Full Text JBuzz Transcripts April 28, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day

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Statement by the President on Yom HaShoah

Source: WH, 4-28-14 

On this Yom HaShoah, I join people of all faiths in the United Sates, in the State of Israel, and around the world in remembering the six million Jews – innocent men, women and children – who were senselessly murdered during the Holocaust, as well as all the victims of Nazi brutality and violence.

Even as we mourn those whose lives were taken, this day also provides us with an opportunity to honor those who emerged from the darkness of the Shoah to rebuild their lives in new communities around the world.  I am honored to have the opportunity to address survivors of the Holocaust, along with many of those who have worked so hard to preserve their testimony and share their stories, when I speak at the Shoah Foundation next week.  On this Yom HaShoah, let us recommit ourselves to the task of remembrance, and to always oppose anti-Semitism wherever it takes root. Together, we must give enduring meaning to the words “Never Again.”

Full Text JBuzz Transcripts April 27, 2014: Canadian PM Stephen Harper’s Statement on the Holocaust: Educate and remember

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Canadian PM Harper on Holocaust: Educate and remember

Source: Jerusalem Post, 4-27-14

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is urging Canadians to commemorate the victims and survivors of the Holocaust in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, and “combat anti-Semitism in all its forms.”…READ MORE

Full Text JBuzz Transcripts April 27, 2014: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Speech at Yad Vashem on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day

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Address by PM Netanyahu at Yad Vashem

Source: PMO, 4-27-14

יום ראשון כ”ז ניסן תשע”ד

Photo by  GPO

The last time I visited Yad Vashem I accompanied the Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper, a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people. We went through the exhibition rooms which present heartbreaking documentation of the destruction of European Jewry.

Today in my office, I met Fela, an 82 year old Holocaust survivor. It was important for her to tell me on this day of her memories as a child of seven who was forced to leave her two year old sister. Those memories are always with her. She told me, “I don’t remember what happened yesterday or the day before that, but as is the way of memories at my age, I remember the sad, tearful eyes of my two year old sister whom I left behind to die”.

I met Shalom, an 89 year old Holocaust survivor who told me how, aged 13, he left home at Mila 18 in the Warsaw Ghetto. Conditions in the ghetto were deteriorating. So he, a young boy, decided to leave. He said, “Mother objected and wailed but Father was quiet. He stood up, put his hands on my head, blessed me and told me to save myself”.

All the exhibition rooms here are filled with such heart-wrenching stories.

When we left Yad Vashem, I told the Prime Minister of Canada that my supreme duty as the Prime Minister of Israel is to ensure that there will be no more memorial sites like this, that there will never be another Holocaust.

I have said here many times that we must identify an existential threat in time and take action against it in time.

Tonight, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, I ask: Why, in the years preceding the Holocaust, did the overwhelming majority of world leaders and Jewish leaders fail to detect the danger in time?

In retrospect, all the warning signs were there: the strengthening of the Nazi regime year after year; the horrific anti-Semitic propaganda which grew stronger with each passing month; and the murderous attacks on Jews which began as spurts and became a giant wave.

In retrospect, a direct line connects the racial laws and the gas chambers.

Few world leaders, notably Churchill, understood the enormity of the threat to humanity posed by Nazism. Few among our leaders, primarily Jabotinsky, warned against the imminent destruction facing our people. But they were widely criticized, their warnings disregarded and dismissed as the rantings of doomsayers and warmongers.

How is it possible that so many people failed to understand reality? The bitter, tragic truth is this: It is not that they did not see. They did not want to see.

And why did they choose not to see the truth? Because they did not want to face the consequences of that truth.

During the 1930s, when the Nazis were gaining momentum, the trauma of the First World War was still fresh. Twenty years earlier, the people of the West experienced a terrible trench war, which claimed the lives of 16 million people. The leaders of the West therefore operated on the basis of one axiom: Avoid another confrontation at any cost. Thus they laid the ground for the most horrible war in history.

