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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Polish police have launched an investigation after pairs of shoes belonging to Holocaust victims were stolen from the Majdanek death camp.

Museum authorities at the camp reported a thief, or thieves, had removed eight pairs of shoes from a display at the former Nazi facility, which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people during its years of operation in German-occupied Poland.

Museums on the sites of Nazi camps now issue frequent complaints of numerous acts of vandalism and theft.

In July, a German teacher was arrested in Poland for stealing items from Auschwitz, but the most notable incident occurred in 2009 when three thieves stole the notorious “Arbeit Mact Frei” sign from the gates of the same camp.

The Majdanek museum said somebody, most probably a visitor as there was no sign of forced entry into the barrack housing the permanent exhibition, had cut through a metal mesh protecting the exhibits and removed six pairs of adult shoes and two children’s pairs.

Its gas chambers consumed the lives of at least some 78,000 people, the vast majority of them Jewish, but some historians argue this figure is far too conservative.

“The shoe exhibit has a strong emotional impact, and it is in this barrack, Number 52a, that visitors realise just how many people died during Reinhard,” said Agnieszka Kowalczyk-Nowak, a Majdanek museum spokeswoman.

“In this barrack we only have the shoes of the victims, and that shows the massive nature of the crime.

“It is difficult to place a material value on the stolen items, but their real worth is their historical value,” she added.

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Source: The Guardian, November 12, 2014

Nicki Minaj has apologised for the offence caused by her new video, which was inspired in part by images “representative of Nazis”. The rapper explained that although the clip for Only includes animated images evocative of a Leni Riefenstahl film, she would “never condone Nazism in [her] art”.

Minaj’s comments followed a statement from video director Jeffrey Osborne, who insisted he would not “apologise” for his work “or dodge the immediate question”. Yes, the film’s “flags, armbands, and gas mask (and perhaps my use of symmetry?) are all representative of Nazis”, he told MySpace, but he reminded viewers that the clip also draws from American, Russian, and Italian iconography. “As far as an explanation, I think it’s actually important to remind younger generations of atrocities that occurred in the past as a way to prevent them from happening in the future,” he went on. “If my work is misinterpreted because it’s not a sappy tearjerker, sorry I’m not sorry. What else is trending?”

In her own statements, Minaj claimed Osborne was “influenced” by the Sin City franchise and the Cartoon Network series Metalocalypse. And to burnish her anti-Nazi bona fides, she stated that A Loucas, the producer of the video, is Jewish. “I didn’t come up w/the concept, but I’m very sorry & take full responsibility if it has offended anyone,” she wrote.

Only is definitely a victim of bad timing: it was released on the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht. But the Anti-Defamation League also highlighted the way Minaj herself assumes the role of Führer in the video. “This video is insensitive to Holocaust survivors and a trivialisation of the history of that era,” wrote the League’s US national director, Abraham H Foxman. “The abuse of Nazi imagery is deeply disturbing and offensive to Jews and all those who can recall the sacrifices Americans and many others had to make as a result of Hitler’s Nazi juggernaut.”

Only is the third single from Minaj’s forthcoming album The Pinkprint. It debuted at No 35 on the UK singles chart.

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Source: Arutz Sheva, November 4, 2014

Australian writer Lily Brett on Tuesday won France’s Prix Medicis literary award for best foreign book for “Lola Bensky,” a novel drawing on her experience both as a 1960s rock journalist and the daughter of Holocaust survivors.

Brett’s sixth novel tells the story of an eponymous heroine who arrives in London in 1967 and proceeds to interview the biggest names in music, from Mick Jagger and Janis Joplin to Jimi Hendrix and Cher.

Soon, however, she starts to wonder if the questions she is asking are in fact substitutes for questions about her parents’ past.

Reacting to the award – announced to the press at a Parisian restaurant – Brett told reporters she was “ecstatic.”

“I am so proud to have won this prize,” she said. “I first came to Paris when I was almost two years old. My parents were survivors of Nazi death camps and we were here on the way to a new life.”

“I have a photograph of myself on a carousel in (central Paris district) the Marais and I look overjoyed. You can see I already loved this city,” she said.

Brett said that, like her character Lola, she too had been sent to London as a rock journalist in 1967.

Without the ever-present managers and PRs that surround stars today, she was able to get close to many of them, she said, adding that it was a conversation with Jimi Hendrix that provided the idea for the book.

“I was sitting in Mick Jagger’s apartment…discussing hair curls with Jimi Hendrix,” she said. “We both had very curly hair. His much more curly than mine and that led to the basis of ‘Lola Bensky.'”

Brett’s Jewish parents, Max and Rose, were both sent to Auschwitz during World War II. Both lost their entire families during the conflict and the novelist has said her father grieved over his dead relatives throughout her childhood.

“I lived in a house where the dead were more present than the living,” she told a journalist in 2012.

Some of the people Brett interviewed as a rock journalist would soon be dead themselves, and because of her own family background they struck a cord with her.

“It was a short time after the war, the 1960s, (and)…I was in the middle of a whole lot of people who were hurtling towards their death,” she said.

“They didn’t know it – Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix – they were all going to be dead in a few years and I came from people who were struggling to live and who had been surrounded by death so it was a very, very meaningful book for me to write,” she added.

The winner of the Prix Medicis’s main category, meanwhile, was French author Antoine Volodine, for “Terminus Radieux” (“Radiant Terminus”), set in Siberia in the aftermath of nuclear disaster.

Volodine is the main pen name for a writer – a former professor of Russian – who also goes by the names Elli Kronauer, Manuela Draeger and Luitz Bassmann. Under the name Volodine he has written around 20 novels.

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Source: Huffington Post, November 1, 2014

(RNS) As aging Holocaust survivors gathered at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to celebrate its 20th anniversary last year, a question hung in the air:

How will the world remember the Holocaust — the Nazis’ systematic murder of 6 million Jews — when the last survivors are gone?

It’s a question Joshua M. Greene, the writer and producer of “Memory After Belsen,” grapples with in his new documentary that will premiere at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York on Nov. 20 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

“The further we get away from the actual events of history, the more difficult it will be to stimulate interest, the more difficult it will be to avoid the Holocaust fading into ancient lore,” said Greene.

That concern is echoed by Jews and Holocaust educators around the world.

“There is nothing that can truly replace the impact of meeting with someone who has gone through this experience,” said Elizabeth Gelman, executive director of the Florida Holocaust Museum. “We see that everyday here. Junior high school kids and high school kids come in, wiggling and poking each other. It’s just an excuse to get out of school. And then when they sit down, and a survivor starts talking, they are laser focused.”

At its New York premiere, the 76-minute film will be screened in its entirety. But Greene and director Shiva Kumar made “Memory After Belsen” so that it can also be watched in segments, to make it easier for high school and college teachers to show it in parts to classes on the Holocaust that may stretch over days or weeks.

Greene and Kumar make the point with Memory After Belsen, but also with footage taken by Allied troops who liberated the camps and clips from popular movies, that film can capture Holocaust memories.

They also shows how artists, writers, musicians and museum curators have documented and interpreted the Holocaust for future generations.

But Greene and Kumar seem most intrigued by one particular way to preserve memory — through the grandchildren of the survivors.

The film follows Robyn Thaler Hickey, whose grandmother was the lone member of her family to survive the Bergen-Belsen death camp. Hickey’s journey to the camp, now a memorial, begins with her plane ride to Germany. Wearing jeans, hipster glasses and a ponytail, she snaps pictures of the land below with her smartphone, wondering in a voiceover about the place where her grandmother’s family lies in mass graves.

And she wonders about her responsibility to get her personal history right.

“If I have kids one day, what story am I going to tell them?” she asks. “And what if I got it wrong. It would be really upsetting if I got it wrong.”

Holocaust educator Tracy Garrison-Feinberg explains, at the end of the film, why everyone — Jewish or not — should ask Hickey’s question.

“I’m an African-American Southerner. I’m a Catholic . . . this is not my history,” she said, putting those last words in quotes with her fingers. But “we are capable of great evil and we are capable of great goodness and grace,” she continued. “Ultimately it’s my history, because it’s human history.”

Her answer raises a further question tackled by the film: Should the Holocaust be taught as a unique or universal experience? Does it stand alone, or with other genocides?

Greene, whose own grandmother was one of two members of her family to survive the Holocaust — the others died at Auschwitz — said he believes the Holocaust teaches universal lessons.

But the risk of universalizing the Holocaust “is to strip it from its particular horror” and perhaps fail to understand its breadth and scope, said Greene who teaches religion at Hofstra University on Long Island.

Let’s not broaden it too much, he warned, “in the name of some abstract concept such as ‘man’s inhumanity to man.’”