Guest Lecturers, Holocaust Movies, Holocaust Survivor

Director Ronen Zaretzsky, Survivor, Kazik Rotem, and The Last Fighter Film

image (5).Earlier in the summer semester, writer and director Ronen Zaretzsky joined our class to screen his documentary, The Last Fighters, which details the lives of the surviving members of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The 2006 film traveled to Poland, Israel and Canada to visit the aging fighters and get their views on both the past and the present. It centered on a reunion between many of the living members of the Uprising in Poland, where they were honored by the Polish government for their heroic acts on the 60th anniversary of the Uprising. Many of these fighters’ own communities and neighbors do not know their stories. It began with Marek Edelman, one of the icons of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, who then was living in Lodz. His strong Bundist beliefs kept him in Poland after the war, where he became a heart doctor in order to help people after seeing the horrors of the war.

The film then brought the audience to Israel, where Zaretzsky interviewed Masha Futtermillech and Pnina Greenspan in Tel Aviv, Kazik Rotem in Jerusalem and Aharon Carmi in Kfar Saba. In the documentary, Carmi recalled jumping off a train carrying his family bound for Treblinka and returning on foot to Warsaw. Zaretzsky and his crew then met with Bronek Spiegel in Montreal, whose late wife Haika was also part of the Uprising. Spiegel spoke about his training and preparation for the fight while with the Eyal, a Jewish Fighting Organization created in 1942 after a mass liquidation of the ghetto which left mostly young people still in the ghetto.

In Poland at the reunion, the fighters relive the events of the April 1943 uprising. The film discusses the time-by-time and street-by-street play out of the uprising, how it happened, which building each of the fighters hid in, and when each detail occurred. All 220 fighters were divided into 22 groups, each group with a commander. They were all part of various Jewish youth movements, both Zionist and non. They then discussed their memories, as well as their relationship with the Jewish State and its role with Diaspora Jews.

As many of them were the only surviving members of their families, they needed to build their own lives from new at the end of the war. Pnina discussed the complicated feelings she had with returning to Poland, a country she once called home but then ran away from. After the film screening, Zaretzsky joined our cohort for a question and answer session. A student, Rotem, asked, “Why weren’t members of the Artzi, another movement in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, interviewed?” Zaretzsky said it was because most of them did not survive. Another student, Ziva, asked,  “How do you think the movie affected the survivors?” Zaretzsky replied, “For Masha it affected her a lot. She asked me, ‘Why did it take you so long to talk to me?’ She was very willing to be interviewed, and we had more than 100 hours of interviews with her.” He ended by saying that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is one of the most unbelievable stories of the 20th century: a group of 200 young people who fight against the Nazi empire. It was the first instance of civilians fighting against the Nazis during the war.

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Following this screening and after learning that one of the fighters from the movie, Kazik Rotem, is still living in Israel, our program organized a meeting between students and Rotem in Jerusalem. Our group traveled to Jerusalem to meet with him for the afternoon. He opened himself up for questions and discussion with our group, and told of his experiences during the uprising and his thoughts on life after the war. During the uprising, he was ordered to go to the Aryan side and make contact with Antek Zuckerman. He was only 19 years old at the time. He and his comrades hid in the sewers of Warsaw, walking 3km together with little rations, all while underneath the feet of the Nazis, to escape. While this happened, the Nazis discovered the bunker where the uprising fighters were hiding, including Mordecai Anielewitz, and killed them.

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Rotem had successfully, but unknowingly, escaped. When students asked about what he felt at the time, he responded, “We had no intention or thought of surviving the uprising. I never thought I would make it out of there. But we knew we wanted to die fighting, like humans.” He recalled what it was like to take part in the action and spoke of the adrenaline the he felt. Rotem ended the meeting by talking with each student and asking about the diverse backgrounds that make up our program.

