Category Archive: American Gathering News

The German officer who saved 13 Jewish ‘spies’ from the Nazis

Seeing the Nazi treatment of the Jews played a key part in Hans von Dohnanyi’s growing opposition to Hitler.

hans-von-dohnanyiIn the middle of the World War II, German jurist and military intelligence officer Hans von Dohnanyi conceived of a daring idea to help some of his Jewish friends escape the Nazis.

Abwehr Chief Admiral Wilhelm Canaris encouraged the members of his German military intelligence unit to help save as many Jews as possible, and along with General Hans Oster, von Dohnanyi came up with Operation U-7, a clandestine plan to smuggle 13 Jews out of the Nazi Reich.

Seeing the Nazi treatment of the Jews played a key part in Dohnanyi’s growing opposition to Hitler, and he was more than willing to lead the humanitarian action.

In the fall of 1941, they devised a plan to disguise 13 Jewish refugees as Abwehr agents who were being disguised as Jewish refugees in order to smuggle them into the US in order to spy for the German government.

It took over a year to plan and to execute, including obtaining the permission of SS commander Heinrich Himmler, and on September 29, 1942, the Jewish “spies,” with special identity cards and passes traveled from the Berlin Zoo Train Station, arriving in Switzerland shortly after paying them an amount totaling about $100,000 drawn from secret military intelligence funds.

Von Dohnanyi, who had seen the work of the Nazis ever since their rise to power in the early 1930s, reached the conclusion by himself to help Jews and to try to cause the downfall of the Nazis, but he was also blessed to have an outspoken brother-in-law who was on the same the ideological path to martyrdom as he was.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theologian who was an outspoken dissident of the Nazi regime, left Germany in 1938 to save himself from having to fight in Hitler’s army. He said that he must live through the war, otherwise he will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if he doesn’t share the trials with his people.

“Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization,” Bonhoeffer wrote.

During the war, the pastor spoke out against the persecution of the Jews and his Bethel Confession adamantly refuted the Nazis’ Deutsche Christen (German Christian Protestant group) doctrine, saying Israel’s spot in history can not be usurped and that no nation is obligated to avenge the Jews’ role in the killing of Jesus.

Dohnanyi wasn’t only interested in the present, however, and during his time in the Bavarian Justice Ministry he also tried to ensure that the Nazis would be brought to justice after the war would end.

“With cool-headed efficiency and rising outrage Dohnanyi began to keep a chronological record, along with supporting evidence and an index, of the regime’s illegal acts,” authors Elisabeth Sifton and Fritz Stern wrote in “No Ordinary Men: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi, Resisters Against Hitler in Church and State.“ “These documents were meant to facilitate the prosecution of Nazi criminals after the end of the regime.”

On April 5, 1943, the Gestapo arrested von Dohnanyi, but he was soon after released, however, as the Nazis had a lack of evidence against him in the role he played in Operation U-7.

The experience didn’t deter him, and von Dohnanyi continued in his attempt to overthrow the Nazi regime. His efforts would culminate in the failure of the July 20, 1944 bomb plot – also known as Operation Valkyrie – an attempted coup d’etat led by Claus von Stauffenberg to assassinate Adolf Hitler and make peace with the West.

The Gestapo found von Dohnanyi’s records on the Nazis’ misdeeds, and a month before the Allied victory, in April 1945, he was hanged with piano wire.

What made Dohnanyi’s efforts even more remarkable was that he had a Jewish grandfather. While this fact was not able to discredit him from his positions, it did not help to relieve the suspicion of the Gestapo.

“In accordance with his racial composition – which indeed you cannot tell by his external looks – he has no understanding for the racial legislation of the Third Reich, to which he is internally opposed,” said Friedrich Arnold, a Jewish lawyer saved by Dohnanyi said of his beliefs. “Thus he expressed the view that the racist position of National Socialism is impossible because it contradicts the Christian view of the Protestant Church.”

In a ceremony in Berlin on October 26, 2003, Yad Vashem posthumously recognized von Dohnanyi as a Righteous Among the Nations for saving the lives of 13 Jews.

Prior to his death, Dohnanyi said that he did what he did because he was “on the path that a decent person inevitably takes.”

