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Holocaust Ghettos - Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski

Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski

 

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team holds no viewpoint on the actions of Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski.

We only seek to present the factual events from several viewpoints and allow the reader to formulate their own views. -
 

Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski

Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski was born in 1877 in Russia. His family relocated to Poland where he maintained an unsuccessful career as the director of an orphanage.

On October 13, 1939, the Nazi occupation authorities appointed him Judenrat Chairman in Łódź. In this position he reported directly to the Nazi ghetto administration headed by Hans Biebow and had direct responsibility for providing heat, work, food, housing, and health and welfare services to the ghetto population.

With 230,000 people confined to a very small area that had no farmland, food quickly became a problem. Since the Nazis insisted on having the ghetto pay for its own upkeep, money was needed. But how could Jews who were locked away from the rest of society and who had been stripped of all valuables make enough money for food and housing? Rumkowski believed that if the ghetto was transformed into an extremely useful workforce, then the Jews would be needed by the Nazis. Rumkowski believed that this usefulness would ensure that the Nazis would supply the ghetto with food.

On April 5, 1940, Rumkowski petitioned the Nazi authorities requesting permission for his work plan. He wanted the Nazis to deliver raw materials, have the Jews make the final products, then have the Nazis pay the workers in money and in food. On April 30, 1940 Rumkowski's proposal was accepted with one very important change - the workers would only be paid in food.  It's to be noted however, that no agreement was put forth upon how much food, nor how often it was to be supplied.

Jews working in the Łódź ghetto

Rumkowski immediately began setting up factories and all those able and willing to work were found jobs. Most of the factories required workers to be over fourteen years old but often very young children and older adults found work in mica splitting factories. Adults worked in factories that produced everything from textiles to munitions. Young girls were even trained to hand stitch the emblems for the uniforms of German soldiers.

 Rumkowski also managed social events. He performed marriage ceremonies when rabbis had to stop working. Later his name came to serve as the nickname of the ghetto currency, the “Rumkie”, and his face even appeared on the ghetto postage-stamps.

 Some historians and writers see him as a traitor and as a Nazi collaborator. In all his activities, Rumkowski displayed great zeal and organizational ability, becoming increasingly dictatorial and ruling with an iron hand. However there are those who see Chairman Rumkowski as a tragic hero who did only what anyone else would do in the same circumstances. 

Certainly, Nazi persecution did not stop because of Rumkowski's efforts. Even from the beginning, the Germans murdered Jews at random; more simply starved to death. Meanwhile, Rumkowski presided over the ghetto with what seemed to be growing self-aggrandizement. He encouraged artists to memorialize him; he appeared to revel in power. At the same time, he saw himself as ''a fatherly savior.'' 

Rumkowski’s style can be evidenced in his “Announcements” as seen here:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Announcement No. 166

 Concerning work outside the ghetto.

"I am hereby announcing that healthy, strong men, age 18 to 40 can get work outside of the ghetto. They will receive salary, accommodation and full board for their work. The costs for board will be deducted from their salary. The rest of the salary the can send to their families in the ghetto. This work program is relief for the unemployed, because:

 
 

  1. They are being offered an opportunity to work and to make money.

They will have enough to eat, because they will receive full board.


  1. They can support their families in the ghetto.

 

They are allowed to let their families in the ghetto have the surplus of their earnings. My account will be credited with the money I will disburse those whose names the workers give me in writing.

Therefore, if a worker wants to have money transferred here for his relatives, he must always specify the person to whom the money should be paid out. According to the negotiations with the German authorities, healthy strong men will be registered, and then examined by a medical commission I will appoint. Afterwards they will be examined again by German doctors, since only men who are physically fit are suitable.

 

Registration and examination of the workers will begin on Sunday, November 24, 1940 at 4 P.M, at my ambulatory office, Hanseaten St. 36.

 

For the time being, only 600 workers will be accepted.

 

Personal Identity card with photograph, passport, birth certificate, health insurance coupons or ID must be brought along. Persons without proper identification will not be accepted.

 

Ch. Rumkowski

The Eldest of the Jews

In Litzmannstadt

 

Nov 19, 1940

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



 

By the end of 1941, however, the Nazis had embarked on ''resettlement.'' Jews, told only that they were going elsewhere, were sent to death camps. Quotas were set. Rumkowski protested to the Germans, but was told to select the Jews who would fill the quotas. Who should be chosen? “The elderly and the sick?”  “Whole families?” “Perhaps Rumkowski's political opponents?” Whoever was chosen, the quotas would be filled. Rumkowski made his selections.
 

Stamp with Rumkowski Image

5 Mark "Rumkie"

5pf Stamp with Rumkowski image

It could be argued that he did not initially realize the true mission of the ghetto: a collective staging area for transports to the annihilation camps.

 

Even while the very first killing center, Chelmno or Kulmhof (German) was established to liquidate the inhabitants of Łódź, Rumkowski was zealously organizing the ghetto to satisfy the demands of the Germans for order as well as quotas for deportations.


Red more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/ghettos/rumkowski.html
 
The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2011


The deathcamp Janowska!

Janowska - Lvov

 

 

 

View of the Janowska Camp (photo circa 2005)

In September 1941 the Germans set up a factory at 134 Janowska Street in the suburbs of Lvov to service the needs of the German Army. Soon after, they expanded it into a network of factories as part of the German Armaments Works (DAW), a division of the SS. From its inception Jews from Lvov were utilised as forced labourers in these factories and by the end of October 1941, six hundred Jews were working there.

 

At that point, the character of the factories changed, a forced Jewish labour Camp (Juden- Zwangsarbeitslager) was established. The area became a restricted camp, enclosed by barbed wire, and the Jewish workers were not permitted to leave. The Janowska camp complex consisted of three sections. The first comprised the garages, workshops and offices, with a separate villa for the camp staff, SS/SD and the Ukrainian guards. At the centre of this section stood the villa of the camp commandant

 

The second section was the camp proper, here barracks, each housing 2,000 inmates, were erected for the Jewish workers. The conditions in the barracks were appalling. Prisoners slept on the ground or on planks. Sanitation was primitive, resulting in permanent conditions of disease and sporadic outbreaks of epidemics. Many prisoners died of starvation – rations consisted of black coffee substitute in the morning, a midday meal of watery soup, containing unpeeled potatoes and 200 grams of bread in the evening.

 

The third section of the camp consisted of the DAW factories. A barbed wire fence separated the three camp sections from each other, and the entire camp was surrounded with a double barbed-wire fence illuminated with searchlights.  Watchtowers were placed all around the camp at fifty meters intervals, with armed Ukrainians and SS men patrolling the perimeter.

 

Map of the Janowska camp

The first commander of the camp was Fritz Gebauer, his deputies were Gustav Wilhaus and Richard Rokita, in May 1942 Gebauer took over the command of the DAW camp and Friedrich Warzog was appointed commander of Janowska, with Wilhaus as his deputy. A staff of 12 -15 SS officers, who were replaced from time to time, administered the camp, the guards at the camp were Russian Prisoners of War, who had volunteered for service with the SS.

 

The camp had originally been planned exclusively for Jews, but after several months a special section was set up for Poles. They were separated from the Jews, received better treatment and were generally released from the camp after a period of detention. In the first months, only Jews from Lvov were brought to the camp, but later on Jews were sent to the camp from other districts including Krakow.

 

Most of the Jews in the camp came from the East Galician District, and the sub-districts of Rawa- Ruska, Kamionka, Strumilowa, Sambor, Brzezany and Kaluz. The SS men from the camp visited these districts from time to time for extermination actions, and sub-branches of the Janowska camp were also established in Laski Kurowice, Jaktarowe and other places to which some members of the Jewish workforce of the Janowska camp were transferred.

 

The Jews who were brought to Janowska had to surrender all valuables on arrival. The Jewish prisoners were divided into labour brigades of 20-30 persons. They worked a 12-hour day, both in the camp and in Lvov itself, where they broke up tombstones in the Jewish graveyards, supervised by SS and Ukrainian militia.

 

Warzog outside the camp gates

The prisoners also worked on various projects organised by the SS, there was a special Jewish Commando engaged in burying the Jewish dead in the camp, particularly those Jews executed on the sand-hills behind the camp. This Commando was also used to sort the clothing and property of the dead. The living conditions in the camp were exceptionally barbaric, many prisoners committed suicide by hanging themselves in the barracks, rather than face another day of cruelty. 
 

When they returned from work, the prisoners were made to run into the camp, Warzog and his deputy Wilhaus singled out those Jews who showed signs of fatigue. These Jews were placed between the rows of wire and left there to die. Each morning there was a roll call for all prisoners, who were personally inspected by an SS officer. Any prisoner failing the inspection was immediately shot.

 

Rokita had a murderous habit when passing through the rows of prisoners on the parade ground, if he did not like a prisoner he would shoot him in the back of the neck. Every SS man had his favourite way of killing Jews in the camp, who were often murdered for the slightest misdemeanour, for working slowly, for not paying attention, some for no reason at all.

 

The manner in which a Jew was killed varied, depending on the executioner; shooting, flogging, choking, hanging, fixing to crosses with the head down, cutting to pieces with knives or axes. Distinctive procedures were adopted when killing women. They were mostly flogged to death or killed by stabbing. The Nazis conducted their tortures, beatings and shootings to the accompaniment of music.

 

The "Orchestra" at Janowska

For this purpose the SS organised a prisoner’s orchestra, led by Professor Stricts and the well-known conductor Mund. Composers were ordered to write a special tune, which was called “The Death Tango.” Shortly before the camp was liquidated the Nazis shot all members of the orchestra.

