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August 23, 2014 / 27 Av, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust’

Fight Over Long-Lost Holocaust Art Treasure Begins

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

A long-lost Monet and other art treasures stolen from Jews during the Holocaust have been discovered in the home of an 81-year-old German art collector, according to a report Wednesday on ORF Austrian state television.

The works by Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Pablo Picasso and Auguste Rodin were discovered last November in Munich among the household items that belong to Cornelius Gurlitt.

One Monet painting alone was estimated to be worth some $14 million (10 million euros). Gurlitt had squirreled away the priceless paintings in his Munich apartment for decades among nearly 1,300 works of art, according to Der Spiegel. More were found by customs officials hidden away in Gurlitt’s house in Salzburg, all stolen during the Nazi era. Hildebrand Gurlitt, his father, was known to have curried favor with the Nazis, Der Spiegel reported.

New York City resident David Toren is waiting for the German government to hand over at least one of those paintings. The octogenarian was a member of one of the last Kindertransports in August 1939 to save Jewish children from the Nazis before the gates to hell crashed shut.

Born in 1925, Toren made it to Sweden; his older brother ended up in Holland and then went on to England one day before the war began. Both of their parents ended their lives in the Nazi gas chambers.

But Toren, 88, is an attorney and the son of an art dealer who was also an attorney — and he is demanding the return of a painting that belonged to his father. The work, an oil painting by German impressionist Max Liebermann, is “Two Riders on the Beach.” It depicts two men riding horses on a beach along the foamy waves.

Toren’s father was arrested by the Gestapo the morning after Kristallnacht, and then asked to come with a Nazi general to his wealthy uncle’s home to finalize “sale” of one of his assets. Later in the day, relates Toren, his father was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp, where he was imprisoned for three weeks — the first time.

A letter by a government official dated in December 1939 documents the attempt by the Nazis to seize the art collection. “Subject: The securing of Jewish-owned art.” Among the works described was Liebermann’s painting – the artist, a “Jewish painter.”

Der Spiegel traced a carbon copy of a letter dated August 1942 showing a Breslau museum director involved in the appraisal and sale of Jewish collections for the Gestapo. In the letter, the museum director offered Hildebrand Gurlitt two Liebermann paintings in exchange for cash, one of which was “Two Riders on the Beach.” The other, “Basket Weavers,” also ended up in Gurlitt’s hands but later was auctioned off in Berlin.

Gurlitt’s lawyers are now demanding that Toren pay $415,890 (300,000 euros) for the return of his father’s painting.

In response, Toren’s son Peter, an attorney,  helped his father file a 19-page complaint demanding the Federal Republic of Germany, and by proxy the Free State of Bavaria, return the painting to Toren and his brother, its rightful inheritors.

The complaint, “David Toren, Plaintiff, v. Federal Republic of Germany and Free State of Bavaria” was filed Wednesday in Washington D.C.

Jews Brought Holocaust on Themselves, Says Russian TV Host

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

A Russian TV presenter, in a conversation with a writer about the Ukrainian protests and Crimea, said that the Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves.

Writer Aleksandr Prokhanov, while being interviewed by anchor Evelina Zakamskaya on the state-funded Rossiya 24 TV channel, said (as translated by JNS.org) that it is “strange that Jewish organizations, the European and our own Russian organizations, support the Maidan [protests]. What are they doing? Do they not understand that they are bringing about a second Holocaust with their own hands? This is monstrous.”

Zakamskaya replied that the Jews “brought about the first [Holocaust] similarly.”

“It is a blindness. It is an unbelievable blindness, that is clearly repeating itself, because even then in 1933 in Europe, many liberal organizations were feeding the Fuhrer,” Prokhanov then said, a statement that Zakamskaya agreed with.

A video of the comments in Russian was first posted by a blogger on Americablog.com, who provided his own translation.

Earlier in March, Josef Zisels, chairman of the Association of Jewish Communities and Organizations of Ukraine (VAAD), and several other prominent Ukrainian Jews wrote a letter accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of exaggerating the level of ultra-nationalism and anti-Semitism in Ukraine.

A few anti-Semitic incidents have occurred throughout Ukraine since the beginning of the Maidan protests in November 2013, including the vandalism of a synagogue in the Crimean city of Simferopol and a Molotov cocktail attack on a Chabad center in Zaporozhye. But those incidents have not been directly linked to the Maidan protests.

Survey: Up to 49 Percent of Hungarians Harbor Anti-Semitic Views

Monday, March 24th, 2014

A new survey of anti-Semitic attitudes in Hungary showed up to 40 percent of respondents accepted some anti-Semitic attitudes.

Conducted in December and commissioned by the Action and Protection Foundation, a watchdog on anti-Semitism of the Jewish community, the survey revealed that among those who accepted some anti-Semitic stereotypes, the proportion of people who displayed open antipathy toward Jewish individuals

The poll’s results were presented Monday at a news conference organized by the foundation at its Budapest headquarters.

