Members of Machnot Olim youth movement along with Holocaust survivors, flying kites for the 72 year rememberence of the execution of Yanush Korjack and his students in Treblinka at Yad Vashem on August 7, 2014. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust’
Days turn into weeks and the ominous news continues. Our precious sons are in harm’s way and we hear the horrific news that some of them will never come home. One boy was about to get married; another’s wife just had a baby; and still another left behind a wife who was in her ninth month. I realize you are all aware of this. I am not telling you anything new but still I have a compulsion to share and speak and write.
I listen to the news day and night. People have suggested that I stop, that it’s too depressing. But even if I were to shut out the media, in my mind I would still see and hear bereaved parents, and young wives who in the blink of an eye have become widows, and little orphans who are crying for their daddies.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that I am a survivor. I saw this all before and everything is coming back to me from those days in Europe before Hitler occupied Hungary. My revered father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, was the chief Orthodox rabbi of our city Szeged, the second largest city in Hungary (not to be confused with Sziget).
Our home became a gathering place not only for Jews from our city but for community leaders from the provinces. The discussions went on late into the night. “What to do?” everyone asked. And the answer to that question, the conclusion to all such discussions, was always the same: “Surely the civilized world will never countenance such beastly evil. People will protest and Germany will find itself a pariah among the family of nations.”
I have often thought about those conversations. Why were we so blind to our horrific reality? Simply put, there was nothing much we could do. We had no weapons. We had no friends. There was no place to run. No place to hide. Hitler was determined to annihilate every Jew and he kept meticulous records of the Jewish populations in the countries he conquered.
Some years ago I was invited to speak at Fort Hood to over 40,000 U.S. military personnel. After one of my presentations some officers asked if they could invite their families to listen to me. They wanted their wives and children to know about the Holocaust. When I concluded my address, an adorable little girl stood up.
“Rebbetzin, Ma’am,” she said in her innocent sweet voice, “why didn’t you call the police?”
For a moment I was astounded by the question. What an American question! And then I explained to the little girl that there were no police we could call. The police were equally as cruel as the Nazis. Jewish blood was cheap and could be shed with impunity. The question from the little girl continues to echo in the wind.
When the sinister darkness of the Holocaust had finally lifted, I heard the cry “never again” – “never again will we allow such satanic evil to take place. Never again.” Those words have become a clarion call. Tourists visit the sites where the death camps operated and nations build Holocaust museums to ensure that people learn from the past.
Under such circumstances, who could be a Holocaust denier? It’s there for all to see. And yet, incredibly, the Holocaust denial movement is alive and well.
But the problem extends well beyond out-and-out Holocaust deniers. Let a Jew raise his hand to defend himself and suddenly otherwise placid people become seething cauldrons of Jew hatred.
It has been my privilege to speak throughout the world. Recently I’ve been receiving calls from many friends in the countries I’ve visited. Be it Paris, London, Johannesburg, or any of a couple dozen other locations, anti-Semitic demonstrations are taking place. Not that we have to cross the ocean to hear this message –it’s happening right here in our own back yard.
If only more members of this generation were like Anna Blech: a poised, factual and no-holds-barred truth teller.
Blech attended Hunter College High School in New York. For her 11th grade history paper, Blech chose to explore the media’s coverage of the Holocaust, while it was happening.
She chose this topic because three of her four grandparents escaped from Germany and Austria before the outbreak of World War II. They spent the war years in New York City.
Her grandparents explained to Blech that they really had no idea of the extent of the destruction of European Jewry until after the concentration and labor camps were liberated. This led her to wonder what news was available in the American media.
“The works of historians David Wyman, Deborah Lipstadt, and, especially, Laurel Leff, helped me understand how the knowledge of the Holocaust did not enter the public psyche despite the fact that the Holocaust was covered extensively in the New York Times,” Blech told The Jewish Press.
After her paper won the New York City History Day prize, Blech was invited by her school principal to give a TEDx Talk for the high school’s TEDx event.
“They found the information true and painful,” Blech explained. “My grandmother said that she knew of people who almost made it out of Europe and who might have been able to, if the situation had been better publicized.”
Blech has since graduated from high school, and will be spending part of the summer in China for the Student Leaders Exchange of the National Council on U.S.-China Relations.