 

The Jews working at the Railway station scrubbing and cleaning locomotives, were house in Barrack `Number 5, was the subject of intense SS brutality. This brigade also supplied the largest quotas for executions.  On 16 March 1943, following the killing of an SS man by the Jews Kotnowski, thirty members of this work –brigade were summarily shot as a reprisal. A further eleven Jewish policemen were hanged from balconies in the main street of the Lvov Ghetto.

 

Nearly 1,000 Jews were taken out of other working groups outside the camp and shot. A further 200 Jews in Janowska itself were also shot. During a tour of the General Government by Max von Herff, his aide wrote about a visit to Janowska on 10 May 1943:

 

"This camp stands on the grounds of an old factory and through the initiative of SS Gruppenfuhrer Katzmann it has grown to its present size. Over 30,000 Jews work in this camp. There is a Jewish Police force who are picked, well-built men with rubber truncheons and a long leather whip.

 

Ukrainian citizens beating Jews in Lvov

German soldiers watches the pogrom

Time and again one can see how, with the most brutal methods, they drive their own people to work and they feel themselves completely their superiors. It is completely beyond the understanding of German people that among the Jews some of their own men, are the worst slave drivers.

 

Jewish women who are in charge of various departments and blocks run around with enormous whips to drive their own companions to work and it could be clearly seen that they do their job mercilessly.

 

The more one sees of Jewish people in these camps, the more one comes to loathe them. They have no composure, no self-esteem and no will to resist, not even passively, no pride, neither in their general bearing or their looks. On the contrary, they give way and try to make the best of the position they are in."


Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/othercamps/janowska.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2011


Roll call of the Belzec Death Camp Victims!

Belzec Death Camp

 "Remember Me"
 

The former memorial at the Belzec Death Camp

 



The following list shows details of the people who were deported to Belzec death camp, and were either murdered or survived. The list is not a list of names, but a list where generally some details are known, albeit brief.

A limited list of full names, with no biographical details, only will follow in due course:

 

Glossary

 

Judenrat – Jewish Council – a form of self-government, but in essence the sole agency with which the Germans would deal with.

Kapo – From the Italian capo meaning chief. A prisoner chosen by the Germans to supervise other prisoners.

 





Alphabetical Listing of Belzec Survivors and Victims


 


Maurycy (Moses) Allerhand and Family

Born in 1862. A famous lawyer from Lvov and Professor of the Lvov University and author of many books about jurisprudence, which are still used today by lawyers and students.

Before the war he was a member of the Supreme Court in Poland. Between 1941 and 1942 he wrote a diary about his time on the Lvov ghetto.

In August 1942 he was deported to Belzec, together with his wife Salomea and his grandson Jozek, during the “Great Action”.

All three perished in the camp. His diary of the Lvov ghetto was found and his second grandson published it in a Polish language version – Dr Leszek Allerhand – “ Notes from the Other World”.


Mina Astman

A Jewess from Zolkiew who at the end of March 1942 was deported to Belzec but managed to escape from the death camp with Malka Talenfeld, and returned to Zolkiew.

Her subsequent fate is unknown.

Herman Auerbach

Born during 1901 in Tarnopol, Poland.

Professor of Lvov University, famous mathematician, before the Second World War he published many works about mathematics and geometry which have been translated from Polish into French and German, and are still in use today.

When he was in the Lvov ghetto he wrote his last works on geometry on the reverse of German documents. On 17 August 1942 during the “Great Action” in the Lvov ghetto he was deported to the Belzec death camp.

His last work written in the ghetto was published in Poland in 1992.

Bachner

A dentist from Krakow. He arrived at the Belzec death camp in the last transport from Krakow at the beginning of 1942. When the transport reached the camp, he succeeded in entering a latrine, where he hid, for a few days. Under the cover of darkness he was able to leave the pit, escape from the camp and returned to Krakow.

His fate is unknown.


Szlamek Bajler and Family

Taken on Monday 12 January 1942 from the town of Izbica Kujawska to Chelmno death camp, where he worked burying bodies in mass graves in Rzuchow forest after the Jews had been gassed in the gas vans.

On Monday 19 January Szlamek escaped from the vehicle carrying him and the other grave- diggers to the forest from the “Palace”. He made his way to Grabow, where he spoke to the Rabbi about what was happening in Chelmno. He gave the false name Grojanowski.

From Grabow he walked to the Warsaw Ghetto to warn the Jewish community of the destruction of the Jewish race taking place. Ill and extremely exhausted Szlamek was given shelter by people working for the Emanuel Ringelblum Archives- Hersz Wasser and his wife Bluma, who wrote down Szlamek’s account.

Members of the Ringelblum archives sent Szlamek to Zamosc, to stay with his sister in law Fela. Szlamek was deported to Belzec death camp from Zamosc on 11 April 1942, together with his sister in law, but before his death he managed to inform the Ringelblum archive that the extermination camp in Belzec – “It’s the same as in Chelmno”.

Szlamek’s report about Chelmno was published in Poland, after the war, during the war it was used in the secret reports sent from Poland to London, informing the allies of the death camps in Poland.

Shimon Hirsh Bajler,

 

Born in 1901 – brother of Szlamek and married to Fela, deported to Belzec with his family on 11 April 1942 where he perished.

Fela Bajler

 

born in 1905 resettled from the Warthegau to Zamosc, married Szlamek’s brother Shimon Bajler. Deported to Belzec on 11 April 1942 with her husband and son Abram Icchoc born in 1927 and her daughter Rivka born in 1938, where they all perished.


Baldachim

Engineer Baldachim came from Rzeszow, according to Panteleon Radunkow, who was a Ukrainian teacher in Belzec village during the war. He worked in a group of Jewish prisoners who were allowed to work outside the death camp, guarded by Ukrainians.

Radunkow met Baldachim several times, and from him he learnt about the death camp and the killing methods. Radunkow sent postcards from Baldachim to the Rzeszow ghetto where Baldachim’s family still lived.

According to Radunkow, Baldachim was killed during the liquidation of the camp.

Gitel Balsam

Born in 1925 in Gorlice. Deported from Gorlice to Belzec in June 1942 where she perished.


Jakub Baran

Deported from the Lvov ghetto to Belzec in March 1942


Salomea Beck

Born in May 1924 in Zakopane, Poland. Daughter of Henrik and Rozalia Beck. Deported from Nowy – Targ , Poland to Belzec in September 1942, where she perished.


Henryk Bekker

Born on 6 June 1886 in Bialystok. An architect who graduated from the Polytechnic High School in Munich. Before the war he was leader of “Folkspartaj (Jewish People’s Party) in Lublin and member of the Lublin City Council.

From 1936 he was president of the Lublin Jewish Community Council, and during the war first president of the Lublin Judenrat. Survivors from the Lublin ghetto remembered him as very kind and helpful.

On 31 March 1942 he was deported together with his wife to Belzec, after the selection of the Judenrat members. He knew about the fate of the deportees, and without any suitcases he went to the Umschlagplatz in Lublin, wearing his prayer shawl.


Lemel Berger

Born on 12 December 1885 in Sokolow, Poland. Until 1938 he lived in Nuremberg, after the “Reichskristallnacht “ he was resettled back to Poland, where he was deported with his wife Sara, who was born Sara Kaufmann, on 18 April 1888 in Niewiadowka.

Both perished in the death camp.

Dr Karol Blem

Deported from the Lvov ghetto to Belzec in March 1942.


Dr Duetsch and his family

Deported from the Lvov ghetto to Belzec during the “Small Action” on 28 June 1942, when about 8,000 Jews from Lvov were resettled from the ghetto to the Janowska camp and subsequently to the Belzec death camp.

Zofia Dreifach

Deported from the Lvov ghetto to Belzec in March 1942

 

Chawe Eichenbaum

Chawe Eichenbaum was born in 1902 in Tarnopol, Poland, to Schmerl Eichenbaum and Schifre Eichenbaum, nee Silberman. Schmerl was a religious scholar.

Chawe subsequently married Samuel Naftali Teicholz in Tarnopol and they lived in an apartment on Rynek Street. Since they had a religious ceremony for the wedding it was not officially recognised by the Polish government.

They had two children Chaya born on 16 December 1923 and Malka born in 1933. Chawe was a housewife, looking after her family, in the Tarnopol ghetto, when on 8-9 November 1942 the Nazis commenced an “Aktion”.

Chawe’s husband Samuel and daughter Malka were shot and she was deported to Belzec. Her daughter Chaya survived by changing her name to Sonja Tarasowa, subsequently marrying JMA van der Horst.

Chaya has four children and eight grandchildren. The Hebrew name of one grandchild Anna, is Chawe after her great grandmother. .


Dr Filip Eisenberg

Well-known bacteriologist. Before the war he was director of the Institute of Hygene in Krakow. He was deported to Belzec in August 1942 during the “Great Action” in Lvov, aged 66 years old.


Ludwika (Luta) Eisner

Born in 1893, nee Weinstock. Deported from the Przemysl ghetto to Belzec, in the beginning of the first action on 27 July 1942.


Ellenbogen

A Czech Jew who once owned a bicycle warehouse, as remembered by Rudolf Reder.


Fajersztajn Family

The family of a dentist from Lublin. They were deported to Belzec during Easter 1942. They lived in the same house as the family of Dr. Teresa Buk- Szmigielska at the border of the Lublin ghetto in the Old Town.

They had very close and friendly contact with this Polish family. When the SS men forced them out of their flat, Mrs Fajersztain said to the mother of Dr Buk- Szmigielska – “ Farewell Mrs Buk, We know they are taking us to our death”.

Shortly after the war the mother of Dr Buk – Szmigielska met a survivor who told her the Fajersztain family were deported to Belzec – father, mother and two daughters.

Dr Buk- Szmigielska only remembers the surname.


Feiga Felber

Born 1912. Lived in Stzyzow. Deported to Belzec in August 1942 and perished there.
 


Hersch Felber

Born 1882. Deported to Belzec in August 1942 and perished there.


Moses Felber

Born 1910. Deported to Belzec in August 1942 and perished there.


Zosia Feldman

The daughter of a famous advocate in Czortkow, Eastern Galicia. Deported from the Czortkow ghetto on 21 August 1942


Gabriela Frenkel

Jewish painter and art teacher in Lvov, Gabriela graduated from the Academy of Art in Paris. She was deported from Lvov ghetto to Belzec in March 1942.


Dawid Friess

A well known butcher from Tarnow, deported together with his son and daughter during the first deportation to Belzec on 11 June 1942.

He was 72 years old at the time of the deportation. Srul Goldbaum , Zysla Goldbaum, Marysia Goldbaum and Sara Rebeka Goldbaum, Srul Goldbaum, and Zysia Goldbaum, nee Frydman from Ulicia Kowalska 12 Lublin and their younger daughter Sara Rebeka Goldbaum were deported from the Lublin ghetto to Belzec during April 1942.


Goldschmidt

A chef remembered by RudolF Reder, as well known at the “Bruder Hanicka” restaurant in Karlsbad.


Avrum Grin

Perished at Belzec probably during July 1942.

 


Golda Grunblatt

Born in 1874 . Lived in Stzyzow. Deported to Belzec in July 1942 where she perished.



Chaskiel Grunblatt

Born in 1899. Lived in Stzyzow. Deported to Belzec in July 1942 where he perished


Mendel Lejb Grunstein

Rabbi from Tarnow. Deported to Belzec on 12 September 1942 , during the second “action” in the Tarnow ghetto


Taube Gumplowicz

Born 28 August 1868 in Krakow and she lived there until 1941. Second wife of Henryk Hersz Gumplowicz, father of Anna Rozalia Imich and Matylda Schneider.

Deported to Belzec from Wieliczka on 26 August 1942


Gisela Gutman

Well-known podiatrist from Krakow. Deported on 28 October 1942 from the Krakow ghetto to Belzec. Markus Gutman, Sophie Gutman, Zofia Gutman.

Deported to Belzec from Zolkiew on 20 March 1942. She was the first woman who entered the gas chamber supporting her mother from this transport.


Chiel Haber

Born 22 February 1900. Lived in Strzyzow. Deported to Belzec in December 1942 where he perished.


Izrael Haber

Born 18 October 1927. Lived in Strzyzow. Deported to Belzec in December 1942 where he perished.

 

 

Read the full list here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/ar/belzec/belzecrememberme.html

 

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010


The city of Berlin and the Holocaust

Berlin

The City and the Holocaust

 

 

Kaiser Wilhelm I in Berlin circa 1871

Berlin was the capital of Prussia and then from 1871 to 1945 and again today, the capital of Germany. On the eve of the Second World War Berlin had a population of 4.34 million, and it was the second largest city in Europe. 

Jews had been living in Berlin since the end of the thirteenth century; in 1573 they were expelled, and a hundred years later, in 1671, Jews again came to settle in the city. 

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Jewish population kept growing – despite efforts by the kings of Prussia to limit their number – and by the middle of the nineteenth century it had risen to two thousand. 

Berlin was the first centre of Haskalah, the Jewish cultural enlightenment movement, its most renowned exponent Moses Mendlessohn, lived there. It was in Berlin, in 1778, that the Judische Freischule was established, the first Jewish institution of learning in which the German language was taught and general subjects were included in the curriculum.

1906 artist rendering of Ostjuden in Germany

In the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth century the Jewish population of Berlin increased greatly- from 3,300 in 1812 to 142,000 in 1910. The rapid rise was the result of a mass influx of Jews from the provincial towns; from the eastern provinces of Imperial Germany, especially from Posen (today Poznan, Poland) and from Eastern Europe. 

A high percentage of the Berlin Jewish population was therefore made up of Ostjuden – Jews from the East – a situation that had considerable impact on both the Jewish and the non-Jewish population of Berlin. 

Jews in Berlin were prominent in various aspects of the city’s economic, intellectual and cultural life. The city was also the seat of the head offices of most of the national Jewish organisations – such as the Central –Verein Deutscher Staatsburger Judischen Glaubens (Central Union of German Citizens of Jewish Faith), the Ezra Society, the Zentralwohlfahrtstelle der Deutschen Juden (Central Welfare Organisation of German Jews), and the Central Lodge of B’NAI B’RITH in Germany – and of most of the Jewish periodicals published in Germany.

Up to the end of the First World War, control of the Jewish community was in the hands of wealthy liberals; after the war the Judische Volkspartei, or Jewish People’s Party – an alignment of the Zionists, including Mizrahi and the Union of Eastern European Jewish Organisations – gained in strength in the Jewish community organisations and in 1928 a representative of that party, Georg Kareski, was elected president of the community.

Jewish owned shop in Berlin circa 1930

In 1930 the liberals were returned to power and Wilhelm Kleeman became president. The spokesman for the positions taken by liberal Jews was Leo Baeck, Berlin’s leading liberal rabbi.

 In 1923 the Berlin community took the initiative for the formation of a Preussischer Landesverband Judischer Gemeinden (Union of Jewish Communities in Prussia), in order to strengthen its own status among the other communities and to facilitate contacts with the government authorities.

 In the early 1930’s Berlin is estimated to have had 115 Jewish houses of prayer, the community itself maintained seventeen synagogues with a seating capacity of 25,000; on the high holidays extra halls were rented that doubled the available seating capacity, the services being either liberal or traditional.

The community also supported dozens of religious congregations, including Orthodox prayer houses and a Sephardic synagogue. In the 1930’s the community school system consisted of fifteen kindergartens, several elementary schools, two junior high schools and one secondary school. 

Adas Israel, the separatist Orthodox community maintained its own elementary and secondary school and a girls’ school. By the late 1920’s one-seventh of all the Jewish children were attending Jewish schools. 

There were differences of opinion among the Jews concerning the educational role of the community – whether it should maintain a separate Jewish school system, based on Jewish values or whether it should prefer a national German framework, with a minimum emphasis on Jewish elements. 

SS men on parade in Berlin

For the Jewish students attending the public schools, the community provided forty-eight Religionsschulen (Hebrew Schools). 

Bernard Grunberg, who came to England on a kindertransport recalled his time in a Berlin technical re-training school: 

“As life was becoming worse for the Jews year by year, my father decided it was a waste of time for me to continue at school. After spending one year at home, I went in April 1938 to a technical re-training school in Berlin with a view later to emigrating to Israel. 

After giving me some training in joinery and metalwork, the Instructor decided I was best suited to general woodwork. But in July 1938 a group of Nazi SS entered the grounds of the school and held everyone at the entrance while they set fire to the joinery workshop. Everything – including the valuable woodworking machinery – was destroyed. I remember helping to clear up the workshop, which could never be used again.”    

Jewish youth movements were active in Berlin, supported by the various Jewish politically oriented organisations. The community maintained youth centres, provided summer vacations in the country for thousands of children , arranged foster homes and made vocational training facilities available.

 Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/berlin.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010


The story of Leni Riefenstahl

Leni Riefenstahl

 

Leni Riefenstahl

Helene Bertha Amalie “Leni” Riefenstahl was born in Berlin on the 22 August 1902 and began her career as a ballet dancer, employed by Max Reinhardt among others, for dance performances in the early 1920’s.

 

Her father Alfred Riefenstahl  was said to have wanted his first child to be a son so that he could carry on the firm that had provided a secure amount of wealth to the Riefenstahl family. However, as the young girl Leni grew into young adulthood, she felt her passions grow in the artistic direction that had been a staple of her mother’s life.

 

At the age of 4, Leni began to write poetry and paint. Along with this, Leni felt that from a very early age she was an athletic child, due to the behest of her father. At age twelve, she recalled joining a local gymnastics and swim club called "Nixe". It was her mother that noticed that Leni had quite the artistic bent. She perceived that Leni had the ability to paint with a natural understanding of composition and balance, which were two of the profound qualities in the later films of Leni Riefenstahl.

 

In 1925 she made her film debut as an actress in Der Heilige Berg the first of a series of well photographed movies about the Alps, made by Arnold Franck, the father of the mountain cult in the Wiemar cinema.

 

Leni Riefenstahl starring in her own directorial debut, The Blue Light (1932)

Riefenstahl became a leading figure of this cult, starring in Franck’s Der Grosse Sprung (1927), Die Weisse Holle vom Piz Palu (1929), Sturm uber dem Mont Blanc (1930) and Das Blau Licht in 1932, which she co-authored and directed for the first time, produced and played the leading role in, winning a gold medal at the Venice Biennale.

 

Riefenstahl first remembered hearing of the political name of Adolf Hitler around the filming of Das Blaue Licht. However, at this time, Hitler was a large political force in German politics. Riefenstahl attests to a naivety about the political world due to her rigorous and involving filmmaking during Hitler’s political rise that his name had sadly no recognition for her. Yet, Hitler had noticed Leni and her work in Das Blaue Licht along with the earlier Arnold Fanck films and would later call on her and her talents for the Party.

 

In late February of 1932, she attended one of his election speeches at the excited and overcrowded Berlin Sports Palace. Once again, like at the films, she was struck by the power of this moment that she had to make up her own mind and meet the speaker. She quickly wrote a letter to the Nazi paper "Völkischer Beobachter", in which she requested a meeting with Hitler before she had to leave Germany for a Arnold Fanck shoot in Greenland.

 

Leni Riefenstahl with Himmler in 1934

In 1933 she made her last film for Franck titled SOS Eisberg, before being appointed by Hitler as the top film executive of the Nazi Party. Hitler saw Leni Rifenstahl as a director who could use aesthetics to produce an image of a strong Germany imbued with Wagnerian motifs of power and beauty.

