The Jerusalem Post mentioned the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Award for Journalism in its coverage of award-winning reporter Dina Kraft’s podcast, The Branch. Kraft is a 2020 Award recipient for her outstanding diaspora reportage of Jews in America for Haaretz.
In India, a recent Netflix series featuring a romance between a Muslim man and a Hindi girl ignited nationalist outrage. In Israel, award-winning reporter Dina Kraft’s podcast The Branch, about Jews and Arabs forging connections has done the opposite – sparking a sense of optimism.
The upbeat, evocative podcasts, sponsored by Hadassah, have achieved acclaim in a fractured world that COVID-19 has made even more fractured, shining light on the everyday intertwined lives of Arabs and Jews who have developed deep bonds despite a complicated reality.
The podcasts “give people little postcards of hope,” Kraft, 49, explained in a recent Zoom interview, “and I don’t mean that in a cheesy, simplistic way.” They reveal relationships among Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, that are happening in small and large ways around Israel. Kraft combines her astute reportorial skills with sounds and voices to create fascinating narrative stories.
The podcast, which has just broadcast its 25th episode over the past two years, tells stories set in Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem. One recent episode featured an Arab and Jewish midwife working together during the challenges of corona – as well as stories around Israel and the West Bank. Each podcast features Kraft’s observations that are woven into conversations with people, along with evocative music, allowing listeners, as Kraft says, to “parachute into people’s lives.” Israel has a wide variety of podcasts, including The Israel Story, started in 2011 and its English version in 2014, which shares unusual stories of ordinary Israelis. But The Branch is the only podcast that focuses on stories of cross-cultural exchanges among Arabs and Jews.
Born in Silver Spring, Maryland, Kraft said her parents were always news junkies. She grew up surrounded by newspapers. Her father worked as a journalist for many years, and she said it isn’t surprising that she became a journalist. At the University of Wisconsin, she worked at the school newspaper. Since then, Kraft has worked for The Associate Press in Jerusalem and Johannesburg and has also reported from Pakistan, Jordan, Tunisia, Russia and Ukraine. She was a 2012 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a 2015 Ochberg Fellow at the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University. She is now the Israeli correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor. On November 25, she received a B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage for her work on Jews in America for Haaretz.
Kraft said that The Branch is a way for listeners to appreciate real communication between people that goes deeper than current social media and texting. She illuminates interpersonal relationships among people who are from different sides of the Arab-Jewish conflict. They care for one another despite what Kraft calls a historical divide that is often difficult to navigate.
There are episodes about the famous: “Love Wins,” for example, which explores the marriage of Jewish Michal Baranes and Muslim Yakub Barhum who live in Ein Rafa, a village 10 kilometers outside of Jerusalem and run “Majda,” a celebrated restaurant that captured the heart of Chef Anthony Bourdain.
Other episodes cover relationships that few people have heard about, for instance, a Jewish-Israeli soccer coach and an Arab-Israeli soccer player who plays for the team of Bnei Sahknin in the Galilee; a pair of Muslim and Jewish rappers who formed a hip-hop group, System Ali, in Jaffa; and an episode featuring Michal Zackai, owner of ShakShuk restaurant in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market, and Mahdi Martur, a Palestinian cook who, Kraft says, is Michal’s “right-hand man.” Kraft said that what makes their story so powerful is that neither of them are social activists who set out with a political agenda; their relationship developed naturally, despite all differences. In the episode, Kraft explores how Michal tried to help Mahdi through a labyrinthine bureaucracy when he built a house on land that is under neither Israeli nor Palestinian Authority jurisdiction (the house was eventually torn down).
Residing in Tel Aviv with husband Gilad Rosenzweig, an urban planner, and their two children, Kraft said that she loves the transition from print to broadcast journalism. She suspects that listening is what people always did, when they “sat around a fire telling stories.”
“There’s a joy to just listening,” she said, and what makes The Branch vibrant is the fluid, seemingly informal way the stories evolve. She explained that an episode does not begin when she sits down with someone to interview them. Rather, it starts when listeners hear the knock on a door, the laughter of someone’s child, the buzz of a drone flying overhead or a cow mooing. All these sounds give listeners an intimacy that they might not get from reading.
