Freud's intriguing friend
Max Eitingon, a student of Sigmund Freud who founded the Palestine Psychoanalytic Society, was arrested on suspicion of spying for the Soviet Union.
Max Eitingon was a student and friend of Sigmund Freud. In 1933 he settled in Jerusalem and founded the Palestine Psychoanalytic Society, which was later renamed the Israeli Psychoanalytic Society and exists to this day. Some of the country's oldest yekkes (as Jews from German-speaking cultures are known ) still remember Eitingon. He had a reputation for being a ladies' man, and one of his women friends was a Russian singer living in Paris named Nadezhda Plevitskaya. In 1938 she was arrested on suspicion of spying for the Soviet Union. Her interrogation led to Eitingon, and this juicy scandal gave rise to a mystery that sparks the imagination: Was the Jerusalem psychiatrist a communist spy? Was he being blackmailed?
Over the years researchers came to believe the suspicions were false, but they were raised anew in a recent lecture by two local experts on the Soviet Union: Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez. The pair achieved fame with a book documenting the USSR's role in the events leading up to the Six-Day War, and now are researching the activities of communist spies in Palestine, from the czarist period up to the early years of the Jewish state. Their work is based on sources including Soviet documents.
Max Eitingon's personal papers are stored in the Israel State Archives, but some are classified, for some reason.
In a talk they gave at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Ginor and Remez presented an interim report, which contains numerous questions they have not been able to answer so far. They are interested in Eitingon among other reasons because his cousin was a senior officer in the Soviet secret services. In the 1920s the cousin was in charge of communist intelligence activity in Palestine, and in 1940, he orchestrated the murder of Leon Trotsky, Stalin's nemesis, in Mexico City.
At this stage in their research, Ginor and Remez can say Palestine occupied a fairly high spot on the priority list of Russian intelligence agencies. They sent agents into the country disguised as Jewish immigrants - in part, via an organization for helping political prisoners founded by author Maxim Gorky's first wife, Ekatarina Pavlovna Peshkova. They usually did not use members of the Communist Party in Israel.
Most of the agents were Jews, among them some fascinating personalities. One was Yakov Blumkin - none other than Simha-Yankel Ben-Hirsh Blumkin, a student of Mendele Mocher Sforim. In 1923 he was given a cover name, Meir Gurfinkel, and became the first permanent representative of Soviet intelligence in Palestine. He was based in Jaffa, where he managed a laundry. In 1928 he was transferred to Istanbul and given a new identity: a Judaica merchant from Iran named Yakuv Sultanov; the Judaica books he sold were confiscated from Jews in the Soviet Union to stock his store. On one occasion he was summoned to Moscow for a consultation: Vyacheslav Molotov himself wished to hear his opinion - should the Soviet Union back the Jews or the Arabs?
Documents that Ginor and Remez tracked down indicate that the Soviet Union planted at least one spy in the pre-state militia Lehi; they want to know who that spy was. In the nature of things, the names of that organization's leaders come up, including Yitzhak Shamir. The researchers, however, are not claiming at this point that the former Israeli prime minister was a communist spy.
Shamir, as we know, was connected to the murder of Count Folke Bernadotte, the United Nations mediator shot in Jerusalem in September 1948 by Lehi operatives. The USSR also had a stake in Bernadotte's death, Ginor and Remez point out: Bernadotte knew about clandestine contacts between the Soviet intelligence agencies and the SS.
The twists and turns of this story bring us to Kim Philby and the communist spy network at the University of Cambridge, and later reach all the way to Shabtai Kalmanovitch and Marcus Klingberg. Ginor and Remez have taken on a tough assignment; the questions they are exploring may remain more fascinating than the answers.
The well-known French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut is worried: He is afraid Holocaust remembrance is bolstering European anti-Semitism - and hatred of Israel - and does not know how this might be prevented. Finkielkraut lectured last week at the Seventh International Conference on Holocaust Education, held at Yad Vashem.
"More and more people think," Finkielkraut said, "that Africans, Arabs, Asians and Latin Americans are dispossessed by the Jews of the human compassion they deserve to receive, and that the emphasis on the Jewish tragedy relegates all other cases of genocide to oblivion."
Young French people of African origin "show their disgust not at what was done in Auschwitz, but at the memory of Auschwitz. They boycott Auschwitz as an Israeli product," Finkielkraut said.
He went on to discuss a popular term coined by young French descendents of African slaves: "Yovoda." "Yovo," in the language of Benin, formerly Dahomey, where slaves were traded, means white man; and "da" means cruelty: "The cruelty of the white man." It is no accident that the vowel sounds in "Yovoda" echo those in the term "Shoah," Finkielkraut noted, and since slavery and colonialism preceded the annihilation of the Jews, Hitler comes across at most as an imitator of Napoleon.
The tendency he observes of "competing" with the victims of the Holocaust, mainly among immigrants, is intended to bring them benefits, including the right to live in Europe without identifying with its culture.
"Europe doesn't belong to Europe any more," Finkielkraut complained. "Europe doesn't belong at all. Not belonging is what post-Holocaust Europe is all about." It has been stripped of its cultural identity and become a collection of identities and universal values. This does not help Europe to stamp out anti-Semitism, but rather fosters it, he added.