The Nazi Children’s Book You Can Still Buy on Amazon: A Review

A tale of ducks, hens, and sexually voracious crows

In the wake of a 2-week-old report detailing Amazon’s sales of burning-cross onesies and children’s backpacks featuring Pepe the Frog in an SS cap, many neo-Nazi- and KKK-influenced products are no longer for sale on the site. However, you can still buy a backpack featuring Pepe the Frog as a Muslim in a turban, and you can still buy The Fable of the Ducks and the Hens, an anti-Semitic 1959 children’s book written by George Lincoln Rockwell.

Rockwell—whose career as a children’s book author began after he dropped out of college, served in the military, and cycled through careers as an artist, graphic designer, advertising executive, traveling salesman, and founder of a magazine aimed at army wives—found his purpose as the founder of the American Nazi Party. That was when he self-published this not-so-veiled rhyming parable (you know, for kids!) about sinister chickens plotting to take over the world. It is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions. It is also available for free all over the internet, since it seems that neo-Nazis are not fervent defenders of intellectual property. I chose the version written in Comic Sans that spells Rockwell’s name wrong. But all the versions have similar garish, caricaturish illustrations, originally credited to one Robert Edwards, that feel inflected by both old Warner Bros. cartoons and World War II anti-Jewish propaganda imagery. There are several YouTube iterations of the book as well, one uploaded by the subtly monikered “Six Million 4 Truth.”

The plot concerns itself with a happy village of ducks that is suddenly disturbed by a group of hens fleeing an unspecified atrocity.

Oh let us in! these poor birds cried,

Before we do expire!

Tis only by the merest inch

That we escaped the fire!


Their feathers burned, their combs a-droop,

They were the saddest sight.

They’d run a hundred miles or more,

All day and then all night.

The ducks, suckers all, welcome the hens. The hens regain their health, get fat, send for the roosters, and start pretending to be assimilated.

To please their hosts, these chickens tried

To waddle and to quack.

To imitate the duckish ways,

They quickly learned the knack.

Eventually the ducks ask the chickens how they’ll contribute to society. Instead of working hard, like ducks, the chickens opt “to teach and write and entertain.” Soon they’re educating the ducks’ children, inculcating them in hennish values, controlling the arts, and publishing the Duckville Daily Quack.

A group of ducklings starts refusing to swim (while standing in front of a “Refugees Welcome” sign and holding a book called Wisdom for Ducks written by “A. Hen”) because chickens don’t swim. A group of chickens starts demanding admission to the Duckville swimming pool (marked with a sign saying, “Ducks Only,” which just makes sense, after all). Burlesque shows mock the “reactionary ducks.” (Rockwell’s estranged father was a former vaudevillian and friend of Groucho Marx, Fred Allen, and Benny Goodman.) A biased chicken judge rules that the pool cannot be ducks-only. A fair-minded duck tries to write a completely balanced book about how birds should be separate but equal, but the duck printer won’t publish it because the chickens hold his mortgage and own the press. The hens plot to take over the government, secretly backing a spineless duck candidate. “This is what we do,” murmurs one grinning rooster to the others. The puppet duck wins the election. The chickens aim to start a war with Gooseville—which wisely kicked out all its refugee chickens early on—and take over Swanville.

They took a vote amongst the hens,

And every one approved!

Swanville was for hens! They said

Way back, before we moved.

The chickens bring drugs to Duckville (in the edition I read, someone has labeled the existing illustration of a building “all night rave club”).

The hens were selling loco weed

In every nasty den

But ducks who dared to mention this

Were labeled anti-hen.


The hens all preached of “Tolerance”

They invoked the “Golden Rule,”

But they subsidized the indigent

The greedy and the fool.


They pumped the swimming pond all dry

They taught the ducks to crow

While duckish numbers dwindled

The hens began to grow.

The chickens encourage miscegenation by stirring up the crows—leering, frizzy-feathered, black as pitch—to come out of the trees and get married to the ducks. (In real life, Rockwell believed that Jews were behind the Civil Rights movement, secretly plotting to cause race mixing, weaken white people, and create a distraction that would let Jews take over. “They’re just natural born agitators,” he said in a 1966 interview. “They just can’t help coming in and getting everybody all stirred up.”)

