A squeamish executioner; that’s not the way to kill children.

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“The victims were shot by the firing-squad with carbines, mostly by shots in the back of the head, from a distance of one metre on my command. Before every salvo Taubner gave me the order – ‘Get set, fire!’ I just relayed Taubner’s command ‘Aim! Fire!’ to the members of the firing squad, and then there was a crack of gunfire. Meanwhile Rottenfuhrer Abraham shot the children with a pistol. There were about five of them. These were children whom I would think were aged between two and six years. The way Abraham killed the children was brutal. He got hold of some of the children by the hair, lifted them up from the ground, shot them through the back of their heads and then threw them into the grave. After a while I just could not watch this anymore and told him to stop. What I meant was he should not lift the children up by the hair, he should kill them in a more decent way.”

 

from the testimony of SS-Mann Ernst Gobel, on his actions under SS-Untersturmfuhrer Max Taubner* in Alexandriya, Ukraine

excerpted from “The Good Old Days” by Klee, Dressen and Reiss

Jews, come back to Germany. Please! We miss you.

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Jews, come back to Germany. Please! We miss you.

“On the basis of a decision by the German Bundestag” the “Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology” had given the green light to market Germany to the Jews.

How about that. An overt plea, offer, request, inveigle, snuggle, smooch to get Jews to return to Germany; to walk thru the ups and downs of a German Jewish heritage. Is that chutzpah or what?

It is chutzpah. And it is “or what” the what being “sechel.”

“Chutzpah” is Yiddish for gall, brazen nerve, effrontery.
“Sechel” is Yiddish for smarts, intelligence.

Witness the chutzpah: “You gotta be kidding; the perpetrator is asking the victims back for seconds.”  The title “Germany for the Jewish Traveler” feels like it could have been penned for a film by Mel Brooks; recall his “Springtime For Hitler?”  I experienced a modicum of resistance, irony, black humor when I first read the title “Germany for the Jewish Traveler.” Goebbels, the nazi’s Reich Minister of Propaganda would have been impressed with its smart look.

Witness the sechel; disregarding my initial knee-jerk take on “Germany for the Jewish Traveler” this e-brochure is an important piece, not only for its tasteful marketing and design, its handsome photographs of cities, towns and countryside, its informative text and focus on the Jewish German heritage; it is the appropriate, refulgent publication to be included in a history of nazi newspapers and posters debasing Jews with abrogation, edict, propaganda. It goes on top of that dark pile, it’s the capper, it’s redemption; it is an achievement in Germany’s “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” — its struggle/effort to come to terms with the past; and it is a testimonial to the terrible truth. Kudos to the German Bundestag.

 In essence the title implies the unspoken.
“Germany for the Jewish Traveler and Holocaust Denier.

This e-brochure should be included along with all of the other materials, books and images used in Holocaust studies. Get it off to high schools and colleges.

 “Germany for the Jewish Traveler” gives a concise informative history of the Jew in Germany, beginning from the Roman Empire on to the Mid-ages on to Kristallnacht and to the present. Today, nearly seven decades after the end of World War II, Germany is home to the third-largest Jewish community in Western Europe. It’s also the only European Jewish community that is growing rather than shrinking.

The camps in Germany still standing
where you, the world can meander;

Buchenwald.
Dachau.
Majdanek.
Neuengamme.
Sachsenhausen.
More than enough to get the idea; can’t get any closer to the agony
than the living evidence of the agony;
 the wood of the barrack and
the brick of the oven lives on in silence.

Let us walk through the silence together. All of us, hand in hand,
you, the world.
Would someone, you, the world, please take the hand of Hassan Rouhani
during a saunter 
through the crematorium?

SAMPLE PAGES FROM “GERMANY FOR THE JEWISH TRAVLER”

text below excerpted from e-brochure Germany for the Jewish Traveler …

“And it is in this spirit that we in Germany are honored to convey a special invitation to the Jews of the world to visit our country. As we do so, it would be naïve for us not to recognize that for many, contemplating a visit to Germany may never be without a mixture of emotions. Perhaps scholar, Joseph Greenblum, put it best when writing in the May 1995 issue of JUDAISM, the academic quarterly published by the American Jewish Congress when he wrote that visits by Jews to Germany: “symbolize the failure of the Nazis to erase Jewish memory, for it was the Jewish civilization of that nation which was first targeted for extinction. That failure would be powerfully demonstrated by a visit to sites of Jewish significance in the very heartland of what was once the Nazi empire…. Such pilgrimages by Jews would recognize and support the ‘other Germany,’ its accomplishments in reclaiming Jewish history, and its seriousness in coming to terms with the past and with itself.”

click for e-brochure: Germany for the Jewish Traveler 

How many good poems does it take to make a poet?

evapicola_1-03 SYLVIA PLATH in an interview was asked how she first began writing poetry, what sort of thing did she write about when she first began?  Sylvia Plath’s reply:

“Nature, I think: birds, bees, spring, fall, all those subjects which are absolute gifts to the person who doesn’t have any interior experience to write about. I think the coming of spring, the stars overhead, the first snowfall and so on are gifts for a child, a young poet.

Twelve year old Eva Picová had the “interior experience” Sllvia Plath speaks of — it’s called the Terrezin concentration camp, renamed Theresienstadt by the Germans. It’s called premature adulthood at gun point.

Theresienstadt concentration camp, a transit camp for children and the elderly who were eventually packed into cattle cars pointed towards Auschwitz and their death. Also a camp for men and women selected for forced labor. Beatings, torture, starvation and disease were commonplace. Eva Picová lived through a typhus epidemic, seeing her friends and others succumb to the disease.  She saw adults saw her parents suffer, saw them agonize, languish, struggle under the brutal and terrorizing treatment wielded by the Nazis.

The adults at Theresienstadt manage to provide art and writing classes for the children. Despite severe congestion, food shortages and compulsory labor, the extensive educational and cultural activities in the ghetto reflected the prisoners’ will to survive the unsurvivable; provided a distraction from their eventual selection to the gas chamber, a distraction from the harsh bare-bone living conditions; gave them, especially the children, a voice to resurrect hope from despair.

A Dr. R. Feder gave Eva Picová’s poem to the State Jewish Museum in Prague. She most likely wrote more. She was allotted one more year to do so.

You can find a collection of children’s art and poetry from Terezin in the book titled “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.” Included is Picová’s poem.

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IF EVA PICOVÁ DID SURVIVE THERESIENSTADT CONCENTRATION CAMP I IMAGINE THAT SHE WOULD CONTINUE TO WRITE POETRY, JOINING THE FEW SURVIVOR POETS AND WRITERS WHO GAVE US A PERSONAL HISTORY OF THE UNIMAGINABLE, THE ABSURD, THE MERCILESS. WHO GAVE US THE TELLING OF —  FINDING THEIR OWN VOCABULARY/VOICE TO EXPRESS WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO BE THE CHOSEN PEOPLE — THE PRIMARY PARTICIPANT IN THE FINAL SOLUTION — WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO WITNESS AND ENDURE THE NAZI’S SYSTEMATIC DEDICATED SLAUGHTER OF 6 MILLION JEWS. THEN & NOW —

Poet and writers born from the Holocaust.

  klugerboth-10Ruth Klüger  (born 30 October 1931)  is Professor Emerita of German Studies at the University of California and a Holocaust survivor. In Auschwitz, Kluger composed poetry in her head and, somehow, knew there would be a future for her after the war. Ruth and her mother along with a girl they adopted in Auschwitz were lucky and resourceful: they survived, and when her mother died in 2000, Kluger “felt a sense of triumph, because this had been a human death, because she had survived and outlived the evil times and had died in her own good time, almost 100 years after she was born.”

Her book “Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered” was named one of the year’s 10 best books by the Washington Post, 2001. Winner of the Thomas Mann Prize and the Prix Memoire De La Shoah

Ruth Kluger, an amazing women; her chutzpah, insight, honesty, creativity, survival instincts comes through In her book and everything else she takes on. Ruth Kluger didn’t call it quits after escaping Auschwitz. Risking her own life she help save the lives of Jews during the Holocaust by smuggling them on ships into Palestine.

The following:
SPIEGEL, a German publication interviews Ruth Kluger. Nov 7, 2006

SPIEGEL: Ms. Klüger, at the moment you have a research post at the University of California in Irvine, and before that you were a guest lecturer at the University of Göttingen. Do you sometimes go back to your home town Vienna?

 Klüger: Yes.

 SPIEGEL: But the emotions you experience in Vienna must be very different to how you feel in Göttinge

Klüger: Yes, what is strange is … how should I put it? Our personalities are such that we instinctively rely on our own experiences rather than using our brains. For me Göttingen is not a Nazi town, even though I know that Braunschweig is very nearby…

 SPIEGEL: Braunschweig is of course where Hitler was made a German citizen in 1932.

Klüger: Exactly. But Vienna reeks of anti-Semitism. For me every cobblestone in Vienna is anti-Semitic. If I hadn’t fled with my mother and her friend in time, by the end of the war I could have ended up in Bergen-Belsen. But I have never been there, and I don’t go to these concentration camp memorial sites.

SPIEGEL: These memorial grounds are certainly not built with you in mind.

Klüger: It is just not my camp.

SPIEGEL: But you do you travel occasionally to Vienna?

Klüger: I did a guest professorship there. It was very unpleasant. The people I had to work with were awful.

SPIEGEL: So you believe that anti-Semitism is still deeply ingrained in the city? That it will always be there?

Klüger: Vienna will never be rid of anti-Semitism. I have the feeling the city doesn’t even want to be. When I got the invitation to go there, I couldn’t help thinking: “This is the university where your father studied.” And the first few weeks I was there, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that my father was standing behind me. I kept asking myself what he would have said if he had been there. And after a few weeks I knew what he would have said: “You are pretty stupid to have come here.”

select for the complete interview

Nelly Sachs  (10 December 1891 – 12 May 1970)

nellysachs-06 a Jewish German poet and playwright whose experiences resulting from the rise of the Nazis in World War II Europe transformed her into a poignant spokeswoman for the grief and yearnings of her fellow Jews. She fled to Sweden in 1940 with her mother just before being deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp, and lived in Sweden for the rest of her life, emotionally unable to face the idea of returning to Germany.

In 1966 she was awarded the Nobel prize for literature (for her “German Jewish” poetry).

Her following poem questions the unfathomable  — all of the German, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Romanian people who had a ‘hand’ in the Holocaust.

HANDS  by Nelly Sachs

Hands death’s gardener,
you who from the cradle-camomile of death
growing on the hard paddocks or hillside,
have bred the hothouse monster of your trade.
Hands, what did you do,
when you were the hands of little children?
Did you hold a mouth organ, the mane of a rocking horse,
did you cling to your mother’s skirt in the dark ….
You strangling hands, was your mother dead, your wife, your child?
So that only death was left for you to hold in your hands,
in your strangling hands?

Abraham Sutzkever sutzkever1_2-07was one of the great Yiddish poets of his generation who evoked the nightmare of the Holocaust with images of a wagonload of worn shoes and the haunting silence of a sky of white stars.

He was forced to dig his own grave at gunpoint; his newborn son was poisoned by the Germans in the ghetto hospital. Less than a year later, Sutzkever wrote a poem from a child’s viewpoint begging its mother to:

Strangle me with your Mama fingers

That played On my willow cradle.
It will mean:
Your love is stronger than death.
It will mean:
You trusted me with your love.

In 1941, he and his wife were sent to the Vilna Ghetto. Ordered by the Nazis to hand over important Jewish manuscripts and artworks Sutzkever and his friends hid a diary by Theodor Herzl, drawings by Marc Chagall and other treasured works behind plaster and brick walls in the ghetto. On September 12, 1943, he and his wife escaped to the forests, and together with fellow Yiddish poet Shmerke Kaczerginsky he fought the Germans as a partisan.

Paul Celan “There is nothing in the world for which a poet will give up writing, not even when he is a Jew and the language of his poems is German”

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Paul Celan was born in Czernovitz, Romania, to a German-speaking Jewish family. The death of his parents and the experience of the the Holocaust are defining forces in Celan’s poetry and his use of language.

Celan was imprisoned in a work-camp for 2 years, until February 1944, when the Red Army’s advance forced the Romanians to abandon the camps, whereupon he returned to Czernovitz shortly before the Soviets returned. At that time friends recall Celan expressing immense guilt over his separation from his parents, whom he had tried to convince to go into hiding prior to the deportations, shortly before their death.

After escaping the labor camp, Celan lived in Bucharest and Vienna before settling in Paris. In Paris, he translated poetry and taught German language and literature at L’École Normale Supérieure. Though he lived in France and was influenced by the French surrealists, he wrote his own poetry in German.

Celan’s poems often contain brief, fractured lines and stanzas, with compressed and unpredictable imagery, with the forms of the poems echoing the difficulty of finding language for the experiences he witnessed. Celan received the Bremen Prize for German Literature in 1958 and the Georg Buchner Prize in 1960

Celan committed suicide by drowning in the Seine river in Paris, April 1970.

His most famous poem, the “Todesfuge” (Death Fugue)

Death Fugue

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at evening
we drink it at midday and morning we drink it at night
we drink and we drink
we shovel a grave in the air there you won’t lie too cramped
A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes
he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Marguerite
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are all sparkling
he whistles his hounds to come close
he whistles his Jews into rows has them shovel a grave in the ground
he orders us strike up and play for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at morning and midday we drink you at evening
we drink and we drink
A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes
he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Margeurite
your ashen hair Shulamith we shovel a grave in the air there you won’t lie too cramped
He shouts jab this earth deeper you lot there you others sing up and play
he grabs for the rod in his belt he swings it his eyes are blue
jab your spades deeper you lot there you others play on for the dancing

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at midday and morning we drink you at evening
we drink and we drink
a man lives in the house your goldenes Haar Margeurite
your aschenes Haar Shulamith he plays with his vipers
He shouts play death more sweetly Death is a master from Deutschland
he shouts scrape your strings darker you’ll rise then in smoke to the sky
you’ll have a grave then in the clouds there you won’t lie too cramped

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at midday Death is a master aus Deutschland
we drink you at evening and morning we drink and we drink
this Death is ein Meister aus Deutschland his eye it is blue
he shoots you with shot made of lead shoots you level and true
a man lives in the house your goldenes Haar Margarete
he looses his hounds on us grants us a grave in the air
he plays with his vipers and daydreams
der Tod is ein Meister aus Deutschland
dein goldenes Haar Margarete
dein aschenes Haar Shulamith

Primo Michele Levi always wore a short-sleeved shirt with a suit, even in winter, so that his prison tattoo was exposed whenever he removed his jacket.

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Primo Michele Levi, an Italian Jewish chemist and writer, the author of several books, novels, collections of short stories, essays, and poems. His best-known works include “Survival in Auschwitz”, his account of the year he spent as a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. For the last forty years of his life Levi devoted himself to attempting to deal with the fact that he was not killed in Auschwitz. “The worst survived, that is, the fittest; the best all died,” he said.

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Campo di Fossoli was a deportation camp in Italy during the Holocaust taken over by the Germans. On 21 February 1944, Levi and other inmates were transported in twelve cramped cattle trucks to Monowitz, one of the three main camps in the Auschwitz concentration camp complex. Levi spent eleven months there before the camp was liberated by the Red Army on 18 January 1945.

Of the 650 Italian Jews in his transport, Levi was one of twenty who left the camps alive. The average life expectancy of a new entrant at the camp was three months.

Levi died on 11 April 1987, when he fell from the interior landing of his third-story apartment in Turin to the ground floor below.

The coroner ruled that Levi’s death was a suicide. Oxford sociologist Diego Gambetta, “If Levi wanted to kill himself he, a chemical engineer by profession, would have known better ways than jumping into a narrow stairwell with the risk of remaining paralyzed.

CENTRO PRIMO LEVI NEW YORK (CPL) is a New York based organization inspired by the humanistic legacy of writer and chemist Primo Levi, who survived Auschwitz and contributed significantly to the post-World War II debate on the role of memory in modern societies. CPL fosters and supports those interested in Primo Levi’s work, the Italian Jewish past as well as those interested in current perspectives and conversations about the Italian Jewish community today. It offers programs, publishing and networking activities and provides links to libraries and museums, academic and scholarly updates and a monthly newsletter. CPL is a dynamic and informative English language portal offering information and resources on Italian Jewish culture and history to audiences around the world.

A poem at the beginning of his book “Survival In Auschwitz”

 If This Is a Man

You who live safe In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud,
Who does not know peace,
Who fights for a scrap of bread,
Who dies because of a yes or a no.

Consider if this is a woman
Without hair and without name,
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter.

Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts At home,
in the street, Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.

How do you fit 200 Jews into a Volkswagen Beetle?

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Yascha Mounk, a young man, German and a Jew writes of a time when he was with friends enjoying a festive beer toasting, drinking Munich Oktoberfest. He was the only Jew. A young woman in his party got angry because Hans, one of the festive group told her to “knock it off” — she was in the process of telling a Jew joke.  The following is from Yascha Mounk’s recent article in the New York Times.

Stephanie, a petite woman in her late 30s, was trying to make a joke. “How do you fit 200 Jews into a Volkswagen Beetle?” she asked.

“Knock it off,” said Hans, a big-boned, folksy friend of mine. “This is not appropriate.”

“Why should I?” Stephanie shot back. “Because you tell me to shut up? Because they tell me to shut up? Come on, it’s just a joke!”

“I doubt it’ll be funny,” Hans said.

“Not funny? Have a sense of humor! Why can’t a joke about the Jews be funny? It’s 2006. The Holocaust happened 60 years ago. We should tell jokes about the Jews again!”

“Look,” Hans said, “you know as well as I do that Germans have a special responsibility to be sensi — ”

 “A special responsibility? I’m not even 40! No, no. I won’t stay silent any longer. Here’s how you fit them in. You gas them. You incinerate them. You stuff them in the ashtray. That’s how you do it.”

I came to know of this article from Julie Rosenberg’s blog “Googling The Holocaust.” Julie was quite upset. Portion of Julie Rosenberg’s blog reads …

 … There was that word “again” again. Read the third paragraph from the bottom of the anecdote and you’ll see it. The line reads, “We should tell jokes about the Jews again!”

What the f*ck!?!?! It will always be too soon to tell jokes about the Jews. Especially Holocaust jokes. Who in their right mind could think a Holocaust joke is in any way humorous? Just cut it out you ignorant joke-telling people. Those jokes are far from funny …

Julie Rosenberg went right to the heart of the hatred; she nailed the pulse of anti-Semitism, its lives on, the operative, conspicuous word …  “AGAIN”

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Are both Julie and I over reacting to “AGAIN” — carrying its implication too far? Hey, it’s only gallows humor, right? Wrong. This is: this is gallows humor from the mouth/mind of Woody Allen; his take on Richard Wagner … “I can’t listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland.” Woody Allen on death … ”I don’t mind death, it’s the hours.”

It’s a Jews specialty; bagels, smoke fish and humor, gallows and otherwise. As for most Germans, humor is not their thing, especially gallows humor; they need to wait a couple of hundred years, then give it a try. Holocaust jokes are beyond the pale, not funny, nothing funny in any way about incinerating Jews to ashes. And to note: gallows humor is typically made by or about the victim of such a situation — not the perpetrator of it or for that matter their future generations whose hands are clean but thoughts rage anger against the guilt and the reason for the guilt, the Jews. Back off Jews. Back off guilt. Hate, front and center.………………..

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Julie Rosenberg wondered how Yascha Mounk responded to Stephanie when confronted with the Jew Joke.  Me to. I read his book, Stranger In My Own Country: A Jewish Family in Modern Germany. There he describes in greater content the Jew joke incident. We don’t get Yascha Mounk’s reply. We get his analysis, his take on it her.

Yascha Mounk writes explaining Stephanie’s behavior.

Stephanie’s joke was anti-Semitic. But, even as her bad taste and provocative demeanor repelled me, I realized that her reasons for telling it were not anti-Semitic, at lest not in the straightforward sense. Stephanie does not hate Jews as such. Rather she hates the standard conceptions of what Jews, and her country’s past should mean to her. In this sense, Stephanie is not just another neo-Nazi. She is part of a fast spreading movement.

Listen up Yascha Mounk; your friend, acquaintance, what ever you call Stephanie she is clearly an anti-Semite, a straightforward, no holds barred anti-Semite, nothing complicated or layered about it.  Stephanie doesn’t hate a “standard conception” of a Jew, she hates Jews.

Stephanie wouldn’t have told her Jew joke if you, Yascha Mounk, the only Jew present wasn’t there to draw blood from. If the likes of Hitler ever took reign of Germany again the likes of Stephanie would be a recruit. Anti-Semitism seems to fester within; it waits for a joke, a nod, a cause, excuse, proclamation so it may surface to find expression – “Again.” It always seem to be an easy sell — at least for the last 2000 years.
………………………

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The German language is stunning, mesmerizing, mind-blogging, chunky, substantial like a bratwurst, far-reaching with the jabbing thuds of a boxer’s punch. Some one – no one seems to knows who – joined 2 words together creating a humongous lengthy powerful word, audibly and in meaning. 25 characters in weight meant to help guide Germany from the Third Reich into the present on into the future. Vergangenheitsbewältigung: describes processes of dealing with the past, the struggle to come to terms with the past. A tough German word to live up to, not easy to apply.

 ………………

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Yascha Mounk describes the young Germans of today as fed up with Holocaust memorabilia; they want to move beyond the “philo-Semitism” of their elders. Yascha Mounk uses philo-Semitsm to describe Germans who are moved by guilt, social pressure, political correctness, compelled to go thru the motions, be especially nice, make nice to the Jews, overly polite, hyped enthusiasm for all things Jewish such as Klezmer and  Yiddish.

Actually the word philo-Semitism offers a history and meaning carrying a more nasty virulent interpretation.

In fact, “philo-Semitism” was invented as a term of abuse, applied by anti-Semites to those who opposed them. …  “philo-Semite” was the equivalent of a word like “nigger-lover” in the United States, meant to suggest that anyone who took the part of a despised minority was odious and perverse ….
… selected from a review of Philo-Semitism in History edited by Adam Sutcliffe and Jonathan Karp
………

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Yascha Mounk tells us that many young Germans believe they have been inundated and persecuted with the slaughter of 6 million Jews for much too long; they now want to blot it from memory and public discourse; 60 years of penance — they’ve paid their dues.

Well … for those Germans who had to suffer thru their perceived, persistent persecution for crimes of the Third Reich I suggest the following antidote.

Suffer this; we take away all your possessions, furniture, photographs, family keepsakes, all of your cloths, clutching your six month old baby we stuff you, your family, neighbors into a cattle car shoulder to shoulder jammed tight one against the other, you can barely find space to sit, 3 days in the cattle car with no food, no water, it’s below zero you’re freezing, you defecates and urinate in place, the car reeks from the smell of feces and urine, old men and old women collapse and die, after 3 days we herd all of you out of the car, we take you, your baby, your young nephews, nieces, your grandparents, we have you strip naked, march you into the gas chamber where you will all share your terror, agony and last breath; we toss your bodies into an incinerator, burn you to oblivion, you, your family never happened, never existed, erased. You up for this?

All right, now that I got that out of my system I want to know. Do the citizens of Germany have a case; are they pilloried with the Holocaust as much as they say, as much as they feel they are?  Have many, any German citizen experienced Vergangenheitsbewältigung — have they come to terms with the past or are struggling to? I would never have asked these questions if not for Yasch Mounk’s book Stranger In My Own Country: A Jewish Family in Modern Germany. Never gave much  thought about Germany’s post Holocaust experience. 

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 … an interview

The interviewee,  Lars Rensmann, a German educator who teaches political science at the University of Munich and at the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies, University of Potsdam.

Interviewer: The 60th anniversary of the end of World War II was commemorated a few weeks ago. And in conjunction with that event, a poll was conducted on German history, and it indicated that one young German in two does not know what the Holocaust was. The poll was conducted by the independent research institute Forschungsgruppe Wahlen for public broadcaster ZDF and the newspaper Die Welt.  Do you think this statistic is connected to your earlier point about the limited amount of time given to teaching history?

 Lars Rensmann: Yes. It’s definitely the case that there’s insufficient history teaching and insufficient knowledge about the Holocaust among young generational cohorts, and this does not just affect uneducated adolescents. Political efforts need to increase to change this. It needs to be taught in schools way more thoroughly. It’s a shame that such a high amount of young Germans don’t know what Auschwitz or the Holocaust was, in spite of all the lament about an “over-representation” of Auschwitz in the German media and schools. Those data are alarming. It finally needs to become an important, if not central part of education, just like other subjects. Increased efforts in teaching about prejudice, anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust are overdue.

for the complete interview click here

………..

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YASCHA MOUNK WRITES

…. In the context of the postwar years, the argument that Germans were victimized by some kind of draconian form of collective punishment rang particularly hollow. After all, most Germans did not even want those compatriots of theirs who had actually, personally, committed horrible war crimes to be punished. Many among them refused to acknowledge that the Third Reich, itself had done anything particularly wrong.

*********

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YASCHA MOUNK WRITES

Fifteen whole years after the war, the reception afforded Marlene Dietrich when she first returned to Germany shows how little sympathy most Germans had for those compatriots of theirs who had chosen to fight against the Nazis. Dietrich, perhaps the most famous actress of the twentieth century, had fled the Third Reich and even – the audacity – donned an American uniform in appearances for the US troops during the war. When she briefly returned to her hometown, Berlin, in 1960, angry crowds protested her concert, one spectator egged her while she was on stage, and another spit at her. They all agreed with the slurs they had read in the local newspaper then. Dietrich was, quite simply, a traitor in her own country.
………

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Ursula Duba is a German-American writer, the author of Tales From A Child of the Enemy (Penguin 1997) and a non-Jew who believes that anti-Semitism is a problem that non-Jews have to expose and eradicate. She has researched and written about anti-Semitism and German-Jewish relations for 15 years. This excerpt is from her October 2004 lecture at Pennsylvania State University.

And yet, despite all the efforts made, despite all the good intentions, despite the genuine desire to do good, 59 years and four generations later, the legacy of the Hitler regime still haunts us, causing many of us Germans to feel frustrated or even angry at anybody who mentions the Holocaust.

As I mentioned at the beginning, despite all the effort made, it seems to be difficult for us Germans to accept that we are imperfect human beings like everybody else and that we did, in fact, give in to the darkest forces within ourselves. Could it be that the concept of the master race still inhabits part of our psyche and that the acknowledgement of our very human shortcomings is not considered acceptable within contemporary German society?

for the entire speech click here
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Jens Pieper

A summary of the views of Jens Pieper, the 24 year-old editor of Nobody Asked Us, a recent book written by a group of young “third generation” Germans who are students at Humboldt University. It represents this third generation’s thinking on how the Holocaust should be confronted and remembered and why they have declared their distance from how their parents’ and grandparents’ generations have dealt with the Holocaust. This summary was written by Peter Rigny, associate producer of this FRONTLINE film, “A Jew Among the Germans.” It is drawn from Rigny’s discussions with Jens Pieper.

The second generation of Germans has not overcome the taboo of talking about the Holocaust, despite the ’68 student movement and its rightful attacks on former Nazis still in high positions in the German federal government. This holds a great danger for the future.

 If it is still taboo to talk about the meaning of the Holocaust, its central importance to German and human society cannot be conveyed to future generations which will no longer have direct contact with eyewitnesses to the Holocaust.

Our generation should do what the former generation failed to do: to tackle the Holocaust on a personal, emotional basis, to allow on an individual level the sentiments of moral responsibility for the crimes committed in the name of the Third Reich, even though none of us (the generation of our parents and our generation) has committed any of these crimes.

 We are sufficiently informed about the facts of the Holocaust, but we are critical of our schoolteachers (as primary “informers”) for failing to convey to us (or perhaps they were psychologically unable to do so) the level of meaning of the Holocaust that could be of use today and in the future when direct contact with eyewitnesses will no longer be possible.

The second generation of Germans, our parents, pass on to us their message about the Holocaust in an imposing manner, i.e. without allowing any questions or responses or criticism from their children. They want to cement the message as it is seen by them, and in this way they declare us dependent, minor, underage. And yet “they” expect us to actively come to our own understanding about the Holocaust. This is self-contradictory, we say.

for the complete summery click here

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Germany Holocaust Memorial

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial, is a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. It consists of a 4.7-acre site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae”, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The stelae are 7 ft 10 in long, 3 ft 1 in wide and vary in height from 7.9 in to 15 ft 9.0 in.

An attached underground “Place of Information” holds the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims, obtained from the Israeli museum Yad Vashem.

