Search This Blog

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New JPEF Resources For 2013

Ideal for Days of Remembrance / 70th Anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto Revolt

April 19, 2013 marks the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, where the vastly outnumbered Jewish underground managed to force the German army outside of the walls of the ghetto, holding them off for over three weeks (two weeks longer than the German invasion of France).

Most students don't realize that the astonishing story of the Warsaw revolt was more than just an isolated incident and represents only a few of the millions of acts of Jewish resistance that occurred each day of the Holocaust, forming a vast pattern of Jewish defiance in the face of genocide.

JPEF recently released two new lessons to help you dramatically teach your students about the broad spectrum of Jewish armed and unarmed resistance. We also have four new e-learning courses and other resources that you can use during Yom HaShoah v’HaGevurah (April 7, 2013) and the National Days of Remembrance (April 7-14).

Two New Lessons

(available at www.jewishpartisans.org/elearning and www.jewishpartisans.org/resist)

Tactics of Resistance: Give your students tools to analyze conflict and make better choices in how they respond to aggression in their own lives. Includes:

  • The ‘Resistance Matrix’, a framework for analyzing historical and current events throughout the rest of the school year
  • Jewish Resistance Slideshow of archival images (accessible via e-learning - can be used with or without the lesson)

Strengthening Jewish Pride: Transform student perceptions and foster a more positive sense of Jewish identity

  • Can be used in as little as 30 minutes
  • Includes resources for integrating this transformative lesson into nearly any Jewish context (History, Holidays, B’nai Mitzvah/Youth Groups, etc.)

Free Online Professional Development

Four New Teacher Trainings to help you use these and other lessons:

Improved Interface - faster, easier to use
Free CE Units for New Jersey educators; more locations coming soon
Now accessible via iPhone, iPad and other mobile devices

Additional Recommended Resources:

Putting the Gevurah Back into Yom HaShoah — The full name of this Remembrance Day, and the way it is marked in Israel, is Yom HaShoah v'HaGevurah - Holocaust and Heroism Day. The two are mentioned as one. Click the link to learn more.

New partisan profiles:

USHMM Days of Remembrance — Information for teachers and events, including DVD of remembrance planning resources.

We Fought Back — New young adult nonfiction reader from Scholastic books; features several partisans from the JPEF website.

Beyond Courage — A well-researched and visually rich new text on resistance during the holocaust for young adult researchers.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Guest Blogger – Moshe Baran: A Journey Into Memory

Moshe Baran is a Jewish partisan from the town of Horodok, located in present-day southwestern Ukraine but belonging to Poland prior to the war. (View a video of pre-war life in the Horodok shtetl here.) Moshe was in his early 20s when the Nazis rounded up the Jews in Horodok and sent him to a labor camp near Krasne, where he worked grueling 12-hour shifts laying railroad ties and survived on bread crust and potato peel soup.

Having heard about the resistance movement – and the price of admission in the form of a weapon - he was eventually able to assemble a gun from scrap parts he managed to obtain with the aid of friends. He eventually escaped and joined a Russian partisan battalion, where he mined roads, planned ambushes, and set fires in the woods to mark airdrop spots. Moshe was also able to arrange the rescue of his mother, brother, and sister, which was a truly fortunate and rare occurrence for his situation. After the Russians liberated the region in ‘44, he was conscripted into the Red Army – but was spared the uncertain fate of the front lines, thanks to his bookkeeping skills.

After the war, he ended up at a DP camp in Linz, Austria; there, he met his wife Malka, a survivor of the Treblinka concentration camp. They married in the newly-formed state of Israel and emigrated to New York City in 1954. Now in his 90s, Moshe Baran lives in Pittsburgh, and devotes his time to speaking out about his experiences and the destructive power of hatred, which can have devastating consequences for society if left unchecked.