 

In 1933 he invited Reifenstahl to direct a short film, Der Sieg des Glaubens (The Victory of Faith), which was filmed at that year’s Nuremburg Party Rally. This film was the template for her most famous work, Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will), shot at the Nuremburg Party Rally of 1934.

 

Leni Riefenstahl, with Adolf Hitler in the background, directs the shooting of a film about the celebration of Reich Party Day. Nuremberg, Germany, 1936

Reifenstahl initially refused Hitler’s commission for the film, but relented when she received unlimited resources and full artistic control for the film. Triumph of the Will, with its evocative images and innovative film technique, ranked as an epic work of documentary film making, and is widely regarded as one of the most masterful propaganda films ever produced.

 

It won several awards, but forever linked the artist Leni Reifenstahl with National Socialism.

 

Equally stunning were Reifenstahl’s directorial efforts in Olympia, which captured with haunting effectiveness the images of the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin. It was for Olympia that Reifenstahl pioneered numerous cinematographic techniques, such as filming footage with cameras mounted on rails. Olympia’s forceful blend of aesthetics, sports, and propaganda again won Rifenstahl accolades and awards, including Best Foreign Film honours at the Venice Film Festival and a special award from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for depicting the joy of sport.

 

German magazine cover detailing Riefenstahl's filming of the 1936 Berlin Olympics

By her own account, the advent of the Second World War and the rapid escalation of violence under the Nazi regime had an unfavourable effect on both Reifenstahl and her career. Early in the German invasion of Poland, she witnessed an incident that seemed to shake her confidence in the movement she had glorified in her films.

 

During the Invasion of Poland, Riefenstahl was photographed wearing a military uniform and a pistol on her belt in the company of German soldiers. she had gone to the site of the battle as a war correspondent. On 12 September 1939 she was in the town of Końskie when 30 civilians were executed there, in retaliation for an alleged attack on German soldiers.

 

While accompanying German troops near Konskie, the filmmaker witnessed the execution of Polish Jews and this upset her so much, she halted filming and went to Berlin, to seek an audience with Adolf Hitler.

 

Her distress was short-lived, she was back in the General Gouvernment and filmed the victory parade along the Ujazdowsskie Avenue on the 5 October 1939. The podium where Hitler took the salute was located in front of the Ujazdowski Park near Chopin Strasse.

 

Leni Riefenstahl directing a scene from the Triumph of the Will

In 1940 Riefenstahl commenced filming on Tiefland (Lowlands), a story set in the Spanish Pyrenees, this was a project she had earlier shelved when persuaded by Hitler to film Triumph of the Will.


Tiefland was filmed on location near Kitzbuhl, Austria, the filming dragged on for nearly four years, in order to enhance the films “gypsy” flavour, 51 young Roma inmates from the nearby labour camp at Maxglan – Leopoldskron were hired as extras by Reifenstahl’s staff.
 
For the indoor scenes, filmed in Berlin- Babelsberg in 1942, Riefenstahl used as extras at least 66 Roma and Sinti inmates from the Berlin – Marzahn camp for gypsies. Allegations that the German Police returned the gypsies after fulfilling their filming roles, to the Maxglan and Marzahn Gypsy camps, and subsequently deported them to the Auschwitz death camp, were serious enough to involve Reifenstahl in a civil suit.

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/riefenstahl.html

 

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010


Righteous Gentiles - Karl Plagge

Karl Plagge

An Unlikely Hero

 

 

Karl Plagge

Prior to the Nazis coming to power, engineer Karl Plagge had joined the National Socialist Part because, as he said, he believed in Hitler’s social promises and economic prosperity. 

Born on July 10, 1897, in Darmstadt, Germany  Plagge graduated from the Technical University of Darmstadt in 1924 with a degree in engineering. Upon being drafted into the Wehrmacht at the beginning of World War II, he was put in command of an engineering unit, HKP562, whose duties involved repairing military vehicles damaged on the eastern front.

Plagge and his unit arrived in Vilnius (Vilna) in July 1941 and soon witnessed the genocide being carried out against the Jews of the area. Plagge, as a German, felt responsible for some of the horrors he witnessed and felt compelled to work against the genocidal machine. He decided to do what he could to help some of Vilnius’s beleaguered Jews.

No one will ever know exactly how many Jewish lives Plagge saved or how many (indirectly) he was able to protect, probably several hundred.  Over the years he took as many prisoners as he could to work for him.  Witnesses attest that he freed many prisoners from the SS this way.

Executions in Vilnius and environs occurred primarily at the Ponary mass-execution site, where 110,000 people where murdered.  About 70,000 of these people were Jews of Lithuanian and other nationality; yet others were deported to Nazi extermination camps. Plagge attempted to spare as many as he could from this fate by purposely recruiting Jews instead of Poles for labor. 

Corpses scattered at the shooting pits of Ponary

His success, however, was only partial: His unit had to retreat, thereby removing the slave-labor framework that had protected them until that point. The SS ultimately succeeded in murdering approximately 900-1000 of Plagge’s 1250 slave-laborers between the Kinder-Aktion and the final liquidation of the camp.

The success of Plagge’s efforts to save Jews is manifested through a death rate of approximately 78% among those he hired compared to the much higher rate of 96%—virtual annihilation—found among the rest of Lithuania's Jews. The 250-300 surviving Jews of the HKP camp constituted the largest single group of survivors of the Holocaust in Vilnius.

Plagge’s efforts are corroborated by survivor testimony, historical documents found in Germany and Plagge’s own testimony found in a letter he wrote in 1957, a year before his death. In this letter he compares himself to the character of Dr. Rieux in Camus’s story of the Plague and describes his hopeless struggle against a Plague of death that slowly envelops the inhabitants of his city.

Guards outside the HKP camp on Subocz St.

No, we should go forward, groping our way through the darkness, stumbling perhaps at times, and try to do what good lay in our power. As for the rest, we must hold fast, trusting in the divine goodness, even as to the deaths of little children, and not seeking personal respite"                 [Excerpt from The Plague by Albert Camus]

In September 1943 it became apparent to Plagge that the Vilna Ghetto was soon to be liquidated: all the remaining Jews in the ghetto were to be taken by the SS, regardless of any working papers they had. During this crucial period Plagge made extraordinary bureaucratic efforts to form a free standing HKP 562 Slave Labor Camp on Subocz Street on the outskirts of Vilnius.

Alfred Stumpff, First Lieutenant under Plagge in the HKP said: 

“Mr. Plagge had taken a large number of Jews for jobs that were neither useful nor necessary.  There were, for example, Jews as hairdressers, shoemaker, tailor, kitchen personnel, Jewish women and girls to work in the garden, even a Jewish doctor to oversee the health condition of civilian workers.   From the outside looking in these skilled workers were able to be camouflaged as motor-vehicle workers.

He did this by giving work certificates to Jewish men, certifying them as essential and skilled workers regardless of their actual backgrounds. This kind of work permit protected the worker, his wife and two of his children from the SS sweeps carried out in the Vilna Ghetto in which Jews without work papers were captured and killed at Ponary."

The camp buildings at Subocz St

The severe conditions in HKP camp were relatively benign, compared to appalling conditions in the Ghetto, with tolerable work conditions, and food at sustenance levels. Plagge ordered respectful treatment of the slave laborers, which resulted in reduced abuse by the men of his unit and the Lithuanian police who guarded the camp. In spite of the general benevolence of Plagge and some of his men, the SS controlled the ultimate fate of the HKP laborers.

The SS entered the camp on two occasions to commit atrocities, before finally liquidating most of the Jewish laborers in July 1944, shortly before the German retreat out of Vilnius. In November 1943, a Jewish prisoner named David Zalkind, his wife, and child attempted to escape from the camp and were captured by the Gestapo. They were publicly executed in the camp courtyard in front of the other prisoners.

A letter from Plagge to SS Ghetto administrators justifying his need for Jewish women and children to remain at the Subocz St. camp:

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/plagge.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010


The genocide of the Greek Jews!

The Destruction of the Jews of Greece  

 

 

 

 

Greek Jews persecuted by Germans at Thessalonika

The declining Jewish population in Greece in 1941 probably did not exceed the 67,200 of the 1931 census. In 1945 the officially registered survivors numbered rather more than 10,000 

 

If the Germans believed in March 1943 that they were saving Greece from Jewish strangulation, they could have spared themselves the trouble, for this was a fast-dying community.

 

Two- thirds of Greek Jewry lived in Salonika, the only Spanish Jewish settlement of Turkish times to prosper and expand since the creation of the Greek kingdom. Yet, in the twentieth century, the Salonika Jews declined.

 

In 1900 when they numbered 80,000 they constituted nearly half the cities population.

 

On 9 April 1941, Salonika, on the eve of the German occupation had probably 260,000 inhabitants only 46,000 of them Jews. Emigration had been forced by poverty and also by a certain degree of anti-Semitism, which became stronger after the expulsion of the Turkish population In 1923-24.

 

But Salonika was not a place where the Germans could count on the native population doing their work for them. This is shown by the fact that they hesitated to apply the Final Solution till a year after the first murderous Jewish deportation trains had left France and Slovakia.

 

Apart from the usual arrests of Jewish notables and the conversion of the Jewish Community Council into something resembling a German –appointed Judenrat, there were no specific anti-Jewish decrees till July 1942

 

Yet, in the winter of 1941 the Salonika Jews were scarcely better off than their brethren in the starving ghettos of Poland. The invasion had deprived Greece of her normal produce exchange of dried fruits, tobacco, and olive oil against wheat.

 

In November famine was already in sight. Although in March 1942 the British Government sent some wheat shipments – under safe conduct from the enemy- to Athens, 20,000 of the Salonika Jews starved and there was an outbreak of spotted typhus.

