Pre-Obama ‘Birther’ controversies through a Jewish lens


Speaking of The Donald and birther controversies… In light of recent developments, we’ve been frantically rummaging through the JTA Jewish News Archive in search of stories about birth certificate verification — just in case anyone demands that we show them ours:

Alien Registration and Deportation Bills Denounced at New York Luncheon (January 11, 1926)

A movement to oppose the enaciment of the bills for the registration of aliens and the extension of the grounds for the deportation of resident aliens was started at a luncheon meeting held Saturday at the Astor Hotel, called to discuss a bill introduced by Congressman Aswell of Louisiana (H. R. 3383), for the registration of aliens and bills H. R. 314 and H. R. 4489 introduced by Congressman Johnson of Washington.

The meeting was called by a joint committee consisting of representatives of the Conference on Immigration Policy, the Department of City, Immigration and Industrial Work, Board of National Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. the Deparment of Immigration and Foreign Communities. National Board of the Young Women’s Christian Associations, the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society of America, the League for American Citizenship, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Department of Immigrant Aid of the National Council of Jewish Women. Sherwood Eddy, chairman of the Fellowship for Christian Social Order, presided.

Walter Lippman, editor of the New York "World" was the first speaker… "If every alien can be stopped by anybody at any time and asked to produce his papers, what am I going to do, if, for example, I go down to Mr. Aswell’s state–Louisiana–and somebody stops me on the street and says, ‘Where are your papers?’ Suppose I say to the man, ‘I don’t have to have any papers. I was born in the United States’?"…

Belgian Jewish Scholar Loses Senate Race Due to Age (July 23, 1929)

BRUSSELS — Because of a difference in one year, Prof. Schpeier, the probable representative of Belgian Jewry on the Council of the Jewish Agency lost the race for membership in the Luxembourg provincial Senate.

Prof. Schpeier ran on the ticket of the Liberal party. He was opposed by numerous opposition groups, including the Socialists. When the votes were counted, it developed that Schpeier and an indeepndent candidate, Jabon, received an equal number of votes. The president of the Senate, to whom the matter was referred, ordered that the matter be decided, instead of by a new election, by a determination as to who is older. When both candidates produced their birth certificates, it appeared that the independent Jabon was 60 years of age where as Schpeier was 59.

Prof. Schpeier’s Jewishness figured prominently in the campaign. Even the Socialist organ, "Revue de Luxembourg," attacked him as a "Judas, who came to buy out Belgium with his millions." It is charged that the ruling to determine the election, by the age of the candidate, was found the most convenient way of barring the Jew since their respective ages were known in advance.

Says Gaby Deslys, Jewish Dancer, Who Left $2,000,000 to Poor, is His Daughter (January 5, 1930)

MARSEILLES — The $2,000,000 willed to the poor of Marseilles by Gaby Deslys, the internationally known Jewish dancer who died in 1920, is the subject of investigation now by Parisian newspapermen who are seeking to prove that she was French in order to ward off a suit brought by Jean Navratil of Budapest who claims she was his daughter and hence he is entitled to a share in her estate.

The suit brought by the Hungarian claims that Gaby Deslys real name was Hedwige Navratil and that she was born at Hatvan, Hungary, in 1884. At the bottom of her will the dancer signed herself as Gabrielle Caire and on her death certificate the date of her birth was given as 1885. The records at the city hall in Marseilles indicate that she was born in 1881. M. Navratil asserts that his daughter Hedwige was substituted for Gabrielle Claire, whom she strongly resembled, when the latter was dancing in 1906 and became too ill to appear on the stage.


Nazi Leader May Remain Even if He is of Jewish Descent (September 12, 1932)

BERLIN — The "Deutsche Nachrichten" here, reporting the case of the Nazi leader, Saalfeldt, the chief of the Nazi Party in Luebeck, who has been proved in court in the course of a libel action to be of Jewish birth, being registered on his birth certificate as of Mosaic religion, states that his Counsel, Dr. Brendel, a member of the Nazi Party, declared in Court on behalf of the Party that "Saalfeldt on account of his services to the Party may remain in the Party even though he is a Jew."

