Yom HaShoah Picture Project

This blog is about Holocaust Remembrance and searching for my lost family. My hope is that people will be inspired to use this resource to learn more about the Holocaust, to keep the memory of Holocaust victims and survivors alive, to research their family history, and to document their stories for future generations.
June 26th, 2013 by Jamie Merriman-Cohen

Watch for the signs

Places of Remembrance Memorial

       ”Jewish Veterinarians may not open practices”; “General employment ban”

Twenty years ago this month, Berlin-based artists Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock inaugurated their hugely controversial “Places of Remembrance” memorial. This unusual and forward thinking installation uses bold graphics and snappy statements to pictorially represent the anti-Jewish legislation enacted in Nazi Germany between 1933-1939. Placards showing the law and its date of enactment on one side and a pictorial representative of the restriction on the other have been carefully placed throughout the Bavarian Quarter, a former Jewish district in West Berlin. These signs serve as powerful symbols of a society moving methodically and progressively towards excluding Jews from daily life, stripping their civil and human rights, and isolating them from communicating with the outside world. Read more about this installation in The New York Review of Books article, ‘Jews Aren’t Allowed to Use Phones’: Berlin’s Most Unsettling Memorial.

We have much to learn from this memorial, which encourages us to remember the past, and to become vigilant about the incredibly dangerous systematic enactment of laws intended to limit civil liberties and full participation in society that occur throughout our world at this time. Be sure to watch for – and act upon – these signs.

A full text of the anti-Jewish legislation follows, reposted from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

1933

March 31
Decree of the Berlin city commissioner for health suspends Jewish doctors from the city’s charity services.

April 7
Law for the Reestablishment of the Professional Civil Service removes Jews from government service.

April 7
Law on the Admission to the Legal Profession forbids the admission of Jews to the bar.

April 25
Law against Overcrowding in Schools and Universities limits the number of Jewish students in public schools.

July 14
De-Naturalization Law revokes the citizenship of naturalized Jews and “undesirables.”

October 4
Law on Editors bans Jews from editorial posts.

1935
May 21
Army law expels Jewish officers from the army.

September 15
Nazi leaders announce the Nuremberg Laws.

1936
January 11
Executive Order on the Reich Tax Law forbids Jews to serve as tax-consultants.

April 3
Reich Veterinarians Law expels Jews from the veterinary profession.

October 15
Reich Ministry of Education bans Jewish teachers from public schools.

1937
April 9
The Mayor of Berlin orders public schools not to admit Jewish children until further notice.

1938
January 5
Law on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names forbids Jews from changing their names.

February 5
Law on the Profession of Auctioneer excludes Jews from this occupation.

March 18
The Gun Law excludes Jewish gun merchants.

April 22
Decree against the Camouflage of Jewish Firms forbids changing the names of Jewish-owned businesses.

April 26
Order for the Disclosure of Jewish Assets requires Jews to report all property in excess of 5,000 reichsmarks.

July 11
Reich Ministry of the Interior bans Jews from health spas.

August 17
Executive Order on the Law on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names requires Jews to adopt an additional name: “Sara” for women and “Israel” for men.

October 3
Decree on the Confiscation of Jewish Property regulates the transfer of assets from Jews to non-Jewish Germans.

October 5
The Reich Interior Ministry invalidates all German passports held by Jews. Jews must surrender their old passports, which will become valid only after the letter “J” had been stamped on them.

November 12
Decree on the Exclusion of Jews from German Economic Life closes all Jewish-owned businesses.

November 15
Reich Ministry of Education expels all Jewish children from public schools.

November 28
Reich Ministry of Interior restricts the freedom of movement of Jews.

November 29
The Reich Interior Ministry forbids Jews to keep carrier pigeons.

December 14
An Executive Order on the Law on the Organization of National Work cancels all state contracts held with Jewish-owned firms.

December 21
Law on Midwives bans all Jews from the occupation.

1939
February 21
Decree Concerning the Surrender of Precious Metals and Stones in Jewish Ownership.

August 1
The President of the German Lottery forbids the sale of lottery tickets to Jews.

