Monday, March 14, 2016

Connecting to my Jewish Roots


By Alana Luttinger 

For the past four months I have been an intern at Yad Vashem in the International Relations Division. Before this internship, I had been to Yad Vashem twice: once with my family, and once with Birthright. During both of these trips, I only saw a small portion of what Yad Vashem had to offer. But throughout my internship here, I have learned how substantial the organization is, and I have had the opportunity to see so much of the vital work being done here. One aspect of my internship is to accompany special visitors to Yad Vashem, often to the Holocaust History Museum, but sometimes to places more "behind-the-scenes." Through these tours I have learned a great deal about the Shoah than I had previously learned in high school and grade school. Before my internship, I hadn’t known much other than that six million Jews were murdered. Since coming to Yad Vashem, I have learned more about the terrible suffering of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, but also about the occasional moments of light.

One of these moments of light that I found a true connection with, and will remember for the rest of my life, is the story of Irena Sendler. Irena was a young non-Jewish woman who went against the norms of society and with the help of some friends was able to save around 2,500 children from the Warsaw ghetto. Even while in prison, Irena never gave the name of a single child she had saved. The tree that was planted in her honor at Yad Vashem in recognition of her as a Righteous Among Nations is located just before the entrance to the Holocaust History Museum, and visitors often begin their tour with her story.


Alana standing next to Righteous Among the Nations, 
Irena Sendler tree

Since hearing Irena’s story, I have found myself striving to become a better person. As a young adult who has recently graduated college, I am struggling to become my own person, an individual among millions. Irena Sendler has become my role model, and someone I strive to emulate. While Yad Vashem honors many Righteous Among Nations each year, what makes Irena special to me is that when she was honored a number of years ago and when she stood up to speak at the ceremony, she apologized. She said she was sorry she hadn’t done more, sorry she had not saved more people. While six million Jewish people were murdered and millions did nothing, this one woman saved thousands. My hope is that one day instead of being a quiet girl who is afraid to speak her mind, I will become more like Irena, who knew that there was wrong in the world, and instead of being a passive observer took action.

While some people see the Holocaust as an event of the past, the antisemitism that fueled it is still very much a problem in the world today. So, no matter how irrelevant some see the Holocaust to be, from my time at Yad Vashem, I have found it to be quite the opposite.

Alana in the Valley of the Communities, Yad Vashem
Another consequence of my time at Yad Vashem is the deeper connection I built not only with the country of Israel, but also with my own personal identity. This self-awareness came mainly from research I did on my own family background. I knew that my great-grandparents came to the United States starting in the early 1900s through the 1920s, but I had never known anything about the members of their families who remained in Europe. From my research at Yad Vashem, I now know that a couple from each side of my family came from the same city, Czernowitz. Out of all four sets of grandparents, my maternal grandfather’s family lost the most family members during the Shoah. With the recent passing of my grandfather, I fear that the identities and stories of his six aunts, uncles and grandparents who did not leave Europe will be lost forever. Without their names I cannot even fill out Pages of Testimony for them. For some like my family, where nobody is left to remember the names of those murdered in the Holocaust, I have found a connection to the family I lost in the Valley of the Communities. The Valley of the Communities at Yad Vashem pays tribute to the many towns and cities that were destroyed during the Holocaust. From my grandmother, I have learned that my maternal family was from Czernowitz, Romania and Szeged, Hungary. Finding my family’s home towns engraved in the wall of the Valley, I have been able to honor and connect to the memory of all those lost.

Due to this, I have come to realize how important Yad Vashem’s work is in gathering the names and stories of individual victims and survivors. Particularly important is the recording of survivor testimonies. Since my time at Yad Vashem, I have read and heard many such testimonies that must be recorded and passed down to future generations so people can never deny the horror of what happened to each and every one of the six million Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust

For instance, during my internship at Yad Vashem, I had the privilege to hear the testimonies of Hannah Pick – Anne Frank's childhood friend – and Berthe Elzon, a volunteer at Yad Vashem. Both women have very different stories but both experienced extreme hardship and saw more death than any person should ever witness. I even had the opportunity to type up the story of one woman who only recently sent the story of her experiences in the Shoah to Yad Vashem. Each of these individual stories make up the mosaic of Jewish life - and suffering – that we know as the Holocaust. 

Learning about the survivors, my family, and incredible people such as Irena Sendler has made me feel closer to my Jewish heritage, and makes me want to live a full, positive and meaningful life to make up for the life denied to all of the men, women and children so cruelly persecuted and killed during the Shoah.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

One of the Last Survivors of Treblinka Passes Away


Samuel Willenberg
Yad Vashem mourns the loss of Samuel Willenberg,  one of the last survivors of the German Nazi death camp Treblinka, who passed away at the age of 93. Willenberg, a renowned artist and author, escaped Treblinka during a revolt in August 1943. Together with other survivors, he became an outspoken eyewitness of the horrors that took place during the Holocaust.

As we move further away from events of WWII, surviving eye witnesses are sadly becoming fewer in number. Nevertheless, the survivors' stories live on through testimonies, diaries, letters and other documenatation that can be found at Yad Vashem.

Below is an interview with Samuel and his wife Ada Willenberg with the Yad Vashem International School for Holocaust Studies from 2011.

An Interview with Samuel and Ada Willenberg
By Sheryl Ochayon

My colleague Liz Elsby and I sat down to interview Samuel Willenberg on Sunday, December 4, 2011 in his apartment in Tel Aviv, Israel. His wife, Ada, herself a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, sat with us, plied us with tea and pastries, and added to our knowledge and to the discussion.

Samuel was born in 1923 in Czestochowa, Poland. When the Germans invaded Poland he was 16 years old, but he enlisted in the Polish Army in order to fight against them and was wounded severely. His family moved to Opatow for a time. In the fall of 1941, while hiding from the Germans, his two sisters were arrested in Czestochowa. His parents managed to survive in Warsaw with false documents. Samuel himself was taken together with the Jews of Opatow to Treblinka, when the Opatow ghetto was liquidated. He spent about ten months at forced labor in the Treblinka death camp, and participated in the revolt there on August 2, 1943. Later, Samuel joined the Polish underground and took part in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. For his bravery he was awarded the Virtuti Militari medal, the highest military commendation in Poland, and the Komandorski Order of Polonia Restituta. He made aliyah to Israel in 1950.

Treblinka was the most lethal extermination camp of Operation Reinhard, where approximately 870,000 Jews were murdered during the thirteen months that the camp was in operation, from July, 1942 through August, 1943. Currently it is believed that there are only two survivors of Treblinka who remain alive in the world: Samuel and Kalman Taigman.

Samuel has created a series of fifteen sculptures that are scenes from Treblinka. They have been displayed in Germany, in Poland and in Israel.

Samuel, where did you learn to create art?

My father was an artist – I guess I have the genes.

Did you draw when you were a child?

My father was a painter. My mother didn’t allow me to pick up a pencil - she didn’t want me to be a poor artist!

So you never learned to draw? It came to you naturally?

Yes.

In the camps, did you ever think about art?

No. In the extermination camps I didn’t think of art; the sculptures I did later, after the war.

My artistry is my memory – my ability to remember what my eyes saw… I remember pictures. I see the pictures from “there”, even today.

How did you start sculpting?

When I retired[1], I took courses in art at a local university in Tel Aviv (“University Ammamit”) . I began with painting but I decided to sculpt.

The sculptures that you sculpt, are they connected to what you experienced? Do they somehow “translate” pictures that you have in your head?

Yes! When you see my sculptures – you see Treblinka.

When you do a sculpture, would you say that you sculpt more for the purpose of making art or for the purpose of documentation, in order to document what happened?

Definitely for purposes of documentation. The first sculpture I did was the “Scheissmeister”[2].

The Scheissmeister (1999-2000)
Why was that the first?

Because it’s a symbol of German cynicism, a symbol of EVERYTHING. [Samuel says this through clenched teeth]. With the clothing of the hazzan[3], with the clock, because of this I did it first…. He is screaming. He’s screaming to the heavens. But God is not there. There is no God.

Which sculpture do you think is the strongest?

Everyone thinks a different sculpture is the best. My wife likes the sculpture of the father helping the son take off his shoes. This is what happened right before they went to the gas. This is what the whole history of the Shoah looks like.

Can you tell us more about the sculpture of the little boy with the father helping him to take off his shoes?


Father helping his son take off his shoes
before entering the gas chambers at Treblinka
(2002), detail
Yes. You need to understand where this is happening - that it’s not just a father helping the boy off with his shoes at home – this is happening on the way to the gas chamber. That’s the explanation - it changes the whole meaning. The little boy is holding a string, because the “reds”[4], the people with the red armbands on the ramp[5], gave strings to the people getting off the train and told them to tie their shoes together.
… This scene with the boy and the father - I saw this happen. I was next to them. I saw the people that this happened to. It happened near a barrack. I saw it happening! Others were taking off their shoes, but by themselves. And then afterwards, I saw the scene always before my eyes. I still see these things today.

After you finish a sculpture, how do you feel?

After I finished the Scheissmeister, I felt like him – like the Scheissmeister. I relived the situation, I was part of him. That’s why he is screaming. 

How did you feel while working on a sculpture?

When I was sculpting it was impossible to bother me, to talk to me, until I finished sculpting. I become the sculpture; I am inside it.

Ada: When he sculpted, he was “inside” it; he was agitated.

Samuel: But when I finished, I never felt relief. There is no relief! It never gets easier to bear. I only felt a kind of satisfaction.

Every time I made a sculpture, I saw the scene – I lived it. The scene with the boy and the father - I saw this happen. And then afterwards, the scene was always before my eyes.

So the sculptures tell your story instead of you?

Ada: Why instead of him? He tells his story, too – he has told it to groups in Treblinka more than 30 times. He talks to groups in Israel that come from all over the world.

How long does it take you to do a sculpture?

Each is different, but all the sculptures of Treblinka I did in 3 years. I don’t make all the details exact.

Do you still sculpt? No, there wasn’t anyone to sculpt for. The Israeli newspapers didn’t even cover the exhibitions. I had a well-publicized and well-reviewed exhibition in Warsaw, though. In my exhibition in Warsaw, the caretaker wrote beautifully about my sculptures that they were “grotesque” and showed “the most tragic moments of extreme horror”; she wrote, "The tormented figures of the camp are returning back to life."

Did you ever sculpt anything that happened to you after Treblinka?

No, only Treblinka. Treblinka was the most…No, the rest is the history of Poland.
But I did create maps – actually drawings – of Treblinka. These were made on the basis of the measurements of the camp recorded in 1944 and published in 1946 in the first Bulletin of the Central Commision for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, a commission created after the war by the provisional Polish government to take evidence of the crimes. I created the drawings in 1981, when my book first came out. Many models of Treblinka have been made throughout the world on the basis of these renderings.

Which sculpture was the most difficult for you to do because it involved the most painful incident for you?

Samuel Willenberg with one of the maps
 he drew of Treblinka

The most difficult sculpture to do was the sculpture that I didn’t do. It’s the sculpture of when I discovered the truth about my sisters[6]. I wasn’t able to make this sculpture. Not at all.

Ada: He relives this incident all the time. On one hand, he is full of the joy of life. On the other hand, he still “sees” this all the time, he remembers.

Samuel: I return to it every single day – I live it, even if I don’t want to, alongside my day-to-day life.

What do you think of artists who make Holocaust art without having experienced the Holocaust?

This is normal – in every time, in every era there are artists who never see the incidents they represent in their art.

Do you think there are any limits to Holocaust art?

It depends on the artist. It depends whether history accepts the art. It depends on the trends – you can’t know in advance. Look at expressionism – the colors they used. Cubism. It’s the same thing – it’s normal.

There are sculptures with a lot of details, and there are those with less. Why is that?

I didn’t want to create naked women. But [in the sculpture of women on their way to the gas chambers, created in 2000] there are a lot of suitcases – because the Holocaust was not just murder, it was also robbery. And what a robbery!

Which sculpture do you feel is the most important?

There are two: the first is the sculpture of the uprising itself. It shows the heroism of the Jews in trying to destroy Treblinka[7]. You know, rebelling in a death camp was a very difficult thing. It was not easy to organize an underground – many prisoners were strangers to each other, and each was afraid of the other because there were informers among the prisoners who might tell the Germans about any conspiracy to revolt. It was a different situation than the uprisings in the ghettos, where there were youth groups and everyone knew each other, relied on each other and trusted one another. In Treblinka it was dangerous to let people in on the secret of the underground because this invited betrayal. I wrote in my book about a prisoner called Kronenberg, a journalist who had worked for Chwila, a Polish-language daily Zionist newspaper published in Lwow. He was entrusted with the secret of the uprising. One day he was caught by the Nazis for not working, and was taken to the Lazarett. As soon as he realized he was about to be killed, he tried everything to save his life, including telling the Germans that there was an underground in the camp, and promising to tell them everything he knew about it if they would only let him live. 



The Treblina inmates' revolt, August 2, 1943 (2002-2003)
In the sculpture of the revolt you can see the young boys who removed grenades, pistols and other weapons from the Nazi’s storeroom. One of them is handing over a grenade that was hidden in a bucket used for potatoes. These weapons were delivered throughout the camp. You can also see the overturned baby carriage used by my best friend in the camp, Alfred Boehm, to collect garbage. Alfred was the liaison between the boys and the rest of the camp. He was killed in the gunfire during the uprising – I found him slumped next to his carriage. I am the man on the right, escaping with a gun in my hand. 

The sculpture of the escape is also important. It shows what happened when the prisoners in the camp tried to escape while trying to dodge gunfire from the Ukrainian guards in the watchtowers. The camp was surrounded by two rows of barbed wire, but also by anti-tank barriers. Many of the prisoners who tried to escape were killed while trying to climb over the wires, and in order to escape I actually had to climb over the bodies of my friends who were killed there[8]. I was wounded in my foot during the escape.

Can you tell us the story of Ruth Dorfmann?[9]

I was not a frissiere (barber)[10]; there was a group of barbers but I was not one of them. Suddenly a big transport arrived, so Kiwe, the SS-man, grabbed some of us to help. I wore the white robe, and I had the scissors, in the “jupa” – the hut that the Germans built. I cut her hair cleanly, for a reason. I did more than I had to – I made it a clean haircut, because if I had just cut randomly here and there, they [the women] would have understood [that the haircut was not for purposes of disinfection, as the Germans told them, but that they were going to be killed. –Ed.] I cut cleanly, as though with a razor, to make it smooth. For a reason. And this girl started talking. She had come from the Warsaw ghetto. She was beautiful. She was naked. And in the background there was fog, like mist, that was rising from the ground, from the warm clothing left on the ground, from the body heat left in the clothing, and maybe also because the women had urinated. They had just come from the big room where all the women were forced to take off their clothing, into a smaller room, through some doors. So in the background there was mist rising from the clothing. And she started talking. She said, “I am Ruth Dorfmann.” I remember! She said, “I have a diploma.” She had learned in the ghetto. She was about 20, my age.

How old were you?

I was 19, turning 20. I turned 20 in Treblinka.
And she was talking. She asked, “How long will it take?” She knew [that she was about to be killed]! They all knew!
You know, I made a sculpture of a painter who painted all the signs that were on the ramp. Why? Why? The Germans made signs: signs to Bialystok, a clock that didn’t really work. The Germans made it look like a real train station….[11] And it really looked like one.

Tell the story of the sculpture of the girl from Warsaw who lost her mind and stood with the piece of bread.

Ada: You know, Samuel knows the stories of Treblinka. But in the Warsaw ghetto – I was there – there were people dying of hunger, there were people who committed suicide, there were people who went crazy. I was lucky that I was still a girl – maybe I didn’t understand everything. But a lot of adults went crazy.

Samuel: Some killed themselves.
Half-crazy girl from the Warsaw
ghetto holding her last treasure-
a piece of bread (2002)

Ada: Many people went crazy. So simply, around January 18th, when Ruth Dorfmann arrived on the transport, many of the Jews living in Warsaw already knew where they were being taken. By January there were already instances where people had escaped from the trains on the way to Treblinka and came back to the ghetto and told stories – and we didn’t want to believe them. Even today I can’t believe what went on in Treblinka, so how could they then? I was about 13 years old in the ghetto. I remember that there were those who came [back to Warsaw] and told that they had escaped from the train, or from the camp itself – but people didn’t believe them. And then those who did begin to understand – some of them went crazy, and others committed suicide. And this girl, she was one of those who went crazy.

Samuel: It was winter. There was a girl who got off the train, and just stood there. Everyone else went inside the yard – “Schnell, schnell, schnell, schnell!!” [“Fast, fast, fast!” the Germans yelled]…

Ada: And they went in towards the “Death Road”[12].

Samuel: But this girl stood still. The barracks were just like the ones in Majdanek – they were actually stables for horses – just like in Birkenau. There were two prefabricated barracks standing together. Here there was an opening.[13] And suddenly Miete of the SS – the “Angel of Death” – told the girl to move forward. We saw her entering the sorting yard. He nudged her forward into the yard, like a child rolling a ball forward. And suddenly she saw all the people, all the colors, the open suitcases.[14]
And we[15] saw her. We stopped working and we all stared at her.

Ada: And she was dressed differently…

Samuel: You see that she was wearing high heels. She was dressed in all kinds of things she had probably found in one of the destroyed houses in Warsaw, where the people had run away at the last minute. And probably when they ran, they left shoes like this behind. They didn’t wear shoes like this!

Ada: I know – my mother was taken to Treblinka. And I know that every time we were called to assemble in a courtyard and rounded up for an Aktion, people wore layers of clothing – they wore as much clothing as they could. Because we believed we were being taken to a labor camp. So you wore a lot of clothing so that you would have a change of clothing – three dresses, several pairs of underwear. So people usually wore very practical clothing. And this girl… 

Samuel: She was dressed like a ballerina!

Ada: She was dressed like for a ball. With the high-heeled shoes.

Samuel: And she was staring with these eyes – it was abnormal. She was clutching a piece of bread to her chest. It was something extraordinary.[16]

Where did she get the bread? Was it bread that was given out by the Germans at the Umschlagplatz[17]?

Ada: No, I don’t think so. When the Germans first started the transports from Warsaw, the miserable people in the ghetto who didn’t have anything to eat would go to the Umschlagplatz because there the Germans gave them bread and jam.[18]
Afterwards, the Germans already stopped with this.

Samuel: It wasn’t in the first days of the transports [so the bread she was clutching wasn’t given to her by the Germans]. It was December, 1942 or January, 1943 – around when Arthur Gold[19], the conductor from Warsaw, came.

You don’t understand. I saw people, pass by – artists. People you’ve never heard of. And they were killed in Treblinka. It’s hard to explain what art there was! Culture. Warsaw was culture!

Tell us about the sculpture of Arthur Gold.

[The sculpture shows the trio of violinists that the Germans forced to play in the camp. They played popular prewar tunes. Samuel wrote that the tunes reminded the prisoners of years gone by, and “left us depressed and sore of heart. The Germans were pleased with themselves: they had succeeded in organizing an orchestra in the death camp.” Willenberg, p. 133].

Samuel: During the time of the exhibition of my sculptures in Israel, the Polish Ambassador came. I put a tape on the side, and while I explained the sculpture to the audience, I put on the music [of Arthur Gold]. I put on music and he cried.

Ada: You know why he cried – because my husband said, “We will stand here for a moment in memory of Arthur Gold. He isn’t alive anymore, no one remembers him, he has no grave, so we’ll stand here for a minute and listen to his music.” And the ambassador cried.

Samuel: You know why they dressed the orchestra like this [20]? So that the SS-men could make fun of them, and could laugh at them. To show them that they were nothing, that they were not men. To make them into clowns. This made it easier for the SS to kill them – it’s much easier to kill if it’s not a human being that must be honored.

What about the sculpture of the man with the baby carriage. 

Flaschensortierungkommando-
the nickname for the group of
Jewish prisoners collecting
glass bottles to eliminate the
signs of those killed at Treblinka
(2002)




Ada: You know that the Germans had a special department, the Flaschensortierungkommando.[21] Before the war there was no plastic, so everyone had glass bottles that they used in order to bring things with them – medicines, everything. And suddenly the Germans made a special work detail – a detail that collected all the bottles – they did this because glass remains in the earth and doesn’t disintegrate for thousands of years…

Samuel: The Germans were afraid that someone would find all these bottles, in the middle of the forest, and get suspicious: where did so many bottles come from? So the Germans made a new department to clean up all the glass.

What is the sculpture of the man without the leg? 


A Jewish disabled WWI German army
veteran in Treblinka, with his prothesis,
was considered unfit to walk to the
gas chambers and was sent to be shot
in Lazarett (2002)
Ada: This sculpture is of a German war veteran from WWI who lost his leg. He thought that if he came to Treblinka with all his medals, that he’d get some kind of special treatment, but they killed him just like they killed all the other Jews – they killed him in the Lazarett with a bullet because he couldn’t walk.

And the sculpture of the stretcher?

This is the group that had to clean the cattle cars – they took the corpses out of the trains at the time that the trains arrived. They were called the “Blues.”[22]





We are indebted to Samuel, and to Ada, for sharing their time and their insights with us and for allowing us to see Samuel’s wonderful sculptures, which bring the scenes of Treblinka back to life.



[1] Samuel was, for many years, chief surveyor in Israel’s Ministry of Construction and Housing.[2] The Scheissmeister was a prisoner put on duty to guard the latrine, so that no prisoner could spend more than two minutes there. As Samuel himself says in his book, “When the Germans noticed that the prisoners were going to the latrine too often and spending too much time there, Lalka [Kurt Franz, one of the SS men who later became the camp Kommandant, nicknamed “Lalka”, which means “doll” in Polish, for his “baby face” - Ed.] ordered the Vorarbeiters [sic] [Jewish foremen of a labor detail] to go to the storeroom and procure two rabbinical black suits and a couple of black hats with pompoms on them. Two prisoners were equipped with whips and ordered to don this getup. It was their job to make sure no more than five prisoners entered the outhouse at any one time and that they spent no longer than one minute inside. Alarm clocks dangled from their necks on strings. They were called the Scheisskommando – the “Shit Detail”. The Germans enjoyed their joke raucously….” Samuel adds that the Germans purposely made the prisoner who was the “master” of the Scheisskommando look ridiculous. “It was incredibly humiliating.” Samuel Willenberg,Revolt in Treblinka (Warsaw: Jewish Historical Institute, 2008), pp. 135-136, 273.[3] A hazzan is the cantor who sings liturgical music in a Jewish synagogue.[4] The “reds”, or the Transportkommando, were among the few Jewish prisoners who were kept alive in order to work for the Germans at Treblinka. A group of “about forty prisoners was engaged in the activities carried out on the square where the victims undressed. They directed the victims, relayed the German orders to undress, and distributed string for tying shoes together so they could be easily reused in the future without having to sort them….In Treblinka this team wore red armbands and became known as ‘the reds,’ or, in the prisoners’ special slang, the ‘burial society’ (Chevra kadisha).” Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 108.[5] By “ramp”, Samuel is referring to the train platform at Treblinka onto which Jews from all over Poland and a number of additional countries, as well as about 2,000 Sinti and Roma, disembarked from the cattlecars and entered the camp to be exterminated.[6] Samuel’s sisters were murdered at Treblinka. He became aware of this when, as he was sorting the possessions of Jews in the sorting yard at Treblinka, he found a small brown coat that had belonged to his little sister, Tamara, who was five years old. A skirt worn by his older sister Itta was clinging to the skirt, “as if in a sisters’ embrace.” Samuel was able to recognize the coat as his sister’s because his mother had lengthened its sleeves with bits of green cloth as his sister grew. Willenberg, Revolt in Treblinka, p. 72.[7] The uprising at Treblinka took place on August 2, 1943. As Samuel writes in his book, “It was a singular and unique day, one which we anticipated and hoped for. Our hearts pounded with the hope that maybe, just maybe our long-nurtured dream would come true. We harbored no thoughts of ourselves and our lives. Our only desire was to obliterate the death factory which had become our home.” Willenberg, Revolt in Treblinka, p. 180.[8] Samuel described the scene as follows: “The machine gun stepped up its bursts. Behind me, at the outer fence, tragedy. The brave ones climbed up the iron and wire complex only to be hit there by a bullet. They fell with screams of despair. Their bodies remained hanging on the wires, spraying blood on the ground. No one paid any attention to them. More prisoners climbed over the still-quivering bodies and they, too, were cut down and fell, their crazed eyes staring at the camp, which now looked like a giant torch…I crawled through the open area and reached the barriers….The dead had created a sort of bridge over the barbed-wire complex across which another escapee moved every moment…With a leap, I climbed the bridge of bodies. I heard a shot, felt a blow – but another jump, and I was in the forest….” Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p. 292. [9] The sculpture of the girl whose hair is only partially cut is connected to the story of Ruth Dorfmann. The events that Samuel describes here occurred in mid-January, 1943, when transports from the Warsaw Ghetto began reaching Treblinka every day after a letup of several months. At that time, Samuel was working in the sorting yard, sorting and packing up the personal effects of murdered Jews.[10] A group of ten to twenty men in the camp were forced to cut the hair of the women immediately before they were sent to the gas chambers. Samuel generally worked in the sorting yard, but in the incident he is speaking about, because of the size of the transport, extra men were needed to cut the women’s hair. Haircutting in the Operation Reinhard camps began in September or October, 1942, after the SS Main Office for Economic Affairs and Administration issued an order dated August 16, 1942 that provided, “care is to be taken to make use of the human hair collected in all concentration camps. This human hair is threaded on bobbins and converted into industrial felt. After being combed and cut, the women’s hair can be manufactured as slippers for submarine crews and felt stockings for the Reichsbahn.” Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p. 109.[11] Samuel is referring to the German’s blatant and painstaking use of signs (including other signs for “First Class Waiting Room”, “Second Class Waiting Room”, “Ticket Booth”, and so on), and other means of deception on the ramp to fool the arrivals at Treblinka into thinking that they had reached a harmless, pastoral train station in a transit camp and would be showered and sent on to labor camps. Victims were to be deceived until the very end.[12] The reference here is to the path taken by most of the people who arrived at Treblinka: they were taken and forced to undress, women had their hair cut, and then all were sent to the gas chambers. The Germans cynically referred to the path to the gas chambers as the Himmelstrasse – the road to heaven. Prisoners more realistically called it Death Road.[13] Samuel indicated, on the sketch of Treblinka that he drew in 1981, a space near the rear gate between two huts that abutted the train platform. This was not the way most prisoners were led into the camp; they went in through the main gate and never saw the sorting yard, which would have revealed all the secrets of Treblinka and given them clues that Treblinka was a death camp. This was purposeful deception by the Germans. [14] The reference here is to the plundered Jewish property. Suitcases were opened on the ground for sorting, and there was what Samuel himself describes as a “towering multicolored mountain” of property in the sorting yard. Willenberg at p. 79. [15] Samuel is referring to the prisoners working in the sorting yard, sorting through the possessions of the murdered Jews.[16] In his book, Samuel finishes the story of the girl: “Like an apparition from another world, she approached the sorters one after another, glancing at the contents of the suitcases as if she were visiting a market at a sidewalk of street peddlers. She wandered among us, showing us a gentle smile and terrified eyes. Stopping at one of the suitcases, she withdrew kerchiefs of various colors and flung them into the air, as if dancing. Work came to a halt; everyone contemplated this strange specimen of colorful Warsaw misery….Suddenly her skinny face froze with fear. Terror seized her from top to bottom, driving the madness from her….She contemplated us with the fear of a person who, with the intuition of an animal, senses that her end is near.” Miete propelled the girl toward the area of the sorting yard near where an innocent fence with interwoven pine branches camouflaged the Lazarett – the so-called “field hospital”, also disguised with a Red Cross flag. In the Lazarett, prisoners who couldn’t walk or would have held up the extermination process were killed with a gunshot to the back of their heads. The girl from Warsaw was killed this way in the Lazarett. According to Samuel, the workers in the sorting yard paid the little girl from Warsaw their last respects when they heard the gunshot. Willenberg, pp. 77-79.[17] The deportation area where the trains left with their human cargo. [18] This was a ruse used by the Germans to get unsuspecting, starving Jews to volunteer for deportation.[19] Arthur Gold was a well-known conductor of popular music, like waltzes and tangos, that was brought from the Warsaw ghetto and murdered in Treblinka.[20] In his book, Samuel describes the clothes the Germans forced the musicians to wear. “They ordered our tailors to sew jackets of shiny, loud blue cloth, and to attach giant bow ties to the collars. Dressed not as prisoners any longer but as clowns, they provided entertainment after roll call, day in, day out. …The music was usually accompanied by the tenor of the crane engine. The diligent machine kept on exhuming and relocating corpses in the death camp even after 6:00 p.m., for the Germans had decided to expedite the matter of covering all traces and burning the bodies. The moment the concert ended, the SS-men ordered us to march toward the entrance to the hut….”[21] Translated, the Bottlesorting Detail. The baby carriages and strollers of the children who were murdered at Treblinka were used by this work group to collect bottles, thermoses, jars and aluminum containers. Children’s strollers were also used by the prisoners to collect garbage. [22] “This group of forty to fifty prisoners worked at the train platform. The team’s job was to open the freight cars and transfer the orders of the SS man in charge to disembark from the train. After the victims disembarked, the team workers removed the bodies of those who had died en route and transferred them to the burial ditches. Then they cleaned the cars and removed any remaining belongings to eliminate any traces of the transport cargo. Two or three prisoners would clean each freight car, and within ten to fifteen minutes the entire train had been cleaned. In Treblinka the platform workers’ team wore blue armbands, and thus were known as “the blues.” Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, at p. 108.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Grandson of Polish Righteous Among the Nations Accepted Honor on their Behalf


When the Warsaw ghetto was established in October 1940, Mieczyslaw Ferster, a Jewish engineer who happened to be tall and blond, was begged by his friends not to report to the German occupying authorities. Stating that he would "go where his people will go," Mieczyslaw, his wife Janina (née Totenberg) and their five-year-old daughter Elizabeth entered the ghetto: two years later Mieczyslaw died, most likely from typhoid fever.

 

Left alone, Janina and Elizabeth managed to survive a few more months, partially thanks to money and packages sent to them by Janina's brother, Roman (Romek) Totenberg, a violinist who had left Poland in 1928 to study in Germany and France, and had then immigrated to the US. When a fellow Polish musician who owned a kiosk just outside of the ghetto heard that Roman's sister was incarcerated inside, he arranged for her photo to be placed on the ID card of a Polish worker allowed to enter the ghetto. Thus, one evening in July 1942, just before the "Great Deportation" of Jews in the ghetto to the Treblinka death camp, Janina walked out clutching her fake ID card, with little Elizabeth following behind, her blond hair and blue eyes belying the stereotyped "Jewish" features expected by the ghetto guards.




Maryla and Walery Zbijewski on a
prewar skiing vacation
with Mieczyslaw and Janina Ferster
Right away, Janina went to the home of her prewar acquaintances – Tadeusz and Eugenia Kucharski. The Kucharskis kindly took them in; the neighbors were told that Janina was the wife of a Polish officer stationed in the UK. When the Russians bombed the nearby railroad tracks in September 1942, the building in which they were staying suffered great damage. Janina decided to take Elizabeth to stay with her old friends, Maryla and Walery Zbijewski, who lived with their two children near the Vistula River. Janina wandered from place to place, supporting herself by selling the valuables she had left with another family before entering the ghetto.

 

Janina and Elizabeth spent the remainder of the war staying at the homes of various families in the countryside for a few days at a time, not revealing their Jewish origins. After the war, Janina became close to Pawel Kruk, a former neighbor, and they moved in with him. Pawel eventually adopted Elizabeth, and she took his surname.


In 1958, Elizabeth's uncle Roman came to visit his sister and niece in Warsaw. While Janina chose to stay with Pawel in Poland, Roman managed to arrange a student visa for Elizabeth, who studied biochemistry at NYU. In 1963, Elizabeth married Sherwin Wilk, and they had two children – Renata Janina and Susan Fanny – and two grandchildren.

 

With the help of documentation provided by Elizabeth Wilk, Yad Vashem was able to extend the title of Righteous Among the Nations to the two couples that rescued Janina and Elizabeth Ferster during the war: Tadeusz and Eugenia Kucharski, and Maryla and Walery Zbijewski. While the Kucharskis passed away with no known relatives, the Zbijewskis' grandson Wojciech, today lives in Baltimore. Wojciech accepted the medal and certificate of honor on behalf of his late grandparents at a special ceremony held on 27 January, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, at the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Restoration of Wartime Diary Reveals Life in the Warsaw Ghetto


Recently, Yad Vashem was honored to host Wlodek Tabaczynski and his daughter Zosia, who had come to see the incredible restoration work carried out on the wartime diary of Wlodek's father, Stefan (né Alfred Zielony).



Stefan Tabaczynski (né Alfred Zielony) and his wife Irena,
who rescued him during WWII
Alfred Zielony was born in 1897 in Warsaw, the youngest child in a Jewish family. His father and one of his brothers died before WWII, and another brother, Bernard, immigrated to Israel in 1921. The rest of the family remained in Warsaw, and were duly incarcerated by the Nazis in the ghetto. It was there that one of Alfred's sisters, Balbina, died of typhus. In August 1942, his wife and child were deported to Treblinka along with his mother, where they were murdered. Two other siblings were also murdered, and Alfred was left alone, hiding in the ghetto. After the ghetto was liquidated, a friend of his, Irena, who had worked in the family business before the war, managed to smuggle him to safety. At the war's end, Alfred changed his name to Stefan Tabaczynski and married Irena. Stefan/Alfred passed away in 1956, when Wlodek was just two years old.
 


Stefan/Alfred Tabaczynski with his son, Wlodek
In the 1950s, Alexander (Alex) Zielony, the son of Bernard (who had come to Israel before the war), visited Washington for government business. On his way back to Israel, Alex decided to take a detour via Warsaw and visit his aunt, Irena, and his two cousins, Wlodek and Andrzej. During the trip, Irena showed Alex the crumbling remains of a diary her late husband had written during his time in hiding. The diary had been severely damaged by fire and water during the Polish uprising.

In 2006, Wlodek came on his first trip to Israel and, at his cousin Alex's request, brought the diary with him. Alex immediately suggested giving the diary to Yad Vashem, in the hope that restoration experts could help the family save the deteriorating pages and even decipher some of Alfred's testimony.

 "The diary was in terrible shape," recounts Yad Vashem's Archives Director Dr. Haim Gertner. "It was little more than a mass of singed and crumbling papers. We treated it with immense care and expertise at our Paper Restoration Laboratory, first carefully separating the pages and then restoring and preserving each page as far as was possible. After years of painstaking labor, the diary now comprises twelve complete and four partial pages – although because of the difficult state in which they arrived, they are barely legible. While certain words and even parts of sentences – all written in Polish or German – can be made out, it was near impossible to understand the general context.
 

Alfred Zielony's diary: "Little more than a mass of
singed and crumbling papers"
Even employing the most advanced methods of handwriting reconstruction, police identification lab equipment and the help of antiques and other experts in Israel and abroad, we were still unable to decipher the diary, or even say with certainty when during the war or where it was written. Nevertheless, we were extremely satisfied that at least the diary itself had been saved." 

Last week, Wlodek Tabaczynski and his daughter Zosia came to Israel to celebrate the 100th birthday of Wlodek's cousin Alex. Dr. Gertner showed Wlodek Yad Vashem's online Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names, within seconds calling up all 18 Pages of Testimony Alex Zielony had filled out in 2008 for individual members of his family who were murdered during the Shoah. Seeing all of this information recorded for posterity was very important for Wlodek – a project manager – and  Zosia, who is a teacher.


Left to right: Archives Division Director Dr. Haim Gertner,
Zosia Tabaczynski, Wlodek Tabaczynski and Varda Gross,
Director of the Restoration Laboratory at Yad Vashem
 looking at restored pages from Wlodek's
father's diary, written in the Warsaw ghetto
However, Wlodek was visibly moved when he was shown the diary and was able to see its pages for the first time. He recalled how his father had studied law and then practiced journalism – eventually heading the Polish Society of Journalists (PAP) after the war. "He loved to write," he explained, and asked to touch the actual pages of the diary. "I can't help it," he said. "It's just like touching my father again."


 In his home, Wlodek has a separate page that Alfred wrote, on which he recorded the names of all his family members that died – when, how and where – in succinct notes. At the end of the list, Alfred wrote: "…but I could write tomes about how I survived."

