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 Posted Sunday, May 9, 1999

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Bits they edited out of the press stories: More about one of the Littleton, Colorado, killers:

Dylan Klebold was the great grandson of wealthy philanthropist Leo Yassenoff.

A READER asked his sister Ann, who lives in Columbus, Ohio, "Ann, did you used to be a receptionist at the Yassenoff Community Center?" She replied: "I did work for the Jewish Center back when Peter was a baby. It was close to our old house and a could walk to work. Anyway, Leo Yassenoff was a very wealthy Jewish philanthropist, who died and left 13 million dollars to the city of Columbus in the form of a foundation. When I worked for the county writing grants, they were one of the main foundations to which I applied and got funding. Susan Yassenoff was his grandaughter and went to Columbus School for Girls, right up the street from us. People seem to remember her as a nice, normal person. The fact that Dylan was so involved in celebrating Hitler's birthday must have old Leo rolling over in his grave. Maybe he forgot he was Jewish?" The world's press did.


The Jewish Press
Week of April 30, 1999


Police Ignored Anti-Semitic Incidents

By Jason Maoz

AS new details emerge in the aftermath of the April 20 [1999] bloodletting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, troubling questions are being raised about alleged indifference on the part of local police and school officials to previous complaints of racist and anti-Semitic incidents.

The Jewish Press has learned that a Jewish student at Columbine High had been the subject of what was described as "severe and ongoing anti-Semitic harassment," and that repeated entreaties by the student's father to school and law-enforcement authorities were virtually ignored.

It was only the threat of a lawsuit, a source in the community told The Jewish Press, that led officials to express any concern.

Since the harassers were not the young men who carried out last week's slaughter, and in light of the statement by the father of Isaiah Shoels, a black student fatally shot during the rampage, that his children had been the victims of racist taunts and threats from schoolmates, it appears the extent of anti-minority sentiment at Columbine was deeper than originally portrayed.

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, executive editor of Colorado's Intermountain Jewish News, called the Littleton massacre an aberration, much like the murder back in 1984 of Denver talk-show host Alan Berg. "The people of Colorado pride themselves on their tolerance," Rabbi Goldberg told The Jewish Press.

"Littleton," he added, "is a white upper-class neighborhood with almost no blacks, Jews or Asians for anyone to even get mad at. These boys were obvious misfits, obviously maladjusted."

In a show of solidarity with the victims and survivors of the Columbine shootings, the Jewish community of Denver canceled an Israel Independence Day celebration and held a large memorial service at a local synagogue.

Other points of concern arising from the Littleton massacre, the latest and most deadly in a string of similar incidents over the past few years, include the rapid spread of high-tech hate, the steady abdication of parental authority -- and the Jewish background of one of the young gunmen (see article below).

The killing spree by two teenagers, one of whom had his own Internet site glorifying violence and both of whom spoke openly of their fascination with Adolf Hitler, resulted in 15 deaths -- one teacher, 12 students, and the perpetrators themselves, who committed suicide -- and immediately set off another bout of collective soul-searching in what has become a series of periodic national debates on the causes of teen violence.

The usual alleged culprits were trotted out -- celebration of violence in American culture, lack of moral standards in the nation's public schools, easy availability of combat-caliber weapons -- all with at least some merit. This time, though, there was an added element: the affiliation of the gunmen with a group of fellow student malcontents whose affectations included the wearing of black trench coats and an obsession with German techno-rock, a variant of heavy metal with sado-masochistic overtones.

The fact that members of the so-called trench coat mafia were permitted to attend Columbine High dressed in unusual attire and ghoulish makeup, and that their outspoken attraction to violent music, gory video games and military hardware seemingly went unnoticed by parents and teachers, was offered by some as further confirmation of just how much societal control adults have ceded to young people -- a phenomenon one sociologist referred to as the "surrender of the grownups."

But there was more: Although the group with which they were associated is not considered neo-Nazi in the narrow sense of the term, the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, sported Nazi insignia, spoke to each other in snatches of German and ultimately chose Hitler's birthday for their rampage.

And still more: Klebold, it was revealed a couple of days after the attack, was the son of a Jewish woman and great-grandson of a prominent Midwest Jewish philanthropist. Earlier this month, in fact, the family had held a seder, at which Klebold reportedly recited the traditional Ma Nishtana (Four Questions).

These added elements had some reporters, at least in the early stages of the tragedy, scrambling to find a hate-group connection and attempting to explain the growing presence -- a 60% increase in 1998 alone of extremist sites on the World Wide Web. But it was just a matter of time before media coverage shifted to funerals and memorial services, and to the myriad details on the backgrounds of the murderers and the murdered.

The Internet subtext more or less receded from public consciousness, even though its long-term implications are at least as troubling as any of the story's other aspects. New Internet hate sites have been sprouting on an almost weekly basis since 1995, when former Klansman Don Black inaugurated the first white-supremacist Web page.

According to the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate sites increased from 163 at the end of 1997 to 254 just a year later. The Klan alone went from 29 to 73, neo-Nazi groups from 27 to 63.

"This count," said Mark Potok, editor of the Project's Intelligence Report, "is actually conservative. It does not include Holocaust denial sites or pages that are implicitly anti-Semitic but not explicitly so. Nor does it cover race scientists who claim that blacks are less intelligent than whites and 'patriot' groups whose pages may contain racist propaganda." And, Potok observed, the above numbers are limited to Internet sites based in America; hate sites originating in other countries are also available here.

Many new Internet hate sites are specifically aimed at young people, "the kind of bright, college-bound students who are most likely to have a computer in their bedroom," said Potok. "White supremacist groups today are far less interested in picking up thuggish followers to physically assault their enemies than in developing future movement strategists, and for this the Internet is an ideal recruiting tool."

Potok told The Jewish Press that while "there is no question that hate sites are enticing more young people into the neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements, it's difficult at this point to know precisely what influenced the shooters in Colorado.

We do know that they were involved in the netherworld of the death metal/black metal/Goth music genres, which of course draw heavily on anarchy and nihilism -- and, increasingly, themes of white supremacy." The spread of neo-Nazi ideology into areas of heavy-metal music (a new sub-genre goes by the name "Nordic metal") is especially worrisome to Mark Potok.

"We've already arrived at the point," he said, "where it is not unusual to read interviews with heavy-metal musicians who openly talk about 'Jew pigs' and so on. It says something about the times we live in that certain performers feel perfectly free to express themselves that way -- and that certain magazines see nothing wrong in printing it."

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  STORIES like these are not to be taken as a criticism of the Jewish community in any way, but as a comment on the amoral standards and hypocrisy of the world's published news media which for unaccountable reasons suppress and distort news stories as they see fit.

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