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August 28, 2016 / 24 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘survivors’

Confronting Auschwitz and Birkenau

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

There was a shift in the paradigm of my life after my experience at Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the largest concentration and extermination camps operating during the Holocaust.

The cold, hard facts of the Holocaust are well known, but it is only once you hear a survivor tell you their personal story that it truly strikes you how they now appreciate their lives in a way that not many of us do today; some attribute their survival to God, some to faith, to love, to family, to luck.

We are the most likely the last generation to be able to hear these stories from the survivors of the Holocaust and be able to ask them questions. That is a huge privilege. A privilege which I was able to take part with the ‘Lessons From Auschwitz’ program with the Holocaust Educational Trust.

We had been warned by our team leaders that there was no right or wrong way to feel about the experience, but prior to the trip to Poland in November 2012, some may have had some prior idea as to how they would react – for me, it was numbing, absolutely numbing. Expectations were of misery and sadness; the lessons taught were vital for us as “Holocaust Ambassadors,” but also to absorb and reflect upon as human beings.

In both Auschwitz and Birkenau, the atmosphere was very sombre and we all said little as we walked through the camps, supposedly out of respect, or out of sadness, or shock; there was an almost alien sense of peace, as if the silence that had settled over the camps was still somehow alive, as if the sounds heard all those years ago were still echoing within the brick walls. I’ve never experienced an environment so heavy with sorrow, and it frightened me – it’s almost a warning to us as the new generation about to inherit responsibility of the earth, as it could be seen as a display of the consequences of power being given to the wrong hands.

Such was the melancholy atmosphere. The cold was extraordinary; by the time we had reached the Birkenau camp, the sun had almost set and the bitter cold was starting to seep in through our clothing. We tightened our coats and took the long, mournful walk alongside the train tracks leading into the camp. I was taken aback by the sheer scale of the place; rows and rows of identical empty warehouses. The camp was monstrous and almost mechanical; it had no signs of life, of civilization, just building after empty building. It was difficult to imagine how many men had crossed paths here, young, old, wealthy, poor, doctors, lawyers, laborers, all being given the saddest of all fates.

One of the most startling moments, for me, was one of the very first things we came across; the now iconic “Arbeit Macht Frei” wire sign, which directly translates to “labor makes you free,” referring to the physical labor that the sufferers in the camp were to believe would liberate them. But for the majority of prisoners in the camps, their only liberation was death, many of them dying brutally. One could only imagine the faces of the prisoners who saw this sign and understood their likely fates, or the many young children who could not even imagine what lay ahead.

We learned that very young children were almost always sentenced to death, along with their mothers, to prevent the new generation of Jews from surviving, which was awful to hear; I could not imagine a future so awful in which that could happen, or a man so soulless, who might have even has his own children, that he would give or execute such an order. This impression of this total lack of empathy or compassion on the Nazis’ part was horrifying, because it is hard to understand the circumstances in which this would be considered acceptable. Even now, it is obvious to see that we have moved forward in terms of acceptance of other faiths and races and we must preserve this tolerance in our society, but also promote it all over the world.

It is too late for the victims of the Holocaust, and one of the slightly uplifting things about the visit was the Oshpitztin visit, a graveyard for Jews, which clearly demonstrated to me that there was some respect for the Jews, and I was happy that someone had deemed them worthy to be given the blessing of a gravestone, of a resting place where their loved ones could come to mourn them. As we all know, there were far more victims of the Holocaust that could not be given the privilege of a burial, or a grave, but it gave me hope that even in a situation where so many acted so wrongly, there will be others who will do what is right.

Inbar Aberman

Nazi Camp Barbed Wire Sale Cancelled

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

First, if you think that treating a post-holocaust story with humor presents a problem, kindly click away. May I suggest our gifted cartoonist JooHoon? Thank you.

