The Holocaust’s Arab heroes (& Polish righteous Gentile recommended for Nobel Prize)

October 11, 2006

* Among the Arab collaborators with the Nazis (there were incredibly sadistic Arab guards at Jewish labor camps in north Africa and Arab interpreters went house to house with SS officers pointing out where Jews lived), there were individual Arab “righteous gentiles” too, who helped save Jews from the Nazis. To deny the Holocaust and forget these brave Arabs, Arab leaders today deny their own history
* “Sir” Elie Wiesel
* Ken Livingstone cleared



1. “Polish righteous Gentile woman recommended for Nobel” (Ha’aretz, Oct. 9, 2006)
2. “French academic again convicted for Holocaust denial” (EJP, Oct. 3, 2006)
3. “Study confirms: Nazis made soap from human bodies” (AFP, Oct. 10, 2006)
4. “London mayor wins court appeal to overturn suspension” (Reuters, Oct. 5, 2006)
5. “Elie Wiesel granted honorary knighthood” (Jerusalem Post, Oct. 5, 2006)
6. “Nazi hunter’s stamp collection fetches one million dollars” (AFP, Sept. 28, 2006)
7. “Islamic extremists planned mass murder of Jews in Prague” (Reuters, Oct. 6, 2006)
8. “Berlin club protests about anti-Semitic abuse” (Reuters, Oct. 7, 2006)
9. “Jewish graves vandalized in Russia” (AP, Oct. 4, 2006)
10. “The Holocaust’s Arab heroes” (Washington Post, Oct. 8, 2006)

[Note by Tom Gross]


This dispatch contains articles relating to the Holocaust and to contemporary anti-Semitism. For space reasons, I attach only summaries of each piece, which I have prepared.

But the last piece below, “The Holocaust’s Arab Heroes” by Robert Satloff, in The Washington Post, is attached in full, and I strongly recommend that you read it. It is crucial to understanding one of the key obstacles holding up a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli dispute.

While Holocaust denial is now growing throughout the Arab world, Satloff reminds us that among the Arab collaborators with the Nazis (there were incredibly sadistic Arab guards at Jewish labor camps in north Africa and Arab interpreters went house to house with SS officers pointing out where Jews lived), there were individual Arab “righteous gentiles” too, who helped to save Jews from the Nazis in north Africa.

“There is evidence that the most influential Arab in Europe Si Kaddour Benghabrit, the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris saved as many as 100 Jews by having the mosque’s administrative personnel give them certificates of Muslim identity, with which they could evade arrest and deportation. Arabs need to hear these stories both of heroes and of villains. They especially need to hear them from their own teachers, preachers and leaders.”

-- Tom Gross




“Polish woman recommended for Nobel Prize” (By Amiram Barkat, Ha’aretz, October 9, 2006)

Holocaust survivor groups in Israel have joined the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, in recommending that 96-year-old Irena Sandler be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Sandler was a member of the Polish underground group Zegota that was dedicated to saving Jews. She was recognized as a “Righteous Gentile” by Yad Vashem in 1965 for smuggling Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto.

The children received false papers and were either adopted by Christian families or sent to convents. Sandler recorded the real names of up to 2,500 children on lists that she placed in glass jars and buried, with the hope that the youngsters would eventually be returned to their families. The Gestapo arrested Sandler in October 1943. Despite being tortured, she refused to reveal the children’s identities, and was sentenced to death by a Nazi court. The underground group freed her, and she lived in hiding under an assumed identity until the end of the war.

If Sandler, who still lives in Poland, is chosen for the Nobel award, it would be the first time the honor would be bestowed to a Righteous Gentile. The chair of the Association of Cracovians in Israel, Lili Haber, wrote to Kaczynski emphasizing that Sandler had never publicized her actions, but rather shied away from publicity. “She used her wisdom and goodness to save lives and then educate others to understand the difficulties encountered by the survivors,” Haber said.

Some of the children found out their true identities after the war. Others never did.



“French academic again convicted for Holocaust denial” (European Jewish Press, October 3, 2006)

Retired literature professor Robert Faurisson has been convicted for Holocaust denial by a Paris court over remarks he made on Iranian television. Faurisson, 77, is well known for his revisionist views. He was given a three month suspended prison term and fined 7,500 euros.

Speaking on the Sahar 1 Iranian satellite channel in February 2005, Faurisson said “there was never” a single gas chamber under the Germans. “So all those millions of tourists who visit Auschwitz are seeing a lie, a falsification.”

