Category Archives: Holocaust in the news

Why banning David Irving books from university libraries would achieve little

[From The Guardian]

The effort to get the University of Manchester to remove David Irving’s books from open display, now backed by Rowan Williams, reminded me of my own experiences browsing through library stacks as an undergraduate. While I never encountered Holocaust denial, I did stumble upon the complete works of Kim Il-sung, a pamphlet praising the Khmer Rouge and a book arguing that the Armenian genocide never occurred.

Libraries are, ideally, fundamentally amoral places. The presence of works on their shelves is not an endorsement of their views. As someone who runs an online research repository archive, I can testify to having happily uploaded some lousy works of scholarship to its holdings.

But of course, that’s not the end of the story. Just as free speech inevitably needs to be limited in certain instances, so does the free access to library materials. To take an obvious example, while it’s important that pro-paedophilia texts are preserved for future scholarly and law enforcement study, they should only be accessible under restrictive conditions.

In the case of books by Irving and others of his ilk, no one denies that they should be part of library collections, the question is whether the danger that such works represent is sufficient to justify restricting access to them.

And there certainly is a potential danger. Read interviews with prominent neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers and miscellaneous antisemites, and an encounter with Irving’s work invariably seems a part of their political journey. Books such as Hitler’s War read like serious, well-sourced, reliable history. The deceptions are subtle and not always apparent to non-experts. After all, it took Prof Richard Evans and two assistants over a year of preparation, as part of the defence team in the court case Irving brought against Deborah Lipstadt, to unpick the ways he twisted the facts.

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The Holocaust: Who are the missing million?

[From BBC NEWS website]

Giselle Cycowicz (born Friedman) remembers her father, Wolf, as a warm, kind and religious man. “He was a scholar,” she says, “he always had a book open, studying Talmud [compendium of Jewish law], but he was also a businessman and he looked after his family.”

Before the war, the Friedmans lived a happy, comfortable life in Khust, a Czechoslovak town with a large Jewish population on the fringes of Hungary. All that changed after 1939, when pro-Nazi Hungarian troops, and later Nazi Germany, invaded, and all the town’s Jews were deported to Auschwitz.

Giselle last saw her father, “strong and healthy”, hours after the family arrived at the Birkenau section of the death camp. Wolf had been selected for a workforce but a fellow prisoner under orders would not let her go to him.

“That would have been my chance to maybe kiss him the last time,” Giselle, now 89, says, her voice cracking with emotion.

Giselle, her mother and a sister survived, somehow, five months in “the hell” of Auschwitz. She later learned that in October 1944 “a skeletal man” had passed by the women’s camp and relayed a message to anyone alive in there from Khust.

“Tell them just now 200 men were brought back from the coal mine. Tell them that tomorrow we won’t be here anymore.” The man was Wolf Friedman. He was gassed the next day.

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Opening of UN files on Holocaust will ‘rewrite chapters of history’

Archive used in prosecution of Nazis reveals detailed evidence of death camps and genocide previously unseen by public

[From The Guardian]

War crimes files revealing early evidence of Holocaust death camps that was smuggled out of eastern Europe are among tens of thousands of files to be made public for the first time this week.

The once-inaccessible archive of the UN war crimes commission, dating back to 1943, is being opened by the Wiener Library in London with a catalogue that can be searched online.

The files establish that some of the first demands for justice came from countries that had been invaded, such as Poland and China, rather than Britain, the US and Russia, which eventually coordinated the post-war Nuremberg trials.

The archive, along with the UNWCC, was closed in the late 1940s as West Germany was transformed into a pivotal ally at the start of the cold war and use of the records was effectively suppressed. Around the same time, many convicted Nazis were granted early release after the anti-communist US senator Joseph McCarthy lobbied to end war crimes trials.

Access to the vast quantity of evidence and indictments is timed to coincide with the publication on Tuesday of Human Rights After Hitler: The Lost History of Prosecuting Axis War Crimes by Dan Plesch, a researcher who has been working on the documents for a decade.

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Britain’s Holocaust memorial shortlist: right time, wrong place?

[From The Guardian]


1600“A
mazing, most amazing position,” said a US government official in 1943 of British reluctance to help with a plan to rescue 70,000 Jews from a part of the Soviet Union under axis occupation. The British feared “the difficulties of disposing of any considerable number of Jews”. Or as the American paraphrased: “We let them die because we don’t know what to do with them.” In 1945 the Liberal politician Viscount Samuel described the British and international response to the Holocaust another way. “Out of that vast reservoir of misery and murder,” he told the House of Lords, “only a tiny trickle of escape was provided.”

These facts, recorded in Whitehall and the Jews 1933-1948 by the lawyer and historian Louise London, should be remembered. For everything that Britain has to be proud of in the defeat of Nazism, including a slightly less mean attitude to refugees than some other countries, and the children’s rescue programme, Kindertransport, the response to the displacement and slaughter of millions was to admit only by the thousands those trying to escape. The government feared immigrants taking British jobs, and social unrest. In terms that sound familiar now, it tried to distinguish political refugees from “economic” migrants. Much of the press backed them up. “The law of self-preservation”, said the London Evening News in 1938, “demands that the word ‘enter’ be removed from the gate.”

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We need new ways to ensure our history is not forgotten

[From The Guardian]

1600The fate of the Jews in Nazi Germany and the countries it occupied seems far more vivid to me now than it did in the 1950s and 1960s, when the term concentration camps rather than the word Holocaust was used to describe their deliberate elimination – as though it were barbed wire and overcrowding rather than gas and shooting that had killed them. For this I have to credit a wide range of books and films – from Art Spiegelman’s graphic memoir, Maus, to Claude Lanzmann’s 10-hour documentary, Shoah – and also, I suppose, the general feeling that produced these works: that the horror needed to be understood in its intimate particulars, which the passage of time had made us readier to see and hear.

To me, as I suspect to many others, the idea that those events could be mislaid by the public memory seems impossible. Nevertheless, this week Prince Charles told the charity World Jewish Relief, in what was seen as a criticism of Donald Trump’s refugee policy, that the work of “reaching beyond your own community” was particularly valuable “at a time when the horrific lessons of the last war seem to be in increasing danger of being forgotten”.

Meanwhile the Trump administration came under more direct attack, from the scholar Deborah Lipstadt, who said the new regime was “flirting with Holocaust denial” by failing to mention in a statement issued to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Dayon 27 January that Jews were the principal victims.

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Historian Deborah Lipstadt accuses Trump advisers of ‘soft Holocaust denial’

[From The Guardian]

1312The internationally renowned historian Deborah Lipstadt, whose courtroom battle with Holocaust denier David Irving is the subject of the new film Denial, has accused President Donald Trump’s “innermost circle” of being guilty of “soft Holocaust denial” and the “de-Judaization” of the Nazi genocide.

Writing in the Atlantic, Lipstadt – a leading expert on the Nazi effort to wipe out Europe’s Jews – took aim at the Trump administration for its failure last Friday to mention Jews as the primary victims of the Holocaust.

“Holocaust denial is alive and well in the highest offices of the United States,” wrote Lipstadt. “It is being spread by those in President Trump’s innermost circle. It may have all started as a mistake by a new administration that is loath to admit it’s wrong.

“Conversely, it may be a conscious attempt by people with antisemitic sympathies to rewrite history,” she added. “Either way it is deeply disturbing.”

Lipstadt’s intervention came in amid an escalating row over the White House’s statement on Holocaust Memorial Day. On Monday, Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, accused the media of a “pathetic” attempt to whip up controversy.

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Kaine likens Trump Remembrance Day statement to Holocaust denial

[From The Guardian]

Senator Tim Kaine said on Sunday that it was “not a coincidence” that the White House did not mention Jews or Judaism on Holocaust Remembrance Day yet Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“The final solution was about the slaughter of Jews,” said Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate in her defeat by Trump in November, in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “We have to remember this. This is what Holocaust denial is.

“It’s either to deny that it happened, or many Holocaust deniers acknowledge, ‘Oh, yeah, people were killed. But it was a lot of innocent people. Jews weren’t targeted.’ The fact that they did that and imposed this religious test against Muslims in the executive orders on the same day – this is not a coincidence.”

Kaine spoke after White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, appearing on the same show, stood by the original statement.

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Children saved from Nazis by ‘British Schindler’ plan memorial to parents

[From The Guardian]

Their 11th-hour escape on the eve of the second world war became the stuff of legend, earning international recognition for the man who organised it, Sir Nicholas Winton.

Now people spirited out of German-occupied Czechoslovakia when they were children are to pay homage to previously unsung heroes in the affair – the parents who boarded them on to Winton’s “kindertransport” trains bound for Britain in a desperate attempt to save them from the Nazis.

A memorial recognising the agonising moral choice made by parents of the 669 mostly Jewish children sent away is to be constructed in Prague’s main railway station, from where eight evacuation trains departed in the spring and summer of 1939, after Nazi Germany invaded Czechoslovakia.

It will stand near a statue of Winton, the British aid worker and former stockbroker who organised the transports and has been labelled “the British Schindler” for his role in rescuing Jews, a comparison to Oskar Schindler, the Nazi industrialist credited with saving 1,200 Jewish prisoners from Hitler’s death camps.

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No mention of Jews in White House’s Holocaust Remembrance Day tribute

[From The Guardian]

The White House raised eyebrows on Friday when it issued a statement to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, that did not mention Jews, Judaism or antisemitism.

The statement read:

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

Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest.‎ As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.

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

The Holocaust was the systematic genocide of European Jewry by Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. More than six million Jews were murdered, along with Gypsies, gay people, political dissidents and others that the Nazi regime found undesirable.

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‘I was murdered in Auschwitz’: victims of Holocaust remembered on Twitter

[From The Guardian]

Twitter users have enlisted the social media platform to help bring to light personal stories of the victims of the Nazi regime on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Over the course of the day, the St Louis Manifest account told the stories of the passengers of the German transatlantic liner which was turned away from the US in 1939. There were 937 people onboard, almost all were Jews fleeing from the Third Reich.

After the ship was refused permission to dock in Florida and sent back across the Atlantic, 532 passengers were trapped when Germany conquered Western Europe. Just over half survived the Holocaust.

The account was set up by Jewish educator and activist Russel Neiss.

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Melodies saved from the Shoah: Music composed by victims of the Nazis has been performed for the first time

[From The Jewish Chronicle]

69279-03Josima Feldschuh was a musical child prodigy from a prominent family in Warsaw, whose promise was cruelly curtailed by the Shoah.  Confined to the Warsaw Ghetto, she gave concerts within its walls and wrote music, too. Eventually, smuggled out of the ghetto, she died of tuberculosis on the Aryan side, aged only 15.

Against the odds, some of her music survived. Reviews from a ghetto newspaper recently alerted researchers to the fact that she was also a composer. And this month, her absolutely beautiful compositions were heard at the Wigmore Hall and on Radio 3.

Josima’s is one of the most heart-rending histories to emerge in the recent concert Music on the Brink of Destruction, staged at the Wigmore Hall earlier this month but there are many more. The story of Gideon Klein’s life is better known; possibly the most gifted of all his peers, he was killed in his mid-twenties at Auschwitz, after several years in Theresienstadt. Yet here, too, there is more to learn. Besides his dazzling String Trio, at this event an early work of his received its UK premiere. Entitled Topol (“The Poplar Tree”), it is a short, highly atmospheric piece for piano and narrator. It was recently discovered by the musicologist Dr David Fligg in the archive of the Jewish Museum in Prague.

All in all, the Wigmore Hall evening demonstrated the quantity and quality of music written during the Holocaust that still awaits discovery in libraries and archives. It was devised to launch the new ORT Marks Fellowships Programme, and BBC Radio 3 have been broadcasting it in the run-up to Holocaust Memorial Day today.

It offered a window into the research that Clive Marks and Dr Shirli Gilbert have been spearheading through their ORT website, which they now aim to facilitate with the new fellowships for at least a decade. Two appointed fellows per annum will each devote a day a week to this work while undertaking postgraduate studies.

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The Brundibár Arts Festival – the Holocaust in music, words, film & education

Newcastle is playing an active role in helping to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2017 – a global day of reflection that takes place on Friday January 27th. The City-wide programme spans a month of activities, closing on February 7th, with a number of venues hosting a variety of events including art exhibitions, workshops, lectures, films and music recitals.

Included in the programme is the Brundibár Arts Festival – a wealth of music, spoken word, theatre, education workshops and lectures [30 January – 7 February].

Now in its second year, the Newcastle and Gateshead-based festival aims to curate an annual programme of arts and music events that showcase the ‘little known music’ written during the Holocaust by victims and survivors.

The festival was named after the children’s opera “Brundibár” (meaning Bumblebee), written by Czech composer, Hans Krása.

