January 21, 2020
I learned a lesson when conducting research for my recently published book, “Family Papers: a Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century.” I had discovered the story of a young Jewish man forgotten to history until now, a story that taught me that neither cultural affiliation nor family history is a reliable predictor of future behavior. In short, identity is not destiny, and all of us can fall prey to the tides of history. Vital Hasson was a native of Thessaloniki, Greece, a cultural capital of the Sephardic Jewish world and a city that once boasted a majority Jewish population, who knew their home as Salonica. He came from an educated, middle-class family of journalists, writers, educators and political leaders.But Hasson diverged, fatally, from his family’s enlightened values. Hasson became intoxicated by a populist regime and chose to be swept up by its violence, its false promises, its hatred. He used a position of power to degrade the vulnerable. He was publicly denounced by family for his excesses. After the Second World War, Hasson was the only Jew in all of Europe to be tried and executed by a state, Greece, for collaborating with the Nazi occupiers. ‘Less than nothing’Hasson’s family, like most of the Sephardic Jews of Salonica, were descended from Jews expelled from Iberia in the 15th century who spoke and wrote in a Judeo-Spanish language known as Ladino. For five centuries, they called the Ottoman Empire, southeastern Europe and Salonica home. But before the war he was not important, “less than nothing,” according to one of the dozens of Jewish survivors who would subsequently testify against him. When his city was still Ottoman, in the 1870s and 1890s, his great-grandfather introduced the first French- and Ladino-language newspapers to Salonica, chronicling and shaping modernity as it was experienced by southeastern European Jews. In time, war redrew borders around the family, transforming them from Ottomans to Greeks. Emigration pulled them in many directions, with cousins relocating to England, France, Spain, Portugal, India and Brazil. Hasson himself moved to Palestine for a time, returning to his native town in 1933.Then, war came, transforming Hasson from a nonentity to an important person. Hasson’s ‘depravity’Four generations of Hasson’s family were living in Salonica when German forces occupied the city in April 1941. Two years later, Hasson assumed the position of head of the Jewish police of Salonica under ambiguous circumstances. The position gave him authority over about 200 unarmed men, all local Jews. Among Hasson’s first acts was to volunteer himself as a human bounty hunter, exceeding his charge. In May 1943, he crossed from German-occupied Greece into Italian-occupied Greece in pursuit of Salonican Jews fleeing the Nazis, whom he was uniquely qualified to identify. His efforts were thwarted, but it hinted at the lengths he was willing to go to satisfy those in power.When a ghetto was created within Salonica by the Nazis, the depth of Hasson’s depravity made itself known. The Baron Hirsch ghetto, one of two areas in which all Jews were concentrated, existed from March to August 1943, by which time Nazi officials completed the deportation of Greek Jewry.
Vital Hasson, the Jew who worked for the Nazis, hunted down refugees and tore apart families in WWII Greece
‘Lion let out of a cage’Within the ghetto’s wooden walls, which were surrounded by barbed wire and control towers, more than 2,000 Jewish women, men, and children were crammed into 593 rooms. Disease and crime were rampant.A 23-year-old German SS officer was technically in charge of the Baron Hirsch ghetto. But Hasson appears to have been granted great latitude to execute Nazi orders on the ground. Recollections of Hasson’s actions, which swirl through Greek-, Hebrew-, Ladino- and English-language survivor testimony, are nightmarish. Hasson, it was said, raced through the ghetto in a horse-drawn carriage, and made his fellow Jews sweep the streets. He strutted about, using the glistening boots of the occupiers to knock down both doors and people. He stole from the imprisoned, carrying around the ghetto an open bag into which women and men were expected to place what jewels or money they had managed to hang on to. And he identified young men to be inducted into forced labor. In the words of one survivor, a woman by the name of Bouena Sarfatty, “He was like a lion let out of a cage.” Hasson reserved particular cruelty for girls and women. He forced them to strip naked, searched their genitals for hidden money, sheared their hair, raped them and pimped them to others. To protest her forced marriage to Hasson’s brother Dino, who long harbored an obsession with the young woman, Sarika Gategno wore the same dress for three months and consumed nothing but alcohol and cigarettes. Salonica emptied of JewsFrom March to August 1943, Nazi overseers directed 19 transports of Salonica’s Jews, totaling 48,533 souls, to depart from the train station adjacent to the Baron Hirsch ghetto. One of these trains would head for the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen; 18 for Auschwitz. The journey to Auschwitz took between five and eight grueling days. Nearly all the Salonican Jews brought there were gassed upon arrival. On Aug. 2, a special deportation carried away the families of Salonica’s wartime Jewish community leadership (including the Jewish police) to the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen. Before his own deportation, on this very train to Bergen-Belsen, Hasson’s father publicly disowned his son, who yet remained in Salonica. By August 1943, Salonica, like Greece as a whole, had been virtually emptied of Jews by the Nazis. On trialHasson himself arranged to flee eastward with his wife, daughter and pregnant lover in August 1943. Several times in the dramatic, confused weeks and months that followed, he was recognized by Jewish refugees from Salonica (in Albania, Italy and Egypt) and arrested by Allied representatives, but amidst the chaos of war Hasson repeatedly escaped or was released. Finally, upon the liberation of Greece in October 1944, the British captured him and returned Hasson to Greece for trial. In the summer of 1946 that trial, a sensational event that gripped the city of Thessaloniki and the Salonican Jewish diaspora, resulted in a guilty verdict. Hasson was sentenced to death and executed.Jews across the political spectrum, from Bernie Sanders to Benjamin Netanyahu, claim to seek inspiration in Jewish tradition to explain and propel their political values. But cultural inheritance does not necessarily determine a person’s behavior or destiny. And Jewish history ought not be sanitized. What Hasson’s story teaches is that under the right circumstances, the politics of hate are seductive, even to those who might otherwise be a target.[ You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can get our highlights each weekend. ]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.Read more: * The ominous metaphors of China’s Uighur concentration camps * This young woman created 784 paintings while hiding from the NazisSarah Abrevaya Stein does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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