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The Living Testify

The Living Testify
"In the field of Holocaust literature, nothing is as important nor as meaningful as the personal accounts of those who survived its nightmare only to tell the tale." --Elie Weisel The people in the above photos are Holocaust survivors who now live on Moshav Nir Galim in Israel. Professor Moshe Davis has recorded their Holocaust stories in The Living Testify.

From the Azrieli Foundation:

"Forget You Not"™

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Simon Wiesenthal

Simon Wiesenthal, Who Helped Hunt Nazis After War, Dies at 96;
Tirelessly Pursued Nazi Fugitives

 

 

Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005)
of Blessed Memory

 

 

September 21, 2005
By RALPH BLUMENTHAL

 

Simon Wiesenthal, the death camp survivor who dedicated the rest of his life to tracking down fugitive Nazi war criminals, died yesterday at his home in Vienna. He was 96.

He died in his sleep, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

Mr. Wiesenthal had worked until 2003, when he announced his retirement.

After hairbreadth escapes from death, two suicide attempts and his liberation by American forces in Austria in 1945, Mr. Wiesenthal abandoned his profession as an architectural engineer and took on a new calling: memorializing the six million of his fellow Jews and perhaps five million other noncombatants who were systematically murdered by the Nazis, and bringing their killers to justice.

His results were checkered: claims that he had flushed out nearly 1,100 war criminals were disputed.

But his role as a stubborn sleuth on the trail of history's archfiends helped keep the spotlight on a hideous past that he said too much of the world was disposed to forget.

"To young people here, I am the last," he told an interviewer in Vienna in 1993. "I'm the one who can still speak. After me, it's history."

From the cramped three-room office of his Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, Mr. Wiesenthal spent years collecting and dispersing tips on war criminals through a network of informants, government agents, journalists and even former Nazis.

He recounted these efforts in a memoir published in 1967, "The Murderers Among Us," and a second volume, "Justice, Not Vengeance," in 1989.

With a grave and tenacious manner, undercurrents of humor and a flair for gaining attention, he was lionized in 1989 in an HBO movie "Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story," based on his memoirs and starring Ben Kingsley.

A character modeled on him was played by Sir Laurence Olivier in the 1978 film "The Boys From Brazil" (though Mr. Wiesenthal was mortified by his depiction as a bumbler).

He served as a consultant for yet another thriller, "The Odessa File."

Dozens of nations and institutions honored him: the list of his awards, typed single-space, takes up nearly an entire dense page. But one prize that eluded him, to his great disappointment, was the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Defying Threats and Insults

Mr. Wiesenthal, a bulky figure with a clipped mustache who sometimes laughed that people mistakenly saw him as harmless, pressed his searches despite vilification and threats of death and kidnapping made against him, his wife, Cyla, and their daughter, Paulinka. In 1982 his house in Vienna was damaged by a firebomb, but he escaped unharmed. (German and Austrian neo-Nazis were charged, and one went to jail.) Yet he rejected entreaties to move, insisting that there was a symbolic purpose in doing his work from a longtime redoubt of Nazism and anti-Semitism where, he once said, his efforts were "unhappily tolerated."

 

Simon Wiesenthal in 1999
[Ronald Zak/Associated Press] Calling himself "the bad conscience of the Nazis," he vowed to continue his efforts "until the day I die." His goal, he said, was not vengeance but ensuring that Nazi crimes "are brought to light so the new generation knows about them, so it should not happen again."

It was a matter of pride and satisfaction, he said in 1995, as he approached his 87th birthday, that old Nazis who get into quarrels threaten one another with a vow to go to Simon Wiesenthal.

He wrote grippingly of the German killing industry, cataloging at one point a list of property sent to Berlin from the Treblinka death camp between October 1942 and August 1943: "Twenty-five freight cars of women's hair, 248 freight cars of clothing, 100 freight cars of shoes," along with 400,000 gold watches, 320,000 pounds of gold wedding rings and 4,000 carats of diamonds "over 2 carats."

In recent years he spoke out in favor of war crimes trials for genocide in the former Yugoslavia, and lent his name to a Holocaust study center and Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

Sometimes he taught his lessons with an acerbic wit. Failing to sway a Jewish lawyer who persisted in defending the right of neo-Nazis to march even through a Jewish neighborhood, Mr. Wiesenthal offered a final rebuke: "A Jew may be stupid, but it's not obligatory."

Once, in West Germany, he related, he defused a harangue by a speaker who accused him of dining on Nazis for breakfast, lunch and dinner. "You are mistaken," he replied. "I don't eat pork."

He became embroiled in Austrian politics, feuding bitterly with the Socialist chancellor, Bruno Kreisky. He was also assailed for siding with Kurt Waldheim, the former United Nations secretary general and

 

In 1992, Mr. Wiesenthal at a Jewish cemetery in Eisenstadt, Austria,
that had been vandalized by right-wing extremists.
[European PressPhoto Agency]  Austrian president who concealed his wartime service with a German intelligence unit implicated in atrocities in the Balkans.

Critics challenged Mr. Wiesenthal's claims to have played a role in the seizure of Adolf Eichmann, who directed the transport of European Jews to Hitler's death camps and was kidnapped by the Israelis from Argentina in 1960, then tried, convicted and hanged.

He also promulgated many false sightings in the bungled hunt for Josef Mengele, the Auschwitz death camp doctor who fled to South America and drowned in Brazil in 1979.

Serge Klarsfeld, a Paris lawyer who with his German-born wife, Beate, was instrumental in tracking down the Nazi Gestapo leader Klaus Barbie in Bolivia, called Mr. Wiesenthal an egomaniac and faulted him for not supporting their anti-Nazi demonstrations in South America and Europe. But Mr. Klarsfeld credited him with blazing the trail by his early and often lonely quest for justice after the war.

 

In 1973, Mr. Wiesenthal displayed a photo of the Nazi fugitive Walter Rauff, responsible for mobile gas vans that killed thousands of Jews. Mr. Wiesenthal was credited with a crucial role in many other cases. His investigations in São Paulo, Brazil, led to the arrests of Franz Stangl, former commandant of the Treblinka and Sobibor death camps in Poland, who was extradited to West Germany in 1967 and died three years later while serving a life sentence, and Gustav Franz Wagner, a former deputy commandant at Sobibor, who died during extradition proceedings in 1980. He was instrumental in the arrest and extradition from Argentina of Josef Schwammberger, an SS officer convicted in the killings of prisoners and slave laborers at camps in Poland and sentenced to life in prison in Germany in 1992.

Mr. Wiesenthal tracked down Karl Silberbauer, at the time a Vienna policeman, who had been the Gestapo aide responsible for arresting Anne Frank and her family in their secret annex in Amsterdam, a feat of sleuthing that buttressed the credibility of Anne's diary in the face of neo-Nazi claims that it was fabricated.

 He unmasked Hermine Braunsteiner-Ryan, a whip-wielding guard at the Maidanek death camp who was living in Queens and who received a life sentence in West Germany. And he put a reporter for The New York Times on the trail of Valerian D. Trifa, a leader of the fascist Iron Guard in Bucharest, Romania, who fomented a massacre of the Jews, later found refuge in Michigan as archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate in the United States and was deported in 1984, to Portugal, where he died three years later.

 

Urging Others to Join In

Mr. Wiesenthal penetrated veils of secrecy shrouding the Nazi euthanasia program and doctors who conspired in killing "useless eaters." He also traced the escape routes of SS criminals and other Nazis, documenting the underground network known from its German initials as Odessa. And as much as tracking down fugitive Nazis himself, he took it as his mission to goad governments around the world not to drop their pursuit and prosecution of war criminals.

 

Adolf Eichmann
brought to trial in Israel But his efforts in the hunt for Eichmann and Mengele, two of Nazi Germany's most heinous criminals, were disputed.

He often claimed to have placed Eichmann in Buenos Aires as early as 1953, and later to have turned over crucial photos of Eichmann to Israeli agents. But Isser Harel, the Israeli Mossad chief who masterminded Eichmann's abduction, vehemently contradicted Mr. Wiesenthal, denying that any such meeting with agents ever took place and crediting the success to information supplied by a West German prosecutor, Fritz Bauer. Subsequent accounts lent credence to Mr. Harel's version.

In the case of Mengele, wanted for grisly pseudomedical experiments on twins and other helpless subjects at Auschwitz, Mr. Wiesenthal had a shrewd insight in 1964. He urged West German authorities to monitor a close associate of the Mengele family, Hans Sedlmeier, in Günzburg, a Bavarian town where the Mengele family had its farm-machinery business.

Mr. Sedlmeier had indeed been in regular contact with the fugitive in Paraguay and Brazil. But he also had friends on the local police force and, tipped off to a search, concealed letters and other evidence that would have led to Mengele. The crucial lead evaporated, not to be re-examined for more than 20 years, by which time Mengele was already dead.

Over the years, Mr. Wiesenthal publicized a host of detailed and spurious "sightings" of Mengele in Paraguay, Egypt, Spain and a tiny Greek island, Kythnos. Benjamin Varon, former Israeli ambassador to Paraguay, publicly suggested that Mr. Wiesenthal might have been embellishing to coax funds from contributors. His comments, in a Jewish magazine, Midstream, in 1983, provoked a rebuke from Mr. Wiesenthal's supporters, who accused him of "profaning" Mr. Wiesenthal's "sacred mission."

Although he continued to voice suspicions of fakery for years after a body was authoritatively identified as Mengele's in 1985, Mr. Wiesenthal eventually acknowledged the truth of the scientific findings that Mengele had indeed drowned and was quite dead.

 

Haunting His Quarry

 

Simon Wiesenthal in 2002 But clearly Simon Wiesenthal haunted his quarry. One of Mengele's fanatical Nazi protectors in Brazil, Wolfgang Gerhard, said he had dreamed of hitching Mr. Wiesenthal to an automobile and dragging him to his death.

One of the most rancorous episodes in Mr. Wiesenthal's postwar career pitted him against Chancellor Kreisky, who was also Jewish and whom Mr. Wiesenthal accused in the 1970's of pursuing a politically expedient alliance with former Nazis to strengthen his Socialist Party. Mr. Kreisky fired back with intimations that Mr. Wiesenthal had collaborated with the Gestapo, a charge that Mr. Wiesenthal labeled ludicrous, and that was never backed up.

That fracas was followed a decade later by Mr. Wiesenthal's dispute with the World Jewish Congress over the Waldheim affair.

In early 1986, when the former secretary general ran as the conservative party candidate for president, the Jewish Congress investigated his wartime record, uncovering evidence that he had not sat out most of the war, as he had always claimed. Instead he had apparently served as a lieutenant with a German Army intelligence and propaganda unit that had carried out deportations and atrocities in the Balkans, and had initialed reports of "severe" measures to be taken against captives.

From the outset Mr. Wiesenthal took issue with the allegations, but not for reasons of politics, he asserted.

"The truth was simpler," he wrote in his book, "Justice, Not Vengeance." "I was not prepared to attack Kurt Waldheim as a Nazi or a war criminal because from all I knew about him and from all that emerged from the documents, he had been neither a Nazi nor a war criminal."

In 1993 Eli M. Rosenbaum, former general counsel of the World Jewish Congress and later director of the Justice Department Office of Special Investigations, a Nazi-hunting task force, linked Mr. Wiesenthal to a Waldheim cover-up.

In a book, "Betrayal" (St. Martin's), Mr. Rosenbaum and a co-author, William Hoffer, wrote that Mr. Wiesenthal, acting on an Israeli request, had discovered Mr. Waldheim's secret in French-held war archives as far back as 1979 but for political or other reasons misled the Israelis. When evidence of Mr. Waldheim's true record began to emerge, according to the book, Mr. Wiesenthal allied himself with Mr. Waldheim to save his own reputation.

 

Simon Wiesenthal in his Vienna Office
in 2000
For his part, Mr. Wiesenthal contended that he had correctly informed the Israelis that Mr. Waldheim had not been a Nazi party member nor in the SS, the elite guard, and that the World Jewish Congress was unfairly trying for its own purposes to brand Mr. Waldheim a war criminal. While he faulted Mr. Waldheim's credibility, Mr. Wiesenthal defended his own conduct. In a world where people believe in Jewish conspiracies, he told an interviewer, "accusations from Jewish sources must be able to stand up to all tests of credibility."

Although a reviewer for The New York Times took issue with "Betrayal" for appearing to equate Mr. Wiesenthal and Mr. Waldheim in villainy, its documentation was widely praised, winning a jacket endorsement from Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and writer.

 

Imprint of the Holocaust

Simon Wiesenthal was born on Dec. 31, 1908, in Buczacz, Galicia, which was then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later became part of Ukraine. His father, Hans, was a commodities wholesaler and Austrian Army officer who died in combat in 1915. In Buczacz, Jews endured murderous pogroms by the Cossacks, and in one such assault young Simon was slashed by a marauder's saber. In high school the boy fell in love with a classmate, Cyla Müller, a distant relation of Sigmund Freud; though teenagers, they were considered betrothed.

Mr. Wiesenthal wanted to study at the Polytechnic Institute in Lvov but was denied admission because of a quota on Jewish students. Instead he attended the Technical University of Prague, where in 1932 he received a degree in architectural engineering.

 

Simon Wiesenthal and his wife Cyla in a 1936 portrait. Eighty-nine members of their families died in the Holocaust. The couple, believing each other to be dead, were reunited in late 1945. Cyla Wisenthal died in 2003 at age 95.
[Courtesy: Simon Wiesenthal Center]

In 1936 he and Cyla married, and he took a job in an architectural office in Lvov. Three years later, when Germany and Russia partitioned Poland, the Red Army overran Lvov, purging Jews. Mr. Wiesenthal's stepfather was arrested and died in prison and his stepbrother was shot. Mr. Wiesenthal was reduced to working as a mechanic in a bedspring factory. Only by bribing a Soviet secret police commissar, he wrote, was he able to save himself, his wife and mother from deportation to Siberia.

In July 1941, Mr. Wiesenthal recounted, after the invading Germans replaced the Russians, he and other Jews were lined up in a courtyard to be shot. After about half the group had been executed, the soldiers withdrew for a church service and he was spared. He was then held in the Janowska concentration camp outside Lvov before he and his wife were sent to a forced labor camp serving the repair shop for Lvov's Eastern Railroad.

In 1942, as the Germans began to carry out their "final solution" by killing Jews, Mr. Wiesenthal's mother was transported to the Belzec death camp, where she was killed. In all, Mr. Wiesenthal and his wife lost 89 family members.

With false papers provided by the Polish underground in return for railroad charts that partisans needed for sabotage, Cyla Wiesenthal was spirited out of the labor camp in 1942 as a Pole. She hid in Warsaw, narrowly escaping incineration in a German flamethrower assault, and was sent to the Rhineland as a forced laborer making machine guns for the Germans.

With the connivance of an official, Mr. Wiesenthal himself escaped the labor camp in October 1943. But the following June he was recaptured and sent back to the Janowska camp where, he related, he slit his wrists with a contraband razor blade. Revived by the Gestapo for interrogation, he tried to hang himself but was too weak.

 

A Long Trek, Then Liberation

With the Red Army advancing on the retreating Germans, the SS guards moved their last remaining 34 prisoners westward, picking up new prisoners on the march. Few survived the trek, with stops at the camps in Plasgow, Gross-Rosen and Buchenwald and ending at Mauthausen in Austria. There Mr. Wiesenthal, weighing 97 pounds, was liberated by Americans on May 5, 1945.

Almost as soon as he could stand, he began collecting evidence on the atrocities for the War Crimes Section of the United States Army. He also served the Office of Strategic Services and the Army's Counter-Intelligence Corps, and headed the Jewish Central Committee of the United States occupation zone in partitioned Austria. By the end of 1945 he and his wife had found each other, and the following year their daughter, Paulinka Kreisberg, was born.

He is survived by his daughter, who lives in Herzliya, Israel, and three grandchildren. His wife died in 2003.

 

Simon Wiesenthal at his office in Vienna, in 2000.
<voirineditions.com/rharchivefoliopages/rharchivefolioportrait12.html> Also in 1946, after supplying evidence for war crimes trials in the American zone, Mr. Wiesenthal and 30 volunteers founded the Jewish Historical Documentation center in Linz, Austria, to collect evidence for future trials. But the developing cold war dulled interest in Nazi-hunting - both the Americans and the Russians were secretly recruiting Nazi scientists and spymasters. In 1954 the Linz office was closed and its files conveyed to the Holocaust archives of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

But after the successful seizure of Adolf Eichmann, for which Mr. Wiesenthal was quick to claim credit, he reopened his Jewish documentation center, this time in Vienna, and focused on an array of notorious Nazi fugitives.

In November 1977, Mr. Wiesenthal lent his name to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based institute for Holocaust remembrance. With an attached Museum of Tolerance and offices around the world, the center investigates and reports on anti-Semitism and bigotry worldwide.

According to a biography distributed by the center, Mr. Wiesenthal and his wife lived in a modest house in Vienna where he spent his time "answering letters, studying books and files and working on his stamp collection."

Many European countries and resistance movements decorated Mr. Wiesenthal, who was fluent in Polish, German, English, Yiddish and Russian.

He was often asked why he had become a searcher of Nazi criminals instead of resuming a profitable career in architecture. He gave one questioner this response: "You're a religious man. You believe in God and life after death. I also believe. When we come to the other world and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps and they ask us, 'What have you done?' there will be many answers. You will say, 'I became a jeweler.' Another will say, 'I smuggled coffee and American cigarettes.' Still another will say, 'I built houses,' but I will say, 'I didn't forget you.' "

 

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Rudolf Vrba, born Walter Rosenberg

Rudolf Vrba, born Walter Rosenberg in Tropoljany, Czechoslvakia in 1924, was the Jewish Slovak resistance fighter who escaped from Auschwitz in 1944 to get the news of the Holocaust to the world. He contacted the Jewish Council and told them what was going on in the death camp and the fate with awaited the Hungarian Jews. His account also reached Rudolf Kastner who ignored it. Vrba later commented:

"It is my contention that a small group of informed people, by their silence, deprived others of the possibility or privalage of making their own decisions in the face of mortal danger"

 

Rudolf Vrba, born in Czechoslovakia in 1924

Some historians have argued that a giving the Hungarian Jews this warning would have made no differance - because they claimed the Jews of Hungary were not prepared to revolt and that any rebellion against the Nazi's would have been suicidal. Vrba, though, sees it differantly:

"Passive and active resistance by a million people would create panic and havoc in Hungary. Panic in Hungary would have been better than panic which came to the victims in front of burning pits in Birkenau. Eichmann knew it; that is why he smoked cigars with the Kasztners', "negotiated", exempted the "real great rabbis", and meanwhile without panic among the deportees, planned to "resettle" hundreds of thousands in orderly fashion . . ."

On April 7 (1944) two trains reached Auschwitz from western Europe. The first, from Holland, contained 240 Jews, of whom sixty-two men and thirty-eight women were tattooed and sent to the barracks, and the remaining 140, including twenty-two children, were gassed. Later that same day a second train arrived from Belgium, and 206 men and a hundred women were tattooed and sent to the barracks, while the rest, 319 in all, including fifty-four children, were sent straight to the gas chamber.

The destruction of the family camp on March 7 had made a profound impression on a young Slovak Jew, Walter Rosenberg, who subsequently changed his name to Rudolf Vrba. Several of Vrba's close friends had perished in the family camp, and he felt an urgent need to inform the outside world both of what had already happened at Auschwitz, and of the preparations which those in the camp knew to be taking place to kill a substantially increased number of victims, most probably from Hungary. "I was attracted,' Vrba later wrote, 'by the possibility to damage the plans of the Nazis by divulging them to the Hungarian Jewish population while they are still in freedom, and can take to the streets.' 

Vrba had been in Auschwitz since June 1942, and for nearly two years he had found ample opportunity to observe the killing process at work. On three previous occasions he had made plans to escape, in December 1942, May 1943 and January 1944, but had been unable to carry them out. Now, together with a fellow Slovak, Alfred Wetzler, he contacted the secret International Resistance Group inside the camp, and put his plan of escape to David Szmulewski one of the representatives of the resistance leaders 'I have been told,' Vrba later wrote, 'that due to my inexperience, personal volatility (impulsiveness) and other factors the leadership dismissed my intentions as unreliable." 

The resistance leaders understood, however, Vrba's intense personal feelings about the destruction of the family camp, and gave him their assurance that, even if they could not help him escape, no obstacle would be put in his way. On March 31 his resistance contact, Szmulewski saw him again, to tell him of the resistance leaders' decision. "Szmulewski himself,' Vrba later recalled 'was very sorry because of the unfavourable "higher decision" but expressed the hope that in the case of "no success" I would be able to avoid interrogation and thus avoid a catastrophe for those who had had contact with me before.'

The two escapees were determined to alert the outside world to the reality of Auschwitz, and to the fate that seemed to be in store for the Jews of Hungary. Wetzler, who was twenty-six, had been an actual witness of the destruction of the Theresienstadt family camp. Vrba was nineteen and a half. Both had been born in Slovakia. Both had been brought to Auschwitz nearly two years before. What these two men had seen and learned during those two years was to provide the basis for the first comprehensive report to reach the west.

From August 1942 to June 1943 Vrba had worked in a special 'Clearing Commando', known colloquially as 'Canada', then situated in Auschwitz Main Camp. On the arrival of each train at the railway sidings, the Commando's task was to drag out the dead bodies, and then take all the luggage of the deportees for sorting, and to prepare it for dispatch to Germany. Thus for ten months Vrba was present at the arrival of almost most every train, and committed to memory their place of origin and the number of deportees in each.

In June 1943 Vrba was transferred from 'Canada' to become one of the registrars in the Quarantine Camp at Birkenau, and as a registrar he had the opportunity of speaking to those new arrivals who had been selected from the incoming trains for slave labour, instead of for gassing. Here again, he both knew and memorized the details of the incoming transports, including the sequence of tattoo numbers allocated to each group as it arrived. In addition, many of the trucks taking people from the railway sidings to Crematorium IV drove past within only a few yards of Vrba's 'office'. As Vrba himself later wrote:

". . . it was part of my duty to make a summarized report of the whole registration office, which report was daily conveyed to the so-called Political Department of the concentration camp Auschwitz. Having this duty enabled me again and again to obtain first hand information about each transport which arrived in the area of the Auschwitz concentration camp." 

From his 'office', Vrba also witnessed the construction of a new railway siding inside Birkenau itself. Work on this siding, or 'ramp had begun on 15 January 1944. 'The purpose of this ramp,' Vrba later recalled, "was no secret in Birkenau the SS were talking about 'Hungarian Salami' and 'a million units' . . . my lavatory was 30 yards from the new ramp, my office about 100 yards."

Vrba had also been able to make contact with the Czech family camp, as his work as registrar enabled him to move during the daytime between several sections of Birkenau He could make full use of this ability, he later recalled, 'by taking a bundle of papers' with him, moving to a section of Birkenau adjacent to the family camp. Then he could contrive to 'get lost' among the prisoners in that section, and without even having to shout, he could speak across the barbed wire between the sections, to other prisoners. There were even times when he had been able to pass written messages across to the family camp, and to receive messages in reply.

Two days before the actual gassing of the family camp, the SS had imposed an internal camp curfew. But a number of those marked out to die had at the same time been transferred to the very section in which Vrba was then a registrar. 'Thus, for the last two days of their lives , he later recalled, 'I had unlimited contact with them." 

Like Vrba, Alfred Wetzler had also been a registrar, but in different parts of Birkenau, including the mortuary. He too had established contacts which enabled him to collect information about every aspect of the killing process. The facts which he and Vrba were able to assemble and to memorize, included the number of Jews 'put to death by gas at Birkenau from April 1942 to April 1944, listed by their country of origin, and the dimensions of the camp.

While planning their escape, Vrba and Wetzler had even been able to make contact with several of the Jews forced by the SS to drag the corpses from the gas chambers to the crematorium. These Jewish slave labourers were formed into a special unit, or Sonderkommando. At regular intervals, they too would be gassed, and then replaced by a new group. But those whom Vrba and Wetzler contacted were able to give them details about the size and workings of the gas chambers themselves. These facts also the two men committed to memory.

Two hours before the evening roll-call of April 7 Vrba and Wetzler were hidden by their colleagues in a specially prepared hide-out which a number of inmates had prepared during work on an extension of the camp which was then under construction beyond the camp's inner perimeter. This area, known as 'Mexico', was being prepared to house the expected Hungarian Jews.

The hide-out was a gap in a woodpile, made up of wooden boards. These boards were being stored as part of the building material for the extension of the camp. Before the inmates returned to their barracks within the inner perimeter, they sprinkled the surrounding area with petrol soaks and tobacco, to prevent the two hundred guard dogs of Birkenau, kept there for just such occasions, from sniffing out the would-be escapees. This latter advice had come from the experience of Soviet prisoners-of-war.

At evening roll-call, after the 'Mexico' workers had returned to their barracks, the sirens sounded. Two prisoners were missing. The guards and dogs began their search. For three days and nights there was a high security alarm, with continuous roll-calls and searches. (5) Throughout those three days a tight cordon of SS guards was kept around both the inner and outer perimeters.

But the hide-away remained undiscovered, and by the evening of April 10, the camp authorities assumed that the two men had already got away. The cordon of SS guards which had surrounded the outer perimeter of the camp withdrawn.

On April 9 the head of the SS units responsible for guarding the camp, Waffen SS Major Hartenstein had already telegraphed news of the escape to Gestapo headquarters in Berlin. Copies of his telegram were sent to the SS administrative headquarters at Sachsenhausen to all commanders of Gestapo and SID units in the east, to all Criminal Police units, and to all frontier police posts. The telegram gave the names of the two men, Identified them as Jews, and added: 'Immediate search unsuccessful. Request from you further search and in case of capture full report to concentration camp Auschwitz". 

The telegram went on to state that Himmler himself had been informed of the escape, and that the fault 'of any guard' had not so far been determined.

The search within the outer perimeter of the camp having been called off at 10 p.m. on April 10, Vrba and Wetzler slipped past the outer line of watchtowers, and with incredible courage set off southwards toward Slovakia.

After their escape, Vrba and Wetzler had worked their way southwards from Birkenau 'without documents, without a compass, without a map, and without a weapon". Carefully avoiding the German 'new settlers' who lived, as at Kozy, in former Polish homes, who were often armed, and had the authority to shoot "unidentifiable loiterers' at sight, they headed steadily towards the mountains, shunning all roads and paths, and marching only at night. One evening they were fired on by a German police patrol, but managed to escape into the forest. Later they met a Polish partisan, who guided them towards the frontier, and then, on the morning of Friday April 21, they crossed into Slovakia, finding refuge with a farmer on the Slovak side, in the small village of Skalite.

On April 6, the day before Vrba and Wetzler began their escape, Reuven Zaslani of the Jewish Agency had already warned British intelligence in Cairo of a German radio broadcast in which the Germans 'propose eliminating a million Jews in Hungary'. 

On the following day, as Vrba and Wetzler crouched in their woodpile, and were hiding within half a mile of Crematorium IV, the Geneva Zionists were once again telling the Allied representatives in Switzerland what they knew of the fate of European Jewry This time they told their story to the United States Minister in Berne, Leland Harrison, and his first Counsellor of Legation, J. Klahr Huddle.

Once more Gerhart Riegner and Richard Lichtheim who headed the delegation, reported for more than an hour on the news which had reached them from Nazi Europe. Several thousand Dutch Jews, they said, had beer) saved from deportation as a result of receiving Palestine certificates. But the Polish Jews interned in Vittel were less fortunate: recently the Government of Paraguay 'had refused to recognise" those documents and passports which had been issued by the Paraguayan consul in Berne, while several other South American consuls who had issued similar documents 'had been dismissed'.

The Zionists and the American diplomats then had what was described as ,a general discussion' about the 'tragic fate' of the Jews of Europe. Riegner handed Harrison two photographs. One showed "the dead bodies of the Jews in Transnistra", Rumanian Jews who had been deported eastward in the autumn of 1941, and the other showed what Riegner called 'one of the death chambers in Treblinka".

This second photograph, Riegner told Harrison, 'was corroborating evidence to the report lately issued by Polish circles and describing the death camp of Treblinka". 

Once again, there was no mention of Auschwitz. Not even its name appeared in the report of this long meeting. Yet the gas chambers there had already been in operation for nearly two years. And as Vrba, Wetzler, and their terrible information began the journey southward, the SS were making plans to build two more gas chambers, to repair the crematoria, and to begin what they hoped would be the rapid, uninterrupted, and secret destruction of the 750,000 Hungarian Jews whose fate they now controlled.

From Pages 201-205

Throughout April (1944), while the SS prepared to deport the Jews of Hungary, other Jews were being brought to Auschwitz as before. On April 9 the first of three trains reached Auschwitz from the Majdanek concentration camp, which was evacuated as the Red Army drove steadily westwards. For eight days these "evacuees" had been shunted towards Auschwitz in a sealed train, without water, or medical help. During the journey, twenty of them cut their way out of the train at a wayside station, and tried to escape. All were shot. A further ninety-nine were found dead on arrival at Auschwitz. Tile survivors were tattooed, and sent to the barracks.

On the following day, April 10, a train reached Auschwitz from Italy, and on April 11 from Athens. Of 1,500 deportees in this second train, 1,067 were gassed. On April 29 a further train arrived from Paris, including the Vittel deportees with their once precious, now valueless Latin American passports. On April 30, from a train from Italy, only thirteen men were sent to the barracks, while all the women, children and old people were gassed.

Equally unknown to the Allies, the Jews of Hungary were being prepared for deportation to Auschwitz. The first stage of the Nazi plan, the scaling of the Jews into ghettoes, had already begun on April 16, in Ruthenia. Nine days later, the question of rescue took an unexpected, dramatic turn : oil April 25, Joel Brand, a leading Hungarian Zionist, was taken to SS headquarters in Budapest. As Brand recalled two months later, Eichmann 'snapped' at him, as soon as lie was seated:

You know who l am. I solved the Jewish question in Slovakia. I have stretched out my feelers to See If your international Jewry is still capable of doing anything. I will make a deal with you. We are in the fifth year of the war. We need . . . (10) and we are not immodest. I am prepared to sell you all the Jews. I am also prepared to have them all annihilated. It is as you wish. It is as you wish. Anyway, what do you on want ? I presume for you the most important are the men and women who can produce children.

Brand then recalled the following conversation:

Brand: I am not the man to decide that old men and women should be left behind, and only people capable of producing children should be saved.

Eichmann: Quite. Well, I want goods for blood.

Brand: I did not understand at first and thought Eichmann meant money.

Eichmann: No. Goods for blood. Money comes second.

Brand: What goods?

Eichmann: Go to your international authorities, they will know. For example - lorries. I could imagine one lorry for a hundred Jews, but that is only a suggested figure. Where will you go ?

Brand: I must think . . . 

This meeting between Brand and Eichmann, unknown at the time either to the Jewish Agency or to the Allies, was to lead within a few weeks to both the Agency and the Allies becoming directly involved in the fate of Hungarian Jewry, and in an SS act of deception on a massive scale: for Eichmann wanted Brand to make contact with the Jewish Agency representatives in Istanbul, and with the Allies, and to offer a commercial barter, the Jews of Hungary, alive, in exchange for goods and money: 'Goods for blood', as Eichmann had expressed it.

With the truth about Auschwitz still unknown in the west, such an offer contained a tantalizing appeal. But at the very moment when it was being made, evidence was reaching the Jewish leadership in Slovakia which contained full and horrific details of the gassings at Auschwitz. The source of this news was the two Auschwitz escapees, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, whose message had begun its westward journey with their escape from Auschwitz 'on April 10 and their meeting with the Slovak farmer at Skalite on April 21.

As Vrba later recalled:

'We met accidentally on the march within one kilometre of the German-Slovak border. He was working in his fields. He saw that we had crossed the border "on our stomachs", and invited us for lunch.'

The farmer's name was Canecky. During lunch he explained to Vrba and Wetzler that 'in almost all the neighbouring villages' there were Jewish doctors who had been exempt from deportation in the summer of 1942 because of the 'dire lack' of doctors in Slovakia. The exemption had covered the doctor's wife and children, but not his parents, brothers or sisters.

The farmer then told the escapees that in the town of Cadca there was one such Jewish doctor, a Dr. Pollak. Vrba realized that this was the same man whom he himself had met at the time of his own deportation in June 1942, and who, as a doctor, had been deleted at the last moment from the deportation list.

To walk over the mountains to Cadca would have taken the two men at least three days. But if they could wait in Skalite until Monday morning, they could take a train. This they did, dressed as local peasants, and pretending to transport the farmer's pigs for sale in Cadca's Monday market. As the local train was controlled by local Slovak gendarmes, and not by Germans, the risk for someone speaking Slovak, and dressed as a peasant, was relatively small. So it was that the two men reached Cadca without incident. There, as Vrba later recalled:

I walked into Dr. Pollak's surgery pretending to be a patient. There was a female nurse present in his office, so I pretended I came to complain about a 'gentleman's disease' and I said I wanted the woman nurse to go out. Once alone with Dr. Pollak I explained to him briefly who I was and from where I knew him and from where I now came.

When Dr. Pollak learned from me that all his 'resettled' relatives were dead, he became somewhat shaky, and asked me what he could do for me. I asked him to immediately contact the Jewish Council in Bratislava. Before I left his office he, Dr. Pollak, suggested that lie put bandages on my feet so that the nurse would not suspect something unusual, because I was a long time in his office (about fifteen minutes).

He gave me the address of some of his friends, and we, i.e. Wetzler and myself, slept in Cadca We travelled to Zilina next morning by train, dressed as peasants. Oil the morning of Tuesday, April 25, at about to a.m. we met the first representative of the Jewish Council, Mr. Erwin Steiner, in a park in Zilina. We (Wetzler and l) were drinking slivovitz in the park and waiting for Steiner. Without hair, in peasant shirts and drinking slivovitz in public we attracted no attention, as this was a common habit of newly recruited (already shorn) soldiers in Slovakia. Thus we met the Jewish Council, with my feet still in bandages provided by Dr. Pollak.' 

On hearing the two escapees' story, Steiner at once contacted the Jewish community in Bratislava, the Slovak capital. The man to whom he spoke, by telephone, in Bratislava was Oskar Krasnansky a chemical engineer, and a leading Slovak Zionist. Although Jews were not normally allowed to travel by train, Krasnansky managed to obtain permission from the Police, and made his way to Zilina.

At Steiner's house Krasnansky found the two escapees: 'They were in poor health, and undernourished', he later recalled. 'They had eaten almost no food for three weeks'.

Krasnansky was impressed by the escapees' 'wonderful memory', and for two days he cross-examined them on the 'reality' of Auschwitz. Then, after providing them with false Aryan papers, he sent them for safety to the town of Lipovsky Mikulas. 

Using Council documents brought specially from Bratislava, Krasnansky checked the escapees' account of the arrival of trains from Slovakia to Auschwitz with the Council's own statistics of the departure of these trains from Slovakia to their previously 'unknown destination'. Then Krasnansky wrote a covering note to their report, stating that it contained 'only what one or other, or both, experienced, witnessed, or had knowledge of directly'. Krasnansky added:

The statements coincide with the reports, undoubtedly only fragmentary, but reliable, that have been received up until now, and the information supplied on individual transports corresponds exactly with the official listings.

Hence the statements are to be considered as completely authentic. 

The question was now discussed in Bratislava: what was to be done with this Vrba-Wetzler report? According to Krasnansky, he himself wrote it out in German, and gave it to a typist, Gisi Farkas, who made several copies. 'One copy', he later recalled, 'we sent to Istanbul. But it never arrived there. The man to whom we gave it, who was making the journey, had been sent from Istanbul as a "reliable courier". But possibly he was a paid spy. As far as we later learned, he gave it to the Gestapo in Budapest'.

Krasnansky handed a second copy of the report to the Slovak Orthodox rabbi, Dov Weissmandel who had contacts with the Orthodox community in Switzerland, and who offered to try to smuggle it there, for transmission to the West. 

A third copy was given to Monsignor Giuseppe Burzio the Papal Chargé d'Affaires in Bratislava, who went it on to the Vatican on May 22, after himself questioning the two escapees. But the Vatican's own records suggest that Burzio's report only reached there five months later.' 

The most urgent need, Vrba and Wetzler believed, was to transmit the report to Hungary, and to alert Hungarian Jewry to their own potential fate. Krasnansky himself translated the Vrba-Wetzler report into Hungarian, and prepared to give it to Rudolf Kasztner the head of the Hungarian Jewish rescue committee, on his next visit to Bratislava.

Kasztner who made the short train journey from Budapest fairly frequently, was expected in Bratislava before the end of April. But on April 25, the very day on which Krasnansky was cross-examining Vrba and Wetzler in Zilina, Kasztner and the Hungarian Jewish leadership in Budapest were receiving Eichmann's offer to negotiate 'goods for blood': to avoid the death camps altogether in return for a substantial payment.

On that fatal day, April 25, two events had coincided: the truth about Auschwitz had reached those who had the ability to make it known to the potential victims, and the offer had been made to negotiate 'goods for blood'. Those Hungarian Jewish leaders who wished to follow up the negotiations Were unwilling to risk the negotiations by publicizing the facts about the annihilation process at Auschwitz. Yet that process was known to them from April 28, three days after Eichmann's first meeting with Brand, when Kasztner travelled to Bratislava, where he was given a copy of the Vrba-Wetzler report, and took it back to Budapest. (16) But by then Kasztner and his colleagues in the Zionist leadership in Hungary were already committed to their negotiations with Eichmann, and to the dispatch of their colleague, Joel Brand, to Istanbul. They therefore gave no publicity whatsoever to the facts about Auschwitz which were now in their possession.

To this day, Vrba remains convinced that had the facts which he and Wetzler brought to Bratislava been immediately publicized and circulated throughout Hungary, many of the 450,000 Jews who were later to be deported, but who were as yet still in Hungary, would have been stirred to resist, evade or otherwise obstruct their deportation. Had the deportees had "knowledge of hot ovens", Vrba later wrote, 'Instead of parcels of cold food, they would have been less ready to board the trains and the whole action of deportation would have been slowed down".

Not urgent warnings to their fellow Jews to resist deportation, but secret negotiations with the SS aimed at averting deportation altogether, had become the avenue of hope chosen by the Hungarian Zionist leaders. Their people thus became the innocent victims of one of the countless Nazi deceptions of the war; "a clever ruse", as Vrba himself later reflected, 'to neutralize the potential resistance of a million people', and lie added:

Passive and active resistance by a million people would create panic and havoc in Hungary. Panic in Hungary would have been better than panic which came to the victims in front of burning pits in Birkenau. Eichmann knew it; that is why he smoked cigars with the Kasztners', "negotiated", exempted the "real great rabbis", and meanwhile without panic among the deportees, planned to "resettle" hundreds of thousands in orderly fashion . . . 

During the first two weeks of May the deportations to Auschwitz continued from Paris, from Yugoslavia, from Berlin, and from the industrial labour camp at Blechhammer. On May 14 a train arrived bringing sick and old Jews, and Jewish children, from Plaszow, a slave labour camp in the suburbs of Cracow. All were gassed.

For the Jewish Agency, the dispatch of Palestine certificates continued, their sole known means of rescue. During May the first certificates began to reach Belgium, sent from the Palestine Office in Geneva through the International Red Cross, and these gave protection, it was later discovered 'to some 600 recipients'. 

Among the many enquiries that had been made was one oil behalf of Yitzhak Gruenbaum (Greenbaum), Polish-born chairman of the Rescue Committee of the Jewish Agency, whose son Eliezer had been living in Warsaw on the outbreak of war. Early that spring Gruenbaum himself had telegraphed to Gerhart Riegner in Geneva: 'Find my son'. Riegner's first reaction, as he later recalled, was amazement that Gruenbaum should even imagine that it was any longer possible to find anybody in Poland:

If anybody knew what the fate of Polish Jewry had been, it is Gruenbaum. He was the personification of the fight for Jewish rights in Poland before the war. It was a completely crazy idea to find an individual there, to find the son of a father in Poland. after two and a half years of killing . . .

But Riegner did not shrug off the request. Instead, tic later recalled:

I had a crazy idea of my own. I sent tell Red Cross packages to ten different camps, each in the name of Yitzhak Gruenbaum's son. And from one camp, confirmation came . . . 

This was indeed so; on March 1 a postcard from Eliezer Gruenbaum reached the World Congress in Geneva, confirming receipt of the parcel. From Geneva, Richard Lichtman at once wrote to Jerusalem to inform Eliezer's father that his son was alive, and that the postcard had come from a camp in Upper Silesia. The name of the camp was Jawischowitz. It was, Lichtheim added, 'practically the same place as Birkenau'. (20)

Jawischowitz was in fact one of several industrial regions in the Auschwitz area to which Jewish slave labour from Auschwitz and Birkenau were sent. It was in no way 'practically the same place'. But the name 'Birkenau' like that of 'Auschwitz' still masked its true function from those who used it.

According to Eliezer Gruenbaum's postcard, which had been sent from Jawischowitz on April 29, he had received 'three food parcels' through the World Jewish Congress relief organization, Relico, and it was Relico's Geneva office which had received his postcard, which had taken only six days to make its journey from Upper Silesia to Switzerland.

The name 'Birkenau' again appeared in a Jewish Agency message on May 3. although once again, as in Lichtheim's letter of May 1, it was not linked or associated in any way with the name 'Auschwitz', of which it was so integral a part.

The second mention of Birkenau was in a telegram from Yitzhak Gruenbaum's representative in Istanbul, Eliezer Leder who reported to Jerusalem that the British Consulate in Istanbul had confirmed the Palestine certificates recently issued for Hungary and Rumania, and that he, Leder, now wished to know whether it was 'advisable sending same Birkenau'. 

This telegram is a clear pointer of just how little was known of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. But ignorance and hope were a powerful combination; and hope that at least some Jews could be rescued was given further encouragement on May 5, when the British Consul in Geneva, H. B. Livingston, informed the Jewish Agency representatives there that the Germans had agreed to a third exchange, 'covering 279 Jews for 111 Germans', and that this exchange could take place 'about mid-May'. 

Here was a possibility of saving a further 279 Jews from Nazi Europe; Jews from Poland who, if they could be found, could now be brought out. Both the relatives of Palestinian Jews, and 'veteran Zionists' were eligible. The problem was to find them. In the previous exchange, a majority of those on the list had never been found. They had, in fact. already been deported, and gassed. Now the search began again.

 

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Pepi Schreier

Oldest Auschwitz survivor defies odds, living to tell her story by GLORIA DEUTSCH, Jerusalem Post Service

JERUSALEM -- Pepi Schreier points to the faded blue numbers on her left forearm. For a moment the smile on her face vanishes as the memory comes flooding back.

"The Nazis did it," she recalls, stabbing at the number with her carefully manicured fingernails, her face contorted for a brief moment.

Her daughters Judith and Marlit, who were with her in Auschwitz as little girls and whose arms carry the two consecutive numbers after their mother's, soothe her and bring her back to the happier present.

At 100 years old, Pepi, known as "Omi" to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, is the oldest living survivor of Auschwitz.

"We had suspected as much," says 72-year-old Judith Becker, Pepi's older daughter who was 12 when the family was liberated. "But we were able to confirm it when we made an application to the Claims Conference last year, for compensation from money set aside by the Swiss government."

Her granddaughter Rachel Goldsmith, who visits Pepi in Jerusalem as often as possible, speaks of her grandmother with awe and adoration. "No one I know has suffered more in her life but has contributed more to humanity," she says. "During the Holocaust her faith in God and her indomitable spirit pulled her through countless situations which might have seemed hopeless to someone with less faith.

"Even when she went into the gas chamber with her two daughters, she knew, somehow, that the Almighty would save them and they would come out alive."

Judith Becker takes up the story. "It was the spring of l944. We had been moved from one concentration camp to another and we found ourselves in Plaschow. Several hundred Hungarian women were brought to the camp. They had been in Auschwitz. They were frightened, sullen and stood with their shaven heads, unable to communicate with us, speaking only Hungarian.

"My mother went towards them. We had come into possession of a little extra bread and she went and stroked their cheeks and put pieces of bread in their mouths like a mother bird feeding her chicks. She found one woman who understood German and through her she told them not to worry, that they were going to survive. She changed the whole picture for these women."

Soon after, the two little girls and their mother were moved to Auschwitz and within 24 hours sent to the gas chamber. Pepi told her daughters to stand next to her and to say the Sh'ma. "We will get out of this alive," she said.

They were released when the mechanism of the gas chamber failed. "She seemed to have an almost personal relationship with God," says Goldsmith. "Her faith that they would survive never wavered. But she didn't just sit back and let things happen. She worked and planned and had many perilous escapades to save lives."

"She always insisted we keep our dignity," interjects Judith, who lives in Jerusalem. "The Nazis did everything to dehumanize us. They shaved our heads and stripped us naked, they starved us and beat us. But my mother always insisted we wash ourselves, and I was made to bring water to the barracks, even though this was a life-endangering activity.."

Pepi was born in Galicia and orphaned at the age of 8. She was taken to live in Germany with an older sister and worked in her brother-in-law's textile business. She married in 1922, and gave birth to four boys, one of whom later died, and two daughters.

The Nazis arrested and imprisoned her husband. Pepi, with her five children and seven nieces and nephews, was dumped on the Polish border.

She found a home and set about arranging what was to her the most important priority for the 12 children -- getting them an education. She found them places in Jewish orphanages and then decided she must learn a trade in order to support them.

She studied at an ORT school to learn how to make corsets, a profession she practiced all her life.

After the German invasion, she was called upon time and again to use her ingenuity to save lives. Later, she even returned to Germany, smuggling herself onto a train with two of the children, who subsequently escaped to England and freedom.

In Berlin, she removed her yellow star and marched into Gestapo headquarters, demanding that they release her husband -- but to no avail. Back in the ghetto in Poland, she was able to get a permit for herself, the two girls and another Jewish woman to carry on making corsets for the Germans and wealthy Poles. Even when she was taken with her four youngest children to a forced labor camp in l943, Pepi managed to get food and later to save the younger children from the selections.

After the war, she arrived in New York where her oldest son, Felix Berger, who had managed to escape Europe in l939 at the age of 16, had settled and become a prominent Jewish educator.

In l97l she was the first of her family to make aliyah, coming to Israel with her third husband, Siegmund Schreier.

She lives in Jerusalem with her surviving children and their offspring, the matriarch of a dynasty that survived against all odds.

 

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Bill Basch

Holocaust survivor Basch to get Wallenberg medal
By Jill McDonough 
Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies

One of the Holocaust survivors whose story was told in the Oscar-winning Best Documentary Feature "The Last Days" will be awarded the 13th Wallenberg Medal at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 in Rackham Auditorium. Provost Paul N. Courant will confer the medal on Bill Basch, who then will deliver the Wallenberg Lecture.

Basch at age 17 (Photo courtesy Rackham Graduate School)

"The Last Days" was produced in 1999 and chronicles the final days of the Jews of Hungary as they were rounded up by the Nazis in 1944. Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg was executive producer of the film.

In the documentary five Holocaust survivors, all Americans now, tell the story of their deportation to the camps, escapes from execution and eventual liberation. The film takes them back to their hometowns and to the camps. Basch took his son, Martin, to the place where he was interned.

Basch was the son of a grocer in a small Hungarian village and grew up in a loving family. But by 1942, he had fled to Budapest, joined the Underground, and become one of a legion of young volunteers who risked their lives to deliver food and passports to the Jews living in Raoul Wallenberg's safe houses. Eventually Basch was captured while trying to deliver a Schutzpass—an official-looking passport-type document created by Wallenberg that declared Budapest Jews were protected by the Royal Swedish Legation, a stall tactic until the Jews could be hidden. Basch survived the horrors of Buchenwald and Dachau and today describes Wallenberg as his hero.

Wallenberg was a Swedish citizen who graduated from the U-M College of Architecture in 1935. In 1944, the Swedish Foreign Ministry sent Wallenberg on a rescue mission to Budapest where his incomparable personal courage and ingenuity saved 100,000 Jewish lives, Courant says.

The Raoul Wallenberg Endowment was established in 1985 to commemorate him and to recognize those whose own courageous actions call to mind Wallenberg's extraordinary accomplishments and values, Courant says. Previous Wallenberg Medal recipients include Nobel laureates Elie Wiesel, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Miep Gies, the woman who supported Anne Frank and her family in hiding.

The Wallenberg lecture and medal ceremony is co-sponsored by the Wallenberg Endowment, the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies and the U-M Hillel.

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Tibor Rubin


.

Mauthausen Holocaust Survivor Tibor Rubin
Receives U.S. Medal of Honor

 

ibor Rubin kept his promise to join the U.S. Army
after American troops freed him from the Mauthausen
concentration camp in Austria during World War II.

 

By Paul Chavez
Associated Press

September 19, 2005

LOS ANGELES -- Tibor Rubin kept his promise to join the U.S. Army after American troops freed him from the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria during World War II.

A Hungarian Jew, Rubin immigrated to New York after the war, joined the Army and fought as an infantryman in the Korean War. In 1951, Chinese troops captured Cpl. Rubin and other U.S. soldiers and he became a prisoner of war for 21Ž2 years.

More than five decades later, after a relentless campaign by grateful comrades and Jewish war veterans, President Bush on Sept. 23 will give Rubin the Medal of Honor.

"I was only staying alive to get that medal and now I'm going to enjoy it," said the 76-year-old Rubin, who now lives in Garden Grove.

He was nominated four times for the medal, the nation's highest recognition for bravery in battle. But some believe the paperwork was never submitted because a member of his chain of command discriminated against him for being Jewish and born in Hungary.

When he was at the Chinese prisoners' camp known as "Death Valley," Rubin said he would pray in Hebrew for the U.S. soldiers &emdash; about 40 each day &emdash; who died in the freezing weather. He also took care of soldiers suffering from dysentery or pneumonia.

Rubin, who goes by the name Ted, called concentration camp good "basic training" for being a POW and applied lifesaving lessons he learned there. For example, Rubin said he would retrieve maggots from the prisoners' latrine and apply them to the infected wounds of his comrades to remove gangrene.

Fellow POW Sgt. Leo Cormier said Rubin gave a lot of GIs the courage to live.

"I once saw him spend the whole night picking lice off a guy who didn't have the strength to lift his head," Cormier told the Army. "What man would do that? ... But Ted did things for his fellow men that made him a hero in my book."

As a POW, Rubin turned down repeated offers from the Chinese to be returned to his native Hungary.

"I told them I couldn't go back because I was in the U.S. Army and I wouldn't leave my American brothers because they needed me here," Rubin said.

Rubin wouldn't say anything negative about the Army and his long wait for the Medal of Honor. But in affidavits filed in support of Rubin's nomination, fellow soldiers said their sergeant was allegedly a vicious anti-Semite who gave Rubin dangerous assignments in hopes of getting him killed.

In 1988, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States urged Congress to recognize Rubin's efforts. And Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida introduced a bill in 2001 to force the Pentagon to review the records of Jewish veterans who may have been denied the Medal of Honor because they were Jews.

About 150 records remain under review, said Bob Zweiman, past national commander of the Jewish War Veterans.

 

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Karl Stojka

Born: Wampersdorf, Austria

April 20, 1931

Karl was the fourth of six children born to Roman Catholic Gypsy parents in the village of Wampersdorf in eastern Austria. The Stojkas belonged to a tribe of Gypsies called the Lowara Roma, who made their living as itinerant horse traders. They lived in a traveling family wagon, and spent winters in Austria's capital of Vienna. Karl's ancestors had lived in Austria for more than 200 years.

1933-39: I grew up used to freedom, travel and hard work. In March 1938 our wagon was parked for the winter in a Vienna campground, when Germany annexed Austria just before my seventh birthday. The Germans ordered us to stay put. My parents converted our wagon into a wooden house, but I wasn't used to having permanent walls around me. My father and oldest sister began working in a factory, and I started grade school.

1940-44: By 1943 my family had been deported to a Nazi camp in Birkenau for thousands of Gypsies. Now we were enclosed by barbed wire. By August 1944 only 2,000 Gypsies were left alive; 918 of us were put on a transport to Buchenwald to do forced labor. There the Germans decided that 200 of us were incapable of working and were to be sent back to Birkenau. I was one of them; they thought I was too young. But my brother and uncle insisted that I was 14 but a dwarf. I got to stay. The rest were returned to be gassed.

Karl was later deported to the Flossenbürg concentration camp. He was freed near Roetz, Germany, by American troops on April 24, 1945. After the war, he returned to Vienna.

 

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Rubino Romeo Salmoni

Life Is Beautiful Nazi death camp survivor dies aged 91 An Jewish Italian survivor of the Nazi death camps, whose story inspired the Oscar-winning film Life Is Beautiful, has died at the age of 91 in Rome. Rubino Romeo Salmoni survived the Nazi death camp Auschwitz 

Rubino Romeo Salmoni was one of only a handful of Italian Jews who managed to survive being sent to the extermination and labour camps and return home after the war. His two brothers were less fortunate – both died in the camps.

He recounted his horrific experiences in a book, 'In the End, I Beat Hitler', employing flashes of irony and dark humour to describe conditions in Auschwitz, where he was sent.

The book inspired the Italian actor Roberto Benigni to write the script for Life Is Beautiful, in which he starred as an Italian Jewish man trying to shield his son from the worst horrors of camp life by turning the experience into a game.

Mr Salmoni evaded the first round-up of Jews in Rome's Ghetto area in October 1943, but he was arrested by Italian fascist police in April 1944.

He was held first in a prison in Rome and then transferred, on what he later described as the start of "the long road towards death", to an internment camp at Fossoli near Modena in northern Italy.

He arrived at Auschwitz at the age of 24. "At Auschwitz I was no longer Rubino Romeo Salmoni, but Jew number A15810, to be exterminated," he later wrote.

Put to work as a forced labourer, he managed to survive until the camp was liberated by the Allies in 1945.

In the decades after the war, he retold his story many times, often during visits to schools and colleges, determined that the Holocaust should not be forgotten.

He described life in the concentration camp as "hellish", a constant struggle against hunger, cold and exhaustion in which inmates were treated savagely by the guards. Morning roll calls by the camp commandant could last for hours as prisoners shivered barefoot in the snow, he recalled.

He saw his survival as a triumph against Nazism. "I'm still here, hale and hearty. I came out of Auschwitz alive, I have a wonderful family, I celebrated my golden wedding anniversary, I have 12 splendid grandchildren – I think I can say I ruined Hitler's plan for me."

Tributes poured in from Jewish groups in Italy and overseas, while Gianni Alemanno, the mayor of Rome, hailed him as "a great man who with his courage and determination managed to save himself from the hell of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Romeo was an example for young people and for the whole of Rome."

By Nick Squires, Rome

11:31PM BST 11 Jul 2011

 

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Viktor Frankl

"Abandon all hope ye who enter here."
Dante Alighieri's inscription on the entrance to Hell.as prisoner of conscience of the Third Reich.

The entrance to the feared death camp of Auschwitz, author-psychoanalyst
Viktor Frankl's home as prisoner of conscience of the Third Reich.

 

Frankl wrote the following while
being marched to forced labor in a Nazi concentration camp:
       We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road running through the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor's arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his hand behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don't know what is happening to us."

       That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another on and upward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look then was more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

       A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth--that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world may still know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when a man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way--an honorable way--in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life, I was able to understand the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory."

       In front of me a man stumbled and those following him fell on top of him. The guard rushed over and used his whip on them all. Thus my thoughts were interrupted for a few minutes. But soon my soul found its way back from the prisoners existence to another world, and I resumed talk with my loved one: I asked her questions, and she answered; she questioned me in return, and I answered...

       My mind still clung to the image of my wife. A thought crossed my mind: I didn't even know if she were still alive, and I had no means of finding out (during all my prison life there was no outgoing or incoming mail); but at that moment it ceased to matter. There was no need to know; nothing could touch the strength of my love, and the thoughts of my beloved. Had I known then that my wife was dead, I think that I still would have given myself, undisturbed by that knowledge, to the contemplation of that image, and that my mental conversation with her would have been just as vivid and just as satisfying. "Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death."

Both a concentration camp prisoner and world-respected author and psychotherapist in his lifetime, Viktor Frankl writes the following advice about happiness:

 

"Again and again I therefore admonish my students in Europe and America: Don't aim at success - the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run - in the long-run, I say! - success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it."

 

Of course, the important part is the "...in the long-run..."
http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/frankl/frankl.html

VIKTOR FRANKL, RENOWNED AUSTRIAN PSYCHIATRIST, DEAD AT 92 3 September 1997
Web posted at: 23:37 CEST, Paris time (21:37 GMT)

VIENNA, Austria (AP) Viktor E. Frankl, author of the landmark "Man's Search for Meaning" and one of the last great psychotherapists of this century, has died of heart failure. He was 92.

Frankl died Tuesday and his funeral already has been held, the Austria Press Agency reported today, citing the Vienna Viktor Frankl Institute. It gave no further details.

"Vienna, and the world, lost in Victor Frankl not only one of the most important scientists of this century but a monument to the spirit and the heart," said Vienna Mayor Michael Haeupl.

Frankl survived the Holocaust, even though he was in four Nazi death camps including Auschwitz from 1942-45, but his parents and other members of his family died in the concentration camps.

During and partly because of his suffering in concentration camps, Frankl developed a revolutionary approach to psychotherapy known as logotherapy.

At the core of his theory is the belief that humanity's primary motivational force is the search for meaning, and the work of the logotherapist centers on helping the patient find personal meaning in life, however dismal the circumstances may be.

Frankl's teachings have been described as the Third Vienna School of Psychotherapy, after that of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler.

In "Man's Search for Meaning," which has sold approximately nine million copies worldwide and been translated into twenty-three languages. The Library of Congress called the book one of the ten most influential books of the twentieth century. Frankl said: "There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one's life."

According to logotherapy, meaning can be discovered by three ways: "(1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering," he wrote.

"We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation," he insisted, a theory he gradually developed as a concentration camp survivor.

"As such, I also bear witness to the unexpected extent to which man is capable of defying and braving even the worst conditions conceivable," he wrote.

Viktor Emil Frankl was born in Vienna on March 26, 1905. His father worked his way up from a parliamentary stenographer to director at the Social Affairs Ministry. As a high school student involved in Socialist youth organizations, Frankl became interested in psychology.

In 1930, he earned a doctorate in medicine and then was in charge of a ward for the treatment of female suicide candidates. When the Nazis took power in 1938, Frankl was put in charge of the neurological department of the Rothschild Hospital, the only Jewish hospital in the early Nazi years.

But in 1942, he and his parents were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp near Prague.

Frankl returned to Vienna in 1945, where he became head physician of the neurological department of the Vienna Polyclinic Hospital, a position he held for 25 years. He was a professor of both neurology and psychiatry.

Frankl's 32 books on existential analysis and logotherapy have been translated into 26 languages. He held 29 honorary doctorates from universities around the globe.

Starting in 1961, Frankl held five professorships in the United States at Harvard and Stanford Universities as well as at universities in Dallas, Pittsburgh and San Diego.

He was awarded the Oskar Pfister prize of the American Society of Psychiatry, as well as honors from several European countries.

Frankl taught regularly at Vienna University until he was 85 and was an avid mountain climber. He also earned a pilot's license at 67.

He is survived by his wife, Eleonore, and a daughter, Dr. Gabriele Frankl-Vesely.

 

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Neo-Nazis Screaming 'Heil Hitler'

Survivors of a Nazi death camp were shot at and abused as they gathered to remember their liberation.

Masked neo-Nazi thugs screamed 'Heil Hitler!' and 'This way for the gas!' at ten elderly Italian men and women, who returned to the site of the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.

The gang also fired air guns at a group of 15 French survivors, many dressed in the striped pyjama-style uniforms they wore as inmates. One suffered a head wound while another was injured by a shot in the neck. The four thugs managed to escape.

Jewish leaders in Austria were appalled by the weekend scenes that marred events marking the 64th anniversary of the camp’s liberation by American troops.

Members of a delegation of Polish survivors arrive for a ceremony to commemorate the 64th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp of Mauthausen

An estimated 320,000 people were murdered or worked to death at Mauthausen and its outlying slave labour installations.

Jewish leaders condemned Saturday's incidents, which marred events marking the 64th anniversary of the camp's liberation by U.S. troops.

The attacks came near the Ebensee sub-camp of Mauthausen on Saturday in two separate incidents involving Italian and French survivors

The prisoners at Ebensee worked in underground factories which manufactured Messerschmitt airplanes.

 

The pope who was once a member of the Hitler Youth arrives in the Holy Land and condemns anti-Semitism  

 

'In the first instance a group of French survivors were attacked by four  armed men clad in camouflage gear,' said Willy Mernyi, head of the Mauthausen Committee of Austria.

'The attackers shot at the group of fifteen survivors with what police assume was plastic air gun pellets. One person was hit in the head while another was injured by a shot in the neck.

'People come to remember the dead and pay their respects and are met with this kind of terror.'

The second incident happened a short time later when 10 Italian survivors who gathered nearby for a similar ceremony were attacked.  

Survivors of the former Austrian Nazi concentration camp Mauthausen enter the camp before the neo-Nazis struck

The concentration camp was liberated by U.S. troops on May 5, 1945

While they were not fired on, the neo-Nazis again hurled abuse and shouted Nazi slogans while giving the Hitler salute.

But the same spirit that kept them alive back then was still evident among the survivors who fought with the cowards who desecrated the memory of their dead comrades.  

They even succeeded in ripping the mask from one of them and taking his picture with a mobile telephone camera.

Regional police chief Alois Lissl said the survivors and their families showed 'extreme courage' in fighting back.

'Unfortunately, the men managed to escape but we know that they spoke in a local  dialect,' he said.

Ebensee mayor Herwat Loidl condemned the modern-day Nazis, declaring: 'They will not be allowed to gain a foothold in our community.'

He called on Austrians with information as to the identities of the thugs to turn them in.

Some 7,000 Mauthausen survivors and their families from 42 countries travelled to the Mauthausen complexes at the weekend for the remembrance services.

“At least we set out to do what we wanted to – to honour the dead and remember the liberation,” added Mernyi.

An estimated 320,000 people were murdered or worked to death at the camp.



Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1180599/Neo-Nazis-attack-concentration-camp-survivors-memorial-service-345-000-dead.html#ixzz1cCMibwpw

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Philip Bialowitz

Philip Bialowitz is a Sobibor death camp survivor, one of seven known living survivors. Bialowitz chronicled his story in "A Promise at Sobibor: A Jewish Boy's Story of Revolt and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland."

In his sports jacket, lavender shirt and tie and Sinatra-style snap-brim straw fedora, Philip Bialowitz looks like a dapper man about town, not a war-hardened Nazi killer.

Bialowitz, 82, one of only eight remaining survivors of the Nazi death camp Sobibor, will speak at 7:15 p.m. on Monday at the Chabad of Lake Worth.

In 1942 and 1943, more than 250,000 people, mostly Jews, were exterminated at Sobibor, an extermination camp set in a densely wooded, isolated area of eastern Poland.

Bialowitz was a boy of 17, a slave laborer at Sobibor, when he joined a cadre of prisoners who planned an uprising, considered the largest and most successful prisoner revolt of World War II.

"We were untrained and ill-fed and we were successful," he said.

Beyond their own survival, the prisoners had a greater goal.

Their rallying cry was, "If anyone survives, bear witness to what happened here. Tell the world about this place!"

Bialowitz took that pledge to heart. He is a lecturer and the author, with his son Joseph, of A Promise at Sobibór: A Jewish Boy's Story of Revolt and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland.

Bialowitz and several family members were transported to Sobibor in April 1943.

His sisters and his niece were gassed, he later found out from another prisoner who cut his niece's hair before she entered the gas chamber.

Later, Bialowitz was cutting hair of women who thought they were merely being deloused, not exterminated.

"The women asked me not to cut their hair too short," he recalled.

His tasks became progressively more grisly. One day he was ordered to help empty piles of bloated corpses from a boxcar.

"I try to pull a dead woman from the train, but her skin comes away in my hands," he said.

Laughing, a Nazi officer stuck a cigarette in Bialowitz's mouth to reduce the stench, took a snapshot of the ghoulish scene and walked away.

The revolt was conceived in 1943, when the slave workers realized that the Nazi killing machine at Sobibor was slowing down. Soon, their work would be done and they would be forced into the gas chamber.

"They said to us, 'Brothers, our destiny has come. Let's rise up and destroy this place,' " said Bialowitz.

On Oct. 14, 1943, after killing 11 Nazi guards with axes and knives they secretly fashioned in the camp workshop, about 300 slave laborers pushed down a section of fence and scrambled into the forest.

About half of the escapees were either captured or killed by mines outside the camp, dying to save their comrades.

And of those who escaped, only about 50 survived until the end of the war.

Bialowitz reunited with a few members of his family and was trained in a displaced persons camp as a dental assistant by a former Nazi doctor. In 1950 he emigrated to Columbus, Ohio, married and started a family.

Today he lives in Queens, N.Y.

Every year he meets thousands of teens who come to Poland for the March of the Living.

"They didn't destroy my personality and my will to live. I tell them my story and we sing, the nation of Israel is alive."

Bialowitz smiles, a mischievous smile. You might say it is his last laugh on Adolf Hitler.

"I have five children, 15 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren," he says, beaming. "My biggest victory over the Nazis is that I created a new family."

~ Lona_Oconnor@pbpost.com

 

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Arnost Lustig

Czech author Arnost Lustig, survivor of three Nazi concentration camps, loses battle with cancer

Czech author Arnost Lustig, a survivor of three Nazi concentration camps who channeled the horrors of the Holocaust into his acclaimed work, died after a five-year fight with cancer.

The 84-year-old Prague native cheated death repeatedly as a teen during World War II, when he was imprisoned for three years at Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Buchenwald. In 1945, he was headed aboard a Nazi death train to Dachau when its engine was struck by a U.S. bomber. Lustig fled to Prague in time to join the May uprising against the Germans.

The Jewish writer's experiences under the Nazis were reflected in novels like "Darkness Casts No Shadow," about two teens living in a forest after escaping from a German transport. His books were translated into 17 languages.

He was a two-time winner of the National Jewish Book Award, a winner of the prestigious international Franz Kafka Prize and a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his novel "Lovely Green Eyes."

Despite his terrifying youth, friends hailed Lustig for his ceaseless good humor and optimism. Lustig, who died Saturday, is survived by son Josef and daughter Eva.

The writer fled Czechoslovakia after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of his homeland, moving to Israel before settling in Washington, D.C. He became a professor of literature at American University.

The collapse of Communism in 1989 convinced Lustig to return to Prague, where he spent the rest of his life.

In a quirky twist, the internationally known writer served as editor-in-chief of Playboy's Czech edition from 1995-97.

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Felix Brinkmann

Felix Brinkmann is shown at age 21 in a 1939 photograph. He escaped death during the Holocaust.

Nazi concentration camp survivor, 90, found strangled

A 90-year-old Holocaust survivor was found strangled Thursday in his Upper East Side apartment, a spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner said Friday.

Felix Brinkmann, a native of Latvia, escaped death for a year while he was in the Nazis' Mauthausen, Ebensee and Auschwitz concentration camps. Five times he had been slated for the gas chambers, but each time he used his fluency in German to talk his way out.

After the war ended, he was stunned to discover that his wife, who had also been shipped to Auschwitz, was alive and well in Poland.

The Brinkmanns immigrated to America, where Felix spent years in the bar and nightclub business, co-founding in 1971 Adam's Apple disco in Manhattan.

In recent years, he had served as the real estate manager of a mixed-use building in the Bronx, working "seven days a week, without fail," said his son Rick Brinkman, who spells his last name differently than his father.

On Thursday, the building's superintendent grew concerned when Brinkmann did not show up to work. He notified Brinkmann's son and received permission to enter the father's apartment, where he had lived alone since his wife died last year.

Brinkmann's body was found lying face down in his bedroom, his hands bound, his body showing blunt-force trauma wounds, police said. Brinkmann's blue 2009 Honda Civic may have been stolen and a safe in his apartment tampered with, police said.

A police spokesman said authorities were looking for "a man and a woman" in connection with the homicide.

Rick Brinkman speculated that the killing was random in nature. "Anybody who knew him really liked him," the son said. "He was not the kind of guy who had enemies."

July 31, 2009|By Jason Kessler CNN

Arrest made in death of Nazi concentration camp survivor

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A Bronx woman has been charged with murder and robbery in the death of an 89-year-old Nazi concentration camp survivor, and police said a man is still being sought in connection with the death.

Felix Brinkmann dances at a 2008 birthday party. "He was not the kind of guy who had enemies," his son says.

Angela Murray, 30, was arrested Saturday, according to the Manhattan district attorney's office, and is accused of strangling Guido Felix Brinkmann on Thursday in his Upper East Side apartment.

Murray was arraigned Sunday and charged with one count of murder in the second degree and three counts of robbery.

Brinkmann, a native of Latvia, was a Holocaust survivor who escaped death for a year while he was in the Mauthausen, Ebensee and Auschwitz camps. He had been slated for the gas chambers five times, but each time, he used his fluency in German to talk his way out, said his son, Rick Brinkman, who spells his last name differently.

After the war, he was stunned to discover his wife, who had also been shipped to Auschwitz, alive and well in Poland.

The Brinkmanns immigrated to America, where Brinkmann spent years in the bar and nightclub business, co-founding the Adam's Apple disco in Manhattan in 1971.

In recent years, he had been the real estate manager of a mixed-use building in the Bronx, working "seven days a week, without fail," Rick Brinkman said.

On Thursday, the building's superintendent grew concerned when Brinkmann did not show up for work. He notified Brinkmann's son and received permission to enter the father's apartment, where he had lived alone since his wife died last year.

Brinkmann was found face-down in his bedroom, his hands bound behind his back and his body showing blunt-force trauma wounds, police said. Brinkmann's blue 2009 Honda Civic had been stolen, along with one of two safes in his apartment, police said. The vehicle was later recovered in the Bronx.

Rick Brinkman speculated that the killing was random. "Anybody who knew him really liked him," the son said. "He was not the kind of guy who had enemies." 

 

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Death Camp Survivors' personal plea to Facebook to change Holocaust-Denial policy

July 8th, 2011
Los Angeles, California

Dear Facebook,

We, the undersigned, are Holocaust Survivors who saw our parents, children and loved ones brutally murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. We are writing to you to protest Facebook’s policy that categorizes Holocaust denial as “free speech,” rather than the shameless, cynical and hateful propaganda that it is.

Listen to the voices of Holocaust Survivors. We volunteer and speak at the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) and the Museum of Tolerance (MOT), where we have shared our personal testimonies with millions of visitors and youth. As individuals who are both victims of and witnesses to the truth of the horrors and hate of that time period, we are deeply hurt and offended by your policy that protects Holocaust denial as speech. Above all else, Holocaust denial, in any form, is a desecration of our suffering the suffering and martyrdom of our murdered parents, brothers and sisters.

The SWC has assured us that Facebook is a company with integrity, a company that is willing to live up to its moral and social responsibilities, as you have done in the past by removing hateful postings. Therefore, we have chosen to write to you, under the good auspices of the SWC & MOT, and appeal to you, both individually and collectively, to reevaluate your existing policy. 

Do not permit Holocaust denial any platform on Facebook to preach its inherent message of lies and hate. By allowing this hate propaganda on Facebook, you are exposing the public and, in particular, youth to the anti-Semitism which fueled the Holocaust. Please correct this terrible error in judgment before our generation passes away.

Sincerely,

 

John Adler: 
Immigrated to Palestine with the 
Zionist Youth Organization
Joined the British Army. Fought in Egypt and Italy 

Sol Berger: 
Fought with the Polish Partisans

Eva Brettler: 
Hid under a fictitious name
Ravensbruck and Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camps 

Peter Daniels: 
Theresienstadt Concentration Camp

Harry Davids: 
Separated from family at four months old
Lived in open-hiding and was saved by a Christian family

Renee Firestone: 
Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp
Slave labor in Liebau
Tattoo # A-1230

Peter Fischl: 
Imprisoned in the Jewish House 
In hiding from Arrow Cross and Germans

Bella Friedman: 
Majdanek, Plaszow, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Gundelsdorf, 
Ravensbrook Concentration Camps

Andrew Gardner: 
Gyöngyös ghetto. Mauthausen Concentration Camp

Elane Geller: 
Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp

Marie Glasser: 
Auschwitz-Birkenau and Lubberstedt Labor Camps

Rolf Gompertz: 
Kristallnacht, Fled to America

Jack Lewin: 
Trzebinia, Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camps
Tattoo # B-10237

Dave Lux:
Kindertransport to England with brother in 1939
Never saw his parents again

Elisabeth Mann: 
Kecskemet ghetto, Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp

Mary Natan: 
Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camps

Dr. Henry Oster: 
Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald Concentration Camps 
Tattoo # B-7648

Mathilda Pardo:
Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camps
Tattoo # 77090

Michael “Miki” Popik: 
Auschwitz and Mauthausen Concentration Camps

Morris Price: 
Prokoczim Labor Camp, Krakow ghetto
Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dachau
Concentration Camps
Tattoo # 108262

Albert Rosa:
Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dachau 
Concentration Camps
Tattoo #110362

My Father, Lazar Auerbach, his brothers, Menachem Auerbach, Baruch Auerbach, Fishel Auerbach.

Thank you,
Pamela C Auerbach Abraham Malz Denise Radomski

Sent by her friend, Faith Luber Lea Avroch

mother (living): Malvina Lichtman
father (deceased): Alex Lichtman
uncle (deceased): Adolf Lichtman
aunt (living) Lichtman
aunt (living): Rose Friedman
uncle (deceased): David Friedman Dina Rusinek (nee Mendelwicz) saw her father and two brothers perish in the Holocaust.

Her husband, David Rusinek, watched as his parents were murdered.

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Only Two Survivors Of Notorious Nazi Death Camp Still Living

They are believed to be the last two survivors of the most chillingly efficient killing machine of the Nazi Holocaust: the Treblinka extermination camp in occupied Poland. Samuel Willenberg and Kalman Taigman, 87-year-old Israelis, are devoting their final years to trying to preserve the memory of the 875,000 people systematically murdered in a one-year killing spree at the height of World War II.

BAT YAM, Israel — They are believed to be the last two survivors of the most chillingly efficient killing machine of the Nazi Holocaust: the Treblinka extermination camp in occupied Poland.

Samuel Willenberg and Kalman Taigman, 87-year-old Israelis, are devoting their final years to trying to preserve the memory of the 875,000 people systematically murdered in a one-year killing spree at the height of World War II. Almost all of them were Jews.

Only 67 people are known to have survived the camp, fleeing in a brazen revolt shortly before Treblinka was destroyed. Following the recent death of a prominent chronicler, Israel's national Holocaust memorial said the two Israeli men are now the final living link to one of the most notorious death camps in human history.

"The world cannot forget Treblinka," said Willenberg.

"Soon there will be no one left to tell," added Taigman.

Treblinka holds a notorious place in history as perhaps the most vivid example of the "Final Solution," the Nazi plot to rid Europe of Jews.

