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Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

The Holocaust and Henryk Mandelbaum

Henryk Mandelbaum

Speaks on the Gas Chambers at Auschwitz

Henryk Mandelbaum

Henryk Mandelbaum was born on 15 December 1922 in Olkusz, Poland to a poor Polish –Jewish family. His entire family was forced to move to the Dabrowa Gornicza ghetto in 1940. His parents were later transferred to the ghetto in Sosnowiec.

Henryk Mandelbaum arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau on 22 April 1944, on a transport from Sosnowiec, he was tattooed with the number 181970 and was after a period in Quarantine he was selected to work as a member of the Jewish Sonderkommando that slaved in the crematoriums of the death camp.

In 1945 he was able to escape from one of the death marches in the vicinity of Jastrzebia Zdroj. His sister was the only other survivor from among the Mandelbaum family.

He remembers those dark and terrible times at the site of the mass murders in conversation with Stanislav Motl in 2008. These are Henryk Mandelbaum’s own words:

“Right now we’re in the world’s largest cemetery. This is Crematorium Number 2, Number 3 is over there about 100 metres away. They are the former twins, which back then used to be the new generation of crematoria. They looked like small chateaux. Nobody would think people were gassed and murdered there. The young, the elderly, disabled people, simply everybody, all living people.

They would travel in sealed wagons for 4 days, sometimes even 5 days. It was hot, they had no water, only the things they bought along. Some of them had canned herrings with them. So by the time they got off the train, they almost weren’t like humans any more. When we spoke to them, they were exhausted from the trip.

Suppose I tell you – you aren’t going to a shower. I’m asking you what does it change? You’re not going to survive and neither am I, because there is no chance anyone gets out of here. You have to realise that. You think I choose not to say it? You know I would have loved to. I would have loved to give them my heart – but there was no way, no use. Of course, if I could have changed anything, we would have helped them.

They’d just walked down. The whole thing was located underground. They’d undress. There were the two shower rooms, that is the two gas chambers. In the changing room you had hangers and benches, so they didn’t see through it, they didn’t know. The first ones who entered had to undress, to go to the showers and they’d hang their clothes on the hangers and enter the shower room with their toothbrush, toothpaste, towel and soap and their valuables.

Modern photo of Krema2

And there were two of these showers, as you can see here underground – so there were two gas chambers in fact. Divided in two parts, each chamber had these two holes. The chambers looked like this – they’d see these showers , so at first they didn’t know and they thought they were real, but maybe a quarter of them were inside and others kept coming in – they’d start feeling something wasn’t quite right, because so many people going to the shower was strange. So they’d try to get out. But the SS men would beat them over the head with these sticks and push them back in.

The gas worked like this, when there were a lot of people inside, humidity increased in the showers because of the breathing and the Zyklon dissolved with the humidity. 12 thousand of them I think it was.

They’d gas them and burn them. In the beginning they used to burn them in Crematorium 1 in Auschwitz, a primitive one. But then neither crematorium 1 nor 4 or 5 could keep up with the influx of transports. They had scheduled arrivals from all around Europe, right! So they had to build crematoria 2 and 3 with 15 furnaces each.


Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/mandelbaum.html

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Copyright H.E.A.R.T 2012

The Massacre at Katyn

Mass murder in the forests of Katyn

 

In April 1943, in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk in the Soviet Union, occupying German troops discovered eight large graves containing the remains of thousands of the Polish Army officers and intellectual leaders who had been interned at the prisoner-of-war camp at Kozielsk. Bodies of the prisoners who had been housed at Ostashkov and Starobielsk were discovered near Piatykhatky and Mednoye, respectively. Collectively, these murders are known as the Katyn Forest Massacre.

An internationally-staffed medical commission organized by the Germans excavated the area in early spring 1943. As the excavation progressed, the Germans brought in several groups of observers, including some American prisoners-of-war. This commission determined that the massacre occurred in 1940, when the area was under Soviet control -- a determination which was then used as a propaganda tool intended to disrupt the alliance between the US, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. This effort was successful in part, as Polish intelligence sources immediately blamed the Soviets for the atrocities, leading to a break in diplomatic relations between Poland and the USSR.

After their recapture of Smolensk in the autumn of 1943, the Soviet government organized its own excavation. This second enquiry concluded that the Polish prisoners of war had been captured and executed by invading German units in August 1941.

 

Later investigations concluded the Soviet version of the Katyn massacre was a complete fabrication.

 

The first news of strange and terrible happenings at Katyn was broadcast by Radio Berlin on 13 April 1943.


The following are extracts from the original broadcast:

 


German officers at the Hill of Goats (Katyn)

A report has reached us from Smolensk to the effect that the local inhabitants have mentioned to the German authorities the existence of a place where mass executions have been carried out by the Bolsheviks and where 10,000 Polish officers have been murdered by the Soviet Secret State Police.

 

The German authorities accordingly went to a place called the Hill of Goats (Kozogory), a Russian health resort situated 12 kilometres west of Smolensk, where a gruesome discovery was made.

 

A ditch was found, 28 metres long and 16 metres wide, in which the bodies of 3,000 Polish officers were piled up in twelve layers. They were fully dressed in military uniforms, some were bound, and all had pistol shot wounds in the back of their heads. There will be no difficulty in identifying the bodies as, owing to the nature of the ground, they are in a state of mummification and the Russians had left on the bodies their personal documents.

 

It has been stated today that General Smorawinsky from Lublin has been found among other murdered officers. Previously these officers were in a camp at Kozelsk near Orel and in February and March 1940 were brought in “cattle” freight cars to Smolensk. Thence they were taken in lorries to the Hill of Goats and murdered there by the Bolsheviks. The search for further pits is in progress. New layers may be found under those already discovered.

 

It is estimated that the total number of officers killed amounts to 10,000, which would correspond to the entire cadre of Polish officers taken prisoner by the Russians.

 

As it came from Dr Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry, this communiqué was automatically suspect. On the other hand, the history of Soviet- Polish relationship since 1939 had been such that the story could not be lightly dismissed.

 

On 1 September 1939, when the German armies invaded Poland, she and the Soviet Union were bound by a number of seemingly unbreakable treaties and agreements. But in the dawn of 17 September 1939, at a time when Poland was most hard pressed by her German aggressors, the Red Army crossed the Polish frontier in considerable force – ostensibly, ‘to take all measures to extricate the Polish people from the unfortunate war into which they were dragged by their unwise leaders and to enable them to lead a peaceful life.’

 

German authorities examine bodies at the site of the Katyn massacre.

During the next days the closeness of the collaboration between Germany and Russia became apparent. Poland was formally partitioned on 28 September and, in the hope of ending the bitter fighting, a manifesto was issued by the Russian General Timoschenko exhorting the soldiers of the Polish army to turn upon their officers and surrender.

 

In return for laying down their arms, all Polish prisoners of war were guaranteed complete freedom of movement and it was promised they would be permitted to make their way to Rumania and Hungary en route for France, where they could continue to fight the Germans.

 

This promise was not kept. Polish NCO’s with technical qualifications and all officers were deported from Poland to Russia and accommodated in three main camps: Kozelsk, Starobelsk and Ostashkov. In the late autumn of 1939, letters from them began to reach their families left behind in Poland.

 

Read the full article here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/Katyn.html

 

 

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2013

Excerpts from an interview with Chris Webb

A radio interview conducted by Ingrid Smart from the Holocaust Historical Society and Chris Webb on 17 December 2012 in London
(selected extracts)

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

IS: Good afternoon Mr Webb, is it okay if I call you Chris?

CW: Yes that will be fine, no one calls me Christopher

IS: Is it true you founded the ARC Group in 2002?

CW: That is correct, indeed it was me who formed the team, I also named the organization and website, not many people know that, but that is indeed a fact. I wanted something short and memorable, and it took a little while, but was worth it. The ARC group was quite a unique bunch, we all brought something different to the mix.

IS: The ARC site has been archived for many years, what caused this situation?

CW: The original ARC group disbanded in December 2005 when Michael Peters, an earlier contributor to the team, left the group, relinquishing all contact with ARC. He later requested to re-join the group but on condition he be permitted to bring along with him a number of individuals with a previously unknown, and subversive agenda.

To cut a long story short, our German webmaster, under the influence of these “friends” produced and planted a number of fake items, on the ARC website. It came to light purely by accident, on comparing the handwriting of a supposed plan of Stangl’s accommodation in Treblinka with some other handwritten material provided many years before by the same person. He used a third party in Germany, to send the material to me but was clever supplying many genuine items with the odd forgery thrown in. Most of the fake items never made it to the website, but sadly a few did.

Once this came to light in September 2006 plans were put in place to expel all these individuals and disband the group, which took place in October 2006. It was incredibly sad that it came to that, but there really was no choice.

However, I am very pleased that we were able to recover the website after it had been vandalised, and I am proud that it is still available to view online. It was better to leave it as it was, a fitting tribute to those that perished in the Holocaust and for those good people who worked on the website between 2002 and 2005.

IS: So how did the Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team (H.E.A.R.T) come about?

CW: Discussions about starting a new Holocaust website, which covered the whole of the subject was discussed in London in August 2005, and with the events of October 2006, the opportunity presented itself to create one.

I contacted former ARC member Carmelo Lisciotto an IT expert and former ARC member with a view to starting another website, along the lines described above.

IS: What did Carmelo bring to the table?

