Art Review: Walk Through This Exhibition With Dread. You Know Where It Leads.

A showcase of portraits also mingles paintings by artists deemed “degenerate” with those by artists in line with the new regime. Stylistically, the two can be hard to distinguish. A 1929 portrait of a printer by Dix, whose art would be purged from German museums, sits uncomfortably close to a society portrait by Herbert von Reyl-Hanisch, who would go on to paint idealized Aryans to promote the 1936 Olympics. Photographic portraits by August Sander from his epochal series “People of the Twentieth Century” include both Nazis in uniform and Jewish men and woman preparing to leave the country. (Also on view are Sander’s images of those he called “the last people”: disabled men and children whom the Nazis would soon deem unfit to live.)

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“Portrait of Johann Edwin Wolfensberger” (1929), by Otto Dix, whose art would later be purged from German museums. Credit 2018 Otto Dix/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York — VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, via Neue Galerie New York and Private Collection

Such was the reality of German and Austrian art, and German and Austrian society, in the initial years of Nazi rule: the awkward coexistence of fascists, democrats and Communists, who heard the rhetoric, who witnessed the hatred, but who still could not see how much horror lay ahead. One of the high points of “Before the Fall” is a suite of woodcuts by Wilhelm Traeger, whose street scenes of Vienna in 1932 seem like an X-ray of a society on the edge. In these thickly inked, brashly contoured prints, made when Traeger was just 25, a hunchback shuffles past a brick wall plastered with a call to “Vote Red,” while a skeletal veteran on crutches begs for change as women in furs strut past. Newspaper salesmen, taxi drivers, chain smokers in the coffee house: All are living on the brink.

Was it even possible for painters who opposed the Nazis, but who did not follow Beckmann and other “degenerate” artists into exile or dissidence, to make meaningful art in Germany in the late 1930s? “Before the Fall” answers this question equivocally — but it comes closest with the art of a Jewish painter who, it goes without saying, could not treat that question academically. That artist, Felix Nussbaum, was in Rome in 1933, having been awarded Germany’s most prestigious art scholarship to study there, when Hitler took power in Berlin. His scholarship was quickly withdrawn, and he lived and painted in exile — in Italy, Paris, Ostend, Brussels — before the Nazis arrested him and sent him to an internment camp in southern France in 1940.

Nussbaum escaped, and later that year, he painted “Self-Portrait in the Camp”: a harsh, indelible artwork that puts all the other portraits in this show in their full, brutal context. Nussbaum appears in three-quarter profile, his left eye in shadow, his right eye sunken but locked upon us. He has grown a goatee, and his drab brown uniform has a frayed collar and a hasty patch on its right shoulder. Behind him, past scavenging and defecating prisoners, is a fence of barbed wire, and beyond it, a sky of ferrous gray. Nussbaum appears wearied. But his gaze is defiant, asserting an individuality that serves as proof of a continuing, unspeakable crime.

Nussbaum, hiding in Brussels, continued to paint for several years after completing “Self-Portrait in the Camp,” but soon the Nazis came again. This time his destination was Auschwitz, where he was murdered in 1944. There were six million more.

We know that history can’t be fathomed while it’s still being lived. We know that not all art made in the first years of the Reich can be easily classified into approved and “degenerate.” We want, therefore, to face these paintings and photographs as things that are never free of their circumstances, but still more than mere evidence of barbarity. We want to be reassured, we comfortable museumgoing types, that people who compromise, people who lack absolute moral courage, are not wholly lost to humanity.

But in the face of Nussbaum’s “Self-Portrait in the Camp,” that stance rings hollow. That is the central lesson of “Before the Fall” and the other recent 1930s shows: There are no individual pardons for collective guilt.

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Nonfiction: How to Be a Jew in the Age of Trump?

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Credit Tyler Comrie

(((SEMITISM)))
Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump
By Jonathan Weisman
238 pp. St. Martin’s Press. $25.99.

Come November’s midterm elections, the Republican candidate for the Third Congressional District of Illinois will be a Nazi. There is nothing neo about Arthur Jones. Not just a white supremacist, not merely a foot soldier of the alt-right, Jones is the sort of full-on, unreconstructed, Holocaust-denying (“the blackest lie in history”), Hitler-worshiping, blood-and-soil warrior for whom the Jews are the root of all evil. Don’t panic. He will lose the election in an overwhelmingly Democratic district, but it is precisely that assumed outcome which seemed to have persuaded local Republicans not to bother opposing him in the March 20 primary. Waking up to the result of their indifference they belatedly repudiated Jones. But it might have occurred to them that the mere fact of his appearance on the ballot as the Republican candidate is itself a shocking affront not just to Jews but to all the norms of American political decency. Then again, those norms right now are shifting sand.

The sick joke of Jones’s candidacy doesn’t feature in Jonathan Weisman’s “(((Semitism))),” but every other kind of monstrously reawakened zombie-Nazi madness does, especially those swarming and multiplying in the digital dung heap. His book is largely a report from consternation nation, and its longest chapter chronicles the rise of white supremacist aggression, on and off the web. He has been on the sharp end of trolling storms and knows what it feels like (as do I) to have yourself photoshopped with concentration camp stripes or with your head in an oven. But in the end Weisman is unsure how much of an actual and immediate danger this online abuse represents. For all of the website bile and the tiki-torch marches, “the threat of violence against Jews,” he writes, “has not materialized into actual violence,” especially in comparison with hate crimes committed against African-Americans and Muslims. He quotes the Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt saying that “the number of Americans that hold anti-Semitic beliefs has decreased dramatically.”

But of course it is the advent of Trumpian politics — its nonstop carnival of paranoia; its scapegoating of Hispanics and African-Americans; its anti-immigrant phobia — that has rung Weisman’s alarm bells, which accounts for his subtitle: “Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump.” More sinister for him than the foaming lunacies of the neo-Nazis is the alt-right’s embrace of conspiracy theorists; the routine mutation of fantasy into fact; the appetite for seeing secret hands (George Soros for instance) at work in plots to undermine America — all of which have a whiff of late Weimar about them, not to mention the long history of populist anti-Semitism in the United States. Better, Weisman believes, to be fretfully vigilant than torpidly complacent. In one of the 1940s movie-poster homilies he favors (“the world is watching,” “the nation gasped”), he warns that while “unheard thunder” was rumbling, “the Jews slept.”

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But this reduction of “being Jewish” to a state of hair-tearing anxiety about the surge of anti-Semitism means Weisman never quite delivers on his subtitle’s promise. A richly researched and nuanced account of Jewish life in stressed-out, polarized America would be timely, but this isn’t it. Instead, Weisman takes a chapter to complain about what he considers the major distraction preventing American Jews from being fully alert to the perils of the time — but this, a little surprisingly, turns out to be “Israel, Israel, Israel.” It is not clear whether he thinks the AIPAC herd mentality, so elated at gestures like the embassy move to Jerusalem, blinkers Jews to the threat that Trump and Trumpism represent to the liberal culture he champions. Or whether he believes that increasingly abrasive debates dividing the Jewish community about the occupation of the West Bank and the expansion of settlements are the greater problem. Weisman reports with understandable pain his demonization by hard-liners as a self-hating Jewish traitor for daring to point out, in a Times infographic, which opponents of the Iranian nuclear deal were Jewish. But such bitter arguments have gone on for a while and it seems odd to suppose that engagement with the trials and tribulations of Israel somehow precludes engaging with diaspora anti-Semitism, as if Jews of all people have a finite capacity for attentiveness. Anti-Semitism and the existence of Israel are hardly historically disconnected.

The second malaise Weisman identifies as blunting Jewish alertness to the peril of the times is the hollowing out of a Jewish identity that is neither uncritically Zionist nor devoutly religious. “The Jews who are most interested in a liberal, internationalist future, who wish to live progressive, assimilated existences free of threat,” he warns, “are disappearing.” But his sense of the tradition he believes is being lost is romantically wishful. In a hasty drive through Jewish history he nominates Moses Maimonides and Moses Mendelssohn as embodying this outward-looking nontribal Judaism. But the two Moseses were intensely devout and at times darkly pessimistic about the prospects of a Jewish life in a non-Jewish world.

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Anti-Semitic Incidents Surged 57 Percent in 2017, Report Finds

“The diminishment of civility in society creates an environment in which intolerance really can flourish,” Mr. Greenblatt said. And the platforms of social media, he added, have “allowed the kind of poison of prejudice to grow at a velocity and to expand in ways that really are unprecedented.”

The count by the A.D.L., an international organization that fights anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice, includes three categories: harassment (1,015 incidents in 2017, up 41 percent from 2016), vandalism (952 incidents, up 86 percent) and assault (19 incidents, down 47 percent). The decrease in assaults was “the one piece of good news in this report,” Mr. Greenblatt said.

For the first time in at least a decade, incidents were reported in all 50 states. And, unusually, K-12 schools had more reports than any other location. (Typically, public areas have the most.) Incidents at those schools nearly doubled, to 457 from 235; those on college campuses increased 89 percent, to 204 from 108.

Many of the incidents involved swastikas etched on school property or drawn on Jewish students’ belongings.

The increase in expressions of anti-Semitism among students is “astounding” in its size, Mr. Greenblatt said, but also not entirely surprising.

“Kids repeat what they hear,” he said. “And so in an environment in which prejudice isn’t called out by public figures, figures of authority, we shouldn’t be surprised when we see young people repeat these same kind of tropes.”

The count is based on reports from victims, law enforcement and the news media. The Anti-Defamation League’s 26 field offices in the United States often receive reports directly from victims or their loved ones. Other times, employees will see a post on social media and follow up with the poster.

In each case, the group confirms the information independently and assesses its credibility. Reports deemed not credible are not included in the tally.

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Opinion: Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List

Donald Trump has been obsessed with race for the entire time he has been a public figure. He had a history of making racist comments as a New York real-estate developer in the 1970s and ‘80s. More recently, his political rise was built on promulgating the lie that the nation’s first black president was born in Kenya. He then launched his campaign with a speech describing Mexicans as rapists.

The media often falls back on euphemisms when describing Trump’s comments about race: racially loaded, racially charged, racially tinged, racially sensitive. And Trump himself has claimed that he is “the least racist person.” But here’s the truth: Donald Trump is a racist. He talks about and treats people differently based on their race. He has done so for years, and he is still doing so.

Here, we have attempted to compile a definitive list of his racist comments – or at least the publicly known ones.

In 1989, on NBC, Trump said: “I think sometimes a black may think they don’t have an advantage or this and that. I’ve said on one occasion, even about myself, if I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I really believe they do have an actual advantage.”

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Op-Ed Contributor: The Uncomfortable Truth About Swedish Anti-Semitism

Some are answering yes. One reason is the nature of the current threat.

Historically, anti-Semitism in Sweden could mainly be attributed to right-wing extremists. While this problem persists, a study from 2013 showed that 51 percent of anti-Semitic incidents in Sweden were attributed to Muslim extremists. Only 5 percent were carried out by right-wing extremists; 25 percent were perpetrated by left-wing extremists.

Swedish politicians have no problem condemning anti-Semitism carried out by right-wingers. When neo-Nazis planned a march that would go past the Goteborg synagogue on Yom Kippur this September, for example, it stirred up outrage across the political spectrum. A court ruled that the demonstrators had to change their route.

There is, however, tremendous hesitation to speak out against hate crimes committed by members of another minority group in a country that prides itself on welcoming minorities and immigrants. In 2015, Sweden was second only to Germany in the number of Syrian refugees it welcomed. Yet the three men arrested in the Molotov cocktail attack were newly arrived immigrants, two Syrians and a Palestinian.

The fear of being accused of intolerance has paralyzed Sweden’s leaders from properly addressing deep-seated intolerance.

Some of the country’s leaders have even used Israel as a convenient boogeyman to explain violence. After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, explained radicalism among European Muslims with reference to Israel: “Here, once again, we are brought back to situations like the one in the Middle East, where not least, the Palestinians see that there isn’t a future. We must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence.”

In an interview in June, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was asked whether Sweden had been naïve about the link between immigration and anti-Semitism. His response was typical of the way in which leading politicians have avoided giving straight answers about the threat against the country’s Jews: “We have a problem in Sweden with anti-Semitism, and it doesn’t matter who expresses it, it’s still as darn wrong.”

But the problem has grown so dire that it finally forced Mr. Lofven to admit in an interview this month: “We will not ignore the fact that many people have come here from the Middle East, where anti-Semitism is a widespread idea, almost part of the ideology. We must become even clearer, dare to talk more about it.”

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Anti-Semitic Comments Found Under a Chess Organizer’s Name

In the late 1990’s, someone using the name Mansour Bighamian posted more than 1,000 messages on Web bulletin boards about political and religious topics. Many of the postings were screeds attacking Jews and Israel, as well as gays. Among the most vitriolic suggested that the “time is ripe to build more ovens in EVERY country in the world for the D-DAY.”

Though the posts were years ago, some people in the chess community have been digging them up in recent days because of an e-mail that was sent to an Israeli grandmaster earlier this month in the name of Mick Bighamian, the founder and director of the Los Angeles Chess Club. That e-mail said, “We don’t allow players from terrorist countries in our tournaments!”

Mr. Bighamian has denied sending the e-mail, saying that someone used his account at the club to do it.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Mr. Bighamian said that Mansour was his real name, but that the Web postings in the late 1990’s were also not his.

He said that he was running the Houston Chess Club at the time and had barred some people from the club and believes that they wanted to get back at him, so they posted the messages in his name. “Some people evidently don’t want me in business,” he said.

He said that he was active on the Usenet groups posting messages about chess, but that the e-mail addresses used in the anti-Semitic postings were not his. He said that his e-mail address at the time was mbighamian@sbn.net.

There are two e-mail addresses used in the late 1990’s postings. In the ones from 1998, which are only about religion and politics, the e-mail is tta.com@worldnet.att.net. In a group of postings from 1999, which contain more anti-Semitic comments but also include announcements of chess tournaments and recommendations on what chess books to read, the e-mail address is tta@wt.net.

On Monday, Mr. Bighamian wrote a letter to Bill Hall, the executive director of the United States Chess Federation, about the e-mail sent to the Israeli grandmaster. Mr. Bighamian wrote:

When we spoke on Friday, I was under the impression that the purported e-mail must have been a hoax — trying to smear LACC’s increasingly-improving image in the past few years. However, over this past weekend, I found out the e-mail was indeed sent out from the LACC’s computer at the club.

As the club computer has been always accessible by all the club players, members, and directors at all times, I found out that someone had responded to the israeli gm saying: “We don’t allow players from terrorist countries in our tournaments”. Most players would normally use the club computer to check their e-mails, play online, etc. I am still investigating to find out who could have possibly sent that response on behalf of the LACC.

To that end, and effective this past weekend, I made LACC e-mails accessible to the club directors only –- in order to avoid any such incidents in the future.

As for the LACC policy with regards to interested tournament chess players, my 25+ years as a tournament director is an evidence of nondiscrimination. As a tournament director, I have always advocated, and indeed welcomed, having players of all backgrounds, genders, national origins, and strengths in my tournaments. There is not a single example to the contrary.

As slow as chess club are these days (due to online chess, etc.), it would make no sense to bar interested players from tournaments — as clubs’ livelihood depends on players’ participation.

The club e-mail signature — below — automatically appears upon responding to any e-mails (thereby explaining how LACC signature showed on that e-mail).

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