A Captive Jewish Airman in Europe
In your recent summer 2013 magazine issue you ran an article about a captive Jewish airman. I, as a former Jewish prisoner of war, cannot understand why you picked this individual—perhaps he is a friend or close relationship. It is obvious you failed to do adequate research on Jewish POWs in Nazi Germany before printing this article. I happen to personally know Mr. Horn, and he is a fine gentleman. I did not discuss the article with him.
In his 36 days as a POW, I assure you, he barely had sufficient time to recover from the normal shock of being captured or suffered the loss of freedom, the indignities inflicted by the Germans, the hunger and accompanied loss of weight and much more. If you had done your homework and investigated POWs who did not deny their religion, you could have come away with a decent piece of journalism. For your own information, why don’t you check the website about Berga and see how the Germans gathered American JUDEN and used them as slave labor.
Let it suffice to say that I am very upset at the article and the portrayal of Jewish POWs who did not deny their religion and were incarcerated by the Nazi regime.
Irving S. Schrom
Served as Platoon Leader 3rd Platoon, “C” Company, 423rd Reg., 106th Infantry Div.
Captured and wounded at Battle of the Bulge—was POW Dec. 19, 1944 through April 29, 1945.
Writer Bruce Wolk responds:
In the course of preparing my book, “Stars on My Wings,” I interviewed 14 Jewish POWs. Each man had his own set of experiences and each witnessed his captivity in different ways. No man denied his Jewish faith. No one hid behind a mask, and no one ever denied the experience of another. I interviewed a Jewish POW who was placed in front of a mock firing squad, another who was whipped with a riding crop, some forced to run through gauntlets and others who were sent on brutal forced marches. It is unfair to say that one man in captivity had it better than another in captivity.
What makes Harvey Horn's experience unique is that he was never in captivity and in the end, he actually helped save his guards. He was the only Jewish POW I interviewed who was captured at sea. In his march, three different sets of guards accompanied him. He was always in fear.
As to Berga, it was a terrible, tragic and awful situation. Books and documentaries have been written on Berga. It was clear that in the end the U.S. Government looked the other way. Yet, it was outside of the scope of this article. The writer should also be aware that gentiles as well as Jews were subject to the horrors of Berga. That said, I also interviewed Jewish POWs who claimed they were hardly affected by their captivity as POWs at all.
I appreciate the writer's passion and our nation should always be grateful for his service and sacrifice. The Jewish community, especially, should hold its WWII veterans dear.
Jews and Muslims in America
In response to our winter 2012 cover story on Jewish-Muslim relations in America, we received several letters to the editor. Below is an exchange between one letter writer—Eric Rozenman, the Washington, D.C. director of CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America)—and Dina Kraft, who reported and wrote the story. The initial letter by Rozenman and response by Kraft (below) were published in the spring 2013 issue. The follow-up letter and response (which are posted here, below the initial exchange) were recently submitted and are being published online only.
The article “Jews and Muslims in America: A New Flowering Amid the Tensions” in the Winter issue of B’nai B’rith Magazine relates some moving vignettes about Jewish-Muslim outreach. Unfortunately, it relies too heavily on Prof. Ingrid Mattson and the organization of which she is a past president, the Islamic Society of North America.
The article refers to the Islamic Society of North America as “the largest umbrella organization for Muslim groups.” That is how the society presents itself. However, it is hardly “Islamophobic” to point out that:
The society traces its roots to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to spread sharia, Islamic law, globally.
It was an unindicted co-conspirator in America’s largest terrorism funding trial to date, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development case. Though society officials claim it has moved beyond its Brotherhood roots, a Brotherhood list of “our organization and the organizations of our friends” seized by federal investigators in the successful Holy Land Foundation prosecution included ISNA.
FBI records from the 1980s indicate “ISNA conferences provided opportunities for the extreme fundamentalist Muslims to meet with their supporters.”
Money from Saudi Arabia has been a key source of ISNA support since its creation; and ISNA conferences have continued to feature anti-Israel, anti-Semitic publications and speakers.
During Mattson’s 2006–2010 presidency, she discounted the existence of radical Muslims in the United States despite a spike in homegrown extremism. As a professor of Islamic studies and Christian-Muslim relations at Hartford Seminary, she downplayed the extremism of Saudi Arabia’s puritanical, anti-Western Wahhabi school of Islam…
Jewish-Muslim outreach is important and, as the article noted, so is knowing to whom we are reaching out.
