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December 4, 2016 / 4 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Poland’

Report: Ambitious Justice Minister Using Polanski Extradition to Pave Own Career

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Polish Justice Minister and Prosecutor General (in Poland you can be both) Zbigniew Ziobro on Tuesday declared that he plans to appeal a Polish court ruling not to extradite 82-year-old, Oscar-winning film director Roman Polanski, to face charges of jumping bail for a 1977 case of statutory rape, news agencies reported. Ziobro told Polish radio that the reason for his attempt to extradite Polanski is that “he is accused of a terrible crime against a child, the rape of a child.”

Justice Minister Ziobro has gained a reputation in Poland of a stickler for the law, but also of being a polarizing figure in Poland’s politics. His uncompromising prosecutorial style has earned him the title of Man of the year for 2006, awarded by Newsweek-format Wprost magazine. But his policies have been criticized as partisan and overzealous by local and international press.

According to Wprost, Ziboro has turned the Polanski extradition into one of his pet campaign issues, and last October, after a Krakow Regional Court ruled against the extradition of Roman Polanski to the United States, Ziobro promised to take action to extradite Polanski. “Mr. Polanski cannot stand above the law,” he declared. “Therefore, I believe that the future minister of justice, whoever he may be (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) should agree to extradite Polanski to the United States. There can be no protection from responsibility due to the status of a person for such heinous acts, such as sexually abusing a minor in the absence of her parents. Pedophilia is evil and must be definitely removed.”

Krakow Regional Judge Dariusz Mazur wrote in his October ruling that “had Poland accepted the US extradition request, it would have violated the rights of Mr Polanski and at the same time the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Jerzy Stachowicz, an attorney for the aging Polanski, told AFP: “We were expecting this. Ziobro had previously announced he was going to do this. For the moment, we won’t be commenting because we don’t know whether he has already done it or whether he is about to do it.”

Presumably, Polish defendants receive some manner of notification in these instances.

Roman Polanski / Photo credit: FICG.mx

Roman Polanski / Photo credit: FICG.mx

In 1977, Polanski was arrested in Los Angeles and charged with five counts against Samantha Gailey, 13: rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14, and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor. At his arraignment Polanski pleaded not guilty to all charges, but later accepted a plea bargain which dismissed the five initial charges in exchange for a guilty plea to the lesser charge of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse. Polanski underwent a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation, followed by a recommendation of probation. But according to the documentary “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” things changed after a conversation with LA Deputy District Attorney David Wells and the judge, Laurence J. Rittenband. Polanski’s attorneys insist that the judge suggested to them he planned to send the director to prison and order him deported. In response to the threat of imprisonment, Polanski fled the United States, first to England, then to Paris. He was born in Paris in 1933 to Polish Jewish parents, and his family returned home to Poland just before World War II.


Volunteering In Poland Over Pesach

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016
Synagogue in Katowice.

Synagogue in Katowice.

Going to Poland is never just a pleasure trip. Wherever you turn you are reminded of the once glorious Jewish past. Whether in Warsaw or some small village, the one thing that is always tangible is the absence of the masses of Jews who once called Poland home.

Last month I had the opportunity to return to Poland for Pesach to help the community prepare for the holiday and to run many of the services.

Arriving on the Monday before the chag I met with Rabbi Moshe Bloom, an emissary of the Israeli organization Torah MiTzion who heads Warsaw’s Kollel Nozyk. We unpacked many of the items I’d brought from New York including candy for the many children, cheese, haggadot, Jewish decorations, and Seder plates.

They were especially happy to get the candy and the decorations as there was a bar mitzvah scheduled for that Shabbat in the Nozyk shul, the only synagogue in Warsaw that survived the Shoah.

On Tuesday I participated in a ceremony commemorating the 73rd anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. More than three thousand people were in attendance including the Polish prime minister and the president, both of whom gave moving speeches.

The chief rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, read the tefillot. A parade of government officials and organization heads then laid wreaths at the monument to the Ghetto fighters. Throughout the streets of Warsaw and other cities, paper daffodils, the symbol of the Ghetto fighters, were handed out.

Monument to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising fighters.

Monument to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising fighters.

After meeting with and getting instructions from Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis, the emissary for Shavei Yisrael in the city of Katowice and project manager in the office of the Polish chief rabbi, I traveled to Katowice where I spent the next day kashering the kitchen with Piotr Wrobl, a mashgiach trained by Rabbi Schudrich. (Wrobl stayed in Katowice to run the sedarim, which drew nearly 70 people.)

