A controversial haredi rabbi and lecturer Rabbi Yosef Mizrahi has apologized for saying that only one million of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust was Jewish according to Jewish law, admitting that his claim was erroneous.
Mizrahi made his apology following exposure of his false claim in The Jerusalem Post last week.
The rabbi, who has lectured in prestigious Jewish institutions, has however made a series of questionable and inflammatory comments during his lectures over the years.
In one lecture, Mizrahi claimed that some non-religious women who were about to be murdered in gas chambers during the Holocaust were photographed by the Nazis naked but failed to show appropriate modesty and did not cover themselves up when photographed, while religious women did cover themselves.
He has also said that breast cancer, along with cancers of male and female genitalia, are a result of “sinning” with those organs, and has compared women who have lost their virginity to an open bottle of cola, saying they were worth practically nothing.
In his comments regarding the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust, Mizrahi claimed that the level of intermarriage across Europe before the Second World War was 80 percent, and that five million of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust were therefore not Jewish according to Jewish law since Jewish law requires a person’s mother to be Jewish.
Mizrahi’s claims were discredited by scholarly experts on Jewish history and the Holocaust who said that rates of intermarriage in pre-war Europe were extremely low and nowhere close to 80 percent.
Said Mizrahi in response “I wish to apologize for my incorrect statement regarding the six million Kedoshim that were tragically murdered in the Holocaust,” although denying that he had firmly declared that only one million Jews died despite the video evidence and claiming he had been more vague about the number of Jews killed, although this too appears to be incorrect.
The rabbi continued saying “I have been shown the accurate statistics and I realize that those that were not halachically Jewish were a very small minimal number,” adding that he had not wished to offend any holocaust survivors or their family members.
Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office and a Holocaust historian, who dismissed Mizrahi’s claims said that it was critical to show Mizrahi’s claims as false, and said that the rabbi’s approach was mirrored in the attitude of parts of the haredi community to history.
“He is a classic example of the abysmal ignorance in sectors of the haredi world of the Holocaust,” said Zuroff.
“The attitude in the haredi world to history is totally instrumental, while accuracy and facts aren't important and the only thing that is important is what you can use from history to advance your agenda.
“Mizrahi apologized because the facts were thrown in his face. He is convinced he knows how God works and has the audacity to make claims which have no basis,” added Zuroff, calling on Jewish institutions “to think again before inviting him.”
Mizrahi, who runs a Jewish outreach organization and has a considerable following in social media, has lectured at the Ohr Sameach outreach yeshiva in Israel and has also spoken at Hasmonean High School in north-west London, as well as the Od Yosef Hai synagogue, also in north-west London.
In one previous lecture, Mizrahi claimed that breast cancer, prostate cancer and cancers attacking female genitalia are caused by sinning with these organs.
“The number one cancer for women is breast cancer, one out of eight… Second cancer for women is womb cancer, third is brain cancer. The men, number one cancer where? Prostate cancer. Number two, brain cancer. Why? Coincidence? No my friend? Hashem [God] says ‘you want to live like an animal, I don't need you here’.”
In another lecture, Mizrahi said that women were “worth” less if they had lost their virginity.
“If you buy a bottle of coca cola, when you open the cap why did they make a seal? So that you’ll know if someone opened the bottle before you or not. If no-one opened it you pay $2 for the bottle. If it’s been opened it’s not worth even 10 cents, maybe someone put poison in it. Who knows what kind of impurities there are in this bottle. From the moment a woman becomes a used product her value according to the will of God drops drastically. Also because there’s no demand.”
In another lecture, Mizrahi said that non-religious woman had acted acted immodestly
before being sent to the gas chambers during the Holocaust.
“In the time of the Holocaust when the Nazis took all the Jewish girls to the gas chambers. So before they put them in the gas chambers obviously everyone took their clothes off…
“They put the men naked on one side, they took the ladies naked on the other side but there were two kinds of Jewish ladies, there were the religious one and the secular one.”
Mizrahi described how the religious women huddled together to cover themselves up as they did now wish to be humiliated by the Nazis even if they were about to die.
“But the secular women they stand like this [gestures, spreading his arms out wide] completely in front of the photographer they are crying that they are going to die so they thinking about ‘I don’t want to die, who cares who puts my picture all over the world. This is the difference between a person that has God in his life and a person who doesn’t have God in his life.”
Said Zuroff “There are no such photographs. No photographs were ever taken of naked men and women inside or outside a gas chamber waiting to be gassed.”
He said that this claim, like others made by Mizrahi, was “false and ignorant” and another attempt by the rabbi to advance his agenda of promoting religiosity based on “made-up history.”