This reading shows the affect that the Holocaust has had on modern Jewry. The four cups of wine drunk at the seder symbolize different levels of redemption. The Holocaust may be viewed as the absence of redemption. This reading not only focuses on the most traumatic event in modern Jewish history, it places the event within the context of redemption. It is significant that this piece is to be read in association with Elijah the prophet, who is to herald the coming of the messiah. (To be recited after opening the door for Elijah.)
On this night of the seder we remember with reverence and love the six million of our people of the European exile who perished at the hand of a tyrant more wicked that Pharaoh who enslaved our fathers in Egypt. Come, said he to his minions, let us cut them off from being a people, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more. And they slew the blameless and pure, men and women and little ones, with vapors of poison and burned them with fire. But we abstain from dwelling the deeds of evil ones lest we defame the image of God in which man was created.
Now, the remnants of our people who were left in the ghettos and camps of annihilation rose up against the wicked ones for the sanctification of the Name and slew many of them before they died. On the first day of Passover the remnants in the Ghetto for Warsaw rose up against the adversary, even as in the days of Judah the Maccabee. They were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their death they were not divided. They brought redemption to the name of Israel throughout all the world. And from the depths of their affliction, the martyrs lifted their voices in a song of faith in the coming of the Messiah, when justice and brotherhood will reign among men.
Kalman Aron began drawing pencil and crayon portraits of his family in Latvia when he was 3. A child prodigy, he mounted his first one-boy gallery show when he was 7. He was commissioned to paint the official portrait of the Latvian prime minister when he was 13. He enrolled at an academy of fine arts in Riga, the capital, at 15.
Then, in 1941, when he was 16, the Germans invaded, and his parents, who were Jewish, were murdered. But Kalman’s artistic talent would spare his life. Over the next four years, he would survive seven Nazi concentration camps by swapping sketches of his captors and their families for scraps of food.
And he lived to become a prominent American portraitist. He died at 93 on Feb. 24 in Santa Monica, Calif., the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust said.
Mr. Aron was born near Riga on Sept. 24, 1924. His mother, Sonia, was from Lithuania; his father, Chaim, a custom women’s shoe designer, was from Russia.
After the German invasion, Kalman’s father was conscripted for a work detail and never seen again. Kalman was herded into Riga’s Jewish ghetto with his older brother and his mother. She was murdered later that year in the massacre of 25,000 Jews near the Rumbula forest.
Kalman was shipped to perform slave labor in camps in Latvia, Poland, Germany (where he was sent to Buchenwald) and what was then Czechoslovakia.
“I survived by disappearing,” he told Susan Beilby Magee, the author of the book “Into the Light: The Healing Art of Kalman Aron” (2012). “As an artist, I had always been in my own territory, if you will.
“In the camps,” he added, “we never knew when a friend might be struck down and die. So one way to protect yourself, to insulate yourself, was to be alone. A deep, stark place of loneliness is where I was.”
After Nazi guards discovered his artistic ability, he would be temporarily relieved of hard labor and hidden away in a barracks to sketch their portraits or copy photographs of their families. He might be rewarded with a moth-eaten blanket or a morsel of food.
“They wouldn’t pay me anything, but I would get a piece of bread, something to eat,” he was quoted as saying last year in The Jewish Journal. “Without that, I wouldn’t be here.”
“I made it through the Holocaust with a pencil,” he told Steven C. Barber, who is adapting Ms. Magee’s book into a documentary, “Into the Light,” for Vanilla Fire Films.
His brother survived World War II, but they lost touch when the Iron Curtain descended on Eastern Europe. Fleeing the advancing Soviet Army as the war wound down, Kalman Aron was briefly consigned to a displaced-persons camp.
An American soldier whose girlfriend he sketched was impressed with the young man’s talent and brought Mr. Aron to the attention of a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Mr. Aron soon enrolled on a scholarship and went on to earn a master’s degree.
He moved to the United States in 1949, newly married, unable to speak English and, by his account, carrying only $4.
Settling in California, he began illustrating maps for a living but also completed a pastel portrait drawn from an indelible, haunting memory: of a mother clutching her child so tightly to her face that they are almost fused together. He later made a painting of the image, measuring eight feet by three feet; it hangs in the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.
One day in 1951, when Susan Magee’s mother, Marichu Beilby, an interior decorator, stopped by her regular picture-framing store, she was struck by a pastel drawing of a black-eyed 9-month-old baby in the window. It reminded her of the baby she had lost at the same age.
When Ms. Beilby learned that the artist was a refugee who had drawn portraits from photographs, she invited Mr. Aron to her home to paint a portrait of 6-year-old Susan, Susan’s sister and, from a photo, the lost baby.
Ms. Beilby so admired Mr. Aron’s talent that she referred him to her wealthy clients, and his work began metamorphosing — from forbidding images evoked by vivid memories of the camps to cathartic vibrant landscapes and portraits commissioned by the likes of Ronald Reagan, André Previn and Henry Miller.
In 1956, Art in America magazine ranked him as one of “100 outstanding American artists.”
