Upstander Connection

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Holocaust scholar to present special lecture on the Łódź Ghetto of World War II Poland

Lodz Ghetto

Lodz Ghetto

University of Toronto Holocaust scholar Dr. Irena Kohn, an expert on Nazi-mandated Jewish ghettos of WW II, will present a special lecture on July 24 in conjunction with a new exhibit at Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.

Dr. Kohn’s focus will be the Łódź Ghetto of Poland, the subject of a new Museum exhibit, The Faces of the Ghetto: Their Lives are Our Lessons, which features documents and photographs illustrating the plight of Jewish inhabitants of the ghetto.

Her presentation will focus on songs, photographs and presentation albums created by inmates of the ghetto, including The Legend of the Prince—a lengthy children’s poem with allegorical underpinnings.

The exhibit can be viewed for an hour prior to the lecture, which begins at 6:30 p.m., and for thirty minutes afterward. Admission to the lecture is free for Museum members and $10 for non-Museum members. RSVPs requested at rsvp@DallasHolocaustMuseum.org

The Łódź Ghetto was quickly established by Nazi forces after the invasion of Poland in 1939, and eventually housed more than 160,000 Jews who were forced to live in unbearable conditions—overcrowded spaces and unsanitary housing and subjected to forced starvation.

The Łódź Ghetto’s Jewish Council hired two Jewish photographers, Mendel Grossman and Henryk Ross, to clandestinely take photos of Jews working inside the ghetto. The Jewish Council hoped the photos would prove to the Nazis that the work of Łódź’s Jewish inhabitants, and therefore their lives, were necessary to the war effort.

At great personal risk, Grossman and Ross bravely and faithfully documented Jewish life in the ghetto—far beyond their directive—by taking thousands of photographs, which they managed to hide just before being deported to death camps.

Faces of the Ghetto presents their work in oversize prints, bringing museum visitors face-to-face with the Jewish victims of Nazism and extreme intolerance and ensuring that the world will know of life in the ghetto as captured on film by sympathetic observers.

The images capture the nearly imperceptible sparks of individual hope smoldering in the eyes of suffering Jewish men, women, and children—as if to say where ever there is life, there is hope.

Dr. Kohn will also interpret some of the thought processes behind the Faces of the Ghetto, providing context and enhancing the audience’s experience of the exhibit, which is made possible by a generous donation of an anonymous donor and the presenting sponsor, Frost Bank.

Dr. Kohn wrote her doctoral dissertation at the University of Toronto (2008) on literary and artistic witness accounts of the Lodz Ghetto. Her work included analysis of the photos taken by Grossman and Ross.

 

 

At Yom Hashoah 2014, the Power and Passion of Memory Stirs Hearts, Souls As A City Remembers

Appearing frail but unbowed, deeply saddened but not wrecked, the Holocaust Survivors of North Texas filed into Temple Shalom for the Museum’s annual observance of Yom Hashoah, and the audience of 450 joined them to remember.

Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, is the day across the globe set aside to remember the atrocities and effects of the Holocaust by honoring those who survived and solemnly remembering those who perished. The observance of Yom Hashoah is a testament to how the Holocaust changed the world.

Following the procession of local Survivors into the sanctuary, Cantor Leslie Niren of Temple Emanu-el performed a moving partisan song Shtil, Di Nakht Ez Oysgeshternt, or “Quiet, the night is starry.”

“As we recall the horrors of the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom in his welcome to the April 27 event, “as we remember and honor the stories of survival and survivors, of endurance and perseverance, let us not be content to merely be informed. We will remember. We shall never forget. We shall be different and we shall transform this suffering into blessing for all the world.”

Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins thanked the local Survivors in attendance for their “courage, spirit and inspiration” and for serving as “a beacon of truth and moral authority.” But, she noted, “We are not free of the dangerous root of the core of the Holocaust.”

And then, in a collective affirmation of humanity’s light over its darkest side, the grandchildren of Survivors made their way to front to tell the stories of their beloved grandparents and to declare their lifelong commitment to keep their stories alive for their children and their grandchildren.

Aviva Linksman, granddaughter of Mike Jacobs; Rivae Balkin-Kliman, granddaughter of Gusta Kliman, and Augie Furst, grandson of Magie Furst, spoke first.

Tanya Johnson, granddaughter of Velvel Wolf Yonson and Leah Bedzowski Yonson; Elliott Tverye, grandson of Asye Tverye; and Lisa Hellman, granddaughter of Dahlia Hellman, completed the testimonies.

Upon concluding their stories, each grandchild ignited a symbolic torch in honor of their loved ones—and all who survived and perished the Holocaust.

Following the first three speakers and upon conclusion of the last three, musical interludes performed by two incredibly talented musicians featured works by Chopin, Kreisler and Debussey.

Playing the piano for the ceremony was Dr. Baya Kakouberi who is originally from Tbilisi, Georgia and is currently the Artistic Director of the Blue Candlelight Music Series in Dallas. Gary Levinson of St. Petersburg, Russia performed on a Stradivari violin, crafted in 1726 and courtesy of the Dallas Symphony Association. Gary is the Artistic Director of the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth.

Steve Waldman, Museum board chair, echoed the feeling of many in attendance when he concluded the ceremony, saying,  “…Isn’t it amazing that so very few Holocaust Survivors became demoralized and turned to anger, violence and revenge? Isn’t it amazing that people who suffered long years living in the most horrific conditions and people who lived through the near total deprivation of life, reacted, after Liberation, by enthusiastically embracing life. The near-unanimous reaction of Holocaust survivors was to marry, to bear children.”

Steve reflected on the profound impact survivors have had on the community and on those in attendance. About 125 Holocaust refugees, survivors, and hidden children reside in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“We are truly fortunate that hundreds of Holocaust survivors came to North Texas in order to live among us. We are grateful to them for contributing to making this a wonderful place to live and to raise families.” Steve ended his remarks by declaring Yom Hashoah “a day upon which the whole community can stand together and pledge: Never again. Not here. Not anywhere.”

Cantor Leslie Niren returned to perform El Maleh Rachamim, or “Merciful G_d.” Rabbi Paley led the Kaddish, or “The Mourner’s Prayer,” which marked the formal end of the ceremony.

A beautifully designed Book of Remembrance produced by the Museum was a treasured keepsake of the evening—a book dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust with pages filled with messages of love and remembrance from families of victims and survivors.

As the audience filed out of the sanctuary, the powerful words spoken earlier in the evening by Rabbi Paley seemed to silently echo throughout Temple Shalom—a takeaway message for this and future remembrances.

“Memory is a powerful tool,” Rabbi Paley said. “Memory has the power to educate – to transmit facts and events from one generation to another.  Memory has the power to inspire – to provide a measure of hope and possibility against the overwhelming odds of darkness and despair.  But, perhaps most importantly, memory has the power to transform – to take that which was, and provide meaning and relevance for those that come after, to be different, to be better, to be stronger, to be more courageous and to, hopefully, be more God-like.”

–Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

Schindler’s List: Timeless Treasure 20 Years After First Released

The schindlers_listessential message of Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic film Schindler’s List—widely considered one of the best films ever made—remains timeless because it tells the story of one man’s willingness to make a difference.

“This film’s themes of tolerance and one man making a difference are as important today as they were 20 years ago,” Steve Waldman, chair of the Board of the Museum, told about 200 people who attended an exclusive screening of the movie at Landmark Theatres’ Inwood Theater on April 24 to benefit the Museum and the USC Shoah Foundation.

The screening of the film on the big screen required Mr. Spielberg’s special permission; he views the film as a documentary whose depictions must be treated with respect and contextual understanding.

The film is based on the life of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. The movie stars Liam Neeson as Schindler.

Schindler’s List was a critical and commercial success, earning $321.2 million worldwide on a $22 million budget ($35.9 million in 2014 dollars). From 12 nominations, it received seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score, as well as numerous other awards.

