Billionaire explorer discovers sunken US WWII aircraft carrier

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Billionaire explorer discovers sunken US WWII aircraft carrier

Washington (CNN)Wreckage from the USS Lexington — a US aircraft carrier sunk by the Japanese during World War II — has been discovered 500 miles off the Australian coast by a team of explorers led by billionaire Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder announced on Monday.

One of the first US aircraft carriers ever built, the vessel dubbed “Lady Lex” was located at the bottom of the Coral Sea — nearly two miles below the surface — by the expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel on Sunday, Allen said.
The Lexington was lost in May 1942 along with 216 of its crew and 35 aircraft during what is considered the first carrier battle in history — the Battle of the Coral Sea.
“To pay tribute to the USS Lexington and the brave men that served on her is an honor,” Allen said in a statement. “As Americans, all of us owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who served and who continue to serve our country for their courage, persistence and sacrifice.”
Along with the USS Yorktown, the Lexington and its fleet faced off against three Japanese aircraft carriers and is credited with helping to stop Japan’s advances on New Guinea and Australia.
The battle occurred just one month before the US Navy “surprised Japanese forces at the Battle of Midway and turned the tide of the war in the Pacific for good,” according to Allen.
“The Battle of the Coral Sea was notable not only for stopping a Japanese advance but because it was the first naval engagement in history where opposing ships never came within sight of each other,” read the statement from Allen.
US ships were able to rescue more than 2,000 sailors before the Lexington ultimately sank from the damage sustained from a bombardment of Japanese torpedoes.
“As the son of a survivor of the USS Lexington, I offer my congratulations to Paul Allen and the expedition crew of Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel for locating the “Lady Lex,” sunk nearly 76 years ago at the Battle of Coral Sea,” Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris of US Pacific Command said Monday in a statement.
“We honor the valor and sacrifice of the ‘Lady Lex’s’ sailors — all those Americans who fought in World War II — by continuing to secure the freedoms they won for all of us,” he said.

Romania WWII: The White Squadron

(FROM GOOGLE+: MEMORIES OF LIGHT)

The White Squadron

+-

26 November 2014

In the pages prefacing Daniel Focşa’s writing, “The White Squadron”, Neagu Djuvara praises the author’s idea to reinstate, in historical order, the heroic deeds from the time of the war, “obscured or twisted until yesterday, so that, most of the times, the new generations completely ignore them”.

Being one of the infantrymen who walked their boots through hundreds of miles of dust or mud all the way to Odessa, Neagu Djuvara pays tribute to aviators, which he considers super humans not daring to compare himself to: “And when it comes to women aviators, my admiration is even higher”. Although regarded with wonderment or even disbelief, “there were a few extraordinary characters, like in the novels”, says the well-known Romanian historian, diplomat, philosopher, journalist and novelist, inciting us to marvel at the proverbial scenes, at the risks these heroines took, at the challenges and physical suffering they went through all the way to Kuban or above the hell of Stalingrad and read this book as a novel.

We open, therefore, a serial-story columns through which we try to pull out from the old chest-of-drawers true stories about the history of aviation, unique and savory details coming straight from the source, which come from the very ladies who wrote the legend of the White Squadron, hoping that these testimonies will inspire younger generations…

In 1938, the political atmosphere in Europe was increasingly tense – the armies of the Third Reich were marching, USSR threats, simultaneous and combined with those of Germany’s, resulted in frequent incidents caused by Soviet Russia at the border, pushing the Romanian Army to take important measures. Among other things, at the military maneuvers which took place in the fall of that year, in Galaţi, five aviatrixes (Mariana Drăgescu, Virginia Duțescu, Nadia Russo, Marina Știrbey and Irina Burnaia) had been invited to participate, for the first time, to be put to test and see how they would manage under war. It was about simulating dogfights, liaison missions against the clock, night flights – a sort of playing in the air, would say some; but it was one as serious as possible. And the fact that these women managed admirably the two weeks of exercises determined the headquarters to declare them fit for mobilization.

At the end of these maneuvers, Marina Ştirbei, daughter of Prince George Ştirbei and cousin of the more famous aviator Constantin Cantacuzino, revealed to her flying comrades her intention of setting up a squadron of sanitary planes with female pilots only. By that time, she had won a certain number of aviation competitions in the country and had even put her talent to the test, covering over two thousand miles in a raid that took her all the way to the Scandinavian countries. She would keep her word and, as the war became a certainty, Marina Ştirbei submitted a memorandum for the creation of this squadron to the Ministry of Air. It was approved on June 25, 1940, and so, the highest rated female pilots took a step forward, joining the army as lieutenants and getting access to Polish manufactured RWD-13 airplanes.

