Category Archive: Together

Polish restitution bill discriminates against Holocaust survivors, Israel says

(JTA) — In an unusual move, Israel accused Poland of “discriminating against Holocaust survivors” in considering legislation on restitution whose language excludes many Jewish would-be recipients.

Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari, on Friday lodged an official complaint with the Polish foreign ministry over a bill unveiled last week, which would require those seeking restitution for nationalized property to be citizens living in Poland and exclude all heirs except “first-line heirs,” meaning spouses, children or grandchildren.

Some  3 million Polish Jews, or 90 percent of their pre-war population, were murdered in the Holocaust.

“Israel believes the envisaged legislation discriminates against Holocaust survivors,” read a draft of Azari’s letter of protest, whose content an official in Jerusalem shared with JTA Friday.

The letter constitutes a departure from the Israeli foreign ministry’s usual approach to restitution issues in recent decades, in which the ministry plays a facilitating role while refraining from directly commenting on legislation or unresolved restitution issues.

The letter objects to the exclusion of non-citizens and second-degree relatives from restitution under the new bill. It notes that Nazi persecution meant no other groups “shared the fate of the Jews” in occupied Poland.

“First the Nazis seized private property and then the communist authorities of Poland seized it, when most Polish Jews were already dead,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity and was not authorized to speak to media about the issue.

Because the Holocaust “wiped out a whole generation” of Polish Jews, the official added, “it means the bulk of Jewish claimants are not direct descendants. That’s the discriminatory element in the bill.”

The World Jewish Restitution Organization in a statement acknowledged Israel’s open involvement in the issue and thanked the Israel government’s position.

“We greatly welcome the strong engagement of the government of Israel asking Poland to address this issue,” said Gideon Taylor, the organization’s chair of operations. “This is about justice and we have been urging the government of Poland to amend the proposed legislation to ensure that it is fair for all claimants including Holocaust survivors and their families in Israel and around the world.”

Poland is the only major country in Europe that has not passed national legislation for the restitution of property seized by the Nazis nor for property nationalized by a communist regime, according to the WJRO.

In 1997, Poland passed a law for restitution on communal-owned properties, but more than 15 years after the claim filing deadline, a majority of more than 5,000 claims has still not been resolved and most of the resolved claims have not led to restitution or compensation, the WJRO said.

Restitution experts estimate that following the Holocaust, Jewish individuals and institutions in Poland lost property with a combined value exceeding $1 billion.


UK funding last-ditch effort to interview Polish witnesses to Holocaust-era rescue efforts

(JTA) — Holocaust-commemoration activists in Poland launched with British government funding a last-ditch effort to interview witnesses to attempts to rescue Jews during from the genocide.

The campaign, titled “Silent Heroes,” was announced Thursday at a news conference in Warsaw that was organized by the From the Depths organization and attended by the United Kingdom’s Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, Eric Pickles, and the head of Poland’s largest Jewish organization, TSKZ President Artur Hoffman.

One witness who was interviewed last month, Natalia Jakoniuk, suffered a debilitating stroke the following week, demonstrating how “time is of the essence and not on our side,” From the Depths founder, Jonny Daniels, said.

Under the new campaign, in which journalists and researchers conduct filmed interviews with witnesses, posters  asking witnesses to step forward will be placed in government offices with nationwide distribution.

In her testimony, Jakoniuk, who was a child younger than 10 during World War II, said she recalls people living in the attic of her home in the village of Przeradz Maly outside Warsaw. “They didn’t tell us, the children,” she said of her parents. But they did instruct her to be “on the lookout, to see if the German gendarmerie who invaded Poland were coming.”

One time, when she was six years old, she was told to run to neighboring village to warn the residents that the Germans were coming, she said. “That was my job,” she recalled in the interview. That year, a German soldier inspected their house and complimented her mother on how tidy it was, not knowing there were Jews hiding in the attic.

“If he had taken a ladder and climbed up to the attic, we would have all been killed,” she said.

From the Depths attempts to substantiate the testimonies it is collecting with Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance and other archives, Daniels said.

Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem-based Holocaust museum, is the authority entrusted by Israel’s government to confer the title of Righteous Among the Nations on non-Jewish people who risked their lives to save Jews. The rigorous vetting process requires testimonies by several people who witnessed the attempt. The cases documented by From the Depths may not pass this vetting “simply because not all rescue cases had witnesses,” Daniels said, adding: “This is about documentation, not titles.”

Hoffman said his motivation for making TSKZ a partner in the project is that: “The world needs to see what good people can do in bad times, what being a true hero is.”

Poland under President Andrzej Duda of the right-wing Law and Justice Party has highlighted the actions of Poles who saved Jews, including by opening a museum for them.

Critics of Poland’s government, including the country’s main federation of Jewish organizations, allege that its nationalist agenda is emboldening anti-Semites and that its emphasis on rescuers must not come at the expense of efforts to research and expose collaboration by Poles and atrocities by locals against Jews.


Yad Vashem to Honor First Arab as Righteous Gentile

Dr. Mohamed Helmy, an Egyptian urologist living in Berlin, risked his life to hide four of his Jewish friends. The honor was initially offered in 2013, but Dr. Helmy’s relatives refused to accept it from an institution based in Israel.

Later this week, Yad Vashem will for the first time recognize an Arab, Dr. Mohamed Helmy, as a Righteous Among the Nations for saving the lives of four of his Jewish friends in the Holocaust.

An Egyptian urologist who moved to Berlin in 1922, Dr. Helmy was working for the Robert Koch Institute, but was fired in 1937 for being non-Aryan. He was arrested by the Nazis, but was released shortly thereafter and allowed to return to his home. When the Nazis began deporting Berlin’s Jews, Dr. Helmy hid Anna Boros, a 21-year-old family friend, in his cabin in the city’s Buch neighborhood, where she assumed a false identity, pretended to be married to a Muslim man, and wore a hijab. Dr. Helmy also helped hide Boros’s mother Julie, her stepfather Gerog Wehr, and her grandmother, Cecilie Rudnik, and was himself nearly caught after the family was discovered and tortured in 1944.

