Global Response to the Holocaust Part II – From Europe to Asia: Norway, Sweden, China, India

view website On November 11 at 7:00 PM EST, Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage hosts a free Zoom lecture Global Response to the Holocaust Part II: From Europe to Asia:
why not check here Norway, Sweden, China, India.

Register by phone or follow the links, see below. These lectures are FREE but a Registration for each event is required.

Recommended Reading Presented by Irene Shaland

ny speed dating promo code Part II – From Europe to Asia: Norway, Sweden, China, India –
November 11  at 7:00 PM EST

Lectures are free, but a separate registration is required for each event. Zoom link(s) will be sent after the registration on the Museum’s site or by phone:

Call 216.593.0575 for info or to register.

Or register on Maltz Museum website:

For PART II register here: http://www.maltzmuseum.org/event/global-response-to-the-holocaust-with-irene-shaland-from-europe-to-asia-norway-sweden-china-india/

About the lecture and the presenter, Irene Shaland

“…memory is the keyword, which combines past and present, past and future…” Elie Wiesel

Irene Shaland, the author of “The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories” invites you to embark on a journey through the painful past and often controversial present of twelve countries on three continents to understand how and why various nations around the world respond to the Holocaust remembrance.

Learn more about Irene’s latest book The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories.

Read more about Irene Shaland.

See other lectures presented by Irene Shaland.

Send Irene an email.

Global Response to the Holocaust Lecture Part 1: Austria, Germany, Hungary, Soviet Union

Global Response to the Holocaust Lecture, a free Zoom event.

Free Virtual Lecture Series Hosted by the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage

October 14, November 11, December 9

 Register by phone or follow the links, see below. These lectures are FREE but Registration for each event is required.

 Presented by Irene Shaland

Part I – The Ring of Fire: Austria, Germany, Hungary, Soviet Union – October 14  at 7:00 PM

Part II – From Europe to Asia: Norway, SwedenChina, India – November 11  at 7:00 PM

Part IIIThe Islands and the Boot: Cuba, Calabria/Italy, Malta, Corsica – December 9  at 7:00 PM

 Lectures are free, but a separate registration is required for each event. Zoom link(s) will be sent after the registration on the Museum’s site or by phone:

Call 216.593.0575 for info or to register.  Or register on Maltz Museum website:

For PART 1 of 3 Register here: http://www.maltzmuseum.org/event/global-response-to-the-holocaust-with-irene-shaland-the-ring-of-fire-austria-germany-hungary-soviet-union/

For PART 2 of 3 register here: http://www.maltzmuseum.org/event/global-response-to-the-holocaust-with-irene-shaland-from-europe-to-asia-norway-sweden-china-india/

For PART 3 of 3 register here:  http://www.maltzmuseum.org/event/global-response-to-the-holocaust-with-irene-shaland-the-islands-and-the-boot-cuba-calabria-italy-malta-corsica/ 

About the lecture and the presenter, Irene Shaland

“…memory is the keyword, which combines past and present, past and future…” Elie Wiesel

Irene Shaland, the author of “The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories” invites you to embark on a journey through the painful past and often controversial present of twelve countries on three continents to understand how and why various nations around the world respond to the Holocaust remembrance. 

Find out more about Irene Shaland: link to Irene Shaland’s Page.

Check out Irene’s Lecture Schedule: link to lecture schedule.

Learn more about Irene’s latest book: https://amzn.to/390iiug

Help The Dao of Being Jewish Reach New Readers

The Dao of Being Jewish in the bookstorebook at the museum bookstoreIf you read my latest book “The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories” and liked it please help it reach a wider audience.

Amazon Customer Reviews are critical for a book to be noticed. Even a one-sentence short review would make a big difference. A potential reader seeing that other people have read the book and expressed their opinion of it would be more likely to look further and decide if my book deserves their attention.

If you read either the paperback or the Kindle edition of my book, please tell others what you think about it and write an honest Amazon Customer Review.  Please click here to review “The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories”

If you have not read the book and would like to take a look at it, here is a link: The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories

Here is what “The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories” is about:

“Shaland takes you by the hand and delivers a Jewish heart.”— C.J. Brown, Editor, HaLapid Magazine

“These are investigations of Jewish communities…in some of the world’s most exotic, romantic or just plain unlikely locations.”— L. Hankin, Editor, Intermountain Jewish News

“This book is full of Jewish survival stories and fascinating tales. Though not a conventional travel guide, the book will help the reader learn about the history of Jewish communities in ten countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa and show hard to find places they might want to visit.”—GTA Books

Two and a half millennia ago, a small party of Jews explored new trading routes for King Solomon, settled in the south of India, and lived there peacefully until today. Similarly, during the ancient Roman period, many Jewish merchants traveled to China over the Silk Route and some made it their permanent home.  Also, before the Edict of Expulsion in 1492, Sicily was home to over 50 Jewish communities, possibly numbering 50,000 people.

So, how did the Diaspora bring these wandering Jews to so many places around the globe? And why did Jews live happily in India and China for centuries and not experience antisemitism, while the story of the Jews in Europe went from persecutions and massacres to unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust? Finally, why do we see the rise of antisemitism and violence again in the 21st century?

You will find answers to these questions and much more in the current edition of Irene Shaland’s artfully illustrated book The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories. She collected these fascinating stories while visiting ten countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa and interviewing the locals in their homes, synagogues, and even cemeteries. Now, Irene Shaland’s book, replete with her husband’s photos, takes you on your own exciting journey of discovery from Austria and the Czech Republic to Scandinavia, from India and China to Sicily and Sardinia, and from East Africa to Stalinist Russia.

About the Author:

Irene Shaland is an internationally-published art and travel writer, educator, and lecturer focusing on the rich tapestry of global Jewish experiences, culture, and heritage. A member of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, she is a presenter at the Society’s annual conferences and contributor to its HaLapid academic journal.  Irene is a contributing author and lecturer at Siegal College of Jewish Studies, Touro Law School of New York, the Center for Jewish History Research, the American Sephardic Federation in New York, and the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Irene authored three books, including recently published “The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories” and numerous magazine articles on Jewish history and cultural travel published in such American, Canadian, and U.K magazines as The Baltimore Jewish Times, The Boston Forward, Chicago Jewish News, The Jewish Journal of Greater Boston, Cleveland Jewish News, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Detroit Jews News, Hackwriters Literary Online UK magazine, Holiday Magazine – France/UK, IMAGE Magazine, The Jewish Journal of San Antonio, Jewish Life Magazine, Jewish Montreal, L’Chaim Magazine of the Intermountain Jewish News, London Jewish Telegraph, Los Angeles Jewish Times, The Lotus, Montreal Jewish Magazine, Northern Ohio Life, Orange County Jewish Life, Jewish Chronicle – Pittsburgh, ROMAR Travel, San Diego Jewish Journal, Shelanu – Kenya, Sino-Judaica Institute Academic Magazine, Theater Journal, Tikkun Magazine, The Toronto Jewish Tribune, Washington Jewish Week, ZEEK Magazine, and 5 Towns Jewish Times.

Irene holds a BA in Journalism and Art History from St. Petersburg University (Russia), a Master’s Degree in English from Case Western Reserve University, and a Master’s Degree in Information Sciences from Kent State University.

Take a look at Other Books by Irene Shaland

Unknown Gems of the Mediterranean Jewish History: Malta and Corsica

Free Lecture at New City Library: Unknown Gems of the Mediterranean Jewish History: Malta and Corsica

Sunday October 6th, 2019   2:00 PM

malta and corsica

The Malta archipelago, a miniscule spot in the middle of the Mediterranean, still remains unknown to most US travelers. And this is a pity, because if you do visit Malta, you will be forever inspired and spiritually enriched by the magical beauty of this gem that remains still-hidden for many. And don’t be fooled by Malta’s size: this tiny nation packs an extraordinary amount of history, including Jewish history, into its three compact islands: Malta, Gozo, and Comino. From Israelites sailing there with Phoenicians three thousand years ago, to the first Jewish traveler, a Biblical Paul, arriving in Malta in the 1stcentury CE, thorough the dark times of slavery during the Knights of St. John’s rule in the 16th century, to today’s small but blossoming community – Maltese Jewish history manifests a fascinating trajectory still under- the-radar for most historians.

Like Malta, Corsica, the “Island of beauty,” as the French call it, is not on the vacation map for many American globe-trotters.  Yet Corsica’s chic seaside resorts and its untamed natural magnificence are arguably the Mediterranean’s best. The island’s Jewish narrative reveals an irony of Omerta (Mafia’s code of silence) that led many Corsicans to risk their lives in saving thousands of Jews fleeing the Nazi-occupied mainland France to escape deportation and death.

Travel with Irene Shaland through these islands to learn the captivating stories of Malta and Corsica she brings to her audiences.

Reservations Required:Call 845-634-4997, ext. 139.

New City Library  220 N. Main Street, New City, New York 10956

 

In Search of a Jewish Story in Cuba

Cuban flag against blue sky

 

Cuyahoga County Public Library — Orange Branch — PRESENTS Irene Shaland’s Lecture

An Island within an Island: In Search of a Jewish Story through 500 Years of Cuban History

 Thursday          March 7th2019                      7:00 PM

Lecture is FREE, but advance registration is recommended. Call 216.832.4282 to register.

The Cuban Jewish storyreflects a struggle for survival through assimilation and acculturation.  It is also based on a narrative depicting not a single community but rather a mosaic of several communities that varied greatly in their languages and cultures, and which was built by five distinctly different waves of Crypto-Jewish and Jewish immigrants.

The contemporary Cuban Jewish narrativedepicts a fascinating trajectory. First, a descent from vibrancy and prosperity to almost oblivion after the mass exodus of the 1960s and direct efforts to destroy the Jewishness during the years of revolutionary atheism. Then, a recent phenomenon: a sudden ascent to becoming a Celebrity of Tropical Diaspora, turning into, arguably, the most visited and photographed of the world’s Jewish communities.

The extraordinary characteristic of the Jewish experience in Cuba one finds todayisthe fundamental sense of community that survived an almost complete dissolution after Castro’s revolution, followed by decades of a totalitarian regime with its poverty, deprivation, and strong anti-Israeli attitudes.

 Take a journey with internationally published art and travel writer Irene Shaland to rediscover this unique island and to learn how Cuba is finding its way back to the future.

 Orange Library Branch, Cuyahoga County Public Library

31975 Chagrin Blvd, Pepper Pike, OH 44124

Synagogue in Havana Cuba

Countries Around the World Respond to the Holocaust

Journey of Conscience: Countries Around the World Respond to the Holocaust

Lecture presented by Irene Shaland at the Maltz Museum on January 30 at 7:00PM

Why do we tell stories?
Is it to entertain: to capture the attention of the mind for just a moment?
Is it to teach: to pass down lessons from one generation to the next?
Is it to remember: to ensure that our histories are never lost?
Maybe each story has its own reasons to be told. Without remembrance, Italian writer and Auschwitz survivor Primo Levy says, there is no future.
———————————————————————————————————————————–An internationally-published writer and educator Irene Shaland invites you to embark on a journey through the painful past and often controversial present of nine countries on three continents to understand how and why various nations around the world respond to the Holocaust remembrance.

“…memory is the keyword, which combines past and present, past and future…” Elie Wiesel

Austria, Germany, Hungary

We start our journey in Vienna. This magnificent city, an epicenter of European elegance and sophistication, is basking in its Baroque and Art Nouveau splendor. Vienna would rather have you waltzing from Schonbrunn Palace to Sachertorte’s shops, instead of searching out the synagogues and homes of its long-gone Jews. The Holocaust victims’ destiny was, for the most part, determined by three factors: the degree of control the Nazis had in the region, the history of Jews there, and the actions of the locals.  The latter is where the Viennese truly excelled: their inventiveness and viciousness surprised even the Germans and quickly turned the city of Mahler and Freud into the city of “Hitler’s willing executioners.” After the war, Austria’s official position was that the country was the very first victim of the Nazi’s aggression.  The Jewish community of Vienna today is small and, for the most part, consists of Eastern European immigrants. Austrian officials were not interested in inviting Holocaust survivors to return. Their shops and businesses had changed owners, university chairs and medical practices had been taken and, as some admit today, many a Vienna apartment still has furniture and art objects “borrowed”from Jewish neighbors. So why bother? And the Austrians didn’t, until the 1990s, when the Austrian government issued a statement acknowledging that Austria did take some part in the atrocities committed by the Nazis. To showcase its regret, the government even reconstructed a synagogue in Innsbruck (1993) and a Jewish Library in Vienna (1994). We follow the usual tourist route of Jewish Vienna from the Monument against War and Fascismto the Judisches Museum, from the Museum Judenplatzto the only Holocaust memorialin Austria and the nearby Stadttempel.But it is only when we reach an “un-touristy” Vienna by crossing the river to Leopoldstadtand follow the Path of Remembrancethere, we will see the Holocaust victims’ culture and suffering recognized. This is where the murdered Jews of Vienna are remembered, and finally their names and their life stories return.

We contrast Austria’s half-hearted efforts in reconciling its historic accounts with Germany’s “journey of conscious” into the painful past. In Berlin, we stop at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europenear Reichstag.  There, on the sloping field, hundreds black concrete slabs of varying in height create the uneasy, troubling experience of walking through a surreal necropolis that lost its touch with humanity. We continue to the Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum, where architecture reflects the “topography of terror” and tells the harrowing story of the Holocaust. We conclude our German tour by discussing the Stolpersteineinitiative that began in Germany and is spreading throughout Europe.

Our next stop is Hungary, where we start in Budapest near the deeply emotional monument called Shoes by the Danube. There, as we stroll along the embankment, we are passing by sixty pairs of rusted period shoes cast out of iron. Different sizes and styles, they are copies of the shoes that belonged to children, women, and men – all slaughtered by the Hungarian Arrow Cross militia. Then, we go to the Jewish quarterand walk along the streets where, as Elie Wiesel remembered in his Night,the Hungarian police barked their orders echoed throughout that small Jewish ghetto: “Faster! Faster! Move, you lazy good-for-nothings!” Hungary’s culpability in the Holocaust is undeniable. Yet in the years since the Cold War, the country is shifting from acknowledging that complicity to portraying itself, just like Austria did, as a helpless victim of the Nazi occupation. We visit the Memorial to the Victims of the German Occupationunveiled in Budapest’s Liberty Squarein 2014 during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the events of 1944, when the Nazi army entered Budapest. It depicts an eagle with sharp talons, signifying Nazi Germany, swooping down and attacking the archangel Gabriel holding a cross in his hand, who symbolizes the Hungarian people. We will proceed to the Freedom Squarewhere the country’s identity crisis as related to the Holocaust and Communism materializes in concreate and bronze. In January 2018, on the Holocaust Memorial Day, the Monument to Miklos Hothywas unveiled. In reality, this war-time “hero” sent thousands of Jews to concentration camps during the war.

Cuba

To find a “happy Jewish story” in relation to the Holocaust, we need to change the continents and come to the island of Cuba that has been a welcoming refuge for the Jews since 1492, when conversossought a safe haven from the Spanish Inquisition. We start in Santiago,the gateway to Cuban and to Jewish history. There, we visit Fidel Castro Memorial at the Santa Ifigenia Cemeteryand discuss the controversial dictator’s legacy and his attitudes towards the Jews, the Holocaust, and the State of Israel.  We proceed to Havana next, where in the 1930s, instigated by the Cuban nationalists in cooperation with the Nazi German Embassy, the hostility toward Jewish immigrants from Europe fueled both antisemitism and xenophobia. These attitudes played a significant role in the infamous tragic case of the transatlantic liner St. Luis.But with Batista’s coming to power, the atmosphere changed, and a relatively high number of Jewish refugees from the Nazi-occupied countries managed to slip into Cuba. Between 1933 and 1944, their number was estimated at 10,000 or even higher. Most were from Western Europe: refugees from Germany and Austria constituted over fifty percent; the majority of the rest were from Holland and Belgium. The refugees from Antwerp were encouraged by the Cuban government to introduce the diamond polishing business on the island.  Within one year, they transformed the island’s economy and founded over twenty plants that employed thousands of workers. After the war, most of them returned to Europe. This little-known story of Cuba as a safe haven for refugees from the Holocaustis documented in the 2018 movie “Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels” by Robin Truesdale and Judith Krietz. In Havana, we also visit a small Holocaust Memorial located in the most unusual of places: a Jewish hotel! Named after the matriarch from the Bible, Raquel, this beautiful Art Nuevo building went into disrepair, but was reborn as a Jewish-themed hotel, with the government placing stakes on growing tourism, especially that of the American Jewish groups. Every room is named after a heroine of the Bible, and the restaurant serves Jewish dishes like gefilte fish and blintzes.

India and China

Going to Asia, we will follow India’s Jewish narrative and meet the world’s oldest, continuously living Jewish community. Visiting the best-kept secret in Delhi,its one room synagogue, we meet the Rabbi/Cantor/Attorney/Hebrew scholar Ezekiel Malekar who related a little-known story about India’s lives-saving role during the Holocaust. In the beginning of World War II, a ship with 1200 Polish Jewish orphans and some adult guardians was not allowed to dock in Britain. However, it was sponsored by a Baghdadi Jewish philanthropist, and ended up in Bombay. But there again, the British authorities would not grant them entry without permission from London, so the Maharajah (great king) of Jamnagar,in an India state of Gujarat, accepted them as his personal guests. There, the refugees were well cared for until the war ended.  In 1989, the surviving members of the group along with their children and grandchildren, returned to Gujarat from the US and Israel, and dedicated a memorial to their safe haven, Indian state of Gujarat. The same group returned in the year 2000 when Gujarat was badly affected by a natural disaster, and the group worked to rebuild two villages.  About ten years ago when Mr. Malekar, wanted to publish an account of that unparalleled chapter in the Holocaust history he contacted the Maharaja’s family for comments. Maharajas’ son responded that his deceased father would not have wanted any publicity because the Maharajah thought of the Polish refugees as his own brothers and sisters and treated them as such.  The story of India as a shelter for Jews during the Holocaust is not commonly known, but what a very Indian story it is.

Arriving in China, we start with a brief discussion of the Chinese Jewish narrative that consists of two distinctive stories: one  is of the Jews OF China (Silk Road, Kaifeng, Luoyang) and another is that of the Jews IN China (Harbin, Shanghai). In Shanghai, we explore this city, an archetype of modern China, city of action and burgeoning economy with its typical self-confidence. We follow the Jewish heritage path there: from the first arrivals of the Baghdadi Jews in the 1840s, to the Russian wave in the 1920s-30s, to Shanghai becoming a safe haven during the Holocaust. Then, the path continues to the Japanese invasion and the creation of the “Restricted Sector for Stateless Refugees” or Shanghai Ghetto. We visit numerous Jewish-related sites such as the Ohel Rachel Synagogue (now Education Bureau), the Jewish Refugee Museum (former Ohel Moshe Synagogue), the houses in the former Ghetto, and the recently created Memorial Wall to the Shanghai WW II refugees.

Norway and Sweden

Retuning to Europe, our destination now is Scandinavia, where during WW II almost the entire Danish Jewish community and close to half-of the Norwegian Jews were smuggled to neutral Sweden and saved from the Nazis. In our quest to understand both Norwegian and Swedish responses to the Holocaust, we have go to Oslo and Stockholm. The Jewish Museum of Oslois located in the old synagogue building on Calmeyer Street in the center of the city, in a neighborhood marked by the last 30 years of immigration: we see an Iraqi barbershop, Kurdish bakery, and a mosque. This area was traditionally an immigrant enclave: fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe, about 100 Jews were the first settlers. In the building next to the museum, Salomon Selikowitz from Lithuania opened his haberdashery business in the 1890s. Most Jews who lived on this street during the 1940s, ended up in Auschwitz. Today only the Stolpersteineor memorial brass cobblestones with the victims’ names, dates of birth and deportation, attest to the destruction of the Oslo Jewry.  Few people hurrying down the street look down at these brass plates. The voices of the dead are barely heard. But inside the Museum, there is a wonderful exhibit:  “Remember us unto life – Jews in Norway 1940-45” dedicated to Norwegian Jews who were denounced by their neighbors, arrested by the Norwegian police, deported, and sent to Auschwitz.  We will also meet an architecture student Lior Habash to discuss the current rise of antisemitism and what it means to be a Jew in Norway today. Our next stop is the Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minoritieslocated in Bygdoy neighborhood, in a beautiful park-covered island, just across the harbor from downtown Oslo. The first thing one sees when approaching the Center is a giant sculpture that resembles a punch card. The artwork is called the “Innocent Questions:” the shifting words and phrases of a giant punch card are connected to personal data,” innocent” perhaps at a first glance, but used to facilitate mass murder of Norwegian Jews. The Center houses a Holocaust museum and is engaged in research, documentation, and education. What makes the Center’s exhibit diffirent is its focus on the role Norwegians played in the mass murder of their former neighbors and co-workers. Traditionally, in history lessons, the Germans were presented as villains, while Norwegians were resistant fighters, heroes, who risked their lives trying to smuggle their Jewish compatriots to Sweden. While the stories of heroism are certainly true, Norwegians today have to face the fact that the collection of data on Jewish residents, arrests and deportations were carried out by the Norwegians.

Stockholm: To see a more complete picture of the Jewish story within a Scandinavian context, we have to go to Sweden, the country that during World War II was a safe haven for most of the Scandinavian Jewry. In Stockholm, we explore the role Sweden played in saving not only the Jews from Denmark and Norway but also from Eastern European countries via the Swedish Red Cross White Buses project. We visit the controversial Rail Wallenberg Memorialand discuss why this hero, venerated in the US, Israel, and several other countries, was never given deserved recognition in his own homeland. The mystery of Wallenberg’s disappearance in the Soviet prisons remains unsolved. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, two official joint investigations, Swedish and Russian, failed to provide any answers: what were the circumstances and cause for his arrest? Why was not he released together with his Swedish colleagues? The unexplained indifference of the Swedish government during the first crucial years of Wallenberg’s disappearance is nothing short of a (intentional?) diplomatic blunder that Sweden, two generations later, has yet to explore fully.  Our next stop is theGreat Synagogue of Swedenlocated in the heart of Stockholm. There we meet John Gradowski, the Head of Information and Public Relations for the Jewish Community of Stockholm. John takes us to a courtyard where an impressive Holocaust memorial was inaugurated by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in 1998. The Memorial is a 42-meter wall leading from the Synagogue’s entrance to the Jewish Community office building.  The names of 8,500 victims, relatives of the Jews of Sweden, are engraved on this wall, serving as a link between “a monstrous past and a future in which such atrocities should not be repeated,” said John. He pointed to a sculpture in the Synagogue yard: an elderly Jewish man rushing away with a Torah in his hands. Called “Flight with a Torah,” it was made by a Russian-born Swedish Jewish artist Willy Gordon as a memorial to Sweden as a safe haven during the Holocaust. We continue our discussion about the Jews in Sweden today: from the situation in Malmo to the rise of anti-Semitism in Sweden and Annika Hernroth-Rothstein‘s struggle for preservation of the Jewish identity when she applied for a political asylum in her own country.

The Former Soviet Union

Our last stop is the Former Soviet Union, where we visit Minsk, Belarusthat has one of the most impressive Holocaust memorials in that country. Until the breakup of the Soviet Union, the government never recognized what happened during World War II to the European Jewry in general and to their own Jewish citizens in particular. Even though the word “Holocaust” came into widespread usage at the end of the 1960s, it was only when my husband and I arrived in the U.S. in 1982 that we learned about the Nazi’s “Final Solution” and heard the word for the first time. The Soviets had their specific models for controlling historic remembrance both within their republics and the Soviet bloc countries. The Soviet government completely rejected any notion of national identity. The official propaganda showcased the number of Soviet people killed by the enemy during the war but never specific atrocities done to the Jews. The very word “Jewish” was never used and instead, the vague “Soviet patriotic citizens” were commemorated. The Soviets suppressed any hint of the Nazi “final solution” for the same reason they covered up other wartime accounts, such as the massive collaboration with the Nazis in the Soviet territory and in the countries that would become members of the Soviet bloc. The Soviet government’s goal was to conceal the Nazis’ mass killing of the Jews, while blaming the Germans for their own atrocities like the Katyn Massacre when the Red Army’s executed more than nine hundred Polish officers in the Katyn forest. The regime did not want questions about its own strategies of ethnic relocations, mass purges, and concentration camps.

Minsk, Belarus:Yama (the Pit). According to “The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust,” the Minsk ghetto was the largest ghetto the Nazis established in the occupied Soviet territories. Between 80,000 to 100,000 Jews of Minsk and the vicinity were forced into that ghetto and most were murdered. In 1947, a modest obelisk was erected near the place where thousands of Minsk Jews were massacred.  The Minsk memorial is considered to bethe first Soviet memorial dedicated to the Jewish victims of Nazism. For many years, it was also the only one that dared to proclaim openly in Yiddish: “Dedicated to the Jews, victims of Nazism.”  At the end of the 1940s –early 1950s, during Stalin’s anti-Semitic campaign against “cosmopolitism,” both the poet Chaim Maltinski who wrote the verse in remembrance of the murdered Jews and the stonemason Morduch Sprishen who chiseled these words on the obelisk were arrested and sent to the Gulag for their “bourgeois and nationalistic” tendencies. In the year 2000, a sculptured group was added to the old obelisk. The added group was created by a Jewish Belarus architect Leonid Levin and Israeli sculptors Else Pollack and Alexander Finski. The entire complex is now called The Pit (“Yama” in Russian). Placed at the site where Minsk Jews were killed, the monument is indeed a deep pit with a long granite staircase leading to the bottom. A bronze group of twenty seven emaciated naked human figures is descending along the steps toward their violent death.   A violinist, pregnant woman, and children are among the group. Faces are not detailed, just an overall expression of horror. It took eight years to complete this group. All work was done by hand. The memorial, whichI believe to be one of the best visual expressions of many families’ Holocaust narratives, is being repeatedly vandalized.

Perhaps some things never change: there will always be those who are bent on destruction and those who are inspired to create. Let our families’ Holocaust narratives, oral, written, or chiseled in bronze, be the creative force that preserves memories and builds bridges between the horrific past and the future in which inhuman atrocities should not be repeated. May we always choose life.  L’Chaim.

Find more Irene Shaland’s stories in her latest book “The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories”

The “Jewish Question” in Vienna (excerpt from The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories)

monument-vienna

Don’t look for the Steinedererinnerung in your guidebook: the murdered Jews of Austria have neither a Rick Steves nor a Frommer. And Vienna, basking in its Baroque and Art Nouveau splendor, would rather have you waltzing from Schonbrunn palace to Sachertorte’s shops instead of searching out the synagogues and homes of long-gone Jews. An Austrian sarcastic proverb, as noted by Magrit Reiter in her conference presentation “Antisemitism in Austria after the Shoa,” declares that Germans were the “better Nazis,” while Austrians were definitely the “better anti-Semites.”

The Holocaust victims’ destiny was, for the most part, determined by three key factors: the degree of control the Nazis had in the region, the history of Jews there, and the actions of the locals. The latter is where the Viennese truly excelled. Austrian inventiveness and viciousness quickly turned the city of Mahler and Freud into the city of “Hitler’s willing executioners,” using the title of the famous book written by Daniel Goldhagen. In this controversial study, Goldhagen argued that virulent “eliminationist antisemitism” was the cornerstone of German national identity. Austrians, in their zeal to eliminate their Jewish countrymen, managed to surprise even the Germans.
Vienna was by no means the only European city where the “final solution” had been successfully carried out. However, the delight the Viennese took in humiliating, torturing, and killing their Jewish neighbors was truly extraordinary. In that 1938 photograph I mentioned, the people in the laughing crowd taking such a delight in humiliating a Jew, were the very ones (or their parents) who elected the rabidly anti-Semitic Karl Lueger as a mayor of Vienna five times between 1897 and 1910. Hitler adored Lueger and considered the Viennese mayor to be a major influence on shaping his views on race.

According to the Austrian Jewish Community statistics, in 1938, 206,000 persons of Jewish decent had been living in the Austrian capital; one out of ten Viennese residents was Jewish. Less than 2,000 survived the camps. Practically no one returned. The flourishing Jewish community of Austria was all but obliterated during World War II. At first, Austrian Jews were lucky: unlike Germany, Austria had exit avenues open for a while and almost two thirds of the country’s Jews left. Those who stayed died wretched deaths at places like Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. One Vienna resident, Sigmund Freud, went to London with his family; his two elderly sisters stayed and perished.
After the war, Austria’s official position was that the country had been the very first victim of the Nazis’ aggression. Austria had no Nuremberg-like trials for crimes against humanity, and this fictional claim went unchallenged for many decades.

Continue reading “The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories” currently available on Amazon:

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Irene Shaland’s Book Available at Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble online store displays Irene Shaland's book The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories

Irene Shaland’s latest book “The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories” is now available at Barnes & Noble.

Go to Barnes & Noble online Store.

In “The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories” Irene Shaland presents a collective Jewish narrative from various parts of the globe. She takes the reader on a fascinating journey, both familiar and unknown, from Europe to Asia and Africa, from Vienna to Delhi and Nairobi. The fate of the brilliant Jewish community of Vienna annihilated during the Holocaust shines a disturbing light on the stories of the current rise of Antisemitism in Scandinavia and throughout Europe.

Two-millennium old tales of little-known Jewish communities of India and China, who never knew religious persecution, reveal happy chapters in the history of Jewish Diaspora filled with so many tragic events. And striking stories of the uplifting revival of Judaism in Sicily and Sardinia after 500 years of the expulsion of the Jews from these islands give us hope for a more harmonious future. Based on the author’s interviews during her travels to ten countries and three continents, this book is Irene Shaland’s passionate quest to preserve the Jewish heritage, identity, memory, and history.

The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories Released

cover of Irene Shaland book the Dao of Being Jewish and Other StoriesNew book of stories from Irene Shaland is now available in paperback. In The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories Irene Shaland presents a collective Jewish narrative from various parts of the globe. She takes the reader on a fascinating journey, both familiar and unknown, from Europe to Asia and Africa, from Vienna to Delhi and Nairobi. The fate of the brilliant Jewish community of Vienna annihilated during the Holocaust shines a disturbing light on the stories of the current rise of Antisemitism in Scandinavia and throughout Europe. Two-millennium old tales of little-known Jewish communities of India and China, who never knew religious persecution, reveal happy chapters in the history of Jewish Diaspora filled with so many tragic events. And striking stories of the uplifting revival of Judaism in Sicily and Sardinia after 500 years of the expulsion of the Jews from these islands give us hope for a more harmonious future. Based on the author’s interviews during her travels to ten countries and three continents, this book is Irene Shaland’s passionate quest to preserve the Jewish heritage, identity, memory, and history.

This book is now available on Amazon

Irene Shaland is an internationally-published art and travel writer, educator, and lecturer. She is the author of two books and numerous magazine articles published in the U.S.A., Canada, Kenya, and U.K. Her lectures on cultural travel are enthusiastically received by audiences in museums, libraries, synagogues, and theaters throughout the country. Irene and her husband, travel photographer Alex reside in Lyndhurst, Ohio.