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“The Last Goodbye” offers survivor’s virtual tour of Majdanek camp

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Myrna Petlicki/Pioneer Press.
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By Myrna Petlicki, Chicago Tribune, October 13, 2018.  Click for full report.

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The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center is premiering a film where Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter takes viewers on an emotional tour through the Majdanek Nazi concentration camp in Poland, where he was held captive and where his parents and twin sister died.

The award-winning virtual reality film “The Last Goodbye,” created by the USC Shoah Foundation, will run at the museum in Skokie through Jan. 27.

Visitors view the approximately 15-minute film one person at a time in a small enclosed screening area, wearing special goggles. Viewers follow Gutter as he drives to the concentration camp on what the 86-year-old survivor believes will be his last journey there.

Those watching the film will feel as if they are in the railway car like the one where Gutter and his family were transported to Majdanek—the car so packed, Gutter says, that some people suffocated to death there.

The experience includes a 360-degree visit to the gas chamber, shower room and barracks.

Gutter shares his tearful memory of the last time he saw his 11-year-old twin sister, running to be with his mother. He admits that he has an image of her hair in his mind but cannot visualize her face.

Shoshana Buchholz-Miller, vice president of education and exhibits at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, oversaw the installation of the project.

She noted that the USC Shoah Foundation, which created “The Last Goodbye,” had shown the film at festivals but it had never had a long-term installation.

“Several Holocaust museums had been in conversation with the Shoah Foundation about using it in their museums,” said Buchholz-Miller. “We, as a group, decided that we would be the national premiere of the installation in September.”

The other participating museums are the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, the Florida Holocaust Museum and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

The Illinois Holocaust Museum wanted to participate because, “We are very focused on telling survivor stories in new and innovative ways in an effort to engage as many people as we can in telling those stories,” Buchholz-Miller said. “This is the first of its kind—a virtual reality tour of a camp by a Holocaust survivor. It is incredibly emotional and immersive.”

Pinchas Gutter was chosen to be featured in the film because he was the first person who was filmed for the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s Interactive Holographic Survivor Stories Experience.

Gutter had previously visited the camp and he frequently speaks about his Holocaust experience, Buchholz-Miller said.

“It was a very emotional experience for him and you can see that when you watch the film,” she said.

Viewing the film creates a unique experience, Buchholz-Miller noted.

“It’s very powerful to be immersed in the physical space,” she said. “You feel like you’re standing there in the shower, in the barracks, in the crematorium. But what makes it most powerful is hearing Pinchas tell his personal recollections of the last time he saw his sister. Also, him making comparisons and thinking how we need to apply these horrible lessons to today, in wars and genocides. And how we need to take action against them.”

Gutter, who was born in Poland, lived in five different concentration camps over the course of the war. After the war, he lived in several countries, including England, France, South Africa and Brazil. He currently resides in Canada.

Buchholz-Miller observed that people who view the film “are incredibly moved by it and very engaged by it.”

Dutch museums discover 170 artworks stolen by Nazis.

The Hague Forest painting
The Hague Forest with a View of Huis ten Bosch Palace, by Joris van der Haagen Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
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The Guardian, October 12, 2018.  Click for full report.

A project to return artworks stolen from Jewish families by the Nazi regime and its collaborators has discovered 170 such pieces in Dutch museums, including a painting in the royal collection.

Of the country’s major collections, only the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has yet to complete its search, despite a team of five experts working on it daily since 2012.

Forty-two of 163 institutions involved in the Museale Verwervingen project have found pieces that they suspect were stolen or confiscated under duress.

The works include 83 paintings, 26 drawings and 13 Jewish ritual objects believed to have been taken from their owners between 1933 and 1945.

In 2015, the Dutch royal family returned a painting by Joris van der Haagen that had been bought by Queen Juliana from a Dutch art dealer in 1960 without her knowing its history, according to the royals.

The palace’s investigation into tens of thousands of artworks in the House of Orange’s collection brought to light convincing evidence that the owner of the van der Haagen painting, depicting a view of Huis ten Bosch Palace, had been forced to hand it over to a Nazi bank, Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co, in Amsterdam.

The most recent instance of a piece being returned involved a 16th-century bronze sculpture of Moses by the Italian sculptor Alessandro Vittoria, which was part of a collection held by the Hannema-de Stuers Foundation.

The piece was obtained by the collection’s founder, Dirk Hannema, between 1948 and 1952 in unknown circumstances. Hannema, a supporter of the Nazi regime, had been put in charge of Dutch museums in 1943 by the Berlin-appointed Reichskommissar, Arthur Seyss-Inquart.

The item was owned before the war by Emma Ranette Budge-Lazarus, a German who had American citizenship through marriage. Wealthy due to her husband’s role in the financing of the construction of American railways at the turn of the century, Budge-Lazarus was a generous donor to Frankfurt University and local charities.

She initially intended to leave her art collection to the city of Hamburg, but changed her will when Adolf Hitler became chancellor in January 1933. She died in 1937. At least one of her heirs was later put in a concentration camp and others fled. A large number of items, including the sculpture of Moses, were then put to auction.

Among the stolen pieces are Salome with the head of John the Baptist by Jan Adam Kruseman which is in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, ‘De Bewening’ by Hans Memling in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, and a watercolour entitled Bild mit Häusern by Wassily Kandinsky in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

Chris Janssen, a spokesman for Museale Verwervingen, said: “This research is important to do justice to history. A museum can only show an piece of art properly if the story and history behind the object is clear.

“In other words: a museum must know which road a piece of art has travelled before it came to the museum. That’s the way possible to inform visitors in a good way.”

Chelsea soccer club has plan to combat anti-Semitism by fans: Send them to tour Auschwitz.

(JTA, October 12, 2018) Click for full report.

The British soccer club Chelsea is planning to send fans who are caught chanting anti-Semitic songs on a tour of the former death camp Auschwitz rather than punishing them.

The team’s owner, Roman Abramovich, who is Jewish, has spearheaded the initiative to combat anti-Semitism, according to a report about the plan in The Sun on Thursday. Chelsea would cover all the costs.

The tours will replace the team’s current policy of banning offenders, according to the report, which said the Auschwitz trips would be “educational.” Fans who do not wish to go to Auschwitz would face season bans or longer penalties.

The initiative is designed to combat the prevalent phenomenon of anti-Semitism in soccer chants, especially when Chelsea faces the Tottenham Hotspur, a north London group widely associated with the Jewish people.

Many Hotspur fans refer to themselves proudly as “yids.” Supporters of rival teams taunt them with anti-Semitic chants, including about the Holocaust in what anti-Semitism experts say is a major arena of banalization of the Holocaust and mainstreaming of anti-Semitic hate speech.

Several other soccer teams throughout Europe are associated with Jews, none more than Amsterdam’s Ajax, whose fans fly Israeli flags at matches. Supporters of rival teams often chants about Hamas, the SS and gassing Jews.

“If you just ban people, you will never change their behavior,” The Sun quoted Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck as saying. “This policy gives them the chance to realize what they have done, to make them want to behave better.”

In the past, he added, ”we would take them from the crowd and ban them, for up to three years. Now we say ‘You did something wrong. You have the option. We can ban you or you can spend some time with our diversity officers, understanding what you did wrong.’”

He also said that “It is hard to act when a group of 50 or 100 people are chanting. That’s virtually impossible to deal with or try to drag them out of the stadium.” But if there are “individuals that we can identify, we can act.”

A Chelsea delegation attended the annual March of the Living at Auschwitz in April. Also in June, an official trip of 150 Chelsea supporters and club employees went on an official trip to the Nazi camp.

Holocaust survivors have also given talks to Chelsea players.

“The trips to Auschwitz were really important and effective, and we will consider more as well as other things that will affect people,” Buck said.

The idea has been backed by the World Jewish Congress, the Holocaust Education Trust and leading Jewish scholar Rabbi Barry Marcus.

“Banning doesn’t work,” Marcus said.

Critics of correctional trips like the ones envisaged by Chelsea say they are ineffective because of how many offenders do not suffer from particular ignorance about the Holocaust, seeking to weaponize their knowledge of it for shock value.

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57th Annual Silent Auction and Dinner

Saturday, November 17, 2018, 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Philmont Country Club, 301 Tomlinson Road, Huntingdon Valley, PA 19006

RSVP by Friday, October 26, 2018

Award

Honoring Lise Marlowe for her decades of Holocaust education at the Cheltenham School District. A national award winning 6th grade teacher, Lise attributes her dedication to teaching Holocaust history to her own Great Grandmother’s instrumental role in resisting the Nazi’s attempts to deport the entire Jewish population of Denmark.

Read Philly.com report on Lise’s work.

$95 per individual; $175 per couple – A portion of the proceeds is a tax-deductible donation to the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center.

To buy your tickets or for additional information call 215.464.4701 or email info@hamec.org

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Major General Sidney Shachnow–child survivor of Holocaust–dies at age 83

From Tampa Bay Times, October 4, 2018.  Click for full report.

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Sidney Shachnow, who survived the Holocaust as a child and fought in Vietnam as a U.S. Army Green Beret before becoming a major general, has died. He was 83.

Shachnow’s wife, Arlene, said by phone Wednesday that he passed away on Sept. 27 at a hospital in Pinehurst, North Carolina. They lived in the nearby town of Southern Pines.

Shachnow was involved in some of the biggest events of the 20th century, from enduring the horrors of Nazi-controlled Europe to leading U.S. Army troops in Berlin during the fall of the Berlin Wall.

He served in the U.S. Army Special Forces for more than 30 years, a career that was informed by a childhood spent avoiding death. It came full circle when he lived in a house in Berlin that was once owned by Adolf Hitler’s finance minister.

“He was a really, really tough guy,” said LeeAnne Shachnow Keister, one of Shachnow’s three daughters.

“The odds were against him,” she said. “But he had a really strong work ethic. And I think that’s what got him through to where he was in the military.”

When Shachnow was 6 or 7 years old, his Lithuanian Jewish family was forced into a Nazi concentration camp. Very few prisoners survived.

“I developed an instinct for survival,” he wrote in “Hope and Honor: A Memoir of a Soldier’s Courage and Survival,” a book he co-authored with Jann Robbins.

“If I saw any kind of trouble, I hid,” he wrote. “I learned to disappear into an alley, a doorway, or behind a shrub.”

He was eventually smuggled to safety, living in a Catholic family’s cellar. But life was tough even after the Soviets liberated Lithuania.

He begged for food and sold pantyhose and chocolate on the thriving black market, his daughter said.

In 1950, he and his family arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, where he met his future wife Arlene. He later enlisted in the Army as a private before going on to officer candidate school and volunteering for the Special Forces.

He eventually went to Vietnam.

“He felt that the U.S. was helping the Vietnamese,” said Robbins, who co-authored his memoir. “He was very strict in his belief about the war.”

He went on to command American forces in what was then West Berlin. The irony was not lost on him.

“Here it is the very capital of fascism and the Third Reich. The very buildings and streets where they were goose-stepping and heil-Hitlering and the very system that put me in the camp and killed many people,” he told The Fayetteville Observer in 1994.

“Here we are 40 some-odd years later, and I come back to be commander of American forces in that city and a Jew on top of that. It sort of adds insult to injury, doesn’t it?? he said.

Shachnow told the Jewish Post in 2012 that he lived in a villa that was once owned by Hitler’s finance minister.

Shachnow retired as a major general in 1994. In 2016, he was among 88 former military leaders who endorsed Donald Trump for president.

He spent much of his retirement speaking publicly about his life and working with various charities, including ones that helped veterans.

His wife said that on a recent trip to a Walmart pharmacy, he paid for the prescription of a woman who could only afford to pay for half of it.

“He said, “Give the lady the pills, I’ll pay for them,'” she said. “That’s the kind of guy he was.”

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Associated Press researchers Jennifer Farrar and Rhonda Shafner contributed to this story.