This axiom of avoiding conflict at any cost was adopted not only by the leaders. It was shared by the peoples themselves, and primarily by the educated elites.

In 1933, for example, the year Hitler rose to power, a meeting was held by the students of Oxford University, an institution which produced generations of British leaders. Following a heated debate, the students voted for a resolution stating that they “would under no circumstances fight for their King and Country”.

This resolution passed by an overwhelming majority a mere ten days after Hitler entered the Chancellor’s office in Germany. The message reverberated in Berlin.

This example illustrates the West’s feeble response to the rise of Nazism.

Month after month, year after year, more and more information was received in London, Paris and Washington about Nazi capabilities and intentions. The picture gradually became clear for everyone to see.

But they had eyes and could not see, they had ears but could not hear.

When you refuse to accept reality as it is, you can deny it.

This is precisely what the leaders of the West did. They dismissed the murderous Nazi rhetoric as internal German politics; they downplayed the seriousness of the danger of the Nazi military build-up, claiming that it was the result of the natural will of a proud nation that should be recognized and accepted.

The reality was clear, but it was enveloped in a bubble of illusions. This bubble burst when the Nazis launched their blitzkrieg on Europe and Africa.

The price of illusion and wishful thinking was very steep. By the time the leaders of the West finally acted, their peoples paid a terrible price. World War II claimed the lives not of 16 million people, the horrific number of victims during World War I, but of 60 million, including one third of our people, who were butchered by the Nazi beast.

Citizens of Israel, my brothers and sisters,

Has the world learned the mistakes of the past?

Today we again face clear facts and a tangible threat. Iran calls for our destruction. It is developing nuclear weapons.

This is the reason it is building underground bunkers for enriching uranium. This is why it is constructing a heavy water facility to produce plutonium. This is the reason it continues to develop inter-continental ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads which will threaten the entire world.

Today, like then, there are those who dismiss Iran’s extreme rhetoric as serving domestic purposes. Today, like then, there are those who view Iran’s nuclear ambitions as the result of the natural will of a proud nation, a will that should be accepted.

And today, like then, those who make such claims are deluding themselves. They are making an historic mistake.

Fateful talks are currently being held between Iran and the world powers. This time too, the truth is evident to all: Iran seeks an agreement that will lift the sanctions and leave it as a nuclear threshold state with the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons within several months at most.

Iran wants a deal that will eliminate the sanctions and leave its capabilities intact.

A deal which enables Iran to be a nuclear threshold state will bring the entire world to the threshold of an abyss.

I hope that the lessons of the past have been learned, and that the desire to avoid confrontation at any cost will not lead to a deal that will exact a much heavier price in the future.

I call on the leaders of the world powers to insist that Iran fully dismantle its capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons, and to persist until this goal is achieved.

In any event, the people of Israel stand strong. Faced with an existential threat, our situation today is entirely different than it was during the Holocaust.

Today, we have a sovereign Jewish state. As Prime Minister of Israel, I do not hesitate to speak the truth to the world, even when faced with blind eyes and deaf ears. It is not only my right, it is my duty. I am always mindful of this duty, never more so than on this day, in this place.

On the eve of the Holocaust, some Jews avoided speaking out to the world’s nations, fearing that the struggle against Nazism would become “a Jewish problem”. Others believed that if they kept silent, the danger would pass.

They kept silent, and disaster struck.

Today, we are unafraid to speak the truth to world leaders. As is written in the Bible: “I will speak of your testimonies before kings, and I will not be ashamed… listen, for I will speak the truth.”

Unlike the Holocaust, when the Jewish people were like a wind-tossed leaf and utterly defenseless, we now have great power to defend ourselves, and it is ready for any mission.

This power rests on the courage and ingenuity of the soldiers of the IDF and the men and women of our security forces. It is this power that enabled us, against all odds, to build the State of Israel.

Look at the remarkable achievements we have made in the 66 years of our independence. All of us – scientists, writers, teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, employees, artists, farmers – the entire people of Israel, each one in their own field –  together we have built a glorious state. The spirit of the people of Israel is sublime, our accomplishments tremendous. Seven decades after the destruction of the Holocaust, the State of Israel is a wonder of the world.

On this day, on behalf of the Jewish people, I say to all those who sought to destroy us, and to all those who still seek to destroy us: You have failed, and you will fail again.

The State of Israel is stronger than ever. It is a state that seeks peace with all its neighbors and it pulsates with an iron will to ensure the future of our people.

“The people will arise like a lion cub and raise itself like a lion…and Judea will dwell securely”. (Numbers 23:24; Jeremiah 23:6).

 

 

JBuzz Features January 26, 2014: Holocaust Told in One Word, 6 Million Times

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Holocaust Told in One Word, 6 Million Times

Source: New York Times, 1-26-14

The book “And Every Single One Was Someone” — meant as a kind of coffee-table monument or conversation starter — consists of the single word “Jew,” printed six million times….READ MORE

JBuzz Musings November 10, 2013: World political and religious leaders mark the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht

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World political and religious leaders mark the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht

By Bonnie K. Goodman

This Saturday evening, Nov. 9 overnight into Sunday, Nov 10, 2013 marks the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass” in 1938, which was the official start to the physical and systematic persecution of the Jews…READ MORE

JBuzz Musings August 4, 2013: Israeli President Shimon Peres honors Latvian and Lituanian Holocaust victims

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Israeli President Shimon Peres honors Latvian and Lituanian Holocaust victims

By Bonnie K. Goodman

This past week Israeli President Shimon Peres embarked on a four day trip to Latvia and Lituania from July 29 to August 1, 2013. Although it was a diplomatic mission filled with state dinners and meetings with the heads of…READ MORE

JBuzz Transcripts August 1, 2013: President Shimon Peres’s speech at the Ponar Memorial ceremony in Lithuania

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Presidential address at the Ponar Memorial ceremony in Lithuania

By SHIMON PERES

Shimon_Peres_Ponar_Ceremonyiv>

‘Painful memories are etched in our hearts’ the President said at Valley of Slaughter in Vilnius, where the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators murdered some 70,000 Jews.

Amid the trees of Ponar, I can hear the words of Abba Kovner echoing the cries of our murdered brothers and sisters.

I quote: “We shall remember…

The city houses and the country houses.

The aged man and the features of his face.

The mother in her kerchief.

The young girl with her braids.

The child, The child, The entire assembly of Jews Brought down to slaughter on the soil of Europe By the Nazi destroyer, The man who suddenly screamed.

And while screaming died.”

Ponar, from where thousands of our fathers and mothers, our little boys and girls, were murdered.

They will never return.

They will never die in our hearts.

Seventy thousands of them were Jewish.

And thousands were others.

Why? What for? The pastoral scenery surrounding us here is misleading.

Its color remains green. But the ground is red.

The screams of the victims detonating from the damp soil will remain a disgrace to humanity.

Vilnius was considered the Jerusalem of Lithuania, where hopeful and vibrant Jewish communities built a life of their own.

And suddenly, a third of Lithuania’s Jewish people were slaughtered in these fields.

Only a mass grave remains in front of us.

Innocent men and women, babies and children were stripped and then pushed and thrown to the cold bottom of this pit.

Their bodies were tortured and burned at the sound of a short-range burst of fire.

In the massacre valley of Ponar, there were no gas chambers.

Just direct murder.

Physical.

Precise.

Just by pressing the trigger.

One after another.

Day in, day out.

Five hundred a day.

No interruptions.

No regrets.

No second thought.

No thought at all.

Killers.

Killing was their vocation.

History had known no such atrocities, ever.

Just few survived.

From the scorched bodies, only the spirit remained.

An eternal spirit. Facing evil. Our people remained humane.

The spirit of our moral call, Tikkun Olam – to better the world – was molded from the lead of the bullets.

Ponar is a warning.

For us all.

For the generations to come.

Never again.

Never, not even for a moment, may we weaken in our common mission against racism, anti-Semitism and mass destruction.

In Vilnius, there were 200 churches and 110 synagogues. Yet there is just one Lord in heaven.

So let us pray together, let us convert sword and war into brotherhood and friendship between peoples.

Let us pray for the freedom and peace of every person. For all nations. For posterity.

The State of Israel is a living triumph over the horrors of the Shoah.

A bastion of survivors.

A tribute to the hopes of six million Jews.

In spite of the Holocaust, Israel is the continuation of the interrupted dreams of one-and-a-half million children murdered at the dawn of their days.

We can never forget. And we shall always teach our children to withstand darkness.

Lithuania has undertaken this duty with responsibility and seriousness.

Madam President [Dalia Grybauskaite], we respect your efforts to memorialize and educate the youth about this shameful stain, so as never to allow it to happen again.

The newly created democracy of Lithuania is based on courage and tolerance.

On building a future for the free.

The Lithuanian people have learned that the key to raising a new, tolerant generation is in facing the horrors of history with courage.

The blood-soaking the soil of Ponar will not be atoned for until its lessons will become the legacy of humanity as a whole.

Painful memories are etched in our hearts.

Yet high hopes beat in our souls.

On our journey from the abyss of the past to the heights of the tomorrow, we remain determined as ever, to seek justice.

To offer peace.

Not to forget.

Not to forgive.

To pray for the future of our children.

To allow them to be free.

To enjoy peace.

To respect others.

Promising both to remember the shadows of the past and the light of the future.

The Lord who made peace in his Heavens will provide peace on the land.

JBuzz News June 19, 2013: Giovanni Palatucci: Italian Praised for Saving Jews Is Now Seen as Nazi Collaborator

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Italian Praised for Saving Jews Is Now Seen as Nazi Collaborator

Source: NYT, 6-19-13

Information about Giovanni Palatucci, celebrated for saving Jews, is being removed from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in light of evidence that the tales may be untrue….READ MORE

 

JBuzz News June 13, 2013: Exhibition at Auschwitz-Birkenau Honors Children of Holocaust

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Exhibition at Auschwitz-Birkenau Honors Children of Holocaust

Janek Skarzynski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel found the name of Judith, the twin sister of his father-in-law, among the Book of Names exhibit at Auschwitz-Birkenau on Thursday.

Source: NYT, 6-13-13

A multimedia exhibition that tries to push visitors beyond their knowledge of the facts of the Nazis’ Final Solution was dedicated on Thursday….READ MORE

JBuzz News May 29, 2013: Polish history professor Krzysztof Jasiewicz fired for blaming Jews for Holocaust

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Blaming Jews for Holocaust costs Polish prof his job

Source: JTA, 5-29-13

Polish historian Krzysztof Jasiewicz was dismissed from the Polish Academy of Sciences for laying some blame on the Jews for the outbreak of the Holocaust….READ MORE

JBuzz News May 20, 2013: Boruch Spiegel, Fighter in Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Dies at 93

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Boruch Spiegel, Fighter in Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Dies at 93

Source: New York Times, 5-20-13

Boruch Spiegel, one of the last surviving fighters of the Warsaw ghetto uprising of 1943, in which a vastly outgunned band of 750 young Jews held off German soldiers for more than a month with crude arms and Molotov cocktails, died on May 9 in Montreal. He was 93….