CW: Carmelo Lisciotto from America is a renowned IT expert and Holocaust historian and he designed the website, as well as writing hundreds of articles for the website. He also searches for images and building up the H.E.A.R.T. archives through his contacts in various institutions and museums.

Carmelo’s contribution to understanding the Holocaust is immense, he re-built the ARC website that was vandalized and his contribution to H.E.A.R.T. should never be underestimated or undervalued.

IS: What drives you to do this type of work?

CW: I have been interested in this aspect of history since my father gave me the book The Final Solution by Gerald Reitlinger in 1971. Through the two websites we have helped people discover the fate of their loved ones during the Holocaust, where other organizations have failed. To educate the younger generations about the horrors of the Holocaust is a worthwhile aim.

Under the H.E.A.R.T. banner we have lectured at Universities, as part of the normal yearly class programmes and as part of the Holocaust Memorial Days for many years, and helped the BBC and the German authorities in various war crimes trials.

Through this work I have met some truly wonderful people, real long-life friends, some of them are sadly no longer with us, and it is nice to see that they live on in some way through their work on the websites.

IS: What is your stance on Holocaust Denial at this moment in time?

CW: My stance on Holocaust Denial is quite simple, there is no point in getting into endless debates with these people. Any casual glances at any of these sites show what a mindless pursuit this is. They will never change their warped views, no matter what you put to them. Other misguided people seek controversy where none exists, just to fan the flame of pointless debate.

The best defense against Holocaust Denial is websites like H.E.A.R.T. – www.holocaustresearchproject.org and ARC – www.deathcamps.org and they know it, which is why they are constantly attacked. The more you are attacked, and these attacks include death threats and smear campaigns, the more you know you are doing the right thing.

IS: What are your wishes for the new year?

CW: I wish all your listeners a happy and prosperous 2013

IS: Thank you Chris for your time and trouble, and we wish you and H.E.A.R.T. a happy 2013.

 

The destruction of Tomaszow Mazowiecki

 Tomaszow Mazowiecki

A town and its destruction under the Nazi Occupation
 

Jews persecuted in Tomaszow Mazowiecki
Map showing Tomaszow Mazowiecki (click text to enlarge)

Tomaszow Mazowiecki during the inter-war years had a Jewish population of about 10,000 approximately this was one third of the town’s population. Most Jews in Tomaszow Mazowiecki were merchants or artisans, although a substantial number also held blue or white-collar jobs at an artificial silk factory.

A number belonged to Jewish Trade Unions - the community had many charitable institutions, including an orphanage, and an old-people’s home that was supported by donations from Polish expatriates.

A range of educational institutions included three Szabasowka schools, a Talmud Torah run by Agudath Israel, a bilingual Polish-Hebrew Jewish high school, a Jewish popular college that was also attended by non-Jews, and Polish high schools.

Zionist political Parties and youth movements ran a pioneering training centre, The Bund, its youth movement, and Agudath Israel were active as well. Many Jews belonged to a local chapter of the Communist Party. Most Parties sponsored cultural associations, drama groups and libraries. By the eve of the Second World War, the Jewish population had increased to approximately 13,000.

Nazi leaders view the town of Tomaszow Mazowiecki
Nazi leaders view the town of Tomaszow Mazowiecki

The Germans occupied Tomaszow Mazowiecki on the 5 September 1939 and within eight days they had arrested about 1,000 inhabitants of the town, including some 300 Jews, and in the process sent 90 Jewish men to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, only 13 were alive at the end of the war in 1945.

The Germans also abducted Jews for forced labour and the Germans imposed harsh restrictions, Jews were only allowed to circulate in the town streets between eight o’clock in the morning and noon. The Germans burnt down the Great Synagogue on the 16 October and set fire two other houses of worship on the 7 and 14 November

During the first few months of the occupation, a number of Tomaszow Mazowiecki Jews, including many youths, fled to Soviet controlled territory, in spite of this the towns Jewish population increased due to a large influx of refugees from Lodz and Warsaw.

Jews are rounded up in Tomaszow Mazowiecki
Jews are rounded up in Tomaszow Mazowiecki

In late 1939 in line with Reinhard Heydrich’s, the head of the RSHA, edict a Judenrat was established under Baruch Shoeps and his deputy Leibush Warsager and a Jewish Order Service was set up under Josef Goldberg. In late 1940, after the Gestapo arrested Shoeps and beat him to death, Warsager took over as Chairman of the Judenrat.

In early December, the Judenrat was ordered to furnish the Germans with 1,000 Jewish labourers daily and during the period 1940 -1942 hundreds of Jewish men from Tomaszow Mazowiecki were sent to the Zawada labour camp and other locations.

A ghetto was established on the 20 December 1940, in three different parts of the town under the command of the county governor Karl Giehn. Jews were not permitted to leave the ghetto without permits, but many violated this restriction.

