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May 31, 2016 / 23 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Europe’

Honoring the ‘Jewish Schindler’ You’ve Never Heard Of

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

By Joshua B. Dermer/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – It’s the Holocaust rescue story that often goes untold—Jews who put their lives on the line to save their fellow Jews.

Shmuil Markowitz Pevzner (1912-1991), a Jew who saved 300 children from the Druskininkai Soviet Pioneers Camp during Operation Barbarossa, was honored by B’nai B’rith World Center and the Jewish National Fund at their 14th annual Holocaust commemoration ceremony on Thursday at the B’nai B’rith Martyr’s Forest Scroll of Fire Plaza in Jerusalem.

“We are unique in the sense that we are the only ceremony that recognizes Jewish rescuers on an annual basis,” said B’nai B’rith Director Alan Schneider in an interview with Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “It’s not an area of strong academic research, though that is something we would like to encourage.”

Born in Belorussia, Pevzner served as director of the Polish troupe at the Druskininkai camp in Lithuania. He brought the 300 children—150 of whom were Jewish—by train to the Soviet Far East while under German aerial attack. Pevzner established a home for the children in the Udmurtia Republic, where he cared for them through extreme weather conditions until the end of the war.

Pevzner was represented by his son, Dr. Mark Pevzner, and grandson, Boris Pevzner.

According to Schneider, while commemorations in previous years have included rescuers from Germany, France, Slovakia, and Eastern Europe, this is the first year the organization is recognizing a Russian.

“The organizers seek to right the historical record by giving due recognition through the ceremony and citation to Shmuil Pevzner for rescuing these vulnerable children, some of whom were as young as seven,” Schneider said. “We salute his dedication to the children and support for them through emotional and physical hardships to become upstanding youngsters and adults.”

Schneider explained that obtaining first-hand testimony is increasingly difficult as the survivor population ages.

“As these annual events take place, people hear about it and they get in touch with us to have their rescuer recognized, which is what happened this year. We are constantly active on our Facebook page and many people write to us,” Schneider said.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Murdered Israeli Tourist Beaten to Death in Hungary

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Hungarian media have reported that murdered Jerusalem resident Ofir Gross, z’l, was beaten to death with bricks, according to the initial findings of a police investigation.

Gross had just completed his studies in medical engineering and had traveled from Debrecen to Budapest a week earlier.

Two men were arrested in connection with his murder earlier this week. The Attorney General told media the two men, ages 19 and 21, found Gross sleeping in an abandoned yard and attacked him in order to steal his mobile phones, laptop computer and whatever money he had with him.

The attackers hit Gross with bricks, beating him to death, and then moved his body to a wooded area near a demolished house, covering it with debris.

The family was notified by Israeli foreign ministry officials when Gross was found, and flew to Hungary to identify his body.

Hana Levi Julian

Western Leaders Head to Ukraine to Try for Peace with Russia

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

US Secretary of State John Kerry, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel all intend to try and make peace between Ukraine and Russia this week.

Kerry is already in Ukraine to show America’s support for the Kiev government.

Hollande told international media Thursday in Paris that he and Merkel would head first to Kiev and then to Moscow on Friday to present Russian President Vladimir Putin with a proposal “based on the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

NATO, meanwhile, is unveiling details of a plan to bolster its military presence in eastern Europe in response to the Ukraine crisis, according to the BBC. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told the news service it will be the biggest reinforcement of its collective defense since the end of the Cold War, centering on a “spearhead” force of up to 5,000 troops with lead units able to deploy within two days. A network of command centers is being established in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, Stoltenberg said, in response to “the aggressive actions we have seen from Russia, violating international law and annexing Crimea.”

The French president described the months-long conflict with pro-Russia rebels that wreaked havoc in Ukraine as a full-fledged war. “Ukraine is at war. Heavy weapons are being used and civilians are being killed daily,” Hollande said.

Kerry told the BBC in Kiev that the U.S. wants to see a diplomatic solution to the conflict, but will not close its eyes to Russian aggression.

