Herein I store disparate reference material for my blog/s.
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#################### Geoff Seidner
The eerie sound of a wailing siren throughout the length and breadth of the country drives home in no uncertain manner exactly what Yom Hashoah (Holocaust and Martyrs Remembrance Day) is all about.
From the youngest toddlers in kindergarten through to the most elderly, this annual commemoration causes at least 80% of the population to stand in silent contemplation of the disasters inflicted on the Jewish People not so many years ago. Wherever one may be and regardless of what one may be doing as the sirens wail, most citizens and visitors stop whatever they are doing and remember. Schools have spent the preceding week teaching the history of the Holocaust and many high school students have been to Poland on trips to the sites of the genocide. There are hardly any Jewish families untouched by the tragedies enacted in Europe. Even those who are fortunate enough to have had no relatives murdered feel the unbelievable sadness of this day.
Television stations screen documentaries and films associated with the Holocaust and ceremonies are held in every community. The emotional impact of a whole country commemorating six million martyrs, including one and a half million children, is powerful indeed and there can be hardly a dry eye on this memorial day.
Despite the apparent gloom there amazingly is also a positive side. In a week we will be celebrating the resurrection of the Jewish Nation. I always think on this occasion of my own family members who were murdered. As they were rounded up, transported in overcrowded trains and finally gassed at Auschwitz they and millions of other Jews could never have imagined in their wildest dreams that three short years after the defeat of the evil Nazis and their willing helpers there would be a Jewish State. None of them could envisage in the midst of degradation, humiliation and death that the Jewish People would rise from the dust and re-establish their sovereignty once again in the ancient land of their ancestors.
Yet in a modern-day miracle of Biblical proportions not only did this occur, despite every prophet of doom and with forces of hate determined to complete the genocide, the Jews prevailed. Today’s Israel is indeed a miracle. It is the most potent answer to those who wished to destroy us. In fact my personal opinion is that the best and most effective tribute we can pay to those murdered by genocidal hate is to strengthen ourselves and our country by all means possible.
This brings me to some disturbing developments which should concern us all. Surely after just seventy years we need to be aware of events that threaten to repeat the disasters of the past and which must be combated by all of us.
Holocaust denial is on the increase worldwide. Combined with rising Jew hatred by those who wish to indulge in historical revisionism the threats we face are multiplying. It is bad enough when an ignorant, hypocritical and uncaring world turns its collective back on the Jewish State but it is much worse when disconnected Jews do the same. Those who think that they are safe in their own countries of domicile because they distance themselves from Israel, are as blind and deaf to reality as those who thought pre war that distancing themselves from their fellow Jews would guarantee their safety.
Every country at the United Nations which plays along with the morally corrupt majority in their Israel bashing fiestas is guilty of being an accessory to future genocide. Each UN member country which excuses, ignores and fudges human rights violations by States known to be serial abusers and instead picks on the Middle East’s only true democracy is guilty of selective cynical double standards.
ISIS Islamic fanatics are massacring Palestinian Arab refugees in Syria and the world stands mute and impotent. Why there should even still be Arab refugees 67 years after they failed to destroy the new Jewish State is of course another scandal of immense proportions. Where are the screaming leftist liberal protesters who at the drop of a hat take to the streets, riot in universities and advocate boycotts of Israel? As Moslems murder Moslems, women and children included, a strange silence envelopes those who normally are frenetically frothing against the Jewish State. Where are the editorials, media mania and denunciations by religious leaders? The Pope to his credit has raised his voice against the murder of Christians but he is a lone voice. Where is the outraged voice of New Zealand urging the useless UN Security Council into action?
Who still agitates for the rescue of the Nigerian Christian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram?
The latest example of lessons unlearned occurred this week. The Pope bravely stated that the Turkish murder of 1.5 million Armenians at the beginning of the 20th. Century was the century’s first genocide. His remarks immediately caused Turkey which has never acknowledged its genocidal culpability to recall its Ambassador from the Vatican. In a perfect example of why the UN is a failed organisation, the Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, denied that the Turks were guilty of genocide and instead called this event “atrocity crimes.” This desperate attempt to appease Turkey and fudge history merely repeats the mistakes of the past. It fits neatly into the same pathetic pattern as appeasing Iran and others whose declared aims are the murder of Jews and the elimination of their country. If UN members cannot summon up the moral courage to call the murder of 1.5 million Armenians genocide then the lessons of the recent past have definitely not been learnt.
As we stand in silent tribute this week for all those who never had the means to defend themselves against pure evil we should resolve to never let this happen again.
