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Holocaust Awareness
Holocaust Awareness

Holocaust Awareness   2003-2004 GRANTS

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Simon Wiesenthal Center, Operation Last Chance: Rewards for Justice, Jerusalem

In July 2002 Targum Shlishi and the Simon Wiesenthal Center launched a campaign to bring remaining Nazi war criminals to justice by offering financial rewards of $10,000 for information leading to their arrest and conviction. This multi-year project was conceived by Targum Shlishi’s director, Aryeh Rubin, who developed it together with Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and coordinator of the project. Operation Last Chance was initially launched in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. In Fall 2003 the program was expanded to Poland, Romania, and Austria. In Summer 2004 it was launched in Croatia and Hungary.

As of July 2004, the Wiesenthal Center had received the names of 198 suspected Nazi war criminals from Lithuania, 43 from Latvia, 13 from the Ukraine, and 6 from Estonia, of which 72 have been submitted to local prosecutors. Currently, there are eighteen official pretrial murder investigations being carried out in Lithuania and Latvia involving several dozen suspects.

“The amount and quality of the information received in the framework of ‘Operation: Last Chance’ is the best proof of the necessity of such a project and its historic significance,” Dr. Zuroff noted in September 2003. Although still in early stages in Poland, Austria, and Romania, by July the Center had received the names of an additional twenty-six suspects from those countries. The campaign will launch in Germany and other countries in the near future.

operationlastchance.org

Click here to read about Operation Last Chance in Austria, Romania, and Hungary.

voices

Voices from the Ashes Foundation, Inc., Translation of Testimonies, Coral Gables, FL

Voices from the Ashes is a newly established 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. “Virtually every town and village in Poland (and beyond) is represented [in the archive], as well as every ghetto and camp,” noted David Swiatlo, president of Voices from the Ashes. “In addition to their potential as a historical source, these personal narratives can be an invaluable didactic instrument and an effective response to the growing disease of Holocaust denial.” The foundation is embarking on a multi-stage plan to translate and publish the testimonies, beginning with the translation of a group of five hundred testimonies. Targum Shlishi’s funding will be applied to the translation project. Aryeh Rubin, Targum Shlishi’s director, will sit on the Advisory Board. Other board members include Holocaust scholars Yaffa Eliach, Saul Friedlander, Raul Hilberg, Aaron Lansky, and Deborah Lipstadt.

Click here to read “Early Testimonies from Poland,” for more information about Voices from the Ashes

Click here to read translation of the testimony of Wajsleder Chana – Szpizajren, from Tomaszow Lubielski, Poland (© Voices from the Ashes and Jewish Historical Institute).

Click here to view pdf of Wajsleder Chana – Szpizajren’s testimony (© Jewish Historical Institute).

Postscript: Bogdan Koziy, Costa Rica

For several years Targum Shlishi and the Israel Office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center were involved in an effort to bring to justice accused Nazi war criminal Bogdan Koziy. Koziy was a member of the Ukrainian Security Police during World War II and was accused of Nazi war crimes that included killing twelve people and helping the Gestapo round up Jews for transfer to concentration camps. He lived in the US from 1949 to 1984, and had repeatedly been a focus of attention for the US and USSR governments. In 1984 he fled to Costa Rica to avoid extradition from the US to the USSR. Targum Shlishi worked with the Simon Wiesenthal Center to pressure the Costa Rican government to expel Koziy. Efforts included a letter writing campaign and a threatened ad campaign. The image at right was part of this successful campaign; it never ran in the media. In early 2001, the supreme court of Costa Rica upheld an expulsion order against Koziy, and he went into hiding. Koziy was facing extradition to Poland when he died in November 2003.

“The fact that Bogdan Koziy died before he could be tried on criminal charges for his Holocaust crimes is undoubtedly a travesty of justice,” said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “The blame for this sad state of affairs rests squarely on the shoulders of Costa Rican bishop Roman Arrieta who protected Koziy for many years from deportation or extradition from Costa Rica, the Costa Rican governments of the eighties and nineties who afforded him a haven, and the Ukrainian government which totally ignored his crimes even though they were committed in territory which is currently part of the Ukraine.”

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  • Operation Last Chance in Austria, Romania, and Hungary

    On December 15, 2003, Operation Last Chance launched its Austrian advertising campaign with a controversial ad in the country’s mass circulation daily Kronen Zeitung. The ad’s headline, “Die Morder sind unter uns,” translates as “The Murderers are Among Us,” which was the title of Simon Wiesenthal’s first book on Nazi hunting. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and coordinator of Operation Last Chance, noted that the ad campaign is critical for publicizing the project and bringing it widespread attention. When the ad campaign was launched in Austria, Dr. Zuroff said, “This is really the last chance for Austria, which has not convicted a Nazi war criminal in more than a quarter of a century, to finally take legal action against Austrian Nazi murderers while justice can still be achieved.”

    Results of the Austrian ad campaign, while not directly yielding much information in terms of suspects (in contrast, earlier ad campaigns in Latvia and Lithuania did result in a significant amount of information), had “a serious educational impact,” according to Dr. Zuroff. The ads received extensive coverage in the Austrian and world media. The ad campaign’s impact in Austria has been reinforced by a website dedicated to the program. The website URL is www.kriegsverbrecher.at.

    In Jassy, Romania, in addition to the campaign’s customary strategy of placing newspaper advertisements, Operation Last Chance for the first time used street signage and billboards, which were posted in April 2004. Jassy is one of the largest cities in Romania, with a population of 500,000. The city is viewed by many as the historic capital of Romanian anti-Semitism; approximately 14,000 Jews were murdered in a pogrom there in the summer of 1941. The street signage and billboards announce Operation Last Chance and refer to Romania’s history toward the Jews.

    Operation Last Chance was launched in Hungary in July 2004. Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi, announced the launch in a speech delivered at the Budapest Press Club on July 13, 2004. In a statement widely quoted by the media, he said, “And one final message to the world: If you harm a Jew, whether you are in Paris, Brussels, Tehran, Jerusalem, Debrecen, or Budapest, somebody – maybe even somebody who is yet unborn – will seek justice. Maybe it will happen right away, maybe ten years from now, maybe fifty or sixty years from now. We will not forget.”

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  • Early Testimonies from Poland (Voices from the Ashes)

    Most of the survivor testimonies in the Jewish Historical Institute (JHI) in Warsaw were gathered by local Jewish committees formed in newly liberated Polish territory. The committees interviewed Jews as they emerged from death camps and hiding places. Many of the testimonies are just a few pages long. It is likely that the JHI archive holds the first large-scale attempt to gather Holocaust survivor testimonies.

    The JHI archive is the largest such compilation of survivors’ stories in existence. Until now, these testimonies have been largely inaccessible – decades of Communist rule prevented the documents from being translated or made available.

    The effort to translate these testimonies and bring them to international attention was initiated by the late Mark Swiatlo, curator of the Judaica Library Collections of Florida Atlantic University. Mr. Swiatlo was shown the collection in 1997 by Dr. Felix Tych, director of the JHI. “I just couldn’t walk away,” Mr. Swiatlo said. “I felt a strong moral obligation to help get these stories into print…These testimonies describe experiences that have just taken place. Some authors died soon after writing their stories. Their last act was to try to tell the world what had happened to them.”

    Mr. Swiatlo oversaw the translation of seventy testimonies, which are now scheduled for publication. He passed away in May 2003 and his son, David Swiatlo, established the Voices from the Ashes Foundation to ensure that the project continues.

     

  • Translated Testimony ©Voices from the Ashes and Jewish Historical Institute.

    Name and surname: Wajsleder Chana – Szpizajren
    Born in 1915 in Tomaszów Lubelski
    Education: elementary school
    Occupation: none
    Place of residence before the war: Tomaszów Lubelski
    Place of residence during the war: Tomaszów Lubelski
    Current place of residence: Lódz, Wschodnia St.[reet] apt 2