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Our students unanimously felt that this was one of the most meaningful events of the year, one which left many students at an emotional loss for words. It was an incredible opportunity for our cohort to have an intimate, face-to-face meeting with one of the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and to learn about history from someone who made the history happen. It was also a chance for our program to pay tribute to Rotem and his courageous acts.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/

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Guest Lecturers, Holocaust Survivor

Holocaust Survivor Hugo Marom visits MA in Holocaust Studies Students

16079-photo_t2.jpgHolocaust survivor and former Israeli Air Force pilot, Hugo Marom, recently met with our cohort to tell his story of survival through the Kindertransport. Marom was born in 1929 into a Jewish family from Prague, who can trace their roots in the city back centuries. He was just a child when the Sudentenland was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938. Jews from this region fled for other parts of Czechoslovakia, which was then also taken over by Germany. Around this time, a British man, Nicholas Winton, was invited by a friend to Czechoslovakia who wanted him to help in saving Czech Jews. After seeing the imminent danger, Winton returned to England to request permission from the British government to send Jewish children to England. He found support from many organizations that wanted to help, including Jewish, Protestant and non-religious groups from both England and Czechoslovakia. The British government agreed only on the conditions that English sponsor parents who wanted to temporarily adopt these children pay large sums of money and get multiple visas and affidavits for them. These conditions made it increasingly difficult to find homes for these Czech children, but Winton succeeded in finding homes for 900 children. Another man, Bill Barazzetti from Switzerland, also worked with Winton to find places for them. He had worked for years prior on helping Jews and Communists escape from Nazi-occupied territory, and after nearly being beaten to death by the Gestapo, he continued his incredible work.

Marom and his younger brother were two of the children on this list. He recalled saying goodbye to his parents, for what he did not know would be the last time, and boarding the train with other children. They were on the last train out of Czechoslovakia before travel stopped for the beginning of WWII. They departed Prague on July 28, 1939. The last trains scheduled to leave were for September 1, 1939, the day Nazi Germany invaded Poland. In total, 669 of the 900 children on Winton’s list made it out on these trains. Their long journey made stops in Leipzig and Holland before finally reaching London. He even remembers writing postcards from Leipzig to his parents, as instructed to do by the organizers of their trip. Upon arriving to London on August 3, 1939, 10-year-old Marom and his 8-year-old brother went alone to find shelter, finally finding a place at a youth hostel on the East End. Two weeks after the bombing of London started, all children, the Marom brothers included, were sent out of the city to the countryside for safety. They found a family to live with, and remained there for the next six years until the end of the war. At first, he said, some British families were hesitant to take them in because of the language. Their German language fell on sensitive ears; the scars from WWI were still fresh and hearing the sound of the enemy was too much for some. “Animosity often comes through language”, recalled Marom. He then spoke briefly of his life in England during the war. He quickly learned English, and made friends. His favorite meal until this day is fish and chips!

Marom then painfully spoke about his parents. They made the Kindertransport trains seem like a fun game, in order to mask their pain about parting from their children. After the war, he found out that both of his parents had been murdered. His mother was shot while she served as a cook in Auschwitz, and his father was killed in Treblinka. Most of the Kindertransport children lost their families; of the 70,000 Jews in pre-WWII Moravia, very few survived. Following the Allied victory, Marom remained in England with his brother and other Czech Jewish children. The retain their Jewish identity, the children, many of them now teenagers, created their own kehillah, or community. A synagogue was established with a rabbi that conducted prayer services when he was available; the rest of the time the Bar Mitzvah-age children (including Marom) led. Marom became a cobbler by trade, and received a scholarship to the Northwest Polytechnic School. Later he made Aliyah to Israel, where he served in the Israeli Air Force and was stationed in Jaffa.

It wasn’t until decades after the war the Winton and Barazzetti received attention for their heroic actions. In a now-famous British television show, Winton was invited as a guest who was then surprised to find out that their entire audience was former Kindertransport children. Following this incredible revelation, in which Winton’s deeds because public to the world, he was invited to Yad Vashem in Israel to be awarded the Righteous Among the Nations. However, because of Winton’s partial Jewish ancestry, he wasn’t eligible for the award. Barazzetti was given it posthumously, and Winton was given a letter from Ezer Weitzmann, then the Prime Minister of Israel, in recognition of him saving 669 Jewish lives.

