JTA News covered the presentation by B'nai B'rith International and other organizations of the Never Again Education Act, which would provide funding for schools to include Holocaust education.
A bipartisan slate of House members is set to introduce a bill that would grant money to Holocaust education in schools.
The Never Again Education Act would establish the Holocaust Education Assistance Program Fund in the U.S. Treasury. A 12-member board would disburse the money to schools.
A draft of the bill, which is to be introduced Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives, says the fund would be privately funded.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., is the lead sponsor of the measure.
“Today, those who deny that the Holocaust occurred or distort the true nature of the Holocaust continue to find forums, especially online; this denial and distortion dishonors those who were persecuted, and murdered,” the draft of the bill says. “This makes it even more of a national imperative to educate students in the United States so that they may explore the lessons that the Holocaust provides for all people, sensitize communities to the circumstances that gave rise to the Holocaust, and help youth be less susceptible to the falsehood of Holocaust denial and distortion and to the destructive messages of hate that arise from Holocaust denial and distortion.”
The bill would also create a website that would include Holocaust education resources.
Maloney will launch the bill on Tuesday at the Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights in New York City, accompanied by representatives of Hadassah, B’nai B’rith International and the Association of Holocaust Organizations. The Anti-Defamation League endorsed the bill.
Also sponsoring the bill are Reps. Peter Roskam, R-Ill.; Ted Deutch, D-Fla.; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.; Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.; Kay Granger, R-Texas; Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.; and Dan Donovan, R-N.Y. Lowey and Granger are top House appropriators, which suggests the bill likely will pass.
The Times of Israel ran CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin’s op-ed on the 75th anniversary of the remarkable story of Bulgarians uniting during the Holocaust to save their Jewish population from deportation, and the special relationship Bulgaria held with its Jewish population.
In March 1943, Nazi Germany demanded of its Bulgarian allies that it deport the country’s 48,000 Jews. For months, the Nazis and their Bulgarian collaborators had discussed the means for the transfer of Bulgarian Jews to the death camps that already had taken the lives of millions of other European Jews. Two years before, the Sofia government adopted the anti-Semitic Law for the Defense of the Nation, which foreshadowed the ultimate decision to deport Bulgaria’s Jews.Indeed, there was even a Bulgarian Commissar for Jewish Affairs, Alexander Belev, who had been in place for precisely this kind of operation. The plans included the deportation of more than 11,000 Jews from Northern Greece and Yugoslavia, areas under Bulgarian military administration. Jews in both places were forced to wear the yellow star, and many young men in the Bulgarian community served in forced labor details.
For those Jews inside Bulgaria’s borders, the plans for their round-up and demise were thwarted by an unlikely coalition of leaders of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, members of parliament, intellectuals and everyday citizens, whose sense of justice and revulsion over the notion of sending their neighbors to their deaths was unacceptable.
The reaction of the Church leadership set it apart from religious figures elsewhere in Europe, who either through indifference, self-interest or outright anti-Semitism turned away, or were complicit as Jewish community after community was destroyed.
Led by the metropolitans (prelates) of Sofia and Plovdiv, Stefan and Kyril, the church leadership – not all in agreement at the outset – came to the conclusion that it must deplore the deportation orders. First, they agreed on protecting the few hundred Jews in the country who had converted to Bulgarian Orthodoxy (many thinking it would save their lives), but that grew into a campaign to speak out for the entire endangered community.
In a letter to the government on May 4, 1943, the Holy Synod noted that “Our people, by its soul and conscience, but its mentality and conviction, cannot bear lawlessness, repression and atrocity against anyone. Our human, as well as our Christian conscience is embarrassed. Hence, the Holy Synod is asked spiritedly from many sides – by good and loyal Bulgarian public figures, by well-known people of culture and patriots, by Bulgarian mothers – to insist on justice and humane attitude for the Jewish minority in the country.” The Synod met with both King Boris III and with the prime minister to convey its opposition to the deportation orders.
Metropolitan Stefan of Sofia denounced Hitler from the pulpit, calling him “the miserable and insane Fuhrer.” Metropolitan Klement of Stara Zagora insisted “we cannot stay indifferent to the fate of the persecuted Jewish minority because we would be condemned by God…”
In the secular realm, the protests against the deportation orders were led by Dimitar Peshev, the deputy speaker of Bulgaria’s National Assembly. Peshev, who came from the small provincial city of Kyustendil, was moved by the deportation of Jews from Bulgarian-administered areas outside the country and by reports of Jews in his home town being told to gather their belongings in anticipation of round-ups by the authorities. His tenacity and persistence in pressing government leaders – the prime minister refused to meet with him – was a key element in arousing public opinion about the planned deportations.
On the people-to-people level, many Bulgarians had close relations with their Jewish neighbors. Fifteen years ago, I was in Kyustendil for the 60th anniversary commemoration of the rescue of Bulgarian Jewry. Following the program, which was held in the town square, an elderly woman ran up to the then-Bulgarian foreign minister, and quickly engaged him in animated conversation. She then did the same with an Israeli government representative, who had also participated in the program. Curious, I asked both what the conversation was all about. The woman, I was told, had Jewish classmates who had left for Israel after the war, and now, she wanted to know if anyone could help her track them down. For nearly 60 years she had no one to ask, and this commemoration, with its attendees from Israel, gave her the opportunity to find her friends.
The deportation orders were never carried out. The exasperated German Ambassador Adolf Beckerle, in a cable to Berlin, wrote: “The Bulgarian government, despite its efforts in relation to the final solution of the Jews, is attached to the mentality of the Bulgarian population…this one, does not find any drawbacks in the Jews, that would justify actions against them.”
The role of Bulgaria’s King Boris III in the deportation story has been subject to much speculation, but it is clear that the pressure to resist the demands from Berlin came from outside his circle.
Ironically, Belev, who was ultimately dismissed from his job near the end of the war, fled to Kyustendil, where he was captured and ultimately shot on the way to Sofia to be tried.
Peshev, whose friendship for the Jewish community eventually earned him the honor of being among the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem, was tried by the post-war Communist government, charged with collaboration with the Germans. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and released after serving a brief time.
Tragically, for the Jews of Northern Greece and Yugoslavia, there was no similar rescue effort. Many actually had relatives in Bulgaria, who were powerless to save them. Most were deported across Bulgarian territory, to Auschwitz and Treblinka.
At a time when defiance in any form ran tremendous risks, those who helped the Jewish community – the Orthodox Church, Peshev and those who joined him and friends and neighbors who found it unconscionable that fellow Bulgarians would be sent to their deaths – stood their ground. In a demonstration of both conscience and justice, these courageous human beings stood apart in a continent bereft of moral principles.
In that, 75 years later, there is an object lesson for us today.
Below is a collection of articles publicizing the awarding of B'nai B'rith International's Jewish Rescuers' Citation to Enzo Cavaglion.
Times of Israel: Holocaust hero honored 75 years after dramatic rescue of fellow Jews from Nazis
Seventy-five years after he helped a group of over 1,000 Jews fleeing Italian-occupied France, 98-year-old Jewish-Italian Enzo Cavaglion was honored in his hometown of Cuneo on Sunday.
Cavaglion was presented with the Jewish Rescuers Citation by B’nai Brith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust at his residence, surrounded by family and friends.
He still lives in the same village from which he helped organize the 1943 rescue effort.
“Enzo was really moved by the award,” said Alan Schneider, director of B’nai Brith World Center-Jerusalem, who attended the presentation.
“He’s 98 years old — frail in body, but his mind is sharp, and it was an opportunity for him to remember those awful days when he assisted these 1,000 Jews who escaped over the Maritime Alps from France into Italy,” Schneider said.
The Jewish Rescuers Citation was established in 2011 to help correct the common misconception that Jews didn’t significantly help rescue other Jews during the Holocaust.
To date, nearly 200 heroes who operated in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Holland, Italy, Ukraine, Latvia and Austria have been awarded the citation.
“For decades there’s been a focus on non-Jewish rescuers, such as the recognition as Righteous Among the Nations — an outstanding program spearheaded by Yad Vashem,” said Schneider.
“But there is also a huge focus on it by European countries who want to showcase their rescuers, and they often have a much broader expression of this than Yad Vashem,” he said. “All of this has helped to create a brand of righteous among the nations, and now all these decades later, we’re trying to play catch up and recognize Jews who went beyond the call of duty and put themselves in even greater danger in Germany and allied countries.”
Schneider says that thousands of Jews in France joined resistance groups that saved fellow Jews – particularly Jewish children, and that these groups were highly successful in helping preserve the future of French Jewry in the face of genocide.
Perhaps most famous among partisans dedicated to rescuing Jews are the group led by the four Bielski brothers, Tuvia, Zus, Asael, and Aron, who safeguarded 1,236 Jews in the forest inside present-day Belarus. The group is the subject of the 2008 Hollywood film “Defiance,” starring Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber.
Like the Bielski brothers, Cavaglion and his own brother Riccardo simultaneously fought the Nazis and worked to save Jewish lives, something Schneider says was unusual.
“In many cases you couldn’t do both — saving Jews and fighting Nazis, so a lot of resistance movements had to choose between fighting and rescue,” he said.
The Cavaglion brothers were founding members of the Italia Libera partisan group, which they established on September 12, 1943, the day that Cuneo was occupied by the German First SS Panzer division.
At the same time, more than 1,000 Jews living in the remote Italian-occupied French Alpine village of Saint-Martin-Vesubie fled to Cuneo across the Maritime Alps in the face of German invasion – only to find Nazis combing the area. About 300 of the group were captured and sent to Auschwitz.
The brothers helped the remaining 700 find shelter among a sympathetic peasant population in the surrounding mountain villages, and raided local municipal offices, stealing documents with which they forged paperwork for the fugitive Jews.
Cavaglion was awarded the Jewish Rescuers Citation for putting aside his own well-being as he and his family were also hunted by the Nazis, and helping the hundreds of fleeing Jews find asylum.
The Holocaust survivor was moved to tears when he was presented with the honor.
“This is the first recognition that he had from a Jewish organization for endangering himself,” said Schneider. “Beyond that he was already in danger for being a Jew in an area where the Nazis were roaming, he put himself in the line of fire and put himself in danger to rescue these Jews.”
Jerusalem Post: Grapevine: Morocco in Holocaust History
Different strokes for different folks. Not everyone marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day in the same way. Ambassador Emanuele Giaufret, head of the European Union Delegation and his wife, Min-Ja Masson, invited friends and colleagues to their residence to watch the screening of selected scenes from the films Casablanca (USA, 1942) and Allied (USA, 2016), which illustrated some of the observations of Prof. Haim Sadoun, who delivered a talk on cinematic portrayals of the Holocaust and their influence on Holocaust denial.
Casablanca, best known for its star players Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, is beyond the plot itself a reminder that Morocco, in the early days of the Second World War, was a place of refugee where people fleeing from the Nazis could obtain false papers. Allied, starring Brad Pitt as a Canadian intelligence officer and Marion Cotillard as a French Resistance fighter and Nazi collaborator, also starts out in Casablanca, but although the time frame is the same as in the Bogart-Bergman movie, the plot is vastly different.
Needless to say, Sadoun is of North African background and an expert on North African Jewry before, during and after the war. He is the director of the Documentation Center of North African Jewry during World War II and has authored a book on the subject, on which he lectures and engages in research at the Ben-Zvi Institute and at the Open University.
For many years the Holocaust was regarded as the tragedy solely of European Jews. Few people were aware that North African Jews were among the victims, and when North African survivors told their stories, few in Israel or anywhere else in the Jewish world believed them, and they missed out on compensation payments that were allocated to European Jews. It is only in recent years that the record has been set straight.
For some years now, B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem has paid tribute to Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust years. In Italy this week, together with the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust, BBWCJ conferred the Jewish Rescuers Citation on 98-year-old Enzo Cavaglion, who saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish refugees in northern Italy during the German occupation.
Cavaglion was one of the 14 founding members of the partisan group Italia Libera (Free Italy), which was established on September 12, 1943 – the date on which the city of Cuneo, in Northern Italy, was occupied by the German First SS Panzer Division. The partisans ensconced themselves in the sanctuary of the Madonna del Colletto, some 18 kilometers to the west of Cuneo. Cavaglion and his younger brother, Riccardo Cavaglion, stayed with the group until October 1943, but left in order to help their own families escape arrest.
In addition to the resistance they waged against the Nazis and the Italian Fascists, the two brothers also helped Jews who sought refuge in villages around Cuneo. More than 1,000 Jews living in the remote Italian- occupied French Alpine village of Saint-Martin-Vesubie fled in the face of the German Army which invaded the area following the September 8, 1943, announcement of the armistice signed between Italy and the Allies.
A thousand men, women, children, the elderly and the disabled scaled the Maritime Alps and crossed the international border into Italy in a harrowing ordeal, only to find the Germans already taking charge in the area. Approximately 300 of these Jews were captured and sent to Auschwitz. The rest found refuge among the welcoming local peasant population. The Cavaglion brothers found hiding places for them, furnished them with false documents and hid them in the mountains in order to evade the Nazis. Survivor Harry Burger credited Enzo and Riccardo with saving his life and his mother’s life by warning them that the Nazis were hunting for them.
Since its establishment in 2011, the Jewish Rescuers Citation has been presented in an effort to correct the public misconception that Jews did not rescue fellow Jews during the Holocaust. To date, nearly 200 heroes have been honored for rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Holland and now Italy. Even at this late stage in his life, Enzo Cavaglion, surrounded by two generations of his family, was thrilled to have his wartime efforts recognized.
In New York this week, the World Jewish Restitution Organization, which works toward the restitution of private property and Jewish communal property seized during the Holocaust in Europe (with the exception of Austria and Germany), announced that the critically acclaimed film 1945 and its director, Ferenc Török, will receive the first annual WJRO Justice Award for raising awareness about Jewish property confiscated during the Holocaust and for ensuring that this dark chapter in the history of humanity is not forgotten.
The disquieting black-and-white film grapples with the issue of Jewish property stolen during and after World War II, in this case, in a village in postwar Hungary. The return of two Jewish men to the rural town creates turmoil, as members of the community try to come to terms with the recent horrors they have experienced, perpetrated or just tolerated for personal gain.
The film was adapted from a short story by Gábor T. Szántó. The fictional drama focuses on a “period in Hungarian history that is not overly represented either in literature or in film,” Török said. “It was important for us to share this message about the crimes of those who stole property from Jews both during and after the Holocaust, particularly with Hungarian viewers who are confronting the past for the first time,” the director said, adding that he was honored to receive the inaugural WJRO award.
Although the narrative depicted in the film is fictional, the challenges of European property restitution are quite real, said Gideon Taylor, chairman of operations for WJRO, which actively pursues property restitution in Central and Eastern Europe. “Even at this late date, former Jewish property across Europe has not been fully restored to rightful owners and their families,” Taylor said. “The film 1945 brings a powerful story before the public.”
Jehuda Evron, a Holocaust survivor from Romania, said of 1945: “Many people do not know about the injustices that Jews faced after the Holocaust. Millions of Jews were murdered during the Holocaust; now their families are [still] trying to recover what belongs to them.”
The WJRO Justice Award recognizes individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the fight for justice for Holocaust survivors and their families.
Honorees also must have demonstrated compassion, perseverance and courage in promoting the dignity and well-being of Holocaust survivors worldwide and in preserving the memory of the Shoah.
The film, partially funded by the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, a member- organization of WJRO, received the Audience Award at the Berlin Jewish Film Festival and the Best Film Award at the Der Neu Heimatfilm Festival in Austria, and also captured both the Audience Award and the Critics Prize at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the oldest and largest such festival in North America.
Publishers of two of the Hebrew-language newspapers are frequently in the news themselves. One is Noni Mozes, the publisher of Yediot Aharonot, most particularly in relation to his conversations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the other is Amos Schocken, the publisher of Haaretz, which, due to financial constraints, has shrunk both in size and quality, even though the price of the paper keeps going up. Schocken is occasionally interviewed on this subject on radio, but more often about the controversial antiestablishment writers and their views that he allows to be published in the paper.
Schocken will be in Jerusalem on Wednesday, February 7, at a Beit Avi Chai event in which he will discuss Israel’s communications market, state institutions, relations between the media and its advertisers and content sponsors, as well as what’s happening with the Israeli Left. All this and more is intended to come out in conversation with Yoav Sorek, the editorin- chief of the Shiloach Journal for Policy and Thought.
Conversations rather than speeches have become the in thing over the past couple of years, but as interesting as they may be, they often frustrate audiences, whose members would like to ask a few questions themselves. When there is question time at such an event, the audience rarely gets a chance to ask more than three questions, and sometimes not even so few.
Time marches on. Yoram Taharlev, poet, lyricist and author, celebrated his 80th birthday this week. Literally scores of his songs have been set to music by Israeli composers, and he has made a significant imprint on Israeli culture. Over the past few years he has turned his attention to interpreting texts that are holy to Judaism, saying that he is reading holy texts with secular eyes. At the same time, he has been a somewhat different kind of stand-up comedian, drawing attention to the Bible and other sacred writings through humor.
One of his books, Simhat Torah (The Joy of Torah), is a humorous commentary on the Torah portions of the week. Relating to this book on his own Facebook page, Taharlev writes: “If religious and traditional books were conveyed to us in such way as to make us smile, we could find out much more about our roots, and we wouldn’t be so detached from them.”
Arutz Sheva: This Jewish Man Saved Hundreds of Jews from the Nazis
B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust conferred this week in Cuneo (Italy) a Jewish Rescuers Citation upon Enzo Cavaglion, 98, for saving the lives of hundreds Jewish refugees in northern Italy during the German occupation.
Enzo, who was moved to tears, said he is proud and excited to receive the Jewish Rescuers Citation.
Enzo Cavaglion was one of the 14 founding members of the partisan group “Italia Libera” (Free Italy), established on Sept. 12, 1943 — the same day that Cuneo was occupied by the German First SS Panzer Division. They ensconced themselves in the sanctuary of the Madonna del Colletto, 18 kilometers to the west of Cuneo. Enzo and his younger brother, Riccardo Cavaglion, stayed with the group until October 1943, when they had to leave to help their own families escape arrest in Cuneo.
In addition to the combat they waged against the Germans and Italian Fascists, Enzo and Riccardo also helped Jews who sought refuge in villages around Cuneo. More than 1,000 Jews living in the remote Italian-occupied French Alpine village of Saint-Martin-Vesubie fled in the face of the German army that invaded the area following the announcement on Sept. 8 1943 of the armistice signed between Italy and the Allies.
Men, women, children, the elderly and disabled scaled the Maritime Alps over the international border into Italy in a harrowing ordeal, only to find the Germans already roaming the area. About 300 people were captured and sent to Auschwitz. The remaining 700 found refuge among the welcoming local peasant population. Enzo and Riccardo found hiding places for them, furnished them with the necessary documents and hid them in the mountains in order to evade the Nazis. Survivor Harry Burger credited Enzo and Riccardo with saving his life and his mother’s life by warning them that the Nazis were hunting for them. Enzo performed all of these activities despite the additional danger he faced as a result.
Since its establishment in 2011, the Jewish Rescuers Citation has been presented in an effort to correct the public misconception that Jews did not rescue fellow Jews during the Holocaust. To date nearly 200 heroes have been honored for rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Holland and now Italy.
Moked: Cavaglion, partigiano coraggioso
Mettendo più volte in pericolo la propria vita, insieme al fratello Riccardo, si era prodigato affinché agli ebrei perseguitati che cercavano la fuga di passaggio nelle valli del Cuneese fossero forniti un rifugio, abiti e documenti falsi. Oltre alle informazioni più dettagliate sui rastrellamenti nazifascisti in corso, così da evitare la cattura.
Questa la motivazione che ha portato l’organizzazione ebraica B’nai Berith, nella figura del suo direttore mondiale Alan Schneider e in quella del presidente della sezione milanese Paolo Eliezer Foà, a conferire all’ex partigiano Enzo Cavaglion, 98 anni, la “Jewish Rescuers Citation”. E cioè il riconoscimento attribuito a quei cittadini ebrei che, al tempo delle persecuzioni, aiutarono con grave rischio personale dei correligionari braccati.
A ritirare l’onorificenza a nome del padre e dello zio, mancato cinque anni fa, lo studioso Alberto Cavaglion. Una cerimonia privata e dal forte significato simbolico, cui sono intervenuti tra gli altri anche il sindaco di Cuneo Federico Borgna e il presidente della Comunità ebraica torinese Dario Disegni.
