Sunday, December 29, 2013

New on the Bookshelf

Conscripted Slaves
Hungarian Jewish Forced Laborers on the Eastern Front during the Second World War
Robert Rozett
NIS 174 NIS 128
$58 $44 (airmail included)
From the spring of 1942 until the summer of 1944, some 45,000 Jewish men were forced to accompany Hungarian troops to the battle zone of the Former Soviet Union. The Hungarian authorities considered these men unworthy of bearing weapons, yet they demanded they take part fully in the “blood sacrifice” that was the war against Stalin and his forces. Some 80% of the Jewish forced laborers never returned home. They fell prey to battle, starvation, disease, and grinding labor, aggravated immensely by brutality and even outright murder at the hands of the Hungarian soldiers responsible for them. This study tells the story of these modern-day slaves – a story that is integral to understanding the destruction of Hungarian Jewry in the Holocaust.

The Kasztner Report
The Report of the Budapest Jewish Rescue Committee 1942–1945
By Rezső Kasztner
Editors: László Karsai & Judit Molnár
NIS 174 NIS 128
$58 $44 (airmail included)
Rezső Kasztner was one of the most controversial figures to emerge from war torn Europe and the ashes of the Shoah. A leader of the Budapest Jewish Rescue Committee, during the last year of the war in Europe, the Zionist Kasztner became the point man for negotiations with the SS to save Hungarian Jewry. In Israel in the 1950s he was vilified by some for having sold out his Jewish brethren and was saddled with the blame for the suffering and murder of the lion’s share of Hungarian Jewry. Kasztner was assassinated in Tel Aviv following a spectacular post-war libel trial in which he had tried to defend his good name. Today scholarship sees him in a different light and his Report, now published in English and with scholarly footnotes for the first time, is one of the main reasons why.

To purchase your copy please email:

Other books by Yad Vashem Publications are available here:

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Journey of Exploration into a Family’s Righteous Past

Peter and Rineke Hetem at Yad Vashem December 18, 2013
"If they want to come here, let them do so." Almost 70 years since his grandparents Petrus (Pieter) and Adriane Kleibroek spoke these words, agreeing to their daughter Nelie’s request to provide shelter for the Jewish Drukker family, Peter Hetem and his wife Rineke came to Yad Vashem to see the story of the rescue activities of his grandparents and mother told in the special temporary exhibit: “I am my Brother’s Keeper: 50 Years of Honoring Righteous Among the Nations”. The new exhibition is made up of five different documentary films describing five central rescue paradigms: each describing a myriad of dilemmas and situations that involved both the non-Jewish rescuers and the Jews they attempted to help. The film focusing on the Kleibroek and Drukker families, entitled “Paying the ultimate price”, narrates one of the many tragic stories of those Righteous who paid for their rescue attempts with their lives. Featured in the film is Peter’s recent discovery of his family’s courageous role in hiding Abraham and Juliette Drukker and their 13-year-old daughter Marjan during the Holocaust. 
Righteous Among the Nations Pieter and Adriane
Kleibroek and daughter Nelie Hetem-Kleibroek

family of farmers from Warmenhuizen in the Netherlands, the Kleibroeks took in the Jewish Drukker family in February 1944, who after several months of hiding in Amsterdam, managed to contact Nelie pleading for a place to take refuge. Nelie turned to her parents who bravely agreed to share their small farm with the Drukkers and provide shelter from the Nazis and their collaborators during the Shoah. Providing an account of their lives with the Kleibroeks in his diary, Abraham Drukker recounted, “Our life here on the farm was so much better than earlier in Amsterdam – with air! – even though we could not go outside – and a view. Moreover, we were not always nervous about each sound and we were resigned to our fate, which was bearable.”
The Drukker family before the war: Abraham and Juliette Drukker and
daughter Marjan
Unfortunately their safe haven was temporary. In May 1944, some 700 German forces, assisted by Dutch collaborators, searched the area and discovered the Drukker family hiding in a haystack on the farm. All three members of the Jewish family were immediately arrested and sent to the Westerbork transit camp, then deported to Theresienstadt and finally to Auschwitz where they were murdered in October 1944. Pieter Kleibroek was also incarcerated and sent to the Vught concentration camp and later to the Sachsenhausen camp in Germany. A couple weeks before the end of the war, Pieter was shot and killed while on a death march from Sachsenhausen to Luebeck after stopping due to extreme exhaustion. Adrianus Bruin, a fellow inmate of Pieter described the scene: "After he stopped and lay down at the side of the road, I saw that one of the guards approached him, charged his revolver and killed him with a shot in his neck."
Peter and Rineke Hetem watch the completed film for the first time in
the "I am my Brother's Keeper" exhibiton at Yad Vashem
While visiting the “I am my Brother’s Keeper” exhibit at Yad Vashem, Peter and Rineke Hetem became noticeably emotional as, for the first time, they watched the completed film portraying Peter’s journey of exploration of his grandparents and mother’s exceptional role in aiding the Drukker family. Until receiving a phone call from Nannie Beekman, from the Righteous Among the Nations Department at Yad Vashem, Peter, who is named for his late grandfather, knew very little concerning the details of his family’s history during World War II and the rescue story of the Drukkers. “It was something we did not speak of in our family and I knew almost nothing about.” After the recognition of his grandparents and mother as Righteous Among the Nations, film producers went to the Netherlands to follow along and document Peter’s personal discovery and exploration into his family’s past to be included in the exhibition at Yad Vashem. “The two days of filming for the documentary project gave me a sense of closure regarding my family’s story. I got the opportunity to talk with the neighbors’ children and a young farmhand of my grandfather. Even learning small things, such as the revelation that my grandfather was musical, was very important to me. I came to know and understand who my grandfather was, something of which I knew very little.”
On November 8, 2011, Yad Vashem recognized Pieter Kleibroek and Adriane Kleibroek-Nannes as well as their daughter Nelie Hetem-Kleibroek as Righteous Among the Nations.
For more information about the rescue story and others featured in the exhibit I am my Brother’s Keeper: 50 Years of Honoring Righteous Among the Nations”:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Looking Back, Moving Ahead: Yad Vashem at 60

Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate addressing 
the international symposium 
“Yad Vashem's story as an institution is rare: an initially small, ground roots initiative in a new nation that developed remarkably into a world-renowned institution which meaningfully influences multitudes of people, in the Israeli, Jewish and international spheres. This influence provides a guiding path in the fields of Holocaust research, documentation, education and commemoration.” So stated Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate at the international symposium marking 60 years since the establishment of Yad Vashem. The day-long event on December 19, 2013, organized by the International Institute for Holocaust Research, featured speakers from Israel, Poland, France and Germany, and took place in the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem.
The symposium, generously supported by the Gutwirth Family Fund, focused on Yad Vashem at 60 Years with a wide range of speakers who discussed its formation, consolidation and challenges. Speakers included Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, Dorit Novak, Israel, Amb. Reuven Merhav, Israel, Prof. Dan Michman, Israel, Dr. Bella Gutterman, Israel, Prof. Dina Porat, Israel, Dr. Boaz Cohen, Israel, Prof. Annette Wieviorka, France, Prof. Pawel Spiewak, Poland, and Dr. Susanne Heim, Germany.
From left to right: Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel 
Meir Lau, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate Avner Shalev 
and Chairman of the Executive Committee, Claims Conference 
Ambassador Reuven Merhav
Following opening remarks by Dorit Novak, Director General of Yad Vashem, who shared an article about its founding, Avner Shalev elaborated on the function Yad Vashem serves in both Israel and around the whole world. “Yad Vashem was founded from the ground up and was nurtured into fulfilling a deep widespread need, by revealing dimensions of meaning for Holocaust remembrance and providing a distinct supportive context to articulate those meanings.” When asked about some of the major obstacles he faced during the past 20 years as Chairman of Yad Vashem, Shalev answered, “A major challenge has been to prepare Yad Vashem for the next generation by refocusing the emphasis on education through the establishment of our International School for Holocaust Studies. Another challenge remains: to ensure Yad Vashem's steady evolution to meet the dynamic needs of our contemporary generation by successfully conveying the relevance of the Jewish experience in the Shoah. That is best and uniquely grasped here on the Mount of Remembrance.”
Recounting this uniqueness of Yad Vashem in the world, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council highlighted the importance of the institution's success in maintaining a unified space for Holocaust remembrance. “Yad Vashem serves as a keepsake for the entire Jewish people and not just specific sectors of it, thus providing a more comprehensive and complete account of the Jewish experience during the Holocaust.”
Those in attendance included Yad Vashem staff, Holocaust survivors, 
international speakers and general public
Yad Vashem was established by a law of the Knesset in 1953 to commemorate the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Through its museums, archives, International School for Holocaust Studies, International Institute for Holocaust Research, and recognition of the Righteous among the Nations, Yad Vashem has become the world center of Holocaust documentation, research, education and commemoration, with some 1 million people visiting the campus annually, and some 12 million visits to its website recorded last year. Over the years, Yad Vashem has received the Israel Prize for special contribution to the society and State of Israel in 2003, the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord in 2007, and numerous other awards and recognitions for its work on behalf of Holocaust commemoration, research and education. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Yad Vashem 60th Anniversary Coin Issued by Bank of Israel

The special Commemorative Coin issued by the Bank of Israel to mark the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of Yad Vashem, was presented on Hanukka (Sunday), December 1, Kislev 28, to Yad Vashem Chairman, Avner Shalev, at a ceremony held at Yad Vashem in the presence of the Governor of the Bank of Israel, Dr. Karnit Flug.
Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev being presented the anniversary 
coin by the Governor of the Bank of Israel Dr. Karnit Flug 
Designed by artist Yossi Lemel, the coin obverse bears the Israel State Emblem, Face Value, "Israel" in English, Hebrew and Arabic, Mint Year and Mint Mark. The reverse depicts a striped shirt with yellow Star of David, that Jews were forced to wear. A Star of David rising in the background symbolizes the continuity and rebirth of the Jewish people in the modern State of Israel. Around the border is the inscription "Yad Vashem – 60 Years".
The coin is available in three variations: Gold proof-quality with face value 10 New Sheqalim, 30 mm diameter (just over 1"), 16.96 grams weight of .917 fine (22kt) gold in a limited mintage of no more than 555 pieces and two sterling silver coins - a proof-quality silver coin with 2 New Sheqalim face value,  measuring 38.7 mm (1½ in.) in diameter and weighing 28.8 grams with limited mintage of 2,800 and a prooflike silver coin with 1 New Sheqel face value, diameter 30mm, weight 14.4 grams and limited mintage of 1,800.

