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December 10, 2016 / 10 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust’

Kastner: Holocaust Hero Or Nazi Collaborator? – An Interview with Author Paul Bogdanor

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

In 1952, an elderly Hungarian Jew, Malchiel Gruenwald, published a pamphlet accusing Rudolph Kastner – a spokesman for Israel’s Ministry of Trade and Industry – of collaborating with the Nazis during the Holocaust. The Israeli government sued Gruenwald for libel, expecting the trial to last a couple of days.

It didn’t. It lasted a yearAnd at its conclusion, instead of exonerating Kastner, Judge Benjamin Halevi found that Kastner had “sold his soul to the devil.” The trial led to the government’s collapse and the assassination of Kastner in 1957.

Although six decades have since passed, the Kastner Affair remains highly controversial. Some continue to see Kastner as a collaborator while others – like Israel’s Supreme Court, which overturned Halevi’s ruling by a vote of 3-2 in 1958 – argue that Kastner’s dealings with the Nazis enabled him to save over 1,500 Jews. The latest to weigh in on the debate is Paul Bogdanor, an independent researcher in England and author of the recently released “Kasztner’s Crime” (Transaction Publishers).

The Jewish Press: Many Jews know about Rudolph Kastner from the riveting book Perfidy, by Ben Hecht. Are your book’s findings in consonance, or in conflict, with those of Perfidy?

Bogdanor: What Perfidy says about Kastner is accurate. Its accusations against the Zionist movement as a whole, however, are not so accurate.

For example, Perfidy accuses Ben-Gurion and his colleagues of deliberately sabotaging a mission by Kastner’s colleague Joel Brand to convey Eichmann’s “goods for blood” offer to the West. This was an offer by the Nazis to release a million Jews in exchange for 10,000 trucks and other goods from the West. Hecht says the Zionist leadership willingly sabotaged this mission, and thus doomed the Jews to extermination.

But the opposite is true. Ben-Gurion and his colleagues went all out to further the “goods for blood” offer. In doing so, though, they fell into a Nazi trap since these trucks were going to be used on the Eastern front against the Soviets in an effort to split the Allied coalition at a crucial point of the war.

Furthermore, Eichmann told Brand that he would not murder Hungary’s Jews until he had a definite answer on the “goods for blood” offer when, in fact, he had already started deporting thousands of Hungarian Jews a day to Auschwitz even before Brand left Budapest to convey Eichmann’s offer to the Zionist leadership. In other words, the Nazis used this offer as a way of keeping the Jewish leadership busy while it went about murdering Jews.

You write that Brand might have been naïve but you offer no such excuses for Kastner. You regard him as an outright Nazi collaborator. Why?

Because he deliberately misled scores of thousands of Jews into boarding the trains to Auschwitz. And because throughout the mass deportation from Hungary to Auschwitz he sent Nazi disinformation to his Jewish contacts in the free world with the aim of aborting any successful rescue effort.

How so?

For example, at the height of the deportations – when 12,000 Hungarian Jews every day were being driven onto death trains and sent to Auschwitz – he wrote that the deported Jews were alive in “Waldsee,” which was a Nazi camouflage for Auschwitz. At one point he even claimed to have received 750,000 postcards from these Jews saying they were alive and well. So Kastner’s Jewish contacts abroad read these letters and were misled about what was going on.

Is it clear that Kastner knew the Nazis intended to exterminate these Jews?

Absolutely. There’s no doubt about that because he admitted it. After the war he said Eichmann repeatedly told him that Hungarian Jews were being exterminated in Auschwitz. He also knew that escapees from Auschwitz had warned that the camp was being prepared to receive – and murder – massive numbers of Hungarian Jews.

If Kastner knew the Nazis planned on exterminating Hungarian Jewry, why didn’t he sound the alarm? He negotiated with the Nazis to save 1,684 select Jews on board what later became known as the “Kastner Train,” but why didn’t he warn all of Hungarian Jewry to go underground or resist boarding the deportation trains to Auschwitz?

When the Nazis occupied Hungary in 1944, Kastner tried to negotiate the rescue of all of Hungary’s Jews. At the very first meeting with Adolf Eichmann’s officer, Dieter Wisliceny, on April 5, 1944, Kastner and Brand made four demands: no executions, no concentration in ghettoes, no deportations, and permission for Jews to emigrate.

