PRINCE CHARLES RECALLS GRANDMOTHER’S RESCUE OF JEWS FROM HOLOCAUST

Prince Charles of Wales spoke with Holocaust survivors in Austria about his grandmother’s role in saving the lives of a Jewish family during the Shoah.

Charles and his wife, Camilla, spent the final day of a nine-day tour of Europe in Vienna meeting British and Austrian survivors of Nazi persecution at the city’s Jewish museum, the Jewish News of London reported.

The royal couple sat down with a group of elderly men and women who shared their harrowing stories with them. During World War II, Princess Alice, the Duke of Edinburgh’s mother and Charles’s grandmother, sheltered a number of Jewish people when Greece was occupied.

Alice, who is buried in Israel, was recognized by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem as a Righteous Among the Nations, and was posthumously awarded the British Government’s Hero of the Holocaust medal.

In September 1943, the Cohen family, old acquaintances from the Greek town of Trikala, appealed to Princess Alice for refuge. She hid them in her palace until the Nazis withdrew in October 1944. During that time, the Nazis sent the vast majority of Greece’s Jewish community to concentration camps.

Charles told the group: “My father’s mother took in a Jewish family during the war and hid them – she was amazing, my grandmother. She took them in during the Nazi occupation. She never told anybody, she didn’t tell her family for many years. She’s buried in Jerusalem.”

Princess Alice’s remains are interred at the picturesque Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, above the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives. Charles said he visited the grave last September while attending the funeral of Shimon Peres, a former president and prime minister of Israel.

Holocaust survivor Gerda Frei, 80, who had escaped Vienna with her mother and father to Hungary in 1938, had a chance to chat with Charles at The Jewish Museum Vienna.

“The prince was very well informed about the Holocaust, and it is very important that they came here,” she said after the chat.

Frei and her parents were hidden from the Nazis by a family in Budapest.

http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Prince-Charles-recalls-grandmothers-rescue-of-Jews-from-Holocaust-486483

Exhibit trains overdue lens on secret record of life under Nazis

STON — In the spring of 1945, Henryk Ross, one of the few survivors of the Lodz ghetto, unearthed a box containing some 6,000 photo negatives. He’d snapped the photos while confined to the ghetto over the past four years. A few months prior to its final liquidation, he’d buried them.

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“I buried my negatives in the ground in order that there should be some record of our tragedy… I was anticipating the total destruction of Polish Jewry. I wanted to leave a historical record of our martyrdom,” he wrote four decades later, from his home in Jaffa, Israel.

Ross, who died in 1991, had been a professional photojournalist before the Nazi occupation of Poland. He was one of two Jews in the ghetto, along with Mendel Grossman, who took official photographs for the Statistics Department of the Judenrat, the Jewish Council, set up under Nazi rule.

Ross’s official duties required him to take identification photographs of ghetto residents as well as photographs of the factories. These images were used as propaganda to promote the productivity of the ghetto’s slave labor workforce.

But at great risk to his own life, Ross ventured beyond his official duties. Often accompanied by his wife, Stefania, he clandestinely took thousands of additional photographs.

He captured images of the full range of daily life in the ghetto: some, devastating and heartbreaking scenes of hunger, death, squalor and deportation lines; others, of children learning to knit and a touching portrait of a ghetto police officer’s wife and baby.

A damaged negative of a woman with her child, from a Ghetto policeman’s family. (Henryk Ross/Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)
A damaged negative of a woman with her child, from a Ghetto policeman’s family. (Henryk Ross/Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)

Now, an exhibit of Ross’s surviving photographs will be on view at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, in its first showing in the United States.

The exhibit, “Memory Unearthed: The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross,” was organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, where it was on view in 2015. It opens on March 25 and will run through July 30.

The MFA exhibit, curated by Kristen Gresh, includes about 200 photographs and other artifacts, including the photographer’s own identification card and footage from the 1961 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann where Ross’s photographs were submitted as evidence.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is an intricate, handmade portfolio album Ross created late in life using his contact sheets of photographs from the ghetto.

A stunning 240-page catalog, edited by Maia-Mari Sutnik, with full-page black and white reproductions of Ross’s photographs as well as several enlightening essays, accompanies the exhibit, published by the Art Gallery of Ontario (distributed by Yale University Press).

The MFA is offering an array of related programs, including a June 11 concert of music composed and performed in the Lodz, Vilna and Terezin ghettos, led by Mark Ludwig, director of the Terezin Music Foundation.

The Lodz ghetto residential area sign reading, ‘Jews. Entry Forbidden.’ (Henryk Ross/Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)
The Lodz ghetto residential area sign reading, ‘Jews. Entry Forbidden.’ (Henryk Ross/Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)

“This exhibition, featuring stories of the Lodz Ghetto through the lens of Polish Jewish photographer Henryk Ross, is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of photography and collective memories,” MFA director Matthew Teitelbaum said in a statement.

Teitelbaum was the director and CEO of the Art Gallery of Ontario when the Ross collection was given to the Toronto museum. He wrote the foreword to the exhibit catalog.

It’s revealing to have the combination of Ross’s official photographs along with his covert images that document the tragedies that Lodz residents were living through, according to Kristen Gresh, the Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh curator of photographs.

A group of men eating lunch, soup out of pails. (Henryk Ross/Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)
A group of men eating lunch, soup out of pails. (Henryk Ross/Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)

“It not only tells the story of the Lodz Ghetto but tells a universal story of resistance, survival and attempts at normalcy. It is also about bearing witness,” Gresh told The Times of Israel in a phone conversation before the opening.

Henryk Ross’s Litzmannstadt Ghetto identification card. (Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)
Henryk Ross’s Litzmannstadt Ghetto identification card. (Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)

While there are other collections of photographs from ghettos, Ross’s work stands out because he was a Jewish photographer, according to Antony Polonsky, Brandeis University professor emeritus of Holocaust Studies and chief historian of the Museum of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

“This is what makes this [exhibit] unusual,” he said. Polonsky is speaking at an MFA program about Lodz on March 28.

A boy walking in front of the bridge crossing. (Henryk Ross/Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)
A boy walking in front of the bridge crossing. (Henryk Ross/Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)

Acts of resistance
Ross and his wife were among some 160,000 Jews confined in the Lodz Ghetto. It was the second-largest, after Warsaw, established by the Nazis and was the longest-existing ghetto, from 1940 to 1944. Its Jewish Council was headed by Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, a controversial figure who enforced a strategy he called, “survival through work,” using Jewish ghetto residents as laborers in highly productive factories to produce goods for the Nazis.

In several of Ross’s photos, workers are seen stuffing wood shavings into mattresses and women sew mattress covers.

Children talking through the fence of the central prison on Czarneck Street prior to deportation. (Henryk Ross/Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)
Children talking through the fence of the central prison on Czarneck Street prior to deportation. (Henryk Ross/Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)

Another photo, taken in 1940, shows Ross behind his camera, photographing a group of Jewish residents for identification cards, with dividers placed between the individuals. Later, Ross would crop the separate images.

Gresh learned that in this way, Ross was able to save film and photographic paper so that he would have enough for his own secret photographs.

“Those little details are amazing. It was a calculated act and a kind of resistance,” she observed.

The exhibit includes surreptitious images that convey the prevalence of hunger and starvation, which killed one quarter of the ghetto’s residents over its four-year duration.

In 1942, Rumkowski was forced to begin the deportation of tens of thousands of children and the elderly to the camps at Chelmno and later Auschwitz, where Rumkowski was eventually deported and died.

In one somber, foreboding scene, a group of children fill the wooden cart of a horse-drawn wagon on a stone-paved road. One small boy at the back of the cart gazes out in the direction of the photographer.

Children being transported to the death camp. (Henryk Ross/Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)
Children being transported to the death camp. (Henryk Ross/Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)

Gresh pointed out that without the context, it’s impossible to know these children are being carted off to a death camp. As a curator, she wonders about the effect of viewing these photographs knowing that most of the ghetto residents perished.

The photographic legacy left by Ross
At the end of 1944, as the ghetto was being liquidated, Ross was among 900 people held back to clean the ghetto. He secretly buried his photographs at 12 Jagielonska Street.

He returned to the site in March 1945, months after the ghetto was liberated by the Red Army. Of the 6,000 negatives he buried, nearly 3,000 survived, though many sustained water and other damage. In 1956, Ross and his wife immigrated to Israel.

Excavating the box of negatives and documents Henryk Ross buried in the ghetto at 12 Jagielonska Street, Lodz, March 1945. (Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)
Excavating the box of negatives and documents Henryk Ross buried in the ghetto at 12 Jagielonska Street, Lodz, March 1945. (Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)

Four decades later, in 1987, Ross focused once again on his photographs. He cut strips from the contact sheets and rearranged the small images out of sequence, to create an artistic narrative.

“You get a sense of his own voice,” Gresh observed.

“It’s not necessarily coherent all the time, [but it is a] reflection of the tragedy and what he went through and was grappling with,” she said.

A damaged negative of ghetto police escorting residents for deportation. (Henryk Ross/Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)
A damaged negative of ghetto police escorting residents for deportation. (Henryk Ross/Art Gallery of Ontario, gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict/Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts)

Polonsky believes that Ross never received the recognition he deserved. He and Gresh are among scholars who note that Ross’s pictures did not fit the more familiar frame of images associated with the Holocaust. Ross’s images present viewers today with a more complex perspective, said Gresh.

“It’s an important time to pause and reflect not only on this history, but how it is related to our contemporary lives and to what photography can do to help us think through these issues,” said Gresh.

Source: http://www.timesofisrael.com/exhibit-trains-overdue-lens-on-secret-record-of-life-under-nazis/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=ef593e56fc-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_03_21&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-ef593e56fc-54697801

Greek Jewish community hails citizenship decision

ATHENS — Greece’s Jewish community hailed on Saturday lawmakers’ decision to allow descendants of Holocaust survivors to apply for Greek citizenship.

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The parliamentary amendment follows calls from the Central Board of Jewish Communities, the group’s president David Saltiel told AFP.

“This is a moral victory,” and a “fresh step forward in the recognition of the history of the Holocaust and of Greek Jews,” he said.

In 2011 Greece recognized the right of Jewish survivors of the World War II Nazi Holocaust to gain back the nationality they had lost if they left the country, Saltiel said.

The new amendment concerns relatives of those survivors, many of whom live in Israel.

Thursday’s vote passed largely unnoticed but has since become a political controversy.

The leftist Greek government on Saturday sharply criticized the opposition conservative New Democracy (ND) party for abstaining from the vote.

Supporters of the Greek ultra nationalist party Golden Dawn (AFP/Aris Messinis)
Supporters of the Greek ultra nationalist party Golden Dawn (AFP/Aris Messinis)

The ND countered that it backs the measure and attributed its abstention to confusion during the voting.

As expected the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, the fourth biggest in parliament, voted against the legislation.

Before the Nazi occupation, there were over 50,000 members of Greece’s largest jewish community in the second city Thessaloniki.

Eighty percent of the Jewish community in Greece were slaughtered during the war and now stands at less than 5,000 people.

In January the Jewish community in Thessaloniki finally got the go-ahead to build a Holocaust museum partly funded by Germany.

Source: http://www.timesofisrael.com/greek-jewish-community-hails-citizenship-decision/

Decades after he died, pre-WWII files reveal unlikely heroism of ‘Bolivian Schindler’

PAZ, Bolivia (AFP) — Old files have revealed the story of a businessman hailed as the “Bolivian Schindler” for helping thousands of Jews flee to the South American country to escape the Nazis.

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Piles of documents had stood stacked for decades in the headquarters of a mining company formerly run by German Jewish entrepreneur Mauricio Hochschild.

In his time Hochschild was vilified as a ruthless tycoon, but when researchers started sorting through the paperwork decades later, they began to unravel the tale of how he helped Jews flee from persecution in the 1930s.

“He saved many souls from the Holocaust by bringing them to Bolivia and creating jobs for them,” Carola Campos, head of the Bolivian Mining Corporation’s information unit, told AFP.

Mauricio Hochschild (Courtesy)
Mauricio Hochschild (Courtesy)

Along with fellow magnates Victor Aramayo and Simon Patino, Hochschild had his mining company nationalized in 1952 by the Bolivian government. It accused them of plundering the nation by mining its tin reserves for their own profit.

But the documents revealed what else Hochschild had been up to.

They include work contracts drawn up for Jews from Europe by the mining firm in the 1930s, says the head of the corporation’s archives, Edgar Ramirez.

There is a letter from a kindergarten housing Jewish children in La Paz asking for Hochschild’s help to expand the facility “in view of the number of children who are here and others who want to come.”

One letter was from French authorities, asking him to receive a thousand Jewish orphans.

There are letters sent at the time by the British embassy to Hochschild with blacklists of companies linked to the Axis powers, whom he was forbidden to do business with.

‘Bolivian Schindler’
Of the many Jews who fled from repression under Adolf Hitler in 1930s Germany, thousands came to Bolivia.

For many it was a stepping stone on to the United States, Brazil, Argentina or Israel.

“In 1938 Hochschild calculated that he had brought between 2,000 and 3,000 Jews over. But seven months later, in 1939, he calculated that he had brought 9,000,” said historian Robert Brockmann.

That is several times more than the 1,000 or so that the German industrialist Oskar Schindler is estimated to have saved from deportation to a death camp, as recounted in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning 1993 film “Schindler’s List.”

Ramirez and Udler echo the phrase used by the Bolivian media to refer to Hochschild: “the Bolivian Schindler.”

Edgar Ramirez, the head of the archives in the Bolivian state mining company COMIBOL, shows unearthed documents which reveal that Jewish-German tin baron Mauricio Hochschild helped thousands of Jews escape Nazism, in El Alto, Bolivia, on January 19, 2017. (Aizar Raldes/AFP)
Edgar Ramirez, the head of the archives in the Bolivian state mining company COMIBOL, shows unearthed documents which reveal that Jewish-German tin baron Mauricio Hochschild helped thousands of Jews escape Nazism, in El Alto, Bolivia. (Aizar Raldes/AFP)

Brockmann is writing a book about Hochschild and his friendship with German Busch, Bolivia’s military president from 1937 to 1939.

He says Hochschild helped persuade Busch to open up the country to Jewish migrants in 1938.

Hochschild told Busch the measure would bring laborers to Bolivia to help its agricultural development.

But it also allowed Hochschild to save the lives of fugitive poets, writers and historians, Ramirez says.

Hochschild paid the Jews’ passage to Bolivia and housed them to begin with after they arrived.

Edgar Ramirez, the head of the archives in the Bolivian state mining company COMIBOL, shows unearthed documents which reveal that Jewish-German tin baron Mauricio Hochschild helped thousands of Jews escape Nazism, in El Alto, Bolivia, on January 19, 2017. (Aizar Raldes/AFP)
Edgar Ramirez, the head of the archives in the Bolivian state mining company COMIBOL, shows unearthed documents which reveal that Jewish-German tin baron Mauricio Hochschild helped thousands of Jews escape Nazism, in El Alto, Bolivia. (Aizar Raldes/AFP)

Refugees welcomed
In the 1940s there were an estimated 15,000 Jews in Bolivia, says Ricardo Udler, president of the Bolivian Israelite Circle.

Some of them arrived with Hochschild’s help, while others arrived in Bolivia by different means.

Many moved on to other countries, and today the number of Jews in the country has sunk to just 500, Udler says.

“We are very grateful to Bolivia. It was one of the few countries that opened its doors to refugees from the war,” said Monica Blankitny, whose father Jacobo came to Bolivia after surviving internment at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Edgar Ramirez, the head of the archives in the Bolivian state mining company COMIBOL, shows unearthed documents which reveal that Jewish-German tin baron Mauricio Hochschild helped thousands of Jews escape Nazism, in El Alto, Bolivia, on January 19, 2017. ( AFP PHOTO / AIZAR RALDES)
Edgar Ramirez, the head of the archives in the Bolivian state mining company COMIBOL, shows unearthed documents which reveal that Jewish-German tin baron Mauricio Hochschild helped thousands of Jews escape Nazism, in El Alto, Bolivia. ( AFP PHOTO / AIZAR RALDES)

The Hochschild documents were certified in October by the United Nations’ cultural heritage body UNESCO. It has listed them in its Memory of the World documentary preservation program, Campos said.

Bolivia’s Mining Museum plans to publish them online in March.

Hochschild was born in Biblis in western Germany 1881 and migrated to Bolivia in 1921.

He died in 1965 in Paris, four decades before the story of his help for his fellow Jews would come to light.

Source: http://www.timesofisrael.com/decades-after-he-died-pre-wwii-files-reveal-unlikely-heroism-of-bolivian-schindler/

Purim and the challenge of the Holocaust

a remarkable midrash on Mishlei, we read the following:

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“All of the festivals will be nullified in the future [the messianic age], but Purim will never be nullified.” (Midrash Mishlei 9:2)

This assertion seems to fly in the face of Jewish tradition, which states categorically that the Jewish festivals mentioned in the Torah, such as Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot will never cease to be celebrated. This is mentioned by Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah:

“All the books of the Prophets and all the Scriptures will be nullified in the days of the Mashiach, except for Megillat Esther, which is as permanent as the Five Books of Moshe and the laws of the Oral Torah [including the festivals], which will never lose their relevance.” (Hilchot Megillah 2:18. For a completely different interpretation, see my booklet The Torah as God’s Mind: A Kabbalistic look into the Pentateuch [Jerusalem: Bep-Ron Publications, 1988])

Rabbi Baruch Halevi Epstein, in his famous commentary Torah Temimah on Megillat Esther (9:28), explains this contradiction – in the name of his father, Rabbi Yechiel Michel Halevi Epstein – in the following most original manner:

The miracle of Purim is very different from the miracles mentioned in the Torah. While the latter were overt miracles, such as the ten plagues in Egypt, the splitting of the Red Sea, the revelation at Sinai and the falling of the man (manna) in the desert, the miracle of Purim was covert. Unlike with the miracles narrated in the Torah, no law of nature was ever violated in the Purim story, and the Jews were saved from the hands of Haman harasha (the evil Haman) by seemingly normal historical occurrences. Had we lived in those days we would have noticed nothing unusual, and many secularists would have explained the redemption of the Jews in Persia as the logical outcome of a series of natural and coincidental events. Only retroactively, when looking back at the story, would we have been astonished by all the incidents, their unusual sequence, and the seemingly unrelated and insignificant human acts that led to the complete redemption of the Jews during the time of Achashveirosh’s reign. The discovery that all these events actually concealed a miracle could only be made after the fact.

Covert miracles will never cease to exist, explains the Torah Temimah. In fact, they take place every day. But overt miracles such as the splitting of the Red Sea have come to an end. In light of this, the midrash on Mishlei is not suggesting that the actual festivals mentioned in the Torah will be nullified in future days, since this would contradict Jewish belief. Rather, it is stating that the original reasons for celebrating the festivals, namely overt miracles, have ceased.

So, one should read the midrash as follows: Overt miracles, which we celebrate on festivals mentioned in the Torah, no longer occur. But covert miracles such as those celebrated on Purim will never end; they continue to occur every day of the year. In other words, all the other festivals will still be celebrated to commemorate great historical events in Jewish history, events to be remembered and relived in the imagination of man so as to make them relevant and teach us many lessons for our own lives. Purim, on the other hand, although rooted in a historical event of many years ago, functions as a constant reminder that the Purim story never ended. We are still living it. The Megillah is open-ended; it was not and will never be completed! Covert miracles still happen.

Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner z”l, in his celebrated work Pachad Yitzchak (volume on Purim, chapter 33), uses this idea to explain a highly unusual halachic stipulation related to Purim. During all Torah festivals, the congregation sings Hallel, the well-known, classic compilation of specific Psalms. These Psalms praise God for all the great miracles He performed for Israel in biblical times, on occasions for which these festivals were later established. Why, then, asks the Talmud, do we not sing Hallel on Purim? Is there not even more reason to sing these Psalms on the day when God performed the great miracle of rescuing Israel from the hands of Haman? The Talmud (Masechet Megillah 14a) answers “kriyata zu hallila” – the reading of Megillat Esther is in itself praise. When one reads the story of Esther, one actually fulfills the obligation of singing Hallel, because telling this story is the greatest praise to God for having saved the Jews. Reading the story awakens in us a feeling of deep gratitude and appreciation for the miracle of Jewish survival against all odds.

Interestingly, one of the most celebrated commentators on the Talmud, Rabbi Menachem Meiri (1249-1315), ponders the need to say Hallel on Purim when one is unable to read or hear the Megillah. In this case, according to his opinion, one should indeed sing Hallel, since one must thank God for what happened. Rabbi Hutner, however, points out that no other authority agrees with this opinion. They all rule that even if a person is unable to read the Megillah, they should still not sing Hallel.

Rabbi Hutner explains this ruling in a most remarkable way, based on our earlier explanation. The psalms in Hallel speak about overt miracles and praise God for His revealed wonders such as those related in the Torah. Hallel intentionally does not include praise to God for covert miracles, since those must be praised in a hidden way so as to remind the worshipper that such miracles occur on a daily basis. This is the reason why on Purim one reads Megillat Esther and does not recite Hallel. Megillat Esther is the story of a hidden miracle, and through the reading of this story in front of a congregation, God receives praise in the appropriate way – in a subtle and hidden manner. After all, it is not God who needs praise, but people who need to praise; they must therefore do it in a way that corresponds to the actual miracle. They have to realize what kind of miracle took or takes place. Singing Hallel, instead, would be missing the point.

Moreover, one often wonders why the story of Purim is still relevant at all after the Holocaust. Not even a hidden miracle was performed to save the Jews from the hands of Hitler, a greater enemy than Haman. Why continue to praise God for a hidden miracle when it seems that even hidden miracles came to an end with the Holocaust? This question should be on the mind of every Jew who celebrates Purim. And it is not only the Holocaust that should raise this issue. The Spanish Inquisition; the many pogroms; and the various forms of exterminating complete Jewish communities throughout all of Jewish history, in which God’s saving hand was absent; all of these beg that very question. Shouldn’t these events convince Jews to abolish Purim altogether? History has proven Purim to be irrelevant and even offensive. How can we continue celebrating Purim when six million Jews, collectively, did not see the hidden hand of God and were left with no divine intervention? Is celebrating Purim not an affront to all those millions who were tortured and died under the most hideous circumstances?

Hundreds of personal stories describe how Jews risked their lives to rejoice in their Jewishness while facing the Nazis’ atrocities. In the extermination camps they celebrated Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Pesach and even Purim, and they literally had to decide whether to sing Hallel after failed attempts to find a Megillah. What was it that kept them going? Was it just wishful thinking? What they realized then, as never before, was the eternity and indestructibility of the Jews. Perpetuity is the very essence of the Jews. When Rabbi Moshe Friedman of Boyan, a towering personality and great Talmid Chacham in pre-war Poland, was brought to Auschwitz with a transport of deeply religious Jews, during Pesach 1943, he was asked to undress prior to the “shower.” He turned to the Oberscharführer, grasped the lapel of his Nazi jacket and said to him: “You, the most despicable murderers in the world! Don’t imagine for one moment that you will succeed in destroying the Jewish people. The Jewish nation will live forever. It will not vanish from the stage of history; instead, you will be erased and disappear.” (See Eliezer Berkovits, With God in Hell: Judaism in the Ghettos and Deathcamps, [New York & London: Sanhedrin Press, 1979] pp.110-111)

It was indeed the famous, slightly anti-Semitic historian Arnold Toynbee who, with great annoyance, alluded to what history has taught us: any nation that will stand up against the Jews will ultimately disappear. Such was the fate of the ancient Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians and the Greeks, and such may yet be the fate of the Germans. (Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, 10 volumes, 1934-61)

Jews have been an ever-dying people that never died. They have experienced a continuous resurrection, like the dry bones that Yechezkel saw in the valley. (Yechezkel 37:1-14) This has become the sine qua non of every Jew. It is the mystery of the hidden miracle of survival in the face of overwhelming destruction. True, Führer was Amalek, and Haman prevailed, but ultimately they were defeated. We live in spite of peril. Our refusal to surrender has turned our story into one long, unending Purim tale. To this day, a large part of the world does not know what to do with us. We make them feel uneasy because we represent something they can’t put their finger on. Jews are sui generis. More than anything else, it is the existence and survival of the State of Israel that irritates many. The rules of history predicted that the Jews would die a definite and final death; instead we have become the greatest success story in all of modern history. Perplexity morphed into aversion. Where does this small nation, which does not comprise even one percent of the world population, have the chutzpah to play such a crucial role in science, technology, and many other areas of human knowledge?

What would the world do without Jews, who are responsible for so many inventions that are vital to the survival of the modern world? Great progress and major breakthroughs in the world of medicine, such as the treatment of paralysis, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and DNA breakdown, are Israeli accomplishments. What about Windows, voice mail, and the most advanced anti-terror systems? Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation, and in proportion to its population has the largest number of start-up companies in the world. It is ranked second in the world for venture capital funds. And the list goes on.

Even if, God forbid, the State of Israel would not survive Iran – the Haman of our day – every Jew instinctively knows that the Jewish people will endure, even without their homeland, and will climb the ladder and surprise the world once again. Purim will never cease.

As the camp commander…took a number of young Gerer Chassidim to be put to death, one of them, Israel Eisenberg, asked for permission to say a few words of farewell to his friends. I stood opposite them and heard every word. He did not speak many words….He got hold of the hands of another young man and started singing. They were calling to each other: “Kiddush Hashem, the most important thing, let us rejoice!” They all began to sing and to dance as if a fire had been lit within them. Their sidelocks, which were then hidden under their hats, they now pulled out and let them hang over their faces. They paid no attention to what was going on around them. They were dancing and singing. And I thought I would lose my senses; that young people should go to their death as one goes to a dance! Thus dancing, they jumped into the pit as a rain of bullets was pouring down on them. (Eliezer Berkovits, ibid, pp. 111-112, as told by a Kapo in the Plaszow concentration camp)

Which Jew, even secular, or atheist, dares to betray these young people by not celebrating Purim? Which Jew dares to ignore Judaism, thereby being guilty of spiritual bankruptcy in the face of these fearless Chassidim? This is the ultimate question that all Jews must ask themselves. Not to do so would be a tragic dereliction of duty.

******

Dear Friends, Every week I receive hundreds of emails and important observations on my essays, via many channels. Unfortunately, the volume makes it impossible for me to respond to every comment. Please know that I deeply appreciate every comment, and learn from them all. Thank you for taking the time to share your comments. I hope you will continue to do so. — Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Source: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/purim-and-the-challenge-of-the-holocaust/

Seattle shul vandalized with graffiti saying ‘Holocau$t i$ fake hi$tory’

attle police were investigating a suspected hate crime Saturday after graffiti claiming the “Holocau$t i$ fake hi$tory” was spray-painted on the wall of a local synagogue.

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NBC affiliate King 5 News reported the graffiti was discovered a day earlier outside Temple De Hirsch Sinai, a reform congregation with members who are Holocaust survivors themselves.

The letter “S” appearing three times in the sentence was fashioned as a dollar sign.

“The vast majority of Americans need to stand up and resist this type of intolerance and to demonstrate in no uncertain terms, that it is not acceptable and not permissible,” synagogue Rabbi Daniel Weiner said.

“Temple continues to take vigilant, substantive security measures to ensure the safety and well-being of our community. In light of other recent threats and upcoming celebrations, we have further enhanced these measures,” said Weiner.

Weiner noted in an interview with Fox’s Q13 News that the vandals were using language popularized by President Donald Trump, who has often spoken of “fake news” when referring to unflattering media reports.

“There’s a growing sense within our community and within our nation that there are those who have been on the margins before who now feel that this is permissible,” he said.

Jewish institutions, including community centers and Anti-Defamation League offices, have been hit with more than 100 bomb threats so far this year, all of them hoaxes. At least three American Jewish cemeteries have also been vandalized in recent months.

A new poll Thursday showed nearly two-thirds of US voters say hatred and prejudice in the United States have risen since Donald Trump was elected president.

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the East Room at the White House on February 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images, via JTA)
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the East Room at the White House on February 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images, via JTA)

Seventy percent of voters polled by Quinnipiac University said anti-Semitism was a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem, up from 49% in February, the poll found.

The Quinnipiac poll said US voters were split over Trump’s response to threats and acts of vandalism at Jewish cemeteries, with 37% who approve and 38% who disapprove.

JTA and AFP contributed to this report.

Source: http://www.timesofisrael.com/seattle-shul-vandalized-with-graffiti-saying-holocaust-is-fake-history/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=5b9d024bd0-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_03_11&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-5b9d024bd0-54697801

Did American Racism Inspire the Nazis?

n 1935, two years after Hitler came to power, Nazi Germany promulgated the so-called Nuremberg Laws. One of the two laws stripped Jews of their citizenship, leaving them instead as mere subjects. The other prohibited marriage or extramarital sex between Jews and persons of “German or related blood.”

Some months earlier, the Reich Minister of Justice had convened a meeting of lawyers to begin drafting the two laws. The lawyers left behind a stenographic record that has now been mined by James Q. Whitman, the Ford Foundation professor of comparative and foreign law at Yale University, to “ask what it tells us about Nazi Germany, about the modern history of racism, and especially about America.”

About America? Why America, and why “especially”? Because, as the lawyers convened, they had before them, among things, memoranda detailing American regulations outlawing miscegenation and imposing various forms of racial discrimination. Coming upon this transcript, Whitman proceeded to study it and several other sources to see where they might lead. His conclusion: the American “model” served as an “influence” and an “inspiration” to the Nazis.

This, in a nutshell, is the thesis of Whitman’s short new book: Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law. Although, he writes, “no one wants to imagine” that America bears such a discomfiting responsibility—to the contrary, “we may wish to deny it”—there is no getting around it. “When we add it all up . . . American white supremacy . . . provided, to our collective shame, some of the working materials for the Nazism of the 1930s.”

Whitman pursues the quarry of American influence and inspiration in two lengthy chapters, respectively titled “Making Nazi Flags and Nazi Citizens” and “Protecting Nazi Blood and Nazi Honor.” Regarding the deprivation of citizenship that would become enshrined in the first Nuremberg law, the Nazis closely examined the American refusal to give blacks the right to vote in the South, the country’s restrictive and discriminatory immigrations laws, and its denial of citizenship to Filipinos. His finding is this: “throughout [the Nazis’] effort to degrade, demonize, and expel the Jews of Germany, American law remained a regular . . . point of reference.”

As for the proscription of miscegenation, the basis of the second Nuremberg law, the Nazis departed little from their American model except insofar as that they found it too severe. Some Southern states had adopted the so-called “one-drop rule,” which classified as non-white anyone with even a single Negro ancestor. This, says, Whitman, was “disturbing even to Nazi commentators, who shuddered at the ‘human hardness’ it entailed.”

The essence of this malignant confluence of thinking was the “race madness,” as Whitman calls it, that infected both Nazi Germany and the American South in the decade of the 1930s. In that decade, he writes, these two places

had the look, in the words of two Southern historians, of a “mirror image”: these were two unapologetically racist regimes, unmatched in their pitilessness. In the early 1930s the Jews of Germany were hounded, beaten, and sometimes murdered by mobs and by the state alike. In the same years, the blacks of the American South were hounded, beaten, and sometimes murdered as well.

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Lest the reader take some comfort in the thought that the American model so admired by the Nazis was, after all, limited to the South, Whitman has even more disturbing news. “The Nazis,” he assures us, “drew on a range of American examples, both federal and state. Their America was not just the South; it was racist America writ much larger.” Nor, for that matter, did the Nazis draw their inspiration only from American figures whom we customarily think of as bigots or reactionaries. To the Nazi lawyer whose work was centrally cited in the committee’s debates, the most admirable exemplars of American racism were Thomas Jefferson and . . . Abraham Lincoln.

So deep were the parallels between the two countries in the 1930s that, Whitman reports, some commentators in Nazi Germany “were particularly hopeful that they could ‘reach out a hand of friendship’ to the United States on the basis of a shared commitment to white supremacy.” In the event, of course, all such fancies came to naught when the U.S., together with the allies that it helped to arm, succeeded in wiping Nazism from the face of the earth. But how does one square this wholly incongruent historical outcome with Whitman’s picture of American/Nazi commonality? That he does not pause to consider this question, let alone to answer it, suggests the rickety quality of his argument.

Suppose for a moment that the Nazis had found no “inspiration” in American examples. What then? The German lawyers had a mandate, flowing from the Führer, to draft laws that would strip Jews of their citizenship and prevent them from further contaminating German blood through sexual contact. Had there been no American “models” to guide them, would the lawyers have reported back to their superiors that, however desirable it might be to protect the Aryan race from the Jews, they could recommend no measures because they could find no foreign precedents? Would there have been no Nuremberg laws? Would the Führer have backed down and away?

To this, Whitman replies demurely: “We will never know.” But that reply is a transparent dodge. Whitman himself, even as he insists repeatedly that the Nazis “found precedents and parallels and inspirations in America,” also concedes that “they nevertheless struck out on their own path.” Indeed, the Nuremberg laws, for all their intrinsic viciousness, were in the end just a step on that path. But about this path itself, Whitman has nothing to say. He has produced a book frozen in time at 1934, a book purportedly about Nazi treatment of the Jews in which the Holocaust is mentioned only in passing.

By means of this time-frozen approach, Whitman begs the obvious question: had there been no American “model,” would one fewer Jew have died at Hitler’s hand? Here, too, he dodges, stating confidently but wrongly: “It is essential to emphasize that extermination of the Jews was not the initial aim of the Nazis”; rather, he asserts, they envisioned only forced emigration.

The only Nazi whose aim mattered in this connection was Adolf Hitler. And, pace Whitman, we do not know exactly when Hitler settled on murdering the Jews. But as early as 1919, he wrote that “[the] final objective must unswervingly be the removal of the Jews altogether.” Removal only from Germany? Perhaps, but Hitler was a global thinker. In the same document, he warned that “the effect of Jewry will be racial tuberculosis of nations.” So perhaps even then he was thinking of the removal of the Jews from the world as a whole.

A few years later, in Mein Kampf, Hitler described a titanic contest for world domination pitting the Aryan race against the Jew. “The struggle against the Jewish world menace will begin” in England, he said, quirkily, adding that in this respect “the National Socialist movement has the mightiest task to fulfill.” That task was to dissuade the German people from nursing a grudge against England or other enemies in the Great War who, despite everything, were fellow Aryans. Instead, they should be seen as allies against the Jews. “[We] must,” he wrote,

open the eyes of the [German] people on the subject of foreign nations and . . . remind them again and again of the true enemy of our present-day world. In place of hatred against Aryans, from whom almost everything may separate us but with whom we are bound by common blood . . . [we] must call eternal wrath upon the head of the foul enemy of mankind [i.e., the Jews] as the real originator of our sufferings.

In brief, it hardly seems that the emigration of Jews from Germany would ever have been sufficient to Hitler’s vision.

Near the end of his book, Whitman implicitly concedes these points and abruptly withdraws what, in effect, has been his main argument, namely, that America “inspired” and “influenced” Nazi practice. “What the history presented in this book demands that we confront,” he now states, “are not questions about the genesis of Nazism, but about the character of America.”

His true subject all along, it thus emerges, has been the sins of America. “In the early 20th century,” he intones, “the United States was not just a country with racism. It was the leading racist jurisdiction—so much so that even Nazi Germany looked to America for inspiration.” And this “forces us to confront an unpleasant historical datum about the place of America in the world history of racism.”

Yet just as Whitman has told us nothing about the “genesis of Nazism,” so he tells us nothing about the “world history of racism.” The discrimination and persecution visited on American blacks was terrible and shameful, but how do we measure it against the European subjugation of much of Africa and Asia, against the mass murder of Armenians by the Turks, against Japan’s rape of Nanjing and murder of millions of Chinese, against fascist Italy’s treatment of the Abyssinians, against the Soviet regime’s ruthless subjugation of small ethnic groups and later its deportation of entire nationalities, against bloody conflicts among tribes, ethnicities, religions in various remote corners of the globe? Much of the abuse of one group by another around the world was and is often carried out without recourse to law; insofar as Nazi lawyers looked to American law, wasn’t it simply because they were, after all, lawyers looking for laws?

Finally, despite his hedged qualifier “early 20th century,” Whitman’s own indictment of American racism is not limited to the past. In the book’s conclusion he adds this:

Contemporary . . . American criminal justice is spectacularly, and frighteningly, harsh by international standards. It includes practices that are sometimes uncomfortably reminiscent of those introduced by the Nazis—for example “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” laws. . . . [W]hat [Nazi lawyers] saw, and admired, in American race law 80 years ago is still with us in the politics of American criminal justice.

One needn’t remind Whitman that the victims of the Holocaust were permitted neither three strikes nor two nor even one to see that his entire book is an elaborate exercise in the intellectual trick known as reductio ad Hitlerum—and a trick that perfectly suits the temper of our times. The farther we get from the era of Jim Crow, the greater our sensitivity to racism seems to grow. Would that one could say the same about our sensitivity to anti-Semitism as the Holocaust recedes in time. Instead, we see that singular horror shamelessly trivialized and exploited in the interests of all manner of ulterior purposes, in this case the pursuit of new and better ways to illustrate the unmatched evil that inheres in the “character of America.”

Source: https://mosaicmagazine.com/observation/2017/03/did-american-racism-inspire-the-nazis/

Chaim Ferster, survivor of 8 Nazi concentration camps, dies at 94

Screen-Shot-2017-02-07-at-3.10.24-PM(JTA) — Chaim Ferster, a Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivor who spent time in eight concentration camps, has died.

Ferster died Monday in Manchester, England, from pneumonia and a kidney infection, surrounded by his three sons and other family members, the BBC reported. He was 94.

He was born in Sosnowiec, Poland, in an Orthodox Jewish family. In 1943, the Nazis forced him to leave his home, and he spent time in concentration camps in Germany and Poland, including Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Ferster, his sister Manya and a cousin were the only members of their family to survive the Holocaust. Manya is now 92.

After World War II, Ferster moved to England, where he found work repairing sewing machines. He later set up “a series of successful businesses,” according to the BBC.

Ferster lectured about the Holocaust in schools and colleges.

“His greatest fear was that people would forget the horrors of the Holocaust,” his son Stuart told the BBC.

On Monday, the Greater Manchester Police shared a video of Ferster playing the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” on the violin during a Jan. 27 visit to its headquarters on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Source