Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Tribute to Heroes


Today, in an emotional and gripping ceremony at Yad Vashem, Petro and Kateryna Durniak from Ukraine were posthumously honored as Righteous among the Nations. Their daughter, Christina-Ludmila Kril flew in especially from Ukraine to accept the medal and certificate on their behalf. Members from the Ukrainian Embassy, along with Freddy Gruber, son of Righteous Josef Gruber and friends of Petro Durniak attended the event.  

The ceremony began in the Hall of Remembrance where Christina rekindled the Eternal Flame in memory of the six million victims of the Holocaust. The ceremony continued in the Yad Vashem synagogue where Christina humbly accepted the medal and certificate of honor. Christina told the exceptional story of how her parents graciously saved the life of a young Jewish girl, Anna-Barbara and took her into their home as one of their own. In the summer of 1942, when 50,000 Jews from Lwow (today Lviv), were deported to their deaths at the Belzec Extermination Camp, David Winter and his wife made the painful decision to to separate from their newborn daughter, Anna, in order to increase her chances of survival. They secretly took Anna out of the ghetto and asked David's Ukrainian friend Petro Durniak to watch over their baby daughter. Petro's wife, Kateryna was pregnant at the time and shortly after Anna's arrival the couple had a daughter of their own, Christina. The couple changed Anna's name to Barbara and presented the two girls as twins. 

Petro Durniak

Kateryna Durniak


The Winter couple survived the Holocaust and the first news they heard of their daughter came from David's brother, Nachum Winter. Nachum was a soldier in the Red Army and after his hometown Lwow was liberated, he requested time off and travelled to search for any of his relatives who may have survived.  He found his niece at the home of Kateryna Durniak (she and Petro were separated at this time) and gave her his monthly salary in gratitude for care of his niece. Before he left he took a photograph with his niece. When Nachum discovered his brother and his wife at one of the refugee camps in Central Europe, he informed them that their daughter was alive and sent them the picture he had taken with Anna-Barbara. David and his wife contacted Kateryna and organized for Anna-Barbara's transfer to them, across the border of the USSR.

The Winter family moved to Israel, but shortly afterwards they emigrated to Austria. With time, the Winters lost contact with the Durniak family. However, the Durniaks never forgot Anna-Barbara. Kateryna kept her picture in a family photo album and after her death, her daughter Christina kept the photograph.

The rescue story of baby Anna-Barbara came to light in 2013 when Freddy Gruber, whose father Josef Gruber was recognized as Righteous among the Nations in 2005, travelled from his home in Israel to Lviv to meet his father's family.  Freddy also searched for any descendants of his father's friend, Petro Durniak. He arrived at Christina's home and she showed him the picture of Anna-Barbara as a small child. Upon his return to Israel, Freddy turned to Yad Vashem and told Anna-Barbara's rescue story. After further investigation, the Department of the Righteous among the Nations uncovered a testimony given by Freddy's mother, Antonia Gruber, in 2005. In a single sentence she mentioned that her future husband's friend, named Durniak, had rescued a Jewish girl. In addition, a testimony from 1961 of Nachum Winter was found in the Yad Vashem Archives where he gave a detailed explanation of how he discovered his niece. Attached to his testimony was the picture that was taken of Nachum and Anna-Barbara at Kateryna's home. These two photographs, the one saved by Nachum from the Durniak family, and the photograph that was in David Winter's testimony, clearly show the same child. Therefore, with the help of testimony which was given more than fifty years ago, Yad Vashem was able to connect the two parts of this story. 

Anna-Barbara as a child


When Christina spoke of her mother, she said that she had a difficult childhood growing up. Despite her hardships, when faced with the responsibility of taking in Anna-Barbara, her mother said there was no other option. "My mother was orphaned as a child. People who suffer either become bitter and vengeful or choose to be sensitive and care for the suffering of others. Clearly, my mother chose the latter." Freddy Gruber, son of Righteous among the Nations, Joseph Gruber also said a few words during the ceremony. He said that his parents were good friends with the Durniaks and called the Durniaks 'heroes.'

Christina-Ludmila Kril with a member from the Ukrainian Embassy at the Hall of Remembrance  

The ceremony concluded at the Garden of the Righteous among the Nations where the Durniak's names were revealed on the Wall of Honor. Christina proudly posed for pictures next to her parent's names. She was also joined by Freddy Gruber who excitedly pointed out both the Durniak's names and on the adjoining wall, his parents' names. The inspirational story of the selflessness and bravery of the Durniak couple who risked their lives to save a young Jewish girl will never be forgotten. 

Christina-Ludmila Kril accepted the medal on her parent's behalf 
Christina-Ludmila Kril with Freddy Gruber at the unveiling of her parent's names at the Garden of the Righteous among the Nations 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Yad Vashem comment on the theft of part of the "arbeit macht frei" sign from Dachau

While we do not know who is behind the theft of the sign, the theft of such a symbolic object is an offensive attack on the memory of the Holocaust.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Recognizing the Rescuers

Some 70 years after the last days of the Holocaust, inspiring stories of rescue continue to come to light. Today, in an extraordinarily moving ceremony at Yad Vashem, Antoine Sala and his daughters Henriette, Louise, Marie Paule and her husband, Giovanni Angeli were posthumously honored as Righteous Among the Nations. Veronique Dorothy, Marie Paule and Giovanni's  granddaughter, arrived especially from France to attend the ceremony and accept the medal and certificate on her family's behalf. Holocaust survivor Henri Dzik who was rescued by the Sala Family, met Veronique and proudly introduced her  to his extended family – children, grandchildren, and more - who literally embody the Talmudic saying embossed on the medal: Whosoever save a single life, saves an entire universe  
            The ceremony began with a memorial service at the Hall of Remembrance where Dorothy lit the Eternal  Flame in honor of her grandfather, Antoine Sala and his daughters Henriette, Louise, Marie Paule and her husband, Giovani Angeli. Afterwards, the ceremony continued at the Yad Vashem Synagogue where the exceptional story of the Sala family was told of how they graciously took Henri into their homes and saved his life. Antoine Sala was a barber who lived with his children in Pau, France. One of his daughters, Marie-Paule, was married and lived near her father with her husband, Giovanni Angeli. In 1942, the two families hid Henri Dzik, a Jewish child from Paris, and protected him until the end of the war. At the beginning of the war, Henri's father, Maurice volunteered for the French army. When France surrendered, he was released, however he decided not to return to his family in Paris but stayed instead in Pau. Henri and his mother Anna stayed in Paris. On July 16, 1942 during the Vel d'Hiv roundup, Henri spent time in a summer camp for Jewish children in La Varenne, France. Anna managed to escape when the French police arrived and fled Paris together with her sister Esther and one of their neighbors. She was very worried about Henri and asked her sister to help her return to Paris, and the three of them crossed the French demarcation line and were joined by Maurice in the "free zone."  They made contact with the Sala family and Henri was sent to them.


Dorothy Veronique lighting the Eternal Flame at the Hall of Remembrance


The Sala family took care of Henri and treated him as if he were family. He became attached to Marie-Paule's children, especially Yvan who was the same age as him. He spent his days with Giovanni and Marie-Paule, but due to the lack of space in their apartment he went to Antoine's home to sleep at night. Henri quickly got used to his new life. Thanks to the devoted care of his rescuers, Henri managed to live a fairly normal life, protected from danger and fear. At the end of the war, Maurice Dzik, who had joined the French forces that fought in North Africa, came to collect Henri, and the family returned to Paris. The two families kept in touch for about a year, but over time the connection was lost. The families reconnected recently, after Henri's son discovered Yvan, who remembered his childhood friend Henri from the period of the war. 
After Dorothy humbly accepted the certificate and medal on behalf of her family she read a  speech from her father, Yvan Angeli who was unable to attend the ceremony. Yvan noted that is a shame that his family could not be here today to accept this award however "It is with great pride and appreciation, that myself along with my wife, my children Igor and Veronique, honor those who protected Henry Dzik and are unable to be here today with us." Thanks to the devoted care and bravery of the Sala family, Henri recounted how he managed to live a generally fairly normal life and survived the war. Henri commented: "They were well aware of the perils that awaited because of my presence among them. Their solicitude at all times have saved me."  Henri now has a vibrant and beautiful family who were so excited to partake in this ceremony. Henri said that along with his family will be forever grateful to Dorothy and her family for risking their lives to save Henri. 

Dorothy Veronique and Dora Weinberger, commission pour la designation des justes accepting the certificate and medal of honor


The certificate and medal of honor

The ceremony concluded at the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations where together Henri and Dorothy eagerly unveiled the Sala family names on the Wall of the Honor. Henri and Dorothy posed for pictures next to the wall of names along with Henri's family. It was a moving and special moment to see Dorothy together with Henri and his beautiful family who are here today thanks to the unforgettable bravery and heroism of one special family.

Dorothy Veronique and Henry Dzik unveiling the Sala family names on the Wall of Honor


Dorothy Veronique and Henry Dzik and family 

           



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Archeological Digs Reveal Sobibór Gas Chambers

Archeological excavations at the Sobibór extermination camp have been conducted by Yoram Haimi and his Polish associate Wojciech Mazurek since 2007. In 2013, the Dutch archeologist Dr. Ivar Schute joined the project, which is being carried out in coordination with Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research, the German-Polish Foundation and the Majdanek State Museum. Over the years, thousands of personal items have been found at the site, including rings, pendants, earrings, jewelery, perfume bottles, medicine cases and food utensils. 
This week, the water well used by prisoners at Camp I, in which the uprising took place, was also discovered. The well contained numerous personal items belonging to Jews; the Germans filled the well with waste during the camp's liquidation.
Dr. David Silberklang, Senior Historian at the International Institute for Holocaust Research and Editor-in-Chief of Yad Vashem Studies, commented on the new findings at Sobibór: "The discovery of the gas chambers at Sobibór is a very important finding in Holocaust research. It is important to understand that there were no survivors from among the Jews who worked in the area of the gas chambers. Therefore, these findings are all that is left of those murdered there, and they open a window onto the day-to-day suffering of these people. We will now be able to know more precisely what the process of murder was in the camp, and what the Jews went through until they were murdered. Additionally, finding the gas chambers and their capacity will enable us to estimate more precisely the number of people murdered in Sobibór." Dr. Silberklang added that these findings complement what is already known about the camp from survivors who escaped during the uprising from the camp.
Archeologist Yoram Haimi: "After eight years of excavations at Sobibór, this is a great acheivement for me and the research staff. Finally, we have reached our goal – the discovery of the gas chambers. We were amazed at the size of the building and the well-preserved condition of the chamber walls. The most poignant moment was when we found a wedding band next to the gas chambers, on which was the Hebrew inscription: "Behold, you are consecrated unto me."
The Sobibór extermination camp was located near the village and railway station of Sobibór, in the eastern part of the Lublin district in Poland, not far from the Chełm-Włodawa railway line.The camp was established along with the extermination camps of Treblinka and Bełżec as part of "Operation Reinhard." During the period of the camp’s operation, April 1942 - October 1943, some 250,000 Jews were murdered there. In the wake of the camp uprising on 14 October 1943, the Germans decided to dismantle the camp. The site has remained bare, lacking any characteristic traces of it being a former extermination camp. In order to provide information about the specific details of the camp, until now researchers used survivor testimonies. However, these testimonies provided information about only part of the camp, which made an actual blueprint and reconstruction of the whole camp impossible.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

His Legacy Lives on – an Encounter at the Museum of Holocaust Art

by Deborah Berman 

I am a proud descendant of the Jewish artist Carol Deutsch, my great uncle, who was murdered during the Holocaust. This week I had the honor of accompanying my aunt, Josette Deutsch-Nelson, Carol's niece and her son Philip Nelson on an emotional visit to Yad Vashem’s Museum of Holocaust Art, where Deutsch's works are on display. Josette was only five years old when she and her parents and two brothers fled Antwerp in May 1940, just days after the German invasion. Fleeing to Spain and eventually Portugal, they secured travel documents through the heroic efforts of the Portuguese Diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who was later recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.

We were warmly received by Niv Goldberg, Collections Manager of Yad Vashem's Museum of Holocaust Art, who presented Josette with a reproduction of Deutsch's illustrations and interviewed her. As she began to speak I was suddenly overwhelmed by the sensation that my aunt was an actual living link to the past. Interspersed with personal reflections and anecdotes, the events she described that took place over 70 years ago became as real to me as if they had happened just last week

While my father and his family succeeded in escaping from Belgium, Carol Deutsch along with his wife Fela and young daughter Ingrid were not as lucky. Initially forced into hiding under assumed identities in Brussels, Carol and Fela were ultimately betrayed, transported to concentration camps and murdered by the Germans. But Ingrid survived the war with her grandmother Regina Braunstein by hiding with a Catholic family in North-Eastern Belgium.

When Regina and Ingrid  returned to the family apartment in 1945, they found that none of their possessions remained, the invading German forces had stolen everything. However, a large, meticulously crafted, wooden box adorned with a Star of David and a seven-branched menorah remained untouched.The box held a collection of 99 illustrations of the Bible produced by Carol Deutsch while in hiding in Brussels between 1941 and 1942, an impressive body of work that affirmed his Jewish identity which he created as a gift to his young daughter Ingrid in honor of her second birthday.

 I felt so connected to my great uncle  while viewing the display of his work. When faced with the heaviness of  his fate and the possibility of  his impending death his  choice of what to bequeath to his  precious daughter Ingrid was this masterpiece of Bible illustrations, the book upon which he was raised and upon which  his values where shaped. 

One of Carol Deutsch's 99 illustrations of the Bible
I can almost conjure up the image of the invading Nazis stumbling upon the wooden box as they raided the bounty of the contents of the apartment, instantly dismissing the box as a thing of no value or worth. How wrong they were. How powerful the message hidden inside the box. How ironic that they had the opportunity to physically destroy it but did not even realize its worth, could not even fathom its intrinsic and lasting value. 

After our tour of the art museum, the three of us, myself, my Aunt Josette and my cousin Philip, decided to sit together quietly with the reproduction of Deutsch's illustrations in all of their colorful and tantalizing splendor spread out between us. And almost magically we found ourselves drawn into the world that he had so deftly crafted, the stories of the bible suddenly coming to life for us, leaping off the pages into the quiet coffee shop where we sat, the air rife with the sibling enmity between Cain and Abel, the loving tenderness between father and son in Abraham and Isaac's embrace, the radiance of Moses with two rays of yellow light beaming from his face, the festivity of Miriam leading the women in joyous dance and song celebrating the defeat of the Egyptians, and on and on and on ... transporting us from 
the creation narrative in Genesis through to Moses' parting words to his beloved Israelites in Deuteronomy.

There we were, the descendants of Carol Deutsch, huddled together over his treasure. His pièce de résistance. And I couldn't help but wonder - Who knows what he might have gone on to create if his life had not been cut so brutally short? Who can say what new vistas his creativity might have unearthed if he had been spared his cruel death as a nameless inmate at the Ohrdurf subcamp of the notoriously horrific Buchenwald Camp? I have no answers and can make no sense of his senseless murder, just one among the murder of millions more of our people. And yet, although tragically he did not survive, his art and the great message that it embodies are still here with us today, painstakingly preserved and on display to the public in the Yad Vashem Museum of Holocaust Art. 

So, Uncle Carol I thank you for these works of great beauty and I thank you for your strength of spirit, your forward thinking and your faith in the continuity of the Jewish people, because despite all the sadness and suffering - we are here. And we are proud to move forward towards the future as a strong Jewish people, deeply rooted in our rich heritage, the vision that you believed at your very core would some day come to be. We have received your message and we value it, cherish it, and hold it dear. Here in this old new land, with the brightness of the sunlight reflecting off the Jerusalem stone so that it almost blinds us in its dazzling whiteness, we can still see the images of these age old stories, these tales that represent our very essence as Jews; our heritage and our legacy depicted in bright vivid colors that have emerged from the darkness to light the way for humanity.









Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Int'l Experts Explore Preservation of Holocaust Documentation in the Digital Era

Is there a need to invest in preserving original items in an age when it is possible to display a scanned image of them on the Internet?
In what manner does the digital age affect the traditional divisions between different types of collections?
To what extent can conservation experts intervene and "repair" torn documents or distorted film footage from the Holocaust period?
How can long-term preservation of digital copies of Holocaust documentation be ensured?

These are some of the questions along with many others that were discussed this week at an international experts' workshop, held at Yad Vashem and organized within the framework of the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI) project. The workshop "Heritage and Memory: Revising Scopes and Means of Physical and Digital Preservation of Holocaust Documentation" addressed various issues and challenges of conservation of Holocaust period materials in the digital 
age as well as the intrinsic importance of the need to preserve these images.
This is the first international workshop of its kind, which is designed specifically for scholars involved in the practical, ethical and philosophical aspects of conservation of Holocaust heritage, and for professionals from various fields of conservation who imparted common experience and methodologies. The workshop included the participation of about 30 prominent experts from Europe, Israel and the U.S.A. in both physical and digital conservation and the preservation of primary sources, such as documents, photographs, artworks and artifacts. This workshop also touched on the dilemmas that have arisen in recent years in the ever-expanding field.

"Holocaust documentation is the basis for Holocaust research, was well as the core material for the production of museums and exhibitions, and a resource base for commemorative and educational activities for future generations," explains Yad Vashem Archives Director Dr. Haim Gertner. "These building blocks of memory are scattered across the world, in countless fragments. They were written in hiding, under difficult conditions, with poor materials. Part of the material was in private hands for many decades, not always in adequate conditions. This sensitive documentation is often the last testimony to the life of an individual, or to the execution of murder, and therefore preservation has significant moral, educational and legal implications. At the same time, there is a broadening interest of the wider public in accessing Holocaust documentation that is currently being addressed with the aid of advanced technology, but
contained within this exciting process are a number of issues that must be addressed."

The international scholars presented various papers pertaining to their field of expertise. Some topics discussed included the ethics of preservation of original materials, exploring the limits of digitization, physical and digital preservation of Holocaust documentation, opportunities and difficulties of digitization of Holocaust documents and low-cost imaging technologies for art and documents examination.  Dr. Haim Gertner commented that the Holocaust archives tell a very important part of history which was abruptly stopped. Therefore, it is our moral obligation to preserve these artifacts along with these personal stories which would otherwise be forgotten. In addition, the seminar was a great success in exchanging these international scholars' different areas of expertise. The seminar provided a platform for the dialogue to take place, which is only the beginning of continued dialogue. The Head of the Paper Conservation Laboratory of the Archives Division at Yad Vashem, Varda Gross, presented to scholars on the topic of preserving the existing and the missing in Holocaust material. She noted, "Items convey personal stories…These items express the power of life, in contrast to the ideology of 
".extermination

Monday, September 1, 2014

Teachers who Rescued Jews during the Holocaust

This week, children in Israel, the US and elsewhere are returning to school after the long summer break.  As school gets underway, a new online exhibition at www.yadvashem.org spotlights teachers who have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations – those remarkable individuals who took extraordinary risks to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.

Joseph Migneret was the principal of a public elementary school on the Rue Hospitalières St. Gervais, in the heart of the Marais quarter in Paris. During the massive roundup of the Jews of Paris on July 16-17, 1942, many of the Jews in the Marais were arrested. The Marais, known as the "Pletzl" in the interwar period, was the Jewish quarter where many Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe had settled. Migneret, who saw how his present and former students were taken away from their homes, held in appalling conditions and incarcerated in camps prior to their deportation, dedicated himself to saving as many Jews as he could. He joined a resistance network and began to provide false documents to fleeing Jews and to shelter others. Sarah Traube, who had attended Migneret’s school, hid for nearly two years in his home. Shlomo Fisher, another student of the school, was hidden by Migneret until a safe place could be found for him.  Migneret supplied others with forged papers that enabled them to reach the South of France. One former student, fourteen-year-old Joseph Schulman, who had been severely wounded while escaping from a transport to Auschwitz and who was hospitalized under police supervision, was taken care of by Migneret, who visited  him and tried to obtain his release. On March 28, 1990, Yad Vashem recognized Joseph Migneret as Righteous Among the Nations.
The new exhibition, “Their Fate Will Be My Fate Too.." :Teachers Who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust, brings the story of a dozen teachers, men and women from Germany, Albania, France, Italy, Serbia, Poland, Denmark, Belgium, Ukraine, and the Netherlands, who took action when so many others looked the other way.  Initiating rescue activities, hiding people in orphanages, homes and more, some of these Righteous paid the ultimate price.