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August 5, 2016 2:52 am

The New York Times’ Post-Holocaust Holocaust Obsession Comes at a Price

avatar by Ira Stoll

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The front page of The New York Times of 11 November 1938. Photo: Wikipedia.

The front page of The New York Times of 11 November 1938. Photo: Wikipedia.

The New York Times is struggling to this day to try to make up for what its executive editor, Max Frankel, called its “staggering, staining failure” in failing to cover prominently, at the time, Hitler’s war against the Jews.

In recent weeks, in the Times’ pages, this public atonement has taken the form of a 1,300-word dispatch from Amsterdam headlined, “Beyond Anne Frank: The Dutch Tell Their Full Holocaust Story.” It’s taken the form of a 1,400-word story about how a Manhattan museum co-founded by Ronald Lauder deals with artwork that may have changed hands during or just before World War II. Then there was the 900-word dispatch from Berlin: “Saving a Relic of Jewish Life in Germany,” about a house owned by a family that “fled Nazi Germany in 1935.” A 1,100-word Times dispatch from Munich reported on a documentary film about a woman, now 105, who served as secretary to the Nazi official Joseph Goebbels.

None of these stories, in and of themselves, is particularly objectionable. But neither is the Times’ retrospective dwelling on the Holocaust without its own costs. The Times invests its scarce and limited column-inches, reportorial time, and editorial energy into covering the Holocaust. That is a tale that is now nearly three-quarters of a century old, is not controversial in any respectable quarter, and involves Jews playing the popular (among non-Jews, at least) role of victims. But in the meantime, today’s Jews, and the war against them, are covered by the Times erratically, without the attentiveness that the Times devotes to its post-Holocaust Holocaust coverage

Consider just a few of the Jewish-related stories that the Times skipped, chose not to cover or missed during the period that the newspaper was busy dutifully and comprehensively attempting to chase down the aftermath of World War II in Amsterdam, Berlin and Munich:

  • Princeton University Press published a lovely little book by Hillel Halkin titled After One-Hundred-and-Twenty: Reflecting on Death, Mourning, and the Afterlife in the Jewish Tradition. The New York Times hasn’t mentioned it once. Not a Sunday review, not a daily review, not an interview with the author. Nothing.
  • An Associated Press reporter in Europe, George Jahn, dug up a confidential document that was part of the Iran nuclear deal and that outlines Iran’s “plans to expand its uranium enrichment program.” Not a word about that in the New York Times, either, as far as I can tell.
  • Louis Orwasher, the patriarch of the Manhattan bakery that bore his name, died at age 100. Mr. Orwasher was mentioned in some paid death notices, but the Times hasn’t bothered to print an obituary of him, despite the fact that he and his bakery were featured in the newspaper itself while he was alive in coverage by such legendary Times big-foot writers as Molly O’Neill and R.W. Apple Jr.
  • A prominent professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, Hasia Diner, caused an uproar by publicly denouncing Israel and Zionism. Again, not a word in the Times, even though NYU is in New York, ostensibly the Times’ home turf.
  • A former Bush administration official, Elliott Abrams, who blogs for the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations, reports, citing Haaretz and Reuters, that the Syrian regime is using chlorine gas and sarin as weapons there, disproving Secretary of State Kerry’s boasts that Syria had been disarmed. Once again, no mention whatsoever of this in the New York Times, as far as I can tell. Not news that, as the Times might say, is “fit to print.”

Maybe it’s not a zero-sum game. But speaking as one Jewish New York Times reader, I’d be happy to trade off a little less coverage of the Holocaust for a little more coverage of today’s Jewish culture and the threats it faces.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.  

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