Monthly Archives: January 2016

Why we should listen to the music of the Holocaust – and that of Syrian refugees

by Ian Biddle

[From The Conversation]

image-20160126-19637-1o7y1vkSinging is perhaps not something that people associate with the Holocaust. But a wealth of music was played and songs sung while victims were interned in the ghettos and camps. Perhaps this marked a desire to maintain continuity with the past, or perhaps it represented a kind of “spiritual resistance” to the systematic dehumanisation. Whatever the reason, the victims left an enormous corpus of music and songs.

Victims sang about their worries, their captors, their lives before internment and their inner emotional worlds. When faced with what must have been a devastating and bewilderingly sudden change to their world, it seems as if they sang endlessly. We need only glance at the enormous body of songs in Yiddish compiled by collectors such as Shmerke Kaczerginski to get a sense of their richness and ingenuity.

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A French memoir of the Holocaust shows the courage of choosing to survive

[From The New Statesman]

Marceline Loridan-Ivens’s But You Did Not Come Back is a addressed to her father and tells the story of her time in the camps – and the years after.

Marceline Loridan-Ivens’s father had bought a château in Provence; a grand place, with 20 rooms – an expensive but certain way, he seemed to believe, of ensuring that he and his children would be thought of as French. He had come to France from Poland in 1919 to find freedom from persecution, but there was no escape. In 1944 he was arrested along with his 15-year-old daughter, Marceline, and taken to the Drancy internment camp, and from there to Auschwitz. “You might come back,” he told his daughter, “because you’re young, but I will not come back.”

It was a prophecy: Szlhama Froim Rozen­berg did not come back. An official document from the French government confirmed his death – “missing and presumed dead” – following his “transfer” to Maut­hausen and Groß-Rosen. It took five more years for him to be declared finally dead – because he was not French, despite having petitioned the government for citizenship since his arrival. He was, his daughter writes, “a foreign Jew”.

Loridan-Ivens’s slender memoir is written as a letter to her beloved father. She is now 87, and lives in Paris; she made her career as an actress, a screenwriter and a director, taking the names of her two husbands because she found them more comfortable to bear – yes, even in postwar France – than “Rozenberg”. Barely 100 pages long, set in large, well-spaced type, it is devastating all the same. Loridan-Ivens writes in a plain, conversational style (the translation is by Sandra Smith, who has translated the work of Irène Némirovsky, among others) that flows as memory does, observation and recollection in balance. It can be read at a sitting; and then asks to be read again.

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German man faces trial over Nazi mass murder at Auschwitz

[From BBC News Website]


A 95-year-old former SS member will go on trial in north-east Germany next month accused of assisting in the mass murder of Auschwitz death camp inmates.

The indictment says Hubert Zafke was an accessory to the murder of at least 3,681 people during one month in 1944. It says he was an SS medical orderly.

The trial is to start on 29 February in Neubrandenburg. Mr Zafke remains at home, a prosecution spokesman said.

The Nazis killed about 1.1m people in Auschwitz, most of them Jews.

During the month covered by the indictment – 15 August to 14 September, 1944 – the teenage Jewish girl Anne Frank arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most notorious Nazi camp complex.

Her diary, describing the ordeal of her family hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam, remains a worldwide bestseller. She died in Bergen-Belsen, shortly before that camp’s liberation by the British Army in 1945.

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The Guardian view on Mein Kampf: a good new edition of a very bad old book Editorial

[From The Guardian]

4805When a group of German historians started work, six years ago, on an annotated version of Hitler’s Mein Kampf with the aim of republishing the text after it was due to enter the public domain on 1 January 2016, little did they know this would coincide with a time when Germany would find itself facing a rising tide of populism in the context of the refugee crisis. But even under quieter circumstances the initiative would have caused controversy.

Seventy years ago it fell to US occupying forces in Germany to decide what to do with the book, and they passed the copyright to the state government of Bavaria. Seeing as the recently deceased author had done nothing but damage to the region’s reputation, Bavaria might well have been determined to sit on its rights and see off any thoughts of republication even if there had been no fears of rekindling a Nazi ideology that had only recently been comprehensively routed. But republishing Mein Kampf at any time was bound to raise sensitive questions. Would it not lend prominence to a hate-filled 1,000-page tome that acted as a founding document for the crimes of Nazism? Might it not risk fuelling, even today, the twisted logic of Holocaust deniers or of anyone prone to be more fascinated than repelled by Hitler? Such qualms might have been justified had the text been reprinted in its blunt form, without any effort put into debunking its sick ramblings.

Yet that is not the case. Care, wisdom and admirable scholarship have all played a part in the creation of the two-volume Hitler, Mein Kampf: A Critical Edition, launched on 8 January by the Munich-based Institute for Contemporary History. It sets out to provide not just knowledge of what Hitler wrote, but a systematic dismantling of his manipulative theories and lies. And not just that: the book, now on sale in general bookshops in Germany for the first time since the war, details how Hitler’s prose of the 1920s (he wrote Mein Kampf while in prison) translated into concrete policy once he rose to power in 1933. This new publication is thus useful: it goes one step further towards demystifying the roots of the evil that unfolded. Exposure, not hiding, is the best way to neutralise the conspiratorial thinking and sinister fascination that can be aroused by a forbidden object.

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Two talks on Memories of the allied bombings of Nuremberg (Neil Gregor and Beate Müller)

Prof. Neil Gregor, University of Southampton

Title: “Remembering the Event, Remembering the Place: Narratives of Bombing in Post-War Nuremberg”


This paper reflects upon how historians have conventionally considered the memory of wartime bombing as a set of narratives about historical events that gained cultural power in the post war era. Revisiting critically my own previous work on the city of Nuremberg I seek to explore in this paper how this memory of the bombing as event has obscured other memories present in the city after 1945 – most obviously memories of the city itself.  I argue, therefore, that historians should think not only about the memory of the event, but also the memory of place, literally, in the sense of its physical and material substance, and more metaphorically, in the sense of a series of different life-worlds that were now the object of nostalgic affect.



Dr Beate Müller, Newcastle University

Title: “‘I thought I was going to die’: Allied Air Raids on Nuremberg as Remembered by Local School Children in 1946”

In 1946, Nuremberg’s schools inspector Otto Barthel had local school children write essays on their wartime experiences. They were also asked to fill in questionnaires which specifically addressed political attitudes of the young. About 3,000 pupils submitted their work. The texts tell a complex story about the thoughts and feelings of German adolescents in the early postwar period, demonstrating the ideological influence of National Socialism, trauma suffered during the war, as well as the shock, frustration, and desorientation after the collapse of the Third Reich. The pupils’ submissions are comparable in terms of their dominant themes such as the evacuation scheme KLV, the fate of male relatives,  Allied bombings, the end of the war and the city’s occupation, or problems and hardships characterizing postwar life. Of these topics, the descriptions of experienced air raids are the most visceral; they also clearly dominate the essays penned on ‘An unforgettable experience’. This talk will argue that whilst the stories of the young differ considerably in terms of content, evaluations of events and narrative coping strategies, there is much less diversity when it comes to memories of the bombings, which indicates that these memories united the otherwise quite diverse young postwar generation.

Both talks can be accessed via recap here

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