Marking the 70th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union

Ukraine during the early days of the invasion. German Federal Archive photo

Marking 70 years since the German Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 (Operation Barbarossa), the Center for Research on the History of Soviet Jews during the Holocaust at Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research will hold a daylong symposium exploring the invasion as an ideological war.

The symposium will take place at the Yad Vashem Auditorium on Monday, June 20, 2011, in Hebrew and Russian. It is open to the public. The symposium is taking place with the support of the Genesis Philanthropy Group and European Jewish Fund and the Gutwirth Family Fund.

The International Institute for Holocaust Research will hold an additional two symposia, exploring different aspects of Operation Barbarossa. In the fall of 2011, the institute will examine how the beginning of the mass murder of Jews accompanied difficulties the German army experienced during their advance eastwards, with a particular focus on Lithuania and Serbia. In spring 2012, a symposium will address the Wannsee conference, and the expansion of the mass murder westwards.

At next week’s event, historians will discuss political, economic and ideological aspects of the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and its critical and destructive impact on the Jews living in those areas; the Wehrmacht’s role in the murder of Jews in the first months of the Eastern front war, and the Jews’ mistaken beliefs in the great military power of the Red Army and that antisemitism among Soviet citizens was a matter of the past. Among the lecturers will be Dr. Yitzhak Arad, a former partisan, chairman emeritus of Yad Vashem and world-renowned researcher on the Holocaust on the eastern front. Dr. Yevgeniy Rozenblat, a researcher from Belarus will speak about the relationships between Poles, Belarusians and Jews in the first months of the war. Prof. Mordechai Altshuler of the Hebrew University will address the shattering of myths amid Soviet Jewry. New material from Yad Vashem’s The Untold Stories: The Murder Sites of the Jews in the Occupied Territories of the USSR Research Project will also be presented.

Also marking 70 years since the invasion of the Soviet Union, the International Institute’s Center for Research on the History of Soviet Jews during the Holocaust, supported by the Genesis Philanthropy Group and the European Jewish Fund, has uploaded the first stage of its bibliographic database. The database contains over 3,300 titles, including 700 articles, on Jewish history in the areas of the former Soviet Union, and will be updated regularly.

AJC applauds Demjanjuk conviction

The American Jewish Committee is expressing its appreciation for the conviction in a German court of  John Demjanjuk for his role as an accessory to the murder of tens of thousands of people at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. Demjanjuk was sentenced Thursday to a five-year prison term, though he is free on bail for up to six months while preparing an appeal.

“The Munich State Court’s clear message to the world is no matter how long it takes, mass murderers are accountable to justice,” said Deidre Berger, director of AJC Berlin. “Today’s verdict is one of the most important legal precedents in decades for the prosecution and conviction of Nazi-era war criminals, and should encourage the pursuit of others who participated in executing the Holocaust.”

Over the decades, there have been relatively few trials in Germany of suspected Holocaust mass murderers.  Berger expressed hope that following the Demjanjuk case, “German justice authorities will now determine whether there are other perpetrators who can still be brought to justice.”

The Munich State Court established in the Demjanjuk verdict the principle that individuals who were part of the Nazi camp apparatus are accessories to murder regardless of their level of command.

Demjanjuk arrived in Germany two years ago Thursday after the U.S. government denaturalized and deported him. He had lied about his war-time activities when he came to the U.S. in 1952, and lived in Cleveland until being compelled to leave.


Radical Muslim group calls Prince Harry a ‘Nazi’

Walking With The Wounded photo


LONDON – Anjem Choudray’s radical Islamic group Muslims Against Crusades is at again. The organization has started a hate campaign against Prince Harry, third in line in succession to the throne in the UK.

The attack is in the form of a video posted on the organization’s web site. The video, “‘Harry the Nazi,” contains selected clips of remarks which are then interpreted in line with their agenda, raising the banner of Islam.

Although there are implications that this is some form of retaliation against the killing of Osama Bin Laden one must bear in mind that this organization also wanted to demonstrate against Prince William on his wedding day. It has also called for the beheading of the queen in the past.

Apparently the reason Harry and his brother William are targeted is because they chose to be in the armed forces. Muslims against Crusades objects to the British military because  are in Islamic countries, Iraq and Afghanistan specifically.

Choudary is claiming that this is not a call for hatred against Harry, nor for a terrorist act to be committed but rather to draw attention to the fact that members of the Royal Family are involved in wars that are ”killing our Muslim brothers”

It can be argued that the organization is relatively small.

Anjem Choudray’s radical Islamic group ‘Muslims Against Crusades’ are at it again. They have started a hate campaign against Prince Harry, 3rd in line the the throne in the UK. The attack is in the form of a video posted on the organisation’s web site. The film is labelled ‘Harry the Nazi’, and contains selected clips of remarks which are then interpreted in line with their agenda, raising the banner of Islam.

Although there are implications that this is some form of retaliation against the killing of Osama Bin Laden one must bear in mind that this organistation also wanted to demonstrate against Prince William on his wedding day, and have also called for the beheading of the Queen in the past.

Apparently the reason Harry and his brother William are targetted is because they chose to be in the armed forces, and they object to the armed forces because they are in Islamic countries, Iraq and Afghanistan specifically.

Anjem Choudary is claiming that this is not a call for hatred against Harry, nor for a terrorist act to be commited,, but rather to draw attention to the fact that members of the Royal family are involved in wars that are ‘killing our Muslim brothers’

It can be argued that the organisation is relatively small. But this sort of rhetoric is designed to inflame, and we live in an age where anything can create the spark that starts a major conflagration.


Book marks 50th anniversary of Eichmann trial

Eighcmann's sentencing in Jerusalem in 1961

Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt’s new book, The Eichmann Trial, is gaining widespread recognition this spring, as it marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the world’s first internationally televised trial. But the trial’s biggest legacy, says the Emory University professor, is that victims of the Holocaust got to tell their stories to a worldwide audience.

Lipstadt’s account provides a behind-the-scenes historical window to proceedings that riveted millions and revealed the evil behind the actions of Nazi Adolph Eichmann, chief operational officer of Hitler’s Final Solution.

“American television networks broadcast special telecasts,” Lipstadt says of the trial, which opened in Jerusalem April 11, 1961. Although it was not the first Nazi war-crimes trial, “there were more reporters in Jerusalem than had gone to Nuremberg,” she says. And for good reason.

Captured in Argentina, Eichmann had been spirited out of the country to Israel by Israeli security services. As Lipstadt says, “the ‘when’ and ‘how’ of his capture ere eclipsed by the ‘who': who found him and more important, who would try him. Now the victims’ representative—Israel—would sit in judgment.”

Unlike Nuremberg, where very few Holocaust victims gave testimony, approximately 100 survivors testified at the Eichmann trial, which became a centerpiece of the prosecution’s case. “It was a chance for them to tell their stories, one by one by one, to be present and to put a face on the suffering in a way that hadn’t been the case at Nuremberg,” Lipstadt explains.

Lipstadt remembers being intrigued as a child by televised news clips of the trial on the evening news, but not fully understanding the connection between the Eichmann trial and the anti-Semitism that gave rise to the horrors of the Holocaust. Lipstadt’s own encounter with anti-Semitism occurred much later, after she published her 1993 groundbreaking work, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.

In that book Lipstadt described the views of a leading British Holocaust denier, and was subsequently sued by him for libel in Great Britain. The 2000 trial, which resulted in a resounding victory for Lipstadt, was lauded by the British press as comparable to the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials.

While Lipstadt says “the importance of the Eichmann trial dwarfed mine,” she does see some parallels. “One of these men helped wipe out one-third of world Jewry. The second had dedicated himself to denying the truth of this.”

Both trials also addressed the phenomena that had a common source: anti-Semitism. “Without centuries of persistent hatred,” says Lipstadt, “the Third Reich would have found it impossible to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people to despise, scapegoat and ultimately participate in the murder of European Jewry.”

The lessons of the Eichmann trial still resonate today, says Lipstadt. “It reminds us that the victim has a name and a face and a history. The Holocaust didn’t happen to numbers or just a large group. It happened to people.”


Archive of looted Jewish property made public

Project HEART Executive Director Bobby Brown shows Holocaust survivor Esther Widman a “mercy necklace,” believed to be Jewish property from 1940’s Poland that was reclaimed recently from Lodz, Poland. David Karp photo

A large-scale international effort to help Jewish victims of the Holocaust redress claims of lost property confiscated, looted or forcibly sold under the Nazi regime was jumpstarted this week with the unveiling of a large, publicly available and searchable database of more than 650,000 Holocaust era property records in its first release.