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/tomaszow-mazowiecki.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2012

Memoirs from the Budzyn Labor Camp!

Selected Extracts from the Memoirs of Samuel Jarniewski

A Jewish Prisoner of War

SS Labour Camp Budzyn 

Part 2

Samuel Jarniewski

On the evening of Thursday the fifteenth October 1942, we entered the camp, which had been prepared for our arrival. In the camp, we were received by the Jewish leadership, which consisted of prisoners of war from Lublin that had been chosen by Hanke and transferred for this purpose.

 

They received us quite kindly and on their intervention, our bags were not seized. After coming to an understanding with us, two of our comrades, Kaplan and Stockman were attached to the camp leadership. Hanke announced to us that from this day on, ghettos did not exist anymore and that all able-bodied workers were to be put in camps under SS guard.

 

In the camp we met several hundred women from the surrounding area, many of them from the nearby towns such as Krasnik Oshendow. We also met about fifty to sixty workers from Krasnik, who had already been employed at Heinkel and were subsequently placed in Budzyn.

 

Here we heard of the horrors of the resettlement actions in Krasnik and other places. We also came to know of the cruel realities of what happened in the concentration camp of Maidanek near Lublin and in other extermination camps.

 

The managers of the Heinkel airplane works told us that we would all be employed in the airplane factory and that we would be treated well. About 5,000 prisoners would be employed in the factory and we would all live in the camp. Soon enough, several transports arrived, mostly from Krasnik Oshendow.

 

The living conditions were very poor, as we were put in horse stables. The beds were four storeys high and not very pleasant. Six men had to share a bed, and that wasn’t the worst. The civilian Jews received a 20-centimeter red cross on their clothing and after a few days we were separated for work.

 

There were two working details; one was in the factory and one was in the living settlement near the camp in which workers were housed in several living blocks. In the beginning I was employed in the settlement blocks painting rooms. We were a group of twenty men and received some respite as the work was still in the preparatory stages.

 

After several days the German painting Meister Jaeger called me in to paint letters. This was good work for me because it was easy and was in a warm building. After a few days, Jaeger ordered me to work with the other painters as a supervisor in order to regulate the work. He also told me that soon I would not fear him, as he also was only a man. If I made sure that all of the work was as it should be, the other painters and I would be all right. I understood at once the great trust that he had in me by giving me this job. I agreed and began to lead the detail.

 

Hanke had brought an SS man as an assistant and soon the both of them began to show their brutal murderous behaviour. In the first five days they shot five of our ill comrades. Hanke himself hanged a fifteen-year old lad with his own murderous hands for buying some bread and sausage from a Polish worker.

 

At every step, these men would display their sadism. After a few weeks, we heard that Hanke and his assistant were leaving and that an even worse Oberscharfuher was to replace him, a man for whom the life of a prisoner was of no more value than a fly’s. His assistant was to be Unterscharfuhrer Stoshek, a middle aged man who spoke quietly, but whose Browning spoke often and without declaration. He shot anybody that he fancied to.

 

When they both took over the camp’s leadership, all of the prisoners were ordered to the area where roll calls were taken. Stoshek shot a man with the declaration that he had money and did not want to hand it over. Anyone of us who had money, gold watches, fountain pens or any other valuables had to hand them over at once; anyone who did not comply with this order would be shot at once.

 

Plan of the Budzyn camp (click text to enlarge)

Most of the camp’s inhabitants handed over everything to him and his helpers. A few days before, I had hidden the little money, which I had saved from work. The little pocket money that I had I threw away.

 

The second order was to dig a 25-metre wide grave, after which they made the first selection, which cost the lives of more than 120 people, mostly old men and children. Our spirits were crushed and everyone searched for a way to save himself through escape.

 

The outdoor world however was very dangerous for us at this time. Through other Poles, I learned that the Polish fascist parties had made up their minds to search with all of their power for any Jews that had escaped the camp. At this time there weren’t any regular partisan groups in the area surrounding Lublin, there were only Polish National partisans. Their chief aim was to find Jews and in many cases they succeeded.

 

 

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/jarniewski2.html

 

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2012

Memoirs of the Jewish Order Police in the Warsaw Ghetto

New Page 1
 

Ber Warm

 

Memoirs of a Jewish Order Service Policeman

 

 

Jewish Order Police

Ber Warm was a member of the Jewish Police Force in the Warsaw Ghetto. He was assigned to the Befehlstelle, the SS command post for the deportation and later to the Werterfassungstelle, the Office for Value Assessment. In April 1943 Warm went into hiding on the Aryan side, where he wrote his memoirs, shortly before his death.

 

I don’t know what went on in the Befehlstelle during the Aktion from the end of July to the middle of August 1942; people just said that Germans were living in the building. I was assigned there as part of the Jewish Sluzba Porzadkowa (SP) in early October 1942, so I know the Befehlstelle as it was between the first large operation and the second in January 1943.

 

I presume that was when the building located at Zelazna 103 began living up to its name Befehlstelle – command post – for the SS inside the ghetto, since the earlier deportations had been directed from the KSP building at Ogrodowa 17. After this building was excluded from the ghetto at the end of September, the SS headquarters were moved to Zelazna 103.The KSP was permitted to stay on Ogrodowa a little longer, although the Jews had been cleared out from that street during the latter half of August.

 

The SS, or rather, the SD (Sicherheitsdienst) located at Szucha 23 , had assumed command of the ghetto at the very beginning of the “deportation operation” – that is, at 8 a.m. on 22 July 1942. Until then the ghetto had been administered by civilian authorities, in the person of Commissar Auerswald, plenipotentiary of the Governor of the Warsaw District, who implemented his policies through the President of the Jewish Council. The SS command post inside the ghetto was set up expressly for the Aktion.

 

SS- Oberscharfuhrer Mende, the representative of Szucha Avenue, administered the first stage of the Aktion from the offices of SP Chief Colonel Szerynski, on the second floor of the SP headquarters at Ogrodowa 17; a plate affixed to the door read Sonderkommando der Sicherheitspolizei Umseidlung (Special Forces of the Security Police Resettlement). The adjacent office was shared by the brothers Stanislaw and Jerzy Czaplinski, district chiefs of the SP; group leader Mayzler; the daytime telephone operator; and Officer Landau, the night operator. The wife of SP sub-district commander Kornheim worked there as a steno- typist.

 

The delegates from Szucha Avenue and from Einsatz Reinhard chose the KSP building precisely because it served as the assembly point for the SP, which had been ordered to take an active part in the operation by assisting in the forced removal of people to the Umschlagplatz. The locale was probably chosen to facilitate contact with the SP leadership, as well as the rank and file, and to save time between the issuing of orders and their execution.

 

During the operation, Oberschafuhrer Mende was evidently acting only as a delegate of Szucha Avenue, while others represented Einsatz Reinhard, headquartered in Lublin. Because that office had only sent four or five officials, the deportation authorities had assigned certain local SD men to the Sonderkommando to share administrative duties.

 

The Befehlstelle had already assumed its final form by the time it moved, together with those Jews who, during the operation, had worked for individual Germans or else for the Sonderkommando in general. The new offices at Zelazna 103 were located at the end of the street, facing the cul-de-sac near the corner of Nowolipie. The three-story structure was recently built and considered contemporary; from the outside it looked quite attractive. The entrance way was paved, with tiled walls. Immediately to the right was a guardroom manned by Junacy – uniformed Poles in German service with a left armband saying Sonderdienst (Special Service). This room was equipped with a small table, an armchair, three sofa beds, and a radio.

 

Next door was the barber’s room, containing one small table, two armchairs and a medium –sized mirror; a white smocked barber was permanently on call. Following the main corridor, the next room on the right was the Befehlstelle office, which housed the Czaplinski brothers, Mayzler, the SP section chief Mauer, the quartermaster, and pani Kornheim , the steno-typist. This office was equipped with a large table, a desk, a small table, and wall maps of the former and current ghetto, as well as some nondescript pictures.

 

On the left side of the corridor, opposite the guardroom, were the rickshaw drivers and a shoeshine stand; the room had a small table and chair, as well as a sofa bed.. Farther along was the SP guardroom, with a small table and chair, two sofa beds, and a small locker. At the end of the corridor was a glass door with the same plate I had seen in the KSP: Sonderkommando der Sicherheitspolizei Umseidlung.

 

Post war photo of the Zelazna street police station

On the first door along the left inside this corridor was a sign saying Mende, SS – Oberscharfuhrer. This room had a desk, two armchairs, a closed set of shelves, a chair that folded out into a bed, a trunk on the floor, a radio set, two telephones with special hook-ups, a chandelier with five lamps, maps of the old and new ghettos, and portraits of Hitler and Himmler, as well as some non-descript pictures.

 

The next two rooms on the left had no signs; I don’t know what they were used for, just as I don’t know the purpose of the three rooms on the right, of which only the middle had a nameplate saying Klaustermeyer – SS Oberscharfuhrer; Becker - SS Oberscharfuhrer. I presume that the unmarked rooms belonged to Obersturmfuhrer Witossek, Untersturmfuhrer Brandt, Unterscharfuhrer Miretschko and SS men Blosche and Ruhrenschopf.

