Rosh Hashanah and the Rescue of the Danish Jews


A wonderful, healthy, and fruitful New Year to my Jewish readers.

By calendarial coincidence, the Jewish holidays for 2019 fall on or near those for 1943. Around Rosh Hashanah that year, the miraculous rescue of the Danish Jews took place. The following post is an expanded version of an earlier Facebook note.

The Danish rescue was uniquely successful among Nazi-occupied countries because of a confluence of several favorable circumstances.
(1) The Danish Jewish community was fairly small (about 7,500) and
(2) concentrated in Copenhagen, just a short boat ride away from neutral Sweden. (Today, a bridge across the Øresund connects the two countries.)
(3) Moreover, the Nazis regarded the Danes as their racial kin and ran the country as a “model protectorate”, leaving the Danish democratic government in place until well into 1943.
(4) Last but not least, the Danes and the Danish Jews had advance warning from the #2 of the occupation regime, the merchant and diplomat Georg Duckwitz (later honored as Righteous Among The Nations at Yad Vashem).

Duckwitz — an NSDAP member since 1932, but already disaffected since before the war — had learned from his superior, the Nazi plenipotentiary Werner Best, that the roundup would take place on Rosh Hashanah. Duckwitz then tipped off the Danish Social Democrat leader Hans Hedtoft, who in turn passed the word to Jewish community president C. B. Henriques and acting Chief Rabbi Marcus Melchior. The Jews went underground, and over the next few weeks were spirited aboard fishing boats by the Danish resistance (and just general Jeppe Shmø’s) and ferried to neutral Sweden. One well-known rescue group acted under the cover name of “Elsinore Sewing Club”: the Danish city Helsingør/Elsinore, with its Kronborg castle that inspired Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, is just two nautical miles across the Ølesund straits from Helsingfors, Sweden.

The famous physicist Niels Bohr (who had a Jewish mother) stepped up to the plate as well, levering the Nobel Prize he had received from the hands of the Swedish king into an audience with the monarch. Bohr pleaded with him for Sweden to publicly declare its willingness to accept Jewish refugees. Sweden had in fact been quietly doing this since 1942 for Jewish refugees from Norway, but now, on October 2, a proclamation welcoming them was read out on the Swedish radio. Whether this was thanks to Bohr’s intercession, to Hans Hedtoft’s similar démarche with the Swedish ambassador in Denmark, or would have happened anyway is a matter of dispute among historians, but Bohr’s effort certainly cannot have hurt.

The Danish rescuers played with an unusually good hand of cards. Still, this would have been for naught were it not for their determination to make the most of it. In doing so, they achieved an incredible result: over 99% of Danish Jews survived the war. (About 500, mostly elderly, Jews were arrested, but owing to pressure from Danish authorities, they were sent to the Theresienstadt Ghetto rather than extermination camps, and emissaries from the International Red Cross were allowed to check on their welfare. All except 52 of the Danish Theresienstadt inmates survived the war.[*])

The role of Werner Best in this whole affair is an enigma. After the war, Best escaped execution by convincing the Danish courts that he had quietly allowed Duckwitz to thwart the deportations. Yet he not only had been informed of goings-on at the Wannsee Conference, but had eagerly organized transports from France before his transfer to Denmark. Why this sudden change of heart where it came to the Danish Jews? I would argue the key lies in a 1942 Best memorandum (published anonymously on account of its explosive contents[**]) titled Herrenschicht oder Führungsvolk? (“master caste or leadership people?”). In the course of an argument drawing parallels with the Roman empire, Best not just pleaded for an occupation policy (at least in the West) based more on persuasion than on coercion and exploitation, but already then posited German loss of the war as a realistic possibility. As I see it, by September 1943 Best probably considered the war lost, and wanted to create himself a ‘life insurance policy’ through quietly giving Duckwitz free rein.[***] (Omission, rather than commission, afforded Best a measure of deniability if Duckwitz were found out and the Gestapo bloodhounds unleashed on him.)

Let us raise a glass of Aquavit to the courageous and resourceful Danish rescuers. Skøl and Shana Tova!

[*] As a sad reflection on the unseen prices paid for any negotiation with such a diabolical regime: unbeknownst to the Danes, other Theresienstadt inmates had been sent to their deaths in Auschwitz to create more room for the Danish inmates. The Theresienstadt ghetto was originally an army fortress town founded in the late 18th century by Habsburg emperor Joseph II (who named itafter his mother, Empress Maria Theresia). It had room for about a brigade’s worth of soldiers and their dependents, but was massively overcrowded with the 40,000+ Jews held there.

[**] The substance of the memorandum was dedicated to comparisons between the Third Reich and the Roman Empire, and how (in Best’s vision) to avoid the same fate as the latter.

