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.

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

Palestinian Leaders Fight Economic Growth

Jan. 15 2019

This month, a new shopping mall opened in northeastern Jerusalem, easily accessible to most of the city’s Arab residents. Rami Levy, the supermarket magnate who owns the mall, already employs some 2,000 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians at his other stores, and the mall will no doubt bring more jobs to Arab Jerusalemites. But the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are railing against it, and one newspaper calls its opening “an economic catastrophe [nakba].” Bassam Tawil writes:

For [the PA president] Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah officials . . . the image of Palestinians and Jews working in harmony is loathsome. . . . Instead of welcoming the inauguration of the shopping mall for providing job opportunities to dozens of Palestinians and lower prices [to consumers], Fatah officials are taking about an Israeli plan to “undermine” the Palestinian economy. . . . The hundreds of Palestinians who flooded the new mall on its first day, however, seem to disagree with the grim picture painted by [these officials]. . . .

The campaign of incitement against Levy’s shopping mall began several months ago, as it was being built, and has continued until today. Now that the campaign has failed to prevent the opening of the mall, Fatah and its followers have turned to outright threats and violence. The threats are being directed toward Palestinian shoppers and Palestinian merchants who rented space in the new mall. On the day the mall was opened, Palestinians threw a number of firebombs at the compound, [which] could have injured or killed Palestinians. The [bomb-throwers], who are believed to be affiliated with Fatah, would rather see their own people dead than having fun or buying attractively-priced products at an Israeli mall.

By spearheading this campaign of incitement and intimidation, Abbas’s Fatah is again showing its true colors. How is it possible to imagine that Abbas or any of his Fatah lieutenants would ever make peace with Israel when they cannot even tolerate the idea of Palestinians and Jews working together for a simple common good? If a Palestinian who buys Israeli milk is a traitor in the eyes of Fatah, it is not difficult to imagine the fate of any Palestinian who would dare to discuss compromise with Israel.

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More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy