Guest Lecturers, Holocaust Survivor, Research Forum, Uncategorized

Holocaust Survivor Micha Gelber shares his story with Cohort VI

Gelberblog.pngThis week in the Research Forum, Holocaust Survivor Micha Gelber shared his story with Cohort VI.

Micha was born in 1935 in the Netherlands. His memories began in 1940 at age five when the Germans invaded. He recalled the Nazi restrictions placed on him and his family, from not being permitted to leave their village, to having the family’s house confiscated and going in and out of hiding. Fortunately, Micha’s father was well-informed through the company he worked for and by local connections and was warned in advance when there would be waves of arrests. In 1943, however, when a Dutch policeman warned them of further arrests, Micha’s father, who had been given information that the family would be receiving Red Cross exchange certificates, decided not to go into hiding. As a result, the family was sent to Westerbork, but did receive confirmation that the Nazis intended to keep them alive to be exchanged for German nationals living in Palestine. That certificate was one of the reasons why the family was able to survive together throughout the rest of the war.

Sternlager

The Sternlager at Bergen-Belsen

Micha and his family spent five long months in Westerbork until 11 January 1944 when they were sent to Bergen-Belsen. At Bergen-Belsen they were kept in the Sternlager (Star Camp), which was comprised of other Jewish prisoners who were expected to be exchanged. Prisoners of the Sternlager did not have their heads shaved, kept their own clothing, and were not tattooed with a number. This is only because the Nazis benefited from the prisoners’ “wellbeing” for the purposes of the human exchange. At night, men and women were separated, but during the day, the families could spend time together and interact. As lucky as Micha and his family were to survive, they did not escape the traumas of Bergen-Belsen. Micha and his father suffered from typhus and it was impossible to avoid witnessing the inhumanities of such a camp. Micha recalled seeing people collapse and having their clothes stolen from them while they were still alive, as well as seeing dead bodies pile up around them. Micha also told our students how fortunate his family was to survive, stating that only 6 out of 1250 families in the Sternlager survived completely intact. Micha attributes this survival to luck, but also to strength and resistance. On 10 April 1945, just days before the British arrived at Bergen-Belsen, Micha and his family were deported east, either for extermination or to be used for trading with the Russians. While en route to whichever was to be their fate, they were liberated by the Red Army.

 

Gelberblog2

Micha today lives in the Netherlands and spends his time giving lectures weekly at schools and universities. He believes that speaking about his experiences is perhaps a way of digesting his trauma. Despite his story, Micha says he has always been active and takes life as it is. He considers himself a survivor and not a victim. This is his character and his spirit.


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

Advertisements
Standard
Guest Lecturers, Holocaust Survivor, Research Forum, Uncategorized

Holocaust Survivor Danny Chanoch Speaks to Cohort VI

Danny ChanochThis week in the Research Forum Holocaust Survivor Danny Chanoch spoke to Cohort VI to share his story of survival through solidarity. Danny was born in 1933 in Lithuania. He was nine years old when the Germans invaded. Danny recalled seeing the atrocities that accompanied the German occupation of Lithuania with his own eyes. Because of his blonde hair and Baltic looks, he was the only member of his family who was able to safely leave their home to buy food. Walking around Kovno as a young boy, Danny saw Jewish people being tortured on the street. At such a young age he had to put up a wall between him and what he saw happening. His duty was to get food for his family, and he was also unable to help.

In August of 1941 Danny and his family had been moved into the Kovno Ghetto. He survived a kinder aktion because his older brother, Uri, despite suffering severe beatings, refused to disclose his whereabouts. This was one of the many instances of solidarity in Danny’s story of survival.

IMG_4297

In 1944 when the Germans began to evacuate the Kovno Ghetto, Danny, Uri and their father were deported to Dachau, and Danny’s sister and mother were sent to Stutthof. This was the last time that Danny saw his sister and mother. A few days later, Danny and 130 other children from the Kovno deportation were then sent to Auschwitz, where they worked dragging roll wagons full of victims’ possessions from the ramp to the storerooms. Danny experienced another case of solidarity at Auschwitz. When working with the wagons, if one of the boys was unwell or felt he was going to collapse, the others would give the struggling boy a better position so that the Nazis could not identify that they were weak, which saved them from their certain death.

The surviving members of the 131 children, including Danny, were then sent to Mauthausen. Another act of solidarity occurred on a death march. Anyone who collapsed or fell during the death march from weakness was shot. The 40 boys left from the 131 had helped and carried each other throughout the march to ensure their survival.

IMG_4295

Eventually, Danny was liberated from Gunskirchen. After liberation, Danny and Uri were reunited in Italy and made their way to Eretz Israel in 1946. Danny, who grew up in a Zionist household, remembers that arriving in Eretz Israel and seeing his Israeli brothers and the Star of David on the flag was one of the greatest moments of his life.

