Category Archive: Jerusalem Post

Coronavirus: Jews deliver food to Poles who saved Jews during Holocaust

From the Depths staff has started to set aside time for phone chats with the Righteous to help combat their sense of isolation.

As a teenager in Warsaw during the Holocaust, Krystyna Kowalska helped save a Jewish family of four who hid at her family’s bakery.
She does not remember being afraid, even though if they had been discovered her whole family would have almost certainly been shot dead on the spot along with the Jews they hid.
But now, at the age of 88, Kowalska is fearing for her life because of the coronavirus, the fatality rate of which is especially high in individuals older than 70.
“It’s a scary time for me to be outside as I see the impact of this virus on my age group,” said Kowalska, a widow whose son has died and who lives alone in a third-story apartment without an elevator.
Across the world, people from her generation have minimized their interaction with the outside world to avoid contracting COVID-19.
For rescuers of Jews in Warsaw, that task became considerably easier this week.
The From the Depths commemoration group, which last year began offering free taxi rides to these rescuers, converted its small fleet of four cars into a delivery service that is designed to fulfill the recipients’ basic needs at their homes while taking care to expose them to as little risk as possible.
Since Sunday, the foundation has delivered groceries to about 20 people recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, Israel’s title for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the genocide. The cabs are disinfected after each delivery and the group’s founder, Jonny Daniels, said he delivers the groceries personally to the recipients wearing a mask and gloves.
“After the pandemic broke out, we started seeing more demand, not less, for the taxi,” he said.
The Righteous became more reliant on the taxis to get around because it was less risky than public transportation, Daniels said.
“But they still need to buy food, often at several supermarkets because of hoarding,” which has created shortages in basic products, he added.
So From the Depths made a list of 40 addresses and plans to make home deliveries to all of them by Saturday.
To keep the cabs virus free, From the Depths paid for overpriced disinfectants, which its staffers – the association has several drivers, an administrator and dozens of volunteers — apply between rides.
By Tuesday, Poland had more than 200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and five fatalities from it.
“We consulted medical staff and the technique we use is basically the same as what they do in ambulances,” Daniels said.
Daniels said some recipients of his deliveries have become his friends over the years, inviting him in for tea. Some are lonely.
“I politely refuse the invitations,” he said. “These are people I usually hug and kiss on the cheek at events, but these days I just carry the bags into their apartments and I’m out of there.”
Kowalska, who is one of just a few dozen living rescuers in Poland, said she understands the situation.
“It’s a kind service. It means that I don’t have to go outside and risk my health. The fact that I can trust them means the world to me,” she said.
From the Depths staff has started to set aside time for phone chats with the Righteous to help combat their sense of isolation, said Oliver Wangart, the chief driver and head of logistics for a service the association calls Silent Hero.
The delivery and taxi service is only available in Warsaw, which is already straining the From the Depths budget, Daniels said.
“But these are people who stood up for the Jews in our people’s hour of need,” he said. “Well, now this is their hour of need and we need to stand up for them.”

Holocaust survivor celebrates 97th birthday amid coronavirus pandemic

“We should always live in positive thoughts,” she said.

TEL AVIV – Ester Wienrib rang in her 97th birthday this week with a video call and remote cake-cutting with her great-grandchildren – a cautious celebration as her family tries to avoid exposing her to the coronavirus.

The elderly are particularly vulnerable to the respiratory illness and Israel, which has nearly 300 confirmed cases, has urged its citizens to keep their distance from older relatives.

Fear of contracting the coronavirus has created a new reality for Wienrib, a Holocaust survivor who came to Israel from Poland over 70 years ago.

“I’ve been through difficult times. We will get through this as well,” said Wienrib, a grandmother of five and great-grandmother of 10. She has been mostly confined to her assisted living facility in Tel Aviv since the virus broke out.

Wienrib smiled as her great-grandchildren sang happy birthday to her through a video call from their home in Hulda, a Kibbutz about 35 kilometers (21.75 miles) away in central Israel.

She later cut a birthday cake with a “98” candle on it – showing one extra year for good luck.

“I am healthy and have my wits about me. I play cards. I have friends,” she said. “We should always live in positive thoughts.”


Upon the 78th anniversary of Babi Yar: It was a poet’s pen rather than a soldier’s bayonet that first punctured the Iron Curtain.


When a human atrocity takes place in your figurative backyard, it is hard – if not impossible – to let go of that memory. The events which took place at Babi Yar were first obliterated physically, with cremation pyres manned by adjacent concentration camp prisoners – Jews and non-Jews – followed by other attempts to hide and disguise the site, including construction there during the Soviet era.

Yevtushenko was acquainted with the Russian-language writer Anatoly Kuznetsov, who would later write Babi Yar: A Document in the Form of a Novel, and Yevtushenko asked him to take him to the site. Yevtushenko recalled to the BBC World Service on the 70th anniversary of the massacre: “What I saw was absolutely terrible – there were lots of trucks and they were unloading stinking garbage on the tens of thousands of people who were killed. I did not expect that.” He went back to his hotel and wrote the poem in under five hours.

Babi Yar – ‘grandmother’s gully’ in Ukrainian – is, surprisingly, not a remote location. It is a natural ravine in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, then the city’s outskirts near the medieval monastery of St. Cyril.

The Babi Yar atrocities followed Germany’s surprise invasion of its ally, the Soviet Union, in June 1941. Some 160,000 Jews resided in Kiev, comprising around 20% of the city’s population. German forces entered Kiev on September 19, 1941.

DURING THE first week of the German occupation, on September 24, two major explosions occurred, thought to be set off by Soviet military engineers, blasting the German headquarters. The sabotage was deemed by the Nazi commandant to be the responsibility of the Jews, and this became the pretext for retribution to murder the remaining Jews of Kiev. It also roused enormous animosity on the part of Ukrainians towards their Jewish neighbors.

According to Yad Vashem, there were still about 60,000-70,000 Jews living in the city, mostly those who could not flee: women, children, the elderly and the sick.


600,000 letters in each Torah represent the 600,000 victims of the massacre.

New synagogues inaugurated in memory of Danube Holocaust victims

Religious leaders fill in the final letters of each newly dedicated Torah.. (photo credit: ILANIT CHERNICK)

BUDAPEST – “From the ashes, this community is being revived.”

These were the words of Rabbi Simcha Weiss of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.

On Sunday afternoon, a bittersweet ceremony was held on the banks of the Danube River.

The Jewish community in Budapest celebrated the opening of two new synagogues and the dedication of two new Torah’s in memory of some 600,000 Hungarian Jews murdered on the banks of the river during the Holocaust.

Between December 1944 and January 1945, the Nazis murdered hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews at the Danube River, which runs through Budapest.

The first synagogue was inaugurated in Budapest and the second in Szentendre, a small town just outside the capital city.

Referring to the Torah, Weiss stressed that “you can kill us, but our message will live on.”

“No one could destroy their neshamas (souls),” Weiss of the Jews murdered at the Danube. “There are 600,000 letters in the Torah… those killed at the Danube have now come full circle.”

Weiss made it clear that each letter of the Torahs that are being inaugurated represent each of the 600,000 murdered, and that it was truly significant that the ceremony was taking place at the place where “their neshama came to rest here… they are now resting in peace.”

He also praised the strong relationship between Israel and Hungary, and this Jewish community’s contribution to the world.

Rabbi Shlomo Koves, chief rabbi of the EMIH-Hungarian Jewish Alliance and a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary, told attendees that “it was important to live and learn our own traditions,” and said these two synagogues would give Jews in Budapest and Szentendre the opportunity to do so.

“This is dedicated to the future, but we must also be proud of our traditions,” he said.

Hungarian Holocaust survivor and State Secretary of Parliamentary Affairs Concerning National Assets János Fónagy said he had no memories of the years he was in the Holocaust, and it was the Shoe memorial that “gives me memories.”

He said he was born in 1942 and “there is no one in my family to give me those memories,” adding that much of his family had been murdered during the Holocaust.
“This memorial is remembering those who did not survive and those who are missing their own personal memories,” he said. “We have duty and responsibility to remember, to respect the past, but also the future.

“The Torah is the heart of the Jews, it is the symbol of life itself,” he said, adding that it must be passed on to the next generation.

For Rabbi Baruch Oberlander, chief of the Orthodox Rabbinate of Budapest, this ceremony had special meaning. He grew emotional recalling his father, a Holocaust survivor, telling him of how he watched the killings of Jews at the Danube. He added that his father’s fake identity papers saved him from the same fate.

“It’s a privilege to be standing here today,” he said. “We are passing on the spirit of these martyrs through these Torahs.”

The Klein family told The Jerusalem Post how their father and brother had been murdered at the Danube.

Mr. Klein, who asked for his first name not to be used, became deeply emotional as he knelt down to light candles by the Shoe Memorial for the loved ones he lost.

From there, the entourage traveled to Szentendre in several buses, escorted by Police.

Leaders and community members danced through the streets of the small town as the Torah’s were brought to the newly built synagogue.

Locals and onlookers watched in awe as the dancing moved through, stopping to take pictures and some even leaning out of their windows to get a part of the action.

Koves joked that if the locals didn’t know there was a synagogue before, “now they do.”

Dancing and prayers continued for some time into the evening. As the celebrations came to a close, the shofar was blown in the spirit of Elul, Rosh Hashana and the theme of renewal.


The center ‘plans to offer educators interdisciplinary graduate programs in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, incorporating history, Jewish studies, literature, law, philosophy and social work’

Yeshiva U. to open Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center

Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus where the Emil A. and Jenny Fish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies will be based.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“The center’s consequential mission will be to train both school and university educators in the field of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, with plans to offer graduate programs in the discipline,” the university announced on its website on Friday.

The Emil A. and Jenny Fish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies is named for Holocaust survivor Emil Fish, who is funding the project.

“We must know the history about what happened and why and what the implications are for today,” Fish explained. “The Center will educate young people and adults about a singular event in history that regrettably, too few people understand, including what conditions existed before the Nazis ascended to power, how they rose to leadership positions, and why they targeted Jews.”

Born in Bardejov, Slovakia, Fish was sent as a young boy with his mother and sister to Bergen-Belsen, from where he was liberated in 1945. The family later reunited with Fish’s father and immigrated to Canada, and moved to Los Angeles in 1955.

Fish is the founder and president of the Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee, which works to preserve and create a memorial for the survivors of the Holocaust in the Jewish suburb in Bardejov, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As antisemitism continues to remain rampant in New York and across the United States, and knowledge of the Holocaust begins to falter among future generations, Fish said that he believes “it is important to provide educators with the resources and programs needed to impart the relevancy of the Holocaust to a new generation of students who know less and less about this.”

YU President Dr. Ari Berman said that as “Holocaust education and awareness across the globe is transitioning from a pedagogy of living testimony to one anchored in memory, the center… will serve a crucial role as a leader and role model for a new generation of Holocaust scholarship and education.”

The center plans to offer educators interdisciplinary graduate programs in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, incorporating history, Jewish studies, literature, law, philosophy and social work.

The Center, which will be located on YU’s Wilf Campus, will conduct academic research and organize public events to further the goal of extending Holocaust education to people of all ages and backgrounds.

“By leveraging the uniquely qualified faculty and resources of Yeshiva University’s undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and affiliates, the Center will be an impactful and essential focus of research, education, teacher training, and public programming,” YU explained.


Some 30 rescuers attended a special event organized by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous

An illustrative photo of Righteous Among the Nations medal belonging to Marta Bocheńska who helped s

An illustrative photo of Righteous Among the Nations medal belonging to Marta Bocheńska who helped save Halina Buchwald in Warsaw during the Holocaust.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

During the dark days of the Holocaust, more than 27,000 thousand non-Jewish men, women and teenagers risked their lives to save their Jewish neighbors and friends from a certain death at the hands of the Nazis.

On Sunday, a special event in Warsaw on Sunday to honor Polish Righteous Among the Nations who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust was held by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous (JFR).

Some 30 Polish rescuers – who today are in their eighties, nineties and even hundreds – attended the event with their families.

“These righteous gentiles are dwindling in number, such that the JFR luncheon is likely to be among the last of such commemorations of its kind,” the organization said in a statement.

The JFR’s website explained that the organization “provides monthly financial assistance to the aged and needy Righteous Gentiles living in 18 countries.”

“The majority of the rescuers receiving financial support live in Eastern Europe, with Poland having the largest number of rescuers,” according to the site.

As of September 1, the JFR said it gives financial assistance to a total of 275 aged and needy rescuers, including 147 Polish rescuers, 37 rescuers in the Ukraine, 23 in Lithuania, 12 in Belarus and 11 in Hungary.