The opera was performed 55 times by children who were incarcerated at Theresienstadt concentration camp in Terezin (Czechoslovakia). Of the 15,000 children who went through Terezin only 100 survived.  The organisers named the Festival after the opera as a lasting tribute to those children who suffered and perished. www.brundibarartsfestival.com/story.html

The Brundibár Arts Festival venues include Newcastle City Library, Kings Hall, Newcastle University, Sage Gateshead, Caedmon Hall, Gateshead Central Library, Arch 16 Café, Lit & Phil, Alphabetti Theatre and Brunswick Methodist Church.

The Brundibár Arts Festival is supported by Newcastle City Council, the Radcliffe Trust and the Community Foundation.

The Festival has a strong educational focus with workshops taking place at Wyndham Primary School, Kingston Park Primary School, Sir Charles Parsons School, Great North Children’s Hospital and Thomas Bewick School.

The Brundibár Arts Festival is the brainchild of Russian-born Alexandra Raikhlina. The 33-year old, mum-of-one, lives in Jesmond with daughter Avital (aged 3) and her husband Lewis, who works as a patent attorney. She moved to Newcastle from Belgium eight years ago to take up the role of violinist with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, a job that takes her all over the world.

Alexandra moved from Moscow to Brussels with her family when she was only eight-years old. Her parents and sister still live in Brussels; and a small part of her family remain in Russia – an aunt and a cousin.

Alexandra Raikhlina, Artistic Director of The Brundibár Arts Festival, said: “The seed for the festival was planted in my mind a few years ago, after I was asked to perform at the Holocaust Memorial Day in Newcastle.  I was given open choice in the repertoire to perform, and started to research music on the Internet.  I came across loads of absolutely fascinating music that I had never heard or played myself before. All music that had been inspired and born out of the devastation of the Holocaust.

“Even though music is at the heart of the festival, there is so much more for people to experience. We’ve tried to programme a variety of events that reflect the emotions of the Holocaust, through theatre, art, film, education workshops and music. This is a chance to let people, young and old, learn about a part of history that should never be forgotten.

“Today we stand at a crossroad and we need to choose our path carefully. Let’s learn from our mistakes, be proactive in our actions, and read and learn from history. Let’s not say empty sentences like “Never again” and walk away satisfied.

“The Brundibár Arts Festival aims to positively document the astonishing achievement of artist victims of the Holocaust. We cannot bring lives back but we can carry on their work. Through their music, the composers live on.”

Cllr Joyce McCarty, Deputy Leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “Music and the arts are a very emotive way to reflect on a serious subject like The Holocaust.  The Brundibár Arts Festival is unique to Newcastle and Gateshead, and the organisers have programmed an inspiring array of music, theatre, film and speakers that provides people with an opportunity to think about the past but also allows the audience to look towards the future as we aim to learn from the atrocities of genocide.”

The Brundibár Arts Festival is proud to be bringing over Holocaust survivor, Ela Weissberger from America to deliver a number of fascinating talks in the City.   Ela performed 55 times in the original production of “Brundibár”, and she will share the incredible story of her survival with audiences and schools during her visit to Newcastle.

You can see where Ela will be talking by visiting The Brundibár Arts Festival website which provides the event programme, details of workshops and how to purchase ticketswww.brundibarartsfestival.com 

People can also see the full Holocaust Memorial Day programme for January and February programmed in association with the City Council’s Arts Team by visitingwww.newcastle.gov.uk/hmd

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Denial (movie) review – overwhelmingly relevant assertion of truth

[From The Guardian]

5620In 1996, the historian Deborah Lipstadt was pursued in the UK courts by the notorious Holocaust denier David Irving, for calling him a falsifier of history in her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. This movie version of those events, written for the screen by David Hare and directed by Mick Jackson, stars Rachel Weisz as Lipstadt and Timothy Spall as Irving; it has been coolly received by some on the festival circuit, its drama dismissed as stagey and flat. I disagree. For me, it has clarity, urgency and overwhelming relevance. Because denial is fashionable again. Irving himself is gloating at the way “alt–right” fascists are threatening to make him and his poisonous flat-earthery acceptable once more. The US president himself believes in “alternative facts”. So for me this film, telling its story with punchy commitment and force, was a breath of fresh air.

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One in four genocide survivors in UK have faced abuse, poll finds

[From the Guardian]

More than one-quarter of survivors of the Holocaust and the genocides that followed who are living in the UK have experienced discrimination or abuse linked to their religion or ethnicity, research released to mark HolocaustMemorial Day shows.

The figure is higher for survivors’ relatives, with 38% saying they have experienced racial or religious hatred, according to the poll released by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) on Friday.

This is despite the fact that the vast majority of survivors (72%) told the survey they felt very or fairly welcome when they first arrived in Britain.

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The Holocaust by Laurence Rees review – the voices of victims and killers

[From The guardian]

In 1955, 10 years after his liberation from Auschwitz, Primo Levi published an anguished article about the “gigantic death-dealing machine” the Nazis had built to wipe out Jews such as himself. Levi was mainly concerned with the 1950s, however, not the recent past. He feared that the greatest crime imaginable, still so vivid in the minds of survivors, was in danger of being forgotten by the wider public. Levi railed against the “silence of the civilised world”, which regarded any mention of Nazi extermination camps as in bad taste.

How things have changed. Far from being forgotten, the murder of European Jewry has become a global benchmark for judging inhumanity. Levi’s own memoir of Auschwitz, If This Is a Man, which was initially met with indifference, has been recognised as one of the “truly necessary books” (Philip Roth), and every year sees a stream of works by survivors and historians, philosophers and novelists. The question is no longer: “Is this silence justified?”, as Levi asked rhetorically back in 1955. It is now: “Which of the countless studies should we read?”

Laurence Rees’s The Holocaust: A New History is puffed on its inside cover as “the first accessible and authoritative account of the Holocaust in more than three decades”. Such PR bluster does the book no favours. For there really is no shortage of important recent works, among them Saul Friedländer’s unsurpassed survey The Years of Extermination, which won the Pulitzer prize; Timothy Snyder’s bold reinterpretation Black Earth; and the late David Cesarani’s deeply researched and highly readable study Final Solution, which appeared only last year.

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Antisemite, Holocaust denier … yet David Irving claims fresh support

[from The Guardian]

Sixteen years after an English court discredited his work and the judge called him “antisemitic and racist”, the historian David Irving claims he is inspiring a new generation of “Holocaust sceptics”.

On the eve of a major new Bafta-nominated film about the trial, Irving, who has dismissed what happened at Auschwitz concentration camp during the second world war as “Disneyland”, says that a whole new generation of young people have discovered his work via the internet and social media.

