The Nazi edition (and other stuff, too)

At last, the story can be told…

In the mid-1930s, in a search for the perfect Aryan baby, the Nazis told 10 top photographers to each submit the 10 best baby photos they had taken. The winning image - promoted far and wide as the face of the ideal child - became the cover of the Nazi magazine heralding German family life and values. The photo later showed up on postcards, a birthday card, and hung on the wall of many a German home.

Now, some 80 years later, the truth behind the picture of the perfect Aryan baby has been revealed: She was Jewish.

Hessy Levinsons was six months old when her mother, Pauline, had Hessy's picture taken by a Berlin photographer. It wasn't until months later that the Levinsonses discovered the photo on the magazine's cover. Terrified of the possible consequences if the Nazis discovered the child was Jewish, her mother raced to the photographer, Hans Ballin, to find out how it had happened.

As related by The Telegraph, "He told her he knew the family was Jewish, and had deliberately submitted the photograph to a contest to find the most beautiful Aryan baby.

'I wanted to make the Nazis ridiculous,' the photographer told her.

He succeeded: the picture won the contest, and was believed to have been chosen personally by the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels."

Hessy - now Prof. Hessy Levinsons Taft - recently gave the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel her copy of the magazine cover, and recorded her family's story. "I can laugh about it now," she told Germany's Bild newspaper. "But if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn't be alive."

Very mixed messages

Some 100,000 Jews fought valiantly for Germany during World War I. Two decades later, 10,000 of them received service medals - up to and including the distinguished Cross of Honor - issued in the name of Adolf Hitler.

Haaretz, in a story reprinted in The Forward, profiled a few of the recipients, at least one of whom - despite having fled to Palestine as the Nazis rose to power - received his honor at the German consulate in Jerusalem. The medals were presented during a period when many of the men getting them had been stripped of their jobs because they were Jewish.

"The fact that Nazi Germany awarded Jewish fighters medals in the name of the Fuehrer and the Reich, shortly before the Jews were stripped of their civil rights and were incarcerated, deported and finally annihilated, is an almost incomprehensible absurdity," said Devorah Haberfeld, director of the Association of Israelis of Central European Origin.

Much to the disillusionment of some, the article notes, the medals did nothing to insulate the recipients from the full fury that was to come.

Inappropriate, or what? Part I

And then there were these other Holocaust-related photos…

Teens - most notably, Israelis on school trips to Poland - were posting "selfies" all over social media, photos they took of themselves at Auschwitz, Treblinka and other notorious concentration camps. Some struck poses or camped it up as they stood beneath the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign or walked along the train tracks.

A woman, who told the The New Yorker she found the trend troubling, began posting the selfies on a Facebook page the  magazine loosely translated as "With My Besties in Auschwitz." Initially, the page, complete with the woman's sarcastic comments, drew more than 12,000 likes. Then an outraged backlash arose, and she shut it down.

The New Yorker article noted that the concentration camp selfies follow in the wake of a popular blog on Tumblr, "Selfies at Funerals."

HuffPost Live decided to probe deeper, hosting a panel discussion "to dissect the selfies-at-inappropriate-places phenomenon."

Inappropriate, or what? Part II

A few weeks ago, Heeb Magazine reported, you could go to and purchase a 36"x12" black & white poster of that "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign - in this case, the one at Dachau. Actually, it was being offered by an outside print company that sells through Walmart's marketplace.

Within days of a customer asking why such an item was offered, however, the poster vanished from the site. "We were horrified to see that this item was on our site," a Walmart statement declared. "We sincerely apologize, and worked quickly to remove it."

Grenada. Granada. Potato. Potata. Let's call the whole thing … oops!

Or maybe I should call this one, "What a Difference an 'A' Makes."

OK, enough with the battered song lyrics, because the American dentist on a recent British Airways flight was singing a very different tune … and it definitely wasn't, "Happy." (Oh-oh. There, I did it again.)

Anyway, it wasn't until long after he and his traveling companion settled into the BA flight he booked from London to Granada - the ancient Spanish city with a long, rich Jewish history - that he discovered they actually were on their way to Grenada, that tiny island in the Caribbean, about nine hours in the other direction.

Granada, the place in Spain, was supposed to be a stopover on Edward Gamson's journey to a conference in Portugal. Now, Tablet magazine reports, he's suing the airline for the ticketing mix-up - to the tune of $34,000.

"I made it absolutely clear to the booking agent I wanted to go to Granada in Spain," the Jewish passenger told Britain's The Independent. "Why on earth would I want to go to Grenada in the Caribbean if I was flying back to America from Lisbon?"

If the shoe fits…

The owner of a shoe store chain in Israel was at a loss - literally and figuratively: Why in the world would someone repeatedly steal one pricy lady's shoe out of the display window in his branches throughout the country?

The odd shoe perpetrator wasn't an amputee. Nor Cinderella for that matter…

Putting two and two together, the businessman realized in every case the left shoe had been taken from one store, and the right matching shoe had disappeared from another branch in the area - dozens of pairs of shoes gone missing in the course of three months.

A detective planted a miniature GPS tracer in the heel of a hot flashy platform-heeled shoe as bait and sat down to wait. Sure enough, within days the "trap was tripped" and the GPS signal led the detective to an Arab village adjacent to Karmiel where the private eye cornered the odd shoplifter with the goods, and called in the cops.


Reflections from your editor, Cindy Sher, on people living their Jewish lives each day. ... Read More

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