Tag : Holocaust

The Lilith Blog

July 9, 2019 by

I Walked Away Furious from an Auschwitz Exhibit: Here’s Why

On June 26, my mother—the daughter of Eta Wrobel, a partisan fighter in the Holocaust—took me to the Auschwitz exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. While many people who visit Holocaust museums and memorials leave feeling sad or moved, I walked away deeply furious.

The museum was full of artifacts from Auschwitz, photos of prisoners, and videos of survivors, all with accompanying descriptions. Many of the videos featured survivors who felt not just an urge, but a need to use their voices to ensure this type of inhumane and cruel treatment never happens again. As I heard their stories, all I could think about were the Jews that I have encountered who are anti-immigrant, pro detention center. The thought flooded me with anger. 

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July 9, 2019 by

Daria Martin: Tonight the World •

Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 12.15.36 PMAn unusual new exhibition of works by artist Daria Martin explores the unconscious memories of her paternal grandmother, who fled the former Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust. Martin’s art springs from an extensive archive of dream diaries her grandmother created over a 35-year period, originally chronicled for the purposes of psychoanalysis. This multimedia exhibition includes two films, one created using computer gaming technology that takes users on a journey through a 3-D rendering of the villa in Brno as it appeared when the grandmother lived there, and another, with actors, that presents a reimagining of four of the grandmother’s dreams.

The installation operates simultaneously as a portrait of Martin’s ancestor, a self-portrait, and an exploration of intolerance, migration, loss, resilience and intergenerational trauma. The exhibition was co-commissioned by Barbican Centre, London, and The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco where it is showing through February 19, 2020. thecjm.org/exhibitions/110

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July 9, 2019 by

Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. •

The most significant site of the Holocaust, Auschwitz was a complex of 48 concentration and extermination camps, at which 1,000,000 Jews—and tens of thousands of others—were murdered. This groundbreaking exhibition explores the dual identity of the camp as a physical location—the largest documented mass murder site in human history—and as a symbol of the borderless manifestation of hatred and human barbarity.

Ruth Grunberger, determined to survive and to have a head of hair again one day, made this comb (left) for herself at Auschwitz using stolen scrap metal and wire.

Ruth Grunberger, determined to survive and to have a head of hair again one day, made this comb (left) for herself at Auschwitz using stolen scrap metal and wire.

It brings together more than 700 original objects and 400 photographs from institutions and museums around the world. Included are personal items—suitcases, eyeglasses, shoes and more—that belonged to survivors and victims. Concrete posts that were part of the fence of the Auschwitz camp; fragments of an original barrack for prisoners; an original German-made Model 2 freight wagon used for the deportation of Jews. At the Museum of the Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, through January 3, 2020. Then it tours other cities around the world. mjhnyc.org

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July 9, 2019 by

An Unusual Holocaust Curriculum •

“The Holocaust refers to the systematic murder of six million Jews, and millions of others, by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. The Nazi Party came to power in 1933. Its leader, Adolf Hitler, was appointed chancellor of Germany, and began to target Jews, Roma/Sinti, those with physical or mental disabilities, LGBTQ people, political dissidents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others were considered enemies by the Nazis and not worthy of human rights.”

Thus begins a curriculum designed for various grade levels. Each lesson provides key content, primary sources, and student activities. Developed by the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York with the support of the NYC Department of Education, it uses artifact-based learning from the museum, and is the available online to all. education.mjhnyc.org/lesson-plans

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The Lilith Blog

April 3, 2019 by

Fiction: The Orphans

Still slender, short, and small-boned as adults, the orphans rush the buffet table at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and office parties–even when they know there will be dancing. In their good heels and Lord & Taylor dresses they form a line but sway from side to side while waiting, peeking around the person in front of them to see if there will be plenty of roast beef because there is never enough roast beef.

There is never enough roast beef, never enough chicken Kiev, smoked salmon, shrimp scampi, broccoli with hollandaise, pommes au fromage, those flaky miniature croissants, even the warm, gummy pasta in a pink sauce that has been a feature at these events lately.

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April 2, 2019 by

Are You a Woman Who Survived Concentration Camp? Or Her Daughter or Granddaughter?

