Archive for Nazi

Jewish “psychiatrist” was a progenitor of Nazi eugenics

Posted in Israel with tags , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2009 by The 800 Pound Gorilla

eugenicsHaaretz (Israel)
May 21, 2009In 1944, psychiatrist Kurt Levinstein gave a lecture at a Tel Aviv conference, where he advocated preventing people with various mental and neurological disorders — such as alcoholism, manic depression and epilepsy — from bringing children into the world.

The means he proposed — prohibition of marriage, contraception, abortion and sterilization — were acceptable in Europe and the United States in the first decades of the 20th century, within the framework of eugenics: the science aimed at improving the human race.

In the 1930s, the Nazis used these same methods in the early stages of their plan to strengthen the Aryan race.

Levinstein was aware, of course, of the dubious political connotations implicit in his recommendations, but believed the solid and salutary principles of eugenics could be isolated from their use by the Nazis.

Recent research by historian Rakefet Zalashik on the history of psychiatry in Palestine during the Mandate period and following the founding of the state shows that Levinstein was far from a lone voice. Indeed, she claims in her 2008 book, “Ad Nefesh: Refugees, Immigrants, Newcomers and the Israeli Psychiatric Establishment” (Hakibbutz Hameuchad; in Hebrew), that the eugenics-based concept of “social engineering” was part of the psychiatric mainstream here [in Israel] from the 1930s through the 1950s.

Jewish psychiatrists in Israel were not the only ones who tried to distinguish between the science of eugenics, which they held to be useful, and the Nazis’ application of it. What set the local experts apart was that they actually studied the foundations of the theory in Germany before immigrating to Palestine, directly from the scientists who supported using eugenics to forcibly sterilize mentally ill and physically disabled Germans — and subsequently to justify their murder. Within a few years, the German scientists were using the same justification for killing Jews.

Many of the Jewish psychiatrists subscribed to their German colleagues’ conception of the Jews as a race, relying on the theory that was developed in Europe, says Zalashik. However, upon their arrival in Palestine, they encountered Jews of different types and began to distinguish between the race of European Jews, and that of the Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews (of Middle Eastern and North African origin).

Thus, for example, psychiatrist Avraham Rabinovich, who worked in the Ezrat Nashim facility in Jerusalem and later managed a mental institution in Bnei Brak, drew a distinction in his patient reports from 1921-1928 between the general population, and Jews of Bukharan, Georgian and Persian descent, whom he referred to as “primitive races.”

In explaining why the latter were less affected by mental illness, he wrote: “Their consciousness, with its meager content, does not place any special demands on life, and it slavishly submits to the outward conditions, and for this reason, does not enter into confrontation and so gives rise to a relatively very small percentage of functional illnesses in the nervous system and in terms of mental illness in particular.”

The views of these psychiatrists meshed with the goals of the Zionist movement, which at the time propounded a policy of selective immigration.

“Eugenics was a part of the national philosophy of most of [the local] psychiatrists,” says Zalashik. “The theory was that a healthy nation was needed in order to fulfill the Zionist vision in Israel. There was a powerful economic aspect to this view of things – the idea being to prevent people who were perceived as a burden on society from bringing children into the world. And homosexuals and frigid women also fell into this category.”

Psychiatrist Kochinsky, for one, argued in 1938 in the journal Harefuah that the findings of a census of the mentally ill in Palestine should serve primarily as “a basis for methods to improve the race.”

Zalashik maintains that such outlooks, as well as other false and harmful assumptions upon which Israeli psychiatry was based in its early years, led to the adoption of inappropriate and sometimes cruel forms of treatment, whose effects on the mental health system in the country are still being felt today.

In her new book, Zalashik chronicles the history of the psychiatric community, which began to take shape in the 1930s with the arrival of dozens of Jewish psychiatrists from German-speaking countries following the Nazis’ rise to power. According to her research, at the end of 1933, there were only three psychiatrists working in this country; by the end of World War II, that number had grown to 70. These psychiatrists were influenced by the hypotheses and findings of extensive research conducted in the countries of their birth regarding mental disorders unique to Jews, which was part of the Germans’ attempt to explain “the Jewish problem” in biological and medical terms.

“Both Jewish and non-Jewish doctors were wont to think that Jews had a greater tendency to develop mental illness than others,” says Zalashik. “The debate was about whether this was because of race, or environmental factors: The Jews said that Jews suffer from mental illnesses because they endured hardship and pogroms, and live in cities where there is more stress and tension than in rural areas. The non-Jews reached the same conclusion, but based it on the argument that Jews were different biologically and genetically.”

Zalashik contends that the question of whether the basic premise is accurate is irrelevant to historians. “What’s relevant is that the Jewish minority, particularly in Germany, went from being considered a social problem to a medical problem.”

Upon immigrating to Israel, the Jewish psychiatrists did not give up the theories in which they had been educated; instead, they adapted them to the newfound situation.

Zalashik: “If, in Europe, the tendency to develop mental illness was said to attest to the Jews’ inferiority, then in Palestine it showed the superiority of the pioneers over the Jews from the Old Yishuv [pre-state community]: The psychiatrists said the pioneers came from civilization, and that civilized people suffer from more mental illness than people of the Old Yishuv who lived in a rural environment.”

The psychiatrists further maintained that the pioneers tended to develop mental illnesses due to the stress involved in migration and also because of their young age (20-30), known to be a prime period for mental disorders.

One of the main solutions proposed by the psychiatrists was social engineering of the Jewish public in Israel or, as they called it, “mental hygiene.” Up until his immigration to Israel in the 1930s, Martin Pappenheim, who ran the neurological department of the city hospital in Vienna from 1921-1923, represented the Austrian branch of the International League for Mental Hygiene – a movement founded in 1908 with the aim of reducing poverty, crime and morbidity by means of drastic preventive measures. In 1935, Pappenheim, together with Dr. Mordechai Brachiahu, founded the association’s branch in Palestine.

One of the main arguments in favor of eugenics was the economic benefit it would bring. According to Pappenheim, his association’s activity was intended to reduce “the unproductive costs of maintaining the unskilled … which burden the nation’s budget,” and to redirect resources to preserving the health of the working population.

Unwanted pregnancies

The recommendations of Pappenheim and his colleagues were partially implemented in the 1930s. In Tel Aviv and Jaffa, “advice stations” for Jews were set up to provide guidance to couples before and after marriage, so as to prevent unwanted pregnancies by those carrying “unhealthy” genetic baggage.

In 1942, Kochinsky gave a lecture on “population policy and psychopathology” at the second conference of the Neuro-Psychiatric Society. He told his audience that of the 200 people he’d treated at the Beit Strauss hygiene center in Tel Aviv, 48 percent had “mental illnesses” with a genetic component, and that these carriers ought not to bear children. These disorders included a whole spectrum of problems, ranging from suicidal tendencies to frigidity and sexual dysfunction. In wake of these “worrisome findings,” Kochinsky proposed that a nationwide census be conducted to chart the likelihood of the country’s inhabitants to develop mental illnesses, so that measures could be taken to fortify the Jewish race.

Psychiatrists were not the only ones tempted by the allure of eugenics; other doctors in the country, including senior health officials, also tried to adopt its methods. Among the most prominent of these figures during the Mandate was Dr. Yosef Meir, who served for 30 years as chairman of the Clalit health maintenance organization (Kfar Sava’s Meir Hospital is named for him). In 1934, in a front-page article in “Ha’em Vehayeled” (“Mother and Child”), a guide for parents put out by the HMO, Dr. Meir wrote the following:

“Who is entitled to bear children? The search for a correct answer to this question is the concern of eugenics, the science of improving the human race and protecting it from degeneration. This science is still young, but its positive results are already of major importance … Is it not our duty to ensure that our nation shall have sons who are healthy and whole in body and mind?” And he went on to write: “For us, eugenics – in general, and in particular for the sake of guarding against the transmission of hereditary illnesses – has even greater value than it does for other nations! … Doctors, aficionados of sport, and those active on the national scene must spread the idea: Do not have children if you are not certain that they will be healthy in body and mind!”

“There’s a difference between a regular clinic and a eugenic clinic of the kind that were established here,” Zalashik notes. “When you come to a regular clinic, the objective is to heal you or to provide some kind of means to ease your suffering. When you come to a eugenic clinic, there are other considerations at work: The caregiver is seeking to heal the Jewish people, to create people with the physical and emotional stamina to fulfill the national vision. Because prevention is a very important element, when a handicapped child was born, for example, they would try to convince the parents not to conceive again.”

Aside from such counseling for married couples, support was also provided for sterilization procedures for the mentally ill. Zalashik found a letter from Yehuda Nadibi, the Tel Aviv municipal secretary, to the chief medical officer of the Mandate government, asking him to have a mentally ill woman committed to the psychiatric hospital in Bethlehem – or else he would instruct that she be sterilized. The woman was hospitalized, but then left on a furlough and became pregnant. The social services department in the municipality complained about the financial expense that would be caused by the pregnancy, and asked why the hospital hadn’t sterilized her.

Selection committees

The German-Jewish psychiatrists were not unaware of the similarity between their recommendations and the Nazi policy that was implemented at the very same time. Kurt Levinstein even concluded a 1944 lecture with a quote from the German psychiatrist and geneticist Hans Luxenburger, who was involved in legislating eugenic methods in the Third Reich and sought to find scientific proof for the hereditary component of mental illness, in order to promote the government’s sterilization initiatives.

“A person in whom hereditary mental illness has not been prevented or cured,” quoted Levinstein, “presents just as great a danger to the race as a regular patient, at the height of his suffering … Eugenic prophylaxis is the only prophylaxis and the ideal prophylaxis for hereditary illnesses.”

Levinstein stressed that Luxenburger said these things before the Nazis came to power and, like his fellow Jewish psychiatrists, he sought to differentiate between the Nazi usage and the Zionist usage of eugenic theories. “[The Jewish psychiatrists] argued that it was good science of which the Nazis made evil use in creating a hierarchy of races and annihilating entire peoples,” says Zalashik. “They thought of it as an important and effective means of fortifying the nation’s health.”

The attempts to strengthen the Jewish race by means of controlling births continued after the founding of the state and into the 1950s. In August 1952, a decision was passed by the World Congress of Jewish Physicians to establish a scientific institute dedicated to issues of eugenics in Israel. The institute was never established; eugenic theories were beginning to be abandoned by then, once their basic premises had been proven false and perhaps also as a result of the increased growth and diversity of the psychiatric establishment.

Local Zionist institutions also sought to exert control over the Jewish public’s health by means of limitations on immigration. From 1918-1919, offices were opened in various countries, and screened those seeking to move to Palestine. In 1921, an immigration department was founded with the purpose of handling candidates for immigration until their arrival in this country. In the mid-1920s, medical selection committees were established in the immigration offices; in addition, examinations were conducted at the country’s ports and in the quarantine facilities run by the Mandatory health authorities.

This selection continued after the Nazis came to power. In late November 1933, Henrietta Szold, then chairwoman of the Youth Aliya department of the Jewish Agency, wrote to Dr. George Landauer, director of the Agency’s German division, asking him to oversee the medical examinations of immigration candidates at the Berlin office – since some Jews who’d received certificates had subsequently ended up dependent on Palestine’s welfare services due to health problems. Reports about several such cases were circulated among the three organizations involved in emigration from Germany: the Jewish National Committee, the United Committee for the Settlement of German Jews in Palestine (founded in 1932) and the German section of the Jewish Agency.

Selective immigration was officially halted with the enactment of the Law of Return in 1950, which recognized the right of every Jew to immigrate to Israel. But Zalashik asserts that traces of the eugenic viewpoint are still to be found within the Israeli medical system.

“Israel is a superpower in terms of pre-pregnancy tests and abortions,” she says. “Abortions are performed here on the slightest pretext, including [correctable] aesthetic flaws such as a cleft palate. The notion that there are some babies that shouldn’t be born is part of the eugenic philosophy.”

Eugenics wasn’t the only dubious theory the German-Jewish psychiatrists brought with them, Zalashik adds: They also adopted German psychiatry’s conception of trauma and its method of treating victims of emotional shock.

Many psychiatrists in the young state believed that the psyche of Jews was more resilient due to the persecution they endured throughout history. In 1957, Fishel Shneorson published an article in the journal Niv Harofeh, about the emotional fortitude of Holocaust survivors. He argued that there was a lower rate of mental illness among survivors who immigrated to Palestine/Israel than among those who settled elsewhere.

The theory, widely accepted by psychiatrists here at the time, was that the conditions in this country – the absence of anti-Semitism, combined with the survivors’ participation in fighting for and building the nation – had a salutary effect on their mental health. Because of this, psychiatrists tended to attribute a large portion of Holocaust survivors’ complaints to immigration difficulties and inter-familial issues, rather than to diagnose them as emotional problems and treat them accordingly.

The dismissive attitude toward the effect of the Holocaust experience is evident in the case of one Romanian-born Jew, who was admitted in 1955 to Jerusalem’s Talbieh Psychiatric Hospital to see whether he was suffering from a psychiatric problem. He was described as “possessing borderline intelligence, very weak social understanding and an infantile personality,” and diagnosed as suffering from depression, anxiety, insecurity and aggression.

Zalashik: “The therapists devoted three whole pages to the patient’s life history, from his childhood up to his hospitalization, but this was all they had to say about his wartime experience: ‘In 1941, during the war, the patient was taken to the labor camps and was separated from his family. In the camps he did not suffer from any illnesses. After his release from the concentration camps in 1945, he returned to Romania and learned that his entire family had been wiped out.'”

‘Compensation neurosis’

The psychiatrists’ attitude toward the survivors’ trauma took on added significance in 1952, with the signing of the reparations agreement between Germany and Israel. According to the law in Germany, survivors were entitled to seek compensation for damages caused them by the Nazi persecution. Israeli psychiatrists were asked to write professional opinions about the demands for compensation. Survivors who were not former citizens of Germany, or were not part of the German cultural milieu, were entitled to seek a disability pension from the Israeli Finance Ministry and from the National Insurance Institute, and medical opinions were required for this as well.

Zalashik concludes that instead of using this opportunity to take a closer look at the survivors’ psyches and recognize their mental anguish, the psychiatrists primarily saw themselves as the guardians of the state coffers, and were disinclined to acknowledge the psychological harm wrought by the Nazis. And when they did recognize it, they tended to assign the person in question a minimal level of disability.

Psychiatrist Kurt Blumenthal went so far as to claim that many survivors were just pretending to have mental problems, when he wrote in 1953 about “compensation neurosis” or “purposeful neurosis,” which was ostensibly characterized by an attempt to portray oneself as having suffered great damage in order to increase compensation one would receive. Psychiatrist Julius Baumetz, director of a Jerusalem mental health station, implored his colleagues to do their utmost to put an immediate end to such allegedly neurosis-driven demands, lest survivors’ conditions deteriorate to a state of “infantile dependence.”

“The Israeli psychiatrists betrayed their role when they decided to worry more about the state coffers than about their patients,” says Zalashik. “When people came to them complaining about nightmares, they told them they were making it up. One German psychiatrist I interviewed said that he was horrified by the opinions he received from Israeli therapists. He said they were so outdated and non-specific that they were harmful to the patients. The theories upon which they were based – i.e., that trauma does not cause any long-term change in personality – were already considered outmoded in Germany in those years.”

Zalashik says this atmosphere made it easier for the Health Ministry to decide that mentally ill Holocaust survivors should be treated in private psychiatric institutions instead of by the public health care system. Survivors were kept in these institutions for decades. Eventually, these facilities became hostels; to this day, they are home to about 700 Holocaust survivors.

Another reason this approach in treatment was adopted concerns the status of the psychiatrists themselves, Zalashik believes: “The ones who came from Germany had very different outlooks than that of the Eastern European Zionist establishment that controlled the health system. Many of them had not done a residency, and the medical establishment was not keen to absorb them. Instead of integrating them into the public psychiatric institutions, they let them open private institutions. Once the government discovered that keeping a patient in these institutions was cheaper than keeping him in the public health institutions, it encouraged their proliferation and treatment of the mentally disabled in those frameworks.”

Dr. Motti Mark, who headed the Health Ministry’s department of mental health services from 1991-1996 and from 1999-2001, worked to close down the private institutions and to transfer their occupants to appropriate government institutions, hostels or community treatment facilities. He becomes visibly emotional when relating how appalled he was when he first encountered them: “[The authorities] created a separate health system for mental patients. I discovered that there were places that they called hospitals, which were actually just like shelters you would find in the United States. These places sprang up outside the big cities wherever there was an abandoned barracks or prison, and they put the patients with the most severe distress there.

“In every abandoned location, the Health Ministry found external solutions, which were supposed to be like complete hospitals, but with an auxiliary doctor or neurologist, who tried to provide full treatment to people with a whole range of problems – anxiety, loneliness, post-traumatic depression – but also nutritional and intestinal problems. In 1991, in one such institution, I saw 30 or 40 people lying in one big room in very poor conditions. I didn’t know that such things existed in Israel.”

Threat of lobotomy

Zalashik, who today lives in New York, earned a bachelor’s degree in general history and sociology from Tel Aviv University. As a student, she also ran a club affiliated with the Hadash (socialist) movement in Tel Aviv. After completing a master’s degree in German history, she wrote her master’s thesis on the father of German psychiatry, Johann Christian Reil, and began researching the history of psychiatry in the United States. She came to research the subject for her current book after an Israeli friend, a psychiatric social worker, told her that nurses in the hospital where he works often threaten patients who annoy them by saying: “If you don’t behave nicely, we’ll give you a lobotomy.”

A lobotomy is a procedure in which a needle is inserted into the brain via the eye socket and the frontal lobes of the brain are destroyed. The method is based on the presumption that these lobes are the emotional centers of the nervous system, and their neutralizing dulls the emotional response that is troubling the mental patient.

Israeli practitioners continued to recommend insulin therapy for many years after its dangerous effects were documented, including some cases of mortality. While the use of insulin therapy was on the decline in most countries by the first half of the 1950s, it did not start to fade in Israel until the 1960s. In May 1952, for example, a doctor from Talbieh hospital praised insulin therapy, calling it “one of the most effective therapies in the spectrum of modern treatments for schizophrenia.” In 1970, nine private mental health institutions (nearly one-third of all those in Israel), were still using insulin therapy.

“Apparently, it is possible to experiment with electroshock, which costs less than insulin and can be done at the Ezrat Nashim Hospital in Jerusalem,” the woman wrote. “The treatment must last for three months and afterward there are two possibilities: Either we see that the patients are completely cured, or we see there is no remedy for them at all and transfer them to the hospital in Bnei Brak.”

Says Zalashik, “In the early stages, when a new therapy is adopted, there is tremendous enthusiasm and euphoria, and reports of a success rate of 90 percent or higher. Later on, the reports become more reserved, and the question is asked whether the therapy was really helping all the patients or only some. In the third stage, someone declares that these therapies are not working, and at the same time a new therapy arises.

“Some of these therapies were completely unjustified to begin with; the theory upon which insulin therapy was based was nonsense. Part of the justification to use them had to do with the status of the psychiatrists themselves within the medical profession: While doctors in other fields were presenting impressive achievements and discoveries, the psychiatrists were stuck with chronically ill patients who did not respond to any treatment.

Essentially, they knew very little about ‘their’ diseases, and were unable to show proof of success. They felt it was better to do something than to do nothing. Beyond that, some of the therapies raise serious ethical questions: A lobotomy irreversibly changes someone’s personality. This wasn’t just the wrong treatment. It was a radical move that turned people into zombies.”

Mark attributes the use of such treatment to the fact that Israeli psychiatry was lagging behind the rest of the world.

“Until the 1980s, I think that Israeli psychiatry was 10 or 20 years behind what was happening in the West,” he notes. “This derived, for one thing, from the language gap. The therapists of German origin implemented a European psychiatry which had disappeared after World War II, and they were unfamiliar with the therapeutic advances that occurred primarily in English-speaking countries. It wasn’t until the late 1980s or early 1990s that psychiatric treatment in Israel fell into line with standard practice in the rest of the world.”

The above article can be found at: Eugenics in Israel: Did Jews try to improve the human race too?

In 1948, Jewish Dr. Norbert Wiener, the author of Cybernetics, said: “…prefrontal lobotomy …has recently been having a certain vogue, probably not unconnected with the fact that it makes the custodial care of many patients easier. Let me remark in passing that killing them makes their custodial care still easier.”

A Cypto-jew and the Nazi underground movment “The Believer”

Posted in Essential Reading, Media Watch with tags , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2009 by The 800 Pound Gorilla

thebeliever_lRyan Gosling stars as Danny Balint, a Nazi youth whose influential way with words and speeches has earned him high regard amongst the underground movements in New York City. He has the ability to attract the right kind of attention to get where he wants to go; if Hitler had a reincarnation, this just might be it. But something else is troubling Danny, something rather unexpected: he himself happens to be of Jewish heritage. We see it not so much in words as we do in actions: during the breaking and entering into a synagogue by his neo-Nazi group, he is hesitant to destroy. When the time comes for him to prove himself by taking the life of a Jew, he backs down. Upon meeting Carla (Summer Phoenix), the daughter of a Fascist group leader (Theresa Russell), he does not try to dissuade her from learning the Hebrew language in order to read the Talmud.

somewhere near the end of the movie Danny is asked by his yeshiva childhood friends after stating their present occupations (Rabbi, Hebrew teacher, etc.) “What about you? What are you doing? Something strange, l bet. Uh,… No, it’s kind of an underground thing. Like an artist? No.Uh, like a private business.” indicating in my opinion that he was following the natural cores of his Talmudic teachings he received as a child. Even the scene opens with a Rabbi saying the line “The TaImud teaches us…”

download and watch here or here

2002
Filmcritic.com

Religious doubt leads to violence in this slice-of-lifer that won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival — now finally making tentative steps in general release.

Jewish self-hatred is an interesting foundation for a film, if only because it’s a subject never explored by an industry still apologizing for the Holocaust. The lengths to which someone will go to redefine and prove themselves a member of the enemy circle are certainly compelling. But when the main character in question dives between extremes without a single clear definition of his motives, the strength of the narrative suffers. A double life can only work when you are aware of some of the triggers that push some semblance of reality into the character in question.

Danny’s (Ryan Gosling) Jewish schooling has apparently left him with so many doubts, that the only cure for his intellectual suffering is the impenetrable wish to kill them all. Jews run and own everything anyway, so this will be a popular new sport to reset society, right? Finish what Hitler started!

Danny is encouraged along this bastardly streak by a Fascist circle he easily, miraculously even, finds on the Internet, headed by Curtis (Billy Zane, Titanic) and Lina (Theresa Russell, Black Widow). These two folks don’t have the passionate quality that Danny has when he speaks, even though they have the intellectual capacity to back themselves in a fight, which Danny can’t. With each prank Danny pulls, they edge him towards public speaking for fundraising, while their daughter Carla (Summer Phoenix) finds ways to uncover Danny’s Judaism and sleep with him.

