Sunday, August 5, 2012

Today's Music & the Holocaust

First, a huge THANK YOU to everyone who planned, organized, presented, or otherwise participated in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum workshop (USHMM) for Holocaust educators held at the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) in Cullowhee, NC (see my previous blog post). Special appreciation goes to:
  • Jonathan Wade, the "Jolly Good Fellow" at NCCAT
  • Donna Glee Williams, organizer and planner extraordinaire at NCCAT
  • The USHMM Teacher Education Corps "road show" team (a.k.a. the Washington Wizards): Pete Fredlake (who obviously plays center), Greta Stults, Kate English, and Laurie Schaefer
  • All the catering, security, maintenance, and clerical staff at NCCAT. These folks may often labor behind the scenes, but enable everyone and everything to function.
The collective talent, knowledge and enthusiasm of our Holocaust educators in the schools continues to impress me. The partnership with the USHMM opens up exciting possibilities--and I'll track the progress right here.

On to today's topic. What do you think of when someone talks about "music and the Holocaust"? For many, the only exposure to "Jewish music" might be Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song." OK, it's a comedy classic, but it's hardly genuine. How about the now lost songs of the shtetls, whose melodies now are preserved as memorials to those lost civilizations?

It turns out that reverberations of the Holocaust extend deeply into today's musicians. I'm not talking about beloved Debie Friedman, the renowned Jewish folk singer who brought so many Jewish folk tales and tunes to life before her untimely death. Nope, I refer to hard-core, take-no-prisoners, serious modern rockers. Few people realize how the Holocaust lives on in the descendants of the witnesses, survivors, and victims. Here are a few examples:
  • Geddy Lee, lead singer of Rush. His nickname "Geddy" was bestowed by childhood friends imitating how his mother, a Polish immigrant who was liberated from Bergen-Belsen, used to pronounce his name (given name Gary Lee Weinrib) when calling out for him.
    • article about Geddy's Holocaust connections
    • "Red Sector A" (on the album Grace Under Pressure) song, which deals with his mother's experiences
  • David Draiman, lead singer of Disturbed (a band whose music must be played on maximum volume to achieve proper effect)
  • Gene Simmons, co-founder of Kiss, whose mother is a Hungarian survivor, lost virtually all of his family on his mother's side during the Holocaust. Although his heritage does seem to influence Gene's life, it is less clear (at least at this point) how or whether it connects to his music.
Reverberations of the Holocaust extend far beyond history books.

Friday, August 3, 2012

US Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Forum in NC

On August 3-5 at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) in Cullowhee, NC, staff from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) is conducting the North Carolina Teacher Forum on Holocaust Education. This workshop brings together many of the most active Holocaust educators at all levels (middle school, high school, post-secondary) and across many different subject areas. The objective is to energize Holocaust education in North Carolina by fueling deeper collaboration and greater innovation. This effort focuses on inventive ways to use the resources of the USHMM in classroom and co-curricular activities.

The benefits of this forum extend beyond the participants and their students. USHMM has set up an ongoing website to share the conversations and outcomes as widely as possible:
NC Teacher Forum Website
The site also contains many links to useful Holocaust education resources and websites.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Massive Discovery of Holocaust Documents

Here is a CBS 60 Minutes segment called "Hitler's Secret Archive." It details the discovery of a hitherto unknown trove of documents related to the Holocaust:16+ miles of files. Originally aired 17 December 2006.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Exhibit on Nazi Book Burning Coming to Greensboro

From June 21 - August 12, 2012 the Greensboro Historical Museum will be hosting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's traveling exhibit:
This is a rare opportunity to experience such an exhibit in Greensboro.

Greensboro Historical Museum
130 Summit Avenue
Greensboro, NC

Directions (Google map) 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Survivor Testimonies from Wisconsin

Marianne Wason from the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust recently shared a remarkable resource. The Wisconsin Historical Society has collected, digitized, and indexed the audiotapes of complete oral testimonies by 24 witnesses and survivors who settled in Wisconsin.