April 30th, 2013 by Jamie Merriman-Cohen

No poetry after

For the thirtieth and final day of National Poetry Writing Month I have selected “Theodor Adorno” by Jason Schneiderman. Theodor Adorno, German sociologist, philosopher and musicologist, is famously quoted as saying, “Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” An interesting thought to ponder, especially after spending an entire month researching and posting wartime and contemporary Holocaust poetry. During this past month, through reading poems written by victims and survivors of the Holocaust, written by people who are learning about and processing the Holocaust, written by children and adults from all around the world, I have learned that these poems are the civilizing antidotes to barbarism. My belief is the opposite of Mr. Adorno’s – To NOT write poetry after Auschwitz would be soul-crushing and barbaric. I am reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s quote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” Poets, please keep sharing your words and illuminating the darkest places on earth with the light of your truth.

Theodor Adorno

No poetry after Auschwitz. No poetry
after Armenia. No poetry after Catholic
Church, Cambodia. Tiananmen. No poetry
after slave-trade. No poetry after wounded-
knee, no poetry after malaria, typhoid.
No poetry after gunshot wound.
No poetry after rape. No poetry after
kaposi’s sarcoma. No poetry after lupus,
ku klux klan, Shining Path.
No poetry. No poetry. No poetry.
No. No. No. No. No.
- Jason Schneiderman
April 29th, 2013 by Jamie Merriman-Cohen

A Jew, forever

For the twenty-ninth day of National Poetry Writing Month, I have selected the poem “Jewish Forever” by young poet and Holocaust victim Franta (Frantisek) Bass. Franta Bass was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, on September 4, 1930. He was deported to Terezin (Theresienstadt) - the “model” ghetto / concentration camp – on December 2, 1941. Bass was one of the approximately 15,000 children who passed through Terezin, of which only 100 survived the war. On October 28, 1944, at the age of fourteen, Franta Bass died in Auschwitz.

Jewish Forever

I am a Jew and will always be a Jew, forever.
Even if I should die from hunger,
still I will never submit

but always fight for my people,
on my honor,
to their credit.

And I will never be ashamed of them;
this I vow.
I am so very proud of my people now;

how dignified they are!
And even though I am oppressed,
still I will always return to life …

     - by Franta Bass
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Terezin

April 28th, 2013 by Jamie Merriman-Cohen

If you save one life you have saved the world

For the twenty-eighth day of National Poetry Writing Month, I have selected the poem “Dear Oskar Schindler” written by 17-year-old contemporary American poet Emilie Athena. Oskar Schindler was a German industrialist, born exactly 105 years ago today, on April 28, 1908. Although he was a member of the Nazi party and a German spy, he saved the lives of over 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by protecting the Jewish workers in his enamelware and ammunitions factories located in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Following his death in 1974, Schindler was buried in Israel, in honor of his wish to be laid to rest in Jerusalem since “my children are here.” Schindler was honored by the State of Israel as a “Righteous Among the Nations” for risking his own life to save Jews from Nazi extermination. According to Mr. Schindler, “I knew the people who worked for me… when you know people, you have to behave towards them like human beings.”

Dear Oskar Schindler

They say
if you save one life, you have saved the world.

There were trains filled to      bursting
with tender souls all clamoring for air all screaming
for a space to breath
You were there to give them
water,
pouring it in living torrents onto their desperate faces.

There was a child      one of millions
her dress was the color of blood she was innocent and
small in the crowds
You were there to mourn her
death
she was the world for someone, you know.

There was a woman      broken beyond repair
she was held close by a monster a beast and there was
fear in her eyes
You were there to show her
love
deep within your eyes and in your kiss.

There was a factory    stuffed with workers
old and young and helpless with armies and demons on the
way to kill them all
You were there to remember each and every
name
every Jew was on your list, even the children.

Why, then, do you weep
Sir,
huddled broken in the road?
Why do your strong, generous hands shake with
grief?
You did everything.

They say
if you save one life, you have saved the world.

Herr Direktor,

you have saved eleven hundred lives
you have saved eleven hundred         worlds.