“Interest in my work has risen exponentially in the last two or three years. And it’s mostly young people. I’m getting messages from 14, 15, 16-year-olds in America. They find me on YouTube. There are 220 of my lectures on YouTube, I believe, and these young people tell me how they’ve stayed up all night watching them.

“They get in touch because they want to find out the truth about Hitler and the second world war. They ask all sorts of questions. I’m getting up to 300 to 400 emails a day. And I answer them all. I build a relationship with them.”

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A personal glimpse into the aftermath of the Holocaust

[from TribLive website]

dt-common-streams-streamserver-cls-2The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh opened its doors in October 2015 and its newly minted exhibition space, designed by Paul Rosenblatt of Springboard Design, has been put to good use with the exhibition “The Art of Lazar Ran,” which opened Dec. 12 and will remain on display through Jan. 31.

Including works from some of Ran’s most important print series, it details the life and career of Belarusian artist Lazar Ran (1909-1989) whose work was inspired by the Holocaust.

The prints come from the collection of Svetlana Belaia, a journalist and member of The Belarusian Writers’ Union who currently lives in Cleveland. She inherited the collection from her father, Anatol Efimovich Bely, who was a friend of the artist.

Belaia says that out of all the Soviet Republics, Belarus was most devastated by the Nazis during World War II.

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Go Watch This Documentary About A Holocaust Survivor’s Violin

[From Forwards]

“Joe’s Violin” (2016), opens with a shot of the titular Joseph Feingold, tuning his violin. He hasn’t played in “8-10 years,” and his fingers look unsteady as he holds the instrument’s neck. After tinkering for a bit, Joseph puts down the violin and asks “how long can you live with memories?”

Joseph, one of the two subjects of the documentary, is a nonagenarian Polish Holocaust survivor living in New York. In 1939, just after the Nazi invasion of Poland, Joseph and his father fled Warsaw for the Soviet controlled eastern portion of the country. Upon arriving in Eastern Poland, the two were arrested by the Soviet police and taken by train to a Siberian labor camp (aside from the destination, Joseph’s account of his deportation sounds almost indistinguishable from the stories of Nazi round-ups). When Joseph and his father fled to eastern Poland, they left behind Joseph’s mother and two brothers – only one of Joseph’s brothers, who was sent to Auschwitz, survived the war.

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German Panel Rules That a Rare Violin Was Looted by Nazis

[From The New York Times]

In its first ruling on a matter involving a musical instrument, a German panel established to mediate disputes over cultural objects looted during the Third Reich has decided that a Nuremberg foundation should compensate the heirs of a man whose prized 18th-century violin is thought to have been confiscated by the Nazis or lost following a forced sale.

In its decision Wednesday, the Limbach Commission said the violin, created in 1706 reportedly by Cremonese violin-maker Giuseppe Guarneri (who is known as ‘filius Andreae’), found that the heirs of Felix Hildesheimer were entitled to a remedy.

Mr. Hildesheimer, a German Jew who had run a music business in Speyer, Germany, purchased the Guarneri from Stuttgart violin dealer Fridolin Hamma in 1938. Unable to escape from Nazi Germany, Mr. Hildesheimer committed suicide in 1939 and his family’s property was confiscated.

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הערט „אוצרות פֿונעם רות רובין אַרכיוו‟ | Hear Treasures from the Ruth Rubin Archive

יאָרצענדליקער לאַנג האָט די אָנגעזעענע ייִדישע ענטנאָמוזיקאָלאָגין רות רובין (1906־2000) אינטערוויוירט ממש טויזנטער ייִדן וואָס זענען אויפֿגעוואַקסן אין דער אַלטער היים, כּדי צו זאַמלען בײַ זיי פֿאָלקסלידער

במשך פֿון לאַנגע יאָרן האָט זי רעקאָרדירט די דאָזיקע אינטערוויוען, אין וועלכע מע זינגט די לידער אויף אַ קול. די רעקאָרדירונגען האָט מען געמאַכט אויף טאַשמעס, וואָס זענען געלעגן אין די „ייִוואָ‟־אַרכיוון אין ניו־יאָרק; אין דער „נאַציאָנאַלער ביבליאָטעק פֿון מדינת־ישׂראל‟, און אַפֿילו אין אָטאַוואַ, קאַנאַדע

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War memorials have failed – we have forgotten the chaos of fascism

[From The Guardian]

“ I believe my Holocaust memorial in Berlin could no longer be built today,” the architect Peter Eisenman has told Die Zeit. Eisenman says that Europe is now “afraid of strangers”, and he fears that the rise of xenophobia and antisemitism in Europe would make it impossible to build monuments like the vast field of grey sepulchres that he designed as Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, inaugurated in 2005 close to the site of Adolf Hitler’s bunker.

He may well be right – yet surely this is the wrong end of the book to start at. The real question is why Holocaust memorials have done so little to prevent the return of Europe’s far-right demons.

In Vienna, as in Berlin, the victims of the Holocaust are remembered by public art. Rachel Whiteread’s Judenplatz Holocaust memorial is a sealed library of closed books, each book suggesting a whole life we cannot recover.

Since its unveiling in 2000, it has become, like Eisenman’s Berlin memorial, a sombre tourist attraction and civic symbol. Yet Austria has just come perilously close to electing a president whose extreme-right Freedom party has Nazi roots and espouses xenophobia. Norbert Hofer was defeated – good – but how can anyone at all be drawn to far-right politics in a Europe that remembers its history? If memorials like those created by Whiteread and Eisenman have any value, it should surely be to make race hate an utterly marginal force, and far-right extremism the smallest of minorities. Instead, in its new guise of “populism”, the anti-liberal right is running rampant.

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National Holocaust memorial design competition launched

[From The Architects’ Journal]

The government has launched an international design competition for a national Holocaust memorial next to the Palace of Westminster in London

The competition, organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants, invites designers, architects and artists to submit proposals for a ‘striking’ memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens (pictured) commemorating the Holocaust.

Schemes should include a below-ground learning centre, contextualising the monument and featuring audio recordings of British Holocaust survivors and camp liberators.

The monument and learning centre will together provide a space for quiet reflection and national commemorations while also signposting visitors to other Holocaust educational resources across the UK.

Announcing the contest during Prime Minister’s Questions today (14 September), Theresa May said: ‘We need to ensure that we never forget the horrors of the Holocaust and the lessons that must be learnt from it.

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David Hare on writing nothing but the truth about a Holocaust denier

This looks set to offer a fascinating insight into the Holocaust denial mindset: a dramatisation of the famous libel trial brought against Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt by right-wing historian David Irving

[From The Guardian]

3275In 2010 I was first approached by the BBC and by Participant Media to adapt Deborah Lipstadt’s book History on Trial for the screen. My first reaction was one of extreme reluctance. I have no taste for Holocaust movies. It seems both offensive and clumsy to add an extra layer of fiction to suffering which demands no gratuitous intervention. It jars. Faced with the immensity of what happened, sober reportage and direct testimony have nearly always been the most powerful approach. In the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem, I had noticed that all the photography, however marginal and inevitably however incomplete, had a shock and impact lacking in the rather contrived and uninteresting art.

It was a considerable relief on reading the book to find that although the Holocaust was its governing subject, there was no need for it to be visually recreated. In 2000 the British historian David Irving, whose writing had frequently offered a sympathetic account of the second world war from the Nazi point of view, had sued Lipstadt in the high court in London, claiming that her description of him as a denier in her previous book Denying the Holocaust had done damage to his reputation. In English courts at the time, the burden of proof in any libel case lay not with the accuser but with the defendant. In the United States it was the litigant’s job to prove the untruth of the alleged libel. But in the United Kingdom it was up to the defendant to prove its truth. It was in that context that London was Irving’s chosen venue. He no doubt thought it would make his legal action easier. All at once, an Atlanta academic was to find herself with the unenviable task of marshalling conclusive scientific proof for the attempted extermination of the European Jews over 50 years earlier.

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Escape Tunnel, Dug by Hand, Is Found at Holocaust Massacre Site

Fascinating new evidence discovered at Ponar

[From The New York Times]

A team of archaeologists and mapmakers say they have uncovered a forgotten tunnel that 80 Jews dug largely by hand as they tried to escape from a Nazi extermination site in Lithuania about 70 years ago.

The Lithuanian site, Ponar, holds mass burial pits and graves where up to 100,000 people were killed and their bodies dumped or burned during the Holocaust.

Using radar and radio waves to scan beneath the ground, the researchers found the tunnel, a 100-foot passageway between five and nine feet below the surface, the team announced on Wednesday.

A previous attempt made by a different team in 2004 to find the underground structure had only located its mouth, which was subsequently left unmarked. The new finding traces the tunnel from entrance to exit and provides evidence to support survivor accounts of the harrowing effort to escape the holding pit.

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Poland approves bill outlawing phrase ‘Polish death camps’

This is fascinating to me: the adjective “Polish” when attached to “death camps” appears to be something Poles object to. It raises interesting questions about the processes through which national identities are played out, named, claimed, especially in the context of these appalling atrocities.

[From The Guardian]

The Polish government has approved a new bill that foresees prison terms of up to three years for anyone who uses phrases like “Polish death camps” to refer to Auschwitz and other camps that Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland during the second world war.

The justice department said the prime minister Beata Szydło’s cabinet approved the legislation on Tuesday. It is expected to pass easily in the parliament, where the nationalistic ruling party Law and Justice enjoys a majority.

The bill aims to deal with a problem the Polish government has faced for years: foreign media outlets referring to the Nazi camps as Polish.

Poles fear that as the war grows more distant younger generations will incorrectly assume that Poles had a role in the death camps.

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Remarkable story of Holocaust survivor who played in orchestra at Auschwitz comes to the stage

[From getwestlondon website]

How do you tell the story of a Holocaust survivor who can’t bring himself to open up about the atrocities he witnessed?

That’s the challenge which faced Gérald Garutti when he was charged with bringing to stage the remarkable tale of Haïm Lipsky.

The Polish-born Jew was a violin prodigy and survived Auschwitz after being selected for the orchestra there, but opted to work as an electrician rather than play professionally after his liberation from the Nazi concentration camp.

For Garutti the answer was simple: his task was not to write a Holocaust play in the traditional sense but one about the transcendent power of music and the succour it has provided for Lipsky and millions across the world in desperate times.

He describes the Holocaust as a “dark hole” in the middle of Haïm – In the Light of the Violin , coming to Notting Hill theatre the Print Room at the Coronet – which tells the story of Lipsky’s life from the age of eight to the 94-year-old of today.

“I wanted to convey how art, and especially music, can give a sense of meaning to our lives – especially in the darkest times,” he says.

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When Watching Unbearable Tragedy Is Far Too Bearable — Especially When Ute Lemper Sings

[From Forward]

‘I’m a mother of four children,” Ute Lemper was saying, fingers toying with the handle of her coffee cup, “and singing these songs, telling these terrible destinies and tales of death, is almost impossible.”

Lemper sat across from me at Nice Matin, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The lunchtime conversations surrounding us hummed with an energy that felt unique to this day, one of the first that felt like spring; visible through the windows, trees weighed down with white blossoms lent a delirious beauty to 79th Street. It was, altogether, a somewhat jarring environment in which to be discussing Lemper’s current project: a concert of songs written by Jews in concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Unlike many who claim the title “chanteuse,” Lemper, strawberry blonde and dressed with a chic simplicity, lives up to its silky appeal. She’s won acclaim for playing Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” and spent her career, which has taken her through Berlin, Paris, London and New York, in worship of Kurt Weill. In person she comes across as direct and unpredictable, moving with a pantherlike deliberateness. Beyond the glamour, though, she is a professional who wants to do a good job. As she sipped her second cappuccino, she grew eager to ensure that my phone, which I was using to record our interview, captured our conversation over the buzz. She joked, with genuine concern, that if she spoke louder she might hurt her voice.

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מרדכי געבירטיגס לידער | Mordechai Gebirtig’s songs

דעם שבת פֿאַלט אויס דער 74סטער יאָרצײַט, לויטן סעקולערן קאַלענדאַר, פֿונעם גרויסן ייִדישן פּאָעט מרדכי געבירטיג ז׳׳ל, וועלכער איז אומגעקומען אין דער קראָקאָווער געטאָ, אין 1942.

אַ לעגענדאַרע פּערזענלעכקייט אין דער וועלט פֿון ייִדישער מוזיק בעת זײַן לעבן, איז ער אין דער זעלביקער צײַט געווען צום־מערסטנס אַנאָנים: אַ פּשוטער סטאָליער, וואָס האָט אין זײַן פֿרײַער צײַט געשריבן לידער וועגן די אָרעמע ייִדן פֿון קראָקע, וווּ ער האָט געוווינט זײַן גאַנץ לעבן.

