We all watched with horror the reports of the murders of innocents at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center community mourns those who were lost and offers support to those hurt and grieving and wish a full recovery for those congregants and police officers injured.
A common frustration of “What can we do?” has been both felt and expressed by civilized people everywhere. Unfortunately hate never takes a vacation. Fortunately we belong to an organization that never takes a vacation either. Last year, accompanied by dedicated volunteer drivers and facilitators, our survivors – our heroes – engaged 40,711 students and adults worldwide with their important message of tolerance.
But clearly, we need to do even more. With your help WE WILL. And to paraphrase Anne Frank, we don’t have to wait even a minute to make the world a better place.
Here’s how you can help:
Contact schools and teachers you know to offer our programs. Now that we are using Skype, our programs reach students all over the country and world.
Volunteer to drive our survivors to schools and to facilitate programs.
Volunteer at the museum to our to help the staff coordinate our efforts.
Engage your friends and tell them about who we are and what we do. Ask them to join our efforts.
Join us on Saturday, November 17th for our 57th Annual Dinner and Silent Auction at the Philmont Country Club. Invite your friends to come with you. We will be honoring Lise Marlowe whose lifelong commitment to Holocaust Education is an inspiration to us all.
The Talmud teaches us that whoever saves one life is saving the entire world. We need to put our anger and frustration to work so we can honor Anne Frank’s words of wisdom and make the world a better place, starting now.
President, Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center
Young people caught in the crossfire of history provide fearless accounts of the horrors of war—and shatter our complacency in real time.
In 1944 an anonymous boy detailed the last days of the Lodz Ghetto, writing in Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew and English in the margins and the endpapers of a French novel. (Yad Vashem/World Holocaust Remembrance Center).
The writer of these lines was far from alone in dreaming that he might one day testify to the brutality he endured at the hands of the Nazis. More than 65 diaries written by young people during the Holocaust have surfaced from Germany, Austria, France, Holland, Belgium, Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania and the Czech lands. Although their reasons for writing varied, many diarists—like the anonymous writer from Lodz—viewed their words as a denunciation, a way to hold the Germans and their collaborators accountable for the unparalleled crimes they committed. These surviving fragments—created by only a tiny fraction of the millions of Jews murdered—are valuable beyond measure, endlessly surprising and complex accounts written inside the cataclysm itself.
What does it mean to read them? What do they tell us and why do they matter? First and foremost, nothing collapses the distance between the reader and the historical past quite like a diary. Written in the moment, as events unfold, it captures the details of daily life that inevitably get lost in later accounts by historians and even survivors. What did people eat and how much? Did they bicker with siblings and parents? How did they respond to outside news of the war? What did the ghetto street look like at night? What was the mood of the ghetto from one day to the next? What were the daily hardships and the occasional reprieves? These insights are rarely found in any other source. In addition, some writers had literary ambitions beyond just documenting their days: They challenged, raged, lamented, grieved, reproached, hoped and despaired, grappling with the biggest questions of what it means to be human in a cruel world.
While adults’ diaries have contributed enormously to our understanding of life during the Holocaust, young diarists offer us something very different but equally valuable. Adolescents are in transition, establishing identity, exploring relationships, discovering what they have inherited and what they will embrace or reject. Teen diarists during the Holocaust faced that developmental challenge against an impossible backdrop, one in which their identities were reduced to their Jewishness, which in turn determined their fate. Young writers in particular struggle with the injustice of this, and with many other things besides: the vulnerability of youth and the loss of parents, the absence of schooling and normal life, the theft of time—the brutal interruption of all that is considered the birthright of the young.
For 25 years, I’ve studied the diaries of Jewish teens in the Holocaust. Recently, as guest curator for an upcoming exhibition at Holocaust Museum Houston, titled “And Still I Write: Young Diarists on War and Genocide,” I’ve read a wider range of young people’s diaries in search of common themes. After the Holocaust, there were solemn promises that the world would “never again” stand by while innocent civilians were murdered en masse. But in the years since, there have been wars and genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, Iraq and Syria, among other places. Diaries written by young people have survived some of these conflicts, too. These writers report on the events of war; they reflect on the way massive forces shape their personal lives; they ask why they must suffer and struggle to survive; and they affirm their humanity while they protest the injustice all around them.
A number of diaries pose fresh challenges for American readers, maybe even cause discomfort and shame. During the Holocaust, Jewish teen diarists often viewed the Allied forces, including the American Army, as their liberators, the source of their deliverance and hopefully their survival. It’s easy to see ourselves as the heroes of those stories. But not every writer saw events from that vantage point.