We are honored to re-post the following blog post from Moshe’s blog, Languages Can Kill: Messages of Genocide:


A Journey Into Memory

I had the privilege on January 9 to be interviewed for a documentary on the subject of Jewish resistance during the Second World War in Belarus. The documentary is being produced by Julia Mintz for national release later this year. During the interview, she led me to recount stories of the period prior to the War in the 1930s when the Nazis took power in Germany and began their hate campaign against the Jews. Even when the hate campagain eventually spilled over into Poland, in Belarus in the east where I lived at the time, I did not experience any blatant anti-semitism. The Belarus were a minority in Poland, and we Jews were a minority among them. So there was generally an amiable relationship among the population.

In the process of the interview for the documentary, I recalled that the news of what was going on in Germany and in western Poland certainly had reached us at the time. But as it is in human nature, unless one experiences something oneself, it not was easy to believe that what we were hearing could affect us directly. As with most ordinary people, we were simply naive enough to rely upon the humanity of our fellow humans. This proved to be a great disappointment, to put it mildly.

When words of hate are being disseminated we need to take it very seriously. There is never room for complacency, even when it seems that we ourselves are safe and unlikely to be affected by such speech. Words of hate lead to acts of hate, acts of hate lead to atrocities and genocide. We did not believe at the time that the words we were hearing could affect us in such a short time. But hate has no borders: those words did affect us, and they eventually affected the entire world.

“Love blinds us to faults, hatred to virtues” — Moshe Ibn Ezra

Click here to view the original post on Moshe's blog.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Partisans In The Arts: Paula Burger

Born in 1934, Paula Burger lived with her parents and younger brother Isaac in a small town about one mile from the larger Novogrodek shtetl. As common tradition in many Jewish families dictated, her family lived with Paula’s maternal grandparents. Paula’s grandfather was a landowner - a rarity among the Jewish population of Belarus - and her father owned a small grocery store in addition to overseeing the family ranch. She fondly remembers the candy her father sold at his store and the middle class life she lead until the Nazis invaded and occupied Novogrodek in July 1941.

Together with her parents, brother, and grandmother, Paula was rounded up and herded into the ghetto; they were allowed to take only what they could carry. Paula’s father managed to escape from the ghetto and joined various partisan units to fight the Nazis, all the while formulating a plan to save his family. Jealous neighbors, desirous of his ranch and the land it stood on, instigated a search for him. In their efforts to find him, the Nazis arrested Paula’s mother and brutally interrogated her to reveal her husband’s whereabouts. Since she had no idea where he was hiding, the torture brought no results; the Nazis kept her as an interpreter for a month and then shot her.

By then, Paula’s father had connected with the Bielski partisans and made arrangements to smuggle Paula and Isaac out of the ghetto with the help of a non-Jewish business colleague. Sealed in a large water barrel, Paula (age 7) knew that they could not make a sound or it would mean certain death and she took extreme care to make sure that Isaac, who was just 3 years old, stayed absolutely still. Paula and her surviving family stayed with the Bielski partisan group throughout the war, although there were times when they could not travel with them due to the harsh winter conditions, keeping themselves hidden in forest shelters instead. Although she was just a young girl, Paula contributed actively to armed resistance against the enemy, using her small fingers to pack explosives into yellow bricks, which were later used to blow up and derail Nazi supply trains.


Menorah #8

When the war finally ended more than three years later, Paula’s father refused to go back to Novogrodek and the family instead went to Lida before crossing over into Czechoslovakia. Aided only by their wits and the kindness of strangers, the family made their way to the American Zone in West Germany. Paula learned English in the DP camp there. In 1949, on the cusp of becoming a teenager, Paula and her family moved to Chicago to join relatives, where Paula was finally able to hone her natural talent as an artist while attending high school.

As a child, Paula’s most prized possession was a box of colored pencils with which she would draw for hours. Although Paula did not begin painting professionally until she retired from a career in retail, real estate and nursing home administration, she was always painting pictures in her head and had an overwhelming desire to act on this passion. In a journal she kept as a young woman, Paula wrote, “I hope I don’t die before I get to paint.”

The passion for creative expression ran deeply through the veins of both Paula and Isaac. Though they had successful careers in business, they always pursued their art. While Paula painted colorful landscapes, still-lifes, and Judaic themed canvases, Isaac used his beautiful voice to become a Cantor - an avocation that continues to this day. Moved by the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains, Paula relocated to Denver with her family in 1967.