ס׳איז שווער אויף איין פֿוס איבערצוגעבן די וויכטיקייט און השפּעה פֿון געבירטיגס לידער. אויף דעם וואָלט מען געדאַרפֿט אַ גאַנצן אַרטיקל, צי אַ דאָקומענטאַר־פֿילם. ס׳איז כּדאַי פּשוט צו דערמאָנען, אַז פֿון אַרום 100 לידער זײַנע וואָס זענען אונדז פֿאַרבליבן, הערט מען אָפֿט כאָטש אַ טוץ פֿון זיי און זיי בלײַבן צווישן די סאַמע באַקאַנסטע ייִדישע לידער איבער דער גאָרער וועלט.

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New opera ‘Out of Darkness’ questions essence of survival

[From Jweekly.com website]

Aremembrance-another-sunrise_normal_sizeJake Heggie’s new opera, based on the writings of an Auschwitz survivor, forced the San Francisco composer to deal with the definition of survival and the tremendous pressure on those who survive when others don’t.

“Out of Darkness” is based on the writings and memories of two Holocaust survivors. The first act, “Krystyna,” is the story of Krystyna Zywulska, a Polish dissident who wrote poems of defiance and set them to popular tunes so concentration camp guards would not recognize their cryptic messages. The second act, “Gad,” examines forbidden love between two men in dark times.

The work, subtitled “An Opera of Survival,” has its Bay Area debut May 25 and 26 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music after making its world premiere a few days earlier in Seattle. It examines what it takes to survive under unbearable circumstances, and how music and poetry can transmit the unspeakable across generational barriers.

“Memory is a very tricky thing,” Heggie said in an interview. “Trying to define dramatic, emotional moments in our life with words is very difficult, which is why songs and opera are the best way to explore, because they give it emotional context.”

Keeping such messages alive is why Mina Miller, the daughter of Holocaust refugees who lost all their family members, in 1998 founded the Seattle-based Music of Remembrance, which commissioned the opera.

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How the Nuremberg trials found names for the Nazis’ crimes

[From The Guardian]

Tuesday, 1 October 1946, Nuremberg’s Palace of Justice

1392A little after three o’clock in the afternoon, the wooden door behind the defendants’ dock slid open and Hans Frank entered courtroom 600. He wore a grey suit, a shade that was offset by the white helmets worn by the two sombre­faced military guards, his escorts. The hearings had taken a toll on the man who had been Adolf Hitler’s personal lawyer and then personal representative in German occupied Poland, with his pink cheeks, sharp little nose and slicked ­back hair. Frank was no longer the slender and swank minister celebrated by his friend Richard Strauss. Indeed, he was in a considerable state of perturbation, so much so that as he entered the room, he turned and faced the wrong direction, showing his back to the judges.

Sitting in the packed courtroom that day was the professor of international law at Cambridge University. Balding and bespectacled, Hersch Lauterpacht perched at the end of a long wooden table, round as an owl, flanked by distinguished colleagues on the British prosecution team. Seated no more than a few feet from Frank, in a black suit, Lauterpacht was the one who came up with the idea of putting the term ‘crimes against humanity’ into the Nuremberg statute, three words to describe the murder of four million Jews and Poles on the territory of Poland. Lauterpacht would come to be recognized as the finest international legal mind of the twentieth century and a father of the modern human rights movement, yet his interest in Frank was not just professional. For five years, Frank had been governor of a territory that included the city of Lemberg, where Lauterpacht had a large family, including his parents, a brother and sister, and their children. When the trial had opened a year earlier, their fate in the kingdom of Hans Frank was unknown.

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East West Street by Philippe Sands review – putting genocide into words

[From The Guardian]

1703A compelling family memoir intersects with the story of the Jewish legal minds who sowed the seeds for human rights law at the Nuremberg trials.

On 20 November 1945, exactly 10 infernal years after the Nazis’ Nuremberg laws had instituted the legality of antisemitism – robbing Jews of citizenship, rights, property, and eventually of life itself – the ancient Bavarian city was host to the war crimes trials that gave birth to the modern system of international justice.

For the first time in history, national leaders were indicted for their murderous acts before an international court. Hermann Göring and other leading Nazis such as the “butcher of Poland”, Hans Frank, Hitler’s preeminent legal adviser and the head of occupied Poland’s “general government”, met their ultimate judgment. It was here, too, that the concepts of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide”, so central to contemporary political life, had their first courtroom airing.

Philippe Sands begins this important and engrossing book in Nuremberg. The trial of Frank provides its climactic moment. It will come as no surprise that Sands is a leading human rights lawyer who was involved in Chilean dictator Pinochet’s extradition trial, as well as in many key cases that have made their way to the international criminal court. The surprise is that even when charting the complexities of law, Sands’s writing has the intrigue, verve and material density of a first-rate thriller.

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László Nemes: ‘I didn’t want Son of Saul to tell the story of survival’

[From The Guardian]

5760The Oscar-winning debut film has stunned audiences with its unflinching portrayal of Auschwitz victims. Here, the director explains why he wanted it to be a visceral, immersive experience that avoided the usual ‘safe road’ ending for viewers.

Immersive is a word normally associated with thrillride films such as Gravity or Lord of the Rings, or boutique costumed events such as Secret Cinema; it is not one that tends to be linked with cinematic descriptions of human misery at its most extreme. But that is how Hungarian film-maker László Nemes likes to refer to his Oscar-winning Holocaust picture Son of Saul, which penetrates to the heart of the grotesque killing machine of Auschwitz.

Nemes, 39, says he wanted Son of Saul, his first full-length feature film, to be a visceral experience and that he had “spent years experimenting with immersive strategies”; really, what he is talking about is Son of Saul’s extraordinary ability to evoke both the baleful dread inside the concentration camp, and the frenetic chaos of its extermination process. For virtually the entire film, the camera is rammed hard into the face of its protagonist Saul Ausländer (the surname, pointedly, means “alien” in German), with unspeakable cruelties largely enacted in blurred, out-of-focus sections of the frame, or just off-screen. The restricted perspective, Nemes says, was designed to reflect the fragmentary experience of the prisoners themselves. “The human experience within the camp was based on limitation and lack of information. No one could know or see that much. So how do you convey that?”

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Joe’s Violin: a Holocaust survivor, a schoolgirl and an unlikely friendship

[from The Guardian]

7144Intergenerational friendships aren’t the YouTube hits of interspecies friendships – but a new film, Joe’s Violin, might help change that.

The documentary short, which had its world premiere at Tribeca film festivalon Thursday, tells the story of a blossoming friendship between a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor and a Bronx 14-year-old schoolgirl, brought together by a violin he acquired at a displaced person’s camp in postwar Germany.

Joseph Feingold was born in Poland in 1923, to a loving family who all played instruments. He was a violinist. “Music meant so much to us,” says Feingold in the film. But when the Nazis and Soviets invaded Poland, Feingold was sent to a Siberian labor camp at just 17, where he remained for six and a half years. His mother and youngest brother were killed in concentration camps.