Faurisson was found guilty of “complicity in contesting the existence of a crime against humanity.” It is the fifth time that Faurisson has been sentenced for the same offence. Patrick Gaubert, president of LICRA, the French league against racism and anti-Semitism, welcomed the court decision. “This gives proof that he lies. But I am not satisfied with the three months suspended prison term,” he said.

* For more on Faurisson, please see the dispatch Tehran Times today: The phenomenal lie of the “Holocaust” (& Ha’aretz’s dangerous misreporting) (Nov. 10, 2005).



“Study confirms: Nazis made soap from human bodies” (Agence France Presse, October 10, 2006)

Poland’s Nazi occupiers used “substances” from the bodies of murdered concentration camp prisoners to make soap, a study carried out by Poland’s National Remembrance Institute (IPN) to counter the arguments of Holocaust deniers, showed Friday.

“We have determined that, without a shadow of a doubt, that soap was produced using substances obtained from human bodies at the anatomical institute of the Medical Academy of Danzig, led by Professor Rudolf Spanner,” Paulina Szumera of the IPN said. [Danzig is the German name for the Polish city of Gdansk TG.]

For the IPN probe, Polish scientists studied, among other things, a bar of soap that was presented as evidence during the Nuremberg Nazi war crime trials after World War II, that was in the archives of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Several dozen kilograms of soap were produced by the Nazis in Gdansk alone. “We launched our investigation to still the voices denying that this ever happened,” Szumera said.



“London Mayor wins High Court appeal to overturn suspension” (Reuters/ The Guardian, October 5, 2006)

London’s mayor Ken Livingstone won a High Court challenge on Thursday to overturn a four-week suspension from office for likening a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard. At the end of a two-day hearing Justice Andrew Collins said he would quash the suspension.

Livingstone has consistently refused to apologize for the remarks and said the panel that suspended him had overstepped its remit. He has also denied any bias against Jews.

Livingstone sparked the rumpus when Finegold identified himself as working for the Evening Standard, a paper loathed by the mayor. Livingstone asked: “What did you do? Were you a German war criminal?”

Finegold said he was Jewish and found the remarks offensive. Livingstone replied that the reporter was “like a concentration camp guard you are just doing it because you are paid to.” [TG adds: Many Nazi guards killed Jews because they wanted to, not for money.]

Mr Maurici, appearing for Mr Livingstone, told Mr Justice Collins that the panel’s finding should be quashed as it was erroneous in law or failed to draw proper inferences from the evidence. Mr Maurici quoted William Rees-Mogg’s comment in the Times that the panel’s decision was to “inflate trivial disputes of the late evening into matters of state”.

The London assembly chairman, Brian Coleman, said he was disappointed with the court’s decision: “It is deeply regrettable that the London assembly’s work to oppose anti-Semitism is being overshadowed by the mayor’s remarks. It is sad that, for the mayor, sorry seems to be the hardest word.”

* For more on Livingstone, please see London Mayor Ken Livingstone may be Jewish: “I could be a self-hater, couldn’t I?” (Nov. 30, 2005).



“Elie Wiesel granted honorary knighthood” (By Jonny Paul, The Jerusalem Post, October 5, 2006)

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, the author, academic and human rights campaigner, is to be presented with an honorary knighthood by the British Government next month for his services to Holocaust education in the UK.

Professor Wiesel will be presented with the award by Foreign Secretary Margaret Becket at a special ceremony on November 30 at the Foreign Office in London.

Following the award, Prof. Wiesel, who is the vice chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, as well as chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, will be guest of honor at a special dinner hosted by Yad Vashem UK.

Wiesel is a survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. In 1986 he received the Nobel Peace Prize. He was also awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1985.



“Nazi hunter’s stamp collection fetches one million dollars” (Agence France Presse, September 28, 2006)

A collection of rare stamps compiled by the late Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal fetched 791,000 euros (one million dollars) when it was auctioned in the German city of Wiesbaden on Wednesday.

The sale raised twice as much as auction house Koehler had expected. The single most expensive item was a letter from China, which sold for 41,000 euros, while one of the first stamps ever used in Germany, the Schwarze Einser, went for 5,200 euros.

Wiesenthal, who survived four years in concentration camps and then dedicated his life to tracking down Nazi war criminals, started collecting stamps in the 1950s after his doctor suggested it instead of medication as a cure for sleeplessness.

