THE DEATH of a famous person usually sparks a spate of anecdotes, and the
passing this week of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was no
exception. Norman and Pamela Spector of Kfar Saba have fond memories of her
visit to Arad in 1965. Norman was working on a building site and Pamela was home
looking after their two-month old baby. Curious as to whether there were any
English people in Arad, Thatcher was taken to the home of the Spectors – one of
two English families living there at the time. Thatcher admired the baby and was
interested to learn the Spectors were from Finchley, her constituency. When
Norman, who had come home, told her that his parents were still living there –
though he neglected to say they hadn’t voted for her – she offered to phone them
when she got back to London. She was true to her word, telling the senior
Spectors how beautiful their new granddaughter was. Norman wonders
whether in those days at least, the “iron lady” had a heart of gold.
THIS EVENING, Wednesday, at 7 p.m., an art auction to benefit the Jerusalem Rape
Crisis Center will be held at the capital’s Mamilla Hotel. Forty works of art
have been donated by various galleries as well as by the artists themselves. The
most famous artist in the catalogue is Menashe Kadishman. Singers Yehuda Poliker
and David D’Or, who also dabble in other art forms, have each donated a painting
for which the asking price will be at least NIS 4,000. Filmmaker, writer and
actor Assi Dayan has also donated a painting, priced at NIS 3,000. While actor
and singer Chaim Topol has long been known as a portraitist as well as an actor,
his self-portrait in his most famous and long-running role as Fiddler on the
Roof’s Tevye has the relatively modest minimum price of NIS 2,500. A NIS 3,000
painting by Aliza Olmert has already been sold.
There will be no
commissions on sales and all proceeds will go direct to the Rape Crisis Center,
which hopes to close the evening with at least NIS 150,000 in sales.
is possible that bidders will offer more for some of the works, and organizers
will be supremely grateful if they do.
CONGRATULATIONS ARE in order to
Israel’s fifth President Yitzhak Navon, who yesterday, April 9, celebrated his
92nd birthday. If one goes according to the Jewish calendar, he actually
celebrated his birthday a month ago. Navon was born on the first day of the
month of Nissan, which in ancient Israel was the date of the New Year for
POLAND’S CHIEF Rabbi Michael Schudrich would be delighted if the
Nozyk Synagogue in Warsaw, where he has his office and pulpit, would be even
half as full every Shabbat as it was last week, with early arrivals for the
March of the Living crowding in on Friday night to participate in services.
Yoram Dori, a longtime adviser to President Shimon Peres – who accompanied the
president to Poland in 2008 for the 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto
Uprising – recalls that the Nozyk Synagogue was almost filled to capacity when
Peres attended a Jewish community reception there.
But last Friday night,
there was simply not enough room to hold everyone who wanted to get inside.
Dori, who traveled to Poland take part in this week’s March of the Living,
reported there was such a huge crowd that they had to have three consecutive
minyanim of between 500-750 people at each. March of the Living chairman Dr.
Shmuel Rosenman said that the stubborn determination to participate in Shabbat
services with singing and dancing, specifically in Warsaw – where before World
War II, one in every three residents was Jewish – was an expression by the
participating youth of the pride they felt in the creation of the State of
Israel, and the ability of the Jewish people to survive and establish their own
Next week, on April 19, the date on which Poles
commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the Nozyk Synagogue will likely host a
huge congregation once again. Many Jews who were born in Warsaw and survived the
Holocaust are expected to come with children, grandchildren and
great-grandchildren to participate in the 70th anniversary ceremony, to prove
with their progeny that the “Final Solution to the Jewish Problem” did not
succeed. Several cultural events, including a concert of songs from the Warsaw
Ghetto, are planned to remind visitors and Warsaw natives of the enormity of the
terrible tragedies that took place in Poland’s magnificent capital.
WHOEVER NURSES doubts about the legacy of the Holocaust being transferred to
future generations after the generation of survivors is no more, would have had
all such fears dispelled by attending the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at
Jerusalem’s Fuchsberg Center.
Close to 300 young immigrants from
English-speaking countries crowded into its theater-style auditorium, which was
designed to hold a much smaller audience.
They came trailing in from all
over Jerusalem as well as from Tel Aviv, Safed and elsewhere. Many were
third-generation Holocaust survivors, and at least one was both a second- and
third-generation survivor. Some told stories of grandparents who had survived
Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, and who in doing so, had given their grandchildren
a stronger sense of Jewish identity.
