Thursday, December 27, 2012

First Ever Seminar for Indian Educators at Yad Vashem

Educators from India at the Partisans' Panorama
on the Yad Vashem Campus
A group of twenty senior educators from across India recently participated in a special seminar at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies. The group included secondary school teachers, high school principals and university lecturers who teach a variety of disciplines. For many, it was their first trip outside of India. During the seminar, the group experienced in-depth tours of the Yad Vashem museums and campus, met with Holocaust survivors, and discussed historical and pedagogical questions with Holocaust researchers and educators.

"The young people in our country have to understand world history and respect every religion," commented one of the participants, a high school principal.  The group attended lectures on a variety of topics, among them: using technology to teach the Holocaust, Nazi racial ideology and the ‘Jewish Question’, the ‘Final Solution’, and everyday life in the ghettos. They also had an opportunity to tour Jerusalem and other areas in Israel. The seminar took place with the support of the Adelson Family Foundation and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The End of 1942 A Turning Point in WWII and in the Comprehension of the Final Solution?

By Prof. Dina Porat

This week Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research is hosting an international conference marking 70 years since the end of 1942, believed by many historians to mark a turning point in the course of WWII – and the Shoah. Over four days, concluding today, some 50 guest lecturers from 15 countries gathered at Yad Vashem to discuss key questions regarding this historical period: What did the Allies know and believe by the end of 1942 regarding Nazi policy? How much accurate information had the Vatican, the media, the Red Cross and the intelligence community received, and what messages did their declarations and statements convey? How crucial was the North African theater to the subsequent direction taken by the war? And most notably, when did the leaders of various Jewish groups and communities know about the destructive intentions of the Nazi regime, and did the late realization of the truth stand in the way of possible response measures? 

The sheer scope of mass murder perpetrated by Einsatzgruppen since June 1941, with the invasion of the USSR, began to be known in early 1942. During that year, more and more information came through, and in August it was further strengthened by the Riegner Telegram – a message warning the Jewish organizations in the free world of Germany's plans to kill 2-3 million people at death facilities. In late October a group of exchanged citizens arrived in Eretz Israel from Europe and horrified the yishuv (the Jewish community under the British mandate) by what they had to tell; US President Roosevelt notified the leaders of the Jewish community in America that US intelligence confirmed the truth of these reports. In late November, the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem issued a press release to the effect that a systematic murder operation was underway in Europe, and on 17 December, the Allies made another solemn announcement to this effect at the British parliament, fortifying it with a threat of trial and persecution for all war criminals seized after the war.

However, at the same time, the military front was also experiencing a change in course: in October 1942, the Germans lost the battle at El Alamein. From that point on, the wheel of war started turning in the opposite direction: in February 1943 Britain launched an offensive to recover several strategic locations surrendered during the first half of the war, particularly in the Middle Eastern region.

"'Operation Torch' (7 November 1942) was certainly a turning point in WWII," argues Dr. Haim Saadoun, Director of the Documentation Center for North African Jewry during WWII at the Ben-Zvi Institute – co-sponsors of the conference. "This was the first military initiative of the Allied forces; it changed the standing of France in North Africa and greatly influenced the lives of Jews living in the region."

The conclusions thus far seem to indicate that exactly at the time when news of the mass murder of European Jewry was finding its way to the international forum, and precisely when the yishuv and communities of the free world began to propose rescue programs, collect funds and seek the Allies' assistance, Britain and America directed all their energy towards achieving military success on the front lines, thus making all plans of rescuing Jews appear as hindrances to the war effort.

Although at the end of 1942 the extermination of European Jewry became a publicly known reality, the complicated process of understanding an extermination plan of such unprecedented cruelty, too horrific almost for the human mind to comprehend, still remains at the very heart of extensive pondering. Despite the impressive research being presented at the conference and the lively discussions that follow, it seems that many of the familiar questions are yet to be answered.

The author is Yad Vashem's Chief Historian.

A version of this article will appear in the upcoming Yad Vashem Jerusalem Magazine.  For more articles about news and events at Yad Vashem click here.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shoah Survivor Commemorates the Brother he Never Knew

"I didn’t think of myself as a Holocaust survivor, my mother was the Holocaust survivor", says Lerner, "That changed one day in a conversation with my son Baruch (Bori) when I referred to myself as 2nd generation and he said 'sorry dad but you won't take that honor from me', that’s when I realized that I was a Holocaust survivor. Finally in 2007 I filled out a Page of Testimony for my brother, because I also realized that he too was a Holocaust victim and I wanted him to be remembered."

Born in Nazi occupied France in 1942, a child of war, Daniel Lerner never met his older brother Paul, who died as an infant. His parents, Baruch (Boria) and Hadassa, had fled Paris for the south of France in the wake of the German invasion in 1940 and were interned in the Gurs prison camp in France. Paul was born six months later, in the town of Albi. Lerner’s parents were later moved to the camp of Argeles-sur-Mer, where Paul died. They managed to escape and returned to Paris, where they fought for the Jewish-communist resistance movement. In Paris they gave birth to their second child, Daniel. In June 1943 they were arrested by the French police and turned over to the Germans. Baruch was sentenced to death and executed on Oct. 1, 1943. Hadassa was sent to Auschwitz. She survived and following liberation was reunited with Daniel, who was hidden by a Jewish family, under false identity, in a small village, to which he was brought by a non-Jewish resistance member. After the war Hadassa and Daniel came to Israel.

"For all those years I barely looked at the two photographs of my brother and the stack of pre-war letters that my father wrote to my mother", explains Lerner. Ironically, he says that something in him shifted after his son was murdered in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem in 2002, and he decided to re-open his connection to the past.

In May 2012 13-year-old Trevor Goodman from California contacted an organization called Remember Us, a group which twins children preparing for their bar/bat mitzvahs with the memory of children lost in the Holocaust. Trevor had a special request – to commemorate a child from Albi, France - the hometown of his grandmother Marie Kaufman and where she was hidden as a child during the war. After accessing Yad Vashem’s Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names, Paul Lerner's information was sent to Trevor.

