Magazine accused of aiding Holocaust

Scholars want apology, release of ‘cheerful’ article on Hitler’s chalet

A British magazine that published a 1938 article cheerfully describing Adolf Hitler’s summer home with no mention of his atrocities is being called to account for its part in paving the way for the Holocaust.

More than 60 scholars have signed a petition urging Homes & Gardens, a popular decorating magazine, to stop suppressing the article and allow it to be used as an educational example of the failure of the press at that time to accurately portray the Nazi regime, according to the New York-based Jewish weekly magazine the Forward.

“You can obviously write a soft feature about how an important public figure decorates his home, but in 1938 there was no doubt about concentration camps, and therefore he shouldn’t be treated like any other public figure,” Laurel Leff, a petition signer and journalism professor at Northeastern University told Forward. “Historically, a lot of the Western press didn’t treat Hitler like a pariah.”

The Forward said the controversy erupted in September when Homes & Gardens demanded a British journalist remove a copy of the article from his website. The magazine argued it infringed on their copyright, but the group of scholars organized their petition, insisting the magazine make the article available, accompanied by a formal apology.

Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, the group spearheading the petition, said he wants the magazine’s leadership “to face up to their ugly past, as various banks and government institutions have done in the past.”

The article, “At Home With Hitler,” featured the dictator’s “bright, airy chalet,” known as Haus Wachenfeld, which contained “the fairest view in all of Europe.”

No reference was made to his plans for world domination or extermination of the Jews, the scholars say.

The petition reads, “A crucial part of Holocaust education involves studying the failure of the Western media to fully and accurately report about the Nazi menace in the 1930s. The attempted suppression 65 years later of articles such as the 1938 feature in Homes & Gardens undermines efforts to teach about the Holocaust and its lessons.” […]

In August, Waldman, director of digital publishing for Guardian Newspapers Ltd., posted the article on his weblog then sent an e-mail about it to Homes & Gardens Editor Isobel McKenzie-Price.

Price demand Waldman remove the article, citing copyright infringement.

“I told her I was happy to remove it, but that they should know it had already probably been copied by others,” Waldman told the Forward. “And that the article should have a permanent home because of its historical interest.”

The Jewish weekly said McKenzie-Price did not respond to requests for comment, but a spokesman said the magazine would maintain its copyright on the article.

Medoff insisted the case is not a mere copyright matter.

“I don’t know if there is anything else in their other magazines that is of historical value,” he told the Forward. “The Hitler article is unique because it played a role in shaping western attitudes toward the Nazis at a critical moment.”

The article’s photographs do not belong to Homes & Gardens, Waldman maintains, because, as he later learned, they were propaganda pictures taken by Heinrich Hoffman, Hitler’s press secretary.

The campaign’s organizer Paul Miller said the scholars are not seeking to put Homes & Gardens out of business but simply want the magazine to admit its small role in the Western indifference to the genocide, the Forward reported.

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Posted: October 31, 2003

1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2003