Yom Hashoah

On Holocaust Denial at the Yom Hashoah Ceremony: Israeli President Ruvi Rivlin

GFHMeredith Scott, one of our students attended the Yom Hashoah ceremony at The Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum. The following blog is from her experience. Meredith, Cohort V, is an intern at the Ghetto Fighters’ House, she’s working with art made in the Theresienstadt ghetto.

The President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, spoke of a new type of Holocaust Denial whichIMG 3535 allows perpetrating governments to bring victimhood on themselves rather than accept their part in implementing the Holocaust. When these nations push the responsibility back on Germany, and Germany alone, they themselves resist the Holocaust, effectually denying the Holocaust.

Rivlin said, “We must wage a war against the current and dangerous wave of Holocaust denial. We must resist the renunciation of national responsibility in the name of alleged victimhood.” Furthermore Rivlin spoke of what he foresees as the alarming outcomes of this denial, “…the denial of the Holocaust, which is growing before our very eyes, strives towards a more sophisticated goal, and is much more dangerous. This is not a denial of the very existence of the Holocaust, but a denial of the distinction between a victim and a criminal.” Rivlin made the plea for “…moral internal reflection from all those who assisted carrying out of the systematic annihilation.”

IMG 3541The former President of Germany (as of last month), Joachim Gauck, also spoke at the ceremony. This is the first time a German official has spoken at a Yom Hashoah ceremony. Gauk spoke of the silence after the Holocaust and how that silence has broken in the last 50 years. He said, “It was a painful process but it created a new Germany.” Still in this new Germany, a guilt remains. Gauck said that Auschwitz stained him, and it will stain his children and their children, so all future generations of Germany will not forget. Gauk recalled, “I was unable to like my country. I hated it even.” Holocaust remembrance is central in Germany today, and it has an important place there, which, in a way, forges a bond between Israel and Germany.

The Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum and the Weiss Livnat International MA in Holocaust Studies have a long standing relationship. Over the years our students have had the priveledge to have internships with the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum. Our students also have access to their excellent library and archives, and they host an annual seminar for our students.


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Seminars, Special Tours

Our Visit to the Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum: Children and Holocaust Education

This is part three of a series about our four day seminar at the Ghetto Fighters’ House. You can read about the first day of our visit here, and our second day here.

On the third day at the Ghetto Fighters’ House our students met with Madene Shachar who guided them through Yad Layeled, a children’s Holocaust museum. Madene discussed the challenges presented to the museum staff regarding children’s Holocaust education, where one of the questions was: is this museum experiential or educational? She talked about how the museum made decisions when constructing Yad Layeled, both the physical building and the philosophy behind the education.

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Memorial to the Children of Theresienstadt

For example, at the entrance of the museum there is a memorial space for the children who perished in the Holocaust. The circular room’s walls, with a vaulted ceiling, is covered with stained glass windows.  Roman Halter designed the project; he based it on pictures children drew while living in the Theresienstadt Ghetto. Rami Karmi took these ideas and made the project reality. These children were living in two worlds: the ghetto and their imagination, an imagination only a child could live in. Most of the drawings are of plants and nature, swings and homes; they don’t depict accurately what their life was in Theresienstadt but rather what they dreamed of. As the light pours into the room, through these small windows, visitors are reminded that the children were kept from the outside world and trapped, yet the drawings themselves are beautiful and full of life. Madene shared some of the ideology behind this memorial: the museum wanted to focus on the life of the children rather than their death, and this is one of the ways the museum emphasizes their lives.

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Theatre in the Round, Cohort V on the way to see the play

After the students walked through the museum, they were invited to see a play based on the true life story of one of the child survivors featured in the museum. The play was performed in a dome theatre just outside of the museum, where the theatre hosts audiences almost every day for different groups that tour the museum. Our play was special because it was the first time it was performed in English. The museum staff uses this play, the survivor’s testimony, and other educational tools to teach the Holocaust to children, and most often they will include workshops where children can use art to express how they feel about the survivor’s story, which will usually include drawing, music or drama.

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At the Janusz Korczak Exhibition

Our students also visited the Janusz Korczak Exhibit which is located at the center of Yad Layeled. This exhibit tells the story of Janusz Korczak, who was the director of a Jewish Orphanage in Poland when the Germans invaded Poland. When the Nazis came to take the children to Treblinka, Korczak refused to leave them and went to Treblinka with them on August 5, 1942. Janusz Korczak was devoted to the children in his orphanage, and testimonies from orphaned children who survived the Holocaust relate his love for them. The exhibit has five different installations which comprise the “Circle of Life” of Janusz Korczck. 

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Cohort V students at the Janusz Korczak Exhibit.

Yad Layeled recorded many interviews with survivors who were children during the Holocaust; many of these survivors are gone now. The survivor generation is almost completely gone. The question of remembrance is coming to the forefront of Holocaust Studies, Yad Layeled offers an answer to this question with the integration of testimony and artistic expression.


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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Seminars, Special Tours

Our Visit to the Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum: Research in the Archives

This is part two of a series about our four day seminar at the Ghetto Fighters’ House. You can read about the first day of our visit here.

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Cohort V visiting the Remembrance Hall exhibition.

