lunes, 24 de febrero de 2014

My interview

Author Allison Cosgrove interviewed me. 

Don't miss it. You can find it on


http://stanbrookshire.com/2014/02/24/q-a-ana-rubio/

Please, feel free to leave your comments.


Alice Herz-Sommer: pianist and oldest known Holocaust survivor dies aged 110

Tributes have been paid to Alice Herz-Sommer, a renowned concert pianist who was believed to have been the world's oldest Holocaust survivor, after she died in London at the age of 110.
She was born into a German-speaking Jewish family in Prague at a time when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and endured the city's ghetto following the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia. She then spent two years in Theresienstadt (Terezín) concentration camp, where nearly 35,000 prisoners perished.
In an extraordinary life, which was the subject of film nominated for the best short documentary at next Sunday night's Academy Awards, she counted Franz Kafka as a family friend when she was young and carried a devotion to music that sustained her in the camp.
Alice Herz-SommerImages from the book The Garden of Eden in Hell. Photograph: Droemer
She died in a hospital on Sunday morning after being admitted on Friday, according to her family. Her grandson, Ariel Sommer, said: "Alice Sommer passed away peacefully this morning with her family by her bedside.
"Much has been written about her, but to those of us who knew her best, she was our dear 'Gigi'. She loved us, laughed with us, and cherished music with us.
"She was an inspiration and our world will be significantly poorer without her by our side. We mourn her loss and ask for privacy in this very difficult moment."
Alice Herz-Sommer
Alice with her son Raphael at the piano. Images from the book The Garden of Eden in Hell (Ein Garten Eden inmitten der Holle). Photograph: Droemer
Herz-Sommer came from a musical Moravian family. Her formal musical education began at five and she was soon taking piano lessons with Conrad Ansorge, a pupil of Franz Liszt.
She met her husband to be, Leopold Sommer, was also a musician, in 1931 and married him two weeks later. The couple and their son, Raphael, were sent from Prague in 1943 to a camp in the Czech city of Terezín (Theresienstadt in German) where inmates were allowed to stage concerts in which she frequently starred. She never saw her husband again after he was moved to Auschwitz in 1944 and many in her extended family and most of the friends she had grown up with were also lost in the Holocaust.
Following the war, she went to Israel in 1949 with her sisters and taught music in Tel Aviv before moving to London at the prompting of her son, who had grown up to become a concert cellist but who died suddenly in 2001 while on tour.
In a 2006 interview with the Guardian – when she was living alone, continuing to practice the piano for three hours a day and had also only recently given up a daily swimming routine – she spoke of her love of life and her passion for music.
Of her concentration camp ordeal, she said: " 'People ask, 'How could you make music?' We were so weak. But music was special, like a spell, I would say. I gave more than 150 concerts there. There were excellent musicians there, really excellent. Violinists, cellists, singers, conductors and composers."
Alice Herz-SommerAlice and her son, Raphael. Photograph: Droemer
Asked if she ever thought about why she survived, she replied: "My temperament. This optimism and this discipline. Punctually, at 10am, I am sitting there at the piano, with everything in order around me. For 30 years I have eaten the same, fish or chicken. Good soup, and this is all. I don't drink, not tea, not coffee, not alcohol. Hot water. I walk a lot with terrible pains, but after 20 minutes it is much better. Sitting or lying is not good."
She added: "I am looking for the nice things in life. I know about the bad things, but I look only for the good things.
"The world is wonderful, it's full of beauty and full of miracles. Our brain, the memory, how does it work? Not to speak of art and music … It is a miracle."
Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/23/alice-herz-sommer-holocaust-survivor-dies

martes, 11 de febrero de 2014

Otto Weidt saved Jews from Nazi death camps

In the summer of 1944 a postcard fluttered on to the railway lines somewhere between Theresienstadt concentration camp and Auschwitz. It had been pushed through the floorboards of one the airless and filthy cattle wagons used to transport their terrified human cargos from Nazi-occupied Europe to the gas chambers of the Holocaust.
The card was a last hope of survival. It had been written by a desperate 23-year-old Jewish woman called Alice Licht. She was aboard the death train with her entire family. Yet miraculously somebody found her card on the tracks and posted it to the address of a Berlin brush factory owner called Otto Weidt. 
Weidt had been Alice’s German, non-Jewish employer. On receiving her card several days later, he set off almost immediately for Auschwitz in an attempt to persuade the authorities to free her and her family. But by then Alice had been moved to another camp and the rest of her family had been murdered in the gas chambers.
Yet Otto Weidt did not give up his quest to save his former employee. He managed to contact her while she was still being held by the Nazis. He arranged a safe house near the camp and planned her escape. Her chance came months after she was first dispatched to Auschwitz. In January 1945 as the Soviet Red Army advanced towards Berlin, the Nazi authorities started evacuating their concentration camps in Eastern Europe.
Alice managed to escape to the safe house arranged by Weidt while on what came to be known in retrospect as the “Nazi death marches” from the camps. Hundreds died on these forced marches. But with Weidt’s help Alice fled her captors, found her way back to Berlin and to her saviour. He kept his former employee hidden until Nazis were finally defeated in May 1945.
Alice Licht was just one of dozens of Jews whom Otto Weidt managed to save from the Nazi Holocaust. In Germany, he is currently being compared to his far more famous contemporary, Oskar Schindler, the Cracow factory owner lionised in Steven Spielberg’s film, Schindler’s List, who also saved many Jews from the Holocaust. But what makes Otto Weidt’s largely unknown tale so special and so outstanding is the fact that  he was blind.
Inge Deutschkron, the celebrated 92-year-old German-Jewish writer whom Weidt also saved from the Nazis is a witness of this story. First he employed her. Then he hid her and her mother at secret Berlin addresses until the war was over. Her acclaimed work  I Wore The Yellow Star is an account of  her survival in Nazi Berlin.
Otto Weidt was in his late fifties when he set up his Berlin brush factory ostensibly to help the Nazi war effort. Mrs Deutschkron remarked in an interview: “The most important thing was that he was taught how to move like a blind person as preparation for the part.”
While Oskar Schindler seems to have started the business of saving Jews from the Nazis almost as a sideline to running his factory, Weidt  was an anarchist and  a fervent anti-Nazi who loathed Hitler from the word go.  He set out to save those persecuted by the regime and employed Jews, many of whom were also blind, in his factory.
Inge Deutschkron recalls how Weidt used his talents as a brilliant liar and ingenious conman to outwit the Nazis. She was one of the few fully sighted people in Weidt’s factory and worked as a telephone receptionist from 1941 onwards after she was taken on at the age of 19.
Weidt was supposed to deliver all his produce to the Nazi’s Wehrmacht war machine. But as Mrs Deutschkron explains: “In those days a horsehair brush rated as a first-class wedding present.”  Weidt chose to market his goods off elsewhere. Most of his precious products were sold on the black market to the German department store chain Karstadt.
The cash gained from the illicit brush sales was used to buy luxury goods which Weidt used to bribe the Gestapo into staying away from his Jewish employees thereby sparing them deportation to the death camps. He bought crates of champagne, boxes of expensive cigars and scent “for the dear lady” and dutifully supplied it to Hitler’s henchmen. They gratefully received the unaccustomed and largely unavailable treats. The promise of more ensured that Weidt was left largely unmolested.
In 1943, the Nazis declared that the time had come for Berlin to become totally Judenrein (Jew-free) and Weidt was forced to find places for his employees to go underground for the rest of the war. Not all of them escaped the death camps. Inge Deutschkron and her mother were moved from one hiding place to the next.
The following year Alice Licht’s postcard dropped into Weidt’s letter box. She was a former employee who had not managed to escape. But as the film reveals, despite their age difference, Otto Weidt was by this time desperately in love with her. His feelings explain why, posing as a travelling brush salesman, Weidt takes a madcap gamble and travels to Auschwitz in an attempt to rescue her.
In the end he did. Back in Berlin after her escape from the death march, Alice was hidden by Weidt until the end of the war some three months later. But Alice Licht didn’t stay with him for long after May 1945. She emigrated to America. Otto Weidt never saw her again. He died two years later in 1947. 
Inge Deutschkron says his efforts to save people like her placed a great strain on him. In 1993 she arranged for a memorial plaque recalling his feats to be installed on the site of his former Berlin factory. Years after his death Otto Weidt was honoured with the title of “Righteous among the World’s Nations” at Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial.

Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-blind-hero-new-film-tells-of-unsung-schindler-otto-weidt-who-saved-jews-from-nazi-death-camps-9042395.html?origin=internalSearch