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entries tagged with: Auschwitz


Evolution of International Holocaust Day reflects changing times

ROME – On the same day next week, Israeli President Shimon Peres will address the German Parliament and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel will appear before a special session of the Italian Chamber of Deputies in Rome.

The timing is not coincidental.

The events are focal points of international Holocaust Memorial Day, an annual observance on the anniversary of the Soviet army’s Jan. 27, 1945, liberation of Auschwitz, which is marked by the United Nations and more than two dozen individual countries.

Each year, hundreds of events take place on or near that date. Britain, Italy, and Germany have particularly extensive programs.

“There is a great sensitivity to this theme on both the local and institutional levels,” said Alessandro Ruben, a Jewish Italian member of parliament in Italy, where Holocaust Memorial Day has been marked since 2001. “Every year there are more and more events connected with it, including many, many educational initiatives in schools.”

The nature of the commemorations is a reflection of the times, too.

While most Holocaust Memorial Day initiatives are linked directly to the memory and impact of the Nazi genocide against the Jews, there is increasing emphasis on what the experience of the Holocaust can teach in the face of other genocides and persecution, such as those in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, and Darfur. World War II-era persecution of Roma (Gypsies) and gays also is examined.

Rabbi Andrew Baker, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international Jewish affairs, said the shift in focus is to be expected.

“For Jews,” he said, the Holocaust “was a unique and unprecedented tragedy. But national and international commemoration events by their nature also stress the universal lessons that should be drawn from the event. As survivors and other eyewitnesses pass from our midst, those universal expressions naturally grow larger.”

At the same time, pro-Palestinian groups are trying to transform the international day of remembrance into an opportunity to criticize Israel.

Last year, for example, to protest Israel’s military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, a British Muslim organization boycotted events in Britain, and the local government in Barcelona canceled a public candlelighting as part of the Holocaust Day commemoration.

“Marking the Jewish Holocaust while a Palestinian Holocaust is taking place is not right,” said a statement by an official, described as a representative of Barcelona City Hall, quoted in the La Vanguardia newspaper.

The move drew an outraged response from Britain’s Board of Deputies, the body that represents British Jews.

“The conflict between Israel and Hamas should have absolutely no bearing on a day which represents the global fight against hatred,” board spokesman Mark Frazer said.

“Apart from the obvious flawed logic in making the decision, this is an affront to all Holocaust survivors and to the memory of the millions of victims. This move should draw criticism in the strongest terms from all parts of the Spanish government.”

Though Germany has marked a Holocaust memorial day on Jan. 27 since 1996, the impetus for the observance in most countries came from a landmark Holocaust education forum that took place in Stockholm in 2000, a decade after the fall of communism enabled an uncensored exploration of history. In most communist states, Jewish issues had been suppressed and study or commemoration of the Shoah had been limited.

At the Stockholm Forum, leaders from 46 countries pledged to promote education and research about the Holocaust, and to “encourage appropriate forms of Holocaust remembrance, including an annual Day of Holocaust Remembrance.”

Most participating countries chose Jan. 27, given the importance of Auschwitz as a symbol of the Holocaust, and the U.N. General Assembly in 2005 designated the date as an International Day of Commemoration to honor the victims of the Holocaust.

But a number of countries chose dates that reflected Holocaust events on their own territory.

In Poland, for example, it is April 19, the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Romania chose Oct. 9, the date when deportations of Jews by the Nazi-allied Romanian government began in 1941.

The institution of Holocaust Memorial Day has not been without its critics. Some have voiced concern that institutionalizing Holocaust memory as an official date in a calendar risked turning commemoration into a cliché.

By and large, however, this does not seem to be the case.

“Consider how other historical events are remembered,” said Baker, who is also the representative for combating anti-Semitism of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. “Veterans Day in the United States seems primarily marked by department store sales, for example. In contrast, the Holocaust is recalled seriously and soberly.”

He added, “While I do not want to sound overly sanguine, I don’t think we should fear that the memory of the Holocaust will disappear or that Holocaust deniers will find new adherents.

“These last 20 years have witnessed a steady increase in educational and commemorative activities. And Holocaust denial is primarily a cudgel wielded by anti-Semites and haters of Israel, not something that is genuinely debated in any legitimate forum.”

Deborah Lipstadt, an Emory University historian who has written widely about the phenomenon of Holocaust denial, said she was “gratified as a historian that there is this attention to this event that is now in the past, especially as the survivor generation is passing.”

But, she said, “One hopes that there is attention in a deeper way: to examine how this emerged and happened, while the world stood silently by.”



Survivor’s grandson buys Mengele diary

Published: 05 February 2010
(tags): auschwitz, mengele

NEW YORK — The grandson of a Holocaust survivor reportedly bought the diary of the notorious Josef Mengele.

The 180-page journal was sold for an undisclosed sum Tuesday “to an East Coast Jewish philanthropist who wishes to remain anonymous,” The Hartford Courant reported Wednesday, citing an e-mail from Bill Panagopulos of Alexander Autographs historical artifacts house.

“He is the grandson of an Auschwitz survivor who personally encountered Mengele at Auschwitz,” Panagopulos wrote. “He intends to donate the manuscript to a museum devoted to the Holocaust.”

“I am overjoyed,” Panagopulos told the newspaper, “that the manuscript is going where it belongs, where it will be available to historians and scholars.”

On Monday, it was reported that Alexander Autographs intended to auction off the journal.

Nazi memorabilia collectors vying for the artifact belonging to the Nazi doctor known at Auschwitz as the “Angel of Death” were expected to push the price up to about $64,000.

The seller of the diary, reported to be a source close to the Mengele family, acquired the volume in Brazil after Mengele died there in 1979, the Daily Mail reported. 

The diary begins in May 1960, when Mengele was 49.

At Auschwitz, Mengele determined who would live and die, and he conducted horrific, quasi-medical experiments, including on twins.

News of the auction prompted anger and revulsion among Holocaust survivors and their families. In a statement released Monday, The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants called the auctioning of the journal “a cynical act of exploitation aimed at profiting from the writings of one of the most heinous Nazi criminals.”



For Mengele survivor, forgiveness is freedom

Toby AxelrodWorld
Published: 05 February 2010
Holocaust survivor Eva Kor, during a visit to the memorial museum at Auschwitz last week, points to a photo of herself behind barbed wire taken by Red Army soldiers a few days after the camp’s liberation. Toby Axelrod

OSWIECIM, Poland — Eva Kor believes in forgiveness.

Kor says she has forgiven Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor who conducted experiments on her and her twin sister, Miriam, at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Last week, Kor led 55 American teachers and students on a trip to her former place of torment, where she was liberated exactly 65 years ago.

“Here I am, this little guinea pig from Auschwitz, and I have the power to forgive Josef Mengele! And he can’t do anything about it,” the diminutive, energetic woman who turned 76 on Saturday said last week at Auschwitz. “I stopped being a victim, and that makes me a very powerful person.”

Kor has been back to the concentration camp 13 times since 1945, many times as the leader of a tour in which she shares her memories and positive outlook. Most of those on her current trip, which was co-led by Kor’s son, Alex, heard about the trip from friends or relatives. Most are not Jewish.

On the trip’s first day, Kor showed the group where she and her sister had been held with other children at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Then they visited Auschwitz I and the museum where artifacts are stored — piles of hair, eyeglasses, prostheses, brushes, and suitcases marked with the names of their owners, who thought they were going to be resettled, not murdered.

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around it: I saw so much,” said Sarah Connolly, a language arts teacher from Sheffield, Pa.

“I like the idea of forgiveness,” said Wendy Vencel, 13, of Batchelor Middle School in Bloomington, Ind. “I think you have to be really strong to do that.”

Vencel is one of eight students here with teacher Jeffrey Rudkin, whose film and video class held a chili supper and auction to raise funds for the trip. The group has been posting regular video updates of the trip on its Website,

Eva and Miriam Mozes, identical twins, were born in Portz, Romania. In the spring of 1944, the twins, their parents, and two older sisters were deported to Auschwitz. The twins were among some 200 children liberated in January 1945. The rest of their family had been killed.

In all, nearly 1.5 million people were murdered in Auschwitz, 90 percent of them Jews.

The twins moved to Israel after the war. Eva married Michael Kor and they had two children, eventually settling in Terre Haute, Ind.

In 1984, Kor founded a survivors group called CANDLES: Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors, and later opened a small Holocaust museum. She wrote an autobiography, was instrumental in passing a state law mandating Holocaust education, and was featured in the 2005 documentary “Forgiving Dr. Mengele.”

Though she decided to forgive, Kor does not forget, which is why she keeps returning to Auschwitz again and again.

Her forgiveness, too, has its limits.

“If I see anyone who wants to advocate ideas of Nazism, I cannot forgive them,” she said. “And Israel cannot go to guys who are blowing up pizza places or weddings and say we love and forgive you. No.”

Kor’s outspoken forgiveness of Mengele, which she said she decided on in 1995 to free herself, has not been without controversy.

In 2007, the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors called it “abhorrent to forgive this monster, Josef Mengele,” and the group’s president said other Mengele twins were very upset with Kor for talking about forgiveness.

“There will be no forgiveness for him, only a searing memory of how human beings should not behave toward their fellows,” the group said in a statement.

Kor says withholding forgiveness locks them in victimhood.

“If they like being victims, it’s their choice,” Kor said. “I don’t want to be a victim ever again.”

On Jan. 26, standing on the icy steps of a barracks in Auschwitz, Kor recalled seeing Russian Red Army soldiers approaching through whirling snow 65 years ago.

“They were smiling,” she remembers. “They gave us hugs and chocolate and cookies. And it tasted wonderful.”

Together with guide Bogusia Zygmunt, Kor led her group into the camp’s only remaining gas chamber, where experiments were performed before the larger gas chambers were built. In the adjoining crematorium, they lit candles and chanted the Kaddish memorial prayer.

At that moment, Lincoln Ellington, 13, the youngest member of the group, had second thoughts about forgiveness.

“Right when we started lighting the candles, it really hit me,” he said, standing out in the snow. “We were in a place where people were ...”

His voice trailed off.

“Eva said she could not live with hatred inside of her, but there are some people who haven’t forgiven,” Lincoln said. “And when I walked in that gas chamber, and when I saw that hole where they dropped in the poison — well, I couldn’t forgive, right there.”



Yavneh play honors ‘unlikely hero’ of the Holocaust

Philip Meyer is the older Pinchas. Jeanette Friedman
The entire cast is onstage for the finale. Jeanette Friedman

Charles and Rabbi Moshe Rosenbaum traveled from Geneva and Jerusalem to Paramus last Thursday to watch the Yavneh middle school graduating class perform “The Unlikely Hero,” a play honoring their father, Pinchas Rosenbaum, who saved Jews in Hungary during the Holocaust. In this production, Pinchas the younger was played by Leora Hyman and the older by Philip Meyer. The script was written and the scenery was designed and painted by members of the graduating class.

The script was adapted from interviews commissioned by the two brothers and their sister Leah, lifelong friends of Yavneh’s Rabbi Shmuel Burstein. Though he knew the family, the teacher first heard the story 25 years ago at dinner honoring the memory of Pinchas Rosenbaum, who died in 1980. According to Charles Rosenbaum, his father rarely spoke about his rescue efforts. But as his children traveled the world, they were approached by those he rescued who told them their stories.

Burstein, a teacher of Tanach and Jewish history at Yavneh, noted that “Pinchas Rosenbaum was a personal hero of mine. My great attachment comes from his overwhelming love, passion, and willingness to risk all for his fellow Jews, regardless of where they stood on the political or religious spectrum. He fulfilled, in all its meanings, the commandment not to stand idly by your brother’s blood.”

Moshe Rosenbaum gave Burstein the interviews and Dominique Cieri, an actress, playwright, and director engaged by Yavneh for the project, drew up an outline. The students then wrote the play, together with Cieri and Burstein.

Leora Hyman is the young Pinchas. Courtesy Leora Hyman

When the play opens, Pinchas, son of the rebbe of Kisvarda, Hungary, is learning about his illustrious “yichus,” his lineage, and is reminded of his obligations to their tradition. Rosenbaum is the descendant of a long line of ultra-Orthodox rabbis that included the Maharal of Prague. The promising student is sent to Rabbi Josef Elimelech Kahane, the Ungvar rebbe, played by Oriel Farajun, who like his father and most ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Hungary, was anti-Zionist.

