On Tuesday night, many in our community were gathered together, in Brooklyn, in Dayton, in Santa Barbara. Seventy-two years ago, the homes, shops, and synagogues of many of our parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents were ransacked, broken, and burned as Nazi storm troopers destroyed towns and villages across Germany and Austria. Many historians view Kristallnacht as the beginning of the Final Solution and the Holocaust.
Washington Post journalist Dana Milbank has observed that Fox News host Glenn Beck has a bit of a Nazi fetish. From Obama’s inauguration through June 2010, Beck had “202 mentions of Nazis or Nazism, according to transcripts, 147 mentions of Hitler, 193 mentions of fascism or fascist, and another 24 bonus mentions of Joseph Goebbels.”
On Nov. 11, he spoke again about the Holocaust. But it was not to commemorate Kristallnacht. It was to engage in an insidious form of Holocaust revisionism. His motivation? To score political points against George Soros, a prominent Jewish philanthropist and Holocaust survivor.
As many of you know, I was the subject of a personal attack by Beck in May of this year. Responding to an article I wrote supporting a government role to advance the common good, Beck scolded me, declaring that my words “are what led to the death camps in Germany” and that I “as a Jew, should know better.”
To discuss this and other, similar comments, on July 26, I joined rabbis Steve Gutow and David Ellenson, on behalf of 14 prominent leaders of national Jewish organizations, in a meeting with Fox News President Roger Ailes and the producer of Beck’s television show, Joel Cheatwood. We spoke for almost an hour about the concerns held by many Jews about Beck’s constant and often inappropriate invocation of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany on the air.
We were assured by Ailes and Cheatwood that they understand our concerns and would explain them to Beck. Two days later, I received a hand-written note from Beck, which stated: “Simon, Joel shared the details of your meeting yesterday. Please know that I understand the sensitivity and sacred nature of this dark chapter in Human History. Thank you for your candor and helpful thoughts.”
But on Nov. 11, Beck and the leadership of Fox News made a mockery of their professed understanding.
In his own words, “George Soros used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property and then ship them off. And George Soros was part of it. He would help confiscate the stuff. It was frightening. Here’s a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps.” (See story page 10.)
No one who truly understands “the sensitivity and sacred nature” of the Holocaust would deliberately and grotesquely mischaracterize the experience of a 13-year-old Jew in Nazi-occupied Hungary whose father hid him with a non-Jewish family to keep him alive. Many other Jews survived the attempted extermination of the Jewish people by changing their identities and hiding with Righteous Gentiles. With today’s falsehoods, Beck has engaged in a form of Holocaust revisionism.
I have had the privilege recently of getting to know Soros. During our conversations, he made it clear that his experience surviving the Holocaust seared a simple but profound truth in his brain. Jews suffer in nationalist societies and thrive in open societies. When Soros began his philanthropy, it was driven by this insight. It’s why he named his foundation the Open Society Institute. This year alone, he has donated $700 million in an effort to make the world safe for all outsiders, to protect the weak from being preyed on by the powerful. It is what motivated one of his sons to pursue a Ph.D. in Jewish Studies, with a focus on Modern European Jewish history.
Yet according to Beck, Soros “is a collaborator” who “saw people into the gas chambers.” So what’s the truth? It’s no secret. Here is the account provided by Michael T. Kaufman in his 2002 biography, Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire:
“This is what actually happened. Shortly after George went to live with Baumbach [the Righteous Gentile hiding Soros], the man was assigned to take inventory on the vast estate of Mor Kornfeld, an extremely wealthy aristocrat of Jewish origin. The Kornfeld family had the wealth, wisdom and connections to be able to leave some of its belongings behind in exchange for permission to make their way to Lisbon. Baumbach was ordered to go to the Kornfeld estate and inventory the artworks, furnishings, and other property. Rather than leave his “godson” [Soros] behind in Budapest for three days, he took the boy with him. As Baumbach itemized the material, George walked around the grounds and spent time with Kornfeld’s staff. It was his first visit to such a mansion, and the first time he rode a horse. He collaborated with no one and he paid attention to what he understood to be his primary responsibility: making sure that no one doubted that he was Sandor Kiss. Among his practical concerns was to make sure that no one saw him pee.”
Of all the new Tea Party leaders, Beck is one of the most vitriolic, and — with more than 800 hours of on-air time a year — the most visible. His portrayal of Soros today as the “Puppet Master,” as the special was called, evokes anti-Semitic stereotypes from the “devaluer of many currencies” to “advocate for one world government” from “anti-American” to “thinks he’s smarter than the rest of us.”
Beck’s words have consequences. They advance a worldview that ultimately places Jews like Soros in the crosshairs, not unlike what we saw with Father Coughlin in the 1930s or the John Birch Society in the 1950s. Byron Williams, a Beck acolyte who recently engaged in a shoot-out with police on his way to kill “people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU,” shares his hero’s hatred of Soros and other “progressives.”
Given the more than 40 percent of Jews self-identify as liberal, this hatred targets us.
(Simon Greer is president and CEO of Jewish Funds for Justice.)