To Kitchener-Waterloo Record | August 15, 2001 | Orest Slepokura

Response to Len Rudner

The Editor:

Len Rudner, a community relations director for the Canadian Jewish Congress, responding to letters from correspondents opposed to any move by our federal government to deport Helmut Oberlander ["Courts show he hid the truth," Letters, August 15, 2001, Kitchener-Waterloo Record], makes the interesting observation that "It is obviously easier for people to hold an absurd position than it is for them to come to terms with an unpleasant reality."

This is true. A case in point:

When the South African prime minister John Vorster made a state visit to Israel in April 1976, it began with a tour of Yad Vashem, Israel's major Holocaust memorial, where the late Yitzhak Rabin invited the onetime Nazi collaborator, unabashed racist and white supremacist to pay homage to Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

Compared, say, to routine outcries from organized Jewry over often even mild whiffs of Holocaust controversy, no less remarkable was the bland equanimity both Israeli and diaspora Jews also displayed toward the Vorster visit.

Historian Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi recalls [The Israeli Connection, Random House: Toronto, 1987, p.x]:

"For most Israelis, the Vorster visit was just another state visit by a foreign leader. It did not draw much attention. Most Israelis did not even remember his name, and did not see anything unusual, much less surreal in the scene [an old Nazi diehard invited to 'mourn' the victims at a Holocaust memorial]: Vorster was just another visiting dignitary being treated to the usual routine."

As an old Nazi collaborator, Vorster should, of course, have been arrested and tried the minute he set foot on Israeli soil -- instead, he had been graciously welcomed by his Jewish hosts.

The South African leader left Israel four days later -- after signing a number of friendship treaties between the Jewish state and South Africa's racist, apartheid regime. A denouement Leslie and Andrew Cockburn describe in Dangerous Liaison [Stoddart Publishing: Toronto, 1991, pp. 299 - 300]:

"The old Nazi sympathizer came away with bilateral agreements for commercial, military, and nuclear cooperation that would become the basis for future relations between the two countries."

See: Like Mr. Rudner, I, too, am a student of human nature.

Sincerely yours,

Orest Slepokura
Strathmore AB

c. Len Rudner, Director Community Relations, Ontario Region, Canadian Jewish Congress, et al.