*Please note that some of these lectures may be held as active workshops
BEING A JEWISH TEENAGE GIRL IN THE SHOAH
(offered in 2020)
Using the diaries they had written during the Shoah, we will try to understand how these young girls, in the midst of the naturally delicate and fragile developmental stage of adolescence, cope with the reality of the Shoah. What are the thoughts that occupy their minds and hearts? What are their hopes and dreams? To they dare even have any? Lesser known diaries are to be presented. and discussed.
Po - Lin ״פה - לין״
800 Years of Jewish Life in Poland
An ancient Jewish legend has it that while the Jews were living in exile, awaiting the day of their hopeful return to their ancestral homeland, G-d had guided them to Poland, where they would find a temporary safe dwelling place. In this lecture we will explore the unique story of the Jews of Poland - an 800 year old civilization that the Holocaust had erased forever. We will explore the diverse and evolving self Jewish identity of Polish Jews and how they coped with the challenges that arose once modernity intercepted traditional Jewish life. We will also examine the Jews’ complex relationship with their Catholic Polish hosts - - the Nobility, Monarchy and the greater Polish peasant society.
The Responsibility to Remember and Remembering Responsibly
The Shaping of Holocaust Remembrance in the Future
(offered in 2020)
What shape will Holocaust remembrance and commemoration take in a world without survivors? Sadly, we are reaching the day when there will be no more witnesses left to tell the story of the Shoah in the first person. Once the witnesses are gone, what will we remember? How will we remember? What will we take from the horrific event called "The Shoah" and pass on to future generations, so that the memory of the Shoah will not only be expressed and maintained in symbols and slogans - but will be a responsible, meaningful, respectful and influential memory.
Between the hammer and the anvil:
The Jewish Councils (Judenrat) Under Nazi Occupation.
The Jewish Councils (commonly referred to as the Judenräte) were Nazi appointed Jewish municipal administrations operating predominantly within the ghettos in Nazi occupied Europe. They were the instrument by which the Nazis controlled the Jewish populations. Responsible for fulfilling the ordinary municipal needs of the population - needless to say, in harsh scarcity of resources (i.e. tax collection, food distribution, sanitary and health needs, a Jewish order police, etc.), they were also required to fulfill all of the Nazi commands. These included collection of Jewish property, delegation of workers for forced labor and finally to fulfill quotas of Jews for deportations, sometimes personally assisting in the roundup and collection operations. What is a head of a Judenrat to do when the Nazis threaten his life and the lives of his loved ones if he fails to hand over 20,000 Jews for "resettlement" in the East? Not surprisingly, in the first decades following the Holocaust the Judenräte have provoked profound criticism among scholars, as at its heart lay what Raul Hilberg called the “Paradox of Jews acting against Jews.” This paradox had charged the subject with intense moral questions, which had no precedent in all of Jewish history. For this reason, perhaps, it is no surprise that the Judenräte have earned the interest of Jewish scholars rather exclusively. This lecture will examine specific case studies to try and understand why the Judenrat leaders were subjected to such harsh accusations and judgement during and after the Holocaust and whether the passage of time and distance allow us, perhaps, to view things in a different light?
In the Doctor's Shadow: The Story of Stefania Wilczyńska
(offered in 2020)
When we think of “iconic” heros of the Holocaust era who had died in the service of others the names Mordechai Anieliewitz, Chana Senesh and Janusz Korczak immediately stand out. But who ever remembers those anonymous individuals who were no less exemplary “Shlichey Tzibur”, who did their “Avodat Kodesh” outside the limelight, guided by a deep sense of commitment to humanistic morals and the cherished Jewish value of “Arvut Hadadit.” This lecture will introduce us to one such remarkable individual - - Miss Stefania Wilczyńska. A Warsuvian assimilated Jewish educator, who at unimaginable personal sacrifices devoted her entire life for the sake of underprivileged Jewish orphans, never received proper acknowledgement and commemoration in our collective memory of the Holocaust. The few who had heard of her know her at best as Janusz Korczak's assistant - a title that falls short of doing her justice. A fundamental and dominant constituent in his legendary enterprise of child education, and the one who in summer 1942 had walked aside him and their orphans to the Umschlagplatz, where they boarded the train to Treblinka, Stepha had remained almost anonymous in his shadow. The recipient of an Aliya certificate, Stepha was already living in Palestine in 1939, working in child education in Kibbutz Ein Harod. Yet sensing the winds of change in Europe, out of a deep sense of duty and concern for Korczak's orphanage children and for his ability to cope on his own, she did the unthinkable and returned to Warsaw. Through her story we will break many commonly held stereotypes about the Jews of Poland and Jewish women in particular. We will raise questions about Jewish identity and how the Jews of interwar Poland and then under German occupation perceived and coped with the changing reality and how they envisioned their future. We will also attempt to ask how does one weigh personal needs and aspirations against professional and moral obligations and responsibility towards others and what compels him to action.
