Thursday, December 29, 2011
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Thursday, December 8, 2011
On December 8, 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – (is) a date which will live in infamy.” Of course he was talking about the Japanese surprise attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor, the attack that catapulted the United States into the Second World War 70 years ago.
Catapulted is right, because beforehand, the clear majority of Americans did not want to see their husbands, fathers and sons embroiled in another war on a distant continent. Only after war reached America’s farthest shore, did American begin a concerted effort to fight not only the Japanese, but the Nazis and their European partners, as well.
As momentous as the attack on Pearl Harbor was, December 7, 1941 was also the date of another event of no less consequence for mankind. The first transports set out for the first extermination camp, Chelmno, which began its murderous operations the following day, December 8.
Over the course of the next three-and- a-half years, the Nazis would murder some three million Jews in a handful of extermination camps, most infamous among them Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Another three million Jews were murdered in a wide variety of venues, first and foremost in the killing fields of Eastern Europe by shooting – a process that had actually begun several months before Chelmno went into operation. December 7, however, marks the start of the unprecedented industrialized mass murder of innocent human beings at a complex designed solely for that purpose.
The American entry into the war, as students of history and political science know, is really the beginning of America embracing its role as a great world power. It is true that Nazi Germany was defeated primarily on the ground by Soviet forces in a long, drawn out and extremely deadly war. Indeed in retrospect, it may be argued that the downfall of Nazi Germany was already sealed when the German military failed to defeat the Soviet Union decisively before the onset of the Russian winter in 1941. Germany simply did not have the wherewithal for a long protracted war, especially in the face of Russian winters.
Nevertheless, America's role in the defeat of Nazi Germany was crucial. To a very large degree, it was American supplies that allowed the Soviets to fight for four long years, and certainly after the D-Day invasion of June 1944, the American fighting man made a considerable contribution to the fall of Nazi Germany. The reluctant entry of the Americans into the war on December 7, 1941, to say the least, greatly hastened the destruction of Hitler’s regime.
Significantly, another outcome of the attack at Pearl Harbor was the dawn of the age of nuclear weapons. The first nuclear weapon was not deployed against Nazi Germany, rather the Americans deployed it against Japan in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after Hitler’s regime had already crumbled.
The use of the most devastating weapon in history brought about a swift end to the other half of the bloodiest conflict ever, the war in the Pacific. In its wake, the world now would face issues of nuclear arms proliferation and escalation, nuclear arms deterrence, and still true today, the very real fear that such weapons in the wrong hands could wreak new and unimaginable destruction.
In the immediate postwar period, American power, bolstered with nuclear might, gained additional ground. Whereas Europe was devastated by the fighting America was strengthened, overcoming the Great Depressionand coming out of the war with vastly increased industrial capabilities.
While Europe embarked on a painful process of recovery after 1945 (made easier by American aid) America embarked on an extraordinary period of prosperity.
So December 7, 1941 lives in infamy for the surprise attack of the Japanese on the United States, but it also marks as a watershed event in modern history.
The start of systematic industrialized mass murder in Chelmno is less well known, but has no less importance for mankind. In the Chelmno extermination camp the Nazis murdered over 150,000 people, almost all of them Jews. The murder method was asphyxiation in gas vans – group after group, after group.
As is now well known, before being murdered in the extermination camps, Jews were shorn of their hair, fleeced of their valuables and robbed of their clothing and any other possessions they had brought with them. None of this material was meant to go to waste, and much of its found its way back into Nazi Germany where many ordinary citizens benefited from it.
The idea that in the name of an ideology a regime could plan and carry out the despoliation and murder of an entire people, using the most modern means available and doing so in a “rational,” “dispassionate” way, continues to reverberate profoundly.
The murder of the Jews, and especially the use of modern means to do so, may well mark the beginning of a retreat (now well advanced) from the notion that technological progress is always by definition for the greater good. It certainly underscores the idea that advances in science and technology should not occur in a moral vacuum.
Especially when technological know-how outstrips our ability to understand its implications or when people willfully ignore those implications, the door to nefarious acts and even radical evil opens.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the advent of murder in the first extermination camp, Chelmno, are historical signposts that need to be marked and remembered. The first for its great impact on the course of human affairs and role in the ultimate defeat of the consummate evil embodied by the Nazis, and the latter as a ghastly warning of what can happen when technologically advanced barbarians, imbued with an ideology of hate, have the unfettered freedom to act.
After 70 years, the significance and caveat of December 7 remain as compelling as ever.
The writer is director of the Yad Vashem Libraries, author of Approaching the Holocaust, Texts and Contexts, (Vallentine Mitchell, 2005). His study on Hungarian Jewish Forced Laborers on the Eastern Front will soon be published by Yad Vashem and University of Nebraska Press.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011
For five long years during World War II, Nahum Korenblum never left the side of his younger brother Yaakov as the two fled the Nazi invasion of Poland, escaped forced labor camps across Europe and ultimately joined the Soviet Red Army. There, they were separated and dispatched abroad, never to meet again.
On Thursday, more than a decade after they died, their children were united at Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial thanks to a recently uploaded family photo discovered on its comprehensive online database of Holocaust victims.
It was just the latest successful byproduct of the memorial's database, established years ago as a means of commemoration aimed at gathering the exact names of all the 6 million Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide. But since the database went online in 2004, it has become a powerful genealogy tool that has led to hundreds of emotional reunions of long lost families.
In 1958, shortly after Yaakov moved to Israel, he and his wife filled out a page of testimony at Yad Vashem commemorating his dead parents. Nahum had meanwhile settled in Ukraine, where his surname was mangled into Koramblyum. For the rest of their lives, the brothers searched for each other in vain, the paper trail often coming to a dead end because of the differing spellings of their names.
In 2006, Yaakov's daughter, Bracha Fleishman-Korenblum, updated the online entry, attaching an old black-and-white photo of her grandparents and four of their children – including Nahum and Yaakov.
Two months ago, one of Nahum's American grandchildren stumbled upon the entry and was shocked to recognize his grandfather in the picture. He reached out to the Korenblum clan in Israel and a reunion was put into motion.
This week, Gennadiy Koramblyum, of Queens, New York, and his son, who is named after Yaakov, arrived in Israel for the wedding of one of their newly discovered relatives.
"It was joy, I cried, I didn't sleep for two nights," Gennadiy Koramblyum said. "Since I was a little boy, I remember my father told me 'I have another brother, he is somewhere.' He said 'I always held him in my hands, I never let anyone separate us.'"
Koramblyum's father moved with the family to the United States in 1991 and he died there in 1997. Yaakov passed away in Israel four years later.
"I am sure they are happy now upstairs seeing us all here together," Koramblyum said, shaking. "This means everything to me."
His Israeli cousin shared that sentiment, saying the children's' joy was mixed with sorrow that their fathers never managed to reunite.
"It's sad, but they meet in heaven," said Rafael Korenblum, who bears a striking resemblance to his late father Yaakov. "A circle has been closed. There was something unresolved all these years, it lingered and now there is closure."
Cynthia Wroclawski, the manager of Yad Vashem's name recovery project, said such breakthroughs are being made possible by the increased openness of aging survivors and the curiosity and tech-savvy of their descendants.
"The lock is being opened by the younger generation. They have more intuition and more interest," she said. "That's the power of the database, the torch of memory is being passed."
The project began in 1955 and had reached 3 million confirmed names by the time the online database was launched. More than a million more names have been added in the seven years since.
Efforts are continuing, primarily in eastern Europe, where name collection is particularly difficult because Jews there were often rounded up, shot and dumped in mass graves without any documentation. The names of Jews killed at German death camps, on the other hand, are easier to collect because of meticulous Nazi records.
The information can be accessed online in English, Hebrew and Russian. Yad Vashem actively encourages survivors and their kin to come forth and fill out pages of testimony for those killed, before their names and stories are lost forever.
"We are not giving up, there is still much more to do," Wroclawski said. "For these families, you see the rift of the Holocaust is getting smaller and that some kind of healing process is taking place."
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
When Yad Vashem made its Central Database of Holocaust Victims' Names available to the public on the Internet in 2004, it provided a treasure chest of information to all those researching their families who disappeared in the Holocaust. Many families had been spilt by immigration during the 19th and 20th centuries with siblings immigrating to different continents and in some cases part of the family staying behind in Europe. The Holocaust severed all contact with those members of the family that remained in Europe and the new generations did not know them or of them.
The initial 800,000 Pages of Testimony in the Database were filled out in the late 1950’s. Great efforts were made on the part of Yad Vashem to reach out to the survivors of the Holocaust in Israel and those members of the families who had made aliyah before World War II. The Pages were designed as a memorial for victims of the Shoah, but they incidentally provided a source of genealogical information. But at that time in Israel few people had telephones, many immigrants lived in immigrant housing, and the Pages of Testimony were not necessarily filled out with all available information. These three factors made finding the person who filled out the Page a nearly impossible mission.
Being involved in genealogical research, I volunteered to answer requests about forms filled out by people in Israel. During the database's first three years online, I received over 1,000 requests by e-mail. The ratio of success of finding the person that filled out the Page was 1:4. Not bad considering most of the forms were filled out more than fifty years ago. What enabled those that were lucky to connect to members of their families? Uncommon family names that were not changed to a modern name; living in a small community where the home was passed on to the descendants; and sometimes even just a family name being the name of someone I knew personally. At times I suggested that information about deceased submitters of Pages of Testimony could be found from the Hevra Kadishas (Jewish Burial Societies). Several had online websites, and information could be found about who arranged a burial – another source of discovering family connections.
The excitement of receiving letters telling of family reunions, even if it was of second, third and fourth cousins was reward enough for the time I volunteered. I personally found my paternal grandmother’s family, who didn’t know that a branch of the family had left the Ukraine in the 1920s and made aliyah to Israel. With the ongoing expansion of this Database to include additional sources and joint projects with the archives in Eastern Europe, it will continue to be a useful resource for genealogical researchers.
Rose Feldman is at: http://twitter.com/JewDataGenGirl where you can keep up to date on archives, databases and genealogy in general and Jewish and Israeli roots in particular.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
On September 8, 2011, a unique concert featuring the stirring words of Holocaust survivors, performed by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra - IBA, soloists and choirs from Israel and the United States, and conducted by Gil Shohat took place at Yad Vashem.
Created by composer Dr. Lawrence Siegel and named for the Jewish prayer for the dead, Kaddish - I am Here conveys the stories of Holocaust survivors in their own words, in their own languages, providing a window into their experiences. One of the key movements is a litany of thousands of names of Holocaust victims.
The September concert at Yad Vashem’s Warsaw Ghetto Square is part of Yad Vashem’s ongoing activities to commemorate the Holocaust through the arts.
Monday, August 22, 2011
With these words Magdalena Wojciechowska of Lodz, Poland handed a simple necklace to Michael Tal, an artifacts curator in Yad Vashem’s Museum Division. The necklace had been in Magdalena’s grandmother’s possession for over 60 years; but she always wanted to return it to its rightful owners.
The necklace was given to Magdalena Wojciechowska’s grandmother, Julia Podwarska-Nyderek by an anonymous prisoner of Auschwitz. Wojciechowska’s grandmother lived outside of the camp’s gates, and would regularly leave food for prisoners who worked outside the camp, in pots she would hide in the bushes. One day, she found a jeweled necklace in one of the empty pots, left as a gesture of gratitude by one of the prisoners.
Magdalena Wojciechowska spoke movingly about the necklace and her decision to give it back to the Jewish people:
“Noach Flug, a tireless advocate for the rights of Holocaust survivors, died in Jerusalem two weeks ago. Reading his memoirs, I found the sentence: 'We saw
people going to work. So we cried out: Give us water, give us bread!'
GIVE US WATER, GIVE US BREAD - that was all my grandmother wanted to do, to feed those poor hungry souls she saw passing by her every morning and night. Noach Flug was a prisoner of Auschwitz, and for all we know, maybe he was one of those souls, or even knew one of those who left the necklace for my grandmother in gratitude for the food she was leaving them. Now Noach is no longer with us, but I am sure he is looking down upon us and smiling, happy to see such a tiny piece of property return to its rightful place and its rightful owners. My beloved grandmother Julia had kept this necklace in a heart shaped box. She always knew the necklace was not hers to keep. She always knew that the necklace had to be returned to whoever gave it to her. She never expected anything in return for what she did, and always made us know that if we ever could, we should give the necklace back.
I do not know whether to call it fate, or diving guidance --- I met Mr. Bobby Brown [Executive Director of Project HEART] and found out about the HEART project. I was so moved. I mean THAT WAS IT, The absolute right place for the necklace. From the heart of my grandmother to the HEART of all the Jewish people. I need look no more. And I know that project HEART, through its mix of Internet and new technologies, together with the strength of the Jewish HEARTS and minds will achieve the justice so long denied Noach Flug, his family and all the victims of the Holocaust and their heirs.
Past the Holocaust, the dark years of the Polish Communist Regime, to this day and time in the 21st century; and from Auschwitz, via Katowice, Lodz, New York and
Jerusalem to Yad Vashem, the necklace given to my grandmother ends its journey
here, TODAY, in the heart of the Jewish People. MY MISSION IS OVER. My
grandmother is resting more peacefully now, her aspiration accomplished. I can
only say thank you for all those who helped me in the realization of her wishes.”
[photo courtesy of Jorge Novominsky]
Nobleman kissing the hand of a Lady, probably a scene from Aleksander Fredro’s play “The Revenge”, 1943-1944
Gouache and watercolor on paper
Collection of the Yad Vashem Art Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
Permanent loan, courtesy of the artist’s Family
Monday, August 15, 2011
Gene Simmons was born in Haifa, Israel in 1949 and is the only child of his mother, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary. He is the co-founder and bassist/vocalist of the band Kiss.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Reading from the certificate Shalev said, "Sunday, July 17, Yad Vashem faced a dangerous and difficult event: A fire broke out suddenly in the Jerusalem Forest and threatened to damage the Museum, the School, and our Archives. These are central buildings, well-known and vital to our activities as a commemorative institution, that educates the entire world about the Holocaust and its meaning for mankind. Some of Yad Vashem's employees took an important part in distancing the flames from the Institution. You are counted among this group of workers, which expressed their loyalty in a determined and especially dedicated way. Your joining in the firefighting activities and your standing steadfast in the face of the fire, added to the removal of this threat to Yad Vashem during critical minutes. Yad Vashem's managers, which worked side by side with you and your colleagues, were amazed by your courageous behavior, as were the entire Yad Vashem family who heard what happened that day."
In the words of Sami Abu-Diab, one of Yad Vashem's longtime workers, "I have been at Yad Vashem for 12 years, taking part in Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremonies. The night of the fire, I spent the night at Yad Vashem with 2 other workers as well as firefighters. This is like our home, it is our place."
(photos by Yad Vashem and Jim Hollander/EPA)
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
by Richelle Budd Caplan, Director, European Department
In June 1981, Abba Kovner stated, “As long as it is not too late, we must recognize that the Holocaust is not the obsession of those who survived, and that the identification with the six million victims, and the elements of that period are not just the concerns of those who experienced it themselves, but part of the long collective memory of the Jewish people, and the place of the Holocaust is in the historical consciousness of every Jewish generation everywhere.”
This week, almost exactly thirty years later, Kovner’s words reverberated in the hearts and minds of more than one thousand Israeli teachers who gathered at the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem to participate in the fourth national conference on Holocaust education, “The Individual and the Collective during the Holocaust.” During her remarks at this conference, Professor Dina Porat, incoming Chief Historian of Yad Vashem, related to Kovner’s personal dilemmas during the Holocaust, touching on the tension between his perceived responsibility to himself, his family and to his community. Kovner wrestled with his memories, and the choiceless choices that he faced during the Holocaust period, until his death in 1987.
Sitting among educators from throughout the country, inside a large tent that was especially built for this event, it quickly became evident that their commitment to teaching about the Holocaust was of the utmost importance to them – not only professionally but also personally. Holocaust survivors sitting among them were clearly moved by the teachers’ dedication as well.
However, at one point, a question popped up in my mind: Would Kovner and his generation have approved of such a mass gathering of educators, discussing the pedagogical imperative after Auschwitz, rather than a more intimate setting of a smaller group in the School auditorium? Although we will never know the answer to this question, hopefully he would have been pleased that the message of his generation has become engraved on the memories of future generations.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
The Zionist Zucker family encouraged Zucker's older sister and brother to emigrate in the mid-1930s and fulfill their dreams of living in Eretz Israel –something that seemed perfectly natural at the time. Zucker was nine years old when the Nazis came to power. Boycotts of Jewish-owned shops ensued; the town was filled with people wearing pins that supported Hitler. Zucker was refused entrance to middle school where four of his siblings had previously studied although he passed the entrance exam (the class was suddenly "full"), and things began to change for him. In 1936, Zucker left his parents, and traveled with a cousin to Danzig, where he spent six months living with the mother of his stepmother so he could go to school.
We listened to two moving recordings of David's father – Shulamit's grandfather – filling our classroom with beautifully sung liturgical passages that essentially saved his family from death.
Remarking on his immense inner strength, David told Shulamit: "It is in my genes – everyone must do the best they can.”
Monday, July 4, 2011
Each year Israeli school teachers get a much needed summer recess from the pressures the school year. This week – only a few short days after the close of the school year - close to 1,200 Israeli pre-school, elementary and secondary school teachers are taking part in a two day conference at Yad Vashem. The International School for Holocaust studies is hosting the largest conference of its kind.
Here's what teachers in Israel are saying:
81% - of teachers of all age groups - stated that they discuss the Holocaust during their educational activities
72% noted that during the last 5 years their students are increasingly interested in the topic of the Holocaust
79% of middle school teachers said that they require additional educational materials for teaching about the Holocaust
85% of the nursery school teachers stated that pre-school children ask questions about the Shoah
From a survey among the conference participants, the Smith Institute, July 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
On the 70th anniversary of Hitler's invasion of the USSR, Yad Vashem Academic Advisor Prof. Yehuda Bauer proposes a theory to explain the reason why the Fuehrer led his people into war.
The full article ran in Haaretz this weekend.
The article is based on remarks Prof. Bauer delivered at the Symposium held by Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research last week.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Today a special event was held at Yad Vashem posthumously honouring the first Ecuadorian Righteous Among the Nations. Family members of the Righteous and the rescued from around the world were in attendance as were Holocaust researchers and members of the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations. The full story is here.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
With these words Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev opened an academic symposium marking 70 years since Operation Barbarossa - the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
The Symposium took place with the support of the Genesis Philanthropy Group and European Jewish Fund, and the Gutwirth Family Fund.
Holocaust historians gathered together early this week at Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research to discuss various political, economic and military aspects of the war in the Eastern Front and its devastating impact on the Jews. Operation Barbarossa was a campaign that determined the outcome of the war according to Dr. Daniel Uziel, a historian working in the Yad Vashem Archives. Despite the comparative advantage maintained by the Soviets, in terms of number of troops, planes and tanks, the Germans achieved exceptional results during the first month of the Operation. Their technological superiority and the element of surprise in their initial attack gave them an unprecedented advantage. Nevertheless, the Germans suffered from logistic difficulties, exhausted troops, and internal conflicts between Hitler and the German generals regarding the war strategy. Those difficulties gave the Soviet leaders an opportunity, and time to mobilize reserves and send troops from the Far East to the area of battle. The harsh Russian winter took a tremendous toll on the exhausted Germans, who lacked the necessary supplies and appropriate winter gear. The Germans now realized that victory in the war was uncertain.
The Germans, who suffered great losses on the Eastern Front, now lacked supplies and military equipment and were in desperate need of an inexpensive manpower. Dr. Yitzhak Arad, a former partisan, chairman of Yad Vashem (emeritus) and world-renowned researcher on the Holocaust on the eastern front described the inadvertent rescue of some Lithuanian, Latvian and Minsk Jews, who were spared in order to be used as labor in the Occupied Soviet territories.
The traditional assumption that the Wehrmacht was a professional army that did not take part at the murder of the Jews was refuted by Dr. Leonid Rein, of Yad Vashem's International Research Institute. He discussed new findings proving the direct participation of the Wehrmacht in the mass murder of Jews such as the mass murder in Liepaja.
Prof. Mordechai Altshuler, of The Hebrew University Jerusalem, discussed the destruction of formerly held convictions among Jews. The Soviet Jews’ belief in the invincibility of the Red Army was shattered, and the lack of stability reignited local antisemitism. The Soviet Jews, who believed that antisemitism in the Soviet Union had ended, woke up to a harsh new reality.
The Institute will hold two additional symposia this year examining different aspects of the invasion. New information has also been uploaded to the “Untold Stories” Research Project which tells the story of the murder of Jews in the occupied areas of the former Soviet Union that began with the German invasion of the former USSR on 22 June 1941.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Sunday, June 12, 2011
History teacher and youth educator Péter Heindl is more like a father figure than a teacher to his students in Magyarmecske, a remote and poverty-stricken Hungarian village near the Croatian border. After returning from a teacher training course at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies, Heindl not only shared his fascinating experience with “his kids,” but was also eager to teach them the human and moral significance of the history of the Holocaust.
In order to raise his students’ interest and curiosity, Heindl hung on the school notice board an old photo of a young, school-age girl with the following lines underneath: “Lili Ney: a girl from Magyarmecske disappeared from our village. A few weeks later she was killed. Who was she? Why did she die? She was not the only person from Magyarmecske to suffer this fate. Let’s find out together the history of Lili Ney and the others!” The poster had an enormous effect on the students; dozens wanted to take part in the investigation sessions Heindl scheduled one afternoon a week for the entire school year. “The crime story opening solved one of the biggest challenges of Holocaust education,” explains Heindl, “how to involve young learners in dealing with a gloomy topic that only adults feel is important enough to remember?”
During the series of “detective workshops,” Heindl and the students gradually found out the truth about the events of WWII. Heindl, the “chief detective,” carefully chose and planned the program from week to week, making sure that each phase revealed more details, and the students did not lose interest over the yearlong process.
With the help of a local historian and researcher (István Vörös, also a Yad Vashem graduate) they learned about the various religious communities in the village at the time of the war, and discovered that there were once 17 Jewish and two Roma families living there. “Aunt Cinka” (Bence Kálmánné), an eldery lady from the village who still remembered the events from 64 years earlier, took the group on a guided tour of the village, pointing out former Jewish houses and describing each family that lived there, as well as their deportations and the plunder of their possessions. Students were shocked to find out that a real mass murder had taken place in their small village. Based on Aunt Cinka’s account, a Jewish survivor from the village, László Szántó (Steiner), was traced in Budapest. Szántó visited the young students in Magyarmecske, bringing with him some old photos, including one of himself with the two children from the Ney family outside their house.
Further lessons for this special group of investigators included a visit to the closest living Jewish community in the city of Pécs and a meeting with their chief rabbi, András Schönberger; a conversation about questions of responsibility with the Catholic priest of Alsószentmárton, who actively ministers Roma groups in Magyarmecske; a visit to the Jewish cemetery in Kacsóta, where most of the Jews from Magyarmecske are buried; and a two-day excursion to the Holocaust Memorial Center and the Jewish quarter and museum in Budapest.
The school year ended with the discovery of the house belonging to Righteous Among the Nations Erzsébet Tóth (née Juhász). Inside the house, the current owners were surprised to be shown an original hiding place. “The topic was a perfect one to close the detective story,” Heindl says. “It drew my students’ attention to positive examples of human behaviour in times when inhumanity prevailed.”
The end of the school year, however, did not mean the termination of the project, which had already surpassed all the expectations of its creator. On 8 August 2008, the whole village actively joined the group’s initiative, and a memorial plaque to commemorate the 11 Jewish victims from Magyarmecske was dedicated on the wall of the local school (once home to the Jewish Ledrer family). An exhibition was also organized from the findings of the student group. The national media took great interest in the project, and coverage of the work was broadcast and reported in several different forms. As a result, Heindl soon received an emotional phone call from Judit Ney, Lili’s niece, who had read a newspaper article on the project. More family photos were gained from Judit, one of which shows the Ney children standing together with the Roma children of the village. “My eyes filled with tears when I saw the photo,” recalls Heindl. “No matter how small the Jewish community is now (only two survived), almost seven decades after their destruction, it has become a living community once more – for my students as well as the entire village.”
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the Jewish Kalfus family decided to go into hiding, and their four-year-old son, Leopold Robert Kalfus was brought to Johanna and Jacobus. Robert was introduced as a nephew of Johanna and was treated as one of the couple's children. He slept in the attic with the two Witte sons, Cees and Jan, soon calling the Wittes Uncle Jaap and Aunt Jo. Despite increasing risk, Robert remained hidden on their farm. The Wittes looked after Robert for two years; during this period they also sheltered a downed Allied pilot.
