NYTimes Neediest Cases: Holocaust Survivors In Brooklyn

Obtaining Reparations for Holocaust Survivors
Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Sveltlana Ismailov, one of the caseworkers at the Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

Published: December 25, 2006

“Let me show you something,” Sveltlana Ismailov said as she dipped a hand inside the bottom left drawer of her desk. Ms. Ismailov, 70, a caseworker at the Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, pulled out a booklet of receipts and a manila folder with “Germany” written on it and underlined with a black marker.

As she flipped through the booklet, names like Janna Goldvary, Zi Popolskaya and Alexander Gilman flashed by. They and the others are Holocaust survivors who have donated money to the community house.

She has helped them get reparations of close to $2,500 or a monthly pension from the German government.

“Here is only some of them; I have many books of that kind,” she said, with a heavy Russian lilt. Using maps, lists of Nazi concentration camps and a person’s recollections, she has pieced together these survivors’ experiences to help them apply for compensation from Germany.

This is only one of the many social services that Ms. Ismailov offers at the Jewish Community House, which is a beneficiary of the UJA-Federation of New York, one of the seven agencies supported by the Neediest Cases.

She sees about 1,500 people a year, and 80 to 90 percent are from Russia and the other former Soviet republics, she said. Most do not speak English. “Hardship, hardship, hardship” is what she hears from her clients.

She says that Neediest Cases money enables her to assist the community’s poor, many of whom are immigrants trying to establish themselves in America.

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Teens help Holocaust survivor tell his life story

Teens help Holocaust survivor tell his life story

Sisters adapt book for 10- to 12-year-olds

By Mark Abramson / Daily News Staff Writer
When Mendel “Manny” Steinberg wanted to present to children a PG version of his book “Outcry” about how he survived a concentration camp during the Holocaust, he turned to Menlo Park teenagers Bailey and Laura Griscom.

Bailey, 17, wrote Steinberg’s story in a way that children could understand without getting frightened. She has also studied the Holocaust by reading other books about the subject. The book is titled “The Boy Named 27091,” in reference to the number the Nazis tattooed on Steinberg. It is aimed at children ages 10-12.

Bailey’s sister, Laura, 16, illustrated the book. It was first released in November, when the Griscoms and Steinberg attended a book-launching party in Los Angeles.

“We wanted kids to be able to get the idea that obviously it was a terrible time in history … but we didn’t want to make it so they would go to sleep at night and have terrible nightmares,” Laura said. “For me it was fairly difficult to draw pictures of the Holocaust and people in concentration camps and not have dead bodies.”

Laura said she tried to tell the story in the illustrations by emphasizing the agony in the characters’ facial expressions. As a student at the Idyllwild Arts Academy, she has done several similar works.

Search for members of the Letzer Family

Arie Letzter from Kolbuszowa, Poland is searching for his family.

Their names are:

Siandle/Sheindel Letzter
Gittel Letzter
Mendel Letzter

from Kolbuszowa, Poland

It is believed that they perished in Belzec but perhaps someone survived? If you have any information please contact Lauren Lebowitz at lebo1217@aol.com

EJP: Germany announces Holocaust compensation figures

Germany announces Holocaust compensation figures
By David Byers Updated: 24/Dec/2006 12:36

BERLIN (EJP)— Germany has so far paid out almost six billion dollars to people forced to work for the Nazis during World War II, the chiefs of a compensation fund have announced.

Speaking in Berlin last Thursday, Guenter Saathoff, a member of the board of trustees of the Remembrance and Future Fund, said nearly 1.7 million people had been compensated, equating to more than 99% of people who qualify for the claims.

The fund was set up by legislation passed by the Government in Berlin in 2000 after years of debate, and began operating in 2001. Its funds are drawn from both the Government and companies that were proved to have profited from forced labour across Europe during the war.

Deadline looming

In his statement, Saathoff said 1.7 million victims or their legal heirs in 100 countries have so far received a total of 4.4 billion euros. The final deadline for victims or descendants to apply for compensation is December 31.

The foundation said it plans to continue its work next year even after the deadline has passed, using funds to help aging victims of the Nazis to pay medical bills, or to finance other humanitarian projects related to combating fascism.

“The goal will be to develop into an indispensable instrument of activity for humanity and human rights and for learning from history,” he said.

Art request rejected

Meanwhile, in a landmark ruling, a top German court has rejected claims by relatives of a Nazi doctor for the return of art confiscated by Soviet occupiers in 1945, which could set a precedent for a host of similar cases by families of former Nazi activists.

Gustav Schuster, a gynaecologist who worked in Nazi courts which ordered the sterilisation of handicapped women as part of Adolf Hitler’s drive to create a ’master race’, had collected hundreds of paintings, graphics and etchings.

Somewhat ironically, among them were works by German impressionist Max Liebermann, who was reviled by the Nazis for his Jewish background.

They were confiscated by occupying Soviet forces in 1945.

Relatives of Schuster, who delivered Nazi party propaganda speeches, applied for their return after German re-unification in 1990, starting a legal battle that has dragged on for several years.

But in a final verdict, Germany’s top administrative court in the east German city of Leipzig said there were no grounds for restitution because of Schuster’s prominent role in the Nazi party as a promoter of Hitler’s ideology.

“The aim of this function was to spread National Socialist ideology,” the court said in a statement.

Suitability

The ruling is significant because it appears to judge whether or not people are suitable to re-claim stolen property based on their ideologies. Thus, the ruling does not bode well for the relatives of Nazi sympathisers or activists seeking to reclaim art stolen by Stalin’s troops, which are believed to go into their thousands, according to the the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

However, the judgement is believed to have little impact on a host of other cases being put forward by the relatives of Jews whose art was stolen by the Nazis, which are looked upon much more sympathetically.

Crucially, the German Government, though not commenting on the court case’s results, supports a curb on claims by relatives and ancestors of former Nazis. It has, in the past, sought to curb such claims by denying restitution rights for property owned by Nazis who supported Hitler’s regime or committed serious crimes.

MIAMI HERALD: Open letter to US Congress from Miami Federation.

Right to know truth about the Holocaust
XXXX XXXXXX

These are excerpts from a letter sent by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation to South Florida’s congressional delegation last week.

On Nov. 25, Arthur Max, of the Associated Press, published an astonishing report about the massive and previously closed collection of information from Nazi death camps under the jurisdiction of the International Red Cross now located at Bad Arolsen, Germany. The scope of the records reported is breathtaking, as are the moral and policy implications of the revelation.

Fate of loved ones

South Florida is home to the second-largest concentration of Holocaust survivors in the United States and the third-largest in the world outside of Israel. According to Max’s report, survivors and their families have been unjustly denied access to many of the records at Bad Arolsen regarding their own experiences in the camps or those of their family members.

We are mandated by history and morality to remember that this greatest crime against humanity was, in fact, millions of crimes against millions of human beings, all of whom have the absolute right to receive all of the unvarnished truth about their fate and the fate of their loved ones.

We are also painfully aware that far too many examples exist of survivors and heirs of Holocaust victims who have attempted to obtain morally and legally justified restitution or compensation for horrific slave labor from the entities that profited from the Holocaust, only to be met with rejections, and then, as added insult, to be denied access to the sources of information they are told justify these rejections.

In addition, there is now abundant evidence that tens of thousands of destitute survivors live in our midst, in the United States and Canada, in Israel, in the former Soviet Union, in Europe and Australia, and in Latin America — and that government and community and restitution-based resources are inadequate to meet their basic human needs.

In the United States alone, there are more than 45,000 Holocaust survivors living near or below the federal poverty level who cannot afford adequate nutrition, housing, home care, medications, or necessary devices such as dentures, eyeglasses, or hearing aids. This is unthinkable in 2006.

As leaders of our general and Jewish communities, locally and nationally and even internationally, the Federation Board believes that our generation owes the survivors the dignity of justice in their final years.

Help survivors, heirs

In light of these compelling facts, we call upon Congress to take all steps necessary to guarantee immediate access to the Bad Arolsen archive by a qualified group of researchers to create a comprehensive and accessible database of information for all affected families. As a starting point, we urge you to bring together the responsible U.S. and Red Cross officials to determine the scope of the task and identify the personnel and resources to make this information accessible as soon as humanly possible. If necessary, we are asking that Congress enact legislation, with funding, for the immediate completion of these tasks.

We ask Congress to explore and encourage any and all methods to provide survivors and heirs a full opportunity to access the Bad Arolsen materials and to utilize said materials in support of their claims without regard to any previous denials or deadlines.

In Memoriam: Prof. Jakob Allerhand

Vienna’s Gentle Voice for Jews

By Edward Serotta
Saturday, December 23, 2006; A21

VIENNA — If you are a fan of Central European literature on the lines of Joseph Roth, Stefan Zweig or Arthur Schnitzler, then Professor Jakob Allerhand was exactly the person you’d have wanted to meet in Vienna, mainly because he seemed to come from an age now consigned to novels such as theirs.

It is not that the professor, who died a few weeks ago in his cavernous Ringstrasse apartment, was in the same league as these luminaries. He was more like one of the personalities they wrote about: erudite on any number of subjects, prolific in more than a dozen languages and ever ironic in his humor. And (mandatory for someone living in this part of the world), he was a habitu? of a favorite coffeehouse (his was the Sacher) where late at night, when most of the guests had drifted away, he would stand next to the pianist and sing baleful Russian songs.

This is a city that was once home to 175,000 Jews, scores of synagogues and a good dozen Jewish schools. But after the Holocaust only a handful of Viennese-born Jews returned, while the community itself was rebuilt by Jews from other countries who for one reason or another settled here. Today there are but 7,000 Jews in all of Austria.

When World War II broke out, Allerhand fled his hometown in Poland. He found refuge in Central Asia, and in 1945, when he heard that his family had been murdered, made his way to Berlin, where he found one of his few remaining relatives. He went from learning how to speak German to plunging into university studies.

In the early 1970s he moved to Vienna, received his doctorate in Jewish studies and became a professor for the few Viennese — nearly all of them non-Jews — who wanted to study Jewish history and Yiddish. One doctoral student told me Allerhand conducted his Yiddish classes this way: One student would be assigned to bring the herring, someone else supplied the dark bread and the professor invariably brought the vodka. Then the afternoons would fly past as he discussed with them literature, philosophy and drama, often throwing back drinks and reeling off from memory entire paragraphs of his favorite novels.

To his bemusement, a few of his students eventually converted to Judaism, and over the past 30 years, Jakob Allerhand became something of an emissary between Catholicism and Judaism, mostly because he simply loved teaching. When Austria’s Cardinal Franz Koenig decided to make a trip to Israel, he asked Allerhand to accompany him. When Allerhand led a Passover seder this past year in Vienna in the home of a friend, he brought Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, Koenig’s successor, with him, and the conversations and explanations went on long into the night.

Most touchingly, Jakob Allerhand, who never married and never had children, became the director of the first Jewish day school to open in Vienna since the Holocaust. After a few years he retired, but an entire generation of young Viennese Jews continued to grow up around his kitchen table as he taught them Hebrew, discussed the Bible with them and imbued them with a passion for Israel that led some to eventually emigrate.

When he turned 75, Professor Allerhand told me he was no longer taking students, but one day a distraught mother came to him and told him of her angry son who refused to have anything to do with Judaism. Send him to me, the professor wearily told her, and he armed for a final battle. The boy came and sat and smoldered as the old man engaged him in a voice gone raspy, and with trembling hands, slid books across the table, only to have the boy roll his eyes and slide the books right back. In time, this teenager, now in law school and interning at my institute, came to adore the old man — as we all did — and finally stopped fighting and started learning. “It wasn’t that he was a great teacher,” he told me, “but he loved you so much you couldn’t bear to disappoint him.”

A few weeks ago the old professor, who had just delivered lectures on Kafka in Prague (in English), in Jerusalem (in Hebrew) and in Paris (in French), told me he would be returning to Jerusalem after the first of the year but before that, he would be inviting the cardinal to his Hanukkah party.

The professor never made it to Hanukkah; he died unexpectedly at home and we, the members of this small but stubbornly proud Jewish community, attended his funeral before sending his coffin off to Israel for burial. At the funeral there were the usual speakers: the president of the community and Austria’s chief rabbi. But another guest asked to say a few words, and it was Cardinal Schonborn who said, not surprisingly, that he had also learned much from Jakob Allerhand, who very much was the last of his kind.

The writer is director of centropa.org, an institute specializing in Jewish history and culture in Central Europe.

A Tribute to My Dad on His Bar Mitzvah–76 years young…from a 2G

by Neta Reich Nelson

Srezcko Felix Fortunato Asher Stanley Reich:

His name includes nearly one for each of the 6 languages my father speaks, and describes his history, beginning in Koprivnica Yugoslavia, speaking Croatian, Yiddish, and German. He survived concentration camp [Loborgrad], but lost his father and brothers. After escaping to Italy, German proved useful in obtaining food from the occupying army, to bring to his mother hidden in a convent while he was hidden in a nearby monastery; however Italian was essential for meeting girls in Rome. He then fulfilled the dream of aliyah, fought in Israel’s independence war and again in the Sinai Campaign. My mother is from Sátoraljaújhely, Hungary; she survived the war in a Budapest orphanage and sailed the Exodus in 1947 attempting to reach Palestine. They met on a kibbutz, and in 1958 we immigrated to the US. My sister’s arrival completed our tiny UN of 4 nations in one household. My grandmother believed that my parents were fated to meet, yet it took the holocaust and upheaval of Europe, with its mixing and leveling of Jewish socio-economic layers, to bring them together in Israel. Their story is neither typically holocaust nor immigrant, but uniquely American where anything is possible.

I learned from them that one can lose everything and still go on. Home is where you make it; if it doesn’t work out in one place, you can start and restart again somewhere else. Dad also taught me love of music, travel, boats, hiking, climbing, and soccer. He kindly scheduled his bar mitzvah around the World Cup, so that we can watch games together on the weekend.

My father has had a full life with a very loving family. Clearly, Dad became a man a long time ago, although we wonder if he ever really grew up. Yet perhaps something was missing if he persevered, in his 76th year, to become a bar mitzvah. Dad thought about this a long time, but while raising two daughters, running a business, and moving around, he didn’t get to it until now. So will he become a man today and finally grow up? He’s already that and as grown up as he’ll ever be. We think of a milestone as occurring at a specific time in life; that one’s achievements should follow in some expected order. But a milestone can happen anytime to have meaning and importance. It’s an achievement or event that helps to complete the whole, especially if it provides something that’s missing. Nothing can restore what is irretrievably lost. But I hope that today, becoming a bar mitzvah or son of the commandments, will bring to my father fulfillment of an interrupted upbringing. It will also join the spiritual portion of Judaism, exemplified by the tallit that his Ima gave him on his 40th birthday, with the Israeli nationalism that Dad embodies already. Dad, congratulations. I’m very proud of you.

America’s Muslim Community Honors Holocaust Victims

Leaders pay tribute at U.S. memorial to victims of Nazi persecution

By Elizabeth Kelleher
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington – Muslim-American leaders on December 20 visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, met with Holocaust survivors in its memorial room and lit candles to honor the memory of death-camp victims.

“At a time when mistrust and conflict plagues many parts of the world, it is important for people of different religions and races to unite in positive discourse,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, the legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations and one of the visitors to the museum. He said the visit was a success and that he hoped it would lead to even more dialogue.

The visit was the idea of Imam Mohamed Magid, executive director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Washington’s largest Muslim center and mosque, which serves 5,000 Muslim families.

Sara Bloomfield, director of the museum, said that such a public statement by Muslim leaders was “a first” and that their idea to come was as important as the event itself.

The visit was an “important gesture at this moment in time,” Bloomfield told USINFO. “They reached out to us, which I think is wonderful. They wanted to come here, to have a public expression of solidarity.”

In speaking of the Holocaust to those gathered in the hall, Magid said, “I speak on behalf of American Muslims, all of us who believe that we have to learn from the lessons of history and to commit ourselves: ‘Never again.’” Magid postponed a trip to Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj in order to visit the museum.

At the event, Johanna Neumann, a Holocaust survivor, described how Albanian Muslims saved her and her family from the Nazis. She said Albania at the time was 85 percent Muslim and that she and her family were protected by Muslims in their town. “Everybody knew who we were, and nobody would have thought of denouncing us,” Neumann said.

Akbar Ahmad, an Islamic scholar from American University, called the Holocaust “one of the low points in history.” Ahmad urged all people to condemn anti-Semitism and to equally condemn “widespread Islam-phobia,” which he said is evident when people call Muslims “terrorists.” He said anti-Semitism and Islam-phobia are linked: “To check one, we have to check the other.”

In addition to Iftikhar, Magid and Ahmad, visitors to the museum included Hassan Ibrahim of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Rizwan Jaka, Afeefa Syeed, Robert Marro and Rahima Ullah, all affiliated with the All Dulles Area Muslim Society.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum is “about bystanders and for bystanders,” Bloomfield said. “But yesterday was a day when we didn’t stand by,” she said. “We spoke out, and we did so together.”

A video link to the event is available on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Web site.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)