Life in These Hawaiian Islands

Trade Winds, Tsunamis, and the Coconut Wireless

Leave a comment

‘Clothes Don’t Just Make the Man, They Can Save the Man’

‘Clothes Don’t Just Make the Man, They Can Save the Man’

In his memoir ‘Measure of a Man,’ Martin Greenfield recalls how he survived Auschwitz to become an iconic tailor to the stars


Clothier Martin Greenfield in his atelier. (Getty Images)
Related Content

Country Music’s Sparkle King

Fashion designer Nudie Cohn, a Ukrainian-born Jew, gave country music its trademark rhinestone sparkle

School Ties

Ivy League style, the quintessentially WASPy American look defined by Jewish designers a century ago, returns to the runways for Fashion Week

Martin Greenfield is a legend in men’s fashion. He has hand-tailored suits for President Obama and President Clinton, as well as for such celebrities as Michael Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Pacino, Jimmy Fallon, and Johnny Depp. His Brooklyn-based company—Martin Greenfield Clothiers, which he runs with his sons Tod and Jay—creates custom suits for labels like DKNY, Rag & Bone, Ovadia and Sons, Band of Outsiders, and Brooks Brothers. Greenfield has even made his mark in Hollywood, creating suits for the TV shows Boardwalk Empire and The Knick, as well as blockbuster films including Ben Affleck’s Argo and Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.

But if Greenfield’s suits are famous, his personal story is less well-known. Now, in his new memoir Measure of a Man, Greenfield goes back to the beginning of his life—before he got his start in the American garment industry, to his childhood in Czechoslovakia and his time in Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Greenfield—then known as Maximilian Grunfeld—grew up in Pavlovo, a quaint Czechoslovakian village near the Hungarian border, overlooking the Carpathian Mountains. His father was an electrical engineer, his grandfather well known for building the synagogue, and the tight-knit town of some 50 families would eat Shabbat meals together every week.

The Nazis surrounded Pavlovo on the second day of Passover in 1944 and gave the Jews an hour to pack their belongings before they were stuffed into cattle cars and shipped to a ghetto in the Ukrainian town of Mukacevo. From there, Greenfield’s whole family was sent to Auschwitz, where he lost his parents, grandparents, brother, and two sisters—when Dr. Josef Mengele selected him to go right (life) and his relatives to go left (death). Greenfield remembers Mengele precisely because of the quality and shine of his black leather boots.

It was in Auschwitz, of all places, that Greenfield first learned how to sew. He worked in the concentration camp’s laundry room, where he stitched up a ripped SS shirt that had been thrown in the trash and wore it under his camp uniform. With his first stitch, Greenfield learned the power that clothing possesses. The shirt, he found, provided him with an unspoken elevated status, and as he writes in his book, he realized that “clothes don’t just make the man, they can save the man; they did for me.”

“Nobody in the concentration camp had a shirt, and it was a crazy thing to do but I put the shirt on,” Greenfield told me in his office on a recent visit. He sat in front of a wall filled with framed newspaper clippings, awards, and pictures of him shaking celebrities’ hands; a photo of the Lubavitcher Rebbe stood discreetly in the corner. “The shirt taught me that I had to be tough. Everyone thought I was important because of the shirt, and I was treated more nicely.”

Greenfield’s autobiography details the physical, psychological, and emotional abuse he endured under the Nazis. Morning call in Auschwitz was 4:30 a.m., when the prisoners stood in line for hours, freezing; they had hardly any food to eat and worked under horrible conditions with the constant fear of the smokestacks from the crematoria nearby. Prisoners were beaten frequently and shot at random. After Greenfield took a particularly gruesome lashing several months into his Auschwitz imprisonment, a merciful German reassigned him to the sub camp, Buna. Once the camp was bombed by the Americans in December 1944, the Nazis forced the most physically fit of Buna’s 10,000 prisoners on a death march, where they trudged 50 miles in the snow to the Gleiwitz concentration camp. Greenfield was then transported to Buchenwald, where he remained until the war ended.

Greenfield’s punishing experiences helped him develop an armor of gallantry—and an unprecedented level of chutzpah. In one incident soon after the war, a recently liberated Greenfield traveled back to Buchenwald’s neighboring town of Weimar to seek revenge on the mayor’s wife; when Greenfield had been assigned to do repairs on the mayor’s house after it was bombed, she had ratted him out to the SS for stealing pet food. Greenfield returned to her house with the intention to kill her, but once he pointed a gun at her head, he changed his mind. Instead, he stole her Mercedes Benz.

Greenfield wandered around Europe for two years after liberation, searching for a family he’d never find. Eventually, in 1947, he boarded a ship to America to live with wealthy, long-lost relatives. He changed his name, and with the help of a fellow immigrant he found a job at Brooklyn’s GGG Clothing, where he started his career as a floor boy, running items like fabrics around the shop to the factory’s hundreds of employees. The owner, William P. Goldman, took a liking to him and showed him the ropes. Greenfield made sure to learn every aspect of suit-making—hand-blasting, darting, piping, lining, blind stitching, pressing, fell stitching, armhole work—and quickly worked his way up the food chain. He was promoted, from blind stitcher to assistant supervisor, then to supervisor, then to head quality inspector, then to an executive.

GGG had a long roster of A-list clients. Everyone in the entertainment industry wore GGG suits, including such celebrities as Eddie Cantor, Paul Newman, and Walter Cronkite; so did major political figures. Greenfield had the chance to design suits for President Eisenhower in the 1950s, he felt a special connection to Eisenhower, who had liberated Buchenwald as a general in the U.S. Army. To offer the president unsolicited advice on how to end the Suez Crisis of 1956, Greenfield slipped notes into the pockets of Eisenhower’s suits.

“He’s got total confidence and has this amazing amount of trust in himself,” his son Tod mused inside the factory, shouting over the loud hum of sewing machines. “Rightfully so, he trusts his own feelings. He’s made it through all these things.”

In 1977, after 30 years at GGG, Greenfield bought the East Williamsburg factory from the Goldman family, renamed the company Martin Greenfield Clothiers, and continued serving a superstar clientele. He had developed an impeccable reputation by then and continued to work with big-name celebrities and political leaders. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, he established relationships with department stores like Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York, and Saks Fifth Avenue to make their suits. He also mentored some young fashion talent in the ’80s, including Alexander Julian, Perry Ellis, and Isaac Mizrahi.

Greenfield returned to the White House once again to design clothes for President Clinton. (He snooped through the president’s closet, he recalls in his book, gasping at the number of track suits.) By this point, his notes to Eisenhower had become somewhat notorious in the White House, so Clinton told him when they first met—before Greenfield had the chance to slip any notes in any pockets—that if he had advice to offer, he should send him a fax.

Despite experiencing difficult financial times throughout the years, an advantage to keeping his near-century-old factory open in Brooklyn is the ability to boast “made in America,” which is a credit most retailers who flock to foreign countries for cheap labor cannot brag about. A suit made at Greenfield can retail for up to $2,700 because of its handmade craftsmanship.

Greenfield explains in his book why his suits cost so much: “I refused to compromise. We would only use the highest quality materials and methods. My suits would feature hand-shaped full-canvas fronts, Italian and English woolens and cashmere, handmade horn buttons affixed with a smart button stance, endless hand-pressing to mold the jacket’s form, hand-stitched and functional buttons and collars with a gorge done right to ensure a snug fit around the collar shirt. And above all, only over my dead body would any suit made by Martin Greenfield ever feature fused or glued interlining.”

Between designer lines, assignments from Hollywood, and private clients, Greenfield’s operation is making 15,000 suits a year for some very dapper clientele. His approach has won him accolades from customers and fellow designers alike. Scott Sternberg, the celebrated founder of fashion line Band of Outsiders, wrote to me in an email: “Martin taught me everything I know about classic tailoring, in his kind and colorful and story-infused way. What’s wonderful about Martin is that he’s not stuck in the past. We’ve always maintained a healthy dialogue about the classic, ‘right’ way to do things, and my desire to try something new—a shape, fabric, technique. He has a respect for both history and the need to innovate and move forward.”

Ariel Ovadia, one of the twins behind men’s luxury brand Ovadia & Sons, told me: “When we first started, Martin took out the time to work with us on developing our clothing. His knowledge and expertise is a lost art and we are grateful to have the privilege of working with him and his sons.”

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who’s been a longtime client, said of Greenfield: “Frankly, I’m in awe of him. We’re talking about a man who fought to survive some of the worst mankind has ever shown, came to New York with nothing, worked hard, thrived, and took care of his family. Martin is some of the best we can offer. His is not just an only-in-America story, in many ways this could only happen in New York. And I don’t buy my suits anywhere else.”