     - Emilie Athena, 2012

Oskar Schindler

April 25th, 2013 by Jamie Merriman-Cohen

As long as this exists I cannot be unhappy

For the twenty-fifth day of National Poetry Writing Month, I have selected “In The Eyes of Anne Frank” written by a British Secondary School student in commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day. I chose this poem in honor of the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center (WSHERC) award of one of eleven saplings from the horse chestnut tree that grew outside the attic window of Anne Frank’s hiding place. Anne Frank mentions the tree several times in her famous diary, and this symbol of nature and beauty served as a touchstone and a precious connection to the outside world during her two years in hiding. ”From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree. … As long as this exists … I cannot be unhappy.” Learn more about how the WSHERC received the “Tree of Hope” sapling here.

Poem for Anne Frank
Anne Frank smiling

 

April 22nd, 2013 by Jamie Merriman-Cohen

What really makes us free

For the twenty-second day of National Poetry Writing Month I have selected an excerpt from “What Really Makes Us Free” by Holocaust Survivor, author, professor, humanitarian, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel. Mr. Wiesel was born in 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania, now a part of Romania. He was fifteen years old when he and his family were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz. His mother and younger sister perished, his two older sisters survived. Elie and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died shortly before the camp was liberated in April 1945.

I am posting this poem in honor of the 20th Anniversary of the dedication of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. on April 22, 1993. Elie Wiesel delivered the keynote speech at the dedication ceremony; watch video here. The USHMM is the realization of work that Mr. Wiesel began in 1978 when then-President Jimmy Carter appointed him to Chair the President’s Commission on the Holocaust. Subsequently, in 1980, he became Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

This is an incredible poem about the triumph of the human spirit and the impulse for dignity and freedom that exists in even the most inhumane and constricting circumstances.

What Really Makes Us Free

The Jews who lived in the ghettos under the Nazi occupation
showed their independence by leading an organized clandestine life.
The teacher who taught the starving children was a free man.
The nurse who secretly cared for the wounded, the ill and the dying was a free woman.
The rabbi who prayed,
the disciple who studied,
the father who gave his bread to his children,
the children who risked their lives by leaving the ghetto at night
in order to bring back to their parents a piece of bread
or a few potatoes,
the man who consoled his orphaned friend,
the orphan who wept with a stranger for a stranger—
these were human beings filled with an unquenchable thirst for freedom and dignity.
The young people who dreamed of armed insurrection,
the lovers who, a moment before they were separated,
talked about their bright future together,
the insane who wrote poems,
the chroniclers who wrote down the day’s events
by the light of their flickering candles—
all of them were free in the noblest sense of the word,
though their prison walls seemed impassable
and their executioners invincible.

It was the same even in the death camps.

Defeated and downcast,
overcome by fatigue and anguish,
tormented and tortured day after day,
hour after hour,
even in their sleep,
condemned to a slow but certain death,
the prisoners nevertheless managed
to carve out a patch of freedom for themselves.
Every memory became a protest against the system;
every smile was a call to resist;
every human act turned into a struggle
against the torturer’s philosophy.

… The executioner did not always triumph.
Among his victims were some who placed freedom
above what constituted their lives.
Some managed to escape
and alert the public in the free world.
Others organized a solidarity movement within the inferno itself.
One companion of mine in the camps
gave the man next to him a spoonful of soup every day at work.
Another would try to amuse us with stories.
Yet another would urge us not to forget our names—
one way, among many other, of saying “no” to the enemy,
of showing that we were free, freer than the enemy.

Even in a climate of oppression,
men are capable of inventing their own freedom,
of creating their own ideal of sovereignty
What if they are a minority?
Even if only one free individual is left,
he is proof that the dictator is powerless against freedom.
But a free man is never alone; the dictator is alone.
The free man is the one who, even in prison,
gives to the other prisoners
their thirst for, their memory of, freedom.