Paul Lerner’s Page of Testimony included contact information in Hebrew for his brother Daniel Lerner who had submitted the Page. With the help of an Israeli cousin who translated the address, Trevor wrote a letter explaining how he planned to honor Lerner’s brother during his upcoming bar mitzvah. He sent the letter, not knowing if it would reach Lerner, since he had no way of confirming whether or not he still resided at the address he submitted on the Page of Testimony.

"I received a letter from someone unknown to me and thought 'something's strange here, this must be a mistake.' It is hard to throw me off balance after what I've been through in my life, but after reading it I was stunned." The letter surprised Lerner who did not realize anyone else knew of his brother’s existence. "I was moved, I cried, which doesn’t happen to me very often." Lerner replied to Trevor’s letter in English. “I can find no words to express my feelings about what you are doing to commemorate my brother,”

Lerner was invited to Los Angeles to attend Trevor’s bar mitzvah. After being in contact via e-mail and Skype, he accepted the invitation, changing plans he’d made to travel to Paris to conduct doctoral research on the Jewish-communist resistance in France during the Holocaust, of which both his parents were members. Lerner joined Trevor at his Bar Mitzvah celebration to express his gratitude that Trevor had chosen to commemorate his brother.

This was not the first time the information on a Page of Testimony has had a profound impact on Lerner. During a trip to France in 2001 to meet with members of the family who helped save him during the Holocaust, Lerner conducted extensive research on his father’s activities and was able to secure hundreds of documents pertaining to Jewish resistance fighters. Daniel contributed copies of the documentation to Yad Vashem's archives including a photograph of Baruch (Boria) Lerner, which is displayed in The Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum along with text that Lerner authored providing a brief description of his father's wartime activities.

In 2003 when Lerner searched Yad Vashem’s Names Database for information on his father, he found several entries, including a Page of Testimony submitted to by a woman named Sabine Elzon, who was then a volunteer at Yad Vashem. Lerner contacted her daughter Berthe, also a volunteer at Yad Vashem and found out that Sabine, who was a "Kasharit" (female courier) in the Jewish-communist Resistance knew his father. For Lerner it was an opportunity to gain a new perspective on his father who had been murdered so long ago. "She told me about some conversations she had with my father, how happy he was when I was born, and that his purpose in fighting was to ensure his baby a life in a better world… She remembered my mother's name and even my name (Claude later changed to Daniel) which was rare, since he was very cautious and kept details of his personal life secret," he stated.

For Daniel Lerner sharing Trevor's bar mitzvah in commemoration of his brother Paul has helped him re-connect with his family's past, in addition he has formed close ties with Trevor and his family with whom he remains in contact. "From an emotional perspective it made me feel proud that someone remembered him as well; someone remembered my brother. To me that is the most important thing, that he be remembered."

For more information on Yad Vashem's Shoah Victims' Names Recovery Project please contact:

For more information on Remember us please contact:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Remembering Settela; Refelctions Upon Visiting the New Monument to the Genocide of the Roma-Sinti in Berlin

by Richelle Budd Caplan, Director, European Department, International School for Holocaust Studies of Yad Vashem

On this overcast, misty morning in the heart of Berlin, I could feel the eyes of Anna Maria “Settela” Steinbach staring at me from the sky. Settela was born in Limburg, the Netherlands, in 1934. Settela was deported from Westerbork to Auschwitz-Birkenau on May 19, 1944 together with other members of her family.

The iconic photograph of “Settela” has appeared in so many films documenting the deportation of Nazi victims to exterminations camps. In essence, her face has become a “child Madonna,” symbolizing the many train shipments of “human cargo” to be murdered in Nazi-controlled Poland during the 1940s.

Although for decades Settela’s identity was assumed to be that of a Jewish girl, in 1994 a Dutch journalist, Arie Huibrecht Dignus “Aad” Wagenaar, uncovered that Settela Steinbach came from a Sinti family.

The new memorial to the genocide of the Sinti and Roma, adjacent to the Brandenberg Gate and the Reichstag, designed by the Israeli artist Dani Karavan, places an emphasis on the unknown faces of the victims. The poem by the Italian poet, Santino Spinelli, encircles the pool of water, mirroring the endless sky. Just as in other memorial basins, visitors have thrown coins, leaving their wishes and hopes. The names of ghettos and camps where Sinti-Roma genocide victims were persecuted and killed are engraved in stones that form the circumference of this newly dedicated memorial.

Somber, but not overpowering music filtered by speakers placed on tree trunks creates an appropriate mood for those who enter. The trees in the Tiergarten Park greet the visitors as if to say, “We have been waiting for you.”

This memorial has been a long time in the making, and it provides a central place to commemorate the genocide of the Roma-Sinti under National Socialism. It is hoped that many school groups will visit this memorial, especially after studying about Nazi racist ideology and legislation, listening to the voices of the victims and learning about families who once lived in Europe, like the Steinbachs from the Netherlands.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jarmila’s Diary

"I pray every night. I believe in God. But nobody knows about it. With a heavy heart I showed my first and second entry in my diary, but I’ll never show the third one. But I have to return to what I want to write about. So, I believe in God. My teacher influenced me. Not only me, but the entire class. Before the first session, just before school starts, we pray. That would be nothing. She mentions God frequently, and many girls now believe. I am not attending Religion classes, but I can still believe in God. I pray every night (in the morning I do not have time to pray). At first I wanted to hide it since in our family nobody believes in God except our German maid whose name is Kristl. She believes in God.
So for now, goodbye my diary, now I am going to read fairy tales. I love to read."

An excerpt from Jarmila’s diary, dated Dec. 31, 1934 (translation by Alice Lutwak):

Czech Holocaust diary given a permanent home in Israel

by Andrew Silow-Carroll in the New Jersey Jewish News

For decades, Alice Lutwak’s family protected two diaries — one leather-bound, the other wrapped in patchwork cloth — written by a young girl in prewar Czechoslovakia. Beginning on Christmas Day 1934 when she was 11, Jarmila Steinova wrote about her grades, school trips, her faith, and the growing menace from Nazi Germany, which inspired her to write a poem: “The Germans with their raised fists are screaming.We are not worried about their threats.”   Eight years later, Jarmila and her family would be deported first to Terezin, and then to Auschwitz. Read more here in this moving article by Andrew Silow-Carroll.

In April 2011, Yad Vashem embarked on an 11th hour rescue operation to collect personal items from the Holocaust era.  Since its inception, the Israeli national "Gathering the Fragments" campaign has received more than 65,000 photographs, documents, works of art, artifacts and other personal items from 4,100 individuals in Israel. The campaign was created to reveal the unique stories that lie behind each obect, and preserve the items themselves for future generations in order to enable researchers, educators and the general public to learn more about the fate of the Jewish individuals and communities destroyed as well as those that survived and thereby ensure that they are not forgotten.

To learn more about donating personal items to the Gathering Fragments Campaign write  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reading the ‘Protocols’ in Athens

This article orginally appeared in The Times of Israel

by Dr. Robert Rozett

The “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” were authored by the Czarist secret police during the last years of the 19th century, primarily to support the Russian regime’s virulently anti-Semitic policies. They are purported to be the minutes of a secret meeting between Jewish leaders who discussed their attempt to take over the world. Especially during the period straddling World War I, the “Protocols” began to spread far and wide, and in 1920 were even notoriously published by the American industrialist Henry Ford and were front-page news in The Times of London. Several months after they first appeared in The Times, that newspaper declared them to be a forgery. In two court cases in the middle of the 1930s, the “Protocols” were also declared to be a forgery. Nevertheless, around the world, millions believed every word, and the idea that “the Jews” are out to take over the world became and remains a staple of anti-Semitic discourse.

During the Nazi era, the ideas contained in the “Protocols,” now married to the fallacious notion that the Jewish “race” is implicitly dangerous for mankind, were routinely invoked in official anti-Semitic rhetoric and in myriad informal forums. Most historians would concur that the “Protocols” comprise a considerable factor in the thinking that brought Hitler and his partners to persecute the Jews and to their policy of mass systematic murder. There also is no doubt that for a great many people a belief in the veracity of the “Protocols,” to say the least, dampened any nascent impulses to oppose the unfolding Holocaust.

After the facts of the Shoah were brought to light, one would think that a screed like the “Protocols” would have been debunked forever. Yet, it was not. The extreme right continued and continues to espouse the “Protocols,” and in the Muslim and Arab world they are at the core of anti-Semitic discourse. Major television series aired in recent years in Egypt (“Horseman without a Horse”) and Syria, Lebanon and Iran (“Al-Shatat” — The Diaspora­) were firmly rooted in the “Protocols.” One can find support for the veracity of the “Protocols” on innumerable websites, blogs and discussion groups in a plethora of languages, and their presence on the web is ubiquitous. It is easy to obtain a copy either over the Internet or in many bookstores around the world.

Despite all of this, many people still consider expressions of belief in the truth of the “Protocols” to exist only on the margins of society. For a long time now this has not been the case, and the reading of a segment of the “Protocols” in a duly elected parliament in a member state of the EU must be taken as a new low. It is not that such a reading will automatically or necessarily result in a new Holocaust, and it would be much too facile to draw a direct line between the two. Nonetheless, the reading of the “Protocols” in the parliament is a highly symbolic act. It clearly demonstrates that the politics of hatred is not only alive and well, but is much too near the mainstream. Real and practical steps must be taken to prevent this kind of politics from gaining even more support, or actually gaining a hold on power. Public pronouncements, the media, laws, and most fundamentally, education, must all be harnessed to the effort to push the kind of hatred represented by the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” back to the margins and then stamp it out altogether.

Dr Robert Rozett is the Director of the Yad Vashem Libraries, author of 'Approaching the Holocaust, Texts and Contexts' (Vallentine Mitchell, 2005), and 'Conscripted Slaves: Hungarian Jewish Forced Laborers on the Eastern Front,' soon be published by Yad Vashem and University of Nebraska Press

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Yad Vashem and the Anne Frank House Strengthen Ties

by Richelle Budd Caplan, Director, European Department,
International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem
In essence, Anne Frank wrote a “blog” 70 years ago. I have often wondered whether Anne would have won the Pulitzer Prize had she not died in Bergen Belsen?
Anne Frank was one of the 1.5 million Jewish children who died during the Shoah simply because she was Jewish. In hiding in Amsterdam, Anne noted in her diary that she wanted to become a journalist. She was a teenager who had aspirations – similar to those of Moshe Flinker who while in hiding in Brussels noted in his diary that he wished to become a statesman. Anne shared the hope to dream along with Abraham Kopolovitz who was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1930. During the Shoah, Abraham was imprisoned in the Lodz Ghetto. Abraham also left a notebook that was found after his death.
Anne’s personal story has resonated with readers from all over the globe, especially young people, since her diary was originally published more than 60 years ago. Her words have touched many hearts and minds and she ultimately may be perceived as an icon. Approximately 1.2 million people annually visit the place where Anne spent approximately two years in hiding – 85% of them from outside of the Netherlands.
This week, Yad Vashem signed a first-ever cooperation agreement in the field of education with the Anne Frank House, expanding professional development opportunities for Dutch educators to study this difficult and complex subject matter. During our discussions with the Executive Director of the Anne Frank House, Ronald Leopold, it was clear that both of our institutions share a deep commitment to transmitting to educators and their students the importance of teaching about the Jewish victims’ pre-war experiences, their everyday life struggles during the Holocaust and the dilemmas that Holocaust survivors – such as Otto Frank - faced after they were “liberated.” It is thereby hoped that Yad Vashem and the Anne Frank House will now work more closely together to support teachers who wish to learn more about the Holocaust.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Teaching the Holocaust: the power of personal stories

During the month of October over 150 educators from countries as diverse as China, the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, participated in seminars at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies. While here, they met with Holocaust survivors, historians and leading educators, and had extensive tours of the Museums and resources at Yad Vashem. Many educators face challenges of all kinds in teaching the Holocaust. At the School, they have the opportunity to discuss these challenges with colleagues and experts. Here are some reflections by one of the participants, an educator from the Uk, who writes in The Guardian:

Teaching the Holocaust: the power of personal stories

History teacher Lisa Reid explains how meeting Holocaust survivors took her teaching to a different level

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Going Green on the Mount of Remembrance

By Yifat Bachrach-Ron

The Yad Vashem campus extends over 45 acres of forest and groves upon the hills of Jerusalem. Some 15 acres are irrigated flower gardens and trees – most of them planted in honor of the Righteous Among the Nations. 

Through the initiative of Gadi Giladi, Director of the Maintenance Department at Yad Vashem, the flowers and trees now receive water discharged by the air conditioning system of the Museum Complex. This green-minded system, built by maintenance professionals, recycles 15,000 cubic meters of water from the air conditioning network every year. "Today, about a third of the manicured grounds at Yad Vashem are irrigated with recycled water," says Giladi. "In addition to the supreme importance of preserving water, this saves Yad Vashem some NIS 180,000 a year."

The Museum Complex, which includes the Holocaust History Museum, Holocaust Art Museum, Synagogue and Exhibitions Pavilion, is climate-controlled 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by an advanced cooling system that maintains constant temperature and humidity levels inside the museum halls throughout the year.  The necessity of this is clearly dictated by the unique nature of the exhibits – personal effects, documents and artworks dating back to the Holocaust period. The temperature inside the museums is constant, regardless of the weather outside. This calls for a special air conditioning system, utilizing and discharging sizeable amounts of water. In the past, this water was simply wasted. 

One of the most important processes which enabled Yad Vashem to recycle its cooling system water was the removal of lime scale, rendering water fit for irrigation. The process was closely supervised by agronomists and chemists, and helped achieve the necessary water quality. 

At the heart of the new system are eight large tanks that collect water from the air-conditioning network and channel it toward the irrigation system. In an added measure of forward-thinking, the tanks double as water reserves for fire emergencies. 


Thursday, September 6, 2012

President of Israel Pays Tribute to Righteous Among the Nations Program

Israeli President Shimon Peres holding the memento
 presented to him by Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev

This past week, President of Israel Shimon Peres honored 50 years of activity of the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations. In a moving reception at the President's Residence, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev gave the President a special memento - a copy of the testimony that Peres' father Yitzhak Perski presented to the Commission in 1965 regarding an English soldier named Charles Coward. Coward aided Perski when they were both being held in a German POW camp in Greece. Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Commission Chairman Supreme Court Justice (ret.) Jacob Turkel and committee members also participated in the special event.

President Peres remarked to the members of the Commission, "Your job is not only an historic duty, it is also an educational mission. The recognition of Righteous Among the Nations is important to those who lived then, but also to those who were born later. We all need to know and appreciate those extraordinary and brave individuals who risked their lives and showed that even during the darkest of days there were people with a shining inner spirit."

President Shimon Peres with members of the Commission
 for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations,
  Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate Avner Shalev
 and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau

Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations Chairman Jacob Turkel emphasized that "The job of the Commission members to decide who is eligible for the title of Righteous Among the Nations and who is not requires great powers of inner strength, intelligence and compassion. They undertake this holy work that has been placed upon their shoulders with devotion and love and out of a deep historic commitment."

British soldier Charles Coward joined the British army in 1924, and served five years in India. During WWII, holding the rank of sergeant major, Coward fought on the French front; in 1940 he was wounded and captured at Dunkirk. He escaped from captivity several times, and was eventually incarcerated at the Monowitz camp near Auschwitz. During this period, Coward helped save a number of Jews. Known as the "Count of Auschwitz," he had the idea of collecting precious chocolate and cigarettes from his fellow British prisoners, and exchanging them with Auschwitz guards for dead bodies. He substituted these bodies for Jewish inmates, who he helped to escape. On February 16, 1964, Yad Vashem recognized Charles Coward as Righteous Among the Nations.

The Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nation has been active for 50 years. The independent committee acts much as a jury and its final decisions are reached by a vote. The Commission is comprised of researchers, legal experts and historians, many of whom are Holocaust survivors, and all of whom are volunteers. To date, more than 24,000 individuals have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Italian Minister of Education and 30 high school students at Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies; meet with Yad Vashem Chairman Shalev and Italian educators attending seminar at Yad Vashem

Today, Italian Minister of Education and Research Francesco Profumo visited Yad Vashem.  During the visit, the Minister met with Italian educators who are currently participating in a teacher-training seminar at Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies, as well as with Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev.   Thirty outstanding Italian high school students who have written essays on the Holocaust, and have completed educational projects related to the memory of the Holocaust, accompanied the Minister.    The group spent over 3 hours at Yad Vashem, including an emotional tour of the Holocaust History Museum and meeting with senior educational staff at Yad Vashem. 
Yad Vashem Chairman Shalev (r)
and Italian Education Minister Profumo
joined by Italian educators, listen to
Dr. Nidam-Orvieto lecture in Italian about
Holocaust education
The visit is intended to strengthen the agreement that was signed last year by Israeli minister of Education Gideon Sa'ar and the Italian Ministry of Education. 
Chairman Shalev welcomed the Minister, and noted that,   “We are already seeing the fruits of the agreement that was signed by Minister Gideon Sa’ar and the Italian Ministry of Education.  Yad Vashem is prepared to provide educators with the best tools and knowledge in order to promote Holocaust education in Italy.”
According to the agreement, Italian teachers will be trained in teaching the Holocaust.  There will also be a youth exchange program between Israel and Italy.  As part of the agreement, each year the Italian Ministry of Education will choose teachers who will undergo training at Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies.  These educators will then teach the subject at high schools throughout Italy.  This week’s Italian educators’ seminar is the third such seminar this year at Yad Vashem.
Italian Education Minister Profumo
with Italian educators and students
at Yad Vashem following an emotional
visit to the Holocaust History Museum
and Children's Memorial
Shalev pointed out that, “Paradoxically,  as the events of the Shoah recede in time, it has become more meaningful.  Prof. Israel Gutman has often remarked that the Holocaust refuses to be a part of history; indeed it hovers around us, as part of our culture. It is important that educators - those  shaping our culture and our future - confront it,  as they are preparing future generations to be the citizens of tomorrow's society.”
The Minister said he is personally committed to deepening and broadening Holocaust education in Italy, and said that Yad Vashem epitomizes the proper approach to developing a culture of Holocaust remembrance, which Italy should and is adopting via long-term contact with Yad Vashem. 
Dr. Iael Nidam-Orvieto spoke about the importance of keeping the personal story in the historical context of the Holocaust while teaching in an age appropriate manner.    How to teach a trauma, without causing trauma, is at the center of the pedagogical approach of Yad Vashem.
“The memory of what happened then is part of European civilization.  It not only concerns the past, but also the present and the future,” said Minister Profumo at the conclusion of his visit,  “We don’t want to go back to a time when Man became an object.”

Monday, August 27, 2012

Butterflies for Hannah

Hannah Gofrit meeting with schoolchildren in Warsaw
By Richelle Budd Caplan
Director, European Department, International School for Holocaust Studies

In 1935, Hannah Gofrit was born in Biala Ravska, Poland, a town where Jews and Poles had lived and worked together for generations. She had a wonderful childhood until WWII broke out in September 1939. I Wanted to Fly Like a Butterfly provides a touching account of Hannah’s experiences as a little girl before, during and following the Holocaust. This children’s book has been translated into a number of languages, including Spanish, French and Romanian.

At the end of the book, written by Naomi Morgenstern and published by Yad Vashem, Hannah personally invites her readers to write to her. She states, “I have now told you a small part of the story that I always carry with me. I would be happy to answer your questions or hear your thoughts about my story. Please write to me in Israel. Here is my address and I look forward to hearing from you.”

Hannah has received hundreds of letters and drawings from students, as well as their teachers, from around the world.

For example, a German teacher sent Gofrit the following postcard:

“Dear Mrs. Gofrit,

It is now the third or fourth time that I read your book with my students in school. Every time the students are touched. Thank you for having written that book. It is very valuable. Shalom be with you. Sincerely, Birke Thiel.”

An Italian pupil, Francesco Busi, sent her a drawing of a butterfly with the following message:

“Ciao Hanna! I’ve enjoyed your book very much because I have learned that in life we must never surrender, even in the most dreadful situations, like the ones you experienced.”

Paulo Perneta from the Ashgreen School in the United Kingdom sent Gofrit the following moving letter,

“Dear Chana,

Miss Hagan has read us your story. I felt sad reading about your life. I thought you were brave for hiding in the pig-pen in someone else’s house. Why did you go to Israel? Do you feel happy now its over?

From this topic I have learned to never judge a book by its cover and not to commit genocide. I think no one will ever go through genocide. I will never forget this so it doesn’t happen again. I hope to hear from you soon.”

Chana Karpel, a fourth grade student of the Hebrew Academy Community School in southern Florida, wrote the following email,
“Dear Ms. Gofrit,

My Hebrew teacher, Morah Maty, read to us your book. I enjoyed the wonderful, brave adventures that you had with your family. My question is, what ever happened to the daughters of the Polish family that rescued you, Chankeh and Basha? Did you ever see them again? Thank you for publishing a Hebrew book that I could enjoy.

Love, Chana Karpel from the Hebrew Academy Community School

Ps. I like that we have the same name.”

Gofrit responded to Karpel by email, noting that Chankeh lives today in Warsaw and Basha lives in the Netherlands. She maintains continuous contact with them.

Gofrit’s story has also touched the hearts and minds of older pupils as well. For instance, a few years ago, Maria Borzecka, an educator at the Willy Brandt Bilingual German-Polish School in Warsaw, participated in an intensive teacher-training seminar designed for teachers from throughout Poland at Yad Vashem. Since then, she has maintained a close relationship with Hannah Gofrit.

After reading Gofrit’s story, Borzecka decided to visit 64 Zelzenah Street in Warsaw where Gofrit hid for two years with her mother in the apartment of the Skovroneck family who have been recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous among the Nations.

As a result, Gofrit and her family visited Borzecka’s school in the Polish capital, met with her students, answered their questions and admired their colorful art projects inspired by Hannah’s personal story.

Letter from German pupil to Hannah Gofrit
According to Gofrit, her personal relationship with Borzecka has been particularly meaningful. “As a six-year-old girl during the Shoah, I was not allowed to attend first grade together with my friends in Poland. This painful childhood experience has never left me. Visiting Maria’s school in Warsaw with my husband and son has brought me closure, and I feel as though I have come full circle. Since then, I have started to read in Polish again and speak more freely in my mother tongue.”

Gofrit’s childhood recollections have clearly inspired many students and teachers, including those educators who had aired reservations about addressing the subject of the Holocaust to primary school children.

Gofrit sincerely appreciates all of the mail that she receives from young readers in a plethora of languages. Her personal story has unquestionably left an educational legacy.

This pedagogical, age-appropriate resource, frequently modeled within the framework of teacher-training seminars organized by Yad Vashem, is now being successfully implemented in classrooms across the globe.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Excavations at Sobibor Unearth New Information

The Sobibor death camp, located in the eastern part of the Lublin province of Poland, was active from April 1942 until October 1943. After an inmate uprising in October 1943, the Germans decided to dismantle the camp, and it was left standing without any visible markers identifying its former use. Until recently, researchers relied on survivor testimonies and partial German documentation to understand the camp's structure, activity and purpose. However, the total physical destruction of the camp by the Nazis presented a challenge for all wishing to learn and understand its history. In order to reconstruct the blueprint and structure of the camp, the International Institute for Holocaust Research is supporting archeological excavations in Sobibor. Archeologist Yoram Haimi, together with his Polish counterpart, Wojciech Mazurek, have recently completed the first stage of excavations, revealing the camp's structure, part of its layout, and along the way uncovering several unique, personal artifacts.  Read more in this recent article in the Washington Post.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Informative; academically exhilarating, historically enthralling"

Last week 24 educators from the United Kingdom participated in a special seminar at the International School for Holocaust Studies.  During an intense 10 days they experienced in-depth tours of the Museums of Yad Vashem, dialogued with top Holocaust historians and educators, and met with Holocaust survivors.  Described by one participant as “Informative; academically exhilarating, historically enthralling”, seminars like these help educators gain both a greater understanding of the events of the Holocaust and also how to meaningfully transmit this chapter of history in the classroom.   

At the conclusion of the seminar one participant noted, “The Holocaust is not just a historical event - but ongoing affecting lives, societies and governments. I developed an increased understanding of the importance of evidence - without it, history would be impoverished but the pursuit of justice in the present would be almost impossible.”  

