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Category : In the News

Whose Holocaust is it, anyway?

Flowers lie on a slab of the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2015. Photo by AP

Haaretz, By Anshel Pfeffer | Jan. 30, 2015

KRAKOW – Covering the events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp was in many ways a frustrating assignment. Nearly all the 800 journalists gathered from around the world were secluded from the actual ceremony for seven hours, stuck in a press center outside the camp, cut off from contact with the survivors and dignitaries within the main tent that had been built over the camp’s iconic gate house. Interviews with the survivors had been conducted in advance, in many cases weeks before in their home countries, and since the live stream of the events within was available online, with the exception of television broadcasters who had to be seen reporting with the snow-covered barracks in the background, the rest of us could have reported on the event much more effectively from the comfort of our own homes.

It was no different from most large international summits where the press are cordoned off and sequestered, sometimes miles away, from the actual proceedings. Of course we try and give an impression that we are in the middle of things but in reality, at events that include the sort of people who demand and receive protection and privacy, we are not even on the sidelines. And that is what the anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation has become, a major gathering of world leaders to which 40 countries sent senior representatives. Putting aside a journalist’s frustrations, that surely is a good thing. (more…)

Sky News airs Gaza war images during Holocaust segment

Ynetnews, Itamar Eichner, Jan. 29, 2015

After BBC sparked uproar when it asked viewers whether it was time to ‘lay the Holocaust to rest,’ another British TV network raises ire with controversial choice of footage to air with its ‘Auschwitz Remembered’ segment.

While the BBC was asking its viewers whether it was “time to lay the Holocaust to rest,” Sky News decided to draw a link between the Holocaust and the summer war in Gaza by airing images of destruction in Gaza in a segment dedicated to the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Anchor Adam Boulton was joined by Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis in a segment titled “Auschwitz Remembered.” (more…)

Outliving Horror for 70 Years and Never Forgetting

Dignitaries and survivors gathered Tuesday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. Credit Ian Gavan/Getty Images

The New York Times, By Joanna Berendt, JAN. 27, 2015

At Auschwitz-Birkenau, Holocaust Survivors, Ever Dwindling in Number, Gather to Remember

OSWIECIM, Poland — More than 3,000 guests, including Holocaust survivors and foreign dignitaries, gathered on Tuesday at a site marking one of history’s biggest horrors, the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps in Poland, which were liberated by Soviet troops 70 years ago in the closing months of World War II.

Because of the survivors’ advancing age, this year’s ceremony at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum may be the last major anniversary celebration to include more than a handful of people who endured the Nazi camps here, where about 1.5 million people lost their lives, most of them European Jews. Some 1,500 survivors attended the 60th anniversary in 2005, but on Tuesday there were fewer than 300 on hand. Most are in their 90s, and some are older than 100.

Their dwindling numbers prompted many at the ceremony to raise the question of how best to sustain memories of the horror when they are gone, and what it means in a time of fresh outbreaks of religious and ethnic animosities.

“Today, in the name of truth, we need to fight the attempts to relativize the Shoah,” President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland said as he opened the ceremony, using another term for the Holocaust. “The memory of Auschwitz means the memory of the importance of freedom, justice, tolerance and respect for human rights,” he added. (more…)

The Nazi commandments for a pure Aryan society

A book showing shapes of heads, at the ‘Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race’ exhibition. Photo by Courtesy

Haaretz, By Ofer Aderet | Jan. 28, 2015

Eugenics, euthanasia, forced sterilization – these and other 20th-century phenomena related to the theme of ‘racial purity’ are featured in an exhibition opening in Israel on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“The Ten Commandments For Choosing a Spouse,” was written by the public health committee of the Reich and published in Germany in 1935. Beginning Tuesday, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, it will be on display in Hebrew translation as part of the “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race” exhibition at the Ghetto Fighters’ House (Beit Lohamei Hagetaot) Museum.

The exhibition, which originated at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., trains a spotlight on the twisted principles and methods that the Nazis tried to bequeath to the German people, as part of the regime’s efforts to maintain what was called “racial purity.”

The first of the above-mentioned commandments, which were aimed at women, was: Remember that you are a German woman, and that everything you are is thanks to your people. The document explains that while the “genetically healthy” German woman will pass from the world, everything she transfers to her offspring – whom will be plentiful, it is hoped – will remain behind, and thus “Your nation will live forever!” (more…)

In previously unknown letter, Primo Levi explains the Holocaust to a young girl

Primo Levi, a Jewish Italian chemist, Holocaust survivor and author. Photo by AFP

Haaretz, By Anna Momigliano | Jan. 27, 2015

‘Rather than accusing them of cruelty, I would accuse the Germans of these days of selfishness, of being indifferent and intentionally ignorant.’

MILAN, Italy — When she received, at the age of 11, a letter from Primo Levi answering her questions about the Holocaust, Monica Perosino did not realize she was corresponding with one of the world’s most famous writers and Auschwitz survivors. More than three decades later, Perosino, now 43 and a journalist, decided to share Levi’s letter with the world. She published it in the newspaper she works for, the Turin-based La Stampa.

By far Italy’s most famous Jewish writer, Levi was interned in Auschwitz from February 1944 until the camp was liberated, on January 27, 1945. His autobiographical novel about his experience in the death camp, “If This Is a Man: Remembering Auschwitz” (also published in the United States as “Survival in Auschwitz”), is a classic of Holocaust literature.