Building began on April 1, 2003 and was finished on December 15, 2004. It was inaugurated on May 10, 2005, sixty years after the end of World War II, and opened to the public two days later.

Deciding who shall kill the children.

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Excerpted from the book: “The Good Old Days”  The Holocaust as seen by its Perpetrators and Bystanders

1 SS-Obersturmführer. First lieutenant of the SS

2 Paul Blobel (August 13, 1894 – June 7, 1951) was a German Nazi war criminal. SS-Standartenführer (Colonel).  During the German invasion of the Soviet Union, he commanded Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppe C  that was active in Ukraine. Following Wehrmacht troops into Ukraine, the Einsatzgruppen would be responsible for liquidating political and racial undesirables; that would include the 90 plus Jewish children describe above in SS-Oberstrumfuhrer August Häfner telling. Blobel was also responsible for the Babi Yar massacre at Kiev.

3 The Waffen-SS ( Armed SS) was created as the armed wing of the Nazi Party’s Schutzstaffel (“Protective Squadron”), and gradually developed into a multi-national military force of Nazi Germany. 

4 Feldkommandant: a local military command responsible for the administration of the territory it occupied.

5 The Wehrmacht:  (Defence Force)— from German: wehren, to defend and Macht, power, force. Was the unified armed forces of Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the army), the navy and the air force.

ON THE KILLING OF THE CHILDREN AS TOLD BY SS-OBERSTRUMFUHRER1 AUGUST HÄFNER … Then Blobel2 ordered me to have the children executed. I asked him, “By whom should the shooting be carried out?” He answered, “By the Wafffen-SS3.” I raised an objection, “They are all young men. How are you going to answer to them if you make them shoot small children?” To this he said, “Use your men.” I then said, “How can they do that? They have small children as well.” This tug of war lasted about ten minutes … I suggested that the Ukrainian militia of the Feldkommandant4 should shoot the children. There were no objections from either side to this suggestion … I went out to the woods alone. The Wehrmacht5 had already dug a grave. The children were brought along in a tractor. I had nothing to do with the technical procedure. The Ukrainians were standing round trembling. The children were taken from the tractor. They were lined up along the top of the grave and shot so they fell into the grave. The wailing was indescribable. I shall never forget the scene throughout my life. I find it hard to bear. I particularly remember a small fair-haired girl who took me by the hand. She too was shot later … The grave was near some woods. It was not near the rifle range. The execution must have taken place in the afternoon about 3pm or 4pm. It took place after the discussions at the Feldkommandanten … Many children were hit four or five times before they died.

Poets, would you, could you get your poetry up for them. An agony unknown to you, born years before your first laugh, first tear. Would you, could you touch, feel them, wrap your poetry around them. Not asking much, asking burning craters, marathons, deep sea dives.

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The only way the child pictured above survived the Warsaw ghetto was to be given to an Aryan household outside of the Warsaw ghetto for care. Otherwise her father and/or her were taken for deportation to be gassed. The father might have avoided the gas chamber spared for slave labor but his daughter will go her death.

A situation sometimes arises where parents have the option of going with their child to the gas chamber or to choose to live another day by working in or outside the ghetto leaving their child to be herded off in a freight car with other children, the elderly, ultimately to be gassed to death.

Starving children sitting on the pavement in the Warsaw ghetto: Yad Vashem Photo archives.

Starving children: Warsaw ghetto: Yad Vashem Photo archives.

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A starving child lying on the sidewalk: Warsaw Ghetto: Yad Vashem Photo archives.

A starving child: Warsaw Ghetto: Yad Vashem Photo archives.

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dead baby, Warsaw ghetto

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Childcare in the Ghetto

Childcare in the ghetto requires a unique set of skills and is a risky business. All infants and children are doomed to death by the nazi dictate: kill every Jewish child not old enough to be put to labor. Parents had to be aggressive negotiators, have contacts outside the ghetto and have a hidden cache of jewelry, diamonds, bracelets or cash; not an easy task, their captives picked then dry. Parents had to locate an Aryan household outside of the ghetto, first to trust them, then to bribe and convince them to care for and raise their child; a monumental endeavor, dangerous, not always successful. Sometimes the Aryan would take the money, the jewelry, whatever; then refuse to take the child or turn the child and parents over to the police.

Most Jews within the Warsaw ghetto did not have the wherewithal, the goods to negotiate. The majority of parents, children, humans, people, souls, Jews shared their starvation to the cruel end. The death toll among the Jewish inhabitants of the Ghetto, between deportations to extermination camps, Großaktion Warschau, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the subsequent razing of the ghetto, is estimated to be at least 300,000.

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There were a few Polish citizens who risked their life to save the children, no compensation needed. Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker who served in the Polish underground saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw ghetto, providing them false documents, and sheltering them in individual and group children’s home outside the ghetto. The Nazis eventually discovered her activities, tortured her, and sentenced her to death, but she managed to evade execution and survive the war.

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Irena Sandler

Mothers: given the same scenario would you smother your baby?

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Concealed in a common hiding place built on the second floor of a house in the Sokolow Ghetto are a gathering of terrified Jewish families and neighbors; friends, mothers, fathers, sons, sisters, cousins, grandparents. Frozen still silent they listen to the Ukrainian guard and Gestapo storm thru the house in search of Jews. A baby starts to cry. The mother is asked to quiet her child. There is no way the mother can leave the hiding place without her capture and subsequent reveal of their hiding place. If the baby continues to cry the Ukrainians and Gestapo will hear. As it was the baby was silenced in vain — they were all discovered, herded out into the street, shot at and struck with clubs.

The opening title paragraph is taken from the book I Still See Her Haunting Eyes: The Holocaust and a Hidden Child named Aaron by Aaron Elster and Joy Erlichman Miller, PhD.

Aaron was 10 years old when he saw the mother smother her baby. Aaron’s own mother gave him a pair of earrings and a ring, told him to run off on his own, find the house his older sister is staying at, see if the family will take him in. His mother, with a strange man companion, leaves Aaron alone to fend for himself. Ten year old Aaron; he just escaped a bloodbath on the streets, leaving his father and younger sister in the deadly chaos; his mother apparently deserts him, without an embrace, keeping her distance, the only physical contact is from the strange man with his mother, he pushes Aaron away, go Aaron, go.

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Aaron escape the Nazis while enduring 2 years hiding in an un-insulated attic with a tin roof; he froze in the winter, fried in the summer, was given the bare essentials, water and scant food by a family that were reluctant to give him any shelter or care. He spent 2 birthdays, from age 10 to 12, in the attic, never leaving, no visitors except rare brief visits by his sister who lived below him in the house itself with the family. She tells her brother Aaron: “Now the Gorskis have to worry about hiding two of us.”

“Aaron Elster’s story is told with power and integrity. The memory is fresh, the experience searing. His work retains the tone of the child who lived the story, untainted by adult cynicism … a rare work of survival with a truthful immediacy that leaves the reader stunned but not numbed. It is not easy reading, but urgent reading, recommended reading.”
 Michael Berenbaum, Director, Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious implications of the Holocaust.

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Infanticide In the Ghetto

If the mother who made the sacrifice by smothering her child was slain during thesaintchild bloodletting the last glimmer of thought she’d carry with her to eternity was the death of her infant by her own hands, knowing, knowing that it didn’t make a difference to the outcome. If she lived thru the Holocaust she’d carry that awful moment with her day by day. If still alive will her God forgive her? Will she forgive herself? Is her act beyond forgiving? Not required? Forgiving not required. She requires sainthood. If you’re not into sainthood give her your love. If love is too much to ask them empathy, we can spare that much, our empathy for her.

The crying infant ghetto scenario — this grotesque, insufferable, impossible, cruel decision forced upon a parent was played out time and time again given the number of ghettos, number of hiding places Jews have built, the years the Nazis devoted to decimating ghettos and the years evil reign over the mass slaughter of infants and children. Jewish babies aren’t allowed to cry in the Ghetto.

 

Голокост шпалерний клей. Халакост абіўны клей. Holocaust je tapeta pasta. השואה היא דבק טפטים. Holokausts ir fona pastas. L’Holocauste est colle à papier peint. די חורבן איז טאַפּעטן פּאַפּ. Holokaustas yra ekrano užsklanda pasta. Der Holocaust ist Tapetenkleister. Holokaust jest pasta tapeta. A holokauszt tapéta paszta. Holocaustul este pasta de tapet.

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That’s the answer given when twin sisters twenty years old, Yevgenia and Ksenia Karatygina, were asked on a Russian television game show “ What is the Holocaust? They conferred, searching memory for a clue. Running out of time the sisters made an innocent stab at the question “We think the Holocaust is wallpaper paste.”

They had no idea that this answer would bring them instant notoriety, embarrassment and infamy. “Video of the shocking scene was viewed hundreds of thousands of times online…” That’s how it was described in several publications: “shocking scene” — an appropriate description if the girls had said a curse word or torn off their blouse but shocking?

I find it disturbing, tragic, telling; the fault lies not with the girls.

The video saw 319,000 plus hits. Great PR for the game show, not so for the twins, Yevgenia and Ksenia. The girls got personal insults from replies on You-tube.  A “shocking” amount of anti-Semitism found expression on You-tube. On second thought, not so shocking.

Moisha Grozenberg 1 month ago
Tell me where to buy?
Mr Solomon 1 month ago
how low cost?
jeo jay 1 month ago
Yeah. Glue. Of the Jews.
vovka pistoletov 1 year ago
And why should they know what the Holocaust?!
TreuerRatibor28 1 year ago
I hear it’s a Jewish holiday!
Vad Vad 1 year ago
Read a very interesting book, and all will understand:
Jürgen Graf, “The myth of the Holocaust”
eukart 1 year ago
For example: Lampshades made of leather Jews
Glasses of beer out of their skulls!
MrTrifon73 1 year ago
A celebration
alexver31 1 month ago
The Holocaust – the glue. I agree.

