The project 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005 defined as its objective
the nominating of 1000 women to represent collectively the millions of
women engaged daily in working for a better future. Without regard for
their own safety, they are active on behalf of the community's well-being.
They call for reconciliation, demand justice, and rebuild what has been
destroyed. They transform conflicts. They fight against poverty and for
human rights. They create alternative sources of income, and they strive
for access to land and clean water. They educate and heal. They reintegrate
HIV patients. They find solutions to a great many forms of violence and
they condemn the genital mutilation of girls.
Following the liberation of the labor camp at Schlupfing and the Kirchham
concentration camp near Pocking in Northeastern Bavaria by General Patton's
Third Army, on May 2nd 1945, the few Jewish survivors set up their own
community. Soon, there were over
When the fence around their cemetery was ripped out in 1948, the Jewish community filed suit on the grounds of desecration, but the senior state attorney refused to investigate. By February 14, 1949, all DPs had to leave. The graves were not taken into custody of the state administration, since the Free State of Bavaria claimed that they did not belong to the category of graves of "victims of war and the regime of violence," which the state is obliged to maintain. In the fifties the communal administration sold the cemetery to a farmer who owned land adjacent to it. Since that time, not only grass has been allowed to grow over the bodies but also corn and rapeseed.
Since November 9, 1985, I have referred again and again to these graves. I published relevant documents in my books Wintergreen- Suppressed Murders, and Pocking. Morley Safer from the CBS-TV program 60 Minutes considered the whole situation so evil that he came over and did two segments. Canada's Prime Time News and dozens of other TV stations reported about perverted bias, but nobody was willing to restore the sacred places.
On May 2, 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of the
liberation of the Kirchham concentration camp, Rabbi Paul Silton from
Albany, New York and I laid blue and white flowers in the shape of a star of
David. The ribbon read "Remember the Children." In cooperation with some of
the survivors and DP children, we decided to erect a Star of David memorial.
Ten more years would pass, however, before that plan materialized. The
American Jewish Committee assisted us to raise the necessary funds. While I
created a sketch with obvious symbolism, Faye Sholitan in Cleveland, Ohio
started a letter campaign. Anny and Georg Rosmus, a retired teacher and a
principal in Passau, continuously monitored the progress of the work. Stein
Schwate, a local firm that specializes in headstones for graveyards, agreed
to build a Star of David. Subdued grey granite from the Bavarian Forest
shapes the star's outlining; blood-colored, meandering veins run across its
heart, embracing the solid cube, as if holding an urn—the kind the Nazi
regime used to send out to the families of those "deceased."
On Yom Ha Shoah, I accompanied former DP-children and veterans of General Patton's 65th and 71st division. In 1945, they had liberated the camp and guarded its inmates until they were safe. Now, they brought their spouses, children and grandchildren to see whether the dead are still surrounded by communal silence. For the first time ever, the Catholic church chorus from St. Ulrich sang the Jewish Partisan Hymn, Zog nit keynmol. As we dedicated the new monument in pouring rain, side by side with the former children stood once again US veterans.
Yehudith Mazor was lighting yellow commemorative yahrzeit candles, and Lower Bavaria's district Rabbi Shlomo Appel sang the El Moleh Rahmim. Miriam Griver commemorated her father, Yehuda Lipot Meisels, who built both cemeteries and buried the children; Naaman Mazor and Yair Griver recalled their grandfather. All remarks, commemorating those who suffered and cared, reflected an indomitable will to build bridges, here, there, and everywhere.
As a toddler, Passau-born Bea Grace helped to shape the first star of David over those graves, with long stemmed white roses her grandmother bought. Now a legal specialist from the Center of the Judge Advocate General, she returned in US military fatigues to introduce the survivor and obstetrician Frederick Orenstein. The new granite star was surrounded by a group of knowledgeable friends and active allies, including Shelly Shapiro, Director of the Holocaust Survivors & Friends Education Center in Albany, NY, and Human Rights Commissioner Susan Pentlin from Missouri. Passau-born Gina Roitman read one of her poems. Afterwards, the Orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Appel said Kaddish in the synagogue, while local non-Jews and the liberal US Air Force Rabbi Donald Levy presented a Sabbath service and meal at Passau's legendary Grand City Hall. Film clips from 60 years ago showed Russian and American officers celebrating VE-day in the woods of Passau. At the end of the evening, Hungarian survivor Lewis Kest recalled his work for UNRRA and IRO in the Passau region.