The play shows how young Pinchas learns about Zionism from neighborhood boys and rebels against what he is being taught when he sees how his fellow Jews are victimized by anti-Semites. At the outset, the students in his class argue with him, Rabbi Kahane argues with him, and all quote passages from the Talmud to determine whether it is it more important to save lives by fleeing to Palestine or to wait for the messiah to establish a haven for Jews.

The unlikely hero, Pinchas, receives his rabbinical ordination at 18, joins the religious Zionists, and does not allow neighborhood anti-Semites to bully him. Then he is arrested and sent to a labor camp. His family is deported to Auschwitz while he is a prisoner. Distraught, he escapes, disguises himself in a Nazi uniform, and begins saving Jewish lives by “capturing” Jews. He brings them to the Glass House, a haven protected by Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz, and to other safe houses under the protection of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who disappeared into a Soviet prison. Pinchas tries to convince his own father to save himself and the family, but his father refuses to abandon his community and insists on being deported with them.

Burstein said that “all sides of the issues of Zionism and non-Zionism had to be explored through the life experiences of those who lived with Pinchas, including the views of the ultra-Orthodox, non-Orthodox, and the Zionists.”

“It was so refreshing to see those youngsters act in such a meaningful and sincere way,” said Moshe Rosenbaum. “It was clear that for them, it meant everything.”

One point didn’t come out during the play, said Rosenbaum. “My father was very concerned about the safety of non-Zionist Orthodox Jews who came to the Glass House and were pushed away by the Zionists. He tried to keep them safe by creating a space where they could learn and pray without being harassed.” Their leader, Rosenbaum said, was a descendant of the Chasam Sofer, Rabbi Yochanan Sofer, who is now in Jerusalem.

“I was proud to play the part of a real hero,” said Leora, “but I don’t think I would be brave enough to do what he did. The lesson I learned is that when you put your mind to something, and if it’s really important to you, you can make it happen.”

Philip, who played the older Pinchas, said, “It was an honor to portray a heroic person who made such a difference during a dark time in Jewish history. Since the play was a group effort, it made a great graduation project. We came together to make it happen, just like Pinchas Rosenbaum worked with his group, which made it easier to save Jews…. A lot of what happened back then doesn’t apply anymore, but what we can learn from this great tzaddik, what we should keep close to our hearts, is that we should help our fellow Jews and stand up for what we believe in.” (Both “Pinchases” are from Teaneck.)

Oriel, who played the Ungvar rebbe, had this to say: “I felt that Rabbi Kahane overreacted when he yelled at Pinchas not to become a Zionist and that he should have listened to Pinchas’ ideas. He seemed like a good teacher … but … look, when we went to the Israel Day Parade we saw the Neturei Karta protesting on the side, so I know there are people who still feel that way today.”

Oriel, who is from Fair Lawn, continued, “Pinchas took risks and succeeded in saving hundreds.… We American Jewish kids were never in such a situation so we never had to take huge risks…. It’s hard for us to know if we would do such things. I am not sure that I would, but I hope I would be able to risk my life to save others. In its way, the play prepares us for the future. It shows us the world is good but that there are lots of bad things going on. We have to look out for each other, and not just think — we have to take action.”

Charles Rosenbaum said the play was beautiful. “It was very emotional — the students did it with so much warmth, and made me very happy I came. They are just amazing. My father spoke about the past only reluctantly — perhaps it’s because he died so young (at 57) and the wounds were still too fresh. Though he did not tell it to us directly, it is our obligation as the second generation to tell it. By writing and producing this play, this obligation has passed to the third generation, who are now telling the story to future generations.”


Norwood couple funds Israeli park in memory of Shoah victim grandparents

Esti Goldwasser, right, presents a Bible to Ben and Susan Gutmann at the dedication of a park honoring Ben Gutmann’s grandparents, who died at Auschwitz.

Standing on the railroad tracks that had carried his grandparents to their deaths at Auschwitz, Norwood resident Ben Gutmann could not help comparing their situations. “I realized with a jolt that we both stood on the platform at the same age, but I walked out of there and they didn’t,” he said.

Five years later, he and a troupe of family and friends watched Israeli children playing in the park dedicated to Benno and Hedwig Gutmann, the grandparents he never knew.

The trip to Israel earlier this year, with the park dedication as its emotional centerpiece, celebrated Gutmann’s 60th birthday. Gutmann told The Jewish Standard that he felt the most fitting way to mark this milestone and honor his paternal grandparents — murdered by the Nazis when they were just 58 and 52 — was creating a symbol of Jewish vibrancy.

President of the Jewish National Fund’s Northern New Jersey Board, Gutmann and his wife, Susan, last year scouted out an appropriate project among several JNF proposals in Israel. “They showed us places in the Negev and then took us to Nofey Prat, where 3-year-olds greeted us singing ‘Shalom Aleichem’ and waving flags out in the cold,” recalled Gutmann.

The 140-family Judean Desert village was established in 1992 by a group of Hebrew University students for a mixed secular and religious population. Though it lies on the west bank side of the “Green Line,” Gutmann said he and JNF chose the location not to make a political statement but to help build Israel.

“We fell in love with the community,” said Gutmann. “A mother came over to us and said they needed a park. It’s really hard to say no to that.”

Over Presidents Week, a contingent of 49 friends and relatives came to Israel to fete Gutmann. The roster included his two sisters as well as his brother Harold from River Vale; his son Andrew and his wife, Julie, and daughter, Lauren, from Manhattan; his son Samuel and his wife, Jenna, from Boston; and the parents of both daughters-in-law. Jenna Gutmann’s parents, Robert and Joan Oppenheimer, and grandmother, Marianne Lawton, flew in from Cliffside Park. Another 70 well-wishers in Israel joined them at a birthday party in Jaffa.

Two busloads of Gutmann guests arrived at Nofey Prat, where JNF America CEO Russell Robinson presided as the couple unveiled the dedication plaque and planted a tree. “Our 18-month-old granddaughter ran off the bus right to the playground. That was very moving,” said Gutmann. “People treated me as if I were a major personality. Mothers wanted to take my picture with their babies. I felt like a rock star.”

Local children sang “Happy Birthday” in English and Hebrew, and shared a birthday cake with Gutmann. Community spokeswoman Esti Goldwasser presented the couple with two leather-bound Bibles embossed with the impression of a coin found near Jericho featuring the words “peace on Israel.”

“The local residents clearly appreciate the new park,” said Gutmann. “They’re hoping it will entice more people to come to Nofey Prat. There were so many children running around the playground and I hope they still are, because that’s what makes it a living memorial.”


Stopping torture needs unswerving commitment


Reality check: Konrad Adenauer Foundation brings Muslim leaders to Holocaust sites

Visiting Dachau last month are Dr. Norbert Wagner, Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Imam Syed Naqvi, Nasreen Bedat, Special Envoy Hannah S. Rosenthal, Sheik Yasir Qadhi, Imam Abdullah Antepli, Imam Suhaib Webb (behind Antepli), Dr. Syed Syeed, Imam Muhammad Maged, Imam Muzammil Siddiqi, Suhail A. Khan, and Prof. Marshall Breger. Photos Courtesy Center for Interreligious Understanding

Rabbi Jack Bemporad wants it known that the visit he organized of eight Muslim-American leaders to concentration camps was a historic success.

Bemporad, director of the Carlstadt-based Center for Interreligious Understanding, called the Aug. 7 to 11 trip to Auschwitz in Poland and Dachau in Germany “a breakthrough in many respects, because … we took imams like [Yasir] Qadhi, for example,” who 10 years ago called the Holocaust a hoax. (Bemporad led the trip, which was sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, with Prof. Marshall Breger of the Catholic University of America.)

“The problem is,” said Bemporad, an Englewood resident, that “many imams came out of Saudi Arabia and Egypt because that’s where they get their education. That’s very unfortunate. The education they get is in many ways based on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” he explained. “The single greatest instrument of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in the world today, it gives the erroneous view that the Jews are a devilish group that wants to control the world by dominating the press, economies,” and so forth.

One reason that proven fraud is invoked, he said, “is to diminish the significance of the Holocaust. The whole point is to show that the Holocaust was an invention to take Israel and have a beachhead in the Middle East that should really be Muslim.

“The best way to convince people of a reality they are not sure of is to expose them to that reality in a way that is undeniable.”

Thus, he said, even “many who accepted the Holocaust never had a sense of the reality and the totality of it. As a result practically all of us were in tears or broke down” at the concentration camps.

