Who could have imagined that cigars and poker would be the main ingredients in the recipe of rescue of Jews on the cusp of World War II?
“Rescue in the Philippines: Refuge from the Holocaust,” tells the story of how the five Frieder brothers from Cincinnati, built a cigar empire in Manila and with the help of poker aficionados Col. Dwight Eisenhower, U.S. High Commissioner to the Philippines Paul McNutt and the first president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon, helped 1,200 Jews find haven in that country.
The one-hour documentary held its New York premiere on April 10, hosted by the American Jewish Historical Society. Narrated by Liev Schreiber and with a promo quote from Eisenhower’s granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower as “A story for all time,” this 3 Roads Communications film puts the gutsy president Quezon on the map as a Righteous Gentile alongside Oskar Schindler.
Jonathan Karp, AJHS Executive Director, introduced Mario Lopez de Leon Jr, Consul General, Republic of the Philippines in New York, who told the guests — amongst whom were a number of Manila survivors including Berlin-born Dr. Yashar Hirshaut, President of the Israel Cancer Research Fund International Scientific Council — “The story has a special meaning for the Filipino people people…who find kinship with the Jewish people in their shared belief in the dignity of man and human rights. Speaking as a diplomat, this film also served a deeper purpose…to strengthen the vibrant friendship between the Filipino and Jewish people founded [when] the Philippines voted in favor of the UN resolution which gave rise to the State of Israel. We were among the first countries to recognize the State of Israel.”
Present at the screening were film consultant Peggy Ellis, her mother Jane Frieder Ellis and film consultant Barbara Sasser,who says in the film: “Quezon was willing to take in 30,000 or more Jews and settle them on the Island of Mindanao…He was a good Catholic…the most irreligious thing he could think of was to think badly of the people who gave them their savior.”
Quezon’s daughter, Zenaida Quezon Avancena said, “Dad had moral courage….. He believed in the sanctity of life.” His grandson Manuel Quezon III said his grandfather had been born poor, never had the problem of the colonial mindset and was “a great ballroom dancer and a hard-boiled politician,” adding: “He loved the underdog and he knew what it was like to be on the run.”
In the film,George Lowenstein, a German-Jewish refugee, recalls that when the Americans returned with General MacArthur, an American pilot flew overhead and spotted little George. “He did a 360 and dropped a Hershey bar.” After the liberation, 10-year-old George read the “Four Questions” at the first night of Passover celebrated by the GIs and refugees in Manila. The film notes that American GIs helped rebuild Manila’s Emil Synagogue, which had been destroyed by the Japanese.
In a recent video interview, Israeli novelist Etgar Keret joked that he wouldn’t trust Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, despite his well known union background and anti-racism bona fides, to hide a Jew in his attic during another Holocaust. And he jested that Real Madrid’s star attacker Cristiano Ronaldo — who used to play for Ferguson at the club — wouldn’t behave much better. He bases his assessment, of course, on nothing but the team’s style of play.
Manchester United have been a dominant financial and sporting force in English soccer over the past decade, earning the envy and enmity of millions worldwide. But they uncharacteristically go into the final game of the English Premier League season this weekend needing a better result than their “noisy neighbors,” Manchester City, to pip them to the title.
Claiming that a symbolic compensation agreement signed by the governments of the United States and Austria ten years ago is inadequate, a group of Austrian-born Israeli Holocaust survivors is suing Austria for $21 billion. That is the value of the property taken from Austrian Jews during the Nazi era, according to calculations by historians.
The 2001 agreement stated that Austria had to pay Holocaust survivors and their children a total of $210 million — only 10% of what the families claim is owed to them. According to Ynet, the then-conservative Austrian national government was eager to use the agreement as a way of overcoming the international isolation it was suffering at the time. It also took advantage of the Austrian Jewish community, getting its approval for the deal when it was in a desperate economic situation and facing bankruptcy.
Another living link to the Holocaust was lost last week when the last surviving man to have worn the pink triangle — sewn onto concentration camp uniforms to signify homosexuality — died at the age of 98.
The New York Times reported that Rudolf Brazda, who had been imprisoned in Buchenwald, died in Alsace, France, where he had lived since the camp’s liberation, in 1945.
It was only in May 2008, “when the German National Monument to the Homosexual Victims of the Nazi Regime was unveiled in Berlin’s Tiergarten park — opposite the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe — that Mr. Brazda became known as probably the last gay survivor of the camps,” the Times said. “Until he notified German officials after the unveiling, the Lesbian and Gay Federation believed there were no other pink-triangle survivors.”
Leave your headphones at home.
Charlotte Friedman, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor, tells her story for the first time in a two part video series produced by Jewish.TV, the multimedia branch of Chabad.org. The twist? Friedman, who is deaf, conducted the interview entirely in American Sign Language.
Friedman’s tale of escape from a Dutch internment camp is especially astonishing given that many deaf people were tortured and killed by the Nazis.
