viernes, 20 de marzo de 2015
Let's talk about the difference between a victim and a survivor. I was victimized. I know about the story of my life. I accept it. I went through the valley of tears, but I never intended to set up camp there.
jueves, 19 de marzo de 2015
When Long Island City resident Alex Rosner, now 79, first crossed paths with wealthy German-Catholic businessman, Oskar Schindler in 1944, it was under horrific circumstances.
The war in Europe was raging and it seemed as if the world was on fire.
Rosner was 9 when he and his father, a renowned violinist, sought refuge at Schindler’s thriving enamelware factory in Krakow, Poland during the Holocaust.
It had become a secret safe haven for Jews who worked there to avoid Nazi death camps.
Back then, the boy had no inkling that just five years later, his family would be reunited – in Queens – with the man who would rescue them from the Nazis.
In a recent telephone interview with Rosner, an established Long Island City business owner of Rosner Custom Sound, he recalled how Schindler had traveled to New York many times in the 1950s, and would always stay with his family at their Middle Village home, where his parents, Henry and Marianne Rosner, would welcome their longtime friend. And, while he was away at college or in the Navy, Rosner said that Schindler would sleep in his bedroom.
Between the ages of 14 and 24, Rosner would see the older gentleman schmoozing with his parents and at times, other survivors would come by to visit and take Schindler shopping for clothes. He pointed out that back then, many grateful families had been providing for their hero financially, until his death in 1974.
During the Holocaust, Schindler had lost his vast fortune bartering with the Nazis for their lives.
While on the phone discussing his connection to Schindler, Rosner talked at length about his beloved accordion. The story behind this special instrument is a fascinating one. The red accordion and Henry’s violin had literally become instruments of survival during the Holocaust, playing a crucial role early on by keeping father and son alive until Schindler could save them.
Last summer, Rosner said he decided to donate the accordion to the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove, L.I., where it’s now on display through April 12 as part of the museum’s “Objects of Witness: Testimony from Holocaust Artifacts” exhibit honoring the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
“HMTC is privileged to act as guardians for the accordion, and all our artifacts. Each one offers a specific view on the Holocaust, and as a collection, they provide a multidimensional, nuanced history from the perspectives of perpetrators to American soldiers to resisters and survivors,” Beth Lilach, senior director of education and community affairs, said. “This exhibit allows both ordinary and extraordinary objects to teach us about human history in an intimate and unique manner.”
The museum’s items span about 100 years and connect to countries across the globe – from China to Greece. Among the artifacts on display is a child’s shoe found at Auschwitz-Birkenau – another iconic image of the Holocaust.
Rosner was just 5 when the war broke out.
“We lived in Krakow, Poland and were rounded up and taken to the ghetto, where everyone lived under difficult circumstances,” Rosner said.
In 1940, he and his parents had been forcibly removed from their home by Nazi soldiers, along with thousands of others, whose only crime was that they happened to be Jewish.
Later on, when the Krakow ghetto was liquidated and 20,000 Jews were sent to death camps, Rosner and his parents ended up in Plaszow Labor Camp. There, Henry was forced to play his violin at the commandant’s wild parties, and it was during one of these functions that he happened to meet Oskar Schindler. These events are portrayed in Stephen Spielberg’s 1993 movie “Schindler’s List.”
Rosner said the movie “had my family all over it.”
According to Rosner, Schindler liked his father, so he put Henry and his son on his list, along with Rosner’s mother, his uncle and his wife, “and a whole bunch of Rosners.”
Then the men were shipped first to Schindler’s factory in Krakow.
“And after my father and I were there a few weeks, some German soldiers came around and said we couldn’t stay there because no children were allowed. So 11 boys and 11 fathers were shipped to Auschwitz. The women and girls, including my mother, hadn’t yet gotten to Schindler’s place,” Rosner said.
But once there, she remained at the factory for the duration of the war, separated from her loved ones.
“We were in Auschwitz for a relatively short time, while my father played for the German soldiers. One day, a female guard asked me if I played any instruments, and I said, ‘Yes, I play the accordion.’ So, she returned in about an hour later with a red accordion and gave it to me,” Rosner said.
Rosner survived because he played his accordion for the camp’s guards.
“When the Germans saw the war was coming to a close, they kind of saw the handwriting on the wall — they tried to get rid of the evidence, so they shipped the remaining Jews who were still alive to other places, and my father and I were shipped to Dachau,” he said. “We had no instruments at that time, so we didn’t play.”
On April 29, 1945, American forces of the Seventh Army liberated 60,000 prisoners from Dachau Concentration Camp, including Rosner and his father.
“After the war ended, my mother was reunited with us in Munich, Germany and she brought with her the accordion and violin, which Oskar Schindler managed to find somehow. How he got them, I don’t know and I never discussed it with my father, so it was a very strange situation,” said Rosner. “My father’s violin was a very important violin because he had it since he was a kid. The accordion wasn’t so important...I was just so happy to see my mother; we had been apart for years.”
The boy took his red accordion with him aboard the ship that brought his family to New York City in May 1946.
And throughout his life, Rosner’s accordion would accompany him wherever he resided, until it ended up in the basement of his Long Island City home decades later.
“It was sitting around in a case and later, when the case disintegrated, in a plastic bag collecting dust,” he said. “I met this man from the museum, Steven Markowitz at a tennis club that we play at. We got to talking and I suggested maybe he wants the accordion, and he seemed enthusiastic about it.”
Although the grandfather of four insists he has left the past behind and moved on with his life, the horror of ghetto life still haunts him at times. When asked about the portrayal of the Krakow Ghetto in “Schindler’s List,” Rosner replied, “If it were made realistic, no one would go see it.”
Schindler stayed in touch with the Rosners throughout his life.
Rosner did not speak about the Holocaust until after the movie came out in 1993. Then he started speaking publicly to students all over the country about the film, the Holocaust and bigotry. And still does.
Rosner and his entire family, together with the actors who played them, appeared in the epilogue scenes at Schindler’s grave.
The survivor described Schindler as “a wonderful man who everybody liked.” He said when he walked into a room, both men and women paid attention to him. “He was gregarious and outgoing; very charismatic. When I asked my father about Schindler, he’d say, ‘He was an angel who came down to save us.’”
Rosner said his children learned of the past mostly from his parents.
“The grandchildren are still getting used to it; once they reached 13 I answered their questions.”
He will be speaking to students at his granddaughter’s Massachusetts high school in April.
“Oskar Schindler gave me a watch as a graduation present (in 1957). It got wet on the beach and ruined many years later, so I threw it away,” Rosner said. “Had I known that he would become so famous, I would have kept it.”
miércoles, 11 de febrero de 2015
|Greta Klingsberg (middle row, second from right in pinafore |
dress) and the cast of Brundibár at Theresienstadt concentration
camp in Czechoslovakia.
The children’s opera Brundibár is a fairytale with a fairly familiar message: good triumphs over evil. But place the work in the context of Theresienstadt, the Nazi concentration camp in Czechoslovakia where it was performed between 1943 and 1944, and that message is thrown into much sharper relief. The resemblance to Hitler of Brundibár, the evil organ-grinder who claims the town square as his own, was obvious to adult audiences. But not, insists its lead singer, to its cast.
When she was 13, concentration camp prisoner Greta Klingsberg was thrilled to be cast as the lead in an opera – even though her audience were SS guards.
“The grownups interpreted it as this bad man who bullies everyone,” says Greta Klingsberg, who played lead character Aninka. “But the children never did. To us, Brundibár was the most popular character. He wore a moustache and, when he sang, it went up and down. We found him very funny.”
The opera, by the Jewish-Czech composer Hans Krása who was an inmate at Theresienstadt, tells the story of a brother and sister who try their hand at busking in the square, only to be chased away by the garishly dressed and talentless musician Brundibár (colloquial Czech for a bumblebee). So the siblings hatch a plot to turn him out. “At the end, when he’s thrown out, we welcomed him back on stage with open arms. He was one of us, our lovable Brundibár. It was not for us to see a political message.”
