Arbeit macht frei

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Fri Jul 17 18:56:11 PDT 1998

Andrew Kliman asked for a cite on the NYC workfare boss's citation of the welcome banner at Auschwitz. Here it is. I like the way the controversy is entirely over whether the remark is anti-semitic, not whether the program itself smells of the work camp.

Wasn't Turner the guy who ran Wisconsin's famous welfare "reform"?


>NEW YORK TIMES June 27, 1998, Saturday
>Section: Metropolitan Desk
>City Official Is Sorry for Remark Some Thought Was Anti-Semitic
>The Commissioner of the city's Human Resources Administration apologized
>yesterday for making an errant remark during a television interview that
>was construed by some viewers as anti-Semitic.
>During a televised discussion of the city's welfare-to-work program, the
>Commissioner, Jason A. Turner, said, ''Work makes you free.''
> A German version of the same phrase -- ''Arbeit macht frei'' -- was
>printed on the gates of Nazi concentration camps like Auschwitz, where
>thousands of Jews were forced into slave labor before many were killed
>during World War II.
> Mr. Turner's remark on the television program -- 13 Online, which was
>broadcast on Thursday night on WNET/Channel 13 -- prompted at least one
>viewer, Gilbert Jonas, to call City Hall in anger.
>Mr. Jonas said that while neither Mr. Turner nor the host of the
>program, Brian Lehrer, seemed aware of the source of the quote, he was
>concerned about what he described as callousness on Mr. Turner's part.
> ''Work will make you free?'' Mr. Jonas said. ''That was the
>justification by the Gestapo. One does not need to pile this on the
>people of New York, especially with people here who escaped those camps
>and, more than that, had relatives who never did.''
> Adam Segall, New York regional director for the Anti-Defamation League,
>said yesterday that his office had received several complaints about Mr.
>Turner's remark, but that no widespread or organized protests were
> ''My take is that I would not ascribe Mr. Turner as anti-Semitic, and
>not even the intention behind the words that he used,'' Mr. Segall said.
> ''However, it seems clear that he used a term that he had heard
>previously that he was not familiar with the context. I'm not saying
>that he used it intentionally as an anti-Semitic remark.''
> In a prepared statement yesterday, Mr. Turner said he had no intention
>of linking the city's workfare programs to the Holocaust.
> ''It was my intention to state the view that work can give an individual
>a greater measure of personal freedom, independence and self-sufficiency
>in contrast to the dependency of welfare,'' Mr. Turner's statement said.
> ''To the extent that anyone was hurt because my remarks evoked other
>memories, and since I intended no harm, I am sorry if anyone was
>offended by my remarks.''

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list