sábado, 12 de septiembre de 2015

Pickled remains of Auschwitz victim whose wife and children were gassed before he was dismembered by sadistic Nazi doctor are finally laid to rest 72 years later.

The coffin containing the remains of victims of Dr August Hirt, 
is carried at the Strasbourg-Cronenbourg Jewish cemetery, eastern France
  • Polish Jew Menachem Taffel was one of demon Dr. August Hirt's 86 victims.
  • They were brought from Auschwitz in Poland to Natzweiler-Struthof, France.
  • Bodies were pickled in alcohol, but 72 years later they have been buried.

A Polish Jew whose body parts were pickled in a test tube by a sadistic Nazi doctor has finally been laid to rest 70 years after he was murdered.
Menachem Taffel, a dairy merchant who lived in Berlin, died a hideous death so Dr. August Hirt could preserve the skulls and bones of 'these sub-humans' so the 'degeneracy and the animality of these Jews', could be documented.
At the weekend, 72 years after they were killed in the pursuit of perverted medical science, the last two victims of the demon doctor, including Taffel, were buried in an emotional ceremony in France.
In August 1943, these two people - only one of whom could be identified as Taffel - were among a group of 86 Jews plucked from the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland and transported to France for the sole purpose of being murdered.
There were no family members to say Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, for Taffel on Sunday. However, the story of what was done to him, his family and the millions of others who perished in the Holocaust lives on.
Taffel was born on July 21, 1900, in the Russian Empire called Galicia, now part of Poland, and in 1938 he and his family moved in with his wife Clare's parents in Berlin as the tempo of persecution against the Jews was stepped up in the Third Reich.
In March 1943, the family, including daughter Esther, who was 15 and a volunteer helper at a local nursing home, were shipped to Auschwitz.
His wife and children were gassed upon arrival. Taffel, who bore the number 107969 inked on his left forearm, had the misfortune of crossing the path of S.S.-Hauptsturmführer Dr August Hirt - a man who perverted the Hippocratic oath as he climbed the tawdry ladder of Nazism.
Born on April 28, 1898, in Mannheim, Germany into a family from Strasbourg in France, Hirt was the son of a Swiss businessman. In 1914, he volunteered to fight in World War I on the German side.

The corpse of Polish Jew Menachem Taffel (pictured) was pickled in alcohol on the orders of Dr August Hirt
          The corpse of Polish Jew Menachem Taffel (pictured) was pickled in alcohol on the orders of Dr. August Hirt

In October 1916, he was wounded in the upper jaw by a bullet and received the Iron Cross. He returned to Mannheim in 1917. 
He went on to study medicine at the University of Heidelberg and in 1921, he took German citizenship.
In the early 1930s he became involved with the Ahnenerbe institute, an S.S. think tank devoted to buttressing the Nazi philosophy that only 'Aryans' were worthy of life and that Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs were sub-humans who needed to be eradicated.
He joined the Institute of Anatomy at the Reichsuniversität in Strasbourg early in 1941 and soon became chairman of the anatomy department. 
He was a confidante of S.S. overlord Heinrich Himmler and privy to the top secret plan formulated at the Wannsee Conference outside Berlin for the 'final solution' - the mass murder - of the Jews in all lands conquered by Germany.
He submitted a paper to Himmler in February of 1942 stating that he wanted to create a collection of skulls and skeletons of the 'sub-humans' destined to die for research. 
Because the gas chambers of the secret killing centres were working at a furious pace, Hirt was worried that Europe's Jewish population would soon be eliminated - at which point 'Jewish skeletons would be as rare and precious as a diplodocus'.

Demon doctor August Hirt (pictured) submitted a paper to Himmler in February of 1942 
stating that he wanted to create a collection of skulls and skeletons of the 'sub-humans'

It was rumored that Hirt, who was venal as well as sadistic, toyed with the idea of setting up a skull mail order business for other Reich doctors, as a way of earning extra money.
Himmler responded enthusiastically to Hirt's request for bodies for his collection saying he was 'prodigiously interested' and considered the project to be of 'enormous value'.
A letter used as evidence during the post-war Nazi trials at Nuremberg includes an attachment with a report on 'securing skulls of Jewish-Bolshevik Commissars for the purpose of scientific research'.
It initially allowed Hirt to begin his gassings of Auschwitz Jews at Natzweiler-Struthof. This was the only Nazi murder camp on French soil, close to his research center and chosen as the place where the victims would die.
Himmler greenlighted to project and it was decided that Auschwitz would provide the prisoners for the macabre scheme. 
Initially, 115 people were selected, a number eventually whittled down to 87. Half of them were Greek Jews from Thessaloniki, the others an assortment of German, Polish, Austrian, Russian and Lithuanian victims.
The guinea pigs were held in a quarantine section of Auschwitz before being shipped in rail cars to Natzweiler-Struthof in July 1943. 
It was run by a man called Joseph Kramer, described by the Allies who would hang him after the war, as 'brutality incarnate'.
A gas chamber was built into an old refrigerator room and hydrogen cyanide was chosen as the method to kill the victims. 
On August 17, 1943, Taffel, and his fellow prisoners were killed over a three-night period in the name of Third Reich medicine.
Kramer later testified: 'One evening, about 9pm, the prisoners arrived. I led about fifteen women to the gas chamber. I told them they were going to be disinfected.
'With the help of some of the S.S. guards, I got them completely undressed and pushed them into the gas chamber.
'When I closed the door they began to scream. I put some of the crystals that Hirt had given me into the funnel above the observation window. 
'I would watch everything that was going on inside through it. The women continued to breathe for half a minute and then fell to the floor. I turned on the ventilation and when I opened the door they were lying dead on the ground. 
'I told some of the male S.S. nurses to put the bodies in a truck and take them to the Institute of Anatomy at 5.30 the next morning.
'I felt no emotion while accomplishing these tasks because I had received an order to execute the prisoners in the manner that I have described to you. That is simply how I was brought up.'
There were 87 victims originally chosen, but one of them, a woman, was shot by a guard as she struggled to escape the gas chamber. Her body was not sent to Strasbourg with the others because it was considered 'spoiled'.
Professor Hirt's assistants, Otto Bong and Henri Herypierre, began placing the bodies into vats of synthetic alcohol to preserve them when they arrived at his institute. Herypierre took the stand at Nuremberg after the war to describe the bodies.
He said: 'They were still warm. Their eyes were wide open and shining. They appeared congested and red and protruded from the socket. 
'There were traces of blood around the nose and mouth. There was no rigor mortis. It is my opinion that these victims had been poisoned or asphyxiated.'
The bodies were left pickling in alcohol when the Allies liberated France. It seems Hirt was given other, more important work to do by his Nazi bosses researching the effects of poison gas in combat situations.
Himmler ordered the destruction of the cadaver collection, but the Allies beat him to it. Most of the bodies were buried on October 23, 1945, in the municipal cemetery of Strasbourg-Robertsau before being transferred in 1951 to the Strasbourg-Cronenbourg Jewish cemetery.
Hirt fled Strasbourg in September 1944, hiding in Tübingen in southern Germany. He committed suicide on June 2, 1945.
It wasn't until July this year that the remains of Taffel and his unidentified soulmate in death were found in laboratory jars at the institute. 
All these years later, a post mortem was able to discern that his last meal on earth was potato peelings, consumed the night before he was murdered. 
Historian Raphael Toledano revealed that a forensics professor by the name of Camille Simonin, who was investigating Hirt, had preserved some of the remains despite the belief they had been buried in 1945. 
Several hundred people gathered for a sombre ceremony at the Strasbourg-Cronenbourg Jewish cemetery on Sunday, throwing an earth on a single coffin holding their collective remains.
The victims of Hirt's skeleton collection have been honored across the world through publications, articles, and memorials.
On December 11, 2005, a memorial was unveiled at the anatomy institute of Strasburg hospital, and at the Strasbourg-Cronenbourg Jewish cemetery. The unveiling was attended by relatives of Hirt's victims from Thessalonica, London, Germany, Israel and France.
The plaque reads: "Souvenez-vous d'elles pour que jamais la medecine ne soit devoyée" (Remember them so that medicine never be corrupted again).

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3225272/Remains-Polish-Jew-wife-children-gassed-Auschwitz-dismembered-pickled-test-tube-sadistic-Nazi-doctor-finally-laid-rest-72-years-later.html

miércoles, 2 de septiembre de 2015

Holocaust survivor: 'There was fear, not jubilation, the day we were freed from the concentration camp'

Tomi Reichental talks about the horrors of his childhood during the Holocaust and life after liberation.

The 80-year-old Holocaust survivor has dedicated much of the last decade to giving lectures in schools and universities, both here in his adopted home of Ireland and around the world, to educate people about the time.
It is, Tomi tells me, his way of honouring those lost during this horrific moment in modern history and making sure that such atrocities never happen again.
There is a poignant contrast as we sit in his beautiful south Dublin home, surrounded by the scent of freshly baked scones and carrot cake to talk about Tomi's traumatic childhood memories - the fear, the starvation, the overcrowding, how he, his brother and his cousin would play innocently amongst the thousands of rotting corpses outside.
Tomi was just nine years old when he was deported alongside five of his family members from his native Slovakia to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1944.
"I think I owe it to the victims that their memory is not forgotten," Tomi explains. "Sometimes when the young people hear it from teachers, it might go in one ear and out the other, but when they hear me, they never forget about it because they are seeing somebody who has been a part of that history," he smiles gently.
"I lost 35 members of my family, people that I knew," Tomi pauses. "One day they disappeared and I never saw them again, so for me, it is very important that I speak about it."
However, it took many decades before Tomi could open up and speak about his ordeal. "It took over 55 years until I actually started to speak about it and now they cannot stop me," he jokes. "It is not that I didn't want to before, I just could not do it."
Tomi's family were arrested late in the Nazi campaign - at first Slovakia was simply a friendly nation to Hitler's regime and, as a farmer, Tomi's father was deemed too valuable to the Slovakian economy to be sent, like many other Slovak Jews, to the Nazi work and extermination camps.
This changed, however, once German troops began to occupy Slovakia.
"In 1942, because my father was a farmer and was useful to the economy, we got a special document so that, for the time being, we shouldn't be taken away," Tomi tells me. "When Slovakia was occupied by Germany, of course, then no paper was useful. We tried to escape and we tried to hide, but we were betrayed."
"They used to do a selection process where the young men and women went to the right and the children, mothers and old people to the left," Tomi explains. "In seconds, families were split, the young men and women who were able to work were sent to slave labour and the others they were sent to the extermination camps."
Tomi was transported alongside his mother, brother, grandmother, aunt and cousin in a cattle-cart, which was originally bound for Auschwitz, but was rerouted to Bergen-Belsen.

Tomi Reichental

"The German soldiers got word that they were to retreat from the west to the east because the Russians were advancing. We were on the train at this time; so we were the first transport that didn't go to Auschwitz. If we had been arrested at the beginning of October, I wouldn't be here," Tomi trails off.
He remembers being shielded from much of what was happening during those years by his family, but once he reached Bergen-Belsen, - despite the efforts of his mother, aunt and grandmother - the desperation of their situation became apparent to him, even as a child of nine.
"When it all started in 1942, I had just really started school. The first time I knew that I was different was when I had to wear the yellow star. I was going to school and kids started to shout at me 'dirty Jew, smelly Jew' and all of this," Tomi says.
"My mother was really an extraordinary person. In the worst times, she always smiled and she was the power behind us.
"My mother also survived and she had a good life. She died only 12 years ago; she was 96 years old, she was really the pillar of strength in our hour of despair.
In his younger days with his mum and older brother

"She would never show that we were in trouble. She tried to keep it away from me, but, of course, I was there and saw it."
A couple of months before the Allied Forces liberated the Bergen-Belsen camp, thousands of inmates were moved there from Auschwitz. As a result, the numbers in the already overcrowded camp swelled and disease was rampant. Death and dying was a part of everyday life.
Tomi's grandmother Rosalia passed away just weeks before they were liberated.
"They just came into the room and they picked her up, one by the arms and one by the legs, threw her onto a cart, then she was wheeled out and thrown onto the pile of corpses outside," Tomi remembers.
"We were liberated on April 15. I remember that day very well. It was just an ordinary day, sunny outside. On April 11, we didn't see any guards in the watchtower, they escaped, but still nobody dared to go out, even though the gate was open. We didn't know what was happening, we were afraid."
"There was no food or water for four days," Tomi adds. "Then on the afternoon of the 15th, we heard this rumbling through the camp and we all ran to the barbed wire to see what was happening and we saw jeeps were coming in.
"There was no jubilation. We had smiles on our faces, but 90pc of the people in Bergen-Belsen were sick. People just stood, they were scared, they had no strength, they were dying most of them."
Following a number of months in quarantine, Tomi and his family returned to Slovakia where they were reunited with his father. Tomi's father had been arrested separately and escaped by jumping from a train bound for Auchswitz with a number of others.
According to Tomi, however, the welcome for Jewish people in Slovakia after the war was not a warm one.
"The atmosphere for Jewish people in Slovakia was not very good," Tomi says. "Because of the propaganda the Slovak people had experienced, they still hated the Jews. They used to whisper around that more Jews were coming back than were taken away. It wasn't our home anymore."
After school, Tomi travelled to the newly formed state of Israel, where he joined the Israeli Army. His parents and brother Miki, who was finishing his university studies in engineering, followed a short time later. Tomi was discharged from the army after his two years of service, but was called as a member of the reserve forces in 1956 during Israel's Suez campaign.
"It was tough. I saw a lot of terrible things during that time," Tomi says. "After that, I wanted to study engineering so I decided to go to university in Germany."
While in Germany, a cousin of Tomi's, who was working in London as an au pair, recommended Tomi to her boss, a major industrialist, who was looking for someone to set up a zip manufacturing company in Ireland. Tomi was flown to London and subsequently offered the job.
"That's how I came to Ireland. In 1960, I met a girl and in June, 1961, we married," he smiles.
Tomi and his wife Evanne Blackman left Ireland for Israel a short time later, where his eldest son was born. However, after a number of pleading letters from Evanne's father, the couple returned to Dublin where Tomi took over his father-in-law's jewellery manufacturing business.
"I had started a factory in Israel with my brother, which developed into a huge manufacturing company for tools for the woodworking industry, but eventually I relented and we came back," he smiles. "We were very happy. Unfortunately, my wife got cancer in 2003 and within 14 months, she died," Tomi adds. "I have three sons and six grandchildren."
Tomi has found happiness once again with his partner of nine years, Joyce Weinrib. Last year, he received the International Person of the Year Award and later this month, he will accept an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland in Maynooth. In fact, Tomi's home is adorned with many honours and awards, some more modest than others, but all appreciated most sincerely by their recipient.
In January 2008, RTE broadcast a one-hour documentary on Tomi's life entitled I was a boy in Belsen, produced by Gerry Gregg. In 2011, Gregg produced a second film, Close to Evil, which followed Tomi's quest to meet one of his alleged former jailers - Hilde Lisiewicz, who it transpired was alive and living in Hamburg.
After the film was broadcast, a German man named Hans-Jürgen Brennecke filed charges against the 93-year-old woman, which caused prosecutors there to open an investigation into allegations that Hilde served as a Nazi SS guard. Tomi had hoped that the documentary could be "an opportunity for reconciliation", but Hilde refused to meet with him.
"I don't want to see her going to prison," he tells me. "It's too late; she is 93 years old, but for me, it is very important that a conviction comes out of it if she is sent to trial and found guilty, from a moral point of view."
Nominations are being accepted for the 2015 People of the Year until September 14. For more information, see www.peopleoftheyear.com

Source: http://www.herald.ie/lifestyle/holocaust-survivor-there-was-fear-not-jubilation-the-day-we-were-freed-from-the-concentration-camp-31494493.html

martes, 11 de agosto de 2015

Holocaust survivor Eva Kor: Nazi’s hug just ‘kindness’

To Eva Kor, it was a fleeting embrace. But to the world, it became a much more polarizing and defining moment.That’s not to say Eva, a Holocaust survivor subjected to Dr. Josef Mengele’s cruel experiments on twins, doesn’t understand the global reaction of awe and disgust. After all, the man who hugged and kissed her this spring was Oskar Gröning, the “accountant of Auschwitz.”
But for Eva, it was a simple act of kindness offered by a feeble old man. And she accepted.
She’d long ago forgiven the Nazis, Mengele, even Adolf Hitler.
And Groening.
“It was one of those meetings between two worlds that at one time would have not been possible,” she said of her encounter with Gröning in a German courtroom during his April trial. “And 70 years later I definitely sensed in that touch and in that hug and in that kiss that he was very sorry for what happened.”
Whatever anyone else thinks of the embrace, she’s grateful for it.
“Because of his grabbing and hugging me, people became interested in the story,” she said.
Eva has told that story countless times at the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute. To schoolchildren. To retirees. To vacationers who stumble upon the museum in the brick building on South Third Street near the Tromp and Tread Boot Plaza and Station Break, where customers can get a 10-minute oil change.
The story begins more than three-quarters of a century ago in Portz, Romania, a tiny village where Eva and her family were the only Jews. At 81, Eva still remembers when Hungarian Nazis took over the one-room schoolhouse designed to teach peasant children like her and her twin sister, Miriam.
“We had two new teachers who were very dedicated to teaching hatred against Jews,” she said. “Everything was involved in how to catch, kill Jews. A book had a math problem. It said: ‘If you have five Jews and you kill three, how many are left?’ So that is the way I started arithmetic in school.”
Because the twins were Jewish, the other students hit them and spat on them. Their teacher refused to help. Instead, she threw corn on the floor and forced Eva and Miriam to kneel on it for an hour while the other children taunted them. Eva hoped her mother would straighten things out.
“To my great surprise and disappointment,” Eva recalled, “my mother hugged us, kissed us and cried with us but said, ‘Children, there is nothing I can do. You have to learn that we are Jews, and you have to learn to take it.’ ”
At night, their father, a devoutly religious man, told his daughters to pray. “Don’t worry,” Eva said he told them. “Pray to God, and God is going to help us.”
As time went on, though, things got worse. Every six months a new law aimed at Jews was passed. In 1942, she said, Jews could no longer travel without a special permit. And they could hire only other Jews, a troublesome turn for a Jewish family in an all-Christian village. When her mother got sick, Eva’s father asked for a permit to go to the city to hire a Jewish woman to help with the farm.
The permit was denied.
Even at 8 years old, Eva felt the danger coming and told her father.
“I said to daddy, ‘It’s time to escape … and my father said, ‘Eva, you do not understand. You are a little girl. You’re only 8 years old. We have a nice home here. We have plenty of food. You children go to school. … The Germans won’t come to this tiny village to pick up six Jews.’ ”
He was wrong.
In March 1944, two Hungarian gendarmes carrying out German orders came to the Mozes home and took them to a regional ghetto where they stayed for about two and a half months. During the last week of May, soldiers loaded them into packed cattle cars, saying they were going to a labor camp in Hungary.
There was no room to sit. They leaned against each other, sweltering hot, with no supplies. The train stopped only to refuel. At each stop, the adults asked the guard holding a machine gun for water, and the same answer came back each time: “Five gold watches.”
The grown-ups would gather the watches and pass them through the tiny barbed-wire windows atop the cattle car. Then the guard would throw a bucket of water through the window. Eva put a cup over her head but never caught more than a few drops.

On the third day in the cattle car, when the adults asked for water, the answer came back not in Hungarian, but German.
“I was 10 years old,” Eva said. “I instantly understood what happened.”
The Jews were not being taken to a Hungarian labor camp. They had crossed into Germany and would soon be murdered.
Eight hours later, at the next stop, the request for water went unanswered. Germans yelled orders. The prisoners could hear dogs barking. Finally, the cattle car doors opened and thousands of people poured out onto a small strip called the selection platform.
Eva looked around and thought to herself: What on earth is this place?
Eva and Miriam’s mother tightly grabbed their hands, hoping that as long as she held on, she could protect them. Eva quickly realized that her father and older sisters had disappeared into the crowd.
Suddenly, an SS guard yelled in German. Zwillinge, Zwillinge! He was looking for twins and stared keenly at Eva and Miriam. He demanded to know: Are they twins?
“Is that good?” Eva remembered her mother asking. The Nazi nodded. Then an officer whisked Eva and her sister in one direction and their mother the opposite.
“We were crying,” Eva said. “She was crying. And all I really remember is seeing her arms stretched out in despair as she was pulled away. I never even got to say goodbye to her. And all that took 30 minutes from the time we stepped down from the cattle car. Miriam and I no longer had a family. We were all alone, and we had no idea what would become of us.”
Becoming a ‘Mengele Twin’

