Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Couple Donates Synagogue Photograph Collection to Yad Vashem

Ben-Zion Dorfman presenting Dr. Haim Gertner, Director of Yad Vashem's
Archives Division and Dorit Novak, Director General of Yad Vashem
with the collection 

On Monday, October 21, 2013 Rivka and Ben-Zion Dorfman donated to Yad Vashem a collection of tens of thousands of photographs of synagogues throughout central Europe. Over the course of thirty years, the couple traveled from town to town, documenting old synagogues through the camera lens. The couple, now in their late eighties, decided to donate their extensive collection of over 30,000 photographs to Yad Vashem so that it could be preserved for future generations.   

The presentation of the collection included lectures about synagogue architecture and took place in Yad Vashem’s Synagogue which includes Judaica from the destroyed synagogues in Europe and serves as a memorial to the destroyed places of worship of European Jewry.
The architecture inside one of the central European synagogues from
the Dorfman collection
From left to right: Director General of Yad Vashem Dorit Novak, Rivka and
Ben-Zion Dorfman, and Director of Yad Vashem's Archives Division 
Dr. Haim Gertner
The addition of the Dorfman Archive of Synagogue Art and Architecture Collection, comprised of the architecture and art of hundreds of synagogues, to Yad Vashem’s Archives will expand the visual documentation of those communities that were destroyed and provide additional information regarding what remains of them today. The photographs will enable the expansion of research, not only of the destroyed communities themselves, but also of their post-war remnants as well as commemorate the people who lived there. The history, architecture and culture of the destroyed synagogues sheds additional light on the entire religious and cultural world that was destroyed with the decimation of the Jewish communities.
Outside of a synagogue shown in central Europe during the Dorfman's presentation

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ambassador Marks 70 Years Since Rescue of Danish Jewry

Jesper Vahr, Danish Ambassador to Israel rekindles the eternal flame
in the Hall of Remembrance
This week the first of October, marks the 70th anniversary of the rescue of the majority of the Jews of Denmark despite the Nazis' plans to round the country's Jews up to deport them to concentration camps. The Danish Ambassador to Israel, Jesper Vahr visited Yad Vashem on Monday, October 1 and laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance. He also paid tribute to the rescuers at the trees planted in honor of the Danish.
The rescue of the Danish Jews in October 1943 is a very unique story. In the first years of the German occupation the situation of the Danish Jews did not change much. However, in fall of 1943, following a sharp increase in strikes and sabotage against the Germans, the German plenipotentiary in Denmark prepared to deport the 7,800 Jews in the country. News of the planned roundup was discovered and an operation was put in place to warn the Jews, move them to hiding places and to fishing ports, and from there they were transported to Sweden. The wide popular support of the rescue operation and the proximity to Sweden enabled the Danish underground to transport 7,200 Jews and some 700 of their non-Jewish relatives to Sweden in the course of three weeks in October 1943. 500 Jews, mostly elderly and sick, were caught and deported to the camp of Theresienstadt.

Danish Ambassador to Israel, Jesper Vahr and his
wife next to the tree planted in honor of the Danish

The rescue operation by the Danish underground is exceptional because of the widespread agreement and resolve of many Danes from all walks of life – intellectuals, fishermen, priests, policemen, doctors, blue-color workers – to rescue the Jews. It should be noted that recent research by Danish scholars shows that on the other hand, in many cases big sums of money were paid to the seamen who brought the Jews across to Sweden.

To pay tribute to this exceptional rescue operation and in the understanding that this was a joint effort, a tree was planted in the Avenue of the Righteous in honor of the Danish underground. Members of the Danish underground expressed their wish to Yad Vashem not to honor them as individuals; however several Danes whose acts of rescue were exceptional were awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations title.