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
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The Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center on September 12 celebrated its 60th anniversary and held a grand reopening for its new location.
HAMEC moved in August 2020 from KleinLIfe to Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, in Elkins Park.
Opened in 1961, it’s believed to be the first Holocaust museum in the United States.
“Because hate never takes a vacation, neither can we,” said Chuck Feldman, HAMEC president.
Among those in attendance were three Holocaust survivors: Dave Tuck, Ruth Hartz and Ronnie Breslow, who each share their stories dozens of times a year, reaching thousands of people annually.
State Rep. Ben Sanchez read a citation for the museum. Other elected officials in attendance included state Rep. Ed Neilson, U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean and Montgomery County Commissioner (and U.S. Senate candidate) Val Arkoosh, Montgomery County Controller Karen Sanchez and State Representative Kevin Boyle. State Senator Art Haywood was represented by his wife Julie Haywood. Feldman read remarks from U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle.
Steven Fisher’s play about the Holocaust, “The Last Boy,” enjoyed a successful off-Broadway run in July, playing to 80-person sold-out crowds.
Now, it’s going to Broadway…at least for one night.
On April 27, the start of Yom HaShoah, Fisher’s show will move from the off-Broadway Theatre at St. Clement’s to the Broadway Town Hall, which seats 1,500. The Philadelphia native and his actors are putting on a charity show to benefit Jewish organizations, including the National Museum of American Jewish History.
“The Last Boy” is a one-act play inspired by the young boys in the Terezin concentration camp, who created a secret literary society and magazine, Vedem.
Fisher is not Jewish, but he was inspired to write the show after taking his youth choir on an educational trip to the site several years ago.
The Terezin survivor who preserved the Vedem archives, Sidney Taussig, gave Fisher his blessing to write the historical fiction. While Taussig couldn’t attend the play’s off-Broadway run, he will be present for its Broadway debut, as he promised he would be.
“I just want to see it on Broadway before time does to me what Hitler failed to do,” Taussig told Fisher when he gave his blessing.
“I’m not a particularly religious person, but I do feel there’s something in the universe that keeps moving this forward,” Fisher said.
Before it reaches Broadway, though, “The Last Boy” will return to its off-Broadway location. The play’s July success convinced the Theatre at St. Clement’s to bring it back for another run.
From Feb. 26 to March 13, the same young actors will perform their testament to the human spirit.
So far, “The Last Boy” has impressed Broadway producers, too, Fisher told the Exponent, and they helped organize the charity show on Broadway. And if the show continues to impress, it may end up with a real run on the biggest stage.
Even so, the Broadway development process can take “several years,” he said.
But one thing is for certain: The charity performance is a good sign.
“The folks who were moved by it and want to see it have a life,” Fisher said. “They feel this is a good way to raise awareness.”
The retired choir director is also doing his part to raise awareness about the April show, reaching out to synagogues and Jewish organizations both locally and in New York.
Congregation Beth Or in Ambler is sponsoring the performance and will be allocated 40 tickets to give away to congregants. Fisher said any synagogue can become a sponsor and get tickets. The show can serve as a Yom HaShoah event.
“I like to say remembering is how we never forget,” he said of the play and the Holocaust.
On behalf of our heroic Survivors at the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center we wish to offer a Happy and more importantly a Healthy New Year to you and all of your family and friends. May 5782 be a good year for all of us. Despite COVID and the rise of Anti-Semitism and all types of hate we vow to continue and grow our mission to educate as many young people about the Holocaust and its terrible consequences. Our Heroes have spoken to over 300,000 young people in the last 12 years–an amazing number– but we need to and will do more. Shana Tovah!
President, Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center
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After its pizzicato opening theme, “Three Minutes — A Lengthening” goes quiet for a little bit while showing the three minutes of footage referred to in the title. The only noise on the soundtrack is the whir of a projector, and the only images on the screen are taken from an amateur holiday film shot in a European town in the first half of the 20th century. Some of it is in black and white, some of it has pale colors. There are tree-lined cobbled streets, and apartment blocks with shutters and iron balconies. People wave and smile at the camera, jostling to stay in shot, apparently hypnotized by the novel technology before them. They all seem healthy, reasonably well off, and fundamentally ordinary. And that’s it. The footage comes to an end.
