How the Mennonite Church Covered Up Its Members’ Collaboration in the Holocaust

Nov. 18 2020

Fleeing religious persecution in post-Reformation Germany, large numbers of Mennonites came to the New World, where they and other sects became known as the “Pennsylvania Dutch.” Others settled in what is now Ukraine, where they benefited from the same religious toleration that attracted Jews in the 16th and 17th centuries. Also like Jews, they would be routinely attacked and massacred by anti-Communist forces during the Russian Civil War, and then subjected to expropriation and persecution by the victorious Bolsheviks. The similarities end, however, during World War II, when German invaders saw the German-speaking Mennonites as fellow Aryans. After the war, the Mennonite church’s central philanthropic body, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), claimed that East European Mennonites “were brutally treated by the German occupation authorities” and “did not receive favored treatment.” Ben Goossen tells a different story:

One of Mennonite Central Committee’s star witnesses [to alleged wartime persecution] was a refugee named Heinrich Hamm. Like tens of thousands of other Mennonites who had experienced the Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe, Hamm was from Soviet Ukraine, and had retreated westward with German troops in 1943 to avoid again coming under Communist rule. Five years later, Hamm was an MCC employee, helping to run a large refugee camp in Allied-occupied Germany.

Hamm and his colleagues at Mennonite Central Committee wanted United Nations-affiliated refugee organizations and other interested parties to think that any collaboration by members of the denomination with National Socialism was exceptional and insignificant. They implied that if some young men had perhaps gotten carried away, surely this was because they had been drawn away from their faith under Soviet rule. But wartime records do not corroborate this story.

Hamm was a leader at the heart of Mennonite institutional life in Europe both during and after World War II. There is no question that he and tens of thousands of other Mennonites experienced atrocities in the Soviet Union, and that this history of suffering conditioned their positive reception of National Socialism. Indeed, Hamm’s wartime writings show that he considered his support for the most heinous crimes of Hitler’s state to be directly related to his own efforts to aid fellow Mennonites. Hamm saw Jews and Bolshevism as being part of a single evil cabal that threatened his ethnic and faith communities, and he welcomed Nazi efforts to redistribute Jewish plunder.

Understanding Hamm’s wartime activities also helps to clarify the significance of Mennonite Central Committee’s European refugee operations. . . . The purpose of MCC’s refugee program was to assist people facing legal or material hardships because of their associations with Nazism.

In 2017, the American Mennonite Church passed a resolution to boycott the Jewish state.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Holocaust


How Israel and Its Allies Could Have a Positive Influence on the Biden Administration’s Iran Policy

Nov. 25 2020

While the president-elect has expressed his desire to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic, this should not in itself cause worry in Jerusalem; it has never been the Israeli government’s position that a deal with Tehran is undesirable, only that the flaws of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration outweighed its benefits. Thus Yaakov Amidror, Efraim Inbar, and Eran Lerman urge Israel to approach Joe Biden’s national-security team—whose senior members were announced this week—to urge them to act prudently:

To the greatest extent possible, such approaches should be made jointly, or in very close coordination with, Israel’s new partners in the Gulf. These countries share Israel’s perspectives on the Iranian regional threat and on the need to block Tehran’s path to nuclear weapons.

For Israel, for Iran-deal skeptics in Washington, and for her partners in the region, the first operational priority is to persuade the incoming U.S. national-security team to maintain full leverage on Iran. Sanctions against Iran should not be lifted as a “gesture” without a verified Iranian return to the status quo ante (at the very least) in terms of low-enriched-uranium stockpiles and ongoing enrichment activities.

In parallel, there may emerge a unique opportunity to close ranks with the French (and with Boris Johnson’s government in London) on the Iranian question. On several issues (above all, the struggle for hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean, against Turkey), Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi, and Paris now see eye-to-eye. On Iran, during the negotiations leading to the [deal] in 2015, the position of France was often the most robust. In 2018, President Macron was willing to reach an operational understanding with Secretary of State Pompeo on [key issues regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities].

Last but certainly not least, it should be clear to the incoming U.S. national-security team that any attempt to negotiate must be, can be, and (as far as Israel is concerned) firmly will be backed by a credible military threat.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: France, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, US-Israel relations