Yom Ha'atzmaut, lit. "Day of Independence") starts Wednesday night and Twelve of the most beautiful secret spots in Israel By Naama Barak and Hitler kept secret hit list of 3,000 prominent Brits for after Nazis defeated the UK and Vatican bars gay union blessing, says God 'can't bless sin' and Israel a winter wonderland in April? Mt. Hermon gets surprise snowfall
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Israel a winter wonderland in April? Mt. Hermon gets surprise snowfall
Picture by Stu Gherman
Yom Ha'atzmaut, lit. "Day of Independence") starts Wednesday night
Independence Day (Hebrew: יום העצמאות Yom Ha'atzmaut, lit. "Day of Independence") is the national day of Israel, commemorating the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948. The day is marked by official and unofficial ceremonies and observances.
Because Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, which corresponded with the Hebrew date 5 Iyar in that year, Yom Ha'atzmaut was originally celebrated on that date. However, to avoid Sabbath desecration, it may be commemorated one or two days before or after the 5th of Iyar if it falls too close to the Jewish Sabbath. Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day is always scheduled for the day preceding Independence Day.
In the Hebrew calendar, days begin in the evening. The next occurrence of Yom Haatzmaut will take place from sunset to sunset, 14-15 April 2021.
Independence Day is founded on the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel by the Jewish leadership headed by future Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion on 14 May 1948. The mood outside of Ben-Gurion's home just prior to the declaration was joyous:
The Jews of Palestine ... were dancing because they were about to realize what was one of the most remarkable and inspiring achievements in human history: A people which had been exiled from its homeland two thousand years before, which had endured countless pogroms, expulsions, and persecutions, but which had refused to relinquish its identity—which had, on the contrary, substantially strengthened that identity; a people which only a few years before had been the victim of mankind's largest single act of mass murder, killing a third of the world's Jews, that people were returning home as sovereign citizens in their own independent state.
Independence was declared eight hours before the end of the British Mandate of Palestine, which was due to finish on 15 May 1948.
Declaration of the State of Israel
The operative paragraph of the Declaration of the Establishment of State of Israel of 14 May 1948 expresses the declaration to be by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the basis of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly. The operative paragraph concludes with the words of Ben-Gurion, where he thereby declares the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.
The new state was quickly recognized by the United States de facto, the Soviet Union, and many other countries, but not by the surrounding Arab states, which officially declared war on the new state, thus escalating the ongoing Palestinian Civil War.
Independence Day eve
The Memorial Day, or Yom Hazikaron, ends at sunset, and is immediately followed by the onset of Independence Day, given that in the Hebrew calendar system, days end and begin at sunset.
An official ceremony is held every year on Mount Herzl, Jerusalem on the evening of Independence Day.The ceremony includes a speech by the speaker of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), artistic performances, a Flag of Israel, forming elaborate structures (such as a Menorah, Magen David) and the ceremonial lighting of twelve torches, one for each of the Tribes of Israel. Every year a dozen Israeli citizens, who made a significant social contribution in a selected area, are invited to light the torches. Many cities hold outdoor performances in cities' squares featuring leading Israeli singers and fireworks displays. Streets around the squares are closed to cars, allowing people to sing and dance in the streets.
From 1948 to 1973 the Israel Defense Forces parade was held on this day.
Israeli families traditionally celebrate with picnics and barbecues. Balconies are decorated with Israeli flags, and small flags are attached to car windows. Some leave the flags hoisted until after Yom Yerushalayim. Israeli Television channels air the official events live, and classic cult Israeli movies and skits are shown.
Hallel recited at the Day to Praise Israel Independence Day event in Jerusalem, 23 April 2015
In response to widespread public feeling, the Chief Rabbinate in Israel decided during 1950–51 that Independence Day should be given the status of a minor Jewish holiday on which Hallel be recited. Their decision that it be recited (without a blessing) gave rise to a bitter public dispute, with Agudath Israel rejecting the notion of imbuing the day with any religious significance whatsoever, and religious Zionists believing the blessing should be obligatory. The Rabbinate also ruled that they were "unable to sanction instrumental music and dances on this day which occurs during the sephirah period." The recitation of the blessing over Hallel was introduced in 1973 by Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren. The innovation was strongly denounced by his Sephardic counterpart, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, leader of Modern Orthodox Judaism in America.
