January 27, 9 a.m. Eastern Time: International Holocaust Remembrance Day world-wide program

From the January 20 edition of The Maccabean, Perth’s (Australia) Jewish weekly.

Join us through Zoom (https://zoom.us/j/97948035452) and the HAMEC Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/PhilaHAMEC) on Wednesday, January 27th (9 am EST, 2 pm London, 10 pm Perth)

World ORT, the WE ARE HERE! Foundation, and the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center of Philadelphia have partnered this year to provide an international experience of Holocaust education and remembrance to students around the world. This is an international project that commemorates the Holocaust and also provides opportunities for global Holocaust education, engaging the next generation of learners.

The Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center will provide Witness to History Survivor Testimony programs to ORT, the global education network driven by Jewish values, where students will have the opportunity to engage directly with a Holocaust survivor and hear their stories. These students will also, through the WE ARE HERE! Foundation, learn the importance and legacy of the Partisans’ Song, and join together globally through sharing that music in their own languages.

The Partisans’ Song, the song of hope, is the legacy of the partisans and the survivors. We invite you to join us for a special broadcast which will showcase the testimony shared with the students, allow them to describe and share their experiences with each other, and connect globally through the harmony of learning experiences and the singing of the Partisans’ Song.

Click for Partisan’s Song sung by Annie Lederhendler

Wherever you are, our Survivors and Liberators are ready to address your school, congregation or civic group.

A moving Yom HaShoah candlelighting ceremony was held on May 5, 2016 at the Holocaust Monument at the Alberta Legislature Grounds to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day. Photos by Edmonton Jewish News

More and more school districts and States are requiring Holocaust education. HAMEC can provide virtual programs for your school, congregation and civic group. Wherever you are – be it the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Israel, India, Brazil, Australia, or Nigeria –  we can serve you world-wide.

Through Google Meet, Skype and Zoom, we can bring the latest in Holocaust education to your school.  Request a program today.

Hate never takes a vacation and neither do we.

Sunset panel nixes call to abolish Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission

By KEN HERMAN, Austin American-Statesman, January 19, 2021. Click for full report.

I have a couple of updates today about the futures of two state agencies that have drawn unfavorable scrutiny during the sunset review process that leads to potential legislative overhauls.

For differing reasons, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission staff, which does close scrutiny of agencies up for the periodic sunset review by lawmakers, had recommended major changes at the Texas Racing Commission (TRC) and the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission.

The story on the Texas Racing Commission is omitted. To read about the Texas Racing Commission, click here.

The Sunset Advisory Commission staff recommendation on the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission was even more severe. Abolish it, the staff recommended, citing management and oversight problems that THGC officials have acknowledged and worked to rectify.

“I didn’t even know that we had a Holocaust and Genocide Commission,” Cyrier said, probably speaking for lots of Texans.

Texas State Representative Craig Goldman

Largely due to efforts by Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, the recommendation to abolish the THGC was dead-ended by the commission. Instead, the recommendation now is to fold it in as an advisory committee of the Texas Historical Commission, which currently has administrative functions related to THGC.

“I think that’s a great, great place for it to be,” Cyrier said. “And I think we can do what the staff’s recommendation brought forward, which is we need some improvements. There are some things that need to be bettered and I think we can do that and continue on the mission that they provide.”

And an important mission it is. Assuming the Legislature approves the change, here’s hoping the Texas Historical Commission, which does valuable work in many areas, can help nudge this effort in the right direction.

Holocaust Memorial Day: #everynamecounts

The names of 10 million victims of the Holocaust are recorded in the Arolsen Archives. For a week, these names will be projected publicly in Berlin, and shared with the world via livestream.

By DW.COM. Click for full report.

 #everynamecounts Arolsen Archive | names and descriptions projected on the wall of a building

Surname: Le Goupil.

First name: Paul.

Height: 175 cm.

Figure: slender. 

Eyes: green.

Mouth and ears: “normal.”

Nose: “l. eingebog.”

This is how a 21-year-old teacher from France is described on his “prisoner’s personal card” when he was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1944. The term “l. eingebog.” probably stands for “slightly bent in.”

Paul Le Goupil’s name is one of tens of millions kept at the Arolsen Archive in the small Hessian town of Bad Arolsen, the largest international archive of Holocaust victims and survivors. Their task is to search for missing persons and clarify their fates.

Today, the staff still answer queries about some 20,000 people persecuted by the Nazi regime. In the online archive, for example, a user whose first name is John asks, “I’m looking for information about Julia’s husband, who died in Auschwitz in 1943.”

Another user, who gives Hedy as her first name, asks about her deceased father, Leib Matyas. All of this is archived under the heading “5.3: Death marches.” 

These inquiries are not even two months old. Many relatives and descendants are still looking for answers; to find out what happened to their loved ones.

Even today Jewish people are victims of attacks

“There are fewer and fewer contemporary witnesses who can tell us what happened, so their documents must speak for them,” says Floriane Azoulay, human rights expert and director of the Arolsen Archives. “We have to be brave and creative in the ways we are keeping the memory alive.”

Paul Le Goupil’s registration card

Azoulay wants to reach people of all generations to show where discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism can lead. This is also partly necessary, because Jewish citizens, people of non-Christian faiths and others are still being persecuted and attacked in Germany today.

In October 2019, an attacker tried to gain access to a synagogue in Halle, near Frankfurt, with nothing but a reinforced door stopping him. Instead of entering the place of worship, the assassin randomly shot a 40-year-old woman and a 20-year-old man, who happened to be passing by on the street.

How can the memory of the Holocaust be kept alive?

The Arolsen Archive is run by eleven nations, including Israel, Germany, France and the US. They have made it their mission to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and to remember every single name. That’s why the archive has launched its #everynamecounts campaign. The crowdsourcing campaign focuses on capturing the names on the archive’s digitized documents. Individuals from around the world can sign up and participate from home to help preserve the memory of Holocaust victims. 

Floriane Azoula, director of the Arolsen Archives

“We created the every name counts campaign because there was an incredible demand for it among our users,” explains Floriane Azoulay. “It’s a way to let the documents speak.”

Since January 2020, 10,000 registered volunteers have already processed over 2.5 million documents. They come from the United States, Germany, Australia, Canada, Poland and many other countries. 

‘Not just numbers and lists, but names, faces, people’

A volunteer named Mia from the United States says the current political situation in her home country made her want to help out: “It feels good to do something concrete for the victims of National Socialism.”

Angelika from Germany explains her commitment to the cause by saying that in many cases the perpetrators were simply allowed to continue with their lives after the fall of the Nazi regime, while the names of the victims were often forgotten — like that of her grandmother, who was held by the SS. 

Many volunteers stress how important it is to them to ensure that the victims of the Holocaust must not be forgotten. One woman emphasizes that the people who were sent to the concentration camp have virtually come alive for her through digital collaboration in the archive. “It’s no longer just numbers and lists, but names, faces, people,” she says.

Studying the documents makes people actively deal with the past, says Azoulay: “They ask themselves: What would have happened to my family if we had lived back then? What would I have done if I had been arrested at school? Would I have done something to help my colleagues?” she says.

An unflinching look at history

Identifying with the victims — “especially among people who are not interested in history or have no connection to the Holocaust in terms of family history” — is the greatest benefit of the project as far as the Arolsen Archives director is concerned. Launched in 2020, the initiative originally only involved students, but other volunteers soon joined in.

“There were teachers who told us that their students didn’t leave the classroom for recess because they still wanted to finish work on a document, finish a list,” Azoulay adds.

The young volunteers are enthusiastic about the project

People who use the archive to research missing family members are grateful for these volunteers: “My father never talked about the relatives he lost, so simply finding a name on a list means a lot to us,” some have said in the comments. Others thank the volunteers directly, saying that if it weren’t for them, they wouldn’t have learned anything about their families.

In preparation for Holocaust Remembrance Dayon January 27, 2021, the Arolsen Archives will spend a week projecting names and documents onto the wall of the French Embassy in Berlin. The embassy’s central location introduces the work of the digital memorial to the victims of Nazism right into the heart of Berlin.

The art installation will also be streamed live around the world to keep the memory alive. Among the many names to be shown is that of teacher Paul Le Goupil.

Remembering Paul Le Goupil

Le Goupil’s story mirrors the mystery that surrounds all the unanswered questions that people approach the Arolson Archives with: He was reportedly first deported to Auschwitz, then to Buchenwald. Finally, he was sent to the Langenstein-Zwieberge concentration camp, where he had to perform forced labor.

Historians at the Arolsen Archives report that nearly 2,000 of the 7,000 forced laborers at the camp died within a few months from hunger, mistreatment and cold. On April 8, 1945, the Nazis evacuated the camp and forced about 3,000 prisoners to walk on what became known as death marches. The remaining prisoners were liberated by US troops on April 11, 1945.

We do not know whether Paul Le Goupil survived the camp or not. But we do know that he was a young man from France, 175 cm tall, with green eyes and a slightly bent nose. In January, his name will shine from the facade of the French Embassy in Berlin — and he will be remembered.

Milwaukee organization steps up effort to require Holocaust education in Wisconsin schools

By ANDREW LEVINSON, WJDT, January 24, 2021. Click for full report plus video.

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – Milwaukee’s Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center is starting off the new year with a renewed legislative effort, and a new leader.

Samantha Abramson assumed the role of executive director last month. The Nicolet High School grad will pilot the organization’s effort to pass legislation requiring Holocaust awareness curriculum in Wisconsin’s public schools.

On the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day this coming Wednesday, CBS 58 Sunday Morning spoke with Abramson about her organization’s effort and the importance of Holocaust education in 2021.

January 27, 9 a.m. Eastern Time: International Holocaust Remembrance Day world-wide program

From the January 20 edition of The Maccabean, Perth’s (Australia) Jewish weekly.

Join us through Zoom (https://zoom.us/j/97948035452) and the HAMEC Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/PhilaHAMEC) on Wednesday, January 27th (9 am EST, 2 pm London, 10 pm Perth)

World ORT, the WE ARE HERE! Foundation, and the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center of Philadelphia have partnered this year to provide an international experience of Holocaust education and remembrance to students around the world. This is an international project that commemorates the Holocaust and also provides opportunities for global Holocaust education, engaging the next generation of learners.

The Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center will provide Witness to History Survivor Testimony programs to ORT, the global education network driven by Jewish values, where students will have the opportunity to engage directly with a Holocaust survivor and hear their stories. These students will also, through the WE ARE HERE! Foundation, learn the importance and legacy of the Partisans’ Song, and join together globally through sharing that music in their own languages.

The Partisans’ Song, the song of hope, is the legacy of the partisans and the survivors. We invite you to join us for a special broadcast which will showcase the testimony shared with the students, allow them to describe and share their experiences with each other, and connect globally through the harmony of learning experiences and the singing of the Partisans’ Song.

Click for Partisan’s Song sung by Annie Lederhendler

A report to the HAMEC community

As a supporter of HAMEC and our mission, I am proud to send you the following report:

2019-2020  School Year Program Report   Our organization provided a total of 230 educational programs focused on the lessons of the Holocaust and the dangers of intolerance, racism and anti-Semitism during the 2019-2020 school year even in the face of so many school closures during the Spring.  HAMEC’s volunteer Survivors spoke to 23,750 students at 175 schools.  

We continue to schedule and provide virtual programming in the 2020-21 school year.  Our staff and volunteers have become proficient at the technology necessary to bring their vital message to as many students, teachers, parents and members of the public as possible.  

Just wanted to keep you posted on our progress as we continue to pursue our mission during this difficult time.  Please stay safe and contact Geoff Quinn or Dr. Ruth Almy at 215-464-4701 to arrange for additional programming.   Thanks and be safe!  And smile!                                                                                              

Chuck Feldman, President, Holocaust Awareness and Education Center

Wherever you are, our Survivors and Liberators are ready to address your school, congregation or civic group.

Holocaust Memorial, New Orleans, Louisiana

More and more school districts and States are requiring Holocaust education. HAMEC can provide virtual programs for your school, congregation and civic group. Wherever you are – be it the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, India, Brazil, Australia, or Nigeria –  we can serve you world-wide.

Through Google Meet, Skype and Zoom, we can bring the latest in Holocaust education to your school.  Request a program today.

Hate never takes a vacation and neither do we.

The Holocaust separated best friends. Eighty years later, the Florida Holocaust Museum reunited them.

By DANIELLE PRIEUR, WMFE, January 14, 2020. Click for full report plus audio.

Photo: Betty Grebenschikoff

Ana María Wahrenberg and Betty Grebenschikoff were childhood friends separated by the Holocaust. 80 years later, they reunited. 

WMFE spoke with Betty and Florida Holocaust Museum Director Elizabeth Gelman about how the two women found each other again. 

Read the full interview below. 

Photo: Betty Grebenschikoff

Danielle: So Betty, tell me a little bit about this amazing reunion that you’ve had very recently with a woman named Ana María.

Betty: She was my very best girlfriend when I was six years old, up until I was nine. In Berlin, Germany. We did everything together. We played in each other’s homes, we went to a Jewish community school together, we had dancing lessons together, we were always together, we got in trouble together.

I mean, whatever it was, we did it together.

And I had an older sister, but she had her own friends.

And so we were, we were just best buddies all the time. And then things became very difficult for German Jews and other Jews as well. And there were all kinds of rules and regulations. And I realized now that the reason we played so often in each other’s homes, was because we could not go to playgrounds, or parks or swimming pools, or theaters anymore.

So, but we didn’t know that because our parents were trying to shield us from all the terrible things that were going on with antisemitism in Germany at the time.

So eventually, when I was nine, and she also we were the same age, my father managed to get us tickets to get to Shanghai, China, to escape the terrorist acts that were going on in Germany. And Shanghai at the time was one of the few free ports where stateless Jews could go. And in that way, about 18,000 Jewish refugees managed to get to Shanghai and escape the Nazis.

So Ana María and I met in the schoolyard. Our parents brought us there, to say goodbye to each other, and we cried and we carried on and we didn’t want to leave each other. And we promised each other to stay together to by writing to each other and always remembering each other. So we left and she stayed. And I never heard another word, nothing.

I thought she was dead. I mean, I had, I had no idea where she was.

I checked the databases in different places in the Holocaust Museum in Washington. Didn’t find her. About two months ago, we got a phone call from the Shoah Foundation, the USC Shoah Foundation that they think they found somebody called Ana María Wahrenberg, not Anne Marie, one word, but Ana María. And could that possibly be my friend?

And it turned out that she was. They had gone to Chile.

Danielle: Beth, can you tell me a little bit about just how you worked to help kind of connect Betty and Ana María after that initial, you know, you know, phone call or communication that ‘hey, I think you know, we found Ana María.’ Can you just tell me a little bit of, you know, the work on your end to make this happen?

Beth: Well, what is really wonderful is that we have a marvelous partnership with the USC Shoah Foundation, so it wasn’t strangers. We weren’t strangers talking to each other.

We all staff from both institutions, worked very hard to get this, to get some communication set up to make sure that we could continue talking to these two amazing women and we looped in the museum in Chile, the Museo Interactivo Judeo de Chile. I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly, who have also become partners in this. And what is happening is that we are all going to be co-hosting a virtual event this spring, a program all about Betty and Ana María.

And we are working with the Chilean museum to come up with some sort of exhibition, whether that will be online or an actual tangible exhibition.

We are working very hard, collaboratively with all the institutions. I think this story really emphasizes how critical it is for Holocaust institutions to not only continue to take in and share testimony from Holocaust survivors, but work together because what comes out of these partnerships is incredibly rich.

And what is amazing in our world today is the technology that we have to be able to share these stories.

Danielle: And Betty, I want to give you the last word. What does it feel like to be reconnected with Ana María and you know, do you ladies have plans to reunite in person after COVID is over and it’s safe to travel again?

Betty: Oh, absolutely.

It’s, it’s the whole thing to me is like someone has given me a gift. It’s, it makes my whole life perfect.

I’ve had many ups and downs in my life and this is such an up, such a wonderful way to to round out my 90th decade and it is just absolutely amazing to me that this happened. And I could not be happier to meet my old time friend again.

I just, I’m hoping Ana María and I speak on the phone quite a bit these days and on email and I’m doing it in German because she doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Spanish.

So I’m learning, relearning my German all over again and she’s helping me with that. And we are hoping to stay well enough and stay, stay on our feet so that we can meet hopefully in person somewhere in the fall. But I do want to give her a hug and she feels the same way.

Danielle Prieur

Danielle Prieur is a general reporter for 90.7 News. She studied journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and interned at 101.9 WDET. She is originally from the metro Detroit area.

HAMEC statement on the events of January 6

The events of January 6 have justifiably frightened tens of millions of people in America and throughout the world. If this can happen in our Beacon of Democracy, what does the future hold?

Unfortunately, hate permeates our country and planet. What can one person do to combat this? Everyday there are Holocaust Survivors who testify about the horrors they witnessed and the importance of recognizing and combating hatred to as many thousands of young people as they can reach. And everyday there are volunteers who help them with their mission — our mission — as volunteers and donors.

As we often say, “Hate never takes a vacation, so neither can we.”

So whether it is in the streets, on our college campuses, or invading the halls of Congress, it is our responsibility to attack all forms of hatred and intolerance — whether it is based on the victim’s religion, nationality or color of their skin.

Along with this message is a recent article in The New York Times with interviews of Holocaust Survivors from around the world and their reactions to the anti-Semitism that was front and center this week in our nation’s Capitol. While posting newspaper articles on current events is not something we regularly do, this article is particularly relevant  to the work we at HAMEC do every day.

To paraphrase Anne Frank, “It is a wonderful thing that we have the ability every day to make the world a better place.”

Join us in our mission!

Chuck Feldman, President, HAMEC

Click to donate

Click to volunteer

Amid the rampage at the U.S. Capitol, a sweatshirt stirs troubling memories

For those who survived the Nazi death camp, pictures of a man wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt were painful.

“They trampled on democratic principles in the heart of democracy,” said Dr. Eva Umlauf of the mob that rampaged the United States Capitol. Dr. Umlauf survived Auschwitz as a toddler. 
“They trampled on democratic principles in the heart of democracy,” said Dr. Eva Umlauf of the mob that rampaged the United States Capitol. Dr. Umlauf survived Auschwitz as a toddler. Credit…Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

By MELISSA EDDY, New York Times, January 8, 2021. Click for full report.

BERLIN — Of all the upsetting images broadcast around the world as a violent mob overran the United States Capitol in Washington, the one that particularly distressed Dr. Eva Umlauf, 78, a pediatrician and psychotherapist who survived Auschwitz as a toddler, was of a bearded man wearing a black hoodie emblazoned with “Camp Auschwitz.”

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Dr. Umlauf said. “It really broke a taboo. I never would have believed that was possible from Americans.”

That image made its rounds through social media and was pointed out in newspapers from Britain to Germany to Poland as an example of who was in the mob that rampaged through the Capitol on Wednesday, and what they thought about a place considered by many as a symbol of a low point for humanity.