Along with the lesser known Belzec and Sobibor camps, it was designed with the sole intention of exterminating Jews, and Treblinka was by far the deadliest. Victims, transported there in cattle cars, were gassed to death almost immediately upon arrival.

Only a select few — mostly young, strong men like Willenberg and Taigman, who were both 20 at the time— were spared an immediate trip to the gas chambers and assigned to maintenance work instead.

On August 2, 1943, a group of Jews stole some weapons, set fire to the camp and headed to the woods. Hundreds fled, but most were shot and killed by Nazi troops in the surrounding mine fields or captured by Polish villagers who returned them to Treblinka.

The survivors became the only source of knowledge about Treblinka, because the Nazis all but destroyed it in a frantic bid to cover their tracks.

Willenberg said he was shot in the leg as he climbed over bodies piled at the barbed wire fence and catapulted over. He kept running, ignoring dead friends in his path. He said his blue eyes and "non-Jewish" look allowed him to survive in the countryside before arriving in Warsaw and joining the Polish underground.

Later in life, he took to sculpturing to describe his experiences. His bronze statues reflect what he saw — Jews standing on a train platform, a father removing his son's shoes before entering the gas chambers, a young girl having her head shaved, prisoners removing bodies.

"I live two lives, one is here and now and the other is what happened there," Willenberg said in an interview at his Tel Aviv apartment. "It never leaves me. It stays in my head. It goes with me always."

His two sisters were murdered there. He described his survival as "chance, sheer chance," choking back tears. "It wasn't because of God. He wasn't there. He was on vacation."

In all, the Nazis and their collaborators killed about 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. The death toll at Treblinka was second only to Auschwitz — a prison camp where more than a million people died in gas chambers or from starvation, disease and forced labor.

Taigman said he recalls the uprising vividly, and that resisting the Germans was a "dream" for the prisoners.

He entered Treblinka holding the hand of his mother, who was quickly pulled away from him and murdered. He left watching a Nazi flag burning in the distance from a blaze they had set — a small piece of revenge after nearly a year of torment.

"It was hell, absolutely hell," said Taigman, who lives in a retirement home south of Tel Aviv. "A normal man cannot imagine how a living person could have lived through it — killers, natural-born killers, who without a trace of remorse just murdered every little thing."

Taigman, who wandered in the Polish countryside for nearly a year after his escape, said his most lasting memory of Treblinka is fellow prisoners who had to remove bodies — often their own relatives — from gas chambers.

After the war, Willenberg and Taigman made their ways to Israel, where they pursued careers and raised families. Willenberg became a surveyor in Israel's Housing Ministry, while Taigman was an importer. The survivors have maintained their special connection, meeting each other often over the years.

David Silberklang, a senior historian at Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, said that in contrast to other camps where Jews were also used for industrial labor, Treblinka truly represented the essence of the Nazi Final Solution.

"Treblinka had nothing, just killing, and they almost finished the job. These camps left us almost nothing," he said. Without the survivors, he said "it would just be a black hole, we would know nothing. With them, we know quite a lot," he said.

One of the men most responsible for documenting the atrocities was Eliahu Rosenberg, who was tasked with removing bodies from gas chambers and dumping them into giant pits. He passed away in September, but before his death recounted his experiences in a video testimony to Yad Vashem.

"It poisoned, choked people within 25 minutes, all would suffocate. It was terrible to hear the screaming of the women and the children. They cried: "Mama!" ''Tata! (Dad)" but in a few minutes they choked to death," he said.

"The crematoriums were train rails which lay on a concrete base. On them were wood planks, we called it 'grills.' We threw the body parts onto those 'grills,' and with a match everything burnt. And we stood there ... and it burned all night, all night long."

After the revolt, the Nazis attempted to destroy all evidence of their atrocities. The camp structures were destroyed, the ground plowed and planted over. Today, all the remains at the site are a series of concrete slabs representing the train tracks, and mounds of gravel with a memorial of stone tablets representing lost communities.

The two remaining survivors have returned to lead tours of the site. Taigman made the trip just one time, saying it was too painful to go back again, while Willenberg has gone on several occasions, most recently last week.

"There are only two of us left. After we go, there will be nothing," said Willenberg. "All I will leave behind are my sculptures and most importantly, my daughter and my grandchildren."

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The Life (And Death And Life) Of The Lubavitcher Rebbe

The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson
By Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman
Princeton University Press, 382 Pages, 29.95

Most Jewish New Yorkers vividly remember the Crown Heights riots of August 1991, four horrendous days of attacks on Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jews that resulted in the brutal murder of Yaakov Rosenbaum, a young Chabad scholar from Australia. The riots were denounced as a pogrom — the first ever in the United States — by former mayor Ed Koch and then mayoral hopeful Rudy Giuliani, and were subsequently classified by historian Edward Shapiro, in his book on the riots, as the “worst anti-Semitic episode in American Jewish history.” However, what far fewer people remember about those infamous events is the particular incident that triggered the riots.

An out-of-control vehicle driven by a Chabad Hasid accidentally killed a five-year-old black child, Gavin Cato. That vehicle was part of the speeding three-car motorcade that, along with a police escort, regularly escorted the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, from Brooklyn to Queens to visit the grave of his father-in-law, Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, whom the Chabad Hasidim to this day tellingly dub “der frierdiger rebbe,” the previous Rebbe, with whom he regularly “communed.”

In their lively and provocative new book, “The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson,” respected scholars Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman depict those inspirational cemetery visits, during which Schneerson clairvoyantly sought counsel from his predecessor, as a central feature of the Rebbe’s leadership when addressing problems whose resolution eluded even him. Schneerson, who had become “possessed,” after the Holocaust, by the belief that the frierdiger rebbe would not die before ushering in the messianic era, taught that he had not really died in the conventional sense and regularly told his followers that his presence was still active among them. The trips to the Queens graveyard to seek counsel from his predecessor were, indeed, the Rebbe’s only departures from his Brooklyn base over the many decades of his leadership of Chabad. In a particularly rich chapter, entitled “Death and Resurrection,” the authors document the pathos, frequency and centrality of this manner of religious leadership, one that has not only outlived Schneerson, but has taken on a life of its own (so to speak) since his death.

As the book notes, when the passing of his wife, Moussia, in 1988, plunged Schneerson into a life of profound personal isolation, those visitations became increasingly frequent. By that time, the Rebbe had thousands of worshipful followers, but not a single confidant. In the authors’ stark depiction, “There he remained, the man who was to lead the generation to redemption, all alone in the world inside his house, bereft of the last person for whom he was not just a Rebbe.”

His own failing health and desire to usher in the messianic age added to the urgency of these visits. And so — when not urging his Hasidim to chant feverishly what had become the Chabad anthem, “We want Moshiach now, we don’t want to wait” — he spent more and more hours in isolation inside the frierdiger rebbe’s mausoleum.

One of the central themes in this eye-opening account of the Rebbe’s “life and afterlife,” alluded to in the book’s subtitle, is precisely the blurring of the borders between this living world and the imagined next one — a confusion rendered all the more urgent after the Rebbe himself was silenced by a massive stroke on March 2,1992. It was an avertable tragedy that occurred, ironically enough, while he was isolated inside the frierdiger rebbe’s tomb for almost three hours. His disciples waited outside long after he audibly collapsed, afraid to disturb his séance with the dead.

The dissonance between this life and the next became positively desperate over the next two years, until his death on June 12, 1994, following a long hospitalization. After that June, the confusion became something far more extreme: the denial of Schneerson’s death and, in some circles, his deification.

In an interview conducted on Israeli television shortly before the Rebbe suffered the debilitating stroke, the towering Orthodox Israeli philosopher, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, was asked what he thought of the Rebbe’s messianism. Leibowitz’s response was characteristically comical and icy:

    There is only thing that I cannot figure out about this man [Schneerson], and that is whether he is a psychopath or a charlatan. This is the only thing I just cannot decide. But this kind of degeneracy, of phony prophets and false messiahs, is as ancient as Israel itself.
That Schneerson was no charlatan has since been proven beyond any doubt by the recent scholarship of Tomer Persico and Elliot Wolfson, who leave no question about the Rebbe’s complete conviction that he was the Messiah. While the imminence of the final redemption had been a key point in all of the Rebbe’s “sichos,” or talks, since he took on the mantle of rebbe in 1950, Heilman and Friedman extensively document the messianic obsession that became the leitmotif of his teachings, beginning in the early 1980s and culminating in the Rebbe’s announcement at the beginning of the Hebrew year 5752 that this would be the year of the Messiah’s revelation:
    This would be the year, the Rebbe promised, that “the world would become united under the flag of the Messiah, and all would be repaired.” His Hasidim had prepared just such a flag on which a black crown on a yellow background hovered over the Hebrew word ‘Moshiach.’

    The Rebbe had often told his followers, “There can be no King without a nation that will crown him.” His “nation,” the Hasidim therefore now crowned him in what would become a series of such events. On Saturday night, January 4th 1992, a panel of Lubavitcher Rabbis at 770 [Eastern Parkway, Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters] thrashed out the matter of the Messiah’s arrival and concluded with public cries of “Long Live the King Moshiach.” They beamed their meeting by satellite around the world.
As a result of this conclusion, tens of thousands of Chabad Hasidim are now re-enacting the relationship Schneerson had with his deceased father-in-law, verging into the realm of the idolatrous. In the absence of an heir to Schneerson (how, after all, does one “replace” the Messiah, without admitting his failure?), using an assortment of supernatural techniques — such as treating the Rebbe’s writings and videos as tarot cards, and communing with him during visits to his grave, right next to that of the frierdiger rebbe — they are receiving spiritual advice from a dead man, for whom they chant, “Long live our Teacher and Master, the King Messiah, forever and ever.”

“The Rebbe” is by no means an exhaustive biography and is not destined to be the definitive work on its fascinating subject; too much of Chabad’s social and political history under Schneerson’s leadership is missing. But it is, to date, the best analytical study of the two major themes that it addresses: A critical and often boldly psychological biography of Schneerson is prefaced and supplemented by two chapters devoted to a sociological analysis of the beliefs and behaviors of his Hasidim, especially after the death of the man they were — and most still are — convinced was the Messiah. (The authors’ interviews and research make clear that there remain two main positions found among the Lubavitchers: those who admit their messianism openly and those who camouflage it.)

The book begins and ends with short chapters about the Chabadniks today and their responses to the Rebbe’s death. Most of the book, though, is a chronological biography, from birth to death, in six chapters, each dedicated to a distinct phase of the Rebbe’s life.

The most revelatory chapters are bound to generate controversy, especially among the Lubavitchers and their sympathizers. These describe Schneerson’s early life, before he was appointed Rebbe and ultimately anointed “The King Messiah.”

Heilman and Friedman’s riveting presentation of Menachem and Moussia Schneerson’s youthful lives in Berlin and Paris of the 1930s is filled with surprises. It depicts a youthful couple, both of distinguished Hasidic ancestry, who seemed intent on forging a new path for themselves as cosmopolitan, modern Europeans, maintaining a baseline Orthodox lifestyle but with very little connection with the mainstream Chabad community. This was especially true of Moussia, the frierdiger rebbe’s daughter, who to the very end of her life refused to refer to herself as a rebbetsin, preferring to be known as “Mrs. Schneerson of President Street.”

Neither in Berlin nor Paris did the Schneersons live in Jewish neighborhoods. Indeed, in Paris they resided at the fashionable Hotel Max, on the Left Bank, whose other tenants were a rich international assortment of bohemian artists, musicians and writers. In neither city was Schneerson ever seen in a synagogue, and there is no evidence of his involvement with their small Hasidic communities. The authors document Schneerson’s focused commitment to his study of engineering and, in contrast with later years, sporadic contact with his father-in-law.

Contrary to his own father’s pleas, Schneerson trimmed his beard, wore modern rather than Hasidic clothing and socialized mainly with his brother Leibel, a Trotskyite who had completely abandoned Orthodox Jewish observance, and brother-in-law, the beardless cosmopolitan, Mendel Horensztein, who evinced no interest in his Hasidic lineage or its traditions.

Tragically, all dreams of becoming part of cosmopolitan Paris were crushed by the Nazi invasion of France and the urgent need to escape Europe. The most telling detail of the book’s vivid narration of the frenzied efforts to rescue the Schneersons on the part of Chabad Hasidim in America is that all efforts to obtain a special clergy-exemption visa for Schneerson, to exclude him from the restrictive U.S. quotas on Jewish war refugees, were rejected by the State Department.

He was identified as an engineer on his visa application; he had never studied in any yeshiva and was not formally ordained as a rabbi; moreover he had not a single day of documented work experience as a rabbi. This did not deter the Lubavitchers in America from trying, and failing, to convince Henry Butler, the attorney handling the Schneersons’ emigration case, “that the man who had identified himself as an engineer on his visa application was truly a rabbi.”

Heilman and Friedman work using methods established by Max Weber (“The Sociology of Religion”) and Erik Erikson (“Young Man Luther”) in trying to reconstruct the rebbe’s inner thoughts during this turbulent period; and yet not all of their conclusions will convince all readers, especially the Chabad faithful. Still, they vividly depict the drama of Schneerson’s transition from Paris to Brooklyn:
    As he reflected on his situation, he could not help but realize that his plans to settle in Paris, become a French citizen and live as a Jew of Hasidic background pursuing a career in engineering were now in shambles. Moussia, too, who would forever look back on her years in Paris as her happiest and freest, as she often told friends, realized those days were over.
The powerful psychological and spiritual processes that took place within Schneerson’s psyche over the next decade — not least the trauma of the Holocaust — transformed him from an aspiring Parisian engineer to the most famous, influential and controversial Hasidic rebbe in Jewish history, one who became possessed of the belief that he would usher in the messianic age. These processes are not adequately explored by Heilman and Friedman, a lacuna that is this otherwise excellent book’s greatest weakness.

But the authors do document the lasting effects of Schneerson’s enduring posthumous charisma on his thousands of disciples, especially the shluchim, or messengers, who are to be found facilitating the practice of Judaism in virtually every place on earth where Jews are to be found. The finest aspect of Schneerson’s lasting legacy is their good work, which stands on its own merits with or without the delusional messianism.

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Nazi Death Camp Survivor, Liberators Share Stories

Four people tied together by a Nazi Concentration Camp share their stories in Rockford.

Three are liberators... one a survivor.

Surgical nurse Wanda Nordlie, hospitalman Rex Conn, tank commander Robert Persinger all saved thousands of prisoners from the Ebensee concentration camp in Austria. Including Andrew Sternberg, prisoner number 68840. He says the Allies bombed the camp by accident before they were liberated. 14 prisoners escaped. They were caught and hanged in front of him.

"None of em cried, none of em screamed, when they were put under the gallows, put the ropes over their heads, and kicked the stool under their feet, gallantly died."

Persinger's group arrived first. He says the prisoners looked like ghosts. He saw stacks of bodies against walls. Waiting to be burned. He says it's his worst memory of the war.

"It was the climax of World War Two for me, we had seen combat, we had seen men get killed, but this was the worst thing I ever saw."

Conn and Nordlie arrived later. They helped care for the prisoners still alive. Sternberg says the survivors were so happy to see the Americans. He feels worst for the soldiers that didn't make it home.

"The people who don't make it, if you ever have the time, I want you to remember, for our soldiers."