Dollfuss Organ Challenges Germans to Disprove Charge of Hitler’s Jewish Descent (July 14, 1933)

VIENNA — A challenge to German authorities to prove that Adolf Hitler is not of Jewish origin was published today in leading Austrian newspapers, including Die Reichspost, organ of the Christian Socialist (Government) party, following yesterday’s sensational story in the Oesterreichische Abendblatt, Heimwehr newspaper, that the Nazi chancellor has Semitic blood in his veins. The papers here today pointed out that "in case no contradiction is forthcoming from Germany we will be forced to accept the fact that the world’s greatest racial anti-Semite is himself of Jewish origin in the third generation."

Austrian political circles fear diplomatic reverberations as a result of the Heimwehr paper’s revelations in both this country and Germany. A protest from Berlin is ostensibly on its way to Vienna, and at the same time the German embassy here is reported to have demanded that the Austrian government take steps to suspend the Oesterreichische Abendblatt’s publication in order to satisfy Germany’s honor for the "insult" to the Reich’s chancellor.

Aryanize Film Industry (July 14, 1933)

BERLIN — Not only Jewish actors, but also Jewish directors, producers, cameramen, authors and conductors are to be dismissed from the German film industry, it was officially announced yesterday. In the future, anyone desiring a post in the industry will have to present his birth certificate, his father’s and his grandfather’s, in order to prove freedom from the Jewish taint.

Vienna Press Continues Hitler Birth Revelations (July 20, 1933)

VIENNA — The Oesterreichische Abendblatt, Heimwehr organ, continued today to print revelations of Hitler’s origin in its attempt to prove the German chancellor is of Jewish descent. In tonight’s issue the Abendblatt featured a story from the director of the Polna Museum in which he confirmed, with documents, the story printed previously concerning Hitler’s family tree. However, the museum director concluded his confirmation with the note that "if the chancellor belongs to the same Hitler family as the Polna Jews do, then few Jews have a prouder family tree than the Nazi chieftain."

Die Reichspost, organ of the Christian Socialist (Government) party, emphatically denied that the vicarage certificates which were published last week could be used as a basis for proving that Chancellor Hitler was of Jewish origin. At the same time, however, Die Reichspost declared that "Hitler’s father was an illegitimate child."

721 Jewish Lawyers Disbarred in Vienna (July 29, 1938)

BERLIN — Higher leaders of the Nazi Party will be required to obtain certificates showing the purity of their racial origins as far back as 1750, the Rechtsspiegel, Nazi Party law journal, announced today. Members of some party groups will be required to prove that ancestors back to 1800, were "Aryan," while all Germans will be asked to secure certificates showing the race of parents and grandparents.

In cases of illegitimate birth, if more than one person may be presumed to have been the father, the racial status of all such possible fathers will be investigated. "Second degree half-breeds," persons having two Jewish grandparents, may marry "Aryans" but not Jews. Persons having a larger percentage of Jewish blood may marry Jews but not "Aryans."

It was announced that 721 Jewish lawyers have been disbarred in Vienna since Austria became a part of Germany.

Citizenship Provision of New Argentine Draft Constitution Evoke Concern Among Jews (January 19, 1949)

BUENOS AIRES — The provision of the proposed new Argentine constitution which calls for foreigners who reside in Argentina for two years to apply for citizenship or leave the country may lead to grave complications for some foreign Jews in this country, Jewish circles today pointed out.

These circles were concerned with the fact that the proposed constitution does not provide for automatic citizenship, but leaves the matter of granting citizenship to another law, still to be promulgated. In the past, Jews who because of the war could not produce birth certificates were automatically barred from citizenship by federal judges.

If the same situation should prevail after passage of the new constitution, the Jews will conceivably be in a worse predicament. It is feared that in complying with the law and applying for citizenship, Jews without adequate documentary evidence of their birth will be left in a legal limbo and may run into a myriad of difficulties…

Jews in Rome Protest Against Racial Clause in Birth Certificates (December 8, 1953)

ROME –The Union of Italian Jewish Communities has addressed a protest to Mayor Salvatore Rebecchini against the city’s continued use of birth certificate forms left over from the Fascist regime. The birth certificates still require that the "race" of a newborn child be entered as either "Aryan" or "Hebrew."

