Teen raises $15K to send Holocaust Survivor to Israel

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS  (From the New York Times)

CALABASAS, Calif. — A Southern California teen raised about $15,000 to send an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor to Israel so the man can meet his last living relative and finally receive his bar mitzvah, according to a newspaper report Monday.

Drew Principe, 17, said he came up with the idea for a fundraiser after meeting Henry Oster during a school assembly in January.

Oster told students at Viewpoint High near Los Angeles about his experiences during World War II.

In 1941 he and his family were deported by Nazis from their home in Cologne, Germany, a few weeks before he was supposed to celebrate his bar mitzvah, a Jewish coming-of-age ceremony generally held at 13. They were taken to a ghetto in Poland before he was taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp. He was sent to a few different camps before being liberated at 17 and eventually moving to Los Angeles to become an optometrist.

Principe discovered that Oster had never been to Israel, so the teen decided on the spot to give the man a bracelet he had bought on a trip to the Holy Land a few years ago. The bracelet has the Shema, a Jewish prayer, inscribed on it.

“It really is a gesture that cannot be measured,” Oster told the Ventura County Star about the gift (http://bit.ly/2sPw1Bg). “I don’t wear jewelry, but I have not taken this off except for the shower.”

Principe and Oster began a “life-changing” friendship, the teen told the newspaper.

An online fundraiser took off and quickly raised close to $15,000.

Oster and his wife along with Principe and his family left on Monday for Israel, where Oster will meet his cousin and be formally recognized by the Israeli Holocaust memorial as a survivor.

He will also celebrate the bar mitzvah he never had.

Ultimately, Oster said, he decided to accept the offer and have the ceremony in memory of those who died and will never have the chance to experience the ceremony.

“I decided to honor my father and my parents and … the desecrated Torah and all the victims who never had a chance,” Oster said.


Information from: Ventura County Star, http://venturacountystar.com

Democracy at Risk: Holocaust and Human Behavior

Germantown Friends School, Philadelphia, PA
July 10 – 14, 2017


Join Facing History for professional development that links history, literature, and ethics for educators in U.S. How is history shaped by hatred, indifference, and denial, as well as by caring, compassion, and responsibility? In this seminar, we will examine the range of choices that led to the failure of democracy in Germany and ultimately to the persecution of millions of Jews and other targeted groups. How did prejudice and racism destroy democracy and human life?

Participants receive complete access to:

  • educator resources, including downloadable Common Core-aligned unit and lesson plans, study guides, teaching strategies, and online tools
  • online lending library of DVDs and books (for all Facing History case studies)
  • individualized coaching and support from a Facing History staff member

In this seminar you will:

    Discover interdisciplinary teaching strategies and classroom activities that reinforce historical and literacy skills

  • Investigate the complexities of human behavior, judgment, memory, and how we as individuals and members of groups can make a difference in the world today
  • Receive a free copy of Facing History’s Holocaust and Human Behavior and A Convenient Hatred
  • Become eligible for ACT 48 credits by attending (and there’s complementary lunch every day)

Click here for information and registration

To learn more about Facing History and Ourselves, visit www.facinghistory.org

Funding and scholarships for this seminar are generously underwritten by the Seed the Dream Foundation. Additional thanks to our welcoming host, Germantown Friends School.

In memoir for young adults, harsh WWII life lessons teach about standing up to hate

Michael Bornstein shows his tattoo to students in Illinois while on tour speaking about standing up to hate. (Courtesy)
BY CATHRYN J. PRINCE, Times of Israel, June 24, 2017.   Click for full report.

NEW YORK — Hundreds of thousands of children were sent to the extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only 52 under the age of 8 survived. Michael Bornstein was one those children.

On January 27, 1945, Soviet soldiers photographed Michael Bornstein, then just four years old, as his grandmother Dora carried him out of the death camp back into life. His is an extraordinary story of survival, but one that Bornstein waited more than seven decades to share.

Always forward facing, Bornstein, 77, refrained from answering his four children’s questions about how he survived more than six months in Auschwitz, a place where most children his age were murdered within two weeks of arrival. He avoided answering his 11 grandchildren’s questions about life before, during and immediately after the war.

It wasn’t that he didn’t think he had a story worth telling, he just wasn’t sure how to tell it.


Click for rest of story.


Long-silenced songs of Holocaust survivors are rediscovered

PBS News Hour, June 15, 2017.

Click for video.

JUDY WOODRUFF: When the death camps and ghettos of Europe were liberated at the end of World War II, a psychologist from Chicago visited former prisoners and recorded dozens of interviews.

David Boder’s recordings are among the earliest testimonies from Holocaust survivors. And long-missing reels of songs from this collection were recently discovered at the University of Akron, Ohio.

From PBS station WVIZ ideastream in Cleveland, David C. Barnett reports.

DAVID C. BARNETT: Jon Endres gingerly threads a thin silver strand of wire through a machine that will reproduce some sounds unheard for decades.

JON ENDRES, Media Specialist, University of Akron: It runs much like a reel-to-reel tape player, if you remember those.

DAVID C. BARNETT: Endres is a media specialist at the University of Akron. His colleague James Newhall spent three years building this playback machine from spare parts scrounged from electronic stores and eBay.

The goal was to play some mysterious recordings made by psychologist David Boder over 70 years ago on a wire recorder.

DAVID BAKER, Cummings Center for the History of Psychology: One of Boder’s areas of interest and an important area of his work was his work on the measurement of trauma. That was the basis of his grant in 1946 to travel to Europe to interview a group of traumatized people. And this included many survivors of the Holocaust.

A collection of Boder material was deposited here in 1967. So, it included some instruments and apparatus, documents, and it included a box of wire recordings.

MAN: One, two, three, one two, three.

DAVID BAKER: Scholars were telling us that there was a missing reel. There was a reel of songs that were sung to Boder by Holocaust survivors in a camp in France after the war.

We had a box of reels, and scholars would ask from time to time, do you know what’s on those? And we had to say, no, we don’t.

DAVID C. BARNETT: But now they do.

MAN: We are reproducing on this spool a set of songs that have been recorded 50 kilometers of Paris at a colony of displaced persons.

DAVID C. BARNETT: Baker says the recent discovery of this long-missing reel of songs in the Cummings Center archives has sparked worldwide interest.

DAVID BAKER: Two of the songs were sung by a woman named Guta Frank. Guta Frank had survived a number of the ghettos in Poland, eventually ending up in a — doing forced labor at a munitions factory.

One song they translated for us: “Our village is burning.”

In singing the song, she changed the lyric from, “Our village is burning” to “The Jewish people are burning.” In introducing the song, Guta Frank discussed the fact that the composer’s daughter would sing this song in basements in the Krakow ghetto, inspiring people to rebel against the Nazis.

DAVID C. BARNETT: For concentration camp prisoners who had no means of writing down and preserving what was happening to them, they could sing songs about it to each other and pass the stories down in an oral tradition.

Australian researcher Joseph Toltz focuses the music of the Holocaust. And, in this specialized field, he’s heard it all.

JOSEPH TOLTZ, Researcher: This was a beloved song that traveled around the entire Yiddish-speaking world, even to America and other places.

DAVID C. BARNETT: Toltz is particularly impressed with the clarity of the Akron recordings.

JOSEPH TOLTZ: This is a technology that is 60, 70 years old and completely outdated. And they have done it in such a way that has brought a completely new quality to the sound that is sort of trapped in these wire recordings.

DAVID C. BARNETT: Jon Endres was the one who made the digital transfer.

JON ENDRES: I remember hearing Krakow. And I remember recognizing some of the more German words in Yiddish, and knowing full well they were saying things along the lines of burning and dying, and it was extremely intense.

DAVID BAKER: It’s a bit like hearing the voice of a ghost. Here are voices that have been silent for 70 years. And, all of a sudden, they’re singing. And they’re singing to us.

DAVID C. BARNETT: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m David C. Barnett in Akron, Ohio.

Stockton University Holocaust Center passes along Survivor stories to next generation

Photo taken at the annual intergenerational brunch for Holocaust survivors and their families. Front: (From left) Holocaust survivors Hanna Ehrlich and Cyla Kowenski, and Jane Stark, director of the Sam Azeez Museum of Woodbine Heritage. Back: (From left) Gail Rosenthal, director of the Sara & Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center, and Gloria Weitzenhof. | Photo provided

While the parents and grandparents are dwindling to a precious few, the stories passed on to the children of Holocaust survivors and their children live on.

That’s in part because of organizations like the USC Shoah Foundation, which have recorded video and audio testimonies for posterity.

Those accounts have been archived at colleges nationwide, among them Richard Stockton University in Galloway, N.J., an area that has a rich history when it comes to the subject.

When many of those survivors came to the United States after World War II, this was where they called home, working on chicken farms and in factories thanks to grants from the Baron de Hirsch Fund.

