Tag : Holocaust

January 26, 2021 by

Virtual Field Trips

Manhattan’s Museum of the Jewish Heritage offers a free Holocaust curriculum for
teachers at all school levels using recorded field trips. Special programs include
“Meeting Hate with Humanity: Life During the Holocaust” that utilizes the museum’s exhibition “Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away.” to teach about Jewish life before, during and after the Holocaust. “Love Thy Neighbor: Immigration and the U.S. Experience” foregrounds items from the Jewish immigrant experience. Professional development for teachers is also accessible from the Museum’s Education Department.


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January 6, 2021 by

A Q&A with Jennifer Robson, Author of “Our Darkest Night”

It’s 1942, and Antonina, a young Jewish woman, is no longer safe in her native Venice. With help from a benevolent priest, her father finds her shelter with a family of farmers outside the city. Although she knows she should be grateful for the chance to escape, Antonina grieves the separation from her parents and is terrified of accidentally exposing the charade she is forced to perform — assuming the role of the young farmer’s wife. Novelist Jennifer Robson talks to fiction editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about Our Darkest Night (William Morrow, $17.99), her newest novel that is devoted to Antonina’s brave and harrowing story. 

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December 4, 2020 by

Saving Leonardo de Vinci’s “Lady with the Ermine”

September 1939 and Edith Becker sits with her hands trembling beneath the table where she’s seated before some of the most important men of the Alte Pinakoteck, one of Munich’s greatest museums.  Usually, Edith’s work as a conservator keeps her ] behind the scenes, but today she’s been asked to identify and comment on paintings held in private collections across Poland.  What she doesn’t know is that this is just the beginning of an extensive and highly organized plot to plunder Europe’s artwork and use it to glorify the Third Reich. 

Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough talks to Laura Morelli about The Night Portrait,  (William Morrow, $16.99) a novel that traces the fraught journey of Leonardo de Vinci’s famous Lady with the Ermine, and how this priceless work of art was ultimately saved. 

YZM: How did the idea to write about this aspect of World War II come to you?

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October 23, 2020 by


“Here in the Capitol, the lawmaking heart of our nation, in close proximity to the Supreme Court, we remember in sorrow that Hitler’s Europe, his Holocaust kingdom, was not lawless. Indeed, it was a kingdom full of laws, laws deployed by highly educated people—teachers, lawyers, and judges—to facilitate oppression, slavery and mass murder.”

RUTH BADER GINSBURG, remarks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2004.

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October 23, 2020 by

What’s Embedded in Once-Ordinary Objects Brushed by Violence?


It was early august when I took the Metro out to a suburban station to meet the chief conservator of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). She was taking me to the museum’s off-site storage facility. I would spend the day in this most unlikely space. As I entered the nondescript suburban building—the museum’s off-site repository had not yet moved into its new state-of- the art facility—I was struck by its bland character, a deliberate choice. This was my impression until I entered the first of many rooms and, eventually, the vast storage space that housed so much of the museum’s collection.

In that first room, a conservation space, I watched a woman seated beside an ironing board, sewing intently. She was working on a damaged blue-andwhite- striped prisoner uniform. I had never been this close to one of these iconic garments. I thought about the uniforms I had seen on display and those I had seen in photographs. This jacket was much more elaborate than any I had ever seen. It was carefully tailored with many seams and pockets, but it was also in terrible shape. There were huge holes and tears in it (why is this word the same as tears?). These wounds were the focus of the seamstress’s careful attention. The room was electric with the energy that crackled from this fragile object, and I was deeply affected by the experience.

I find myself homing in to consider clothing and other material objects as much more intimate. These are objects that cover and hold our bodies. We wear these textiles. We live inside them. The longer we inhabit them, the more of us they contain; skin cells, sweat, piss, blood, saliva, tears, permeate such garments. But clothing that is worn day in and day out for long periods of time is also marked in a different way. It is shaped by our bodies. Not only were these uniforms worn constantly, but because they were handed out haphazardly, they often did not fit, and so were carefully tailored by the very prisoners who wore them, who used whatever was at hand to try to make them fit. The uniform jacket I saw being mended was unusual in its intricate tailoring. It was altered to fit a specific person.

The camp uniforms held in the USHMM collection are so fragile that careful efforts must be made simply to keep them from disintegrating. And because the bodies of those who inhabited these garments have been missing for so long, in order to preserve them, to keep them from falling apart, each uniform has its own body-shaped hanger. These effigies are custom fit. They are specially made for each jacket, shirt, or pair of pants. These stuffed, mannequin-like hanging figures help take the stress off fragile seams and frayed panels. The prisoners are gone but the hangers convey a semblance of their presence. In reverse logic, the bodies beneath the fabric protect the garment, not the other way around. Because these pieces of clothing are also witnesses to the atrocities performed on those who wore them, they attest to those crimes. They constitute a form of criminal as well as historical evidence. Bound to those bodies and those legacies, they offer silent testimony, but their presence in the museum is not simply material.