We are eager to document the forced administration to women of substances that led to the cessation of their menstruation and, for some, infertility and miscarriages afterward.

In the years after the Shoah, the common and understandable medical assumption was that the cessation of menstruation in the camps was the result of malnutrition. But there is now data to refute this: both the emaciated women arriving to Auschwitz in 1944 from Poland’s ghettos and the women arriving in 1944 from Hungary, where they were not starved, all stopped menstruating immediately after arrival, regardless of differences in body mass.

Some women reportedly received injections, others were forced to ingest food or liquids which contained a similar substance. In both cases the women ceased menstruating—some for months, some for years; some suffered miscarriages or were left permanently infertile. Self-reports suggest that the younger the adolescent girl at the time she arrived in the concentration camps, the greater the long-term impact upon her future reproduction.

These interventions were conducted so routinely that this history has been unspoken and its connection to long-term effects unrecognized. Interviews with survivors indicate that they were part of the “processing” of those new female arrivals at Auschwitz (and perhaps other death camps) who were not killed immediately. Women survivors’ experience related to their subsequent fertility may also have received limited investigation because of the sensitive and taboo subject. Survivors themselves may have been reluctant to raise the issue, and earlier interviewers may not have thought to—or had the training to—ask questions that would elicit such material.

To uncover these missing stories, one of my colleagues and I are seeking to interview female concentration camp survivors and any children of survivors whose mothers may have shared with them stories about their post-Holocaust fertility challenges. While there is no cohesive, documented narrative of this particular experience, stories exist vividly in the memories of survivors who still do not know what exactly was done to them or why. We are attempting to assemble the fragments of this unknown chapter of the Shoah and to hear from women and their children. We can conduct interviews in Yiddish, English, Hebrew or French. Not only do these women’s stories deserve to be given voice, but also there may be important medical consequences for the second and third generation.

To be interviewed, contact Peggy J. Kleinplatz, Ph.D. at 613-563-0846 or Paul J. Weindling, Ph.D. at pjweindling@menbrookes.ac.uk.

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January 10, 2019 by

Poetry: “Except Following the Rules Will Kill You”

“The Auschwitz Album is the only surviving visual evidence of the process leading to the mass murder at Auschwitz-Birkenau.” — www.yadvashem.org

He looked like a man I could have spent my time with. Relatable, handsome even. Dapper and tall with pants a little too loose on his lean frame. A good Jewish boy. I could have brought him home to my mother except he’s in black and white. Except he happened 70 some odd years ago. Waiting patiently to approach the commander on a small platform. Second in the endless line of men with brimmed hats settled politely against their sides. From here I want to scream out his name but I don’t know it. Except following the rules will kill you. I’m staring. From here I’ve decided to claim this man as my good Jewish boy. Absorbed in his lips twisted to one side. He’s smirking. He’s beautiful and smirking while he’s waiting in line with the thousands of men of all shapes and sizes in their best rumpled winter attire. I think it’s summer. My good Jewish boy. Except following the rules will kill you. He’s beautiful and he’s next up and looks like he’s already cleared his throat. Ready to reason with the commander. Understand what this procession is all about. That the train ride was days of hell. And the last few years leading up to it were like treading water. Except following the rules will kill you. I’m staring and I can’t stop. Except he’s in black and white and I can’t reach back to tell him. I’m staring and my skin is prickling sour and I can’t stop. Body clenching. Pain sharpening through my bones. Heart throbbing in a thick monotonous rage. My Jewish boy. I don’t even have his permission to claim him. He has no idea. They have no idea. From here I can’t stop what’s already happened. 70 some odd years later. How could anyone believe it to be true. Except following the rules will kill you. My Jewish boy. My people hold shame like wine overflowing through cupped hands, like blood hemorrhaging without a way to stop the bleeding. He has no idea. They have no idea. Except following the rules will kill you. From here I see there are so many more of them, than them. From here I see the giant pits of fire and limbs and babies and ash. From here I’m dying to tell them to break their ranks and take over even if the result is still the same. Fight back I scream with the bluntness of the back of my throat. Even if the result is still the same. From here I know he’s dying. They are all dying and they have no idea. My Jewish boy. Except all that’s left of him is this photograph from Yad Vashem’s website called “Auschwitz album.” Except I will never know his name, their names. People who were here that were matter with alive bodies, blood running through them. Except the worst thing about the past is that it is still here and following the rules will kill you.

