Category Archive: Events

Court faults German TV for calling Nazi camps ‘Polish’

Polish citizen Karol Tendera, 95, brought the case against Germany’s ZDF channel over wording in a promotional trailer

aushwitz-copy-635x357WARSAW, Poland — An appeals court in Poland on Thursday ruled that a German broadcaster must publicly apologize to an Auschwitz survivor for having described Nazi-German death camps as “Polish”.

“Every Pole won’t necessarily be offended but the plaintiff was. He went from being a victim to the culprit” because of the erroneous wording, the judge wrote in his ruling.

Polish citizen Karol Tendera, 95, brought the case against Germany’s ZDF channel over the wording in a 2013 promotional trailer for a documentary about the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek.

The Nazi death camps were set up and entirely controlled by Germany in occupied Poland.

A lower court had earlier dismissed the case by saying ZDF had “effectively” explained its behavior in two letters it sent to Tendera and a statement posted on its website.

But the appeals court in the southern city of Krakow overturned the earlier decision and called for more, asking ZDF to publish its apology for a month on its website.

It said the wording had violated Tendera’s rights, including his dignity and national identity.

Warsaw monitors global media closely for descriptions of such camps as Polish, having also censured British and US media in the past.

Even if the term is used as a geographical indicator, Warsaw says it can give the impression that Poland bore responsibility for the Holocaust, whereas it was one of the greatest victims of the slaughter.

Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II, losing six million of its citizens, including three million Jews in the Holocaust.

The government said this year it would seek fines or jail terms of up to three years against anyone who referred to the camps as Polish.

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Austria lawmakers vote to seize Hitler birth house

After years of legal wrangling, government decides to expropriate former home of Nazi leader; fate of building uncertain

austria-hitler-house_horo-635x357VIENNA, Austria – Austrian MPs voted late Wednesday to expropriate the home where Adolf Hitler was born, ending years of bitter legal wrangling with the current owner over the infamous building’s future.

A large majority approved the new law, which was submitted by the government earlier this year in a bid to stop the dilapidated house in the northern town of Braunau am Inn from becoming a neo-Nazi shrine.

Local resident Gerlinde Pommer — who has been renting the premises to the Austrian state since 1972 — will receive compensation under the legislation.

It is not yet clear what will happen with the yellow corner house at Number 15 Salzburger Vorstadt Street, located right in Braunau’s historic center.

In October, Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka announced it would be “torn down” to make place for a new building to be used by a charity.

He said the decision was based on recommendations from an expert committee.

But several of the 13-member panel were quick to deny that the commission had backed Sobotka’s push to bulldoze the place where Hitler was born on April 20, 1889.

“A demolition would amount to negating Austria’s Nazi past,” the experts said in a joint statement in October.

Although Hitler only spent the first few weeks of his life there, the address has been a thorn in Austria’s side for decades, drawing Nazi sympathizers from around the world.

Every year on Hitler’s birthday, anti-fascist protesters organize a rally outside the building, next to a memorial stone reading: “For Peace, Freedom and Democracy. Never Again Fascism, Millions of Dead Warn.”

The property has been empty since 2011 when Austria became embroiled in a dispute with Pommer.

Her family has owned the 800-square-meter (8,600-feet) building for nearly a century.

Since the early 1970s, the government had been renting the premises for around 4,800 euros ($5,000) a month and used it as a center for people with disabilities.

But the arrangement came to an abrupt end five years ago when Pommer refused to allow much-needed renovation works.

The famously elusive owner also rejected a purchase offer made by the increasingly exasperated interior ministry.

The issue has also sparked debate among Braunau’s 17,000 residents.

Some want the building to become a refugee center, others a museum dedicated to Austria’s liberation from Nazi rule.

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New study casts doubt on whether Anne Frank was betrayed

Research indicates Nazi raid in which teenage diarist was caught may have been part of probe into illegal labor or falsified ration coupons at house where she and other Jews hid

baptizing-the-dead-an_horo-635x357THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Anne Frank may not have been betrayed to Nazi occupiers, but captured by chance.

A new study published Friday by the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam says that despite decades of research there is no conclusive evidence that the Jewish diarist and her family were betrayed to the Netherlands’ German occupiers during World War II, leading to their arrest and deportation.

Ronald Leopold, Executive Director of the Anne Frank House museum, said in a statement that new research by the museum “illustrates that other scenarios should also be considered.”

One theory is that the Aug. 4, 1944, raid that led to Anne’s arrest was part of an investigation into illegal labor or falsified ration coupons at the canal-side house where she and other Jews hid for just over two years.

Anne kept a diary during her time in hiding that was published after the war and turned her into a globally recognized symbol of Holocaust victims. She died in the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp at age 15, shortly before it was liberated by Allied forces.

The new research points to two men who worked in the building on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht canal and dealt in illegal ration cards. They were arrested earlier in 1944 and subsequently released, Dutch records show. The arrests also are mentioned in Anne’s diary.

Such arrests were reported to an investigation division based in The Hague and the report says that, “During their day-to-day activities, investigators from this department often came across Jews in hiding by chance.”

Another possibility raised by the report is that the raid was part of an investigation into people being allowed to work to prevent them being called up as forced labor and sent to Germany.

The report adds that, “The possibility of betrayal has of course not been entirely ruled out by this, nor has any relationship between the ration coupon fraud and the arrest been proven,” and says further research is necessary.

“Clearly, the last word about that fateful summer day in 1944 has not yet been said,” it adds.

The findings are potentially controversial because the story of Anne Frank is seen as emblematic both of Dutch heroism during the Holocaust and of collaboration with the Nazis – for which Dutch prime ministers have consistently declined to apologize despite calls to do so.

“The question has always been: Who betrayed Anne Frank and the others in hiding? This explicit focus on betrayal, however, limits the perspective on the arrest,” the Anne Frank House wrote in the five-page summary of the new study, which relies also on entries from Anne’s diary.

The entries, the study suggests, show the hiding house on Prinsengracht 263 was tied to activities punishable under the Nazi occupation in addition to Dutch underground fighters’ sheltering of Jews there.

“Anne Frank’s diary did provide an interesting new clue,” the study reads. “Beginning on March 10, 1944, she repeatedly wrote about the arrest of two men who dealt in illegal ration cards. She calls them ‘B’ and ‘D,’ referring to the salesmen Martin Brouwer and Pieter Daatzelaar.”

The two men represented Gies & Co., a company that was affiliated with the Opekta firm owned by Anne Frank’s father, Otto, and located on Prinsengracht 263.

“B. and D. have been caught, so we have no coupons,” Anne Frank wrote on March 14, 1944. “This clearly indicates that the people in hiding got at least part of their ration coupons from these salesmen,” the study states.

Other evidence shows that people associated with Prinsengracht 263 were punished by the Nazi occupation for evading work.

“A company where people were working illegally and two sales representatives were arrested for dealing in ration coupons obviously ran the risk of attracting the attention of the authorities,” the author of the new study wrote. “While searching for people in hiding, fraud with ration coupons could be detected since they were often dependent on clandestine help.”

Yet, “until now the assumption related to this matter” has always been that agents working for the occupation “were specifically looking for Jews in hiding” when they raided the hiding place, the authors continued.

Over the years, researchers have presented various hypotheses on who may have betrayed the Franks to the Nazis, though none of the suspects were accepted as consensus.

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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.”

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In Holland, 270-year-old menorah sells for record $440k

Unnamed Jewish collector buys candelabra that belonged to family of Jewish resistance fighter killed by the Nazis

menora-635x357AMSTERDAM — A 270-year-old menorah became the most expensive artifact of its kind sold in the Netherlands in recent memory after it fetched $441,000 at auction.

The menorah, which belonged to the family of a Dutch Jewish resistance fighter killed by the Nazis, was sold last week by the Venduehuis der Notarissen auction house in The Hague to an unnamed Jewish collector, the Omroep West broadcaster reported.

Manufactured in Amsterdam in 1747, the menorah, which used to be part of the collection of the family of George Maduro, triggered an international bidding war that caught the auctioneers unprepared, according to the NOS broadcaster.

“We started it at 20,000 euros but the first bid was already 100,000,” said the auction house’s director Peter Meefout. “Then it went to 200,000 and kept on rising. We watched it all dumbfounded.”

The object in question was estimated to sell for anywhere between $9,000 and $15,000. Dozens of telephone calls came in with bids for the menorah, forcing the auction house to divert all available manpower to deal solely with that sale, Meefout said.

George Maduro, who during World War II helped smuggle stranded British pilots from continental Europe back to Britain, joined the resistance after the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. He was caught and sent to the Dachau concentration camp where he died just three months before its liberation.

To commemorate their only son, Maduro’s parents financed the construction of one of Holland’s best-known tourist attractions: The Madurodam miniature city, which opened in 1952.

According to Omroep West, there is but one known piece that is identical to the Maduro menorah, which is part of the collection of the Dutch Royal House and is currently on display at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam.

The Maduro menorah was the single most expensive item in the auction of the silver and porcelain collection of Rebecca D. Maduro, George Maduro’s mother, which the Venduehuis der Notarissen auction house concluded selling on Friday.

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Holocaust Museum Dinner in Philadelphia Demonstrates Power of Artifacts to Convey History

16 November 2016, Philly Dinner.At first glance, the wide-wale corduroy jacket in the box atop the tissue paper might be a gift for Dad or Grandpa — an L.L. Bean special he can wear as fall turns to winter. The cut, the color, the buttons, the pockets — they all look entirely familiar, like the brown corduroy jackets found in countless catalogues and department stores.

Without context, this jacket is a study in banality, as prosaic as they come.

But appearances can be deceiving, especially when it comes to material culture. This particular jacket is, in fact, suffused with meaning, history and a life experience that diverged dramatically from the norm. If it represented banality at all, it was the banality of evil.

Last week, Michael and Peter Feuer, whose late father Otto was one of a small number of Jews to spend 12 years under Nazi rule and survive, presented their father’s brown corduroy jacket at the 2016 Philadelphia “What You Do Matters” Dinner of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The jacket, along with a gray-and-blue striped concentration camp uniform, were worn by Otto at Buchenwald, the last of three concentration camps in which he was imprisoned.

The Feuer family has now donated his clothing (along with other items) to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, whose collection of artifacts is expected to double in size in the next 10 years. Peter Feuer, who lives in Rydal, also donated $1 million to the in-progress David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center, which will have climate-controlled environments, preservation equipment and highly specialized laboratories to house and conserve the collection.

Thirty-three Greater Philadelphia residents have helped that collection grow by donating personal items, and the “What You Do Matters” Dinner was held, in part, to thank them.

About 15 donor-survivors were able to attend, including Eve Przemyski, 93, who seemed a little chagrined about being honored in the evening’s affair.

“I’m not Jewish,” she said, then added, with a laugh, “but it’s not my fault!”

Przemyski gave the museum the diary she kept as a teenager, which she titled Behind the Barbed Wire: A Diary of a Year in a German POW Camp 1944-1945. Though she wrote it in her native Polish, she had it translated in the 1990s.

“It’s a very moving story about a teenage girl who lost it all,” her son-in-law, Jack McFadden, said proudly.

When Przemyski gave her diary to the museum in 2011, she also donated family photographs, identity cards, immigration documents and other ephemera that may be of use to families and researchers, especially given that Przemyski’s mother sheltered two Jewish women during the occupation. “They both survived,” Przemyski said.

Boris Altshtater, 78, who was born in the former Yugoslavia, also gave the museum many documents.

“I donated all kinds of stuff, but the most precious were the letters that my father sent me,” he said in heavily accented English. “They were written from Jasonovec concentration camp [in Croatia]. This was the only country in occupied Europe by Nazis that had their own concentration camps and their own guards and they did their own killing.”

Alshtater said his father was allowed to write 20 words in each letter.

“All he said, ‘I work in economy’ — I didn’t know what it meant — and, ‘send me biscuits and marmalade.’ No ‘how am I doing,’ not normal communication. It had sign of Jasonovec with stamp and date it was sent. And under the letter it was saying, ‘writing is the prize for good behavior.’ They killed him a year later.”

As a toddler, Altshtater was in two concentration camps himself — as well on the run with his family in the forest — but there’s much he doesn’t know about his own history. “My mother didn’t want to tell me anything,” he said, but the family did save photographs of the young Altshtater taken in the camps. Those are now in the museum’s collection.

Przemyski, Altshtater and the other survivor-donors were all praised effusively by the evening’s speakers, including Andres Abril, director of the museum’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office. As a slideshow of artifacts was displayed on video screens behind him, Abril said the museum’s success depended upon the power of these objects to illuminate personal histories.

“As the museum was being conceived, original artifacts were seen as a critical part of how we would share this history,” he said. “And in mid-construction, in the early ’90s, the very first artifact was lowered into the building. … It was as if we were placing into the museum the beating heart of what Elie Wiesel called ‘living memorial.’”

Artifacts, Abril added, “transformed the experience at the museum for millions of people, from a history lesson to something far more tangible, far more personal. … Every artifact represents a human being, a family, and therefore every artifact is also a memorial.”

A chair is not a chair, he said; it is Louisa’s chair that was given to her by her parents on her second birthday while in hiding. Even the smallest items, like a ring found in a mass grave, tell the stories of individuals. “These have become our treasures,” Abril said, “and while they have no intrinsic value, when they’re combined with the history and the humanity of their owners, they are transformed into timeless personal witnesses of history.”

The evening’s next speaker, Elaine Culbertson, has been using the museum’s treasures for many years as an educator.

The program director of the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers’ Program, Culbertson is the daughter of two survivors who heard many stories of tragedy and triumph from her parents and their survivor friends growing up. She became a teacher in the Philadelphia school system, but at the time she didn’t teach the Holocaust because it wasn’t part of the curriculum. Then one day something happened to change her mind.

“When I heard a boy in my class tell another boy that he was going to buy a leather jacket and he hoped he could ‘Jew the guy down,’ I realized that my African-American students — who assured me they knew no Jews, not recognizing that I was Jewish — had no knowledge of any prejudice other than the prejudice directed against them,” she recalled. “That began my search for materials to teach students about the Holocaust.”

In the process of educating herself beyond her family history, she was struck by the weight of historical objects: “The extraordinary power of a baby’s dress in a glass case at Auschwitz. Or a bit of rouge a woman used to redden her cheeks to pass the selection. Or a Star of David that was fashioned out of a tin plate. These things were palpable,” she said. “Who could not be moved by seeing these things and connecting them to real people?”

When she became a teacher of other teachers, Culbertson took them to the museum and had them choose an object that would illuminate history for their students.

“The one that stops the discussion is the shoes,” Culbertson said of the exhibit of victims’ footwear confiscated at Majdanek, “because that is the one [exhibit] that is about individuals more than any other, and that is the one that invites personal stories to become the focus.”

The next speaker also remarked upon the power of the shoes. Rebecca Dupas, a Washington, D.C., native, first visited the museum as a high school student. Now the museum’s coordinator of community partnerships, youth and community initiatives, Dupas said after she saw the shoes as a teenager, “it hit me — the power of those shoes to remind me that this is not necessarily a story of millions, but a story of one person millions and millions and millions of times. The shoes made the story very individual to me, and it is a feeling and lesson I will never forget.”

Last summer Dupas worked with nine students who also found artifacts that resonated for them.

“For me it was the shoes; for them it was the milk can,” she said. One student said the milk can reminded her that these were regular people with regular families. Another said the milk can was important because it wasn’t a replica, because it was real. “Artifacts are extremely important in our ability to connect to the history.”

Dupas then read a poem, “An Unlikely Voice,” about her experience as an African-American woman who chooses to serve as a Holocaust educator. “In speaking for one, I speak for all,” she said. “I must bear witness, and silence can never be my choice.”

The night’s final speaker was Eli Rosenbaum, director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations. Rosenbaum, a Penn alum, has spent his career pursuing and prosecuting Nazi war criminals, including several who made their lives in Philadelphia. He spoke of the role artifacts play as forensic evidence, without which he could not do his job.

Though the evening was replete with video testimonies and fascinating speakers, there was a sort of reverential awe that was reserved for Otto Feuer’s garments — including that regular, old corduroy jacket.

At the end of the night, attendees were welcomed to the front of the room to see the both the jacket and uniform up close. As they crowded around and peered into the boxes, it was clear: Words and pictures tell us a great deal, but there is nothing that compares with survivor artifacts to convey the experience real people had during the Holocaust — a world event that, without this material testimony, would be too horrific to believe.

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Russian ice skating contest features Holocaust-themed performance

Saturday evening’s chilling performance did not represent the first time Russian TV featured performers dressed in Holocaust-themed decor to perform in a reality show competition.

The social media sphere reacted with a largely cold reception after two “celebrity” ice skaters, donning Holocaust-era Jewish prison uniforms fitted with yellow stars of David, performed Saturday night on the Russian reality television show “Ice Age.”