The opera provided a fantasy world for the children of Theresienstadt, even if the camp’s cultural life – due to the high number of prominent artists from central Europe imprisoned there – was cynically promoted by the Nazis for propaganda purposes.
“As a child, you identify with everything you do,” says Klingsberg, who was 13 at the time, with sole responsibility for her younger sister, her parents having escaped from Czechoslovakia to Palestine. “So when I was on stage, I had a school, a cat, and ice cream. All these things we hadn’t seen for years all of a sudden became quite real. It was wonderful. These were the moments of normal childhood for me, and for all of the children who participated in this opera. That’s why it was so special. In the camp, they stopped calling me Greta and called me Aninka.”
Having been chosen for the part because of her perfect pitch, and having already proved herself in other productions in the camp of Verdi’s Requiem, Smetana’s The Bartered Bride and Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Klingsberg performed it more than 50 times. There was a special show in 1944 for gullible representatives of the Red Cross who came to investigate the camp’s living conditions. Theresienstadt was turned into a “Potemkin village” for the visit, the most ailing prisoners having been deported to Auschwitz beforehand to reduce overcrowding. The Red Cross believed everything they were told and, on the back of their visit, a propaganda film was made called The Führer Gives the Jews a City, in which Klingsberg also featured – a tall pensive girl in a pinafore with a mane of dark hair, singing her heart out.
“I only found out I was in the film about 10 years ago,” says Klingsberg. A friend was visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust centre in Jerusalem, “and spotted the bit in which I appear. ‘How do you know it’s me?’ I asked. ‘Big eyes, big nose, now you just have a few more wrinkles,’ he replied. So I went to see it for myself and was really proud I hadn’t faked the singing for the camera.”
She remembers all the children being told to recite the line: “Uncle Rahm, sardines again?!” Rahm was their SS custodian. “I don’t know why – probably to show that we couldn’t have had it that bad if we were complaining about food.” The relish and speed with which the cast downed the sandwiches they had been given for the filming might have been comical were it not such a poignant reminder of how they were being starved. “We ate them so fast that they had to give us more, because they couldn’t film as fast as we ate. It was luxury – bread and margarine – out of the blue”.
Hope for more of the same kind of treatment was short-lived because, immediately after filming, all the cast and crew were loaded on to cattle trains and deported to Auschwitz. Most of the children, the musicians, the composer Krása and his director Kurt Gerron, were gassed. In the random selection process, Klingsberg was chosen for slave labour; her sister Trude, for death in the gas chambers, though she only discovered this much later. Klingsberg spent months in a series of camps before being returned to Theresienstadt, where she was liberated by the Soviet army in May 1945.
Klingsberg is now 85 and living in Jerusalem, where for years she enjoyed a successful operatic career. But Brundibár, she says, has never left her: she has translated the libretto into Hebrew, and is often called on to advise on productions around the world, most recently in Kosovo and Greece. “Once, years later, a woman came up to me when I was visiting Czechoslovakia and said, ‘I was in Theresienstadt with you. I was so happy once when you were sick and I was asked to sing your role. Thank you for that.’ We had a great laugh about it.”
jueves, 5 de febrero de 2015
martes, 20 de enero de 2015
Eva Mozes Kor and Rainer Höß
Since meeting in 2013, Mengele survivor Eva Mozes Kor and Rainer Höss have formed a close bond. Together they preach understanding and tolerance.
For a Holocaust survivor, meeting the offspring of one’s tormenters would be difficult enough. The prospect of developing a close friendship with them, even familial warmth, would seem utterly impossible.
Yet this is just the sort of unlikely relationship struck between a woman who was subjected to horrific Nazi medical experiments at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, and the very grandson of that camp’s notorious commander, according to the Vice news website.
In 1944, at the age of ten, Romanian-born Eva Mozes Kor was captured by the Nazis and — along with her twin sister — was subjected to savage medical experiments at Auschwitz carried out by Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele. Mengele, who had a particular interest in twins in his work, is believed to have victimized approximately 1,500 pairs throughout the war. Only around 200 of those pairs survived.