Oral Histories: Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust is significant for several reasons:
  1. The testimonies are complete and unedited (although there is an area on the site for listening to brief excerpts).
  2. The compilers have assembled brief topical indexes for each interview.
  3. (and most impressive for researchers) Every interview is accompanied by a complete written transcript.
  4. The audio as well as the transcripts can be downloaded (audio as MP3, transcripts as PDF).
Interestingly, these interviews were conducted between 1974 and 1981, which predates most items in the video collections of firsthand testimonies. By contrast, the collection initiated by Steven Spielberg and housed at the Shoah Foundation Institute dates to the mid-1990s. The Fortunoff Archive at Yale dates to 1979.

German Medical Association Issues Apology

In a dramatic move timed to coincide with the 2012 German Medical Assembly meeting in Nuremberg, the German Medical Association issued a formal apology for the role German physicians played in the Holocaust and its related atrocities. Here is a translation of the letter petitioning for the apology plus the text of the apology itself.

Related Coverage

In remembrance of the victims of Nazi medicine

Nuremberg, May 2012

Honoured delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

After thirty-three years, the German Medical Assembly (Deutscher Ärztetag), the annual meeting of the German Medical Association (Bundesärztekammer), is once again being held in Nuremberg, the site of the Doctors’ Trial of 1946-1947. This serves as an appropriate and timely opportunity for the German Medical Association to take an official position on its historical responsibility and the complicity of its predecessor organization in crimes against humanity committed under the Nazi regime. The victims of the medical system under National Socialism – the few still alive today and the many who have died at the time or in the intervening years – deserve a comprehensive explanation by the German Medical Association, including an official and explicit apology. This has yet to be offered.

In light of the lectures given by the medical historian Prof. Richard Toellner on medicine under National Socialism and the “burden of the lessons learned” during the 92nd German Medical Assembly in Berlin in 1989, as well as the resolution of the 99th German Medical Assembly in Cologne in 1996 on the “values of the Medical Association 50 years after the Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial,” we would like to encourage you, here in Nuremberg, where the medical crimes against humanity were publicly put on trial, to use the 115th German Medical Assembly to publicly and officially take a stand on this issue.

The human rights violations committed by doctors and the medical system as a whole under the Nazi regime elicit a multitude of questions for medicine today. They concern the way in which the German Medical Association perceives itself as well as possible implications for professional behaviour and medical ethics.

In contrast to still widely accepted views, the initiative for the most serious human rights violations did not originate from the political authorities at the time, but rather from physicians themselves:

- The forced sterilization of over 360,000 individuals classified with “hereditary illness,”

- the killing of well over 200,000 mentally ill and disabled people,

- involuntary and often deadly medical research conducted on thousands of experimental subjects.

In addition, there was the dismissal and expulsion of “Jewish” and “politically unreliable” physicians and the exploitation of slave labourers in medical institutions, even including university clinics and confessional hospitals.

The crimes committed by Nazi medicine were not those of a few isolated and fanatical doctors, but rather took place with the substantial involvement of leading representatives of the medical association and medical specialist bodies, as well as with the considerable participation of eminent representatives of university medicine and renowned biomedical research facilities.

Many of the doctors involved also held distinguished medical positions in the post-war period. Similarly, even after 1945, stigmatizing and debasing concepts and procedures with respect to ill and disabled people continued to be applied to an alarming extent. For decades, there was no systematic reflection given to the preconditions for such practices and ways of thinking. The documentation from the Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial as well as the 1947 “Nuremberg Code” was simply forgotten. In the post-war decades, the issue of medicine under National Socialism tended to be regarded as a threat to the reputation of the medical profession.

Only since the 1980s have the German Medical Association and the institutional bodies of various medical disciplines slowly begun to confront this historical reality. Since then, research has, only to a very limited extent, been supported by the German Medical Association. Equally, even in the 1990s, appeals to institutional medical associations for financial support of key historical research and publication projects were still rejected. Examples of the suppression and the glossing over of the Nazi past of medical officials continue to the present day.

The 115th German Medical Assembly in Nuremberg is a historical opportunity

The 92nd German Medical Assembly in Berlin in 1989 and the 99th German Medical Assembly in Cologne in 1996 explicitly addressed the issue of medicine under the Nazi regime and its victims. These reflections can and should lead to the desire to ask for an apology, which is especially important to those victims who are still alive. Such an official declaration on the part of the 115th German Medical Assembly in Nuremberg and the concomitant obligation to provide comprehensive support towards further historical research is imperative for the sake of the victims and their descendants.

We therefore appeal to you as delegates and as responsible members of the German Medical Association to take the historic opportunity provided by the 115th German Medical Assembly in Nuremberg to issue a

Nuremberg Declaration of the German Medical Assembly 2012.

We have taken the liberty to formulate a draft for such a declaration.

Nuremberg is and remains bound up with the history of National Socialism and medicine under the Nazi regime. For many years, the city of Nuremberg has faced up to this history in a remarkable manner and has received great international recognition for its efforts.

We wish you a pleasant stay in this city and a good Medical Assembly 2012!

With best regards from the first signatories,

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Baader, Berlin – Prof. Dr. Johanna Bleker, Berlin – Dr. Karl Jürgen Bodenschatz, Nuremberg – Sir Iain Chalmers, Oxford – Prof. Dr. Wulf Dietrich, Munich – Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus Dörner, Hamburg – PD Dr. Fritz Dross, Fürth – Dr. Hansjörg Ebell, Munich – Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Eckardt, Heidelberg – Prof. Dr. Frank Erbguth, Nuremberg – Dr. Ursula Ferdinand, Münster – Prof. Dr. Andreas Frewer, Erlangen – Prof. Dr. Helfried Gröbe, Nuremberg – PD. Dr. Bernd Höffken, Nuremberg – Dr. Ellis Huber, Berlin – PD Dr. Gerrit Hohendorf, Munich – PD Dr. Michael Knipper, Gießen – Stephan Kolb, Eckental – Prof. Dr. Hans-Peter Kröner, Münster – Prof. Dr. Johannes Kruse, Gießen – Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Leven, Erlangen – Prof. Dr. Georg Marckmann, Munich – Dr. Nadine Metzger, Erlangen – Dr. Dr. Günter Niklewski, Nuremberg – Dr. Philipp Osten, Heidelberg – Prof. Dr. Walter Pontzen, Nuremberg – Prof. Dr. Jens Reich, Berlin – Dr. Helmut Rießbeck, Schwabach – Prof. Dr. Volker Roelcke, Gießen – Dr. Maike Rotzoll, Heidelberg – Prof. Dr. Jan Holger Schiffmann, Nuremberg – Prof. Dr. Heinz-Peter Schmiedebach, Hamburg – Prof. Dr. Dr. Heinz Schott, Bonn – Dr. Horst Seithe, Nuremberg – Dr. Helmut Sörgel, Nuremberg – Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Söllner, Nuremberg – Prof. Dr. Hannes Wandt, Nuremberg – Prof. Dr. Paul Weindling, Oxford – Prof. Dr. Jörg Wiesse, Nuremberg – Dr. Elisabeth Wentzlaff, Nuremberg – Dr. Holger Wentzlaff, Nuremberg – Prof. Dr. Dr. Renate Wittern-Sterzel, Erlangen

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What can we learn from a 108 year-old survivor?

Alice playing piano in her younger years
Alice today at 108
This video defies simple verbal summary, since words cannot do the subject justice. 108 year-old Holocaust survivor Alice Herz Sommer discusses how she survived and what the experience taught her. Much in this interview by Tony Robbins (yes, THAT Tony Robbins) defies the simplistic stereotypes of survivors and what makes them "tick." A biography about her was published in 2008. A renowned pianist, music was her refuge from the daily miseries of life under the Nazis. "I learned to be thankful for everything." A very interesting comment (among many): "I am Jewish without religion." Among the host of lessons we can learn from Alice: It's never too late...for ourselves or for humanity.