‘Auschwitz? What’s That?’

The growing need for comprehensive Holocaust education.

Dickinson College history Professor Karl Qualls, teaches a class to help students understand “how atrocities can happen very quickly.” Courtesy of Karl Qualls

Dickinson College history Professor Karl Qualls, teaches a class to help students understand “how atrocities can happen very quickly.” Courtesy of Karl Qualls

‘What I’m going to tell you, I don’t believe it myself.” These were the beginning words of Holocaust survivor David Tuck’s presentation last fall at Dickinson College. There was perhaps no statement more profound for Tuck to use as he began his story of survival. As I sat in the audience, I couldn’t help being transfixed by Tuck’s story, including his experience living in a ghetto and being transferred from one concentration camp to another.

Through it all, however, Tuck affirmed that he doesn’t live with hate. Rather, he has chosen to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive by traveling around the country to tell his story. I was also moved by the sheer number of people who came to hear Tuck, especially all of the students who were there. After all, it’s up to the younger generation to ensure that the horrors of the Holocaust are never forgotten.

David Tuck, a Holocaust survivor, presented to a group of Dickinson students about his experience. Courtesy of The Dickinsonian

A major reason for these disparities is the lack of comprehensive Holocaust education in U.S. schools. As can be seen by the data mentioned above, young people nowadays are receiving less critical information about the Holocaust at school. If these troubling statistics describe people who are no longer in school anymore, it is concerning to think about what the numbers might be for those who are. Sadly, this trend provides an opportunity for skeptical attitudes to flourish, thereby aiding those who seek to erase all memory of the Holocaust. We cannot always rely on Holocaust survivors to keep educating future generations, especially as their numbers dwindle over time. Of course, it’s vital for Holocaust survivors to keep sharing their stories for as long as they can, but at some point we’ll need to use alternative means of Holocaust education.

A pertinent example of such education at work is the course on the Holocaust taught at Dickinson College by Professor Karl Qualls. A history professor specializing in Eastern European history, Qualls initially developed the course in order to try to, in his words, “understand how something of that scale [the Holocaust] works.” Looking at an event like the Holocaust from a historian’s perspective, Qualls wants others to better understand “how atrocities can happen very quickly and people can be sucked into them both knowingly and unknowingly.” Further, with the reality that anti-Semitism remains a huge problem in the world today and the fact that non-Jewish schools’ curriculums are seemingly void of any comprehensive Holocaust studies, this course serves to combat the rise of conditions that could allow another Holocaust to occur. As Geoffrey Cole ’20, a history major at Dickinson, put it to me, “The biggest lesson we have learned from history is that events like the Holocaust can happen to anyone, at any time and in any situation,” making Qualls’ class all the more vital.

An important issue that arises when crafting such a curriculum, however, is finding a balance between, as Qualls explained, the “humanization of the Holocaust and a complicated understanding of how the Holocaust unfolded.” Many schools across the country only focus on individuals like Anne Frank or Adolf Hitler without bringing in broader narratives and information. A comprehensive Holocaust curriculum cannot, therefore, rely on just these stories. Professor Qualls put it simply to me that “individual stories are just that,” individual. On the other hand, we cannot go to the other extreme and only show graphic details because that generates sympathy alone. After all, Qualls told me, when we only utilize sympathy, rather than empathy, any intellectual analysis “will be very weak.”

Qualls’ insights on Holocaust education all lead back to the course he developed and teaches at Dickinson. Instead of having students write a historiography paper as per usual, Qualls decided last spring to charge students with creating a script for educational videos that would be shown to other students. In this way, the education provided in the Dickinson course could be made public and accessible to all. Importantly, then, as Qualls stated, the “work of the class itself can be educational beyond the classroom.” Although this is just one class at one American college, the effects are already showing. Two of Qualls’ former students are pursuing careers in education with a focus on genocide studies; one local teacher is now including supplemental material on the Holocaust in her class’ curriculum beyond what is traditionally ascribed in school textbooks. If the country’s Holocaust education is to improve, other schools need to take Professor Qualls’ lead. In his own words: “All of us have some part to play in the next tragedy. It’s all about choices.” When the stakes are this high, what choice will American schools make?


Survivor Ed Mosberg, 93, is braving cancer to march at Auschwitz, perhaps for the last time

Flanked by two physicians who accompanied him all the way from New Jersey, Mosberg, who made his fortune in construction after surviving several Nazi concentration camps, traveled here Tuesday as he has done for at least 20 years to participate in the commemorative March of the Living through the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz near Krakow.

But suffering from recently diagnosed blood cancer, Mosberg says with characteristic bluntness: “I don’t know if I’ll be alive this time next year, much less able to travel and attend the march.”

He doesn’t fear death for two reasons, Mosberg said in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

“First, I already beat death once after the war when I had final stage tuberculosis – and I can do it again,” he said. “Second, I died already 70 years ago when the Germans murdered my whole family not far from here.”

For Mosberg, attending the march is “not any sign of victory,” he said.

“It’s just duty to name the perpetrators – the German nation. They and they alone bear responsibility, and certainly not the Poles,” he said.

At a time when the Polish government is fighting a controversial battle against what it perceives as attempts to place some blame on Poland for the genocide, Mosberg’s message is music to the ears of officials in Warsaw.

On Tuesday, the Polish government unexpectedly announced that it would award the nation’s highest non-military honor to Mosberg, the honorary president of the From the Depths commemoration group, the following day. Mosberg, who speaks fluent Polish, often stands out in March of the Living coverage as he walks in front wearing his original prisoner uniform.

He also brings to the marches – annual events featuring thousands of participants — a whip that he says was used to torture Jews at Mathausen, one of three Nazi camps Mosberg survived. That artifact, he said, tends to invoke keen interest during security checks at airports.

This year’s march includes Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, another Poland-born survivor, who used to be Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi. Several American diplomats, including the ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, also will attend, along with the head of the Jewish Agency, Isaac Herzog.

But they alone will not determine the future of Holocaust commemoration and the fight against anti-Semitism in a world without survivors, march organizers said.

“That fight belongs to young adults and youth leaders,” said Elie Klein, one spokeswoman for March of the Living.

Which is why this year’s march is the first since the event’s inception in 1988 that is preceded by a conference about anti-Semitism for emerging leadership from around the world. During that event, 20 representatives of prominent youth and young adults groups will issue “a rallying and defiant call to other youth to commemorate the Holocaust and help put an end to anti-Semitism before history repeats itself,” organizers wrote in a statement about the event.

The march takes place on Israel’s national day of mourning for the Holocaust, Yom Hashoah. This year it falls on May 2.

The march itself, a walk of about 1.5 miles from the Auschwitz camp to where the gas chambers used to stand at the Birkenau complex, takes just a couple of hours. In the hours leading up to the event, though, participants from dozens of countries interact across the sprawling former campground in the relative warmth of the southern Polish spring.

For some, it’s a rare chance to speak informally to attending celebrities and politicians before groups are formed for the actual march.

The lessons of the April 27 terrorist shooting attack on a synagogue in Poway, California, where a self-avowed white supremacist killed one person and wounded three others, feature prominently in the talks of some of the participants of this year’s march.

“The awful, senseless murder” is “just the latest in a seemingly endless string of violent anti-Semitic events — one of the most challenging periods in recent memory for the international Jewish community,” said Shmuel Rosenman, founder and co-chairman of the March of the Living.

Another first this year for the march – an event that has had more than 300,000 participants — is the attendance of soccer players from the New England Revolution team from the United States. Players and executives from the Chelsea soccer squad in the United Kingdom, which participated in the 2018 march, said they would be back this year.