Mr. Aron, who lived in Beverly Hills, Calif., was married four times. He is survived by his wife, the former Miriam Sandoval, and a son, David, an artist, from his third marriage, to Tanis Furst.
Mr. Aron explained that his four years in captivity had provided a unique dimension to his portraiture: He was able to transform his isolation and endurance as a prisoner into an opportunity to delve into the personality of his subjects. Some critics later described his work as psychological realism.
“In the camps, I looked at and studied people,” he told Ms. Magee, adding, “The Holocaust gave me an understanding of people that most people won’t understand.”
He continued: “My situation may be a little bit better than some people who came out of the camps. They may have nothing else to do but watch television and think about those bad days in the camps. I did that in the beginning, but I got away from thinking about it by doing portraits, landscapes, traveling and painting. I think that kept me away from all this agony of ‘How did I survive?’ or ‘Why did I survive?’ ”
In 1945 General Dwight D. Eisenhower, later to become President Eisenhower, wanted the world to see what he called the “indescribable horror” of concentration camps after they were liberated. That’s why he suggested the United States take videos and photographs of the death and devastation. Dwight Eisenhower’s grandson, David Eisenhower, was at the Holocaust Museum of Southwest FloridaMonday to talk about the legacy of what his grandfather did.
David Eisenhower, an academic and historian and the grandson of the general and President Eisenhower, looked at pictures and maps in the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida in Naples. He reminisced about watching war documentaries as a kid.
He remembered one scene in one documentary that showed soldiers entering a crematorium.
“They open oven doors and you just see scenes which tell you that this is the central event of the war,” Eisenhower said. “This is what drew us into this maelstrom trying to stop this. We didn’t stop it in time but stopped it, hopefully, for the future.”
Reva Kibort was also in the Holocaust Museum, visiting from Minneapolis. As it turns out, she and David Eisenhower have a unique connection – she’s met his grandfather.
Reva Kibort (right) talks about growing up in Warsaw, Poland and living in Nazi labor camps. She also talks about the moment she gave flowers to General Dwight D. Eisenhower when she was 12 years old.
CREDIT QUINCY J WALTERS / WGCU NEWS
As a kid, she was born in Warsaw, Poland. Then, she spent time trapped in two Nazi labor camps.
“One was called Deblin and the other was called Czestochowa,” Kibort said.
By the time the war ended in 1945, Kibort was an orphan. She was sent to a displaced persons camp where U.S. soldiers visited. And she remembers seeing General Eisenhower.
“I was a 12-year-old little girl. [The kids in the displaced persons camp] were just in awe of him because we knew who he was,” Kibort said. “We knew that he was the one winning the war.”
And 12-year-old Kibort got to meet the general.
“I was selected to give him the flowers,” she said, smiling. “My son tried to look on Google or whatever you look to find out. And he found the picture with Eisenhower holding the flowers. But he cannot find me. So I said to him I wasn’t important so they didn’t take [a picture of] me.”
David Eisenhower, the general and president’s grandson, said that his grandad felt that if people didn’t see the results of the Holocaust, they wouldn’t be able to grasp how awful it was.
“Which is why granddad brings photographers into the camps.,” Eisenhower said. “If they do not see this, they’ll never understand emotionally. And so the idea was to make a record that people could emotionally connect with.”
He said that his general grandad also had the foresight to know that people would try to deny the Holocaust ever happened.
“Because the thing is so beyond imagining that you are always going to have a large number of people who are going to just simply seek out alternative explanations,” the young Eisenhower said.
Eisenhower said he remembers a few specific words of former President Bill Clinton’s speech during the dedication of the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C back in 1993.
“If this museum can mobilize morality, then those who have perished will thereby gain a measure of immortality,” Clinton said on that windy day of April 22, 1993.
Susan Suarez, the executive director of the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida, said this museum and others like it exist in the hopes that tangible change will happen.
“Which is why our mission is not just to tell the stories of the Holocaust,” Suarez said. “It’s in order to inspire people to take action against hatred bigotry and violence. We want them to do something with what they’ve learned.”
Eisenhower, the historian and author, said as the descendant of an integral figure to World War II who made sure the world saw the atrocities of the Holocaust, he feels some sense of duty that’s been passed on for generations.
“I don’t think that anybody who experienced Europe in that period will ever feel that an obligation has been fulfilled anyway and that is something that came through my family,” Eisenhower said. “If somebody wants me to come to a group because they are grateful for Dwight Eisenhower’s role in publicizing this historical fact and making it permanent and so forth, I’m going to come.”
He believes that after seeing videos from concentration camps, America’s collective conscience was mobilized to make sure a Holocaust never happens again.
The Nazis wiped out several major Sephardic population centers and caused the almost complete demise of Ladino culture.
The Nazi Holocaust that devastated European Jewry and virtually destroyed its centuries-old culture also wiped out the great European population centers of Sephardic (or Judeo-Spanish) Jewry and led to the almost complete demise of its unique language (Ladino) and traditions. Sephardic Jewish communities from France and the Netherlands in the northwest to Yugoslavia and Greece in the southeast almost disappeared.