Danny’s brutality is acceptable because that is how we first see him. His mindset is a little hard to swallow, because an intelligent 26-year old could definitely find better pursuits, even when approaching his internal boiling point. His struggle as he is received farther into the Nazi underworld is nicely portrayed with poignant undertones. Danny’s internal battle is compulsively watchable once these theorems are digested, like taking a geometry course.

The problem becomes why he all of the sudden feels an affinity for his previous life, seemingly just by looking at Torah scrolls. It’s one thing to fake missing a gunshot because actually killing another person takes more mental preparation than you bargained for. It’s another to begin vandalizing a synagogue, only to stop in the middle of it because the Torah has been uncovered. These quick changes of behavioral pattern are rampant throughout the film, and hurt the overall quality of pain Danny is experiencing.

And, unfortunately, due to stodgy, soap opera-ish dialogue, the rest of the cast comes across as stick figures reading lines from a TelePrompTer. For all of the assumptive commentary spoken by Danny’s elders and leaders, not one of them holds an emotional link to their words that makes them believable. Maybe this is supposed to complement Danny’s rapid mood swings, but instead leaves each scene boringly predictable in terms of interaction and outcome.

The Believer is a good idea at its base. If Danny’s journey between despising and affirming his background had been better plotted, it could even be used to discuss religious questioning with those institutions that are always complaining about the apathy of the young, no matter what the denomination.

The above article can be found at: The-Believer

Transcript of the mentioned excerpt above: The TaImud teaches us… – May we peeI oranges on Shabbos? – Yes, but… ..peeI them immediateIy. – If you see a… – Is it permitted… – (many voices overIap) – Danny? Danny? – (voices continue) – Danny! Hey! Stuart. Schoenbaum. Shlomo. – Shlomo. – Danny. God! God, it’s… it’s been years. – How you doin’? How are you doin’? – l’m doing great. l’m at the rabbinic program up at JTS. JTS. What about you? What are you doing? Something strange, l bet. Uh,… No, it’s kind of an underground thing. Like an artist? No. Uh, like a private business. Hey. You remember Miriam? Yeah. Hey. Hey. She’s at Yale Law now, interning for the District Attorney. We’re getting married next spring in Jerusalem. That’s great. Maybe Danny’d like to come to the minyan for Rosh Hashanah. That’s a great idea. We’re davening with a group from the seminary. Guess who comes? Avi! You two can go at it like you used to. Danny and Avi used to argue about everything. Talmud, Torah, politics,… – ..girls. Always ended in a fist-fight. – l remember. l always won. The arguments, anyway.

The Believer script-transcript

download and watch here or here

A Cypto-jew and the Nazi underground movment “The Believer”

Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers

Posted in Essential Reading with tags , , , on April 3, 2009 by The 800 Pound Gorilla

righitUniversity Press of Kansas
May, 2002

On the murderous road to “racial purity” Hitler encountered unexpected detours, largely due to his own crazed views and inconsistent policies regarding Jewish identity. After centuries of Jewish assimilation and intermarriage in German society, he discovered that eliminating Jews from the rest of the population was more difficult than he’d anticipated. As Bryan Mark Rigg shows in this provocative new study, nowhere was that heinous process more fraught with contradiction and confusion than in the German military.

Contrary to conventional views, Rigg reveals that a startlingly large number of German military men were classified by the Nazis as Jews or “partial-Jews” (Mischlinge), in the wake of racial laws first enacted in the mid-1930s. Rigg demonstrates that the actual number was much higher than previously thought–perhaps as many as 150,000 men, including decorated veterans and high-ranking officers, even generals and admirals.
Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers the Documentary

As Rigg fully documents for the first time, a great many of these men did not even consider themselves Jewish and had embraced the military as a way of life and as devoted patriots eager to serve a revived German nation. In turn, they had been embraced by the Wehrmacht, which prior to Hitler had given little thought to the “race” of these men but which was now forced to look deeply into the ancestry of its soldiers.

The process of investigation and removal, however, was marred by a highly inconsistent application of Nazi law. Numerous “exemptions” were made in order to allow a soldier to stay within the ranks or to spare a soldier’s parent, spouse, or other relative from incarceration or far worse. (Hitler’s own signature can be found on many of these “exemption” orders.) But as the war dragged on, Nazi politics came to trump military logic, even in the face of the Wehrmacht’s growing manpower needs, closing legal loopholes and making it virtually impossible for these soldiers to escape the fate of millions of other victims of the Third Reich.

Based on a deep and wide-ranging research in archival and secondary sources, as well as extensive interviews with more than four hundred Mischlinge and their relatives, Rigg’s study breaks truly new ground in a crowded field and shows from yet another angle the extremely flawed, dishonest, demeaning, and tragic essence of Hitler’s rule. Mugshot Style Pictures of Anton Mayer righitmugshotsSide and front photographs of “half-Jew” Anton Mayer, similar to those that often accompanied a Mischling’s application for exemption. To see more photographs from the book, click here.

“Through videotaped interviews, painstaking attention to personnel files, and banal documents not normally consulted by historians, and spurred by a keen sense of personal mission, Rigg has turned up an unexplored and confounding chapter in the history of the Holocaust. The extent of his findings has surprised scholars.”–Warren Hoge, New York Times

“The revelation that Germans of Jewish blood, knowing the Nazi regime for what it was, served Hitler as uniformed members of his armed forces must come as a profound shock. It will surprise even professional historians of the Nazi years.” –John Keegan, author of The Face of Battle and The Second World War

“Startling and unexpected, Rigg’s study conclusively demonstrates the degree of flexibility in German policy toward the Mischlinge, the extent of Hitler’s involvement, and, most importantly, that not all who served in the armed forces were anti-Semitic, even as their service aided the killing process.”–Michael Berenbaum, author of The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust

“Rigg’s extensive knowledge and the preliminary conclusions drawn from his research impressed me greatly. I firmly believe that his in-depth treatment of the subject of German soldiers of Jewish descent in the Wehrmacht will lead to new perspectives on this portion of 20th century German military history.”–Helmut Schmidt, Former Chancellor of Germany

“An impressively researched work with important implications for hotly debated questions. Rigg tells some exquisitely poignant stories of individual human experiences that complicate our picture of state and society in the Third Reich.”–Nathan A. Stoltzfus, Florida State University, author of Resistance of the Heart: Intermarriage and the Rosenstrasse Protest in Nazi Germany

“An impressive work filled with interesting stories. . . . By helping us better understand Nazi racial policy at the margins–i.e., its impact on certain members of the German military–Rigg’s study clarifies the central problems of Nazi Jewish policies overall.”–Norman Naimark, Stanford University, author of Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe

“An illuminating and provocative study that merits a wide readership and is sure to be much discussed.”–Dennis E. Showalter, Colorado College, author of Tannenberg: Clash of Empires

“An outstanding job of research and analysis. Rigg’s book will add a great deal to our understanding of the German military, of the place of Jews and people of Jewish descent in the Nazi state, and of the Holocaust. It forces us to deal with the full, complex range of possible actions and reactions by individuals caught up in the Nazi system.”–Geoffrey P. Megargee, author of Inside Hitler’s High Command

“With the skill of a master detective, Bryan Rigg reveals the surprising and largely unknown story of Germans of Jewish origins in the Nazi military. His work contributes to our understanding of the complexity of faith and identity in the Third Reich.”–Paula E. Hyman, Yale University, author of Gender and Assimilation in Modern Jewish History and The Jews of Modern France

“A major piece of scholarship which traces the peculiar twists and turns of Nazi racial policy toward men in the Wehrmacht, often in the highest ranks, who had partly Jewish backgrounds. Rigg has uncovered personal stories and private archives which literally nobody knew existed. His book will be an important contribution to German history.”–Jonathan Steinberg, University of Pennsylvania, author of All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust 1941-1943

“An original, groundbreaking, and significant contribution to the history of the Wehrmacht and Nazi Germany.”–James S. Corum, School of Advanced Air Power Studies, author of The Roots of Blitzkrieg and The Luftwaffe

“Rigg’s work has discovered new academic territory.”–Manfred Messerschmidt, Freiburg University, author of Die Wehrmacht im NS-Staat (The Wehrmacht in the Nazi State)

“Rigg’s bracing and unintimidated study lays bare the contradiction, confusion and expedience that governed Mischlinge policy and the maiming cost to those whose lives were burdened by anxiety, guilt and collusion. In the end we must be grateful for his book, a penetrating light cast on some of the murkier corners of the human psyche.”–Michael Skakun, Aufbau

“Rigg has opened brand new territory for historians and students of war, offering new insight into the Nazi mentality on race.”–World War II Magazine

“Rigg has done a very significant piece of historical research and writing.”–Milt Rosenberg, WGN Radio, Chicago

“Rigg has written a truly important history. It is original, it has outstanding scholarship, and there is plenty of it!”–James F. Tent, author of In the Shadow of the Holocaust: Nazi Persecution of Jewish-Christian Germans

“A brilliant and extremely disturbing work of masterful historical research. A must read for everyone. It raises more moral dilemmas than one can answer.”–Steve Pieczenik, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and co-creator of the best selling novels and TV series OP-Center and Net Force

BRYAN MARK RIGG received his B.A. with honors in history from Yale University in 1996. Yale awarded him the Henry Fellowship for graduate study at Cambridge University, where he received his M.A. in 1997 and Ph.D. in 2002. Currently Professor of History at American Military University, he has served as a volunteer in the Israeli Army and as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. His research for this book has been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and London Daily Telegraph. For more information on Bryan Rigg, view his web site at http://www.bryanrigg.com.

The above article can be found at: http://www.kansaspress.ku.edu/righit.html

The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military

On the murderous road to “racial purity” Hitler encountered unexpected detours, largely due to his own crazed views and inconsistent policies regarding Jewish identity. After centuries of Jewish assimilation and intermarriage in German society, he discovered that eliminating Jews from the rest of the population was more difficult than he’d anticipated. As Bryan Mark Rigg shows in this provocative new study, nowhere was that heinous process more fraught with contradiction and confusion than in the German military.

Contrary to conventional views, reveals that a startlingly large number of German military men were classified by the Nazis as Jews or “partial-Jews” (Mischlinge), in the wake of racial laws first enacted in the mid-1930s. Rigg demonstrates that the actual number was much higher than previously thought–perhaps as many as 150,000 men, including decorated veterans and high-ranking officers, even generals and admirals.

Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers the Documentary

Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers

Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers

Posted in Media Watch with tags , , , , , on March 22, 2009 by The 800 Pound Gorilla

righitUniversity Press of Kansas
May, 2002

On the murderous road to “racial purity” Hitler encountered unexpected detours, largely due to his own crazed views and inconsistent policies regarding Jewish identity. After centuries of Jewish assimilation and intermarriage in German society, he discovered that eliminating Jews from the rest of the population was more difficult than he’d anticipated. As Bryan Mark Rigg shows in this provocative new study, nowhere was that heinous process more fraught with contradiction and confusion than in the German military.

Contrary to conventional views, Rigg reveals that a startlingly large number of German military men were classified by the Nazis as Jews or “partial-Jews” (Mischlinge), in the wake of racial laws first enacted in the mid-1930s. Rigg demonstrates that the actual number was much higher than previously thought–perhaps as many as 150,000 men, including decorated veterans and high-ranking officers, even generals and admirals.
Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers the Documentary

As Rigg fully documents for the first time, a great many of these men did not even consider themselves Jewish and had embraced the military as a way of life and as devoted patriots eager to serve a revived German nation. In turn, they had been embraced by the Wehrmacht, which prior to Hitler had given little thought to the “race” of these men but which was now forced to look deeply into the ancestry of its soldiers.

The process of investigation and removal, however, was marred by a highly inconsistent application of Nazi law. Numerous “exemptions” were made in order to allow a soldier to stay within the ranks or to spare a soldier’s parent, spouse, or other relative from incarceration or far worse. (Hitler’s own signature can be found on many of these “exemption” orders.) But as the war dragged on, Nazi politics came to trump military logic, even in the face of the Wehrmacht’s growing manpower needs, closing legal loopholes and making it virtually impossible for these soldiers to escape the fate of millions of other victims of the Third Reich.

Based on a deep and wide-ranging research in archival and secondary sources, as well as extensive interviews with more than four hundred Mischlinge and their relatives, Rigg’s study breaks truly new ground in a crowded field and shows from yet another angle the extremely flawed, dishonest, demeaning, and tragic essence of Hitler’s rule. Mugshot Style Pictures of Anton Mayer righitmugshotsSide and front photographs of “half-Jew” Anton Mayer, similar to those that often accompanied a Mischling’s application for exemption. To see more photographs from the book, click here.

“Through videotaped interviews, painstaking attention to personnel files, and banal documents not normally consulted by historians, and spurred by a keen sense of personal mission, Rigg has turned up an unexplored and confounding chapter in the history of the Holocaust. The extent of his findings has surprised scholars.”–Warren Hoge, New York Times

“The revelation that Germans of Jewish blood, knowing the Nazi regime for what it was, served Hitler as uniformed members of his armed forces must come as a profound shock. It will surprise even professional historians of the Nazi years.” –John Keegan, author of The Face of Battle and The Second World War

“Startling and unexpected, Rigg’s study conclusively demonstrates the degree of flexibility in German policy toward the Mischlinge, the extent of Hitler’s involvement, and, most importantly, that not all who served in the armed forces were anti-Semitic, even as their service aided the killing process.”–Michael Berenbaum, author of The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust

“Rigg’s extensive knowledge and the preliminary conclusions drawn from his research impressed me greatly. I firmly believe that his in-depth treatment of the subject of German soldiers of Jewish descent in the Wehrmacht will lead to new perspectives on this portion of 20th century German military history.”–Helmut Schmidt, Former Chancellor of Germany

“An impressively researched work with important implications for hotly debated questions. Rigg tells some exquisitely poignant stories of individual human experiences that complicate our picture of state and society in the Third Reich.”–Nathan A. Stoltzfus, Florida State University, author of Resistance of the Heart: Intermarriage and the Rosenstrasse Protest in Nazi Germany

“An impressive work filled with interesting stories. . . . By helping us better understand Nazi racial policy at the margins–i.e., its impact on certain members of the German military–Rigg’s study clarifies the central problems of Nazi Jewish policies overall.”–Norman Naimark, Stanford University, author of Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe

“An illuminating and provocative study that merits a wide readership and is sure to be much discussed.”–Dennis E. Showalter, Colorado College, author of Tannenberg: Clash of Empires

“An outstanding job of research and analysis. Rigg’s book will add a great deal to our understanding of the German military, of the place of Jews and people of Jewish descent in the Nazi state, and of the Holocaust. It forces us to deal with the full, complex range of possible actions and reactions by individuals caught up in the Nazi system.”–Geoffrey P. Megargee, author of Inside Hitler’s High Command

“With the skill of a master detective, Bryan Rigg reveals the surprising and largely unknown story of Germans of Jewish origins in the Nazi military. His work contributes to our understanding of the complexity of faith and identity in the Third Reich.”–Paula E. Hyman, Yale University, author of Gender and Assimilation in Modern Jewish History and The Jews of Modern France

“A major piece of scholarship which traces the peculiar twists and turns of Nazi racial policy toward men in the Wehrmacht, often in the highest ranks, who had partly Jewish backgrounds. Rigg has uncovered personal stories and private archives which literally nobody knew existed. His book will be an important contribution to German history.”–Jonathan Steinberg, University of Pennsylvania, author of All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust 1941-1943

“An original, groundbreaking, and significant contribution to the history of the Wehrmacht and Nazi Germany.”–James S. Corum, School of Advanced Air Power Studies, author of The Roots of Blitzkrieg and The Luftwaffe

