San Diego’s Jewish history gets its own exhibit – The San Diego Union-Tribune

The Lewis Bank of Commerce, a twin-towered 1888 landmark in the Gaslamp District, is an enduring monument to its builder, Isidor Lewis.

In his day, though, Lewis was revered for creations that literally melted away.

He was the first to make ice cream in San Diego, said historian Joellyn Zollman. He was the most popular man in town!

Zollman is the curator of Celebrate San Diego! The History & Heritage of San Diegos Jewish Community, a San Diego History Center exhibition that opens Sunday.

For many Jews and gentiles, this will be an unfamiliar tale. Most treatments of the Jewish experience in the United States focus on the far side of the continent.

The larger narrative is really the New York story, Zollman said. Thats an important story, the headline story, but its not everyones story.

San Diegos role in this story is smaller, but it has a special resonance today. As a new wave of anti-Semitic threats and vandalism convulses the country, our local Jewish heritage offers several lessons.

San Diegos Jews have been both valued insiders and maligned outsiders. The show explores this groups varied identities, while reflecting on themes that are relevant to all Americans: immigration, diversity, tolerance.

These are all covered in this exhibition, said William Lawrence, the centers executive director. I think this is really needed right now.

In 1850, the year California entered the Union, Louis Rose entered San Diego.

A German immigrant who is believed to be the areas first Jewish settler, Rose enjoyed spectacular success in his new home. He developed Roseville, part of Point Loma; served as Old Towns postmaster; and gave his name to Rose Canyon.

His failures were spectacular, too his seaweed-stuffed mattress made bedtime a smelly, crunchy affair. Yet both his ups and downs underlined an unusual aspect about 19th century San Diego.

Being Jewish seemed to pose no barriers to entry to that society, Zollman said.

In this small town, gentiles and Jews lived, worked and socialized together. Rose came to San Diego from Texas via stage coach. He became friends and then a business partner with James Robinson, a fellow passenger but not a fellow Jew.

This is something you do not see then on the East Coast, Zollman said. Jews were much more integrated in the West.

More evidence of this is seen in the exhibitions 1890s photo of the Schiller & Murtha Baseball Team. The squad was sponsored by a dry goods store founded by Jacob Schiller, a Jew, and Francis Murtha, a Catholic.

Thats extraordinary, said Zollman, who earned a PhD in Jewish history from Brandeis University. In New York at the time, the Irish Catholic community and the Jewish community, there was a lot of tension.

Co-existence did not mean being co-opted, or discarding religious customs. In her 1856-57 diary, 17-year-old Victoria Jacobs complained as some teens still do about having to clean her familys Old Town home before the Sabbath.

Yet this vivacious teen also recounted visits with the Whaleys, the Picos and other local grandees, plus trips to the mission for theatrical entertainments.

You can see this Jewish family was highly integrated into San Diego society, Zollman said.

For Jewish settlers, these were good times too good to last.

Growth brought San Diego new marvels, from Balboa Park to pioneer aviators, and new tensions. Local membership in the Ku Klux Klan grew in the 1920s and 30s. Hitlers rise in Germany was applauded by Silver Shirts, American fascists with units in several cities, including San Diego.

The 30s also saw the debut of The Broom, a local newspaper that railed against Jews, blacks, Mexicans, and labor unions.

Real estate covenants banned the sale of properties to non-whites and non-Christians. Although a 1948 federal law prohibited housing discrimination and California adopted similar legislation in the 50s, buyers and sellers found ways to evade these laws.

Discrimination went underground, Zollman said. This was the gentlemans agreement.

In the 1950s, though, the prospect of a major university in La Jolla an area known for its hostility to Jews dealt a lethal blow to this practice.

Zollman quoted Roger Revelle, the scientist who championed the establishment of UC San Diego: You can have a university or an anti-Semitic covenant. You cant have both.

They had some trouble attracting Jewish professors in the beginning, Zollman said. They had heard about La Jolla.

To gauge local attitudes, four Jewish professors who were new to campus made a pact. One would apply for membership at the private La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.

They thought if he could get into the club, no problem, Zollman said.

The professor was accepted. No problem.

Today, San Diego County is home to about 90,000 Jews. Its a small group, but notable for its diversity about one in five was born abroad, in Mexico, South Africa, Syria and other nations.

As was true in the 1850s, Jews are entwined in the areas fabric. Its tough to imagine San Diego without Irwin and Joan Jacobs, their charitable gifts or the Fortune 500 company they helped found, Qualcomm.

Or without the Salk Institute, established by Jonas Salk and given form by the architect Louis Kahn. Without the San Diego Public Librarys rare book collection, started by Julius Wagenheim. Without the San Diego Museum of Art, co-founded by Alice Klauber.

Its been that way since the day Louis Rose rolled into town.

These pioneer Jews, Zollman said, played outsize roles in establishing San Diego.

Which brings us back to Isidor Lewis. The 19th century merchant helped bring opera to San Diego. Ice, too, all the way from the Sierra Nevada.

Zollman tells many stories is this exhibition, including the life of a cultured builder, haberdasher and ice cream vendor. When it comes to San Diegos Jewish history, shes got the scoop.

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San Diego’s Jewish history gets its own exhibit – The San Diego Union-Tribune

This turn-of-the-century crossdressing feminist proves that Yiddish theater ain’t no drag – The Times of Israel

Singing satirical songs while cross-dressed in Hasidic costume, Pepi Littman was once a controversial star of the Yiddish theater. Littman faded into obscurity after her death in 1930. Today, a young San Francisco-based Yiddish singer called Jeanette Lewicki is key to her revival.

In her January 19 presentation Comedienne in a Hasids Pants at the Jewish Community Library of San Francisco, Lewicki sang a lineup of Littmans songs. She included the cheeky Oylem Habe, which, in Lewickis words, is about a pretty maid, a lecherous rich guy, a wonder-working rabbi, and his too-helpful assistant.

Religion, sex, social class Littman (one of several English spellings of her name) took on all taboos, defying societys constraints on women. Today her message is more resonant than ever.

I see her as being important for our time because her legacy is being reclaimed by feminists, the LGBT community, and Yiddish theater and music enthusiasts, said Yiddish singer-songwriter Amanda (Miryem-Khaye) Seigel, who has aided Lewickis research. [Littman] could be considered a role model.

Jeanette Lewicki, right, with her band, the Gonifs, the worlds first vegetarian bike-powered anarchist klezmer band. (Courtesy)

She was a bold, charismatic, full-figured woman with a very strong voice and presence who appropriated male attire and culture for herself, delivered it with pizzazz, and pushed the boundaries of appropriate behavior and she was highly successful, said Seigel.

Born Peshe Kahane in Tarnopol (today Ukraine) in 1874, Littman escaped poverty and eventually led her own troupe across Eastern Europe which included her husband, director Yankel Littman. She even performed in New York in 1906.

No one was safe from Pepi Littmans lampooning, as her Hasidic-crossdressing act proved. (Steve Lasky, Museum of Family History, Museum of the Yiddish Theatre)

Littman was almost the only Yiddish-character chansonetke in Khosidic trousers, reads the Leksikon fun Yidishn Teater, a Yiddish-language reference encyclopedia. In sketches, her short, chubby figure appeared plump, even clumsy. But when she entered the stage as a Khosid, every nerve blazed.

The Leksikon described her Hasidic costume as a velvet hat over curly peyes [side locks], a kapote [long coat], short pants, white socks and slippers.

In the Yiddish theater, Womens cross-dressing didnt happen right away, said Alyssa Quint, Vilna Collections Scholar-in-Residence at the YIVO Institute of Jewish Research. But it signaled their sense of mastery or ownership in the realm of public Jewish performance, a place that Jewish women had never entered in any language before the advent of modern Yiddish theater.

Littmans cross-dressing was edgier, more subversive, since it turned on her duplicating the mannerisms of Hasidic rebbes, Quint said. It wasnt just poking fun at Hasidism. It was asserting a womans claim to every corner of Jewish performance.

This was a time in which women didnt wear pants in public. They couldnt own property and couldnt vote, said Lewicki.

Respectable women didnt appear on stage; actresses and dancers were considered just one step up from prostitutes Nice Jewish girls didnt even sing in mixed company; pious Jewish men were forbidden to listen to womens voices, she said. (Lewicki noted that this last point is still the case today.)

Actresses and dancers were considered just one step up from prostitutes

The public was not always supportive of Littman. In Odessa during World War I, Pepis show was so vulgar that the audience protested and she was given a vacation for the remainder of her contract, Seigel said.

Postwar years were harsher. In 1928, Littman suffered great poverty and illness in Vienna, according to the Leksikon.

[She] was laid up for some time in the Rothschild Hospital, where she died on the 13th of September, 1930, the Leksikon reported. Her burial was arranged by the Vienna Yiddish Artists Union, and the Kehilla [Jewish community] donated her cemetery plot.

One day during the 1990s, Lewicki was listening to 78s from Berkeley professor Martin Schwartzs record collection. She had been singing Yiddish songs and playing her accordion as a busker, and wanted to learn more Yiddish. Her music teacher had recommended Schwartz as a resource.

Among my collection were a number of pre-WWI recordings of theatrical songs from Lemberg, including some of Pepi Littman, of whom few then had an awareness, said Schwartz, now a professor emeritus.

Lewicki recalled: From a cloud of scratches and pops, Pepis voice emerged: low, ardent, thrilling. She was singing, sometimes talking, even shouting, over an orchestra that was very tight the musicians following her exactly.

Littman saucily sang about the length of the rabbis holy havdole, (post-Shabbath ceremony) tweaking the pronunciation to add sexual innuendo.

From a cloud of scratches and pops, Pepis voice emerged: low, ardent, thrilling

I sensed a kindred spirit, Lewicki said. (The singer is a founder of the Gonifs self-described as the worlds first vegetarian bike-powered anarchist klezmer band.)

And I felt, the way you do with a great artist, that she was speaking directly to me, across generations. So I really really wanted to know more.

But Lewicki barely spoke Yiddish much less Littmans Galician dialect with a thick shmear of daytshmerish, this sort of fake German that Yiddish theaters used to get around anti-Semitic censors and licensing boards, she said.

She began studying Yiddish at venues including the Catskills, Oxford, Weimar and Columbia University. By late 1995, she could read the titles of books at YIVO, including the Leksikon.

The archivists made a photocopy [of the Littman section] for me and I brought it back to [San Francisco] in my carry-on, I was so afraid of losing it, she said. Then I spent the next year trying to translate these blurry, smudgy, fine-print pages.

These few pages are the only one known bio of Littman, said Lewicki, so we really dont know why she made the choices she did. Maybe the answers are in the songs!

The songs are challenging. Di Apikorsim (The Heretics) is all about how the unbelievers will suffer when moshiach [the messiah] returns, while all the Hasidim are singing and dancing and drinking wine and eating delicious food, Lewicki said. In the end the rebbetzin the rabbis wife sprouts grapevines and gives us all something to lick!

That brings us to the problem of the double meaning like when Pepi sings that the Hasidim are going to nibble the chickens backside As my grandma used to say, Is that some kinda sex talk?

As my grandma used to say, Is that some kinda sex talk?

Lewicki wonders whether she was satirizing Hasidism, or celebrating it, or both.

She sings with full conviction, completely in character, shouting like a street preacher; and as the Leksikon says, there must have been some sense of heymish recognition in her audience. In fact, Ive heard modern people sing these anti-Hasidic satires straight-faced, mistaking them for actual Hasidic songs! she said.

Lewicki has listened to 11 Littman songs, translating four and a half.

[That other] half is the part of Di Apikorsim I cant understand, she said.

Despite the difficulties, in January Lewicki was finally able to perform Di Apikorsim and other Littman songs before a live audience.

Since then, fellow enthusiasts have been reaching out.

I contacted her when I found a couple songs notated for Pepi Littman in a box of rag-tag bits of old Yiddish song lyrics at Harvard, said researcher Jane Peppler, who translated both songs and posted recordings on her blog Yiddish Penny Songs.

Michael Aylward, a discographer and translator in the United Kingdom, said that [Surviving] copies of her recordings can be found in various archives worldwide, chiefly in London and to a lesser extent in Jerusalem. There is also a number [possibly a very large number] in the hands of private collectors.

He said a list of songs would not take very long to draw up, and an album would take about 18 months.

And, Lewicki said, I believe there is somebody out there, probably a native Yiddish speaker with some Hasidic background, perhaps a freethinker or something of a rebel, who will love these songs as much as we do and have the skills to transliterate them, and willingness to share.