The records were compiled and made available by Project HEART (Holocaust Era Asset Restitution Taskforce), an initiative of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), in cooperation and with the support of the Government of Israel, to help Jewish families identify personal property confiscated by the Nazis and to help victims seek restitution.

“We sincerely hope that restituting Holocaust assets will assist survivors that were unable to receive proper redress until today and allow them to live out their lives with greater peace of mind despite the unspeakable losses they were forced to endure,” said Leah Nass, Israel’s deputy minister for senior citizens.

The Project HEART database consists of property addresses, insurance policies, lists of homeowners, professions, lists of known confiscated properties, business directories, and other archival information that can assist potential applicants in their research.  Archivists plan on releasing several million records, making HEART’s database the international community’s largest single-source database of lost Jewish property assets from the Holocaust era.

Project HEART’s Executive Director Bobby Brown said that the involvement of the Government of Israel in the global Holocaust restitution effort marks an important development for the victims and their heirs.

“Israel’s very strength and national determination is derived from those who were forced to experience the very worst of humanity,” he said.  “It is therefore incumbent upon the Jewish nation to do our utmost to give them some measure of justice which they have been denied for so long.”

Project HEART unveiled an initial set of archival records Wednesday in the presence of leaders of the American Jewish community.  Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and Jewish community leader James Tisch shared thoughts on the urgency of Holocaust restitution.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed attendees via video:

“This is an initiative of great importance and offers us the promise that we can finally achieve the justice so long denied to the victims of the Holocaust and their heirs,” he said.

Project HEART seeks to identify Jewish Holocaust victims and their heirs worldwide whose families owned real estate, movable, immovable, or other intangible personal property that was confiscated, looted, or forcibly sold in countries governed or occupied by the Nazi forces or Axis powers during the Holocaust era.  The only limitation for application is if a post-war settlement already has been made to a victim or the victim’s heirs for that property.  In such cases, people are not eligible to apply to Project HEART regarding that property.

To participate, individuals need to fill out the questionnaire available on HEART’s website,  Since it was launched, details about Project HEART’s purpose and the application process have been translated into 13 languages, and a 24-hour call center is operational in all languages.  To date, the project has received tens of thousands of requests for additional information.

“Since the end of World War II, the only remnant most Holocaust victims had of their property and assets were their memories and that is not acceptable,” said Anya Verkhovskaya, Project HEART’s administrative director.  “As the survivor community grows smaller, it is more important than ever to do all we can to help the remaining survivors and their descendants receive restitution.”


Chief Eichmann trial judge dies

Moshe Landau


Moshe Landau, who presided as chief judge over Adolph Eichmann’s trial in 1961, has died in Israel at 99.

Justice Landau was a refugee from Germany during the Nazi era. Wisely, he chose not to return to Danzig from study abroad in London when it became clear what the Nazis were about.

He managed what was then, and what remains, the most significant prosecution of an S.S. war criminal.

Captured by the Mossad in Argentina in 1960, Eichmann faced a 15-count indictment for being perhaps the most prominent engineer of the mechanisms of Nazi mass murder. At trial, the indictment that Landau read aloud in Hebrew was then translated into German for the benefit of the defendant.

The 100,000-word unanimous three-judge opinion at the trial’s end was also read aloud and spanned two days. Eichmann was later executed.

Justice Landau served the Israeli legal system through the 1980s.

Effort to recover property stolen during Holocaust

The Jewish Agency has launched a global effort to track down and return to the heirs or survivors of the Holocaust property that was confiscated by the Nazis and their allies during the Shoah.

It’s called the Holocaust Era Asset RestitutionTaskforce, or HEART. Those who believe they are entitled to return of property can fill out a questionnaire on the Project HEART website to see if they are eligible for assistance.

According to the website, in order to qualify for help in regaining property taken from Jews, it must have been taken in countries controlled by the Nazis or Axis powers during the Holocaust.

“The ultimate aim of Project HEART is to provide the tools, strategy, and information that will enable the government of Israel, Project HEART and its partners to secure a measure of justice for eligible Jewish victims and their heirs — and for the Jewish people,” the website says.