Holocaust Survivor reunites with family of U.S. soldier who left her life-changing note

Image:  This banknote with messages of hope and kindness written around the edges was given to Lilly Ebert by American soldier Hyman Schulman upon liberating her from the Nazi regime during WWII.

This banknote with messages of hope and kindness written around the edges was given to Lily Ebert by American soldier Hyman Schulman upon liberating her from the Nazi regime during WWII.Dov Forman

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A 90-year-old Holocaust survivor was finally able to thank the family of an American soldier who gave her hope upon being liberated from a Nazi death camp in World War II, 75 years on.

Lily Ebert was connected with the children of the soldier over a Zoom call coordinated by her great-grandson, Dov Forman, on Sunday.

“It is unbelievable. I never knew something like this could happen. It was a fantastic feeling,” Ebert told NBC News by phone from her home in London.

Their meeting was made possible by a tweet Forman sent that went viral.

The 16-year-old said he took it upon himself to start documenting Ebert’s stories of the war once coronavirus lockdown restrictions were eased and he could visit.

“My great-grandma obviously isn’t going to be around forever and her story will eventually become my whole family’s responsibility to carry on,” Forman said.

During one of his recent visits, Forman said he noticed a German banknote preserved in one of Ebert’s old photo albums.

Ebert explained that a few weeks after being liberated in the German town of Pfaffroda, she met an American soldier. Without anything else to write on, she said the soldier used a banknote to put down his words of encouragement to her.

Dov Forman
@DovForman

Yesterday my great Grandma (Lily Ebert – an Auschwitz survivor) showed me this bank note- given to her as a gift by a soldier who liberated her. Inscribed, it says “a start to a new life. Good luck and happiness”. Later on, she met up with those who freed her (third photo).
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“The start to a new life. Good luck and happiness,” he wrote.

While it was a simple gesture, it was life-changing for young Ebert.

“This soldier was the first human being who was kind to us,” she said. “It was the first time after this terrible life that somebody was kind and I knew that somebody wants to help.”

Touched by the story, Forman decided to share images of the banknote on Twitter. To his surprise, he said it went viral within hours, gaining over a million views.

A Twitter user who saw it sent him a suggestion that the mystery soldier may be American Pvt. Hyman Schulman. Although he died in 2013, Schulman’s story of the war was well documented in many letters he sent back to his wife that have since been rediscovered by his family.

Image: Lilly Ebert and Dov Forman (right) hold a Zoom call with Arlene and Jason Schulman, descendants of the American GI that liberated Lilly during the war, along with Lilly's daughter and husband Bilha and Julian Weider.
Lily Ebert and Dov Forman, right, hold a Zoom call with Arlene and Jason Schulman, descendants of the American GI who liberated Ebert during the war, along with Ebert’s daughter and husband Bilha and Julian Weider.Dov Forman
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With some research, Forman said he was able to locate Schulman’s children in New York and bring the families together digitally.

“It was really special. It felt like we were family, we just clicked,” Forman said.

For Ebert, it was also a special moment to speak to people who had a deep understanding of the horrors of the past.

“I know that this soldier told his family, he wrote to his family every day the stories that he saw,” she said. “With that, I feel some connection to them.”

Image: Lily Ebert, center, with her sisters who were sent to Auschwitz together and endured slave labor and the death march during WWII.
Lily Ebert, center, with her sisters who were sent to Auschwitz together and endured forced labour and the death march during WWII.Dov Forman
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Ebert, who was born in Hungary, has always been vocal about her experience, sharing it with not just her family but also speaking to schools, businesses and community groups.

She had been taken to Auschwitz at the age of 14 and separated from her mother, brother and sister who were all killed there. Ebert and her two other younger sisters — one of whom is still alive — were sent to a munitions factory where they endured slave labor for four months.

“They dehumanized us,” she said. They were forced to work grueling, long hours, deprived of food and sleep.

It was the responsibility of having to look out for her younger sisters that helped keep her going, she said. And she also made a vow to herself.

“I promised myself that if I survived by some miracle, I would tell the world what happened there,” Ebert said. “The next generation and next generations should know the story so that something like that should not be repeated to any human being ever.”

And Ebert has been able to keep to her promise.

The families are planning another Zoom call next week, Forman said, and are even discussing an in-person meeting once coronavirus-related travel restrictions are lifted.

“I hope one day that I will meet them personally, I would very much like to have that,” Ebert said.

 

Our Survivors and Liberators are ready to address your school, congregation or civic group by Skype. Contact us now.

On July 8, Colorado became the 14th state to enact legislation for Holocaust education.   As the requirement for Holocaust education is implemented all over the nation, HAMEC is ready to serve you, wherever you are, by Skype and when the health crisis is over, with in-person presentations.

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The nationwide health crisis should not stop you from planning a presentation by our Survivors and Liberators. Our Survivors and Liberators are ready to address your school, congregation and civic group.

Through Skype in the Classroom, in cooperation with Microsoft, or in person, we can bring the latest in Holocaust education to you.  Contact us at info@hamec.org or 215-464-4701.

Hate never takes a vacation and neither do we

Albania honors locals who rescued Jews during the Holocaust with memorial.

Albania unveiled a memorial in its capital city, Tirana, on Thursday, to honor and recognize the Albanians who protected the Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
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While the Holocaust killed over six million Jews, wiping out communities all over Europe, Albania was the only country where no Jews died or were handed over to the Nazis. Albanian citizens protected the few hundred Jews living in the country at the time, while also helping Jews fleeing from Germany and Austria by smuggling them abroad or hiding them at home, according to AP.
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“We are the only country with more Hebrews after World War II, where the Hebrews came in search of protection and salvation,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said.
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The memorial, placed at the entrance to Tirana’s Artificial Lake Park and close to Mother Teresa Square was built in light of the courageous efforts of Albanian’s citizens. Inscribed into the marble in Albanian, Hebrew, and English, is the sentence, “Albanians, Christians and Muslims endangered their lives to protect and save the Jews.”
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The Albanians protected the Jews despite Nazi German forces occupying the country from September 1943 until November 1944, when they were pushed out by local communist partisans.
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Israeli Ambassador Noah Gal Gendler highly praised Albania’s example of protecting the Jewish community during the war, AP reported.
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“An excellent example from a small country which highlights the values of humanity, sacrifice and love, values which still stand as fundamental in Albania,” he said. “It would be magnificent if more nations would learn this part of Albania.”
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The small Jewish community that remained in Albania after the Holocaust left the ex-communist country for Israel in 1991, just after the fall of the regime.

Colorado Governor signs Holocaust and Genocide Education in Public Schools bill.

By SHANA GOLDBERG, July 9, 2020, Intermountain Jewish News.  Click for full report.
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Under a hot Colorado sun, Governor Jared Polis signed into law HB-1336, the Holocaust and Genocide Education in Public Schools bill at JEWISH colorado on July 8.

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The bill was sponsored in the House by Reps. Emily Sirota (D-9) and Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D-30), and in the Senate by Sens. Stephen Fenberg (D-18) and Dennis Hisey (R-2).

The bill was championed by Holocaust survivor Fanny Starr, who together with her late husband Zesa, also a survivor, were among the first Denver survivors to speak in schools, setting an example followed by many other survivors.  [Ms. Starr and the Governor are pictured above at the bill signing].

In addition to Starr, the lay team behind the effort included her daughter Helen Starr, former state legislator Joyce Foster, David Foster, Roz Duman and representatives from Colorado’s Armenian community.

Among the many Jewish and non-Jewish stakeholders was the Jewish Community Relations Council.

Copyright © 2020 by the Intermountain Jewish News

As schools plan to reopen, now is the time to book a presentation by our Survivors and Liberators through Skype.

Architech Daniel Libeskind shows Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, right, his sculpture called the Wheel of Conscience, at Pier 21 in Halifax on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011. (Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Architech Daniel Libeskind shows Canada’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, right, his sculpture called the Wheel of Conscience, at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011. (Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

 

The nationwide health crisis should not stop you from planning a presentation by our Survivors and Liberators. Our Survivors and Liberators are ready to address your school, congregation and civic group.

Through Skype in the Classroom, in cooperation with Microsoft, or in person, we can bring the latest in Holocaust education to you.  Contact us at info@hamec.org or 215-464-4701.

Hate never takes a vacation and neither do we

New Hampshire sends bill requiring Holocaust education to governor

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By PENNY SCHWARTZ, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, July 2, 2020.  Click for full report.

BOSTON (JTA) – New Hampshire will mandate Holocaust and genocide prevention education under a bill passed overwhelmingly by its House of Representatives.

If Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, signs the measure into law, New Hampshire would become the 14th state to require genocide prevention education in public schools, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s New England regional office, which supported the bill.

An Act Relative to Holocaust and Genocide Studies will also establish a commission to study best educational practices.

The bill will enable all students to acquire knowledge of civics and government, economics, history, and Holocaust and genocide education, according to state Sen. Jay Kahn, a Democrat and lead sponsor of the bill.

“Holocaust and genocide education is a fitting part of a school’s curriculum that enables students to participate in the democratic process and to make informed choices as responsible citizens,” Kahn said in a statement.

The House approved the bill this week in a 299-17 vote as part of several other pieces of legislation. The state Senate had passed the measure  unanimously in March.

In its most recent audit on anti Semitism, ADL documented 2,107 incidents across the country in 2019, the highest since the group began tracking incidents in 1979. Of the total, 411 of the incidents were in K-12 schools, representing a 19% increase from the previous year.

“The need for Holocaust and genocide education in our schools could not be more urgent,” Robert Trestan, the ADL’s New England regional director, said in a statement.

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

Click to view the video of our June 24 round table of Second and Third Generation Holocaust Educators Dina Lichtman-Smith, Shari Glauser and Avi Wisnia and moderated by Simone Gorko.  They discussed the importance of generational memory in Holocaust Education.

Through Skype in the Classroom, in cooperation with Microsoft, or in person, we can bring the latest in Holocaust education to you.  Contact us at info@hamec.org or 215-464-4701.

Hate never takes a vacation and neither do we.

Florida enacts Holocaust education law

Magda Bader shares her experience surviving Auschwitz and speaking in support of Senator Lauren Book’s Holocaust Education Bill.

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HB 1213 will require Holocaust education and explore how to teach about the Ocoee Massacre.

With racial injustice issues playing out at both the national and state levels, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Tuesday that would bring questions of race to the forefront of education.
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When the law (HB 1213) goes into effect July 1, it will require public schools to certify that they teach about the Holocaust. Another provision of the bill sets the ball rolling on teaching about the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Riots.

“While we will never replace the lives lost or erase the evils committed during the Holocaust, we can ensure Floridians never forget these atrocities,” said Sen. Lauren Book, the legislation’s Senate sponsor.

Book and Rep. Randy Fine worked together with Sen. Randolph Bracy to include language that charges the Education Commissioner’s African American History Task Force with exploring how to teach about the Ocoee Massacre in history classes. Additionally, it promotes opportunities to elevate victims of the riots through park names and exhibits.

“One hundred years ago, the bloodiest day in American political history unfolded in Ocoee, Florida on Election Day,” said Bracy, an Ocoee Democrat. “Now more than ever it is paramount we educate our citizenry about the origins of racial conflict and its manifestations in policies that are anti-black, anti-democratic, and anti-human.”

November marks the 100th anniversary of the lynching of Julius “July” Perry, a prominent leader in the early Orange County African American community who was attempting to turn out black voters. White rioters killed Perry and torched Black-owned buildings in the neighborhood in response to his advocacy.

Between three and 60 African Americans reportedly died in the violence, and the remaining Black residents fled.

In light of George Floyd‘s death after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck and the protests that followed, Fine — a Brevard County Republican — said the bill’s timing and wrapping both issues into one was more than appropriate. This month has also seen outcry over online comments made by Florida State University’s Student Senate President that critics called anti-Semitic.

“I think we’re more attuned to this now, whether we’re teaching about the Holocaust or this disgraceful day,” Fine said. “I think now more than ever we need to be teaching these things.”

The Legislature unanimously passed the measure in March, which Fine said put Florida ahead of the curve on several racial issues that have been revisited in recent weeks.

Book and Fine filed the legislation in part because of comments made by former Spanish River High School principal William Latson in 2018, who told a student’s parent that he couldn’t state the Holocaust was a “factual, historical event.”

“Our country has finally awoken to systemic racism — but in order to truly dismantle it, we must educate students about the insidious roots of racial injustice and arm them with knowledge and skills to effectively create change,” said Book, a Plantation Democrat.

Auschwitz survivor Magdalen Bader appeared before the Senate this Session to make the case for the bill.

Bader was born in Czechoslovakia and survived several concentration camps.

“I may look like I’m happy and smiling — and I am — but inside me, every day I think of all the horrors that we went through,” Bader said.

Last year, DeSantis signed legislation, also by Fine and Book, that explicitly targeted anti-Semitism in schools.

Dutch national rail company offers $5.6 million for Holocaust transport of Jews

Jewish community representatives say offer is disappointingly low and money should be given to families as well as memorials; NS carried an estimated 102,000 Jews to their deaths

By CNAAN LIPHSHIZ, Times of Israel, June 27, 2020.  Click for full report.

Illustrative: In this photo from May 9, 2015, a man puts a rose on the railroad tracks at former concentration camp Westerbork, the Netherlands, remembering more than a hundred thousand Jews who were transported from Westerbork to Nazi death camps. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Illustrative: In this photo from May 9, 2015, a man puts a rose on the railroad tracks at former concentration camp Westerbork, the Netherlands, remembering more than a hundred thousand Jews who were transported from Westerbork to Nazi death camps. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
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AMSTERDAM (JTA) — The Dutch national rail company said it would pay 5 million euros, or $5.6 million, to Holocaust commemoration institutions, including the museums at three former concentration camps, Westerbork, Vught and Amersfoort.

Dutch Jews said the offer is disappointingly low and urged the company, NS, to reconsider.

NS allocated more than $40 million last year toward compensating survivors. It has also spent millions of dollars on Holocaust commemoration projects.

But the World Jewish Restitution Organization, or WJRO, and the Central Jewish Board of Dutch Jewish organizations said in a joint statement Friday that NS should also offer compensation directly to the families of the Jews it transported to their deaths. It is estimated that NS sent 102,000 Jews to be murdered during the Holocaust.

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“Instead of working together with the Jewish community to acknowledge the past and provide a ‘collective expression of recognition,’ NS has chosen once again to act with disregard to the Jewish community that was devastated by NS’s actions during the Holocaust. We urge NS to reconsider,” Eddo Verdoner, president of the Central Jewish Board, wrote in a statement about his organization’s meeting with the chief executive officer of NS, Roger van Boxtel.

“It is a shame that NS has chosen not to take this opportunity” to address the subject, said Gideon Taylor, WJRO’s chair of operations.

NS did not respond directly to the criticism.

“NS considers cooperation with these deportations by the occupying forces to be a black page in the history of the company,” read an NS statement, which offered an overview of its restitution expenditures and contributions to commemorative projects.