“Rigg’s work has discovered new academic territory.”–Manfred Messerschmidt, Freiburg University, author of Die Wehrmacht im NS-Staat (The Wehrmacht in the Nazi State)

“Rigg’s bracing and unintimidated study lays bare the contradiction, confusion and expedience that governed Mischlinge policy and the maiming cost to those whose lives were burdened by anxiety, guilt and collusion. In the end we must be grateful for his book, a penetrating light cast on some of the murkier corners of the human psyche.”–Michael Skakun, Aufbau

“Rigg has opened brand new territory for historians and students of war, offering new insight into the Nazi mentality on race.”–World War II Magazine

“Rigg has done a very significant piece of historical research and writing.”–Milt Rosenberg, WGN Radio, Chicago

“Rigg has written a truly important history. It is original, it has outstanding scholarship, and there is plenty of it!”–James F. Tent, author of In the Shadow of the Holocaust: Nazi Persecution of Jewish-Christian Germans

“A brilliant and extremely disturbing work of masterful historical research. A must read for everyone. It raises more moral dilemmas than one can answer.”–Steve Pieczenik, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and co-creator of the best selling novels and TV series OP-Center and Net Force

BRYAN MARK RIGG received his B.A. with honors in history from Yale University in 1996. Yale awarded him the Henry Fellowship for graduate study at Cambridge University, where he received his M.A. in 1997 and Ph.D. in 2002. Currently Professor of History at American Military University, he has served as a volunteer in the Israeli Army and as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. His research for this book has been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and London Daily Telegraph. For more information on Bryan Rigg, view his web site at http://www.bryanrigg.com.

The above article can be found at: http://www.kansaspress.ku.edu/righit.html

The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military

On the murderous road to “racial purity” Hitler encountered unexpected detours, largely due to his own crazed views and inconsistent policies regarding Jewish identity. After centuries of Jewish assimilation and intermarriage in German society, he discovered that eliminating Jews from the rest of the population was more difficult than he’d anticipated. As Bryan Mark Rigg shows in this provocative new study, nowhere was that heinous process more fraught with contradiction and confusion than in the German military.

Contrary to conventional views, reveals that a startlingly large number of German military men were classified by the Nazis as Jews or “partial-Jews” (Mischlinge), in the wake of racial laws first enacted in the mid-1930s. Rigg demonstrates that the actual number was much higher than previously thought–perhaps as many as 150,000 men, including decorated veterans and high-ranking officers, even generals and admirals.

Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers the Documentary

Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers

The Sins of their Fathers — The Guardian reports how the children of Nazis now live in Israel as practicing Jews

Posted in Breaking it Down! with tags , on August 10, 2008 by The 800 Pound Gorilla

Just when you thought the official Holocaust narrative couldn’t get any more bizarre, prominent UK newspaper The Guardian reports how the descendants of Nazis are currently living — as practicing Jews — in Israel.

In this article of August 6, 2008, reporter Tanya Gold explores “the strange subculture of Nazi-descended Jews” in Israel, offering a glimpse into the obscure relationship — seldom discussed — between Nazism and Zionism. Gold interviews one Nazi scion currently serving as a senior rabbi in the Israeli armed forces, as well as a relative of Hitler himself — now a professor of Jewish studies at a prominent Israeli university.

The Sins of their Fathers
The Guardian, August 6 2008
A relative of Hitler is now Jewish and living in Israel. So is the son of a Waffen-SS man. Tanya Gold talks to the descendants of Nazis who have embraced Judaism

Two years ago I read a strange little story in an obscure American magazine for Orthodox Jews, claiming that a descendant of Adolf Hitler had converted to Judaism and was living in Israel. I had heard rumors in Jewish circles for years about “the penitents” — children of Nazis who become Jews to try to expiate the sins of their fathers.

Could it be true? I dug further and discovered that a man with a family connection to Hitler does indeed live in Israel as an Orthodox Jew. Virtually unnoticed in the English-speaking world, he was exposed seven years ago in an Israeli tabloid. Then he sank from sight. I went to Israel to meet him — and on the way I was plunged into the strange subculture of the Nazi-descended Jews.

I am walking through the alleys of the Old City of Jerusalem, to meet Aharon Shear-Yashuv. He is the son of a Nazi. And yet he was a senior rabbi in the Israeli armed forces.

Gali Tibbon

Rabbi Aharon Shear-Yashuv’s father was a soldier in the Waffen-SS. Photograph: Guardian - Gali Tibbon

He lives in an apartment in the Jewish quarter, near the Western Wall. I walk through a pale gold alley; Orthodox Jewish men in long black coats and round fur hats dart past. He opens the door and looks like every other rabbi I have ever met — a black suit, a beard, a questioning shrug. He takes me into his study, settles into a chair, and says, in a thick German accent: “My father was in the Waffen-SS.”

He was, he explains, born in the Ruhr Valley in 1940. During the war, his father served on the eastern front with Hitler’s elite troops. What did his father do in the Waffen-SS? “I don’t know,” he says calmly. “When I grew up I tried to ask, but there weren’t really answers.”

He was four when he first met his father. “I don’t remember anything about that,” he says. It seems he doesn’t want to talk about his father; he doesn’t describe his conversion in psychological terms but in grand theological and historical ones.

“During my theological studies at university it became clear that I couldn’t be a minister in the church,” he says. “I concluded that Christianity was paganism. One of [its] most important dogmas is that God became man, and if God becomes man then man also can become God.” He pauses. “Hitler became a kind of god.”

So would he have become a Jew even if the Holocaust had never happened, even if his family had been anti-Nazi? He looks surprised. “Oh yes.” I try to draw him back to his father, but he seems exasperated. “Well, you see, he is a father, of course, but ideologically, there was no connection. I was so involved in my conviction that I had found the right path, all the other items no longer had any importance.”

Fragments of the story begin to emerge through the haze of theological reasoning. His father was “shocked and enraged” when he went to study Judaism in America, he concedes. “For him that was the end of the world. ‘My son is leaving Germany to study in a Jewish rabbinical seminary!’ He told me I was crazy and renounced me as a son.”

When he moved to Israel, his parents pretended that it hadn’t happened; they told their neighbors he was still in America. Years later, his sister arranged a meeting with his parents at a station in Düsseldorf. Shear-Yashuv arrived with a Jewish friend. His father peered out of the train, saw the Jewish stranger, and refused to get off.

Today, he believes Germany is doomed. “People there don’t get married, and if they do they have one child,” he says. “But the Turks and the other foreigners have many children. So it is a question of time that Germany will no longer be German.” Why does he think this has happened? “I think it is a punishment for the Holocaust,” he says, matter-of-factly. “Germany will leave the stage of history, no doubt about it.” But the Jews, by contrast, will never die. This is a neat irony of history that he loves. “All the great cultures have left the stage of history,” he says. “The Romans, the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Babylonians. But this little people, who gave so much to the world, do not.” He chuckles. “That is something.”

I walk through the Old City, pondering my encounter with this strange, kindly man. Something seems to be missing from his story. To stand in front of a rabbi whose father was in the SS and to hear he became a Jew because he doubted the Trinity is absurd.

So I telephone Dan Bar-On, a professor of psychology at Ben Gurion University, and a world expert on the psychology of the children of perpetrators. He tells me, flatly, pitilessly: “The motive of the converts is to join the community of the victims. If you become part of the victim community, you get rid of the burden of being part of the perpetrator community.” He interviewed Shear-Yashuv for his book Legacy of Silence. “For me,” he says, “Shear-Yashuv represents a person who ran away from the past.”

A few days later, I take a tatty bus to the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, on a mountain just outside Jerusalem. There is an air of absolute, manufactured silence. In the middle is a glass-and-concrete mausoleum — the memorial. I am here to meet a woman who works in the educational department. She was born in Munich, she told me on the telephone, and she is a convert.

I meet her in a cafe on the terrace; it is very chichi, but the wind is blowing in from the desert. She is in her late 30s and her head is covered. Her face is stereotypically German but the mannerisms — her emphatic movements and the soaring cadences of her voice — are all Jewish.

I cannot name her, she says. (Apart from Shear-Yashuv, every convert refuses to be named.) She tells me, briskly and crossly, that although her grandparents were not perpetrators in the Holocaust, they were bystanders, anti-Semites. Her mother, she explains, still says things like, “There are a lot of rich Jews in America,” and her family have what she calls “a classic German narrative” about the war.

She bunches her fists. “There were no Jews in these stories and no Nazis in these stories,” she says. And she imitates them, angrily. “No, no, there were no Nazis, we are not Nazis. We didn’t know any Jews, we didn’t know anything.” How did she feel about it? She pauses, and then says, “I was annoyed.”

Her favored word for Germany is “annoyed”. She was “annoyed” when a synagogue recently opened in Munich. “People said, ‘Now we have closed the circle; now everything is fine,'” she says. “It was like nothing had happened. But there were 11,000 Jews in Munich before the Holocaust. Where are they now?”

She is annoyed by the affluence of Germany. “Everything is so clean,” she says. “Everything is so … nice. And here,” she stares out over the mountains, “the life is so difficult sometimes.”

Why did she become Jewish? “Because I was annoyed by how the narrative was fixed,” she says. She tells me a story from the Midrash, a Jewish commentary on the Bible. There are, it states, non-Jews who are born with Jewish souls. They belong to the Jewish people, and will eventually join them. “It is only a matter of time,” she says, speaking very seriously, “before you learn you should convert.” I remember Shear-Yashuv said this too.

I ask her if she believes that Nazi children convert to expiate the guilt of their parents — but this angers her. “There is something not right when you do it to get rid of your German burden,” she says. “That is not honest in my eyes. Do you stop being the daughter of a Wehrmacht soldier if you are Jewish? No. That is no solution. You don’t get rid of it.”

So why is she here? “To live here, to work here, to be this bridge between two worlds.” She repeats the word “bridge” and she calls it “exciting”. She talks of her “motivation package” and she calls the “discourse about the Holocaust” in Germany “sophisticated”. There is something emotionless about it, something deeply unsaid. And precisely on the stroke of the hour, she looks at her watch and says, “I have to go now.”

I call Bar-On again. I feel the converts are giving me half-answers, scraps of answers. They talk about despising the Trinity and the terrible things that the Germans did to the Jews, but it seems like they are talking a genocide that doesn’t exist, even in their memories. I can’t escape the feeling that it is all about something else.

I tell Bar-On they talk obsessively about the Trinity. But is incredulity really a reason for abandoning a religion with a three-in-one god for one that still believes bushes talk and that waves are parted by the will of God? “That is another way of saying what I have already told you,” he says. “They want to join the community of the victim. They may have their own way of rationalizing it.”

Later that day, I meet a young man. He bounces into a kebab shop on West Jerusalem’s main drag. He is 24, handsome and excitable. He tells me, simply, that he hated Germany.

“In Germany I didn’t care about anyone,” he spits. “I didn’t give a *censored*.” He describes a jumbled youth, being thrown out of school, joining the army, rejecting the army. After a while, he drags me off to the Independence Park, sipping a Coke, and telling me how wonderful it all is in Israel.

He describes growing up in a small town in industrial western Germany. A terrible anger leaks into his sentences. When I ask him why he converted, he stares at the spindly trees, bunches his arms between his knees like an adolescent boy, and says, “I hate that question. I don’t know.”

He calms down and says that something wasn’t right for him in Germany, ever: “I was always looking for my place. I hated Catholicism. I have hated it since I was 14.” He educated himself and what he likes about Judaism, he says, is that “what counts is the deed. In Christianity it is enough just to believe.”

“I didn’t think of my family of being like ‘the Germans’,” he says. “I didn’t say, ‘Grandfather, did you kill anyone?’ My grandmother said, ‘As kids under the Nazis, before the war, we had a wonderful time. They sent us to Croatia, they sent us to Sweden, and we had youth camps. How could we not be thankful for what they gave us?'”

The Holocaust was just a subject you learned in history, he says. “You went in the classroom twice a week, they told you, you fell asleep.”

But he tells me one of his grandmother’s anecdotes about Nazism. “She remembers Kristallnacht,” he says. “She was 13. She says she remembered there were Jewish shops that got burned down and it was a big loss. Because, she said, you could always go to the Jews and buy something and if you didn’t have the money you could bring it in next time.”

And that is his family. He never asked them about the war — I have yet to meet a convert who has. According to Bar-On, converts and their parents almost never speak about the war. He calls it the “double wall”: both the parent and child erect a wall of silence; even if one tries to break it, the other will keep it firmly in place.

This man told his parents he was converting one Christmas Day. He has had death threats from neo-Nazis, he says. His hometown is full of them. Why does he think they became neo-Nazis? “Ask them — don’t ask me,” he replies.

Did he become Jewish because of the Holocaust? “People ask me that a lot,” he says, “and when I say no they don’t believe me.” Does he really believe that? “Maybe.” He sighs and looks around at the trees. “Maybe what the war made Germany into …” He pauses and then says, “I feel myself turning into a block of ice every time when I go back. I have to force myself to melt down again.”

I call Bar-On a final time. They all say they are happy now, I tell him. Is this true? The conversion “may give them an illusion of peace”, he says. “But it is not the way to work through the role of the parents [in the war]. I think it is running away from it. In order to be able to really work through the past, you have to try to understand how could it be that your father was a mass murderer. You have to think of the possibilities that had you lived at this time you might also have been able to do such things.”

Is he telling me that they are always wondering what they would have done in Nazi Germany to the Jews they have become? “Being in Israel is to keep away as far as possible from it,” he replies. “I am not sure to what extent they have really been accepted into Israeli society. I think they are struggling. I don’t envy them.”

As far as I can tell, the converts may know of each other, but they do not come together. In Judaism it is a sin to point the finger at a convert. And why would they? They are not here to be German; they are here to be Jewish.

I return to the suburbs to meet an artist. This convert is also a member of an organization that promotes human rights for Palestinians. An incredibly beautiful woman answers the door and I say hello. “Oh, no,” she says. “You are not here to speak to me — you are here to speak to my girlfriend.” The woman I have come to interview is small and wiry, with short hair; she says she is 42. She speaks very, very fast. The words pour out of her.

She sits me down and gives me cake and coffee. I say I have interviewed a lot of converts. “Are they all mad?” she asks me, and laughs. What does she mean? “Well,” she says, “I met some who surprised me. Some of them were shockingly unintelligent. I even wondered why they would have the intellectual independence to make this choice — especially the people who chose to be ultra-Orthodox, who chose to throw away their freedom.”

She shrugs. “There is stigma in conversion,” she says. “People end up being fanatics.”

She sips her coffee and says that she believes there is a parallel between the way that some Jews respond to the Palestinians and the way some Germans responded to the Nazis. She never asked her grandmother about the war, she says, because she loved her too much.

“I was worried I would get hurt by information I didn’t want to know,” she says. “Sometimes I feel that a lot of Israelis live that way. It is better not to ask questions, and not be hurt, and so you don’t have to look at yourself or your family or your nation. And you can live with the illusion of who is good and who is bad.”

She says she was eight years old when she first heard of a Jew. “I heard a boy next door call another boy a ‘stupid Jew’,” she says. “I asked my mother, ‘What is a Jew, and is it something bad?'”

When she learned about the Holocaust, it literally made her retch. “I was horrified by what Germans did to Jews,” she says. “I was physically disgusted. And I was totally disgusted by even my own Germanness.”

It is strange to hear things like this over coffee in a clean apartment in the Middle East. “I didn’t want to be German,” she says. “And because this entered my mind so early, it became as natural as brushing my teeth.”

So why did she convert? She grimaces. “It isn’t rational. We are talking about religion here.” But she says she ran away to Israel to convert when she was 25. And today, she berates herself for her immaturity in doing it.

She was shocked by the racism in Israel. Towards her? “Towards the Arabs,” she replies. “I felt that I was being told that to be a good Jew, you had to hate Arabs.” So she stands at West Bank checkpoints to observe the behaviour of Israeli soldiers towards Palestinians.

“It causes a lot of tension to come here and say the things that I say,” she says. So why does she say them? “Because it would be very inconsistent to have had so much criticism of Germans who were terrible cowards when it was still possible to say something, and then to come here and not speak up for justice.”

She is through with Israel. She says it is because of the triple whammy of otherness — German, leftwing, gay. A shrink would say that she came here to be wrong, I tell her. “Don’t think I haven’t thought about it in those terms myself,” she replies. “I had wanted to connect myself to a history I did not perceive as shameful. Now I am wondering if I will stay. I am more or less sure that I won’t. Sometimes I feel I am not built for it, that I am not strong enough for this country.”

She runs her hands through her hair briskly, and shakes her head. “Sometimes I feel that just by existing I am always wrong here. But I cannot live with personal attacks now. I cannot bear it.”

Later that day, I meet the man who brought me here to Israel, the man who started all this — the so-called Jewish Hitler. He is a professor at the Jewish studies faculty at one of the universities. I telephoned him, and to my surprise he answered.

How could I ask: “Are you a Hitler?” I told him I was writing a story about German converts to Judaism, and he said I could come over immediately. So I go to an apartment just around the corner from where the artist lives. It is a grimy white block, with a few scrubby bushes outside.

I walk upstairs and a woman with the headscarf of all married orthodox Jewish women answers the door. She doesn’t say anything, simply gestures for me to sit at a table in a room heaving with books. And then he comes in. Is this my Jewish Hitler?

He is incredibly tall and slim, in a blinding yellow shirt, very animated, and his accent — an odd pulp of German, English and Hebrew — seems to zoom out of him. He is holding two pieces of paper. One is a family tree; the other is a printout of an account of the life of Alois Hitler Junior — Adolf Hitler’s half-brother.

“I will tell you the whole story,” he says, “on the condition that you do not print my name”. He places the first piece of paper in front of me, points at names, and begins a strange, almost incomprehensible account of the lives of Germans who died more than a century ago.

At the end of each summary of a long finished life, he jabs his finger on the table and says, “OK?” It only becomes clear what he is doing when I follow the tree down to a name I know — Alois Hitler.

Alois Hitler had two sons who lived to maturity — Adolf (that Adolf) and Alois Junior. This half-brother of the Führer then produced an illegitimate son called Hans. “OK?” he says. “Hans married my grandmother Erna after she divorced my grandfather.”

He immediately states that he hates the Hitler branch of his family. He becomes agitated. “I have neither any blood nor DNA from Adolf and his family,” he insists. “I was not socialised by that family.” He met Hans only once.

The Hitlers came for tea when he was 12 years old. “Hans was a very nice man,” he says. “No passions, no brutality.” But Erna was thrilled to have married into the Hitler clan, and remained a Nazi until she died. “I didn’t know her,” he says of his grandmother. “She wasn’t part of my family.”

The professor explains that his mother severed all connections with the Hitlers. As a teenager she was beaten for refusing to go to Hitler Youth dances, and when she gave birth to the professor — an illegitimate child she conceived during an affair with a married man — her mother and stepfather disowned her. He was raised in a series of rented rooms, while the Hitlers lived well. After the war, his grandmother changed her name, but her beliefs remained.

He begins to tell me what happened to his mother during the war. She worked as a typist for the Wehrmacht in Poland and she saw dead Jews hanging in the town squares. “She was a girl in the war,” he says, “but I always appreciated that she told me the truth about it. We spoke frankly. I never heard that normal German lie you hear so often from that generation.”

His voice rises and he impersonates them with a fierce whine: “‘We didn’t know, we just did our duty.'” And he thumps the table. “My grandparents never understood what they had done,” he says. “My mother understood.”

When she came home after the Allied victory, she was denounced as a Nazi, and the Communists seized her flat. “She became one of those German ladies who cleared up after all the bombing.” He stomps to the kitchen and comes back, thrusting two silver spoons at me. “That is all that my mother brought home from the war. I keep them to honor her.”

It was a brutal childhood: he barely saw his father, and his mother beat him — one time so severely that she couldn’t go to work for three days because her fingers were too swollen to type. “She was a fighter,” he says. “It is not the nicest thing you can be.” Was she religious? He gives a deranged giggle. “She had the religion of herself,” he says.

His mother was entirely alone. “Nobody helped anybody at that time,” he says. His father had another family — a real family: “I saw my father very seldom and the times I saw him I was so proud to have a father that it was not the time to ask what he did in the war. He died when I was 19. So I never asked him what he did.”

But he does know his father was a major in the Wehrmacht. So, barring a miracle, he killed people for Hitler.

His journey towards Judaism was long. “It was not a sudden light from heaven that came down.” When he was a teenager he met a girl who was interested in Judaism, and he read Mein Kampf. “I was embarrassed when I read it,” he says. “How could people be so stupid as to elect a person who was writing things like this? It’s awful.”

He blinks at me. “I don’t think you can really understand how awful it is if you don’t read it in German. I put it away. But I keep it here.” Did he ever finish it? He scowls at me for the first and only time. “No.”

When the time came for him to be conscripted into the German army, he decided to take a theology degree, because he wanted to benefit from an ironic leftover from Nazism: Hitler promised the Pope in 1933 that he wouldn’t conscript priests, and the law has never been repealed. “I am a pacifist,” he says. “You raise up an army if you think you have to use it.”

As part of the degree, he was due to spend six weeks in Israel in the early 1970s. “I felt at home. I was no longer living in a conflict. I didn’t have to reject the older generation. And I thought I had met for the first time a nationality that at that point in history — today it is more problematic — still had good reasons to be proud of itself.” So he stayed.

We go out on to the balcony to smoke. He really enjoys his cigarette; I can see he is a pleasure-savouring man. He does not have the heaviness of the other converts, who all seemed crushed by an invisible burden.

Is it because he spoke to his mother about it all? I steel myself and ask: would he have become Jewish without the Holocaust? “I think not,” he says. “The sharp distinction between the generations that committed the crimes and the generation born after wouldn’t exist. Non-Germans hardly understand that a whole generation checked out our teachers and asked, ‘Where were you 20 years ago?'”

And then, to my surprise, he calls his son — his Israeli son — a fascist. “When I hear my own son speak — as I did last weekend — I sat like this,” and he does the Hitler salute. “Two of my sons are chauvinists and one of them is even partially racist. I can’t listen to fascistic discourse. I don’t suffer that.”

They talk about the Palestinians with contempt. “Each time I hear it is another time too much. If the Holocaust and the Third Reich have really somehow shaped me, I am a sworn democrat. I believe that democracy has to prove itself by keeping the rights of its minorities.”

I have been with this man for three hours, insistently asking why — why did you convert? Why? This stray branch of the Hitler family tree stares out at his dull suburban street at the heart of the Jewish state, puffs on his cigarette, and begins to talk about the images of the Holocaust that linger in his mind.

“I see that soldier trampling that child and in the end killing it, and I remember that kind of aggression. I remember the feeling of the child, too. I remember both. I could see my father or my grandfather really standing there.”

And as he says this, his shoulders seem to relax. He is giving me my answer. “And all I can say, Tanya,” he says from inside his little cloud of smoke, “is that since I came to Israel, that feeling isn’t there any more.”

The Sins of their Fathers — The Guardian reports how the children of Nazis now live in Israel as practicing Jews