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Posts Tagged ‘Yad Vashem’

Google Cultural Institute Presents Jewish Content in 1st Exhibits

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Google introduced a new online historical collection of digitized material, highlighting several Jewish themes, events and institutional partners in its first wave of exhibits.

At least 13 of the Google Cultural Institute’s inaugural collection of 42 featured exhibits consist of materials from the Anne Frank House, the Polish History Museum, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Foundation France Israel and Yad Vashem.

Highlighted exhibits announced Wednesday include the testimony of Jan Karski, the World War II Polish resistance hero who tried to convince Allied leaders of the horrors of the Holocaust; as well as the saga of Edek Galinski & Mala Zimetbaum, the couple who unsuccessfully attempted to escape Auschwitz.

Visitors to Google’s new online multimedia museum can also see the last known photograph taken of Anne Frank, and browse featured historical events that include the Nuremberg Trials, the 1948 Arab-Israel War and the 1958 bombing of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation in Atlanta.

The new resource comes one year after Google published the Dead Sea Scrolls online, the result of a partnership with the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Holocaust Then And Now

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

One of my searing early memories from Israel is a visit nearly four decades ago to the Ghetto Fighters Museum in the Beit Lohamei Hagetaot kibbutz. The world’s first Holocaust museum, it was built soon after the Independence War by survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

Despite its posted visiting hours the museum was closed when I arrived. Not yet socialized to Israeli indifference to the yekke virtue of promptness on which I had been raised, I politely knocked on the door. Then I knocked more loudly, and insistently. After a few moments of mounting frustration, I pounded assertively. Finally, a janitor appeared and beckoned me inside.

Directly ahead was a display case with a single tiny pair of child’s shoes. It was hard to imagine a more poignant remnant from the brutally destroyed Warsaw community. Its brave leaders, young men and women in their twenties, had chosen to resist the Nazi onslaught rather than die in gas chambers.

Their desperate but doomed rebellion erupted on April 19, 1943, the eve of Passover. Three weeks later, Szmul Zygielbojm, a member of the Polish government in exile in London, wrote: “I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being murdered. . . . I wish to give expression to my most profound protest against the inaction in which the world watches and permits the destruction of the Jewish people.” Then he committed suicide.

On May 16, after nearly 50,000 Jews were rounded up for deportation to death camps and 13,000 heroic fighters had been relentlessly hunted down and murdered, Nazi commander Jürgen Stroop triumphantly declared: “The Jewish Quarter of Warsaw is no longer in existence.”

Thirty-four surviving fighters escaped through the sewers, among them Zivia Lubetkin, one of the underground leaders of the uprising. After the war, she married Yitzhak Zuckerman, who had commanded the ZOB resistance organization in Warsaw. They were among the founders of kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot, built on memories of Jewish annihilation.

I visited the ghetto museum to pay homage to the 7-year-old Jewish boy from Warsaw, exactly my age at the time, whose iconic photograph was indelibly imprinted in my memory. Standing among a group of Jews “forcibly pulled out of dug-outs,” according to the photo caption from Stroop’s report, his arms were raised in surrender, bracketing his terror-stricken face. Wearing a cap, coat and knee socks, he was properly dressed for his final journey, surely to Treblinka.

As I completed my visit, the janitor approached and had me follow him downstairs. There, in her office, I met Zivia Lubetkin, about whom I knew nothing at the time. She brusquely asked about my background, my reasons for coming to Israel, and my response to the exhibits.

When I mentioned the shoes, her eyes blazed. I was, she sharply reminded me, old enough to remember the Holocaust. I was a Jew. I might have been among those children. With children of my own, she asked pointedly, how could I justify my decision to raise them in galut? I had no answers. I remained silent.

These memories were recently revived while reading Edward Rothstein’s “An Evolving Holocaust Message” in the International Herald Tribune (September 7). The message that Rothstein perceptively illuminated is that Israeli Holocaust museums – most conspicuously Lohamei HaGetaot – have decided to emphasize the “universal lessons” of the annihilation of six million Jews. “Indifference to the suffering of others,” not merely to Jews, must be confronted. The museum director mentioned plans to expand its mission to encourage “tolerance” between Jews and Arabs.

At kibbutz Yad Mordechai, which commemorates the courage of Warsaw Ghetto uprising leader Mordechai Anielewicz, the museum director concurs. She wants it to shift focus from “racism and xenophobia” to “peaceful coexistence” (as though future Nazis and their emulators can be taught by a museum visit to be civilized).

