Holocaust Remembered 2021, Vol. 8

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Holocaust Remembered

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Women of the Holocaust

Jewish Women will be Glorious D

uring 2020, while we were all struggling to understand what was happening in our world with the pandemic, I understood that women were disproportionately affected. Women are multi-tasking all the time and most are responsible for the home, the family, the children and the elderly. After we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Women Suffrage in August of 2020 I felt that the time had come to recognize the “Women of the Holocaust’. The Polish Jewish historian, Emmanuel Ringelblum (known for his Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto) wrote, “The LILLY FILLER story of the Jewish woman will be a glorious (and critical) page in the history of Jewry (during the Holocaust).“ As you read through the articles in this edition, it will be abundantly clear the importance of the role of women in and out of the camps, in resistance, in combat and espionage, in medicine, and in caring for those around them. As with the men, many women participating with the Nazis in the Holocaust were cruel, conniving and thrived on hurting or murdering anyone in their charge, women or children. Hitler recognized that the success of Jewish annihilation was dependent on examining, experimenting, and murdering Jewish women. With the death of women came the death of birth. In January, 2021, I was reminded of the stark reality that the lives of Survivors were coming to a close. Two matriarchs in the Columbia Jewish community who were survivors, succumbed to father time: Bluma Goldberg and Dr. Marie Gross. Both had survived the horrors of the Holocaust, and then immigrated to the United States to

and teach children to defend that? Many apologies and excuses were set forward by the school district and teacher in question. But the fact remains, misinformation, disinformation and lies abound. The rise in antisemitism (42%) has reached an incredible high in the United States and in the world in the last 18 months. And the lies are told over and over, louder and louder to us. The Big Lie is a propaganda technique used for political purposes, “a gross distortion or misrepresentation of the facts.” It was coined by Joseph Goebbels and frequently used by Hitler and was first seen in his book Mein Kampf. Historian Jeffrey Herf says the idea of the original “Big Lie” was instrumental in turning sentiment against Jews and bringing about the Holocaust. It is against this backdrop that this edition of Holocaust Remembered is printed. I want to thank the many authors and contributors that have spent their time penning a piece for this supplement. We all must continue to try to understand history, tell the stories of the families who survived the Shoah, like Columbia’s two ladies, and to learn about the brave women who played an integral part in the Holocaust. ■

Female prisoners at Ravensbrück camp (colorized)

have wonderful productive lives. They are some of the last in our survivor “community”, not only in our city but in our state. You can find their stories in the 2014 first edition of Holocaust Remembered at free-times.com/holocaust. The world today is becoming unrecognizable to me. How can there be a debate about actual facts and, what we see and hear? There are only alternative opinions, not alternative facts. Several years ago when I was visiting my daughter and her family in Southern California, there was an article in the San Bernardino newspaper that attracted my attention. A middle school teacher had divided the class to debate “Did

A group of Jewish girls wearing the yellow star. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

the Holocaust Occur”. I could not believe what I was reading. How do you debate that a factual historical event did not happen

What is the Holocaust? As defined in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter’s Commission on the Holocaust:


he Holocaust was the systematic bureaucratic annihilation of 6 million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators as a central act of state during the Second World War. It was a crime unique in the annals of human history, different not only in the quantity of violence—the sheer numbers killed—but in its manner and purpose as a mass criminal enterprise organized by the state against defenseless civilian populations. The decision to kill every Jew everywhere in Europe: the definition of Jew as target for death transcended all boundaries … The concept of annihilation of an entire people, as distinguished from their subjugation, was unprecedented; never before in human history had genocide been an all-pervasive government policy unaffected by territorial or economic advantage and unchecked by moral or religious constraints … The Holocaust was not simply a throwback to medieval torture or archaic barbarism, but a thoroughly modern expression of bureaucratic organization, industrial management, scientific achievement, and technological sophistication. The entire apparatus of the German bureaucracy was marshalled in the service of the extermination process … The Holocaust stands as a tragedy for Europe, for Western Civilization, and for all the world. We must remember the facts of the Holocaust, and work to understand these facts.“



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This is the eighth edition of Holocaust Remembered (online at free-times.com/holocaust) which is sponsored by the Columbia Holocaust Education Commission (CHEC), columbiaholocausteducation.org. CHEC is committed to providing safe and factual information to the community, to teachers, and to students. We have an active speaker’s bureau, an exhibit, a grant program for teachers, and this annual Holocaust Remembered supplement which is printed and distributed by Free Times, a subsidiary of the Post and Courier. The Holocaust Remembered supplement will also be distributed in all South Carolina McClatchy markets and Gannett markets in the Upstate on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. We welcome your comments and any contribution for the continuation of this supplement can be made to CHEC or to the Selden K. Smith Holocaust Education Foundation at holocausteducationfoundation.org.


Top: Female prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in 1945; bottom: Nazi female guards with Auschwitz camp officer Karl Hoecker in 1944.

The Importance of Studying Women and the Holocaust


his issue dedicated to the role and experience of women in the Holocaust carries a special importance for its educational value for K12 teachers and students.

Studies demonstrate that K12 school social studies curriculum, standards, and textbooks are largely male-centric with women marginalized. This is a problem for two reasons. First, students cannot fully understand history if they are not learning about the role of women in historical events. Second, it is important that students see themselves in their coursework and an absence of JEFF EARGLE women in the curriculum may cause female students to disengage from learning. The Holocaust represents a unique opportunity for students to explore the role of women in three distinct ways: as leaders, as rescuers, and as intellectuals. Female leadership during the Holocaust is evident in the work of non-Jewish anti-Nazi activists and Jewish resistance and partisan groups. For example, learning about Sophie Scholl, a leader in the anti-Nazi White Rose movement, allows students the opportunity to understand women’s role in non-violent, intellectual resistance activities such as the writing of philosophical political pamphlets. Learning about the role of female participation in Jewish partisans demonstrates to students an image of women as guerrilla fighters within Nazi-occupied territories. More specifically, female leadership within the Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish Combat Organization) is exemplified by Tosia Altman and Zivia Lubetkin. Altman maneuvered throughout Nazi-occupied countries collecting documentation of systematic persecution and murder of the Jews and played a role in smuggling weapons into the Warsaw Ghetto to stage the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Lubetkin held leadership positions across multiple underground organizations and was significant in coordinating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. By teaching students about Scholl, Altman, Lubetkin, and other women activists and partisans, students see women as leaders and strategists.

Irena Sendler

Sara Ginaite

Studying female rescuers during the Holocaust presents students an opportunity to think about the importance of activism, character, and morality in shaping history. Female Jewish partisans were involved in the rescue of Jews during the Holocaust as well as providing aid to Allied soldiers behind enemy lines. However, learning about the people identified by Yad Vashem and the State of Israel as Righteous Among the Deboorah Lipstadt Debórah Dwork Nations, the non-Jews who risked their lives and freedom to save Jews during the Holocaust, is critical to students’ understanding of courage and sacrifice. According to Yad Vashem, over half of the 27,712 people awarded the title are women. An example is Irena Sendler. Sendler was a social worker who smuggled Jews out of the Warsaw Ghetto and into hiding. A member of Zegota, the underground CounWomen also serve a critical intellectual cil to Aid the Jews, Sendler was arrested by role as keepers of memory, which I conthe Nazis, sprung by the underground, and ceptualize as documenting and studying continued to aid the Jews. By learning the the Holocaust for the purpose of teachhistory of female rescuers, students delve ing future generations. Numerous female into important understandings around the survivors have written memoirs, sat for ethics and integrity of fighting oppression. interviews, and delivered public speeches This is especially important when helping to document and convey their experience. the oppressed might mean risking your Two female survivors, Sara Ginaite and own safety.

Zivia Lubetkin / US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Nechama Tec, stand out as examples. Ginaite was a Jewish partisan soldier who became an economics professor following the Holocaust and World War II. She later wrote a memoir of her experience as a partisan. On the other hand, Tec was rescued by Polish Catholics and became a sociology professor. She pursued the academic study of rescuers and partisans. Keeping memory also extends forward in time. Female children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors convey the history of families. Likewise, female historians, such as, Debórah Dwork and Deborah Lipstadt, write and teach about the Holocaust. Women serve in leadership roles at Holocaust museums and educational centers around the world. In learning this, students understand how women are active in the intellectual work on documenting the Holocaust and shaping how futures generations understand the Holocaust. Including women as important historical actors helps create for all students an appreciation for women in both the past and present. ■

By learning the history of female rescuers, students delve into important understandings around the ethics and integrity of fighting oppression. This is especially when helping the oppressed might mean risking your own safety.

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Dr. Jeff Eargle, currently a faculty member in the College of Education at the University of South Carolina, has been involved in K12 Holocaust education for 14 years.



Distinct Voices


n June 1942, Emanuel Ringelblum (1900-1944), well-known founder of the underground Oneg Shabbat archive in the Warsaw ghetto, wrote in his diary that “the future historian would have to dedicate a proper page to the Jewish woman during this war.” Recognizing her contributions, Ringelblum noted that “she will capture an important part in this Jewish history for her courage and ability to survive.” As Ringelblum and others chronicled daily life in the ghetto, bearing witness to the unfolding erasure of European-Jewish culture, he drew attention to the role of women. “Because of her,” Ringelblum observed, “many families were able to get over the terrors of these days.” His diary, stuffed into a milk cannister and buried underground before Nazi forces obliterated the Warsaw ghetto, urged future generations to add women to the annals of Holocaust history.

What Ringelblum’s reflection implied — and postwar historians have confirmed — is that gender mattered. Although Jewish men and women were equally targeted for annihilation, irrespective of age, sex, class, or other social characteristics, their experiences and responses to the Nazi onslaught differed. Women experienced the Holocaust as women: they were subjected to particular regulations, punishments, and medical experimentation. Their responses and coping skills were gender-specific, and their chances of survival were not equivalent to those of men. This does not SASKIA COENEN suggest a disparSNYDER ity in suffering, or a diminution of male trauma, but rather a recognition that gender affected victims in distinctive ways. Diaries and letters written before the war reveal that Nazi violence, from its inception, affected women differently than men. The widely-held impression that Hitler primarily targeted Jewish men — in the civil service, in business, in the German economy — incentivized husbands to leave the country in larger numbers than wives. Jewish women tended to stay behind, taking care of elderly family members or planning to follow their partners later, once they had secured economic stability elsewhere and it was safe to bring the children. After the war broke out and deportations to Nazi camps

and ghettos ensued, a disproportionate number of women boarded trains. Upon arrival at concentration camps, Nazi guards segregated deportees based on gender. Photographs of train station platforms show women and children on one side, men on the other, each group designated to separate sections of the camp.

Designed to undermine the foundations of family relationships and to weaken emotional ties, families were torn apart. Many women were incarcerated in purpose-built women’s camps. The largest and most infamous was Ravensbrück, opened in Germany in 1939, holding more than 100,000 inmates. Auschwitz-Birkenau contained a subcamp for female prisoners, as did Bergen-Belsen and many others. Because of their sex, women suffered higher lethality. Mothers arriving in Auschwitz holding the hands of children, or visibly pregnant, were immediately sent to gas chambers while fathers were more often selected for labor. Mothers and children represented the future, the continuation of the Jewish people, inciting a ruthless attempt on the part of the Nazi authorities to annihilate them — one and a half million children died in the Holocaust. As nurturers of Jewish life, the destiny of women and that of their offspring were linked, most tangibly in the selection process. The Nazis sentenced women to death not merely because they were Jews but also because they were mothers. If a pregnant woman escaped detection, she was unlikely to carry her baby to full term given the destructive conditions of

Figure 1: Deportation of Jewish women and their children, Russia, July 1941. German Federal Archives



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the camps. Lack of food and care, combined with the exhaustion of forced labor and widespread disease, rendered most pregnancies unsustainable. If she somehow managed to deliver in secret, the mother risked immediate death for herself and her infant. Surviving records from Jewish camp physicians and nurses disclose that it was not unusual for newborns to be suffocated in order to extend the life of the mother. She was forced to make choices that most men did not face. In ghettos, pregnant women were often subjected to compulsory abortion. In Lithuania, Nazi orders forced ghetto doctors to terminate pregnancies. Non-compliance meant a death sentence, for the doctor as well as his patient. Dr. Aharon Pick, a physician in the Shavli ghetto, recorded the inhumane practice in his diary, suspecting that “soon, [the Nazis] will order us to sterilize the men and then their goal to exterminate the Jews will be completed. When this happens,” he noted, “the horrors of both men and women will be equal.” Gender also shaped women’s experiences in cases of medical experimentation. Obsessed with racial science and having access to unlimited numbers of human “subjects,” Nazi doctors conducted experi-

Men and women shared experiences during the Holocaust. Gender, however, profoundly shaped these experiences … “along the stations toward extinction … each gender lived its own journey.” — HISTORIAN MARY FELSTINER

Figure 2: Nazi physician Carl Clauberg (left), performing medical experiments on prisoners in Block 10, Auschwitz

Figure 3: Women in the Lvov Ghetto, Spring 1942

ments on women’s reproductive organs, testing various methods of sterilization. Carl Clauberg, a licensed gynecologist working on fertility in Auschwitz’s infamous Block No. 10, injected chemicals into the fallopian tubes of hundreds of Jewish victims. The severe inflammation and infections that ensued caused immeasurable suffering. Many died as a result of complications while others were put to death to perform autopsies. The SS-Sturmbahnführer and medical doctor, Horst Schumann, equally experimented with sterilization methods, exposing women’s ovaries to high doses of radiation that produced burns and sores. The ability to control fertility and reproduction meant control over populations — the expansion of an Aryan Volksgemeinschaft on the one hand, and the destruction of the Jewish people on the other. Women — Jewish as well as nonJewish — were more likely than men to be subjected to sexual harassment and rape during the war. Throughout occupied Europe, inside and outside of camps, the SS established bordellen (brothels), recruiting inmates to work as prostitutes to service camp officials, soldiers, and kapos. Promising better treatment — food, improved accommodations, and possible release — the SS lured women into sex work as a means to placate the men under their control. How many of these women were Jewish is still a topic of debate. Strict laws against Rassenschande (racial shame) prohibited sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews, leading some scholars to conclude that sex work remained largely limited to gentiles. More recent scholarship, however, has indicated the desire for sexual gratification trumped Rassenschande (racial shame), and that Jewish women served as prostitutes far

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more often than previously acknowledged. In these instances, too, women experienced Nazi brutality and exploitation as women, their biological fate leading to specific abuse. Research of camp and ghetto victims suggests coping skills were also genderspecific. Lagerschwestern (camp sisters) formed close bonds to support each other in times of need, offering emotional sustenance and a sense of surrogate family — a phenomenon less common among men. As much as extreme conditions allowed, women continued to pay attention to personal hygiene, trying to keep their bodies and bunks clean. The historian Myrna Goldenberg found that many men in labor camps stopped washing and shaving, while women made efforts to clean their hair, mend clothes, and scrub their faces. Such coping mechanisms had tangible implications — better hygiene lowered the spread of disease — but they also carried psychological weight. Women helped each other cope. They maintained community, dignity, and purpose in places deliberately designed to destroy precisely that. Men and women shared many experiences during the Holocaust. Gender, however, profoundly shaped these experiences, producing distinctive treatment and responses that deserve attention. The historian Mary Felstiner accurately observed that “along the stations toward extinction … each gender lived its own journey.” Listening more carefully to women’s voices promotes a more nuanced understanding of what occurred under Nazi rule, allowing us to recognize their diversity and complexity. ■ Saskia Coenen Snyder is Associate Professor of Modern Jewish History at the University of South Carolina.



Olga Lengyel: A Continuing Legacy


ince 2007, Holocaust survivor and author Olga Lengyel’s former home in New York City has been the site of a summer seminar for teachers offered by The Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI), a professional development organization for teachers across the United States and overseas. For 11 days, middle school, high school, and college faculty in TOLI’s capstone seminar in New York meet around what is in actual fact “Olga’s table,” transforming the dining room into a space for meaningful professional exchange as they JENNIFER hear from survivors LEMBERG and scholars and share best practices for teaching about the Holocaust. Participating teachers return to their classrooms with new ideas and fresh perspectives, helping to fulfill Lengyel’s desire that her legacy be used to further Holocaust education. Lengyel’s home in New York is where the TOLI seminars have come into being, but before her death in 2001 it was also where she wrestled with the “insomnia” caused by her memory of the Holocaust, as she describes in her video testimony for the USC Shoah Foundation (1998). In particular, she was tormented by a decision she made upon her arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Born in Cluj, a city in the northwest of current-day



Romania, mother to two young sons, married to a doctor and possessed of medical training herself, Lengyel was deported along with her family in 1944. As she recounts in Five Chimneys: A Woman’s True Story of Auschwitz (1947/1995), the memoir she wrote immediately after the war, during the brutal selections performed as prisoners arrived at Auschwitz, Lengyel asked that her mother and her older son be allowed to join “the children and aged” in hopes that this would protect them (24). Her request resulted not in their greater safety but rather their immediate death in the gas chambers. Overwhelming guilt plagued Lengyel for the rest of her life, and she ultimately felt that she had “condemned her entire family to death” (1998). If elements of Lengyel’s wrenching decision seem familiar, it may be because Five Chimneys served as an important source of inspiration for author William Styron’s novel Sophie’s Choice (1979). Her memoir has also been recognized by scholars for its ability to offer greater understanding of women’s experience during the Holocaust, as demonstrated by its inclusion in Carol Rittner and John K. Roth’s critical volume Olga Lengyel’s memoir, Five Chimneys: A Woman’s True Story of Auschwitz, details the specific experiences of women at the hands of the Nazis. The cover of a 1960 reprint of Five Chimneys

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Different Voices: Women and the Holocaust (1993) which aimed to rectify an absence of women’s narratives in the growing field of Holocaust studies. Lengyel’s perspective was sharpened by her work in an infirmary, which brought her in close proximity to the mental and physical anguish of other women in the camp. Five Chimneys presents unflinching descriptions of women’s lives and deaths in Auschwitz and offers insight into some of the gendered dimensions of their experience, including specific forms of suffering, degradation and torture inflicted on women by the Nazis; the chilling consequences of pregnancy and childbirth at Auschwitz; and the small and large ways women found to resist, from trying to keep clean (and therefore healthier) to more outright acts of rebellion. In Five Chimneys Lengyel writes that she found a strong sense of purpose in aiding the resistance while she was at Auschwitz; she also repeatedly stresses the urgency of

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wanting to live in order to tell her story as an indictment and a warning. Throughout her memoir, she expresses frustration at her own and others’ inability or unwillingness to see and confront the cruelty and violence that endangered the lives of so many, and she sought to prevent that from happening again. After the war, Lengyel traveled across multiple continents and finally to New York City, where she founded an institution dedicated to the memory of World War II. The TOLI seminars, which have now been offered not only in New York but in twenty other states and ten countries across Europe, have emerged from her commitment. Today, educators within TOLI’s network continue to honor Lengyel’s story, and by teaching about the Holocaust, genocide, and social justice, to help their students build a better future. ■ Jennifer Lemberg is the Associate Director of U.S. Programs at The Olga Lengyel Institute of Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI).

Trude Heller: Nobody Would Have Us


person living in Greenville, South Carolina, today cannot underestimate the impact that Max and Trude Heller have made on the community. Max Heller, whose statue stands on Main Street, served as mayor from 1971 to 1979 and oversaw much of the development that led to the resurgence of the downtown area. His wife, Trude, now 98 years old and still living in Greenville, continues to speak about her experiences during the Holocaust, influencing the next generation of South Carolinians. Trude Schönthal Heller was born in Vienna in 1922. She describes her childhood as “wonderful,” noting that she was “an only child, very spoiled.” While she remembers some antisemitism MELINDA J. MENZER in her youth, her life changed dramatically the day that Hitler’s army marched into Austria. Mrs. Heller describes that day in an interview with SCETV: I was going to gym class. I was fifteen years old, but I wasn’t allowed to go by myself, and my parents always had somebody to go with me. And I went to this gym class, and the whole city was in an uproar because they were going to vote whether to be part of Germany or not. I did not see one swastika on the way, and I walked through the streets of Vienna. But I saw all the other signs, the three arrows and the hammer and sickle and all different color flags, and everybody was yelling for their party. The gym class was half an hour. When I came out, the city was a sea of swastikas. Every building had a swastika flag. Every policeman pulled out a swastika arm band. And everything else was gone. . . . This I’ll never forget because it was such a shock to go in without a swastika and come out. I came home, and every synagogue was burning. Under the new regime, Jews were subjected to humiliation and violence. The Schönthal family’s car and apartment were seized. Mrs. Heller describes being forced to scrub the city streets on her hands and knees with a group of other Jews; then the others were taken away, and she was left by herself, surrounded by men who touched her. She recalls that when she got away, “I went home, and I cried for 36 hours. . . . You know, I was very brave when it was going on, but I was only fifteen years old.”

Trude Heller / Courtesy of ELYSIAN magazine

Trude and Max Heller, 1942

After surviving the violence of Kristallnacht by hiding for 28 hours in a locked room, the Schönthal family decided to put all their energies into escape. Mrs. Heller describes the difficulties of immigrating, “We’d lost everything already, so we wanted to get out, and we couldn’t find anyplace to go. Nobody would have us. Even if you could get a visa in another country, if you had to go through another country, they wouldn’t let you because they were afraid you’d stay there. So we had no place to go.” In January 1939, however, her father received a letter to go to the Gestapo; they knew he had to flee Austria, even without legal papers. Traveling alone, he managed to elude the border authorities and eventually made it to Antwerp, where he wrote the family and asked them to join him. Trude and her mother followed, traveling to Cologne, and then spent five weeks trying

spoke a little English, and I said [to the consul], ‘Believe me, we will work. We don’t need help. We’ll do anything.’ And I think maybe he believed me, and he said, ‘Okay, you and your mother will get a visa, but not your father because he is a different quota.’ My father was born in Krakow, Poland, so he was on the Polish quota. My mother and I were born in Vienna.” At that time, the United States would admit many immigrants from Austria but very few from Eastern EuropeTrude Heller in the 1940s an countries like Poland. Trude remembers that even when she was settled in Greenville years later, “Max and I both tried always to bring people out and to talk to people about how you can save lives. It was very difficult because of the quota system.” Trude and her mother made it to the United States, however, and they started working to get her father papers to join them. The family was reunited in New York City. Trude never returned to school; instead she went to work, “putting flowers on hats,” she recalls. She also made contact with Max Heller, a childhood friend who had independently made Trude and Max Heller, 2010 / Photo by James T. Hammond it to the United States and was living in Greenville. They married, to cross across the border, guided by men and she joined him in South Carolina, where who demanded money from the desperate they raised three children together. refugees. Mrs. Heller describes their repeated Mrs. Heller notes that her experiences attempts, “We’d take a train to Aachen, which taught her of the importance of kindness and is on the border, and then the guide would empathy. Speaking directly to the children take us, on the regular [train] tracks or in the of South Carolina, she says, “I’d like to say to woods. And each time, we were caught. I rethe children who see this that they should member lying in a ditch and the car coming be kind to their fellow man always and not and a rifle being stuck in my shoulders. And do ugly things to them because that’s how it then they’d take us back and search us.” It started. And it becomes easier and easier to was only on the fifth attempt that they finally do it, I think. I think people see other people crossed the border and the family reunited in doing ugly things, and they’ll join them in Antwerp. doing it. And that’s how posses are made. I The family, however, could not legally think that people should treat people like they remain in Belgium. They obtained visas would like to be treated themselves, and I’ve to Chile, but they were arbitrarily revoked. tried to do that.” ■ They then tried to get visas to the United States, but their attempts were only partially Dr. Melinda J. Menzer is a professor of English at Furman University in Greenville. She has successful, due to the restrictions of the U.S. spoken to audiences across the Upstate about quota system. Mrs. Heller, still just a teenager, her family’s Lithuanian Holocaust experience. went to the American consulate herself, “I

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Sol Bleiweis: “Be outspoken, be good … be kind.”

Beverly and Sol Bleiweis were married for almost 60 years. Right: Beverly and Sol’s wedding day in 1961.


rom the moment you walked through the shady red doorway at Sol Bleiweis’ Florida home, you had the instant feeling that you were the most important person to which he had ever told his life story. His booming voice and thick embrace would greet you at the door. The cologne would hit you first. The swish of his matching red tracksuit would be second. As you looked down to realize that yes, his shoes do in fact match everything he’s wearing, you’d hear the first joke. There’s a 50/50 chance it was inappropriate. As you sunk down into the dark fold of a leather couch in the den, he’d sit across from you in his favorite recliner. The SAM BLEIWEIS television is blasting (it’s always the news) and the relics of a century quite literally surround you. There, in that moment, you’d begin your living, breathing tour of a life that most people could never imagine. My grandfather, Sol Bleiweis, was born “Salek Blajwajs” in Łódź, Poland on December 24th, 1928 to his mother, Esther, who was a housewife and his father, Henry, who was a tailor. Salek, who would eventually



become “Sol,” would describe a close family that was disciplined and harmonious. If he ever invoked the name of his brother, Jacob, in conversation he would always begin that story with: “My brother ... may he Rest In Peace.” He describes his religious upbringing that mirrored the tremendous Jewish life in Łódź. In 1939, the Blajwajs’ beloved city was segregated and outfitted with barbed wire and fences as the Łódź ghetto was born. Their previously spacious four-bedroom family apartment quickly became overcrowded as the Nazis packed Jews from across the country into a tiny section of the city. Food was scarce. A pre-teen Sol stole small bits of food rations to help his family survive. “It was too much to die but too little to live on,” he said in an interview. While my grandfather was quick to regale you with stories of cleverness, resourcefulness and perseverance, the stories you rarely heard were those of his time in the concentration camps. To this day we are still separating fact from fiction. We are still learning the exact details of where he was and when, as those particular stories were too painful to bear when he breathed oxygen into them. What we do know is that 15-yearold Sol and his family were shipped to

Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944 where his brother was shot and killed upon entry. My grandfather survived death marches by sheer willpower and luck, spending time in Trzebinia and Sachsenhausen before he was eventually led to BergenBelsen and liberated in 1945 by the British Army. He traveled Europe boxing and playing soccer while looking for family members in the wake of his liberation. His father, Henry, could not find Sol on any survivor’s list. They eventually reunited in Utting am Ammersee, Germany. Together, they emigrated to the United States. Throughout his Sol Bleiwies traveled Europe boxing and playing soccer while looking for life my grandfather was a family members in the wake of his liberation. cook, a tailor, a business friends in 1960 and were quickly insepaowner, a sales executive and a veteran. rable. He married his “Brooklyn broad,” as Even if you were only in his house for a he lovingly called her, in 1961. They were few short minutes, you’d know two things just shy of celebrating 60 married years. My he cherished most before you left. He loved grandparents had three children together, his Korean War veteran hat that sat proudly and I am the oldest of their eldest child, displayed on his coffee table. But what he Mark. Sol’s proudest achievements were loved even more was the woman, Beverly never his own, but rather those achieveBleiweis, who sat beside him. The pair ments of the names that followed after him met in Brooklyn, New York through mutual on the family tree. When you walk into the house now, all is quiet. The matching suits hang delicately in a bedroom closet. The shoes are stacked neatly on a rack underneath. The living room is still full of trinkets, family photos and unopened mail. The memories and the stories hang heavy on the walls. My grandfather was complicated and gregarious. He was boisterous and proud. But mostly, he was beloved by children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He passed away on June 15th, 2020 in his home. An interviewer once asked my grandfather: “what message would you leave for your children and grandchildren who may watch this?” He said, “Don’t ever deny your nationality. Don’t ever stand still and let things like this happen. Be outspoken, be good … be kind.” It is only now — in his passing — that we can begin to write the full story. ■

Sol Bleiweis served in the Korean War.

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Sam Bleiweis is an award-winning anchor and reporter at WIS-TV in Columbia, South Carolina.

Hans and Lilly Zollner — More than a Boat Ride


he double wedding on May 23, 1942, was a simple affair. My Dad, Paul, wore his World War II enlisted man’s uniform, Uncle Hans wore a dark suit, while my mom, Lilly, and my Aunt Otti, my uncle’s wife, wore fancy, white wedding gowns. Their lives had radically changed since fleeing the terror of Hitler’s Vienna. This is the story of their journey. In 1939, Alexander (Zander) Zollner and Grethe (Kohn) Zollner, my grandparents and affluent Viennese restauranteurs/resort owners made the difficult decision to send their two children, Hans and Lilly, to SUSIE America by boat. GOLDSTEIN Hans recalled, “Getting a passport was a dreadful experience at the Passport Office on Prince Eugen Strasse, where SS soldiers hit us over the head or told us to go home! Although they wanted Jews out of the country, they made the process impossible!” Hans finally received his American Visa on September 27, 1939, his passport three days later, and purchased tickets on the Conti di Savoya, that would set sail on October 5. Together, Hans and Lilly travelled to Genoa, Italy after “[D]evastatingly painful farewells to their beloved parents and nanny/housekeeper Anna. They were filled with the anxieties and fears of danger, yet excited to embark on a new life in America.” They easily travelled from Austria to Italy spending several pleasant days in Genoa before boarding the ship. Interestingly, Hans Lilly and Hans wrote, “Maybe the staZollner as children bilizer kept the Conte Di Savoya from rolling but I, who usually get seasick on the Danube, was fine!” He continued, “As we sailed over the beautiful, blue Mediterranean, someone spotted a warship on the horizon! We were terrified as the boat circled. Finally, the ship’s loudspeaker ordered all Austrian males to assemble on the upper deck with a

The Conte Di Savoya set sail on Oct. 5, 1939, with Hans and Lilly Zollner aboard on route to Italy. Photo by Frederic Logghe

Left: Paul and Lilly Spergel (my parents). Right: Hans (Lilly’s brother) and Otti Zollner. The couples got married in a double wedding in 1942.

Zollner’s kosher restaurant was located on the first floor, my grandparent’s residence on the second, and the remainder of my grandfather’s siblings and families lived on the upper two floors.

small piece of luggage. Women cried. We were taken to Algiers; interrogated by the French who were looking for a German spy and loaded us onto a bus, each prisoner sitting between two French soldiers holding loaded rifles with long bayonets. Our destination was ‘Camp Suzzoni,’ a camp in the Sahara Desert. Conditions were grave. Barbed wire surrounded the camp and our tent had a hole in the

ground that was the toilet for prisoners. Food consisted of soup with ham harder than leather. The daunting task was to build a road wearing our best suits as we had no other clothes. The daytime desert sun scorched us; the nights were frigid. We put all our clothing on to keep warm. Chubby Mr. Bruckner wore his wife’s fancy nightgown and bra every night, as he accidentally brought his wife’s piece of luggage off the boat! He also had to bear our nightly laughter! My passport and visa had expired leaving me in a terrible situation as my return to Germany would be as one who had no right to return. After writing to the American Consulate, the response

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was not encouraging because I did not know when I would be released or how I could continue my interrupted travel to America.” Han’s sister, Lilly, continued to travel on the Conte Di Savoya despite the separation from her brother. My Aunt Otti wrote about Hans, “After three months in the Sahara Desert, the prisoners were released. Hans returned to the American Consulate to address his expired visa, pleading, ‘If you send me back, I will be killed so I will jump out of the window right now to kill myself before I go back!’” Hans finally had his visa renewed. Meanwhile, from Otti’s account, my mother, “Lilly was 16 years old and terrified on the Conte di Savoya. She sailed to America knowing no one on the ship. Once in America, Lilly lived with Freddy Kohn, her mother’s brother, whom she had never met and who had no idea how to take care of a young girl who had just endured such trauma!! Lilly was sent to work as a nanny and then to a millinery factory making hats.” Otti sailed to America later in 1939. Lilly renewed her acquaintance with a fellow Viennese that she saw in the US and a flame between them grew! When Hans arrived in the United States three months later, his sister was dating Paul, and Hans reconnected with Otti, whose heartfelt letters helped him survive his ordeal. The two couples had a double wedding on May 23, 1942, when the men were on leave from the army. Lilly and Otti shared an apartment in the absence of their spouses because they always said, “They loved each other more than sisters.” Later, Hans and Otti had their son, Robby, while Paul and Lilly had Susie and Peter and the seven of them remained incredibly close throughout their lives. ■ Susie Goldstein is a retired speech and language therapist. She spends half her time in Long Island and half her time with daughter Meredith Goldstein and family in Columbia.



The Seven Year Nightmare My Grandmother “Savta” Henia


very person is made of stories. Some stories we write ourselves through the choices we make and the paths we follow. Others we learn from our parents, teachers, elders, and friends. Yet some of the stories that shape us most profoundly are the ones we may never hear, but that nonetheless are always around us. This is one such story. It happened many years before I was born, and I never heard it fully told until I was an adult. Yet I realize that it was always there, shaping me, and it continues to do so today more than ever before. At the beginning of 1938, my one-yearold mother, Mary Meiseles, and her parents, Yechiel and Henia Meiseles, both Jewish immigrants AMIT ALMOR from the Ukrainian region of post- World War I Poland, were living above the grocery store they owned in central Vienna. Little did they know that, by the end of that year, their burgeoning new prosperous life, away from the confines and poverty of the shtetl, would be shattered by the Anschluss — the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany. Days after the Germans assumed control,

Savta strolling with baby Mary Meiseles (my mother) in 1937 visiting family in Poland with Savta’s uncles on either side, both named Chaim.



my grandfather Saba Yechiel found himself standing in front of his store forced to wear a sign warning passersby that he was a Jewish pig and that they should not buy anything from him. My grandmother Savta Henia, who had a handicap in her hips limiting her movement, was forced to clean sidewalks on her knees, with only a toothbrush in her bare hands. Sensing that the persecution of Jews would accelerate, my grandparents became desperate to leave. They tried to renew their Polish passports only to discover that the Polish government had revoked their citizenship, leaving them with no legal way to return home, nor travel anywhere else. In retrospect, this turn of events saved their lives. The relatives that remained in Poland did not have long to live. Henia’s family was shot into a grave they had to dig themselves and Yechiel’s perished in the death camps. As a property owner, my grandfather was one day given the choice of leaving Austria within twenty-four hours or being sent to a concentration camp. At that time, Viennese Jews only returned from these camps as ashes delivered to their families with no explanation. With no legal way to travel, my grandfather hired a smuggler to help him escape to Belgium, which, at the time, was still a free country. It was only at the last moment that my grandmother, who at that time could remain free with my toddler mother in Vienna, insisted that they join him despite the dangerous journey. Thus began a seven-year nightmare escape across Western Europe that only ended in May 1943, when my mother and her parents managed to smuggle the border from France to Switzerland. They stayed there until they immigrated to Israel in 1945. While perhaps not as familiar as the stories of those who were taken to the camps, my family’s experience likewise consisted of immense suffering and constant fear. Theirs was an ordeal of fortuitous last minute and often seemingly irrational decisions, daring escapes, periods of hiding, imprisonments, APRIL 7, 2021


My grandparents Savta Henia and Saba Yechiel on Jan. 18, 1936, in Krakow, Poland, six months before Mary’s birth.

and long periods of starvation and homelessness. Yet in the end, it yielded survival against all odds. My family’s story would not have ended the way it did if it were not for my grandmother’s resourcefulness and instinctive recognition of imminent danger. She was the one who made the decision to run at the right time. She was the one who freed my grandfather from jail three times and escaped from the Police Station by herself in order to save a group of Jewish children who were imprisoned with their parents, after being caught trying to smuggle the border from France to Spain. She was the one who made critical decisions about when to send my mom to be cared for by

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others, somehow knowing to avoid sending her to a French village (Oradour-sur-Glane) that was later massacred after the Nazis discovered that some villagers were hiding Jews. Sadly, my grandmother’s instincts that shepherded her and her family through the war, proved an affliction after the war ended. For the rest of her life she suffered from physical and mental maladies brought on by aching fear. Although she passed away when I was quite young, I remember her mainly as a person who always worried and was never at ease. I remember her worrying about me, whether I ate enough, whether I grew enough, whether I was warm enough. I do not remember her smiling. I do not remember her hugs, her kisses, or any signs of warmth. As I got older, I came to realize that her experiences during the war did not allow her to ever again sit back and enjoy life, because the next danger was always right around the corner, and it was she who would have to confront it for us all. The story of my family in the years 19381943 is one upon which rest all the other narratives that have formed me. I regularly smile, hug my family and express warmth towards the people I love, yet I find myself often simultaneously experiencing my grandmother’s fear for what waits around the next corner. While dormant for most of my life, this unease has been heightened over the past few years, and it is for this reason that I am sharing this story with you now. It is my hope that it helps us to remember the Holocaust and the long shadow it still casts. Let us never allow this to happen again. Not to Jews. Not to anyone. “Savta” Henia Meiseles Z”L passed away on Sept. 9, 1970, at the age of 66. “Saba” Yechiel Meiseles Z”L passed away on July 18, 1995, at the age of 86. ■ Amit Almor is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Linguistics at USC and was named Mungo Distinguished Professor of the Year in 2020.

