Category Archive: Commemorations

White House defends omission of Jews from Holocaust statement

The omission drew ire from American Jewish groups.

ShowImageThe Trump administration defended its decision to omit any mention of Jews or antisemitism from its statement marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, noting that Jews were not the only victims of Nazi slaughter.

“Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered,” Hope Hicks, a communications aide for the president, said in a comment to CNN. In his statement, Donald Trump vowed to stand up against the forces of evil as president.

“It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust,” the US president said in the statement.

“It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.”

The omission drew ire from the Anti-Defamation League, whose CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted that it was “Puzzling and troubling @WhiteHouse #Holocaust- MemorialDaystmt has no mention of Jews. GOP and Dem. presidents have done so in the past.”

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, however, criticized that statement, saying “It does no honor to the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust to play politics with their memory.”

Lauder said that any “fair reading” of the White House statement would find that it “appropriately commemorates the suffering and the heroism that mark that dark chapter in modern history.

“There are enough real antisemitism and true threats facing the Jewish people today. Our community gains nothing if we reach a point where manufactured outrages reduce public sensitivity to the real dangers we confront,” Lauder said.

In a interview on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said that the Trump administration “obviously” recognizes and abhors what happened to the Jewish people during the Holocaust.

But “I don’t regret the words” used in the statement, Priebus added.

Tim Kaine, a Democratic senator from Virginia and former vice presidential running mate to Hillary Clinton, said it was “not a coincidence” that Trump’s aides dabbled in “Holocaust denial” on the same day that it issued a “religious test” at America’s borders.

“All of these things are happening together,” Kaine said. “When you have the chief political adviser in the White House, Steve Bannon, who is connected with a news organization that traffics in white supremacy and anti-Semitism, and they put out a Holocaust statement that omits any mention of Jews.”


Rivlin, Netanyahu join thousands in Holocaust remembrance campaign

‘We Remember’ project projects images from around world, including Pakistan and Bolivia, on screen at Auschwitz

berlandThousands of people from around the world shared photos remembering the Holocaust in Facebook campaign ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.

The “We Remember” campaign, organized by the World Jewish Congress, has reached 100 million people across the globe, with more than 200,000 participants.

As part of the project, people of all faiths and nationalities have shared images of themselves holding up the words “We Remember.” Starting Tuesday, in partnership with the Auschwitz Museum, thousands of these images were projected on a screen on the grounds of Birkenau, next to Crematorium II. The screening will continue until Thursday and is also being streamed via social media.

Participants included President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, and political party leaders Yair Lapid and Isaac Herzog.

In the rest of the world, the project drew contributions from US politicians Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Congressmen Eliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler; a wide range of European MPs and officials such as Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas, Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon, and Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders. Israeli actresses Moran Atias and Odelya Halevy and Jewish public figures such as Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Bernard Henri-Levy also joined the drive.

“Anti-Semitism is more prevalent today than it has been at any time since World War II, and bigotry and discrimination still rear their ugly heads all around the world,” WJC CEO Robert Singer said. “This is why we all must declare, together, that we remember.”

Singer said that this project showed a new way of commemorating the Holocaust.

“This project has taught us that history can be taught in a new way, and shown is the power of social media. We have learned that it is indeed possible to bring people of all ages and from all over the world together remember the past using a shared language,” he said.


Rome road race to commemorate the Holocaust

ROME (JTA) – A road race passing sites of Holocaust and Jewish remembrance in Rome will highlight events in Italy marking International Holocaust Memorial Day.

The “Run for Mem” — short for Run for Remembrance: Looking Ahead — is scheduled for Jan. 22, five days before the observance of International Holocaust Memorial Day marking the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz. In some countries, including Italy, events take place in the days or even weeks surrounding the Jan. 27 date.

Sponsored by Italy’s main Jewish organizations, The Run for Mem will start and end in Rome’s historic Jewish ghetto, in a square now named for the deportation of Roman Jews to Auschwitz on Oct. 16, 1943. Billed as Europe’s first sport race past sites meant “to commemorate the Shoah and determine future direction,” the event has two routes – 10 kilometers for athletes, 3.5K for the general public. Both take participants past sites related to the Holocaust.

Participants will be encouraged to stop, read commemorative plaques and light candles. They will also meet with Shaul Ladany, an Israeli Holocaust survivor and champion race walker who survived the attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

Organized by the umbrella Union of Italian Jewish Communities, or UCEI, under the auspices of the government and in collaboration with the Rome Marathon and the Maccabi Italia Association, the event is supported by or partnered with more than two dozen other Jewish, civic, governmental and sports bodies and will be featured on national television.

“Sport as a means of coming together is a way to affirm life and dialogue,” UCEI President Noemi Di Segni told a news conference Monday.

Other initiatives around the country to mark Holocaust Memorial Day include exhibitions, cultural and educational events, and commemorative ceremonies.


Polish town snubs UNESCO honors for father of Esperanto

Councillors in Bialystok say international language invented by Ludwik Zamenhof, a Jewish physician born in the city, has no value for mankind

zam-635x357WARSAW, Poland — Maybe they should have said “Pardonu, li ne estas fama sufiĉa” — which is of course Esperanto for “Sorry, he’s not famous enough.”

The city hall in Bialystok, Poland has refused to honor a UNESCO-sponsored “Zamenhof Year” in 2017 commemorating Ludwik Zamenhof, its native son who invented the international language, officials said Friday.

Zamenhof, a Jewish physician, was born in the northeastern city in 1859 and died in Warsaw in 1917. He invented Esperanto as a universal communication tool in 1885.

Councillors for the conservative ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) voted against the Zamenhof Year commemorating the 100th anniversary of his death, Przemyslaw Wierzbowski, head of the Bialystok Esperanto society, told AFP.

Wierzbowski said the councilors — who narrowly rejected the project by 12 votes against 11 — saw Esperanto as a dead language that has no value for mankind.

In fact, Esperanto became an unprecedented international success and linguists say up to a million people still use it.

Konrad Zieleniecki, spokesman for PiS councilors in Bialystok, told AFP that Zamenhof was “an important Bialystok man and deserved the commemoration.”

But he added he had voted against because the city had already decided to celebrate next year’s 150th anniversary of the birth of Josef Pilsudski, the father of Poland’s independence.

He said the decision was also due to a local political conflict between PiS and city president Tadeusz Truskolaski, who “is looking to use Zamenhof for political goals” and take control of the Zamenhof Center, an autonomous institution.

“It’s a bad and sad decision,” said Wierzbowski.

“Over the years Zamenhof seemed to us to be an unquestionable icon of our city, a symbol that made Bialystok famous worldwide.”

Zbigniew Nikiforowicz from the opposition liberal Civic Platform told AFP the decision was due to “an unfavorable stance inside PiS towards anything that is not ethnically Polish”.

He also slammed the “growth in Catholic nationalism” which “would like to forget about the history of Bialystok, a city almost half-Jewish in the 19th century and until World War II.”


US House approves resolution honoring Elie Wiesel

Unanimous resolution hails author’s efforts to prevent another Holocaust and ‘combat hate and intolerance in any manifestation’

Obit-Elie-Wiesel_Horo-1-965x543WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives on Monday unanimously approved a resolution honoring the life and work of Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and prolific writer who died July 2 in New York at the age of 87.

The resolution “reaffirms Elie Wiesel’s efforts to preserve the memory of those who perished and to prevent the recurrence of another Holocaust, to combat hate and intolerance in any manifestation, and to never forget and also learn from the lessons of history.”

Three members of the US Holocaust Memorial Council — Representatives Steve Israel, Patrick Meehan and Ted Deutch — introduced the resolution.

“After surviving one of the darkest moments in history, he spoke up and offered a voice to the voiceless,” Israel said on the House floor before the vote. “He offered hope to people without hope.”

Last month, a Jewish organization in the former Soviet Union inaugurated an exhibition in Moscow on Wiesel’s life.

Titled “Elie Wiesel, from Sighet to Moscow via France and Israel,” the show was opened by Limmud FSU, which organizes Jewish learning conferences in over a dozen countries with large populations of Russian-speaking Jews.

Prominent figures from Russian Jewry, including the country’s two chief rabbis, Berel Lazar and Avraham Shayevich, attended the opening at the Israeli Cultural Center. The display features dozens of photos from important stations in the life of Wiesel.


March in Warsaw commemorates ghetto doctors, nurses

Participants hang ribbons with names of those who worked to save patients – and sometimes helped them die

warsaw-monumentWARSAW, Poland — Some 700 people marched through the streets of Warsaw to commemorate those who worked in the Warsaw Ghetto as doctors, nurses and other medical personnel, helping those in need and, when necessary, helping them die.

The march began on Friday at the monument at the Umschlagplatz. Participants were welcomed by the director of the Jewish Historical Institute, Pawel Spiewak; vice ambassador of Israel, Ruth Cohen-Dar; and Marian Turski, vice president of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute.

“This year we go there where the doctors and the medical service of the Warsaw Ghetto worked, the Bersohn and Bauman Children’s Hospital,” said Pawel Spiewak. “We’re walking there to show that we remember those sacrifices that were completely helpless, powerless in the face of what happened then in Warsaw.”

“We are gathered here to remember the names of our sisters and brothers who were killed in the largest genocide of contemporary humanity. We are here to remember each one of them,” said Ruth Cohen-Dar.

At the hospital building, participants hung on its fence ribbons with the names of victims of the liquidation of the ghetto. Piotr Glowacki read excerpts from the testimonies of ghetto nurses and doctors. He was accompanied by Olgierd Dokalski.

Bersohn and Bauman Children’s Hospital was founded in 1878 and operated until 1942. Janusz Korczak, who ran an orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto for Jewish children during World War II and died with them, was a pediatrician there before World War I.

During the war, the hospital was located in the ghetto. Doctors tried to help the children, although they had limited options. Some of the doctors could not come to terms with the fact that their patients would be murdered in Treblinka. Children were given morphine to die in their beds and avoid transport to death camps.


Mississippi Holocaust memorial gets $25K — plus 1.5M pennies

(JTA) – A memorial in Mississippi to child victims of the Holocaust is getting a $25,000 boost from a Southern hospital network.

The planned memorial in Hernando, a city in northern Mississippi located about 30 miles south of Memphis, Tenn., will hold 1.5 million pennies donated by local schools and businesses to commemorate the approximately 1.5 million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis.

The $25,000 gift to the Unknown Child Holocaust Remembrance Penny Project is from Baptist Memorial Health Care, The Associated Press reported.

Designed by architect Doug Thornton of Architectural and Engineering Resources for Construction, the memorial will feature a spiral path leading to six wall sections forming a fractured Star of David that will be covered by the 1.5 million pennies. Inside the star will be a bronze sculpture designed by Rick Wienecke called “The Unknown Child.”

The project’s anticipated cost is about $2 million.

Thornton said the project has yet to obtain the land on which to build the memorial.

“Like many things associated with Israel and the Jewish people, land always seemed to be an issue, isn’t it?” Thornton told JTA. “We’re waiting for that promised land.”

Students at Horn Lake Middle School came up with the idea for the memorial and raised the 1.5 million pennies in the 2009-10 school year while studying the Holocaust.

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A holiday is born: Red Army vets promote ‘Rescue Day of European Jewry’

NEW YORK (JTA) — Sol Lapidus earned the Order of Lenin, the Soviet Union’s highest medal, for his role as a partisan fighter in the Belarussian forest during World War II.

Approximately 150 Russian Jewish Red Army veterans showed up for the official announcement of a new holiday celebrating the 1945 liberation of European Jewry. (Shahar Azran)

Lapidus proudly wore the bronze-and-red medal pinned to his suit jacket on Wednesday at the United Nations, where he joined approximately 150 mostly white-haired Jewish Red Army veterans, their lapels festooned with similar decorations.

The small army of aged veterans had gathered to make history again, to announce what was billed as the creation of a new Jewish holiday: “Rescue Day of European Jewry.”

Inspired by Russia’s Victory Day, which marks the anniversary of Germany’s official surrender on May 9, 1945, the new holiday will be marked on the 26th of Iyar, the Hebrew date on which the surrender took place.

For years, Victory Day has been celebrated not just in Russia but in countries with major Russian emigre populations, including Israel.

Rescue Day grew out of an international coalition of Russian Jewish groups, including the American Forum of Russian-Speaking Jews and the STMEGI Foundation, whose activists approached Jewish leaders around the world to call for a global Jewish recognition of the liberation. The activists won the support of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal, the World Zionist Organization, the Israeli government, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and chief rabbis from Europe.

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