Barry Dredze

Barry DredzeCommunity Contributor

Barry Dredze is a freelance reporter, editor and former newspaper publisher in west suburban Chicago; and earned a Masters degree in Jewish Studies from Spertus Institute in Chicago in 2006.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

George Soros Is Not — And Has Never Been — A Nazi

The occupation of Hungary by the Nazis began by invitation in 1944. In his masterwork “Night,” set in his hometown of Sighet, Hungary (now Romania), Elie Wiesel wrote of Moshe the Beadle, who secretly mentored the young Wiesel in the Jewish mystical writings of the Zohar until Moshe was deported on cattle trains from the town with other “foreigners.”

One day, Moshe returned to Sighet and related horrible stories about the deportees. The German Gestapo unloaded them from the trains, took them into the Galician woods on trucks and forced them to dig their own graves. Moshe had been shot in the leg and left for dead in the murderous orgy. “Through long days and nights, he went from one Jewish house to another,” writes Wiesel, “telling the story of Malka, the young girl who had taken three days to die, and of Tobias, the tailor, who had begged to be killed before his sons…,” only to be dismissed as a madman. “I wanted to come back to Sighet,” Moshe said, “to tell you the story of my death. So that you could prepare yourselves while there was still time.”

As Wiesel recounts in his book, in March of 1944, the fascist Nyilas Party had won the power to compel the interwar governor, Admiral Miklós Horthy, to invite the fascists to form a new government in Hungary. Soon the new government allowed German troops into the country. Wiesel wrote that a family friend named Berkovitz had returned to Sighet from the Hungarian capital, saying, “The Jews of Budapest are living in an atmosphere of fear and terror. There are anti-Semitic incidents every day, in the streets, in the trains. The Fascists are attacking Jewish shops and synagogues. The situation is getting very serious.”

George Soros was a 14-year-old kid back then in Budapest and, having since become a wealthy liberal patron of human rights through the establishment of his Open Society Foundations and his funding of Central European University in Budapest, that time in his life has been the focus of brutal right-wing propaganda campaigns from the United States and back to Hungary, across Europe and even consumed by Israel’s Likud-led government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Last summer, billboards, posters and full-page print media anti-immigrant campaign ads by Viktor Orban’s Fidesz-led government went up across Budapest and throughout Hungary demanding of Hungarians, “Don’t let Soros have the last laugh.” As Hungarian Jewish communal organizations protested, Israel’s ambassador to Hungary Yossi Amrani publicly supported those concerns only to be rebuked by the Likud-led government’s Foreign Ministry that issued a statement in support of Orban’s campaign and denouncing Soros, saying that he “continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself.” Netanyahu followed through with a planned official visit with Orban in Budapest the following week.

A 1998 story on the stalwart CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” particularly seems to have been the genesis of Soros’ demonization in the metastasizing American right-wing echo chamber.

In November 2010, then-Fox News host Glenn Beck routinely alleged that the young George Soros had collaborated with the Nazi occupation, who would “help the government confiscate the lands of his fellow Jewish friends and neighbors,” devoting a special production of his show, titled “The Puppet Master,” to exposing Soros as the man behind a liberal conspiracy to establish a leftist totalitarianism in the United States — or something.

“So, when George Soros was 14,” Beck reported, “his father basically bribed a government official to take his son in and let him pretend to be a Christian. His father was just trying to keep him alive. He even had to go around confiscating property of Jewish people. Now, imagine you are Jewish and you have to go and confiscate the property of your fellow Jews. And you are pretending to not be a Jew and if anybody finds out, you’re dead. He actually had to endure watching people sent off to their eventual murders, watching people gathering their stuff, sending them off knowing that they were going to go to their death.”

Beck supported his treatment of Soros with quotes and clips from the 1998 “60 Minutes” segment by Steve Kroft that also proved valuable to the efforts of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who claimed that the young Soros “helped round up thousands of people” and “stole hundreds of millions of dollars” collaborating with the Nazi occupiers.

In his 2017 book The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left, conservative author Dinesh D’Souza went into the “Nazi collaborator” business, promoting his book in a social media campaign calling Soros “a principle financial backer of violent #Antifa thugs, admits his collaboration with Hitler and says he has no regrets,” on Twitter on September 1, 2017.

“Soros was Nazi collaborator. He laughed about it,” tweeted Mike Cernovich on September 13, 2017.

