Story/Video via Dans Deals
Last week, thousands of Jews made an annual pilgrimage to visit the grave of Rabbi Yeshaya Steiner of Kerestir, known as Reb Shayala Kerestirer, on the 3 Iyar yahrtzeit (date of his passing) in 1925. Reb Shayala was famed for his warm hospitality and for his miraculous blessings. In 2020, COVID stopped people from going, and last year there were permits required and charter busses were denied at the border. With Europe fully reopening, there was a lot of pent up demand this year and Jews filled up planes on many airlines to reach Kerestir, today known as Bodrogkeresztúr, Hungary.
While US carriers have dropped mask requirements, rules in airports and on foreign carriers can be confusing. For example, you don’t need to wear a mask on KLM planes to their Amsterdam hub, but you do need to wear it in the Amsterdam airport. You do need a mask on Lufthansa planes to their Frankfurt hub, but you don’t need to wear a mask in the Frankfurt airport.
Lufthansa flights from JFK and Newark to Frankfurt on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, were filled with Jews, mostly Hasidic.
Two NYC based travel agencies sold tickets on Tuesday’s Lufthansa flight 401 from JFK to Frankfurt connecting to Wednesday’s Lufthansa flight 1334 from Frankfurt to Budapest. It would seem that somewhere between 135-170 Jews were on the flights in total.
Allegedly, Lufthansa refused to allow any of the Jews from that flight onto their connecting flight to Budapest, while non-Jews were free to continue on their journeys. Two dozen armed police officers ensured that no Jews boarded the flight or caused issues at the gate.
Could this really happen in 2022?
Dans Deals set out to investigate and spoke to more than a dozen passengers onboard that flight. Most agreed to speak on the record, though some said they needed anonymity.
After days of interviews with passengers, it does appear that nearly all visibly Jewish passengers were lumped together for collective punishment, as Lufthansa didn’t bother to identify the small number of mask offenders onboard the flight.
Chilling video shared with DansDeals and posted below appears to confirm that Lufthansa banned all Jews on the flight because in a Lufthansa supervisor’s words, it was the Jews that made the mess and Jews that made the problems, and that all Jews onboard had to suffer due to the sins of the few.
Perhaps the craziest video of them all comes from one passenger, who requested anonymity due to fear of retaliation. The passenger sent the full unedited video, but asked that I trim it and add blurring effects to the video before sharing it.
It is chilling and shocking.
After the flight was closed he went to the rebooking desk but was told that he couldn’t fly on Lufthansa for 24 hours. He then went to locate a Lufthansa supervisor to request that he be rebooked to Budapest as he wasn’t part of any group ticket. He asked if this was an upper management decision and says he was told that it was.
YouTube just removed our video showing a Lufthansa supervisor blaming problems on #TheJews due to it “violating our hate speech policy”.
Don’t stay silent on #AntiSemitism!
— DansDeals (@DansDeals) May 9, 2022
Note: YouTube has removed the video for containing hate speech!
Here is the back and forth from 0:40 into the video.
Passenger: This is gruesome.
Lufthansa: It would have been if you were African, if you were Polander.
Passenger: I was wearing a mask the entire time, why am I lumped in with them?
Lufthansa: It was one, everyone has to pay for a couple.
Passenger: What do you mean everybody, everybody from that race? Everybody else on the flight went.
Lufthansa: Not everybody.
Passenger: The non-Jewish people on the flight went. Why are only the Jewish people paying for other people’s crimes?
Lufthansa: Because it’s Jews coming from JFK.
Passenger: Oh, so Jewish people coming from JFK are paying for the crimes of a few people?
Passenger: Jewish people are paying for the crimes of Israel?
Passenger: Just the Jewish people on that flight?
Lufthansa: Do you want to discuss with me or no? Do you want to listen to me?
Passenger: I’m like shocked beyond, never in my adult life. I’ve never heard this.
Lufthansa: If you want to do it like this, Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems.
Passenger: So Jewish people on the plane made a problem, so all Jews are banned from Lufthansa for the day?
Lufthansa: Just for this flight.
The German term Sippenhaft refers to the idea that everyone in a group should pay for the act of one and it sure seems like it applies here. However, Lufthansa didn’t stop with the two actual groups booked on the flight, they appear to have targeted all Jews on the flight, whether or not they were part of the actual groups.
That collective punishment and singling out of Jews, a couple of whom were called up to board and then denied boarding because of their looks, reminded several passengers I spoke to of the collective punishment mentality used by Nazi Germany during World War II.
More confirmation of the collective punishment
Usher Schik told me that he was one of the lucky ones that ran to be rebooked before Lufthansa decided on a 24 hour ban. He noticed that some of the Lufthansa gate agents from their original flight to Budapest were working the next flight as well. He spoke to one of those agents and said that just because we look alike, doesn’t mean that were were part of the same group and deserved collective punishment!
The agent told him that if it were up to them, everyone would have just gone. However the captain of the flight to Budapest decided that he didn’t want any of them on his plane. The gate agent said that they tried arguing with the captain twice to no avail and ultimately it was his call. But Usher points out that with two dozen police officers at the gate, Lufthansa’s intentions were perfectly clear, they had no intention of letting people fly.
Finding other ways to fly
Chuny Rosen ran to the Lufthansa rebooking desk and was able to get onto a flight to Vienna. Right after he was confirmed, he heard a supervisor tell the agents at the desk not to rebook anyone else that was denied boarding on Lufthansa 1334 onto other Lufthansa flights for 24 hours. He was supposed to fly back that night via Turkish Airlines, but due to the delay to get to Kerestir he had to cancel that flight and wound up buying a new Delta flight via Paris and taking an extra day to get home. He regretted not just going to the First Class Terminal as he assumes that he would have been put onto the connecting flight to Budapest had he been in that lounge, as they transfer you in a Porsche directly to the plane. However he was worried that the connection wasn’t long enough to make it to the first class terminal.
Zev Herskovitz tried getting rebooked to Budapest, but Lufthansa told him he was banned from flying on their airline for 24 hours and that the decision came from higher ups and could not be appealed regardless of whether he was masked or not. His travel agent rebooked him on LOT Polish to Košice, Slovakia, via Warsaw. He said he wore his mask for the duration of the flight, was never warned, and can’t understand why he was banned.
David Landau was one of the lucky ones that ran to get rebooked on a later flight to Budapest. His friend was not as fast and by the time he got to the rebooking desk, was told he had a 24 hour Lufthansa flight ban. He wound up paying $800 for a new ticket to Vienna. The friend was then unable to checkin for his flight home as Lufthansa cancelled his return ticket due to missing the leg to Budapest, which meant that he had to spend another $1,200 for a new ticket home.
Yitzy Schmidt, who travels often to Europe on business, was also told by Lufthansa that he was banned from the airline for 24 hours. He felt so disgusted by the collective punishment and so emotionally drained by the behavior of Lufthansa and the German police that he used his miles to immediately fly home in United business class without ever making it to Kerestir. He couldn’t wait to get off of European soil after what happened to him and other Jews on the flight.
Aron Sofer went to the rebooking center and explained that he was paged to board the flight but was then denied. The rebooking center told him that he had a 24 hour flight ban and that “none of you people will be flying on Lufthansa today.”
The Plan It Rite travel agency paid out of their pocket for their passengers to get to Vienna on Austrian Air, and had to charter new buses to get them to Kerestir.
The Main Street Travel agency paid out of their pocket for their passengers to get to Košice, Slovakia, via Warsaw on LOT Polish and had to charter new buses to get them to Kerestir.
The dozens of passengers that booked their own travel were on their own to find their way to Kerestir.
Most people were only planning on being in Kerestir for a few hours and were planning on visiting gravesites of religious leaders in other cities via charter bus, but they wound up losing those stops and having to spend an extra day in Europe, along with other expenses.
I asked Lufthansa for their side of the story, and they sent me this statement,
“We confirm that a larger group of passengers could not be carried yesterday on Lufthansa flight LH1334 from Frankfurt to Budapest, because the travelers refused to wear the legally mandated mask (medical mask) on board.
By German law, Lufthansa, similar to any and all carriers operating in Germany, is obliged to follow the legal requirements of this mandate. In the new German Infection Protection Act, the obligation to wear a mask remains in place in public transport and thus also on board flights, as well as across all aspects of air transport. Medical or FFP2 masks must therefore continue to be worn on board Lufthansa flights, at all times.
For legal reasons we cannot disclose the number of guests involved in the incident, however Lufthansa has rebooked the guests on the next available flight to their final destination. A prerequisite for transportation is that the travelers complied with the mask mandate, which is a legal requirement.
As safety and security of our passengers and staff is our top priority, Lufthansa will continue to abide by all legal requirements, including the mask mandate imposed by the German government and those of the countries served. We do so without prejudice and with the wellbeing of all our guests.”
I told Lufthansa that I spoke with several passengers who insist that they had their medical mask on for the duration of the flight without any issues and asked how they decided who could continue onto Budapest. I also asked about the numerous passengers who were told they were denied flying on Lufthansa for 24 hours, while Lufthansa’s statement indicated that they were rebooked on the next available flight.
They did not respond to my further questions.
I also sent them a draft of this post, but did not receive an immediate response.
German media coverage
The Frankfurt Allgemeine, one of Germany’s largest newspapers, covered the story here after being tipped off by a DansDeals Forum member. They reported there were 127 banned passengers, though evidence, including videos from Lufthansa agents, shows it was more than that. Lufthansa tells that newspaper that there were 30 people on board the connecting flight to Budapest.
Lufthansa needs to address this and make things right
Based on numerous firsthand accounts and testimony from Lufthansa, as well as the haphazard calling of select passenger names, it does seem that Lufthansa used collective punishment to avoid the work of identifying actual offenders.
The grouping together of visible Jews that weren’t even part of the same group and just happened to be on the same flights, seems to have been anti-Semitic based on only visible Jews being left behind, but reportedly gentiles and two less visible Jews that were on the same flights were allowed to proceed to Budapest.
Lufthansa’s statement appears to be covering up for some of their egregious decision making, including ultimately banning passengers from flying on Lufthansa for 24 hours, causing significant expense and distress.
I hope that Lufthansa investigates this incident thoroughly, that bad actors are properly disciplined, and apologies and compensation are offered. I’d also like to hear what the airline is doing so that this is made into a never again situation.
In the meantime, a class action lawsuit is in the works.
Do you think Lufthansa agents acted in an anti-Semitic manner?