An Estonian magazine insisted Monday the uproar over a mock ad it published as a joke, showing prisoners at a Nazi death camp, is an issue of “cultural differences.”
Sulev Vedler, deputy editor of the Eest Ekspress magazine, told the AFP news agency “it was published on our jokes page. I think people living in other cultural environments than ours just don’t understand it like we do.”
He claimed the “Doctor Mengele weight-loss pill” ad was a swipe at national gas firm GasTerm Eesti, which last month posted a photo of the Auschwitz death camp’s notorious “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate on its website.
The gas firm rapidly pulled the photo and immediately apologized for what it claimed was a misplaced attempt to contrast lethal gas, used to kill Jews at Auschwitz, with the safe home-heating variety.
“For us it was an anti-Fascist joke and a reaction to the recent, improper advertisement of one Estonian company,” explained Vedler. “We didn’t mean to have fun at the expense of any nationality, there is no nationality mentioned in the picture,” he added.
But by using the name of Mengele, a Nazi German doctor who experimented on inmates during World War II, Eesti Ekspress opened up a Pandora’s box of horrors from the Holocaust.
The magazine, which has the second-highest weekly circulation in Estonia, has faced protests from Jewish groups.
“It is incomprehensible that a leading and ostensibly respectable news weekly, in a country which is a member in good standing in the European Union, would publish such a perverted attempt at humor at the expense of the Nazis’ millions of victims,” said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Jerusalem-based Simon Wiesenthal Center in a statement.
Alla Jakobson, spokeswoman for the Estonia Jewish community, told the daily Postimees that the country faces “major problems with moral and ethical values.”
Prior to the war, the Jewish population in Estonia numbered 4,400, but most fled prior to the 1941 Nazi invasion. Of the 1,000 who remained, all were murdered.
In addition, the Nazis built death camps in the country, where they sent up to 10,000 Jews from other lands, nearly all of whom were put to death as well before the Red Army drove the Nazis from Estonia in 1944.
The country came under the rule of the Soviet Union until 1991, when the Iron Curtain fell. Estonia joined the European Union in 2004.
A nice gesture from some Germans (hat tip: Gaia).
After the leader of a German-Jewish rabbinical seminary said he advised his students to avoid wearing skullcaps in public in the aftermath of a brutal beating of a Berlin rabbi last week, more than 100 resident of that city on Saturday marched in solidarity with the local Jewish community, many of them donning Jewish skullcaps.
On Sunday, more than 1,000 Berliners gathered in the city’s Schöneberg district to demonstrated against anti-Semitism. Rabbi Alter, who was present at the demonstration, said the attackers could break his cheekbone but not his “will to stand up for understanding and interfaith dialogue.”
On Tuesday night, Rabbi Daniel Alter was hospitalized after being beaten on the head by four men. Alter, 53, was wearing a skullcap while was walking in the capital’s Tempelhof-Schöneberg district with his 6-year-old daughter when a youth approached him with the question, “Are you a Jew?” Three other young men joined the attacker, hitting the Jewish man several times and eventually breaking his cheekbone. The attackers then insulted Alter and his religion and issued death threats to his daughter.
The incident was widely condemned by German authorities. As a result of the attack, the rector of the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, which trains liberal rabbis, said he ordered increased security around his institutions.
“We have also given guidelines to our students on how to behave so that they won’t fall prey to such attacks,” Rabbi Walter Homolka told reporters. “We advise them not to wear their skullcaps on the street. Instead, they should choose an inconspicuous head cover. Apparently a Jew is only safe if he is not visible as such.”
While in other parts of Europe, like France, rabbis and communal leaders have long counseled young Jews not to wear skullcaps in public, Homolka’s comments were ill received in Germany. Many observers said that 70 years after the Holocaust it was unthinkable that Jews should have to hide their identity in Germany. Against this background, an activist organized a “kippa flashmob” in central Berlin. About 150 residents on Saturday silently marched through the capital, many of them wearing skullcaps, according to German media reports.
“Berlin wears Kippa,” headlined B.Z., the capital’s largest daily, on Saturday, together with the photos of prominent Berliners — including Mayor Klaus Wowereit — sporting a skullcap.
Now about that circumcision ban…
Gold-winning American Jewish gymnast Aly Raisman has accepted an invitation from Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein to make her first visit to Israel.
Raisman, 18, who secured the Olympic gold while performing a floor routine to the melody of “Hava Nagilah,” has become known as the “Jewish Star” not only for her extraordinary athletic abilities, but also for paying tribute to the slain Israeli athletes during her shining moments
New Zealand Jewish sailor Jo Aleh and her partner Polly Powrie won the gold medal in the women’s 470 regatta, becoming the first first New Zealand women to win a sailing gold in anything other than windsurfing.
Aleh, 26, whose parents are dual Israeli-New Zealand citizens, was elated as she crossed the finish line.