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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust’

Israeli Leaders Bid Farewell to Holocaust Survivor and Writer Elie Wiesel

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

By Jonathan Benedek/TPS

Several top Israeli officials expressed their condolences on the passing of author, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, speaking of his untiring work on behalf of the Jewish people, the State of Israel and humanity.

“Elie Wiesel was the collective moral compass of the Jewish people,” said Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet refusenik and Prisoner of Zion. “He was the first to break the silence surrounding the plight of Soviet Jewry, and he accompanied our struggle until we achieved victory. We will miss him deeply.”

In his 1966 book The Jews of Silence, Wiesel wrote of the struggle of Jews living in the Soviet Union, which he had observed during a visit to the USSR the previous year. Many believe this work was one of the main factors that led to American Jewry’s call to action on behalf of Soviet Jewry.

“This was a sad evening for the Jewish people,” said Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem. “Only a few months ago I had the honor of bestowing the Honorary Citizen of the City of Jerusalem award upon Professor Elie Wiesel.”

The Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem award is given to distinguished people who have made significant contributions to Israel’s capital city.

“In your Zionist, principled, and moral mission, your numerous writings and your public activities, you have contributed greatly to the State of Israel and to its capital city of Jerusalem,” Barkat told Weisel during the award ceremony in December 2015. “You are a faithful ambassador and true friend of our city, and through your work you have demonstrated uncompromising support for those who dwell in Zion, as well as a truly shared destiny.”

Wiesel replied to Barkat: “In my life I have published more than sixty books, but believe me when I tell you, Mr. Mayor, that Jerusalem is the heart and soul of my work. I am moved to receive the title of Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem, and I will continue to act for Jerusalem and for the State of Israel.”

In response to the news of Wiesel’s passing, Mayor Barkat said last night: “When I bestowed the award upon Wiesel in an emotional ceremony, I said it was a great privilege to express the deep appreciation Jerusalem has for his heroism and his life’s work. Elie Wiesel was a loyal ambassador and a true friend of Jerusalem, and has demonstrated unwavering support and empathy with the people of the city.”

Elie Wiesel was known for speaking out not only about Jewish suffering, but also on behalf of oppressed groups throughout the world. Noting this, the Nobel Prize Committee described him in 1986 as a “messenger to mankind.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Through his unforgettable books, moving words and personal example, Elie personified the triumph of the human spirit over the most unimaginable evil. His life and work were a great blessing to the Jewish people, the Jewish state and to all humanity.

“The State of Israel and the Jewish people mourn the passing of Elie Wiesel.”

President Reuven Rivlin said, “[Wiesel’s] life was dedicated to the fight against all hatred and for the sake of man as created in the image of God. He was a guide for us all. Tonight we bid farewell to a hero of the Jewish people and a giant of all humanity.”

In November 2013, during his term as Israel’s president, Shimon Peres awarded Israel’s Presidential Medal of Distinction, Israel’s highest civil medal, to Elie Wiesel for his for his work commemorating the Holocaust and promoting tolerance in the world. In his address to Wiesel at the ceremony, he said, “You are waving the flag of humanity, preventing bloodshed and challenging racism and anti-Semitism, as well as preventing war. You personally went through the most atrocious horrors of humanity, and as a Holocaust survivor you chose to dedicate your life to deliver the message — never again.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Holocaust Author and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel Dead at 87

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel who in 1986 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, is dead, according to a Saturday announcement by Yad Vashem. He was 87 years old. Wiesel died in his New York home. He was survived by his wife, his son and two grandchildren.

Wiesel was born in in Sighet, Transylvania (Romania), in the Carpathian Mountains, on September 30, 1928. Wiesel’s mother, Sarah, was the daughter of a Vizhnitz Hasid who spent time in jail for helping Polish Jews enter the country illegally. Wiesel’s father, Shlomo, encouraged him to learn Hebrew and to read literature, while his mother encouraged him to study the Torah. Wiesel had three siblings – older sisters Beatrice and Hilda, and younger sister Tzipora. Beatrice and Hilda survived the war and were reunited with Wiesel at a French orphanage. They eventually emigrated to North America, with Beatrice moving to Canada. Tzipora, Shlomo, and Sarah did not survive the Holocaust.

