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ALEXANDER KIMEL - HOLOCAUST UNDERSTANDING & PREVENTION

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HOLOCAUST INFERNO

Written by Alexander Kimel

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ON THE EVE OF THE EXTERMINATION

The Jews were standing in the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto studying the posters announcing the "resettlements." There was a lively exchange of comments. After all, they consoled each other, Warsaw is still the heart of Jewish Poland, and it was entirely different from all other ghettoes. It was very clear: Only those considered "useless" would be sent to work for the Germans "somewhere in the East." It was simply inconceivable that the Warsaw ghetto might be liquidated. It happened that next there was a poster bearing the words, "The Road to Happiness." It was an advertisement for a new Yiddish play which was going to be performed in the ghetto. (From Janusz Korczak - Ghetto Diary).

CHILDREN PLAYING IN THE GHETTO

The body of a dead boy lies on the sidewalk. Nearby, three boys are playing horses and drivers. At one point they notice the body, move a few steps to the sided, go on playing. (From Janusz Korczak - Ghetto Diary).

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HE CRIMINIALS OF THE GHETTO SOSNOWIEC - POLAND

The Germans hanged publicly a mother and her five-year old daughter. The crime of the mother- she illegally bought an egg for her starving child. The crime of the child - It ate the egg.

THE ROPE

The Capo of Barrack 18, was in a bad mood. Today, his group was left standing on the Appeals Platz, for four hours in the freezing rain. Suddenly he saw this idiot Beppe, smiling. His blood rushed to his head.

He called Beppe, handed him a piece of rope, ordering." At midnight, go hang yourself."

At midnight, Beppe, crawled down his bunk, tiptoed quietly past the sleeping Capo, and hanged himself.

A piece of rope, a short command, and three children lost their father, for life.

Adapted from the . . .

THE MURDERER

Yom Kippur action in the Ghetto of Rohatyn. Joel was running home to warn his parents, when he was caught, stripped naked and packed into a cattle cart with 200 other victims. "How are my poor parents survive without me?" He worried. " I have to jump this train."

He looked around and discovered that one plank was loose. With bleeding fingernails he pried the plank and made an opening. He prepared to the deadly jump, when two elderly ladies with this dishelved look on their faces, blocked his way.

"You can't jump, young man, they declared, the Germans counted the people and they will kill us when they discover that you escaped."

"Ladies," argued Joel, "they will kill us anyway. Please let me go."

"No, young man. Don't be selfish. Over our dead bodies, you will jump."

Joel felt the blood rushing into his head. He grabbed the old lady at her throat and squeezed forcefully. When he let go, the body of the old woman, slumped to the floor. She was dead. Joel, was free to jump. Joel made I tback to the Ghetto and lived a fes months longer.

THE SHOOTING GALLERY

Hans, the young SS man on duty in the concentration camp, was bored. He avoided the front line duty, but the life in the camp was depressing. No fun at all. When a detail of inmates, returning from the work assignment passed by, Hans got a brilliant idea.

He assembled the team of the prisoners, near the electrified fence and ordered them to run for their lives. As they run, he opened fire, and after each shot another human being fell to the ground. Hans became excited. It was not exactly front line duty but it was fun.

THE OLD LADY

Denmark 1943. Mrs. Bjornson was warned by the underground": The Germans are going to resettle the Jews. Please hide."

"Me," replied Mrs. Bjornson, "I am a 90-year old lady, Who is going to harm me?"

She was surprised, when on the way to Auschwitz, she found herself in the company of a ninety-six years old lady. The Germans were not age discriminating.

THE CAP TRICK

Mose Bernstein, an inmate of Auschwitz, clutched his newly found treasure, the wooden spoon. He hid the spoon in his pocket and walked toward his bunk. Suddenly a SS-man appeared from nowhere. He approached Morris, pulled of his cap and threw it toward the electrified fence.

"Go get it," he barked out the command.

Without hesitation, the prisoner obeyed. He ran toward the forbidden zone, and was shot without a warning. The bullet broke the wooden spoon, before penetrating his heart.

THE FUNERAL

Denmark 1943. A strange funeral was winding his way through the streets of Copenhagen. A cohort of black robbed mourners followed a black casket. The procession stopped in front of the convents, hospitals, hotels where new black robbed mourners joined in. People on the street greeted the funeral with smiles and shouts.

When the funeral reached the cemetery, a strange thing happened. . . the casket and the mourners vanished. The empty casket was returned to Copenhagen, and the mourners dispersed in the nearby forest to wait for the passage to Sweden.

Copenhagen was teeming with Germans, and the Danish underground used mock funerals to get the Jews out. The Danish people wrote a glorious page in the annals of history.

THE PRAYER

During the Yom Kippur action, the Germans picked up and old Jew, Reb Nahum, put a pail over his head, a broom into his hand, and black goat to his side, and ordered him to sing.

