“I came out of hell”

January 24, 2015

Danuta Bogdaniuk-Bogucka was 10 years old when she was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau camp with her mother. She was experimented on there by Josef Mengele.


Jacek Nadolny was 7 during the Warsaw Uprising, when he was sent with his family to Auschwitz-Birkenau.


* This dispatch concerns anti-Semitism and International Holocaust Memorial Day. (To remind readers, I am posting many additional Middle East items here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia.)

* There is another dispatch which includes items about Holocaust Memorial Day here: A remarkable photo (& blaming the Jews for anti-Semitism)


(Thank you to those who cited from or linked to this dispatch, such as former U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams in the Council on Foreign Relations and Israel Hayom.)



1. “Beautiful portraits of Auschwitz survivors”
2. “I came out of hell into the light”
3. “Stranger”
4. “Why Vladimir Putin should be at the Auschwitz memorial ceremony”
5. Argentine Jewish groups to boycott government Holocaust ceremony
6. Ten Israeli tourists injured in anti-Semitic attack in Argentina
7. Jewish boy, 13, assaulted in anti-Semitic attack in Paris
8. Non-Jewish Swedish journalist assaulted in Malmo after donning kippah
9. Attacks on London Jews rise by 128 percent
10. Still so much to learn

[Notes below by Tom Gross]


Tuesday marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Nazi Germany’s largest death camp, where more than one million Jews -- including hundreds of thousands of children -- were murdered, and other Jews and Roma were subjected to horrific torture under the guise of “medical experimentation” without anesthesia. (Other Jews, including children, were experimented on in Ravensbrück, Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, Natzweiler, Baranowicze and elsewhere.)

Several newspapers and websites are running a series of articles about the Holocaust in the run up to International Holocaust Memorial Day on Tuesday.

Reuters photographers have released these beautiful portraits of elderly survivors.



The (London) Daily Mail reports on an emotional reunion between Joshua Kaufman, 87, and his rescuer Daniel Gillespie. Now aged 89.

The pair saluted each other as they were reunited on Huntington Beach, California.

Former U.S. soldier Gillespie said Kaufman was a “walking corpse” when he was rescued from Dachau death camp, near Munich.

At their reunion 70 years later, Kaufman first saluted his rescuer, then kissed his hand before falling to his feet, exclaiming: “I have wanted to do this for 70 years. I love you, I love you so much.”

Dachau was liberated by U.S. forces on April 29, 1945.

Kaufman said: “I came out of hell into the light. For that, and to him, I am eternally grateful.”

The reunion was organized last week by the “History Channel Deutschland” and will be screened in May.

Pictures here.



In this new video, Auschwitz survivor Roman Kent, who is president of the International Auschwitz Committee, reads Primo Levi’s poem “Stranger”.

Primo Levi’s account of his survival in Auschwitz, If This Is A Man, is in some respects the most important book of the Twentieth century -- in my opinion.



Antony Beevor, one of Britain’s leading historians, writes in The Guardian:

On 27 January 1945 a reconnaissance patrol from the Soviet 107th Rifle Division emerged from the snow-laden forest 70km west of Krakow. The soldiers were mounted on shaggy ponies, their submachine guns slung across their backs. In front of them stood Auschwitz-Birkenau, the grimmest symbol of modern history. Officers gazed around in disbelief, then called in medical teams to care for the 3,000 sick prisoners left behind.

It is a great shame that Vladimir Putin, having not been invited, won’t be present at a memorial ceremony next week to mark the 70th anniversary – at the very least, it would have reminded the world that the advance of Stalin’s Red Army forced the SS to abandon the extermination camps in the east. And yet the muted row over the Russian president’s absence is a reminder that this particular chapter in Russia’s second world war history was, and remains, full of contradictions.

The first death camp to be liberated by the Red Army was Majdanek just outside Lublin, in July 1944. The novelist and war correspondent Vasily Grossman was on the spot with the 8th Guards Army, which had defended Stalingrad, but an order came down that he was not to cover the story. The job was given instead to Konstantin Simonov, a favourite of the regime, who managed to avoid mentioning that any of the victims in Majdanek were Jewish.

Grossman, despite warnings from his friend Ilya Ehrenburg, had been slow to believe that anti-Semitism could exist within the Soviet hierarchy during the death struggle with Nazism. But in 1943 he had noticed that any reference to Jewish suffering was being cut from his articles…. Certain truths about the Shoah could never be published. When Grossman wrote about the extermination camp of Treblinka, he could not reveal that the auxiliary guards were mostly Ukrainian….

As the end of the war approached, controls became even stricter. Auschwitz may have been liberated at the end of January 1945, but no details were released until the final victory in May… Thus in a way Stalin was the first Holocaust denier, even if his anti-Semitism was not quite the same as that of the Nazis…

Full piece here.

* See also: “By the time the Soviet Army reached Auschwitz, my father was no longer there”

* See also: “A shy little bird hidden in my rib cage”.



Argentina’s Jewish institutions have jointly announced that they will boycott the country’s official Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony on Tuesday to protest the murder last week of AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman, and the continuing cover-up of the 1994 AMIA center bombing, in which 85 Jews were murdered.

The Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires and other organizations said they could not in good conscience stand alongside Argentinean government officials and would instead hold their own Holocaust memorial ceremony on Jan. 27.

Alberto Nisman was murdered last weekend one day before he was to deliver his long-awaited report accusing President Cristina Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman of taking “the criminal decision of inventing Iran’s innocence to satisfy commercial, political and geopolitical interests of the Argentine republic.”

Nisman, who led the bombing probe for a decade, was found dead of a gunshot wound in his apartment on Monday just hours before he was to testify at the National Congress.

President Kirchner has now admitted initial government clams of suicide were wrong and Nisman was indeed murdered.

Thousands of people held a rally at the rebuilt AMIA headquarters in Buenos Aires last week demanding “truth and justice” from the government, and chanting “86, 86”, a reference to Nisman becoming in effect the 86th victim of the AMIA terrorists.

A similar protest was held outside the Argentine embassy in Tel Aviv, by Argentinean Jews who have emigrated to Israel, holding up placards reading “Yo soy Nisman,” Spanish for “Je suis Nisman.”

* Related links:

Alberto Nisman, The Man Who Knew Too Much

Is Iran Behind the Murder of Alberto Nisman?

AMIA investigator Claudio Lifschitz kidnapped and tortured



Ten Israeli tourists have been wounded in an anti-Semitic attack lasting three hours at a hostel in a small Argentine village.

Argentinean media reported that the Israelis were burned, robbed and beaten at the Onda Azul hostel in Lago Puelo, in southern Argentina, between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. Monday.

The hostel told journalists “They shouted, ‘you f***ing Jews’ and other curses.”

The attackers threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the site, according to Argentinean Radio Continental.



In the latest of a long line of anti-Semitic attacks in France (most of which are not reported in the international media) a 13-year-old Jewish boy was sprayed in his eye with mace and pepper spray this week in a northeastern Paris suburb, by three young women shouting anti-Semitic slogans.

The victim wore a kippah and tzitzit, making him easily identifiable as Jewish. The victim was blinded, and rushed by passers by to hospital, where the police report said he suffered intense pain for some time. Police say the assailants, who fled the scene and have not yet been apprehended, were of North African appearance.



Swedish TV on Wednesday showed footage of a non-Jewish reporter who walked around Malmo wearing a kippah to test attitudes toward Jews. He was punched in the arm and cursed at by passers-by before cutting short his journalistic experiment out of fear he would be subjected to more serious injury.

Sveriges Television also showed footage of the journalist sitting at a café in central Malmo reading a newspaper, while passersby hurled anti-Semitic abuse at him.

One of the people called him a “Jewish shit” and another told him to “get out of Sweden.”

The experiment was part of a documentary titled “Jew-hatred in Malmo.” The walk was a repeat of a similar walkabout conducted in Malmo in 2013 by journalist Patrick Riley, which I reported on in this list at the time. Unlike in the case of Riley’s report, a Swedish national TV camera crew secretly filmed last month’s experiment.

Immigrants from the Middle East and their children and grandchildren comprise about one quarter of Malmo’s 300,000 population. Only a few hundred Jews remain there.

Local Jewish leaders say the Swedish authorities have not done enough to stop a wave of anti-Semitic attacks mostly perpetrated by Muslims or Arabs.

Following Wednesday’s documentary, some Swedish politicians vowed to do more to protect Sweden’s remaining Jewish population.

The full TV report can be watched here (with English subtitles).



Hate crimes against Jews in London rose by 128 percent last year, according to official figures released last week by Scotland Yard, the police headquarters of the British capital.

British police said last week that they were increasing patrols in areas with Jewish communities. The British Home Secretary Theresa May, sporting a “Je suis Juif” badge, also vowed last week to do much more to stamp out anti-Semitism.

* See also: “Jewish primary school pupils are taught to dive under desks and lie like ‘sleeping lions’ to survive terror attack” (ITV News)

* See also: “It has been open season on Jews since 9/11: Home Secretary’s solidarity will be seen as an empty gesture unless it is followed up with firm action” by Richard Littlejohn, columnist for The Daily Mail (and a longtime subscriber to this list).

* Even The Morning Star, the official paper of the Communist Party of Great Britain, spoke out against anti-Semitism, in an editorial last week.


I attach an article I wrote and sent out a year ago to mark last year’s Holocaust Memorial Day. Many people have joined this list since then, so I repeat it here.

Still so much to learn
By Tom Gross
Standpoint magazine (London)
January 2014


Holocaust Memorial Day falls again on January 27. It is the ninth consecutive year that this (in many ways uniquely) evil event is being officially commemorated in Britain and the EU.

Predictably there are voices – including some Jewish – who say, haven’t we heard enough about the Holocaust? What more is there to learn?

I take the opposite view – that collectively the world has not studied it nearly enough, and has not properly learned its lessons. If it had, anti-Semitism wouldn’t once again be rife in so many countries, including European ones.

And if it had, I don’t think President Assad of Syria could have used chemical weapons to kill 1,429 civilians, including hundreds of children, in a suburb of his own capital last August, without punitive action being taken by the world in response.

But of course Assad’s actions can’t compare in scale and systematic dehumanisation with the genocide carried out by the Nazis and their helpers from every country in Europe (including British subjects in Guernsey and Jersey).

For decades the subject was all but ignored by the film and publishing industries – Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi were among those who struggled to find publishers. Eventually, books were published, films were made, and – decades late – Holocaust museums opened and memorials erected.

And because there are still so many amazing stories to be told there are still more remarkable films being made. In Darkness, released in 2012, about the only group of Jews to survive the war alive in the sewers of Nazi-occupied Europe, was to my mind in some ways even more impressive than Schindler’s List or The Pianist.

Next year’s Cannes Film Festival will see the release of The Zookeeper’s Wife, the true story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, who saved 300 Jewish adults and children from the Nazis by hiding them in animal cages at Warsaw Zoo, in what has been described as a kind of modern-day “Noah’s Ark”.

And there is so much more we don’t know. How many, for example, know of Chelmno, the first extermination camp set up on European soil, in 1941, which served as a model for later camps? The Nazis killed at least 200,000 Jews there, as they experimented with the most efficient ways to kill en masse. Only three Jews survived Chelmno. Few of the murderers were ever punished.

How many know of Belzec, where Ukrainian SS units, under the command of Germans, murdered 500,000 Jews and only two survived? The lack of survivors is a prime reason why this camp is so little-known, despite the enormous number of victims. But we know exactly what went on there because the Nazis – proud of how many people they were exterminating – kept meticulous records.

How many realise that when Europeans wanted to save their fellow citizens, they often could have done so? For example, in Lithuania, where 95 percent of the country’s Jews were killed – often by Lithuanians working with the Nazis – Jan Zwartendijk, the Dutch representative for Philips’ plants in Lithuania, saved more than 2,000 Jews. He refused to leave when he was recalled, and instead (having persuaded the Dutch government-in-exile to appoint him consul in Kaunas) frantically began issuing exit permits to Jews for the Dutch West Indies.

An orphanage and school in Israel are named after Zwartendijk, but right up to his death in 1976 few were interested in him in his native Holland, and Lithuania only begrudgingly acknowledged his deeds in September 2012.

Or who knows that, while French police were helping the Nazis round up Jews in the rest of France, in the Huguenot village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon the entire population (under the guidance of the local priest) shielded hundreds of Jews from surrounding villages, hiding them in their homes? Then French President Jacques Chirac only officially recognised the heroism of the town in 2004, and it was not until last summer that a museum commemorating its wartime courage finally opened.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.