Sunday, June 26, 2011

Prof. Bauer on the cause of World War II

Murderous mutation of anti-Semitism
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

Honoring an Ecuadorian Righteous Among the Nations

"My mother and I owe him our lives - he saved us.” -- Holocaust survivor Betty Meyer speaking at today's event honoring Righteous Among the Nations Dr. Manuel Antonio Munoz Berrero.

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

Symposium at Yad Vashem marks 70 years since German invasion of Soviet Union

“The Nazi invasion to the Soviet Union is a distinct and significant watershed. With the invasion, the war became a World War and the destiny of the Jews was determined: the mass-murder of the Jews began in earnest, with brutality reaching an unparalleled level.”

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

Grey's Anatomy stars visit Yad Vashem

Today, Kevin McKidd and Sarah Drew (Dr. Hunt and Dr. Kepner on 'Grey's Anatomy') visited Yad Vashem along with Lucas Neff and Shannon Woodward ('Raising Hope'), Gregory Smith ('Everwood' and 'The Patriot') and Zach Levy ('Chuck'). The group visited the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations (pictured), and had an emotional tour of the Holocaust History Museum, the Visual Center, the Hall of Remembrance and the Children's Memorial.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

70 Years since Operation Barbarossa

A new mini-site dedicated to Operation Barbarossa has just now been uploaded to It is now 70 years since the military invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 which marked a turning point in the Nazis' plan to "solve the Jewish problem." Hundreds of thousands of Jews managed to flee into the depths of the Soviet Union, but approximately 2 million Jews remained under Nazi occupation and were the victims of mass murder carried out by the Einsatzgruppen units. In less than half a year, by the end of 1941, about half a million Jews had been murdered within the areas of the Soviet Union conquered by the Nazis.

Research Institute Symposium

On Monday, June 20, the International Institute for Holocaust Research will hold the first of three daylong symposia marking 70 years since Operation Barbarossa. The public is invited to "Exploring the invasion of the Soviet Union as an Ideological War: Symposium Exploring the invasion of the Soviet Union as an Ideological War" which will take place at the Yad Vashem Auditorium in Hebrew and Russian.

Historians will gather to discuss political, economic and ideological aspects of the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and its critical and destructive impact on the Jews living in those areas, the Wehrmacht’s role in the murder of Jews in the first months of the Eastern front war, and the Jews’ mistaken beliefs in the great military power of the Red Army and that antisemitism among Soviet citizens was a matter of the past. Among the lecturers will be Dr. Yitzhak Arad, a former partisan, chairman of Yad Vashem (emeritus) and world-renowned researcher on the Holocaust on the eastern front. Dr. Yevgeniy Rozenblat, a researcher from Belarus will speak about the relationships between Poles, Belarusians, and Jews in the first months of the war. Prof. Mordechai Altshuler of the Hebrew University will address the shattering of myths amid Soviet Jewry. New material from Yad Vashem’s The Untold Stories: The Murder Sites of the Jews in the Occupied Territories of the USSR Research Project will also be presented.

The symposia are taking place with the support of the Genesis Philanthropy Group and European Jewish Fund, and the Gutwirth Family Fund.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yad Vashem Among Top Ten Reasons to Visit Israel

Yad Vashem is included as one of the top 10 reasons to visit Israel and number 5 in a list of Top ten sites in Israel.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Meeting the Challenge

by Szilvia Peto-Dittel

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

Yad Vashem Chairman to be Honored as Patron of Jerusalem

Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev will receive the prestigious Yakir Yerushalim (Patron of Jerusalem) award in recognition of his activities. The award will be presented this evening (Wednesday June 1) on Jerusalem Day in a ceremony in the Tower of David Museum. Since 1967, the award has been presented by the Mayor of Jerusalem on Jerusalem Day to individuals who have contributed to the capital city of Jerusalem, and whose public service has been focused in Israel's capital and on its behalf.