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December 19, 2014 / 27 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Nazis’

‘It Can Be Done’: the Rosh Hashana 1943 Escape of Danish Jews

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

As the final minutes of Rosh Hashanah ticked away, 13-year-old Leo Goldberger was hiding, along with his parents and three brothers, in the thick brush along the shore of Dragor, a small fishing village south of Copenhagen. The year was 1943, and the Goldbergers, like thousands of other Danish Jews, were desperately trying to escape an imminent Nazi roundup.

“Finally, after what seemed like an excruciatingly long wait, we saw our signal offshore,” Goldberger later recalled. His family “strode straight into the ocean and waded through three or four feet of icy water until we were hauled aboard a fishing boat” and covered themselves “with smelly canvases.” Shivering and frightened, but grateful, the Goldberger family soon found itself in the safety and freedom of neighboring Sweden.

For years, Allied leaders had insisted that nothing could be done to rescue Jews from the Nazis except to win the war. But in one extraordinary night, seventy years ago next month, the Danish people exploded that myth and changed history.

When the Nazis occupied Denmark during the Holocaust in 1940, the Danes put up little resistance. As a result, the German authorities agreed to let the Danish government continue functioning with greater autonomy than other occupied countries. They also postponed taking steps against Denmark’s 8,000 Jewish citizens.

In the late summer of 1943, amid rising tensions between the occupation regime and the Danish government, the Nazis declared martial law and decided the time had come to deport Danish Jews to the death camps. But Georg Duckwitz, a German diplomat in Denmark, leaked the information to Danish friends. Duckwitz was later honored by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. As word of the Germans’ plans spread, the Danish public responded with a spontaneous nationwide grassroots effort to help the Jews.

The Danes’ remarkable response gave rise to the legend that King Christian X himself rode through the streets of Copenhagen on horseback, wearing a yellow Star of David, and that the citizens of the city likewise donned the star in solidarity with the Jews.

The story may have had its origins in a political cartoon that appeared in a Swedish newspaper in 1942. It showed King Christian pointing to a Star of David and declaring that if the Nazis imposed it upon the Jews of Demark, “then we must all wear the star.” Leon Uris’s novel Exodus, and the movie based on that book, helped spread the legend. But subsequent investigations by historians have concluded that the story is a myth.

On Rosh Hashanah – which fell on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 in 1943 – and the days that followed, numerous Danish Christian families hid Jews in their homes or farms, and then smuggled them to the seashore late at night. From there, fishermen took them across the Kattegat Straits to neighboring Sweden.

The three-week operation had the strong support of Danish church leaders, who used their pulpits to urge aid to the Jews, as well as Danish universities, which shut down so that students could assist the smugglers. More than 7,000 Danish Jews reached Sweden and were sheltered there until the end of the war.

Esther Finkler, a young newlywed, was hidden, together with her husband and their mothers, in a greenhouse.

“At night, we saw the [German] searchlights sweeping back and forth throughout the neighborhood” as the Nazis hunted for Jews, Esther later recalled. One evening, a member of the Danish Underground arrived and drove the four “through streets saturated with Nazi stormtroopers” to a point near the shore.

There they hid in an underground shelter, and then in the attic of a bakery, until finally they were brought to a beach, where they boarded a small fishing vessel together with other Jewish refugees.

“There were nine of us, lying down on the deck or the floor,” Esther said. “The captain covered us with fishing nets. When everyone had been properly concealed, the fishermen started the boat, and as the motor started to run, so did my pent-up tears.”

Then, suddenly, trouble. “The captain began to sing and whistle nonchalantly, which puzzled us. Soon we heard him shouting in German toward a passing Nazi patrol boat: ‘Wollen sie einen beer haben?’ (Would you like a beer?) – a clever gimmick designed to avoid the Germans’ suspicions. After three tense hours at sea, we heard shouting: ‘Get up! Get up! And welcome to Sweden!’ It was hard to believe, but we were now safe. We cried and the Swedes cried with us as they escorted as ashore. The nightmare was over,” Esther recalled.

Peres Flying to Lithuania, Will Thank Blacklisting Hezbollah

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

President Shimon Peres is flying  on Sunday to Latvia and Lithuania, temporary president of the European Union whom he will thank the European Union for blacklisting the Hezbollah military wing as a terrorist organization. The EU decision does not affect the Hezbollah political party, which gives orders to the branch.

He will return just in time to celebrate the English date for his 90th birthday in Friday. His Hebrew birthday was on Shabbat.

