Author Chronicles His Life From Childhood in Nazi Germany to Success in America

Mazel tov” is the customary exuberant response to the sound of shattering glass at the conclusion of a Jewish wedding ceremony. But for a young Fred (Fritz) Behrend, the sound of breaking glass meant anything but celebration.

The harrowing events that defined the formative years of Behrend’s life are chronicled in an engrossing book that he co-authored with Larry Hanover, Rebuilt from Broken Glass: A German Jewish Life Remade in America. In this book, we learn about the years leading up to the Holocaust as witnessed though the eyes of a young boy who led a life of innocence and privilege. But in 1938, when he was 13, the life he knew was abruptly shattered by the event known as Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass). [Read more…]

Alabama Supreme Court Judge Equates Gay Marriage & Nazi War Crimes

Alabama Supreme Court  Chief Justice Roy Moore

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore

— by Sharon Bender

In the aftermath of the landmark Supreme Court decision granting marriage equality to gay and lesbian couples, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore responded to an Al.com reporter’s question about enforcing the notable decision. He told the reporter that enforcing the Supreme Court ruling is akin to following the immoral orders of the Nazis.

It is disgraceful to use Nazi imagery to invoke a political or social view. Comparing the systemic attempt to annihilate an entire population to a peaceful Supreme Court decision minimizes the very magnitude of the Nazis’ maniacal efforts to murder Jews, gays and others across Europe and eventually, they hoped, the world.

Moore told the reporter: “Could I do this if I were in Nuremberg [at the war crimes trials after World War II], say that I was following the orders of the highest authority to kill Jews? … Could I say I was ordered to do so?”

Told by the reporter that: “killing human beings, not gay marriage,” was the focus of the Nuremberg trials, Moore reportedly asked: “Is there a difference?”

This shameful, inappropriate comparison trivializes both the unique atrocity that was the Holocaust as well as the momentous equality decision by the Supreme Court.

Sorry Tea Partiers, the IRS Is Not “Obama’s Gestapo”

Yesterday, we printed an article by David Streeter discussing a Tea Party fundraising appeal which characterizes the Internal Revenue Service as “Obama’s Gestapo.” Personally, I deplore political bias by the IRS, regardless of its direction. Nevertheless, making over-the-top comparisons to Nazis desecrates the memory of the Holocaust.

The IRS has not set out to exterminate the right-wing groups. The IRS was not threatening them with the loss to the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. The IRS was trying to determine whether their purpose was mostly political, which would make them ineligible for 501(c)4 Social Welfare Organization status.

Keep in mind that not being a 501(c)4 is not the end of the world. Even if they were judged as “too political” to form a 501(c)4, they could refile as 527 Political Action Committees. Both 501(c)4s and PACs can take unlimited contributions, so there is no difference there. The groups were not claiming to be charitable 501(c)3 groups, so there was no question of the donors getting a tax deduction for the contributions.

Neither 501(c)4s nor PACs pay taxes on the contributions they receive, so there was no question of the Tea Party groups having to pay anything regardless of their answers to these questions from the IRS.

So what is the difference between a Political Action Committee and a 501(c)4?

The basic difference is that while 501(c)4 can keep their donor list secret, PACs (but not “Super PACs”) must disclose them.

In other words, the IRS (a.k.a. “Obama’s Gestapo”) was after disclosure, not blood or money. At worst, the Tea Party groups risked having to divulge the names of their backers. This isn’t a case of persecuted groups being threatened physically or financially. This is a case of shadowy backers trying to influence the political process while keeping out of the light of day.

Focusing the IRS’s attention on a particular political group was indeed wrong, but it was a wrong on the order of an administrative screw-up, not a wrong on the order of war crimes and genocide.

After the jump, more on what went wrong and what should be done about it.
From the information available so far, it seems that the decision to focus on certain groups was made by low-level civil servants at the IRS’s Cincinnati office, not at the direction of their managers.

Scrutiny should have been universal.

At the time, there was a surge in questionable applications for 501(c)4 status. It would have been reasonable to scrutinize all 501(c)4 applications closely. However, budget cutting had already left the office without the necessary staff and resources to cope with the existing load. (This is a case of being “penny-wise and dollar-foolish.” According to a study by Citizens for Tax Justice, a dollar of increased spending on IRS enforcement results in ten dollars in increased federal revenue, due to greater compliance with tax laws.”)

Given political and economic realities, perhaps they should have audited a random sample of the 501(c)4 applications, or they should have proposed non-biased criteria and had them approved via the proper channels. It was tone-deaf and unfair to single out specific groups on partisan criteria.

Unfortunately, that is not what they did. Instead, their scrutiny fell predominantly (but not exclusively) on right-wing groups. In addition to more than 90 Tea Party groups that were examined, at least three liberal groups faced similar scrutiny. According to Bloomberg:

The Internal Revenue Service, under pressure after admitting it targeted anti-tax Tea Party groups for scrutiny in recent years, also had its eye on at least three Democratic-leaning organizations seeking nonprofit status.

One of those groups, Emerge America, saw its tax-exempt status denied, forcing it to disclose its donors and pay some taxes. None of the Republican groups have said their applications were rejected.

Progress Texas, another of the organizations, faced the same lines of questioning as the Tea Party groups from the same IRS office that issued letters to the Republican-friendly applicants. A third group, Clean Elections Texas, which supports public funding of campaigns, also received IRS inquiries.