Stefan/Alfred and Irena Tabaczynski with their
two young sons, Wlodek and Andrzej


As Wlodek was familiar with his father's challenging handwriting, he was able to make out a few lines from the diary. For example, there is a description of how those Jews living in the ghetto who had work certificates would gather early each morning at the checkpoint at the ghetto gates, and return in the evening, bringing with them whatever food they had managed to bargain or buy to smuggle back into the ghetto. "But the officers usually took this food away," recalled Alfred – leaving the despondent men to return empty-handed to their starving families. "For the first time, we realized that this diary was most likely written in the Warsaw ghetto itself, and describes daily life there," said Dr. Gertner.

 Wlodek ended his visit by pledging to devote his time to deciphering as much of the diary as he can – bringing Yad Vashem closer than ever to untangling the content of this rare piece of   documentary testimony about life in the Warsaw ghetto.

 


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Remembering the 1+1+1

By: Adina Schreiber

Growing up I was very fortunate to come to Israel on many occasions.  Every trip was full of museums, hikes, fun activities and, without fail, a trip up to Haifa to visit my grandfather's cousin, Dudu, as well as a visit to the cemetery where my grandfather's family is buried. As you can imagine this was not always the highlight of my trip. I mean – who wants to go to a cemetery while on vacation? One time, while we were standing next to the grave of my great-grandmother, whom I am named for, I noticed she had additional names written on her headstone. When I pointed out this oddity, I was explained that those were the names of her siblings who had been murdered in the Holocaust.  Since we do not know where they were killed, or what had happened to them, my family added the names on this headstone in order to remember them. This was the first time the importance of remembrance was called to my attention.  

A few years later, while studying in seminary in Jerusalem, I went on a trip to Poland with a group of girls from my school. Not only would I be going with my teachers and friends, but my mother had decided to join us as well. My trip to Poland was a rollercoaster of emotions, thoughts, and ideas. I saw with my own eyes mass graves, ghettos, and death camps. During my week-long trip there was one moment that really stuck with me. I was sitting in a synagogue in Krakow and my teacher stood up and explained to us the immense importance of remembrance.  We are always taught to remember the atrocities that were committed against us, but most emphasized is that we must remember the six million innocent lives that were brutally taken from this world by the Nazi Germans and their collaborators. Six million. An unfathomable amount. He then continued to explain that just hearing the number six million was not enough; in order to understand the scope of the tragedy we need to think about the individual person. We need to remember the 1+1+1, the one mother, the one father, the one baby.  We need to remember the individual, the person, and not the number. We need to remember that there was someone named Ahava, someone named Sandor, someone named Avraham. Each one of them had a family, friends, hobbies. Each one of them had dreams.  All of a sudden I understood exactly why those names were inscribed onto my great-grandmother's grave, and I understood that I was also responsible for remembering.
I came back to Israel emotionally distraught and felt incredibly lost. And that is when I discovered Yad Vashem. Sure, I always knew it was there and had in fact visited more than once. But this time I discovered that Yad Vashem is not just a museum to go and visit, but also a place that focuses all of its energy on remembering the individual. Remembering the 1+1+1. With the help of the Yad Vashem Archives I began researching my family, and each time I learned a different name, saw a picture of someone else, learned a little about their lives – and just like that I became a partner in the mission to remember.


Several years later, after making Aliyah and beginning university, I had the opportunity to intern at Yad Vashem. Here, I have seen, heard, and learned many things. I have met and heard testimony from survivors, I have learned stories about different artifacts in the museum, and I have watched videos of different people sharing their thoughts and reflections. One of the things that made a large impact on me was my acquaintance with the story of Susan Kerekes. Yad Vashem has an incredible Bar/Bat Mitzvah twinning program, where bar/bat mitzvah boys and girls are given the responsibility of remembering a child from the Holocaust who was never able to celebrate their own bar/bat mitzvah. This November, a Bar Mitzvah boy was twinned with a boy named Sandor Braun. Sandor Braun's story was a bit of a mystery to us and it became my job to find out as much as I could about this boy and his family. That is when I came across Sandor's sister, Susan. Susan survived the camps and participated in the USC Shoah Foundation's project to record testimony, and through this I got to learn Susan's story. Even though I have never met her, nevertheless I connected with her. I laughed with her, I cried with her. And just like that Susan became a part of my life.
To me, this is what Yad Vashem is all about. Yad Vashem is about remembering what happened, and ensuring that it never happens again. To many victims of the Holocaust, this was their dying wish. I came across a quote on the Yad Vashem website that read, "I should like someone to remember that there once lived a person named David Berger." In the Hall of Names, hanging in the dome are pictures of people who have been murdered. It does not show them in Auschwitz, it does not show them emaciated or behind barbed wire, but rather we get to see pictures of people smiling and laughing, some with family and friends, and living their lives. It is our responsibility to remember these people. To not only remember how they died, but also how they lived. And it just takes one person, remembering one person. Just one. And then we are one person closer to remembering the 1+1+1.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Mother's Desperate Plea for her Son


By: Michal Dror

On the night of November 9-10, 1938, the Kristallnacht progrom ("Night of the Broken Glass") raged throughout Germany and Austria.

Kristallnacht was launched in supposed retaliation for the assassination of a Nazi German embassy official in Paris, Ernst vom Rath, by a frustrated young Jewish refugee named Herschel Grynszpan. On November 9, yom Rath died of his injuries.

Within hours, crazed rioting erupted on the streets of cities across the two Nazi-controlled countries. The shop windows of Jewish businesses were smashed, the stores looted, hundreds of synagogues and Jewish homes were burnt down and a large number of Jews were physically assaulted. Some 30,000 Jews, many of them wealthy and prominent members of their communities, were arrested and deported to the concentration camps at Dachau, Sachsenhausen, and Buchenwald, where they were subjected to inhumane and brutal treatment – some even died. During the pogrom itself, some 90 Jews were murdered.

One of the Jewish men arrested was 28-year-old David Buchweitz from Fürth, Germany, who was placed in "protective custody" at Buchenwald.

As his personal prisoner's file from Buchenwald indicates, David was admitted to the camp on November 13, 1938. Like other prisoners in the concentration camps, David had to sign several forms, such as a card listing the personal belongings taken away from him when he entered the camp (see the image below).
 

After the pogrom was over, the Nazis continued with severe anti-Jewish measures. The Aryanization process of seizing Jewish property was intensified; the Jewish community was forced to pay a fine of one billion Reichsmarks, and the Germans set up a Central Office for Jewish Emigration (Zenstralstelle fuer Juedische Auswanderung) to "encourage" the Jews to leave the country. The Nazis conditioned the release of the incarcerated Jewish men upon their immediate emigration from Germany.