On the second day of the Ghetto Fighters’ House Seminar, Cohort V met with Anat Bratman-Elhalel, the head of archives. She took us to the Remembrance Hall, an exhibit that was just finished a year ago. The exhibition is designed in such a way that the archives are brought to the public. The artifacts are behind dark glass, the visitors use touch screens to illuminate the objects and get information about each of the objects. Four of our students are helping further the research of the exhibit. Anat talked to us about what remembrance is and how to allow the artifacts tell us history.

 

The students were also taken to the Researchers Room and given access to the vast archives. The Ghetto Fighters’ House has an exceptional collection of art made during the Holocaust, and most of their pieces are available for viewing online. One of our students will be assisting with an exhibition of Malva Schalek’s work from the Theresienstadt Ghetto. Malva was killed in Auschwitz but her paintings linger and relate what life was like in Theresienstadt. This exhibition will start in June, so stay tuned for more information.

The students were also taken through different exhibitions at the museum, including the Warsaw Ghetto Fights Back exhibition. The museum was designed in such a way for groups to be taken through each exhibit exclusively their their own group. Each exhibit has a place for a group to sit and discuss the exhibit. Our students discussed the importance of resistance in the Holocaust, including spiritual resistance, a term coined by Miriam Novitch, a Holocaust survivor and founding member of the Ghetto Fighters’ House kibbutz. Miriam advocated for Holocaust survivors who weren’t involved in active violent resistance, but called attention to resistance through participation in Jewish traditions, prayer, even living.

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Cohort V at the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising exhibition.

The students were also brought to the Camps Exhibition, here they were asked to dissect the symbolism in the exhibition design. They talked about exhibition design pertaining to the Holocaust and how to successfully show and impart messages. The Ghetto Fighters’ House staff was excellent in sharing museology with our students.

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Cohort V working with testimonies from founders of the Ghetto Fighters’ House Kibbutz


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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Seminars, Special Tours

Our Visit to the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum: Creating Normality After the Holocaust

Cohort V just completed our annual 4-day seminar at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum. The Museum was founded in 1949, by Holocaust survivors that had just moved to Israel. After the war, many survivors returned to Lodz, upon arrival they found themselves homeless and without any material possessions, as their homes had been looted and taken. While in Lodz, a group of survivors that also took part in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising made plans to establish a kibbutz and a Holocaust museum for their friends and family who had perished. The Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum became the world’s first Holocaust Museum, and the only Holocaust museum established solely by survivors.

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Welcoming Cohort V to the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum

When the students arrived at the kibbutz, our hosts organized a tour of the kibbutz, from Tali Shner, the daughter of Holocaust survivors who were part of the founding group. She showed us the first building where the museum had been housed. In the early days of the museum, they slept in tents while the only buildings left by the British Mandate housed artifacts, which demonstrates their dedication to remembrance. Everyone at the kibbutz, originally, were survivors, which posed challenges to finding a normality.

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Out students learning about Kibbutz life.

For example, the kibbutz cook had learned how to cook in a concentration camp. They food that she made was not very good, but she didn’t know how to make it better. After so much complaining from the kibbutz she got up early one day and walked 10km to the next nearest kibbutz. There she learned some from the cook there, and then walked 10km back to make dinner that night for the kibbutz. They worked hard to build a community that was full of life and good things.

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Cohort V on the tour of the Kibbutz

They embraced the kibbutz way of life, with babies and children sleeping apart from their parents in nurseries and in the school buildings themselves. In the evening the children would see their parents for a long dinner. This way of living which was already established by other kibbutzim gave the survivors a sense of normality and a ideological and cultural framework of community. (The first kibbutz in Israel was established in 1909.) Our tour guide told us that most of the young mothers had lost their own mothers in the Holocaust so they didn’t have anyone to ask about how to raise a child. The fact that the kibbutz offered unformed child care was relieving to most parents, while other parents had a difficult time spending such little time with their children, and they eventually left the kibbutz. There was also the constant question of whether or not it was okay for children to hear the story of the Holocaust everyday.

In a way, the Holocaust shaped their daily life. For example, our tour guide told us about a man who was very mean to the children and really everyone around him. When their teacher told them that he had lost his whole family in the Holocaust and he was the only one left, the children understood him and offered him more kindness. Death was their normality. But one the other hand, life and family became the most important things defining their daily life. Antek Zuckerman, founder of the kibbutz, said “We came here to build homes filled with life.”

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At the Elementary School for the Kibbutz children, they had school and slept in this building.


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, Internships, Research

John Shares about Internships at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum

Starring John Roxborough


John has an internship this year with the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum. He will be researching and working with artifacts in the impressive archives to share individual stories of the Holocaust.


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, Research

Lukas Shares About Research at the Strochlitz Institute

Starring Lukas Meissel


Lukas is a PhD candidate in Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa. While in Israel Lukas has access to excellent research resources. As a student at the Strochlitz Institute he has access to the archives kept within the institute, as well as the archives at Yad Vashem, the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum and more. Lukas is in the research portion of his dissertation now, which will last about a year, then he will move to write his dissertation, typically this takes two years. Thanks for your good work Lukas! We’re looking forward to see what will come!


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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