In 1944, the German army deported the Jewish community in Sighet to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Wiesel and his father were sent to the work camp Buna, a subcamp of Auschwitz III-Monowitz. He managed to remain with his father for more than eight months as they were shuffled among three concentration camps in the final days of the war.

On January 28, 1945, just a few weeks after the two were marched to Buchenwald, Wiesel’s father was beaten by an SS guard as he was suffering from dysentery, starvation, and exhaustion. He was also beaten by other inmates for his food. He was later sent to the crematorium, only weeks before the camp was liberated by the US Third Army on April 11.

For ten years after the war, Wiesel refused to write about or discuss his experiences during the Holocaust. However, a meeting with the French author François Mauriac, the 1952 Nobel Laureate in Literature, and a discussion he had with the Lubavitcher Rebbe were turning points for him. His first memoir, in Yiddish, titled, And the World Remained Silent, was published in Buenos Aires. He rewrote a new version of the manuscript in French, which was published as La Nuit, and translated into English as Night. Wiesel had trouble finding a publisher and the book initially sold only a few copies.

In 1960 Hill & Wang agreed to pay a $100 pro-forma advance and published it in the United States in September that year as Night. The book sold only 1,046 copies, but attracted interest from reviewers, leading to television interviews with Wiesel and meetings with literary figures such as Saul Bellow. “The English translation came out in 1960, and the first printing was 3,000 copies,” Wiesel said in an interview. “And it took three years to sell them. Now, I get 100 letters a month from children about the book. And there are many, many millions of copies in print.”

Night has been translated into 30 languages. By 1997 the book was selling 300,000 copies annually in the United States alone. By March 2006, about six million copies were sold in the United States. On January 16, 2006, Oprah Winfrey chose the work for her book club. One million extra paperback and 150,000 hardcover copies were printed carrying the “Oprah’s Book Club” logo, with a new translation by Wiesel’s wife, Marion, and a new preface by Wiesel. On February 12, 2006, the new translation of Night was No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list for paperback non-fiction and the original translation placed third.

Wiesel and his wife started the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. He served as chairman for the Presidential Commission on the Holocaust (later renamed US Holocaust Memorial Council) from 1978 to 1986, spearheading the building of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, during which he pleaded for US intervention in Yugoslavia after a visit there in 1992.

Wiesel and his wife invested their life savings, and the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity invested nearly all of its assets (approximately $15.2 million) through Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, an experience that caused Wiesel deep pain.

JNi.Media

1,000 Letters Add Poignant Perspective On Holocaust

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Snippets of Holocaust history. Portraits of Jewish children pining for their mothers and fathers in Germany. Next month, a select group of teachers will be the first to view a unique collection of 1,000 letters written by, and to, children sent east by parents who hoped to save their young ones from the Nazi menace.

Deborah Dwork, professor of history and founding director of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Massachusetts, told The Jewish Press that the collection derives from the estate of Elisabeth Luz, who lived in a small town near Zurich, Switzerland during World War II. “When war began,” Dwork said, “civilian postal services ceased between belligerent nations, so what happened was…parents wrote letters to [Luz] in neutral Switzerland, and she copied every letter and sent them on to their children. And children wrote to her, and she copied every letter and sent the letters on to the parents.”

Why Luz? She was in the right place at the right time. A small refugee camp was situated near her town, and the first time she visited it, someone asked her to please write to his wife in Vienna on his behalf. Soon, by word of mouth, Luz became the intermediary between hundreds of Jews who couldn’t write to one another directly.