With this shift, Rothstein notes, Israeli Holocaust museums – with the conspicuous exception of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem – are emulating the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. It has become the model for universalizing the Holocaust, while underscoring the fashionable message of multicultural tolerance that its sponsors wish to convey.

That Israeli Holocaust museums should emulate their Diaspora counterpart reveals something profoundly dismaying about contemporary culture in the Jewish state. The Nazis targeted Jews for annihilation; now Israel confronts Muslim nations that are determined to destroy it. Yet despite eighty years of unrelenting Judeophobia, including the slaughter of six million European Jews and the expulsion of 700,000 Mizrahi Jews from their Middle Eastern homes, Holocaust museums are focusing on the necessity to be nice to neighbors rather than underscore the appalling consequences of hating Jews.

Hate Graffiti Accusing Zionism of Causing the Holocaust Discovered on Yad Vashem Walls

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Early Monday morning, ten pieces of hate graffiti in Hebrew were discovered in the open campus of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, a prominent segment of it scrawled across the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto Square monument.

“This is a difficult and painful day for me and the staff of Yad Vashem,” said Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem. “I am shocked and stunned by this callous expression of burning hatred against Zionists and Zionism.”

This is a worrying act that crosses a red line and is an offense to the memory of the Holocaust,” Shalev added. “I have reported it to the Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar, who also expressed his bewilderment. I also spoke to Yad Vashem Council Chairman Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, who joined me in expressing his concern over this grave deed.”

The particularly disturbing slurs included poisonous attacks on Zionism. The main motif was that Zionism caused the Holocaust, for example:

“The Zionists wanted the Holocaust!”

“Persecuting Jews! You declared war on Hitler in the name of the Jewish people. You brought about the Shoah!”

“If Hitler hadn’t existed, the Zionists would have invented him.”

Police are investigating.

Bill Cosby & the Holocaust

Monday, May 21st, 2012

http://notajew-jew.com/?p=88

The Holocaust happened 25 years before I was born.  25 years before now is 1987.

The #1 television show 25 years ago was The Cosby Show.  That’s how fresh the Holocaust was in my mind growing up.  Fresher than The Cosby Show is to you.  Or Family Ties.  Or Beverly Hills Cop 2.  Imagine the entire Holocaust happening between the release of Beverly Hills Cop 1 and Beverly Hills Cop 2 – that’s how fresh the Holocaust was in the world in which I grew up.

Back then, we had maybe a dozen channels on TV.  And still, at almost every hour of every day, there was something on at least one of those channels about the horrors of the Holocaust or the evil of Adolph Hitler.

When I went to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Memorial) in Jerusalem, my young guide prepared me for what I was about to see on the screens: the horrific images of dead Jews being bulldozed into pits.  He looked at me like he was expecting me to break down in tears or recoil in shock, which was apparently what all of his other clients did.  But I had seen those images a thousand times before on our handful of TV channels.  They helped form my earliest view of the world, and my earliest understanding of evil.  But these images were apparently not familiar to anyone else my guide had taken through Yad Vashem.  I didn’t cry.  I didn’t recoil.  I just stiffened my spine with yet another reason to make the bad people pay for their evil (reason #487: the room full of shoes at the Holocaust Museum).

Today, there are 1,000 channels on TV and almost nothing on any of them about Hitler or the Holocaust.  Even the History Channel has largely foregone Hitler and the Holocaust for “Pawn Stars,” “Cajun Pawn Stars” and “American Picker.”  American college students today are now 67 years removed from the horrors of six million Jews being starved, experimented on, gassed, and cremated – with only their shoes left behind as evidence that these Jewish human beings lived, loved, suffered, and died.

And when college kids today turn on the TV, they only have a 1 in 1,000 chance of landing on a channel that would even consider airing something that would teach them about Nazis – and even on that 1 channel there’s an 80% chance that it will be airing “Ice Road Truckers” instead of teaching this generation about the true nature of evil.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not some old guy, sitting on a porch, barking about “these kids nowadays.”  I am young enough to have been a hip-hop DJ at one point, and to produce a dance music record that charted above Puff Daddy (in Belgium) (no lie) (more on that later).  And yet my birthday was closer to the 1800’s than today’s college kids’ birthdays are to the Holocaust.

“Never forget” means remembering.  So this is my friendly reminder.

