holocaust

The former synagogue in Lesko, Poland; 2004. x

Lesko, known as Linsk in Yiddish, is a town in Poland that held a sizable Jewish population before World War II.  Although records are not clear when the town’s Jewish community was first created, by 1890 the Jewish population was recorded at 2,425 persons.  The main synagogue of Lesko - pictured above - was constructed between 1626 and 1656 to replace a wooden synagogue.  It could accommodate 1,500 people. 

Following the annexation of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the town of Lesko was in the Soviet zone of control so its Jewish population was spared during the initial years of the war.  That changed in 1941 with Operation Barbarossa and the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which involved the capture of Lesko by Nazi Germany.  60% of Lesko’s Jewish population was killed in the Holocaust.  The interior of the synagogue was also set on fire by the conquering German soldiers.  The building of the synagogue still stands and has been renovated extensively, now housing a Museum of Jewish history, an Art Gallery, and an annex office.  The bimah of the synagogue was looted from the synagogue during World War II and is now used on a Polish gentile’s home as a balcony.

How Churchill engineered the holocaust of 3 million Indians

As the resistance swelled, Churchill announced: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” This hatred killed. To give just one, major, example, in 1943 a famine broke out in Bengal, caused – as the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has proved – by the imperial policies of the British. Up to 3 million people starved to death while British officials begged Churchill to direct food supplies to the region. He bluntly refused. He raged that it was their own fault for “breeding like rabbits”. At other times, he said the plague was “merrily” culling the population.  Skeletal, half-dead people were streaming into the cities and dying on the streets, but Churchill – to the astonishment of his staff – had only jeers for them. “If food is so scarce, why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?”

Source: The Independent, Time, IBT

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Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

January 27 marks the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated this day as International Holocaust Remembrance Day (IHRD), an annual day of commemoration to honor the victims of the Nazi era.

From 1940 to 1945, more than 1.1 million men, women and children were killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp. 90% of them were Jews. All were innocent. Today, we remember

Never Again.

Elie Wiesel, the Auschwitz survivor who became an eloquent witness for the six million Jews slaughtered in World War II and who, more than anyone, seared the memory of the Holocaust on the world’s conscience, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 87. (via the Times)

Holocaust survivor and activist for justice Hedy Epstein dies at 91

From Mondoweiss

Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 91, died at her home in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, on May 26, 2016. An internationally renowned, respected and admired advocate for human and civil rights, Hedy was encircled by friends who lovingly cared for her at home.

Born August 15, 1924, in the Baden-Württemberg region of Germany, her lifelong commitment to human rights was formed by the horrific experiences she and her family endured under the repressive Nazi regime.

Unable to secure travel documents for themselves, Hedy’s parents, Hugo and Ella (Eichel) Wachenheimer, arranged for 14-year-old Hedy to leave Germany on a Kindertransport. Hedy credited her parents with giving her life a second time when they sent her to England to live with kind-hearted strangers. Hedy’s parents, grandparents, and most of her aunts, uncles and cousins did not survive the Holocaust. Hedy remained in England until 1945 when she returned to Germany to work for the United States Civil Service. She joined the Nuremberg Doctors Trial prosecution in 1946 as a research analyst.

Hedy immigrated to the United States in 1948. She and her husband moved to St. Louis in the early 1960s, and shortly thereafter Hedy began working as a volunteer with the Freedom of Residence, Greater St. Louis Committee, a nonprofit organization dedicated to housing integration and advocacy for fair housing laws. Hedy worked for many years as a volunteer and board member, and ultimately served as the organization’s executive director during the mid-1970s.

During the 1980s, Hedy worked as a paralegal for Chackes and Hoare, a law firm that represented individuals in employment discrimination cases. As an advocate for equality and human rights, Hedy spoke out against the war in Vietnam, the bombing of Cambodia, and overly restrictive U.S. immigration policies. She spoke and acted in support of the Haitian boat people and women’s reproductive rights, and, following the 1982 massacre at Sabra and Shatila, Hedy began her courageous and visionary work for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine.

During her later years, Hedy continued to advocate for a more peaceful world, and in 2002 was a founding member of the St. Louis Instead of War Coalition. Much of her later activism centered on efforts to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine. She founded the St. Louis chapter of Women in Black and co-founded the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee and the St. Louis chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace. She traveled to the West Bank several times, first as a volunteer with the nonviolent International Solidarity Movement and repeatedly as a witness to advocate for Palestinian human rights. She attempted several times to go to Gaza as a passenger with the Freedom Flotilla, including as a passenger on the Audacity of Hope, and once with the Gaza Freedom March. Hedy addressed numerous groups and organizations throughout Europe and returned to Germany and her native village of Kippenheim many times.

