A good Passover story should always involve cakes. Austrian baker Manfred Klaschka is the subject of this year?s story. He was in the news because of his most recent catalogue of cake designs; Klaschka is a pastry specialist.
Of course, Austrian pastries are famous the world over. Now, pastry baker Manfred Klaschka?s most recent catalogue of such tasty delights was in the news this week because it included cakes decorated with swastikas ? as well as one with a baby raising its right arm in a Nazi salute.
Herr Klaschka insists he is not a Nazi. After the news story broke, he even met with a Holocaust awareness group, and apologized for what he had done, and he then baked a cake to say he was sorry ? a cake with Jewish and Christian symbols. The point of the story ? the bit I found interesting ? is Herr Klaschka?s explanation for what he did.
“I see it was a mistake, anyone who knows me knows what kind of person I am. I am no Nazi”, said Klaschka, who had earlier said he was just a pastry maker fulfilling his customers? wishes. Fulfilling his customers? wishes? There is a market in Austria in 2011 for cakes with babies raising their arms in Nazi salutes, cakes with swastikas on them? There are parties where people serve such cakes? Maybe birthday parties for babies?
Of course there are such people, and there are such parties, and because of that, there is a market ? there is consumer demand ? for swastika cakes. Which is why Herr Klaschka was happy to bake them. And not only in Austria.
You may remember the case of the Campbell family from New Jersey.
When Kurt Waldheim was exposed as a war criminal his popularity rose. The neo-Nazi Freedom Party headed by the late Jorg Haider, won 27% of the vote in the 2000 elections and became part of the coalition government ? the first time since 1945 that Nazis had sat in a European government.
But this never happened in New Jersey ? which is why I want to talk about the Campbell family. The Campbell family in New Jersey made the news back in 2008 when they tried to get a birthday cake made for their son ? they have a son and two daughters ? at the local Shop Rite in Holland Township.The store refused their request.
And the reason was that Mr. Campbell wanted the cake to read “Happy birthday Adolf Hitler”. Because, you see, his son?s name was Adolf Hitler Campell. One of the daughters is named is named JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell. Well, you get the point.
When I read about the Austrian baker Manfred Klaschka, I thought ? here was a marketing opportunity for him. He would have happily baked a cake for the Campbell family. So what does all this have to do with Passover?
This week, when we are forbidden to eat Sachertore or Linzer tort or even the delightfully named Punschkrapfen, we might want to pause and think about something we say every year at the Passover seder: ‘In every generation it is the duty of man to consider himself as if he had come forth from Egypt’.
Because in this generation, as in all others, there are those who order custom-made swastika cakes. There are those who name their children after Adolf Hitler. And there are others who fire anti-tank missiles at school busses with Jewish children in them. Because there are those who are building nuclear weapons, having told the world that their intention is to wipe the Jewish state off the face of the earth. Because people like that make Pharaoh look like a nice guy. Because getting out of the house of bondage, out of slavery in Egypt, was not the end of the story for the Jewish people, but was the beginning.
It is a story of a never-ending struggle for freedom, for dignity, for respect, for human rights, that has universal resonance and meaning ? for all people, everywhere, always.