* He walks around town, fit and healthy, strolling with police officers who ignore his international arrest warrant
* Inaugural “Justice for Jews from Arab Countries” congress next week
Journalists writing for over 500 publications, including newspapers in Austria, Germany and the former Yugoslavia, subscribe to this email list; most are probably not readers of the British tabloid The Sun, and it is hoped that some of the journalists from around the world may now report on this matter. This evening it is expected Asner may try and attend the Euro 2008 quarter-final match between Croatia and Turkey in Vienna.
1. Fourth most wanted war criminal enjoys “Euro 2008” in Austria
2. Extracts from: “We find wanted Nazi at footie”
3. Extracts from: “The Sun enters the Nazi’s lair”
4. Blatant lies by the Austrian justice ministry
5. Synagogue in northern German city vandalized
6. Paying attention to Jewish refugees from Arab countries?
7. Forgotten exodus
8. Muslim woman demands an apology from Obama after camera snub
9. Madonna’s next project: a documentary about the Israeli-Arab conflict
FOURTH MOST WANTED WAR CRIMINAL ENJOYS “EURO 2008” IN AUSTRIA
[Note by Tom Gross]
Jewish and other groups have called on the Austrian authorities to extradite the Croatian Nazi war criminal Milivoj Asner after his photo was splashed on the front page of Britain’s best-selling tabloid newspaper, The Sun, this week.
Further photos of the world’s fourth most wanted Nazi were published inside the paper, and video material the paper filmed was posted on the paper’s website. It shows the 95-year-old Asner, looking surprisingly fit and healthy, together with his wife relaxing on a terrace among the “Euro 2008” soccer fans in Klagenfurt, Carinthia, and enjoying drinks with fellow Croat fans before and after the match.
(For Americans on this list who may not know, the European soccer finals, which are held once every four years, are one of the world’s most popular events, with a worldwide television audience of over a billion.)
Asner has been living in the southern Austrian city of Klagenfurt since 2006, under the name of Dr. Georg Aschner.
Photographers and reporters working for The Sun, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, were tipped off about Asner’s presence at the game after last week the Austrian justice minister claimed that Asner was “too frail” to go out, let alone attend trial.
As an Ustashi police chief under Croatia’s Second World War fascist puppet regime, Asner is accused of playing a key role in sending many Jews, Serbs and Roma (Gypsies) to death camps. At least 100,000 civilians were exterminated at Croatia’s Jasenovac concentration camp alone. (Photographs and other evidence available here.) (The previous estimate of 700,000, which the Communists gave, is thought to be too high by Holocaust experts in Israel.)
SIPPING WINE WITH THE FANS
Historians have documented how Asner took particular pleasure in choosing Christmas Day to round up Jews for deportation on cattle wagons bound for camps, as a “Christmas present.”
The Sun, which filmed Asner for a three-hour period happily strolling around in good health, and enjoying wine at local bars with other soccer fans, has asked why Asner was not arrested by the hundreds of Austrian police on duty in and around the soccer stadium during the match.
Asner’s photograph and personal details are displayed prominently on Interpol’s Most Wanted list, to which Austria is a signatory. Asner is subject to both international and Croatian arrest warrants, and he is No. 4 on the list of most wanted Nazi war criminals, which I wrote about in this dispatch last month (see last item): Journalist of the year calls Israel “shit,” as Israel marks Holocaust Memorial Day.
The Sun then approached Asner for an interview and found that he was fit and healthy.
EXTRACTS FROM: “WE FIND WANTED NAZI AT FOOTIE”
Here are extracts from The Sun’s front-page article “We find wanted Nazi at footie”:
MINGLING with football fans in a pavement café, an elderly gentleman soaks up the atmosphere of Euro 2008. Yet Milivoj Asner, out strolling with his wife, is no ordinary supporter welcoming his national side Croatia to his adopted Austrian town. He is No. 4 on the list of most wanted Nazi war criminals.
... The Sun tracked down the 95-year-old former police chief and Gestapo agent and secretly filmed him as he strolled confidently for more than a mile, arm-in-arm with second wife Edeltraut.
... Walking without a stick, he even roamed 8th May Street – named after VE Day. He stopped several times to sit in cafés, chatting to waiters and sipping leisurely drinks alongside excited football fans.
... He was ignored by hundreds of armed police patrolling the streets, even though locals KNOW his real identity – and the unspeakable crimes for which he has yet to face justice.
... The scenes made a mockery of Austria’s insistence that Asner is too sick to be sent home. Yet ironically, on the day we captured his carefree three-hour outing, the country’s officials restated their decision to protect him from trial.
... The Sun traced Asner, whose first wife faked his death, to his smart third-floor flat near Klagenfurt’s stadium. The home, where he lives under the name Dr. Georg Aschner, is opposite the Croatian cultural centre in a district where fellow ex-pats know his true identity. One worker boasted how “an SS man” lived opposite.
She added: “He’s a super old man.”
The Sun’s full article can be read here, together with photos and video.
EXTRACTS FROM: “THE SUN ENTERS THE NAZI’S LAIR”
The following day, The Sun asked and was granted an interview by Asner.
In an article titled “The Sun enters the Nazi’s lair,” Sun reporter Brian Flynn was told by the wartime Croatian police chief that “he is ready to face trial ... making a mockery of Austrian officials’ claims that he is too ill to be extradited to Croatia.”
Flynn writes: “He and I locked eyes as he coolly invited me into his smart third-floor flat, where he has lived comfortably with second wife Edeltraut for four years.
“The stubble-covered cheeks are hollower than in the passport photograph attached to his Interpol international arrest warrant, and the frame is thinner. But his clear, bright eyes and the unflinching gaze that met my own betrayed a sharpness and an arrogance that has not deserted him in old age.
“Well-spoken, studiously polite and unruffled despite being confronted unexpectedly by a foreign reporter, he exuded the confidence of a man who seemed to believe he was untouchable. Books were piled up and photos of relatives on display.
“Speaking lucidly and clearly, he then denied he was responsible for any wartime atrocities in the Croatian town of Pozega, dismissing accusers as ‘airheads’.
“... Astonishingly, Asner also denied ANY Jews were deported to death camps from his home town.
“Laughing again, he said: ‘I don’t know of anyone deported from Pozega. Nobody was murdered. I never heard of one single family murdered in Pozega.’
“... [In fact, continues The Sun] The history books describe how Pozega’s entire Jewish community was wiped out in World War II – sent to the evil Jasenovac concentration camp where 700,000 were exterminated.”
The full article can be read here.
BLATANT LIES BY THE AUSTRIAN JUSTICE MINISTRY
Austrian officials originally ruled that Asner could not be sent to Croatia because he was an Austrian citizen. But after procrastinating, they admitted he was not.
Then earlier this month, the Austrian Ministry of Justice stalled again, claiming he was too ill to stand trial. Six days ago, the Austrian government wrote to a Jewish group reaffirming its decision not to extradite Asner.
It said Ministry of Justice tests had proved “he is not capable enough to be questioned or go before a court”.
This is a blatant lie and it is thought a junior employee of the Austrian government then leaked information to The Sun.
The world’s leading Nazi hunter, Efraim Zuroff, a founding subscriber of this email list, today urges European Union member governments to put pressure on Austria to honor the international arrest warrants and stop protecting Asner.
“If this man is well enough to walk around town unaided and drink wine in bars, he’s well enough to answer for his past,” said Zuroff.
SYNAGOGUE IN NORTHERN GERMAN CITY VANDALIZED
German police are investigating the vandalism of a synagogue near Hamburg on Tuesday. Following the attack, an anonymous male caller to the Pinneberg Jewish community’s office said, “The same thing will happen more often. You will have no more peace.” He concluded with the Nazi salute “Sieg Heil.”
There has been an increase in extreme right-wing propaganda and incidents in the area recently, including political stickers from the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany, anti-Semitic verbal attacks, and an attempt to storm a Jewish wedding. The Jewish community of Pinneberg has 180 members.
PAYING ATTENTION TO JEWISH REFUGEES FROM ARAB COUNTRIES?
As I have pointed out before in these dispatches, the fate of the numerically greater number of Jews forced out of Arab countries in the period around the time of Israel’s independence, is very rarely reported upon, whereas the fate of Palestinian refugees is frequently written about.
Next week, an inaugural international “Justice for Jews from Arab Countries” congress will be held in London.
