Category Archive: Jerusalem Post

AI TO PRESERVE HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS STORIES LONG BEYOND THEIR YEARS

“With antisemitism on the rise, it’s crucial we keep the haunting memories and lessons of the Holocaust alive to ensure what our people endured is never forgotten,” said Professor Dina Porat.

BY BRADLEY LEVIN
Holocaust survivor Edward Mosberg and granddaughter light a memorial torch at the Yom Hashoah ceremo

Holocaust survivor Edward Mosberg and granddaughter light a memorial torch at the Yom Hashoah ceremony in Auschwitz-Birkenau on the March of the Living.. (photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER)

In a time where first-hand accounts of the Holocaust are disappearing and antisemitism is increasing, remembrance of the event that wiped out around six million Jews is getting an important new spark of life in the form of artificial intelligence (AI).

At American Jewish University (AJU) in Los Angeles, a five day Hackathon (June 30 – July 4) involving 170 Jewish-American and Israeli-American teens – and teens from Israel – was held to create new ways to keep stories of the Holocaust alive, according to a press release by the Israeli American Council (IAC).

This year’s annual IAC Hackathon saw teens meet with Holocaust survivors to learn their stories, and then develop solutions in teams to make those stories highly accessible and meaningful to the public. It was the first Hackathon to approach Holocaust remembrance efforts through development of AI technology.

The Hackathon brought in volunteer executives from across America, who lent their expertise, knowledge, and experience to the teens.

The teens developed both online and offline products, but none were more impressive than the winning team, ConneXt, who invented an app with a multitude of attributes. The app includes tabs called Journey, Chat, Bios, and Share; these would allow users to form strong connections with personal stories from the Holocaust. The Journey tab gives users the option to select the age, origin, and path of a survivor. Through the Chat feature, users could message the Holocaust survivor they choose; users would receive AI-crafted responses based on programming associated with that specific survivor. This type of AI response would allow the survivor’s story to live on long after they pass. The app’s Share tab would serve as a basis for a petition to change Holocaust education standards – teaching the event is currently only required in six US states. The change would make Holocaust education mandatory in all 50.

According to a survey conducted by Schoen Consulting for the Claims Conference on Holocaust memory, 66% of millennials have never heard of Auschwitz.

Tel Aviv University Professor Dina Porat, who served as a judge at the Hackathon’s demo day, relayed a message that affirmed the importance of the new AI tech, “With antisemitism on the rise, it’s crucial we keep the haunting memories and lessons of the Holocaust alive to ensure what our people endured is never forgotten.”

FAILURE OF EVIAN CONFERENCE REMEMBERED, 81 YEARS LATER

Meant to help Jews fleeing Nazi persecution, the conference remains a bitter indictment of the world community

BY ILANIT CHERNICK
Failure of Evian Conference remembered, 81 years later

evian conference 248 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Eighty-one years ago, on the cusp of World War II, then-US president Franklin D. Roosevelt convened the Evian Conference in France in a bid to deal with mass Jewish immigration from Europe in the face of antisemitism and hatred.

The conference took place between July 6 and July 14, 1938, several months after Nazi Germany annexed Austria in March 1938, and in both countries the Nuremberg Laws were in full swing, leaving Jews, especially in Germany and Austria, with two choices: to flee or stay and face continued persecution.

The question at the time was, where could they escape to?

Roosevelt invited representatives from 32 countries, including the US, the UK, France, Canada, six small European democratic nations, several Latin American countries, as well as Australia, and New Zealand.

“When he proposed the conference, the president made it clear that no country would be forced to change its immigration quotas, but would instead be asked to volunteer changes,” an information pamphlet on Yad Vashem’s website explained.

As the conference wore on, the reality set in: no country was willing to open its doors to protect the Jews, each coming up with different excuses as to why they are unable to change their policy.

