August 26, 2008 – Targum Shlishi is supporting the Sobibor Documentation Project, an initiative underway this summer and fall to document archaeological excavations of the long-buried former Nazi extermination camp in Sobibor (Poland). The Nazis concealed the camp and destroyed camp records after the revolt and escape of 365 Jews in October 1943.
The Sobibor initiative is one of several projects supported by Targum Shlishi to research, document, and study the Holocaust. The foundation supports several urgent initiatives to document unknown and little-known elements of the history of the Holocaust before the opportunity to do so is lost. Targum Shlishi also supports initiatives related to Holocaust education and remains deeply committed to supporting efforts to bring the remaining Nazi war criminals to justice.
“After the Sobibor revolt, the Nazis concealed all traces of the site. The documentation project is important to preserve history before it’s lost to us, but it’s also important to remember that the Sobibor story is not typical,” notes Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “As important as Sobibor was, the revolt and escape of 365 Jews should not overshadow the fate of the Jews who were killed. Resistance was not the norm; Sobibor should be recognized and the bravery acknowledged, but the lesson to be learned is from the fate of the six million.”
The following is a list of current and recent initiatives related to the Holocaust that Targum Shlishi is supporting:
The Sobibor Documentation Project continues previous excavation work on Sobibor. Targum Shlishi’s support is being used to document the archaeological excavations. Funds are also being raised to produce a documentary about Sobibor. Footage of the archeological excavation will be made available for scholarly use through the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford (Connecticut) and will be posted online at www.hartford.edu/greenberg and www.jewishhistory.com. A conference on the Sobibor Documentation Project, sponsored in part by Targum Shlishi, will take place on October 26, 2008 at the University of Hartford and features talks by scholars involved in the project (for information on the conference, contact the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies, 860.768.4964).
Locating Mass Graves in Ukraine is an ongoing project undertaken by Father Patrick Desbois, a Catholic priest in Paris. The Einsatzgruppen (Nazi mobile killing units) killed 1.25 million Jews in the Soviet Union and disposed of them in mass graves between June 1941 and spring 1943. Documentation of the massacres is sparse and the locations of the majority of graves are unknown. Father Desbois is locating and documenting all mass graves in the Ukraine and securing tangible proof of the genocide. In the past four years, since beginning this work, Father Desbois has documented approximately 600 sites; prior to that 200 were known. He estimates that 1,800 are yet to be found. In 2007-08, Targum Shlishi spearheaded an informational and fundraising effort to support Father Desbois. The English translation of Father Desbois’ book about his work, The Holocaust by Bullets (Palgrave Macmillan) was published this week in the U.S. The website for Father Desbois’ organization, Yahad-In Unum, is www.yahadinunum.org. For information about his book, go to http://us.macmillan.com/Tour.aspx?id=136&publisher=palgravetrade.
Operation Last Chance: Rewards for Justice is a joint project of Targum Shlishi and the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel Office. Launched in July 2002, the campaign offers financial rewards of $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Nazi war criminals. The program has been launched in nine countries: Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Romania, Austria, Croatia, and Hungary. As of July 2008, the Wiesenthal Center has received the names of 503 suspected war criminals, of which 99 were submitted to local prosecution authorities. The information yielded dozens of investigations in many different countries and six very solid cases which have led to the issuing of three arrest warrants and two extradition requests.
In addition to receiving significant media attention worldwide, Operation Last Chance was recently cited in a U.S. Senate bill, the World War II War Crimes Accountability Act of 2008. Introduced by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Gordon Smith (R-OR), the bill urges the U.S. to actively encourage foreign countries to extradite and prosecute the remaining Nazi war criminals.
Operation Last Chance is discussed in The Litvak Connection, a documentary focusing on the extermination by the Saugamus (Nazi-sponsored Lithuanian Secret Police) of ninety-five percent of on the Jewish population in Latvia and Lithuania and how those Nazi collaborators were able to escape prosecution. Footage from an interview that filmmaker Richard Bloom conducted with Targum Shlishi’s director, Aryeh Rubin, is posted on the Targum Shlishi website, www.targumshlishi.org/litvak/litvak.html. The Operation Last Chance website is available at www.operationlastchance.org.
Righteous Among the Nations is a project of the organization ATZUM – Justice Works to interview and videotape Righteous Gentiles living in Israel. The organization recently completed filming the interviews for this project, which Targum Shlishi proposed to ATZUM and supported for the past two years. ATZUM expects to use the footage to produce an educational video and accompanying materials for schools and libraries and to donate the interviews to an archive, ensuring that the stories of these heroic individuals will be preserved. The filmed interviews focus both on the heroic acts of rescue during the Holocaust as well as the rescuers’ lives in Israel and their road to integration within Israeli society. www.atzum.org
David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies’ conference activity: Targum Shlishi supported the organization’s presentation at Academic Conferences New Research on America’s Response to Nazism and the Holocaust in March 2008, and is helping to fund They Spoke Out: American Voices for Rescue from the Holocaust, the Wyman Institute’s upcoming national conference on September 21, 2008. www.wymaninstitute.org
Bergson Group Information Initiative was an informational campaign conducted by Targum Shlishi in 2007 to publicize the story of the Bergson Group, also known as the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, a grass roots 1940s political action committee that advocated for the U.S. to take action to rescue the Jews under Hitler. Targum Shlishi sent copies of the book A Race Against Death: Peter Bergson, America, and the Holocaust by David S. Wyman and Rafael Medoff to 1,500 individuals. This effort was undertaken in the hope that the book would motivate people to address the monumental problems facing the Jewish world at this critical time, including the threat of a nuclear Iran. In addition, this effort extended the arguments then being made by the Wyman Institute advocating that Bergson’s contribution be recognized by the United States Holocaust Museum. In late 2007, the Museum agreed to change its Permanent Exhibit to acknowledge the rescue work of the Bergson Group. www.targumshlishi.org/initiatives2.html
Elusive Justice: The Search for Nazi War Criminals is a film being produced and directed by Emmy-award winning journalist and veteran producer Jonathan Silvers, and is scheduled to air internationally on PBS in 2009. This documentary will comprehensively explore Nazi hunting from the postwar Europe of 1945 to the worldwide efforts that continue today. The film will document war crimes committed, the escape of large numbers of the war criminals, and the fact that many of the worst offenders, including senior SS and Gestapo officers, have avoided punishment. The film will then highlight the efforts of the Nazi hunters who have collectively worked to locate the fugitive war criminals.
Voices from the Ashes is a foundation whose purpose is to assist in translating and publishing what is believed to be the largest extant archive of early testimonies from Holocaust survivors. The archive, housed in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, includes more than 7,000 accounts from survivors throughout Poland from as early as August 1944. The testimonies are written primarily in Polish – and in many cases are handwritten by the survivors. They have essentially been dormant for almost sixty years. Targum Shlishi has helped fund translations, and has committed to supporting the publication of a collection of testimonies forthcoming from Yale University Press. www.voicesfromtheashes.org
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin Foundation, is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website at www.targumshlishi.org.