International Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed on January 27, 2015.
Fiction That Became Fact
This is the story behind the book, "Grains Of Sand-The Fall Of Neve Dekalim" written by Dvora Waysman
This is a book we all need to read because of its message. Even though it’s the debut novel of a young writer (she was 18 at the time) and perhaps more for a teenage reader, the heartbreak of the destruction of a 30-year dream, that was destroyed in a few moments, is guaranteed to pull at your heartstrings.
Something unbelievable happened and, if we don’t learn the lesson, this story threatens to be repeated in many more Israeli communities where Jews have settled and forged meaningful lives. The danger may come, not from our enemies, but from our own governmental decision-makers.
The author was born in America, and lived with her family in Neve Dekalim until 1992 until the tragic Disengagement in 2005. She loved her life in Gush Katif, where she spent her childhood and teenage years with her parents and six siblings.
The story is written as a novel, with a fictitious family comprised of parents Yoram and Miri Yefet and their two teenage children, Efrat and Yair. The father is a farmer inspecting dunams of vegetables to ensure they are bug-free. At first their lives and concerns are typical of Israelis all over the country, even though the firing of mortars and rockets is often a nightly occurrence.
We learn of intermittent tragedies such as the murder of a beloved teacher, Miriam, in a terrorist attack. Sadly such events have become commonplace in Israel as the Intifada shattered lives and families that can never be whole again.
The community’s foreboding strengthened when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave a speech at the Herzliya Conference. He stated clearly that he intended – if he didn’t find an Arab partner – to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip and part of Northern Samaria (Shomron) even though it meant dismantling settlements.
Thus the residents of Gush Katif realized that their only hope was to raise national awareness of what their communities actually were and the kind of idealistic people who lived there. They decided to mount a massive campaign to convince citizens to vote against Sharon’s plan should it come to a national referendum.
The Yefet family began by choosing a city and going door-to-door to talk with any residents who were willing to listen. Some were. Many, however, felt that “the settlers” were the stumbling block to peace and would be no loss if disengagement should eventuate.
These were usually ones who did not know that Gush Katif boasted 21 thriving communities of 8,000 settlers, religious and secular, Israeli-born, as well as immigrants. They lived there despite 11,000 terror attacks and 4,000 mortars and Kassam rockets. In a short time, the entire Gush joined the “Face to Face” campaign, handing out pamphlets, vegetables that were grown there, and CDs of their beautiful, endangered communities. Many strategies were originally employed, including wearing an orange star. However, public pressure caused an end to this campaign with its echoes of the Holocaust.
Much of the book is written in the form of Effie’s diary entries, which I suppose are typical of the way a young girl might record her thoughts. There are also extracts translated from various articles in the Hebrew press in 2005, as the Disengagement built towards reality, with mass demonstrations, blocking of roads, civil disobedience and prayer vigils, which we know with hindsight, were all in vain. Efforts were made to try to convince soldiers to disobey orders, which presented a moral predicament for them.
In the final pages, you will find your cheeks wet with tears as you finish the book – fiction that so tragically became fact. Read it – and remember!
The Russian Agent
A person wanting to order copies of the book, The Audacity To Live, by Asher Ben Natan was on the phone.
The call developed into a conversation. The caller said that he had seen the book, but conspicuously, his name was not in the index, of which there are over a hundred names indexed.
He was pointing out that even today, security (probably his), still prevented connecting him as an agent of the post WWII Russian government, assigned to kill "Artur," who today is Asher Ben Natan. At the time, Ben Natan was the commander of Bricha in Austria, the secret organization responsible for moving post-Holocaust surviving Jews to Israel, (then Palestine).
Loves In The Shadows
Holocaust Survivors: How strong these people were, to have survived the murderous brutality of the Nazi regime in World War II. Pre-teens and teens then, today the wise of our generation, these survivors have a story to tell, a message not to be forgotten. And this has become the mission of a Jerusalem-based publishing house - to make sure that these stories are published and read by the people who did not experience the Holocaust.
"Lately, many survivors have realized the importance of telling their painful recollections, so others will have the opportunity to learn from these experiences. I feel that new and future generations should hear our testimonies so they may protect themselves and avoid future calamities, said Dr. Moshe Avital, the author of "And There Was Courage" and "Not To Forget, Impossible To Forgive."
"For many years, like many other Holocaust survivors, I avoided speaking about what happened to me and my family during the dark years of the Holocaust. Only by relating my story will people begin to understand the anguish and fear that permeated every moment of my daily life during that horrible time, watching family, friends, and acquaintances disappear or die while I remained helpless," said Dr. Avital who lives in New Rochelle, New York today.
The author of "The Angel Of Poetry," Brigitte Ringer Nenner, said that when she was thrown into the hell of the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in 1943, she knew that if she survived, she would write in poetry to tell of the horrors of the Holocaust.
Every person tells their story differently. The recollection of the events that happened almost 70 years ago are so similar, but the way they convey the recollection is so different.
Mrs. Nenner used poetic verse to record her experience.
Dr. Avital used a blend of family memories with historical account. Leah Shinnar used vignettes to describe her experience.
"My Childhood In The Holocaust," is one that begins with Judith Jaegermann's recollections from about six years old until she was sixteen, but ends with a note of fear that Jews, after the war, did not want to hear what happened to European Jewry. It is this kind of apathy, she believes, that could lead to another group rising in hate over the Jews again. But her commitment today is to speak to young people to remind them of the history so that another Holocaust will not happen.
So often, people think that the Jews were like sheep lead to the slaughter, that they did not resist or fight back, but in almost every testimony, this view is absolutely refuted and proven untrue.
According to Dr. Avital, "We were not sheep to the slaughter. The German people were the sheep, because they followed their dictator blindly. When the Jews went quietly to their deaths, without physical resistance, you could feel in their silence a moral resistance to the Germans. There was a resistance of dignity, something they had within them.
"Kiddush Hachayim, the sanctification of life, is a form of Kiddush Hashem, the sanctification of G-d, which is a kind of resistance, a refusal to be brutalized. When Jews put on Talit and Tefillin, and sang Ani Ma'amin, "I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah," on the way to their death, was this not resistance? They could sing of their belief because they deeply believed in humanity. They wrongly believed that the world would not know what was happening to them.
In 1944, a group of Jews in the Sonder Commando, Jews who were chosen by the Nazis to help them in the gas chambers at Auschwitz, rebelled and killed many Nazis.
This was the first time prisoners of the Sonder Commando in Auschwitz did that and finally a few of them escaped to tell the world of the killings. They also revolted in Treblinka. There were Jewish resistance movements in Belgium, Italy, Bulgaria, in the ghettos of Minsk, Vilna, Bialystok, and many others.
"The chief reason why so little is known of the Jewish valiant struggles is that writers and historians have relied primarily on German sources, said Dr. Avital. It is natural that the Nazis would deliberately hide the fact that there was a network of Jewish resistance. The death of 6,000,000 people is so overwhelming, so vast a tragedy that the resistance of so many is understandably overshadowed. Whether with arms or moral stamina, the ways of resistance were as varied as the ways of death. Jews were not willing accomplices to their own slaughter.
"There is indeed proof beyond any doubt that Jews resisted the overwhelming might of the German Army, to which a whole continent had capitulated. Weaponless, they stood up to the might of the German panzer divisions in many places, under conditions of starvation and deprivation, in which their own doom was almost a foregone conclusion."
In the book, "To Live And Fight Another Day" the author, Bracha Weisbarth, tells the story of the Jewish partisans. Her family survived the Holocaust in the forests of the Ukraine as partisan fighters. They lived in the forests, forging partnerships with the resistors of the Nazis. They blew up German trains, rescued Jews and did everything possible to inflect hit and run missions against the Nazis. She explains that her very compelling reason to write her story is that so little is known about the partisans, and that "we must not forget the courage of the partisans."
Amongst the readers of these stories, one of the most common reactions is how strong these people were and they question whether they could rise with such strength to survive an enemy like the Nazis.
Many more stories have been published by eyewitness survivors. Unfortunately, as they get older and pass on, many stories remain untold.
This is why Mazo Publishers makes every effort to bring the testimony of survivors into publication.