As harrowing as his story is, it is a reminder that even through the worst times there were still moments of support and solidarity. Danny attributes every single survivor to acts of solidarity, stating: “There’s not a single survivor which survived without solidarity and without help.”


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

Standard
Current Events, Current Students, Guest Lecturers, Program News, Research Forum, Uncategorized

Dr. David Hirsh speaks at the University of Haifa about Contemporary Left Antisemitism

hirshToday the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies had the pleasure of hosting Dr. David Hirsh, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, who spoke about the subject matter of his new book: Contemporary Left Antisemitism. Hirsh’s book covers a range of issues surrounding contemporary left antisemitism in the United Kingdom, from the Livingstone Formulation (that bringing up antisemitism is more offensive than antisemitism itself to particular progressives), antisemitism and antizionism in the British Labour Party, to assorted boycotts of Israelis, Israel, and supporters of Israel. Hirsh, in his book and in his lecture at the University of Haifa, provides an analysis and critique of the various left-wing antisemitic and antizionist discourses and movements in Britain today.

In his informative and thought-provoking lecture, Hirsh discussed some of the characteristics and manifestations of contemporary left antisemitism. For example, Hirsh noted that left antisemitism is often dressed up and is attempted to be passed off as antizionism – something which is tolerated and deemed relatively acceptable in the mainstream today. It seems that to be left-wing and antisemitic is an oxymoron, given the left’s tradition of anti-racism. However, antisemites of the left, Hirsh argues, often do not even recognize that their rhetoric in fact holds hostility towards Jews. In his lecture, Hirsh also demonstrated many similarities between the tenets of both left and right wing antisemites, such as contempt for democracy, and suspicions of international corporations and trade, which supposedly hide the true power structures of the world.

IMG_4285

Hirsh went on to discuss some of the worrying aspects of antisemitism creeping into the mainstream through both the avenues of the populous left and the populous right. Hirsh recalled Hannah Arendt by noting that we must not forget that Nazism was viewed by many Germans as a radical and exciting movement that people wanted to be a part of. Hirsh explained that today people have a “plastic” understanding of the Nazis and forget that it did not start straight away with characteristics of 1939; it was something that grew and manifested from small kernels of supposed rationality. Today there is the problem that many have forgotten the past and say that the political situation “couldn’t be worse,” which, indeed, it could be if people blindly follow and cease to engage in intellectual discussion and debate.

IMG_4287

Hirsh wrapped up his talk by speaking about the effects of the left’s antisemitism on the Jewish community of the United Kingdom. Hirsh explained that while contemporary left antisemitism is certainly of concern, many British Jews do not face antisemitism in everyday life and are safe on the streets. But, if one is involved in politics (student or other) then they are likely to experience it.

Ending the lecture on a more positive note, Hirsh optimistically stated that the fight in the Labour Party and in the United Kingdom is not finished yet and is not even close to being finished. As long as the discourse remains lively and people can still write and debate, there is hope.


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

Standard
Guest Lecturers, Research Forum

Guest Speaker: Yoram Haimi

Since 2007, Israeli Archaeologist, Yoram Haimi, and Polish Archaeologist, Wojciech Mazurek, have been excavating at the former Reinhard Extermination Camp site, which was created by the SS in Sobibor, occupied Poland. Yoram came to share his research with Cohort V for a Research Forum lecture. All that had been known about Sobibor before the excavation was from about 50 survivors. From their testimonies, historians have made educated guesses on what the camp must have looked like and what happened there. After the uprising in October 1943, the Nazis razed the camp and planted trees to hide their crimes.

img_3260

Yoram speaking with Annika, University of Haifa Holocaust Studies student

The excavation has revealed some inaccuracies of what has been thought about Sobibor and also proved historian’s theories. The project has made a completely new map of the camp. Originally the major goal of the project was to find the gas chambers. After 7 years they found the foundations of the gas chambers under asphalt which was laid as a foundation to two Polish memorials that were constructed at Sobibor following the war. In the process they found a lot of other details which made the story of Sobibor more complete, such as the escape tunnel that some of the survivors have mentioned.

Sobibor was built in March 1942, as well as other death camps, Treblinka and Bełżec as a part of Operation Reinhard. From April 1942 to October 1943 about 250,000 Jews were murdered at Sobibor. Just like the other death camps there were three main sections of the camp: reception, administration, and extermination. At any one time only about 100 Jews lived at Sobibor. They were forced to aid in the extermination of their own people. Of these workers, around 50 survivor. Their testimonies constructed what was known of Sobibor, now the excavations complete this information.

img_3261

Yoram speaking with Mason, University of Haifa Archeology Student

Most of the victims of Sobibor were Dutch. Throughout the excavations the team has found valuables such as jewelry. Recently they found a pendent that was identical to one of Ann Frank’s. This pendent belonged to Karoline Cohn. She and Ann Frank were born in the same year, 1929. The pendant was found along the Himmelfarhtstrasse (the street to heaven). The Himmelfarhtstrasse was a path with high camouflaged fences on either side, that lead to the gas chambers. Without the excavations the path would not have been found. When the team found the Himmelfarhtstrasse and then they knew it had to lead to the gas chambers.