This year’s march also will feature a ceremony remembering the tragedy of the Jews of Greece, which by far was the Nazi-occupied country with the highest death rate during the Holocaust. Greece lost more than 95 percent of its prewar Jewish population of 72,000.


In the wake of another deadly synagogue shooting, we need Holocaust education more than ever

By Janice Weinman & Ellen Hershkin

(JTA) — On the Shabbat morning of April 27, Hadassah member Lori Gilbert-Kaye was murdered while celebrating Passover at the Chabad of Poway. The synagogue’s rabbi, a male congregant and an 8-year-old girl were wounded as well by the self-avowed white supremacist shooter.

We know that anti-Semitism is on the rise globally, but grim statistics don’t adequately convey the terror of a shooting at synagogue or the anguish that comes with it.

The data also don’t convey the dreadfulness of less than lethal acts of anti-Semitism: A 9-year-old boy walking on the street and being punched in the face because he is wearing a yarmulke and has sidelocks, a Hasidic man being beaten and choked or high school students in Wisconsin proudly displaying the Nazi salute in a group photo.

Knowing that hatred exists is not enough. We also have to take active steps to combat it.

Teaching Holocaust history to children is one proactive way to combat today’s anti-Semitism. A child who understands the true impact of a swastika or recognizes the deeply ugly nature of a slur about Jews and money will be equipped to identify and call out anti-Semitism on their college campus, in their future industry and in their community.

While anti-Jewish bigotry is rising, memory of the Holocaust is waning. A recent survey by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany found that 66 percent of American millennials do not know what Auschwitz was.

As Hadassah women, as mothers and grandmothers, as children and grandchildren of survivors, and as fighters for justice and humanity historically and today, we feel the responsibility to teach the next generation to recognize the risk of genocide so they are empowered to prevent it when they grow up.

But most states don’t include Holocaust education in their secondary school curricula. Students are learning about the battles of World War II and the bombing of Hiroshima, but they don’t know what happened during the Holocaust to the Jewish people, to the Roma, to members of the LGBTQ community and to people with disabilities.

Some teachers don’t know how to teach such a sensitive subject or lack instructional resources or the funds to visit memorials. Others skip it because its inclusion isn’t mandated: Only nine states have laws requiring Holocaust education.

We need federal legislation to make robust anti-hate curricula accessible to every school.

That is why Hadassah is one of the leading not-for-profit organizations championing the bipartisan Never Again Education Act. This proposed legislation would create a $2 million discretionary fund within the U.S. Department of Education to support Holocaust education for middle and high school students in districts across the country. It would train classroom instructors, provide textbooks and resources, and help facilitate programs, speakers and visits to Holocaust museums and memorials.

The Never Again Education Act would help combat hate and contribute toward a generation of tolerant and responsible American citizens. The bill already has the support of 90 members of Congress. Hadassah’s 300,000 members and 300 organizational partners are mobilizing to encourage additional co-sponsors.

Hadassah turns its values into action every day, and we are committed to combating anti-Semitism through this powerful legislation. Let’s teach the next generation what can happen when anti-Semitism and hate crimes go unchecked and give them the tools to fix the rising intolerance in our communities. That is the way to ensure our children know and experience less hatred than we do.



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

The former concentration camp Auschwitz

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

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

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

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

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

Coalition Letter in Support of the Never Again Education Act H.R. 5460 -…

Click here for the full letter

German band Rammstein blasted for concentration camp video

Jewish groups, government anti-Semitism official criticize as ‘tasteless’ hard rock band’s promotion video featuring members as Jewish inmates

German hard rock band Rammstein sparked protests from politicians, historians and Jewish groups Thursday with a video showing band members dressed as concentration camp prisoners with nooses around their necks.

Critics accused the Berlin-based group of a cynical publicity stunt playing with Nazi-era imagery to generate media hype and online clicks for their new single.

“With this new video, the band has crossed a line,” said Charlotte Knobloch, ex-president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

“The instrumentalization and trivialization of the Holocaust shown in the images are irresponsible,” she told Bild daily.