Behind the Headlines U.S. Jews of Russian Descent May Soon Be Able to Trace Their Roots (May 21, 1985)

By Judith Kohn

WASHINGTON — A veritable gold mine of information for American Jews tracing their roots is on the verge of being made easily accessible, according to the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington. But hundreds of die hard amateur genealogists are concerned that before the job is completed their treasure might be transformed from the dusty cartons of a Maryland warehouse to permanent obscurity in the Soviet Union.

The huge cache of documents — accumulated in Russian Consulates throughout this country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — is a godsend for many Jewish descendants of Russian emigrants, since official records that might unearth a part of their families’ past have been unobtainable from the Soviet government. Over half of the estimated 100,000 to 500,000 documents are expected to be case files on Jewish immigrants to the United States.

"This is the largest single source of information about Americans of Russian descent known to exist anywhere in the world today," Dr. Sallyann Sack, founder of the Society, said in an interview.

The documents were left behind when the Russian consulates in the U.S. and Canada were closed in the years following the revolution of 1917 and the establishment of the Bolsheviks in power. By 1933, when the Roosevelt Administration announced its recognition of the Stalin government, the previously scattered records had been concentrated in the former Russian Embassy in Washington. But just a night before the Soviets were to repossess the building, the U.S. army carted off the 500 crates of remaining files to a government warehouse…

Jewish Agency Orders Probe into 1950s Confiscated Passports (July 14, 1997)

By Naomi Segal

JERUSALEM — The head of the Jewish Agency for Israel has ordered an investigation into reports that the agency confiscated the passports of thousands of North African immigrants who came to Israel during the 1950s in order to prevent them from leaving the country.

About 20,000 passports were taken from immigrants from Tunisia and Morocco in the late 1950s, when there was a mass immigration to Israel from Arab countries, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported last week.

The passports are still stored in agency archives, the paper said…

Palestinian Intellectual Fabricated His Personal History, Writer Asserts (August 25, 1999)

By Douglas Davis

LONDON –An intellectual powerhouse of the Palestinian cause fabricated his past to promote himself as a symbol of dispossession and exile, according to the September issue of Commentary magazine.

Edward Said, professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, has always claimed to have spent his formative years at his father’s Jerusalem home.

He has said he attended St. George’s School in Jerusalem and that he went into exile when his family was forced to flee in the face of threats by the Haganah, one of the prestate Jewish resistance movements, in November 1947.

After three years of research, Israeli academic Justus Reid Weiner said he has the evidence to show that Said’s claims are a total fabrication.

Said did not live in Jerusalem, did not go to school there and was not a refugee, Weiner writes in Commentary, a neo-conservative Jewish magazine.

Instead, Said grew up in an atmosphere of luxury, privilege and affluence in Cairo, where his father — a U.S. citizen — was a wealthy businessman.

While he was born at his uncle’s home in Jerusalem during a family visit, his birth certificate states that his home is Cairo.

Said could not be reached for comment…

Israelis Plead Guilty in New Zealand, but They Won’t Be Prosecuted As Spies (July 6, 2004)

By Henry Benjamin

SYDNEY, Australia —  Two Israelis suspected by New Zealand authorities of being Mossad agents have pleaded guilty to unlawfully attempting to obtain a New Zealand passport. Uri Kelman, 30, and Elisha Cara, 50, pleaded guilty in Auckland’s High Court last week. They will remain in custody until a July 15 sentencing hearing. The crime carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

The men had been on bail since their first court appearance in April. Two other charges against the men of conspiracy for being part of an organized crime syndicate have been dropped.

The New Zealand Herald said the guilty plea was to prevent the prosecution bringing "diplomatically embarrassing" evidence that the men indeed were Mossad agents involved in criminal activity in New Zealand.

But a major New Zealand television station, TVN, sent a camera crew to Israel to investigate the alleged Mossad connections, but they found nothing definitive. …

Iraqi-born Israelis can vote in Iraq’s upcoming elections (January 14, 2005)

Iraqi-born Israelis can vote in Iraq’s upcoming elections.

A spokeswoman for Iraq’s out-of-country-voting office said that anyone with an original Iraqi birth certificate can cast a ballot in the Jan. 30 poll, Ha’aretz reported.

"There are no restrictions on Iraqis on the basis of religion, race or sex," Sarah Tosh said. "This definitely includes those who are Israeli citizens today." Since its founding, Israel has taken in some 130,000 Jewish immigrants from Iraq. But turnout from Israel is not expected to be significant.

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