Lilith Poetry Editor Alicia Ostriker comments: Reading Gabriella Theisen-Jacobowitzr’s prose poem “Except Following the Rules Will Kill You” was for me a stunning experience, in which a woman’s voice very like my own seems just short of crack-up. Irrationality—illogic—rules this poem, beginning with its title, which becomes its obsessive refrain. What can “except” mean? If the fragment of a sentence were a full sentence, would it say “A civilized person should obey custom, should respect how things are done, should follow the rules, except following the rules will kill you?” What are we looking at? The behavior of the man in the photo who is like a good Jewish boy ready to argue rationally with the Nazi officer? The speaker’s own irrational response to a man dead seventy years as if she could take him home? Or her horror that “he has no idea. They have no idea” as if the horror were still going on? The speaker’s awareness does not lessen her anguished helplessness—or mine, or yours.

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The Lilith Blog

December 26, 2018 by

A Filmmaker Listens to Germans, Jews and Palestinians

Like many born into the generation following the Holocaust, Ofra Bloch has always been fascinated with, and affected by, generational trauma–on both sides. Bloch set out to make a documentary focusing on descendants of former oppressors, focusing on the effects of the Holocaust on non-Jewish Germans. But what she ended up creating extends far past that initial subject. Instead, “Afterward” weaves together three emotional narratives: Germans after the Holocaust, Palestinians after the “Nakba” (the “catastrophe,” known by Israelis as the 1948 War of Independence) and Bloch’s personal story of growing up in Israel squeezed between inescapable shadows of WWII on one hand, and silence regarding Palestinians on the other. 

As a child, Bloch dreamed of pursuing both psychology and filmmaking. Now, 30 years into her career as a psychoanalyst, “Afterward” is the meeting point of these dreams. “I have a lot of chutzpah, I take risks and I do things,” Bloch told Lilith. Throughout the six years it took to film and edit “Afterward,” Bloch continued to work full-time at her practice in New York. “I’m not a filmmaker, I’m a psychoanalyst, but I think both professions need the same skills,” she says. “You need to listen, which is like the camera looking at the subjects, and analyzing is like the editing process.”

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The Lilith Blog

August 22, 2018 by

Why Deporting an (Actual) Nazi Feels Hollow in the Age of Charlottesville

Under the heading of “better late than never!” the last known Nazi war criminal, the 95 year old Jakiw Palij, has been arrested at his Queens home by ICE and deported to Germany.  It’s justice done, yet in this summer of fear and anger, it feels hollow to focus on the past without looking at the present.

According to a press release from the State Department, Palij served as an armed guard at the Trawniki slave-labor camp for Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland during the second World War. He concealed his Nazi service when he immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1949. A federal court stripped Palij of his citizenship in 2003 and a U.S. immigration judge ordered him removed from the United States in 2004 based on his wartime activities and postwar immigration fraud. A careful reader will notice that that was 14 years ago. So, nu?

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The Lilith Blog

June 21, 2018 by

The Cloth Mother and Trauma at the Border

As you read this, more than 11,000 children captured while trying to enter the U.S. across the border with Mexico are warehoused in more than 100 facilities in 17 states. The thousands of children separated from their families in recent weeks are scattered across the country, and there is no coherent plan apparent to reconnect them with their relatives.

I keep thinking about Baby 106.

In the 1950s, American psychologist Dr. Harry Harlow used baby rhesus monkeys for groundbreaking research on childhood attachment. One of his subjects, Baby 106, was taken from its mother at birth and placed in a cage. Eventually it was introduced to two “mothers,” that were actually wire cylinders. One had a protruding nipple connected to a bottle of milk. The other, with no nipple, was covered in cloth. The baby monkey initially went to the wire mother and suckled. Then it went, and stayed, with the cloth mother, the one that offered some tactile comfort.

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