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Monday, January 27, 2020

2020 International Holocaust Remembrance Day - 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau

This year's International Holocaust Remembrance Day also happens to be the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp by the Soviet Red Army. The day has been commemorated around the world since the UN passed a resolution on the matter a decade ago, on the 60th anniversary of the camp's liberation.


This day is an excellent opportunity to introduce students to the tens of thousands of Jewish Partisans who fought against the Nazis and their collaborators.

During this week, use our free 'Finding Leadership' curriculum to encourage your students to challenge their assumptions about leadership and authority, and inspire them to step up and make a difference.

Using the framework described by Ronald Heifetz in his book, "Leadership Without Easy Answers," our curated educational resources allow students to explore leadership as a set of activities anyone can perform — regardless of who is 'the leader', invoking life lessons from young partisans who proved that young people can make a difference.

As we mark this day and honor those who lost their lives to the Nazi regime, we are also reminded of the perils of bigotry and xenophobia. This day bears even more importance as we witness anti-Semitic attacks on the rise around the world.

For more information on resistance from within the concentration camps, visit: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-sonderkommando

Visit our enhanced E-Learning site at www.jewishpartisans.org/elearning and download our lesson plans at http://www.jewishpartisans.org/curriculum.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Max Cukier (z"l), born on January 23, 1918

"We had food what can eat thousand people, we were going in special my group what I was with the commander. We were going in to farmers where they lived close to big cities, but they never, Russian partisans was afraid, we not afraid, we're going in. They have food, so much of it, and pigs, cows. We took 10 pigs, you know, the meat in the summertime was too hot you no can eat, it's too hot, the meat. We have so much to eat." — Max Cukier.

Max Cukier was born into a Hassidic family in Ryki, Poland, on January 23, 1918. Growing up as a pacifist, Max never imagined he would carry a machine gun. This changed with the outbreak of the war. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Max fled to Soviet occupied territory, eventually ending up in Belarus.

For the next two years he lived as a Polish refugee, persecuted by the Soviet government as a non-citizen. When the Nazis began their attack against Russia in 1941, Max went into hiding, traveling from village to village in search of food and shelter.

Early in 1942 Max saw that hiding in villages was becoming too dangerous, and he took to the woods. In the forest, he made contact with other Jewish refugees, as well as some escaped Russian POWs. Eventually he joined the famous Bielski Brigade, a combination partisan unit and family camp. Taking initiative, Max began to organize small units and lead missions, bombing bridges and masterminding a daring attack on a German bunker using an abandoned Soviet tank. During this time, Max met and married his wife, and she began to accompany him on missions, becoming his lookout.

After liberation, Max first joined the Red Army and then defected from the USSR, escaping into Italy. In Italy, he became involved with several Zionist organizations, becoming an acquaintance of Golda Meir, Israel's future prime minister. He traveled to Israel, and in 1948 came to the U.S. under the auspices of the Zionist Cultural Congress.

Over time, Max focused on building a new life as a civilian, started an importing business, and eventually moved to Los Angeles, where he raised three children and three grandchildren.

Max passed away January 17, 2011.

Visit www.jewishpartisans.org for more about Max Cukier, including five videos of him reflecting on his time as a partisan.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Reliving the Inspiring Story of Jewish Partisan Mira Shelub During Women's History Month

"Somehow, you know, when we came out from them, from the ghetto, I cannot tell you how good it felt to breathe the fresh air, to know that we are free, to know that we can go. Okay, there were difficulties, obstacles, but we knew that we can go, that nobody will stop us, to breathe the fresh air, to see the trees. It was something, a special, special experience and then we came to the forest. We came to the forest and then, and we were lucky enough, I mention again that we were nice, young, pretty so they accepted us, and we joined the Partisans." — Mira Shelub.

A Polish Jew born in what is now Belarus, Mira Shelub joined a partisan group that operated in the forest near her native Zdziedciol at the age of 18. With her family, she escaped Zdziedciol’s ghetto in 1942 as the Germans began killing off the population.

Mira’s group engaged in sabotage against the Nazis and their Polish collaborators by disrupting communications and transportation to the war front. They blew up trains, attacked police stations, and stole food that had been provided for the Germans by peasants.

In Mira’s group, women comprised about a quarter of the partisans. They did the cooking, took care of the laundry and provided other vital support.

Nochim Shelub
While working with the partisans, Mira met her husband Nochim, who was the leader of the group. Nochim had first been in a mixed group run by Russians. However, anti-Semitism was common among the non-Jewish resistance fighters, and so he decided to form his own unit, though he still continued to coordinate activities with the Russians.

On a few attacks, Mira carried extra ammunition for her husband’s machine gun. In the summer, the unit slept on the ground in the open forest; during winter they took refuge in underground huts (called zemlyankas), or with sympathetic peasant families. Constant movement was a necessity to avoid detection. When it snowed, they had to alter their tracks into confusing patterns so that they could not be followed. Mira recounts:

“In the frost we did not only fight a physical battle, but also a spiritual battle. We were sitting around the fire, singing songs together, supporting each other and dreaming about betters days and a better future… a better tomorrow.”

After the Russian liberation in 1944, the couple made their way to Austria, then finally to the United States, where Mira had contacts with relatives. They settled in San Francisco, and soon after Norman opened a sandwich shop near the Embarcadero. They had three children – a daughter and two sons. Mira lives in San Francisco and continues speaking with students and educators about her Jewish partisan experience.

In February 2019, JPEF Director of Development and Outreach Sheri Rosenblum enjoyed a lovely visit with Mira and her daughter Elaine in San Francisco.

Mira recounts the extraordinary story of her partisan experience in her memoir Never the Last Road: A Partisan's Life. Visit www.jewishpartisans.org for more about Mira Shelub, including seven videos of her reflecting on her time as a partisan.