    Experiences in Tomaszów Lubelski

    Before the war about 12 thousand Jews lived in Tomaszów Lubelski. After the Germans marched in around 50 families left for Russia. In 1940 many Jews from other small towns, even from Warsaw, came to Tomaszów Lubelski. Right after the Germans entered in 1939, they started to beat Jews. Instantly after they marched in, everybody had to put on an armband. In 1940 they started to force contributions from Jews. They took away furs of various kinds. In 1941 they did not let Jews leave the town boundaries. They forbade Jews to walk on major streets, but they did not create a ghetto. In 1940 a Judenrat was created. The president of the Judenrat was Heller, he had been a merchant before the war, [the other members were] Aba Bergelbaum and others from religious circles. There had been no Jewish police at all in our town throughout the whole time. The Jewish people did not have any illusions about the Judenrat. The Judenrat fulfilled German orders, collected contributions and sent Jews to work. Mostly Jews worked the hardest jobs for the Gestapo (in Tomaszów Lubelski there was a Gestapo), in forests, on the roads. They transported stones. They even took the stones from a Jewish cemetery and constructed roads. Camp Belzec was located 7 kilometers from Tomaszów Lubelski. Half of the Jews from Tomaszów Lubelski stayed there at the beginning of 1941. Sent to work, they were living in barracks there; from that place, from Tomaszów Lubelski; and from other towns, 20-30 dying people were brought daily to us. There was no Jewish hospital. Therefore the Judenrat placed the dying in private houses. Most of them perished. The Judenrat bribed the Gestapo men from Belzec and sometimes succeeded at getting somebody out, or the Gestapo would let them bring in food. Those who returned from work in Belzec told that they were digging huge ditches, a dozen or so kilometers long. Despite the fact that the ghetto was open, there was hunger, because Poles were forbidden to sell food to Jews under penalty of death. Next to our Judenrat there was a kitchen for the poor, but there were very few products available. In the Judenrat everyone received a calculated bread ration – 20 decagrams daily, dark flour. There was no milk. There was hardly any smuggling. Except for work for the Germans (the tailors and shoemakers worked for the Gestapo), Jews had no occupation. Initially they sold things to Poles they could trust; later on even this stopped. Even though there was no closed ghetto, [they were] stifled in small apartments as the better houses were taken over by Germans. There was great and visible poverty among Jewish people, and this was a concern for everyone. The rich were nowhere to be seen. There were no contrasts between wealth and poverty. There was no contact with foreign countries. A Jew did not have the right to carry on a correspondence. There were no newspapers. There was no orphanage. There were orphans whose parents were killed by bombs at the beginning of the war. The older orphans, 12 -14 y[ears old] received food from the Judenrat or they worked just like others did, for Germans. The older orphans lived together in one house, and the younger orphans were placed by the Judenrat with families, and were given absolutely insufficient amounts of food. There where no beggars seeking charity in the houses, because practically all of us were beggars. In 1942 many people, and in particular the young, were ill with typhus. There was no doctor. There was a paramedic from Lódz. Whoever fell ill, lay at home. There were no schools. There were no rabbis or secret classes. I don’t know anything about the resistance in the ghetto. Probably, there was nothing that would not reflect the fact that people went to death passively. There were no particular cases of people becoming brutal and no demoralization among Jews. There was no rabbi in Tomaszów Lubelski, for at the beginning of the war he escaped together with his wife and children to Russia. He was known as the Cieszyner rabbi. He died in Russia. His wife and eight children survived. His wife is already in America and the children in the American Zone [in Germany]. Religious life existed. Prayers were said secretly. During the war a certain convert, an engineer, arrived in Tomaszów Lubelski with his wife and daughter. They did not have contacts with Jews and survived as Poles. After the liberation this engineer was killed near Cracow. His wife and daughter went abroad. The [deportation] actions started in Tomaszów Lubelski at the end of 1942. We didn’t know what was happening in other towns. We knew that they transported people to Belzec and burned them there. We saw fires from Belzec. The first action began at the end of 1942. They herded all the Jews (several thousands of Jews were still there) into the square. [They were] ordered in rows. I was in the square with my family. They took women and children and men onto large trucks. There were about thirty trucks. The action was conducted by the Gestapo men from Tomaszów Lubelski and Zamosc. There was Polish police who watched us. Of the names of Gestapo men I remember Derger, a German who was killed later on, when Jews were no longer there, by a Polish underground organization. The German Sierpinski was killed after the actions. The Poles from the underground organization threw a grenade into the house where he lived, and he burned to death. The German Prokof worked for the Gestapo in Tomaszów Lubelski, [also] Linkier the Gestapo man, and others that came from other towns, and even from Tomaszów Lubelski, whose names I don’t remember. During the action they killed a lot of the handicapped, the ill and the elderly. My grandfather was shot before my eyes. The people were so listless that they only wished for the easiest death possible. After this action very few people remained, about 300 young men and women, myself among them. The rest, including my family, they transported to Belzec. Of the remaining several hundred, many continued to work for the Gestapo and German police. A dozen or so were sent to the largest farms of German settlers, where they worked. Every day they had to report that they were there. All the remaining furniture, linen, dishes that used to belong to Jews were collected in an enclosed square. The best things were taken away to Germany. Less valuable objects were distributed among the Poles free of charge. The Jews that remained did not participate in the classification of those things.

