The International Center of Photography has taken a break from their usual work memorializing the Spanish Civil War — just kidding, they have what looks like a great retro of Chim’s work (Dawid Szymin) on the ground floor — to present an impressive look at the work of Roman Vishniac. Drawn from a treasure trove of 10,000 negatives, the majority of which have apparently never been seen or printed (and were first digitized in the summer of 2012), the show makes a convincing case for Vishniac’s place in the canon, releasing him from the ghettos his work illuminated and with which he’s become almost exclusively associated. [click to continue…]
One week after the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, on this date in 1945, British Movietone News arrived at the camp to film evidence of the Nazis’ crimes. Dr. Hadassah Bimko Rosensaft (1912-1997), a dental surgeon who spent twenty months at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen and saved hundreds of lives at both camps, spoke to the camera in fluent German and became one of the world’s first public witnesses to the Holocaust. Bimko lost her husband, child, parents, and sister at Auschwitz, but endured thanks to her medical training: Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele assigned her to the Jewish infirmary at Birkenau, where her interventions saved scores from the gas chambers. At Bergen-Belsen, a slave-labor and POW camp, she had established a kinderheim (children’s home) with several nurses, which housed 150 ranging from infants to teenagers during the bitter winter from December 1944 until their liberation on April 15th, 1945. All but one of the children survived. Bimko worked alongside the British military to try to save the lives of thousands of critically ill survivors (14,000 of 58,000 survivors died after the camp’s liberation) and became a leader of the Jewish Displaced Persons Camp at Bergen-Belsen, where she married and lived for five years after the war. In September 1945, she was a principal witnesses for the prosecution at the first trial of Nazi war criminals by a British tribunal in Lüneburg, Germany. Between 1978 and 1994, she played a key role in the creation of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. To see her testifying on the British newsreel, see below.
“For the greater part of the liberated Jews of Bergen-Belsen, there was no ecstasy, no joy at our liberation. We had lost our families, our homes. We had no place to go, nobody to hug. Nobody was waiting for us anywhere. We had been liberated from the fear of death, but we were not free from the fear of life.” —Hadassah Bimko Rosensaft, 1981
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was dedicated on this date in 1993, fifteen years after President Jimmy Carter had established the President’s Commission on the Holocaust, which was charged with the task of memorialization and chaired by survivor and Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel. The Museum was built on 1.9 acres of the National Mall at a cost of nearly $200 million, all of it raised through private donations. The architect was James Ingo Freed, a German-born Jew whose family fled from Nazi rule in 1939, when he was 9. (Freed also designed the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.) The first visitor to the Museum was the Dalai Lama. Two million people now visit annually. To read Elie Wiesel’s dedication speech, click here.
“People who come from different horizons, who belong to different spheres, who speak different languages — they should feel united in memory. And, if possible at all, with some measure of grace, we should, in a way, be capable of reconciling ourselves with the dead. To bring the living and the dead together in a spirit of reconciliation is part of that vision.” —Elie Wiesel, remarks at the dedication
Nazi casualties: only 16 dead, 100 wounded, according to Yad Vashem researcher Havi Dreifuss. Yet the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which erupted on this date in 1943, “was a moral victory,” says Dreifuss. “No one believed the Jews would fight back. It’s amazing that after three years of Nazi occupation, starvation and illness, these people found the strength to disobey the Nazi orders, stand up and fight back.” Here is an eye-witness account by Zivia Lubetkin, who was among the founders of the Jewish Combat Organization (ZOB) that led the uprising. She survived to speak these words at Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem:
“I saw the thousands of Germans who surrounded the ghetto armed with machine guns and cannons, and they starting entering – thousands of armed soldiers, as if they were on their way to the Russian front. And we stood against them, 20-something young men and women. Our weapons? Each of us had a pistol and a hand grenade, two rifles between us and some primitive hand-made bombs whose fuses we had to light with a match, and one Molotov cocktail. . . . It was strange to see the 20-odd young Jewish men and women standing happy and in high spirits opposite this huge armed enemy. Why happy and in high spirits? Because we knew their end would come. We knew they would defeat us first, but we also knew they would pay a dear price for our lives. And they did. It’s hard to describe, and many won’t believe us, but when the Germans approached and marched below us, and we hurled the grenades and bombs and saw German blood in the streets of Warsaw, after so much Jewish blood and tears had flowed through the streets of Warsaw — we were filled with happiness and didn’t care what would happen tomorrow.”
“Why should we fear death, if its angel rides on our shoulders?” —H.N. Bialik
by Marvin Zuckerman Recently, a friend asked me the following question: Why were the Nazis so successful in exterminating six million European Jews? I was dismayed by the attitude displayed with this question, but I gave him a simple, quick answer: A heavily armed superior force can do what it will with an unarmed civilian [...]
by Ralph Seliger Sunday, April 7, marks Holocaust Remembrance Day. This solemn day is commemorated annually by Jews around the world, recalling that from June 1941 until the end of the Second World War in Europe in May 1945, one-third of the world’s Jewish population perished in a systematic campaign of annihilation. This indelible fact [...]
A Dutch Jewish gymnast who shared a gold team medal for combined exercises as part of her country’s gymnastics team at the 1928 Olympics, Judikje Themans-Simons was gassed with her husband and two young children at the Sobibor concentration camp on this date in 1943. The couple ran an orphanage that housed 83 children in [...]
Six thousand Jews were murdered in the ghetto of Minsk, the capital of Belarus, on this date, Purim, in 1942, as the Nazis and their auxiliaries conducted their third major pogrom in the city since conquering it on June 28, 1941. With rumors of an impending pogrom sweeping the ghetto, the local Jewish Council had [...]
SS chief Heinrich Himmler received a report from SS-Obergruppenführer Oswald Pohl on this date in 1943 inventorying the materials taken from Jews in Auschwitz and its satellite camps. Cited items included 155,000 women’s coats, 15,000 children’s coats, 132,000 men’s shirts, 11,000 boys’ jackets, 22,000 pairs of shoes, and 6,600 pounds of women’s hair, enough to [...]
Yakov Grojanowski (Szlamek Bailer) escaped from the Chelmno extermination camp in Poland on this date in 1942, after helping to bury 1,600 Jews who had been gassed in a van at the camp in the course of about two weeks. Bailer, whose parents and siblings were among the victims, managed to make his way to [...]