Someday they will all be gone – those who survived the atrocities of the Holocaust firsthand. Today their number hovers around 195,000 but that figure dwindles every year. Are we so focused on remembering the Holocaust for the future that we’re ignoring its victims today? That’s the big question. Others come to mind as well:
Did they forget enough to rebuild and love again?
How are they faring now in their closing years?
Have they been compensated for ‘the years that the locust have eaten‘?
In an article in Tablet Magazine from January 2014, journalist Matthew Fishbane lays out the survivors’ plight now, 70-plus years after the end of World War II. Included is a beautiful audio-visual tribute to nine survivors now living in New York.
Audio-Visual Tribute: Portraits by Jason Florio
Plaque reads: For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity where the Nazis murdered about one-and-a-half million men, women, and children – mainly Jews from various countries of Europe. Auschwitz-Birkenau. 1940-1945
Many tributes were created for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz this past January. One such tribute – simply called “Auschwitz” – is a beautifully done documentary filmed on location at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum – produced by Steven Spielberg, narrated by Meryl Streep, with music by Hans Zimmer. The film uses archival war footage, flyovers and computer-generated imagery that captures the scale and brutal utility of the Reich’s largest and most notorious death camp. It is a succinct and impactful education on the genocide at Auschwitz. Watch here or here.
So We Never Forget
Harald Quandt, Magda Goebbels’ son by her first marriage, center back stands in uniform with his step-father Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, bottom front right, his mother Magda, third from left, and the couple’s 6 children, Helga, Hildegard, Helmut, Hedwig, Holdine and Heidrun in 1942. Photograph: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Sins of the Fathers
No one should have to bear the brunt of someone else’s past. On the contrary, people should be judged by their own morals and merit. Yet when something happens that is so horrendous, so horrific and beyond understanding – like the Holocaust – what then? Are the perpetrators’ progeny to blame? Recently two Nazi ‘children’ were in the news with stories that tug at the soul. Their stories beg the question:
“What if that were me?”
Below are links to articles about several children of Nazi war criminals and how they’ve dealt with the burden of their blood. Each has had to live under the pall of his/her predecessor’s name and reputation. Some have tried to erase the stigma. Others have embraced it. Still others have tried to reach out and make amends. But they have all had to come to terms with the stain of guilt and shame of their collective past. This is by no means an exhaustive list but an invitation to look further.
Adolf Eichmann – SS Obersturmbannführer / Facilitator of ‘Final Solution’
Legacy of the Third Reich: Eichmann’s Remorseful Son International Business Times – 01/30/2013 – Synopsis: Otto Adolf Eichmann, one of the major architects of the Nazi Holocaust, met justice in 1962 by hanging. To his oldest son, Ricardo, Adolf Eichmann was an historical figure, a father he didn’t know.
Coffee with Eichmann Ynetnews.com – 07/06/2010 – Synopsis: For years, Ricardo Eichmann has distanced himself from the annals of modern history, where his father, Adolf Eichmann occupies one of the most horrifying places. In order to lead a normal life under the name “Eichmann”, he focuses on archaeological excavations… [Read more…]
Today, January 27, 2015, is International Remembrance Day, marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet troops. It is a day to honor all the victims of the Nazi killing machine and to hear their stories. Below are links to a variety of tributes:
From Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial & Museum, Poland
300 former Auschwitz prisoners will take part in a commemoration event to mark the 70th anniversary of liberation. “This is the last big anniversary that we can commemorate with a numerous group of Survivors [eye-witnesses]. Their voices became the most important warning against the human capacity for extreme humiliation, contempt and genocide”, said Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz Memorial. “Soon it will not be the [eye]witnesses of those years, but us, the post-war generations, who will pass this horrible knowledge and the crushing conclusions that result from it. That is why it is so important that the crowned heads, presidents, prime ministers and high-rank representatives of international institutions are present in Birkenau today …” Read More
A Lifetime Surviving Auschwitz
As the world marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a group of now-elderly survivors of the Nazi death camp have been photographed holding wartime pictures of themselves and their murdered families. (Guardian online news)
Remembering the Holocaust
Thousands of people are gathering at events worldwide to remember the millions of people killed in the Holocaust – exactly 70 years after the liberation of the Nazis’ Auschwitz death camp. (ITV online news)
In Honor of International Remembrance Day
January 27, 2015
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
– by Martin Niemöller
Martin Niemöller: (1892-1984) Niemöller was a German pastor and theologian. Originally he supported Hitler’s policies, but eventually opposed them. He was arrested and eventually confined in Sachsenhausen and later, Dachau. He was liberated by the allies in 1945 and continued his career in Germany as a clergyman and noted pacifist.
Helga Weissova: (b 1929) Helga is a Czech artist and Holocaust survivor who entered into Terezin with her family on Dec. 4, 1941. She brought with her a box of paints and a notebook. She did more than 100 paintings doing what her father told her: “Paint whatever you see”. Here ended Helga’s childhood with the responsibility of painting everything she saw and experienced. She was one of the few survivors.
History always leaves a legacy behind for those who are willing to look for it. Elizabeth Rynecki is one such seeker. Recently I attended a talk Elizabeth gave about her “Chasing Portraits” film project, held in a beautiful women’s clubhouse nestled in the Sausalito hills overlooking San Francisco Bay. Elizabeth is the great-granddaughter of Moshe Rynecki, a prolific Warsaw-based artist who documented the Polish Jewish community in the interwar years (1918-39) in over 800 paintings and sculptures. Sadly, most of his body of work was lost in the Holocaust. Or so people thought. [Read more…]