Category Archives: Holocaust testimonies

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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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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‘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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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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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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חורבן־געשיכטעס אויף ייִדיש קריגן אַ ברייטערן עולם |Holocaust Histories in Yiddish Get Wider Audience

[from פֿאָרװערטס | forverts ]

געוויינטלעך, ווען אַ גראַדויִר־סטודענט פֿאַרענדיקט זײַן דיסערטאַציע, ווייסן ווייניק מענטשן וועגן דעם תּוכן, אַחוץ די פּראָפֿעסאָרן פֿון זײַן אָפּטייל.

מאַרק סמיטס דאָקטאָראַט טראָגט אָבער אַ ספּעציעלן באַטײַט, בפֿרט פֿאַר דער ייִדיש־וועלט: ער שרײַבט וועגן די חורבן־געשיכטעס וואָס פֿינף היסטאָריקער האָבן אָנגעשריבן אויף ייִדיש, און זענען במילא די אַלע יאָרן איגנאָרירט געוואָרן פֿון דער אַקאַדעמישער וועלט צוליב אַ פּשוטער סיבה: ווייניק היסטאָריקער קענען די ייִדישע שפּראַך.

סמיטס 536־זײַטיקע אַרבעט, „די ייִדיש־שרײַבנדיקע היסטאָריקער און דער קאַמף פֿאַר אַ חורבן־געשיכטע פֿון ייִדישן קוקווינקל‟ אַנאַליזירט די ייִדישע חורבן־געשיכטעס אָנגעשריבן פֿון פֿינף היסטאָריקער: מאַרק דוואָרזעצקי, ישיעה טרונק, פֿיליפּ פֿרידמאַן, יוסף קערמיש און נחמן בלומענטאַל.

די דיסערטאַציע נעמט אויך אַרײַן סמיטס איבערזעצונג פֿון דוואָרעצקיס עסיי, „פֿאַרשידן זענען געווען די וועגן‟, אָנגשריבן אין 1946.

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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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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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Embracing Ambiguity: Reflections on Translating Yiddish by Anita Norich

[From In geveb]

thumbnail.imgTranslation theorists and many keners of Yiddish are remarkably alike in their mystification or obfuscation of what it means to translate. How often do we hear indignant exclamations of “S’hot nisht keyn yidishn tam,” or “you just can’t translate that” followed by such proofs as hak mir nisht keyn tshaynik or nisht geshtoygn, nisht gefloygn? And how often have we been stymied by illustrious theorists (Walter Benjamin’s opaque and pivotal “The Task of the Translator” chief among them) announcing versions of the following: “We only ever speak one language. We never speak only one language.” (Jacques Derrida). “Nothing is translatable… . Everything is translatable.” (Emily Apter). “Benjamin defines translation as untranslatable.” (Carol Jacobs).We would do better to simply acknowledge that “don’t knock on my teakettle,” or “didn’t rise, didn’t fly” really are inadequate literal translations of rich idioms. Or that Benjamin gives us the best and most difficult advice when he writes that “the task of the translator is to find in the translator’s language that latent structure which can awake an echo of the original.”

Fundamental to discussions of translation have been questions about fidelity and transgression. “Traduttore, traditore” (translator, traitor) goes the familiar Italian adage. Or, to cite a line perhaps closer to home, we read in the Talmud Rabbi Yehuda’s verdict that “one who translates a verse literally is a liar; one who adds to it is a blasphemer and a libeller.” Add to this the history of Yiddish and Yiddish-speaking people in the twentieth century and translators are, indeed, faced with a daunting task. The fear is not only that we may lose culturally specific nuances (always a concern in translation from any language) but the history and culture of pre-Holocaust Askenazic Jewry.

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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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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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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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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 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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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”

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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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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Living Word From a Dead World

[from The Tablet]

A new project at Yad Vashem analyzes the first letters that survivors wrote after the Holocaust, letting their loved ones know that they were alive

(By Yardena Schwartz)

When Tzipora Shapiro walked out the gates of Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945, the first thing she felt was guilt. Her father, grandfather, brothers, aunts, and uncles all died in the Lodz Ghetto, and when the Nazis transferred Shapiro and her mother to Auschwitz, she watched as they sent her mother to the gas chambers. As a young, able-bodied woman, Shapiro was put to work in the camp—and was the only member of her immediate family to survive.

After being liberated, Shapiro stayed in Poland, hoping to find a distant relative who may have survived the war. Thirteen months later, she finally found the address of a cousin who had fled to British Mandate Palestine before the ghettos of Poland gave way to genocide.

“At long last,” Shapiro wrote on Feb. 15, 1946, in her first letter as a free woman, “I’m hurrying to send you a living word from a dead world.”

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The ‘Cellist of Auschwitz

[from the New Statesman]

In the grainy black-and-white photograph the girl poses with her cello, gazing down towards the bow. It was 1938 in Berlin, shortly before Kristallnacht, or the “Night of Broken Glass”, the
first Nazi pogrom that led to the incarceration of Jews. Anita had grown up in a house in Breslau, which was then in the east of Germany, that was filled with music. Lying in bed, she would listen as her mother, Edith, started her violin routine with the opening octaves of a Beethoven concerto. Her father, Alfons, loved to sing. Her two elder sisters played the piano and the violin. She, too, started learning to play an instrument “very young”, as she recalled recently when we met at the JW3 Jewish community centre in London.

“I remember that my mother had such a small cello that she could hold it under her chin,” said Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, who is now 90.

The Laskers’ quiet life soured after Hitler became chancellor in 1933. In the street, children spat at Anita or called her a “dirty Jew”. Schools were segregated. The anti-Semitism became so pervasive that it was no longer possible to find a music teacher brave enough to take on a Jewish pupil.

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London Film Festival: My Nazi Legacy

my-nazi-legacy-stillThe subject of the holocaust is a difficult one to discuss on film, not least because so much has been done on it before. Human rights lawyer Philippe Sands’s latest feature, My Nazi Legacy, alternatively titled A Nazi Legacy: What Our Fathers Did, begins as a fairly standard effort, with archive footage, moody music and a slightly monotonous voiceover. The subjects are two men in their 70s, an Austrian and a German, who are the sons respectively of Nazi war criminals Otto Wächter and Hans Frank. Both were key architects of Hitler’s policies throughout the eastern part of Germany, collectively responsible for thousands of deaths. Horst von Wächter and Niklas Frank are interviewed over a series of months about their fathers, families and lives during and after the war.

The film gains a real hold, however, when it becomes apparent that a rift is growing between the two men. Niklas becomes increasingly uncomfortable with Horst’s determinedly rose-tinted view of his father, who was known by some as “the butcher of Poland”. Niklas condemns his own father for his crimes and for his lack of paternal affection, while Horst firmly believes that von Wächter was good inside and had little idea over the atrocities being committed under his command. He pities Niklas, saying that he is an egomaniac whose “life is practically annihilated by his father”. The fascinating difference between two men with such similar backgrounds becomes the documentary’s most interesting element, with Sands’s increasingly difficult relationship with von Wächter adding an unusual tension not seen in the average history documentary.

[My Nazi Legacy is released in select cinemas on 20th November 2015.]

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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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Son of Saul review: an outstanding, excoriating look at evil in Auschwitz

[From The Guardian]

This astonishing debut film, about a prisoner in the concentration camp employed in the industrial processes of body-disposal, is a horror movie of extraordinary focus and courage

7b8119d2-4e02-4a5a-9ccb-be7e9bc73301-620x372A season in hell is what this devastating and terrifying film offers — as well an occasion for meditating on representations of the Holocaust, on Wittgenstein’s dictum about matters whereof we cannot speak, and on whether these unimaginable and unthinkable horrors can or even should be made imaginable and thinkable in a fictional drama. There is an argument that any such drama, however serious its moral intentions, risks looking obtuse or diminishing its subject, although this is not a charge that can be ultimately levelled at Son of Saul.

By any standards, this would be an outstanding film, but for a debut it is really remarkable, a film with the power of Elem Klimov’s Come and See — which has surely inspired the film’s final sequence — and perhaps also Lajos Koltai’s Hungarian film Fateless. It also has the severity of Béla Tarr, to whom director Làszlò Nemes was for two years an assistant, but notably without Tarr’s glacial pace: Nemes is clearly concerned at some level to exert the conventional sort of narrative grip which does not interest Tarr.

Son of Saul is set in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in 1944, and one Hungarian Jewish prisoner named Saul (played by Geza Röhrig) is a member of the Sonderkommando, a group of prisoners given humiliating and illusory privileges as trusties, with minor increases of food ration in return for the task of carrying the bodies from the gas chambers to pyres to be burnt and then carting the ashes away to be dumped: a task carried out at a frantic, ever-accelerating 24/7 rate, as the Allies close in. Among the dead, Saul discovers the body of his young son, and sets out to find a rabbi among the prisoners to give this boy a proper burial in secret: an objective requiring the deployment of pleas, threats, blackmail and the offerings of bribes using jewellery (called the “shiny”) stolen from the bodies. Saul’s desperate mission is carried out with the same urgent, hoarse whispers and mutterings as another plot in progress: a planned uprising, which Saul’s intentions may in fact upset. And all the time, the Sonderkommandoare aware, through this network of whispers, that they themselves will be executed in due course by their Nazi captors.

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‘Accountant of Auschwitz’: I am morally complicit in the murder of Jews

[From The Guardian]

Oskar Gröning, charged with complicity in the murder of 300,000 Holocaust victims, expresses remorse during trial in Germany.

A former SS guard expressed remorse for the role he played in the Holocaustwhen he went on trial charged with complicity in the murder of 300,000 Jews.

In a lengthy speech, Oskar Gröning, 93, referred to as the “accountant of Auschwitz”, recounted the two years he had spent at the extermination camp after volunteering for the SS, the Nazi party’s protection squadron.

Former SS guard Oskar Gröning sits outside court in Lueneburg
 Former SS guard Oskar Gröning sits outside court in Lueneburg. Photograph: Markus Schreiber/AP

Survivors of the Holocaust, many of whom have travelled from the US, Canada and Hungary in the hope of seeing justice done for their relatives who were murdered after a wait of 70 years, listened intently as Gröning spoke in court in Lüneburg, northern Germany.

“It is without question that I am morally complicit in the murder of millions of Jews through my activities at Auschwitz,” the retired bank clerk said, clutching his notes and looking directly at the bench. “Before the victims, I also admit to this moral guilt here, with regret and humility. To the question as to whether I am criminally culpable, that’s for you to decide.”

His statement came at the end of a detailed 50-minute account of his time at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which included how he was initially sent there and his attempts to get transferred elsewhere because of the atrocities he had seen, including seeing an SS colleague bashing a baby to death against the side of a lorry.

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Only a great writer can share the suffering of Auschwitz

[From The Guardian]

Like Primo Levi, Otto Dov Kulka has the unusual ability to communicate what it meant to be a Nazi death camp inmate.

One of the mysteries of great suffering is how hard it is to penetrate from the outside. Otto Dov Kulka‘s account of his time as a child in Auschwitz tells us almost nothing of the history of the place and how it came to be. That is for the reader, as it was for the child Kulka, something given. The only concessions to conventional history come in digressions, as in the account of his mother’s departure and death, when the ramifications of the system and its long ghastly tentacles are explored.

As an adult, Kulka became a historian of the causes of the Holocaust. But one of the subjects of his book is the absolute disconnect between his studies and his experiences. In his work as a historian he stopped short of the camp gates: “in all my research I never had to deal with the stage, the dimension, of the violent end, the murder, the humiliation and the torture of those human beings.”

He avoided, also, a great deal that had been written and filmed about the Holocaust. He did not read camp memoirs, and he did not watch Claud Lanzmann‘s film Shoah. At last he was invited at a conference to attend a lecture on the subject of the Holocaust in literature, and felt that politeness compelled him to accept. He listened, and felt an extraordinary disconnection: that the language in which the Holocaust might be described by outsiders was one he could not understand himself, while the language with which he could make sense of it himself, his mythology as he elsewhere calls it, was entirely different.