Washington (D.C.) Director
CAMERA—Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America
Writer Dina Kraft responds:
The accusations [CAMERA] cites are dated and discounted. The Anti-Defamation League and the Reform movement swear by Mattson and ISNA. As I note in the story, Eric Yoffie (past president of the Union of Reform Judaism) was a featured speaker at their convention a few years ago.
A federal judge has said that the status of the group as an unindicted co-conspirator should never have been revealed, because the federal government needed the unindicted co-conspirator not to implicate ISNA and other groups, but to facilitate entry of evidence against Holy Land. He said the revelation harmed groups that committed no criminal activity. The feds agreed and admitted the mistake. It’s more than a little McCarthyist to continue using it against them.
CAMERA cites ISNA as having origins in the Muslim Brotherhood. ISNA has stated in legal documents that it has no part in the organization. But the accusation continues, something the organization and its defenders, among them prominent Jewish leaders and religious figures I interviewed, say is part of a bid to discredit the organization…
As for having Saudi funding…if they do benefit from such funding, it would be worth mentioning, but only once the source in Saudi Arabia was determined. Several U.S. institutions receive funding from Saudi sources, including prominent universities.
Eric Rozenman responds
Dina Kraft’s reply to our letter (spring, 2013), criticizing her article “Jews and Muslims in America: A New Flowering Amid the Tensions” (winter, 2012), misleads readers.
Kraft claims evidence CAMERA cited disputing the Islamic Society of North America’s moderation is “dated and discounted.” Hardly. In the successful 2009 terrorism funding prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a key Muslim Brotherhood list of “our organization and the organizations of our friends” included ISNA.
Kraft makes much of the fact that a judge determined ISNA’s unindicted co-conspirator status in that case should not have been made public. She doesn’t mention that the status was not revoked.
In support of her portrayal of ISNA as mainstream, she says Rabbi Eric Yoffie, past president of the Union for Reform Judaism, spoke at a recent society convention. But so have Holocaust denier Yasir Qadhi and Siraj Wahhaj, Siraj Wahhaj, listed by the U.S. government among “unindicted persons who may be alleged as co-conspirators” in the early 1990s plot lead by the “blind sheik,” Omar Abdel Rahman, to blow up New York City landmarks.
Kraft dismisses CAMERA’s observation that Saudi Arabian money is a key source of ISNA’s support—“if they do benefit from such funding, it would be worth mentioning, but only once the source in Saudi Arabia was determined.” Saudis have spent tens of billions of dollars underwriting “charities throughout the Islamic Diaspora,” according to former Treasury Department general counsel David Aufhauser. They’ve done so to teach “unforgiving, intolerant, uncompromising and austere views” of Islam.
Kraft alludes to “a bid to discredit” ISNA. CAMERA’s interest is in accurate reporting, in context, whether such coverage makes ISNA look good, bad or indifferent. Our objection is to glossing over an organization rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that, despite denials, still hosts individuals and offers for sale publications with extremist views and, according to a recent Gallup survey, speaks for no more than 12 percent of American Muslims.
Washington (D.C.) Director
CAMERA—Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America
Dina Kraft responds:
CAMERA claims it seeks accurate reporting and then goes and repeats its circular arguments and disingenuous statements.
The fact that ISNA turned up on a “key Muslim Brotherhood list of ‘our organization and other organizations of our friends’” seems to be guilt by association twice removed. More to the point, the Muslim Brotherhood can claim whatever it wants. While their claims may be pertinent in gathering information about the Holy Land Foundation (i.e. how the Muslim Brotherhood had aspirations of influencing American Muslims), how on earth is it probative of what ISNA’s status is—why is CAMERA lending credibility to an unverified claim by the Muslim Brotherhood?
During the 2009 trial against the Holy Land Foundation, ISNA and two other Muslim organizations were named as “unindicted co-conspirators,” but what Mr. Rozenman, as someone who would have followed the case closely, chooses to omit, is the murky legal definition of the term and the fact that federal authorities themselves later regretted publishing the names in what was supposed to be a sealed case. Why? Because they knew that unwarranted stigma of ISNA and other organizations would likely follow if their names as such were made public—which is exactly what happened.
