The Marcel Kalmann story

A couple of week ago I reported on my blog about an antisemitic incident in Bruges, Belgium. A Jew named Marcel Kalmann claimed he had been kicked out of a cafe just for being Jewish, and was later harassed by the police and told that there was no antisemitism in Belgium. The story was published by Joods Actueel, a Belgian Jewish magazine, after their own investigation into the story.

There is, of course, antisemitism in Belgium (see here, here and here). However, this specific story raises quite a few serious question marks.

First, about Marcel Kalmann himself.

In 2001 Dutch newspapers reported that Jewish resident of the Hague, Marc Kalmann, was terrorized by Moroccan youths because of his yarmulke, attacked by a gang of 30 kids. The local Moroccan community was surprised - they couldn't deny that Moroccan youth in the area harassed people, but said these kids would not attack a Jew specifically. And indeed, a social worker said that he had been with Kalmann when he was attacked by a group of ten Moroccans who spat at him and cursed him.



Moroccan youth interviewed by one paper said that they know the man, who stops to look at them instead of doing the smart thing and continuing walking. They said he might have been spat at, but not hit as he claimed.

The general consensus of people interviewed was that the place where he claimed being attacked was a dangerous one, and that Moroccan youth harass people who walk there, but that his story sounded exaggerated and had nothing to do with his faith.

The police had him guarded for a while, but later closed the case, having seen no signs of such attacks. After the story had lasted several months he announced that he was leaving for Israel.

Kalmann claimed to have been born in Auschwitz, in 1944, but in the stories from 2001 he was reported to be 53 (ie, born ~1948)

He had supposedly left the Netherlands when he was 15, later moving to the US, where he worked at the University of West Georgia teaching languages. He came back at around 2000, on his doctor's advice after his wife had passed away.

On a Dutch site for people looking for old friends, a man named Marc (Mordechai) Kalmann wrote in 2004 that he was born and grew up in Venlo. Had finished his studies in the Netherlands, served 3.5 years in the Israeli army and then worked in Switzerland before moving to Atlanta, Georgia in 1978. He last worked as a teacher in Carrollton (The University of West Georgia). He married, had five children and now 13 grandchildren. In 2001 his wife passed away and he started moving between Israel, the US and the Netherlands. Apparently this is the same man.

Regarding this specific story in Bruges:

I had contacted the restaurant, who say that they did not overcharge Kalmann. He has purchased a pot of coffee, paid his bill and then started arguing with the waiter.

Did the waiter kick him out saying they don't serve Jews? I have not seen anybody say otherwise, not Kalmann, not the restaurant.

Kalmann had shouted wolf before. He was apparently attacked, but he had exaggerated his story and attributed it to antisemitism in a case where Moroccan youth attacked everybody with no distinction.

Whether the wolf was really there this time, is still unclear to me. The police investigation is still continuing, but it's probably safe to say that whatever happened, it was exaggerated this time as well.

Sources: AD 1, 2, 3, 4 and also Brussels Journal (Dutch)



Good research and leg work, Esther. Now Daniel Kalmman, Marcel's brother, has posted this note at Deborah's blog, worth repeating here:

"Let me quickly shed some light on Marc Kalmann, my brother. He was born in 1948 in Amsterdam and not in Auschwitz in 1945. He lives in the Netherlands and is fluent in Dutch. He lived in the USA for 22 years and was sometimes employed as a teacher of languages at community colleges. He liked the title professor and has used it since. He tends to believe his own fantasies. I love him but I am concerned that his fantasies take over his world. And through the magic of the Internet it is taking the world by storm. I wanted to set some part of the record straight. I have no knowledge of what did or did not happen at the restaurant in Bruges."

Anonymous said...

The Belgian papers are now reporting the man is a fantast. They report that he hided the fact that in fact he spoke Dutch, and was not a professor, so that presenting himself as an AMerican tourist is wrong. He appears to have filed similar complaints before.