Acquiring a visa for emigration was a tiring, almost impossible process, as the quotas for Jewish immigrants to foreign countries were minimal to the extreme.

Like many Jewish families during this time, David's mother, Malka, was extremely frightened for her family and immediately began the process of obtaining visas to the United States, where the family had relatives. She wrote a letter to the camp's commandants begging for David's release. Eventually Malka succeeded in getting the desired papers for only one visa to the US. David was released from Buchenwald on April 12, 1939, and managed to emigrate.

In November 2015, 77 years after Kristallnacht, David's son, Frank, submitted an inquiry to Yad Vashem regarding Malka's fate.

In research conducted by Yad Vashem's Reference and Information Services Department in the Archives Division, David's personal documents from Buchenwald were found.

Among them was his mother's desperate plea for his release.

Like many other German Jewish women, Malka stayed behind. Malka Buchweitz née Knoebel (b. 1879) was most likely deported to her death in 1942.

Her handwritten letter is all that is remains.

 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

My Father Kept a Cape in His Closet


"My father must have had a cape hanging in his closet. He was not a superhero, but when he needed to, he put that cape on."



Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, of the 422nd Infantry Regiment in the US Armed Forces, passed away in 1985. Pastor Chris Edmonds, his younger son, recalls that his father didn't speak much about his wartime experiences. As a young adult, Chris found out that his father had spent time as a POW, but little else was revealed. It was only when one of Chris' daughters undertook a project at college to create a video about a family member that his mother, Roddie's wife, handed her granddaughter a diary Roddie had kept during his imprisonment at Stalag IXA. She also revealed a brief account of parts of his life that Roddie had written before he died.


Chris was "blown away. How could I not have been aware of my father's wartime activities? I stayed up that night conducting searches on the Internet to see what else I could find out about him." The first item to pop up was a journalistic piece concerning a property deal between ex-President Richard Nixon and Lester Tanner, in which Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds was mentioned. When Chris and Lester finally made contact, Chris heard the story of how Roddie had saved the lives of his fellow Jewish POWs, and how this one act of incredible bravery had become a lifelong inspiration for Tanner and many other of his fellow soldiers.


Roddie's Code


As a non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the US army, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds of Knoxville, TN participated in the landing of the American forces in Europe. Taken prisoner by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge, Edmonds was interned at Stalag IXA, a POW camp near Ziegenhain, Germany.


The Wehrmacht had a strict anti-Jewish policy, singling out Jewish POWs from the rest of the POW population and then murdering them or sending them to extermination camps. In January 1945, the Germans announced that all Jewish POWs in Stalag IXA were to report the following morning. Edmonds, who was the highest NCO at the camp, and therefore in charge of the prisoners, ordered all the POWs – Jews and non-Jews alike – to follow the order. When the German officer, Major Siegmann, saw all the camp’s inmates standing in front of their barracks, he turned to Edmonds and exclaimed: “They cannot all be Jews!” To this Edmonds replied: “We are all Jews.” Siegmann took out his pistol and threatened Edmonds, but the Master Sergeant did not waver and retorted: “According to the Geneva Convention, we only have to give our name, rank and serial number. If you shoot me, you will have to shoot all of us, and after the war you will be tried for war crimes.” The officer turned around and left the scene.


One witness to the exchange was Lester Tanner, who was also captured during the Battle of the Bulge and interned at Stalag IXA. Tanner had been inducted into military service in March 1943, and trained in Fort Jackson, where Master Sergeant Edmonds was stationed. Tanner remembered Edmonds well from his training period: “He did not throw his rank around. You knew he knew his stuff and he got across to you without being arrogant or inconsiderate. I admired him for his command… We were in combat on the front lines for only a short period, but it was clear that Roddie Edmonds was a man of great courage who led his men with the same capacity we had come to know him in the States.” Tanner told Yad Vashem that they were well aware that the Germans were murdering the Jews, and that therefore they understood that the order to separate the Jews from the other POWs meant that the Jews were in great danger. “Over one thousand Americans stood in wide formation in front of the barracks behind Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds… The US Army’s standing command to its ranking officers in POW camps is that you resist the enemy and care for the safety of your men to the greatest extent possible. Master Sergeant Edmonds, at the risk of his immediate death, defied the Germans with the unexpected consequences that the Jewish prisoners were saved.”


A Lifelong Inspiration


In early 2015 the late Roddie Edmonds was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. Of more than 26,000 "Righteous" recognized to date, Edmonds is only the fifth United States citizen, and first American soldier, to be bestowed with this highest of honors bestowed by Yad Vashem on behalf of the State of Israel.

Pastor Chris is currently participating in a seminar for Christian leaders at the International School for Holocaust Studies. This is his first trip to Israel, and one that comes at a time when his personal family story is likely to become a national, if not international, sensation. The account of his father's heroic actions that Pastor Chris has painstakingly discovered over recent years reads like a fictionalized Hollywood movie. But it is all true, and has been a source of inspiration for both Pastor Chris and the survivors his father saved for the past 70 years.

"My father always had a strong sense of duty, of responsibility to his fellow human being, whoever they were," says Pastor Chris. "He was a man of great religious faith and an unwavering moral code and set of values to which he was completely dedicated. From my conversations with his comrades, it is clear he was also a strong commander, leading by example and taking personal risks in order to safeguard others."

Since discovering the story, Pastor Chris has made relentless efforts to contact all the names of his father's fellow POWs painstakingly recorded in his wartime diary. "Many of these have led to meetings and lifelong friendships with people I could never have imagined: senators and congressmen, survivors and their families – and even the rabbi of a local synagogue. Who could have imagined a Baptist preacher and a rabbi becoming such fast friends?"

Pastor Chris is currently working on having his father be awarded a Medal of Honor – the USA's highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. And when he speaks to young students, Pastor Chris tells them that his father "must have had a cape hanging in his closet. My father was not a  superhero, but when he needed to, he put that cape on. You too have a cape: if you are witness to an injustice, you can choose to ignore it, or to intercede. We all have the power to influence others, and if we invest in this way of life, in making the right decisions, we too can make a tremendous difference in this world."

 
More information about the Righteous Among the Nations, including background, stories and the Database of Righteous, can be found online here.