Archive for the Maps and images Category

La Grande Rafle (The Great Roundup) of 1942

Posted in holocaust, Maps and images with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2009 by indyretreats
GrandeRaffleMemorial

La Grande Rafle Memorial on site of old stadium

In July 1942, arrests of foreign Jews in France began simultaneously in the Occupied and Unoccupied Zones (see map below). After railcars were freed up by the Wermacht in the East, convoys began departing France every other day. “The initial plan called for the deportation of a hundred thousand Jews from the occupied zone and fifty thousand from the ‘free’ zone, but such a large-scale operation could be undertaken only with the active cooperation of the French police.” At the direction of Vichy Prime Minister Pierre Laval, only foreign Jews could be deported. “[H]e approved the active participation of French police forces in the planned operation; moreover, he suggested that the Germans deport children, too.”[1]

The Great Roundup (aka Black Thursday) began 16 July 1942 in Paris. “Armed with index cards with names of immigrant Jews, forty-five hundred French policemen fanned out in the early morning darkness to arrest men aged sixteen to sixty and women aged sixteen to fifty-five.” The roundup continued the following day, with childless adults taken to Drancy and those with children to Velodrome d’hiver (Winter Cycle Stadium), located near the Eiffel Tower. “More than 8,000 people, about half of them children, were confined for five days in the Vel d’Hiv, which lacked the sanitary facilities for such numbers. The stench was overpowering.” A few days later, the first convoys traveled East across the line of demarcation. “Since permission had not yet arrived from Germany to deport young children to the east, those younger than fourteen were forcibly separated from their parents and older siblings and left alone in the camps, under the care of a few Red Cross volunteers.”[2]

After the deportation of adults, “[r]elief organizations in the Unoccupied Zone learned later what had become of the children left behind in Paris. Many were hidden. But French police gathered up thousands of others who were found in apartments, wandering the streets, or crying at locked doors of houses. Nearly 4,000 of them, aged two to fourteen, were sent to ‘unknown destinations,’ packed into windowless boxcars without adult escort, without food, water, or hygienic provisions, without so much as straw to lie on. They were even without identification. The Nazis had destroyed their papers.”[3] Another source places the number of children at “more than 4,000” and cites their final destination as Auschwitz. Thirty-five of them survived.[2]

1940France

Map of France, 1940 (Courtesy USHMM)

For a good overview of the French connection to the Holocaust see:
BBC’s “Vichy Policy on Jewish Deportation”
USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia, “France” 

Sources:
[1]When Memory Comes [George L. Mosse Series in Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History] by Saul Friedländer and Helen R. Lane, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 2003, ISBN 0299190447, p. 70

[2]The Jews of modern France by Paula Hyman, University of California Press, 1998, ISBN 0520209257, p. 173

[3]The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941-1945 by David S. Wyman, Pantheon Books, New York, 1984, ISBN 0394428137, p. 31

Echoes From Auschwitz – A Review

Posted in concentration camps, holocaust, Maps and images with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2009 by indyretreats

A beautiful little girl rose up from the ashes of the Holocaust, but she was far removed from the elderly survivor who told her story in the first person. Eva says that through more than 100 speeches and interviews she always felt like she was “looking down at this little girl and telling her story.” That all changed in late 1985, when at the age of 51, she was lecturing at Indiana State University. “I was describing my separation from my mother, and I began to sob and sob. I was very confused, troubled and embarrassed because I did not have a handkerchief. I had never needed one before. I cried because I could feel all the pain, fear and horror that I had felt at Auschwitz. I never again ended my lecture by saying that I was telling the story of that little girl. That little girl and I became one. I had suddenly found the child that had been lost at Auschwitz.”

Miriam and Eva Mozes

Miriam and Eva Mozes

Though Eva says she found the lost little girl who survived Auschwitz, the horror she suffered there left her without a childhood. In her autobiography Echoes From Auschwitz: Dr. Mengele’s Twins, The Story of Eva and Miriam Mozes, she blames the death camp for stealing her childhood. “Children who are faced with life and death so abruptly are no longer children.” This became abundantly clear to 11-year-old Eva who found herself after World War II in a Polish monastery with other liberated children. “The nuns had put beautiful toys in our rooms, but I didn’t want to play with them. I wasn’t in any way impressed or thrilled to find toys to play with…I had lost my childhood.”

Eva Mozes Kor was one of about 200 child survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. She and twin sister Miriam were spared the gas chambers by an SS guard who asked Mrs. Mozes, “Zwilling?!”(Twins?!), only to end up in the hands of “the Angel of Death,” Dr. Josef Mengele who performed sadistic experiments on them. The experiments nearly took Eva’s life while in the camp, and ultimately did take Miriam’s life in 1993. Eva dedicated the book, in part, to her sister Miriam who suffered kidney problems her entire life and died in Israel from “cancer related to the experiments.”

The first seven chapters of Echoes cover Eva’s memories of Portz, a rural farming village in the Transylvania region of Rumania. The Mozes’ were prominent landowners and had “the only Jewish house in the village.” Eva and Miriam were the youngest of four children born to a religious, hard-working father and a benevolent, educated mother. Out-of-town guests always had a room at the Mozes home and “any villager who ever had a problem or needed advice always came to [Eva’s] mother.” As she puts it, “Life was very simple for us in this rural area of Transylvania.” But that would all soon change in 1940.

In Chapter 8, Eva describes the changing environment of her village under Hungarian occupation. “Rumanians and Hungarians hated each other,” Eva says and that’s why she was particularly alarmed by the sudden change. As both Rumanian and Jewish, her family had twice the reason to be worried. “After the Hungarian Army took charge,” she writes, “[t]he beginning of the end was upon us.”

Eva and Miriam were brought face-to-face with the vitriolic Nazi propaganda at school. “The first time I ever saw what we called ‘jumping pictures on the wall,’ it dealt only with one topic: how to harass, intimidate and kill a Jew.” Eva ran home crying, hoping her mother could “explain the horrible things” she had seen. Her parents had heard the terrible rumors about what was happening in Eastern Europe. They listened intently to reports coming in over the radio, but attempted to shield the children by speaking about it only in Yiddish. Eva resented their secrecy and later blamed them for not taking the rumors and news reports more seriously.

Chapter 10 begins in 1943 with the Mozes family under house arrest and forced to wear the Star of David. “Yellow to indicate what cowards the Jews were,” Eva explains.

Next came deportation to the Szilagysomlyo ghetto near Simleul Silvanei. Eva couldn’t believe that only two Hungarian gendarmes were able to arrest her family of six while the entire village watched, as if helpless to defend them. She writes, “…it would have been so easy to overpower them…Nobody even tried. No one said even a word that they were sorry.” The silent onlookers had been their friends, their neighbors, “the people who had helped us farm and had benefited from our harvest…the boys and girls with whom we had gone to school.”

The Mozes family lived in tents along with 7,000 – 8,500 ghettoized Jews for five weeks before final deportation. They were among the 437,000 Hungarian Jews deported to death camps in mid-1944, a fact supported by Randolph L. Braham in his book The politics of genocide: the Holocaust in Hungaria (Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 2000, ISBN 0814326919, p. 137). Braham confirms that May – June 1944 almost 300,000 Jews had been deported, beginning with those in Northern Transylvania. After being herded onto cattle cars with 70-100 other people marked for death, the Mozes family made the 70-hour journey to Auschwitz II with no food and very little water.

Before the door to the cramped, foul-smelling cattle car was opened, Eva remembers her father saying his morning prayers. She also recalls her anger. “As I watched my father and the other people in our car praying to God, a strange feeling of anger swept over me. It was an anger that I had experienced…when we had been called ‘Dirty Jews’…[and] that day when the Hungarian gendarmes were taking us away to the ghetto and no one spoke up or tried to help us, not even my friend Luci.” The feeling of anger was soon replaced by anxiety and despair as Eva and her twin sister were separated from their family, never to see them again. “I remember crying when we were grabbed away from our mother, but I do not remember crying any more after that.”

Dr. Josef Mengele

Dr. Josef Mengele

The twins were soon “processed,” each bearing blue tattoos with the labels “A 7063” for Eva and “A 7064” for Miriam. As far as the Nazis were concerned, they no longer had names. Their only purpose was to serve as Dr. Mengele’s “precious guinea pigs.” Under tight SS surveillance, they were then marched to their barracks. Eva opens Chapter 14 with a gruesome story of an anguished mother who reached out for the children and was subdued and brutally murdered by German shepherd guard dogs. She witnessed this and many other horrors on a daily basis while interred at the death camp. “I tried to take it in,” she says, “and I tried to make some sense of it all. But, one cannot make sense out of senselessness.”

The children’s barracks provided the education that caused Eva to “mature very quickly.” She would soon discover the fate of those who were separated on the train platforms, unfit to work for the Nazis and whisked away quickly. Once again, her anger got the better of her and she cried out belligerently to the other twins, “That is ridiculous. We are children. We cannot work, but we are alive…We are not being burned.” She looked up and examined the fiery glow of the furnaces above the chimneys where smoke poured out in continuous, billowed columns and she was at once convinced.

Chapters 14-16 describe camp conditions at Auschwitz-Birkenau, of how the children survived through inhumane experiments and of the pervasive death that hovered over the camp like the ash-gray smoke. Early on, Eva stumbled upon three corpses of children on the latrine floor and the shocking sight steeled her resolve. She determined to survive and keep her sister alive, too. “Death meant ending up on that dirty bathroom floor like a piece of meat…but death was not something I would encounter. This will was so strong in me that even later, when I became ill, I was able…to survive”(emphasis mine).

Chapter 18 describes her illness after being injected with unknown germs by Dr. Mengele and his “medical” staff. Eva tried desperately to hide the extent of her illness in order to spare her life and that of her sister. After two weeks of knocking on death’s door, her will to live triumphed and she slowly recovered. As other sick children were being taken to the gas chamber, she convinced the nurse that she was recovering quicker than she actually was, a feat accomplished by manipulating the thermometer. Soon she was reunited with her sister. “I know today that would I have died, Miriam would have been taken immediately to the lab and killed…Then comparative autopsies comparing my diseased organs to Miriam’s healthy organs would have been done.” She would later learn just how damaged Miriam’s organs actually were.

The final chapters tell of the hope brought by Allied bombing runs where prisoners could see the planes overhead; the liquidation of the Gypsy camp into which the children were moved, presumably for gassing; the termination of gassing operations in October 1944; and finally of liberation by the Russian Army. Eva and Miriam are the twins at the head of the line in the now famous liberation footage of 27 January 1945.

Following liberation, the Mozes twins now orphaned were transferred to a monastery in Katowice, Poland. The Csenghery twins who had survived with their mother and were friends of Eva and Miriam were in a nearby displaced persons (DP) camp. The girls convinced Mrs. Csenghery to pose as their aunt and care for them, to which she agreed. Together they traveled to the Czernowitz DP Camp and then to a camp near Minsk. By September 1945, they had returned to the familiar surroundings of Simleul Silvanei. Eva recalls their return to the village of Portz when she “suddenly realized that [she and Miriam] were all that was left of the Mozes family.”

Reunited with their Aunt Iren who had also survived a camp, the girls stayed with her in Communist Rumania until 1950 when they were able to get visas and travel to Israel. Once in Haifa, they reunited with other beloved family members who had escaped Nazi-occupied Europe. The book ends with Eva’s enlistment in the Israeli Army in 1952.

Eight years later, she married an American, also a survivor, moved with him to the States and mothered two children. They settled in Terre Haute, Indiana, where Eva founded the CANDLES Organization and a Holocaust memorial museum. That is where I met her in January of this year.

Eva Mozes Kor and Chris Doyle, Jan 2009

Eva Mozes Kor and Chris Doyle, Jan 2009

Bibliographical Record (from the Library of Congress):

LCCN Permalink:

http://lccn.loc.gov/95068133

Type of Material:

Book

Personal Name:

Kor, Eva Mozes.

Main Title:

Echoes from Auschwitz : Dr. Mengele’s twins : the story of Eva and Miriam Mozes / by Eva Mozes Kor as told to Mary Wright.

Published/Created:

Terre Haute, IN : CANDLES, Inc., [1995]

Description:

xiii, 189 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.

ISBN:

0964380757

EXTERNAL LINKS– 

Plight of the Polish Jew, 1939

Posted in holocaust, Maps and images with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2009 by indyretreats

Gone now are those little towns where the shoemaker was a poet,
The watchmaker a philosopher, the barber a troubadour.
 

Gone now are those little towns where the wind joined
Biblical songs with Polish tunes and Slavic rue,
Where old Jews in orchards in the shade of cherry trees
Lamented for the holy walls of Jerusalem.

Gone now are those little towns, though the poetic mists,
The moons, winds, ponds, and stars above them
Have recorded in the blood of centuries the tragic tales,
The histories of the two saddest nations on earth.

Antoni Slonimski
(Accessed today from http://www.zchor.org/verbin/heritage.htm)

Gone, too, is one of the bravest Polish Jews from Warsaw during World War II. While preparing this blog to memorialize the plight of Polish Jews during October 1939, I ran across the story of Marek Edelman’s death at age 90.