[***] He may also have concluded it was a lost cause trying to convince the Danes they had a Jewish problem that could only be solved through deportation.

Stranger than fiction: Albert Battel and the Przemysl rescue during WW II

Sometimes one runs into a story that, if it appeared in a novel, would stretch credulity. 

The following Jewish rescue story is not only true, but its protagonist, Wehrmacht Oberleutnant [1st Lt.] Albert Battel, was honored posthumously by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among The Nations” in 1981. The Israeli lawyer and historian Zeev Goshen wrote a long and detailed article about the case in the Munich-based historical journal Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte (freely: Contemporary History Quarterly). https://www.ifz-muenchen.de/heftarchiv/1985_3_5_goshen.pdf [in German].

Przemysl was and is a small city of about 60,000 people in South-East Poland, near the present-day border with Ukraine. Its already favorable location as a trading center — on the San river, a navigable tributary of the Vistula — was further further enhanced in 1861 by the opening of a railway station on the line between Krakow and Lemberg [a.k.a. Lwow/Lvov/Lviv, present-day Ukraine]. As Przemysl was near the border between the Austro-Hungarian empire and Tsarist Russia, major fortification works were built there, at one point manned by 140,000 troops. The 1914-5 Siege of Przemysl counts as the largest siege of WW I.

After WW I and the birth of the Second Polish Republic, Przemysl was now part of the Lwow voivodeship (province) of Poland, but continued to have regional importance. About one-third of its population was Jewish.

Following the Nazi invasion of Poland (and the coordinated Soviet invasion of what was then Eastern Poland), the Nazi-Soviet demarcation line ran along the San river, and the Nazis violently drove the Jews from the left bank into the Soviet-occupied right bank part of the city. Come June 1941 and the invasion of the USSR, this Eastern part became the Jewish ghetto, its population swelled by Jews from surrounding towns being deported there.[*] 

A Wehrmacht depot was established in Przemysl – for, among other things, vehicle repair and maintenance. As of July 1942, the military commander was one Major Max Liedtke, a WW I veteran and erstwhile regional newspaper editor (Greifswalder Zeitung, 1929-37) who reportedly had been dismissed for his critical comments about the Nazi regime.

His adjutant was Oberleutnant (1st Lieutenant) Albert Battel, a 51-year old lawyer from Breslau, Silesia (present-day Wroclaw, Poland) who had been called up for reserve duty. Battel actually had joined the NSDAP in 1933 (which ensured his continued legal career) but got into trouble with the party hierarchy: he continued to have friendly relations with Jews and, on one occasion, extended a loan to a Jewish colleague who had fallen on hard times [presumably, due to effectively being banned from representing non-Jewish clients]. Battel also reportedly assisted his Jewish in-laws to emigrate to Switzerland. While posted at Przemysl, he got a party reprimand for shaking the hand of the head of the Jewish council, a former classmate named Dr. Duldig.

On July 26, 1942, the SS planned the “Resettlement to the East” of the city’s Jews, the true destination being the nearby extermination camp of Belzec. 

But when the SS task force showed up at the bridge across the San into the Jewish ghetto, they found their way blocked by a Wehrmacht detachment. The sergeant-major commanding it stated he had been ordered by Lt. Battel to block access across the bridge, by live fire if necessary. This is one of a few rare examples where Wehrmacht and SS actually pointed guns at each other!

The SS turned tail, and lodged an official complaint with the Wehrmacht city commander. However, Liedtke clearly approved of his adjutant’s behavior and backed him. About 100 Jews from the ghetto were working at his depot, and he was satisfied with their labor.

It was, however, obvious that the SS would return with reinforcements. So before they could do so, Battel sent three trucks into the ghetto, and in several trips, the depot workers and their families were shuttled across and given shelter at the Wehrmacht depot. 

The SS did return the next day and deported the city’s remaining Jews, but were forced to spare the Wehrmacht depot as “they had nothing lost there”. Altogether, Battel (with the connivance of Liedtke) saved about 500 Jews from certain death.

Significantly, Battel did not suffer more severe consequences for his actions than a dressing-down — although correspondence within the SS and Party about his case got to the very top of the food chain, with a letter from Himmler to Bormann. Battel was supposed to be punished upon demobilization following the “Final Victory”, which [thank G-d] never came. Eventually Battel was given a medical discharge in 1944 for the heart disease that eventually claimed his life in 1952.

But, while escaping punishment for his courageous act, he received no reward in his lifetime either. Indeed, a postwar denazification court classified him as “IV. Mitlaüfer” (Category 4: Fellow Traveler[**]), and consequently barred him from practicing law in postwar Germany. 

Battel’s superior officer, Liedtke, had been (punitively?) sent to the front, was taken prisoner by the Red Army, and eventually died in 1955 at a Soviet POW camp.