 

This situation did not prevent the German administration office of the “Salonika – Agais Command” decreeing in the month of July heavy labour conscription for all Jewish males from eighteen to forty-five years old. But the Todt Organisation had difficulty in finding three or four thousand men for railway construction among this debilitated mass of people.

 

Consequently, in October, exemptions were freely sold, and finally Dr Alfred Merten, counsellor to the Military Administration, stopped the conscription on payment of a community fine of 2,500,000 drachmas.

 

The Germans began the Final Solution in Salonika, as they had begun it in Poland, by destroying the vestiges of Jewish history, the archives and liturgic scrolls, and finally the grave-stones. These were removed for road-metal from the great Salonika cemetery on 6 December 1942, when SS- Sturmbannfuhrer Wulff of Eichmann’s office was making a preliminary survey.

 

Shortly afterwards Eichmann was said to have paid a brief visit, bringing his adjutant Rolf Gunther. The deportations were to be carried out by Dieter Wisliceny, who arrived from Vienna with Anton Brunner on 6 February 1943.

 

Remnants of the Jewish cemetery in German-occupied Salonika after deportations

The preliminary steps were now taken in quick succession, the order to wear the Jewish badge, on that very day and the creation of a ghetto three weeks later – in fact three ghettos, one of them the “Baron Hirsch” quarter to which Jews were brought from the Macedonian hinterland being enclosed.

 

This place was a hutted camp near the railway station, which had been constructed in the year 1903 for Jewish refugees from the Mogilev and Kishinev pogroms to be inhabited subsequently by 2,000 of the poorest Salonika Greeks.

 

While the changes were taking place at “Baron Hirsch” Wisliceny and his associates established themselves in two Jewish villas in the Hodos Velissariou, which they proceeded to get up like a Port Said brothel.

 

The Jews of Salonika failed to realise the importance of Wisliceny’s arrival and the evil his presence boded, though on 14 March 1943 they were informed that the 2,800 country Jews in “Baron Hirsch” were to go to Krakow.

 

A train of forty box-cars transported them away on the following day – it did not arrive in Auschwitz till 20 March 1943. Following the selection 417 men and 192 women are admitted into the camp. 2191 people are killed in the gas chambers.

 

The next transport from “Baron Hirsch” was traced by a commission of inquiry at Siedlce in 1945 to the death camp Treblinka where it arrived on 26 March 1943.

 

Henceforward “Baron Hirsch” was filled, emptied and refilled every three days, so that by the end of March 1943, 13,435 Jews had been shipped out in five trains.

 

By the middle of May, when the Organisation Todt labour conscripts were moved, the great bulk of Salonika Jewry departed 42,830 people in sixteen trains.

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/othercamps/greekjewry.html

 

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010


Holocaust Survivor Joseph Bau

Joseph Bau Story

Joseph Bau & the Author in Tel Aviv 1994

 

Joseph Bau was born on 18 June 1920 in Krakow. After completing his formal educational training, he continued his studies at the Faculty of Plastic Arts at the University of Krakow, where he enrolled in 1938.

 

The advent of war interrupted his studies. He was interred in the Krakow ghetto from in its inception, and was later imprisoned in the concentration camps at Plaszow, Gross-Rosen, and Brunnlitz. Like all camp inmates he was subjected to physical and mental abuse, but as a graphic artist his services were important to the camp administration. He drew plans, maps, and signs in gothic script.

 

Bau's Map of the Plaszow Camp

 Joseph’s father was shot in Plaszow by an SS guard named Green for no apparent reason. His mother was transported to Bergen-Belsen, but died two weeks after that camp was liberated. His youngest brother also died as a prisoner. Joseph met his wife Rivka (Rebecca: also known as Cyla) in KL Plaszow. Since there was no rabbi available, his mother conducted the marriage ceremony. It was only two years later that an official marriage could be arranged.

Joseph & Cyla circa 1994

 

Although he was aware of Oskar Schindler and the lengths he went to to protect his Jewish labour force, Joseph was too important to the Nazis to be considered for selection, and thus never sought refuge in Schindler’s haven at Emalia. It was only with the dismantling of Plaszow and his transfer to Gross-Rosen together with thousands of other Jews, that he became a member of “Schindler’s List”. He found himself one of the select few dispatched to Brunnlitz on 15 October 1944, as he recalled:

 

“We were paraded and my name was read out to join the Schindler labour for K L Brunnlitz. There were 700 men and we were all marched off to a separate section of the camp. We were ordered to completely undress and leave all of our belongings on a pile. We were then herded into the bath house where we were shaved and had a cold shower.

 

Rare photo of Joseph & Cyla

 We then, all 700, walked naked in proper order to a barrack, where we were given clogs, a shirt, trousers, and a green beret. After receiving our clothing we were again herded into such a small space that we all had to sit down between each other’s legs in rows. We remained there all night. In the morning the SS ordered us to march off in file to await cattle trucks for the journey to Schindler’s Brunnlitz. The journey took 24 hours and all this time we were cooped up like animals until reaching our destination.

 

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/othercamps/plaszow/bau/bau.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

 


The first Holocaust ghetto!

Zbaszyn

 Deportation to the Border Town Camp – 1938

 

 

 

Map showing deportations from Germany to Poland (source: Sir Martin Gilbert)

The town was first mentioned in historical sources from 1231, and it received its city charter before 1311. As a result of the Second Partition of Poland in 1793 it became part of the Kingdom of Prussia and was administered within South Prussia.

 

After the Napoleonic Wars, the town was within the Grand Duchy of Posen and later the Province of Posen. It became part of the German Empire in 1871. In 1918 it became part of the Second Polish Republic. In 1938 the town’s population stood at 5,400 which included 360 Germans and only fifty two Jews.

 

On the 27 October 1938 the Nazis began arresting Jews of Polish nationality in Germany with the intention of expelling them to Poland. The Nazis took this decision was the issuing of a decree by the Polish Ministry of the Interior on the 6 October 1938 which called for the passports of Polish citizens residing abroad would have to be checked and revalidated.

 

Those passports not re-validated by the 29 October 1938 would no longer entitle their holders to return to Poland. According to a report submitted by the Polish consulate in Opole (Oppeln in German) the German police came to the homes of the Jews at night to present them with the expulsion orders, forcing the Jews to get dressed at once and taking them to the Polish border which the Jews had to cross illegally.

 

Jewish "German" passport 1938

 Those expelled in this manner had no time to arrange their affairs or hand over their businesses. When they reached the border the German escorts often fired shots into the air in order to frighten the Jews even more and hasten their crossing over the border.

 

Expulsions took place all over the Reich, but the actions conducted by the police differed from location to location. Most often only the head of the family was expelled, but sometimes whole families were deported. The deportees were taken by train to the Polish border, usually in the vicinity of Zbaszyn and Beuthen. The Germans estimated that some seventeen thousand Jews were deported, but the precise figure may never be known.

 

The action by the Germans took the Polish authorities by surprise, and some Polish consulates, such as the one in Frankfurt am Main advised its Jews to comply with the German orders, while other consulates tried to help in various ways.

Read the full article here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/Zbaszyn.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org
 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010


Nazi Concentration Camp in Belgium!

 

 

The Breendonck

Internment Camp in Belgium

 

German troops outside the main entrance to the Breendonck camp

The camp known as Breendonck was located in the village of Breendonk, about 20 km outside of Mechelen. Built in 1906 the fortress was erected near the junction of the Antwerp – Brussels and Mechelen – Dendermonde roads, as part of a chain of fortifications.

 

The fortress fell during the German invasion in 1914 and later it became the general Headquarters of the Belgian Army. In May 1940 Breendonck was briefly used as the General Headquarters of King Leopold III, leading the Belgian armed forces.

 

After Belgium's surrender to the Germans the fortress was transformed into an internment camp by the Nazis (primarily as a transit camp for transport to Auschwitz). It gained a grim reputation as a place of torture and interrogation of a wide variety of prisoners.

 

This fortress surrounded by a moat, consists of a building measuring 200 by 300 meters and can still be seen today, as a museum and memorial.The museum is only a part of the entire complex. There are different rooms with displays detailing the Nazi-occupation of Belgium, the SS rule at Breendonk, as well as to the post-war trials of the executors.

 

In the former showers and  kitchen works of art can be seen that was made by the prisoners.

 

Sign outside the Breendonk transit camp warning that trespassers will be shot. Breendonk

Breendonck as an internment camp

 

At the end of August 1940 the Germans turned the fortress into a Polizeihaftlager and three weeks later, on 20 September the first group of detainees, numbering twenty persons, mostly “politicals”   and Jews of foreign nationality, were brought to the camp.

 

The camp was under the control of the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police) and was run by SS men, with Wehrmacht personnel serving as guards. At the end of 1941 they were joined by Belgian SS men. Among the Belgian SS –men were Wijss, De Bodt, and Pellemans, who were renowned for their cruelty.

 

The physical conditions at Breendonk were among the worst in Western European camps. In addition, the camp commanders subjected the prisoners to terrible cruelty and violence.

 

Philip Schmitt

During the first year of the Occupation, the Jews made up half the total number of prisoners. From 1942 onwards and the creation of the internment camp at the Dossin barracks where the Jews were assembled before their departure towards the east and the extermination camps, most of the Jews disappeared from Breendonk, which gradually became a camp for political prisoners and members of the Resistance.

 

The first commandant of the camp was Sturmbannfuhrer Philip Schmitt, who was followed in 1943, by an Austrian Karl Schonwetter.

 

The officer in charge of forced labour was Untersturmfuhrer Artur Prauss, who had the reputation of being the most cruel person in the camp staff. The camp commandant came directly under the authority of the Security Police chief for Belgium and Northern France, Konstantin Canaris, and then of his successor Ernst Ehlers.

