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Auschwitz draws record number of visitors

The former Nazi German concentration camp of Auschwitz attracted 1 million 534 thousand visitors in 2014.

The figure is an all-time record not only for Auschwitz, but for all European sites of remembrance.

The director of the Auschwitz Museum, Piotr Cywinski, has said that Auschwitz-Birkenau has become a symbol of the Holocaust and of the World War Two crime of genocide, a place which for present generations is a key to understanding the realities of today and the challenges facing the contemporary world.

According to Pawel Sawicki of the Auschwitz Museum Press Office, Poles constitute the most numerous national group among the visitors.

Yet, the number of Polish visitors fell from 610, 000 in 2011 to just under 400, 000 last year. The falling trend is attributed to recent changes in the school curriculum and the lack of a government programme of financing youth visits to remembrance sites.

There were 199, 000 visitors from Britain, 92, 000 from the United States, 84, 000 from Italy and 75, 000 from Germany.

Israelis, Spaniards, French, Czechs and South Koreans were next on the list of the most sizeable national groups.

Around 10, 000 people from around the world took part in various educational projects in Auschwitz. The site was also visited by several hundred journalists and 180 film crews from over 30 countries.

On 27 January, ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camp by the Soviet Army will bring together up to 300 of its former prisoners. The most sizeable group – numbering about 100 persons – will be of Polish inmates of the camp. Roughly the same number of people will come from around the world thanks to financial support from the World Jewish Congress. Former Auschwitz prisoners will also come as members of official state delegations.

And on Wednesday, 7 January, a group of Polish inmates of Auschwitz will take part in an audience with Pope Francis. They will present the Pontiff with the ‘Gift of Remembrance’ Statuette of the International Auschwitz Committee. Members of the Polish group will include the writer Zofia Posmysz, author of the novel The Passenger, which was made into a film and an opera.

The concentration camp of Auschwitz was founded in 1940. Some 1.1 million people, mostly European Jews, but also Poles, Soviet POWs, Roma and Sinti, as well as people of other nationalities perished in the camp. It was liberated by the Soviet Army on 27 January 1945.

January 5, 2015 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Memorial to Ireland’s only Holocaust victim unveiled

A memorial to Ireland’s only Holocaust victim Ettie Steinberg has been unveiled at a secondary school in Malahide, Co Dublin.

Holocasut survivor Tomi Reichental, who was incarcerated in Bergen-Belsen at the age of nine-years, addressed the students of Malahide Community School following the ceremony this afternoon.

“We have people today that would deny the Holocaust,” he said. “After my lecture if somebody should tell you that the Holocaust was Jewish propaganda you can say: ‘No, we met someone who was there.’”

Mr Reichental then went on to speak about his childhood in Slovakia and his experience in Bergen-Belsen.

“This is a special day,” said Lynne Jackson, chair of Holocaust Education Trust Ireland, adding that it was Mr Reichental’s third visit to the school since he started speaking publicly nine years ago about his time in the concentration camp.

She said the stone memorial to Ettie Steinberg was a way for the school to create a permanent Holocaust memorial.

Steinberg’s family were from Czechoslovakia and came to Dublin from London in 1926. In 1937 she married a Belgian man and later moved to Belgium and then Paris, where she had a son. In 1942 she and her little boy were transported to Auschwitz and killed.

via Memorial to Ireland’s only Holocaust victim unveiled – Education News | Primary, Secondary & Third Level | The Irish Time – Tue, Mar 25, 2014.

March 25, 2014 Posted by | Auschwitz | Leave a comment

An emotional return to Nazi camp where my grandma was born

VISITING the site of Auschwitz is a powerful experience for anyone who goes there.

But the trip had special significance for one 16-year-old girl from Yorkshire whose grandmother was born in the concentration camp and lived there for the first two years of her life.

Celine Bickerdike took part in a visit as part of a Lessons from Auschwitz Trip organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust.