Here's a perspective from seminar participant Rosalyn McClymont, who wrote about it in the Times of Israel: 

Yad Vashem’s lesson on the Holocaust for rural England

This summer, hundreds of educators from the UK, Italy, Romania, Lithuania, Austria, Germany, Poland, Mexico, Belgium, Spain, the United States, Canada, Greece, France, Croatia, South Africa, Latin America, Portugal, Switzerland, Serbia, Ireland, Australia and Estonia participated in 10-21 day seminars at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies.  Another 355 formal and informal educators from 53 different countries participated in the International Conference on Holocaust Education in the beginning of June.    

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Handcrafted Toys in a Hidden Workshop

Jakob and Jeanette de Jonge lived with their three children – Ruth, Heinrich and Joachim-Max, in the town of Weener, Germany, near the Dutch border. Already at the beginning of the Nazi rise to power, Jakob was arrested under false pretenses, the result of a complaint lodged against him by a local Nazi sympathizer, a disgruntled former customer of Jakob. When released, Jakob was forbidden to return to his hometown and the family wandered about, finally crossing the Dutch border following Kristallnacht.

The workshop in the attic. From the left: Jakob.
Behind his left shoulder is the edge of the workbench.
 Joachim-Max is holding the model plane

In August 1942, the family was ordered to report for deportation. The family immediately took action. Ruth, the eldest daughter, joined the Dutch underground as a scout. Jakob, Jeanette and the two younger boys went into hiding. A member of the underground assisted the de Jonges, finding them a hiding place in the attic of Mrs. Nooitgedagt. Her late husband had been the manager of a carpentry factory, and Mrs. Nooitgedagt brought tools and a workbench to the attic for the family to use. The de Jonges, all of whom had some technical ability, began to create various items from wood – toys, model airplanes and household goods. They gave the toys to the underground who distributed them to children that were hidden in the area. 
Wooden toy that 17-year-old Joachim-Max de Jonge
 crafted while in hiding with his family.  It is now on
display in the "No Child's Play" exhibition at
Yad Vashem 

The de Jonge family survived the Holocaust and donated to Yad Vashem some of the toys that they had crafted while in hiding, as well as the workbench at which the items were made. "These artifacts, and the moving stories that accompany them, serve as the survivor's personal testimony, and in many cases a vital lasting link to the memories of loved ones murdered during the Holocaust," said Haviva Peled-Carmeli, Director of Yad Vashem's Artifacts Department. Created during the upheaval of the Shoah, these handcrafted items are part of Yad Vashem's unique Artifacts Collections which now numbers more than 10,200 items and 14,000 museological pieces. To learn more about these special items, visit the online exhibition "Bearing Witness, Stories Behind the Artifacts in the Yad Vashem Museum collection."

The workbench and other wooden items were the gift of Rosina de Jonge-Nathans and Den Haag of the Netherlands & Jakob de Jonge of Solihull, UK.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Solidarity in the Forest – The Bielski Brothers

Made famous by Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Bell in Edward Zwick's movie Defiance, the Bielski brothers saved some 1200 Jews in the forests of Belarus during the Holocaust.  

Naliboki, Poland, Armed partisans from the Bielski unit, 1943
 (Yad Vashem Photo Archive)
 This true and remarkable story is featured in the International School for Holocaust Studies' e-newsletter.   The article looks at the various challenges and dilemmas faced by Tuvia, Asael, Zusya and Aharon  Bielski, who, as Tuvia declared, believed, “Don’t rush to fight and die. So few of us are left, we need to save lives. It is more important to save Jews than to kill Germans."   

After their parents and other relatives were murdered in a massacre of around 5,000 Jews on December 8, 1941, the Bielski brothers fled to the Belarusian forest and set up a partisan unit with Tuvia Bielski as the commander. However, unlike other partisan groups, fighting the enemy was not their highest goal. Their primary objective was to rescue Jews and to offer them shelter and protection in the forest. The brothers did not only admit those who were able to fight, but every Jewish woman or man, no matter whether the person was young or old, healthy or sick, a fighter or a noncombatant. Tuvia Bielski explained that he “… would rather save one old Jewish woman, than kill ten German soldiers.”  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Marking 70 Years since the Deportation of Polish Jewry to the Extermination Camps

This week, Yad Vashem, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, held a special event to mark 70 years since the deportation of Polish Jews to the Sobibor, Belzec and Treblinka extermination camps. Some 1.7 million Jews were murdered in these death camps; all told some 2 million Jews in the so-called Generalgouvernement, which encompassed an area including Warsaw, Krakow, Lublin, Radom and Lwow, were murdered in the Nazis’ “Operation Reinhard” (March 1942-November 1943).

Speaking at the event, Dr. Yitzhak Arad, Holocaust survivor, deputy chairman of the Yad Vashem Council and author of Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, summarized how he, and many other leading scholars of the Shoah, understand the decisions of the Nazi leadership that led to the “Final Solution” were taken, and to the place of Operation Reinhard in those decisions. “The first decision to conduct complete large-scale mass murder related to the Jews of the Soviet Union, in July – August 1941. This preceded the German decision to murder all the Jews of Europe,” Arad explained. “The second decision created Operation Reinhard, and was taken in October 1941. Subsequently, in December, the decision was made to annihilate all the Jews of Europe, and this served as the basis for the Wansee conference of January 1942.” Although there were certainly expressions – such as Hitler’s speech to the Reichstag in January 1939 – that threatened extermination, these were not decisions or orders to carry out such a plan, but rather, an expression of intent, Arad said. He went on to describe the various elements of Operation Reinhard.
The event also included video testimony from the late Eliahu Rosenberg, a Treblinka survivor.

Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar opened the event, noting that 70 years ago the land of Poland was a man-made hell, where three generations of Jews were murdered in just over a year. Today, “as a nation and a country we are faced with many challenges,” said Sa’ar, “but we have the means to deal with these difficulties – the very means that we tragically lacked 70 years ago.” The Minister reiterated his dedication to ensuring ongoing, meaningful Holocaust education and commemoration.

In his remarks, Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem, pointed out that after the murders, the Nazis tried to cover up their crimes. “Hundreds of thousands of bodies were burned; their bones crushed and the earth flattened. After locals unearthed the site in search of gold, sentries were stationed there. Trees were planted, and a farm was created. On November 4, 1943, Operation Reinhard’s chief officer reported to Himmler that notwithstanding serious obstacles, the operation had been successfully completed, and the camps dismantled. Himmler telegrammed back his thanks ‘I recognize your great achievement for the German people…’ . Tonight,” concluded Shalev, “we remember and identify with a deep rooted and multi-faceted Jewish civilization that was destroyed. As Jews, we continue their story.”

Speaking in Polish, Polish State Secretary for National Heritage Piotr Zuchowski, said it was insufficient to merely speak about the Holocaust – we must scream. “We must nurture the memory. The biggest danger is that if we don’t talk about what truly happened upon the land of Poland, fabrication and falsification will ensue…. The Holocaust must remain a warning to all humanity of what happens when people stop thinking of others as human beings.”

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Holocaust in Greece, a lost diary discovered, and more

Check out the new edition of Yad Vashem Jerusalem Magazine, available here.  There's an interesting piece by Dr. Nikos Tzafleris on the Holocaust in Greece on page 8, and a poignant story of a lost diary rediscovered on page 7, as well as information about recent events, symposiums and conferences that have taken place on the campus.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Some Personal Perspectives

You may be interested in reading David Horovitz 's (the Times of Israelpersonal reflections of visiting  Frankfurt for the first time, speaking with local residents, and seeing the city where his great-grandfather was the founder of the Synagogue, and from where his family fled  in 1937.
Jeffrey Katz (NPR) also recently wrote from his own personal perspective of his visit to Germany with his family where they saw  "stumbing stones" in memory of their family members who were murdered in the Holocaust.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Getting back to the basics about the Holocaust

By Dr. Robert Rozett

June 22 is day we all need to remember. On this day in summer 1941 Nazi Germany attacked its ally, the Soviet Union. It was the start of a new and extraordinarily bloody and destructive phase of the Second World War. It was the move that ultimately contributed more than anything else to Hitler’s downfall. Like Napoleon before him, Hitler and his armies could not bring “Russia,” to her knees, and in this “Russia” was helped by her ally “General Winter,” the savage cold – for which Hitler’s troops were woefully unprepared – that began earlier than normal that year and that would ultimately face for three lethal winters on Soviet soil.

 But as important as June 22 is for the military aspects of the Second World War, it is no less important a date to remember because it was the start of the systematic mass murder of Jews. Following close on the heels of the blitzkrieg attack on the Soviets, special units of the SS Einsatzgruppen, along with a variety of other formations, and many local collaborators, began shooting Jews in their newly acquired territories. At first only men were shot, but by mid-August, Jewish women and children were also being brutally murdered in these areas. Soon the Nazis would extend the murder to other areas, and as far as researchers can tell, by autumn, there was an overall policy of murder for all areas under Nazi domination: the so-called Final Solution.

One of the hallmarks of the murder of Jews, from the very beginning, was the role that local collaborators played. Some of the earliest atrocities were deadly pogroms carried out against the Jews by their neighbors. Among the more infamous are the pogroms in Kaunus (Kovno) and in Lviv (Lwow). On the night of June 25, 1941, Lithuanian ultra-nationalists murdered some 800 Jewish men, women and children in the Slobodka (Villijampole) suburb of Kaunus, and murdered dozens more in a garage in the city proper. Just a few days later in Lviv, rumors that Jews had collaborated with the Soviets in murdering political prisoners spread throughout the city. Between June 29 and July 3, local Ukrainians in “revenge” for this supposed crime murdered some 4,000 Jews. Murder of Jews in Lviv continued unabated, reaching an apogee on what came to be known as the Petliura Days (named for the Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petliura) between July 25 and July 27, when an additional 2,000 were killed.

Undoubtedly the primary responsibility for the Holocaust rests on the shoulders of the leadership of Nazi Germany, and the myriad of Germans on various levels of society who took part in it, especially the diehard Nazis among them. Yet the trend to minimize, marginalize and obscure the role of diverse groups of local collaborators in the murder of their fellow countrymen is ongoing and not new. In the emerging states of Communist Eastern Europe soon after the war, great numbers of people accused of being war criminals were tried and punished, frequently with death. Yet, despite these trials, these societies refrained from truly confronting their responsibility as societies for their part in the Holocaust. In the Communist states, by and large, the history of the Holocaust was neither researched nor taught in a meaningful way. In their jargon, the war criminals were “fascists,” the casualties “victims of fascism,” and the heroes “anti-fascists.”

zIt was almost never mentioned that the victims were overwhelmingly Jewish, or that the Nazis (not the fascists) and their partners targeted Jews, first and foremost because of a racial anti-Semitic ideology that frequently existed in harmony with the various agendas of the local collaborators. In the post-communist era in which we now live, the search for a useable past and for national heroes has continued the trend of whitewashing and minimizing the role of local people in the murder of their neighbors and compatriots.

Recently, two events in Hungary underscore this trend. The speaker of the Hungarian parliament, Laszlo Kover, participated in a ceremony honoring Jozsef Nyiro, an anti-Semitic politician and ideologue from the Holocaust era. This was followed by the recent erection of a statue of the Hungarian wartime leader Admiral Miklos Horthy in the village of Csokako.

From a narrow perspective, Horthy could be deemed a Hungarian patriot. He rose to the rank of admiral in the Austro-Hungarian navy and then, after the truncation of Hungary at the Trianon Palace conference following their defeat in the First World War, emerged as the acknowledged leader of a still-smarting Hungary. But from another perspective it becomes clear that his behavior regarding his Jewish countrymen was less than heroic. In spring 1944, now with German troops on Hungarian soil to ensure that Horthy did not break his alliance with Hitler, Horthy’s regime cooperated closely with the Germans to deport some 437,000 Jews.

Almost all were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Horthy did not initiate this chapter of the Holocaust, but he still bears a significant degree of responsibility for it, as well as for earlier phases in the persecution of Hungarian Jewry, some of which involved murder on a smaller scale. It takes a view of history with a solid set of blinders to countenance the erection of a statue in his honor. It is in part because of incidents like these that Yad Vashem this year has decided that the goal of its international educators’ conference is to “get back to the basics,” and discuss the core events of the Holocaust and its main issues. The German invasion of the Soviet Union and the murder that followed in its wake is one such core event, as is the issue of local cooperation in the murder. It seems that returning to such subjects is necessary to keep the details of the Holocaust in focus. When they become blurred, it makes it much easier to disregard and instrumentalize events beyond recognition, especially for ideological and political purposes. Perhaps the best safeguard we have for preventing and combating this distortion is to ensure that the primary facts of the Holocaust are indelibly imprinted in our collective consciousness.

