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Post  Admin on Sun 01 Sep 2019, 9:51 am

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Home » Perspectives Papers » Israel Must Remain Vigilant in Its Relations with Poland
https://besacenter.org/perspectives-papers/israel-relations-poland/
Israel Must Remain Vigilant in Its Relations with Poland
By Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld September 1, 2019
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Memorial plaque in Kielce, Poland commemorating victims of post-war antisemitic pogrom, photo via Wikipedia

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,273, September 1, 2019

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: In view of Poland’s historical treatment of Jews, Israel must remain ever-vigilant that there be no falsification of history as Polish-Israeli relations develop. There is a strong desire in Poland to whitewash or otherwise minimize horrible events. Provided the Israeli authorities calibrate their statements and stick to the facts, they will maintain the moral high ground in the relationship.  

Polish-Israeli relations are very complex, in view of Poland’s past behavior toward Jews. Israel must be continuously alert if it is to avoid a falsification of history.

Consider the Polish Holocaust law, which was re-amended in 2018. The law has elicited many international reactions. The resulting publicity has shone a renewed spotlight on the massive participation of Poles in the murders of Jews during the Holocaust, as well as the country’s persistent antisemitism both before and after the war.

Many details have reemerged in the media. Historian Jan Gross was widely quoted. He documented in his book, Neighbors, the way the Jews of the village of Jedwabne were burned to death in a barn by Polish residents of the town during the Holocaust. The work of historian Jan Grabowski, who teaches at the University of Ottawa, Canada, also received a great deal of renewed attention. He and his colleagues detailed the mass murder of 200,000 Jews by Poles during the Holocaust, confirming the figure established by Polish Jewish historian Szymon Datner about fifty years ago.

For the first time, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) published a declassified US State Department document from 1946 that compared Polish treatment of Jews to that of German Nazis. It stated that after the war, many Jews preferred to flee even to Germany rather than return to Poland.

Best known among Polish antisemitic crimes in the immediate postwar years was the 1946 pogrom in the town of Kielce, during which 42 Jews were murdered. In 1968, 13,000 people of Jewish origin were stripped of their Polish citizenship and expelled from the country. On the occasion of the 2018 anniversary of that antisemitic purge, Polish president Andrzej Duda offered what the Washington Post called “a non-apology apology.”

More than 15 years ago, I interviewed the then-head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem, the late David Bankier. He said:

Most Polish underground organizations believed that post-Hitler Poland would be a country without Jews…. those who remained would have to leave Poland after the war. This view was expressed even in the Zegota organization, the council for aid to the Jews set up by the Polish resistance. Among them were people who endangered their own lives.

Bankier remarked that the belief that Poland was not a country where Jews should live was highly reflective of Polish feelings at that time.

A 2011 study by the University of Bielefeld found that 63% of Poles agree with this statement: “What the State of Israel does today to the Palestinians is in principle not different from what the Nazis did to the Jews in the Third Reich.” This percentage was substantially higher than in the other European countries where this poll was taken.

Polish diplomat Jan Dziedziczak, the deputy director of the Polish Foreign Ministry, complained about a text at the Yad Vashem museum that states that after 1939, most Polish police officers returned to duty under the German occupiers. It also says that in 1943, 16,000 Polish police officers – some armed – served under the Germans.

Yad Vashem states that the Polish police were employed “on a wide scale against the Jewish population,” and “had an active role in policing ghettos in occupied Poland and searching for Jews who sought refuge with the local population after escaping from ghettos and camps.”

The Polish police demonstrated “absolute devotion” to the Nazi authorities, according to Yad Vashem, “although a handful of cases of assistance to Jews by some officers also occurred.”

As long as Israeli authorities calibrate their statements and stick to the facts, they will have the moral high ground in the Israeli-Polish relationship.

A lack of sophistication, professionalism, or tact can easily upset the relationship. Israel Katz demonstrated this failing shortly after he became acting Israeli FM. Quoting former Israeli PM Yitzhak Shamir, he made the statement that Poles suckle antisemitism with their mother’s milk.

Katz spoiled what could have been an important Israeli diplomatic success – an official meeting in Israel of the four Visegrad countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia). Poland refused to participate, which led to the canceling of the meeting. This was unfortunate, as Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu had worked hard on improving relations with these countries. Katz’s words even drew the condemnation of pro-Israeli US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Katz would have served his country’s interests if he had fully apologized for his offensive and damaging statement.

Another Israeli who apparently does not know the meaning of calibration is controversial Hebrew University historian Daniel Blatman, who accepted the Polish government’s offer to head the Ghetto Museum scheduled to open in Warsaw in 2023. Blatman wildly attacked Yad Vashem in an article entitled, “Yad Vashem teaches the Holocaust the way totalitarian countries teach history.” The choices of what will be represented at the museum, and how those things are represented, can lead to serious future conflict.

Israel’s leading Holocaust scholar, Yehuda Bauer, has said that Blatman’s role is apparently to serve as a Jewish-Israeli fig leaf for the new museum, which is supported by the nationalist Polish regime.

The strong desire of many Poles to rewrite their country’s past requires Israel to anticipate coming problems. A current example is the discussion in Germany about establishing a monument in Berlin dedicated to Poles murdered during the German occupation. German atrocities should be remembered – even more so now, in view of contemporary developments in the country. Jews should be sensitive to atrocities committed against others, all the more so if they were committed concurrently by the very nation that exterminated its Jews.

In 1979, the “Polish” Pope John Paul II visited Auschwitz. There he said: “Six million Poles lost their lives during the Second World War, a fifth of the nation.” This was a semantic amalgamation. Three million Poles – whom the Germans saw as an inferior people – were killed by the Germans in racist murders, or 10% of the Polish people. Three million Polish Jews were murdered in a mass act of exterminatory antisemitism – more than 90% of the Polish Jewish population. The Germans considered the Jews to be subhuman, viewing them as bacteria and vermin.

The issue of a monument for Polish victims in Berlin was largely theoretical until very recently. During a visit to Poland just a few weeks ago, German FM Heiko Maas came out in favor of a German memorial for Polish victims of Nazi rule. He said: “Such a memorial is not only a gesture of reconciliation, it would be important also for us Germans as well.”

If the monument for Polish victims does materialize in Berlin, Israel and the Jews will have to make sure ahead of time that no texts distorting history appear on it.

View PDF

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ is a Senior Research Associate at the BESA Center and a former chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He specializes in Israeli–Western European relations, antisemitism, and anti-Zionism, and is the author of The War of a Million Cuts.
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Post  Admin on Fri 19 Jul 2019, 6:31 pm


http://jspacenews.com/10companies-didnt-know-involved-holocaust/?fbclid=IwAR33mnh0t8KiV1et6RQjzH4iKaXl07Ahw2lGOvyE5ZiNoE0HckqU5rLwA3A
10 Companies You Didn’t Know Were Involved in the Holocaust


By Erica Terry - March 3, 2017050948
Click through the slides to find out more about Nazi collaborators
Not all companies that collaborated with the Nazis or used concentration camp slave labor are as open about the past as insurance giant Allianz, which details its Nazi-era past right on its website. Though many companies have publicly apologized and paid restitution to survivors or descendants, many still obscure their part in this shameful era of history. 


