The Novel That Warned of the Holocaust Just before It Began

First published in 1933, and swiftly translated into English and several other languages thereafter, Lion Feuchtwanger’s novel The Oppermans depicts a German Jewish family during the Nazi rise to popularity and then to power. While it remained influential in Germany after World War II, the book has largely been forgotten in the U.S. A newly published and revised English translation seeks to remedy the situation. Ari Hoffman writes in his review:

Reading The Oppermans is like riding a Ferrari into a slow-motion car crash; the ride is a pleasure if you can ignore the wheels spinning out and look away from what’s coming around the bend. . . . The Oppermanns shines when it aims a spotlight on the small-scale gains that made Hitler possible. A Nazi schoolteacher bullies [one young member of the family] and changes the curriculum, and both students and staff are too morally supine to stop it. “The boys,” we are told, “quickly come to terms with their first Nationalist teacher.” The Oppermans believe that “they had won a place for themselves in this country.” They hardly stood a chance.

The signs are everywhere, but so are the misreadings. A salesman notices that a gang tries to push a Jew in front of a train, but reassures himself that they were stopped in time. The butler at a private club turns up for work one day wearing a swastika. . . . Hitler, “the Leader,” is dismissed because his prose is turgid.

It is to Feuchtwanger’s credit that we like and respect his characters enough to resist blaming the Oppermans for their own misfortune. The novel is populated with major and minor characters who are allowed petty anxieties and grandiose dreams. They yearn for more marks, or a plate of piping hot schnitzel, or a joyride through Berlin. They try to keep the Nazis in the background because their foreground is full of life.

Read more at New York Sun

More about: German Jewry, Holocaust, Jewish literature

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy