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."
lunes, 23 de junio de 2014
miércoles, 18 de junio de 2014
In what could prove to be the last Nazi case on American soil, federal officials on Tuesday arrested an 89-year-old immigrant in Philadelphia who is accused of having been a Nazi SS guard at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II.
Johann Breyer, a retired tool maker born in Czechoslovakia, is the oldest person ever accused of ties to the Third Reich by United States authorities who for decades have hunted for Nazis who escaped to America after the war. Mr. Breyer is accused of joining the Waffen SS at age 17 and working as a guard at the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
Mr. Breyer is accused of working as an armed guard at Auschwitz and taking part in the murders of “hundreds of thousands” of Jews from Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Germany in 1944. Officials said he had worked at the part of the camp known as “Auschwitz 2,” or Birkenau, a section that was particularly notorious. While the Nazis used other parts of Auschwitz for slave labor, the Birkenau section was used exclusively to kill victims in gas chambers.
Mr. Breyer, who immigrated to the United States in 1952, was arrested at his home in Philadelphia, and on Wednesday he was in Federal District Court there to face charges. Germany is seeking to have him extradited to stand trial under a sealed German indictment made public on Wednesday. Germany is charging him with 158 counts of aiding and abetting Nazi atrocities.
Mr. Breyer was held in detention Tuesday night, and was led into the courtroom late Wednesday morning wearing a purple jail uniform with his hands shackled. Appearing pale and thin, he was stooped over and walked with difficulty with a cane. He looked around frequently and waved to his wife, Shirley, who was also in the courtroom.
He seemed puzzled at times, and his lawyer told Magistrate Judge Timothy R. Rice that he suffered from a number of health issues, including mild dementia.
When the judge asked him if he understood that Germany was seeking to extradite him, Mr. Breyer answered: “Yes.” He also said, responding to another question from the judge, that he understood that the man with him at the defense table was his lawyer.
As the case moves forward, there will no doubt be further legal debate over Mr. Breyer’s mental and physical condition, but Judge Rice said that for now he was satisfied. “It seems that Mr. Breyer does have the ability to understand the nature of the proceedings against him,” the judge said.
Because of what he called “the serious nature of the crime,” the judge refused to free Mr. Breyer on bail.
His arrest revives a case that has been dormant for years. The Justice Department first accused Mr. Breyer of Nazi ties and tried to deport him in 1992, but he was ultimately allowed to stay in the country after a legal fight that hinged on his claims that he was born a United States citizen. (His mother was born in the United States.)
While he acknowledged being at Auschwitz for a time, he insisted his service there was “involuntary.”
In the current case, the authorities are using a different legal route against Mr. Breyer, with the Germans seeking to have him extradited to stand trial there. After years of inactivity over people accused of having worked with the Nazis, the Germans in the last several years have mounted a renewed push to charge men who are now in their 80s.
Mr. Breyer’s arrest will most likely reignite a debate in the United States over prosecuting elderly defendants for crimes they are accused of committing decades ago.
In past cases, opponents of the aggressive Nazi-hunting efforts have maintained that the time has passed for prosecuting World War II war crimes. But advocates for an aggressive stance insist that crimes as heinous as those of the Nazis demand justice, no matter how old the defendant.
jueves, 12 de junio de 2014
I have read about it all my life and thought I understood. I thought I was prepared for what I would see, hear and experience when I stepped through the gate of Dachau, the horrific Nazi concentration camp near Munich, Germany, Sunday.
jueves, 5 de junio de 2014
Sara Feinstein was 2 years old when her grandfather passed away in 1986. For years, what she mainly knew about Martin Maiman was that he was an electrical engineer who had built a good life for his wife and two daughters in Milwaukee.