According to an article in Radio Free Europe the incident “provoked a discussion about how the Holocaust is taught in the schools of the country whose troops (along with those of other former Soviet republics) liberated the Nazis’ largest concentration and death camp at Auschwitz in Poland.”

Mumin Shakirov, journalist, along with Holocaust Fund Chairwoman Alla Gerber interviewed Yevgenia and Ksenia on the Moscow studio “Radio Liberty”. For one thing they wanted to know if the twin’s answer was planned so to boost the ratings of the game show. It wasn’t. Asked about their studies, they replied that at the time we weren’t interested in school. I was writing poetry.  Now we are into music. Asked if they had heard of Auschwitz, Yevgenia said no, while Ksenia said: “It is something about some sort of civil war, I think.” This incident was significant enough for Shakirov to eventually film a short documentary on Yevgenia and Ksenia; his film is featured in this post.

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Yevgenia and Ksenia were born in a small village near Vladimir (Red Gorbatka). They finished primary school there studying sewing, painting, Universe Sciences, etc. They graduated from the Lyceum with an emphasis’s on humanities. They submitted documents to 3 universities and were accepted by all. Yevgenia graduated from the School of Music in voice and piano. Ksenia graduated from Moscow State Textile University. There might be some facts about their education that was lost in the translation but no doubt the twins are no dummies.

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When it comes to teaching the Holocaust to students in Vladimir Oblast, Russia there is for whatever reason no incentive or will to offer it. An oversight or intentional, it’s not in the lesson plan. The girls never heard the word Holocaust throughout all their years of schooling.

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If they read one poem written by a girl or boy their age who was imprisoned at the Theresienstadt ghetto/concentration camp and then to know the child’s murder by lethal gas at Auschwitz they would have known the answer.

If they saw one child’s watercolor painting who was imprisoned at the Theresienstadt ghetto/concentration camp and then to know the child’s murder by lethal gas at Auschwitz they would have known the answer.

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In October 2012, with financial support from the Polish Cultural Center in Moscow, documentary filmmaker and former RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Mumin Shakirov took the sisters on an visit to the museum and memorial complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau in the Polish town of Oswiecim. It was the girl’s first trip out of Russia.

A short film, statement by Mumin Shakirov, titled  “Holocaust — Wallpaper Paste?”  It covers Yevgenia and Ksenia Karatygina experience at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Both were deeply moved by the experience. Yevgenia broke down into loud weeping as she stood in front of an enormous pile of children’s shoes. Ksenia wept through a showing of the Soviet documentary film “The Liberation Of Auschwitz.”

Soviet doctors carry young survivor out of building at Auschwitz main camp

Soviet doctors carry young survivor out of building at Auschwitz main camp

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Yevgenia wept as she stood in front of an enormous pile of children’s shoes.

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Ilya Altman, founder and chairman of the Russian Research and Educational center, once called Moscow “the world center for Holocaust denial.”*

In a speech at the American Jewish World Service, which has helped fund the center, the 52-year-old Altman recalled his own days as a student. He and others heard “12 lessons about the history of World War II and the major battles,” he said, “but we did not speak about the Holocaust and who killed Soviet Jews.”

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Many “ethnic Russians” resent any discussion of the Holocaust uniqueness to Jews when so many of their families also suffered tremendously during the war. They ask why Jews should be singled out or discussed separately, above and beyond all others. Some estimates put the number of Soviet residents killed during the war at about 20 million, a figure that may include the victims of not only the Nazis, but of Stalin’s labor camps. More than half the estimated six million Jews killed by the Nazis were from the Soviet Union.

Also there is a national guilt to be reckoned with. Like all massacres of Jewish communities in foreign lands, the Germans relied heavily on local collaborators; both to identify and round up Jewish citizens and to murder women and children.

The resistance to teaching the Holocaust appears to be melting, according to Alla Gerber, the center’s president and a former member of the Duma, the Russian parliament. She said that roughly 650 Russian schools have covered the Holocaust in some fashion.
“650 schools, whoopee!” Out of all the schools in Russia? For Gerber to cite this as an accomplishment indicates the degree of difficulty in getting the Holocaust taught in Russia.

Olga Glebova, an English teacher in Moscow tries to discuss the Holocaust as much as possible at the high school in which she works. Glebova said she has a ready response to colleagues who ask why she teaches such a horrifying subject: “I say because it’s real and that without understanding the past, you have no future.” Olga Glebova identifies herself as part of a distinguished and highly regarded class in Russia, hailing, she says, from “a very old, noble Russian family.” Like much of the country, she’s also Russian Orthodox, a faith whose leaders have often been at odds with Russian Jewry. 

Russia has no government program for teaching the Holocaust but there are several organizations that facilitate and provide programs and training for teacher and student.

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Learn: The Holocaust and United Nations outreach program
Holocaust Education in Russia Today: Its Challenges and Achievements

Learn:  The International School for Holocaust Studies
Free. These lesson plans cover some of the central themes of the Holocaust, detailing how they can be approached in the classroom.
For elementary school students (ages 9-12)
For middle school students (ages 13-15)
For high school students (ages 15-18)
Also available for individuals.

Learn: Coming of Age in the Holocaust
A free, interactive curriculum for middle and high-school students and their educators created by the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York in collaboration with Yad LaYeled – The Ghetto Fighters’ Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Heritage Museum in IsraelThe site features individual testimonies of thirteen people who were adolescents during the Holocaust and had some of the same concerns that young people today have. Students follow their stories through the survivors’ words, short video interviews, maps, pictures, a glossary, a timeline, and other instructional content. Students who read all thirteen stories will encounter the Holocaust through the eyes of youth their own age that survived it. Through these survivors they will explore the diversity of experience that took place. Also available for individuals.

Learn: Holocaust in Film and Literature, German 59 (1 thru 18)
Online
By Todd Presner – UCLA
Free; highly recommended for all.
Course Description:
German 59: Holocaust in Film and Literature is a course that provides insight into the History of Holocaust and its present memory through examination of challenges and problems encountered in trying to imagine its horror through media of literature and film.
About the Professor:
Todd Presner is Associate Professor of Germanic Languages, Comparative Literature, and Jewish Studies. His research focuses on German-Jewish intellectual and cultural history, the history of media, visual culture, digital humanities, and cultural geography. He is the author of two books: The first, Mobile Modernity: Germans, Jews, Trains (Columbia University Press, 2007), maps German-Jewish intellectual history onto the development of the railway system; the second, Muscular Judaism: The Jewish Body and the Politics of Regeneration (Routledge, 2007), analyzes the aesthetic dimensions of the strong Jewish body.

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I will always come back to life.

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Dec 2 1941: most every Jew from Brno Czechoslovakia including Franta Bass and family were deported to the Terrizen ghetto; called by the Germans Theresienstad. The Jews shouldered as much of their material life as they could carry, packed it in sacks, luggage, pockets; most of their life left behind for the blue-eyed vultures to pick over.

The Franta Bass family had no idea what was in store for them; they were forced to live in a German Nazi sponsored ghetto. The concept of a ghetto is historically understood by Jews: “What could be that bad, it’s only a ghetto.”

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That same day, December 2, 1941, on the transport arrival to Theresienstadt along with the Bass family and other Jews was Jacob Edelstein, appointed by Otto Adolf Eichmann, SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel), to chairperson the Council of Jewish Elders, responsible for the “self-administration” of the Theresienstadt ghetto-camp. Edelstein along with fellow appointees dealt with municipal services, housing, water, sanitation and policing.  They also saw to educational activities, cultural events and religious celebrations. This all feels and looks like a Ghetto. “What could be so awful?”

This: Council of Elders had to ration a meager food supply to those who could work, leaving the elderly and disabled more vulnerable to disease and starvation. (The Nazis had to build an unplanned for crematorium on the grounds of Theresienstadt to dispose of those who died from starvation and disease, 200 a day.)

“What could be so awful?” This: the Council Members had to choose who would be deported to the gas chambers or labor camps and who would remain — who might live and who might die. Not a great job, not easy to live with, a no win situation.  None of the council survived. If they did, in the days to come, living with oneself could be a chore.

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The Council of Elders allotted several large houses to accommodate children. Attention was given to the welfare and education of the children. The idea was to keep the children separate from the adults to reduce their vulnerability to depression and despair. Overall the children were housed and fed better than the adults.

The children learn from some of the most sophisticated teachers in German-speaking Central Europe, who were among the prominent Jews to arrive in Theresienstadt. That was one of the defining features of the Theresienstad ghetto-camp; the best artist, musicians, composers, authors, thinkers were in the mix.

All that special attention given the children. And look what Theresienstad ends up with. Out of 15,000 children who spent time at Theresienstad 100 survived. Still, in no way in vain; see and hear what the children gave to themselves and what they left to us: “Children’s Exhibit” at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. Collection of the children’s art and poetry from Terezin in the book titled “I never saw another butterfly.”

Franta Bass under the guidance of teacher found an outlet for coping with the awful, frightful, depressing conditions he lived with day-to-day by writing poetry. His poetry gave him the courage to face his imminent death. It gives me, us, us Jews the will, strength, determination, focus to string-up evil by its throat, strangle it, look it in the eye and say, “Never, never again, in the name of Franta Bass and his poetry, never again.”

As Franta wrote in his poem, “I am a Jew.” … “I will always come back to life.”

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Tomas Kulka was spared. He could have had his arms ripped off by the Beast.