Wisliceny, though, told Kastner that the Jews could only emigrate if the emigration was disguised as a deportation. Kastner agreed, and from that moment on he had to collaborate with the Nazis because he had to make sure Jews boarded the deportation trains. But of course, once the Jews were on these trains, the Nazis could do whatever they wanted with them, and they sent them to Auschwitz.

Perhaps Kastner thought he had no choice. Perhaps he believed the Nazis would most likely kill everyone and that only by negotiating and cooperating did he stand a chance of rescuing at least some Hungarian Jews.

First of all, if the Jews were going to be killed, they didn’t have to be killed with Kastner’s help. And secondly, there was an opportunity to save many thousands of Hungarian Jews in north Transylvania. There was an escape route across the border to Romania, but on May 3, 1944, Wisliceny told Kastner to tell the Jewish leaders in Kolozsvar – Kastner’s hometown – that the escape routes had been blocked.

Kastner gave this false information to the leaders in Kolozsvar who immediately ended all the escapes. Kastner directly obeyed a Nazi instruction to sabotage the escape routes from his hometown.

Didn’t Kastner realize at some point that he was being used? After all, the Nazis exempted him from wearing a yellow star and allowed him use of a phone and car. At one point, they even convinced him to hand over two rescue activists – Yoel Palgi and Peretz Goldstein – who had been smuggled into Hungary by the Zionist leadership. Didn’t this close relationship with the Nazis make Kastner suspicious?

Exactly. Kastner must have understood he was serving the interests of the Nazis and that his rescue negotiations were gaining time, not for the Jewish victims but for the Nazis to exterminate them. And I argue that he understood this very early on in the rescue negotiations.

So what are we to conclude – that Kastner was an evil man?

My conclusion is that he was motivated partly by his pessimism about the possibility of saving any Hungarian Jews and partly by his megalomania. You have to remember that before the Nazi occupation of Hungary, Kastner was an underground rescue activist. He wasn’t a major figure among Hungarian Jews; he was a minor figure operating illegally. As soon as the Nazis occupied the country, though, he suddenly became the most important figure in Hungarian Jewry because he was the only person (after Brand’s departure) allowed to negotiate officially with Eichmann on the fate of the Jews of Hungary.

Even Kastner’s enemies usually give him credit for saving 1,684 Jews aboard the “Kastner Train.” You don’t. You argue, provocatively, that this rescue train was actually a Nazi hostage operation. How so?

Elliot Resnick

Sweden Officially Declares WWII Hero Raoul Wallenberg Dead

Monday, October 31st, 2016

On October 31, 2016 – 71 years after he disappeared in Hungary — Sweden has officially declared World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg dead.

Wallenberg was formally pronounced dead by Swedish authorities, according to a report published Monday in the Expressen newspaper, confirmed by the Swedish Tax Authority. He is believed to have died in captivity in the hands of the Soviet Union.

The authority set the date of Wallenberg’s death as July 31, 1952, in accordance with a rule that a missing person is presumed dead five years after his disappearance.

Wallenberg dropped out of sight after his arrest by the Red Army in 1945. After an initial denial, the Soviet Union claimed in 1957 that Wallenberg had died of a heart attack in a USSR prison on July 17, 1947.

The decision to formally declare him dead was reached on October 26 after an application from Wallenberg’s trustee, according to the Associated Press, quoting Pia Gustafsson, head of the Swedish Tax Authority’s legal department.

The Swedish envoy is credited with having saved the lives of at least 20,000 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.

Hana Levi Julian

Will Detroit’s Historic Holocaust Museum Stay True To Its Mission?

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

Of the many local and regional Holocaust memorials and museums scattered across America, one stands out among the best: The Holocaust Memorial Center in suburban Detroit.

For me, the legacy and future of the institution is personal.

Correctly billed as America’s “first Holocaust museum,” the Detroit enterprise was conceived fourteen years before the dominant United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. was even commissioned by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. The Detroit museum opened its original doors at its first location in suburban West Bloomfield, Michigan in 1984. The Washington museum opened its doors in 1993.

Although there are currently scores of Holocaust museums and memorials throughout America, the museum in suburban Detroit, when it debuted, was nothing short of historic. It stood as the first freestanding museum in the country devoted to the subject.

