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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘World War II’

The Holocaust Survivor Who Fought in Every Israeli War (Video)

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Ze’ev Tibi Ram is one of two Holocaust survivors who fought in every Israeli war.

He perfectly symbolizes “Shoah ve Tkuma”- Holocaust and rebirth. As a Holocaust survivor, Tibi understands better than anyone the importance of protecting the Jewish state.

He lost his whole family in the Holocaust but survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.

After being separated from his mother and eventually finding her at the end of the war, she disappeared and Tibi never saw her again. His brother survived until the end of the war, but died shortly after.

Now, Tibi gives lectures to soldiers about the Holocaust and his extensive military experience. He is also the proud grandfather of an IDF soldier

He says life has been good – except for that one insane year of Nazi persecution.

The Parchment of Rebuke That Came Home

Monday, April 28th, 2014

On a day in which the cruelties of the Nazis and the devastation of the Holocaust is uppermost of the minds of the People of Israel, there are yet numerous examples of how we are shown there are sparks of hope among the ashes.

Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, Dean of the Migdal Ohr Institutions, was presented with one such example. The rabbi sat in his home in Migdal Ha’emek in bewilderment, re-examining the piece of Torah parchment he was given. Cut by a Nazi almost 70 years ago from a Torah scroll in an Eastern European synagogue, the sacred parchment was used by the Luftwaffe officer as a wrapping for his ID card during World War II.

How did Rabbi Grossman come into the possession of such a unique and shocking piece of history?

 Moti Dotan, the Head of the Lower Galilee Regional Council, had recently returned from a ceremony honoring of the 25th anniversary of the twin cities pact between the Regional Council and the Hanover district in Germany.

Dotan was approached at the conclusion of the event by a member of the Hanover District Council. “My father, Werner Herzig, died a few weeks ago,” said the man. “Before his death he said he wanted to share with me a secret. He told me he had fought in World War II and told me about his involvement in those awful crimes, such as his participation in the burning of a synagogue on the Russian front. ‘It’s important for me to tell you this, because today there are those who don’t believe that it happened’ he told me.”

 Dotan relates that Herzig junior gave him the ID document and parchment and asked him to locate a holy man in the Galilee and present it to him. “I thought of the holy work that Rabbi Grossman does, and that he was the most suitable person to receive the document and parchment,” says Dotan. “When I came to him to give him the document, I shared with him the story. As he held the parchment tears started to flow from his eyes,” recalls Dotan. He said that Rabbi Grossman symbolizes to him all that is good in Judaism, and will make proper use of the item.

 Rabbi Grossman held the piece of parchment and read from the text. The parchment is from the Book of Deuteronomy, in the weekly portion of “Ki Tavo.”

He read: “…and distress which your enemies will inflict upon you, in your cities… Then the Lord will bring upon you and your offspring uniquely horrible plagues, terrible and unyielding plagues, and evil and unyielding sicknesses… Also, the Lord will bring upon you every disease and plague which is not written in this Torah scroll, to destroy you. And you shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of the heaven for multitude” (Deuteronomy 28, 57-62). These verses are known as the verses of admonishment.

Rabbi Grossman is convinced that this is a “Supreme message of Divine providence. After 60 years, this document arrives in Israel, wrapped in these words of scolding, and is calling on us ‘to awaken.’ After all, the German could have cut the parchment from any of the Five Books of Moses, and he specifically cut out the section that speaks suffering, servitude and then of redemption,” he said.

Rabbi Grossman has shown the ID book and parchment to young people, and tells of the great excitement it causes. “It’s a tangible object, which you can see with your own eyes. You can see here the embodiment of evil; how after the destruction of a synagogue, this man had the audacity to enter and cut from the Torah scroll, only because he thought that the parchment was a suitable way to preserve his document.”

Rabbi Grossman has vowed to continue to visit schools and young people with the document and to share this awe-striking story with them.

Holocaust Historian Returns Honor from Hungary over ‘Whitewash’

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Holocaust historian Randoph Braham is returning a high honor from the Hungarian state as a protest against attempts to whitewash Hungary’s role in the Holocaust, Braham said in a letter quoted by the Hungarian state news agency MTI on Sunday.

Braham, 91, a Holocaust survivor, wrote that he was handing back the Cross of the Order of Merit “with a heavy heart” following recent developments in Hungary.

The Bucharest-born scholar and expert on the Holocaust in Hungary also said he would no longer permit the Budapest Holocaust Memorial Center to use his name for one of its research departments.

Braham, an emeritus professor at the City University of New York, wrote in the letter, “The campaign of history falsification which aims to whitewash the (Miklos) Horthy era has shocked me.” Horthy led Hungary into World War II as a Nazi ally.

Braham said the “last straw” was the decision by the government to erect a memorial in downtown Budapest to the 1944 German occupation of Hungary. He called it a “cowardly attempt” to exonerate Hungarians from their role in the Holocaust and confuse the issue by placing all blame on the Nazis.

Hungarian Jewish leaders, historians and others have sharply criticized plans for the memorial.

