The Jewish Broadcasting Service covered the announcement by B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem that it would be awarding its Jewish Rescuers Citation to 18 individuals posthumously. Watch the video below.
Former B'nai B'rith International President Tommy Baer of Richmond, Virginia wrote this column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. To read more first-person accounts of Kristallnacht experiences, including Tommy Baer’s story, click this link.
Hannah Arendt called it the banality of evil. Author Martin Gilbert called it the collapse of morality, “an indication of what happens when a society falls victim to its baser instincts.” The name given to it was “Kristallnacht,” the Night of Broken Glass.
Today marks the 80th anniversary of the 24-hour rampage in 1938 Germany and Austria which some say was the beginning of the Holocaust. There was on that night, upon the direct orders of the Third Reich, a violent and systematic attack upon Jews and Jewish institutions perpetrated by German security forces, joined by a frenzied populace given free rein to terrorize and destroy, without interference by police or firefighters. On that night the German nation fell victim to its baser instincts.
Hundreds of synagogues were set ablaze and destroyed, Torah scrolls torn to pieces, prayer books desecrated. Thousands of Jewish shops, homes, hospitals, and schools were smashed and looted. Nearly 100 Jews were killed and 30,000 Jewish men, including my mother’s father, were arrested and sent to concentration camps, where they were brutalized.
On that night my mother heard the sounds of shattering glass from the window of her hospital room in Berlin where she was being treated for a serious breast infection. I was 3 months old.
The events of that night and the next day shattered not only glass, but the hopes of European Jews who believed that they would survive the tyrannical Nazi regime and its diabolical scheme to create a pure Aryan race. It was made clear beyond all doubt that the objective of the Nazis was to rid Germany and Europe of the Jewish people, thus eradicating the 1,000-year history of Jewish life and culture in Germany.
The genocide had begun. Never had mankind seen such evil on so grand a scale. The lives, hopes, aspirations, dreams, and contributions of 6 million Jews (1,500,000 children), one-third of world Jewry, were obliterated. Numbers so large and vast that they are difficult for the mind to process. Yet they must be processed if there is any hope that such madness will never again be allowed to occur.
Among Jews, and others, the question is often asked: Could it happen here? I always answered in the negative, not in this country. Our institutions are too strong, our law too settled, our sense of decency too great. While I remain optimistic, I am no longer so sanguine about our immunity from the exercise of our baser instincts.
A recent poll of millennials disclosed that 66 percent had never heard of Auschwitz. It is troubling that this place, this Nazi death camp where more than 1 million Jews were murdered, this hell on earth, could not be identified by so many of those upon whom the future of our nation depends.
Today’s expressions of intolerance and repression of free speech and assembly in public forums, on many college campuses, and in other venues is a worrisome development.
The alarming rise of anti-Semitism in our country, along with movements that deligitimize, not merely criticize, the State of Israel, is a cause of increasing concern.
Holocaust denial, a form of anti-Semitism and hate speech, is cause for anxiety.
The lingering specter of neo-Nazi mobs in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us,” evoking the Third Reich, and the most recent horrific mass murder of Jews by a crazed anti-Semite at a synagogue service in Pittsburgh while screaming “All Jews must die,” shock the conscience and remind Jews of a former time, causing apprehension and foreboding. We should have learned long ago that words and actions have consequences.
All of these, individually and in the aggregate, pose a clear and present danger to those precepts enshrined in our Constitution and regarded by most as inalienable.
But perhaps most of all, it is complacency that frightens me. If we cannot or will not identify evil and the purveyors of hatred in order to prevent their insidious spread to toxic levels, we shall be overcome and consumed by it. Though I am comforted by the posthumous message of Sen. John McCain, who reminded us that “We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil,” we have become a nation vulnerable to excesses — in our political discourse, in our civility to one another, and in the breakdown of values we once cherished. The resistance of these negative impulses will require a strong America, one in which our leadership must speak out with moral clarity.
So, Kristallnacht must be remembered to prevent the savage beast in man from prevailing. Not here, not anywhere. Into that abyss we must not descend. Memory allows us to assess our history and ourselves, to ensure that we learn its lessons, so that we do not succumb to our baser instincts.
The words from a memorial plaque to the murdered Jewish children at the former concentration camp at Neuengamme, Germany, come to mind. They read: “When you stand here, be silent. When you leave here, be not silent.”
So let us remember; for if hatred prevails, we are all at risk.
To read the original story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, click this link.
The Art Newspaper mentioned us in an article on the current legal battle the Metropolitan Museum of Art is facing over Pablo Picasso’s “The Actor.” It is believed that German Jewish collector Paul Leffmann sold the painting in order to escape from Italy after fleeing from Nazi Germany. B’nai B’rith signed onto the brief in support of the Leffmann estate in its efforts to have the property returned.
The legal battle over Picasso’s painting The Actor (around 1904-05), which now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is not quite over. An appeal has been brought in federal court in New York by the estate of Alice Leffmann, challenging a lower court’s dismissal of its claim on the work, which it says was sold under duress during the Nazi era. The Met is opposing the appeal and stands by its ownership of the painting.
Now one of the most recognised works from Picasso’s “Rose period”, The Actor was once owned by the German Jewish collector Paul Leffmann, who sold it in Italy in 1938 for $13,200, allegedly far below market value, as he and his wife Alice sought to flee a fast-Nazifying Italy, having already escaped Germany. The painting later made its way to New York’s Knoedler Gallery, where it was bought in 1941 for $22,500 by the American collector Thelma Chrysler Foy, who gave it to the Met in 1952. The case is significant because of the potential impact on claimants who seek the restitution of works sold by Jewish families to raise cash to fund their escape from the Nazis.
In dismissing the lawsuit in February, US District Court Judge Loretta Preska said the estate had not met the legal test for duress under the law of either Italy or New York. While acknowledging a general “economic pressure during the undeniably horrific circumstances of the Nazi and Fascist regimes,” the judge said, the Leffmanns had time to review and negotiate other offers before agreeing to the $13,200, and had other—albeit vastly reduced—assets.
On appeal, the estate says the situation faced in 1938 by the fleeing Leffmanns in Florence, where Adolf Hitler was parading through the neighbourhood, was duress. “You either sell or face an unspeakable fate,” the estate says in its filing, calling the sale a “desperate act of survival during the most horrific of circumstances.” The estate adds that the lower court’s decision is inconsistent with US policy as shown by the recently passed Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act, which extends the time limit for claims on Nazi-era art cases, and which the court did not address. "As the appellate brief makes clear, the HEAR Act is a clear statement of US policy favouring the restitution of art lost as a result of persecution by the Nazis and its allies," says the estate's lawyer Ross Hirsch of Herrick, Feinstein. "As a technical legal matter, the HEAR Act is also relevant to, and dismissive of, the Museum’s statute of limitation and laches defenses. However, the district court did not reach those defenses in its decision."
The Met argues that the estate is asking the court to expand the law of duress, which would upset the rights of those who have bought art in good faith. The Leffmanns sold the painting on the open market in 1938 and brought no claim for it when they sought to recover other lost assets after the war, the museum says, adding that it has handled the claim with “appropriate sensitivity to the historical circumstances” and denied it only after voluminous research. “The Museum respectfully stands by its conclusion that it is the rightful owner of this painting, which was never in the hands of the Nazis and never sold or transferred in any unlawful way,” David Bowker, an attorney for the Met, says.
The case has attracted the attention of groups and individuals who have filed amicus briefs in support of the Leffmann estate, including the Holocaust Era Restitution Project, B’nai B’rith International, the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Human Rights and others. The court should take into account that the Nazis wove an “all-encompassing web” to extract all Jewish assets for the Reich, the Wiesenthal Center says, adding that sales under those circumstances should not be viewed as ordinary commercial transactions.
The Pitt News publicized the organization of a Holocaust Remembrance Day march at the University of Pittsburgh by B'nai B'rith International's partner organization Alpha Epsilon Pi.
A procession of Pitt community members dressed in black marched from from Trees Hall to the Bigelow Lawn Wednesday night. The mourning colors were worn not just to remember one death, but millions. Pitt’s historically Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, held its second annual Walk to Remember with B’nai B’rith International, a Jewish service organization, to honor those who died in the Holocaust and take a stand against rising anti-Semitism.
About 40 members of AEPi and the local community walked in silence Wednesday, followed by a 24-hour commemoration outside the William Pitt Union. AEPi members and anyone else who wanted to volunteer took turns reading the names of Holocaust victims and their places of origin and death from 6 p.m. Wednesday until 6 p.m. Thursday. The event occured in conjunction with Yom Hazikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah — colloquially known as Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day — which is held annually and lasted from sunset Wednesday to nightfall Thursday.
Gabriel Kaufman, a junior majoring in finance and marketing and member of AEPi, said the event is important not not only to the local Jewish community but to people of all faiths at Pitt. Kaufman was one of the readers at the event and vice president of the planning committee for it.
“Obviously, not everyone is Jewish, but it’s hard to wrap your head around the evil that existed in Europe between 1939 to 1945, and even before that,” he said. “We stand not only against anti-Semitism but against all atrocities that happen in the present or may happen in the future.”
As the years since the Holocaust increase, younger generations are forgetting about the significance of the atrocity and its lasting impacts more and more. A recent study by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany found that two-thirds of American millennials cannot identify Auschwitz — the largest Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust.
Kaufman reinforced the relevance of remembrance today, even 73 years after the Holocaust. He said the march and name reading is to protest and bring awareness to anti-Semitism and to recognize the impact the Holocaust had on his and his fraternity brothers’ families.
“We’re standing against any future atrocity, any form of racism we’re standing against,” he said. “We realize that’s prevalent in the world and we want to bring a whole new meaning to the words ‘Never Again.’”
According to Aaron Chumsky, a sophomore math and economics major and the Jewish identity chair of AEPi, the frat began working on the event after Winter Break, planning dates and times and reaching out to organizations such as the Pitt police.
“I think it’s important that we celebrate our Jewish identity and that does involve honoring the many who perished during the Holocaust. And also showing that we stand against actions like that and actions of discrimination that are still going on today,” he said.
The gravity of the event and the meaning behind it was not lost on attendees and bystanders, such as Ryan Gill.
Gill, a first year majoring in pharmacy, didn’t go to the march on Wednesday but did attend part of the name reading of Thursday. He described the long time AEPi spent to read all the names as “eye-opening.”
“I was only here for maybe a half hour or so, but he was reading the list and it hit me hard. How many people really died and were killed,” he said.
While Holocaust Remembrance Day only comes once a year, organizers such as Kaufman hope that people take away some of the lessons from the event and think about the effect that it had on Jewish people everywhere.
“And all of our brothers come from different backgrounds, I know that a lot of people have Polish roots. A lot of people have Russian roots like myself — my Mom’s Russian,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from. All Jewish people were affected by the Holocaust.”
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.
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