Paula Burger and Isaac KollPaula’s art has been shown in galleries throughout Colorado and one of her painting hangs in the state capitol. After a childhood filled with dark images of horror and loss, Paula’s goal is to capture the beauty in life through her art with the bold use of color and imagery. Two of her favorite paintings are show here. Her catalogue can be viewed at paulaburger.com.

Paula Burger has been speaking to students in middle schools, high schools and universities and to civic groups for over 20 years. She recently completed an autobiography about her experience as a child surviving in the forests during World War II, entitled “Temporary Pillows.” For more information, please email Paula at burgerart@gmail.com.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Jewish Partisan Morris Sorid (z''l) Passes Away

Last month, the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation mourned the passing of Jewish partisan Morris Sorid.

Born Moshe Yudewitz, he worked in Pruzany, Poland as a respected educator; by the time the Nazis invaded in 1940, he was living with his wife Regina and their young daughter, Tsveeyah. Having already confined them to a ghetto, the Nazis began the systematic deportation of Pruzany’s 10,000 Jews on January 27, 1943. Realizing that their best chance for survival lay in escape, Morris and Regina tearfully left Tsveeyah in the care of her grandparents several days later and hid in a bunker underneath their home. After 18 days, they escaped the ghetto and found temporary refuge in the home of a Catholic farmer, who risked his life to harbor them.

Shortly after, Morris and Regina began their odyssey in the forests of the Bilaloviez Wilderness; after wandering for about a week, they met and were accepted into the Russian Chapayev Brigade. With five detachments, the Chapayev Brigade was part of the larger Malenkovah Otriad.

A trained midwife, Regina treated the sick and the wounded. Morris participated in various acts of armed resistance, from securing food to blowing up bridges. By November 1943, he was appointed Deputy Commander of the Malenkovah Otriad. Morris and Regina were liberated from the forest in July 1944 and their first son was born just two months later. They named him Victor, as a remembrance of their liberation.


Morris Sorid (far left) in Munich, Germany with other survivors, 1948.

After the war, Morris and Regina learned that their daughter and the rest of the family had perished in Aushwitz. They spent several years in a DP camp in Germany before emigrating to the United States in 1948 and settling in Brooklyn. Morris changed the family name to Sorid, a variation of the Hebrew word for survivor “sarad”. He worked long hours to provide for his family, which by now included a second son Harvey. At 95 years old, Morris penned his memoir titled "One More Miracle." Eventually relocating to Far Rockaway, Morris achieved fame in October 2012 as the oldest evacuee from Hurricane Sandy and his story was the subject of many news articles. Read another article about his remarkable life on Philly.com.

Morris passed away on January 14, 2013, just shy of his 102nd birthday. The board and staff of the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation extend their deepest condolences to the entire Sorid Family. May Morris’ memory be a blessing.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Educator Guest Blog: JPEF Web Quest by Debra Bella

Debra Bella, an educator from Robbinsville High School in New Jersey, created a web quest for her students using materials found on our main website. Students follow the prompts, answering the questions as they go along. Debra was kind enough to send us the directions for the web quest, which can be downloaded as a PDF here, along with the answer sheet.


Jewish Partisans Webquest

DIRECTIONS: Go to the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation
www.jewishpartisans.org

Use the website to complete the web quest about Jewish partisans. Read the directions carefully. Write all responses on the answer sheet.

PART 1 — SOMEONE LIKE ME

Under Explore on the toolbar → select Someone Like Me.

  • Answer the questions. Select one of the photos that remain and read the short biography about the person. (If no picture remains, change your response(s) until one or more picture(s) appear.) There are 2 pages to the biography section. To advance to the next page, use the arrow located on the right bottom.
  • Use the toolbar to look at the images. Use the toolbar to watch the video.
    1. What is the name of the person you researched? Male/Female? Age?
    2. Describe their activities as a partisan.
    3. What impressed you the most?
    4. What question would you ask them if you could?

