Category Archives: Other primary sources (not Yiddish)

‘Bookkeeper of Auschwitz’ dies before entering jail

[From The Guardian]

Oskar Gröning, found guilty over his role as accountant at Nazi death camp, dies in hospital aged 96

A former Nazi SS guard dubbed the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz” has died aged 96 without ever having served his sentence for being an accessory to murder, German media said on Monday. Oskar Gröning was among the last former Nazis to face trial for their roles in the second world war, more than 70 years after the conflict, thanks to a landmark case allowing prosecution for aiding and abetting the German extermination programme.

He worked as an accountant at Auschwitz, sorting and counting the money taken from those killed or used as slave labour, and shipping it back to his Nazi superiors in Berlin. He was also on several occasions assigned to process deportees as they arrived at the Nazi German death camp in occupied Poland.

Gröning was found guilty in July 2015 of being an accessory to the murders of 300,000 people at the camp and sentenced to four years in prison. Germany’s constitutional court ruled in late December that he must serve out his sentence, rejecting his defenders’ argument that imprisonment at such an advanced age would violate his “right to life”.

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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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Music on the Brink of Destruction (BBC Radio 3 Programme)

[From BBC Radio 3 website]

The Nazi camp system was a sprawling universe of brutality and murder that held millions of individuals from across Europe: Jews, Roma and Sinti, German communists, Poles, POWs, and countless others. Themusical works these prisoners created are extraordinary documents from the time: fragments recovered from the rubble of war and genocide; monuments to the lives that were destroyed.

This forgotten musical legacy is beginning to be recovered by historians and musicologists, who have been drawing on newly-discovered scores, songs and oral histories to resurrect the diverse musics created during the Holocaust: from string quartets in Theresienstadt and tender ghetto lullabies to the fighting songs of the Jewish partisans, macabre camp ballads, and sardonic cabaret. Nazism’s victims used music to document their lives, to mourn the loss of home and family, to show solidarity with the anti-fascist cause, to escape reality, to indulge in gallows humour. They also made music on the orders of their jailers, who used music both to celebrate and to oppress.

In the aftermath of war, a few dedicated individuals set about collecting voices and songs on the brink of destruction. Now, drawing on original research and newly-digitized archives, Southampton University’s Shirli Gilbert, historian & author of Music in the Holocaust , analyses this rich musical history from the worst of times.

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

[From The Guardian]

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

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

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

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

Prof. Neil Gregor, University of Southampton

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


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



Dr Beate Müller, Newcastle University

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

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

Both talks can be accessed via recap here

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Holocaust documents trove unearthed in Budapest apartment

[From The Guardian]

4928A vast and historically valuable trove of Holocaust-era documents, long thought destroyed during the second world war, has been found hidden in a wall cavity by a couple renovating their Budapest apartment.

The haul of 6,300 documents are from a 1944 census that was a precursor to the intended liquidation of the Hungarian capital’s 200,000 Jews in Nazi death camps.

Brigitte Berdefy, co-owner of the apartment overlooking Hungary’s parliament, said in August a worker detected paper after jamming a screwdriver through a crack in the wall.

“We thought we’d ruined the neighbour’s wallpaper,” Berdefy said.

But then her husband Gabor peered through the crack and saw what looked like handwriting.

Carefully removing each brick, the couple eased out around 61 kilogrammes (135 pounds) of dusty papers, many with bits of plaster caked on, but all more or less intact.

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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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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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Nazi-themed Wagner opera cancelled

[from BBC new website]

A controversial production of a Wagner opera at one of the major German opera houses has been cancelled because of harrowing scenes involving Nazis.

The Rheinoper, based in Dusseldorf, said some of the audience had to seek medical help following early performances of Tannhauser.

But the producer “refused” to tone down the staging, set in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.

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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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The Spielberg Jewish Film Archive

The 400 films, selected for the virtual cinema, reflect the vast scope of documentary material collected in the Spielberg Archive. The films range from 1911 to the present and include home movies, short films and full length features. The Holocaust is extensively represented in the Archives film collection. Many of the films deal with the fate of survivors in the post-war period. An important exception, which provides testimony from the war years, is the trial of Adolf Eichmann.

Click here to access the archive,

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Useful Archives Worldwide

American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio
Bagnówka: galleries of nearly 60,000 images (and select videos) from Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine
Bibliothèque Medem, Paris, France
The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, Jerusaelm, Israel
The Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, Israel
Centropa: Jewish Witness to a European Century
Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive, Dartmouth University
Early Hebrew Newspapers, a digitization project of the Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem, Israel
Florida Atlantic University Judaica Sound Archive
Ghetto Fighters’ House: Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Heritage Museum, Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot, Israel
Hebrejská knihovna kabalistikých textu (Hebrew Kabbalistic Books)
Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religions Libraries, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New York, Jerusalem
Index to Yiddish Periodicals
The Israel Genealogical Society
The Jewish Museum, New York
Jewish Music Resources on the Internet
Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem, Israel
Jewish Public Library of Montreal, Montreal, Canada
Jewish Theological Seminary Library, New York
Jewish Women’s Archive, Brookline, Mass.
Judah L. Magnes Museum Library and Archives, Berkeley, California
Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry
Mendele: Forum for Yiddish Literature and Yiddish Language
Michael Davidson Early Hebrew Printing Homepage
The Museum of Family History, The Yiddish World
Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw, Poland
National Yiddish Book Center, Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library
New York Public Library–Dorot Jewish Division, New York
Penn Libraries Judaica Collections
“People of a Thousand Towns”: The Online Catalog of Photographs of Jewish Life in Prewar Eastern Europe
RAMBI, The Jewish National and University Library’s Online Index of Articles on Jewish Studies
Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Sound Archive
Simon Wiesenthal Center Library and Archives, Los Angeles, California
Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.
Yad Vashem
Yeshiva University Libraries, New York
Yiddish Poetry, Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation, Monash University
Yiddish Sources, full digital texts of hundreds of religious and other rare books from YIVO’s collections

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Holocaust Film Footage (USHMM)

The United States’ Holocaust Memorial Museum’s (USHMM) website hosts quite a few film clips about the Holocaust. Click here to see these.

A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Federal support guarantees the Museum’s permanent place on the National Mall, and its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. (from the site)

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Nuremberg Trials (materials held by Library of Congress)

These pages hosteed by the US Library of Congress give full access to the following sources:

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Compact Memory: Internet Archive for Jewish Periodicals (German)

This site links to 1000s of facsimiles of Jewish periodicals from the 18th, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in German. Each journal entry is accompanied by key descriptions of the publication history of the journal, its thematic, the quality of the images scanned and the status of the original.

For German speakers, this is an extremely useful resource.

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