“Something about audio distills the moment,” Kraft said. “You can hone in on this one sense. Listening to people’s voices connects a different part of your heart.”
She believes that when you’re listening to a story, it feels as if it is just you and the person telling the story. Listeners are moved by the way a parent might talk to a child, let’s say, and they respond to the way another person hesitates, filled with emotion.
One episode is about two artists: Faten Elwi, an Arab-Israeli from the town of Umm al-Fahm, and Hadass Gertman, a Jewish-Israeli, who lives nearby. They met as mothers of young daughters at the height of the violence of the Second Intifada in 2003 and have collaborated on various art projects over the years. The women stitch together dresses in joint art projects that have been displayed in the Umm al-Fahm Art Gallery.
Kraft said that her biggest takeaway from doing the podcast is her realization that the most resilient relationships are the ones in which the people don’t ignore each other’s identities but rather “dive into what’s difficult.” In fact, she has received mail from both Israelis and Palestinians outside of Israel who thank her for the podcasts, telling her that these are the stories people need to hear.
Kraft works with producers who help her build the narrative storyline and develop the structure of the episode. Her current producers are Yoshi Fields and Julie Subrin. When Kraft speaks at her studio in Israel, Julie Subrin, in New York, reminds her, “Just speak as if you’re telling me the story.” “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a labor of love,” Kraft said.
She said she’s discovering more and more of these cross-cultural relationships and is no longer worried she’ll run out of material. Kraft also appears in another podcast, The Patient Is In, sponsored by the start-up company, Stuff that Works, which explores how people deal with chronic health issues with “grace and determination” and find answers.
When people ask Kraft how they can find time to listen to the podcast, Kraft laughed.
“Don’t you have to fold laundry?” she asked, adding that she can no longer wash a dish or take a walk without listening to a podcast.
“It’s a way to be transported into other people’s lives,” she said. “By listening, we’re journeying into the world that they inhabit.”
The Jerusalem Post cited the B’nai Brith World Center-Jerusalem posthumously awarding Joseph Bau its Jewish Rescuers Citation in its coverage of the Joseph Bau House Museum in Tel Aviv struggling to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic.
If there are any Hollywood moguls out there looking for a real-life character to serve as the central character in a superhero-type blockbuster, they could do a lot worse than to read up on Joseph Bau.
There is no need to engage in hyperbole or florid epithets when sketching a profile of Bau, who died in 2002 at the age of 81. In fact, he was fortunate to make it past his mid-20s, surviving several ghettos, a concentration camp and all manner of other horrific tests of his mettle along the way.
Some of that is today commemorated, nay, celebrated, at Joseph Bau House Museum, an independent boutique museum in downtown Tel Aviv that tells the extraordinary life story of an extraordinary person. The repository – which is run by Bau’s daughters Hadassah and Clilah Bau – has somehow managed to survive over the years on a shoestring budget, but is now running out of funds and may be forced to close down. The Baus have instigated a Headstart drive (headstart.co.il/project/60369) that is aiming to raise NIS 100,000 to keep the museum afloat, and to continue to enlighten the public about their father’s incredible journey on terra firma.
Bau was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1920 and died in Tel Aviv in 2002. Between those two temporal goalposts, he managed to wriggle his way out of numerous life-threatening situations, and even found love en route.
I first encountered Bau’s name, and learned of some of his amazing achievements, 20 years ago when I met his daughters at his studio on Berdichevsky Street off Rothschild Boulevard. It felt like stepping into an Aladdin’s cave. The cozily proportioned premises were stuffed to the rafters with specimens of Bau’s wide-ranging graphic work, including posters he crafted for early Israeli movies, such as the iconic 1964 dark comedy about aliyah and absorption Sallah Shabati, starring Haim Topol. There were also examples of his animation work, paintings, caricatures, graphics, copies of the nine books he has put out over the years, and evidence of his immersive research into the Hebrew language.
For Bau the latter was a labor of love, which helped him bond with the country and culture he had dreamed about almost all his life.