PART 2 — PARTISANS

Click Explore on the small toolbar → select WHAT is a Partisan? There are 2 pages to this section. To advance to the next page, use the arrow located on the right bottom.

  • Read about Jewish partisans and the varied forms of resistance.
    1. How is a partisan defined?
    2. What were some ways Jews resisted? Do you think these were effective resistance methods? Why or why not?

On the small toolbar, select WHO Were the Jewish Partisans? There are 2 pages to this section. To advance to the next page, use the arrow located on the right bottom.

  1. Describe who the partisans were.
  2. What percentage were women?
  3. Which partisan group took families with young children?
  4. Click on the name Frank Blaichman. There are 2 pages to this section. To advance to the next page, use the arrow located on the right bottom. How old was he when he joined the resistance? Describe his role as a partisan. Use the toolbar to watch the video.
    Frank said, “The reality was we had nothing to lose, and our way to survive was to fight.” Do agree or disagree with his statement? Why or why not?

On the small toolbar, select WHEN did the Partisans Fight? There are 2 pages to this section. To advance to the next page, use the arrow located on the right bottom.

  • Read about the fighting.
    1. When and where was the first known partisan fighting?

On the small toolbar, select WHERE did the Partisans Fight? There are 2 pages to this section. To advance to the next page, use the arrow located on the right bottom.

  • Read about the where the partisans fought.
    1. The partisans fought in almost every country in Europe. Where did they hide?
    2. Click on the name Gertrude ‘Gertie’ Boyarski. Describe her role as a partisan. What impressed you the most?

On the small toolbar, select WHY did the Partisans Fight?

  • Read about the reasons why people chose to fight.
    1. Click on the name Sonia Orbuch. There are 2 pages to this section. To advance to the next page, use the arrow located on the right bottom. How old was she when she joined the resistance? Describe her role as a partisan. Use the toolbar to watch the video. What impressed you the most about Sonia?

On the small toolbar, select HOW did the Partisans Accomplish Their Goals? There are 2 pages to this section. To advance to the next page, use the arrow located on the right bottom.

  • Read about how the partisans fought against the Nazis.
    1. What advantages did the partisans have over the Nazis?
    2. What is anti-Semitism?
    3. Do you think it was ethical for the partisans to steal what they needed? Defend your response.

PART 3 — VIRTUAL UNDERGROUND BUNKER

Click Explore on the toolbar → select Virtual Underground Bunker.

  • Read about the underground bunkers.
    1. 18. Use the virtual camera to explore the inside of the zemlyankas. Describe what you see.
    2. Using the toolbar, select More About the Zemlyankas. There are 3 pages to this section. To advance to the next page, use the arrow located on the right bottom. Read about them. Would you be able to live like this? Why or why not?

PART 4 — PERSONAL REACTION

Based on all that you have learned, write a personal reaction. Your paragraph must have 5 to 7 sentences.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Armia Krajowa (AK) and the Jewish partisans