The project is now in its sixteenth year based on the premise that “hearing is not like seeing”.

Thousands of pupils have been taken to where the camps were to get a sense of the horrors of the Holocaust but few have been on the journey which Celine took.

via An emotional return to Nazi camp where my grandma was born – Yorkshire Post.

March 22, 2014 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , | Leave a comment

Dignity at Auschwitz

Care to spare a dime to save Auschwitz?

That was the question posed to us last week when the government-appointed leader of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland visited our offices. For the last six years, museum director Piotr M.A. Cywinski and his team have been on a mission to raise $165 million to preserve the cursed concentration camp, where nearly 1.1 million Jews were exterminated.

Turns out, the Nazi penchant for fine art did not extend to architecture. Auschwitz was actually shabbily built, bricks-and-mortar style, designed to be a temporary slaughterhouse and then disappear. It wasn’t built to last — or matter.

It should surprise no one that the Nazis were better at destroying than building, but in fact, it is alarming that in the decades since World War II, the site that proves Hitler’s horrors existed has been slowly crumbling away.

via Dignity at Auschwitz | Hollywood Jew | Jewish Journal.

March 20, 2014 Posted by | Auschwitz | , | Leave a comment

Germany arrests 3 Auschwitz guard suspects

German police on Thursday raided the homes of nine elderly men suspected of serving as SS guards at the Auschwitz death camp and arrested three of them on allegations of accessory to murder.

The arrests came five months after federal authorities announced they would investigate former guards at Auschwitz and other Nazi-era death camps.

Their effort was inspired by the precedent-setting trial of former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk, who died in 2012 in a Bavarian nursing home while appealing his conviction on charges he served at the Sobibor camp.

“This is a major step,” said Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, when told of the arrests. “Given the advanced age of the defendants, every effort should be made to expedite their prosecution.

“Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk was the first person convicted in Germany solely on the basis of serving as a camp guard, with no evidence of involvement in any specific killing.Munich prosecutors successfully argued that anyone who was involved in operating a death camp was an accessory to murder. Demjanjuk maintained he had been mistaken for someone else and never served as a guard.

Following the Munich precedent, Germany’s special federal prosecutors’ office responsible for investigating Nazi war crimes announced in September it was recommending charges against about 30 suspected former Auschwitz guards. State prosecutors since have worked to build cases.

The three men arrested, aged 88, 92 and 94, all live in state of Baden Wuerttemberg in southwest Germany. They were taken to a prison hospital, Stuttgart prosecutors’ spokeswoman Claudia Krauth said.

Krauth said officials had yet to uncover enough evidence to merit the arrests of three other suspects aged 94, 91 and 90.

She said authorities seized “diverse papers and documents from the Nazi era” from the suspects’ homes. She declined to provide details.

Five men made no statements, while the 88-year-old admitted being a guard at Auschwitz but denied committing any crimes, Krauth said.

Prosecutors in Frankfurt said more documents and photographs were seized during raids on the homes of two men aged 89 and 92 in the neighboring state of Hesse. A spokeswoman, Doris Mueller-Scheu, said neither suspect was arrested nor made statements.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, state police said they raided the apartment of a 92-year-old man who admitted being an Auschwitz guard but denied participating in any crimes. They found no incriminating material during the search.

The Nazis built six main death camps, all in occupied Poland: Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka.

About 1.5 million people, primarily Jews, were killed at Auschwitz from 1940 to 1945. Overall, about 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust.

Since handing off the Auschwitz cases to state prosecutors, federal authorities say they are focusing on identifying guards from other camps, starting with Majdanek. Results of that investigation are expected in a few months.

via Germany arrests 3 Auschwitz guard suspects.

February 20, 2014 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , , | Leave a comment

Eric Clapton to play Oświęcim (Auschwitz) Life Festival

Legendary British guitarist Eric Clapton will headline the fifth edition of a festival promoting peace and tolerance near the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz.

Eric CLAPTON

This June, Clapton will follow in the footsteps of artists such as Sting and Peter Gabriel, who have both performed at the event in previous years.

Launched in 2010 by radio journalist Darek Maciborek, the festival was designed to “break the spell” that surrounded the founders home town of Oswiecim, which was renamed Auschwitz during the Nazi occupation.

The network of death camps created in the vicinity of Oswiecim witnessed the deaths of over 1 million inmates, 90 percent of whom were Jewish. Other victims included Poles, Russians and members of Europes Roma community.

The 5th Oswiecim Life Festival runs from 25-28 June, and Cream and Yardbirds veteran Eric Clapton will play the MOSiR sports stadium in Oswiecim on 28 June.Other acts due to play include US outfit Soundgarden and eclectic New York combo Balkan Beat Box.

January 8, 2014 Posted by | Auschwitz, Events, News, Recommendations | , , , , | Leave a comment

Maximilian Kolbe

On July 30, 1941, seventy two years ago, a rumour spread through cell block of 14 of the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland, that someone had escaped. The prisoners knew what that meant and were terrified with anxiety over what would happen to them as a result.

Maximilian Kolbe

At six o’clock that evening they were all lined up at attention while the commandant of the camp scrutinized them one by one without saying a word, but they all knew what he would likely do to retaliate and punish.

The next morning they were again assembled and told that the fugitive had not been discovered so ten of them would have to die in the starvation bunker. They were then dismissed except those in cell block 14.

After a brutal day standing in the blazing sun the selection of the 10 innocent men condemned to die began. The commandant again walked the lines and stopped suddenly before a trembling victim and pointed at him the finger of death with the order to step forward and march to the under ground bunker to die of hunger and thirst.

At one point in this gruesome process the victim of random choice cried out: “I have a wife and children whom I love dearly. I am leaving them orphans.” His name was Francis Gajowniczek. Then the unexpected happened . One of the other prisoners broke ranks,, came forward, dared to kiss commandant’s hand and said: “I want to die in the place of the condemned.” And who are you the commandant demanded: “I am Maximilian Kolbe. I am a Catholic priest, a Franciscan Friar.”

This whole sad story came to an end two weeks later when only four survivors remained in the cell now needed for others. They were injected with carbolic and died on August 14, 1941.One of them was Maximilian Kolbe. Now St. Maximilian Kolbe, a martyr of charity.

This is the testimony that Fancis Gajownicezk gave some thirty years later to the heroic virtue of his savior, Fr. Maximilian Kolbe: “At that moment it was hard for me to realize the immensity of what had happen-ed to me. I, the condemned, was to live on because someone else willing ly offered his life for me. Was it a dream or a reality? Among my companions in shared adversity in Auschwitz there was unanimous wonder and astonishment at the heroic sacrifice of his life for me on the part of this priest. His consistent love for those around him was extraordinary, but the most splendid confirmation of his heroic love came at the end, when he offered his life for me, almost a total stranger to him.”

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz, News, This Day In History | , , , | Leave a comment

Auschwitz’s Great Escape

Jerzy Bielecki

The beautiful story of Jerzy Bielcki and Cyla Cybulska, whose love bested the Nazis, but couldn’t defeat time.

The day was July 21, 1944. Bielecki was walking in broad daylight down a pathway at Auschwitz, wearing a stolen SS uniform with his Jewish sweetheart Cyla Cybulska by his side.

His knees buckling with fear, he tried to keep a stern bearing on the long stretch of gravel to the sentry post.

The German guard frowned at his forged pass and eyed the two for a period that seemed like an eternity – then uttered the miraculous words: Ja, danke – yes, thank you – and let Jerzy and Cyla out of the death camp and into freedom.

It was a common saying among Auschwitz inmates that the only way out was through the crematorium chimneys. These were among the few ever to escape through the side door.

The 23-year-old Bielecki used his relatively privileged position as a German-speaking Catholic Pole to orchestrate the daring rescue of his Jewish girlfriend who was doomed to die.

It was great love, Bielecki, now 89, recalled in an interview at his home in this small southern town 55 miles (85 kilometers) from Auschwitz.

We were making plans that we would get married and would live together forever.

Bielecki was 19 when the Germans seized him on the false suspicion he was a resistance fighter, and brought to the camp in April 1940 in the first transport of inmates, all Poles.

He was given number 243 and was sent to work in warehouses, where occasional access to additional food offered some chance of survival.

It was two years before the first mass transports of Jews started arriving in
1942. Most of the Jews were taken straight to the gas chambers of neighboring Birkenau, while a few were designated to be forced laborers amid horrific conditions, allowing them to postpone death.

In September 1943 Bielecki was assigned to a grain storage warehouse. Another inmate was showing him around when suddenly a door opened and a group of girls walked in.

It seemed to me that one of them, a pretty dark-haired one, winked at me, Bielecki said with a broad smile as he recalled the scene. It was Cyla – who had just been assigned to repair grain sacks.

Their friendship grew into love, as the warehouse offered brief chances for more face-to-face meetings.

In a report she wrote for the Auschwitz memorial in 1983, Cybulska recalled that during the meetings they told each other their life stories and every meeting was a truly important event for both of us.

Cybulska, her parents, two brothers and a younger sister were rounded up in January 1943 in the Lomza ghetto in northern Poland and taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Her parents and sister were immediately killed in the gas chambers, but she and her brothers were sent to work.

By September, 22-year-old Cybulska was the only one left alive, with inmate number 29558 tattooed on her left forearm.

As their love blossomed, Bielecki began working on the daring plan for escape.

From a fellow Polish inmate working at a uniform warehouse he secretly got a complete SS uniform and a pass. Using an eraser and a pencil, he changed the officer’s name in the pass from Rottenfuehrer Helmut Stehler to Steiner just in case the guard knew the real Stehler, and filled it in to say an inmate was being led out of the camp for police interrogation at a nearby station. He secured some food, a razor for himself and a sweater and boots for Cybulska.

He briefed her on his plan: “Tomorrow an SS-man will come to take you for an interrogation. The SS-man will be me.”

The next afternoon, Bielecki, dressed in the stolen uniform, came to the laundry barrack where Cybulska had been moved for work duty. Sweating with fear, he demanded the German supervisor release the woman.

Bielecki led her out of the barrack and onto a long path leading to a side gate guarded by the sleepy SS-man who let them go through.

The fear of being gunned down remained with him in his first steps of freedom: “I felt pain in my backbone, where I was expecting to be shot,” Bielecki said.

But when he eventually looked back, the guard was in his booth. They walked on to a road, then into fields where they hid in dense bushes until dark, when they started to march.

“Marching across fields and woods was very exhausting, especially for me, not used to such intensive walks,” Cybulska said in her report to Auschwitz as quoted in a Polish-language book Bielecki has written, He Who Saves One Life

“Far from any settlements, we had to cross rivers,” she wrote. “When water was high … Jurek carried me to the other side.”

At one point she was too tired to walk and asked him to leave her.

“Jurek did not want to hear that and kept repeating: ‘we fled together and will walk on together,'” she reported, referring to Jerzy by his Polish diminutive.

For nine nights they moved under the cover of darkness toward Bielecki’s uncle’s home in a village not far from Krakow.

His mother, who was living at the house, was overjoyed to see him alive, though wasted-away after four years at Auschwitz. A devout Catholic, however, she was dead-set against him marrying a Jewish girl.

“How will you live? How will you raise your children?” Bielecki recalls her asking.

To keep her away from possible Nazi patrols, Cybulska was hidden on a nearby farm. Bielecki decided to go into hiding in Krakow – a fateful choice they believed would improve their chances of avoiding capture by the Nazis. The couple spent their last night together under a pear tree in an orchard, saying their goodbyes and making plans to meet right after the war.

