Researchers find Jewish headstones at Nazi killing site of Babi Yar

(JTA) — Before murdering tens of thousands of Jews at Babi Yar near Kiev, Nazi troops dumped at the killing site dozens of Jewish headstones they had stolen from Jewish cemetery, researchers in Ukraine discovered.

“The tombstones were removed from a local Jewish cemetery during the Holocaust and thrown into the same ravines where over 150,000 Jews, Roma people and Ukrainians were murdered during the Holocaust,” Marek Siwiec, a former Polish politician and current head of the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, said in a statement earlier this week about the discovery.

Siwiec’s organization extracted last month 50 headstones from the Babi Yar ravine, where Nazis and local collaborators murdered more than 50,000 Jews starting in September 1941.

Enjoying a mandate from the Ukrainian government, Siwiec’s organization, which was set up last year, is heading international efforts to commemorate the Babi Yar tragedy in a manner befitting its scale. Despite many failed initiatives to do so,  Jewish victims are memorialized at the site only by an unfenced 6–foot menorah, which is situated near a dumping ground for industrial waste and is vandalized regularly.

“The significance of Babi Yar is of upmost importance, at this horrendously difficult site, the largest single act mass murder of Jews took place during the Holocaust, with 37,771 brutally murdered during a 2 day period, it is our duty not just to remember this site but also proactively learn from the darkest days of human history to build a better future,” Siwiec said in the statement about the discovery.

 

Holocaust denier Ernest Zundel dead at 78

Zundel lived in Canada for decades before being extradited to Germany in 2005

CBC News Posted: Aug 06, 2017.

A photo from 2007 shows Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel waiting for the proclamation of his sentence at court in Mannheim, southwestern Germany.  A statement from his wife says he has died.A photo from 2007 shows Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel waiting for the proclamation of his sentence at court in Mannheim, southwestern Germany. A statement from his wife says he has died. (Torsten Silz/AFP/Getty Images)

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A notorious Holocaust denier who lived in Canada for decades before being deported to Germany to face prosecution has died, according to a statement from his wife Ingrid Zundel.

Ernst Zundel died Sunday at home in Germany after he was found unconscious by his sister Sigrid, the statement says.

Zundel was born in Germany, but later moved to Canada, where he operated a business and published Nazi propaganda before being convicted of “spreading false news” in 1985.

That conviction was overturned seven years later when the Supreme Court of Canada argued the charge violated Zundel’s Charter right to freedom of expression.

Zundel would go on to live in Toronto’s Cabbagetown neighbourhood for several years before a Federal Court ruled in 2005 that he was national security threat, citing his connection with white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. The move paved the way to his extradition.

In 2007, he was convicted in Germany of 14 counts of incitement of racial hatred and received a five-year sentence, the maximum allowable under the law.​ Having received credit for time served before trial, Zundel was freed in 2010.

Sunday’s statement said Zundel reportedly died of a heart attack at the home where he was born in Germany’s mountainous Black Forest region.

As news of the death broke, Bernie Farber, former chief executive officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress, told CBC News that Zundel had denied the genocide of “six million Jewish men, women and children.”

“He brought terrible anguish to those few who survived the evil of the Shoah,” Farber said, referring to the Holocaust. “Jewish tradition demands that we do not defame the dead.”

 

Save the Date

 

Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center

 Fifty-sixth Annual Anniversary

Fundraising Dinner and Silent Auction

avatar_8691b1b9992d_128

Saturday, November 11, 2017

6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Philmont Country Club

301 Tomlinson Road, Huntingdon Valley, PA

Honoring Deanne S. Comer for her lifelong commitment to the creation and implementation of quality Holocaust education, incorporating accurate history, and appropriate classroom strategies

and celebrating the legacy of our

Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center

Cost: $95 per individual; $175 per couple – A portion of the proceeds is a tax-deductible donation to the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center.

For additional information contact:

Shelley Rappaport, Program Director, shelley@hamec.org or 215.464.4701

After a lifetime believing their entire family had perished, two siblings found they have over 500 relatives

Members of the Kukla family at a reunion in London in July 2017

Members of the Kukla family, reunited. (photo credit:Courtesy)

BY TAMARA ZIEVE, Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2017.  Click for full report.

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A brother and sister who thought they and their offspring were their family’s sole living descendants of Holocaust survivors have recently discovered that they have 500 relatives.

Their story was shared on Tuesday by MyHeritage, a startup that provides tools for building family trees and locating relatives. The company played a crucial role in uniting the large family.

Israeli siblings Alex Kafri, 71, and Dorit Yarom, 68, were never acquainted with any relatives outside their immediate family.

“We knew everything about my mother’s side of the family; I grew up with the knowledge that her siblings and uncles and aunts died in the Holocaust,” Kafri said.
He recalled his mother’s numerous trips to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum to commemorate her family and to search for information about relatives. “But all my life, we had a lot of questions about our father’s side of the family. He never wanted to talk about his family,” Kafri explained.

His mother had fled to Israel from Germany before the Holocaust, and his father had been among the first pioneers in Israel from Lithuania. Both passed away years ago.

Kafri spent over a decade searching for relatives on his father’s side, but the task proved difficult as his father had informally changed his family name from Kukla to Kafri when he moved to Israel from Lithuania. Kafri was unaware of this name change as well as the fact that his father had a middle name, Yitzhak. Additionally, the name of his father’s place of birth had changed from Kovno to Kaunus.

On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Kafri’s daughter alerted him to a Facebook post written by a man connected to the Kukla family, who described how, through MyHeritage, his relatives had tracked him and welcomed him into their large family. Similar to Kafri, he too had thought his entire family had perished in the Holocaust.

Ziv Melamud, who wrote the post, works in the police force. “My daughter works for the police, too, and she saw the post, immediately called me and sent me the post – it was a coincidence from above,” Kafri told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, remarking that the chain of events showed him one must never lose hope.

Kafri commented on the post that he was also a descendant of the Kukla family and was looking for relatives. That evening, Aliza Godfrey from Seattle and Ian Levine from London, both of whom manage the Kukla family tree, called Kafri, who gave them the limited information he had about his family.

The Kukla lineage project began over 20 years ago, revealing information about 10 siblings who had produced hundreds of offspring.

The family held a massive reunion in London in July, with all 500 attending from 15 different countries. Kafri was among them and described the occasion as “very special.”

“My guess is that my father did not want to talk about his family because of a guilty conscience that he could not help his parents flee from the Holocaust; I think he harbored feelings of guilt about their fate because he abandoned them,” Kafri reflected. His father moved to Israel in 1920 at the age of 20, one of the Achva group of pioneers from Lithuania.

“According to historical information I read about the group, I understood that parents of the youths were vehemently opposed to their immigration to Israel. Some parents in Lithuania sat shiva [mourning period] for their children who had moved to Israel. Perhaps it also hurt him that he did not part with his parents on good terms before their bitter end,” Kafri added.

Why I went to Auschwitz

Ray Allen, Shooting Guard / NBA - The Players' Tribune

There was a small hole in the kitchen floor that led to a secret crawl space. That image is burned into my memory. The space was maybe five feet long by five feet wide.

The owner of the house said, “They used to fit six people inside there. When the Nazis would come.”

His name was Tadeusz Skoczylas, and the house we were in had belonged to his family during World War II. It was a small brick house in the town of Ciepielów, Poland. It had a red roof that had seen better days. The front door was just a few steps off the street. In the backyard were a few barns and other small shacks.

I had been in Poland for a few days already, and the horror of the history I had experienced was overwhelming. But this was something different. This was so personal.

I’m looking at this tiny space. And I’m imagining six people down there, hiding from death. Six real people. Crawling through that little hole right in front of me. Not that long ago. It wasn’t a history book. It wasn’t a museum. It was right there.

Tadeusz explained that one day in 1942, Nazi soldiers visited the house on a tip. Someone in the village had told them that the family had been harboring Jewish people. There were supposed to be 10 Skoczylas living in the house. On this particular day, the youngest boy in the family was not home when the soldiers came by. The Nazis grew suspicious and began tearing the house apart. They found the hole and the crawl space, but the Jewish people the family had been hiding were not there. They had already moved on.

