Searching for Lost Jewish Property in Poland, and Finding Confusion

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.”

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Holocaust restitution, Poland, Polish Jewry

The Viciousness of the Left’s Turn against Israel

Naturally, neither the Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez nor his political ally and compatriot Josep Borrell—who was as quick to express his sorrow over the death of the Iranian president as he has been to condemn Israel for war crimes on flimsy evidence—would admit any hostility toward Jews. These two socialists would instead fall back on the rhetoric of progressive internationalism, and their defenders would rush in to complain of the “weaponization of anti-Semitism” to stifle any criticism of Israel. Susie Linfield, a scholar of leftwing anti-Zionism, has some thoughts on this matter:

There is . . . something almost laughable—though also deeply irritating—about the increasingly talmudic debate over whether anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. [The magazine] n+1 published an open letter signed by many leftist Jewish writers, insisting that the two “anti’s” aren’t the same. But they couldn’t bring themselves even to mention the Hamas attacks by name, instead putting forth a sort of wimpy “all lives matter” line. So let’s stipulate: no, anti-Zionism isn’t always anti-Semitism. You’re not an anti-Semite? Mazel tov! Unfortunately, the political positions of many self-professed anti-Zionists are atrocious nonetheless.

And what’s so weird about all this is that in the aftermath of October 7, it’s become crystal clear that anti-Zionism is often anti-Semitism, and deeply so. The loathing, the resentment, the vilification of Jews is viscerally palpable in so many of the pro-Palestinian demonstrations, articles, statements. The n+1 statement was titled “A Dangerous Conflation.” It seems to me that what’s dangerous is the vicious, unhinged anti-Semitism that is circulating all over the world and all over this country, including in its elite spaces.

This is one of the many striking passages in an interview with Linfield by Robert Boyers for the left-leaning journal Salmagundi. Boyers, although admirably open-minded, comes to the conversation with the assumptions of someone steeped in progressive assumptions about the Israel-Palestinian conflict, for which Linfield has little patience. For instance, to the insistence that the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS) isn’t anti-Semitic even if “some BDS supporters envision a total undoing of the Zionist project,” Linfield responds:

What does it mean to “totally undo” a national project—in this case, one that saved millions of Jewish lives? Who the hell is BDS to undo a national project? Are there other national projects on its hit list—France? Bangladesh? China? Why is eliminationism considered a valid “project”—a progressive project!—when it comes to the state of the Jewish people? What will the “total undoing” of Israel look like? We know the answer: it will look like October 7.

Read more at Salmagundi

More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, BDS, Leftism