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December 27, 2014 / 5 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Berlin’

The Evil Inclination

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Rav Tzvi Hirsh Levin, the rav of Berlin, was an extremely clever and sharp individual and possessed a remarkable sense of humor that he used well in his attempts to get across Torah views.

Rav Tzvi Hirsh was first rav in a very small city – Halberstat. Halberstat was a poor place but the people were very pious and observant. He then moved on to become the rav of London and finally, spiritual leader in Berlin.

In describing the differences between the three places, he once said:

“I will illustrate the differences with a story. Once when I was in Halberstat, I passed an inn and I heard from within a mournful sound.

“The sounds were so tragic that I thought that the person who was making them must surely have suffered some terrible tragedy. Walking inside I saw in the corner an emaciated and hungry looking fellow sitting at a table with his head in his hands, giving vent to his woes.

“ ‘What is the matter sir?’ I asked him. ‘Why do you mourn so?’

“ ‘I am the yetzer hara [evil inclination],’ he replied. ‘Never have times been so bad for me as they are in this city of Halberstat. No matter how hard I work at trying to get these Jews to commit sins, no matter how I run about attempting to tempt them, my efforts are in vane. I will starve to death in this city, business is so bad!’

“I left the mournful soul,” continued Rav Tzvi Hirsh, “and went on my way. I soon forgot about the incident and the years passed. I left Halberstat and moved on to London where I became rav.

“One day, as I was walking along a busy street, I saw a familiar figure running toward me. It was the evil inclination.

Has No Time “ ‘Hello there,’ I called. ‘It has been many years since I last saw you. What are you doing in London?’

“ ‘I have no time to stop to talk now,’ replied the evil inclination. ‘There is so much work to do here that I am exhausted. I have to run about persuading people to sin and business is extraordinary.’

“Away he went,” said Rav Tzvi Hirsh, “and disappeared from sight on his way to do business.

“The years passed by once again, and I forgot about him until I went over to Berlin. There I met him again. As I was passing a tavern, I heard loud laughter. A man was singing and sounded like the happiest, most contented of people.

“Looking through the window, I saw that it was my old friend, the evil inclination.

“ ‘Hello there,’ he cried out drunk but happy, ‘come and join me in a drink.’

A Pleasure “ ‘What are you doing in Berlin?’ I asked. ‘And look at you. You have grown so fat and ruddy of complexion. Why aren’t you at your work?’

“ ‘Ah, my friend,’ he said with a smile. ‘There is no need to work in Berlin. In Halberstat I worked like a dog and showed nothing for it. The were impossible to tempt.’

“ ‘In London, there was plenty of business but I had to run around drumming it up. Here in Berlin however, it’s a pleasure! I don’t have to do a thing. The people are ready to do immoral and evil acts without my having to push them.’ ”

The “Good Angel” The Chofetz Chaim’s good virtues and wonderful character had their beginnings when he was yet a little boy.

In the little town where he lived was a poor man who earned his meager living by drawing water from the wells and springs and selling it in town.

He used to leave the pails with which he drew the water outside his front door because there was simply not enough room for them in the little hut that he called his home.

Some of the mischievous and thoughtless children in the town decided to play a practical joke on the poor man and they filled the pails with water. In the bitter wintry night the water quickly froze and the man had all manner of difficulty in the morning.

Admonishes Them Little Yisroel Meir (that was the name of the Chofetz Chaim) felt very bad for the poor man and he admonished his friends:

It’s Official: No Circumcision in Germany – Jewish Hospital Bans the Brit

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

The Jewish Hospital in Berlin has suspended all religious circumcisions of children following a ruling delivered by a German court on June 24 banning the practice.

The district court in Cologne ruled that circumcising young boys “is a serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body,” and raised an outcry of protest from Jewish and Muslim groups, both religions performing circumcisions on their children as a symbol of religious faith.

The ruling was made on a case in which a 4 year-old Muslim boy’s circumcision by a doctor led to pervasive bleeding and medical complications.

Gerhard Nerlich, a spokesman for the hospital, announced that “we are suspending circumcisions until the legal situation is clarified”.

The hospital performs approximately 100 religious circumcisions a year.  Two surgeries scheduled to take place were cancelled by the hospital, with calls placed to the families explaining the reason.

In its ruling, the court found that performing the religious circumcisions impinged on a child’s “fundamental right to bodily integrity” and was “against the interests of a child to decide for himself later on to what religion he wishes to belong”.  “Even when done properly by a doctor with the permission of the parents, [circumcision] should be considered as bodily harm if it is carried out on a boy unable to give his own consent”, the court said.  It noted that once a boy reaches the age of consent, he will be permitted to have a religious circumcision performed on himself.

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany condemned the ruling as “an unprecedented and dramatic intrusion on the self-determination of religious communities”, calling it “outrageous and insensitive”.

Rabbi Shimshon Nadel of Har Nof, Jerusalem, said the ruling was indicative of Germany’s sentiments toward Jews.  “Throughout Jewish history, there have been many attempts to ban circumcision – this is nothing new, and unfortunately, anti-Semitism is once again rearing its ugly head in Germany,” he said.  “The circumcision procedure is something that is safe when performed by a trained mohel [performer of ritual circumcisions], we’ve been doing it for thousands of years, so it really comes down to the training of the mohel.”

The World Health Organization estimated that approximately 1/3 of men around the world are circumcised.

Germany is home to millions of Muslims and over 100,000 Jews.

Chabad of Berlin could not be reached for comment.

 

Please see the petition on Germany’s ban.

Germany Raises Diplomatic Ties With PA/PLO

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Germany has just raised the level of representation of the PA/PLO delegation in Berlin to “Diplomatic Mission” headed by an Ambassador. This was announced Wednesday by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle while visiting in Ramallah. The change in diplomatic status may be related to Merkel’s several recent condemnations of Israel’s settlement policy.

France, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Denmark and the UK have already elevated the PA/PLO delegations in their countries to “Diplomatic Missions”.

Interbellum Art

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Chaos and Classicism: Art in France, Italy, and Germany, 1918-1936

October 1, 2010-January 9, 2011

Guggenheim, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York

http://www.guggenheim.org/

 

 

“By breaking statues one risks turning into one oneself,” says a caption in Jean Cocteau’s 1930 film, “The Blood of a Poet.” The statement could be a postmodern take on Psalm 115, which declares that those who make idols (which have mouths but cannot speak, eyes but cannot see, ears but cannot hear, noses but cannot smell, hands but cannot feel and feet but cannot walk), “shall become like them, all that place their faith in them.”

 

Like the legendary Greek sculptor Pygmalion, who fell in love with his sculpture-turned-woman, the artist in Cocteau’s film sees both a drawing and a sculpture of his become flesh and blood. After fleeing some traumatic and surreal visions, including a journey through a mirror and a lethal snowball fight, the artist destroys (and murders?) the sculpture. Yet his iconoclasm, as the statements above suggests, might be an act of projection and identification, rather than violence and disassociation.

 

The work is worth comparing to Julius Bissier’s 1928 painting, “Sculptor with Self-Portrait.” The artist, wearing a suit and tie, gray-white overcoat and beret, holds a scalpel in one hand and a chunk of clay in the other as he carves a self-portrait bust that stands on a table in the foreground. A note pinned to the wall beyond his left shoulder is Bissier’s signature, and a shelf to the left of the painting supports a quill and ink.

 

“Although Bissier’s surreal, double image, with its bright palette and cartoonlike formal exaggeration, could never be mistaken for anything but a modern picture, its roots go deep into the local past,” argues Kenneth E. Silver in his essay “A More Durable Self,” which identifies Bissier’s work with the portraits of the 16th century German portraitist and printmaker, Hans Holbein. Silver also cites the term “modernity of the past,” coined by Katia Baudin of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, which he explains as, “the sudden but powerful attraction that German art history exerted on practitioners in the 1920s.”

 

Jean Cocteau. The Blood of a Poet (Le sang d’un po?te), 1930. 35 mm black-and-white film,

with sound, 50 min. Film still by Sacha Masour. Courtesy Comit? Jean Cocteau.

 

 

It is almost a clich? at this point to ask how interbellum Germany, then on the forefront of virtually every cultural sphere, could embrace Hitler and Nazism. Why didn’t Berlin’s painterly and operatic sensibilities, the question goes, elevate the German moral sense, and if, as Oscar Wilde famously claimed, art and morality are not kin, what good is an art that cannot only accommodate genocide, but even style it? Perhaps this is how Theodor Adorno came to argue, “Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”

 

The brilliance of the Guggenheim’s current exhibit, Chaos and Classicism: Art in France, Italy, and Germany, 1918-1936, which includes both Bissier’s and Cocteau’s works, is that it goes one step beyond the hackneyed question.

 

Instead of looking to indict art for the sins of dictators (though art has often played the role of propaganda, never more thoroughly than Hitler used it), guest curator Silver, professor of modern art at New York University, looks to the art of the period between the world wars, in part, to see how artists responded to the devastation of the First World War and to scout out the cultural forces that facilitated the rise to power of dictators in the Second World War.

 

 

Antonio Donghi. Circus (Circo equestre), 1927. Oil on canvas, 150 x 100 cm.

Gerolamo and Roberta Etro, Milan.

 

 

Artists of the 20s and 30s, according to Silver, sought to replace the chaos of the First World War with classicism – a revival (called the Neue Sachlichkeit, or New Objectivity) of the Greco-Roman emphasis on the monumental and the holistic. Like the Genesis narrative where God fashions the cosmos out of tohu and vohu, artists literally seem to have tried to create substance out of bedlam. But purity of forms quickly became a double-edged paintbrush when it became incorporated into the Nazi agenda of using approaches like eugenics to privilege Aryanism over the “Other.”

 

Although Silver stresses that the artist and the sculpture in Bissier’s work seemingly “insist on the equal status of painting and sculpture, if not the latter’s superiority,” there is one important difference between the two. Bissier has dabbed two white strokes on the artist’s face – one per eye – an old trick that lends the eyes the illusion of texture and three-dimensionality. The sculpture, by comparison, lacks those glimmers in its eyes, making it very clear which is the master and which is made of clay.

 

The same can be said of Cocteau’s artist and sculpture. Although both have the power of movement, it is clear that there is a difference between the person and the sculpture, however animated it may be. This distinction between human (with all the rights and value implied therein) and non-human, between person and miming puppet, was of course to become a far larger and more terrifying issue with the Nazis’ rise to power.

 

 

Otto Dix. Skin Graft (Transplantation) from The War (Der Krieg), 1924.

Etching, aquatint, and drypoint from a portfolio of prints, plate: 19.9 x 14.7 cm; sheet: 47 x 34.6 cm

Published by Karl Nierendorf, Berlin, printed by Otto Felsing, Berlin. Edition of 70.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

 

 

The Guggenheim exhibit tells of that rise from Joseph Goebbels’ 1936 Decree Concerning Art Criticism (which essentially forbade it) to the closing of the Bauhaus school and the condemning of its art to the Degenerate Art exhibits. The exhibit also addresses Albert Janesch’s painting “Water Sports (Wassersport),” which depicts the 1936 Berlin Olympics and shows “a veritable navy of superhuman Nazi athletes,” according to Silver, as well as Leni Riefenstahl’s 1936-8 “Olympia,” a film about the Olympic games, which Silver says was “financed secretly by the Nazi government to serve as international propaganda for the regime.”

 

But perhaps the most interesting work in the show is Carlo Carra’s “The Daughters of Lot (Le figlie di Loth)” (1919), which shows Lot’s two daughters and a dog (a symbol of fidelity) set in a mostly desolate landscape. Having fled the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with their father, the two women decide that they are the sole survivors of the apocalypse and that it is their responsibility to get their dad intoxicated and to begin repopulating the planet.

 

“A tale that resonated during postwar reconstruction, the Old Testament story of Lot refers to a new beginning,” writes Guggenheim curator Helen Hsu in the catalog. “In Carra’s unconventional representation, Lot is eliminated and with him the act of incest, although the staff lying in the foreground may be a cipher for the missing father.”

 

Hsu doesn’t mention it, but it would be fascinating if Carra intended the pedestal and white sculpture on the right to be a pillar of salt – and then not only the father, but also the mother would be symbolized. Either way, the Lot painting serves as a great representation of the interbellum period not only because Carra has censored the obscenity, but also because the women are wrong. Though their trauma seems universal, it is simply local, and life does indeed carry on. Perhaps Carra has referenced that in the classical structure (perhaps a temple) in the background amidst the hills and the foliage.

 

Carra couldn’t have predicted World War Two completely, but he certainly knew to create the perfect balance between hope and fear, creation and destruction.

 

 

             Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia ,welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

The Jewish Art Enthusiast’s Guide To WNET/Channel Thirteen’s ‘Art Through Time: A Global View’

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Art Through Time: A Global View

A 13-part series produced by Thirteen (WNET) for Annenberg Media

Premiered Oct. 10

Jill Peters (exec. producer), Suzanne Rose (series producer), Jennifer Hallam (managing editor, writer producer), and Eva Zelig, Arash Hoda and Gail Levin (producers)

http://www.learner.org/courses/globalart/

 

 

Jewish art buffs might be disappointed by channel Thirteen’s new 13-part series, Art Through Time: A Global View. It takes two entire episodes (one half an hour each) and part of the third episode for a reference to Jewish art to surface. This comes in the person of Shimon Attie (born in Los Angeles, 1957), whose The Writing on the Wall (1991-3) projected pre-Holocaust photographs onto the walls of buildings in the Jewish quarter of Berlin, the Scheunenviertel. Attie’s projections, which were effectively before-and-after photos of particular buildings, are particularly haunting because they reveal how much the neighborhood has changed. Another work of Attie’s that is discussed in the episode is Portrait of Exile (1995), which involved submerging light boxes with portraits of Danish refugees (who fled to Sweden during the Holocaust) in a canal in Copenhagen.

 

There is nothing wrong with Attie and his work – though it’s not clear that he should be the first representative of Jewish art, as opposed to Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro, Marc Chagall, Max Liebermann, Amedeo Modigliani and a slew of more contemporary artists like Larry Rivers, R.B. Kitaj or Judy Chicago, though photographer Richard Avedon’s work appears (but is not discussed in a Jewish context at all). One might also argue that opening the discussion about Jewish art with works about Holocaust memory could give the wrong impression about the larger genre of Jewish art, which often deals with much happier and affirmative times in Jewish history and experience, as readers of this column are well aware.

 

But what is perhaps most troubling is that there was no room to discuss Jewish art in the first episode (Converging Cultures) or the second (Dreams and Visions), particularly since viewers hear about plenty of Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Latin American, African, Asian and Indonesian Aborigine art in those two episodes.

 

 

Unknown artist, Haggadah, Spain, c. 1300. Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary. From Art Through Time: A Global View.

 

 

After Attie, viewers can carry on watching the rest of episode three (History and Memory) – where Attie returns and gets the final word – four (Ceremony and Society, which offers a quick glimpse of a bar mitzvah amidst a larger mosaic of snapshots), and six minutes of five (Cosmology and Belief) before hearing from another Jewish artist, this time Vitaly Komar, of the Russian artist-born duo Komar and Melamid, famous for, amongst other things, teaching elephants in Thailand to paint.

 

Like Attie, Komar is hardly a representative of Jewish art worth complaining about. Komar’s work, which is very edgy, particularly in its politics, often draws upon Jewish (and other faiths’) symbols, as well as Kabbalah. “Art can create [an] image, which has no equivalent in language,” Komar says later on in the episode, which also addresses the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, showcasing the work of Jewish painter Mark Rothko. But Komar and his colleague Alexander Melamid, have a particular political criticism of the Soviet Union in mind, and is not necessarily the best work to choose if only two Jewish artists are going to be discussed in the entire series.

 

 

The Egyptian Book of the Dead from chapter six, Death. Credit:

Unknown artist, Egypt. New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1567 BCE-320 BCE Egyptian Museum, Turin, Italy.

Renaissance Rabbi

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

This essay is largely based on the book Ish Yehudi by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who over the years has served as mashgiach and rebbi at a number of Torah institutions.

The term “Renaissance man” is used to describe a person who excels in a wide variety of subjects or fields. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s biography of his father, Rav Dr. Yoseph (Joseph) Tzvi Carlebach (1883-1942), provides fascinating information about the life of a man who deserves to be described as a Renaissance rabbi.

In Ish Yehudi (Shearith Joseph Publications, 2008) a book richly adorned with photographs and documents depicting personalities and places of historical significance in pre-Holocaust Europe, the reader learns about an extraordinary man who was the respected rav of a number of prestigious communities in pre-World War II Germany, a towering Torah scholar, a talented orator, a dynamic educator, a prolific writer, an intellectual who earned a Ph.D. in mathematics and philosophy from Heidelberg University, an expert in astronomy, a scientist, a connoisseur of the arts and humanities, and so much more.

When it came to acquiring knowledge, Rabbi Joseph Tzvi Carlebach was never satisfied.

* * *

Joseph Carlebach was born on January 30, 1883 in Luebeck, Germany, where his father, Dr. Salomon Carlebach, served as rav from 1870 to 1919. Joseph’s father was a talmid chacham and an outstanding orator.

Joseph obtained his early Torah education at home from his father and from Rabbi Mordechai Gumpel (a disciple of Rabbi Jacob Ettlinger, the renowned chief rabbi of Altona and author of Aruch Laner), whom his father employed as a tutor for the Carlebach children.

At the age of 18 Joseph went to Berlin to study Torah at the rabbinical seminary founded by Rabbi Dr. Ezriel Hildesheimer. Simultaneously he attended the University of Berlin, where his studies focused on mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy and philosophy.

While at the university, Joseph came into close contact with the world-famous physicist Max von Planck, in whose laboratory he worked, as well as with the (then well-known) astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster and Wilhelm Dilthey, a respected historian, psychologist, sociologist and philosopher.

Joseph also somehow found time to be an instructor at the religious school of Adas Yisroel Congregation.

Despite his extensive secular studies, Joseph never failed to devote several hours each day to Torah study. The Jewish community of Berlin was blessed with many unique men who left an indelible impression on young Joseph, among them such Torah luminaries as Rabbis David Tzvi Hoffman, Joseph Wohlgemuth, Jacob Barth and Ezra Munk.

Jerusalem Years

Joseph passed his state examination in March 1905, graduating summa cum laude. He was now qualified for a high school teacher’s diploma in mathematics and natural sciences.

Ephraim Cohn, principal of the Laemel Teachers’ Seminary of Jerusalem, happened to be in Berlin when Joseph received his diploma. He had come to hire an instructor in mathematics and natural sciences for his institution, and an Orthodox young man, with a diploma from Berlin University in these subjects, was exactly what he needed. He offered Joseph the position.

Joseph had some qualms about accepting the job, since Jerusalem at the time was embroiled in a battle regarding the teaching of secular subjects in Jewish schools. Indeed, a ban had been signed by many of the most prominent Jerusalem rabbonim forbidding anyone from teaching secular subjects in Jewish schools. Those who did risked being put in cherem.

Joseph turned to his father for advice. After consulting with a number of Torah authorities, his father sent him a letter urging him to go. In addition, the faculty of the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary unanimously encouraged him to accept this position.

Thus it was mathematics and science that brought Joseph to Jerusalem in 1905 at the age of 22. The time he spent there was to shape his entire outlook and give his worldview a new horizon.

During his three-year stay in Jerusalem, Joseph was befriended by the chief rabbi, Rav Shmuel Salant, who made Joseph feel welcome both at his shiurim and in his home. Interestingly enough, Rav Salant was one of the signers of the secular studies ban, but he apparently put that aside when it came to his relationship with Joseph.

Joseph met a number of other distinguished rabbis, among them Rav Avraham Yitzchok Kook, who in 1921 would become the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Palestine.

While in Eretz Yisrael, Joseph acquired a good working knowledge of both Hebrew and Yiddish.

The students at the Laemel School soon realized their instructor was a man of unusual talents and methods. In addition to his dynamic classroom presentations, he would take his students for excursions around the environs of Jerusalem. They soon discovered he knew the name of every star in the sky and every plant and shrub on earth.

He knew the hiding places of the animals and would show his students how they lived and fed. He would explain how clouds were formed and he even forecast the weather. When they came upon a historic site, he would dramatize the events that had occurred there.

Furthermore, while walking he had the boys sing songs praising God for the beauty of this world and His abundance.

In 1908, when the time came for Joseph to return home to Germany, the most prominent rabbonim of Jerusalem expressed their deep appreciation for his work with their youth. Indeed, Rav Salant tried to persuade him to marry while he was in Germany and then return to Eretz Yisrael.

Back to Berlin

Shortly after returning to Berlin, Joseph was hired as an instructor for mathematics and the natural sciences at the prestigious (secular) Margareten High School for Girls. His selection for the position was a testament to his qualifications – no Jew had ever held such a post at the school, and Joseph was of course an Orthodox Jew who would be absent from classes on Shabbosim and Jewish holidays.

At the same time he assumed his former position as a rebbe in the Adas Yisroel School and also attended the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary. This was not enough, however, to fill the time of the industrious young man, so, from 1908 to 1910 he worked as well on his doctoral dissertation. His thesis focused on the scientific and mathematical achievements of Rabbi Levi ben Gershon (1288-1344), known as the Ralbag or Gersonides.

In 1919 Joseph married Lotte Preuss, the oldest daughter of Dr. Yitzchok (Julius) Preuss, a physician and scholar of history and Hebrew literature. Dr. Preuss’s Biblical and Talmudical Medicine was an encyclopedic work that reviewed every medical reference in Tanach, the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud, the Midrash, and ancillary works.

During this period Joseph received semicha from Rabbi Dr. David Hoffmann, rector of the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary and author of halachic responsa Melamed Leho’il as well as a number of commentaries refuting the criticisms of those who questioned the historicity of the Torah.

Joseph was now known as Rabbiner Doktor Yosef Carlebach.

Rabbi and Innovative Educator

World War I began in 1914. Serving in the German army, Rav Carlebach was charged by the German Occupation Authority in Lithuania with organizing a secondary school system. After consultations with some of Lithuania’s foremost Torah scholars and with their agreement, he founded a high school based on the principles of Torah im Derech Eretz (TIDE) that featured both Torah and secular studies in the curriculum.

The language of instruction in the Carlebach Gymnasium in Kovno (as this high school came to be known) was not Yiddish or German but modern Hebrew. Within three years the separate boys and girls schools had a combined enrollment of almost a thousand students. Two other TIDE high schools were established in Telshe and Ponevezh within a short time.

(TIDE elementary schools were also set up throughout Lithuania where they were known as Yavneh schools.)

When Rabbi Dr. Salomon Carlebach of Luebeck passed away suddenly in early 1919, Rav Yoseph was offered his father’s position. He did not know what to do in light of the fact that many of the leading rabbis of Lithuania were urging him to continue his work there. His mother pleaded with him to return to Luebeck, and her own sudden passing not long after his father’s death clinched his decision. He became the rav of the city of his birth.

In order to raise the level of Torah study in his hometown, Rav Yosef convinced Rabbi Shmuel Joseph Rabinow to settle in Luebeck. Rabbi Rabinow was an outstanding young talmid chacham who had studied at the famed Slabodka Yeshiva in Kovno. These two rabbonim laid the foundations for an advanced yeshiva in Luebeck that eventually attracted a number of outstanding students.

(When Rav Carlebach moved some years later to Hamburg to become the city’s chief rabbi, both the yeshiva and Rabbi Rabinow also relocated there.)

Final Years in Hamburg

In 1922 Rav Yoseph was offered the position of director of Hamburg’s Talmud Torah Real Gymnasium. This school had been started in 1805 by Rabbi Mendel Frankfurter, a grandfather of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.

Here Rav Joseph’s full talents as a forward-thinking educator and administrator shone. Hebrew language and grammar were introduced as major subjects, as well as Hebrew literature, with special emphasis on the medieval poets and philosophers. New physics and chemistry laboratories were built. He himself gave a course in the history of the fine arts to the students in the highest grade. He was also concerned with the physical fitness of his students and made participation in swimming and outdoor sports compulsory.

One of his boldest innovations was the one- or two-week excursion to distant parts of the country. Day outings had been part of the school curriculum in the past, but Rav Carlebach took this idea to new heights. On these trips students visited museums and historical sites and were introduced to the geological and biological characteristics of the countryside.

Furthermore, each day on these excursions started and ended with physical exercise. If there was a river nearby, the day began and ended with a swim.

His students enjoyed his classes to the extent that one former student recalled, “We used to turn the clock back ten or fifteen minutes so that his classes would last longer!”

In 1926 Rav Carlebach became chief rabbi of Altona, one of Germany’s oldest and most venerated kehillos. It was here that his extraordinary oratorical powers became known to thousands. In fact, he soon acquired the reputation of being the foremost rabbinical orator in all of Germany.

Blessed with a strong, clear voice, he incorporated his many artistic talents into his delivery. His fluent use of words was enhanced by a style of delivery that employed appropriate arm, hand, and body movements coupled with relevant facial expressions.

He never, however, misused his talents for cheap or demagogic oratory, nor did he ever give an interpretation of a biblical or Talmudic text that was either forced or artificial. He had the rare ability to speak in a manner that enlightened both learned scholars and ordinary congregants. His sermons were always a stirring experience for those who heard them, and his remarks were often the main topic of conversation on Shabbosafternoons.

Rav Carlebach also somehow found the time to publish hundreds of scholarly articles on a myriad of subjects from rabbinics to mathematics, the humanities and the arts.

On April 4, 1936 Rav Carlebach became chief rabbi of the Synagoge-Verband (Synagogue Association), in the Bornplatz Synagogue. Fourteen other rabbis, more than two hundred guests of honor, and 1,500 others attended his installation ceremony.

Despite the growing threats to Jewish life from the Nazis, Rav Carlebach refused to abandon his flock even when he had several opportunities to do so. A contemporary (name unknown) of Dr. Carlebach’s described his role as chief rabbi of Hamburg:

His sermons were masterpieces of diplomacy and wisdom in the face of the increasing focus of the Gestapo. The Gestapo had frequently attended the synagogue over the years. Those who were attentive enough heard with admiration, and also often with fear, how he castigated the current situation, without provoking intervention by the Gestapo. . . .

When numerous community members were arrested in connection with the Pogrom Night of 9/10 November 1938, he asked to share their fate. The Gestapo refused as there was no order to arrest him.

The years 1936 to his deportation to Riga on December 6, 1941 became legendary. The Nazi persecution of the Jews made the Jewish community into one large family, with Dr. Joseph Carlebach as its “pater familias.” He was its courageous spokesman and its tireless religious leader: he visited civil service departments, prisons, concentration camps, and hospitals, always in danger of being insulted and thrown out, but never lost the least of his dignity.

As for Rav Carlebach’s last days, the less said the better. Far preferable to remember his brilliance and praise his achievements than to dwell on his martyrdom. Suffice it to say that on March 26, 1942, Rav Carlebach, his wife Lotte, and their three youngest daughters were murdered by the Nazis.

May his memory long be remembered.

(Rav Carlebach’s older children had been part of a Kindertransport to England before the family’s deportation. His youngest son, Rav Shlomo, the author of Ish Yehudi, survived after spending four years in various concentration camps.)

Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. His regular feature, Glimpses Into American Jewish History, appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.

Germany To Pay For Auschwitz Conservation

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

     Since the end of the Shoah there has been a debate of what to do with the various death camps in Poland. Today more then 60 years after the end of the Holocaust the debate continues.


     Some say that the places are too horrible a reminder of those terrifying days when the Germans and their collaborators killed millions of people for no justifiable cause. Some want the original structures to be left alone and deteriorate till nothing is left but a memorial to those that perished, similar to what is found today at Sobibor, Treblinka, and Belzec.


      It had been decided that the two most complete concentration camps in Poland, Auschwitz and Majdanek, be preserved to remain as evidence against the crimes perpetrated by the Germans during the Shoah.


     The most commonly known, Auschwitz, was chosen as the showpiece for the world to come and visit, mourn, learn and try to comprehend how low humanity can go.


    In Auschwitz today there is a sharp contrast between the two main sections of the camp. In Auschwitz 1, most of the buildings are still standings and it is where most of the displays are. In Auschwitz II, Birkenau, there are only a few barracks left standing complete. 


      The ruins of the crematorium and gas chambers are open to the elements, as well as the black pools where the ashes of the victims were unceremoniously dumped. The field of barracks other then those on the perimeter only have their chimneys remaining, as one visitor remarked, “Like broken teeth of a corpse.”

 

 


Field of chimneys where once the barracks stood


      Germany will help pay for urgently needed conservation work at the Auschwitz concentration camp memorial in Poland. A spokesperson for Germany’s Foreign Ministry told the German news agency DPA Wednesday, “We continue to see the task of keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive as one of Germany’s central tasks.” The amount of Germany’s future contribution has not been revealed. Germany provided about $19 million conservation work in the 1990s, and reportedly Poland had pledged to carry ongoing costs.


     Historian Volkhard Knigge, the director of the memorial at the Buchenwald concentration camp in Weimar, Germany, told DPA that the Auschwitz site is badly in need of conservation rather than restoration. Every restoration destroys some trace of the past, he said, warning against any measures that might soften the brutal effect of Auschwitz’s structures and landscape.


     Auschwitz memorial director Piotr Cywinski had requested international help last year to keep Auschwitz open. A total of $66 million is needed.


     Poland provides about $3.2 million annually, and the same amount is brought in from book sales at the site’s shop, DPA reported. In addition the European Union is considering proposals to create an international foundation with an endowment of $157 million to support the memorial using accrued interest.


    In related news, an online educational archive on Nazi Germany’s slave labor program is slated to open January 22 at the German Historical Museum in Berlin.


    The “Forced Labor 1939-1945″ archive will include hundreds of audio and video interviews with survivors. The project is a combined effort of the museum, the Free University of Berlin and the Foundation for Remembrance, Responsibility and Future, a fund created with German federal monies and contributions from German companies that used slave labor during the Nazi period.


    The preservation work at Auschwitz has been an ongoing project since the site opened many years ago. It has been said that, other then the ruins, there is practically nothing original to the site. But the place has to remain standing as a memorial and learning center so that we will hopefully never see another Auschwitz built again.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/germany-to-pay-for-auschwitz-conservation/2009/01/28/

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