—Elie Wiesel, from “What Really Makes Us Free”

Elie Wiesel and Family

April 21st, 2013 by Jamie Merriman-Cohen

Resistance

For the twenty-first day of National Poetry Writing Month I have selected the poem / song “Shtil Di Nacht – Still the Night” by contemporary actress, musician, writer, Cantor, and self-proclaimed “second-and-a-half generation” Holocaust Survivor Shira Ginsburg, from her one-woman show “Bubby’s Kitchen.” In the show Shira sings and tells many wonderful stories about her courageous and heroic Bubby and Zeyda, both of whom survived the Holocaust by fighting in the Resistance. Shira’s Bubby Judith Ginsburg, the namesake of the play, was born Yudis Kosczzanska on January 6, 1925 in Lida, Poland (now Bellarus). One of five children, four girls and one boy, Judith was the only member of her immediate family to survive the Holocaust. Together with her family, Judith was captured and deported from Lida by the Nazis. While in transport on a cattle car, to some unknown horrific place, an SS Officer told Judith that she was too beautiful to die and encouraged her to escape, promising her that he would shoot his gun near her but not directly at her while she ran. She took that split second opportunity, grabbed the hand of a friend, fled the train, and ran into the woods. She was sixteen. The two young women ran for days, without food or water, until they risked knocking on the door of a Polish farmer. The farmer fed the girls and offered them a hiding place, however Judith wanted to fight in the Resistance and turned down the farmer’s plan to obtain false papers for her in order to marry his brother. The farmer, a righteous man, escorted the girls deep into the woods, and accompanied them until they were able to find resistance fighters. Judith spent the next four years living and fighting in the forest as a member of the Raschinsky and Bielski Partisan units. In 1945 Judith married Motke Ginsburg, a Partisan who fought in the Russian Unit, Iskra. After the war they spent four years in Ferenvald, a Displaced Persons camp in Germany. Ultimately they ended up emigrating to Troy, New York in 1948.

Shtil Di Nacht – Still the Night

Still the night, and full of starlight.
And the frost – burned on the land;
Do you remember how I taught you
To hold a revolver in your hand?

A girl, a sheepskin, and a beret,
In her hands she holds a gun.
A girl with a face as smooth as velvet
Keeps watch of the enemy’s caravan.

An aim, a shot, right on the target.
Her small pistol had reached its mark,
An auto filled high with ammunition
Her shot had stopped it in the dark.

At dawn she crept out of the woodland,
With snowy garlands in her hair
Encouraged by her little victory
For our future freer heirs.

April 18th, 2013 by Jamie Merriman-Cohen

You were fortunate, dying in your own country

For the eighteenth day of National Poetry Writing Month I have selected “Siete Dias Enserados (Seven Days Locked Up)” by Holocaust Survivor David Haim. David Haim was originally from Salonika in Greece. He wrote poetry and music in Judeo-Spanish (Ladino). David Haim survived deportation and time in Concentration Camps, and immigrated to Tel Aviv following the war.

I chose this poem in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the first roundup and deportation of Jews from Thessaloniki to Auschwitz-Birkenau. By August 1943, 46,091 Jews had been deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Of those, 1,950 survived. Fewer than 5,000 of the 80,000 Jews living in Greece survived. The majority, after returning from the camps, emigrated to Israel. Today, the Jewish community in Thessaloniki, which until the early 20th century formed a slight majority of the city’s inhabitants, numbers fewer than 1,000.

Siete Dias Enserados

(Seven Days Locked Up)

Siete dias enserados
en vagones de bemas
ouna ves alos tres dias
mos quitavan ayrear.

Madre mia mi querida
ya touvites el zehout
de mouerirte en tous tieras
y non passates por el olouk.

Padre mio mi cerido
quien te lo iva dezir
que vinieras con tou ermano
al cramatorio de Auchvits?

Padre y madre ermanos y ermanikas
saliendo todos redjadjis
a el patron de el moundo
que embie saloud ami
que me quite de estos campos
para vos etchar kadich.

Seven days locked up in boxcars for animals. Once every three days they would take us out for air.

My dearest mother, you were fortunate, dying in your own country and not passing through the chimney.

My dearest father, who would have told you that you would come with your brother to the crematorium of Auschwitz?