Feingold returned to Poland after the war, but fled to Germany with his father to escape the Kielce pogrom in 1946, a massacre that murdered 42 Jews.

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Online DP camps collection is poster child of post-war Jewish rebirth

[from the Times of Israel]

Online DP camps collection is poster child of post-war Jewish rebirth.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 17.39.17In the years directly following World War II, more than 250,000 displaced Jewish people began to rebuild their lives. In the process of moving ahead after the horrors of the Holocaust, they renewed former religious, social, political and cultural interests while waiting in Central European displaced persons (DP) camps for permission to immigrate to other parts of the world.

For decades historiography tended to jump from the end of the Holocaust directly to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. However, in recent years, more attention has been paid to the experience of Jews who resided in the DP camps in Germany, Austria and Italy until 1952.

Currently, a digitization project by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research is publishing an online collection of 1,178 posters and some 6,500 photographs attesting to the rebirth of Jewish communal life in the DP camps immediately following the war.

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The Bitter Taste of Victory by Lara Feigel review – writers and artists respond to the camps and Nuremberg

[from The Guardian]

3508When Germany surrendered to the allies in May 1945 a debate was already under way as to how the country should be coaxed back to civilisation. For some it had gone so far down the road to infamy that there seemed no prospect of its being rescued. Others took a more compassionate view, and urged that a huge re-education programme be undertaken to expose German minds to ideas of peace and tolerance. One means of effecting this transformation was culture. Artists and writers would put shoulders to the wheel to help rehabilitate the country and its people – to cleanse its poisoned soul.

That was the theory. Lara Feigel’s absorbing book relives the era in all its uncertainty, and delves into the irreconcilable differences and contradictions that would come to thwart the project. One roadblock to the argument for renewal was the dubious efficacy of culture itself. After all, Germany had created, pre-1933, the most advanced and enduring culture in Europe. If the country of Goethe and Beethoven had failed to halt Hitler, what difference could British and American arts possibly make? The question was an especially raw one for those who had seen the concentration camps first-hand. In April 1945 Richard Dimbleby, reporting from Belsen for the BBC, struck a piteous note of horror: the starved inmates “looked so utterly unreal and inhuman that I could have imagined that they had never lived at all”. This central, unfathomable crime of the Nazis haunts those whose experiences Feigel has corralled here; some in fact regarded the entire German nation as complicitous in the crime. Repugnance took on physical symptoms. The photographer Lee Miller, recalling her visit to Dachau, found herself “grinding her teeth and snarling, filled with hate and despair”. Martha Gellhorn, also at Dachau, wrote that she had walked in there “and suffered a lifelong concussion, without recognising it”.

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Still lives, distant voices: haunting recreations of 1930s Poland – in pictures

[From The Guardian]

1024In homage to Rembrandt and Vermeer, Richard Tuschman makes dioramas of Jewish homes in Kraków between the wars, full of wistful, troubled families.

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Imre Kertész obituary

[From The Guardian]

2667‘To write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric,” wrote the German critic Theodor Adorno soon after the second world war. He later modified his statement by saying: “The main question is: can we go on living after Auschwitz?” This was the problem with which the Nobel prize-winning Hungarian Jewish writer Imre Kertész, a survivor of the Holocaust, grappled throughout his life and literary work, until his death at the age of 86.

Kertész’s first and most influential novel, Sorstalanság (Fatelessness, 1975), is the story of a 14-year-old boy, Gyuri Köves, who survives deportation to Auschwitz and captivity in Buchenwald, and, on his return to Hungary, finds it impossible to relate his experiences to his surviving family. The book was at first hardly noticed by Hungarian critics and only became a success many years later once it had been translated into German and then, in 2005, made into a film by the Hungarian cinematographer Lajos Koltai. While lacking the biting irony of Tadeusz Borowski’s Auschwitz stories, Sorstalanság differs from most accounts of Nazi concentration camps in its relentless objectivity, and as such is a unique achievement of its kind.

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UK subjected survivors of Nazis to oppressive questioning, files show

[From The Guardian]

Whitehall officials subjected British victims of Nazi persecution to months and sometimes years of oppressive questioning as they applied for German-funded compensation – questioning their harrowing accounts of their experiences in concentration camps, newly released documents reveal.

In one case, officials spent years investigating the family background of the renowned secret agent Violette Szabó – the Special Operations Executive agent who was dropped by parachute into France, captured, tortured, and executed in Ravensbruck concentration camp – to determine whether her daughter was entitled to compensation.

Records of hundreds of claimants incarcerated by the Nazis, many of whom were unsuccessful, were released on Thursday at the National Archives, more than 50 years after the German government agreed to contribute a total of £1m to UK nationals or their dependants. The money was eventually shared among 1,015 individuals.

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Son of Saul: Taboo-busting Holocaust tale to put Hungary on Hollywood’s map

[From The Independent]

In all the controversy over the lack of diversity in this year’s Academy Awards, what hasn’t always been noticed is the remarkable story behind the Holocaust drama Son Of Saul, the front-runner for the foreign-language Oscar.

When it comes to the challenge of representing the Holocaust on screen, the risks of appearing clumsy, insensitive or downright trite are obvious (Roberto Benigni’s 1997 comedic Life Is Beautifulmay have won an Oscar but is still seen by many as ill advised).

Laszlo Nemes, 38, the Hungarian film-maker behind Son Of Saul, was born long after the Second World War. But he knew he was tackling taboos by recreating the horrors of the Nazi genocide on screen with his story about a sonderkommando in Auschwitz – an inmate who disposed of the corpses.

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Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-1949 by David Cesarani – review

[from The Guardian]

3008Jan Karski, a courier for the Polish underground, was among the first to reach London and Washington after observing the mass killing of Polish Jews. In an interview for Claude Lanzmann’s 1985 film Shoah, Karski, still astonished after so many years, gets to his feet as he recalls the reaction of Felix Frankfurter, Franklin Roosevelt’s confidant. “I don’t believe you,” he recalls Frankfurter saying. “I know you are not a liar, but I don’t believe you.”

Similar sentiments will occur to the half-attentive reader throughout almost every page of David Cesarani’s account of the Final Solution. How many Jews were killed? How were they killed? Did the Hitler project really imply the extermination of every single Jew in Europe? And what sort of person could be relied on to kill one human being after another – women and children, the old, the young – day after blood-drenched day?