The category of unindicted co-conspirators ISNA fell under was the type that the government lists in order to expand the evidence against the group or person it is indicting but whose identity the government works to keep anonymous because the so-called “unindicted co-conspirator” is thought to be innocent of the alleged crime.
ISNA, which has condemned Hamas and Hezbollah terrorism, cooperated with the government in prosecuting the Holy Land Foundation. It’s also worth noting that in November 2005 the Senate Finance Committee issued a report concluding that ISNA had no ties to terrorists.
CAMERA criticizes Saudi funding, but is all Saudi funding to be condemned in blanket terms? CAMERA appears to be suggesting that any money from any Saudi citizen or group to any citizen or group is tainted. Shouldn’t the source of the funding be determined before blacklisting it? I think that is what Harvard and Georgetown universities did, when they, for example, took donations from a “Saudi source,” in this case a prominent businessman. “Saudi” money has also gone to institutions like the Louvre and to South East Asian victims of the Tsunami.
In regards to one of the individuals CAMERA cites as among the many who have addressed ISNA, Yasir Qadhi did make a Holocaust denial statement in 2000 but recanted in 2010 when he and other imams visited Auschwitz and signed a statement decrying the Holocaust and condemning anti-Semitism.
The American Shtetl
Uriel Heilman’s “The American Shtetl” exemplifies good social reportage. It presents communal facts in straightforward fashion, without evaluation and with no bias. Thank you for this excellent report.
Dr. Leo Shatin
Boca Raton, Fla.
Uriel Heilman’s article on “The American Shtetl” is an informative piece about one aspect of ultra-Orthodox Jewish life in America. However, the term “shtetl” is inappropriate in this context. While it is true that the Yiddish was the lingua franca of both the Eastern European shtetl and towns like New Square and Kiryas Joel, no shtetl was 100 percent Jewish, nor did any of them manage to keep the outside world at bay. Indeed, there is a fundamental difference between the two: The European shtetl was an organic creation of hundreds of years of history where Jews maintained a particular Jewish way of life while still interacting with Christians on a daily basis and incorporating (albeit sometimes slowly and reluctantly) elements of the surrounding society and of secular culture into their lives. The Hasidic towns in the United States are artificial creations engineered to isolate their residents from all outside influences and to keep them, as far as possible, from interacting with any others outside their own communities.
Lokey Associate Professor of Judaic Studies, Portland State University
Much of American Jewry came from Eastern Europe to escape the constraints of shtetl life. Among the many was my father. Has common sense been abandoned in exchange for poverty and self-imposed righteousness?
Respectfully, I suggest that you edit a responsive “letters” section as feedback from your readers. B’nai B’rith Magazine publishes news and editorial items which strongly concern the Jewish public. You stimulate a critical readership whose responses deserve to be made public.
Boca Raton, Fla. Editor’ Note: We normally do include letters to the editor in the print version of the magazine. This did not happen with the fall issue due to space constraints. In such circumstances, or if we have more letters than we have room to publish them, they will appear online. We welcome all feedback from readers, whether by e-mail to email@example.com or by postal mail. Secret Flight of the Machal Airmen Dear Editor:
It was with much interest and appreciation that I read the article “Secret Flight of the Machal Airmen” in the fall 2012 issue. My brother, Ralph Moster, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, was one of the volunteers in what became the War of Independence in 1947-48 in Palestine. At the age of 23, he was a veteran of Canada’s Royal Air Force of World War II. Having grown up in a strong Zionist home, he determined to offer his services to the struggling Jews and was permitted by the government to go to Palestine, ostensibly to be a farm worker. Until a plane became available, he served with distinction in the Palmach with the future archaeologist Ygdal Yadin. Once he was able to fly, his outstanding record and diligence earned him the rank of Commander of the Air Force in southern Palestine which covered the Negev and Tel Aviv areas. At one time he didn’t sleep for four days and four nights, due to his aircraft’s bombing enemy positions at night and preparing plans daytime for evening bombings.
In his last letter home, he wrote that while he was due a leave, he felt he was desperately needed there and that what he was contributing to victory for his people had raised their morale considerably. He observed that the “Arabs would never beat us, because we know what we are fighting for.” He praised the Jewish people—the Jew in Palestine, he wrote, is an altogether new type of Jew—young, strong, healthy, with the main objective being to see the nation of Israel grow. “All we live for here,” he emphasized, “is to be free.”
While he was testing a new plane over the Kinneret, the plane malfunctioned and crashed. Ralph drowned and his body was found a week later. He was buried with full military honors in Tel Aviv with Air Force personnel and military police forming a guard of honor. The Air Force command turned out to pay their last respects to a devoted son of Israel. In that last letter, he wrote, “This is where I want to be.” And, indeed, that is where he is.
Julius B. Moster
Los Angeles, Calif. Dear Editor:
I recently received your copy of the fall issue of your very informative magazine. Being a former pilot of WWII, I could not help seeing a picture of a former German fighter, a Me109BF, with our Israeli Magen David on its wings and fuselage. I was aware of our use of any plane we could obtain. My hat is off to those brave and great pilots who made up the Machalniks.
My hobby most of my 90 years has been the story of the men, the planes, etc. that made up WWI and the air war.
Leon Frankel is one of the gentlemen pictured in the photo. Lt. Frankel was the highest ranking ace in the German Air Force during WWI. The German high command was not very happy that a “Jew” was the top ace. Frankel was farmed out to Anthony Fokker’s company plant to train German pilots while the pet of the high command, Manfred von Richtofen, was given time to exceed his number of victories
. Unfortunately, Frankel was shot down and killed later on.
Hitler ordered that all vestiges of Jews be erased from public places. Some of the top German aces of WWI joined in having a new monument made bearing Frankel’s name, and his remains were buried in Friedhof (cemetery) along with the other great aces dear to the Luftwaffe.
Again, thank you for your excellent magazine.
Jews in the Civil Rights Movement
Thank you for the excellent issue covering Jews in the civil rights struggle. The article evoked many memories for me. Following my discharge from the Army Air Force, I enrolled at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. As someone who grew up in a diverse community in Massachusetts, I had never encountered extreme, or even nominal, racism. D.C., in 1946 had segregated transportation, the drinking fountains and toilets in department stores were segregated, and even my university enrolled no African Americans. I was both shocked and ashamed by it. As a Jew who spent time in Germany in World War II, I often guarded German soldiers. That experience strengthened my conviction that I would oppose segregation wherever and whenever it occurred. Your article made me very proud of the Jews, many of them unknown, who courageously sacrificed their lives to oppose policies that degraded human beings.
Samuel L. Simon
South Nyack, NY
I enjoyed two articles in the summer magazine which are seemingly unrelated, but actually have a very interesting connection. The cover shows Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holding a picture of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney, the civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi in 1964. Elsewhere, there is a wonderful article about my friend, Harold “Hesch” Steinberg, entitled “A Lifelong Dedication to Judaism.”
Both Mickey Schwerner and Hesch Steinberg were members of Alpha Epsilon Pi at Michigan State University. Schwerner transferred to Cornell University after his freshman year in 1957, and his association with Michigan State was largely unknown until a few years ago. As a direct result of Hesch’s efforts, Michigan State University has become aware of and embraced this connection, honoring Schwerner at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, and the local AEPi chapter hosted a Shabbat dinner and presented a plaque to Hillel in his memory.
In May 2012, I had the honor to represent AEPi International and MSU Hillel at an extraordinary program in New York City, cosponsored by the Cornell University AEPi, Hillel and Black Alumni Association. The program called “The Impact and Legacy of the Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney Case,” featured a panel composed of David Goodman, Ben Chaney and Stephen Schwerner, brothers of Andrew, James and Michael, respectively. These gentlemen, now in their 60s and 70s, shared some very unique perspectives on the Jewish role in the civil rights movement, the movie “Mississippi Burning,” their brothers and the impact of the murders on their families. The warm hospitality of the hosts, Ellen Braitman of Bloomberg TV, and her husband, David Shapiro, provided an intimate setting and allowed a rare and unique view into history.
Keego Harbor, Michigan
Past International President, Alpha Epsilon Pi
Member, Board of Directors, Michigan State University Hillel
My contribution in shining a light on the connection between our late Brother Michael Schwerner, Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity and Michigan State University has been greatly overstated. Past Supreme Master Steve Bernstein also shared the credit.
But there is a sidebar to the cover story (Summer 2012): Among those who resisted the inevitable march for the struggle for Civil Rights were the members of a quasi-governmental agency established by the State of Mississippi: the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission. In December 1961, more than 225 Jewish teenagers and their advisers attended the Cotton States BBYO convention in Biloxi, Miss. The Mississippi Sovereignty Commission sent spies to the convention hotel to determine if these young Jewish BBYO’ers (myself included) were intent on wreaking havoc on their way of life. Of course, we weren’t and we were not harmed. But it is easy to speculate on the mindset of the hate-mongers who followed and, a few years later, brutally murdered Brother Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman.