Greenfield’s memoir explains not only his spunk and desire to persevere, but also the rich array of impossible characters who appear throughout his life. In one moment, he’s standing in line next to Elie Wiesel in Buchenwald and shaking Eisenhower’s hand. Several chapters later, Greenfield is having a drink with Frank Sinatra in Manhattan and then meeting Lana Turner on a movie set in Los Angeles. Shortly afterward, he’s mentoring fashion icons like Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. He wears a gold watch on his wrist with biblical images of the 10 Tribes’ signs on the front and an inscription that reads “Am Yisrael Chai” on the back; the watch, given to him by legendary Cadillac salesman Victor Potamkin, used to belong to Golda Meir. These fleeting characters demonstrate the incredible scope of Greenfield’s journey.

He ascribes these larger-than-life experiences to the opportunities America has to offer. “When I came here at the age of 19, and they gave me a green card and told me I was an American, I thought there was no other place in the world,” he told me. “The opportunities that are here! If you are willing to take time and study, be brought up by your parents the right way, you can be president! You can become whatever you want to become.”

Greenfield told me it was not easy to write the book. His son Tod noted that his father’s past was not something he often talked about—that is, until he spent hours divulging his story to a yeshiva student who had to interview a Holocaust survivor for a school assignment.

“After that day, he was much more open,” Tod said. “He told us and my mom his story, and when someone would ask [about his past] he would tell them. Also, he used to have nightmares and would wake up screaming almost every night. But after he told his story, he was much more peaceful. I guess it’s therapeutic to share after so long.”


Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.


Leave a comment

The Nazi Romance With Islam Has Some Lessons for the United States

The Nazi Romance With Islam Has Some Lessons for the United States

Two new important histories look at Hitler’s fascination with Islam and Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey


Soldiers of the 13th SS Division with a brochure about “Islam and Judaism,” 1943. (German Federal Archive via )
Related Content

Hitler’s Jews: Max Von Oppenheim and the Myth of German Jewish Guilt

New biographies shed light on the cohort of Germans of Jewish descent who historians have portrayed as having served the Nazis

Did Zionism Cause the Holocaust? A New Biography Says Yes.

The authors of a new history of the Grand Mufti Amin Al-Husaini’s ties to Nazis fail to carry their logic to its flawed conclusion

No Banality in This Evil

A new documentary and a new book look at Himmler and Eichmann through newly discovered letters

Both Hitler and Himmler had a soft spot for Islam. Hitler several times fantasized that, if the Saracens had not been stopped at the Battle of Tours, Islam would have spread through the European continent—and that would have been a good thing, since “Jewish Christianity” wouldn’t have gone on to poison Europe. Christianity doted on weakness and suffering, while Islam extolled strength, Hitler believed. Himmler in a January 1944 speech called Islam “a practical and attractive religion for soldiers,” with its promise of paradise and beautiful women for brave martyrs after their death. “This is the kind of language a soldier understands,” Himmler gushed.

Surely, the Nazi leaders thought, Muslims would see that the Germans were their blood brothers: loyal, iron-willed, and most important, convinced that Jews were the evil that most plagued the world. “Do you recognize him, the fat, curly-haired Jew who deceives and rules the whole world and who steals the land of the Arabs?” demanded one of the Nazi pamphlets dropped over North Africa (a million copies of it were printed). “The Jew,” the pamphlet explained, was the evil King Dajjal from Islamic tradition, who in the world’s final days was supposed to lead 70,000 Jews from Isfahan in apocalyptic battle against Isa—often identified with Jesus, but according to the Reich Propaganda Ministry none other than Hitler himself. Germany produced reams of leaflets like this one, often quoting the Quran on the subject of Jewish treachery.

It is not surprising, then, that there are those today who draw a direct line between modern Jew-hatred in the Islamic world and the Nazis. A poster currently at Columbus Circle’s subway entrance proclaims loudly that “Jew-hatred is in the Quran.” The poster features a photograph of Hitler with the notoriously anti-Jewish Mufti al-Husaini of Palestine, who is erroneously labeled “the leader of the Muslim world.” The truth is considerably more complex. The mufti made himself useful to the Nazis as a propagandist, but he had little influence in most Muslim regions. Few Muslims believed Nazi claims that Hitler was the protector of Islam, much less the Twelfth Imam, as one Reich pamphlet suggested.

The Nazis’ anti-Jewish propaganda no doubt attracted many Muslims, as historian Jeffrey Herf has documented, but they balked at believing that Hitler would be their savior or liberator. Instead, they sensed correctly that the Nazis wanted Muslims to fight and die for Germany. As Rommel approached Cairo, Egyptians started to get nervous. They knew that the Germans were not coming to liberate them, but instead wanted to make the Muslim world part of their own burgeoning empire. In the end, more Muslims wound up fighting for the Allies than for the Axis.

Hitler’s failed effort to put Muslim boots on the ground still stands as the most far-reaching Western attempt to use Islam to win a war. Such is the judgment of David Motadel, the author of a new, authoritative book, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War. Motadel’s detailed and fascinating explanation of how and why the Nazis failed to get Muslims on their side is a must-read for serious students of World War II, and it has an important message as well for our own policy in the Middle East.


To grasp why the Nazis had such high hopes for Muslim collaboration—and why their hopes failed—we need to go back to the great war that made Hitler the fanatical monster he was. One hundred years ago, a few months into World War I, Germany looked like it might be in trouble. The German offensive had failed to break through at Ypres after a month of bloody fighting. The waves of German soldiers stumbling through no-man’s land slowed to a stop. The kaiser’s army was exhausted, and its commanders suddenly realized that the quick Western Front victory they had dreamed of was impossible. Meanwhile, Russia was massing troops around Warsaw, and the tsar had just declared war on the Ottoman Empire.

There was one bright spot, though. On Nov. 11, 1914, the highest religious authority of the Ottoman caliphate, Sheikh al-Islam Ürgüplü Hayri, issued a call for worldwide jihad against Russia, Britain, and France. Suddenly, the Great War was a holy war. Surely, the Germans dreamed, Muslims would join their side en masse and turn the tide of battle.

In the early years of World War I the German Reich caught Islam fever: Muslims became the great Eastern hope against the Entente. Helmuth von Moltke, chief of the German general staff, planned to “awaken the fanaticism of Islam” in the French and British colonies, making the Muslim masses rise up against their European masters. Max von Oppenheim, the German diplomat and orientalist, described Islam as “one of our most important weapons” in his famous position paper of October 1914. Oppenheim wanted to spark a Muslim revolt stretching from India to Morocco that Germany could use for its own purposes. Germany just needed to get the message across, Oppenheim insisted: Russia, Britain, and France were the oppressors of Muslims, whereas the Germans would liberate them.

The German strategy didn’t work. Instead, Britain and France won the game when they capitalized on the Arab uprising against a crumbling Ottoman Empire. T.E. Lawrence, rather than the kaiser, inspired the Arabs. After the war, Britain and France sliced up the Middle East pie between them in the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916.

Germany tried once again to mobilize Islam in WWII. Astonishingly, in 1940 Oppenheim, at that point 80 years old, championed the same plan that had failed so badly in the previous war. Even more surprising, Hitler and Himmler warmly embraced the part-Jewish Oppenheim’s idea: They too thought that Islam would help bring about a Nazi triumph.

“German officials would always refer to global Islam, to pan Islam,” Motadel told me over the phone from his home in Cambridge, England, where he is Research Fellow in History at the University of Cambridge’s Gonville and Caius College. The Nazis spoke of the Muslims as a “bloc” that could be “activated” against the British, the French, and the Soviets. Their belief that Islam was monolithic led them to ignore differences of region, sect, and nationality, which helped to ensure the failure of their efforts.

As Motadel documents, those efforts were indeed considerable. Germans sought out imams who would issue fatwas for their side, and they told their soldiers to be especially careful of religious sensibilities when traveling through Muslim territory. They gave special privileges to Muslims who joined the Wehrmacht: The Nazi leadership even allowed them to follow Muslim dietary laws. Astonishingly, German forces in the East permitted Muslims to practice both circumcision and ritual slaughter, proving more liberal on these two issues than many Europeans are today. At the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the Germans murdered many Muslims because they were mistaken for Jews: They didn’t realize that Muslims were also circumcised. But Berlin soon corrected the error and cautioned troops in the East to make sure to treat Muslims with respect, since they were Germany’s potential allies. In December 1942 Hitler decided he wanted to recruit all-Muslim units in the Caucasus. He distrusted Georgians and Armenians, but the Muslims, he said, were true soldiers.

The Germans assumed that the Muslim world would naturally flock to the Nazi banner, since Muslims like Germans knew that Jews were the enemy, and since Germany was offering them freedom from France, Britain, and Russia. But for the most part, they were wrong. Muslims only embraced the Nazi cause in places where they were desperate to arm themselves against local persecutors, the Crimea, the Caucasus, and the Balkans. In most of the Muslim world, Hitler failed to attract a large following.

North Africa was a miserable failure for German recruitment. “230,000 Muslims fought for the Free French against the Axis from North Africa,” Motadel pointed out to me in our interview, far more than those who enlisted with Germany. The Germans had their millions of leaflets, but they were not the only propagandists in the field. “The Free French mobilized them with anti-colonial rhetoric. The British and French were the ruling powers; they had much more control over propaganda.”

The East was much more favorable than North Africa to the German recruitment drive. The Muslims of the Caucasus and the Crimea had many reasons to choose Germany over Stalin’s Soviet Union. “In the East the Muslim population had really suffered under Stalin, economically and religiously,” Motadel remarked to me. They had nothing to lose, they thought, by siding with “Adolf Effendi.” The Crimean Tatars took a notorious place among Germany’s most loyal and ruthless battalions, fighting both in the East and, near the end of the war, in Romania. The Tatars made the wrong choice: Stalin mercilessly deported many of them to his gulags after the war.

In the Balkans many Muslims turned to Germany in the middle of a brutal civil war, fleeing the rampages of the Croatian Ustase. The infamous all-Muslim Handžar battalion of the SS, organized in the Balkans late in the war, committed many atrocities. In Serbian areas, noted one British officer, the Handžar “massacres all civil population without mercy or regard for age or sex.”

The Nazis made sure, with few exceptions, that the Nuremberg laws could be applied only to Jews, not to those other Semites, the Arabs, nor to Turks and Persians—which paradoxically allowed certain communities of Jews in Muslim regions to also survive the Shoah. In Crimea, two puzzled officers of the Wehrmacht, Fritz Donner and Ernst Seifert, reported on “Near Eastern racial groups of a non-Semitic character who, strangely, have adopted the Jewish faith,” while also noting that “a large part of these Jews on the Crimea is of Mohammedan faith.” What to do? In the end the Reich ruled that the Karaites, traditionally seen as a Turkic people, could be spared, while the Krymchaks should be murdered as Jews, though both these Crimean tribes followed Jewish law. In the northern Caucasus, the Nazis decided that the Judeo-Tats, a tiny Torah-observant island in a sea of Muslims, had only their religion in common with Jews. In effect, they became honorary Muslims and were saved from death. The Karaites were close to the Muslim Crimean Tatars, and the Judeo-Tats also had deep ties to their Muslim neighbors. It was their supposed affinity to Islam that saved the lives of these observant Jews. In these cases the Nazi wish to cultivate the Muslim world even affected to a small degree their anti-Semitic policy—to the Jews’ advantage.


Hitler cultivated many parts of the Muslim world, but he was fanatically enthusiastic about only one country: Turkey (the Nazis officially decided in 1936 that the Turks were Aryans). Stefan Ihrig’s brilliant new book Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination demonstrates convincingly that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s conquest of Turkey was the most important model for the Nazis’ remaking of Germany, far more so than Mussolini’s 1922 March on Rome, which is usually cited as Hitler’s main inspiration. Turkey had taken control of its destiny in manly fashion, in proud defiance of the international community—if only Germany would do the same! So argued many on the German right, including Hitler, during the 10 years between Atatürk’s victory and the Nazi seizure of power.

The victorious Entente had vastly curtailed Ottoman territory under the Treaty of Sèvres after WWI, just as the Treaty of Versailles shrank German territory. But the new nation of Turkey threw off the victors’ shackles and, after Mustafa Kemal (later renamed Atatürk) marched from Ankara westward, the Turks won the right to a homeland in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. The Weimar Republic’s newspapers obsessively celebrated the Turks’ victory and endorsed their claims to the disputed region of Hatay (the Turks’ Alsace-Lorraine), portraying the Turks as more advanced than the Germans, trailblazers on the path to strong nationhood. “If we want to be free, then we will have no choice but to follow the Turkish example in one way or another,” the right-wing military man and journalist Hans Tröbst announced in the newspaper Heimatland in 1923. Nearly every item in Hitler’s playbook can be found in such Weimar-era endorsements of Atatürk: All Turkey had mobilized for the war; strong faith in their leader had saved them.

Ihrig argues that the Turkish treatment of minorities, both under Atatürk and earlier, was the true precursor for Hitler’s murderous policy in the East. Those “bloodsuckers and parasites,” the Greeks and Armenians, had been “eradicated” by the Turks, Tröbst explained inHeimatland. “Gentle measures—that history has always shown—will not do in such cases.” The Turks had achieved “the purification of a nation of its foreign elements on a grand scale.” He added that “Almost all of those of foreign background in the area of combat had to die; their number is not put too low with 500,000.” Here was a chilling endorsement of genocide, and one that surely did not escape Hitler’s eye. Shortly after his articles appeared, Hitler invited Tröbst to give a speech on Turkey to the SA.

From 1923 on, Hitler consistently praised Atatürk in his own speeches as well. Berlin, like Istanbul, was cosmopolitan and decadent. Munich, site of Hitler’s beer-hall putsch, was the place for a German “Ankara government.” When Hitler seized power in 1933 his Völkischer Beobachter cited Atatürk’s victory as the “star in the darkness” that had shone for the beleaguered Nazis in 1923, after the putsch’s failure. Turkey was “proof of what a real man could do”—a man like Atatürk, or Hitler.

The Third Reich produced many idolizing biographies of Atatürk. Six years after the Turkish leader’s death, in late 1944, a delusional Hitler was still dreaming of a postwar alliance between Turkey and Germany. He never got his wish. During the war, Turkey, as a neutral power, kept its distance from the Nazis until it finally declared war against Germany in February 1945.

In Turkey, criticizing Atatürk can still get you three years in jail, though the country’s increasingly unhinged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan broke the law himself last year when he called Atatürk a drunkard. While Erdogan wants to reverse his predecessor’s program for secularizing Turkey, he appears to be imitating Atatürk’s extravagant cult of personality along with his habit of demonizing his enemies. But while Atatürk disdained Hitler’s anti-Semitism, Erdogan is obsessed with Jews. The 2014 Gaza operation, he has remarked, was worse than anything Hitler ever did, and the Israelis have been committing “systematic genocide every day” since 1948. Perhaps if Erdogan had been in power in the 1940s, the Nazis would have found the Muslim ally they so desperately sought.

Weaponizing Islam has often been a temptation for the United States, just as it was for Germany. In its battle against Moscow, Washington recruited Islamic leaders after WWII, most famously Said Ramadan, a major figure in the Muslim Brotherhood. The United States even smiled on Saudi Arabia’s funding of radical Islamist organizations, hoping that religion would serve as a bulwark against Soviet Communism. Then the Muslim Brotherhood killed U.S. ally Anwar Sadat, and its follower Ayman al-Zawahiri became, along with Osama Bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaida. We supported the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, until the Mujahedeen turned into the Taliban.

We are still trying to turn the Muslim world to our own purposes, but this time by supporting Shiite against Sunni. In addition to courting Erdogan, President Barack Obama hopes to make use of Iran as a stabilizing regional force. In his most recent personal letter to Ayatollah Khamanei, Obama seems to have made a promise: We will repeal sanctions, fight against ISIS, and preserve the rule of Iran’s client Bashar al Assad as long as Iran agrees to a deal on nuclear weapons. But what will the United States get in return? In the best-case scenario—which is far from assured—Iran’s bomb-making abilities will be hindered by the deal they sign. But even an Iran without the bomb cannot be relied on to make the Middle East less conflict-riven, unless we are aiming at the kind of stability famously mocked by Tacitus: They make a desert and call it peace. Iranian actions speak for themselves: support for Hezbollah, with its hundred thousand weapons aimed at Israel, and support for Assad, who has massacred his people endlessly and thrown massive numbers of them into concentration camps. Anyone who looks at the Syrian defector “Caesar” ’s photographs of the thousands of starved, mutilated bodies produced by Syria’s bloodthirsty optometrist-in-chief, which are now on permanent exhibition at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, a few blocks from the White House that has refused to grasp their meaning, will ask the same question: Don’t these Arab bodies, resembling so exactly the bodies of Jews at Auschwitz, have the same call on our conscience?

One thing is certain: If Khamanei and Rouhani are given a larger role in the Middle East, they will not serve U.S. interests, nor those of the majority of Muslims. They will serve their own interests, which are inimical to ours. We still have not learned the major lesson of 20th-century history so adeptly conveyed by Motadel and Ihrig: Western leaders who try to get Islam on their side through propaganda and favors will be unpleasantly surprised.


Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.

Leave a comment

No Banality in This Evil: A new documentary and a new book look at Himmler and Eichmann through newly discovered letters

No Banality in This Evil

A new documentary and a new book look at Himmler and Eichmann through newly discovered letters


Heinrich Himmler with Gundrun around 1941. (Kino Lorber, Inc)
Related Content

Haunted by Hitler’s Hangman

The French quasi-novel HHhH, by Laurent Binet, tells the tale of assassinated Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich while wondering whether it need be retold

Holocaust Pulp Fiction

The Auschwitz survivor known as Ka-Tzetnik 135633 wrote lurid novels derided as pornography when they were published. Now he’s Israel’s Elie Wiesel.

Adolf Eichmann Is Alive and Well and Living in the Middle East

Philosopher Bettina Stangneth’s brilliant, newly translated study of the origins of evil shows why radicals like ISIS act like Nazis

In 2006, a prominent Israeli psychiatrist named Dr. Nathaniel Laor received a telephone call from American real-estate mogul and philanthropist Leon Charney. Laor, a professor at both Tel Aviv University and at Yale’s Child Study Center, was told that a friend of Charney’s knew a man who had come into possession of a remarkable trove of papers. Would he care to look them over and assess their historical value?

Soon Laor visited Chaim Rosenthal’s apartment in the leafy Ramat Aviv neighborhood of Tel Aviv, where a battered suitcase lay on the floor under the bed. He opened the suitcase and discovered hundreds of letters written by Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuhrer of the SS and Nazi minister of the interior, to his wife Marga and his daughter Gudrun, and their letters to him. There were also family photographs, diaries, and notebooks detailing familial expenses. A near-complete record of the personal life of one of the most infamous Nazi war criminals had been in the State of Israel, unbeknownst to anyone, for decades.

“To come into a three-room apartment in Tel Aviv to find an old suitcase containing these pictures of the architect of the Holocaust and his family, with his steady type of calculations, his diaries, his letters, for me it was a shock,” said Laor, the descendant of Holocaust survivors. Laor skimmed through the documents and knew that he had found something remarkable that needed to be shared with the general public and that someone would have to be brought in to shape the material. “I realized that it’s a gold mine,” said Laor.

After visiting Rosenthal’s apartment, Laor called Vanessa Lapa, a Belgian-Israeli television producer whom he had met when she had worked for the Channel 1 and Channel 10 news. By the time Laor and Lapa encountered Rosenthal, he was a broken man, his spirit worn down by the perverse responsibility of the Himmler papers. Rosenthal had reached out on numerous occasions to German newspapers in the past in the hopes of piquing their interest in his cache but had been unable to attract their attention. “[Rosenthal] knew the enormity of the find, and somehow he couldn’t get the attention of the world,” said Laor. “Something with these documents was bothering [him], it was like a bone stuck in his throat. He needed to clear his house.”

Now Rosenthal, in his late sixties, wanted to sell the papers—not to make a profit, but simply to pass the burden on to someone else. “It was clear that the man was under stress while selling these documents,” said Laor. “It was a sale, but for him it was getting rid of these documents.” Above all, Rosenthal was worried that the papers would fall into the wrong hands, winding up in a neo-Nazi flea market somewhere, or worse, in the hands of Holocaust denialists who might somehow use these domestic letters as proof of Himmler’s innocence. Lapa’s father wound up purchasing the letters for his daughter’s production company, Realworks, for a relatively nominal sum.

Lapa was tantalized by a single question: How had Rosenthal acquired Himmler’s personal correspondence? Lapa spent the first year digging for answers about the letters’ provenance. The papers had been, at war’s end, at the Himmlers’ home in Gmund-am-Tegernsee in Bavaria. Marga Himmler had been questioned by American forces in September 1945 and had testified that all of her husband’s papers were in the safe.

Some of the documents first found in the Himmler family house in 1945, hidden in Tel Aviv for decades and sold to the father of the Israeli documentary filmmaker Vanessa Lapa. (Photo: Courtesy the author/Vanessa Lapa).

Where had they stopped along the path from Gmund to Tel Aviv, and who had held them along the way? Rosenthal, who had been a painter and a cultural-affairs officer for the state of Israel, had told different stories at different times about how he had acquired the Himmler papers. He had originally stated that he purchased the papers at a flea market in Brussels in the 1960s. In a 1982 New York Times article, Rosenthal claimed to have purchased 700 letters and two diaries for $40,000 from a former Nazi officer living in Mexico.

Rosenthal had also served as a cultural attaché in the United States in the 1980s and had possibly acquired them at a flea market in Los Angeles during his term of service. Or he had borrowed the letters and diaries from a couple at the Mexican-American border and then neglected to ever return them. Rosenthal was now too frail to remember, or had jumbled up the contradictory stories he had told in the past about the letters. Having hit a dead end, Lapa decided to regroup and look to the contents of the letters, and not just the story of their owner. “Only then, I realized that maybe there is a bigger story or a more interesting story,” said Lapa.

The Himmler papers were the private record of an eminently public man, his musings on his horrific work, and the mundane details of his family life, echoing his pronouncements as one of the highest-ranking officials of the Nazi Party. Their discovery would be part of a larger process of finding or revisiting the private words of prominent Nazis, separating out the fictions they peddled in public from their personal beliefs. For while Lapa and Laor were sorting through their find, a German philosopher was visiting archives around Germany, painstakingly assembling the complete text of a series of conversations, held after the war in Argentina, that she believed might help her understand the mental world of none other than Adolf Eichmann. The two discoveries would ultimately offer, as we see in two recent artistic works, a perspective on high-ranking Nazis—and the way they thought of themselves and their work—unavailable from any other source. Himmler’s letters and Eichmann’s transcripts offer a privileged view inside the personal lives and thoughts of Nazi leaders otherwise intent on maintaining an unflinching public pose, allowing us to glimpse not only their actions, but also their motivations


The Decent One, the film Lapa ultimately made, is an epistolary documentary, drawn entirely from the Himmler family’s letters and diaries. It begins when Himmler was still a child, enthusing about a visit to see a Passion Play, but picks up steam shortly after his graduation from university, when Himmler joined the Nazi Party and began corresponding regularly with Marga Boden, a clinic owner seven years older than him. Their tone is initially playful—he suggests a ceremonial pact in which she must exercise twice daily and cook him soup—but even during these early years with Hitler, he bristles at any questioning of his devotion to the Nazi cause. “Why are you going to a Hitler rally,” Marga wonders in one of her letters which are read in voice-over by actors in The Decent One, “when you know what he will say?” Himmler frostily responds, “I must go to Hitler’s rallies, because I organize them and am jointly responsible for them.”

The prewar letters (the precise Himmler numbered his correspondence) are the missives of a traveling salesman, constantly on the road, and checking in on his family back at home, with the only notable distinction being that the product Heinrich Himmler was selling was Nazism.

Himmler’s daughter Gudrun was born in 1929, and the most haunting story told by the family’s correspondence is the record of the cozy relationship between a murderous father and his admiring daughter. On the occasion of Gudrun’s first birthday, Himmler draws the outline of her hand into the “bang journal” he and Marga kept about Gudrun’s development. Marga writes to her husband about how a worried Gudrun had asked her whether “Uncle Hitler” will ever die. Their humdrum domestic life stands in marked contrast to Himmler’s bloodthirsty brutality elsewhere.

Current events become familial triumphs. Shortly after the Austrian Anschluss, Gudrun was still thrilled by her father’s Viennese trip: “At this time yesterday, Daddy went in!” Himmler’s rigid sense of Nazi morality affects his domestic life. He tells Marga that a “healthy marriage” requires at least four children. The Himmlers wound up adopting a boy named Gerhard, whose unruly behavior presumably prompted some of Heinrich’s disquisitions on the need for order in his letters: “Order creates the nation, the culture, and order creates the state.” Later, Heinrich cruelly suggests to Marga that she should not sign her letters to Gerhard “Mother,” but could resume doing so if his behavior improved. (Gerhard was eventually sent to join the SS at the age of 15 after being caught smoking a cigarette, and became the youngest German prisoner of war in the Soviet Union before being released in 1955, 10 years after the end of World War II.)

On first impression, Himmler seems a doting father, at least to Gudrun, but Lapa and her co-writer Ori Weisbrod soon found jarring notes intervening. Gudrun was invited to tour Dachau with her mother and aunts in 1941, and writes with enthusiasm of the trip: “We saw everything. The vegetable patch, the mill, the bees.” What sort of father brings his 12-year-old daughter to visit a concentration camp? “This is what I mean when I say he was not that amazing, loving father,” argues Lapa. “Because an amazing, loving father would protect his own child from this.” Even his outlining of his 1-year-old daughter’s fingers is followed by the comment that she would not hold her hand still. “He’s educating, judging. She’s not good enough,” observed Lapa. “You always have the perverted twist, the nastiness. This is what amazed me time and time again. I knew that it would come at a certain point.”