The squadron was registered in the Romanian Army documents under the “Sanitary Squadron” title and its purpose on the Eastern Front was to transport seriously wounded soldiers, who needed immediate surgery. In April 1942, the squadron will be renamed “Easy Transport Squadron 108”, but entered public consciousness as “The White Squadron”, a nickname disputed by several authors, which, in fact, belongs to the Italian journalist Curzio Malaparte, the author of the book “Coup d’état: the technique of revolution”. While he was researching on the Romanian front, he was inspired by the color of the Polish aircraft, originally painted white, with the red cross on the fuselage and the wings, which is why soon enough they have earned the reputation of air ambulances. Because the Soviets did not respect that these were sanitary planes and bombarded them, the small RWD-13 were painted in camouflage colors later on.

During World War II, Romania was the only country in the world that had sanitary airplanes piloted by women, although Marina Ştirbei’s idea had started from Finnish paramilitary Lotta Svärd group, made up exclusively of women, auxiliary to the army.

The “White Squadron” aviators were not exactly fighters, but their missions in hostile airspace were as dangerous as possible, always being stalked by antiaircraft artillery, by the isolated shooters and, especially, by the sharks of the air which had, however, much better equipped devices than theirs. They made quite an impression at the time and even became, in 1944, subject and inspiration source for the Romanian-Italian artistic movie “Squadriglia Bianca”, directed by Ion Sava, starring Claudio Gora, Lucia Sturdza-Bulandra and Mariella Lotti, former King Michael’s girlfriend. With or without this movie, there was still not enough done to reveal the true value of this adventure called “The White Squadron”. Moreover, after the communist regime was installed, the fate was so unfair to these daring girls, so famous during the war that not only they entered complete anonymity, but they even ended up in prison, or in the best case they were removed from aviation and marginalized.

It seems, therefore, natural to dig in the past and bring their admirable front experience to the light. The first page of our serial is dedicated to Mariana Drăgescu, so make sure you do not miss it in our next edition.

Translated by Ancuţa Gălice

Polish Politicians Trying To Rewrite History Of Holocaust

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Lapid: Poland was complicit in the Holocaust, new bill ‘can’t change history’

Yesh Atid leader, son of survivor, condemns law prescribing jail time for using phrases such as ‘Polish death camps’; Poland played active role in WWII killing of Jews, he stresses

MK Yair Lapid leads a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset, January 8, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

MK Yair Lapid leads a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset, January 8, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid on Saturday slammed a controversial bill passed by the lower house of the Polish parliament which aims to penalize individuals or organizations who point to the European country’s involvement in facilitating atrocities during the Holocaust.

The Israeli member of Knesset, the son of a Holocaust survivor,  characterized the bill — which is expected to become law in Poland shortly — as an effort to rewrite history.

“I strongly condemn the new law that was passed in Poland, which attempts to deny the involvement of many Polish citizens in the Holocaust,” Lapid wrote in a tweet in Hebrew on Saturday.

“No Polish law will change history, Poland was complicit in the Holocaust. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered on its soil without them having met any German officer.”

He also tweeted in English.

I utterly condemn the new Polish law which tries to deny Polish complicity in the Holocaust. It was conceived in Germany but hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered without ever meeting a German soldier. There were Polish death camps and no law can ever change that.

The new bill prescribes prison time for defaming the Polish nation by using phrases such as “Polish death camps” to refer to the killing sites Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland during World War II.

The bill, passed Friday, is a response to cases in recent years of foreign media using “Polish death camps” to describe Auschwitz and other Nazi-run camps.

Poland’s embassy in Israel hit back at Lapid, tweeting that his “unsupportable claims show how badly Holocaust education is needed, even here in Israel.” The intent of the Polish legislation, it said, “is not to ‘whitewash’ the past, but to protect the truth against such slander.”

Your unsupportable claims show how badly Holocaust education is needed, even here in Israel

To which Lapid retorted with outrage and a demand for an apology: “I am a son of a Holocaust survivor. My grandmother was murdered in Poland by Germans and Poles. I don’t need Holocaust education from you. We live with the consequences every day in our collective memory. Your embassy should offer an immediate apology.”

The intent of the Polish draft legislation is not to ‘whitewash’ the past, but to protect the truth against such slander

I am a son of a Holocaust survivor. My grandmother was murdered in Poland by Germans and Poles. I don’t need Holocaust education from you. We live with the consequences every day in our collective memory. Your embassy should offer an immediate apology.

Some major news organizations have banned language referring to Polish death camps.

Former US President Barack Obama used it in 2012, prompting outrage in Poland. Obama made the comment while awarding the Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a resistance fighter against the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II. Karski died in 2000.

During an East Room ceremony honoring 13 Medal of Freedom recipients, Obama said that Karski “served as a courier for the Polish resistance during the darkest days of World War II. Before one trip across enemy lines, resistance fighters told him that Jews were being murdered on a massive scale and smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself. Jan took that information to President Franklin Roosevelt, giving one of the first accounts of the Holocaust and imploring to the world to take action.”

After complaints, the White House said Obama misspoke.

The main gate of the former Auschwitz extermination camp in Oswiecim, Poland, with the infamous sign reading ‘Work sets you free.’ (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images/via JTA)

The legislation calls for prison sentences of up to three years. It still needs approval from Poland’s Senate and president.

Critics say enforcing such a law would be impossible outside Poland, and that within the country it would have a chilling effect on debating history, harming freedom of expression.

While the law contains a provision excluding scholarly or academic works, opponents still see a danger.

They especially worry it could be used to stifle research and debate on topics that are anathema to Poland’s nationalistic authorities, particularly the painful issue of Poles who blackmailed Jews or denounced them to the Nazis during the war.

Dorota Glowacka, a legal adviser with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Warsaw, said the broad scope of the bill opens up the potential for abuse.

READ MORE:

Mercedes-Benz used by Adolf Hitler to be auctioned in Arizona

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS)

 

An infamous Mercedes-Benz used by Adolf Hitler to be auctioned in Arizona

A Mercedes-Benz that was used to shuttle Adolf Hitler around Nazi Germany will be auctioned in Arizona early next year and could be worth millions, if anyone steps up to bid on it.

The 1939 Mercedes-Benz 770K Grosser Offener Tourenwagen’s anonymous owner will offer the car to bidders at the Worldwide Auctioneers event in Scottsdale on Jan. 17, during the city’s annual classic car extravaganza.

While any Nazi symbols on the vehicle were removed long ago, the ghosts of its past remain.

(Original Caption) Storm Troopers, with arms linked, hold back the crowds, as the leader of the Reich, Adolf Hitler, returns to Berlin after the triumph of his Armies in France. He returned on July 6th, 1940, after having visited conquered Paris. The street is strewn with flowers. Hitler stands upright in his official car and returns the salutes of his greeters.

Adolf Hitler in Berlin on July 6, 1940  (Getty Images)

The imposing, four-door convertible “Super Mercedes” is one of a handful of cars used by the German High Command that have a well-documented connection to Hitler himself, including parading him through Berlin after the defeat of France in 1940 and after the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941. Benito Mussolini also got a ride in it during a visit to Germany.

The partially-armored car eventually fell out of this use and turned up in France, where it was captured after the war by American forces who, no doubt unaware of its notoriety, assigned it to a military police motor pool for several months.

hitler

In 1946, the car found its way into private hands in Belgium, and three years after that, an American tobacco merchant purchased it and donated it to the Greenville, N.C., branch of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Ironically, like many other vehicular trophies from the war, it was rolled out for patriotic parades, according to Robert Klara, author of “The Devil’s Mercedes: The Bizarre and Disturbing Adventures of Hitler’s Limousine in America,” which chronicles the controversial legacy of this car and others from the Fuehrer’s fleet.

The car later sat for years in a garage and had been nearly forgotten in 1976 when collectors Steve Munson and Joe Ogden purchased it for $50,000. When they discovered its possible ties to Hitler, they spent another $50,000 to restore it.

hitler

Munson and Ogden publicized the car and displayed it in several venues before it was sold twice more for unknown amounts. (One of the sales was rumored to be on the order of $1 million). In 1983, it found a home at the Imperial Palace Collection in Las Vegas, an enormous car museum owned by Ralph Engelstad, a casino operator. Engelstad had a private room full of Nazi relics in which he held Hitler-themed birthday parties that got him slapped with a $1.5 million fine from Nevada gaming authorities.

After Engelstad died in 2002, the car and several other Mercedes from the collection were sold to a European collector. It was sold again in 2009 to an anonymous buyer known only to be a wealthy Russian businessman, who displayed it briefly in a Moscow car museumto celebrate the Russian-led Soviet Union’s role in defeating the Nazis.

hitler

Michael Fröhlich, the German car dealer who brokered the sale, would not confirm how much the Russian businessman paid for the car, citing confidentiality stipulations. But to the best of his knowledge, he said, it hasn’t been sold since.

Now it likely will be — and in the same city where what turned out to be a phony Hitler-linked Mercedes was sold amid protests and bomb threats for a then-record $153,000 in 1973.