Three days after her 90th birthday, Hedy was arrested for “failure to disperse.” She was attempting to enter Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s St. Louis office to ask for deescalation of police and National Guard tactics which had turned violent in response to protests following the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Hedy was a member of the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center’s speakers’ bureau and gave countless talks at schools and community events. She shared her Holocaust experiences with thousands of Missouri youth as a featured speaker at the Missouri Scholars Academy for more than twenty years. She ended every talk with three requests: remember the past, don’t hate, and don’t be a bystander. Through the years, Hedy received numerous awards and honors for her compassionate service and relentless pursuit of justice.

Hedy is survived by son Howard (Terry) Epstein, and granddaughters Courtney and Kelly. She was beloved and will be truly missed by countless friends in St. Louis and around the world.

Once upon a time in the 1980s, when I was a twenty-year-old graduate student full of arrogance and attitude, I worked in the Hebrew books and manuscripts division of the Judaica Department at Sotheby’s New York. My boss was the “Judaica expert,” the late, great Jay Weinstein, a man truly deserving of his title, which he bore with immense modesty and humour. My own title was also “expert” but, by way of contrast, it only exacerbated my supercilious arrogance when I found myself called to the front desk to meet a client… The client I was about to meet on the day I am describing had called a week before to tell me that he was in possession of “a very old Hebrew book.” I was not looking forward to the encounter, since auction experts know very well that the hoi polloi consider anything more than ten years old to be ancient and hence of untold value. Disabusing clients of this notion as it applies to their particular treasure is an often painful but necessary task…
Mr. X, I was dismayed to find, embodied all my worst fears. Stooped, elderly, still in his coat, and eager — very eager. Authoritative and disdainful though I made myself, he was simply unimpressed by my “impressiveness.” With total focus and trembling hands, he reached into a plastic shopping bag and produced, wrapped in newspaper older than I was, his “treasure” — a book of Psalms, printed in Warsaw in 1920. I couldn’t believe this monumental waste of my precious time — a brand new book of Psalms would be worth more than this! I was exasperated by this schlepper, and I wanted to tell him so. I wanted to show him the real treasures — gold, silver, ancient, and precious illuminated manuscripts — that had been entrusted into my “expert” care. I wanted to show him the door as I told him with authoritative disdain, “That book is worth whatever you paid for it!”
But at that moment, like the angel in the legend who moves Moses’ hand toward the glowing coal rather than the glittering crown, thus saving his life, some kindly spirit moved my tongue. And instead of that anticipated send-off, I faltered, “Um, what did you pay for this?” The old man drew himself up to his full 5 feet, 2 inches. “For this, I paid seven days’ Auschwitz bread,” he replied with a dignity that totally deflated my pose. It seems that the Nazis had caught him with the little Psalm book, and as a penalty for possessing it, imprisoned him without food — only water to drink — for an entire week. Like Moses touching the coal to his lips, I was struck dumb. “This,” I stammered, “is too valuable for us to sell.” And I stumbled out of the room, a changed young man, with a new appreciation of what is meant by the words precious, valuable, and treasured.
Holocaust Analogies

People frequently invoke the Holocaust when speaking of large-scale discrimination in the modern era, and at first glance, this might even make sense. After all, if people are subject to abuse for an arbitrary aspect of themselves that they cannot change, if they are threatened with death due to these characteristics, surely the comparison is apt? No.

There is only one Holocaust. There will only ever be one Holocaust. It was a specific moment in time that transpired as the result of countless years of oppression and discriminatory practices, coupled with a political climate that bred it like an opportunistic infection.

No one but Holocaust survivors are Holocaust survivors. No one but Jews are Jews. No one but the Rroma are Rroma. No one but the Nazis are Nazis. No one but Hitler is Hitler.

Comparing anything to the Holocaust, no matter how terrible, does nothing but minimize the real, actual human tragedy of the Holocaust. Real, human lives, human stories, human hopes, brutally taken, murdered, ripped apart. Families, gone. Towns, gone. History, culture, gone. Lives, gone.

Millions of real people died in the Holocaust. All you do when you use Holocaust rhetoric to support your faulty arguments is to disservice them and all those who survived them. Stop using dead Jews to support your faulty rhetoric.