When the excavation find items that they can tie to specific people they notify living family members. For example, Yoram told us about a family’s story whose questions they could answer about a small child who was murdered at Sobibor. His sister came to Sobibor and finally said the mourner’s Kodish for her brother, she didn’t know where he was during the war but she was certain that he had been murdered. But she couldn’t be sure until Yoram and his team were able to answer her questions.

img_3247

Yoram sharing about the different families’ stories he’s been able to provide some answers for.

The excavation includes a team of Polish people from the area, and volunteers. One of our students from Cohort II volunteered and wrote a blog post about it. You can read it here.

For more information, check out the articles below:

http://www.yadvashem.org/research/research-projects/sobibor-excavations

http://news.leiden.edu/news-2015/excavating-the-gas-chambers-at-sobibor.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/nazi-concentration-camp-excavations-anne-frank-links-extermination-sobibor-jewish-israel-yad-vashem-a7529161.html

http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/the-archeological-excavations-that-led-to-the-gas-chambers-of-sobibor-a-993733.html

Standard
Guest Lecturers, Research Forum, Seminars

Dr. Dan Michman | When did the Holocaust happen?

Dr. Dan Michman, Head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem, came to share with Cohort V earlier this month. His seminar included three topics. This blog is about the third topic: “Twelve Years of the Nazi Regime, Eight Decades of Research: The History of Holocaust Research from a Bird’s Eye View, 1933-2015.”

For the final session of Dr. Michman’s seminar, we discussed the periodization of the Holocaust. Here are some various starting dates: 1939 (the beginning of the WWII), 1941 (the beginning of the Final Solution), 1942 (Auschwitz begins mass murdering), 1789 (Jews are emancipated under the French Empire), or 1933 (Hitler becomes Chancellor); and some ending dates: 1945 (End of WWII), or 1948 (Creation of the State of Israel).

img_3172

1789 is included because some think the only reason Jews were emancipated was to push them toward acculturation. When the Jewish community continued in their culture and tradition, there is said to be a pendulum swing reaction in that the rest of Christian Europe started to heavily persecute Jews as punishment for not assimilating. The definition of periodization can be broad. Should the period of the Holocaust include so much? Any historian can provide documents and arguments for their own definition.

Another issue we discussed is what the term should include. The Shoah was not only the murder of six million Jews, it was also the destruction of their communities, the destruction of Synagogues, Torah Scroll, and books. So what limits can we set as we discuss the Shoah? Do we have to set limits, or can it be all inclusive?

We also discussed the popular view of Auschwitz representing the Holocaust. Dr. Michman says it is not a proper representation of the Holocaust. One-million-one-hundred-thousand Jews were murdered at Auschwitz which is not to be downplayed, but it represents ⅙ of the Holocaust. It does not represent the Jews murdered in Concentration Camps, Death Pits or by hard labor. Auschwitz is a factor that defines the Holocaust, but in of itself it cannot describe the totality of horrors.

The next question we discussed was how do historians define the Holocaust. Dr. Michman suggested two paths of historiography: the Jewish Historiography and Perpetrator Historiography. After the Holocaust survivors began writing about their experiences and collecting stories to make  a history of the Shoah. The center of this study was not Nazism but rather the Jewish experience.

img_3179

The other path was the study of Nazism. The foremost question in perpetrator historiography research was “What went wrong with Germany?” Their research included very little Jewish testimony, but relied heavily on Nazi documentation. Immediately, the research was used in the Nuremberg Trials. In a sense it was also used as a coping mechanism for Germany. Their research often started in 19th century Germany to understand trends of German culture, that may have lead to the acceptance of Nazism.

The next generation of Holocaust research in Germany lead to the Historikerstreit (Historians Fight/argument). The children of the perpetrators started asking their parents “What did you do?” Which lead to student uprisings in 1968 in both Germany and France. Their research started broadening the scope of bystanders to German, French etc citizens. (Before the term bystander applied to Eisenhower and Churchill.) Historian, Götz Aly, belongs to this younger group of historians.

The definition of the Holocaust is complicated. But each definition adds to the greater understanding of what happened. It is important to take each of these perspectives into consideration when defining the Shoah for yourself.

img_3182

We want to thank Dr. Dan Michman for his insightful seminar, and we look forward to meeting with him again in the Spring Semester!