We are reminded time and again in the letters that the extermination of the Jews was the daily business of the Himmler family. Marga writes of purchasing ten thousand bars of chocolate as a Christmas gift for the soldiers of the SS. Heinrich tells his wife that “despite all the work, I am doing fine and sleeping well.” All his assurances to the contrary, the business of genocide took a physical toll on him. He had dismissively mentioned an officer who had had to have his bowels manually emptied after his experiences killing Jews but goes on to talk about some “intestinal issues” he was himself experiencing.

Himmler liked to present himself as the iron-boweled, unbending, morally upright paragon of Nazism, but the letters tell a subtly different story. “We have a moral right, an obligation, to our people, to take the people who want to kill us, and kill them,” he wrote in 1942. “But we have no right to enrich ourselves with a single fur, a watch, a single mark, a cigarette, or anything else.” Mass murder was allowed, but theft was a shocking criminal act—or so he claimed. In the next letter, Himmler mentions a gold bracelet he was sending along, with a fur coat that was on its way—both presumably booty from some of the Jewish inmates he encountered.

Himmler insisted on believing in himself, and the SS officers who carried out the genocide of the Jews, as fundamentally upstanding people. In a 1943 speech quoted in The Decent One, he told a crowd of SS men in Posen, “Most of you will know what it means when a hundred corpses lie side by side, whether there are five hundred or one thousand, and to endure that and, apart from a few exceptions, to remain decent, has made us tough, but it is never mentioned, and will never appear in the glorious annals of our history. We can have but one desire as to what is said about us. ‘These German soldiers, these German generals: they were decent.’” The Decent One is unnerving for its demonstration that Himmler truly believed he was, at the very last, a decent man.

Lapa proceeds chronologically through Himmler’s life, telling his story in his family’s own words, her carefully selected suite of images serving as a bitterly ironic counterpoint, and a reminder of everything left unsaid. A letter from Himmler to his daughter Gudrun about a package for her is illustrated with an image of prisoners being shot by a firing squad. He writes to his wife, apologizing for having missed their anniversary, pleading how busy he has been the past few days, over images of Jews being clobbered with two-by-fours, Jews being shot, dirt being piled into mass Jewish graves.

The film is intensely disturbing for the ordinariness of the exchanges; as Himmler plans the genocide of the Jews, he is also offering advice about his children, bantering with his daughter, and flirting with his mistress. We are through the looking glass, seeing the Holocaust from the perspective of not only the perpetrators, but those who looked after the perpetrators. Lapa has expertly pared down the Himmler material into a spare narrative whose silences are often as expressive as its words.


The Himmler papers are not the only previously hidden or ignored sources about the inner lives of Nazis to recently re-emerge. German philosopher Bettina Stangneth’s powerful new book Eichmann Before Jerusalem (Knopf) uses the so-called Argentina Papers—transcribed records of a postwar South American study circle composed of Adolf Eichmann and other unregenerate Nazis—to transcend the clichéd cog-in-the-machine stereotypes about Eichmann. Like the Himmler letters, Eichmann’s Argentina Papers offered the chance to hear a confirmed Nazi present his version of the truth. This was not court testimony, but opinions and observations shared with the assurance that no one other than true believers would ever hear them

The Argentina Papers were never lost, but they might as well have been. During his trial in Jerusalem, Eichmann had claimed that the interview transcripts were the result of an encounter with an unscrupulous Dutch journalist named Willem Sassen, who preyed on the drunken Eichmann in a local pub. None of it could be admissible, he argued, and the panel of Israeli judges agreed. After all, even if the transcripts were genuine, how could they be proved to correspond with actual conversations when, in many cases, the original tapes were nowhere to be found? Many researchers took Eichmann at his word, and ignored or downplayed the significance of the Argentina Papers as mere drunken boasting.

In reality, Eichmann and Sassen had been friends, both members of a group that met regularly in Sassen’s living room to discuss and debate Nazi ideology and history. Eichmann had been invited as the Argentinean Nazi known to have the most firsthand knowledge of the war against the Jews. Sassen and his friends, many of whom vociferously supported the Nazi cause without having themselves fought in the war, hoped Eichmann would prove what they believed to be true: that the Holocaust was a myth. Instead, and much to their horror, Eichmann proudly and at great length detailed his central role in the Final Solution, citing evidence from books his friends procured and taking copious notes.

“Every weekend, they sit together for four or five hours, Saturday and Sunday, talking on a very high level about books about the Holocaust,” Stangneth said of the Sassen circle. For Stangneth, these transcripts provided an incomparably intimate look at the mindset of one of the architects of the Holocaust—one that had been overlooked or downplayed by other researchers for decades. When Stangneth began her research, she found a jumble of disorganized pages scattered across numerous German archives. She might come to the end of one page and discover that the next was in another archive, 100 miles away. Previous scholars had shown little interest in even assembling a complete transcript. “I’m astonished that there was so [little] curiosity about these papers,” said Stangneth.

After Eichmann was arrested, his friends took the transcripts of the Argentina Papers. “The original papers were divided by friends of Eichmann to save them, because Eichmann’s friends knew very well that these papers were dangerous for Eichmann in Jerusalem,” said Stangneth. “So, they tried to separate the dangerous pages from the not-so-dangerous pages.”

Stangneth is also intent on situating the Argentina Papers within the unsettling world of postwar Nazi revanchists. Eichmann and his friends firmly believed that, suitably cleansed of its tainted leaders (Himmler in particular was singled out as being beyond redemption), Nazism could be revitalized as a political force. “You can lose the world war, but you can be a winner if you are able to write books,” said Stangneth. “And this was the plan. To make the propaganda for the next hundred years.”

The Himmler and Eichmann papers are valuable in reorienting our understanding of these prominent Nazis’ interior lives. They were men of action, to be sure, but they were also men of ideas, peddling their toxic notions of race and genocidal self-defense against the Jewish people. Their letters and interview transcripts provide an unfiltered look at not only what they did, but what they thought about their actions, and how they justified their nightmarish work to others.

The Himmler letters and the Argentina Papers are primary sources reminding us, in case we ever forgot, that these propagandists were committed with undying ferocity to their own propaganda. Defeat was not an option, even when the war was nearly lost—even when the war was long over. They are privileged glimpses of true believers, reminding us that Nazis were not only murderers and torturers, but also devoted followers of a totalitarian ideal. Doubt simply did not exist.

One of the true believers, convinced that Nazism was not yet spent, was Gudrun Himmler. After the war, she became a prominent force in an organization called Stille Hilfe (Silent Aid), which helped Nazis escape Europe and provided financial and moral support to convicted war criminals. Silent Aid fought to free convicted Nazis and to prevent accused Nazis from being extradited for trial. Himmler was neo-Nazi royalty, her lineage granting her elite status within the airless world of unreconstructed fascist ideologues.

Gudrun Himmler, now Gudrun Burwitz, is now 85 years old, still living in a suburb of Munich. She remains active in Silent Aid’s work, presumably as a tribute to her father’s memory. “The way you want to assess someone is, what does she do when she comes to adulthood? What does she do afterwards?” wondered Emory historian Deborah Lipstadt, when we spoke “What does she do as the truth comes out? Is she busy defending her father, or is she acknowledging that her father was responsible for mass murder?” The papers that spent decades in a suitcase in a Tel Aviv apartment document, among other things, the irreversible warping of a young mind. They are a record of a life—make that three lives— permanently devoted to the propagation of evil. By saving Heinrich Himmler’s papers, Chaim Rosenthal did us all a service, preserving documentation not only of Nazi ideology’s calamitous effect on the Jewish people, but on Himmler’s own family, too.

Leave a comment

World War II AJA veterans to receive top French honor

World War II AJA veterans to receive top French honor

By Gregg K. Kakesako

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 09, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 02:33 a.m. HST, Nov 09, 2014

It’s been 10 years since the French government began honoring Japanese-American World War II veterans with the country’s most prestigious award — the Legion of Honor.

On Veterans Day, two members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team — Harold Kudo and Shiro Aoki — will be given the award during a ceremony at the Maunalani Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where they now live.

Honorary French Consul Patricia Y. Lee said Kudo, who served for three years with the 442nd in Europe, asked to receive his medal before a planned awards ceremony early next year because “he fears he will not make it because of his frail health and health issues.”

Lee said she was told Kudo, 91, was “in tears when he received the letter from the (French) consul general,” about the award.

“Because they are all between the ages of 90 and 96, I’m happy to do this for him,” Lee said.

Kudo, who graduated from Farrington High School in 1942 and enlisted in the Army when the 442nd was formed, said that receiving the French medal will be a very emotional moment.

“It brings back memories of France and things that happened there,” said Kudo. “It reminds me of the people that are buried there.”

Aoki, 92, said he was honored that the French government recognizes the soldiers who liberated the country.

