Tag Archives: Holocaust

Bearing Witness

“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” – Elie Wiesel

Following Eva Clarke’s presentation, you may be forgiven for thinking the title “Against All Odds: Born In Mauthausen” is an understatement. Clarke was one of only three children (the “miracle babies”) born into captivity in the notorious KZ Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. As she relates it, the camp had run out of Zyklon shortly before her birth, or her mother surely would have died in the gas chamber. Nine days after her birth World War Two ended and the camp was liberated. Eva and her mother, Anka Bergman, were the only survivors of their extended family, other relatives having died in Auschwitz-Birkenau. In 1948 they emigrated to the UK and settled in Cardiff, Wales. Anka lived into her nineties, old enough to know three great-grandchildren.

Since her age at the time precluded first-hand memories of the Holocaust, Clarke focuses instead on her family’s history in the years just prior to the war. She describes in detail the incremental process by which the Nazis disenfranchised, segregated, dehumanized, and ultimately exterminated Jews in Czechoslovakia, her mother’s homeland. Dozens of laws were enacted to marginalize Jews, each more draconian than the last, until finally they were categorized as “undesirables” and shipped en masse to one of over 40,000 camps and ghettoes established throughout Nazi-occupied Europe. Clarke describes the rationalizations used by both their neighbors and by the affected Jews, including some of her relatives, to reassure themselves that “this isn’t so bad” and “it won’t get worse than this.” Sadly, they were wrong. As Clarke’s narrative attests, conditions in the camps – overcrowding, disease, starvation, arbitrary brutality, and profound despair – made them one of the most hostile man-made environments on the planet, and especially so for an 80-lb. pregnant woman. In this regard the “miracle” mentioned earlier is not so much that both Eva and Anka lived, but that anyone survived at all.

Eva Clarke cites four reasons for wanting to tell this story. The first is commemoration, to honor the memories of those millions who did not survive the Final Solution. The second is a desire to relate her family’s story, one that is unique but nevertheless representative of many others. The third is to enable her listeners to learn the lessons of the Holocaust. The final reason is to counteract any and all forms of racism and prejudice, a daunting task in view of the many genocides since World War Two – Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, Myanmar, South Sudan, to name but a few – but one we must undertake if the Holocaust’s lessons are to have any broader meaning in the modern world.

Watch Against All Odds: Born in Mauthausen with Eva Clarke — Holocaust Living History Workshop — The Library Channel.

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Who Gets In?

8232 As the number of refugees escaping violence around the world continues to rise, Americans are once again confronted with the moral question of who is welcomed into the country and who is turned away. Author and journalist Eric Lichtblau recounts a similar situation after World War II. Jewish survivors of the Nazi concentration camps were refused entry into the US while high-level German officers and scientists quietly slipped in and were allowed to reinvent themselves as new Americans. Lichtblau explores this double standard in The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler’s Men, presented by the Holocaust Living History Workshop at UC San Diego. A warning: Lichtblau’s reading of the vicious, anti-Semitic remarks from General George Patton’s post-war journal is not for the faint-hearted.

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Archiving Atrocity: The International Tracing Service and Holocaust Research

8232It’s all in the details. It’s the stories, the artifacts, and the documents that reveal the horror faced by victims of the Holocaust. As author and historian Suzanne Brown-Fleming explains here, researchers into this painful part of human history now have access to the world’s largest Holocaust archive through the International Tracing Service, based in Bad Arolsen, Germany. Families can fill in the missing pieces of the ordeals that their lost relatives faced in World War II. With the ITS database now available at sites in Europe, Israel and at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Brown-Fleming and her colleagues are making sure that the world will, indeed, “never forget.”

Learn more when you watch Archiving Atrocity: The International Tracing Service and Holocaust Research with Suzanne Brown-Fleming, Holocaust Living History Workshop on the Library Channel.

To watch more programs in this series, click here.

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Growing Up in the Shadow of the Holocaust

8232How to describe the burden of the state-sponsored mass murder on the generation that followed the Holocaust?

Of the many revealing stories shared in this program, one from German-born historian Frank Biess stands out. When he came to St. Louis as a college student, he was struck by the overt patriotism of Americans. As he explains, most Germans of the post-Holocaust era were so squeamish about appearing too nationalistic that they would never fly their country’s flag in front of their home because it could suggest support for the Neo-Nazis. The one notable exception? Flags were okay if the German soccer team was doing well in the World Cup.

Watch Frank Biess on American Patriotism.

Hear additional accounts of the Holocaust’s shadow on contemporary Germans on The UC San Diego Library Channel. Watch Growing Up in the Shadow of the Holocaust.

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