Father and mother, brothers and sisters, may you all be supplicants to the Master of the World, to grant me health and remove me from these camps to recite Kaddish for you.

     - David Haim, with music/adaptation written by Jane Peppler

Thessaloniki 70 years

April 17th, 2013 by Jamie Merriman-Cohen

Friend of the Jews

For the seventeenth day of National Poetry Writing Month I have selected “The Practice of Dr. Adelaide Hautval” by contemporary American author and educator Davi Walders. This poem can be found in Walders’ book “Women Against Tyranny: Poems of Resistance During the Holocaust.”

Forty-seven years ago today, on April 17, 1966, Yad VaShem honored Holocaust Survivor Dr. Adelaide Hautval as a Righteous Among the Nations. Sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau with two hundred French women prisoners, Hautval, a devout Protestant from France, was housed with five hundred Jewish women prisoners, and was nicknamed “the saint.” With little or no resources, she attempted to help Jewish prisoners who had contracted typhus, refrained from reporting the prisoners’ illnesses (thereby sparing them immediate death) and treated them with boundless dedication. “Here,” she said, in words engraved in the prisoners’ memory, “we are all under sentence of death. Let us behave like human beings as long as we are alive.”

The Practice of
Dr. Adelaide Hautval

Try to imagine her

a Gentile among Jews
a doctor among the sick
a prisoner rounded up

in France trying to get home
for her mother’s funeral,
an accidental arrest

plunging her into the cold
eye of evil, protesting
every step of the way

Bourges prison
arguing with the guards,
cursing each cruelty,

the cattle car
stitching “Friend of the Jews”
on her coat,

the Birkenau barracks
nursing the sick, hiding
those dying from typhus

Block 10
refusing to practice
Nazi ‘gynecology’—refusing
to inject, irradiate,
sterilize, maim, disfigure—

Try to imagine her
surviving Auschwitz and
Ravensbruck
to testify
that it was possible
to behave humanely

Try to imagine her—
Adelaide Hautval—a doctor
with a practice
in refusal.

     - Davi Walders

Dr. Adelaide Hautval

April 15th, 2013 by Jamie Merriman-Cohen

Sentenced for life

For the fifteenth day of National Poetry Writing Month, I have selected the poem “Free At Last” by Holocaust survivor and poet Aranka Klein. Ms. Klein lived through the horrors of Bergen Belsen, and was inspired to begin writing about her experiences after watching her granddaughter perform in a play about Anne Frank just a few years ago.

I chose to feature this poem today, in honor of the 68th Anniversary of the liberation of Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp by the British 11th Armoured Division. From 1941 to 1945 50,000 people died in the camp, including 20,000 Russian Prisoners of War. Upon invasion of the camp, the British found 60,000 prisoners in the camp complex. Following liberation an additional 13,000 people died in the camp. One of the most famous inmates, Anne Frank, died of typhus in March, 1945, just one month before liberation.

Free At Last

April 15, 1945 – Bergen Belsen

White flags flew inside the gates Heavy British tanks were shaking our barracks
As they rolled outside the gates
It was music to my ears
I knew, I’ll be freed

“Let’s go!” I cried
“To greet our liberators.”
I and some friends, ran outside The guards saw us
“Aim, fire” the bullets were flying

The passion to shoot
With our liberation didn’t stop Just shoot one more, kill us all Was their bequest
The Nazis’ last call.

Some of us were injured Some were dead…
I wished that I was dead.

But it wasn’t the wish of God He restored my faith
He helped me survive
The heroic British Army Opened the gate

I was free.

Yes, I was liberated Fifty years ago
-Oh, precious freedom- But my soul is still Prisoner of the war.

On sleepless nights
I hear the Nazis shouting
I feel my parent’s hands Holding mine tight
But the Nazis tore us apart -My feet are numb
-They are frozen
-From walking
-The icy roads
-In wooden shoes.

-The wind is playing peek-a-boo -Through the holes in my dress -The raindrops are dancing
-On my shaved head.

Yes, I live free
In this great Country
Of the USA
But my mind is sentenced for life.

- Aranka Klein