For three days and three nights, Joseph Davis — then Joseph Davidovich — rode in the crammed cattle car with his parents and six of his eight siblings. “We didn’t know where we were going,” he said. Finally the train pulled up to the Auschwitz platform. As the Jews were pushed from the cars, Dr. Josef Mengele, who was carrying a stick, hurriedly separated them. Joseph was directed to one side, torn from his family. His mother came running after him, carrying cookies she had somehow acquired, but a German soldier brusquely pushed her away. “That was the last time I saw her,” Joseph said.
"Sorry, children. I’m not going to jeopardize my life for your father’s money.” The Christian forester smuggling three Jewish children across the border from Poland to Slovakia had stopped abruptly, wished them luck and told them to keep walking. But Gloria Ungar — then Gitta Nagel — gripped his arm, promising that her father would make him very rich if he continued. She, her younger brother Nathan and her cousin were wending their way through a pitch-black forest. “It was terrifying,” Gloria recalled; she knew they wouldn’t make it alone. Her cousin had broken her ankle, and Nathan was crying that he couldn’t walk anymore. Plus the Germans were scanning the forest with floodlights, siccing attack dogs and then shooting whenever they saw a shadow. The children threw themselves against trees whenever the floodlights came near.
"Abe, go. You’re young. You’re not afraid to work.” Bronia Rosenstein, Abe’s older sister, urged him to answer a call for strong, healthy men to work outside the Lodz ghetto. It was November 1940. Abe was 21 and for nine months he had been living in one small room with his parents, two sisters and one brother. Abe signed up to work. Living conditions in the ghetto were deteriorating, and people were dying from hunger on the street daily. On the day he reported for work, he spotted his mother standing behind a barbed-wire fence, crying. “It was the last time I saw her,” he said.
Leon Leyson, the youngest Jew to be saved by Oskar Schindler and his famous list during the Holocaust, died Jan. 12 in Whittier, following a four-year struggle with lymphoma. He was 83.
Jane Fonda will host an event in Los Angeles focusing on sexual violence during the Holocaust. More than 200 people are expected for the invitation-only event on Nov. 8 at the Ray Kurtzman Theater. The event is sponsored by the USC Shoah Foundation and Remember the Women Institute.
“Leave your possessions. We will bring them to you,” a Jewish commando greeted the trainload of Jews arriving at Auschwitz. He pointed to Regina Landowicz’s mother: “Too old.” And to her sister Lillie: “Too young.” Sally, another sister, took scissors from her rucksack and quickly trimmed their mother’s hair and lopped off Lillie’s braids as German soldiers shouted, “Raus, raus!” (Out, out!) On the platform, a German soldier tried to grab Lillie from their mother’s arms, but their mother clutched her tightly, even as he beat her.
From the upstairs bedroom she shared with four girls, Sonja Blits heard the soldiers marching through the quiet village of Zaandijk, outside Amsterdam, where she was being hidden by a generous Dutch family. "Remember, stay below the windowsill," Moe Haidel, the other girls' mother, reminded her. But, drawn to the unusual noise, Sonja stood up and peeked through the curtain. Her eyes fixed on the SS troops' black boots making clicking noises on the brick street. That sound continued to haunt her.
Gitta Seidner -- known at the time by the Christian name Jannine Spinette -- was abruptly awakened around 4:30 a.m. by a large commotion outside her farmhouse bedroom in Waterloo, Belgium. "No, no, no. What do you want with my goddaughter?" she heard her godmother, Alice Spinette, say. SS soldiers then kicked open the door and pulled the crying girl from her bed. "She's not Jewish," Alice insisted. The soldiers didn't listen. They ordered Alice to get Gitta dressed and drove them to SS headquarters in Brussels.
In early October 1943, a day or two after Rosh Hashanah, Julia Moshe — née Conti — was walking to her bookkeeping job at the Atlas Watch Co. in Volos, Greece, when she heard footsteps behind her. “Mademoiselle, don’t turn around your head,” a male voice warned. “Yesterday SS soldiers came to city hall asking for a list of the Jewish people.” Julia started trembling. She recalled her mother’s words, “If the Germans come here, it’s OK if they take us.” Julia gave notice at work and hurried home. “Please don’t say no,” she begged her mother. “We have to go from here.”
In the pounding rain, lined up five abreast, Greti Herman — then Margit Berger — and her parents were marched from Hungary’s Csillaghegy Ghetto to the nearby train station. As they walked, her mother motioned for her and her father to remove five of the six threads that attached the yellow stars to their canvas raincoats. They arrived early evening, into “a big chaos,” according to Greti, as the Hungarian gendarmes — the police force — shoved people into the waiting cattle cars, tossing their belongings in after them.
It’s not easy to handle death. It’s so naked and finite. No matter how much we talk about the spiritual journey to the next world, about legacies that never die, about a life well lived, there’s really no consolation for the pain of missing someone — really, really missing someone.
Holocaust survivor Kurt Frankfurter died on Christmas Eve at 90, 17 years to the day after his wife, Giselle, died in New York.