Katowice was the birthplace of both Chovevei Tzion and Agudat Yisrael. Before the Shoah the city had a Jewish population of more than nine thousand.

The day after that I traveled to Wroclaw where I delivered goodies from Warsaw and helped with preparations for the chag. I met community leaders Andje and Alex as well as David and Danielle Basok, a young couple from the Jewish Agency who were there to represent Israel and help with religious practices. We did bedikat chametz, held a practice Seder, and the next morning had a communal burning of the chametz.

The next day, Erev Chag, I traveled to Legnica with Yaakov Einhorn, an active member of the Wroclaw community, to prepare for the sedarim. There we met with Nicholas, the leader of the small community that before 1968 boasted more than 5,000 members with many synagogues and Jewish schools. Today the community rarely meets – mostly just for holidays. Community member James Nollet, a native of Boston, can lead tefillot in Hebrew.

Legnica community leader Nicholas (left) and Kuba Einhorn.

Legnica community leader Nicholas (left) and Kuba Einhorn.

Yaakov, or Kuba as he likes to be called, was a great help in running the sedarim and gave a running translation from English/Hebrew to Polish. We had just under thirty people at the Seder and fifteen for Shacharit. The community joined us for Kiddush and all the meals, which were alive with conversation on Jewish topics ranging from who is a Jew to kashrut.

On Sunday I returned to Warsaw to visit old friends and do some business. I met with the heads of the community and officials from the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, the Museum of the History of Jews in Poland, and many others.

There are no restaurants open on Pesach but lunch was available at the community kitchen. For about four dollars one received a complete, wholesome, and tasty meal under the auspices of Rabbi Schudrich.

Shmuel Ben Eliezer

After Decades of Silence, Holocaust Survivors Open Up

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

By Jesse Lempel/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – When Pnina Katsir turned 80, she finally told her daughter a secret she had kept for decades: she was a survivor of the Holocaust.

“I didn’t tell anyone. My kids didn’t know,” Katsir told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) at a ceremony for Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, on Wednesday evening. “I decreed silence on myself in order to raise a normal, happy family – not living in the shadow of that awful time.”

Yet Katsir, now 86, boldly recounted her experiences before a crowd of dozens at the Jerusalem ceremony, including many fellow survivors, their children and grandchildren, as well as a group of female soldiers. They had gathered to share stories and commemorate the dead as part of the AMCHA organization, an Israeli psychological and social support group for Holocaust survivors, which Katsir credits with giving her the tools to finally express herself.

“There was a conspiracy of silence among survivors and Israeli society,” explained Elisheva Flamm-Oren, AMCHA’s director of planning and development. “They were afraid to tell their children and burden them with what they went through, and Israeli society also didn’t want to hear it – they preferred to project strength.”

AMCHA was started 30 years ago by Holocaust survivors and health care professionals to address this “conspiracy of silence” and provide survivors with the support they need. They now cater to 20,000 Holocaust survivors in fifteen centers across the country, boasting 480 mental health professionals and a thousand volunteers. In the past year alone they logged 186,000 hours of therapy, 30% of which took place in house calls to survivors too frail to leave their homes.

“There’s a lot of power in meeting other survivors,” Flamm-Oren told TPS. “AMCHA created a place where you can come and talk about the past without fear. We want them to know that they are normal people who went through unimaginably abnormal circumstances.”

And the survivors do more than talk. They participate in AMCHA’s creative writing seminars and theatre troupes—who recently staged a play starring a 97-year-old actress—all designed to give survivors creative outlets to process their past traumas and communicate with younger generations.

“They know how to get you to open up,” said Katsir, who read a moving composition describing her childhood in a Ukrainian ghetto, including the “nightly task” she shared with her sister to clutch their grandmother’s legs as she slept in the hopes of keeping her warm.

For many survivors, the creative process has been enormously satisfying.

“I have a kind of Holocaust disease – it actually makes me feel good to talk about the Holocaust,” Elias Feinzelberg told TPS after reciting the Kaddish, the solemn prayer for the dead, at the ceremony. Feinzelberg, a very active 98-year-old who was born in Lodz, Poland, endured nine different concentration camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau.

“I spoke at two schools today,” Feinzelberg said, proudly pointing to the pins on his blazer bearing the names of educational institutions around the world in which he has shared his story.

“Once I opened up,” Katsir told TPS, “I realized how much energy I had wasted all these years on not talking.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Krakow Gas Workers Expose Bones Digging at Plaszów Concentration Camp

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

Polish gas company workers exposed bones while digging at the site of the Nazi Plaszów concentration camp and Jewish cemetery. Only a single stone marker indicates the site of the cemetery.