Thoughts of Anne Frank Becoming a Woman


he Second World War claimed tens of million lives and produced legendary figures of good and evil like Churchill and Hitler, Roosevelt and Stalin, Eisenhower and Mussolini. Yet from this global trauma, whose words captured the world’s imagination? It was Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl and victim of the Holocaust. After her tragic death, she became one of the most widely published, translated and read people in human history. But her many smiling photos, from a happier time and younger age, can obscure the depth of insight and achievement of the Diary’s more mature author. We discover the emergence of a young woman who resents the restrictions not only of hiding but also of tradition. “I’ve made up my mind to lead a different life from other girls, and not to become an ordinary housewife later on.” (5/3/44) We can best appreciate her journey into womanhood in her own words, through excerpts from the Diary. Anne wanted the freedom to be a different kind of woman than her parents’ generation expected, a modern woman: “Modern women want the right to be completely independent! DOYLE STEVICK … I believe that in the course of the next century the notion that it’s a woman’s duty to have children will change and make way for the respect and admiration of all women, who bear their burdens without complaint or a lot of pompous words!” (6/13/44)

Anne Frank’s room

© Anne Frank House / Photographer: Cris Toala

Further, “I can’t imagine having to live like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!” (4/5/44) Her desire for freedom extended to love itself: “I’m pretty sure Margot would never kiss a boy unless there was some talk of an engagement or marriage. I’m also sure that Mother never touched a man before she met Father…we’re cooped up here, cut off from the world, anxious and fearful... Why should we stay apart when we love each other? Why

shouldn’t we kiss each other in times like these?” (4/17/44) Her dreams required that she develop a path distinct from her family’s. “I’m becoming more and more independent of my parents. Young as I am, I face life with more courage and have a better and truer sense of justice than Mother. I know what I want, I have a goal, I have opinions, a religion and love. If only I can be myself, I’ll be satisfied. I know that I’m a woman, a woman with inner strength and a great deal of courage! If God lets me live, I’ll achieve more than Mother ever did, I’ll make my voice heard, I’ll go out into the world and work for mankind!” (4/11/44). Of course, she did not live to see her dreams come true: “My greatest wish is to be a journalist, and later on, a famous writer.” (5/11/44) But the possibility to achieve the dream was owed in large part to the powerful female role models in her own life, the young women and office workers Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl who risked their own lives to save them. Everything eight people needed to live for two years had to be acquired outside:

Beb Voskuijl

Miep Gies

Above and left: Anne Frank

“Miep has so much to carry she looks like a pack mule. She goes forth nearly every day to scrounge up vegetables, and then bicycles back with her purchases in large shopping bags. She’s also the one who brings five library books with her every Saturday. We long for Saturdays because that means books. We’re like a bunch of little kids with a present. Ordinary people don’t know how much books can mean to someone who’s cooped up. Our only diversions are reading, studying and listening to the radio.” (7/13/43) Anne kept a Diary for herself, but when a radio broadcast suggested that such documents would have historical importance, she began to rewrite it with one eye on her younger self and another on a public audience and here we see her growth: “I wouldn’t be able to write that kind of thing anymore. © Anne Frank House Now that I’m rereading my diary after a year and a half, I’m surprised at my childish innocence.” (1/22/44) After the Holocaust, her father blended the original and rewritten versions into the one we know today. ■ Doyle Stevick is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of South Carolina and Director of the UofSC partnership with the Anne Frank House.

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The Good, the



he life of Gisella Perl, born December 10, 1907 was filled with promise from the beginning. She was born in Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania and graduated number one in her secondary class and the only Jew. She had decided by the time she was 16 that she wanted to become a doctor. This was initially discouraged by her father Maurice Perl, for fear that she would abandon Judaism, but he relented several months later when Gisella stated “ I swear on this (prayer) book that wherever life will take me, under whatever circumstance, I shall always remain a good , true Jew.” She became a Gynecologist and soon married an internist (Krauss) with whom she had a son and daughter. In 1944, Dr. Perl and her family were sent to Auschwitz where they were separated. Her daughter was successfully hidden with a non-Jewish family, but everyone else was taken to the crematorium. Dr. Joseph Mengele, German physician and SS Captain of Auschwitz assigned Perl to the hospital. Initially her duties were minor and standard, but as he watched Perl interact successfully with all patients, especially women, she was ordered to report all pregnant patients to Mengele. He asserted that he would then send them to a differ-

Gisella Perl’s autobiography, published in 1948



Gisella Perl as a medical student. The Wiener

Holocaust Library

ent camp for “better nutrition and care.” Following these orders, Perl began to note that these pregnant women were taken to the “research block” and ultimately to the crematorium. She then decided that there would no longer be any pregnant woman at Auschwitz. Some women arrived at Auschwitz pregnant, but many more were sexually assaulted, some used sex for favors and some were treated as private property. Given no medicine, no antiseptics, no clean wipes, no surgical tools or instruments, Perl began a massive attempt to abort all pregnancies, using her own hands to do so. When she learned of a pregnant patient, she would explain that if the SS realized it, that both the mother’s life and the life of her unborn child would be over. Perl would perform the termination and silence the fetus or baby with suffocation. Perl envisioned a world where these women would have children with their loved ones after the war, raising them outside of the horrors of war and the concentration camp. “No one will ever know what it meant to me to destroy these babies,” she wrote. But “if I had not done it, both mother and child would have been cruelly murdered. Towards the end of the war, there were rare cases of live births within the camps, but by then the Germans were preoccupied with the Allies closing in. In her 1948 autobiography “I was a Doctor in Auschwitz” she recounted that she would treat patients with her voice, her hands, and telling them stories about an optimistic future. As the Russians approached Auschwitz in 1945, Perl was moved to a camp near APRIL 7, 2021


Gisella Perl in New York

Hamburg and then to Bergen-Belsen. After the war, she thought that her entire family had been murdered. She discovered that her daughter survived. The guilt and pain of her actions during the Shoah and the burden of survival of the Holocaust, led to a suicide attempt in 1947. She survived and later that year, on a temporary visa and sponsored by the Hugarian-Jewish Appeal and United Jewish Appeal, she came to the US to speak to doctors about her experiences. She was invited to lunch with Eleanor Roosevelt and in that lunch, she

was encouraged to begin practicing again. Perl credits Mrs. Roosevelt for her decision to reenter the gynecological world and she was granted US citizenship in 1951, moving to NYC and practicing at Mt Sinai hospital, specializing in infertility. She eventually opened her own practice on Park Avenue and made it her sole mission to bring life into the world. “I was the poorest doctor on Park Avenue, but I had the greatest practice; all of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen were my patients.” Each time she entered the delivery room, she would pray “G-d, you owe me a life — a living baby.” In 1979 she moved to Herzliya, Israel, to be with her daughter, Gabriella Krauss Blattman, and grandson to fulfill a vow she made in 1944 to her father and husband. “After four days in the cattle car that took us to Auschwitz, suddenly the SS officers opened the door, and prisoners in striped pajamas threw us out. My father and husband both embraced me saying, ‘We will meet someday in Jerusalem.’” Dr Perl is often referred to as ‘The Angel of Auschwitz’. Her experiences are documented in her 1948 autobiography which was one of the earliest and only books openly discussing the sexual violence suffered by women during the Holocaust. Dr. Gisella Perl passed away on December 16, 1988 at age 81. ■

Hermine Braunstiener


ermine Braunsteiner was born in Vienna, Austria on July 16, 1919 and was the youngest child in the strictly observant Roman Catholic work class family. Her father was a chauffeur for a brewery and a butcher. Hermine wanted to become a nurse, but did not have the financial means to do so, so she worked as a maid. From 1937-1938 she worked for an American engineer’s household. In 1938 she became a German citizen and relocated to Berlin where she worked with aircraft. At the urging of her landlord, Hermine applied for a better paying job and on August 15, 1939 she reported to work at the Ravensbrück concentration camp. After a working dispute with her supervisor at Ravensbrück, she relocated to duties at Majdanek on October 16, 1942. She was promoted to assistant wardress in January 1943. She had multiple roles in Majdanek,

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with selections of women and children to be sent to the gas chambers and whipping of several women to death. Hermine became known for her wild rages and tantrums. She would pull children by the hair to the gas chambers and she would stomp on women with her steel studded jackboots, earning her the nickname “The Stomping Mare”. For her work she received the War Merit Cross, 2nd class in 1943. In January, 1944, she was ordered back to Ravensbrück and promoted to supervising wardress at Genthin, a sub-camp of Ravensbrück, located outside of Berlin. She abused many women with a horsewhip that she carried. On May 7, 1945, she fled the camp ahead of the Red army and returned to Vienna. She was arrested on her return to Austria and was incarcerated, had a trial for mistreatment of prisoners and crimes against humanity at Ravensbrück. She was found

Bad, the Evil Prisoners in Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp

Female guards at Ravensbrück, circa 1940

Ravensbrück Concentration Camp


avensbrück Concentration Camp is the one and only camp, designed and guarded by women. In early 1938, Heinrich Himmler began to plan a concentration camp for “deviant “ women, prostitutes, abortionists , socialists, habitual criminals, communists, Jehovah’s witnesses , Jews, and others. A site near the village of Ravenbruck in the picturesque Lake District of Mecklenburg, an hour away from Berlin was chosen and on May 15, 1939, 867 women arrived. A crematorium was built in 1944 to take the overflow from Auschwitz. The Ravensbrück concentration camp was the largest camp for women in the German Reich, housing about 150.000 guilty and was imprisoned until April 1950. An Austrian civil court granted her amnesty and she then worked in menial jobs. She met Russell Ryan, an American vacationing in Austria and they married in October 1958 in Nova Scotia. She entered the US on April, 1959, lived in Maspeth, Queens and became a US citizen on January 19, 1963. She was known as friendly, a fastidious housewife and a loving wife. Quite by accident, the Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal picked up her trail while in Tel Aviv in 1964. Awaiting a companion to join Wiesenthal for lunch, the Maitre d’ called out his name in the restaurant, for which patrons stood and applauded and several Majdanek survivors approached his table to tell him about Braunstiener and what she had done. He was able to trace her journey from Vienna to Nova Scotia and then to Queens. A young reporter, Joseph Lelyveld was recruited to “find” Mrs. Ryan in Maspeth. She greeted him at the door, ”My G-d, I knew this would happen. You’ve

during the war. It was second in size only to the women’s camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Unlike many other camps, Ravensbrück was not recorded by professional film crews and does not fit well into the Holocaust story. It contained relatively small numbers compared to others and the majority of prisoners were not Jews, but filled with prisoners with “supposed” deviant behavior. Aside from the male SS administrators, the camp staff included only female guards assigned to oversee the prisoners. These female guards were not members of the SS, but were members of the so-called “female civilian employees of the SS”. It was felt that the camp was pri-

marily constructed to train female guards. Himmler thought that working solely with women would be an easier way to teach the guards the necessary tools to “control, direct, punish, and kill” those that deserved this treatment. However, the truth was soon noted as female guards promised to be as brutal as their male counterparts. Torture, medical experimentation, sexual assault, and beatings were a regular exercise for the camp guards. Survivor stories confirm the brutality experienced at Ravensbrück. Perhaps, one of the best known secrets, was the “brothel atmosphere” in a section of the camp that fulfilled the “needs” of male and female guards from other camps.

Hermine Braunsteiner

come.“ Because Hermine had not disclosed her prior convictions for war crimes, she was denaturalized in 1971 and entered into a consent judgement to avoid deportation. However, once a prosecutor in Dusseldorf began investigating her wartime behavior, she was accused of joint responsibility in the death of 200,000 people. After several years in and out of the courts, Hermine was extradited on August 7, 1973 to West Germany. Hermine Braunstiener Ryan became the first Nazi war criminal extradited from the US to West Germany. She was remanded in Dusseldorf until her husband posted bail, while proclaiming “There’s no more decent person on this earth. She told me this was a duty she had to perform. It was a conscriptive service”. It was then ruled that she had been a German citizen at the time and more importantly had been a German government official acting in the name of the German Reich. She stood in trial in West Germany with 15 other former SS men and

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Prisoners were paraded in front of a panel when they arrived and those that appeared “desirable” were taken aside, foregoing the shaving of the hair so that they remained attractive to the guards. Camp authorities sought to exploit the women forced to work in these brothels for meeting or surpassing production quotas. A group of female students working in the underground resistance were brought to Ravensbrück and called “Rabbits” since they were used by the Third Reich as laboratory animals for medical experiments. The Nazis used their limbs to recreate war wounds and infected those wounds with aggressive bacteria, wood chips and glass, trying to cause gas gangrene. They also had nerves, muscles and bones removed to mutilate their legs in these experiments. Others in the camp tried to defy the Nazis by bringing in extra food and smuggling out messages to the outside world. On February 4, 1945, these Rabbits learned of their death sentence, so the inmates came up with a plan to hide the Rabbits in the predawn hours, and it worked. Sixty-three of the Rabbits survived. As one surviving Rabbit said, “You could say that the entire camp helped us, hid us, protected us.” Ravensbrück concentration camp was liberated by the Soviets on April 30, 1945. ■ women from Majdaneck. Her actions of stomping prisoners with her steel boots, seizing children by the hair and throwing them in the trucks to the gas chambers, vicious beatings to many were a few of the counts. This third Majdanek trial was the most expensive and longest one in West Germany. The court found her guilty of the murder of 80 people, abetting the murder of 102 children, and collaborating in the murder of 1,000 people. The court imposed a life sentence. Complications due to diabetes, including a leg amputation, led to her release from Mulheimer women’s prison in 1996. She died on April 19, 1999, aged 79 in Bochum, Germany. ■ Lilly Filler is Co-Chair of CHEC, Chair of SC Council on the Holocaust, and daughter of Holocaust Survivors. She is a retired Obstetrician/Gynecologist.



The Designated Area for Ruth Baruch


uring WW II almost all countries in the world shut their doors to the Jews. As the persecution of the Jews flourished in Europe, there was virtually nowhere for them to go. However, Shanghai, China, was an open port city which required no papers or visas, and by the end of June 1939, nearly 10,000 European Jewish refugees had escaped to Shanghai. Within the next 7 months, thousands more would arrive, totaling almost 20,000 people. The Ohel Moshe Synagogue was the primary place of worship for the Jewish refugees in Shanghai.

Soon after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and declared war on the allies, Japan invaded Shanghai’s foreign concessions and occupied the whole city. The war ended the flow of American funds to the impoverished Jewish refugees and the Japanese imposed restrictions on the Jews. In 1943, Japan officially established the “Restricted Sector for Stateless Refugees”, better known as the Shanghai Ghetto, forcing most Jews to live there. Just try and imagine the adjustBARBARA ments these people GOLDSTEIN had to make. The climate, the customs, the language, the dress, nothing was even remotely familiar. The living conditions were deplorable and the deprivation was rampant. Yet, somehow, they managed not only to exist, but built a life for themselves in this foreign land. Many, like my mother, Ruth Baruch, lived there for 10 years or more. People

opened businesses, children went to school, synagogues were established, sports teams were formed and life happened. They managed to build a little Europe, surrounded by Asia. Ruth Baruch, was born in 1935 in Danzig, Germany, now Gdansk Poland. In August, 1939, my grandmother Sarah was pregnant with her third child when the family fled to Shanghai. My grandfather, Moritz, brought his mother, Bertha, with the family to Shanghai, since he was an only child and could not leave her in Germany. By the Spring of 1943, the Japanese, who occupied Shanghai, created a ghetto into which all stateless refugees had to move. This included thousands of Jews. The living conditions now worsened. This ghetto was called Hongkew. Many of the refugees arrived in China penniless. Some found it hard to adjust to the tropical climate and contracted typhus, dysentery, beriberi, cholera and other diseases. There were 1,700 deaths in the ghetto; 31 people died in the American bombing raid on July 17, 1945. My mother Ruth lived in this ghetto until 1949 with her parents, brothers, and grandmother.

Left: Isak Baruch at 6 years old; middle: Sam Baruch at 8 years old; right: Ruth Baruch at 10 years old, circa 1945 in Shanghai.

On April 27, 2006, at the invitation of the local Chinese government, my mother, who ultimately had her home in Boca Raton, Florida, was among 112 guests composed of former Shanghai Jewish refugees, their spouses, and children. They came to Shanghai to celebrate their tenth reunion. The previous Shanghai refugees had met in different cities over the years and this time, they came not as stateless refugees but as proud citizens of their new adopted country, mostly of the United States. The first reunion had been held in 1980 with over 800 attending. The reunions were planned every few years, since it was hard for everyone to meet from all over the world. Each time less people came, but they were glad to reconnect over the years of the past. I joined my mom, Ruth Baruch Spiegler for this reunion in Shanghai. During a walk on the famous

In 2006, former Jewish refugees and their families visited the Shanghai Ghetto. Left: the author Barbara Goldstein and her mother Ruth Baruch Spiegler. Right: Ruth and her childhood friends, Erica and Helen, at the monument to “The Designated Area” in Shanghai. They played in this park 50 years earlier.



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Shanghai Bund with its European architecture from the ‘20s and ‘30s, she explained to me, that this area along the waterfront was off-limits to her, her mother and grandparents during the war and to all other refugees that immigrated in the late ‘30s. During this 2006 visit, we gathered at a previously erected monument, dedicated to the former Jewish Ghetto in Hongkew. We signed a proposal calling on UNESCO to ensure that this area that was home to approximately 20,000 Jews during WWII, would be preserved by granting it “Heritage Status”. It has been referred to in the past by historians and “Shanghailanders” (Jewish refugees from Shanghai) as “The Designated Area” and consists of approximately 69 acres. The Hongkew district which was located north of the Suzhou Creek in the Settlement of Shanghai was a thriving community created by Jewish refugees in the early to mid-’40s in spite of the hardships that were associated with the war. This included living within the confine of a ghetto that was imposed by the Japanese military authority. The refugees tried to survive within a culture that was strange to them, with the cafes, schools and cultural institutions, and maintained hospitals and clinics for the sick. Several newspapers in their native language were also in circulation during and after the war. Following World War II, China, ultimately descended into a civil war. It ended in the victory for the Communist Party in 1949, and consequently almost all the Shanghai Jews emigrated by 1956. My mother’s immediate family survived there until 1949 when they moved to Israel for six years. In 1955, they moved to New York where my parents, Ruth and Marcel met and married in 1957. They were both sponsored by family members to come to the United States. My mom, Ruth loved to reminisce about all her experiences of growing up in the ghetto where she was living in propinquity with thousands of other stateless Jewish refugees. She remembered many names of her peers and elders that were living in the “designated Area” during that particular era, and could make a connection with almost any name mentioned today by a “Shanghailander”. I dubbed her the “Hongkew Encyclopedia”. Ruth Baruch Spiegler passed away on July 14, 2011. She left behind her stories, her connections from Shanghai and many of her Chinese treasures. I, Barbara Goldstein, her daughter, and my brother, Allen, are so proud of her strength and resilience during her childhood and am proud to have experienced a little time with mom in The Designated Area in 2006. ■ Barbara Goldstein is Executive Director of the Holocaust Education Resource Council, Tallahassee, Florida.

Sara Ginaite — A Litvak Resistance Fighter other “domestic” work in the encampment. She tells the story of her first mission as a partisan, commandeering grain from a local farmer: The farmer’s wife offered us food but we declined, saying we were in a hurry. She looked me over carefully and told me that war was not for women to fight. I didn’t wait for a reply as I asked her, “And is the killing of women and children proper work for men?” and left the house.

Sara Ginaite-Rubinson (second from right) escaped the Kaunas ghetto in Dec. 1943 and joined the Rudininkai Forest partisans where she engaged in direct combat against Nazis in Vilnius. All photos courtesy of US Holocaust Memorial Museum


ll throughout Europe, Jewish fighters resisted the Nazi occupation. Among the bravest and boldest were the Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) partisans, who attacked German soldiers, blew up bridges and roads, cut phone lines, and worked to smuggle people out of the ghettos and food and supplies into them. These fighters included many women, some only teenagers, who joined the encampments in Rudininkai Forest and fought alongside men. One of the surviving partisans, Sara Ginaite-Rubinson, wrote a memoir of her experiences, describing her life as a student before the Soviet invasion of Lithuania, the deteroriating conditions for Jews under the Soviets, and then, with the German invasion of the country, her enslavement in the Kaunas ghetto and the torture and murder she witnessed. Ginaite-Rubinson’s book, however, focuses on how she and other Jews fought back. Sara Ginaite joined the AntiFascist Organization MELINDA J. (AFO) as a sixteenMENZER year-old slave laborer in the Kaunas ghetto. She nearly died during her first work assignment, carrying cement at an airfield. One day, a guard, who was Ukrainian, hit her from behind; she turned and whispered “Traitor” to him in Russian, and he beat her so severely that

she was in bed for a week. Upon recovering, she was assigned to a new detail, a farm, and her resistance began in earnest as she smuggled food from the farm into the ghetto. Later, having been assigned to work at a hospital for German soldiers, she found a gun a patient had hidden in a bed; she hid the weapon in her bag under a pile of potatos and managed to smuggle it into the ghetto, earning both the praise and the rebuke of the resistance group leader, who told her never to do anything so dangerous again. Ginaite and the other members of the AFO smuggled in a radio receiver and created a newsletter to spread information among the enslaved Jews, set up illegal schools for the ghetto’s children, and distributed food, medicine, and clothes to the most desperate. But Ginaite and her husband Misha Rubinson, who met each other in the AFO and married in the ghetto, wanted to fight the Nazis directly. Because Ginaite was blonde and could speak fluent Lithuanian, she was sent on spy missions outside the ghetto to get

As the Red Army advanced in summer of 1944, Ginaite’s detachment and other partisan groups were ordered to leave the forests and meet outside Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital. In a small group commanded by her husband, she engaged in direct combat with the Germans, and Vilnius was liberated from the Nazis. In recognition of her bravery, she Sara Ginaite joined the Anti-Fascist Organization as a sixteen-yearwas given an automatic old slave laborer in the Kaunas ghetto. Above: Sara pictured days rifle and bouquet of flowbefore the liberation of Vilnius. Below: Sara as a young girl in Kaunas. ers. She writes, “At that information about parmoment, I had only one tisan activity. Each of dream and one desire, to these missions risked enter what had been the her life and the lives Kaunas Ghetto with flowof her family, but as a ers, not with an automatic result of her and others’ rifle. I dreamed of meeting successful intelligence there the liberated Jewish gathering, the AFO survivors from Kaunas.” made contact with the But it was not to be. The newly established parNazis liquidated the ghetto tisan resistance. In Dein advance of the Soviet cember 1943, Ginaite forces, and few of the Jews and Rubinson were in of Kaunas survived. the first group to sucSara Ginaite-Rubinson’s cessfully escape the story is just one of many Kaunas ghetto and join stories of brave Jewish up with the Rudininkai women who fought for Forest partisans. their freedom and their When they joined lives. To learn more about the partisans, Ginaite her and the Litvak resiswas one of only four women in a small tance, read her Resistance and Survival: detachment. By the spring of 1944, however, The Jewish Community in Kauna 1941-1944, there were 300 partisans in the group, most Mosaic Press, 2005. ■ of them from the Kaunas ghetto, and fifteen Dr. Melinda J. Menzer is a professor of English percent of them women. Ginaite notes that at Furman University in Greenville. She has women fought alongside the men while dospoken to audiences across the Upstate about ing the brunt of the cooking, washing, and

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her family’s Lithuanian Holocaust experience.