It had particular resonance as anti-Semitism and far-right nationalism are on the rise worldwide. And for people who survived the Nazi death camp like Dr. Umlauf, there was added pain with the realization that later generations may not have learned the lessons of the Holocaust.

Dr. Umlauf was only 2 years old when Auschwitz was liberated; the number the Nazis tattooed on her arm — A-26959 — is visible to this day. Her mother also survived, and they returned to their home in Slovakia, where the daughter attended medical school. She moved to Munich in the 1960s, when she got married, and raised three sons there.

One of them married an American woman and moved to the United States, where he has lived for the past 30 years, she said.

It wasn’t just the sweatshirt, she said. Seeing the windows broken in the Capitol, the statues defaced and lawmakers’ papers strewn across the floor symbolized a deep disregard for the democracy that long served as a beacon in dark corners of the world. “They trampled on democratic principles in the heart of democracy,” she said.

One of the rioters, at left, who broke into the Capitol was wearing a hoodie emblazoned with “Camp Auschwitz.”
One of the rioters, at left, who broke into the Capitol was wearing a hoodie emblazoned with “Camp Auschwitz.”Credit…ITV

“As Jews, we tried to get our children to America so they could live in freedom and safety,” she continued. “What happened in that country is only one step away from totalitarianism.”

The day before the protests, an incoming member of Congress, Representative Mary Miller, Republican of Illinois, praised Hitler for his campaign in indoctrinating youth, in a speech before the Capitol as part of a Moms for America rally. She issued an apology on Friday, amid calls for her resignation.

For many Auschwitz survivors, January is an especially difficult month, bringing back haunting memories of the death marches that many of the camp were forced on and of the final terrible days before Auschwitz was liberated on Jan. 27, 1945, said Christoph Heubner, executive vice president of the International Auschwitz Committee, a group founded by survivors to prevent another Auschwitz. That only worsened the impact of the images.

“These photos are sickening to those of us who are survivors,” said Eva Fahidi, who was deported with her family in 1944 to Auschwitz, where her parents and sister perished. “The idea that someone would wear such a shirt on their own body is horrifying.”

That it was an American made it even worse, she said. Although she has experienced what she described as a “renaissance” of anti-Semitism in the past two decades, for her the United States always remained an exception.

After all, she said, it was the Americans who freed her when the U.S. Army liberated in central Germany where she had been moved by the Nazis and forced to work at a munitions factory.

“Americans and freedom, they were one and the same,” she said from her home in Budapest. “They were synonymous.”

The debate also focused attention on sites that were selling the sweatshirts and other items of clothing with anti-Semitic symbols or sayings, prompting people to reach out to them and request they be removed, said Pawel Sawicki, a spokesman for the memorial.

“Thousands of people also opened the online lesson about the history of Auschwitz we shared,” Mr. Sawicki said. “So there is hope that the controversial situation will also raise some historical awareness.”

Not every survivor was shocked by the image. Marian Turski, who survived Auschwitz and a death march, said the experiences he had while traveling in the Deep South during the Civil Rights movement exposed him to the racism and hatred harbored by some white Americans.

In 1965, while on a fellowship in the United States, he marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in Selma, Ala., and had his car burned in Mississippi, because he rode together with a Black man.

While in the South, he said, many people would ask him whether, as a Holocaust survivor, he thought that something like what happened in Germany under the Nazis could ever be possible in the United States.

“I told them yes, it would be possible,” he said from his home in Warsaw. “Nationalism and fascism were not exclusively German. Under the right conditions and circumstances, it could also happen here.”

He also told them that the best barrier against racism and nationalism was the defense of democracy, he said.

On Friday, he expressed hope that after witnessing the events of Wednesday, more Americans might be inspired to take action against attempts to weaken democracy.

“Occupying the Capitol — maybe this was a very good lesson for the American people,” Mr. Turski said. “Maybe it will strengthen the will to defend democracy.”