The Religious Zionist movement created a liturgy for the holiday which sometimes includes the recitation of some psalms and the reading of the haftarah of Isaiah 10:32–12:6, which is also read on the last day of Pesach in the Diaspora, on the holiday morning. Other changes to the daily prayers include reciting Hallel, saying the expanded Pesukei D'Zimra of Shabbat (the same practice that is observed almost universally on Hoshanah Rabbah), and/or blowing the Shofar. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik questioned the Halachic imperative in canonising these changes (it is not clear what his personal practice was regarding the recital of Hallel). In any case, the majority of his students recite Hallel without the blessings.A number of authorities have promoted the inclusion of a version of Al Hanisim (for the miracles...) in the Amidah prayer. In 2015 Koren Publishers Jerusalem published a machzor dedicated to observance of Independence Day, in addition to Jerusalem Day.
Independence Day is designated to be on the 5th day of Iyar (ה' באייר) in the Hebrew calendar, the anniversary of the day on which Israeli independence was proclaimed, when David Ben-Gurion publicly read the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The corresponding Gregorian date was 14 May 1948.
However, nowadays Independence Day is rarely celebrated on the 5th of Iyar itself, and on most years is moved forward or backwards by one or two days. According to the rules of the Jewish calendar explained in Days of week on Hebrew calendar, the 5th of Iyar can fall on a Monday, a Wednesday, a Friday, or a Saturday. To avoid Sabbath desecration, it was decided in 1951 that if the 5th of Iyar falls on a Friday or Saturday, the celebrations would be moved up to the preceding Thursday (3 or 4 of Iyar). Additionally, since 2004, if the 5th of Iyar is on a Monday, the festival is postponed to Tuesday (6 of Iyar). Monday is avoided in order to avoid potential violation of Sabbath laws by preparing for Yom Hazikaron (which one day before Independence Day) on a Shabbat. As a result, Independence Day falls between 3 and 6 of Iyar, and can be on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. It will only actually be on the 5th of Iyar when this date happens to be a Wednesday.
The Three Musketeers at the Kotel
Vatican bars gay union blessing, says God 'can't bless sin'
The Vatican has decreed that the Catholic Church won't bless same-sex unions, saying that God "cannot bless sin."
By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press
ROME -- The Vatican declared Monday that the Catholic Church won't bless same-sex unions since God "cannot bless sin."
The Vatican's orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a formal response to a question about whether Catholic clergy have the authority to bless gay unions. The answer, contained in a two-page explanation published in seven languages and approved by Pope Francis, was "negative."
The note distinguished between the church's welcoming and blessing of gay people, which it upheld, but not their unions. It argued that such unions are not part of God's plan and that any sacramental recognition of them could be confused with marriage.
The note immediately pleased conservatives, disheartened advocates for LGBT Catholics and threw a wrench in the debate within the German church, which has been at the forefront of opening discussion on hot-button issues such the church's teaching on homosexuality.
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for greater acceptance of gays in the church, predicted the Vatican position would be ignored, including by some Catholic clergy.
"Catholic people recognize the holiness of the love between committed same-sex couples and recognize this love as divinely inspired and divinely supported and thus meets the standard to be blessed," he said in a statement.
The Vatican holds that gay people must be treated with dignity and respect, but that gay sex is "intrinsically disordered." Catholic teaching says that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and woman, is part of God's plan and is intended for the sake of creating new life.
Since gay unions aren't intended to be part of that plan, they can't be blessed by the church, the document said.
"The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator's plan," the response said.
God "does not and cannot bless sin: He blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him," it said.
Francis has endorsed providing gay couples with legal protections in same-sex unions, but that was in reference to the civil sphere, not within the church. Those comments were made during a 2019 interview with a Mexican broadcaster, Televisa, but were censored by the Vatican until they appeared in a documentary last year.
While the documentary fudged the context, Francis was referring to the position he took when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. At the time, Argentine lawmakers were considering approving gay marriage, which the Catholic Church opposes. Then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio instead supported providing legal protections for gays in stable unions through a so-called "law of civil cohabitation."
Francis told Televisa: "Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God."
Speaking of families with gay children, he said: "You can't kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered."
In the new document and an accompanying unsigned article, the Vatican said questions had been raised about whether the church should bless same-sex unions in a sacramental way in recent years, and after Francis had insisted on the need to better welcome gays in the church.
It was an apparent reference to the German church, where some bishops have been pushing the envelope on issues such as priestly celibacy, contraception and the church's outreach to gay Catholics after coming under pressure by powerful lay Catholic groups demanding change.
In a statement, the head of the German bishops' conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, said the new document would be incorporated into the German discussion, but he suggested that the case was by no means closed.
"There are no easy answers to questions like these," he said, adding that the German church wasn't only looking at the church's current moral teaching, but also the development of doctrine and the actual reality of Catholics today.
Bill Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League, praised the decision as a decisive, non-negotiable "end of story" declaration by the Vatican.
"The Vatican left nothing on the table. The door has been slammed shut on the gay agenda," Donohue wrote on the League's website, calling the document "the most decisive rejection of those efforts ever written."
In the article, the Vatican stressed the "fundamental and decisive distinction" between gay individuals and gay unions, noting that "the negative judgment on the blessing of unions of persons of the same sex does not imply a judgment on persons."
But it explained the rationale for forbidding a blessing of such unions, noting that any union that involves sexual activity outside of marriage cannot be blessed because it is not in a state of grace, or "ordered to both receive and express the good that is pronounced and given by the blessing."
And it added that blessing a same-sex union could give the impression of a sort of sacramental equivalence to marriage. "This would be erroneous and misleading," the article said.
Esteban Paulon, president of the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals, said the document was proof that for all of Francis' words and gestures expressing outreach to gays, the institutional church wouldn't change.
"Saying that homosexual practice — openly living sexuality — is a sin takes us back 200 years and promotes hate speech that unfortunately in Latin America and Europe is on the rise," Paulon said. "That transforms into injuries and even deaths, or policies which promote discrimination."
A similar note of exasperation was echoed in the Philippines, Asia's largest Roman Catholic nation, where gay rights leader Danton Remoto said it simply wasn't worth it to fight an old institution. "I keep on telling LGBTQIs to just have their civil unions done," Remoto said. "We do not need any stress anymore from this church."
Other critical commentators noted the Catholic Book of Blessings contains blessings that can be bestowed on everything from new homes and factories to animals, sporting events, seeds before planting and farm tools.
Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean survivor of sexual abuse who is gay and close to Francis, said the document was out of step with Francis' pastoral approach and was tone deaf to the needs and rights of LGBT Catholics.
"If the Church and the CDF do not advance with the world ... constantly rejecting and speaking negatively and not putting priorities where they should be, Catholics will continue to flee," he warned.
In 2003, the same Vatican office issued a similar decree saying that the church's respect for gay people "cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions."
Doing so, the Vatican reasoned then, would not only condone "deviant behavior," but create an equivalence to marriage, which the church holds is an indissoluble union between man and woman.
Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the U.S.-based NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and an advocate for greater LGBTQ inclusion in the church, said she was relieved the Vatican statement wasn't worse.
She said she interpreted the statement as saying, "You can bless the individuals (in a same-sex union), you just can't bless the contract."
"So it's possible you could have a ritual where the individuals get blessed to be their committed selves."
AP writers David Crary in New York, Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Almudena Calatrava in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report
Twelve of the most beautiful secret spots in Israel
Israel21C via JNS By Naama Barak
From a hidden desert lake and hot springs to an ancient fortress and a bright pink church, the Jewish state is full of surprises.
Israel being a pretty small country, you'd think that every last inch of it would be well-known and well-covered. Yet that's far from being the case. Avid or armchair travelers can relish in reaching endless little locations where they can bask in the glorious silence, as well as in the glow of boasting about it to friends less in the know.
So that you, too, will be able to sound all adventurous and mysterious next time Israel comes up, we've gathered 12 secluded spots up and down the country. Because really, who wants to hear about overflowing markets anymore?
1. Evrona evaporation ponds, Arava Desert
Fancy seeing a flamingo in the desert? Look no further than the evaporation ponds in Evrona near Eilat, which a group of previously migrating flamingos has decided to call home. The birds used to fly over the area on their way to Africa, but more than 20 years ago made their pit spot a permanent one, thanks to the readily available food at the site. The pools are located right on the border with Jordan, meaning that the flamingos simultaneously receive audiences from both countries, whose people, in turn, can also wave hello to one another. Coexistence, flamingo-style.