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Czech President accused of withholding state medal from Holocaust survivor

George Brady survived Nazi persecution, including the death camp at Auschwitz in Poland, where his sister and parents perished.

zemanCzech President Milos Zeman has decided against awarding a state medal to a Holocaust survivor after the man’s nephew, a Czech government minister, met exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama against the president’s wishes, the minister said on Friday.

The Czech Republic has been engulfed in political furor over the Dalai Lama’s meetings this week with Culture Minister Daniel Herman against the wishes of China’s government – which sees the Dalai Lama as a separatist – and Zeman, who has strongly pushed for a closer economic relationship with China.

The drive to focus on Chinese investment has met opposition from many corners of the EU member country whose post-communist policy set by the late leader Vaclav Havel strongly promoted human rights. Havel was a friend of the Tibetan Buddhist monk and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Herman confirmed in a text message to Reuters that the president’s office had requested he cancel his meeting with the Dalai Lama or his uncle would not be granted an award.

Herman’s uncle George Brady, 88, was supposed to receive the honour for his lifelong campaign for Holocaust remembrance at an annual celebration at Prague Castle, the seat of the president, next Friday on Czech state day.

Brady survived Nazi persecution, including the death camp at Auschwitz in Poland, where his sister and parents perished.

“My uncle informed me he had been contacted by the president’s office with information that his award was being prepared. Now there is news that this has been postponed for this year,” Herman told Reuters.

Asked if he was given an ultimatum not to meet the Dalai Lama in connection with the award, he said: “Yes.” Herman later told Czech public television that it was the president, who tried to persuade him not to meet the Dalai Lama.

“The president directly told me that if I meet the Dalai Lama, my uncle will be taken out of the list (for awards), and that is what happened,” Herman said, adding the conversation took place in front of witnesses at a banquet held by Slovak Embassy in Prague.

A spokesman for Zeman declined to comment directly on Herman’s statement. He said the president had completed the list of nominees “some time ago,” and had not subsequently dropped anyone.

The office never releases the names of the recipients of the state medals before the traditional ceremony.

George Brady moved to Canada after the war. In 2000, a suitcase with his sister Hana’s name surfaced in a Tokyo Holocaust Museum, whose director discovered her relation to George. Hana’s suitcase later inspired a book, theatre play and a film.

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Guess who’s coming to dinner, in Germany

Most of the guests did not know each other; some of the non-Jewish Germans had never met German Jews before

Made by two longtime friends from very different backgrounds, documentary ‘Germans & Jews’ explores — over dinner — how the Holocaust still shapes German life

dinner-resized

In 2009, Tal Recanati visited Germany for the first time. She’s been many times since.

The daughter of an Israeli mother and American Jewish father who spent much of her childhood in Israel, she had always considered the country to be scorched earth — a no-go zone for Jews after World War II. Besides, any Jew who did end up Germany lived sitting “on packed suitcases,” ready to flee.

Recanati was, therefore, surprised to discover that some 200,000 Jews live in Germany today, and that it is estimated that 15,000 or more of them are Israelis.

Recanati returned home to New York and told her close friend of three decades, Janina Quint, about her discovery. Quint, too was shocked.

Born and raised in Hamburg, Germany, Quint had learned all about the Holocaust while growing up. But she had never met a Jew and never imagined there were any living among Germans in the post-war period.

This exchange was the genesis of “Germans & Jews,” a self-funded documentary film Recanati and Quint made together over the course of four years. It raised incisive questions and received positive reviews from The New York Times and others as it premiered this past summer in New York and went on to be screened in Los Angeles and other American cities. The film will be screened in December at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival.

Quint had experience making short documentaries in the 1990s, but Recanati was completely new to filmmaking. Serving as executive producer for the project, she was determined to tell this story and learned as she went along.

The women, both in their early 50s, wanted to understand how it could be that so many Jews choose to live in Germany today. The filmmakers’ initial interest was spurred by the numbers, but they knew there was a larger narrative to uncover and convey.

“I knew we would not just be telling the story of Germans and Jews. It was the bigger story of a culture or memory, reconciliation, and of how a country delves into its past, accepts it, and uses this to improve its society. Germany has such a strong civil society, and the Holocaust is always brought to mind when the country weighs possibilities and makes choices about what it will do,” Recanati told The Times of Israel.