In 1982, Perosino read the novel. A schoolgirl at the time, she was shocked by the brutality it described. She looked up Levi’s address in the local telephone directory — they both lived in Turin, in northern Italy — and sent him a letter asking two simple questions: “Why didn’t anyone do something to stop the massacre?” and “Were the Germans evil?” (more…)

The director Alfred Hitchcock, seen in 1968. Photo by Associated Press

OSWIECIM, POLAND – JANUARY 27: Survivors and families make their way to lay candles at the Birkenau Memorial during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp on January 27, 2015 in Oswiecim, Poland. International heads of state, dignitaries and over 300 Auschwitz survivors are attending the commemorations for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops on 27th January, 1945. Auschwitz was among the most notorious of the concentration camps run by the Nazis during WWII and whilst it is impossible to put an exact figure on the death toll it is alleged that over a million people lost their lives in the camp, the majority of whom were Jewish. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Forward, By Yoni Wilkenfeld, Jan 28, 2015

Oswiecim, the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau and of the commemoration of the 1945 liberation of the camps, is typical of Polish cities in at least one respect: many Jews once lived there, and now they do not.

A majority-Jewish town before the Holocaust, Oswiecim has had an overwhelmingly Catholic population for decades. And while for much of the world the Jewish trauma of the Holocaust is front and center in its remembrances, many in Poland have long focused on the non-Jewish victims of the war.

During the 70th anniversary commemoration, over 150 people gathered at Oswiecim’s Center for Dialogue and Prayer for a mass service led by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Archbishop of Krakow. Dozens of non-Jewish survivors of Auschwitz sat for prayer and liturgical music in the company of Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, who also spoke at the anniversary event.

Some, though, are not content to place Jewish and non-Jewish victims alongside each other, resenting the focus on Jewish suffering as an overemphasis.

On the day of the ceremony, an elderly man from the far-right group Telewizja Narodowe had erected with a 2-story tall wooden cross near a makeshift encampment on the roadside. Sitting beside a wood-burning stove under a blue canopy, he wordlessly declined an interview. But his point was made, not least because his cross sat directly opposite the so-called Auschwitz Cross, long a symbol of Catholic-Jewish tensions over the site. (more…)

Auschwitz Museum celebrating 70th anniversary of liberation with YouTube livestream

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, when Soviet troops marched into the Nazi death camp and freed its remaining survivors. By January 1945, the Nazi war machine had killed more than 1 million prisoners at the site, most of whom were Jews. The day has since become International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the Auschwitz Museum holds a remembrance every year at the camp’s Death Gate to commemorate the liberation and those lost in the war. This year, YouTube is also helping to mark the end of the Holocaust by livestreaming the event online.

Google has already worked extensively with the Auschwitz Museum, digitizing images and records from the site along uploading media to make for an online museum. Today serves as an extension of those efforts, especially at a time when the number of the camp’s remaining survivors continues to fall. You can watch the ceremonies right now in the embed above.

A belated recognition of all of Auschwitz’s victims

World leaders walk by the railway leading to the Birkenau Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, January 27, 2015. Photo by AP

Haaretz, By Anshel Pfeffer | Jan. 27, 2015

The 70th anniversary put survivors and Jewish victims at center as Poland finally confronts its past.

AUSCHWITZ — Roman Kent, an 85-year-old survivor of Auschwitz who spoke at the memorial ceremony for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on Tuesday, said in his speech that “the passage of time makes it more and more apparent that there is an effort of the ideological successors of the perpetrators … abetted by much of the media, to sanitize the Shoah. They employ language to describe the Holocaust so it appears less wicked and brutal.”

Kent spoke of how anodyne words such as “lost” are used “when referring to families brutally murdered,” and how the fact that 6 million Jews were murdered is subsumed in the larger numbers of dead from all nations.

It was difficult, however, for the organizers of the memorial to avoid a certain touch of sanitization. In an event attended by cabinet ministers, prime ministers and presidents from around the world, where diplomatic niceties had to be adhered to and 300 elderly survivors had to be taken care of, the ceremony was a nearly impossible balancing act. (more…)

Children of the Holocaust return to Auschwitz and pay tribute to those who saved them

The railway tracks lead to the”Death Gate” at the Auschwitz II Birkenau extermination camp. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The Globe and Mail, TU THANH HA, Jan 27, 2014

In the last chaotic days of Nazi Germany, in a train transferring concentration camp prisoners to Dachau, a teenager hears the cries of babies.

At 14, William Glied has already lost his family. Emaciated and shivering with typhoid, he thinks he is delirious, for how could newborns be in such wretched conditions?

And yet, seven babies were born that spring because the Germans spared seven pregnant inmates.

Most survivors think such clemency came because the war was ending and the guards tried to cast themselves in a better light. But Mr. Glied wants to believe it happened because there was a glimmer of decency in the heart of a Nazi.

“I feel that human beings are by nature good, that they’re not evil. If I didn’t believe that, there is not much sense in human existence,” the 84-year-old said from his Toronto home.

Tuesday is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, where more than a million victims died in occupied Poland. (more…)

Auschwitz is in the past, but genocide can happen again

1941 photo showing the railroad tracks leading to the entrance of the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.Photo by AP

Haaretz, By Carlo Strenger | Jan. 27, 2015

The Holocaust must be remembered for its own sake, and for the sake of humanity: We need to remember what humans are capable of.

Seventy-years after soldiers from the Red Army discovered the sights of horror and the 7,000 survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the imagination still boggles at trying to understand. At times it seems as if there were a hole in time: a place where the rules and laws of humanity were sucked into a non-place that is totally unspeakable, and beyond understanding.

Soon no more Holocaust survivors will be alive, and our duty of remembering and understanding increases. This means, among other things, that we must face the uncomfortable truths about human nature that Auschwitz symbolizes. Auschwitz was not a hole in time: It was a historical event perpetuated by human beings, who were not essentially different from all of us.

Social psychology has investigated the mechanisms by which we humans can slide into perpetuating horrors we think we are not capable of. Let us start with the phenomenon called bystander apathy, the human tendency to look at horrors and feel that we have not responsibility to intervene. (more…)