Having all survived, the family emigrated to the United States after the war, but continued to return to Berlin and visit Dr. Helmy. They also wrote letters to the local German government extolling the virtues of their rescuer, who died in 1982.

“A good friend of our family, Dr. Helmy hid me in his cabin in Berlin-Buch from 10 March until the end of the war,” read one such letter. “As of 1942, I no longer had any contact with the outside world. The Gestapo knew that Dr. Helmy was our family physician, and they knew that he owned a cabin in Berlin-Buch. He managed to evade all their interrogations. In such cases he would bring me to friends where I would stay for several days, introducing me as his cousin from Dresden. When the danger would pass, I would return to his cabin… Dr. Helmy did everything for me out of the generosity of his heart and I will be grateful to him for eternity.”

In 2013, Yad Vashem recognized Dr. Helmy as a Righteous Gentile, but his family refused to accept the honor because the institute is based in Israel.

“If any other country offered to honor Helmy, we would have been happy with it,” the wife of Dr. Helmy’s grandnephew, representing the family, said at the time. Now, four years later, another relative of Dr. Helmy’s, an 81-year-old professor of medicine named Nasser Kutbi and the son of Dr. Helmy’s nephew, has agreed to accept the award on his relative’s behalf. It will be presented to him in Berlin this Thursday.


World Jewish Congress Urges Croatia to Debate Holocaust

The World Jewish Congress wants to trigger a debate about Holocaust revisionism in Croatia, to encourage acknowledgement of the crimes committed at the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp, activist Menachem Rosensaft told BIRN.

By Sven Milekic BIRN Zagreb

Menachem Rosensaft. Photo courtesy of Menachem Rosensaft.

US law professor Menachem Z. Rosensaft told BIRN in an interview that the World Jewish Congress – an international organisation representing Jewish communities – wants to trigger a discussion in Croatia about the crimes that were committed at the Croatian WWII fascist camp at Jasenovac during WWII.

Rosensaft, who recently sparked media interest with an article entitled ‘Croatia Is Brazenly Attempting to Rewrite its Holocaust Crimes out of History’ in the Jewish magazine Tablet, said that the country has to face up to the facts and not revise its past.

He expressed concern that Croatian political leaders could be giving different messages depending on whether they are speaking abroad or at home, to their own people.

“Historical memory, historical accuracy can’t change depending who the audience is,” he said.

“In that aspect, we appreciate how Croatian leaders spoke about Holocaust in Israel, but at the same time, we are concerned that the same words may not always be spoken in Croatia to the Croatian public,” he added.

Rosensaft, who is the general counsel at the World Jewish Congress, is a renowned scholar, lecturing on genocide and war crime trials at the law schools of Columbia and Cornell universities.

The Congress is currently engaged in an international campaign against Holocaust revisionism and the downplaying of the crimes that were committed, especially at Jasenovac.

Implementing racial laws against Serbs, Jews and Roma, the Croatian WWII fascist Ustasa movement killed over 83,000 people at the Jasenovac camp between 1941 and 1945.

Although he always took an interest in crimes that took place at Jasenovac, Rosensaft said that his attention grew when he saw the Jewish community boycotting the annual official commemorations at camp’s memorial site.

In the last two years, both the Jewish and Serbian communities in Croatia have refused to attend the commemorations in a sign of protest against what they claim is the revival of fascist values in Croatian politics.

Rosensaft said that the Congress campaign “isn’t a campaign against Croatia”, but rather an effort to bring public attention both inside and outside Croatia to the issue of the Holocaust as it was implemented in Croatia.

This debate would potentially lead to events such as conferences or even an international commission for establishing the facts on Jasenovac, he added.

Researchers at the Jasenovac memorial site have succeeded in making a name-by-name list of 83,145 victims of the camp.

But some in Croatia and Serbia have put the figure considerably lower or higher, although most historians concur that the overall death toll is around 100,000.

“The figures of the numbers of victims shouldn’t be a subject of political debate between Croats, Serbs and Jews, but should be established by independent internationally known historians and scholars, whether from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington or from Yad Vashem [Holocaust remembrance centre in Jerusalem], and they must also include Croatian and Serbian historians, representatives of the Croatian Jewish Community, and representatives of the Roma who were also murdered at Jasenovac,” Rosensaft argued.

He said that “none of the genocides and atrocities [against Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists] that took place at Jasenovac should ever be politicised”.

The World Jewish Congress is seeking historical accuracy and the depoliticisation of the Holocaust memory, he added.

“In this aspect, there is really no difference between Jews or Serbs or Roma: they were murdered in the same place, they were murdered by the same perpetrators, and they deserve the dignity of being remembered and commemorated with decency and truth,” he emphasised.

Amid growing good relations with Israel, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem in 2015 and expressed regret for the Jews who died at the hands of the Ustasa.

However Grabar Kitarovic has never attended the official commemorations in Jasenovac, and has only made an unannounced personal visit, which has caused concerns among victims’ associations.

The situation in Croatia with revisionist ideas about the Holocaust is a part of a wider trend in Central and Eastern Europe, Rosensaft said.

People need to be educated about the crimes that were committed and about who was responsible, as was done in post-WWII Germany, he added.

The crimes at Jasenovac were committed by the Ustasa alone, and not directed or enforced by the Germans, he stressed.

“It doesn’t do any service to anyone if it is suggested that the crimes at Jasenovac were perpetrated by some unknown individuals. The murders and tortures at Jasenovac were perpetrated by the Ustasa. We know who they were, we know their names, and we know who the commandants were. We know exactly who was responsible, this is not a mystery,” he said.

Rosensaft also referred to a recent documentary ‘Jasenovac – The Truth’, made by controversial director Jakov Sedlar, which according to many, including the Israeli ambassador to Zagreb, downplayed the crimes committed at Jasenovac.

At the premiere in Zagreb in 2016, Croatia’s culture minister at the time, Zlatko Hasanbegovic, said that the documentary was “the best way to finally shed light on a number of controversial places in Croatian history”.

Rosensaft, unsurprisingly, disagreed: “When a film comes out, with the support of the minister, that downplays the horrors perpetrated at Jasenovac, that doesn’t help,” he said.

But he went on to say that he didn’t want to talk about the award that the city of Zagreb presented to Sedlar in April.

“It’s not our place to comment internal affairs,” he said. “All I can say is that it is not to anyone’s credit to recognise a film or a book that distorts the facts.”


Yad Vashem identifies 225,000 Hungarian Holocaust victims

The Holocaust museum’s specially trained team pored over pages of records, mapping forgotten victims no one cared to document on the way to their deaths

Hungarian Jews were marched down Wesselenyi Street in the heart of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter, on their way to be deported to Auschwitz. (Bundesarchiv Bild)

Born in Budapest in 1937, Chayim Herzl remembers being taken by his mother Eugenia to visit his father Reuven Salgo at a labor camp outside the city in 1943.

“My hand was small, and I was able to pass some food to him through the fence. That was the last time I saw him,” said Herzl.

He lost his mother in early 1945 when men from Hungary’s Arrow Cross took her  from their safe house outside the ghetto, organized by diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, while he hid under the bed.

Having lost his father at age six and mother at eight, Herzl has only fleeting memories of his parents. Now, thanks to a comprehensive decade-long project to collect names of Hungarian Holocaust victims, completed in a collaboration between Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum Yad Vashem and funded by the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, Herzl has regained something he calls, “indescribably priceless” — information.

Through the project, Herzl learned that his father died just days before the end of the war in a POW death march, after having been forced into a labor corps in the Hungarian army fighting on the Eastern front. Beyond that, he now has a document with his father’s signature. The signature, his father’s orthographic fingerprint, is the only piece of his father’s writing Herzl owns.

“Through the efforts of Yad Vashem’s Names Collection project in Hungary, I was finally able to find a sense of closure in knowing what happened to my father. Finding a document containing his signature is evidence to the world that my father lived and a testimony to the tragic fate that befell him and so many Hungarian Jews,” said Herzl.

“The job is not yet complete: My mother, from the day she was taken from me, has vanished from the face of the earth and remains among the undocumented. I know that Yad Vashem is committed to leaving no stone unturned in the effort to identify as many Holocaust victims as possible,” Herzl told The Times of Israel.

Ten years ago, approximately 40 percent of Hungarian victims were identified after the advances made by Holocaust historian and Holocaust survivor Serge Klarsfeld. Klarsfeld in the 1980s launched the Nevek Project, gathering names from lists of prisoners of forced labor and concentration camps during WWII. Due to funding and bureaucratic issues, he abandoned his project.

Building on Klarsfeld’s Nevek Project, Yad Vashem-trained historians have added some 225,000 victims’ names over the past 10 years of intensive research. This major project was funded by the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah and supported by the late French politician and Holocaust survivor Simone Veil, who served as its first president. On Thursday, Yad Vashem hosted an event that included a special tribute to Veil.

“Simone Veil saw special importance in the collection of names of Hungarian Jews. She witnessed firsthand the arrival and extermination of Hungary’s Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was important to her that their identities be memorialized and therefore decided to support this important initiative,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev.

But the scope of Yad Vashem’s Names Collection project goes well beyond identifying Jewish Hungarian victims. It is, to date, the largest project Yad Vashem has undertaken and represents a holistic approach to collecting information and documents that far surpasses previous efforts.

“This is the most successful project that Yad Vashem’s Archives has undertaken. The holistic approach of the project has become a model for other endeavors we are currently promoting in the name-gathering process, in particular the Polish Names Project, and we hope that with the continued support of the French Foundation we will achieve similar results to those we obtained in collecting names of Jewish victims from Hungary,” said Shalev.

In addition to Poland, which has signed a cooperation agreement with the institution, Yad Vashem is implementing the information-gathering model it founded in Hungary to its names recovery efforts in the territories of the former Soviet Union and the Balkan States.

In conversation with The Times of Israel Thursday, Dr. Alexander Avram, director of the Hall of Names and the Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names, explained the project’s procedures and resonance.

Unlike the initial goals of the Nevek Project of attaching a name to every victim, the Yad Vashem project “has revealed part of their individual stories, and in some cases, for the first time was able to connect a rare photograph with the name of the faceless murdered,” said Avram.

The intensive work began in 2007 and was conducted under the leadership of three Yad Vashem historians who trained a staff of some 20 researchers who were on-the-ground in Greater Hungary: Hungary, Slovakia, parts of Romania, Serbia, and Transylvania. Through special diplomatic agreements forged with the Hungarian government in 2005 and 2006, said Avram, the researchers were granted full access to all state archives for this specific project.

“It is not easy in these countries to find documentation about the Holocaust and Jews,” said Avram. “They are no key words for catalogues; there is no archive in Europe that has a topic ‘Holocaust’ and catalogues for this or for Jews.”

The team pored over archive material from all sorts of offices — including the Ministries of the Interior, Defense and Agriculture — “page by page, to map those documents important to Jews and the Holocaust,” he said. The important pages were scanned and sent to Yad Vashem, which is in the process of uploading the pages into its database.

The team, trained by Yad Vashem, must be fluent in Hungarian, and have skills in German, Romanian, Serbian and other languages of the region to decipher the handwriting of the pre-World War II documents.

In December, the intensive research collection is finishing, but the team will continue to decipher documents to add more names and stories into the database.

“In our database we have 4,700,000 names of Jews murdered in the Holocaust. That means that more than 1 million who are not identified,” said Avram. Whereas in central and western Europe some 95% of the victims documented as Jews were arrested, sent to transit camps, and then on to death camps, in eastern Europe there is less of a paper trail.

Although he said the teams of researchers at Yad Vashem will continue to document victims, it is important to note, said Avram, that the teams have “exhausted most of the easy sources, and now look for names scattered in less unexplored sources where they will sometimes read a book of 500 pages to reach four or five names.”

“We are focusing our efforts in the countries where we have a more significant gap in names of victims,” said Avram. In Hungary, for example, although there were organized transports, “nobody cared to register the names of the Jews on the transports,” he said.

Like the case for Herzl, who discovered his father’s fate through the Yad Vashem project, Avram hopes to find more than mere monikers for the remainder of the victims.

“We can sometimes build a personal story. Previous attempts were to document names of victims; in this project we are trying to go further than that,” he said, and transform the name into a person.


In Nazi-occupied Britain, graves at Alderney’s ‘Little Auschwitz’ may be defiled

A 137-mile project will connect British and French energy grids via the Channel Islands, but the route may bisect mass burials on the one-time concentration camp island

German WWII bunker ‘The Odeon’ in Alderney. The bunker is about three to four stories high and has an anti-aircraft emplacement at the back. Alderney is said to have been the most heavily fortified of the Channel Islands. (CC-SA-Tim Brighton)

LONDON — To the French Jews who toiled and died there it was “le rocher maudit” – the accursed rock. To others, it became known as “Devil’s Island,” “the Buchenwald of the West,” or “Little Auschwitz.”

Alderney is one of the small cluster of islands — an archipelago which includes Jersey, Guernsey, and Sark — which lie in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy. Semi-independent, they were nonetheless the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by the Nazis.

The British mainland may have escaped the horrors of Nazism, but British soil nonetheless witnessed the brutal machinery of death — of slave labor, mass killings, and starvation — which accompanied German rule throughout Europe.

Three miles long and one-and-a-half miles wide, almost all of Alderney’s tiny civilian population was evacuated after the fall of France in June 1940. In their place, the Germans would later ship onto the remote, wind-swept and sea-beaten island a slave labor force of thousands, effectively turning it to one giant concentration camp. Its primary purpose was to fortify Alderney, transforming it into one of the most heavily defended, impregnable outposts of the Reich.

The scale of the horror perpetrated on Alderney is hotly contested. Official accounts after the war suggested that less than 400 of the 3,000 forced laborers — and among them, only a handful of Jews — died on the island. Seventy years on, though, historians and military experts suggest the workforce and the death-toll may have been many times higher — with perhaps as many as 40,000 people losing their lives. Moreover, the number of Jews on Alderney may not have been in the hundreds but instead close to 10,000, few of whom survived the deadly experience.

The Nazis’ plans were personally directed by Adolf Hitler. As the journalist Madeline Bunting recounts in “The Model Occupation: The Channel Islands Under German Rule” the Fuhrer was “immensely proud of his British conquests,” constantly fretting that Winston Churchill might win a propaganda coup by retaking them, and viewing them as a “laboratory for future Anglo-German relations.”

An anti-tank wall at Longis Bay, on the British island of Alderney. (Marcus Roberts)

Less whimsically, Hitler also calculated that Alderney held an important strategic value: As part of the Atlantic Wall fortifications, it would help protect the sea channels around Cherbourg, provide the Luftwaffe with anti-aircraft cover and deny the Allies a potentially useful staging post for the opening of the feared Western Front.

Thus from early 1942, Alderney became the scene of massive construction — of tunnels and bunkers, gun emplacements and artillery batteries, roads and a railway line — which would leave it the most fortified of the Channel Islands. With this massive construction came the need for a massive workforce. Labor camps — named after German islands in the North Sea — were hastily erected: Helgoland, Borkum, Norderney and, most notoriously, Sylt.

A small minority of the workers deployed by the Organization Todt, the Reich’s multi-tentacled civil and military engineering group, were genuine volunteers, often hailing from Germany, the Netherlands, France and Belgium.

The vast majority, however, were slave laborers, mostly from Russia, Poland and the Ukraine — although North Africans and Indo-Chinese (rounded up by the French to fill their labor quotas), German political prisoners and Spanish Republicans who had fled Franco only to fall into the hands of the Germans after the occupation of France — also found themselves as chattels of the Reich.

Jews, of course, did not escape this grim enterprise. Jewish inmates were sent to Norderney and Sylt, which came under the control of the SS in 1943 as a satellite of the Neuengamme concentration camp. At both camps, the Jews were kept in separate “pens.” Even among the untermenschen, or inferior people, a hierarchy was to be maintained.

Although these were not explicitly extermination camps, most slave laborers did not leave Alderney alive. The dangerous, exhausting work to which they were subjected for 10 to12 hours a day, starvation rations (sometimes further diminished by widespread SS corruption and theft), rampant dysentery and unforgiving Atlantic storms which lashed the island saw to that.

So, too, did the Germans’ utter disregard for the lives of those they regarded as subhuman: survivors later recalled summary executions, vicious beatings and savage punishments meted on those caught stealing food or cigarettes.

There was little or no respite from this living hell: it was near-impossible to escape the island, while, unlike on Jersey or Guernsey, there was no local population from whom occasional acts of pity — warmer clothing, a morsel of food — might be forthcoming.

The original gates of Sylt. (Marcus Roberts)

For those who did survive to tell the tale, their recollections of the heavy mists which frequently hang over Alderney stand as a metaphor for the cloak of secrecy about what occurred here which is only now slowly beginning to lift.

As one Russian slave laborer, Georgi Kondakov, recounted decades later: “Many times when I was on Alderney I thought death was close. Most of my worst memories come to me now as nightmares; in the daytime I can suppress those thoughts in my subconscious, but against the nightmares I am powerless.”

Perhaps it is appropriate that it is the fate of a burial ground, where it is feared the bodies of many of these victims of Nazism may still lay, which is helping to expose Alderney’s dark secrets.

The France-Alderney-Britain link (FAB)

Next year, work is due to begin on a major energy project — the France-Alderney-Britain link (FAB) — which will link the two countries’ energy grids via the Channel Islands. The 137-mile (220 kilometer) cable will cross Longis Common, the main site used by the Germans to dispose of the bodies of those whom they had murdered and worked to death.

The consortium behind the FAB, which includes the French energy giant EDF, has promised that the subsea and underground cable will avoid known burial grounds and contain an additional protection zone. It also maintains that the graves of many of the victims were exhumed in the early 1960s and reburied in France, and strongly disputes recent reports in the British media that preliminary investigations have caused damage to the main burial ground.

However, opponents of the project remain deeply concerned. A new study prepared for campaigners brings together publicly available maps and diagrams with an as yet unpublished high-definition aerial photograph of the area taken in 1944.

Seen by The Times of Israel, it argues that the exhumation of 316 bodies from the so-called Russian cemetery in the 1960s “led to the myth that all the bodies were removed from the common.” In fact, it suggests, the Longis Common burial area is “far more extensive and complicated” than has been assumed and may contain at least five large mass graves and a cremation pit.

“Due to the possibly larger size of the burial area than that originally considered the proposed FAB link might very well impact dramatically on it,” the study cautions.

Marcus Roberts, director of the National Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail, shares the campaigners’ concerns. Burials “almost certainly” extend beyond the “official” cemetery boundaries which FAB have said they will avoid, he says. His own recent investigations indicate the bodies of nearly 2,000 prisoners — and potentially many more — may remain at Longis Common.

Roberts, who has carried out extensive research into wartime Alderney and has been asked to report to the Chief Rabbi’s office on the project, also believes there may be multiple burial sites nearby, on the beach and close to the infamous anti-tank wall, where the cable will make landfall before it crosses Longis Common.

A concrete installation 15 feet high and extending for half a mile, the anti-tank wall was probably the largest built by the Nazis and was christened “the wall of certain death” by the Russian prisoners who built it. Its construction cost the lives of the many Jews who also labored on it.

The bodies of some of those prisoners are thought to lie under the wall in the foundations, while the back of the wall contains the bullet holes in front of which prisoners were shot. Atop it are the still-visible names and prisoner numbers of those who lived, and died, constructing a fortification that would never see action.

On the beach in front of the wall there are believed to be burial pits in the sand where an unknown number of bodies were dumped. One of the survivors interviewed by Bunting vividly recalled trucks tipping corpses at low tide into the pits, which were 50-100 meters (165-330 feet) off shore. Each, he believed, contained about 12 bodies. This account was not unique and there is no evidence that these possible burial sites were ever investigated or cleared.

But, argues Roberts, the path of the cable has no room for deviation should burials be found, and the contractors have so far failed to provide a promised plan for how the works will be supervised and human remains protected.

Roberts is also worried about the preliminary work carried out by FAB.

The view to the south over the sites of the Russian and Jewish Cemeteries at Longis Common. (Marcus Roberts)

“FAB Link have previously carried out intrusive drilling and prospecting, without warning, close to the known Jewish burial and Russian burial sites and have also dug under the anti-tank wall, very close to an execution site at the wall and carried out some geophysical archaeological investigations,” he says.

On a visit to the site shortly afterwards, he found bone fragments, although he says he cannot be certain they are human ones.

Historical record soon to be destroyed

“The Longis area is quite simply unique and there is nowhere else in Europe that contains so much historical evidence of the extermination by labor program in one single area,” argues Colonel Richard Kemp, Britain’s former commander in Afghanistan who has carried out detailed research into the Nazis’ reign of terror on the island.

“The power of Longis Common and its historical importance is immense. Any one of the millions of missing slave workers could have been buried there and may still be there today. The whole area is therefore sacred to them all. It belongs to them, to their relatives and to the communities across Europe and beyond from which they came. It is their ‘corner of a foreign field.’ It should be preserved and protected forever as an international memorial site,” Kemp says.

Central to the fears of those who oppose the FAB Link running across Longis Common is the belief that both the number of prisoners on the island and the death toll have long been grossly underestimated.

The British military intelligence interrogator who investigated after the war, Captain Theodore “Bunny” Pantcheff, suggested that a mere 389 forced laborers and prisoners — out of a total workforce of 3,000 — died during the occupation.

Colonel Richard Kemp speaks at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, June 29, 2015 (courtesy UN Watch/ Oliver O’Hanlon)

His conclusions were based on the number of individual burials of slave workers at Longis Common and the churchyard at St. Anne’s in Alderney’s main town. Pantcheff, who went on to live on the island and write an account of the occupation in 1981, proved crucial in shaping an official narrative which has proved hard to shake.

However, Pantcheff’s figures take no account of the multiple eyewitnesses who recalled the Germans throwing bodies into the sea off cliffs or the breakwater, or burying them in the beaches and allowing the tides to take them away. Witnesses also reported bodies being tipped into mass burial sites, such as trenches. Later in the war, the Germans attempted to cover up the extent of the deaths on Alderney by tearing up crosses and leveling the ground at Longis Common.

Evidence seen by The Times of Israel suggests that Pantcheff himself later privately admitted that there had been many more deaths than the official records showed. Indeed, British intelligence reports in 1944 indicated that more than twice as many Russians — 843 — had died over a 12-month period than Pantcheff later recorded had perished on the island during the entirety of the occupation.

Nonetheless, even histories of the occupation published within the last decade maintain that the number of slave laborers of Alderney was probably only slightly higher than Pantcheff’s later estimate of 4,350, and that the death toll was around 1,250.

But it is the scale of the Nazis’ construction efforts which now lead some to conclude that the size of the workforce on Alderney was far in excess of these figures.

Together with fellow former army officer John Weigold, Kemp suggested this summer that, “The sheer volume of fortifications, walls and tunnels outstrips anything else in Hitler’s Third Reich. This huge amount of work could not possibly have been done with just 4,000 workers.”

Weigold and Kemp believe that Pantcheff had been “hoodwinked” by the Germans when he carried out his interrogations after the island’s liberation.

“We know about interrogation, and how prisoners will lie to save their skins,” they wrote. “The Germans he quizzed gave him a highly sanitized and rehearsed version of what had actually taken place.”

‘Up to 40,000 slave laborers died on Alderney’

Kemp and Weigold argue at least 40,000 slave laborers died on Alderney during the war. Their estimate is based on evidence of the actual size of the slave labor workforce, the amount of work done in fortifying the island and the probable attrition rate based on witness reports and accounts of similar construction work elsewhere in Europe.

The Nazi effort on Alderney, in particular the highly secretive work carried out by the SS, is explained, Kemp and Weigold believe, by the fact that the Germans were planning to site V1 rockets, tipped with chemical weapons, on the island. Launched at the south coast of England, the weapons were intended to disrupt the Allied invasion of mainland Europe.

Roberts agrees that “common sense alone shows that 3,000 men could not have constructed the hundreds of concrete structures across the island.”

He believes that the prisoner workforce probably exceeded 30,000 and that the number of camps on the island was not four, but may have reached 13 (although some of these were temporary). He also dismisses Pantcheff’s “improbably low” death rate of 13 percent. Official French records show that the death rate at camps in the Nord Pas de Calais, which were linked to those in Alderney, were 85%.

An execution point with bullet holes in the wall, on the British island of Alderney. (Marcus Roberts)

Historically, the presence of Jews on the island during the occupation has also been downplayed, with their numbers counted in the hundreds. Roberts, however, believes that 9,000 may be a more realistic figure. At least at some points in the island’s penal history, British military intelligence reports suggested, Jews may actually have constituted a majority of the prisoner population.

Many were French Jews who had escaped immediate deportation to the East because they were either married to “Aryans” or considered “mischling,” or “mixed-blood,” by the Nazis. Others were highly educated members of the French Jewish elite, and included a parliamentary deputy, senior civil servants, lawyers, writers and doctors. They were, a 1943 report for the French police noted, “particularly bullied by their guardians.”

Only eight marked Jewish graves were found on Longis Common when the war ended, leading many to conclude, in the words of Bunting, that “only a handful of French Jews perished.”

However, this, too, appears far from the mark. At least 150 Jews, for instance, are thought to have been murdered by the Nazis in two separate revenge killings for Allied bombing raids on German cities. Their remains have never been accounted for.

It is probable that most of the 9,000 Jewish slave laborers on Alderney did not survive their ordeal

Thus, argues Roberts, it is probable that most of the 9,000 Jewish slave laborers on Alderney seem likely not to have survived their ordeal. As he points out, we know of only two convoys transferring Jews back to France: one in May 1944, contained 650 prisoners, some of whom were liberated several months later in Belgium by the resistance.

No justice for Alderney victims

For the victims of Alderney there was to be little or nothing by the way of justice. Pantcheff’s investigation in 1945 concluded that “wicked and merciless crimes” had been carried out on the island.

He named 15 Germans suspected of war crimes who were in British custody, and a further 31 who were in the French, US or British zones of occupied Germany.

Only four men — a Russian kapo and three Germans — were later tried in the Soviet Union, France and East Germany for crimes committed on Alderney. Thus the SS commandant of Sylt, Maximilian List; his deputy, Kurt Klebeck; and Alderney commandant Carl Hoffman, were never held to account for their heinous crimes on the island.

None of Germany’s Alderney war criminals faced justice at the hands of the British. Instead, Britain long maintained that, given that many of the victims were Russian, it had handed over the evidence it had gathered to the Soviets for them to take action, while flatly denying that any of the suspects were ever in its custody.

Seventy-five years after the first slave laborers arrived on Alderney, these lies cannot obscure a simple truth. As one of those who suffered at the Nazis’ hands on the island later suggested: “The British did not want to know that there had been a concentration camp on British soil.”


Anthony Scaramucci reportedly feeling fallout from Twitter Holocaust survey

JTA   Oct 19, 2017

AP Photo |Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Anthony Scaramucci, the financier who briefly headed communications for President Donald Trump, reportedly has lost at least one lucrative speaking engagement after a Twitter account in his name posted a survey asking people how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

Page Six, citing an unnamed source, reported late Wednesday that a speaking appearance in November at the New York City investment firm Neuberger Berman has been canceled over fears that his appearance would create a “commotion.”

Scaramucci, who is in England on a speaking tour, told Page Six in an email that the event was canceled due to a “schedule change.”

He also wrote: “I am on a speaking tour right now and have more speeches next week. Not sure if it has affected anything or not.”

On Tuesday, the Scaramucci Post account posted a tweet asking “How many Jews were killed in the Holocaust?” and offering multiple choices: “Less than one million, between 1-2 million, between 2-3 million, more than 5 million.” The historical figure, 6 million, was not offered.

The tweet was up for an hour and was near 5,000 responses before being removed by Lance Laifer, who apologized for it. Scaramucci later said Laifer was his partner.

Of the poll, Scaramucci said in his email to Page Six, “We were trying to raise awareness … Still we made a mistake, we apologized, made a donation to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and we are moving on.”

Scaramucci announced Tuesday afternoon on his personal Twitter account that he had pledged $25,000 to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in the wake of the survey.


The World Jewish Congress Launches an International Campaign for Ustasha in Croatia

Photo: Hina / Wikipedia

MENACHEM Z. Rosensaft is an American lawyer and activist of Jewish origin who was born in 1948 in Bergen-Belsen, Germany. His parents succeeded in surviving Nazi death camps, which significantly determined their later social and political engagement in the United States as well as their son’s engagement.

Rosensaft is a long-time activist about Holocaust memories, was a close associate of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, a longtime member of the US Holocaust Remembrance Council, a participant in the peace process between Israel and Palestine and a law professor at prestigious US universities. 

This distinguished Jewish Jew is also the chief advisor to the World Jewish Congress(WJC), an organization founded in 1936, which today represents Jewish communities and more than a hundred world countries, including Croatia. The WJC mission is, amongst other things, defending the rights and interests of Jewish communities and Jews around the world, helping to ensure their security, advocating their interests to governments and international organizations, promoting inter-religious dialogue, preserving holocaust memories, etc. The WJC President is Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder, and the principal director is Robert Singer who visited Croatia this May.

But the concrete occasion for an interview with Menecham Z. Rosenswood was an article recently published on the influential US-Jewish Tablet, warning that “Croatia is trying to hide its Holocaust crimes”. In an exclusive interview for Index Rosensaft, he announced that the World Jewish Congress is organizing an international campaign to deal with the situation in Croatia and the fascism of the society that some warn, while others are denying.

What triggered your interest in the situation in Croatia when it comes to the revisionism curve you wrote for the Tablet portal?

In fact, long before I focused on the current revisionism about the Holocaust in Croatia, I became sensitive to the most unknown history of persecution and mass murder of Jews, Serbs and Roma in NDH during the Second World War. Many years ago, as I was researching collaborators and participants in the Holocaust who were not Germans, I ran into the notorious Br. Tomislav Filipovic, known as Fr. Satan, the Croatian Franciscan who was one of the greatest sadists in Jasenovac. His aversion and cruelty to me are similar to those of SS’s doctor Josef Mengele in Auschwitz and the commander in Plaszowo Amon Goethe, that is, the clear personalizations of absolute evil. When I ran into Fr. Tomislav Filipovic, I wanted to find out more about the Ustashas.

After that, my wife and I became friends with Tamar Rothmueller Hirschl, a talented painter who was born in Croatia and whose father was murdered in Jasenovac. She as a child survived the Holocaust in Zagreb hiding behind her mother. Tamar described the anti-Semitism of Ustasha as he saw and experienced it during and after the war.

As far as the latest events are concerned, I am deeply impressed by the courage of the Croatian Jewish community who refused to participate in the previous two governmental Holocaust commemorations because of the failure to take a strong stand against historical revisionism and the re-emergence of Ustashas in Croatia.

It is significant that you do not treat Croatia as an exception to the rule, but as part of a wider trend in Eastern Europe. How do you explain the rise of historic revisionism in the new Eastern European Union?

Revisionism around the Holocaust has become a deeply disturbing by-product of the general upsurge of neo-fascist, if not neo-Nazi movements across Europe. The trend started with the Jobbik party in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece, but we see it alike in strong electoral support given by AfD in Germany, the National Front Marine Le Pen in France and the Free Party in Austria.

Most of the time, through the seven decades since the Second World War, the extreme right-wing political movements with their ultranationalist and xenophobic ideologies remained on the political margins of their own countries. Over the years, they have come out of the shadows and want to be accepted as legitimate political forces. Given that mass murderers do not have a good reputation, these movements and parties want to release their historical roles as participants, or in the case of Ustasha, active protagonists in genocide and other atrocities that took place during World War II. To achieve this, they either accept, glorify, and replicate the discriminatory attitude of their ideological predecessors or deny that they are ultranationalists. Or simply distort, diminish or trivialize historical facts.

When it comes to Croatia, it must be emphasized that Ustashas, ​​that their modern observers are not part of the government, and are at present not significant political forces. Today’s Croatian government is far from being described as reactionary or neo-fascist. On the other hand, the key problem is that the Croatian authorities show reluctance to be convincing – the emphasis is on “convincing” – condemning all those who glorify and reincarnate. The unavoidable consequence of approving or disregarding ultranationalist sentiments is often very rough revisionism about the Holocaust, not necessarily because of open anti-Semitism, but as a way of storing the historical image of the Ustasha.

How is Croatia perceived among American Jews? Is there a world about the problem of revisionism in Croatia?

Most Americans, not only American Jews, know relatively little about Croatia and other parts of the former Yugoslavia, and the little they know is largely related to the wars and crimes of the 1990s. It is probably the same thing for most countries outside the Balkans. Most well-educated people do not know about the Nazi ally of the NDH who founded the Fascist Ustasha and headed by Ante Pavelic, in which hundreds of thousands of Serbs, tens of thousands of Jews and Roma were killed. Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen and Babi Jar have become the symbols of the Holocaust, but a small number of people know about Jasenovac, as well as being one of the worst centers of killing in the Second World War. Jasenovac deserves the reputation of “Auschwitza Balkana”.

It is critical that the international community understands how the holocaust was conducted throughout Europe under Nazi occupation and in most of the countries that stood side by side of Nazi Germany and that the Germans were not the only perpetrators of genocide in the Second World War. Institutions such as the Holocaust Museum in Washington and Yas Washema in Jerusalem have launched significant educational initiatives in this respect. Personally, I chaired the Holocaust Museum’s presidency committee in the nineties with the success of recommending that Jasenovac be included among the most important death camps in the Second World War in the Museum of Memory Hall.

You have written that the Croatian Jewish Community should receive more international support in this ruling political climate in Croatia. Do you intend to put this topic on the agenda of the World Jewish Congress?

We are already in the process of organizing an international campaign that will draw attention to revisionism about the Holocaust in Croatia and on the attempt to rehabilitate the Ustasha. The purpose of this campaign is not to attack Croatia, but to the contrary – to help Croatians recognize the dark period of their history and adequately recognize and mark the memory of the Jasenovac victims and other Ustasha concentration camps.

Croatian nationalists will undoubtedly accuse you of being “anti-Croatian” and “hating all Croats” because you have written critically about the Ustashas and what is happening in Croatia. How do you answer that?

The only purpose of writing this article was to promote the historical truth. I have nothing against Croatia or Croats. Conversely, Croatia is a beautiful country with a proud history, and we especially appreciate the strong bilateral relations between Croatia and Israel. At the same time, we condemn and reject and call on all authorities and decent people everywhere not only to condemn the distortion and denial of crimes and murders committed during the Holocaust, but also to categorically reject those responsible for those crimes against humanity. There are German Nazis in this category, from Hitler to the SS who have led the concentration camps and death camps. This is also the French police who had fired and deported Jews from France under Nazi occupation to Auschwitz and other killing centers. These are also Nazi collaborators in the Netherlands, Belgium, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia,

Our goal is to bring together Jews and Croats. However, this can only be achieved if the Croatian authorities as well as the Croatian society as a whole condemn any new phenomenon of hatred filled with extremism from the past and ensure the memory and commemoration of all those killed by the hand of the Ustasha.

If you would be able to advise the Croatian government on these topics, what would you say to them? What can Croatia do better when it comes to the dark sides of its national history?

