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May 29, 2015 / 11 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘survivors’

The Yellow Star

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

A little more than six months ago, my sister-in-law passed away after battling a serious illness. For more than 30 years she had given symposiums on the Holocaust to youngsters in the Philadelphia area, and we talked about her activities many times on our visits to the U.S. After her passing I was determined to do some kind of volunteer work for Yad Vashem in her memory.

I contacted a wonderful person there who works on the Names Project, recovering names of victims that have yet to be placed in the database. Believe it or not, there are still nearly two million names that are not on the list – millions of wonderful people who lived, worked, studied and raised families in cities, shtetls and villages who must not be forgotten. Many of the survivors or family members are elderly, or their memories have been clouded by the passage of many decades. And so the saying “if not now, when then?” is never more applicable.

After my initial meeting with Sara Berkowits, my contact at Yad Vashem, I received some training from another field worker who is also recovering names through interviews, visits to shuls, etc. He gave me the names of survivors to be interviewed in order to reclaim these missing names. Although excited about the opportunity, I was nervous about how to do the job properly, how much the survivors would actually remember, and if they would even allow me to come into their lives and homes. What I was not prepared for was how wonderful and eye opening the experience – every discussion actually – was going to be.

The very first interview I conducted was with an elderly man born in Romania. My friend, Rafi Freudenberger, and I listened intently to his stories (there is another department at Yad Vashem that records personal stories, but we were interested to hear about their families in order to get to the actual names), and heard the names of Transnistria and Bukovina. I asked him to repeat these names many times, having never heard such names before. Oddly enough, in the weeks following that first interview, I came across many articles that mentioned those same places, and the tragedies that befell the Jewish communities there. Many thousands of Jews were caught between the claws of Russia, Romania, and Germany. In October 1941 the entire Jewish community was deported en masse to Siberia.

As Mr. Geller was elderly, I limited the time we spent at his home sorting out the families and the names he recalled. I scheduled a second meeting with him for the following week. But after speaking to his wife the day before I was to return, it became clear that the process of remembering was just too much for him. I would have to give to Yad Vashem only the few names that I had gathered.

Recently, I spoke to another survivor who was born in Den Haag in Amsterdam. Shlomo first gave us a detailed list of family members who had perished in the Shoah – where they were born; where and when they died. He showed us a detailed list from the government of Holland that had all the information, and he wanted to correct some erroneous details that Yad Vashem had listed. At one point he opened up a drawer with documents and pictures. One of the pictures was that of a family wedding, and every person was wearing a yellow star – a badge of honor and pride. Unfortunately most of the people were killed in the Shoah, including his parents.

At one point I asked Shlomo about the bookcase and the very old-looking volumes. He told me that the non-Jews had taken these and many other volumes from his father and grandfather’s homes. The ones I was looking at were the “survivors.” The others had been taken, their bindings sold and the precious pages destroyed.

Shlomo’s story of his family was also the story of a very special cousin who went through Bergen-Belsen and Trobitz with him. (Of the 2,500 prisoners who were transported from Bergen-Belsen on April 10, 1945, 600 died from disease or malnutrition.) Both lost most of their family members there. Joe Holstein, my wife’s cousin, lost his parents and one brother in Bergen-Belsen, and lost another brother in Trobitz. One of his five sons was named after his two brothers. Shlomo’s parents died only a few weeks before the end of the war, and he has not gone back since. But cousin Joe and his wife returned to visit the graves at Trobitz, and took pictures of Shlomo’s relatives’ gravestones as well.

Joe raised six wonderful children, but died of a heart attack at the sound of the first siren of the first Gulf War. Like Yosef of biblical fame, Joe had also been a yoetz (Joe was a school guidance counselor). And during the year that my wife and I met, he advised us on many different matters. Twenty-one years later Joe has many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Each of them is testimony to the fact that am Yisrael chai – the Jewish people are alive and thriving in the Holy Land.

Two Holocaust Survivers Reunited 70 Years Later

Monday, March 12th, 2012

“They had all but given up the search for relatives who had survived the Nazi extermination effort, to find each other was almost overwhelming,” reports the Florida Sun Sentinel. And I have nothing funny or ironic or cynical to say about this one, I’m simply touched.

Lemel Leo Adler, left, and Leon Schagrin are cousins, the sons of two sisters. After the invasion of Poland, they were transported to the Tarnow ghetto, and then to several labor camps, and finally to Buna, “a chemical plant taht also known as Auschwitz III.” In there they met only briefly, between shifts.

In January 1945 they were separated and didn’t see each other again. “A far as they know, everyone else in their families were killed.”

They both immigrated to the US, where Adler was restaurant manager and Schagrin was in the plastics trade. They continued the search for relatives, but found no one.