Police were alerted to the incident by a local Jewish community leader who received a tip from an anonymous caller. Likewise, Rabbi Eliezer Gurary, Rabbi of Kraków and the city’s Chabad-Lubavitch emissary was anonymously notified — belatedly — on Wednesday about the find.

The rabbi told JewishPress.com in a statement, “The concentration camp was built upon a Jewish cemetery, therefore there’s a great chance that these are human Jewish bones.” Gurary added that he intends to turn to the local authorities “in order to take part at the investigation and to act in order to find a solution if they are indeed human bones.”

The gas company was doing pipeline maintenance work at the time the bones were discovered, according to a report in Newsday.

Kraków Police spokeswoman Mariusz Ciarka told reporters Tuesday the bones were sent for examination to a forensic lab “to determine if they are human.”

The Plaszów concentration camp was originally intended to be a forced labor camp. It was built on the grounds of two Jewish cemeteries and populated with prisoners during the liquidation of the Kraków Ghetto, which took place on 13–14 March 1943.

Hana Levi Julian

Elbit to Supply Combat Training System to Polish Special Forces

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

(JNi.media) Elbit Systems was selected to provide a real-time combat training and accompanying equipment for the special forces of the Polish Army, Israel Defense reported Monday. The Combat Training System is an advanced trainer based on highly realistic simulations designed specifically for the US Marines and Special Forces, offering combat scenarios from an individual combat soldier to an entire combat unit. The system simulates a wide range of operational scenarios and real battlefield elements in urban and rural combat inside buildings.

The system, which will be provided in cooperation with Swiss RUAG Defence Management and Polish Autocomp, offers scenarios with unprecedented realistic for training special forces.

As part of the project, Elbit Systems and its partners will provide combat soldiers with live fire training suits, vehicles, equipment for use in simulation and training facilities, as well as blank explosives and grenades, and even suicide bombers. Digital recording and data transmission capabilities will be provided, facilitating centralized network control for the training troops and their equipment, with recording capabilities, control and investigation of the entire training process.

The Polish Special Forces, a.k.a. Wojska Specjalne (Special Troops) is the 4th military branch of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland, formed in 2007.


Poland Sues U.S. Prof. for Saying Poles Killed Jews than the Germans

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Poland is preparing to sue a Princeton University professor for libel in an article written last month alleging that Poles “in fact did kill more Jews than Germans during the war.”

Professor Jan T, Gross, a Polish-born Jew and historian, also stated that Polish intolerance is behind the country’s agreement to accept only 5,000 Syrian refugees instead of a larger number,

The article was re-published by the German newspaper Die Welt, prompting more than 100 complaints to the office of the Polish prosecutor. The prosecutor’s spokesman Przemyslaw Nowak told Polish television that the country’s criminal code “provides that any person who publicly insults the Polish nation is punishable by up to three years in prison.”

Gross previously has provoked Poland and wrote in a book n 2001 that Poles in the town of Jedwabne massacred several hundred Jews.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Polish Army Securing Nazi Gold Train Area

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

(JNi.media) Polish Soldiers and explosives experts on Monday launched a six-day operation to secure the area where authorities suspect a Nazi-era train loaded with looted gold is buried, news agencies are reporting. The soldiers are searching some three feet below the surface, checking for mines or any other dangerous objects, before municipal workers begin excavations come Oct. 3.

A press officer for the local government confirmed in August that a military train had been discovered in Walbrzych, near Poland’s border with the Czech Republic.

Local lore describes a train loaded with valuables that was stored in a tunnel by the retreating Nazis in 1945. In August, the town’s deputy mayor Zygmunt Nowaczyk told reporters: “The city [of Walbrzych] is full of mysterious stories because of its history. [But] now it is formal information — [we] have found something.”

“Our goal is to check whether there’s any hazardous material at the site,” Colonel Artur Talik, who is leading the search for explosives, told RT.

The discovery was made by two amateurs, one Polish, one German, who informed authorities through their attorney that they plan to reveal the location of the train if they were guaranteed a finders’ fee of 10 percent of its value. Marika Tokarska, a Walbrzych city council official, said: “In the documents they sent us, they inform us that they have found a military train from the second World War and that outside the train some guns and weapons can be seen. They also said there could be gold and some other precious things inside.”

The news site wiadomosciwalbrzyskie.pl said the train may contain as much as 300 tons of gold on board.


Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/polish-army-securing-nazi-gold-train-area/2015/09/29/

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