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Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

“When Pawel looks into the mirror, he can still sometimes see a neo-Nazi skinhead staring back, the man he was before he covered his shaved head with a skullcap, traded his fascist ideology for the Torah and renounced violence and hatred in favor of God.

“‘I still struggle every day to discard my past ideas,’ said Pawel, a 33-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jew and former truck driver, noting with little irony that he had to stop hating Jews in order to become one. ‘When I look at an old picture of myself as a skinhead, I feel ashamed. Every day I try and do teshuvah,’ he said, using the Hebrew word for repentance. ‘Every minute of every day. There is a lot to make up for.’

“Pawel, who also uses his Hebrew name Pinchas, asked that his last name not be used for fear that his old neo-Nazi friends could harm him or his family.

“Twenty years after the fall of Communism, Pawel is perhaps the most unlikely example of the Jewish revival under way in Poland, of a moment in which Jewish leaders here say the country is finally showing solid signs of shedding the rabid anti-Semitism of the past.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

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Eric Rohmer, the French critic and filmmaker who was one of the founding figures of the internationally influential movement that became known as the French New Wave, and the director of more than 50 films for theaters and television, including the Oscar-nominated ‘My Night at Maud’s‘ (1969), died on Monday. He was 89. . . .

“Aesthetically, Mr. Rohmer was perhaps the most conservative member of the group of aggressive young critics who purveyed their writings for publications like Arts and Les Cahiers du Cinéma into careers as filmmakers beginning in the late 1950s. A former novelist and teacher of French and German literature, Mr. Rohmer emphasized the spoken and written word in his films at a time when tastes — thanks in no small part to his own pioneering writing on Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks — had begun to shift from literary adaptations to genre films grounded in strong visual styles.

“His most famous film in America remains ‘My Night at Maud’s,’ a 1969 black-and-white feature set in the grim industrial city of Clermont-Ferrand. It tells the story of a shy, young engineer . . . who passes a snow-bound evening in the home of an attractive, free-thinking divorcée.” (more @ NY Times)

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“The Polish police said Friday that the iron sign over the gate to the Auschwitz memorial with the infamous phrase ‘arbeit macht frei’ — ‘work sets you free’ — has been stolen.

“Katarzyna Padlo, a police spokeswoman, said the police believe it was taken between 3:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. Friday.

“Ms. Padlo, who was quoted by The Associated Press, said the sign over the main entrance to Auschwitz, the former Nazi death camp in southern Poland, near Krakow, was removed by being unscrewed on one side and pulled off on the other. She said the authorities immediately launched an intensive search.

“The sign was erected soon after Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi extermination camp, was built in May 1940, and more than a million people died during the four-and-a-half years of Auschwitz’s existence. The victims were mainly Jewish men, women and children but included Polish political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma families, gay men and lesbians, people with disabilities and prisoners of conscience.

“The camp was liberated by the Red Army on Jan. 27, 1945.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

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“A woman who was given an anti-social behaviour order banning her from making loud noises during sex has admitted breaching the order.

“Caroline and Steve Cartwright’s love-making was described as ‘murder’ and ‘unnatural’ at Newcastle Crown Court.

“Neighbours, the local postman and a woman taking her child to school complained about the noise.

“Cartwright, 48, from Washington on Wearside, pleaded guilty to three counts of breaching the Asbo. . . .

“At an earlier hearing, next door neighbour Rachel O’Connor told the court she was frequently late for work because she overslept having been awake most of the night because of the noise.” (cont’d @ BBC News)

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“It was a revolution that began with a lie.

Vaclav Havel, the dissident leader who spearheaded the Velvet Revolution that overthrew communism in Czechoslovakia and kicked off twenty years ago on November 17, 1989, once declared that ‘truth and love must triumph over lies and hatred.’ Yet the revolution — its name a reference to the clenched fist in the velvet glove — was sparked by a false rumor that to this day remains a mystery.

“On Tuesday, thousands of Czechs are expected to march through the streets here, to the sound of wailing sirens and the growls of police dogs, eerily replicating a non-violent student march, 20 years ago, in which police rounded on demonstrators and rumors spread that a 19 year-old mathematics students named Martin Smid had been brutally killed. Scores had indeed been violently beaten. But no one, in fact, had died.

“Jan Urban, a dissident leader and journalist who helped to disseminate the lie, recalled in an interview that news of the alleged death had spread quickly, helping to wake a nation out of its collective apathy and lighting the spark — eight days after the fall of the Berlin Wall — for the peaceful rebellion that culminated in the regime’s demise.” (cont’d @ NY  Times)

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old-books-300x205“Old books smell like grass, with a tang of acidity and a hint of vanilla, according to scientists who have discovered a way to tell the condition of an [sic] works by their odour.

“The system can measure the degradation of old books and historical documents on the basis of their aroma.

“Now the scientists say their non-destructive ‘sniff’ test could help libraries and museums preserve a range of prized objects, some of which are degrading rapidly due to advancing age.

“Matija Strlic, a chemist at University College London, and lead author of the study, and her team note that the well-known musty smell of an old book, as readers leaf through the pages, is the result of hundreds of so-called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released into the air from the paper. . . .

“Conventional methods for analysing library and archival materials involve removing samples of the document and then testing them with traditional laboratory equipment. But the new approach involves no damage to the document.

“The new technique analyses the gases emitted by old books and documents without altering the documents themselves.” (more @ The Telegraph UK, via Melville House)

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WhoIsAJew“The questions before the judges in Courtroom No. 1 of Britain’s Supreme Court were as ancient and as complex as Judaism itself.

“Who is a Jew? And who gets to decide?

“On the surface, the court was considering a straightforward challenge to the admissions policy of a Jewish high school in London. But the case, in which arguments concluded Oct. 30, has potential repercussions for thousands of other parochial schools across Britain. And in addressing issues at the heart of Jewish identity, it has exposed bitter divisions in Britain’s community of 300,000 or so Jews, pitting members of various Jewish denominations against one another. . . .

“The case began when a 12-year-old boy, an observant Jew whose father is Jewish and whose mother is a Jewish convert, applied to the school, JFS. Founded in 1732 as the Jews’ Free School, it is a centerpiece of North London’s Jewish community. It has around 1,900 students, but it gets far more applicants than it accepts. . . .

“By many standards, the JFS applicant, identified in court papers as ‘M,’ is Jewish. But not in the eyes of the school, which defines Judaism under the Orthodox definition set out by Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. Because M’s mother converted in a progressive, not an Orthodox, synagogue, the school said, she was not a Jew — nor was her son. It turned down his application.

“That would have been the end of it. But M’s family sued, saying that the school had discriminated against him. They lost, but the ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeal this summer.” (more @ NY Times)

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