Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust’

German ‘Nazi grandma’ sentenced to 10 months in prison for Holocaust denial

November 24th, 2015

Haverbeck was dragged back into court after she went on television in April to declare that “the Holocaust is the biggest and most sustainable lie in history”.

Unapologetic for her comment, she had told the court cheerfully, “yes I said that indeed”, according to media reports.

Haverbeck went as far as to challenge the court in the northern city of Hamburg to prove that Auschwitz was a death camp, prompting ruling magistrate Bjoern Joensson to say “it is pointless holding a debate with someone who can’t accept any facts”.

“Neither do I have to prove to you that the world is round,” he added.

Issuing his ruling on Thursday, Mr Joensson said: “It is deplorable that this woman, who is still so active given her age, uses her energy to spread such hair-raising nonsense.

“She is a lost cause,” he added.

Nevertheless, the recalcitrant Holocaust denier is not without supporters.

At the trial anti-far-right activists had arrived in force to occupy most benches in the courtroom, Haverbeck’s supporters were shouting outside: “Let us in.”

She left the courtroom to applause.

“Of course” they won’t accept this sentence, the Tageszeitung newspaper quoted her as saying.

Some 1.1 million people, most of them European Jews, perished between 1940 and 1945 in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp before it was liberated by Soviet forces.


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Nazi holocaust documents found: 6,300 files discovered behind wall of Budapest apartment

November 22nd, 2015

Carefully removing each brick, the couple eased out some 61 kilogrammes (135 pounds) of dusty papers, many with bits of plaster caked on, but all more or less intact.

With the ink still readable – thanks to a lack of air in the cavity and nicotine from the heavy-smoking former owner – the yellowed papers were given to the Budapest City Archives.

Istvan Kenyeres, head of the archives, was amazed.

“Most wartime papers are more faded or rotten than medieval documents, on bad quality paper due to the rationing,” he said.

“The content and scale of the finding is unprecedented,” he said. “It helps to fill a huge gap in the history of the Holocaust in Budapest.”

Since September, restorers at the archives have been literally ironing the papers to study them, pausing occasionally when they spot someone famous among the scrawled names.

The May 1944 Budapest census was to identify houses to serve as holding locations for Jews before moving them to a planned walled ghetto in the city’s seventh district.

Two months earlier Nazi Germany had occupied Hungary and deportations in the countryside to the gas chambers of Auschwitz began almost immediately.

The forms found in the Budapest apartment contain names of each building’s inhabitants, and whether they are Jewish or not, with total numbers of Christians and Jews marked in the corners.

“Jewish people filled in the forms honestly, they refused to believe where this might end up,” said Kenyeres.

Shortly after the census, around 200,000 Jews were moved into some 2,000 selected buildings, “Yellow Star Houses” with the Star-of-David Jewish symbol painted on the doors.

“Thanks to the Berdefys, we know that if a lot of Jews lived in a building then it likely became a Yellow Star House,” Kenyeres said.

In late 1944, they were crammed into the ghetto, where some died of starvation or were shot next to the river – a poignant memorial of abandoned iron shoes today marks the spot.

The arrival of the Russian army in January 1945 saved the rest though, and unlike the Jews from outside the city, most of Budapest’s Jewish population survived.

An estimated total of 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished in the Holocaust, most in Auschwitz.

Kenyeres said that an estimated 23,000 more documents may still be out there which would give further valuable insight into what happened in 1944 and would also be digitalised and made available to the public if they turned up.

“People should look behind their walls, you never know in Budapest what could be there.”

Inside the far-Right stronghold where Hungarian Jews fear for the future


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Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that Palestinians caused the Holocaust is a ludicrous distortion

October 23rd, 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu

The seeds of Hitler’s murderous anti-Semitism, which came to their full poisonous fruition in the Holocaust were first planted in his fertile but horribly twisted mind before the First World War when he was living the life of a down and out in Vienna while trying in vain to enter the city’s Fine Art School.

The Mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger, was an open, if idiosyncratic anti-semite, and the city was awash with gutter literature extolling the Germanic race, and excoriating the “lesser breeds” of the multinational Habsburg empire who had flooded into the cosmopolitan capital – especially the Jews. The future Fuehrer eagerly lapped up these racist pamphlets and newspapers, forming a murderous mindset that was to last for the rest of his life.

Hitler spewed out his hatred of the Jews in speech after speech after founding the Nazi party in Munich in 1919, and set it down in cold print when he was imprisoned for almost a year after the failure of his 1923 Beerhall Putsch, and used his enforced leisure in the fortress prison of Landsberg to dictate his notorious combined autobiography and political manifesto “Mein Kampf”.

“”Today I will once more be a prophet. If the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevisation of the earth and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.”"

In a chilling prophecy of what actually happened when he achieved the power to put his sick schemes into action, Hitler talked of holding Jews “under gas”, and his writing exudes a physical disgust with Jews deflowering pure Aryan maidens. Later, before his hand-picked Reichstag meeting in Berlin’s Kroll Opera House, Hitler openly predicted that if war broke out in Europe it would end in the extermination of European Jewry. He could hardly have made his hideous intentions clearer.