Ken Jacobson, deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the organization isn’t so much concerned about next month’s auction itself as it is about what will happen to the car afterward.

MORE CLASSIC CAR NEWS FROM FOX NEWS AUTOS

“We understand there is a market for war memorabilia and that serious collectors are interested in items like this,” Jacobson told Fox News. “While we don’t have an issue with Nazi-era automobiles like this going up for auction, we would not want to see the vehicle winding up in the hands of someone who would use it to glorify Hitler or the deeds of the Nazis. Ideally, we would prefer to see it housed in a museum, so that it could be understood in its proper context.”

Klara agrees. He said the car is a legitimate World War II timepiece, but it’s also a “socially radioactive one that needs to be handled in a historically responsible way, because there isn’t anyone who doesn’t have an opinion on a car like this….

“The onus is on the owner to present it in a correct, culturally sensitive context. That’s the job of a museum, but a tougher task for a private collector.”

Just how much the car will sell for remains to be seen. One of America’s most prominent classic car valuation experts, who asked to remain anonymous, said a Mercedes-Benz like this is likely worth $5 million to $7 million, but this one, given its historical significance, could sell for double that.

Whatever it goes for, the auction house said the seller has promised to donate 10 percent of the proceeds to an unidentified organization dedicated to Holocaust education.

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor. Follow him on Twitter @garygastelu

South Korea’s President Says the Agreement With Japan on Historic Sex Slavery Has ‘Serious Flaws’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

 

By KIM TONG-HYUNG / AP

10:58 PM EST

(SEOUL, South Korea) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday the country’s 2015 agreement with Japan to settle a decades-long impasse over Korean women forced into wartime sexual slavery was seriously flawed.

Moon’s statement in which he vows unspecified follow-up measures to meet the victims’ demands potentially throws the future of the deal in doubt, two years after both countries declared it as “final and irreversible.”

The statement came a day after a state-appointed panel concluded that Seoul’s previous conservative government failed to properly communicate with the victims before reaching the deal.

The panel also said parts of the deal were not made public, including Japanese demands that the South Korean government avoid using the term “sexual slavery” and provide a specific plan to remove a bronze statue representing sex slaves in front of its Seoul embassy. South Korea in response said it would formerly refer to the victims as “victims of Japanese military comfort stations” but didn’t make a clear promise to remove the statue, according to the panel.

“It has been confirmed that the 2015 comfort women negotiation between South Korea had serious flaws, both in process and content,” Moon said in a statement read out by his spokesman.

“Despite the burden of the past agreement being a formal promise between governments that was ratified by the leaders of both countries, I, as president and with the Korean people, once again firmly state that this agreement does not resolve the issue over comfort women.”

Under the deal, Japan agreed to provide cash payment for the dwindling number of surviving victims, while South Korea said it will try to resolve Japanese grievance over the statue in front of the embassy.

The deal came under heavy criticism in South Korea where many thought the government settled for far too less. Japan has been angry that South Korea hasn’t taken specific steps to remove the statue and similar monuments in other places in the country, insisting there has been a clear understanding to do so.

The Foreign Ministry said government officials will hold extensive discussions with victims and experts before deciding whether to pursue changes to the deal. Japanese officials have said a renegotiation is unacceptable.

Some experts see it as unlikely that Moon’s government will spark a full-blown diplomatic row with Japan by scrapping the deal when the allies face pressing needs to form a strong united front against North Korea’s growing nuclear threat.

Historians say tens of thousands of women from around Asia, many of them Korean, were sent to front-line military brothels to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during World War II.

 

At a Navajo veterans’ event, Trump makes ‘Pocahontas’ crack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Trump makes Pocahontas crack to code talkers

At a Navajo veterans’ event, Trump makes ‘Pocahontas’ crack

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Trump has called Warren “Pocahontas” in the past
  • The President did not specifically name Warren

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump, during an event at the White House honoring Navajo code talkers Monday, referenced his nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, “Pocahontas,” a label he has long used about the Massachusetts Democrat.

“I just want to thank you because you are very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were here,” Trump said. “Although, we have a representative in Congress who has been here a long time … longer than you — they call her Pocahontas!”
He then turned to one of the code talkers behind him, put his left hand on the man’s shoulder and said: “But you know what, I like you. You are special people.”
Trump did not name Warren.
The comment, met with silence from event attendees, revives an insult the President has long thrust upon Warren but restated during a high-profile meeting with the Native American war heroes.
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“It is deeply unfortunate that the President of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur. Donald Trump does this over and over thinking somehow he is going to shut me up with it. It hasn’t worked out in the past, it isn’t going to work out in the future,” Warren told MSNBC shortly after Trump’s remark.
While Pocahontas was a historical character from the 17th Century, many Native Americans say that using her name in a disparaging way insults native peoples and degrades their cultures
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday the use of “Pocahontas” was not a racial slur and that it “certainly was not the President’s intent” to use a racial slur.
“I don’t believe that it is appropriate” to use a racial slur, Sanders said during her daily briefing, but added that she didn’t think Trump’s comment was such a slur.
Sanders then targeted Warren, saying that “the most offensive thing” was Warren claiming to be Native American.
“I think Sen. Warren was very offensive when she lied about something specifically to advance her career, and I don’t understand why no one is asking about that question and why that isn’t constantly covered,” Sanders said.

White House: 'Pocahontas' not racial slur

White House: ‘Pocahontas’ not racial slur 02:02
The National Congress of American Indians — the largest and oldest group representing Native Americans — has condemned Trump’s use of “Pocahontas” to deride Warren, noting that the famed Native American was a real person whose historic significance is still important to her tribe, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe in Virginia.
“We cannot and will not stand silent when our Native ancestors, cultures and histories are used in a derogatory manner for political gain,” Jacqueline Pata, the group’s executive director, said earlier this year after Trump called Warren “Pocahontas” at a speech before the National Rifle Association.
Conservatives have previously criticized Warren for claiming that she is part Native American, and the senator’s heritage became an issue during her Senate campaigns.
Trump has seized on the attacks and has regularly called Warren “Pocahontas.” The attack dates back to his 2016 campaign.
“Pocahontas is at it again,” he tweeted in June 2016. “Goofy Elizabeth Warren, one of the least productive U.S. Senators, has a nasty mouth. Hope she is V.P. choice.”
He added, “Crooked Hillary is wheeling out one of the least productive senators in the U.S. Senate, goofy Elizabeth Warren, who lied on heritage.”
And earlier this month, he added, “Pocahontas just stated that the Democrats, lead by the legendary Crooked Hillary Clinton, rigged the Primaries! Lets go FBI & Justice Dept.”
He has also used the nickname privately.
Sources told CNN earlier this year that during a meeting with senators at the White House, Trump taunted Democrats by saying “Pocahontas is now the face of your party.”
Trump has routinely given his political opponents nicknames, but the slight against Warren is one of his most culturally insensitive.
Warren says she is, in fact, part Native American, citing “family stories” passed down through generations of her family.
“I am very proud of my heritage,” Warren told NPR in 2012. “These are my family stories. This is what my brothers and I were told by my mom and my dad, my mammaw and my pappaw. This is our lives. And I’m very proud of it.”

Warren blasts Donald Trump; he calls her 'Pocahontas'

Warren blasts Donald Trump; he calls her ‘Pocahontas’ 01:37
The legitimacy of Warren’s heritage has been widely debated and Scott Brown, her 2012 Senate campaign opponent, has even suggested Warren take a DNA test to prove her heritage.
Harvard Law School in the 1990s touted Warren, then a professor in Cambridge, as being “Native American.” They singled her out, Warren later acknowledged, because she had listed herself as a minority in an Association of American Law Schools directory.
Critics seized on the listing, saying that she received preferential treatment for questionable Native American heritage. Warren contends that her career was never furthered because of her Native American genealogy.

A Jewish woman sits on a park bench marked “Only for Jews”, 1938

((Photo credit: Institute for Contemporary History and Wiener Library))

(THIS ARTICLE IS A COPY PASTE FROM ‘RARE HISTORICAL PHOTOS’)

A concentration camp victim identifies a SS guard, 1945

((Photo credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum / Harold Royall).)

(THIS ARTICLE IS A COPY PASTE OF THEIR ARTICLE)

Russian survivor liberated U.S. Army in Buchenwald camp in Germany identified a former guard who were brutally beating prisoners. April 14, 1945. Colorized version. The original photograph.

Russian survivor liberated by the U.S. Army in Buchenwald camp in Germany identified a former guard who were brutally beating prisoners. April 14, 1945. Colorized version. The original photograph.

The picture depicts a liberated Russian inmate pointing an identifying and accusing finger at a Nazi guard who was especially cruel towards the prisoners in Buchenwald camp (original picture). There’s something really fascinating about this picture. We can only see so much of the prisoner’s expression here, but that finger means so much. Days, maybe even hours earlier, that prisoner might have been afraid to cross paths with or even make eye contact with this man. Now he’s casting an accusatory finger that’s as well as pointing a gun at the back of the man’s head, and the defeated look on his face seems horribly aware of that.