Both Battel and Liedtke were posthumously honored as Righteous Among the Nations by Israel’s Shoah memorial institution, Yad Vashem.

Until near the end of the war (post-Valkyrie, perhaps), the Wehrmacht still enjoyed a measure of protection from the SS thugs. Liedtke and Battel had plausibly argued operational exigencies: that the smooth functioning of their depot was logistically and strategically essential for  the Wehrmacht’s Eastern Front, and that their “essential workers” could not be missed. No bribes were required, as they were in the case of Oskar Schindler.  That Liedtke and Battel knew how to argue their case in writing (being an erstwhile journalist and lawyer, respectively) surely did not hurt. 

But I would also like to think Battel, as a veteran lawyer, would have familiarized himself with the Wehrmacht’s own Military Penal Code (issued 1872 under Kaiser Wilhelm I, but apparently reprinted as late as 1944!) 

Art. 47: I. If through the execution of a military order a penal offense is committed, then only the commanding superior officer is responsible. [So far, no surprise.] However, the obeying subordinate is liable to punishment as a participant if:
1. He has exceeded [the limits of] the order given
2. It was known to him that the purpose of the superior officer’s order was a military or civil crime or offense.
[Original wording: “wenn ihm bekannt gewesen, daß der Befehl des Vorgesetzten eine Handlung betraf, welche ein bürgerliches oder militärisches Verbrechen oder Vergehen bezweckte.”]

Had Battel appeared before a court-martial, he would likely have invoked this clause, which would have brought considerable embarrassment.[***]

[*] The well-known if controversial Israeli political scientist Ze’ev Sternhell hails from the town. He was hidden and raised by a Polish Catholic family and even acted as an altar boy until reconnecting with his roots.

[**] The categories were: “I. Hauptschuldige (Major offender)” “2. Belastete (including Activists, Militants, Profiteers)” “3. Minderbelastete (Lesser offenders)” “4. Mitläufer (Fellow traveler)” “V. Unbelästet (Exonerated)”

[***] I will devote a separate blog post to the defense of “Befehlsnotstand” — freely: obeisance of criminal orders under duress — in German law. Suffice to saw: examples of true Befehlsnotstand were vanishingly rare: commanders of shooting squads such as Reserve Battalion 101 (the subject of Christopher Browning’s landmark book “Ordinary Men”) relied on peer pressure and indoctrination rather than coercion.



Genesis of a masterpiece: “The Day of the Jackal”

I just finished reading Frederick Forsyth’s memoirs, “The Outsider“, on the way home from a business trip. Forsyth is a superlative raconteur and the book a treasure trove of anecdotes and insights, as well as offers a window into what makes him tick.

It somewhat surprised me that his ambition had never been to be a writer — his boyhood dream, growing up during WW II, had been to become a fighter pilot, and against daunting odds he was able to do his (then still mandatory) military service in the RAF and to qualify on the de Havilland Vampire jet. But I was outright astonished to read that

    • he wrote “The Day of the Jackal” — a thriller that redefined the entire genre — in no more than thirty-five (35) days;
    • that it was the first novel he ever wrote;
    • and that the published text is unchanged from his first draft.

 

It was, however, another case of Renoir’s famous quote: “This painting took me five minutes, but it took me sixty years to get to the point I could pull that off”. Forsyth, at the time, had over a decade experience as a practicing journalist, first for a rural English newspaper, then as a foreign correspondent for Reuters and the BBC. He had learned there to write clear, concise, publication-ready copy on short notice: before the days of word processors, this meant scribbling an outline or a rough draft on paper, then typing the finished copy on a telex machine or dictating it over the phone to a typist/transcriptionist at the London office.

He had also learned, in his journalistic work, to research his subjects ahead of time (since deadlines needed to be met), and to develop “deep background” human sources for aspects of his reporting. (For instance, he would befriend forgers and underworld figures that taught him tricks for acquiring a false passport or a cover identity that his fictional protagonist would apply in the novel, and likewise learned how to acquire an untraceable sniper rifle.)

Originally, the essentials of the plot had come to Forsyth eight years earlier, when he was reporting from Paris during the turmoil following De Gaulle’s decision to withdraw from Algeria and the several assassination plots by the OAS that this triggered. (The one that opens the book is historical and came closest to succeeding.) He had then come to the conclusion that the OAS was so well-monitored and riddled with informants that the only way such a plot could succeed would be if the OAS hired a complete outsider, a very skilled professional assassin with great impersonation skills. (As Forsyth had lived in a less than luxurious area of Paris, near several dodgy bars that were OAS hangouts, he had a feel for the human dynamics in that organization.)