San Francisco-based Yiddish singer Jeanette Lewicki (center) is key to the revival of 1920s drag-performer Pepi Littman. (YouTube screenshot)

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This turn-of-the-century crossdressing feminist proves that Yiddish theater ain’t no drag – The Times of Israel

The Wonderful Cholent: A Story of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik of Volozhin – Boulder Jewish News

Heres a story youve been waiting all year to hear. Its from the nineteenth century and concerns Reb Chaim Soloveitchik of Volozhin, a city in what is now Belarus. Reb Chaim later moved to Brest, called Brisk by Jews, and was the grandfather of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchikcalled the Ravone of the most important Orthodox rabbis of the twentieth century, who lived and taught in New York.

Reb Chaim created a new approach to Talmudic study, called the Brisker methodhighly intellectual Talmud study combined with strict adherence to the text. Laws are broken down into precise components and assembled into new combinations, creating new legal possibilities.

Reb Chaim also was a Litvak, a Lithuanian, even though he wasnt, strictly speaking, from Lithuania. And, he was a mitnagid, which means opponentthe mitnagdim were opponents of the Hasidim, whom they felt had deviated from the true practice of Judaism.

Reb Chaim also was a shochet and a mohelable to perform both ritual slaughter and ritual circumcision. That is, he knew how to cut both a cow and a foreskin, and he had the tools for both. He liked to call his tools for circumcision his bris-kit. His specialty in the butcher business was, perhaps not surprisingly, preparing the cut of beef called brisket. Thus his nickname, the Brisket Rabbi.

One day new parents asked him to perform a bris, a ritual circumcision. Since the mother knew that Reb Chaim was hard of hearing and forgetful, she reminded him to bring his knives for the bris, his bris-kit. It was a Friday morning. Before the circumcision, she had ordered and had delivered to her a large brisket from Reb Chaim. That afternoon she made cholent for the Sabbath by cooking the brisketthe cut of meat, not the meat cutteronions and garlic, potatoes, carrots, turnips, beans, salt and pepper, and even a dash of wine, plus a secret ingredient her sainted mother had given her on the latters deathbed but who died before telling her what it was.

Reb Chaim, a little under the weather and exhibiting the aforementioned manifestations of age, was preoccupied with a challenging passage from the Talmud dealing with shatnezthe laws governing mixing different types of fibers in the same garmentfor example, a vest made from wool and silk, even if only one silk thread, is not kosher. Although he already had prepared the brisket, he forgot and thought she said brisket, not bris-kit. He brought a slab of meat and his large schechting knives instead of the much more delicate instruments for performing circumcisions.

After offering Reb Chaim the first taste of the cholent, which he said was wonderful, the parents conferred with each other. Needless to say, they were alarmed about the knives and told Reb Chaim to come back another time.

That very afternoon, the famous rabbi, of blessed memory, unexpectedly died, of unforeseen circumstances, sparing the parents the embarrassment of trying to find a way to tell the rabbi they were going to look for another mohel. It seemed a sign from heaven.

After Reb Chaim died, that same day, in fact, the parents found another mohel. He was not famous but was only a mohel, and reputedly had both good eyesight and a sharp memory. It was said that while preparing for his bar mitzvah he had memorized both Talmuds, along with the Shulchan Arukhthe authoritative code of Jewish lawas well as the Tanya, the kabbalistic bible of the Hasidim.

Are you surprised I said hasidim? Yes, the mohel was a hasid, but not just any hasid. He was descended from the Chernobyl Rebbe, Grand Rabbi Menachem Nachum Twersky, famous for his book Meor EynayimLight of the Eyeswho in fact was called by the title of his work. Reb Twersky was a disciple of both the Baal Shem Tov and the Baal Shems main disciple, Rabbi Dov Baer, the Maggid of Mezritch.

Although the parents were Litvaks, a strange impulse had compelled them to use this hasidic mohel. That same afternoon the mohel came by to meet the parents. The mother offered him a taste of the cholent, and the mohel praised her cooking to the skies. The mohel, feeling compelled by a similarly strange impulse and knowing the parents were not hasidim and their first choice of mohels had been Reb Chaim, decided it was his calling to perform the bris. Everyone decided that Sunday would be the best day for the bris, even though a bris can be performed on shabbat.

Sunday came around, and the parents, the baby, and the guests were all ready for the show. There was a slight problem, howeverthough young, and in spite of his prodigious youthful achievements, also turned out to have memory issues and forgot his instruments, which had never happened before. It was almost as if the unseen hand of the Maker had been directing his actions. Since he lived in a neighboring village and didnt have time to go home to get his own instruments, he had to borrow some. As it turned out, the closest set was at the home of Reb Chaim. Feeling nervous about asking to borrow instruments from this household, the hasid took a gift of some of the cholent andif he hadnt been a Jewalmost felt tempted to cross himself.

He gave the cholent to Reb Chaims son Velvel, the future Brisker Rov, who took a taste and exclaimed it the most wonderful cholent he had ever eaten, bar none. Then, as if directed by the Holy Ancient One, and in shock from the sudden death of his esteemed father, graciously loaned the hasidic mohel the instruments Rav Chaim had forgotten. The Brisker, too, had felt something strange when the hasidic mohel came knocking, as if a veil had been drawn over him by an unseen hand, obscuring the longstanding sectarian hostility between sects.

The instruments arrived, and the new rabbi did his job. The mother served the remaining cholent, as an appetizer, to all the attendees, who all proclaimed it the best they had ever had.

A further wrinkle emerged that afternoon: The baby and its parents were actually distant relatives of Reb Chaim. The mohel had performed the sacred mitzvah on an infant who probably would grow up to heap invective on his hasidic brethren.

Several months after the bris, to avoid future such mixups, the Brisker RovReb Chaims son Velvelmade a ruling in the name of his father: A person can be a shochet or a mohel, or even both, but not at the same time. This was based on a novel interpretation of the same Talmudic passages dealing with shatnez that his father had been studying when his memory went kaput. You may remember that these dealt with the prohibition against mixing alien fibers.

A generation later, the grandson of Reb Chaim, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchikthe Ravwith great simchah, witnessed his daughters marriage to a hasidic rabbi descended from the same mohel who performed the bris his grandfather never performed. And this hasidic rabbi was not just any hasidic rabbi but the Talner rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchak (Isadore) Twersky, the Nathan Littauer Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard University and a descendant, yes, of the Light of the Eyes, that first Twersky.

The Talner rebbe was chair of Jewish studies at Harvard and oversaw the graduation of many PhDs, including the graduate adviser of the narrator of this story and himself the grandson of a famous Talmudic scholar, Louis Finkelstein. And, the Rav was Rosh Yeshivah of the orthodox Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University in New York City. He is said to have ordained about 2000 rabbis during his fifty years there.

In other words, both the hasid and the mitnagid had distinguished pedigrees and were important scholars.

Ohdid I forget to say that Professor Twersky, the hasidic rabbi, was one of the preeminent scholars of the rationalist philosopher Maimonideswho influenced the Rav and his ancestors? Or that he wrote his PhD dissertation on the medieval Talmudist RABaDRabbi Abraham ben David of Posquieresfather of the early French kabbalist Rabbi Isaac the Blind? Or that the Rav wrote his PhD dissertation on the German-Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen and that in his classic book The Lonely Man of Faith he melds Jewish and existentialist traditions?

Do you see how a little slip like bringing the wrong instruments for a circumcision could lead to a reconciliation of mitnagdim and hasidim after several hundred years of enmity?

You might be forgiven for thinking that a new interpretation of the law about mixing different fibers would have been forthcoming from a Rabbi Soloveitchik or Rabbi Twersky, but such was not the case, and to this day you may find a shochet or a mohel, but he wont be practicing both specialties.

While this may seem puzzlinggiven the propensity of both rabbi-scholars to explore new Judaic territorythe ruling honors Jewish law on one level and a deeper reading of the law on another, namely, that at a deeper level there are no differences among fibersthey are all made of the same universal substance. Similarly, there are no distinctions between human beings, their religion, their sects, or their souls: there are no binary opposites, no hasid and mitnagid, no such things as rational and irrational, mystical and intellectual. And of course behind it all is the unseen hand of the Holy One of Blessed Countenance. Remarkably, this teaching is based on a teaching the narrator heard from Rabbi Mordechai Twerski, formerly of Denver and now living in Brooklyn, another descendant of the Light of the Eyes, Grand Rabbi Mordechai Nachum Twersky.

And now lets partake of the wonderful chlolent!

But before doing so, hear this:

Next year at this same time, at Purim, you will hear a familiar story about Rabbi Jay Feder, formerly of Denver, who was both a mohel and a jeweler, who, interestingly, had a license plate on his car that said FamilyJewelssomething like that. In fact, when Rabbi Feder was helping this very narrator buy the only wedding ring he has ever bought (and also the only one he ever returned, when the engagement fell through as a result of a mixup he will not go into right now), the good rabbi excused himself to take a call from someone about a circumcision. After dealing with that client and making a few notes, he finished the deal with yours truly. The story you will hear next year will be called: Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend. See you then!

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The Wonderful Cholent: A Story of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik of Volozhin – Boulder Jewish News

Franzen: Remembering the darkness of the Holocaust – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Scotland Yard and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating more than a hundred bomb threats made to Jewish groups in the United States and Britain since Jan. 7. Investigators said there is evidence that some of the U.S. and British bomb threats are linked. Waves of threats against U.S. Jewish groups – including community centers, schools, and offices of national organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League civil rights group – have been followed within hours by similar but smaller waves against Jewish organizations, mainly schools, in Britain. According to people in both countries who have listened to recordings of the threats, most of the them have been made over the telephone by men and women with American accents whose voices are distorted by electronic scramblers. Wochit

Melanie Steinhardt comforts Becca Richman at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery, Feb. 26, in Philadelphia. Police say more than 100 tombstones were vandalized a week after a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis was desecrated.(Photo: DOMINICK REUTER, Getty Images)

Even as a kid, I devoured books on history. My interest was not that unusual for the time. I was born in the generation following the Second World War, and the centenary of the Civil War hit in 1961, fueling our fascination with what wekidsconsidered the more exciting parts of history.

World War II wasa favorite for the kids in my neighborhood; our fathers had fought it and we read about it and refought much of it (or thought we did) in the alleys and backyards around Grant Grade School and in the fields of Brookfield where my cousins lived.

What I didnt read about was the Holocaust.

As a German immigrantwhose father served in the German army on the Russian front and whose mother lived in what was then East Prussiaand who became a refugee at the end of the war, I didnt want to know. I was aware the Germans were the “bad guys,”but the horrors of the Holocaust trivialize that characterization, taking human evil to an entirely different level. That was a place I didnt want to go.

I didnt read Anne Franks diary or any survivor stories or ahistory of the Holocaust. I knew it had happened; I wasnt a denier. But I didnt want to know more. It wasn’t just that I wasn’t interested. Mentally, I pushed it away. I didnt want to think about it and what the facts might mean for my understanding of Germany and even of Germans I knew. Which is a pretty sad commentary.

That changed in my mid-20s when I finally read a book calledInto That Darkness by Gitta Sereny, detailing how the Nazis moved from mercy killing to mass murder. Im not sure what changed; maybe Id finally had enough of my cowardice. Then I read more: Elie Wiesel, Lucy Dawidowicz, Raul Hilberg, Christopher Browning, Daniel Goldhagen. I studied and learned. And, yes, It was frightening.

And I talked to people I knew had been there. Turned out I knew people who had helped Jews, at not an inconsiderable risk to themselves. Maybe not as heroic as some others, but also not people who had turned their backs. Others said they had known nothing about it. Still others hinted that it may not have happened at all; they dismissed it as just wartime propaganda.

What does this mean? Maybe just that I finally became the student of history that I should have been all along. If we remember the past, we should remember all of it.

And this, too, maybe: Its important to know. Its important to remember. Not only for a better understanding of the past but for a better understanding of how it can happen.

Every pogrom, every purge, every atrocity, has a beginning. In Germany, there was a direct line from brown-shirted thugs demonstrating in the streets to burned-out synagogues to the gas chambers.

And the specter of that past is why I’m concerned now.

USA Today reported last week that through the first week of March, more than 100 incidents of anti-Jewish activity have been reported in 33 states, according to the Jewish Federations of North America. They include several waves of bomb threats made against Jewish community centers in numerous states that have led to evacuations, three here at the JCC in Whitefish Bay. There has been desecration of dozens of headstones at historic Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and University City, Mo., near St. Louis and incidents of vandalism, such as a swastika carved onto the door frame of a 100-year-old synagogue in Lorain, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, and slurs and swastikas drawn on cars and a building in suburban Buffalo. As a Journal Sentinel editorial noted last week, violence has been directed at other groups as well.

All 100 senators press Trump administration to help communities fight anti-Semitism

Editorial: Investigate ugly threats targeting Jewish centers

No, I dont think another Holocaust is right around the corner; the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are not galloping toward us. There have been periods in American history worse than this for a whole slew of people deemed as inferior or just “others.”And although the current coarseness in politics may have emboldened the haters to come out of the shadows, I dont think that Donald Trump or any other politician is specifically to blame.

I do think, however, that it is not that far of a leap from a bomb threat or a swastika on a tombstone to a sniper and thats scary. My fear is not just for Jews but for Muslims and Sikhs and African-Americans and others targeted by a raw hatred aimed atthose who practice a different religion or who simply look different.

I think the worst thing to do is turn our backs and close our eyes. We cant say, as I once did, that we dont want to know.We must know. The knowledge of what happened can help us answer the ugliness of those who would if they could take us back to thosedark days.

So while law enforcement must pursue these terrorists, the rest of us can educate ourselves and talk about the past and the present whether that’s at dinner with friends or a chat over coffee or in our places of worship. We can read, and we can confront ugliness wherever we see it, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

When my daughter graduated from eighth grade, I gave her Elie Wiesels Night. She plans on giving it to her children.

Maybe thats a good place to start.

Ernst-Ulrich Franzen is the Journal Sentinels associate editorial page editor. Email: efranzen@jrn.com; Twitter: @efranzen1

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Franzen: Remembering the darkness of the Holocaust – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Rampant Anti-Semitism Foreshadows Danger for All – Observer

Anti-Semitism is a scourge on humanity and a stain on society.

Anti-Semitic acts are increasing with such ferocity that it appears nothing can be done to stop this explosion of hate. Anti-Semitism isdangerous, empowers the perpetrators of hate crimes, and is downright wrong.We can and must stop the recent explosion of anti-Semitism overtaking our communities, our cities, and our country. We must stop it for the sake of humanity and society.

On Tuesday, March 7, 2017, in New York City, there were five anti-Semitic attacks. Thats fiveattacks in a single day in a city thats considered Jewish friendly. The numbers of attacks across the country are escalating so quickly that getting a true count is becoming nearly impossible.

Fighting anti-Semitism is not just about protecting Jews. Jew hatred is a litmus test of a society. Jews are the first to be separated, persecuted and murdered. Then comes everybody else. The fight against anti-Semitism isvital. Jews are the worlds greatest scapegoat.

The German pastor and theologian Martin Niemollersaid it best. There are several versions of his poem, and this is the most famous of them:

First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Niemollers poem is not just about cowardice; its about the stages of persecution in society. Niemoller delineates the victims and ends with a frightening condemnation of inaction. When anti-Semitismthe first of the hatredsis not confronted, a society renders itself powerless to stop other forms of hatred.

Anti-Semitism is a modern movement separate from traditional Jew hatred. Traditional Jew hatred was based on theological hatred of the Jew as the Deicide; the foundation was predicated on the Jew as having murdered Jesus. Modern Anti-Semitism was born in the late 1800s. It was coined by Wilhelm Marr in 1879 in his pamphlet called The Path of Germanism over Judaism.

This cold-blooded, scientific hatred led to the Holocaust. It was fueled by the conviction that the worlds problems were caused by the Jews, and the solution to the worlds problems would come from the destruction of the Jews. The Nazis dubbedtheir plan to rid the world of Jews tomake the world a better placetheFinal Solution.

Today, all forms of hatred towards Jews are considered anti-Semitism, including being anti-Israel.

Anti-Semitism in all its forms must be confronted by teachers, parents, religious leaders, politicians, police, courts and mediaincluding social media. It cannot be justified in the context of humor as PewDiePie, the most popular Youtuber in the world, tried to do.

Punishments for Anti-semitism need to be severe; its a hate crime. Anti-Semitism will not disappearon its own. It must be rooted out. Those who believe it must be forced underground. It must be seen as unacceptable in both the public and privatespheres.

The bomb threats and the graffiti, which are the latest form of anti-Semitism to sully our nation, can be prevented. A blue ribbon national task force created by the president, the attorney general, the head of the FBI, all 50 state police departments, and all major city law enforcement agencies mustbe convened. Prosecution must be swift, penalties must be harsh, and cooperation must be full circle.

If that happens, we will find thepeople perpetrating these threats. Schools and JCCs will no longer be threatened, parents will no longer have to fear for their childrens safety, and Jewish cemeteries will no longer be desecrated.

Coverage of the capture and the trials of these anti-Semites must be front page news. The message must get out: anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in our country.Once we lay out the blueprint for fighting and destroying anti-Semitism, Europe will follow.

Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator, author the The Micah Report, online and host of the weekly TV show Thinking Out Loud w Micah Halpern. follow him on twitter: @MicahHalpern

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Rampant Anti-Semitism Foreshadows Danger for All – Observer

Student designed Holocaust memorial dress on display in Georgia – MyAJC (blog)

Image provided by CAU

Two fashion design students from Clark Atlanta University will soon see their work on display throughout the state.

Niambi Davenport and Lenora Gray created a Holocaust Memorial dress in honor of Jewish fashion designers who were lost during World War II. The dress, designed to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Holocaust and the fall of Nazi Germany, was unveiled in January.

Under the guidance of CAU senior lecturer Cynthanie Sumpter, Davenport and Gray constructed the dress out of paper. They embellished it with shards of plexiglass to symbolize the broken glass of Kristallnacht the night in November 1938 when German Nazis ransacked thousands of Jewish businesses and synagogues in what would become a 48-hour reign of terror. The dress also features the names of Jewish designers who were persecuted under the Nazi regime.

The dress symbolizes a lot of pain, but the beauty behind it is amazing, said Gray. To know the significance of Jewish designers in the fashion industry, and to know that was unjustly taken away from them, it really hurt me.

Later this month, the dress will be on display at CAUs Center for Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium and in April, it will be part of a traveling exhibit across the state sponsored by the Goethe-Zentrum/German Cultural Center and the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust. Efforts are also underway to raise money to show the dress in Germany.

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Student designed Holocaust memorial dress on display in Georgia – MyAJC (blog)

Holocaust survivor to speak in Spokane Thursday – The Spokesman-Review

UPDATED: THURSDAY, MARCH 9, 2017, 3:50 P.M.

Dr. Jacob Eisenbach was 16 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland. He survived a concentration camp, but 100 other members of his immediate and extended family did not.

Eisenbach, 93, will be in Spokane on Thursday to speak about his experiences during the Holocaust and why what happened should not be forgotten. His talk, hosted by Chabad of Spokane County, begins at 7 p.m. at the Spokane Convention Center.

This is my mission, the mission of my life during my retirement, said Eisenbach, who retired from a 60-year career as a dentist in 2015. Its to spread the word about what happened and stop genocide, so that someday well be able to say with confidence, never again.

Eisenbach grew up in Lodz, Poland, with an older sister, Fala, and two younger brothers. His brother Sam was two years younger and Henry was four years younger.

I grew up in a wonderful family, he said.

Everything changed on Sept. 1, 1939, when the Nazis invaded Poland. They quickly took control of Lodz, the second-largest city. That started a series of unimaginable events, Eisenbach said. We never expected anything like the things that actually happened.

The Nazis fenced off a section of the city to create a ghetto to house 160,000 Jews and ordered everyone inside by May 1, 1940.

Any Jew found outside the ghetto after that date would be shot on the spot, he said.

The border of the ghetto included watch towers every 200 feet equipped with search lights and manned by soldiers with machine guns. Before the gates swung shut, Eisenbachs sister fled with some friends to the Russian part of Poland.

His mother had died of rheumatic fever a year before the war. He and his father, brothers and extended family went into the ghetto. There was no radio, no newspapers, no way to communicate with the outside world. They knew nothing of what was happening.

They gave us a starvation diet, he said. People were dropping dead in the streets of the ghetto.

A typhus epidemic broke out and one day Henry got sick. He went to one of the two hospitals in the ghetto staffed by Jewish doctors. A day later the Nazis took all the patients from both hospitals and stacked them high in the back of cattle trucks.

They transported them directly to the gas chambers at Auschwitz, he said.

His father got a deportation order. Eisenbach said he later found a survivor who was with his father and knew how he had died. They had them carry heavy rocks from place to place, useless work on a starvation diet, he said.

More deportation orders came and trains full of Jews left the ghetto. At first no one knew where they were going, but soon the train employees started whispering about the people who went into the camps and never came out. They could smell the burning flesh in the air, he said.

Then Eisenbachs deportation order came. Alone with his younger brother Sam, Eisenbach refused to go. We already knew what was going on, he said. That was a death sentence.

The two boys went into hiding, but after a month they were discovered. Sam did not have a deportation order, but he refused to leave his older brother.

Im going with you, Sam said to Eisenbach. No matter where you go, I go.

The two were loaded into cattle cars and spent three days and three nights on the train. There wasnt even enough room to turn around.

Eisenbach assumed they would go to Auschwitz, but they were sent to another camp where the Jews were forced to work in a munitions factory that was essential to the German war effort. Both brothers survived and it was there that Eisenbach met his future wife, Irene.

On one January day in 1945, everything changed. All of the sudden the Nazi guards with the machine guns disappeared from the guard towers, he said. The next morning we woke up free.

After the war there was still a lot of antisemitism in Poland, and Eisenbach and his wife left, smuggled out through Czechoslovakia. His brother Sam stayed behind and rose to a high rank in the Polish army and changed his name to hide his Jewish ancestry. But two years after the war ended he was shot in the head by someone who hated Jews, Eisenbach said.

He learned that his sister had died in another Jewish ghetto. One day the Nazis came with machine guns and in three days they killed all 110,000 Jews, he said.

Only a distant cousin managed to survive.

After four years in Frankfurt to study dentistry, he and his wife came to the United States. That was the best move we ever made, he said.

The couple spent nearly two decades in Iowa raising three sons before moving to southern California, where Eisenbach still lives today.

In addition to his story of survival, Eisenbach likes to point to stories of heroism found even in the darkest days. Denmark shipped all their Jewish citizens to Sweden to save their lives. Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish ambassador to Hungary, saved thousands of Jews by issuing them Swedish passports.

There were many humanitarian stories that have to be told, not only the stories of cruelty, he said.

His wife died three years ago and now Eisenbach dedicates himself to giving speeches about the Holocaust. He does not want future generations to have to experience what he did under the Nazi regime.

The reason I do that is because it is so important the story of the Holocuast be told and retold, he said. If we forget it, we contribute to its repetition.

Genocide still exists today, Eisenbach said, and must be stopped.

Good people of goodwill around the entire world are against genocide, he said. We have to work hard to prevent them and eliminate them.

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Holocaust survivor to speak in Spokane Thursday – The Spokesman-Review

Why Does Amazon Sell Holocaust-Denying Authors Next To Real Historians? – Huffington Post

In a few hours of surfing Amazons Books category, I noticed that this American giant of online sales is infested with Holocaust deniers. These are books that either deny the crime the genocide of the Jews or the weapon of the crime the gas chambers. Their writers imply that the Holocaust is nothing but a rumour propagated by (Jewish) historians, survivors, Allies and Israel or an exaggeration of the numbers of Jews killed. They also suggest that, as the Holocaust never existed, the gas chambers that are still in existence today were nothing more sinister than a method to disinfect the deportees in the concentration camps.

On a search of more than 20 international Holocaust-denying authors, deceased or living, there are more than 100 books and other Holocaust denial publications sold on Amazon.com. This virtual shop is a showcase for them, which allows them to convey their ideologies where anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are mixed. The American company defends itself, explaining that the European law forbids them to sell deniers books. Holocaust deniers writers, however, find themselves in large numbers on the Amazon sites of all the countries of the Union.

If, for example, we look for the name of Carlo Mattogno, a notorious Italian holocaust denier, we will find many books and articles listed on Amazon.com. This is also the case on the Italian site,Amazon.it, despite the fact that Holocaust denial is illegal in Italy, as in most European countries.

Calls for a boycott of the site have already been heard. Is this really the solution? Should we deny the Holocaust deniers on Amazon.com? While European law is clear, and should be respected, the First Amendment in the United States does not prohibit them from publishing, but leaves Amazon with the final decision whether to sell them or not. This was also the case with the American Holocaust denier Bradley Smith, who, in the 1990s wanted to publish in American campus newspapers. Some campuses accepted on the basis of the First Amendment, even though they could just as well have refused.

The CEO and executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress, Robert R. Singer raised the issue last week: this is not a 1st Amendment problem. Amazon cannot be legally prohibited from selling Holocaust-denying material, but it can and should choose not to. Bookstores have long refused to carry certain items, with pornography being a prime example. Holocaust denial is no different, legally speaking, from hardcore pornography. (Cf.)

Contrary to Singers assertion, pornographic works are indeed on Amazon.com, but marked with the words Adults Only. That, perhaps, could be a first step: to notify which books are Holocaust deniers. Access to the works could be facilitated, but this would remove any ambiguity.

