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US envoy condemns ‘unreasonable’ anti-Semitism by Lufthansa in preventing Jews from fleeing

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration’s new special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism blames Lufthansa for “classic anti-Semitism” after news that the German airline was barring a large group of Orthodox Jews from boarding a plane after a few did not wear masks.

Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, a famous Holocaust historian who was sworn in as a special envoy in March, told NBC News that her State Department office was “extremely concerned” and was in contact with the German government about the May 4 incident, which involved US citizens. .

“Unbelievable,” Lipstadt said of the incident in her first television interview since taking office. “[When] First I heard it, I said, “Oh, that must be wrong. Someone must have misreported this. And then of course, it turned out to be absolutely true – and worse than we thought.”

The aforementioned incident occurred at Frankfurt Airport, after a flight from New York in which the airline said that a “limited” number of passengers refused to wear masks. When passengers attempted to board a connecting flight to Hungary, Lufthansa staff allegedly prevented all Jewish passengers from boarding the plane – including many who did not violate the mask policy and were not even part of the same group.

Lufthansa, Germany’s largest airline, has apologized for the incident, saying the airline “has zero tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination of any kind”.

If any airline had done this, it would have been outrageous. “But the shocking and appalling irony that comes from the German national airline was outrageous,” Lipstadt said.

German media reported that staff refused to board any passengers on the flight to Hungary that they identified as Jews because they were wearing skull caps or had side socks. A video of the incident showed Lufthansa employees telling passengers that “everyone has to pay for each other’s mistakes”, then identifying “everyone” as “a Jew from JFK”.

Lipstadt, who has published books on modern anti-Semitism, described it as a case of “classical prejudice” in which an entire ethnic, religious or cultural group is blamed for the actions of a few.

“A black teen gets in trouble. Instead of saying a teen gets in trouble, you say, ‘Well, that’s how blacks are.'” A Jew does something? “That’s how Jews are,” said Lipstadt. And you claim that this is the whole group.”

In the interview, Lipstadt also drew direct comparisons between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, in the Biden administration’s strongest comments to date reprimanding Putin for invoking Nazism to justify his invasion of Ukraine.

She accused Putin of using “accurate Nazi language” in remarks he made on the occasion of Victory Day and the 77th anniversary of Germany’s defeat.

“I was stunned, I was just overwhelmed by the degree of slanders, distortions, lies and use of World War II and the suffering that was part of World War II and especially the Holocaust in that region, to justify this war, to justify the invasion of a neighboring country,” Lipstadt said. “

Putin insisted that his invasion of Ukraine, not a war, was a “special military invasion” aimed at “discrediting” Ukraine, even though the country’s leader, President Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently sparked global outrage for rejecting this fact by claiming without foundation that Hitler himself was of Jewish ancestry.

Putin later apologized to Israel, which called the comments an “unforgivable” attempt to blame Jews for the genocide they committed during the Holocaust.

“It’s a form of Holocaust denial,” Lipstadt said. “They turn the victim into a perpetrator.”

Describing Putin as an international bully who will keep pushing until he is stopped, Lipstadt said the Holocaust provided lessons for Russia’s current war: that the world cannot afford to wait for concentration camps and genocides to take action.

“The Nazis didn’t start with the genocide. They didn’t plan the gas chambers, but it’s step by step. How much can I get rid of? What will the world accept? How much can I pay?” said Lipstadt. “And I think we saw the same thing here.”

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