Without saying a word, the Nazis went next door to a neighboring family and took their young son. The punishment for hiding Jews was death for the entire family, and they had a quota to fill.

The soldiers took all 10 people out back and executed them right in front of those barns and shacks that are still standing there today.

When the little Skoczylas boy returned home, he found his entire family dead.

That little boy was Tadeusz’s grandfather. The house stayed in the Skoczylas family, and his grandfather lived in it. Now Tadeusz and his mother live in it.

I couldn’t believe it. And as I walked through the rest of the house, this feeling sort of took over me. There was all this history right in front of me. And it was real. I could reach out and touch it. I could feel it between my fingers and smell it in the air. It was a tangible thing.


I took that trip just a few months ago. It was my first time in Poland. I went there to learn more about something that had fascinated me since I was a teenager: the Holocaust. I’d read so many books and articles about it, but reading words on a page is not the same thing as seeing things up close.

Then I visited the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., for the first time. It was 1998, and I was playing for the Milwaukee Bucks. I was in D.C. meeting our owner, Herb Kohl, over the summer. We had some time free time on my last day in the city, and Mr. Kohl suggested we go to the Holocaust Museum on the National Mall. I’ll never forget how I felt after those two hours in there — I could have spent two days. My immediate feeling was that everyone needs to go there.

There was one room in particular, though, that I think about often. It’s filled with photos of Jews from a town in Poland. The pictures line the walls and extend up toward the sky, where light floods in from a window. Almost 90% of the people in the images were sent to their death. Before they were taken to concentration camps or executed, they would leave their prized possessions behind with friends or family.

The people of these Jewish communities were pushed to the absolute limit of their human instincts. They just wanted to survive. And from that, the tales of brotherhood and camaraderie are so awe-inspiring. It was a reminder of what the human spirit is capable of — both for good and evil.

Honestly … it made me feel sort of irrelevant. Which was a strange thought to have as a young NBA player who was supposed to be on top of the world. I was realizing that there were things outside of my bubble that mattered so much more. I wanted my teammates to feel that as well. So every team I played on after that, whenever we were in D.C. playing the Wizards, I would ask our coach if we had time to go through the museum. Every visit was different, but each guy came out thanking me for taking us there. I could see in their eyes that they had a different perspective on life after that experience.

I thought I knew what the Holocaust was, and what it meant. I went to Poland with a few close friends to learn more. But I wasn’t prepared for how deeply the visit would affect me. I had seen so many documentaries and films on Auschwitz, but nothing really prepares you for being there. The first thing I felt when I walked through those iron gates was … heavy. The air around me felt heavy. I stood on the train tracks where the prisoners of the camp would arrive, and I felt like I could hear the trains coming to a halt. I had to take a breath to center myself. It was so immediate. So overwhelming.

We walked through the barracks and gas chambers and what I remember most is what I heard: nothing. I’ve never experienced silence like that. Apart from footsteps, the complete lack of sound was almost jarring. It’s eerie and sobering. You’re standing in these rooms where so much death has taken place and your mind is trying to come to terms with all that’s happened in this space.

One question keeps repeating over and over and over in your mind: How can human beings do this to one another?

How does somebody process that? You can’t.

This is not history. This is humanity. This is now. This is a living lesson for us as a people.


After Tadeusz Skoczylas took us through his family’s home, I stood outside for a while by myself, thinking about everything I had experienced.

Why do we learn about the Holocaust? Is it just so we can make sure nothing like this ever happens again? Is it because six million people died? Yes, but there’s a bigger reason, I think.

The Holocaust was about how human beings — real, normal people like you and me — treat each other.

When the Skoczylas family was risking their own lives to hide people they barely knew, they weren’t doing it because they practiced the same religion or were the same race. They did it because they were decent, courageous human beings. They were the same as those people crouched in a hole. And they knew that those people didn’t deserve what was being done to them.

I asked myself a really tough question: Would I have done the same?