Why Remember the Women?


n October 2020, we lost Ruth Klüger, author of the memoir Still Alive, about surviving Auschwitz as a child with her mother. Klüger’s fundamental contribution to the memory of the Holocaust is that she urged us not to trivialize or mythologize either the camps or the people involved in the events. She wrote: “The death camps seem easier to comprehend if we put them all into the basket of one vast generalization, which the term death camps implies … Not everyone was equal behind the barbed wire curtain, and no camp was like any other. No man is an island, and yet each of us occupies her own place on the map.” She talked unambiguously about the harsh fate that awaited women F.K. SCHOEMAN under the Nazis, during the war and (perhaps most surprisingly) after as well. From who was more likely to be granted emigration visas (men) to who got the least advantageous barracks in Auschwitz (women), gender too played a part in hindering the survival chances of Jews in Europe. After all, as Mary Felstiner wrote, “genocide is the act of putting women and children first.” This, all genocides have in common: they all share the very genderspecific way in which women’s bodies are attacked and defiled. Their femaleness itself is turned into the enemy, while their vulnerability condemns them to becoming particularly easy spoils of war. Look for racism (of which antisemitism is a category) and you’ll always spot sexism in its orbit. The two are connected because the role of gender is central in a vision of the world that divides races into superior and inferior ones: the women in the “superior” race are held responsible for the purity of their group, while those from the “inferior” race are culpable for the multiplication of their group. The former will be put on a pedestal (under its own set of oppressive, limiting, and violent forces), the latter will be slated for extermination. If, according to Nazi ideology, the goal of Germany was that of reaching racial purity, then Jewish women were the number one saboteurs of this national endeavor and therefore, ultimately, its greatest threat. Historical data shows that after 1942, Jewish women’s death rate surpassed that of Jewish men and, overall, women died in greater numbers. The surviving window of



Jewish women who have been selected for forced labor at Auschwitz-Birkenau march toward their barracks after disinfection and headshaving. Remember the Women Institute

opportunity for women in Auschwitz, for example, was much narrower than for men. Women who had a chance of being spared for labor were usually only those in their late teens or early twenties. Girls younger than 14 were sent to the gas chambers together with their mothers (statistically still young and physically fit for work) and the elders. Therefore, from the very first selection in the death camps, women were decimated in huge numbers and the main reason for able female prisoners to die was indeed connected to their gender-role (pregnant women or mothers). Here is an account by Gisella Perl, a Jewish obstetrician from Hungary, of what happened in Auschwitz: “Group after group of pregnant women left Camp C… one day I happened to have an errand near the crematories and saw with my own eyes what was done to these women. They were surrounded by a group of SS men and women, who amused themselves by giving these helpless creatures a taste of hell… They were beaten with clubs and whips, torn by dogs, dragged around by the hair APRIL 7, 2021


An emaciated female Jewish survivor of a death march sits up in bed at an American military field hospital in Volary, Czechoslovakia. US Holocaust Memorial Museum

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These women were transported to this ravine from the Mizocz ghetto after an aborted uprising, where they were executed. US Holocaust Memorial Museum

and kicked in the stomach… Then when they collapsed, they were thrown in the crematory—alive.” Even the geography of Auschwitz disfavored women, whose section was located by the crematoria, making the psychological horror of the place all the heavier for the prisoners living and breathing in the chimneys’ literal and symbolic shadow. The type of indignities suffered by women in the camps were also orchestrated to befoul the spirit as much as the bodies of the victims: for example, women’s bodies were shaved by men, women were often made to walk or run naked in front of male prisoners and the SS-men, and

after they were murdered, their unclothed distorted corpses were handled by the Jewish male members of the Sonderkommando (the special units assigned to emptying the gas chambers and disposing of the dead). In that more bashful era, when many of the Jewish victims came from an orthodox background (which obsesses over chastity and the separation of men and women), this unholy exposure was especialy hard. And the fear of sexual assault and rape, of course, remains women’s unmitigable nightmare in war and genocide. One of the least talked about by Holocaust survivors, to this day.

Female survivors in Bergen-Belsen remove corpses for burial. US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Jewish women and children from Subcarpathian Rus await selection on the ramp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. US Holocaust Memorial Museum

“They were beaten with clubs and whips, torn by dogs, dragged around by the hair and kicked in the stomach… Then when they collapsed, they were thrown in the crematory—alive.” The way in which the Holocaust devastated the lives of Jewish men and women was the same throughout Europe: but the way in which each experienced it was different. There were as many iterations of pain and horror as there were victims. Each version of this hell just as strong, unbearable, and unfathomable as the next, yet each entirely unique. As Raul Hilberg said, Hitler’s Final Solution was meant “to ensure the annihilation of all Jews… Yet the road to annihilation was marked by events that specifically affected men as men and women as women.” The Holocaust was not a matter of gender. All Jews had to be removed. Then why attend to the specificity of women’s experiences? The more specific we get in our analysis of the all facets of the facts, the more likely we are to unveil (and consequently alter) the least obvious, most insidious ways in which a group of people succeeds over time in building a structure of hate so great and unassailable that it can eventually lead to the unhindered implementation of an annihilation plan like no other in history. A plan to which, willingly, millions of people from tens of nations gave their contributions. Antisemitism was not the only blemish on an otherwise morally pristine human fabric. There was/is antisemitism because there was/is racism; where there is racism there exists exclusion, oppression and marginalization. We can’t cure one ethical

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ailment without attending to all its corollaries as well. Women, in patriarchal systems, have been excluded, oppressed and marginalized: during the Holocaust, Jewish women suffered these same injustices as Jews and as women. By teaching about the way in which misogyny and sexism are just as much expressions of hatred and persecution as racism and antisemtism, we are not defending a hierarchization of sufferance among the victims of the Holocaust, but on the contrary we can help highlight the deeper hues of horror by which the genocide blotched our past and still taints our present. A vision of life in which women are dominated, marginalized, penalized over their sexuality, used as spoils of war and so on, is sadly older and more widespread than any other hatred humanity has experienced (of ethnic, racial, religious or other matrix). In order to create a safe future for your daughters and their daughters, you must revolutionize the mentality of your fathers, brothers and sons. Otherwise, “Never Again” (the post-Holocaust motto) will mean nothing to a very large portion of the human community—Jewish or not. ■ F.K. Schoeman is Associate Professor of English and Jewish Studies and director of the Jewish Studies program at the University of South Carolina. She is the author of Holocaust Mothers and Daughters: Family, History and Trauma.



Medical staff and administration, Czyste Jewish hospital, 1930s . Courtesy Ghetto Fighters House

Martyrdom of Jewish Women Doctors


t the age of 29, in 1918, Salomea Bau Prussak became the first woman to receive a degree in medicine from a Polish university. A budding neurologist—she had studied earlier at the famed Vienna Schools of Medicine—the young doctor took a job in Warsaw with the country’s leading research neurologist, Dr. Edward Flateau, at the city’s Jewish hospital (Czyste), and quickly won a reputation for her clinical abilities and broad knowledge. Concerned chiefly with inflammations of the nervous system and tumors of the spine, she published some 60 papers either singly or jointly with her husband, neuropsychiatrist Dr. Leon Prussak. In THEODORE ghetto captivity, she ROSENGARTEN sheltered typhus victims and distributed the underground ghetto press. In August 1942, during “a mass liquidation action,” she was deported to Treblinka and gassed. Neurologist Natalia Zylberlast-Zandova made her most important contribution to the study of meningitis. She was the first to predict the progress of the disease in patients suffering from tuberculosis of the organs. The Germans could have made use of her expertise, but killing Jews took precedence over combating outbreaks of meningitis on their submarines, and they murdered her.



Czyste Jewish hospital, 1909

In fact, they murdered more than 3,000 Jewish doctors in Poland, of whom some 400 were women. Someone’s mother, wife, daughter, yet a doctor! The lost lives, the snuffing out of knowledge and an ethos of care peculiar to Jewish medicine, the destruction of Jewish hospitals and the network of clinics that were threads in the fabric of Jewish society, describe a genocide whose aim was to prevent a new generation of Jews from being born.

Dr. Natalia Zand [Natalia Zylberlast-Zandova], ca. 1928 APRIL 7, 2021


Because to become a doctor Jewish women generally had to go abroad, they functioned as carriers of medical culture, bringing therapies, medicines, and ideas from cosmopolitan Europe to the Polish backlands. Your pediatrician may have learned her trade in Lyons or Paris, Padua or Bologna. Flora Dobrynska-Schumert studied in both France and Italy. In the ghetto years she was a director of the oldest yet most modern Jewish hospital in Poland, on Dworska Street, in Warsaw. In the summer of 1942, she escaped deportation to Treblinka only to meet her death in Auschwitz, along with her mother and three brothers. The Fach sisters, Ernestyna and Klara, studied medicine at the University of Nancy in the Lorraine region of northeastern France. They practiced together in Stanislawow, in western Ukraine—eastern Poland before the war—and were murdered in a Gestapo roundup of teachers, doctors, and civil servants, primarily but not only Jews, on August 3, 1941. Zofia Zamenhof studied pediatric diseases at the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland, and passed a state examination in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1914. From 1922 until her death 20 years later, she worked with her brother Adam at Warsaw’s Czyste Hospital. Jailed briefly by the Gestapo at the beginning of the occupation, she was released unexpectedly and allowed to return to work. When the ghetto was sealed in November, her fate was sealed with it. She was deported with other physicians to Treblinka death camp in August 1942. What we know about Adam, chief physician in the ophthalmology division, is that “he was one of the first victims of Nazi barbarism, losing his life in 1940.” Thus, the son and daughter of Dr. Ludwig L. Zamenhof, himself an eminent ophthalmologist—a light to the multiethnic city of Bialystok, a peacemaker and inventor of Esperanto, a universal language with sights on overcoming the barriers that divide humankind—were turned to ashes by the Nazi occupiers. Zofia Zamenhof had offers of escape but she chose to stay with her patients. So did pediatrician Hanna Rywka Fuks-Kac, who practiced in Krakow and Stanislawow and

Zofia Zamenhof, 1906

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Medical staff and patient, Czyste Jewish hospital, 1930s. Courtesy Ghetto Fighters House

voluntarily went to her death, refusing to let her young patients go alone. Likewise, when the Nazis came for the children at the Medem Sanitorium in Miedzeszyna, the southeastern district of Warsaw, pediatrician Zofia Goclaw-Filskraut went with them. Well known on both sides of the ghetto wall, she could have sought a place to hide. But she didn’t. She had trained years before at the Bauman and Berson Children’s Hospital where Janusz Korczak was writing his books on the rights of children and their genius for self-governance. Perhaps Korczak’s severe loyalty to their needs rubbed off on her, or hers on him. In any case, escape was more or less futile for the Jewish women doctors because they had targets on their backs. Nazism feasted on Jewish women and children and there were people who made a living hunting for Jews—in schools and convents, city sewers and country cemeteries. Cleansing the medical profession of Jews was a prerequisite to extinguishing them in the rest of the world. At the same time, nothing meant more to Hitler than to enlist Aryan doctors into his murderous crusade. To Sara Seiler Vigorito, a survivor of Josef Mengele’s sadistic experiments on twins, “The Nazi doctor was a physician turned inside out.” Rather than strive to extend and improve life, “the Nazi doctor and scientist experimented and schemed for the quickest and most efficient method to whisk out a human life.” The estrangement of Nazi doctors from the ethical roots of their calling contrasts chillingly with the Jewish women doctors’ deepened commitment to preserving life in the face of martyrdom, for patient and doctor both. ■ Theodore Rosengarten is the Zucker/Goldberg Chair Emeritus in Holocaust Studies, College of Charleston.