The IRS non-profit office exercised poor judgment in its targeting, but the mistake does not appear to have been made for political purposes. If the IRS was being used politically by the White House, Mitt Romney would not have been able to keep his tax returns secret, and liberal groups would not have received the same inquiries that Tea Party groups did.

In order to avoid problems like this in the future:

  • The IRS budget should be increased so that it can examine fully all 501(c)4 applications.
  • The IRS administration needs to be hands-on and aware of what front-line employees are doing, and provide clear guidelines to direct the targeting of audits.
  • The FEC, rather than the IRS, should be given jurisdiction over the political activity of non-profit groups.
  • 501(c)4s should not be allowed to contribute to Political Action Committees. Doing so effectively turns them into front groups for these PACs allowing donors to camouflage their support for them.
  • Campaign finance law should be reformed so that no political contributions can be made anonymously.

Deport Nazi era Collaborator, says B’nai Brith Canada


— by Sam Eskenasi

B’nai Brith Canada welcomes court filing of federal order in council stripping Helmut Oberlander of his citizenship. Oberlander has been accused of complicity in Nazi-era atrocities and found guilty by the courts of lying about his war-time past when he entered this country.

Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada:

“For decades we have been adamant that Canada must not allow itself to become a safe haven for those complicit in war crimes, whether during the Nazi-era or modern-day. Removal proceedings must be commenced as soon as possible so that Oberlander’s deportation from this country will follow this latest order to strip him of his Canadian citizenship. Such proceedings should not, must not, await any further challenge of the cabinet’s decision. There are a number of other long standing files that we hope the government will bring to closure in the interest of justice.”

Pennsylvania Senate Candidate Praises Holocaust Rhetoric

(NJDC) Once again, a Republican candidate for office has condoned — and even applauded — the use of offensive Holocaust rhetoric. Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Tom Smith took the stage at the Blair County Tea Party FreedomFest 2012 where he praised a Tea Party speaker who he said spoke “eloquently”-despite the fact that he had just finished comparing President Barack Obama to Adolph Hitler.

The Huffington Post’s John Celock reported:

‘As the gentleman that was speaking before me was so eloquently saying about so many things,’ Smith said prior to giving a speech regarding Obama’s energy policies.

Smith is challenging Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and has been backed by several national Tea Party groups including the Tea Party Express.

[Preceding spekaer Phil] Waite started by discussing what he called the history of various economic and governmental policies, including those that he deemed socialist. He said the Obama administration is employing socialist policies, similar to those employed by the Communists in the Soviet Union and Fascists in Germany.

‘I will not allow a group of Marxist, Socialist law professors, left-wing extremists to annihilate my country without a fight,’ Waite said.

Waite launched into a diatribe about the Nazi Party and Hitler, saying that Obama and Hitler both wanted to centralize power and strip local governments’ authority.

‘All other parties were outlawed, all free elections were outlawed, 45 million dead people later, we ended that regime,’ Waite said. ‘Why? Because you had a slick, quick talker and someone who said ‘you don’t need to worry about responsibility, we’ll take good care of you. Just walk the party line and smile.’ And you know how that ended up.’…

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party was quick to condemn Smith and Waite.

‘The speaker’s comments were shocking, but it’s not surprising that … Tom Smith applauded the extremism of his fellow Tea Partier,’ party spokesman Mark Nicastre said in an email. ‘After all Smith is a self-proclaimed ‘Tea Party guy’, who founded his own local Tea Party. Throughout his campaign, Smith has embraced all of the extreme policies and extreme rhetoric of the Tea Party, and this is just the latest example of how out-of-touch Tom Smith is with middle-class Pennsylvanians.’

As we have said repeatedly, invoking the Holocaust to make a political point is never acceptable and the use of this type of language should be condemned by all. Period.  

Nazi References in Choice Debate Unacceptable

(NJDC) Anti-choice activists and pundits have a long and clear record of invoking the Holocaust to protest a woman’s right to choose. Lately, many of those same forces have been attacking the mandate for health insurance companies to provide no-cost contraception to women contained in the Affordable Care Act. As their rhetoric continues to get nastier, at least one member of the anti-choice side has opted to invoke the Holocaust to protest women’s access to contraception.

According to NARL Pro-Choice America’s Blog For Choice, conservative pundit Eric Metaxas invoked Nazi Germany during a debate on MSNBC’s “Jansing & Co.” Apparently:

Metaxas called contraception and women’s health “side issues”-and then likened the no-cost birth-control rule to the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s:

In [my] book, you read about what happened to an amazingly great country, called Germany. I’m half German. Uh, in the early ’30s, little things were happening where the state was bullying the churches. No one spoke up. In the beginning, it always starts really, really small. We need to understand as America, as Americans, if we do not see this as a bright line in the sand, if you’re not a Catholic, if you use contraception, doesn’t matter. Because eventually, this kind of government overreach will affect you. If we don’t speak up, we’re gonna be in trouble.

As we have said repeatedly, invoking the Holocaust to make a political point is never acceptable. Doing so devalues the significance of the Holocaust and disrespects the memories of those who perished. We demand that those seeking to restrict a woman’s right to choose — including Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum — cease using such insensitive language immediately.