No sooner had the Obama 2012 campaign put the finishing touches on a cartoon extolling the virtues of government dependency, featuring an imaginary girl named after the doomed female lead of George Orwell’s 1984, then the White House issued a press release praising a Nazi sympathizer as part of Jewish American Heritage Month.
The presidential proclamation commemorates “the enduring legacy of Jewish Americans,” and links to a website called JewishHeritageMonth.gov. It has since been edited, but the original version of President Obama’s proclamation added, “Their history of unbroken perseverance and their belief in tomorrow’s promise offers a lesson not only to Jewish Americans, but to all Americans. From Aaron Copland to Albert Einstein, Gertrude Stein to Justice Louis Brandeis.”
As it happens, the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art is currently featuring Stein’s famed art collection, which survived the Nazi occupation of France for a very good reason: she was a “major collaborator with the Vichy regime and a supporter of its pro-Nazi leadership,” as prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz put it.
“Stein’s closest friend,” Dershowitz continued, “and a man who greatly influenced her turn toward fascism was Bernard Fay, who the Vichy government put in charge of hunting down Masons, Jews and other perceived enemies of the State. Fay was more than a mere collaborator as suggested by the Met exhibit. He was a full blown Nazi operative, responsible for the deaths of many people. After the war, when the horrendous results were known to all, Gertrude wrote in support of Fay when he was placed on trial for his Nazi war crimes.”
Joining Dershowitz in criticism of the Met for whitewashing Stein’s Vichy past from their exhibit, Alexander Narzaryan at the New York Daily News reminds us that Stein nominated Adolf Hitler for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1938. And she wasn’t tepid about it. Stein told the New York Times in 1934, “I say that Hitler ought to have the peace prize, because he is removing all the elements of contest and of struggle from Germany. By driving out the Jews and the democratic and Left element, he is driving out everything that conduces to activity. That means peace … By suppressing Jews … he was ending struggle in Germany.”
It should be noted that according to the Nobel foundation, Hitler’s nomination was intended as “a satiric criticism of the current political debate in Sweden” when it finally came before the committee, and “was swiftly withdrawn in a letter dated 1 February 1939.”
Following “several days of outcry,” the Met finally agreed to add a little context to its exhibit of Stein’s art collection, telling Narzaryan that “questions about her political views were entirely fair, and visitors should be made aware of them.”
The Algemeiner website quickly followed up on the Obama proclamation honoring Stein, and was told by the White House that “a version of this proclamation was sent out in error. The corrected final version has not been issued.”
At the time of that writing, the old Stein-infused version was still posted at the White House website, but it has since been replaced by a new version that omits all of the individual names – a tough break for fans of Aaron Copland, Albert Einstein, and Justice Louis Brandeis.
How in the world did this happen? What else is the White House “sending out in error?” Wasn’t this supposed to be the smartest, best-educated Administration in history?
Update: A further thought: why did they pull Copland, Einstein, and Brandeis out of the press release? They really couldn’t think of anyone to take Gertrude Stein’s place?
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