Sternberg still visits the death camps. They are his cemetery.

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Eva Wimmer

Eva Wimmer was born in Lututów, Poland but was raised in Zdunska Wola. After 1939, she and her sisters were sent to the Lódz ghetto and then to Auschwitz. They were sent to work at the Krupp's factory near Berlin and from there, they were all sent to Ravensbrück, where they were liberated by the Swedish Red Cross. They were sent first to Denmark and then to Sweden where she met her husband, a fellow survivor.  Eva, her husband, and children came to the United States in 1954, where she gave birth to one more daughter.

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Sally Tuchklaper

Sally Tuchklaper was born in Radom, Poland. After the war
began, Sally and her family were moved in to the Radom ghetto and forced to
work in factories for the Germans. From the ghetto, she was taken to Blizyn to
sew uniforms. Next Sally was taken to Auschwitz, where she stayed for 8 months,
and then to a camp in Czechoslovakia where she was liberated. After the war she
stayed in the Munich Displaced Persons camp where she met and married her
husband. Together they moved to Montreal before finally settling in Detroit.

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Franka Charlupski

Franka Charlupski was born in Lódz, Poland. After the Germans invaded Poland, Franka and her family were moved into the Lódz Ghetto where they did forced labor. In August1944 the family was deported to Auschwitz. From there Franka and her sister were sent to Bremen and then to Bergen-Belsen where they were liberated. After the war, Franka met and married her second husband and moved to the United States. 

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Alexander Karp

Alexander Karp was born in Nyírmada, Hungary. The family then moved to Kisvárda. By 1944,  Alexander and his family were living in Baktalórántháza. After the German occupation, they were forced into the Kisvárda ghetto. After two months in the ghetto, he was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and then to a camp in France to do forced labor. From there he was moved to Kochendorf and then Dachau. Alexander was liberated in Mittenwald while on a death march from Dachau. After liberation Alexander returned to Hungary before moving to Canada and then to the United States

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Eva Ackermann

Eva Ackermann was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1926. Although an only child, Eva was part of a large extended family, most of whom perished in the war. Eva's parents divorced when she was young and she was raised by her mother. Eva had a reasonably normal childhood, even after the war began. After the German annexation of Hungary in 1944, Eva was separated from her mother and sent to Zurndorf, Austria. From there she was transported to a labor camp in Landsberg, where she was liberated. Her father perished in an air raid shortly before the end of the war and her mother died in Bergen-Belsen.

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Marton Adler

Marton Adler was born in 1929 in Volové, a village in Sub Carpathian Ruthania. He was the oldest child and had two brothers and a sister. His village was occupied by Hungarians in 1939 when he was ten years old. Marton's father was conscripted into a labor unit in Russia from 1941 until the end of 1942. Eventually the family lost their store due to the "Jewish" laws. The Germans occupied the area in March of 1944 and soon after the family was deported, first to a ghetto in Sokirnitsa and then to Auschwitz where his mother and siblings were gassed. Marton and his father were sent to Buchenwald and then to Dora where his father was killed. Marton was eventually liberated by the British from Bergen-Belsen.

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Olga Adler

An interview with Olga Adler, a Holocaust survivor, conducted by Jonathon Fishbane. Olga Adler was born in Beregszász Czechoslovakia. After the Hungarians invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938, Olga's parents sent her to Budapest where she worked as a clothing model until the Budapest Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Olga's life was spared after a failed escape attempt and she lived in several camps until she was sent back to the Budapest ghetto as a nurse to the elderly and insane who had been left there. Olga's immediate family, her father, mother, brother and sister, all perished in forced labor or death camps. Upon liberation, Olga returned to her hometown, got married, and soon left for the United States when the Russians took over their town.

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Irving Altus

 Irving Altus, a Holocaust survivor, conducted by Bernie Kent. Mr. Altus was born in 1920, in Czekanów, Poland. Mr. Altus was the middle child in a family consisting of five children, his mother and father, all of whom perished in the Holocaust. Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the Germans arrested Mr. Altus and shipped him to various labor camps throughout Europe, including one in Königsberg, Germany. In 1942, Mr. Altus was shipped to Auschwitz-Birkenau and assigned to an external Labor Kommando approximately 50 miles from the main camp. In 1945, Mr. Altus was forced to march westward towards Germany, eventually coming to Theresienstadt, where he was liberated by the Soviets after one day. After the war, Mr. Altus returned briefly to his hometown and then relocated to Munich, Germany. In 1949, he emigrated to America with his wife and son.

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Eugene Arden

Eugene Arden was a corporal during World War II. Arden's military government unit was attached the United States 7th Army as it travelled into Germany. The unit was responsible for closing down Nazi Labor Camps and for establishing DP Camps. The unit eventually helped liberate Landsberg, a sub-camp of Dachau. After the war, Eugene and his unit spent the post-war period in Heidelberg, Germany. 

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Philip Bialowitz

 

Sobibor Death Camp Survivor

"If anyone survives, bear witness to what happened here! Tell the world about this place!”
-- Aleksandr Pechersky, leader of the Sobibor revolt, addressing prisoners before their escape.

Philip Bialowitz is one of eight living survivors of the infamous Nazi death camp, Sobibór, where an estimated 250,000 people perished between 1942 and 1943. There, Mr. Bialowitz joined a small group of Jewish prisoners who overpowered their captors and freed approximately 200 of the camp’s 600 slave laborers. Over the past 20 years, Mr. Bialowitz has lectured frequently to diverse audiences in North America and Europe about both his experiences at Sobibór and the continued importance of mutual respect among people of different beliefs. He has testified at several war crimes trials. Mr. Bialowitz’ memoir has been published in English (title: A Promise at Sobibór: A Jewish Boy’s Story of Revolt and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland) and in Polish (title: Bunt w Sobibórze). A curriculum based on Mr. Bialowitz’s book has been developed for Polish schools by the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. In 2008, Mr. Bialowitz was interviewed extensively for the forthcoming documentary, Hidden Holocaust at Sobibór. Mr. Bialowitz resides in New York City, where he settled after the Holocaust and worked as a jeweler prior to retiring.

In one of the darkest periods of the Nazi occupation of Europe, 17-year-old Philip Bialowitz and his remaining family members were rounded up and sent to the notorious death camp at Sobibor in Poland. Months later, he and his older brother became part of the most successful uprising and escape from a Nazi camp during World War II.

More than 700 students at Riverside's Poly High School recently heard Bialowitz's firsthand account of prisoners' courage and resistance at Sobibor. He is one of only eight remaining survivors from the camp, where an estimated 250,000 people were killed.

He was born Dec. 25, 1925, in Izbica, Poland. "But by the time I was 14, my childhood was lost forever. My parents and one of my sisters already had been murdered by the Nazis," he said.

Eventually he, his brother, two sisters and a niece were captured and sent to Sobibor. He explained that this was an extermination camp, not a concentration camp where there was some small hope of survival.

However, the day the Bialowitz family arrived, the Nazis were looking for professionals and trades people to fill in the ranks of about 600 slave laborers who maintained the camp. Philip's older brother, a pharmacist, stepped forward and pulled him with him, saying he was his assistant.

They were saved, but their relatives were sent directly to the gas chambers.

"Even my 7-year-old niece knew that she was going to die when she came to hug me," he said.

An underground resistance was growing at Sobibor, led by a rabbi's son, Leon Feldhendler, and a Russian Jewish soldier, Sasha Pechersky. The Bialowitz brothers joined in the effort, whose goal was to free all of the 600 slave laborers, leaving no one behind.

On Oct. 14, 1943, the resistance fighters killed 11 Nazi officers and several Ukrainian guards, setting the stage for the escape. Sobibor was surrounded by barbed wire, guard towers, minefields and deep forest.

"About 400 prisoners died during the revolt," Bialowitz said. "But about 200 other prisoners, including me and my brother, made it to the deep forest. We were the only two brothers to survive a Nazi extermination camp."

Bialowitz noted the turmoil in the world today and urged his audience to condemn leaders who spread messages of hatred and condone genocide. "At Sobibor, we learned that all of us must stand up to all bullies and murderers," he said.

At the end of his remarks, students lined up to meet Bialowitz.

His appearance was arranged by teacher Leesa Rankins as an event for Poly's Hospitality Academy, with assistance from Rabbi Shmuel Fuss of the Chabad Jewish Community Center in Riverside.

Sophomore Joshua Tick, said he wished he could have spent more time getting to know the Holocaust survivor. After listening to the Sobibor story, "I felt it more," he said.

Sophomore Shelby Blasjo agreed, calling the event "a once in a lifetime experience."

"I think it was pretty cool ... it was historic," said Clayton Weitzel, another sophomore. "I learned a lot."

For the past 20 years he has been telling his story. He also has testified at several war crimes trials. He relocated to New York after the war and is the father of five and grandfather of 15.

Submitted by Chabad Jewish Community Center.

 

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Alexander Kimel - Holocaust Survivor

In the summer of 1942, at the height of the extermination, the Germans had the following Death Camps operating in Poland:

  • Belzec in Galicia, capacity 15,000 per day
  • Sobibor close to Vilno, capacity 20,000 per day.
  • Treblinka near Warsaw, capacity 15,000 per day.
  • Majdanek near Lublin, under construction, at that time.

The next improvement in the Nazi death camp technology came to life in Belzec. There Captain Wirth the specialist of the euthanasia plan, constructed static gas chambers, masqueraded as bath houses, with flower pots, and even a Star of David painted on the roof. The exhaust from a diesel engine was piped into the gas chamber.

There are many survivors of Auschwitz, some from Tremblinka and Sobibor, but only one known survivor of Belzec. The only information available about the operations of those camps are coming from Kurt Gerstein a German chemical engineer, an Anti-Nazi who joined the SS with the hope of sabotaging the Nazi extermination operations from within. As an chemical expert he visited the Belzec Camp. He tried to alert the world about the atrocities; he sent notes to the Swedish Government, tried to contact the Papal Nuncio in Berlin, to no avail, nobody wanted to get involved. After the war, while imprisoned by the French, he furnished the following eyewitness account:

In January 1942 I was named chief of the Waffen -SS technical disinfection services, including section for the extremely toxic gases. On June 8, 1942, SS Sturmfuhrer Gunther of the RSHA came to see me. He was dresses in civilian clothing. I had never met him before. He ordered me to get him prussic acid and to bring for him immediately 100 kilograms of prussic acid and to bring it to a place known only to the truck driver. He said he needed the acid for a top secret mission . . . As soon as the truck was loaded we left for Lublin. There, SS Gruppenfuhrer (Globocnik) was waiting for us . . . "This is one of the top secret matters there are, even the most secret. Anyone who talks will be shot immediately. Only yesterday two who talked were shot " Globocnik explained to us. " You will have to disinfect large piles of clothing coming from the Jews, Poles Czechs, etc. Your other duty will be to improve the workings of our gas chambers, which operate on the exhaust from a Diesel engine. We need a more toxic and faster working gas, something like the prussic acid. The Fuhrer and Himmler -they were here the day before yesterday, August 15- and ordered me to accompany anybody who has to see the installation." Professor Pfannenstiel asked him," but what does the Fuhrer say? Globocnik answered": Fuhrer has ordered more speed. Dr. Herbert Lidner, who was here yesterday, asked him, 'Wouldn't it be more prudent to burn the bodies instead of burying them? Another generation make take a different view of these things.' I answered: 'Gentlemen, if there is ever a generation after us so cowardly, so soft, that it would not understand our work as good and necessary, then gentlemen, National Socialism will have been for nothing. On the contrary, we should bury bronze tablets saying that it was we, who had the courage to carry out this gigantic task!" Then the Fuhrer said: "Yes, my brave Globocnik, you are quite right.'"

The next day we left for Belzec. Globocnik introduced me to the SS man who took me around the plant. We saw no dead bodies that day, but a pestilential odor hung over the whole area. Alongside the station there was a "dressing hut" with window for "valuables." Further on, a room with a hundred chairs- the Barber room. Then a corridor 150 meter long in the open air, barbed wire on both sides, with signs: "To the baths and inhalants." In front of us a building like a bath house; to the left and right, large concrete pots of geraniums or other flowers. On the roof, the Star of David. On the building a sign: "Heckenholts Foundation."

The following morning, a little before seven there was announcement: "The first train will arrive in ten minutes!" A few minutes later a train arrived from Lemberg (Lwow): 45 cars with more than 6,000 people. Two hundred Ukrainians assigned to this work flung open the doors and drove the Jews out of the cars with leather whips. A loud speaker gave instructions: Strip, even artificial limbs and glasses. Hand all money and valuables in at the 'valuables window'. Women and young girls are to have their hair cut in the `barbers hut'.

Then the march began. Barbed wire on both sides, in the rear two dozen Ukrainians with riffles. They drew near, Wirth and I found ourselves in front of the death chambers. Stark naked men, women, children, and cripples passed by. A tall SS man in the corner called to the unfortunates in a loud minister's voice: "Nothing is going to hurt you! Just breathe deep and it will strengthen your lungs. It's a way to prevent contagious diseases. It's a good disinfectant! "They asked him what was going to happen and he answered": The men will have to work, build houses and streets, The women wont have to do that, they will be busy with the housework and the kitchen. " This was the last hope for some of these poor people, enough to make them march toward the death chambers without resistance. The majority knew everything; the smell betrayed it! They climbed the little wooden stairs and entered the gas chambers, most of them silently, pushed by those behind them. A Jewess of about forty with eyes like fire cursed the murderer's; she disappeared into the gas chamber after being struck several times by Captain Wirth's whip. Many prayed . . . SS men pushed the men into the chambers. "Fill it up," Wirth ordered; 700-800 people in 93 square meters. The door closed. Then I understood the reason for the "Heckenholt" sign. Heckenholt was the driver of the Diesel, whose exhaust was to kill these poor unfortunates. SS Undersharfuhrer Heckenholt tried to start the motor. It wouldn't start! ...My stopwatch clocked it all: 50 minutes, 70 minutes and the Diesel still would not start. The men were waiting in the gas chambers. You could hear them weeping "as though in a synagogue" said Professor Pfannenstiel, his eyes glued to the window in the wooden door. Captain Whirt, furious, struck with his whip the Ukrainian who helped Heckenholt. The Diesel started after two hours and 49 minutes, by my stopwatch. Twenty minutes later passed. You could see through the window that many were already dead after thirty minutes! Jewish workers on the other side opened the wooden doors. They had been promised their lives in return for doing this horrible job, plus as small percentage of the money and valuables collected. The men were still standing, like columns of stones, with no room to fall or to lean. Even in the death you could tell the families, all holding hands. It was difficult to separate them while emptying the rooms for the next batch. The bodies were tossed out, bluer, wet with sweat and urine, the legs smeared with excrement and menstrual blood. Two dozen workers were busy checking mouths which they opened with iron hooks. "Gold tot he left, no gold to the right." Others checked anus and genitals, looking for money, diamonds, gold, etc. Dentists knocked out gold teeth, bridges, and crowns, with hammers.

Captain Wirth stood in the middle of them. He was in his element, and showing me a big gem box filled with teeth, said. "See the weight of the gold? Just from yesterday and the day before! You can't imagine what we find everyday, dollars, diamonds, gold! You'll see!" He took me over to a jeweler responsible for the all the valuables. They also pointed to me one of the heads of the big Berlin store Kaufhaus des Westen, and the little man whom they forced to play the violin, the chief of the Jewish workers' commandos. "He is a captain of the Imperial Austrian Army, Chevalier of the German Iron cross" Wirth told me.

The bodies were thrown into big ditches near the gas chamber, about 100 by 20 by 12 meters. After a few days the bodies swelled and the whole mass rose up 2-3 yards because of the gas in the bodies. When the swelling went down several days later, the bodies matted down again. They told me that later they poured Diesel oil over the bodies and burned them on railroad ties to make them disappear.

But even the improved version of gas chamber could not kill the millions of victims, in the short time allotted, and the Germans built Auschwitz.

Testimony of Kurt Gersten, Nuremberg Tribunal PS 1553.

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Leon Greenman ~ Auschwitz Survivor 98288

Leon Greenman was born in London Whitechapel 1910. His parents were also born in London, his paternal grandparents were Dutch and maternal grandparents were from White Russia.

He spent most of his early years in Rotterdam and later returned to London to set up a bookshop with his wife's father. Esther (Leon's wife) and Leon later lived in Rotterdam with Leon travelling backwards and forwards from London for business. In 1938 while in London Leon saw people digging trenches in the streets and queuing for gas masks. He hurried back to Holland that night intending to collect his wife and return to England as the whispers of war were getting even louder.

The infamous speech by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was broadcast in which he said "consequently there will be no war with Germany" and they decided that they would perhaps leave in 6 months. It didn't go that way at all.......

... The last Leon saw of his wife and son was them standing between other women and children in an open truck. ...

The 10th May 1940 saw the centre of Rotterdam destroyed by German bombing. Leon left his British passport and money with Dutch friends who assured him they would keep them safely It didn't go that way at all.......

In 1942 when Leon was called up for labouring in Germany he had no official papers to prove that he was British as his friends had burned his documents through fear of being found out. On the evening of the 8th October 1942 the Greenmans were taken out of their home and put on a coach that went from street to street collecting other Jewish families.

They ended up at Auschwitz - Birkenau - one of the largest extermination camps established by the Nazis. The last Leon saw of his wife and son was them standing between other women and children in an open truck.

... The evacuation of the men from one camp to another meant a five day journey in horrendously overcrowded open cattle trucks. Each morning corpses were removed from the trucks. ...

What followed was three years of intensive labour in several camps during which time Leon saw many, many deaths. A 90 kilometres Death march from one camp to another saw men being shot as they stumbled and fell. Leon's life was undoubtedly saved by a French man who helped drag him along when he stumbled. The evacuation of the men from one camp to another meant a five day journey in horrendously overcrowded open cattle trucks. Each morning corpses were removed from the trucks.

Leon was in Buchenwald when the American army liberated the camp on 11th April 1945.

Leon eventually returned to London and spent years as a market trader . He found that information regarding the horrors of the extermination camps was little known by people in England and he began giving talks about his experiences the year after he returned from the camps. At the age of 92 he still fights racist injustice of all types.

"Young and old alike must learn about the Holocaust as warning against the dangers of racism. There is no difference in colour or religion. If I had survived to betray the dead it would have been better not to survive. We must not forget. Please do not forget."

 

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Hershl Sperling

Forgotten death camp survivor's story unearthed   'Treblinka Survivor' is the remarkable story of Hershl Sperling, who lived through six Nazi concentration camps and called Auschwitz 'a walk in the park.' But he took his own life and his story was almost lost forever. "Auschwitz was a walk in the park," claimed Hershl Sperling.Next to Treblinka, he may have been right. A lot is known about the Nazi concentration camps, such as Auschwitz or Dachau, but Treblinka is a different story because there were so few survivors - and even fewer wanted to recall the things they had experienced to pass on the story.  

Hershl Sperling was a Polish Jew who was sent to the Treblinka death camp at the age of 14. Of the 800,000 people who were sent there, Sperling was one of just 68 who got out alive.

They pulled off one of the most daring escapes of World War II.

Almost 50 years later - in his adopted hometown of Glasgow in Scotland - Sperling took his own life. The suicide left many questions unanswered. His story has been rediscovered and explained in "Treblinka Survivor," a book by the American journalist Mark S. Smith, who knew Hershl and his son, Sam.

Investigating the past

Sperling survived Treblinka and five other Nazi camps

"Hershl was my neighbor," Smith told Deutsche Welle, "I knew he was a Holocaust survivor but I had no idea what Treblinka meant. He didn't talk about it, I just knew that he had been in this place and he was a survivor and he used to act a bit strange but he was very kind to me."

After Sperling's death, Smith wanted to find out why his neighbor had committed suicide so many years after the horrors he had experienced.

In his book, "Treblinka Survivor," Smith goes on a journey to find out why Sperling committed suicide so many years after the horrors he had experienced. Along the way, Smith discovers a long-lost manuscript written by Sperling shortly after the liberation of Auschwitz. Smith says it holds the key to why Sperling finally decided to end his life.

"He used to say, 'Auschwitz was nothing, Auschwitz was a walk in the park,'" said Smith.

"[It was] a really strange thing to say but I realized it was a bit of a key to what had happened to him because if Auschwitz was nothing, what on earth had he gone through, what on earth had made him what he was? The key was Treblinka, not Auschwitz."

Hershl Sperling first faced the Nazis at the age of 12 when the Wehrmacht marched through Poland. His family were rounded up with the town of Klobuck's large Jewish population and eventually taken to Treblinka, where his parents and young sister went straight to the gas chamber. Sperling was saved because the Nazis thought they could use him.

"Just at the doors of the gas chamber, he was pulled out," said Smith. "He had a few things in common with other survivors. He was young - about 14 years old - was in good health and spoke a lot of languages. He spoke good Polish, good German, Russian, probably Czech and Yiddish, so he was useful to them."

Up to 7,000 people were brought to Treblinka every -Death camp

Treblinka was different from the other camps. "It was not a work camp, it was not a concentration camp, it was not a penal camp, it was a death camp," said Smith. "Franz Stangl, the commander of Treblinka, boasted they could go from train to death in two hours."

Sperling was part of a special task force that pulled the gold from the teeth of the dead. He buried the dead, folded their clothes after their deaths, and exhumed bodies.

"He was the unwilling accomplice to a mass murder. How you get through that after you have survived it, I don't know," said Smith. "These are all keys to his suicide."

But the more Smith researched his book, the more he began to understand that the question was not why Sperling had committed suicide, but why had he survived so long without doing it.

Escape and survival

Sperling survived Treblinka as part of one of the most courageous escapes of World War II. First, he and others set fire to the camp and cut themselves through barbed wire.

"As the machine guns were taking them down, they made a bridge over what they called the Spanish horses - there were rolls of barbed wire, tank defenses and they made bridges of bodies and escaped into the forest," said Smith.

About 400 escaped and 200 made it to the forest, but only 68 of them survived. "And today there are two living Treblinka survivors - and that's it," added Smith.

Lost story

About 310,000 Jews were sent to Treblinka from Warsaw alone

Sperling never spoke about Treblinka and his experiences there.

But during a telephone conversation in 2005, Sperling's son Sam told his journalist friend that his father had written a book.

"I asked him if he had read it himself," said Smith, "and he said 'No, I wasn't allowed to read it.'"

Smith eventually tracked down the book in Jerusalem. "It was a detailed, raw historic account of the escape, what life was like in Treblinka, and also about his own personal capture," said Smith, calling it the key to Sperling's suicide.

"We act according to our society and if its focus is murder and death," said Smith, "human beings behave in the worst possible ways and there are victims. And in this case the victims were the Jews of Europe."

The message can be applied to countries all over the world - Cambodia, Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, and others - explained the author.

We all have a killer inside of us, says Smith, and we need to learn from history.

Author: Lillian McDowall / za
Editor: Kate Bowen

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Alberto Israel

By JOHN W. MILLER

OSWIECIM, Poland?

For decades, Alberto Israel avoided talking about his experience at the Auschwitz concentration camps. "There were plenty of others to do the talking," he says.

Now, the 82-year-old Mr. Israel is one of the few Holocaust survivors healthy enough to attend ceremonies commemorating the liberation of the camps. He has been four times in the past four years. "I don't even like going," he says. "It reminds me of when I was 17, and that's painful."

Amid the rhetoric at this week's commemoration of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, Jewish groups focused on a more crucial question: how to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive after the last survivors die. It is a real problem that needs addressing, say Jewish leaders.

"There'll be just a few more short years before the living memories become memories," said Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress. Their solution, the leaders say, is to step up the number of Holocaust-related events and make sure that Mr. Israel and other survivors attend, as well as casting the crime in the light of modern geopolitics, so that ordinary people can relate. There was plenty of the latter at ceremonies Wednesday in Krakow and Berlin and at the Auschwitz concentration camps.

European Pressphoto Agency

Visitors enter the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp Wednesday amid ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of its liberation.

Speaking to the German parliament, Israel President Shimon Peres called the Iranian government "a fanatic regime" and said its nuclear program "represents a threat to the entire world."

Mr. Lauder compared Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler. Mr. Ahmadinejad has threatened to destroy Israel and questioned whether the Holocaust happened. Hitler "had the same words, and people didn't take him seriously," Mr. Lauder said in a speech. The Iranian mission the United Nations didn't respond to calls seeking comment.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended a ceremony at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps in southern Poland, where 1.3 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered between 1940 and 1945. He warned that "there are yet again threats to exterminate the Jewish people." But more important than rhetoric, say Jewish groups, is increasing the number of events commemorating the Holocaust.

"It needs to be more than historical theory," said Ari Zuckerman of the Paris-based European Jewish Congress. In 2005, Jewish groups created the World Holocaust Forum, dedicated to preserving the memory of the crime.

As well as this week's events, the forum has organized ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the camps' liberation and the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, an infamous Nazi night of violence against Jews. Since its founding, "we have lost many, many survivors and liberators," said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress.

The increase in the number of events means that people like Mr. Israel have become even more treasured and will have to travel more. The 82-year-old from the Greek island of Rhodes was the only Holocaust survivor on a plane of Jewish activists and European politicians that flew to Krakow from Brussels on Tuesday.

Mr. Israel was deported from Rhodes to mainland Greece in 1943 and held there before being shipping to Auschwitz in 1944. His parents and two brothers died there. "I've felt guilty ever since," he said. After the war, he worked as a shopkeeper and trader in the Belgian Congo and Belgium. He married and raised a family.

He kept quiet about the Holocaust, he said, until a few years ago when he met Stipan Bosnjak, a Serb of Roma origin whom he met in Brussels and the two became friends. The Nazis killed several hundred thousand Roma, according to historians. "I was moved to help him come to terms with his memory," said Mr. Bosnjak, now a psychiatric nurse in Belgium. Two years ago, Mr. Bosnjak helped Mr. Israel write a book. Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel wrote an endorsement on the jacket. On the flight from Brussels, Mr. Israel's daughter gave out copies.

In Poland on Wednesday, Mr. Israel thanked former Soviet soldiers who liberated the camps in January 1945. Ivan Martinushkin said it wasn't always easy to relate the story of what he saw in 1945 to younger generations where he lives in Moscow. "They get tired of you telling, telling, telling, but if you do it gently, they get the message," he said.

Mr. Israel also showed visitors around the camp. "There were 100 of us in a train like that," he said, pointing to a red wagon. "It was hot in August. Can you imagine?"

 

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Emanuel "Manny" Mandel

Emanuel "Manny" Mandel sees it as his responsibility to share his story

BOONSBORO —

Emanuel "Manny" Mandel was 7 years old when he and his mother were sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, but he said his memory of it is "crystal clear."

While the implications of that train ride were unclear to him at the time, the 75-year-old Holocaust survivor now sees it as his responsibility to share his story.

"The main thing I learned since is that I need to talk about it. You will talk to your parents and some day you might talk to your children. It's so you in some way have a broader sense of the world," Mandel said to a group of Boonsboro High School students during one of two presentations he made at the school Tuesday.

English teacher Sarah Hamilton invited Mandel to speak to English and social studies students at the school, at the request of student Chelsey Hutzell.

Chelsey's younger sister heard Mandel speak in October to students at Boonsboro Middle School, where his granddaughter, Alex Mandel, is an eighth-grader. Chelsey, a sophomore, is a student in Hamilton's English II class.

The class had just finished reading "Night," a book by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel with his account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. The students also completed a Holocaust-related project.

"Since we were reading the book and learning about the experience, I thought it would be cool to hear firsthand experience," Chelsey said.

She added that she didn't trust everything that is written online about the Holocaust.

"It was memorable. I will never forget this," said Chelsey, who did her project on the experience inside the concentration camps.

"My hope is that the students can ask questions of someone who has the answers. A firsthand source is always more real, because they can respond naturally to questions," Boonsboro High Principal Peggy Pugh said.

Mandel was born in Latvia in 1936, but his family moved to Budapest, Hungary, shortly after his birth when his father accepted a position as cantor — music minister — in a synagogue.

He remembers traveling to southern Hungary for a winter visit with his mother's family. Police officers came to the door taking a census, and residents were forced to march away from their homes.

Mandel's family was spared because a police officer recognized them from Budapest and realized they were visiting, but other families were shot and their bodies were found in the Danube River months later, Mandel said.

After that, Jews were required to wear yellow stars, which often resulted in verbal and physical abuse. Mandel said someone always followed him to school to make sure he got there safely.

His father wouldn't allow Manny to get a bike, afraid it would be stolen from him because he was Jewish.

Mandel said Hungary was not overrun with German Nazis, but was under the rule of the Hungarian Nazi party, whose symbol was crossed arrows instead of the swastika.

The laws for Jews became stricter with time and the telephone was removed from the family's Budapest apartment. Then, they no longer were allowed to have a maid. The maid offered to take Manny back to her village, thinking it would be safer than the city, but his parents refused her offer.

Mandel's grandmother lived with them in Budapest, but had problems with her feet and it became difficult for her to navigate five flights of stairs during air raids. She returned to her village for safety, but later died in Auschwitz.

"Maybe if I'd have gone with the maid, I'd have died in Auschwitz," Mandel said.

After France, Germany and Austria were "cleaned of Jews," it was Hungary's turn. Mandel's family was part of a group of 1,700 Hungarian Jews who left the country by train, expecting to arrive in Switzerland as part of an exchange for Allied materials.

When negotiations broke down, Manny, an only child, and his mother ended up at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they lived from June to December 1944, after sharing a nine-day ride in a boxcar with 80 people. They were separated from his father, who was assigned to a labor battalion.

Mandel said every morning they were fed a coffee-like substance and bread, followed by an afternoon meal of stew. Many people in the camps died because of being overworked and underfed.

Typhus was rampant in Bergen-Belsen and Mandel's mother insisted they survived because she made sure they washed themselves every day.

Manny came down with a chest ailment, which caused his mother great fear because many people who were taken to the infirmary did not survive. He recovered after being treated by being wrapped in cloths and mustard to keep him warm.

Eventually, the trade negotiation was resolved and Mandel and his mother were taken to Switzerland in late 1944. He said the first thing the Swiss did was fumigate them.

"For me, that was the end of the war," Mandel said.

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