German Jewish community leader Charlotte Knobloch, seen in Jerusalem in 2009. (Wikimedia Commons)

“Rammstein is misusing the suffering and murder of millions for entertainment purposes in a frivolous and repulsive way.”

The industrial metal band founded in 1994 is known for their grinding guitar riffs, taboo-breaking antics and theatrical stage shows heavy on pyrotechnics.

Their songs have dealt with subjects from cannibalism to necrophilia, and the band name itself evokes the 1988 Ramstein air show disaster that killed 70 people and injured more than 1,000.

Frontman Till Lindemann, 56, asked in a 2006 interview whether the band would again dabble in Nazi themes, said: “No. Because I am fed up with allegations of being a right-wing band.”

However, in the new promotional clip, the band members are dressed in black-and-white striped concentration camp garb and seemingly awaiting their execution by hanging.

Germany’s special envoy on anti-Semitism Felix Klein. (Courtesy German Interior Ministry)

Lindemann is shown bleeding from a facial cut and guitarist Paul Landers, 54, wears a Star of David.

At the end of the 35-second clip, the song title “Deutschland” (Germany) appears in Gothic letters.

Bild quoted a lineup of politicians who voiced anger and disgust, with Jewish historian Michael Wolffsohn labeling it “a new form of desecration of the dead.”

Germany’s anti-Semitism commissioner Felix Klein called it “a tasteless exploitation of artistic freedom” that “represents the transgression of a red line.”

A year ago, German rappers Farid Bang and Kollegah sparked outrage with lyrics boasting that their bodies were “more defined than Auschwitz prisoners.” The scandal spelled the end of the German music industry’s sales-based Echo prize which had been awarded to the duo and helped spark large rallies calling for solidarity with Jews in Berlin and other cities.

Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/german-band-rammstein-blasted-for-concentration-camp-video/

FBI to return Nazi-stolen art to Jewish collector’s heirs

Salomon Koninck’s 1639 ‘A Scholar Sharpening His Quill’ was stolen from art collector Adolphe Schloss and sent to Hitler’s headquarters in Munich

Salomon Koninck's 1639 "A Scholar Sharpening His Quill, (Photo US District Attorneys Office)

Salomon Koninck’s 1639 “A Scholar Sharpening His Quill, (Photo US District Attorneys Office)

NEW YORK — A painting stolen from the family of art collector Adolphe Schloss by Germans during the World War II occupation of France will be returned to his descendants in New York, the French consulate said in a statement Tuesday.

The painting, Dutch artist Salomon Koninck’s 1639 “A Scholar Sharpening His Quill,” was part of an important collection of Flemish and Dutch works owned by Schloss, a Jewish man who lived in Paris.

The identities of Schloss’s descendants were not immediately available.

A collection of some 333 paintings owned by Schloss was originally stored in southern France during World War II before the Nazis found and seized it.

Some of those works, including the Koninck painting, were then sent to Hitler’s headquarters in Munich.

The painting resurfaced in November 2017 when a Chilean art dealer tried to sell it through a New York auction house, the Manhattan federal prosecutor said last year upon launching a formal procedure to return it to Schloss’s heirs.

The seller explained to authorities that his father had purchased the piece in 1952 from Walter Andreas Hofer, the man who was in charge of buying art for Nazi leader Hermann Goring, and a major player on the stolen goods market.

Millions of items owned by Jews and in art galleries were confiscated under the Nazi-aligned French Vichy government’s anti-Semitic laws during the German occupation.

With several major auction houses located in New York, Manhattan prosecutors regularly submit requests to return goods stolen during World War II.