But, you ask, how does The Fable of the Ducks and Hens stand up as a work of literature? For a children’s book, it is unfashionably long. Youngsters’ attention is likely to wane. The a-b-c-b rhyme scheme gets wearying, and the meter is sometimes shaky. As befitting “a Parable of Intrigue, Propaganda & Subversion,” the characters are undifferentiated; as in any fable, characterization is shallow. Rockwell openly acknowledges that the book lacks a conclusion:

This epic really has no end because

No matter how you fight ‘em

Those hens will show up every time

And so … ad infinitum.

All this said, there are worse children’s books out there, formalistically speaking. The content is reprehensible, but the book is not the most heinous crime against literature ever committed, however much one might wish to report otherwise.

A note: While The Fable of the Ducks and Hens is a tale of good and evil writ large, Rockwell’s own life was pretty small. His second wife left him after his turn toward Nazism. His White Power indie record label, Hatenanny Records, failed. His party headquarters (a house in Arlington, Virginia) was repossessed by the IRS in 1965. In 1966, Alex Haley interviewed him for Playboy; when Rockwell immediately called him the N-word, Haley replied, “I’ve been called [that] many times, Commander, but this is the first time I’m being paid for it.” (Haley was actually paid twice. After Roots appeared on TV, Marlon Brando called the producers begging for a role in the sequel and was cast as Rockwell, interviewed by James Earl Jones as Haley — Brando won an Emmy.) In 1967, Rockwell was murdered by a former American Nazi Party member who’d been expelled for “Bolshevik leanings.” Narratively speaking, this makes a way better story than The Fable of the Ducks and Hens.


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.


World War II Brought a French Writer to Terms with His Jewishness

By Catherine Bock-Weiss

The French Jewish writer Léon Werth may be best known as the person to whom Antoine de Saint-Exupéry dedicated The Little Prince, describing Werth as his best friend. More importantly, Werth was the author of two chronicles of his experiences during World War II, which he spent in France hiding from the Nazis: 33 Days, which was lost and unpublished until the 1990s, and Deposition 1940-1944, which appeared in 1946. A complete translation of the first book, and an abridged translation of the second, have recently been published in English. In the latter, Catherine Bock-Weiss writes, Werth leaves a record of how the war changed his sense of himself as a Jew:

Werth had been largely indifferent to his Jewish heritage for most of his life, but his existential situation [during the war] was permeated with the fact of his Jewishness: he was in virtual solitary confinement in a remote village, forbidden to publish, . . . cut off from his friends and his intellectual milieu, a hostage to anti-Semitism. Though southeastern France, [where he had found shelter], did not have a heavy German troop presence, Werth’s safety depended on whether or not his neighbors denounced him. . . .

Werth’s first journal entry about Jews is a response to the issuing of the [Vichy anti-Jewish law] on October 3, 1940, the day of its promulgation. . . . Here, we see Werth holding Jews at arm’s length. Five days later, he describes two kinds of Jews he seems to know, the . . . materialistic assimilated Jew and the pious observant Jew. He has only contempt for the former. . . .

These distanced observations [about these two categories of Jews] seem to have been a kind of preparation for acknowledging himself as a Jew. But even as France disavowed him, he clung to his French identity. . . . It is not until the entry of December 9, 1940, that we find Werth clearly identifying as a Jew, though he worried about a narrowing of his worldview. . . .

“I feel humiliated,” [wrote Werth in 1941]. “It’s the first time society has humiliated me. I feel humiliated not because I’m Jewish, but because I am presumed to be of inferior quality because I’m Jewish.” It’s absurd; it may be the fault of my pride, but that’s the way it is.”



Vít Pohanka

Central Europe abounded in thriving Jewish communities for many centuries. They were frequently a target of official discrimination and had to try very hard to carve out their place in societies that were often hostile to their culture and religion. But there are many examples of peaceful coexistence of the Jewish diaspora in the predominantly Catholic Czechia. One of them can be found in the heart of the Highlands region.

Třebíč, photo: Vít PohankaTřebíč, photo: Vít PohankaTřebíč is a small town some 140 kilometers (or 90 miles) south-east of Prague. “The Jewish Quarter and nearby St. Procopius Basilica bear witness to the coexistence of and interchange of values between two different cultures, Jewish and Christian, over many centuries”, states UNESCO as one of the official reasons for including Třebíč on its World Heritage List. The other being that the Jewish Quarter bears outstanding testimony to various aspects of the life of this community. Dáša Juráňová who works at the local information center gives tours in English:

“The population of the Jewish Quarter peaked in 17th and 18th centuries. What was then a de facto ghetto was inhabited by some 1,300 to 1,600 people. There were two synagogues and it was considered a good place to settle for the Jewish people. The Jihlava river made a sort of natural border on one side, rocky outcrops on two others. But on the remaining side, the Jewish Quarter merged naturally with the rest of the town.”

