Archive for September, 2009

30 Days of Shoah Remembrance

Posted in holocaust, Memorial with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2009 by indyretreats

Never Again! wishes to thank the people all over the world, from Lithuania to Louisiana, who have visited the blog, commented and/or e-mailed. In just one month, we’ve welcomed more than 1,260 visits to the site. That lets us know that we are meeting a need and providing value to the Internet. If you’re a returning visitor, thank you for your support. If this is your first visit to our blog, make yourself at home. There are seventeen posts, to date, and a plethora of links. In fact, you might find something to add to your reading list on our Sources page.

Or for your reading pleasure, here are the most popular blog posts to date:

  Title Views
1.  Jews Murdered Between 1 Sept 1939 and 8 May 1945 42
2. American Students Gripped by Holocaust Horror  29
3.  The Auschwitz Album 26
4.  “World War II Erupts!” Looking back 70 years 25
5.  Holocaust Encroaches Kovno, Lithuania 21
6.  Hitler’s War Against International Jewry 19
7.  Destination Lodz, the Lizmannstadt Ghetto 17

Our goal is to provide engaging content with a personal interest angle, not just facts and figures. We look for eyewitness accounts and survivor testimonies when available to augment the horrible truths of the Holocaust. If you know of such accounts, survivors or trustworthy sources, please bring them to our attention.

Some things we are currently developing are…

  • a Nazi Death Camps page
  • our defense of the intentionalist stance (i.e. “the straight path to genocide”)
  • an interview with a survivor living here in Indiana
  • relationships with some institutions of higher learning

…and much more. So if you don’t find what piques your particular interest in the Holocaust today, please check back every week for new content.

For now, we just wanted to say thanks and shalom!

The Hidden Children: the secret survivors of the Holocaust

Posted in holocaust with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2009 by indyretreats

(by guest contributor Tracy S. Doyle)0-HiddenChildrenCover
I recently spent several days reading an incredible book entitled The Hidden Children: The Secret Survivors of the Holocaust by Jane Marks. This powerful book included the wartime stories of twenty-three survivors and how their childhoods were sacrificed to save their lives.  Their bravery, strength, and determination to survive are evident in each story. Often separated from their families for weeks or even years at a time, most of these children led secret lives…secret lives that saved their lives.

One of the burning questions I have had about the Holocaust is why more people didn’t step up and help? Surely they saw the Jews being publicly humiliated, forced into disease-ridden, overcrowded ghettos, and shipped off to their imminent death, so why didn’t people do anything? The answer is people did. Hundreds, possibly even thousands, of “righteous Gentiles” saved Jewish children by hiding them. Through an elaborate underground network, against horrendous odds, children were saved. They were hidden in convents, attics, cellars, cupboards, forests, and barns; some were even secreted away in sewers.  These were far from ideal living quarters, but the hidden children were living when most other Jewish children were being gassed by the Nazis.

The book tells of Jewish children rescued by courageous Christian families who adopted and treated them as their own until after the war when their real parents, sometimes complete strangers, returned to claim them. Several of the survivors recall being “ripped” from the arms of the only parents they had ever known and given to strangers. Many of the youngest children were never told they were Jewish for fear that they would “slip” and identify themselves to the wrong person, which would result in certain death for the outed child and her Gentile protectors. These stories were particularly heart-wrenching when, even as adults, tears streamed down their faces as they recalled leaving their “hidden parents” whom they loved and had saved them.

Marks groups the survivor stories into four sections–the Ordeal, the Aftermath, the Legacy and the Healing. Section one, the Ordeal, tells the horrors of going into hiding and the excrutiating decisions Jewish families made to ensure their children’s survival. As a mother of two young girls I can only begin to imagine what these parents must have gone through and the difficult choices they had to make to save their children. It made me question what I would have done. Could I have given my child to a stranger, knowing their chance of surviving the war was better apart from me? Could I walk away listening to them scream for me? Could I live knowing that, chances are, I may never see them again? What a horrifying dilemna for any mother to face.In section two, the Aftermath, Marks tells how each survivor’s life was affected by their time in hiding. Their entire lives have been marked by fear and hurt, many of them still frightened little children, emotionally frozen in time at the age of four, seven or twelve. Even as adults, they’ve remained hidden emotionally. Learning at an early age to turn off anger, fear, confusion, and grief, in effect, they stopped feeling anything. This emotional disconnect resulted in insecurities, marriages failing and relationships lacking intimacy. By telling their story, many say they have finally begun the process of emotional healing.Section three, the Legacy, deals with how these children describe their lives as a puzzle with too many pieces missing. They have many questions without answers. Their ability to forget was a way to survive emotionally but it had a downside; it left them with unknowns about what they experienced as a child. One survivor put a positive spin on this by saying “I have an almost instinctive appreciation of the concept of fate and destiny, that certain things happen in life that are beyond our control. Instead of making me scared, that’s given me a clearer understanding of what I can do something about — and what I can’t” (p. 182). 
Hidden Child
Sonja Dubois

S 
onja’s only link to her lost family was an oil painting that she’s had since she was hidden away. It is a dark painting,
full of greens, browns and dark hues. The signature is in black. Sonja had never known who made the painting, only that it
had belonged to her family. Thirty-eight years after losing her parents to the killing factory at Auschwitz, Sonja was told
of the painting, ‘This is your daddy’s signature.’ He had been an amateur painter in Holland’s artist community.
Read more at…
Timothy Hankins blog,
or
Tennessee Holocaust Survivor’s Biographies.
What others have said about the book
Anti-Defamation League
Good Reads User Reviews
10 Customer Reviews @ Amazon
More on hidden children of the Holocaust…Life in Shadows Exhibit @ USHMM

Hidden Children & The Holocaust

Blog on Ancestry Magazine’s–“Researching Jewish Children”

Blog Around the Clock’s 3-part Series

BBC Radio 4’s Crossing Continents

 

And finally, the Healing, relates how, amazingly, the hidden children have grown-up to be very successful and contributing members of societies all around the world. They all strive to denounce anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and to promote education so that, God forbid, if ever confronted with the concept of such a horrifying proposal the next generation will stand and say “Never Again!

(The Hidden Children: the secret survivors of the Holocaust by Jane Marks, Fawcett Columbine, New York, 1993, ISBN 044990685X)

September 27, 1939…

Posted in concentration camps, ghetto, holocaust with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2009 by indyretreats

…Warsaw, Poland, falls to German troops;
…Berlin issues a command to establish Jewish ghettos in Poland;
…Inmates at the Dachau, Germany, concentration camp are moved to a camp at Mauthausen, Austria, so that Dachau can be used as a training camp for the Waffen-SS.

Jewish Responses

Of the half-million Jews living in Germany when Hitler came to power, most critically underestimated the danger confronting them. Considering themselves loyal members of the German community, they hoped to persevere and ride out the Nazi storm. Most awakened only slowly to the full extent of the terror. By then it was too late.

This response was based on a not-unreasonable Jewish assumption that, although the Nazis had declared themselves enemies of the Jews, surely they would allow Jews to exist in segregated communities. Deportation and mass murder were considered by hopeful Jews as impossibilities.

(Source: The Holocaust Chronicle online)

Holocaust Encroaches Kovno, Lithuania

Posted in holocaust, Memorial with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2009 by indyretreats

In his book The Origins of the Final Solution, Christopher Browning says “plans for the Vernichtungskrieg [that is War of Destruction] entailed the death of millions of people in the Soviet Union. In such an environment of mass death, clearly Soviet Jewry was in grave peril. Indeed, in the light of past Nazi actions in Poland, Nazi plans for the war of destruction implied nothing less than the genocide of Soviet Jewry” (p. 213). Testimony was corroborated at the Nuremberg Trials that “the Einsatzgruppen officers were given an order for the killing of all Soviet Jews” by either Bruno Streckenbach or Reinhard Heydrich (p. 227). And they carried out the order with SS-style precision, often times instigating pogroms carried out by the locals. This was the story in the Baltic States in 1941, namely Lithuania[1].

“When forward units of the German Army occupied Kaunas [or Kovno] in central Lithuania on 23 June 1941, a small advance detachment of Einsatzgruppe A entered the city with them and set to work immediately organizing ‘spontaneous’ attacks against Jews”[3]. Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Rhodes, in his book Masters of Death, details the scene in Kovno’s square that day in June ’41. Several groups of Jews were beaten to death by Lithuanian thugs wielding crowbars.

KovnoPogrom

The scene in Kovno's square 23 June 1941

“The SS had released violent criminals from prison…and put them to work murdering Jewish victims to make the ‘pogrom’ look spontaneous” [4]. This pogrom was followed by others like it under the watchful eye of SS-Brigadeführer Walter Stahlecker.

Just two days after the city was seized, “Einsatzgruppe A organized six hundred of the most reliable irregulars into an auxiliary police force.” The Lithuanian mob unleashed terror on the city, burning down synagogues and Jewish homes, plundering their treasures and murdering their inhabitants. “Einsatzkommando 1B reported to Berlin on 30 June 1941, ‘Lithuanian partisan groups have already killed several thousand Jews’” [5]. Following these organized raids, Jewish residents of Kovno were rounded up and taken to the notorious Seventh Fort, one of the Russian Tsarists’ fortifications utilized by the SS for imprisonment and execution of Jews. According to Rhodes, about 1,500 people died at the fort in the first week of July, alone. In October, another 10,000 of Kovno’s Jews were killed ostensibly to make room for more Jewish deportees from the west (Browning, p. 305)[6].  Those deportees arrived on five transports from Greater Germany and German-occupied Austria and Belgium in late November. All of them, some 4,934 men, women and children were murdered by Einsatzkommando 3 “the most prolific killers on the entire eastern front” who were waiting for the transports at Kovno’s Ninth Fort[7].  According to Sir Martin Gilbert, “The Ninth Fort became synonymous with mass murder.” By December 1941, an estimated 19,000 Jews had been killed [8].

SURVIVOR ACCOUNTS
Joseph Kagan, a survivor of the Kovno ghetto, recalls, “It was about four o’clock in the morning when the sounds of wailing and shrieking awoke most people in the Big Ghetto. Heavy lorries had begun to leave the Little Ghetto. The women who had left their houses to run into the streets of the Big Ghetto were wailing and pointing towards the lights of the lorries as they moved away. It was an eerie sight. The lights of the lorries were moving slowly up that hilly road leading from the ghetto valley to the Ninth Fort. The lights picked out the lofty trees on the ghetto side of the road. Thousands of people trudging up the hill. They were being hurried and forced along by armed soldiers and militiamen. It was a convoy of death” [2]. Jack Brauns, who was then seventeen years old, recalls the burning of a hospital in Kovno 4 October 1941. “I could see the hospital on fire with the windows and doors nailed shut and the patients and doctor and nurses were trying to get out. I remember how their screams got weaker and then it was quiet…The scene of the burning building with people inside trying to get out and the Lithuanian guards who made sure that no one would escape this horrible death played through my mind…”[2]
Dr. Dawidowicz, two nurses and 59 patients were asphyxiated and burned to death.

&
&

 

Sadly, the Holocaust is not a focal point of remembrance or discussion in Lithuania today… and understandably so, considering the complicity of so many non-Jewish Lithuanians. Still, it is sad that many won’t even aknowledge this tragic part of the Baltic region’s history. The plight of the Jews is often overshadowed by that of Gentile Lithuanians who suffered brutality at the hands of the Russians. RamblingBrooke.com shares a unique perspective on this perplexing issue.

Never Again! pauses to remember the 135,000 Lithuanian Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust.

Links:
Shoah in the Shtetls (great pictoral history)
We are 900 Frenchmen (The Story of Convoy 73)

Sources:
[1] Browning says that in Lithuania, Latvia and western Ukraine “locals were from the beginning of German rule until its end deeply involved in the murder of Jews” (The Origins of The Final Solution: the evolution of Nazi Jewish policy, September 1939-March 1942 by Christopher R. Browning, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, and Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 2004, p. 268). Further, “since the occupation of Lithuania…executions were being carried out on a regular basis with the help of collaborators” (p. 285).

[2]Never Again: A History of the Holocaust by Martin Gilbert, Universe, New York, 2000, pp. 96-97 (see insets)

[3] Masters of Death: the SS Eisantzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust by Richard Rhodes, Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2002, pp. 38-39

[4] Ibid, p. 41

[5] Ibid, pp. 42-43

[6] Rauca’s ‘Great Action:’
Gilbert says they were taken to the Ninth Fort on 28 Oct 1941 as part of Helmut Rauca’s “Great Action” (p. 97).  Because of his war crimes as an SS official, Rauca was extradited in the mid-80’s from Canada by West Germany and charged with the murder of 11,500 Jews. He died while awaiting trial in Frankfurt (Gilbert, p. 161). Watch this outstanding news clip from Canadian Broadcasting Co.

[7] Browning, p. 395

[8] Gilbert, pp. 96-97

“The stoppage of all tears”

Posted in ghetto, holocaust with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2009 by indyretreats

A Polish Jew from Bransk, interviewed by Eva Hoffman for her book Shtetl, remembers a young Jewish refugee from the Warsaw ghetto who had lost his father. “How come he don’t cry?,” asks Jack Rubin, to which Ms. Hoffman replies, “there is a certain level of terror that causes the stoppage of all tears” (Shtetl, p. 217).

