Museum of Jewish Heritage

Before Auschwitz Was Auschwitz

Exhibit examines the shtetl that was prelude.

06/11/2014
Associate Editor
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Once upon a time, so long ago, the Jews of Central Europe would take trains to Auschwitz for the privilege of dying in its mystical terrain. In “Sefer Oshpitzin,” the town’s yizkor book, compiled by residents of the now extinct shtetl, one man recalled those “whose entire lives revolved around the desire that, after their demise, they should be interred in Oshpitzin,” as the town was known in Yiddish. Some “lived for many years in wealth and dignity in Vienna. Yet in their declining years they moved to Oshpitzin.” They said, according to the book, “It is really good to live in Vienna, but one ought to die in Oshpitzin.” So many saintly and scholarly people were buried in the Auschwitz earth that it was thought to be transformed into holy ground. “Anyone who merited to be buried there,” said an old Auschwitz legend, “would not suffer travails at the time of resurrection.”

The Hotel Schmiedler in 1912, when many believed Auschwitz was a holy place to die, and better for resurrection. Miroslaw Ganobi

Rescued From Saddam’s Clutches

Trove of Iraqi Jewish treasures on view.

03/11/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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In 2003, when Coalition forces seized Baghdad, a group of American soldiers stumbled upon treasures from the Jewish community of Iraq. While the team had been sent to search for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in Saddam Hussein’s intelligence building, what they found were nearly 3,000 books and documents that had originally come from synagogues and Jewish organizations. The items were submerged under four feet of water, and the reason they were there in the first place remains a mystery.

Items recovered from flooded basement of Saddam’s intelligence headquarters.  Photo courtesy of National Archives

Remembering Unsung Heroes Of The Holocaust

Associated Press reported recently on some excavations in Warsaw that have received little interest outside of Poland, especially in the Jewish community.

The work at the Powazki Military Cemetery should be of interest to Jews – the forensic scientists are looking for the remains, in a mass grave that contains entangled skeletons of resistance fighters, of one particular hero. Capt. Witold Pilecki, a non-Jewish Pole, volunteered to be captured and interned in Auschwitz in order to bring the Nazi death camp’s atrocities to the attention of the world.

Witold Pilecki: His burial place isn't known, his heroism is.

Tim Boxer At Dr. Ruth's Birthday Bash

06/11/2012

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, America’s favorite sex therapist, keeps reinventing herself. She’s next coming out as a vintner with her own private label California wine with an appropriate  brand name, Vin D’Amour (grapes of love).

“It will be sold in Costco and grocery stores,” she said. “That’s because the alcohol content is only 6 percent, half the usual amount.”

‘We Looked On Him As A God’

How an ordinary Polish farmer labored extraordinarily to save a dozen Jews. And how a Brooklyn woman spent decades lobbying for his Righteous Gentile honor.

04/10/2012
Staff Writer

Sometime in the summer of 1942, as the Nazi noose tightened around the Jews of Poland, Stanislaw Grocholski, a poor farmer who lived in a small village in the southeast part of the country, heard a disturbing rumor — some members of a Jewish family in the region, an old friend among them, had been spotted in one of the nearby fields.

Grocholski, a church-going Catholic, knew what the rumor meant — the Jews had escaped from their nearby town, Urzejowice, on the eve of a “resettlement” order and were hiding to save their lives.

Sally Frishberg, leading the fight to have Stanislaw Grocholski.

When Hollywood Went To The Holocaust, For Evidence

Taking in the ‘Filming the Camps’ exhibit.

04/03/2012
Associate Editor

Was there ever a war in which the combatants took movies as seriously as in World War II? Not just on the homefront, with studio dramas such as “Casablanca,” and Germany’s anti-Semitic “Jud Suss,” but on the front itself, where “shooting” meant cameras, along with the guns.

Director John Ford, center with pipe, with his film crew at Midway. Before reaching the camps.

‘Belonging To The Land’

Documentarian Gideon Koppel explores the Welsh-Jewish connection.

03/07/2012
Special to the Jewish Week

Gideon Koppel bristles a little when you call his lyrical debut feature film ‘sleep furiously’ a documentary.

“For me the film is a fictional construct,” he says. “I’m at loggerheads with the way in which many academics and critics use the word ‘documentary.’ For me [the documentary] has always been linked to the world of the lyrical, the poetic and the avant-garde.”

One of the amazing landscapes of the Welsh countryside from “sleep furiously.”  Courtesy of Gideon Koppel

Building A Cultural Bridge In Washington Heights

Jewish and Dominican teens forming bonds over the Sosúa story.

01/24/2012
Staff Writer

Four years ago, Victoria Neznansky was faced with a difficult task. She was the newly hired chief program officer at the YM & YWHA in Washington Heights, which serves a predominantly Dominican community. And it was her responsibility to find a way to attract families from the area’s Jewish population, which had been dwindling for decades — all without alienating the dominant population.

Teenagers perform “Sosúa: Dare to Dance Together,” created by the Tony Award-nominated composer and director Liz Swados.

Let My People View

01/17/2012
Staff Writer

The framed posters on the walls of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, now part of history, were the face of social activism in this country a generation ago.

During the height of the Soviet Jewry movement in the 1970s and ‘80s, the signs demanding that the USSR grant its Jewish population the right to live and leave as Jews were carried in protest demonstrations around the United States and mounted on the walls of synagogues and Hillels and other Jewish institutions.

Photo By Michael Datikash

Eugenics Today: Or, Guess What Nazi Germany and North Carolina Share

A couple of months ago, I wrote a story about the excellent and horrifying exhibit “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race,” now on view at the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.  It describes how Nazi Germany took the pseudo-science of eugenics—or “racial hygiene”; attempting to create a purer race through breeding, sterilization, and eventually murder—to its extreme. Jews would eventually suffer the brunt of these policies, from sterilization programs to outright death in gas chambers. But many Germans with simple disabilities like mental retardation or epilepsy had their share of racial cleansing too.

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