German Muslim students protest Holocaust remembrance, attack Israel

The school director said that it was good there was student opposition to the memorial event because it “is the basis of discussion.”

ShowImageMuslim students of Arab and Turkish origin protested participation in an International Holocaust Remembrance Day event in Germany, while their high school’s administration showed understanding for their criticism of Israel.

“Some Muslims students said they would not participate in the event,” said Florian Beer, a teacher at the school in the city of Gelsenkirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia state, Der Westen newspaper reported on Thursday.

The Holocaust remembrance event was part of a global commemoration in which participants take selfie photographs along with a sign saying “I Remember“ or “We Remember.“ A blackboard at the school was defaced with the sentence: “F*** Israel, free Palestine.” The school was not able to identify the perpetrator.

Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday, “Muslims students are greatest in need of Holocaust education, so it would be unfortunate if they were excused from those activities.”

Zuroff, who is Wiesenthal’s chief Nazi-hunter, added, “Given that Holocaust consciousness is a central idea of civic identity in the Federal Republic, it is doubly important for families that come from countries with deep antisemitic traditions and no knowledge of the Holocaust and the destruction of European Jewry.”

The Weiterbildungskolleg Emscher-Lippe school, where the protest unfolded, has 500 students, 40% of whom have a migrant background.

School director Günter Jahn told Der Westen it was good that there was student opposition to the remembrance event. “It is important that there is criticism. That is the basis for a discussion.” He added that in certain communities, criticism of Israel is demanded.

The school is located in the northern part of the Ruhr region and Gelsenkirchen’s population in 2015 was roughly 260,000.

Some of the students allowed themselves to be photographed with the remembrance signs but declined to permit the photographs to be displayed on the Internet. A number of students, according to Der Westen, asked, “Why always the Jews?” The students added there are, after all, other problems in world.

Beer said the school likes to be provocative because there are always events at the school that leave an “aftertaste of antisemitism.” He added that representatives from the World Jewish Congress have been invited to come speak at the school.

The number of antisemitic attacks reported in Germany doubled from 2015 to 2016, according to a report the Diaspora Affairs Ministry released last Sunday. The actual number of attacks is believed to be higher because of the lack of standards to identify contemporary antisemitism in the Federal Republic.

In January, a German court reaffirmed a legal decision from the city of Wuppertal stating the torching of a synagogue by three Muslims was not motivated by antisemitism. The court wrote the men only sought via the arson “to clearly draw attention to the blazing conflict between Israel and Palestinians” during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The original synagogue in Wuppertal was burned by Germans in 1938.

Volker Beck, a German Green Party deputy in the Bundestag, said on Thursday that the memorial day for the victims of National Socialism must not just be about remembering, it must lead to action.

Beck, who has led the parliamentary fight to blunt the mushrooming modern Jew-hatred in Germany, said “antisemitism frequently appears clothed as anti-Zionism.” He cited three German academic institutions that stoked anti-Israel propaganda that delegitimizes the Jewish democratic state. “Whoever boycotts Israelis or Israeli institutions, because they are Jews, acts in an antisemitic way,” said Beck, who appears to be the only Bundestag deputy to connect the remembrance of the Holocaust with efforts to combat contemporary antisemitism targeting the Jewish state.

The University of Hamburg appointed the academic Farid Esack, a leader of the South African anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, to serve as a guest lecturer on Islamic theology. Esack praised Leila Khaled, a convicted terrorist and member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, at a BDS fund-raiser in 2015.

“This is a man who expressed antisemitic statements, and who is sympathetic to Holocaust denial,” the Israeli Embassy in Berlin told the Post. “A person with such views has no place as an educator in a university, especially not in Germany, for both professional and moral and probably also legal reasons.”

Post email queries to the University of Hamburg’s president Dr. Dieter Lenzen were not returned.

The Max Planck Institute hosted the American pro-Hezbollah activist Norman Finkelstein on Monday. He delivered a lecture sympathetic to the US- and EU-designated terrorist organization Hamas to more than 30 students. The head of the Max Planck Institute, Dr. Martin Stratmann, declined to respond to Post requests for an interview about the alleged spread of new forms of antisemitism at the Planck Institute branch in the city of Halle.

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White House defends omission of Jews from Holocaust statement

The omission drew ire from American Jewish groups.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trump’s Holocaust day statement fails to mention Jews or anti-Semitism

President vows to ensure ‘the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good’; ADL chief calls absence of specific Jewish reference ‘puzzling and troubling’

AP_17026679667080-e1485542961947WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day Friday in which he vowed to combat the forces of evil, and called to “make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world,” but failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism.

The absence of any specific mention of Jews or anti-Semitism was highlighted and criticized by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust,” the president said. “It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt promptly took to Twitter to exclaim it was “puzzling and troubling” that the 117-word statement did not specifically cite the persecution of the Jewish people that was central, though not exclusive, to the Nazi genocide.

Trump’s statement, Greenblatt said, “misses that it was six million Jews who perished, not just ‘innocent people.’”

In his statement, Trump vowed to use the power of the presidency to safeguard the world from allowing an atrocity such as the Holocaust to repeat itself.

“In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good,” Trump said. “Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”

It is not the first time an international leader has failed to mention Jews while honoring the memory of those murdered by Adolf Hitler’s regime.

Last year, Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau caused a similar reaction when he issued a statement that lacked any reference to Jews or anti-Semitism.

This year, Trudeau avoided making that a tradition. “Today, on the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we remember the more than six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust and the countless other victims of Nazi brutality,” he said.

Trudeau further pledged to use the day of remembrance to “reaffirm our commitment to stand against anti-Semitism, xenophobia and prejudice in all its forms.”

Trump was among several world leaders who devoted statements in memory of Holocaust victims on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which in 2005 the United Nations set for Jan. 27 — the day in 1945 that the Red Army liberated the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. More than 1 million Jews out of the 6 million murdered in the Holocaust were killed there.

“Tragically, and contrary to our resolve, anti-Semitism continues to thrive,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement made Thursday in New York that was read out the following day at UN headquarters in Geneva. “We are also seeing a deeply troubling rise in extremism, xenophobia, racism and anti-Muslim hatred. Irrationality and intolerance are back.”

In Germany, outgoing Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is to become president this year, noted during a speech the political instability in the world today.

“History should be a lesson, warning and incentive all at the same time,” he said. “There can and should be no end to remembrance.”

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Nazi hunter says hundreds could still be at large

Efraim Zuroff expects a spike in convictions in coming years despite most suspects being in their 90s

000_KS3GP-e1485486822551Hundreds or even thousands of Nazi war crimes suspects could still be at large, one of the world’s leading experts on the matter said Thursday, ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Efraim Zuroff said he expected a spike in convictions in the coming years despite most suspects being in their 90s, but admitted most were unlikely to face justice as many countries are unwilling to pursue cases.

“There are still hundreds, if not thousands of these Nazis, but the problem is who among them can be brought to justice?” the so-called Nazi hunter told an event ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday.

Since 2001, 104 Nazis have been convicted over their roles in the Holocaust, in which around six million Jews were systematically exterminated, figures from Zuroff’s Simon Wiesenthal Center show.

The annual number has been declining, however, and between April 2015 and March 2016 there was only one conviction, with two new cases filed.

In June a 94-year-old former guard at the Auschwitz death camp was convicted in Germany.

Zuroff said he expected the number to increase in coming years.

“There will be a spike because of the whole change in German prosecution policy,” Zuroff told AFP.

In 2011 German legal policy changed to allow prosecutions of those who worked for the Nazis in the death camps, rather than specifically having carried out a killing, allowing for new trials of men and women in their 90s.

While he hailed Germany’s commitment to prosecuting as many suspects as possible, Zuroff pointed out many other countries have not pursued trials.

Collaborators in many countries had been largely immune from prosecution as their governments were unwilling to push the matter, he said.

“In a country like Ukraine, for example, there are a lot of Ukrainians who were involved,” he said.

“They have never initiated a single investigation.”

Zuroff said in both Norway and Sweden statute limitations mean that Nazi war criminals could not be prosecuted.

“In Norway there were people who volunteered for the SS, were sent to the east and were involved in crimes against humanity in Ukraine,” he added.

Zuroff said it was a race against time to convict people before they die.

“It is drawing to an end for obvious reasons,” he said, calling it the “biological solution”.

Asked how the world would look back on their attempts to bring Nazis to justice across the world, Zuroff said “there is no question it failed.”

“The huge number of people involved made it impossible to bring all the perpetrators to justice, so the question is how many will be brought. I look at it that every person brought to justice is a victory.”

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A star-studded ‘Night’ to honor Elie Wiesel in New York

Five-hour January 29 event at Museum of Jewish Heritage will feature diverse community reading of the slim 116-page volume that changed the world

wiesel-FEATUREMillions have read Elie Wiesel’s landmark Holocaust memoir “Night.” When Oprah Winfrey selected it for her book club in 2006, she turned it into an instant bestseller and countless students continue to read it as part of their high school curriculums.

But seldom is the slim volume about the author’s experiences in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald Nazi concentration camps read aloud.

A special event in New York on Sunday marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day (which takes place two days earlier on January 27) with a wide array of artists, actors, writers, community leaders, government officials, students, Holocaust survivors and survivors of other genocides. They will honor the memory of the late Wiesel in a unique community reading of “Night” at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

Co-presented by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, the reading will take place over five hours in the museum’s Edmond J. Safra Hall. It will be simulcast throughout the museum’s galleries and streamed via the internet to online viewers around the world. On-stage participants will take turns reading at least one page from the 116-page work. Most of the readers will read in English, and some will read parts of the text in Yiddish and French, in a nod to the languages in which “Night” was published before its translation to English and some 30 other languages.

Abraham H. Foxman, director of the Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage and former Anti-Defamation League national director, was instrumental in organizing the event honoring Wiesel, who died last July 2 aged 87.

Foxman told The Times of Israel he was overwhelmed by the uniformly positive response from the invited readers, as well as public demand to attend. The 1,000 allotted spaces are filled, and there is a waiting list of those still hoping to have a chance to personally hear a portion of the reading.

Foxman said it was evident from the start that “Night” would be the central element for the program marking the first International Holocaust Remembrance Day since Wiesel’s passing.

“Elie’s greatest impact on the universe was the testimony of ‘Night.’ It was obvious that we would use this as a vehicle. What Elie did was take a Jewish tragedy and place it on the world stage. He transposed Jewish pain to a universal scale. ‘Night’ is the most- read Holocaust-related book, or perhaps second only to ‘The Diary of Anne Frank,’” Foxman said.

Folksbiene associate artistic director Motl Didner said there was a strong connection between Wiesel and Yiddish culture. Wiesel attended numerous Folksbiene productions, and the theater staged a special tribute to him in 2010. On a more intimate level, Wiesel was a familiar presence in Folksbiene artistic director Zalmen Mlotek’s life as he grew up, as the Nobel Laureate was friendly with Mlotek’s parents, Yiddish Forverts editor Yosl Mlotek and Yiddish song expert Chana Mlotek.

“The Folksbiene has been a home for the survivor community for the 70 years since the end of the Holocaust and now serves the second, third and fourth generations,” said Didner.

“Elie Wiesel was a great inspiration to our community. Yiddish was his native language. It was the language in which he began his writing career. He even sang in Yiddish. It was only fitting that with his passing, especially given our new partnership with the Museum of Jewish Heritage, that we honor his memory by reading his most influential work,” Didner said.

Some of the readers participating in Sunday’s event knew Wiesel personally, while others never had the chance.

“I never had the pleasure and honor of meeting Mr. Wiesel, but I wish I had. So participating feels like a way of finally coming together,” said Tony, Oscar and Golden Globe-winning actor Joel Grey.

“Like most people, I too was devastated, and devastated by recollections of the Holocaust to this day,” said Grey, best known for his role as the Master of Ceremonies in both the stage and film versions of “Cabaret.”

Broadway actress Tovah Feldshuh, whom younger audiences will recognize as the overbearing mother in the current hit TV series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” knew and loved Wiesel. Her recollections of Wiesel as a man of moral and social courage, and also someone who always put concern for others first, inspired her to participate.

Feldshuh recalls how immediately after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Wiesel “held my face in his hands and said, ‘Tovah, how are you?’… that was his moment. The world was focused on him and he was so cellularly empathic that his first thoughts were naturally, effortlessly about ‘the other’ — in this case, it was lucky, lucky ‘I.’”

Sex therapist and media personality Dr. Ruth Westheimer also has fond memories of Wiesel, whom she called “a very important person in my life.” Westheimer praised Wiesel for everything he did for Jews and non-Jews alike, especially those who lived through the Nazi era.

As Westheimer reads her portion of “Night,” she will think of her friend Wiesel and miss him. She’ll especially miss the way he would greet her.

“I have met him many, many times, and I always got a kiss. What I miss most about him is his wonderful smile and the kiss on my cheek,” she shared.

The list of readers is crammed with famous New Yorkers from many different professional fields, from violinist Itzhak Perlman to New York Police Department commissioner James O’Neill to Ms. Magazine co-founder Letty Cottin Pogrebin. Israel will be represented by Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York.

At the end of the five hours, members of the Wiesel family concluded the reading.

Wiesel’s son Elisha Wiesel told The Times of Israel that he is pleased with how the Museum of Jewish Heritage and Folksbiene conceived of the event.

”I think my father would have appreciated the respect with which the Museum of Jewish Heritage is approaching the event. No musical interludes, no speeches, no performances – just the reading. Some messages are too important to dilute,” he said.

Although the community reading was planned to coincide with a day memorializing past tragedy, its resonance with current events is at the forefront of the younger Wiesel’s mind.

“Listeners to this particular reading of ‘Night’ need only walk a few blocks to the site of the 9/11 Memorial to be reminded that hatred and murderous intent are unfortunately alive and well today,” said Wiesel.

“There are still political and religious leaders who irresponsibly defame the ‘other’ and seek to divide us along our fault lines: religion, skin color, nationality, class, gender, sexual preference, and political affiliation,” he said.

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Elderly survivors return to Auschwitz, 72 years after liberation

German FM says death camp’s name stands for entire Nazi ‘murder machinery’ that remains part of his country’s history

Poland-Auschwitz-Anni_HoroWARSAW, Poland (AP) — Dozens of Auschwitz survivors placed wreaths and flowers Friday at the infamous execution wall of the former German death camp, paying homage to the victims of Adolf Hitler’s regime exactly 72 years after the camp’s liberation.

Jan. 27, the anniversary of the day that the Soviet army liberated the camp in German-occupied Poland in 1945, is recognized as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and commemorative events were also being held across Europe and Israel.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the term “Auschwitz” stands for all the death camps and the entire Nazi “persecution and murder machinery” that remained part of Germany’s history.

He said that while Germany cannot change or undo what happened, the country has a continued obligation to commemorate the genocide, honor the memory of the victims and take responsibility for the crimes.

Noting the political instability in the world today, Steinmeier, said that “history should be a lesson, warning and incentive all at the same time. There can and should be no end to remembrance,” he said.

Steinmeier’s statement came hours before he was due to hand over the post of foreign minister to the current economy minister, Sigmar Gabriel.

Elderly survivors at Auschwitz, which today is a memorial site and museum, paid homage to those killed by wearing striped scarves reminiscent of the garb prisoners once wore there.

They walked slowly beneath the notorious gate with the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Will Set You Free) and made their way as a group to the execution wall, where they lit candles and prayed.

Janina Malec, a Polish survivor whose parents were killed at the execution wall, told the PAP news agency that “as long as I live I will come here,” describing her yearly visit as a “pilgrimage.”

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Running for the past, athletes trek to Holocaust race in Rome

With 80-year-old Holocaust survivor and Munich Olympian Shaul Ladany, the Run for Mem took participants past historical Nazi persecution sights throughout the city

29On October 16, 1943, 45-year-old Settimio Calò left his wife Clelia and their nine children comfortably asleep in their apartment when he snuck out at dawn, hoping he would be able to buy some cigarettes — a rare treat in Nazi-occupied Rome.

When he got home a few hours later, he found the place in Via del Portico D’Ottavia, the heart of the former Jewish Ghetto, completely empty. The Nazis had raided the neighborhood and rounded up over 1,000 Jews. Of them, only 15 men and one woman survived Auschwitz. All Calò’s children, including little Samuele, just a few months old, were murdered.

“Today many people have forgotten about the Holocaust. The number of survivors was already small immediately after it, and 72 years later very few can still tell their stories firsthand. This is why doing it when I have the opportunity is an imperative for me,” Holocaust survivor and Israeli racewalker Shaul Ladany says in a phone conversation with The Times of Israel.

Ahead of International Holocaust Memorial Day, Ladany — who was at the 1972 Munich Olympics and survived the horrifying terror attack on the Israeli delegation — was the guest of honor at an event in Rome aimed at promoting Holocaust remembrance and the awareness of its importance.

“Run for Mem,” a non-competitive road race past sites related to the history of the Holocaust in the Italian capital, took place on Sunday, January 22.

Via del Portico D’Ottavia, where the Calò family was arrested along with so many others, and which today remains at the heart of the Jewish life in the city, was the epicenter of the race. The little square behind the Great Synagogue named after the date of the Nazi raid, Largo 16 Ottobre 1943, served as the start and end point.

About 1,500 people took part in the initiative, which was organized by the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, with support of Maccabi Italia (a branch of the renowned international Jewish sports organization) and the Rome Marathon.

“This year we chose a new, maybe even brave way to mark Holocaust Memorial Day — a sporting event,” President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities Noemi Di Segni said, opening the race.

“People happen to run every day, but today we have to take with us the milestones of our history and remember that the path ahead of us starts from the one influenced by past events. Sometimes people fall and are hurt. They have made us fall, they have hurt us, but we have gotten back to our feet and we have started again, as individuals, as a people, as a community, as Italians, as Europeans,” she concluded.

“Run for Mem” also received the support of over two dozen Jewish, civil, government and sports organizations, including the World Jewish Congress, the European Jewish Congress as well as Prime Minister of Italy Paolo Gentiloni.

Among those who attended were members of the Italian government, undersecretary for European Affairs Sandro Gozi, Italian runner Franca Fiacconi, Imam Yahya Pallavicini and Israeli ambassador to Rome Ofer Sachs.

The high interest for the event especially moved Ladany.

“I must say that I was really pleased to be invited to this event and impressed by the work done by the organizers, including the fact that there were so many journalists and so much interest around it. A lecture could have never drawn as much attention,” Ladany points out.

The 80-year-old racewalker opted for the longest route of 10 kilometers (6 miles), finding some similarities with the Jerusalem Marathon.

“The Jerusalem Marathon, with so many ups and downs, is hard, but the landscapes are wonderful. Same here in Rome. Amazing views, the Colosseum, the Forum, but a tough one, especially because the stone-paved streets were far from being smooth,” he said.

Ladany, who is a professor emeritus of industrial engineering at Ben-Gurion University, also recalled a time in Israel when there were no marathons at all.

“Today there are several, with thousands of participants. When they held the very first one from Hadera to Zichron Yaakov as an Olympic trial in 1956, there were maybe 10 or 12 participants, myself included. Shortly after, they started to organize racewalks. I have been racewalking ever since,” he said.

The two routes offered by “Run for Mem” (the shorter of which was 3.5 kilometers) took the runners around the city, passing by streets and buildings which witnessed the Nazi cruelty, as well as sites that speak about the courage of those who risked their lives to help people in need.

Participants, who all wore t-shirts bearing the slogan “Race for Remembrance, Looking Ahead,” ran by the Regina Coeli prison on the Tiber river, where Jews and political prisoners were detained.

They also passed by the building on Via Urbana where Father Pietro Pappagallo lived. The hero had helped victims of the persecution and resistance fighters until he was arrested and killed by the Nazis in the infamous Ardeatine Caves massacre of 1944.

The longer route passed by the building in Via Tasso that served as SS headquarters and which today houses the Museum of the Liberation.

The shorter one cut through the small Tiberina island, where physician Giovanni Borromeo hid hundreds of Jews from the Nazis. Many of them were diagnosed with the fictitious “K. disease,” which kept German soldiers, afraid of contracting contagious diseases, at bay. Borromeo was recognized as a Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 2004.

“The sites featured in this road-race symbolize the history of the persecution, devoting attention also to what happened to Roma people, political opponents and members of the gay community,” commented Maccabi Italia president Vittorio Pavoncello, speaking to Sky News Italy.

The “Run for Mem” itinerary also included the Via degli Zingari, where a plaque commemorates the oppression of the Roma people.

Speaking from his hotel in Rome, Ladany, who was sent to Bergen Belsen with his family as an 8 year old, explains how being a survivor has influenced his life.

“It shaped me to be ambitious, to set high goals. Out of the first eight years of school, I only attended four, in four different languages. Therefore, my first goal was to graduate high school. Then it was to become an officer in the Israeli army, to get a degree, a second degree, a PhD, a position as a lecturer, professor, tenured professor. And simultaneously, to become an Israeli champion, set a world record, take part in my first Olympic Games, and then in my second,” he said passionately.

His second Olympic competition was in Munich, where 11 Israeli athletes were killed by the Palestinian terror group Black September. Ladany managed to get out of the building.

“Munich was just yet another situation where I found myself in mortal danger and I survived,” he explained. “I think that another consequence of my experiences during the Holocaust, when I lost 28 members of my immediate family, is that I am not afraid of anything.

“This does not mean I am not cautious, but I’m not afraid to die. For example, when the Six Day War broke out, I was studying in the United States. I came back at my own expense to volunteer in the army, and not because I like the military life. I felt it was my duty to defend my country.”

Asked what role sports and athletes can or should play in influencing the world, he explained that there are those who like to speak up, and those who don’t.

“When asked, I personally always expressed my opinion, even if it meant going against the mainstream view,” he said, remembering how after the massacre at Munich, he opposed the withdrawal of the team because he felt it would give the terrorists what they wanted.

“I also think it was right that the Olympics went on. When Baron de Coubertin started the modern Olympic Games, he had in mind the ancient ones which marked a moment of truce between the different Greek city-states. Nowadays, many things have changed. There is the doping, the money… However, this should not change,” Ladany says.

At the end of the “Run for Mem” all participants crossed the finish line together. What better could embody the idea so dear to de Coubertin that what counts is not winning, but participating, than a Race for Remembrance?

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For Holocaust’s loneliest survivors, young Israelis are a lifeline

Thousands of volunteers help ensure some ‘good feelings’ for the 160,000-strong community of survivors in Israel, the world’s largest

Israel-Lonely-Survivo_Horo-1AP — Surrounded by more than 100 fellow Holocaust survivors and young volunteers, a blind Ernest Weiner sat in his wheelchair with a puffy crown on his head as the crowd sang happy birthday and showered him with hugs and greetings.

Widowed and childless, 92-year-old Weiner lives alone and the cheerful gathering offered him one of life’s most valuable commodities — company.

As home to the world’s largest survivor community, Israel is grappling to serve the needs of thousands of people like Weiner who are living out their final days alone. Various government bodies and private organizations chip in to offer material, psychological and medical support to the survivors, still scarred by the horrors they experienced 70 years ago. But all agree that the greatest burden late in their lives is loneliness.

“It’s not pleasant to be alone,” Weiner said in his apartment south of Tel Aviv. “It gives a good feeling” to have people visit.

Some 160,000 elderly survivors remain in Israel, with a similar number worldwide. In Israel, about half receive special government stipends, but a third still live under the poverty line, well above the national 20 percent poverty rate.

That’s where the nonprofit sector gets involved. The Association for Immediate Help for Holocaust Survivors was established nine years ago for the purpose of aiding survivors anywhere in Israel, at a moment’s notice. Run solely on donations, it currently has some 8,000 volunteers around the country.

They help survivors with everything from legal assistance to paying their bills, buying their groceries to driving them to doctor appointments. Several times a year, they throw parties that become a highlight on survivors’ calendars.

The care continues even after death. The association’s modest office currently houses a number of orphaned dogs and cats left behind by their owners.

“Morally, not just as Jews but as people of the world, we must help them finish their life in dignity without them having to beg for warm food,” said Tamara More, the association’s voluntary CEO. “These are people whose lives were robbed from them because of the world’s silence, and we all have an obligation to give them something back in the little time they have left.”

Six million Jews were killed by German Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust, wiping out a third of world Jewry. Israel’s main Holocaust memorial day is in the spring — marking the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising — while the United Nations designated Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in 1945.

As the senior adviser to former finance minister Yair Lapid, Naama Schultz spearheaded the ministry’s efforts to boost previously paltry funding to those who survived camps and ghettos. Besides a monthly stipend, the state also provides expanded health care, free medication and discounts on various living expenses.

But Schultz said money couldn’t address their emotional needs. Many survivors kept their pasts to themselves for decades, often alienating even the people closest to them due to their trauma. Only in their final years are many finally ready to open up, and often then there is no one around.

“There is always more you can give them, but what they really want most is someone to just be with them,” she said.

Plenty of organizations try to answer that need by matching soldiers and students with survivors. One highly publicized initiative offered university students rent-free accommodations in return for living with lonely survivors and keeping them company.

Noga Rotman, a 32-year-old computer science student, said she decided to get involved several years ago when her grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, became ill.

“I couldn’t help but think about those who didn’t have that,” she said, amid the balloons and flowers at Weiner’s party, which was attended by dozens who were inspired to come by a Facebook post. “Anytime we have something like this, you just see how much it means to them.”

Weiner said he especially appreciated the company of youngsters. As for fellow survivors, he had mixed feelings.

“On the one hand, it feels good to have all these people. On the other hand it reminds you of such tough times,” he said. “Happy it can’t be, because it was not happy times, but it is nice to have someone listen.”

When the Nazis invaded his native Austria, Weiner and his sister fled to Holland while their parents stayed behind and died of illness. The rest of the family perished.

After the Nazis occupied Holland, they were placed in the Westerbork transit camp, from where his sister was sent to her death in Auschwitz.

Thanks to his work as an electrician, Weiner got to know the camp well and estimates he escaped deportation about 15 times, once after he was placed on a train for Auschwitz. But the harsh conditions took their toll. In the course of his work, he got so many electric shocks that it caused heart damage, and an accident blinded his right eye. Diabetes later deprived him of sight in his left eye and confined him to a wheelchair.

Now that his wife is gone, Weiner has a caregiver who stays with him and another who visits daily. But the volunteers who arrive several times a week provide most of the conversation.

At the party, children handed him drawings. Soldiers and scouts gave gifts, and there was even a surprise visit from Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli — who heard Weiner was a fan and stopped by to snap some pictures with him.

But the most moving moment was when a Dutch-speaking volunteer whom he has grown close to leaned in to let him know she was there. He teared up, and then she did too.

“The fact that he is glad, that brings me joy,” said Liel Van Aalderink, 22. “I don’t do really much extraordinary. I just give him attention and talk to him because he is alone in the world.”

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