“The main point,” said Bemporad, “is that … they are using this experience in their services and talking to their people — that’s talking about tens of thousands of people.”

Also, he said, “They want Jews to speak in mosques about this reality so they can unite with us to condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

Meanwhile, a rumor swirled around the blogosphere, and was discussed at sites like Politico and Salon, that Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, had lobbied against the trip. That, together with the ADL’s recent opposition to the planned mosque at Ground Zero, fueled speculations that he, the defender of bias against Jews, was biased against Muslims.

But Foxman told The Jewish Standard on Tuesday that there had been “a lot of noise and not so much light…. Nobody bothers to check the facts anymore,” he complained. “All of a sudden you will read [an allegation] in God knows how many places as a fact.”

What he did, he told the Standard, was question the participation of Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department’s anti-Semitism envoy. He said he had “shared with her a concern” about the appropriateness of a government representative’s joining a private mission. “Unfortunately,” he said, “it didn’t stay there and took on a life of its own.”

He had “no problem with [the Muslim leaders] going” on the trip, he said, adding, “I welcome the fact that they returned with the statement that they did.”


What happened to my grandfather, Karl Breslau, A”H

I am named after my paternal grandfather, Yekusiel ben Naftali, Alav Hashalom. Because of the inexplicable cruelty of the Nazis, we were never to meet. Now that I have come to experience the unique joys of being a grandfather, I often think about him and about the relationship we might have had.

My father, an only child, lived with my grandparents, Karl and Bertha Breslau, in Frankfurt. My grandfather was a retired chief shochet of the Frankfurt Jewish community and received a pension from it. In November of 1938, my grandparents went on a brief vacation. Unfortunately, they were attacked and beaten on Kristallnacht and returned to Frankfurt. My grandmother then suffered a stroke. She died in June of 1939 and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Frankfurt.

My grandfather had set up a code with my father, a banker. If the Gestapo ever came to the house looking for my father, my grandfather would call him at his office and say that “Uncle Gustav had come to visit.” One day my father was detained in his office past the time that he usually left for home, and he received the dreaded phone call. With the clothes on his back and the money in his pocket, he took a train to Berlin to get away and “have time to think” about what to do next. Because my father had blond hair and blue eyes, he escaped the Berlin Gestapo railway station detail and was able to get a visa to America rather quickly.

All he brought with him from his office were a couple of pictures of his parents and the infamous Nazi ID picture of Jews that featured a profile from the left side showing the left ear, which the Nazis felt showed Jewish traits.

He had to leave his father behind and, once World War II started, it was impossible to communicate with him. He heard from a friend who had heard that my grandfather had died in a boxcar on his way to Auschwitz in April of 1942. Since his grandfather had died on 23 Nisan, he adopted that as his father’s yahrzeit.

About two years ago, “60 Minutes” aired a program about the opening of all the German concentration camp records. They explained that the International Tracing Service was accepting inquiries about family members who died in the various camps. (The URL is I assumed that, if my grandfather had made it to Auschwitz alive, there would be a record of his arrival and I sent an inquiry to the ITS.

Six months later, I received a letter from Germany. I was told that my grandfather had been deported from Frankfurt on “Transport #3.” The heading on the first page identified the list as Transport #3 from Frankfurt to Riga, Latvia; in the middle of the second page was my grandfather’s name, with his address, birth date, and the address from where he was deported. The letter stated that no further records of what happened at Riga were available but perhaps more information could be obtained from the State Archives at Wiesbaden.

I wrote to the Wiesbaden authorities and received a letter, in German, with the following affidavit filled out by my father, A”H. It stated: “On May 21, 1939, my father lived in 9 Kronenberger Strasse in Frankfurt AmMain, Germany and then went to the Jewish old age home on 8 Wohlerstrasse, in Frankfurt. In 1940, he received as the former chief schochet of the Jewish Congregration, 200 Reichsmarks per month.”

The letter from Wiesbaden simply stated that my grandfather had been deported from Frankfurt — probably some time between 1941 and 1942 and killed thereafter. It also contained a 1999 article by researcher Monica Kingreen, in German, called “The Deportation of November 22, 1941.”