While the evening was largely
devoted to memory and identity, it was also the launch of the Jerusalem branch
of Adopt- A-Safta, a project initiated in 2011 by Tel Aviv-based Jay Shultz,
formerly of New York and a grandson of Holocaust survivors.
came to Israel seven years ago, is president of the Am Yisrael Foundation, which
together with the Israel Forever Foundation, the Jerusalem Municipality, Nefesh
B’Nefesh, Ruach Hadasha, Moishe House Jerusalem, Jerusalem Village and the
Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, ensured the strong
When he arrived in Israel, Shultz literally knew no one. He
had neither family nor friends here – at least no family of whom he was aware.
So he decided to take a good look at his family tree and discovered that Csilla
Dunkleman, a Holocaust survivor who was a second cousin to his grandfather,
lived in Haifa. Shultz was over the moon at having found a blood relative,
however distant. He wasted no time in calling on her to introduce himself, and
thus began a close kinship in which they spoke regularly on the phone. He called
her every Friday to wish her Shabbat Shalom, and if he was running late, she
called him so neither would miss out on the precious connection. Shultz gained a
lot from his contact with her, discovering things about his family background,
and felt that she too gained from having him around to dispel some of her
Realizing there must be many new immigrants like him,
arriving without family or friends, and inspired by his relationship with
Dunkelman, who died three years ago, he founded Adopt-A-Safta, to bring cheer
and comfort to lonely survivors and a sense of extended family to new immigrants
in their 20s and 30s.
Some who were already involved in the program spoke
of what it meant to them to meet regularly with a Holocaust survivor – to go
shopping for them, read together or just shmooze. One young man who has been in
Israel for a year said that his adopted Safta is forever making chicken soup for
him, even though she knows he’s a vegetarian. A young woman told of her adopted
safta who has no one to talk to all week, but who can’t stop talking once her
young visitor arrives.
Although some of the audience arrived in pairs or
in clusters, they weren’t there to network and were genuinely interested in
making life more pleasant for survivors in their twilight years. There was
absolutely no doubt that just as the Haggadah is retold from generation to
generation, the stories these young people will hear from their adopted saftas
will also be passed on.
ARGUABLY, THE most common language among both
victims and survivors of the Holocaust was Yiddish. Indeed, in some Diaspora
communities where the Holocaust was commemorated not only on one special day a
year, but on many different days, the language used at such ceremonies was
Yiddish. In places like the US, Canada and Australia, where there were large
pockets of Jews from different parts of Poland, each landsmanschaft, as they
called themselves, held additional ceremonies to commemorate the people from
their city, town or village who died or were murdered during the
In Israel, even the landsmanschften tend to conduct their
memorial ceremonies in Hebrew. However, the Yiddishpiel Theater has for several
years held its Holocaust Remembrance Day events in Yiddish, which somehow makes
them more emotional and authentic. This year’s commemoration, which focused not
only on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising but also on life in the ghetto and its
diverse demographic mosaic, was particularly moving and dramatic because the
texts were based on diaries and memoirs written by people that were there. They
told of how the Germans rounded Jews up for deportation to the death camps and
sometimes shot them point blank, of the starvation, of the children who sold
cigarettes to make enough money to buy bread, of the efforts to maintain some
degree of normalcy and humanity, of resistance to the Nazis and ultimately, of
the liquidation of the ghetto.
They mentioned heroes of the resistance
such as Yitzhak Zuckerman, who worked on the Aryan side to procure arms; his
wife Zivia Lubetkin, who was one of the organizers of armed resistance;
Mordechai Anielewicz, who was the commander of a left-wing Jewish resistance
group; and Pawel Frankel, the leader of the Revisionist resistance group, whose
efforts have been recognized only in recent years.
The readings were
interspersed with songs that had been sung in the ghetto, and the set consisted
of six white folding chairs which were constantly rearranged by the six players:
Israel Treistman, Annabella, Yuval Rapaport, Monica Wardimon, Toronto-born
Amitai Kedar and Elian Debal-Shor. The backdrop consisted of a large video
screen on which historic footage of the deterioration and eventual liquidation
of the Warsaw Ghetto added to the somber atmosphere in the darkened
At 10 a.m. on Monday, Jerusalem’s 970- seat Sherover Theater
was more than three-quarters full, mostly with senior citizens, many of who were
Holocaust survivors and some walking painfully with the aid of canes and
walkers. There was also a group of uniformed soldiers and a good sprinkling of
people in their 20s to 40s. On stage was a large, black, menorah-shaped
candelabrum with six branches.
For obvious reasons, six was the dominant
number throughout. The six candles in memory of the 6 million Jews whose lives
were snuffed out by the Nazis and their cohorts were lit by Annabella, one of
the more veteran actresses of the Yiddish stage. Though she usually goes by her
first name only, this time she was introduced as Annabella Kellner, a Holocaust
survivor who was born in Czernowitz and who as a child was sent to the notorious
Transnistra killing fields with her family. She was liberated by the Red Army in
1944 and after training for the theater in Romania, came to Israel in
Whereas most memorial events involve speakers directly addressing
the audience, in this case it was if all the players had experienced the same
terrible trauma in contemporary Jewish history, and were reminding each other of
what had taken place. Thus, they were essentially talking to each other – rather
than to the audience – in the most beautifully enunciated Yiddish.
mainly when they sang that they actually faced the audience. “The Partisan”
song, which has become one of the hymns of the Holocaust, is frequently sung at
Yad Vashem events – but in Hebrew, where the absence of Yiddish nuances deprive
the lyrics of the full force of their meaning. This time it was sung in the
original Yiddish and the audience rose to their feet to join in, after which
they sang “Hatikva.” The transition from one to the other said it all.
ANYONE WHO happens to be in Monte Carlo on May 5 should try to get a ticket for
the Violins of Hope concert, organized by l’Association des Amis de l’Orchestre
Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo at the Grimaldi Forum, Salle des Princes. The
Violins of Hope come from a collection of violins that belongs to master
violinmaker and repairer Amnon Weinstein, who learned the craft from his father,
Moshe, and now works with his son, Avshalom.
When the Israel Philharmonic
Orchestra was formed in 1936 by violin virtuoso Bronislaw Huberman, he brought
firstclass Jewish musicians from Europe, mainly Germany, to Tel Aviv. These
musicians had all played in major orchestras which dispensed with their services
after the rise of Nazism. Had it not been for Huberman, many if not all of these
musicians would have been among the victims of the Holocaust.
violinists came to Israel they went to Moshe Weinstein for
Violinists who remained in Europe and survived the war, later
coming to Israel, also called on Weinstein. Some time in the 1990s Amnon
Weinstein decided that the violins which had been lost or damaged in the
Holocaust were important components of Jewish history. He made it his life’s
mission to look for them, renovate them and exhibit them as reminders not only
of lost life, but lost culture.
Where possible, Weinstein has collected
the stories of each of the violins, which he shares with students and musicians.
Most of the violins had been silent for many years, preserved as keepsakes of
another era. Weinstein, who lovingly restored them, wanted music lovers to hear
their sound again and shared his dream with his good friend Shlomo Mintz, an
internationally acclaimed violinist. Mintz became equally enthused, so much so
that in 2008, he took a restored violin that had been used in the Auschwitz
Orchestra back to the death camp, and stood in the exact spot where its original
owner had stood – near the entrance to the Auschwitz barracks.
it hauntingly, but in freedom and in tribute to those musicians who did not
Mintz plays in all the Violins of Hope concerts, and will do so
again in Monte Carlo, where he will be appearing for the first time. Conductor
Gianluigi Gelmetti, meanwhile, was so profoundly moved by the story of the
Violins of Hope that he wanted to compose a work specially dedicated to the
project. Called “Ke’ev” (pain in Hebrew), it will have its world premiere at the
concert, from which proceeds will be donated to the Hebrew University’s Center
for Brain Research.
In Weinstein’s household, the Holocaust is a constant
presence not only through the violins, but because his wife Assi, a journalist
and author, is a direct descendant of the famous Bielski partisans who conducted
daring rescue and resistance missions during the World War II.