    The second and last action began at the end of 1943, when the Jews on the farms dug out potatoes and prepared everything for the winter.

    All the Jews from the farms were taken to Tomaszów Lubelski. The Jews understood what it meant. From Tomaszów [Lubelski] they led everybody to the forest (outside the town) to kill them. Some tried to escape but they were shot while running away. Everybody was shot in the forest, and they had to dig their graves themselves. They were buried in one collective grave in the forest which still exists. Of the Jews who were living in Tomaszów Lubelski during the occupation, there was left only me and one elderly woman, Pesla Goldsztejn, who had been hiding with Poles in the countryside. She lives in Lower Silesia at her son’s, who returned from Russia.

    Twelve days before the first action, I was taken to a Polish prison. The reasons were as follows: In Tomaszów Lubelski a Pole named Matuszkiewicz, who was at the Germans’ service, had been killed. He was very cruel towards Jews as well. On the day of his death I talked to him because he had wanted to evict us from our apartment. Because it was not bad, he wanted to take it for himself. I begged him not to make us go because my father was terminally ill. I promised him things that I had from my father. He agreed. A young Polish girl saw me talking to him. When he was killed, I was arrested right away and sent to a Polish prison. During the action I was sent to the market square under the supervision of Polish Police, and after the action I was sent back to prison and this saved me. I had been in prison for some time. Polish female prisoners treated me quite well. An order was sent to the prison to have me sent to Majdanek [camp]. I was to go there in three days. In the same cell with me was Elzbieta Wazna whom I had met in prison. She was there for illegal animal slaughter. She came from Tomaszów Lubelski, she lived 2 kilometers outside the town in Majdanek village. She saw how much I despaired, because I already knew from Poles that Majdanek meant death. Wazna was to be released in two days. I begged her to help me. On the last day before my departure to Majdanek she came to visit me. I gave her my three rings, which I wore. I had them from my mother. She also sold a lot of her wheat. She handed the guard quite a pretty sum to let me out. When she paid the money one guard unlocked my cell and ordered me to go, and then I went straight to her home. At home there was her husband Szczepan, her old mother, five children and her sister’s daughter with three children. There were twelve people in this house. Her husband and mother treated me very kindly. As far as the rest was concerned, they were not in the way of her wanting to save me. During the first days, they were afraid that the people from the prison would be looking for me. They were looking for me in our former town and other localities, so she took me to her sister Katluni[?] in  Podhorce village – 7 kilometers from Tomaszów [Lubelski]. Her sister hid me in the attic. Elzbieta asked her sister to treat me well. She left food for me, cans so they would not have to cook for me. Her sister had children who also knew I was hiding in the attic. They brought me food to the attic. She brought me an eiderdown, blanket, and pillows so that I wouldn’t be cold. I was there 2 and a half months, until they stopped searching for me. During this time Elzbieta used to come to me every Sunday, sometimes she came during the week by bicycle, to comfort me. After 2 and a half months she came by on a horsewagon. She brought barrels with her and in a barrel she transported me home. I stayed in her house until the liberation. She made a shelter for me in the attic and I sat the whole day there. In winter I would come down to the apartment and sleep there. I wasn’t hungry because she fed me well.  All of this she and her family had done disinterestedly. Throughout my stay with her, several searches took place in connection with the obligatory quota of products the peasants had to deliver to the Germans. During these searches she worried terribly that they would find me. As a result she started to suffer from a liver illness, and continues to suffer from it even now. She told her children and husband that the Ten Commandments say that we should love other people like ourselves. They were very religious people. They prayed for us all to survive, and even on liberation day, when they saw the Soviets in the field, they started to pray and thank God for the fact that their suffering had not been in vain. After the liberation as I did not have anybody. I stayed with them for some time. Generally the village [people] accepted the fact that she had saved me quite favorably. Some even said that they had known about it. However, there were scoundrels who thought I had given her a big fortune, and they started to steal from her farm. They would come to her (did not harass the husband nor the children) and threaten to kill her, wanted her to give the gold which she had taken from the Jewess. We were forced to leave for Tomaszów Lubelski, and she left her whole family on the farm. For some time we were in Tomaszów Lubelski. The Jews who returned from Russia were selling their properties and started to convince me to leave. I left this place at the end of 1947. Elzbieta had been with me all the time. After my departure she returned home to her family. From time to time she visits me in Lódz and stays with me for several months.

    Witness’s signature

    Wajsleder Chana

    Recorder’s signature

    Lódz January 31 [19]49