Although such events are held by the JFR, Sunday’s was extra special as it also served as the launch event for the partnership between the organization and Warsaw’s first kosher food bank, which launched earlier this year under the leadership of Poland’s chief rabbi Michael Schudrich, with the support and guidance of Yad Ezra of Detroit.

The food pantry, based in the Nozyk Synagogue complex, will provide food packages bimonthly to righteous gentile rescuers who are in need.

The event was also attended by foreign diplomats, as well as religious and community leaders, who spoke at the gathering.

Israeli ambassador-designate Alexandre Ben-Zvi paid his respects, while the US deputy chief of mission Bix Aliu, who is of Albanian heritage, paid tribute to their extraordinary courage.

“The JFR provides monthly financial support to some 147 aged and needy Polish rescuers,” the foundation said. “In the calendar year 2019, the JFR will send approximately US $600,000 to rescuers living in Poland.”

JFR executive vice president Stanlee Stahl said that “these are heroic people of exceptional character who risked their lives and often the lives of their families to save Jews during the Holocaust.”

“This special event is designed to recognize them and give them the proper honor they deserve,” Stahl said. “While we have been doing this event for some time, this is a special year with the opening of the food bank.

“Having developed food banks in the United States, I personally know the positive impact they have on families, so I am very happy we can play a role in the creation of the facility in Warsaw and utilize it as a local base through which to provide support to Polish rescuers,” she added.

During her address, she highlighted the actions of two brothers who were in attendance. Andrzej and Leszek Mikolajkow, together with their parents, saved a Jewish mother, father and two sons. One of the sons moved to Israel and had 12 sons of his own. Today, the family numbers about 300.

“You made it possible for hundreds – if not thousands – of people to be alive today,” Stahl told the brothers. “You have helped repair the world.”

THE JFR first funded eight rescuers, and that number quickly grew, reaching 1,800. Now, as the rescuers age and pass on, the number of them receiving support is declining; however, the foundation continues to receive new applications.

The foundation also does its best to provide “one-time grants for the purchase of food during the Christmas holiday season to rescuers living in Poland and other Eastern European countries,” depending on availability of funds, it said.

In 2018, the JFR distributed approximately $1.1 million in direct support of Righteous Gentiles.

All those being funded have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

Yad Vashem defines Righteous Among the Nations as “non-Jews who took great risks to save Jews during the Holocaust. Rescue took many forms, and the Righteous came from different nations, religions and walks of life.

“What they had in common was that they protected their Jewish neighbors at a time when hostility and indifference prevailed,” the Holocaust remembrance center said.

According to Yad Vashem, as of January 1, there are 27,362 people recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, including nearly 7,000 Polish men and women.

The center also stressed that “the numbers of Righteous recognized do not reflect the full extent of help given by non-Jews to Jews during the Holocaust,” and that it is “rather based on the material and documentation that was made available to Yad Vashem.”

Yad Vashem made it clear that “most Righteous were recognized following requests made by the rescued Jews,” however, sometimes survivors were unable to “overcome the difficulty of grappling with the painful past and didn’t come forward.” Others “were not aware of the program or couldn’t apply, especially people who lived behind the Iron Curtain during the years of Communist regime in Eastern Europe.”

Yad Vashem also pointed out that survivors may have also died “before they could make the request.”


One researcher holds that there’s a possibility that there was no informant. The Franks and their friends may have been found by accident, during a search concerning fraudulent ration coupons.

View of a room inside the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, November 21, 2018.

View of a room inside the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, November 21, 2018. Picture taken November 21, 2018.. (photo credit: REUTERS/EVA PLEVIER)

Over 30 people have been accused of betraying the Franks and their friends. In 1947 and in 1963, investigations were opened to find if an overly-curious warehouse employee who worked beneath the hiding place betrayed the group. Wilhelm Geradus van Maaren said that he wasn’t the informant and due to a lack of evidence, he remained uncharged.
Lena Hartog-van Bladeren, another suspect who helped manage pests in the warehouse was said to have suspected that people were hiding in the warehouse and started a rumor, but it was never confirmed that she knew that anyone was hidden there until the raid.
The rest of the suspects also remained uncharged due to a lack of evidence to prove or disprove any involvement.
The Cold Case Diary team, a group of over 20 forensic, criminology and data researchers are working to narrow down the suspect list. Led by retired FBI agent Vincent Pankoke, the team is working the case like a modern cold case. They’ve been searching through archives and interviewing sources while using more up-to-date technology to crosscheck leads. They’ve even created a 3-D scan of the hiding place to see how sounds may have traveled to nearby buildings.
The forensic team is also using artificial intelligence to find connections between people, places and events connected to the case.
A data science company, Xomnia, made a custom program that, among other functions, analyzes archival text to create nuanced and layered network maps.
“What you can do is try to see how often, for example, words or names are used together. If certain names are used together a lot, you can create kind of a network and do some kind of network analysis,” says a lead data scientist at Xomnia Robbert van Hintum. One possibility is to cross-reference addresses with family relations and police reports to see who might have been involved or aware of various occurrences in the neighborhood.
“By adding all these dimensions together, an image emerges which you weren’t able to see before,” explained the Xomnia researcher.
The Cold Case Diary team will announce the findings in a book expected to be published next year.
The lead researcher with the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Gertjan Broek, actually believes that the focus on looking for an informant may actually be keeping researchers from finding the real reason that the hidden rooms were found.
“By asking ‘Who betrayed Anne Frank?’ you actually assume tunnel vision already. You leave out other options,” said Broek.
The researcher holds that there’s a possibility that there was no informant. The Franks and their friends may have been found by accident, during a search concerning fraudulent ration coupons.
The few facts that have been verified from the day support this theory. For one, the German and Dutch officials who arrived at the scene did not have transportation ready for the hidden people and had to improvise on the spot. Also, one of the three officers known to be at the raid was part of the unit the investigated economic crimes. Two men who provided the hidden people with black-market ration coupons were arrested, although one of their cases was dismissed for unknown reasons. It could be that a deal was made by one of the men.
Although it’s a plausible theory, Broek cannot prove it, according to National Geographic. “No conclusive evidence in the end, of course, unfortunately,” said the researcher. “But the more flags you can pin on the map, the more you narrow the margins of what’s possible and that’s the main virtue.”
Although it may be too late to bring the informant to justice, the research may still serve a purpose. “By better understanding what happened there, we can learn how people treat each other and prepare for the future,” said Emile Schrijver, the general director of the Jewish Historical Museum and the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam.

Anne Frank and her family hid in the secret annex on Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, where she wrote the bulk of her famous diary. Frank and her family, along with four other people and the family’s helpers, Johannes Kleiman and Victor Kugler were arrested on August 4, 1944.
Anne Frank and her family were deported to Auschwitz on September 3, 1944.
Frank eventually died from typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp the following February.


The findings add to an ongoing debate about the psychological effects of trauma.

Holocaust survivors more likely to develop dementia – new study

Polish-born Holocaust survivor Meyer Hack shows his prisoner number tattooed on his arm during a news conference at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem June 15, 2009.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The findings, recently published in The Journal of Traumatic Stress by Dr. Arad Kodesh, Prof. Itzhak Levav and Prof. Stephen Levine, add to an ongoing debate about the psychological effects of extreme adversity.

Some scientists hypothesize that those who experience horrific events may develop mechanisms that make them resistant to neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia, which is characterized by a decline in cognitive ability and a decrease in daily activity. Others argue, however, that the risk of developing these diseases may increase with exposure to trauma, Levine explained.

The University of Haifa researchers found that 16.5%  of those who were exposed to the Holocaust – more than 10,000 participants, or about one-fifth of the total study pool – contracted dementia, compared with a rate of 9.3% among the other participants.

The results of the study are therefore consistent with the hypothesis that exposure to the trauma of genocide increases vulnerability to the risk of dementia later in life.

The researchers analyzed registry data on 51,752 Israeli residents who were born between 1901 and 1945 and who did not have a history of dementia during the period 2002 and 2012, but who were still alive in 2012. They then reexamined whether those people developed the disease between January 2013 and October 2017.

The researchers classified participants by their exposure to the Holocaust based on government recognition and assigned hazard ratios from Cox proportional hazards-regression models to quantify risk of dementia, with adjustments made for demographic factors such as sex and age.

“The study findings are clinically significant in terms of the long-term identification of dementia among Holocaust survivors, and they may also be relevant regarding crimes against humanity in general,” Levine said. “The findings highlight the need for careful monitoring of cognitive decline in risk populations that experienced extreme and protracted trauma in general, and Holocaust survivors in particular.”