And this is also where Stockton offers students an extensive curriculum and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Holocaust and genocide studies. The focal point is the Sam & Sara Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center, which, in addition to being South Jersey’s Holocaust museum, now houses the 54,000-volume Shoah Foundation archives.

But teaching its students about the Holocaust has been going on at Stockton long before the center came into existence.

“We began teaching Holocaust studies in the 1980s,” center Director Gail Rosenthal said. “Rabbi Murray Kohn, who was one of the youngest survivors of Auschwitz, began teaching an introductory course about the Holocaust here.

“So he laid the foundation. We also came up with the idea to begin taking oral histories of local Holocaust survivors. Around 1989 we went to [then-Stockton President] Dr. Vera King Farris and said, ‘We have all these tapes. We need a place to store them.’”

Farris had the perfect suggestion.

“She said, ‘It’s always been my dream to open a center,”’ said Rosenthal, who was volunteering on the project back then. “She had been so shocked when she first read about the Holocaust when she was in high school in Atlantic City.”

An endowed chair was established at Stockton, with an Ida E. King Scholar annually teaching Holocaust studies and doing research there.

And the Stockton Holocaust Center was dedicated in 1990, eventually becoming the Schoffer Center in 2009.

Along the way, there’s been major expansion nearly doubling its size. That has come about through support from the Schoffer family, as well as the family of Sam Azeez, which also is the driving force behind the Sam Azeez Museum of Woodbine Heritage.

And with Stockton’s recent buy giving it access to the Shoah Foundation archives, there’s an even greater opportunity for Stockton students to learn more about not only what happened in Nazi Germany, Poland and other neighboring countries during the war, but other mass genocides.

“The director of Yad Vashem came to visit us a year ago and said we have more undergraduate courses — we offer a minimum of 15 a semester — than any college in the United States,” said Rosenthal, who estimates that 1,000 of Stockton’s 9,000 students per year take one of those classes.

What’s made the Schoffer Center and the Holocaust programs so effective is its leadership, Rosenthal said.

“Students taking a course in Holocaust studies may not even know what they’re taking initially — and then they get hooked,” she said.

Not only Jewish students and professors are affected.

“I remember seeing pictures of the concentration camps, but it was never taught to me in school,” said Maryann McLoughlin, the center’s assistant supervisor, who has written and edited some 60 Holocaust memoirs. “I guess I got interested reading books like Exodus and Sophie’s Choice.

“But I’m really proud to be working with someone like Gail. She goes out of her way to help students who need counseling and has a wonderful relationship with the Jewish community.”

For Rosenthal it’s simply passing on what she learned growing up. “L’dor v’dor–from generation to generation,” she said. “We want to make students better citizens one by one.

“The reality is students may not always gonna remember dates, but they will remember stories, lessons, resilience, survival.

“The Holocaust and other genocides are not the total story of story of man’s inhumanity to mankind. But it’s a lesson for today.

“Trezoros” screening,Q&A with filmmakers and dessert reception set for Monday

The Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center of Philadelphia will host a screening of another important Holocaust-related film, coupled with a Q&A session with the filmmakers.  “Trezoros – The Lost Jews of Kastoria” will be screened on Monday, June 19 at 7:00 p.m. at the National Museum of American Jewish History. This event is free and open to the public.

June 19 – “Trezoros- The Lost Jews of Kastoria” – Monday, June 19, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. at the National Museum of American Jewish History, corner of 5th & Market Street Philadelphia, PA

The story is set in the beautiful, idyllic city of Kastoria where Jews and Christians lived in harmony for over two millennia. In October of 1940 it would all be destroyed after the invasion of Greece by Axis forces. Initially occupied by Italy, the Jewish community remained safe. After Mussolini fell from power the Nazis took control of the town, dooming the community that had existed since the times of the Roman Empire. The film uses never before seen archival footage, vibrantly bringing to life just one of the many Jewish communities that had existed in Greece before the end of World War II.


“Trezoros” (a Ladino/JudeoSpanish term of endearment meaning “Treasures”) is a highly emotional story told by its survivors, with interviews filmed on location in Kastoria, Thessaloniki, Athens, Tzur Moshe, Tel Aviv, Miami, Los Angeles and New York. Please join us after the screening for a dessert reception & an opportunity to speak with Larry Confino & Lawrence Russo – filmmakers of Trezoros: The Lost Jews of Kastoria. This event is presented in partnership with the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Reservations are recommended for both events by calling HAMEC at 215-464-4701 or email shelley@hamec.org.

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