 

Mende was the permanent on-duty officer at the Befehlstelle. Tall, heavyset with a friendly face, he gave the impression of someone who had never harmed a soul in his life. He arrived by car – the well known black limousine with the licence plate POL 47525 – at exactly eight every morning and left between four and six in the afternoon. Only on occasion would he stay late to work at night. Brandt came every day for several hours, usually in the afternoon and often in the same limousine, which would leave after bringing Mende. More often, however, Brandt drove his own car, a small green Opel with a licence plate that said OST. Witossek also arrived in the black limousine, and they would all leave together.

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/berwarm.html

 

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

 

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2012

Yitzhak Katzenelson - His life, death and poems...

Yitzhak Katzenelson

Jewish Poet, Playwright and Educator

Yitzhak Katzenelson

Yitzhak Katzenelson was born on 21 July 1886, in Karelitz, now Korelichi, near the Belorussian capital of Minsk, as the son of Hinda Katzenelson and Jakob Benjamin Katzenelson, who was a writer and a teacher.

Soon after his birth, the Katzenelson family moved to Lodz, where Yitzhak was considered a literary prodigy. By the age of twelve, he already had written his first play, Dreyfus un Esterhazy, which he performed with other young people in his own backyard.

As an adult, he first became known for his Hebrew textbooks and books for children, which were the first of their kind. He also wrote Yiddish comedies, which he translated into Hebrew. His first volume of poetry, Dimdumim (Hebrew for twilight). Appeared in 1910, and two years later Katzenelson founded the theatre Habima Halvrit (The Hebrew Stage) and a Hebrew school in Lodz. He also contributed to the development of modern Hebrew through his work as a translator. He translated works by Shakespeare and Heine, among others, into Hebrew.


Several of his Yiddish plays were performed in Lodz even before the First World War, and he took it on tours of cities in Poland and Lithuania. Before the First World War Katzenelson undertook the creation of a network of Hebrew schools in Lodz, from kindergarten to high school, which functioned until 1939. He was the author of textbooks, biblical plays, and children’s books.

Beginning in 1930 he belonged to the Dror movement in Lodz and to the He- Haluts movement, the latter operating a training kibbutz- Kibbutz Hakhsharah in Lodz. Katzenelson’s work in the interwar period was based on his sense that Jewish life in the Diaspora was incomplete; this belief also motivated his participation in cultural and other public affairs in those years. Such feelings appear in his works in the form of sombre symbols of death, boredom, and silence.In his Yiddish play Tarshish, Katzenelson deals with the roots of anti-Semitism in Poland and with the utter hopelessness of Jewish life on Polish soil.


The German blitzkrieg against Poland began on 1September 1939, and eight days later Lodz, then home to some 250,000 Jews, was occupied by the Germans. Like many other Jewish institutions, Katzenelson’s school was closed; it later served as Gestapo headquarters.

At the urging of his family, Katzenelson fled in late November 1939 to Warsaw, his wife Hanna and their three children followed him there. In the Warsaw Ghetto Katzenelson worked in the underground as a teacher of religion and Hebrew and published under various pseudonyms , poems, short plays and articles in the underground newspaper of the socialist Zionist organisation Dror (freedom in Hebrew). Many of his works dealt with current events, while others had Biblical or historical settings and served as a transparent reflection of what was occurring at the time.

Katzenelson wrote poems about hunger and cold, which were intended not as works of art, but as a vivid expression of suffering, his images were a realistic expression in reaction to the desolate circumstances. The time in the Warsaw Ghetto was Katzenelson’s most creative period. In the ghetto he wrote approximately fifty plays, epics in verse and poems.

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/katzenelson.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto  H.E.A.R.T 2012

The Holocaust in Frankfurt am Main

Frankfurt

am Main

The City and the Holocaust

 

 

Copperplate engraving depicting a Jewish man & woman circa 1703

Founded in Charlemagne’s time, Frankfurt was for many years the site of the election and coronation of the German emperors, and in the fourteenth century it became an imperial free city, a status it retained until its annexation by Prussia in 1866.

 

Jews first settled in Frankfurt in 1074 and over the course of time its Jewish community became one of the most important in Europe. In the nineteenth century Frankfurt was a cultural centre of the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah), as well as of Neo- Orthodoxy.

 

It also played an important role in commerce, industry and banking – the Rothschild Bank had its centre in Frankfurt until the early twentieth Century. Two of the outstanding personalities based in Frankfurt in the twentieth Century were the philosophers, Franz Rosenzweig and Martin Buber.

 

In 1817 the city had a Jewish population of 3,300, which was ten percent of the total population, in 1930 this had risen to 30,000 and by June 1933, there were 26,158 Jews living in the city.

 

Frankfurt Am Main was one of the largest Jewish centres in Germany, second only to Berlin, it even had a Jewish mayor, Ludwig Landmann, when the Nazis came to power.