Click through the slides to find out about the Nazi connections of some of these guilty companies.

http://jspacenews.com/10companies-didnt-know-involved-holo…/
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  HOLOCAUST STUDIES Empty HOLOCAUST DENIAL

Post  Admin on Fri 20 Jul 2018, 10:45 am

Zuckerberg defends Facebook users’ right to deny the holocaust
Jul 18, 2018 | 0 |
Zuckerberg defends Facebook users’ right to deny the holocaust
Mark Zuckerberg defended the rights of Facebook users to publish Holocaust denial posts, saying he didn’t “think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong”. In an interview with Recode published on Wednesday, the CEO also explained Facebook’s decision to allow the far-right conspiracy theory website Infowars to continue using the platform, saying the social network would try to “reduce the distribution
of that content”, but would not censor the page. Zuckerberg’s comments came the same day that Facebook announced a new policy pledging to remove misinformation used to incite physical harm. The CEO’s remarks to Recode have reignited debates about free speech on the social network at a time when Facebook is continuing to face scrutiny over its role in spreading misinformation, propaganda and hate speech across the globe.
READ MORE https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jul/18/zuckerberg-facebook-holocaust-deniers-censorship

Facebook should stick to German laws on Holocaust denial, Berlin says after Zuckerberg’s comments
Published time: 19 Jul, 2018 20:58
Edited time: 19 Jul, 2018 21:51
Get short URL https://on.rt.com/9aoj
Facebook should stick to German laws on Holocaust denial, Berlin says after Zuckerberg’s comments
FILE PHOTO. ©️ Ron Sachs / Global Look Press
Facebook must comply with Germany’s laws banning Holocaust denial regardless of its own internal polices, authorities gave a warning to the company CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, who said Holocaust deniers' comments should not be removed.
“There should be no place for anti-Semitism anywhere!” German Justice Minister Katarina Barley said in a Twitter post in response to Zuckerberg’s recent comments he made in an interview to the Recode technology news website. She went on to say that anti-Semitism includes “verbal and physical attacks on Jews as well as the denial of Holocaust” and is “punishable by us and will be strictly prosecuted” in Germany.
Katarina Barley
✔️
@katarinabarley
Für #Antisemitismus darf es nirgendwo einen Platz geben! Dazu gehören verbale und körperliche Angriffe auf Juden genauso wie die Leugnung des #Holocaust. Auch letzteres steht bei uns unter Strafe und wird konsequent verfolgt. #Zuckerberg https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/antisemitismus-studie-103.html
7:59 AM - Jul 19, 2018
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Her angry outburst was provoked by the Facebook’s CEO comments, in which he said that Holocaust deniers’ comments should not be deleted from the social network platform just because they “get something wrong.”

“There is a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened,” he told Recode on Wednesday, adding that, even though he personally finds such position “deeply offensive,” he still “does not believe” that “our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong.” Zuckerberg also said that he did not believe that Holocaust deniers “are intentionally getting it wrong.”

READ MORE: Facebook bans photographer who went ‘off to shoot some Christians’ for work

In Germany, Holocaust denial is punishable by law. Social media sites can face fines amounting to up to € 50 million ($ 58 million) if they fail to promptly remove such hateful messages. The social networks in Germany are obliged to delete “obvious” hateful content within 24 hours after a complaint is filed, while other reported content should be dealt with within a week.

“No one should defend those who deny Holocaust,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who actually introduced the so-called "network enforcement law” while he was a justice minister, said in a tweet, commenting on the recent developments. The legislation fully came into force on January 1, 2018.


Heiko Maas
✔️
@HeikoMaas
#Antisemitismus darf nirgendwo einen Raum haben.
Wer den Holocaust leugnet, den sollte niemand verteidigen. Im Gegenteil: Weltweit muss alles getan werden, um jüdisches Leben zu schützen.#Zuckerberg

FAZ.NET
✔️
@faznet
Guten Morgen, liebe Leser. Mark #Zuckerberg will Posts von Holocaust-Leugnern auf @facebook nicht entfernen und hat dafür eine sehr eigenwillige Erklärung: https://buff.ly/2mrkqUd

10:54 AM - Jul 19, 2018
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German officials are far from the only people concerned by Zuckerberg’s comments, which actually provoked quite a stir on social media. Some people criticized the Facebook CEO by saying that he is the one who apparently got something wrong.


Benjy Sarlin
✔️
@BenjySarlin
So apparently Mark Zuckerberg is under the impression there's some good faith debate going on over whether the Holocaust happened? https://www.recode.net/2018/7/18/17575156/mark-zuckerberg-interview-facebook-recode-kara-swisher … pic.twitter.com/ClLngQqesS

5:27 PM - Jul 18, 2018
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Others seemed to be offended by his comments, which they called “unacceptable and outrageous.” Some people also said the “Facebook leadership just … has no moral compass” and is not fit for the job it is doing.


Rabbi Shmuley
✔️
@RabbiShmuley
Unacceptable & outrageous remarks by @MarkZuckerberg about #Holocaust denial. Must clarify his remarks & make clear Holocaust denial is a willful and hateful attempt to trivialize murder of 6 million Jews. No room for Holocaust denial on @facebook... https://www.timesofisrael.com/facebooks-zuckerberg-says-he-wont-remove-holocaust-denial-posts/

1:36 AM - Jul 19, 2018
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59 people are talking about this
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Brianna Wu
✔️
@Spacekatgal
This is what gets me. Zuckerberg has been largely radio silent since Cambridge Analytica.

His first major media event since, and he just blurts out “Holocaust deniers don’t have bad intent.”

This wasn’t a mistatement. Facebook leadership just fundamentally has no moral compass.

1:49 AM - Jul 19, 2018
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Matt Stoller
✔️
@matthewstoller
Replying to @matthewstoller
My general point that no one should be doing the filtering of news for 2.1 billion people. But Mark Zuckerberg defending the sincerity of Holocaust deniers suggests that we may have picked the single worst person to do what is an impossible job. pic.twitter.com/j3GELcn0w4

5:44 PM - Jul 18, 2018
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Many people also disputed Zuckerberg’s statement that Holocaust deniers do not intend to do any harm and warned that allowing them to continue could lead to potentially dangerous consequences. Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said that “Holocaust denial is a willful, deliberate and longstanding deception tactic by anti-Semites that is incontrovertibly hateful, hurtful, and threatening to Jews.”

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

ADL
✔️
@ADL_National
Replying to @ADL_National
“Holocaust denial is a willful, deliberate and longstanding deception tactic by anti-Semites that is incontrovertibly hateful, hurtful, and threatening to Jews.” Read the full statement from our CEO @JGreenblattADL ⬇️

9:00 PM - Jul 18, 2018
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Others said that Holocaust denial could well be the first stage of a new Holocaust and lead to the revival of Nazism if left unchecked.


Steve Redmond
@sjredmond
The thing that most defenders of hate speech like Mark Zuckerberg don’t get is that it’s Stage 1 of a Holocaust. Hitler didn’t start the holocaust by hearding Jews into trains. He had to poison the minds of Germans first so that they would gain the “Lock them up” mentality.

11:12 PM - Jul 18, 2018
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AskHistorians
@askhistorians
Holocaust denial is not a “mistake”, Mr. Zuckerberg. It has a clear purpose: negate, distort, minimize, and trivialize proven facts about the Nazi genocides against Jews, Roma, and others. The goal is to rehabilitate the racist, antisemitic, xenophobic ideology of Nazism. [1/8]

7:25 PM - Jul 18, 2018
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The public outrage prompted Zuckerberg to issue a clarification to his statement just hours after his interview was published. “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that,” he said. He still tried to defend his position by saying that Facebook’s goal was not to “prevent anyone from saying something untrue” but to “stop fake news and misinformation spreading across our services” by essentially limiting such content’s distribution in the News Feed.