Since 2004, when 442nd veteran Barney Hajiro was bestowed the rank of chevalier, or knight, 72 AJA veterans — members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion — have received the award.

Aoki and Kudo are among the 60 Legion of Honor medal recipients approved by the French government this year, Lee said.

Both Aoki and Kudo were assigned to M Company of the 442nd, organized in March 1943 in response to the War Department’s call to form an all-Japanese-American Army combat unit.

Aoki and Kudo met when the Army unit was formed in 1943 and have remained friends for 70 years.

About 200 nisei soldiers were in M Company when it was formed, said Aoki, a 1940 Kohala High School graduate. “There are now only a very few active members,” Aoki said. “Maybe five or six active members.”

Aoki graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1950 and went to work for Pan American World Airways and retired as director of food service in 1985. Kudo worked for the federal government and retired as chief of the supply division for the Army.

Lee said the French government is working with the Maui Nisei Veterans Memorial Center to honor the 18 AJA veterans from Maui with a special ceremony in January on the Valley Isle.

The Legion of Honor was created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte. The French award is the country’s highest civilian honor and consists of five classes.

In descending order of distinction, they are grand cross, grand officer, commander, officer and chevalier. The order is conferred upon men and women, either French citizens or foreigners, for outstanding achievements in military or civilian life.

Among the Hawaii veterans to receive the award was the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who also was a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his service with the 442nd in France and Italy, where he lost his right arm in combat. Inouye received the award from French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011.

American servicemen who fought in one of the four main campaigns of the liberation of France — Normandy, Provence, Ardennes, or Northern France between D-Day, June 6, 1944, and May 8, 1945 — are eligible.

The French government said there are approximately 93,000 Legion of Honor recipients. American recipients include Gens. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur and Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, former chief of naval operations.

“Although France does not approve applications posthumously,” Lee said, “the families of those who have passed away after the award was approved can still receive the medal on behalf of his or her deceased father or spouse.”

The screening process can take as long as a year, Lee said. It took more than two years for the French government to approve medals for Aoki and Kudo.

Veterans or their family members can apply by writing to the Consulate General of France, 88 Kearny St., Suite 600; San Francisco, CA 94108.



>> Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor: Hawaii premiere of “With Their Voices Raised,” 2 p.m. The documentary performance with stories of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima survivors was created by Kate Morris based on research done in Japan and is performed by T-Shirt Theatre, a project of the Alliance for Drama Education. Followed by Q&A with researchers Ryutaro Takahashi, vice president of the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, and Patricia Liehr, a professor in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University. A reception follows in Hangar 37. Free with museum admission and to museum members; $5 for performance only. Visit


>> National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Punchbowl: Keynote speaker is Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., U.S. Pacific Fleet commander. Ceremony begins at 10 a.m.; gates open at 8 a.m. Parking available on first-come, first-served basis. Call 532-3720.

>> Wahiawa Lions’ 68th Veterans Day Parade: Led by a joint service color guard and the Royal Hawaiian Band, along California Avenue from Kaala Elementary School to the district park, 10 a.m. Grand marshals are Military Intelligence Service veterans Glen Arakaki and Yoshinobu Oshiro and 100th Battalion veteran Mitsuo Hamasu. The theme is “Commitment, Honor, Sacrifice — Our Proud Veterans.” A program at the park follows with a flyover by World War II aircraft, massing of colors, speech by Brig. Gen. Sean M. Jenkins of the 25th Infantry Division, display of military equipment, bounce houses and food sales. Call Carolyn Hayashi, 522-5149, to participate or for information.

>> Governor’s Veterans Day Ceremony: Gov. Neil Abercrombie gives the keynote address at the event, 1 p.m. at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe. Musical prelude by the 111th Army Band of the Hawaii Army National Guard. The Office of Veteran Services will honor secretary Jennifer Aina, who has served since the office was established in 1988. Call Jayme Nagamine, 433-7683.

Leave a comment

Pope Francis to Jews: We’re all under attack now

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Christians are suffering the same “savage attacks” once suffered by Jews, Pope Francis told a delegation of prominent Jewish leaders, according to the head of the World Jewish Congress.

For the first time in his papacy, Pope Francis met with clerical sex abuse victims at the Vatican on July 7, 2014.Ronald S. Lauder led a delegation of 40 Jewish leaders who met Francis at his Santa Marta residence late Wednesday (Sept. 17) to mark Rosh Hashanah, the upcoming Jewish New Year.

Lauder told reporters on Thursday that the WJC and the pope were “in absolute agreement” in condemning militant attacks on Christians in the Middle East and said the pope had compared the persecution to attacks on the Jews.

“Francis told us privately that he believes we are in World War III, but unlike the first two world wars, instead of happening all at once, this war is coming in stages,” Lauder said.

“He said first it was your turn and now it is our turn. In other words, first Jews suffered savage attacks that were met with the world’s silence and now it is Christians who are being annihilated and the world is silent.”

Lauder said he was surprised at the muted global reaction to the slaughter and persecution of Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria.

“The question is: Why doesn’t the world react? There has been a tremendous focus on Israel when it defended itself, as any country would, when thousands of rockets were fired on it by terrorists, but not a word for the thousands of Christians in Iraq, Syria and the Middle East.”

“There is one country in the Middle East where Christians are safe, and that country is Israel.There is only one country in the Middle East where the Christian population is growing, and that country is Israel. Today the world does not have the luxury of remaining silent.”

Lauder said he had first met the Argentine pope when he was still living and working in Buenos Aires and stressed he had done “a fantastic job” bringing Jews and Christians together.

Among the Jewish leaders who joined Lauder for his audience with the pope were  Jack Terpins, president of the Latin American Jewish Congress; Chella Safra, treasurer of the WJC; and a number of Jewish community leaders and senior WJC officials.

“We want to share with the pope our message of peace and prosperity for the New Year,” said Claudio Epelman, executive director of the LAJC and the WJC official in charge of relations with the Vatican.

Lauder has repeatedly said that the oppression of Christians is one of the world’s most pressing issues, and in a recent op-ed published in The New York Times, Lauder said Jews had a duty to speak up on behalf of Christians.

“The Middle East and parts of central Africa are losing entire Christian communities that have lived in peace for centuries,” he wrote in the op-ed piece published In August.

Lauder, the son of cosmetics giant Estee Lauder, is a businessman, art collector and philanthropist. He was elected president of the WJC in 2007.



  1. “The question is: Why doesn’t the world react?”

    Could it be that everyone is afraid of being “Islamophobic?” Has RNS helped, even in a small way, contribute to the creation of an Islamophobiaphobic environment? Why have the US and world media largely ignored the story of the Muslim man who executed several people (in Seattle and New Jersey) as retribution for America’s alleged crimes against Islam? Do the murders qualify as “religious news?”

    • More likely the answer is, they don’t care. This is going on in Iraq and Syria. When the US and NATO tries to get involved they get branded as imperialists and interventionists.

      Of course that never stopped Iran and Saudi Arabia from arming the forces which are committing the genocidal acts. But nobody ever calls those countries out on their foreign adventures.

      The US can’t do anything in Syria without getting all of its neighbors involved and being a total mess. ISIS is opposed by a government who are just as murderous over there. Iraq is far too embarrassing. We are cleaning up a mess we created over a decade ago. We want to do something, but nobody wants to be the one who ordered a massive troop deployment over there.

    • Re: “Could it be that everyone is afraid of being ‘Islamophobic?’”

      Not quite. I know “political correctness” is a major bogeyman these days, and it’s a conspiracy that’s authored nearly all the world’s most serious ills … but it probably isn’t sufficient, by itself, to force the occidental world to stand by and let people be slaughtered. What’s more likely is that the occidental world sees no ready way to intervene on their behalf and do anything about it that won’t get it mired in another decade-long conflict that could very well end up making things even worse for the people they’d like to save, and ultimately lose more lives than might have been saved.

      The Middle East is, for better or worse, an extremely messy place. It’s just not that easy to decide to go and save the Christians (or the Druze or the Yazidi or whoever else) and then launch the fighters, bombers, cruise missiles, etc. If the U.S. has learned nothing else from having invaded Iraq, it’s that. We, and the rest of the world, have learned that lesson very well.

      And to be clear, it’s not just Christians (or Yazidi or Druze or whoever else) who are victims of the Middle East’s messiness. Other Muslim groups, typically minority sects in any given area, are victims as well. This is not a case of it being “the Muslims against the rest of the world” with the rest of the world consciously choosing to fight back solely in order not to appear not to be “Islamophobic.” It is, rather, a vicious morass of bloodthirsty medieval barbarians who’re too immature to figure out that living together is better than slaughtering everyone else around.

      Until the people of the Middle East collectively grow up and accept that there are actually people in the world who disagree with them, no intervention can ever really be helpful.

      • PsiCop, thank you! THAT was an excellent analysis of what going on in the Middle East. Sure, we blundered badly in our hubristic bombast and our rushing to engage the wrong foe after 9/11, but even so the Muslim world seems to be in constant bloody flux, and I am convinced would have/will remain so, whether to Western World so-called engages it or not. So…

        • 1. We arm the crap out of the Kurds. They are the only party in Iraq/Syria willing provide refuge and defend those being massacred by ISIS, Sunni and Shia militias.

          2. We encourage Israel and Jordan to take in refugees.

          3. Let Iran and Saudi Arabia fight over Syria. A pox on all of their houses.

      • And who, pray tell, would that “vicious morass of bloodthirsty medieval barbarians who’re too immature to figure out that living together is better than slaughtering everyone else around” be exactly? Does this vicious morass have some tell-tale sign by which we could identify it? Some book or historical leader with whom its components identify? Is there some common doctrine these immature people all say they subscribe to? I am sure there has to be, but what could it be? I mean do they all say they are Baptists? Mormons? Jews? Hindus? Pittsburgh Pirate fans?

        • Where to start?
          One has to bear in mind if not for oil, world concern and reach of political extremists in the region would be limited and of little note to the developed world. (like in Sub-Sahara Africa)

          We have vicious autocratic governments in the region. A leftover from colonialism, being part of other peoples’ empires and the Cold War. Neither side of the Cold War had any interest in democracy in the region as long as oil flowed. Despite the insinuations of people looking to tar and feather the entire religion of Islam, prior to 1979, the major motivation for political violence in the region was entirely secular: nationalism and radicalism. Professional terrorists prior to the end of the Cold War were largely extreme leftists, separatists or nationalists. Most governments in the area were secular republics which actively suppressed religious extremism in the name of economic progress.

          The 1979 Iranian revolution made Islamic extremism a game changer. In response to Iran’s aggressive attempts to spread its influence, the Saudis/Gulf States tried to beat them at their own game by exploiting the Shia/Sunni divide.

          Said governments constantly use divide and rule tactics which spur tribalist/sectarian violence as a way to prevent organized opposition. The autocrats also encourage Islamicist extremism as a way to divert potential revolutionaries towards foreign jihad and to create the sense of dissent without its actuality (which is why the Muslim Brotherhood could survive in Egypt for over 40 years but no moderate democratic parties did).

          Islamicism serves a function in the Middle East of extending international reach of many players such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. Much of the Syrian Civil War is a proxy fight between those two countries for control of the Levant.

          What Al Queda did was hijack Islamicism for its own personal ends. Osama Bin Laden was able to tap into the existing government sponsored religious extremism and redirect it for his own aggrandizement. 9/11 was the world’s most deadly publicity stunt. No matter what happened it would have looked like a victory for Osama. Al Queda went from a hobby of a spoiled rich kid playing at being a terrorist to the most visible and important organization of all time. Al Queda is less an organization than it is a franchise. The “Hello Kitty” of Terrorism. They lent their name out to anyone willing to say they were violent Islamicists.

          Of course now Al Queda is being squeezed out by ISIS a group of professional Islamicists with deep pockets from Saudi petrodollars. As it seems the amateurs are being displaced by national actors.

          “Baptists? Mormons? Jews? Hindus? Pittsburgh Pirate fans?”

          All of the above are known for acts of extremist violence. Pirate Fans being the worst. :)

          • Re: “We have vicious autocratic governments in the region. A leftover from colonialism, being part of other peoples’ empires and the Cold War.”

            If I may point out the obvious … not every former colony has devolved into the sort of primitive barbarism exhibited by ISIS/ISIL, nor have they all become “vicious autocratic governments.” It IS possible for an ex-colony to not go that route. Really! I’d say the US accomplished this after breaking from Britain. So too did a lot of the other Commonwealth states (Canada, Australia, etc.). And ex-colonies of other European mother-states have managed the same feat.

            Suggesting these things are an unavoidable and inevitable consequence of colonialism only serves to indulge autocrats and barbarians, and grants them an easy rationale for their bad behavior. Let’s try not to give it to them.

        • Re: “And who, pray tell, would that ‘vicious morass of bloodthirsty medieval barbarians who’re too immature to figure out that living together is better than slaughtering everyone else around’ be exactly?”

          If this is a question you felt the need to ask, then any answer I could give you would go right past you.

          Re: “Does this vicious morass have some tell-tale sign by which we could identify it?”

          Um, I’d say one “tell-tale sign” of such primitive barbarism would be capturing reporters, holding them captive for months, then beheading them. All for no rational reason ( and particularly because reporters can’t really harm them at all).

          Re: “I mean do they all say they are Baptists? Mormons? Jews? Hindus? Pittsburgh Pirate fans?”

          If any of those groups start engaging in primitive barbaric behaviors, then it would be wise to call them primitive barbarians. Let me know when it happens. Especially when it’s Pittsburgh Pirates fans who start beheading people.

  2. Who cares for the Christians? I think we all do. Remove them from the Middle East. It appears a new government is in order in Iraq and Syria, one supported by Nato, where war and revenge killings are criminalized and the perpetrators locked up, if not executed. Yes, we need to pay more attention to who is here in the US and hold them responsible for hate crimes/revenge killings. When Americans start joining ISIS, ISIL, the US has failed to determine or predict that.some religions are not based on Godly acts, but of the most sinister behavior known to man, and that a healthy environment that conflicts with these cults is necessary in breeding justice, equality, and love. Therefore, Mosques need to be watched for radical teachings.

    • God’s kingdom or heavenly government will soon put an end to all corrupt governments of man and replace them, (Daniel 2:44) as well as put an end to all wicked ones/terrorists on our planet (Psalm 37:10,11).

      That government is able to read the heart conditions of the wicked ones and man does not have that ability. The government will also rule with righteousness, love and justice (Isaiah 11:1-9).

      In the meantime, we should put our trust in God and his heavenly government, since man’s governments do not have the love, nor the power, to put an end to ALL the terrible conditions on our planet; but God’s kingdom can and will.

  3. The Christian population in the Holy Land isn’t growing, it’s shrinking, as many lose hope of any peaceful solution to the conflict and move away. If the Chrisitian population is growing at all in Israel proper, as opposed to the occupied territories, it’s because Israel has engaged many thousands of Asians, principally Philippinos, to do the kind of domestic chores once done by Palestinians.

    • Lets not forget the deliberate ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Christians in Gaza by fellow Palestinians and their exclusion of power in the West Bank by Fatah.

      If Israel is importing Christians from Asia, that would mean its population is growing. Just not the homegrown version of Christianity.

      We are not going to do squat in Syria. It was our lack of involvement which helped create ISIS. By not backing any given opposition group to Assad, we made it easy for the Saudis to arm their favorites, the extremist Sunnis. ISIS represents a proxy force for the Saudis in their ongoing conflict with Iran and its allies, like Syria.

  4. So where are all the Christians speaking out in support of gay people being slaughtered in Africa? Oh that’s right; it’s the Christians doing the slaughtering. But I notice Pope Franky doesn’t say anything about that.

  5. Now we see why people are forced to defend themselves and wars are started. Any more examples necessary? Freedom is not without expense! Let the ivory towers postulate…

Leave a comment

Is the Pope Right in Saying World War III Has Already Begun?

A displaced Iraqi man from the Yazidi community carries his daughter as they cross the Iraqi-Syrian border at the Fishkhabur crossing, in northern Iraq, on August 11.(AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)

A displaced Iraqi man from the Yazidi community carries his daughter as they cross the Iraqi-Syrian border at the Fishkhabur crossing, in northern Iraq, on August 11.

Is the Pope Right in Saying World War III Has Already Begun?

September 29, 2014  •  From

World War III has already begun, Pope Francis reportedly said during a private meeting with a group of Jewish leaders held in his home on September 17.

Ronald S. Lauder, head of the Jewish group, explained the pope’s statements: “Francis told us privately that he believes we are in World War III, but unlike the first two world wars, instead of happening all at once, this war is coming in stages. He said … now it is Christians who are being annihilated and the world is silent.”

Francis has reiterated his belief that the world is already in the early stages of World War III at least two other times in recent weeks. His belief is formed in part by ongoing conflicts in such places as Ukraine, Gaza, Afghanistan and regions of Africa. But nothing influences his assessment as much as the atrocities that the Islamic State terrorists are committing in Iraq and Syria—primarily against Christians.

In Iraq’s Nineveh region alone, the Islamic State has driven around 200,000 Christians from their homes since early summer. Many of them now have only the clothes on their backs. The number of practicing Christians remaining in the city of Mosul is now thought to be zero—down from 10,000 at the beginning of the year. Similar exoduses are occurring in other parts of Iraq and in Syria.