 

Following the Nazi rise to power on the 30 January 1933, the Jews of Frankfurt were subjected to physical assaults, as the Nazis did not wait for the official launching of the anti-Jewish boycott on the 1 April 1933.

 

Trade went down sharply in the Jewish stores and many went bankrupt and many Jewish owned enterprises were transferred to Nazi ownership. In the period from March to October 1933, 536 Jewish business enterprises in Frankfurt were closed.

 

The new Nazi mayor dismissed all Jews employed by the city even before the enactment of the national law to that effect, when the law was passed, the mayor had to re-instate Jewish employees who had seen active service in the Great War, since the new law specifically exempted them from dismissal.

 

Following the example set by the city government, all public institutions gradually dismissed the Jews on their books- the hospitals, law-courts, schools, university and institutes of culture and the arts.

 

When the Nuremburg Laws went into effect in 1935, Jews who had been front-line soldiers lost their exemption and were also let go, most privately owned commercial establishments also dismissed their Jewish employees.

 

As a result of the deterioration of economic conditions among the Jews, the two Jewish communities – the general and the “secessionist” Orthodox community- faced financial collapse. Their members, however, were willing to pay high community taxes and make substantial contributions in the form of cash or property, and thereby enabled the communities and welfare organisations to continue functioning.

 

Nazi party rally in Frankfurt am Main, 1932

In fact, in response to the growing needs, a large welfare network was established, in 1935, four thousand five hundred Jews were in need of help, this amounted to almost twenty percent of the Jewish population. In addition to financial assistance or help in kind – mainly clothing and food, a vocational training programme was set up, for the re-training of hundreds of youngsters of both sexes in productive occupations, trades and agriculture.

 

The Jews of Frankfurt – like Jews elsewhere in Germany – responded to their exclusion from society and cultural life by setting up their own cultural activities. In 1933 Martin Buber re-activated the Judisches Lehrhaus (Jewish Academy), which Franz Rosenzweig had established in the 1920’s, with a varied programme of lectures.

 

A Jewish symphony orchestra was formed, as were other musical groups and theatrical troupes, and the Jews had a rich schedule of performances and exhibitions from which to choose, ranging from music to photography.

 

A sports programme was also organised, with thousands of youngsters participating, these activities were confined to special sports complexes; in 1935 a special swimming pool was allocated as the only one to which Jews were admitted – the Jewish community paid an annual fee for its use.

 

In 1937 Jacob Hoffmann, the leader of the Mizrahi movement in Germany and the Orthodox rabbi serving the main community, was expelled to Hungary. Among the Polish Jews expelled from Germany on the 26 October 1938, 2,000 were from Frankfurt. On the 31 October they were allowed to return to the city, but were denied access to their homes, which in the interval had been sealed by the police.

 

The Jewish community provided accommodation for them in school buildings and private houses, and the Jewish welfare agencies took care of them until they were able to return to their own homes.

 

During the Kristallnacht pogroms on the 9 -10 November 1938, the big synagogues situated at Friedberger Anlage, Dominikanerplatz, Grosser Wollgraben, and Freiherr –vom- Stein-Strasse were burned down. Jewish Community buildings including the Jewish Museum and most of the small prayer houses were burned to the ground. Gangs of rioters roamed the streets, ransacking and destroying Jewish stores, and also causing loss of life.

 

In the following days, thousands of Jews were arrested in their homes, on the streets and in the railway stations. For several days they were detained in a large public hall, and were then taken to Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps.

 

Nazi propaganda stressed the point that the family of German diplomat Ernst von Rath, whose murder was the pretext for the pogroms came from Frankfurt, and that by coincidence his assassin Herschel Grynszpan had been a student at the Frankfurt Yeshiva. The Yeshiva building was destroyed by the Nazis

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/frankfurt.html

 

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2012

Holocaust survivor Jerry Koenig

The survival of Jerry Koenig

 

Hiding in Kosow- Lacki

 

 

Warsaw Ghetto

Jerry Koenig
Survivor Jerry Koenig delivers a speech about his time in the ghetto

The situation in the Warsaw ghetto was truly horrendous – food, water and sanitary conditions were non-existent. You couldn’t wash, people were hungry and very susceptible to disease because of their weakened condition. It is amazing what happens to people when they’re deprived of basic needs.

For my brother and me there was no school and the only entertainment was taking a walk. It was unbelievable the number of dead people you saw in the streets. When we came home, after a walk it was mandatory that we took off our clothing to search for lice, because they were the ones carrying typhus and typhoid fever.

The only way you could survive was by supplementing your diet with things brought through the black market. But you can imagine that if the sellers were risking their lives to obtain these things, then the price is going to be extremely high. So it was no secret in the family that eventually our financial resources would run out and we would face the same situation as others

One of my family’s important assets was a farm – large by Polish standards – near the little town of Kosow. Dad became friendly with a local family, the Zylberman family, also farmers. When we were in the Warsaw Ghetto, Dad and Mrs Zylberman corresponded with each other.

