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October 19, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 19, 2012 By Eric Berger Jewish Exponent Almost a decade has passed since a suspected Nazi war criminal was granted the right to avoid deportation and remain m Northeast Philadelphia. It now appears that the 87-year-old man may still face a courtroom in Ger- many. The German office that investigates Nazi war crimes has recommended prosecu- tors charge Johann Breyer with accessory to murder and that he be extradited to Germany to face trial for the killing of some 344,000 Jews at Auschwitz, the Associated Press reported last week. Breyer, a retired tool- may Johann Breyer has admitted he served at Auschwitz con- centration camp. maker who still lives in Philadelphia. has admitted that he served as an SS guard at Auschwitz but said that he only did so out of fear and that he had made repeated requests for discharge. He said he never killed anyone as an armed guard and only had contact with Jewish prisoners when he went to the camp for a haircut. A U.S. federal judge ruled in 2003 that Breyer could not be deported because. although he was born in Czechoslovakia. he was considered a U.S. citizen by virtue of his mother's birth in Manayunk. And he did not give up that status when he joined the SS because he was under 18, the judge ruled. It is unclear whether new evidence has emerged, but some observers say that Ger- man investigators could be renewing their efforts based on a precedent set in a case against John Demjanjuk. who was suspected of com- mitting mass murder, and at one point was thought to be "Ivan the Terrible." There were no surviving witnesses who could place Demjanjuk at the death camp where he was thought to have killed Jews. but he was convicted on the basis of documentary evidence that showed he worked at the camp. "I think that the Demjan- juk case set a precedent in German law that the pres- ence m a camp was the bar that had to be proven." said Mark Weitzman. director of government affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in New York. Breyer's ad- mission to having served at Auschwitz and his sufficient mental and physical health gave German investigators "a ready-made case to move on." Weitzman said. Marcia Sachs Littell, professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Richard Stockton College in New Jer- sey, said Nazi soldiers had a choice of where they served, meaning that Breyer did not have to serve at Auschwitz. "I do know that some of the guards felt it was a way of receiving status in their lives and in their jobs," Lit- tell said. She described Breyer's claim not to have taken part in killings as likely being denial. "My real feeling," said Littell, "is that there is not a statute of limitations on murder." Eric Berger is a staff writer for the (Philadel- phia) Jewish Exponent, from which this article is reprinted by permission. By Rabbi Rachel E sserman The (Vestal, N.Y.) Reporter When Matti Friedman decided to write about th e Aieppo Codex, he imagined his book would be "'an up- lifting and uncomplicated account of the rescue of a cultural artifact." After a few months of research. theauthor realized the real story was far more complex. In "The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, a~,d the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible" (Algon- quin Books of Chapel Hill), Friedman tells how greed and misma4aagement, in addition to outright theft, caused the state of Israel to lose an important piece of its ancient Jewish heri- tage. The author juxtaposes three stories in his work: the creation of the state of Israel and its affect on the Jews of Syria, the history of the codex in ancient times and the mystery of what occurred after the codex left Syria. The Aleppo Codex is the oldest known manuscript of the complete Hebrew Bible. Produced in Tiberias during the early 10th century, the handwritten document is also considered an authori- tative version of the Bible. containing the correct vocalization of the Hebrew text and the appropriate cantillation (which shows how the words should be chanted). Friedman fol- lows the book's travels. as it moved to Jerusalem (until the city was cap- tured by Christian knights during a crusade), then to Cairo and finally Aleppo in Syria. In Aleppo, the work became a talisman, a good luck charm, for the com- munity. No longer used for its intended purpose, it was stor~d in a box in the great synagogue of Aleppo. Unfortunately, that synagogue was set on fire during Arab riots after the declaration of the state of Israel and the codex was t~hought to be destroyed. What really happened is just one of the mysteries Friedman explores. The Jews of Aleppo origi- nally didn't believe they would have to leave their homes after Israel became a state, but they soon found themselves in a precarious position. No longer welcome in the city where their families had lived for centuries, it was also difficult and danger- ous to emigrate. Friedman recounts how several key figures of his tale escaped, including Murad Faham, who smuggled the codex from Syria through Turkey and finally to Israel. When Friedman seeks information about the codex after its arrival in Israel. he discovers that previous writings about the codex are filled with inaccuracies. For example, a little known court case-- between the members of the Aleppo community and the Israeli government sho~vs how the artifact came into government hands. The Aleppo Jews claimed the book belonged to them. that Faham had been told to give the codex to a re- ligious representative of the Aleppo community in Israel. The government protested, saying the book belongs to the state because Faham willingly gave it to Israel's president. Fried- man learns that the case is not as straightforward as the government claims, although the Aleppo Jews soon realize theywill never again own the codex. Friedman also uncovers the truth about the con- dition of the codex when it 1eft Syria. The codex was 'thought to have been partially burned in the synagogue fire and many sections of the texts--in- cluding several books of the first part of the Bible--were missing. While this is true of the manuscript today; the author learns that the codexwas in far better con- dition when it first arrived in Israel, with only a few pages missing. Friedman believes that sections of the book were stolen and the last third of"The Aleppo Co- dex" focuses on his search for the culprit. Although he believes he knows who is responsible for the theft, the Israeli government re- fuses to acknowledge what occurred; Friedman does a good job juggling the different story lines, while also educating readers about the history of the codex and its importance to the Aleppo community, in addition to creating suspense for what really occurred to the manuscript. His prose is clear and easy to read, making this work perfect for history buffs. Friedman's determination in the face of closed doors, and unreturned emails and phone calls, is to be commended, as is his desire to uncover a truth the Israeli government prefers remain hidden. By Debra Rubin New Jersey Jewish News In the 1930s, when anti- Semitism blocked paths for Jewish writers and artists, many became the superhe- roes of the fledgling comic book industry. Jewish writers, artists and publishers turned obstacles into opportunity in creating Superman, Bat- man, Spider-Man and the X-Men. They also managed to sneak a little of their Jewish background and perspec- tive into their work, said Arie Kaplan, author of "From J~-rakow to Krypton: "You probably couldn't Jews:~ Comic Books." In his book, published Fro'~i subtle biblical in 2008, Kaplan profiles do that today because ey- eryone would look it up on the Internet," said Kaplan. "In those days, you could." allusions to plots thatthe pioneers of the com- addressed, in coded lan- ics industry, including guage, anti-Semitism and Will. Eisner, Stan Lee, fascism, Jews hid theirJack Kirby, Al Jaffee, Neil "Comics were sort of the bottom of the bar- rel," said Kaplan. himself the author of the comic book mini-series. "Speed Racer: Chronicles of the Racer." "They couldn't get a job writing novels. Many aspired to write for radio, but they couldn't. But the fascinating thing is their characters have outlived those radio characters." During the presentation Kaplan focused on Super- man and its creators, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel. Their Action Comics hero became an instant bestsell- er in a country deep in the throes of the Depression. "In 1938 the world was- in need, of a hero," said Kaplan. Kap!an said that first issue "was fascinating at a sociological level," because ethnicity behind covertGaiman, J.erry Robinson, the creators tookon social references, and Art Spiegelman. issues, a trend thatwould Problems t Havea, Center for Counseling and Consulting 407.388.4738 www. perryklein, net Perry Klein, MC, LMHC, NCC, CCMHC Psychotherapist, License # MH9964 Tricare Provider continue in the early days of the Superman comics. In just a handful of pages, the hero uses his powers, which did not yet include the ability to fly, to rescue Lois Lane from kidnappers, burst into the governor's of- rice to halt theexecution of a woman unjustly accused of murder, subdue a wife beater, and drag a corrupt politician by his ankles across telephone wires. Today's Superman "is written like a friendly big brother, but in those days he was written kind of cocky and showing off his powers," said Kaplan. Shuster and Siegel "seemed like they were striving for something grounded in so- cial issues, then stopped. It then became sort of whim- sical, like 'Law and Order' with tights and capeS." A writer for MAD Maga- zine, Kaplan recalled that when he first started, a number of other Jewish writers were speculating about what is Jewish about Superman. Some b.elieved the authors had the bibli- cal Moses in mind when they told how the baby Superman was sent by his parents from a dying planet to Earth and only later learned his true identity. While Kaplan has doubts " about the Moses linkage, he believes they knew exactly what they were doing when they created Superman's real name Kal-El. "Superman is very God- like and if you read the Torah, a lot of the angels have 'el' [God] at the end of their names," he said. "It is part of lEhe name of a-lot of synagogues." For Jews who felt pow, erless in the face of anti- Semitism and fascism, Debra Rubin Arie Kaplan, author of 'From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books," said Jewish writers created many of the comic book badustry's most famed characters. creating a super hero to defeat Hitler or Stalin was also "a power fantasy." Some Jewish writers also managed to sneak in references to moral issues, including anti-Semitism, racism and the lynchings of African-Americans in the South. "There was a clear moral- ity," he said, although he acknowledged that in those early days the comics were often "preachy and cheesy." Many of these topics were too hot for the main- stream media. "These were issues not being talked about in the pop mainstream of the time," said Kaplan. "You couldn't talk about it on the radio oron television. But you could get away with it in comics because no one was paying attention." Debra Rubin is the Mid- dlesex bureau chief at the New Jersey Jewish News, from which this article was reprinted by, permission.