Especially in a first novel, the protagonist often includes a piece of the author. While on a moral plane, Forsyth and his fictional assassin couldn’t be more different, they both like the good life, and enjoy physical thrills like car racing — Forsyth did his military service as a jet fighter pilot, and later in life developed a taste for high-risk sports such as car racing, scuba diving, and parachute jumping. “The Jackal”s linguistic skills and mildly chameleonic abilities also mirror Forsyth’s: he had graduated high school fluent in  Spanish, French, and German, all of them learned by immersion during extended stays abroad. (In fact, it was the French that had gotten him the Reuters job, as they were suddenly a correspondent short in Paris when they most needed one.) As he points out, he thus picked up slang and gestures that one does not pick up in school. At the same time, his ability to slip into what he calls “my Bertie Wooster persona” (after P. G. Wodehouse’s fictional dimwitted aristocrat) served him well: he would pretend to be a British tourist with a few words of atrocious French or English, and people around him would wrongly assume he did not understand them and discuss matters they would not normally share with outsiders.

So when Forsyth found himself penniless and blackballed after returning from Africa, had to decide how to make a living again, and decided he was going to try his hand at writing, he was able to pound out the story in record time.

As he tells it, what he had no idea of was: how one gets a book published. He naively submitted his manuscript to four publishers in succession, without synopses and without hiring an agent—after three rejections, TDotJ was still lingering in the slush piles of the fourth. He did not engage an agent, as the idea did not occur to him.

Then Forsyth had one of several great strokes of luck in his life: at a dinner party he was introduced to one Harold Harris, whom he was later told was the chief editor of Hutchinson Books (presently part of Penguin Random House). Upon going home, Forsyth wrote a 3-page synopsis of his novel, invited himself to Harris’s office as “a good friend I know socially”, not as “a novelist desperate to get published”, and talked Harris into reading the synopsis.

Unlike the slush pile readers (“what’s the point? De Gaulle is alive, so we know how your book ends”), and probably thanks to the synopsis, Harris understood that the book wasn’t about the ending but about the cat-and-mouse game between the Jackal and the French police. He asked to read the whole manuscript: Forsyth raced back to the fourth publisher and sweet-talked a janitor into retrieving it from what turned out to be the reject pile, as Harris considered it unethical to read a manuscript currently under consideration with another firm.

After the weekend, Harris asked for 1-page proposals for two more books, as he wished to sign a three-book contract. Forsyth thought of what he could distill from his journalistic experience, and came up with concepts (not yet finished plots) for what became The Dogs of War and The Odessa File. The rest is history. Very unusually for a novel, TDotJ was published as it appears in manuscript, without further editing. Forsyth acknowledges that Harris could have taken serious advantage of a rookie writer, but clearly was too much of an old-school gentleman to even consider doing so.

By an additional stroke of good luck, Fred Zinneman came to London shortly later to film a project that fizzled out, was given the book to read by an agent who had appointed himself to represent the movie rights of the book, and upon reading it decided this was going to be his next movie. Forsyth makes much of his lack of business acumen: at any rate, he never got rich off the movie, as he sold the rights for a UKP 20,000 lump sum (about US$600K in today’s money). It did, however, drive more sales of the book and helped make Frederick Forsyth a household name.

“Chance favors the prepared mind,” as Louis Pasteur would say about serendipitous discoveries. Likewise, Forsyth was able to make the most of the breaks he got primarily because he had acquired unusual skills relevant to his writing, appears to be blessed with an encyclopedic memory, and had honed his writing craft in a nonfiction field.

Dering v. Uris, QB VII, and Pyrrhic courtroom victories

Like many, I devoured Leon Uris’s Exodus as a teenager. By modern standards, it is a severe romantification of a story that hardly requires it (the great Jewish historian Howard Sachar described the book as “a shallow swashbuckler”), but there is no denying Exodus is an immensely entertaining read. Published in 1958, it not only became the greatest bestseller in US history since “Gone with the wind”, but became a samizdat (underground publishing) classic among Soviet Jews.

A single line in the book gave rise to one of the most remarkable libel trials of the 20th Century, Dering v. Uris and others. (See also Jack Winocour’s long 1964 article here.) The trial is thinly fictionalized in Uris’s later bestseller courtroom novel, QB VII (“Queen’s Bench Court Seven”).

The backstory of one of the main Exodus characters, Holocaust survivor Dov Landau, contains this line about Auschwitz:

Here in Block X, Dr Wirths used women as guinea pigs and Dr Schumann sterilised by castration and X-ray and Clauberg removed ovaries and Dr Dehring [sic] performed 17,000 `experiments’ in surgery without anaesthetics.

Auschwitz chief physician Eduard Wirths had committed suicide after his arrest, while Carl Clauberg had died of a stroke in pretrial detention and Horst Schumann had fled to Africa after the war. (At the time he was living in Sudan.)

