Wherever you are, our Survivors and Liberators can address your school, congregation or civic group

images.pngThrough 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.

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Monument to the Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw, honoring those who fought in the 1944 uprising.CreditCzarek Sokolowski/Associated Press
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My grandparents, great-aunts and great-uncles, the generation who lived through World War II, never visited a concentration camp. Neither have I. To remember the Holocaust, it’s enough to ride the No. 35 tram through Warsaw. On its voyage from north to south, it passes sites of public commemoration, like the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes; the Umschlagplatz, where Jews from the ghetto were herded into railcars for transport to the death camps; and the Pawiak prison, the main holding place for political prisoners during the Nazi occupation. It also passes by places that have a more personal meaning: the location of what was once my great-grandparents’ house and my grandfather’s grave in Powazki Cemetery.

Some places are public and private at the same time. I don’t know how many relatives left Warsaw for the last time from the Umschlagplatz. Pawiak prison is where my grandfather’s cousin, a Jew trying to survive with Aryan papers, died when the Warsaw Uprising began, on Aug. 1, 1944. One place that always makes me shudder when I pass doesn’t even exist anymore: Ulica Gesia, or Goose Street. During the Nazi occupation, this was the location of the main prison for the ghetto. It’s also where my mother’s aunt Rose was shot to death with 14 other women on Dec. 15, 1941. According to what Rose’s sisters heard after the war, she was caught on the Aryan side of the wall. A 12-year-old boy pointed her out to the Gestapo while she was riding a tram. It’s likely that she’s buried under the Arkadia Shopping Mall, a few stops up the line.

What to make of this betrayal by a child? Should it be set against acts of kindness or heroism, like that of the Ukrainian who saved my father’s father by helping him cross the Bug River in the fall of 1939, and the similar deeds of thousands of other Poles, Ukrainians and Belarussians who saved Jews? Or should it be paired with the even greater number of horrific acts committed by Polish citizens?

The history of the Holocaust in Poland is painful and complex. A new law passed by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party aims to make it simple. Signed by President Andrzej Duda on Feb. 6, the legislation imposes punishment of up to three years in prison for those who “publicly and against the facts attribute to the Polish nation or the Polish state responsibility or co-responsibility for Nazi crimes committed by the German Third Reich.” In other words, in Poland it may now be illegal to blame Poles for the Holocaust.

The law is a blow to free speech and historical truth alike. It is also sure to be profoundly counterproductive. One reason is that Polish complicity in the Holocaust has been a subject of research and debate in Poland for decades. A turning point came in 2000, with the publication of the book “Neighbors” by the historian Jan T. Gross, which revealed the 1941 massacre of Jews by Poles in the village of Jedwabne. Since then, historians have uncovered dozens of other examples of mass killings committed by Poles; “Neighbors” has been the subject of conferences, documentaries, books and an award-winning play. A whole generation of Polish historians have by now investigated everything from the blackmailing of Jews by their Polish neighbors to the activities of “the Blue,” an auxiliary police force made up mostly of prewar Polish policemen thought to be responsible for tens of thousands of deaths.

44th Annual Mordechai Anielewicz Creative Arts Competition and Exhibition

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Virginia Rodowsky, Innocent, Grade 11, Padua Academy, Honorable Mention, 2014
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Attention Teachers

We are proud to once again partner with the Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council to help promote this year’s

44th Annual Mordechai Anielewicz Creative Arts Competition and Exhibition

Deadline is Friday, March 16, 2018
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Each year, over 400 students in grades 7-12 in the 5-counties of Southeast Pennsylvania from a wide range of backgrounds participate in the Mordechai Anielewicz Creative Arts Competition, submitting original, creative responses to their Holocaust studies in the form of poetry, prose, painting, sculpture, music, dance and video.

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Entries must focus on themes that encourage students to view the Holocaust through a broad perspective of historical experience, reflecting upon its lessons in terms of their relevance to contemporary social and political issues.
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For general information contact: Beth Razin at brazin@jewishphilly.org or
215-832-0536.
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Desiree Smith, Hands of Struggle, 11th grade, Creative and Preforming Arts High School
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For Holocaust education consultation contact: Josey G. Fisher at jfisher@jewishphilly.org. Ms. Fisher is available to support your curriculum, answer questions and recommend age-appropriate resources and materials. You can also find a list of resources here.
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Joanne D. Gilbert to address Association of Jewish Genealogists in Warsaw

Joanne D. Gilbert has been select to speak at the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Society in Warsaw scheduled for August 6-10, 2018.

Review

The journey that you will share in this book is well worth the efforts of the writer, the survivor, and the reader . . . –Professor Michael Berenbaum, PhD., rabbi, author, film-maker, professor: American Jewish University

That Gilbert has so sensitively and effectively captured the voice and spirit of each of these extraordinary women is an achievement worthy of praise. –Charles Silow, PhD., clinical psychologist, director of Jewish Senior Life of Metropolitan Detroit’s Program for Holocaust Survivors and Families.