Still, some people apparently did not find his arguments to be convincing enough.


popular comedy account “the pixelated boat”
@pixelatedboat
Zuckerberg: Oh no! Our algorithm is promoting too much holocaust denial. Bad algorithm! Bad! Show people ... 5% less holocaust denial

3:40 AM - Jul 19, 2018
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Facebook has recently been involved in a number of controversies related to its policy of dealing with hate speech and offensive content. In March, the social network giant refused to remove a post containing a death threat against the UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. In July, however, it went as far as to remove excerpts of the US Declaration of Independence during the Independence Day celebrations after considering them ‘hate speech.’

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Post  Admin on Mon 26 May 2014, 6:07 pm

Responding to Holocaust Denial
http://www.aish.com/ho/p/Responding-to-Holocaust-Denial.htmlesponding to Holocaust Denial

We have a duty to educate the world. Here is one survivor’s harrowing story.
by Reuven Lewis, M.Ed.         
Recently, 8th grade students in a school district in California were asked to decide, based on information given to them by their teacher, if the Holocaust happened or if it was a 'scheme for monetary gain.' Rabbi Yaakov Salomon called this "blatant anti-Semitism, coming in the Rialto school system whose superintendent is Mohammed Z. Islam."

How do we as a Jews respond? I submit to you thoughtful readers that educating our own community and the world about what really happened a mere 75 years ago is the best approach. We have a duty to teach the world, an obligation that has become even more acute with the release of ADL’s new survey on global anti-Semitism that reveals that almost half of the world’s adults never heard of the Holocaust and over a quarter hold anti-Semitic views.
There is no simple way to begin to grasp the enormity of 6,000,000 innocent Jews being murdered by the Nazis just because they had Jewish parents. But one man's account may be a start.

Eugene Heimler is a remarkable man who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau, Buchenwald, Tröglitz and Berga-Elster, and lived to be an eloquent witness to the world and write about this unimaginable horror. Heimler became a psychiatric social worker and therapist and developed a model for overcoming trauma based on his experiences in the camps. He wrote about his experiences with a poet's sensitivity and realness.
Responding to Holocaust DenialEugene Heimler's book, Night of the Mist is a heart wrenching classic; it is the best way I have found of getting through to the current generation who think of 1940 as ancient history.
One incident will hopefully be enough to confirm the realness of this tragic time for the world:

And while all this flashed through me, someone leaned towards me and whispered in my ear the same words I had heard from the apparition that morning: ‘After the roll-call get away from Barrack No. 17. Danger….’
The SS officer was now standing in front of me. I felt that even the wind had stopped blowing… He looked at me, and as if mesmerized I looked back deep into his eyes. I do not know how long we were staring at one another. I do not know how long he stood before me.

A harsh shout brought me back to my senses. The ‘Appel’ was over. People were slowly dispersing. I knew that something was about to happen, that I had to do something. Half-conscious, I stumbled towards the electrified fence.

A long ditch ran between the electric fence and the back entrance of the barracks. If someone could no longer bear his dreadful existence and deliberately touched the live wire or chanced to rush against it in a fit of nerves, his body, struck dead in an instant, fell into the ditch and lay there until the “Sonderkommando’ came to take it to the crematorium. It was in this ditch that I took refuge after the Appel was over. Feigning death, I lay there motionless. Yet I did not understand myself why I did so: some unknown power seemed to have benumbed my senses, holding my thoughts and movements in suspension.

I had been lying there for a long time, watched only by the glassy stare of several corpses, when suddenly I became aware of a loud rumbling. Till then I seemed to have been in a coma, but this noise brought me back to full consciousness. I recognized it immediately – SS lorries were rolling into the camp. Almost at once they pulled up sharply before Barrack No. 17. The night was dark; only the headlamps of the lorries lit the scene. I held my breath and listened. Curt words of command were clearly audible. I knew what they meant: no one might leave the barracks.
With rifle butts, whips and bare fists they goaded my comrades from the barrack into the lorries. Now and again a shot echoed through the night. The minutes seemed endlessly long. Suddenly I sensed that someone was approaching the ditch.

“Well, what are we to do with these carcasses?” I could recognize the SS soldier by his voice as he addressed his companion. I did not dare to move my head or to look up out of the ditch. I lay there, my arms spread like the other dead bodies. His torch wavered over the corpses. “Look, that one’s still moving,” he yelled. “He’s moving, the stinking carcass.” Cold sweat broke out all over me. I knew that his machine-gun would be trained towards the ditch. I longed to cry out “No, not this way – I don’t want to die like this.” But I was paralyzed. A single shot rang out, followed by a dull groan, then quiet again. He must have finished off someone not yet quite dead – perhaps one of those who had been thrown into the ditch in the afternoon after having been nearly beaten to death.
Minutes passed.
Then the steps receded. They would probably make a special trip for the corpses in the ditch later on.
It was only now that I became aware of the screams and cries that filled the night. One after the other the lorries started off, loaded with human cargo for their fiery destination. The whispered stories that I had heard from the older prisoners about the gas chambers now hit me with dreadful reality. It seemed to be true after all – a thing which even here had seemed unbelievable.
Slowly I lifted up my head as the last of the lorries was passing through the camp gates with its wailing load. Barrack No. 17 gaped wide open in terrible emptiness. I had to get away from it, forget I ever belonged to it, get into some other barrack.
“Away, away from here…Quickly, quickly…”
On all fours I began to crawl along the ditch. I knocked into dead bodies – I climbed over them. My hands were smeared with their blood.
From Night of the Mist, pages 42-43.

If after reading this blood curdling vivid depiction of one day in a concentration camp, anyone could deny the experience of millions of tortured souls, their hearts and souls must be made of stone.
Get Aish.com's Free Email Updates.
But despite his unfathomable pain, Eugene Heimler did not become a bitter man. After much internal struggle he moved to England, became a therapist and started helping others overcome their trauma. With unbelievable courage, he even went back to Germany to work with the children of his torturers and began to create healing.

For anyone who wants to become educated about the Holocaust and healing from its wounds, I highly recommend three of Heimler's books, Night of the Mist, A Link in the Chain – A Journey from Auschwitz to Resurrection and Messages – A Survivor's Letter to a Young German. They are all newly published and information can be found on the Heimler website http://www.newholocaustliterature.com/

As Jews it is our responsibility to be a light unto the Nations and to heal the world in the Image of God. Let us use this opportunity in time to educate ourselves and the world about healing and overcoming the obstacles that stand between us.
Published: May 17, 2014
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Post  Admin on Sat 10 May 2014, 10:55 am

Eyewitness 1948 Fighting For The Jewish State
Inspired by renowned filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History project, American-born Eric Halivni left his day job seven years ago to begin documenting stories of eyewitnesses to the founding of the State of Israel for a series titled “Eyewitness 1948.”


Founder and executive director of Toldot Yisrael, a Jerusalem-based nonprofit “dedicated to recording and sharing the firsthand testimonies of the men and women who helped found the State of Israel,” Eric Halivni said his organization has collected 700 interviews until now and close to 3,000 hours of footage for a series titled Eyewitness 1948.

eyewitness 1948
Maj. Gen. (ret.) Elad Peled and Dr. Zimra Peled of Generation 1948. (Photo: Atara Beck)
These veterans of the founding of the Jewish State “were witnesses to history,” Halivni explained at a press conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem a week ahead of Israel’s Independence Day. “They happened to be at the right place at the right time.”