Mr. Spiegel was on guard duty and, according to his son-in-law, Eugene Orenstein, a retired professor of Jewish history at McGill University, gave the signal to launch the uprising….READ MORE

JBuzz News May 6, 2013: Suspected Auschwitz death camp guard arrested in Germany

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Suspected Auschwitz death camp guard arrested in Germany

Source: Chicago Tribune, 5-6-13

A suspected Auschwitz concentration camp guard and former Chicago resident was arrested Monday in Germany, according to a Nazi-hunting group….READ MORE

JBuzz News April 18, 2013: Museum of Polish Jews: Polish Museum Repairs a Tie to a Jewish Past

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Polish Museum Repairs a Tie to a Jewish Past

Source: NYT, 4-18-13

Among civic leaders in Warsaw, a new Jewish museum is seen as a major step toward recognizing Poland’s Jewish past and recovering from its 20th-century traumas….READ MORE

JBuzz News April 18, 2013: Marci Shore: The Jewish Hero History Forgot — 70th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

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The Jewish Hero History Forgot

Source: NYT, 4-18-13

Raymond Verdaguer

SEVENTY years ago today, a group of young men and women fired the shots that began the largest single act of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust.

The Warsaw Ghetto uprising is rightly commemorated — through books, memoirs and movies — as an extraordinary act of courage in the face of near-certain death. Those who fought in the ghetto provide the iconic image of heroism, and an antidote to images of Jews being led to the gas chambers….READ MORE

JBuzz News April 9, 2013: Laurel Leff: How, and why, some Jewish scholars were left behind

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How, and why, some Jewish scholars were left behind

Source: News@Northeastern, 4-9-13

Northeastern Holocaust Commemoration

At the Northeastern Holocaust Commemoration, Bernard A. Stotsky Professor Laurel Leff (right) explained that American universities had one of the few lifelines to extend to refugees fleeing Europe to escape Nazi persecutions, but they didn’t do enough. Photos by Brooks Canaday.

During the 1930s and early 1940s, fac­ulty posi­tions offered by Amer­ican uni­ver­si­ties served as one of the few life­lines for hun­dreds of thou­sands of scholars trying to flee war-​​torn Europe to escape per­se­cu­tion. Yet far too often, the uni­ver­si­ties didn’t do enough to save these refugees and even offered chill­ingly dis­mis­sive rea­sons for not doing so, according to Laurel Leff, asso­ciate pro­fessor in the School of Jour­nalism and the Bernard A. Stotsky Pro­fessor of Jewish His­tor­ical and Cul­tural Studies at Northeastern….READ MORE

JBuzz News April 8, 2013: Holocaust marked at Auschwitz March of Living

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Holocaust marked at Auschwitz March of Living

Source: Jerusalem Post, 4-8-13

“They (Jews persecuted in the Holocaust) live within us, we live with what happened to them,” he continued. Moving on to what Peres described as the “peak” he said, “In a short time, in three years the greatest miracle occurred….READ MORE

JBuzz News April 5, 2013: 6 survivors to represent 6 million at Yad VaShem Holocaust Rememberance Day / Yom HaShoah ceremony

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6 survivors to represent 6 million at Holocaust ceremony

Source: Ynetnews, 4-5-13

Entitled “uprising and rebellion in the Holocaust” and on the backdrop of the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Sunday evening will open Holocaust Remembrance Day activities and the main ceremony at the Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad VaShem….READ MORE

JBuzz News April 2, 2013: 11,000 youths to attend March of the Living for Holocaust Remembrance Day

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11,000 youths to attend March of the Living

IDF chief of staff, Israeli ambassador to Warsaw, to join Jews from around the world at Auschwitz concentration camp to mark Holocaust anniversary.

Source: JPost, 4-2-13

March of the Living in Polish cemetery

March of the Living in Polish cemetery Photo: Yossi Zeilger

Eleven thousand young people will take part in this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day activities at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland under the auspices of the March of the Living program.

The participants, who are mostly Jewish, hail from over 50 countries, including Morocco, Turkey, France, the United States and Canada, said march spokesman Yoram Dori.