Marom told this incredible story to our class, and then answered our questions. Student, Laura, asked about his role in the Israeli Air Force. Marom told about receiving his wings from David Ben-Gurion himself, and the pride he felt representing the Jewish state. Weiss-Livnat director, Dr. Yael Granot-Bein, then took the opportunity to talk about the formation of a thesis topic. She pointed out that students in the past have written on subjects related to the Kindertransport. She used their examples for our cohort, many of whom are currently working on their thesis proposals. In all, it was an inspiring and informative talk with Marom, and a unique opportunity to hear from someone who was a part of the history we study.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/

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Guest Lecturers

Racial Science and Racial Policies in Nazi Germany with Dr. Amir Teicher

Amir-Teicher-pic-150x150In one of our summer semester Research Forum sessions, Dr. Amir Teicher joined our class for a fascinating look at Racial Science and Racial Policies in Nazi Germany. Dr. Teicher is a professor at Tel Aviv University, and specializes in Modern German History, Eugenics and Racism.

This lecture focused on the history and ideology of Nazi racial theory, and the scientists that were involved in it. Dr. Teicher began by debunking the idea that racial theory should be labeled a ‘pseudo-science’. He said that despite negative moral impact of this school of thought, these scientists upheld the same standards and practices as other scientists of this time period. They had peer-reviewed works, which were then used in studies across Europe and the United States. The uneasiness we now feel with referring to this as “science” comes from the horrible history and methods used in furthering this science. The “Social Scientific” thought complicates how we think about racial theory. It also impacts the motivations behind scientific movements. Dr. Teicher said that there are social and cultural terms, values and methodologies unique to the scientific community. General and cultural influences from outside society have an effect on what and how scientists study.

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In the 1920s and 1930s, steps towards the promulgation of eugenics grew in Germany as well other countries. A 1927 handbook on Human Genetics outlined the scientific processes one must take in order to accurately study eugenics, including how one’s world views may affect the scientific outcomes. In 1933, German scientist Karl Saller conducted an in-depth study on the biological differences between American and German Jews. He had Jews from the United States come to study under him, and used them as data for his research. Using Swedes as the base line for genetic specimens, Saller compared the physical measurements of these American Jews to find out if their biological make up was more similar to that of Ashkenazi or Sephardic Jews. After his study was published, his methods were then used by other scientists in the field.

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In the early years of Nazi Germany, the T4 euthenasia program was instated, in an attempt to “purify” Aryan society from undesirables. Beginning in 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were a set of racially based laws, mainly targeting Jews, that stripped Jews of their civil and social rights based not on their religious background, but on their Judaism as a race. They determined Jewishness by bloodline- whether or not their parents were Jewish- and physical likeness, rather than belief. This then brought up questions of mischlinge, or “mixed race”, in the question of someone with only one Jewish parent.

Later during the Holocaust, doctors at Auschwitz and other death camps conducted hundreds of tests on human experiments, all in what they believed to be the name of science. These inhumane procedures on live, conscious bodies produced some of the more gruesome facts of the Shoah. This issue led students to discuss the ethicality of this data. After WWII, the data collected in the camps was used for scientific studies. Dr. Teicher said in some places in the world it is still used, despite strong opposition from many in the medical community.

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Dr. Teicher’s lecture was an interesting and in-depth look at a topic central to Nazi ideology and practice during the Holocaust, and allowed students to further explore this dark but important part of history.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/

 

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Guest Lecturers, Holocaust Survivor, Uncategorized

Arieh Oz, Child Survivor, Visits Cohort IV

Arieh Oz.jpgIn a recent Research Forum seminar, our students got to meet and hear from Arieh Oz, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the IDF and Holocaust survivor. He told of his family’s history in pre-WWII Europe, his survival, and later immigration to Israel.

Oz, born Harry Klausner in Wuppertal, Germany, was the son of Polish parents who had immigrated to Germany. They were a non-religious Jewish family, who made a living by working in the garment industry. Before the war, Oz said, they felt German in every sense of the word: through language, culture and appearance. Yet the first years of his life were impacted by the growing Nazi government; when he was born in 1936, he was forbidden from receiving a circumcision by a rabbi and had it done by a German doctor instead. After years of debating whether or not to move to Palestine, the Klausner family finally decided to leave Germany after the destruction of Kristallnacht in 1938.

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They first settled in Holland, which to their surprise, was invaded by the Nazis in 1940. For the first two years of occupation, Oz’s life was still safe. He and his sister were kicked out of school, and Jews had to wear yellow stars but that seemed to be as bad as it was going to get. However, in 1942 when the Nazis began rounding up and deporting Dutch Jews, Oz and his sister were sent with a young woman to live with a Dutch non-Jewish farming family. His father had fled to Palestine, and his mother went into hiding with another non-Jewish family. Oz adopted a new identity, speaking Dutch, praying in a church, and working on the farm. Despite multiple raids on the house, he and his sister were never found in their hiding places in the attic. In 1944 as the Allied forces advanced, Oz recalls hearing planes as he lay at night, listening to differentiate between models and countries.