Clauberg, a prewar gynecology professor of some renown, and Schumann, an undistinguished physician who had earlier been  a “veteran” of the mass euthanasia program Aktion T4, were carrying out experiments on human subjects trying to find an inexpensive method of mass sterilization, to be applied on the Reich’s slave labor population of so-called Untermenschen (subhumans). Clauberg favored injection of caustic chemicals into the womb — which were to cause blockage of the ovarian ducts through scarring —  Schumann irradiation. The ovaries and testicles of the irradiated prisoners were removed for pathological examination by Schumann himself and by two prisoner doctors, the German Jew Maximilian Samuel and the Pole Wladyslaw Dering (see Robert Jay Lifton, “The Nazi Doctors”, pp. 246-249 for more about him).

Dering was a surgeon who had been imprisoned at the Auschwitz main camp for resistance activities. As Lifton tells the story (much of which came out during the libel trial), Dering at first enjoyed a good reputation among the prisoners, then became embroiled with the medical experimentation, and eventually was taken away by Clauberg to come work at his private clinic in Silesia. (In order to enable his release from the camp, Dering is said to have been administratively declared a Volksdeutsche — an ethnic German.)

After the war, Dering  had made it to England with the help of fellow Poles in the British army. He actually spent a year and a half in prison there following an extradition request by (now Communist) Poland. After a witness, who had been castrated at Auschwitz, was unable to recognize During (he had in fact been ‘operated’ upon by another prisoner doctor), the request was denied on grounds of mistaken identity. Following his release, Dering worked as a physician for the British Colonial Service in Somalia (then a British protectorate) for about a decade, before eventually being knighted (OBE) and returning to London to work as a physician for the NHS.

Following publication of Exodus, Dering was confronted with his past when his wife Maria and her daughter from a previous marriage came across the offending passage while reading Exodus. Dering took legal counsel and eventually sued  printer, publisher, and author for libel.  The printers quickly issued a note of apology;  Uris and his publisher (William Kimber, Ltd.), on the other hand, decided to fight the libel case on grounds of substantial truth.

Dering’s complaint was that, while he had completed operations, it was nowhere near 17,000 and he never did so without anaesthetic. He also said that he obeyed Nazi physicians’ orders under threat of death. The printer issued an apology and settled with Dering. The other two went to court and ran truth as a defence. It was the Holocaust on trial again.

While Uris and his publisher admitted that they could not prove 17,000 operations, they did proffer a list of 130 individuals on whom shocking operations were performed.

Uris’ solicitor took 2 years to compile evidence and find witnesses.

The trial was held before a jury of 12 (10 men, 2 women) in Queen’s Bench Court VII. It lasted 18 days, having started on 1 April 1964. It was conducted in Greek, Polish, Hebrew, English, German, French and Ladino. The judge was Justice Horace Lawton. Lord Gerald Gardiner, later Lord Chancellor of England, appeared for Uris and the publisher.

[…]

The plaintiff called 7 witnesses, some of whom were fellow Polish prisoners. The defendants called 22 witnesses from Auschwitz.

[…]

Some of the evidence on behalf of the defendants included this:

  • In October 1943, 10-12 Greek girls aged 15-19 had ovariectomies conducted on them without any medical, physical, psychological or legitimate reason;
  • In 1943 Dr Dering removed 1 or both testicles from 12 young males for no legitimate reason; See British Medical Journal Vol 1, 5393 16 May 1964.
  • 8 witnesses gave evidence of having received ovariectomies;
  • 6 gave evidence whose testicles had been removed;
  • A list was obtained from the Auschwitz Prison Hospital Register. It included the names of 130 people who received surgical operations, where Dering was either the surgeon or assistant. The list was at least partly in Dering’s handwriting.
  • While the defendants could not show that Dering operated without anaesthetic, there was evidence that operations were conducted under painful spinal anaesthetic that left the patient conscious;
  • 3 prisoner doctors gave evidence for the defendants: Dr Kleinova, Dr Breuda and the defendants’ star witness, Dr Adelaide Hautval.

Dr. Adelaide Hautval (who appears as “Susanne Parmentier” in QB VII) was a French psychiatrist (the youngest daughter of a Protestant minister) who had been arrested for aiding Jews and sent to the Auschwitz main camp. (“If you love the Jews, you will share their fate,” she was told.) After the war, she was made an Knight in the French Legion of Honor for her resistance and humanitarian activities in the camp, and Yad Vashem bestowed the title of “Righteous Gentile” on her. Recently a geriatric hospital in the Paris suburb of Villiers-Le-Bel was renamed in her honor.

Dr. Hautval quickly discovered that the project entailed inhuman experiments, performed without anesthesia, on Jewish women prisoners. She told Dr. Wirth that she would not participate in his experiments and added that no person was entitled to claim the life or determine the fate of another. When forced to assist in the surgical sterilization of a young woman from Greece, Dr. Hautval told Dr. Wirth that she would never again attend such a procedure. When Wirth asked Dr. Hautval: “Don’t you see that these people are different from you?” she replied, “In this camp, many people are different from me. You, for example.”