On the eve of World War II, the European Sephardic community was concentrated in the Balkan countries of Greece, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Its leading centers were in Salonika, Sarajevo, Belgrade and Sofia. The experience of the Balkan Jewish communities during the war varied greatly and depended on the type of regime under which they fell.
The Jewish communities of Serbia and northern Greece, including the 50,000 Jews of Salonika, fell under direct German occupation in April 1941 and bore the full weight and intensity of Nazi repressive measures from dispossession, humiliation, and forced labor to hostage taking, and finally deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau and extermination in March-August 1943.
The Jewish population of southern Greece fell under the jurisdiction of the Italians, who eschewed the enactment of anti-Jewish legislation and resisted whenever possible German efforts to transfer them to Poland, until the surrender of Italy on September 8, 1943 brought the Jews under German control.
Sephardic Jews in Bosnia and Croatia were ruled by a German-created Fascist-Catholic satellite state from April 1941, which subjected them to pogrom-like actions before herding them into local camps where they were murdered side by side with Serbs and Roma (Gypsies).
The Jews of Macedonia and Thrace were controlled by Bulgarian occupation forces, which after rendering them stateless, rounded them up and turned them over to the Germans for deportation.
Finally, the Jews of Bulgaria proper were under the rule of a Nazi ally that subjected them to ruinous anti-Jewish legislation, but ultimately yielded to pressure from Bulgarian parliamentarians, clerics, and intellectuals not to deport them. More than 50,000 Bulgarian Jews were thus saved.
WARSAW — The Polish president’s chief of staff flew to Washington on Wednesday to meet with a senior State Department official amid escalating diplomatic tensions over Poland’s “Holocaust law.”
His trip came a day after a report in Polish media detailed potential U.S. diplomatic sanctions, including the suspension of meetings between President Trump or Vice President Pence and Poland’s president or prime minister.
The law, which has drawn sharp condemnation from the United States, Israel and much of the international community, criminalizes speech that accuses the Polish nation of complicity in Nazi atrocities. The Israeli government has likened the bill to Holocaust denial, and the United States to an attack on freedom of speech.
As he prepared to fly to Washington, Krzysztof Szczerski, President Andrzej Duda’s chief of staff, blasted the report, published Tuesday by the Polish news outlet Onet, as “fake news.”
The report was based on a leaked Feb. 20 memo sent from the Polish Embassy in Washington to Warsaw summarizing a contentious meeting with U.S. State Department officials.
According to the report, U.S. officials, including Wess Mitchell, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, warned their Polish counterparts that failing to abandon the Holocaust law would result in a suspension of highest-level bilateral contact with the White House.
The report also claimed that the U.S. officials said keeping the law in place could foster anti-Polish sentiment in Congress, which might then hurt U.S. financing for shared defense and security initiatives in Poland. Finally, the U.S. officials reportedly added that any attempt to prosecute an American citizen under the law would result in dramatic consequences.
“The United States government has repeatedly expressed concerns about Poland’s Holocaust law, both in public and in our meetings with Polish government officials,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in response to questions about the Polish media report Wednesday. “However, reports alleging any U.S. official threatened to suspend security cooperation or curtail our high-level dialogue are simply false.”
Nauert added, “Assistant Secretary Mitchell has never said that we won’t meet with Polish officials. In fact, he’s meeting with the chief of staff to President Duda Thursday.” That meeting had not been previously reported.
On Wednesday morning, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki — who recently said that Jews were also “perpetrators” in World War II — denied the report. “The conversations continue as they did before,” he said.
In the Polish news media, the third alleged American injunction — to protect U.S. citizens — was seen as a defense of Jan Gross, the Polish American academic whose 2000 book on the infamous 1941 Jedwabne massacre of Jews by their Polish neighbors sparked a bitter national controversy, recently reignited by the new law.
Poland’s right-wing government, led by the Law and Justice Party, has attacked Gross as “unpatriotic,” and the Holocaust law enabled a lawsuit to be filed last week against an Argentine newspaper for a December article pertaining to the Jedwabne massacre.
“I see it as something that fits quite well with the ethos of the American government to keep an umbrella over citizens abroad,” said Gross, reached via telephone in Berlin, in response to the reports of threatened U.S. sanctions.
Before Poland’s president signed the law last month, U.S. officials strongly argued against it. But U.S. diplomats have also sought to give the Warsaw government room to back away without the appearance of doing Washington’s bidding.
Christopher R. Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to Poland who is now with the University of Denver, called the law the “revenge of the peasants” in Poland and said the United States is trying to encourage Polish officials to correct their course on their own.
“The Poles have gotten themselves into an unnecessary box,” said Dan Fried, also a former U.S. ambassador to Poland, now with the Atlantic Council in Washington. “This law is utterly unnecessary, and yet they passed it, and now the Polish right is saying you can’t get rid of it under pressure from the outside.”
Foremska reported from Warsaw, McAuley from Paris and Gearan from Washington.