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.

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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.

 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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Alumni, Current Students, Holocaust Education, Holocaust Internship, Internships

Cohort V Student reflects on her year in the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies

Mallory

Cohort V Student Mallory

It has already been a month since we said goodbye to Cohort V. Our student Mallory reflects on her life changing year, shares her plans for the future, and gives advice for the students of Cohort VI, who we have the pleasure of welcoming to Haifa later this month.

What were some of your highlights from the past year?

Highlights from the past year circled around learning from the wonderful professors who are instrumental in the field of the Holocaust. Every single professor has a unique teaching style and they all have their own niche. I can only wish we had more time with them! Another major highlight was to see classmates grow into colleagues. Meaning, I look forward to the next few years, staying in touch to learn who earned what job position, or doctorate, or where they will be speaking next – or, how I can get an advanced copy of their amazing book or article! I am certain there are some of us who, because of the education we received at Haifa, will contribute greatly to the new generation of Holocaust academics. We have experienced something special and I think that experience will sustain for years to come.

What impact has the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies had on your life?

The impact of this Program will continue to reverberate in my life for years to come but for now, the greatest impact has been the chance to grow as an academic with those interested in this field. The discussions in and out of class were thought provoking and unique. Moreover, the networking and introduction to possibilities that extend beyond the classroom such as internships and fellowships are the start to my academic career, and a strong one at that. It is only through the Program that such a firm foundation could have been built.

What advice do you have for the students of Cohort VI and beyond?

Seek out, and take advantage of, every opportunity beyond the classroom hours. The professors have dedicated office time, are responsive to email, and will help you flourish in your writing and thinking more than you could imagine. Additionally, the internships and fellowships that are granted exclusively to us are incredible – APPLY! More practically, find a study schedule and stick to it, but remember that you’re in a once in a lifetime opportunity both academically – and geographically! Study, but travel, too. That said, don’t forget why you’re here. You wanted to earn a degree – so earn it. Do the homework, contribute to class dialogue, and enjoy your time. (But definitely travel.)

What are your plans for the future?

My only aim is to finish my thesis. I think once I find myself close to completing that goal, more opportunities and ideas will crop up. In the meantime, it’s research, research, and writing!


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

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Current Students, Eritrean refugees, Genocide Studies, Holocaust Movies, Research Forum, Uncategorized

Cohort V Student shares thoughts on “Sound of Torture” and her decision to study the Holocaust

 

The following is written by Cohort V student Eugenia Mihalcea:

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Eugenia Mihalcea   

The documentary Sound of Torture (2013) written and directed by the Israeli filmmaker Keren Shavo, screened in one of the last Research Forum classes, might have many unspoken things. The director chose to follow the Eritrean radio host and human rights activist Meron Estefanos as she reports on Eritrean refugees who have been captured in Sudan while migrating across the Sinai Peninsula into Israel. Keren Shavo does not address the problem of the Israeli official approach to the Eritreans or to refugees in general, or the criminality in the southern part of Tel Aviv. On the other hand, the documentary reminded me why I chose for research the Holocaust.

In order to explain this, I will tell a story. A few years ago, I came to Israel as a young BA student to learn Hebrew. We were five colleagues from Bucharest willing to learn Hebrew better but also to visit and explore Israel a little bit. One day we went to Tel Aviv, to the beach, we enjoyed the sun, the sea, the sunset. We were staying in Jerusalem, so at some point we realized that we need to go back by bus. We asked around and people guided us to a bus station in the southern part of Tel Aviv. We knew nothing about the Eritrean neighbourhood. We just walked in the dark to the bus station. Until we reached what we imagined is Africa – as Maron said in the documentary. But we did not feel joy and happiness as Maron did. We felt fear. We were afraid. I was afraid of the unknown and unfamiliar people walking around without purpose. I was afraid of their music, of their houses with the doors wide open, of their language I could not understand. I knew nothing. I did not see them as people, as individuals. I saw them as Africans. I was using racial denominations when thinking about them and this was beyond my rational mind.