Notably, Dr. Hautval was not even punished for her refusal. This demolished Dering’s argument that whatever he had done, he had done under pains of death. (Admittedly, Hautval was somewhat safer as she was racially considered an Aryan, while Dering was still considered a Slav.)

Technically, Dering “won” the trial, but was awarded “the smallest coin of the realm”, one-half penny, in damages. Dering was also assessed the hefty costs of the trial (about 30,000 pounds, or 3/4 of a million dollars in today’s money). He died one year later.

As mentioned above, Leon Uris turned the experience, and the massive amount of documentation he had gathered, into the bestselling QB VII. While including some dramatic license as well as some romantic subplots, the novel in general sticks so close to the actual trial as to qualify as a roman à clef. The fictional concentration camp “Jadwiga” and its satellite extermination camp “Jadwiga West” are clearly stand-ins for Auschwitz I and Birkenau (Auschwitz II), respectively. “Adam Kelno” was a colonial physician in Sumatra rather than Africa, but otherwise appears to substantially be based on Dering. “Abraham Cady”, the womanizing fighter pilot turned writer, was of course the fictionalization of Uris. “Thomas Bannister”, a “future Prime Minister” (rather than Lord Chancellor) is of course based on  Gerald Gardiner, and so on. The Jewish prisoner doctor Boris Dimshits was elderly, suffered from eczema, and was sent to the gas chamber when no longer able to operate well enough — just like the real-life Maximilian Samuel. (According to Lifton, the cooperation of the latter — a decorated WW I veteran — had been secured by false promises his 19-year old daughter would be spared. )

One lurid detail about the medical “examinations” — too obscene to be repeated on a somewhat family-friendly blog — that I was convinced had been added by Uris for dramatic effect,  turns out to be based on an actual “invention” of Horst Schumann. In general, despite some minor glitches (such as the cringe-worthy nonsense IDF rank of “Sergent (Captain)” when “Seren” is clearly meant), the book was as thoroughly researched and fact-checked as one could hope to see before the Internet and Google era. Possibly in order to forestall another libel suit, Uris did, however, make sure to use fictional names wherever he could, and some character names are linguistically so improbable that they appear to have been chosen deliberately to ensure nobody with that background would bear said name.

Some suspense is created in the novel with the hunt for Egon Sobotnik and his medical log book: in fact, the log book was obtained from the Auschwitz memorial site, although its role was as central to the real as to the fictional trial. While the fictional Sobotnik is the key witness in QB VII, the testimony of Dr. Adelaide Hautval’s fictional stand-in “Suzanne Parmentier”s is given pride of place, and contains extensive word-for-word quotes from Hautval’s at the real-life trial.

King Pyrrhus, after winning a battle at enormous cost in lives, is supposed to have said “One more such ‘victory’ and I am undone”. If there ever was a case of a Pyrrhic victory at a libel trial, it would be this.

Police: dozens of ISIS supporters working at Zaventem airport (no April Fools joke)

Would that this Daily Mail article were an April Fools joke. (The story was earlier reported by the Belgian press in French and in Dutch. I tweeted the coverage in Le Soir.)

Police at Brussels airport have claimed at least 50 Islamic State supporters are working there as baggage handlers, cleaners and catering staff.

In an astonishing open letter, the officers said they have warned about the terrorist sympathisers whose security badges give them access to planes, but they remain employed.

The airport police, who are threatening to go on strike because of security deficiencies, also said they have raised the issue of terrorists scouting the airport to plan possible attacks.

Police at Brussels airport have claimed at least 50 Islamic State supporters are working there as baggage handlers, cleaners and catering staff. […]

The extraordinary claims come after the Mail reported how the family of two of the bombers involved in the attacks last week said they had worked as cleaners at the airport.[…]

The officers said they had raised suspicions about certain staff members including those who apparently celebrated after the Paris attacks in November that killed 130 people.

‘When we checked these people, we were surprised more than once. It was men with a radical ideology and a long police history,’ the officers continued.

‘Even today, there are at least 50 supporters of the Islamic state who work at the airport. They have a security badge and have access to the cockpit of a plane.

And get this:

An uncle of Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui last week told how the brothers had been employed at the airport and would have gained intimate knowledge of the terminal destroyed in the carnage.

The man, who asked not to be named, told the Mail: ‘They worked cleaning at the airport and in a restaurant. They didn’t finish high school in the end. They cleaned the airport in the summer months.’