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Gustav Franz Wagner,
SS-Oberscharführer, commander
of the Sobibor death camp in
German-occupied Poland;
known as
“The Beast” and “Wolf”
(“Welfe” in Yiddish)

A Sobibor inmate Moshe Bahir described Gustav Wagner

“I saw such terrible scenes that they give me nightmares to this day. He would snatch babies from their mother’s arms and tear them to pieces in his hands.

I saw him beat two men to death with a rifle, because they did not carry out his instructions properly, since they did not understand German.

I remember that one night a group of youths aged fifteen or sixteen arrived in the camp. The head of this group was one Abraham. After a long and arduous work day, this young man collapsed on his pallet and fell asleep. Suddenly Wagner came into our barrack, and Abraham did not hear him call to stand up at once before him. Furious, he pulled Abraham naked off his bed and began to beat him all over his body.  When Wagner grew weary of the blows, he took out his revolver and killed him on the spot. This atrocious spectacle was carried out before all of us, including Abraham’s younger brother.”

After World War II, Gustav Wagner was sentenced to death in absentia, but escaped with Franz Stangl to Brazil.

It is speculated that the Vatican helped Wagner to flee to Syria and then to Brazil Wagner was admitted as a permanent resident on April 12, 1950.

He lived in Brazil under the pseudonym Günther Mendel until he was exposed by Simon Wiesenthal and arrested on May 30, 1978.

Extradition requests from Israel, Austria and Poland were rejected by Brazil’s Attorney General. On June 22, 1979, the Brazilian Supreme Court also rejected a West German extradition request.

Wagner, in a 1979 BBC interview, showed no remorse for his activities in running the camp, remarking:

“I had no feelings…. It just became another job. In the evening we never discussed our work, but just drank and played cards.”

In October 1980, Wagner was found with a knife in his chest in São Paulo. According to his attorney, Wagner committed suicide. His date of death was determined to be October 3, 1980

That was no suicide folks.

The very hands that tore babies apart, those same hands steeped in bloodletting couldn’t get it up to thrust a knife into its own chest; no guarantee of a quick painless death, poison or a slit-wrist, slit-neck would indicate a suicide but he wasn’t ready to cash it in. Gustav Franz Wagner, the terror of Sobibor was a coward who ran from death when it came to his own — as he ran from death by justice. It was no suicide.

What it was, was 250,000 screaming souls — Tomas Kulka and his parents, every Russian Jew, Polish Jew, Dutch Jew, French Jew, 250,000 Jews in total that perished at Sobibor death camp had their hand around that knife as an Israeli assassin plunged the blade into Wagner chest. Justice, that’s how it went down. Chances are that’s how it went down.

The Kulka’s Family Life Story  

Tomas’ parents were Jewish. His father, Robert Kulka, was a businessman from the Moravian town of Olomouc. His mother, Elsa Skutezka, was a milliner from Brno, the capital of Moravia. The couple was well-educated and spoke both Czech and German. They married in 1933 and settled in Robert’s hometown of Olomouc.

1933-39: Tomas was born a year and a day after his parents were married, May 25, 1934. When Tomas was 3, his grandfather passed away and the Kulkas moved to Brno, which was his mother’s hometown. On March 15, 1939, a few weeks before Tomas’ fifth birthday, the Germans occupied Bohemia and Moravia, including Brno.

1940-42: On January 2, 1940, Tomas and his parents and grandmother were evicted from their house by the Germans. Hoping to save the family business, Tomas’ father decided to remain in Brno. Because Tomas was Jewish, he was not allowed to begin school. A year later, Tomas’s parents were forced to sell the business to a German for a 200 Czechoslovak crowns, or less than $10. On March 31, 1942, Tomas and his family were sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto in western Czechoslovakia.

In May, Tomas and his maternal grandmother were deported to Sobibor, where they were gassed upon arrival. Tomas was two weeks short of his eighth birthday. That same year his parents died in the Ossova labor camp in Ukraine.

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Tomas Kulka, age three

A yahrzeit candle for Tomas and family.

(also known as a memorial candle, also a soul candle) 

I will burn a yahrzeit candle on the day
Tomas and his grandmother were gassed
at the Sobibor death camp.
The candle burns for 24 hours.
Every May 9th I shall remember Tomas and his family,
evoke their presence from their omission,
morn for them, call out their names,
suffer their death
and light the yahrzeit candle.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

GUSTAV FRANZ WAGNER MAKES HEADLINES

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100 out of 15,000 children saved. 14,900 obliterated. The earth’s sun runs out of gas in 7 billion years, kaput.



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Collage of cut paper and office ledger paper painted over with tempera (archive number 133573) signed “Kitty Passerovaé 27.3. nod

Kitty Markéta Passerovaé most likely survived the Terezin Concentration Camp and her ultimate rail road car run to the gas chamber at Auschwitz because she was 14 years, old enough to be put to work at a labor camp; if younger she stood a chance of being gassed.

Being part of a work force wasn’t a guarantee that you’d make it thru alive. Other life saving factors could have contributed to Kitty’s survival: like having a strong healthy constitution from the get-go, youth, relentless tenacity, luck and if you believe in providence, the hand of God.

If God did choose Kitty Passerovaé, God left a lot of the Terezin children out of the picture. Out of 15,000 children, 100 to 103, survived, Kitty Markéta Passerovaé being one.

Given Kitty Markéta Passerovaé elegant collage of flower and vase made me wonder if she took those artistic sensibilities with her to a life after Terrezin.  I ran her name thru google and found her granddaughter, Simča Labudová.

Google led me to the web site “Slide Share” where slide shows of all kinds are uploaded. One was put together with images and words created by the children of Terezin, taken from the book “I never saw another Butterfly.” Kitty Markéta Passerovaé collage was included. Her granddaughter, Simča Labudová, happen upon it and replied in the Post A Comment area. Her English was spotty; took some liberties, filled in some of the blanks:

profile-photo-SimaLabudov-48x48“Hello, I am the granddaughter of Passerova. Margaret, born 4 September 1929, deported from Prague to Terezin December 8 1943. Her collage of flowers in the vase was used in your book on page 7. I’d love to buy this book. I would like to correct some of my grandmother’s information. She doesn’t live in Australia, nor has a daughter in Hungary. My grandmother lived after the liberation in 1945 in the Czech Republic, where she bore two children, Daniel and Joseph. And she passed away in the Czech Republic.”

Terezin concentration Camp, not your typical death camp.

Terezin specialty: gathering up, housing and killing old Jews, artist, musicians, children, pregnant women all the while being sold to the world as a safe haven for Jews providing for them comfortable living conditions,  adequate food supply, access to the arts, music and a place to express their faith. What bullshit. The Red Cross fell for it.

Terezin called by the Germans “Theresienstadt”

Theresienstadt served an important propaganda function for the Germans. The publicly stated purpose for the deportation of the Jews from Germany was their “resettlement to the east,” where they would be compelled to perform forced labor. Since it seemed implausible that elderly Jews could be used for forced labor, the Nazis used the Theresienstadt ghetto to hide the nature of the deportations. In Nazi propaganda, Theresienstadt was cynically described as a “spa town” where elderly German Jews could “retire” in safety. The deportations to Theresienstadt were, however, part of the Nazi strategy of deception. The ghetto was in reality a collection center for deportations to ghettos and killing centers in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe.

Click here to read more.

bialystock children deported to terezin

Children of the Bialystock Ghetto (Poland) being deported to Terezin.

An after thought.

when I look at the backs of these children

led to Terezin

then to know their end

their parents confiscated

parentless, no loving touch

bereft of any kindness

only barking adults

their confusion

not understanding

to imagine them naked jammed in a

concrete room

along with naked adults

suddenly gasping for air, choking

not understanding

any of it, terrified, alone, screaming

tears, screaming, tears

then silent, then silence

lifeless, no past, no future, dead

buried under a pile of dead adults

when I look at the backs of these children

led into the transport

I want to kill

cut off the balls of those

nazi bastards, tear out their guts with a

butcher knife, rip them apart with my hands,

jam their balls,

guts down their throats

smash their skulls to smithereens

I want to kill them all, not leave a trace

Resurrect a 9 year old girl from the ashes.

A watercolor on tinted paper (archive number 129406). Painting of bunks 14, 15, 16. Next to the bunks are 2 chairs, a table with a vase of flowers.  A light fixture hangs from the ceiling. The wall painted with color stripes.  Hana Grünfeld has nine more drawings in the collection, most dating between April & June 1944.

15,000 — the number of children who passed thru the Terezin concentration camp. From age 4 to 13, they lived day to day with a death sentence waiting to claim them anytime, without notice and brutally swift. The German SS and the local police would collect the children along with their care givers, pack them all in rail cars on route to Auschwitz.

103 — the number of children from Terezin who survived.

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Hana Grünfeld was possibly delivered to Auschwitz on this transport: October 5, 1943, the SS authorities deported 1,196 children and their 53 caregivers from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz. None survive.

Or Hana Grünfeld was on one of these transports from September 28, 1944 to October 28, 1944
. The SS deported approximately 18,402 Theresienstadt prisoners to Auschwitz.  By the end of October, approximately 11,077 Jews remain in the camp-ghetto.

Hana Grünfeld last few days.

I close my eyes to witness Hana Grünfeld torn from her mother’s arms; if her mother became hysterical Hana could have seen her mother shot. I witness Hana Grunfeld sitting in the dark on the floor of a rail car for two days and nights without food, water and parents. (Residing at the Terezin ghetto for 3 years, from age 6 to 9, Hana most likely has an inkling of what’s to come.)  I witness Hana in line walking with the other children, ages 4 to 12 years, too young to fear the finality of death, walking with old men, old women who have pondered their death for some time, all of them, both the very young and the very old, herded-off toward the final solution, a gas chamber. This singular constellation of Jews nameless, except for one, Hana Grünfeld.