The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis pays tribute not only to Dr. King, but also to all of the brave men and woman...black and white, young and old, Jew and Gentile...who left their blood along the long road to freedom. Brothers Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, along with many other Freedom Summer workers, are prominently featured in the museum’s exhibits.
Harold “Hesch” Steinberg
Jews in the Military
I recently received from the B’nai B’rith Magazine and read numerous letters to the editor dealing with your article about Jews serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
My father, Chaim Herzog, Israel’s sixth president, served as the Military Attaché of Israel in the USA between 1950 and 1954 in the rank of Colonel. In his autobiography “Living History” (Pantheon Books, 1996), he depicted the unique situation which certain Jewish commanders in the U.S. army felt anti-Semitism at the time.
Isaac (Bougie) Herzog
Member of the Knesset
The Message of Passover
Allan Jacobs’ column in the recent issue of B’nai B’rith Magazine had more of an impact than you might realize. My immediate reaction to it was “My God, this is what I’ve been trying to impart to all the people who come to meetings and who have no idea what B.B. is all about except for the fact that they live in a B.B. building.”
I am an almost 92-year-old woman who has been a member of B.B. since 1941…over 70 years!!!! Oh, what glorious days they were! It was an “honor” to become a member and activity was bubbling over. I think I must have been chair of every position on the board including “President” three times…wherever I moved. Now I live at Homecrest House in Silver Spring, MD and am the closet advisor to our unit.
We held a general meeting recently which was conducted by our newly elected president, Sandy Wasserman, which went very well. I had mentioned your article to Sandy before the meeting, and she asked if I would read it. Well, I did…and it was so well received, the audience actually applauded. It was the first time that, for a good portion of the attendees, they ever heard an explanation of what B’nai B’rith is all about. Your message is so complete, so succinct; there wasn’t anything to be explained. Several people approached me later to thank me and to say it was an eye-opener.
Thank you so much for giving ME the opportunity to do what I’ve been trying to do for so long. Thank you again for your marvelous message. Let your imagination give you a big hug from me.
Silver Spring, Md.
The Jews of Berlin
As a former Berliner, I was very interested in the article about Berlin in the recent issue of the magazine. However, I noted that there was no mention of the wonderful Jewish museum in that city. It is fairly new, and visitors to the city should not miss seeing it. Also, the article about the B'nai B'rith lodge in Berlin did not mention what that unit is doing now. When my husband and I, and another B’nai B’rith couple were in Berlin in 1991, we were invited by the lodge president for a social evening and also spoke to the audience briefly about our involvement and work in the organization in the U.S. Many of the lodge members were from the former Soviet Union and quite a few from Israel.
Your article in the spring magazine brought lots of memories. Born in Berlin, my grandfather’s name was Louis Schachmann. My father’s name was Carl Schachnann. They both were members of B’nai B’rith. I remember my grandfather showing me on his gold chain hanging a little gold triangle which was an emblem from B’nai B’rith. My grandfather had been a president in one of the synagogues you mentioned; however I cannot remember which. I just know that we had a big silver bowl with an inscription about my grandfather serving as president.
My best regards to you,
Postcards from the Holocaust
I was both amazed and excited to read Dara Kahn's account of Torkel Wachter's project in the spring issue of the B'nai B'rith Magazine. I was amazed because his serendipitous find of the 32 postcards led him to an ever expanding understanding of his family relations, his roots and ultimately his identity. It is a personal story with an historical background that should take its place among Holocaust literature, never to be forgotten. I was excited, because I have come unexpectedly into possession of a collection of correspondence of my uncle, who had saved all the letters and postcards written to him by his family and mine when they were still in Germany, in Poland, or on the way to the Americas. That mail dates from the last years of World War I (1917) and ends abruptly in the middle of World War II (1941). It is written in German (many in the old German script) and Yiddish.
I am in the process of organizing this material, preserving it, translating it and drawing on it for an expanded memoir I have written but not published. Needless to add, as an 87-year-old Jewish refugee and grandfather, I feel an urgency to complete my project and would also welcome some help with my work.