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.
The Polish Academy of Sciences has dismissed historian Prof. Krzysztof Jasiewicz following an interview in which he partly blames Jews for the Holocaust.
Jasiewicz, 61, will lose his position as head of the Department of Analysis of Eastern Issues on June 1 but announced that he will appeal the decision.
In the interview, which was published in April in a special edition of Focus magazine on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Jasiewicz said that “generations of Jews worked for centuries to bring about the Holocaust,” that “without the active participation of the Jews, the Holocaust would have been impossible.
He also stated, “It is a waste of time to dialogue with the Jews.”
Director of the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Professor Eugeniusz Cezary Krol, said in a statement that Jasiewicz was fired for violating the elementary standards of scientific rigor.
Scholars and historians at the academy protested against what Jasiewicz said in the popular scientific magazine, saying his opinions were harmful.
Jasiewicz not only did not regret his remarks but also defended them. “The Jews accuse us [Poles] of the worst of everything; they are violent and arrogant against us. Our role in this dialogue is limited to apologizing,” he told Do Rzeczy magazine in an article about the controversy.
For so many people religion is practiced out of a sense superstition. Like a furry rabbit’s foot, it wards off evil spirits. Fulfilling the word of God keeps you from experiencing bad things. So what happens when you’re religious and those bad things happen anyway? It must be because you sinned.
I continue to be amazed at how many people see God as “the great blackmailer in the sky,” a term I first heard from the atheist Oxford philosopher Jonathan Glover in a debate I moderated between him and my friend Dennis Prager. God threatens us with death and suffering unless we follow His will. Insofar as I have recently published a full length book refuting this idea, both Biblically and logically, I will not here address it, other than to focus on the most insidious permutation thereof. And that is the belief that the Holocaust was punishment for Jewish sin.
No doubt you’ve heard this argument before. It’s straightforward and it goes like this. The Jews of Germany didn’t want to be Jewish any more. They wanted to be more German than the Germans. They changed their names. They assimilated. They married out. The reform movement, which started in Germany in about 1820, expunged all mention of Zion and Jerusalem from its prayer book. Germany and Berlin were the new promised land. In short, the Jews of Germany abandoned God. Worse, they thought they could get away with it. So God decided to teach them a lesson. Just try and forget Me. Here, have a few gas chambers. Let’s see how independent you feel when you’re incarcerated behind barbed wire? Let’s see how much you love Germany when they collectively slaughter your children.
I’ve heard many variations on this theme. One is that it wasn’t assimilation and attachment to Germany that brought the Holocaust, but the exact opposite. The Jews were punished for secular Zionism and an attempt to return to the ancient homeland without divine assistance. Another variation, which I heard just recently and supposedly exists on a tape from one of the great Jewish scholars of the 20th century, was that the only way the Jews would ever give up their deep, emotional attachment to the great Torah centers of Europe, like Lithuania, was to see their neighbors shoot their own parents.
Whatever the variation on this theme of the Holocaust as punishment, let’s be clear. These theories are ignorant, repulsive, and wrong. Ignorant because no human being knows the mind of God. Repulsive because they take six million innocent martyrs – including 1.5 million children – and turn them into culprits responsible for their own deaths. Wrong because they ignore the most basic fact of all, which is this: the majority of German Jews survived Hitler, even though, of course, huge numbers perished.
In 1933 there were 522,000 Jews living in the Reich. By 1939 and the start of the Second World War, 304,000 had emigrated. Beginning in January 1933, when Hitler came to office in a torch lit parade down Unter den Linden, the Jews of Germany knew that they were in the hands of a monster. Almost immediately Jews were beaten in the streets, their businesses boycotted, their Synagogues attacked. By September, 1935 the Nuremberg race laws were enacted. By November 1938 the horrors of Kristallnacht defined the growing Nazi tyranny. And throughout, the Jews of Germany tried to get out. They knew they were otherwise doomed. And while the nations of the world closed so many doors to them, the majority managed to escape.
The people who did not escape were, among so many other millions, the Hassidim and ultra-religious Jews of Poland who had no idea that Hitler had signed a secret pact with Stalin to partition Poland. They had no inkling of Hitler’s plan to invade via blitzkrieg on 1 September, 1939 and that they would be caught in his web.
Are we to believe that these Jews who were devout and pious, with deeply sounding Jewish names, who observed the minutiae of Jewish law pertaining to kosher and the Sabbath and prayed thrice daily for the Jewish return to Zion were punished with extinction while the “sinful” culprits of German Jewry mostly survived? And what of the more than one million children who were gassed and cremated who were utterly innocent of every sin?