With some of the proceeds from the film, Mr. Spielberg established the USC Shoah Foundation to capture the eyewitness testimony of Holocaust Survivors worldwide, as well as those of survivors of other genocides, as a lasting archive. More than 52,000 eyewitness accounts have been recorded by the Foundation—among them many from Holocaust Survivors from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“We are honored to be partners with the USC Shoah Foundation in our work to enlighten and inspire people as they think about the consequences of their choices by remembering and teaching the lessons learned from the Holocaust and other genocides,” Steve Waldman said.

Sylvia Moskovitz, Director of Development for the Shoah Foundation, thanked the Museum for its work and mission and for partnering with the foundation. “The testimonies (recorded by the Shoah Foundation) will be available forever as a voice of hope, for education and as a stand against hatred, bigotry and intolerance,” she said.

Museum President Mary Pat Higgins thanked the Museum’s Host Committee for the success of the event: Richard Krumholz (chair), Michelle Bassichis, Jason Downie, Robert Hoodis, Stephanie London, Michael Stern and Alison Weinstein.

Major sponsors for the event were Landmark Theatres, a generous donation in honor of Drs. Michelle and Benjamin Bassichis, Renee and Hill A. Feinberg, Norton Rose Fulbright/Richard Krumholz, Sheri and Andrew Rose and Alison Weinstein.

The Museum is planning another must-attend event on May 15. Philip Gourevitch of The New Yorker will speak at 6:30 p.m. at the Hughes-Trigg Student Center at SMU, 3140 Dyer St. in Dallas on his award-winning book, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families. The book tells of the amazing efforts to bring forgiveness and healing to attackers and survivors, murderers, orphans, widows and childless mothers who now live side-by-side in Rwanda, 20 years after the genocide there. Admission to the event is $10. RSVP to communications@DallasHolocaustMuseum.org. The presenting sponsor for the event is Bank of Texas.

Meantime, the Museum’s current special exhibit is “BESA: A Code of Honor,” through June 18, which tells the incredible story of the hospitality and love of Albanian Muslims who saved Jews during World War II.

–Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

Besa: Perhaps the Last Great Untold Story of World War II; Now on Exhibit

"Besa: A Code of Honor" exhibit tells the story of how Muslim Albanians rescued Jews during World War II

“Besa: A Code of Honor” exhibit tells the story of how Muslim Albanians rescued Jews during World War II

 

Seventy-five years ago, when the Nazis began their murderous takeover of Eastern Europe, Jews by the hundreds began relocating into what is now the Republic of Albania, seeking protection.

One of the poorest countries in Southeastern Europe, Albania, where nearly two-thirds of the population adheres to Islam, seemed one of the least likely places for Jews to seek refuge.

Prior to World War II only about 200 Albanians were Jewish. At the end of the war, about 2,000 Jews called Albania home.

Besa is the reason why.

Besa is an Albanian cultural precept, usually translated as “faith,” that means “to keep the promise” and “word of honor” and descends from the Kanun, a collection of laws which regulate Albanian social, economic and religious lives, together with traditional customs and cultural practices of the Albanian society that originated in the year 1400. Besa is an important part of personal and familial standing and is often used as an example of “Albanianism.”

Besa is the subject of a new exhibit at the Museum, “BESA: A Code of Honor,” which tells the story of the Muslim families of Albania who rescued Jews during World War II through the incredible photography of American Norman H. Gershman.

At the opening reception of the new exhibit on March 13 at the Museum, the award-winning film documentary, Besa: The Promise (2012), was screened before a standing-room only crowd at the Museum. The screening was preceded by a marvelous reception catered by the Albanian-American Cultural Center.

The documentary tells the story of the incredible courage of Albanians during World War II through the contemporary journeys of Gershman, who is urgently striving to document the lives of Jewish rescuers before they die, and a shop owner named Rexhep Hoxha, who is desperately trying to return a set of Hebrew prayer books to the survivor his family protected some 60 years earlier during Nazi occupation.

The journeys of the two men intersect at a highly emotional and impactful crossroads as the cameras roll, making the documentary’s ending reveal “a story like no other,” in the words of one reviewer.