That medal on the guard’s chest looks like a World War One imperial wound badge, meaning this guard fought for the German Imperial Army during the Great War. The badge is the black variant (3rd class, representing Iron) and was given to those wounded once or twice by hostile action (including air raids), or frostbitten in the line of duty.

After the outbreak of World War II, Buchenwald continued to house political prisoners and, later, Poles and Russians. Most inmates worked as slave labourers at nearby work sites in 12-hour shifts around the clock. There were some 18,000 prisoners after Kristallnacht, 11,000 on the eve of the war, 63,000 by the end of 1944, and 86,000 in February 1945, when Buchenwald became the destination for some of the inmates forcibly evacuated from Auschwitz.

Although there were no gas chambers, hundreds perished each month from disease, malnutrition, exhaustion, beatings, and executions. Camp records indicate that throughout its existence some 240,000 prisoners from at least 30 countries were confined at Buchenwald. At least 10,000 were shipped to extermination camps, and some 43,000 people died at the camp.

(Photo credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum / Harold Royall).

225,000 Hungarian Holocaust Victims Identified

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Yad Vashem identifies 225,000 Hungarian Holocaust victims

The Holocaust museum’s specially trained team pored over pages of records, mapping forgotten victims no one cared to document on the way to their deaths

Hungarian Jews were marched down Wesselenyi Street in the heart of Budapest's Jewish Quarter, on their way to be deported to Auschwitz. (Bundesarchiv Bild)

Hungarian Jews were marched down Wesselenyi Street in the heart of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter, on their way to be deported to Auschwitz. (Bundesarchiv Bild)

Born in Budapest in 1937, Chayim Herzl remembers being taken by his mother Eugenia to visit his father Reuven Salgo at a labor camp outside the city in 1943.

“My hand was small, and I was able to pass some food to him through the fence. That was the last time I saw him,” said Herzl.

He lost his mother in early 1945 when men from Hungary’s Arrow Cross took her  from their safe house outside the ghetto, organized by diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, while he hid under the bed.

Having lost his father at age six and mother at eight, Herzl has only fleeting memories of his parents. Now, thanks to a comprehensive decade-long project to collect names of Hungarian Holocaust victims, completed in a collaboration between Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum Yad Vashem and funded by the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, Herzl has regained something he calls, “indescribably priceless” — information.

Through the project, Herzl learned that his father died just days before the end of the war in a POW death march, after having been forced into a labor corps in the Hungarian army fighting on the Eastern front. Beyond that, he now has a document with his father’s signature. The signature, his father’s orthographic fingerprint, is the only piece of his father’s writing Herzl owns.

“Through the efforts of Yad Vashem’s Names Collection project in Hungary, I was finally able to find a sense of closure in knowing what happened to my father. Finding a document containing his signature is evidence to the world that my father lived and a testimony to the tragic fate that befell him and so many Hungarian Jews,” said Herzl.

“The job is not yet complete: My mother, from the day she was taken from me, has vanished from the face of the earth and remains among the undocumented. I know that Yad Vashem is committed to leaving no stone unturned in the effort to identify as many Holocaust victims as possible,” Herzl told The Times of Israel.

Chayim Herzl (Salgo) was born in 1937 in Budapest, Hungary, the only child of Reuven (Rudolf) and Eugenia (Geni) Salgo, née Herzl. (courtesy Yad Vashem)

Ten years ago, approximately 40 percent of Hungarian victims were identified after the advances made by Holocaust historian and Holocaust survivor Serge Klarsfeld. Klarsfeld in the 1980s launched the Nevek Project, gathering names from lists of prisoners of forced labor and concentration camps during WWII. Due to funding and bureaucratic issues, he abandoned his project.

Building on Klarsfeld’s Nevek Project, Yad Vashem-trained historians have added some 225,000 victims’ names over the past 10 years of intensive research. This major project was funded by the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah and supported by the late French politician and Holocaust survivor Simone Veil, who served as its first president. On Thursday, Yad Vashem hosted an event that included a special tribute to Veil.

“Simone Veil saw special importance in the collection of names of Hungarian Jews. She witnessed firsthand the arrival and extermination of Hungary’s Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was important to her that their identities be memorialized and therefore decided to support this important initiative,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev.

But the scope of Yad Vashem’s Names Collection project goes well beyond identifying Jewish Hungarian victims. It is, to date, the largest project Yad Vashem has undertaken and represents a holistic approach to collecting information and documents that far surpasses previous efforts.

“This is the most successful project that Yad Vashem’s Archives has undertaken. The holistic approach of the project has become a model for other endeavors we are currently promoting in the name-gathering process, in particular the Polish Names Project, and we hope that with the continued support of the French Foundation we will achieve similar results to those we obtained in collecting names of Jewish victims from Hungary,” said Shalev.

In addition to Poland, which has signed a cooperation agreement with the institution, Yad Vashem is implementing the information-gathering model it founded in Hungary to its names recovery efforts in the territories of the former Soviet Union and the Balkan States.

In conversation with The Times of Israel Thursday, Dr. Alexander Avram, director of the Hall of Names and the Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names, explained the project’s procedures and resonance.

Eugenia (Geni) Salgo, née Herzl, mother of Chayim Herzl (Salgo). (Courtesy Yad Vashem)

Unlike the initial goals of the Nevek Project of attaching a name to every victim, the Yad Vashem project “has revealed part of their individual stories, and in some cases, for the first time was able to connect a rare photograph with the name of the faceless murdered,” said Avram.

The intensive work began in 2007 and was conducted under the leadership of three Yad Vashem historians who trained a staff of some 20 researchers who were on-the-ground in Greater Hungary: Hungary, Slovakia, parts of Romania, Serbia, and Transylvania. Through special diplomatic agreements forged with the Hungarian government in 2005 and 2006, said Avram, the researchers were granted full access to all state archives for this specific project.

“It is not easy in these countries to find documentation about the Holocaust and Jews,” said Avram. “They are no key words for catalogues; there is no archive in Europe that has a topic ‘Holocaust’ and catalogues for this or for Jews.”

The team pored over archive material from all sorts of offices — including the Ministries of the Interior, Defense and Agriculture — “page by page, to map those documents important to Jews and the Holocaust,” he said. The important pages were scanned and sent to Yad Vashem, which is in the process of uploading the pages into its database.

The team, trained by Yad Vashem, must be fluent in Hungarian, and have skills in German, Romanian, Serbian and other languages of the region to decipher the handwriting of the pre-World War II documents.

In December, the intensive research collection is finishing, but the team will continue to decipher documents to add more names and stories into the database.

“In our database we have 4,700,000 names of Jews murdered in the Holocaust. That means that more than 1 million who are not identified,” said Avram. Whereas in central and western Europe some 95% of the victims documented as Jews were arrested, sent to transit camps, and then on to death camps, in eastern Europe there is less of a paper trail.

A Hungarian Jewish woman and young children walk towards the gas chambers in Auschwitz. (Budesarchiv Bild)

Although he said the teams of researchers at Yad Vashem will continue to document victims, it is important to note, said Avram, that the teams have “exhausted most of the easy sources, and now look for names scattered in less unexplored sources where they will sometimes read a book of 500 pages to reach four or five names.”

“We are focusing our efforts in the countries where we have a more significant gap in names of victims,” said Avram. In Hungary, for example, although there were organized transports, “nobody cared to register the names of the Jews on the transports,” he said.

Like the case for Herzl, who discovered his father’s fate through the Yad Vashem project, Avram hopes to find more than mere monikers for the remainder of the victims.

“We can sometimes build a personal story. Previous attempts were to document names of victims; in this project we are trying to go further than that,” he said, and transform the name into a person.

READ MORE:

The complex story of Polish refugees in Iran

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ALJAZEERA NEWS NETWORK)

 

The complex story of Polish refugees in Iran

Thousands of Poles sought shelter in Iran during World War II, but today Poland has slammed the door on refugees.

‘All we took with us was a suitcase with an old rug, some pieces of jewellery and family photos,’ Stelmach recalled [Changiz M Varzi/Al Jazeera]

by

Tehran – Taji, a companion parrot, moved about freely in an apartment in central Tehran, occasionally emitting a scream.

“I don’t like to put him in a cage,” Helena Stelmach, 86, told Al Jazeera. “I don’t like imprisonment.”

In 1942, about 120,000 refugees from Poland began their exodus to Iran from remote parts of the Soviet Union [AP]

Nearly eight decades ago, Stelmach learned her own lessons about imprisonment, exile and the process of seeking refuge. In September 1939, German soldiers invaded Poland from the west and Soviet soldiers occupied the country’s east.

The Soviet Union’s Red Army deported more than one million Poles to Siberia, and Stelmach’s family was among those targeted. Soviet soldiers arrested and imprisoned her father in Poland, while eight-year-old Helena and her mother were forced to leave their home.

“It was midnight when they came for us,” Stelmach said. “First, they sent us to a church, and then to Siberia. All we took with us was a suitcase with an old rug, some pieces of jewellery and family photos.”