A constant crossing of bridges between different parties and individuals made the whole day flow smoothly; be that between locals and foreigners, between clergy and non-believers, over eighty year-old survivors and three-year old children in the chorus, Jews and non-Jews mingling on all levels. The concept of inclusion and a systematic effort to keep everyone comfortable paid off nicely for all. As a result, the dead from back then will no longer be wrapped in the much dreaded silence. They are embraced by the living.
Judy Cohen, a Holocaust survivor, went to Hanover in April 2005 to attend the commemorative ceremonies for the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. She reports: “It was my first trip to Germany since I left it 60 years ago. I had qualms, I didn't know how I would react. For sure the German government treated us better than 60 years ago. I was impressed with the number of young Germans I met, who are working on the new Documentation Centre. It is presently being built for both the concentration camp and for the Belsen DP camp.”
Judy recounted a “curious experience” in one of Hanover's Historische Museums, where she explored a new temporary exhibit there on her own. “Briefly, the Germans have not yet made up their minds if they were occupied or liberated in April-May 1945,” she said. “But the tendency is, as expressed by the Prime Minister of Lower Saxony in his keynote speech: 'We the German people were also victims of Nazism and we needed outside forces to liberate us. We are grateful.' " Judy correctly describes this as “falsifying history” and adds that “soon, soon, in a few more years nobody will be able to discern who were the victims and who were the victimizers.”
Judy was also recently in Hungary, where she was born, and made the acquaintance of Dr. Katalin Pécsi, the Director of Education in the newly minted Holocaust Memorial and Documentation Centre of Budapest. The Centre is one year old. She reports that Dr. Pécsi with Dr. Andrea Petö have created a Jewish feminist web site called "Esztertáska", which means Esther's Bag (or purse). While most of it is in the Hungarian language, there are a good number of articles in English also. One of its many missions is to publish women's Holocaust stories that have never been told before. The URL is: http://www.nextwave.hu/esztertaska/
From 10-17 April 2005, Dr. Gary Evans and Dr. Karin Doerr (a member of the Advisory Board of Remember the Women Institute) gave formal auditorium lectures and informal workshops on Canadian film, literature, and Women’s Studies at Hainan University. They were also two of the five judges at the university’s annual final competition of the English-speaking contest.
The following week, the Communication University of China at Beijing invited them for similar presentations and other activities. At both universities, they were asked to present their current research. In Dr. Doerr's case, this is Women and the Holocaust.
The Women’s University of Beijing also welcomed Dr. Doerr to a morning session on Canadian Women’s Studies and the most current feminist research, including her own.
Upon their return, they were invited again, this time by the Communication University of China at Beijing, to a forum jointly organized in the city of Nanjing, for the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Dr. Doerr's contribution is “Postwar Perspectives on Nazi Terror: Women’s Responses in Film, Language and Art.”
This presentation suggests new approaches of collective and individual attempts at not forgetting World War II, a history steeped in discrimination and murder. It hopes to answer questions of how best to address and teach this past, how to preserve the memory of its victims, and still move forward towards a global humanism.
Women’s responses to the 20th-century’s fascist atrocities demonstrate a vision based on analytical inquiry and compassion. This paper shows how North American and European women address Germany’s Nazi legacy in various media. It focuses on two films that involve woman as heroine (The Nasty Girl, 1990, uncovering Fascist history) and woman as filmmaker (Zyklon Portrait, 2003, exploring the science of killing). These films expose World War II history from the perspectives of a child of the perpetrator nation and a grandchild child of victims.
The second section deals with the language of atrocity, again from various female viewpoints. One is the recorded language of National Socialism as a contemporary tool for scholarship (Nazi Deutsch/Nazi German: An English Lexicon of the Language of the Third Reich, 2002). This section also explains the creation of a victims’ language as a result of concentration camp incarceration (trans. from the Polish, “Words from Hell: The Camp Language of the Detainees of Auschwitz, 1998”). The third example demonstrates how genocide and its language memories can become integrated into art as we consider the American artwork “Word Shot” (2004). These works reveal how language affects history and individual lives.
The conclusion deals with contemporary commemoration sixty years after the end of World War II. It shows some ways that preserve the memory of forgotten victims, such as a former graveyard of women and children now a monument (2005). Perhaps such activity foreshadows hope and will serve as a beacon to educate future generations.
The Remember the Women Institute, 2003
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