“Reaching Israel was the fulfillment of an ambition he had since the age of 13,” says Clilah. “He talks about that in his book Shnot Tarzach.” Typically, the title of the book is a play on words. By slightly altering the punctuation you get tirzach, which translates as “you shall murder,” while as an abbreviation, the four letters in Hebrew spell out the year 5698, which equates to 1938-39 in the Gregorian calendar and possibly references the outbreak of World War Two. The tome contains Bau’s recollections of the Holocaust and his life in Israel, and is liberally seasoned with comical word play, and dark and sometimes raucous humor. It has been translated into seven languages, including English, Arabic and Chinese.
I met Bau in his apartment after visiting the studio with his daughters. He was a slight, gentle-looking, well-groomed character, with a full head of snow-white hair, but he had lost his power of speech following the death of his wife, Rivka (née Tennenbaum), three years earlier. Rivka was the love of his life who, in fact, saved his life by giving him her place at Oskar Schindler’s factory in Krakow, which employed hundreds of Jews, and saved around 1,200. Happily, Rivka subsequently survived Auschwitz and was reunited with her husband in Krakow, where they lived until they made aliyah in 1950.
They met in Plaszów concentration camp near Krakow. It was love at first sight and, incredibly, the couple contrived to get married there, after Bau snuck into the women’s quarters, with the other female inmates standing guard. The nuptials were immortalized in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar Award-winning epic Schindler’s List, which Joseph and Rivka went to see, notwithstanding their daughters’ remonstrations.
“WE DIDN’T want our parents to see the movie, but they said it was their duty, toward all those who were murdered,” Hadassah recalls. “We were very concerned and sat on either side of them [in the cinema]. During the movie, when they showed something terrible, we asked dad, ‘Was it like that?’ and he replied, ‘It was 10 times worse!’ Dad also said that the movie was a work of genius, and that if Spielberg had shown all the horrors, no one would have gone to see it.”
One of the more remarkable aspects of Bau’s unimaginable life odyssey is the fact that he not only got by in Hebrew, he mastered it to such an extent that he was able to sculpt it, and mine its nuances and vagaries to a level achieved by few born into the language. That comes across succinctly in, for example, his 1987 book, Brit Mila, again a play of words that can reference the Jewish circumcision ceremony for male babies or translate as Covenant of a Word.
As a trained graphic artist who studied German Gothic lettering before the Holocaust – a skill that also helped him to survive by providing that service to German officers in Krakow Ghetto and later at Plaszów – he was also, naturally, drawn to its aesthetics. He also used his graphic skills to save the lives of many Jews by forging papers for them. Those heroic efforts were recently recognized by the B’nai Brith World Center in Jerusalem when it posthumously awarded Bau its Jewish Rescuers Citation.
He created a number of Hebrew fonts that found their way into the country’s earliest animation works and commercials. As he was there at the very inception of the field in the young State of Israel, he had to start from scratch. That included crafting the lighting, cameras and other requisite equipment out of old X-ray apparatus and refitting all kinds of machinery to get the job done.
Although Hadassah and Clilah say their parents were not coy about their Holocaust experiences, Bau kept one aspect of his work to himself. It was only several years after his death that the Bau daughters learned of their father’s espionage work for the Mossad.
“His work included forging papers for spies,” says Clilah. “That included documents for [Israeli spy in Syria] Eli Cohen and the whole team that went [to Argentina] to capture [Adolf] Eichmann.
”Bau might have had an easier life in the States, but opted to stay here.
“Our father’s dream was to make animated films, but there was no awareness of cartoons in Israel then, so he worked in graphics and creating fonts for movies,” Hadassah explains. “His brother wanted him to come to New York to work as an animator, but he didn’t want to leave Israel, which was everything to him.”
His expertise in that field was also put to good use by the Israeli security forces.
“We discovered he made classified animated films for the IDF and Mossad, but they are not willing to show us the movies.
”Our chat is interspersed by lots of laughing, and the daughters say there was plenty of merriment at home.
“He taught me to write songs, all with humor, and he taught Clilah to tell jokes,” Hadassah notes with yet another peal of laughter.