“We want a diplomatic resolution but we cannot close our eyes to tanks that are crossing the border from Russia and coming into Ukraine,” Kerry said at a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

More than 5,000 people have died in the fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebel troops, some of which include Russian “volunteers,” since April 2014. The eastern Ukraine cities of Donetsk and Lugansk are both under rebel control.

Hana Levi Julian

Sobibor Death Camp Gas Chambers Uncovered

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

The location of the gas chambers at the notorious Sobibor death camp has been revealed, Yad Vashem announced Wednesday.

On October 14, 1943 some 600 prisoners rose up in revolt and escaped from the camp. Most were recaptured or murdered, but 100 to 120 managed to survive. Of those, 60 made it through to the end of the war, when Allied Forces arrived to free the captives.

But a quarter of a million Jews were murdered at the death camp in Poland, where the Nazis worked hard to cover up their evil crime. After the uprising, the Nazis bulldozed the site and planted evergreen trees to conceal the mass graves.

Now, an archaeological dig has uncovered the truth nevertheless.

Dr. David Silberklang, a senior researcher at the Yad Vashem International Institute for Holocaust research said, “The discovery of the exact location of the gas chambers at the Sobibior Camp is a discovery of the utmost importance in Holocaust research.”

He said it was important to understand that “there are no remains from any Jews who worked in the area of the gas chambers, and therefore these findings are the only thing left from those who were murdered.” Silberklang said “a small window has been open into their daily suffering.”

Personal effects of the victims who lived and died in the tragedy have been found near the gas chambers. Among the items uncovered were jewelry – including wedding rings – and perfumes, medicine and utensils.

Archaeologist Yoram Haimi added that “we found near the gas chambers wedding rings with the inscription in Hebrew, ‘Harei at mekudeshet li” (Behold, thou art consecrated unto me.”)

Silberklang said that for the first time the excavation taking place at the site would enable researchers would be able to better understand the murder process in the camp and what the Jews went through before their deaths.

Hana Levi Julian

Time to Go Home

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Here’s the mausoleum in the old Jewish cemetery in Medzhybizh, Ukraine, of Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the holy Baal Shem Tov, who changed and healed Eastern European Jewry.

The “Besht” appeared in about 1740, a little less than a century after the holocaust of 1648 (Gzeirot Tach-Tat, the decrees of 5408-9), which were followed by the catastrophe of false messiah Shabtai Tzvi, who heaped even more ruin and chagrin on Eastern European Jews, from about 1655 to 1670.

This man of mystery, whose teachings sounded a whole lot like Shabta Tzvi’s, except for the part about trumpeting himself the messiah, has been used as a model by every known Jewish movement, from extreme Haredim to Soviet Socialists, channeled into the world a wondrous spiritual and psychological change, without which we may have looked very different as a nation—and some say we may not have survived at all.

This is a particularly mysterious looking night image, of a relic in a foreign land, long emptied out of most of its Jews, one way or another.

I bless all of us that we’ll have the courage and the wisdom to turn our backs on these relics, including the very beautiful and mysterious ones, face east and start moving.

Next year in Jerusalem (or Netanya, or Haifa, or Tel Aviv – take your pick).

Yori Yanover

Henry Shaw & Names

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

What’s in a name? My late father had an only sibling called Henry Shaw. We loved our Uncle Hashy as we called him. He was huge, almost six-and-a-half feet tall, and had to stoop to get through the doors of our house. He had a deep but soft bass voice and a wonderful sense of humor. He was a marvelous raconteur, steeped in Yiddish culture and the intricacies of internal Jewish political warfare in Eastern Europe. His greatest impact on my life was the range of experiences he introduced me to, from Chazanut to Verdi’s Requiem, from Hillel Zeitlin to AJP Taylor, from Martin Buber to Bertrand Russell. He was less charismatic than my father, less combative, but a much more approachable person.

He qualified in social studies at London University and spent his life devoted to the Jewish Community, first in London in the Association of Jewish Youth, then running Hillel House in Endsleigh Street, London. He and his devoted wife, Sybil, provided a home from home for thousands of Jewish students from around the world for over twenty years. I saw most of him in my own student years and he was very supportive and encouraging. But then they ‘disappeared’ from my life and went off to Australia to take over the Hillel Foundation of Victoria which involved the Melbourne and Monash Universities. Five years later Henry switched to academia to help establish a Jewish studies program at Prahran College. His work eventually morphed into the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization at Monash. Sybil died in 1978, but Henry flourished until 1996.

I am writing this piece because this week is his Yahrzeit. But also because I am embarrassed to admit that I never found out why he adopted the surname Shaw. Which leads me to the issue of Jewish surnames. We Jews never really took them very seriously. Napoleon’s civil reforms insisted that everyone had to have a surname. Previously non-Jews had Christian names (yes, that’s what first names were called in Britain until the sixties) and Jews had Jewish names on to which occasionally one added a location or a profession. When the law of the land insisted on surnames Jews usually took their profession, the town they came from, or a Latin version of a Hebrew word like Benedict or Priest. Amongst themselves they invariably used only Hebrew names, until the process of acculturation took hold. This explains why Jews tended to be rather cavalier about changing their civil names or having them changed by others.

My paternal grandparents came from Radomsk. My grandmother was a Bialystock, the name of a Polish town. My grandfather’s family name was a more Russian, Rozrasowski . During the great migrations of over a hundred years ago, lots of migrants took or had simpler or more western names given to them as they came through immigration. You have heard of the old Jewish gentleman called, improbably, Shawn Fergusson because when he arrived at immigration in a state of exhaustion and shock and was asked his name he said in Yiddish, “Shoyn Fergessen“ (“I forgotten.”). Or the Chinese man called Moishe Greenberg because as he came through after a Jewish migrant and gave his name as Sam Ting, they thought he meant “the same thing”.

Seriously, when the Rozrasowskis came to London in the early part of the twentieth century the family simplified its name to Rosen. They must have thought it would sound more English! There were five girls and four boys. The boys decided that they’d rather be known by their first names, so as to differentiate themselves. That was how my Grandfather Shlomo came to be known as Mr. Solomons. Indeed his tombstone in Dublin (where he moved during the Depression) gives his name as “Mr. Sydney Solomons (Rosen)”.

My father was always known as Rosen, but his elder brother Hashy became Shaw. Was it to sound more English, or actually Irish? Shaw is a popular Irish name. When his parents moved to Ireland this was an era in which when getting a job or an apartment with a Jewish name was as difficult as getting one with an African name fifty years later. Or was it just a play on Henry’s nickname Hashy? One family tradition had it that he had lost his papers and got an Irish passport on the black market. The most improbable was that he had accidentally killed an anti-Semitic drunk in a fight and carried his name as a penance. Who knows? He never gave me a straight answer.

But if you think this story strange, let me tell you about my maternal grandfather, Moishe Yaakov Cohen, known as MJ. He was born Moishe Shumacher in Uman in the Ukraine. As a boy he emigrated to Tredegar in Wales. There he was taken under the wing of a relative whose name was Cohen, who had become the godfather of Jewish peddlers servicing the isolated Welsh mining villages of the Rhonda with haberdashery and other supplies that the miners paid for in installments. The peddlers went out on foot on a Sunday with goods provided by Mr. Cohen and did not come back till Friday to spend Shabbes together and make up the minyan. It was suggested to Moishe that if he had the same name as the boss it would inspire confidence. So Moishe Shumacher, the Levi from Uman, became MJ Cohen. Soon he did well enough to set himself up in business on his own in Manchester as MJ Cohen, General Draper (a fancy name for selling odds and ends). Later he transferred to Cardiff. One day he sent a letter back home on his notepaper inviting relatives to come and join him. When they read the invitation they had no idea who MJ Cohen was, but they did recognize the word “General” and assumed he’d been promoted in the army and had changed his name to Draper. Which explains why we once had relatives in Manchester called Draper.

