lunes, 14 de julio de 2014
‘You put it in a box somewhere, as you wouldn’t be able to carry on’ - Clayhall man talks of escaping the Nazis and returning to Germany to translate Hitler’s will
A 14-year-old boy boards a train, his only possessions the clothes on his back and the items he carries inside a small suitcase.
viernes, 11 de julio de 2014
Q: Where are you originally from?
Q: How did life change for your family when the Nazis came to power?
Q: Was your family split up? Were you able to locate any family members after the war?
Q: What helped you most during the Holocaust?
Q: What did you feel during the Holocaust?
Q: Have you ever returned to your hometown?
Q: Why did you want to join the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s Speakers’ Bureau?
Q: What do you hope people take away from your story?
Q: What is your favorite space in the Museum and why?
Q: Why should people visit the Illinois Holocaust Museum?
“Two young kids, saved by those noble people, left Italy after the war and twenty-four of their descendants are now returning so many years later to honor them… twenty-four people who would never have lived if it was not for their Righteousness.”
martes, 1 de julio de 2014
HE POSED as a frugal leader but history's most hated man was a tax dodger who hid a vast personal fortune.
Their doubts proved well founded when the pads were found to contain top-secret documents drafted in the last days of the Third Reich. The man was actually Heinz Lorenz, Adolf Hitler's deputy chief press secretary, and among the documents he was carrying was the dictator's last will and testament, signed shortly before dawn in his underground bunker in Berlin on the day he and Eva Braun shot themselves.
"At her own desire she goes as my wife with me into death," Hitler wrote in his will. "It will compensate us for what we both lost through my work in the service of my people. What I possess belongs - in so far as it has any value - to the [Nazi] Party. Should this no longer exist, to the State; should the State also be destroyed, no further decision of mine is necessary."
He asked for provision to ensure the maintenance of a "modest, simple life" for his sister and half-siblings, as well as for his new mother-in-law and his "faithful co-workers". Since he also stressed that the pictures he had bought over several years had never been collected for private purposes but were destined for a new gallery in his Austrian home town of Linz, the document gave the impression of a frugal figure who had never operated for personal gain.
Reality could scarcely have been more different. The man who claimed not even to have a bank account actually had an acute business sense, charging money for his fiery performances as a political speaker, copyrighting his own image so that he eventually received a royalty from every postage stamp sold in Germany and showing a contempt for the taxman that was translated into a formal exemption once he got into power.
At today's prices the supposedly frugal tyrant who worked only in the service of his people was actually a billionaire - and the fate of his cash and assets has continued to fascinate historians. In 1948 an Allied court formally issued a death certificate for Hitler and said his entire personal estate was worth just DM200,000, less than £15,000 at the time and no more than £500,000 at today's prices.
But a will written in 1938, drafted with less of an eye on public view than the bunker version, suggests Hitler knew very well his own estate was more substantial. He named specific heirs and stated exactly how much should go to each. For example his sister Paula was to receive 1,000 Reichmarks a month, the equivalent of £150,000 a year today.
Other relatives and staff were also to receive substantial bequests and had Hitler died in 1938, his estate would have had to pay out nearly £200,000 in the first year alone - £1.2million at today's prices. For annual payments like that to be sustainable, Hitler must have been rich.
"Let's try to talk in today's figures. By 1944 he's definitely in the billions of Reichsmarks, which is not far off billions of euros today," says historian Cris Whetton, who argued in his book Hitler's Fortune that the dictator was probably the richest man in Europe.
From his earliest days in the Nazi Party, Hitler realised that people would pay to hear him speak. He used to say he took no fees for speeches - he brushed off the taxman's queries on official forms by saying it was entirely a matter for the party not him personally - and insisted he had no bank account. But Whetton cites Hitler's own headed notepaper which provided bank details on it.
Imprisoned for nine months in 1923, he wrote the unwieldy manifesto Mein Kampf which would contribute hugely to his fortune. It was published in 1925 and he received a royalty of around 10 per cent from every sale. Initially released in an expensive volume that sold only modestly, it was then reissued in a budget edition that transformed Hitler's fortunes.
Once he rose to power in the 1930s, he decreed every newlywed couple in Germany should be given a copy - with the state footing the bill and the author receiving his royalty.
By 1938 his unpaid tax bill was 400,000 Reichsmarks, equivalent to £1.75million at today's prices. Hitler clearly felt paying tax was beneath him and his government in due course gave him a formal exemption as Chancellor, ruling that his tax papers should all be destroyed. In fact they were locked in a safe, providing a rich seam of information for future historians.
The house was damaged by British bombing, set on fire by retreating SS troops and finally levelled by the post-war German government in 1952.
Hitler also intended to be the world's greatest art collector, amassing works that he genuinely did intend to exhibit in Linz. By the end of the war he had gathered some 8,500 pictures for this purpose. Unlike many Nazis he didn't loot the treasures and does appear to have bought them legitimately, albeit sometimes at knockdown prices.
These paintings were among those recovered by the Allies from underground tunnels in Austria after the war, with a total value of almost £1million.
As for cash, in the post-war period the forerunner of the CIA found that Hitler had access to massive amounts. Agents discovered Swiss bank accounts holding 45million Reichsmarks - equivalent to £210million today.
So what happened to it? When Hitler died he left some 20 living relatives. Paula was his next of kin and the only one to pursue any of her brother's funds. After the Allies had officially valued his estate at £15,000 she went to court in Munich to try to get control of his assets and money.