An aura emanates from these intimate articles of clothing. Once an abiding presence in the lives of those who wore them, these garments carry the traces of those now absent bodies.

The striped uniform, the bloody hoody, each allows us to stitch connections between ourselves and these different violent legacies. Abiding affective engagements reside in these tattered objects. Such objects keep the event tangible, suspended, and within our reach.

Atlanta, November 1989

Early in the evening on the first Tuesday in November, 1989, I was raped in my home in Atlanta, Georgia. As it turned out, this happened just as the Berlin Wall was about to fall. A strange man broke into my home, hid, and then attacked me. I screamed, and this only exacerbated his rage. He choked me. And then he raped me in my own bed. He threatened to kill me.

At the time, I was a graduate student at Emory completing my doctoral studies in religion. After the police finally arrived on the scene—itself a protracted and exasperating experience—they began to ask questions and collect evidence. But I need to say that the police came late, too late to apprehend the suspect. Not only had I waited on hold with 911 until I finally got through to the police, but I later learned that my landlady, having heard my cries, had also called the police to no avail. She too could not get through to report the crime in process. This is a gap in time I still cannot fully fathom. By the time the police arrived, the man was long gone.

I was taken to Grady Hospital for a rape exam only after the Atlanta police had combed the scene for evidence. They took the comforter and some of the sheets that had been on my bed, and after the rape exam at the hospital, I believe, they also took possession of various pieces of my clothing, including my sweatpants and underwear.

But here my memory falters. I hardly remember the order of these events or what the police took. What I do know is that once they left, I threw away the rest of the clothing I had been wearing. I placed these items in a dumpster outside the hospital. At least this is how I remember it, although none of these items appear in any police documents.

None of my possessions are listed in the inventory from the crime scene, for example, on the official police report. To date, nothing has been found, neither the evidence procured from my rape kit nor any of the clothing or bedding taken from my home and my person that night. I do not know what happened to any of them. Nor do I know whether my rape kit was ever processed. That information cannot be verified. I can only assume that it was not.

Nevertheless, even as I have learned that these possessions are no longer accessible, I am moved by my memory, by the imprint of these once tactile everyday objects on how I think about this past and the fact that I had for so many years forgotten all about them.

Held in such material containers, the trauma is made concrete. These tangible objects testify to the fact that these events are not a figment of the imagination. They are one important way we know that these events actually happened, that this is not a dream.

Laura Levitt is a Professor of Religion, Jewish Studies and Gender at Temple University. Her new book, The Objects That Remain is both a personal memoir and examination of the ways in which the material remains of violent crimes inform our experience of, and thinking about, trauma and loss.

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October 23, 2020 by

No Denying It •

Holocaust survivors, in a powerful video, implore Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, to remove Holocaust denial posts from Facebook. The video, created by the Claims Conference, an organization whose mission over six decades has been to provide a measure of justice and care for Jewish Holocaust victims, wants to ensure future generations learn the lessons of the Holocaust.


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October 23, 2020 by

Holocaust Fiction Now

Over the past 18 months or so, many of the new novels received at the Lilith office have centered on the Holocaust; several, like The Tattooist of Auschwitz, marketed as potential bestsellers. This flood of fiction from women is unlike memoirs written by survivors themselves or conveyed via their daughters’ retellings. Now, a third generation, clearly affected by Holocaust experiences either in their own families or from other exposure, has moved those experiences from memoir into fiction. In the 1970s, Elie Wiesel—himself a writer of Holocaust fiction––famously argued that writers should foreswear fictionalizing the events of the Shoah. Critic Ruth Franklin takes a gentler stance in A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction, a study of immense depth and range that offers a lucid view of an often cloudy field (Goodreads).

Here, a partial list of recent novels in this challenging category.

