From Pain In The Ass Herd To Farm Calendar Pin-Up, A Blind Donkey's Holiday Tale

Noldi, an eight-month-old domesticated ass, was born blind on a Swiss farm, and was never accepted by his herd, as he struggled to avoid running into obstacles. Farmers considered putting him down, until an outcry from animal rights groups led to a happy

Gut Aiderbichl is an Austrian sanctuary for animals, including 50 donkeys.
Gut Aiderbichl is an Austrian sanctuary for animals, including 50 donkeys.
Beatrice Zogg

ZURICH - A blind donkey named Noldi is the September 2012 "pin-up" on the new calendar just issued by Gut Aiderbichl, an Austrian animal sanctuary. It is the storybook ending after a near-death experience for the troubled ass, whose cause had been championed by a number of animal conservationists.

The eight-month-old animal had been born blind on the farm of Wagerenhof, a home for the disabled in Uster, Zurich. He was never accepted by the herd and, according to the head of the home Luzius Voigt, was even picked on by the other donkeys. An additional problem was that because he couldn't see, he couldn't recognize obstacles and would run into them. "It irritated and frightened him, and he would take it out by being aggressive," said Voigt.

So home management had two options: look for another place for him to go; or put Noldi down if no suitable place could be found. When word spread that he might be euthanized, the Wagerenhof head received hundreds of e-mails from outraged animal conservationists.

Thanks to a tip he received from a member of the public, Voigt contacted the Gut Aiderbichl animal sanctuary in Henndorf, near Salzburg, Austria. There, on what was formerly a farm, many old animals live out their days. There are also handicapped animals, including a number of blind horses and donkeys. By the end of January, the deal was done, and Noldi left Switzerland for Austria. At his new home he has a padded stall, and a paddock designed especially for blind animals.

"Noldi has assimilated well here and feels at home," says Gut Aiderbichl press spokeswoman Britta Freitag.

He has also made a good friend, a sighted donkey named Mario. Says Freitag: "Mario can see, and he took Noldi under his wing and showed him the whole sanctuary." Indeed, now if you flip to the month of September in the farm's new 2012 calendar, you will see the two new donkey buddies pictured together.

Read the original article in German

Photo - Gut Aiderbichl

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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