About the Author

joanne-gilbert-headshot-256x300Influenced as a little girl by her Grandmother s vivid and poignant stories of the beloved family and friends who were so brutally murdered when the Nazis destroyed the Jewish People of Vilna, Lithuania, Joanne has always understood the importance of preserving Jewish History one family story at a time. With this mission in mind, she became a professional Personal Historian in 2007, creating her own business, Your Write Time! A popular Adjunct English professor at the College of Southern Nevada, Joanne is also a sought-after-public-speaker, whose presentations on both Jewish Genealogy and Jewish and Gentile WOMEN OF VALOR: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich consistently receive glowing reviews. Joanne s extensive travels to meet with Female Resisters and Partisans have taken her to Toronto, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Palo Alto, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Paris, where she was honored to meet with a group of women who had been in the French Resistance.

Kentucky’s House Education Committee approves bill to mandate Holocaust eduction

Ohio County Monitor, February 7, 2018.  Click for full report.

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FRANKFORT, Ky. — Public middle and high schools in Kentucky would teach students about the Holocaust under a bill approved yesterday [February 6]  by a House committee.

Kentucky passed legislation in 2008 that required the state to develop a Holocaust curriculum for schools but did not mandate that it be taught. House Bill 128, sponsored by House Education Committee Chair John Carney, R-Campbellsville, and Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, would require instruction on the Holocaust and other acts of genocide that have been recognized by an international court of law. The House Education Committee gave its approval to the legislation today.

Several lawmakers said during today’s meeting that it is important that no one deny, nor forget, the mass murder of an estimated 6 million Jewish people during the Holocaust of the 1930s and 1940s. The genocide and mass atrocities, also called the Shoah, was orchestrated by the German Nazi regime led by Adolph Hitler.

“In my lifetime I’ve been lucky to know three Holocaust survivors” said HB 128 co-sponsor Rep. Mark Hart, R-Falmouth. He said the bill is necessary “so we, as a society and as human race, don’t repeat what has happened in the past. If we don’t teach it, it could be repeated.”

Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, thanked the sponsors of the bill for what he called “a teachable moment for all of us here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Several eighth grade students from Louisville’s parochial St. Francis of Assisi School spoke about their instruction on the Holocaust and how it has improved their lives. They were joined by Fred Gross, a Holocaust survivor and educator who has taught hundreds of students over the decades.

“I’ve spoken to school children for the past 25 years, invited by teachers who took it upon themselves to teach the Holocaust,” said Gross. Letters he has received from students tell of lives changed, he said, including the life of a student from St. Francis of Assisi School.

“Since you’ve begun talking to my class, all of your wisdom has already helped me in my day to day life. I know I will carry these teachings with me for the rest of my life,” the letter read.

HB 128 now goes to the full House for consideration.

February 15 is Irena Sendler Day in Pennsylvania

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The House of Representatives has passed H.R. 632 proclaiming February 15 Irena Sendler Day in Pennsylvania.  Ms. Sendler (1910-2008) was a Catholic woman who saved 2,500 Jewish children from Nazi death camps in Poland.

Click for text of Resolution honoring IIrena Sendler

 

Irena Sendler

(Poland)

From Yad Vashem.  Click for full report.

When World War II broke out, Irena Sendler was a 29-year-old social worker, employed by the Welfare Department of the Warsaw municipality. After the German occupation, the department continued to take care of the great number of poor and dispossessed people in the city. Irena Sendler took advantage of her job in order to help the Jews, however this became practically impossible once the ghetto was sealed off in November 1940. Close to 400,000 people had been driven into the small area that had been allocated to the ghetto, and their situation soon deteriorated. The poor hygienic conditions in the crowded ghetto, the lack of food and medical supplies resulted in epidemics and high death rates. Irena Sendler, at great personal danger, devised means to get into the ghetto and help the dying Jews. She managed to obtain a permit from the municipality that enabled her to enter the ghetto to inspect the sanitary conditions. Once inside the ghetto, she established contact with activists of the Jewish welfare organization and began to help them. She helped smuggle Jews out of the ghetto to the Aryan side and helped set up hiding places for them.

When the Council for Aid to Jews (Zegota) was established, Sendler became one of its main activists. The Council was created in fall 1942, after 280,000 Jews were deported from Warsaw to Treblinka. When it began to function towards the end of the year, most of the Jews of Warsaw had been killed. But it played a crucial role in the rescue of a large number who had survived the massive deportations. The organization took care of thousands of Jews who were trying to survive in hiding, seeking hiding places, and paying for the upkeep and medical care.

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In September 1943, four months after the Warsaw ghetto was completely destroyed, Sendler was appointed director of Zegota’s Department for the Care of Jewish Children. Sendler, whose underground name was Jolanta, exploited her contacts with orphanages and institutes for abandoned children, to send Jewish children there. Many of the children were sent to the Rodzina Marii (Family of Mary) Orphanage in Warsaw, and to religious institutions run by nuns in nearby Chotomów, and in Turkowice, near Lublin. The exact number of children saved by Sendler and her partners is unknown.

On 20 October 1943, Sendler was arrested. She managed to stash away incriminating evidence such as the coded addresses of children in the care of Zegota and large sums of money to pay to those who helped Jews. She was sentenced to death and sent to the infamous Pawiak prison, but underground activists managed to bribe officials to release her. Her close encounter with death did not deter her from continuing her activity. After her release in February 1944, even though she knew that the authorities were keeping an eye on her, Sendler continued her underground activities. Because of the danger she had to go into hiding. The necessities of her clandestine life prevented her from attending her mother’s funeral.


On October 19, 1965, Yad Vashem recognized Irena Sendler as Righteous Among the Nations. The tree planted in her honor stands at the entrance to the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations.