viernes, 28 de marzo de 2014

Raymond "Jerry" Roberts on cracking the Tunny code

Raymond "Jerry" Roberts - one of the last of a top World War Two codebreaking team at Bletchley Park - has died, aged 93, following a short illness.

Capt Roberts, from Liphook, Hampshire, was part of a group that cracked the German High Command's Tunny code at the British codebreaking centre.
Their decrypts made it possible to read Hitler's own messages during the war.
The team is credited with helping to shorten the war by at least two years.
Hitler's top generals
Capt Roberts joined Bletchley Park, in Buckinghamshire, as a German linguist and was among four founder members of the Testery section - named after its head Ralph Tester.
Their target was to crack a system known as Tunny, which carried the messages of Hitler's top generals and even the Fuhrer himself.
The system used four times as many encryption wheels as the famous Enigma machine - which carried military communications.
Reminiscing years after WW2 - when he could finally talk about his work - Capt Roberts said he had taken delight in reading Hitler's messages, sometimes even before the intended recipient.
He described the intelligence the team had gathered as "gold dust" in a 2013 BBC interview.
It was "top-level stuff" referring to the movement of entire armies, he said.
This stream of intelligence proved vital in the Allied D-Day invasion and helped save many lives.
'Exciting time'
"We were breaking 90% of the German traffic through '41 to '45", Capt Roberts recalled in one interview.
"We worked for three years on Tunny material and were breaking - at a conservative estimate - just under 64,000 top-line messages."
He added it had been "an exciting time" whenever the team "started getting a break on a message and seeing it through".
Capt Roberts later received an MBE and became a tireless ambassador for the memory of those who had served in secret.
He spent years campaigning for greater acknowledgement of his colleagues, including Alan Turing, who broke the naval Enigma code.
'Unique time'
And he argued the Testery group as a whole should he honoured for its work - including Bill Tutte, who broke the Tunny system, and Tommy Flowers, who designed and built the Colossus - which sped up some stages of the breaking of Tunny traffic.
Capt Roberts said the work done at Bletchley Park had been "unique" and was unlikely to happen again.
He said: "It was a war where we knew comprehensively what the other side were doing, and that was thanks to Alan Turing, who basically saved the country by breaking Enigma in 1941."
Capt Roberts worked at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, until the end of the war before spending two years at the War Crimes Investigation Unit, and then moving on to a 50-year career in marketing and research.

miércoles, 26 de marzo de 2014

John Demjanjuk, 91, Dogged by Charges of Atrocities as Nazi Camp Guard, Dies

The stranger settled in Cleveland after World War II with his wife and little girl. He became an autoworker and changed his first name from Ivan to John. He had two more children, became a naturalized American, lived quietly and retired. His war and the terrors of concentration camps were all but forgotten.

Decades later, the past came back to haunt John Demjanjuk. And for the rest of his life it hovered over a tortuous odyssey of denunciations by Nazi hunters and Holocaust survivors, of questions over his identity, citizenship revocations, deportation orders and eventually trials in Israel and Germany for war crimes.
He was convicted and reprieved in Israel and, steadfastly denying the accusations, was appealing a guilty verdict in Germany when he died on Saturday at a nursing home in southern Germany, his son, John Demjanjuk Jr., said. He was 91.
Even at the end of his life questions remained in a case that had always been riddled with mysteries.
Had he been, as he and his family claimed, a Ukrainian prisoner of war in Germany and Poland who made his way to America and became a victim of mistaken identity? Or had he been, as prosecutors charged, a collaborating guard who willingly participated in the killing of Jews at the Treblinka, Majdanek and Sobibor death camps?
Nazi hunters and protesters who had demonstrated outside his home for years had no doubts. Nor did the Justice Department. Mr. Demjanjuk, stripped of his citizenship in 1981, was deported to Israel, where witnesses and an identity card of “Ivan the Terrible,” a sadist who had murdered thousands of Jews at Treblinka, had turned up. The photograph on the card bore a striking resemblance to Mr. Demjanjuk.
He was placed on trial, convicted in 1988 of crimes against humanity and sentenced to be hanged. But five years later, the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the conviction when new evidence showed that another Ukrainian was probably the notorious Ivan. Back in America, Mr. Demjanjuk regained his citizenship, only to have it revoked again as new allegations arose.
Deported to Germany in 2009, Mr. Demjanjuk, suffering from bone-marrow and kidney diseases, was tried in a Munich court on charges in the killing of 27,900 Jews at the Sobibor camp in German-occupied Poland in 1943. In the nearly seven decades since 250,000 people were put to death at Sobibor, no surviving witnesses, even those who had been shown photographs, could place him at the scene.
The case was largely based on documentary evidence — an S.S. identity card purporting to be Mr. Demjanjuk’s, Nazi orders sending the man identified as Mr. Demjanjuk to work as a guard at Sobibor and other records of the era — and testimony by relatives of victims killed in the camp.
In May 2011, the Munich court found Mr. Demjanjuk guilty and sentenced him to five years in prison. He was credited with two years of pretrial detention, leaving three left to serve if an appeal failed. Pending the appeal, he was released from prison and transferred to a nursing home. The court said his age, infirmity and statelessness made it unlikely he would flee.
Even some relatives of the victims, who were recognized as co-complainants at the trial, said it was the proof of guilt, finally, that counted. “Whether it’s three, four or five years doesn’t really matter,” said David van Huiden, who lost his mother, father and sister at Sobibor. “He took part. He volunteered.”
Mr. Demjanjuk’s son, however, said that under German law, a conviction is not official until appeals are completed, and that his father’s death had the effect of “voiding” the Munich verdict.
Mr. Demjanjuk died a “a victim and a survivor of Soviet and German brutality,” his son said, adding, “History will show Germany used him as a scapegoat to blame helpless Ukrainian P.O.W.’s for the deeds of Nazi Germans.”
Ivan Demjanjuk (pronounced (dem-YAHN-yook) was born on April 3, 1920, in Dubovye Makharintsy, a village in Ukraine, to impoverished, disabled parents. The family nearly starved in a forced famine in the early 1930s that left millions dead in Ukraine. He had only four years of schooling, and was drafted into the Soviet Army in 1941. In 1942, the Germans wounded and captured him in the Crimea. What he did for the rest of the war was the crux of the issues surrounding his later life.
After the war, Mr. Demjanjuk met Vera Bulochnik in a German camp for displaced persons. They married and in 1950, still living in camps, had a daughter, Lydia. In 1952, they emigrated to the United States and settled in Cleveland. Mr. Demjanjuk became a mechanic at a Ford plant and she worked in a factory. The couple had two more children, John Jr. and Irene. In 1958, Mr. Demjanjuk was naturalized. In 1973, the family moved to the Cleveland suburb of Seven Hills.
Besides his son, Mr. Demjanjuk is survived by his wife; his two daughters, Lydia Maday and Irene Nishnic; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
In 1977, the Justice Department sued to revoke Mr. Demjanjuk’s citizenship, saying he had lied on his immigration application to hide mass murders and other war crimes at Treblinka, the camp in Poland where 870,000 died. The accusations arose from Holocaust survivors who had identified Mr. Demjanjuk as Ivan the Terrible, a Ukrainian captured and trained by the Germans to operate gas chambers.
In 1981, after years of delays, a federal judge ruled that Mr. Demjanjuk had lied on his immigration papers and revoked his citizenship. He appealed, and the case was pending when Israel extradited him to stand trial as Ivan the Terrible. He was deported to Israel in 1986, and the trial began in 1987.
Prosecutors produced a Nazi identity card, said to be from the S.S. training camp at Trawniki, Poland, that bore what looked like Mr. Demjanjuk’s photograph. It cited his name and date of birth, his father’s name, and a scar like one Mr. Demjanjuk had.
Prosecutors said he had volunteered to collaborate and had been trained at Trawniki to run diesel engines that supplied carbon monoxide for gas chambers. They said he had killed thousands at Treblinka in 1942 and 1943. Treblinka survivors testified that Ivan the Terrible had also savaged Jews, breaking arms and legs with a steel pipe, cutting off ears and noses with a sword, and flogging women and children with sadistic glee.
But the defense noted that the survivors were relying on memories four decades old. It also challenged the identity card, saying the photo showed signs of having been lifted from another document, cited an incorrect height for Mr. Demjanjuk, and said its bearer had been at camps in Poland at Chelmno in 1942 and Sobibor in 1943 but did not mention Treblinka. Mr. Demjanjuk testified that he had been held as a prisoner at Chelmno for 18 months until 1944, and then in Austria until the war’s end.
Found guilty and sentenced to death in 1988, he was held until 1993, when the Israeli Supreme Court struck down his conviction, citing new evidence from former guards at Treblinka that Ivan the Terrible was another Ukrainian, Ivan Marchenko. On his citizenship application, Mr. Demjanjuk had listed his mother’s maiden name as Marchenko, but contended later that he had forgotten her real maiden name and used Marchenko only because it was common in Ukraine.
Released by Israel, Mr. Demjanjuk returned to Cleveland, where a federal appeals court overturned his 1981 conviction for lying on his immigration papers, saying prosecutors had deliberately withheld evidence and committed fraud. His citizenship was restored in 1998.
But in 1999, the government again sued to strip him of citizenship, charging that he had been a Nazi guard at Majdanek and Sobibor in Poland and at Flossenbürg in Bavaria. After a trial, a court in 2002 upheld the government. An appeal confirmed the decision in 2004. In 2005, he was ordered deported to Germany, Poland or Ukraine, and the United States Supreme Court denied him a hearing in 2008.
In 2009, Germany agreed to accept Mr. Demjanjuk as a deportee to stand trial on charges that he helped kill Jews at Sobibor. His lawyers and family argued that he was too sick, but doctors concluded that he was fit enough.
The case involved 15 transport trains known to have arrived at Sobibor in 1943 from the Westerbork camp in the Netherlands, carrying 29,579 people. Mr. Demjanjuk was charged with 27,900 counts based on a theory that some must have died in transit.
“When a transport of Jews arrived, routine work was suspended and all camp personnel took part in the routine process of extermination,” the indictment said. The unloading of the trains proceeded “with loud cries, blows and also shots. If people refused to come out, the Trawnikis entered the cars and forced those who hesitated, with violence, out of the train and onto the ramp.”
In painful detail, witnesses like Rudie S. Cortissos recited dates when the trains arrived, the number of people aboard and the names of prisoners. Mr. Cortissos said his mother arrived on May 21, 1943, with 2,300 others, mostly Dutch Jews who were immediately sent to the gas chambers.
Defense lawyers argued that the Soviets had falsified Mr. Demjanjuk’s identity card and other documents, but a judge found a clear trail of evidence showing his path from Soviet prisoner to Sobibor guard. The court rejected arguments that he had no choice but to work in the camp, and concluded that it would have been impossible for a guard there not to have been part of the Nazi death machinery.
Evidence at the trial also filled in previously unknown details of Mr. Demjanjuk’s life between Sobibor and the end of the war. It showed that after Sobibor was shut down in 1943, Mr. Demjanjuk served in a Ukrainian unit that fought alongside the Germans, was captured by American forces in 1945 and was sent to the displaced persons camp where he met and married the woman who was to share his odyssey.
The Munich case might well have been the last major war crimes trial in Germany, ending an era that began in Nuremberg in 1945. As survivors and defendants have aged and died, the prosecution of Nazi-era war criminals has become increasingly rare and difficult.
And the elusiveness lies not only in the distance of the past, as Justice Meir Shamgar of the Israeli Supreme Court said in striking down Mr. Demjanjuk’s conviction. “This was the proper course for judges who cannot examine the heart and the mind, but have only what their eyes see and read,” he wrote. “The matter is closed — but not complete. The complete truth is not the prerogative of the human judge.”


‘Never give up’: Auschwitz survivor was a wonder of positivity who put horrors aside to raise a family

Chana Wallace embraces grandson Brian Shifman at her 100th birthday party on June 17, 2007. Chana Wallace died on Feb. 16, 2014. She was a hero to her family, a marvel to behold, a walking, talking wonder of positivity, a Holocaust survivor who suffered from terrible nightmares but put her horrors aside each morning since, as she once said, “I have a family and I have to live for them.”

Chana Wallace was 106 and it was the end, or near enough to it. Her heart was failing. Her family was gathered around. She was in the hospital and wouldn’t be going home again. But that didn’t mean she was going to stop trying. She joked with her great nephew, who was really more like a grandson to her — and engaged to be married — that she would be attending the wedding and, yes, indeed, would be moving into his new house with his new bride once the marital knot was officially tied.

“My Bubbie was 106,” says Brian Shifman, the grandson/great nephew. “When someone lives to be 106 it is hard to complain that they should have lived for even longer but, from a selfish perspective, my grandmother should have.
“My mother liked to say that if there is anybody that should live forever it was her — because she was unbelievable — with what she went through in her life.”
Chana Wallace died on Feb. 16, 2014. She was a hero to her family, a marvel to behold, a walking, talking wonder of positivity, a Holocaust survivor who suffered from terrible nightmares but put her horrors aside each morning since, as she once said, “I have a family and I have to live for them.”
And so she did, despite losing almost everything in Auschwitz; despite emerging from the camps to find that her son had also survived — only to be murdered by thugs soon after. Ms. Wallace came to Canada with little more than a suitcase and a life philosophy she shared decades later with 150 guests at her 100th birthday party.
“From childhood, I always said that you should never give up in your life,” she said, speaking — for 20 minutes — without notes. “Have faith in God and don’t give in. Never say ‘I can’t’. Don’t look for trouble. Most importantly don’t say, ‘I had a bad day yesterday.’

miércoles, 19 de marzo de 2014

Auschwitz is where ‘the devil went to take lessons’

It may be 70 years since the horrors of the Holocaust took place but the gravity of its evil is still just as shocking today — as was heard when survivor David Ehrlich spoke in Langley.
Ehrlich is 88-years-old and one of the remaining few who can still tell of life at Auschwitz in a way that will make no one forget.
Ehrlich came to Langley last Thursday (March 6) and spoke to a standing room only crowd of more than 200 high school students and general public who held their collective breath listening to Ehrlich recount his life in the worst concentration camp during the Second World War. The Richmond resident was speaking at a Holocaust symposium put on by the Langley Centennial Museum in conjunction with the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.

“Auschwitz is where the devil went to take lessons,” said Ehrlich to the crowd. Coming from a household of nine, including five siblings, parents, a grandparent and aunt — only he and one sister survived.
Ehrlich said in the last few years he has decided to tell his story and has done so in front of thousands of students and groups all over B.C. to make sure the record is “set straight that the Holocaust happened.”
“We want to tell our citizens who come from so many different lands of different religions, that discrimination sucks,” he told the crowd. “It’s wrong to belittle someone because they don’t have your colour or religion.”
Living in a Jewish district of Transylvania, Romania, (then Hungary), Ehrlich lived in a middle class family in a nice house. He was 17 at the time the German soldiers rounded up his family.
“One morning at 6 a.m. there was a knock on the door and all I could see through the window of the door was three rifles. I opened the door and three officers asked me to bring everyone into the kitchen. We were told to pack up and they said ‘we want all your liquid assets.’”
His mother asked to be excused to use the outdoor bathroom.
“She flushed her wedding ring down the toilet as her way of protest,” he recalls.
Soon his family was being walked to their doom.
“There were hundreds just like us walking down the street with SS soldiers on either side,” he said.
So many of them didn’t realize the severity of the situation, including Erllich, as he recalls many women making sure they looked good.
The Germans had put walls and watch towers around an apple farm and shuttled 7,000 Jews in this holding camp with no sanitation, food or shelter from the relentless rain.
After five weeks of “hell” the train came to get them. They were put 70 to a car with no ventilation. Getting off the train and on the platform is where Ehrlich’s memories are most vivid and most difficult to tell.
It was there, where “selection” took place. Children were separated from parents and older people were taken, all to be put in the gas chambers.
“There was a man there who played God. He decided whether you live or die,” he said.
Ehrlich was disinfected and given a blue and white pajama-like uniform.
A soldier came to to him and asked if he had said goodbye to his parents.
“He told me ‘while you took a shower, they were gassed. Look there at the smokestack, your parents are going up in smoke as we speak,’ he told me. I didn’t believe him. It didn’t seem possible.” But it was true. His parents had been gassed. After four months of living the atrocities inside Auschwitz, he knew what that soldier said was true.
Ehrlich said he watched many parents throw themselves on the electrified bobwire, unable to live knowing what had happened to their children. He was put to work six days a week and only given 600 calories of food a day.
“They were starving us to death,” he said. The only reason he didn’t starve is because he volunteered to wash the dishes of a soldier who left food on his plate.
He remembers also a warehouse called Canada. It was perceived as the “land of milk and honey.”
It housed jewels, mounds of toys, some food, clothing all taken from the murdered Jews.
In January 1945, Auschwitz was evacuated and prisoners were sent on a three-day death march.
“It was called the March of Death” because soldiers shot anyone who fell.”
He was told two of his brothers were shot in that march.
Shortly after getting to the new camp, they were liberated by Americans and the war was over.
Elrlich weighed 87 pounds. He tried to go to his home in Romania.He opened the door and a blonde women stood at the sink, doing dishes. She turned around and asked him “What do you want?”
He ran out crying, never to look back. He made his way to Canada, as a war orphan, fudging his age to get here.
Ehrlich said he has had a good life, obtained a good profession, married, had three successful sons and grandchildren.
But for 20 years after the war, no one spoke of the Holocaust, even the survivors. There are still some out there denying the Holocaust happened, or trying to alter the history.
He decided to start telling his story, as a living witness to the atrocities of the Holocaust.
But many survivors are no longer alive to tell their stories, to bring home the truths so horrific that they need to be told, so we never forget and never, ever repeat.


Bella Herling Abramovitz, 88

Wife, mother, nurse, Holocaust survivor. Born on Sept. 25, 1925, in Suchedniow, Poland; died on Jan. 12, 2014, in Montreal, of age-related causes, aged 88.
Bella Herling grew up in a small town in Poland, the youngest member of a boisterous Orthodox Jewish family of seven headstrong daughters and three sons. In September, 1939, their lives changed forever when German troops invaded their homeland. Bella was just about to turn 14; less than two years later, she was making bullets for the German army.
Before massive deportations, Jews in her shtetl and surrounding region were selected to work at an ammunition factory in nearby Skarzysko-Kamienna. Bella's father encouraged her to go – it would not be back-breaking work, he said.
At first she was taken by truck to the factory and walked home after work. Then one day, she and three sisters who had joined her were told they could not go home any more. They were all transferred to surrounding barracks built for the workers.
“You can imagine our despair,” Bella later recalled. “Our cries must have reached the heavens.”
They would never see their parents or five of their siblings again. After the war they learned that most of their family, including two of their siblings’ spouses and three small children, were murdered in the Treblinka gas chambers. Two of their siblings, a brother and a sister, were shot by the Nazis.
The best years of Bella’s youth were squandered in the slave labour camp. But that work also turned out to be her and her three sisters’ salvation, keeping them from being deported to a death camp. Amazingly, Bella did not emerge from the Holocaust full of anger and hatred. She had a passion for living and a sense of humour and humanity that were nothing short of miraculous.
Soon after her liberation by Russian troops, on Jan. 16, 1945, Bella and her sisters travelled to Germany to reunite with a brother who had survived Auschwitz, where his wife and three children perished. Friends reported that he was in a displaced persons camp near Munich, in American-occupied Germany. There, 19-year-old Bella volunteered for nurse’s training offered by a Jewish refugee agency. She wanted to help alleviate suffering, she said, and worked as a nurse in the DP camp from 1946 to 1948.
One of her sisters, Paula, got into Canada as a domestic worker and by the fall of 1948 she arranged for Bella to immigrate to Toronto. There, she quickly found work as a nurse’s aide at Mount Sinai Hospital. Paula also helped sway Bella to marry Mayer Abramovitz, another Holocaust survivor whom the two sisters had met in the DP camp.
Bella had been impressed by Mayer’s generosity, humour and flair as an actor in the camp’s Yiddish theatre. He looked up the two sisters in the spring of 1949, soon after he arrived in Montreal; Bella moved there with him after their December wedding. Their marriage was the start of a loving partnership that lasted nearly 52 years, until Mayer passed away in 2001.
Bella was devoted to nurturing her husband and two children, daughter Toby and son Mark. She encouraged Mayer to start his own business and worked part-time in his fabric store, charming the customers. Otherwise, he joked, he might have driven them away with his impatience.
By contrast, Bella had endless patience – not only to chat with customers, but also to listen to everyone's little problems, to make her garden bloom, and to ensure her home was polished to perfection. After Mayer retired, they spent 20 winters in various rented condos on the beach in North Miami, Fla. Bella loved walking along the shore collecting seashells, which Mayer turned into creative crafts at home. She also had a phenomenal memory, and in the months before her death she could still recite by heart the poems in Polish, Russian and Yiddish that she learned as a child.
Bella saw wonder in every child, every bird, every flower. To her children and six grandchildren, she passed on a sense of justice, compassion for others, and the full understanding that life is a precious gift.