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After foot-dragging, Romanian Holocaust victims got $10 million since 2015

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(JTA) — Romanian Holocaust survivors have received $10 million in payments since 2015, the World Jewish Restitution Organization said.

The funds have been distributed to thousands of recipients from that country, which after decades of resistance and foot-dragging has in recent years taken some major steps toward offering compensation to victims of the genocide perpetrated by its former ally, Nazi Germany, and local collaborators.

During the High Holidays, WJRO distributed extra aid among 142 impoverished recipients, including a 104-year-old who lives alone in Israel, the organization said.

“These funds help Holocaust victims live with the dignity they deserve,” Gideon Taylor, WJRO chair of operations, said in a statement last week.

Over the past three years, payments of over  $1,900 were made to 1,393 needy Holocaust survivors from Israel from funding obtained after 2015. Another 1,067 needy survivors reveiced $600 payments.

In 2017, extra funds for Romanian Holocaust survivors living outside Israel and Romania were set aside and $600,000 distributed among those recipients. Another $1.3 is to be given out to the same group this year.

The program for Romanian Holocaust survivors is administered by the Claims Conference on behalf of the Caritatea Foundation, which was formed as a partnership of the WJRO and the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania.

In 2016, legislation making it easier for Holocaust survivors to press restitution claims passed in Romania’s Parliament.

But Romania has not addressed heirless or unclaimed property left by victims of Holocaust persecution. Years after the expiration of a deadline for filing claims for private-owned property stolen during the Holocaust, Romanian authorities have processed less than half of some 250,000 claims.

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Contact us at KleinLife, Suite 210, 10100 Jamieson Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19116       215-464-4701.  info@hamec.orginfo@hamec.org

 

Cheltenham teacher is inspired by great-grandmother’s work in rescuing Danish Jews during Holocaust

By Kathy Boccella, philly.com, September 17, 2018.  Click for full report.

Cheltenham teacher is inspired by great-grandmother’s work rescuing Jews during Holocaust

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Lise Marlowe is a sixth-grade teacher who believes in doing things big.

Consider the project she came up with 20 years ago when she realized her students at Cheltenham’s Elkins Park School had a hard time grasping the enormity of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

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“So I took out a piece of paper and said, ‘If I drew a stick figure every day, how long would it take to get to six million?’ ” Marlowe recalled. “They said a couple of weeks.” Marlowe told them it might take a couple of decades.

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The next day, her kids started drawing. The first year, Marlowe’s Stick Figure Project did about 100,000 renderings, barely covering the murdered babies. The next class took over, then the next one.

“It’s tedious, it hurt your hands,” Marlowe said. Every spring, the kids lay out the reams of paper with all the stick figures on the entire gymnasium floor – and realize they’re not nearly done. The teacher estimates they’re now up to 1.3 million, or only the children who perished through the age of 8 – a fact that not only conveys the size of the Holocaust to a new generation but brings an emotional wallop.

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“The tears come,” she said. “It shows they care. They’re shocked that this could have happened.”

Elkins Park School teacher Lise Marlowe’s students spread out on the gym floor the stick figure drawings they made to represent Holocaust victims. After 20 years, her classes are only up to 1.3 million victims.

LISE MARLOWE

Elkins Park School teacher Lise Marlowe’s students spread out on the gym floor the stick figure drawings they made to represent Holocaust victims. After 20 years, her classes are only up to 1.3 million victims.
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Yet this massive project is only one part of what the 51-year-old teacher has done to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive in her Montgomery County community. She brings some of the dwindling number of survivors to talk to her classes, hires Temple University students to film their stories, and even has written short books about several of them.

Marlowe credits at least some of her zeal to her Danish great-grandmother, Victoria Madsen, who was the publisher of a Communist newspaper called Land Og Folk in Copenhagen when World War II broke out and who played a vital role in a remarkable campaign using fishing boats to help 7,000 Danish Jews flee the Nazi occupation.

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“I feel I am very passionate about social justice and standing up for others – it could be from my great-grandmother’s role in the Danish Underground movement,” said Marlowe, whose mother converted to Judaism when she married Marlowe’s dad.

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In recognition of her work, Northeast Philadelphia’s Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center – of which Marlowe is a board member and chairs the education committee – plans to honor her with an award at its annual fund-raising dinner Nov. 17.

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“She’s amazing,” said Chuck Feldman, president of the museum, started in 1961 by a  Soviet labor-camp survivor and believed to be the first Holocaust museum in the country. “The best word I can use to describe her and what she does is passion, she has a complete passion. … She’s just a wonderful person.”

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Feldman said 25 to 30 survivors volunteer with his organization and dozens more live in the Philadelphia area. Most, who were children when war broke out more than 70 years ago, are in their 80s and 90s now. As their numbers decline, educators like Marlowe are finding ways to pass along and preserve their memories for future generations.

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“She really leads with her heart,” said Elkins Park principal Gerry Fitzpatrick-Doria. “She brings the truth of the Holocaust to the students in a very receivable way,” helping children understand what it would be like to be a child during that time.

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“It really touches the hearts of kids,” she said.

Elkins Park School teacher Lise Marlowe’s great-grandmother (left), editor of a Communist newspaper during World War II, with Marlowe’s grandfather in front of a building in Denmark.

MARLOWE FAMILY

Elkins Park School teacher Lise Marlowe’s great-grandmother (left), editor of a Communist newspaper during World War II, with Marlowe’s grandfather in front of a building in Denmark.
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The award is the latest in a string of plaudits for a teacher with a flair for bringing history to life.

After winning the History Channel’s first Teacher of the Year award in 2006 — for a book and film project on a nearly forgotten Cheltenham training camp for African American soldiers during the Civil War — Marlowe used some of the $5,000 prize money to hire a Temple student to record remembrances of Holocaust survivors.

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“My students are the last generation to hear a survivor speak,” Marlowe said, as those who escaped the Nazis’ clutches are believed to be dying off at roughly one per day. Hearing from the last of those who endured the Holocaust, she said, will allow them to bear witness to others.

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“I tell my students that when they go off into the world and hear ‘the Holocaust never happened’ from a denier, that they can say, ‘You are lying, because I met a survivor,’ ” she said. “I tell them after they hear a survivor story, that it is now their story to tell to others.”

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One local survivor whom Marlowe chronicled in a book after he spoke to her students isDavid Tuck, a Polish native who as a child was taken by the Nazis to the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp, among other places, before he was liberated in May 1945. His camp number is still tattooed on his arm.

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“She’s doing a marvelous job,” Tuck said of his friend, noting that he has spoken to tens of thousands of students. He said Holocaust remembrance “is very important, because as time goes by certain people say it never happened.”

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“Once you meet survivors, you fall in love,” Marlowe said. “They’re not sad — they’re happy people. That’s a lesson for kids. Even if you have struggles – and a lot of our kids have different struggles — you can overcome it.”

Freddie Oversteegen, Dutch resistance fighter who killed Nazis through seduction dies at 92

As a teenager during World War II, Freddie Oversteegen was one of only a few Dutch women to take up arms against the country’s Nazi occupiers. (Courtesy of National Hannie Schaft Foundation).
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She was 14 when she joined the Dutch resistance, though with her long, dark hair in braids she looked at least two years younger.

When she rode her bicycle down the streets of Haarlem in North Holland, firearms hidden in a basket, Nazi officials rarely stopped to question her. When she walked through the woods, serving as a lookout or seductively leading her SS target to a secluded place, there was little indication that she carried a handgun and was preparing an execution.

The Dutch resistance was widely believed to be a man’s effort in a man’s war. If women were involved, the thinking went, they were likely doing little more than handing out anti-German pamphlets or newspapers.

Yet Freddie Oversteegen and her sister Truus, two years her senior, were rare exceptions — a pair of teenage women who took up arms against Nazi occupiers and Dutch “traitors” on the outskirts of Amsterdam. With Hannie Schaft, a onetime law student with fiery red hair, they sabotaged bridges and rail lines with dynamite, shot Nazis while riding their bikes, and donned disguises to smuggle Jewish children across the country and sometimes out of concentration camps.

In perhaps their most daring act, they seduced their targets in taverns or bars, asked if they wanted to “go for a stroll” in the forest — and “liquidated” them, as Ms. Oversteegen put it, with a pull of the trigger.

“We had to do it,” she told one interviewer. “It was a necessary evil, killing those who betrayed the good people.” When asked how many people she had killed or helped kill, she demurred: “One should not ask a soldier any of that.”


A recent image of Ms. Oversteegen. (Courtesy of National Hannie Schaft Foundation)

Freddie Oversteegen, the last remaining member of the Netherlands’ most famous female resistance cell, died Sept. 5, one day before her 93rd birthday. She was living in a nursing home in Driehuis, five miles from Haarlem, and had suffered several heart attacks in recent years, said Jeroen Pliester, chairman of the National Hannie Schaft Foundation.

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The organization was founded by Ms. Oversteegen’s sister in 1996 to promote the legacy of Schaft, who was captured and executed by the Nazis weeks before the end of World War II. “Schaft became the national icon of female resistance,” Pliester said, a martyr whose story was taught to schoolchildren across the Netherlands and memorialized in a 1981 movie, “The Girl With the Red Hair,” which took its title from her nickname.

Ms. Oversteegen served as a board member in her sister’s organization. But she “decided to be a little bit out of the limelight,” Pliester said, and was sometimes overshadowed by Schaft and Truus, the group’s leader.

“I have always been a little jealous of her because she got so much attention after the war,” Ms. Oversteegen told Vice Netherlands in 2016, referring to her sister. “But then I’d just think, ‘I was in the resistance as well.’ ”

It was, she said, a source of pride and of pain — a five-year experience that she never regretted, but that came to haunt her in peacetime. Late at night, unable to fall asleep, she sometimes recalled the words of an old battle song that served as an anthem for her and her sister: “We have carried the best to their graves/ torn and fired at, beaten till the blood ran/ surrounded by the executioners on the scaffold and jail/ but the raging of the enemy doesn’t frighten us.”

Freddie Nanda Oversteegen was born in the village of Schoten, now part of Haarlem, on Sept. 6, 1925. Her parents divorced when she was a child, and Freddie and Truus were raised primarily by their mother, a communist who instilled a sense of social responsibility in the young girls; she eventually remarried and had a son.

In interviews with anthropologist Ellis Jonker, collected in the 2014 book “Under Fire: Women and World War II,”Freddie Oversteegen recalled that their mother encouraged them to make dolls for children suffering in the Spanish Civil War, and beginning in the early 1930s volunteered with International Red Aid, a kind of communist Red Cross for political prisoners around the world.

Although living in poverty, sleeping on makeshift mattresses stuffed with straw, the family harbored refugees from Germany and Amsterdam, including a Jewish couple and a mother and son who lived in their attic. After German forces invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, the couples were moved to another location; Jewish community leaders feared a potential raid, because of the family’s well-known political leanings.

“They were all deported and murdered,” Ms. Oversteegen told Jonker. “We never heard from them again. It still moves me dreadfully, whenever I talk about it.”

Ms. Oversteegen and her sister began their resistance careers by distributing pamphlets (“The Netherlands have to be free!”) and hanging anti-Nazi posters (“For every Dutch man working in Germany, a German man will go to the front!”). Their efforts apparently attracted the attention of Frans van der Wiel, commander of the underground Haarlem Council of Resistance, who invited them to join his team — with their mother’s permission.

“Only later did he tell us what we’d actually have to do: sabotage bridges and railway lines,” Truus Oversteegen said, according to Jonker. “We told him we’d like to do that. ‘And learn to shoot, to shoot Nazis,’ he added. I remember my sister saying, ‘Well, that’s something I’ve never done before!’ ”

By Truus’s account, it was Freddie Oversteegen who became the first to shoot and kill someone. “It was tragic and very difficult and we cried about it afterwards,” Truus said. “We did not feel it suited us — it never suits anybody, unless they are real criminals. . . . One loses everything. It poisons the beautiful things in life.”