On March 23, the Museum will present a matinee screening of the film at 2 p.m. at the Museum Theater. Admission is $5 and RSVPs are required at RSVP@DallasHolocaustMuseum.come. The public is invited.

Rather than hiding the Jews in attics or woods, Albanians brought them into their homes, gave them Albanian names and treated them as part of the family, noted Mary Pat Higgins, Museum President and CEO.

“My father never talked about what he did for the Jews,” one Albanian shop keeper said in the documentary. “He thought it was normal.”

So warm was the welcome for the Jews, said another woman in the film, that her parents used to say, “We don’t know any Jews. We only know Albanians.”

Said Mary Pat: “In a time when religion continues to serve as a divisive force in the world, we are honored to tell the story of these Upstanders, who saw beyond religious difference and chose to act, based on their ethics—Besa—to do what was right and defy Nazi orders. This is history that moves us forward.”

Doc Vranici, Executive Director of the Albanian American Cultural Center, thanked the Museum for hosting the exhibit and for helping share a piece of hidden history of Albania—that Muslims saved Jews during World War II.

Bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south and southeast, Albania became a Communist country, following WW II where religion expression of any kind was punishable by lengthy prison terms. As part of the fall of Eastern bloc Communism in the late 1980s, Albania became a democratic Republic in 1991.

However, the effects of the transition from a centralized economy in a rigid communist state to a free market economy in a democratic republic have weighed heavily on Albania’s people, and particularly on its poor people. Despite the economy’s robust growth in recent years, almost one quarter of the population lives below the poverty level of $2 (U.S.) a day.

Albanians treatment of Jews during World War II proves “that there are far more good people in the world than bad,” Gershman said. “This little country—they have something to teach the world.”

The Presenting Sponsor of the new Museum exhibit, “BESA: A Code of Honor,” is the Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation. Community Partners include the Albanian-American Cultural Center, Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Congregation Beth Torah. Running through June 18, the exhibit is free with admission. More information at DallasHolocaustMuseum.org

-Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

Cyberbullying: Prevalent and Urgent Issue for Children, Parents and the Community

Cyberbullying is the intentional and repeated mistreatment of others through the use of technology, such as computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.

On Sunday, Feb. 23, Roberta S. Clark, the Community Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the recipient of the 2013 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award, delivered a special presentation on cyberbullying.

Her message comes at a time when approximately 20% of young people report a problem with cyberbullying at some point in their lives, according to a 2010 study from the Cyberbullying Research Center.

The ADL website provides powerful statistics on cyberbullying that reveal just how prevalent and urgent the issue has become. In a study of 500,000 third to 12th grade students, 17% reported being bullied at least 2-3 times in the last month. In a survey of 655 teens from 13- to 18-years-old, approximately 1 in 10 reported themselves as the aggressor, having cyberbullied someone online or by text message.

Even more shocking, perhaps, is the rate of bystanders who do not intervene. In a study of classroom behavior, children and youth were present during 85% of bullying episodes, but stepped in just 10% of the time. There are, however, solutions to these problems. Statistics show that allies who speak out on behalf of someone else or take actions that are supportive of someone else are able to halt more than half of all bullying behaviors in less than ten seconds.

The ADL suggests being an Upstander instead of a bystander by taking a few simple steps in order to stop and prevent bullying whenever it arises. Whether or not you know the person who is the target of bullying, it is important to show compassion by asking if they are okay, going with them to get help, and making sure they know they are not alone. Another way to be an ally is to not participate. Choose the high road and let people know by your behavior that bullying is not right. And when confronted with a bullying situation, don’t be afraid to speak up. Tell aggressors to stop or inform a trusted adult if you need help dealing with the problem.

The ADL provides education and resources online for both children and adults.

To be an ally to those who experience bullying, visit http://www.adl.org/assets/pdf/education-outreach/Be-an-Ally-Six-Ways-online-version.pdf

For 10 easy ways to respond to bullying, visit

http://www.adl.org/assets/pdf/education-outreach/10-Ways-to-Respond-to-Bullying.pdf

For facts and statistics on bullying, visit

http://www.adl.org/education-outreach/bullying-cyberbullying/c/definitions-bullying-and-bias.html#ftn2

And for all of the ADL’s resources and ways to help out, visit

http://www.adl.org/education-outreach/bullying-cyberbullying/

 -Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

 

 

For Magie Furst and her family, the lifeline to safety and freedom came through the Upstanders of Great Britain

Magie Furst

Magie Furst

 

The Museum’s current exhibit, A History of the Kindertransport, now through Feb. 28, features the story of Dallas resident Magie Furst and her brother, Bert, who were both saved through the British rescue operation. On Feb. 2, Magie told her story to a standing-room only crowd of 140 Museum members and visitors. This is the story she told.

In 1932, Alfred and Sida Romberg were proud parents of a daughter and son born just a year apart, living a wonderful life in the small German village of Astheim, near Nuremburg, where they owned a general merchandise store.

But a year later, following the appointment of Adolph Hitler as German Chancellor, the Romberg’s tranquil life became a nightmare. Before 1934 came to an end, Alfred Romberg was dead—a heart attack brought on by stress from aggressive perpetrators.

The Rombergs were upstanding citizens once beloved by the entire village. But all that changed when Hitler’s Nazi party came to power. The Rombergs were Jewish.

Following Alfred’s death, Sida Romberg was left alone to raise 5-year-old Magie and 4-year-old Bert. When the anti-Semitism worsened, Sida was forced to sell the store for a fraction of its value and moved the children to the larger town of Eshwege, Germany, where other family resided.

The years in Eshwege were brutal, recalled Magie, now 84.

“Those were bad years, because Hitler was in full force already. We had restrictions on going to school. We went to an all Jewish school until some of the teachers emigrated. And then after Kristallnacht (Nov. 9-10, 1938), we didn’t have school anymore…the Hitler youth, they went after us whenever we went out.

“I remember we went out to get a loaf of bread, and they took the loaf right out of my hand. They wanted to smash it on my brother’s head, but I stood in front of him, so I got the beating instead. I must have been eight years old.”

Following Kristallnacht— a series of coordinated attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria, carried out by SA paramilitary forces and non-Jewish civilians (the German authorities looked on without intervening)—Sida Romberg knew her children had no future in Germany and set out to find visas for them to leave Germany. At the time, Germany was still issuing visas to Jews and others who could prove they had relatives or a sponsoring organization in another country.

When her mother learned of the Kindertransport program, a rescue mission that took place during the nine months prior to the outbreak of the WWII, she seized the opportunity to send her daughter and son to the United Kingdom, which took in nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Nazi Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Free City of Danzig. Children of the Kindertransport were placed in British foster homes, hostels, schools and farms.

In an extraordinary stroke of good fortune, Sida Romberg received permission to work as a domestic servant in England.  The three of them prepared to leave for England together.

Saying goodbye to her grandmother, Magie said, was one of the most painful moments of her life. Her grandmother had been a source of stability and comfort, following the sudden death of Magie’s father, Alfred. Tragically, the Nazis would eventually remove her grandmother from a home for the elderly and deport her to Auschwitz, where she was murdered.

On May 23, 1939, Sida Romberg and her two children arrived in England, but once there were separated as Sida did not earn enough to support herself and her children.

Bert was placed with a wonderful family. Magie did not fare so well. “I became a cheap maid in a family headed by an abusive man,” she said. After a month of suffering, Magie was sent to an orphanage to live.

While the war years in England were tough, Magie said she, Bert and her mother were eternally grateful to the people of Great Britain. “They opened their hearts and homes to us when no other country—not even the United States—would do so,” she said.

Sida Romberg never gave up hope for reuniting the family, and in April, 1945, just a month before the formal end of WWII, the three Rombergs received visas to emigrate to the U.S.

“There is no country like the United States in this world,” Magie said.