President Peres will attend memorial ceremonies in Ponar, Lithuania, where nearly 100,000 Jews were killed during the  Holocaust, and in Riga, Latvia, where Nazi soldiers slaughtered 25,000 Jews.

 

 

I Slept in Hitler’s Room and Germany Went Ballistic

Monday, July 8th, 2013

By Tuvia Tenenbom

Three years ago I was contacted by an editor of Rowohlt, one of the biggest book publishers in Germany. She said she loved my articles in the Zeit, the prestigious German newspaper I’ve been writing for, and would like me to come to Germany for a few months, interview people and write about them “in the same style you write for the Zeit.”

It didn’t take long to convince me and soon enough I showed up in Germany.

Unbelievable landscapes, delicious food, shiny museums, celebrated intellectuals, tireless farmers, sleepless artists, blasphemous zealots, faithful atheists and a highly modern society welcomed me. All I had to do was to befriend everybody.

Germany, I sadly found out, was obsessed with Jews. Even those who claimed to like Jews had very strange thoughts about them. I interviewed people from all walks of life.

From the famous chain-smoking iconic Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, to the forlorn heroin addicts on the streets of Frankfurt; from the publisher of the largest European daily, Bild, to obscure bloggers; from the Prime Minister of Saxony, to bored museum guards; frail WWII veterans, to sporty high schoolers; radical leftists who want to overthrow the government, any government, to neo-Nazis who won’t settle for anything less than Adolf Hitler; top officials of Mercedes and Volkswagen, to street sellers of cheep necklaces; educated and illiterates; rich and poor; on the east and on the west, in the north and in the south.

We ate together, drank together, and they talked.

Hardly a day passed by without at least one interviewee talking to me about the “rich Jews,” the “shrewd Jews,” the Israelis who eat Palestinians for breakfast on a daily basis, the “manipulating Jew,” or anything else “Jew.”

Germany, I sadly found out, was obsessed with Jews. Even those who claimed to like Jews had very strange thoughts about them. Some told me that all Jews knew each other, others said that all Jews helped each other, and still others claimed that all Jews were “very good” with money.

The people thus talked and I wrote down what they said, word for word. I submitted the book, a testimonial to the rampant anti-Semitism in today’s Germany, to my editor.

We met a week later and she told me that she cried and laughed when reading the book and that it was even better than what she had expected it to be. But the head of the publishing company, who comes of Germany’s top families, went into a rage. He told me that I couldn’t write and that the book needed serious editing.

I asked him to show me what good writing was.

He did..

If there was a line in the book about people not liking “Jews,” he demanded that I change the word to “Israel.”

A chapter about a club that preached the killing of all living Jews had to be erased, he ordered. If somebody told me in an interview that the Jews were “the real Nazis,” their words had to be changed or cut. Only if I obeyed him, I was led to understand, would I become a “good writer.”

He didn’t stop there. He went really low, at one point calling me a “hysterical Jew.” And then he broke our contract.

No American publisher I approached agreed to give the book life. No matter what evidence at hand, mainstream American publishers were not willing to take on Germany. Taking on a Western ally, I guess, is not on the agenda of present-day publishers.

Fearing that the book’s findings would get forever lost, the Jewish Theater of New York decided to make the book available to Americans and published it under the title “I Sleep in Hitler’s Room.”

In December of 2012 one of the most prestigious of German publishers, Suhrkamp, made the book available in Germany, under the title “Allein unter Deutschen.”

Initially, German critics went ballistic, passionately denying the book’s findings that most Germans today hold anti-Semitic views.

One of them, in the highly regarded Liberal newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, didn’t shy away from going racist, shamelessly referring to me as “the Jew Tenenbom.”

Responding to the growing claims against me, I offered to face any intellectual willing to debate me in public.

When Helen Keller Confronted The Nazis

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

June 27 is Helen Keller Day – the annual occasion when students across America learn about the disabilities activist whose remarkable achievements inspired her generation, and every generation since. Less well known, but no less deserving of commemoration, was Keller’s powerful outcry against the Nazis.

One of Adolf Hitler’s top priorities when he became chancellor of Germany in 1933 was to prevent schools from using books that the Nazis regarded as “degenerate.” Eighty years ago this spring, Germany was transformed into one huge funeral pyre for any books that differed from the Nazis’ perspective on political, social, or cultural matters, as well as all books by Jewish authors.

The Hitler regime chose May 10, 1933 as the date for a nationwide “Action Against the Un-German Spirit,” a series of public burnings of the banned books. The gatherings were organized by pro-Nazi student groups under the supervision of Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels.

The largest of the 34 book-burning rallies, held in Berlin, was attended by an estimated 40,000 people. Books by German Jews such as Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud were burned, as well as books by the British science fiction writer H.G. Wells (author of The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds) and many American writers, including Ernest Hemingway (For Whom the Bell Tolls), Jack London (Call of the Wild), and even Helen Keller.

“No to decadence and moral corruption!” Goebbels declared in his remarks at the rally. “Yes to decency and morality and state!.… The soul of the German people can again express itself. These flames not only illuminate the final end of an old era; they also light up the new.”

A New York Times editorial sarcastically suggested that the Nazis might next begin “burning microphones” to stamp out free speech. Time magazine called the Nazis’ action “a bibliocaust,” and Newsweek described it as “a holocaust of books.” This was one of the first instances in which the term “holocaust” (an ancient Greek word meaning a burnt offering to a deity) was used in connection with the Nazis.

The outcry around the world included a moving letter from Keller, addressed to “the Student Body of Germany.”

“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas,” Keller wrote. “Tyrants have tried to do that often before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them. You can burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe, but the ideas in them have seeped through a million channels, and will continue to quicken other minds. I gave all the royalties of my books to the soldiers blinded in the World War with no thought in my heart but love and compassion for the German people.”

“Do not imagine your barbarities to the Jews are unknown here,” she added. “God sleepeth not, and He will visit his Judgment upon you. Better were it for you to have a mill-stone hung round your neck and sink into the sea than to be hated and despised of all men.”

Various foreign leaders also criticized the book burnings, but the Hitler regime ignored such protests. Perhaps if the words of condemnation had been accompanied by diplomatic or economic consequences, the Nazis would have had to reconsider.

Five years later, protests by American college students helped prevent another mass book burning by the Nazis, this time in Austria. Shortly after Hitler annexed Austria in March 1938, the Nazis gave the Austrian National Library a long list of books to be removed and burned.

Students at Williams College in Massachusetts sent a telegram to the Austrian library, offering to buy the books. Riots broke out on the Williams campus when anti-Nazi students tried to burn Hitler in effigy, and pro-Nazi students used fire hoses to stop them.

Yale University’s student newspaper urged the school administration to purchase the Austrian books, which it said would both add to Yale’s “intellectual equipment” and “administer a well-justified backhanded slap” to the Nazis. Unfortunately, Yale’s chief librarian disagreed, claiming the book-burnings in Germany were just “students letting off steam.”

Nevertheless, the protests by students at Williams, Yale, and other universities appear to have had an impact. The Austrian National Library announced that the books in question would be locked away rather than burned.

Helen Keller is not known to have commented specifically on the student protests. But one may assume she was deeply proud that at a time when too many Americans did not want to be bothered with Europe’s problems, these young men and women understood the message of her 1933 letter – that the principles under attack by the Nazis were something that should matter to all mankind.

(JNS)

Obama Doctrine: Backing Muslim Radicals Despite 10 Western Failures

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

There is a long history of Western powers believing that they could manipulate or work with radical Arabic-speaking states or movements to redo the regional order. All have ended badly.

–During the 1880s and 1890s, Germany became convinced that it could turn the forces of jihad against British, French, and Russian rivals. The kaiser presented himself as the Muslim world’s friend and German propaganda even hinted that their ruler had converted to Islam.

–In World War One, the Germans launched a jihad, complete with the Ottoman caliph’s proclamation. Wiser heads warned that the Ottoman ruler didn’t have real authority to do so or that the raising of the jihad spirit could cause massacres of Christians in the empire. They were ignored.

As a result, few responded to this jihad; Armenians were massacred, at times with the at least passive complicity of the German government.

–Nevertheless, Adolf Hitler, whose close comrades included many veterans of the earlier jihad strategy, tried the same approach in World War Two. This time, the Jews in the Middle East were to be the massacred scapegoats. Yet despite close collaboration by the leader of the Palestine Arabs, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, and the Muslim Brotherhood, among others, the defeat of the German armies along with other factors (incompetence, unkept Arab promises, and German priorities) prevented this alliance from succeeding.

By the way, the Nazi collaborators were the same Muslim Brotherhood to which the United States is allied today. There are huge amounts of archival evidence, including documents showing Nazi payments to the Brotherhood and providing them with arms for a rebellion to kill Christians and Jews in Egypt.

There is no evidence that the Brotherhood has changed its positions. The story above is told in a new book, by Barry Rubin and the brilliant scholar Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East which will be published by Yale University Press in January 2014. It will be an explosive rethinking of Middle Eastern history which could not be more timely.

Incidentally, might one think that the Western mass media might mention that the chief U.S. ally in the Arab world—one of whose branches is now receiving American weapons—were Nazi collaborators who have never abandoned their anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish views?