Last week, Robert Rozett, director of the Yad Vashem Libraries, sent an email to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, requesting that he immediately remove the books from the sites. Yad Vashems battle to ban Holocaust-denying books should be welcomed. A list of these books was sent to Amazon a few days ago. This has resulted in books from some authors, known to be notorious Holocaust deniers, whose titles in the books leave no doubt as to their intentions, being withdrawn from sale. For example, The myth of the 6 million David L. Hoggan, an American denier and historian, is no longer on Amazon.

But there are also newer, little-known works, the titles of which do not allow the authors to be identified as deniers, but which instill doubt about the reality of history. This is the case of Debating the Holocaust: a New Look at Both Sides, a so-called academic, Thomas Dalton (Doctor). By an ambiguous title, the publishing house seeks to hide the fact that it is headed by Germar Rudolf, a German neo-Nazi Holocaust denier. The emphasis on authors qualifications (a doctor, a judge, a former witness of the camps, etc.) on the cover of books is also a common practice among them, in order to provide additional credit for their works and to legitimize themselves. Amazon customers are likely to get caught up in this dangerous game. Thankfully, by March 8th, Amazon.com had removed the book (Cf.).

Another example of an unknown denier author who is no longer found since March 8th on Amazon: Nicholas Kollerstrom, PhD, Breaking the Spell, The Holocaust Myth and Reality (Cf.).

They were found in greater numbers (about a hundred) in the section Holocaust Handbooks, but since March 8, there are no more denial writers in this section. This is a decision from Amazon that we can only rejoice in.

However, other Holocaust deniers still appear on the site, categorized with the Holocaust literature (Cf.). They are still listed under the category History, World or Literature, Fiction. And this, without any distinction with the books of history on the Shoah despite the fact that it would be easy to separate these books from genuine historically accurate works concerning the Holocaust. The same can be said of the French Amazon.fr site, where the works of the famous French denier Robert Faurisson are categorized under the heading Books, History, Great Periods of History, whereas Holocaust denial is illegal in France.

And thats not all. Holocaust deniers use the site for even more pernicious purposes: to create a commentary page for all books dealing with the Holocaust,Holocaust History channel. Thus, they can write reviews on books, praising Holocaust deniers and denigrating those of historians (Cf.).

One last observation: those who believe in conspiracies are often not very far away when Holocaust denial is present. Clients who bought Holocaust denial books also bought conspiracy books about the September 11 attacks and the origins of ISIS, which was set up by Israel and the United States.

The Holocaust deniers on Amazon are only the visible part of the iceberg. There are other sites, such as iBookstore, and other outlets, such as the large U.S. bookstore Barnes & Noble, where you can buy some Holocaust deniers.

Not to mention sites like Archive.org, used by Holocaust deniers to broadcast books and videos. Or, the American academic libraries. For example, in the library of the Department of History at Columbia University, the deniers authors are placed on the same shelves as the works of historians, whereas a simple classification difference would allow them to be separated geographically, and warn the reader of the intentions of the work.

This categorization problem is also found in the Library of Congress. Within the worlds largest library, some Holocaust deniers are not qualified as such. The work of the German denier, Thies Christophersen, is listed in American libraries not by the term holocaust denial, but by the key words personal narratives, German, Holocaust, Jews (1939-1945) because the author was an SS technician assigned to rubber work at the Auschwitz camp from January to December 1944, while he was also a neo-Nazi activist after the war. This is an appalling error, which would require all our attention.

This is an ongoing battle and it will never be possible to banish all works created by Holocaust deniers from American public spaces and from being sold on the internet but the fact that Amazon has withdrawn some books is a positive sign. In the name of freedom of expression, we have given too much publicity to Holocaust deniers, allowing an extremist danger and calling into question the accuracy of history in the minds of younger generations.

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Why Does Amazon Sell Holocaust-Denying Authors Next To Real Historians? – Huffington Post

Holocaust survivor tells her story to Keokuk and Central Lee students – Fort Madison Daily Democrat

KEOKUK Rachel Miller lost her parents, two brothers and a sister to the gas chambers in Nazi Germany.

She was orphaned at age 9, saved only because her mother, Helen, sent her away cruelly, Rachel thought at the time to protect her from certain death.

As a survivor of the Holocaust, Miller, 83, travels the country telling the story of the Germans horrific killing of 23 million people, six million of which were Jews, during World War II.

When asked after her talk at Keokuk High School Wednesday afternoon what someone should say to the far-too-many who believe the Holocaust never happened, her answer was simple.

Say nothing.

People are going to believe what they want to believe, Miller said to Keokuk High School and Middle School students who likely soaked up every word. You might as well talk to a wall.

Miller also presented her program this morning at Central Lee High School.

Im afraid! Im afraid!

Miller was born in 1933 and was 7 when she heard there was a parade in her home city of Paris, France.

Her parents, Nathan and Helen Goldman, moved from Warsaw, Poland, to France before Rachel was born. Early in June of 1940, the Goldmans were thankful they had made the move. The Germans had invaded Poland.

But on June 23, 1940, when Miller went to look out the window at home, she saw a parade of Germans marching down the Champs Elyses, the largest city block in Paris, go through the Arc de Triomphe (the arch of triumph).

I ran up the stairs and cried, Miller said. I said, Im afraid! Im afraid!

The French had laid out the welcome mat for German, and the Germans sent out the order to leave the French Jews including the Goldmans alone.

But that protection was short lived.

Even still, Jews had to wear a bonnet that had a cross on it and the word guif, which meant Jew.

It meant we could only shop for groceries from 3-4 p.m., Miller said. They could only go to school if the Germans saw fit.

We were nothing, Miller said. We walked in the streets with our heads down. You never knew when you would make a wrong look to the wrong people.

Family taken

Meanwhile, back in Warsaw, Rachels cousins joined the resistance, fighting any attempts by the German to take control of their country.

One of her girl cousins was tortured for three solid days, Miller said. Although she survived, she had a long but troubled life, Miller said.

Her brothers Henri and Adolphe were also part of the resistance, while Miller and her sister Sabine were still young girls at home.

Her father, Nathan, was a barber, and Helen stayed at home and raised the family.

Millers uncle was the first of the family to be taken away.

Then her father. He was cutting someones hair, Miller said, when someone came and informed him that the Jews were being taken to a labor camp. Nathan complied.

Near the end of 1941, Miller heard that they might be coming home and anticipated a big celebration. But when Helen went to visit them on Dec. 30, the uncle came to meet them and He told her he was injected with something, and he died in her arms, Miller said.

The same fate befell her husband.

(The Germans often did laboratory experiments, using the Jews as human guinea pigs.)

Miller said the gravesite where her father was buried had up to 30 coffins on top of each other.

Millers mother gave me a new name, Christine. She said, Dont tell anyone youre Jewish. This stunned Miller. If I ever told a lie, I would be punished.

Miller was not aware that her sister, Sabine, had also been taken away. She thought Sabine was away on a trip. Her mother sent her to the bus station to get her, but Rachel was met by her aunt instead.

When Miller asked where her sister was, the aunt said, She went shopping.

The aunt then took Miller to live with her, and she never saw her mother or siblings again.

Miller, 9 at the time, would soon learn her mother and two brothers were taken away.

I thought, Why didnt she keep me with her? Miller said. It was such a difficult thing to let go of her child.

Spared again

Millers life was spared one more time.

The French government continued to support the Germans. If you reported Jews to the police, you would be given 300 francs, Miller said.

One day, a woman approached her and determined she was Jewish. But the woman I didnt know her name, Miller said had second thoughts and didnt turn Miller in.

Miller still harbors great resentment for France and long ago renounced her French citizenship.

The Germans did not want children under the age of 16, Miller said. But the French said, Isnt it better that they go with their families?

Miller would eventually find a relative who had many pictures of her family, and the relative agreed to part with the photographs. Miller showed those pictures to the students.

I am an orphan, Miller said. If I show you the pictures, its as if I were bringing them to life.

Over the next few years she lived her life in constant fear.

I slept with cotton over my ears, Miller said. I was terrified of my own shadow.

She felt her brothers would be strong enough to make their way back home and that her sister was so beautiful, who would want to hurt her?

More than just the Jews

The Jews were certainly the primary target of Adolph Hitler and his army, but they were not the only ones.

The Germans killed 23 million people, Miller said. Six million were Jews, and of those six million, 1 1/2 million were children.

They killed three million Russians. They killed homosexuals. The killed Jehovahs witnesses.

Though it would seem the opposite, Miller said the Germans were highly educated people.

Can you imagine an intelligent civilization that would let the Germans kill that many people? Miller asked the audience.

She then gave the account of the fate of those taken captive by the Germans.

She said that one group of 17,000 people were taken to a structure comparable to a dome.

They were there for 5 1/2 days, Miller said. There were six bathrooms, but (the Germans) closed up three that faced the streets. They didnt want people to know what was going on there.

At the concentration camps, If you were aged 16-40 and were strong, you would go to the right. There was a sign that said, Work makes you free.

For everyone else, they went left to the showers where poisonous gas pellets would be dropped into the chamber. Miller said the people were told to fold their clothes neatly, still giving the illusion that they would come out of the showers.

Visiting concentration camps years later, Miller said you could still see blood on the walls and even fingernail marks where the victims tried in vain to escape.

Not safe yet

Even when Miller finally was taken to America, it was not without some trauma.

An American soldier came to the orphanage where Miller, age 13 1/2, was at and offered to bring her to America. That was in 1947 and she came to New York.

The soldiers wife was more than happy to welcome the Holocaust survivor. But soon the wife discovered her husband had been molesting Miller and sent her away. Miller said those incidents were swept under the carpet, when asked later by a student if the man suffered any consequences.

Millers life finally came to as normal as it can get for someone who went through so much.

She married and had children and grandchildren, though her husband died in 1997.

Having wished she wasnt a Jew when she was child, she now embraces and practices her Jewish faith.

Despite the horrors that befell her people, Miller said her belief in God has helped her carry her through her life. She had to go through therapy, but she also relied on her husbands family, which offered her support.

As for her the frequent talks she gives, I promised myself when the war was over, I would speak up.

That should be true for the continued atrocities committed against others in the world today, she said.

We have to fight back. We should, but we dont.

Originally posted here:
Holocaust survivor tells her story to Keokuk and Central Lee students – Fort Madison Daily Democrat

Cronig’s Celebrates 100 Years of Feeding the Vineyard Community – The Vineyard Gazette – Martha’s Vineyard News

When 28-year-old Sam Cronig and his three younger brothers opened their Vineyard Haven market in March 1917, the world was still at war in Europe and Marthas Vineyard had a year-round population of about 4,500.

One hundred years later, the Cronigs name still stands above two grocery stores, though that business changed hands three decades ago, and a real estate company that has remained in the family for the past century. The Vineyard has many older families, but the Cronigs hold a special place in Island history not only as store proprietors who served generations of local families and summer visitors, but as the first Jewish family to settle here year-round.

I am very proud of my heritage and the legacy that was left by the Cronigs, said Gayle Stiller, one of several Cronig grandchildren who still live and work on the Vineyard.

Arriving from Lithuania in 1904, 15-year-old Sam Krengle received his new surname from immigration officials in New York city. The eldest of nine children born to a Yiddish-speaking village grocer who had planned for his firstborn to become a rabbi, Mr. Cronig worked briefly in the city before leaving to stay with cousins in New Bedford. In 1905, he moved to a farm on Marthas Vineyard that had advertised for a hired hand. That didnt last long, either.

David and Robert Cronig outside the Vineyard Haven Store. Courtesy Peter Cronig

I guess he got tired of his job and he came and got a job at Swift, Bodfish & Smith, which was then a grocery market, said Mr. Cronigs son David, who is 102 and now living in Florida. While learning the American retail business, Sam Cronig also worked to bring his younger siblings to the U.S. Edward and Theodore came first and then Henry and sister Tillie, who were smuggled into Germany from Russian-occupied Lithuania.

We traveled chiefly at night, sometimes in wagons, under loads of hay or stacks of milk cans, Henry Cronig told the Gazette 50 years later, in 1964. The nearer we came to the German border, the greater the tenseness. Four other siblings remained behind, later settling abroad.

After a seasick passage from Rotterdam and a terrifying quarantine in New York, Henry and Tillie rejoined their older brothers on a Plymouth County farm Sam had bought with money he earned on the Vineyard.

Henry, who would later found Cronigs Real Estate, was unimpressed with the farm but intrigued by the source of the money. The thought came to me that if I was to learn English, I would have to live with the Gentiles, and it seemed to me, from what I could learn, that Marthas Vineyard was the place to go, he said in the 1964 interview.