His passion for stamps helped him to catch Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the transport of Jews to death camps in eastern Europe. Information passed to Wiesenthal from stamp dealers led the Israeli secret service Mossad to Argentina, where agents captured Eichmann in 1960. He was executed two years later.

Wiesenthal died in September last year at the age 96. The proceeds of the auction will go to his daughter, who lives in the United States.



“Islamic extremists planned mass murder of Jews in Prague” (Reuters/Washington Post, October 6, 2006)

Islamic extremists planned to kidnap dozens of Jews in Prague and hold them hostage before murdering them, the leading Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes reported on Friday.

The newspaper quoted unidentified sources close to intelligence agencies as saying the captives would have been held in a Prague synagogue while the captors made broad demands that they knew could not be fulfilled.

When those demands which were not specified by the sources were not met, the extremists would blow up the building, killing all who were inside, the paper added. The paper, which gave other few details, did not say whether any arrests were made and did not specify the identities of the Islamic extremists.

On Sept. 23 the government deployed armed guards around dozens of buildings and on the streets in the Czech capital after security services issued a warning that an unspecified attack was imminent.

Prague’s Old Town is the location for the Jewish Quarter where thousands of tourists many of them Jews flock to see centuries-old synagogues and graves. The country’s once-flourishing Jewish community was decimated during World War Two.



“Berlin club protests about anti-Semitic abuse” (Reuters, October 7, 2006)

A Berlin lower-league soccer club has complained to German soccer authorities about anti-Semitic chants that they faced at a recent match. Players from Jewish club TuS Makkabi in the Berlin district league, five divisions below the Bundesliga, walked off the pitch in protest in the 78th minute of the match at VSG Altglienicke in east Berlin.

They said the referee had refused to intervene when fans and some players chanted “Gas the Jews”, “Auschwitz is back” and “Fuehrer, Fuehrer”. Football Association (FA) President Theo Zwanziger, has vowed to crack down on racism.



“Jewish graves vandalized in Russia” (The Associated Press, October 4, 2006)

Vandals painted swastikas on more than 100 Jewish and Tatar gravestones in a central Russian city and overturned many others the latest in a string of anti-Semitic, racist and hate crimes across the nation, police officials said.

State-run television showed footage of the ransacked Dmitrovo-Cherkasskoye Cemetery in Tver, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of Moscow, along with white-and-black paper swastika leaflets scattered about the gravestones. More than 150 gravestones were vandalized.

Russia has seen a notable rise in hate crimes and racist violence in recent years, which rights groups say is fueled in part by the authorities’ reluctance to crack down on extremist organizations. Last month, attackers vandalized two synagogues one in the Volga River city of Astrakhan and the other in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk shattering windows at one and setting a door ablaze.



The Holocaust’s Arab heroes
By Robert Satloff
The Washington Post
October 8, 2006

Virtually alone among peoples of the world, Arabs appear to have won a free pass when it comes to denying or minimizing the Holocaust. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has declared to his supporters that “Jews invented the legend of the Holocaust.” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recently told an interviewer that he doesn’t have “any clue how [Jews] were killed or how many were killed.” And Hamas’s official Web site labels the Nazi effort to exterminate Jews “an alleged and invented story with no basis.”

Such Arab viewpoints are not exceptional. A respected Holocaust research institution recently reported that Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia all promote Holocaust denial and protect Holocaust deniers. The records of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum show that only one Arab leader at or near the highest level of government a young prince from a Persian Gulf state has ever made an official visit to the museum in its 13-year history. Not a single official textbook or educational program on the Holocaust exists in an Arab country. In Arab media, literature and popular culture, Holocaust denial is pervasive and legitimized.

Yet when Arab leaders and their people deny the Holocaust, they deny their own history as well the lost history of the Holocaust in Arab lands. It took me four years of research scouring dozens of archives and conducting scores of interviews in 11 countries to unearth this history, one that reveals complicity and indifference on the part of some Arabs during the Holocaust, but also heroism on the part of others who took great risks to save Jewish lives.

Neither Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to Holocaust victims, nor any other Holocaust memorial has ever recognized an Arab rescuer. It is time for that to change. It is also time for Arabs to recall and embrace these episodes in their history. That may not change the minds of the most radical Arab leaders or populations, but for some it could make the Holocaust a source of pride, worthy of remembrance rather than avoidance or denial.


