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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust’

Raoul Wallenberg’s Fate Revealed in Diary of Former KGB Chief

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

For the first time ever, historians finally know, without doubt, what happened to the Swedish diplomat who saved so many thousands of Jewish lives from the Nazi hordes in Hungary during World War II.

In the 632-page tome, “Notes From a Suitcase: Secret Diaries of the First K.G.B. Chairman, Found Over 25 Years After His Death,” one finds the memoirs of one of the most important men in Soviet history, and the answer to one of the most painful questions of the last century.

“I have no doubts that Wallenberg was liquidated in 1947,” wrote state security chief Ivan A. Serov, head of the KGB from 1954 to 1958, in a memoir not only rare but in fact probably entirely forbidden to write.

Wallenberg disappeared in Budapest in 1945, and although there have been countless searches for clues to his fate, none have turned up the slightest breath of evidence as to what happened to him.

But his fate is found in this text, because the grandaughter of Ivan A. Serov, 57-year-old retired ballerina Vera Serova was wise enough, and kind enough, not to throw away the papers discovered by workers in suitcases as they renovated a garage four years ago at a “dacha” left to her in northwestern Moscow by her VIP grandfather.

The soldiers of the Soviet Union were occupying Budapest at the time of Wallenberg’s disappearance, and it was known that as a Swedish diplomat, he had strong ties with the Americans and the highest echelons of the Third Reich. That made him suspect to the Russians.

Neither ever gave up a clue, however, until this summer when the diaries of the original head of the clandestine KGB, found tucked into the wall of a little vacation cottage in Russia, were published.

Although few indeed are memoirs written by Kremlin officials – for obvious reasons – this one, penned by Serov, contained a treasure.

The multiple references to previously unknown documents on Wallenberg definitively put to rest the endless questions about the fate of the heroic diplomat. The most important of all is the fact that Wallenberg, though dead at the time of the posthumous investigation, was ultimately found by the USSR not to have been a “spy” after all.

It was Serov who carried out that probe at the behest of Nikita S. Khrushchev, who requested the inquiry after Stalin, telling Serov to respond to Sweden and help in the purge of Molotov. Although he failed to uncover the full circumstances of Wallenberg’s death, he said, he found no evidence of espionage.

There is a mention of the cremation of Wallenberg’s remains. And there is a reference to something said by Serov’s predecessor, Viktor Abakunov, who was tried and executed in 1954, in the final Stalin purge. During the interrogation of the former head of state security, his torturers learned that it was Stalin and then-foreign minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov who had issued the order to “liquidate” Wallenberg.

Serov also said he had read a Wallenberg file — despite the fact the Soviet Security Service had for years denied that any such files existed. Hans Magnusson, a retired senior diplomat interviewed by the New York Times, directed the Swedish side of the Swedish-Russian Working Group and said there should have been a file created for every prisoner. But, he said, “The Russians said they did not find one.”

Vera Serova has one, however, in her grandfather’s memoirs. She has published them now to restore his reputation, she said.

Serov did many evil things in his life: he established the secret police that were used to terrorize the population in Poland and East Germany; he helped deport thousands of minorities considered a threat to Soviet rule in Russia; he wielded enormous power as head of state security.

Hana Levi Julian

Painter Jonasz Stern’s ‘Landscape after the Holocaust’ in Krakow Museum

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

The recorded testimony of Jonasz Stern at the Yad Vashem digital collection relates: “Testimony of Jonasz Stern, born in Kalusz, Poland, 1904, regarding his experiences in the Lvov Ghetto, his rescue from shooting in killing pits during the liquidation of the Lvov Ghetto, in hiding, in Budapest, in Romania, and in other places.”