“I don’t think people really know how much the Holocaust is so much a part of German politics, that it plays an implicit role in Germany’s wanting to always do the moral thing,” Quint added.

Although by necessity it could not be devoid of history, “Germans & Jews” is very much focused on the present and future. The film, shot mainly in Berlin, has barely any archival footage from the Nazi period.

“We wanted to bring the discussion forward to the second and third generations post-war, and not be stuck in the past. Holocaust images are always a conversation stopper, so we didn’t want to use them,” explained Quint, who directed the film.

The film is anchored by a dinner party in Berlin organized by the filmmakers and attended by a group of non-Jewish and Jewish locals in their 30s through 50s. Most of the guests did not know each other previously, and some of the non-Jewish Germans had never even met German Jews before. (This is not all too surprising, since Jews make up only .2 % of the country’s total population of 80.6 million.)

“It was one of the most memorable evenings. There was an incredibly lively discussion,” Recanati recalled.

The film comes back several times to the dinner party and the conversation around the long table. The talk centers on what is was like for those present to grow up in Germany in the shadow of the Holocaust, with the Germans and Jews sharing their divergent experiences with one another.

The non-Jews speak about the guilt and burden of being the descendents of perpetrators, their resultant eschewing of patriotism, and their guilt-driven imperative to build a strong civil society. Many of that generation, including the filmmaker Quint, don’t even know the German national anthem, or ever raised or waved the German flag.

The Jews born in Germany tell of never feeling truly German, and of a sense of mystery about the past and uncertainty about the future. They were never comfortable enough to wear their Judaism on their sleeves. Now parents of teenagers, they are astounded that their own children feel totally German and proudly don uniforms emblazoned with “Deutschland” to sporting events, including the Maccabiah Games.

By contrast, those Jews who immigrated to Germany from the Former Soviet Union with the fall of the Eastern Bloc in the early 1990s (these immigrants accounted for much of the huge boost to Germany’s Jewish population, which had grown to only 27,000 in the first five decades following WWII), did not carry the same historical and emotional baggage. For these Jews who had lived under Communism, Germany presented an opportunity to live openly as Jews for the first time.

The Israelis at the dinner party speak of how safe they feel as Jews in contemporary Germany — ironically safer than in the Jewish state. There are many reasons for Israelis, many of them young artists, musicians, writers and entrepreneurs, to flock to Germany. High on the list is the significantly lower cost of living highlighted by the “Milky Protest” several years ago which called on Israelis to “make aliya to Berlin.”

Between the dinner party segments, the film provides an engaging chronological history of the relationship between Germans and Jews in Germany from immediately after the war through to the present day. From the commentary of various historians, social psychologists, museum professionals, educators, and memorial foundation leaders, viewers first learn about the major milestones in the German people’s journey toward taking responsibility for the evil that was unleashed on the world by their country.

Close-up of Gleis 17 Memorial at Grunewald Station, Berlin. These are the tracks on which the trains deporting Berlin’s Jews ran. (First Run Features)

Close-up of Gleis 17 Memorial at Grunewald Station, Berlin. These are the tracks on which the trains deporting Berlin’s Jews ran. (First Run Features)

In the immediate post-war years, Germans, traumatized by heavy losses, were focused more on self-pity than assuming responsibility. Then in 1952 West Germany signed a reparations deal with Israel. Later the 1961 the trial of senior Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem proved a turning point. By the end of the 1960s, the counterculture student movement led to the second generation accusing their parents and grandparents of having been Nazis and fascists, pressing them to end the silence on what had happened during the war.

Jewish journalists and leaders of the Jewish community speak of the ambivalence they felt as they grew up in West Germany, and of their parents’ decision to stay despite not really being accepted by Germans. Now in their 40s and 50s, they grew up “sitting on packed suitcases” as they lived among perpetrators and survivors. Yet, the never felt threatened.

“We were looked at like a dying species that needs to be protected,” says one commentator.

The broadcast in West Germany in 1979 of the American TV “Holocaust” miniseries was a turning point. Twenty million West Germans watched, and many participated in call-in discussion programs about what they had seen. (Quint watched the series, but remembered her mother refusing to join her, citing her abhorrence for the idea of “Hollywood-izing” the Holocaust.)

By the 1980s, West Germany was fully engaged in a struggle with what it meant to be a modern, pluralistic democracy that confronts its past. By the latter part of that decade, public debates about redefining German identity in relation to the Nazi past were commonplace. These were followed by the erection throughout the country of monuments reminding Germans of the crimes of National Socialism.

The fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 forced West Germany and East Germany to integrate their opposing approaches to the past. The challenge was great given that the former was critical of the Nazis, while the latter had never felt responsible for the Nazi past and was instead critical of the Communists.

The question has arisen today as to whether Germans now over-identify with the Holocaust, causing them to see Jews only as spectral victims, instead of fellow Germans living among them. It’s been suggested that there has been an over-saturation of Holocaust education, and that it might be time to stop the ever-present discussion.

Then again, it may not at all be time to stop.

“Germans & Jews” was completed before the current influx of more than a million Middle Eastern refugees into Germany. One cannot wonder what a future sequel to this film might be like, taking into account that a significant percentage of Germany’s foreign-born population now comes from anti-Israel countries and anti-Semitic cultures.

Quint echoes the sentiments of many in the German Jewish community who worry that the power of the memory of the Holocaust might be dangerously leading Germany toward political naïveté.

“There needs to be a balance between good will and practicality,” she said.

It seems there would be good reason to reconvene the Berlin dinner party, as there would be much more to discuss in light of recent events.

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Dutch survivor’s diary called an Anne Frank story with a ‘happy’ ending

Unique tale is one of few to focus on religious life in hiding, while the family lived in close quarters with their Catholic saviors

ulreich1AMSTERDAM (JTA) — A Holocaust survivor dubbed “Rotterdam’s Anne Frank” in her native Netherlands published her wartime diary, which she wrote while hiding in the bombed-out city.

“At Night I Dream of Peace,” the Dutch-language diary of 89-year-old Carry Ulreich, hit bookstores in the Netherlands last week. The book generated strong interest from the national media, which likened and contrasted Ulreich’s story with that of Frank, the murdered Jewish teenager from Amsterdam whose diaries in hiding were made into one of the world’s best-read books about the Holocaust.

Ulreich, who immigrated to Israel in the years after World War II, was two-and-a-half years older than Frank when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1940 and sent many of the country’s 140,000 Jews into hiding. Unlike Frank, whose writings have been described as offering a universalist worldview, Ulreich displays a distinctly Jewish one, describing her deep emotional connection to Jewish prayer and traditions.

Whereas Frank and many of her relatives were among the 104,000 Dutch Jews murdered in the genocide, Ulreich survived to have three children, 20 grandchildren and over 60 great-grandchildren. She took her wartime diary — spread over several yellowing notebooks — to Israel, but reread it only two years ago, deciding to publish. In an interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw, she described her story as “like Anne Frank’s, but with a happy end.”

The book, in which Ulreich documented her family’s battle to survive as the world around them became increasingly dangerous, is among a handful of detailed testimonies of life in hiding in Rotterdam, which unlike most Dutch cities was largely destroyed in massive aerial bombardments both by the Germans and later the Allied forces.
Rotterdam after the German blitz (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

It affords a rare account of the sometimes awkward encounter between the Ulreichs, a Zionistic and traditionalist family from Eastern Europe whose members were proud of their Jewish heritage, and their deeply religious Catholic saviors, the Zijlmans family.

Whereas the Franks, a family of secular and cosmopolitan Jews from Germany, lived apart from the people who hid them, the Ulreichs lived with the Zijlmans in conditions that required considerable sacrifice on the part of the hosts and led to some friction as the two households interacted.

‘They will come with their truck, and we’ll have to go to Westerbork and then to Poland and after that… death?’

The Zijlmans couple, who were recognized by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations in 1977 for risking their lives to save the Ulreichs, gave their bedroom to the Ulreichs and moved into a small room where potatoes were stored. They also severed their social contacts to avoid detection as their guests lived in fear.

“We are simply terrified that they will report us to the Waffen-SS for neighborhood disturbance,” Ulreich wrote of the neighbors. “Then they will come with their truck, and we’ll have to go to Westerbork and then to Poland and after that… death?”

Westerbork was a Nazi transit camp in Holland’s northeast.

Ulreich also recalls hearing a chazan, or cantor, offer a prayer for Holocaust victims on a British radio transmission, which she said made the Jews cry and feel “connected with him by heart.” But she complains over the airing of the prayer on Shabbat, when Jews are not supposed to turn on the radio.