The Takeaway Men
by Meryl Ain [SparkPress, $16.95]
“The author’s tale is sensitively composed, a thoughtful exploration into the perennially thorny issues of religious identity, assimilation, and the legacy of suffering.” —Kirkus Reviews

The World that We Knew
by Alice Hoffman [Simon & Schuster, $17.00]
“Set in Nazi-occupied France between 1941 and 1944, Hoffman’s latest (after The Rules of Magic) is a bittersweet parable about the costs of survival and the behaviors that define humanity.” —Publishers Weekly

The Things We Cannot Say
by Kelly Rimmer [Graydon House Books, $28.99]
Truth and lies in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1942 drive this tale from bestselling author Rimmer. The novel is about a Polish Christian family in the U.S. whose family secrets, unearthed in present-day America and Poland, upend the narrative that generations had come to understand as their own. (Goodreads)

They Went Left
by Monica Hesse [Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $9.99]
“Hesse writes with tenderness and insight about the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive and the ways we cobble together family with whatever we have. When the plot twists come, they are gut punches–some devastating, others offering hope….” —New York Times Book Review

The Star and the Shamrock
by Jean Grainger [Kindle Direct Publishing, $15.99]
The story of two Jewish children fleeing Berlin during the Holocaust, a newly widowed and motherless woman in Ireland, and their unlikely connection.

The Brothers of Auschwitz
by Malka Adler [HarperCollins, $16.99]

Alternating viewpoints between two brothers separated from their families and taken to Auschwitz, this harrowing story describes how they found one another again.

The German Midwife

by Mandy Robotham [HarperCollins, $15.99]
Anke Hoff, a midwife imprisoned in concentration camp, is tasked with delivering the baby of the Führer. The impossible decision: whether to deliver the innocent child, or sacrifice it for a greater good?

Cilka’s Journey
by Heather Morris [Macmillan, $27.99]
“In the stirring follow-up to The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Morris tells the story of a woman who survives Auschwitz, only to find herself locked away again. Morris’s propulsive tale shows the goodness that can be found even inside the gulag.” —Publishers Weekly

The Light After the War
by Anita Abriel [Atria Books, $27.00]
“[Abriel] deftly sketches the postwar world from Naples to Venezuela and Australia,
with attention paid to the changed architectural and emotional landscapes. The rubble of bombed cities, the blank map of lost relatives, and the uncertainty of day-to-day survival outline the anguish of the lost generation.” —Kirkus Reviews

House on Endless Waters
by Emuna Elon [Atria Books, $17.00]
“A story of love, loss, and yearning. Lyrically phrased and often powerfully visual…this deeply felt tale offers a rewarding meditation on survival.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Collaborator
by Diane Armstrong [HarperCollins, $16.99]
Past and present come together in this tale of a woman trying to discover the truth
about her grandmother’s rescue from the death camps in 1944 and a Jewish journalist
who attempts to save her and thousands of others.

The Last Train to London
by Meg Waite Clayton [HarperCollins, $27.99]
This is a standout historical fiction that serves as a chilling reminder of how insidious, pervasive evil can gradually seep into everyday lives.” —Publishers Weekly

The Things We Cherished
by Pam Jenoff [Random House, $17.00]
“A skillfully rendered tale of undying love, unthinkable loss and the relentless grip of the past on the present” —Kirkus Reviews


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September 29, 2020 by

Harbor From the Holocaust: The Jews of Shanghai

By Aileen Jacobson

In 1941, Laura Margolis, the American Joint Distribution Committee’s first female field agent, was sent to Shanghai to help the nearly 20,000 Jews who had fled there to escape Nazi Germany’s persecution. In an audacious move, she negotiated with the Japanese officials who controlled Shanghai and was able to secure funds (partly from Russian Jews and other communities who had found shelter in China in previous generations) to build a hospital and expand a soup kitchen. She saw to it that the neediest refugees got at least one meal a day to keep after they were forced, in 1943, into a mile-square area known as the “Shanghai ghetto.” The thousands of Chinese people who already lived there stayed.  


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July 23, 2020 by

Laura Simms

Laura Simmsa storyteller, is the director of The Gaindeh Project using story with youth in crisis throughout the world. Her new book, love stories for adults, is The Robe of Love (Codhill Press).

I recall the solitary intensity of squatting in my junior high schoolyard at lunch reading it from cover to cover I was stunned by the cruelty of the Holocaust, realizing my parents had not described what had ended only the year I was born—one of many secrets in our house. The personal account of Anne Frank, almost the same age as I was, allowed me to enter the world of fear, passions, and European Jewishness. I began keeping journals as a result, finding a means of expression that may have nurtured my becoming a writer. Unrequited love became one of my themes; going off to wars and dying another. I hid the book and my journal in my closet. I think it freed me as much as it horrified me at that time.

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July 16, 2020 by

Reading The Diary

Had she lived, Anne Frank would be turning 75 in 2004. Her diary has sold millions of copies in more than 55 languages since it was first published in Dutch in 1947. Naomi Danis elicits some new reactions to the most-read book about the Holocaust.

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