Main Street, Vineyard Haven, 1965 after second floor was added. Courtesy Peter Cronig

He arrived on the Island in May, 1915 and soon convinced his brothers to join him. The family was already growing: Sam had married their cousin Libby Levine in New Bedford in 1912 and the couples first child, David, was born in 1914.

By the end of 1916, the four brothers had earned enough money to start their own business. The Cronig Brothers Market opened its doors at Main and Church streets in Vineyard Haven March 10, 1917.

We bought a wagon for $10 and a horse for $30, and we opened, Henry Cronig recalled in 1964. It was a sorry-looking store. We piled everything we had on the shelves in order to make the best showing possible. While working with his brothers, Henry founded his own business, Cronigs Real Estate, which also celebrates its centennial this year.

The original shop began chiefly as a meat market with its own slaughterhouse, David Cronig said this week. The store had grown to a full-service grocery by the time he was old enough to lend a hand, becoming the first in a long line of Cronig kids to work in the family markets over the next six and a half decades.

I think I was seven or eight years old, Mr. Cronig recalled. I wanted to work in the store, so they gave me a broom and said, sweep the floor. That was my first employment.

Working at Cronigs became the first job and in some cases the sole career for a long line of Cronig children and grandchildren as well. While both Henry and Theodore eventually left to run their own businesses, Sam and Edward continued to operate the store with Sams sons David and Robert, his daughter Anne and, for many years, his daughter Ruth Stiller, who died last summer at 94.

David Wade outside the market in the late 1970s. Courtesy Peter Cronig

David took a 12-year break from the family business to work for Capt. Ralph Packers Texaco company, but returned in 1945, and with Robert, took over management of the market in 1957. Their work force was peppered with younger Cronigs and Stillers.

It was total involvement in the store. We lived it and we breathed it, said Roberts daughter Judy Cronig, who started helping out in the office and at the checkout stand when she was about 11. That was our world.

Henry Cronigs grandson Peter, who works at the real estate company, held summer jobs through college at both the original Main Street Cronigs and the State Road market that David and Robert opened in 1976. But its the original market, with its old-fashioned push-button cash registers, that he and his cousins remember best.

It was a small store, so in the summer it was extremely crowded with wagons and people trying to get through the aisles, Peter Cronig told the Gazette. To beat the crowds, many customers telephoned in their orders for home delivery, a service the market had offered since its horse and wagon days.

We would fill the orders early in the morning, he recalled. There would probably be 10 of us who would go around with shopping carts. The orders were boxed and delivered to Vineyard Haven customers, twice a day in high season, on two routes. The south end was everybody in town and the north end was West Chop, said Neil Stiller, who also works at Cronigs Real Estate.

The summer colony at West Chop attracted many artists, actors and other celebrities. Gayle and Neil Stiller both remember their mother Ruths tales of meeting Helen Keller, who felt her face. Notoriously volatile playwright Lillian Hellman got into a screaming match with one of their uncles over whether or not a chicken had been delivered.

Carlyle Cronig with nieces Judy and Nancy Cronig in 1945. Courtesy Peter Cronig

She used to come in the store and just berate workers, Mr. Stiller said. A chance encounter with Carly Simon in her chart-topping heyday left a better taste: Avocados that was my big exchange with her, he said.

But for the most part, Sam Cronigs grandchildren remember a bustling yet peaceful life shaped by the six-day-a-week round of retail chores, from receiving to delivery and accounting, and occasional Sunday trips to the beach.

You were around your friends and relatives and that was what you did, Peter Cronig said.

While the kids worked their jobs and the men managed the meat, produce and grocery sections, Sams daughter Anne was the power behind the scenes.

She was the office lady. She really ran everything, all the billing, all the orders, Peter Cronig said. Assisted for many years by her sister Ruth, Anne Cronig never married and remained on the job for most of her life. A past president of the Marthas Vineyard Hebrew Society, which her father had helped to found in 1940, she died in 1999.

I think if shed grown up in another generation, shed probably have gone to college, Ms. Stiller said.

Anne Cronig, in back, with niece Goodie Stiller at the register in 1975. Courtesy Peter Crong

She was a little woman. I dont think she ever reached five feet. But she had a large presence, she added.

The downtown Vineyard Haven Cronigs eventually became so crowded that David and Robert opened a second location on State Road in 1976, with parking for customers from the town and up-Island. David Cronig retired in 1980, and in the same year the Main Street Cronigs was sold out of the family.

Robert widely known as Robbie sold the State Road store and the Cronigs Markets name to Steve Bernier, a 22-year Star Market veteran, in 1986. In different hands, the downtown Cronigs closed in 1989. In 1990, Mr. Bernier opened Up-Island Cronigs, renovating the market six years later. He added the wellness-oriented Healthy Additions store, behind the Vineyard Haven Cronigs, in 2004.

While David Cronig started his retail career with a broom in his hand, Mr. Bernier begins each work day sweeping up the parking lots and entrances of his store before the doors open to customers. Its my job to make sure this store is presentable, he said. I have a job to do, and I also have an example to set for my employees. The old school has something the young people need to observe. In other example-setting moves, Cronigs added a solar-charging shade canopy in its Vineyard Haven parking lot in 2012, stopped selling cigarettes in 2015 and installed a second solar canopy at the Up-Island store in 2016.

Steve Bernier purchased the business in 1986. Mark Lovewell

Mr. Berniers approach includes stocking local products from more than 50 Vineyard farms, bakeries, soap makers, chocolatiers and other purveyors, sponsoring the Community Grocery Program that encourages shoppers to buy food for needier Islanders and taking energetic part in the Our Island Club discount shopping and donation network. Card-carrying members receive 30 per cent off groceries through the end of this month in celebration of the markets centenary.

He also insists on personal service. There are no signs at the cash register saying Thank you for shopping, because I want the cashiers to say it to the customers, Mr. Bernier said.

Theres no chance he will slap his own name on the business hes owned for 31 years, Mr. Bernier said, pointing out that Cronigs Markets was already 69 when he came along. Who the hell am I? he asked. Its not my market. It belongs to the community.

And although their own days working there are decades-old memories, Sam Cronigs grandchildren are still proud to see their family name atop the two markets and photos of their grandfather and uncles inside.

I am very glad that Steve has talked so much about my grandfather and my father, Judy Cronig said. I like that for carrying on the history. I dont feel everyone would have done that, give so much credit to the past.

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Cronig’s Celebrates 100 Years of Feeding the Vineyard Community – The Vineyard Gazette – Martha’s Vineyard News

‘ND hero story’: Film planned about Stern’s efforts to save Jews from Nazis – WDAZ

He was able to make his way to Casablanca and, after a long wait in a cramped apartment, boarded a Portuguese ship to the U.S., where his Jewish family was safe from the Holocaust that killed millions during World War II, including relatives who weren’t as lucky.

It was a life-saving trip made possible by Stern’s North Dakota uncle, Herman Stern, who was a prominent businessman and civic booster in Valley City, where he ran the Straus clothing store.

“If it wouldn’t be for Herman Stern, I wouldn’t be here today, and that’s the truth,” Michel Stern said in a new documentary, “The Mission of Herman Stern,” that will debut this fall.

Herman Stern, who died in 1980 at the age of 92, was posthumously awarded the Theodore Roosevelt Roughrider Award, North Dakota’s highest honor, in 2014. He was known by some as the “angel of the prairie” and was credited with quietly helping more than 125 Jews escape persecution in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1941.

Art Phillips, general manager of Video Arts Studios in Fargo, is the director and producer of the documentary. He said Herman Stern’s selfless efforts to help others is a story that deserves to be told on film.

“We just thought it was another untold story that should be told,” Phillips said. “It’s another North Dakota hero story.”

Stern was an active businessman who ran Straus men’s clothing stores and launched a winter show and the Greater North Dakota Chamber. But he kept quiet about his behind-the-scenes efforts to help Jews flee Nazi Germany.

“Grandpa didn’t like publicity,” said Rick Stern. “He thought it was bragging. He was very humble.”

Herman Stern immigrated at age 16 to North Dakota to work at the Straus Clothing Store in Casselton, which had been established by his cousin, Morris Straus. In 1910, he was named manager of the company’s store in Valley City.

After Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933, anti-Semitism grew virulent. At first, Stern dismissed the worries of physical harm to Jews as exaggerated, but soon became alarmed by the reports he got from relatives.

A worried niece wrote Stern to say she wanted to come to the U.S., and Stern helped her and one of her brother’s make the trip in 1934. He began urging his brothers to leave, and two brothers took his advice and assistance.

One of them, Gustav Stern, was Michel Stern’s father. It was the beginning of what turned out to be years of sustained efforts in sponsoring Jews, many of them distant relatives, to enable them to come to the U.S.

Stern tried to help as many as he could, pledging assets from his business, his personal savings and his home to comply with the U.S. State Department’s sponsorship requirements.

“He just kept bringing them in, bringing them in,” Phillips said.

Phillips started work on the documentary in 2015. “It’s a lot of research before any of the cameras start rolling,” he said.

It took some sleuthing to find people Stern had rescued, as he had never kept a list. Phillips started with the Stern family.

Early in the project, his team traveled to New York City to interview people Stern had helped to immigrate as children now elderly, all said they wouldn’t have lived without his help.

“It was real important that we get it done now,” Phillips said, noting the advanced age of the surviving refugees. “They were very gracious. I can’t thank them enough.”

Phillips also searched archives, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., Barnes County Historical Society Museum in Valley City, the Herman Stern collection at the University of North Dakota and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa.

“We’re getting resources from all over the place,” Phillips said.

Film footage and audio recordings of Herman Stern’s distinctive German accent also will be part of the documentary, as well as family photographs.

Terry Shoptaugh, a former archivist at Minnesota State University Moorhead, wrote a book about Stern and will be interviewed for the documentary, Phillips said. Lesson plans will be available as a study guide for middle school and high school students.

Phillips, who earlier made a documentary about the late Judge Ronald Davies and his decision to integrate schools in Little Rock, Ark., said Stern’s life story stands as a powerful example.

“He showed us that one person can truly make a difference in so many lives,” he said. “He was a remarkable man.”

How you can help

Those involved in the documentary film, “The Mission of Herman Stern,” still are raising money to finish the project. Tax-deductible donations can be made online at http://www.themissionofhermanstern.org.

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‘ND hero story’: Film planned about Stern’s efforts to save Jews from Nazis – WDAZ

Cloudflare Optimizing Content Delivery For At Least 48 Hate Sites Across Europe – Southern Poverty Law Center

That goal includes optimizing the content of at least 48 hate websitesdedicated to recruiting, organizingand spreading extremist ideologies.

Hate group websites happily utilize Cloudflares services. The company is best known for offering protection from DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks, a frequent and illegal tactic used against racist websites by vigilantes seeking to staunch their noxious messaging.

Cloudflare subscriptions, however, come with added benefits, including some of the most effective content optimization available.

As the company describes in Cloudflare 101, a post to its support blog, the basic idea behind the service is that Cloudflare acts as an intermediary layer between a website and all of its traffic, including normal visitors, crawlers and bots, and attackers. Normally, when accessing a website, a user types a domain name into his or her browser, the computer queries the DNS (Domain Name Servers) and returns the corresponding IP address for the desired website. Cloudflare accelerates this process by routing initial DNS lookups to its data centers where subscribers static web content including images, CSS, and Javascript is cached.

Of the 28 European data centers listed on Cloudflares website, 24 are located in countries with laws prohibiting either the incitement or promotion of racial hatred or Holocaust denial.

Cloudflare has data centers, physically hosting cached hate content in Berlin, Dsseldorf, Frankfurt, and Hamburg, Germany, for instance, where Section 130, Incitement to hatred, of the German Criminal Code bans materials that incite hatred, call for violence against, or assaults the human dignity of several protected classes. The law does not exempt digital hate content stored on Cloudflares servers physically located in Germany.

In addition to its German data centers, Cloudflare serves cached hate content in 12countries (14additional data centers) with laws banning hate speech or incitement to hatred. Those countries include Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Finland, Great Britain, France, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and Poland.

In France, the Gayssot Act also criminalizes questioning the existence or size of the Holocaust as it was defined at the Nuremberg Trials. Cloudflare, which protects some of the most trafficked holocaust revisionism sites available, also houses data centers in Marseille and Paris, France.

In addition to France, there are eight countries (13additional Cloudflare data centers) that may contain and serve cached holocaust denial or revisionist materials despite laws prohibiting such content. Those countries include Netherlands, Greece, Germany, Belgium, Romania, Czech Republic, Austria, and Poland.

Portugal also hosts a Cloudflare data center in Lisbon, which does not explicitly prohibit holocaust denial materials, but does prohibit denying war crimes to incite hatred.

Cloudflares leadership is outspoken in its commitment to free speech. In response to accusations of supporting terrorism for providing its services to Kavkaz Center, a Chechen news service that, according to the Russian Federation, publishes materials that incite ethnic hatred, Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare, wrote, One of the greatest strengths of the United States is a belief that speech, particularly political speech, is sacred. A website, of course, is nothing but speech. It is not a bomb.

Hate speech, some of it hosted and protected by Cloudflare, has in fact inspired bombers and mass murders. At least one of those bombers, Anders Breivik, spent time on Stormfront.org, until recently the most trafficked neo-Nazi site online, which now proudly uses Cloudflare data centers in Europe to serve its content.

Late last year in an interview with Fortune, Prince responded to a question about responsibility for the sites that it serves by saying that they would only take action against users in violation of United States law.

I think we have a responsibility to comply with U.S. law and the law of any of the countries in which we operate, he told Fortune. When we have a customer who we think might be engaged in an illegal act, we consult with law enforcement organizations. We comply with legal orders.”

Given that the company is hosting content explicitly banned by the countries that hold its data centers, it appears that Cloudflare may be the party engaged in an illegal act, not its customers.

Cloudflare, which has gone through five funding rounds to the tune of $182.05M from notable venture capital funds like Fidelity Investments and Union Square Ventures, is expected to go public this year. It is valued at over $1 billion.

Additional reporting by Rose Falvey.

DISCLAIMER: The Southern Poverty Law Center previously subscribed to Cloudflares services. After learning that Cloudflare protected hate sites, some of which have published personal information and photographs of SPLC employees, the SPLC sought a release from its contract or a policy change from the company. Cloudflare refused both.

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Cloudflare Optimizing Content Delivery For At Least 48 Hate Sites Across Europe – Southern Poverty Law Center

‘Jewish Schindler’ to receive B’nai B’rith citation – Arutz Sheva

The B’nai B’rith World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust (JRJ) will confer their joint “Jewish Rescuer’s Citation” upon Naftali Backenroth-Bronicki, who risked his life saving Jews from deportation and extermination during the Holocaust in Drohobych, Poland. The citations will be conferred at a ceremony on March 7 at Beit Hatfutsot Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Backenroth was born in 1905 in Drohobych, Galicia. Heir to an oil family, Backenroth studied agriculture in France as part of his plan to make Aliyah, but returned home after graduating to help his family cope with the severe economic crisis at the time. Between 1939 and 1941, under Soviet rule, Backenroth was appointed as county agronomist by Nikita Khrushchev, then a regional official.

With the German invasion of Drohobych in the summer of 1941 and the beginning of the destruction of the Jewish population in the town and the surroundings, Backenroth started to systematically organize and employ Jewish workers who were conscripted under the Gestapo orders. Recognizing that if the Nazis became dependent on Jewish labor there was less chance that they would be deported and murdered, Backenroth initiated the establishment of workshops, agricultural farms and a horse riding school for the Germans that provided an excuse to employ Jews and save them from death. The status he attained as “foreman” of Jewish labor in Drohobych allowed him to extract Jews who were detained in a major actzia (mass round-ups of Jews during the Holocaust) in 1942 and bring them back to work. When it became evident that the work permits were only a temporary defense from deportation and murder, Backenroth used the means accessible to him in the workshops to build bunkers, which served as a hiding place for dozens of Jews. They survived the war with his assistance.

In 1943, in a clever ruse, Backenroth was recognized by the Gestapo as an Aryan. Despite the danger to him and to his family from the local population he continued to play, befuddle and confuse the Nazis. His position as an Aryan allowed him to move freely and organize a food supply system for the Jews who survived in the bunkers and hiding places he created. However it endangered him as the war came to a close as he could have been viewed by local Jews as a Nazi collaborator.

Thousands of Drohobych Jews were executed at the Bronitza forest nearby. In memory of them, Backenroth changed his name after the war to Bronicki.

When Backenroth-Bronicki was asked why he does not tell stories about that period of his life he said, “what accompanies me all the time, are not the Jews I was able to save, but the memory of all the Jews I could not rescue.”

The committee’s considerations state that “Backenroth-Bronicki is a symbol of Jewish solidarity during the Holocaust, expressed in surprisingly varied initiatives to rescue Jews from deportation and extermination. The resourcefulness, dedication, wisdom and courage demonstrated by Backenroth-Bronicki against the Gestapo from the moment he realized he could save the lives of Jews, is a marvel of risk-taking and limit-testing on a daily basis. His unique personality, authoritativeness and reliability, made him amenable to both his enemies and friendsamong them two Germans who helped with the rescue operations, and later received Righteous Among the Nations. These rescue operations ensured the survival of dozens of Jews. Therefore the committee decided to honor Backenroth-Bronicki with the Jewish Rescuer Citation.”

The heroism of Naftali Backenroth-Bronicki should put to rest once and for all the notion that the Jewish people didnt fight back, which has wrongly tainted Holocaust historiography for more than 70 years, B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider said. It is very important for Jewish rescuers to be included among the categories of all who rescued Jews.

The Citation will be presented posthumously to Backenroth-Bronickis son Yehuda Lucien, who as a child was complicit in some of his fathers rescue efforts.

Since its establishment in 2011, the Jewish Rescuers Citation has been presented in order to correct the public misconception that Jews did not rescue other Jews during the Holocaust. To date 162 heroes were honored for rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland and Holland.

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‘Jewish Schindler’ to receive B’nai B’rith citation – Arutz Sheva

Purim Rejoicing the holocaust that was averted – Jerusalem Post Israel News

A packed house for the Purim megila reading in 2016 at the Tel Aviv International Synagogue. (photo credit:Courtesy)

Purim has a special significance for me. My parents barely survived the Holocaust, and the rest of my extended family didnt. This special significance reawakens every time I read the Megillah, and in my minds eye I try to translate the words of the Megillah into a realistic, historical picture.

Purim in essence commemorates the salvation of the Jewish nation from a premeditated holocaust motivated by pure, unadulterated antisemitism. It brings to light the roots of antisemitism throughout history and the incredible survival of the Jewish nation over its thousands of years of existence. Antisemitism and Jew-hatred was and still is a phenomenon for which every attempt at a rational explanation has failed. Even more inexplicable is the survival of the Jewish people over the generations.

No one can logically explain how we have survived the unending attempts of strong, established nations to destroy us, whether their methods were brutal and direct, or sophisticated and subtle.

The Megillah reading and the customs of Purim put the holiday into its historical context. The kingdom of Ahashverosh, the stage for the drama of the Megillah, was a global empire. Ahashverosh was an all-powerful king, but also a licentious one whose favorite pastime was orchestrating and indulging in gargantuan feasts. A king lacking restraint, who on the spur of the moment lost his head and executed the queen, despite the fact that thanks to her he became king. Then we encounter the wicked Haman, whose meteoric ascent propelled him to the position of royal viceroy.

Haman proposed the Final Solution annihilation of all the Jews: To destroy, to kill and to wipe out all the Jews, from young to old, children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions (Esther 3:13).

The rationale for the genocide: the Jews are inferior, they lack a national identity, they are insular, they dont fit into the society of the Persian Empire, and they are useless. This is antisemitism in its purest form Haman doesnt even try to explain what good wiping out the Jews will do the Persian Empire. In the end the tables are turned thanks to a miracle and thanks to Mordechai and Esthers brilliant political maneuvering. Hamans plot to annihilate the Jews was thwarted, the pursued became the pursuers and the intended victims emerged victorious.

It is difficult to fully appreciate the meaning of the rejoicing over the salvation of Purim since it is difficult to grasp the magnitude of the calamity that was prevented.

Without visualizing the catastrophe as if it actually took place, we cannot comprehend its severity. And since we managed to avert it before it happened, we are hard-put to fully understand its significance.

Today, more than 70 years after the Holocaust, we know the results of the schemes of the German arch-villain and his cohorts to eliminate the nation of Israel. So unfortunately, we can also imagine the totality of the disaster which was prevented in the days of Ahashverosh, and consequently we can understand the joy of Purim.

Lets all get into the proverbial time machine. Were going back 80 years, to the days when Hitler came to power and proclaimed his intention to eradicate the Jews. Now lets imagine that before his machine of destruction began its genocide, the whole plan was stopped, either by diplomacy or by assassination. Wouldnt we have celebrated? Wouldnt our elation have been boundless, leaping from the depths of our hearts and radiating to the heavens? This is the way to relate to Purim today.

It is the wondrous, miraculous story of a holocaust which was nipped in the bud.

And this is the essence of the joy which should accompany us throughout the holiday.

In each and every generation there are those who stand up and try to annihilate us. And the Holy One, Blessed be He, rescues us from their hands (Passover Haggada).

The author, a rabbi and IDF colonel in the reserves, is the rosh yeshiva of the Meir Harel Hesder Yeshiva Modiin Ofakim.

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Israel eyeing Iran’s test of advanced Russian-made missile system – Jerusalem Post Israel News

The S-300 air defence system launches a missile during the International Army Games 2016 at the Ashuluk military polygon outside Astrakhan, Russia, August 7, 2016. (photo credit:REUTERS)

A day after Iran said it successfully tested the S-300 advanced missile defense system, Israel is cautiously monitoring the situation.

Irans state media reported on Saturday that after years of delay, the advanced Russian-made S-300 missile defense system successfully completed a series of tests and has become operational.

According to Abraham Assael, a former IDF brigadier-general, the S-300 technology cannot be ignored.

The S-300 advanced missile defense system is a system that wasnt there before and which is very dangerous, Assael told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

While the S-300 is an older system with radar capabilities unable to detect stealth technology like the F-35 fighter jet, its very good against third or fourth generation combat aircraft, which make up the majority of Israels air force.

The missile defense system was delivered by Russia last year in a $800 million dollar deal that was halted in 2010 due to United Nations Security Council sanctions, which barred the sales of advanced weapons to Tehran. The restrictions were lifted last year following the nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and the six world powers in July 2015. In October, Moscow announced that it had completed the delivery of the surface-to-air missile systems to Iran.

Israel had long sought to block the sale, and remains concerned that Iran will violate the international accord signed with world powers aimed at preventing it from developing nuclear weapons. Jerusalem is also concerned that the S-300 might have an affect on Israels air superiority in the region.

Israels Air Force recently received the F-35, which according to senior Israeli officials, will give Israel complete air superiority in the region for the next 40 years. Israel is set to receive two full squadrons of the F-35 by 2022 and with an extremely low radar signature, it is able to operate undetected deep inside enemy territory as well as evade advanced missile defense systems like S-300s.

The Iranian drill on Saturday, dubbed Damavand, saw the Islamic Republic test the Russian-made system against a variety of aerial targets, including a ballistic missile which, according to Brigadier-General Farzad Esmaili, the commander of Irans Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Base, was smashed by the S-300.

According to Irans Tasnim news, the drill also saw the Iranian military test the systems electronic warfare measure to lock onto targets in difficult conditions.

“The S-300 is a system that is deadly for our enemies and which makes our skies more secure,” Esmaili is quoted as saying.

Iranian State TV aired footage of the missiles launching, saying that the drill took place in Iran’s central desert region, without giving a precise location.

According to Irans IRIB news agency, the country is now in the midst of developing its own version of the S-300 system, quoting Brig.-Gen. Esmaili, as saying the Bavar-373 system, which would be [more] technologically advanced than the S-300 was due to be tested in the near future.

The notion of Iran developing its own advanced missile defense system is not surprising, Assael said.

The Iranians are well-advanced in their technology. In the last decade or two we can say that they developed a lot, especially in the field of rockets, the retired general said, adding that while it takes time to develop a complex system, the Iranians are very capable of developing a system even more advanced than the S-300.

According to Assael, if tomorrow we wanted to strike Iran, and Im not saying that we do, we now need to take into consideration that Iran now has a very good anti-aircraft system.

Iran’s reportedly successful testing and subsequent operational status of the system comes amid mounting tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Irans Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has dismissed calls from US President Donald Trumps administration to stop testing ballistic missiles and in February, Mojtaba Zonour, a member of Irans National Security and Foreign Policy Commission and a former Islamic Revolution Guards Corps official, warned that an Iranian missile could hit Tel Aviv in under seven minutes.

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Why It’s Critical That We Demythologize The Holocaust – Culture … – Forward

Why? Explaining the Holocaust By Peter Hayes W.W. Norton & Company, 412 pages, $27.95

The historian Peter Hayes has always derided what he regards as simplistic explanations of complicated phenomena. In his popular Holocaust lecture course at Northwestern University, he savaged Daniel Goldhagens argument, in Hitlers Willing Executioners, that a uniquely German eliminationist anti-Semitism caused the Holocaust.

Hayes, who now chairs the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museums Academic Committee, does not accept the idea that the Shoah defies comprehension. Comprehending it is the historians task, he believes.

