The Simon Wiesenthal Center called on the Frankfurt-based Anne Frank Educational Center to remove the Holocaust victim’s name from its organization after it invited an alleged anti-Jewish conspiracy theorist who loathes Israel to speak at its conference on antisemitism.
The latest antisemitism scandal at the center is roiling Frankfurt’s city government.
Frankfurt’s deputy mayor and city treasurer, Uwe Becker, told The Jerusalem Post the center should disinvite the alleged antisemite Daniel Bax.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, directed his criticism on Monday to the management of the Anne Frank Educational Center.
“How dare you!” Cooper said in a statement to the Post. “Anne Frank is not a brand to be marketed. She was a Jewish girl [from Frankfurt] who was murdered by Nazi Germany for the crime of being a Jew, and because no country, including the US, would admit the Frank family and millions of other European Jews.
“Yes, people have the right to speak their minds, but debasing Anne’s memory to abet efforts to delegitimize and eliminate the Jewish state, in Germany no less, is beyond the pale. Remove Anne’s name from this Center and have the guts to openly promote your animus towards the democratic State of Israel,” Cooper said, adding, ”Don’t degrade her memory to push the big lie that Israelis are today’s Nazis. This isn’t only about a disinvite but the loss of a moral compass by a German institution that carries her name. There are estimates that 150 million Europeans equate Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with how Nazi Germany treated the Jews. Any institution using her holy name must fight this big lie, not promote it.”
Cooper told the Post that the center’s controversial director Dr. Meron Mendel should “disinvite” Bax. The Anne Frank Center faced international criticism last month for comparing German Jews who were stripped of their citizenship during the Holocaust with German Islamic State terrorists who face the loss of their citizenship.
The Anne Frank Center wrote in a tweet to a Post press query at the time: “No, we did not compare or equate Jewish Holocaust victims to ISIS terrorists. And we made that very clear after some misinterpreted our tweet in that way. In no way did we defend jihadists. This is simply not true.”
Becker, the deputy mayor, who takes the job of combating modern antisemitism extremely seriously, told the Post: “Unfortunately, when choosing a referee, Daniel Bax did not prove a lucky hand. Therefore, I would like the Anne Frank Educational Center to disinvite Mr. Bax.” Becker said Bax is not a neutral speaker.
Eva Berendsen, a spokeswoman for the center, wrote the Post: “We have not invited Mr. Bax despite, but exactly because of his anything but neutral attitude. There are three other panelists who will be critical of his positions on Israel. We are not aware of any statements or actions by Mr. Bax that would support the allegation of antisemitism.”
She said the panel where Bax is slated to speak on April 11 is titled: “On the subject of antisemitism, Israel and the Middle East conflict as disputes of the German Left.”
Journalists and antisemitism experts in Germany have compared Bax to a far-right extremist from the Alternative for Germany party, the neo-Nazi Udo Voigt and antisemites from Iran’s mullah regime.
Bax, a former journalist for the left-wing paper Die Tageszeitung, commonly referred to as taz, frequently attacked American and German Jews – and the State of Israel – in his commentaries. He wrote in 2017 that the American Jewish Committee “acts entirely in line with Israel’s government.” He also wrote that “Germany’s Central Council of Jews has made itself into a one-sided mouthpiece for the interests of Israel’s government.”
The head of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee, Deidre Berger, told the Post in 2017 Bax’s “singling out AJC as an alleged puppet master of Berlin politics reproduces anti-American prejudices. The assertion by Daniel Bax that AJC and other Jewish interest groups [the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Central Council of Jews] are an instrument of the Israeli government reflects the stereotype of the ‘wandering Jew’ with dual loyalties. Given previous articles attributing widely exaggerated powers to AJC and other Jewish organizations, it is long overdue that Daniel Bax and the editors of the taz newspaper take responsibility for publishing such age-old antisemitic canards.”
Bax has written articles sympathetic to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign targeting Israel. Journalist Björn Stritzel, who has written extensively on German antisemitism for the top-selling German paper Bild, tweeted in March: “With an event on antisemitism from the right one would also not get Udo Voigt on the podium.” Voigt is member of the European parliament for the German neo-Nazi party National Democratic Party. Voigt praised US and EU-classified terrorist entity Hezbollah in Beirut.
Volker Beck, a German Green Party politician and lecturer at the Center for Studies in Religious Sciences at the Ruhr University in Bochum, defended the center’s invitation of Bax.
Beck, however, compared Bax, in a tweet, to the Iranian Ayatollahs and the far-right German politician Alexander Gauland from the Alternative for Germany party.
Gauland termed the Nazi era a “speck of bird poop” in German history and praised the German Wehrmacht soldiers for their role in WWII.
When pressed by the Post, if he would appear at a podium discussion with the neo-Nazi Udo Voigt, Beck declined to comment. Dr. Matthias Küntzel, widely considered one of the world’s leading experts on German antisemitism, told the Post in 2017, “Bax uses the antisemitic prejudice concerning the Jewish string puller who is in the position to impose his will on leading politicians. Bax’s call to no longer cave in to Jews strengthens the desire to ‘emancipate’ oneself from the shadows of the Nazi past and fits the campaign slogan ‘Take heart, Germany’ of the AfD, the first historically revisionist party [expected] to enter the Bundestag.”
Sacha Stawski, a Frankfurt-based German Jew who is the chairman of the NGO I like Israel, told the Post that Mendel and the Anne Frank Center are “enemies” of the pro-Israel community. Stawski’s media watchdog website Honestly Concerned, which combats antisemitism in the press, issued a scathing commentary on the work of the Anne Frank Center in March. “And anyone who still has not understood why Bax is a prime example of an anti-Zionist and antisemitic BDS advocate can also google a large number of his texts, especially this plea in favor of BDS,” stated the editorial.
The Honestly Concerned article linked to articles about Bax’s alleged antisemitism. The stinging rebuke by Stawski of the Anne Frank Center’s work reveals long-terms observers of antisemitism are tired of the lack of change at an organization embroiled in two wide-ranging scandals within weeks.
The Honestly Concerned editorial concluded with a call for personnel changes at the Anne Frank Center: “In remembrance of Anne Frank, it is more than overdue that one puts an end to the activities of the current leadership of the educational establishment. The events of recent times, which unfortunately are not isolated cases, require action by the sponsors and cooperation partners.” Post queries to Mendel asking if he plans to resign as director of the Anne Frank Center were not answered.
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