In ongoing debates about the origins of the Holocaust, historians are still divided between “intentionalists” who hold that it was Hitler’s intention all along to physically wipe out the Jews, and those who claim that the actual circumstances of the war were responsible for the setting up of the Polish death camps – Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Sobibor and Majdanek among others – where most of the industrialised killing took place. None, however, have argued that the Grand Mufti gave Hitler the idea.

German invasion of Poland, 1 September 1939

By the time the two men met in 1941, the mass killing of Jews was already a fact. From the moment that Hitler’s legions invaded Poland in 1939, the Wehrmacht was accompanied by special SS and auxiliary Police battalions tasked with killing Jews. Before the development of chambers where Zyklon B poison gas was used, various other methods were employed, from mass shootings, burnings, batterings, hangings, burial alive and specially adapted vans that pumped carbon monoxide fumes inside to asphyxiate their passengers. These methods were eventually deemed too slow, and the killings escalated inexorably into the millions in the last years of the war with the construction of the gas chambers.

Benjamin Netanyahu, a skilful politician himself, should know enough about the fate of his own people in the Holocaust, and the efforts of Holocaust deniers to twist History, to be able to resist the temptation to indulge in such distortion himself.

Nigel Jones is a historian of Nazi Germany and the author of Hitler’s Heralds and Countdown to Valkyrie. He leads tours of Germany’s Nazi sites for Historical Trips.


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Holocaust Memorial Day: How Auschwitz was remembered

January 27th, 2015

Remembering the horror of Auschwitz 70 years on

Participants also included the presidents of Germany and Austria, the perpetrator nations that have spent decades atoning for their sins, as well as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, a sign of Poland’s strong support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.

Auschwitz survivor Halina Birenbaum sounded a warning to all present, saying: “If nobody stops it, this Auschwitz Birkenau evil, it lingers and its re-born into growing terror, in anti-semitism and racism.”

Another survivor, Roman Kent, became emotional as he issued a plea to world leaders to remember the atrocities and fight for tolerance.

“We do not want our past to be our children’s future,” he said to applause, fighting back tears.

And president of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder warned of a new wave of anti-semitism, saying: “Jews are targeted in Europe once again because they are Jews.”

Holocaust survivors recall life in death camps


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Holocaust Memorial Day: remembering the horror of Auschwitz 70 years on

January 26th, 2015

The site was also the death place for many people who did not fit into the Nazis’ view of their world. Poles, lesbians, homosexuals and the disabled were amongst those also killed here.

Over one and a half million people were killed at Auschwitz, including women and children

The infamous sign, made by a prisoner, was erected by the Nazis after the Auschwitz barracks were converted into a labour camp to house Polish resistance fighters in 1940. Auschwitz was later expanded into a vast death camp


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Watch: Holocaust survivor recalls life after Auschwitz

January 26th, 2015

70 years later, as the world marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Radil is among the dwindling population of survivors who was actually at Auschwitz, the most vivid symbol of Nazi cruelty, when the terror finally ended.

He said that he got through the nightmare thanks to a tremendous will to survive and an intense focus on returning home.

“Everyone wanted to survive and those who did asked themselves, ‘what do we do now?’ Your main and only goal was survival, so you had to look for another one,” he said.

“For me, it was to go home. But I didn’t know what or who I would find there. I knew that most of the people were murdered.

“So what really is home? It’s not a city, it is a family, but I knew the family would not be complete.”

In fact, only his father was still alive.

Radil, who has written a book about his life called “All Alone in Auschwitz at 14,” has also warned of a repetition of the kind of horror the Holocaust brought.

“It might be somewhere else, it may not concern Jews,” he said.

“It might be some different type of holocaust but when you have people that are unsatisfied, frustrated, who lack a lot and have no goal, and someone comes and provides them with a goal, some sort of goal, they can unite in hatred.”


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Munich ban on Holocaust memorial plaques ‘may be overturned’

January 21st, 2015

The scheme, started in 1996 by a German sculptor, has spread across Europe and there are now 50,000 stumbling stones in more than 1,000 cities from France to Russia, prompting claims it is the largest memorial in the world.

Now that ban may be on the verge of being overturned, according to a report on The Local website.

A new mayor elected last year, Dieter Reiter, is in favour of allowing the stumbling stones, and a local initiative to bring the memorials to Munich led by Terry Swartzberg, an American Jew living in the city, believes it has enough votes on the city council to have the ban reversed.

Opposition to the stumbling stones in Munich has come from an unexpected quarter: the elected leader of the city’s 4,000-member Jewish community, 82-year-old Charlotte Knobloch, herself a Holocaust survivor.

“People murdered in the Holocaust deserve better than a plaque in the dust, street dirt and even worse filth,” she said in a statement.

But support for the stumbling stones appears to be growing in Munich, with other Jewish residents and Holocaust survivors coming forward to say they want the memorials.