How much has the Brotherhood visibly reconsidered its ideology since the man who is still its leader, Muhammad al-Badi, explained in  October 2010 that the Egyptian regime would be overthrown and then the Brotherhood would wage jihad on a weak and retreating America?

–In 1939 the British offered to sell out the Balfour Declaration and the promise of a Jewish homeland in order to gain Arab support in the coming war. The Islamist-radical nationalist faction rejected these offers, though moderate Arabs wanted to accept them. After World War Two, the British decided to try to secure their interests in the region. Most students are probably being taught today that this was through Israel’s creation. In fact, of course, the British were opposed to this outcome. They believed, understandably, that it would be better to court the Arabs. The result was the creation of the Arab League, a body that the British thought they could control. Of course, the Arab League would become a vehicle for anti-Western radicalism.

–During the early 1950s, the United States thought that it could do something both good and in its interests. It would support the takeover by moderate elements who would modernize their countries. No more would America be held responsible for corrupt dictators but would receive gratitude from liberated people living in prosperity. The first case was encouragement for the Egyptian coup of 1952, the one which brought Gamal Abdel Nasser to power ultimately.

The result of the British and American efforts to harness radical Arab nationalism–which led to decades of violence and war in the region is told in Barry Rubin, The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict which you can read online or download for free. A variation of this reformist as a U.S. strategy took place in Iran, which you can read in Barry Rubin, Paved with Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran which you can read online or download for free.

Pillar of Melbourne Jewish Community Dies

Monday, June 10th, 2013

A Vilna Ghetto survivor and partisan fighter whose restaurant in Melbourne became a meeting place for the postwar survivor community died on Saturday at the age of 89.

Avram Zeleznikow was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust and waded through more than 30 miles of sewers to escape the ghetto in 1943 and join the partisans.

After the war, he and his wife-to-be, Masha, met in a Parisian cafe named Scheherazade, and soon after immigrating to Australia they opened their own Cafe Scheherazade, which became an iconic institution in Jewish Melbourne.

His son John said his parents served meals even to those survivors who could not afford to pay.

”He did not want to make a profit; he wanted to help people,” John Zeleznikow told The Age newspaper. ”They would talk, they would eat and they would argue. He provided sustenance for the body and sustenance for the soul.”

A Bundist, Avram Zeleznikow taught Yiddish at Sunday school, was president of the Australian Jewish Welfare and Relief Society, on the executive of the Victorian Jewish Board of Deputies, chairman of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria and a representative of the Jewish community on the Ethnic Communities Council.

He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2003 “for service to the Jewish community of Victoria.”

Underground Tunnel Discovered at Former Sobibor Death Camp

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

Polish and Israeli archaeologists discovered traces of an underground tunnel that apparently was never used at the site of the former death camp in Sobibor.

The tunnel ran from a barracks to outside the camp fence and may have been dug by the prisoners of the Sonderkommando who worked in the camp burning the corpses of murdered Jews.

The archaeology work at Sobibor is directed by Wojciech Mazurek of Chelm, Poland, and Yoram Haimi of Israel.

Though the tunnel would have helped the prisoners to escape, Mazurek does not believe it was used.

“The Germans found the tunnel and therefore shot and then burned the entire crew of the Sonderkommando,” Mazurek told the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper.

At the gas chambers in Sobibor, Nazis murdered about 250,000 Jews mostly from Poland, the Netherlands and Slovakia. The camp was closed following an uprising on Oct. 14, 1943; about half the remaining prisoners escaped during the uprising.

Afterwards, the Germans bulldozed the death camp and tried to disguise it by planting pine trees at the site, which now is home to the Sobibor Museum displaying a pyramid of ashes and crushed bones of the victims, collected from the cremation pits thereafter.

Before Jews were sent to the gas chambers, SS officer Oberscharführer Hermann Michel, wearing a white coat to give the impression he was a physician, told they would be sent to work after undressing and undergoing “disinfection.”

The SS then led them into the gas chambers, and Ukrainians closed the doors. After the gassing, Jewish workers removed the bodies and the SS led in the next group to meet their gruesome fate.

A Jewish underground movement at Sobibor succeeded in killing 11 SS officers and several camp guards. After the deaths were discovered, approximately 600 prisoners fled, half of them surviving the shots from Nazi fire and all but 50-70 of the others managing to escape re-capture or death on the mine fields surrounding Sobibor.

JTA contributed to this article.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/underground-tunnel-discovered-at-former-sobibor-death-camp/2013/06/09/

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