Over the years, there has been heated debate among Polish and Jewish academics over the treatment of Polish Jews by the Armia Krajowa (AK) during the war and the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation recently found itself in the midst of this controversy.
Armia Krajowa FlagThe Armia Krajowa, “Home Army”, was the largest underground resistance group in Poland, with an estimated 250,000-400,000 members. The group conducted sabotage and intelligence operations against the Germans. One of its main purposes was to fill the power vacuum in Poland that would inevitably follow Germany’s defeat with a nationalist Polish group. Originally, the AK planned to attack the Germans only upon their impending retreat.
It should be understood that Jewish resistance and Polish non-Jewish resistance were working under two different and conflicting time pressures. Ghettoized Jews had only until deportation to rise in arms, whether or not they had a chance for victory; otherwise it would be too late and they would be killed. The AK could wait until there was a chance for victory, until the Soviet army was within range. While individual Poles were being persecuted and the Polish nation decimated, there was no plan to murder all the Poles and they could choose when and where to battle the Germans.
Leading up to World War II, Poland experienced an increase in antisemitic sentiment following the 1935 death of its politically moderate Chief of State Jozef Pilsudski, and the subsequent rise of the nationalistic Endejca party which enacted a wide array of antisemitic laws aimed at disenfranchising the Jews and confiscating their property. Cultural differences also played a role in inciting antisemitism. In rural areas, Jews primarily spoke Yiddish and many Poles regarded this as their refusal to assimilate, a sign of disloyalty to Poland. The influx of Jewish refugees fleeing the Ukraine further accelerated antisemitism among Poles who feared that they brought Bolshevist and Communist elements with them.
Antisemitism predictably arose among nationalist groups including the AK. Virulent antisemitism was especially prevalent among the partisan contingent of the group (2,500 – 3,000 armed fighters), many of whom came from the Narodowe Siły Zbrojne (NSZ), a Polish, anti-Soviet and anti-Nazi paramilitary organization, where there was already a strong undercurrent of antisemitism. There were also many members of the AK who, unaffected by this prejudice, took action to help the Jews. The famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal credits the AK with sheltering his wife during the war and there are other documented instances of friendly AK commanders helping Jewish partisan units in their area – even warning them of pending danger1.
AK soldiers
Soldiers of the Armia Krajowa, 27th Division
JPEF acknowledges the honorable actions of individuals in the AK, but must also describe the antisemitic violence perpetrated by others within the organization. Over the years, it has conducted numerous interviews with Jewish partisans from Poland who routinely spoke of antisemitic actions directed at them and other Jews by the AK. Abe Asner reported that the AK often posed a greater threat to the Jewish partisans than the Nazis, as their familiarity with the forests and with local residents put them in a better position to locate Jews. Rose Holm stated that she escaped post-war Poland with her husband because of the AK’s continued reprisals against the surviving Jewish population. The survivor testimonies of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw also contain a number of references to the danger the AK posed to Jews in hiding, and of a prevailing air of antisemitism in the group. These testimonies were collected in the years 1945-1946, and are not affected by revisionists. View JPEF’s short film Antisemitism in the Partisans, narrated by Larry King, for more details.
The AK holds a near-sacred position in the hearts and minds of many Poles, representing their national counterpart to the Allied struggle – much like La Résistance does for the French. Questioning its treatment of Jews undoubtedly assails its credibility as a national icon, resulting in the failure to acknowledge this chapter of the AK’s history and the outright refusal to admit that many of its factions were not only antisemitic but engaged in the persecution and killing of Jews. When even the popular internet encyclopedia Wikipedia ignores this fact, and labels it “disputed”, it is incumbent upon the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation to ensure historical accuracy on its website.
JPEF’s glossary definition of the AK was developed through both extensive historical research and interviews with surviving Jewish partisans who interacted with the AK. While we understand that JPEF’s description of the AK may upset both surviving members and their families, we present the truth as best as we are able to discern from both written documentation and partisan testimony. JPEF acknowledges that there were many members of the AK who helped rescue Jews and collaborated with Jewish partisans to fight against the Germans and holds these honorable men and women in high esteem. We also hold the cause of the AK, the battle against German occupation, in equally high esteem.
Click here to see the definition of the Armia Krajowa on our glossary page.

1. War Of The Doomed, Ch.6, p.132

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

People who resisted - Sophie Schwartz

When the French police arrested more than 13,000 Parisian Jews at the behest of Germany during a massive raid on July 16, 1942, Sophie Schwartz-Micnic took action to protect as many children as possible. She and her fellow resistors provided hundreds of children with fake identities and hid them with host families, saving their lives.

René Goldman and
Sophie Schwartz in 1959

René Goldman, himself a rescued child currently living in Canada, is the author of a book on Sophie’s fascinating life story. In Une femme juive dans les tourmentes du siècle dernier: Sophie Schwartz-Micnic, 1905-1999, he tells the story of a woman who he considers to be his adoptive mother.