BRAIN STRUCTURE CHANGE IN HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS HEREDITARY, STUDY FINDS

The study, presented at the European Academy of Neurology Congress on Sunday, compared the brain function of 28 survivors with the one of people whose family had not been involved in the Holocaust.

BY ROSSELLA TERCATIN
Brain structure change in Holocaust survivors hereditary, study finds

Young survivors of Auschwitz await the arrival of their Soviet liberators on January 7, 1945. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Experiencing the Holocaust might have affected survivors’ brain structure, creating a change that was passed on to their children, a study has shown.

According to research presented at the fifth European Academy of Neurology Congress in Oslo on Sunday, the horrific ordeals of the death camps left a mark on the survivors’ brain structure, specifically in the form of gray matter reduction affecting the parts of their brain responsible for stress response, memory, motivation, emotion, learning and behavior.

The study, called “Life-long effects of extreme stress on brain structures – a Holocaust survivor MRI study,” compared the brain function of 28 Holocaust survivors with the brain function of 28 people whose family had not been involved in the Holocaust utilizing MRI scanning.

As explained in a statement by the European Academy of Neurology, survivors showed a significantly decreased volume of gray matter in the brain compared with controls of a similar age who had not been directly exposed via personal or family history to the Holocaust.

The average age of the participants in the study was between 79 and 80.

The study also found that the reduction in the gray matter was more pronounced in those individuals who survived the Holocaust as children (age 12 and below). The researchers said that this finding might be explained by a higher vulnerability to a stressful environment of the developing brain in childhood.

The scientists also detected a similar reduction of gray matter in areas of the brain associated with post-traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans and those suffering early-life stress experience. However, compared to those suffering from other forms of PTSD, survivors presented a higher level of stress but also higher levels of post-traumatic growth, calling themselves generally satisfied with their life after the war.

“After more than 70 years, the impact of surviving the Holocaust on brain function is significant,” Prof. Ivan Rektor, a neurologist from Brno, Czech Republic, and one of the authors of the study, explained.

“We revealed substantial differences in the brain structures involved in the processing of emotion, memory and social cognition, in a higher level of stress but also of post-traumatic growth between Holocaust survivors and controls,” he added. “Early results show this is also the case in children of survivors too.”

The study is not the first that identifies epigenetic changes in the children of those who experienced severe trauma.

In October 2018, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study on “the Intergenerational transmission of paternal trauma among US Civil War ex-POWs,” showing that children and grandchildren of survivors of Confederate prisoners of war camps during the US Civil War were impacted by their fathers’ experiences.

KINDERTRANSPORT SURVIVORS TAKEN TO RETRACE ESCAPE FROM HOLOCAUST

The trip commemorates the 80th anniversary of the kindertransports between 1938 and 1939, which saved some 10,000 children from Central European countries.

BY ILANIT CHERNICK
Kindertransport survivors taken to retrace escape from Holocaust

The Kindertransport memorial at Liverpool Street Station in London.. (photo credit: PAUL SIMPSON/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

It was a parent’s worst nightmare; an unthinkable decision. Send your child away to keep them safe or risk the dangers of antisemitism in a bid to keep your family together.

Between 1938 and 1939, 10,000 children were sent by their parents on Kindertransports to the United Kingdom, sparing them from the horrors of the Holocaust and World War II.

Most of the children were Jews from Central Europe including Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland, who were sent during the months leading up to World War II as Jew-hatred became rampant.

Traveling by train through Europe, the children then sailed to the United Kingdom from the Netherlands and Belgium. Many parents of the “kinder” did not survive the war, so they were usually taken into the care of pre-arranged sponsors, families who came forward, or Jewish and non-Jewish organizations.

To mark the 80th anniversary of the transports, the Kindertransport Association has taken four of those saved, together with their children and spouses, on a trip of a lifetime – loosely tracing their journey from death to freedom and survival.

Kindertransport Association president Melissa Hacker said this trip “is the last opportunity for the Kindertransport survivors to revisit sites of their lost childhoods, and memorials to their murdered parents.

“We expect this trip to be incredibly meaningful for all who participate,” she said.

The organization explained that the kinder, now in their eighties and nineties, may be able to visit their old homes in Europe.

The trip begins in Vienna, from where trains will take the group to Berlin, then on to Amsterdam. A ferry will then take them to Harwich, England. They will then board one more train to London, where they will be welcomed by local kinder and their descendants at the Kindertransport Memorial in Liverpool Street Station.

“At the Wiener Library in London, Barbara Winton, daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton, who organized Kindertransports from Prague, will speak with us,” Hacker said. “In July, we will commemorate the lives and families the kinder have created in the 80 years since they fled their childhood homes, and the families they were forced to leave behind.”

Part of the journey will include a welcome and special reception at the House of Representatives in Berlin; a boat tour of Berlin together with local child survivors and members of the second generation; and a tour of the Kindertransport research and public engagement projects in Harwich, as well as private talks with scholars.

Hacker highlighted that it is “the parents of the kinder who we will be thinking about during our two weeks of travel. They bravely and lovingly sent their children away, children as young as three and as old as 16: to safety, to freedom, to a new life.”

“No parent should be separated from their child. What they did changed the world. And we want to remember, so that we all may learn,” she said.

OSCAR-WINNING DIRECTOR CREATING ANIMATED HOLOCAUST FILM

Nuremberg prosecutor’s life story to be adapted as screen feature.

BY AMY SPIRO

Michel Hazanavicius, a French-Jewish director who won an Oscar for 2011’s The Artist, has teamed up with StudioCanal for an animated feature film set during the Holocaust, according to Variety. Hazanavicius is set to adapt the novel La Plus Precieuse Des Marchandises by Jean-Claude Grumberg, which translates to “The Most Precious of Merchandise.”

According to StudioCanal, production on the animated movie will begin next year, and the film is slated for theatrical release in 2022. The tale by Grumberg weaves together the stories of a poor family living in the Polish forest who cannot have children, and a Jewish family who were arrested in Paris and deported to Auschwitz. The Jewish father, desperate to save his children, throws one of his newborn twins out of the moving train. The Polish woman, desperate for a child, suddenly discovers the one thing she’s been waiting and hoping for.

“Opposing the force of life to the industry of death, Grumberg’s tale succeeds in finding something beautiful to tell about [a period] that will forever remain a stain on the history of mankind,” said Hazanavicius, according to StudioCanal.

Separately, two filmmakers behind the recent documentary Prosecuting Evil about the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor, are teaming up again to tell the story in a dramatic adaptation. Barry Avrich and Patrice Theroux, who produced this year’s Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz, have purchased the film and television rights to Ferencz’s story for a scripted project, according to Deadline.
Ferencz, now 99, was the lead prosecutor at the Einsatzgruppen trial, one of the 12 Nuremberg trials. As a 27-year-old lawyer, Ferencz oversaw the conviction of 22 Nazi officials who were tried for operating mobile death squads responsible for murdering more than one million Jewish men, women and children.

“I am honored to take this journey,” said Ferencz, according to Deadline. “I never dreamed as a 27-year-old standing in a Nuremberg courtroom prosecuting Nazis that my life would be the subject of a film. I am now in my hundredth year; let’s get this done!”

Avrich told Deadline that “this is an extraordinary honor to tell the story; one of the most iconic and historic figures of our time. I feel a real responsibility to continue to bring this important story to as many people as we can, this time through a scripted project.”

GREEK MAYOR TO VISIT GHETTO FIGHTERS HOLOCAUST MUSEUM

Mayor Yiannis Boutaris of Thessaloniki is to pay tribute to the Greek Jews deported by the Nazis in World War II.

BY BEN BRESKY
Members of a pioneer youth movement, shown in a Ghetto Fighter's House Musem exhibition.

Members of a pioneer youth movement, shown in a Ghetto Fighter’s House Musem exhibition.. (photo credit: COURTESY GHETTO FIGHTERS’ HOUSE MUSEUM ARCHIVES)

Yiannis Boutaris, mayor of Thessaloniki, Greece is scheduled to visit the Ghetto Fighters’ House museum in kibbutz Lohamei HaGeta’ot for Yom HaShoah.

Greek Jews who lived in Thessaloniki were deported to death camps when the Nazis invaded. Boutaris is seeking to strengthen ties with Israel and the Jewish world, and the city is in the process of building a Holocaust museum.
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The museum is to be built near the old railway station from which the Jews were deported to camps in Auschwitz and other places. Histrionically, Thessaloniki prided itself on its multiculturalism, being home to Jews, Christians and Muslims for generations. Only about 4% of the city’s Jewish community, mostly of Sephardic origin, survived World War II.
The Ghetto Fighters’ House will host closing ceremonies for the Yom HaShoah – Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day on Thursday. Both the museum and kibbutz, located in northern Israel, were founded in 1949 by Holocaust survivors, particularly those that fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Yom HaShoah’s date was chosen to commemorate the dramatic resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against the Nazi regime.

The museum, along with the Chamber of the Holocaust on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion were founded about a year after Israel became independent from the British and pre-date the Yad Vashem national Holocaust center.

Those who will be honored with lighting the six memorial torches will be Tunisian-born Shlomo Richard Almog who survived a forced labor camp when the Nazis invaded North Africa, Slovenian-born Avery Fisher and Shimon Almog Huter both of whom lived with Catholic families under assumed identities, Wolf & Shlomo Galperin, leaders of the “131 Kovno Children” group, Hungarian-born Esther Cohen who survived the Mauthausen death camp, and Prof. Yoram Harpaz, the son of Holocaust survivors and author of a book about “second generation” children.

Israeli singer Nathan Goshen will perform at the ceremony in the presence of IDF Commander of the Northern Command, Major General Amir Baram and others.

The museum will be free and open to the public throughout the day.

DUTCH HOLOCAUST MUSEUM LEAVES OUT GRAPHIC AUSCHWITZ PICTURES

The removal of the four pictures from the museum’s newly opened exhibition on the persecution of Dutch Jews gained considerable media attention in the Netherlands.

BY CNAAN LIPHSHIZ
The former concentration camp Auschwitz

The former concentration camp Auschwitz. (photo credit: KACPER PEMPEL / REUTERS)

The removal of the four pictures from the museum’s newly opened exhibition on the persecution of Dutch Jews gained considerable media attention in the Netherlands, prompting a discussion on how and where to display graphic images of the genocide.

In a statement, the Jewish Cultural Quarter of Amsterdam, which comprises the National Holocaust Museum, rejected claims that it had censored the pictures. They were left out due to accuracy issues as they don’t depict Dutch Jews, who are the focus of the exhibition, the text said Curators Erik Somers and René Kok included the photos of bodies being burned in the “Persecution of Jews in Pictures” to show the purpose of the Holocaust, they told the Volkskrant daily, which reported Friday on the disagreement. One curator suggested to Volkskrant that the removal was due to the gruesome nature of the photos.

“The ultimate consequence, shocking as it may be, must be displayed” also because it is relevant to Dutch Jews’ fate,” the curator of the exhibition, which opened in January, told Volkskrant.

While two pictures of Dutch Jews from concentration camps were included in the exhibition, “the pictures that are not associated with Dutch Jews in any way were not displayed,” the statement said. The excluded photos of dead Hungarian Jews were taken at great personal risk by Alberto Errera, a Greek Jew who was murdered shortly after smuggling out the negatives.

U.S. ENVOY TO GERMANY: U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL IS ANTISEMITIC

“To pass resolution after resolution against Israel while ignoring China, Russia or Cuba is a horrendous hypocrisy,” U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell said at a protest outside the UNHRC.

BY HERB KEINON, ANNA AHRONHEIM  

Richard Grenell, U.S. Ambassador to Germany

Richard Grenell, U.S. Ambassador to Germany, attends the “Rally for Equal Rights at the United Nations (Protesting Anti-Israeli Bias)” aside of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 18, 2019. (photo credit: DENIS BALIBOUSE/REUTERS)

To apply one standard to Israel, and another to the rest of the world – as the UN Human Rights Council does – is to be antisemitic, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell said on Monday in Geneva.

Grenell spoke at a demonstration protesting UN bias against Israel outside the UNHRC as it debated alleged Israeli abuses. The rally was organized by UN Watch.

“To pass resolution after resolution against Israel while ignoring China, Russia or Cuba is a horrendous hypocrisy,” Grenell said.

“It speaks to the integrity of the Human Rights Council that we already know what the decision will be even before the vote,” he said. “It speaks to the sincerity of the Human Rights Council that its agenda is determined by those who respect its mandate the least.”

The ambassador bewailed the fact that among those deciding whether Israel is violating human rights, “are representatives from absolute monarchies, one-party states and military dictatorships.” He also took the council to task for making a debate on human rights in Israel a permanent feature at every session.

The UNHRC “not only singles out Israel, but it does so on a permanent basis,” and its belief “that a single country and a single people merits such attention on a permanent basis,” is also antisemitism, he said.

“This is not just a sign of bigotry, this is a sign of intellectual and moral decay. [It is] an institution whose entire world view is dominated by the fear and fantasy of Jewish criminality,” Grenell continued. “It has lost the ability to be rational, to understand cause and effect, and to make positive change. “

Former Israeli ambassador to the UN Dore Gold told the crowd that what is happening at the UNHRC is nothing new, and that he experienced the same bias against Israel from his first day as ambassador in 1997.

“How can anybody take the UN seriously when it has shown that, when it comes to Israel, its reports have been highly politicized and seriously flawed?” he asked. “Is anyone protecting the human rights of Israeli farmers whose fields are regularly set ablaze by Hamas incendiary weapons?”

Gold said that Israel will defend itself by itself, and is not seeking international forces to protect it. “But it does expect one thing from the international community,” he said: “The truth.”

Col. Richard Kemp, who also spoke at the rally, called the activities of the UN Gaza Commission of Inquiry – which claims that the IDF shot innocent Palestinian protesters during the “Great Return” marches – a distortion of truth.

“I gave evidence to your less-than-wonderful Human Rights Commission of Inquiry just inside that building there for several hours,” he said. “I told them from my own professional experience what was [really] happening on the border, but they did not listen to one word I said. And in this report that they produced, nothing I said is reflected. This report is a tissue of lies, abuse, prejudice and distortion; it is not worth the paper it is printed on.”

Speaking at a panel session held by UN Watch prior to the rally, Kemp called the UNHRC an instrument and supporter of Hamas terrorism.

“This report fails both Palestinians and Israelis. It’s full of lies and distortions. The UNHRC is an instrument and supporter of Hamas terrorism; it is playing into their hands and is encouraging them.”

The rally, which was held under cloudy skies, saw some 300 demonstrators gather with flags and placards which read, among other things: “Stop Bashing Israel,” “We Support Israel, The Only Democracy in the Middle East” and “Stop delegitimizing Israel.”

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post one demonstrator spoke about the importance of rallying in support of Israel in front of the UN, a body that continuously persecutes the Jewish state.

“We have to defend Israel. It’s terribly persecuted by the United Nations, the club of the worst criminals in the world,” said Warsaw resident Eva Korulski. “I brought many Polish flags here today so we can show our solidarity. We, as a group of Polish Jews, feel really bad regarding the situation between Poland and Israel. We can’t focus on the past but we have to [instead] focus on the present and future. We have to come together and build a good future.”

https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Antisemitism/US-envoy-to-Germany-UN-Human-Rights-Council-is-antisemitic-583815