Edelman had lived in Poland during the German invasion. He lived to witness the horror perpetrated by the Nazis. By this time 70 years ago, his country was dominated, divided and controlled by two world powers, Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. The plight of the Jew in Poland was worsening by the day. As Sir Martin Gilbert puts it, “a new policy was put briefly and brutally into operation: expulsion.” Map34 from Gilbert’s Atlas of the Holocaust (below), provides some sample numbers of Jewish expulsions. “By the end of 1939, tens of thousands of Jews had been driven to the border rivers and forced to swim them. Hundreds had been drowned as they tried to cross. Others had been shot and killed as they swam” (Gilbert, p. 36).

Map 34 from Gilbert's Atlas of the Holocaust

Map 34 from Gilbert's Atlas of the Holocaust

I recall reading an incident where Polish Jews forced to cross a frozen river were being shot at by Nazis on the western bank and Russian troops on the opposite bank. Eventually, the terrorized Jews all froze to death in the icy river after the menacing troops had penetrated the ice with their machine guns. I don’t remember the source at this moment. I just remember being appalled at how they were murdered.

Never Again pauses to reflect on the persecution of the Polish Jews and to remember the victims, like Marek Edelman, may he rest in peace.

 

 

LINKS:
JUDEN: a collection of photographs of Polish Jews taken by Nazi soldiers during 1939-1943

Virtual Jewish History Tour of Poland

Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Virtual Shtetl

Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland

Hitler’s War Against International Jewry

Posted in holocaust, Maps and images with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2009 by indyretreats
1941 Europe Map

From Wikimedia Commons

Deciphering the legend:
On the map above, the dark blue shaded areas are the German Reich;
the red shaded areas are the Allied countries;
the green shaded areas are the Soviet Union; and
white are the neutral countries.

Hitler’s War Against International Jewry

Nazi estimates of Europe's Jews

Nazi estimates of Europe's Jews

Hitler was not going to halt the German Wermacht until the entire map (above) was shaded dark blue. His war against the Jews[1] knew no limits, geographic or moral. It was rooted in an insatiable appetite for dominance, destruction and mass murder, and an ideology of hate.  At the Wannsee Conference, it was made clear that the Nazi goal was to eliminate European Jewry. Pictured on the right is the list compiled for the conference of the numbers of Jews by country. This is why Hitler needed to conquer all of Europe, and beyond that, Russia and the Middle East. His ultimate goal was world domination and the extermination of international Jewry[2]. Thankfully he was repelled in France and western Russia and ultimately defeated.

In a future post, we’ll take a closer look at The Final Solution, the Wannsee Conference and commencement of Aktion Reinhard. For now, we’ll leave you with a taste of what’s to come…

The Final Solution began with ideological obsessions that Hitler, Himmler, and numerous other leading Nazis shared. The evidence presented here indicates that Hitler’s prewar verbal threats against Jews were accompanied by a general SS strategy…The idea of killing Jews was on the SS agenda from at least late 1938 on.[3] 

References:
[1] Lucy S. Dawidowicz writes, “On January 30, 1939, Hitler made his declaration of war against the Jews, promising ‘the destruction of the Jewish race in Europe'” (The War Against the Jews 1933-1945, 1oth ed., Bantom Books, New York, 1986, ISBN 055334532X, p. 161). Dawidowicz concludes that “through a maze of time Hitler’s decision of November 1918 led to Operation Barbarossa. There never had been any ideological deviation or wavering determination. In the end only the question of opportunity mattered” (p. 163).

[2] “[Hitler] began to see the Jews primarily as an international group whose destruction demanded an international policy” (Dawidowicz, p. 155). Furthermore, “the destruction of the Jews was at [the] center” of Hitler’s long-range plans based upon his insane ideology (p. 158).

[3] The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution by Richard Breitman, Alfred A. Knopf Inc., New York, 1991 ISBN 0394568419 (“Epilogue: Himmler in Retrospect”)

The Auschwitz Album

Posted in concentration camps, Maps and images with tags , , , , , , , on September 7, 2009 by indyretreats

This is the first of many entries about the death camp known as Auschwitz-Birkenau. The significance of the album, below, now in the hands of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, cannot be overstated. The following is an excerpt from their website… 

Introduction
The Auschwitz Album is the only surviving visual evidence of the process of mass murder at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is a unique document and was donated to Yad Vashem by Lilly Jacob-Zelmanovic Meier.

The photos were taken at the end of May or beginning of June 1944…Read More

YouTube video produced by Yad Vashem.

Jews Murdered Between 1 Sept 1939 and 8 May 1945

Posted in Maps and images with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2009 by indyretreats
"Atlas of the Holocaust" by Martin Gilbert, Map 316

"Atlas of the Holocaust" by Martin Gilbert, Map 316

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