This extraordinary project was the dream of Rabbi Charles H. Rosenzveig, a Polish Holocaust survivor, in tandem with a local congregation of fellow survivors possessing visionary and fiery determination to not only document the heartless brutality of the twelve-year Reich war against the Jews but to understand the underlying socio-economic and political causes powering the Nazi genocides.

Hence, Rabbi Rosenzveig and I always enjoyed a special rapport. We shared the same fire and felt the same burn. In my case, it propelled me to write books on these topics, documenting corporate collusion and ethnic collaboration that made a life-and-death difference to so many.

Rabbi Rosenzveig invited me several times to lecture at the museum on American corporate involvement with the Third Reich and the ethnic factors that facilitated the destruction of six million Jews. This included documenting how IBM co-planned and co-organized the Holocaust with its punch card processes, as well as the involvement of General Motors and Henry Ford.

That the museum allowed me to speak freely on the latter was a courageous act in a city where those two automobile companies were headquartered and maintained powerful influences in the community.

The museum became known for more than just lectures; its extraordinary exhibits delved into the heartless economics that fueled Hitler’s Germany. Rabbi Rosenzveig and I shared an uncanny realization of what was at stake. More than just stimulating memory and sorrow, the challenge was to prod deeper thought about the consequences of corporate connectivity with death machines.

We also shared a common heritage. Rabbi Rosenzveig was from Poland, lost nearly all his family, and told me he was not even sure how old he was. My parents were from Poland. We lost nearly all our relatives, and my parents were likewise unsure of how old they were.

When Rabbi Rosenzveig and I sat together in the museum, the conversation was often just silence and the unspoken certitude that passes noiselessly between two people who understand the agony of a common mission. No need for convincing, but plenty of commiserating. Our job was to inform about the worst and inspire the best for those confronting the Holocaust – the rabbi devoted to his work in Detroit and me speaking around the world on my works and my research.

When the new, larger, dramatically more architectonic museum opened in nearby Farmington Hills, it set the standard for such edifices. Many said the structure resembled a death camp, and drivers passing by complained that its very appearance made them uncomfortable. In 2003 the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Should a Museum Look as Disturbing as What It Portrays?” The article asserted that the center “may be the most provocative Holocaust memorial of them all,” with its stark exterior suggesting electrified wire and the bleak walls at Auschwitz.

Rabbi Rosenzveig was actually fond of the impact his structure made. He did not believe in making an uncomfortable topic more palatable.

We both shared a fear that the Holocaust could happen again. In 2006, years before the Iran nuclear threat leapt onto front pages everywhere, Rabbi Rosenzveig invited me to speak at the museum’s annual gala. That night, I used the term “Second Holocaust” and warned it could be enabled by petrodollars fueling the Iranian nuclear program.

The idea was to enunciate this warning in Detroit, where gas-guzzling vehicles were still being manufactured. I felt it was ever more appropriate given Detroit’s unique status as the one U.S. city most pivotal to buttressing Nazism – thanks to Henry Ford’s gift to Hitler of an “international Jewish conspiracy” that rationalized his quest to expunge Jewish existence across Europe, and GM leaping to its role as “the arsenal of Nazism” with its manufacture of Blitz trucks, JU-88 airplane engines, Panzer tank motor parts, torpedo heads, and land mine components.

The 2006 gala evening competed with a major sporting event, and my comments were cut short due to the abundance of speakers and the truncated schedule. But the rabbi whispered in my ear that the museum wished to have me back to deliver the fuller message about Iran and a potential Second Holocaust.

Two years later, in July 2008, presidential candidate John McCain echoed the same fear I expressed that night. Referring to Iran’s nuclear program, McCain declared, “The United States of America can never allow a second Holocaust.”

Rabbi Rosenzveig died later that year. A Congressional resolution lauded him as one who “endured and bore witness to the horrific atrocities of the Holocaust.”

During his tenure he elevated the Detroit museum to one of international stature and helped many scholars. For example, he worked with renowned Paper Walls author David Wyman on a special volume, The World Reacts to the Holocaust, a massive tome published in 1996 by Johns Hopkins Press. Rabbi Rosenzveig was listed as co-author, and Wyman paid tribute to him in the foreword as the man who “originated the concept of the book.” Wyman also saluted the Detroit center for being the first freestanding Holocaust museum in America.