Why? Explaining the Holocaust exemplifies Hayes clear-eyed commitment to analyzing the Holocaust in all its complexity. His fondness for long lists of causative factors can make the volume resemble a lecture run amok, and the dearth of enlivening narrative or anecdote is a deficit. But Hayes is never less than lucid.

To understand the Holocaust requires solving multiple puzzles that surround it, he writes. Applying a keen analytic mind and the statistical predilections of an economic historian to the latest scholarship, Hayes seeks to demythologize the subject and offer balanced assessments of responsibility, blame and relative suffering.

As the late David Cesarani noted in Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-1949, a gap has grown in recent years between expert knowledge and common perceptions, or rather misperceptions, about the Holocaust. Hayes, like Cesarani, seeks to bridge that gap.

After an introduction, Why? contains eight sections, each of which addresses a set of related questions. Hayes begins by asking why the Jews were targeted, and why the Germans became their attackers. He discusses how initial anti-Jewish measures escalated first into murder and then the quest for total annihilation. He takes on the charged issues of why Jewish resistance was so fragmentary, why survival rates diverged from country to country, and why most onlookers didnt do more to help. Finally, he explores the lessons and legacies of the Holocaust.

Hayes argues throughout that anti-Semitism alone, however virulent, was insufficient to account for the Holocaust. To facilitate Hitlers rise to power, economic and political crisis was necessary; anti-Semitism was secondary, Hayes suggests, to resurgent nationalism and economic desperation. (Of course, the reconstituted German nation was defined in part by scapegoating and exclusion.)

As we know, the Nazis at first sought the impoverishment and emigration of Jews, not their wholesale slaughter. And, to some extent, Hitler modulated his anti-Jewish measures in response to circumstances, testing domestic and world opinion. But war reset the playing field. German military successes had the perverse, if predictable, effect of bringing millions of Jews in Eastern Europe under Nazi hegemony, making the emigration solution impractical and sparking Nazi impatience, frustration, and hubris.

Historians have faulted Jews for not forecasting the horrors ahead more accurately. In fact, as Hayes underlines, a majority of German and Austrian Jews were prescient enough to flee in time, navigating immigration restrictions and abandoning most of their possessions. The people who remained behind were disproportionately the old, the infirm and their caregivers. Of German Jews 24 years old and under in 1933, 84 percent got out alive, compared to 60 percent of the total population.

The philosopher Hannah Arendt is among those who castigated Jewish leaders and especially the ghettos ruling Jewish Councils for cooperating, however reluctantly, with the Nazis by registering Jews and facilitating deportations. Hayes sees these harsh judgments as unfounded. Mostly unarmed, exhausted, starving and surrounded by enemies, Jews had very limited scope for effective, lifesaving action.

The statistics Hayes summons to describe the most famous act of Jewish resistance, the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, make the case: In the course of suppressing the uprising, the Germans and their auxiliaries suffered somewhere between 110 casualties (seventeen dead and ninety-three wounded, according to the official figures) and three times that many (according to the resisters). Either way, the figure is tiny compared to the 56,065 people the German captured or killed. That the uprising was (and remains) imaginatively stirring even redemptive for many Jews is not an issue with which Hayes cares to grapple.

Anti-Semitism surely factored into the lack of help for Jews. But Hayes argues that it was powerfully combined with self-interest. The Allies kept their focus on the broader war; collaborationist states sought to curry favor with the Nazis; even individuals who might have been inclined to help feared reprisals.

The situation was especially difficult in the Hobbesian world of Poland, where even non-Jewish Poles were under siege. Some Poles happily accepted purloined Jewish possessions, some joined in the slaughter (the Jedwabne massacre is a particularly heinous example), and others sought only to save themselves. But there were many stories of risk and rescue as well.

Hayes applies his signature evenhandedness to the case of the Vatican, which was slow to condemn the Nazi persecutions of Jews. Along with the Catholic Churchs anti-Semitism and the imperative of institutional survival, Hayes attributes the hesitation to religious scruples specifically, the desire to safeguard priests and thus keep the sacraments, considered necessary for salvation, available to those in Nazi-occupied realms.

Among the popular misconceptions Hayes dismantles is that many high-level perpetrators escaped justice. In fact, as he enumerates, top Nazis officials and concentration camp commanders frequently received death sentences or prison terms. Still, as he concedes, thousands of lesser criminals from members of mobile killing squads to concentration camp guards did elude punishment.

The Holocaust was not mysterious and inscrutable, Hayes concludes, but rather the work of humans acting on familiar human weaknesses and motives: wounded pride, fear, self-righteousness, prejudice, and personal ambition being among the most obvious. He adds: Once persecution gathered momentum, however, it was unstoppable without the death of millions of people, the expenditure of vast sums of money, and the near destruction of the European continent.

One lesson to draw, Hayes writes, is the relevance of a German saying, Beware the beginnings because early resistance can change the course of history.

Julia M. Klein, the Forwards contributing book critic, was a finalist this year for the National Book Critics Circles Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. Follow her on Twitter @JuliaMKlein.

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Why It’s Critical That We Demythologize The Holocaust – Culture … – Forward

90-year-old Holocaust survivor leads double life in Israel and Germany – The Times of Israel

Karla Raveh is an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor leading a double life.

Much of each year, Raveh, who turns 90 this May, is an unassuming homemaker doting on her five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren in Kiryat Tivon, near Haifa in northern Israel. However, in the summers she relocates to Lemgo, Germany, where she is practically a celebrity, unable to go anywhere without being stopped by people on the street.

In Lemgo, Ravehs birthplace, there is a school named for her. She lives in an apartment above a museum dedicated to her familys history in her childhood home, a stately house in the center of town. Her schedule is full of speaking engagements and meetings with dignitaries and old and new acquaintances.

Yet, almost no one in Israel knows anything about this. Raveh has told few of her friends and neighbors about her life the last 30 summers in Lemgo, because she thinks they especially other Holocaust survivors wouldnt understand.

Karla Raveh (left) with Lilach Naishtat Bornstein (YouTube screenshot)

Lilach Naishtat Bornstein (Hebrew), a post-doctoral fellow at the MOFET Institute who teaches at the Kibbutzim College of Education, heard about Ravehs double life and wanted to understand. With Ravehs permission, she followed her to Lemgo and made a 2012 short film about her together with filmmaker Hans-Peter Lbke, an Israeli-German production titled, Between Home and Homeland.

Intrigued by what is permitted and not in Israeli society when it comes to bearing witness to the Holocaust, Bornstein also mined Ravehs story as research for her book, Their Jew: Right and Wrong in Holocaust Testimonies, published in 2016 by the Hebrew Universitys Melton Center for Jewish Education and the MOFET Institute.

There is a trend of survivors going back to their hometowns to give testimony, but Karlas case is unique, Bornstein said.

Memorial to Frenkel family outside Karla Raveh Gesamtschule in Lemgo, Germany (Courtesy)

A tremendous, phenomenal educational project has grown around her testimony. Dozens, if not hundreds, of cultural products have been produced based on her and her testimony in what seems like a strange German obsession, she said.

Bornstein, 51, was particularly interested in trying to learn why Ravehs testimony has been received with such interest in Germany, but not in Israel, including among her own family members.

German Jews long for and adore their German culture, and Karla gave herself permission to compensate herself for her lost German youth. Its been somewhat uncomfortable for her children to rediscover her intimacy with Germany, which they had associated only with Nazis, Bornstein said.

Karla Frenkel Raveh at age 7 in 1934 (Courtesy)

For much of her life, Lemgo, a small university city an hour and a halfs drive southwest of Hanover, was no more than a memory for Raveh. It was the place where she was born and raised, and from where she and her family were deported by the Nazis to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in July 1942.

Only Raveh and one of her grandmothers survived the Holocaust. After the war, when she was 18, Raveh returned briefly to Lemgo to recuperate from illness and reclaim family property. After that, she left her birthplace first for Switzerland, and later for Israel with no intention of ever returning.

Lemgo would have remained locked away in Ravehs past had it not been for a letter she received in the mid-1980s from a teacher there named Hanne Pohlmann asking her, as the only Jewish survivor from Lemgo, to share her Holocaust testimony with the citys inhabitants especially the children. Raveh reluctantly agreed, divulging details unknown even to her own two sons, Michael and Danny. Ravehs husband Shmuel became the driving force behind the project, encouraging Raveh to write her familys entire story in German, and serving as her typist.

Photograph of Karla Frenkel Raveh taken in Lemgo, Germany shortly after her liberation c. 1945 (Courtesy)

Raveh submitted her testimony to Pohlmann, who arranged for it to be published as a book, whose first printing sold out quickly. Raveh was invited to Lemgo in the summer of 1986 for a book launch, which in turn launched her unexpectedly back into the life of Lemgo after 40 years. That initial trip turned into months-long annual visits and a true homecoming.

I am at home here in Israel, and I am also at home there in Lemgo. Its a hard thing to explain, Raveh told The Times of Israel during an interview over lunch in her Kiryat Tivon kitchen.

Before her deportation, Raveh and her siblings were the only young Jews in Lemgo. Today she is the only Jew there at all. Warmly and genuinely welcomed back by the citys residents, Raveh has become their Jew, an identity she ambivalently embraces.

Herta Rosenberg Frenkel, who was killed at Auschwitz in 1944 (Courtesy)

Raveh was born Karla Frenkel in Lemgo on May 15, 1927 to Herta (ne Rosenberg) and Walter Frenkel. She had an older sister, Helga, and two younger brothers, Ludwig and Uriel. Walter was a businessman, and the family lived in the inherited family home, which had been purchased and renovated by Walters entrepreneurial widowed grandmother in the late 19th century. Both the Frenkels and the Rosenbergs, who were from the Hamburg area, had been living in Germany for generations.

I remember that my grandfather was a real yekke, Raveh said, using the term for a Jew of German-speaking origin connoting an affinity for detail and punctuality.

When Karla and her siblings were growing up, Lemgo had a population of 13,500, of which only 60 were Jews. The Frenkels were the only young Jewish family in town, and Karla and her brothers and sister were well integrated socially among the other children. The older members of the family were similarly well accepted and civically involved, with Walter Frenkel and his father (who died when Karla was seven) serving as volunteer fire fighters, among other positions.

The familys situation changed under Nazi rule, with the children no longer allowed to continue in their German school in 1938. Raveh and her sister boarded with a Jewish family in nearby Detmold, where there was a regional Jewish school, but that lasted only until 1941.

Helene and Theodor Rosenberg. Helene survived Theresienstadt and died two years after WWII in Switzerland. Theodor was killed near Hamburg, Germany on Kristallnacht in 1938. (Courtesy)

Ravehs maternal grandmother, Helene Rosenberg, came to live with the Frenkels in Lemgo after her husband Theodor was killed by Nazis near Hamburg on Kristallnacht in November 1938.

Walter Frenkels brother, three sisters and their families were deported from Lemgo to the Warsaw Ghetto, where they died of hunger.

On July 28, 1942, Raveh and her family her parents, siblings, and two grandmothers were deported to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia.

Helga Frenkel, who was killed at Auschwitz in 1944 (Courtesy)

When we arrived in the camp, we had to walk from the train platform and they put the older people like my grandmother, my fathers mother, Laura Frenkel, on a cart with bags that the strong young men pulled. I remember going over to my grandmother and trying to help her, and she said, The God of old no longer lives. She held on for another couple of months and then died, Raveh said.

The family was imprisoned at Theresienstadt for two and a half years. Raveh and her sister Helga, both teenagers, did hard labor in the fields and lived in youth houses supervised by counselors from Czech Zionist organizations.

Thats when I caught the Zionism and aliya bug. I told my parents I wanted to go to Palestine, and I remember they didnt take me very seriously, Raveh said.

Ravehs family was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau ahead of her, so she tried very hard to be put on a transport to be reunited with them.

I volunteered to be on a transport to Auschwitz. I honestly had no idea where I was going to. I went to personally speak to [Rabbi] Leo Baeck, who was the head of the Judenrat to ask him to help get me on the transport list, Raveh said.

Walter Michael Frenkel, who was killed at Auschwitz in 1944 (Courtesy)

Raveh ended up in the last car on the last transport from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz in October 1944. Unprepared for the journey, she did not have any water, so when a young man next to her fell asleep, she stole his flask. It was filled with booze but she drank it anyway.

Upon arrival at Auschwitz, the only thing that saved Raveh from being sent straight to the gas chamber was her natural chutzpah and likely intoxication. Rather than joining the main crowd of women, she wandered off down the platform to take in her surroundings. When a guard asked her where she thought she was going she gave an incoherent answer, and he shoved her into a smaller group to the side that ended up being sent to labor duty.