Really, would I have done the same?

When I returned home to America, I got some very disheartening messages directed toward me on social media regarding my trip. Some people didn’t like the fact that I was going to Poland to raise awareness for the issues that happened there and not using that time or energy to support people in the black community.

I was told my ancestors would be ashamed of me.

I know there are trolls online and I shouldn’t even pay attention, but that one sort of got to me. Because I understood where they were coming from. I understand that there are plenty of issues in our own country right now, but they were looking at my trip the wrong way. I didn’t go to Poland as black person, a white person, a Christian person or a Jewish person — I went as a human being.

It’s easy to say “I went to make sure these things don’t happen again.” But I went to learn about the true reality of what happened during the Holocaust, and what we can take from that. The people who believe that I am not spending my time the way the right way … well, they’re missing the entire point. We shouldn’t label people as this thing or that thing. Because by doing so, you create these preconceived notions, which is how we get into these horrible situations in the first place.

We have to do a better job breaking through ignorance and the close-mindedness and the divisions that are plaguing our society in 2017.

I remember being a kid in elementary school, and we all used to have a couple pen pals from around the world. I was so excited to hear back from people in different countries. I wanted to know about how they lived. I was curious about their lives. And I feel like we’ve lost that a little bit. It seems like now, we only see us. We only want to look out for us. Whatever us even means.

I think about the Tadeusz family. Who did they define as us?

They saw us as every human being, regardless of what they looked like, or what they believed. They thought everyone was worth protecting. And they were willing to die for it.

That is something worth remembering, always.

How Anne Frank’s diary was very nearly lost forever

On the anniversary of the author’s deportation to Auschwitz, the tumultuous history behind the influential journal’s publication, as told by would-be step-sister Eva Schoss

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Anne Frank, at age 12, at her school desk in Amsterdam, 1941. (Photo credit: Courtesy Beyond the Story)
Anne Frank

August 4, 1944.  The Gestapo raided the secret annex where Anne Frank and her family were hiding and officer Karl Silberbauer grabbed father Otto Frank’s leather briefcase to transport the loot he found there.

That briefcase happened to be the hiding spot where Anne stashed her diary describing the two years the Franks, along with the Dussel family, spent in seclusion there at 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam.

After everyone was rounded up and the rooms emptied, Miep Gies, who helped hide the families in the annex above Otto’s spice company, collected the papers scattered on the floor and saved them for Anne’s return.

But it was not to be. The family was deported to Auschwitz, where Otto’s wife Edith perished. Daughters Margot and Anne later died in Bergen-Belsen. After the war, Miep turned the diary over to Otto, saying, “Here is your daughter Anne’s legacy to you.”

The story of how Anne had received the iconic red and white checkered diary from her parents on June 12, 1942 — her 13th birthday — is a famous one. Her first entry expressed the hope that she would be able to confide completely in her diary and that it would be a support and comfort.

She had only been writing in it as a free person for a few weeks before her sister Margot received a call to go to a labor camp in Germany causing the family to go into hiding. The diary became her record of growing up and of self-discovery, as well of understanding the complex world and the brutal war around her.

Anne Frank. (Flickr Commons)

She named her diary Kitty, and, in hiding, entrusted it with her innermost thoughts.

An October 9, 1942 entry reads: “Our many Jewish friends and acquaintances are being taken away in droves. The Gestapo is treating them very roughly and transporting them in cattle cars to Westerbork, the big camp in Drenthe to which they’re sending all the Jews… If it’s that bad in Holland, what must it be like in those faraway and uncivilized places where the Germans are sending them? We assume that most of them are being murdered. The English radio says they’re being gassed.”

‘If it’s that bad in Holland, what must it be like in those faraway and uncivilized places where the Germans are sending them?’

And on February 3, 1944, just months before Anne was arrested, she wrote: “I’ve reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die. The world will keep on turning without me, and I can’t do anything to change events anyway. I’ll just let matters take their course and concentrate on studying, and hope that everything will be all right in the end.”

When the Russians liberated Auschwitz in January 1945, Otto Frank made the journey back to Amsterdam alone. Eva Schloss, then 15, and her mother Fritzi were on the same homeward bound trip. Eva’s father and brother had also been sent to Auschwitz, and later perished in Mauthausen.

Together, the survivors went to Odessa and then Marseilles before returning to Amsterdam in June 1945. Otto and Fritzi became firm friends and eventually married in 1953. Had Anne survived, she and Eva — born just a month apart — would have been step-sisters.

Otto Frank. (Courtesy)

German-born Anne and Austrian-born Eva had in fact met when they were both 11-year-old immigrants taking refuge in Holland.

“We were very sociable. We lived in an apartment and so had no garden. Children played in the street every day after school,” Schloss told The Times of Israel.

Years later, when Schloss read Anne’s diary, she was astounded at the maturity of the young girl’s thinking.

“She wrote about feminism and politics. And she said you don’t have to wait till tomorrow to do good deeds and help people. She was really quite amazing for that age,” Schloss said.

Otto, who had been very close with Anne, was “astonished” at what he read, realizing he didn’t know his daughter as well as he thought.

“It took Otto three weeks to read the diary,” said Schloss. “Then he copied it into German to send to his mother, who lived in Basel. He showed it to everybody.”

Over the next few months Otto and Fritzi met at her home to discuss the publication of the diary. In that traumatic post-war period where uncertainty about how to carry on was commonplace, they welcomed the distraction.

Fritzi and Otto in Jerusalem, 1967. (Courtesy)

“They were relieved to talk about something else. Following the recent Dutch famine of 1944-1945, where many people had starved to death, there was a very depressing atmosphere in Holland,” said Schloss. “For Otto, the diary was a ray of sunshine and became his life. If not for the diary I would have wondered how he could have carried on with his life.”

But finding a publisher was not such a straightforward matter — until an article by Dutch historian Jan Romein in April 1946 appeared on the front page of Dutch newspaper Het Parool.

“To me, however, this apparently inconsequential diary by a child… stammered out in a child’s voice, embodies all the hideousness of fascism, more so than all the evidence at Nuremberg put together,” Romein wrote.

Eventually, the Dutch publisher Contact produced the book “Anne Frank, Het Achterhuis,” translated as “The Secret Annex,” on June 25, 1947. Noted in Otto’s appointment book that day is the word: “Boek” (Book).

“If she had been here, Anne would have been so proud,” Otto later said.

The first edition, noted Schloss, wasn’t particularly successful because people weren’t in the mood to read more terrible things after all the suffering that had been endured in the war.

A Frank/Schloss New Years Eve party with all the family, Switzerland 1973. (Courtesy)

“Moreover, no one thought what a little girl writes about day-to-day would interest anyone,” she said.

Undeterred, Otto got in touch with foreign publishers, who had it translated. He tried to market the book in the United States, with little success, until Doubleday published the first English version entitled “The Diary of a Young Girl,” by Anne Frank. Judith Jones, the editor who rescued the diary from a rejection slush pile at Doubleday, died this week at age 93.

‘It was just as much as people could cope with then’

“The diary gave people an insight, without being too graphic. It was just as much as people could cope with then,” Schloss said.

In the spring of 1944, exiled Dutch education minister Gerrit Bolkestein appealed on Dutch radio for people to keep a written record about life during the Nazi occupation. On hearing this, Anne decided to rewrite her original diary with the hope it would be published after the war.

But neither she or anyone else could have ever predicted the overnight success it would garner once translated into English, five years after the 1947 Dutch version. Starting with a modest edition of 5,000 books, it was followed quickly by runs of 15,000 and then 45,000 copies.

Eva Schloss at home in London, 2017. (Courtesy)

Jewish author and war correspondent Meyer Levin’s New York Times review on June 15, 1952, was a game changer. Levin, a war correspondent in Europe, had been witness to the camps as they were liberated. He was among the first Americans to go into Buchenwald, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen and Theresienstadt.

Levin, it was reported, had first come across the French translation of the diary in a Paris bookshop in 1951, identifying with the writings of the “born writer” immediately.