2. Timna hidden lake, Arava Desert
The hidden lake at Timna is perhaps one of the most striking sights in Israel—a bright turquoise body of water surrounded by red mountains in the middle of the desert. Located a short ride from Eilat, the lake isn't a natural one but was formed when the copper quarries at the site were flooded. Since the lake is situated among mines, it's a little off the beaten track and isn't the easiest place to get to. And yet, keen travelers are making their way there for a swim in the salty waters and even, as has become somewhat popular lately, for diving in the unusual location.
3. Hamukei Nitzana, Negev Desert
Hamukei Nitzana (Nitzana Curves) is a natural park full of large, bright-white chalk rocks that form in curvy, smooth patterns reminiscent of, well, curves. Its location right on Israel's southern border with Egypt means that it's not flooded with tourists even in the most COVID-free of times, enabling enterprising visitors to walk around and enjoy the moon-like setting in peace and quiet. It's also a great destination for a moonlight hike, when the chalky stones shine bright.
4. Little Crater, Negev Desert
Despite its name, the Little Crater is quite a large secret location, coming in at five miles long, almost four miles wide and 1,300 feet deep. The crater is a rare geological phenomenon and far less famous than its cousins, the Ramon Crater and the Big Crater. It was only deemed a nature reserve in 2019, following a decades-long struggle with Israel's defense establishment, which opposed the move because some of the reserve belongs to the Negev Nuclear Research Center. It is home to unique geological forms, colorful rocks and endangered wildlife, and is a wonderful site for a desert hike.
5. Kedem hot springs, Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is one of Israel's best-known travel destinations, but it too is full of surprises, including deliciously hot springs—dotted along the shoreline where the Kedem Stream meets the Dead Sea—some of them large enough to fit a family or a few friends, and some of them just big enough to seat romantic couples. Getting there isn't easy and requires going off-road and avoiding dangerous sinkholes, but that doesn't seem to deter the brave few who venture out there, especially in the winter season.
6. Ancient fortress, Ashdod Beach
While the beaches in Tel Aviv are perhaps the most famous, the coastline in Israel in fact runs down a substantial part of the country. And the beach in Ashdod, half an hour's drive south of Tel Aviv, even boasts its very own fortress.
First built by Arab rulers in the seventh century, the fortress was used in later centuries to unsuccessfully defend the Holy Land from the Crusaders, who, after taking over the area, also took ownership of the stronghold. Today, the fortress remains strike a magnificent picture against an otherwise empty strip of sand, even leading couples to choose the venue to tie the knot in small, corona-era wedding ceremonies.
7. Austrian Hospice rooftop, Jerusalem
The Old City of Jerusalem has many rooftops from which to take in the breathtaking views, with one of the best—and relatively accessible—ones belonging to the Austrian Hospice. Opened in 1863, the building first served as the Austrian Catholic Church's pilgrim hostel before turning into a military convalescent home during World War I, an internment camp during World War II, a hospital and again a present-day hostel with its very own Viennese coffee shop.
While the coffee shop is famous for its hot chocolate and apple strudel, those looking for a different experience would do well to saunter up the staircase to the roof, from where they can comfortably view the very heart of the Old City.
8. Mount Scopus amphitheater, Jerusalem
The open-air amphitheater located at the edge of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Mount Scopus campus is one of the university's best-kept secrets, alongside its botanical gardens. The amphitheater originates in 1925, when a temporary wooden structure was laid down at the site ahead of the university's opening ceremony, which included grandees, such as the British Lord Balfour and General Allenby. The current stone structure was built 10 years later and withstood historic events, such as Israel's War of Independence and the Six-Day War. Today, visitors who make the endless trek all the way to the edge of the campus are rewarded with beautiful desert views stretching into Jordan.
9. Saint Peter's Church, Tel Aviv
The bright pink Russian Orthodox Saint Peter's Church towering over treetops makes an unusual addition to an otherwise rather nondescript residential area of southern Tel Aviv. Built in the 19th century, the complex includes both a church and a monastery and is open to the public for only a short time each week, very much adding to its secretive status. Enjoyed mostly by locals, the complex and surrounding park are a breath of fresh air in the metropolitan area.
