Burt Neuborne, holocaust huckster

Z Net recently ran a valuable review of Burt Neuborne’s recent book, When at Times the Mob is Swayed. In it Steven Rosenfeld summarizes a lot of the book’s key points and arguments, especially as regards Trump’s Hitlerian parallels. While they are of passing interest, much of his arguments are quite flawed. For instance, Neuborne makes much of Trump’s alleged affinity for Hitler’s writings as bed-side reading. In fact, while his then-wife did state this, it was in the midst of a separation that resulted in a rancorous divorce and though the claim is weakly corroborated, it was in fact denied by Trump at the time. (Snopes has a pretty good summary of the facts here. Nevertheless, Neuborne is pretty confident that Trump’s buzzword “fake news” is “cribbed, no doubt, from one of Hitler’s speeches.”

Neuborne goes on to make much of the Nazis’ control of radio. Here’s how he describes it in his recent article in Forward:
“in the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, where two small green plastic cubes rest almost unnoticed on small display tables—surviving examples of the miniature radios distributed free of charge by the Nazi Party in the years following 1932. There was only one catch: the free radios received only a single frequency—the unremitting, unadulterated voice of Adolf Hitler spewing his witches’ brew of bigotry and hate directly into the heads of 35-40% of the German people.” (Burt Neuborne, “Take It From A Civil Liberties Professor – Trump And Hitler Have A Lot In Common,” Forward June 19/2019.)

This sketch is quite flawed. In fact, the Nazi government introduced new radio models called Volksempfänger which were not free, but more affordable than previous radio sets. This was part of their pledge to supply consumer goods to the German masses, a program that included efforts to make affordable refrigerators, cars and more. The cheapest radio cost about a week’s wages for a typical worker. They were not, moreover, tuned to “a single frequency” but rather some of the models could not receive shortwave signals. This made it more difficult to listen to foreign radio broadcasts, though still quite possible at night especially. (In Germany during the war it was illegal to listen to foreign broadcasts, while for Jews possession of a radio was banned in 1934.) Further, far from German radio broadcasting non-stop Hitler speeches, radio stations, which were indeed all state-controlled, were specifically instructed to offer plenty of non-political programming. Josef Goebbels had noted that the public preferred entertainment to politics and, partly to prevent them tuning in to foreign broadcasts to escape the clamor, he instructed stations to include more entertainment. (See: Voker Ullrich, Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939 (2016), p. 537; also this Youtube video and another. On Goebbels, see P. Longerich, Goebbels: A Biography (2015), p. 460; also D. Irving, Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich (1996), p. 452.)

Then there is Neurborne’s past accomplishments, specifically his role as lead counsel in a pair of holocaust compensation cases.

Much of Norman Finkelstein’s book The Holocaust Industry (2000) focuses on the first of these cases, earning Neuborne the sobriquet “holocaust huckster” for his role in the “double shakedown” that was the suit. That is, the blackmail of Swiss banks and the swindling of holocaust victims in whose name the lawsuit was fought.

It is noteworthy that Finkelstein was not the first intellectual to call bullshit on Neuborne’s lawyering for holocaust survivors. Even before Finkelstein laid out his case, the renowned holocaust historian Raul Hilberg in January 1999 called Neuborne’s legal campaign “blackmail”.

While Finkelstein’s work was groundbreaking, it was ignored (some might say suppressed) even after its basic thesis was confirmed in subsequent mainstream journalism. The New York Times went as far as calling Neuborne’s greed “unseemly”, while the Jewish Week featured numerous survivors’ outrage aimed at the attorney:

The Jewish Week (03/02/2006 )
Survivors Balking At Lawyer’s Fee
Stewart Ain – Staff Writer
In the eyes of Leo Rechter, president of a local survivors group, the lawyer appointed by the court to represent needy survivors in the distribution of the $1.25 billion Swiss bank settlement was really the judge’s lawyer, not theirs.
Rechter, of Hillcrest, Queens, said attorney Burt Neuborne fought the American survivors “every step of the way” as they sought a larger share of the settlement money. And he contends that Neuborne consistently maintained he was working without a fee.
So Rechter was aghast when Neuborne asked the court to pay him nearly $4.1 million of the settlement money for his fee — $1 million more than all needy U.S. survivors have received thus far from the settlement…
David Mermelstein, 77, chairman of a survivors’ group in Miami, said he was “shocked” that Neuborne never mentioned that he would be seeking compensation and questioned why he said repeatedly that he was working without a fee.
“Every month we had conference calls with him in which he said that he was not getting paid,” Mermelstein said. “We were begging the judge every month for money. I gave the judge the names of survivors who are desperate … but we were told there was no more money.”
He said that if Neuborne’s $4 million was allocated along with other “looted asset” money, it would mean another $1 million for needy American survivors. (link)

It was in light of all this that Finkelstein remarks that Neuborne and company’s accomplishment was to “steal monies earmarked for dying Holocaust survivors“.

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