Gunter Demnig, the sculptor behind the stumbling stones, said he got the idea when he heard an elderly German woman at the unveiling of another memorial deny any Holocast victims had lived in the area.

“I called them stumbling stones because it would make people who came across them pause from their everyday lives and remember that an individual killed by the Nazis once lived at that address,” he said.


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Holocaust survivor: ‘I did my best acting during the war – it deserved an Oscar’

October 29th, 2014

Ruth, 84, is acting out the story of how she escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto.

She lived there with her parents, and tells me: “The unfortunate story is that my father wanted to save me.”

Her father helped Ruth and her aunt – whose two children had already been killed by the Nazis – get a job working at a leather factor outside the ghetto. He also managed to acquire false passports for the women, giving them Catholic names and identities.

The plan was for the pair to escape during one of their regular trips to the bathhouse, where workers were taken weekly.

“We were marched with guards on each side and marched back again,” explains Ruth. “On one of those events my aunt had the false passports. She explained to me, ‘this is my chance’.”

The two of them managed to run out of the bathhouse and on to the Aryan side of the road. “It was sheer luck. It was always, you might be lucky and you might not be. But it was worth taking that chance.

“Like a cat, I have many lives, I think.”

‘My life in Poland was finished’

Ruth aged nine

For the next year or so, Ruth and her aunt pretended to be Catholic. It wasn’t as challenging as it might have been for others. Ruth did not ‘look Jewish’ and her not particularly religious family had already assimilated to Polish life.

Ruth’s parents were tragically taken to Treblinka, the concentration camp, where they died. She believes that they always had plans to follow her, but were deported before they had a chance to put them into action.

The rest of her story is not told in the play.

When she was 13, Warsaw was evacuated and Ruth was moved to Germany.

“We were taken as prisoners of war to Germany, but not as Jews. As Christians,” she tells me.

“It was very very cold in the winter and we had to clean the snow away from a railway. This was kind of my school. It wasn’t as bad as being in a concentration camp like Auschwitz or Treblinka, where my parents died. But you know, it wasn’t a piece of cake. We weren’t tortured, we were not beaten. But the circumstances were not easy.”

When the war ended, she went to England and has lived here ever since. Her aunt eventually returned to Poland but Ruth decided not to follow.

“My life in Poland was finished,” she says. “There was no one left for me.

“I was asked what I wanted and I said that I wanted to be schooled. My schooling had been totally disrupted. Of course I didn’t speak a word of English. But I was still young so I learnt quite quickly.”

That was also when Ruth started to deal with everything that she had gone through.

“When I came to this country at the tender age of 16, one goes through different emotions. There’s a bit of, ‘I survived and I feel a bit guilty because everyone is gone’. But at that age you actually want to put the past away from you and move forward.

“I didn’t want to be a victim and I didn’t want to be different from anyone else.”

‘Your best acting? That was in the war’

Ruth dancing on a beach in Tel Aviv

“I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to learn the language as fast as I could and be a teenager like everyone else. The only thing that distinguished me from others was that I was a bit more serious.

“I wasn’t looking for boys and flirtations – but I made up for it later in life.”

Ruth went on to become one of the first members of the London Contemporary Dance Company, where she worked for 17 years. She met her husband Mike at a tea dance there and went on to have a son – who sadly died at the age of 37.

Then, during her forties, she made the switch from dance to drama.

She told her aunt about this decision. her reaction? “’I thought you already did your most wonderful performance, you’ll never match that.”

Ruth laughs: “She referred to the fact that I had to keep changing my character [during the war], and that was my best performance, my best acting, for which I should have got an Oscar.”

She went on to have a successful acting career, but this is the first time that Ruth is acting out her own story on stage. She has played Holocaust survivors before, but never herself.

So how does it feel to relive those memories in such a public way?

‘I didn’t want it to be a public confession’

“The idea was very strange and I wasn’t ever sure I wanted to do it,” she says.

“Initially I just thought ‘I’m not really interesting enough’. Give me a character I can hide inside of – it’s much more comfortable than revealing my own experiences. But actually it’s proving to be incredibly satisfying. It’s kind of getting rid of the onion skin and getting to the core of something.

“I didn’t want it to be a public confession and make people feel sorry for me because I was the victim of the second world war. I didn’t want that. You can’t recollect all the memories and indulge in them. It has become something that is your text and you’re dealing with it now as an actor. You know what you’re revealing but you sort of have to distance yourself from it, or it will be confessional self-indulgence.“

This refusal to be the victim seems to sum up much of Ruth’s survival instinct. She refuses to do so in her art, she hated doing it as a teenager coming to London, and she clearly differentiates between being a victim of a personal tragedy, and one of history.

“I often think about this. I was not a victim of personal family problem.

“I’m a product of the tragedy of history – I think it’s much more difficult when you’re the victim of a personal tragedy.

“I was part of six million others. It wasn’t happening only to me. The basis of my life that I remember was a happy childhood. That’s why I’m not bananas.”

‘Who Do We Think We Are?’ is on at the Southwark Playhouse from 29 October to 15 November


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