But Bianca Stigter, the Dutch director of “Three Minutes,” doesn’t move onto another set of images. For the remaining hour of her documentary essay, she replays the same fragments over and over, freeze-framing, rewinding, zooming in on particular faces, items of clothing, and architectural details. It should seem repetitive, but it grips the attention from start to finish.
This three-and-a-bit minutes of 16mm footage, explains a voiceover, was shot in August 1938 by David Kurtz, a Polish Jew who had grown up in New York. Having established himself as an American businessman, he toured Europe with his wife Liza and three friends, ticking off Paris and Amsterdam among other scenic capitals. He also visited Nasielsk, Liza’s hometown in east central Poland, which is where he showed off his brand new movie camera. A little over a year later, almost all of the town’s 3,000 Jewish inhabitants were murdered by the Nazis. Kurtz’s grandson, Glenn Kurtz, found the footage in an attic in Florida in 2008. It had been damaged by shrinking, cupping, edge weave, vinegar syndrome, and other conditions known only to film archivists — but it could still be restored. If Kurtz had discovered it a month later, we are told, that would have been impossible. Instead, we have a tiny, precious record of a world on the brink of destruction.
“Three Minutes” examines and re-examines the footage with the dedication of a Zapruder obsessive, scanning every last millimeter in the hope that it will reveal something momentous or something trivial — because, after all this time, the trivial is momentous, too. Who are all the people who stare out at us? How did they relate to each other? How important is it that we can see the faces of 150 of Nasielsk’s citizens, and identify 11 of them by name? And how is the film changed by our knowledge of what they were about to suffer?
If Stigter’s methods have one weakness, it’s that she poses such questions too explicitly. Her voiceover, dubbed in English by an actorly Helena Bonham Carter, is prone to the kind of whimsical musings that would be better suited to a school lesson plan (or indeed a film review). “David Kurtz rented a black sedan. Where did he get out?” she asks at one point. “What you see is what you know,” she pronounces at another. And at another, she comments that “trees” is “a very generic word.” These airy ruminations seem twee in the context, but when Stigter concentrates on the nitty gritty of how the film was shot, and what it actually contains, “Three Minutes” is fascinating.
Early on, we learn that red is the last color to fade from film, so it stands out in old, otherwise monochrome scenes — a fact that recalls the girl in the red coat in “Schindler’s List”. Later, we hear that after the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum put Kurtz’s footage online, an old man recognized his 13-year-old self. One of the massacre’s only survivors, he is able to explain what the boys’ caps signify about their levels of wealth and education. Many of the people seen by Kurtz wouldn’t normally be in the same crowd, he continues. The novelty of a tourist’s camera, adds Glenn Kurtz, had “scrambled the social hierarchy.”
The film’s electrifying centerpiece is a contemporary testimonial describing the horrific day when “they” — i.e., German soldiers — marched into town, and whipped and imprisoned every Jewish resident. During this long, gut-wrenching speech, Stigter zooms in slowly on one single frame until a clear picture becomes a cloudy blur. It’s a sequence which suggests the influence of one of the film’s producers, Steve McQueen — Stigter is an associate producer of two of his films. And, like the extended shots he uses in “Hunger” and “Lovers Rock,” it is so hypnotic that the viewer almost forgets to breathe.
It’s also, to be harsh, a slight cheat, because the information in the testimonial didn’t come from Kurtz’s footage. But “Three Minutes” still demonstrates how that footage, which must have seemed so insignificant at the time, now stands as an invaluable document and a humbling memorial. Beyond that, it’s a reminder of what a magical medium film is — how unique it is in its ability to capture so many moments and so much life. The narration quotes a 1930s Kodachrome advert which boasts that film brings back memories in a way that nothing else can. It’s corny, but it may well be true.
Ms. Frankel is the author of a book on a Jewish family who survived the Holocaust by fleeing into the Lipiczany Forest.
On an unseasonably cold night in August 1942, Miriam Rabinowitz pushed her way past a wooden fence topped with barbed wire and broke out of the ghetto in Zdzięciol, Poland. She wasn’t alone. The 34-year-old woman led her two young daughters, her sister, a cousin, and a handful of others away from the underground bunker where they had hidden for three days while SS squads rounded up some 2,500 other Jewish men, women and children, marched them to the edge of town, forced them to strip naked and shot them into waiting pits.
Having narrowly escaped, Miriam’s group set off for the only place that offered real hope to the Jews interned in ghettos in the former Soviet-occupied territories of Poland and Belorussia: the forest.
It was in the Lipiczany Forest that Miriam was reunited with her husband, Morris. For two years, they eked out a meager existence there with two dozen other Jews. Together, this collective found a sort of sanctuary, even as they endured deadly typhus outbreaks, winter temperatures as low as 30 degrees below zero, constant hunger, and the threat of raids by Nazis and local gangs who were hunting Jews and Soviet partisans.
More than 75 years after the end of World War II, we are familiar with a number of well-established accounts of what happened to Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust. They mounted ghetto uprisings; they hid in the homes of their Christian neighbors; and, of course, they were sent to Nazi concentration camps and perished in the gas chambers. Only recently, we’ve begun to hear more about the roughly 25,000 Jews who survived the war in the woods of Eastern Europe. Even so, that narrative has focused on the 15,000 or so who took up arms and joined the partisan fighters, like the Bielski brothers, who were made famous in the 2008 film “Defiance.” Overlooked even now are stories like those of the Rabinowitz family, who lived — and died — in those same woods in small family camps: the forgotten Jews of the forest.
These camps were populated by splintered families, some held together by friendship, many more by necessity. Most people begged for food, some bartered, others foraged or stole. They moved frequently to avoid Nazi raids or discovery by unsympathetic locals. There was community, but limited charity, with some exceptions: A Polish fruit seller named Herz Kaminsky, for example, welcomed so many orphans and widows — seen by most groups as undesirable additions — into his family camp that he was known as “the father of all children.”
They dug underground shelters, bolstered the walls with wood and camouflaged the roofs to blend into the forest floor. Young boys carved playing cards out of tree bark, while men rolled dried leaves into makeshift cigarettes in search of a palatable tobacco substitute. Women without male protection were at risk of rape, and unions that would have never been considered possible in their former lives were accepted as “forest marriages.
In the vast canon of Holocaust history, there are relatively few records of stories like these: They exist as asides in anthologies, in small-press and out-of-print memoirs, and in some firsthand testimonials, many recorded in Yiddish, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian and Hebrew, and scattered throughout multiple archives. We catch glimpses of them in SS memos detailing raids on the forests in pursuit of partisan battalions: Here, they are listed as unaffiliated civilians or bandits who were either killed or captured and sent to labor camps.
There were not many of these families. Yitzhak Arad, the Israeli historian and longtime chairman of Yad Vashem, who, at 16, escaped his ghetto and joined the partisan Markov Brigade in the forest, estimated, primarily based on testimony in the early decades after the war, that the number of Jews who found refuge in forest family camps “did not exceed 10,000.” But their stories illustrate another means by which Jews sought to survive their darkest time in modern history — by relying on grit and determination, oftentimes on each other, and in rarer instances on local farmers and landowners.
Why are there so few authoritative historical records detailing the number of these Jews and what they survived? In part, it’s a simple matter of what got written down.
Many Jews who survived World War II in the woods joined the partisans, a vast network of Soviet fighters who remained behind the front lines after Germany broke its accord with Russia and launched Operation Barbarossa. They regrouped into guerrilla forces that grew to more than 350,000 strong. The Soviet military kept records of their operations in the woods, which eventually included members of the Jewish resistance. It was a tense and often violent alliance. Other forest Jews didn’t become partisans themselves, but relied on these battalions for protection and supplies. Those like Morris Rabinowitz, however, who avoided the partisans in the hope of keeping outside the fighting fray, remained largely hidden in historical terms.
The Jews of the family camps also did not offer much opportunity for the Soviets to secure a reputation as fighters for freedom and justice. When Maidanek, the first of the Nazi concentration camps liberated by the Soviets, was taken over in July 1944, Lieutenant General Nikolai Bulganin insisted that journalists be brought in. War correspondents from The Associated Press; Reuters; and newspapers from the United States, Britain and Switzerland were given access to the site to report on the atrocities discovered there. By contrast, when the Soviet Army came through the woods and liberated the Jews hiding there in the summer of 1944, the soldiers didn’t stop their pursuit of the retreating Germans to note what they found; families were simply free to leave the forest. They did, in disconnected drifts, traveling back to the ruins of their hometowns on foot.
And while many survivors of the Holocaust feel a reluctance to relive the past, for those who fled to the forest, facing what they went through comes with additionally complicated feelings. It was a grueling struggle to survive: Of the roughly 800 Jews who escaped from the ghetto in Zdzięciol, only 200 are believed to have come out of the forest alive. Still, many who made it carry an awareness of how their Holocaust experiences compares with those of others. “It was horrific,” Toby Langerman, the Rabinowitzes’ younger daughter, says of her family’s experience in the forest. “But not as horrific as the concentration camps.”
What Mr. Arad said about the families in the forest in the 1970s remains true today: “There will never be ‘accurate’ numbers because in no place do such lists exist.” Their experience will never be realized through records — solely through the study of their testimonies.
Peter Duffy, author of the 2003 book “The Bielski Brothers,” lamented the lack of a unified collection of these testimonies in a conversation with me recently. “There’s this sense that we’ve done enough on this history. People say, ‘Oh, another Holocaust book, or another memorial,’” he told me. But Mr. Duffy believes that when it comes to what transpired in these forests, “we’ve barely scratched the surface of the story that is there, and probably most of it is lost.” The history is so elusive, in fact, that scholars at The Polish Center for Holocaust Research have called these less-understood stories of Jews who escaped their ghettos and attempted to hide “the margins of the Holocaust.”
That these stories exist at the margins, however, does not make them less important.
The narrative of the Holocaust has been growing and deepening since the war. Much of the world heard the Jewish experience voiced for the first time in 1961, with the trial of Adolf Eichmann, during which more than 100 survivors were called to the stand to testify about what they’d gone through. These testimonies, in turn, inspired other survivors to share their stories, spurring a wave of memoirs, novels and movies about the Holocaust. The emergence of stories about Jewish resistance — ghetto uprisings and partisan fighters — did much to combat the prevalent belief that many Jews had gone passively to their end.
For me, the stories of the forgotten Jews of the forest inform how we define resistance: The Rabinowitzes and others like them did not need to wield weapons to be a part of it. But what their story teaches me is less important than the larger point: It’s the stories of individuals — however seemingly exceptional their experiences — that have, over time, shaped the broader narrative of Holocaust history, and we must continue to uncover as many as we can.
This narrative remains very much in flux. Right-wing governments in Eastern Europe — where much of this history took place — are working not just to undermine, but to rewrite, the story of how the Holocaust unfolded there. In Poland, for example, it is now illegal for anyone to accuse the Polish nation of complicity; the government has cultivated a climate in which it is impossible to freely study the Shoah in all its complexity.
At the same time, we are at the precipice of losing the last generation of Holocaust survivors, and with them our living memory of that time. What writing the story of the Rabinowitz family revealed to me is how much remains unexplored in the testimony we’ve already gathered, and what can still be enriched through that living memory before it’s gone.
We are at a moment of particular urgency. The Holocaust should be understood in its entirety, and the so-called margins have something meaningful to teach us. If the arc of Holocaust history has proved anything, it’s that understanding the small pieces is how we see the big picture. When it comes to what happened in the woods, these narratives are the only way for us to know this history. The opportunity to collect them is vanishing. The moment to contextualize what we know already, and discover what we don’t, is now.