Mr Zylberman was saying, “I don’t understand why things are so bad because things are normal here.” His suggestion was that we should try to escape and go to their house, live with them and maybe help with the farm chores.

There was a street-car that actually traversed the ghetto area. The rules were that when it entered the ghetto area, all the passengers had to get off. While it travelled through the ghetto you could get on the street car if you had the fare, but as it was leaving the ghetto, everyone would get off and the streetcar would exit.

Trainstation at Kosow-Lacki
The train station at Kosow-Lacki

There was a man who had the right contacts and by bribing him we got on the streetcar. At the right time, the arm-bands identifying us as Jews came off, everybody looked the other way and we were on the other side.

We reached the little town of Kosow partly by walking and partly by train. When we arrived, we found that Mr Zylberman had not exaggerated – it was a very pleasant surprise for us because things were absolutely normal there. We didn’t know it at the time but a tiny Polish village nearby, by the name of Treblinka, had been selected as a death camp.

While we were living with the Zylberman’s and helping them with their farm chores and maintaining a semblance of a normal kind of life, the letters and postcards we had been receiving from our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in the Warsaw Ghetto all of a sudden stopped coming.

Then we started receiving people who had jumped off transport trains who were telling us a tale of horror, that the transports from Warsaw were going to this camp of Treblinka.

Another sign was that some bodies were burned in the fields and if the wind blew in the right direction the odour from this horrendous place was just unbelievable.

Read more here: www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/koening.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2012

The "Last Unrighteous"

The Last "Unrighteous" the story of Benjamin Murmelstein

Guest Publication by Holocaust survivor Wolf Murmelstein

 

[Please note the following is the original text as submitted by the author. No edits specific to grammar or translation have been made]

[photos added to enhance the text]

 

Benjamin Murmelstein

Who had been really Dr. Benjamin Murmelstein (Lemberg/Lwow 1905 - Rome 1989)? He considered himself the last survivor among the "UNRIGHTEOUS“ never fully realizing his own innocence. But, when stated as “Rabbi, Scholar, Leading Figure in the Holocaust period”. Even after he had passed away the writer of this note has the painful task to repulse absurd and slanderous accusations, almost always based on “hear say” circulating in the clear interest of wrongdoers to discredit a witness.

In 1938, as Austria had been annexed ("Anschluss“) to he THIRD REICH without any international opposition, not even of Benes, he was one of the 17 Community Rabbis at Vienna while in 1939 he was the only one; what only Chief Rabbi Hertz properly appraised. The Jewish Community of Vienna needed a young manager, certainly not a scholar. Documents submitted to the internationally recognized Nazi Authorities had to be written caring every single word and in a style a Nazi was willing to understand; certainly not following Goethe, Heine, Schiller, etc. Nowadays Jewish Leaders earn honors while in that time of darkness they earned, at least, harsh menaces. One of the very few survived Jewish Leaders was Rabbi Benjamin Murmelstein, almost never asked to give evidence.

Gideon Hausner, who never explained why he did not call Benjamin Murmelstein to give evidence at Eichmann trial, then mentioned him as “Associate” of Eichmann in the book JUSTICE IN JERUSALEM. A Nazi could not have a Jewish associate while Gideon Hausner was well aware that a poor Shoah survivor could not afford to sue a New York based big publishing house.

The full absurdity of the above mentioned view of Gideon Hausner and Prof. Anna Hajkova is well expressed by the ironical remark of SS Ltd Karl Rahm in a hearing before the Investigating Magistrate of Litomeric People Court: “No, things were not so. Murmelstein did not give us orders”

At October 14, 2007 at the Vienna Film Museum the first part, referring to Vienna, of the series of interviews granted in 1976 by Benjamin Murmelstein to Claude Lanzman had been shown. In discussion following Vienna Jewish Community Secretary General Raimund Fastenbauer found it right to speak of Benjamin Murmelstein as a “Collaborateur” called “Murmelschwein, . The writer, who for health reasons could not attend the meeting, learned of that incident only in October 2011 finding a reference in Internet. His letter of protest addressed to Vienna Jewish Community President Muzicant had been answered by one of the Principals of a big Vienna Legal Firm, letter mailed by DHL, warning the writer not to publicize his protest to media or in Internet… interesting indeed.

Furthermore, the writer could read in the right-wing Catholic on-line journal “KREUTZ NET” the article “Was hat die Kultusgemeinde zu verstecken/What Vienna Jewish Community has to hide?” learning so about Mr Muzicant’s refusal to make some documents – among them the personal file Benjamin Murmelstein – available also very interesting.

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/essays&editorials/The%20last%20unrighteous.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2012