jueves, 31 de julio de 2014

Le Visage Outragé (The Insulted Face)

lunes, 28 de julio de 2014

Frozen in memory

The Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland is a reminder of what evil can perpetuate. Ranjita Biswas revisits one of the most painful & violent chapters  in history.

Auschwitz, the name has been emblazoned in shame and outrage since the end of the Second World War. So many lives were snuffed out in this concentration camp in Poland during the holocaust of the 1940s that, it has become a subject of numerous books, research-tomes and script for movies like the Oscar winning Schindler’s List.

The wish to visit Auschwitz, now an open-air museum, was always there. Not as a ‘tourist’, but to pray for the souls lost in a barbaric act. So I left behind historic Krakow, one-time capital of Poland, to witness with my own eyes this infamous place.
The camp has not been dismantled, but preserved as a museum by the Polish government since 1947. In 1979, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site.

Horrors of holocaust

True, war always takes a toll on human lives. The pages of history tell you that. But herding people like cattle with the intention of murdering them inhumanly in a gas chamber stands out as an example of co-ordinated evil. 

The genocide by Nazi Germany killed an estimated 1.5 million people at Auschwitz. The world came to know about the extent of the monstrous act in January 1945, when Soviet soldiers walked into the camp to encounter skeletal men in striped pajamas who had survived, their numbers tattooed on their wrists. 

You may have seen television features or documentaries, even movies on the subject, but it still does not prepare you for Auschwitz. Ironically, the inscription at the entrance to the camp proclaims: “Arbeit macht frei” (Work will make you free). Indeed when the people were brought here from Nazi-occupied Europe, most of them were unaware of the fate that had awaited them; they thought they were brought here to work in the fields and “resettled”. Later, prisoners called it the “Gate of Death”.

Auschwitz was a new name given by the invading German army. Formerly, it was called Oswiecim, a barrack for the Polish army. The SS turned it into Polish political prisoner camp in 1940, but later it was turned into a concentration camp. In 1941, three kilometres away, the Nazis evicted all the people from village Brzezinka, destroyed their houses, and built the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. 

According to Reminiscences, the autobiography of Rudolf  Hoss, the first camp commandant, SS boss Himmler chose Auschwitz “both because of its convenient location as regards communication and because the area can be easily isolated and camouflaged ” by the surrounding forests.  

Today, as visitors from across the world walk past the houses containing the memorabilia, some reconstructed, there is only silence, not the touristy chatter, as people get dumbfounded by an atrocity modern world has seldom seen. 

The multi-lingual guides point out the exhibits — photographs of prisoners meticulously recorded with German precision, empty Zyklon-B canisters, which contained chemicals used in gas chambers, piled up hair of women prisoners, shoes which once adorned the feet of fashionable ladies and children. 

Painful reminders

A suitcase bears the name: Jnes Meyer, Koln 05377, lying among many similar abandoned bags bearing the owners’ names. Thousands of Jews, Russian prisoners of war, Gypsies and those considered by the Nazis as ‘unfit to live’ were gassed, shot, tortured to death, or simply starved to death here. Many gave in to diseases in the cloistered barracks. 

Outside in the courtyard, there is a wall pockmarked with bullet marks, reminder of the prisoners executed. Flowers by visitors contrast brightly against the stark wall. Also, there are the poles from which prisoners were hanged, for trying to flee, or helping someone to flee. At the gate near the kitchen, a band was made to play, so that the prisoners could march and it was easier for the guards to head-count. 

After Auschwitz I, the bus took us to Birkenau. The ominous fences which were electrified then, the stilted guard houses seen in many films can be startling even today. I could feel an unknown dread creeping into my veins; it felt cold though the grass was green in the fields and the sunlight was flooding everything in a golden light. 

From the watchtower at the entrance gate the view of the concentration camp looked as if  frozen in memory. The railway tracks by which the prisoners were brought in boxed-up in compartments were still there. I saw that someone had put a bunch of yellow roses on the track, perhaps for a forefather annihilated here. 

On arrival, the prisoners were ‘selected’ and segregated into groups; the old, pregnant women, even children, who were of ‘no use’, were sent directly to the gas chamber. The able-bodied men were retained for work; as also young women, some of whom could later be used as guinea pigs for experiments by doctors and psychiatrists. 

A German gynaecologist, Carl Clauberg, carried out sterilisation experiments on women prisoners. Ironically, photographs taken by some unknown German soldiers, the reels of which survived the burning of documents before the Nazis flew, stand testimony to this selection process.  

The living quarters, some of which are still there, show how bunkers were built into stables meant for horses; each wooden bunker sometimes accommodated more than 10 inmates. Holes in rows on stone slabs with no privacy served as toilets, obviously an ideal place for festering diseases and death. 

George Santayana’s words at Auschwitz kept repeating in my mind as I boarded the bus for Krakow: “The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.” 

Source: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/421974/frozen-memory.html

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

Herman Rothman, 89, with his wife Shirley

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.

As he steps forward, he leaves behind his family and the only life he has ever known – on the streets of Germany, where the Nazis are preparing for war and intensifying their persecution of the Jewish people.
This memory is still all too fresh for 89-year-old Herman Rothman, who was one of approximately 10,000 Jewish children saved by the Kindertransport rescue mission, which brought them all to Britain.
But this was not to be his last remarkable experience as, when he returned to the country as an adult, he became one of the first people to lay eyes on Fuhrer Adolf Hitler’s will.
Herman, who has lived in Clayhall for 55 years, was born in Berlin on September 2, 1924.
He grew up in the city with his parents Erich and Betty and younger brother Sigbert, unaware that their lives would be changed irreparably in the coming years. Herman said: “My parents looked after me, I went to school – there was nothing I can report about anything I suffered.
“It was my parents who suffered, all the Jews in Germany suffered.”
As a boy, Herman witnessed examples of the brutality which lurked in the country’s streets.
Aged 13, he was sent out on an errand by his mother. He saw an elderly Jewish man being pushed around and told his attacker to stop, which he did.
Herman’s school was also partially destroyed during Kristallnacht on November 9 and 10, 1938, which saw the Nazis target Jewish businesses, homes, and synagogues.
With the climate of fear rising among the Jewish community, Herman’s parents managed to get him onto the Kindertransport in 1939.
He said: “The Kindertransport was a marvellous thing. [But] it must have been really sad for my parents; we didn’t see each other for about 15 years.”
While Herman began his new life in Britain, working in agriculture, his parents were suffering the terror of the Nazi regime.
His father was at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp for eight months, before police officer Herr Belgart sprung him out, along with Herman’s best friend Siegfried Mandelkerm.
Erich travelled to join Betty and Sigbert in Palestine, where they had fled. But Siegfried stayed in Germany so he could say goodbye to his parents and he was shot dead.
Herman joined the British Army in 1944 and was later transferred to a counter-intelligence section.
After the war ended, he interrogated Nazi prisoners at a camp in Germany. He also helped to translate Hitler’s will after it was discovered in the shoulder pads of Heinz Lorenz, who had been propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels’ press secretary.
Upon returning to England, Herman met his wife Shirley, in 1949 at a dance, and became a lawyer.
The couple had two children, Janice and Jonathan, and now have six grandchildren and a great-grandchild on the way.
Herman has played an active role in Redbridge’s community, having been a founder of a synagogue and a governor at King Solomon High School.
But he will never forget the horrors the Nazis inflicted on millions.
“You put it in a box somewhere, as [otherwise] you wouldn’t be able to carry on. There were so many Jews who didn’t live to tell their story.
“My whole family in Poland was obliterated and part of my mother’s side was too. I still carry it with me. I do not understand why people cannot live in peace.”
Source: http://www.ilfordrecorder.co.uk/news/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_1_3681464

viernes, 11 de julio de 2014

Holocaust survivor Adina Sella shares inspiring story

“Hitler would only have won if all the survivors stayed silent, but here we are fighting for a better future.”
Holocaust survivor and retired school psychologist Adina Sella shares her survival story with the community and field trips as a member of the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s Speakers’ Bureau. Earlier this year, the Museum paid tribute to local Holocaust survivors, including Adina, in the special tribute video below.