During this coming academic year, Blech will be on a special program called kivunim which is based in Jerusalem, but which takes participants to many different countries to explore the history of their Jewish communities and also explore all aspects of Israel.
Once finished with her year of travel with kivunim, Blech will become a freshman at Yale University in the fall of 2015.
A special panel tasked with examining the governance and strategic vision of the Claims Conference is recommending that the organization shift its long-term focus to Holocaust education and remembrance, JTA has learned.
The panel was appointed last year following a scandal involving the Claims Conference’s failure to detect a $57 million fraud scheme there that persisted until 2009. It also recommended cutting in half the size of the board’s executive committee and the number of special board committees.
The special panel did not, however, recommend any changes to the composition of the Claims Conference’s board, which critics have complained is unrepresentative because it does not include enough Israeli or survivor groups and includes too many once-robust Jewish organizations that are quite small today.
The new recommendations, outlined in two hefty documents sent to Claims Conference board members last week and this week and obtained by JTA, will go to a vote when the board holds its annual meeting in New York on July 8.
Consisting of board members and outside experts and guided by Accenture consultants, the special panel was charged with reviewing the administration, management and governance structure of the Claims Conference, which obtains Holocaust restitution and compensation from Germany and Austria. The central question the panel examined was what the Claims Conference should do after the last of the survivors dies.
Three possible courses of action were given serious consideration: shutting down; funding education and remembrance projects; or shifting its focus to general Jewish educational programming, helping victims of other genocides obtain restitution or preserving Jewish cultural sites in the former Soviet Union.
Given the Claims Conference’s successes at convincing Germany to increase its funding for survivors, the panel concluded that “to close down without attempting to leverage its position and significant experience in the service of Holocaust education and remembrance would be to miss a major opportunity.”
In an interview with JTA, the Claims Conference’s chief executive, Greg Schneider, emphasized that Holocaust education isn’t new to the Claims Conference: The organization currently funds education and remembrance to the tune of $18 million per year with money obtained from the sale of unclaimed Jewish properties in the former East Germany.
“The Claims Conference has always dealt with the consequences of the Shoah,” Schneider said of the board’s mandate for the organization. “When that meant direct payments to survivors, we did that. When that meant rebuilding communities, we did that. When that meant home care [for elderly survivors], we did that. Educating people about the Shoah and confronting Holocaust denial all deal with consequences of the Shoah. To be faithful to our mandate, we should continue to do that. And we are uniquely qualified to do so.”
The new vision for the Claims Conference hinges on the organization’s ability to get material support for it from the perpetrators of the Holocaust — namely Germany, but also Austria and companies complicit in the Nazi genocide. If that funding cannot be secured, the Claims Conference should go out of business once there are no survivors left, Schneider said.
“If we’re unable to get money from perpetrator governments, and the survivors have all died, we should close down,” he said. “We should not try to reinvent ourselves into something else.”
Stuart Eizenstat, a lead Claims Conference negotiator and special assistant to Secretary of State John Kerry on Holocaust issues, said he’s optimistic about getting Germany to support the proposed new focus, noting that the country already does so through mandatory Holocaust education in German schools.
“There’s every reason to think that they would be supportive of this,” Eizenstat said. “After all the survivors are gone this is the right thing to do.”
Though survivors are dying, their overall need for aid actually is rising because of their growing infirmity and relative poverty. The Claims Conference estimates that survivor needs will peak in about two or three years, followed by a progressive decline.
Globally there are an estimated 500,000 living Nazi victims — a category that includes not just survivors of concentration camps, ghettos and slave labor camps but also those forced to flee the Nazi onslaught, compelled to go into hiding or who endured certain others forms of persecution. About half are expected to die in the next seven or eight years, according to a new demographic assessment that was part of the special panel’s work, and survivors of some kind or another are expected to be around for another 20-25 years.
The debate about what to do about the Claims Conference once the last of the survivors dies is not new. Established in 1951 to secure compensation and restitution from Germany, the Claims Conference has negotiated successfully for an estimated $70 billion for survivors and survivor needs over the course of its existence.