The opening of a music club and disco in a 19th century Jewish learning center in Krakow is sparking controversy.
The club, called Mezcal, which is also a Mexican alcoholic beverage, opened Saturday night in the former Chewra Thilim Beit Midrash in the heart of Krakow’s Jewish district, Kazimierz.
The rundown building, built in 1896, was restituted more than a decade ago to the local Jewish religious community, which has rented it out to the club’s proprietor. The building had been empty and unmaintained for years, although valuable wall paintings were discovered there in 2008.
Mezcal occupies two floors of the building, with a bar installed in the former sanctuary. Photos from the opening event showed milling party-goers and rows of bottles lined up in front of the frescoes.
An article last week in the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper drew attention to the transformation, saying Mezcal will feature hard rock music, all-night “cool dance parties with DJs and aggressive, even metal concerts.” The newspaper ran a series of pictures showing workers installing the bar and other fittings.
The news sparked outrage, with a Facebook page set up to protest the club and comments to Gazeta calling it a “scandal.”
On Friday, British Jewish scholar Jonathan Webber, who teaches at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University, wrote an open letter to the leadership of the Krakow Jewish religious community, Poland’s chief rabbi, the Jewish media and others expressing “horror” at the situation.
“I am shocked that such a decision could have been made by those responsible for the Krakow Jewish community and for its historical and cultural heritage,” he wrote. “This is a deeply disturbing abuse of our heritage.”
Webber added, “How can we ask the Polish government and the Polish people to respect our heritage if we do not do so ourselves?”
Mezcal’s owners and the Jewish community leadership rejected the criticism.
One of Mezcal’s owners told Gazeta Wyborcza that all of their activities had been “conducted under the strict control of the conservator” and that “no monuments have suffered and will not suffer.”
Taduesz Jakubowicz, the president of the Jewish religious community, justified renting the building to the club. He told Gazeta that the community could not afford to maintain the building and had had no luck in finding other tenants.
“The owners of Mezcal are serious people and we believe that they will take care of the place properly,” he said. “If some problems would arise, we will just end our cooperation.”
German police arrested on Monday one of the 10 most wanted Nazis, 93-year-old Hans Lipschis, who is facing charges of complicity in murder as a former guard at the Auschwitz extermination camp.
State prosecutors in Stuttgart are preparing an indictment against Lipschis, a native of Lithuania who was a guard at Auschwitz from the autumn of 1941 until the Nazis abandoned the camp in January 1945, according to German news reports.
Lipschis reportedly belonged to the Totenkopf-Sturmbann, or Death’s Head Battalion, that guarded the camp, and he later became a cook for SS troops at the camp.
The Zeit online newspaper reported that Lipschis is one of the “ten most wanted Nazi war criminals.”
Lipschis told the German newspaper Die Weltam Sonntag last month that he was in Auschwitz “as a cook, the whole time.” He reportedly moved to the United States in 1956 but was expelled in 1982 after immigration authorities determined he had lied about his Nazi past in order to gain entry into the United States.
The arrest has been greeted by the SimonWiesenthalCenter’s top Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff as a positive step.
It follows the announcement last month by Germany’s Central Office for Clarification of Nazi Crimes, based in Ludwigsburg, that it had provided information about 50 former Auschwitz guards to German courts, with the aim of assisting in possible war crimes trials. All the suspects are around 90 years old.
The development was triggered by the 2011 guilty verdict in Munich against former death camp guard John Demjanjuk, as an accessory to murder of nearly 29,000 Jews at Sobibor in Poland. There were no direct witnesses to Demjanjuk having physically committed murder himself, but there was sufficient evidence that he was a guard at the camp.
Kurt Schrimm, who heads the Ludwigsburg agency, told reporters last month that, since the Demjanjuk verdict, “any job in a concentration camp is sufficient evidence towards a conviction as accessory to murder.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will receive a top award from Europe’s mainstream Orthodox rabbinic body, the Conference of European Rabbis.
It announced Monday that Merkel will be awarded the 2013 Lord Jakobovits Prize for European Jewry for her dedication to the German Jewish community and “outspoken denunciation of anti-Semitism throughout Europe.”
The award will be presented in May at the Great Synagogue of Europe in Brussels; for security reasons the exact date has not been released.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, or CER, and a chief rabbi of Moscow, called Merkel “a worthy recipient, in recognition of her continuing efforts of intercommunal harmony across Europe, her friendship towards the Jewish community and outstanding contributions to the promotion of tolerance and understanding.”
