761 Days at Home in Hiding

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This model shows the annex, where Anne Frank and seven others spent 761 days in hiding. The secret annex could be reached only behind a sliding bookshelf, on the second level, as shown in the center of the model. Photo by Alexisrael, via Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

 

“I wander from one room to the next, down the stairs and back up again and feel like a songbird that has had its wings torn off and flies against the bars of its cage in total darkness,” wrote Anne Frank in her diary. Her Sunday, October 29, 1943, continues: “Outside, fresh air and laughter, a voice inside me screams; I don’t even try to answer anymore, I lie down on a divan and sleep in order to shorten the time, the silence,  the terrible fear too, because there is no question of killing them.”

 

For Anne, boredom was not the only challenge she faced. From July 6, 1942, though August 3, 1944, the group faced the ever-present terror of being discovered by the Nazis and deported to the concentration and death camps. “Why do I always think and dream the most awful things and want to scream in terror,” wrote Anne on Dec 29, 1943. A typical day in the annex began at 6:45 a.m. and ended with sundown, when the windows had to be blacked out. Each morning, everyone had to keep quiet until 9:00 a.m., when the workers arrived. Even the slightest sound before then could give them away.

 

Now, in 2020, those of us in hour homes can take an interactive virtual tour of the Anne Frank House. The museum nowadays itself is largely empty of furnishings. The details were reconstructed on a set in 1999.

 

Back in the 1940s, there was no internet, no video calls. There were no movies or TV series to stream. Radio was the family’s connection to the world at large. And radio was very much a luxury then. Before the Franks went into hiding, they were forced to surrender their set. “It’s a pity we have to turn in our big Philips, but when you’re in hiding, you can’t afford to bring the authorities down on your heads,” Anne wrote on June 15, 1943. “Of course, we’ll put the ‘baby’ radio upstairs. What’s a clandestine radio when there are already clandestine Jews and clandestine money?”

 

As we know, Anne had another way to pass the time and create something in the process. “The nicest part is being able to write down all my thoughts and feelings; otherwise, I’d absolutely suffocate,” she wrote on March 16, 1944.

 

On March 28, 1944, Anne found an additional purpose for her diary. While listening to the radio, the people in hiding heard Minister Gerrit Bolkestein’s appeal from London. He urged the Dutch to keep to important documents, so that it would be clear after the war what they all had experienced during the German occupation.

 

“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

 

That entry was on July 15, 1944, barely two weeks before her last, on August 1944.

 

 

 

Leah Liwska and a Beautiful Purim Story from Rochester, New York

Group Picture 1929

 

Alex Zapesochny, Publisher of the Rochester Beacon, shared this beautiful story about “discovering” his great aunt, Leah Liwsky. His search led him to the Korczak orphanage in Warsaw, where Leah was one of the students. She is believed to be the third from the left in the second row in this 1929 photo. As Janusz Korczak never abandoned his children, Leah stayed with Korczak, even in the hell that was the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942. So dedicated was she that she made Janusz Korczak’s list of “valuable employees” at the orphanage, in a document dated March 19, 1942. The Jewish people faced a threat, but thanks to Esther, good prevailed. For Purim this year, we get to meet another strong heroine!

 

Leah Liwska - A Purim Story Rochester Beacon

 

Please read the beautiful article here

The Holocaust: A Cry Against the Destruction, the Annihilation – An Album of Paintings and Drawings by Itzchak Belfer

Itzchak Belfer - Holocaust 04

 

Itzchak Belfer - Holocaust 01“I was born into a tragic and stormy period, between the first and second world wars. Those were days of hope followed by nights of disillusionment. I struggled and groped to survive and to keep afloat in the world,” said Itzchak Belfer. Then came his lucky break. Unable to care for the young boy, Itzchak’s mother took him to a “white house in a gray city,” the orphanage of Janusz Korczak. His teachers saw the young boy’s tremendous gift for art and provided him with supplies. His passion for expressing himself through paintings and drawings continue to this very day. Most important, it is through his art that Itzchak observes the mitzvah, sacred commandment, to remember and guard the past.

 

“I have visions of the Holocaust, of the Warsaw Ghetto, before and after the war,” said Itzchak. “Never again will my eyes behold the images of my loved ones. I can still hear the horrific accounts of the Holocaust sounding in my ears to this day, just as I did when I first heard them. I do not forget anything. My thoughts often take me back to that time.”

 

In The Holocaust, Itzchak “has brought forth in his paintings the deepest expression of the torment in which the Jews of Europe found themselves.”

 

This remarkable collection is divided by themes:

  • Remember
  • The Extermination Camps
  • The Rebellion
  • The Ghetto

 

The works are powerful, dark and brooding. The expressions of pain, anguish, and fear are unmistakable. The images are indelible. “We found in [this album] one of the strongest artistic expressions that might assist in our hands…. In the album, there is a cry of man against destruction! Annihilation!” These are the words of Yoseph Arnon, an intimate friend of Janusz Korczak and a witness to the terrible period this book so poignantly portrays.

 

Remembering the Man Who Remembered Korczak

 

Though Andrzej Wajda, Poland’s most well-known film director is best known for The Promised Land and three other award-winning films, for me his 1990 film, Korczak, has the greatest meaning. Mr. Wajda, who the New York Times called “a towering auteur of Polish cinema,” died earlier this month, so this is a good time to remember him.

 

Korczak, starring Wojcieh Pszoniak in the title role and Ewa Dalkowska as Stefa, documents Janusz Korczak’s efforts, twice, to re-create his orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto after the German invaders forced him out of his building at 92 Krochmalna. Although run-down shells of buildings were a poor comparison to the original home, Korczak did succeed in creating a humane refuge for the orphaned children in his care.  In the hell that was the Ghetto, Korczak continued with his extraordinary pedagogy, children’s self-government (including the Children’s Court), teaching, and mealtimes. Korczak sets out to document the man and his heroic work during his last two years, from 1940 to 1942.  “I think I committed to Korczak all my talents and skills,” he said. Like Schindler’s List, this movie was filmed in black and white, showing the stark contrast of good and evil. (Steven Spielberg considers Korczak “one of the most important pictures about the Holocaust.” Noteworthy is the fact that Wajda did not succumb to the temptation of showing the orphans at the Treblinka death camp, claiming he had no right to do so.

 

Andrzej Wajda was born in 1926, in Suwalki. His father, Jakub, was a victim of the Katyn massacre in 1940, the subject of his 2007 film of the same name.  In 1942, he joined the Home Army (Armia Krajova), the Polish resistance, of which Irena Sendler was also a part. After the War, he studied painting at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts, before enrolling in the Lodz Film School. The 1970s was a lucrative time for Wajda, and his 1981 film, Man of Iron, told of a wedding during the Solidarity movement. Andrzej Wajda passed away in October 2016, in Warsaw. He was 90.

The Fact Is, We Need Nature Much More Than Nature Needs Us

Columbia River Gorge Sunset 07

But I have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.

When young Pavel Friedman wrote these words from the ghetto of Terezin, in 1942, he saw butterflies and the majesty of even the smallest bits of nature as a symbol of freedom and goodness. Pavel saw the goodness but never saw the freedom.

Of course, we are not being held imprisoned in a ghetto. However, humanity will be imprisoned

 

“The most important thing isn’t necessarily that we’re losing . . . 1 million species — although that’s important, don’t misunderstand me,” Watson said during a teleconference Sunday. “The bigger issue is the way it will affect human well-being, as we’ve said many times — food, water, energy, human health.

“We care about nature, but we care about human well-being,” Watson said. “We need to link it to human well-being; that’s the crucial thing. Otherwise we’re going to look like a bunch of tree-huggers.”

The report has a positive spin, saying that “it is not too late to make a difference.” But that difference requires more than 100 developing and non-

Nations that signed off on the study’s findings acknowledged that opposition from rich people invested in the status quo is expected.

Two Holocaust Museums Rethink Their Missions

At a time when there are increasingly fewer Holocaust survivors and witnesses, the last year has seen a surge in anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and bigotry (such as White Nationalismon the rise. Of even greater concern, these forms of bias and hate are moving from the fringes to the mainstream. The Washington Post recently called on Congress to take action. These worrisome trends have had at least two Holocaust museums re-examine how they present their collections. The first involves a young girl, a name world famous but a history often misunderstood. The second commemorates the ghetto uprising in Korczak’s home of Warsaw.

 

The Anne Frank House, Amsterdam

Although attendance at this Amsterdam landmark has increased sharply over the past seven years, the curators have noticed that many of the younger and foreign visitors have a limited knowledge of the Holocaust and Anne Frank. The challenge, according to and article in the New York Times, is how to make this history relevant to today without trivializing it. The museum has expanded both its exhibition space in an building adjoining the old house and its educational outreach efforts, especially to enable these audiences to experience the what happened in the house. The museum also has traveling exhibitions, such as the new “Let Me Be Myself.” Anne Frank has long been a metaphor for hope and the belief in the inherent goodness of people even in the worst of circumstances.

 

Anne Frank Card Stamps with Korczak

 

Lohamei Hagetaot – Ghetto Fighters House Museum, Israel

In another recent New York Times article, the Ghetto Fighters House Museum, which commemorates the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and honors notable people of the city during the Holocaust, including Janusz Korczak. Yad Layeled commemorates the children. According to the article, “…instead of dealing with the Holocaust as a static historical event, and only a Jewish tragedy, the museum is advocating a more dynamic approach with a focus on the moral lessons for all of humanity.”

Ghetto Fighters House 50

Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War Is a Tale of Moral Courage

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Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War is a powerful new film by Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky. The film tells of the courageous mission of an American couple in 1939, to assist refugees in escaping Nazi-occupied Europe.  During their two-year mission, Waitstill and Martha Sharp risked their lives so hundreds of Jews would find freedom. It will be shown on PBS on September 20, 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Screenings in New York City are also planned; many other resources and links can be found on this website.
Update, Sunday, September 18: Nicholas Kristof wrote wrote a masterful column, explaining both the background of the Sharps’ true story and why it is relevant today, especially regarding the Syrian refugees – Would You Hide a Jew from the Nazis?