Most of that money has come directly from Germany in the form of pensions and compensation payments, with the Claims Conference acting only as the processor of payments and verifier of claims (this latter area is where the $57 million fraud occurred). As each survivor dies, these payments cease.
The Claims Conference also has a bucket of discretionary funding: billions generated from the sale of heirless Jewish property from the former East Germany. But that bucket, known as the Successor Organization, is expected to run dry by 2020 at its current annual allocation rate of about $118 million to groups that aid survivors and $18 million to Holocaust education and remembrance.
In 2004, the Claims Conference managed to get Germany to begin to fund a new area: home care for survivors, including food, transportation and medical care. Berlin has steadily increased the amount of money it provides the program, from $42 million in 2009 to $190 million in 2013. Last year Germany agreed to another $800 million in funding through 2017.
If the Claims Conference board adopts the new plan next month, the question for Claims Conference negotiators is whether they’ll be able to get Germany to move into another new area — one that, unlike aid to aging survivors, has no particular expiration date.
“I believe the good will is there,” said Julius Berman, the Claims Conference’s chairman. “Their issue is more in terms of budget rather than concept. If we do a correct job to explain the need, I think we’ll have a receptive audience on the other side.”
The mandate for reexamining the Claims Conference’s future and governance grew out of a public storm a year ago over the discovery that the organization had conducted two investigations in 2001 into questionable conduct that failed to uncover a massive fraud scheme being perpetrated by a senior Claims Conference official. The fraud continued unabated until Claims Conference leaders discovered it in late 2009. In all, 31 people pleaded guilty or were found guilty in connection with the scheme, which resulted in $57 million in illegitimate payouts by Germany.
A Claims Conference probe last year into the bungled 2001 investigations proved highly controversial when it was disavowed by two of its four committee members and then rebutted in a 21-page missive by Schneider. In the end, the Claims Conference board elected to end its reexamination of the 2001 episode and rebuffed proposals to open up to any additional outside oversight.
The committees that oversaw this most recent Claims Conference reexamination process were, however, led by outsiders. The strategic vision committee was chaired by Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Charles and Andrea Bronfman Philanthropies, and the governance committee was chaired by Michael Miller, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. The committees themselves included outsiders as well as Claims Conference board members.
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Yad Vashem recognized its first Righteous Among the Nations from Peru.
Israel’s national Holocaust memorial on Thursday posthumously honored Jose Maria Barreto, a diplomat in Switzerland who used his position to attempt to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. A ceremony for Barreto will be held at a future date, Yad Vashem said in a statement.
As the consul general of Peru in Geneva, Barreto issued 27 Peruvian passports to 58 Jews, including 14 children, even though the government of Peru by 1938 had given instructions to its consulates in Europe not to issue visas to foreign immigrants — with an emphasis on barring Jews in particular.
Barreto was acting on the request of Abraham Silberschein, the head of RELICO, a Jewish relief organization in Switzerland funded by the World Jewish Congress, to issue Peruvian passports for Jews under German occupation.
Silberschein in a letter from August 1943 said, “Mr. Barreto, deeply moved by the suffering of millions of human beings in the occupied countries, wished to participate in helping to alleviate the plight of these innocent people, and decided to agree and provide us with a certain number of passports so that we could send them to different persons in the countries under German control. Mr. Barreto was convinced that by this highly humane deed he would save a number of people.”
That year, the Peruvian foreign minister canceled the passports and ordered the closure of the Peruvian consulate in Geneva. In addition, Barreto was fired and dismissed from Peru’s Foreign Ministry.
Is a second Holocaust possible? While not all hate-mongering leads to mass murder, history shows that genocide is usually preceded by continuous demonization of the eventual victims.
Never in history had the psychological infrastructure for genocide been prepared more thoroughly than it was before the Holocaust. In his book The Devil and the Jews, Joshua Trachtenberg summarized how Medieval Christendom viewed the Jew: as a “sorcerer, murderer, cannibal, poisoner, blasphemer.”
Experts on Jesus’s lifetime know that in Roman times the Jews had no power to kill anyone. However, the false accusation of deicide persists to this day. The Nazis and their allies added another accusation of absolute evil: “Jews are subhuman.” The culmination of the extreme defamation was the slaughter of six million Jews.
