration sentiment is common, and it remains a hot button issue in America, across Europe, and around the world. But the unabashedly racist rhetoric surrounding the expulsion raises a big red flag.

“These are dark-skinned people, not Europeans like you and me,” said Riccardo De Corato, Milan’s vice mayor and a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling party.  He is in charge of ridding Milan of the Roma camps.

Corato’s blatant racism is a stark reminder of how quickly a seemingly tolerant nation can change course, a reminder with which Jews, in particular, can identify.  While expulsion is a far cry from the mass extermination of a people, it’s worrying to see such overt prejudice toward an ethnic group based on a mix of political maneuvering and shady logic. Those in power blame a convenient scapegoat—in this case the Roma—as a means of “doing something” about difficult or intractable problems.

The underlying reason may be political but the racism and the intolerance that it breeds are at the heart of the issue.  Hitler blamed the Jews for Germany’s troubles. De Corato blames crime on the gypsies.  “Many of them are criminals,” he told the Post. “They prostitute their own women and children.”

De Corato isn’t the only one who feels this way. As one news source puts it, “many Europeans view Roma as swindlers, social welfare system abusers, and people living parasitical lives on the shoulders of society.”

One blogger notes that this recent surge of anti-immigration in Europe coincides with a wave of anti-Islam sentiment in Europe, as manifested in France’s decisions to ban burqas and the Dutch government’s plans to do the same.

“There is a worrying trend in Europe in which we are seeing the embrace of populist policies. They are creating a new climate of intolerance in Europe with movements in some countries now openly hostile to ethnic minorities and migrants,” Benjamin Ward, the Europe deputy director for Human Rights Watch in London, told The Washington Post.

Such intolerance is worrying.  After his “dark skin” remark, De Corato added: “Our final goal is to have zero Gypsy camps in Milan.”

Sounds eerily familiar.

When Good Intentions Meet Reality

By Symi Rom-Rymer

In a recent posting on the Washington Post’s OnFaith blog, a Rabbi and law professor recount their experience on a joint US Jewish-Muslim trip to the concentration camps of Germany and Poland.  According to the authors’ account, “the Muslim leaders were visibly shaken by what they saw” and even those who had previously expressed skepticism about the Holocaust were moved and encouraged those with similar doubts to visit the camps for themselves.

Upon their return, the participating imams issued as statement saying in part, “We condemn any attempts to deny this historical reality and declare such denials or any justification of this tragedy as against the Islamic code of ethics…We have a shared responsibility to continue to work together with leaders of all faiths and their communities to fight the dehumanization of all peoples based on their religion, race or ethnicity. With the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hatred, rhetoric and bigotry, now more than ever, people of faith must stand together for truth. Together, we pledge to make real the commitment of ‘never again’ and to stand united against injustice wherever it may be found in the world today.” Continue reading

The French Railroad On Trial

By Symi Rom-Rymer

Reuters reported this week that 100 French and American plaintiffs are suing SNCF, the French national railroad company, for their role in transporting French Jews to concentration camps during the Holocaust.  The group, made up of Holocaust survivors and their descendents, insist that it’s not about the money, but rather about exposing the crimes in which the rail company participated. “‘It is about money but not in the way they mean,’” said William Wajnryb, whose father died at Auschwitz. “When people make accusations about money, they should look at the SNCF first of all,” he said. “The core of this story is that the SNCF got money for deporting Jews.’” Continue reading

Gay Memorial… Just for the Guys?

By Talia Ran

When taught about the Holocaust, we are asked to never forget those who lost their lives during such a tragic time.  However, for some scholars, remembering certain groups may distort history.

According to a recent article by the Sydney Morning Herald, there are Holocaust scholars against a bid to include images of lesbians kissing as part of a Berlin monument dedicated to the thousands of homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis.

The current memorial, created in May 2008, is a single concrete pillar with a small window, behind which a video of two men joined in a “never-ending” kiss.  Original plans were for the loop to run continuously for two years, after which it will be replaced by a video of two women.

According to a statement by Alexander Zinn, a board member of the foundation that maintains the former Nazi concentration camps near Berlin, such a move would distort history as there were no known Holocaust victims targeted for being lesbians.

Zinn continues,

Historical truth must remain the focus…Research shows that the persecution of lesbian women by the Nazi regime was not comparable to that of homosexual men.

Zinn’s argument begs the question: Huh? Continue reading