Eva doesn’t remember Gröning, the SS officer in his 20s, the so-called “accountant of Auschwitz” who would in July 2015 be convicted of 300,000 counts of accessory to murder and sentenced to four years in prison. But he was there.
By his own testimony, Gröning kept watch and searched the luggage of thousands of Jews led to the gas chambers. He counted money he found and sent it to the SS office in Berlin. He knew from his first night at the camp what was happening. He heard it from other SS officers. Obedience, he told the German court, prevented him from defying the daily atrocities.
“In September 1944 we were told that the next day we would participate in the eviction and extermination of the residents of a Ghetto,” he told the court in German. “It dawned on me that for the first time I would have to participate in the killings. It was something I could not do.
“I stayed away from the barracks that night so I wouldn’t get the order to clear the Ghetto, but that would have consequences. The command staff had already moved out – without me. From that point it was clear that I couldn’t deny direct participation in the killings. That triggered my third and final application for transfer to the front – which finally came in October, 1944.”
From Eva and Miriam, much more would be taken.
After sitting naked most of the day after their arrival, the twins were processed at Auschwitz. They were given short haircuts and tattoos. Eva became A-7063, her sister A-7064.
They marched through camp to a wooden, modular horse barn, filthy and crude with rows of bunk beds. Eva was afraid of the rats, so she and her sister went to the latrine. There they found the scattered corpses of three children.
“So right then and there I made a silent pledge that I would do anything and everything within my power to make sure that Miriam and I shall not end up on that filthy latrine floor,” Eva said.
She never told anyone, not even Miriam. Her thoughts turned inward.
How to sleep?
How to get more food?
Because their food was just enough to starve to death. No more than 300 calories a day. Breakfast was lukewarm, brownish liquid. Lunch, if they were in the barracks, looked like cream of wheat but was impossible to swallow. At night, they got a piece of very dark bread about two inches long. Hunger was constant, relentless. They could not escape it.
“It was never over,” Eva said. “It was never, ever over.”
Eva didn’t once contemplate the fate of her parents or siblings, or give it a thought if she walked over a dead body. Older people told her: If you cry, you die. And she believed them.
“The mind cannot concentrate on death and living at the same time,” she said.
The instinct to survive eclipsed everything, even the experiments run by Mengele, known as Todesengel, the angel of death.
Eva and Miriam were part of a group of twin girls ages 2 to 16. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays they were placed in a room naked for up to eight hours. Nazi doctors measured every part of Eva’s body and compared the results to Miriam’s and to charts. Mengele hoped to find a way to engineer a perfect race.
“These experiments weren’t dangerous, but for eight hours a day?” Eva recalled. “I felt like I was nothing more than a living piece of meat.”
On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays came the “blood lab experiments.”

“They would take us to a lab, tie both of my arms to restrict the blood flow, take a lot of blood from my left arm and give me a minimum of five injections into my right arm,” she said. “... The rumor was that they were germs, diseases and drugs.”
One made her extremely ill. She had a fever of 106 degrees. Both arms and legs were painfully swollen, and huge red spots covered her body. Nazi doctors measured her fever and took her to the hospital, where Eva thought people looked more dead than alive.
The next morning, the Todesengel came in with four other doctors. Mengele looked at her fever chart and laughed. “Too bad,” Eva remembers him saying. “She’s so young. She has only two weeks to live.”
Eva knew he was right, but she refused to die. She made a second silent pledge to prove him wrong.
Eva has one memory of the following two weeks as her fever held on. She was crawling on the barracks floor to reach a water faucet, repeating as she faded in and out of consciousness: I must survive. I must survive.
Eva’s fever finally broke, and she began to feel a bit stronger. Eventually she was reunited with Miriam. If Eva had died, Miriam would have been killed by an injection to the heart, and Mengele would have performed comparative autopsies.
To this day, Eva has scant information about the experiments the Nazis performed on her and Miriam. She has only three documents, one that shows throat smears for scarlet fever, another of blood samples “for the examination of syphilis” and a third of blood samples for “the examination of urea nitrogen, sodium chloride, Takata-Ara and Vitamin C.”
On Jan. 27, 1945, the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz, and the Mozes twins walked out of the camp together. Eva had kept her silent pledge.
Seeking answers, finding forgiveness
After liberation, the sisters lived in Romania for five years before emigrating to Israel in 1950. They went to an agricultural school and were then drafted into the Israeli Army. Miriam became a nurse, and Eva went into the engineering corps.
Eva met Michael Kor, a Holocaust survivor and American tourist. In 1960, they married in Tel Aviv, and Eva joined him in the United States. In 1965, Eva became a U.S. citizen. They raised two children.

