Pupils call out Amazon for selling anti-Semitic propaganda
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Pupils call out Amazon for selling anti-Semitic propaganda

After finding some disturbing results during a routine web search for a Holocaust education class, girls at Bais Chana Academy are asking Amazon’s CEO to take a stand against hate

Yaakov Schwartz is The Times of Israel's deputy Jewish World editor.

Illustrative: A German edition of Adolf Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' ('My Struggle') on display at the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, December 11, 2015. (Matthias Balk/dpa via AP, File)
Illustrative: A German edition of Adolf Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' ('My Struggle') on display at the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, December 11, 2015. (Matthias Balk/dpa via AP, File)

After stumbling upon copies of “Mein Kampf” and other Nazi and alt-right paraphernalia for sale on Amazon.com during a routine websearch for a Holocaust education class, students at a Chabad all girls’ school are reaching out to CEO Jeff Bezos to put an end to the sale of anti-Semitic propaganda on the site.

The pupils are studying the Holocaust ahead of a class trip to Poland. Led by 16-year-old Adina Katz, the senior class at New Haven, Connecticut’s Bais Chana Academy High School for Girls sent an email to Bezos. In it, they requested that he “remove these hateful products from [the] website,” which “facilitate the diffusion of antisemitic mindset and violent speech… specifically Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf.’”

Unlike in Germany, where its publication was banned until the copyright expired in 2016, the sale of Hitler’s manifesto is not illegal in the United States, nor has it ever been. In fact, US publisher Houghton Mifflin encouraged people to read “Mein Kampf” during World War II to highlight the degree of evil embodied by the Nazi enemy.

But a report by the Partnership for Working Families together with the Action Center on Race & the Economy from July of this year asserted that some items up for sale on the website are unmistakably malicious and aimed at educating people to hate.

“Amazon enables the celebration of ideologies that promote hate and violence by allowing the sale of hate symbols and imagery on its site,” the report says, citing the sale of swastika jewelry, a lynch-noose car decal and baby onesies with burning crosses on the front, as a few examples. (The products listed in the report have since been removed.)

Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, is illuminated by a display screen at the introduction of the new Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Paperwhite in Santa Monica, California, Thursday, September 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

The report also points out that Amazon provides a platform for white supremacy, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and homophobia as a publisher through its e-book, print, and streaming media formats.

While Amazon bans the sale of any “products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views,” in practice the policy can be erratic.

“These uses of Amazon’s platforms are made possible by what appear to be inadequate and poorly enforced policies,” the report says.

A cursory Google search for “Hitler poster” turned up a front-page Amazon listing for a book of posters featuring “the greatest dictator of all time,” and described as “a MUST-HAVE for every admirer of Hitler.”

Among the copies of “Mein Kampf” listed for sale on Amazon is one whose product description promises that “all profit from this will be donated TO Nationa1 S0cia1ist Movement.” The listing includes a Kindle version sold for 99 cents.

As of press time, Amazon has not yet responded to a Times of Israel request for comment.

Screenshot of an Amazon listing for ‘Mein Kampf’ promising to donate all proceeds to the National Socialist Movement. (screenshot)

Katz says that the students “don’t want to terminate ‘Mein Kampf’ and any other book that we don’t agree with altogether,” but that the book would best serve in “an educational setting, such as a classroom or museum.”

Though Katz says she’s “never experienced outward anti-Semitism, thank God,” she expects her upcoming class trip to Poland will help her to “discover and experience the hardships endured by our ancestors.”

The girls have set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the cost of the trip.

“The only real way we can completely understand what they went through is to experience it for ourselves,” says Katz. “We want to see the death camps through our own eyes and walk in our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ footsteps in the ghettos.”

After all, Katz says, “We are the last generation who can listen to and speak with Holocaust survivors. We must ensure that their legacy lives on.”

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