The Oversteegen sisters were officially part of a seven-person resistance cell, which grew to include an eighth member, Schaft, after she joined in 1943. But the three girls worked primarily as a stand-alone unit, Pliester said, acting on instructions from the Council of Resistance.

After the war ended in 1945, Truus worked as an artist, making paintings and sculptures inspired by her years with the resistance, and wrote a popular memoir, “Not Then, Not Now, Not Ever.” She died in 2016, two years after Prime Minister Mark Rutte awarded the sisters the Mobilization War Cross, a military honor for service in World War II.

For her part, Freddie Oversteegen told Vice that she coped with the traumas of the war “by getting married and having babies.” She married Jan Dekker, taking the name Freddie Dekker-Oversteegen, and raised three children. They survive her, as do her half brother and four grandchildren. Her husband, who worked at the steel company Hoogovens, is deceased.

In interviews, Ms. Oversteegen often spoke of the physics of killing — not the feel of the trigger or kick of the gun, but the inevitable collapse that followed, her victims’ fall to the ground.

“Yes,” she told one interviewer, according to the Dutch newspaper IJmuider Courant , “I’ve shot a gun myself and I’ve seen them fall. And what is inside us at such a moment? You want to help them get up.”

HAMEC invites educators to use our resources

September 2018
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Dear Colleague:
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We are reaching out to you to offer three programs to engage your students and teachers in a dialogue of the Holocaust. In the last 10 years we have engaged over 250,000 Greater Delaware Valley Area students and teachers in a discussion of the consequences of racism, ethnic cleansing, and intolerance.
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By emphasizing critical thinking skills, our programs entice students to consider the decisions that individuals (victims, perpetrators, and bystanders) made in the past and the daily choices students make today (bystanders versus up-standers) and correlate them to their life experiences today. Outlined below are three programs, suitable for 5th-12th grade students that meet Pennsylvania’s Academic Standards for History and English. Each offers an opportunity to expand their understanding of the Holocaust through an honest portrayal of its history. Presentations can be held at the location of your choice. Contact us to schedule any of these programs.
Witness to History – Survivor Presentation
One of our more than 20 Holocaust survivors, liberators, and resistors meet with students at your school or at our museum and share his or her personal story. An accompanying Holocaust educator introduces the speaker and facilitates a Q&A session at the end of the testimony. This program is also now offered through Skype to accommodate schools’ growing technological needs.
Witness to History – Student Presentation
Students learn the personal history of a Holocaust survivor or liberator by hearing their testimony, writing a biography that includes pertinent historical background information, and then presenting the testimony. This is an excellent opportunity for independent or senior projects for students, and allows us to honor the speaker, ensuring the history is not forgotten when the testimony is all that is left after the survivor is gone. Museum Education Staff provide resources.
Anne Frank Theater Project
Two Broadway quality educational theater productions are available to be performed at your school. Both are based on historical facts. Your school can be site of a performance of one of two plays, both of which are professional grade and based on historical facts. Lida Stein and the Righteous Gentile depicts how the implementation of the Nuremburg Laws affected ordinary teenagers in a rapidly changing society in Germany. The Diary of Anne Frank, adapted from the Broadway original, shows how an ordinary family endured the unfolding Final Solution while hiding in the Netherlands. A post performance talk back discussion with the cast and a Holocaust educator provides the interactive learning experience that is the hallmark of all of our programs. Contact us to see if your school qualifies for financial assistance
We also offers you free access to our vast library of resources available through our Riz Resource Center. This lending library is cataloged on-line and includes books, historical newspapers, and more than 125 educational videos and recorded survivor testimony. These materials support curriculum development, research, and independent projects.
For more detailed information, resources, and discounts on special presentations, visit us at www.hamec.org, or contact Education Director, Geoffrey Quinn, at geoff@hamec.org or 215-464-4701.
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