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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Partisan Photos By 'Defiance' Director Edward Zwick

In November of 2008, Defiance director Edward Zwick took these photographs of surviving Bielski partisans at the screening of Defiance at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. We have posted some of these on our Facebook page earlier, in conjunction with our tribute dinner honoring partisans from the Bielski brigade and their 3rd generation descendants. Here is the entire set:

Alfred Zenner Ann Monka
Masha Pupko Beryl Chafetz
Charles and Sara Bedzow
Jerry Kaidanow Lea Friedberg
Sara Bedzow Solomon Lapidus
Willie Moll
Michael Stoll Bella Goldfischer
Helen Terris Ruth Lapidus

All photos © 2008 Edward Zwick. Used with permission.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Teaching Tips For “Tactics of Resistance”

Still planning your curriculum for the year? JPEF's new Tactics of Resistance is a framework you can use throughout the year to help students analyze conflicts and brainstorm solutions to violence and other forms of aggression.

Here are a few tips for using Tactics in the upcoming school year:

  • Apply the Matrix to a range of conflicts
  • Encourage off-the-wall solutions
  • Use the Resistance Matrix as an action-planning tool
  • Test examples to see if they fit the definition of aggression
  • Color code student responses

Apply the Matrix to A Variety of Conflicts

At the heart of the Tactics curriculum is the Resistance Matrix, a new tool that helps students think critically about aggression, resistance, and long- and short-term outcomes.

Students start by analyzing examples of armed and non-violent resistance from the life of Jewish partisan Frank Blaichman (see above). Then they adapt the process to brainstorm solutions to problems teens face in their own lives, for example, put-downs or bullying in the locker room:

Once students get the hang of the matrix, you can use it to brainstorm solutions to other situations (personal, community or global). You can also apply it as an analytic tool throughout the year in history, current events, literature, and even religious studies classes.


Boston Tea Party Matrix


Ten Plagues Matrix

Concepts, critical thinking questions, and other materials from the lesson (such as the Tactics List and the Jewish Resistance Slideshow) will help you frame and examine subsequent conflicts your students study in your class.

Encourage off-the-wall solutions

Feel free to let students be as creative as they can as they generate possible responses to aggression. By following off-the-wall, or even violent tactics to their conclusion, students naturally come to see the downsides and unintended consequences of outsized ('asymmetric') responses.

On the other hand, after looking at the practical consequences of inappropriate solutions, we like to ask students for out-of-the-box solutions; something “so crazy it just might work”.

These proposals can often lead to useful approaches. In one class, a student proposed bribing his sister to stop her from sneaking into his room and reading his diary. This led to another student suggesting they ask why she was acting this way, instead of simply arguing. Perhaps his sister was angry about something he did, or was simply curious, or actually wanted his attention. By considering her possible motivations, the student saw an option to be less reactive.

Use the Resistance Matrix as an action-planning tool

Once students see how the matrix can help them think through their responses, you can encourage them to use it as a planning tool for creating positive change.

Use the Aggression column to help the group define the actual problem, and brainstorm large-scale solutions in the Resistance column (e.g: holding non-violence trainings to help students deal with bullying at school). Take the most popular solutions and break them down into smaller steps, assigning each to a different team who will envision possible consequences (positive and negative) for each point in the process. Teams can use a fresh matrix to troubleshoot and improve, then reconvene with the rest of the group to put their proposals together into a larger action plan.

Test examples to see if they fit the definition of aggression:

Students often misconstrue events in their own lives and categorize them as “aggression”, when in fact it's simply a matter of disagreement. That's why the lesson begins by working with the students to define Aggression and Resistance before introducing the matrix.

For example, if students offer a curfew set by their parents as an example of aggression, ask if the action the object to is “intended to harm.”

Helping students differentiate between conflicts and true examples of aggression also helps students think critically about authority figures and the imposed limits they encounter in their own lives.

Color code student examples of Aggression, Resistance, and Outcomes

The Resistance Matrix offers students the opportunity to see both the short and long term consequences of an action or event. It is a tool that especially supports visual learners. To highlight this effect – as well as to help non-visual learners keep track of the various categories – try color-coding student responses so that “Aggression”, “Resistance”, and “Outcome” categories each are written in their own color.

More teaching tips online

See our entire Tactics of Resistance online course (running time: 43 minutes) for more tips and ideas to help you use these tools throughout your school year.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Partisan Twitter Book Club for Teens

Free Set Of Books For Participating Classrooms

Social Media to Engage Your Students
This Fall you can use social media to engage your students by connecting them with classes across the country to analyze and explore the new Jewish partisan memoir, If, By Miracle, by Michael Kutz.

The Twitter Book Club, a real-time online conversation – hosted and moderated by the Azrieli Foundation's Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program (HSMP) – brings reading alive through social media. Students share their research, reactions, and reports in class or after school. JPEF is providing classroom materials and joining forces with HSMP to supplement student conversations with links, "Ask the Expert" sessions, video testimonials, archival photos and other resources.

Participating classes receive free copies of If, By Miracle plus JPEF DVDs, curricula and posters. Optional JPEF online courses are also available for teachers and students.
The 2013 Book Club starts October 15th and is open-ended, so classes can join the conversation when their schedule allows. To get involved, contact Tim MacKay: tim@azrielifoundation.org

About the Book:
If, By Miracle is the gripping account of Jewish partisan Michael Kutz, who at age 10 narrowly escaped the Nazi death squad that murdered his family. Determined to survive, he became the youngest member of a partisan resistance group, taking part in daring operations against the Nazis and their collaborators.


#1


#2

About Twitter Book Club
Students in participating classrooms can follow us @AzrieliMemoirs, using the hashtag #IfByMiracle, to immediately contribute their ideas and emotional responses to an ongoing dialogue, adding real-time creation and collaboration to the reading process. This social-reading initiative brings learning into a medium and setting in which today's students are confident and capable. It puts a host of relevant, intelligent and thought-provoking multimedia content at their fingertips, creating a dynamic new engagement with the survivor's story and Holocaust education.


Tefillin being wrapped around Michael’s arm in preparation for his bar mitzvah. Jerusalem, 1990.

Photo captions:
1. Michael at age thirteen in his hometown after liberation. Fourth from the left, he and the small group of Nieśwież survivors are standing in front of the town’s destroyed main synagogue. Nieśwież, circa 1944. Photo courtesy of Yad Vashem.

2. Michael (front row, on the right) with the partisans. Lodz, circa 1945.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Featured Jewish Partisan - Joseph Greenblatt, born on August 5th

"I lost my family – lost my father, my mother, my brother, lost all the close relatives, and that was about 70 members of my closest family. It was tough to talk about it, and the refresh bring it back to your memory. It was painful. But as the time was going by, and I felt the story which I know firsthand has to be told."
– Joseph Greenblatt.

Joseph Greenblatt was born in Warsaw in 1915. He learned about resistance from his father, an army captain who had fought for Polish independence during WWI. At eighteen, Joe enlisted in the Polish army as an infantryman, becoming an officer in 1938. In 1939 he was mobilized and sent to the Polish-German border. He witnessed the German invasion directly and fought for almost twenty days before being taken prisoner and sent to a German POW camp. It was in the camp that he began to establish connections with the newly formed Armia Krajowa (AK). The AK hijacked a German truck, transporting Joe to a hospital, freeing him and his fellow prisoners.

Joe returned to Warsaw, only to find the Jewish population of the city walled into a newly formed ghetto. Though they were imprisoned the Jews of Warsaw were far from passive; underground resistance units had already begun to form. Joe used his army connections to amass a stockpile of black market weapons. He also met and married his wife, the younger sister of a comrade in arms.

In the spring of 1943, rumors of a full-scale liquidation circulated. Joe and the other partisan commanders decided it was time to act. Disguised as Nazis, they attacked German soldiers as they entered the ghetto. Joe remembers how men from his unit threw a Molotov cocktail into a tank, destroying it and killing several Germans. Joe eventually escaped from the ghetto through the sewer system, emerging in the Gentile quarter. Hiding his identity with a Christian alias, Joe made contact with his old POW comrades and joined the AK. For a while, he worked as a member of the Polish underground, raiding a German train depot and aiding in the assassination of a prominent SS official. In late 1944 he was remobilized with the Polish army.

When Germany surrendered, Joe was working as the commander of a camp of German POWS. After the war Joe went to work for the Irgun under the command of Menachem Begin, traveling between Belgium and Israel as an arms dealer.

Joseph and his wife eventually moved to the United States, settling in Anaheim, California. Sadly, Joe passed away on March 11, 2003 at the age of 87.

Visit www.jewishpartisans.org for more about Joseph Greenblatt, including four videos of him reflecting on his time as a partisan.

Left: Joseph Greenblatt and his wife Irene, 1944. Right: Joseph and Irene, 1978.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Partisan Tools for Survival: Hidden Identities

For partisan groups, fighting the powerful and well-equipped German army in open combat was typically not an option. Partisans spent much of their time hiding from the enemy, and discovery of their whereabouts was a major, ever-looming threat. The Nazis used local spies, bribes, aerial surveillance, and forest sweeps to root out partisan groups hiding in the countryside, so the partisan had to constantly be on high alert.

Jewish partisans had to fear for their lives not just because they were fighting against the occupying army but because of their Jewish identity. All partisans1 had to be wary of enemy bullets, lice and typhoid, and of leaving footprints in the fresh snow, but Jewish partisans faced an added threat. For many Jews, their accent, the way they looked or dressed, their unfamiliarity with non-Jewish society, and a myriad of subtle details marked them as "other". This otherness exposed them to mortal danger – and not just from the Nazis and their collaborators, but also from unfriendly members of the Armia Krajowa, antisemitic peasants, and (if they were in a mixed otriad) even their fellow partisans. (For more information on this subject, see our Antisemitism in the Partisans E-Learning course.)

Even a doctor's oath to "do no harm" was no guarantee of safety. After being wounded, Norman Salsitz had to seek treatment from a local doctor – a known antisemite. Norman's anecdote provides a stark illustration of the ever-present danger Jewish partisans found themselves in:

[We] went to the doctor and she said, “I have somebody who was wounded yesterday. He’s from the AK,” if he will look at me. He said yes. She brought me over and he started…he said, “Let down your pants.” So I was afraid that he does it purposely to see if I’m Jewish...I took out a hand grenade and I took out the pin and I said, “If you do something I will let the pin out and we all be killed.”

Identity was treated as a matter of life-and-death – not just by the Nazis, but also by most other groups hostile to the Jews as well, such as the various ultra-right wing nationalist groups in Poland, Ukraine, and the Balkans. Though many Jews lived in their own communities, segregated from the gentile population, they were nonetheless well-known by the locals, and could frequently be singled out by their accents2, names that looked or sounded "Jewish", and appearance.


Norman Salsitz


Sonia Orbuch

Sonia Orbuch was born Sarah Shainwald, but the commander of her otriad made her change her given name to the more common and less Jewish-sounding Russian name Sonia – to keep her safe from antisemites. “Here there are no Sarahs,” he explained to her. To keep himself out of trouble in Moscow, Leon Senders concealed his Jewish identity by simply bleaching his hair with peroxide. Likewise, Ben Kamm excelled at smuggling food through the countryside because of his blue eyes and blond hair.


Ben Kamm


Leon Senders

Fluency in other languages helped many partisans avoid danger - particularly if they could speak without a Yiddish or foreign accent. Running away from his village after the Nazis rounded up all his classmates, 15 year old Joe Kubryk found work as a farmhand with a Ukrainian farmer who never suspected he was Jewish – all because Joe spoke fluent Ukrainian. Growing up in Metz on the northern border of France, Bernard Musmand learned to speak German in school at a young age. Later, while running dangerous missions as a courier for the Sixieme3, he used his fluency in German to dispel suspicions about his identity – usually, with a friendly request for the time or for a match.


Joe Kubryk


Bernard Musmand

Bernard was not only fluent in German – he was also well-versed in Catholicism, another useful instrument of disguise. When his family fled to southern France, he had to pose as a Catholic to attend the local boarding school. He was so diligent at keeping up appearances that the priests actually asked him if he was interested in going into the seminary. Leon IdasLeon Idas, a Greek partisan, grew up attending a private school run by the local Orthodox church. Consequently, he was able to use the religious knowledge he learned there to keep his Jewish identity secret when he joined the partisans.

Though Norman Salsitz was already a partisan, joining the AK was the only way he felt he could strike an effective blow against the Nazis – to do so was the patriotic duty of any able Pole. However, he could not do so without concealing his Jewish identity. He managed to join by assuming the name (and ID card) of another AK soldier. Along with Joseph Greenblatt, Norman is one of the many Jewish partisans who worked for the AK under an assumed Christian name. Norman’s allegiances were tested when a command was given to murder a group of Jews hiding on a farm. He volunteered for the mission – after killing his Polish companions, he rescued the Jews and fled to his original partisan unit. There are many other instances of Jews infiltrating the AK under Christian identities, acquiring rank and status, and using their power to help other Jews escape persecution and death.


Left: photo on Norman's ID card; right: the real Norman Salsitz.

Nazi Germany’s plans for the occupied territories included specific methods for singling out and isolating the Jews, such as the infamous yellow badges. When Frank BlaichmanFrank Blaichman smuggled food through the countryside, his preferred method of disguise was to remove the badge from his clothing and hide it until he returned home. Though it may sound simple in hindsight, such an act was punishable by severe beatings, imprisonment, and even death. He could have easily been found out - travel permits were required for even the most routine trips out of town. Frank had no official documents, but he did have a backup: his fluency in Polish allowed him to talk his way out of trouble if he was ever stopped.

The falsification of identity papers was vital to the underground. Romi Cohn was instrumental in providing Jewish refugees with false documents that identified them as Christians. The forgeries were of a very high quality – a connection at the local Gestapo headquarters supplied him with German seals to stamp the documents. Working at an employment agency in the early 1940s, Eta Wrobel used her clerical skills to forge identity papers for Jews. Even the famed mime Marcel Marceau – himself a Jewish partisan – utilized his drawing skills to make false identity cards for Jewish children.


Eta Wrobel


Romi Cohn

Not surprisingly, a number of Jewish partisans served the cause as spies. Their combined skills – as forgers, as polyglots, as people used to living in a constant state of disguise – put them in a unique position. Even though he was only 15 at the time, Joe Kubryk was trained in the arts of espionage. While Leon Senders was valuable to Moscow as a radio operator, his real art was subterfuge. Leon's knowledge of German, Russian, Polish, and Lithuanian helped him fool his enemies and make new friends. He successfully built up a network of informants he used to acquire sensitive information that was instrumental in bombing the German supply lines. Wearing a tattered shepherd’s coat, Leon was so good at disguising himself he was once kicked out of a farmer’s house because a German officer, who wished to eat lunch there, objected to the presence of “Lithuanian swine” at his meal.

In a war where millions of civilians were murdered for no reason other than their identity – be it ethnic, religious, sexual, or political – the means and the opportunity to conceal and change it often meant the difference between life and death. Even the smallest adjustment could have major consequences: Leon Bakst’s father was a merchant, but when the SS asked for his occupation during the first roundup of the Jews in his hometown of Ivie, he simply answered “brush-maker”. He reasoned that the occupiers would have more use for a brush-maker than a merchant. He was correct: his life was spared that day.


1. Out of the hundreds of thousands of partisans active during the war, only 20,000-30,000 were Jewish.
2. The primary language spoken in Eastern European shtetls was Yiddish, and though not unheard of, unaccented fluency in languages like Polish or Ukrainian was not common.
3. La Sixieme was the underground incarnation of Eclaireurs Israélites, a French Jewish scouting organization. The EI went underground in 1942 and became known as the “Sixth Bureau”, smuggling children and adults into Switzerland, hiding Jews, providing forged documents, and even taking part in battles for the liberation of France.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Featured Jewish Partisan - William Stern

“Hundreds of miles we walked ... barefoot in the snow for several weeks before I was able to take the shoes off a dead German soldier.”
–Bill Stern

Running in the dark, shoeless in the bitter cold, racked with fatigue and hunger, constantly afraid of being discovered, arrested yet again, or thrown back into the horrendous abyss constructed for the annihilation of his people – this was William Stern’s life for eight long years as he struggled to survive, enduring the horrors of concentration camps, incessant deprivation, and unimaginable existential terror. Yet Bill Stern prevailed, eventually joining a partisan group, surviving to see the end of the war, and immigrating to the United States.

William Kurt Stern spent his childhood in Austria, but his family fled to Yugoslavia when he was 13 years old, fearing the rise of Nazism in the region. However, Germany occupied Yugoslavia in 1941, and along with his parents, William was interned at the Kerestinec concentration camp. While at Kerestinec, he slept on the floor with “hundreds of rats scurrying... over us, under our blankets and over our faces”.


Kerestinec concentration camp

During the summer of 1941, William’s family was inexplicably taken from Kerestinec and herded onto a train traveling southward to Sarajevo and then into Montenegro. The journey was terrifying as they switched from train to truck, following narrow roads that were “so narrow and twisting that the driver had to back up to be able to make the turn…this caused the whole back of the truck to hang over the side of the road over an abyss”. William and his family again suffered through successive bouts of starvation and bleak conditions, as they were placed in old, abandoned buildings, heavily guarded by Italian forces. He explained, “Food was scarce even for the local population. Our primary food were figs, which we would pick off trees, when no one was looking”.

This went on for another year until June 1942, when William’s family heard about the chance to go to Split, a Yugoslavian town controlled by the Italians. At this time the Italians were withdrawing from occupied territory and would go to annexed areas such as Split. Since William and his family were under the Italian army’s control and the Italians controlled Split, they were able to obtain a “propusnica” (a travel permission document) to allow the family’s entrance. But they were betrayed by the Italian Carabinieri, who refused them entry and confiscated their precious travel document. But soon after they were denied entry into Split, they found a way to slip past the border police. When they finally arrived, they found shelter, and felt safe and happy for the first time in years.

However, their problems were far from over. Just hours later, the police appeared in the middle of the night and arrested William and his family on the spot. They were immediately thrown into a tiny jail cell with common criminals for twelve days where they had to “sleep on the floor, on one side just to fit. When one person turned everybody had to turn”. Throughout this tortuous experience, they suffered from dysentery and desperate hunger. He explained, “We were told that we were allowed to go to the toilet only twice a day, creating major problems for us”.

Finally in July 1942, the Italian army moved William and his parents out of the jail and shipped them off on a ferry to Dubrovnik, a southern city in Croatia. Before the Nazis seized the city in the autumn of 1943, it was occupied by the Italians. Though Jews were likely to be persecuted by the local ustashi – a Croatian fascist organization appointed by the Nazis to rule over occupied Yugoslavia and responsible for over a half a million murders of Jews, Roma, and Serbs – the Italians did not allow mass deportations, and many refugees fled to Dubrovnik during that period. However, dire starvation was also rampant. William describes scrounging for rotten fruit and cabbage leaves at the market place when the Italian army was not paying close attention. “It was so bad, that I only weighed forty two kilos (under a hundred pounds). I was sixteen years old and about 6ft. 2 inches tall. I was so thin that I could see my heart beat and looked like a skeleton”. Were it not for the nuns, who gave out a thin soup made of corn meal once a day, they would not have survived.

In the autumn of that year, the Germans successfully persuaded the Italians to round up Dubrovnik’s Jews, and in October 1942, William and his family were moved to Kupari, a concentration camp along the Adriatic coast operated by the Italian Carabinieri. Here they suffered through constant hunger and debilitating illness, all the while being expected to perform relentless hard labor. William’s mother became so sick the doctor declared that she would not survive. Thankfully, she recovered but did not regain her strength for a long time after.

Ultimately, Italy capitulated to the Allies in October 1943. After a year in the concentration camp, one day William and his family “woke up to find that all the watch towers and other military posts [of the concentration camp] were deserted… all the troops had left”. By now, William was 16 years old. Soon after, partisans from the mainland arrived to help relocate them from the concentration camp to liberated territory. It was important to be quick since “the Germans or even worse, the dreaded Ustashi were imminent”.

William, his parents, and several other people walked with the partisans for many hours through the countryside before arriving at a farm where they were allowed to stay. For the next six months, they stayed with the partisans in the same farmhouse, “simply sitting and waiting”. It was not uncommon for them to wake up in the morning to German air raids: “We were attacked by the Germans from the air. We heard a plane making circles around us, and then they started to drop bombs on us.”

Tito's Partisans celebrate victoryThe partisans fighting in Yugoslavia during this time were a unified body, led by commander Josip Broz Tito – no small feat for a region ravaged by nationalist bloodshed. After hiding out and dodging German air raids for half a year, William decided to join Tito’s partisan brigade. He remained an active member for a whole year, leaving his parents behind. To stay agile and light, his partisan group always consisted of 12 to 18 men and women who “were very nice people”. William said, “We went into areas that were dangerous, full of Nazis, and would kill as many as we could. When they went to fight back, we would go behind a tree and hide, and then fight back when the time was right”.

Eventually, in February 1945, William received a note from partisan command ordering him to go to Topusco. When he arrived there, he was lucky to rediscover his parents at the Rab concentration camp. Two months later William, his parents, and all other Jews from the concentration camp were transported by a British warship to Bari, Italy, where they were “deloused and disinfected”, free and safe after many long years. Since William spoke four different languages – English, Italian, Croatian, and German – he was hired as an interpreter for the British occupation. “They treated me very well. I could even wear one of their uniforms. They needed me for all the languages I could speak”.

William and his family wanted to go to the United States but were not allowed to immigrate for another three years. In March of 1948, they were finally given immigration visas and set off for New York on a Russian ship called “Rossia”. In New York, they were greeted by William’s uncle who instantly took them in and helped them to settle and find work. “The Jewish community was very guiding and supportive in helping me with starting my new life,” William recalls.

By the time he arrived in New York, he was 22 years old. His first priority was to catch up on the 10 years of education he had missed. He scored well on a high school equivalency test, and attended a university in New York. During his studies, he worked the night shifts as a hotel elevator operator, then a bus boy. With the help of the Tisch family, he eventually climbed his way up the ranks of the hotel industry, where he continued to work for another 42 years.

Despite his traumatic youth, William has successfully re-established himself in the U.S. Contributing factors to William’s success include his ability to learn languages and close family relationships that gave him purpose and support. He is the father of two children: Eric, who lives in the Bay Area; and Amy, who lives in Baltimore. William resides with his wife Joyce, just south of San Francisco.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Partisans In The Arts - Nandor Glid, Sculptor

Much of Nandor Glid’s story pre-World War II is a mystery to the public - perhaps in part because, like many, he lost all he knew in the Holocaust. Glid was born in Subotica, Yugoslavia (now Northern Serbia). While his family was sent to Auschwitz, he was deported to Szeged, Hungary, where he was forced to work at a labor camp. He managed to escape and join Tito's Yugoslav Partisans, who played a major role in driving German forces out of Yugoslavia. Glid was wounded in March 1945 during a battle in Bolman, Yugoslavia.

After the war, Glid was admitted into the Academy of Applied Arts in Belgrade where he studied sculpture, among other mediums. He won numerous awards and recognition for his highly expressive sculptures and graphics. Glid’s most recognizable work is the “International Monument”, which was picked out of other competitive entries to provide a memorial for the victims of the Dachau concentration camp. Glid’s strikingly composed sculpture was deemed the winner by judge Albert Guerisse, a Belgian Communist who was himself imprisoned at Dachau. Glid created the piece in 1959 and it was dedicated and implemented at the museum in 1968 where it stands today - an aptly arresting vision in front of the museum’s entrance:


“International Monument” at the Dauchau Museum

A talented sculptor, sketcher, and graphic artist, Glid continued to produce highly recognizable and expressive sculptures that speak loudly of his experiences, many of which are monuments scattered throughout the former Yugoslavia. Many of his works have been exhibited internationally. His final work was commissioned by the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece and dedicated to Jewish Holocaust Victims by the President of Greece in 1997. Glid was able to complete designs for the project, but passed away before he could begin the execution of the monument. Based on these plans, his son, Daniel, completed the bronze sculpture and it is now located near the pre-World War II Jewish quarter of Salonika, Greece - an area that lost 96% of its Jewish population during the war.


"One for Hundred" (1980). Sumarice Park, Kragujevac, Serbia


“Burning Menora” (dedicated in 1990). Overlooking the Danube, Dorcol, Serbia