YNet News: The Jew Who Saved Hundreds of Jews from the Nazis
At the age of 98, about 75 years after saving the lives of hundreds Jewish refugees in northern Italy during the German occupation, Enzo Cavaglion has been officially honored with the Jewish Rescuers Citation. The citation was presented to him last week in the country where he was born, lived all his life, fought the Nazis and saved fellow Jews.
Cavaglion helped more than 1,000 Jewish refugees who had sought refuge after fleeing the remote Italian-occupied French Alpine village of Saint-Martin-Vesubie in the face of the German army that invaded the area following the announcement of the armistice signed between Italy and the Allies.
The Jewish Rescuers Citation, which he received on January 21 from B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust, has been presented in an effort to correct the public misconception that Jews did not rescue fellow Jews during the Holocaust.
Cavaglion, who was in his 20s at the time, was one of the 14 founding members of partisan group “Italia Libera” (Free Italy), led by anti-Fascist lawyer Duccio Galimberti, which was established on September 12, 1943—the same day that Cuneo, Italy was occupied by the German First SS Panzer Division.
They group members ensconced themselves in the sanctuary of the Madonna del Colletto, 18 kilometers to the west of Cuneo. Enzo and his younger brother, Riccardo Cavaglion, stayed with the group until October 1943, when they had to leave to help their own families escape arrest in Cuneo.
In addition to the combat they waged against the Germans and Italian fascists, Enzo and Riccardo also helped Jews who sought refuge in villages around Cuneo, putting their own lives at risk.
Men, women, children, the elderly and disabled scaled the Maritime Alps over the international border into Italy in a harrowing ordeal, only to find the Germans already roaming the area. About 300 people were captured and sent to Auschwitz. The remaining 700 found refuge among the welcoming local peasant population. Enzo and Riccardo found hiding places for them, furnished them with the necessary documents and hid them in the mountains in order to evade the Nazis.
Holocaust Survivor Harry Burger credited Enzo and Riccardo with saving his life and his mother’s life by warning them that the Nazis were hunting for them.
Survivor Alfred Feldman wrote in his memoir, “One Step Ahead: A Jewish Fugitive in Hitler’s Europe,” that he witnessed a daring theft of identity cards by Enzo and Riccardo from the mayor’s office in Vignolo, Italy, that were then falsified and distributed to some of the refugees. Enzo performed all of these activities despite the additional danger he faced as a result.
Nearly 200 Jews Have Been Honored
The citation was presented to Cavaglion in his home, and the event was followed by a ceremony at the Cuneo synagogue. Speakers included Enzo’s son, Dr. Alberto Cavaglion, and B'nai B'rith World Center Director Alan Schneider.
“It’s a privilege to award you with the Jewish Rescuers Citation, continuing our 20-year effort to correct the historical narrative that Jews did not work to rescue other Jews during the Holocaust,” Schneider told Cavaglion.
Enzo said he was proud and excited to receive the citation. He had tears in his eyes as he remembered the Jews he had met and helped on the Italian side. After the war, Cavaglion remained in Italy, where he and his brother Riccardo owned a carpet store for many years.
Since its establishment in 2011, nearly 200 heroes have been honored with the Jewish Rescuers Citation for rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Holland and now Italy.
JBS (the Jewish Broadcasting Service) included B'nai B'rith International's response to the bill being proposed in Poland that would severely restrict free speech in regards to Poland's national role in the Holocaust. The segment begins at 1:24 of the video.
Jewish groups in the US and abroad lambasted the Polish Senate’s passage of the Holocaust complicity bill Thursday, calling on President Andrzej Duda to veto the legislation in various statements.
The bill, which would criminalize those accusing the Polish nation or state of complicity in the Holocaust, has been pilloried by Israel as a form of historical distortion.
The upper house of parliament voted 57-23, with two abstentions, to approve the bill, bringing the controversial proposal a step closer to becoming law. It must still be signed into law by Duda, who has expressed support for it.
The Anti-Defamation League expressed “profound disappointment” in the vote, with CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt calling it a “misguided attempt to silence certain forms of speech about the Holocaust.”
“Much work remains to be done in terms of Poland’s coming to grips with its history,” he added.
Supporters argue the legislation is fighting against phrases like “Polish death camps” to refer to concentration camps operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II.
“We understand and sympathize with Poland’s frustration at the use of the term ‘Polish Death Camps,’ but this law goes well beyond that issue,” Greenblatt argued, saying it “could silence the voices of survivors and their families.”
B’nai B’rith International had similar objections to the bill, asserting that “it is vital that every country confront the most painful and vexing episodes in its past in an open and honest way.”
“For Poland, this means acknowledging a history of anti-Semitism that preceded the Holocaust and has persisted to this day,” the group said.
The world’s oldest Jewish service organization called on the Polish authorities to “reverse this ill-conceived law,” adding that “openness and education are the keys to establishing a historical record based on truth rather than painful inaccuracies.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center said it acknowledged the suffering of Poles under Nazi occupation along with the efforts of locals who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
“We fully acknowledge the suffering of the Polish under a brutal Nazi occupation and the incredibly courageous efforts of Polish Righteous Among the Nations,” the anti-Semitism watchdog said. But “the Polish nation must not ignore the widespread complicity of other Poles in the annihilation of Polish Jewry.”
The group called on Duda to “take whatever steps are necessary to bury this ill-conceived bill and ensure the accuracy of the historical narrative of World War II and the Holocaust.”
Orthodox Union President Mark Bane said the legislation “is the wrong way to go about educating future generations about Poland’s role in the Holocaust.”
“Even though Nazi Germany obviously bears primary responsibility for the Shoah, the proposed law grossly minimizes the fact that Polish citizens did indeed commit heinous acts, on Polish soil, against the Jewish people and other victims during World War II,” he added.
Though the law specifically forbids blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes, it also leaves the door open to prosecute anyone who “grossly diminishes the responsibility of the true perpetrators of said crimes,” according to the text of the bill. Duda has 21 days to sign it into law.
Poland’s conservative ruling Law and Justice party authored the bill, which states: “Whoever accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich… or other crimes against peace and humanity, or war crimes, or otherwise grossly diminishes the actual perpetrators thereof, shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years.”
Israel, along with several international Holocaust organizations and many critics in Poland, argues that the law could have a chilling effect on debating history, harming freedom of expression and leading to a whitewashing of Poland’s wartime history.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized the law as “distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust.”
On Wednesday, a US Congressional task force on combating anti-Semitism said it was “alarmed” by the legislation and called on Duda to veto it.
The lower house of the Polish parliament approved the bill on Friday, a day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, timing that has also been criticized as insensitive.
Duda on Sunday sought to defuse the crisis by promising “a careful analysis of the final shape of the act” focused on provisions that have alarmed Israel.
However, the next day Duda told public broadcaster TVP that he was “flabbergasted” by Israel’s “violent and very unfavorable reaction” to the bill.
“We absolutely can’t back down, we have the right to defend the historical truth,” he said.
The Times of Israel: How Artist Beat ‘Foolproof’ Nazi System to Forge Dutch ID Papers, Save 350 Lives
The Times of Israel cited the awarding of the "Jewish Rescuers' Citation" by B'nai B'rith International to Alice Cohn, a Jewish artist whose fake ID cards saved hundreds of Jewish children during the Holocaust.
During the years in which 102,000 Dutch Jews were murdered by the Nazis, a German-born Jewish artist helped rescue hundreds of children from the clutches of genocide.
As an expert forger of identity papers, Alice Cohn worked with a Utrecht-based resistance group while in hiding. Their production of so-called “wild papers,” including ID and ration cards, saved up to 350 Jewish children from the Nazis. During the war’s final year, Cohn’s handiwork helped prevent young Dutch men from being sent to Germany as forced laborers.
Cohn’s story and the saga of Dutch identity cards during World War II are currently on display at the National Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam. The temporary exhibit opened in October, and is based on items from the personal archive of Cohn, who died in 2000.
According to the museum, one motivation for highlighting Cohn’s efforts was to help correct the “prevailing, but incorrect, image that Dutch Jews had a passive role during the war.” During the Holocaust, 102,000 Dutch Jews — the majority of the community — were murdered at Nazi-built death camps and elsewhere in the Reich.
Born in Breslau in 1914, Cohn studied cabinet-making until the Nazis came to power in 1933. When Jewish students were banned from taking exams or submitting final projects, she moved to Berlin for a year of school in graphic arts. The situation for German Jews continued to deteriorate, so Cohn fled to the Netherlands in search of a secure future.
Settling in Amsterdam on a student visa, Cohn learned Dutch and received commissions to design cinema posters. On the eve of the war, she was creating children’s toys. Unbeknownst to the new Dutch citizen, the Nazis were about to catch up with her.
Of all the countries occupied by Germany during World War II, the Netherlands had the most robust pre-war population registry. The system’s success was attributed to Jacob Lentz, a Dutch official who created the so-called “fool-proof” personal identity card. During the Nazi occupation, Lentz refined his system to help authorities issue new cards throughout the country.
In addition to a high-tech design and use of the bearer’s fingerprints, Dutch identity cards were backed up in a central registry. This made it possible to confirm whether or not a suspicious-looking ID had been forged. At the exhibit on Alice Cohn’s life, she is contrasted with the population-counting expert Lentz. While Cohn used her artistic skills to help save lives, Lentz — conjuring “the banality of evil” — deployed his organizational skills to implement the Nazis’ agenda.
Beginning in 1941, all Dutch men and women were ordered to carry ID cards with them. For Jews, a large black “J,” for Jew, was stamped on both sides of the card. By the summer of 1942, authorities began using the registry to arrest and deport Jews from the Netherlands. Suddenly, the demand for altered or completely falsified identification exploded, including the need to crack Lentz’s “hermetic” system.
Before she went into hiding, Cohn found a position with Amsterdam’s Jewish Council as a doctor’s assistant. With the job providing her a nominal degree of freedom, she was able to smuggle a Jewish child — 3-year-old Lonnie Lesser — out of a building where Jews were incarcerated prior to deportation. After seeing the child safely into hiding, Cohn made her own way to a “safe” address in Utrecht, south of Amsterdam.
'The Utrecht Children's Committee'
During two years of hiding in an attic near Utrecht’s Wilhelmina Park, Cohn accomplished what had been deemed impossible: She forged identity cards able to withstand scrutiny.
The tools she used — test cards, knives, a notebook to practice signatures in — are on display at the National Holocaust Museum, along with head-shots and other artifacts used by the Dutch population registry.
According to the museum, Cohn and her group of co-resisters, called “The Utrecht Children’s Committee,” managed to save 350 children from deportation and murder. The group also forged ration coupons needed by “underground” people in hiding to obtain food. During the last year of the war, many new “wild papers” were needed to help young Dutch men evade forced labor in Germany.
After liberation, Cohn learned that all of her relatives from Breslau had been murdered, including her parents. Like other Jews among the Netherlands’ surviving remnant, she had to build a new life from scratch.
As fate had it, Cohn began obtaining fabrics from a Lichtenstein-based merchant named Rudolf Bermann. The materials he provided helped her create, for instance, puppets with grimacing faces and vibrant costumes, some of which are on display in the exhibit. What began as an exchange of fabrics blossomed into love, and, in 1947, Cohn left the Netherlands to join Bermann as his wife in Lichtenstein.
Two months ago, some 17 years after Cohn died at age 85 in Lichtenstein, she was posthumously awarded the “Jewish Rescuers’ Citation” for Jews who helped save fellow Jews during the Shoah. Cohn’s daughter and son, Evelyne Bermann and Michael Bermann, were presented with the honor during the Amsterdam opening of the exhibit on their mother’s life. So far, 171 women and men from eight countries have been honored by Jewish organization B’nai B’rith in this capacity.
“There are many people who were able to escape deportation through fake identity cards,” said exhibit curator Annemiek Gringold. “The people who had the skills and the courage to carry out this vital work remain largely unknown until today.”
Click here to learn more about our Jewish Rescuers' Citation.
The Times of Israel quoted Alan Schneider, Director of B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem, in an article about Jewish rescuers of other Jews during Nazi-era Germany.
Schneider noted, "The stories of the Jewish rescuers during the Holocaust--people who endangered their lives and performed acts of extraordinary courage in attempts, many of them successful, to save the lives of endangered Jews--are a shining example of Jewish and human solidarity under the most dangerous conditions."
B'nai B'rith International has awarded 196 individuals with Jewish Rescuers' Citations in acknowledgment of their service saving Jews' lives during the Holocaust.
Following the bloody month-long Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April 1943, a cable was sent from British Mandate Palestine to occupied Poland’s Jewish Fighting Organization members. It contained the Jewish settlement leaders’ instructions to the Jews of Poland, telling them to “exploit all ways to emigrate,” according to a 2014 article by Prof. Avihu Ronen of Tel Hai College.
This order, writes Ronen, was “construed at the time as an instruction to desist from uprisings.
By many in Nazi-occupied Poland, that order was a bitter to pill to swallow. There is notable historical evidence from an underground leader in the town of Będzin, where ahead of World War II Jews were the majority population, that the underground was dissatisfied with the Palestine-based leadership’s orders. After Germany occupied it in 1939, the Jews there were murdered, persecuted, and by 1942, forced into a ghetto.
After receiving the cable, the town’s Hashomer Hatzair leader, Chajka Klinger, wrote in her diary that the underground there “rejected trying to save themselves in abandonment of the community and of their ideals”; its members stayed but ceased to fight. By war’s end, as it was one of the last towns liquidated in occupied Poland in 1943, a relatively large number of the Będzin Jewish community survived.
The Będzin Jewish underground’s choice of solidarity over the rescue of individual members was just one expression of the dilemmas facing Jewish resistance during WWII. At a symposium at the Jerusalem-based Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center this week, international scholars discussed similarly complicated situations facing Jews in their quest for personal and communal survival.
“It’s clear that in this issue there are many stories of courage and bravery. At the same time, there are complex stories in which not all is black and white. There are a lot of gray areas, which is understandable during this era,” said Dr. David Silberklang, senior historian at Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research at the December 11 symposium.
During his brief lecture slot, Silberklang pointed to the all-too-human challenges facing Jews during World War II and the nuanced approach needed to examine them.
Speaking from a personal perspective, Silberklang said that unlike most other American-born Jews, he was exposed to the complexities behind the idea of Jews saving Jews early: His mother was one of the 1,236 Jews saved by the Jewish partisans led by Tuvia Bielski and his brothers. “I didn’t understand the significance behind it for years,” he said.
But there are lingering rumors about the mistreatment of several of the women in the group, said Silberklang. Additionally, there is evidence that the Bielskis killed Jews who didn’t agree with their leadership and attempted to incite against them.
In an essay about the brothers’ cousin Yehuda Bielski (Bell), his daughter Leslie writes, “The rules of the camp were made and strictly enforced by the three Bielski brothers. For those who broke them, there was a jail. Challenges to the leadership of the brothers were sometimes resolved through the end of the barrel of a gun.”
Nevertheless, the Bielskis are clearly Jewish heroes, said Silberklang.
How Does One Act on a Sinking Ship?
According to Dr. Iael Nidam Orvieto, director of the International Institute for Holocaust Research in Yad Vashem, the extreme situations encountered by most Jews during the Holocaust would seem to be sufficient cause for every Jew to dedicate himself to taking care of his own survival, and perhaps that of his immediate family.
“Because they needed to take care of themselves, the social norms of Jews — mutual assistance — would have been wiped out. But we see the opposite: In spite of what once would normally assume, we see many cases of mutual help and solidarity,” said Orvieto. And on top of that solidarity, “there is also a group of Jews who endangered their lives to help other Jews.”
Yad Vashem has been researching the phenomenon of Jews saving Jews since the 1960s, but more research is still needed in the field, said Orvieto.
The stories of these Jewish heroes are slowly becoming more prominent, in no small part due to the 2008 Hollywood film on the Bielskis, “Defiance.” The initially controversial idea of commemorating Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust has gained steam in the past two decades.
In 2000, B’nai B’rith founded the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust in an effort to research the stories of Jewish rescuers and bring them to audiences in Israel and abroad, according to Alan Schneider, director of B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem.
Schneider’s center holds an annual ceremony on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day for soldiers, students, rescuers and survivors, “dedicated to the heroism of Jewish rescuers.” It is jointly organized with the Jewish National Fund and has been held at the B’nai B’rith Martyrs Forest since 2002.
Along with the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust, since 2011, B’nai B’rith has awarded a Jewish Rescuers’ Citation to some 196 heroes who operated in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Holland, Italy, Ukraine, Latvia and Austria.
The preservation of these stories is essential, said B’nai B’rith’s Schneider.
“The stories of the Jewish rescuers during the Holocaust – people who endangered their lives and performed acts of extraordinary courage in attempts, many of them successful, to save the lives of endangered Jews – are a shining examples of Jewish and human solidarity under the most dangerous conditions,” said Schneider.
“These are true heroes whose legacy must be preserved for us and future generations, particularly at a time when the Jewish people and the people of Israel will be called upon to act with unity to counter today’s threats,” he said.
But current efforts are not enough, according to Holocaust survivor Haim Roet, a leading voice in encouraging the commemoration of Jewish rescuers who spoke on the issue last year at the United Nations and this week at Yad Vashem. Diaspora Jewry is barely aware of the Jewish rescuers’ bravery, said Roet.
20-20 Vision into a Pitch Black World
A few of the dilemmas facing the Jews at the beginning of the Nazi persecution are difficult to grasp with hindsight.
“To save a Jew, you need to know what they’re being saved from,” Silberklang said. “Several knew they were saving Jews from certain death, but many Jews didn’t know what the Nazis’ plan was. Some believed the propaganda” that said they were being taken for work or relocation alone.
Once it was established that the Nazis were pursuing the Final Solution, the total genocide of the Jewish people, Jews who were still in a position to act were faced with the dilemma of whom exactly to save — and whom to abandon.
When it comes to those Jews who participated in active resistance — armed or not — their activities could have caused collective punishment or murder, said Silberklang. “Even the attempt to save Jews could have caused collective murder; to try or not?” he asked.
In all of these impossible situations, said Orvieto, “For every one individual that was saved, there may have been another — or more — who were not.”
“With the saving, there was also desertion and betrayal,” said Orvieto.
In examining the Jews’ deeds — or misdeeds — it is important, said Silberklang, to remember the war-torn context alongside human frailty.
“We often call people heroes, but they’re not always angels,” said Silberklang.
Tablet discussed the history of B’nai B’rith International as well as its archives in a piece about German Jews who bore witness to the horror of Hitler’s ascension to power in letters to loved ones.
The article describes the formation of B’nai B’rith in Germany in 1882 as a response to the spike in national antipathy toward German Jews. It also includes detailed excerpts these letters from German Jews to loved ones. These documents are part of the B’nai B’rith Archives, now housed at the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati.
When Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany on Jan. 30, 1933, he gained the authority to implement his racist ideology toward Germany’s Jews, who then numbered 535,000 out of a general population of 67 million. After the Reichstag (parliament) elections on March 5, the new German government removed the constraints on violence against Jews, and assaults and vicious beatings of Jews in the streets of major German cities by Nazi thugs became commonplace. Within months, the Nazi government issued numerous decrees and regulations that effectively removed Jews from German economic life and the professions, the goal being to force the Jews to leave Germany.
German Jews reacted to these developments with shock and disbelief. Diaries and memoirs record their distress and utter bewilderment. Another primary source is the private letters that German Jews sent to relatives living abroad. These letters express the reactions and emotions of men and women to the horrifying events unfolding around them daily. One rarely used such resource is the letters written by German B’nai B’rith (Sons of the Covenant) members to relatives in the United States. Many of these letters were forwarded to B’nai B’rith’s international headquarters in Cincinnati, where they remain part of the organization’s archives.
Jewish men established the German B’nai B’rith in Berlin 1882 to combat a rising tide of anti-Semitism among the populace and in fraternal organizations. From 1882 onward, most German B’nai B’rith members belonged to business, industry, and the legal and medical professions. In general, B’nai B’rith members represented the most influential element within European Jewish society, and many of the leading personalities in Jewish life were members. At the time of the Berlin lodge’s founding, the largest and wealthiest German Jewish elite lived in Berlin and occupied an important position in the city’s cultural and intellectual life. By 1925, Germany contained 107 B’nai B’rith lodges with over 15,000 members.