The Important Role Kashariyot Played in the Jewish Resistance


mmediately following the substantiation of the mass killings of Jews from Vilna, Abba Kovner, commander of the United Partisans Organization, charged the leaders of Zionist youth movements to resist. On December 31, 1941, in mobilizing and uniting the factions, he commanded them: “Jewish youth! Do not trust those who are trying to deceive you. Hitler plans to destroy all the Jews of Europe … We will not be led like sheep to the slaughter! Better to fall as free fighters than to live by the mercy of the murderers.” Recognizing the need to communicate the threat of annihilation and to activate resistance, Kovner would mobilize these youth activists. Based on his instruction, women and men known as kashariyot, couriers, would spread this message to the ghettos, camps and woods throughout Eastern Europe. Their work, punishable by death, would be critical to Jewish resistance. The Hebrew word kashariyot comes from the root kesher meaning connection, and this life-threatening role TALLI DIPPOLD of reconnaissance, rescue, and resistance quickly fell to women (as men could be identified by their circumcisions). These women, who were deeply associated with varied youth movements before the war (from political to Zionist), fearlessly and selflessly fulfilled whatever tasks were needed to save their people or help them die with dignity. They lived dual lives. They lived outside the ghetto walls, taking on Aryan identities that allowed them to function as spies; they visited within the ghetto walls, offering comfort and desperately needed resources. While it’s impossible to truly know the extent of the resistance, we know that it was widespread throughout occupied Europe and that its forms extended far beyond bearing arms to include spiritual resistance. Such acts included creating cultural institutions, providing clandestine educational opportunities, observing religious holidays and rituals, publishing, and distributing underground newspapers and collecting and hiding documents. The devastating outcome has historically overshadowed the incredible attempts that were made to save and preserve human life and legacy. It was the heroism of the female kashariyot who made much of this resistance possible. The kashariyot roles evolved based on the community’s changing needs. Initially their role was to help improve the condi-

Left to right: Tema Sznajderman, Bela Hazan, and Lonka Korzybrodska, members of the He-Halutz ha-Za’ir-Dror movement and of a group of young women known as the kashariyot, who smuggled documents, weapons, newspapers, money, medical supplies, news, forged identity cards, ammunition—and other Jews— into and out of the ghettos. Courtesy of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.

tions in the ghetto by smuggling in resources to support the establishment of the ghettos’ social welfare projects. However, as the conditions rapidly deteriorated, their role quickly expanded to smuggling food and supplies into the ghetto, as well as finding allies on the Aryan side who could set up safe rooms and help with the creation of false documents. As conditions became dire and ghettos were being liquidated, they were instrumental in obtaining weapons, gathering intelligence, and training those in various youth movements to fight. Their work supported the armed resistance that took place in over 100 ghettos and camps. Gusta Davidson Draenger, a courier in Krakow who was known by her Polish alias “Justyna,” was captured by the Gestapo. Although she and her husband Shimshon Draenger were executed by the Nazis in November 1943, her words lived on. From her prison cell, with hands broken from torture she endured, she wrote a diary on scraps of toilet paper which were found under the floor of her prison cell after liberation and turned into a book. She professed, “From this prison cell that we will never leave alive, we young fighters who are about to die salute you. We Gusta Davidson Draenger, a courier in Krakow known by her Polish alias “Justyna,” wrote a diary from her prison cell after being captured by the Gestapo. She and her husband Shimshon Draenger were executed by the Nazis in November 1943. Courtesy of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.

Kennkarte (identity card) of Tema Sznajdermann in the name of Wanda Majewska, issued in Cracow, May 14, 1942. Courtesy of Bronia Klibanski. Jewish

Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, Feb. 27, 2009. Jewish Women’s Archive.

Jewish partisans Rozka Korczak (left), Abba Kovner, and Vitka Kempner in Vilna after the city was liberated, July 1944. Courtesy of US Holocaust Memorial Museum

offer our lives willingly for our holy cause, asking only that our deeds be inscribed in the book of eternal memory. May the memories preserved on these scattered bits of paper be gathered together to compose a picture of our unwavering resolve in the face of death.” The female kashariyot are unsung heroes who were highly regarded and cherished by leaders of their time and deserve to be remembered for their heroism. Zivia Lubetkin, widely recognized as a powerful inspiration for Jewish women’s honor, said of the kashariyot “one cannot possibly describe this work of organizing the Jewish resistance, or the uprising itself,

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without mentioning the role of these valiant women.” Elie Wiesel wrote that “One must marvel even more at the fighters and couriers. Instead of falling into despair, they found reasons and strength to help others.” Tosia Altman, a courier affiliated with Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir Zionist youth group, smuggled weapons into the Warsaw ghetto that were instrumental in the uprising. She survived the infamous Mila 18 bunker massacre by fleeing through the sewer system only to be captured days later and turned over to the Nazis. She died at age twenty-four. It is estimated that there were hundreds of kashariyot, but due to the nature of their work, information is extremely limited. Most were tragically killed in the line of duty. We know that some endured tremendous torture without revealing information that would jeopardize the missions and work of their comrades. During the last phase of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, the Jewish leaders of both Warsaw and Bialystok ordered the kashariyot to leave the ghetto and remain outside to continue their critical work that had proven so essential to the success of the resistance. We study the Holocaust to deepen our understanding of the behavior that leads to genocide. We study, honor, and commemorate the kashariyot to deepen our understanding of resistance during this horrific chapter of history. Renowned historian, Emmanuel Ringelblum wrote, “The story of the Jewish woman will be a glorious page in the history of Jewry …” It is not too late for their page to be written. ■ Talli Dippold is the Associate Director of the Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice, an adjunct professor, and Director of Jewish Life at Queens University of Charlotte.



From Generation to Generation – How Survivors’ Legacies Shape Granddaughter’s World


am what is sometimes referred to as a “3G’er” — a grandchild of Holocaust survivors. In many cases, as in my own family, my generation is the last to carry personal memories of survivors, the last to have heard first-hand what they experienced, and the last to have witnessed how they overcame such profound circumstances to rebuild their lives. As part of this generation of “lasts,” my grandparents’ story is core to my identity and how I view the world.

Recalling their stories

and Bluma met their soon-to-be husbands, David and Felix. Together, the two couples would rebuild their lives in, of all places, Columbia, South Carolina.

Remember, this isn’t the Cela and David Miller, my beloved Holocaust… Grandma and Zayde, were both born in Poland—Cela in the town of Pinczow, and DaKnowing the horror my grandparvid in the bustling city of Warsaw. In August ents had experienced, keeping things in 1942, as roundups of Jewish families began, perspective becomes a guiding principle of Cela and her sister sorts. It just doesn’t feel right to allow oneBluma, both teenagself to become too overcome by everyday ers, were forced by (and even not-so-everyday) struggles when their mother—wishing compared with what my grandparents only for her children’s endured. survival—to run and In particular, and as a woman, I recall my hide in the nearby grandmother’s and aunt’s support of each woods. After strugother through unimaginable conditions, and gling to survive and their remarkable capacity to love and find evade capture, Cela good in the world, despite all they had lost. I and Bluma eventually take from this motivation to face every chalDAWN had little choice but HEINEMAN to present themselves to the German soldiers in the hope they would be allowed to live. Together, they managed to survive hard labor, starvation, and disease at numerous work camps and concentration camps, including Bergen-Belsen and later Kaufering, where they were ultimately liberated in April 1945. Meanwhile, 18-year-old David had since 1939 been confined within the Warsaw Ghetto, where the largest Jewish population in all of Europe was forcibly imprisoned and subjected to overcrowding, starvation, and disease. David was one of roughly 5,000 resistance fighters who participated in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Among the last Jews to leave the ghetto, David was eventually captured and sent to Auschwitz. David, together with his friend Felix, survived work camps, concentration camps, and death marches before their liberation in 1945. Cela, Bluma, and David were the only members of their families to survive the Holocaust. While at Cela and David Miller after the war a displaced persons camp, Cela



APRIL 7, 2021


Cela and David Miller at grandaughter Dawn’s Bat Mitzvah

lenge from a place of calm, compassion, and, of course, perspective.

…But remember also to view the world with eyes open.

Just as it frames the way I view personal obstacles, the perspective that comes with being the grandchild of Holocaust survivors equally influences how I view the world around me. Knowing my grandparents’ stories, it is impossible to deny evil in this world. Per-

Cela (right) and her sister Bluma after the war

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secution on the basis of religion, race, and other grounds persists, as does bigotry, xenophobia, and intolerance. My grandparents came to this country they loved so much having lost nearly everyone and everything, a tattooed number forever imprinted on my Zayde’s arm as a physical vestige of his experience. Yet—unthinkably—there are those who deny the Holocaust. Likewise, there are those who would deny or prefer to ignore continuing manifestations of anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of bigotry. Recognizing this, taking perspective from the Holocaust must also include remembering its lessons. This means calling out hatred and injustice when we see it, and not letting a sense of perspective tend toward a sense of complacency. In practicing these lessons, I have no better role model than Grandma herself. Despite the trauma of her past, Grandma somehow mustered the strength to share her story with others, knowing the critical part she played in shaping future generations. In her own words: “We never missed a day not thinking about what happened, even though we did not talk about the Holocaust. But eventually we started to speak out with hope that something so terrible would never happen again.” ■ Dawn Heineman is an environmental lawyer in Columbia, South Carolina.

Stories of Survival: Recalling Felix & Bluma Goldberg and their Long Road to Columbia I t was a sleepless night. Not just one, but many. Felix Goldberg (obm) had just given me the talk he gave during the Yom Hashoah ceremony at the Tree of Life Synagogue and requested: “Frankie: do something with this.” I knew what he meant. I am an education consultant. He wanted me to ensure that his story would endure long past that 30 minute talk to those gathered that night to hear him. But what could I do? For months, I thought, I will retell his story in paperback form and have it printed and distributed for every middle school student in the state. Life went on. His printed speech moved to the bottom of a high pile of papers. I forgot about it until one day I decided to create a website. It would, I envisioned, tell the story of both Felix and his wife Bluma and it would be educational in nature. I entitled it “Stories of Survival.” I approached the Goldberg family with the idea of creating a website. They were most receptive. The family loaned me FRANK W. a box which conBAKER tained many papers and other things that survived the war. I decided to review what was already “on the record” about the Goldbergs. Both Felix and Bluma had been interviewed in 1991 by South Carolina ETV for the “Seared Souls” project and both had taken part in the Shoah Foundation project, again being videotaped in 1998. In both videos, they tell in remarkable detail the story of the horrors they experienced during the war. Videos of both projects were part of what was in “the box.” I conducted a keyword search for both Goldbergs in various online databases, which resulted in a number of news stories.


I learned that the Goldbergs traveled to South Carolina from Germany on a ship called the General WM Black. Researching that ship, I discovered a silent film of the maiden voyage (1948) that brought the first “displaced persons” to America. A banner on the docks reads: “Welcome to the first DP Emigrants to the US, Bremerhaven Port of Embarkation.” In the video, you can clearly see another large banner that

reads “Ship to Freedom.” A military band is seen performing near the ship’s entrance. The video follows people as they carry their suitcases up the ladder and onto the ship. Another video, located online, shows the ship arriving in New York City to much fanfare. The design of the website, I decided, would be in three parts: 1) before the war 2) during the war and 3) after the war. In

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interviews, the Goldbergs referenced towns in Poland that I had never heard of, so I decided that teachers and students would need a map where we could show them the locations. I also included an Interactive History Timeline which positions the Goldberg’s journey alongside what was happening in world history at the time. “Stories of Survival” also includes an extensive teacher guide with “primary sources” for students to study. Building a website is one thing: making sure educators know about it is another. As a long standing member of the South Carolina Council for the Social Studies, I took the project to their annual meeting of teachers. At the time 2019, the website was not yet complete so I invited Karl Goldberg to join me, which he did, sharing his mother’s story with a small gathering of educators, all of whom listened and later asked questions. Since that time, I’ve taken the project to other South Carolina educators who have gathered and tasked with studying and teaching the Holocaust. In July 2020, I was invited by The Olga Lengyel Institute For Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI) to share the website with teachers who met virtually as part of a summer-long institute. In one interview Felix Goldberg said: “I know that they’re hearing it every year. But you still have to remind people.” In another, Bluma Goldberg said: “In a way we fear, that’s why we survived: so we can tell the story.” The Goldbergs have entrusted me to share their story. I believe it is my mission to make sure that happens. I have considered it a wonderful honor and privilege. ■

Frank W. Baker, a Columbia based media educator, previously wrote a “visual literacy” lesson plan which was published in the April 2014 issue of the Holocaust Remembered supplement.



