Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Legacy of Jewish Continuity

Each year, just prior to Hanukkah, Yehuda Mansbach arrives at the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem to take a nostalgic piece of history back home with him for the eight days of the Festival of Lights. Yehuda brings his grandfather’s Hanukkah menorah home to his son, who was named for his great-grandfather, Rabbi Akiva Baruch Posner, the last rabbi of the Jewish Community of Kiel, Germany. The family uses this special menorah during family celebrations of Hanukkah - a testimony to the continuity of Jewish life - and after the holiday returns it to its place of honor where it is on display at Yad Vashem.

Yehuda Mansbach [left] receives the Hanukka menorah from Michael Tal, [right] an artifacts curator at Yad Vashem.

The Hanukkiyah was photographed in the family’s window in Kiel in 1931, by the Rabbi’s wife, Rachel (nee Wirtzburg) Mansbach. On the back of the photo, she wrote in German,

“Hanukkah 5692,
‘Judea Dies,’ thus saith the banner.
‘Judea will live forever,’ thus responds the light.”

The Hanukkiyah was donated to Yad Vashem by the Posner family estate, courtesy of Shulamit (Posner) Mansbach, Haifa, Israel and is on display in the Holocaust History Museum.

The Hanukkah menorah is one of thousands of items contained in Yad Vashem's artifacts collection. The professional staff of Yad Vashem ensures that the items are properly preserved and maintained. Yad Vashem urges the public that may have artifacts and documents from the Holocaust to give them to Yad Vashem for preservation and safekeeping. (Contact: +972-2-644-3703, collect@yadvashem.org.il)

Hanukkah menorah from the home of Rabbi Akiva Baruch Posner, the last rabbi of the Jewish Community of Kiel, Germany, photographed by his wife Rachel (nee Wirtzburg) during Hanukkah 1931.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New "Righteous Among the Nations" High School in Lodz

Richelle Budd-Caplan, Director, European Desk of the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem

Tomasz Klos, principal of the lyceum of the University of Lodz, is a trail blazer. Although an expert in the field of law, he opted to channel his energies to found a new high school in an effort to invest in the shaping of young minds, the leaders of tomorrow.

On September 1, 2011, this new high school named in honor of the Righteous among the Nations, will officially open in a building that once was a textile factory owned by a Jewish family. Graduate students at the University of Lodz who are specializing in the humanities, including Jewish studies, will be connected with the high school students in the hope to deepen their appreciation of prewar Lodz.

pictured: Dorit Novak, Director of the International School for Holocaust Studies, and Tomasz Klos

This week, he visited Yad Vashem for meetings with experts in Holocaust education at the International School for Holocaust Studies, and extensive tour of the campus. He received a certifcate welcoming the intent of the new Righteous Among the Nations High School to engage in meaningful Holocaust education.

Huge New Holocaust Research Project Launched in Europe

A huge and important new archives and research project was launched yesterday by the EU in Brussels. The European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI) is to date the most important European research project about Holocaust documentation.

Avner Shalev, the Chairman of Yad Vashem noted that, “The establishment of EHRI is especially important as different historical narratives are competing in Europe. Through EHRI Europe is stating its understanding that the Holocaust has unique standing in the joint European historical narrative.”

Lead by the Dutch organization NIOD (The Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam), EHRI is a project of the European Union that will be a source of information for researchers and educators around the world. Yad Vashem has been active in this project since its inception, and is playing a leading role in the various sub-projects that make up EHRI. Working projects will focus on creating a shared thesaurus of 5,000 keywords to allow unified searches across collections that contain millions of documents in numerous languages, encouraging research by creating a network among experts in various Holocaust-related fields through forums to explore cooperation in names recovery, Holocaust art, identifying photos from the Holocaust period and more. Other aspects of the project will deal with information technologies, access and scholarships for researchers to study at Yad Vashem and at other archives.

With 20 partner organizations, from 13 European countries including Israel, the 4-year, 7 million euro project, is a part of the EU’s research program FP7, in which Israel is a partner.

Here's a piece from the Jerusalem Post about yesterday's launch: Europe launches new Shoah project in Brussels

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dozens of Children Saved by one Family Give Group Testimony at Yad Vashem

Children Saved Thanks to Single Family Visit Yad Vashem

From Ynet.com, by Zvi Singer

Dozens of children saved during the Holocaust thanks to one family's efforts came to Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority to give testimony on Monday, Yedioth Ahronoth reported. Yad Vashem takes testimonies from groups only in special cases; usually testimonies are collected on a one-to-one basis – but this is a special case.

Esther Reiss, 72, nee Musel, was seven-years-old when the Second World War came to an end. She arrived at Yad Vashem with her three children and three grandchildren. They all wore T-shirts printed with the picture of Esther when she was a child in the orphanage of the family which rescued her – the Birenbaum family. "My parents didn't survive the Holocaust, but I survived, and it's clear that it was because of the Birenbaum family," Esther said Monday. "That family saved hundreds of children… Hundreds came to Treblinka and Yehoshua Birenbaum simply took them into the camp's children's house. That's how he saved them."

Among others, Heni Birenbaum saved 50 children who were to be sent from the concentration camp to the death camp. She told the camp commander that the children were not Jewish because they had been born to German soldiers and Jewish mothers. She even gave him a list of names coordinated with the Dutch underground. The commander approved the list, but the children were later sent to Theresienstadt. Those who survived were known as the "unknown children" because their Jewish past was blurred and they were given Christian identities.

Yehoshua and Heni Birenbaum lived in Berlin and were married in 1927. After Kristallnacht in 1938 they fled to the Netherlands. When the Nazis occupied the country, they were sent to the concentration camp where they were given the task of looking after the orphans.
After the war they set up an orphanage in Amsterdam, which moved to a villa in a smaller town in 1946. The orphanage became a center for Zionist activities: The children learned Hebrew and later came to Israel with Aliyat Hano'ar (the youth aliyah.)

The Birenbaum's eldest daughter, now 82, also came Monday to Yad Vashem and was deeply moved to see the children saved by her parents.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Few remain from Nazi camp Treblinka

Read an interesting article about survivors from Treblinka that appeared today. You can view Eliahu Rosenberg's testimony, a survivor from Treblinka mentioned in the article, who recently passed away, on Yad Vashem's Youtube Channel. The testimony is also on display in the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem.