Searching for Lost Jewish Property in Poland, and Finding Confusion

July 13 2021

In Plunder: A Memoir of Family Property and Nazi Treasure, Menachem Kaiser recounts his attempts to press a legal claim to an apartment building in Poland once owned by his great-great-grandparents, who perished in the Holocaust. Grace Linden writes in her review:

The bureaucratic, Sisyphean struggle warps reality, and Kaiser’s story resists a straightforward, linear telling. He begins by telling it chronologically, but quickly the narrative overlaps and doubles back, owing in part to his incorporation of diary entries, poetry, and theoretical conversations and encounters.

Kaiser spent most of his life oblivious to this building’s existence. While his family is entitled to what was stolen, the people who live in the apartments are also entitled to their lives. What seems a straightforward decision—go to Poland, file a claim—is far from simple, and Plunder is really about moral complexity any of making such a claim.

[Moreover], the story of “the grandchild trekking back to the alte heym on his fraught memory-mission,” is one that Kaiser finds suspect, and rightfully so, even if it is also his story. His grandfather, whom he never met, rarely discussed the war; neither did his parents. To go digging may lead to answers, but it also is an intrusion; few who do so ask if it is a mistake.

Kaiser had hoped this process would bring him closer to understanding his grandfather. Instead, he writes, “at every step [his] legacy seemed to retreat.”

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Holocaust restitution, Poland, Polish Jewry

 

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia