Director of Preservation Programs at National Archives at College Park Doris Hamburg and Chief of the Document Conservation Laboratory Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler recount the story of the rescue and discovery of thousands of documents and artifacts. These relics, many of which once soaked and covered in mold, now make up the Iraqi Jewish Archive.
On Dec.18, 2013, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA) and B’nai B’rith International held a series of webinars commemorating the 170th anniversary of B’nai B’rith. On display were some of B’nai B’rith’s oldest documents.
Among the items included were a 1937 exchange between Rabbi Leo Baeck and former B’nai B’rith President Alfred Cohen analyzing the nature of anti-Semitism in Europe and the correspondence of former B’nai B’rith President Simon Wolf in the 19th century discussing crime in immigrant communities.
Click here to watch the webinar.
Phil Kershner, 87, joined B’nai B’rith and the Morris I. Feld Lodge in 1952. He said proudly, “My lodge still meets to this day.”
Kershner, who now serves as the lodge’s president, used the group to develop lifelong friendships with others in the Jewish community. Along with his fellow members and friends, he became dedicated to B’nai B’rith—working hard to help it grow. From 1968 to 1980, he helped increase the number of lodges in the Baltimore area from three to 22.
Today, he is still very involved in B’nai B’rith and is also a planned giver. The interview with Kershner above took place at his home in Baltimore.
“Farewell, Auschwitz” is a work commissioned by Music of Remembrance (MOR) and created by composer Jake Heggie and lyricist Gene Scheer. The lyrics are derived from Krystyna Zywulska’s poetry written in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. The video above is the finale of “Farewell, Auschwitz,” performed at its world premiere in Seattle on May 14, 2013.
Heggie has composed three pieces for MOR: “For a Look or a Touch” (2007); “Another Sunrise” (2012); and “Farewell, Auschwitz” (2013). He believes that by putting on musical concerts using Holocaust themes and music, MOR offers an invaluable opportunity for people to learn about the Holocaust in a novel way. “Music reveals levels of our hearts and souls that sometimes we aren’t in touch with,” Heggie says, adding that he tries to convey what is unspoken or what cannot be spoken.
Heggie attempts to mine the emotional truth of the Holocaust through his work with MOR. ”Wwe’re not out to make documentaries,” he says. In his three MOR-commissioned works, Heggie has collaborated with Mina Miller, MOR’s artistic director, to find subject matter that is deeply meaningful to him. His works have explored such topics as the persecution of gays by the Nazis and the moral dilemmas constantly facing those who tried to survive the brutality of Nazi concentration camps.
The language of Heggie and Scheer’s work is often directly inspired by the words written by Holocaust victims, as in their reliance on Zywulska’s poetry for “Farewell, Auschwitz.” And the music Heggie composes for his pieces relyless on modern music and tries instead to mimic the music typical of the historical setting. For instance, in “For a Look or a Touch,” Heggie created a musical score that could very well have been heard in a Berlin night club during the early 20th century. He has also used German folk music and waltzes in his MOR commissions to reflect the diverse cultural backgrounds each inmate brought into the camps.
Heggie hopes his audience will enjoy the performance, but he hopes they’re entertained in a way that is profoundly deep and transformative. “I always hope the audience will be open to feeling something new that maybe takes them by surprise or [gives them an] insight into a human experience that they hadn’t considered,” Heggie says. “[Miller] really wants to explore all different aspects of Holocaust remembrance and how they impact us today. Through remembrance we realize we’re still the same people we were all those years ago.”
From July 29 to Aug. 4, 35 residents from B’nai B’rith low-income apartment buildings across the country came to Lake Como, Pa., for the Resident Leadership Retreat at B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp. The biannual retreat, run by the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services, features daily training sessions, entertainment and intergenerational programs with the campers.
During the retreat, some of the residents gave video interviews about their lives. They described why they enjoy living in their B’nai B’rith apartment buildings and how much they appreciated the retreat and being at camp.
For almost 50 years, B’nai B’rith has been committed to making apartments available to seniors of limited means, providing them a safe and secure space to age with dignity. And, since 1987, the Center for Senior Services has been bringing seniors to Perlman Camp to take part in the Resident Leadership Retreat. After a week of learning and entertainment at the beautiful camp setting in the Pocono Mountains, they go back home with the knowledge and ability to make real, positive changes in their apartment buildings.
Click on the videos below to watch resident testimonials. And look out for the winter issue of B’nai B’rith Magazine, which will feature a story about the Resident Leadership Retreat in the B’nai B’rith Today section.
A Captive Jewish Airman in Europe
In your recent summer 2013 magazine issue you ran an article about a captive Jewish airman. I, as a former Jewish prisoner of war, cannot understand why you picked this individual—perhaps he is a friend or close relationship. It is obvious you failed to do adequate research on Jewish POWs in Nazi Germany before printing this article. I happen to personally know Mr. Horn, and he is a fine gentleman. I did not discuss the article with him.
In his 36 days as a POW, I assure you, he barely had sufficient time to recover from the normal shock of being captured or suffered the loss of freedom, the indignities inflicted by the Germans, the hunger and accompanied loss of weight and much more. If you had done your homework and investigated POWs who did not deny their religion, you could have come away with a decent piece of journalism. For your own information, why don’t you check the website about Berga and see how the Germans gathered American JUDEN and used them as slave labor.
Let it suffice to say that I am very upset at the article and the portrayal of Jewish POWs who did not deny their religion and were incarcerated by the Nazi regime.
Irving S. Schrom
Served as Platoon Leader 3rd Platoon, “C” Company, 423rd Reg., 106th Infantry Div.
Captured and wounded at Battle of the Bulge—was POW Dec. 19, 1944 through April 29, 1945.
Writer Bruce Wolk responds:
In the course of preparing my book, “Stars on My Wings,” I interviewed 14 Jewish POWs. Each man had his own set of experiences and each witnessed his captivity in different ways. No man denied his Jewish faith. No one hid behind a mask, and no one ever denied the experience of another. I interviewed a Jewish POW who was placed in front of a mock firing squad, another who was whipped with a riding crop, some forced to run through gauntlets and others who were sent on brutal forced marches. It is unfair to say that one man in captivity had it better than another in captivity.
What makes Harvey Horn's experience unique is that he was never in captivity and in the end, he actually helped save his guards. He was the only Jewish POW I interviewed who was captured at sea. In his march, three different sets of guards accompanied him. He was always in fear.
As to Berga, it was a terrible, tragic and awful situation. Books and documentaries have been written on Berga. It was clear that in the end the U.S. Government looked the other way. Yet, it was outside of the scope of this article. The writer should also be aware that gentiles as well as Jews were subject to the horrors of Berga. That said, I also interviewed Jewish POWs who claimed they were hardly affected by their captivity as POWs at all.
I appreciate the writer's passion and our nation should always be grateful for his service and sacrifice. The Jewish community, especially, should hold its WWII veterans dear.
B'nai B'rith Magazine Blog
An archive of digital exclusive content that supplements the B'nai B'rith Magazine.
Letters to the Editor
To submit a letter to the editor, email email@example.com.