(JTA) — A prominent member of Munich’s Jewish community filed antisemitic harassment charges against two right-wing demonstrators attending a protest of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on the anniversary of Kristallnacht.
Marian Offman, former deputy chair of the Jewish community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, clashed verbally with the demonstrators at the anti-government rally in the Bavarian state capital. Offman challenged the protesters for comparing pandemic restrictions to the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust, and police eventually intervened.
He filed the charges Nov. 9, while the unnamed demonstrators, including a representative of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, of AfD, also filed charges against Offman. Offman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he had cursed them out after challenging them on antisemitic posters and statements.
Police at the scene led Mr. Offman away “like a criminal,” he said in a telephone interview from Munich.
The incident occurred on the 84th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom against Jews and their property that foreshadowed genocide. Some 350 adherents of the German Querdenker (“contrarian”) movement had chosen the anniversary to protest against government pandemic restrictions and against the imprisonment of pandemic deniers and proponents of conspiracy theories.
The use of Holocaust imagery to protest coronavirus protocols and other public health measures became frequent in Germany during the pandemic, testing the country’s strict laws against trivializing or minimizing the Holocaust. In June 2020, Munich made it illegal to trivialize the Holocaust at such demonstrations, after several cases in which people wore yellow stars printed with the word “unvaccinated,” or held posters comparing themselves with Anne Frank.
Offman, 74, who served as a member of the Munich city council until 2020, had been attending a counter demonstration of about 300 people on Max-Joseph-Platz, a large square in the city center, when he saw an anti-vax demonstrator “holding a poster with a Jewish star on it, which is forbidden,” he told JTA.
“I said to the police, ‘That is forbidden,’ and they took the poster,” said Offman, who then saw a woman holding a similar sign. “I asked her if she thought it is ok to have a demonstration like this of all days on the ninth of November,” the anniversary of Kristallnacht.
She countered, inaccurately, that it was also the anniversary of a failed attempt on the life of Adolf Hitler by George Elser, which took place on Nov. 8, 1939. “I said I was sorry that they had not killed Hitler, and if I had had the chance, I would have done it, given the fact that part of my family was wiped out by the Nazis. Then she asked me: ‘Where is your humanity?’ I was so surprised, but I said nothing. Then she said, ‘People like you can get away with anything, you are above the law.’ It was blatant antisemitism.”
A man — later identified as a politician from the AfD — then asked Offman if he would separate people according to whether they wore masks and had been vaccinated. Offman said that, as a property manager, he attended meetings in which vaccine protocols were enforced by mutual consent.
“The man said, ‘Oh, so you are also selecting people,’” referring to the Nazis’ selections of people for extermination at death camps.
Offman said this infuriated him: “On one hand they say they are being treated like Jews, and on the other side they trivialize the Holocaust,” he said. “I got very angry, called him an asshole, and said ‘I’ll take you to court because of this.’”
Offman also objected when police escorted him from the scene, taking him by both arms. “I said, ‘Please stop it, I will go with you.’ But they treated me like a criminal.”
Police spokesperson Sven Müller told JTA that all three individuals “were brought to a processing station of the criminal police at the edge of the demonstration, where the charges were registered; after 20-30 minutes all were then released.”
Offman was also dissatisfied after a follow-up meeting held Monday with Munich’s police chief and deputy police chief, the antisemitism officer of the Bavarian judiciary and Offman’s attorney.
“They agreed that what the police had done was not good. But when I asked them if they would like to tell this to the press, they said ‘No we will not,’” Offman said.
In a statement after the incident, police spokesperson Andreas Franken blamed “a group of young police officers” from various units who did not know who Offman was. “I can understand that a citizen of the Jewish faith feels emotionally burdened in such a situation with the context of the meeting and the special date,” Franken said.
Offman said he did not plan to file charges against the police officers, who were “just following orders” when they hustled him off. He described the incident as painful, both physically and psychologically, heightening his feeling that he did not want to live in Germany anymore. But he told JTA it was too late for him to start a new life elsewhere. Instead, he will continue to attend counter demonstrations against the far-right, he said.
Meanwhile, according to the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the organizer of the right-wing demonstration, attorney Markus Haintz, ended the event early after speaking with an unnamed “gentleman of Jewish origin” who apparently convinced him that the rally should not have been held on the Kristallnacht anniversary.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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