The Holocaust was an Arab story, too. From the beginning of World War II, Nazi plans to persecute and eventually exterminate Jews extended throughout the area that Germany and its allies hoped to conquer. That included a great Arab expanse, from Casablanca to Tripoli and on to Cairo, home to more than half a million Jews.

Though Germany and its allies controlled this region only briefly, they made substantial headway toward their goal. From June 1940 to May 1943, the Nazis, their Vichy French collaborators and their Italian fascist allies applied in Arab lands many of the precursors to the Final Solution. These included not only laws depriving Jews of property, education, livelihood, residence and free movement, but also torture, slave labor, deportation and execution.

There were no death camps, but many thousands of Jews were consigned to more than 100 brutal labor camps, many solely for Jews. Recall Maj. Strasser’s warning to Ilsa, the wife of the Czech underground leader, in the 1942 film “Casablanca”: “It is possible the French authorities will find a reason to put him in the concentration camp here.” Indeed, the Arab lands of Algeria and Morocco were the site of the first concentration camps ever liberated by Allied troops.

About 1 percent of Jews in North Africa (4,000 to 5,000) perished under Axis control in Arab lands, compared with more than half of European Jews. These Jews were lucky to be on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, where the fighting ended relatively early and where boats not just cattle cars would have been needed to take them to the ovens in Europe. But if U.S. and British troops had not pushed Axis forces from the African continent by May 1943, the Jews of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and perhaps even Egypt and Palestine almost certainly would have met the same fate as those in Europe.

The Arabs in these lands were not too different from Europeans: With war waging around them, most stood by and did nothing; many participated fully and willingly in the persecution of Jews; and a brave few even helped save Jews.

Arab collaborators were everywhere. These included Arab officials conniving against Jews at royal courts, Arab overseers of Jewish work gangs, sadistic Arab guards at Jewish labor camps and Arab interpreters who went house to house with SS officers pointing out where Jews lived. Without the help of local Arabs, the persecution of Jews would have been virtually impossible.


Were Arabs, then under the domination of European colonialists, merely following orders? An interviewer once posed that question to Harry Alexander, a Jew from Leipzig, Germany, who survived a notoriously harsh French labor camp at Djelfa, in the Algerian desert. “No, no, no!” he exploded in reply. “Nobody told them to beat us all the time. Nobody told them to chain us together. Nobody told them to tie us naked to a post and beat us and to hang us by our arms and hose us down, to bury us in the sand so our heads should look up and bash our brains in and urinate on our heads.... No, they took this into their own hands and they enjoyed what they did.”

But not all Arabs joined with the European-spawned campaign against the Jews. The few who risked their lives to save Jews provide inspiration beyond their numbers.

Arabs welcomed Jews into their homes, guarded Jews’ valuables so Germans could not confiscate them, shared with Jews their meager rations and warned Jewish leaders of coming SS raids. The sultan of Morocco and the bey of Tunis provided moral support and, at times, practical help to Jewish subjects. In Vichy-controlled Algiers, mosque preachers gave Friday sermons forbidding believers from serving as conservators of confiscated Jewish property. In the words of Yaacov Zrivy, from a small town near Sfax, Tunisia, “The Arabs watched over the Jews.”

I found remarkable stories of rescue, too. In the rolling hills west of Tunis, 60 Jewish internees escaped from an Axis labor camp and banged on the farm door of a man named Si Ali Sakkat, who courageously hid them until liberation by the Allies. In the Tunisian coastal town of Mahdia, a dashing local notable named Khaled Abdelwahhab scooped up several families in the middle of the night and whisked them to his countryside estate to protect one of the women from the predations of a German officer bent on rape.

And there is strong evidence that the most influential Arab in Europe Si Kaddour Benghabrit, the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris saved as many as 100 Jews by having the mosque’s administrative personnel give them certificates of Muslim identity, with which they could evade arrest and deportation. These men, and others, were true heroes.

According to the Koran: “Whoever saves one life, saves the entire world.” This passage echoes the Talmud’s injunction, “If you save one life, it is as if you have saved the world.”

Arabs need to hear these stories both of heroes and of villains. They especially need to hear them from their own teachers, preachers and leaders. If they do, they may respond as did that one Arab prince who visited the Holocaust museum. “What we saw today,” he commented after his tour, “must help us change evil into good and hate into love and war into peace.”

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.