Coronavirus: Jews deliver food to Poles who saved Jews during Holocaust

From the Depths staff has started to set aside time for phone chats with the Righteous to help combat their sense of isolation.

As a teenager in Warsaw during the Holocaust, Krystyna Kowalska helped save a Jewish family of four who hid at her family’s bakery.
She does not remember being afraid, even though if they had been discovered her whole family would have almost certainly been shot dead on the spot along with the Jews they hid.
But now, at the age of 88, Kowalska is fearing for her life because of the coronavirus, the fatality rate of which is especially high in individuals older than 70.
“It’s a scary time for me to be outside as I see the impact of this virus on my age group,” said Kowalska, a widow whose son has died and who lives alone in a third-story apartment without an elevator.
Across the world, people from her generation have minimized their interaction with the outside world to avoid contracting COVID-19.
For rescuers of Jews in Warsaw, that task became considerably easier this week.
The From the Depths commemoration group, which last year began offering free taxi rides to these rescuers, converted its small fleet of four cars into a delivery service that is designed to fulfill the recipients’ basic needs at their homes while taking care to expose them to as little risk as possible.
Since Sunday, the foundation has delivered groceries to about 20 people recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, Israel’s title for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the genocide. The cabs are disinfected after each delivery and the group’s founder, Jonny Daniels, said he delivers the groceries personally to the recipients wearing a mask and gloves.
“After the pandemic broke out, we started seeing more demand, not less, for the taxi,” he said.
The Righteous became more reliant on the taxis to get around because it was less risky than public transportation, Daniels said.
“But they still need to buy food, often at several supermarkets because of hoarding,” which has created shortages in basic products, he added.
So From the Depths made a list of 40 addresses and plans to make home deliveries to all of them by Saturday.
To keep the cabs virus free, From the Depths paid for overpriced disinfectants, which its staffers – the association has several drivers, an administrator and dozens of volunteers — apply between rides.
By Tuesday, Poland had more than 200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and five fatalities from it.
“We consulted medical staff and the technique we use is basically the same as what they do in ambulances,” Daniels said.
Daniels said some recipients of his deliveries have become his friends over the years, inviting him in for tea. Some are lonely.
“I politely refuse the invitations,” he said. “These are people I usually hug and kiss on the cheek at events, but these days I just carry the bags into their apartments and I’m out of there.”
Kowalska, who is one of just a few dozen living rescuers in Poland, said she understands the situation.
“It’s a kind service. It means that I don’t have to go outside and risk my health. The fact that I can trust them means the world to me,” she said.
From the Depths staff has started to set aside time for phone chats with the Righteous to help combat their sense of isolation, said Oliver Wangart, the chief driver and head of logistics for a service the association calls Silent Hero.
The delivery and taxi service is only available in Warsaw, which is already straining the From the Depths budget, Daniels said.
“But these are people who stood up for the Jews in our people’s hour of need,” he said. “Well, now this is their hour of need and we need to stand up for them.”

Israel’s first virus fatality named as 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Even

Aryeh Even, Israel's first fatality in the coronavirus pandemic (Courtesy)

Aryeh Even, Israel’s first fatality in the coronavirus pandemic (Courtesy)

Israel’s first fatality in the coronavirus pandemic was on Saturday named as 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Even.

In a statement, Even’s family said they regretted that they were unable to be by his side for his final moments.

Even immigrated to Israel alone from Hungary in 1949. He is survived by four children, 18 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center said late Friday that Even had been admitted in very serious condition with multiple preexisting conditions. Despite intensive treatment, including being resuscitated from heart failure, his state deteriorated rapidly and he died, the hospital said.

Medical staff seen after the arrival of a patient to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, over suspicions she may be infected with the Coronavirus on January 27, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Even was among several residents of the Nofim Tower senior home in Jerusalem who have contracted the virus.

The virus generally only shows mild symptoms in the young and healthy, but can cause serious respiratory issues and death in older adults and those with underlying conditions.

According to the Health Ministry’s latest figures released Saturday, there have been 883 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Israel, with 15 people in serious condition.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/israels-first-virus-fatality-named-as-88-year-old-holocaust-survivor-aryeh-even/

Holocaust survivor celebrates 97th birthday amid coronavirus pandemic

“We should always live in positive thoughts,” she said.

TEL AVIV – Ester Wienrib rang in her 97th birthday this week with a video call and remote cake-cutting with her great-grandchildren – a cautious celebration as her family tries to avoid exposing her to the coronavirus.

The elderly are particularly vulnerable to the respiratory illness and Israel, which has nearly 300 confirmed cases, has urged its citizens to keep their distance from older relatives.

Fear of contracting the coronavirus has created a new reality for Wienrib, a Holocaust survivor who came to Israel from Poland over 70 years ago.

“I’ve been through difficult times. We will get through this as well,” said Wienrib, a grandmother of five and great-grandmother of 10. She has been mostly confined to her assisted living facility in Tel Aviv since the virus broke out.

Wienrib smiled as her great-grandchildren sang happy birthday to her through a video call from their home in Hulda, a Kibbutz about 35 kilometers (21.75 miles) away in central Israel.

She later cut a birthday cake with a “98” candle on it – showing one extra year for good luck.

“I am healthy and have my wits about me. I play cards. I have friends,” she said. “We should always live in positive thoughts.”

Auschwitz closes to visitors over coronavirus fears

Memorial and camp to remain shut until at least March 25; March of the Living already postponed

The ruins of gas chambers and crematoria at the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau, January 28, 2020. (Yaakov Schwartz/ Times of Israel)

The ruins of gas chambers and crematoria at the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau, January 28, 2020. (Yaakov Schwartz/ Times of Israel)

The Auschwitz Memorial and the site of the former Nazi camp have been closed to visitors due to concerns over the coronavirus.

The memorial announced on Wednesday that it would shut down until March 25.

Last month, the memorial called on organizers of trips to the site to refrain from bringing visitors from countries that have been affected by the coronavirus. And earlier this week, the March of the Living announced that it had postponed this year’s event.

“After consulting with the relevant health bodies and officials, it is with a heavy heart that we are forced to announce the postponement of this year’s March of the Living in Poland,” March of the Living World Chair, Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, said in a statement.

People participating in the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, on May 2, 2019. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90

“Our primary concern is the health of the many participants and the Holocaust survivors who would be joining them. Given that this is an international event involving 110 delegations from around the world, we have a responsibility to take precautionary measures in accordance with the guidelines given by authorities in various countries,” he added.

A rescheduled date for the annual commemoration, which was originally set for April 21 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, has yet to be announced.

Last month, Israel’s education minister, Rafi Peretz, ordered the cancellation of all high school trips to Holocaust memorial sites in Poland due to the global spread of the coronavirus. Over 3,000 students had been set to travel to Poland in the coming weeks.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/auschwitz-closes-to-visitors-over-coronavirus-fears/

Hunters: Jewish groups criticise Holocaust portrayal in Amazon show

Auschwitz camp gates

Image captionSome 1.1 million people were killed by the Nazis at Auschwitz

Image copyrightAFP

Several Jewish groups have criticised Amazon for fictitious depictions of the Holocaust in its new series Hunters.

The online retail giant has also been denounced for allowing the sale of anti-Semitic propaganda books.

David Weil, the producer of Hunters, has defended the series and Amazon said it was “listening to feedback” about controversial book sales.

Hunters, a 10-part drama series, follows a team of Nazi hunters in 1970s America.

The show, starring Al Pacino, has been accused of bad taste and “Jewsploitation” for its depiction of fictional atrocities during the Holocaust. Around six million Jews were killed across Nazi-occupied Europe during the period from 1941-45.

In one scene, inmates of Auschwitz concentration camp are forced to kill each other while being used in a game of human chess.

Mr Weil, whose grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, said while Hunters was “inspired by true events”, it was not a documentary series and never purported to be.

He said he decided to fictionalise events in the series because he did not want to misrepresent the suffering of real people.

“After all, it is true that Nazis perpetrated widespread and extreme acts of sadism and torture – and even incidents of cruel ‘games’ – against their victims. I simply did not want to depict those specific, real acts of trauma,” Mr Weil said.

“If the larger philosophical question is, can we ever tell stories about the Holocaust that are not documentary? I believe we can and should.”

Survivors of Auschwitz leaving the camp at the end of World War II, Poland

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Auschwitz Memorial, a charity that maintains the former camp as a historical site, accused the programme makers of “inventing a fake game of human chess” in an act of “dangerous foolishness”.

Karen Pollack, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, told the BBC such portrayals risked fuelling Holocaust denial, and lent a tone of “flippant entertainment” to the programme.

“We have a real responsibility to protect the truth of the Holocaust,” said Mrs Pollack, “particularly as we’re moving away from living history, the survivors are few and frailer.”

“We can’t do this alone,” she added. “We have to rely on other people in society who want to do good.”

About 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, were murdered at Auschwitz.

Presentational grey line

Read more about the Holocaust:

Media caption”I was a skeleton” – Henri Kichka lost his whole family in Auschwitz

Survivors and international leaders gathered at the former camp last month to commemorate the 75th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet forces.

Amazon has recently come under fire for selling anti-Semitic books, including The Jewish Question in the Classroom by Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher.

On Friday, Auschwitz Memorial retweeted a letter, written by the Holocaust Educational Trust, asking Amazon to remove books by Streicher from sale.

“When you decide to make a profit on selling vicious antisemitic Nazi propaganda published without any critical comment or context, you need to remember that those words led not only to the #Holocaust but also many other hate crimes,” it said.

“As a bookseller, we are mindful of book censorship throughout history, and we do not take this lightly,” Amazon said in response. It added that it was investing “significant time and resources” in ensuring products on sale met its guidelines.

In December, after complaints by Auschwitz Memorial, Amazon withdrew several items from its website, including Christmas decorations depicting Auschwitz.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51606389

Auschwitz survivors warn of rising anti-Semitism 75 years on

Diginitaries arrive to put candles at a memorial site at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. Survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp gathered for commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of the Soviet army’s liberation of the camp, using the testimony of survivors to warn about the signs of rising anti-Semitism and hatred in the world today. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

OSWIECIM, Poland (AP) — Survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp prayed and wept as they marked the 75th anniversary of its liberation, returning Monday to the place where they lost entire families and warning about the ominous growth of anti-Semitism and hatred in the world.

“We have with us the last living survivors, the last among those who saw the Holocaust with their own eyes,” Polish President Andrzej Duda told those at the commemoration, which included the German president as well as Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders.

“The magnitude of the crime perpetrated in this place is terrifying, but we must not look away from it and we must never forget it,” Duda said.

About 200 camp survivors attended, many of them elderly Jews and non-Jews who traveled from Israel, the United States, Australia, Peru, RussiaSlovenia and elsewhere. Many lost parents and grandparents in Auschwitz or other Nazi death camps during World War II, but were joined by children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, brought the crowd to tears with the story of a survivor who was separated from his family: The man watched his young daughter, in a red coat, walk to her death, turning into a small red dot in the distance before disappearing forever.

After the end of the war, when “the world finally saw pictures of gas chambers, nobody in their right mind wanted to be associated with the Nazis,” he recalled. “But now I see something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, the open and brazen spread of anti-Jewish hatred.”

“Do not be silent! Do not be complacent! Do not let this ever happen again — to any people!” Lauder said.

Marian Turski, a 93-year-old Polish Jewish survivor, said he did not expect to make it to the next commemoration and wanted to transmit a message to his grandchildren’s generation: That the destruction of the Jews began with small steps that were tolerated. What began with banning Jews from sitting on benches in Berlin evolved in incremental steps to ghettos and death camps. And that such horrors could happen anywhere, even in the United States.

“Auschwitz did not descend from the sky,” he said, crediting those words to Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen, among those present. Calling for people to not be indifferent, he said: “Because if you are indifferent, you will not even notice it when upon your own heads, and upon the heads of your descendants, another Auschwitz descends from the sky.”

As a Jewish survivor recited Hebrew prayers for the dead, the crowd bowed their heads or wiped away tears. Clergymen of other faiths also prayed.

Then, with the famous gate and barbed wire illuminated in the dark and cold evening, guests marched in a procession to place candles at a memorial to the victims set amid the remains of the gas chambers.

Most of the 1.1 million people murdered by the Nazi German forces at the camp were Jews, but other Poles, Russians and Roma were imprisoned and killed there.

World leaders gathered in Jerusalem last week to mark the anniversary in what many saw as a competing observance. Among them were Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, French President Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Prince Charles.

Politics intruded on that event, with Duda boycotting it in protest after Putin claimed that Poland played a role in triggering World War II. Duda had wanted a chance to speak before or after Putin to defend his nation’s record in face of those false accusations, but he was not given a speaking slot in Jerusalem.

Those claims comes as many Eastern European countries in recent years have been mythologizing their own people’s behavior during the war and suppressing knowledge of wrongdoing, something Poland’s government also has been criticized for.

Duda said Monday at a news conference that he felt that in Jerusalem, “Polish participation in the epic fight against the Nazis was ignored.”

At the commemoration, he did not mention Russia by name. Yet he stressed how Poland was invaded and occupied, losing 6 million of its citizens in the war, half of them Jews. He recalled how Poland fought the Germans on several fronts, warned the world in vain about the genocide of the Jews, and for decades has been a responsible custodian of Auschwitz and other sites of the German atrocities.