In her diary, self-published in Farsi in 2009 under the title From Warsaw to Tehran, she recalled how Polish refugees died every day in Siberia from the freezing weather, maltreatment and disease. Because of malnutrition, their teeth sometimes fell out of their mouths while they were talking.

The nightmare lasted for two years, until Germany attacked the Soviet Union, prompting Joseph Stalin to change his stance towards the Poles. In 1942, he freed them to move south to Iran, and then to Lebanon and Palestine.

Back in those days, tens of thousands of Poles arrived in the Middle East seeking shelter. Today, however, Poland has slammed the door on a refugee influx going in the opposite direction.

READ MORE: The Italian family hosting six refugees in their home

“It’s not something that people and politicians like talking about or even mentioning,” said Narges Kharaghani, an Iranian director who recently completed a documentary on Polish refugees in Iran during World War II. “I think there has been an untold consensus to forget this topic. After the end of the Second World War, the victorious countries only wanted to talk about Hitler’s crimes. Nowadays, considering how the West is treating immigrants, it doesn’t make any sense for them to talk about that exodus.”

In 1942, about 120,000 refugees from Poland began their exodus to Iran from remote parts of the Soviet Union.

“When they arrived in Iran, the country was gravely affected by political instability and famine,” said Reza Nikpour, an Iranian-Polish historian and member of the Iran-Poland Friendship Association. “Moreover, the Soviets and the Brits confiscated and sent all of the resources from Iran to the frontline in Europe. All of this happened despite the fact that Iran had declared its neutrality when the war started.”

The Poles entered Iran from the port city of Anzali on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. Soviet ships docking in Anzali were packed with starving Polish refugees, and they were the lucky ones: Many others died along the way from typhus, typhoid and hunger. Their bodies were unceremoniously discarded into the sea.

Stelmach, pictured here with her father in Poland, has lived in Iran ever since the exodus [Changiz M Varzi/Al Jazeera]

Stelmach was fortunate enough to avoid disease and hunger. Her mother was a nurse, and in return for taking care of the ship captain’s sick son during their journey across the Caspian Sea, the young Stelmach received food and care. After two days at sea, they arrived in a new country that was in dire need of food and suffering from bread riots in its capital.

Several sources have documented that when Polish refugees were loaded on to trucks to relocate from Anzali to Tehran, Iranians threw objects at them. The frightened refugees at first thought they were being stoned, but soon noticed that the objects were not rocks, but rather cookies and candies.

“The Polish refugees were nourished more by the smiles and generosity of the Iranian people than by the food dished out by British and Indian soldiers,” noted an article by Ryszard Antolak, a specialist in Iranian and Eastern European history whose mother was among the refugees who ended up in Iran.

In Tehran, the refugees were accommodated in four camps; even one of the private gardens of Iran’s shah was transformed into a temporary refugee camp, and a special hospital was dedicated to them.

“Polish refugees were well-received in Iran, and they integrated into the host society and worked as translators, nurses, secretaries, cooks and tailors,” Nikpour told Al Jazeera. “Some of them also married Iranians and stayed in Iran permanently.”

READ MORE: Iran – Trump’s Muslim ban ‘will rip our family apart’

The Polish refugees launched a radio station and published newspapers in their mother tongue. They entered into Iran’s art scene and, as with other waves of immigration, their food appeared on the menus of their host communities. The pierogi, a Polish dumpling, is still very common in Iran.

It was food that first brought together Stelmach and her husband, Mohammad Ali. Stelmach’s mother rented a shop in central Tehran selling Polish dishes; Ali worked in a neighbouring shop while simultaneously taking an English language course.

 

“Helen knew English and German,” Ali recalled with a smile. “I asked her to help me with the English language, and here we are, half a century later, and we are still together.”

Many changes have taken place since Stelmach and her mother came to Iran: World War II ended, an Islamic revolution took place in Iran, the Iron Curtain fell, Poland became part of the European Union – yet, throughout all of these years, Stelmach and her mother opted to remain in Iran.

They have visited their former homeland several times, and even received the Order of the White Eagle, one of Poland’s highest honours.

In 1983, Stelmach’s mother died, and she was buried in the same cemetery as the casualties of the Polish exodus in 1942. Today, a long, high wall separates the cemetery from a sea of matchbox-shaped apartments in one of Tehran’s oldest neighbourhoods.

“There are some visitors still coming to the [cemetery],” caretaker Hamid Tajrishi told Al Jazeera. “A few days ago, a group of old Polish tourists came … Also, sometimes foreigners come individually, seeking the names of their grandparents in our archive, and then they place a bouquet of flowers on their graves and leave.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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