The material will become accessible at the National Library. Danny Streifler, director of Digital Photo Archive and Interactive Services at the Library, described the collaboration with Toldot Yisrael as “the perfect merge.”

Suzy Eban, wife of the late Abba Eban, famous Israeli diplomat and politician, participated in the Eyewitness 1948 series. She has since passed away – in 2011, at the age of 90. In the interview, she evoked the excitement prior to the vote at the United Nations General Assembly on Nov, 29, 1947, that ended in favor of the creation of the Jewish State.

“It was our life,” she recalled with passion. “Some people promised and voted against. Others we reached at the last minute and they voted for us.”

Eyewitness 1948: An Opportunity that Occurs Once in 2,000 Years
Maj. Gen. (ret.) Elad and Dr. Zimra Peled, who attended the press conference, recalled their experiences as fighters for an independent Jewish state.


“Today, you can’t find survivors of the American Revolution,” Elad Peled, 87, asserted. “To be part of Generation 1948 is something [to which] there is no comparison. We were looking to take part in this episode of Jewish history and to survive because [an opportunity like this] occurs once in 2,000 years.”
The Peleds, who both hold doctorates from Columbia University, met while serving in the Palmach – the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the underground army in British-Mandated Palestine – in 1946. Now great-grandparents, they were married on Jan. 18, 1948
Elad described his role as commander and head of the rescue effort in the northern city of Tzfat (Safed) after the British left and the Jews needed protection.
eyewitness 1948

Eric Halivni, inspired by filmmaker Steven Spielberg, created “Eyewitness 1948,” documenting stories of those who lived through the War of Independence. (Photo: Atara Beck)

“We thought we would die,” Peled said; they were thinking of the 35 courageous fighters – known as the Lamed Heh, the Hebrew letters representing the number 35 – caught trying to save the Etzion Bloc and subsequently slaughtered.
After the successful mission, “the [then] rabbi of Tzfat said the city was saved by two things: the prayers and the miracle that the Palmach arrived,” Peled said

In 1967, Peled served as Chief of Operations of the Southern Command in the Six Day War. From 1970 until 1976 he was director-general of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport.
Zimra, who later became a researcher and lectured at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, was a first-aid nurse in the Palmach; she joined convoys travelling between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in which hundreds were killed.

“There are some convoys I will never forget,” she said.
Even their personal love story was fascinating to hear, but that would deserve for an entirely new article.

Meanwhile, “the main priority is to try and interview as many people as possible within a short period of time,” Halivni said.
“This afternoon we’re going to another funeral of one of our Palmach chevra (group of friends),” Peled said. “We are disappearing every week.”
Written by Atara Beck
Staff Writer/Editor, United with Israel
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Post  Admin on Tue 06 May 2014, 2:44 pm

The Holocaust Survivors Who Fell in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence
Posted by: Anav Silverman  May 6, 2014 , 9:34 am

“But fear not, O Jacob my servant, nor be dismayed, O Israel, for behold, I will save you from far away, and your offspring from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and none shall make him afraid.” (Jeremiah 46:27)
War of Independence The Holocaust Survivors Who Fell in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence
Posted by: Anav Silverman  May 6, 2014 , 9:34 am

Hagabah troops practicing during the 1948 War of Independence. (Photo: Wiki Commons)
A special monument is located at the end of the trail that connects Israel’s Yad Vashem, the official memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and Mount Herzl, the national cemetery for Israeli leaders and fallen soldiers. Known as the “Memorial for the Last of Kin,” it commemorates the Holocaust survivors who fought and fell during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

These soldiers were lone Holocaust survivors – the last of their families – whose members had perished in Europe’s death camps. With no one left to continue their family’s legacy, these brave soldiers gave the ultimate sacrifice for the young Jewish state.
Shalom Tepper (Photo: IDF Blog)
One such survivor, Shalom Tepper of Radom, Poland was deported to Auschwitz and Majdanek concentration camps but survived, escaping to join the Partisans in the Polish forest, where he fought against the Nazis until the end of the war.

Tepper joined Youth Aliyah and immigrated to Israel in 1946 according to a report on the IDF’s official blog. Two years later, he joined the Haganah at the outbreak of the War of Independence and served in Battalion 33 of the Alexander Brigade, which stopped the impending Jordanian and Iraqi armies and had a significant role in repelling the invading Egyptian army.
Tepper fell in battle with the Egyptians in the Gaza Strip, where 89 Haganah soldiers were also killed in the Fallujah Pocket around the town of al-Fallujah.

On Israel’s Memorial Day, Tepper is remembered among the 23,169 fallen soldiers that died defending Israel throughout the wars and battles in the Jewish state’s history.
Another Holocaust survivor who fought in the War of Independence and also from Radom, Poland, is Eliezer Ayalon. Ayalon’s story is different from Tepper’s as he went on to marry and raise a family in the Jewish state following his army service in 1948, where he fought defending Jerusalem. Born Lazar Hirschenfeis in 1928, Elizer survived five different concentration camps and was liberated following U.S. army unit.  His entire family perished in the Treblinka extermination camp.
In an interview on the Yad Vashem website six years ago, Ayalon recalls his past.
(Photo: IDF Blog)

“I came here, a boy of seventeen, from a different planet, into a different planet. This is the country that that my father always said that every Jew had to come to and go to Jerusalem. The love of this country that was imbued within me by my parents from early childhood made me decide finally that I am going to Eretz Yisrael.
“The day that the State of Israel was established in May, 1948, I felt that I was coming back to normal life,” recalled Ayalon.

“So here I am right now, I have two married children, five grandchildren and one great-grandson. Three generations born and raised from the ashes of the Holocaust. Today I am the happiest man in the world.”
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Post  Admin on Mon 07 Apr 2014, 8:36 am

Hitler on Trial
http://www.aish.com/ho/i/Hitler-on-Trial.html
With the American press whitewashing the Nazi dictator, Jewish organizations staged a mock trial at Madison Square Gardens.
by Dr. Rafael Medoff and Mishpacha Magazine         
“Hitler’s eyes are curiously childlike and candid... His voice is as quiet as his black tie… He has the sensitive hand of the artist.”
This description of the Nazi dictator, which was written by a New York Times reporter in Germany in July 1933, was all too typical of American press coverage of Hitler during his first year in power.

The front-page article, “Hitler Seeks Jobs for All Germans,” presented the Nazi leader in sympathetic terms and provided him with a platform for long statements justifying his totalitarian policies and attacks on Jews.
The writer, Times correspondent Anne O’Hare McCormick, gave the Nazi leader paragraph after paragraph to explain his actions as necessary to deal with Germany’s unemployment, improve its roads, and promote national unity. McCormick lobbed the Nazi chief softball questions such as “What character in history do you admire most, Caesar, Napoleon, or Frederick the Great?”
The Times correspondent also described Hitler’s appearance and mannerisms in a strongly positive tone: Hitler is “a rather shy and simple man, younger than one expects, more robust, taller... His eyes are almost the color of the blue larkspur in a vase behind him.”

It was this sort of kid-gloved treatment of the Fuhrer that convinced American Jewish leaders close to a decade before the Holocaust that they needed to do something dramatic to expose the Nazi leader’s true nature. Eighty years ago this month, they found a way: They put Hitler on trial in Madison Square Garden.
A Moderate After All?
Relatively little was known in America about Hitler when he first came to power in January 1933. Some prominent newspapers rushed to print with unduly optimistic predictions.
“There have been indications of moderation” on Hitler’s part.
An editorial in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin claimed that “there have been indications of moderation” on Hitler’s part. The editors of the Cleveland Press asserted that the “appointment of Hitler as German chancellor may not be such a threat to world peace as it appears at first blush.”

At the White House, officials of the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraged such thinking. They were quoted in the press as saying that they “had faith that Hitler would act with moderation compared to the extremist agitation in his recent election campaigning...” They based this belief on past events showing that “radical” groups usually moderated once in power.
The news from Germany in the weeks following Hitler’s ascension to power contradicted those optimistic predictions. Professor Stephen H. Norwood of the University of Oklahoma, author of The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower, (Cambridge University Press) who is completing a book about American and British responses to Nazism during the early years of Hitler’s rule, told Mishpacha: “Several of the Western commentators most informed about German affairs reported in 1933 that Hitler’s policies and the Nazis’ savage anti-Semitic street violence had transformed Germany into a death trap for its 600,000 Jews. They considered it unlikely that German Jewry would survive beyond a generation.”

There were reports of hundreds of Jews beaten in the streets, jailed without charge, tortured, sometimes killed. Government-orchestrated violence and intimidation were used to force Jewish judges, attorneys, journalists, university professors, orchestra conductors, and musicians out of their jobs. Legislation dismissed Jews from all government jobs and banned them from a whole range of professions, from dentistry to the movie industry. The government even sponsored a one-day nationwide boycott of Jewish businesses, with Nazi storm troopers stationed outside Jewish-owned stores to prevent customers from entering.
President Roosevelt refrained from making any public statements about attacks against Jews in Germany.
President Roosevelt refrained from making any public statements about these attacks. “Had Roosevelt chosen to highlight the plight of the Jews, there is no question the American press also would have followed suit,” Laurel Leff, professor of journalism and Jewish studies at Northeastern University, told Mishpacha. “Presidents set the news agenda to a large extent, particularly on foreign affairs. This tendency was even more pronounced in Roosevelt’s case because he understood journalists so well and manipulated them so effectively.”
Professor Leff notes that at Roosevelt’s press conference on March 24, 1933, a reporter asked whether any organizations had asked him to act in connection with the “reported persecution of the Jews over in Germany by the Hitler government.” Roosevelt replied that “a good many of these have come in,” and they were “all sent to the secretary of state.” Says Professor Leff: “There was no follow-up.”
Hitler on Trial
That sort of journalistic whitewashing drove American Jewish organizations to seek dramatic new ways to expose the nature of Nazism and keep the plight of German Jewry in the public spotlight. In early 1934, the American Jewish Congress announced that it would sponsor a mock trial of Hitler before “the High Court of Humanity,” in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Numerous prominent nonsectarian groups, including the American Federation of Labor, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Actors Equity, quickly signed on as cosponsors.
German officials were furious. Two days before the trial, German foreign minister Konstantin von Neurath summoned the American ambassador in Berlin, William Dodd, to demand that the US government intervene. Dodd said that if the Germans had raised the issue earlier, “it might have been possible for Roosevelt to dissuade the leaders from such a demonstration on the grounds of hurting relations between our two countries.” But now it was too close to the date of the event to do anything.
The trial, called “The Case of Civilization Against Hitlerism,” was held on March 7, 1934. An array of major public figures took part. A former secretary of state, Bainbridge Colby, served as presiding judge, and Samuel Seabury, a prominent attorney, was the lead prosecutor. The Nazi German ambassador to the United States, Hans Luther, was invited to appear as defense attorney for Hitler, but he ignored the invitation.

Another member of the prosecution team was Arthur Garfield Hays, one of the most famous criminal defense attorneys of the era. Hays, who was general counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union, had been part of the defense teams in such high-profile cases as the Scopes Monkey Trial, the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti (Italian anarchists accused of murder), and the trial of the Scottsboro Boys (nine black teenagers accused of assault in 1930s Alabama). Hays had also assisted in the defense of five Communists accused by Hitler of burning down the Reichstag, the German parliament building, in early 1934. Perhaps inspired by the Madison Square Garden event, Hays would later help organize a “Counter Trial” of the Reichstag suspects, in London, to present their case to the public.
Extraordinary security measures were implemented in and around Madison Square Garden because of rumors that Nazi sympathizers planned to infiltrate and disrupt the event. Two hundred police officers, stationed 20 feet apart, ringed the building. Members of the NYPD bomb squad were placed at the entrances. Another 125 uniformed policemen, and 40 plainclothes detectives, provided security inside.
News reports mentioned several minor disturbances, but no major incidents. Police broke up a scuffle in the lobby between two ushers and two men who made sympathetic remarks about Nazi Germany. Two men claiming to be German journalists were ejected after refusing to show their identification. More worrisome was a group of about 50 members of the anti-Semitic “Silver Shirts” group, who presented valid tickets and were admitted. Once they took their seats, however, they were surrounded by detectives and evidently caused no trouble.
At 8:30 p.m., before a standing-room-only audience of 20,000, an American Legion bugler blew taps and the audience rose for a moment of silence in honor of those killed in Nazi Germany. A “court crier” then opened the event by calling out, “Hear ye! Hear ye! All those who have business before this court of civilization give your attention and ye shall be heard.”
Twenty-one VIPs from various walks of life appeared as prosecution witnesses, each making a brief presentation and summarizing Hitler’s offenses in a particular area or against a particular group. For example, New York University president Harry Woodburn Chase spoke on behalf of the academic community. Catholic magazine editor Michael Williams represented American Catholic opinion. Dr. Lewellys Barker, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, addressed Hitler’s exploitation of the German medical profession. Gustavus Kirby of the American Olympic Committee focused on the exclusion of Jews from German sports. Editor Stanley High spoke about the mistreatment of writers in Nazi Germany.

The strategy was to seek allies beyond the Jewish community by arguing that Hitler was a menace to everyone, not just Jews.
Two witnesses appeared on behalf of “American public opinion”: New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and US Senator Millard Tydings, a Democrat from Maryland. The senator was well known for his interest in the plight of German Jewry. In fact, earlier that year, he had introduced a resolution instructing President Roosevelt to “communicate to the government of the German Reich an unequivocal statement of the profound feelings of surprise and pain experienced by the people of the United States upon learning of discriminations and oppressions imposed by the Reich upon its Jewish citizens.” Behind-the-scenes lobbying by Secretary of State Cordell Hull ensured that the resolution was buried in committee protocols.
Only one of the 21 points in the indictment referred to Germany’s Jews. The emphasis was on Hitler’s suppression of civil rights and democracy in general. This was part of the strategy of the established Jewish organizations: seek allies beyond the Jewish community by arguing that Hitler was a menace to everyone, not just Jews.

