Category Archive: Archives

AmeriCorps launches recruitment drive for volunteers for Holocaust survivors

WASHINGTON (JTA) –AmeriCorps-VISTA, the federal anti-poverty volunteer program, launched its recruitment drive for volunteers who will assist Holocaust survivors.
The program is seeking volunteers for 14 agencies operating in seven states, according to a release Thursday from the Jewish Federations of North America, one of the partner agencies.
The states are: California, Illinois, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey and New York and the year-long volunteer stints are expected to begin in the fall.
Vice President Joe Biden announced the partnership with AmeriCorps in December in outlining plans to assist impoverished Holocaust survivors.
According to JFNA, there are about 113,000 Holocaust survivors in the United States, of which about 25 percent live below the poverty line.
“In order to remain in their homes and communities, Holocaust survivors need home health care, assistance with transportation, help paying medical and dental bills, and rental assistance or affordable housing,” the JFNA said in its release.
Other partnering agencies include the Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies; Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles and Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles; Jewish Child and Family Services and CJE Senior Life in Chicago; the Alpert Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Palm Beach County; the Ruth and Norman Rales Jewish Family Services of Boca Raton, Fla.; Jewish Family Service of Broward County; Jewish Community Services of South Florida; Jewish Family Services of Metropolitan Detroit; the Jewish Social Service Agency in Greater Washington; Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern New Jersey; Selfhelp Community Services in New York and UJA-Federation of New York.

From the Archive: Soccer in the aftermath of World War II

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This year Israel sent more fans to the World Cup than any other country (except Canada) that had no team playing there.
But Jewish passion for soccer is nothing new: the sport was popular among Jews in Europe in the years before and after World War II. In fact it was a major recreational outlet in Displaced Persons camps, among Jewish refugees in Shanghai and even at an Italian deportation camp where, a February 1941 JTA article noted, the camps’ residents formed “all stars” teams that have “several times engaged, and usually beaten, local village soccer teams.”
The fondness for soccer endured despite numerous violent and tragic incidents that occurred on European soccer fields. During a September 1935 match in southern Poland, a Jewish soccer player for a Polish team competing against a German was killed after a mob of Nazis attacked him yelling “Come out, Jew!” and “Perish the Jew!”

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A month later, a soccer match in Poland ended in a riot, when a mob of 500 attacked the Jewish Maccabi team and Jewish spectators. And in May 1946, tensions between Jewish and Polish refugees, who were both being housed at Bergen-Belsen (which had been converted from concentration camp to British-administered DP camp), erupted during a soccer match there, with Polish displaced persons stabbing eight Jews and shooting another.

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Hero in Print, Villain at Home

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Few of us ever face a moral decision with life or death consequences, or that threatens to influence, however feebly, the course of history. This may be one reason why the moral calculations of men and women who lived during the rise of the Third Reich and the Second World War prove so durable as the subject of literature and film.
“The Last Sentence,” director Jan Troell’s account of a renowned Swedish newspaper editor, Torgny Segerstedt, who wrote early and forcefully against Hitler in his editorials, presents us with one such man. Yet instead of portraying this valorous figure as totally heroic, Troell does something more complicated — he presents a man whose personal life contains a strong dose of moral failure.
From Troell’s earliest frames, shot in the classic black and white of the period in question, we are in the hands of a master film craftsman. (Troell is best known in America for his award winning “The Emigrants” and “The New Land.”) Simple but compelling images of leaves floating on the surface of a clear shallow stream strike a poetic but also a philosophical note: Is the image a reminder of the way in which most of us “float” on the surface of life led by imperceptible currents?
One hesitates to make too much of this, especially once the story proper begins. Torgny is already a man past middle age, with a mane of carefully combed white hair thrust off his high forehead. In the dignified stature of the handsome Danish actor Jesper Christensen, Torgny is at once a combative intellectual and writer-polemicist, fearless in attacking Hitler mere days after his ascension: “Herr Hitler är en förolämpning” (“Mr. Hitler is an insult”) he begins an article. The challenge has been laid down, and Hermann Göring responds with a threatening telegram. Axel Forssman, Torgny’s publisher and close friend, backs his aggressive stance and allows his editorialist to proceed in a further published response to Göring’s telegram.

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Considering future, Claims Conference weighs shutting down vs. Holocaust education

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NEW YORK (JTA) — A special panel tasked with examining the governance and strategic vision of the Claims Conference is recommending that the organization shift its long-term focus to Holocaust education and remembrance, JTA has learned.
The panel was appointed last year following a scandal involving the Claims Conference’s failure to detect a $57 million fraud scheme there that persisted until 2009. It also recommended cutting in half the size of the board’s executive committee and the number of special board committees.
The special panel did not, however, recommend any changes to the composition of the Claims Conference’s board, which critics have complained is unrepresentative because it does not include enough Israeli or survivor groups and includes too many once-robust Jewish organizations that are quite small today.
The new recommendations, outlined in two hefty documents sent to Claims Conference board members last week and this week and obtained by JTA, will go to a vote when the board holds its annual meeting in New York on July 8.
Consisting of board members and outside experts and guided by Accenture consultants, the special panel was charged with reviewing the administration, management and governance structure of the Claims Conference, which obtains Holocaust restitution and compensation from Germany and Austria. The central question the panel examined was what the Claims Conference should do after the last of the survivors dies.

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89-Year-Old Suspected Auschwitz Guard Arrested

Johann Breyer immigrated to the United States in 1952, lives in Philadelphia

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U.S. authorities have arrested Johann Breyer, an 89-year-old suspected former guard at Auschwitz and Buchenwald currently living in Philadelphia, the New York Times reports. He has been charged with 158 counts of complicity in the commission of murder. The arrest is part of renewed German efforts to identify and arrest former Nazi guards, most of whom are now in their eighties and nineties—and an acknowledgment that time is very quickly running out to hold those responsible for Nazi crimes accountable in court. Germany is attempting to have Breyer extradited to Germany, where he would face trial.

Johann Breyer, a retired tool maker born in Czechoslovakia, is the oldest person ever accused of ties to the Third Reich by United States authorities who for decades have hunted for Nazis who escaped to America after the war. Mr. Breyer is accused of joining the Waffen SS at age 17 and working as a guard at the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Officials say newly discovered evidence has strengthened their case against Mr. Breyer. War-era records indicate that he was at Auschwitz earlier in the war than he acknowledged and that he served as a guard in a particularly notorious subcamp, known as Birkenau or “Auschwitz 2,” which was used exclusively to kill prisoners.

The U.S. Justice Department’s attempted to deport Breyer in 1992, but the effort was thwarted by Breyer’s argument that he was a citizen since his mother was born in the U.S. Still, while this attempt to get Breyer out of the country has a better probability of success, the likelihood that the 89-year-old will stand trial in Germany remains low. In March, a German court declared 94-year-old Hans Lipschis, a suspected former Auschwitz guard, unfit for trial, citing his worsening dementia. Lipschis was charged with 10,510 counts of accessory to murder.

The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement applauding the arrest. “This commitment to accountability for atrocities committed during the Holocaust gives hope and comfort to victims of other acts of genocide, whether in Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia or elsewhere,” ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said. “We are especially grateful for the tireless efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice, which has long sought an order of deportation against Breyer, who served in the Nazi SS as a guard at two notorious concentration camps during World War II.”

Where Did Yiddish Come From?

An explosive debate erupts from footnotes suggesting that Ashkenazi Jews are Europeans

This is the first of two articles on the origins of the Yiddish language. This week, the late historian Cherie Woodworth provides an outstanding explication of the origins and historical stakes of the split that is roiling modern Yiddish scholarship. Next week, staff writer Batya Ungar-Sargon profiles the academic personalities and their battles in the field of linguistics.

