Some younger children and I were walking around there. Suddenly, we saw many young people marching in the street. They were playing musical instruments. It was a small band. For us children, it was a big deal at that time so we all followed them. They were lined up in columns. They were wearing beautiful clothes, some green and blue, white shirts. At that time, the komyugistn [Young Communist League members] used to wear uniforms. They were approaching the synagogue. They came to the synagogue, and they stopped and played. After playing, they set up a platform and a table, and we, all children, were there, because we loved the band. One of them took out a paper and read aloud that religion was not good, and that the synagogue is evil, too. “We, the members of the Young Communist League, voted that the synagogue disturbed our work and was harmful to youth so it had to be closed.” So, some people went into the synagogue and they kicked out the old Jews who were praying there. The old Jews went out; they said they were not able to fight with Jews. All the young men were Jewish. After that, the komyugistn took a board, a hammer and some nails, and shut the door and put a notice on the front of the synagogue that it was closed by resolution of the Communist Youth Organization of the clothing factory. That was it. From that moment on, the synagogue did not exist any more.
This is a story on my Google News right now. SO CONFUSING. Did Bulgaria save its Jewish population or not?!
The answer, as it so often is, is somewhere in the middle.
The 48,000 Jews who lived in Bulgaria (a Nazi ally) during World War II escaped unscathed. Not a single one of them perished in the Holocaust.
However, this period, Bulgaria occupied neighboring Macedonia, and the Bulgarian military there deported 11,000 Jews to concentration camps.
The Bulgarian parliament took responsibility for its actions for the first time last Friday:
“The objective evaluation of the historic events cannot ignore the fact that 11,343 Jews were deported from northern Greece and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, then under German jurisdiction,” legislators said in a declaration and expressed regrets that “the local Bulgarian administration had not been in a position to stop this act.”
The Shalom Organization of Jews in Bulgaria had repeatedly demanded the state to take responsibility for the deportations.
“The Bulgarian government must assume the moral responsibility for the Nazi death camp deportation of ethnic Jews from the regions of Thrace and Macedonia regardless of the fact that Bulgaria saved its almost 50,000 Jews,” the group’s chairman, Maxim Benvenisti, told The Associated Press before the declaration.
The municipality of Lviv, Ukraine, recently announced its decision to stop using Jewish headstones as paving materials.
The announcement follows a protest by members of the town’s Jewish community, who claim that hundreds of the old tombstones are still used as materials for construction projects.
In the years following World War II, the Soviet Red Army used the tombstones to build the town’s roads, sidewalks and the central Krakivsky Market, as well as for rebuilding structures that had been destroyed in the fighting.
The market was built on the site of a Jewish cemetery that had been devastated during the German occupation.
Authorities in Lviv have promised Jewish community leaders that the gravestones will be transferred to the only local cemetery that was not destroyed during the war, the town’s two main synagogues having been destroyed in the Nazi bombardment.
Some fragments of Jewish headstones were also found in villages outside of Lviv, and local residents said that they were waiting for the municipality or the Jewish community to return them to their original locations. Lviv authorities said that they will collect the headstones from around the city, if they can find the necessary financing.
This exceptional “Shiviti” sample, was painted in 1852 by Abraham Ben Zundel, who was an immigrant from the Greek island Corfu arriving to Moravia (a region in today’s Czech Republic).
It is characterized by its naïve Sephardi typographic style (unlike the acceptable Ashkenazi-style of that time that was common in that area), decorative additions (flowers, leaves, stars and even fish) and a composition derived from the Kabbalistic visual lexicon.
I’m not sure in what sense this art is “naïve”, but isn’t it beautiful?
Greek Jews, like most Jews in the Balkans, were and are Sephardim - descendants of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 - and are culturally and linguistically distinct from the Ashkenazi Jews to the north. I wonder what people in Moravia thought when they saw this.
A film about a Polish village whose residents help massacre their Jewish neighbors in World War Two has forced Poles to confront one of the most troubling episodes of their past.
Most historians take the view that during the war the vast majority of Christian Poles were victims of the Nazi aggression that killed millions of Jews. There are many documented cases of Poles risking their lives to save Jews from Nazi death camps.
“Poklosie”, or Aftermath, touches on a subject that many Poles prefer not to discuss - cases where Poles were complicit with the Nazis in rounding up, and in some cases, killing Jews.
Jewish groups have joined Poland’s artistic community and many younger, liberal Poles in applauding the film for lifting the lid on a taboo. Others say it is blackening Poland’s name by portraying its people unfairly as Nazi collaborators.
“It’s our moral duty to make this film. It’s a moral challenge to struggle with the topic,” Dariusz Jablonski, the producer of the film, told Reuters in an interview.
“This is one of our last historical taboos and I have a feeling that it’s a topic we’ve been avoiding. That’s not how it should be.
“Even if this terrible crime concerns only 1 percent of the Polish nation, it doesn’t matter, because we want to know about that.”
…“Poklosie” tells the story of how a Polish man who had been living in the United States returns to his home village and finds himself reluctantly drawn into uncovering what happened there during Nazi occupation.