While speaking at the event, Dr. Karnit Flug said, "I am moved to stand here at Yad Vashem, as the Governor of the Bank of Israel, and daughter of Noach Flug, who served as chairman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel. I'm proud to take part in strengthening the economy and prosperity of the State of Israel, which serve as a fitting response to the history seen before us here." 
Established in 1953 by a law of the Knesset, Yad Vashem is the world center for the commemoration of the six million Jews murdered in the Shoah. Situated on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem and spread over some 45 acres, Yad Vashem has spent the last 60 years committed to Holocaust documentation, research, education and commemoration, through its Archives, Libraries, International Institute for Holocaust Resarch, International School for Holocaust Studies and Museum Complex, and through its recognition of the Righteous Among the Nations.
The ceremony took place at the International School for Holocaust 
Studies, Yad Vashem on the 5th night of Hanukka
Over the years, Yad Vashem’s programs and activities have gained increasing recognition in Israel and around the world.  Yad Vashem holds diverse activities, in conjunction with Holocaust survivors and the next generations, commemorating victims of the Shoah and the Jewish world that was destroyed. In 2003, Yad Vashem was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement: A Unique Contribution to Society and to the State; in 2007 Yad Vashem was the recipient of the international Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, the Spanish-speaking countries’ equivalent of the Nobel Prize; in the same year, French President Nicolas Sarkozy presented Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev with the Legion of Honor award.  Recently, the Yad Vashem Pages of Testimony repository was added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
The coin is distributed by Israel Coins and Medals Corp. and part of the proceeds from sale of the coin will be donated to Yad Vashem. To order or for more information, contact ICMC at,, P.O. Box 2040, Nesher 36680, Israel,  Tel. 972-4-821-2807, Fax 972-4-821-2818

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Personal Reflections at the GA

During the three days of the General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America 2013 in Jerusalem last week, I was privileged to dialogue and debate alongside the veteran and up-and-coming leaders of the Jewish world. Jews from North America and Israel, from all backgrounds, came together to consider the issues facing the global Jewish community today and tomorrow. Many were concerned by the recent Pew Report, which indicated that while 94% of USA Jews are proud to be Jewish, strikingly large numbers are drifting away from the Jewish people.

The issue of Jews being a “people” is something very dear to my heart. A Jew has many identities. I myself am a young woman that grew up in a Conservative American Ashkenazi Jewish home, reconnected to my Jewish roots on Birthright, eventually made aliyah, married a mesorati Sephardi Israeli and am now a living milieu of Jewish identities. I have been disengaged and reengaged with the Jewish world time and again as I grappled with my Jewish identity and my belonging to the Jewish people, which is today at the foundation of my sense of self and my passions.
My hero, Israel's President Shimon Peres, spoke at the GA and emphasized that the future of the Jewish people cannot just be about having pride in being Jewish – but finding purpose in being Jewish. I could not agree more. He excitedly exclaimed that “Judaism is a moral vision!” That in many ways Moses expressed the first declarations of democracy (“Every person was created in the image of G-d.” “Love your fellow man as yourself.”), the legacy and heritage for which the Jewish people is responsible.
Many people cannot fathom that after all the tragedies of the Jewish people, we are still here. What keeps us coming back to our Jewish roots? Time and again destruction came our way, and we had the courage to survive. The courage to fight for our purpose. A purpose driven by what was once seen by the world as a radical vision of ethics and morality.
I came back from Birthright years ago with a spark from the Jewish people’s homeland. My aliyah succeeded after standing on the balcony at the exit to Yad Vashem’s new Holocaust History Museum with a view of Jewish homes lining the Jerusalem Hills knowing that if Holocaust survivors could come to this land and still find the courage to keep our purpose thriving, so could I. Today I try my utmost to contribute to my people’s purpose not only by building a Jewish home based on the ethics, morals and traditions of our founding visionaries but also by being a young Jewish professional working at Yad Vashem. By supporting Yad Vashem’s goals as an educational catalyst promoting humanitarian values and tolerance, and inspiring further study, understanding and teaching of the Holocaust – an important part of our people’s past that has and continues to help inform many aspects of our very bright today and tomorrow. Without knowing where we come from, we cannot know where we are going.
Yad Vashem remains an impactful aspect of not only Birthright trips, but trips for Jews of all ages visiting Israel. It is relevant and engaging. It flames the spark. It is a vital place of intergenerational and international encounter devoted to preserving the memory of the past and imparting its meaning to future generations. Yad Vashem has the shared goal with the Federations of Jewish continuity, which was one of the major focuses of the GA 2013 here in Jerusalem. As President Shimon Peres declared at the GA, “The future belongs to us, don’t give up, never.” And for my part, I know I never will.
--Jackie Frankel, International Relations Division, Yad Vashem

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Moments of Bonding & Remembering

