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Middle East
Israeli Holocaust survivors condemn Nazi garb
At gender segregation rally, ultra-Orthodox protesters don symbols Jews were forced to wear by the Germans.
Last Modified: 01 Jan 2012 16:38
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish demonstrators look at a boy wearing a yellow Star of David inscribed with "Jude" [Reuters]

Israeli Holocaust survivors and political leaders have expressed outrage over a Jerusalem demonstration in which ultra-Orthodox Jews donned yellow Star of David patches and uniforms similar to those Nazi Germany forced Jews to wear.

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews had gathered on Saturday night to protest what they say is a nationwide campaign directed against their lifestyle, implicitly comparing the current Israeli government to the Nazis.

The practices they follow, which call for strict separation of the sexes, are rejected by mainstream Israelis as religious coercion.

Some members of the Ultra-Orthodox community have been under fire for their attempts to ban mixing of the sexes on buses, sidewalks and other public spaces.

In the city of Beit Shemesh, extremists have jeered and spit at girls walking to school, saying they are dressed immodestly.

This behavior, albeit by a fringe sect, has unleashed a backlash against the ultra-Orthodox in general.

World War II symbols

At Saturday's protest, children with traditional sidelocks wore the striped black-and-white uniforms associated with Nazi concentration camps.

One child's hands were raised in surrender - mimicking an iconic photo of a terrified Jewish boy in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial called the use of Nazi imagery "disgraceful", and several other survivors' groups and politicians condemned the acts.

Six million Jews were killed by German Nazis and their collaborators during World War II, and about 200,000 aging survivors of the Holocaust live in Israel.

The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, an umbrella organization of survivors, expressed "utter contempt at this disgraceful exploitation" of the Nazi symbols.

"We who survived and witnessed these Nazi crimes are particularly offended that demonstrators so blithely used children in this public outrage" Elan Steinberg, the organization's vice president, said in a statement.

"They have insulted the memory of all the Jewish victims, including those who were ultra-Orthodox," he said.
 
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni called on the ultra-Orthodox leadership to condemn the display.

"This is a terrible offense against the memory of the Holocaust victims who were forced, secular and Ultra-Orthodox alike, to wear the yellow star in the ghetto on their way to extermination, and there is no demonstration in the world that can justify this."

Source:
Agencies
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