 

In the initial phase conditions in the camp were reasonably tolerable, and the Jewish prisoners were not separated from the non-Jews. But at the end of 1940 this changed, and the “Aryan” prisoners were put into separate living quarters, although both groups continued to work side by side.

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/breendonck.html

 

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010


The story of Gestapo Muller!

Heinrich Muller


"Gestapo Müller"
 

Heinrich Müller

Heinrich Müller was Head of the Gestapo during World War Two and Adolf Eichmann’s immediate superior, responsible for implementing the “Final Solution”.

Heinrich Müller was born in Munich on 28 April 1901, of Catholic parents. During the Great War he served as a flight leader on the eastern front and was awarded the Iron Cross First Class.

After the war the ambitious Müller made his career in the Bavarian police, specialising in the surveillance of Communist Party functionaries and making a special study of Soviet police methods.

Partly because of his expertise in the field, he was picked out by Reinhard Heydrich to be his closest associate and second-in –command of the Gestapo.

From 1935 the short, stocky Bavarian, with the square head of a peasant and a hard, dry, expressionless face, was virtual head of the Gestapo, even though he was not initially a member of the Nazi Party.
 

Himmler, Heydrich & Müller (on right)

Müller was politically suspect to influential members of the Party, who resented his past record in the Munich State Police, when he had worked against the Nazis.
 

Not until 1939 was he officially admitted to the NSDAP, yet the stubborn, self-opinionated Müller was highly regarded by both Himmler and Heydrich, who admired his professional competence, blind obedience and willingness to execute “delicate mission,” such as the elimination of leading generals, for example the Blomberg – Fritsch affair.
 

He also excelled in spying on colleagues and despatching political adversaries without scruples, and the infamous “canned goods” fake attack on the radio station at Gleiwitz, that provided Hitler with the excuse to invade Poland, and thus plunge Europe into the Second World War.
 

Letter from Heydrich to the Reich Foreign Minister regarding the Reich Office for Jewish Emigration 1939

Müller combined excessive zeal in his duties with docility towards his masters, the very model of a cold dispassionate police chief and bureaucratic fanatic, he earned the nickname “Gestapo- Müller.“.
 

Müller was rapidly promoted by Heydrich to SS – Colonel in 1937, SS- Brigadier on 20 April 1939, SS- Major General on 14 December 1940, SS- Lieutenant and Police Chief on 9 November 1941.

As head of Amt IV in the RSHA from 1939 to 1945, Müller was more directly involved in the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”, than even his superiors, Heydrich, Himmler, and Kaltenbrunner.

Müller signed the circulating order requiring the immediate delivery to Auschwitz by 31 January 1943 of 45,000 Jews for extermination, and countless other documents of a similar nature, which reveal his zeal in carrying out orders.


In the summer of 1943, he was sent to Rome to pressurise the Italians, who were proving somewhat apathetic in arresting Jews. Until the end of the war, Heinrich Müller continued his remorseless prodding of subordinates to greater efforts in sending Jews to Auschwitz.

 

Müller to the left of Heydrich

In his hands mass murder became an automatic administrative procedure, Müller exhibited a similar streak in his treatment of Russian prisoners of war and gave the order to shoot British Officers who had escaped from detention at Sagan, near Breslau, at the end of March 1944.

Müller’s whereabouts at the end of the war are shrouded in mystery – he was last seen in the Fuhrerbunker on 28 April 1945, after which he disappeared.

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Though his burial was recorded on 17 May 1945, when the body was later exhumed, it could not be identified. There were persistent rumours that he had defected to the East – for he had established contact with Soviet agents before the end of the war, either to Moscow, Albania or East Germany.


Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/muller.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010




 


Fate of the Gypsies at Belzec

Gypsies at Belzec

                                                               www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

German gypsy family in front of their caravans

In 1926 a Bavarian law called for the registration of all Gypsies in order to prohibit them from roaming about or camping in bands. The law also noted that they could be sent to labor camps for up to two years if they could not "prove regular employment." As Hitler rose to power, the Gypsies, like the Jews, were officially identified as non-Aryan by the Nuremberg Laws of 1935.

 

Although the Nuremburg laws, did not specifically mention Romani, but they were included along with Jews and "Negroes" as "racially distinctive" minorities with "alien blood." As such, their marriage to "Aryans" was prohibited. They were also deprived of their civil rights.


By the summer of 1938, large numbers of German and Austrian Romani were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. There they wore black triangular patches (the symbol for "asocials") or green patches (the symbol for professional criminals) and sometimes the letter "Z."

 

A sign from the Gypsy camp at Belzec that reads -"All belongings must be handed in at the counter except for money, documents and other valuables, which you must keep with you"

As was the case for the Jews, the outbreak of war in September 1939 radicalized the Nazi regime's policies towards the Romani. Their "resettlement to the East" and their mass murder closely parallel the systematic deportations and killings of the Jews.

 

At the beginning of 1940 a large number of Jews and Gypsies (Sinti and Roma) were deported to Belzec from Polish towns, from Slovakia and from the Reich, notably from towns in Schleswig Holstein.

 

They were interned in three makeshift labour camps in the village and employed at constructing strategic border defences in the area.

Read the full article here:
http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/ar/belzec/belzecgypsy.html


The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org
 

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2009

Hitler; Himmler Shoah; Third Reich; Final Solution; Nazi; National Socialism; Jews; Judaism; The Holocaust; Auschwitz; Deathcamps; Sobibor; Belze; Treblinka; Krakow; Lublin; Action Reinhard; Wirth; Globocnik; Goering; Goebbels; Anne Frank; Propaganda; Genocide; Murder; Racism; Aryan; anti-Semitism; Israel; Torah; Talmud; Sephardic; Mengele; Euthanasia; Wannsee; World War II; Axis History; Gas Vans; Chelmno; gas chamber; Zyklon B; Buchenwald; concentration camp; Dachau; Bergen Belsen; Stuthoff; Gross Rosen; Mauthausen; Natzweiler; Survivors;

 

Let's lose the Holocaust Controversies please! It's getting old and tired!

 

Holocaust Remembrance

A time to memorialize, debate, debunk or debauch?

 

Guest Publication by

Dr. Martin Friedhaus

[photos added to enhance the text]

 

[Please note that editorials posted in this section are the sole viewpoints of the individual author and do not necessarily

represent any collective opinion of the Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team, or the University of Northampton]

 

Tourists look at individually-painted dominoes along the former route of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate.

World leaders joined German crowds on Monday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall - a stark symbol of the Cold War that divided a city and a continent.

 

Recollections of November 9, 1989 dominated German newspaper headlines at the weekend, and television stations ran program after program of documentary footage, eyewitness accounts and discussion panels about the event that changed the face of Europe.

 

And while thousands of tourists have poured into the capital to mark the event which hastened the reunification of Germany, the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Soviet Union, many have chosen to overlook another event that changed the face of Germany and Europe that also happened on the 9th of November..

Kristallnacht  or "Night of Broken Glass" 

"Kristallnacht" is a German word that consists of two parts: "Kristall" translates to "crystal" and refers to the look of broken glass and "Nacht" means "night." The accepted English translation is the "Night of Broken Glass."

The most infamous Anti-Semitic Pogrom in recent history occurred on November 9, 1938.  Instigated primarily by Nazi party officials and the SA (Nazi Storm Troopers), the pogrom occurred throughout Germany (including annexed Austria and the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia). The name Kristallnacht has its origin in the untold numbers of broken windows of synagogues, Jewish-owned stores, community centers, and homes plundered and destroyed during the pogrom.     Read more about Kristalnact [here]

Shattered windows the day after Kristallnacht

The actions that occurred that night in 1938 culminated in a meeting on the 12th of November, chaired by Hermann Göring  who made the following statement:

I have received a letter written on the Fuehrer's orders requesting that the Jewish question be now, once and for all, coordinated and solved one way or another." The path to the “Final Solution” has now been chosen. And, all the bureaucratic mechanisms for its implementation were now in place.

The point of comparison of the events that occurred on November 9th of both 1938 and 1989 is in no way intended to minimize or trivialize the significance of either of these dates on world history...

However many decades later, association with the Kristallnacht anniversary was cited as the main reason against choosing November 9, the day the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, as the new German national holiday; a different day was chosen (October 3, 1990 as the new German reunification day).

NY Times report on Kristallnacht

This is not to say that Kristallnact has been forgotten... In fact all over Europe hundreds of commemoration and protest activities have been organized on November 9 1997, International Day Against Fascism and Anti-Semitism. The biggest demonstration took place in Yugoslavia. Between 1.000 and 3.000 people marched in the streets of Belgrade to protest against the on-going violence against Roma in their country.

In Essen 1.000 anti-fascists marched in protest against fascist violence. In the Netherlands activities took place in 11 cities all over the country in many different ways, but mainly comparing the situation of refugees in 1938 and in 1997.

The European network against nationalism, racism, fascism and in support of migrants and refugees or "UNITED for Intercultural Action" has distributed 20.000 stickers and 5.000 information leaflets explaining the history of "Kristallnacht", the purpose of the commemorations and giving examples of racist practices in Europe. The secretariat has sent out several press releases and numerous lists of activities. International journalists have been referred to specific organizations for more in depth information. The information has been spread widely through the Internet as well.

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/essays&editorials/memorial-debunk-debate-debauged.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2009


Nazi Ghettos -Vilnius

The Vilnius Ghetto

Jewish Life in Vilnius/Vilna

To read more on Ponary click [here]

Pre-War photo of Vilnius/Vilna

Jews have played a part in the history of Lithuania since the 14th century, lured to the region by tolerant Lithuanian Dukes seeking to make advancements in trade and culture. Jews first arrived as merchants, artisans, and traders, but soon evolved into an integral component of Lithuania's national identity. The very first documents mentioning Jews in Vilnius date back as early as 1567.

At that time Jews did not have the right to purchase houses in the city, they could only rent them. Jews gained the right to own buildings in Vilnius only in 1593. Before that, they were allowed to reside in the lands which did not belong to the magistrate, so called jurisdiks.


Synagogue in Vilnius (circa 1929)

At the end of 16th - beginning of 17th centuries they were allowed to inhabit Zhydų (Jewish), Šv. Mykolo (Saint Michael's), and Mėsinių (Butchers') streets. They could also live on Vokietchių (German) street, but the windows of their apartments could not face the street.

The Jewish quarter was formed in the Old Town. According to 1784 census there were around 5000 Jews in Vilnius at that time; according to 1897 census Jews constituted 38.8% of town's population (64.000 Jews). By the early twentieth century, half of the city's 120,000 strong population were Jews, most of whom spoke Yiddish. 

Vilnius became the hub of Judaic religious culture in Europe, with over 110 synagogues, 10 yeshivas, and was home to the famed Yiddish Institute of Higher Learning (YIVO) and the Strashum Library, which housed the world's largest collection of Yiddish-language books; (both were destroyed by the Nazis). 

The city was known as the  "Jerusalem of the North" due to a high concentration of Talmudic Scholars, and  historical connection to the famed Elijah ben Solomon Zalman (1720-1797) otherwise known as "The Gaon" or "Genius of Vilna"   Elijah ben Solomon Zalman was the learned Rabbi who edited and commented on the Babylonian Talmud.

"Cantors" in Vilnius

Anti-Semitism had been rampant in Lithuania since 1881 when a band of military conscripts attacked Jewish shops, burning and looting. Jews banded together to defend their families and property but sporadic pogroms continued throughout the region for the next 50 years.

 

On October 28, 1939 there was another outbreak of anti-Jewish riots in Vilnius. As rioters ransacked the city, Jewish tradesmen once again organized defense groups to oppose the attackers. However more often than not, Lithuanian policemen would beat Jewish victims rather than trying to reconvene peace. The riots lasted for three days, and followed with rumors of more anti-Semitic assaults on November 10-11, which were "traditional" dates for such events.

In June 1940 Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union and became a Soviet Republic. At first Jews living in Vilna welcomed the Soviet troops in hope that they might be protected from the rampant anti-Semitism displayed by the Lithuanians but they were soon to feel differently as all the Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded and some of the members forced to join the "Comsomol" (Communist Youth Organization).

The Hebrew school was closed and in its place a Yiddish school opened, Jewish businesses were nationalized and given over to Commissars' shops were closed and the supply of goods decreased resulting in crippling price inflation.

The middle class, mostly Jewish, bore most of the brunt, and the standard of living dropped gradually. in  June 1941 several Jewish families were exiled into Russia as "Unreliable Elements".

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/ghettos/vilnius.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2009


Einsatzgruppen Commander Sonderkommando 1005

Paul Blobel

  Einsatzgruppen Commander

Sonderkommando 1005

 

Blobel personnel record

Paul Blobel was born on 13 August 1894 in Potsdam. He served in First World War where he was awarded the Iron Cross First Class. After the Great War Blobel studied architecture and practised this profession from 1924 until 1931 upon losing his job he joined the Nazi Party and the SS on 1 December 1931.

 

Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union Blobel took command of Einsatzkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppe C that operated in the Ukraine. As well as shooting the Nazis murdered Jews in gas-vans, Eimsatzgruppe C was issued at least five gas vans and gave two to Sonderkommando 4A, two to Einsatzkommando 6 and one to Einsatzlommando 5.

 

A member of the group testified after the war:

 

Two gas vans were in service I saw them myself. They drove into the prison yard, and the Jews – men, women and children – had to get straight into the vans from their cells.

 

Transport of Jews to Chelmno

I know what the interior of the vans look like. It was covered with sheet metal and fitted with a wooden grid. The exhaust fumes were piped into the interior of the vans. I can still hear the hammering and the screaming of the Jews – “Dear Germans let us out!”

 

The Jews went through our cordon and into the van without hesitating. As soon as the doors were shut, the driver started the engine. He drove to a spot outside Poltava. I was there when the van arrived.

 

As the doors were opened, dense smoke emerged, followed by a tangle of crumpled bodies. It was a frightful sight. The driver for Paul Blobel, testified after the war regarding the unloading of one of these gas-vans:

 

The use of the gas vans was the most horrible thing I have ever seen. I saw people being led into the vans and the doors closed. Then the van drove off. I had to drive Blobel to the place where the gas vans were unloaded.

 

SS men stand next to the bodies of dead Jews in Chelmno

The back doors of the van were opened, and the bodies that had not fallen out when the doors were opened were unloaded by Jews who were still alive. The bodies were covered with vomit and excrement. It was a terrible sight. Blobel looked then he looked away, and we drove off, on such occasions Blobel always drunk schnapps, sometimes even in the car.  

 

Blobel organised the infamous massacre of 33,771 Kiev Jews which took place in the Babi Yar ravine, the Einsatzgruppen reports give the full credit for the massacre to Blobel, but at the War Crimes Trial in Nuremburg Blobel protested his absence from Kiev, and declared further that only fifteen of his fifty-three men could be detailed for the executions.

 

In March 1942 Albert Hartel, a Gestapo expert on church affairs, was driving with Blobel towards a country villa outside Kiev used by Brigadefuhrer Thomas, the Higher SS and Police Leader. At the Babi Yar ravine, Hartel noticed small explosions, which threw up columns of earth. It was the thaw, releasing the gases from thousands of bodies, and Blobel explained – “Here my Jews are buried.”

 

The aftermath of a mass killing action

But Blobel was not quit of the affair. Two months later he was sent for in Berlin by Heydrich who was about to leave for Prague and his own death. After the passage of more than five years, the words of that steel –faced young man were still indelibly stamped on the memory of the Nuremburg defendant:

 

“Well you have developed a stomach. You are just a cissy, only fit to be employed as porcelain –manufacturer – but I will push your nose much deeper into it. You will report to Obergruppenfuhrer Muller.” Henceforward Blobel’s unique assignment was to destroy the traces of mass burials in Poland and Russia. Blobel was in Chelmno in September 1942 and in the following June he was back in the Babi Yar ravine, where his knowledge and experience showed the exhumation squad where to dig.

 

A pit filled with corpses to be burned

Returning to Chelmno, after his appointment Blobel along with a small staff of three or four men, began experimenting with systems for burning bodies. The place chosen for these experiments was Chelmno, the first death camp that had been established and had been operating since the end of 1941.

 

Jews from the Lodz area had already been gassed at Chelmno in gas-vans and buried in pits in a nearby forest. The pits were opened, and the first experiments were carried out. Incendiary bombs were tried, but these caused large fires in the surrounding woods.

 

Then they started to cremate the bodies on wood in open fireplaces. The bones that remained were destroyed by a special bone-crushing machine. The ashes of the bodies and small fragments of bones were buried in the pits from which the bodies had been removed.



Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/einsatz/blobel.html


The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T


Concentration camps- Sachsenhausen

 

Sachsenhausen "Oranienburg"       Concentration Camp      
 

Prisoners return from forced labor to Sachsenhausen

The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was built in the summer of 1936 by concentration camp prisoners from the Emsland camps. Just north of Berlin, Sachsenhausen was one of the most notorious death camps of the Nazi empire and was liberated by Allied troops in 1945.   The camp is sometimes referred to as Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg. The name "Sachsen Hausen" means "Saxon's Houses" when translated to English.

Sachsenhausen was established in 1936 soon after Heinrich Himmler 'Reichsführer SS' was appointed to the post of 'head of the German police'.   The camp was located at the edge of Berlin, which gave it a position among the German concentration camps: the administrative centre of all concentration camps was located in Oranienburg, and Sachsenhausen became a training centre for SS officers (who would often be sent to oversee other camps afterwards).

Read the full article here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/othercamps/sachsenhausen.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org
Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2009

 

 

Liquidation of the Psychiatric Hospital in Chełm

 

 

Liquidation of the

Psychiatric Hospital in Chełm

 

The psychiatric hospital in Chełm Lubelski

At the time of its liquidation, the psychiatric hospital in Chełm Lubelski contained 450 mental patients - both Poles and Jews (128 women, 304 men and 18 children). Most of them were from the Lublin region. From the beginning of the German occupation the hospital had suffered from very difficult conditions, since the German authorities did not supply sufficient food or medicine. In November and December 1939, doctors decided to release those patients who did not require full time care. This left the 450 patients in the hospital who were very sick.

Several days before the execution, the hospital was visited by a delegation from the SS and Gestapo. The SS officers were very arrogant toward the hospital staff and patients during this visit. On 12 January 1940 an SS unit arrived at the hospital - 30 SS-men under the command an officer named Bielisch. They took several Polish workers from a nearby brick factory and ordered them to dig two mass graves in a location about 150 m from the hospital buildings.

Simultaneously, Bielisch gathered the entire hospital staff and ordered them to immediately leave the premises. Only 12 male nurses were allowed to remain. At that time the chief nurse of the children’s’ department, Nun Cichoslawa was severely beaten by the SS-men because she did not want to leave the children who were in the hospital.

In the evening the SS-men started to expel the patients from the hospital building. The Germans ordered the male nurses to take the patients from their beds and lead them to the entrance doors. Several machine guns stood opposite the doors. One was operated personally by Bielisch. The patients were executed immediately at the threshold of the hospital buildings.