Last week Adler received a copy of “The Horse Adjutant,” Schagrin’s 2001 book about being forced to care for horses owned by Nazi officers. A friend told him there were names in the book of places Adler had been to during the war.

“I don’t usually read such books, because I lived through the Holocaust,” Adler told the Sentinel’s James D. Davis. “But then I started scanning it and found family names – like my mother’s maiden name.”

He researched the records of the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in South Florida and learned about Schagrin – who represents the center about the Holocaust to South Florida students.

He called Schagrin on the phone to say, “I know you!” Then he cited family members the two had known.

Schagrin’s reaction was: “You know how it is when nerves are tickling all over your body? I couldn’t believe it after 70 years.”

According to Miriam Fridman, president of the survivors’ club (Schagrin is vice president), these reunions are becoming more and more rare,. For one thing, many survivors have passed away. The club had 1,400 members in the 1990s, but only around 300 today.

Illinois Republican Candidate for Congress Says ‘Holocaust Never Happened’

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

The Oak Lawn Patch reported that Arthur Jones, 64, a Lyons, IL, insurance salesman who organizes family-friendly, neo-Nazi events around Adolf Hitler’s birthday, hopes to be the Republican candidate chosen to run against Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Holocaust is nothing more than an international extortion racket by the Jews,” Jones said. “It’s the blackest lie in history. Millions of dollars are being made by Jews telling this tale of woe and misfortune in books, movies, plays and TV. The more survivors, the more lies that are told.”

Jones is running against Jim Falvey and Richard Grabowski in a district that has sent a conservative Democrat to Congress for decades. The district includes the descendants of Irish, German, Polish and Czech immigrants.

It’s My Opinion: Golf And The Game Of Life

Friday, February 10th, 2012

This week, Allianz Insurance is slated to sponsor the PGA pro golf tournament in Boca Raton. Allianz, a major German company, is charged with failure to pay billions of dollars in Holocaust-related life insurance claims. The company has enraged survivors by refusing to pay on policies while at the same time spending money to advertise their business in events like the PGA.

Allianz has admitted association with the Nazis. Published disclosures indicate that during World War II the company sold life policies to hundreds of thousand of Jews while at the same time insuring the German concentration camps. Later, money was kept from the beneficiaries and given to Nazis.

Miami congresswoman Ileana Ros-Leighten confronted tournament officials and accused them of compliance with Allianz. Ros-Leighten has initiated a letter-writing campaign to embarrass not only the insurance company but those who associate with it. However, the PGA has said it will keep Allianz as a sponsor and the tournament seems to be going along on schedule.

There are those who say the Holocaust ended 67 years ago and it’s time to forget. There are those who say almost all the people who took part in the unspeakable atrocities of the Shoah are gone and there is no point to hold those who came after them responsible. There are those who say it is better to just move on.

They are wrong.

Halacha admonishes against keeping a grudge and against taking revenge when dealing with personal affronts. However, when a person is attacked solely because he is Jewish the dynamics dramatically change. He is obligated to react. Failure to retaliate is a chillul Hashem. The idea that Jews are weak and defenseless creates an environment where more abuse is likely to follow. It emboldens the enemy. It leads to more bloodshed.

The survivors themselves are an aging and fragile population. Their time winds down. They have again been victimized.

Where is the moral outrage? Where is the collective outcry? Where is the “world” that for the most part still stands silently by? When will it finally be time to say, and mean, “never again”?

How The Media Can Help Heal Gilad Shalit

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

For five long years, a media campaign swirled around the abduction and internment of Gilad Shalit, gaining momentum with every passing day. Without a doubt, it was the media that helped keep his story alive and contributed significantly to his release, creating public pressure in favor of the historic (though unsettling) exchange of over one thousand convicted terrorists for Gilad’s freedom.

But now that he has been freed, will the media claim their “pound of flesh”?

Aside from the interview he was forced to give Egyptian television immediately following his release, Gilad has yet to speak publicly about his 1,941-day ordeal. His father, Noam, continues to serve as his mouthpiece, and his family and friends have formed a protective shield around him, disallowing any media contact. As they see it, the media can only harm Gilad at this point, slowing his recovery and reintegration into normal life and society.

But is that true?

The experiences of survivors of captivity, maltreatment and torture from many parts of the world teach us that the phase of re-entry into society plays a critical role in the quality of recovery. The societal attitudes and the degree of acceptance and assistance available to survivors as they return from an ordeal determines their success in psychologically reintegrating their traumatic experiences into a sense of themselves that feels continuous and consistent.

When survivors are met with a conspiracy of silence where society and even relatives are not able to listen to their experiences, as was true with many survivors of the Holocaust, the survivors do not speak of their trauma. And when war veterans and prisoners of war are met with negative attitudes toward the war in which they participated, as was the case with Vietnam veterans, they also refrain from sharing their experiences.