Now the Baus just want to keep the memory of their parents’ amazing life, and their father’s invaluable work, alive. Prior to the pandemic, tours of the studio included theatrical enactments of some of Bau’s experiences.
“Dad said we should turn the studio into a theater. Today it is a museum/theater where we perform and tell the story of the place and the wonderful life story of our parents, illustrated by his paintings and drawings of the Hebrew language.
”The idea is also to convey some much-needed positive vibes, particularly in these trying times.
“Our father always wanted to make people happy,” says Clilah. “He always said, ‘If we were happy in the darkest of times, everyone can learn the meaning of happiness and love from us.’ That’s what we do.”
Tablet Magazine covered the Jewish Rescuers Citation, B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem's joint project with the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers during the Holocaust (JNJ), in a piece about recognizing the number of Jews hailed for their heroism during the Shoah.
Oeuvre de secours aux enfants (OSE), the Jewish children’s welfare organization, was founded in Russia in 1912 by a group of young doctors committed to offering sanitary protection and health benefits to poor Jews. The organization moved in 1917 to Berlin where Albert Einstein was its honorary president. In 1933, it moved to Paris, and in 1940, once again to escape the Nazis, it moved to Montpellier in the non-occupied south of France.
With its 280 official employees, OSE became the principal Jewish organization concerned with the welfare of foreign Jews in French internment camps. In November 1941, there were more than 28,000 internees in these camps, roughly 5,000 of whom were children under the age of 18. The camps were entirely run and staffed by the French. With help from non-Jewish organizations, such as the Quakers and the Red Cross, OSE social workers fed, clothed, and raised the morale of these detainees, 3,000 of whom would die of malnutrition and disease over the course of the war.
As of August 1942, when children were being deported even from the non-occupied zone, the primary goal of OSE became to illegally evacuate the children from the camps and, with the help of their Christian allies, to place them in non-Jewish homes, farms, and institutions, or smuggle them out of the country.
To accomplish this work, a 33-year-old engineer named Georges Garel (né Grigori Garfinkel) left his role in the Resistance to form the Garel Network, the first entirely clandestine network for rescuing Jewish children in the still-unoccupied zone. With headquarters in Lyon, over the next 12 months, thanks to about three dozen workers—most of whom were Jewish women employed by the OSE—the Garel Network would hide over 1,600 Jewish children in various parts of France.
What happened in France took place in every occupied country. Thousands of Jews, many of them very young, labored individually and in Jewish and non-Jewish organizations to save their endangered brethren. Many could have fled but chose to remain in order to rescue others. With great heroism, they employed subterfuge, forgery of documents, smuggling, concealment, and escape into foreign countries such as Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, and Turkey. Together with their non-Jewish companions, these courageous persons rescued between 150,000 and 300,000 persons who might otherwise have perished.
Yet only the non-Jews who did these things have been formally acknowledged as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem. Since 1963, 27,362 non-Jewish rescuers from 51 different countries have been recognized. They remain beacons of hope 75 years later. Their Jewish counterparts, who often worked alongside them in rescue efforts, deserve the same public recognition. Doing so would give significant emphasis to rescue as a legitimate and successful form of resistance that would serve to discredit further the continuing myth that Jews went to the slaughter like sheep. It would also underscore the basic moral teaching that “righteousness” should be conferred on people for having donesomething, not for being or not being a member of a specific religion.
One OSE fieldworker named Madeleine Dreyfus brought Jewish children to Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Born Madeleine Kahn in 1909, the future Madeleine Dreyfus received her baccalaureate degree in Paris in 1927. She married Raymond Dreyfus in March 1933 on the day Hitler came to power. Her sons, Michel and Jacques, were born in 1934 and 1937, respectively, during the period when she began studying psychology intensely with Sophie Lazarfeld, a student and disciple of Alfred Adler. In October 1941, when her husband lost his job in Paris because of the recently invoked anti-Semitic laws, the family passed into the unoccupied zone and settled in Lyon.
Madeleine began working for OSE as a psychologist in late 1941, giving educational and psychological consultations to troubled Parisian students whose families had taken refuge in Lyon. As of August 1942, under the constant menace of the enthusiastically collaborationist Vichy police force, and, especially after November 1942, when the Germans officially occupied all of France, Madeleine assumed responsibility for the Lyon/Le Chambon-sur-Lignon area link in the Garel Network and sought places of refuge in this mostly Protestant countryside for Jewish children.
Several times a month, accompanied by a small group of children (aged anywhere from 18 months to 16 years), Madeleine would take the train from Lyon to Saint-Etienne, where she would transfer to the local steam engine to Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Sometimes these children had been given to her by their parents. Just as often, they had managed to escape or hide at the time of their parents’ arrest and were then rescued by the network.
These trips to the countryside were extremely dangerous ventures in which Madeleine continuously risked her life. Although in almost all cases the children had false Aryan identity papers, Madeleine, who carried the most readily identifiable Jewish last name in France, did not.
Madeline Dreyfus had to take control of these mostly foreign children to get them through police inspections in the train stations and on the trains. She had to keep them from speaking Polish, German, or Yiddish, and make sure that they called their friends by their French names. From September or October 1942 to November 1943, Madeleine made these trips, finding shelter for well over one hundred Jewish children. She would return often to visit the children she had placed, to bring them clothing, medicine, food tickets, and whenever possible, letters from their parents—who, for safety reasons, never knew where their children were hidden.
As of November 1942, Madeleine was already pregnant with her third child, Annette. Being pregnant may have slowed her down, but it didn’t stop her. Annette was born in Lyon on Aug. 29, 1943. “Very shortly thereafter,” writes Raymond, “my wife resumed her trips back and forth between Lyon and Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.”
Only a few weeks later, after his sister-in-law and two of her children were arrested and deported, Raymond begged Madeleine to stop her illegal work, “now that she was responsible for three small children, two months, six, and nine years of age, all without false papers.” Madeleine asked Raymond to wait a bit longer, since there was no one to replace her.
On Nov. 23, Madeleine received a phone call from the father of a child she had hidden at the School for Deaf-Mutes at Villeurbanne, who was distraught because he had heard there was going to be a Gestapo raid at the institute. Madeleine called there and the woman on the other end of the line encouraged her to come to the school right away. It was impossible for Madeleine to know that her respondent was being held at gunpoint and was being instructed to answer in that manner by her Gestapo captors.
Despite walking into a trap, Madeline managed to immediately warn both her family and the OSE. She was sent to Fort Monluc in Lyon where she spent over two months in the Jewish women’s dormitory, from whose window she witnessed the execution of many resisters, Jews and Christians alike. At the end of January 1944, she was transferred to Drancy. In May, she was deported to Bergen-Belsen in northwest Germany, where about 40,000 inmates would die of starvation and disease.
Even in Bergen-Belsen where she would spend 11 months, Madeleine was concerned with the well-being of others. She constantly tried to raise the morale of her companions and organized daily delousing sessions to help stem the typhus in the camp. She and her companions received between 600 and 700 calories a day. Survival was contingent, she reported later, upon selective camaraderie. Small groups of three or four women would stay together and help one another maintain morale and reestablish their humanity: sharing food, assuming social roles, making an effort to speak about art and literature, and reassuring one another that they were still human beings.
After 18 months of incarceration in prison and Nazi concentration camps, Madeleine was liberated and repatriated on May 18, 1945. She continued her practice as an Adlerian psychologist and was particularly gifted with children, teaching, and family situations, until her death in 1987.
Madeleine Dreyfus was only one of dozens of Jewish OSE workers who risked their lives to save other Jews in France. In Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, André Chouraqui, the future assistant mayor of Jerusalem, immediately replaced Madeleine at OSE in Lyon and in the Garel Network. Jews not affiliated with OSE, such as Oskar Rosowsky, risked their lives by fabricating false papers for Jews hiding in the area.
Nor were they alone during the occupation years. Jews were involved in the rescue of other Jews all over France. Moussa Abadi and his partner, Odette Rosenstock, working with the bishop of Nice, Paul Rémond (who would later deservedly be named “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem), managed to save 527 Jewish children; Odette, like Madeleine, survived Bergen-Belsen. On the Swiss border, three Jewish groups—OSE, EIF (Eclaireurs israélites de France, or French Jewish Scouts), and MJS (Mouvement de la jeunesse sioniste, or Youth Zionist Movement)—worked together to smuggle hundreds of Jewish children into Switzerland.
Let us remember in particular two young Jewish heroines who gave their lives in these endeavors: Mila Racine, who was caught smuggling Jewish children into Switzerland in October 1943, was deported to Mauthausen, and died during an Allied bombing mission at the age of 23. She was replaced by Marianne Cohn, who was arrested for smuggling Jewish children across the border in May 1944, then beaten, tortured, and murdered by the Gestapo in July 1944. She was 21 years old when she died.
During the occupation of France, OSE saved the lives of roughly 6,000 Jewish children in France; yet 32 OSE staff members lost their lives and 90 OSE children did not survive. Among the 76,000 Jews deported from France were 11,600 children whom the Nazis never asked for.
Prudence dictated that Christians and Jews lie low, out of risk’s path. Nor was there any shortage of active collaborators with the Nazi edicts from the highest levels of French government and society to the lowest. All those who chose to rise up against this evil deserve recognition. To celebrate Jews and non-Jews, who risked their lives together to rescue persecuted people, would offer a superb example of human solidarity in a world of rapidly increasing anti-Semitism and group hatreds.
Finally, to insist on the differences between Christian and Jewish rescuers violates the spirit of the overwhelming majority of Jews and Christians alike who did not think in terms of religious affiliations or differences when they put their own lives at risk to save others. In Lisa Gossel’s award-winning documentary The Children of Chabannes, Félix Chevrier, the gentile leader of a rescue mission that sheltered 400 Jewish children, is described as having been anguished throughout the entire rescue period “because he didn’t want to save the children because they were Jewish. He wanted to save them because they were children.” The great Jewish humanitarian, pediatrician, teacher, and radio personality Janusz Korczak, who ran an orphanage in Warsaw and later inside the Warsaw Ghetto did his work in a similar spirit. When asked what he would do after the war were he to survive, he responded: “Take care of German orphans.” We defile the memory of these rescuers when we confine them to categories that their magnanimous souls obviously transcended.
In the absence of a program at Yad Vashem that recognizes “Jewish Holocaust Rescuers,” a group of Holocaust survivors from Holland, France, Germany, and other countries, who were themselves saved by the efforts of Jews, came together in 2000 with a number of Jewish rescuers and representatives of international Jewish organizations and founded the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers during the Holocaust (JRJ). Focusing on the ideas of “self-rescue” and “rescue as resistance,” this group has been engaged in numerous initiatives aimed at bringing this neglected chapter of Holocaust history to public attention. The goals of the JRJ are to collect testimonies, set up a database for research, and incorporate their findings into the curriculum of Holocaust studies in Israel and throughout the world.
Haim Roet, the founder and chair of the JRJ, was 11 years old in 1943 when he was rescued and hidden in the village of Nieuwlande, one of only two “places,” along with Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, to be declared “righteous” by Yad Vashem. Three rescuers led this operation, which saved 200 children: Johannes Post, Arnold Douwes, and Max “Nico” Leons. Jan Post was caught by the Germans and executed; Arnold Douwes lived into old age. Max Leons died in 2019 at the age of 97. Post and Douwes were both named “Righteous Among the Nations.” In 2011, the Jewish Rescuers Citation was created. It is a joint project of the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers during the Holocaust (JRJ) and the B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem.
So many people participated in the rescue mission in Nieuwlande that a monument was constructed at Yad Vashem to honor the entire village. It contains more than 100 names of rescuers chiseled in stone. Max “Nico” Leon’s name is not on the stone for the same reason he was never cited by Yad Vashem as a rescuer of Jews: He was Jewish.
In Amsterdam on Nov. 24, 2011, at his surprise 90th birthday party, Roet presented Leon with the Jewish Rescuers Citation, a well-deserved honor intended to redress what increasingly appears, with the benefit of hindsight, to be a historical and moral injustice that only perpetuates the kinds of divisions between human beings that rescuers of all faiths heroically refused to recognize.