(L-R) Leonard Wilf, Michael Bloomberg,  Avner Shalev
Michael Bloomberg Honored by the America Society for Yad  Vashem 
This week the Annual Tribute Dinner of the American Society for Yad Vashem, was held on Sunday, November 10th. With inspiring addresses from honoree Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate Avner Shalev, and Mauthausen survivor Ed Mosberg – the dinner marked thirty-two years since the Society was established by the Founding Chairman Eli Zborowski z”l, along with other Holocaust survivors.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was honored with the Yad Vashem Remembrance Award, given for his visionary leadership and for his support of Yad Vashem’s efforts to strengthen the cause of Holocaust remembrance and education. Most recently the recipient of the prestigious Genesis Prize, Mayor Bloomberg has been a central figure in empowering New York City as the capital of tolerance, innovation and growth.
The program, entitled ‘Legacy and Gratitude,’ was presided over by Dinner co-Chairpersons Marilyn and Barry Rubenstein, with the Chairman of the Board Leonard Wilf giving opening remarks. The evening program featured a special memorial tribute to the life and contributions of Eli Zborowski z”l.
At the event, held on the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, speakers reflected on the Shoah and emphasized the importance of education and legacy, ensuring that the torch of remembrance is assumed by the second and third generations.
This year’s dinner also recognized the tenth anniversary of the Columbia Shuttle disaster. Tributes to Petr Ginz and Col. Ilan Ramon were especially powerful, thanks to the presence of Ginz’s nephew Yoram Pressburger and Ramon’s son Tal Ramon, who performed a song he composed in memory of his father. In addition to Tal Ramon’s appearance, the program included performances by Hazamir: The International Jewish High School Choir, with moving renditions of "Walk to Caesarea," written by the young paratrooper Hannah Szenes and the "Yugnt Hymn," dedicated to the youth club in the Vilna Ghetto and written by partisan Shmerke Kaczerginski.

--Avital Chizhik
Tal Ramon performing a song in his father's memory
As an experienced Jewish communal professional, I have participated in my share of fundraising dinners. However, last night’s Annual Tribute Gala sponsored by the American Society for Yad Vashem was my first as the new Executive Director/CEO.  I was struck by what made this evening so unique – unique, because of our mission and our guests. How fortunate that we were able to hear from Rabbi Israel Meir Lau and Ed Mosberg, Holocaust survivors themselves. Their stories deeply touched us. Permit me to share some additional thoughts why this dinner was so different from others:
Most of the 600 guests shared a deep connection to one another, often across generations. To the survivors among us, their shared story of living under the Nazi horrors links them together, and for many, the American Society for Yad Vashem dinner allows for important moments of bonding and remembering. Together, survivors remember loved ones murdered, communities destroyed, and the trust that they once had about the goodness of life brutally taken from them. Sadly, today the number of survivors amongst us is dwindling, and the absence of many significant leaders and activists among the survivors was profoundly felt last evening.
To the second generation of survivors, the event reminded many that the responsibility of Holocaust remembrance rests on their shoulders, and that the institutions that the survivors created, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and the American Society, will not be able to fulfill their individual missions without them. For second generation survivors, being together reminds them that their personal stories may vary greatly but also are very similar emotionally.
Last night, there was also a large contingent of the “Third Generation” , members of our Young Leadership Associates. Like all young people, they are concerned about their professions, growing families and also growing financial obligations. For many Third Generation participants last night, the Third Generation recognizes that long after the survivors are gone, they are obligated to tell their stories, some of which they heard first hand from their grandparents.
What linked all of our guests was the importance of celebrating. It may be surprising to hear, but this group feels a special responsibility to celebrate. Hitler did not win: "we are here, and we have rebuilt Jewish life after the Holocaust despite all that we have suffered." Living as Jews is the ultimate victory against the Nazis, because celebrating life is a Jewish response to suffering.
Yes, this week's Tribute Dinner was a great success. We raised critical funds to extend our efforts for Holocaust remembrance, commemoration and education. We honored Mayor Bloomberg for his commitment to Holocaust remembrance; paid tribute to Eli Zborowski, may his memory be a blessing, for founding ASYV with other survivors 32 years ago and for chairing ASYV as a volunteer for all of those years; and we remembered the Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon who died in the Columbia shuttle tragedy ten years ago while carrying 16-year-old Petr Ginz’s drawing “Moon Landscape,” painted by Ginz in Theresienstadt before he was murdered in Auschwitz.
But perhaps the most significant success of the evening was that we were celebrating together. Rabbi Lau succinctly made that point when he ended his remarks, “Am Yisrael Chai - the nation of Israel lives!” We are alive – and that alone is cause for celebration.
--- Rabbi Dr. Eric Lankin,  Executive Director/CEO of the American Society for Yad Vashem

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Rescuer and Survivors’ Families Unite at Yad Vashem: Donate Artifacts to Archives

One of the artifacts donated to Yad Vashem in
2008 - letters, poems and a journal written by 
Holocaust survivor Elisabeth Liesje (Elisheva) 
De Vries 
During the German occupation of Holland, Jan Giliam, a police detective from Haarlem, who frequented the Jewish-owned store of Jacques De Vries, urged Jacques and his family to go into hiding, offering his own home as a temporary way station. Within a few days, Jan managed to arrange permanent hideouts for the fugitive family. Several months later, the fiancé of one of the De Vries’ daughters, Simcha van Frank, came to Jan, also seeking a place to hide. He stayed with Jan for two nights before relocating to a permanent shelter where he remained until the end of the war. In February 1943, Jan was betrayed; he was arrested by the Gestapo and taken to the Euterpestraat, the SS-headquarters in Amsterdam and then to the Amersfoort internment camp. While in the camp, he succeeded in sending out a warning his protégés. Only after he heard that they had received his warning and moved to safety did Jan succumb to torture and admit to having helped Jews. For unknown reasons, he was released. Upon his discharge, he immediately contacted those in hiding to check if they were still safe. He remained in contact with them until the end of the war.
Holocaust survivor Lenie De Vries  who was
rescued by Jan Giliam, a Dutch Righteous
Among the Nations 

For close to 70 years, the De Vries and van Frank families and their descendants cared for and cherished their personal artifacts and documentation from the war years.  In 2008, they decided to donate these items – including a carefully preserved journal, an underground newspaper, forged identification documents, letters and poems – to the Yad Vashem Archives for permanent safekeeping. Last October, some 50 members of the extended family gathered at Yad Vashem for a special event as part of the “Gathering the Fragments” campaign to rescue personal items from the Holocaust period.
Members of the De Vries, Van Frank and Giliam families at the International
School of Holocaust Studies - Yad Vashem

Attending the event was Lenie De Vries, the last living survivor of the family, as well as Klaas Giliam, the son Jan Giliam, who was honored as Righteous Among the Nations in 1977. Klaas delivered a heartfelt speech about how his father had courageously come to the aid of the Jewish family in their time of need and did not betray them, even under the most terrible suffering. He then presented Yad Vashem with a memento of his own: a letter written on a piece of cloth that his father had secreted to his mother in a laundry bag while he was incarcerated in the Nazi headquarters.
Irena Steinfeldt, Director of the
Righteous Among the Nations 
Department at Yad Vashem shows 
some of the artifacts as the eldest De 
Vries granddaughter looks on
"Together with the artifacts donated by the survivor families, this fragile memento serves as testimony to this incredible rescue story," said Archives Division Director Dr. Haim Gertner. "The events and their fortunate outcome are a paradigm of how one courageous human being has the potential to save so many innocent lives."
Klaas Giliam, the son of Righteous Among the Nations Jan Giliam, shows
his father's letter written to his mother on a piece of cloth which he
donated to the Yad Vashem Archives

Members of the De Vries, Van Frank and Giliam families pose for a picture at Yad Vashem 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Couple Donates Synagogue Photograph Collection to Yad Vashem

Ben-Zion Dorfman presenting Dr. Haim Gertner, Director of Yad Vashem's
Archives Division and Dorit Novak, Director General of Yad Vashem
with the collection 

On Monday, October 21, 2013 Rivka and Ben-Zion Dorfman donated to Yad Vashem a collection of tens of thousands of photographs of synagogues throughout central Europe. Over the course of thirty years, the couple traveled from town to town, documenting old synagogues through the camera lens. The couple, now in their late eighties, decided to donate their extensive collection of over 30,000 photographs to Yad Vashem so that it could be preserved for future generations.   

The presentation of the collection included lectures about synagogue architecture and took place in Yad Vashem’s Synagogue which includes Judaica from the destroyed synagogues in Europe and serves as a memorial to the destroyed places of worship of European Jewry.
The architecture inside one of the central European synagogues from
the Dorfman collection
From left to right: Director General of Yad Vashem Dorit Novak, Rivka and
Ben-Zion Dorfman, and Director of Yad Vashem's Archives Division 
Dr. Haim Gertner
The addition of the Dorfman Archive of Synagogue Art and Architecture Collection, comprised of the architecture and art of hundreds of synagogues, to Yad Vashem’s Archives will expand the visual documentation of those communities that were destroyed and provide additional information regarding what remains of them today. The photographs will enable the expansion of research, not only of the destroyed communities themselves, but also of their post-war remnants as well as commemorate the people who lived there. The history, architecture and culture of the destroyed synagogues sheds additional light on the entire religious and cultural world that was destroyed with the decimation of the Jewish communities.
Outside of a synagogue shown in central Europe during the Dorfman's presentation

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ambassador Marks 70 Years Since Rescue of Danish Jewry

Jesper Vahr, Danish Ambassador to Israel rekindles the eternal flame
in the Hall of Remembrance
This week the first of October, marks the 70th anniversary of the rescue of the majority of the Jews of Denmark despite the Nazis' plans to round the country's Jews up to deport them to concentration camps. The Danish Ambassador to Israel, Jesper Vahr visited Yad Vashem on Monday, October 1 and laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance. He also paid tribute to the rescuers at the trees planted in honor of the Danish.
The rescue of the Danish Jews in October 1943 is a very unique story. In the first years of the German occupation the situation of the Danish Jews did not change much. However, in fall of 1943, following a sharp increase in strikes and sabotage against the Germans, the German plenipotentiary in Denmark prepared to deport the 7,800 Jews in the country. News of the planned roundup was discovered and an operation was put in place to warn the Jews, move them to hiding places and to fishing ports, and from there they were transported to Sweden. The wide popular support of the rescue operation and the proximity to Sweden enabled the Danish underground to transport 7,200 Jews and some 700 of their non-Jewish relatives to Sweden in the course of three weeks in October 1943. 500 Jews, mostly elderly and sick, were caught and deported to the camp of Theresienstadt.