This post is dedicated to nine-year-old Hana Grünfeld.

Hana Grünfeld. Think about her. Imagine this 9 tear old kid dipping her paintbrush into the watercolors, boldly, spontaneously making a painting of her room, totally absorbed in spite of the daily menace. 

Resurrect a 9 year old from the ashes.
Go viral with Hana Grünfeld

Leave a reply to Hana Grünfeld in this post — her post. Say hello to Hana, introduce yourself, tell her how you feel, reply to a nine year old that was murdered at Auschwitz. Acknowledge her existence. 

She’ll live again thru you. 

Leave a reply to Hana Grünfeld. Keep her memory alive. Honor her. Reply to her. Go viral with Hana Grünfeld.

I will never forget you Hana.  Brave Hana , frightened Hana, thank you for your life and your art. I am privileged to have met you, we have your teacher Friedl Dicker to thank and not to forget “google.” I’d like to give you a hug about now.

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The Czech garrison town of Terezin

In October 1941 the Germans moved in, turned Terezin into a ghetto run by the SS. Terrezin became The Theresienstadt ghetto.

Not like any other Nazi-run ghetto; it was a transit camp, a holding pen, for children and the elderly send to death camps and for able-body men and women sent to forced labor camps; it was a model camp used for propaganda, ultimately a concentration camp.

Living with a Death Sentence · Children’s Art and Poetry

The extensive educational and cultural activities in the Theresienstadt ghetto provided a distraction from the looming selections to Auschwitch, the harsh inhumane bare-bone living conditions, the food shortages and periodic brutal treatment by the German SS.

 Artist-in-residence  –  Friedl Dicker-Brandeis

Friedl Dicker, 1916

Imprisoned Bauhaus-educated artist Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, a successful artist and designer, brought with her to Terezin as many art supplies as she could. For the duration of her stay in the camp she devoted her self to teaching art to the children, using methods that have become the foundation of art therapy. Before her deportation to Auschwitz in October 1944, Friedl packed some 5,000 of her students’ drawings in two suitcases and hid them. These remained undiscovered for the next 10 years.

( Possibly Hana Grünfeld and Friedl Dicke, teacher and student, were on the same same transport to Auschwitz. If so we can be be sure they gave solace to one another. )

The child’s art and the 9 year-old Hana Grünfeld featured here in this post is part of a permanent exhibition, the “Children’s Exhibit” at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

You can find a collection of the children’s art and poetry from Terezin in the book titled I never saw another butterfly.”

Hana Grünfeld Born May 20, 1935
Deported toTerezin Dec 14, 1941

Perished at Auschwitz 1944, age 9

Leave a reply to Hana Grünfeld.

Required Reading: The Holocaust by Bullets

The quote taken from Father Patrick Desbois’s book
The Holocaust By Bullets
A priest’s journey to uncover the truth behind the murder of 1.5 million Jews

Patrick Desbois, a Roman Catholic priest from France, spent four years in the Ukraine hearing witnesses’ accounts of mass executions while searching for the hidden remains of the victims — 1.5 million Jews shot point-blank dead by the Nazis from 1941 to 1944.

Those witnesses he interviewed were children and teenagers during the time of the mass executions.  Their parents were forced to work as diggers of mass graves, cooks who fed Nazi soldiers, seamstresses who mended clothes stripped from the Jews before execution; some including the children were forced to participate in the slaughter of the Jews.

Photo: Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum

They live today in rural poverty, many without running water or heat, nearing the end of their lives. Patrick Desbois has been seeking them out, roaming the back roads and forgotten fields of the Ukraine. His goal: to identify and record the mass execution of Jews, Roma and other victims, so that “The Holocaust by Bullets” along with the extermination camps are an enduring, glaring record of the Holocaust, are forever a part of world consciousness and that the dead along with the very earth covering them are memorialized to acknowledge, visit, ponder and mourn.

Desbois with a small crew traveled from village to village where he usually found one senior, sometime two or three seniors a village each laden with a singular childhood experience of mass murder they finally, nearing the end of their life might purge by its telling.  They often took him to the site of carnage, the site for some being out their window, their backyard, laden not only with bones but spent German cartridges.

 A CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCE

Petrivna, an elder women from the village of Ternivka, tells Desbois how she witness the Jewish children and handicapped torn from their families, children torn from their mothers, carting them off to be killed later after the Germans finished off the adults. The adults were place into a large pit — 20 by 20.  They were all naked. They had to lie down on the dead bodies from the previous shooting, then shot in the head or nape of the neck.

Petrivna tells how after each shooting she and 2 friends had to walk barefooted ­­­over the bodies to pack them down so to make room for the next group. She explains, “we were too poor for shoes, we had to walk barefooted.”

After finishing pressing they poured a layer of sand over the bodies. Many of the Jews were wounded and still moving. “You see its not easy walking on bodies,” she tells Desbois.  Petrivna saw a Jewish classmate who sat next to her in school in the pit, naked, shot in the head.  Petrivna had to step on her classmate’s body along with the others. She and her 2 friends were force to continuously press the victims flat non-stop without rest, food or water — from 10am to 4pm, 6 hours of carnage and immense suffering as the Germans continued to relieve each other for lunch. Note: she describes them as Germans, not Nazis.

At the end of the day, after all the adults were slain, the German soldiers threw the children and babies onto the top of the pile.  “They threw them in the air. They threw them any old way,” tells Petrivna.

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November 11th Remembrance Day & Post-ukraine Reflections
By Guest Blogger, Geneviève Blouin

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THOSE AMONG US

What subspecies of German citizen could enact those atrocities?  I can’t believe as Father Patrick Desbois suggest, that they were once humane citizens only to be corrupted by an aggressive inhumane ideology — once loving, caring fathers with children of their own, but corrupted so as to enjoy their role as butchers in human abattoirs. All they needed was encouragement, thank you Adolf Hitler, he gave them the final solution, that’s all they needed, no threats, no intimidation, they were raring to go from the get-go, moral equivalents to the worst our country harbors — bigoted, righteous, Ku Klux Klan look-a-likes easily convinced to kill in the glory of white or Nazi supremacy.  Rush Limbaugh ranting away over the air waves would look right at home in a Nazi uniform; there’s plenty more where he came from.

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The Holocaust by bullets – Shoah Memorial 
Hanna Antonivna Gonovaltchiouk Born in 1921
Interviewed at Berditchev, Zhytomir region on the 16th October, 2005
Eye-witness. Witness 251
© Guillaume Ribot

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Grave n. 17: the remainds of a child under 10 next
to those of an adult.  ©Guillaume Ribot

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Euthanasia of useless eaters

holocaust chronicle time line 1933

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The Frightening Agenda of the American Eugenics Movement
Mr. Platt, emeritus professor of social work,
California State University Sacramento

that California not only led the nation in forced sterilizations, but also in providing scientific and educational support for Hitler’s regime. In 1935, Sacramento’s Charles M. Goethe praised the Human Betterment Foundation for effectively “shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler…” In 1936, Goethe acknowledged the United States and Germany as leaders in eugenics (“two stupendous forward movements”), but complained that “even California’s quarter century record has, in two years, been outdistanced by Germany.” In 1936, California eugenicist Paul Popenoe was asking one of his Nazi counterparts for information about sterilization policies in Germany in order to make sure that “conditions in Germany are not misunderstood or misrepresented.”

… that California’s eugenicists could not claim ignorance that Germany’s sterilization program was motivated primarily by racial politics. For example, in 1935, the Los Angeles Times published a long defense of Germany’s sterilization policies, in which the author noted that the Nazis “had to resort to the teachings of eugenic science” because Germany had been “deprived of her colonies, blessed with many hundreds of defective racial hybrids as a lasting memory of the colored army of occupation, and dismembered all around.” Not only did California eugenicists know about Nazi efforts to use sterilization as a method of “race hygiene” — targeted primarily at Jews — they also approved efforts to stop “race-mixing” and increase the birth rate of the “Northern European type of family.The chilling words of Progressive reformer John Randolph Haynes anticipated the Nazi regime’s murder of 100,000 mentally ill patients: “There are thousands of hopelessly insane in California, the condition of those minds is such that death would be a merciful release. How long will it be before society will see the criminality of using its efforts to keep alive these idiots, hopelessly insane, and murderous degenerates. … Of course the passing of these people should be painless and without warning. They should go to sleep at night without any intimation of what was coming and never awake.”

The Frightening Agenda of the American Eugenics Movement
George Mason University’s History News NetWork

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Sacrificial Children

CHILDREN’S DEATH TOLLS:
NOT AN EASY NUMBER TO FIND.
ASSUME THAT IF A POPULATION IS TORN ASUNDER BY WAR AND ITS INDIVIDUALS ARE COUNTED AMONG THE DEAD, CHILDREN EITHER ORPHANED, STARVED OR MURDERED ARE A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF THAT COUNT, POSSIBLY 20 to 30%

Darfur Death Toll: from 100,000 – to 400,000.
The Death Toll in Darfur, by Nicholas Kristof, New York Times

Palestinian Death Toll: 6,473. (Dec 2000 to April 2010) http://old.btselem.org/statistics/english/Casualties.asp

Iraq War Death Toll: 1.1 million. Doesn’t include the Gulf War.  http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3321

Holocaust Death Toll: Six million Jews murdered; out of that number 1.5 million Jewish children murdered, 100,000 or more Gypsy children murdered, thousands of handicapped children murdered. http://www.deathcamps.info/

Total number of children tallied from the above? God knows. And maybe even he doesn’t know, spending all that time in eternity he could have lost count.

The following reporting, though it dates 2006, is currently replicated day to day in Sudan. If you read nothing else about Africa’s chronic pain read this. It covers a lot of ground and time in a short trek. You’ll get the picture, all you need to know.