Settling in the New York City metro area, the Rombergs thrived. Eventually, Magie would marry and accompany her husband in 1963 to the Dallas area. Three years later, Bert also moved to Dallas after receiving a great job opportunity. Wishing to be near the children she sought so valiantly to protect, Sida Romberg also made the move to Texas.

As she reflects on her rare experience as a rescued child of the Kindertransport, Magie is grateful for being spared the horrors of war even though the separation from loved ones was difficult. And, she feels obligated to share her story as a regular speaker before student groups—sometimes three and four times a week—who visit the Museum.

“We are supposed to be our brother’s keeper,” she said. “We need to make sure that children of the future never have to endure what my generation did.”

“A History of the Kinderstransport” exhibit is made possible by the generosity of Ann Donald Zetley & Florence and Howard Shapiro in Loving Memory of Martin Donald.

–Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THGC Announces Video Contest for High School Students

As part of the commemoration of Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month in April 2014, the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission is hosting a video competition open to all Texas students in grades 6-12.  Themed “I Was a Bystander,” the goal of the contest is to encourage students to self-reflect about times when they stayed silent in the face of hurtful behavior and think about what they might do in similar situations in the future.

Students will create a short video, 1 to 2 ½  minutes, that will be judged on relevance to the mission of the THGC and on this year’s theme, originality, creativity, technical achievement, and emergence of an upstanding message or vision. Results will be announced in April, and the winners and their teachers will be invited to receive their prizes at the THGC Quarterly Meeting on July 18 in Austin.

Three winners from grades 6-8 and three winners from grades 9-12 will each be awarded a scholarship: the Gold Key worth $375 for first place, the Silver Key worth $200 for second, and the Bronze Key worth $125 for third. The schoolteachers of Gold Key winners will receive $100 for class supplies.

The 2014 Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month Video Contest scholarship prizes are generously underwritten by Dr. Kelli Cohen Fein and Martin Fein of Houston and by Fran and Mark Berg of Dallas.

For complete details on the video competition, visit the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission website.

http://thgc.texas.gov/resources-for-education/resource/thgc-video-contest

 

 

Led by Local Holocaust Survivors, the Museum Community Mourns and Remembers Victims of the Shoah on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Sixty-nine years ago today—January 27, 1945—Soviet troops liberated the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau where more than one million Jews alone had been murdered.

In 2005, 60 years after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the United Nations approved General Assembly Resolution 60-7, establishing January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day and urging every UN member nation to honor the memory of Holocaust victims and encouraging the development of programs about Holocaust history to prevent further acts of genocide.

More than 11 million people perished in the Holocaust—of which six million were Jews; victims included the Roma, Soviet civilians and prisoners of war, ethnic Poles, people with disabilities, homosexuals and political and religious opponents of the Nazis.

On Sunday, Dallas area Holocaust survivors, Museum members and guests marked the international day of remembrance through reflections and prayer during a special program at the Museum.

“As we gather today, as an interfaith community, we honor, remember and mourn the lives lost in the Holocaust,” said Mary Pat Higgins, Museum President and CEO. “As Professor Yehuda Bauer said in his address to the UN Assembly in 2006, ‘We are all one human race—interconnected and interdependent.’

“We can only imagine the beauty, brilliance and distinction that the victims of the Holocaust would have brought to our world. The capacity for evil that allowed their lives to be extinguished is inherent in each of us, and must be combated by each of us with the desire to do what is right and good.”

Rabbi Shawn Zell of Congregation Tiferet Israel of Dallas told the 85 people in attendance—including 10 local Survivors and a large contingent of visiting college students—that the total number of Jews affected by the Holocaust is closer to 30 million, factoring in the likely growth of families of murdered Jews.

“Each one of us, by virtue of being here today, share the heritage of the six million Jews not here with us today,” Rabbi Zell said. “Let’s continue to hold them in our hearts.”

Fr. Jonathan Austin of St. Jude (Catholic) Chapel in downtown Dallas urged those in attendance to embrace the full meaning of the word “tolerance.”

“Tolerance means a profound respect and love for the other person no matter the person’s nationality, language, religion or other background,” Fr. Austin said. “That’s why we must be vigilant in examining ourselves for places of darkness…Joy, love and peace are the weapons we have to collaborate against the darkness in the world today.”

