APPRECIATION Fiftieth Anniversary of the Claims Conference In 2001 the CONFERENCE ON JEWISH MATERIAL CLAIMS AGAINST GERMANY had its fiftieth anniversary – it is the body representing the Jewish world in all matters of restitution and other claims against Germany. On this occasion a festive ceremony was held at Yad Vashem on November 27, 2001. Yad Vashem, Lohamei Hagetaot, Massuah and Moreshet initiated the ceremony. Beit Theresienstadt joins in the appreciation and in the wishes for a further fruitful activity of the Claims Conference in Israel and the world over.
Today the Claims Conference has a key position in all new contracts concerning the German foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” regarding slave labour, forced labour, the Swiss program for refugees, the agreement with the Swiss banks and payments of insurance companies. According to its web site the Claims Conference achieved in the 50 years a great deal:
More than 500,000 Holocaust survivors in 67 countries have received compensation payments as a result of the work of the Claims Conference. Payments to Holocaust survivors as a result of the work of the Claims Conference have come to more than DM 100 billion
The Claims Conference has allocated more than $500 million to organizations meeting the social service needs of Holocaust survivors and engaging in education, research, and documentation of the Shoah.
Since 1997 the Claims Conference supports Beit Theresienstadt and our growth in the last years was dependent a great deal on this support. It started with the “Jacob Edelstein” exhibition hall through upgrade of our computers, posting our internet site, publication of a catalogue and last but not least our educational center. In 2000 the Claims Conference supported the installation of our ongoing exhibition “Kamarad” about the children’s newspaper in ghetto Terezin. The next project supported by the Claims Conference will be the erection of a classroom and toward the end of the year we hope to receive a grant for the upgrading of our museum.
We want to congratulate the Claims Conference on its activities and express our thanks. We hope for further fruitful cooperation.
We invite our readers to learn more about the Claims Conference at: http://www.claimscon.org
We Shall Miss Willy Groag
More than 20 years ago, when we started to publish our newsletter, we decided not to write eulogies so as not to cause feelings of discrimination in families of deceased members – should we inadvertently not mention somebody, because we were not informed of his departure. During the years the editor circumvented this decision – when she wanted to write about someone from the founder generation who died, she wrote about the documents his family donated afterwards to our archives. But with Willy this is not possible: years ago he gave us his parent’s Trude and Emo Groag valuable collection of scores of drawings and handiwork of children whom Trude cared for in the ghetto, drawings by the Groags in the ghetto, poems and documents.
Willy Groag was a part of Beit Terezin since its beginnings and participated in all stages of its erection and activities. From 1984 to 1989 he was chairman of our association and since then he traditionally chaired the annual meeting, which elects our functionaries.
The Groag family are an exceptional case in the history of ghetto Terezin: at liberation three generations had survived there – Emo and Trude, Willy and his wife Madla nee Stein and their small daughter Eva, born in the ghetto. They survived in the ghetto mainly because of Madla’s work in the cowshed whose produce was destined for the Germans. But shortly after arriving in Palestine and joining kibbutz Maanit the young family was stricken by fate. Madla (Miriam) contracted polio, at the time it was incurable. She died in September 1946 at the age of 28.
Willy was born in 1914, the firstborn son of Trude and Emo. The family owned a malt factory near Olomouc - Willy studied chemistry so as to work in the family enterprise. Early on he joined the youth movement Maccabi Hatzair, after the German occupation he became one of the central members of its leadership. In ghetto Terezin he worked initially as a coachman, but out of a feeling of duty he left this work – in the ghetto known as advantageous – and decided to work with youth. He became head of the girl’s home L-410 and was beloved by educators and wards. Before leaving for Palestine Willy deposited at the Prague Jewish museum a suitcase with hundreds of children’s drawings created in the ghetto under the tutelage of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. Friedl had left the suitcase with Willy before her deportation to Auschwitz in 1944. At kibbutz Maanit Willy returned to chemistry and worked for many years at the kibbutz factory Galam, producing starch and other food additives. But in his soul Willy was an artist, like his parents. He painted, studied in Tel Aviv ateliers, illustrated the kibbutz newsletter, made posters for Jewish holidays, sent his friends regularly hand-drawn greeting cards and published memorial brochures for Madla and for his parents. In April 1999 an exhibition of his works was held at Giv’at Haviva. His second wife Tamar, mother of his children Gideon and Anat, died in her sleep in February 2001. By then Willy was at the kibbutz geriatric ward, where he died in October 2001.
His last year, in a wheelchair, was very hard for his family and for his friends – but mainly for him, of course. We shall remember Willy – or Willicek, as his wards called him – as we knew him throughout the years, a charming person, young at heart, open to beauty and life.
The Curtain Came Down
Naava Shan, then still Vava Schoenova, was an actress and producer in ghetto Terezin. Among other roles she appeared in plays by Cocteau and Gogol, produced by Gustav Schorsch. She was the producer of the children’s play Broucci (Bugs) from the book of the same name by the Czech author Karafiat and also Kiplings Maugli. Vava, born in 1919, always wanted to be an actress like her mother Magda and, indeed, she acted already at the age of 8 at the Prague Vinohradske divadlo and at 19 she played on various Czech stages. In 1942 she was deported to ghetto Terezin together with her parents and two sisters, she survived there. After her immigration to Israel in 1948 Vava lived for a time at kibbutz Neot Mordechai and at kibbutz Giv’at Brenner – but she always wanted to return to the theater. Her first big role was at the Habima as the mute daughter in Brecht’s Mother Courage. The critics were enthusiastic, but that did not prevent her being fired after 5 years because of her “alien” pronunciation. Since then, up to her retirement in 1988, Naava played on various stages: the Haifa theater, the Cameri theater, the Beer Sheva theater. She appeared all over Israel with her solo performance Requiem for Terezin, after the book by Josef Bor and took part in 6 Israeli movies. In 1991 her autobiographical book To be an Actress was published by kibbutz Meuhad.
In her last years Naava lived in the house of her daughter Ora and her family at Telsche-Stone near Jerusalem. In spite of her failing health she never missed an event connected to former Czechoslovaks. She often met young researchers who wanted to record her memories on the cultural life of ghetto Terezin. She died on August 3, 2001 after a severe illness.
ACTIVITIES IN BEIT THERESIENSTADT
Future Activities – to be Marked in the Diary
Holocaust Day 2002
For four years now Beit Terezin organizes on Holocaust Day, in cooperation with the district committee Emek Hefer, an “open house” for members of our association, people from neighboring localities and for the broad public. The day starts at 9 a.m. and ends at noon. We spend the difficult hours together and after the wailing of the siren announcing the minute of silence the participants meet in small groups. There remembrances, ways of remembering and the relationship between the generations are discussed and shared. Every year another subject is chosen. Our members will get an invitation with details toward the coming Holocaust Day.
Meeting “Women and the Holocaust” In April 2002 Beit Terezin in cooperation with the Department for Sociology and the Center for Holocaust Instruction of Beit Berl and with Beit Lohamey Hagetaot will organize a meeting on the subject of “Women and the Holocaust”. It will be held from 28th to 30th April in these three institutions: the first day, of an academic character, at Beit Berl. The second day, dedicated to the meeting of generations, at Beit Terezin. Lohamey Hagetaot will host workshops, mainly at an exhibition on this subject. Representants of the three institutions are now preparing the program. “This is a special project of cooperation between the three institutions” said Anita Tarsi, “and I hope that it will prove to be seminal for the future, too”. The meeting is intended for researchers, teachers, women’s organizations and the broad public.
Please note the above dates!
History, Music and Remembrance
A workshop for young musicians from Germany, the Czech Republic and Israel, who play music composed in Terezin and classical music performed there, was held at Beit Terezin in October 2001. In spite of the terror attacks at that time 14 young musicians and their teachers attended from abroad and 14 from Israel. The seminar took place now for the second time - it grew out of the initiative of Beit Terezin and Mr. Volker Ahmels, director of the Hartl conservatory in Schwerin, Germany, and chairman of the “jeunesse musicale” in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.
The program was very variegated: in addition to the study of Terezin music there were lectures on history, cultural and sociological subjects related to ghetto Terezin, the Holocaust and remembrance. It also encouraged the participants to hold a dialog on art and remembrance, so that each of them took upon himself a certain responsibility for Holocaust remembrance in his locality. A trip in Israel and a guided tour of Yad Vashem enhanced the personal contacts, also for the future.
