Germany: Merkel at Auschwitz

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

‘I BOW MY HEAD BEFORE THE VICTIMS OF THE SHOAH’

Merkel at Auschwitz: Remembering Nazi crimes inseparable from German identity

Making her first visit to Nazi death camp as chancellor, German leader speaks of ‘deep shame’ and vows fight against anti-Semitism and all hatred is priority for her government

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, from left, visit the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland on Friday, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Merkel attend an event in occasion of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Auschwitz Foundation. (Photo/Markus Schreiber via AP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, from left, visit the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland on Friday, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Merkel attend an event in occasion of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Auschwitz Foundation. (Photo/Markus Schreiber via AP)

OSWIECIM, Poland (AFP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday said acknowledging Nazi crimes was part of Germany’s national identity in a message aimed at far-right calls for a shift away from a culture of remembrance.

Merkel crossed the gates of the former Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland on Friday for the first time in her 14 years as chancellor, promising to battle a new wave of anti-Semitism.

Merkel is only the third German chancellor ever to visit the Nazi camp where a million Jews were killed between 1940 and 1945 and which has come to symbolize the Holocaust as a whole.

Members of the Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party have said there should be less apology for Germany’s Nazi past and other periods of its history should be celebrated instead.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel walks in front of the main railway entrance to Birkenau as she visits the former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland on December 6, 2019. (John MacDougall/AFP)

“Nothing can bring back the people who were murdered here. Nothing can reverse the unprecedented crimes committed here. These crimes are and will remain part of German history and this history must be told over and over again,” she said.

“Remembering the crimes… is a responsibility which never ends. It belongs inseparably to our country,” Merkel said.

“To be aware of this responsibility is part of our national identity, our self-understanding as an enlightened and free society, a democracy with rule of law,” she said.

Merkel said Auschwitz “demands that we keep the memory alive”.

She expressed Germany’s enduring “deep shame in the face of the barbaric crimes committed by Germans here” in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where a million Jews lost their lives between 1940 and 1945.

“There are no words to express our sorrow,” she said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel commemorates in front of the death wall during a wreath laying ceremony in the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Germany, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Merkel attend an event in occasion of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Auschwitz Foundation. (Photo/Markus Schreiber via AP)

Addressing Holocaust survivors present, she added: “I bow my head before the victims of the Shoah.”

The chancellor also addressed a rise of anti-Semitic and other hate crimes in Germany in recent years, saying they had reached an “alarming level”.

“To combat anti-Semitism, the history of extermination camps has to be shared, it has to be told,” she said.

Her trip, which comes ahead of the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation by Soviet troops on January 27, is being seen as an important political message.

On the eve of her visit, 65-year-old Merkel said that “the fight against anti-Semitism and against all forms of hate” was a priority for her government.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel lays down a wreath at the death wall in the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Germany, December 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

She also hailed a new 60 million euro ($66 million) donation for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation that was approved by Germany’s federal states on Thursday.

Merkel began her visit by walking under the Nazi slogan “Arbeit macht frei” (Work will set you free) that still hangs over the gates of the camp.

She also held a minute’s silence by the Death Wall where thousands of prisoners were shot dead and visit the site of a gas chamber and a crematorium.

The visit “is a particularly important signal of attention and solidarity at a time when Auschwitz survivors are victims of anti-Semitic insults and hate-filled emails,” said Christoph Heubner, deputy chairman of the Auschwitz International Committee.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, right, visit the former Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland on December 6, 2019 (Markus Schreiber via AP)

Merkel was accompanied during the visit by a survivor of the camp, 87-year-old Bogdan Stanislaw Bartnikowski, as well as Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and Ronald Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, also took part in the visit.

In total, 1.1 million people were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, including Jews, non-Jewish Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma and anti-Nazi fighters.

Many were killed the same day they arrived at the camp.

“There is no other place of memory that demonstrates with such precision what happened during the Shoah,” Schuster told AFP ahead of the visit.

‘Break with civilization’

Merkel follows in the footsteps of previous German chancellors Helmut Schmidt, who came in 1977, and Helmut Kohl, who visited in 1989 and 1995.

She has already visited several of the former camps in Germany over many years and has been to Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center five times.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel lays a wreath during a ceremony at the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem on October 4, 2018 (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

In 2008, she became the first German leader to address the Israeli parliament. In that speech, she spoke of the “shame” that Germans still feel.

Merkel has called the Holocaust a “break with civilization” and has voiced concern about the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany.

People place flowers in front of a synagogue in Halle, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019 (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

Her visit comes two months after an attack aimed at a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle in which two people were killed — part of a growing trend.

Police figures show that anti-Semitic offences rose by almost 10 percent in Germany last year from the previous year to 1,646 — the highest level in a decade.

Germany’s far-right AfD party, some of whose members have been accused of using anti-Semitic rhetoric, has called for a rethink of the way Germany remembers its Nazi past.

Senior AfD lawmaker Bjoern Hoecke has called for a “180-degree shift” in the culture of atonement.

The timing of the visit is also significant because of questions over Merkel’s political future as tensions persist within the governing coalition.

German media reported that she wanted to make the trip ahead of any potential political crisis.

Merkel intends to step down at the end of her mandate in 2021 but there is a chance that the date could be brought forward if her junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats, pull out of the government.

AP contributed to this report

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USS Grayback, U.S. submarine missing for 75 years, found off Okinawa, Japan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS NEWS)

 

USS Grayback, U.S. submarine missing for 75 years, found off Okinawa, Japan

A U.S. Navy submarine missing for 75 years has been found off Okinawa, Japan. The USS Grayback was discovered in June, according to the Lost 52 Project, a group of undersea explorers whose mission is to find the wrecks of every American submarine lost in World War II.

The Grayback sailed out of Pearl Harbor on January 28th, 1944, for its 10th combat patrol. Two months later, it was listed as missing and presumed lost.

Last year, an amateur researcher in Japan detected a mistake in the latitude and longitude of the spot where the Grayback probably sank. The records were off by a single digit — about 100 miles.

Earlier this year, using the new information, private explorers located the wreck of the Grayback under 1,400 feet of water. Tim Taylor, who heads the Lost 52 Project, told The New York Times his team was “elated” by the discovery. “But it’s also sobering, because we just found 80 men,” he said.

According to the Navy, the USS Grayback was one of the most successful submarines in the war, sinking a total of 14 ships.

Earlier this year, explorers with the Lost 52 Project found the USS Grunion, a submarine that sank in 1942 on its inaugural mission during World War II, off the coast of Alaska.

Deep-Sea Explorers Seek out Sunken World War II Ships

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Deep-Sea Explorers Seek out Sunken World War II Ships

Friday, 18 October, 2019 – 09:30
In this Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019 photo, the shoreline of Midway Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is shown from a landing airplane. Deep-sea explorers scouring the world’s oceans for sunken World War II ships are honing in on a debris field deep in the Pacific. Weeks of grid searches around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands already have led the research vessel Petrel to one sunken battleship, the Japanese aircraft carrier Kaga. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Deep-sea explorers scouring the world’s oceans for sunken World War II ships are focusing in on debris fields deep in the Pacific, in an area where one of the most decisive battles of the time took place.

Hundreds of miles off Midway Atoll, nearly halfway between the United States and Japan, a research vessel is launching underwater robots miles into the abyss to look for warships from the famed Battle of Midway.

Weeks of grid searches around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands have already led the crew of the Petrel to one sunken warship, the Japanese ship the Kaga. This week, the crew is deploying equipment to investigate what could be another.

Historians consider the Battle of Midway an essential victory for the US and a key turning point in WWII.

“We read about the battles, we know what happened. But when you see these wrecks on the bottom of the ocean and everything, you kind of get a feel for what the real price is for war,” said Frank Thompson, a historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, D.C., who is onboard the Petrel. “You see the damage these things took, and it’s humbling to watch some of the video of these vessels because they’re war graves.”

Until now, only one of the seven ships that went down in the June 1942 air and sea battle – five Japanese vessels and two American – had been located.

The expedition is an effort started by the late Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft. For years, the crew of the 250-foot (76-meter) Petrel has worked with the US Navy and other officials around the world to find and document sunken ships. It is illegal to otherwise disturb the underwater US military gravesites, and their exact coordinates are kept secret.

The Petrel has found 31 vessels so far. This is the first time it has looked for warships from the Battle of Midway, which took place six months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and left more than 2,000 Japanese and 300 Americans dead.

The attack from the Japanese Imperial Navy was meant to be a surprise, a strike that would give Japan a strategic advantage in the Pacific. It was thwarted when US analysts decoded Japanese messages and baited their enemy into revealing its plan.

As Japanese warplanes started bombing the military installation at Midway Atoll, a tiny group of islands about 1,300 miles (2,090 kilometers) northwest of Honolulu, US forces were already on their way to intercept Japan’s fleet. US planes sank four of Japan’s aircraft carriers and a cruiser, and downed dozens of its fighter planes.

One of the American ships lost was the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier that was heavily damaged and being towed by the US on the battle’s final day when it was hit by torpedoes. The other, the USS Hammann, went down trying to defend the Yorktown.

Retired Navy Capt. Jack Crawford, who recently turned 100, was among the Yorktown’s 2,270 survivors.

Japanese dive bombers left the Yorktown badly damaged, with black smoke gushing from its stacks, but the vessel was still upright.

Then the torpedoes hit, Crawford told The Associated Press by telephone from his home in Maryland.

“Bam! Bam! We get two torpedoes, and I know we’re in trouble. As soon as the deck edge began to go under, I knew . she wasn’t going to last,” said Crawford, whose later military career was with the naval nuclear propulsion program. He also served as deputy assistant secretary for nuclear energy in the Department of Energy.

The Yorktown sank slowly, and a destroyer was able to pick up Crawford and many others.

In May 1998, almost 56 years later, an expedition led by the National Geographic Society in conjunction with the US Navy found the Yorktown 3 miles (5 kilometers) below the surface.

Crawford doesn’t see much value in these missions to find lost ships, unless they can get some useful information on how the Japanese ships went down. But he wouldn’t mind if someone was able to retrieve his strongbox and the brand-new sword he left in it when he and others abandoned ship 77 years ago.

He was too far away to see the Kaga go down.

A piece of the Japanese aircraft carrier was discovered in 1999, but its main wreckage was still missing – until last week.

After receiving some promising sonar readings, the Petrel used underwater robots to investigate and get video. It compared the footage with historical records and confirmed this week it had found the Kaga.

The other three Japanese aircraft carriers – the Akagi, Soryu and Hiryu – and the Japanese cruiser Mikuma are still unaccounted for.

The Petrel crew hopes to find and survey all the wreckage from the entire battle, an effort that could add new details about Midway to history books.

Earlier this year, they discovered the USS Hornet, an aircraft carrier that helped win the Battle of Midway but sank in the Battle of Santa Cruz near the Solomon Islands less than five months later. More than 100 crew members died.

The Petrel also discovered the USS Indianapolis, the US Navy’s single deadliest loss at sea.

Rob Kraft, director of subsea operations on the Petrel, says Allen gave him and his crew a mission to preserve history, educate people about the past and honor those who fought on these great ships. Allen died last year.

“We’re still carrying on Paul’s legacy to honor our service members,” Kraft said. “This originated from his desire to honor his father’s service to his country, and to remember our service members and to make sure that future generations remember that as well, and they actually understand what that means and to respect that.”

U.S. military brings back remains from World War II battle of Tarawa

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE JAPAN TIMES)

 

NATIONAL / HISTORY

U.S. military brings back remains from World War II battle of Tarawa

AP

The U.S. military has brought back the remains of more than 20 servicemen killed in one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.

An Air Force cargo plane flew the remains from Tarawa atoll in the remote Pacific island nation of Kiribati (KEE-ree-bas) to Hawaii on Wednesday. Marines carried flag-draped caskets off the plane for a ceremony.

The remains are among those discovered in March by History Flight, a nonprofit organization that searches for the remains of U.S. servicemen lost in past conflicts.

They’re believed to belong to Marines and sailors from the 6th Marine Regiment who were killed during the last night of the three-day Battle of Tarawa. More than 6,000 Americans, Japanese and Koreans died.

Forensic anthropologists with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency will work to identify the remains using dental records, DNA and other clues.

Vienna school finds our what became of the 50 Jewish Pupils it expelled in 1938

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Vienna school finds out what became of the 50 Jewish pupils it expelled in 1938

Amid widespread ignorance about the Holocaust in Austria, a public high school launches a project to determine the fate of the students it booted under Nazi policies

JTA — On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, a public high school in the Austrian capital corrected its own historical record.

Along with a memorial to World War II soldiers, the Gymnasium Kundmanngasse now also has a plaque with the names of the 50 Jewish students expelled from the Vienna school exactly 81 years ago. And the life stories of these pupils – some tragically cut short – are contained in a book written by teenagers now attending the school.

The dedication of the new memorial on April 25 came just as a new survey reveals a disheartening lack of knowledge about the Holocaust among adults in Austria.

But the Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Study also found a profound commitment to Holocaust education among Austrians, particularly among younger adults.

What the survey found

The study was commissioned by the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and released May 2, Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom Hashoah.

Among the survey findings:

  • 58 percent of Austrians do not know that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust;
  • 36% of respondents said they believed people still talk too much about the Holocaust;
  • 28% said they believed that many Austrians acted heroically to save Jews, when in fact only 109 are recognized as rescuers by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and archive.
  • On the positive side, 82% of respondents – and 87% of younger ones — said they believe that Holocaust education is important.

Data was collected from a randomly selected, demographically representative sample of 1,000 Austrian adults. It was analyzed by Schoen Consulting in New York.

A plaque, reading ‘In Memory,’ at the Gymnasium Kundmanngasse commemorates 50 Jewish students expelled from the Vienna school exactly 81 years ago. (Gymnasium Kundmanngasse)

“On one hand, there are some troubling, problematic results,” Greg Schneider, the executive vice president of the Claims Conference, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “On the other hand, there is a recognition of the importance of learning about the Holocaust, which is very hopeful. It gives us a road map to ensure that the Shoah is taught in schools and given the proper context and support.”

The first duty of Holocaust education is “to honor the memory of those who were killed,” he said.

Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Communities in Austria and Vienna, said in a statement, “The lack of knowledge among many Austrians revealed through this study sets a mission for not only teachers and politicians but all society. A sincere handling of antisemitic incidents today and misrepresentations of the Shoah is crucial.”

Compared to Germany, Austria was notoriously late in confronting its role in the persecution and genocide of its Jewish population. What might be called willful ignorance changed dramatically in the mid-1980s, when the Nazi past of then-chancellor candidate Kurt Waldheim was put on the table. He was elected despite the questions raised about his role.

In 2000, Austria’s Ministry of Education, Science and Research established a Holocaust education program – errinern.at, or “remembrance.at” – that oversees educational projects on the national and state level with help from other foundations. Its programs reach thousands of teachers and students each year.

Today there is a “broad societal consensus that Austria has a responsibility and a share in this history,” said Martina Maschke, chair of errinern.at, in an interview before the Claims Conference survey’s release. Since the Holocaust is a paradigm for genocides, “there will never be enough Holocaust education.”

Nazi leader Adolf Hitler enters the city limits of Vienna, Austria, on March 14, 1938. (AP Photo)

That’s especially clear today, Maschke said, with the rise of the right wing and an increase in anti-Semitism from migrants “socialized in Muslim countries.”

“Of course, the administration is always one step behind the political factum, and this is something that makes me rather sad,” she said. “But I think that this goes for every society.”

In fact, Schneider said, the results of the survey in Austria are similar to those in recent surveys that the Claims Conference commissioned in the United States (April 2018) and Canada (January 2019). He said they share an “appalling lack of knowledge, and a tremendous commitment to the importance of Holocaust education.”

Changing the record

It was just such a commitment that inspired Katharina Fersterer, a history and English teacher at the Gymnasium Kundmanngasse.

Fersterer, 29, had long been interested in Holocaust history. Austria’s Ministry of Education sent her to a summer program at Yad Vashem two years ago, and she returned determined to add to her school’s historical record in time for its 150th anniversary this year.

“My principal said, ‘Yes, let’s do this,’” Fersterer recalled.

Her students found the names of 50 Jewish students forced to leave the school in April 1938, shortly after Germany annexed Austria.

“But we didn’t stop at that. We wanted to know what happened to them,” Fersterer said.

Viennese Jews behind bars at the Mauthausen concentration camp. (Courtesy Claims Conference)

It turned out that most of the former Jewish students had been able to escape Nazi-occupied Austria via the Kinderstransport, a rescue operation that brought Jewish children from Germany, Austria and then-Czechoslovakia to England in 1938-39.

“But some were also killed in concentration camps,” she said.

The students started looking for descendants of the survivors. Ultimately the project, including art and video, involved teachers and students in other departments.

That’s when Elia Ben-Ari of Arlington, Virginia, received her first Facebook message from Samuel, a 17-year-old senior in Fersterer’s class who asked that his last name not be used.

His message came “out of the blue,” Ben-Ari said in a recent interview, “from somebody who said he was a student doing a project about my father. My first reaction was, ‘Who is this person? How do I know this is legitimate?’”

Samuel had chosen to write about two students – Ernst Ratzer, who did not survive the Holocaust, and Martin Buchbinder, who was sent to safety in England in 1939 and later changed his name to Moshe Ben Ari. After living in Israel, he eventually settled on suburban New York’s Long Island with his family. He died in 2011.

Luckily, Moshe Ben Ari had written an autobiography – “My Pre-American History” – that gave Samuel enough information to go on. But it was just the beginning of his research.

“It was really a surprise to actually find a relative, and when it turned out that she was actually his daughter, I was obviously very excited and happy,” Samuel said.

A local momentum

On April 25, the school held a ceremony and dedication of a plaque remembering the 50 former Jewish students.

“We now have a kind of book with all their life stories,” Fersterer said.

That book sits alongside Moshe Ben Ari’s autobiography for anyone to read, in the room with the plaque, she said.

Moshe Ben Ari was one of the children expelled from the Vienna school. A current student at the school has been researching his life story. (Courtesy of Elia Ben-Ari)

“There is no question that there are teachers who manage to succeed, who are doing a lot,” said Richelle Bud Caplan, director of the European Department at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies and a member of the Claims Conference survey task force.

“It doesn’t have to do with funding. It has to do with support from the school administration to create a local momentum, a learning community,” she said. “We very much want people to focus on individual stories, so youngsters can connect,” and understand that “the majority of those who lived during this complex and difficult period did not survive.”

“Our school has a memorial remembering the fallen soldiers of World War II, but it didn’t have one memorial for the Jewish students,” said Samuel, who walks the same halls and climbs the same stairs that they did.

“I can imagine it was terrible,” he said. On the students’ last day, “mobs formed at the entrance of our school, where a few hardcore teachers and students were spitting and shouting names. So it was not a very kind goodbye, as you can imagine.”

As for Ben-Ari, she regrets that she could not attend the dedication ceremony. But “I think my father would have been gratified to know that somebody read his history and cared about it.”

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WJC Urges All Of Europe’s Governments To Ban Hitler Birthday Celebrations

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

The World Jewish Congress on Friday urged European governments and lawmakers to take measures against a series of planned neo-Nazi gatherings over the weekend to mark Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

The WJC statement said group events to commemorate 130 years since the birth of the Nazi leader (on April 20, 1889) were scheduled across the continent, including a two-day conference by a fascist group in Bulgarian capital Sofia, a hiking and picnic trip in Ukraine, a rock concert in Italy, two conventions in Germany and a handful of gatherings in France.

The group invited lawmakers and other to join its social media campaign raising awareness about the recent rise of neo-Nazi movements in Europe by highlighting their connection to WWII-era Nazi groups.

The organization’s CEO, Robert Singer, made a personal appeal to Bulgarian Interior Minister Mladen Marinov, asking him to do everything in his power to cancel the Bulgarian National Union’s conference scheduled to take place in Sofia on Friday and Saturday.

WJC

@WorldJewishCong

This weekend, neo-Nazis will celebrate Hitler’s birthday throughout Europe. These gatherings are a stark reminder of the past. We must do everything we can to ensure history does not repeat itself.

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Previous BNU events have drawn nationalist supporters from other European countries. In February, hundreds of supporters walked through downtown Sofia holding torches and chanting nationalist slogans to honor a WWII general known for his anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi activities.

The annual Lukov March came despite strong condemnation by human rights groups, political parties and foreign embassies. The city mayor had banned the rally but organizers won a court order overturning the ban.

Singer said BNU’s upcoming gathering was “part and parcel with the inciting and violent nature of the annual [neo-Nazi] Lukov march and should be met with the same condemnation and denunciation.”

Last year on Hitler’s birthday, hundreds of neo-Nazis massed under heavy security in the eastern German town of Ostritz for a weekend festival. Citizens and anti-fascist activists staged spirited counterprotests in the area, vastly outnumbered concert-goers.

The festivities were organized by a member of the far-right fringe German political party NPD, which is openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic but in 2017 avoided a legal ban because of its small membership and limited influence.

Members of nationalist organizations parade with torches during a march to commemorate Bulgarian General and politician Hristo Lukov, in the centre of Sofia on February 16, 2019. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)

In neighboring Poland, around 100 people attended a Hitler birthday concert in Dzierzoniow. Days later, police raided the homes of the concert organizers, arresting two and confiscating neofascist paraphernalia including flags and banners.

The public propagation of totalitarian ideologies like fascism or communism and ethnic or racial hatred is banned in Poland, a country still grappling with the memory of Nazi occupation, and carries a penalty of up to two years behind bars.

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Shanghai refugee’s New York surprise

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWSPAPER ‘SHINE’)

 

Shanghai refugee’s New York surprise

Ti Gong

Guests are pictured at a reception at Brooklyn Public Library for an exhibition recalling the life of Jewish refugees in Shanghai.

A former refugee given shelter in Shanghai during World War II got a surprise when she spotted herself in photographs at an exhibition which has just opened in New York.

The exhibition, “Jewish Refugees in Shanghai,” documents the period when about 23,000 Jewish people arrived in Shanghai between 1933 and 1941 to escape the Nazis. It tells of how they adapted to the city life and of the friendships they made with local residents.

“That young lady is me,” Betty Grebenschikoff, 90, said as she stood in front of a photograph showing her family on Lintong Road, formerly known as Macgregor Road, in Hongkou District in 1941.

A photo of Grebenschikoff and her husband, a Russian sports teacher, at the former racecourse near People’s Square in 1949 was also on display at Brooklyn Public Library, along with photos of their marriage certificate in Chinese and her residence certificate.

It was in Shanghai that Grebenschikoff met her husband, who died in 2002. The couple held their wedding in the Park Hotel in Shanghai in 1948.

Grebenschikoff, who is originally from Berlin, lived in Shanghai from 1939 to 1950. She was just 10 years old when war broke out. Her father bribed the captain of a Japanese ship to take her, along with her parents, sister and uncle, to Shanghai.

She has since been back to the city several times to visit her former home at 51 Zhoushan Road in Hongkou with her daughters. She donated her wedding dress, a classic local-style garment handmade by her husband’s mother to the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. Her third and fourth daughters wore the wedding dress when they got married.

She has also written a memoir, “Once My Name Was Sara,” which was published in English and Chinese, about her life in Shanghai.

Ti Gong

Betty Grebenschikoff (second from left), a 90-year-old former Jewish refugee in Shanghai, looks at some of the photos on display at the Brooklyn Public Library.

At the reception of the exhibition, Grebenschikoff met another former Jewish refugee who had lived in Shanghai, and both shared their memories of the city.

The exhibition, under the guidance of the Information Office of Shanghai and the Hongkou District government, was organized by the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum and Brooklyn Public Library.

“The exhibition showcases the dust-laden history to US audiences, which has shocked and touched them,” a museum official said. “Some visitors appreciated the generous assistance offered by Shanghai and its citizens even if Chinese people were also suffering during that period.”

The exhibition, which is underway at the library until May 10, incorporates photographs from the time and two Shanghai-produced documentaries. Conferences and meetings between former refugees, their children and historians are also being held.

Over 70 former refugees, diplomats and officials with Jewish organizations attended the reception at the library on Tuesday.

Brooklyn has some 580,000 Jewish residents, many of them former Shanghai refugees and their children.

Ti Gong

A former refugee who lived in Shanghai shares her experiences with visitors at the Brooklyn Public Library reception.

Congress Honors Berea Vet

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE RICHMOND (KY) REGISTER)

 

Congress honors Berea vet

Chester Elkin, a Berea native and decorated World War II veteran, was presented with a Congressional record at his home signed by U.S. State Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.). He is also a nominee for the 2019 Kentucky Veteran Hall of Fame, representing the city of Berea.

At the gathering Thursday morning, Emerson McAfee, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) central Kentucky chapter read the record aloud to Elkin, alongside his wife of 76 years, Mary Ellen. McAfee also was the person who nominated Elkin for the hall of fame.

On March 25, Barr also read the record aloud before the House of Representatives, which gives an overview of not only Elkin’s extensive and award winning service, but his many contributions to Berea and Madison County.

The record recalled Barr standing and stating, “Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor the life of a special man, Mr. Chester Elkin, of Madison County, Kentucky. Mr. Elkin is part of a special group of heroes that served our nation during World War II … I am humbled to honor the service of Mr. Chester Elkin before the United States Congress.”

“I just asked for a letter,” McAfee said. “I never would’ve thought he would recognize him before Congress.”

Elkin was born in Wallaceton in 1919. While in high school he became the driver of the first school bus in his community, and at the age of 17, he opened a general store so the community wouldn’t have to travel as far for necessities. He also owned properties in the city, which he used to provide businesses and jobs.

He was involved with several Berea committees and organizations such as Renfro Valley Entertainment, the American Legion Post 50 and was county game warden for 30 years.

He served in the Army Air Corps from 1941 to 1946. He was stationed at an airbase in Ie Jima Island, Okinawa, leading the development of a runway for landing the aircraft. Toward the end of the war, he was in charge of receiving Japanese aircrafts and their pilots during their surrender, earning him the American Theater Medal, American Defense Medal, Asiatic Pacific Theater Medal with two bronze stars, the Good Conduct Ribbon and the Victory Medal.

“I never realized that people would ever care about what I was doing,” Elkin said. “I just did what I was told.”

Besides McAfee and Elkin’s wife, their daughter, Alvanell, Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley and Elkin’s hospice caretakers were in attendance.

Fraley, who is long standing family friends with the Elkin family, reminisced with him.

“You remember that Red’s game at Riverfront that we went to with Daddy,” he asked. “It was 1974, and I was just a boy, and I never forgot about that. Those were some of the best memories of my life.”

Elkin is looking forward to another large milestone by celebrating his 100th birthday in August, something he says that nothing will hinder him from reaching.

“With everything that I did throughout my life, I didn’t do anything that will keep me from getting to 100,” he said.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.

Guam: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Pacific Island Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Guam

Introduction Guam was ceded to the US by Spain in 1898. Captured by the Japanese in 1941, it was retaken by the US three years later. The military installation on the island is one of the most strategically important US bases in the Pacific.
History Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, sailing for the King of Spain, reached the island in 1521 during his circumnavigation of the globe. General Miguel López de Legazpi claimed Guam for Spain in 1565. Spanish colonization commenced in 1668 with the arrival of Padre San Vitores, who established the first Catholic mission. The islands were then governed as part of the Spanish East Indies from the Philippines. Between 1668 and 1815, Guam was an important resting stop on the Spanish trade route between Mexico and the Philippines. Guam, along with the rest of the Mariana and Caroline Islands, was treated by Spain as part of their colony in the Philippines. While Guam’s Chamorro culture is unique, the cultures of both Guam and the Northern Marianas were heavily influenced by Spanish culture and traditions.[2]

The United States took control of the island in the 1898 Spanish-American War. Guam came to serve as a station for American ships traveling to and from the Philippines, while the northern Mariana islands passed to Germany then Japan.[2] During World War II, Guam was attacked, and invaded, by the armed forces of Japan on December 8, 1941. Before the attack, most of the United States citizens were transported from the island and away from imminent danger. The Northern Mariana Islands had become a Japanese protectorate before the war. It was the Chamorros from the Northern Marianas who were brought to Guam to serve as interpreters and in other capacities for the occupying Japanese force. The Guamanian Chamorros were treated as an occupied enemy by the Japanese military. After the war, this would cause some resentment by the Guamanian Chamorros towards the Chamorros in the Northern Marianas. Guam’s occupation lasted for approximately thirty-one months. During this period, the indigenous people of Guam were subjected to forced labor, family separation, incarceration, execution, concentration camps and prostitution. Approximately a thousand people died during the occupation according to Congressional Testimony in 2004. The United States returned and fought the Battle of Guam on July 21, 1944, to recapture the island from Japanese military occupation. To this day, Guam remains the only U.S. soil, with a sizable population (in the thousands), to have ever been occupied by a foreign military power – the Japanese Imperial Army. The U.S. also captured and occupied the Northern Marianas. After the war, the Guam Organic Act of 1950, which established Guam as an unincorporated organized territory of the United States, provided for the structure of the island’s civilian government, and granted the people United States citizenship.

Geography Location: Oceania, island in the North Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines
Geographic coordinates: 13 28 N, 144 47 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 541.3 sq km
land: 541.3 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: three times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 125.5 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical marine; generally warm and humid, moderated by northeast trade winds; dry season (January to June), rainy season (July to December); little seasonal temperature variation
Terrain: volcanic origin, surrounded by coral reefs; relatively flat coralline limestone plateau (source of most fresh water), with steep coastal cliffs and narrow coastal plains in north, low hills in center, mountains in south
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Lamlam 406 m
Natural resources: fishing (largely undeveloped), tourism (especially from Japan)
Land use: arable land: 3.64%
permanent crops: 18.18%
other: 78.18% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: frequent squalls during rainy season; relatively rare, but potentially very destructive typhoons (June – December)
Environment – current issues: extirpation of native bird population by the rapid proliferation of the brown tree snake, an exotic, invasive species
Geography – note: largest and southernmost island in the Mariana Islands archipelago; strategic location in western North Pacific Ocean
People Population: 173,456 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 28.6% (male 25,686/female 23,938)
15-64 years: 64.5% (male 57,023/female 54,872)
65 years and over: 6.9% (male 5,592/female 6,345) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 28.8 years
male: 28.5 years
female: 29 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.4% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 18.56 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 4.56 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.073 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.039 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.881 male(s)/female
total population: 1.037 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.68 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.35 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.97 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.76 years
male: 75.69 years
female: 82.01 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.57 children born/woman

Japan: Truth, Knowledge, History Of The East Asian Power House Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Japan

Introduction In 1603, a Tokugawa shogunate (military dictatorship) ushered in a long period of isolation from foreign influence in order to secure its power. For more than two centuries this policy enabled Japan to enjoy stability and a flowering of its indigenous culture. Following the Treaty of Kanagawa with the US in 1854, Japan opened its ports and began to intensively modernize and industrialize. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Japan became a regional power that was able to defeat the forces of both China and Russia. It occupied Korea, Formosa (Taiwan), and southern Sakhalin Island. In 1931-32 Japan occupied Manchuria, and in 1937 it launched a full-scale invasion of China. Japan attacked US forces in 1941 – triggering America’s entry into World War II – and soon occupied much of East and Southeast Asia. After its defeat in World War II, Japan recovered to become an economic power and a staunch ally of the US. While the emperor retains his throne as a symbol of national unity, elected politicians – with heavy input from bureaucrats and business executives – wield actual decision-making power. The economy experienced a major slowdown starting in the 1990s following three decades of unprecedented growth, but Japan still remains a major economic power, both in Asia and globally.
History The first signs of occupation on the Japanese Archipelago appeared with a Paleolithic culture around 30,000 BC, followed from around 14,000 BC by the Jōmon period, a Mesolithic to Neolithic semi-sedentary hunter-gatherer culture of pit dwelling and a rudimentary form of agriculture. Decorated clay vessels from this period, often with plaited patterns, are some of the oldest surviving examples of pottery in the world.

The Yayoi period, starting around the third century BC, introduced new practices, such as wet-rice farming, iron and bronze-making and a new style of pottery, brought by migrants from China or Korea. With the development of Yayoi culture, a predominantly agricultural society emerged in Japan.

The Japanese first appear in written history in China’s Book of Han. According to the Chinese Records of Three Kingdoms, the most powerful kingdom on the archipelago during the third century was called Yamataikoku.

Buddhism was first introduced to Japan from Baekje of the Korean Peninsula, but the subsequent development of Japanese Buddhism and Buddhist sculptures were primarily influenced by China.[15] Despite early resistance, Buddhism was promoted by the ruling class and eventually gained growing acceptance since the Asuka period.[16]

The Nara period of the eighth century marked the first emergence of a strong central Japanese state, centered around an imperial court in the city of Heijō-kyō, or modern-day Nara. In addition to the continuing adoption of Chinese administrative practices, the Nara period is characterized by the appearance of a nascent written literature with the completion of the massive chronicles Kojiki (712) and Nihon Shoki (720).[17] (Nara was not the first capital city in Japan, though. Before Nara, Fujiwara-kyō and Asuka served as capitals of the Yamato state.)

In 784, Emperor Kammu moved the capital from Nara to Nagaoka-kyō for a brief ten-year period, before relocating it to Heian-kyō (modern-day Kyoto) in 794, where it remained for more than a millennium.[18] This marked the beginning of the Heian period, during which time a distinctly indigenous Japanese culture emerged, noted for its art, poetry and literature. Lady Murasaki’s The Tale of Genji and the lyrics of modern Japan’s national anthem, Kimi ga Yo were written during this time.

Japan’s feudal era was characterized by the emergence of a ruling class of warriors, the samurai. In 1185, following the defeat of the rival Taira clan, Minamoto no Yoritomo was appointed Shogun and established a base of power in Kamakura. After Yoritomo’s death, the Hōjō clan came to rule as regents for the shoguns. Zen Buddhism was introduced from China in the Kamakura period (1185–1333) and became popular among the samurai class. The Kamakura shogunate managed to repel Mongol invasions in 1274 and 1281, aided by a storm that the Japanese interpreted as a kamikaze, or Divine Wind. The Kamakura shogunate was eventually overthrown by Emperor Go-Daigo, who was soon himself defeated by Ashikaga Takauji in 1336.[20] The succeeding Ashikaga shogunate failed to control the feudal warlords (daimyo), and a civil war erupted (the Ōnin War) in 1467 which opened a century-long Sengoku period.

During the sixteenth century, traders and Jesuit missionaries from Portugal reached Japan for the first time, initiating active commercial and cultural exchange between Japan and the West (Nanban trade).

Oda Nobunaga conquered numerous other daimyo by using European technology and firearms and had almost unified the nation when he was assassinated in 1582. Toyotomi Hideyoshi succeeded Nobunaga and united the nation in 1590. Hideyoshi invaded Korea twice, but following several defeats by Korean and Ming China forces and Hideyoshi’s death, Japanese troops were withdrawn in 1598.

After Hideyoshi’s death, Tokugawa Ieyasu utilized his position as regent for Hideyoshi’s son Toyotomi Hideyori to gain political and military support. When open war broke out, he defeated rival clans in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. Ieyasu was appointed shōgun in 1603 and established the Tokugawa shogunate at Edo (modern Tokyo). The Tokugawa shogunate enacted a variety of measures such as Buke shohatto to control the autonomous daimyo. In 1639, the shogunate began the isolationist sakoku (“closed country”) policy that spanned the two and a half centuries of tenuous political unity known as the Edo period. The study of Western sciences, known as rangaku, continued during this period through contacts with the Dutch enclave at Dejima in Nagasaki. The Edo period also gave rise to kokugaku, or literally “national studies”, the study of Japan by the Japanese themselves.

On March 31, 1854, Commodore Matthew Perry and the “Black Ships” of the United States Navy forced the opening of Japan to the outside world with the Convention of Kanagawa. Subsequent similar treaties with the Western countries in the Bakumatsu period brought Japan into economic and political crises. The abundance of the prerogative and the resignation of the shogunate led to the Boshin War and the establishment of a centralized state unified under the name of the Emperor (Meiji Restoration). Adopting Western political, judicial and military institutions, the Cabinet organized the Privy Council, introduced the Meiji Constitution, and assembled the Imperial Diet. The Meiji Restoration transformed the Empire of Japan into an industrialized world power that embarked on a number of military conflicts to expand the nation’s sphere of influence. After victories in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), Japan gained control of Taiwan, Korea, and the southern half of Sakhalin.[24]

The early twentieth century saw a brief period of “Taisho democracy” overshadowed by the rise of expansionism and militarization. World War I enabled Japan, which joined the side of the victorious Allies, to expand its influence and territorial holdings. Japan continued its expansionist policy by occupying Manchuria in 1931. As a result of international condemnation for this occupation, Japan resigned from the League of Nations two years later. In 1936, Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact with Nazi Germany, joining the Axis powers in 1941.

In 1937, Japan invaded other parts of China, precipitating the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), after which the United States placed an oil embargo on Japan.[26] On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States naval base in Pearl Harbor and declared war on the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. This act brought the United States into World War II. After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, along with the Soviet Union joining the war against it, Japan agreed to an unconditional surrender on August 15 (Victory over Japan Day).[27] The war cost Japan millions of lives and left much of the country’s industry and infrastructure destroyed. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East, was convened by the Allies (on May 3, 1946) to prosecute Japanese leaders for war crimes such as the Nanking Massacre.

In 1947, Japan adopted a new pacifist constitution emphasizing liberal democratic practices. The Allied occupation ended by the Treaty of San Francisco in 1952[29] and Japan was granted membership in the United Nations in 1956. Japan later achieved spectacular growth to become the second largest economy in the world, with an annual growth rate averaging 10% for four decades. This ended in the mid-1990’s when Japan suffered a major recession. Positive growth in the early twenty-first century has signaled a gradual recovery.

Geography Location: Eastern Asia, island chain between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, east of the Korean Peninsula
Geographic coordinates: 36 00 N, 138 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 377,835 sq km
land: 374,744 sq km
water: 3,091 sq km
note: includes Bonin Islands (Ogasawara-gunto), Daito-shoto, Minami-jima, Okino-tori-shima, Ryukyu Islands (Nansei-shoto), and Volcano Islands (Kazan-retto)
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than California
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 29,751 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm; between 3 nm and 12 nm in the international straits – La Perouse or Soya, Tsugaru, Osumi, and Eastern and Western Channels of the Korea or Tsushima Strait
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: varies from tropical in south to cool temperate in north
Terrain: mostly rugged and mountainous
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Hachiro-gata -4 m
highest point: Mount Fuji 3,776 m
Natural resources: negligible mineral resources, fish
Land use: arable land: 11.64%
permanent crops: 0.9%
other: 87.46% (2005)
Irrigated land: 25,920 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 430 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 88.43 cu km/yr (20%/18%/62%)
per capita: 690 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: many dormant and some active volcanoes; about 1,500 seismic occurrences (mostly tremors) every year; tsunamis; typhoons
Environment – current issues: air pollution from power plant emissions results in acid rain; acidification of lakes and reservoirs degrading water quality and threatening aquatic life; Japan is one of the largest consumers of fish and tropical timber, contributing to the depletion of these resources in Asia and elsewhere
Environment – international agreements: party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
Geography – note: strategic location in northeast Asia
Politics Japan is a constitutional monarchy where the power of the Emperor is very limited. As a ceremonial figurehead, he is defined by the constitution as “the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people”. Power is held chiefly by the Prime Minister of Japan and other elected members of the Diet, while sovereignty is vested in the Japanese people.[31] The Emperor effectively acts as the head of state on diplomatic occasions. Akihito is the current Emperor of Japan. Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan, stands as next in line to the throne.

 

People Population: 127,433,494 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 13.8% (male 9,024,344/female 8,553,700)
15-64 years: 65.2% (male 41,841,760/female 41,253,968)
65 years and over: 21% (male 11,312,492/female 15,447,230) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 43.5 years
male: 41.7 years
female: 45.3 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.088% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 8.1 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 8.98 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.055 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.014 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.732 male(s)/female
total population: 0.953 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 2.8 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 2.59 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 82.02 years
male: 78.67 years
female: 85.56 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.23 children born/woman (2007 est.)Nationality: noun: Japanese (singular and plural)
adjective: Japanese
Ethnic groups: Japanese 98.5%, Koreans 0.5%, Chinese 0.4%, other 0.7%
note: up to 230,000 Brazilians of Japanese origin migrated to Japan in the 1990s to work in industries; some have returned to Brazil (2004)
Religions: observe both Shinto and Buddhist 84%, other 16% (including Christian 0.7%)
Languages: Japanese
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99%
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