“America, a nation of immigrants, has a dark past of rejecting “the other.” This history includes the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the National Quotas Act of 1924 and the World War II internment of Japanese Americans. Even in the aftermath of the Holocaust, our borders were barely open to Jewish survivors. In 1945, a million Jewish, Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Ukrainian and volksdeutsche refugees in displaced persons camps in Germany and Austria faced resettlement. Three-quarters of the million in the DP camps were not Jewish. “The Last Million: Europe’s Displaced Persons from World War to Cold War,” David Nasaw’s new book, recounts how the United States was slow to create adequate camps for the Jewish survivors, and, in the next decade, new laws pushed back on accepting large numbers of Jewish refugees.” Read full story here.
It was a moment of quick thinking on the part of 15-year-old Herbert Heller. He was at Auschwitz, standing before the man who would decide whether he lived or died, a man he was told went by the name of Dr. Mengele. “I can work,” Heller said in German, and flexed what he now calls “nonexistent muscles.” He may have been scrawny, but it was enough, and he was sent not to the gas chamber but to the barracks of the camp. Heller, 91, said that moment has never left him. Read full story, includes link to video here.
The movie Soul Witness is based on over 80 hours of Holocaust video testimony, conducted approximately 30 years ago in Brookline. Interviews ranged from 45 minutes to 7 hours. The goal of the effort was to memorialize the Holocaust through video testimony interviews. See full story here. See also the links for more information – a radio interview, and the website The Story of Soul Witness.
“Piero Terracina was 15 years old in 1944 when two SS soldiers entered the home in Rome where he and his parents, his grandfather, his two brothers and sister and an uncle had gathered to celebrate Passover. They were deported to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in Poland, where only Mr. Terracina emerged alive. After maintaining a long silence about his experience in the camp — an existence that he compared to a double life, as he went about his normal activities by day and endured nightmares of Auschwitz by night — Mr. Terracina found purpose and meaning as one of Italy’s most prominent witnesses to the Holocaust.” Read full story, including links to oral history here.
In the 21st century everyone is a writer with an important story to tell and easy access to publishing tools. Underpinning the phenomenon is a plethora of writing courses promoting the notion that all personal stories are equally interesting and should be shared. Is this a welcome advance on the quaint condition of the cottage industry known as publishing, where publishers acted as gatekeepers, editors edited and critics provided robust judgment?
Making sense of one’s life through writing and reflection can be useful. But so too is a stint on the therapist’s couch. In a period bloated by the fetish for the personal and a paucity of informed analysis, there is cause for concern. The compulsion to make a personal exercise public rests on the assumption that an individual’s story must be of interest to others. For full story click here.
Shmuel and Fredja Rothbard – both Holocaust survivors, landed in Auckland this week from Israel to begin a powerful journey sharing their remarkable survival stories to students and community groups. Like many survivors, their stories are full of hardship and suffering but also of kindness and humanity, which miraculously saved their lives during WW2. Read full story here.
Marking 75 years since the Kristallnacht attacks of November 9-10, 1938, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Oral History Division launched a new website where the public can search and access 900 previously unavailable Holocaust-related voice recordings and transcripts. One of the earliest-recorded oral history archives of the Shoah, this new resource will provide educators with an invaluable teaching tool and will benefit the study, research and production of materials relating to the Shoah. For full story click here.
Brisbane Catholic Education has facilitated the staging of an exhibition on the Holocaust to help school students realise the importance of good people standing up in the face of bad situations. "Courage to Care", an initiative of the not-for-profit Jewish community organisation B'nai B'rith aims to educate visitors to understand the role of bullies, bystanders and victims using stories of the Holocaust. For full story click here.
Eighth-grader Benjamin Barth of Teaneck used to think that all Jews affected by the Holocaust were in either ghettos or concentration camps. Now, as a result of his participation in the oral history film project “Names, Not Numbers,” he understands much more about the Shoah. “It’s not just a single story of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps,” said Benjamin, who is a student at the Moriah School in Englewood. “There are other aspects, like people resisting all over Europe.” For full story click here.