After almost one year in the International MA program, after exploring other genocides as part of different courses I took, and last but not least, after seeing the abovementioned movie, I can say that engaging in Holocaust Studies is not only about research.

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Unknown people in an unfamiliar environment, speaking a strange language, not having enough food, enough money, living like in a ghetto. Sound familiar? They could be the Eritreans in the south of Tel Aviv. They could be the African refugees living in different European countries nowadays. They could be the Muslims in Western Europe. They were the Jews during the Holocaust.

It is a pattern and even if the planned idea is not to compare, this pattern can be helpful in understanding that every, but every person has a story. And we just need the patience to listen to it.


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

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Holocaust Movies, Research Forum

Hilla Medalia on her film “Numbered”

IMG_4002Producer, Hilla Medalia, shared at a Research Forum about her film Numbered. The film is about survivors in Israel that still bear their numbers from Auschwitz. It’s focused on the effect of their numbers on a personal level and their relationship with their numbers. Some say they cannot remember their number, even though it’s tattooed on them, maybe they’re suppressing traumatic memories. Most agreed that they want to hide their number, as if their tattoo invited questions from strangers. One survivor said a cashier asked her about Auschwitz at the register in a grocery store. Another survivor said his number reminded him that he lived, so he never tried to hide it. When he got his tattoo he cried tears of joy, because it meant he would survive, those who went straight to the gas chambers were never numbered. Other said they cried because it took their humanity, their identity from them; it reduced them to just a number. In any event, all of those interviewed had their own story of how they felt about their tattoo.

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About 400,000 prisoners at Auschwitz were tattooed with numbers; only a few thousand are still alive. The film reminds us that the Holocaust factors daily into the lives of the survivors and their families. Whether it’s the survivor that’s hiding her number at the cash register, or the survivor answering questions from his grandchildren, their numbers are active players in a daily reminder of the Holocaust.

Medalia shared that on the day they filmed all of the survivors together, they started talking to each other to see if they met each other in the camp, or if they had mutual acquaintances. They compared their numbers and when they arrived at Auschwitz. They all wanted to relate to one another. Medalia doesn’t normally work with Holocaust films, the process of working on this film was significant and moving.


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

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Research Forum

Director Arnon Goldfinger shares about his documentary “The Flat”

IMG_4001In a recent Research Forum, director, Arnon Goldfinger, shared about his 2011 documentary called The Flat. After his mother passed, Goldfinger and his siblings were charged with cleaning out her flat, where his grandparents, Gerda and Kurt Tuchler, also lived. They immigrated to Palestine in the 1930’s, fleeing from Nazi Germany. The film started as a sort of familial archive, but developed into a much larger story.

Goldfinger realized that the story unfolding was too significant to keep it for just the family archives. He said, looking through the lens of the camera he could seen the flat with new clarity and renewed focus. He decided to produce the film as a documentary, and see where it would take him. Without knowing where the content of the flat would lead him he focused on the question: What can you find out about people from the things they left behind?

Through a series of letters and photos, Goldfinger discovered a surprising relationship between his grandparents and Leopold von Mildenstein and his wife. Leopold von Mildenstein was the director of the Office for Jewish Affairs in Nazi Germany, he was succeeded by Adolf Eichmann. In the 1930’s, Mildenstein travelled to Palestine to assess viability in the country for hosting more Jews, he was accompanied by Goldfinger’s grandparents. Memorabilia, including photos, made Goldfinger confront this silenced family memory.

After the war, the Tuchler’s and Mildenstein’s continued their relationship, the Tuchler’s visited the Mildenstein’s in Germany often. In the film, Goldfinger follows his grandparent’s footsteps and visits with Mildenstein’s children. He goes on a journey examining the Holocaust and WWII memory through Israeli and German perspective as the descendents of these unlikely friends discuss their own experience and relationships with their respective families.

The film has won several awards including: Jerusalem Film Festival Award for Best Director of a Documentary, Bavarian Film Away for Best Documentary, and Tribeca Films Festival 2012 for Best Editing Documentary, among many others.

For more information on the film, and how to watch the film: Visit the website.


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

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