No Defense
Since the German ambassador failed to respond to the invitation to participate, the mock trial concluded without any one representing Germany’s chancellor. A prominent local church leader, John Haynes Holmes, then took the stage to ask the audience to voice its opinion as to whether, on the basis of the evidence presented, Nazi Germany should be declared guilty of “having turned its face against historic progress and the positive blessings and achievements of modern civilization.”
Although the trial had lasted close to four hours, the New York Times reported that “at least 15,000” of the original 20,000-strong audience was still on hand and “roared their whole-hearted approval” of a “guilty” verdict. But one last bit of drama remained: A solitary shout of “No” was heard from a gallery not far from the speakers’ stand. Identifying herself as “just a woman who firmly believes in Hitler,” the dissenter “was surrounded rapidly by a confused mob, jostling, and booing.” Police hustled her into a nearby restroom “and forcibly dispersed the angry anti-Nazi crowd that had followed her.”

The conclusion of the trial was not the end of the matter as far as the Nazi regime was concerned. A week later, the German ambassador in Washington, Hans Luther, called on Secretary of State Hull to personally protest “such offensive and insulting acts.” Hull replied that he hoped that both the American and German people would “in the future exercise such self-restraint as would enable them to refrain from excessive or improper manifestations or demonstrations.”
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has been widely called a ‘moderate’ even as he brags at home how he has successfully played the United States.
It was bad enough that the US secretary of state would treat the violent Nazi persecution of the Jews and a peaceful, legal protest against the persecution as comparable. But the Roosevelt administration’s interest in protecting relations with Nazi Germany did not end there. The American ambassador in Berlin, William Dodd, used his contacts with prominent Jews in Chicago to prevent a mock trial of Hitler from being held for a second time in that city. According to Dodd’s private diary, President Roosevelt personally “thanked me for checking the Chicago agitation.”
                                                                                  Repeating History
“The phenomenon of Western leaders and journalists underestimating dictators did not end in the 1930s,” says historian Ronald Radosh of the Hudson Institute. “In our own time, Soviet leaders were wrongly depicted in the media as pragmatists who wanted to end the Cold War, Castro was hailed as a wise leader — especially by visiting Hollywood stars — and, most recently, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has been widely called a ‘moderate’ even as he brags at home how he has successfully played the United States.
“Sometimes it seems that few have learned the lessons that the past should have taught them.”
Reprinted with permission from Mishpacha magazine.
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Post  Admin on Sun 05 Jan 2014, 6:01 pm

HOLOCAUST STUDIES

Barbed Wire Haven
The Oswego refugee camp looked like a concentration camp, but it was the one bright light within a dark and shameful presidential policy.
by Michal Eisikowitz

The similarities were unnerving, but this was no concentration camp. Created in February 1944 in a landmark political decision, the Oswego refugee camp – housed in an abandoned army base called Fort Ontario – was a token gesture of rescue, a pressure-induced move approved in spite of President Roosevelt’s State Department, infamous for its complete apathy during the bloodbath that was the Holocaust.
In a joint humanitarian decision made by President Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle, with purported politick from American pro-Jewish organizations, the US committed to importing 1,000 refugees who had managed to enter Southern Italy, which had already been liberated by US troops.
In adherence to austere immigration policies, however, the refugees were not to be granted American citizenship – and upon the War’s end, were instead to be ousted back to blood-soaked Europe. Listed as “U.S. Army Casual Baggage” upon arrival in New York, the dazed immigrants were forced to sign papers promising they wouldn’t remain in the US. In the end, with the eventual intervention of thrust-in President Harry Truman, other government activists, and Oswego’s own locals, the decree was rescinded – closing a little-known chapter of valor in a book of apathy.
Known as the “Port City of Central New York,” and originally a stronghold of the fierce Iroquois Indians, unremarkable Oswego – current population 18,142 – rarely made headlines, save for some record-breaking 11-foot snowfalls. Yet with the establishment of the refugee camp in its midst, the upstate New York town earned an honorable place in history.
No Red Carpet
For most Americans, and particularly those who seethed at FDR’s seeming heart of stone regarding the rescue of Europe’s Jews, the 1944 turnaround decision to welcome 1,000 refugees onto American soil was startling.

Given FDR’s heart of stone regarding the rescue of Europe’s Jews, the 1944 decision to welcome 1,000 refugees onto American soil was startling.
Ruth Gruber, an ambitious young Jewish woman who served as special assistant to Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes at the time, was so shocked when she heard about the plan that she dropped her morning coffee to have a talk with her boss.
“Mr. Secretary, it’s what we’ve been fighting for all these years! To open doors. Save lives. Circumvent the holy quotas. What’s behind it?” Gruber – now 101 years old and living in Manhattan – writes in Haven, the seminal book she authored on the topic.
Sure enough, the rationale wasn’t completely altruistic. Yugoslavian refugees were streaming into Italy at the rate of 1,800 a week, getting in the way of a tired American military struggling to overcome the Fascists in a bloody series of battles. Someone had to deal with the “refugee problem” – and get rid of the road-clogging, tank-obstructing nightmare.
Even after the president acquiesced to US military pressure, agreeing to resettle the evacuees, he was still reluctant to roll out the red carpet, instead pushing to create offshore havens in Europe, Sicily or North Africa.
“The two world leaders we loved, Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, made eloquent speeches about refugees even as they barred them,” Gruber writes.

Later, Gruber discovered the primary prompter of the decision: a series of horrifying 1942 cables – suppressed by the State Department for over two years – had finally reached the Treasury, then led by Henry Morgenthau, an assimilated but identified Jew. The cables described Hitler’s atrocities in agonizing detail, including the systematic use of Zyklon B gas in eliminating European Jewry.
“I am physically ill,” Morgenthau remarked after reading the memorandum.

On January 16, 1944, Morgenthau personally visited the White House.
“On this Sunday morning, he was no longer Henny-Penny,” writes Gruber, referring to the president’s affectionate nickname for Morgenthau. “He had become a committed, anguished, passionate Jew. The suppressed cables had touched ancient roots.”
Six days later, Roosevelt created the War Refugee Board, and several months later, the decision to create an emergency refugee shelter in New York became official.
Enthralled by the notion that the infuriating isolationist barriers were being pushed aside – even just a bit – an unstoppable 32-year-old Ruth resolved to be a part of the action.

“These people coming here – they must be frightened, bewildered, coming to a strange land,” she told her boss Interior Secretary Harold Ickes. “Somebody has to be with them on their journey. Somebody has to take their hand.”
Ruth Guber, 1932Ruth Guber, 1932
With her fiery personality, knowledge of Yiddish, and impressive credentials – she accepted a fellowship in 1931 to pursue doctoral study in Cologne, Germany, becoming the world’s youngest PhD at the time at age 20 – an ecstatic Gruber eventually got the job.
Her immigrant parents from Brooklyn, in contrast, weren’t quite as thrilled.

“Are you crazy?” Ruth remembers her mother – a frum, shtetl-born woman – screaming into the phone. “Every day I read how they sink ships and shoot down airplanes. And my daughter has to go to Europe to get her head shot off?”
Dreaming of America
Even before Dr. Gruber landed in Italy, the selection process for the coveted 1,000 slots for shelter had begun. The President stipulated that the refugees should be those with no other haven available.
Demand for the slots was so great that the American official charged with choosing ''went to pieces,'' reported Ruth Gruber.
''I can't go on playing God; how can I choose who's going to live and who's going to die?'' the official said.
While most of the refugees were already registered in displaced-person’s camps at the time, food was scarce, sanitary conditions dreadful, and the Nazi fascist reign loomed only several miles away.

