Category Archive: Nazis/Nazism

How Auschwitz Can Be Both a Memorial and a Center for Education

20-1485285708How should we define the authentic remains of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, which today are protected and preserved by the Auschwitz Memorial?

Should we define it as:

  • 150 buildings, about 300 ruins, including those of five gas chambers and four crematoria in Birkenau that are especially important to the history of the camp.
  • Over 13 kilometres of fences, and more than three thousand concrete fence posts.
  • About 110,000 shoes and 3,800 suitcases of victims, 2,100 of which bear the names of their owners.
  • About 39,000 negatives of registration photographs of prisoners, 48 volumes with about 70,000 of their death certificates, 248 volumes of Zentralbauleitung documents, and 13,000 letters and cards mailed from the camp by prisoners.

This is just the beginning of the list which summarizes the extent and the challenge of our Museum.

There is also another priceless part of our authentic collection: the archives, with over 30,000 pages of testimonies of survivors and eyewitnesses as well as over 45,000 pages of their memoirs. These are individual stories of people who survived, stories which can help us today to comprehend the existing architecture of the former camp through personal experiences, emotions and dilemmas.

I agree with the words of Menachem Rosensaft quoted by Tom Tillett that “as much as any other event, if not more so, the Holocaust requires the chronicler to be scrupulously accurate.” Yet Tillet is not accurate in saying that “the large building where most prisoners first entered Auschwitz I and went through processing is lost due to its contemporary usage,” since, in fact, this building was never actually completed during the war.

Historical Decisions

This year the Auschwitz Memorial will be 70 years old. It was created thanks to the efforts of survivors in July 1947 and in many ways, the way we operate today is based on their decisions. One such decision was to organize and house exhibitions, archives, collections and the whole management of the institution of memory in the much better constructed buildings of Auschwitz I, and to leave Birkenau in as authentic a condition as possible.

Another key decision made by survivors was to create replicas of a few structures in Auschwitz I that Germans had destroyed: They reconstructed the execution wall and one of the gallows, and used original parts to reconstruct two crematoria ovens inside the building that had housed both the original crematorium and the original gas chamber. They wanted to allow people to enter the only standing building of a former gas chamber, as all the other gas chambers and crematories in Birkenau were ruins, and those ruins were kept as such.

Almost all visitors see both parts of the Memorial. They see exhibitions and learn many historical facts about the creation and functioning of the Auschwitz complex — including Birkenau. After this educational introduction, they have the unique opportunity to better understand what they learned by looking at the remains of Birkenau itself.

We are aware that the main exhibition was created by survivors in 1955. This is why one of the most important current projects of the Memorial is creating a new exhibition, which will not only tell the story of extermination and concentration camps from the perspective of victims but will also show the world of perpetrators and the place of Auschwitz among Nazi German state institutions. The three parts of the new exhibition should be open in 2021, 2023 and 2025, respectively.

Current Challenges

We also are aware that the Memorial’s infrastructure, which was originally set up decades ago to serve up to 500,000 people annually, is not equipped for the volume of visitors we receive today (in 2016, for instance, we received over two million visitors.) We understand that people who visit and spend long hours at the Memorial need some basic accommodations, such as a bookstore, restrooms, and even a small vending area. This is why we have already started the project of creating a completely new visitors center — importantly, outside the core historical area.

We are aware that tourists visit the Memorial, but from our perspective the Auschwitz Memorial is not a tourist attraction. First and foremost, it is a place where we commemorate the fate and life stories of the 1.3 million people deported there: 1.1 million Jews, 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Sinti and Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and others. The visitors are told at the beginning of every guided tour that they are about to enter a cemetery-like site, and they should behave appropriately. Most people respect that.

The Memorial is also an important center of preservation. Our modern laboratories and conservation experts fight against time to save every single authentic remaining object— a toothbrush, a house key, a fragment of eyeglasses, a family photograph, an SS document, or the ruins of a gas chamber or a wooden barracks for prisoners (Tillett is again mistaken about the wooden barracks in Birkenau — they were not rebuilt, they are original.)

It’s also important to note that no other former German Nazi concentration camp or extermination center sites in Europe is in such authentic condition today, nor have any been so successfully preserved. The management at the Memorial can be so effective in our preservation efforts because of international consensus granted to us by the International Auschwitz Council, a consultative-advisory organ of the Polish Prime Minister’s office dedicated to preserving, maintaining and developing the site of Auschwitz and other Memorials located in today’s Poland. Its members include world-renowned authorities on the history of concentration camps and the Holocaust.

Education

The Auschwitz Memorial is also a place of education, with learning activities developed at the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, which was created in 2005. Last year, we finally secured funding that will allow us to create a modern headquarters for the center, with lecture rooms and all necessary infrastructure to conduct more extensive education programs for people from around the world.

362 days a year, our 286 educators explain the difficult and sensitive history of Auschwitz and its victims in 17 languages. They help visitors coming from all around the world to understand this complicated topic using all the authentic objects and locations at hand. They walk through the historical sites, they use exhibitions, and, as a result, they keep the authentic stories of survivors alive by telling them to people.

Many visitors come to the Memorial prepared. Teachers and educational leaders understand the role of bringing their students to the historic site not only as a lesson of history but also one of civic education — as Auschwitz has been and will continue be a warning to humanity. But we also truly believe that many people who begin their visit as tourists later became messengers of remembrance, and that this happens thanks to experiencing the authenticity of the site as guided by educators. Visiting the former camp itself is a valuable personal experience which can teach and change people. The fact that visitors might initially attend the site as tourists does not change that.

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Can Auschwitz Be a Graveyard and a Tourist Destination?

krematorium-1-has-been-rebuilt-1484847651Menachem Rosensaft once wrote that “as much as any other event, if not more so, the Holocaust requires the chronicler to be scrupulously accurate.” He further notes that “the greater the popularity of this subject, the greater the need for vigilance regarding the treatment it is accorded.” As we approach International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we need to be vigilant.

Since my most recent visit to Auschwitz, in 2015, I have been particularly concerned that while its museum often uses the term “authentic experience,” visitors are exposed to a variety of nonauthentic experiences. To provide just a few examples, the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign at the main gate is a reproduction; the Auschwitz I footprint actually extended into the current main parking lot and beyond; the gas chamber/crematorium (Krema I) usually shown at the end of the tour is a reproduction, and in Auschwitz II–Birkenau, the line of barracks (Section BIIA) upon entering to your right have been entirely rebuilt. To be fair, the guides will acknowledge this if asked, but the pressure of mass tourism means that they are rarely asked.

I have the utmost respect for the staff at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. They have an extraordinarily difficult job where literally every decision or official comment can quickly become controversial, yet they accept the challenge with grace, commitment and passion. The staff must navigate Polish politics, a huge increase in visitors severely straining the infrastructure and financial issues, and they must reconcile various stake-holder groups, each of whom have legitimate, though often conflicting, agendas.

But these convenient educational props can undermine their central aim if Holocaust deniers can accurately point to inconsistencies. And while the unprecedented growth in visitors to Auschwitz is in many ways a welcome development, that very surge is hastening the day when the museum’s senior staff, as well as foundation and council members, must decide if Auschwitz is simply an attraction to be checked off a tourist’s list or a sacred site as the location of the largest graveyard in the world created by the greatest crime in human history.

In his book “Dark Tourism and Crime,” Derek Dalton describes his fascination in Auschwitz from his teenage years, and the “lure” he felt to it. I am not Jewish, and have no family connections to the Shoah, but since I read a book on the prisoner uprising at Treblinka when I was 13, I’ve felt that same “lure.” My passionate interest in the Holocaust — and, in particular, Auschwitz — has led me to visit the camps on a number of occasions and study the history with more than touristic interest.

Auschwitz has come to represent the Holocaust for countless people like me worldwide, and that places a singular burden, responsibility and moral obligation on the museum. The victims and survivors unconditionally deserve historical accuracy in documenting the crimes, proper contextualization, absolute authenticity, respectful memorialization and the most up-to-date interpretations. But despite its best efforts, the museum is not succeeding in providing all this.

Historical accuracy is at times compromised by how various items are shown. The disturbing and powerful exhibition in Block Four with the hair of about 90,000 victims shown behind a long glass wall — along with similar displays of luggage and artificial limbs — do not make clear that the hair, limbs, and luggage were taken not there but at Birkenau. Also, the Gypsy-Roma experience predominantly unfolded in Birkenau Section BII, yet the excellent exhibit telling their story is in Auschwitz I. The critical historic importance of the large building where most prisoners first entered Auschwitz I and went through processing is lost due to its contemporary usage as a security checkpoint, bookstore, theater, cafeteria and group tour staging area.

If the Auschwitz complex of camps is indeed a sacred place deserving solemnity, reverence and reflection, then the immediate area just outside the actual camp (Auschwitz I) falls far short in signaling to visitors they are about to step on consecrated ground. The dilapidated parking lot with a small white trailer as the main (and only) ticket office also houses an ice cream vendor and a souvenir shop before visitors reach a main entrance in a sad state of disrepair. Neither solemn memorial nor authentic representation, arrival at Auschwitz is now just a shabby trap for the masses of dark tourists. Frankly, the victims and survivors deserve better.

The last example is the least comprehensible, most disheartening and, frankly, shocking. The Auschwitz II – Birkenau gatehouse — the Gate of Death — is arguably the most widely recognized building in the world, an iconic manifestation of pure evil. But today, the gatehouse contains a bookstore, restrooms, a small vending area, a rundown guard tower and storage rooms. Does using the gatehouse this way properly memorialize the thousands upon thousands of starving, freezing, emaciated and terrorized prisoners in their paper-thin uniforms and ill-fitting wooden clogs who went through this gate in the morning knowing that there was a good chance they would not return? How can this be the best use of a horrifying historical building that welcomed some 1.1 million victims to this camp of death?

Can Auschwitz be both a tourist attraction and a mass graveyard without making compromises that betray the memory of the victims? The decision needs to be made soon.

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New online generation takes up Holocaust denial

Conspiracy theorists are flocking to outlandish websites, warns lecturer

3000A new generation of Holocaust deniers is emerging through a clutch of popular “gateway” conspiracy theories, according to one of the UK’s leading experts on the subject.

As Denial, a film about the disgraced historian and notorious Holocaust denier David Irving, hits cinemas later this month, attention is focusing on the ageing generation of deniers who emerged with Irving at its vanguard and are now dying out. But it appears that Holocaust denial has found new momentum in the digital age.

The UK’s foremost academic on the subject claims a new internet-based generation is embracing denial, having been drawn to it out of antisemitism or a belief in conspiracy theories.

Dr Nicholas Terry, a history lecturer at Exeter University, estimates that there are now thousands of “low-commitment” Holocaust deniers online. Rather than recruiting from established far-right denial forums, they are attracting followers drawn to outlandish theories such as those surrounding the assassination of JFK, 9/11, the moon landing and the Sandy Hook school massacre.

“In one sense, the internet means Holocaust deniers have got a lot of competition,” Terry said. “On the other, in this more free-form world, deniers have been able to attract a certain minority from the world of conspiracy theories. There’s a sense of disorientation taking place when it comes to where people are getting their news from.

“This kind of free-for-all on the internet creates a milieu that has seen people who would normally identify along the left of the political spectrum gravitate towards ideas that are more at home on the far right.”

The release of Denial – which centres on the libel trial brought by Irving against the Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt – follows the controversy that erupted when it emerged Google’s algorithms were recommending antisemitic, white nationalist and Holocaust denier websites for searches of the question: “Did the Holocaust happen?” The film has already been attacked by the new generation of deniers on YouTube, Reddit and Twitter.

Terry, who has monitored Holocaust denial online for 10 years and is co-editing a forthcoming book, Holocaust and Genocide Denial: A Contextual Perspective, has personal experience of their tactics, having been trolled online. He founded the anti-denial blog, Holocaust Controversies, to “debunk” their claims.

He said that many claiming that the Holocaust did not happen were often less intellectual than the earlier generation of deniers. They were an “international crowd – lots of Americans, British, Scandinavians, and west Europeans, as well as some Brits” – who made little attempt to justify their views with facts, resulting in what Terry termed a “Twitterification” of denial.

Several of the new generation of deniers have become well known online. Eva Lion, a Canadian nationalist on the extreme right, was banned from YouTube having amassed tens of thousands of followers. Reality-TV star Tila Tequila was thrown off Celebrity Big Brother after it emerged she had posted messages defending Hitler, as well as antisemitic and white nationalist comments.

While the majority of new deniers are young and hail largely from the “alt-right”, a significant number are middle-aged or older, Terry said.

“What I’ve observed in the last 10 years is that, while the majority of deniers one encounters are still rightwing and Nazis, they are always peppered with a number of unaffiliated individuals who would consider themselves to be liberal or leftwing and have arrived at their position having been anti-Zionist or anti-Israel.”

Their attraction to Holocaust denial, Terry said, had coincided with an upsurge in antisemitism on the internet. Many drawn to such beliefs, he suggested, were vulnerable to lies being peddled as truth.

“They are people who have reached their 40s or 50s and have embraced the internet as it has grown and new platforms have come along. They have moved away from quality newspaper-reading mentality; maybe they’re professionals, some may have degrees, but they are not skilled in assessing sources in history. When you interact with them, you realise that they have no clue as to how we know anything about the past, about how history works, what information is available. They are willing to go along with certain ideas that are summarised for them and simplified in web articles or videos.”

He added: “Lipstadt said that arguing with a denier was like trying to nail jelly to a wall. I would say it’s now like trying to nail smoke to a wall. There’s almost no substance.”

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Risking Everything to Defy the Nazis

The tale of Rev. Waitstill and Martha Sharp, who lied and deceived their way to saving more than 100 Czech Jews during the Holocaust.

ShowImage (2)They bullied and bluffed, bamboozled and bedeviled bureaucrats, politicians and soldiers.

They climbed mountains and traversed other treacherous terrain. They fed the hungry and clothed the nearly naked. They smuggled refugees out of countries in which they were in mortal danger, into other lands, some of whose borders were supposed to be closed and most that were unenthusiastic about accepting the fugitives. They regularly risked their lives.

Leaving their two young children with friends, Rev. Waitstill Sharp and his wife Martha did all that and more in their efforts in 1939 and 1940 to rescue Jews and others fleeing or hiding from the Nazis.

Their remarkable story is told by their grandson Artemis Joukowsky in Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War, which complements the documentary of the same name, co-directed by him and the wellknown American filmmaker Ken Burns.

Both works are based on a thorough study of the Sharps’ papers and interviews with those whose lives intersected with the couple.

It is difficult to quantify the Sharps’ efforts, their grandson writes. However, in the few months they were in Czechoslovakia and later for a short time in Vichy France, they apparently helped about 125 people flee to freedom from an almost- certain death at the hands of the Nazis. The two also provided money for transportation and clothes for other people to get to ports where their visas would allow them to escape.

In addition, the Sharps set up a feeding program in Prague that kept 264 people alive long enough to get out and provided milk for 800 starving French children for a month.

Even more amazing than the “what” is the “how.” Neither had much experience or training in deception, covering their trails or money laundering. But because the Nazis were stealing money sent by legal means, Waitstill Sharp set up bank accounts in neighboring countries by which he would receive money from donors and disburse funds to refugees from those bank accounts.

He also illegally exchanged dollars for Czech currency, because people allowed to leave were forbidden to take out any hard currency. Operating as an illegal money changer left Sharp with suitcases of local currency. With that money, he donated funds to the Salvation Army in Prague, which was feeding thousands of Social Democrats who were living on the streets or underground to avoid being captured by the Germans. He also gave large sums to the YMCA to expand its summer-camp program and for the reconstruction of a refugee orphans’ home.

Helping those that the Nazis wished to kill or capture was extremely dangerous.

A day or two before leaving Prague, an informant told Martha she was on a list of people the Nazis intended to imprison.

What motivated these two to undertake such a dangerous assignment – so risky that 17 other Unitarian ministers had turned down the offer of going to Europe before the Sharps finally accepted? On a ship back to America, German- Jewish writer and anti-fascist activist Lion Feuchtwanger, who had been rescued from his hiding place in southern France by Waitstill Sharp, asked his rescuer what motivated him to do what he was doing.

He received no money for saving people, the Unitarian minister assured the writer, and he was a sinner and no saint.

“But I believe the will of God is to be interpreted by the liberty of the human spirit,” Sharp continued. “So I do what I do without any piety at all but ad magna gloria libertatis humani spiriti [to the greater glory, freedom of the human spirit].

“As my friend Dick Ball said, ‘I don’t like to see guys pushed around.’” Upon her return to America, Martha Sharp, among other activities, helped in fund-raising with Youth Aliya, the Hadassah program that rescued European children and brought them to Palestine. In 1947, Hadassah sent her to pre-state Israel to see firsthand and learn about programs she had been supporting.

Later, she wrote of what she had seen during her six-week stay: “A great powerful stream of sacrifice and idealism is bringing about the birth of a nation. We are witnessing an epic like that of America. The pioneers are giving their lives and are challenging us to help in time.”

In 2006, Martha and Waitstill Sharp were named “Righteous Among the Nations.”

It was an honor duly earned.

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German nationalist calls for end to Nazi guilt

Leading member of Alternative for Germany party says Berlin Holocaust memorial a ‘monument of shame’

2016-02-25_Plenum_im_Thüringer_Landtag_by_Olaf_Kosinsky-13-e1484703021503Aprominent member of the nationalist Alternative for Germany party wants to end the country’s decades-long tradition of acknowledging and atoning for its Nazi past.

Bjoern Hoecke leads the party in the eastern state of Thuringia. He said Germany needs to perform a “180-degree turn” when it comes to remembering its past.

Hoecke said Tuesday that the Berlin memorial to the millions of Jews killed in the Holocaust is a “monument of shame.” He told party supporters in the eastern city of Dresden that no other country would erect such a memorial in its capital and called instead for Germany to take a “positive” attitude toward its history.

Nazi Germany was responsible for the murder of more than 6 million Jews and other minorities before and during World War II.

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The Holocaust for Communists

The East German-Bulgarian Holocaust movie ‘Sterne,’ screening this weekend at the New York Jewish Film Festival, is one of a group of visceral films made in Communist countries by or with people who survived the war

Sterne [Stars], an East German-Bulgarian co-production that won a major prize at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival and thereafter fell into obscurity, is itself the story of a memory on the brink of oblivion—a movie in which, for a few hours, time stands still before swallowing its protagonists.

Showing this Sunday, Jan. 22, at the New York Jewish Film Festival in a new digital restoration that will doubtless be surfacing elsewhere, Sterne concerns a transport of Greek Jews, en route to Auschwitz, detained by some bureaucratic snafu at a remote Bulgarian village. They are corralled in the town for a day or two, just long enough for Walter, a bored, somewhat self-pitying German corporal tasked with overseeing these surprise arrivals, to develop a crush on one of their number, a young and radiantly selfless Jewish schoolteacher named Ruth.

The corporal, whose fellows have given him the mocking sobriquet “Rembrandt,” is a would-be artist. Not especially sensitive but nothing if not alienated, he is contemptuous of his German comrades and, vaguely yearning for some sort of contact, seeks a measure of acceptance from the locals he supervises, ignoring the fact that some are certainly partisans. A similar longing accounts for his fascination with Ruth who, in their first meeting, shames him into grudgingly providing the deportees with a bit of humanitarian assistance.

Walter turns out to be a romantic but Sterne, like Ruth, recognizes the impossibility of this brief-encounter romance. Walter’s several meetings with Ruth—who is, in effect, arrested so that he might enjoy her company—are luminous nocturnes in which the couple walks together through the deserted town. Stars shine down but the conclusion is forgone. Each time, they wind up in the graveyard.

Directed by Konrad Wolf from a screenplay by Angel Wagenstein, Sterne is a fairy tale, albeit a hardboiled one that never forgets the degraded conditions of the deportees or their fate. The story of Walter and Ruth is an extended parenthesis. Sterne is framed by performances of the Yiddish poet Mordechai Gebirtig’s Jewish-resistance anthem S’brent [It Is Burning], a song that circulated throughout the ghettos of Nazi-occupied Poland. Its first scene, with the Greek Jews lined up in the rain and packed into cattle cars, is repeated at the end.

As a movie, Sterne manages to be both lyrical and monumental. As a statement, it practices a dialectic of unity and isolation. “What was he looking for in our little Bulgarian town?” the film’s narrator asks over introductory footage of Walter wandering through the marketplace. The answer is: his humanity. Sterne is striking for its internationalism, particularly in a linguistic sense. The dialogue is in both German and Bulgarian. In addition to Gebirtig’s Yiddish laments, the movie includes the Hebrew prayer “Eli, Eli.” Ruth addresses her pupils in Greek. Most remarkably, there is an extended scene in which, among themselves, the Jews speak Ladino—making Sterne the only feature I know with dialogue in the language of the Sephardim.

While the film is not devoid of Communist idealism, the rote affirmation in which Walter finds solidarity with the (presumably Communist) partisans is subsumed by the final image of Ruth clutching at a train’s barred windows, speeding toward death as she stares into the camera, leveling a j’accuse at the audience.

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Sterne is not only universal but highly specific with a backstory that requires a bit of unpacking. Bulgaria was something of a sideshow during World War II, although, as an ally of the Axis, the Balkan kingdom received chunks of Romania, Yugoslavia, and Greece—including parts of Macedonia and Thrace—then home to some 14,000 Jews.

While old Bulgaria’s 50,000 Jews were deprived of their rights, they were never, despite German insistence, deported en masse. On the other hand, Bulgaria provided the German army a land corridor to invade Greece and, starting in 1943, for some 75,000 Greek Jews (most of them from Salonika) to be shipped to Auschwitz. The government also allowed the Thracian and Macedonian Jews to be deported as well.

Dated October 1943, Sterne conflates the deportation of Greek and Thracian Jews while speaking to Angel Wagenstein’s personal experience. A Bulgarian-born Jew who spent his childhood in France, Wagenstein returned to Bulgaria to study and was an anti-fascist partisan during the war; in some sense, the movie is autobiographical.

In Andrea Simon’s documentary-portrait Angel Wagenstein: Art Is a Weapon (having its world premiere at the NYJFF), Wagenstein recalls witnessing the deportation of the Thracian Jews. He also suggests the character of Walter was based on an actual German corporal and identifies Bansko, the town in southwestern Bulgaria where Sterne was shot, as the cradle of the Bulgarian resistance movement.

Konrad Wolf’s experience of the war was less direct. East Germany’s leading director throughout the 1950s and ’60s, he was the son of the German-Jewish dramatist, medical doctor, and left-wing activist Friedrich Wolf (and the younger brother of East German spymaster Markus Wolf, whose autobiography, Man Without a Face, is filled with admiring references to his sibling’s movies).

Friedrich Wolf was briefly jailed for his 1929 play Cyanide, a defense of abortion rights, and went into exile once the Nazis came to power in 1933. His next drama, Professor Mamlock, which was written in France and premiered at the Warsaw Yiddish Art Theater in 1934, was among the first works to dramatize Nazi persecution of German Jews and made his international reputation. Professor Mamlock was filmed in the Soviet Union, Wolf’s adopted country, where it was well-received in 1938. His son Konrad released the film 23 years later in East Germany, to lesser acclaim.

Sterne, which would win a special-jury prize at Cannes, was released in March 1959—the same month that saw the opening of Hollywood’s first big Holocaust drama, The Diary of Anne Frank, also shown at Cannes. (While The Diary of Anne Frank was the first American movie to deal directly with the Holocaust, two earlier films—the 1953 Stanley Kramer production The Juggler, shot in Israel, and the 1956 independent feature Singing in the Dark—concerned traumatized Holocaust survivors played, respectively, by Kirk Douglas and Moishe Oysher.)

Not the first European film to depict the Holocaust, Sterne actually postdates a small cycle of movies were made in the 1940s. The earliest was a Soviet film, The Unvanquished (1945), directed by Mark Donskoi and starring Yiddish actor Venyamin Zuskin, that depicted a mass execution of Jews filmed on location at Babi Yar.

Marriage in the Shadows (1947)—directed in Soviet-occupied Germany by Kurt Maetzig, who, having a Jewish mother, had been forbidden by the Nazis to work and later joined an underground resistance group—was a film à clef. The movie dramatized the story of a well-known German actor who, refused permission to accompany his wife to the “model” concentration camp Theresienstadt, joined her in a suicide pact. Made in the American-occupied Germany with assistance from the U.S. Army, and consequently more positive, Israel Becker’s Long Is the Road (1948) was a quasi-autobiographical account of a young Polish Jew who jumps off an Auschwitz-bound transport to take his chances in the Polish countryside. (The movie was unfairly criticized as special pleading for Jewish DPs in the American press; it did later have a second life in a shortened version used as UJA fundraiser.)