While all German Jews reacted to these events with alarm and incredulity, the elite of the community experienced an especially deep dismay, having assumed that their economic and social position and contributions to German life and culture would shield them from danger. B’nai B’rith members came from this class, and many of them wrote personal and emotional letters describing the nightmare they found themselves in to family members living in the United States. The letters movingly express the consternation and terror the writers felt as the world they knew collapsed.
A letter written in April 1933 by an elderly physician to his daughter living in the United States expresses the author’s anguish, disillusionment, and anger at what has befallen him and those in his profession.
Your dear mother owing to bad health is in danger of her life and this is the main reason why I left Berlin as fast as possible. Nothing had happened to me personally up till then … I myself face a complete breakdown of my nerves. I surely could not have managed to keep quiet in case of a controversy. What that would have meant, other doctors have found out with their lives. Now after a few days in Paris where people do not look at you with eyes of hatred, where they are friendly and human, I can breathe again, which I could not do lately at home.
And for that I had to lose my father in the war; for that I had to leave wife and children to risk my life as a volunteer during the war. I had to lose everything and build up after the war an existence so that my family would not suffer hunger. For that I was proud when I was 60 years old to have only few enemies and many friends and to enjoy reputation and esteem – to now end my life as a second-grade citizen. These methods are so much more cruel than anything in anti-Semitism up to now, because they did not kill in one day 13,000, after which the beast would calm down, but now in cold reasoning hundreds of thousands of Jews are being destroyed spiritually, physically, morally and now finally economically. And even if this present storm should subside, it will break out time and again as soon as economic difficulties make Hitler’s success impossible. You cannot allow a big party of untamed youth to shout continuously “perish Jews.” Then Jews simply have to perish. That is what these brutal elements now demand. I bespeak you to destroy this letter because I do not wish to contribute one iota lest Germany’s reputation should be damaged by me. Indeed thanks to my friends and my position, I have not received anything but good from Germany so that I now do not wish to seem ungrateful. But now unfortunately everything is dark. And in this spirit I just wanted to open my sick heart to you to relieve myself. But I ask you to please be careful so that not through you anything may become known. For every attack in foreign countries, reacts in Germany on its Jewish citizens. They alone have to suffer for what others sin. … Finally, be very careful when you write to us because after the inquiry at the American consulate every one of your letters has been opened.
The letter illustrates the extreme caution Jewish letter writers had to exercise when voicing criticism of the government because doing so could cost them their lives. The writer also reminds his daughter to exercise caution in what she writes to him because the Jews were under constant surveillance. He explains that her letters are being opened after he made inquiries at the American embassy. He also mentions the unpleasant truth that German Jews would pay a heavy price for every negative action against Germany instigated by Jews living abroad. This comment reflects the harsh reality that the German government blamed Germany’s Jews for the anti-German rallies and demonstrations undertaken by Jews in other countries. He purposely did not date or sign the letter, and he mailed it from Paris where he was on a trip with his wife because letters mailed outside Germany were not opened, scrutinized, or censored.
On April 2, 1933, the wife of another Berlin physician and B’nai B’rith member wrote to a relative in the United States movingly describing what she witnessed during the April 1 national boycott against Jews in Germany and her reaction and emotions regarding what she saw.
I will try to give you an idea of my experiences of yesterday—Saturday, April 1st….I have had many experiences in my life, but nothing I have ever gone thru can compare with this Nazi boycott in retaliation of “the atrocity propaganda” against Germans. No blood was shed, that is true, but the humiliation to the Jews—the absolute helplessness of their position—the cowardliness of these brutes in carrying out to the last vestage [sic], the most intimate details on orders from above (Goebbels and Goerring [sic])beggars description.
I wanted to see for myself just what was happening and so went down the Kurfurstendam [sic]–a street much like 5th Ave. in N.Y.—very long, block after block of both large and small exclusive shops interspersed by large coffee houses and movies. Here on a Sat. afternoon it is a sort of promenade and window-shopping, but the site that met one’s eyes yesterday! On the large windows of all shops bearing even the semblance of a Jewish name these brown shirts had pasted plain colored posters about 3 feet long bearing the words, “Deutsche Whart Euch—Kauft nicht bei Juden” (Germans beware do not buy from Jews). On office buildings where Jewish lawyers, notaries, or doctors have their small signs … they smeared over the signs of the Jews and pasted smaller placards. “Jews—geht nicht hier” (Jews—do not enter)….
These young devils like a lot of hungry wolves let loose … with buckets filled with red paint and with large paint brushes, rushed from one shop window to another and not satisfied with having put huge posters against the Jews thereon, printed in huge letters at the side of the posters JUDE [underlined in the original]. These were followed by other troops with white paint buckets who hastily painted a large Shield of David [underlined in the original] on the same windows. It was a concerted action, completely organized so that one atrocity followed upon the other. Up and down these devils flew, across the wide streets over to the opposite side while the crowds of people (there was scarcely a Jew to be seen on the streets, they were mostly at home, being afraid to venture out), looked on, some with serious faces—many (and mostly the bourgeois type, the kind of women one could imagine in France during the revolution) grinning and smiling approvingly as though it was a huge joke! Can you imagine my feeling? Large shops and small ones, shops that no one ever knew that they were owned by Jews… lace houses that have been in the same shops for 50 years—coffee houses and fine restaurants. Hundreds and hundreds of stores, delicatessen shops, the finest Berlin has, were all, without exception smeared up in this way. And what a sight! And what deep misery in the wake of this dastardly, cowardly outbreak. On some stores which from the name one would never think owned by Jews they had smeared “Geborener Jude” [born a Jew]. And on many, oh so many, in large white letters they printed “Ich bein Jude” [I am a Jew]… The ready-to-wear shops—and there are many—on the main street, Leipzigerstrasse, were all full of these signs. Well, my dears, my heart ached and bled and it was all I could do to keep the tears back. … Throughout the entire breath and length of this long, long, Kurfurstendam [sic] we never saw one single policeman [underlined in the original], not one officer of the law to protect any outrage that might have occurred. … Can you imagine a civilized land condoning such atrocities? Can you imagine in the twentieth century that troops of young snips should have the right to perpetuate such horrible deeds as the smearing of respectable shops with all these dirty epithets? Juda-Juda everywhere. Kauft nicht bei Juden-kauft nur bei Deutsche. (Don’t buy from Jews buy only from Germans).
Jews who fought and died for their Fatherland should not be looked upon as Germans? And then, when one thought they had finished with their dirty work—to see them wild with glee and victory heaped upon helpless Jews, (and oh how helpless) this handful of people is against the infamous mob backed by the government of tyrants and Jew haters—to add the finishing touch—the Shield of David painted in white on all the windows. Well, that Shield has led Jews throughout centuries and protected them from greater atrocities than those that are being heaped on them today by this barbarous country…. God has never left us yet and my faith in Him has never been shaken.