The haunting story of Chad’s children
Orphaned and in constant danger, all they have is each other
By Mike Simon Cameraman NBC News 3/15/2006 

Orphans Samiyah, Safiyah and Gamara live in Eastern Chad, near Darfur

I close my eyes and I see them. The girls I met on a recent NBC News assignment in Chad are in my dreams. I think about what they have seen. I worry for their continued safety. In the picture above, you see everything that they have: Dirty clothes. Streaked faces. Each other.

Their names are Samiyah, Safiyah and Gamara. They live near the killing fields of Darfur. But they are not Sudanese. They are Chadian. Their only crime was an accident of geography and the color of their skin. The genocidal monsters of Sudan have changed everything about their lives. Starting with their mother and father.

The village of Gongour in Eastern Chad is a 200-year step back in time. Families wake up under thatched-roof huts over mud floors. Children ride donkeys on their way to the communal water well. Other children are assigned the day’s other major task: finding firewood for cooking the evening meals. The children sometimes walk for miles with huge bundles of firewood on their backs. Most of them have never experienced the modern luxuries of a hot water shower, their own beds, refrigerators or a Western toilet. There is schoolwork for the boys, but not always for the girls. Each day has its own hardship, but there is always a great sense of community.

The girls are Masalit, descendents of the harsh southern Sahara desert tribe. To reach them, one must travel to one of the most remote, dusty spots on earth. Our journey begins with a plane ride across the Atlantic to France. Another five-hour plane ride from Paris to the Chadian capital of N’Djamena. Transfer to a United Nations relief flight from the nation’s capital to the regional capital of Abeche. From there, it’s a torturous drive over tracked dirt that passes for a highway in Chad. It’s a four-hour drive to the eastern trading post of Adre. In my time in Chad, I saw two concrete roads. Both of them were runways.

Adre is tense. A cross-border raid in January brought most of the government’s troops back to defend this vital crossroads. Army tanks routinely run through town, kicking up huge amounts of dust. Toyota pickups are filled with young, eager faces holding onto AK-47s. In the countryside, the Sudanese militias step into the power vacuum. The villagers are defenseless. War seems imminent.

The drive to Gongour is still another three hours from Adre. It is easy to see into Sudan for most of the drive. In most other countries, the road would appear to end in Adre. But in Chad, the drive continues over tracked desert that feels like driving on the beach. We drive past women and children loading up donkeys with firewood and the occasional camel herd. We drive past many thatched-roof villages. During the day, it looks empty but there is much humanity here. Thousands of Africans live in these conditions, as they have for centuries.

In short order, the tranquil African countryside gives way to more ominous signs. Kilometer after kilometer of empty villages. Where are all the people? We arrive at the village and look for the local sheik. Small, dirty children instantly surround us. They follow us everywhere.

We are told of the nearby village of Ajani that was recently burned. The sheik rides with us to the site, about five kilometers farther south. He warns us to be quick, as there are many Janjaweed still around. As soon as we arrive, we realize we are stepping on hallowed ground. An utterly lifeless village transmits the horror. Several charred holes confirm it. Each piece of ash, each burned pot, each hole was the cornerstone for a family.

On a cool February morning, just two weeks ago, the first sign of trouble comes from a distant sound. Horses running fast.  It’s unusual in the hot desert at any time. But for Chadians, it may be the worst kind of warning signal. It jolts a primal instinct like no other. It the sound of Janjaweed — rebels from Sudan. Most stories are impossible to confirm, but they are all remarkably consistent. Thousands of refugees, many hundreds of miles apart, tell the same story. The Janjaweed ride into town on stolen horses. They wear khaki uniforms and turbans. The villagers run for their lives, but not all can get away.

The Janjaweed catch many. They pull everyone out of hiding places. They kill all of the men first. A quick, but ruthless, execution. They are called Nubi, similar to being called the “N” word in our country. They are told that this harsh no-man’s land no longer belongs to them. It belongs to Arab Africa. Next, they take the mothers. Often times, they force the kids to watch a slow, painful torture replete with the worst kind of violence against women, who are tied spread-eagle and gang raped repeatedly in front of their children. In an instant, they are traumatized for life. When they are able, the survivors run for their lives and retreat to nearby villages. They know no one. Thankfully, the orphans are not split apart. In interviews, we find these girls have not eaten in days. There is no ability to gather food. They are staying with strangers without any family. Alone, but they have each other.

 This is the story of Darfur. The Sudanese government, alongside the Janjaweed militias, is systematically killing all black Africans in this area. First in Darfur, now in Chad. The Sudanese government is complicit in this ethnic cleansing when it uses its helicopter gunships to mow down anything that moves through the village. The villagers have remnants of bomb fragments that they show us.

As I take their picture, I think of my own two children, safe and sound some 8,000 miles away. I think of the nights I spend reading to my 8-year-old daughter. We love the American Girl story of Samantha and her friend Nellie. Nellie and her two sisters were orphans, too. Three girls alone in the world with only each other to hold. The African girls are strangers in a village teeming with refugees. They have no food and no parents. I scan my brain to think of some way to take these kids with me, just like Samantha and Uncle Gard. Yet I’m resigned to knowing there will be no rescue for these girls. It would be an impossible legal nightmare even if the tribes would allow it.

What can be done? Beyond the stories of traumatized children, there must be something more to it. Just giving voice to a powerful story is a good start. When friends and family ask why we go to dangerous places, my stock answer is: It’s a powerful thing to witness courage, to witness bravery. It’s an honor to tell their stories. Here are children who have almost nothing left in the world. And yet they show us the face of courage and their bravery to face each new, unpredictable day. Most of all, they are trying to hold a family together. Their mother must be so proud.

Mike Simon with Chadian troops along the Chad/Sudan border

IN THE NUBA MOUNTAINS, SUDAN
Starving Its Own Children
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
New York Times Published: June 2, 2012

Two hungry children in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, sleeping inside a cave for protection from government bombers.

PERHAPS hundreds of thousands of people here have no food and are reduced to eating leaves and insects, as Sudan’s government starves and bombs its own people in the Nuba Mountains. Children are beginning to die.

“Yes, my children may die,” Katum Tutu, a 28-year-old mother, told me. She recently lost her 2-year-old daughter, Maris, to starvation and has nothing to feed her four remaining children. “I think about it every day, but there’s nothing I can do,” she said.

This week will mark a year since Sudan began its brutal counterinsurgency campaign in the Nuba Mountains, intended to crush a rebel force that is popular here and controls much of the region. Sudan has expelled aid workers, blocked food shipments and humanitarian aid, and dropped bombs haphazardly — and almost daily — on its own citizens.

Sudan bars outsiders, but I sneaked in from South Sudan on a dirt track controlled by rebels. Since my last visit, in February, the situation in these areas has deteriorated sharply: a large share of families have run completely out of food, with no prospect of more until the next harvest in November.

Ryan Boyette, an American aid worker who stayed behind when foreigners were ordered to evacuate, estimates that 800,000 Nuba have run out of food in South Kordofan, the state encompassing the Nuba Mountains. Boyette has created a local reporting network called Eyes and Ears Nuba, and the Sudanese government showed what it thinks of him when it tried to drop six bombs on his house last month. The notoriously inaccurate bombs missed, and he escaped unhurt in his foxhole.

Katum, the woman who lost her daughter, was typical of the dozens of Nuba I spoke to. Like many here, the family has been living in caves for most of the last year to escape bombs, and it ran out of the local food staple, sorghum, a few months ago.

She was blunt about the reason her daughter died: “We had no food to give her.”

Her husband and surviving children showed me how they use bows and arrows to try to shoot birds, and how they try to catch mice. “We eat them whole,” Katum told me. “Even the head and the tail.”

Families are also eating beetles and wild roots, but their diet today is mostly the newest leaves of three kinds of wild tree. New leaves are stripped bare from trees near villages, and you see children climbing high on thin branches to try to find new leaves that remain.

I also came across small children, sometimes just 2 or 3 years old, digging in the ground for edible roots or seeds that they popped in their mouths.

Some 50,000 people have fled their homes and are trekking to Yida, a refugee camp just across the border in South Sudan. But many I spoke to, Katum included, say they just don’t have the strength to walk for days to get there.

“There’s no way we can get there,” Katum told me. “So it is much better to stay and die here.”

At that point, our interview was interrupted by a humming overhead: an Antonov bomber, flying unusually low.

Katum scrambled off, seeking a cave in case a bomb fell. Antonov and MIG warplanes regularly fly over these rebel areas, dropping bombs without any apparent purpose other than sowing terror. Fear of them has kept people from farming and is a main reason for the food shortages.

Some farmers are now planting their fields as the rainy season begins. They can harvest in November and will have to get by on leaves until then.

Many other families, including Katum’s, ate their seed stockpile in hopes of keeping their children alive. So for them, the only hope is humanitarian aid.

Considering how many people are subsisting on leaves, perhaps the surprise is that the death toll isn’t higher. In Katum’s village, Famma, elders told me that about 40 people had starved to death in the last month, out of a population of thousands. Among children arriving at the Yida refugee camp, about 10 percent are acutely malnourished, according to Samaritan’s Purse, an aid group assisting the refugees.

World leaders are mostly turning a blind eye. There isn’t even serious talk about damaging the military airstrips that Sudan’s warplanes take off from before dropping bombs on civilians, or about forcing a humanitarian corridor, or about arranging airdrops of food. As a result, the only certainty is that many Nuba will starve to death in the coming months.

President Obama, you harshly criticized President Bush for failing to stand up to Sudan’s slaughter in Darfur. So now what are you going to do as Sudan kills again — on your watch?

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