At the height of U.S. involvement in World War II, young Japanese-Americans were writing diaries from inside government-run internment camps. A teenager named Stanley Hayami was imprisoned at Heart Mountain Camp in Wyoming when he voiced his frustration and despair at the impossible bind he faced. “I don’t see why innocent and good guys have to pay for stuff that the Japanese do,” he wrote in his diary. “Darn it anyhow us loyal Jap. [sic] Americans have no chance. When we’re outside, people look at us suspiciously and think we’re spies. Now that we’re in camp, the Japs look at us and say we’re bad because we still love America. And now the people outside want to take our citizenship away from us as if we’re the bad ones.” Hayami endured the humiliation and deprivation of internment for more than two years before he entered the Army in 1944, sent off to fight for the very country that had unjustly imprisoned him. On May 9, 1945—one day after V-E Day—Hayami’s family learned that he had been killed in action in Italy while aiding two wounded soldiers. He was 19 years old. Hayami was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
AMSTERDAM (JTA) — A Dutch tribunal will decide whether to release the names of Holocaust-era war criminals whose identity is currently shielded by privacy laws.
Researchers and Nazi hunters say it may be the last chance to identify and punish war criminals who may still be alive.
The ruling, expected next week in the Dutch capital, follows a petition filed earlier this month by a Dutch journalist and activists with the Research War Crimes association, the Het Parool daily reported last week.
The petition by the association and journalist Arnold Karskens concerns files on war criminals that are inaccessible to the public at the National Archives of the Netherlands. The war criminals’ names are in a separate archive known as CABR, the Dutch-language initials of the words Central Archive for Extraordinary Jurisprudence.
In the petition, Karskens cited that the fact that some of the war criminals listed, including concentration camp guards, may still be alive. “When they’re all dead, there’s no more use” in opening the archives, he told Het Parool.
The petition follows a decade-long effort by Karskens to gain access to the archive, the paper reported.
Thousands of SS soldiers went unpunished in the Netherlands.
Efraim Zuroff, a hunter of Nazis for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who submitted an expert’s opinion to the petition supporting the data’s release, said it was “maybe the last opportunity to expose” war criminals living in the Netherlands today who were involved in the Holocaust.
On the eve of the Holocaust the Jewish population of Bulgaria was 48,000. At the end: 48,000. This isn’t a Holocaust tale like you’ve heard before.
In late 1940, like most other European countries, a pro-Germany Bulgarian government passed Bulgaria’s first anti-Jewish laws. But unlike those countries, what followed were mass protests from a largely non-Jewish public. After hundreds of years of peaceful co-existence with Jews, the Bulgarian public was not buying what Hitler was selling.
But public outcry wasn’t enough. The Jews needed Dimitar Pešev, former Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and longstanding friend of the Jewish community. By 1943, aware of the gruesome fates of Jews deported from Bulgarian-occupied territories, Pešev persuaded a heavily Nazi-aligned Tsar Boris to delay deportations. Following that, Pešev introduced legislation in the parliament critical of the deportations. Though the legislation was voted down and Pešev forced to resign, the subsequent waves of public protest, featuring the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, reluctantly changed Boris’ mind. Plans of deportation were nixed. Nevertheless, Boris still sent tens of thousands of Bulgarian Jews to forced-labor camps in the Bulgarian countryside.
It wasn’t until the Cold War ended that this incredible story came to light. Previously censored by a Soviet regime that could not give credit where credit was due—the Church, enemies of communism alike—Pešev’s heroism remained buried but not forgotten.
We’re pleased to help promote this Community Event.
Congregation Rodeph Shalom proudly presents a one-night only performance of Dancing with Giants, starring four-time Tony Award nominee and four-time Drama Desk Award Winner Tovah Feldshuh.
Wednesday, November 14th, 7:00 pm
Rodeph Shalom, 615 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123
Against the background of the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany in the dangerous world of the 1930’s, Dancing With Giants explores and celebrates the survival of an incongruous and remarkable relationship of three very different men—Max Schmeling, the German boxing champion who was Hitler’s favorite boxer, Joe Louis, the American boxing champion, and Joe “Yussel the Muscle” Jacobs, an optimistic, wise-cracking, Jewish, New York boxing manager/promoter who represented Schmeling and is played by Tovah Feldshuh. All three were enemies of the powerful Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, who fiercely opposed and sought to destroy their friendship.
Dancing With Giants, written and directed by David Feldshuh, is a fictionalized account of a story inspired by true events. Tickets start at $25 ($18 for students).