Miriam also married and had children but developed kidney infections that didn’t respond to antibiotics. Her kidneys had never grown larger than a 10-year-old’s. Eva gave Miriam one of her kidneys in 1987, but Miriam died of cancer in 1993.
That same year Eva was invited to lecture in Boston and was asked if she could bring a Nazi doctor with her. She contacted Hans Münch, a physician at Auschwitz who’d known Mengele. She’d seen him in a documentary. He agreed to meet her in Germany. Though he didn’t know anything about the twin experiments, he shared details about the gas chambers. Eva asked him to join her at Auschwitz and sign a document attesting to what he’d seen — the selections and gassing of thousands of people. He agreed.
Eva wanted to find a meaningful thank-you gift for him and settled on the idea of a forgiveness letter. A friend challenged her to forgive Mengele, too. When she and Münch stood at the ruins of the gas chambers on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and read their statements, Eva felt unburdened. Forgiveness wasn’t about the perpetrators. It was about healing herself.
That’s why she assigned little meaning to the moment with Gröning in the courtroom. He had expressed remorse for his actions.
"I have consciously not asked forgiveness for my guilt,” Gröning said in German. “In the face of the crimes committed in Auschwitz and elsewhere, I am not entitled to make such a request. For absolution, I can only turn to God.”
Eva wanted to thank him for accepting responsibility for his part in the Auschwitz killing machine and plead with him to talk to neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers and revisionists because he’d been there.
And then came the embrace.
Now Eva would like to meet Gröning again, this time privately. She has many questions. What was it like to be a Nazi at Auschwitz? How did he cope knowing so many people were being murdered? Did he drink at night? Does he know anything about the experiments? The gas chambers?
At her age, Eva realizes she may go to her grave without all the answers. But she’ll keep looking.
In the meantime, she’ll repeat her story again and again. To a German film crew. To a British documentarian. To the line of visitors waiting at her museum in Terre Haute.
I was born in a very small village in Transylvania, Romania ... I made a silent pledge ...
I survived.
Source: http://www.indystar.com/story/news/2015/08/07/holocaust-survivor-eva-kor-nazis-hug-just-kindness/31294437/

lunes, 3 de agosto de 2015

Auschwitz Survivors Recall Horror Of Nazi Experiments

One witness described how Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele ripped an infant from its mother's womb, then hurled it into an oven because it wasn't a twin as he had hoped. Another told of killing her newborn infant rather than let it starve in a Mengele experiment. A third witness recounted how Mengele kept hundreds of human eyes pinned to his lab wall "like a collection of butterflies."

One by one about 30 survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp related their accounts of Nazi horror to a packed auditorium at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Mengele is accused of sending 400,000 Jews to their death at Auschwitz from 1943 to 1945. But these survivors were kept alive because they were twins, and he wanted them for medical experiments aimed at creation of an Aryan superrace.
Their three days of testimony, which ended Wednesday, climaxed a mock tribunal and symposium on Mengele`s war crimes, the first proceedings to deal specifically with the Nazi experimentation on Holocaust twins since the liberation of Auschwitz 40 years ago.
"The Nazis regarded Auschwitz as the ideal place for experimentation, for the creation of supermen, and Josef Mengele was the symbol of Nazi cruelty and mysticism," said Israeli jurist Gideon Hausner, chief prosecutor at the 1961 Jerusalem trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann and the head of the Mengele tribunal.
The witnesses, who came from as far as Australia and North America, agreed to testify in the hope that the publicity would create international pressure for Mengele`s capture and trial, organizers said. He is wanted in Israel and West Germany for crimes against humanity.
According to Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, who also took part in the tribunal, Mengele lives in a closed military zone in Paraguay along the Brazilian border. Wiesenthal said Mengele, who would be 73, is practicing medicine.
White-haired Ella Lingens, a Christian physician from Vienna who was sent to Auschwitz for helping Jews escape from the Nazis, recounted a conversation she had with Mengele in the spring of 1943:
"He told me there were only two gifted peoples in this world: the Germans and the Jews. Then he said the only question was who would dominate the other. He said he was going to make sure it was the Germans who dominated."
Lingens described how Mengele sent an entire block of 700 inmates to the gas chambers to fight an epidemic of spotted fever. She said he then had the block disinfected and populated by deloused inmates from other barracks. Repeating the process over and over, Mengele eventually brought spotted fever under control, she said.
Vera Alexander, 62, who lives in Israel, described how she worked as a warden in a block housing about 100 Gypsy twins.
She told how Mengele impregnated one girl with the sperm of another twin, pampered her during her pregnancy and attended the birth himself.
"But when he saw that there was only one baby and not twins, he tore the baby right out of the mother's uterus, threw it into an oven and walked away,  she said. We saw this."
Ruth Elias, 60, of Tel Aviv, said that she gave birth to a daughter at Auschwitz and that Mengele "gave the order to bandage my breasts" to prevent nursing.
"He wanted to do research--I don`t know what to call it--on how long a new one can live without food," she said.
Elias said she tried to feed the baby with half-chewed bread wrapped in a piece of linen dipped in coffee, but the baby lost weight and finally  "it couldn't cry, only whimper."
About a week after the birth, Mengele told her to get ready to move from the barracks. She said she assumed she was going to the gas chamber.
A Jewish doctor told her that the child could not live and suggested that Mengele might lose interest in her and not order her killed if the baby was dead.
"She talked to me in an angel's voice," Elias said. She said the doctor told her,  "You are young and can live; your child cannot live."
"She talked and talked and talked until I did it," Elias said.  "I murdered my own child." She said she used an injection of morphine that the Jewish doctor had given her.
Mengele arrived the next morning.  "He didn`t want me," she said.  "He wanted the child. But he couldn't find the corpse among the pile of corpses outside the barracks."
Perhaps the most harrowing testimony came from Vera Kriegel, 60, who recounted how she watched Auschwitz guards crush the skulls of babies with rifle butts. For 10 days, Kriegel said, she was cramped in a small cage with her twin sister. Mengele came every day and injected them with a solution that caused violent nyory for tests, and I saw a collection of hundreds of human eyes pinned to the wall. It was like a collection of butterflies, Kriegel said. Later I told my sister that I had just seen a whole wall of eyes looking at me.
She said the only things that kept her alive in her two years at Auschwitz were her hatred of Mengele and his need of her for his experiments. "I had my own private war with Mengele," Kriegel said.  "I fought him by being unruly. He would say do one thing, and I would do another. Once he became very nervous, but he didn't beat me because he needed me."
"He threw me across the room once, but I didn't cry. I just looked at him with hatred, and he had to look down. Then he looked at me and said, 'We will see who will be the lucky one from all of this,' and I said, 'Yes, Dr. Mengele, we shall see.'" 
Source: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1985-02-07/news/8501080137_1_josef-mengele-israel-and-west-germany-auschwitz