Reb Nahum started with weak voice, Eli, Eli . . . . but soon the voice grew stronger and stronger. Resonating by the metal pail, the voice overcame the shots and moans of the victims. "Habed min Hashamaim" . . . cried Reb Nahum, "God, look down from heaven and see how we became the laughingstock of the people. Eli, Eli, Lama Azawtani. God, my God why has to abandon us?"

Soon a strange stillness prevailed. Even the Germans looked in amazement on the old man, who dressed in a white, blood stained robe was taking God to account for all the atrocities committed by man upon man.

THE SERMON

Before starting the shooting a German officer, in a jest, called the Rabbi to deliver a sermon to the congregation. The Rabbi complied with a short sermon: "We are leaving this cruel and tormented world full of hatred and fear. We are going to a better peaceful world. A world without hunger and violence. It is a short journey. Let's make it with dignity. No crying. No begging for mercy. Let families stay together. Fathers with the sons and the mothers with the daughters, and don't forget the orphans."

Then The Rabbi raised his hands and blessed the congregation: "Yewaracha Adonai W'yeshmereha. . . Let the Almighty bless you and give you peace. "

After the blessing the Rabbi turned around, and in perfect German, told the Officer. "Sir, I finished my job. You can begin yours."

THE SACRIFICE

The German discovered a bunker, he stuck his head through the opening, and yelled the blood freezing call: "Juden Raus." Nobody moved. The German prepared to toss a hand grenade, when a small man, Moshe the Tailor, stood up and said quietly: "Good Bye children. Let the Almighty protect you." He walk out to face a sure death. His sacrifice saved, or rather prolonged the agony of about twenty people.

THE MIRACLE

During an Action an old Jewish woman, pushed her daughter in law under the bed, saying: "You hide, I want to have grandchildren." She walked out to face the Germans.

Eighteen months later a miracle happen. The up-to-now barren woman, conceived and entombed in a bunker, gave birth to a baby girl. Then, the second miracle happened: Because of the baby, the parents survived.

PANGS OF HUNGER

From the Dairy of a victim: "Never in my life, had I know the pangs of hunger. ... But now, I too know hunger. My strength is diminishing. At times I can't even stand up. I fall on my bed, but rest eludes me. I am in a state of sleep and I am not asleep. I am plagued by nightmares. Fear and worry occupy me."

"Death is hard; harder still are the moments before death; and even hardest of all is being condemned to a death which is inevitable, but whose time has not been set. . . But when life becomes to hard to bear, the desire to live grows even stronger."

"Death is precious, when it takes your soul and you pass into eternity. But death which comes by the agonies of starvation and tortures of the oppressor, that turns the victims into living skeletons, is the cruelest of punishment."
(Haim Kaplan - Scrolls of Agony).

WARSAW GHETTO UPRISING

To survive in the Diaspora Jews became passive but flexible and adaptable masters of survival. They were like the reef that bends to the hurricane and survives, while the mighty oak breaks like a match. During the Holocaust the old methods of survival were useless against the onslaught of a cunning, mechanized and ruthless enemy.

When the Jews in Warsaw finally realized this, they rose and fought with determination and heroism. As the SS General Stroop wrote: "Over and over, we observed the Jews and the bandits, despite the danger of being burned alive, preferred to return to the flame, rather than being caught by us." Thousands of living human torches, hurled themselves from the buildings.

THE VOLUNTEER

A young man with a thin drawn-out face, dressed in torn brown pants, came out from the forest and disregarding the milling around German soldiers, went straight to the German police station. He approached the German sentry, blocking the entrance, and declared:

"I am a Jew. Please give me a bowl of soup, let me take a shower and shoot me later.

The man, Lonek Engelberg, did not survive the war. With bullets the Germans were quite generous. If they wasted a bowl of soup on a dead Jew, I don't know.

THE JEWISH FASCIST

The Jews, caught in the action, were collected in the marketplace, waiting for their last journey. The echo of the shots mixed with cries of the wounded. Blood mixed with mud.

A young man, sitting next to a body of a young woman, rose to his feet and presented the passing German some papers. The German took the paper, carefully examined it, and after consulting with his superior, let the man go.

Next day, I met Dolek Stein, and asked him what saved him from the execution.

He pulled out the magic paper and showed it to me. It was a member card of the Italian Fascist Party.

"You are a Jewish Fascist?" I asked surprised.

"Not exactly," came the answer. "I studied in Italy and joined the Party to get discounted railroad tickets. Now it will help me to survive."

A month later, he sent the card to the Italian embassy, and never got it back Soon, the Germans killed the only Jewish Fascist.

THE JOKE

Sandomierz 1940 - Poland. Twenty Jews were assembled at the German post. Two German officers, dressed in elegant uniforms entered the room. All the Jews rose, some took of their hats, the religious Jews stood with their hats on.

One German officer approached the Jew with his hat on, yelling: "A German officer enters the room and you don't salute" He started to hit him, harder and harder.

At the same time the other officer approached a Jew without his had, yelling: "Am I your acquaintance, that you salute me?" He also started to pound the man with his fists. It was an innocent joke, but the beatings were real.

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