Among those participating in this year’s remembrances at the death camp will be IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, former chief rabbi Israel Meir Lau, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder and Zvi Ravner, Israel’s Ambassador to Poland….READ MORE

JBuzz News March 27, 2013: Rabbi Herschel Schacter Dead at 95; Cried to the Jews of Buchenwald: ‘You Are Free’

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Rabbi Herschel Schacter Is Dead at 95; Cried to the Jews of Buchenwald: ‘You Are Free’

Source: NYT, 3-26-13

via Yad Vashem

Rabbi Herschel Schacter leading the Shavuot prayer service for survivors in the Buchenwald camp in Germany in 1945.More Photos »

The smoke was still rising as Rabbi Herschel Schacter rode through the gates of Buchenwald.

Multimedia

Photographs

Buchenwald’s Liberation, as Seen by Louis Nemeth

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Librado Romero/The New York Times

Rabbi Herschel Schacter in 1999.

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It was April 11, 1945, and Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army had liberated the concentration camp scarcely an hour before. Rabbi Schacter, who was attached to the Third Army’s VIII Corps, was the first Jewish chaplain to enter in its wake.

That morning, after learning that Patton’s forward tanks had arrived at the camp, Rabbi Schacter, who died in the Riverdale section of the Bronx on Thursday at 95 after a career as one of the most prominent Modern Orthodox rabbis in the United States, commandeered a jeep and driver. He left headquarters and sped toward Buchenwald….READ MORE

JBuzz News January 27, 2013: Yad Vashem marks worldwide commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day

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Yad Vashem marks worldwide commemoration

Source: Jerusalem Post, 1-27-13

“Gathering the Fragments” brings in collection of personal items at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem….READ MORE

JBuzz News December 11, 2012: Christoph Dieckmann: British professor awarded Yad Vashem book prize

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British professor awarded Yad Vashem book prize

Source: JTA, 12-11-12

A British university professor was awarded the Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research.

Christoph Dieckmann of Keele University was recognized for his two-volume book “German Occupation Policy in Lithuania 1941-1944.”

The Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research, in memory of Holocaust survivor Abraham Meir Schwarzbaum and his family members murdered in the Holocaust, is awarded for path-breaking scholarly research on the Holocaust….READ MORE

JBuzz News November 15, 2012: New Zealand Jewish community calls for compulsory Holocaust studies

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Jewish community calls for compulsory Holocaust studies

Source: TVNZ, 11-15-12

The Holocaust Centre in Wellington is calling for the study of the World War II genocide of Europe’s Jews to be made compulsory in New Zealand secondary schools….READ MORE

JBuzz News July 9, 2012: Helene Sinnreich: Jewish Council Seeks Holocaust survivors in Mahoning Valley

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Jewish council seeks Holocaust survivors in Mahoning Valley

Helene Sinnreich, director of the Youngstown State University Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies, is working on the project and is seeking the help of members of the Jewish Community to share their history with her and her research assistant…READ MORE

JBuzz Op-ed May 21, 2012: Dovid Katz: An Open Letter to Yale History Professor Timothy Snyder

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An Open Letter to Yale History Professor Timothy Snyder

Source: Algemeiner, 5-21-12

Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University, the author of the famous (and controversial) book “Bloodlands” was brought to Lithuania last week for a symposium on the Holocaust attended also by the director of YIVO in New York. In the course of the same week, the Lithuanian government repatriated, reburied with full honors and held a series of events honoring the 1941 Nazi-puppet prime minister who signed off on the German order for all Jews in Kaunas (Kovno) to be forced into a ghetto.

Dear Tim,

Greetings, and sorry we missed each other in Vilnius this time. I write in the context of our ongoing and respectful conversation, which started in the Guardian (thanks to Matt Seaton, and prominently including Efraim Zuroff) back in 2010 (I, II, III, IV); continuing through our meeting at Yale, the Aftermath Conference in Melbourne, Australia, in 2011 (thanks to Mark Baker, and with participation of Jan Gross and Patrick Desbois), and more recently, via my review of your book Bloodlands (along with Alexander Prusin’s The Lands Between), in East European Jewish Affairs.