The man discovers that, at the instigation of the Nazi occupiers, local people - including his own father - herded Jewish villagers into a building and burned them to death. They had then taken over their dead neighbors’ houses.
The story echoes a real event in the town of Jedwabne, about 160km north-east of Warsaw.
An investigation ordered by the Polish government has found that on July 10, 1941, at least 340 Jews were killed, some burned alive after being locked inside a barn. The investigation found Nazi occupiers and local people colluded in the massacre.
Some argue the film harms Poland by creating the impression that events like the massacre in Jedwabne were the norm in war-time Poland. The reality, they say, is that such events were an extremely rare aberration.
There’s quite a bit more at the source.
GET YOUR FESTIVAL OF LIGHT SWITCHED ON WITH THIS HANUKKAH LAMP
Galicia or Ukraine, ca. 1800 Silver: cast, filigree, engraved The Max Stern Collection. Collection of Yeshiva University Museum, New York. This lamp is of the Ba’al Shem Tov type, named after the founder of Hasidism, who, tradition tells us, owned a Hanukkah lamp of this type. This made it very popular in the Ukraine and in Poland. Unfortunately, many collectors have purchased lamps of this type in the mistaken belief that their purchase was originally owned by the Baal Shem Tov himself.
Thousands, including Israeli and US ambassadors, gather in Budapest to protest remark by Hungarian far right politician saying ‘Jews pose national security risk’.
A call in the Hungarian parliament for Jews to be registered on lists as threats to national security has sparked international condemnation of Nazi-style policies and a protest outside the legislature in Budapest.
The parliamentarian, from the far-right Jobbik party, dismissed demands on Tuesday that he resign, however, and said his remarks during a debate on Monday had been misunderstood. Marton Gyongyosi said he was referring only to Hungarians with Israeli passports.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside parliament, many wearing the kind of yellow stars forced on Europe’s Jews in the 1940s and some chanting “Nazis go home” at Jobbik members.
…Gyongyosi’s intervention in parliament on Monday afternoon came after discussion of last week’s fighting in the Gaza Strip and after a junior minister at the foreign ministry had made a statement to the house saying the government favoured a peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict as it would benefit Jews and Palestinians in Hungary and Israelis of Hungarian descent.
The Jobbik member, one of 44 in the 386-seat parliament, said: “I know how many people with Hungarian ancestry live in Israel and how many Israeli Jews live in Hungary.”
In his remarks, a video of which Jobbik posted on its party website, he went on: “I think such a conflict makes it timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary.”
The deputy speaker chairing the debate is a Jobbik member and did not intervene. Socialist opposition legislator Pal Steiner, himself Jewish, said on Tuesday: “There was little reaction beyond sheer shock … We couldn’t really digest what we’d heard, we’re so used to remarks like this from Jobbik.”
This is long but worth the read.
Vladka Meed, who with her flawless Polish and Aryan good looks was able to smuggle pistols, gasoline for firebombs and even dynamite to the Jewish fighters inside the Warsaw Ghetto, and who after the war became an impassioned leader in the national effort to educate children about the Holocaust, died Wednesday in Phoenix. She was 90.
…Mrs. Meed’s resistance work started with the deportation of 265,000 Jews from Warsaw to the Treblinka death camp and continued after the uprising by the ghetto’s besieged remnants. She told her story in Yiddish in her 1948 book, “On Both Sides of the Wall,” one of the first published eyewitness accounts. It was translated into English, German and at least three other languages, is still in print, and was a central source of the 2001 television movie “Uprising.”
When the Germans walled off a portion of Warsaw, she was still a teenager. Working as a machine operator sewing Nazi uniforms, she grew increasingly dejected watching the deportations in 1942 that included her mother, a 13-year-old brother and a married sister. But she responded resourcefully to a call for armed resistance.
With her brownish hair and prominent cheekbones, she could pose as a gentile, so the Jewish underground asked her to live on the Christian side of the wall and become a courier. Born Feigele Peltel on Dec. 29, 1921, she took the Polish nickname Vladka.
Women were often preferred as couriers, she said in a 1983 interview. “If a man in the underground went on a mission, he could be recognized as a Jew by his circumcision,” she said. “A woman’s body might be searched, but it could not give that information.”
She was soon buying bullets, pistols, even dynamite, and carrying them, as well as money and essential information, to the Jewish side of the wall. Sometimes she became part of a Polish ghetto work detail, sometimes she bribed her way across and sometimes she clambered over the wall. With death all but certain, she once recalled, “there was very little left to fear.”
Several times, she smuggled Jewish children out of the ghetto and into the homes of sympathetic Christian families. According to Michael Berenbaum, a leading Holocaust scholar, she helped pass on to the Polish underground the startling news about Treblinka — that trains filled with Jews were returning empty, that no food was being shipped and that there was an omnipresent stench of corpses.
The ghetto uprising, in which lightly armed young fighters took on the Nazis by firing from hide-outs in buildings and sewers, began in January 1943 and continued for four months, though Mrs. Meed did not take part in the final battle in April. She had been ordered to remain outside the walls for future missions, and as the rebellion ended she saw the smoke billowing from the ghetto while pretending to enjoy a carousel ride.
What a life. There’s more at the New York Times.