Somehow, though, Jack managed to cry. An old man when he was interviewed by Ms. Hoffman, Jack tells the story of leaving his parents behind in Nazi-occupied Poland. Through tears, he recalls the events of November 1942 when the Bransk ghetto was liquidated, more than 2,000 Jews sent to their death at Treblinka and others who hid in the ghetto were subsequently found and murdered (People in Bransk long remembered Jewish corpses floating in the river with their throats slit and the water running bloody). At the time, Jack and his family had managed to escape to a nearby farm. “Once there, they had to figure out what to do next. Jack’s father asked him what was going to happen. Jack said that things looked very bad, and he would try to hide in the woods. His parents decided they were too old for that, and they would go back to the ghetto voluntarily…it was the last time he saw his parents” (pp. 225-226).

Rubin seated left during presentation on Capitol Hill

Rubin seated left during presentation on Capitol Hill

After surviving in the woods for days, Jack returned to the farm where he had parted ways with his parents. Reuniting with his brother’s family and about a dozen other refugees, Jack made his way towards the Bialystok ghetto. Jack was the only one of fourteen to make it. “This is one of the points in the story where Jack has to pause, his face contorting with suppressed tears. ‘And now I blame myself…In the woods I never cried. When others cried, I said we shouldn’t cry because our families got killed, we should cry because we’re still alive’” (p. 230).

On August 1, 1944, after Russian advances pushed back the German army, Jack deserted his hideout in the woods and walked down the open road “in broad daylight.” His Polish farmer friend who had provided refuge to he and his family came out to meet him. The farmer spread out his hands and exclaimed, “you survived!” That’s the first time during the whole ordeal that Jack cried (p. 233).

Jack Rubin did survive the Holocaust and eventually came to America, where he opened a clothing store in Baltimore. He “preside[d] over a small community of people in Baltimore who call themselves ‘Branskers.’ Some of them left Bransk before the war. A few, like Rubin, survived the Holocaust in Poland” (PBS Frontline, 1996). As of 2008, Jack lived in Florida and remained outspoken about Holocaust reparations (April ’08 Blog link; 2007 AP Story linked from this forum).

SOURCE:

Shtetl: the life and death of a small town and the world of Polish Jews by Eva Hoffman ©1997 Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, ISBN 0395822955

“Shtetl” by Marian Marzynski, director, PBS FRONTLINE Show #1320, Air Date: April 17, 1996 (©2005 WGBH Educational Foundation)

The Auschwitz Experience in 4,000 words

Posted in concentration camps, holocaust with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2009 by indyretreats
Execution Wall at Auschwitz

Execution Wall at Auschwitz


It was difficult to imagine so many violent, unjustified deaths happening in that spot. The sun shone on the raindrops stuck to the flowers left behind by visitors. It made my head swim.

I always expected that when I finally went to Auschwitz, I would sob the entire time. But I didn’t. There was something about it not being about me that made it seem inappropriate for me to openly cry.

Do you know what I mean? Like, what are you crying about, tourist, you did not suffer and die here. Instead, I felt strongly that my task was to look and learn, while being calm and careful. This isn’t to say my eyes weren’t full of tears the whole time or that my throat didn’t feel like there was a vise around it. Continue reading Rachel’s blog…


I was planning to post a different topic today until I stumbled upon Rachel Lucas’ blog (above). This is just a short excerpt of a quite gripping account she wrote about her visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau. I found her account so well written, so compelling, that I had to share it with you today. It will transport you to the lush Polish countryside where this camp system still stands as a testament to the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Haunting voices from Lodz ghetto

Posted in concentration camps, ghetto, holocaust with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2009 by indyretreats
Jewish child in Lodz Ghetto

Jewish child in Lodz Ghetto

Sketches of Ghetto Life: Escape into Hell–
The postmen are rushing through town, or rather, they have a rush job to do. But they themselves are trudging through the streets, up and down the stairs. Their bags are full now. When there is a knock at the door, the tenant knows it is neither the milkman nor the baker; and the normally welcome mailman frightens people with his knock in broad daylight as if it were midnight. No sooner are their departure orders in people’s hands than they have resolved to resist…They move into their hideouts, fix them up, stock them with whatever supplies of food they may have…Their ration cards are suspended; there will be no bread, no soup in the workshops, not even vegetables. The bit of food that normally kept them from starvation will no longer be available. But instinct drives them, fear hounds them…People refuse to leave hell because they have grown accustomed to it. Read more…