Next week, Gerson Menandro Garcia, the ambassador of Brazil, will host a huge multi-faceted reception in celebration of the 200th anniversary of his country’s independence from Portugal. Though Israeli presidents in their state visits tend to focus primarily on European countries, and the United States, president Shimon Peres visited Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. He later welcomed Brazil’s president Lula da Silva to Israel.
Though very enthusiastic about Israel during his visit, da Silva on his return home became much more pro-Palestinian. More recently, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro visited Israel in March, 2019, and pledged to move the Brazilian Embassy to Jerusalem. That has not yet eventuated.
In Brazil last week, there was great excitement about the heart of the nation’s liberator Dom Pedro, who was a beloved figure in both Brazil to where his family had fled following the French invasion of Portugal when Dom Pedro was still a child, and to Portugal where he returned some years later. Torn between his love for and his loyalty to both countries, Dom Pedro remained true to both in death. When he died in Portugal in 1834, his heart was enshrined in the main church of Porto and the rest of his body, in accordance with his will, was transferred to Brazil and re-interred in the Monument of Independence in Sao Paulo. Last week, his heart was also brought to Brazil – but only on loan for the bi-centenary celebrations
President Bolsonaro, who is campaigning for re-eection in October, last week held an official ceremony for the heart with full military honors, after which it was placed in Itamaraty Palace, the headquarters of the foreign ministry, for 17 days, after which it will be returned to Portugal.
Apparently, it was not uncommon in the 19th century for people who died in countries other than those in which they were born, to request in their wills for their hearts to be taken to their homeland. Renowned Polish composer and piano virtuoso Frederic Chopin, who spent approximately half of his life in Paris and acquired French citizenship, died young, the cause also being tuberculosis. He too wanted his heart to be in his native land,, and his doctor removed it almost immediately after his death and gave it to Chopin’s older sister Ludwika, who had come to Paris to nurse him. Preserving the heart in a flask filled with alcohol, she took it back to Warsaw, hiding it beneath her cloak. It is buried in Warsaw’s Holy Cross Church.
Poland - Israel relations
■ WITH REGARD to Poland, Israel’s Ambassador Yaacov Livne presented his credentials to President Andrzej Duda last month, after having spent several months in the country. But Poland has yet to send an ambassador to Israel, even though disputes, during which both Poland and Israel recalled their ambassadors, have seemingly been settled. There are many reasons to explain the mutual change of heart, not the least of which is the 80th anniversary next April of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, and the opening of the Warsaw Ghetto Museum. Livne has already visited the site and has also been to the area around Mila 18, the headquarters of Mordechai Anielewicz who led the uprising.
Elsewhere in the ghetto, right-wing hero Pawel Frankel, the Polish army officer and Jewish youth leader who was a senior commander of the Jewish resistance forces against the Nazis, was all but forgotten until former Israel foreign minister and defense minister, the late Moshe Arens, rescued him from oblivion through his book Flags over the Warsaw Ghetto. While not debating the heroism of Anielewicz, Arens was greatly disturbed by the fact that Anielewicz and his Jewish Combat Organization received all the credit for Jewish resistance, whereas Frenkel and his Jewish Military Union received none.
It was a very sad fact in Jewish divisiveness that Anielewicz and Frenkel could not come together in a joint effort, which in all probability would anyway have ended in both their deaths, but would have been an important legacy in the quest for Jewish unity.
Arens was in Warsaw in 2012 for a ceremony in which a plaque for Frenlel and those who fought with him was placed in what is now known as Pawel Frenkel Square alongside the famous monument by Natan Rapoport. The plaque ceremony and the naming of the square was attended by the mayor of Warsaw, representatives of the Polish and Israeli governments and Israel’s then-ambassador to Poland, Zvi Rav-Ner.
Whatever disagreements have occurred between Warsaw and Jerusalem, the Poles must be given credit for upholding the memory of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising which they commemorate annually in accordance with the Gregorian calendar, while Jews tend to use the Hebrew calendar.
■ ON ANOTHER issue related to Poland and the Holocaust, there’s no escaping the fact that Holocaust survivors are fading from our presence, and soon there will be no witnesses to tell the story. Regardless of how many people have told their stories in print and on video, or have had them made into cinematic productions, there is still so much that we do not know.
For instance, Alon Goldman, chairman of the Association of Czestochwa Jews in Israel and vice president of The World Society of Czestochowa Jews and their Descendants, has come into possession of a number of testimonies by survivors. The Israeli Police collected the testimonies in the 1960s regarding complaints about Heinrich (Herschel) Engelbert, who had been a capo in the Warta Hassag, and who had played a major role in the punishing and deportation of Demblin Jews to extermination camps.
Demblin is a village in the Tarnow region. Before the war, it was home to some 6,000 Jews. The Germans came there within a few days of the invasion of Poland in September, 1939, looted and plundered, but worst of all, established a punishment camp in which Jews were beaten or subjected to as many as 80 lashes on a daily basis. Later they confiscated all Jewish property and established a Jewish quarter. Then they started with deportations. More than 1,000 Jews were sent to Sobibor. Even more were deported to Poniatov. By November, 1942, there were very few Jews left in Demblin.
Whoever was left in 1944 was deported to the Warta camp in Czestochowa, where they worked at an ammunitions factory, and were under the supervision of capos whose behavior was no better than that of the Nazis. Some of these testimonies are conflicting, but they have enough commonalities to give anyone who reads them a grasp of what was happening. Overall, they were compiled from testimonies given to Yad Vashem and other memorial centers, and are of great value to second and third generation survivors.
Goldman says that in many homes in which there are or were survivors,or people who were able to leave Europe in time to escape the Holocaust, there are photographs letters and diaries, which should be deposited with Yad Vashem or other memorial institutions so that they can contribute to the knowledge of history of that of awful period in the saga of the Jewish people.
High Holy Day preparations
■ PENITENTIAL PRAYERS leading up to the High Holy Days begin this week. In Jerusalem people for whom Selichot, as they are known in Hebrew, are extremely meaningful, there are two important options on Sunday, September 4. One is the Hiba band and choir with guest performer Kobi Oz in a concert at the Jerusalem Theater that includes his top hits along with penitential prayers. The performance, which begins at 8.30 p.m. is under the title of Shma Koleinu (Listen to our Voice)
The other option is a night of cantorial song by the Cantor’s Choir, which usually sings at Heichal Shlomo but on this occasion will be singing at Nefesh B’Nefesh Auditorium.
The concert featuring internationally renowned Cantor Yaakov Motzen, begins at 8 p.m. is under the title of Yekabel Tefilati (He will receive my prayer). Tickets for each performance is NIS 50. Those who have not previously been to the Nefesh B’Nefesh auditorium may be confused in trying to find it. The entrance is through the Cinema City shopping mall. Go directly to the far left-hand corner of the mall and walk through the doorway across the terrace to the entrance to Nefesh B’Nefesh, which has a large sign that informs visitors that they have reached their destination.
■ FORMER DEPUTY president of the Supreme Court Neal Hendel, who had to step down this year when he turned 70, did not find himself unemployed for long. Hendel has been appointed a professor at the Sapir College Law School, and will begin teaching during this coming academic year His main focus will be on Religion and State in Israel in the 21st century. He will also teach two optional courses – one in criminal law and th other in constitutional law.
■ YIDDISHISTS AND lovers of Russian poetry and song should save the date ,September 15 at 7 p.m., for a literary evening and concert in memory of Jewish writers who were victims of the Soviet regime. The event at the Immigrants Club, 1 Keren Hayesod Street in Nahariya, is jointly organized by the Nahariya Municipality in cooperation with Leyvik House, Tel Aviv. Participants will include baritone Dmitry Danovski, pianist Sergei Dangelsdorf and Ludmilla Rosenthal who will recite some of the poems that have been preserved.