Sophie Schwartz was born in 1905, in an area of Poland belonging to the Russian Empire at the time. She grew up in a well-off, Orthodox Jewish family with her seven siblings. Horrified by the Great War, she became interested in politics at age 13 and joined the youth section of the Bund, a secular Jewish socialist party. When she turned 15, her parents could not afford to send her to school anymore, so Sophie started working in a curtain factory, where she joined a union. These were the beginnings of her involvement in activism, which would continue for most of her life.

At age 19, her father banned her from political activism after she was briefly arrested. She defied him and left the family house for an autonomous life, emigrating to western Europe, far away from her parents’ worries.

Sophie would never see her parents again; they perished with three of her siblings in 1942 after they were deported.

In 1927, after spending some time in Holland, Sophie emigrated to Belgium. At once, she got involved in both Jewish and communist organizations, including the Kultur-Liga, where she met the like-minded Leizer Micnik, her future husband. Leizer’s involvement in a trade union would later force them to leave Belgium and immigrate to France. He was arrested and handed off to the Germans by the French police in 1942, never to be seen again.

During her lifetime, Sophie was very devoted to the Jewish community, and to all deprived families in general. When World War II broke out, she immediately took part in the underground: she headed a committee to aid women whose husbands were taken by the police and ran an illegal printing shop producing Yiddish pamphlets and false identity cards. The soul of her work, however, became saving Jewish children, and she created several homes for those who had lost their families. After the aforementioned July raid – known as the infamous Vel' d'Hiv Roundup – she worked tirelessly to smuggle hundreds of children into hiding among the peasantry. The following year, she organized a daring operation to rescue children from the asylums set up by the UGIF1, escorting 63 of them out of the facilities by female underground members posing as relatives. She eventually became the head of the CCE (Central Commission for Children) that reportedly supported several hundreds of children – 450 of them in 1949 alone.


Children of deported Jews, in a UGIF facility

In several passages of the book, she argues that being Jewish pushed her into believing in communism; she actually saw this as a hope for equal rights and a better life, not only for the Jews, but for all mankind. Though she would become ideologically disillusioned following her awareness of Stalin’s crimes and her subsequent expulsion from Poland in 1968, it is obvious that the various organizations she took part in gave her an effective network and resources that she could rely on to assist the many operations she organized to save lives and, after the war, make this world a better place to live.

After being expelled from Poland, she spent the rest of her life back in France, surrounded by her old friends and fellow underground members. Because of her past with the resistance, she obtained a residence permit, and then French nationality. René Goldman, the author of her biography, kept in touch with her as she became older, up until her death in 1999 at age 93. He was called upon to read an eulogy at her funeral.

According to René Goldman, Sophie never gave up her optimism and her generosity, even after the many disillusions she went through. He states, “Throughout her life, she had not only the courage of her ideas, but the courage and intellectual probity to recognize that it was wrong to believe in an ideology that was a serious and sad mistake.” He adds: “Sophie was an example of unity of thought and action, which, according to the teaching of Judaism, is the essence of integrity.”

*“Tout au long de sa vie, elle avait eu non seulement le courage de ses idées, mais aussi ce même courage et la probité intellectuelle de reconnaître qu'elle avait eu tort de croire en une idéologie qui fut une grave et triste erreur.” L’auteur ajoute:“Sophie avait été un exemple d'unité de la pensée et de l'action, unité qui, au regard de l'enseignement du judaïsme, est l'essence même de l'intégrité.”


Sophie Schwartz-Micnic accompanying a group of children on a train in 1947.

Reference: “Une femme juive dans les tourmentes du siècle dernier: Sophie Schwartz-Micnic, 1905-1999”, AGP : Paris, 2006.

— Written By Isaline Jaccard


1. The UGIF – or L'Union générale des israélites de France – was an organization created by French law in 1941 at the behest of occupying Germany. Its main purpose was to take control of all other Jewish organizations, social agencies, philanthropies – including their assets – and to oversee the administration of Jewish affairs while taking their cues from the Vichy regime and the Nazis. In effect, they were France’s nationwide equivalent to the Judenrat councils set up in the ghettoes of eastern Europe.