One of the first films produced by the new Polish film industry, Natan Gross’s Yiddish-language Undzere Kinder (Our Children), 1948, was a semidocumentary of Jewish war orphans, many of whom enacted their actual situation for the camera. Two related films were produced almost simultaneously in Poland: Wanda Jakubowska’s powerfully disorienting The Last Stage (1948) was based on her own experiences in Auschwitz, and Alexander Ford’s Border Street (1948), a Czech-Polish co-production, had the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as its climax—scored to a near oratorio by composer Henoch Kon.

The masterpiece of this tendency was the Czech filmmaker Alfred Radok’s Distant Journey (1948), in which a Jewish doctor briefly forestalls her deportation to Theresienstadt by marrying a Czech colleague. As The Last Stage was partially shot on location in the women’s section of Auschwitz-Birkenau, so Distant Journey used Theresienstadt, where both Radok’s Jewish father and grandfather died. When the movie was shown in New York in September 1950, the Yiddish press reported the amazed public response of at least one spectator, who said that she recognized her fictional self in the film. The shock of recognition is crucial. Even today, Distant Journey et al. retain the urgency of an immediate response.

These eight films, plus Sterne, have several things in common. All, except Long Is the Road, were produced by Communist film industries that were not eager to focus on a specifically Jewish calamity. They are, in many ways, special cases. The most important thing was that they were made by and/or with people with first-hand experience of the Nazi war against the Jews—and can be considered a form of group psychodrama. More than movies, they were a form of testimony, not all of it welcome.

The state gave and the state took away. That, in most cases, these films were subsequently banned or shelved may explain why it has taken so long for them to enter the canon of Holocaust films. Shown at the first post-war Venice Film Festival, The Unvanquished received an award but disappeared from Soviet screens—and history—around the same time as its lead actor, Venyamin Zuskin, a victim of Stalin’s anti-Semitic campaign.

The Last Stage, which won the Crystal Globe at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 1948, was considered acceptable, but Undzere Kinder was not. It was never shown in Poland (and also did poorly when a print made its way to Israel in 1950). Border Street was highly popular in Poland until it was banned, supposedly by order of Stalin, and likely cost Ford his job as the head of Polish film production. Distant Journey, which, like Border Street, acknowledged the role of indigenous anti-Semitism, was banned in Czechoslovakia—even as it was distributed abroad—and served to compromise Radok’s career.

Sterne was the first film to implicate Bulgarian authorities in the deportation of Thracian and Macedonian Jews. Despite its international acclaim, the movie was banned in Bulgaria for its “abstract humanism,” and Wagenstein did not make another film for several years.

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Neo-Nazi blogger resigns over revelation his wife is Jewish

Mike Enoch was considered one of the three most influential figures in the “alt-right” movement.

ShowImageThe founder of the popular right-wing blog The Right Stuff resigned over the revelation that his wife is Jewish.

Mike Enoch, who also co-hosts “The Daily Shoah” weekly podcast, was outed over the weekend as Mike Peinovich, a website developer from New York. On the podcast, which has about 100,000 regular listeners, Peinovich as Enoch talked about killing Jews and spouted neo-Nazi invective.

The release of Peinovich’s personal details came after the identities of the other podcast panelists were made public earlier in the week by a rival website called 8chan. The invented surname reportedly is a reference to Enoch Powell, a far-right British politician.

Enoch was considered one of the three most influential figures in the “alt-right” movement along with Daily Stormer creator Andrew Anglin and Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist think tank. Spencer is a co-creator of the alt-right label, which describes a far-right movement whose followers traffic variously in white nationalism, anti-immigration sentiment, anti-Semitism and a disdain for “political correctness.”

Peinovich came clean with readers of The Right Stuff, posting a message in a password-protected forum that was reprinted in part by Salon.

“As I am sure you all know, I was doxxed and an ill advised attempt to fool the media about my identity led me to not talk to you people and to try to simply ride it out by being silent,” he said. “This was irresponsible and a disservice to all of you. Yes my wife is who they say she is, I won’t even bother denying it, I won’t bother making excuses. If this makes you want to leave the movement, or to have nothing to do with TRS, then I understand.

“Don’t lie for me. Don’t try to defend me to those attacking me. Don’t jeopardize your own reputation by defending things that you don’t think you can. I could try to explain my whole life for the last ten years to you but what difference at this point would it make. Life isn’t perfect.”

The Right Stuff has popularized many right-wing memes, as well as the triple parentheses known as the echo symbol used by white supremacists and anti-Semites on Twitter to identify Jews.

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Archaeologists unearth jewelry likely removed from Nazi gas chamber victims

Among items is unique pendant, resembling one which belonged to Anne Frank.

ShowImage (1)Archeologists working at the former Nazi extermination camp Sobibór in Poland uncovered personal items that they believe were removed by Holocaust victims before they were sent to the gas chambers, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum announced Sunday.

The items were found in the location believed to be where victims were forced to undress and have their heads shaved before being sent to their death.

The archeological findings were discovered by Polish archeologist Wojciech Mazurek, Israel Antiquities Authority archeologist Yoram Haimi and their Dutch colleague, Ivar Schute.

The remains of the building dug up by the archeologists are located on the so-called “Road to Heaven,” the path along which Jewish victims were forced to walk to the gas chambers. The personal items found in the foundations of the building probably fell through the floorboards and remained buried in the ground until they were discovered this past fall.

The items found include a Star of David necklace, a woman’s watch and a metal charm covered in glass with an etching of the image of Moses holding the Ten Commandments; on the reverse side of the charm is the inscription of the Jewish Shema prayer.

A unique pendant has drawn particular attention, as it bears a close resemblance to one owned by author and Holocaust victim Anne Frank. On the pendant are engravings of the words “Mazal Tov” written in Hebrew on one side and on the other side the Hebrew letter “Hei” for Hashem as well three Stars of David. It is believed to have belonged to a child from Frankfurt.

Through the use of Yad Vashem’s online pan-European Deportation Database “Transports to Extinction,” researchers found that the pendant might have belonged to a girl by the name of Karoline Cohn, born on July 3, 1929, who was deported from Frankfurt to Minsk on November 11, 1941.

Yad Vashem said that while it is unknown whether Cohn survived the harsh conditions of the Minsk ghetto, her pendant reached Sobibór sometime between November 1941 and September 1943, when the ghetto was liquidated and the 2,000 Jewish prisoners interned there were deported to the death camp.

Additional research revealed that both Frank and Cohn were born in Frankfurt; researchers are currently trying to locate relatives of both families and are exploring a possible familial connection between the two.

“These recent findings from the excavations at Sobibór constitute an important contribution to the documentation and commemoration of the Holocaust, and help us to better understand what happened at Sobibór, both in terms of the camp’s function and also from the point of view of the victims,” said Prof.Havi Dreifuss, head of the Center for Research on the Holocaust in Poland at Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research.

The archeological excavations at the site began in 2007, with the end goal of establishing a museum and memorial site in the former Nazi extermination camp, in coordination with Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research.

During that time, the excavations have led to several important discoveries, including the foundations of the gas chambers, the original train platform and a large number of personal artifacts belonging to victims. Among these were metal discs attached to charm bracelets typically worn by children, upon which were engraved contact information in case the children went missing.

Yad Vashem said the most recent excavations had uncovered signs of the use of mechanical equipment to dismantle the camp, as well as imprints left in the ground where trees were planted in order to conceal evidence of the camp.

“The significance of the research and findings at Sobibór grows with every passing season of excavation,” said Haimi. “Every time we dig, we reveal another part of the camp, find more personal items and expand our knowledge about the camp.

“In spite of attempts by the Nazis and their collaborators to erase traces of their crimes, as well as the effects of forestation and time, we enhance our understanding of the history previously known to us only through survivor testimonies,” he added. “In this way, we ensure that the memory of the people killed there will never be forgotten. This pendant demonstrates once again the importance of archeological research of former Nazi death camp sites. The moving story of Karoline Cohn is symbolic of the shared fate of the Jews murdered in the camp. It is important to tell the story, so that we never forget.”

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