After the Soviet army rolled through Krakow in January 1945, Bielecki left the city where he had been hiding from Nazi pursuit and walked 25-miles (40-kilometers) along snow-covered roads to meet Cybulska at the farmhouse.

But he was four days too late.

Cybulska, not aware that the area where she had been hiding had been liberated three weeks before Krakow, gave up waiting for him, concluding her Juracek either was dead or had abandoned their plans.

She got on a train to Warsaw, planning to find an uncle in the United States. On the train she met a Jewish man, David Zacharowitz, and the two began a relationship and eventually married. They headed to Sweden, then to Cybulska’s uncle in New York, who helped them start a jewelry business. Zacharowitz died in 1975.

In Poland, Bielecki eventually started a family of his own and worked as the director of a school for car mechanics. He had no news of Cybulska and had no way of finding her.

In her report Cybulska said that she was haunted in the years after she left Poland by a wish to see her hometown and to find Jurek, if he was alive.

Sheer chance made her wish come true.

While talking to her Polish cleaning woman in 1982, Cybulska related her Auschwitz escape story.

The woman was stunned.

“I know the story, I saw a man on Polish TV saying he had led his Jewish girlfriend out of Auschwitz,” the cleaning lady told Cybulska, according to Bielecki.

She tracked down his phone number and one early morning in May 1983 the telephone rang in Bielecki’s apartment in Nowy Targ.

“I heard someone laughing – or crying – on the phone and then a female voice said ‘Juracku, this is me, your little Cyla,'” Bielecki recalls.

A few weeks later they met at Krakow airport. He brought 39 red roses, one for each year they spent apart. She visited him in Poland many times, and they jointly visited the Auschwitz memorial, the farmer family that hid her and many other places, staying together in hotels.

“The love started to come back,” Bielecki said.

“Cyla was telling me: ‘leave your wife, come with me to America,'” he recalls. “She cried a lot when I told her: ‘Look, I have such fine children, I have a son, how could I do that?'”

She returned to New York and wrote to him: “Jurek I will not come again,” Bielecki recalled.

They never met again and she did not reply to his letters.

Cybulska died a few years later in New York in 2002.

In 1985, the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem awarded Bielecki the Righteous Among the Nations title for saving Cybulska. The institute’s website account of the escape and its aftermath is consistent with Bielecki’s account to The Associated Press.

“I was very much in love with Cyla, very much,” Bielecki said. “Sometimes I cried after the war, that she was not with me. I dreamed of her at night and woke up crying.”

Fate decided for us, but I would do the same again.

July 21, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz, This Day In History | Leave a comment

Boy Scouts’ Escape From Auschwitz

June 20: A Polish Boy Scout led the most audacious escape from the Auschwitz death camp on this day in 1942 – after stealing SS uniforms, guns and a top-ranking Nazi’s car.

Kazimierz Piechowski and three other inmates dressed as a transport crew to leave the inner high-security zone marked by the notorious ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ gate – German for ‘work makes you free’.

After walking beneath the sinister, wrought iron message the non-Jewish group of four ditched the cart they had stolen and split up.

Piechowski and two fellow Poles – priest Jozef Lempart and army officer Stanislaw Jaster – went to the warehouse where uniforms and weapons were stored.

They entered via a coal bunker that Piechowski, then aged 22, had ensured would open by unscrewing the latch during a forced labour assignment days earlier.

Inside, they dressed as SS-Totenkopfverbände – or ‘Death’s-Head Unit’ – guards and armed themselves with four machine-guns and eight grenades.

Meanwhile, fellow ecapee Eugeniusz Bendera, a Ukrainain mechanic, went to the motorpool and stole SS Hauptsturmführer Paul Kreuzmann’s Steyr 220 saloon car.

Piechowski – who wore the uniform of an SS Untersturmführer, or second lieutenant – sat in the front passenger seat as Bendera drove to the main exit.

The group of political prisoners, who had forged papers, panicked when the guards manning the gate didn’t instantly raise the barrier.

But Piechowski, the only member who spoke good German, calmly leant out the window and screamed: “Wake up, you buggers! Open up or I’ll open you up!”

The terrified guards scrambled to raise the barrier, allowing the prisoners to escape and prompting all future inmates to have a number tattooed on their arms.

The four men all survived the war, except Jaster, who is thought to have been killed by the Gestapo after helping to free 49 prisoners on a train to Auschwitz in May 1943.

He was one of 4.9million Poles – of whom 3million were Jewish – killed during the occupation of Poland, where Auschwitz and five other deaths camps were located.

Piechowski, whose membership of the banned Boy Scout movement and bid to join the Free Polish forces led to his 1939 arrest, became a resistance fighter after fleeing.

In response to his escape, Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss ordered future inmates to have their prisoner number tattooed on their arms.

Ironically, his Home Army membership led to him being imprisoned for seven years after the war by Poland’s new communist rulers, who feared an insurgency.

Yet Piechowski, who today lives in Gdasnk, refused a bravery award following the end of communism in 1989 by humbly saying: “I do not feel this honour is owed me.”

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz, This Day In History | , , , , | Leave a comment

Volkswagen donating $1.3 million to Auschwitz youth center

KRAKOW TOURS: Volkswagen, Automaker, which used concentration camp prisoners as slave labor in its factories during the Holocaust, says work at site is an ‘important undertaking’ for staff.

hitler-and-volkswagen-beetle

Volkswagen said Tuesday it was donating $1.3 million to the Auschwitz International Youth Meeting Center.

The automaker made the announcement at a meeting at the company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn said in a statement that the money will be used for educational work and modernization of the facility.

He said Volkswagen has been involved with the center, an educational site located next to the Nazi death camp in Poland, for more than 20 years.

”The work on this site, which has become so deeply ingrained in the collective memory, has become for our employees an important undertaking,” Winterkorn said.

“These experiences shape us all. They have become a key element in our corporate culture. Above all, our donation expresses our gratitude for these experiences. ”

Volkswagen used concentration camp prisoners as slave labor in its factories during World War II. It has since contributed to a compensation fund for slave laborers.

via Volkswagen donating $1.3 million to Auschwitz youth center – Jewish World News – Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper.

June 11, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz, News | Leave a comment

Netanyahu to Inaugurate New Auschwitz Exhibition

KRAKOW TOURS: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will visit Poland on June 13 for the opening of a new exhibition at the museum of the former Nazi German death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, organizers said Monday.

In the works for four years, the exhibition will present “the murder at Auschwitz in the larger context of the Nazis systematic attempt to exterminate the Jewish people,” said curators at Yad Vashem Holocaust institute.

The “Shoah” display will be located in Block 27, the oldest part of the camp set up by Nazi Germany in the southern town of Oswiecim in occupied Poland.

The unveiling was originally due on May 9 but had to be pushed back because of Netanyahus schedule.

Around 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed between 1940 and 1945 at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most notorious of the death camps run by Nazi Germany.

June 5, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz, Events, News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Frank Lowy

KRAKOW TOURS: Four weeks ago he was in Poland, fighting back tears as he gave the keynote address at Auschwitz-Birkenau in homage to his father who perished at the gates of the notorious death camp in 1944. Two weeks ago he was in Hungary, where his father disappeared, watching the grand final of Australia’s premier soccer league on his laptop.

Birkenau Rail Car

Though seemingly unrelated, these two events are bittersweet bookends in the colossus life of Australia’s Frank Lowy.

Faith and soccer – two code words to unlock the heart of the 82-year-old co-founder of the Westfield shopping mall empire and chairman of Football Federation Australia.