Danish Ambassador to Israel, Jesper Vahr and his
wife next to the tree planted in honor of the Danish

The rescue operation by the Danish underground is exceptional because of the widespread agreement and resolve of many Danes from all walks of life – intellectuals, fishermen, priests, policemen, doctors, blue-color workers – to rescue the Jews. It should be noted that recent research by Danish scholars shows that on the other hand, in many cases big sums of money were paid to the seamen who brought the Jews across to Sweden.

To pay tribute to this exceptional rescue operation and in the understanding that this was a joint effort, a tree was planted in the Avenue of the Righteous in honor of the Danish underground. Members of the Danish underground expressed their wish to Yad Vashem not to honor them as individuals; however several Danes whose acts of rescue were exceptional were awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations title.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Anonymous No Longer

Since Yad Vashem's Holocaust History Museum opened in 2005, scores of people have come forward and  identified themselves and others in the photos that are on display.

A special online exhibition "Anonymous no Longer" presents the names of some of those men, women and children who appear in these unique photographs.

Several new images have been recently added to this special display of photos - among them pictures from the celebration of Simchat Torah in the Lodz Ghetto in Poland in 1943.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Rosh Hashanah 1944 - Prayers on a Paper Sack

Rosh Hashanah prayers that Naftali Stern wrote our from memory while in the labor campJust three months before he died, Naftali Stern visited Yad Vashem on Holocaust Remembrance Day, 1978. Naftali, an elderly man in his late 70’s, took out an envelope containing frayed pages; written on them were the prayers for the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah Musaf), the longest in Jewish liturgy. Naftali proceeded to share his story.

Prior to the Holocaust, he had lived in Satu Mare, North Transylvania, Romania, together with his wife and four young children. On a fateful day in May 1944, Naftali, his wife Bluma and his children were deported to Auschwitz.  Upon their arrival, Naftali was separated from his family. Bluma and the children were murdered in the gas chambers and Naftali, considered strong at 34 years old, was sent to Wolfsberg, a forced labor camp in Germany. In Wolfsberg, the inmates, including Naftali, were forced to dig tunnels and trenches to serve as a defensible bunker for the retreating German army and high command.

As the Jewish New Year approached, Naftali began to reflect upon the Rosh Hashanah services. He sold his daily ration of bread in order to obtain a pencil and some sacks that had held cement. He tore the paper sacks into small squares and began to write, from memory, the entire Rosh Hashanah service in a scrawl.

The Nazi officer in the camp allowed the inmates to gather together and hold prayers for the Rosh Hashanah in lieu of breakfast. Naftali, who by virtue of his sweet voice had been a cantor in Satu Mare, led the services, an event the survivors remember as a special moment in the life of the camp.

Naftali hid the pages on his body until his liberation in 1945. During the next 30 years, each Rosh Hashanah, Naftali held the crumbling pages under his right hand as he prayed. After the war he rebuilt his life, established a new family and immigrated to Israel. When Naftali presented the disintegrating papers to Yad Vashem, he noted that he was donating them for safekeeping. Naftali stressed that it was vital that future generations understand that in spite of the survivors’ harrowing experiences during the Holocaust they maintained their spirit, embraced their Jewish identity and never lost hope. In a trembling voice Naftali said “I pray that each subsequent generation will stay true to their Jewish identity and be a link in a long chain."

The Wofsberg MachzorNaftali's machzor is on display in the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem along with thousands of similar pieces, each telling its own unique story with its own special meaning. Each of these artifacts sheds light on the rich tapestry of European Jewish life prior to WWII and the rise of the Nazi regime; the vanished world of millions of Jews and the survivors incredible return to life.

The Wolfsberg Machzor, available from Yad Vashem Publications, includes a copy of Naftali's handwritten prayers as well as articles about maintaining faith during the Holocaust.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Concert of Jewish Soul Music

Maestro Giora Feidman opens the Klezmer concert on the clarinet
Echoing among the towering walls engraved with the names of over 5,000 Jewish communities destroyed or seriously damaged during the Holocaust, a lone clarinet blasts a drawn-out, solemn note symbolically representing the sound of the shofar. As light faded against the backdrop of the Valley of the Communities during the night of August 11, 2013, one light was still clearly visible in the compelling Jerusalem-stone wall memorial at Yad Vashem. For the people who gathered at the Mount of Remembrance that evening came to listen to the music and songs at the heart of the Jewish experience in Europe before the Holocaust and commemorate the many lives, which before being prematurely taken in unprecedented acts of injustice, were culturally engulfed in the Jewish musical genre that is Klezmer.
Many in the audience were Holocaust survivors and their descendants 
Despite the widespread devastation that was the Shoah, the evening entitled, “Mashiv Haruach: From Safed to Jerusalem – A Concert of Jewish Soul Music”, exemplified both the physical and cultural survival of the Jewish people through a celebration and revival of the familiar music which lay at the center of Jewish life in Europe for so many of the Jewish victims of the Shoah. The audience, consisting of many Holocaust survivors and their descendants, joyfully sang and clapped along with many of the memorable melodies masterfully played throughout the evening by "Clarinet and Klezmer in the Galilee" international masterclass students under the musical direction of Maestro Giora Feidman.
The musicians in the Valley of the Communities at Yad Vashem 
Detailing the excitement surrounding the evening, Yehiel Lock, one of the Klezmer musicians playing the clarinet at the concert, gave his account of the evening, “Even before the concert began I became touched when I boarded the bus with a group of Holocaust survivors from Rishon Letzion and overheard them speaking about how much they were looking forward to the concert and how excited they were to hear the music they grew up with…The concert really fulfilled its purpose by being able to connect to the hearts of these especially important people.”

Maestro Giora Feidman plays the clarinet as Lt. Col Shai Abramson,
Chief Cantor of the IDF sings along
As the rich and joyous music vigorously played into the night, the names of the communities chiseled on the Jerusalem-stone walls were illuminated in various schemes of colored light which seemed to absorb the familiar notes and grow brighter, reminiscent of the lively Jewish cultural life which flourished in Europe before the Holocaust. When asked if playing Klezmer music specifically at the Valley of Communities in Yad Vashem differed from playing at another locale Lock explained, “It is made somewhat more significant being surrounded by the names of communities and memorials which gives everything a little deeper meaning. Giora Feidman, improvising on his own at the very start of the concert as the names of people murdered in the Shoah were read out was incredible to watch. He was really able to set the mood of playing at a memorial and paying tribute to the lost Jewish communities. It was all very moving, I’ve never heard him play the clarinet before with such an extraordinary level of emotion.”  
The concert took place with the support of the Israeli Ministry of Education and in cooperation with the Safed Klezmer Masterclass Association

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Senior Artifacts Curator Honored

Haviva Peled-Carmeli (left) at the opening of the exhibition
"Gathering the Fragments - Behind the Scenes of the
Campaign to Rescue Personal Items from the Holocaust”
Recently, Haviva Peled-Carmeli, Senior Curator & Director of the Artifacts Department at Yad Vashem was cited by the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sport for her professional achievements in the field. She was nominated for the 2013 Curator's Award by Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem and Yehudit Inbar, Director of the Museums Division. The prestigious award is given to a select few with impressive professional qualifications in the discipline who have incorporated and demonstrated historical research and in-depth knowledge of museology, all while engaged in making their collection accessible to the public. Before coming to Yad Vashem, Peled-Carmeli previously worked for many years at the Israel Museum and was the former Director of the Museum of Italian Jewish Art in Jerusalem.
Prayer book exchanged in Auschwitz in 1944 by Zvi 
Kopolovich for his bread portion is just one of the
 some 13,000 items found in the Artifacts Collection
Since joining Yad Vashem's Museums Division, Haviva has been instrumental in developing and expanding the artifacts collection and her input and expertise was an integral part in the curatorial team's efforts in creating the new Holocaust History Museum which opened in 2005. Haviva was personally involved in collecting many of the Holocaust artifacts from Europe and meeting with Holocaust survivors to piece together additional information regarding many priceless relics. She also developed a unique approach to artifacts' collection by placing an emphasis on the story and deeper meaning surrounding the item.
Peled-Carmeli notes, "The Artifacts Collection includes some 13,000 objects that have been collected throughout the existence of Yad Vashem. Included are a wide variety of artifacts that survived the war, among them personal effects as well as items that served families or communities – some are elaborate and splendidly crafted, and others’ simplicity reflects the harsh conditions under which they were made."
For information about donating personal items to Yad Vashem:
More information about the Artifacts in the Yad Vashem Museum Collection can be found here:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

“It Feels Like a Miracle Rising From the Ashes”

Cynthia Wroclawski , Manager of the Shoah Victims' Names Recovery
Project grants Jalen Schlosberg the "twinning" certificate honoring the
memory of his 3rd cousin Haim Okham who was murdered in the Holocaust 
Growing up in the United States, the Privens did not know much about their family history or the tragic fate of relatives from their father’s ancestral village of Pavoloch during the Holocaust. Driven to uncover their family roots, siblings Lew and Cheryl Priven embarked on a genealogical search that began with a trip to the Ukraine, followed by an important discovery of new information on Yad Vashem’s Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names, ultimately having an enormous impact on the Priven family through their newly discovered direct connection to the Holocaust. The discovery of previously unknown living relatives culminated in an emotional reunion of extended family in the US and Israel and a moving Bar Mitzvah ceremony "twinning" Jalen Schlosberg, Lew Priven’s grandson, with one of his unknown cousins, who was murdered during the Holocaust.