Olympic ice dance champion Tatiana Navka, along with her skating partner Andrew Burkovsjy, slid and glided across the ice, in their chilling performance accompanied by “Beautiful that Way,” Jewish Israeli singer Acinoam “Noa” Nini’s vocal version of the theme song from the heart-wrenching Italian Holocaust film “Life is Beautiful.”

Eyebrows were further raised as Navka is the wife of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson.

However, Saturday evening’s number did not represent the first time Russian television featured performers dressed in Holocaust-themed decor to perform in a reality show competition.

In April, Russia’s version of “Dancing with the Stars” featured a dance number starring a Nazi officer searching for a young Jewish girl hiding behind a piano.

The piece began with the officer playing the instrument, stopping suddenly and demanding the girl reveal herself before “shooting” his weapon at her feet.

Taken aback at her beauty, he lowers his weapon and the two begin to dance to “Fly me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra.

The piece arrived at a heartbreaking conclusion when an “enemy” assault leaves the Jewish girl dead on the ground while he screams and shoots randomly in no particular direction.

Russia’s ostensibly insensitive posture toads the Jewish community also extended itself earlier this month, when a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson caused controversy after suggesting that the recent US presidential election was influenced by a “Jewish conspiracy,” according to the BBC.

During an interview with a Russian television chat show, Maria Zakharova quipped that the best template to gauge America’s political landscape was the New York Jewish community.

“If you want to know what will happen in America, who do you need to talk to? You have to talk to the Jews, of course. It goes without saying.”

At this, the live studio audience applauded loudly, according to the BBC.

Zakharova added that she had formulated the claim while visiting New York during an official visit with a Russian delegation in September.

“I have a lot of friends and acquaintances there, of course I was interested to find out: how are the elections going, what are the American people’s expectations?”

The Russian state employee than attempted to mimic a Jewish accent and said Russian Jews had told her: “Marochka, understand this – we’ll donate to Clinton, of course. But we’ll give the Republicans twice that amount.’ Enough said! That settled it for me – the picture was clear,” adding that “if you want to know the future, don’t read the mainstream newspapers – our people in Brighton [Beach] will tell you everything.”

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Croatian president poses with pro-Nazi regime symbol

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic photographed with coat-of-arms of Ustasha, which persecuted and killed vast numbers of Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists

15110261_10209507936608588_4074372119233309036_o-e1480201423583-635x357ZAGREB — Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic sparked online debate Saturday as it emerged she posed for a photo during her recent Canada trip with a flag carrying a symbol of her country’s wartime pro-Nazi regime.

Her office shrugged off the incident, insisting there was “nothing questionable” about it.

The photo, posted on Facebook by a Croatian man living in Canada, shows Grabar-Kitarovic posing with him and others in front of a flag bearing the coat of arms used by Croatia’s World War II-era Ustasha regime, which persecuted and killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists.

The checkerboard-patterned shield in the middle of Croatia’s current national flag has 25 red and white squares, starting with a red one in the top-left corner.

A different version with a white square in that corner has been used at other points in Croatia’s history — notably by the Ustasha. It was replaced by the current shield after World War II when Croatia was part of the former Yugoslavia.

Both versions were briefly in use in 1990 ahead of Croatia’s declaration of independence, but under a December 1990 law the national flag bears the red-first version of the shield.

The presidency batted off the row over the photo of Grabar-Kitarovic, telling N1 television, “We see nothing questionable in it.” It noted that such a flag was displayed in front of the Croatian parliament in 1990.

The president’s view on the wartime regime is “clear and she voiced it on several occasions,” it added. Grabar-Kitarovic has condemned the Ustasha in the past.

The row sparked mixed responses online.

“This issue involving our president is more than shameful,” Visnja Skreblin, a woman from Zagreb, commented on online portal Index.

But reader Mario Babic defended the president, saying it was “Croatia’s historic shield, created far before the darkest chapter of Croatia’s history.”

Grabar-Kitarovic took over the presidency — a role with limited powers — in 2015 as the candidate of the ruling conservative HDZ party.

The previous HDZ-led government, which fell in June, was accused by critics of turning a blind eye to a far-right surge in the country, including nostalgia for the pro-Nazi past.

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