“We can draw the conclusion that 35 percent to 40 percent of the sample definitely accept some anti-Semitic stereotypes and seven percent extremely anti-Semitic stereotypes,” Prof. Andras Kovacs of the Central European University, who supervised the research, said.

The xenophobic far-right Jobbik Party entered parliament for the first time in 2010, and Kovacs told JTA, “There is a clear correlation between Jobbik’s entrance and the prevalence of anti-Semitism in polled populations.”

In the years 2003 to 2009, similar surveys showed an average of 11 percent of respondents harboring antipathy to Jewish individuals. That figures jumped to 28 percent in 2010, decreasing slightly to 24 percent in 2011 and to 21 percent in December 2013, as documented in the foundation’s survey.

The survey was released ahead of the biannual convention of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, which brought several hundred Orthodox rabbis, many of them from the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, to the Hungarian capital.

The conference is taking place amid a dispute between the Jewish communities and the government over the government’s planned commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary. The Jewish umbrella group Mazsihisz has boycotted the unveiling of a statue that was perceived as glossing over Hungarian Holocaust-era culpability.

The government postponed the unveiling due to Mazsihisz’s opposition.

The Lubavitch-affiliated Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, or EMIH, which co-organized the conference, supported Mazsihisz’s opposition, according to Rabbi Shlomo Koves, a leader of EMIH.

Hungary’s Jewish Community Marks 70th Anniversary of Nazi Invasion

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

The Hungarian Jewish community held a memorial event in front of the downtown Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest Wednesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the occupation of Hungary by the Nazi-led German Army.

The event, sponsored by the Jewish community but open to the public, comes after representatives of Mazsihisz, the Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities, voted to boycott state-sponsored Holocaust memorial programs.

“This event is the beginning of Holocaust commemorations in Hungary for the 70th anniversary of the Hungarian Holocaust,” said András Heisler, president of Mazsihisz, the Federations of Hungarian Jewish Communities, in the opening speech of the event, which drew thousands.

“In the name of the 600,000 Hungarian Jews killed during the Shoah, we raise our voice against those, who are in power, in whom as a minority we cannot trust,” said Heisler, expressing the Hungarian Jewish community’s disappointment with the government, which it accuses of shifting away national responsibility for the murder of the country’s Jews during the Holocaust.

Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, was invited to the event, but did not attend; however, his deputy, Zsolt Semjén, was present. The head of the Hungarian Catholic Church, Cardinal Peter Erdő, and Gusztav Bölcskei, Bishop of the Protestant Church in Hungary, also attended the program.

Hungarian general elections are set for April 6.

“In solidarity with the Hungarian Jews, we are not accepting the relativization of the Holocaust, not accepting the denial of the Holocaust, and not accepting the culture of amnesia, of forgetting,” Israel’s ambassador to Hungary, Ilan Mor, said at the event.

Tags: Breaking News, Holocaust memorial program, Mazsihisz, Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities, Viktor Orban

 

Two Holocaust Memoirs, Two Perspectives

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Our Father’s Voice: a Holocaust Memoir (self-published, $18), a riveting chronicle of Holocaust survivor Andrzej Bialecki (Salomon Lederberger), results from the painstaking work of Bialecki’ daughter, Felicia Graber, and his son, Dr. Leon Bialecki, who carefully transcribed and edited over 12 hours of interviews conducted back in 1981 by Kenneth Jacobson.

Jacobson, author of Embattled Selves (The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994), interviewed Andrzej Bialecki while researching the Jewish identity among Holocaust survivors. He was impressed by Mr. Bialecki remarkable eye for detail, his unfaltering memory, and his extraordinary honesty.book-fathers-voice

Two years ago, Felicia Bialecki-Graber published Amazing Journey: Metamorphosis of a Hidden Child (self-published, $15), which details her own nightmarish journey during the Holocaust. In that book, she recounts how being born in Tarnow, Poland in March 1940, a few months after the German invasion, she and her parents survived the war.

She recalls her father as “a unique individual. He managed to guide my mother, me and himself through the war years with minimal outside help. The three of us came through only because of his ingenuity and guts. He always managed to stand on his own two feet. He pulled himself up by his proverbial boot straps twice even in the difficult years after liberation. I am a ‘baby survivor’ of the Holocaust,” she recounts, “born after the Germans occupied my native Poland. I did not know I was Jewish until I was seven years old, nor did I know that the man I called ‘uncle’ was my biological father. I learned the story of our survival mainly from him.”

Graber also has high praise for her mother, “a heroine in her own right. She managed to blend into a foreign environment along with me – her then two-year-old daughter – and later hide her husband in our one-room apartment.”

Her story is described as “a tale of parallel odysseys: one, across continents and cultures, from surviving Nazi occupation, to living an integrated, full life in America; the other, a compelling coming-of-age story of a shy Polish child who transforms herself in her sixties into a successful, accomplished woman.” The book has also been praised as an example of a “feminist Holocaust memoir.”

Graber’s moving and compellingly written memoir attracted the attention and praise of Sir Martin Gilbert, the acclaimed British historian and author. In his foreword to Graber’s book, Gilbert writes, “Felicia Graber has written a remarkable memoir that holds the reader’s attention from first to last.”

book-amazing-journey  In Our Father’s Voice, a Holocaust Memoir, Felicia’s brother, Dr. Leon Bialecki, a critical care specialist, describes his father before the war as “an unlikely hero.” He remarks that “Nothing seemed to have prepared our father for the impending onslaught. There were no hints, no indication that he would rise to such levels of heroism and moral grandeur. Circumstances propelled him to unimaginable feats, which he took for granted.” It is the story of Andrzej’s bravery, heroism and determination to help not only himself and his family but also his fellow Jews.

As one reads through the text of this remarkable memoir, it almost feels as if one is sitting across the table with Bialecki himself as his story unfolds with incredibly detailed descriptions of his experiences. One of many examples is his description of “The First Deportation.” Bialecki recounts:

“At first, we were under the illusion that they were taking us to work, which is what we were told, that they were taking us to the Ukraine or somewhere near the Ukraine-Polish border. Instead, everyone was sent to Belzec and that nobody survived: everybody had been gassed. That is what a Polish railroad employee found out and he came back to me with that information. Later on, I found out that my father received a shot in the neck. He had rheumatism, and the Germans wanted him to jump on to a truck. But he could not do that. He was 60 years old, born on May 5, 1882. And so they shot him. This is a comfort to me because he did not have to suffer like my mother. Millions of Jews had to take that road of suffering.”

New Yorker Suing Munich Collector for Return of Nazi-Looted Art

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

A New York man has gone to court for the return of several Nazi-looted artworks from the controversial collection of Cornelius Gurlitt in Munich.

David Toren, 88, whose father and uncle were art collectors in the pre-war German city of Breslau, sued in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., earlier this month to demand the return of the 1901 paintings “Two Riders on the Beach” and “Basket Weavers” by the German-Jewish artist Max Liebermann.

Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand, purchased the ”Riders” painting in 1942 while working for the Nazis, according to news reports. Hildebrand Gurlitt had told post-war American military authorities that it had been in his family since before the Nazis came to power.

Documents show the painting was among those confiscated by the Nazis from Toren’s great-uncle David Friedmann in Breslau — today Wroclaw, Poland — in 1939. Toren, an attorney, is Friedmann’s only surviving heir. The Nazis noted the Liebermann painting in the collection and in recent years it was listed in German’s Lostart database.

While the younger Gurlitt still possesses the “Riders” painting, he sold “Basket Weavers” at auction to an unnamed Israeli collector in 2000 for about $92,300, Haaretz reported.

Toren, a native of Germany, also is suing Germany and the state of Bavaria for having failed to inform his family of the find after they confiscated more than 1,400 works from Gurlitt in 2012 in the course of an investigation for tax evasion. He had inherited the art from his father, a dealer hired by the Nazis to buy art for its museums, as well as art that it considered ”degenerate” that could be sold for profit.

The “Riders” painting was among those works shown to the public at a news conference in Augsburg last fall, after Focus magazine revealed the find.

According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, Toren was 14 years old in August 1939 when his parents sent him to safety in Sweden. His entire family, except for one aunt and one brother, were murdered in the Holocaust. Toren immigrated to the United States in 1956 with $100 and a photograph of his parents, the report said.

A task force has been established to research the provenance of all works in Gurlitt’s collection, and Gurlitt’s attorney recently announced that he would cooperate with heirs making legitimate claims.

Nazi Auschwitz Metal Stamps for Tattooing Found in Poland

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

An identified person or group has discovered metal stamps with embedded needles that were used on Jews at Auschwitz and which Holocaust experts said may be the first proof of original tattooing equipment at the death camp.

The director of the Auschwitz Museum, which is located on the site of the death camp, said the discovery “is one of the most important finds in years,”

The identity of the founder and how and where the stamps were located has not been revealed except for the information that they were found in Poland.

Nazis used the small stamps, to tattoo numbers on the bodies of inmates.

Museum director Piotr Cywinski was quoted by British media as saying, “We never believed that we would get the original tools for tattooing prisoners after such a long time. The sight of a tattoo is getting rarer every day as former prisoners pass away, but these stamps still speak of the dramatic history that took place here even after all these decades. They will become a valuable exhibit in forthcoming exhibitions.”

The metal stamps were put into a wooden block to form a number and then plunged into the prisoners’ skin, and ink was then rubbed into the wound to make the number appear.

The evil system was used only for a short period of time because it was too inefficient for the Nazis as they rounded up tens of thousands of Jews, most of whom were gassed, tortured to death or murdered.

Instead, the Nazis used a penholder to hold a single needle to tattoo prisoners.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/nazi-auschwitz-metal-stamps-for-tattooing-found-in-poland/2014/03/13/

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