Lily’s Promise, a memoir by Holocaust survivor Lily Ebert, co-written with her great grandson Dov Forman, tells the story of how she survived Auschwitz. The foreword, printed below, was written by HRH the Prince of Wales, who is president of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
For the Jewish people, the Holocaust was a personal tragedy. By the end of the Second World War, one third of European Jewry had perished at the hands of the Nazis. Six million innocent Jewish men, women and children murdered for no reason other than the religion they were born into. A great pillar of smoke covered all of Europe; the shadow of which remains with us still today.
Yet the Holocaust was also a universal human tragedy. It was the greatest crime of man against man, during which humanity showed itself capable of incomparable inhumanity on an incomprehensible scale. Names were replaced by numbers, tattooed on forearms, as a permanent reminder of the depths to which humankind can sink and the evil it can impart on a fellow human being.
The late Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, spoke about the profound difference between history and memory. “History,” he taught, “is his story – an event that happened sometime else to someone else. Memory is my story – something that happened to me and is part of who I am. History is information. Memory, by contrast, is about identity … History is about the past as past. Memory is about the past as present.”
It is the Holocaust survivors who help us transform history into memory by their ability to humanise the inhumane. It is them and their words that make the past present.
Throughout my life, I consider it a singular privilege to have met so many survivors. As Patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, I have witnessed, and been greatly moved by, their harrowing testimony. I have drawn personal inspiration from the many Righteous among the Nations, who, like my dear grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, put their own lives at immense risk to save Jewish men, women and children from certain death.
I have seen the impact survivors’ words and their sheer presence have had on others, in schools, communities and organisations across our country and around the world.
One such occasion was in 2015 when my wife and I were particularly honoured to light six remembrance candles as part of the National Holocaust Memorial Day Ceremony in London.
For the lighting of each candle, we were joined by a survivor who, like many others, had rebuilt their lives in the United Kingdom after the Second World War and contributed enormously to the fabric of our nation. One of the survivors was Lily Ebert BEM.
The joint lighting of the candles was a recognition that the responsibility of memory is slowly but surely passing from the survivors to our generation, and to future generations not yet born. It symbolised the need for us to be fearless in confronting falsehoods and resolute in resisting words and acts of violence. It called on us to recommit ourselves to the beliefs of tolerance and respect and the central idea, set out in the Hebrew Bible, of b’tzelem elokim, that we are all, irrespective of race, colour, class or creed, created “in the image of God.”
These lessons, important then, remain vital now – especially when the events of the Holocaust are sometimes distorted, diminished, or denied, the testimony of victims and witnesses is invaluable and essential. This is what Lily, together with the other Holocaust survivors, understands only too well.
In co-authoring this book with her great grandson, Dov Forman, Lily has lit her own candle, and recognised the urgent necessity of passing both its light and the responsibility of remembrance between the generations.
This is a task Dov has shown himself more than capable of carrying forward. Through his engaging and effective use of social media, Dov has demonstrated a determination to share his great grandmother’s story with a global audience. In being an enthusiastic partner in this work, Lily is once again showing her passion to use every avenue available to ensure that some good might come from the horrendous losses she suffered and the unspeakable evil she overcame.
Lily’s story is as profoundly moving as she is inspirational. It is for these reasons, among others, that I was humbled to be asked to contribute a foreword. She and her story are a beacon of light in the darkness; a symbol of hope amongst the despair.
In the depths of Auschwitz, Lily made herself a promise that if she survived, she would dedicate the rest of her life to ensuring the world knew what happened during the Holocaust. This book, which so powerfully captures her testimony, represents the fulfilment of that promise and the culmination of a lifetime of service to the human conscience.
We would all do well to make Lily’s history our memory.