My German wasn’t good enough to translate the entire article, so Sid Haarburger of Teaneck was kind enough to sit with me and translate it.

In order to give a feel for the mood of the deportees of October/November of 1941, approximately 20 percent of the Frankfurt Jewish community, the author included a farewell letter from a 68-year-old woman named Bertha Oppenheimer to her children in the “ausland,” out of the country.

“My dear children,” she wrote, “I hope you are well. I am very agitated having been informed that I will have to leave Frankfurt on Thursday. I can only take bare necessities. I will let you know my new address, if permitted. Perhaps you can send me something there. Unfortunately, my desire to see you once more was not fulfilled. In any case, I am saying goodbye to you with all of the best wishes as a mother can wish her children. I want to hurry and mail this letter to the post office. I am so nervous I can’t write any more. Keep always together in happy and sad times. And pray for your mother. In thought, I am always with you.

“With kisses,


I carry my grandfather’s name and, after 69 years, I can finally observe a proper yahrzeit for him. Because of the information contained in that article (see sidebar), I now know that he was niftar on Nov. 25, 1941, at the age of 73. I pray that tiyeh nafsho tsarur bitsror hachaim. May his soul be bound up in the bond of life. I pray that he knows that his great-grandchildren and their children are keeping his traditions and memory alive.


Area to mark Yom HaShoah

Saturday night begins the 27th day of Nissan, the Hebrew date chosen by the Israeli Knesset as Yom HaShoah, Holocaust memorial day. For more than 20 years, one of the most vivid commemorations has been the March of the Living, in which thousands of young Jews walk the three kilometers from the Auschwitz concentration camp to the gas chambers at Birkenau.

This year, for the first time, the memorial ceremony held at Birkenau following the march will be broadcast by Jewish Life Television, and the broadcast will be the centerpiece of the annual commemorations of the UJA Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Frisch School in Paramus.

The broadcast will feature an addresses from Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and Holocaust survivor Irving Roth, director of the Holocaust Resource Center at Temple Judea in Manhasset, N.Y., who founded the Adopt a Survivor program. There will also be music from singer Dovid (Dudu) Fisher and the chief cantor of Tel Aviv, who will chant the El Maleh memorial prayer.

The Paramus event is one of dozens of community Yom HaShoah commemorations around the country that will be tuning in to the March of the Living broadcast.

In addition to the broadcast, the Paramus ceremony will feature a procession of 68 children holding candles, marking the 68th year since the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and a commemoration for the Jews of Europe held in Paterson in 1943. That commemoration became an annual event and was the precursor of the UJA Federation commemoration, making this the oldest continuous Holocaust program in the United States, according to Wally Greene, spokesman for the UJA Federation Holocaust Memorial Committee.

On Sunday evening, a recording of Hoenlein’s remarks will be played at another community Yom HaShoah event, at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, at 7 p.m.

The keynote speaker at the JCC event will be Eva Lux Braun, who survived Auschwitz and lives in Queens. She will share her first-hand experience about what it was like for her and her loved ones to suffer in Auschwitz, how they coped with things that should never occur in everyday life, and the “small miracles connected to faith, hope, and survival.”

There will be a candlelighting ceremony by survivors and their families.

The Abe Oster Holocaust Remembrance Award will be presented to the winner of a contest in which high school students were asked to write a poem that conveys lessons learned from studying the Holocaust.

The Yeshivat Noam Choir, students of the JCC Thurnauer School of Music, and Abraham Barzelay will provide music.

Also on Sunday night, at 8 p.m., five Englewood synagogues will hold a community Yom HaShoah event at Cong. Ahavath Torah, featuring a video presentation, “Triumph of the Spirit,” the story of Esther Jungreis and her family during and after the Holocaust.

“The message of the film is that even though the intent was to eradicate the Jewish people, we survived and came through,” said Richard Friend, chairman of the committee that organizes the event.

“It’s a very moving film,” he said.

In Teaneck, the annual Holocaust remembrance will take place 7:30 p.m Monday night at Teaneck High School featuring Fanya Gottesfeld Heller. Heller is the author of “Love in a World of Sorrow: A Teenage Girl’s Holocaust Memoirs,” which was made into the documentary film “Teenage Witness: The Fanya Heller Story.”

There will be a musical performance by Zalmen Mlotek.

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