"Kiddush Ha'Chaim - The Sanctification of Life, in the SHadow of Death
(offered in 2020)
Alternative Jewish Leadership in the Holocaust
As Jewish life continued to deteriorate under Nazi rule and the Nazi appointed Jewish Councils failed to provide what fellow Jews had expected of them as community leaders, a new form of an informal alternative leadership phenomenon comprised of Rabbis, physicians, Educators and members of the Jewish Youth movements began to appear. We will explore the challenges faced by these alternative community leaders - individuals who were called to fulfill roles that reached far beyond the normal scope of their ordinary duties.
Making Choices in a Choicless World:
(offered in 2020)
Ethical Dilemmas Faced by Jews During the Holocaust
Faced with unprecedented unfeasible human situations, Jews living under Nazi occupation often found themselves facing impossible dilemmas, forced to make choices - sometimes life or death choices - in a choiceless world. If you can send one child into hiding, which of your 3 children do you choose to save? If you are given an option to save your wife or your mother - how do you choose? Do you stay in the ghetto destined for certain death or do you leave your family behind and try to escape to the forest and join the partisans? When medicine is limited - who do you give it to? Do you divide it equally among the sick or do you give it to the younger patients who have a better chance of survival? What is a mother in hiding to do when her baby’s cry endangers the rest of the hiding place inhabitants? Through various case studies notes in diaries and in survivor testimonies we will examine how Jews coped with having to make these choiceless choices.
"If This is Man"
(offered in 2020)
The Daily Life of a Nazi Concentration Camp Prisoner
Most of the Jews who had arrived in Auschwitz never actually entered the camp, but rather walked through it briefly on their way to the gas chambers. Of every transport that arrived, nearly 85-95% of the arriving Jews were dead within two hours of arrival. The remaining 10-15 % selected by the Nazis for forced labor were interned into the Nazi concentration system as prisoners. The average life a concentration camp prisoner was three months. This lecture will examine the daily life of the Jewish concentration camp inmate. How does one maintain life in a system that violently strips you of every single trace of your humanity and individuality How does one cope with having lost the most basic of human rights? How does one maintain a human image while living in the constant shadow of death?
Women in the Holocaust
(offered in 2020)
Wives, Mothers, daughters: The Female Experience
Nearly half a century had gone by since the end of WWII, before scholars had accepted a gender-based analysis of the Holocaust experience as valid and academically legit. Early gender-based Holocaust research, particularly the study of the female experience, had raised opposition and criticism in circles of veteran Holocaust scholars, who among other arguments, claimed that the Nazis had targeted Jewish women as Jews and not as Women, and that one cannot measure suffering by gender criteria. Today, it is widely accepted that a micro-analysis approach where smaller defined groups are studied and compared with one another is vital for beginning to comprehend the Holocaust on the “macro” level, allowing us to gain a fuller, more integrated, multi-layered understanding of the complexities of the Holocaust experience. We know well that once the Nazis enacted what they called the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” the policy of death was binding for all Jews, regardless of sex. However, the experiences one endured along the way, until one reached the bitter end, could not have been the same. Through the stories of a carefully selected collection of Jewish women, we will explore the unique characteristics, challenges and complexities of the female experience in the Holocaust.