The newest accusation against the Jews of absolute evil is the claim that they behave like Nazis. As I pointed out in my recent book Demonizing Israel and the Jews, at least 150 million people in the European Union think Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians or, alternatively, behaves toward them like the Nazis did to the Jews.
A major study in 2013 by the Fundamental Rights Agency shows that due to increasing anti-Semitism in Europe a substantial number of Jews frequently or always hide their identity in public. In Sweden and France, the majority of Jews do so.
This is not to suggest that European Jewry is in danger. It remains highly unlikely that there will be a second European Holocaust against the Jews in the foreseeable future, as there is far too much resistance to that very notion in society at large.
That same resistance, however, does not exist in large parts of the Muslim world. An Iranian nuclear bomb is not the only potential source for a second Holocaust. One just has to watch the atrocities committed almost daily by Muslims, mainly against other Muslims, in Syria and Iraq.
If they were ever to gain sufficient power, there are enough Palestinians who, in league with organized jihadists, would attempt to do the same to Israel’s Jewish population.
In order to prevent such a scenario, Israel must work with sympathetic journalists and other opinion makers to educate the West about the duplicity and cruelty that has become endemic to much of the Muslim world.
Students at a school in California who were given an assignment to compare propaganda with actual evidence on the Holocaust have instead been told to abandon the project.
The order came following a firestorm of criticism and at least one death threat aimed at Southern California’s Rialto Unified School District, which assigned the homework.
According to a report published in The Daily Bulletin newspaper, the project was assigned in April to 2,000 13-and-14 year old eighth grade students, as follows:
“Shen tragic events occur in history, there is often debate about their actual existence. For example, some people claim the Holocaust is not an actual historical event, but instead is a propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain. Based upon your research on this issue, write an argumentative essay, utilizing cited textual evidence, in which you explain whether or not you believe the Holocaust was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain. Remember to address counterclaims (rebuttals) to your stated claim. You are also required to use parenthetical (internal) citations and to provide a Works Cited page.”
It had first been reviewed by a committee of eighth grade teachers, and sent to middle school sites in February for comment prior to distribution to the students. No objections were raised at the time, according to the spokesperson.
But the district found itself under siege on Monday, with the switchboard lines ringing off the hook.
At least one person called police repeatedly threatening death to a district spokeswoman Syeda Jafri and the interim school superintendent Mohammad Z. Islam. The incident is under investigation.
But also among the critics was Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, who slammed the assignment as inappropriate.
Rabbi Cooper told FoxNews.com on Monday, “Whatever the motivation, it ends up elevating hate and history to the same level… We should train our kids to have critical thinking, but the problem here is the teacher confused teaching critical thinking with common sense, because common sense dictates you don’t comingle propaganda with common truth.”
The rabbi advised the district to instead assign students to research the issue of Holocaust denial and meet with local survivors of the Nazis.
The school district responded in a statement saying the interim superintendent will speak with its educational services department to “assure that any reference to the Holocaust ‘not occurring’ will be stricken from any current or future argumentative research assignments. The Holocaust is and should be taught in classrooms with sensitivity and profound consideration to the victims who endured the atrocities committed,” the statement continues. “We believe in the words of George Santayana, ‘Those who cannot learn from history are bound to repeat it.”
The Los Angeles office of the Anti-Defamation League said it was satisfied with the district’s actions by Monday. “It is ADL’s general position that an exercise asking students to question whether the Holocaust happened has no academic value; it only gives legitimacy to the hateful and anti-Semitic promoters of Holocaust denial,” Associate Regional Director Matthew Friedman was quoted as saying, after having spoken with the interim superintendent on Friday.
“ADL does not have any evidence that the assignment was given as part of a larger, insidious, agenda,” a blog post quoting Friedman continues. “Rather, the district seems to have given the assignment with an intent, although misguided, to meet Common Core standards relating to critical learning skills.”
In a number of European countries today — including Germany — Holocaust denial is a criminal offense for which one can be sentenced to prison. The Nazis exterminated six million Jews out of a total of some 11 million victims murdered between 1933 and 1945, in the Holocaust that took place prior to and during World War II. Some two-thirds of European Jewry was wiped out in the slaughter, which ended with the defeat of Nazi Germany by the U.S., UK and their Allies.