I’m the son of a holocaust survivors, and so dealing with the horror with a touch of humor is both my prerogative and my therapy. OK, I hope that covers all the liabilities. Now the news item:

The management of a Nazi concentration camp in the Netherlands (no longer in service, please try again at a later time) on Tuesday decided to drop the sale of bits of barbed wire from the camp, because of protests from Jewish groups.

(Had we known it would be so easy, we would have protested back in 1941. Who knew?)

Harry Ruijs, director of the Kamp Amersfoort Foundation, told AFP he decided not to sell 50 pieces of wire for 10 euros ($13) apiece, which he was planning to sell hoping the income would pay for an exhibition of artifacts discovered at the site, around 30 miles south-west of Amsterdam.

“It seems we have hurt some people and it was not our intention at all,” Ruijs said. “That’s why we decided to halt the sale.”

The exhibition which the sold wire was going to fund (at around $500), was intended to “draw attention to the importance of physical evidence whose preservation costs money.”

Artifacts to be displayed at the exhibition included helmets, water bottles and 150 “mysterious name tags in which the names and addresses have been engraved in mirror image.”

(Sounds like they were used to print those names and addresses, but I’m no holocaust expert. The mystery of mirror-image name tags will linger on.)

Jewish organizations expressed outrage on Tuesday, following the announcement of the barbed wire sale.

(There’s a first – Jews upset at a sale.)

“Barbed wire is the archetypal symbol of the concentration camp. It should not be put up for sale at all,” said Esther Voet, deputy director of the Dutch Center for Documentation and Information on Israel (CIDI).

“Imagine if some of these pieces of barbed wire are ultimately bought by a neo-Nazi. That would be horrible,” Voet said.

(Is there a sanctity of concentration camp barbed wire clause I haven’t heard of? If you ask me, let those neo-Nazis contribute their share to the commemoration effort.)

A spokeswoman for the Netherlands’s Central Jewish Council who asked not to be named said that idea was “completely tasteless and lacking in respect for the victims and their families.”

(As opposed to displays of concentration camp artifacts which are tasteful because they’re supported by government?)

Between 35 000 and 40 000 people were processed in Kamp Amersfoort, at least half of whom were deported to Nazi death camps. The current camp manager Ruijs said he consulted former prisoners at the camp and their relatives before the sale and their reactions had been positive.

“We’ll now give away the barbed wire pieces to those who ask for it and had relatives who passed through the camp,” said Ruijs.

But not even an inch goes to the neo-Nazis!

Yori Yanover

Nazi Leader’s Sister Hid Jews Near Brussels

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

The sister of a Belgian Nazi leader hid three Jews in her home near Brussels during the Holocaust, according to one of the survivors.

Hanna Nadel, now 86, said she, her mother and her niece were rescued by M. Cornet, the sister of Leon Degrelle, who, as leader of the Belgian Nazi Rexen movement, was responsible for deporting Jews to their deaths during the German occupation of Belgium.

Nadel’s account, related to historian Jan Maes, appeared earlier this week in the Belgian-Jewish monthly Joods Actueel,

The three, having escaped deportation orders, wandered  with their suitcases around the town of Sint-Genesius Rode, where they happened upon a help-wanted sign on Cornet’s door.

The mother rang the doorbell and Cornet, without asking many questions, hired the mother as cook and Nadel and her niece to work as chambermaids.

Cornet knew the three women were Jewish and promised them they would survive. Visitors associated with the Flemish Nazi movement would routinely dine at the house , while the three Jewish women hid in the basement.

Nadel’s mother would sometimes cook gefiltefish, which the lady of the house advertised to her guests as “oriental fish”, Nadel recalled.

Nadel immigrated to Israel after the war. Leon Degrelle left for Spain, where he died of old age in 1994, escaping the death sentences that his Nazi associates received back home.

JTA

I Am Proud

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

As I approached the home of Irving and Miriam Borenstein in the Mill Basin section of Brooklyn, two things became clear: the pride they feel at being Jewish and their joy at living in America. On their front lawn are large American and Israeli flags with a plaque in front which reads:

Irving and Miriam

Never forget the six million murdered in the Holocaust and the three thousand murdered on 9/11.

May G-d remember them for the good with the other righteous of the world.

Inside their home the theme continues; their walls are covered with pictures, souvenirs and memorabilia related to Israel.

Where did this sense of pride come from? Join me as we learn a little bit about Miriam and Irving’s backgrounds and hear their incredible stories.

Irving: I was born in America in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. It was like the “Yerushalyim of New York.” I went to yeshiva there and then to Harron High school. My father owned a shomer Shabbos grocery store. When I was 16 he passed away; my mother continued to run the store and at some point I began to take responsibility for it, but ultimately it wasn’t for me. I studied and excelled in electrical engineering, which helped me when I was in the military.

Miriam: I was born in Czechoslovakia in the Carpathian mountain region. I have been living in the states for 67 years. Carpathia became a hostile region to live in once the Hungarians took over. First, they put all the Jews in a ghetto. I was in a ghetto called Izah for 6 weeks before they transported us to Auschwitz.

The Borensteins in Germany after the war.

Mr. Borenstein, when did you join the service?

I was drafted into the army when I was 18, like so many others. I could have easily gotten a 4-D (a deferment) since I was a rabbinical student in yeshiva at the time but I didn’t feel that was right.

Were you scared to join the army?

No. I was happy to go. I had no fear. My mother wasn’t too happy about it but I was a strong-minded kid and running the family grocery store was not for me.

What are your thoughts about those who avoided service due to religious observance?

I am a Zionist. I told people you cannot hide behind the Torah. In fact, the Torah demands that we go and help our fellow brethren.

What was your position in the military?

Luckily, I was not in man-to-man combat. I was involved in the anti-aircraft artillery outfit. Basically, I was a utility repair soldier.

Were you ever injured?

I was hurt badly when a car near me blew up; I was unconscious for a while. I was hospitalized for 5 months in London with a fractured skull and malfunctioning kidneys. Eventually I healed, and those of us who were feeling better were given office jobs, so the office clerks could go fight.

Did you experience any anti-Semitism in the military?

Not really. I am as strong as an ox and growing up in Brownsville you knew how to defend yourself. I recall one incident where a non-Jewish man and I were reaching for the same butter during mealtime and I got it first. He said, “Just like a (expletive) Jew!” I flipped over the table and that was the end of that.

In the DP camp in 1945. Irving and Miriam are on the far right.

Were you able to be observant in the army?

Not really. It was hard. I did manage to daven with tefillin every day. One day my captain was inspecting the barracks and I was standing in the corner engrossed in my davening. He asked a fellow soldier what I was doing and when they told him I was praying he said, “If anybody bothers him they are going to have to deal with me!”

What about keeping kosher and Shabbos?

Impossible. The only thing I could do was stay away from meats. As for Shabbos, that was out of the question. The first time I drove a car on Shabbos, I thought it was going to blow up. They did let me go home for the holidays when I was in basic training.

Were there other Jews stationed in your outfit?

It was a 25% Jewish outfit with mostly New Yorkers. This is maybe why anti-Semitism wasn’t so prevalent. I did have to tell one Southerner that Jews don’t have horns though!

Ita Yankovich

As We Care For Survivors, Don’t Forget The Damage Done To Their Descendents

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The words “Never Forget” have become synonymous with the Holocaust, but as the actual horror of the Holocaust starts to fade, it’s time we add to the mantra an addendum: “Never Ignore.”

As the events of 60 years ago start to slip into history, the suffering of those who survived the Holocaust has been a steadfast reminder of the atrocities of which humanity is capable if we do not keep ourselves in check. Their scars are front and center, their tattooed arms impossible to ignore. And helping them heal will be our cause even as they enter the last stages of their lives.

Yet as we focus on that generation, often lost are those whose pain will endure long after the last survivor is gone – the generations of their children and grandchildren who have been traumatized by growing up with the pain their families endured during the Holocaust and scarred by the trauma of growing up with those in post-Holocaust shock.