Luz never married. “When she died,” Dwork said, “her nephew was going through her apartment, sorting out her effects, and he found a suitcase of these letters. He knew my first book on the history of the Holocaust, called Children With a Star, so he wrote to me and said, ‘Would you be interested in these letters?’ and I wrote right back, ‘Absolutely!’”

The Strassler Center is currently curating an online exhibit revolving around these letters – along with translations and teaching material– which it hopes will be ready in 18 months. Dwork herself is writing a book on the letters, to be published in 2018. In the meantime, Sarah Cushman, who is the head of educational programming at the Strassler Center, will be co-running a Summer Holocaust Institute from July 25-29 for 15 middle- and high-school teachers. During its duration, participants will discuss how best to use these letters in teaching about the Holocaust.

The Holocaust has of course long been a subject of instruction at many schools, but these letters are a particularly helpful teaching tool, Dwork said, because “students respond with greatest interest to the life histories of people who were just about their age.”

Said Cushman: “These letters allow students to gain some personal meaning and personal access to the history of the Holocaust. It’s a way for them to interact with people who were actually affected by Nazi anti-Jewish policies so young people can have a sense of what kid of daily impact these policies on young people’s lives.”

Elliot Resnick

Freida Sima’s Family And The Holocaust

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth installment of a multipart series on the life and times of the author’s grandmother, Freida Sima, who as a young woman came to America on her own in the early 1900s and made her way in a new country. The eighth part (“Freida Sima Goes to War”) appeared as the front-page essay in the May 13 issue; part ten will run in July.

 

While Freida Sima and her extended New York family lived through the war years worrying about the family in Europe and their own sons fighting in the American army, the Enzenbergs (as the Eisenberg family was called in Europe) were going through very different travails. This month we tell the story of Freida Sima’s parents, brothers, and sisters in the Bukovina, and what they experienced during the war.

Fifty years after the war’s end, Sheindl, the youngest Enzenberg, recalled how the family was deported from Mihowa:

“There was a man in Mihowa who we used to go to for paskening shailos [determining religious matters], Berel Surkis. When we left Mihowa every transport was accompanied by thunder and lightning like the heavens were crying. Berel Surkis went with us. I said, ‘Reb Berel, what are they doing to us?’ And he answered, ‘Sheindeleh, this way will take us to Eretz Yisrael, but it will take a very, very long time, and a very sad time.’ I asked ‘Where is God?’ and he answered again, ‘This way will bring us to Eretz Yisrael, but it will be very shver [difficult].’ How could he know already then? But he did.”

Only years after the war’s end did Freida Sima learn the details of what the family in Europe endured during the Holocaust. Initially, she and her brothers read the bare facts in family letters from Romania. The full stories were shared only later. Sheindl eventually left a recorded testimony of her experiences. Other accounts were pieced together over time.

* * * * *

In August 1939, Freida Sima’s parents, Nachman and Devorah, were living alone on the farm while the rest of the family was scattered throughout the Bukovina. Marium and Feivel lived in Mihowa. Sheindl, Shaja, and their daughter lived in Behromet, an hour away. The two newlywed couples, Leibush and Frieda and Elish and Lola, lived in Czernowitz, as did Srul, Anna, and their son, along with Tuleh, the last unmarried Enzenberg.

All the Enzenberg men other than Elish, an accountant, worked in wood-related professions they had learned from Nachman.

Even before the war, the Romanian nationalists had shown their colors, forbidding any language but Romanian to be spoken in public. During the first few months of the war Romanian officers entered the villages, billeting themselves where they wished. While the women continued with their lives, men were taken to forced labor before eventually being sent back. “You didn’t know which world it was, you didn’t know what to think,” recalled Sheindl. “And then all of a sudden, the yeshia [salvation] came – the Russians.”

In June 1940 Northern Bukovina was ceded to the Soviet Union. Considered “productive,” Nachman was allowed to continue working his farm. He hoped his good relations with the local peasants who had worked with him on the farm and had used his well – the only one in the area – would hold him in good stead.

Nothing would last. In 1941, as some of the Eisenbergs in New York were moving from the Bronx to Washington Heights in Manhattan, the Enzenbergs of the Bukovina were also moving – not by choice but due to forced conscription or deportation.

Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz

Holocaust As A Lesson For Life

Friday, June 17th, 2016

In our May 27th issue we featured an article about an 8th grade class in Tom’s River, New Jersey that studied Professor Livia Bitton Jackson’s memoir as part of its Language Arts curriculum. When their studies were over, the students had some comments and questions for Professor Jackson, which she graciously agreed to respond to.

 

LBJ-061716-BridgesIzabella Brodbeck: The Holocaust can be told in more than 1,000 words, but Livia’s memoir tells “1,000 years.”

Professor Jackson: The 1,000 years reflected my sense of the enormity of the Holocaust experience and the history of Jewish suffering. The words were in response to the German woman’s question as to my age at the time of liberation by US troops. She thought I was “60, or 61…” When I told her I was 14, she walked away in shock, leaving me to think that I was indeed 14 but I had suffered and lived 1,000 years.

Katelyn Bajcic: Reading the story makes you thankful for what you have now.

PJ: One of the significant lessons that can be derived from the Holocaust, a story of extreme privation is gratitude for all we are granted in our daily existence.

Jenna Aldellizzi: How were you able to trust in mankind after surviving?

PJ: A survivor would have been justified in loosing faith in mankind, yet I was aware that the horrors of Holocaust were caused by the Germans and their collaborators, not by mankind. And not all Germans were evil. Many were unaware of what was going on and some of those who were even helped Jews. One must not generalize but look at people as individuals.

Emily Robinson: Was there ever a time when you might have wanted to give up on saving yourself and your mother? If you had known about the heinous personalities of the Nazis and the German people, would you have trusted the one officer, Pista, with your poems?

PJ: Never! I felt I had to keep fighting for every day, every moment. For tomorrow. For life. Especially for my mother’s life. To return home. To bring her home.

Emily, Pista was a Hungarian soldier, not a German. But I would have trusted him anyway. He had a kind face.

Mrs. Trent: Did you ever get back any of the writing you had done before the war?LBJ-061716-Elli

PJ: No. All was lost. I do not have a single page of my former writing.

Edgar Lemus: How hard was it to adapt back to society after being isolated for so many years?

PJ: Yes, it was a difficult and gradual process. I described it in two books, sequels to I Have Lived A Thousand Years: My Bridges Of Hope and Hello, America. In those books the reader can experience how we coped post-Holocaust.

Ryan Hueston: When you were taken into Auschwitz, was there anyone other than your mother you could trust at the level of a family member?

PJ: On arrival in Auschwitz we met my Aunt Celia, my mother’s younger sister and two cousins, daughters of my father’s sister. But we were soon separated from them, and never saw them again. I had no one to share with or trust on that level.

LBJ-061716-Thousand-YearsVictoria Jackson: How did you view the Nazis during the Holocaust and how do you view them now? Is the resentment still living inside you?

PJ: During the Holocaust I dreaded the Germans. We all feared them as they treated us cruelly, often shooting at us or sending any of us to the gas chambers at a moment’s whim.

After the Holocaust I returned to Germany at the invitation of the German government for commemoration ceremonies of our liberation by the Americans. During these visits, in 1995, in 2005 and in 2015, I met a number of Germans and their families and became convinced that they truly regretted what their grandparents did. I made lasting friendships in Germany. My total outlook has changed.

This is the final lesson of the Holocaust: it cannot happen again! The Germans are no longer our enemies, and we Jews are no longer helpless victims. We have our own state, Israel, an outstanding member of the family of nations.

Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson

‘Woman in Gold’ Helen Mirren Testifies for Holocaust Art Restitution Bill

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

British actress Helen Mirren testified in Congress Tuesday in support of a bill to make restitution easier for American heirs of Holocaust era victims, The Art Newspaper reported. Mirren starred in the 2015 British drama “Woman in Gold,” about Austrian-born Jewish American Maria Altmann’s court fight to recover her family’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” by Gustav Klimt (her late aunt modeled for the picture), which had been stolen by the Nazis.

Mirren told two Senate judiciary subcommittees in a joint hearing on the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act that “the very act of Nazi expropriation was not only unjust but it was inhumane.” She added, “Greed, cruelty, self-interest and domination will always be with us, it’s an easy option. Justice is so much more difficult, so much more complex. But we all dream of justice. We are incapable of changing the past, but fortunately we have the ability to make change today.”

“Restitution is so much more, much more than … reclaiming a material good,” Mirren said. “It gives Jewish people and other victims of the Nazi terror the opportunity to reclaim their history, their culture, their memories and, most importantly, their families.”

The legislation is sponsored by Republican senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Other supporters of the bipartisan bill included president of the World Jewish Congress Ronald S. Lauder, and senators Al Franken (D, Minnesota), Chuck Grassley, (R, Iowa) and Orrin Hatch, (R, Utah).

Lauder, who purchased the Klimt painting after Altmann had sued the Austrian government to give it back, and won, told the Senators, “What makes this particular crime even more despicable is that this art theft, probably the greatest in history, was continued by governments, museums and many knowing collectors in the decades following the war.”

Today the Klimt painting is part of the permanent collection of the Neue Galerie, a museum of German and Austrian art Lauder co-founded in New York.

David Israel

Iran’s Holocaust Cartoon Contest is no Caricature of Regime’s Identity

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

{Originally posted to the JNS.org website}

A haredi Jew looks into a mirror and sees the face of Adolf Hitler gazing back at him. The walls and guard towers of Auschwitz are squeezed into a snow shaker, with flying dollar bills replacing the fake snowflakes. Another haredi Jew waves a swastika-shaped fan at an Israeli flag, which blows furiously atop a corpse draped in a Palestinian flag.

Not enough? There’s more. The gates of Auschwitz, adorned with the deadly motto “Arbeit Macht Frei,” swing open to reveal the Al-Aqsa mosque, which sits on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, devils’ horns jutting from his forehead, gives a Nazi salute; instead of his usual business suit, he wears a bloodstained brown uniform, with a Star of David rendered as a swastika decorating the sleeve.

These are just a selection of the entries submitted to Iran’s latest Holocaust cartoon contest, currently on display in Tehran at the none-too-subtly named Islamic Propaganda Organization. By and large, the cartoons are crudely drawn, in keeping with the themes that they promote.

Yet I have to confess to being more bored than shocked. Such imagery is hardly new, after all. The depictions of Jews in this exhibit are straight out of Nazi propaganda, while the depiction of the State of Israel as Hitler’s inheritor was pushed by the Soviet Union for almost half a century. The Islamist barbarians who run Iran may be many things, but creators of pathbreaking art they are definitely not.

As fashionable as it is in President Barack Obama’s circle to pretend that the Iranian regime is in the throes of dramatic change, with a surging “moderate” wing that wants to engage the West, this latest cartoon contest—like last year’s contest, like the first cartoon contest in 2005, and like the conference of Holocaust deniers convened in 2006—demonstrates that the mullahs’ cannot kick their enduring pathology: striking a blow at the global Jewish conspiracy by wiping Israel off the map.