Vocalist Prof. Emily Berendson (Israel), pianist Prof. Matityahu Kellig (Germany), violinist Prof. Pavel Kling (Canada), pianist Ms Edith Kraus (Israel), pianist Alan Sternfeld (Israel) and cellist Michael Haran (Israel) led the master classes. Our lecturers: Ruth Bondy, Prof. M. Kellig, Prof. D. Bloch, Markus Gerhard (director of the Ullmann archives, Dornach, Swirtzerland), the dramaturg Jacob Lurie, Eva and Peter Erben and Manka Alter, who had taken part in ghetto performances, the film producer Ari Pullmann and the director of Beit Terezin Anita Tarsi.
The festive opening on September 30th was attended by the German ambassador in Israel Mr. Rudolf Dressler and the vice president of Tel Aviv University and former Isr. Ambassador in Germany Mr Avi Primor. The Isr. Ambassador in Berlin Mr Shimon Stein and the head of the America Israel Cultural Foundation Mr Gideon Paz sent greetings. Prof. M. Kellig (piano) and his student Heike Ostrop (soprano) performed Lieder in Yiddish, arranged by Victor Ullmann.
That same evening Ms Edith Kraus and Mr Pavel Kling were honored – both had participated in the music life of ghetto Terezin and continue to perform to this day. On October 4th and 6th the musicians gave two concerts: at the Vienna House in Givat Hayim Ihud and at the Targ Hall in Eyn Kerem. A concert titled Dialog of Terezin Composers with Johannes Brahms was given on October 5th, also a piano recital by guest performers – the pianist Friederike Hauffe and the bariton Christfried Biberach. It included works by the former ghetto prisoners Krasa, Reiner, Haas and Ullmann and also compositions by Brahms played in the ghetto.
“In our eyes the workshop was very important, both from a musical-professional viewpoint and with regard to the Holocaust in general – to connect the past with the future” said Anita Tarsi. As to a continuing impact: the young Israelis, Germans and Czechs gained a warm relationship, which still goes on. Three of the Israeli participants were invited for January 2002 to Schwerin to take part in a series of concerts on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Some of the musicians played Hanukka tunes and compositions from Terezin at “Volunteers Day” in Beit Terezin and also talked about their impressions from the workshop.
The organization of the seminar required much intensive work by the whole team of Beit Terezin, but mainly by the project leader Yonat Klar.
The workshop was held under the aegis of the German and of the Israeli ambassadors and of the vice president of Tel Aviv University and former Isr. Ambassador in Germany Mr. Avi Primor. We received much assistance and the list is long. Here we would like to point out specifically three of the benefactors: “jeunesse musicale” in Mecklenburg Vorpommern, the Claims Conference (1999) and the America Israel Cultural Foundation.
From the opening address of Mr. Avi Primor:
“…I want to restrict myself to the German-Israeli relationship… I remember the times when Israelis refused to have personal contact with Germans. For this reason political and economic connections grew, but no cultural ones. Culture leads to human contacts. Nobody believed then that one day there will be intensive cultural exchanges on a personal level, as they exist today. This seminar is an expression of these contacts and it is wonderful when young Germans and Israelis are able to confront the past together… I wish you much success!”
Changes in Beit Terezin’s team
Bilha Rubin terminated her work as manageress of our educational center after 6 fruitful years. She will work now full time at drama therapy. We wish her much success and satisfaction in her new job. Starting this January Yonat Klar will replace her. Yonat studied dramaturgy and Judaica and is an accomplished actress and producer. She was the cultural referent of Emek Hefer District Committee and worked also for “Massua”. Her first task at Beit Terezin was curating the exhibition Kamarad and organizing the workshop History, Music and Remembrance.
Anita Haviv is responsible for our outside contacts, for the second generation, for the development of teaching programs and also for teacher training.
Meeting of our Members and Friends in Los Angeles
In August 2001, at the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum, the director of Beit Terezin Anita Tarsi met members of our association, friends of Beit Terezin and others – many of them former Terezin prisoners. The director of the LA Holocaust Museum Ms Marcia Josephy initiated the meeting. Anita Tarsi reported, that many new and important contacts were made between the museum, potential friends and activists in the USA and us.
Among others, Ms Susan Goldman Rubin attended. She is a member of our association and wrote a children’s book about the painter Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. She explained her writing process and her way to deal with the subject – and donated 20 signed copies of the book to Beit Terezin. Further there was also the lawyer E. Randol Schoenberg, grand-grandson of the famous musicians Arnold Schoenberg and Sigmund Zeisel and also the film producer Stewart Sender, who is working on a documentary movie about Kurt Geron.