I was in total shock when I got there. I didnt know what had fallen on my head. I learned that my entire family had gone to the gas before I got there. My good friend told me that Mengele saw that my sister Helga had an abscess on her hip during a selection and sent her to the gas. She got the abscess from unsterile needles from medicine for typhoid in Theresienstadt. My father traded bread for the medicine and she got better, but she still had the abscess, Raveh said.

Ludwig Frenkel, who was killed at Auschwitz in 1944 (Courtesy)

Raveh remembered standing naked on her first night in Auschwitz and asking the Jewish women in charge what the factories were for, and the women just laughed.

I didnt care if I was sent to the gas. I had come to hell and I was only hanging on to life by my fingernails, she said.

Later, on a transport from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen, a woman sitting next to Raveh committed suicide by slitting her wrists. Drenched in the womans blood, Raveh dragged the corpse to the conductors booth at the end of the cattle car.

When the door to the booth opened and the air whooshed out, it was like drinking in a cup of water. I will never forget that, Raveh said.

Raveh was moved from Bergen-Belsen to a munitions factory at Salzwedel, Germany. She was liberated from there by Allied forces on April 14, 1945. She was one month shy of her 18th birthday.

Shmuel (Rubin) Raveh, photographed after liberation from Nazi concentration camps c. 1946 (Courtesy)

Determined to reclaim her familys property, Raveh returned to Lemgo, where she was hospitalized due to tuberculosis. There, she met her future husband, Polish survivor Shmuel Rubin (who later Hebraicized his name to Raveh).

Rubin had survived Mittelbau-Dora, a subcamp of Buchenwald where slave labor fabricated V-2 missiles and other experimental weapons in extremely dangerous underground conditions. He was shot while trying to escape a death march from the camp, and collapsed in the forest, where he was found by an African-American US soldier. Rubin was taken to the hospital in Lemgo, but refused to trust his rescuer until another American soldier spoke to him in Yiddish.

Ravehs maternal grandmother, Helene Rosenberg, survived the war thanks to a special agreement by Reichsfhrer SS Heinrich Himmler, Security Police Chief Ernst Kaltenbrunner, and other SS leaders to release 1,200 Theresienstadt prisoners in exchange for five million Swiss francs put up by Jewish organizations in an escrowed account in Switzerland. Rosenberg located Raveh through the Red Cross, and brought her to Switzerland, where she convalesced until she joined Rubin in Israel in late 1949. (Rubin died of cancer in December 1986, and did not live to see his wifes return to Lemgo.)

My grandmother refused to believe me when I told her what had happened to the rest of the family, Raveh said.

Students and faculty at Karla Raveh Gesamtschule in Lemgo, Germany celebrate the 20th anniversary of the schools naming in 2016 (Courtesy)

Raveh admitted to having a love-hate relationship with Lemgo.

Raveh said she refuses to give her testimony to groups of older adults because she cant stop thinking that some of them may have been complicit with the Nazis, or even been Nazis themselves. Instead, she focuses her energy on educating the younger generations.

The young Germans do take responsibility and are ashamed. The older generation doesnt take responsibility and I wont speak to them, she said.

In contradiction, she mentioned how thrilled she is when old school friends and acquaintances recognize her and invite her for coffee to catch up.

What can I say? To my regret, I still love my hometown. Not Germany, but my hometown, she said.

Bornstein observed that despite how at home Raveh feels in Lemgo, she limits herself in terms of how she speaks with Germans. Bornstein believed this stemmed from the fact that Lemgo had adopted Raveh as their Jew, but not their Israeli.

Karla Ravehs Holocaust testimony and autobiography, published in German, with image of Frenkel Haus in Lemgo, Germany on cover. (Courtesy)

The only taboo in her conversation with Germans is talking about her being an Israeli. They want to keep her as a Jewish victim. They want to see her as a German Jew, and not as an Israeli, Bornstein said.

Raveh intends to return to Lemgo this May for the 90th birthday party the city has planned for her, but she is quite certain it will be her last trip there. The journey has become too hard.

She continued to make the trip in her advanced years out of love for and duty to her murdered family. Entering through the same front door at Frenkel Haus she did every day as a child was emotionally difficult. But she felt she had to keep doing it.

Ive been showing The God of old that my grandmother said was dead that Im still here, she said.

Karla Raveh at her home in Kiryat Tiv’on, Israel on February 21, 2017 (Renee Ghert-Zand/TOI)

Go here to see the original:
90-year-old Holocaust survivor leads double life in Israel and Germany – The Times of Israel

How the Holocaust happened: Survivor talks about her experiences – The Daily News Online

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ALEXANDER The Holocaust … is happening again, said Sophia Veffer as she sat up on a stage looking down of faces of children and adults listening intently in their seats of the Alexander High School Auditorium.

We have genocides now. When we turn on our computers and televisions, we see refugees fleeing certain parts of the Middle East, trying to flee into Europe. So, history is repeating itself.

Veffer is a survivor of the Holocaust who came to speak to families Thursday night in Alexander.

Born in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Veffer said her story is somewhat similar to that of Anne Frank.

Veffer explained that the German definition of a Jewish person wasnt someone who actively participated the faith but had more than two Jewish grandparents. As a result, it wasnt unusual to see a Christian priest walking around with a yellow star.

Veffer said to go into hiding, three conditions must be able to be met: Have a certain amount of money; be able to be isolated from the rest of the community; and to fit a certain profile not too old, not too young and couldnt be pregnant.

The uniqueness about Anne Frank … if you went into hiding, you went as an older child, she said. You went never went into hiding with your parents. It was easier to find a hiding place for a child than grown ups.

She added that eight people living in the same place was very rare. When Veffer went into hiding, she was picked up by a woman and didnt know where she was going or why until she got there.

Veffer was in hiding for two years until she was betrayed.

Her family was exterminated, with the exception of her parents. She went back to school before moving to the United States in 1954 with her husband.

After the war was over, they opened the gates of the concentration camps, we thought the ones that survived once the world will see what happened in these camps during the war … it will never happen again, she said.

During the Holocaust, Nazi Germany killed 11 million civilians 6 million of which were Jews of all ages from babies to the elderly. The killing took place during 1937 through 1945.

They prepared for this they organized it, they designed it, for 10 years, Veffer said. It was not something spontaneous.

She said what was eerie about the Holocaust was that it happened in Germany a democratic country with the best universities, best schools, best philosophers, the best playwrights, the best doctors and the best everything. Veffer explained after Germany lost War World I, the country was very poor.

Then there came Hitler, she said. Hitler was a demagogue and he wanted to make Germany great again.

However, in order to make Germany great again, Veffer said, certain parts of the population needed to be removed the Jews, the blacks, the homosexuals, the Jehovahs Witnesses and the disabled.

It didnt exactly work out like that, did it? she asked. So be very careful if you hear the term, We will go back to the past and we will make a country great again because you pay a cost to do that.

Veffer said that a certain kind of hatred needs to be fostered, and that there needs to be three groups of people to be present for a genocide to happen: the victims, the perpetrators and the bystanders.

The victims are always a minority in their own country that dont have the means of protecting themselves or fighting back.

The perpetrators who commit the crimes need to be educated and indoctrinated in hate from an early age. In Germany, children had learned from the day they were born the Jews, Roma who were more commonly known as gypsies at the time and homosexuals were no good. Even in college they were taught to get rid of those undesirables. She gave an example of a film she saw of a council being held in Germany in 1941.

In the film, there were two long cafeteria tables. There were about 50 people sitting around the tables … and most of them had PhD degrees who were sitting there, Veffer said. What was the council all about? How to kill, in the most efficient way, 11 million Jews.

Then there is the bystanders.

The bystanders are the most dangerous group, even more so than the perpetrators, because they say, Well, you know, life is bad for us too. We are poor, we dont have enough food on the table, I just cant be bothered with the other people. We have enough problems of our own, go away and do it, she said.

While there are three groups of people who are needed to make a genocide happen, Veffer said there is a fourth group the upstanders and rescuers. These people are those who stand up and feel it is their moral obligation to do something to protect these marginalized people.

One of the upstanders Veffer talked about was a group of rural poor Polish farmers during a time when Poland was one of the most anti-Semitic countries.

After the war people went to Poland to interview these people who were hiding Jewish people during the war when it was so dangerous, Vetter said. They had preconceived ideas what the answer would be.

They thought they would say, Well Jesus Christ told us to do it, she continued. Im a good Christian. Our God wants us to do that.

They did not get that answer, she said. (The farmers) shrugged their shoulders and told the interviewers, We dont know why we really did it, but we knew they were even worse off then we were.

What can one person do though?

One person can make a difference, Veffer insisted. Ever hear about Rosa Parks? Who did not want to give her seat up on the bus? She did not start the Civil Rights movement, she ignited the Civil Rights movement.

She encouraged people to be courageous to say something and defend those who need it, because people will listen.

Originally posted here:
How the Holocaust happened: Survivor talks about her experiences – The Daily News Online

When Jews were illegal, and turned to others for sanctuary – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Protesters demonstrating at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash.,Feb. 26, 2017. (Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images)

MILWAUKEE (JTA) I was privileged recently to participate as the sole Jewish voice at a news conference with Latino leaders, community activists and faith groups at which we spoke loudly and clearly in support of compassionate immigration policies.

I told the people gathered about a piece of Jewish history I had only recently discovered one that illustrated a strong parallel between our peoples and sharpened the moral imperative for a Jewish voice on behalf of immigrants.

In 1921 and 1924, Congress passed laws strictly limiting immigration according to nation-based quotas. The controversial laws dramatically reduced the number of Europeans allowed to enter this country and made permanent an already existing, near-total ban on Asian immigrants.

These people, it was understood, presented political, racial and cultural threats to the United States.

Three of my four grandparents had arrived several years previously, entering this country before the gates closed. But if they hadnt, perhaps they would have been among the estimated tens of thousands of Jews who entered this country illegally by sailing into the ports of New York with fake German passports, by arriving in Florida by hiding in boats from Cuba, by sneaking across the Canadian border or crossing by foot from Mexico.

Or perhaps they would have been among the millions who were murdered as part of the Nazi genocide of European Jews.

Until recently, I had no idea that Jewish immigrants had entered the United States illegally. That was not our story. Unlike the illegals of today, our people arrived to the goldene medina, the goldenland, only through proper channels, we have been told.

But Libby Garlands research, described in her book After they Closed the Gates: Jewish Illegal Immigration to the United States, 1921-1965, takes a lid off the smug distance we are able to keep from the issue of illegal immigration. We are not better. We, too, were strangers. Illegal strangers.

The story of seeking asylum, of being refugees and immigrants, of entering this country through both legal and illegal means, is a deeply American story and, as it turns out, an American Jewish story.

But it serves only to bolster what is an eternal Jewish value, repeated throughout our texts: to welcome the stranger: When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

While the American Jewish community includes support for a range of political positions, it has been driven by a vision of America as a beacon of hope, a nation with shoulders and heart big enough to welcome people fleeing persecution and to absorb the hopeless seeking their second chance.

Elana Kahn (Milwaukee Independent)

That is why our community has stood shoulder to shoulder with communities of newer immigrants as we call for policies that reflect our shared values. With allies from many different religious, ethnic and national communities, we have spoken at news conferences, issued statements, urged policymakers and advocated on certain issues with a simple but important call: Our nation and its inhabitants deserve compassionate immigration policies that balance national security with adherence to our higher value of welcoming the stranger.

The pursuit of such policies characterized by rule of law, national interest and compassionate treatment is not simply a moral imperative for the Jewish community. It is also entirely pragmatic and self-interested: We know that a nation that shuts its doors to immigrants will be less kind to those already here.

With other minority groups, we can envision the outcomes of nativist policies that divide rather than unite. At a recent gathering, Milwaukee Gathers in Unity for Human Dignity, we listened to the stories of refugees from Africa, Asia, Central America, the Middle East and Europe.

Such events are not only symbolic. They draw a community closer around shared values while giving elected officials an opportunity to clarify their position. At this event, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett signed a resolution expressing opposition to the Presidential Executive Order 13769, the travel ban. He voiced a clear promise that local police officers would not act as immigration enforcement agents.

This work is essential to Jewish community relations, driven by enlightened self-interest through vigorous and strategic relationship building. We stand with allies, protecting them when necessary, and we ask them them to stand with us, interrupting hatred and linking arms with us when we need their support.

Those of us who feel safe in this country cannot absent ourselves from this renewed debate about the nature of this country as a patchwork of ethnicities. That is the blessing of living in community, knowing our neighbors learning about their stories and concerns, and recognizing that they, too, were created in the image of God.

(Elana Kahn is director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.)

See original here:
When Jews were illegal, and turned to others for sanctuary – Jewish Telegraphic Agency