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A haunting account of the Holocaust (Otto Dov Kulka’s Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death)

[from The Guardian]
In Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death, Otto Dov Kulka describes how the transmission of fine music and literature in Auschwitz proved the existence of hope – and sarcasm.

I am writing about a very short book, which could take no more than a couple of hours to read and no more than a lifetime to digest. As its author, Otto Dov Kulka, says: “I am … aware that these texts, though anchored in concrete historical events, transcend the sphere of history.” It is a historian’s memoir of Auschwitz, without sentimentality and almost without outrage, since it is an examination of a place where all human reactions are inadequate.

Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death is told in vignettes. Here is one I take to be central: a boy sits playing a tune on a harmonica. Another child comes up to him and asks if he knows what he is playing. No, he replies, it was taught to me six months ago in a camp that no longer exists. Kulka, who was the harmonica player, continues: “He then explained to me what I was playing and what we sang there and the meaning of those words. I think he also tried to explain the terrible absurdity of it, the terrible wonder of it, that a song of praise to joy and to the brotherhood of man, Schiller’s Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s ninth symphony, was being played opposite the crematoriums of Auschwitz, a few hundred metres from the place of execution, where the greatest conflagration ever experienced by that same mankind that was being sung about was going on at the very moment we were talking and in all the months we were there.”

In one sense this terrible absurdity and wonder cannot by their nature be explained. Absurdity and wonder can be revealed and their ramifications expounded, but they cannot be made to make sense; they can’t be reduced to any explanation. The same is true of death – except that in Auschwitz death made all the sense there was. Death was, as Kulka says, “The sole certain perspective ruling the world.”

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Survivors descend on London to agree a British memorial to the Holocaust

[from The Independent]

17-Helfgott-AFP-GettyA Holocaust survivor who saw almost all his family wiped out in the death camps will today take part in an event which it is hoped will help to create a fitting national memorial.

Ben Helfgott, 84, forced to spend his childhood years in concentration camps, will join hundreds of survivors at an event staged by the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission, which will discuss the creation of a new, permanent British commemoration.

When he created the commission in January, David Cameron warned that there was a real danger that the events of the Holocaust will become increasingly remote to younger generations.

The cross-party commission, whose members include actress Helena Bonham Carter, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and the Arts Council England chairman Sir Peter Bazalgette, will stage a unique conference in London today, to discuss new education initiatives and memorial proposals gathered from a nationwide public appeal.

The guests include concentration camp survivors, individuals who escaped to Britain on the Kindertransport and those who were hidden from the Nazis as children.

Discussions will include how best to capture digitally the testimony of Holocaust survivors such as Mr Helfgott, and the possible creation of a new permanent museum. The new memorial will focus on the role that Britain played through the Kindertransport, and the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen camp.

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Misha Defonseca: Author who made up Holocaust memoir ordered to repay £13.3m

[from The Independent]

Holocaust-autobiography

The author of a bestselling Holocaust memoir has been ordered to pay back £13.3 million ($22.5 million) after she admitted much of her sensational story was pure fantasy.

Misha Defonseca, a Belgian writer now living in Massachusetts, claimed she was adopted by a pack of wolves and killed a Nazi soldier to survive after her Jewish parents were taken during the Second World War.

But it emerged that she was not Jewish, as claimed, her real name was Monica Ernestine Josephine De Wael and her tale of four years wandering through forests to escape the Holocaust was untrue.

Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Yearswas published in 1997 and was translated into 18 languages and made into a French film called Survivre Avec Les Loups before Defonseca, 76, admitted that much of it was a lie.

The book, which is still on sale on Amazon for up to £15, took her around the world telling her story to Jewish groups and at Holocaust memorial events.