lunes, 13 de julio de 2015

The Bookkeeper of Auschwitz is told 'you were no little poor sergeant as you like to portray yourself' by victims' lawyers as his murder trial comes to an end

  • Prosecutors savaged 94-year-old Oskar Gröning in closing stages of trial
  • Former SS guard has argued he is only morally responsible for his crimes
  • But lawyers said: 'You carry no moral guilt, you were part of mass murder'
  • Also compared Groening to those who funded the 9/11 terror attackers

Lawyers for victims of the Auschwitz death camp delivered a devastating verbal assault on former S.S. guard Oskar Groening at his trial on Wednesday.
Launching her verbal attack, prosecutor Suzan Baymak-Winterseel told Groening: 'You were no poor little sergeant, as you like to portray yourself.
'You carry no moral guilt. You were a part of the mass murder of millions in an inconceivable crime.'

Throughout his trial in Lunenberg, 94-year-old Gröning has admitted feeling moral guilt for his crimes, but has denied criminal responsibility, arguing that he didn't personally kill anyone.

On Tuesday prosecutors called for a sentence of three and-a-half years for his part in the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews shipped to Auschwitz in a 48-day period in 1944 when he was on duty.
On Wednesday Mrs. Baymak-Winterseel, representing some of those who survived the camp where 1.2 million people were put to death, said: 'It is not right that such a sentence is chosen for the crimes of which he stands.'

Her remarks came in the closing stages of Gröning's trial, who was known as the 'Bookkeeper of Auschwitz' for his role in cataloguing the valuables of victims before sending them to the Nazis.
Previously the trial has heard evidence from numerous co-plaintiffs - either people who survived their ordeal in the Third Reich's largest extermination camp, or those who lost loved ones in it.
Dr. Cornelius Nestler, another of the victims' lawyers, said: 'Mr. Gröning took part in events and he will be sentenced for aiding and abetting mass murder. Much too late - but not too late.'
He observed that at previous charges for those who had worked at Auschwitz it was necessary under German law to prove direct involvement in mass murder.
However, that changed three years ago with the trial of former death camp guard John Demjanjuk.
He was found guilty of particpating in the murders of over 28,000 Dutch Jews at the death camp of Sobibor in Nazi occupied Poland because his service records placed him there.
There were no living witnesses as to what he did, no-one to say whether he was a cook or a man who pushed Jews into the gas chambers to die.
However, he was found culpable because it was argued that the camp would have been unable to function without him and others like him, enough to secure a conviction for accessory to murder.  
Dr. Nestler evoked the memory of the 9/11 attacks against America - planned by terrorists in Germany - to elaborate upon the guilt of Gröning.

He detailed how one of the 9/11 supporters was jailed because he transferred money to the account of terror pilot Mohammed Atta.
Dr Nestler then compared that to Gröning's admission that he sometimes worked on 'the ramp' - the platfortm where vitimcs arrived at Auschwitz by train.
It was here that prisoners were divided by guards, either sent to die immediately in the gas chambers, or told to go and work as slave labourers instead.
Turning to the court, he asked: 'If this [transferring money to the 9/11 pilot] was aid, then is not the ramp service of the S.S. in Auschwitz also not aid?'
Dr. Nestler added: 'Mass murder did not only take placed in the gas chambers. It was present in the whole Auschwitz programme.' 


domingo, 28 de junio de 2015

Auschwitz, memory and truth: how trauma passes down the generations

Alison Pick: 'My family had repressed the horror of the gas chambers.
The unfelt grief had been passed from my grandmother
to my father to me, like an heirloom.

I was a Christian child. I went to Sunday school. In the cool church basement, I drew pictures of Jesus and his disciples. Then one day, in the playground, another child approached me. “Your dad is Jewish,” he said. “No he’s not,” I replied instinctively. But deep down, in some profoundly buried part of myself, I knew this was true.

I knew it was true while at the same time not understanding what it meant. Jewish was something that belonged to my friend Jordan – the one who had accused me – but what did it mean to be Jewish? Jordan brought matzah (unleavened bread) to school on Passover, and went to Hebrew school. He was studying for something called a barmitzvah. That was all I knew.
The year passed. Despite the fact I was almost 13, the Easter bunny still came. My younger sister and I hunted for eggs in the rooms of our suburban home.
Easter, I knew, meant rebirth. It meant dying and coming back to life. I felt, deep down, that rebirth could happen to me too.
I came to know the truth about my family’s history slowly. I first learned the facts – my great-grandparents died in Auschwitz; my grandparents came to Canada and hid their true identities. They had been assimilated, non-practising Jews and Canada in the 1940s was hugely antisemitic. They wanted no part of it.
Later, as a teenager, I understood this more profoundly – what it meant to hide who you are. The effort that had gone into their charade, and the sacrifice.
Even later, I came to understand it on a bodily level, deep in my cells below my rational mind. I suffer from depression. My family had repressed the horror of the gas chambers. The unfelt grief had been passed from my grandmother to my father to me, like an heirloom.
Intergenerational trauma can be difficult to make sense of. It is like saying that, 80 years ago, my grandmother tripped on an apple core and now my ankle is sprained as a result. This transmission of trauma has been corroborated with research. The legacy of the Holocaust was influencing – three generations later – my daily experience of being alive.
I set about to reclaim what had been lost. Judaism resonated for me at a profound level, and I studied to convert. As Judaism is matrilineal and my mother isn’t Jewish, I had to take a year-long intensive class and meet monthly with my sponsoring rabbi.
For me, this was frustrating and challenging. My relatives died in Auschwitz. Shouldn’t I already be accepted as Jewish?
But I was pleased to do this. I wanted to belong.
Both were true.
Every family story has a thousand other stories contained within it, like an unending series of nesting dolls. I set about learning more about my ancestors, and who they had been. I have a cousin, a historian, who I respect deeply. She is a decade older than me; 10 years of extra conversations with our grandparents. I told her how drawn I was feeling to our family’s lost Judaism. She empathised, and told me she had gone through something similar. We talked about my grandfather; she remembered, she told me, that he used to hate Christmas. “He looked so sad and despondent among all the presents,” she said.
This made sense to me. Our grandfather was Jewish. There must have been part of him that resented pretending otherwise, even if he believed it was for the safety of his family. Later, though, my cousin changed her mind. She had been thinking and had revised her opinion. “He loved Christmas,” she said. And, when she said it, I realised this was true too. We have pictures of our grandfather not despondent, but laughing beside the Christmas tree. And though I was just a child when he died – not yet batmitzvah age – I remember this too.
I had a deep desire to settle on one version of the story. As a writer, I had a semi-conscious hope that by organising it into a consistent narrative, I could finally heal my pain. But the problem with words is that they are fixed in time, in a way that history and memory are not.
A family story varies wildly between members. I knew this. What it took me time to understand was the multiplicity of stories that existed within me.
The depression I suffer from has always felt pre-formed, ancient, like it was given to me in its entirety at birth. My father experiences something similar. He calls it “the bad blood” as though there is a faucet deep within him; when the faucet is turned on it floods his body with weight. His mother, my granny, was melancholic too. When I was a child we spent our summers with her. I remember her crying at the end of August when we loaded up our family car and said goodbye. She told me she hated being alone.
Later in life, she took Prozac, which helped. But Granny had been exceptionally close to her own mother, Marianne. We have pictures of the two of them skiing in Europe before the war, their arms thrown around each other like sisters. Marianne was murdered in Auschwitz. How could Granny not be depressed? My cousin objected to this depiction of Granny too – and, again, she was right. I went back, remembering again. Granny was the life of any party. Dripping in jewels, she was feminine and strong. A flirt, a worthy opponent on the tennis court, an excellent conversationalist for anyone on any topic.
She loved being alive.
This was true too.
To wrestle with a family story is to be humbled as a writer and as a person. You cannot include everyone’s versions. Sometimes you cannot even nail down the truth as it exists within yourself.
More years have passed. I have converted to the Judaism of my father’s family. I have a five-year-old daughter who I take to synagogue on Saturdays. In the basement of the shul – so much like the basement of the church where I grew up – there is a miniature ark stuffed with toy Torahs. The leader asks, “Who can help me open the ark?”
My daughter rushes forward. She prises the door open and chooses the biggest stuffed Torah she can find. With the other small “Israelites” she parades it around the basement proudly. She has done this for years, and every time I cry. I see myself in her; I see my cousin, who I love dearly, and my granny, who was changeable and full of human contradiction. I see my great-grandmother Marianne, who I never knew, who died in the gas chamber.
A long line of women bent low with history’s weight; a line of joyous women celebrating their stories. Both are true. And nothing can change that.
Source: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jun/27/auschwitz-memory-and-truth-how-trauma-passes-down-the-generations