“The events of 1944 are, to say the least, more complicated than a story of ‘bad’ Germans fighting ‘good’ Hungarians,” the historian Krisztian Ungvary wrote in the HVG.hu news magazine. “Eichmann himself was thrilled by his experiences here, observing that the Hungarians must surely be descended from the Huns since nowhere else had he seen so much brutality ‘in the course of solving the Jewish question.’ ”

Hungary’s conservative government, headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has designated 2014 as Holocaust Memorial Year, with a series of events and initiatives planned.

In October, Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics told an international conference that the country’s leaders recognized Hungarian involvement in the Holocaust and vowed that the state would combat anti-Semitism and racism. Hungary’s ambassador to the United Nations made a similar statement last week.

Holocaust Hideout in Warsaw Destroyed by Polish Couple

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

A Polish couple pleaded guilty to the desecration of a historic site for destroying a Holocaust-era Jewish hideout in the Warsaw apartment the couple was renting. The hideout was made into an official historic monument in 1999.

A Holocaust hideout built by a Warsaw ghetto inmate was destroyed by a polish couple who pleaded guilty to the desecration of historical property.

Dariusz P. and Elzbieta P. were indicted after their actions were discovered in 2012. They had removed the wardrobe hideout to make space for a kitchen. The original hiding place was built by Warsaw ghetto inmate Leon Jolson.

He and his wife, who survived the Holocaust, hid their family there from 1942 until September 1944, but his mother died while in hiding, the Associated Press reported.

Did the Chinese Communists Really Save Jews Fleeing the Holocaust?

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

During his visit to China last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recalled that the city of Shanghai was “one of the few places that opened its gates” to Jews fleeing Hitler. Officials of the Chinese Communist government, standing nearby, beamed with pleasure at the expectation that people all over the world would read how their regime rescued Jews.

But is it true?

As the prime minister noted, the port city of Shanghai was a haven for many European Jewish refugees during the Hitler years, at a time when most other countries, including the United States, closed their doors to all but a fortunate few. It is important to note that much of China was under Japanese military occupation from 1931 until 1945, and immigration to Shanghai was controlled by the Japanese government, not the Chinese. The Japanese, hoping to improve their relations with the U.S. and the American Jewish community, permitted about 20,000 German and Austrian Jews to settle in Shanghai during the 1930s.

This immigration was made possible in part by false documents given to Jews by the Dutch consul in Lithuania, Jan Zwartendijk, and by transit visas to Japan provided, without official sanction, by Japan’s acting consul-general in Lithuania, Sugihara Chiune. Officially the visas were good for only eight to 12 days, but the Japanese authorities allowed the refugees to remain in Japan for up to eight months until they found other destinations. Many went to Shanghai, including 500 rabbis and students (and their families) from the famous Mir Yeshiva.

Beginning in 1943, most of the Jews in Shanghai were confined to a two-square-mile section of the city known as the Restricted Area. Conditions were harsh but certainly not comparable to what Jews suffered in Europe. These Jews were saved from the Holocaust because of Japan’s – not China’s – policies.

There were several individual Chinese citizens who came to the aid of the Jews during the Holocaust. But they were nationalists, not Communists; they were associated with the anti-Communist forces led by Chang Kai-Shek, who later lost the Chinese civil war and fled to Taiwan in 1949.

One was Dr. Li Yu Ying, a prominent scholar and president of Soochow University. While living in the United States in the 1940s, he served as one of the co-chairmen of the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe (better known as the Bergson Group), an activist movement that held rallies, lobbied in Washington, and sponsored hundreds of full-page newspaper advertisements promoting rescue of Jews from the Nazis. Dr. Ying had previously served the Chang Kai-Shek government in several capacities, including as China’s representative to League of Nations meetings.

Two other Chinese citizens have been honored by Yad Vashem for assisting Jews during the Nazi era. One was Pan-Jun-Shun, who moved from China to Russia in 1916 (more than thirty years before the Communists took over in China). He was living in the city of Kharkov, in the Soviet Ukraine, when the Germans invaded in 1941. Pan saved a Jewish girl named Ludmilla Genrichovna from the Nazi round-ups by hiding her in his home.

The other Chinese rescuer was Dr. Feng Shan Ho, who served as China’s consul-general in Vienna from 1938 to 1940. He issued unauthorized visas to Jews trying to escape Nazi-controlled Austria, enabling them to reach the safety of Shanghai. Dr. Ho represented the Chang Kai-Shek government. And after the nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949, he served as Taiwan’s ambassador to Egypt, Mexico, and other countries.

When Dr. Ho was posthumously honored by Yad Vashem in 2001, the Communist Chinese ambassador attended the ceremony – and insisted that the ambassador from Taiwan be excluded. The Beijing government-controlled press gave prominent coverage to the honoring of Ho, whom it identified as “a Chinese diplomat,” erroneously implying that he was associated with the Beijing regime.