The Jewish Post & News covered the B’nai Brith World Center in Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust's virtual Yom Hashoah event in April, choosing to highlight Joseph and Rebecca Bau.
When Hadasa Bau and Clila Bau Cohen received notice earlier this year that their parents, Josef and Rebecca Bau, were to going to be honoured, along with some other Holocaust survivors, at a ceremony in Jerusalem in April, they burst out in tears.
It was an emotional moment.
“We were very moved,” said the two sisters, who have both lived in Winnipeg at different times over the years, in an email in early July to this reporter from their home in Tel Aviv. “Our parents deserve it so much.”
The B’nai Brith World Center in Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust held a Zoom meeting on Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah, Tuesday, April 21, 2020) to extol the heroism of some 20 Jews who endangered themselves during the Holocaust to rescue fellow Jews, said information on the B’nai B’rith International website. Relatives and representatives of the now-deceased rescuers addressed the meeting, and the – a joint project of the World Center and the Committee – was conferred virtually on them. The event was carried live on B’nai Brith’s Facebook page and was primarily be in Hebrew, with some English.
There were a total of 16 rescuers honoured on that day.
A brief biography of each person is included on the website:
Joseph Bau (June 13, 1920-May 24, 2002), a graphic artist who forged documents for the Jewish underground in Krakow, Poland, and later in Oscar Schindler’s factory camp in Brněnec in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia;
Rebecca (Tennenbaum) Bau (1918-1997) was a nurse who served as the manicurist of Amon Goeth, the ruthless Nazi who ruled over the Plaszow concentration camp. She shared secrets she overheard that helped many inmates survive, while also providing them with moral and physical support.
“The Zoom meeting represented a break from the traditional annual ceremony held by the World Center and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) for the past 17 consecutive years in the B’nai Brith Martyrs Forest,” said the BBI website.
“It is the only event dedicated annually to commemorating the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust.
“Since the establishment of the Jewish Rescuers Citation in 2011, 314 heroes have been honored for rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Holland and Belgium.
One of the most recent recipients of the Jewish Rescuers Citation, Frida Wattenberg, a member of the Jewish underground in Grenoble, France, during the Holocaust, contracted the coronavirus and died in Paris on April 3, just three weeks shy of her 96th birthday. The citation was conferred on Sept. 23, 2019, at the Foundation de Rothschild seniors’ home where she resided. Tsilla Hershco, the author of the most authoritative book to date on the Jewish underground movement in France and a member of the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust, conferred the citation.”
In their email, Hadasa Bau and Clila Bau Cohen said their parents only thought about how to help others, and in the Holocaust they risked their lives in order to save other people. The sisters participated in the Zoom meeting on April 21 by providing more details about their parents.
“They never thought about themselves,” the sisters said.
“Our father, Joseph Bau, managed to finish one year of art school in Krakow before the war broke out. At the end of that year, he was taught Gothic letters. When he and his family were sent to the Ghetto, the Germans looked for someone who knew those letters, so that saved his life. He worked for the German police, the Jewish police and the Jewish underground. He forged documents for the underground, thus saving hundreds of Jews that managed to escape. He was also a spy that conveyed information from the German police to the underground.
“When the underground people told him, ‘Forge a document for yourself and escape...’, he answered, ‘...but if I escape who will save the rest?’
“So, he risked his life and stayed till the end of the war. Our father was very modest and never told us how he saved many lives, even though our parents spoke about the Holocaust daily. During the Holocaust, he led a secret life and this continued in Israel.
“He told his memoirs of the Holocaust in a book he wrote named ‘Shnot Tarzach – Dear God, Have You Ever Gone Hungry?’ that was translated into many languages.”
In 1950 Josef and Rebecca and their three year old daughter, Hadasa, immigrated to Israel.
“After his death, we discovered that he worked for the Mossad and forged documents for spies such as Eli Cohen, also for the team that captured Eichmann and Eichmann himself,” said the sisters.
“We turned the studio that he used as a cover for his activities into the Joseph Bau House Museum. He was a pioneer of animation and one of the first graphic artists. He designed titles for many Israeli movies.”