After Rabbi Rosenzveig departed, he was succeeded by the Holocaust scholar Guy Stern, who had also worked on the Wyman book. He is still with the museum and now heads up its Harry and Wanda Zekelman International Institute of the Righteous.

Stern is hardly the only longtime devoted staffer at the museum. The center maintains a valuable library archive under the baton of Feiga Weiss.

In 2012 I returned to Detroit for a museum co-sponsored two-event visit. I updated my 2006 warning about the Iranian nuclear program in a presentation at a nearby synagogue. In the museum auditorium we helped set the stage for a global recognition of the Farhud, the 1941 Arab-Nazi pogrom in Baghdad. This was referred to by some as the long-overlooked Sephardic Kristallnacht.

While the idea was bold and new when explored within the walls of the museum in 2012, it eventually caught traction worldwide. Last year, together with Jewish leaders in a live-streamed global event at the United Nations, we proclaimed International Farhud Day. This year, on the 75th anniversary of the pogrom, special commemorations were held in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.; in New York in a Manhattan synagogue; in a London synagogue attended by diplomats and dignitaries; and in the Knesset in Jerusalem.

With its special place in American Holocaust commemoration and documentation, the Detroit center must be preserved as it was intended to be and as it has been from its first day – a torch of Holocaust enlightenment that flickers the reminder “Never Again.”

Too many Holocaust memorials have lost their original identity and now are devoted to both the Holocaust and genocide in general, or simply to global genocide.

Don’t get me wrong; as one who plumbs the dark recesses of the genocide of many groups throughout history, I know that all those shameful chapters must be thoroughly illuminated to reduce the chance of their repetition. Holocaust research and memorial centers need to bring those chapters within their walls; otherwise, “Never Again” is just a slogan rather than a fateful warning to the world.

But we in the Holocaust community do this best when we conserve Holocaust remembrance and the uniqueness of the Holocaust as an unparalleled and unique twelve-year onslaught perpetrated worldwide in broad daylight with headlines blaring.

Recently it emerged that Detroit’s Holocaust Memorial Center is contemplating changes. The institution is now being directed by Cheryl Guyer, who holds the unusual title of both “interim director” and “director of development.” This means her two hats cover both the soul of the museum and fund-raising – two spheres that aren’t always in sync. (Rabbi Rosenzveig went against conventional economic wisdom when he created the museum.)

Guyer confirmed to me that the museum and its board are undergoing a period of what she called “new strategic thinking and transition.” She refused to elaborate. Asked again, she steadfastly refused to comment, saying, “We are not ready to talk about it.” In the ensuing days, Guyer declined to respond to several e-mail and voice requests for further information.

The museum’s official media spokesman, Glenn Oswald, one of the most affable and responsive publicists in the field, who promoted my earlier events at the museum, was contacted. He too declined all comment and failed to respond to several voice mails and e-mails attempting to gather ordinary background information about the museum. So no one knows just what changes or transitions are in store.

Despite the wall of silence, it has been learned that a new director is being considered to assume the museum’s top leadership slot next year as part of the transition. According to museum sources, a local rabbi with a distinguished record is under consideration. That process is now in full swing. Until a decision is made, the museum continues to remain mum about its plans.

Holocaust remembrance and Holocaust museums, built with community money, belong to the survivors and their succeeding generations. The boards of directors of such museums are mere trustees of the legacy. They don’t own it. They don’t even rent it. They are custodians.

Guyer should therefore check with the community before any “strategic thinking and transition” is announced or implemented, and shine the light of openness upon what is in store. Survivors and their descendants hold the trademark on Holocaust memory. For many, the mark is tattooed on their forearms; for many others, it is permanently written in their hearts.

Edwin Black

ISIS Executes Hundreds in Mosul as Iraqi Forces Close In

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

Islamic State (Da’esh / ISIS) terrorist forces executed hundreds of civilians Friday in the city of Mosul as tens of thousands of Iraqi and Peshmerga military and coalition forces closed in.

The terrorists murdered 284 men and boys, an Iraqi intelligence source told CNN, after having rounded them up from villages in and around the Mosul area to be used as human shields.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said, “There is a grave danger that [ISIS] fighters will not only use … people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated.” He added that any of the terrorists who were captured or who surrendered “should be held accountable in accordance with the law for any crimes they have committed.”