All these people I have mentioned here only had one Hebrew name from the beginning to the end, names that linked them directly to their heritage of millennia. Their surnames were secondary, like a chameleon’s skin. But they, like my Uncle Hashy, were and are all proud and contributing members of the Jewish people. As far as I am concerned that’s what counts.

Jeremy Rosen

How the Holocaust Never Happened in Rumania

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

The virus of antisemitism is alive and well in Eastern Europe, and so is the denial of the Holocaust. It is particularly disconcerting that a younger generation in Rumania, and more than likely everywhere else in the world, should be infected with this virus, and is — or claims to be — ignorant of the real treatment of Jews in the 20th century.

Dan Sova, a 39 year old Rumanian lawyer and Social Democrat, who has been a Senator in the Parliament since 2008, was promoted to the position of Minister for Parliamentary Relations by the Prime Minister Victor Ponta on August 6 after saying on a television broadcast on March 5, that “no Jew suffered on Rumanian territory (during the Holocaust) thanks to Marshal Antonescu.” Two days later Sova was removed “temporarily” from office as speaker of his political party. He has also said that “only 24 Jews were killed during the Iasi pogrom (of June 28-29, 1941) by the German army.”

Both statements by Sova were false and malicious. Ion Antonescu, the pro-Nazi dictator of Rumania during World War II was “leader of the state,” prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister, and self-appointed Marshal. He joined the Tripartite Pact of Germany, Italy, and Japan against the Allies in November 1940, two months after it had been signed. He also established close personal contact with Hitler. It was Antonescu who on June 27, 1941, ordered the commander of the military garrison of the town of Iasi, in northeast Rumania, to “cleanse” the city of its Jewish population. The action was not instigated by the Nazis but by the Rumanian authorities and the Rumanian army on their own initiative.

It is estimated that during the two days of the pogrom in Iasi, between 13,000 and 15,000 Jews were massacred in the streets or else died in the death trains on which 100 Jews were herded into each boxcar; most died of thirst, starvation, or suffocation. The actions of the Rumanian regime in the Holocaust led to the deaths, not of 24 Jews, but a number estimated to be between 280,000 and 380,000 Rumanian Jews — most likely the larger number, in the territories under its control.

It was not Nazi policy that triggered the massacre of Jews but the Rumanian government itself — with the enthusiastic participation of the military, and the endorsement of the broader society, similar to the better-known participation of the French Vichy regime and French authorities during the war.

In the period after World War II, from 1945 to 1989, Rumania was under Communist control, first by the Soviet Union and then as an independent country; information about the country’s actions during the war was largely suppressed. Few Rumanians were aware of the involvement of their country during the Holocaust. Perhaps the kindest thing to be said of Dan Sova is that his schooling did not include any information about the Holocaust.

It is difficult, however, to believe that a young lawyer educated at the University of Bucharest could be so ignorant. When criticism arose of his promotion on August 6, four days later he confessed that his remarks on the Holocaust were “completely wrong.” It would be nice to take at face value his plans to take concrete actions on the matter, one of which will be a course of lectures on the Holocaust.

No matter the degree of sincerity in Sova’s apologies and regrets, a few lessons could be drawn from his case: there is a critical need to keep on discrediting Holocaust deniers, ranging from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran to Ernst Zundel, a German who lived in Canada. Education, especially of the young, about the Holocaust is urgent and essential to put an end to the falsehoods of distortions of history by individuals such as David Irving in Britain, Robert Faurisson in France or Louis Farrakhan in the U.S. Both the young and the old should continue to be informed of the assertions of the deniers — the allegations that the Diary of Anne Frank was a hoax because parts of it were written with a ball point pen, or that Auschwitz was too small to have been an extermination camp — to be able to refute them.

Michael Curtis

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/how-the-holocaust-never-happened-in-romania/2012/09/09/

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