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Category : In the News

A story about Nazis, human rights and above all, one courageous mother

A scene from ‘Taken at Midnight.’ All Photos by Gerard Alon

Haaretz, By Michael Handelzalts, Jul. 22, 2015

On the stage of Israel’s national theater, Gila Almagor excels as mother of Hitler’s pre-Nazi era tormentor, lawyer Hans Litten, in ‘Taken at Midnight.’

“Taken at Midnight” is a play that must be seen, mainly because of the story it tells, which is based on events that occurred in the early part of Nazi-era Germany: In 1931, lawyer Hans Litten (who at one point converted to Judaism as an act of rebellion against his Jewish-born father who’d converted to Christianity, but subsequently gave up Judaism) was prosecuting four criminals from the Nazi party’s Sturmabteilung (SA) paramilitary group. He subpoenaed Hitler to testify in the case and made a laughing stock of him. The day after the Reichstag fire in 1933, Litten was arrested along with other opponents of the new German regime.

His mother waged a tenacious but ultimately doomed battle to save him. This is her story.

In one sense, it’s an internal Nazi story: not about what the Nazis did to the Jews, but primarily what they did to the German people, and to anyone who tried – zealously, naively, and in the name of such silly notions as “human rights,” “freedom of expression” and “democracy” – to prevent the civilized nation from descending into the tyranny that would endanger itself and other nations. And it’s also the story of those who stood idly by, in and out of Germany. But most of all, it is the story of one courageous mother.

Our Secret Auschwitz

Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

New York Times, By Rachel Sopher, July 21, 2015

When I started therapy, I found it hard to speak. Sessions filled up with silences, pregnant pauses, missing words. I couldn’t express myself for fear that any divulgence would hurt someone I loved.

My childhood home had been like this, too. Our quiet house on a quiet block in a quiet city brimmed with silence — not a peaceful silence, but a heavy pall. Because so little was said, the running dialogue in my head took on particular importance, keeping me company, a steady reminder to myself: I’m real, I’m alive, I exist.

My grandfather often sat in the living room of our house, impassive and impenetrable, coming to life only to yell at one or another of us who had interrupted his television program. His yells, though terrifying, also came as a relief, the riddle of silence solved, at least momentarily.

European Maccabi Games to be held at Olympic venues built by Nazis

Adolf Hitler, second from left, watching the Olympic Games in Berlin with the Italian crown prince, left, August 1936. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

JTA, By Toby Axelrod, July 21, 2015

BERLIN (JTA) – They are roaring through Europe, raising dust as they go: Jewish bikers bearing an Olympic-style torch all the way from Israel to this German city.

Next week, 11 core riders will pull their steel steeds into Berlin’s famous outdoor amphitheater, the Waldbuehne, to help usher in the 14th European Maccabi Games — the first ever in Germany — at a venue built by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympics. Other competitions will be held at the Olympic Stadium here, where Hitler presided over the opening of the games that year.

The riders are following in the treads of the Maccabiah Riders, who rode through Europe in the early 1930s to promote the games then being held under British mandate in Palestine.

The July 28 opening ceremony, which will feature remarks by German President Joachim Gauck and a concert featuring Matisyahu, Dana International and others, will usher in 10 days of sports, parties, a Limmud Germany learning event and more. Some 2,300 Jewish athletes from 36 countries will take part, cheered on by fans bused in from across the country by the Central Council of Jews in Germany. And the sports venues, including Berlin’s Olympiastadion, will be open to all, free of charge and under heavy security.

Auschwitz verdict will make it harder for Holocaust deniers, Canadian witness says

The Globe and Mail,By Jena Zucker, July 20, 2015

A Canadian survivor of a Nazi death camp says the detailed confession from a former bookkeeper will make it more difficult for Holocaust deniers to spread their version of Second World War events.

Oskar Groening, the former bookkeeper, was sentenced last week in a German court to four years in prison after he was found guilty of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews at Auschwitz.

During the trial, Mr. Groenig admitted to feeling “moral guilt” for his role.

“The fact that he was found guilty was, to me, a very satisfactory outcome,” said Bill Glied, the Canadian survivor of Auschwitz who testified in Germany at the trial of Mr. Groening.

“Holocaust deniers will no longer be able to deny it after all, as a Nazi SS officer has said that what has happened is true – which is proof enough that the Holocaust actually existed.”

Nazi hunter urges Danish police to probe guard at Holocaust camp

Efraim Zuroff, the top Nazi-hunter of Simon Wiesenthal Center gestures during a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, July 15, 2015. Photo by AP

Haaretz, By Teis Jensen Jul. 20, 2015

Suspect, aged 90, has admitted to witnessing executions of Jews in Nazi-occupied Belarus.

REUTERS — A leading Nazi hunter visited Copenhagen on Monday to request a police investigation into whether a Danish man was an accomplice in the murder of Jews at a camp in Nazi-occupied Belarus during World War Two.

The Dane has admitted to working as a guard at the concentration camp near Babruysk, Belarus in 1943 and witnessing executions of Jews there, according to a Danish police report from 1945 that was published in a book last year.

“He has admitted to being there. He has admitted seeing the atrocities,” Efraim Zuroff, responsible for Nazi war crime investigations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told Reuters by telephone from London while en route to Copenhagen.

“He has never been prosecuted and I think he is in good health. There is no reason why it should be ignored.”

There was no immediate Danish police or judicial comment on Zuroff’s request.

British Holocaust survivor funding rescue of Syrian Christians

JTA, July 16, 2015 — A British Jew who fled Nazi-ruled Austria as a child is funding the rescue of up to 2,000 Middle East Christians.

George Weidenfeld, a publisher who is also a member of Britain’s House of Lords, says he has “a debt to repay” to Christians fleeing ISIS because the Quakers and the Plymouth Brethren fed and clothed him and helped him to reach Britain in 1938, The Independent reported Thursday.

Weidenfeld, 95, is spearheading Weidenfeld Safe Havens Fund, which last week supported the flight of 150 Syrian Christians to Poland on a privately chartered plane to allow them to seek refuge, making them the first beneficiaries of the resettlement project.

Oskar Gröning, Ex-SS Soldier at Auschwitz, Gets Four-Year Sentence

Many of the survivors who testified at the Groning trial, were on the March of the Living (who also helped facilitate their testimony). They flew to Germany to testify right after the 2015 March. One of the March of the Living survivors who testified is Hedy Bohm, who is quoted in the NYT article.

New York Times, by Alison Smale, July 15, 2015

LÜNEBURG, Germany — In a belated act of justice 70 years after the end of World War II, a German court on Wednesday convicted a 94-year-old former SS soldier of complicity in mass murder and sentenced him to four years in prison for his part in trying to exterminate Europe’s Jews.

Oskar Gröning was charged with complicity in the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews and was sentenced on Wednesday to four years in prison. MARKUS SCHREIBER / ASSOCIATED PRESS

The former soldier, Oskar Gröning, who trained as a bank teller before joining the SS, worked from September 1942 to October 1944 at the Nazis’ grimmest death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, seizing cash and valuables from arriving prisoners. He was charged with complicity in the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews brought to the camp in just a few weeks in the summer of 1944.

While he was not accused of gassing prisoners, his trial suggested that Mr. Gröning had witnessed enough violence and cruelty to have a clear understanding of the systematic mass murder carried out at the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

The sentence exceeded the three and a half years that state prosecutors had requested. Mr. Gröning’s lawyers had sought an acquittal.

Mr. Gröning is expected to appeal, so it is unclear if he will ever serve time in prison.

Bullied Jewish Students To Receive $4.5 Million Settlement From N.Y. School District

Tablet Magazine, by Jas Chana

Pine Bush School District kids reportedly faced years of anti-Semitic abuses

In 2012, five Jewish students filed a civil right lawsuit against the Pine Bush Central School District in upstate New York, which stood accused of “failing for years to take action to protect the Jewish students from anti-Semitic bullying, slurs and other intimidation,” reported the New York Times. On Thursday, the students reportedly settled with the school district for $4.5 million.

The Times, which has been covering this story for years (including this long article from 2013) have listed a number anti-Semitic abuses these students were exposed to, such as “finding swastikas drawn on walls, desks, lockers and other school property; of being subjected to epithets and nicknames; and of being shoved and beaten… (and) terrifying bus rides with classmates leading “white power” chants and making Nazi salutes.”

“One girl,” the Times reported on July 9, “had money shoved into her mouth.”

Winton’s Children Share Their Stories

New York Times, by Sona Patel, JULY 13, 2015

Nicholas Winton organized the escape of 669 children, mostly Jews, from Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II. After Mr. Winton died on July 1, at age 106, The New York Times asked the survivors, the original Winton’s Children, and their descendants — whose numbers now exceed 6,000 — to share their stories. Below are selected responses, edited and condensed for clarity.

Nicholas Winton Credit Petr David Josek/Associated Press


World War II History, Captured in a Private’s Letters to His Wife

Pvt. Hyman Schulman wrote letters nearly every day to his wife, Sandy, who lived in Brooklyn.

New York Times, By James Barron, July 12, 2015

For years the letter lay in a box in the attic. It was postmarked in April 1945, just before the Nazis’ surrender in World War II. It was just one letter among many letters, and the box was just one box among many boxes.

“Yesterday we visited something that you might have already read about in the newspaper or heard about over the radio,” the letter began. “Not very far from here there is a concentration camp.” Another letter, dated 13 days later, added a detail: “The name of the camp is Buchenwald located near Weimar here in Germany.”

The letters were from Pvt. Hyman Schulman, the aide to Rabbi Herschel Schacter, the first Jewish chaplain to enter Buchenwald. Private Schulman wrote to his wife, Sandy, nearly every day, just as he had since his induction in 1942.

Back home in Brooklyn, the letters piled up, and after the war, they put them away. “We were busy,” Mrs. Schulman, 92, said recently. “We raised five children. We always said we were going to read them.”