Now, the pope says the violence must be stopped, even if that means by force.

The number of practicing Christians that remains in the city of Mosul is now thought to be zero—down from 10,000 at the beginning of the year.

“In these cases where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is legitimate to stop the unjust aggressor,” Francis said on September 15. “I underscore the verb ‘to stop.’ I don’t say ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ but to ‘stop.’ … We must stop and think a little about the level of cruelty at which we have arrived. This should frighten us.”

Francis is concerned in part because the Islamic State is only accelerating a trend that has long been underway: Before the birth of Islam, Catholicism was the dominant force in many Middle Eastern nations. Even a century ago, Christians made up over 30 percent of the Middle East’s populations. Now that number is around 3 percent and quickly falling.

The Syriac and Chaldean Catholic churches of Syria and Iraq are viewed as integral bodies of the Catholic Church, and are in full communion with the bishop of Rome. The growing persecution they and other Middle Eastern Christian groups are suffering is a festering wound for the Roman Catholic Church.

At present, Francis’s calls for action against Christian-slaying Muslims remain fairly restrained. But Bible prophecy shows that the Vatican will soon go far beyond restrained statements to confront radical Islam.

The growing persecution suffered by Syriac and Chaldean Catholic churches and other Middle Eastern Christian groups is a festering wound for the Roman Catholic Church.The rising tide of Jihad is drowning the Middle East’s Christians, but the Church will soon take violent action to reverse this trend. Look at the history of the Crusades. It shows that both Catholics and Muslims are fiercely determined to control the Holy Land and surrounding regions. Prophecy makes plain that a Vatican-guided Europe will once again resurrect the specter of those gruesome Crusades. Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry said in a Sept 25 lecture that, contrary to Francis’s view, the world isn’t yet in World War III. But he emphasized that we are rapidly approaching it.

In the final crusade, the Roman Catholic Church will take its most drastic action yet against Islam.

That clash will write the bloodiest pages of mankind’s strife-ridden history. The unprecedented violence and suffering will appear to be humanity’s final chapter. But the Bible makes plain that it is actually only the last page of the prologue for mankind! Numerous prophecies show that the Third World War will be interrupted by the return of Jesus Christ. He will squelch the violence and bring Muslims, Catholics and all other men the peace that has always eluded us. At that time, under God’s law of love, Chapter One of real life will finally begin.

To understand how the exacerbating frictions in the Middle East directly lead to this beautiful and awesome future, read Jerusalem in Prophecy.

Leave a comment

Female Genital Mutilation: An Islamic Crime

Female Genital Mutilation: An Islamic Crime

Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine’s editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of the critically acclaimed and best-selling, United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror. His new book is High Noon For America. He is the host of Frontpage’s television show, The Glazov Gang, and he can be reached at Visit his site

Asia News recently reported how the misogynist crime of female genital mutilation (FGM) continues to be a “widespread traditional practice” in “rural areas and more remote areas of Indonesia, particularly the island of Java.” The story makes sure to remind us, naturally, that while this crime is being perpetrated in a Muslim country, the crime “is not a rule set in a rigid manner by the precepts of Islam.” It is only widespread, we are consoled, because of the actions of “the more extreme and integral fringe.”

In her coverage of this news report, freedom fighter Pamela Geller shrewdly asks the key question that somehow mysteriously eludes the minds of every breathing human being in our mainstream media: “The fringe made it widespread?”

Indeed, if only the “extreme and integral fringe” supports this sadistic and vicious crime against women, and if it is “not a rule set in a rigid manner by the precepts of Islam,” then where are all the Muslim imams, muftis and clerics in the world, and in Indonesia in particular, vociferously denouncing and repudiating this crime as un-Islamic and coming to the defense of Muslim women?

Why haven’t they shut down this crime against women, since it is, after all, so un-Islamic? Where are all the tens of thousands of Muslims gathering in mass demonstrations around the world shouting in moral indignation and fury about their young little Muslim girls having their clitorises cut out with broken glass and being maimed for life, as they do about Danish cartoons and American movies? Why do cartoons and films mean more to them than the brutal maiming of their women?

Hmmm. What a great mystery this continues to be.

One can’t help from wondering: could it all have something possibly to do with the fact that female genital mutilation is rooted in Islam and integral toits misogynist structures?

Pamela Geller gives us the easy answer – an answer you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting to hear on Anderson Cooper, Geraldo or Pierce Morgan, since uncomfortable answers can’t be given when pertinent questions are never asked in our mainstream media. Geller affirms that this Islam-denial coverage of FGM in Asia News “is just more whitewashing of Islam’s human rights abuses.” She points out that FGM is “fundamentally Islamic” and cites its foundation in Islamic texts such as Umdat al-Salik:

“Circumcision is obligatory (O: for both men and women. For men it consists of removing the prepuce from the penis, and for women, removing the prepuce (Ar. Bazr) of the clitoris.” Sacred Islamic Reliance: page 59, Umdat al-Salik  (“Reliance of the Traveler”), a manual of the Shafi’i school of Islamic jurisprudence, endorsed by Egypt’s very own Al-Azhar University of Cairo — the oldest and most prestigious university in the Islamic world.

FGM is indeed fundamentally Islamic. Why would it not be when one of Sunni Islam’s “Four Great Imams,” Ahmad ibn Hanbal, quotes Muhammed as saying: “Circumcision is a law for men and a preservation of honour for women?” Perhaps this is why Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University has called circumcision “a laudable practice that did honor to women.”

And so perhaps it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why in Muslim Egypt, like in Indonesia, the crime of FGM is perpetrated on a massive level. Even when the Egyptian government tried to ban FGM back in 1996, an Egyptian court overturned the ban in July 1997 because of the ferocious uprising it sparked among Islamic clerics, who fervently pointed to Islamic teachings to make sure this crime against women remained firm in place.

And it is clear, of course, why FGM is so important and crucial to Islam; crippling women’s sexuality solidifies the misogynist structures of Islamic gender apartheid. Keeping FGM legitimized and institutionalized helps keep women subjugated and caged. By amputating the clitoris, Islam’s mutilators succeed in maiming the woman’s sexual desire and pleasure, which, in the morbid Islamic mindset, reduces the chances that she will ever toy with the horrifying notions (for Islam) of autonomy, equality and self-determination.

But how can we possibly help Muslim girls if our society forbids us to confront this Islamic crime and the theology in which it is rooted? And that’s where we tragically stand: while millions of young Muslim girls suffer the mutilating barbarity of female genital mutilation in the Islamic world every year, our mainstream media and higher literary culture remains completely silent about it – and slanders the truth tellers like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer who want to come to the aid of Muslim women.

When it comes to leftists and leftist feminists, of course, the only words we ever hear from them on this issue, when they are confronted by it, is that “Muslims are not the only group that practice FGM.” This tired, lazy and inhumane excuse for inaction shamelessly presupposes that if a sin is committed by someone else, somewhere else, then it somehow justifies doing and saying nothing in the face of a crime being perpetrated on a mass scale right before our eyes.

The bottom line is that Muslims are the principle religious group that practices this sexual violence against women. And if a young girl is a victim of FGM, the chances are that she lives in a Muslim household and in a Muslim culture. And this barbarity is kept alive and legitimized by Islamic theology.

It is clear, of course, why the Left wants to do and say nothing about Islamic FGM, and, since it has control of the boundaries of our culture’s discourse, why it makes sure to smear and punish anyone who dares to say — or tries to do — anything about it. As I have documented in United in Hate: The Left’s Romance With Tyranny and Terror, the Left cannot reach its hand out in compassion and solidarity to the suffering people under Islam, or under any other tyranny. Doing so would be an admission of the evil of an adversary culture and ideology, which, in turn, casts a spotlight on the superiority and goodness of Western civilization, and therefore serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting and saving it. For the Left, such a concept is nightmarish and anathema, because its entire purpose is to revile and destroy its host society. For leftists to admit the dark realities of Islamic jihad and Islamic gender apartheid is to jeopardize their entire cause, identities, social belongings, cultural and material rewards, and their narcissistic cravings for approval and admiration in their “progressive” milieus.

Thus, by necessity, in the Left’s vicious and heartless mindset, the victims who suffer under barbaric adversarial regimes must be pushed into spheres of invisibility.

And so, the recent reported story in Asia News on the continuing horror of female genital mutilation serves as yet another tragic reminder of Islamic barbarity to women — and the our culture’s shameful silence about it. This is the long dark story of the Western Left, which has its hands drenched in human blood – busy at it is in perpetually sacrificing human beings on the altar of its twisted utopian ideals.

To get the whole story on why the Left reaches out in solidarity to Islamo-fascists and ignores their victims, watch Jamie Glazov discuss Jihad-Denial in the 2-part video series below:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.