* Leading Arab-Israeli: “The Holocaust is the greatest crime in the history of the world”
* Controversially, Daniel Pearl honored with Holocaust victims in Miami
* British teachers drop the Holocaust “to avoid offending Muslims”
* Lawsuit to German government: Recognize 2nd generation as Holocaust victims. Children of survivors plan to file class action demanding German government recognize traumas caused by childhoods in shadow of the Holocaust
Israel is today holding its annual Holocaust memorial day. With Holocaust denial increasing around the world, especially by those in the Middle East and their supporters elsewhere who wish to cause another Holocaust, knowledge about the Holocaust and contemporary anti-Semitism form an important background to understanding Middle Eastern current affairs.
1. Auschwitz death toll was higher, UK government archives reveal
2. Israel marks Holocaust Day
3. Leading Arab-Israeli: “The Holocaust is the greatest crime in the history of the world”
4. Vatican ambassador reverses decision to shun Holocaust remembrance
5. Daniel Pearl honored with Holocaust victims in Miami
6. Anti-Semitic attacks in Chicago, Lille and Montreal
7. Anti-Semitic incidents worldwide doubled in 2006
8. German town strips Hitler of honorary citizenship just before G8 summit
9. Seychelles restaurant displays Nazi bank notes
10. Anti-Semitic South Korean children’s book withdrawn
11. UK schools dropping the Holocaust from history lessons
12. DePaul University to honor Norman Finkelstein with tenure
13. David Irving, visiting Auschwitz, denies gas chambers
14. Cancer risk up to 9 times greater for Holocaust survivors
15. Lawsuit: Recognize 2nd generation as Holocaust victims
16. Irena Sendlerowa, 97, Kansas school kids and “Life in a Jar”
17. “Teachers drop the Holocaust to avoid offending Muslims” (S. Mail, April 2, 2007)
18. “Saved from scraps, music of the camps” (S. Telegraph, April 1, 2007)
19. “I’m no hero, says woman who saved 2,500 ghetto children” (Guardian, March 15, 2007)
20. Poland to mark little-known Nazi camp (Associated Press, March 16, 2007)
AUSCHWITZ DEATH TOLL WAS HIGHER, UK GOVERNMENT ARCHIVES REVEAL
[Note by Tom Gross]
The release by the British government National Archives of a chilling, hand-written confession letter by Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoss, strongly suggests that the death toll at Auschwitz was two million, not 1.5 million as previously thought, reports the (London) Jewish Chronicle in a front-page article.
Hoss’s letter was neatly written out and counter-signed by his British jailer. He matter of factly states that he “personally arranged on the instructions of Himmler in May 1941, the gassing of two million persons, between June-July 1941 and the end of 1943, during which time I was commandant of Auschwitz.”
In an accompanying note, British officials say that the confession was written entirely voluntarily. Hoss was later executed by the Polish authorities.
ISRAEL MARKS HOLOCAUST DAY
The State of Israel is today honoring the six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis.
The ceremonies started last night, when six elderly Holocaust survivors living in Israel were asked to light the memorial torches in front of gathered dignitaries, including Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Acting President Dalia Itzik, scores of ambassadors from around the world, and hundreds of Holocaust survivors who were sitting in the front rows.
The stories of these six survivors can be viewed here.
This morning at 10 am, the whole of Israel came to a standstill for two minutes. All television and radio stations suspended broadcast and cars stopped in mid-travel while passengers got out to stand in the street in silence. All places of entertainment in Israel are closed today.
CNN International showed Israelis observing the two minutes silence without commentary live at 10 am Israel time. The BBC (unsurprisingly) ignored it.
Over 200,000 Holocaust survivors are thought to be still living in Israel, about one-third of them in poverty, according to recent welfare reports. The insufficient help given to these impoverished survivors by the Israeli government and by the often wealthy official Jewish charities, particularly by the Claims Conference, has been disgraceful.
LEADING ARAB-ISRAELI: “THE HOLOCAUST IS THE GREATEST CRIME IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD”
This morning, Arab-Israeli Member of the Knesset Ahmed Tibi (who was previously viewed as an extremist when he served as chief advisor to Yasser Arafat) said that “the Holocaust is the greatest crime in the history of the world.” Those that deny or downplay the Holocaust, including in the Islamic world, must be condemned, he added.
For more on Arab-Israeli views of the Holocaust, see
* Chirac “secretly urged Israel to topple Assad” (& 28% of Israeli Arabs say Holocaust is a myth) (March 19, 2007)
* The Holocaust’s Arab heroes (& Polish righteous Gentile recommended for Nobel Prize) (Oct. 11, 2006).
VATICAN AMBASSADOR REVERSES DECISION TO SHUN HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE
The Vatican Ambassador to Israel, Monsignor Antonio Franco, at the last moment reversed a decision to boycott last night’s Holocaust memorial services in Jerusalem.
The decision to attend follows a ferocious row over the Vatican’s failure to acknowledge its passivity and the active role taken by some Roman Catholic leaders in the murder of Jews in the Holocaust.
The Holocaust memorial authorities at Yad Vashem said it would have marked the first time in which a foreign emissary deliberately skipped the ceremony, which was attended by many other ambassadors and foreign dignitaries.
There is growing controversy over the Vatican’s plans to beatify the wartime Pope Pius XII, who remained deliberately silent as Jews, including those of Rome, were being murdered in the Holocaust.
When he was elected pope in 1939, Pius XII shelved a letter against racism and anti-Semitism that his predecessor had prepared. In December 1942, he abstained from signing the Allied declaration condemning the extermination of the Jews. When Jews were deported from Rome to Auschwitz, the pope watched passively.
In Croatia, Slovakia and elsewhere Roman Catholic priests actively participated with the Nazis in the slaughter of Jews.
Many in Israel are calling for the Jewish state to break off diplomatic relations with the Vatican if the Vatican makes Pope Pius XII a saint as it plans to later this year or next.
Franco, who took up his position in Jerusalem last year, said his previous decision not to attend yesterday evening’s official state ceremony was a “personal” one, and not made by his superiors at the Vatican.
DANIEL PEARL HONORED WITH HOLOCAUST VICTIMS IN MIAMI
Slain Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl was yesterday included on the Holocaust Memorial Wall in Miami Beach. His is the first name of 30,000 on the wall that was not killed in the Holocaust.
Pearl was forced to say “I am a Jew” before being decapitated by his killers, who included an upper-middle class British-born Muslim.
His father, Judea Pearl (who is a subscriber to this email list), said his son died for the same reasons as the six million Jews that were killed. “The forces of barbarity and evil are still active in our world. The Holocaust didn’t finish in 1945.”
Renowned violinist Ida Haendel, played during the ceremony in Miami yesterday. Pearl was a classically trained violinist.
A movie starring Angelina Jolie based on the memoirs of Pearl’s widow, Mariane, is scheduled to be released this year.
Holocaust victims and survivors were also honored during the ceremony. There are nearly 3,800 Holocaust survivors still alive in Miami-Dade County.
While mourning over his death, some think it highly inappropriate for a non-Holocaust victim like Daniel Pearl to be honored on a Holocaust memorial.
SYNAGOGUE IN CHICAGO VANDALIZED
Even though anti-Semitic acts in America are more uncommon than in most other countries, they continue to occur. On April 5, for example, Chicago police say a synagogue in Chicago was spray-painted with offensive language and derogatory messages and phrases including “Death to Israel.”
Some of the phrases were written in Arabic. The desecration was condemned by Islamic officials in Chicago, as well as Jewish ones.
53 JEWISH TOMBSTONES DAMAGED IN LILLE
53 Jewish tombstones have been damaged in an attack on a Jewish cemetery in the northern French city of Lille. The mayor’s office described it as a “hateful anti-Semitic act” and said it was “shocked” and “disgusted”.
The attack on the Lille Jewish cemetery (which includes memorial stones to Holocaust victims) comes only weeks after The Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) reported a 45 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in France between 2005 and 2006.
Meanwhile, over 7,000 French Jews have sent a signed petition to the U.S. congress, asking for political asylum in the United States due to anti-Semitism in France. “We believe that the United States, known for its traditional welcome to those under threat in their native lands, must open its doors to us,” the petition says.
For an example of a particularly brutal act of anti-Semitism in France, see The barbarians of Europe, The brutal murder of Ilan Halimi.
French presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen said yesterday that “Jacques Chirac shouldn’t have apologized for Jews’ deportation” in “the so-called Final Solution.” Over one out of eight French people say they will vote for Le Pen in the elections next Sunday.
BOMB EXPLODES OUTSIDE JEWISH CENTER IN MONTREAL
Also on April 3, a homemade bomb exploded outside a Jewish community center in Montreal. A fire resulted, but no one was injured, according to police spokeswoman Lynne Labelle.
The explosion came two days before the third anniversary of the firebombing of a Jewish elementary school in Montreal.
According to Canadian Jewish groups, there has been a 13 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Canada last year. The number of attacks has doubled compared to five years ago and is four times higher than 10 years ago. These include various firebombings and death threats made anonymously against Canadian Jews.
ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENTS WORLDWIDE DOUBLED IN 2006
According to a report released yesterday at Tel Aviv University, last year witnessed a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents worldwide, and the highest total number since 2000.
The incidents are getting more violent too. The report stated that the number of physical assaults on Jews was twice as high as it was in 2005.
The countries with the greatest rise in anti-Semitism were Britain, Australia, France and Canada. Professor Dina Porat of Tel Aviv University said the two principle events that encouraged anti-Semitism were the efforts of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to deny the Holocaust, and the way the Second Lebanon War was covered by media.
During the war, “even the world’s mainstream journalism portrayed the figure of the Jew as characterized by brutality,” Porat said.
For more, see: www.tomgrossmedia.com/Anti-IsraelCartoons2006.html.
GERMAN TOWN STRIPS HITLER OF HONORARY CITIZENSHIP JUST BEFORE G8 SUMMIT
The German Baltic Sea resort of Bad Doberan last week stripped Hitler of his honorary citizenship, only two months before the town hosts the Group of Eight Summit.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to host world leaders there in June.
The town of 12,000 had granted Hitler honorary citizenship in 1932. Hartmut Polzin, the town’s mayor, said he hoped the move would end a “not pretty and unnecessary” discussion, Deutsche Welle reported.
SEYCHELLES RESTAURANT DISPLAYS NAZI BANK NOTES
The Seychelles, usually known as a serene vacation destination, has become the subject of controversy after Jewish groups asked it to prevent the display of Nazi memorabilia.
Taking pride of place in the Seychelles La Scala restaurant is a large framed display of Nazi-period German banknotes.
The proprietor of the restaurant, Silvana Torsi, claimed that her husband was “a collector”. However, there are no bank notes displayed from any other country during the same period.
ANTI-SEMITIC SOUTH KOREAN CHILDREN’S BOOK WITHDRAWN
A South Korean publisher has agreed to withdraw a best-selling children’s book from stores after it was accused of spreading anti-Semitism.
The series of comic books, titled “Meon Nara, Yiwoot Nara,” or “Far Countries, Near Countries” and authored by visual arts professor Rhie Won-bok, claims to teach children about the world and has sold more than 10 million copies since the first volume was published in 1987.
One of three books on the U.S. published in 2004 contains a chapter claiming Jews were the driving force for the hatred that led to the September 11 attacks, that they exert control over all U.S. media and also prevent Korean-Americans from succeeding in the United States.
Korean-American groups joined Jewish-American groups in urging the publisher to stop selling the book.
UK SCHOOLS DROPPING THE HOLOCAUST FROM HISTORY LESSONS
The first article attached below reports that schools in the UK “are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a Government backed study has revealed.”
“Some teachers dropped the Holocaust completely from lessons because of fears that Muslim pupils might express anti-Semitic reactions. One school also avoided teaching the Crusades because its ‘balanced’ handling of the topic would directly contradict what was taught in local mosques.”
British Jewish leaders have again largely been silent about this matter, as many were in the 1930s as Hitler initiated anti-Jewish measures. They might like to ponder why it takes a Lebanese Christian living in America to warn about the danger of British schools dropping teaching of the Holocaust and the Crusades. You can watch her warning here.
DEPAUL UNIVERSITY TO HONOR NORMAN FINKELSTEIN WITH TENURE
One of the leading contemporary Jewish anti-Semites (there were also some delusional Jews who expressed support for Hitler in 1930s Germany) is at the center of a row over the campaign by DePaul University (in Chicago) to grant him tenure.
Norman Finkelstein is widely regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous Holocaust revisionists, partly because he himself is Jewish and he hides behind the fact that his parents suffered under Hitler to claim that other Jews have lied about the Holocaust.
As the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote about Finkelstein: His “assertions are pure invention... No facts alleged by Finkelstein should be assumed to be really facts, no quotation in his book should be assumed to be accurate, without taking the time to carefully compare his claims with the sources he cites.”
Finkelstein has also defamed and insulted real Holocaust scholars and survivors. For example, he called Nobel Prize winner Ellie Wiesel a “resident clown of the Holocaust circus” and “a ridiculous character.”
Yet DePaul is set to honor such dangerous and irresponsible scholarship, by awarding Finkelstein tenure.
Finkelstein has attracted over 3500 signatures in support of his tenure in an online petition, with petitioners leaving some really hateful comments about Jews and the Holocaust.
A counter petition launched calling on DePaul not to grant him tenure has only about 2000 signatures at present.
For more on Finkelstein, see:
* The fifth note in the dispatch “Israeli Apartheid Week” kicks off around the world (Feb. 13, 2007)
* The first note in David Irving: Auschwitz “was a tourist attraction” (& British Muslims scrap Holocaust Day) (January 31, 2007).
DAVID IRVING, VISITING AUSCHWITZ, DENIES GAS CHAMBERS
Holocaust denier David Irving has appeared on Italian television again claiming there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz.
Irving was shown at the former German Nazi death camp in Poland where he claimed that engineering techniques were not sufficient to allow the Nazis to gas people en masse.
A spokesman for the Auschwitz museum, Jaroslav Mensfelt, said Irving likely visited recently, but without the knowledge or consent of museum officials. “He is a persona non grata here,” Mensfelt said. “It would be best if he never came here. Such people desecrate the place and are not welcome,” he told The Associated Press.
Irving was released from jail in Vienna in December after serving 13 months of a three-year sentence for Holocaust denial.
CANCER RISK UP TO 9 TIMES GREATER FOR HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS
The first comprehensive study on the risk of cancer among Holocaust survivors has shown that Holocaust survivors are up to nine times more likely to have cancer than their peers.
Cancer of the large intestine among male Holocaust survivors was found to be nine times that of men the same age who immigrated to Israel from Europe before World War II. Among women, the rate was 2.25 times higher for survivors of the Holocaust.
The study, carried out at the University of Haifa’s School of Public Health, was based on National Cancer Registry statistics. The team found that the younger the Holocaust survivor was during the war, the greater their cancer risk. Women Holocaust survivors were 1.5 times more likely to have breast cancer than pre-war immigrants.
AMCHA, the National Israeli Center for Psychosocial Support of Survivors of the Holocaust and the Second Generation, confirms the research findings. “A day doesn’t go by when I don’t sign a letter that is somehow connected to a cancer patient,” Tel Aviv branch director Hani Oron said.
“The exposure to starvation and malnutrition during childhood and adolescence, when the body is in a period of accelerated growth, was found to amplify the risk of developing cancer,” the study says.
LAWSUIT: RECOGNIZE 2ND GENERATION AS HOLOCAUST VICTIMS
At least 60 children of Holocaust survivors are planning to file a joint class action with the German government for their suffering. The Fisher Fund, established seven years ago by attorney Gideon Fisher, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, is holding talks with senior German officials in a bid to receive financing for mental treatments required by some second-generation Holocaust survivors. Many children of Holocaust survivors suffer from various traumas, often severe.
The Fisher Fund, an independent body, grants scholarships and assists in places where other organizations such as AMCHA don’t have sufficient resources to help.
“While working on the lawsuit, we heard shocking stories,” Fisher said last week. “We heard of people who put their shoes next to the door every night preparing to escape, or of people who wake up every morning at 4 am and look for their father under the bed.
“This is what they went through during their entire childhood. Every night their father went under the bed, hid there and begged them not to take him away, and they had to take him out of there and convince him that everything was okay.”
IRENA SENDLEROWA, 97, KANSAS SCHOOL KIDS AND “LIFE IN A JAR”
I attach four articles below. The first reports on UK schools which have dropped Holocaust (and Crusader) studies from the syllabus. The second article features the collection of Francesco Lotoro, a professional pianist who for 16 years has been scouring Europe’s capitals to amass his collection of the music played and sung by the victims of the Holocaust.
The third article reports on Irena Sendlerowa, 97, who has been nominated for this year’s Nobel peace prize. She is a Polish social worker who saved 2,500 Jewish babies and children from Nazi death camps by placing them with Christian families under assumed names. Amazingly, Sendlerowa (also known as Sendler), who now lives in a Warsaw nursing home, does not consider herself a heroine.
Unlike the German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who saved more than 1,000 Jews by employing them at his Krakow factory and is widely recognized thanks to an award-winning book and film, Sendlerowa’s story remained relatively unknown until recently when a group of school children in the American state of Kansas researched and wrote a play about her, called “Life in a Jar.”
Sendlerowa buried jars containing both the real and assumed names of the children she saved, in the hope they could later learn the names of their biological families and be reunited with them after the war. In the event almost all their real parents were killed.
Sendlerowa’s activities were cut short when she was arrested by the Gestapo in October 1943, who then tortured her, breaking her legs and feet. She still has to use crutches today as a result of her injuries. Despite her torture she never revealed the location of the jar with the addresses and real names of the hidden children.
(For more, see www.irenasendler.org.)
The Polish Communist government, which encouraged anti-Semitism, suppressed any knowledge of Sendlerowa, but the new upper house of the Polish parliament has unanimously approved a resolution putting her name forward for the Nobel peace prize.
The final article below details the move by Polish authorities to mark the forgotten Pustkow concentration camp, where 15,000 people were killed.
-- Tom Gross
UK SCHOOLS DROPPING THE HOLOCAUST FROM HISTORY LESSONS TO AVOID OFFENDING MUSLIMS
Teachers drop the Holocaust to avoid offending Muslims
By Laura Clark
The Mail on Sunday (UK)
April 2, 2007
Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a Government backed study has revealed.
It found some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.
Teachers fear backlash over crackdown in the classroom.
There is also resistance to tackling the 11th century Crusades – where Christians fought Muslim armies for control of Jerusalem – because lessons often contradict what is taught in local mosques.
The findings have prompted claims that some schools are using history ‘as a vehicle for promoting political correctness’.
The study, funded by the Department for Education and Skills, looked into ‘emotive and controversial’ history teaching in primary and secondary schools.
It found some teachers are dropping courses covering the Holocaust at the earliest opportunity over fears Muslim pupils might express anti-Semitic and anti-Israel reactions in class.
The researchers gave the example of a secondary school in an unnamed northern city, which dropped the Holocaust as a subject for GCSE coursework.
The report said teachers feared confronting ‘anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils’.
It added: “In another department, the Holocaust was taught despite anti-Semitic sentiment among some pupils.
“But the same department deliberately avoided teaching the Crusades at Key Stage 3 (11- to 14-year-olds) because their balanced treatment of the topic would have challenged what was taught in some local mosques.”
A third school found itself ‘strongly challenged by some Christian parents for their treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict-and the history of the state of Israel that did not accord with the teachings of their denomination’.
The report concluded: “In particular settings, teachers of history are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship.”
But Chris McGovern, history education adviser to the former Tory government, said: “History is not a vehicle for promoting political correctness. Children must have access to knowledge of these controversial subjects, whether palatable or unpalatable.”
The researchers also warned that a lack of subject knowledge among teachers – particularly at primary level – was leading to history being taught in a ‘shallow way leading to routine and superficial learning’.
Lessons in difficult topics were too often ‘bland, simplistic and unproblematic’ and bored pupils.
“IT SEEMED ABSURD THAT THERE WAS MUSIC IN CONCENTRATION CAMPS. BUT IT’S WHAT WE DID ALL DAY”
Saved from scraps, music of the camps
By Malcolm Moore in Rome and Miles Goslett
The Sunday Telegraph (London)
April 1, 2007
Scribbled in notebooks, diaries and even on pieces of lavatory paper, they provide a remarkable history of the music played and sung by the victims of the Holocaust.
Scores for thousands of waltzes, tangos, operas and folk songs will soon be made available to the public, thanks to the dedication of Francesco Lotoro, a professional pianist who for 16 years has been scouring Europe’s capitals to amass his collection.
Mr Lotoro, 42, stumbled across his first piece of Holocaust music on a trip to Prague in 1991.
“I was interested and decided to bring some back with me,” he said. “In the end, I had to buy a new suitcase because I found 300 works.”
Much of the music is sad and plaintive. The lyrics of one song by Josef Kropinski read: “In Buchenwald, the birch trees rustle sadly, as my heart sways languishing in woe.”
Despite the privations of life, there are several upbeat songs and plenty of wry Jewish humour. “There’s no life like life at Auschwitz!” read the lyrics to another song.
Much of Mr Lotoro’s collection comes from Theresienstadt in the Czech Republic, a concentration camp used by the Third Reich as a propaganda exercise to hide its extermination plans. Consequently, music was allowed, and orchestras and bands were permitted to perform. There was even a jazz band called the Ghetto Swingers.
Nevertheless, 33,000 of the 140,000 Jews who were sent there died, and 90,000 were sent to other camps, where many also perished. One musician that Mr Lotoro discovered had been interned there was Rudolf Karel, a Czech composer arrested for taking part in the resistance in Prague.
Despite suffering from dysentry, he used lavatory paper to compose a five-act opera and a nonet - a composition for nine instruments. The last of his works was an upbeat Prisoners’ March, dated four days before his death in March 1945.
Another set of music came from William Hilsley, a British pianist born in 1911, who survived imprisonment at Spittal and Kreuzburg in Germany and who died four years ago.
Anita Lasker Walfisch, 81, who was a prisoner at Auschwitz and Belsen, played the cello in bands throughout the war. Her talent enabled her to survive and, eventually, to emigrate to Britain, where she was a founder member of the English Chamber Orchestra.
“One was very lucky to be able to be part of it because it postponed one being killed,” she said. “It seemed absurd that there was music in concentration camps. But it’s what we did all day.”
Mr Lotoro’s collection, already comprising 4,000 manuscripts and 13,000 microfiches, as well as letters, drawings and photographs, will go on display in a new library at Rome’s Third University in September.
“I felt it was my mitzvah, my duty as a Jew, to preserve this cultural heritage, this art of the people who were unseen,” said Mr Lotoro, who converted to Judaism five years ago.
He sees his job as just beginning. “Of course, many documents were destroyed during the liberation, or by the Germans as they retreated. Though even now, while I scour through bookshops I find notebooks with a couple of pages of music in them.
“A friend told me the other day about a song that the Italian prisoners sang in Auschwitz which came from a folk song. In Israel, of course, there are many people who remember the songs they sang. But I have to move fast, the generation is dying out and the music will be lost for ever.”
Mr Lotoro paid special tribute to Aleksander Kuliewicz, a Pole who, after surviving imprisonment in Germany, dictated 700 songs that he had memorised to nurses at his bedside. Mr Lotoro is now working on recording these on to a cycle of 32 CDs.
“I’M NO HERO,” SAYS WOMAN WHO SAVED 2,500 GHETTO CHILDREN
I’m no hero, says woman who saved 2,500 ghetto children
• Poland puts 97-year-old forward for Nobel prize
• Social worker smuggled Jews out of Warsaw
By Kate Connolly in Berlin
March 15, 2007
A Polish social worker who saved 2,500 Jewish babies and children from the Nazi death camps was yesterday honoured as a national hero by the Polish parliament.
Irena Sendlerowa, 97, who has been nominated for this year’s Nobel peace prize, changed the identity of the children she rescued from the Warsaw ghetto in 1942 and 1943 and placed them with Polish families.
As a member of Zegota, a secret organisation set up by the Polish government in exile in London in the second world war to rescue Polish Jews, she organised a small group of social workers to smuggle the children to safety. She worked in the Warsaw health department and had permission to enter the ghetto, which had been set up in November 1940 to segregate the city’s 380,000 Jews.
She and her team smuggled the children out by variously hiding them in ambulances, taking them through the sewer pipes or other underground passageways, wheeling them out on a trolley in suitcases or boxes or taking them out through the old courtyard which led to the non-Jewish areas.
She noted the names of the children on cigarette papers, twice for security, and sealed them in two glass bottles, which she buried in a colleague’s garden.
After the war the bottles were dug up and the lists handed to Jewish representatives. Attempts were made to reunite the children with their families but most of them had perished in concentration camps.
Unlike the German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who saved more than 1,000 Jews by employing them at his Krakow factory and is widely recognised thanks to an award-winning book and film, Mrs Sendlerowa’s story remains relatively unknown. A few years ago it was picked up in America by a group of Kansas school children who wrote a play about it, Life in a Jar.
Yesterday at a special session in Poland’s upper house of parliament, members unanimously approved the resolution to honour Mrs Sendlerowa for rescuing “the most defenceless victims of the Nazi ideology – the Jewish children”. President Lech Kaczynski said she was a “great hero who can be justly named for the Nobel peace prize”.
He added: “She deserves great respect from our whole nation.”
But Mrs Sendlerowa, who is in a Warsaw nursing home, insisted she did nothing special.
In an interview she said: “I was brought up to believe that a person must be rescued when drowning, regardless of religion and nationality.”
“The term ‘hero’ irritates me greatly. The opposite is true. I continue to have pangs of conscience that I did so little.”
She was arrested in October 1943 and taken to Gestapo headquarters where she was beaten. Her legs and feet were broken and she was then driven away to be executed. But a rucksack of dollars paid by Zegota secured her release. She was knocked unconscious and left by the roadside. She still has to use crutches today as a result of her injuries.
One of the “names in a jar” was Michal Glowinski, now a professor of literature. “I think about her the way you think of someone you owe your life to,” he said.
Elzbieta Ficowska was smuggled out of the ghetto by Mrs Sendlerowa in a toolbox on a lorry when she was just five months old.
“In the face of today’s indifference, the example of Irena Sendlerowa is very important. Irena Sendlerowa is like a third mother to me and many rescued children,” she said, referring also to her real mother and her Polish foster mother.
Due to the Communist regime’s suppression of history and its encouragement of anti-semitism, few Poles were aware of Zegota’s work until a marble plaque dedicated to the organisation was unveiled near the former Warsaw Ghetto in 1995.
“PUSTKOW WAS TAKEN APART AND NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT IT”
Poland to mark little-known Nazi camp
Pustkow labor camp, where 15,000 inmates died, dismantled before end of war; local official says it needs to be recognized before its existence is forgotten with passage of time
The Associated Press
March 16, 2007
Polish Authorities are working on plans to mark a little-known Nazi concentration camp and nearby military installation.
The Pustkow labor camp, where 15,000 inmates died, was dismantled before the end of the war, and local official Andrzej Regula said it needs to be recognized before its existence is forgotten with the passage of time.
“If 15,000 people were killed here, the world should know about this,” Regula said in a telephone interview from the area, about 180 miles south of Warsaw. “Everyone knows about Auschwitz because it was left there, but Pustkow was taken apart and no one knows about it.”
Current ideas include a museum or reconstructing some of the camp’s barracks, Regula said.
Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, said the idea to commemorate the camp with a monument or a museum is “extremely important and praiseworthy” but that rebuilding part of the camp could be “somewhat troubling.”
The Nazis established Pustkow in 1941 and inmates were used as forced laborers on the nearby military installation. Most of the inmates were Russian POWs, but some 3,000 Jews also died in the camp, Regula said.
All that remains of the camp is a hill over most of the ruins known as the “mountain of death,” part of the camp’s gate, and fragments of access roads through the woods, he said.