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900 of Earliest Holocaust Testimonials Available Online

[from The Jerusalem Post]

Imagine stumbling upon a three-decade-old interview of your grandmother’s Holocaust experiences on YouTube, and then listening to her retell her account of Jewish resistance against Nazis in Poland. Gal Nordlicht, who had never heard his grandmother’s story, before could only describe the experience as “incredible.”

The Nordlicht’s are just one of many families who have discovered a relatives’ Shoah testimony online through the Holocaust Oral History Collection website, created by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Oral History Division in the Institute of Contemporary Jewry. It was launched last Thursday to overlap with the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.

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Click here to access these testimonials

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Imre Kertész: Music, Silence, Automation

[From The Quietus website]

Coinciding with the release of his first (and apparently only) memoir, Dossier K, earlier this year, Daniel Fraser considers the writing and the life of Hungarian Nobel Prize-winning author Imre Kertész.

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Personal accounts of persecution and genocide by the Nazi regime (BBC archive)

These BBC programmes and documents chart the reactions and personal testimonies of some of those who witnessed the Nazis’ “Final Solution”.

Interviews, journals and documentaries starkly convey the realities of the camps. Survivors recount their experiences of the genocide and its continuing legacy.

This collection also illustrates the shock felt by the liberators and how the atrocities were revealed by UK broadcasters.

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Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive (University of Michigan)

Since 1981, Dr. Sidney Bolkosky, Professor of History at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, has interviewed Holocaust survivors. The University’s Mardigian Library has been the repository of these interviews. It has been our privilege to provide a forum for those voices, “listening ears,” as one survivor notes, and the facilities to record the testimonies. As a University of distinction, the campus has demonstrated its dignity and character because of the respect it has accorded the tapes and the people who made them.

This archive represents a gurantee of honest presentation–unembroidered, without dramatization, a scholarly yet austerely moving collection of information and insight. We have been and are engaged in rescuing fragments of fragments of memory. We have done that quietly, without fanfare, but with integrity and quality. Because of that, the project is what it is, does not need any hype or dramatization. It speaks for itself–literally.

Those who have had access to the tapes–including scholars, psychologists, historians, and more than 1,000 students–have found themselves riveted to their tape recorders or VCRs. Now the collection, as it grows, has obtained a potentially larger audience: copies of all the interviews rest in the archives of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; copies of the videotapes are in the Yale Video Archives and the Holocaust Memorial Center in West Bloomfield, MI. Through the work of many individuals, that audience is now international and unbounded, crossing continents and oceans, disciplines, and professions. There have already been inquiries to the campus from Australia and Munich as well as Ann Arbor and Flint, Michigan

Click here to access this site.

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Forced Labour 1939-1945: Memory and History

A Digital Archive for Education and Research

A Cooperation between the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” (EVZ), Freie Universität Berlin and the German Historical Museum

“Forced Labor 1939-1945” commemorates the more than twelve million people who were forced to work for Nazi Germany. Nearly 600 former forced laborers from 26 countries tell their life stories in detailed audio and video interviews. The interviews were digitized and have been made accessible online to support education and research.

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First Days of the Latvian Holocaust (Dovid Katz)

Eyewitness testimony, filmed and compiled by Dovid Katz, of the onset of the Holocaust in Latvia.

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First Days of the Lithuanian Holocaust (Dovid Katz)

Eyewitness testimony, filmed and compiled by Dovid Katz, of the onset of the Holocaust in Lithuania on 22 June 1941 and in the following days, in some cases before the arrival and/or establishment of authority by German Nazi forces at various localities. Some testimonies carry parts of the narrative further into July and August of 1941.

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Oral Histories: Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust

Wisconsin Historical Society archivists interviewed 22 Holocaust survivors and two American witnesses between 1974 and 1981. These oral histories are now available digitally and in their entirety for the first time, uncensored and unfiltered.

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Witnesses: One Voice at a Time (USC Shoah Foundation)

Here you can watch the full-length testimony of 12 men and women who had diverse experiences during the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda. These videotaped eyewitness accounts are part of the Institutes’ collection of nearly 52,000 testimonies.