“Hers was probably one of the bodies seen in the mass grave at Bergen-Belsen, for in August, 1944, the knock came on that hidden door in Amsterdam,” he wrote in his review. “…Because the diary was not written in retrospect, it contains the trembling life of every moment — Anne Frank’s voice becomes the voice of 6 million vanished Jewish souls.”

Eva Schloss is the author of “Eva’s Story,” “After Auschwitz,” and “The Promise.” Nadine Wojakovski is the author of Dutch wartime memoir “Two Prayers Before Bedtime.”

Photos:  Anne Frank (top), Anne Frank (second), Otto Frank (third), Eva and Otto in Jerusalem 1967 (fourth), Schloss/Frank new year’s party 1973 in Switzerland (fifth), Eva at home in London 2017 (last).

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World War II documents from Argentina could shed new light on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust

Argentina’s foreign ministry is transferring digital copies of nearly 40,000 documents about World War II and the Holocaust to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C.

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“There are two avenues of interest to us when it comes to Argentina,” Anatol Steck—project director for Central Europe, Latin America and Israel at the international archival programs division of the museum’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies—tells Newsweek. “One is that it has one of the largest Holocaust survivor communities in the world, and certainly the largest survivor community in Latin America. Also of interest, of course, is the flight of Nazi war criminals to Latin America. Many made their way to Argentina.” The museum, which is active in 58 countries worldwide, has been working in Argentina for more than a decade.

Argentina’s Secretary of International Cooperation Ernesto Gaspari and USHMM representative Samanta Casareto signed a handover protocol on Friday in Buenos Aires, and Casareto accepted the material on the museum’s behalf. The scans are now being sent to the museum, where they will be added to the archives and made accessible on an internal network to researchers and members of the public. This is the second batch of documents from the political division of the foreign affairs ministry to be transferred to the museum following an agreement, signed in 2012, which allowed the museum to gain access to the ministry’s holdings; to independently survey and evaluate records for relevance; and to reproduce, digitize and make them available to the public. The museum received the first set of a similar number of documents in 2015.

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The second set of 38,779 documents—which include letters, telegrams, newspaper articles, notes and reports—was produced between 1939, when World War II broke out, and 1950, five years after the war’s conclusion. The stash includes dispatches and reports by Argentine consulates abroad about the political situation in Nazi Germany and other countries in Europe, Steck says, as well as documents about immigration matters, such as applications from Jews for visas, and meetings of the Argentine congress on neutrality, on breaking ties with the Axis powers and, finally, on the country’s declaration of war.

Argentina, which had a large population of German immigrants and a close relationship with Germany, remained officially neutral for most of the war. The country severed diplomatic ties with Germany and Japan on January 26, 1944, and only formally declared war on the Axis powers on March 27, 1945, less than two months before the end of the war in Europe, and less than six month before Japan’s surrender.

More than 100,000 Jewish immigrants settled in Argentina legally between 1918 and 1943, with an additional 20,000 estimated to have arrived illegally during the first decade of the Nazi regime. At least 4,800 Holocaust survivors later made the country their home.

But Argentina is also famous for becoming a refuge for Nazi war criminals, including such infamous figures as Josef Mengele and Adolf Eichmann. The former drowned near a resort in Brazil in 1979, while the latter, living under the pseudonym Ricardo Klement, was captured by Israeli agents in May 1960 and hanged two years later after standing trial in Jerusalem.

The document transfer comes about two months after Argentinean police and Interpol raided the house of an art collector near Buenos Aires and seized a collection of 75 Nazi artifacts they believe are authentic objects that came from Germans who fled Europe. The minister of national security, Patricia Bullrich, said at a press briefing in June that after an investigation to determine exactly where the artifacts came from, the items would be donated to the Holocaust Museum in Buenos Aires.

“The Holocaust was a global event. Refugees were scattered all over the world,” Steck says. The new cache of nearly 40,000 documents will be added to USHMM’s other holdings from Argentina and other countries around the world. “In that sense, it is like a piece of a giant puzzle,” Steck adds. “Each piece we add to the collection gives us more insight.”

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