German intellectuals blast Holocaust professor

Wolfgang Benz compared anti-Semitism with hostility toward Islam.

January 18, 2010 13:21
2 minute read.
Holocaust survivor.

Holocaust survivor.. (photo credit: AP)


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German intellectuals blast Holocaust professor for trivializing anti-Semitism

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BERLIN-The feud between Holocaust historian Wolfgang Benz and his critics heated up last week.

“He does not have a clue about Judaism, he does not have a clue about anti-Semitism, and he also does not have a clue about Islam,” Henryk M. Broder, a leading expert on modern anti-Semitism in Europe and a widely read columnist in Der Spiegel, wrote about the anti-Semitism researcher Benz in the mass circulation Die Welt daily.

The strife between Benz and his critics revolves around his comparison of  anti-Semitism with hostility toward Islam. Benz’s comparison is “unfounded, dubious, if not even dangerous,” Julius H. Schoeps, a German Jewish historian who heads the in , wrote in a commentary on Friday for the Vienna-based online Jewish magazine Die Jüdische.

Benz provoked outrage among Jews and non-Jews in in early
January with an article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung equating Jew-hatred
with Islamophobia. Critics see Benz as ignoring anti-Semitism in the
Islamic world and within the European Union at a time of rising hatred
of Jews and .

Schoeps wrote, “Anti-Semitism is thriving, from [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad’s constant tirades to the of the Wolves [a new TV show that portrays Mossad agents as baby-snatchers], preferably with a radical Islamic faith, but that is not a topic for the Süddeutsche newspaper.”

The debate on Benz’s role in minimizing the severity of anti-Semitism has damaged his reputation, according to German and American observers. Benz, who is the director of the Center for Anti-Semitism Research at the Technical University of Berlin, declined to respond to Jerusalem Post queries.

Dr. Kristina R. Zerges , a spokeswoman for the university, wrote in an e-mail to the Post that the institution does not wish to comment on the controversy. Reinhard Mohr, a columnist for Der Spiegel, wrote a widely discussed commentary titled “Debate about Islamophobia” in Spiegel Online on Friday, criticizing Benz and journalists writing in the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung for failing to defend Western values and the gains of the enlightenment. Journalists in the two papers view the critics of militant Islam as fundamentalists and “preachers of hate.”

Mohr sees a playing down of the extermination of European Jewry and suggested that Benz’s comparison between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism could indicate that the “the Muslims are the persecuted Jews of the 21th century.” 

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