Read the whole thing and weep: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3517493/At-FIFTY-ISIS-supporters-working-baggage-handlers-cleaners-catering-staff-Brussels-airport-claim-police.html#ixzz44apMn9HM

It is high time to bring back the “pole of shame” (schandpaal), the Belgian equivalent of the pillory. On second thought, perhaps the Schwedentrunk would be more fitting…

Brussels, multiculturalism, and political AIDS

But I repeat myself.
“Belgium suffers from political AIDS in the literal sense of the word”  (La Belgique souffre du SIDA politique au sens étymologique du mot.) [Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome, Ed.]
Thus then Minister of Justice Jean Gol, longtime leader of the Reformist Liberal Party (PRL) and himself an ex-leftist, described Belgium’s political situation over two decades ago, in the wake of a wave of murderous supermarket shootings and a reverse-infiltration scandal that rocked the State Security (Belgium’s nebbishy domestic intelligence agency).
He was excoriated for his remarks at the time. Jean Gol turns out to have been a prophet.
The horrifying attacks in Brussels struck very close to home: I fly through Brussels a lot for work, and at one point we had an apartment there not far from the metro station where one bomb went off. A work colleague of mine was supposed to have been at the airport on the day of the attack but her daughter’s flight was rescheduled at the last moment.
From a large collection of anecdotal evidence (from friends, family, and first-hand) we learned that the Belgian law enforcement apparatus might be able to find its own derriere with a voice-assisted GPS on a good day. The story of the bomber about which the Turks (!) issued a warning, yet walked around freely in Belgium, speaks volumes. Here are two articles well worth reading, one by a Belgian businessman now living in the US, another by an expat American in Brussels. Both jibe very closely with my own observations from my younger (ahem) years in Europe.
I have guestblogged at Sarah Hoyt’s place about the psychological phenomenon of “displacement”.  In brief, this is the psychological defense mechanism of a human who is facing a problem or enemy (s)he is unable or unwilling to confront, to go seek out some 7th-order issue or “small fry” enemy, which they can than easily “take care of”, so they can “prove” they are still relevant. We see this also in the EU: faced with the twin powder kegs of Islamofascism and the potential backlash of their own populations against the elites who have nurtured that viper on Europa’s bosom (see my earlier blog post Scenes from Europe before the storm), the Euro elites continue to bury their heads in the sand and instead obsess over such issues of crucial world-historical importance as the labeling of SodaStream dispensers: whether they are produced in Israel or in the “occupied”/disputed territories. (Needless to say, a number of snarky comments could be heard on the Israeli street the day after the attacks ;))
Belgium’s way of “coping” with Islamofascist extremism appears to have been primarily to… let them do their thing as long as they did not run too wild inside Belgian borders. St-Jean-Molenbeek, the borough of Brussels where the “he-goat milkers” (Kurdish insult for DAESHbags/ISISholes) hang out,  has effectively been abandoned by the ‘natives’ and has become a no-go zone for the locals. Other areas in the boroughs of St-Josse and Schaerbeek are at the very least in the same direction, and the last time I walked near the Brussels South station, I wished I were ‘packing heat’.
Speaking of which: some idiotic MSNBC (but I repeat myself) article claimed that the arsenals held by the terrorists “prove the need for gun control”. In fact, Belgium, despite being a major manufacturer and exporter of small arms (FN-Browning in Herstal, near Liege) has among the most stringent gun control laws in the world. Depending on the source, legal gun possession ranges between 4 and 6%, and the number of carry permits is minuscule. (When I used to live there, as an arms dealer explained to me, carrying a handgun required four separate licenses: purchase, possession, transport, and carry — the latter was only issued very rarely.) On the other hand, whoever has underworld connections and/or a lot of money and no questions can procure just about any lethal hardware illegally in Brussels if one knows where to go. This is nothing new, BTW: Brussels has had a flourishing black market in firearms (as well as forged identity documents, etc.) for decades — for so long, in fact, that Frederick Forsyth could incorporate it as a plot device into his classic thriller The Day Of The Jackal, set in the early 1960s.If nothing else, it proves that disarming the law-abiding populace merely empowers criminals and terrorists. (See my earlier reflections here.)
When I first took a job in Israel many, many years ago, a number of Belgian (and other) friends could not understand our decision to go live “in such a violent region”. My response then: “don’t worry, your turn will come”. I wish to G-d I had been wrong then.
There are some signs of hope. The strongest political party now is the conservative, Flemish-Nationalist N-VA, led by an avowed admirer of Edmund Burke. (N-VA is emphatically not to be confused with the collectivist, “blood and soil” Vlaams Belang.) The current government is making baby steps to rolling back the worst excesses of “de multikul/le multicul” as brainless multiculturalism is called in Dutch and French, respectively. (“cul”=’b*tt’ in French, hence kul=‘nonsense, BS’ in Dutch.) In an opinion piece in De Standaard (highbrow Dutch-language newspaper), veteran editor Mia Doornaert even argued for getting rid of the “hapless” (“heilloze”) term “Islamophobia”. She also rightly called the claim that Muslims are the new Jews “an obscenity”.
But will the European elites be mugged by reality, or will they continue to say “après nous le deluge” (after us, come the Great Flood)?