MUSICAL reminder of Holocaust history is the Ramat Gan Children’s Harmonica
Orchestra founded by the late Shmuel Gogol, who survived both the Warsaw Ghetto
and Auschwitz. Gogol had been one of the children in the famed Jewish orphanage
run by educator Janusz Korczak, who encouraged the curiosity and creativity of
the children in his care by giving them small rewards. Gogol, who had displayed
a talent for music, had been the recipient of a harmonica that saved his life
when he was chosen to play it in the Auschwitz Orchestra.
ago, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin went to Poland for the 50th anniversary
of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and was accompanied by a delegation of Holocaust
survivors that included Gogol – who once more played the harmonica in Auschwitz,
this time not as a persecuted Polish Jew but as a proud Israeli. Gogol played a
tune that the Auschwitz Orchestra would not have dared to play so many years
It rang out loud and clear – despite the fact that
all the Jews assembled there sang with him. Rabin turned to his wife and said:
“Sing loud, Leah. In this place we have to sing ‘Hatikva’ louder than anywhere
Gogol died a few weeks later, but the Ramat Gan Children’s
Harmonica Orchestra continues to perform and is always in demand at
Holocaust-related events – memorializing both its founder and Korczak.
THERE IS such an abundance of Holocaust- related literature that no single
individual could get through it all in a lifetime.
For sociologists and
psychologists, it is often interesting when perusing such literature to learn of
the different ways members of the same family reacted to their
One such book, Thirty Four, published in November 2009 and
researched by Australian author William Hastings Burke, illustrates just how
wide a gap there can be in the outlook of two brothers raised in the same
family. While Hermann Göring was one of the most powerful and influential
figures in the Nazi Party, his brother, Albert, who had a reputation as a bon
vivant, was staunchly anti-Nazi.
Albert not only saved Jews from certain
death, but actually employed on their behalf what could only be described as
foolhardy courage. Only his family connections saved him from execution, and he
so blatantly defied the Nazis that several readers of Burke’s book have
suggested that Yad Vashem recognize him as Righteous Among the
The book, which received long and positive reviews in the
British media, was the product of a personal odyssey by its author. Just before
graduating from the University of Sydney in 2005, Burke came across a
documentary alleging that Hermann Göring had an anti-Nazi
Burke’s curiosity was piqued, and instead of doing his expected
post-graduate studies, he went on a fact-finding mission about Albert, Before
undertaking his three-year research in Germany, Burke went to Washington, where
in the National Archives he came across a list of the 34 most prominent Jews who
had been saved by Albert. The list’s title ultimately became the title of
At the end of the war, Albert, like his brother, was
arrested and spent two years in prison because his interrogators would not
believe in the innocence of someone with his last name. The two actually met
before Hermann evaded the noose by swallowing a concealed cyanide capsule, and
Hermann had the last-minute grace to apologize to his brother for being the
cause of his problems. Despite his heroism and humane principles, Albert was
shunned in Germany after the war.
Athough the Görings had once been a
very affluent family, he died a pauper in December 1966 and was buried in the
NOT ALL Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies were centered
on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The joint ceremony of the Jerusalem-headquartered
B’nai B’rith World Center and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund
focused on the heroism of the rescuers of Hungarian Jews during the
The ceremony at the Martyrs’ Forest in the Scrolls of Fire
Plaza honored the rescue activities of Otto Komoly, president of the Zionist
Federation in Hungary during the Holocaust years, whose actions saved the lives
of thousands of Jews.
Komoly was abducted by agents of the Arrow Cross
fascist regime on January 1, 1945, barely two weeks before the liberation of
Budapest, and all contact with him was lost. It is presumed that he was murdered
and his body dispatched into the Danube River along with thousands of other
Jews. (A total of over 600,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered during the
Holocaust.) Jewish Rescuers Citations sponsored by the Committee to Recognize
the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust and the B’nai B’rith World
Center were conferred on a group of some 30 rescuers, who operated in the
underground Zionist Youth Movement in Hungary. Forty citations have been
presented to date to rescuers who were involved operations in France, Germany,
Holland and Hungary.
The award in Komoly’s name was presented to his
granddaughter, Orna Barnea, and grandson, Oded Furst.
Guests of honor at
the ceremony were former science minister Daniel Herschkowitz, whose grandfather
collaborated with Komoly in the Hungarian Jewish underground; Hungarian
Ambassador Zoltan Szentgyorgyi; KKL-JNF world chairman Efi Stenzler; and B’nai
B’rith World Center chairman Haim V. Katz.
Prior to the ceremony, at
which Barnea was one of the speakers, an emotional meeting took place between
soldiers and survivors, who presented personal