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After liberation by the Canadians in 1945, Oz made his way to Palestine with his mother, sister, and tens of thousands of other Holocaust survivors. Upon meeting his father, he remembers not feeling any connection, since he had not seen him since he was quite young. Oz grew up in Tel Aviv, where his father bought a home, and was sent to the best schools in the country. After initial hardship in this new country, Oz flourished, graduating high school the 3rd in his class. He joined the Air Force and became a well-known and well-respected pilot. His many missions included those to Amsterdam, his hometown, as well as work on the Entebbe raid. After leaving the military, Oz continued to fly, this time as a chief pilot for ElAl. In 1972, nearly 30 years after the end of WWII, he brought his foster parents from Holland to Israel. They were honored as Righteous Among the Nations and have a tree planted at Yad Vashem. Oz is married to his wife of 60 years, and they share two children and nine grandchildren.

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Once he finished speaking students were invited to ask questions about his life and personal story. When asked about his post-war relationship with his mother, he told that due to hardships of the war, his mother was impacted for the rest of her life. His sister also had problems adjusting to Israel, and now lives in the United States. He answered students’ questions about his wartime life by remarking that he never shared his story of the war with his father, and his father likewise did not tell of his life in Palestine. The war’s toll on his family lasts until today; his sister is still very much traumatized by her childhood in hiding. Finally, a student asked about his name change. Oz said that upon arrival in Palestine, he wished to leave his European identity behind and embrace his new culture. Thus Harry Klausner became Arieh Oz.

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When Oz joined the army he became a pilot in the Israeli Airforce, inspired by his time in hiding listening to the planes during World War II. He is involved in the From Survival to the Skies organization, which commemorates and documents an interesting phenomenon Oz is a part of.  During the 1956 Suez Crisis 144 pilots in the IAF were Holocaust survivors, although this was not known at the time. Forty-four of the pilots are still alive. Once members of the IAF, including Arieh Oz, realized that a significant number of Holocaust survivors served in the IAF they established the From Survival to the Skies organization to collect their testimonies and honor their service.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/

 

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Current Students, Uncategorized

International School “Graduation” Ceremony 2016

13781862_1139689906087471_7614986965799525647_nLast week the International School at the University of Haifa held a ceremony for all of the international Graduate students.  Since our students write their theses from around the world, the ceremony is held in the coordination with their last semester of coursework.

We wish all our students luck in completing their degrees!

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/

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Guest Lecturers

The Jews of Bulgaria, Dr. Rumyana Marinova-Christidi

Dr. Rumyana Marinova-Christidi recently came to give a lecture to our cohort on the lives Dr-Rumyana-Marinova-Christidi.jpgof Jews in Bulguria before, during and after WWII. Dr. Marinova-Christidi is a professor at Sofia University in Bulgaria, and is a scholar on Communism in Bulgaria, WWII, interfaith relationships and modern Jewish history.

When the modern Bulgarian state was founded in the 19th century, the centuries-old Jewish community was well integrated within Bulgarian life. Bulgarian independence brought about political rights to all minorities, including Jews. Rulers had a good relationship with the Jewish community; the royal family was present at the grand opening of the new synagogue in 1909. In 1920, Jews made up about 1% of the total population. Most lived in large cities, such as Sofia, had professions in trade, medicine and craftsmanship. Dr. Marinova-Christidi pointed out that during this time, anti-Semitism was low. Pre-war Bulgarian Jews weren’t Orthodox like their Eastern European co-religionists. Following the rise of the Nazi Party in the mid-1930s, two anti-Semitic youth organizations appeared in Bulgaria. They both had unsuccessful attempts at copying Nazi anti-Jewish policies throughout the 1930s, in which they gained little popular support. With the onset of WWII, Bulgaria aligned with Germany and the Axis powers. This caused the government to initiate anti-Semitic policies, such as registering with the government, prohibition on relationships between Jews and non-Jews, and compulsion for Jews to sell their land to non-Jews. The anti-Semitic government complied with the deportation of 12,000 Jews to Treblinka in 1943.

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Despite the anti-Semitic legislation and deportations, Dr. Marinova-Christidi included that there were Bulgarians, from both sides of the political scale, that protested the poor treatment of Jews. After learning of a planned deportation in March 1943, groups of civilians protested at Parliament, and said deportation was cancelled. For the remainder of the war, many Jews were forced into labor camps to do gruesome, sometimes deadly, manual labor. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, 90% of Bulgaria’s Jewish population made Aliyah and moved to the new Jewish country. One student asked about this- if their status in Bulgaria after the war was good, why would they leave? Dr. Marinova-Christidi said, “They see Bulgaria as their motherland.  They cherish this country.  They left after the establishment of the state of Israel.  In Bulgaria in 1948 and 1949, there was the communist regime.  The government allowed them to leave.  They arrived in Haifa with ships, once they arrived they were given weapons to fight for the state.” Students learned about Bulgarian Jews briefly at their November seminar at Yad Vashem, and this was a good opportunity for them to explore the topic more with a Bulgarian scholar.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/

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Current Students, Holocaust Internship, Internships, Special Projects

Angel Noel: Internship at the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives in Budapest

Angel Noel (Cohort III, Philippines) recently completed one of our international internship opportunities in Budapest.  We are excited to share her experience with you!

IMG_9794After having a rewarding and enriching experience of doing an education-track internship in Israel, I decided to explore the possibility of learning more through taking an internship in the museum world of Holocaust Studies. When the opportunity in the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives in Budapest opened, I knew it was one that I should not forego. With the prospect of creating or collaborating to work on exhibits about the Holocaust, I was very excited to be given this opportunity.

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I decided to focus on two projects for my 4-week internship at the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives, comprising a project each for the museum and archives sector of the institution. I was tasked to conduct a visitor survey at the museum and I also worked on an online archive of artifacts from the Holocaust collection.

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The visitor survey aimed to look into the visitors’ museum experience and interests and gather quality-oriented data which would be applied in the museum’s current phase of reconstruction. Over 90 respondents participated in the survey and the demographics were fairly diverse according to age, religion and nationality. Since the survey aimed to gather a comprehensive visitor feedback, the questions ranged from logistical concerns to content-wise assessments. And with much success, the survey reflected the visitors’ positive interest in learning more about the Hungarian Jews’ history, cultural and religious practices, and the Hungarian narrative of the Holocaust. Moreover, it has equally yielded constructive criticisms on enabling a better understanding of these topics. Visitors were surveyed about how the Hungarian Jewish Museums compare to other Jewish museums the visitors have been to (those in the USA, Israel, Berlin, and Warsaw to name a few). Overall, the survey mirrored a good amount of feedback and suggestions aimed to improve and enrich the visitors’ experience. I am honored and privileged to be able to contribute in this process of revising and improving the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives.

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Additionally, it was also very interesting for me to dig in their archives and work with artifacts. I was given the opportunity to take photographs and learn about the different and remarkable items from their Holocaust collection. To name a few are a Hanukkah Menorah made of bread, an underskirt made from a Tallit, an aluminum bracelet with a heart-shaped pendant, a Mezuza which was encased and made into a necklace, and an intricately made Seviszi board in a labor camp. I worked on several artifacts to add to the online archive of the Holocaust collection which was set-up and initiated by my colleague Annette Covrigaru, who was also an intern there early this year. These objects reflect the remotely known traces of humanity among those who were victims of the Hungarian Holocaust. It perfectly fused my interest in photography, history, archival research and museums together in a single project. Now, the artifacts are available to view online (http://milevblog.tumblr.com/archive), each with brief descriptions that had been translated to English.

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On my last day, I presented the outcome of both projects to the team I had the pleasure of working with at the museum and archives and with them was also the museum’s director, Zsuzsanna Toronyi. The internship allowed me to gain understanding on the history of Hungary, Hungarian Jewry and their narrative of the WWII and the Holocaust. I found it fascinating that the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives has the synagogue, the garden and the new 100! exhibit to collectively present various events in the history of the Hungarian Jewish community. I think the institution, although currently limited, has a lot of potential in creating exhibits according to significant historical events in the Jewish communities in Hungary because of its unique and rich history over different periods under different regimes.

Interested in interning at the Jewish Museum in Budapist, or applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/

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