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

Standard
Guest Lecturers, Seminars

Dr. Dan Michman: Historiography

Dr. Dan Michman, Head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem, came to share with Cohort V earlier this month. Dr. Michman is also the authority on Holocaust Historiography. If you’re interested in more on this topic you can read his book: Holocaust Historiography: A Jewish Perspective. His seminar included three topics. I will post three blogs covering the seminar, so stay tuned.

The first topic Dr. Michman discussed was an introduction to Historiography and Holocaust Historiography. Historiography is the analysis of history. He explained the concept with the diagram below:

img_3169

In other words the historian works with documents or remains from the past, the true event, and the product is a historiography. The product the historian produces does not equal the past, because the historian has added his own agenda and bias to the the documents they have read from the past. The historian may also have a leaning toward economic or political history, so he will exclude all other documents, and focus solely on a few specific documents. This gives only a small window into the past, but the whole picture is missing. The product of the historian will only ever relay a small part of the past.

When a historian sifts through a collection of data and selects documents it is called “colligation.” Dr. Michman compared this to making a necklace, he said some necklaces are made better than other necklaces. Likewise, some historians are better than others. Historians can argue about colligations, some say that Marxism invented Nationalism as a direct reaction. Others say Nationalism was a development of Colonialism.

img_3174

Historians also argue about the documents they use. Can all of them be trusted? For example, can the German or perpetrator documents be completely trusted? Dr. Michman says no. They can be inflated to make themselves look better. They also use code words like “deportation,” and “immigration” for murder. While they are good resources to give a glimpse of the past they cannot depict the whole. For example, at the Eichmann trials he suggested conclusions about the Nazi regime that historians didn’t come to until the 1990’s but his words could not be trusted. He had lied more than he told the truth. The trials are still a good resource to analyze for a picture of the past but it can’t but utterly trusted.

Dr. Michman introduced the idea of history belonging to two different disciplines: Social Sciences and the Humanities. He said in some ways historians are social scientists in that they make a direct impact on modern people. Learning from history shapes our culture and future actions. But historians also belong to the humanities. We discover history, knowing history means we know humanity. There is a seeking and study of minute documents to arrive to conclusions about the past.


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

 

 

Standard
Guest Lecturers, Holocaust Education

Collegiate Holocaust Education in Germany

Guest Speaker, Verena Lucia Nägel, spoke to cohort V earlier this month, her lecture was titled, “Teaching About the Holocaust in the Country of the Perpetrators.” In elementary school all German children learn about the Holocaust in several different disciplines. For example, they may learn the Holocaust first in German History, then in Global History (taught in different grades). But Verena said this is not enough. She and a small group of researchers want to practically understand the status of collegiate Holocaust Education in Germany, so they started a statistical analysis.

Their focused question was to “ascertain and describe the current state of University teaching in the history of the Holocaust in the German context.” The sought to do this by statistical analysis of German Universities and how many Holocaust courses they offer. The based their statistical analysis on a Dual-Level Empirical Survey based on a sample of course catalogues from 79 universities in the German Rechter’s Conference. By searching through each of the course catalogues from the past 4 semesters with keywords relating to the Holocaust or National Socialism, they found all of the possible related courses provided by the universities. They also conducted interviews with 13 experts in the field, covering the most important universities in Germany. These 13 exports ranged from tenured professors to first time lecturers.

Their findings led to the conclusion that there is not enough higher Holocaust education in Germany specifically for students planning on becoming history teachers in the public school system. Verena said that the findings of her survey are particularly problematic for students who want to be history teachers, because they will be required to teach history but some of them have never taken a course specifically on the Holocaust. On average, 117 Holocaust courses were offered per semester throughout Germany, or about 1.5 are taught at each university per semester. This information leads to the conclusion that there some universities that do not teach on the Holocaust each semester, and this does not get enough basic background in the Holocaust. In the course of 4 semesters at university, the survey reports that in 16 universities students can take only 1 course on the Holocaust, in 28 universities students are not able to take such courses, in 29 universities students can take at least 2 courses and in five universities students can take Holocaust courses every semester.

munich-towers

Ludwig-Maximilians-University

The top universities for Holocaust Education are the Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Freie University Berlin, Touro College Berlin, and Humboldt-University Berlin. The survey found that universities with institutes for Holocaust Education generally offer more Holocaust courses. Also, bigger universities often provide a better variety of course and therefore tend to offer more Holocaust Studies.

The 13 interviewees said that their classes on the Holocaust are often full and their students would like more courses to be offered. In all of the courses throughout Germany only 5 courses offer meetings with survivors of the Holocaust.

In academia there has been a shift from Holocaust Studies to Genocide Studies. But this is not happening in Germany. There are only 17 courses throughout Germany in Genocide Studies and 5 of these also discuss the Holocaust.


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

Standard