This week Jalen Schlosberg and his extended family marked his Bar Mitzvah with a unique guided tour of the Holocaust History Museum that highlighted the family's personal link to the Holocaust. The pinnacle of this special visit took place in the Yad Vashem synagogue where the family participated in an emotional commemoration and "twinning" ceremony in which Jalen took it upon himself to honor and uphold the memory of his "twin", his third cousin, Haim Okham who was murdered in the Holocaust at the age of 13 and robbed of his opportunity to experience a fulfilling life, including his own Jewish coming of age ceremony. 
Cheryl (Priven) Finkelstein and Lew Priven at the Bar Mitzvah "twinning"
ceremony describing their journey to 
the town of Pavoloch, Ukraine and
the research into their family's direct connection to the Holocaust 
During the ceremony, Lew recounted his father's stories from his native Ukrainian village, describing how he initially imagined it as the Jewish shtetl from Fiddler on the Roof before he became interested in his family roots and visited the town of Pavoloch for himself. Overcome with emotion, Lew described in detail his 2011 journey with his sister, Cheryl to their father’s hometown.  During the retelling of the story, Lew’s grief was evident as he had to pause and fight back tears, detailing how he came upon the mass grave and the stark monument marking the horrific massacre of the 1,500-member Jewish community on September 5, 1941. In a poignant message to his grandson warning against apathy to others, Lew recounted Martin Niemoller's poem and concluded with a valuable lesson saying, "As Jews we must not remain indifferent to the suffering of anyone, anywhere."
Jalen Schlosberg with his parents Barry and Beth and sister Marley
celebrate his Bar mitzvah with extended family at Yad Vashem. The
commemoration ceremony highlighted the discovery of a living Priven
relative found through Pages of Testimony he submitted in 1999. 
Jalen's great-aunt, Cheryl (Priven) Finklestein explained how she had studied the Holocaust for many years and how the discovery of living relatives through Pages of Testimony at Yad Vashem transformed her connection to a personal one that directly affected her family. She discovered Haim Okham and 4 other murdered members of his family only recently after searching for Pages of Testimony commemorating them in the Names Database. The Pages of Testimony were submitted in 1999 by a person named Rudolf Priven who then lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, after emigrating from Russia in the early 1990's.

Priven family union: February, 2013
Left to Right: Lew, Rudolf, Cheryl & Netalya (Rudolf's wife)
Now 75, Rudolf Priven is a retired physician who grew up in the Ural Mountains area after he and his mother, Fanya, were sent there by the Soviets from Kiev. The two groups of Privens compared notes when they subsequently met together with their spouses and confirmed that they are second cousins: Rudolf’s grandfather, Haskel Priven, was a brother of Morris Priven, the grandfather of Lew and Cheryl. Morris had left Pavoloch for the United States in 1922 and settled in Boston, where he worked as a carpenter. Julius Priven, a son of Morris and the father of Lew and Cheryl, spent his working life in kosher meat markets. Lew and Cheryl had diagrammed a detailed family tree based on conversations with their father. The tree also proved invaluable in establishing the connection to Rudolf Priven’s side of the family.
The importance of this find was staggering for the entire family. Cheryl said, "We managed to find a living family member that we would never have known. I want to thank all of those at Yad Vashem who work on the Names Database project. It feels like a miracle rising from the ashes to me".
For more information about the Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project please contact:

A Space for Memory

Avner Shalev discusses the unique architecture across
the Yad Vashem campus
"Yad Vashem is not a museum; it is a space for memory," said Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem Directorate, at a special seminar held this summer dedicated to the topic of architecture and Holocaust remembrance. The seminar was the initiative of Prof. David Guggenheim, faculty member of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, and architect Daniel Mintz, who together were awarded the 2012 Rechter Prize for the design of the new International Seminars Wing of the International School for Holocaust Studies; and Prof. Richard I. (Yerachmiel) Cohen, Incumbent of the Paulette and Claude Kelman Chair in French Jewry Studies in the Department of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 
Yad Vashem's architecture throughout the Mount of Remembrance is designed to provide a fitting memorial space
Speaking at the opening panel were Head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research and Incumbent of the John Najmann Chair for Holocaust Studies Prof. Dan Michman, Bezalel President Prof. Eva Illouz and Prof. Guggenheim. Additional speakers included Prof. Antoine Grumbach (France), who spoke of exhibition design and urban planning as elements of remembrance, and Prof. Nahum Tevet (Israel), who delivered an address on "Traces of Memory."

"The first structure of architectural significance"
The Hall of Remembrance
Lectures and panels primarily focused on the artistic means to effectively provide memorial space, with Shalev focusing in depth on the unique architecture styles visible across the Yad Vashem campus that reflect various structural concepts of remembrance which have evolved over the past six decades: "The first structure of architectural significance [the Hall of Remembrance], created a space of memory for those who survived the Holocaust and immigrated to Israel, and for many held a deep and unique meaning which became manifested in the form of a physical place," explained Shalev. "Upon rebuilding their lives anew in Israel, Yad Vashem was viewed by many survivors and their descendants as a place in which they could speak to or eternally memorialize their loved ones, reflect on life or God, and internalize and express an entire world of thoughts, emotions, questions and memories." It was in this fashion that an open space on an empty hill in Jerusalem would undergo a far-reaching transformation and become the Mount of Remembrance, giving extraordinary context to the meaningful impact a space dedicated to memory can have.

The seminar took place with the generous support of the Gutwirth Family Fund and was held by the International Institute for Holocaust Research in cooperation with the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.