I would encourage Croatian authorities to form an international commission composed of prominent historians who would, with expert authority, produce a report on events in Croatia during the Holocaust and to reside after these findings, regardless of the potential political consequences. It is critical that such a committee includes representatives of all relevant stakeholders, including the Croatian Jewish community, as well as representatives or descendants of other ethnic groups who were Ustasha victims. I would also advise to launch educational programs at all levels, from high schools through universities to social groups of all faiths and nationalities, concerning the crimes against humanity committed by the Ustasha on behalf of the Croatian people. We urge them not to trivialize and minimize the role of Ustasha in the Second World War,

It is interesting to point out that the campaign against Tito and Partisans is being used to rehabilitate their enemies in World War II. What do you think about the narrative that the Nazi and Ustasha regime is actually the same as the communist regime in Yugoslavia? Advocates of this narrative claim that NDH and Tito of Yugoslavia were “totalitarian regimes” …

We do not defend Tito’s regime nor any communist regime of the accusations that they were, as you say, “totalitarian” and that they violated civil and human rights. But that is far from committing genocide. Ustashas killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews and Roma. Already this fact places their radicality in the second category. Throughout Eastern and Central Europe there are aspirations to equalize both Nazism and Communism. But the fact is that the charges you can put on the account of communist regimes are not nearly as terrible as the crimes against humanity committed by Nazi Germany with its participants. Also, we must never forget that the Communists and Partisans who led Tito have saved and protected many Jews and others who should become Nazi and Ustasha victims.

You have a fascinating life story, and your parents have survived the Holocaust. How did this affect your public engagement and topics that became important to you?

My parents were special because they did not allow the Germans to dehumanize them. In Auschwitz-Birkenau, my mother used her medical knowledge to save the Jews from the gas chambers, and in Bergen-Belsen, with a group of other prisoners, she managed to sustain 149 Jewish children during the brutal winter of 1945 and in the midst of a terrible typhus epidemic. After the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, my father became the leader of the survivors and continued to play the role of the next five years during which Bergen-Belsen became the largest refugee center in Germany. My parents met immediately after the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, fell in love, married and I was born in May 1948. They were never filled with bitterness, but always looked forward, with much sympathy and empathy. I have learned from them that helping others is a duty and not a burden.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel was an important person in your life. How did he affect your philosophy of holocaust memories? 

Wiesel was my mentor, teacher, and above all, one of my closest friends over fifty years. One of his greatest accomplishments is that the human consciousness has built not only the memory of the Holocaust, but also its human dimension. He has taught me that all victims of genocide and crimes against humanity deserve to remember them not only as abstract figures, but as people who were alive. For him the most important lessons of the Holocaust were the need to fight against all forms of intolerance, xenophobia and hate, and that silence is not an option.

You submit to the law of genocide at Columbia University in New York. What is that? As you know, genocide in the NDH was conducted in accordance with the declared racial laws. How do you explain the need to codify the rules for genocide? 

The law of genocide is a newer legal discipline, as is the development of international laws concerning crimes against humanity. Crimes against humanity became important for the first time in August 1945, in the charter of the International Military Tribunal, which met in Nuremberg in 1945-1946. At that time, US Supreme Court judge Robert H. Jackson, who was chief prosecutor in Nuremberg, clearly expressed the view that mass murders and mass crimes have violated the principles of international law and before the charge of “crimes against humanity” was formulated, the Accused they knew it.

Equally important is the conclusion made in 1946 by Gustav Radbruch, German legal expert and justice minister in the early years of the Weimar Republic. He says the discriminatory laws of the Third Reich were invalid from their conception. According to Radbruch, “the character of the law is missing in all those regulations that human beings treated when they were not human beings and denying their human rights.” Radbruch’s view was that all such regulations – including the racial laws of NDH – were “examples of legitimate injustice” and hence void from the beginning.

In other words, the authors of all racial laws from the 1930s and 1940s in Germany, France, or Croatia knew that these laws violated the basic principles of international law, and all those who implemented these laws knew the same.

Efraim Zuroff is a well-known public in the Jewish community, and he was also quite critical of what is happening in Croatia. But there is one topic around which two of you are strongly disagreeable, and that is Srebrenica. Can you explain what difference is between Zuroff and you? 

I have great respect for Efraim Zuroff and Simon Wiesenthal Center. It is also important to point out that Zuroff does not deny the killing of about eight thousand Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica, men and boys aged between 12 and 77, and consider it a terrible crime and a crime against humanity. We do not agree that what happened in Srebrenica was genocide or not. Zuroff thinks he is not, I’m convinced that a genocide happened in Srebrenica.

Genocide is not an abstract and flexible philosophical concept, but rather a fairly narrowly defined legal term that was codified in the 1948 UN Charter on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide as killing members of a group with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, that national, ethnic, racial or religious group when such “. The International Court of Justice in 2007 ruled that “the crimes committed in Srebrenica were committed with the specific intent to destroy a partial group of Muslims in BiH, and as such crimes represented genocide.” There are also various judgments of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that came to the same conclusion. These court judgments are unquestionable and final.

Above all, I am convinced that we must also take into account the moral dimension. My five year-old brother, my mother’s son, and my grandfathers were killed in genocide that was the Holocaust. The perpetrators of the Srebrenica massacre are no better than the SS’s who are my brothers and grandparents and grandmothers in the gas chambers.

As a lecturer at Columbia and Cornell a few years ago I had a student Adisad Dudić, who spent three years as a child in a Bosnian refugee camp with her mother and sister. In one work for my subject, she described this experience: “My homeland was destroyed, my family members were scattered around the world, thousands of Bosnian women and girls were raped and abused, thousands of Bosnian men and boys were tortured in concubines and buried in mass tombs, many people were killed by the enemies who wanted to reach every person who was identified as a Bosnian Muslim. ”

I am convinced that it is against conscience and unacceptable that someone tells my student Adisad that the horrors committed against Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica were not genocide, as it would be terrible for someone to deny the genocide in which my brother, my grandparents and millions were killed other European Jews were exterminated.