A cross Around their Neck and a Star of dAvid Around Their Arm
(offered in 2020)
The Story of the Baptized Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto
When we think of the Warsaw ghetto there are certain images that come to mind: Isolation of the Jews, starvation, epidemics, crowdedness, Janusz Korczak, the deportations to Treblinka and of course, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Many are surprised to discover that the Nazis had forced 2000 baptized Jews into the ghetto (Jews who had converted to Christianity). Even more surprising is that serving the convert community were two active Catholic churches inside the ghetto walls (still active in Warsaw today), where Mass was held every Sunday by a Polish priest, and where many of the community’s physical and spiritual needs were met. Once can only imagine the social and psychological complexities of living with a double and coerced identity. How did the baptized-Jews perceive the Jews of the ghetto and vice versa? What was the relationship between them? Why did they hold such a prominent presence in the Jews’ consciousness when they constituted only .5% of the ghetto population? Will they share the same destiny? Can one say that the tragedy of the baptized-Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, “unique” or “different” in any way than that of the Jews? These questions and more will be addressed in this lecture.
"Who Would you Like Me to Shoot First, You or Your Daughter?"
The Perpetrators: How Was it Humanly Possible?
(offered in 2020)
One of the most compelling questions that stem from the Holocaust is how was it humanly possible? How could ordinary human beings, all over Europe, take part in the murderous campaign against innocent civilians? How can reputable human beings, some of which held double doctorate degrees come to see and treat fellow human beings as if they were not human at all, but rather a malignant tumor threatening the wellbeing of their society, which must be removed. How could German physicians, scientists, entrepreneurs and civil agents, who have never held a gun and had never seen a Jew in their lives, play a vital role in the workings of the murder machine that claimed the lives of six million Jews? This lecture will attempt to shed light on some these difficult questions.
Thou Shalt Not Kill:
(offered in 2020)
The Question of Non-Jews Rescuing Jews
When we consider the phenomenon of the rescue of Jews during the Holocaust it is important to time-frame exactly when - during its course - are the Jews actively searching for means of rescue, in relation to the evolving nature of Nazi anti-Jewish policy. The search for rescue options will naturally peek once the policy shifts to systematic murder. The different types of rescue possibilities presented the Jews with an array of dilemmas and challenges. If Jewish parents were to handover a young child to the care of nuns in a monastery, would they risk losing the child to the Jewish faith forever? If one had found refuge living openly amongst non-Jews under a false Christian identity - can he/she successfully “pass” as a gentile? Does he/she posses a flawless native’s command of the local language and Christian prayers and rituals? From the other side of the coin - the rescuer, too, faces an intricate web of challenges, the first being risking their lives. Providing aid to Jews was strictly forbidden and was, in many places under Nazi occupation, punishable by death. How can a gentile hiding Jews in his attic explain to the nosy neighbors why all of a sudden he buys an extra loaf of bread? The Nazis awarded gentiles who turned in their Jew-hiding neighbors. Through various case studies, this lecture will examine the various rescue possibilities, why rescue of Jews was generally uncommon and what compelled people of all walks of life to reach out a helping hand to Jews, at the expense of risking their lives. We will try to understand what can be learned from this extraordinary and rare human behavior.
I am My Brother's Keeper
The Question of Jews Saving Jews During the Holocaust
In recent years there have been voices heard both in Israel and in the larger international Jewish community calling for what they perceive as a long overdue (Righteous Among the Nations equivalent) recognition of Jews who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. Opposing voices argue that this calling is an attempt to encourage pride and unity within a very divided Jewish community. In between these two voices stands Yad VaShem (the institution that coined and issues the Righteous honor upon gentiles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust), which fervently opposes establishing such a program of official recognition, certainly not one that is equivalent in its format to the Righteous program. Through the analysis a selection of case studies we will try to understand why YVS feels this way and whether there is any logic and justice to their argument.
A Rescue Attempt at The Eleventh Hour. Or Was It?
The Swedish "White Buses" Operation of Spring 1945 and the Secret Meeting Between the Head of The Jewish World Congress with Himmler
One of the central questions surrounding the events of the Holocaust is the world's response (or lack thereof) to the Jewish plea under Nazi occupation. The Nazi systematic killing of European Jewry was known to the allied powers, certainly by the end of 1942. Is it possible to assume, that if world leaders, the Pope and different worldly organizations with means for calling for action, were a little less ignorant and were to raise their voices and let out a cry for the fate of the Jews - history would have taken a different turn and the lives of thousands could have been spared?