Inge Ginsberg, who has died aged 99, fled Nazi-controlled Austria and later moved to Hollywood where she and her husband Otto Kollmann composed songs for Nat King Cole, Doris Day and Dean Martin; in her 90s she decided to reinvent herself as a “death metal” singer – a variant on the heavy metal genre generally associated with bands with names like Venom, Morbid Angel or Necrophagia
She was born Ingeborg Neufeld in Vienna on January 27 1922 and grew up in an assimilated Jewish family which could trace its Austrian roots back 800 years; her father, Fritz, ran a freight company. They had a comfortable life, spending weekends in a country villa. Inge attended high school, learnt to dance and enjoyed skiing holidays with her friends.
After the Anschluss her family was separated. Her father was sent to Dachau but managed to bribe his way out and escape on the St Louis, a cruise liner that left Hamburg in May 1939 carrying more than 900 Jews which, after being denied permission to land in Cuba, Canada and the US, was forced to return to Europe. Fritz Neufeld was among the refugees lucky enough to be allowed to disembark in the UK. Others returned to the continent, where many subsequently perished.
Inge, her mother Hildegard, her younger brother Hans and her fiancé Otto Kollmann remained in Vienna. Hans and Otto were assigned essential work as gravediggers, so they avoided deportation to the camps, but the threat was ever present. On one occasion Inge recalled hiding all night behind a grandfather clock in a city centre building as Nazi paramilitaries called door to door. In 1942 Hildegard gave all her jewels to an Austrian count who agreed to smuggle the family, and Kollmann, out of the country. They made it to Switzerland, where they initially ended up in a refugee camp. Later on Inge was approached by the OSS (the precursor of the CIA) to manage a villa in Lugano set up to spy on Nazis and coordinate operations by partisan groups.
A grandmother and four young cousins died in the Holocaust.
After the war Inge and Kollmann married and moved to Los Angeles, where they had some success as a song-writing duo. But Inge disliked Hollywood life and in the late 1950s she left her husband, and Los Angeles.
For some 10 years she lived in Israel where, in 1960, she married Hans Kruger, who ran a luxury hotel in Tel Aviv. They divorced in 1972 and the same year she married Kurt Ginsberg, with whom she mainly lived in Quito, Ecuador.
She also spent much time in Zurich, where she worked as a journalist for the weekly Die Weltwoche, published books of poetry in English and German and had success buying stocks and shares, which allowed her to acquire homes in New York City and in upstate New York.
“I’ve been married three times legally, and I’ve had a lot of boyfriends,” she told the Times of Israel in 2019. “At one time I had four at the same time – one to live, one to laugh, one for fun, and one to cover the whole game with his name. I’m a very moral person, but I have my own moral laws.”
After Kurt Ginsberg’s death in 1999, Inge split her time between her homes in the US and apartments in Tel Aviv and Switzerland. She continued to write lyrics and poetry, but in later life decided she needed to find a new way to reach an audience.
Her unlikely foray into death metal evolved after meeting some young musicians in New York, with whom she formed the band Inge and the TritoneKings . “I can’t sing. I can’t carry a tune. So heavy metal works because I just have to say the words,” she told the Times of Israel.
In 2015 and 2016 the band, featuring Inge Ginsberg in evening gown and pearls screaming into the microphone in English and German, took part in the Swiss qualifiers for the Eurovision Song Contest. Inge’s performance earned her the nickname “Death Metal Grandma” and she became something of a sensation on YouTube. She also caught the attention of filmmaker Leah Galant, who made a documentary about her life.
The messages of her songs, which Inge Ginsberg wrote herself, were untypical of the death metal genre, however, being life affirming and proclaiming the importance of the environment and love: “You don’t have to be kind. You just have to not harm anybody,” she said. “If nobody would harm anybody it would be a wonderful world.”
Inge Ginsberg is survived by a daughter from her first marriage.
Inge Ginsberg, born January 27 1922 , died July 20 2021
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A 96-year-old Holocaust Survivor is heading home after years of living in the City of Brotherly Love. A small send-off for Paul Gidaly was held outside his Federation Housing apartment, as he left for the Philadelphia airport.
Gidaly has always wanted to go back to Canada where he lived after the war, and Federation Housing is now granting his wish.
Eric Naftulin Executive Director, Federation Housing said that Federation Housing arranged and paid for his move to Canada.