The tales of some survivors are certainly famous, but most suffered in silence, refusing to discuss their terror as they tried to protect their children from pain. Their children grew up with parents who never dealt with their own trauma, and the silence was often deafening and painful.

Some have been able to deal with the silence constructively, teaching about the Holocaust, not letting the world forget what happened. Some fight it by being vocal about genocide. Others research the genocide in attempt to understand what happened to their parents.

Yet thousands more simply suffer from psychological disorders such at PTSD, low self-esteem, and hoarding, according to such publications as the Cambridge Journal.

Take for instance “Anna,” a 35-year-old architect and grandchild of survivors, who suffers from a hoarding disorder.

Her apartment is packed with things she will not throw out. Every counter space is covered and every draw is bursting forward. She keeps a pair of shoes that she swears she threw out 26 months ago. Walk into her apartment, and you’ll find one thing: stuff. The more that is available, the more she keeps. She just can’t escape the need to hold on to stuff.

Yet she can’t let go of things that even she knows are meaningless junk, and she can tell you. Why? Because that is how her parents acted – and how can she throw away an old pair of shoes, when her grandparents would have died for a pair of shoes?

It’s time we begin paying attention to the thousands of children walking around today with these disorders.

That’s why Yeshiva University students who are third-generation Holocaust survivors, and who still live with the repercussions of the Holocaust, have created a forum in which we can address some of the unique challenges our generation faces, and learn how to finally move forward.

We are hosting a conference that will discuss in scientific and medical terms what many of us still endure because of the Holocaust. We want to ensure that our generation is informed and sensitive about how the pain of the Holocaust lives on even today.

On October 21, we will bring our issues to the forefront and publicly grapple with them at a forum at Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus that will include such speakers as Dr. Michael Grodin of Boston University, Irene Hizme, a survivor of Mengele’s experiments on twins, and renowned psychologist Dr. David Pelcovitz.

As descendents of survivors, we have are responsible for remembering the six million of our parents’ and grandparents’ generation who were needlessly killed. We know that we need to keep alive their message. After all, it is we who have been privileged to hear their first-hand accounts, and we must inform our children of what happened.

But with that responsibility comes a price that many of us have paid. It’s time that we teach about that as well.

Mordechai Smith and Yosefa Schoor are co-presidents of Yeshiva University’s Student Medical Ethics Society. Learn more at www.yumedicalethics.com.

Mordechai Smith and Yosefa Schoor

For Victims of Abuse – A Warm Embrace

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Note from Harry Maryles: I usually take this time on the eve of the New Year to reflect on what kind if a year this was for me. The sudden death of my grandson Reuven who suffered from cancer was unexpected. Although his prognosis was never great, he had defied the odds by living as long as he did. People all over the world davened for him and for that I am still grateful.  But it was not meant to be.

On one unusually warm morning in early March of this year Reuven was taken from us as he suddenly collapsed – never to resuscitated. That was one of the hardest days of my life.  But I am grateful to God for all the blessings he as otherwise given me.  And with God’s help I look forward to a much better year ahead.
 
Aside from that personal note, I am going to relinquish the space I give here to any additional reflection or the Dvar Torah I usually give on Erev Yom Tov- to Rabbi Yakov Horowitz. He asked me if I would cross post an essay from his website on my blog. After reading it, I decided that there is no Dvar Torah that I could deliver that would be more important than his words.
With all the troubles facing Klal Yisroel now, I don’t think there is a single issue more important than the issue of sex abuse in our community. We all know the horror stories the survivors of abuse tell us. And we all too often hear of the devastating consequences they face – some for many years after.
 
In part the altered lives they live are a result of the abuse itself. But it is in part also because of the unfortunate negative reaction to the victims by their own community.  It is to this sad reality that Rabbi Horowitz speaks. The new year is not only a time for reflection. It is a time for change. If there is one thing we need to change as a community it is how we treat victims of abuse.
 