Thousands of Israeli Students Mark Memorial Day at Yad Vashem

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Jerusalem – Thousands of high school students from across Israel participated in a national walk on Sunday, April 22, from Yad Vashem on the “Connecting Path” to Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery, organized by Israel’s Ministry of Education. The students took part in a special school project to commemorate the nation’s Holocaust Day, which took place last Thursday, and its connection to Israel’s Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror, which falls on Wednesday.

During the walk, the students stopped at different stations along the way, learning about the Jewish people’s struggle for survival during the Holocaust and recalling entire Jewish communities wiped out by the systematic state murder of Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler and his collaborators across Europe. The names of the 5,000 Jewish communities that were destroyed or barely survived the Holocaust are engraved on 107 stone walls known as the “Valley of Communities” at Yad Vashem. As the high school students passed through, there were many who looked for the names of cities and towns of grandparents had come from.

“I found the name of my grandfather’s town in Poland,” said Udi Knebel, an eighth grade student at Leyada High School, whose grandfather is a Holocaust survivor.

“From the Holocaust to Revival” was the theme of the day. Along the path to Mount Herzl, the burial site of some of the Jewish people’s most well-known leaders and fighters who sought to shape an independent Jewish state, students passed by an original German cattle car given by Polish authorities that was used to transport Jews to extermination camps. The students also learned about the hollow tree trunk that that provided shelter for Jakob Silberstein when the Nazis were searching for him in the home of Jana Sudova, which he had escaped to during a death march from Auschwitz to Czechoslovakia in January 1945.  Silberstein located the tree trunk many years later and had it brought to Yad Vashem five years ago where it is now on display.

The connection between the Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israel’s Memorial Day For Fallen Soldiers was brought to light by the concluding ceremony held at Yad Vashem’s memorial site for Holocaust survivors who fought and fell during Israel’s 1948 Independence Day War. High school student representatives laid a wreath of flowers at the sight which was built to commemorate all those who were the last and surviving members of families killed in the Holocaust, who came to Israel and died battling Israel’s first war as a young state.

“These people gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said 18-year old Noi, about to enter the army and one of the guides giving tours to the students on Sunday. “We are here today thanks in part to those Holocaust survivors who fought to make this Jewish state happen,” he explained to the students. “They were never able to establish their own homes here in Israel, but they helped create a national home for our people. We must never forget them, nor their suffering or their faith in a dream that seemed impossible.”

 

Israel Remembers the Holocaust

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

As air raid sirens blared out across the country on Thursday, citizens of Israel stopped for a moment of silence to remember the victims of the Holocaust.

Synchronized sirens rang out at 10am throughout Israel, with pedestrian and road traffic, businesses and schools coming to an abrupt halt, and standing in silence for the 2 minute-long memorial.  In Jerusalem, sidewalks were filled with all kinds of Israelis, many reciting Psalms from prayer books quickly drawn from their pockets.  Memorial ceremonies conducted throughout Israel for the occasion also ceased for the siren.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that dismissing the Iranian nuclear threat as an exaggeration “have learned nothing from the Holocaust.”

Speaking at the national Holocaust Rememberance Day memorial at the Warsaw Ghetto Square in Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Prime Minister Netanyahu called thwarting Iran’s nuclear capability an “obligation” on the world, but especially on Israel.  “Remembering the Holocaust is imperative for learning the lessons of the past in order to ensure the foundations of the future,” the prime minister said. “I hope the day comes when we learn of calls for Israel’s annihilation in history classes only, and not in daily media reports. But that day is not here yet. The Iranian regime is openly calling for our destruction and working frantically for the development of nuclear weapons as a means to that end.”

President Shimon Peres, also speaking at the ceremony, said Israel is capable today of dealing with Iranian threats, and appealed to the world not to repeat the mistakes of the past.   “Humankind has no choice but to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and face existing threats, before it is too late,” he said.

The ceremony, held under the theme “My Brother’s Keeper”, emphasized Jewish solidarity during the Holocaust, and honored six survivors who provided aid to fellow Jews during the Holocaust.  Hundreds of additional Holocaust survivors were in attendance.

IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz told attendees at the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak on Wednesday night that the IDF is “the embodiment of the strength of the Jewish nation”, and that “we are the arm of steel that will respond to any attempt to hurt us with a harsh blow.  We are the people’s wall of protection.”

Throughout Thursday, a Knesset ceremony called “Every Person Has a Name” will read out a list of the names of Holocaust victims.  Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres will participate in the event.

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/the-yellow-star/2012/04/18/

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