BERLIN – Germany has come under criticism from both Israel’s Ambassador Yakov Hadas-Handelsman and the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center office in Jerusalem, Dr. Efraim Zuroff.
They slammed Germany on Monday and Tuesday respectively for showing a lack of sensitivity towards Nazi era crimes when granting prestigious awards.
The issues are both the city of Frankfurt’s award of the Adorno prize to US Prof. Judith Butler, and the choice of Prof. Irena Veisaite, a Lithuanian Jewish literature instructor and critic, for the renowned Goethe prize.
Zuroff pointed out that Veisaite has conflated the crimes of the Holocaust with those of Soviet Communism, and Hadas-Handelsman said that Butler’s pro-Hamas and Hezbollah statements would now be legitimized, “with which she has caused damage to the only Jewish state, and will play into the hands of its opponents.”
Yakov Hadas-Handelsman said Butler considers “Hezbollah and Hamas as progressive organizations, and ignored their participation in terror against civilians, and the attitude of these organizations to religious pluralism and equal rights between men and women, and between people of different sexual orientations.”
In the ongoing disagreement over awarding Butler, a supporter of a cultural and academic boycott of Israel, the Adorno award in September, Jewish groups have called for Frankfurt to rescind the prize.
B’nai B’rith International issued a statement on Monday saying that “Butler’s anti-Israel actions include endorsing the United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – a boycott that was actively promoted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.”
B’nai B’rith continued: “It is wrong to give the Adorno prize, named in honor of a Jewish intellectual, to anyone who shares these goals.
It is our hope that the city of Frankfurt, a sister-city of Tel Aviv, will reconsider presenting Butler with the Adorno prize given her lamentable anti-Israel track record.”
In a Deutsche Welle article on Tuesday, Veisaite said, “The Soviets were very, very bad. Different from the Nazis, but not better.”
Zuroff, a leading expert on the Holocaust in the Baltic states, told The Jerusalem Post: “It is particularly unfortunate that the recipient of this year’s Goethe prize is a Holocaust survivor who allows her personal tragedy to be exploited, in the service of the current Lithuanian government’s efforts to distort the history of the Shoah – by minimizing or hiding the unusually extensive complicity of Lithuanians in the mass murder of their fellow Jewish citizens, and by promoting the canard of historical equivalency between the crimes of Communism and those committed by the Nazis.”
Prof. Dovid Katz, a Yiddish expert, teaches in Lithuania and has written extensively about the government’s efforts to whitewash its advancement of the destruction of Baltic Jewry. He wrote in The Guardian, “Make no mistake, in the Baltics we are talking not just about ‘collaboration’ with the Nazis, but ‘participation’ in the frightening sense of thousands of volunteer killers being on hand to gleefully do most of the Nazis’ killing, in effect of their own neighbors, in the three Baltic states and some other regions.”