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There are several hundred thousand Yiddish speakers today, perhaps even half a million, but the shtetls of Ukraine and Lithuania, where Yiddish was woven into the fabric of everyday life, have faded into dust. Yiddish was born in about the 10th century and thus rounded out an even millennium before being pulled under by the tide of history. If you want to know not just what Yiddish is but where it came from, how it managed to survive and even to flourish, you can do no better than the new edition of Max Weinreich’s History of the Yiddish Language—but be sure to read the footnotes. They extend for over 750 pages, are now published in English for the first time in the new Yale edition, and contain the most interesting, and controversial, part of what had seemed till now a fairly straightforward and unchallenged historical narrative.

Weinreich’s original text and notes were published in 1973, four years after his death. A partial translation into English—without the notes—was published by the University of Chicago Press in 1980. Yale’s new edition thus finally makes available for the first time the greater part of Weinreich’s work—the notes are longer than the text—thoroughly edited by Paul Glasser. The notes cite research in two dozen languages and took more than a decade to edit and check even after they were translated. These notes are not just the usual formal apparatus, reassuring to any scholarly reader: They are essential to understanding Weinreich’s many-stranded argument about the relationship between culture and language. They also provide a subtle counter-argument to his lifelong thesis. Weinreich was a careful, fair, and judicious scholar, and it was in the notes to his monumental work that he gave place to the vexing confusion of counter-evidence to his main, and beloved, story of Yiddish origins and, by implication, the origins of millions of East European Jews and their descendants in America.

Israel, Germany to cooperate on Nazi-looted art

Joint research by experts could help return pieces to Jewish heirs, culture minister says

Israel and Germany have agreed to conduct joint research in museums in both countries aimed at determining the original ownership of Jewish-owned art looted by Nazis, officials said.

Under an agreement signed Sunday by Israeli Culture Ministry Director General Orly Froman and German Culture Minister Monika Gruetters, art experts from the two countries will undergo training and coordinate the formation of joint data bases.

“The cooperation between German and Israeli institutions on provenance research of Nazi-confiscated art and Judaica is a great vote of confidence,” Gruetters said in a statement.

Culture Minister Limor Livnat said the agreement could lead to restitution of art stolen by Nazis to the Jewish heirs, a statement from her ministry read.

Livnat noted the ongoing cooperation between Israel and Germany on Nazi-era art provenance, including the presence of two Israeli curators in a German committee dealing with the collection found in the Munich flat of Cornelius Gurlitt.

Gurlitt, who died last month at 81, was the son of a Nazi-era art dealer who hoarded hundreds of paintings valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Gurlitt collection mostly kosher, his spokesman claims

BERLIN (JTA) — A friend of Cornelius Gurlitt said only eight of the late collector’s 1,400 paintings are likely to have been stolen from Jews.

Gurlitt’s friend, Christoph Edel, made the claim when delivering a eulogy Monday for Gurlitt, the DPA news agency reported. A German court appointed Edel as guardian of Gurlitt’s possessions before his death earlier this month. The eulogy was made public by Gurlitt’s former spokesperson, Stephan Holzinger, on Thursday.

But a spokesperson for the official government task force set up to research the provenance of all the works said 458 of them so far have been identified as having suspicious history; they could have been obtained through pressure on Jewish collectors.

Gurlitt, who died May 6 in Munich at the age of 81, was under investigation for tax evasion when the collection was seized by customs officials more than two years ago. The vast collection, which includes works by such greats as Picasso, Durer, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Beckmann and Matisse, first came to light last fall, when a Munich magazine broke the story.

Cornelius Gurlitt left his entire collection to the Kunst Museum in Bern, Switzerland.

Reportedly, the museum has not yet decided if it will accept the gift, which comes with the responsibility to restore any works that were stolen or confiscated to their rightful heirs.

Meanwhile, a distant relative has announced plans to contest the will, ORF reported.

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