Word of the president’s invitation spread like brushfire, and people knocked on the US consulate doors day and night.
“Women and men weeping, people fainting from emotion, parents holding their children up in the air so we’d notice them,” Max Perlman, one of the team that had screened the refugees, later described to Ruth.
“You can’t imagine the excitement. Some of the men made whole speeches telling me how many years they had been dreaming about going to America. Others just wept openly…. I couldn’t tell them if they’d be accepted or not. These men were all alone; they had seen their entire families wiped out…the pain in their faces is still with me.”

In a deliberate maneuver, only 874 of the 982 hand-picked refugees were Jewish: Roosevelt didn’t want the venture to be pegged a “Jewish rescue project.”
The fortunate recruits – 525 males and 457 females – were assembled in an abandoned mental asylum in Aversa, Italy, each family arriving with its own shocking tale.
“My father was a Belzer hassid from Belgium,” remembers Naftali Weinstein, who was 9 years old at the time. “He was caught and killed by the Nazis in Rome just days before it was liberated.”
The three youngest Weinstein children had managed to cross the Alps to Switzerland with their mother, while Naftali and five other siblings survived by being shuffled between kind Italian Gentiles and Roman Catholic convents after making their way across the border to Italy. Now brutally orphaned of their father, with the oldest brother only 18 years old, the six Weinstein children still in Italy were prime candidates for the Oswego operation.
American military police help three little girls find their parents at the Fort Oswego Refugee Center. (Photo courtesy USHMM)American military police help three little girls find their parents at the Fort Oswego Refugee Center.
(Photo courtesy USHMM)

Miriam C. – a grandmother now living in New York who requested to be identified by first name only – and her family were similarly recruited after years in hiding. Her father, a young businessman and former community leader in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, had fled with his wife and two young children to Italy’s pastoral villages, where they attempted to blend into the Italian landscape.
“I was Maria; my father was Giuseppe,” remembers Miriam. “The Italians knew we were Jewish, but they kept quiet. Their motto was ‘live and let live.’”

Fifteen years old at the time, Abraham Dresdner’s childhood was more chaotic: together with his Belgian parents and 9 siblings, he’d been through three concentration camps before crossing Italian borders, after which he was immediately placed into a convent for safety.
“We didn’t care if it was Palestine or America,” he says. “My father said ‘the first boat that will leave this hell, that’s the boat we’ll go on.’ ”

Mrs. Grace (Rothschild) Aschkenasy introduced rich Yekkishe blood to the mix: her parents, both German-born, had married and lived in Milan pre-war. With the Nazi invasion of Italy, they moved to Rome – perhaps the only observant Jewish couple in the capital at the time – hoping that Pope Pius would protect “his” city. It was in vain: Mr. Rothschild was incarcerated there three times.
“The Fascists were very respectful; they used to call him ‘holy person,’ ” says Grace. “They even gave him a mattress to sleep on, and my mother – endangering her life – managed to smuggle his tefillin and Gemaras into the prison so my father could spend his days learning.”

In an ingenious move, Mrs. Rothschild – whose maiden name was Lehmann – claimed to be related to Senator Herbert Lehmann of New York, and threatened the Fascists to involve the senator if her husband wasn’t released.
The ploy worked, and upon his miraculous release, Mr. Rothschild and his family were offered refuge in Spain on condition they undergo baptism – but that was no option for the deeply religious, committed Jews. So when the Oswego recourse surfaced, Mr. Rothschild embraced the opportunity and packed up the family within several hours.

We Just Wanted Food
On July 20, 1944, a US naval convoy of 16 troop and cargo ships escorted by 13 warships set sail from Naples, with 1,000 refugees and hundreds of wounded soldiers aboard the Henry Gibbins, one of the flotilla’s larger vessels.
The journey was fraught with danger: hidden German U-boats still heavily mottled the Atlantic, with Wehrmacht fighter planes flying constantly overhead. Indeed, several nights into the voyage, German planes were sighted.
“They told us all to come on deck and wear life-jackets,” remembers Naftali Weinstein. “We thought this was it.”

The refugees were told to remain absolutely silent, the engines were turned off, and the U-Boat was unable to track the fleet.
The captain of the Henry Gibbins released black smoke to act as a camouflage, and thankfully, the ship was not attacked.

On another occasion, the ship’s sonar detected a U-boat. 
The refugees were told to remain absolutely silent, the engines were turned off, and the U-Boat was unable to track the fleet.
Conditions on the ship were far from luxurious, with tripled-tiered canvas hammocks for sleeping, overcrowded quarters, and far-from-gourmet food. But for most of the beleaguered refugees on board, it was more than satisfactory.
“Were the conditions good? It depends where you’re coming from,” says Abraham Dresdner. “After being hungry for four years, we just wanted food. And since many of the travelers were seasick, there were plenty of extra portions. I used to stand in line three times.”
“It was yetzias metzrayim (the Exodus from Egypt),” declares Naftali Weinstein. “That’s what it felt like.”

Unlikely shipmates, the American troops were kind to the refugees, plying them with gifts and sweets.
“One soldier gave me a piece of chewing gum, but I had never seen it before,” remembered Elfi Hendell, a Vienna-born woman now living in New York who was interviewed in a documentary. “I swallowed it, and he said ‘little girl, you’re not supposed to do that!’”
As the ship drew closer to American shores, anticipation mounted.
“I suppose I felt like a young Columbus, just waiting to see land,” Ivo Lederer told the documentary crew. At the time Lederer was a 15 year old Yugoslavian Jewish teen who later became a diplomatic historian and taught at Princeton and several other universities.
“If you’re coming from war-time, war-damaged Europe, to see this enormous sight – lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty – I don’t think there was a dry eye on deck.”
When it was time to disembark, the Rothschilds – with their young children – were allowed to take the lead. Photographers shoved cameras into the passengers’ faces; reporters bombarded them with questions. Incredibly, a photo of the alighting Rothschild family that splashed the front pages of most national newspapers the following day was the catalyst for a long-awaited family reunion.

“My mother’s brother – who’d been in America for years and completely lost touch with my mother – was sitting on a park bench in Washington Heights, and the fellow next to him was scanning the paper,” recounts Grace (Rothschild) Aschkenasy. “My uncle jumped when he saw the photo: ‘that’s my sister,’ he shouted!”
Welcome to Oswego
For some of the refugees, the disembarking experience was traumatic, a seeming repeat of the horrors of Europe. Under the presence of armed guards, and without any explanation, the refugees – nearly 100 of whom had been in Buchenwald or Dachau – were immediately sprayed for delousing. Then, they were told they’d be boarding a train. Several passengers began screaming.

They were told they’d be boarding a train. Several passengers began screaming.
“Of course we were scared,” says Abraham Dresdner. “After all, trains were not a popular thing for us in Europe.”
After a two-day train ride, their apprehension spiked upon sighting barbed wire fences. Dr. Gruber and her associates attempted to subdue the terrified passengers.
“’How could you do this!?’” Gruber remembered one refugee crying upon seeing the camp. “’In the free America. It’s another concentration camp.’”
"I remember being behind the fence and the people from Oswego came to look at us," Rena Romano Block once told the Chicago Tribune. "Someone said 'what do they think we are? Monkeys in a cage?’”

Fenced in camp (Photo courtesy Safe Haven Museum)Fenced in camp (Photo courtesy Safe Haven Museum)
But when smiling Oswego residents began passing milk and food through the fence, the refugees finally began to calm down: this was different from the reception in Buchenwald.
Food wasn’t the only item donated: toys, clothing, and even bicycles were thrown over the fence. Ms. Block, now 78 and living in Baltimore, caught a doll. She remembers being thrilled – she’d lost her only doll in Italy before boarding. Upon taking a tour of her assigned Oswego shack, one of the women in the group began to cry.
“Why are you crying?” a compassionate Dr. Gruber inquired. “I know it’s spartan, but at this time it’s the best we can do.”
“I’m crying because I haven’t seen bed sheets in five years,” the woman explained.