The transcribed account follows:

“Escape from Krakow to Lvov with his wife, at the outbreak of the war; move from apartment to apartment, after the occupation of Lvov; deportation to the Lvov Ghetto, November 1941; Lvov Ghetto life including overcrowding, hunger and the lack of means of existence; “Aktion,” August 1942; obtains Aryan documents for his wife, and her move to Stryj; capture of the witness, May 1943; deportation to Janowska camp with 3,000 Jews; concentration of thousands of Jews in a field for two days, without food or water, and shooting into the crowd by the Germans; transfer of 7,000 men, women and children who are naked, in railroad cars to Belzec; escape from the train through a window which he broke when they were 6.5 kilometers from Lvov; return to the Lvov Ghetto for ten days, until the liquidation of the ghetto; deportation of thousands of Jews to Janowska camp, mid-June 1943; transfer of the Jews to the killing site in Hyclowa Gorka, the next day; escape from the shooting pit, after ten hours among the corpses of the dead and the wounded people; hides in fields and in a forest, and receives help from the local farmers, in particular from Poles from Poznan who resided in Sknilow; return to Lvov, and hides with the help of Polish friends; move to Rozniatow by train; walks on foot through the mountains and illegally crosses the border into Hungary; he is attacked by a shepherd before crossing the border, who beats him and steals his belongings; move to the Hungarian side, after wanderings in the mountains for eight days; arrival to Budapest with the help of local people; life under the protection of the Polish Committee, until the German occupation of Hungary; move to Romania, summer 1944; capture by the Gestapo, and release after the intervention of Endre Laszlo, a commander of the Hungarian Gendarmerie in a town near Budapest; life in Budapest; liberation by the Red Army.”

The account concludes with the following heartbreaking lines: “Receives information regarding the return of his wife to Krakow during the war, and that she willingly presented herself to the Gestapo, due to her lack of means of existence and exhaustion.”

Other than that, Painter Jonasz Stern left a permanent mark on the Polish art of the 20th century. Before the war, he was a member of the first Grupa Krakowska (Krakow Group), and in 1957 he co-founded Grupa Krakowska II, with members including Maria Jarema and Tadeusz Kantor. These were the two most significant artistic formations in Poland. The pre-war Group experimented with form and manifested its left-wing stance, the majority of members affiliated to the KPP, the Communist Party of Poland.

After the war had erupted, Stern fled from Krakow to Lvov. Of his paintings only one remains, the Nude Study from 1935, which is now part of the collection of the National Museum in Krakow.

After the war, Stern became a philosopher, reflecting on life, its transience and dignity. In his assemblages, he expressed his thoughts using simple symbols: scrunched-up fabric, animal and fish bones, stones, netting and – occasionally – photographs. The drama of his paintings is entirely devoid of pathos. Stern created a universe of abstract landscapes left by a world annihilated.

Jonasz Stern – Landscape after the Holocaust

Aug. 5 – Sep. 25 2016, Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków (MOCAK), 4 Lipowa St. 30-702 Kraków, Poland. Tuesday–Sunday 11 AM – 7 PM, Monday – closed. phone +48 12 263 40 00.

JNi.Media

More Jews Flee to Israel, Escaping Terror in France

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

More Jews are fleeing the rising terror and anti-Semitism in France. On Tuesday 145 new French immigrants landed at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.

The 38 families range from infancy to age 88 and include 78 children. They arrived with the assistance of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

The organization is helping new Israeli immigrants in addition to the regular benefits received by olim from the Jewish Agency for the State of Israel.

Most of the new olim — 111 of the immigrants — came from Paris. Many left behind not just their homes, but successful businesses as well, which they had to sell prior to their aliyah.

Those who arrived Tuesday cited the drastic rise in anti-Semitism in France as the main reason for leaving their homes.

Hana Levi Julian

Pope Francis Blesses Righteous Christian Polish Gentiles at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

Pope Francis visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp this weekend, a powerful experience made even more meaningful for the pontiff by his meeting with 25 Righteous Gentiles Among the Nations — Christian Poles who risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.

The meeting was arranged for this past Friday by the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, a New Yorker whose grandparents immigrated to the United States from Poland.

The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous offers financial support to the 200-plus “Righteous Among the Nations” who are still alive in Poland.

For some time, Schudrich has contemplated what kind of spiritual gift he could give these precious people who were so willing to risk their lives for the souls of Jews.

“I thought a special blessing from the pope would make them feel honored because of their unbelievable morality and humanity,” he told Associated Press.

Hana Levi Julian

Canadian Greens Expel Holocaust Denier Monika Schaefer [video]

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

The Canadian Green Party on Friday issued a press release condemning “statements made by former candidate” Monika Schaefer. Green Party leader MP Elizabeth May said in the same press release: “I am shocked by comments made by Ms. Schaefer and I condemn her terribly misguided and untrue statements. Ms. Schaefer does not represent the values of the Green Party nor of our membership.”

It began on Thursday, when B’nai Brith Canada exposed Schaefer—the Green Party’s candidate in Alberta in 2006, 2008 and 2011—as denying the Holocaust in a homemade YouTube video. Schaefer described the Holocaust as “the most persistent lie in all of history,” and claimed that victims of Nazi death camps “were kept as healthy and as well-fed as was possible,” and that “there were no gas chambers there.” She denounced “the 6-million lie” and recommended the writings of Ernst Zündel, a German Holocaust denier who had been deported from Canada in 2005.

The Green Party of Canada’s press release “condemns in the strongest possible terms comments by Monika Schaefer, a former candidate, regarding her views on the Holocaust.”

Emily McMillan, Executive Director of the Green Party of Canada, said “Monika Schaefer’s comments denying the Holocaust are outrageous and shocking. Ms. Schaefer has no standing within the Green Party of Canada, and her views are exclusively her own. Ms. Schaefer was rejected as a potential Green candidate for the riding of Yellowhead prior to the 2015 federal election, and also rejected as a potential candidate for the 2014 by-election in Fort McMurray-Athabasca.”

“In light of Ms. Schaefer’s untrue statements made in a recent online video, we will be initiating the process to terminate her membership with the Green Party of Canada at the earliest possible opportunity,” McMillan added.

A Green Party member may be expelled by a resolution of Federal Council or a General Meeting of members. The Party will request a motion be put forward to terminate Schaefer’s membership at its next Federal Council meeting, according to the press release.

JNi.Media

Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education Buys Permanent Facilities

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education Executive Director Judy Margles and Board Chair Elaine Coughlin last week announced the signing of a purchase agreement for the facilities at 724 NW Davis in Portland—formerly the home of the Museum of Contemporary Craft. Margles wrote the following announcement:

As our closest circle of friends, I am excited to share something very special with you. OJMCHE is purchasing a new home, a 14,500 square foot unit in the De Soto building at 724 NW Davis Street (formerly the Museum of Contemporary Craft). I am also thrilled to tell you that we achieved the purchase of the building with the hard work of the OJMCHE Board and in particular outgoing chair, David Newman. This is the moment where we have finally fulfilled our vision and secured our mission for generations to come.

How did we get to this momentous possibility? July will already mark the two-year anniversary of the merger with Oregon Holocaust Resource Center. The merger enriched our institution in countless ways – we expanded our education staff to include a Holocaust educator, we are proud stewards of the Oregon Holocaust Memorial, we bring thousands of school children to both the Memorial and museum, and, of course, we continue to be the community repository for the Jewish experience in Oregon. Most importantly, we have deepened our focus on Jewish values and traditions, while working even more strenuously to bring our work to the wider community as a vehicle that can unite all people in their common humanity. In short, the merger has greatly expanded and fundamentally strengthened our core mission.

And now we have the opportunity to take the next step in our evolution. In a stroke of great luck, the fortuitous arrival on the market of this building became the perfect space for our museum. While this was an unexpected opportunity, we were ready to receive it because of the long-range feasibility planning that we undertook this last year. This space—purpose-built as a contemporary museum with ample room for exhibits, programs, school groups, collections and archives—perfectly matches the needs detailed in our feasibility report.

I am also thrilled to tell you that we achieved the purchase of the building with the tremendous support of three lead gifts from Renee and Irwin Holzman, Lois and Leonard Schnitzer Family and The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation/Arlene Schnitzer & Jordan Schnitzer. To date we have received a total of 33 gifts to make this phase of the campaign possible. For this generosity and sign of confidence, we are immensely grateful. Our community campaign, to raise funds for operating reserves and move-in costs, will commence shortly and I look forward to engaging each and every one of you in our endeavors.

Now that our dreams are becoming reality, we shall start to focus on the use of the space. I can share with you our basic conception: we will have state-of-the art storage for our archives and collection; a café; a gift shop; a multi-purpose auditorium for public programs and school groups; two floors of exhibit galleries with temporary exhibits on the first floor; and on the second space for core exhibits about the Oregon Jewish experience, discrimination in Oregon and the history of the Holocaust using stories of local survivors.

The coming months may prove to be the most significant in our history. An exciting consensus is emerging among museum professionals. We see successful museums of the future as places where people can hang out and engage in real and diverse social issues to make a genuine difference in their lives: these museums of the future will blur boundaries between the inside of the museum walls and what occurs outside, where programs will address a rich variety of living community concerns, while always recognizing, remembering and honoring the past. These museums will link historical experiences of the past with needs of the living present.

I want our museum to be such a museum: a broker and filter of perspectives and shared wisdom, a repository for traditional learning and historical scholarship, and also a stimulus for creative thinking on the way forward for our community. I want us to represent the full plurality of voices in our community and I want our programs to address a full range of community concerns.

We, this circle of friends, now share a magically rare opportunity: to help each other make our beloved Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education thrive, in all these many and varied ways, for many, many years to come.

Warmly,

Judy Margles

Executive Director

JNi.Media

Darwin, Jewish Theology, And The Holocaust

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Undoubtedly one of the most influential figures in human history, Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was an English naturalist and geologist best known for his contributions to evolutionary theory, pursuant to which he argued that all species of life descended from common ancestors and that this evolutionary pattern resulted from a process that he called “natural selection.” He published his theory in the monumental On the Origin of Species (1859), one of the most seminal scientific works of all time, which even to date is the unifying theory of the life sciences.

After Darwin published Origin of Species, many translators and publishers vied to capitalize on his growing fame. Darwin favored Swiss zoologist and paleontologist Charles Forsyth Major (1843-1923) to translate The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, but Major was apparently playing hard to get with respect to the assignment.

Pictured with this column is the February 11, 1873 correspondence to Major, Darwin essentially threatens to award the translation project to (gasp!) a Jew:

I am very much obligated for your note, and I am sorry that you had so much trouble and have given up the intention of bringing out a translation. I will write by this post to the Jewish gentleman and inquire whether he still wishes to translate my book.

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Expression of Emotion (1872), which continued Darwin’s attempt to address questions of human origins and human psychology using his theory of evolution by natural selection, was his groundbreaking work on how animals and humans express emotions using the muscles, tissues, and bone provided by nature. Even today it still provides the point of departure for research on the theory of emotion and expression.

While it is not the purpose of this article to present a dissertation on the Torah’s views on evolution, suffice it to say this is a very controversial topic and that strong arguments exist on both sides.

With the advent of Darwin’s theories, the Jewish community found itself engaged in controversy regarding the apparent dissonance between Jewish theology and modern science. Although many believe evolution is wholly inconsistent with belief in a Creator and is contrary to the Genesis creation narrative, important Jewish authorities, including the Netziv, have maintained that evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with fundamental Jewish belief and that traditional Jewish texts are reconcilable with modern scientific findings concerning evolution.

Thus, Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, while carefully noting that he did not personally agree with Darwin’s theory and that it had never been empirically proven, wrote that evolution through natural selection presents no challenge to Jewish theology because it would mean only that Hashem, rather than creating a multiplicity of species, had instead brought the incredible diversity of life into existence through the creation of a singular life-form accompanied by a divine law of adaptation.

Some evidence exists that Darwin received direct support from Jewish leaders emphasizing that his theory of evolution is entirely consistent with scripture. In one of the few recorded incidents evidencing Darwin’s contact with Jews, Naphtali Lewy (or “Halevi”), a noted writer, sent him a cover letter and his book, Toldot Adam, in which he argued that the subtleties of Hebrew vocabulary and the choice of particular Hebrew words in the Torah favored evolution, as did some passages in the Midrash Rabbah and the Talmud. As Darwin could not read Hebrew, he arranged for its translation and the letter, translated by an unknown “learned rabbi,” is in the Darwin collection at the Cambridge University library. In The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Darwin boasted that that “even an essay in Hebrew has appeared on it, showing that the theory is contained in the Old Testament” and, though he did not specifically cite the essay, he may well have been referring to Toldot Adam.

Saul Jay Singer

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/features-on-jewish-world/darwin-jewish-theology-and-the-holocaust/2016/07/07/

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