The quote, “guard me from my friends, from my enemies I will guard myself” seems more apt than ever.
Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.
The numbers they carved on her left forearm in the winter of 1943 are fading away, just like Yehudit Yegerman and her generation. It’s no matter, she says quietly. The 85-year-old Holocaust survivor can recite them by heart.
“7-1-5-0-2,’’ she says slowly, making sure I get the sequence down. “I stopped being a person at Auschwitz, I was that number,’’ she explains. “We all were numbers, living, dying, being gassed or worked to death. To the Germans it was just business. To us, it was a constant horror.’’
Memorial services for Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Day, were held around the world this week, including in Australia, to mourn and remember the six million Jewish victims of the Nazi extermination campaign in World War II.
Millions more — from Russian prisoners of war to the wandering Romani, to the mentally and physically disabled — were murdered by the Germans and their allies in the bloodiest crime against humanity committed in modern times, perhaps of all time.
About half the known survivors — 189,000 of them — live in Israel, the Jewish state founded on the ashes of the Shoah. Yesterday, sirens wailed for two minutes in shrill remembrance, bringing the country to a standstill. Cars pulled off the road while pedestrians stood silently on footpaths and in supermarket aisles, heads bowed.
This year’s commemorations are laden with added poignancy for a number of reasons. Wednesday, April 15, was 70 years to the day that the Bergen-Belsen camp in northern Germany was liberated by horrified British troops, opening the world’s eyes to the Nazi’s concentration and death camps. Yegerman, then 15, was among the emaciated survivors.
Originally from Czechoslovakia, her family had run a kosher restaurant before being rounded up. They were transferred to the local Theresienstadt ghetto, before arriving at the dreaded gates of Auschwitz in southern Poland, fewer of them at each turn. The starving and traumatised girl spent the final, terrifying months of the war in Belsen waiting for the end to come, one way or another. “I didn’t think much (beyond) what I was going to get to eat,’’ Yegerman remembers.
Living alone all these years later in a flat outside Tel Aviv, with a housekeeper for company, she is two years older than the average for a Holocaust survivor. This is 83.3 years, according to Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel. The youngest person on its books is 69; born after his mother was freed from a camp in 1945. The oldest survivor is 104.
As was the case with Australian active servicemen from WWI, now entirely passed on, and the dwindling cohort of WWII veterans, the ranks of Holocaust survivors is thinned year by year.
At Wednesday night’s packed ceremony at Yad Vashem, the state Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, torches for the Jewish dead were lit by survivors of the slaughter.
Young people craned their necks to see.
“We wanted to experience this,’’ says Yuri Steinman, a bearded bookkeeper in his 30s, his girlfriend, Anni, by his side. “We know these guys won’t be around forever. They are heroes to us.’’
With 20 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, Yecheskel Taler was deeply moved. His story is remarkable, even by the standards of luck and endurance needed for a Jew to survive the Nazi occupation. Taler, 76, grew up in the Galician city of Ternopil, then part of Poland, now a major centre in western Ukraine. His father, Moshe, was a prosperous businessman who owned supermarkets and warehouses. When the Germans rolled in, in 1939, the family fled using fake identities.
Eventually, he and his mother reached the great city of Krakow. He was hidden in a cellar by a Polish family. It was too dangerous for a Jewish boy his age — 4 or 5, it’s such a blur he’s not sure — to be on the streets. Eventually, his mother, Hannah, came for him. An educated woman, she had found a place on the household staff of a Nazi psychiatrist, Helmut Sopp. Of all people. Sopp performed experiments on concentration camp inmates and was jailed for war crimes after the war. Unaware that he was sheltering Jews, he was mostly kind to Taler and his mother.
In 1947, what was left of the family emigrated to Israel. Presciently, Moshe had bought a property in the port city of Haifa years earlier.
Taler’s father did not survive the war; he was turned in while trying to join Hannah in Krakow and killed at a police station in 1942 or 1943.
Taler joined a kibbutz, and kept his past to himself. The ropy-armed Israeli kids couldn’t understand how the European Jews didn’t fight back. “In the beginning we were accused of being weak victims,’’ he remembers. “People just didn’t understand what it was like.’’
He did his national service in the Israeli army and joined the medical corps, serving under fire in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, his country’s worst scare at the hands of the Arab armies. He joined the Council of Higher Education, responsible for accrediting Israeli universities, and is now a director of the Holocaust victims’ foundation. There, he worries what’s to become of the Shoah survivors in Israel.