[…] The fate of all mankind I see
Is in the hands of fools

Confusion will be my epitaph
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it we can all sit back and laugh
But I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying…

PS: lest you think that Islamofascism is only a threat to the West, and not to non-Islamists elsewhere, think again.

PPS: French intellectual celebrity Bernard-Henri Levy, himself threatened by extremists from Belgium: Europe might be dying.

Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light…

UPDATE 3: Belgian soldiers standing on guard had no bullets. As “Dianne” quipped on Facebook, “it’s like a bad Monty Python skit”.

UPDATE 4: A penpal in Belgium sent me this article in Het Nieuwsblad (in Dutch), in which former Belgian minister of justice Marc Verwilghen reveals that his prior attempts to institute even limp-wristed anti-terrorist measures were blocked by former PM Elio di Rupo (Socialist Party chairman at the time, as well as alleged “Wicked Uncle Ernie“) and his party comrade, deputy PM Laurette Onkelinx, as “racist” and “creating stateless persons”.

Sandy Hook massacre and the ASD canard

[On screen] One Adam Lanza, age 20, shot and killed his mother, and then went to the Connecticut grade school where she taught and gunned down over two dozen more people, 20 of them children. He subsequently took his own life. No manifesto, no suicide note, no obvious motive.

Note that no “assault weapons” were involved: he used two handguns, and left a third weapon (a .223 rifle) unused in the car.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the bereaved and we wish a speedy and full recovery to the wounded.

Ace is all over the story. The usual predictable politicization by gun control advocates (and the power and control freaks posing as same) he masterfully rebutted with stories about a 2009 school slaughter in Leipzig, Germany (despite extremely tough gun control laws) and of a knife-wielding maniac slashing 22 students in China.

But also he left a prescient comment: he notes that the surviving brother told authorities the shooter “is autistic or has Asperger syndr0me”, and mentions “Which, of course, will hopefully not demean other people with autism or Asperger’s.”

The comment was prescient, in that the usual airheaded mediots (but I repeat myself) are starting to blame it on, you guessed it, Asperger’s. The pseudonymous “Elise Ronan”, who has two sons with Asperger’s and blogs extensively about it, has some choice comments on her twitter timeline.

Obviously, by the inane “logic” of Piers Morgan, I could “prove” that CNN journalists are likely to go on “Dick Quest” in Central Park with meth in their pockets and ropes tied around their other heads, but let’s get a little more serious.

This isn’t the first time this type of claim about ASD was made: last time I can recall was about the Amy Bishop “Tenure denial massacre” which we covered here at length (see sidebar). In fact, hers was almost a textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder, probably with some other cluster B disorders thrown in.

I would not categorically exclude that she is also on the “autistic spectrum” (which runs left of “neurotypical” from “geek” over “Asperger’s” to autism), for the simple reason that science academia is probably the single most congenial environment for people with ASDs.

Elise reports that on Good Morning America, somebody claimed that people with Asperger’s “lack empathy”. This is a very common misunderstanding among laymen. To use a musical analogy: a person with Asperger’s may be as musical as anybody but is hard of hearing. A person who truly “lacks empathy” would have no concept of music. And yes, I would not want to feed all the musicians who have gotten hard of hearing (including, sadly, my other half). But nobody would seriously argue that Beethoven’s late works were “amusical” because he was stone deaf at the time he wrote them?!

To put it another way (I, sadly, have personal experience in these matters). To a sociopath, other people’s concerns simply do not exist, other than perhaps as potential levers for manipulation for their own benefit. To a narcissist, other people only exist as potential sources of ‘narcissistic supply’ or competitors for same. To an “aspie”, the emotions of others are as real as for a “neurotypical”, but opaque. They have no trouble identifying (with) abstract concerns or specific material needs of others, but have extreme difficulty “reading” the emotions of others, not even at the level a neurotypical is able to. It is like the difference between having trouble reading a book because of poor eyesight, and being utterly uninterested in any book.

A commenter at “Ace” has a much more plausible theory.

criminologist & behavioral analyst
casey jordan

– will continue to be called a school shooting, but that is not what it was

murderer known as: a family annihilator
(wants to destroy those they love)
– school was a theater for his massacre because it was his mothers workplace
– but, not direct connection to the school
– the rest of the killing is to get attention
– and, he wants everyone to know, if he is going to die, that everyone knows his name and how upset and how disgruntled he was

UPDATE: Elise Ronan takes no prisoners: “And so it begins, blood-libeling those with autism [spectrum disorders]”