Category Archive: Together

Remembering My Father in Auschwitz

Nothing about the Shoah was logical or made sense. Our task, our mission, today and always, is not to try to understand, but to remember.

On the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the ghettos of the region of southern German-occupied Poland known as Zaglembie, the World Zaglembie Organization and the World Jewish Congress are organizing a week-long pilgrimage of survivors and descendants of survivors from the area to Krakow, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Będzin, Sosnowiec, Zawiercie, and other once heavily Jewish towns. The following article is expanded from remarks delivered at Auschwitz on July 29, 2018, by Menachem Rosensaft, general counsel of the World Jewish Congress, to the participants in the trip.

One of the first things my father taught me to do was to swim. Not just to swim, but also to dive. And it was directly related to the place where we are today.

Seventy-five years ago, on July 29, 1943, my father was in the ghetto of his hometown of Będzin in southern Poland, less than 15 minutes’ drive from the city of Katowice, and some 45 kilometers–around 28 miles–from the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Or, more accurately, he was back in the Będzin ghetto. Five weeks earlier, on June 22nd, he had been deported to Auschwitz together with his wife and her daughter. Usually, Jews were transported in windowless cattle cars, but this time the Germans used a passenger car. As the train crossed the Vistula River not far from the camp, my father’s wife and daughter prevailed on him to try to escape. He was an excellent swimmer, and dove out of the train’s window. German soldiers shot at him, and he was hit by three bullets: One grazed his forehead just near his eye, leaving a visible scar; a second entered his arm; and a third was never removed from his leg.

My father recalled losing consciousness, and that the ice-cold water resuscitated him. Somehow, he managed to drag himself out of the river. In the darkness, he saw a dim light emanating from a cottage, a hut really. He knew that knocking on its door was extremely dangerous–the people who lived there might well turn him over to the Gestapo. But he was lucky again. A peasant woman and her son took him in, gave him coffee, bandaged his wound, allowed him to dry his sopping wet clothes, and gave him a cap to hide his wounded head. After the war, my father unsuccessfully tried to find them. He walked through the night back to the ghetto–there was nowhere else for him to go–where he was reunited with his 80-year-old father. Subsequently, he learned that virtually the entire transport, including his wife and her daughter, had been taken directly to the gas chambers upon their arrival at Birkenau. In an oral testimony taken by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Będzin survivor Sigmund Strochlitz recalled my father warning the Jews of the ghetto after his return “that we will all be brought there [to Auschwitz, that is] and to expect the worst.”

Less than six weeks later, during the liquidation of the Będzin ghetto and after his father had died of natural causes in his arms, my father avoided deportation to Auschwitz once more by first hiding in a bunker for several days, and then escaping to the nearby town of Zawiercie. In late August 1943, however, he arrived at Birkenau as part of a transport from Zawiercie.

I knew that shortly thereafter, he spent several days in the notorious Block 11, the so-called Death Block, in Auschwitz 1. On my first visit there in 1995, I saw the page of the Block 11 registry according to which my father, Josef Rosensaft, number 140594, arrived there on Sept. 30, 1943 and left, evidently alive, on Oct. 4. But I never knew the details of how it was that he was not sent from Block 11 to be killed. My father died unexpectedly in 1975 at the age of 64, and this was one aspect of his survival that he never got around to telling me about.

But then, in December of 2013–more than 38 years after my father’s death–a friend of mine in Israel sent me the newly published biography of her cousin, Auschwitz survivor Zeev “Yumek” Londner–the father of our friend Daphna Londner Eldar–who, after Hebraizing his name, had risen to become Colonel (Aluf Mishne) Zeev Liron, one of the highest ranking officers in the Israel Air Force in its formative years. Liron’s father had been one of my father’s close friends in Będzin. I had also known that Liron–Londner–and his brother Moshe (Maniek) had been imprisoned in Block 11 together with my father, both because my father spoke about it and because their names were listed on the registry page alongside his.

As Liron told the story to journalist Moshe Ronen (Reinish) in From the Depths to the Skies (in Hebrew, Tehomot u-shehakim), “Rosensaft did not stop thinking about escaping.” My father told the Londner brothers that he had developed a friendship with a German SS doctor stationed in Katowice who had offered to hide my father and members of his family. Now my father plotted for the three of them to escape from their work detail, hide in a deserted tunnel until the Germans stopped looking for them, and then make their way to the SS doctor’s house in Katowice where they would be able to stay at least for a while.

When their scheme was betrayed to the Germans by a German unterkapo, an assistant to one of the inmates assigned by the camp’s administration to supervise his fellow prisoners, my father and the Londner brothers were taken from Birkenau to Auschwitz where a young German SS officer named Otto Klaus interrogated them.

The punishment for even plotting to escape, Klaus told the three Jews, is death. We are now going to take you to Block 11 and decide whether you will be shot or hanged, he continued. But prisoners are only shot on Mondays, and as today is Thursday, you will spend the next several days in Block 11. The three were put into a small standing cell in the block’s cellar with two other prisoners. Liron recalled that my father quipped with “black humor” that it was a shame they didn’t have a deck of cards to pass the time.

On Monday morning, they heard prisoners being taken from other cells, followed by gunshots. Liron remembered that “Yossele”–my father–bid his friends goodbye, telling them that they might meet again in the next world.  But no one came for them.  After an hour, Yakov (or Jakub) Kozalczyk, the kapo in charge of Block 11, came to their cell and hugged them. “You’re heroes,” he told them. “Nothing will happen to you, not today.” Later the same day, they walked back to Birkenau, quite probably along the same path we will take later this afternoon.

When Liron met my father again two years later in the displaced-persons camp of Bergen-Belsen in Germany, my father told him that following the liberation, he had looked for and found his SS doctor friend from Katowice who cleared up what had been the mystery of the three young Jews’ survival.

The unterkapo who had betrayed my father and the Londner brothers did not know the name of the man who was going to hide them but he gave Otto Klaus, the young SS officer, an address in Katowice that he had apparently overheard. Intent on exposing and arresting the still anonymous traitor, Klaus rode his motorcycle to the address in question and rang the house bell.  When the doctor opened the door, the two stared at one another in disbelief.

More than 25 years earlier, during World War I, the doctor had saved Otto Klaus’ father’s life. The two families had remained friends. Now Klaus had a decision to make, and he made it.  Instead of taking the doctor into custody, Klaus returned to Auschwitz and reported that his investigation had not uncovered any scheme to escape, that the unterkapo had lied, that my father and the Londner brothers were therefore innocent of any crime, and that there was no legal basis for executing them.

And so it is that I can tell my grandchildren that their great-grandfather survived Block 11, which made it possible for their grandfather to be born, because a young German SS officer named Otto Klaus had at least one spark of decency, of humaneness, left within him at Auschwitz in the first days of October 1943.

Back in Birkenau, in mid-October 1943, during Sukkot, my father smuggled a tiny apple into the barrack so that the highly respected rabbi of Zawiercie, the Zawiercier Rov, could recite the Kiddush blessing at the end of a clandestine prayer service. Throughout the prayers, my father recalled, the aged Rov stared at the apple, obviously conflicted. At the end of the clandestine service, he picked up the apple and said, in Yiddish, almost to himself, “Un iber dem zol ikh itzt zogn, ve-akhalta ve-savata u-verakhta et Hashem Elohekha …’” And over this, I should now say, “And you will eat, and you will be satisfied, and you will bless your God …”  “Kh’vel nisht essen,” I will not eat, he said, “veil ikh vel nisht zat sein,” because I will not be satisfied, “un ikh vill nisht bentchn” and I refuse to bentch, to sanctify God. And with that, the Zawiercier Rov put down the apple and turned away.

The Zawiercier Rov never lost his faith in God. Like the Hasidic master, Levi Itzhak of Berditchev, however, he was profoundly, desperately angry with Him, and this anger caused him to confront God from the innermost depths of his being.

One evening around the same time, my father and a group of Jews from Zawiercie were sitting in their barrack when the Zawiercier Rov suddenly said, again in Yiddish, “Ihr veist—you know—der Rebboine shel-oilem ken zein a ligner,” the Master of the Universe can be a liar. Asked how this could possibly be, the rabbi explained, “If God were to open His window now and look down and see us here, He would immediately look away and say, “Ikh hob dos nisht geton,” I did not do this—and that, the Zawiercier Rov said, would be the lie.

Later that year, my father was transferred from Birkenau to a sub-camp of Auschwitz, Łagisza, near Będzin. Sometime in the winter of 1944, he managed to escape from there and was hidden by a Polish friend. His freedom was short-lived. On his way to try to get forged papers to enable him to get to Hungary, he was recaptured by German soldiers looking for someone else. He was first taken back to Łagisza, where he was severely beaten, and then returned to Auschwitz where he spent months in Block 11 being tortured repeatedly–the Germans wanted to know the name of the Pole who had hidden him, something my father stubbornly refused to do, a stubbornness that I am certain saved his life. For the remainder of the war, through several other camps, my father was forced to wear a uniform with a special red circle—the so-called Fluchtpunktidentifying him as an escapee.

The same kapo, Jakub Kozalczyk, who had hugged my father and the Londner brothers the previous October, once publicly gave my father 250 vicious lashes at the direction and under the supervision of an SS doctor.

One of the inmates of Block 11 in the late spring of 1944 was Jacob Edelstein, who had been the Judenaeltester, the Elder of the Jews, at the Theresienstadt—or Terezin—concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. Accused by the Nazis of corrupting lists of inmates for deportation, Edelstein had been dismissed from his position early in 1943, and deported to Auschwitz in December of that year. On June 20, 1944, SS men came to Block 11 and told Edelstein he had been sentenced to death. Edelstein proceeded to shake hands with each of the inmates in his cell, including my father. Told by one of the SS men to hurry up, Edelstein replied, “I am the master of my last moments.” Edelstein’s demonstration of pride and defiance left an indelible impression on my father. “This was the expression of our spirit in those days,” he wrote more than a decade later, “a spirit which no power on earth could break.”

In late September 1944–Sept. 26th, to be exact–Kozalczyk wanted my father to conduct the Yom Kippur service. Emaciated, starved, my father chanted Kol Nidre from memory in the Death Block of Auschwitz, and then led the prayers there that evening and the following day for his fellow prisoners. As a reward, Kozalczyk gave my father and the other inmates of Block 11 an extra bowl of soup to break the fast.

It is surreal to imagine Block 11, where we were earlier today, transformed if only for 24 hours into a sanctuary where Jews condemned to die prayed while the gas chambers of nearby Birkenau functioned in full force. I have always wondered whether God Himself was praying alongside my father throughout that Yom Kippur in 1944.

Let us bear in mind that nothing about Auschwitz, nothing about Birkenau, nothing about the Shoah for that matter, was logical or made sense. Our task, our mission, today and always, is not to try to understand, but to remember.

Menachem Z. Rosensaft is General Counsel of the World Jewish Congress, and teaches about the law of genocide at the law schools of Columbia and Cornell Universities. He is the editor of the recently published The World Jewish Congress, 1936-2016.

Source: https://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/267403/remembering-my-father-in-auschwitz?utm_source=tabletmagazinelist&utm_campaign=3d3ebe95b0-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_07_30_07_29&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c308bf8edb-3d3ebe95b0-207774633

Anti-Semitism has resurfaced in Poland because of Holocaust law, Catholic leader says

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — Anti-Semitism has again become a problem in Poland because of the Holocaust law passed earlier this year and the subsequent controversy surrounding it, the former Roman Catholic primate there said.

“Old demons began to wake up: the trust of many thousands of people has been strained and the work of many decades has been tarnished,” Henryk Muszynski, archbishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of Gniezno, told the Polish-language Catholic Guide magazine.

The law passed in February made it illegal to blame the Polish nation of crimes that were committed by the Nazis. In June, the parliament made it a civil offense rather than a criminal one.

Muszynski said that Poles are attached to history, but they have “their own, one-sided vision.” He said there were “glorious moments” in the history of Poland, but also “mean and un-Christian” behavior.

The archbishop said Poles are closing themselves off to others and do not have a sufficiently deep identity, hence the fear of those who are “different and foreign.”

“It seems to us that they can threaten us, that they can change and destroy us. That is why we still want to defend ourselves against anyone — so much so that we are ready to create a fictional enemy, who is everyone who thinks differently, who believes differently, who is different from us,” the archbishop said.

“Those who reject today Jews and Muslims, who judge these people, probably never met any Jew or Muslim. The blame for their aggression and fear is usually borne by their environment, in which radical opinions and propaganda dominate, served by some media.”

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/07/16/news-opinion/anti-semitism-resurfaced-due-polish-holocaust-law-catholic-leader-says?utm_source=JTA%20Maropost&utm_campaign=JTA&utm_medium=email&mpweb=1161-5198-185509

Watchdog group: United Nations ignores antisemitism, de-Judaizes Holocaust

The United Nations has failed to seriously combat antisemitism and in some cases has de-Judaized the Holocaust, a Geneva watchdog group said on Monday.

UN Watch made the accusation in a report it presented at a special event at the Knesset.

Israel has long argued that the UN’s treatment of it is tantamount to antisemitism because of the body’s long record of excessively condemning Israeli actions above and beyond those of other nations.

Haley says UN could benefit from fresh set of eyes, calls out anti-Israeli bias at UN, January 19, 2017 (Reuters)

“When it comes to Jews, when it comes to Israelis, the UN has become a hostile and biased body,” said Yesh Atid head MK Yair Lapid, who chaired the Knesset event. “The organization that is meant to fight antisemitism, which is sworn to fight antisemitism, is guilty of antisemitism itself.”

The UN Watch report, presented by the group’s executive director, Hillel Neuer, said that in addition the UN has done little to tackle antisemitism even though it is tasked with combating worldwide racism, xenophobia and discrimination.

The report lauded some UN actions on antisemitism, including UNESCO’s Holocaust education program and the statements of some UN officials, including Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

But the bulk of the report protested the failure of UN officials and relevant bodies, including outgoing High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, to properly address the problem of antisemitism.

Zeid did not make a “single standalone statement” in reaction to an antisemitic event during his four years in office, UN Watch said.

He also “trivialized and de-Judaized the Holocaust,” the group said.

Among the examples it gave was Zeid’s opening speech to the UNHRC in June 2017, in which he “juxtaposed Hitler’s concentration camps to Palestinian refugee camps.”

The watchdog group added that Zeid “cynically instrumentalized the Holocaust to defend Muslims and criticize Israel, but “has never used the Holocaust to defend Jews against modern antisemitism.”

The General Assembly, the report stated, has passed only two resolutions in the last decade that addressed antisemitism as part of a larger text that also included Christianophobia and Islamophobia.

The report noted that the General Assembly had, however, held its first ever informal meeting on antisemitism in January 2015. Since 2014 it has also condemned Holocaust denial.

The UNHRC and the UNGA should receive annual reports on antisemitism, UN Watch said.

“We call on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to acknowledge the demonstrable failure of the world body when it comes to antisemitism, and to set forth an action plan that will mobilize key UN stakeholders, and in particular those within its human rights machinery, to exercise their responsibilities to condemn and confront bigotry, hatred or violence targeting Jews worldwide,” UN Watch said.

Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler told The Jerusalem Post after the meeting, “the real issue is what might be called the laundering of the delegitimization of Israel in general and of antisemitism, in particular under universal human values and those human values find expression in the UN and all its institutions.”

Source: https://m.jpost.com/Israel-News/Watchdog-group-United-Nations-ignores-antisemitism-de-Judaizes-Holocaust-562076?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=10-7-2018&utm_content=Watchdog-group-United-Nations-ignores-antisemitism-de-Judaizes-Holocaust-562076

Poles launch global drive to promote Holocaust law deal, roiling Israeli critics

Knesset members charge Jerusalem handed Warsaw a PR victory as full-page ads with joint declaration appear in English, Hebrew, German, Spanish and French

A copy of the Polish-Israeli agreement appearing in Yedioth Ahronoth on July 5. 2018. (Joshua Davidovich/Times of Israel)

A Polish foundation with ties to the government in Warsaw has been placing full-page ads in newspapers around the world, including in Israel, publicizing the joint statement on the Holocaust issued by Poland and Israel last week, with translations made by the Polish foreign ministry.

On Thursday, a Hebrew version of the document appeared in the Haaretz and Yedioth Aharonoth dailies. The day before, the ads could be found in important newspapers in Germany and the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, in German and English respectively.

The appearance of the ads triggered criticism in Israel, with some people arguing that they were proof the Israeli government, by agreeing to issue the statement, had handed Poland a PR victory in its battle to portray Poles primarily as victims of Nazism rather than accomplices in committing atrocities. Critics say the joint Polish-Israeli agreement downplays the role of many Poles who willingly cooperated with the Nazis.

“This is exactly what I warned Netanyahu of,” opposition MK Yair Lapid tweeted. “One must not conduct negotiations with the Poles. Over the memory of those who perished one doesn’t conduct negotiations.”

Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli said the campaign “to prove that Israel is clearing the Poles of all responsibility is grave and embarrassing.”

Said Shmuli: “This is the height of insult and disgrace, and Holocaust deniers must send a huge bouquet of flowers to the Israeli government and its leader, who put the memory of those who perished up for negotiations and sale.”

Critics charged that the statement was historically inaccurate in comparing anti-Semitism with “anti-Polonism” and that it gave a kosher stamp to the Poles’ skewed narrative of the Shoah.

Leading Israeli Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer went as far as calling it “a betrayal of the memory of the Holocaust and the interest of the Jewish people.”

The joint declaration, signed simultaneously on June 27 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki, ended a diplomatic standoff over a Polish law that criminalized accusing Poles of complicity in the extermination of Jews during World War II.

The controversial text declared that the term “Polish death camps” is “blatantly erroneous” and that the wartime Polish government-in-exile “attempted to stop this Nazi activity by trying to raise awareness among the Western allies to the systematic murder of the Polish Jews.”

Most controversially, it condemned “every single case of cruelty against Jews perpetrated by Poles during…World War II” but noted “heroic acts of numerous Poles, especially the Righteous Among the Nations, who risked their lives to save Jewish people.”

Text on a monument to victims of the Holocaust in Ivansk, Poland, referring to Nazi ‘collaborators.’ (Courtesy

The full-time ads reproducing the statement in its entirety are being placed in “the world’s largest daily newspapers,” according to the PKO Foundation, which paid for the ads.

The PKO Foundation is an affiliate of Bank Polski, one of Poland’s leading financial institutions, which has close ties to the government.

It is unclear whether the PKO Foundation placed the ads of its own initiative or whether it did so at the behest of the government.

The PKO Foundation, founded in 2010, “implements numerous initiatives for the public good, including in the field of education, upbringing, social assistance, protection and promotion of health, arts and culture, and environmental protection,” according to its website.

The translations of the document used in the ads — into German, English, Spanish, French and Hebrew — were done by the Polish Foreign Ministry.

The Hebrew translation done in Warsaw differs slightly from the version the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem issued last week. The changes were minor and it was not immediately clear why they had been made.

The Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry did not respond to requests for comments.

An ad with the Israeli-Polish joint declaration on the Holocaust appeared in Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, July 4, 2018 (courtesy)

Yaakov Nagel, one of the two Netanyahu confidants who secretly negotiated the agreement with the Polish government, earlier this week firmly rejected any criticism.

“Here is a country that prides itself with having passed a law that they say will restore national honor, and half a year later they cancel it with their tails between their legs,” he said, referring to Poland. “This is an great achievement for the State of Israel.”

Nagel went on, “The criticism drives me crazy. We got an amazing accomplishment. We had a law that everyone said was terrible, and we got rid of it without giving them anything in return. There is nothing wrong with the statement.”

The Poles, too, have expressed satisfaction with the statement.

The influential leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynskiarty, last week said the joint declaration declaration “fully confirms Poland’s position” on Germany bearing the sole responsibility for the Holocaust.

More than 6,800 Poles are recognized as Righteous Among the Nations who risked their lives by helping rescue Jews during the Holocaust, the highest number of any nation. However, Poland had by far the largest Jewish community in Europe before the war, only 10 percent of which survived.

At the same time, many Poles were rabidly anti-Semitic and actively collaborated with the Nazis or killed and robbed Jews themselves.

Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/poles-launch-global-drive-to-promote-holocaust-law-deal-roiling-israeli-critics/

Ghost writer revisits her own amazing Holocaust survival story in Amsterdam

By Cnaan Liphshiz

During World War II, Miriam Dubi-Gazan registered falsely as the daughter of a Nazi collaborator without his knowledge. (Courtesy of Dubi-Gazan)

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — As a seasoned ghost writer who specializes in biographies, Miriam Dubi-Gazan says there is no such thing as a boring life story.

Her attention to detail, creativity and editing skills yield satisfying results even for clients whose resumes are not exactly the stuff of spy novels (think retired bankers, plastics manufacturers, midlevel civil servants and family doctors), she says.

But Dubi-Gazan’s own astonishing life story needs none of the tricks of her trade.

Born in 1945 to Jewish parents in a cellar in Amsterdam, where they were hiding from the Nazis, Dubi-Gazan was registered falsely as the daughter of a Nazi collaborator without his knowledge. It was part of a daring deceit by the Nazi’s own brother — a resistance fighter — to keep her alive.

In December, during her first return to her place of birth, Dubi-Gazan, who has lived in Israel since 1962, told JTA that her rescue story demonstrates both Dutch society’s shame and its glory.

At least 75 percent of the country’s Jews were murdered during the Holocaust — the highest death rate in occupied Western Europe. Yet alongside widespread collaboration there were significant acts of disobedience on a scale unmatched by any other country in Western Europe.

The ideological divide between the two men at the center of her own survival story — Simon Dekker, the Nazi collaborator, and his freedom fighter brother, Ewert — is a microcosm of  Dutch society during the occupation.

“It shows you how sharply divided Dutch society was,” Dubi-Gazan, 73, said of the family of the resistance fighters who saved her. “Within the same household you had people working for the Nazis and people who were risking their lives to stop them.”

Miriam Dubi-Gazan, right in first row, poses with classmates at the Rosj Pina Jewish elementary school in Amsterdam, June 25, 1953. (Courtesy of Dubi-Gazan)

In 1941, the Netherlands saw the first mass protests anywhere in Europe over the persecution of Jews.

Following the roundup of 457 Jews by Nazis, hundreds of thousands of laborers answered the resistance call for a general strike that February. Dutch industry ground to a halt for three days. The Germans cracked down on the strikers, killing nine of them and imprisoning hundreds, until the strike was broken by brute force.

Underground, the resistance was busy hiding thousands and helping thousands more to safety.

The Netherlands has 5,669 Righteous Among the Nations — non-Jews recognized and honored by Israel for having risked their lives to save Jews. It’s by far the highest figure in Western Europe and the second highest worldwide, second only to Poland’s 6,863 rescuers.

Yet Dutch police and many civilians unreservedly enlisted to the Nazi project of murdering the Jews of the Netherlands and Europe.