Ksiva V’Chasima Tova to all. The following are Rabbi Horowitz’s words.
As we prepare to stand before Hashem in the days to come, and daven (pray) for ourselves, our families and all of Klal Yisroel, those of us who work with survivors of abuse and molestation ask you to publicly show your support for them in these yemei rachamim (days of mercy).
Part and parcel of the strategy employed by many of the predators in our community is to discredit their victims who have the courage to step forward and press charges against them. Typically, the molester will point to the victim’s 1) diminished level of religious observance and/or 2) self-destructive behaviors, like substance abuse, to “prove” his own innocence.However, for those of us who work with at-risk teens, the fact that one of our tayere kinderlach engaged in hard-core drug use, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, or left Yiddishkeit, makes it MORE likely that the accusation is true, not less. Why? Because we have known for many years now that the vast majority of our kids who have descended into the gehenom of these destructive activities have done so because they were molested.Of all the horror committed by predators against our innocent, precious boys and girls, the premeditated and deliberate defamation of their character is perhaps the most unforgivable; since it abuses them all over again and adds to their disconnect from our kehila – when what they need most is our acceptance and love.
With that in mind, I respectfully ask our readers to please stand with the brave survivors and their families who have the courage to take the lonely path of coming forward and pressing charges, with the other silent and silenced victims who are watching the high-profile cases unfold very carefully to determine whether they too should risk going to the authorities, and with all survivors of abuse and molestation.Precisely because the predators attempt to discredit and disgrace the victims and their families, is all the more reason why we need to reach out to them and let them know how much we respect and care for them.Kindly take a few minutes from your busy schedules and post a Rosh Hashana bracha in the thread* following these lines, and have them in mind in your Tefillos. Previous efforts to garner public support for victims were extraordinarily comforting to them, as they help restore their faith in humanity and let them know that the vast majority of our community members are behind them.
Please include your real names and the names of the cities where you live to personalize your message and to send a clear message that we proudly stand with the survivors and their families.
Abuse survivors are our heilege neshamosour holy souls. They have endured unspeakable trauma in their lives and had their childhood cruelly stolen from them, because they learned at a very young age, at the mercy of cunning and evil predators, to never trust again. Nonetheless, the vast, overwhelming majority of survivors seek no revenge or retribution. They only hope and pray that today’s children be spared from the horror they endured.
Regardless of their observance level, we ought to welcome these survivors as full and respected members of our kehilos. We ought to commit to them that we will do everything possible to remove from our community those who prey on our innocent children and speak truth to power if necessary in the coming year to keep all our children safe and secure.If the great tzadik, Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev zt’l were alive, I imagine that he would embrace abuse survivors in his shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and proclaim to Hashem, “Master of the Universe, look at these heilige neshamos who have endured so much with such dignity, and in their ze’chus inscribe us all in the Book of Life.”
Best wishes for a k’siva v’chasima tova and may Hashem answer our tefilos b’rachamim u’vrazon.
*Harry Maryles: As always, I welcome all comments to this post. Rabbi Horowitz is also taking comments in the form of Brachos to survivors on his website. If you can, it would be wonderful to get as many readers of this blog as possible to do so. Once again, Ksiva V’Chasima Tova to all!
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Crowning Miss Holocaust Survivor

Friday, July 6th, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai is joined by his wife and co-host Malkah to talk about a beauty pageant for survivors of the Holocaust that recently took place in Haifa. They specifically discuss the reaction that the event created throughout the media. At 11:16, they begin to discuss the recently-passed regarding the banning of ritual circumcision in Germany and how it compares to a new Israeli law encouraging new mothers to breast feed. The segment wraps up with Yishai and Malkah talking about their experience with the Israeli post office and amazing gift that the Fleishers received.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Moshe Herman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/jewish-press-radio-with-yishai-fleisher-crowning-miss-holocaust-survivor/2012/07/06/

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