And in fact, in a move echoing one of the most grotesque by the Nazis during the Holocaust, ISIS operatives used a bulldozer to dump the dead bodies in a mass grave at the scene of the executions, the defunct Mosul College of Agriculture in the northern section of the city, according to the source quoted by CNN.

All of the victims were shot, including children, said the source who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with media. CNN could not independently confirm the claim.

Knowing their days were numbered, the ISIS terrorists blew up the Mishraq sulfur plant in the city on Wednesday, killing two people with the toxic white smoke, and injuring numerous others. At least 500 people arrived at the Qayyarah Health Center complaining of problems with their breathing.

The terrorist group also ignited the oil wells, sending thick black smoke boiling up into the sky. Doctors treated their patients with oxygen but were forced to send at least eight to Makhmur hospital, they told the AFP news agency.

At least 50 ISIS terrorists were killed and dozens of others were wounded in a separate terrorist assault on the northern city of Kirkuk — launched as a diversion from Mosul — which ended Saturday after 36 hours of heavy clashes.

All of the ISIS attackers were killed or blew themselves up, according to Kirkuk police Brig.-Gen. Khattab Omer. But 13 workers at a power plant north of the city were killed, in addition to a local TV reporter.

Iraqi security forces and Peshmerga Kurdish fighters also surrounded and isolated the town of Hamdaniya, 12 miles southeast of Mosul, according to a U.S. military official in Baghdad.

U.S. and coalition aircraft were providing air support during the battles in Kirkuk and around Mosul on Saturday. In Kirkuk, 175 kilometers (109 miles) southeast of Mosul, Peshperga forces went house to house in mop-up operations.

Hana Levi Julian

Detroit Holocaust Museum Enters New Phase but Stays Strangely Mum

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Of the many local and regional Holocaust memorials and museums scattered across America, one stands out among the best: The Holocaust Memorial Center in suburban Detroit. For me, the legacy and future of the institution is personal.

Correctly billed as America’s “first Holocaust museum,” the Detroit enterprise was conceived fourteen years before the dominant United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. was even commissioned by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. The Detroit museum opened its original doors at its first location in suburban West Bloomfield, Michigan in 1984. Subsequently, the Washington D.C. museum opened its doors in 1993.

Although there are currently scores of Holocaust museums and memorials throughout America, the museum in suburban Detroit, when it debuted, was nothing short of historic. It stood as the first free-standing museum in the country devoted to the topic. This extraordinary project was the dream of Rabbi Charles H. Rosenzveig, a Polish Holocaust survivor, in tandem with a local congregation of fellow survivors possessing visionary and fiery determination to not only document the heartless brutality of the twelve-year Reich war against the Jews, but to understand the underlying socio-economic and political causes powering the Nazi genocides. Hence, Rabbi Rosenzveig and I always enjoyed a special rapport. We shared the same fire and felt the same burn. In my case, it propelled me to write books on these topics, documenting corporate collusion and ethnic collaboration that made a life and death difference to so many.

Rabbi Rosenzveig invited me several times to lecture at the Museum on American corporate involvement with the Third Reich and the ethnic involvement that facilitated the destruction of six million Jews. This included documenting how IBM co-planned and co-organized the Holocaust with its punch card processes, as well as the involvement of

General Motors and Henry Ford — a courageous act in a city where those two automobile companies were headquartered and maintained powerful influences in the community.

More than just lectures, the Museum became known for its extraordinary exhibits which delved into the heartless economics that fueled Hitler’s Germany. He and I shared an uncanny realization of what was at stake. More than just stimulating memory and sorrow, the challenge was to prod deeper thought about the consequences of corporate connectivity with death machines.

We also shared a common heritage. Rabbi Rosenzveig was from Poland, lost nearly all his family, and told me he was not even sure how old he was. My parents were from Poland. We lost nearly all our relatives, and the two brave teenagers that became my parents were likewise unsure of how old they were. When Rabbi Rosenzveig and I sat together in the Museum, the conversation was often just silence and that unspoken certitude that passes noiselessly between two people who understand the agony of a common mission. No need for convincing but plenty of commiserating. Our job was to inform about the worst and inspire the best for those confronting the Holocaust–the rabbi devoted to his work in Detroit, and my speaking around the world on my works and my research.