 Dr Robert Rozett is the Director of the Yad Vashem Libraries, author of 'Approaching the Holocaust, Texts and Contexts' (Vallentine Mitchell, 2005), and 'Conscripted Slaves: Hungarian Jewish Forced Laborers on the Eastern Front,' soon be published by Yad Vashem and University of Nebraska Press

This article originally appeared in The Times of Israel.

The 8th International Conference on Holocaust Education, "Telling the Story: Teaching the Core" took place at Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies last week with over 370 participants from 53 countries.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Remembering Eliezer Ayalon

Eliezer Ayalon, a Holocaust survivor who passed away earlier this week, was a lovely gentleman, always full of life and energy. A resident of Jerusalem, Eliezer shared his story with countless groups of all ages and backgrounds here at Yad Vashem and around the world. Every week, and sometimes every day, he volunteered to tell his remarkable story of survival as a young teenager during the Holocaust.    Born in Radom, Poland, in 1928, Eliezer was incarcerated in the ghetto in 1942 with his family. However, his family begged him to save himself. His mother told him, “If there is anyone in the family with a chance to stay alive – it’s you. Azoy ist Beshert [This was meant to be]. May you have a sweet life.” She accompanied him to the gate with a cup of honey. Eliezer was transferred to the Blizyn camp near Kielce, where he worked as a shoemaker. His mother, father, sister and two brothers were all murdered at Treblinka.

In the spring of 1944, Eliezer was moved to Plaszow, and then to Mauthausen and Melk in Austria. In April 1945, he was sent on a death march. Despite a previously broken leg, he made it to Ebensee. On 6 May 1945, the camp was liberated by American forces. “Soldiers from the Jewish Brigade took us from hell and prepared us for aliyah. I remember the joy, the dancing and the singing when we heard we had received visas for Eretz Israel.”

In 2010, Eliezer was one of the six torchlighters at the Holocaust Remembrance Day opening event at Yad Vashem.  We were privileged to know and work with him.  His smile and presence will be missed.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Righteous Among the Nations Receives US Presidential Medal of Freedom

Today, Righteous Among the Nations Jan Karski will posthumously receive America's highest civilian honor - the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Jan Kozielewski (he later took on his non de guerre Karski) was born in Lodz. In 1935, after completing his studies at Lwow University, he embarked on a career as a civil servant at the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was cut short four years later by the war, and when Poland was occupied by Germany, Kozielewski joined the Polish underground – the Home Army (Armia Krajowa). His photographic memory made him ideal for the job of courier between the underground in Poland and the Polish government-in-exile that was seated first in France and moved to London, after the fall of France.

In October 1942, at the height of the destruction of Polish Jewry, Karski was ordered to clandestinely go to the West and deliver a report on the situation of occupied Poland to the Polish government-in-exile in London. The situation of the Jews in Poland was to be one section of that report. Since the government in exile was concerned with the internal politics of the Poland’s underground parties, Karski held meetings with the different factions, including the Jewish Zionist and the Jewish Socialist Bund movements. Thus, shortly before his departure, Karski met with two Jewish leaders who asked him to inform the world’s statesmen of the desperate plight of Polish Jewry and of the hopelessness of their situation. Their message was: "Our entire people will be destroyed".

The Jewish leaders' appeals touched Karski and he decided to see things with his own eyes in order to make his report. With great risk to his life, he was smuggled into the Warsaw ghetto and into a camp in the Lublin area. The horrors he witnessed marked him deeply and propelled him to become not only the messenger of the Polish underground, but to concentrate on giving voice to the suffering of the dying Jews.

In November 1942, Karski reached London, delivered the report to the Polish government-in-exile, and set out to meet Winston Churchill, other politicians, journalists, and public figures. Upon completing his mission, Karski went on to the United States, where he met with President Roosevelt and other dignitaries, and tried in vain to stir up public opinion against the massacre of the Jews. In 1944, while in the United States, Karski wrote a book on the Polish Underground (Story of a Secret State), with a long chapter on the Jewish Holocaust in Poland.

After the war, Karski stayed in the United States where he was later appointed Professor at Georgetown University, Washington DC. He became committed to perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust victims, identified whole-heartedly with the tragedy and suffering of the Jewish people, and was unable to come to terms with the world’s silence at the slaughter of six million Jews. These notions were well reflected in a speech he delivered in 1981 to a meeting of American military officers who had liberated the concentration camps. He stated that he had failed to fulfill his wartime mission, and said: “And thus I myself became a Jew. And just as my wife’s entire family was wiped out in the ghettos of Poland, in its concentration camps and crematoria – so have all the Jews who were slaughtered become my family. But I am a Christian Jew… I am a practicing Catholic… My faith tells me the second original sin has been committed by humanity. This sin will haunt humanity to the end of time. And I want it to be so”.

Although he had not saved individual Jews, The Commission for the Designation of the Righteous decided that he had risked his life in order to alert the world to their murder. He had incurred enormous risk in penetrating into the Warsaw ghetto and a camp, and then committed himself wholly to the case of rescuing the Jews. Karski’s case is quite exceptional in many ways. While other rescuers had taken the difficult decision to leave the side of the bystanders, not to remain silent and to stand up and act, Karski, after he reached the West, brought this dilemma to the doorstep of the free world's leaders. On June 2, 1982, Yad Vashem recognized Jan Karski as Righteous Among the Nations.

In 1994, Professor Karski was awarded honorary citizenship of Israel. In a speech he gave on the occasion, he stated: “This is the proudest and the most meaningful day in my life. Through the honorary citizenship of the State of Israel, I have reached the spiritual source of my Christian faith. In a way, I also became a part of the Jewish community… And now I, Jan Karski, by birth Jan Kozielewski – a Pole, an American, a Catholic – have also become an Israeli.”