This piece is adapted from Moment’s flagship newsletter, Moment Minute. Sign up here.
“Holocaust survivors are our sacred elders. We need to insist that their stories are told accurately, and are not warped or misused.”
It was shocking when Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov recently told an Italian television program that he believes Adolf Hitler had Jewish roots and suggested that Jewish people themselves may be the worst antisemites. He made these ludicrous comments after he was asked how Russia can claim to be “denazifying” Ukraine when the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish.
This convoluted and self serving thinking is a modern twist on a deeply entrenched antisemitic trope: Jews are to blame for their own misfortunes, including the Holocaust. You’ve heard it I’m sure: Jews are getting their just desserts, they are their own worst enemies, etc. This strain of antisemitism was popular with the Nazis and, sadly, is still with us today. It is most glaringly alive when it comes to George Soros, the 91-year-old Holocaust survivor who can fairly be called a focal point for many kinds of antisemitism in the world today—including this one. Since Lyndon Larouche, a vicious anti-Semite, first labeled him a Nazi collaborator in 1993, the blatant falsehood has been repeated numerous times.
Moreover, this nefarious trope about Soros doesn’t only flourish outside the Jewish community. It flourishes inside as well, even at a time when antisemitism races out of control in the world in new ways. There are those among us who so detest Soros’ philosophy and politics that they have joined the chorus of voices who call him a Nazi collaborator.
It’s time we all agree to put this lie to rest. To remember that he was a 13-year-old Jewish boy, who had recently had his bar mitzvah in Budapest, Hungary in 1944 when Hitler henchman Adolf Eichmann began organizing the deportations of the Jews to Auschwitz and other death camps. And even had he done something questionable in order to survive at the time, as many survivors were forced to under the inhumane conditions imposed on them by the Nazis, who would we be to judge?
For a deep dive into the antisemitic lie, I hope you will tune into “George Soros is a Holocaust Survivor, Not a Nazi,” a new MomentLive! program. In it, I converse with Leon Botstein, a child of Holocaust survivors who studies Jews in the 19th century Europe, and a long time friend of Soros, and Humphrey Tonkin, who met George Soros’s father Tividar and later translated his memoir: Masquerade: The Incredible True Story of How George Soros’ Father Outsmarted the Gestapo. We discuss what it was like to grow up Jewish in Hungary at the time, how Tivadar Soros saved his family, and how the lie that George Soros was a collaborator took hold and became entangled in the political polarization of the past two decades.
I feel very strongly that Holocaust survivors are our sacred elders—they are witnesses to a past we dare not forget. We need to insist that their stories are told accurately, and are not warped or misused for political reasons. We need to be very careful to separate political views from antisemitism. In this realm, it is critical that we set our politics aside.
Soros is a Jew, whose life was shaped by being Jewish and his Holocaust experience, which set him on a path to make a difference in the world in the ways he thought best. Whatever we think of his lifework, whether it is a powerful positive or a colossal mistake, and whatever we think about who and what he supports and his political views, we cannot allow him to be labeled a Nazi collaborator by anyone, anywhere. If we as a community fail to call out those who do, and allow this antisemitic trope to be promulgated, we endanger ourselves and the world. We ignore this lie at the peril of Volodymyr Zelensky and any other Jew toward whom this trope is aimed.