How Will We Bear Witness? “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” — Elie Wiesel


lie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate, dedicated his life to educating the world about the horrors of the Holocaust and the lessons to be taken from it. Over 75 years since the end of World War II and the end of the genocide that claimed the lives of 6 million Jews, the words of Weisel and countless other survivors still resonate deeply among many. Unfortunately, as each year passes there are fewer survivors able to provide first-hand testimony. The absence of their powerful voices forces us now to reflect how we can embrace Elie Wiesel’s statement by addressing the question: How will we bear witness? In the field of Holocaust education, formal attempts at bearing witness in the past two decades has mainly been seen through the adoption of a requirement for SCOTT secondary schools to AUSPELMYER teach the Holocaust, in the form of a mandate, or the inclusion of the Holocaust in the state’s educational standards that teachers are required to follow, as is the case in South Carolina. While the inclusion of the Holocaust in school curricula has been an important advancement, assessing the success of how effective this is at helping us to bear witness has been

a challenge. However, in this past year two studies have been released that offer significant consideration. The U.S. Millenial and Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey conducted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, or Claims Conference, was released in September 2020. This survey included polling 1,000 adults ages 18 to 39 and 200 interviews in each state. At first glance the results from the survey are disheartening: 48 percent could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto established during World War II, 63 percent did not know that six million Jews were murdered, and 11 percent believe that Jews caused the Holocaust. Additionally, approximately half of all respondents have witnessed Holocaust denial or distortion online or on social media. It is important to note, though, that 80 percent of respondents believe that it is important to keep teaching about the Holocaust, in part, so it does not happen again. The results of this survey received widespread publicity throughout the US and seemingly provided an indictment of the US education and its deficiencies related to the Holocaust. However, a second study was also released in September 2020, by Echoes and Reflections, a partnership program of the Anti-Defamation League, the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation, and Yad Vashem. This study surveyed 1,500 students currently enrolled in four year colleges and universities. Unlike the Claims Conference survey, which was heavily focused on knowledge of the Holocaust,


APRIL 7, 2021

Elie Wiesel became Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council in 1980. Here, he speaks at a ceremony held during the Tribute to Holocaust Survivors, one of the Museum’s tenth anniversary events. Flags of US Army liberating divisions form the backdrop to the ceremony. Washington, DC, November 2003.

this study also included questions related to tolerance, empathy, respect for other’s viewpoints, and becoming an upstander. Additionally, the survey was also able to delineate the differences in responses between participants who had specific Holocaust education in high school from those who did not. The key findings of the study indicate the value that dedicated Holocaust education can have on student outlook and behavior. Those who had Holocaust education in high school indicated a higher likelihood of ability to see the world from someone else’s perspective, ability to discuss and negotiate controversial issues, ability to work cooperatively with diverse people, and increased tolerance of others with different beliefs. When taken together, the Claims Conference survey and the Echoes and Reflections study provide a more comprehensive view about the importance of Holocaust

South Carolina Council on the Holocaust teacher institute


Scott Auspelmyer participating in a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellowship


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education. They clearly indicate that there is a need for specific Holocaust education and a distinctive benefit that goes beyond simply a person having knowledge of the event. The impact of Holocaust education runs deeper than that for the individual person, who is positively affected with a higher likelihood of exhibiting the behaviors of compassion, understanding, and mutual respect that we wish all people to have as a result of their education. The focus on Holocaust education in South Carolina is the dedicated mission of the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust. Each year we continue to provide support and training to teachers throughout the state and resources that they can use to effectively teach the Holocaust to support the incorporation of the state standards into their curriculums. We now offer free regular online programming monthly to teachers and two specialized instructional institutes through the University of South Carolina each summer, also free of charge to educators. As Claims Conference Holocaust task force leader Matthew Bronfman stated, “The Holocaust is a broad topic. Specialized teacher training and thoughtfully developed curriculum are needed for students to benefit.” We are proud to offer these services in order to fulfill Elie Wiesel’s challenge for all of us to bear witness. ■ Scott Auspelmyer is the Executive Director of the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust and has 19 years of experience teaching high school social studies in South Carolina.

Holocaust Education Resources The Holocaust Remembered Supplement and this resource page is available in a digital format at www.columbiaholocausteducation.org/resources.php.

Columbia Holocaust Education Commission columbiaholocausteducation.org Promotes awareness of the Holocaust and fosters education in grades K–12 throughout the state of South Carolina. The Commission, an outgrowth of the successful campaign to erect the Columbia Holocaust Memorial, sponsors the Holocaust Remembered exhibit, including teacher education guides, and provides grants to educators and institutions to provide innovative, quality Holocaust education. CHEC sponsors this Holocaust Remembered supplement which is distributed in all three major newspapers in South Carolina.

The Selden K. Smith Holocaust Education Foundation holocausteducationfoundation.org The Foundation is named in honor of the long-time chair of the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust and a retired history professor from Columbia College. The work of the foundation is integral to keeping the events of the Holocaust and its meaningful lessons alive in the classroom and in the communities. The foundation provides grants to schools, colleges, and individuals who engage in Holocaust teaching or educating. Contributions can be given through the Foundation web site. The Foundation also participates in Midlands Gives Day on May 4, 2021 and contributions are appreciated and accepted online at midlandsgives.org/holocausteducationfoundation.

South Carolina Council on the Holocaust scholocaustcouncil.org • Professional Development for teachers in SC Please refer to the SC Council on the Holocaust website for planned professional development seminars throughout the year. If teachers or administrators have any questions, please direct all correspondence to: education@scholocaustcouncil.org.

• Mini-Grant Program for Holocaust Education Funding is available for Holocaust education projects. All middle school and high school teachers are encouraged to apply. Address all questions to education@scholocaustcouncil.org. Subsidies may also be granted for teachers to participate in approved Holocaust education trips to Eastern Europe. The SC Council’s international trip is planned for Summer, 2022. Please check the Holocaust website for dates and application information.

Holocaust Archives, Jewish Heritage Collection, Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library, College of Charleston ccpl.org/holocaust-special-collection Sponsored by the College of Charleston and housed in the Special Collections Department at the Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library, the Jewish Heritage Collection (JHC) has been collecting archival material related to the Holocaust for 15 years. JHC’s Holocaust Archives includes hundreds of documents, photographs, and artifacts belonging to survivors of the Shoah, liberators, and other eye-witnesses now living in South Carolina. Contact Dale Rosengarten, Curator, Jewish Heritage Collection, 843-953-8028, or rosengartend@cofc.edu.

Holocaust Research Section at Charleston County Library features Zucker Holocaust Collection, Shoah Foundation Survivor Videotapes

COMPILED BY LYSSA HARVEY Co-chair, Columbia Holocaust Education Commission; teacher, therapist, artist

DIGITAL RESOURCES • Columbia Holocaust Education Commission columbiaholocausteducation.org • South Carolina Council on the Holocaust scholocaustcouncil.org • South Carolina ETV/PBS scetv.pbslearningmedia.org/ search/?q=holocaust Holocaust Education free resources, articles, videos featuring research, projects, research related to education.

knowitall.org/search?keys=holocaust SCETV website “Know It All” provides free online lesson plans to educators on the Holocaust.

• United States Holocaust Memorial Museum ushmm.org; ushmm.org/teach The Museum offers free educational resources on a variety of Holocaust-related topics, available for classroom use.

• Yad Vashem: The Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority yadvashem.org

• Facing History and Ourselves www.facinghistory.org • Centropa centropa.org Where Jewish History has a name, a place and a story.

• Echoes and Reflections: Multimedia Holocaust Education Kit echoesandreflections.org Anti-Defamation League

• Southern Poverty Law Center learningforjustice.org • Simon Wiesenthal Center wiesenthal.com • University of Southern California Shoah Foundation Institute sfi.usc.edu • The REMEMBER Program of the Charleston Jewish Federation jewishcharleston.org/remember • UNESCO Clearinghouse on Global Citizenship Education gcedclearinghouse.org Teaching resources, articles, research publications on education about the Holocaust.

RECOMMENDED BOOKS • Women and the Holocaust, JOAN RINGELHEIM • Different Voices: Women and the Holocaust, CAROL RITTNER, JOHN ROTH • Women in the Holocaust: A Feminist History, ZOE WAXMAN • Writing the Holocaust: Identity, Testimony, Representation, ZOË WAXMAN • Women in the Holocaust, Dalia Ofer and Lenore, J. WEITZMAN • Resilience and Courage: Women, Men and the Holocaust, NECHAMA TEC

• Experience and Expression: Women, the Nazis, and the Holocaust, ELIZABETH BAER, MYRNA GOLDENBERG

• Anglo-Jewish Women Writing the Holocaust: Displaced Witnesses, PHYLLIS LASSNER

• The Social Inheritance of the Holocaust: Gender, Culture, and Memory, ANNA READING

• Women’s Holocaust Writing: Memory and Imagination, S. LILLIAN KREMER


• The Jewish Women of Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, ROCHELLE G. SAIDEL

• Hidden Recipes: A Holocaust Memoir,

The Jerry and Anita Zucker Holocaust Memorial Collection at the Charleston County Library is home to some 400 books for citizens, students, and educators to do further research about the Holocaust. Also included are 55 video documentaries, and 28 videotaped survivor testimonies from the Visual History of the Shoah Foundation, available for checkout for individual or classroom use. The Charleston County Main Library is located at 68 Calhoun St. For more information, please call 843-805-6930.

• Double Jeopardy: Gender and the Holocaust, JUDITH BAUMEL

• Holocaust Survivor Cookbook,

• Women in the Resistance and in the Holocaust: The Voices of Eyewitnesses,

• Miracles and Meals: The Holocaust Survivor Cookbook, JOANNE CARAS


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Community Yom HaShoah Commemoration Sunday, April 11th at 2:00-3:00 pm VIRTUAL via Zoom

Featuring memorial candle lighting, a special offering by our youth, and words from a Holocaust survivor Visit www.jewishcolumbia.org/YH for updates and to register. Zoom link will be emailed to registrants 24 hours before event.

Thank you! This Holocaust Remembered edition could not have been developed without the work, ideas and financial support from many in the community. Many Columbia women and their spouses wanted to show their affinity to the many women highlighted in this supplement who resisted, fought, hid, helped and survived the Shoah. The Columbia Holocaust Education Commission thanks everyone involved in this project!

With our sincere thanks and gratitude To our Contributing Authors: A special thank you goes to all of the authors who spent countless hours researching and writing this historical narrative.

To our Survivors, Liberators, and Eyewitnesses: To the individuals and to the families, we have the deepest respect and gratitude. You have all spoken and written about a very difficult time in your life and we are deeply thankful that you shared your stories. Only by hearing your life testimonies, can we continue to tell the stories and battle those that wish to “rewrite history.” We must never forget the Lessons of the Holocaust and through these stories the lessons will live.

To the Post & Courier papers, the McClatchy papers and the Gannett papers: We are so thankful that you have continued to see this as a worthwhile project and worked with us to bring this to the communities of South Carolina. Thank you to Chase Heatherly and especially to Lisa Willis of the Free Times who has spent many hours bringing the stories to life on the pages. You have provided the vehicle to reach the public and we have provided you with amazing personal and historical stories on the Holocaust.

Gratitude and appreciation to our generous friends TITLE DONORS Columbia Jewish Federation Jerry and Anita Zucker Family Foundation Selden K Smith Holocaust Education Foundation

South Carolina Council on the Holocaust In Honor of Abe Stern Jane and David Kulbresh Donna and Ernie Magaro

PRESENTING DONORS Melanie and Frank Baker Joni Cutler Lilly and Bruce Filler Lyssa and Jonathan Harvey

Sue and Jerry Kline Ruth and Walker Rast Anny and David Zalesne

SUPPORTING DONORS Marcie and John Baker Susan and Alan Brill Toni Elkins Gloria and Henry Goldberg Esther and Ira Greenberg Peggy and David Jacobs

Jay Kates, Water Systems Inc. Heidi and David Lovit Sandra and Edward Poliakoff Erica and Jack Swerling Michelle Baker and Robin Waites

CONTRIBUTORS Terri Barnes Penny and Moss Blachman Jackie and Keith Babcock Ina Gottlieb Margo and Karl Goldberg

Susan Miller James Quirk Rachel and Rick Silver Kerry Stubs

Holocaust Remembered is a special supplement created and paid for by the COLUMBIA HOLOCAUST EDUCATION COMMISSION