Ultra-Orthodox paper slammed for blurring out women in Auschwitz photo

Mishpacha English-language weekly, accused of ‘erasing memory’ of female Holocaust victims, says it is a ‘regrettable mistake’

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Liberation of children from Auschwitz-Birkenau. (HistClo.com)
Liberation of children from Auschwitz-Birkenau. (HistClo.com)

A popular English-language ultra-Orthodox magazine has been slammed for blurring the faces of women in a photo of the liberation of children from a Nazi death camp. The newspaper said it was a mistake, but has not replaced the photo in the online version of the story.

The Mishpacha weekly, widely read in communities in Israel and the United States, published a story last week on survivors of the gruesome experiments conducted by Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele on Jewish twins.

But in a photo of one survivor twin holding a photo of the camp’s liberation in 1945, the heads of two women were pixelated.

Ultra-Orthodox newspapers in Israel, including the Hebrew-language version of Mishpacha, have a controversial policy of not publishing photos of women. The policy has caused international outrage on several occasions, including when a paper photoshopped Hillary Clinton out of a photo of the White House staff.


The pixelation of women in Nazi camps in an English publication has struck a nerve, as did the fact that only the male twin’s picture was published with the article (his sister also survived, and was interviewed by Mishpacha).

Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll, a resident of Beit Shemesh and founder of the religious women’s organization, Chochmat Nashim, posted on Sunday on Facebook that the paper “utterly disgusts” her and that its staff should be “ashamed” of themselves.

Saying the magazine was “beyond the pale,” Keats Jaskoll wrote that pixelating the women was tantamount to erasing their memory.

“If she’s a Nazi victim, you’ve murdered her again, if she’s a Holocaust Survivor, you’ve done what the Nazis didn’t, and if she’s a liberator you’ve desecrated her name,” she added.

A Mishpacha editor said the incident was a mistake that stemmed from the fact that the story was translated from the Hebrew version.

“The picture was not pixelated by us: we wouldn’t have done so — in fact, in the very same article on the same page, you clearly see a picture of a girl,” Sruli Besser wrote on Facebook.

“The article was a translation from the Hebrew Mishpacha, which follows different guidelines and standards: they pixelated it, in accordance with their policies. One of the artists in graphics department was working on the piece and noticed it. She reasoned that the pixelation was done for another reason — not because of gender, but because of a different sensitivity, and as such, it could be included in the English that way.

“Her well-meaning mistake was that the image had been ‘enhanced’ to protect the dignity of the subject. That was not the case. The resultant hurt is in place. I would certainly get upset about seeing an image with the holy face of a survivor tampered with.”

However, the story, which was published on the magazine’s website on January 24, still featured the blurred photograph five days later, after it had caused the outrage and after Besser’s statement.

Mishpacha called the incident a “regrettable mishap,” but defended the general policy to refrain from publishing pictures of women.

“Ultra-Orthodox Judaism commemorates the six million martyrs murdered during the years of the Holocaust by keeping a great tradition of belief in the Creator and leading a life of Torah and good deeds,” the newspaper said, according to the Hebrew-language news website Ynet.

“Like all ultra-Orthodox media, we respect the rules set by rabbinical leaders 70 years ago to not publish pictures of women, but we do so in a respectful manner and normally don’t blur out figures. Publishing the said photo while blurring out figures appearing in it is a regrettable mishap,” Mishpacha added.

But Rabbi Shmuel Pappenheim, former editor of HaEdah, an internal Haredi newspaper, maintained in 2014 that the removal of women’s pictures and even their names was a recent development, something that began “only in the last several years.”

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