Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chinese Educators Inspired at Yad Vashem

“By participating in the seminar, I deeply recognize the importance of Holocaust education. I think the essential goal of Holocaust education is ‘to remember the past, to live the present, to trust the future.’ (Abba Kovner)” - one of 29 Chinese educators who spent two-weeks at the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem

Earlier this month, 29 educators from Macau, Shanghai, Shangdong, Nanjing and Kaifeng, Xian, and Zhengzhou came to Jerusalem, Israel to take part at the second Chinese seminar for Educators at Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies. MA and Doctoral students, university department heads and professors as well as a participant from the Nanjiing Massacre Memorial Museum, all came for in-depth study of the Holocaust and how to teach it in the classroom. The group also an opportunity to tour in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other areas in Israel and experience a singular communal Shabbat Jerusalem.
The special 2-week seminar was comprised of academic lectures and presentations of educational resources including Antisemitism, the Final Solution, the Allies and the Holocaust, the Righteous Among the Nations, Nazi Racial ideology, the unprecedentedness of the Holocaust, and Yad Vashem’s pedagogical approach to Holocaust education. Among the seven survivors that met with the group at Yad Vashem were two ‘Schindler Jews’ (Jews rescued by Righteous Among the Nations Oskar Schindler) who shared their experiences in the Emile Factory in Krakow and the best friend of Anne Frank spoke extensively of their friendship as young children.
In the end, the reflections of the participants themselves speak of what has been accomplished in such a short, but intense, study period. In the words of one of the participants, "These two weeks in Israel is my most beautiful memory in my life…With this new knowledge.…I will do my best to tell the spirit of the Holocaust and the Jewish people, to promote the friendship between China and Israel."

Last year a similar seminar inaugurated Yad Vashem’s ongoing activity in China; and since then Yad Vashem experts have been to China to hold seminars there as well. The seminar is sponsored by the Adelson Family Charitable Foundation. Dr. Miriam Adelson is Chairperson of the Council for the Promotion of Israel-China Relations.

Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies conducts dozens of seminars annually for educators from around the world, and produces educational material in many languages.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Yad Vashem Holocaust Database Unites Lost Cousins

Aron Heller, AP

For five long years during World War II, Nahum Korenblum never left the side of his younger brother Yaakov as the two fled the Nazi invasion of Poland, escaped forced labor camps across Europe and ultimately joined the Soviet Red Army. There, they were separated and dispatched abroad, never to meet again.
On Thursday, more than a decade after they died, their children were united at Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial thanks to a recently uploaded family photo discovered on its comprehensive online database of Holocaust victims.
It was just the latest successful byproduct of the memorial's database, established years ago as a means of commemoration aimed at gathering the exact names of all the 6 million Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide. But since the database went online in 2004, it has become a powerful genealogy tool that has led to hundreds of emotional reunions of long lost families.

In 1958, shortly after Yaakov moved to Israel, he and his wife filled out a page of testimony at Yad Vashem commemorating his dead parents. Nahum had meanwhile settled in Ukraine, where his surname was mangled into Koramblyum. For the rest of their lives, the brothers searched for each other in vain, the paper trail often coming to a dead end because of the differing spellings of their names.
In 2006, Yaakov's daughter, Bracha Fleishman-Korenblum, updated the online entry, attaching an old black-and-white photo of her grandparents and four of their children – including Nahum and Yaakov.
Two months ago, one of Nahum's American grandchildren stumbled upon the entry and was shocked to recognize his grandfather in the picture. He reached out to the Korenblum clan in Israel and a reunion was put into motion.
This week, Gennadiy Koramblyum, of Queens, New York, and his son, who is named after Yaakov, arrived in Israel for the wedding of one of their newly discovered relatives.
"It was joy, I cried, I didn't sleep for two nights," Gennadiy Koramblyum said. "Since I was a little boy, I remember my father told me 'I have another brother, he is somewhere.' He said 'I always held him in my hands, I never let anyone separate us.'"
Koramblyum's father moved with the family to the United States in 1991 and he died there in 1997. Yaakov passed away in Israel four years later.
"I am sure they are happy now upstairs seeing us all here together," Koramblyum said, shaking. "This means everything to me."
His Israeli cousin shared that sentiment, saying the children's' joy was mixed with sorrow that their fathers never managed to reunite.
"It's sad, but they meet in heaven," said Rafael Korenblum, who bears a striking resemblance to his late father Yaakov. "A circle has been closed. There was something unresolved all these years, it lingered and now there is closure."
Cynthia Wroclawski, the manager of Yad Vashem's name recovery project, said such breakthroughs are being made possible by the increased openness of aging survivors and the curiosity and tech-savvy of their descendants.
"The lock is being opened by the younger generation. They have more intuition and more interest," she said. "That's the power of the database, the torch of memory is being passed."
The project began in 1955 and had reached 3 million confirmed names by the time the online database was launched. More than a million more names have been added in the seven years since.
Efforts are continuing, primarily in eastern Europe, where name collection is particularly difficult because Jews there were often rounded up, shot and dumped in mass graves without any documentation. The names of Jews killed at German death camps, on the other hand, are easier to collect because of meticulous Nazi records.
The information can be accessed online in English, Hebrew and Russian. Yad Vashem actively encourages survivors and their kin to come forth and fill out pages of testimony for those killed, before their names and stories are lost forever.
"We are not giving up, there is still much more to do," Wroclawski said. "For these families, you see the rift of the Holocaust is getting smaller and that some kind of healing process is taking place."


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Google Street View Trike Comes to Yad Vashem

Last week visitors to Yad Vashem were surprised to see a tricycle being navigated around the Campus with a camera, almost like a periscope, perched on the back of the trike. Google's Streetview Trike had arrived for a several hour ride around the Mount of Remembrance. Negotiating the different paths, gardens, monuments - and even the Visitors' Center – the Trike, specially fitted with cameras that allow 360-degree imagery, captured images of the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations, Warsaw Ghetto Square and the monuments and gardens throughout the 45-acre Campus. The images will be integrated into Google Street View, allowing exploration of Yad Vashem's unique outdoor grounds and memorials from anywhere in the world.