Soon after the Nazis invaded in 1940, men from the group known as the Henneicke Column began hunting Jews for pay. Led by a cabby named Wim Henneicke, some 80 bounty hunters were paid by authorities 5 guldens for every Jew they brought in — the equivalent of a week’s pay for unskilled laborers. The bounty was later raised to 7.5 and then to 40 gulden. This group alone caught thousands of victims.

Anne Frank, the teenager whose diary became one of the world’s best-known testimonials from the Holocaust, may have been betrayed with her family.

Visitors wait to enter the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam, March 29, 2008. (Massimo Catarinella/Wikimedia Commons)

In that atmosphere, it was imperative that a baby born at a resistance safe house, like Miriam Dubi-Gazan, have papers. Anyone caught with an undocumented baby risked a Gestapo interrogation that was liable not only to end with the dispatch to Auschwitz of the baby and her parents, but to the exposure of the resistance cell that hid them, she explained.

This made Simon Dekker, the Nazi brother of a resistance fighter, the perfect person to register as the Jewish baby’s father. He would be above suspicion, Dubi-Gazan said.

Last year, Dubi-Gazan returned to the cellar where she was born on Jan Luijken Street, around the corner from the Van Gogh Museum, with a film crew from the Israel Broadcasting Corp. Before going there, she met with Henk and Wisje Dekker, Simon and Ewart’s nonagenarian siblings.

Ewert, her rescuer, died a few years ago, she learned. As did Simon, a former high school teacher who immediately after World War II left the Netherlands amid the authorities’ sweep to catch and punish Nazi collaborators.

In the half-light of an overcast morning, Dubi-Gazan stood in the cellar where her mother gave birth to her in anguished silence, lacking any medical assistance and attended by Miriam’s older brother, who then was 18 months old.

Two months before Miriam was born, her mother narrowly escaped a raid after a pro-Nazi milkman reported the family to the police, she said. As the Nazis banged on the front door, Miriam’s highly pregnant mother jumped with her son over a fence to disappear in the maze of gardens that was the building’s interior yard.

Miriam Dubi-Gazan, left, with her brother in 1945. (Courtesy of Dubi-Gazan)

“I can’t believe my mother lived through all of that,” Dubi-Gazan said in the room, visibly moved. But after a few minutes she was ready to leave.

“I want to get out of here. Let’s go, this is enough now,” she said as she climbed up from the cellar.

After the Holocaust, her traumatized mother had deep emotional issues, Dubi-Gazan said.

“We couldn’t ride on the train growing up — because the trains all went to Auschwitz,” she told JTA.

Living with the trauma of the Holocaust, Dubi-Gazan said she knew she wanted to leave for Israel when she was 5 years old. She attended the Rosj Pina Jewish school in Amsterdam in one of the first classes opened after the Holocaust.

Her class had only seven students — all of them child survivors of the 140,000-member Jewish community that lived in the Netherlands before the war.

Today’s Dutch Jewish community, estimated at 45,000, is heavily concentrated in Amsterdam, where it has several cultural centers and synagogues, as well as an elementary and secondary school. But it has failed to replenish its numbers. Outside Amsterdam, once-prominent synagogues dot the Netherlands, only several of them still functioning as such.

In the southern city of Middelburg, non-Jewish volunteers show the local synagogue to visitors once a week. Up north in Groningen, the synagogue is a museum with a souvenir shop selling wine and kosher products from Israel. And in Deventer in the east, a 207-year-old synagogue is being turned into a restaurant following its sale to a Dutch-Turkish entrepreneur.

“I grew up with a lot of anger toward the Dutch,” said Dubi-Gazan, who has two daughters. “I wasn’t raised to think of this place as home.”

But with time, she said, her attitude softened. She recently honored the Dekker family (“the good side, that is,” she said) by planting a tree in their honor in Israel.

“It’s true that many collaborated. But many non-Jews also suffered, some for helping Jews,” she said. “They went to concentration and labor camps and their children, I’ve come to discover, were scarred by that experience as deeply as I was.”