Word about the peaceful and relatively tolerant welcome the town of Třebíč gave to the Jewish community must have spread far and wide. It drew newcomers not only from cities like Brno, the regional center of Moravia in the eastern part of Czechia, or Vienna, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There were also newcomers from places much farther away:

“People came from Poland and even Ukraine and other places in Eastern Europe. Many people would share a single house, it was a bit crowded. The whole area was a kind of self-sustaining village, there were craftsmen’s workshops, kosher butchers, etc. The law that made Jewish people stay in such ghettos was officially abolished in the 1850s. Many of the well-to-do inhabitants moved out afterward. Yet, the Jewish Quarter remained a very lively place.“

Jewish quarter, photo: Vít Pohanka


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We are joined by Denisa Hájková who works for the town hall. She spent many years in the United States and often has friends as visitors. So, she knows what to recommend to outsiders who want to see Třebíč:

“You must walk around the Jewish Quarter yourself, down and up the narrow, cobbled lanes. You must get the feel of the place, see how the houses were built, imagine what it was like to live in them. That is the only way to really experience this place.”

Charming as a walk around the Jewish Quarter of Třebíč is, it would not do justice to the town to stay only there. For kind of juxtaposed to its crooked cobbled streets is an imposing edifice of the Basilica of Saint Procopius. Here you get a completely different perspective of the rich history of this town – the Christian side of it:

Jewish quarter, photo: Vít PohankaJewish quarter, photo: Vít Pohanka“It was built in the Romanesque-Gothic style. You can walk past and appreciate a magnificent semicircular portal and nave. Once inside, you can find ancient Gothic paintings in the Abbot’s Chapel. But the best-preserved part of the basilica is actually the crypt – the place where monks and the founders of the monastery were buried.”

But do not get the wrong idea, this town is not only about its own past adds Denisa:

“Třebíč is also a center of contemporary cultural, social and economic life of this part of the Highlands region. There quite a few schools so you can see a lot of young people around the town and they make it lively. If you check out the tourist information website you should be able to find both inspiration for a visit and practical information.”

So, there is plenty to do and see in the charming town of Třebíč. Whether you are interested in the history of this part of Europe, local arts or cuisine, it has a lot to offer and is an ideal tip for a day trip from Brno, Prague or Vienna.


Munich rejects ‘stumbling stone’ Holocaust memorials at Jewish leader’s request

A view of some “stolpersteine” in Berlin, Aug. 2012. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

BERLIN (JTA) — Heeding the objections of a local Jewish leader, Munich is introducing a new form of Holocaust remembrance as an answer to the ubiquitous “stumbling stones” memorials that dot sidewalks in front of sites across Europe from which Jews were deported.

The first two small plaques and markers with photos and biographical details went up on Friday at apartment buildings in the capital of Bavaria, recalling the lives and fates of Jews who once lived there.

“With this new form of commemoration, Munich is taking its own path towards an honorable and lasting remembrance,” Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Jewish community of Munich and Bavaria, said, according to news reports.

Knobloch has for years opposed the installation of “stumbling stone” memorials, small brass plaques generally installed on sidewalks in front of places from where Jews were deported. She considers their placement on the ground, where people tread on them or they get dirty, an insult to the memory of Holocaust victims. Knobloch herself survived World War II in hiding with a Christian family in Germany.

Initiated by the Cologne-based artist Gunter Demnig, the “Stolpersteine” plaques include basic information about the individuals. His non-profit asks for about $140 to cover the cost of creating and setting the stones. According to his website, more than 50,000 “stumbling stones” have now been installed across Europe, often with descendants of Holocaust victims present. Other cities and communities in Germany welcomed the memorial stones.

Supporting Knobloch, the City Council voted three years ago to reject the project, and their stand was backed by the Bavarian Administrative Court in December 2017.

Now, the city reportedly has earmarked $175,000 for the new project.

The installation of the new memorials this week was attended by Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter.