Friedman recounts her childhood in Germany, including how her parents managed to provide her with an education despite her impairment and the enactment of the Nuremberg laws. She also discusses how she crossed paths with another persecuted Jewish girl hiding out in Amsterdam — Anne Frank. Her parents befriended Anne Frank’s parents, but the bonds were broken when the Friedmans left for America.
Though she chatters away on many other subjects, when asked about her remarkable endurance, Friedman simply states: “I was very lucky.”
There’s nothing like a carefree luxury vacation where you visit Dachau, eat a Bavarian dinner at the beer hall where Hitler unveiled the 25-point Nazi party program, and drop by Wannsee, the elegant lakeside residence where the Holocaust was planned.
At least that’s the idea behind Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: The Face of Evil, an eight-day, $3,200 “historical tour” which “covers the entire sobering story of Nazi Germany — from the Nazi party’s birth in the smoky beerhalls of 1919 Munich to the Third Reich’s protracted death, amidst the ruins and despair of 1945 Berlin,” according to the website of U.K. tour operator Historical Trips.
Here’s how it seems to work at the Cannes Film Festival: organizers are happy to show your film even if you’re famously anti-Semitic — please just don’t make any weird comments on the premises.
That’s one way to interpret the events of the last few days, particularly after today’s announcement that Lars von Trier, the oddball Danish director, has been officially declared “persona non grata” at the festival.
The designation follows von Trier’s totally bonkers performance yesterday at a press conference for “Melancholia,” his latest film, at which he — jokingly? — said he can “sympathize” with Hitler. (Poor Kirsten Dunst was trapped onstage, squirming with increasing discomfort as his bizarre remarks went on.)
Biometric identity cards — cards carrying a computer chip with biographical information like a photo, fingerprints, signature, and date of birth — were controversial from the moment they were first mentioned. Now Israel is finally ready to issue them, the local media reports.
We have known this was coming since the run up to the vote on the so-called biometric law, which passed in December. The Forward reported almost two years ago about concerns that were being voiced. But there’s one bizarre detail that has only just come to light.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be a vile Holocaust denier, but that won’t stop some of his countrymen from learning about the genocide in their own language.
The Aladdin Project, a Paris-based organization devoted to co-existence and education, has announced that the landmark Holocaust documentary “Shoah” will be beamed into Iran next Monday via satellite. The film will be translated and subtitled into Farsi for the broadcast, and will be followed by similar Turkish- and Arabic-language airings elsewhere in the Middle East. The broadcasts “will allow wider audiences to be acquainted with the history of the Holocaust in their own languages,” Aladdin Project officials said in a statement.
Accessing Yad Vashem’s massive store of photos and documents is about to get as easy as typing into a search bar. According to a report in The New York Times this week, the Jerusalem-based “keeper of the world’s largest Holocaust archive” is expanding a partnership with Google to digitize about 130,000 photographs — and give users the option to add commentary, historical backgrounds, and family stories.
The long-term goal, said the Times, “is to include Yad Vashem’s larger archive of millions of documents, including survivor testimonials, diaries, letters and manuscripts.” A Yad Vashem press release proclaimed the initiative “will not only bring this valuable information to a much wider audience worldwide, but it will allow people around the world to contribute, by identifying the stories behind photos and documents, adding their own stories and knowledge to the site.” Google — whose founders are Jewish — “is an integral partner in our mission, as they help us to reach new audiences, including young people around the world, enabling them to be active in the discussion about the Holocaust,” Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said in the release.
The Holocaust, for better or worse, turns up at the Academy Awards as often as Meryl Streep. The genocide has been so ubiquitous in recent years — in movies ranging from “The Reader” to “Inglourious Basterds” — that next month’s Oscars will be notable partly for the absence of films that address it.
That hasn’t stopped the subject from turning up in pre-Oscar campaigning, however. In an e-mail sent out after Sunday’s Golden Globes, an anonymous writer criticized one of this year’s front-runners, “The King’s Speech,” for “largely “gloss[ing] over the Nazi-sympathising past” of the movie’s protagonist, England’s King George VI.
For a Jewish visitor to Poland, is it moral to steal souvenirs that may have themselves been looted from Jewish homes during the Holocaust?
Not according to yesterday’s Ethicist column in the New York Times Magazine. “Traveling in Poland, I visited antique stores offering Jewish items — menorahs, mezuzas — that seemed more than 65 years old,” wrote Randy Malamud of Atlanta. “[I] found myself unable to pay for what was probably stolen property. Part of me wishes I had stolen (liberated?) some of them. Would that have been justified?” In his response, Ethicist scribe Randy Cohen quoted Marilyn Henry, a Jerusalem Post columnist who “has written much about such sad relics.” Cohen advised that “while the items may have been looted during the Nazi era, they may have been treated as legally ‘abandoned’ when the family was deported; they may have been sold at fire-sale prices by the original owner/family to raise funds to flee; they may have been held with the best of intentions by neighbors in anticipation that a Jewish family would return, and the family did not return.”
What’s so special about the Holocaust?
That’s the question a Ukrainian association is asking after the soon-to-be-built Canadian Museum of Human Rights revealed plans that include a separate gallery for the Holocaust. According to the Toronto Sun, the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA) is claiming the current plan “elevates some cases of human suffering above others.”
The UCCLA’s research director, Lubomyr Luciuk, told the Sun that “no gallery should be dedicated to one story, and one story alone. There are many other incidents of genocide in human history, why is that being lumped together?”
Jewish children gather round: “A Horse for Hanukkah” hits bookstores today. Reuters reports that Myriam Halberstam, who is a filmmaker, author and German-American Jew, is releasing a light-hearted children’s book about one horse’s mission to destroy a family’s Hanukkah celebration. The book will be published in English and German by Ariella Books, the first Jewish publisher of children’s books in Germany, which Halberstam founded in May.
“At Christmas there are all these books you can buy for your children, but if you’re Jewish and you want to read them something about Jewish holidays, you can’t,” she told Reuters. “I needed to create something for my own daughters.”
With 32 pages and colorful illustrations by award-winning illustrator Nancy Cote, Halberstam hopes the book will intrigue Jews and non-Jews alike.
Polish officials are refusing to return the Holocaust diary of survivor Baruch Milch at the request of his daughter, Israeli composer Ella-Milch Sheriff, citing the diary as an important historical artifact that belongs to the nation. The diary provides a detailed account of the Nazi’s occupation of Poland during World War II as well as Milch’s own harrowing story, including the shooting death of his 3-year-old son. Polish officials claims they are bound by guidelines concerning historical records made by private individuals.
“The diary of Baruch Milch is… an archive document and, as such, cannot be taken from Poland permanently” national archive chief Slawomir Radon said in a statement.
“Survival in Auschwitz,” 187 pages. “Fatelessness,” 272 pages. “Anka’s Story,” 140 characters.
As far as Holocaust memoirs go, Anka Voticky’s is unlike anything you’ll ever read, er, tweet.
The 97-year-old, who originally wrote a narrative memoir for her family’s records a few years ago, is sharing her story on the social media platform Twitter, posting snippets two or three times every day. The Azrieli Foundation, a Canadian non-profit, does the actual tweeting, disseminating Anka’s Story to over 300 followers to date.
Controversial British Holocaust denier and “historian” David Irving (to call him a historian, sans quotations, seems a tad irresponsible) will lead a group of British and American tourists on an “unforgettable journey” next week to Nazi sites in Germany and Poland.
Needless to say, Irving’s trip hasn’t gone over well.
“For Holocaust survivors, the planned visit by David Irving to the sites of the Treblinka death camp and the Warsaw Ghetto is a deliberate act of hate and contempt by this notorious racist,” Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, told JTA. “His tour is an insult to all victims of Nazi brutality, Jew and non-Jew.”
We knew that denying the Holocaust could get a teacher in trouble. But believing in it?
Haaretz reported that the French education ministry has suspended a Jewish teacher in Nancy for teaching “too much” about the Holocaust, “lacking distance, neutrality and secularism” in discussing it — and manipulating her students through “brainwashing.”
But a lawyer for Catherine Pederzoli believes the “witch hunt” might have less to do with the teacher’s lesson plans and more with her origins, according to the UK Daily Mail. “Had the teacher been Christian, no one would have accused her of brainwashing,” said attorney Christine Tadic. “It leads me ask if she is in fact being blamed for being Jewish.” Tadic told the Daily Mail she had filed for an injunction over the teacher’s suspension and a court was due to rule on the matter within two weeks.
A little crag near Stockholm is causing a minor uproar in the Jewish world, thanks to the inconveniently named Cordelia Hess, a historian who, on a recent hike, took issue with several Nazi-inspired trail names. “I thought it rather unpleasant to climb through the ‘Crematorium’ or say that ‘now I am going to do Kristallnacht,’” she told Dagens Nyheter, a Swedish newspaper. “The use of such names on the climbing routes trivializes the Holocaust.”
Dagens Nyheter’s report gave examples of other Holocaust-themed trail names — including “Himmler,” “Third Reich,” “Zyklon B” and “Swastika” — and explained that long-standing climbing customs give naming rights to the first person to ascend a trail. The names, apparently, are inside jokes among hikers. A spokesman for the Swedish Climbing Federation, which manages the hiking area in question, told Dagens Nyheter that the names were “childish and disrespectful” but ultimately out of their control.
What does a new Holocaust documentary have in common with “The Kids Are All Right,” “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “Predators”? An R rating, according to the Classification and Rating Administration of the Motion Picture Association of America.
Yesterday’s New York Times reports that “A Film Unfinished,” which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, earned the R rating, which requires viewers under the age of 17 to be accompanied by an adult, for “disturbing images of Holocaust atrocities, including graphic nudity.”
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