The CER thanked Merkel in particular for standing up for the rights of Jews and Muslims to practice ritual circumcision on boys. Last December, after months of debate following attempts to ban the practice, Germany’s Bundestag passed a law that permits such circumcisions, with minor restrictions that were acceptable to Jewish leaders. Merkel had forcefully stated her support for such a law and reassured both minority communities that she would stand up for them.
Last year’s winner of the award was former Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, who served as president of the European Parliament from 2009 to 2012.
Poland’s Jewish community does not want a planned monument to righteous gentiles to be erected near the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which is due to open this month on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto.
“The community of Polish Jews will never forget the heroism of people who, despite the threat of denunciation and death, were ready to bring aid to victims of the Holocaust,” wrote representatives of the Jewish community in a statement released Thursday. “[But] we believe that this monument should not stand on the remains of those who were not rescued.”
Placing the monument to the Righteous Among the Nations on the site of the former ghetto near the museum would narrow Polish-Jewish history to the Holocaust, the Jewish leaders believe.
The decision to build the monument is set to be announced on April 19, on the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The decision on where to build the monument resides with the Warsaw City Council.
Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel. Here we are almost seventy years since the Nazis were militarily defeated by the “allied forces,” there are hardly any more survivors still alive and Holocaust memorials are bigger than ever in Israel.
Israelis commemorated Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day Sunday night, marking the start of 24 hours during which schools, government offices, the IDF and local municipalities will hold ceremonies to honor those murdered by the Nazis and their helpers.
The national flag was lowered to half mast at 8 p.m. at the start of the main ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke and Six Holocaust survivors lit memorial torches in memory of the 6 million Jews who were murdered
On Sunday, at Rami Levy, Sha’ar Binyamin, the workers, both Jews and Arabs rushed under extra stress to close the giant discount supermarket early so workers could attend Holocaust Memorial Ceremonies, because the main road #60 was to be closed for United States Secretary of State Kerry’s return trip from Ramallah to Jerusalem. If they didn’t finish on time, everyone, Jews, Arabs, employees and customers, would be “locked in” Sha’ar Binyamin until the convoy was considered safely through.
CONSIDERING all of the Holocaust history which is part of Israeli culture, are we immune from another massive slaughter of Jews?
Prior to Nazi Germany’s systematic murder of six million Jews and a few million other “undesirables” by Nazi standards, the world, including the victims thought the idea of such a slaughter totally impossible, unthinkable.
Step by step and stage by stage, there was denial and confident misreading of the signs. Those who did see the dangers, like Ze’ev Jabotinsky were condemned and shunned by the mainstream Jewish World.
The following is a translation from Yiddish of Jabotinsky’s touching and sad speech in Tisha B’ev, Oct. 24, 1938, Warsaw, Poland. It was his prophetic warning to his people, to the masses of his brothers and sisters:
“It is already three years that I am calling upon you, Polish Jewry, who are the crown of World Jewry. I continue to warn you incessantly that a catastrophe is coming closer, I became gray and old in these days, my heart bleeds, that you dear brothers and sisters, do not see the volcano which will soon begin to spit its all consuming lava. I see that you are not seeing this because you are immersed and sunk in your daily worries. Today, however, I demand from you trust. You were convinced already that my prognoses have already proved to be right. If you think differently, then drive me out of your midst. However, if you do believe me, then listen to me in this 12th hour: In the name of G-D!! Let anyone of you save himself as long as there is still time, and time there is very little. (complete article here)
Remember, too that the allies’ defeat of the Nazis had nothing whatsoever to do with rescuing Jews. They fought to save European countries and Great Britain from Nazi rule. And remember that the military experts, post 1967 Six Days War were certain that the Arabs would never dare risk attacking us again.
We should be seriously worried by the rise in anti-Semitism.
A new report published Sunday, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, noted a 30 percent increase in anti-Semitic violence and vandalism worldwide in 2012.
The report, by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, said the past year had seen “an alarming rise in the number of terrorist attacks and attempted attacks against Jewish targets, and an escalation in violent incidents against Jews worldwide.”
The report presented an extensive review of various anti-Semitic trends, including anti-Semitic discourse in the public and political spheres and similar expressions on the Internet, especially in social media. Facebook and Twitter, the report said, have become a breeding ground for anti-Semitic and fascist groups promoting hatred against Jews.