The first is dedicated to the philologist Friedrich Crusius, who was put to death because of mental illness; the art gallery owners  Paula and Siegfried Jordan, who were shot in 1941; and to Franz and Tilly Landauer – Franz was the brother of Kurt Landauer, pre-war president of the FC-Bayern soccer club, who fled to Switzerland in 1939 and saved his life. All of his siblings were murdered by the Nazis.

Another two plaques and markers are to be installed by August 5, according to news reports.

Meanwhile, the opposition association, “Stolpersteine for Munich,” has installed a few stumbling stone memorials on private property.

An app called Munich stumbling blocks provides a virtual memorial to Holocaust victims from the city.


Trudi lost her teeth to a Nazi and found her calling

The free dental clinic she founded in Jerusalem lifts children out of poverty

Illustrative. Child brushing her teeth.

As 12-year-old Maya slipped into the dental chair, Yosef Levy’s quiet smile and whispered reassurances belied the worry and guilt roiling just below the surface. His daughter, the first patient of the day at Jerusalem’s Dental Volunteers for Israel (DVI) clinic, had suffered from tooth pain for more than a week while Levy stood by helplessly. As a hotel janitor with six other children ranging in age from 18 months to 16 years, Levy couldn’t afford dental care for his family. He could barely afford some of life’s essentials. Although Levy didn’t feel like a statistic, he was among the one-in-five Israelis living in poverty.

It was excruciating for Levy to imagine Maya starting to have missing teeth and entering her teenage years feeling like an ugly duckling. Thanks to Holocaust survivor Trudi Birger’s vision and dedication, that scenario could be put to rest. Maya received a root canal, free of charge, from DVI, with the help of the volunteer endodontist that day. After an unsettling hour of drilling, Maya’s tooth sported a final restoration from the pediatric dentist the following week, at the same DVI clinic.

Although Birger passed away in 2002, she would have recognized the glimmer of hope in Maya’s new smile. Birger knew about pain, poverty, and despair. And she understood the economic impact and psychological trials that accompany poor dentition. As a child in the Stutthof concentration camp, Birger lost her teeth when a Nazi guard knocked them out. Then and there, the seeds of DVI were sown.

When Jerusalem’s budget constraints forced the city’s dental clinic to close in the late 1970s, Birger stepped in to fill the gap. With the help of Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, Birger opened the DVI clinic for pediatric dental care in 1980. To this day, the clinic reflects her interpretation of tzedakah (charity), which is to give destitute children the same level of care she would want for her own children — and to treat all young people equally.

The DVI clinic’s core mission is to provide free dental services to Jerusalem’s neediest youngsters, regardless of ethnicity or religion. But solving dental problems is just one part of the equation. The organization is equally committed to preventing dental disease by delivering regular oral health education to at-risk youth. For most of DVI’s patients, their first encounter with a dentist — or a regular use of a toothbrush — is in the clinic. The young person’s agreement to maintain good dental hygiene constitutes their “payment.” This combination of restoring dental health and preventing future disease opens up educational and job opportunities that give children like Maya their best chance of escaping the cycle of poverty.

In keeping with Birger’s tzedakah philosophy, the DVI clinic is staffed with volunteer dentists from around the globe, and only specialists perform procedures like Maya’s root canal. In 2017, more than 130 dentists performed more than 11,000 treatments, improving the lives of thousands of low-income youth across Jerusalem.

I was fortunate to serve as Maya’s endodontist during the week that I volunteered at the DVI clinic. Throughout my time in Jerusalem, Trudi Birger’s experience reverberated in my heart and soul. From the ugly memories of the Holocaust and the savagery of Nazism, she was able to create a program that fosters tolerance, delivers hope, and provides a brighter future for patients and their families. It was deeply fulfilling to see how my dental education helped Maya and lifted a burden of worry and guilt from Yosef Levy’s shoulders. His relief in knowing that his daughter’s tooth was saved was palpable, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to help.

The DVI clinic provides a gift to each child it serves. It provides a gift to each parent who suffers when their child suffers. It provides a gift to the volunteer dentists by experiencing a meaningful impact that their tzedakah makes for young children in need. And it provides a gift to the holy city of Jerusalem, which has the highest poverty rates of any developed nation.


90-year-old Holocaust survivor is unexpected superhero of Comic-Con

The 2018 Comic-Con International festival took place at the San Diego Convention Center. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

(JTA) — A Holocaust survivor turned out to be the real superhero at the Comic-Con convention in Southern California.

