Veteran Haaretz Writer, Author Eliahu Salpeter Dies at Age 88

An Auschwitz survivor, Salpeter won awards for reporting on Diaspora Jewry in a career of nearly 60 years.

Eliahu Salpeter, third from left, accepting a B'nai B'rith award in 2001.
Lior Mizrahi

Eliahu Salpeter, who wrote for Haaretz for 56 years, with a special focus on Diaspora Jewry, died in Tel Aviv on Sunday at the age of 88.

Salpeter was born in Czechoslovakia in 1927. In 1944, he and his parents were deported to Auschwitz, where his mother was murdered in the gas chambers. His father, a doctor, survived by working as a physician in various labor camps. Salpeter himself survived both the camps and a death march, but contracted tuberculosis just as World War II was ending. He was hospitalized in Prague, where his father found him.

Salpeter studied journalism and economics in Prague, and in 1949 he immigrated to Israel. He settled in Jerusalem where he began his journalism career, working first for a Hungarian paper and then for the Jerusalem Post. In 1951, he began working for Haaretz, and remained there for 56 years, publishing his last story in 2007, at age 80.

At Haaretz, Salpeter did stints as the paper’s correspondent in both the United States and Western Europe before becoming a member of the paper’s editorial board. For many years, he wrote the daily editorial as well as thousands of other articles on various topics. He was particularly interested in Diaspora Jewry, and his writing on this topic earned him many awards, including one from the Joint Distribution Committee and one from B’nai B’rith.

One of his more famous articles was a 1998 opinion piece entitled “To whom does the memory of the Holocaust belong?”

“It’s hard to believe Israel will have a normal life if it teaches its youth for generations that the Holocaust was the most important experience in the history of the Jewish people,” he wrote.

“Why remember it? Can the memory of the Holocaust prevent another Holocaust of another people? Or does belief in the uniqueness of the Holocaust of the Jews cancel out the lesson of the fate of the Kurds in Iraq, the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and the Christians in southern Sudan?”

In another op-ed, in 2002, he criticized attempts to inflate the dimensions of anti-Semitism. “Jews have learned from history that it’s better to raise an outcry too early than too late,” he wrote.

“Nevertheless, talk of a new wave of anti-Semitism is liable to create a ‘boy who cried wolf’ effect.”

As the distance between reality and the intensity of the outcry grows, he warned, “the outcry is liable to frighten the crier more than those he is crying against. When Reuters quotes the heads of two Jewish organizations as saying the climate today is like that before World War II, even the righteous among the nations are entitled to be skeptical. Describing all enmity toward Israel as anti-Semitic is liable to result in enmity toward Israel or its policies actually encouraging anti-Semitism in the Diaspora.”

Salpeter also published four books. The most famous of them, “Who Rules Israel?” was co-authored with Maariv journalist Yuval Elitzur and published in 1973.

Another book co-authored with Elitzur, “Oil Plots” (1999), told the story of how the Arab oil embargo on Israel was broken and the secret ties Israel established with the countries that sold it oil, including Iran, Mexico and Russia.

Salpeter is survived by Ruth, his wife of 55 years, three children and six grandchildren.