Even if we accept for the sake of argument that the regime can be simply bifurcated into “moderates” and “hardliners,” those Iranian leaders identified in the West as “moderates” come out of this latest cartoon scandal looking far shabbier than their “hardline” rivals. Recall that Iran’s “hardline” supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, chose Holocaust Remembrance Day to question whether the slaughter of 6 million Jews had in fact occurred. The cartoon contest, backed to the hilt by the regime, is the natural outgrowth of Iran’s state policy of anti-Semitism, which holds that the Holocaust is a myth shamelessly used by the Jewish state to garner world sympathy. Khamenei and his cohorts, who are structurally and politically at the center of power in Iran, are quite open about all this and don’t feel the need to rationalize or excuse the state-sponsored mockery of the genocide of Jews.

Not so with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose detestation of Israel doesn’t blind him to the fact that the countries he flirts with, like Germany, take a dim view of Iran’s Holocaust denial antics. But unlike the “hardliners,” who are disarmingly honest about their views on the Jewish people and their desire to eliminate Israel, Zarif speaks with a forked tongue.

That shouldn’t mask the fact that Zarif is both a coward, since he refuses to condemn the cartoon contest, and a liar, since he insists that the regime he represents has nothing to do with it. Speaking to The New Yorker, Zarif clucked, “Don’t consider Iran a monolith. The Iranian government does not support, nor does it organize, any cartoon festival of the nature that you’re talking about.” That claim is about as truthful as the Obama administration’s reassurance that the nuclear deal struck with Tehran will prevent the regime from developing nuclear weapons. In other words, it isn’t at all.

No doubt, there are those who will take Zarif at face value, and perhaps even laud the fact that, by his account, artists exhibiting in Iran have creative license unfettered by government restrictions—so long, that is, as their subject is the Holocaust. For those not seduced by wishful thinking, there is the cold reality that the cartoon exhibit is completely dependent upon regime support. As the Iranian writer Majid Mohammadipointed out in a detailed briefing published by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the institutions involved in the exhibit are “all organized, financed, and managed under the supreme leader’s office, his appointed bodies, and the executive branch headed by the president. There are no private or independent nongovernmental institutions active in this area. The government and its varied set of institutions are the only ones that pay for these types of ideologically oriented activities. There is no channel for private funds, and no provision in Iran’s tax code, to support these activities.”

Why engage in such an activity in the first place? “The Islamic Republic seeks to be the most prominent global voice of antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiment and in doing so has made connections with and promoted individuals espousing these views from across the world,” Mohammadi says. “The Holocaust is just a subject of a set of cartoons in this effort.”

This is not a recent development, nor is it related to Israeli policy or anything Israel actually does. Anti-Semitism among Iran’s Islamists in fact precedes the creation of the State of Israel. In his excellent book “Germany and Iran: From the Aryan Axis to the Nuclear Threshold,” German historian Matthias Kuentzel described the massive audience in Iran for Radio Zeesen, a Nazi propaganda outlet that broadcasted programming in Farsi. Among the listeners was the figurehead of Iranian Islamism, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. According to Kuentzel, Khomeini was an enthusiastic “connoisseur” of European anti-Semitism. “They are liars and determined,” Khomeini wrote in a tract entitled “The Islamic State.” There was also the following claim, based on the same wretched fantasies that lead to Holocaust denial: “We see today that the Jews (may God curse them) have meddled with the text of the Qur’an and have made certain changes in the Qur’ans they have printed in the occupied territories.”

These same views prevail among Iran’s leaders today, no matter what Zarif says. Indeed, to disavow Khomeini would be unthinkable in the current context, as demonstrated by the recent election of Ayatollah Ahmed Jannati as head of the “Assembly of Experts,” a key ruling body that chooses the supreme leader.

Jannati is a boilerplate fanatic who leads chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” at Friday prayers. It was Jannati who, in 2009, backed then president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s blood-drenched crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators. The regime that existed in 2009 still exists today, with the same mechanisms of fearsome repression at its disposal. It cannot be reformed, and certainly not from within. But—heretical as it is to say this—it can, and should, be overthrown.

cart 2

Ben Cohen

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/irans-holocaust-cartoon-contest-is-no-caricature-of-regimes-identity/2016/05/31/

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