“Distorting the history of World War II, denying the crimes of genocide and negating the Holocaust as well as an instrumental use of the Auschwitz for whatever purposes is tantamount to desecration of the memory of the victims,” Duda said. “Truth about the Holocaust must not die.”

Among others attending the observances at Auschwitz, which is located in the part of southern Poland that was occupied by Germany during the war, were German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. The U.S. was represented by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Organizers of the event in Poland, the Auschwitz-Birkenau state memorial museum and the World Jewish Congress, have sought to keep the spotlight on survivors.

On the eve of the commemorations, survivors, many leaning on their children and grandchildren for support, walked through the camp where they had been brought in on cattle cars and suffered hunger and illness and came close to death. They said they were there to remember, to share their histories with others and to make a gesture of defiance toward those who had sought their destruction.

“I have no graves to go to and I know my parents were murdered here and burned. So this is how I pay homage to them,” said Yvonne Engelman, a 92-year-old Australian who was joined by three more generations now scattered around the globe.

She recalled being brought in from a ghetto in what was then Czechoslovakia by cattle car, being stripped of her clothes, shaved and put in a gas chamber. By some miracle, the gas chamber did not work that day, and she later survived slave labor and a death march.

In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron paid his respects at the city’s Shoah Memorial and warned about rising hate crimes in the country, which increased 27% last year.

“That anti-Semitism is coming back is not the Jewish people’s problem: It’s all our problem — it’s the nation’s problem,” Macron said.

Hundreds of diplomats and guests along with several Holocaust survivors joined U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande for a ceremony at the United Nations in New York.

“May we make a pledge: We stand united against hate,” said Rabbi Arthur Schneier, a Holocaust survivor. “We stand united against anti-Semitism. We stand united against xenophobia and racism and any form of bigotry.”

Guterres said that “solidarity in the face of hatred is needed today more than ever,” and that the U.N. “will stand firm every day and everywhere against anti-Semitism, bigotry and hatred of all kinds.”

https://apnews.com/d503019511da4f2580c12f3199ddab79

House bill would help Holocaust survivors and families recover billions in insurance payments

BY MARCY OSTER

(JTA) — Legislation with bipartisan support that would restore the rights of Holocaust-era insurance beneficiaries to recover billions in unclaimed payments left behind after World War II has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Due to federal court rulings and a failure by insurance companies to adequately publish the names of recipients and pay these claims, 97 percent of the approximately 800,000 policies held in 1938 have yet to be honored. The insurers’ unreasonable demands that death certificates and original policy paperwork be produced is all but impossible for survivors who, at the time, had just survived death camps, forced relocations, torture and death marches.

The Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act of 2019 was introduced Friday by Rep.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, and Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-New York. A Senate companion bill was recently introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada.

The legislation would: validate state laws requiring insurers to publish policy holder information; establish a federal cause of action in U.S. courts to ensure Holocaust survivors and heirs have access to U.S. courts; and provide a 10-year period of time for cases to be brought after the date of enactment.

“Preventing Holocaust survivors and their families from collecting on documented policies is truly outrageous and cruel, but allowing these global insurance corporations to hold on to this unjust enrichment is an offensive re-victimization that cannot be allowed to stand,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/house-bill-would-help-holocaust-survivors-and-families-recover-billions-in-insurance-payments

FBI: Jews were victims of most religion-based hate crimes in 2018

But despite Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, bureau records drop in the overall number of anti-Semitic incidents in America from 2017

A young boy looks at the fenced off entrance to the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2019, the first anniversary of the shooting at the synagogue, that killed 11 worshipers. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

A young boy looks at the fenced off entrance to the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2019, the first anniversary of the shooting at the synagogue, that killed 11 worshipers. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

JTA — Despite the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting last year, hate crimes against American Jews decreased 11 percent overall in 2018, according to the FBI’s annual hate crimes report.

But Jews were again were the victims of the majority of hate crimes that were based on religion last year in the United States.

But hate crime murders totaled 24 — the highest number since the FBI began tracking statistics in 1991, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL said that the high number was attributable to the 11 victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October 2018.

Overall, hate crimes decreased slightly, to 7,120 in 2018 from 7,175 the previous year, with the majority based on race. Almost 19 percent were based on religion and nearly 17 percent on sexual orientation.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/fbi-jews-were-victims-of-most-religion-based-hate-crimes-in-2018/