10. Midron Slopes beach, Jaffa
Located at the southern, less well-known side of Jaffa, the Midron Slopes beach, rolling down from the Ajami neighborhood to the Mediterranean Sea, boasts expansive grass lawns, bike paths, walking lanes and strips of sand, but somehow have yet to attract the crowds found elsewhere in Jaffa and Tel Aviv. The beach is best enjoyed early on Friday evenings when families get together for dinner, couples go out on romantic dates and kids whizz around, all in a uniquely pleasant, local atmosphere.
11. Ein Sukkot Spring, Jordan Valley
Ein Sukkot is a wonderfully large spring surrounded by reeds, giving the whole place a very private and secluded vibe. The spring is located off-road in between a couple of settlements, making getting there a bit of a challenge, but is a firm favorite among travelers who absolutely cannot bear the thought of sharing an afternoon with the masses. Secret indeed.
12. Alma Cave, Galilee
Alma Cave in the northern Galilee region is everything you could wish for in a cave: long, dark, cold and full of bats. It has a few legends surrounding it, such as the one claiming that Jews returned to the land of Israel from their Babylonian exile through it (because it's so long).
Fast-forward a few thousand years, and the cave is equipped with pegs and light reflectors to ease the way in for visitors, who should still come in long-sleeved clothes and anti-slip shoes. The cave is currently closed to protect its bat population, but once it reopens, it's well worth the descent.
This article was first published by Israel21c.
Caption: The hidden lake at Timna in the desert was formed when copper quarries were flooded. Credit: Kinneret Yifrah from Tel Aviv, Israel, CC BY 2.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons
Hitler kept secret hit list of 3,000 prominent Brits for after Nazis defeated UK
Author Sybil Oldfield reveals the Gestapo's infamous 'Black Book' and the plan to Nazify Britain by rounding up the Jews – and non-Jews – who stood in the Third Reich's way
LONDON — The names were nothing if not eclectic. From actors to astrophysicists, future presidents to poets, and spies to scientists, the Nazis' secret list of the nearly 3,000 prominent Britons they intended to round up had they invaded the UK was characteristically thorough.
The discovery of the so-called "Black Book" at the end of the war provoked a number of wry comments from some of those whose names it contained. "My dear, the people we should have been seen dead with," wrote the author Rebecca West to playwright Noel Coward, while the cartoonist David Low quipped: "That is all right. I had them on my list too."
But as academic Sybil Oldfield details in a recently published book "The Black Book: The Britons on the Nazi List," there was nothing in the least bit comical about the Germans' carefully laid plans to unleash terror had they crossed the English Channel. Armed with copies of the "most wanted" list, 20,000 SS troops were to sweep the country engaging in a deadly ideological and racial manhunt.
Some of those detained would have been placed under house arrest or thrown into newly constructed camps. Many others would have suffered a still worse fate. SS Col. Franz Six, a professor whom the murderous Reinhard Heydrich appointed to lead the task of eliminating any opposition to the Nazis in Britain, was also authorized to "set up Einsatzgruppen [paramilitary SS death squads]… as the situation dictates and the necessity arises." While he never made it to Britain, Six later left a bloody trail across the occupied Soviet Union and was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment at Nuremberg.
The Black Book was compiled under the watchful eye of SS Col. Walter Schellenberg, a Heydrich favorite. The Gestapo's foreign intelligence unit began compiling the Sonderfahnungliste GB — the "special search" list for great Britain — in around 1937. It consisted of two parts: an alphabetical list of 2,619 suspects and their addresses, together with nearly 400 organizations which were to be raided and banned.
'The Black Book: The Britons on the Nazi List,' by Sybil Oldfield. (Courtesy)
That original list was supplemented by the Gestapo's Informationsheft GB — roughly translating to "information brochure for Great Britain" — drawn up as Hitler's plans to invade Britain were readied between May and July 1940. It was to have served as a handbook to the UK for occupying troops, but also contained further names of those to be detained.
Oldfield says that as she combed the list for clues, fascination soon mingled with admiration.
"Once I so quickly discovered that these anti-fascist Britons … were marvelous human beings — brave, humane, intelligent — the more I wanted to learn more and then share it," she tells The Times of Israel in an interview.
While Oldfield says the Gestapo did not have "octopus tentacles" in the UK, it was not short of informers — pro-Nazi Germans and postgraduates residing in England, as well as British fascist sympathizers.
How diligent the Nazi note-takers must have been searching through newspapers, listening to gossip, scrutinizing German passport visas and keeping track of the poor exiles who had fled from persecution in their homeland
"How diligent the Nazi note-takers must have been searching through newspapers, listening to gossip, scrutinizing German passport visas and keeping track of the poor exiles who had fled from persecution in their homeland," The Guardian newspaper commented sourly in September 1945 after a copy of the list was found in the Gestapo's Berlin HQ.
Sybil Oldfield, author of 'The Black Book: The Britons on the Nazi List.' (Courtesy)
Oldfield says the 400 organizations which the Nazis intended to shut down — which ranged from the quintessentially "Middle England" Rotary club to the all-powerful Transport and General Workers Union, as well as the YMCA, Workers' Educational Association, and the Quakers — underlined the ambition of the "plan to Nazify the whole of Britain."
Many of the targets — Winston Churchill (described, alongside his Secretary of State for War, Anthony Eden, as "representatives of Jewish interests"), his cabinet, senior Labour politicians and trade unionists, and well-known pre-war anti-fascists and anti-appeasers — were predictable.
So, too, were the roll-call of prominent British Jews, including politicians, businessmen, press magnates, and entertainment gurus, along with communal and Zionist organizations.
Among their number were Israel's first president, Chaim Weizmann (a British citizen until he renounced his UK nationality in 1948); Oscar Deutsch, owner of the Odeon cinema chain; film producers Ivor Montagu and Isidore Ostrer; and Lords Melchett and Bearsted from the worlds of business and finance. Sir Samuel Joseph of the construction giant Bovis, and Louis Halle Gluckstein and Sir Samuel Gluckstein, the founders of the catering and hotel empire J. Lyons, were also listed — along with scores of other Jews who held directorships of companies or banks.
Indeed, the Informationsheft frequently quoted a bank's capital in a manner suggesting it was the personal asset of the directors. Thus its central narrative, writes Oldfield, was that "almost the whole of Britain was really controlled by very rich, assimilated British Jews," while in the media Jews exercised a shadowy "anti-German influence." Moreover, well over half of those on the list were refugees — at least two-thirds of them Jews — who had fled to the UK before the war.
Albert Einstein, center left, and Chaim Weizmann, center right, were both targets of the Nazi hit list. Also pictured in this 1921 photo aboard the SS Rotterdam are Benzion Mossinson, left, and Menachem Ussishkin, right. (Public domain)
Other entries in the Black Book were, perhaps, a little more surprising: the Boy Scout movement, suspected of being an arm of the "English Secret Service," was to be banned and its founder, Lord Baden-Powell, arrested. And some of those the Nazis hoped to seize would surely have evaded them: Albert Einstein, the nuclear physicist Leo Szilard and the Black singer Paul Robeson had already slipped away to the United States, while Sigmund Freud had died within three weeks of the war being declared.
Oldfield, the daughter of a German refugee, says her principal aim in writing the book was to discover why the Britons on the list — among whose ranks she includes Jewish refugees who became British — were "suspected above all others of having the potential to obstruct the successful Nazification of Great Britain."
She is also keen to fill what she believes to be a gap in the historical record, with the prewar efforts of anti-fascists to make Britain realize the danger posed by Hitler too often overlooked and ignored.
"It's rather disturbing that the Nazis, who seem to exercise a sort of taboo fascination in popular consciousness, a forbidden darkness, always somehow get the headlines," she says.
It's rather disturbing that the Nazis, who seem to exercise a sort of taboo fascination in popular consciousness, a forbidden darkness, always somehow get the headlines
While, as Oldfield writes, those on the list were not "plaster saints," they nonetheless represent a veritable who's who of the people who tried to sound the alarm about the Nazi threat, fight fascism and assist the imperiled Jews of Germany and Austria.
Frank Foley, a passport officer at the British Embassy in Berlin, worked 15-hour days desperately trying to help rescue German Jews, issuing (often fake) documents which enabled them to travel to the UK or Palestine. Foley, whose position was not protected by diplomatic immunity, was in a doubly perilous situation as he also operated as a secret agent in Germany on behalf of the British intelligence services. Fellow rescuers Robert Smallbones and Arthur Dowden, who worked at the British consulate in Frankfurt and issued thousands of temporary visas to allow Jews into Palestine, were also on the list.
British passport officer Frank Foley worked 15 hours a day trying to rescue German Jews from the Holocaust. (Public domain)
Groups within the UK that had worked to assist Jewish refugees before the war would also have been targeted. These included a network of Quaker and UK Jewish organizations which, working together, played a pivotal role in the Kindertransport, which saw Jewish children plucked from the jaws of the Nazi genocide and brought to the UK to be fostered by British families.
As Oldfield notes, such raids would have been doubly productive in the Gestapo's eyes, allowing the Nazis to both round up some of the most "determinedly active anti-Nazis" as well as to learn the whereabouts of "Emigranten" (as the Germans preferred to term them) now living in Britain. The Black Book also correctly identified some key British Jews who led rescue efforts, including Norman Bentwich, a pro-Zionist former Attorney General of Palestine, and Otto Schiff, a Frankfurt-born banker who established the Jewish Refugees Committee. By 1939, 80 percent of refugees in the UK were registered with Schiff's committee.
Beyond the entirety of Churchill's war cabinet and prominent Jewish politicians — such as the former Liberal Party leader, Home Secretary and High Commissioner for Palestine Herbert Samuel and the future Labour cabinet minister Manny Shinwell — relatively few parliamentarians were included in the Black Book. Those singled out by the Gestapo included some of the most vocal advocates for the plight of German Jews: Labour's Josiah Wedgwood, the independent MP Eleanor Rathbone, and Conservative Victor Cazalet. Unsurprisingly, the Nazis also planned to arrest those who had led the battle against Nazi appeasement in the 1930s. By politics and background, they were a diverse group. From parliament, their ranks included the postwar Conservative prime minister Harold MacMillan, who resigned the government whip in 1936 when sanctions against Mussolini were dropped, and his fellow Tory the Duchess of Atholl, who was deselected from her safe seat in 1938 because of her fierce opposition to Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policies.
From the left of the political spectrum, leading anti-fascists in the Black Book included the future Labour cabinet minister (and passionate Zionist) Richard Crossman, who was a lonely voice for rearmament within his party in the 1930s; the actor Dame Sybil Thorndike; and former suffragette leader Sylvia Pankhurst.
The Black Book also contained a highly comprehensive list of British publishing houses which were to be shut down. Some, such as Penguin Books and the highly popular Left Book Club, which was founded in 1936 by the Jewish publisher Victor Gollancz, had a long track record of publishing books which were damning of developments in Nazi Germany. But others, Oldfield finds, are labeled "Marxist" and slated for closure simply on the basis of "just one anti-Nazi book." The Gestapo, she says, may not have "managed to read quite every book critical of Hitler and Nazism published in Britain," but they had nonetheless been "impressively thorough."
Writers and academics were well-represented on the Gestapo's blacklist too. The novelist E.M. Forster's anti-Nazi broadsides, delivered to an audience of millions on the BBC and driven by his hatred of the regime's "Jew-mania," had earned him his place. His fellow novelist J.B. Priestley, whose works had been banned in Germany since 1936, and science fiction pioneer H.G. Wells had also well-advertised their opposition to fascism.
The playwright and actor Noel Coward shared his own hostility to fascism and appeasement only among friends, but the Gestapo was keenly aware of his work gathering information on the Nazis for British intelligence. As Coward later admitted, his "reputation as a bit of an idiot … and silly ass" meant that, as he traveled the world, "people would say all kind of things that I'd pass along."
Coward was recruited by another name on the list, the Hungarian Jewish filmmaker Alexander Korda. Korda's London film company was clandestinely funded by the UK secret service and, like Coward, his work provided the perfect cover for travel and on-the-side undercover work. Cambridge don and literary critic F.L. Lucas, who Oldfield terms "one of the most tireless and outspoken of all the British opponents of Nazism and appeasement," had long caught the Nazis' eye — Goebbels even responded to one of his many letters in the British press. A brilliant linguist, Lucas was recruited to work in September 1939 on the "Enigma" code-breaking project at Bletchley.