Rebecca Bau was in the Krakow ghetto, also Plaszow, Auschwitz and Lichtewerden concentration camps.
“She was a fearless woman. All her life she encouraged people and always laughed,” the sisters wrote.
“Rebecca was a nurse and cosmetician who worked in the ghetto hospital until all the patients were murdered. While in the ghetto, she saved many by helping them avoid the transports – among whom were 11 members of the Gietzhalz family.
“She was then transferred from the ghetto to the Plaszow concentration camp and there she saved many by giving them pedicures, because the Germans murdered those who limped.”
“In the concentration camp, she met her husband Joseph. He snuck into her barracks in the woman’s camp dressed as a woman and they secretly got married.”
Their wedding is depicted in the movie “Schindler’s List” directed by Steven Spielberg.
The sisters also noted that their mother replaced her name, which was on Schindler’s list, with that of her husband, “our father,” and she herself was sent to Auschwitz.
“The reason she was on the list was because she had saved the life of Pemper’s mother and he was one of the people making the list,” the sisters wrote in their email.
“In Auschwitz, she saved some girls - even during Mengele’s selection process. All the time we hear more and more things from people who knew our parents, who come to the museum and tell us. This is unbelievable. We are surprised every time anew. They were very different and special people.”
The 2016 B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportaģe ceremony was held on July 7, 2016, and was covered by The Times of Israel and Haaretz.
Winners of the award, which recognizes excellence in Diaspora reportage in Israel print, broadcast and digital media, were Amanda Borschel-Dan, the Times of Israel’s Jewish World editor and Allison Kaplan Sommer, staff writer at Haaretz. Both journalists submitted an impressive array of articles on Diaspora communities and Israel-Diaspora relations published during 2015.
>> Click here for a full recap, including video and photos
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer delivered the keynote address, which was also covered by The Times of Israel.
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On Ron Dermer
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.
On the ceremony
The latter was awarded to the totally charming Idan Raichel, who, though he had to rush off to a performance, nonetheless decided not to cheat the audience at the awards ceremony at the Konrad Adenauer Center in Jerusalem and performed briefly before exiting. In accepting the citation, he spoke with a degree of modesty tinged with pride, saying that in several countries he and his group are regarded as the sound track of Israel, just as Édith Piaf is regarded as the sound track of France, and Miriam Makeba the sound track of Africa.
In a letter read to the lobby’s inaugural gathering, President Reuven Rivlin stated that while in “Spain precious communities were forced leave their faith, their life and the values they grew up and raised their families” five hundred years ago, “Spanish Jews are still with us, and we must not forget them.”
According to lobby founders MK Robert Ilatov and Ashley Perry, increasing numbers of the descendants of Jews around the world have become interested in exploring their heritage and reconnecting with the Jewish people.
“For many of us in this room who are the descendants of those persecuted and forcibly converted in Spain and Portugal, we know that it would have been impossible for our ancestors to have even dreamed of this moment,” said Perry, a former advisor to erstwhile Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and the founder of the Reconnectar NGO.
According to Spanish Ambassador Fernando Carderera, more than the requests of more than 4,300 Sephardic Jews for citizenship have been approved since the recent passage of a bill providing the descendants of the expellees with the opportunity to reconnect with Spain.
B’nai B’rith’s Alan Schneider told the Post that he believes that the new initiative sends a message to interested parties that Israel and the Jewish people reciprocate their desires and that “its going to be easier for them now to investigate their Jewish roots, to find out about Jewish tradition, learn about their traditions and how they relate to Judaism and eventually to decide if they want to take the greater leap of rejoining in a formal way with the Jewish people.”
“I think it also sends a message to the Jews in Israel and Jews around the world that there potentially is a much deeper margin of potential supporters, of family actually, there who feel close toward the Jewish people and the state of Israel and eventually can be called upon to be our supporters even if they choose to stay in their current status,” he said.
In a joint statement, B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich and B’nai B’rith International executive vice-president Dan Mariaschin said the lack of outcry against the wave of terror was disturbing.
“If a rash of terror broke out in any other democratic nation, most of the international community would be appalled,” they said.
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