When the new, larger, dramatically more architectonic museum opened in nearby Farmington Hills, it set the standard for such edifices. Many said the structure resembled a death camp, and drivers passing by complained its very appearance made them uncomfortable. In 2003, the Wall Street Journal published an article, “Should a Museum Look as Disturbing as What It Portrays?” The article asserted that the center “may be the most provocative Holocaust memorial of them all,” with its stark exterior suggesting electrified wire and the bleak walls at Auschwitz. Rabbi Rosenzveig was actually fond of the impact his structure made. He did not believe in making an uncomfortable topic more palatable.

We both shared a fear that the Holocaust could happen again. In 2006, a decade ago, years before the Iran nuclear threat leapt onto the front page everywhere, Rabbi Rosenzveig invited me to speak at the museum’s annual gala. That night, I used a never-before mentioned term— “A Second Holocaust” — and warned it could be enabled by petrodollars fueling the Iranian nuclear program. The idea was to enunciate this warning in Detroit, where gas guzzling vehicles were still being manufactured. I felt it was ever more appropriate given Detroit’s unique status as the one city most pivotal to buttressing Nazism — thanks to Henry Ford’s gift to Hitler of an “international Jewish conspiracy” that rationalized his quest to expunge Jewish existence across Europe, and GM leaping to its role as “the arsenal of Nazism” with its manufacture of the Blitz trucks, JU-88 airplane engines, Panzer tank motor parts, torpedo heads, and land mine components.

The 2006 gala evening competed with a major sporting event that evening, so my comments were cut short due to abundant speakers and the truncated schedule. But the rabbi whispered in my ear, the museum wished to have me back to deliver the fuller message about Iran and a potential Second Holocaust.

Two years later, presidential candidate John McCain echoed the same fear I expressed that night. In July 2008, running against Barack Obama and focused on Obama’s position on the Iranian nuclear program, Republican contender John McCain declared, “The United States of America can never allow a second Holocaust.”

Rabbi Rosenzveig died later that year, in December 2008. A Congressional resolution lauded him as one who “endured and bore witness to the horrific atrocities of the Holocaust.”

During his tenure, he elevated the Detroit museum to one of international stature. He helped many scholars. For example, he worked with renown Paper Walls author, David Wyman, on a special volume, The World Reacts to the Holocaust, a massive tome published in 1996 by John Hopkins Press. Rabbi Rosenzveig was listed as co-author, and Wyman paid tribute to the rabbi in the forward as the man who “originated the concept of the book.” In the book, Wyman saluted the Detroit center for being the first free-standing Holocaust museum in America. The book and Rabbi Rosenzveig’s contributions were hailed, with one reviewer writing that the book was an “innovative study,” adding, “It is beautifully researched, well written, and beautifully (even elegantly) published. We owe a debt of gratitude to its editor and contributors for raising a question no one had previously asked.”

After Rabbi Rosenzveig departed, he was succeeded by the Holocaust scholar Guy Stern. Stern served as interim director. He had also worked on the Wyman book. Stern, who escaped Nazi Germany, was globally known for his expertise on the Holocaust and had received the Grand Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his academic accomplishments. Stern is still with the Museum, and now heads up the Center’s Harry and Wanda Zekelman International Institute of the Righteous.

Stern is hardly the only long-time devoted staffer at the Museum. The center maintains a valuable Library Archive under the baton of Feiga Weiss. Rabbi Rosenzveig, personally employing the perspective that only a survivor can muster, did a number of the pivotal video interviews.

In 2012, I returned to Detroit for a Museum co-sponsored two-event visit. I completed and updated the 2006 warning about the Iranian nuclear program in a presentation at the nearby synagogue. In the Museum auditorium, we helped set the stage for a global recognition of The Farhud, the 1941 Arab-Nazi pogrom in Baghdad that attempted to exterminate the Jews of Baghdad. This was referred to by some as the long-overlooked Sephardic Kristallnacht. While the idea was bold and new when explored within the walls of the Museum in 2012, it eventually caught traction worldwide. Last year, together with other Jewish leaders in a live-streamed global event in the United Nations, we proclaimed International Farhud Day. Earlier this year, on the June 1, 2016 75th anniversary of the pogrom, special commemorations were held in the House of

Representatives in Washington, D.C., in New York in a Manhattan synagogue, in a London synagogue attended by diplomats and dignitaries, and also in the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem. While this observance is now globally known, the Detroit Museum boldly confronted the topic four years earlier.