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/06/26/news-opinion/ghost-writer-revisits-amazing-holocaust-survival-story-amsterdam

Krakow’s Jewish community copes with Poland’s controversial Holocaust law

© Alcyone Wemaëre, France 24

Kamilla, who calls herself a Judeophile, studied Judaism and named her daughter Hannah, “like Hannah Arendt”. Why? “I have no idea. I love the Jewish religion,” she says. She is part of the generation that, as schoolchildren visiting Auschwitz, was told the victims were Poles and Russians, but not Jews.

Very critical of a government that “every week finds a new Polish hero” and “opens the floodgates of xenophobia”, Kamilla believes one must be vigilant. She cites Marek Edelman, one of the instigators of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, who said, “Don’t forget that evil can grow bigger.”

This article has been translated from the original in French.

Source: http://m.france24.com/en/20180524-poland-reportage-krakow-jewish-community-copes-with-controversial-holocaust-law?utm_source=JTA%20Maropost&utm_campaign=JTA&utm_medium=email

Study says Polish neighbors betrayed many more Jews than previously thought

Polish Jews shown in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943. (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

(JTA) — According to new research done in Poland, two thirds of the local Jews who hid there from the Nazis did not survive the war, mostly because of the actions of their non-Jewish neighbors.

The figure comes from a two-volume work of 1,600 pages that historians from the Warsaw-based Center for Research on Holocaust of Jews have compiled over the past five years. It covers nine out of Poland’s 13 regions, the Tok FM radio station reported Sunday.

Arriving amid a polarizing debate in Poland over a law that limits rhetoric on Polish complicity in the Holocaust, the study suggests Poles are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths by Jews in the Holocaust — a figure that is significantly higher than previous estimates.

The findings of the research were published earlier this year in a Polish-language book titled “The Fate of the Jews in Selected Regions of Occupied Poland.” They pertain to the fate of more than one million Jews who went underground to avoid being killed in Operation Reinhard — Nazi Germany’s campaign of annihilation of 3.3 million Jews in occupied Poland.

According to Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, no more than 2,500 Jews died at the hands of Poles during the Holocaust or immediately after it. Efraim Zuroff, Eastern Europe director for the Simon Wiesenthal has disputed Schudrich’s estimate: He believes the correct figure is “many thousands” of people, including in at least 15 towns and cities in eastern Poland, where non-Jews butchered their Jewish neighbors.

But if the new study in Poland is correct, then those estimates are just a fraction of a tally of well over half a million Jewish Holocaust victims who died as a result of the actions of non-Jewish Poles.

The issue of Polish complicity in the Holocaust is highly controversial in Poland, where the Nazis killed three million non-Jews in addition to about four million Jews. In January, the right-wing government passed a law criminalizing blaming Poland for Nazi crimes. Protests by Israel, the United States and Jewish groups over this law prompted what observers say is a wave of anti-Semitic hatred with unprecedented intensity since the fall of communism in Poland.

The government is also leading a campaign that celebrates the actions of Poles who risked their lives to save Jews. The Yad Vashem Holocaust museum has recognized more than 6,000 Poles for such actions – the highest number of any nation.

Especially dangerous for Jews in hiding were small Polish towns, according to historians Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski, two of the nine researchers who conducted the study. They called them “death traps,” TOK FM reported.

Grabowski is professor of history at the University of Ottawa in Canada and a dean among Holocaust historians, especially on the actions of bystanders. His 2014 book, “Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland,” was the Yad Vashem International Book Prize winner for the same year. He also served as a fellow at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The latest research entailed identifying, interviewing or reviewing interviews with as many survivors as possible to ascertain the fate of other Jews in hiding who did not survive, the report said. It also features newly discovered archives from remote areas of Poland from the Nazi occupation days and thereafter.

In one region, Miechów, more than 10 percent of the Jews in hiding were murdered directly by partisans who were members of the Polish underground, according to the study.

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/05/11/default/poles-helped-kill-jews-hiding-nazis-study-claims?utm_source=JTA%20Maropost&utm_campaign=JTA&utm_medium=email&mpweb=1161-4262-185509