“I am standing here in Yad Vashem, 66 years after the war. I cannot express in words the emotional turbulence I am feeling right now,” said Robert at today’s event. “I am thankful that I survived, thanks to the courage of Johanna and Jacobus. I joined the Witte family as a nephew. The hope and the love that they have showered upon me were a substitute to my lost childhood. I am happy to be here today with my children and grandchildren. I would like to thank Yad Vashem for this ceremony.”
“Johanna and Jacobus lacked for nothing,” said Amb. Michiel den Hond, Ambassador of the Netherlands in Israel, “They could choose to keep a low profile and go through the Holocaust without any danger. Instead, they took into their home a four-year-old boy, and took care of him as their own child. Even after their death, their legacy lives on. This is the outcome of being a human being even under these hard conditions.”
Robert’s son Danny expressed the family’s appreciation to the Wittes. “We are here to celebrate life itself. The rescuing of one is the rescue of many generations. We would like to thank the Witte family from the deepest place in our hearts. We will never forget what you did for us,” he said.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Yad Vashem marked the Allied Victory over Nazi Germany in an inspiring and moving ceremony. Partisans and Veterans decorated with medals stood proud as the IDF Chief Cantor Lt. Col. Shai Abramson sang the traditional prayer of thanks, and the The Israeli Police Orchestra, conducted by Inspector Eitan Sobol played a medley of patriotic songs.
“We are gathered here in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, the place to which Jews yearned for over two thousand years, in order to mark the victory of the Allied forces over Nazi Germany, and to salute Jewish bravery,” said Ehud Barak, Israeli Minister of Defense. “My brothers - veterans and partisans - as the Minister of Defense of the State of Israel, I salute you.You have fought not only for your own lives, but also for the future of the Jewish people, and the future of all humanity.”
Chairman of Yad Vashem, Avner Shalev, spoke about the special role of Jews who fought for the Allies. “The fighting of Jews was unique. As citizens they fought in order to defend their countries against a cruel enemy. But they have also fought for their personal and collective existence, on behalf of the entire Jewish people."
Captain Vadim Kornblitt, grandson of a veteran of the Red Army, drew a connection between the past, the future and the present. “It is a great honor to be here today among you. Among decorated soldiers and heros. We cherish you and will continue to tell your story - to embrace your heritage….I am proud to follow in your footsteps. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to serve the State of Israel and to defend you.”
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Today, Quartet Representative Tony Blair took an in-depth tour of the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem. Following his visit, he wrote the following in the guestbook:
"Thank you for what will remain with me forever. It is hard to describe what this means to me or how profoundly it affects my emotions. For me, this is a memorial, it is a tribute, it is a reflection of an event almost too terrible to contemplate. But it is also a warning, a warning of the wickedness of which humanity is capable. I leave here with that warning in my mind. I also leave, however, with a sense of hope, because amidst all the evil and tragedy, those that survived built a better world and had the grace and wisdom then to build this testament to suffering and to the human spirit."
Here's an interesting piece by Dr. Robert Rozett on the idea behind the campaign:
Gathering the Fragments, The Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2011.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Over half a century after their grandparents were murdered by the Nazis in Poland, first cousins Liora Tamir and Aryeh Shikler met for the first time at Yad Vashem over the Passover holiday.
Tamir’s daughter, Ilana, launched a determined search through archival information for clues about her grandmother, Yona Shapira. She discovered that her grandmother traveled from Poland to British Mandate Palestine in the 1920s and was arrested and deported by the British because of her communist activities, which ultimately led to her being sent to the Gulag town of Vorkuta where Liora was born.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Justin Bieber, in Israel for a concert last week, took time out to visit Yad Vashem with his family. After the visit he tweeted:
also got to visit Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. An incredible place and something i will never ever forget.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
As a teacher of Jewish Studies for the past 20 years in both England and Gibraltar, one of the major obstacles I have encountered is how to best teach the Holocaust to a generation that, regrettably, has not been sufficiently informed or educated regarding this momentous part of our recent history.