Yad Vashem to break ground on new artifacts center on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Enlarged Shoah Heritage Campus to include millions of documents and artifacts, from a toddler’s shoe marked with the day she died to a portrait of a Nazi painted on a Torah scroll

During a behind-the-scenes tour of Yad Vashem’s new curatorial center this winter, the Israel Holocaust museum’s Sarah Shor held up a petite child’s shoe and pointed to a pair of knitted gloves. Shor told the group of Jewish journalists seated in the glass-walled room that they had once belonged to two-year-old Hinda Cohen, who was born to Tzipporah and Dov Cohen in the Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania on January 18, 1942.

The table was littered with dozens of artifacts, from a portrait of a Nazi soldier painted on a Torah scroll to the striped pajamas of a camp intern. Every item had a story behind it, attesting to the life of the former owner. But there are few things more chilling than seeing the physical remnants of a life cut too short: blue gloves with a purple design worked in by the hands of a loving mother, and well-polished minuscule shoes.

Father Dov etched the date into the shoe, found under her bed with scant few other items and vowed to keep it until his death, a promise he kept.

Yad Vashem’s Sarah Shor shows a group of journalists the ‘canvas’ for the portrait of a Nazi soldier — a Torah scroll, at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, December 18, 2018. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

Hinda and the children were taken to Auschwitz, where they were immediately murdered.

Now, on Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, the day commemorating the loss of six million Jews in the Holocaust, Israel’s Yad Vashem will break ground on a new state-of-the-art subterranean center to house and conserve millions of artifacts such as these. The more than 210 million documents, 500,000 photographs, 131,000 survivor testimonies, 32,400 artifacts and 11,500 works of art in Yad Vashem’s collections to date bear witness to the lives of those lost to the Nazis’ genocide, not only their deaths.

“The German Nazis were determined not only to annihilate the Jewish people, but also to obliterate their identity, memory, culture and heritage,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev in a press release.

“For many, all that remains are a treasured work of art, a personal artifact that survived with them, a photograph kept close to their person, a diary, or a note. By preserving these precious items – that are of great importance not only to the Jewish people, but also to humanity as a whole – and revealing them to the public, they will act as the voice of the victims and the survivors, and serve as an everlasting memory.”

A shoe and gloves belonging to two-year-old Hinda Cohen, who was killed at Auschwitz on March 27, 1944. Her father Dov etched the date on the sole upon discovering his daughter was taken during a ‘Children’s Aktion.’ (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, was founded in 1953 and immediately began gathering such artifacts. Today, its storerooms are overflowing and conservationist Shor told the journalists that her team does not have the resources to properly treat items on site.

This overflow is in part due to a wildly successful eight-year campaign, “Gathering the Fragments,” which urges the public to deposit Holocaust-related artifacts with the museum. The granddaughter of Tzipporah and Dov harkened the call and brought the etched shoe and pair of gloves to the museum as part of this campaign.

After a groundbreaking ceremony on Yom HaShoa, which this year falls on the evening of May 1 until sundown May 2, a new primarily underground structure will be built. According to a Yad Vashem press release, it will cover an area of 5,880 square meters and “allow for optimal control and supervision of the conservation climate required for preservation of the artifacts.”

A portrait of a Nazi soldier painted on a Torah scroll, at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, December 18, 2018. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

Other benefits of the planned center include the ability to “streamline the process of receiving, preserving and cataloguing items collected by Yad Vashem, with the express goal of making them accessible to the public.” In addition to vast, climate-controlled storage spaces, the center will include hi-tech preservation laboratories, which will apparently be accessible in some way to visitors.

According to a Yad Vashem spokesman, there are other upgrades planned for the Mount of Remembrance, including a renovation of its auditorium and a new gallery for families and children.

The campus-wide construction and facelift is meant to be completed by the summer of 2021. According to Yad Vashem, funding has been secured already for much of the project. The institute is confident it will find the rest of the needed money.

“The Holocaust is a very particular story with a deep universal meaning,” remarked Shalev to the group of journalists this winter.

There are few symbols more universal than the little shoe that once belonged to Hinda Cohen.