Ultra-orthodox English Newspaper Censors Photos of Female Holocaust Survivors

In a story about the last living survivors of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, the photo prompted anger from readers and an apology from the publication

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Faces of women Holocaust survivors faces were blurred in an article on ultra-Orthodox weekly newspaper Mishpacha published on January 24, 2017.
Faces of women Holocaust survivors faces were blurred in an article on ultra-Orthodox weekly newspaper Mishpacha published on January 24, 2017.Credit: Mishpacha

Faces of women Holocaust survivors were blurred in a photo published by the English-language edition of the ultra-Orthodox community's largest-circulation weekly, Mishpacha, sparking backlash and a subsequent apology by the newspaper.

In a story published last week about the last living survivors of the “Mengele twins,” the group of individuals on which Josef Mengele conducted deadly genetic experiments, a photo shows a survivor pointing to a photograph taken upon his release from a concentration camp. Faces of women in the photo are blurred.

In a post to Facebook, Mishpacha editor Yisroel Besser explained that this was a photo shown in the weekly's Hebrew edition, in which restrictions are more stringent. “Readers who felt insulted by this censorship approached me in order to find out why this had happened. I looked into it with the graphics department and the team involved in the matter,” said Besser.

“The photo wasn’t censored by us. We wouldn’t have done that. The pain is understandable. I’d be angry if I saw someone tampering with a photo bearing the holy faces of the survivors,” he said.

Censorship of women in photos is commonly practiced by all ultra-Orthodox media outlets, conforming to Halachic laws and the demands of most readers. That said, most editorial offices prefer to avoid the issue often by publishing photos entirely of men so that no censorship is required.

In response to those who took issue with the photo, Mishpacha said “The ultra-Orthodox community treasures the memory of the millions of holy ones that died in sanctification of God’s name during the Holocaust, by maintaining our glorious heritage of faith in the Creator and the fulfillment of his commandments. Like all Haredi media we respect the rules set by Torah sages 70 years ago, by which photographs of women may not be shown in our newspapers. We try to do this respectfully, without blurring the images of women. The publication of the current blurred image was an unfortunate mistake.”

Besser added that “Mishpacha really wanted to bring this topic up for discussion. We are working hard with our spiritual affairs committee in order to frame an acceptable policy that conforms to the Halacha [Jewish Law] while letting readers feel comfortable and without offending anyone.”