Those patients who refused to leave voluntarily were thrown out of the windows of the hospital by SS-men and shot. Some patients tried to escape and were killed in the park in front of the building. The biggest problem the SS-men had was with the children. Some of these were hidden in wardrobes by doctors and nurses before the execution; others ran into the building trying to escape. All the children were finally caught and executed.

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/euthan/chelm.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2009


Interview with Survivor of the Grande Rafle - Pithviers and Drancy  

New Page 1

Gitla Rosenblum

Interview with Survivor of the Grande Rafle - Pithviers and Drancy   

[Photos added to enhance the text]

  

Les Halles in Paris

“My parents came to Paris from Poland in 1930 and had twelve years of very difficult life. Mother had a grocery, at night she went to Les Halles, and in the morning she did her baking. My father worked in a butchers, they each did an eighteen-hour day. 

 

I had a brother who was much older than I, he was twenty-five, married with a child. He was arrested in 1941 and interned in Pithviers. It begun like that, life was very perturbed.

 

We sent him parcels – his wife and child had not been taken. I know my sister (Sarah) and I were due to go to a holiday camp by the sea. My parents had bought us each a little suitcase to pack our holiday clothes in, and those suitcases served us for our arrest. I was ten, Sarah was five.

 

French Police arrest Jews in Paris

On July 16 the French police knocked at our door and asked us to prepare. We’ll be back to fetch you in two or three hours, they said, we’re taking you for checking your papers.

 

It is untrue that many people understood what this meant, did not wait for the return of the police, but escaped. It is probable that some policemen did not do it light-heartedly, but very few gave a warning that lives were at risk.

 

My parents were very religious, observant: they were people of great probity. They decided they would wait – they had done nothing wrong and there was nothing to reproach them with.

 

So they stayed got dressed, and prepared a small bundle. My father went to the synagogue to fetch a scroll, the Torah, which a pious Jew ought to have on him, if he is going away.

 

The police returned and took us on foot, about 500 metres to a collecting place in the Rue des Rosiers. We lived in the fourth arrondissement, at 18 Rue Saint-Croix de la Bretonnerie. There we were escorted into buses, along with thousands of children who were crying, and old people, some being dragged in pitiful states of health.

 


Jewish men in Paris being taken away, many never to be seen again

We were driven to the Velodrome d’Hiver, a big arena for bicycling races, and there we remained in the most atrocious conditions. There were a few Red Cross helpers, but we were under the French police.

 

Rumour and propaganda was out of control, people screamed all night long. Women threw themselves off the top of the stands. I still hear the screams. I can see the scenes today. We stayed there eight days, the conditions were dreadful, the lavatories were the worst, blocked and the smells and the filth was pestilential. There was no room, we were cramped together.    

 

Jews in the Velodrome in Paris, awaiting deportation.

Then we were taken again in buses to the station and piled into cattle trucks, one on top of the other. The journey to Pithviers lasted a few hours. There my father and another brother, age thirteen were separated.

 

My mother, a sixteen -year old sister the little one and I were put into huts. After two or three weeks there was an assembly, and my mother and sisters saw my father and brother. Their heads had been shaved. That was the departure for Auschwitz.

 

We were separated again, this just my little sister and me, I can see the roll call of the crowd. My father wore a beard and it had been cut off too – it was an atrocious sight. They were taken off in transports whose destination nobody knew. Not one of them came back.

 

My sister and I were born in Paris, we had French nationality, and this time they were taking foreign-born Jews. We stayed for weeks with a multitude of children at Pithviers, until we were taken to Drancy, where we lived for some weeks in terrible conditions.

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/rosenblum.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2009


The Ghetto at Vilnius

The Vilnius Ghetto

Jewish Life in Vilnius/Vilna

To read more on Ponary click [here]

Pre-War photo of Vilnius/Vilna

Jews have played a part in the history of Lithuania since the 14th century, lured to the region by tolerant Lithuanian Dukes seeking to make advancements in trade and culture. Jews first arrived as merchants, artisans, and traders, but soon evolved into an integral component of Lithuania's national identity. The very first documents mentioning Jews in Vilnius date back as early as 1567.

At that time Jews did not have the right to purchase houses in the city, they could only rent them. Jews gained the right to own buildings in Vilnius only in 1593. Before that, they were allowed to reside in the lands which did not belong to the magistrate, so called jurisdiks.


Synagogue in Vilnius (circa 1929)

At the end of 16th - beginning of 17th centuries they were allowed to inhabit Zhydų (Jewish), Šv. Mykolo (Saint Michael's), and Mėsinių (Butchers') streets. They could also live on Vokietchių (German) street, but the windows of their apartments could not face the street.

The Jewish quarter was formed in the Old Town. According to 1784 census there were around 5000 Jews in Vilnius at that time; according to 1897 census Jews constituted 38.8% of town's population (64.000 Jews). By the early twentieth century, half of the city's 120,000 strong population were Jews, most of whom spoke Yiddish. 

Vilnius became the hub of Judaic religious culture in Europe, with over 110 synagogues, 10 yeshivas, and was home to the famed Yiddish Institute of Higher Learning (YIVO) and the Strashum Library, which housed the world's largest collection of Yiddish-language books; (both were destroyed by the Nazis). 

The city was known as the  "Jerusalem of the North" due to a high concentration of Talmudic Scholars, and  historical connection to the famed Elijah ben Solomon Zalman (1720-1797) otherwise known as "The Gaon" or "Genius of Vilna"   Elijah ben Solomon Zalman was the learned Rabbi who edited and commented on the Babylonian Talmud.

"Cantors" in Vilnius

Anti-Semitism had been rampant in Lithuania since 1881 when a band of military conscripts attacked Jewish shops, burning and looting. Jews banded together to defend their families and property but sporadic pogroms continued throughout the region for the next 50 years.

 

On October 28, 1939 there was another outbreak of anti-Jewish riots in Vilnius. As rioters ransacked the city, Jewish tradesmen once again organized defense groups to oppose the attackers. However more often than not, Lithuanian policemen would beat Jewish victims rather than trying to reconvene peace. The riots lasted for three days, and followed with rumors of more anti-Semitic assaults on November 10-11, which were "traditional" dates for such events.

In June 1940 Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union and became a Soviet Republic. At first Jews living in Vilna welcomed the Soviet troops in hope that they might be protected from the rampant anti-Semitism displayed by the Lithuanians but they were soon to feel differently as all the Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded and some of the members forced to join the "Comsomol" (Communist Youth Organization).

The Hebrew school was closed and in its place a Yiddish school opened, Jewish businesses were nationalized and given over to Commissars' shops were closed and the supply of goods decreased resulting in crippling price inflation.

The middle class, mostly Jewish, bore most of the brunt, and the standard of living dropped gradually. in  June 1941 several Jewish families were exiled into Russia as "Unreliable Elements".

 

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/ghettos/vilnius.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

 

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2009


1-20 of 40 Blogs   

Previous Posts
Holocaust Ghettos - Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski, posted January 9th, 2011
The deathcamp Janowska!, posted November 6th, 2010
Roll call of the Belzec Death Camp Victims!, posted September 20th, 2010
The city of Berlin and the Holocaust, posted September 7th, 2010
The story of Leni Riefenstahl, posted August 30th, 2010
Righteous Gentiles - Karl Plagge, posted July 4th, 2010
The genocide of the Greek Jews!, posted April 26th, 2010
Holocaust Survivor Joseph Bau, posted March 20th, 2010
The first Holocaust ghetto!, posted February 21st, 2010
Nazi Concentration Camp in Belgium!, posted February 3rd, 2010
The story of Gestapo Muller!, posted January 18th, 2010
Fate of the Gypsies at Belzec, posted December 21st, 2009
Let's lose the Holocaust Controversies please! It's getting old and tired!, posted November 28th, 2009, 1 comment
Nazi Ghettos -Vilnius, posted October 30th, 2009
Einsatzgruppen Commander Sonderkommando 1005, posted October 11th, 2009
Concentration camps- Sachsenhausen, posted September 14th, 2009
Liquidation of the Psychiatric Hospital in Chełm, posted August 22nd, 2009
Interview with Survivor of the Grande Rafle - Pithviers and Drancy  , posted August 6th, 2009
The Ghetto at Vilnius, posted July 26th, 2009
How EInsatzgruppen B was structured, posted July 3rd, 2009
Police Battalion 101 in Poland, posted June 5th, 2009
German Persecution of Jews in Poland, posted May 26th, 2009
Matthew Feldman speaks with the BBC on David Irving, posted May 17th, 2009
Images of the infamous Action Reinhard Staff, posted May 11th, 2009
The boy in the Holocaust Photo!, posted April 3rd, 2009
The Einsatzgruppen!, posted March 5th, 2009
Nazi Euthanasia at Fort 7 and Oswinka, posted February 21st, 2009
What's new at www.HolocaustResearchProject.org, posted February 5th, 2009
Quick facts about the Nazi SS Leaders! www.HolocaustResearchProject.org, posted January 5th, 2009
What people have to say about the HolocaustResearchProject.org website!, posted December 16th, 2008
The Hitler Youth! www.HolocaustResearchProject.org, posted December 14th, 2008
What's New At The HolocaustResearchProject.org, posted November 14th, 2008
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose! www.HolocaustResearchProject.org, posted October 31st, 2008
What people are saying about the Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team - www.HolocaustResearchProject.org, posted October 6th, 2008
The rescue of Danish Jews during the Holocaust! www.HolocaustResearchProject.org, posted October 5th, 2008
Infamous Nazi Propaganda Pamphlet DER UNTERMENSCH!, posted September 3rd, 2008
What's new at the HolocaustResearchProject.org website!, posted August 25th, 2008
The Holocaust in Croatia!, posted August 25th, 2008
Protocols of the Elders of Zion, posted August 25th, 2008
The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team Experience!, posted August 25th, 2008

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