Following the brief remarks by Mrs. Higgins, Rabbi Zell and Fr. Austin, the attendees, led by the local Survivors, moved next door to the Museum’s Memorial Room where Rabbi Zell said the Kaddish prayer and lit the Yarzeit candle in memory of Holocaust victims.

“We should not forgive ourselves if we ever forget,” Rabbi Zell said.

–Chris Kelley,  for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

For Kindertransport Families, an Inconceivable Choice

It’s an inhumane choice that no parent should ever have to face: leave a child with a complete stranger, so the child might have a chance to survive persecution and, ultimately, avoid being murdered—or keep the child and most assuredly risk his or her life.

But for tens of thousands of mostly Jewish families during World War II, this incomprehensible decision became one they were forced to make.

The Kindertransport was a British rescue operation that enabled 10,000 primarily Jewish children to escape the Nazis in the months leading up to the declaration of WW II. The initiative required a convergence of simultaneous efforts over a compressed time frame—speedy immigration policy creation, collaboration among diverse religious groups and, perhaps, most importantly, the bravery of individuals.

“A History of the Kindertransport” is the subject of the newest special exhibit at the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.  Running through Feb. 28, the exhibit is free with paid admission. On Sunday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m. at the Museum, Dallas resident Magie Furst, a Kindertransport refugee, will tell her first-hand story at a special program.

“What do you say to a child that you, a mother, are about to confide to a stranger—a child you most likely will never see again?” asked Dr. Charlotte Decoster, Education and Public Engagement Coordinator for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, at a special lecture on Jan. 16 entitled “The Last Kiss: Parents Saying ‘Goodbye’ During the Holocaust.”

For parents who applied to participate in the Kindertransport, the special immigration initiative was the only option for their children to escape persecution and almost certain death as Jewish families were rounded up and deported, ultimately, to death camps, said Dr. Decoster, an expert in the study of children hidden and rescued during the Holocaust.  In most cases, parents and their rescued children never saw one another again after the moment of separation, she said.

Through her research, Dr. Decoster, who is also an adjunct professor of history at the University of North Texas, where she received her Ph.D., discovered a painful process parents endured in separating from their children—from awareness of the option to save their children through coping with the aftermath of permanent separation from them.

At one deportation camp in southern France, where parents voluntarily turned 108 children over to Nazi resistance fighters who would see to the safety and security of the children, later research would reveal that 28 of the parents committed suicide.

“For the majority of parents who participated in the Kindertransport and similar child rescue efforts, they did what they thought was necessary—the hope of survival for their children and, by circumstance, their Jewish culture, heritage and religious practices,” Dr. Decoster said.

In most cases, rescued Jewish children were taken in by Christian families, including Catholics, and in some select cases Muslim families. While many of the children were allowed to practice Judaism, evidence reveals some efforts at converting the children to Christianity, Dr. Decoster said.

The Museum’s Kindertransport exhibit allows students to contemplate the event from the perspective of a child, offering them the opportunity to ask themselves the question—and leave behind their answers on a colored index card—“What treasured item would you bring?”

In the final analysis, the story of the Kindertransport, like many from the Holocaust, reflects themes rooted in the depravity of humanity and in its nobility, Dr. Decoster said. In the face of evil behavior that surely would have seen children murdered otherwise, “We saw Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities make a decision to act and do something to ensure the survival of children.”

Presenting sponsors for the Kindertransport exhibit are Ann Donald Zetley and Florence and Howard Shapiro in loving memory of Martin Donald. Community Partners include Catholic Charities of Dallas and the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas.

Tickets to the Feb. 2 program featuring Margie Furst are $5 each. Register online at DallasHolocaustMuseum.org or RSVP to rsvp@dallasholocaustmuseum.org and pay at the door.

 –Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.

 

 

 

 

Lynching Revisited: How Could It Have Possibly Happened? Keynote Speaker Introduces Newest Exhibit, “Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited”

Leo Frank

Leo Frank

Leo Frank was the victim of a twisted mentality—a mob mentality rooted not only in anti-Semitism, but in a weakness in Georgia’s legal system, national economic and political turmoil and complex psychological factors involving gender, fear and stereotypes, says Professor William Carrigan.

Dr. Carrigan, a Professor of History at Rowan University in New Jersey and keynote speaker at the Museum’s opening reception for the newest exhibit, “Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited,” is an expert on lynching.

The Museum’s comprehensive exhibit on the Leo Frank Case tells how in 1913 a jury convicted Frank, a superintendent in a pencil factory in Atlanta, Georgia, of the murder of a child laborer who worked in the factory. Thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan’s body was found in the pencil factory cellar.

To the outrage of many, Governor John Slaton, who believed Frank was innocent, commuted the former superintendent’s sentence to life in prison on his last day in office in June 1915.

Two months later, a lynch mob of 25 armed men, which included a judge, a solicitor general of a local circuit, a state legislator and an ex-governor, kidnapped Frank from prison. The mob drove Frank 150 miles to Frey’s Gin, near Phagan’s home in Marietta, and hanged him. A large crowd gathered and took photographs.

“There are just evil, bad people in the world,” Dr. Carrigan told a crowd of 85 people who attended his presentation in the Museum’s Theater on Sept. 9. “But in nearly all cases, lynching involves a mob culture ruled by a mentality permitted by a weakness in the legal system and support…by local law enforcement.”

Dr. Carrigan said a lynching culture—a phenomena seen around the globe, historically—viewed the alleged perpetrator’s crime as so heinous that mob members were permitted to act as jury, judges and executioners, nearly always before a large, cheering crowd.

In the U.S., nearly 3,500 African Americans and 1,300 whites were lynched between 1882 and 1968, mostly from 1882 to 1920, according to figures collected by the Archives of the Tuskegee Institute. Other people of color were also lynched—Native Americans and Mexicans.

It wasn’t until the practice was confronted and condemned by good people and a concerted effort to prosecute violators initiated, that it ended, said Dr. Carrigan, whose many books on the subject include The Making of a Lynching Culture: Violence and Vigilantism in Central Texas, 1836-1916 (University of Illinois Press, 2004).

The Frankcase was the ultimate catalyst for the fledgling Anti-Defamation League in 1913. The NAACP—formed in 1909—also contributed greatly to confronting ethnic and racial discrimination, and specifically lynching in early 20th century America, Dr. Carrigan said. Tragically however, the case helped ignite the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan.

“I would like to create our own ‘garden of the righteous’ to remember those who stood up against the lynch mobs,” Dr. Carrigan said. “We would be a better society to remember those folks rather than the mobsters.”

In 1986, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles pardoned Leo Frank, citing the state’s failure to protect the superintendent and bring his killers to justice as reasons for the pardoning.

The Museum presents this exhibit with the same intent as The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, which developed it. To revisit the case of Leo Frank and pose critical questions relating to individual and moral responsibility, respect for individual difference, the fragility of the democratic process, responsible citizenship, and the importance of community.

The exhibit presents the complicated and nuanced story of Mary Phagan’s murder, Leo Frank’s fate, and the historical, cultural, and political backdrop against which these events took place.

“Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited” will run through Dec. 31. The exhibit is generously supported by The Dallas Morning News and Brian Lidji, attorney and co-founder of the Lidji Dorey & Hooper law firm in Dallas.

Exhibit Dates: September 9, 2013 through December 31, 2013

Location: Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, 211 N. Record Street, Dallas, TX 75202 (In the West End Historic District of downtown Dallas at the southwest corner of Pacific and Record.)

Hours: Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.—5 p.m.

Community Partners: African-American Museum, Dallas; Anti-Defamation League; Black Classic Books, Baltimore, MD; Human Rights Initiative of North Texas; NAACP Dallas Chapter; SMU Embrey Human Rights Program; University of North Texas, Jewish Studies Program.

-Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum

Podcast of Think (KERA-90.1 FM) with Dr. Carrigan

 

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