His rags-to-riches fairytale has amassed a $5.3 billion fortune, according to Forbes magazine, after arriving in Australia in 1952 virtually penniless having surviving the Holocaust on the run before fighting in Israel’s War of Independence.

But his business instinct has not compromised his Jewish faith or his faith in soccer – both of which he learned from his father Hugo.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day Lowy told more than 10,000 people – including his wife, sons and one granddaughter – how his father had been beaten to death upon arrival in a cattle wagon because he refused to sacrifice his tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries).

“I never realized that he had strength – the spiritual strength – to take on the brutal guards here in Birkenau. No matter how hard they hit him, he protected the sanctity of his tallit and tefillin,” Lowy said, his voice cracking.

“They could break his body but they could not break his spirit. The tallit and tefillin were part of him, part of his personal relationship with God, and he was ready to die for them. And he did.”

At Auschwitz lies a cattle wagon used by the Nazis and restored by the Lowy family, dedicated to the memory of Hungarian Jews who perished there.

In 2009, at a private ceremony, Lowy placed a blue prayer bag inside the wagon as a symbol of his and his father’s faith. It brought to a close a 50-year search to discover his father’s fate that ended in 1991 when one of his sons had a chance encounter with an unrelated American man called Myer Lowy who had witnessed Hugo’s death.

“This has really, in a sense, defined his entire life,” Lowy’s rabbi, Levi Wolff, told Haaretz this week. “He’s been able to now appreciate the Yiddishkeit that his father lived for and died for.

May 9, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , , | Leave a comment

Alleged Auschwitz Guard Arrested

A 93-year-old man who was deported from the U.S. for lying about his Nazi past was arrested by German authorities Monday on allegations he served as an Auschwitz death camp guard, Stuttgart prosecutors said.

Hans Lipschis was taken into custody after authorities concluded there was “compelling evidence” he was involved in crimes at Auschwitz while there from 1941 to 1945, prosecutor Claudia Krauth said.

Lipschis has acknowledged being assigned to an SS guard unit at Auschwitz but maintains he only served as a cook and was not involved in any war crimes.

Krauth said, however, that a judge upheld her office’s request for an arrest warrant after concluding there was enough evidence to hold him before charges on accessory to murder are brought. Bringing formal charges, a process similar to a U.S. grand jury indictment, would take another two months, she said.

In the meantime, Krauth said a doctor has confirmed Lipschis’ health remains good enough for him to be kept in detention.

Lipschis does not currently have an attorney, and a public defender has not yet been appointed, she said.

Lipschis was deported from the U.S. in 1983 for lying about his Nazi past when he immigrated to Chicago in the 1950s after the war.

With no evidence linking him to specific war crimes, however, it was impossible under previous German law to bring charges against him in Germany.

But the case is now being pursued on the same legal theory used to prosecute former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk, who died last year while appealing his 2011 conviction in Germany for accessory to murder on the grounds that he served as a guard at the Sobibor death camp.

Under the new line of thinking, even without proof of participation in a specific crime, a person who served at a death camp can be charged with accessory to murder because the camp’s sole function was to kill people.

Even though the Demjanjuk conviction is not considered legally binding because he died before his appeals were exhausted, the special German prosecutors’ office that deals with Nazi crimes has said that about 50 other people in the same category are being investigated.

Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi hunter with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called the arrest of Lipschis — who is No. 4 on his current list of “most wanted Nazi war criminals” — a good start.

“This is a very positive step, we welcome the arrest,” he said in a telephone interview from Israel. “I hope this will only be the first of many arrests, trials and convictions of death camp guards.”

In an interview last month with Die Welt newspaper at his home in southwestern Germany, Lipschis said he spent his entire time as a cook and had witnessed none of the atrocities. He did say, however, that he “heard about” what was going on.

About 1.5 million people, primarily Jews, were killed at the Auschwitz camp complex between 1940 and 1945.

May 7, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , , | Leave a comment

Holocaust Educational Trust gets £500,000 for Auschwitz visits

KRAKOW TOURS: Holocaust Educational Trust gets £500,000 for Auschwitz visits.

More than £500,000 is to be awarded to a scheme which gives schoolchildren the chance to visit the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The Scottish government announced the funding for the Holocaust Educational Trust, which was set up in 1988.

‘Seeing Auschwitz with my own eyes made me appreciate how much people suffered”

Mhiara Mackenzie, Student

It will allow two youngsters from every school and college in Scotland to go to the site in Poland and hear the testimony of a Holocaust survivor.

More than 1,000 Scottish students have taken part in the project to date.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in modern day Poland was where more than a million people, most of them Jews, were killed by the Nazis during the course of World War II.

The Lessons from Auschwitz project aims to develop young people’s understanding of the possible consequences of prejudice and racism in society.

First Minister Alex Salmond said: “It is right that we continue to fund these learning opportunities to ensure that as a society we never become complacent when regarding the dangers of prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and hatred.”

‘Never forget’

The scheme will receive £510,000 of further funding over the next two years.

University student Mhiara Mackenzie took part in Lessons from Auschwitz in 2009.

She said: “Participating in the project was a life-changing experience, one that I will never forget.

“Seeing Auschwitz-Birkenau with my own eyes made me appreciate how much people suffered during the Holocaust.”

The chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Karen Pollock, said: “We are delighted that the Scottish government will continue to fund our Lessons from Auschwitz Project.

via BBC News – Holocaust Educational Trust gets £500,00 for Auschwitz visits.

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz, News | , , , | Leave a comment

Denis Avey: To believe, or not to believe?

KRAKOW TOURS: Few his­tor­i­cal ac­counts evoke emo­tion like the Holo­caust, and few ex­pe­di­tions epit­o­mise the true mean­ing of the word ‘brav­ery’ like swap­ping uni­forms with a Jew­ish in­mate to break into Auschwitz.

The Man Who Broke Into AuschwitzDenis Avey, a vet­er­an of World War II, claimed to do this in his mov­ing mem­oir, The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz (2011), which I have im­mersed my­self in over the East­er hol­i­day. When dis­cov­er­ing that the in­tegri­ty and ac­cu­ra­cy of the ac­count has been ques­tioned by a num­ber of pub­li­ca­tions, I felt robbed and cheat­ed. Sure­ly this mas­ter­piece is not a cyn­i­cal act of ex­ag­ger­a­tion?

Co-writ­ten by Rob Broom­by, a jour­nal­ist at the BBC, Avey writes of his ex­pe­ri­ences in the war; the hunger, pain, om­nipresent fear of death and the thrifti­ness re­quired to sur­vive. It is thrilling­ly writ­ten, and done so with the clar­i­ty and poignan­cy of a man who wait­ed 62 years to re­veal the full ac­count of his ex­pe­ri­ence, after first being ap­proached by Amer­i­can pros­e­cu­tors in 1947. But the book, as sug­gest­ed by its title, re­volves around Avey’s as­ton­ish­ing break-in to Auschwitz III.

An ob­vi­ous ques­tion is to ask why Avey only told his story in 2009. The man him­self claims that au­thor­i­ties sim­ply were not in­ter­est­ed in hear­ing about his or­deal; in­stead, he be­came ac­cli­ma­tised to bot­tling up his emo­tions, chan­nelling them through per­ni­cious means. Avey de­scribes scream­ing in the mid­dle of the night along­side his first wife Irene, even throt­tling her in un­mit­i­gat­ed ter­ror at one point, as mem­o­ries haunt­ed him. Ret­i­cence is en­tire­ly un­der­stand­able if he did in­deed ex­pe­ri­ence the hor­rors of a Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp.

via Denis Avey: To believe, or not to believe? — Books — The Boar.

April 20, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , , | Leave a comment

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