Many of those whose names made it onto the list were German and Austrian refugee writers and journalists who tried, as Oldfield writes, to "play a vigorous part in anti-Nazi intellectual activities in London" before the war. Among their ranks were the acclaimed Austrian Jewish writer Stefan Zweig, the German Jewish theatre critic Alfred Kerr (father of the much-beloved children's author Judith Kerr), and a fellow German Jewish exile journalist Gabriele Tergit, who had narrowly escaped when the SA broke into her Berlin home in March 1933.
Nor had the Nazis forgotten the names of the many British correspondents posted to Germany before the war who had — sometimes despite their newspapers' editorial lines — sought to alert their readers to the perils of Nazism. They included the Daily Express' Sefton Delmer and The Times's Norman Ebbutt. As the Germans suspected, a number of these men, such as Victor Gordon-Lennox of the conservative Daily Telegraph, were gathering intelligence for the British secret services and Foreign Office.
Surprisingly, the Hungarian Jewish journalist Stefan Lorant, who had been imprisoned in Germany for several months in 1933, was not on the list. However, Lorant's most famous creation, the pioneering news magazine "Picture Post," which frequently attacked the Nazis and was read by millions of Britons, was, alongside dozens of magazines and newspapers, listed for proscription.
Nonetheless, as Oldfield recognizes, many of the warnings about the Nazis issued by those in the Black Book in the latter half of the 1930s went unheeded by a British government and public which was determined to avoid entangling the country in another war. "They really felt they were cassandras, telling the truth and always being rejected," she says. Oldfield says she was also initially somewhat mystified by some of those on the hit list. Society hostess Nancy Astor, the first woman to take her seat in parliament, was a leading light in the upper-class, pro-appeasement "Cliveden set" seen by many as fascist sympathizers. (Cliveden was the name of Astor's country residence.) Similarly, George Ward Price, a special correspondent for the pro-Nazi Daily Mail, was, according to Oldfield, Hitler's favorite British journalist. She believes both Astor and Ward Price are likely to have been listed for, in the Gestapo's view, betraying the Fuhrer by turning against Germany and appeasement after the invasion of Czechoslovakia in March 1939.
Several hundred names in the Black Book — thought to be those of secret agents or spies — are difficult to identify, especially give the vague manner in which they are itemized. Many of these entries were probably gathered as a result of the infamous November 1939 "Venlo incident" when a Nazi sting operation netted the Gestapo a host of information about British intelligence and operations on the continent.
Nonetheless, some military and secret service names do stand out. Col. Frank Noel Mason-Macfarlane, for instance, was the British military attache in Berlin in 1938 and 1939 who famously offered to assassinate Hitler from his house in the Charlottenburger Chausse. ("Easy rifle shot. I could pick the bastard off from here as easy as winking.")
Jona "Klop" Ustinov, who was born in Jaffa and had Jewish ancestry, worked as a journalist in London while spying for the Weimar government's Foreign Office. Fired by the Nazis, he became an agent for MI5. Ustinov's most important source was a highly placed, anti-Nazi aristocrat at the German Embassy in London, Wolfgang Gans zu Putlitz. Although sadly too often ignored, von Putlitz's warnings, delivered via Ustinov, about Hitler's intentions proved to be, in the words of senior MI5 officer Peter Wright, "priceless intelligence, possibly the most important human-source intelligence Britain received in the prewar period."
Ustinov's work, says Oldfield, is illustrative of the huge contribution made by those in the Black Book to the eventual defeat of Nazism. Countless others whom the Germans intended to arrest — many of them refugees — could lay similar claims. Paul Eisler, an Austrian Jew who moved to Britain in the late 1930s, for instance, played a pioneering role in inventing the electronic technology which helped defend London against the V1 rockets launched by Hitler in the last year of the war.
But Oldfield is also keen to demonstrate the wider contribution that the refugees from Nazism listed in the Black Book made to their adopted country. From art historians to musicologists, political thinkers to scientists and classists, "Germany's loss," she says, "was England's gain." "British cultural life," she quotes the contemporary sculptor Anthony Gormley as saying, "has never quite been the same since they arrived."
"I hope people will think that we did owe a lot to those refugees, and perhaps refugees aren't the destitute, naked miseries that somehow they're taken too often to be," Oldfield says. "They never bring nothing with them — they always bring themselves. There's all their experience, education, [and] culture. We need to think much more about what they bring to us than any possible harm, which I don't think exists."
See you tomorrow bli neder which is Yom HaZikoron which starts tonight with Independence Day starting on Wednesday night