“#Nazi collaborator #GeorgeSoros in his own words, while other Jews his age had died fighting Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto…,” tweeted James Woods on August 18, 2017.

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“Media Matters sugar daddy is George Soros, WHO IDENTIFIED JEWS TO THE NAZIS, as he admitted on 60 Minutes,” tweeted Ann Coulter on June 11, 2015.

But there is also published literature about the same time in Budapest, namely a biography of George Soros by Michael T. Kaufman — “Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire” (2002) — and an autobiography by George’s father, Tivadar Soros — “Masquerade: The Incredible True Story of How George Soros’ Father Outsmarted the Gestapo” (1965).

Kaufman identified the young Soros’ secret godfather as a Hungarian agriculture ministry bureaucrat named Baumbach, whose job was taking inventory of Jewish properties confiscated by the Nazi occupiers. Baumbach had a Jewish wife, so Tivadar Soros had arranged for young George to assume an identity as Baumbach’s godson.

Kaufman writes that Soros accompanied Baumbach on one such assignment to the estate of a wealthy Jewish aristocrat named Mor Kornfeld, shortly after taking in the young and circumcised George and giving him the pseudonym Sandor Kiss: “The Kornfeld family had the wealth, wisdom, and connections to be able to leave some of its belongings behind in exchange for permission to make their way to Lisbon. Baumbach was ordered to go to the Kornfeld estate and inventory the artworks, furnishings, and other property. Rather than leave his ‘godson’ behind in Budapest for three days, he took the boy with him. As Baumbach itemized the material, George walked around the grounds and spent time with Kornfeld’s staff. It was his first visit to such a mansion, and the first time he rode a horse. He collaborated with no one and he paid attention to what he understood to be his primary responsibility: making sure that no one doubted that he was Sandor Kiss. Among his practical concerns was to make sure that no one saw him pee.”

As of this writing, the latest high-profile Trumpist collaborator to exploit the notorious legend of Soros-the-Nazi is TV’s Roseanne Barr. Shortly after having the revival of her ’80s hit sitcom “Roseanne” cancelled following its short-lived renewal by ABC for a second season, Barr took to Twitter with a series of racist tweets that humiliated much of the show’s cast and writers, as well as the network.

There is an argument to be made for making all the right enemies. Soros, as reported in “The Independent,” has contributed half a million British pounds to Best for Britain’s efforts to hold a second Brexit referendum in order to stop the U.K. exit from the European Union. Obviously, it would be well within the interests of Vladimir Putin’s satellite parties of Eurofascist “anti-Atlanticists” to fight hard against the effort. Indeed, earlier this spring, the former Trump administration chief strategist and senior advisor Steve Bannon toured Europe, where he addressed Marine LePen’s National Front party congress in Lille, France. “Let them call you racist,” Bannon said. “Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor. Because every day, we get stronger and they get weaker.”

Trump’s former deputy assistant, Sebastian Gorka, attended the January 20 Inaugural Ball wearing a medal of Hungarian nationalist organization Vitézi Rend, which the U.S. State Department, during World War II, listed among “organizations under the direction of the Nazi government of Germany.” Hungary’s interwar governor Admiral Miklós Horthy founded Vitézi Rend in 1920, awarding its medals to Hungarian veterans of World War I. “NBC News” reported on April 8, 2017, that Andras Heisler, the vice president of Hungary’s delegation to the World Jewish Congress, said that members of Vitézi Rend were likely complicit in the murder of Hungarian Jews during the Nazi occupation.

Before he was pressured away from White House employment when John Kelly became chief of staff, Gorka met with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto while he was in Washington, D.C. for the opening of Hungary’s new embassy in March of 2017. Days later, Orban’s government in Hungary sponsored a bill to strip the Central European University in Budapest of its accreditation. On March 31, the State Department followed up with its own statement urging “the Government of Hungary to avoid taking any legislative action that would compromise CEU’s operations or independence.” However, the White House issued no statement.

More recently, Open Society Foundations announced plans to close its office in Budapest and relocate to Berlin.

Vladimir Putin consistently turns up in news stories with the likes of Marine LePen, Nigel Farage, Viktor Orban and Donald Trump. These are all contemporary leading players on the world stage, of course. But in stories there are protagonists and antagonists; and in statecraft there are adversaries and there are allies. And the stories alleging Nazi collaboration against George Soros never seem to add up as cleanly as the anti-democratic connections between his accusers.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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George Soros Is Not — And Has Never Been — A Nazi

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