In 1960 the court ruled that she was entitled to two-thirds of her brother's estate, with the remainder going to their half-sister and half-brother. But it put no value on the estate and Paula died four months later. The court ruled that any benefit from the estate should pass to her heirs and relatives but none has made a claim.
A recent ruling in Switzerland stated that after 62 years the funds from dormant bank accounts can pass to government coffers. That may mean the last of Hitler's missing millions have disappeared.
jueves, 26 de junio de 2014
But during World War II, Belzec, a small town in southeastern Poland, was one of the main Nazi death camps in the occupied country, along with Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka.
Miles Lerman was a Polish-born Jew who had fought with the partisans against the Nazis, while losing most of his family at Belzec. After the war, he came to the U.S., but never forgot what happened from 1939 to 1945. That explained his drive to help create the Holocaust Museum in Washington, and then, he hoped, a memorial to the victims of Belzec.
martes, 24 de junio de 2014
WARSAW -- Thanks to American film director Steven Spielberg, many people may think of German businessman Oskar Schindler as the man who did the most to save Polish Jews during World War II.
But in Poland, efforts are under way to bring Schindler-style recognition to a lesser-known figure -- Jan Karski, an eyewitness to the Holocaust whose daring wartime attempts to call attention to the slaughter of Polish Jews were largely ignored by the United States and Britain.
In a year when World War II anniversaries are focused on Normandy in the West and the end of the Leningrad Siege in Russia, Poland is honoring the centenary of the birth of its own wartime hero with commemorative coins, political lectures, and the reissue, in Polish and English, of Karski's 1944 memoir, "Story of a Secret State."
"It's an enormously complex task for Karski to get more recognition, because he remained silent for decades," says Wojciech Bialozyt, a young history buff who directs the Jan Karski Educational Foundation from an elegant office in Warsaw's diplomatic quarter. "He started being recognized in the beginning of the 1980s, and from then it was quite a short period while he was still alive. And in Poland, he was 100 percent unknown."
'This Sin Will Haunt Humanity'
Karski, who died in 2000, spent most of his life in the United States, where he established a distinguished postwar career as a professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. But he is better known for his years as a member of Poland's WWII-era Underground State, the network of secret resistance organizations fighting the dual occupation of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, which individually invaded Poland from west and east within weeks of each other in September 1939.
Karski, who was born Jan Kozielewski in 1914, grew up in a large, working-class Catholic family in the city of Lodz. He went on to join Poland's diplomatic corps and served as a cavalry officer in the early days of the war. Following an escape from a Soviet detention camp, Karski changed his name and joined the underground, where he quickly became a high-value courier, carrying memorized strategic information from Poland to Allied leaders and the Polish government-in-exile in France and London.
|A member of the Nazi SS inspects a group of Jewish workers in the Warsaw ghetto in April 1943.|
In 1942, as hundreds of thousands of Polish Jews were being deported to Nazi extermination camps, Jewish members of the underground asked Karski to carry the news to the West, where the Nazis' anti-Jewish atrocities had received little attention.
To understand the scope of the killings, Karski adopted a disguise and visited the Warsaw Ghetto, where the Germans were holding captive as many as 400,000 Jews, nearly two-thirds of whom would end up in concentration camps. He also traveled to the Izbica transit camp, where he watched in horror as 46 train cars lined with corrosive quicklime were packed with starving, terrified Jews.
He later described the experience, in harrowing detail, in "Story of a Secret State:"
"My informants had minutely described the entire journey. The train would travel about 80 miles and finally come to a halt in an empty barren field. Then nothing at all would happen. The train would stand stock-still, patiently waiting while death penetrated into every corner of its interior. This would take from two to four days."
Karski traveled west with a plea to make the prevention of the Jewish slaughter an explicit goal of the Allied Powers. He urged both British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to consider military strikes against rail lines used for the Nazi deportations and even, at the worst, against Germany's own cultural institutions.
It was a strategy the Allies would ultimately adopt later in the war. But neither official was prepared to take such measures in time to prevent the deaths of 3 million Polish Jews. Karski, one of a handful of people to warn Western leaders of the Holocaust, and its earliest eyewitness, was largely ignored.
Thirty-five years later, the memory still sparked passionate anger in Karski, who used his speech at a 1980 conference of concentration camp liberators to begin a self-described second mission to remind the world of its deadly indifference to the Holocaust.
"The second original sin had been committed by humanity," Karski said, nearly shouting. "Through commission, or omission, or self-imposed ignorance, or insensitivity, or self-interest, or hypocrisy, or heartless rationalization. This sin will haunt humanity till the end of time. It does haunt me. And I want it to be so."
Karski went on to be awarded honorary Israeli citizenship and Poland's highest civilian honor, the Order of the White Eagle, which was presented to him personally 1995 by then-President Lech Walesa.
In 2012, he was posthumously awarded the U.S. Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama, who said of the Holocaust, "We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen -- because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts; because so many others stood silent."
Karski's supporters are now working to promote his principles of compassionate engagement as a model for foreign policy worldwide.
Poland, which has led efforts to defend neighboring Ukraine throughout its crisis with Russia, has emerged from its World War II occupation and forced transition to communism to become one of the European Union's most vocal advocates of its post-Soviet neighbors and a stubborn counterbalance to rising Russian influence.
Bialozyt says Karski's legacy serves to remind the international community of the responsibility to protect its most vulnerable members.
"His message was neglected. So this is about indifference," he says. "The world was simply indifferent. You can recall a number of examples after the Second World War when the world remained indifferent -- Bosnia, Rwanda, Syria. So this is the great lesson of the Karski mission for the world of today."