In that review, I dealt with a number of areas of disagreement that are on the table concerning the Holocaust in Eastern Europe and the efforts underway to use state funds to downgrade it in a number of countries, particularly the Baltics.

But these debates are inherently separate from the troubling issue on which I’m addressing you today: the ongoing instrumentalization and abuse of your important work by well-oiled government-financed ultra-nationalist and often antisemitic forces in Eastern Europe who have (wrongly) found in your work the ammunition for a discernible slide in the direction of the Double Genocide movement, which reached its zenith with the 2008 Prague Declaration (critiques here), and in the direction of positing the sort of “complexity” that is regularly invoked, particularly here in the Baltics, as euphemism for what is now called Holocaust Obfuscation.

There is, alas, in nationalist and antisemitic circles in some East European states a movement to sanitize or actually glorify local Holocaust collaborators and perpetrators (who were after all, usually quite reliably “anti-Soviet” and “anti-Russian”). In Lithuania alone, this effort has gone hand in hand with a tragic effort to concurrently blame the victims by trying to criminalize, in the absence of any evidence, Holocaust survivors who are alive because they joined the anti-Nazi resistance. Not one of these kangaroo cases has yet led to a public apology, not even to 90 year old Dr. Rachel Margolis in Rechovot, who still dreams of one last visit to her native Vilna.

As reported in DefendingHistory.com last September, a foreign-ministry hosted event in Vilnius in September 2011 included a speech by a leading local historian in which he claimed (wrongly) that your book offers support for the condemnation of Jewish partisans who fought against the Nazis. In May 2011, a historian speaking on Lithuanian radio boasted that “It’s not all hopeless” because of Bloodlands.

Even before that, in late 2010, a far-right film production cited you as an expert consultant in a project to glorify the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) perpetrators who unleashed murder and mutilation of Jewish civilians in dozens of Lithuanian towns before the Nazis even arrived (and who announced their intentions before the war even started). (I trust you withdrew from that project, and offer my belated congratulations for so doing).

But that episode somehow connects with this week. The same ultranationalist filmmakers recently announced their premiere on Sunday 20 May 2012 in Kaunas of a new “documentary” (promo clip here) adulating Juozas Ambrazevičius (later Brazaitis), the 1941 Nazi puppet “prime minister” in Kaunas who signed off on orders for the setting up of a concentration camp for Jews, and the requirement that “all the Jews of Kaunas” be moved within four weeks to a ghetto.

The new film premiered yesterday in Kaunas as the grand finale of four days of Lithuanian government financed events (May 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th) focused on the reburial with full honors and the elaborate honoring of the World War II Nazi puppet prime minister.

What do these events have to do with you, or with the director of Yivo from New York who joined you? Directly speaking – absolutely nothing. In fact, people in the Jewish community here in Vilnius feel certain that when you (and he) accepted the invitations for the May 2012 symposium and related events here in Lithuania that you had no idea your presence would coincide with the long-planned glorification of a major Holocaust collaborator.

But when such things happen, it becomes necessary to react, if not by postponing one’s trip then by speaking out unambiguously with moral clarity.

Events featuring a Yale historian and the head of Yivo, coming at the same time as the state-sponsored events to honor the collaborator, have been used, first:  to deflect foreign and diplomatic attention from the Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis outrage, which has drawn protests this past week from B’nai B’rith, the Wiesenthal Center, an international petition, and critically, the remnant Jewish Community of Lithuania; second: to use your appearance to legitimize those events. After all, if a Yale professor and the head of Yivo are happy to appear the same week about the Holocaust and not come out publicly and firmly against the concurrent glorification of the collaborator, well, then it can’t be such a big deal…

It was sad that neither of you publicly condemned the Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis events during your symposium on the Holocaust in Lithuania. However, it did come up in an interviewer’s question to yourself.