Cesarani’s justification for another book about the Holocaust is that a generation of new research has failed to find its way into public consciousness. “The nomenclature itself is increasingly self-defeating,” he begins. Terms such as “the Holocaust” or “Shoah”, even “genocide”, in the legitimate course of memorialising Jewish sufferings, have walled off mass killings from the events surrounding them. To that end Cesarani treats the subject in a stripped-down factual idiom, avoiding any pervasive explanation of motives. What we get in this context are facts, and these facts consist largely of killings.

This is a book as hard to read as a set of Human Rights Watch reports. But it’s difficult not to be first moved and then overwhelmed by the mere listing of what happened, and in this respect Cesarani, who died in October, has fulfilled his ambition of reclaiming the killings of Jews for another generation.

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Why Adolf Eichmann’s final message remains so profoundly unsettling

[from the Guardian]

Had it not been for an unguarded conversation between Adolf Eichmann’s son and the Argentinian girl he was dating, the chances are that the shabby “Ricardo Klement” would have lived out his days in obscurity a few miles north of Buenos Aires. Unlike Josef Mengele, the sadistic camp doctor at Auschwitz, who was feted in the more glamorous circles of Argentinian society, Klement was a failure in his adopted country. He ran a laundry business for a while but it went bankrupt. He lurched from job to job. And when he was captured by Mossad agents on 11 May 1960, shuffling home from the bus stop, they couldn’t quite believe that this was the high-ranking Nazi officer who was responsible for the deportation of millions of Jews to the death camps.

Since his trial in Jerusalem in 1961, Eichmann has become the subject of continued controversy – much of it not so much about the man himself, but often more about the very nature of evil. Yesterday’s release of a hand-written letterfrom Eichmann to the then Israeli president, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, requesting clemency, will only continue the debate. “There is a need to draw a line between the leaders responsible and the people like me forced to serve as mere instruments in the hands of the leaders,” Eichmann’s letter pleaded. “I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty.”

In other words: not my fault, I was only obeying orders. His self-delusion was unassailable, even at the end. Eichmann’s request was denied and two days later he was hanged in Ramla prison.

In her famous account of the trial, the philosopher Hannah Arendt described Eichmann as a small-minded functionary, more concerned with the managerial hows of his job than the moral or existential whys. According to Arendt, Eichmann wasn’t a man for asking difficult questions, he just got on with the job of managing timetables and calculating travel costs – thus her famous phrase “the banality of evil”.

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Do we need to rethink how we teach the Holocaust?

[from the Guardian]

Many peo2480ple argue that it is crucially important for young people to learn about the Holocaust to prevent racism and prejudice in the present day. But in a focus group interview exploring secondary school students’ attitudes to the Holocaust, Ella, a year 12 student from Peterborough turned that idea on its head.

“I didn’t stop being racist because of learning about the Holocaust … I’ve always not been racist,” she said.

Ella is one of more than 9,500 students consulted by University College London (UCL) researchers as part of a three year-long national study looking at secondary school students’ knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust. This study (launched by the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education) drew primarily on survey responses from almost 8,000 young people and interviews of nearly 250 students. It aimed to find out what young people should know about the Holocaust and why.

The Holocaust has been part of the national curriculum since the early 1990s, but many teachers are uncertain about what the educational aims of teaching this subject should be and what content to include or to prioritise, especially when faced with limited time and a packed curriculum. The centre’s earlier study, Teaching About the Holocaust in English Secondary Schools, found that in a variety of subjects teachers’ intentions were most likely to enable students to understand the ramifications of racism, transform society and learn the lesson of the Holocaust to ensure it never happens again. However, as the study went to argue, such universal, trans-disciplinary aims are difficult both to assess and to translate into pedagogical practice.

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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]

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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.

 

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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”

Abstract:
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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British Jews give wary approval to the return of Hitler’s Mein Kampf

[From The Guardian]

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Senior figures in Britain’s Jewish community have cautiously welcomed the republication of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf for the first time since the second world war.

The most notorious antisemitic text of the 20th century, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), was originally published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926, and was the first systematic exposition of Hitler’s thinking on race and the “Jewish peril” he believed was threatening Germany.

Since 1946, the copyright has been in the hands of the Bavarian state, which refused to consider a new edition. However, the copyright protection expires at the end of the year and on 8 January a new academic, or “critical”, edition will be launched by the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich, complete with comprehensive annotations.

German Jews have already expressed divided opinions on the republication. Levi Salomon, spokesman for the Berlin-based Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Antisemitism, told American media that he was “absolutely against” the publication, regardless of its annotations. “Can you annotate the Devil?” he asked. “Can you annotate a person like Hitler?”

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The day Israel saw Shoah

[From The Guardian]

3134Outside it was burningly hot, the skies clear blue. But inside there was only darkness. For the next nine and a half hours, in the Jerusalem Cinematheque, they would sit, rapt and in silence, through Shoah, the film made by the French director Claude Lanzmann, which was already being garlanded by critics around the world as the greatest single film about the Holocaust and one of the very greatest documentaries in the history of cinema.

It was June 1986, eight months after the film’s release. Hushed audiences had sat spellbound at screenings in Paris and New York, but this June day was different. It was the first official showing of Lanzmann’s masterpiece in Israel, its premiere marked as all but a state occasion. Taking their seats at the Cinematheque, then a newly opened arthouse cinema facing the walls of the Old City, were Israel’s prime minister, Shimon Peres, along with the country’s president, chief rabbi and even the chief of staff of the military. A surging pack of press and cameras had greeted their arrival.

Less noticed as they made their way through the heaving crowd were the rest of the invited audience. Among them were several of those who appeared in the film: the survivors of the Nazi death camps, the resistance fighters, those who had witnessed the slaughter up close. They were in the room. Many had their children at their side.

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Our fathers the Nazis: film explores the legacy of atrocities

[From The Guardian]

Documentary takes sons of Nazis and professor whose relatives were killed back to the horror of occupied eastern Europe.

Seventy years after Hans Frank, the SS governor of Poland who oversaw the Holocaust, appeared before the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal, a documentary is released this week exploring his embittered family legacy and the possibility of reconciliation following the atrocities.

My Nazi Legacy is a compelling journey into the horrors of occupied eastern Europe in the company of Frank’s son, Niklas, Horst von Wächter – whose father, Otto, was Nazi governor of Galicia (now mostly in modern Ukraine) – and Philippe Sands QC, professor of international law, many of whose family died during mass murders of the Jewish community there in 1942.

The film deals with the relationship between the three men and their attempts to come to terms with what their parents inflicted or suffered, examining the way Germans have dealt with their poisoned inheritance and Ukrainians embroidered their fragile history of independence.

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