Max Fuchs, US soldier who led historic Jewish service in Germany during WWII, dies at 96

NEW YORK (JTA) Click for full report. July 5, 2018   — Max Fuchs, an American soldier who helped lead a historic Jewish religious service in Germany during World War II, has died.

Fuchs, an Army rifleman who led the 1944 Shabbat service in Aachen alongside Army chaplain Rabbi Sidney Lefkowitz, for some 50 Jewish-American soldiers, died Tuesday, according to The New York Times. It was the first Jewish service broadcast from Germany since the rise of Hitler more than a decade earlier, and was shown throughout the United States and in Germany.

“The emotion was tremendous,” Fuchs said of the service in an interview for the American Jewish Committee in 2009. “The soldiers had heard of all the atrocities. Most of them had families that perished in the Holocaust. We had so many of my family.”

The Army division had no cantor, so Fuchs agreed to fill the role.

“Since I was the only one who could do it, I tried my best,” Fuchs told The Times.

Fuchs, a native of Poland, moved to New York at age 12 with his family. After the war he studied cantorial music and served as the cantor of the Bayside Jewish Center in Queens, and also worked as a diamond cutter in Manhattan, The Times reported.

Fighting in the war left Fuchs with nightmares, and he rarely spoke about his experience with his family, though he did hang a photograph in his home of himself leading the iconic service.

 

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This man is cleaning all 388 Holocaust plaques in Salzburg

 

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In recent years, many towns in Central Europe, including Germany and Austria have introduced small brass plaques in the streets in memory of Jews and other victims of Nazi atrocities.

The plaques, an initiative by the German artist Gunter Demnig, have been placed outside the houses where they used to live.

There are 388 of them in the Austrian town of Salzburg.

Over the years, some have been damaged by wear and tear and winter weather – but now a 79-year-old man has started to renovate them.

Producer: Bethany Bell Camera/Editor: Fabian Chaundy

  • 02 Jul 2018

Click for video from BBC News:

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-44660049/this-man-is-cleaning-all-388-holocaust-plaques-in-his-city

Bill removing prison penalties from Polish Holocaust speech bill awaits signature by President Andrzej Duda.

BY SASHA INGBER, NPR, June 27, 2018.  Click for full report.

Poland is taking steps to soften a controversial law that means anyone who accuses the nation of complicity during the Holocaust could be handed a prison sentence of up to three years.

President Andrzej Duda signed the bill into law in February, after it was proposed by the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party. He said the law protected Polish interests “so that we are not slandered as a state and as a nation.”

The measure prompted criticism in Israel, the United States and Europe for whitewashing history and undermining free speech.

Just four months later, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki – also a member of the Law and Justice party – made an unexpected concession. He asked Parliament to amend the law by removing the criminal penalty of imprisonment.

With the change, accusing Poland of complicity during Nazi occupation would be a civil offense and courts could still impose a fine.

After debate on Wednesday in Poland’s lower house of Parliament, lawmakers voted to remove the criminal penalties, which would stop courts from issuing prison sentences.

The amendment was passed by the upper house later in the day.

“Those who say that Poland may be responsible for the crimes of World War Two deserve jail terms,” Morawiecki told lawmakers on Wednesday, according to Reuters. “But we operate in an international context and we take that into account.”

Morawiecki added that the law had been successful in raising international awareness of Polish victims during the Holocaust.

According to a Polish lawmaker who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, Warsaw voted for the change in the legislation because it was seeking to bolster relations with United States “as a deterrence policy against Russia.”

The law refers to accusations against Poland as a country, not against individuals, and provided leeway for artistic and academic statements. But critics worried that it could make it a crime to discuss anti-Semitic acts committed by Polish individuals.

At least 3 million Jewish citizens of Poland were murdered by the Nazis during the war, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Non-Jewish Polish people were also killed. While thousands of Poles put their lives in danger to protect their Jewish peers, other Polish people participated in the murder of Jewish people, scholars say. Anti-Semitic pogroms occurred even after the Holocaust, including what the U.S. Holocaust Museum calls “a blood libel massacre” of at least 42 Jewish citizens.

The World Jewish Congress welcomed the government’s steps to amend the law. President Ronald S. Lauder said in a statement, “The law as it stands now stifles any real discussion of the extent to which local Poles were complicit in the annihilation of their Jewish neighbors during the German occupation. It sets a dangerous precedent and is contrary to the values Poland has worked to uphold and promote.”

A joint statement issued by the prime ministers of Poland and Israel on Wednesday sought to distinguish between the actions of individuals and the Polish state. “We acknowledge and condemn every single case of cruelty against Jews perpetrated by Poles during the World War II,” the statement said. “We reject the actions aimed at blaming Poland or the Polish nation as a whole for the atrocities committed by the Nazis and their collaborators of different nations.”

It added, “We support free and open historical expression and research on all aspects of the Holocaust so that it can be conducted without any fear of legal obstacles.”

Wednesday’s change to the law now awaits a signature from the Polish president.

Holocaust survivor David Tuck: ‘This time, let God forgive me.’

BY ANTHONY C. HAYES,  Baltimore Post-Examiner, June 25, 2018.  Click for full report.
Holocaust survivor David Tuck shows the number tattooed on his arm by the Nazis (Anthony C. Hayes)
David Tuck is a survivor of World War II.  But unlike many of the aging veterans of that era who are rightly hailed for their military service, Tuck experienced the six-year-lohg conflict as a civilian, a child, and–most importantly–a Jew.
We met Tuck–who was a guest of honor at this year’s Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s World War II Weekend–shortly after he spoke to the crowd of his life and the lessons he learned as a survivor of the Holocaust.

 

BPE: Thank you for taking a few moments to speak with us today.

Tuck: That’s why I’m here.

BPE: To begin, what do you tell people when you meet them?

Tuck: I tell them my life story. I had a rough life.

My mother passed away six months after my birth, so I was raised by my grandparents. When I was eight years old, I met my father for the first time. I lived with him for two years, and then the war broke out. I went to the ghetto, then to a labor camp in Posen.

Bunker No. 17 in an artillery wall was used by the Germans as an improvised gas chambers in Fort VII in Posen.  (Wikipedia).

If you look up Posen, you will see that a lot of terrible things were going on.

I was there for two years, then I went to Auschwitz til early in1945. Then I went to Mauthausen. That’s in Austria, near Linz. I was liberated on May the 5th – that’s my birthday – so every year I celebrate my liberation.

BPE: Do you ever encounter Holocaust deniers?

Tuck: Well, some people ask about (the historicity) in schools, but I am there. People know me. If someone doesn’t like me, I don’t mind. But I tell the students, “If somebody ever denies the Holocaust happened, just say I’m still here. Years from now, if someone asks, you can tell them David Tuck was there.”

BPE: In your talk to the crowd today, you briefly mentioned bullying. Would you elaborate on that?

Tuck: When I talk to students, I tell them, if someone gives you a hard time, don’t say nothing. Don’t answer – just walk away. Tell yourself it’s their problem. They have a problem.

I also tell them I will never forget / never forgive what the Nazis did to me.

But I don’t live with hate.

People can’t understand. “Why don’t you hate them?” they ask. I tell students don’t live with hate. Hate will destroy you.

I say to myself all the time, if I have to look at the number on my arm, it’s gonna bring back memories to me. I’m gonna live with it. So am I gonna look at that number and dwell on it?

Holocaust survivor David Tuck: "If you are filled with hate, you only destroy yourself." (Credit Anthony C. Hayes"

No!

If I have to look everyday at my number and dwell on it, what’s that going to do to me? I don’t want to give (my persecutors) the satisfaction. If you are filled with hate, you only destroy yourself. So, when I speak to students, they listen to me. I go anyplace they want me to. As long as I’m alive, I’m going to continue to do it.

BPE: Did all of the Jews in Poland get such a tattoo?

Tuck: The tattoo on the arm – only Auschwitz gave out. At each camp, I had a number, but only Auschwitz tattooed the number. And if you see somebody with the blue and white striped clothing, that was only in Auschwitz. At the rest of the camps, I was dressed in regular clothing.

BPE: Why were uniforms and tattoos particular to Auschwitz?

Tuck: Why was Hitler doing those things he did? Who knows? If they asked for names, there could be double at the same camp. The number was easier.

BPE: What sort of reaction do you get when you talk to students?

Tuck: After I finish, I will ask if anyone has a question. No one raises their hand. You know what I tell them? “When you go back to your class, you will have questions.” So guess what happens? They start to raise their hands.

I tell them, don’t be bashful. Ask anything you want to know. And I tell them, “I’m not gonna grade you – that’s all.”

One thing I do ask is that they write me an essay. The teachers are not going to grade them, but I look through everything. If it is good, I will see it is published. I don’t ask for the students’ names. One student just sent me something, and I’ve got to tell you, it was a beautiful thing. I wish I had a copy here with me.

But I am happy to share my story with anybody. Someone just asked me to go to Chicago. They are sending me the plane tickets. Another young woman found me on the internet. She is a freshman. She called me up and asked if I would come and speak at her school. Guess what – a thousand people came to hear me speak. She even sent a little limo to pick me up. All they have to do is ask.

Antisemitic graffiti in Venezuela alongside hammer and sickle.  (Wikipedia).

People ask me so often, I could be speaking 6-7 days. But I’ve made a commitment. As long as I’m alive, I will do it.

BPE: They say history repeats. Do you see some of the same things going on today that you saw in the 1930s/40s?

Tuck: No. I know what’s going on with kids today, and it’s a disgrace; but look, there is always gonna be somebody hateful. Nothing in life is perfect.

Remember in the spring, they were marching in the South with the Nazi flags and swastikas? They were carrying signs: “JEWS LEAVE AMERICA”. That really got to me.

At least they said, “LEAVE”.

Hitler did things differently. Hitler killed them.

We weren’t perfect here, either. Remember, President Roosevelt turned away a boat – the St. Louis. Over 900 people – men, women, and children – were sent back to Europe. If he would have only told Hitler, “If you don’t like them, tell them to leave Germany. Don’t kill them.”

BPE: One of the phrases most commonly associated with the Holocaust is “Never Forget”. But you add “Never Forgive.” Why?

Tuck: Some people, when they hear me say, Never forget – Never forgive, say: “Well, God says you should forgive.” I remind them that I can never forget what happened.  And I say, “This time, it’s God’s place to forgive me.”

———————–

Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A former reporter at the Washington Herald, and Voice of Baltimore, Tony’s poetry, photography, humor, and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore!, SmartCEO, Magic Octopus Magazine, Destination Maryland, Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Alvarez Fiction, and Tales of Blood and Roses. Contact the author.