We had a chance to ask Adina about her background and experience at the museum.
Q: Where are you originally from?

A: I am originally from Hamburg, Germany.

Q: How did life change for your family when the Nazis came to power?

A: My father could no longer pursue his profession as a businessman, my brother was forced to leave school and give up sports and all of our civil rights were deprived, which made every day life very hard.

Q: Was your family split up? Were you able to locate any family members after the war?

A: My immediate family wasn’t split up, we survived the war together, but my distant family was. After the war, we were able to locate a few cousins and other family members, but had to find out that only about 10% of them survived the Holocaust.

Q: What helped you most during the Holocaust?

A: The righteous, ordinary citizens of a town in Italy called Anghiari. Regular people, like teachers, nuns or priests did everything they could to help us, although their own life was at risk. Their courage made it possible for us to survive the Holocaust.

Q: What did you feel during the Holocaust?

A: I remember having a constant fear of being separated from my family.

Q: Have you ever returned to your hometown?

A: Yes, two times actually. I was back in 1958 for the first time and then again around 1985 when the city of Hamburg invited me, my brother and other Holocaust survivors back as their guest.

Q: Why did you want to join the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s Speakers’ Bureau?

A: Because I see it as my duty to family members and everybody else who died during the Holocaust to make sure it will never be forgotten and to educate younger generations about it, so it will never happen again.

Q: What do you hope people take away from your story?

A: In spite of everything that happened to me and all the mistreatment I suffered, I was able to overcome it and heal. I want to tell kids that Hitler would only have won if all the survivors stayed silent, but here we are fighting for a better future. I also want them to learn that no matter where they come from or what happened to them, they can become whoever they want to be if they work hard for it.

Q: What is your favorite space in the Museum and why?

A: Goodman Auditorium, where other survivors and I talk to school groups, because this is where our generations meet and history becomes real for them and I get to see their bright shining faces.

Q: Why should people visit the Illinois Holocaust Museum?

A: To get first-hand factual knowledge, so Holocaust deniers won’t have a chance.

Adina is currently visiting Anghiari, Italy, to attend a ceremony honoring the couple—Gioncando and Annina Marconi—who took her in during the war, and taught her the Italian lifestyle so that she would blend in. Descendants of the couple will receive the award in their name. On Wednesday, August 13, at 2:45 pm the Illinois Holocaust Museum will honor Gioncando and Annina during a special ceremony at the Museum’s Ferro Fountain of the Righteous, a space that pays special tribute to those named by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. The fountain is encircled by plaques that pay tribute to Gentile families who risked their own lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. The Museum continues to celebrate the Righteous Among the Nations by adding new names to the Ferro Fountain throughout the years. Learn more about the ceremony here.
“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.”

–Adina Sella

Source: http://skokie.suntimes.com/2014/06/30/holocaust-survivor-adina-sella-shares-inspiring-story/

martes, 1 de julio de 2014

Hitler: The secret billionaire

HE POSED as a frugal leader but history's most hated man was a tax dodger who hid a vast personal fortune.

In the summer of 1945 a young German in civilian clothes who claimed to be a journalist was sent for interrogation to the former prisoner-of-war camp Stalag XI-B in Lower Saxony, which was being used as an internment camp for suspected Nazis. His British interrogators weren't satisfied with his story and were particularly suspicious of his oddly shaped shoulder-pads.
Eva Braun
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.

He poured the money into property: a luxury apartment in central Munich, a villa used by Braun and most of all his Alpine home at Berchtesgaden, bought in 1936 for the equivalent of £120,000 at today's prices but steadily enlarged into a sumptuous 30-room mansion. The documentary makers estimate he ploughed the equivalent of £136million into the place at today's prices.
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.

Source: http://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/tv-radio/485168/Adolf-Hitler-The-secret-billionaire