For the sake of his career, Jack Voorzanger worked to leave the horrors he endured during the Holocaust behind, but through his volunteer work at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, he has demonstrated his commitment to “never forgetting.” He spends 15 hours each week digitizing the family photo collections of victims and survivors.
A Holocaust survivor who teaches children the value of citizenship is among those who will be honored by President Obama with a Medal of Freedom.
Ann Spicer's experience is not unique among the more than 100,000 Holocaust survivors who immigrated to the United States after the war. But she has chosen to share her memories this year in a unique way -- by contributing this photograph to a "Shoah Quilt" project put together by Mount Sinai Memorial Parks in honor of Yom HaShoah
UCLA historian Saul Friedlander, a child Holocaust survivor, has been awarded a 2008 Pulitzer Prize for his definitive account of "The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945."
The $10,000 award in the general nonfiction book category honors the 75-year-old scholar and Israeli citizen for his remarkable ability to evoke the entire Nazi era through a combination of meticulous research and a novelist's eye for personal, human detail.
Obituary for Congressman Tom Lantos.
Profiles and pictures of volunteers of the Survivor Mitzvah Project and some of the Holocaust survivors they serve.
Over the last several years, in anticipation of the voyage's 60th anniversary, survivors of the Exodus have been asked to share their stories in an effort to solidify Exodus' place in history, before all that is left are the fictionalized and romanticized versions of the 1958 Leon Uris novel or the 1960 Otto Preminger film (and even those are already being forgotten). Among the recent projects are "Exodus 1947," a 1997 documentary film by Venice resident Elizabeth Rodgers, and a new release of journalist Ruth Gruber's account of the voyage, "Exodus 1947: The Ship that Launched a Nation" (October 2007, Union Square Press).
"I'm a very special Holocaust survivor," Jack Polak says. "I was in the camps with my wife and my girlfriend, and, believe me, it wasn't easy." This may sound like a line from the new genre of Holocaust films with humor, but Polak (who is Jacob on his birth certificate, Jack in America, Jaap to his Dutch friends and Jab to his wife) is just stating the facts in the documentary feature, "Steal a Pencil for Me."
Eva Brown tells her story of survival.
Tom Lantos, chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, made headlines last April when he reiterated his desire to travel to Iran for informal talks with Iranian officials. And yet one month later the Democratic congressman from San Mateo introduced a tough Iran divestment bill with Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) that the House overwhelmingly passed last week.
Nearly 50 years after a group of survivors first conceived the project, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMH) has cleared the last legal hurdle to build a permanent home.
On April 11, I embarked on a journey back in time to one of the darkest chapters in human existence with the Los Angeles delegation of the March of the Living Program, sponsored by the Bureau of Jewish Education, an agency of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. I felt myself detaching from the comfort and security of my family and many of my friends.
Holocaust survivors are venting their anger at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington over its decision not to allow immediate electronic access to the long-secret records of the International Tracing Service at Bad Arolsen, Germany.
Irony. In a book or a movie, it's the writer's way of giving the observer a slap in the face. People attempt to expect the unexpected, but when it actually happens no one is prepared.
This year's Yom HaShoah Ve'Hagvurah Community Wide Holocaust Remembrance Day program, "Children in Crisis: Voices from the Holocaust" paid special homage to the many defenseless and innocent children killed by the Nazis.
Librescu's story has to make me wonder whether even my complex answers suffice. Some men experience brutality and become monsters, some witness evil of historic proportions and become saints. It is all much more mysterious than I will ever know, than any of us think we know.
Crossroads School in Santa Monica might not be where one would expect to find the archived works of a celebrated composer who survived Dachau and Buchenwald, especially when one considers that the Vienna-born Herbert Zipper worked as an educator at a variety of institutions of higher learning, including USC and the New School for Social Research in New York. But when Zipper died at the age of 93 in 1997, he left his papers to the K-12 school where he taught musical composition and theory in his retirement years. His relationship with the school was such that co-founder and former headmaster Paul Cummins wrote Zipper's biography.
The ostensible reason for this column is the recently published "Brothers for Resistance and Rescue: The Underground Zionist Youth Movement in Hungary During World War II," by David Gur (Gefen Publishing House), in which Stevens appears.
The responsibility for transmitting the survivors' legacy of remembrance into the future must now increasingly shift to us -- their children and grandchildren.
Equal parts existentialist rant and theater of the absurd, Robert Trebor's "The Return of Brother Theodore," now playing at the Skylight Theater, honors the late monologist, who died in 2001 at 94, with a performance that combines the deceased's black-comedy act with some of Trebor's own writing.
When Max Webb was interned at 18 different concentration camps during the Holocaust, he made a promise. "If he survived, he would make sure he would contribute to the advancement of the Jewish people and Judaism in any way he could," said his grandson, Greg Podell, the director of the Max Webb Family Foundation.
Webb has made good on that promise, donating to causes in Israel and to local Jewish charities, including The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. And now, as he's about to turn 90, his foundation has purchased a plot of land for $3 million for a center to house two socially conscious Jewish organizations.
Last Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Memorial Day, Walter Essinger did not attend any community vigils or synagogue commemoration services. Instead, the 73-year-old survivor spent that day, April 26, being interrogated by Ventura County detectives. He was then arrested, handcuffed and eventually booked into the Ventura County Jail.
Moscovitz is one of the tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors living in abject poverty in the United States. These witnesses to the 20th century's worst atrocity are enduring a second nightmare, often struggling just to feed and clothe themselves.Their wartime experiences, which included malnutrition and physical and psychological abuse, have made them prone to costly medical and mental problems as they age.
When Olga Bitterman, an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor, found out that another survivor needed help, she knew what to do. For a year, Bitterman left money in the other survivor's mailbox without leaving a trace of its origins.
Just when the film world seems to have examined the Holocaust from every possible angle, a new film comes along that shakes up our complacency."Forgiving Dr. Mengele" focuses on the story of Eva Kor, one of the so-called "Mengele twins," who along with her sister was subjected to the Nazi doctor's experiments. Most notably, it deals with the forgiveness of Nazis, a concept antithetical to many Holocaust survivors.
Wendy Graf was at the women's group at her synagogue when she discovered that a number of her colleagues were the children of Holocaust survivors. She became fascinated with the repercussions of the tragedy on their lives, but put aside the subject as she wrote "Lessons," a play about a widower who decides to have a bar mitzvah. More recently, a person close to her developed Alzheimer's disease. The synchronicity of memory loss with so-called "second-generation" syndrome provided the raw material for Graf's new play, "Leipzig," the latest offering of the West Coast Jewish Theater, now playing at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute.
The year is 1999, and on the Israeli TV miniseries, "Catching the Sky," Nurit walks into her Tel Aviv kitchen at the crack of dawn to find her husband doing something completely shocking and inexplicable.
Jewelry artist Gail Goldin grew up immersed in Jewish culture and scrap metal, a combination that helped inspire her Modern Myths collection.
She comes by this unusual convergence of influences through her father, Steven Goldin, a freedom fighter in Poland who helped fellow Jews escape over the Alps during World War II, before building his own business in the U.S. scrap-metal industry. The family belonged to an Orthodox shul in Detroit, although they weren't Orthodox.
When Goldin put this all together -- stirring in some life experience and a fascination with universal spiritual symbols from world cultures -- she first made silver rings adorned with carved Asian good-luck beads called netsukes. Out of these rings came the idea for her Modern Myths collection. Several Modern Myths pieces combine stones with beads, mounted in ornate bezel designed silver.
In a tale rooted in personal experience, Dr. John Menkes explores the themes of loss and recovery in his novel “After the Tempest” (Daniel & Daniel, 2003). A Holocaust survivor, Menkes returned to his hometown of Vienna after the war and found that not only was his family and his home gone, but his very identity had been irrevocably lost.
A chance encounter between a young Palestinian radical and an elderly Holocaust survivor takes an unexpected turn when L.A. Theatre Works presents "Sixteen Wounded" at the Skirball Cultural Center from Jan. 26-30.
The reading of the five-character play, following last year's Broadway run, stars Ron Rifkin as Hans, the survivor, and Omar Metwally as Mahmud, the young Arab.
Since Meir Jacobs bought the J&T Bread Bin 34 years ago, the bakery hasn't changed much. Nestled in the center of the Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax, it retains its old-world charm -- the original glass showcases line the store's perimeter, and the original orange "Bread Bin" metal signs hang on both sides of the store. Handwritten yellow notes advertise the goods: chocolate danishes, raspberry hamantaschen, sprinkled cookies, lemon bars, macaroons and more.
It's the Hungarian treats that reveal the bakery's hidden history. The loaves of glazed cinnamon raisin bread, the apple squares and the three-flavored puff pastries called kalaches give meaning to Jacobs' words: "This is a very old-fashioned-style bakery."
An old-fashioned Hungarian bakery fashioned after its owner.
Fred Kort, Holocaust survivor, philanthropist and founder/CEO of Imperial Toy Corporation, died on Sept. 6. He was 80.
Fred Kort, Holocaust survivor, philanthropist and founder/CEO of Imperial Toy Corporation, died on Sept. 6 at the age of 80.
Kort, like fellow philanthropists Jona Goldrich and Max Webb, survived the Holocaust to become one of Jewish Los Angeles' most prominent and impassioned supporters, as well as a big giver to secular humanitarian organizations. Kort gave millions to dozens of Jewish causes, including Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Bar-Ilan University, the Anti-Defamation League and Israel Bonds. He was a founding donor of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and contributed to Goldrich's L.A. Holocaust Memorial.
In Showtime's "Out of the Ashes," a Holocaust survivor steps off a boat at New York Harbor, imperiously hands her battered suitcase to her American niece and embarks on a shoe shopping spree.
The TV movie is the story of Dr. Gisella Perl (Christine Lahti), the Hungarian gynecologist who saved 1,000 women by performing secret abortions in Auschwitz. "She was also a bit of a diva," Lahti said.