According to the interview published on 15min.lt on 18 May 2012 (and for the sake of the Almighty, please do tell us if they misquoted you), your answer to the question about the repatriation, honoring and reburial of the Nazi puppet prime minister underway during your visit was as follows:

“I am going to choose my words very carefully here. I think before you rebury anyone, you should think very very hard and probably wait a very very long time because once you rebury somebody once, you can’t rebury them again.”
Is that really all you have to say to Lithuanian society, during your visit here, regarding the latest in a litany of government sponsored events to honor collaborators and perpetrators of the Lithuanian Holocaust and not seldom to use your own name and book as artillery?

During this past week, very courageous Lithuanian citizens (who remain here and may even have to face this or that consequence in their careers) have raised their proud voices in dignified protest. They include the members of parliament Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis and Algirdas Sysas; member of the European Parliament Leonidas Donskis; political scientist  Darius Udrys; former editor of the Jewish newspaper here, Milan Chersonski; dozens of Lithuanian citizens who have signed Krystyna Anna Steiger’s petition; and, not least, the small remnant Jewish community itself, which issued a bold statement in partnership with the Jewish museum.

As a famous professor soon returning to Yale, would it be too much respectfully to ask you to reconsider your public reaction to the week’s events. You can phrase this much more eloquently and elegantly. Here is just a first thought:

“There are certainly many historical complexities, but as a true friend of Lithuania, I have to tell you frankly that state financing of the honoring of a Nazi-puppet prime minister on whose watch the mass murder of Lithuanian Jewry got underway, one who actually signed orders separating out for persecution and worse those citizens who were Jewish, is the worst possible message your government could be sending. It is a tragic mistake, and if I had known it would coincide with my visit, I would have asked to come some other week out of respect for the victims of the Holocaust. As someone who passionately shares your cause of educating the West about Stalinist crimes, I have to tell you that this sort of thing undermines that noble effort through and through.”

Wishing you, as ever, the best of everything,

Dovid

Dovid Katz was visiting professor in Judaic studies at Yale in 1989-1999. From 1999 to 2010 he was professor of Yiddish language, literature and culture at Vilnius University, Lithuania. He is based in Vilnius, where he edits wwwDefendingHistory.com. His personal website is http://www.dovidkatz.net.

JBuzz News April 23, 2012: Todd Endelman: Holocaust victims remembered through music, reflection

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

ANN ARBOR: Holocaust victims remembered through music, reflection

Source: Ann Arbor Journal, 4-23-12

Holocaust survivor Henry Brysk shares a photo of his family and the story of an aunt who was killed during World War II. Photo by Chris Nelson.

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Victims of the Holocaust were remembered through prayer, reflection and music on April 19 at the Jewish Community Center in Ann Arbor.

The memorial service, the first of its kind in the Ann Arbor area, was created by a group of Holocaust survivors as a way to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.

University of Michigan Professor of Judaic Studies, Todd Endelman, gave a keynote address about how the Holocaust is remembered and its effects, so far, on Jewish culture.

Endelman said there are two factions of thought behind Holocaust remembrance. The first is that it is not talked about enough and the second is that it’s talked about too much and has morphed Jewish identity and definition into one of suffering.

The effect of the Holocaust, Endelman said, might be unknown still.

“We don’t know the impact of the Holocaust,” he said. “Maybe because not enough time has passed. Sometimes things are so large, are so horrific, are so transcendent of existing categories of thinking, are so out of the ordinary that it takes a long time for the whole impact to be made.”

Regardless, Endelman said, the important thing for people to do is to be aware.

“I want us to remain, particularly those of my generation and younger, attentive, listening to whatever new themes or emphasis arise,” he said. “Because we want to hear them clearly when they make their appearance and we want to absorb what they have to say to us.”…READ MORE