The huge funeral of famous New York Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal has provided yet another example of the outrageous lies which the media perpetuates - in this case, claiming that he “survived the Nazi death camps,” even though he was never in any camp whatsoever, and in fact was only ever detained by Communists after the war.
According to research produced by Holocaust historian Peter Winter, author of the best-selling (and now free) The Six Million, Fact or Fiction, the “ funeral of Rabbi Portugal, who died recently aged 95, was attended by tens of thousands of wailing Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn - but the media coverage of that event and his life provided the grotesque exaggerations which have become typical of any coverage of World War II.”
Writing on his personal blog, Winter continued:
First off the mark was The Jewish Press, which set the tone for the rest of the media. The Jewish Press is a weekly newspaper in New York, and describes itself as “America’s Largest Independent Jewish Weekly.”
According to that newspaper’s article, titled “Skulener Rebbe, zt’l, is Laid to Rest,” Rabbi Portugal was “Born in Romania to the previous Skulener Rebbe, Rabbi Eliezer Zusia Portugal zt’l and Rebetzin Shayna Rochel, the Rebbe came to the United States as an immigrant together with his father in 1960 after having survived the Nazi death camps in World War II.”
This claim was then instantly repeated by the rest of the media. The Daily Mail, in its extensive coverage of the Rabbi’s funeral (“Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews crowd Brooklyn streets for funeral of popular rabbi, 95, who survived the Holocaust and despised the internet—and no one with a smartphone could touch the coffin”) announced that “the popular Rabbi had survived the Nazi death camps and came to the United States in 1960.”
ABC News’s local broadcaster, Eyewitness News ABC 7, followed up in its coverage (“Thousands crowd Brooklyn streets for grand rabbi’s funeral; 2 officers hurt”) by repeating this claim that “The rabbi came to the United States in the 1960s after surviving Nazi death camps and was a mainstay in Borough Park and Williamsburg for decades.”
News12 Brooklyn’s coverage (“Thousands line the streets of Borough Park for rabbi’s funeral”) claimed that the “rebbe survived the Holocaust and went on to lead the Skulen synagogue for many years.”
USA Today’s coverage was provided by its local affiliate, the Rockland/Westchester Journal News, (“Large crowds mourned rebbe in Monsey today”) which said that “According to the Jewish Press, Portugal was born in Romania, in what is now Moldova, and immigrated to the United States with his father, Rabbi Eliezer Zusia Portugal, in 1960 after surviving the Holocaust death camps and an imprisonment by Romanian authorities for teaching Torah. The United Nations and U.S. officials intervened on their behalf to have them released.”
However, the Jewish Daily Forward - a “left wing” Jewish paper in New York, inadvertently exposed all these controlled media claims as lies. As the Daily Forward’s headline accurately revealed (“The Last Holocaust-Era Rebbe Dies, And A Neighborhood Shuts Down To Mourn”), Rabbi Portugal was never in a concentration camp, and was never even detained by the Germans during the war.