German station defends ‘Holocaust denying’ DJ

Jewish community demands harsh action against Ken Jebsen.

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
November 20, 2011 23:23
4 minute read.
Radio host Ken Jebsen

Radio host Ken Jebsen 311. (photo credit: Radio Fritz)

 
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BERLIN – The Fritz Radio station’s decision last week to continue to employ talk show host Ken Jebsen after he denied the existence of the Holocaust is drawing increasing fire.

Jebsen wrote in a e-mail to a listener recently, “I know who invented the Holocaust as PR. It was Freud’s nephew. [Edward Louis] Bernays.”

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The Austrian-born American Bernays (1891-1995) helped create the field of modern public relations.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and critics in Germany accused Jebsen of promoting modern anti-Semitism and stoking wild anti- American conspiracy theories.

His rambling e-mail blamed the American company Standard Oil for supplying fuel to Nazi fighter planes during their bombing campaigns.

The outraged listener sent Jebsen’s e-mail to journalist Henryk M. Broder, who posted it on his popular website Die Achse des Guten (The Axis of Good).

Fritz Radio’s parent company, Berlin-Brandenburg Broadcasting (RBB), has gone to great lengths in the media to defend Jebsen’s continued employment at the publicly funded station, triggering a new wave of criticism about RBB playing down the severity of the Holocaust and contemporary expressions of Jew-hatred in the Federal Republic.

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In this week’s Jüdische Allgemeine newspaper, published by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the chief cultural and arts journalist, Michael Wuliger, wrote, “Why can’t or won’t the responsible people at RBB acknowledge anti-Semitism for what it is? A possible explanation would be that they have similar nonsense floating around in their heads,” Wuliger said.

“What Ken Jebsen says in his inane way has long since become commonplace, in somewhat more conventional form. That the Jews are always harping about their persecution, even though it was such a long time ago; that Israel treats the Palestinians no better than the Nazis did the Jews; that their policies worsen, if not cause, global tensions; but that you can’t say that publicly, because you’ll get beaten over the head with the ‘Auschwitz club’ – that’s long been the social consensus in Germany, from the bar stool to the salon, from the Left Party to [Christian Democratic Union Bundestag deputy] Norbert Blüm. (To be fair, it has to be said, not only in Germany.

In most European countries, this kind of thing has become mainstream).”

Wuliger’s stinging criticism of RBB was cited as one of the top cultural pieces in last week’s Spiegel Online, which tracks the most interesting political cultural articles, mainly in the German language media.

Asked whether RBB and Fritz Radio have made anti- Semitism respectable in Germany, Volker Schreck, a RBB spokesman, wrote The Jerusalem Post by e-mail on Friday that “a lot has in the meantime been said and written about the topic.” He said he would not like to add any new statements and referred to an interview in last week’s Berliner Morgenpost with RBB head Dr. Claudia Nothelle.

The head of radio programming at Fritz, Stefan Warbeck, did not return a Post e-mail query.

When asked by journalist Ekkehard Kern from the Morgenpost daily about the accusation of anti-Semitism against Jebsen and the seriousness of his “confused” email, Nothelle said, “He seriously meant it and the email was not written as satire. But he was writing under high pressure. But we have made clear to him that one should leave certain things there before one sends them out.”

According to an on-air statement last week, Jebsen denied that his words constituted Holocaust denial, and said he “was only addressing the issue of propaganda and its mechanisms.  The answer came from Bernays himself.”

Jewish community spokeswoman Maya Zehden told the JTA, “It sounds like he is blaming the Jews themselves for their own downfall.”

The head of 10,500-member Berlin Jewish community, Lala Süsskind, called for tougher disciplinary action against Jebsen. She told the Post other high-profile celebrities have been summarily dismissed for this type of conduct.

Wuliger, one of the few Jewish journalists who writes for the main German Jewish weekly Jüdische Allgemeine, continued in his article about the normalization of Jew-hatred and modern anti-Semitism, “There was an example as recently as last Friday in the taz [die tageszeitung newspaper].

“There, Daniel Bax writes, under the heading ‘Hurrah, we’re giving in,’ ‘It’s wrong to immediately keep your head down when the accusation of anti-Semitism comes into play.... For with their timid efforts not to cause any fuss, those responsible promote the stereotype that Jews in Germany have particular power.’ At least it’s in the subjunctive case, thank you.

In an elegant curve, Bax turns from anti-Semitism, about which one shouldn’t make such a fuss, to the real discrimination: ‘Addressing anti-Jewish cliches will not work in any case if we close our eyes to prejudice against Muslims. ‘Don’t be that way, Jews.’” Bax, an op-ed editor with the left-leaning taz newspaper, has been the subject of intense criticism over the years within Berlin’s Jewish community for his role in publishing articles delegitimizing Israel’s existence and stoking hostility toward Jews in Germany. The Berlin Jewish community, according to Post sources, broke off contact with taz at one point because of the paper’s anti-Jewish and fiercely anti- Israel editorial line.

Explaining that anti-Semitism is part and parcel of contemporary German society and the lack of understanding of what constitutes hatred of Jews, Wuliger wrote, “We read and hear this kind of thing again and again, in taz, on RBB, at the hairdresser and among coworkers.

“There’s no cure for it. No Brotherhood Week can help, no curriculum or lesson plan. It’s German sensitivities that decide what anti-Semitism is.”

Wuliger’s article is currently the most read story on the website of the Jewish newspaper.

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