The blood-thirsty army which Hitler and his cohorts have been building up have had their first outlet. … The protests of the Jews in the foreign countries played right into their hands and they used their already prepared and fully organized “boycott” as THEIR protest to the lies[underlined in the original] about Germany which, as they claimed, the Jews [underlined in the original]over here broadcast. These demons say, “this is your own work—now take your medicine.” … I am now worried until Pesach is over, for I can’t help thinking, in the face of the placards announcing that the Jews need Christian blood for the Passover feast, that some horrible thing is brewing. Let us hope not. I also am afraid now as many others are, of confiscation of the property belonging to the Jews… I doubt if anything I have written you in such minute detail will come into the press, and that is why I have written my personal account of it.
The letter makes evident that the writer is a member of the middle or upper-middle class. She wrote the letter in English and translated the German phrases she uses into English. The shock she evinces relates to the fact that she never encountered this kind of action and violence against Jews of her standing and class. She cannot grasp that such an action took place in an upscale district of Berlin and not in some lower-class and poor area of the city. She fears that this is not the end, but that the government has plans for additional and more horrible actions against the Jews. Her letter also makes evident that Jews owned most of the stores, restaurants, and cafes on Berlin’s most exclusive shopping street.
The following letter, dated March 23, 1933, was written by the wife of a physician and B’nai B’rith member in Vienna to her cousin in the United States. Although she lives in Vienna, she describes the conditions in Germany that affect Jews of the “intellectual” class. She asks her cousin Severna to “please consider this letter as one from my husband, whose secretary and spokesman I have become in this emergency.”
Aside from the daily violence and the daily threats and menaces of more persecutions to come, which the highest officials have openly said, we can report that the most dangerous threat of all which over-hangs German Jews is as follows: (my report is very condensed and stresses the situation of the intellectual workers, since my husband is a physician).
All Jews exercising so-called free vocations as lawyers, physicians, artists, etc. are placed under what is called “exception rules.” In plain words, that means that Jewish lawyers are not allowed to plead cases before German law courts, that Jewish doctors have been removed from the staffs of hospitals and cooperative health institutions more or less violently, and the actors and orchestra leaders are no longer permitted to act or to lead.
A highly organized boycott system is being carried out against Jewish tradesmen of all kinds so that our coreligionists in Germany find it absolutely impossible to earn a living.
In our country the same movement is spreading rapidly and we can foresee a coalition with the same German system in the near future.
I beg of you, dear cousin Severna, to hand this S.O.S. communication to the authority you think should see it. For the sake of caution I am not mentioning my address in this letter. Should you be unable to find it, I am sure your father will have it. I will not write you any personal news for we feel so depressed and downhearted that I could only repeat the theme of this letter.
Ever yours affectionately
P.S. When replying, please be very careful not to be too explicit and keep in mind the fact that the letter will possibly be opened and read by officials.
As in the first letter, the writer of this letter is also afraid to write her address. She is worried that German officials may trace the letter to her and she and her family will be in danger for what she wrote. She also fears that what is happening in Germany will happen in Austria as well.
As all the letters indicate, by the end of April 1933 few Jewish members of the middle and upper middle classes had any illusions that conditions under the Nazis would improve. With hindsight, we know that the Jewish situation only worsened. But none of the letter writers could have imagined that in 10 years they or their families would be reduced to ashes by a state-run industrial killing machine and that the long continuum of Jewish life in Germany would be broken.
World Jewish Congress wrote up a recap of our Jewish Rescuers Citation ceremony in New York City, in which we honored Jewish rescuers and their families for their valiant efforts saving other Jews from murder at the hands of the Nazis.
Scroll down to read the story or click to read it on WorldJewishCongress.org.
NEW YORK - B’nai B’rith International and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust (JRJ) on Monday presented citations to a number of Jewish individuals to honor their valiant efforts to save the lives of others.
“Thousands of Jews were saved by other Jews across Europe during the Holocaust. Many of these rescuers, rather than flee to ensure their own safety, chose to help other Jews escape,” noted B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin.
“It is critical that the effort of Jewish rescuers is remembered and we commit ourselves to sharing these stories that remind us all of the unique role these Jewish rescuers played in our history. There are so many individual stories. It falls on us to make sure these stories are told to personalize what happened.”
Among those honored was Dr. Hadassah Bimko-Rosensaft, whose posthumous Jewish Rescuer's Citation was presented to her son, World Jewish Congress General Counsel and Holocaust survivor advocate Menachem Rosensaft.
“Bnai Brith should be commended for this particular initiative, among so many others,” Rosensaft said in accepting the citation on behalf of his mother. “How overdue the recognition of Jewish rescuers is. The fact that they have been ignored is a stain on the work of remembrance that has been performed by the various Holocaust institutions…. The Jews in the ghettos and the camps and the forests who risked their lives to help others deserve no less recognition [than righteous gentiles].”
After Dr. Bimko-Rosensaft’s first husband and 5.5-year-old son were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau, she went on to save the lives of women inmates at that camp and later, as a doctor at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, kept 149 children alive, scouring the camp for young people in need of the food and medicine she managed to scavenge. Following the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, Dr. Bimko-Rosensaft was appointed head of the camp’s medical service by the American military and worked to save as many of the ill and malnourished prisoners as possible.
At gatherings of survivors over the course of next half century, said Menachem Rosensaft, his mother was told over and over: “You don’t remember me but you saved my life.”
Another honored rescuer was Ben Zion Kalb, who saved about 1,000 fellow Polish Jews, mainly infants, youngsters and teenagers, via a land route and a smuggling operation into Slovakia and whose son Mark told attendees at yesterday’s ceremony that the Jewish “rescuers themselves deserved something better than to be forgotten, having shown extraordinary courage.”
The Jewish Rescuer’s Citation was established in 2011 to pay honor and respect to Jewish rescue of other Jews during the Shoah. To date, more than 170 Jewish heroes have been honored for their daring rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland and Holland.
WATCH the Program
The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) held, for the 15th consecutive year, a unique joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony on Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah).
This is the only event dedicated annually to commemorating the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust. About 300 border patrol cadets—who provided an honor guard—and 300 students participated in the ceremony together with Jewish rescuers and survivors. The ceremony took place at the B’nai B’rith Martyr’s Forest “Scroll of Fire” Plaza at 10:00 a.m. Israel time.
This year, the ceremony was dedicated to the rescue efforts of Walter Suskind and the Jewish caregivers who saved some 600 children at the crèche (day care center) in Amsterdam.
Scroll down to find a complete round-up of links, a magazine spread and photos from the event.
For further details, please contact: B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider at 052-5536441 or email@example.com.
There are some Jewish organizations which do honor Jewish rescuers. Since 2011, the B’nai B’rith World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust (JRJ) has conferred a joint “Jewish Rescuer’s Citation.” Paldiel and several other survivors sit on the JRJ committee, alongside rescuers and children of survivors and rescuers.
In the News
B'nai B'rith International is the Global Voice of the Jewish Community.
All rights reserved. Stories are attributed to the original copyright holders.