Walter Laqueur, pioneering scholar of terrorism and the Holocaust, dies at 97

Esteemed historian, who fled Nazi Germany a day before Kristallnacht, was an expert in Zionism, the fall of the Soviet Union and postwar Europe, among other things

Walter Laqueur pictured in February 1981. The Holocaust scholar died at 97 on September 30, 2018.
Walter Laqueur pictured in February 1981. The Holocaust scholar died at 97 on September 30, 2018.Fred Sweets/The Washington Post via Getty Images
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When Walter Laqueur died in Washington on Sunday, he left behind a vast oeuvre of scholarship and commentary on modern history that is unusual not only for its volume and its range, but also for the fact that much of it will continue to remain relevant and enlightening for decades to come.

True, Laqueur’s prolificacy can in part be explained by his longevity: He lived to the age of 97, and remained intellectually active up to the end. Nonetheless, he made important contributions to multiple fields: Zionist history, Holocaust studies, postwar European history and the fall of the Soviet Union, as well as seminal studies of terrorism and guerrilla warfare. And Laqueur accomplished all this without ever earning a university degree: he left the Hebrew University after a year, never to return – at least, not as a student.

Walter Laqueur was born on May 26, 1921, in Breslau, Germany (today Wroclaw, Poland). His father, Fritz Laqueur, was a clothing manufacturer; his mother was the former Elsa Berliner. Walter graduated from a German gymnasium in 1938, but within a half year he fled Nazi Germany, on the day before Kristallnacht. His parents saw him off at Breslau train station, and they never met again. He began the journey to British Mandatory Palestine, while they became victims of the Holocaust.

Laqueur was admitted to Mandatory Palestine on a student visa, but after a year at university he moved to a kibbutz. Over the next six years, Laqueur lived and worked on several collective agricultural settlements connected to the Kibbutz Ha’artzi movement, among them Hazorea. In 1944, he resettled in Jerusalem, where he worked as a journalist until he moved to London in 1955. Nonetheless, he continued to remain connected to Israel, both on the personal level and professionally. (One of his two daughters lives in Jerusalem.)

Although the rest of Laqueur’s career was spent in academia, he was a scholar who was deeply engaged with some of the most compelling political questions facing contemporary society.

Historian Jeffrey Herf once described him as “a participant-observer of the Cold War,” but though Laqueur was indeed prescient and outspoken about the threats of communism and later “Putinism,” as well as militant Islam, he could not reasonably have been described as doctrinaire.

Pessimistic might be more like it. As the New York Times noted in its obituary for Laqueur, “While much of the world was basking in the breakdown of Soviet communism” in the 1990s, “Mr. Laqueur, whose London apartment overlooked Karl Marx’s grave, was predicting the emergence of ‘an authoritarian system based on some nationalist populism.’” One of Laqueur’s final publications was the 2017 book “Reflections of a Veteran Pessimist: Contemplating Modern Europe, Russia and Jewish History.”

When Laqueur warned in his 2007 book “The Last Days of Europe” about the dangers posed by mass immigration and radical Islam to the continent – and to the European Union specifically – there were those who did not appreciate his tone. But today, most would have to acknowledge his prescience.

Laqueur wrote about the rise of Nazism, about anti-Semitism and about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and he remained a supporter of Israel throughout his life. For him, it was no contradiction that he also was critical of the settlement enterprise, He also retained a nostalgia for pre-state Jerusalem, which he recalled as cosmopolitan and pluralistic.

As a pioneering writer about terrorism, he warned from early on of the catastrophic consequences that could result from terrorists getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction.

From 1965 to 1994, Laqueur was director of the Institute of Contemporary History and the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide, in London, where he and historian George Mosse co-founded the peer-reviewed Journal of Contemporary History. Laqueur also founded the journal Soviet Survey.

In the United States, Laqueur belonged to and later led the research council of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and taught at Brandeis, Georgetown and Harvard universities, among others. In Israel, he taught at Tel Aviv University.

Laqueur wrote, co-wrote or edited some 70 books, including two memoirs and two novels about a German Holocaust survivor, “The Missing Years” and “Farewell to Europe” (published in 1980 and 1981, respectively). Reviewing the former in the New York Review of Books, Neal Ascherson described it as “social history expressed through fiction,” and judged it “the shrewdest and most observant study of German Jewry I have read.”