Surprisingly, given their track record on the Middle East, in the run up to the conference, this Saturday (June 21) the BBC World Service program “Newshour” (which airs from 1.05 – 2.00 pm U.K. time) will be devoting 30 minutes to the story of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. This global radio program will take calls and questions from listeners around the world.
In addition, the BBC’s “World Have Your Say” has started a blog on the subject which has already attracted many comments.
Some Jews have pointed out that while they welcome that the BBC is finally doing a program on this subject, it’s unfortunate that the show is being broadcast on the Jewish sabbath, when more religious Jews don’t listen to TV or radio.
Whereas some critics of Israel today mislead people in newspapers, lectures and elsewhere by claiming Jews have no roots in the Middle East, and stem from Europe, Jews are in fact one of the main indigenous peoples of the Middle East. There have been ancient Jewish communities in countries such as Iraq for over 2,500 years, more than a millennium before the foundation of Islam.
Today these historic Jewish communities have been effectively destroyed with almost no recognition from the international community or the Arab countries themselves. From a Jewish population in the Arab Middle East of 886,000 in the year 1948 in places like Algeria, Morocco and Yemen, now there are less than 8,000 Jews living in Arab countries:
Jewish Population in the year 1948:
The Jews of Algeria: 140,000
The Jews of Egypt: 75,000
The Jews of Iraq: 150,000
The Jews of Lebanon: 20,000
The Jews of Libya: 38,000
The Jews of Morocco: 265,000
The Jews of Syria: 30,000
The Jews of Tunisia: 105,000
The Jews of Yemen including Aden: 63,000
Jewish Population in the year 2000:
The Jews of Algeria: 100
The Jews of Egypt: 200
The Jews of Iraq: 100
The Jews of Lebanon: 100
The Jews of Libya: 0
The Jews of Morocco: 5,800
The Jews of Syria: 200
The Jews of Tunisia: 1,300
The Jews of Yemen: 200
By contrast the Arab population of Israel has increased greatly since 1948.
The issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries has recently been gaining greater attention, boosted by the February 2008 passing by the U.S. House of Representatives of Resolution 185 which stresses that any reference to Palestinian refugees must “also include a similarly explicit reference to the resolution of the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.”
MUSLIM WOMAN DEMANDS APOLOGY FROM OBAMA AFTER CAMERA SNUB
One of the two Muslim women who were denied visible seats on the stage behind U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on Monday because they wore head scarves, said they deserve a personal apology from Obama and close-up seats at a future campaign rally.
Hebba Aref, 25, and her friend, Shimaa Abdelfadeel, received apologies from the Obama campaign, but not from Obama himself, on Tuesday after they complained that they were not allowed to sit near the podium when campaign volunteers learned that they wear the traditional Muslim head scarf, the hijab.
Aref said that Obama staff had told them that because of “a sensitive political environment,” the Democratic presidential candidate should not be photographed with Muslims wearing head scarves
Aref, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, said she was particularly disappointed because she was attracted to Obama’s message of “unity and inclusion,” and demanded more than an apologetic phone call from a campaign official.
“I’ve lived in America for practically my whole life, and never been treated that way,” she said. “It’s so ironic that it was at Obama’s rally... He needs to send a strong message this kind of discrimination won’t be tolerated.”
UPDATE: Obama has now personally apologized. Following Obama’s apology last night, the women wrote on his website: “We are assured that he and his staff are committed to upholding the principles of justice for all peoples and bringing about change we can believe in.”
MADONNA’S NEXT PROJECT: A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE ISRAELI-ARAB CONFLICT
American pop diva Madonna is presently busy promoting her seventh No. 1 album, but the world’s most famous female pop star already has her sights set on a new project: a documentary about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The singer will be to collaborating with director Nathan Rissman, who apparently once served as Madonna’s gardener and as her children’s nanny.
Madonna previously made a film about the more than 1 million children orphaned in Malawi because of AIDS. She adopted an infant from the country in 2006.
The Arab-Israeli conflict is already one of the most televised and filmed conflicts ever, with countless documentaries and news reports about it. It is unclear what the former material girl turned kabbalist will be able to add to it.
(There have been several previous dispatches on this list mentioning Madonna’s involvement with the Middle East, for example: Egypt bans Madonna after Israel visit, Sept. 26, 2004)
-- Tom Gross