“The Christians try to support us, but they simply don’t understand these things,” she wrote.

“Carry shows, next to the enormous gratitude for the hospitality, the discomfort of two different families who suddenly have to live together,” wrote Bart Wallet, the editor of the diary and expert on Dutch Jewry with the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. “The tension and complete dependence are almost tangible for the reader.”

The diary also describes theological discussions between the families.

“This book reveals a lot of information about a, until now, highly undiscussed topic: the religious life in hiding,” Wallet wrote. “It shows how the Jews struggled to eat kosher and how they still tried to celebrate their holy days.”

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Facebook exec, Rwanda survivor among 5 tapped for Holocaust memorial council

Congress established council in 1980 to commemorate Holocaust, raise money for Washington museum

A Facebook vice president and a human rights advocate who survived the Rwandan genocide are among five people appointed to the US Holocaust Memorial Council.

schrage-wamariyaElliot Schrage, the vice president of communications and public policy at Facebook, and Clemantine Wamariya, also a student career consultant, will be returning to the council, the president announced in a statement Friday. Also returning is Howard Unger, a private equity firm founder.

Two newcomers are attorney Irvin Shappell and former hospice care director Susan Levine.

Wamariya, who has served as a tutor for the Yale Refugee Project, and Unger were appointed in 2011. Schrage, who has also worked at Google and as an adjunct professor at Columbia University and its law school, was named in 2012.

“I am grateful that these talented and dedicated individuals have agreed to take on these important roles and devote their talents to serving the American people. I look forward to working with them,” Obama said of his appointees, according to a statement.

Congress established the Holocaust Memorial Council in 1980 to commemorate the Holocaust and raise money for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Its 68 members include presidential appointees, who serve five-year terms, along with senators and representatives and members of the education, interior and state departments.

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German trial of Auschwitz medic collapses over bias complaints

No retrial date set for Hubert Zafke, 96, on charges of at least 3,681 counts of accessory to murder at Nazi concentration cam

hubert-zafkeBERLIN — Germany’s trial of a 96-year-old former Nazi medical orderly at the Auschwitz death camp has collapsed, a court spokesman said Thursday.

No date for a retrial of Hubert Zafke has yet been set after the proceedings were derailed by complaints that the judges were biased.

“When this will happen we cannot say yet,” Carl Friedrich Deutsch, a spokesman for the court, said in a statement.

Zafke had faced charges of at least 3,681 counts of being an accessory to murder in the concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

But concerns over his mental and physical health had led to repeated postponements of the trial in the northeastern lakeside town of Neubrandenburg.

Over the last few hearings, a parade of doctors have been quizzed about Zafke’s mental health, reaching contradictory conclusions.

Prosecutors, and civil plaintiffs, had in turn launched motions of bias against the judges, charging that they were unwilling to try wheelchair-bound Zafke.

zafkeDeutsch said the prosecutors had asked three judges to recuse themselves. There was insufficient time to decide whether to grant or reject these requests before the next scheduled hearing next Monday.

The spokesman added bluntly that he couldn’t understand why prosecutors would employ a legal tactic that left them open to charges they had “torpedoed the proceedings which they themselves had launched.”

The charges against Zafke focus on a one-month period in 1944 when 14 trains carrying prisoners — including the teenage diarist Anne Frank — arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Frank, who arrived in Auschwitz with her parents and sister, was later transferred to another camp, Bergen-Belsen, where she died in March 1945, just two months before the Nazis were defeated.

BERLIN — Germany’s trial of a 96-year-old former Nazi medical orderly at the Auschwitz death camp has collapsed, a court spokesman said Thursday.

No date for a retrial of Hubert Zafke has yet been set after the proceedings were derailed by complaints that the judges were biased.

“When this will happen we cannot say yet,” Carl Friedrich Deutsch, a spokesman for the court, said in a statement.

Zafke had faced charges of at least 3,681 counts of being an accessory to murder in the concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

But concerns over his mental and physical health had led to repeated postponements of the trial in the northeastern lakeside town of Neubrandenburg.

Over the last few hearings, a parade of doctors have been quizzed about Zafke’s mental health, reaching contradictory conclusions.

Prosecutors, and civil plaintiffs, had in turn launched motions of bias against the judges, charging that they were unwilling to try wheelchair-bound Zafke.
The undated photo provided by the Archive of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau shows SS Oberscharfuehrer Hubert Zafke. (The Archive of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau via AP)

The undated photo provided by the Archive of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau shows SS Oberscharfuehrer Hubert Zafke. (The Archive of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau via AP)

Deutsch said the prosecutors had asked three judges to recuse themselves. There was insufficient time to decide whether to grant or reject these requests before the next scheduled hearing next Monday.

The spokesman added bluntly that he couldn’t understand why prosecutors would employ a legal tactic that left them open to charges they had “torpedoed the proceedings which they themselves had launched.”

The charges against Zafke focus on a one-month period in 1944 when 14 trains carrying prisoners — including the teenage diarist Anne Frank — arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Frank, who arrived in Auschwitz with her parents and sister, was later transferred to another camp, Bergen-Belsen, where she died in March 1945, just two months before the Nazis were defeated.
An activist with the Inernational Auschwitz Committee rolls up a poster featuring Holocaust victim Anne Frank outside the regional court of Neubrandenburg during the first day of the trial against former SS medic Hubert Zafke, accused of aiding in 3,681 murders in Auschwitz in 1944, on February 29, 2016. (AFP/John MACDOUGALL)

An activist with the International Auschwitz Committee rolls up a poster featuring Holocaust victim Anne Frank outside the regional court of Neubrandenburg during the first day of the trial against former SS medic Hubert Zafke, accused of aiding in 3,681 murders in Auschwitz in 1944, on February 29, 2016. (AFP/John MacDougall)

Thursday’s announcement marked the end of a case that had been marred by five delays and at times deteriorated into farce, increasingly frustrating victims’ lawyers.

The International Auschwitz Committee, which represents Holocaust survivors, had sharply attacked Germany’s handling of the case, saying the court was hurtling “between sloppy ignorance and complete disinterest” in a resolution.

Some 1.1 million people, most of them European Jews, perished between 1940 and 1945 in Auschwitz before it was liberated by Soviet forces.

More than 70 years after the prosecution of top Nazis began in Nuremberg, Germany has been racing against time to try the last Third Reich criminals.

Zafke was the fourth former concentration camp worker in the dock in the latest series of trials, following John Demjanjuk in 2011, Oskar Groening in 2015 and Reinhold Hanning this May — all convicted of complicity in mass murder.

Those cases were hailed for providing a degree of catharsis for aged survivors, even if they shed little new light on the Holocaust.

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Slovenia transfers mass grave remains of Nazi collaborators

Some 15,000 Croats and Slovenes executed for assisting Germans during WWII, often without trial, are believed buried in hundreds of sites

marshal_tito_during_the_second_world_war_in_yugoslavia_may_1944-e1475508123606-635x357LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenian authorities on Monday started transferring the remains of some 800 people killed and dumped in a mine by communist dictator Tito’s forces in the aftermath of World War II.

Authorities first opened the Huda Jama mine, some 50 miles northeast of Ljubljana, in 2009, one of hundreds of mass graves believed to be dotted around the former Yugoslav republic.

Investigators first found a horizontal chamber with the mummified remains of over 400 people but later discovered another 150-foot vertical cavity containing yet more.

“We calculate between 2,200 and 2,500 bodies might be in that chamber,” historian Mitja Ferenc, member of special commission investigating mass graves, told the Delo daily.

He said that most of the victims were Croat and Slovene soldiers and civilians who had collaborated — or were thought to have collaborated — with the Nazis and then executed, often without trial.

Slovenian President Borut Pahor, attending a ceremony on Monday at the site, said the first 800 bodies will be transferred to a memorial center at Dobrova, west of Ljubljana, by the end of October and the rest next year.

DNA samples will also be taken in order to help identify the dead.

“Reconciliation is possible only once we are ready to forgive and to admit the truth even if it is painful, hard and incriminating,” Pahor said during the ceremony, attended by victims’ relatives.

Ferenc said the wartime mass graves commission has registered some 700 possible mass grave sites in which some 15,000 people are believed to be buried.

