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Novel based on Jew ‘catcher’ Stella Kübler stirs controversy

It tells the fictionalized true story of a woman who gave up her fellow Jews to the Nazis. Critics have condemned the novel Stella by Takis Würger, published this week in Germany, as "Holocaust kitsch." "We have a new literature debate," wrote Hannah Lühmann of the Die Welt newspaper when reflecting on the bombshell publication of Stella, a novel by journalist, author and war correspondent Takis Würger. Published by the prestigious Hanser Verlag on January 11, Stella fictionalizes the true story of Jewess Stella Kübler (née Goldschlag), who as a so-called "catcher" betrayed other Jews gone underground to the Gestapo. 'Nazi story for dummies?' Würger's second novel was inspired by the award-winning journalist's fascination for the subject. But while it's too early to judge the success of this study of a character who is already a book subject — for example, Peter Wyden's Stella: One Woman's True Tale of Evil, Betrayal, and Survival in Hitler's Germany — the vehement response to the novel by German critics has been striking. The Süddeutsche Zeitung reviewer wrote on January 11 that Stella is "an outrage, an insult and a real offense." Moreover, the work was described as "the symbol of an industry that seems to have lost any ethical or aesthetic scale if it wants to sell such a book as a valuable contribution to the memory of the Shoah." The critic further accused the author of having written the novel "without any awareness of the problem of literature, literacy and history." A reviewer for Die Zeit was equally scathing. "An abomination in children's book style: Takis Würger writes in Stella about a Jewish woman who becomes an accomplice in the Nazi era. It's a novel full of narrative clichés." Public radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk described it as "Holocaust kitsch" and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung asked: "Why this Nazi story for dummies?" Publishers weigh in Florian Kessler, cultural journalist and editor at Hanser Verlag, deflected the criticism on social media. In a detailed Facebook post, he responded, among other things, to the allegation by the Süddeutsche Zeitung that the novel would instrumentalize the Holocaust. "One can only answer: this discussion … rightly pervades the literature since '45," he wrote of a debate that has raged around so-called Holocaust literature in the postwar period. Kessler noted that Bernhard Schlink's novel The Reader, which became a hit Hollywood film, was also accused in the 1990s of mixing clichés and Holocaust instrumentalization. Shortly thereafter, he read the book at school in class.\ "We also talked about such allegations against it, and through the book's ambivalences and problems, we had very important and formative discussions about the Nazi period in my entire school years," he wrote. Read more: Holocaust satirist Elgar Hilsenrath dies at 92 Let the public decide Hannah Lühman of Die Welt was also surprised by the ferocity of the critical slating. But while she defended the novel as a whole, she added that many questions of course remain regarding, for example, "the choice of historical material; this extreme story of a Jewish woman who has betrayed hundreds of Jews to the Gestapo; what fantasies it may satisfy among non-Jewish Germans reading it." But she refused, according to Lühmann in his Facebook post, "to join in this scandal." It remains to be seen how the reading public will respond to Stella. Interest has been high in Germany, with the book launch and author reading in Hamburg on Monday sold out weeks in advance. And the novel has already garnered international attention: So far, nine foreign licenses have been sold, with the book set to be published in English, French, Spanish and Chinese, among others.

It tells the fictionalized true story of a woman who gave up her fellow Jews to the Nazis. Critics have condemned the novel Stella by Takis Würger, published this week in Germany, as “Holocaust kitsch.” “We have a new literature debate,” wrote Hannah Lühmann of the Die Welt newspaper when reflecting on the bombshell publication of Stella, a novel by ... Read More »

Brexit: Jewish families in UK who fled Nazis seek German passports

As Brexit approaches, figures show that Germans who made Britain their home are increasingly applying for repatriation. The majority are the families of those who fled because they were persecuted by the Nazi regime. An increasing number of people living in the UK have applied for repatriation to Germany since the June 2016 referendum result for Britain to leave the EU, according to government figures. Individuals who were persecuted by the Nazis and their descendants made up the majority of those applying, a report on Friday said. Of the 3,731 applications since 2016, 3,408 referred to the German Constitution's Article 116. Under the article, former German citizens who were deprived of citizenship on "political, racial, or religious grounds" — and their descendants — are entitled to have citizenship restored. Read more: Will Brits say 'au revoir' to French dream post-Brexit? Tens of thousands of Jews fled Germany for the UK before and during World War II. They included some 10,000 children who were evacuated as part of the so-called "Kindertransport” between December 1938 and August 1939, most of whom never saw their families again. Sharp rise in applications The increase in those applying for repatriation increased significantly after the UK's Brexit referendum, according to figures published by the Funke Mediengruppe newspaper group. In 2015, there were only 59 applications, while in 2016 — the year the UK Brexit vote took place in June — there were 760. In 2017, 1,824 applied, and 1,147 applied in the first eight months of 2018. The Funke Mediengruppe figures were obtained in response to a parliamentary question from Germany's pro-business Free Democrats (FDP). Read more: Germany preparing for no deal on Brexit, says Merkel Aside from Jews, many other groups fled Germany and the Nazi regime, including members of the Roma community, homosexuals and political opponents. 'Not surprising' According to FDP interior affairs spokesman Konstantin Kuhle, the development showed that many UK citizens were keen to retain "the benefits of European citizenship" within the EU. "This is not surprising given the British government's chaotic Brexit negotiation line," Kuhle said, adding that the EU should not forget "that many people in the UK feel close to the EU." Read more: Plotting Conservatives reject Theresa May's Brexit plan The 2016 referendum, called by then Prime Minister David Cameron, ended with 52 percent voting in favor of Brexit, and 48 percent against. The number of Britons living in Germany who seek German citizenship has also increased significantly since June 2016.

As Brexit approaches, figures show that Germans who made Britain their home are increasingly applying for repatriation. The majority are the families of those who fled because they were persecuted by the Nazi regime. An increasing number of people living in the UK have applied for repatriation to Germany since the June 2016 referendum result for Britain to leave the ... Read More »

British teens released after pleading guilty to Auschwitz theft

Two British teenagers arrested on suspicion of stealing artifacts from Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland have been released. The school pupils were reportedly fined 1000 Zloty (240 euros) after pleading guilty. According to a spokesperson for The Perse School in Cambridge where the two boys attended, the pupils also received a one year probation, suspended for three years, before they were released by Polish authorities on Tuesday. "They are deeply sorry for the offence they have caused," the spokesperson said, with headmaster, Ed Elliott, also promising a "full and thorough investigation." "I want to hear directly from the boys as to what led them to take these items. The opportunity to be able to visit Holocaust sites carries with it the duty to treat those sites with the utmost respect and sensitivity," Elliot said. Suspicious behavior The two 17-year-olds were on a school field trip to Auschwitz when were detained by guards on Monday. Staff noticed the boys acting suspiciously near a building where Nazi guards had kept prisoners' confiscated belongings. When they were later searched, the students were found to be hiding buttons, fragments of glass and parts of a razor. Regional police spokesman Mariusz Ciarka said the pair could have received up to 10 years in prison for stealing objects of historical value. Recurring artifact thefts Tuesday's theft was not the first occasion that someone had tried to smuggle out a piece of the former Nazi death camp. In 2009 several people removed the famous "Arbeit Macht Frei," or "Work will set you free" sign from the gates at the camp's entrance, with the ringleader of the theft eventually being sentenced to more than two years in prison. As a result the sign now on display is a replica. More than a million people visit the site each year, where 1.1 million people including Jews, Roma, homosexuals and resistance fighters died between 1941 and 1945. It was the largest camp established by the Nazis during the Second World War. January 27 of this year marked the 70th anniversary of the camp's liberation by Allied Forces.

Two British teenagers arrested on suspicion of stealing artifacts from Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland have been released. The school pupils were reportedly fined 1000 Zloty (240 euros) after pleading guilty. According to a spokesperson for The Perse School in Cambridge where the two boys attended, the pupils also received a one year probation, suspended for three years, before they ... Read More »

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