It is not hard to understand why Beijing’s rulers would falsely seek to take credit for what the Chinese nationalists and the Japanese did to help the Jews. Xu Kuangdi, an official of a government agency called the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, explained after visiting the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum last fall, “The spreading of this story plays an active role in promoting the understanding and friendship between the Chinese and people from all over the world.”

France and the Jews

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Many readers have probably seen the film “Sarah’s Key,” a powerful 2010 movie that reminds its viewers of overwhelming French collaboration with the Nazis. Even today it seems widely believed that France carried on more or less heroically under the German occupation, and that the 1942 roundups of Jews in occupied France must have been carried out by the SS or Gestapo directly. In fact, however, as “Sarah’s Key” instructs in understated yet utterly hideous detail, these roundups were executed, more or less enthusiastically, by the regular French police.

What is even less well known is that France, after the war, only rarely prosecuted Nazi war criminals for crimes committed during the occupation, and that these prosecutions often dishonored the Jewish victims – victims of the insidious French collaboration in deportation and mass murder – as much as of France’s wartime German masters. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the French trial of Klaus Barbie, the notorious “Butcher of Lyons.” The Barbie trial took place between May 11 and July 4 1987.

Though found guilty and sentenced to life in prison (there was no death penalty in France), Barbie succeeded, with undisguised prosecutorial complicity, in blurring the Nuremberg-based charge of “crimes against humanity.” This distortion continues to defile the very memory of justice.

Believing that crimes of war have a statute of limitations, and that crimes against humanity contain no such statute, the French authorities decided to indict Barbie only on the latter charge. This was a big mistake, however, and their elementary factual error led them to treat all of the defendant’s cruelties – deportation-related crimes, and crimes against the Resistance – as qualitatively indistinguishable. According to the authoritative Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity: “…there is no period of limitation for War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity.”

There is an irreducible specificity to crimes against humanity; hence, France’s fusion of such crimes with crimes of war had the effect of diminishing the terribly unique fate of French Jews during the Holocaust. After the war, France received survivors and victims of the Resistance as heroes, but generally tried to ignore those who had been known simply as the “racially deported.” These were the ones in “zebra” clothes, the Jews.

This stark dichotomy had substantial consequences. Indeed, on November 11, 1945, Jewish victims were excluded from the mortal remains symbolically reunited around the flame of the Unknown Soldier. It was not until 1954 that a national day was even declared to memorialize “The Deportation.”

An implicit hierarchy of pertinent criminality arose in post-war France, one that elevated the victims of war crimes, i.e., the Resistance, to substantially higher status than that accorded to victims of crimes against humanity. In this vaguely obscene competition of memories, the Barbie trial reinvigorated the hierarchy. Because the French prosecutor believed, erroneously, that crimes of war were bounded by a statute of limitations while crimes against humanity were not so constrained, the magistrate in charge retained only the crimes inflicted upon the Jews.

As for Nazi actions against the fighters of the Resistance, against France’s “authentic heroes,” these were declared off limits to criminal prosecution. Never mind that in 1943, in German-occupied Poland, a tiny handful of beleaguered Jews had held off the extinction of the Warsaw Ghetto, and for an even longer period of time than it had taken France to surrender its entire armies.

First, the grand jury in Lyons confirmed the magistrate’s opinion. But when certain Resistance organizations objected strenuously, the criminal court of appeals, on December 20, 1985, accepted an interpretation of crimes against humanity that was less restrictive. This interpretation, it was agreed, would include crimes committed against the Resistance.

Thereafter, the French definition of crimes against humanity included “inhuman acts and persecutions that, in the name of a state practicing a politics of ideological hegemony, have been committed in a systematic way not only against people by reason of their belonging to a racial or religious group, but also against the opponents of this political system, whatever the form of their opposition.”

This greatly expanded definition of crimes against humanity was very troubling. The French authorities could have avoided blurring the lines between crimes of war and crimes against humanity by recognizing that both penal categories had been unaffected by those statutory limitations pertinent under international law. Failing such recognition, however, they came to sully the memory of the deported French Jews, and trivialized the indisputably core meanings of “humanity.”

Texas Official Cites Jewish Chaplain’s WW II Dedication

Monday, May 27th, 2013

A Texas state official spoke at a Memorial Day service and quoted a Jewish chaplain’s dedication of a temporary cemetery on Iwo Jima in World War II.

Jerry Patterson, the state’s Land Commissioner and candidate for Lieutenant Governor, said that whenever he speaks at a Memorial Day service, he quotes Lt. Roland B Gittlesohn, a Jewish chaplain who spokes on March 21, 1945 at the dedication of a temporary cemetery on the island of Iwo Jima for Marine and Navy personnel killed during that battle.

“Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors generations ago helped in her founding and other men who loved her with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores,” the chaplain was quoted as saying.

“Here lie officers and men, blacks and whites, rich men and poor — together. Here are Protestants, Catholics and Jews — together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color. Here there are no quotas of how many are allowed. Among these men there is no discrimination.

“No prejudices. No hatred.

“Theirs is the highest and purest democracy.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/texas-official-cites-jewish-chaplains-ww-ii-dedication/2013/05/27/

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