How the Man Who Decoded the Dances of Honeybees Survived the Nazis

The Austrian-born zoologist Karl von Frisch received a Nobel prize in 1973 for his studies of animal behavior and communication, including his discovery that bees danced in order to inform each other where sources of pollen could be found. When the Nazis came to power in Germany, Frisch, who had a professorship at the University of Munich, quickly found himself in trouble with the regime. Reviewing a new biography of Frisch, Martha Kearney writes:

[B]y the time Hitler gained power in 1933, it was possible to conduct a purge [at the university] and many Jewish members of the staff were sacked. Frisch faced anonymous accusations of hiring too many Jews, and . . . a pamphlet, The Neutral Scholar, attacked an unnamed professor for devoting too much attention to insects while neglecting his own Volk.

Far more dangerous was the accusation that Frisch himself was Jewish. It seems extraordinary now that while the Nazis prepared for war, they were devoting resources to a genealogical department designed to root out anyone of Jewish descent from the government payroll. These zealous officials discovered that Frisch’s maternal great-grandparents were Jewish converts to Catholicism. The chillingly bureaucratic letter arrived, demanding that he resign his job because he was a “second-degree crossbreed.”

Various academics tried to intervene on Frisch’s behalf without success. Help came in an unexpected form: a disease called nosema, which was wiping out German bees. . . . The president of the South Bavarian Beekeepers wrote to Nazi HQ imploring them to spare “the most successful bee researcher of the world” in order to help the “catastrophic emergency situation.” . . . [A]fter further pressure on the Ministry of Food and Agriculture citing the issue of 800,000 dying colonies, it was finally agreed that Frisch could continue his work to combat the nosema plague.

Read more at Spectator

More about: Anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Nazis, Science


Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy