Monthly Archives: July 2015

טאָגבוך פֿון קולטורפֿעסט (7): ליִאַ קעניג און המנס מפּלה

[From Forverts]

Kulturfest Diary (day 7)

די באַקאַנטע אַקטריסע ליִאַ קעניג האָט פֿאַרווײַלט דעם עולם מיט קאָמישע סקיצן און ליטעראַרישע רעציטאַציעס

The beloved actress Lea Koenig performs hysterical skits and gave literary recitations: In Yiddish with English subtitles:

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A Tribute to the Songs of Women in the Holocaust

[from website]

For You the Sun Will Shine is a collaboration between vocalist Shulamit and musicians Frank London on trumpet and Shai Bachar on piano. The three artists perform are songs written by women during the Holocaust (Shoa).

”My greatest aspiration is for this music to live on as beautiful music, to be appreciated as art,” explains Shulamit. “It’s not about fancy melodies or complicated compositions. It’s about connecting with the immediate circumstances of the women who composed it, and it has the power to move people profoundly.”

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Yiddish on the rise

[From The Economist]

On the first Sunday of Krakow’s recent Jewish Culture Festival several rain-soaked families took their seats in a tiny pop-up library behind a 15th-century synagogue. It is the oldest of seven in Kazimierz, the historically Jewish quarter where the festival takes place every year. Agnieszka Legutko and Anna Rozenfeld greeted the group: “Shalom aleikhem!” “Aleikhem shalom,” replied the five young girls and their parents. Ms Legutko and Ms Rozenfeld, who were leading this children’s Yiddish workshop, introduced themselves in Yiddish, and started a chain. “Ikh heys Marianna” went the first girl, followed by Lotka, Edyta, Natasza and Lila. Then the singing began.

According to the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University fewer than one million people worldwide still speak Yiddish, compared with over 11m in 1939. Five of the six million Jewish Holocaust victims spoke Yiddish. A “nearly murdered language”, is how Michael Alpert, an American klezmer musician, describes it. But the decision made by the organisers of the Krakow festival to focus not on Hebrew or Holocaust studies but on Yiddish was unsurprising: the language appears to be recovering. Mr Alpert says the number of Yiddish speakers has increased in recent years, citing both the high birthrate of Hasidic communities worldwide, who still use the language, and also its appeal as “hip and cool, part of the new face of Jewish Poland”.

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Remembering Theo Bikel, a Fighter to the End

[From the Jewish Forward]

Theodore Bikel, who has died at the age of 91 in Los Angeles, was a shtarker, unlike many showbiz stars who merely play shtarkers on TV or onscreen. The barrel-chested, booming-voiced actor and singer had talent and stamina, the kind that allowed him to play Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” over 2000 times. After over sixty years as a folk singer Bikel offered resonant, blunt, direct performances that captivated audiences.

A lifelong fighter, as a youngster in Vienna after the 1938 Anschluss, he returned home bloodied from schoolyard brawls with anti-Semitic classmates, as he recounted in “Theo: An Autobiography” . Bikel was equally combative as an ambitious young Israeli actor after his family made Aliyah. Bikel’s Bukovinian Jewish father Josef, who toiled in an insurance company, was a deeply cultured, ardent Zionist who made sure his son’s Hebrew lessons began at age five, before any other schooling. At-home readings of Hebrew and Yiddish classics made Bikel ultra-aware of Jewish heritage, as to be expected for a boy named after Theodor Herzl, whose birthday he shared.

In Tel Aviv, Bikel struggled for roles at the Habima, Israel’s National Theatre, only getting a bit part in a 1943 adaptation of stories by Sholem Aleichem. So he co-founded his own chamber group in 1944, the still-thriving Cameri Theatre After training in London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Bikel did not return to live in Israel after its statehood was declared in 1948, although he narrated the film “Ein Breira” (Song of the Negev;1949) a U.S.-Israel co-production directed by the Polish Jewish filmmaker Joseph Lejtes (1901–1983). Bikel wrote in “Theo”: “A few of my contemporaries regarded [not returning to Israel] as a character flaw, if not a downright act of desertion. In me there remains a small, still voice that asks whether I can ever fully acquit myself in my own mind.”

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Remains of Jewish victims of Nazi medical experiments found in France

[From The Guardian]

It started with a letter, a brief reference to samples taken from the bodies of Holocaust victims used in Nazi medical research. Decades later, the jars and test tubes found behind a glass cupboard in a locked room testified to history’s horror.

Raphael Toledano, a researcher from Strasbourg who has spent more than a decade delving into the eastern French city’s Nazi past, stumbled upon the 1952 letter from Camille Simonin, the director of the forensic science school at the University of Strasbourg, detailing the storage of tissue samples taken from some of the 86 Jews gassed for the experiments of August Hirt, a notorious Nazi anatomy researcher.

The autopsy samples were intended to be used to prosecute Hirt, who directed the construction of a gas chamber built specifically to provide victims for experiments carried out at the facility. At the time, Germans had replaced the French staff, which largely decamped elsewhere.

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Leo Melamed recites Avrom (Abraham) Sutzkever’s poem “Dos Yingl fun Ayzn.”

[From Yiddish Book Centre]

Leo Melamed – child survivor of the Holocaust and former chairman of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange – recites Avrom (Abraham) Sutzkever’s poem “Dos Yingl fun Ayzn.”

Click here to read about the Wexler Oral History Project

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די נאַצי־געשיכטע פֿון מינכן אינעם נײַעם מוזיי

[From the Yiddish Daily Forward]

וואָס וואָלט אַדאָלף הילטער געזאָגט, ווען ער קוקו הײַנט אַרײַן אינעם דאָקומענט־צענטער פֿון נאַציאָנאַל־סאָציאַליזם, וועלכער האָט זיך נישט לאַנג צוריק געעפֿנט אין מינכן? אַזאַ קשיא האָב איך געפֿרעגט בײַם דײַטשישן שרײַבער טימור פֿערמעס, ווען מיר האָבן באַזוכט דעם נײַעם מוזיי. פֿערמעס איז דער מחבר פֿונעם שטאַרק אויסגענומענעם בוך „קוקט, ווער ס‘איז צוריקגעקומען‟, וווּ דער מחבר שטעלט זיך פֿאָר, אַז דער נאַצי־פֿירער שטייט אויף בײַ תּחית־המתים, באַווײַזט זיך אינעם הײַנטיקן בערלין און ווערט דאָרטן אַ פּאָפּולערער טעלעוויזיע־מענטש.

דער סאַטירישער ראָמאַן איז איבערגעזעצט געוואָרן אויף 42 שפּראַכן. אין דײַטשלאַנד זענען שוין פֿאַרקויפֿט געוואָרן 2 מיליאָן עקזעמפּלאַרן פֿון פֿערמעסעס ווערק. דאָס איז אַ טייל פֿון דער אַלגעמיינער טענדענץ צווישן די הײַנטיקע דײַטשן, וואָס דערלויבן זיך צו באַטראַכטן הילטער נישט בלויז ווי אַ סימבאָל פֿון שוידערלעכער רציחה, נאָר אויך ווי אַן אָביעקט פֿון סאַטירע און חוזק.

די דאָזיקע טענדענץ איז פֿאַרבונדן מיט דער וואַקסנדיקער מאָדע אויף נאַצי־סימבאָלן אַרום דער וועלט. אויפֿן יוטוב פֿאַרשפּרייטן זיך אומצאָליקע פּאַראָדיעס אויף די היציקע רעדעס פֿונעם נאַצי־דיקטאַטאָר, און אין אינדיע האָט זיך באַוויזן אַ סאָרט אײַזקרעם מיטן צווייפֿלהאַפֿטיקן נאָמען „היטלער‟. הילטערס בלוטיקע ירושה ווערט הײַנט אויסגענוצט פֿאַר פֿאַרשיידענע קאָמערציעלע און הומאָריסטישע פּראָיעקטן.

דער נײַער מינכענער מוזיי פֿירט אײַן אַ וויכטיקע און אַקטועלע קאָרעקטיוו צו דער דאָזיקער סיטואַציע. דער צענטער שטייט אויפֿן שטח, וווּ עס האָט זיך אַמאָל געפֿונען דער ערשטער הויפּט־שטאַב פֿון דער נאַצי־פּאַרטיי, דאָס טרויעריק־באַרימטע „ברוינע הויז‟, לעבן דעם מאָנומענטאַלן „פֿירער־בנין‟. דאָרט, אינעם יאָר 1938, האָט מען געחתמעט דעם „מינכענער אָפּמאַך‟. דער צענטער דערמאָנט אונדז, אַז די גאַנצע שטאָט איז טיף היסטאָריש פֿאַרבונדן מיט דער געשיכטע פֿון דער נאַציסטישער באַוועגונג.

אויף עטלעכע שטאָקן פֿונעם מוזיי ווערן אויסגעשטעלט גאַלעריעס פֿון פֿאַרשיידענע אַרטעפֿאַקטן, וואָס ווײַזן, ווי אַזוי די יונגע תּושבֿים פֿון דער שטאָט האָבן ענטוזיאַסטיש אונטערגעהאַלטן היטלערן אין די 1920ער יאָרן; ווי אַזוי נאָך 1935 איז מינכן געוואָרן דער נאַציאָנאַלער צענטער פֿון דער נאַציאָנאַל־סאָציאַליסטישער פּאַרטיי; און ווי אַזוי אינעם יאָר 1939, ווען עס האָט זיך אָנגעהויבן די צווייטע וועלט־מלחמה, האָט מינכן געשפּילט אַ פֿינצטערע ראָלע אין דער נאַצי־רציחה.

במשך פֿון צענדליקער יאָרן נאָך דער מלחמה, איז איז מינכן אָנגענומען געוואָרן דער אימאַזש פֿון אַ גליקלעך, קאָסמאָפּאָליטיש און האַרציק אָרט. ס׳רובֿ תּושבֿים האָבן געשטרעבט צו פֿאַרגעסן, אַז זייער שטאָט איז אויך טרויעריק באַרימט ווי דאָס וויגעלע פֿון נאַציזם. אָנהייבנדיק פֿון 1945, האָט מען אין מינכן איבערגעבויט אַ סך בנינים, כּמעט אינגאַנצן אויסמעקנדיק די מלחמה־אַסאָציאַציעס. אויף די אָרטיקע הזכּרה־דענקמעלער, ווערן די ייִדן זענען דערמאָנט צווישן די קרבנות פֿון נאַציזם.

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Laszlo Nemes Chats About Cannes-Preeming ‘Son of Saul’ at Jerusalem Film Festival

[From Variety]

JERUSALEM– Laszlo Nemes, whose directorial debut “Son of Saul” won Cannes’s Grand Prize, attended the Jerusalem film festival to participate in the Sam Spiegel Film Lab’s Jury and took the opportunity to chat about his movie’s journey from financing to premiering it at the festival, as well as his views on the European film scene.

“Concentration camps were a mix of organization and chaos and that was our approach for this film,” said Nemes, who expresses a blend of determination, strength and humility. “Everybody came to the shoot with the Holocaust in mind. I had a lot of discussions with the actors, I told them to ban this feeling of self-pity, to bring (their act) down, do less. In a way it’s the most primitive way of directing.”

There has been countless movies about the Holocaust but Nemes says none truthfully “conveyed the experience of the camps, its limitations, its chaos, what it meant to be a human being living in the camps.”

“I wanted to make a film about the Shoah, but I didn’t know how to do it. I wanted to stick with one character but I needed an angle. After two or three years, the sentence came (…) it had to be about a member of the commando who was burning his own people,” explained the helmer.

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70-Year-Old Letters Describe the Horrors of Buchenwald

[From Forward]

“Yesterday we visited something that you might have already read about in the newspaper or heard about over the radio… Not very far from there is a concentration camp.”

These words, written by Private Hyman Schulman, to his wife, Sandy, in Brooklyn, while he was in Europe during World War II, are part of TK letter collection that has recently come to light, The New York Times reported this week .

Schulman, who was stationed in Europe as of 1942, worked as the aid to Rabbi Herschel Schacter, the first Jewish chaplain to enter Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp in Germany, in 1945.

On March 8, 1945 he wrote home about his recent promotion as the aid, saying, “Since I’ve been in the army I’ve always been hoping for a ‘break’ and I believe I finally got one… You won’t have to worry about your husband being hit by shells, living in muddy foxholes and generally roughing it in the E.T.O. for we are quite a ways back of the front lines.”

After the war, Sandy kept his letters, and stored them in boxes as they moved. They were recently rediscovered, the paper barely touched since she had received them nearly 70 years ago. The story was first reported by

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‘Moses Man’ — A Holocaust Musical of Teens on The Run

[From Forward]

“Moses Man,” a musical about a family’s 9-year-long World War II survival odyssey that took them on a sanctuary search from Vienna, to Cyprus, Palestine and Africa before finally landing in America, has enough “now you’re safe, now you’re not!” twists and turns to justify being dubbed a Holocaust musical thriller. With book and lyrics by Deborah Haber and music by Casey Filiaci it is based on Haber’s father Kalman (Opa) and now 96-year old Lily Haber ’s true escape saga.

With a talented young cast of fourteen — and several playing multiple roles — it stars Kevin McGuire as Opa, Evan Daves as his grandson Moshe, Tess DeFlyer as Lia and Joanne Borts — a Folksbiene alumna whose credentials include the recent Broadway hit “Once” — as a Gestapo guard, Austrian, refugee and taverna owner. Other multi-character portrayers— Ryan Speakman as an SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Eichmann, Ship Captain, Cypriot, Sailor, British Major, and American Commander; Scott Scaffidi who plays a character Efra, Sailor, British Governor, refugee and super multi character actor T J Mannix who plays a police chief, Gestapo member, Italian Border Guard, British Officer and American Sailor. On stage there was an inanimate “cast” of large wooden crates—each with stenciled-in-black hoped-for destinations.

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Nicholas Winton saved Jewish children, but he also has a lesson for our current migrant crisis

[from The Guardian]

by David Cesarani

The death of Sir Nicholas Winton elicited eulogies from across British society. The prime minister tweeted: “The world has lost a great man. We must never forget his humanity in saving so many children from the Holocaust.” The chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, said Winton was “an outstanding role model for all”. The most heartfelt tributes came from survivors whose departure from Prague he helped to organise in the last months before the second world war.

Yet the chief rabbi at that time, Joseph Hertz, fulminated against evacuating Jewish children from Nazi-controlled lands only to place them in the homes of Christians. Winton arranged for at least 60 Jewish children, 10% of the total brought out of Prague, to be given into the care of the Barbican Mission, an organisation devoted to converting Jews to Christianity.

He saw nothing wrong with this and it may be germane to recall that he was a convert himself. He was born Nicholas Wertheim to German-Jewish parents who rejected Judaism. Decades later, when asked to comment on criticism from the Jewish community, he said: “I just confronted them and said in much politer terms, ‘Mind your own business … if you prefer a dead Jew to a Jew brought up in a Christian home it’s really not my problem’.” Today we would find it questionable to accept a change in religion in exchange for saving a life. But it was not self-evident that such a price was necessary even then.

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