HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR BUYS HOSPITAL BED FOR OLDEST LIVING RIGHTEOUS AMONG NATIONS

Krystyna Danko, who is now deaf and blind, is among the oldest rescuers still alive.

BY CNAAN LIPHSHIZ/JTA
Holocaust survivor buys hospital bed for oldest living Righteous Among Nations

From the Depths founder Jonny Daniels sits with the oldest living Righteous Among the Nations Krystyna Dańko on her 102nd birthday. (photo credit: FROM THE DEPTHS)

Krystyna Danko, who is now deaf and blind, is believed to be the oldest Righteous Among the Nations still living.

Joe Erlichster, 75, on Friday said it was “part of our duty as Jews to recognize what some brave souls in Poland and elsewhere did” during World War II.

Before World War II, Danko was an orphan who  was taken in a Jewish family named Kokoszko in Otwock near Warsaw. During the war, Danko almost single-handedly rescued all four members of the family, her case file says.

Danko was in 1998 conferred that title Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, Israel’s authority for commemorating the Holocaust. Unusually, Yad Vashem’s website characterizes her efforts as “incredible.”

Jonny Daniels, founder of the From the Depths Holocaust commemoration group, spoke with Danko’s family earlier this week, who told him she’s in need of a bed they cannot afford.

Daniels began a crowd-funding campaign that reached Erlichster, who gave his donation in memory of the Kulinski family. That non-Jewish family saved Erlichster’s own family in Otwock. Other donors included Greg Rodin from Canada.

The bed arrived at Danko’s Warsaw apartment on Thursday.

ANTISEMITIC HUMOR: A CLOAKED VILLAIN

When venerated media outlets like ‘The Harvard Lampoon’ casually publish an image of a bikini-clad Anne Frank, is it more than just ‘poor judgment?’

BY REBECCA ARATEN
Antisemitic humor: A cloaked villain

THE HISTORIC ‘Castle’ that is home base for ‘Lampoon’ members (at Cambridge’s 44 Bow Street) sits directly across from the Harvard Hillel buildings.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

When an image of Anne Frank wearing a bikini circulated around the Harvard University campus in May, many Jewish students were shocked and disgusted, viewing the incident as the epitome of bad taste and insensitivity. That the image was not funny, most people could agree on. That it was a crude appropriation of a young girl’s body was evident to most (except, I suppose, its creator).

That it should not have been published was not heavily disputed. But was it antisemitic? That’s where you have to initiate a baffling investigation: a research project into the origins of jokes that offend Jews. Are they born from a seething hatred toward all Jews? From a blithe ignorance that repudiates any sort of accountability? From the poison of antisemitism that slips through a human’s veins, unawares? From some complicated combination of all of these? Sometimes there is no way to know.

The Anne Frank episode shows how difficult it is for Jews to know where they stand when their identity is on the line. Across college campuses, this murky line between ill-will and ignorance has plunged many Jewish students and leaders into confusion, as they wonder which jokes directed at them qualify as antisemitic, and how they should respond.

The Harvard Lampoon, a social and satire organization, published the Anne Frank image in the spring issue of its humor magazine, with the caption “Gone Before Her Time: Virtual Aging Technology Shows Us What Anne Frank Would Have Looked Like If She Hadn’t Died.” Beneath the photoshopped photograph were the words: “Add this to your list of reasons the Holocaust sucked.” The corner of the photoshopped photograph contained the author’s initials: CdLLdr.

The author of the piece, whose full name is Cristóbal De Losada López de Romaña, presumably published in the hopes of provoking laughs. What he provoked instead was a strong backlash against his piece and against the Lampoon’s choice of material.

“I’m appalled that such an unfunny, hateful, ignorant, pedophiliac, and dehumanizing image could be published,” wrote Harvard student Paulette Schuster. “I cannot fathom the thought process where CdLLdr (very inconspicuous by the way) thought it would be remotely funny to put the head of a 15-year-old Holocaust victim on the body of a swimsuit model.

Leaders of Jewish organizations on campus had their say, too. “We are profoundly disappointed in the poor judgment that was used when deciding to create and publish this image,” Harvard Chabad student leaders wrote in an emailed statement.
The Lampoon’s next-door neighbors were disturbed by the caricature as well, to say the least. The castle that is home base for Lampoon members sits directly across the street from the Harvard Hillel buildings, so closely adjacent that party music from the Lampoon drifts through the Hillel windows on some Friday evenings. The sounds of a particularly robust Kabbalat Shabbat might penetrate the Lampoon’s brick walls, too.

“Let me share here what I have written to our neighbors just across Mount Auburn Street,” wrote Harvard Hillel director Rabbi Jonah Steinberg in an email to Hillel affiliates. He found the Lampoon photo to be concerning, because it carried on the Nazi propaganda’s legacy of dehumanizing Jews. “By producing and spreading such an image, you effectively join yourselves to the obscenity of the Nazis themselves and carry it forward,” he wrote. “It is an image one can imagine Julius Streicher, publisher of Der Stürmer, producing and celebrating.”

Danu Mudannayake, who will be a senior at Harvard this fall, circulated a Change.org petition that said the Lampoon’s “antisemitic content [was] a logical outgrowth of a corrupt internal culture where members exercise infinite freedom at the harm of everyone else.”

IMAGE FROM an 1886 ‘Lampoon.’ (Credit: Courtesy)

IMAGE FROM an 1886 ‘Lampoon.’ (Credit: Courtesy)

The Lampoon publicly apologized for its actions, making sure to “affirm and emphasize that the Lampoon condemns any and all forms of antisemitism.” A Lampoon co-president also sent a personal email to the members of the Hillel steering committee, apologizing for allowing publication of the photoshopped image.

Perhaps a few students upheld the Lampoon’s freedom of speech and argued for their right to make fun of all religious and ethnic groups and their histories. But most students wondered about what amount of naiveté factored into the image’s publication, and what amount of animosity. Was the Lampoon staff simply blind to the implications of their actions? Was the true light of “veritas” merely hidden from them in their quest to be “funny”?

Jacob Schwartz, a senior at Harvard, indicated that it was more than that. “Although I try to judge favorably, and part of me wants to chalk this up to ignorance, this is beyond me,” he wrote on Facebook. “The people who created this photo clearly knew enough about the Holocaust to understand on a basic level the tragedy that the Jewish people endured. And yet they decided that this was not only passable but funny. The audacity and complete inhumanity of this edition of The Harvard Lampoon is beyond me.”

But Schwartz still didn’t think the image itself crossed the line of antisemitism. “I don’t think the Lampoon is antisemitic. I don’t even think what they posted was intended to be antisemitic,” he said. “I think they were trying to make a joke. It was not funny, for not only antisemitic reasons but a number of reasons.” He mentioned that the Lampoon had reached out to Jewish communal leadership to see how the magazine could remedy its mistakes.

The New England Anti-Defamation League seems to recognize the complicated interplay between ignorance and antisemitism, stating not that the image was antisemitic, but rather that it could add fuel to the fires of antisemitism. “Trivializing #genocide plays into the hands of #antisemites & Holocaust deniers,” it tweeted.

Steinberg pointed out that he did not believe that the Lampoon staff sat around planning to create something antisemitic. “I very seriously doubt that any person or group of people sat right across from our building, our Hillel building, over at the Lampoon, sort of rubbing their hands together and saying, ‘Let’s figure out how we can be antisemitic,’” he said. He maintained that the Lampoon’s depiction of Anne Frank showed a type of obsession with victimization. “Now whether that is inherently antisemitic or not, it is very upsetting when it is directed in the Jewish direction,” he acknowledged.

THE SAME month that Harvard students were navigating the bounds between antisemitism and indifferent distastefulness, students at Stanford University were embroiled in their own disagreement about whether some political satire was antisemitic, and whether Jewish students should be insulted by such contents.

The political cartoons in question were creations of Eli Valley, a Jewish writer and artist whose controversial illustrations have confronted Zionism and right-wing politics, often by comparing current events to the Holocaust. One of his cartoons portrays a woman and her child being separated by ICE agents, with a caption that berates those who refuse to use Holocaust analogies. While the young girl cries “MOMMA,” her mother responds, “Hush child, and be careful with your Holocaust analogies, lest you cheapen the sanctity of the Shoah!”

The Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) group at Stanford invited Valley to speak as part of its Palestinian Awareness Week, and plastered some of his cartoons around campus in order to advertise the event. One cartoon depicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making statements such as, “We can finally throw the droves of Arabs into the Mediterranean and build Jewish-only skyscrapers on the hilltops of Ramallah.”

New flyers appeared around campus, with images from Der Stürmer juxtaposed against Valley’s cartoons and a caption that read, “Spot the difference.” A member of the Stanford College Republicans was responsible for the new flyers, which members from both the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the Jewish Student Association (JSA) board condemned for containing despicable imagery.

SJP issued an apology for posting the Eli Valley cartoons without providing the reader with any background, yet both it and the JVP still maintained that the flyers were not antisemitic.

ARVARD HILLEL director Rabbi Jonah Steinberg noted in an email to Hillel affiliates, ‘It is an image one can imagine Julius Streicher, publisher of [notoriously antisemitic Nazi-era weekly] “Der Stürmer,” producing and celebrating.’ (Credit: Courtesy)

ARVARD HILLEL director Rabbi Jonah Steinberg noted in an email to Hillel affiliates, ‘It is an image one can imagine Julius Streicher, publisher of [notoriously antisemitic Nazi-era weekly] “Der Stürmer,” producing and celebrating.’ (Credit: Courtesy)

“We maintain that it is absurd to call Eli Valley’s art, or Eli Valley himself, antisemitic,” wrote Emily Wilder and Esther Tsvayg, co-presidents of JVP at Stanford, in an op-ed for the Stanford Daily student newspaper. They maintained that Valley’s work has been an outlet of political expression for many American Jews and that his art “engages deeply with Jewish texts, history, culture and experience.”

The JSA board at Stanford disagreed with this approach and wrote in a public statement, “Although Valley’s intent may be to produce scathing political commentary, his work extends beyond politics and into outright hostility toward the Jewish community.”
Whereas JVP saw Valley’s references to Jewish history as a source of “meaning,” JSA found them to be offensive and harmful. “His work crosses the line from pointed political criticism to offensive denigration of Jews,” they wrote at the time. “Sometimes, he even evokes the blood libel and other antisemitic depictions that have been used for centuries to justify hatred of and violence toward millions of Jews.”

To the JSA board, Valley’s artwork “normalizes damaging stereotypes” and must be viewed in the context of a long history of violence against Jews.

Ben Simon, a Stanford sophomore at the time, commented on the tension the cartoons created for Jewish students. “A lot of stuff borders on antisemitism,” he said. He mentioned that he, along with other Jewish students on campus, particularly the more politically conservative ones, “felt very attacked.”

MILES AWAY from both Harvard and Stanford, the City University of New York’s Baruch College has been home to a number of instances in which certain tropes and stereotypes have reared their ugly heads in the guise of humor, resulting in a number of incidents that have concerned Jewish students and professors.

Ilya Bratman, a professor at Baruch and director of the Hillel there, has witnessed a number of remarks and incidents on campus which were intended to be humorous, yet ventured into antisemitic territory.

These encroachments into antisemitic domain take place against a backdrop of recurring antisemitic incidents at Baruch. A swastika drawn on the Hillel building and in a bathroom there have acquainted students with some of the more blatant strains of antisemitism.

Still, Bratman said that comments by professors are more of a burden to Jews on campus than the recurring Nazi symbols. “The bigger problems are the things that happen from the faculty and from within the classroom,” he said. “Professors are emboldened and say wildly inappropriate things, and sometimes for the sake of humor or to make a point.”

Recently, a professor made a remark in a “humorous” but “very degrading way,” in which she referred to Jews in Crown Heights as “those who are able to get away with crime.” The idea behind the comment, as Bratman explained, was that Jewish people were all buddies with the cops and were therefore able to get away with any criminal actions, in contrast with their black neighbors.

A student came forward about this incident and was rewarded with an in-class apology from her professor. But many students are afraid of aggravating their professors, who are in positions of power over them and have sway over their classroom success. “They say, ‘What am I going to do? How am I going to fight?’ So they decide not to fight it. They decide to let it go,” Bratman said.
In his role as professor, Bratman has heard a number of students make remarks that he felt were “very much antisemitic.” “They have no idea what they’re saying,” he said. He expected that many of the tropes which his students brought up had simply become an “accepted form of discourse.”

At one point, in the context of a historical discussion about the Ku Klux Klan and black Klansmen, one of Bratman’s students claimed that the KKK was partnered with American Jews. The students in his class then entered a conversation about how that would have been possible, and whether or not a Jew would have been able to hide himself among the other Klansmen. Bratman recounts one student insisted that a Jew would have been able to conceal his identity, saying, “Oh he’s white, you know, he pretended.” Another student asserted that this would not have been possible because ‘“You can tell a Jew from other people.’” And how would that have been possible? “All Jews have big noses.”

“I recognized how little they understood,” Bratman said. He mentioned that these students attend university in New York City, a place of much diversity, where they must have had some sort of interaction with Jews. “It was very disgusting to see how little and how unconnected these American New Yorkers [were], who lived in New York and see Jews every day,” he said.

Comments such as these may stem from a variety of places, according to Bratman, some from malicious antisemitism and some more from a genuine lack of understanding about what crosses the line. “It’s a mixture, and just all of it intertwined,” he said.

He noted that some antisemitic themes have entered common discourse, and that he has seen students laugh at Jewish comedians who have made references to tropes about Jewish money. Bratman explained that because Jews themselves are able to laugh about the stereotypes, non-Jewish students believe they “must be true,” and they proceed to laugh at them.
Bratman said that humor has become a survival mechanism for Jews who make jokes in order to make light of situations in which they have found themselves. “I think we tend to laugh at ourselves in order to survive,” he explained. “We can laugh because this cannot be a not-laughable matter. This has got to be from God, therefore we can laugh at it.”

This lighthearted approach to life is one that leads to an ironic setup, in which everybody laughs at the Jews. “We live in a world that’s also crazy and wild. It’s the world of paradox where we can laugh at ourselves. The world can laugh at us. We allow it and laugh with the world.”

SO WHAT can Jews do when faced with humor that bothers or baffles them? According to many, educate.

Bratman used his classroom as a platform to test this approach. One day he wrote on the board, “Why do people hate the Jews?” He told his students to write a paper on the topic. When he read the responses, he was met with a slew of tropes: Jews were insular, they were capitalist and they were poor; they were pretentious and they were treasonous; they were gentrifiers and they were hungry for discounts.

Bratman showed his students the flaw in their logic. “Do you see all these things that are on the board that we’re putting up? They’re like opposites,” he explained to his students. All Jews cannot be both rich and poor, both capitalist and communist, both insular and influential, he said.

Others also touted the importance of educating people to prevent them from making incursions into antisemitism. In the case of the Lampoon, Schwartz recommended making an effort to engage people with Jewish history. “I’ve urged them to take Holocaust education courses, to present Holocaust education courses, and also to meet with the survivors so they understand what they did wrong.”

Rabbi Steinberg emphasized that education about the Holocaust must be prioritized at universities, in a way that it currently is not. “You would think in a place like Harvard that it’s all about education, the obvious answer of ‘educate, educate, educate’ would already be taken care of,” he said. “But the truth is, if you take a look at the Harvard curriculum, there is not all that much teaching on the Holocaust, and I think Harvard could stand to have better education.”

Teaching students that they need to stand up when they see something problematic is also an important element in this type of education. “There was a failure to respond to a sense that something was wrong with that image,” Steinberg said. One of the editors, who is a Jewish student, told Steinberg that he was uncomfortable with the image, and that he could tell that a number of other Lampoon members were feeling similarly. But none of them spoke up. When Steinberg heard this story, he shot a look at the student editor. “I know that’s how bad things happen.” He said the student admitted that was the case.

Steinberg is convinced that some dialogue and personal interactions could help students recover from incidents of insensitivity. The irony of Hillel’s juxtaposition to the Lampoon did not escape him. He recommended that Lampoon staff members connect with Hillel student leaders. “The more we know each other as human beings, the less likely we are to dehumanize one another,” he said. “And I think the failure in that depiction that the Lampoon published was a failure of compassion, which is in a sense of humanity. And the only antidote to that I know of is to know each other as human beings.”

Norway’s state broadcaster airs ‘Jewish swine’ cartoon

BY CNAAN LIPHSHIZ

(JTA) — Norway’s public broadcaster NRK defended a cartoon in which a Scrabble player forms the word “Jewish swine.”

The video, posted online earlier this month by the state-owned NRK  network, is titled “Scrabble” and was captioned “tag a Jew” on the Facebook page of the animators who created it, Norske Grønnsaker.

In it, a grey-haired man wearing a yarmulke and dressed like a haredi Jew is playing Scrabble with a younger man in shorts. The Jew is frustrated over how long his opponent is taking to construct a word. The camera switches to the young man’s point of view to reveal that he’s constructed the word “Jew swine” (one word in Norwegian) but has not revealed it yet.

The young man sighs in frustration as the Jewish player taunts him over his Scrabble skills. “We are clearly on different cognitive levels,” the Jew exclaims.

The cartoon’s airing by NRK, which has long been said to espouse a left-wing editorial line, evoked unusual support and praise by far-right figures, including the anti-Semitic Holocaust denier Hans Jørgen Lysglimt Johansen.

Ivar Staurseth, a journalist for the Minerva newspaper, on Facebook suggested the video was anti-Semitic. ”It’s not for nothing that suffix ‘swine’ doesn’t appear together with other groups/minorities,” he wrote.

NRK Entertainment editor Charlo Halvorsen rejected the allegation, telling Aftenpost Wednesday: “The Scrabble player made an indecent and indefensible word that we can’t and shouldn’t use. But he’s tempted to win.”

https://www.jta.org/quick-reads

A Jewish family sold this Kandinsky painting to survive the Nazis. Amsterdam is keeping it anyway.

That was in 1940, several months into the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, when Klein and her husband sold “Painting with Houses” for the modern-day equivalent of about $1,600 because they needed money to survive the Holocaust.

In its ruling last November, the Dutch Restitutions Committee accepted the family’s account.

But in an unusual and controversial departure from universal practices, the committee also determined  that the painting should not be returned to the family. It cited “public interest” in keeping the work on display at the Stedelijk, among other arguments.

It was the latest of several such refusals by the Netherlands based on what the Dutch Restitutions Committee introduced in 2013 as a “weighted interest” approach to looted art.

It has prompted outrage and concern by some experts, claimants and their representatives. They fear a precedent and see injustice by a country that used to be considered a model implementer of art restitution practices.

“These developments risk turning the Netherlands from a leader in art restitution to a pariah,” Anne Webber and Wesley Fisher wrote in a December op-ed in the Dutch daily NRC Hadelsblad. Webber is an art restitution expert and Fisher is the director of research for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Their essay was titled “It’s a scandal that this stolen art hangs at the museum.”

It is “particularly disturbing,” Fisher told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, that this is happening in the Netherlands, which is one of only five countries (the others being Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom and France) that set up committees to determine the provenance of suspect artworks. Such committees were a key requirement of the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art – a landmark document agreed upon in 1998 by 44 countries.

Irma Klein sold “Painting with Houses” by Wassily Kandinsky during the Holocaust. (Courtesy of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam)

The principles are significant because they form the basis for handling countless claims that cannot be resolved in court because of statutes of limitations.

The document’s effect on restitution efforts remains inconclusive. More than 21 years after its publication, more than 100,000 paintings out of approximately 600,000 that the Nazis stole remain unreturned, according to Deutche Welle. Some of them hang in museums and private collections across Europe and beyond. Others are the subject of drawn-out legal fights.

Interviews with visitors to the Stedelijk suggest there is widespread support for the Dutch approach of resisting restitution to ensure public access to art.

“Art is meant to be viewed,” said Chloe van der Vlugt, a 19-year-old art student from Miami, Florida, who is in favor of keeping the disputed Kandinsky in the Stedelijk. The 1909 painting by the Russian artist features a mysterious figure crouched sorrowfully in a field opposite houses with radiant facades.

“A lot of pillage happened in art, whole countries have lost their treasures,” she added. “We need to move on.”

During two days of interviewing at random some 50 admirers of Kandinsky, JTA did not encounter a single person who favored returning the painting to the family after being informed of the dispute’s details. Those interviewed came from 10 countries, including Israel.

“I think it should stay here, Kandinsky belongs to all of humanity,” Liad Eini, 19, an Israeli art lover on leave from the army, said passionately during a visit – the second in two days — to the Stedelijk. The city-owned modern art museum, housed in a structure resembling a huge bathtub, is considered one of the world’s leading institutions of its kind.

Eini’s mother, Dorit, a teacher, hushed her son, reminding him to speak softly.

“Paintings reach museums at the end of sad stories and tragedies,” she said. “The Holocaust happens to be famous and evocative to us Jews, but it’s no exception to the various calamities behind many of these paintings all around us.”

All those interviewed said, however, that Klein’s family should be offered monetary compensation.

But the elaborate ruling of the Dutch Restitutions Committee, an advisory body whose establishment by the government in 2002 helped make Holland a pioneer in art restitution, offered no reference to compensation, according to Gert-Jan van den Bergh, the lawyer for the claimants, who do not wish to be named. His clients do not rule out a monetary settlement, he said.

(The value of the painting is not known, van den Bergh said, as it has never been appraised. But a Kandinsky painting similar in style to “Painting with Houses” and created the same year fetched $26 million at a London auction in 2017.)

The Stedelijk museum in Amsterdam had nearly 700,000 visitors in 2018. (Flickr)

Fisher, the Claims Conference representative, said the committee’s failure to  discuss a monetary settlement did not give the impression of good will.

“There are a good many ways in which a museum can agree that a painting belongs to the family but nonetheless retain the artwork,” he said. “It is not reasonable that the family in this case is not receiving anything.”

Queried about the possibility of compensation, Eric Idema, the general secretary of the Dutch Restitutions Committee, said he “cannot comment on this specific case.” Generally, he added, the committee has no mandate to offer compensation. Fisher, however, insisted that even a vague recommendation on a settlement would have put pressure on the Stedelijk Museum to offer the family some money.

Stedelijk has not made such an offer, van den Bergh said.

The museum, which is being sued by the family, has said it will keep to the letter of the binding recommendation of the Restitutions Committee, which said the museum is excused from any further action on Klein’s Kandinsky.

The committee also cited the failure of Klein, a Holocaust survivor who died in Amsterdam in 1983, to claim the painting, which the committee determined “had not been stolen or confiscated.” However, the committee did find that “the sale of the painting cannot, on the one hand, be considered in isolation from the Nazi regime,” but also owed to the dire financial straits faced by Klein and her husband in 1940.

It also said the Amsterdam municipality “bought the painting in good faith.”

Unusually, the committee then cited the painting’s prominent placement to explain its decision not to return it, saying in a statement that the artwork “has a significant place in the Stedelijk Museum’s collection.”

“The Committee concluded on the grounds of these interests that the city council is not obliged to restitute the painting,” the statement said.

The argument for keeping art accessible in resisting restitution claims is not new in court cases, according to Orna Artal, a co-founder of Ramos & Artal, a dispute resolution firm in New York and an expert on provenance and restitution of Nazi-looted art.

However, such reasoning is unusual to be invoked by a state-created restitution committee, Artal and Marika Keblusek, a lecturer from the University of Leiden who specializes in the study of looted art, confirmed.

According to the lawyer van den Bergh, it’s happening in the Netherlands in reaction to a massive restitution claim in 2006: Some 202 paintings were yanked from Dutch museums in favor of the Goudstikker family, whose claim was affirmed by the Restitutions Committee.

The first use of the “weighted interest” approach came seven years later, when the committee recognized that paintings belonging to the late Jewish art collector Richard Semmel were looted, but agreed to return only one. Four paintings that Semmel lost because of the Nazis were kept on display, citing the museums’ interest in keeping them accessible to the public.

It was a watershed moment for the Dutch Restitutions Committee, which has made about 170 recommendations, most of them binding rulings, pertaining to some 1,500 items. (Among the binding rulings, 84 were fully or partially in the applicants’ favor and 56 were to reject the claim in full.)

The introduction of the weighted interest approach means that “ownership of looted art outweighed rightful ownership,” Webber and Fisher wrote in their op-ed. And while the committee has ruled since 2013 in favor of returning some looted art, they added that weighted interest in principle means that “[n]o Dutch museum would ever need to return a single work of art ever again.”

https://www.jta.org/2019/07/18/global/a-jewish-family-sold-this-painting-to-survive-the-nazis-amsterdam-is-keeping-it-anyway

In first, massive traveling exhibit brings Anne Frank artifacts to North America

Part of the seven-month ‘Auschwitz’ exhibition at New York City’s Jewish Heritage Museum, the items evoke the Holocaust icon’s childhood and two years in hiding

Anne Frank had been in hiding for several weeks in the back-house, or “annex,” of her father’s Amsterdam office building. Everything was going as planned except for one problem: The rooms in which Anne and her family were hiding had not been concealed from the rest of the building, where salespeople, visitors, and the occasional thief were known to poke around.

To rectify the situation, a swinging bookcase was built to hide the entrance to what Anne called “the Secret Annex” in her now-iconic diary. From behind the innocuous-looking cupboard, the eight Jews in hiding could pull on a wooden handle wrapped in cloth to open the façade. For more than two years, the bookcase kept everyone hidden behind its rows of thick binders with old sale orders.

That secret bookcase’s handle is one of 10 artifacts from Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House on display in the international exhibition, “Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Showing in New York City’s Jewish Heritage Museum through the end of 2019, the exhibition marks the artifacts’ first appearance in North America.

The “Secret Annex” Jews were discovered and deported to Auschwitz at the beginning of September, following the camp’s summer-long “operation” in which more than 300,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered. Several survivors who knew Anne at Auschwitz have testified about her time there. For example, when the Frank girls were ill in the sick barracks, mother Edith Frank smuggled food to her daughters by digging under the wall.

In November of 1944, Anne and her older sister Margot were deported from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen in one of several transports bringing prisoners to the Reich’s interior. Conditions on the frozen heath of Bergen-Belsen were deplorable, even by Nazi camp standards, and the Frank sisters died of typhus that spring.

Photograph taken in the Anne Frank House book shop with her image and translated copies of the diary in the background. (Matt Lebovic/The Times of Israel)

“Auschwitz and Anne Frank are two symbols of the Holocaust,” said Teresien da Silva, head of collections at the Anne Frank House.

“It is important to know their history, to learn from it and to remember it. Anne’s diary ends where the camp disasters begin. This is why it is important that Anne Frank is represented in this exhibition,” da Silva said in a statement about the artifacts.

Since its publication in 1947, “The Diary of Anne Frank” has sold more than 350 million copies worldwide. The Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam — which includes the “Secret Annex” — is one of the Netherlands’ top tourist attractions and an international pilgrimage destination.

The “Auschwitz” exhibition features 700 original artifacts from the Nazi death camp where nearly 1 million Jews were murdered in gas chambers. Camp elements including a prisoner barracks and posts for barbed wire loom large, but not as large as the Holocaust-era boxcar placed outside the Jewish Heritage Museum for the duration of the exhibition.

‘Forbidden for Jews’

Among the Anne Frank artifacts on display in New York through December, three dried beans are probably the least evocative — at first glance. However, like most of the objects, there is a revealing story behind the beans.

Jews in Anne Frank’s ‘River Quarter’ neighborhood of Amsterdam being deported from the city by its Nazi occupiers during World War II (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

One day in the annex, Peter van Pels was lugging several 25-kilogram (55-pound) sacks of smuggled beans up the stairs. Suddenly, one of the bags ripped open, and thousands of beans poured all over the dilapidated annex. Anne and Peter had a tremendous laugh, but the annex inhabitants were picking up beans for a long time.

“Since there were about 50 pounds of beans in that sack, it made enough noise to raise the dead,” wrote Anne in her diary. “We started picking them up right away, but beans are so little and slippery that they roll into every nook and cranny. Now each time we go upstairs, we bend over and hunt around so we can present Mrs. Van Pels with a handful of beans,” wrote Anne on November 9, 1942.

Beans, indeed, are mentioned many times in Anne’s diary, also with the term “food cycles” — periods when annex meals shared a single main ingredient, such as spinach. Whether scrubbing them, sorting them, or lugging them, beans in Anne’s diary are a stand-in for the monotony of life in hiding — including the daily menu.

Handle used to swing the bookcase that concealed Anne Frank and seven other Jews in Otto Frank’s Amsterdam office building (Anne Frank House Collection)

Upon returning from the camps, Otto Frank found a few of the beans wedged between stair cracks. During the following months, he set to work editing Anne’s diary and identifying a Dutch publisher. The beans remained in his safekeeping, a simple but evocative reminder of the hiding period.

Another artifact with an unexpected backstory is a child’s gramophone with fairy tale figures appearing on the sides. The yellow record player was presented by Otto Frank to his downstairs neighbor (and landlord), Otto Konitzer, on the occasion of Anne’s birth on June 12, 1929. At the time of Anne’s birth, the Frank family was still living in Frankfurt, Germany, and conditions were still bearable for the country’s Jews. Downstairs neighbor Konitzer was a supporter of Nazism, but the children from both families played together until the Frank family fled to the Netherlands in 1933. Otto Konitzer donated the gift to the Anne Frank House in 1994.

Anne Frank’s former bedroom in the ‘Secret Annex,’ the heart of the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 2012. (Matt Lebovic/The Times of Israel)

Among the other Anne Frank artifacts on display are a childhood drawing of the diarist’s and one of the “Forbidden for Jews” signs Anne would have seen around Amsterdam before going into hiding. There are also original contact sheets with 48 portrait photos of the family, a phone, and items related to Anne’s posthumous fame.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage expects 50,000 school-age students to tour “Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away” by year’s end. At 1,675-square-meters (18,000-square feet) and filling three floors of the museum, the world-traveling exhibition is larger than most of North America’s two-dozen Holocaust museums.

Oregon passes law mandating schools teach about the Holocaust

BY CNAAN LIPHSHIZ

(JTA) — Oregon will require its public school students to learn about the Holocaust and other genocides.

Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill on Monday initiated by a 14-year-old girl who had struck up a friendship with a 92-year-old survivor. Claire Sarnowski, from suburban Lake Oswego, met Alter Wiener four years ago when she attended one of Wiener’s talks about surviving the concentration camps. Wiener died last year after he was struck by a car.

The measure mandates the instruction in response to spikes in anti-Semitic incidents across the country, CNN reported Tuesday.

Beginning in the 2020-21 term, schools must provide such teaching to “prepare students to confront the immorality of the Holocaust, genocide, and other acts of mass violence and to reflect on the causes of related historical events.” Schools also must encourage cultural diversity and emphasize the importance of protecting international human rights, according to the bill.

Sarnowski told lawmakers earlier this year that Holocaust education should be required in all schools to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.

“Learning about genocide teaches students the ramifications that come with prejudice of any kind in society,” she said.

Eleven other states require Holocaust education in schools, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Washington state’s governor signed a law in April that “strongly encourages” teaching the Holocaust.

https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/oregon-passes-law-saying-schools-must-teach-the-holocaust

Daily Stormer publisher must pay $14 million to Jewish woman he told readers to harass

BY CNAAN LIPHSHIZ

(JTA) — The publisher of a neo-Nazi website who instructed readers to troll a Jewish real estate agent must pay the victim $14 million, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch also recommended that the court order Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer to remove all posts and photos that he used to victimize Montana resident Tanya Gersh, her husband and her 12-year-old son in 2016. The website had called on readers to unleash a “troll storm” on Gersh.

Trolling is the act of harassing people on social network.  The Daily Stormer is one of the most-read white supremacist websites in the world.

In order to take effect, Lynch’s recommendations must be approved by the U.S. District Court, the New York Post reported.

Gersh said in a statement, “This lawsuit has always been about stopping others from enduring the terror I continue to live through at the hands of a neo-Nazi and his followers. I wanted to make sure that this never happens to anyone else,” she added.

She sued Anglin after she said her family received scores of threatening and anti-Semitic messages.

The threats began after Anglin accused Gersh of trying to force out the mother of a white nationalist from the mountain resort community of Whitefish.

Anglin unsuccessfully argued that his actions were protected under the First Amendment.

Of the recommended $14 million payout, Lynch said Gersh deserves $10 million in punitive damages and $4 million for lost earnings, pain and suffering.

https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/daily-stormer-publisher-made-to-pay-14m-to-jewish-woman-he-helped-harass

The Nazi Who Saved the Lubavitcher Rebbe

The surprising story of how the sixth Chabad rabbi made it out of Warsaw

When war broke out on Sept. 1, 1939, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, was staying in Otwock, a resort town outside of Warsaw where he’d established a Chabad yeshiva. The Rebbe was suffering from multiple sclerosis, he was overweight and a heavy smoker. He walked with difficulty.

The journey from Otwock to Warsaw was only 60 kilometers, but perilous. The Luftwaffe’s Stutka war planes bombed and strafed traffic and destroyed rail lines, leaving mutilated bodies and dead horses littering the road. Roadside ditches were filled with Poles hiding from the planes, which they called “death on wings.”

The Rebbe arrived in Warsaw with his family and a group of students, hoping to catch a train to Riga, Latvia, where Mordecai Dubin, a Chabad follower and member of the Latvian parliament, had arranged Latvian citizenship for the rabbi and his family. But Rabbi Schneersohn found the Warsaw train station destroyed and was forced to seek shelter among Chabad followers in the city.

“They bombed all the Jewish neighborhoods, flattened them,” said Rabbi Joseph Weinberg, then a yeshiva student in Otwock who had followed the Rebbe to Warsaw. Rabbi Schneersohn went into hiding. “He would sit in the room writing memorim(articles) and his hand would shake from the bombing.” The Rebbe was taken from apartment to apartment in the beleaguered ghetto to avoid detection by the Nazis.

***

At the time, Chabad was a relatively insignificant Hasidic movement with a small following. But one of its followers, Rabbi Israel Jacobson, who was in charge of a small Chabad synagogue in Brooklyn, contacted a few others in his congregation. Mounting a campaign to save the Rebbe, they hired a young Washington lobbyist named Max Rhoade to advocate their cause, billing Rabbi Schneersohn as the world’s leading Torah scholar with a huge following.

Rhoade contacted congressmen, senators, government officials, presidential advisers, and even involved Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis in the hope of finding a way to save the Rebbe. His campaign soon gathered momentum.

Cables began to fly back and forth among Riga and the United States, Poland, and Germany, while in Warsaw bombs fell and the Nazis hunted for Jewish leaders.

On Sept. 22, U.S. Sen. Robert Wagner sent a telegram to U. S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull: “Prominent New York citizens concerned about whereabouts of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, … present location unknown.”

On Sept. 26, Mordecai Dubin wrote to Rabbi Jacobson in Brooklyn: “Save lives. Rabbi and family. Try every way. Every hour more dangerous. Answer daily what accomplished.”

On the same day, Phillip Rosen, head of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s office in Europe, wrote to the U.S. representative in Riga: “Greatly interested world famous rabbi Schneersohn … now Muranowska 32 Warsaw. Urge your doing utmost to effect his protection and removal to Riga …”

On Sept. 29, a Chabad supporter, attorney Arthur Rabinovitz, wrote to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: “… am turning to you for any aid you can render possibly through Ben Cohen … feel justified in troubling you by extreme danger to Schneersohn’s life and his great moral worth to world Jewry.”

At the time, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, running for his third term, was reluctant to do anything overt to help alleviate the plight of Europe’s Jews. Isolationism was in full bloom as was a powerful pro-Nazi movement in the U.S. led by Father Charles Coughlin. Coughlin, a Canadian-born Catholic priest, rabid anti-Semite and admirer of Adolf Hitler, had a weekly radio program that at its height reached an audience estimated at tens of million of listeners. Roosevelt had his own doubts about the wisdom of relocating Jews to America.

However, Rhoade would not be deterred. He badgered Justice Brandeis and Roosevelt’s adviser Ben Cohen, who in turn put pressure on men like Henry Morgenthau, then economic adviser to Roosevelt. Saving the Rebbe became a major Jewish struggle, at least on the upper rungs of the communal ladder.

Cohen recalled that U.S. diplomat Robert Pell had attended the Evian conference on refugees in France in 1938 and had made friends with the German diplomat Helmut Wohlthat. On Oct. 2, Cohen wrote to Pell, then attached to the State Department’s European Affairs division: “I am turning to you for advice. I would appreciate any assistance you might be able to render.”

Pell then contacted U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull: “(Mr. Cohen) … appealed to me because of the arrangement which I had with Wohlthat last winter. … Wohlthat had assured me that if there was any specific case in which American Jewry was particularly interested, he would do what he could to facilitate a solution.”

According to Menachem Friedman of Bar Ilan University, “His (Wohlthat’s) interest was to maintain good relations with the Americans. And the price that had to be paid for these good relations was this Rabbi from Poland. And that wasn’t a high price.”

On Oct. 3, Hull sent a telegram to the U.S. consul in Berlin:“Wohlthat … might wish to intervene with the military authorities.”

The Roosevelt administration had decided to toss the Jewish community a bone to keep them quiet, and the bone was Rabbi Schneersohn.

According to Winfried Meyer of the Berlin Technical University, and an expert on the German military, “The only force who would be able to do anything was military intelligence since Warsaw was occupied by the German military and not by a civil administration, so Wohlthat contacted Admiral Wilhelm Canaris,” head of the Abwehr, German military intelligence.

Canaris called one of his officers, Major Ernst Bloch, a highly decorated soldier, into a meeting. According to Bryan Mark Rigg, author of Rescued From the Reich, Canaris told Bloch that he had been approached by the U.S. government to locate and rescue the head of Lubavitch, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn. “You’re going to go up to Warsaw and you’re going to find the most ultra-Jewish Rabbi in the world, Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Schneersohn, and you’re going to rescue him. You can’t miss him, he looks just like Moses.”

The Roosevelt administration had decided to toss the Jewish community a bone to keep them quiet, and the bone was Rabbi Schneersohn.

Major Ernst Bloch was a career spy. He’d joined the German army at 16, been severely wounded in WWI, and stayed in the army after the war. He’d been assigned to the commercial division that spied on visiting businessmen. Bloch was also half-Jewish. His father was a Jewish physician from Berlin who, like many other German Jews in that period, had converted to Christianity. Bloch’s mother was Aryan. “It was only by chance that he was half-Jewish,” said Meyer.

“He was what they call an assimilated half-Jew,” said Bloch’s daughter, Cornelia Schockweiler, a practicing Buddhist living in Mountain View, California. “He was not religious. He did not impart any religious feeling in me at all. He was a professional soldier who spent most of his life in the military. If Canaris told him to do something he would do it, no questions asked.”

Bloch was called a michlinge by the Germans. “The term michlinge was used for mutts, dogs, crossbreeds, a horrible term,” explained Bryan Rigg. Rigg estimates that 60,000 half-Jews and 90,000 quarter-Jews served in the German armed forces during WWII.

Winfried Meyer contends that Field Marshal Hermann Goering also knew about the rescue operation of the Rebbe since Wohlthat was one of Goering‘s closest associates. “Goering’s and Canaris’ common interest was to prevent the war in Poland from escalating into a world war, hoping that Roosevelt would arrange talks between Germany and Britain in order to save peace. They were glad to do the American government a favor by rescuing Rabbi Schneersohn.”

Bloch enlisted two other soldiers from the Abwehr and traveled to German-occupied Warsaw. According to Rigg, “He would go up to ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews, wearing a Nazi uniform with swastikas, and say, ‘I’m looking for the Rebbe.’ And they’d say to him, ‘Yeah, and we want to shave off our beards and join the German army.’ Then they would walk away.”

On Oct. 24, attorney Arthur Rabinovitz again appealed to Justice Louis Brandeis: “Received cable from Latvia … Rabbi Schneersohn at … Bonifraterska 29, Warsaw.” That address was passed on to Bloch.

***

November was a cruel month in the Warsaw Ghetto. Jews were ordered to wear the yellow Star of David on their clothing. There was little to eat. The Rebbe and his followers were hiding out from the Nazis.

Meanwhile, Ernst Bloch was scouring Warsaw for Rabbi Schneersohn. But when Bloch and his men arrived at Bonifraterska 29 they found the building had been destroyed.

On Nov. 13, Pell communicated information from Wolhthat’s assistant to Chabad lobbyist Max Rhoade: “Building at address given was completely destroyed. Impossible to ascertain whether Rabbi Schneersohn was in the building.”

The rabbi was losing weight and his health was fading. On Nov. 14, Rhoade sent a telegram to the Red Cross in Switzerland: “German military officer detailed to locate Rabbi Joseph Issac Schneersohn … Schneersohn not apprised officer’s mission. Hope you can devise method of communicating information to Schneerson … detailing of German officer done at request of Schneersohn’s friends … urgent … take advantage opportunity.”

“A telegram arrived that the Rebbe should turn himself over to the Gestapo,” said Rabbi Weinberg. The “Gestapo” was Major Ernst Bloch.

Another telegram was sent to Poland, hoping it would reach Rabbi Schneersohn. “German Military officer detailed to locate Joseph Issac Schneersohn Bonifraterska 29, old address Muranowsa 21, and also provide him safe egress from Poland to Riga.”

With great trepidation, the Rebbe told a messenger to contact Bloch.

Rabbi Schneersohn’s grandson, the late Barry Gurary, then a teenager, was in the room when Bloch’s men arrived. “It was so overwhelming. As soon as we got to the door they rushed right in,” remembered Gurary, a retired physicist, sitting in an easy chair in his New York apartment. “There was primarily one guy, and he used every dialect of German that you could think of. During the time the soldiers were there my grandfather was calm and composed on the outside. He was a sick man and it got to him after a while. He was a very strong personality, but not very strong physically. He was exhausted.”

Barking orders, Major Bloch commandeered a truck and loaded the Rebbe and his family aboard. “Bloch had to get the Rebbe out of Warsaw. He decided the best way to do this was to take him to Berlin, to throw the SS off the track,” said Bryan Rigg. Bloch put the Rebbe and his family on a train to Berlin.

The SS, run by Reinhard Heydrich, was highly suspicious of Canaris. Heydrich wanted to absorb the Abwehr into the SS. Should Heydrich’s SS get their hands on the Rebbe before the Abwehr, arrest and death were certain.

Gurary described the harrowing escape. “We had to go through various military checkpoints. with one person who was our escort. We marveled at his way of handling things.” The Rebbe and the other 18 in his entourage were dressed as Hasidic Jews, beards, sidelocks, women in wigs and covered hair. No disguise was possible. Bloch claimed they were prisoners. And he was on a top-secret mission.

“On the train … if a conductor came over, he (Bloch) would handle the conversation. The difficulty was making sure nobody kicked us out of the compartment we were in. I remember one episode when an angry German officer came up to us and said, ‘Why are these Jews sitting in the compartment when the officers are in the corridor?’ Bloch had to do quite a bit of explaining, and he did.”

“Once in Berlin,” said Rigg, “the Rebbe and his family were taken to the Jüdische Gemeinde, the Jewish community center in the Jewish quarter. There he met the Lithuanian ambassador to Germany who provided the Rebbe and his group with Lithuanian visas. The next day Bloch escorted them to the Latvian border and bid them farewell. The group continued to Riga and waited there for visas to the United States.”

“Crossing the Latvian border sure felt good,” said Barry Gurary. “We didn’t say a word. We were very quiet.” Only after they crossed, said Gurary, did they celebrate.

***

On Dec. 17, just over three months after the war began, Mordecai Dubin wrote to Rabbi Jacobson in Brooklyn, “Rabbi and family arrived well Riga.”

Next came the struggle to get the Rebbe into the United States.

Again, pressure was put on the Roosevelt administration by Justice Brandeis, Ben Cohen, and others. This was opposed by Breckenridge Long, then head of the Visa Section of the State Department. Long, an anti-Semite, suspected that any immigrant from Europe was a spy.

However, political pressure prevailed. A 1921 exemption to the visa quota of immigrants from Europe was invoked by the Rebbe’s advocates to allow him into the United States. The Rebbe was granted a visa as a religious “minister” with an active congregation awaiting him in Brooklyn and a bank account with $5,000 in it. Long reluctantly granted the visa.

The Rebbe arrived in the United States by ship in 1940 to great fanfare. A similar exemption was later applied to his son-in-law, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who arrived with his wife from Marseilles in 1941.

In 2010, two Israelis applied to Yad Vashem to recognize Wilhelm Canaris as a Righteous Among the Nations for saving Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn. One was Rabbi Baruch Kaminsky from Kfar Chabad, and the other was Dan Orbach, then a young scholar at Harvard.

According to Orbach, “The Abwehr, German military intelligence, was the center of anti-Nazi activity and the majority of the espionage unit, especially the head of the unit, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris and his assistant Hans Oster, were members of the underground.” One of the Abwehr men, Hans Von Dohnanyi, was recognized as a righteous gentile by Yad Vashem, but not Canaris. Von Dohnanyi, Oster and Canaris were all executed by the Nazi regime before the end of the war.

Major Ernst Bloch was ousted from the Abwehr after a failed attempt on Hitler’s life that Bloch had no part in. He joined the civil guard defending Berlin against the Allies. He was killed during the fighting. When asked if she thought her father should be honored for his role in saving the Rebbe, Bloch’s daughter, who remembers being bounced on Wilhelm Canaris’ knee, said, “Should people like my father and Canaris who served in the army under Hitler, and maybe, on the side, tried to do something good, should they be recognized? I don’t know. Maybe not?”

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson went on to become the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, one of the most influential figures in the history of postwar American Judaism. As professor Menachem Friedman said, “After the war the western world was a different place. And in this world Lubavitch found a very central and important niche, so much so that if Chabad didn’t exist, someone would have had to create it.”

https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/287847/nazi-saved-lubavitcher-rebbe