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: collect@yadvashem.org.il.
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: names.outreach@yadvashem.org

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.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Police Forces' Roles in the Holocaust

Just published, the articles in Yad Vashem Studies 41:1 address people’s decisions and actions during the Shoah. Two authors published in this volume, Yuri Radchenko (Ukrainian auxiliary police in Kharkiv) and Stefan Klemp (German police in Northern Italy) found that mundane interests motivated most of the Nazi and collaborator policemen to willingly participate in genocide.
A Nazi war crimes trial in Kharkov, Ukraine, December 1943
Radchenko was able to access previously untapped archival material in Kharkiv in order to present a profile and analysis of the Auxiliary Police in this region of Eastern Ukraine that was never attached to the Germans’ Reichskommissariat Ukraine administrative region. Radchenko finds that the various Ukrainian and Russian nationalists who tried to infiltrate and influence these forces met with only limited success. Interestingly, the competing and sometimes battling factions of the Ukrainian nationalist OUN in Western Ukraine often worked together in Kharkiv, almost as though they were unaware of the rivalry and animosity between the two groups. As elsewhere, the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police in this region were deeply involved in the persecution, spoliation, and murder of the Jews, but unlike Western Ukraine, where Ukrainians were involved in murdering Jews from the first days of the German occupation, in the Kharkiv region their involvement began mainly in later 1942. The evidence indicates that these policemen participated in the murder of the Jews largely out of conformist rather than ideological motivations. A steady income was another significant motivating factor for many of these policemen.
SS and policemen during their service in a
German police unit in Italy
Stefan Klemp demonstrates clearly that German policemen who served as guards on deportation trains from Italy to Auschwitz were witnesses to the murder of the Jews and were well aware of the fate of the people in the cattle cars whom they accompanied from northern Italy. Moreover, the deportation escort job was highly desirable among the policemen because it usually gave them a few days home leave in Germany after the deportation run was completed. In this regard, both Radchenko and Klemp engage in the discussion regarding the perpetrators’ motivations, and their findings give us much food for thought. What emerges from their research is that a steady income or a few days of furlough were sufficient motivation to willingly play an active role in genocide.

The current volume also includes three additional articles which examine the local attitudes toward Jews: Joanna Tokarska-Bakir’s anthropological analysis of the July 4, 1946 Kielce pogrom; Samuel Kassow’s review of three books on rural Polish attitudes toward Jews; and Sanford Gutman’s review of two books on daily life in Vichy. Randolph Braham (comparative analysis of German-allied countries), Laurent Joly (critical review of Alain Michel’s book on Vichy), and Omer Bartov (analysis of Peter Longerich’s biography of Heinrich Himmler) analyze the motivations of governments and decision-makers in their policies toward Jews. Lastly, Joel Zisenwine shows that the Allies’ late, limited knowledge of the gas chambers derived from factors that contributed to limiting their responses to the murder of the Jews; and Gershon Greenberg (review article of Esther Farbstein’s The Forgotten Memoirs) opens a window onto personal survivor accounts of ultra-Orthodox rabbis.
            -From the introduction of Yad Vashem Studies 41:1 (2013) edited by Dr. David Silberklang
This issue is dedicated to the memory of the journal’s past editor (1968-1983), Livia Rothkirchen, who passed away as this issue was completed and opens with Gila Fatran’s article on her contribution to the field. 

Yad Vashem Studies
, volume 41, no. 1, with all of the complete articles, is available for purchase: http://secure.yadvashem.org/store/product.asp?productid=613

Thursday, August 1, 2013

"A Reservoir of Educational Talent"

By Richelle Budd Caplan, Director, European Department International School for Holocaust Studies
Professional seminars at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies are quite intense - packed with lectures, workshops, various interdisciplinary sessions and tours of the Yad Vashem campus. At the conclusion of these programs, participants often comment on their exhaustion and emotional overload,yet usually underscore, “We would not have changed a thing. It was a unique experience. Thank you.”
More than 2,700 educators from every continent except Antartica, study every year at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies. Over the course of the summer, approximately 30 seminars will be coordinated out of our new International Seminars Wing – with educators from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, the United Kingdom and more converging on the Yad Vashem Campus. Our educators are also bringing the School's pedagogical expertise abroad, coordinating 25 seminars across the European continent during the summer alone – from Dublin, Ireland to Kazan of the Russian Federation, as well as additional seminars during this period in Ukraine and in Latvia.
At the completion of every seminar at Yad Vashem, we collect and record the participants' comments and reflections on their experiences, enabling us to assess what has been achieved: teachers who study at Yad Vashem not only buttress their knowledge and gain pedagogical insights, but also undergo a special experience. Participants have remarked that studying at Yad Vashem has provided them with "life education," inspiring them to become better teachers as well as better human beings.
A few of our teachers' comments:
A Greek educator on June 28, 2013, provided the following feedback: “The main thing is that I learned many new things about the Holocaust and this knowledge I intend to share not only with my friends and colleagues but also to transfer to my pupils.”
A Cypriot educator - attending our first-ever seminar for teachers from Cyprus - sent us the following seminar evaluation on June 26, 2013: “The whole seminar and the presentations and our educators were just great. The work that you are doing here can be used as a paradigm on the way we cope with historical issues. The seminar broadened my experience as a teacher and as a person. Thank you again.”
On June 30, 2013, a seminar participant from Bitola stated: "With the stay in Yad Vashem many questions were answered. I will use some of the things in my classes. But many questions are still unanswered. How could a man do such things? Why did no one said “stop”? Many, many questions are without an answer. But one thing is sure. Everything what I saw will stay in my memory until the end of my life."
On July 17, one teacher from Germany exclaimed: “It is sad that there is no Yad Vashem in Germany to visit with school classes. I am sure that I will present my experiences in Yad Vashem and the material in my school and that I will organize a project week with it."
On July 21, an educator from the Netherlands reflected: “The hospitality was great on the whole. The lectures were good as well as the opportunity to think intensively about this subject. I liked the discussion with colleagues and learned from it. There was variety in the program and this was good. You have a reservoir of educational talent…”
This overwhelmingly positive feedback provides a well of inspiration for us at the International School while the participants' constructive criticism helps Yad Vashem experts further improve our educational programming in the future. Throughout the year, we receive updates from our graduates about the new directions that they have taken in their teaching as a result of what they have learned at Yad Vashem. Graduates like Gertraud Hoheneder who used the story of an Austrian Jewish survivor that she met in Jerusalem to write a text book in German tailored to non-Jewish elementary school children and Olena Zhadko of Ukraine who developed an educational unit for young students called "Ruined Childhood" that uses the experiences of girls and their dolls during the Holocaust to help them better understand the struggles of young children during the Shoah are examples of just what a few of our graduates are accomplishing back in their hometowns. We are proud of the creative endeavors and accomplishments of our seminar graduates, and of the impact they generate in their own communities.

Click for more information about upcoming international seminars

The work of the European Department is made possible by the generous support of the ICHEIC Humanitarian Fund and the Adelson Family Foundation.