Both Dr. Gruber and the Oswego residents continued to extend kindness throughout the refugees’ 17-month stay. When Manya Breuer of Berlin became the first bride in the camp, Dr. Gruber lent her own mother’s wedding veil, and a benevolent local donated her wedding ring.
Censored but Safe
For their first month in the camp, the refugees were quarantined, and even relatives who’d traveled hours to Oswego to greet their loved ones were refused entry.
After that, the refugees could obtain passes allowing them to go into Oswego for up to six hours. Children were enrolled in public schools, but adults could not obtain jobs. Educated men who could speak seven languages were assigned such degrading tasks as shoveling coal. And because the refugees came from enemy countries, mail was censored and customs confiscated numerous packages. Uniformed military personnel stood guard at the gate.
In a tragic twist, one resident died in freak coal mine accident, leaving a wife and four children. He’d survived the horrors of the Holocaust, only to meet his end in the forests of New York State.
Sixty-nine years later, some of the refugees look back at the arrangement with resentment.
''I'd known what prison was. I'd lived behind bars in Italy. But I'd never known freedom,'' Walter Greenberg, who was 11 years old at the time, told the New York Times. ''In America, I looked out at the rest of the world and I saw normal people with everyday lives, and I felt deceived.''

“It was a bittersweet mixture,” concurred Adam Munz, now 86, a Belgian native. “We were free, yes, but our freedom was restricted in many, many ways.”
Other survivors, however, deride the griping as contextually inappropriate.
The refugee camp (Photo courtesy  Safe Haven Museum)The refugee camp (Photo courtesy  Safe Haven Museum)
“We were in a bubble of safety; we weren’t being chased to death at every moment,” Maurice Kamhi, who’d made his way from bombed-out Sarajevo to Italy, explained in a documentary. “What an amazing thing.”
“So what if you didn’t have a Cadillac?” Miriam C. from New York told Mishpacha. “All my parents kept on saying was ‘Thank God, we’re alive.’ ”
“It was paradise,” affirms Abraham Dresdner. “The camp was clean; there was food.”

“Being confined didn’t bother me at all,” says Naftali Weinstein. “We were in school during the week; on Sundays we got to go around town. We had sports, we had food, we had shelter. We even had a house with steam.”
Naftali recalls that the Agudah sent a shipment of shoes and clothing to the refugees. “I still remember the winter coat I got; it was warm, with a hood. I also got proper leather shoes – until then, I’d been wearing paper shoes.”

Naturalized
Inasmuch as the refugees tried to create a community within the camp, their uncertain futures cast a shadow of dread. Almost no one wanted to return to Europe – their inevitable fate.
“I would…find it impossible to live in a country where all my family have been killed,” wrote Richard Arvay, an Austrian writer and filmmaker, in a 1944 document stating his desire to stay.
Pro-Jewish organizations lobbied intensively to procure citizenship status for the refugees, as did First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt – who made a personal visit to the camp accompanied by Mrs. Henry Morgenthau. Still, FDR remained adamant that they be sent back.
Ruth Guber, 2012Ruth Guber, 2012
In April 1945, Ruth Gruber compiled a report about the camp, concluding with her firm belief that its “nearly Americanized” residents should be allowed in as part of the country’s regular quotas: “It is time we showed that this administration has a policy of decency, humanity, and conscience and the guts to carry that policy through,” she wrote.
Then, in perhaps blatant Divine intervention, the beloved President Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, just days before the war’s end.

Yet even with the main impediment removed, the fate of the refugees still hung in the air. Rumor had it that they were scheduled for deportation on June 30, and the despondency in the fort was palpable.
A committee that included Eleanor Roosevelt, Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, and Joseph Smart – the original director of Fort Ontario who resigned from his position to better advocate for the residents he’d become attached to – worked tirelessly to win support for the refugees.

Even the mayor of Oswego, along with 27 leading locals, sent a signed petition to President Harry Truman and to Congress, imploring them to grant the refugees citizenship.
But Secretary of Treasury Henry Morgenthau, the Jewish politician credited by some as jumpstarting the Oswego operation altogether, couldn’t reconcile himself with posthumously defying the dead president’s orders.
“You’re asking that we change the instructions issued by the President…I can’t go back on my promise…I couldn’t sleep with my conscience,” he told the delegation from several Jewish refugee committees that had come to plead on the Oswego group’s behalf.
The breakthrough arrived when NY Congressman Samuel Dickstein, Chairman of the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, announced that he planned on investigating the camp. Before President Truman could act, a congressional delegation arrived at the camp and interviewed the residents.

Edmund Waterbury, publisher of the Oswego Palladium-Times who accompanied the delegation, risked his career in Oswego when he testified, "There is more talent in this group than there is in all of Oswego together, and I am not discrediting my own hometown, but when you get painting, sculpture, music, acting, dancing, and playwriting, they would do credit to a city of five hundred thousand population."
The delegation voted unanimously to allow the refugees to stay, and with continued political pressure, on Dec. 22, 1945 – eight months after Germany’s surrender – President Truman ordered the government to annul the refugees’ status as displaced persons.
“In the circumstances, it would be inhumane and wasteful to require these people to go all the way back to Europe merely for the purpose of applying there for immigration visas,” President Truman said in a speech announcing the directive.
By this time, 23 Oswego babies had been born, one couple had married, and at least two teenage boys had managed to sneak through some holes in the fence and hitchhike to Manhattan for a day of adventure.

“Roosevelt died just in time.”
To become legal immigrants, the soon-to-be citizens were bused to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls in Ontario, where they received visas and then returned across the Rainbow Bridge – finally free.
“Roosevelt died just in time,” reflects Abraham Dresdner, now a great-grandfather many times over. “My father had signed the papers originally because ‘to get out of hell, you sign whatever it takes.’ He took a gamble, and thank God, it was worth it.”
Too Little Too Late
Nearly 70 years have passed since those first refugees stepped through the gates at Fort Ontario, and plans are underway for a 2014 reunion. Attendance will be sparse: as of June 2013, less than 100 are still alive.
Successful as it was in saving 1,000 lives, Dr. Schum of Oswego’s Safe Haven Museum says modern historians actually view the rescue operation as an embarrassing chapter in American history. Had the Oswego shelter been replicated in other locations, they argue, as many as 100,000 Jews could have been saved – even at the late date of 1944.
Perhaps the most ignominious example of America’s refusal to intervene was the turning away of the MS St. Louis, a German oceanliner packed with 937 desperate Jews, about a quarter of whom were eventually gassed.
“The good part about Oswego is that 1,000 innocent men and women went on to lead meaningful, productive lives,” says Dr. Schum, “The bad part is that this is all we did.”
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Most of the original Oswego residents ultimately became successful doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. One was part of the team that developed the world’s first CAT scan. Another worked in espionage, helping to dismantle atomic bombs in Russia. Almost all went on to raise families.
“The Oswego refugees made their mark on this country,” says Dr. Schum, who has developed close ties with some of the former residents. “Who knows what we could have done had we opened our gates to more.”
This article originally appeared in Mishpacha Magazine and is reprinted with permission.


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