Ruth Goldschmiedova Sax, 90, who survived three Nazi concentration camps, was the main draw of a panel on “Art During the Holocaust” at the popular convention last week in San Diego.

Sax, of Chula Vista, California, told an overflow crowd about how she was forced to stand naked in front of Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele six times in order to help him decide whether she should be sent to the gas chambers, the San Diego Times reported. She also survived internment in Theresienstadt and Oederan.

Her daughter, Sandra Scheller, displayed slides showing how comics were used as propaganda against Jews. Scheller is the author of her mother’s memoir, “Try to Remember, Never Forget.”

Sax told the audience how she saw drawings and cartoons depicting Jews in an anti-Semitic manner in the German newspaper Der Sturmer.

“We were shocked and surprised by the propaganda and the way Jewish persons were portrayed,” she said. “I remember being scared, wondering how could this be? It was something we could not run away from.”

Meanwhile, according to another panelist, many Jews were among those creating cartoons and comics in the United States showing the defeat of the Nazis.

Esther Finder, the president and founder of Generations of the Shoah, told the audience that Nazi racial propaganda likely fueled the creation of Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster of Cleveland, Ohio. She also noted Superman’s Jewish roots from his original name, Kal-El, which includes a Hebrew name of God, and the similarity of his arrival on earth to that of Moses – both placed in a vessel and sent adrift in the hopes that someone would save him and take him in.

Jewish television star Mayim Bialik also made a surprise appearance at Comic-Con after first spending a day on the floor of the convention hall incognito so she could enjoy it with her sons. She wore a Spiderman mask and a baseball cap. Bialik and “Big Bang Theory” co-star Kunal Nayyar joined a panel with the show’s writers.


Archaeologists find holiest part of Vilnius synagogue razed by Nazis, Soviets

Mayor of Lithuanian capital says school built over Great Synagogue of Vilna to be demolished, turned into memorial as ‘bimah’ is discovered at site

Members of an international team of archaeologists work to unearth parts of the Great Synagogue of Vilnius on July 25, 2018. (AFP Photo/Petras Malukas)

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AFP) — For decades, little did the principal of a kindergarten in Lithuania’s capital realize that his office stood on top of a sacred part of Vilnius’ 17th century Jewish temple, once famous across Europe.

An international team of archaeologists on Thursday announced the discovery of the most revered part of the Great Synagogue of Vilnius, Lithuania’s major Jewish shrine before it was destroyed by Nazi and Soviet regimes.

“We’ve found the bimah, the central prayer platform which was in Tuscan Baroque style. It was one of the central features of the synagogue,” Jon Seligman from Israel’s Antiquities Authority told AFP.

“It is really a very exciting development. When we talk about the presentation of the site to the public in the future, this will be one of the central features of the display,” he added.

The green and brown, brick and mortar bimah — a raised platform from which the Jewish holy book, the Torah, is read — was unearthed just beneath the principal’s office of a former school built in the 1950s by the Soviet regime.

The synagogue, dating from the 1630s, was the most important shrine for Lithuania’s once vibrant Jewish community.

The city attracted Yiddish-speaking writers and scholars, earning it the title of “Jerusalem of the North.”

Before the war, Jews accounted for around one-third of the city’s then 60,000 residents, but most of them perished under Nazi Germany’s 1941-1944 occupation.

The Nazis burned down the shrine and the remains were later demolished by the Soviet regime that built a kindergarten, later turned into the primary school, on the property.

Tears and prayers

“This isn’t just an archaeological discovery,” said Faina Kukliansky, the leader of Lithuania’s tiny Jewish community of around 3,000 people out of a total population of 2.9 million.

“It helps to better understand Jewish life here but also the destructive ideologies of the Nazi and Soviet regimes,” she added.

Simonas Gurevicius, who leads a separate Jewish association in Vilnius, said he cried when he prayed at the newly discovered site.

“Maybe I was the first one to pray here 77 years after the last prayers by Vilnius ghetto martyrs,” he told AFP.

Work at the synagogue site by Lithuanian, Israeli and American archaeologists is paid for mostly by Lithuania’s fund for Jewish communal property seized by Nazi Germany and then kept by the Soviet regime.

Vilnius authorities closed the school last year and plan to replace the building with a memorial that would display synagogue artifacts within the next five years.

“The school will be demolished within two years and we’ll create a respectful site, displaying rich Jewish heritage by 2023 when Vilnius celebrates its 700th birthday,” Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius told AFP.