Already in 1953 , Yad Vashem set out to launch the Righteous Among the Nations Program, which recognizes individuals (and in some cases a defined group or village) who had rescued Jews during the Holocaust. One of the early means of recognitions was the planting of trees across the Yad VAShem campus, honoring these Righteous individuals. 70 years later, these blooming trees and at their side a plaque with a name of a Righteous gentile, line the paths walked by a million visitors a year, and they are a constant reminder of an individual's choice to resist and defy evil. At the heart of the Righteous program is the matter of the intent of rescue. Only those rescuers, whom behind their actions is a recognizable internal humanistic urge to respect and preserve human life, will be recognized.
That said, if one were to stroll around the Yad VaShem campus, surrounded by Righteous trees one will find an unmistakably present large white truck with a red cross and a Swedish flag on it, and next to it with a plaque explaining the story behind it. In the very last weeks and days of the war, with Germany's imminent surrender approaching, a rescue mission let by the Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadotte, set out to liberate Nazi concentration camps inmates in Germany and deliver them to safety in neutral (at least officially) Sweden. Amongst these inmates were a minority of the minority of Jews that were still alive in April of 1945.
There is no doubt that the “White Buses” Rescue Operation was indeed a real (very last minute) rescue mission (even though it was not intended to save Jews per se, but rather Scandinavian camp inmates). However, if we examine the operation and it’s commemoration on the Yad VaShem campus, surrounded by the landscape of the Righteous trees and all that they symbolize (i.e. the question of intent), uneasy question of the politics of rescue and politics of commemoration must be raised. That said, one must ask - does it matter if the intent was “pure” or not, as long as rescue or the attempt of rescue was involved? These questions and others will be addressed, as we examine this dramatic last minutes event, which included a secret meeting between head of the S.S. Himmler and a representative of the World Jewish Congress.
Ambulance, The Film
(offered in 2020)
Breaking Down Understanding the Basic Concepts of the Holocaust: Perpetrators, Victims, and Bystanders.
This workshop is intended for relatively younger audiences (9th -12th grade) and audiences that have little or no knowledge of the Holocaust. The workshop begins with a screening of a short 10 minute Polish film titled “Ambulance,” which serves as an introduction to the basic fundamental concepts required for beginning to understand the events of the Holocaust.
"Liberated But Not Free..."
The Survivor's Difficult Journey Back to Life
As the Glenn Miller Orchestra played the street of New York City in May 1945 and as Europe was celebrating Germany's surrender and the Allies' unmistakable victory, one cannot escape the question: Where dis the remnants of European Jewry find themselves in the euphoric celebratory and victorious scene of Europe's liberation? "Liberated but not free--that is the paradox of the Jew... Suffering continues to be his badge," said U.S Army Chaplain Rabbi Abraham Klausner, in June 1946, one of the first non-European Jews to meet Jewish concentration camp inmates at the liberation of Dachau in April 1945. In this lecture we will stand on the question of when and where do the Jews meet their liberation and how left to walk alone in the world without a family, without a home, penniless - the end of six years of war and twelve years of Nazi rule, for them, marked the beginning an unimaginable, nearly impossible, challenging journey back to life.
Why Did You Walk Like Sheep to the Slaughter?
Reflecting upon 70 Years of the Relationship Between the Holocaust and Israeli Society
Eventually, most of the survivors of the Holocaust chose to emigrate from Europe to Israel. It was not an obvious choice. Once liberated, until 1948, some Jews will make their way by means of illegal immigration to British Mandated Palestine, many of them turned away and instead were incarcerated in British run internment camps in Palestine and in Cyprus. Once the establishment of the State of Israel was declared, dozens of thousands of Jews will arrive and settle in Israel throughout the late 40's to early 50s, a large portion of the early comers - upon stepping off the boat had received a weapon in hand and were sent off to fight for Israel's independence. After all that they had been through, feeling accepted and integrated in their new home held an uneasy set of challenges. How were these Diasporic Jews perceived by the veteran inhabitants of the new Jewish State and how did they fit into the new - minded Israeli society, which rejected any traits of Diasporic Jewish culture? How were they treated? Did the survivors share their stories? Did people want to listen? How was the memory and commemoration of the Holocaust shaped through the course of Israel's 70 years of existence, and by whom? What were the ramifications of the Kastner Trial in the 50's, the Eichmann trial in 1961, and the numerous wars fought in defense of the young State's existence? In this lecture we will reflect on 70 years of Israeli society and its relationship with the Holocaust and of its survivors.