In such cases, where the trauma cannot be discussed and shared in an accepting and truly empathic context, survivors attempt to cope by hiding or denying their distress. Paradoxically, the more disassociated the traumatic experiences become, the more they interfere with daily life.

Newly acquired scientific insight into brain functions and structures have illuminated much about how trauma is registered, stored and remembered. Extremely traumatic events are initially stored in non-verbal images, sensations and feeling states. As such, they can continue to remain vivid and timeless, disturbing the survivor’s habituation and integration into normal life for years.

The presence of supportive, empathic listeners who are genuinely interested in hearing what the survivor has to say is critical to the healing process. Such listening must be truly motivated by sensitivity and deep care and attuned to the needs of the survivor. Listening that is motivated by other, voyeuristic or self-serving interests will lead to additional trauma.

From what they have stated, this is the concern shared by Gilad’s family and friends regarding his exposure to the media. There are no guarantees that the media will be the sensitive, empathetic listeners he requires, and it simply isn’t worth the irreparable damage to Gilad.

Furthermore, because Gilad was only a teenager when he was abducted, he has a lot to learn in order to catch up with his twenty-five year old self, a great deal to re-learn about normal life, and a tremendous amount to unlearn from his years in captivity. Most important, he has to regain a sense of ownership and control over his life, and the freedom to explore who he is.

Exposure to the media, even in the best of circumstances, is often accompanied (true or not) by a feeling that one’s words were twisted to mean something else and that the message intended was hijacked and misrepresented. While generally irritating for the masses, such experiences might be truly damaging for an individual attempting to achieve a personally meaningful integration of his own traumatic experience, and might constitute a repetition of loss of control over one’s words, self-definition and life.

Holocaust Center Looks For Volunteers

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

The Holocaust Documentation and Education Center, located at 2031 Harrison Street in Hollywood, is looking for volunteers to begin immediately. The center needs transcribers, audit/editors, proofreaders, and abstractors. The work is of vital importance. As the pool of aging survivors diminishes, it becomes increasingly urgent that their stories be documented and recorded.

Transcribers listen to an audiocassette copied from a videotape of a testimony of a survivor, liberator, rescuer or other eyewitnesses. They transcribe the testimony verbatim as heard on the cassette.  An Oral History Summary Report will be provided to them as a guide to the correct spelling of foreign words, cities, places, etc. The transcription of the testimony is word for word, as spoken by the interviewee and the interviewer.

Audit/editors listen to the audiocassette and read the transcribed copy of the interview. They make the necessary typing corrections and add punctuation or any additional wording that was left out of the transcript.

Foreign audit/editors listen to the cassette. They correct and fill in foreign words and expressions, names of people and places, camps and the personnel, etc.

Proofreaders check the entire transcript for formatting, punctuation, spelling, and any other errors in the transcript. It is the final step before the transcript is sent to print.

Abstracts are written from the text of the transcribed interview. Key words and information such as dates and places are abstracted from the testimony. The abstract is a short version, approximately one page, of the full interview.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Rita Hofrichter at (954) 929-5690.

Opening The Eyes Of Our Youngsters

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

   As we all know, time is of essence to transmit the saga of our parents’ suffering in the Holocaust before there are no more witnesses alive to tell their stories. Chavi Diamond, a daughter of survivors, is a woman with a mission. She feels this urgency keenly and has initiated a groundbreaking series of Holocaust children’s books geared to ages 6-12.


 


   In recent years, a Holocaust curriculum was introduced at the junior high and high school level, but the younger students have zero or minimal knowledge of their great-grandparents’ travails.

 

   As a vehicle to gently expose children to the Holocaust, Diamond has published The Promise – a touchingly illustrated account of her aunt’s survival that is an age-appropriate depiction of the war years. The storybook is done with much sensitivity and was created with the guidance of leading educators and psychologists.

 

   Diamond plans to publish many more true stories, covering the different European countries and varying backgrounds of survivors, and has founded Heart to Heart Memories to perpetuate the legacy of loved ones.

 

   The Pesach Seder is an opportune time to broach this topic, deftly weaving our recent history into the narrative of yetzias Mitzrayim. Our children are more resilient than we give them credit for. Just as they are familiar with the Egyptians’ cruelty and enslavement, it is incumbent upon us to share the details of our nation’s suffering throughout the ages.

 

   The Promise is available at Eichler’s, Torah Treasures, Judaica Place. For more information about this book and forthcoming publications or to share your story go to www.h2hmemories.com, or contact Chavi Diamond at onfo@h2hmemories.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/book-reviews/opening-the-eyes-of-our-youngsters-2/2011/04/14/

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