The meeting was concluded with a reception at the house of Susan Boyer, who is involved with the project of the memorialization of Czech and Moravian Jewish congregations in connection with the Torah scrolls. R Schoenberg, who specializes in genealogy, asked to make our members aware of the fact, that he – as director of the site JEWISH GEN – is interested to have Beit Terezin publish the names and other details about Jews in ghetto Terezin on the Internet. This information is very important for genealogical research. The steering committee of our organization decided already to comply with this request. Thereby Beit Terezin joins a number of important institutions, which enable the public to access their databases. Further details are available at Beit Theresienstadt. Research will be charged, according to the extent of the required work.
Visitors at Beit Theresienstadt On the occasion of visits with Holocaust remembrance institutions at Emek Hefer the deputy director of the Ministry of Education and head of its Youth Department Mr. Oded Cohen and his staff visited us on November 26, 2001. The guests met the staff of our Educational Center and saw our exhibition Kamarad. Future cooperation on educational matters was discussed and also stages in the further development of our educational center, aided by the Youth Department.
Hagay Yehudai, in charge of the Museum Department of the Pedagogical branch of the Ministry of Education visited our exhibition Kamarad and wrote in the guest book:
The exhibition is touching – it is beautifully designed and succeeds to visualize life in ghetto Terezin and the children’s stamina.
Giora Gerson, a friend of Beit Terezin born at Kibbutz Maayan Tsvi, visited us in December 2001. He is today a film producer in San Francisco and brought a trial video clip he made about the life of Inge Auerbacher. Inge was born on December 31, 1934 in Kippenheim, Germany, and was deported with her mother Regine and father Berthold in August 1942 to ghetto Theresienstadt. All three were liberated there in May 1945. Inge had brought to the ghetto a doll, a present from her grandmother for her third birthday. She wrote a book I am a Star about the story of a Jewish family in Germany during the Nazi regime and about its deportation. She wrote about everyday life in the ghetto, about her mother and her doll. The book is written from the viewpoint of a young girl and was translated into many languages: German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese and others. Giora Gerson is the initiator of teaching programs for American children aged 10 – 14 of various backgrounds and cultures. In Inge Auerbachers book, in her testimony and in the doll he found a very good source for the aims of his teaching program. Inge Auerbacher is a member of our association – she donated to our library a copy of her book, published first in 1986 (Prentice Hall Books for Young Readers, New York). In our archives there is also a replica of the doll.
Visit by Mag. Hannah Lessing
The director of the Nationalfonds der Republik Oesterreich Ms Hannah Lessing and the cultural attache of the Austrian embassy in Israel Mr Gerhard Seiler visited us on October 30, 2001. Ms Lessing was very impressed by the activities of Beit Terezin and recommended to the foundation to accept our request for support, in full. The grant is intended for the upgrading of our archives. Ms Lessing plans a further visit at Beit Theresienstadt – for the unveiling of an appropriate plaque when the project is finished. Following the visit Ms Lessing initiated the visit of other important personalities from Austria, to introduce them to Beit Theresienstadt.
Our members continue to – voluntarily – translate books, articles and documents from the Holocaust era from Czech and German originals into Hebrew and English, to make these papers accessible to researchers, teachers and students.
Lea Alon, Netanya, translated a number of articles from the book Frauen im Holocaust (Women in the Holocaust, by Barbara Distel, published in 2001 by Bleicher Verlag) from German into Hebrew.
Alisa Sheck translated the book Ghetto Litzmannstadt 1941 – 1944, documents and testimonies by Czech Jews about ghetto Lodz (2000, Prague) from German into English. Now Alisa translates the book Mesto za mrizemi (Town behind bars, by Josef Polak and Karel Lagus, 1964 Prague).
Simon Weissbecker, Haifa, translated 12 articles from the yearbook 2000 of Terezinske studie a dokumenty (published by The Institute of Terezinska iniciativa, Prague) from German into Hebrew. Among them are some by Petr Kien, Hanus Bonn, Kamil Hoffmann and a conversation with Dr. Maurice Rossel, the delegate of the International Red Cross, who visited ghetto Terezin in June 1944.