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Survivor Testimonies (British Library Collection)

During the 1930s and 40s, the Nazis and their collaborators murdered six million Jews. Hitler’s intention was to destroy all Jewish communities, and to build a ‘master race’ of Aryans. Many other ‘non-aryans’ were persecuted including Romanies, homosexuals, and the disabled, as well as those who were politically opposed to the Nazis. This terrible moment in history is now known as the Holocaust. It remains one of the most horrific examples in recent European history of indifference, inhumanity, prejudice and genocide.

Voices of the Holocaust consists of oral history testimonies gathered from Jewish men and women who came to live in Britain during or after WWII. These testimonies are personal, individual, true stories, that describe the hardships of life during Hitler’s reign.

Further interviews with Jewish survivors of the Holocaust can be found on the Archival Sound Recordings website.

Young boy in a ghettoSurvivor testimoniesListen to personal stories from Jewish Holocaust survivors, and learn what life was like for Jews during Hitler’s reign.

Children in concentration campInformation cardsDiscover more about the background to the Holocaust. Subjects include Nazi policies, anti-semitism, religion and Anne Frank.

Nazi outside Jewish shopReferenceConsult maps, statistics, a glossary of terms and a chronological chart tracing significant moments of the 1930s and 40s

ActivitiesSuggestions for how to use the resources, helping you to question and explore this period of history

Barbed wireTeachers’ pagesInformation for teachers including worksheets, links, and suggestions for how to use the resources.

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Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies (Yale University)

Click here to access this site.

In 1979, a grassroots organization, the Holocaust Survivors Film Project, began videotaping Holocaust survivors and witnesses in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1981, the original collection of testimonies was deposited at Yale University, and the Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies opened its doors to the public the following year. Since then, the Archive has worked to record, collect, and preserve Holocaust witness testimonies, and to make its collection available to researchers, educators, and the general public.

The Archive currently holds more than 4,400 testimonies, which are comprised of over 10,000 recorded hours of videotape. Testimonies are produced in cooperation with 37 affiliated projects across North America, South America, Europe, and Israel, and each project maintains a duplicate collection of locally recorded videotapes.

The Archive and its affiliates continue to record the testimonies of willing individuals with first-hand experience of the Nazi persecutions, including those in hiding, survivors, bystanders, resistants, and liberators. Testimonies are recorded in whatever language the witness prefers, and range in length from one-half hour to over 40 hours (recorded over several sessions).

The Archive’s interviewing methodology stresses the leadership role of the witness in structuring and telling his or her own story. Questions are primarily used to ascertain time and place, or elicit additional information about topics already mentioned, with an emphasis on open-ended questions that give the initiative to the witness. The witnesses are the experts in their own life story, and the interviewers are there to listen, to learn, and to clarify.

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Bearing Witness

This site, called Bearing Witness, tells the story of the first efforts some twenty years ago to videotape Holocaust survivors recollecting their experiences.  On their own initiative and without any outside support, Laurel Vlock and Dr. Dori Laub taped the testimonies of four survivors.  From this inconspicuous beginning, which revolutionized the act of witnessing by providing “demeanor evidence,” arose such projects as the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University and the Shoah Visual History Foundation.  The essay presented here tells how Ms. Vlock and Dr. Laub came to their collaboration.  Further, it explores the unique contributions that have been made to our understanding of this horrific episode in world history by courageous individuals who have come forward to tell their stories.

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Voices of the Holocaust: David Boder’s interviews of Holocaust survivors

David P. BoderThis site give access to many of David P. Boder’s recordings of interviews he conducted with Holocaust survivors.

In 1946, Dr. David P. Boder, a psychology professor from Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology, traveled to Europe to record the stories of Holocaust survivors in their own words. Over a period of three months, he visited refugee camps in France, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany, carrying a wire recorder and 200 spools of steel wire, upon which he was able to record over 90 hours of first-hand testimony. These recordings represent the earliest known oral histories of the Holocaust, which are available through this online archive. (from the site)

The site gives a wide range of useful background contextualisation to the project as well. Extremely valuable resource.

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