Elderly Holocaust survivors and the veterans who helped liberate them gathered for what could be their last big reunion Monday at the U.S.Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Nearly 1,000 survivors and World War II vets joined with former President Bill Clinton and Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust activist Elie Wiesel to mark the museum’s 20th anniversary. Organizers chose not to wait for the 25th milestone because many survivors and vets may not be alive in another five or 10 years. more
More than 150,000 applications have been submitted for restitution of Jewish owned property lost during the Holocaust. The number was reported by Project HEART — the Holocaust Era Asset Restitution Taskforce, which seeks to help individuals with restitution for property that was confiscated, looted, or forcibly sold during the Holocaust. It is a nonprofit initiative of the Government of Israel in cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel and numerous other groups. “Many Jewish Holocaust survivors had property confiscated, looted or forcibly sold by the Nazis or their collaborators during the Holocaust era and most have received no compensation for their lost assets,” Bobby Brown, executive director of Project HEART, said in a statement.
Project HEART formed in February 2011. By December that year, due to the overwhelming response of Holocaust survivors and their heirs, Israel’s government decided to extend the deadline for submitting questionnaires regarding their eligibility to gain restitution or compensation for the property they or their relatives lost during the World War II era.
“The issue of identifying Jewish property is still a central challenge even 70 years after World War II,” Leah Nass, Israel’s deputy minister of senior citizens, said in a statement. “In order to promote this issue we need to put international pressure and to do all that we can to do justice for the survivors, the Holocaust victims and their families.” more
A proposal to have an independent monitor oversee European insurance companies’ efforts to pay all outstanding Holocaust-era policies appears to be gaining traction among major Jewish organizations. Menachem Rosensaft, general counsel of the World Jewish Congress, said he suggested the proposal after hearing survivors plead with Congress for the right to sue insurance companies they believe have withheld death benefits on the policies of those killed in the Holocaust. Rosensaft said his organization supports the proposal because it wants to see survivors collect their benefits now. He said he fears that even if Congress passed legislation giving survivors the right to sue the insurance companies, “at most it would be a pyrrhic victory” because they might not live long enough to see their court cases decided. more
Ida Nissenbaum, a Holocaust survivor who raised her niece and nephew after their mother died in a concentration camp in Germany, died Friday. She had just celebrated her 100th birthday earlier this month at the Medicana Nursing and Rehab Center in Lake Worth. Mrs. Nissenbaum’s spirit and love of life helped her to rebuild and nurture a family fractured by the horrors of the Holocaust. Born in Belgium, Mrs. Nissenbaum escaped a Nazi internment camp in France during World War II, fleeing with her husband, Abe, to Lyon. She lost five of her six siblings during the war, including a sister who left behind two children that Mrs. Nissenbaum tracked down and took in after the war ended. “I didn’t know I had a family,” said Leon Berliner, Mrs. Nissenbaum’s nephew. He was 10 years old when she found him and he wasn’t sure whether his 13-year-old sister or other relatives were still alive. “But Ida found me in the south of France, and she embraced me, and suddenly I had a family again.” more
Soon after my father passed away in 1995 at age 86, my mother presented me with his watch, enclosed in its red case adorned with gold letters. The 18-karat gold Patek Philippe was the only expensive thing my father ever bought for himself. We were very poor when I was young. We shared, with another family, a small, one-bedroom apartment in a poor Haifa neighborhood, living off rationed eggs and butter. By the time I reached the age of 13, however, our financial condition had improved. Although by nature modest and humble, my father surprised us by buying himself the gold watch. “After 120,” he would proudly tell me, “this watch will be yours.”
Gingerly opening the case in 1995, I was astounded to find in addition to the watch, hidden underneath, in the folds of the guarantee booklet: a minute, yellowing photograph of two beautiful young women. I did not recognize this photo or these young ladies. My mother was taken aback by this find but did not offer any explanations. I knew my father wanted me to find this photo. I could not fathom why. more
The first time Sonia Reich was hunted by the Nazis, she was an 11-year-old orphan, seeking refuge in the Polish countryside.
The second time was almost 60 years later, on a quiet street in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, Ill. That time, however, the pursuit was happening solely in her head.
“I received a call at midnight saying that my mother had run out of her house and been picked up by the Skokie police,” said her son, Howard, a Chicago arts critic. Sonia had been screaming that someone was trying to kill her. “I couldn’t even comprehend that,” he recalled. “I thought it was a dream.” more
More than 500 Holocaust survivors came to the Jewish Family Service of Broward County’s annual Café Europa luncheon recently to try to meet a lost relative or friend from before the Holocaust.
As the number of Holocaust survivors gets smaller, there are fewer meetings. “Some years there were 800 people here,” said four-year-volunteer Robin Salzberg of Parkland, whose father-in-law was a Holocaust survivor. “This is a smaller group and it is getting smaller.” That’s what makes the annual Café Europa event so important, say the persons behind it.
Cecila Steiger, 86, of Pembroke Pines and Rose Naiman, 85, of Tamarac, met when Steiger told volunteers that she was looking for Naiman, who was listed in the program’s resource guide as being from the Polish town of Czestochowa. “I just put her name down because I saw that she came from the same town as my parents,” Steiger said.
“She knew my family. She knew the street,” Steiger said after talking with Naiman. Ironically, both women have homes in Monticello, New York but had never met. more