The oft-quoted citation “history repeats itself” resonates strongly with the Jewish people regarding circumstances of persecution and antisemitism. As a child of survivors, I passionately believe that no matter how difficult it may be to teach this subject matter, everyone must be educated on this subject. I know this is a challenge, but I believe it is one worth expending energy to solve. Inscribed on one of the barracks in Auschwitz I is a quote from George Santayana stating: “One who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.” Teachers bear the tremendous responsibility of accurately and effectively educating their pupils of such life lessons.
Still, the dilemma over how to prepare materials for this difficult subject remains a taxing one. Recently, I found the help I was searching for: an opportunity to join a group of British educators for weeklong program at the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Thanks to The British Friends of Yad Vashem, some 20 British primary and secondary teachers involved in Holocaust education were invited to this tailor-made seminar, in which we heard lectures and held discussions with top experts and historians on topics ranging from antisemitism and Nazi ideology to a historical perspective on the ghettos and using poetry to teach the Holocaust. We were furnished with a range of methods to teaching the difficult subject matter, and provided with vital tools for combating Holocaust denial. We took guided tours of the Yad Vashem campus, including the Holocaust History Museum, the Archives, the Valley of the Communities, and the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations. We also met with Holocaust survivors and visited various sites in Jerusalem. One of my colleagues told me that the seminar indeed "opened her eyes to new ways of teaching the Holocaust."
But to me, the most important aspect of the seminar was how to adapt each lesson to make sure it is age appropriate, and allows students of all backgrounds to feel they are in a safe learning environment. The lecturers took pains to explain that teaching the Holocaust should never be a negative or scary experience, rather an environment in which students can discover their identity through the life lessons the topics can teach us.
Now that I am back in the classroom, I am still digesting all that I learned. But among the ideas that most impacted me was with how much of my own Jewish self I have become more in tune. This in turn has helped me focus on encouraging my students to learn about their own identities, as well as increase their awareness of the different communities around them.
Above all, I firmly believe that we must all insist that the national curriculum in every school include Holocaust education. It should not be mentioned only in the context of World War II. The extent to which the Jewish nation was persecuted and murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices is a part of who we are, as Jews, but it is equally part of who we all are, as members of the human race. Its implications are always current – recognition of right and wrong, balances of power and the humane treatment of others, the value of life and the tragedy of death. The Holocaust was an extreme example of the extent that humans can fall to the lowest depths of morality, or soar to the highest ethical peaks. It was cataclysmic, and as such its impact is still felt by all of us, and is very much part of our identity. But it must be learned – and taught – correctly, so that its meaning is properly absorbed.
I am extremely grateful to Yad Vashem for all the hard work that they have put into making teaching resources adaptable for all the age groups. The lesson plans and suggestions on the Yad Vashem website have allowed me to create a working syllabus for all the children I teach, and are invaluable to thousands of other educators worldwide, most of whom are unable to visit the Mount of Remembrance.
I am now preparing my Year 12 students for their annual trip to Poland, and with the tools and teaching methods I acquired during the seminar I know my students will have a much more enriching learning experience, enhancing awareness of their own Jewish and human identity. I know this will lead them down the best path towards whatever the future holds.
Adina Abecasis, Hasmonean High School Jewish Studies and Head of Holocaust Ed. Enrichment, London
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Happy Purim to all those celebrating!
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
"Jeopardy!", the #2 series in syndication, averages 9 million daily viewers and since its 1984 syndication debut, "Jeopardy!" has been honored with 28 Daytime Emmy Awards, more than any other syndicated game show. Eleven Emmys have been awarded for Outstanding Game Show/Audience Participation. Its host, Alex Trebek has won five Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Game Show Host.
You can see Yad Vashem around the 5:30 minute mark
Monday, March 7, 2011
The Hall of Remembrance will still be available for Israeli groups visiting the Auschwitz Memorial. The new exhibition, being prepared by Yad Vashem, will open in 2012.
Monday, February 28, 2011
After the war, Bronka was dedicated to Holocaust remembrance and research, and she was one of a last of the generation of Holocaust survivors who also worked professionally and objectively to commemorate the Shoah.
Bronka was a noble and brave woman who gave her all to her people during their hour of need and to Yad Vashem and its archives in their memory and their honor. As a member of the Yad Vashem Council, she was active in its work here for the rest of her life. We salute her resilience and courage and will treasure her legacy that continues to inspire us all.