With its special place in American Holocaust commemoration and documentation, the Detroit center must be preserved as it was intended to be and as it has been from its first day — a torch of Holocaust enlightenment that flickers the reminder, “Never Again.”

Too many Holocaust memorials have lost their original identity and transitioned to an institution which devotes itself to both Holocaust and genocide, or simply to global genocide. As one who plumbs the dark recesses of the genocide of many groups throughout history, from Herero Africans to Romanian Gypsies to the Ottoman Armenians, I know that all of these shameful chapters must be thoroughly illuminated to reduce the chance of their repetition. Holocaust research and memorial centers need to bring those chapters within their walls to document the similitude of blood and suffering at the hands of madmen. Otherwise “Never Again” is just a slogan and not a fateful warning to the world. We in the Holocaust community do this best when we preserve intact and conserve Holocaust remembrance and the uniqueness of Holocaust identity as an unparalleled and unique twelve-year onslaught perpetrated worldwide in broad daylight with headlines blaring as a propaganda ministry issued press releases.

Recently, it has been learned that Detroit’s Holocaust Memorial Center is contemplating changes. The institution is now being directed by Cheryl Guyer, who holds the unusual title of both “interim director” and “director of development.” This means her two hats cover both the soul of the museum and fund-raising — two spheres that aren’t always in sync. Rabbi Rosenzveig went against conventional economic wisdom to create the Museum.

When contacted by this writer, Guyer confirmed that the museum and its board is now undergoing a period of what she called “new strategic thinking and transition.” She refused to elaborate. When asked again, she steadfastly refused to comment, saying, “We are not ready to talk about it.” In the ensuing days, Guyer declined to respond to more than eight email and voice requests for further information for this story.

The Museum’s official media spokesman, Glenn Oswald, one of the most affable and responsive publicists in the field, who promoted my earlier events at the museum, was contacted. He too declined all comment and failed to respond to several voice mails and emails attempting to gather ordinary background information about the Museum. So no one knows just what changes or transitions are in store — and what direction they may go.

Despite, the wall of silence, it has been learned that a new director is being considered to assume the Museum’s top leadership slot next year as part of the transition. According to Museum sources, a local rabbi with a distinguished record is under consideration. That process is now in full swing. Until a decision is made, the Museum

continues to remain mum about its plans. No one knows what the “transition” is — or what prompts the continued reticence.

Holocaust remembrance and the museums everywhere, built with community money, belong to the survivors and their succeeding generations. After all, it was their suffering, indelible stories, and unforgettable nightmares that excavated the depths beneath the concrete foundations, the walls, and exhibits. The boards of directors of such museums everywhere are mere trustees of the legacy. They don’t own it. They don’t even rent it. They are custodians.

Therefore, Guyer should check with the community before any “strategic thinking or transition” is announced or implemented, and shine the light of openness upon what is in store. Survivors and their descendants hold the trademark on Holocaust memory. For many, the mark is tattooed on their forearms; for many others, it is permanently written in their hearts.

Edwin Black

Conference Debating Bringing Holocaust Images to Life [video]

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Films from the Holocaust period are filled with haunting images, providing a rare opportunity for researchers to piece together the stories of lives cut brutally short. In today’s digital age, such film footage is particularly compelling and stirring, granting us a glimpse into a living memory of a world that was – and is no longer. A groundbreaking conference on the subject, the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI) workshop entitled “Holocaust Archival Footage as a Historical Source: Methodology and Ethics in the Digital Era,” is currently taking place at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

EHRI is a trans-national project aimed at supporting and promoting improved access to Holocaust documentation scattered across the globe. The workshop, designed especially for experts, convened some 30 top level professionals, providing tools and tips for researchers and historians from Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the US and other countries in utilizing Holocaust-era footage as a historical source. Sessions included newly-discovered footage located at various archives and collections of Holocaust-related material; the unique challenges entailed in locating, collecting and restoring these rare films; and technical and methodological dilemmas of using of source movies.

One of the stories featured at the conference was about David Teitelbaum, an amateur photographer who was born in Wielopole Skrzyńskie, southeastern Poland, in 1891 and later relocated to the United States, where he became a successful businessman. Teitelbaum would return to his hometown almost every year to visit his family, and in 1938, he filmed his trip. In June or July 1939 he traveled to Wielopole again, but only stayed for a short time, sensing that war was imminent. Members of the Teitelbaum, Rappaport and Sartoria families, as well as their neighbors and acquaintances, were likely filmed during that last visit.

Several years ago, this rare color footage depicting Jewish life in the shtetl of Wielopole before the Holocaust was donated to Yad Vashem. With the assistance of relatives (particularly Channa Rachel Helen Glucksman, David Teitelbaum’s niece), Yad Vashem has succeeded in identifying many of the individuals in the film, including a number of sick or elderly Jews who were murdered in an aktion in the town.

Since the film was uploaded to Yad Vashem’s Youtube channel, it has been seen by over 130,000 viewers, many of whom have commented on how deeply moved they were to have caught a glimpse of Jewish life in the town before it was destroyed forever.

The Yad Vashem Archives house hundreds of Holocaust-related films, including raw footage, newsreels, amateur films, propaganda and feature films, and postwar trials. What makes this footage so unique is that it contains many layers of information beyond the recorded data – the personal backgrounds of the subjects, the historical context of the events depicted, and even the motivation and ideology of the photographer – all of which may be revealed through painstaking research.

Efrat Komisar, Head of the Film Footage Section at the Yad Vashem Archives and one of the presenters at the workshop, explained the importance of correct usage, critical research and cataloguing of film footage. “These wartime films have a complex nature, stemming, among other things, from the photographers’ intentions in creating the film in the first place. Nevertheless, they are invaluable as original documentation. The films open a window onto the world of their subjects, as well as that of their creators. They supplement information provided by other forms of documentation, as well as priceless visual testimony of people and places before, during and even immediately after the Shoah.

“Historians, researchers and filmmakers alike have an obligation to investigate these precious films thoroughly, and present them to the public together with the most comprehensive and accurate information possible, thus building a more accurate visual memory of the Holocaust,” Komisar continues. “Moving images provide something that other kinds of documentation – written, aural and even still photographs – cannot give: multisensory scenes of people, places and events that depict often very personal accounts in real-time. In a way, seeing them almost brings them back to life.”

JNi.Media

Holocaust Survivor, Speaker Max Mannheimer, 96, Passes Away

Saturday, September 24th, 2016

Holocaust survivor and speaker Max Mannheimer passed away Friday at the age of 96 in a Munich hospital, Gabriele Hammermann, director of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial said in a statement.

“The memorial and its employees are mourning a good friend,” Hammermann said.

Steffen Seibert, a spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote on Twitter that she was “mourning Max Mannheimer — Holocaust survivor, reminder against oblivion and great reconciler. We owe him thanks.”

Mannheimer had been an adviser to the German government on the design and conception of its commemorative works on the Holocaust.

He dedicated his entire life to serving as a witness to the atrocities of the Nazi Third Reich and the memories of the six million Jews whose lives were stolen by them in the Holocaust they perpetrated during World War II. After the war, he painted under the name “ben jakov” — his Hebrew name — to cope with the terrible memories, later writing a book “Late Diary.”

Of his entire family and a new wife, only he and his brother Edgar survived.

Born in the Czech Republic in 1920, he personally survived two death camps, Auschwitz and Dachau, and was a transient resident of Theresienstadt concentration camp prior to those.

After seeing a swastika during a trip to the United States in 1986 and in response, suffering a nervous breakdown, Mannheimer spent the rest of his life giving speeches in schools, universities and concentration camp memorials to ensure that the world never forgot the horror humanity was capable of. Until that point, he had remained silent about the nightmares and depression he suffered, never speaking about his experiences.

Mannheimer was a recipient of the German cross of merit and the French Légion d’honneur. To the younger generation of Germans, his message was simple:

“You aren’t responsible for what happened. But you are responsible for ensuring that it won’t happen again.”

Boruch Dayan HoEmes.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/holocaust-survivor-speaker-max-mannheimer-96-passes-away/2016/09/24/

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