The twisted distortions of Ken Livingstone’s favourite ‘historian’

In the latest edition of Fathom, the quarterly journal of the think tank BICOM, Paul Bogdanor demolishes Ken Livingstone’s favourite ‘historian’ Lenni Brenner. The US controversialist was the authority cited by the former London mayor to justify his “Hitler was a Zionist” outburst that escalated the issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party into a full-blown crisis.

According to Livingstone, Lenni’s book, Zionism in the Age of Dictators, shows a shared common belief between the Nazis and the Zionists … “They wanted to preserve their ethnic purity and that’s why they had a working relationship,” said Livingstone.

In this comprehensive critique, Bogdanor skewers Brenner’s pseudo-scholarship, and explains why his work is a fixture of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic propaganda on both the far left and on the far right, avidly followed by those convinced that ‘Zionists’ are to blame for all evil in the world.

Brenner’s central claim is that ‘the Zionists’ collaborated with the Nazi regime because they shared an ideological affinity.

In fact, Bogdanor shows some Labour Zionists, under extreme duress, and without knowledge of what was to come, engaged in desperate attempts to try to save Jewish lives.

But collaborate with the Nazis? No. In Fathom, Bogdanor summarises: “The Labour Zionists may be dismissed as naïve for entering these talks, but their motives were not unreasonable.”
What is monstrous is Brenner and Livingstone presenting that desperation as ‘collaboration’. Even Brenner has to acknowledge that: “Once Hitler had triumphed inside Germany, the position of the Jews was hopeless.”

That is not the only distortion in Brenner’s work that Bogdanor highlights. His selective quoting of Rabbi Joachim Prinz, who escaped the Nazis, implies Prinz cited common objectives between the Nazis and the Zionists. In fact, he stated the opposite.

It should not have to be necessary for Bogdanor to take apart each of Brenner’s claims but it is and he does.

Among the lies nailed: that Zionists were the ‘favoured children’ of the Nazis, that the Haganah offered to spy for the SS, that Lehi ‘colluded with the fascists and the Nazis’, that David Ben-Gurion was not interested in rescue, and more.

Joel Brand’s attempts at rescue are warped by Brenner, too. Brand was working for
the Jewish Agency’s rescue committee in Budapest and, prior to Adolf Eichmann’s mass deportation of Hungarian Jews, Brand met with the Nazi commander to try to negotiate their release in return for Western goods.

The British arrested Brand when he brought the offer to them, and Brenner seizes on Brand’s initial anger at this, quoting him at length.

Brenner, once again, fails to acknowledge key details, though. Brand later made clear to The New York Times that: “I made a terrible mistake in passing this onto the British.

It is now clear to me that Himmler sought to sow suspicion among the Allies as a preparation for his much desired Nazi-Western coalition against Moscow.”

Bogdanor makes it clear why the idea that Zionists were Nazi collaborators is no more than a grotesque distortion of history, and an insult to those who perished in the Holocaust.

Paul Bogdanor’s full piece can be read online in the new edition of Fathom at


About the Author
Alan Johnson is the Editor of Fathom: for a deeper understanding of Israel and the region and Senior Research Fellow at the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM). A professor of democratic theory and practice, he is an editorial board member of Dissent magazine, and a Senior Research Associate at The Foreign Policy Centre. He blogs at The Daily Telegraph and World Affairs.
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