Nazi “Death Valley” Prelude to the Holocaust

In the opening months of the Second World War, Nazi forces executed over 30-35,000 civilians in the Pomeranian region of Poland – the first large scale atrocity in the country. Despite efforts to hide these crimes, research is shedding light on these massacres over 80 years later.

Archaeologists working in ‘Death Valley,’ one of at least 400 locations these massacres took place, have uncovered a mass grave and hundreds of artifacts such as victims’ possessions.

Lead author Dr Dawid Kobiałka, from the Polish Academy of Sciences, and the other researchers also explored archival material worked with the local community to gain more insight into these events.

“As a kid living near Death Valley, I used to play with my friends there,” said Dr Kobiałka, “Three decades later, I discovered a mass grave of approximately 500 Poles there.”

These war crimes, which gave Death Valley its name, were part of a coordinated campaign in which the Nazis executed 12,000 civilians in the area around the village of Piasńica from late 1939 to early 1940. Many historians consider this a prelude to the later Nazi genocides.

The Nazis returned to Death Valley, which is located near Chojnice, in 1945 to hide their crimes. Shortly after the war, the remains of 168 of the victims were uncovered at the site. However, it was commonly known that not all mass graves from 1939 were found and exhumed, and the grave of those killed in 1945 was not exhumed either.

Sources: Antiquity Journal

Voyage of the St. Louis

This month in Holocaust History:

Voyage of the St. Louis

The passenger liner St. Louis set sail from Germany to Cuba with more than 900 Jewish refugees on board in May 1939. When the ship reached Havana, Cuban officials allowed fewer than 30 passengers to disembark, because only they had valid landing permits. The rest had unknowingly purchased fraudulent landing permits from a corrupt Cuban government official. After failing to get permission to enter Cuba or the United States, the refugees were forced to return to Europe on June 6, where the Netherlands, France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom took them in.

All of these countries, except the United Kingdom, were later occupied by Nazi Germany, and more than 250 St. Louis passengers were killed in the Holocaust.

Joe Biden Declares Ottoman Empire Committed Armenian Genocide

Joe Biden has officially termed the mass killings and death marches of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, which occurred in 1915 and 1916, as a “genocide.” Historians estimate that a million or more Armenians died during this atrocity. There is simply no longer any doubt that this took place, though Turkey has denied it for a century and even at the time took steps to hide the murders. Biden’s gesture is an admirable stand for human rights, and of course endangers the U.S. relationship with our NATO ally Turkey. But Turkey’s odious President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is ruining his great country with his religiously-based autocracy, deserves no coddling. He’s declared that Biden has neither the historical nor moral authority.

Above is a photo labeled “The corpses of Armenians beside a road, a common sight along deportation route.”

Holocaust Days of Remembrance

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) leads the nation in observing Days of Remembrance, established by the US Congress as the country’s annual Holocaust commemoration. Join our nation and a global community to honor Holocaust survivors, remember the six million Jews murdered, and pay tribute to American soldiers who liberated victims.

Despite a year when they faced loss and isolation, Holocaust survivors continue to rise to the challenge of educating by sharing their experiences, compelling us to confront an alarming rise in antisemitism, Holocaust denial, and extremist ideology. Their resilience and courage inspire us to create a better future than the past.

This year’s commemoration featured remarks from US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who has spoken of the importance of Holocaust remembrance and the personal impact of his family’s experience. His stepfather survived the Holocaust after several years in Auschwitz and other camps, was liberated by American soldiers, and immigrated to the United States.

Holocaust Remembrance Day and Facebook


Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day:

As United with Israel website notes, the picture below was taken in 2015 at the entrance to Auschwitz by Miriam Ciss, daughter of Julius Ciss, the executive director of Jews for Judaism, Canada. It shows Miriam holding the Israeli flag at the entrance through which so many doomed Jews (and gays, Romas, and so on) passed. The photo could be seen as a statement that the state of Israel was a result of what happened during the Holocaust.

If you find that offensive, there’s probably something wrong with you. But Facebook did!

Ciss has given permission to repost what he wrote on Facebook, presenting Facebook’s response to the picture:

Last week I posted the following regarding how Facebook had tagged the attached photo as “insensitive”:

“It seems that someone complained to Facebook about this previously posted photo of my daughter at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. When I posted it, I stated:

“My daughter, Miriam Ciss, was in Auschwitz Concentration Camp today. My mother Helena and Aunt Dolly survived Auschwitz Birkenau. This is just one of the amazing photos she took. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Passover.

“What I didn’t say was that aside from my parents and aunt, the Nazis murdered both my father’s and mother’s entire families.

“Well, today I received the following notice from Facebook: ‘Your photo wasn’t removed because it doesn’t violate our community standards, but it has been marked as insensitive because it could offend or upset people.’

I don’t know what that means, except that someone must have complained, and some functionary of Facebook in some country must have agreed with the assessment.  Fortunately, people complained about the “insensitive” label and Facebook apologized this way:

“It has come to our attention that a piece of your content was mistakenly flagged by one of our reps. This was a mistake and we’ve reversed the action taken. We apologize for our error.” – Eleanor, Community Operations, Facebook

Primo Levi, who survived Auschwitz, and wrote the moving book If This is a Man about his experience, said of the Holocaust: “It happened, therefore it can happen again. . . It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.” I am not as pessimistic as he, but neither am I as certain as I used to be that we’ve moved beyond the possibility, at least in the West, that such a genocide could recur.

Communities of Hate

The attack on the US Capitol and our democracy remind us of the ever-present dangers of hatred and propaganda. Join USHMM for a discussion about how, 75 years after the Holocaust, white supremacist and other hate groups continue to exploit racism, conspiracy theories, and antisemitic lies.

Speakers:

Arie Kruglanski, Holocaust Survivor, Terrorism Expert, and Psychology Professor, University of Maryland

Patricia Heberer Rice, Senior Historian, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Moderator:
Edna Friedberg, Historian, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Holocaust Best Friend Reunion

The Washington Post has a heartwarming story about two women who were best friends as children in 1938 Germany, when Kristallnacht took place and the Holocaust descended. They fled Germany separately, and, after searching for each other for decades, finally found each other. One lives in New Jersey, the other in Chile.

Every Sunday, Betty Grebenschikoff and Ana María Wahrenberg have a scheduled phone call. They often lose track of time talking, as best friends tend to do.

The weekly calls are only a recent ritual. In fact, just four months ago, both women believed the other had died in the Holocaust.

“For 82 years, I thought my best friend from Germany was dead,” Grebenschikoff said. “I’d been looking for her for all those years, and I never found her.”

That’s right: 82 years! Betty Grebenschikoff and Ana María Wahrenberg are now 91 years old, and they searched for each other for a lifetime. And they found each other, thanks to Stephen Spielberg, but I’ll let you read about that for yourself. It was the merest chance. Now they talk every Sunday in a video call:

When the women heard the other was still alive, they were shocked and delighted in equal measure.

“It was such a miracle,” said Grebenschikoff, who called the unlikely reunion “bashert,” Yiddish for “destiny.”

Grebenschikoff joined the Zoom call on Nov. 19 from her home in St. Petersburg, Fla., while Wahrenberg signed on from Santiago. Right away, they started chatting in German, their shared language.

“It was like no time had passed,” Grebenschikoff said. “Of course, 82 years makes a difference, but more or less, we just picked up where we left off.”

The story will make you tear up:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/03/09/holocaust-best-friends-reunion/

The Arctic Henge (Raufarhöfn, Iceland)

The Arctic Henge (Raufarhöfn, Iceland)

Located in one of Iceland’s most remote northern villages, the Arctic Henge is a colossal piece of stone construction that, when finished, will make Stonehenge look like amateur hour.

Started in 1996, the Arctic Henge project is a monument not only to the country’s nordic roots, but also to some of the neo-pagan beliefs that have arisen in certain areas. The piece was inspired directly from the eddic poem Völuspá (Prophecy of the Seeress), taking from it the concept of 72 dwarves who represent the seasons in the world of the poem, among other symbolic queues. In the Arctic Henge, 72 small blocks, each inscribed with a specific dwarven name will eventually circle four larger stone monuments, which in turn will surround a central balanced column of massive basalt blocks. Each aspect of the deliberate layout corresponds to some aspect of ancient Norse belief and when each piece of the monument is installed, visitors will be able to “capture the midnight sun” by viewing it through the various formations at different vantage points depending on the season.

At current, only the imposing central tri-column and one of the four larger gates have been constructed, along with a smattering of the smaller stones, but it is still a work in progress. When it is complete, the Arctic Henge could easily become the premiere site for Paganism in the entire world and millennia from now it might seem as mysterious as Stonehenge seems to us today.

Source: Atlas Obscura