Interest in their stories is waning, he fears. Recently, a survey for the Centre of Organisations of Holocaust Survivors found 80 per cent believed the memories of Nazi genocide would fade away with the victims. In time, it would become a “vague historical event’’, just another chapter in the long, fraught history of the Jewish people.
This week, the Holocaust victims’ foundation dropped a bombshell report detailing how a quarter of survivors live in poverty. Their numbers had reached a tipping point, with 13,000 dying in 2011, the latest year for reliable statistics. A third of those left would succumb in the coming years, the report warned.
Some 20 per cent of survivors couldn’t afford heat in the winter while 5 per cent complained they didn’t get enough to eat. Half of all survivors needed financial help; 30 per cent wanted nursing care.
Rony Kalinsky, general manager of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, ruefully shakes his head. “These people should be able to live in dignity.’’
Professor Taler says it’s not so much a lack of funds, but how the money is carved up. An international Claims Conference, funded heavily by Germany, often pours money into institutions such as hospitals rather than putting cash in the pockets of survivors.
Those who do get support from the umbrella fund or the Israeli government can find that a relatively modest monthly income — say 6000 Israeli shekels (about $A1950) — cuts away the safety net for health and social services.
Taler worries about the message Israel is sending to the world. If it can’t treat Holocaust survivors generously, who will? “It’s unbelievable that they are not appreciated,’’ he tells The Australian.
“We as survivors contributed so much to this country.’’ He points to Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. “Thousands who came here from the camps were killed,’’ he says. “Many of them went into unmarked graves.’’
Yegerman, for her part, says she has no complaints. She’s heard about other survivors doing it tough, but is grateful for the quiet life she leads. Holocaust Day still hits her hard, even after all this time.
“I’m very sad,’’ she says. “I have felt sad my whole life. I lost my whole family … I live alone. This is not how I hoped it would be.’’
She travels often, sometimes to Germany to speak to schoolchildren. She’s fluent in the language, and wants them to hear from her what went on in the death camps, while she’s able to tell the harrowing story. “That’s my life’s work,’’ she says.
Taler is equally committed to speaking out, while he can. “We will become another dot in history if we don’t continue,’’ he says, picking up Yegerman’s theme.
Yes, there are things he doesn’t like about his country. The treatment of the Palestinians “stinks’’, and he hates the bad blood festering between re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama over the Palestinian peace process and Washington’s policy to contain Iran’s nuclear program.
But there’s much he admires about the state of Israel, too. Its vibrant if unruly politics; the nurturing of more Nobel laureates per capita than any country on earth; and just look at the number of tech start-ups its 8 million citizens managed — second only in aggregate terms to the US. “I am very, very proud to be Israeli,’’ Taler says.
The chill of the Jerusalem night is cutting through our coats as Netanyahu begins to speak at Yad Vashem. He is comparing the Nazis and the Iranians, modern Israel’s arch foe. “As the Nazis sought to stamp out civilisation and to set the master race to rule across the earth … while wiping out the Jewish people, so does Iran seek to control the region, spread outwards and destroy the Jewish state,’’ he says.
The political tone of his speech sounds discordant on this dignified evening. Some people shuffle uneasily. At the end of the ceremony, the man beside me intones that earthy toast in Hebrew: l’chaim.
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The Epistle to Yemen (Iggeret Teiman), probably a compilation of several shorter responsa, was written by Maimonides about 1172 in reply to an inquiry (or inquiries) by Jacob ben Netan'el al-Fayyūmi, the then head of the Jewish community in Yemen. The exchange of letters was occasioned by a crisis through which the Jews of that country were passing. A forced conversion to Islam, inaugurated about 1165 by 'Abd-al-Nabī ibn Mahdi, who had gained control over most of Yemen, threw the Jews into panic. The campaign conducted by a recent convert to win them to his new faith, coupled with a Messianic movement started by a native of the country who claimed he was the Messiah, increased the confusion within the Jewish community. Rabbi Jacob evidently sought guidance and encouragement, and Maimonides attempted to supply both. Originally written in Arabic, this edition is that of the 1952 English translation by Boaz Cohen, published in New York by American Academy for Jewish Research, edited from manuscripts with introduction and notes by Abraham S. Halkin.
The author died in 1968, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 30 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.
Works published in 1952 would have had to renew their copyright in either 1979 or 1980, i.e. at least 27 years after it was first published / registered but not later than 31 December in the 28th year. As it was not renewed, it entered the public domain on 1 January 1981.