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Father of Nobel physics winner fled to UK from the Nazis

J. Michael Kosterlitz, one of trio awarded the prize, is son of German Jews; his dad, biochemist Hans Walter Kosterlitz, left Berlin in 1934, then brought his mother to safety

kosterlitzSTOCKHOLM, Sweden — British scientists David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz won the Nobel Physics Prize on Tuesday for revealing the secrets of exotic matter, the Nobel jury said. Kosterlitz is the son of German Jews who came to Britain in the 1930s to escape the Nazis.

“This year’s laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states. They have used advanced mathematical methods to study unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films,” the jury said.

“Thanks to their pioneering work, the hunt is now on for new and exotic phases of matter,” it added.

The laureates will share the eight million Swedish kronor (around $931,000 or 834,000 euros) prize sum.

Thouless won one-half of the prize, while Haldane and Hosterlitz share the other half.

The jury said their pioneering work “has boosted frontline research in condensed matter physics, not least because of the hope that topological materials could be used in new generations of electronics and superconductors, or in future quantum computers.”

Kosterlitz is the son of German Jewish immigrants. His father, Hans Walter Kosterlitz, was a pioneer in biochemistry.

Hans Walter Kosterlitz fled to Scotland in 1934, after he was barred from his work at a Berlin hospital following the rise of the Nazis. He later arranged for his mother, brother and future wife Hannah to join him in Britain.

Topology, in which the three laureates specialize, is a branch of mathematics that investigates physical properties of matter and space that remain unchanged under deforming forces, including stretching.

It holds exceptional promise for quantum computing and tiny quantum devices as topological states can transport energy and information without overheating, unlike traditional quantum mechanics.

“They demonstrated that superconductivity could occur at low temperatures and also explained the mechanism, phase transition, that makes superconductivity disappear at higher temperatures,” the jury noted.

Thors Hans Hansson, a member of the Nobel Committee for Physics, resorted to the use of pastries in attempting to explain the winners’ complex work. “The concept of topology may not be familiar to you,” he said at a press conference in Stockholm. “I have a cinnamon bun, I have a bagel and a Swedish pretzel with two holes. Now for us these things are different. One is sweet one is salty, they are different shapes. But if you are a topologist there is only one thing that is really interesting with these things. This thing (the bun) has no holes, the bagel has one holes, the pretzel has two holes.”

In the 1980s, Thouless was able to explain a previous experiment with very thin electrically conducting layers in which conductance was precisely measured as integer steps.

“He showed that these integers were topological in their nature. At around the same time, Duncan Haldane discovered how topological concepts can be used to understand the properties of chains of small magnets found in some materials.”

Kosterlitz, a dual UK-US citizen, said he got the news of the Nobel win in a parking garage while heading to lunch in Helsinki.

“I’m a little bit dazzled. I’m still trying to take it in,” he told AP.

While most people are familiar with objects in three dimensions, the Nobel laureates analyzed materials so thin they have only two dimensions, or even one.

Scientists had once been skeptical that any interesting atomic-scale behavior takes place in these settings, but the Nobel laureates proved them wrong, said Phillip Schewe, a physicist and writer at the University of Maryland in College Park.

For example, Kosterlitz and Thouless showed that, against expectations, two-dimensional materials could conduct electricity without any loss to resistance. That property is called superconductivity.

Kosterlitz said he was in his 20s at the time and that his “complete ignorance” was an advantage in challenging the established science.

“I didn’t have any preconceived ideas,” he said. “I was young and stupid enough to take it on.”

Their analysis relied on topology, which is the mathematical study of properties that don’t change when objects are distorted. A doughnut and a coffee cup are equivalent topologically because they each have exactly one hole. In topology, properties change only in whole steps; you can’t have half a hole.

Nobel committee member David Haviland said this year’s prize was more about theoretical discoveries even though they may result in practical applications.

“Topology is a very abstract branch of mathematics which isn’t used so frequently in physics,” Haviland said. “But these theoreticians have come up with a description of these materials using topological ideas, which have proven very fruitful and has led to a lot of ongoing research about material properties.”

Haldane said the award-winning research is just starting to have practical applications.

“The big hope is that some of these new materials could lead to quantum computers and other new technology,” he said.

Kosterlitz was not so sure.

“I’ve been waiting for my desktop quantum computer for years, but it’s still showing no signs of appearing,” he said. “At the risk of making a bad mistake, I would say that this quantum computation stuff is a long way from being practical.”

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