Saturday, 31 March 2012

Mr. Ausch.

While Ben was resting, Jared went to the shul service, and the congregation was made up largely of Holocaust survivors, it is very sad to be surrounded by people who have experienced such pain.  After resting at the hotel, Ben joined Jared at the Kiddush (snacks after shul service) to meet the community, we met Mrs. Diamantstein's son, a professor of history and geography who was very nice. Susie then introduced us to the esteemed Mr. Ausch. 


Us with Susie Woosie

Mr. Ausch is a machor (big-dog in Yiddish) in the community here, working for twenty seven years and overseeing the renovation of the synagogue and the building of the first Holocaust memorial in Romania. Mr Ausch was taken prisoner by the Nazis in 1943 and was sent to a forced labour camp. He endured life in forced labour camps until the Russians came, but instead of being liberated he was sent to more forced labour camps in the Soviet Union before being released in 1948. In 1944 Mr. Ausch's family were sent to Auschwitz, were they were murdered. He did not find this out until his return to Targu Mures in 1948.


Mr. Ausch remembers the awful feeling he had when the anti-Jewish laws were passed in 1940, and how sad it made him to feel like a second class citizen. Most of us can't imagine what it feels like to be a second class citizen, and although things are very different we should remember that not everyone in the UK and around the world is afforded the same rights today. He also spoke of his disbelief when finding out that people were gassed at Auschwitz and the devastation he experienced when realising that fate befell his own parents. It was so difficult hearing Mr. Ausch describing, with great emotion, how hard he found it to readjust back to normal life. It really is a wonder that people could adjust at all.



He also mentioned how important he feels that Holocaust eduction is. Mr. Ausch said to us that it is an excellent and noble task, to record the testimonies of survivors so that future generations could hear the horrors that happened to real people, from their own mouths. He stated quite categorically that there is no guarantee that we can stop prejudice, but we all agreed that we at least had to try.



Friday, 30 March 2012

Action.

Jared has gone to shul for the Shabbat morning service, unfortunately Ben is still feeling really rubbish (extra sad face) so has stayed home to try and recover before more interviews today. Fear not though faithful readers, Bared will be reunited shortly!


When Ben had rejoined Jared after the service, they will be meeting Mr. Ausch, the former Mr. President of the Jewish community in Targu Mures. By all accounts he is an incredible man who has given a lot of his life to this community. We are very excited to meet him and interested in understanding his experiences in the Holocaust.


Also, Susie our wonderful Targu Muresian guide's son is a film maker so he will be filming us today while we film our documentary. It is exciting but quite strange to be the subjects of a film within a film, maybe an oscar for best actor isn't such a ridonculous idea now!


Afterwards, all being well, we are going to take Susie out for dinner to thank her for organising everything for us here!  


Laterz

Remember.

Ben fell ill this afternoon, suffering from a migraine but after nursing from Jared and a long snooze, he is on his way back to full health.


We began the day by walking the really short walk to the shul (synagogue in Yiddish), which is extremely beautiful, it reminded us slightly of a Russian Orthodox church. We were met by the President of the Jewish community, we felt it only proper to address him as 'Mr. President', which he thoroughly enjoyed. Well, if it's good enough for Obama it's good enough for Targu Mures! The shul was created in 1900 and amazingly was not destroyed by the Nazis as they only got to Targu Mures a year before the war ended. We are going to go to a Shabbat morning service there tomorrow morning, which should be good!






After a short tour of the shul we went to meet Dr. Eta Tusa, a wonderful lady who spoke excellent English although she was super impressed at the Hungarian we are learning (as Targu Mures used to be part of Hungary many people still speak Hungarian, over Romanian)! She presented us with a lovely lunch of salad and schnitzel! After chatting about the Queen and Kate Middleton (she is a big fan) we sat down so she could tell us her experiences during the war. She was taken with her sister to Auschwitz where they were imprisoned but they were taken on a death march to Germany in the freezing cold of January 1945. They were then imprisoned in a number of camps in Germany until May 9th when they were liberated by the British army. She came to Targu Mures and married an amazing man who she spent fifty-six happy years with until he passed away.




We then met another survivor Mrs. Diamantstein, who like Dr Tusa, survived Auschwitz but was taken to Plaszow labour camp near Krakow and other labour camps in Germany with her mother by train once the Russian's were closing in. Both Mrs. Diamantstein and her mother were put to work however one day her mother became ill and was not selected to work but instead of being kept at the barrack she was put on a cattle car, kept there for a day without food or water and then was transported back to Auschwitz where she was gassed. Mrs. Diamantstein was the only survivor from her entire family.




Both Dr. Tusa and Mrs. Diamantstein spoke very elquently about their experiences but without much emotion. Mrs. Diamantstein told us she can't allow herself to access her emotions. The events from their past are so traumatic that they are simply unable to talk about them in that way. Many of the survivors that we have spoken with feel the same way and they simply recite their stories to us. None of us can really imagine what it was like and we must be eternally grateful that they are able to tell these stories at all. 


One thing they have all mentioned is how important the work that we are doing is. They want people to remember that the Holocaust took place. They want people to remember their stories and they want people to make sure that people never turn on each other in such a way, ever again. Even if it is just to fulfil their wishes, is the very least that we can do for these wonderful but traumatised people.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Future.

After a fairly unsatisfying sleep we have a jam packed day planned. We are going to the sensational and very Russian looking Synagogue to meet Susie our wonderful guide, and the President of the remaining Jewish community here (before the war there were 6,000 Jewish people living here, now there are about 200), we are going to interview him to find out his experiences during the war. We will also get a tour of the Synagogue and old cemetery.


Synagogue in Targu Mures


After our time at the Synagogue we are going to interview another Holocaust survivor to record their testimonies. Although this is a difficult task for everyone involved it is nevertheless extremely important. It is absolutely vital that we have first hand accounts of the atrocities which took place. First of all we need to teach future generations about it, letting them know how badly humanity can act. Secondly, because even in a place such as Targu Mures with a large community of suvivors, people deny the Holocaust ever took place. And although we personally do not believe in directly engaging with these people (to debate, for example, will legitimise their view points and in our opinion Holocaust denial is nothing but racism), all we can do is educate people as much as possible.

Appreciation.

Although we only wrote the basics of her story on the blog, we are sure that you are all able to imagine the horrendous situation that Mrs. Naftali found herself in, just because she was Jewish. She was stripped of her belongings, her hair, her liberty and her family. It also makes us realise how brave these people are. We go along with our camera and our questions and we cry when we hear Mrs. Naftali tell her story but what about her after we go? It feels so terrible to ask someone to dredge up their darkest memories and then leave them once they open up. Unfortunately, that is part of the work that we are doing and we must record these testimonies while we still have a chance.


After meeting Mrs. Naftali earlier and hearing how thirty seven members of her family were murdered you really begin to appreciate the love that you have.


It is at times quite unbelievable that the Holocaust ever took place but it did take place and millions of families were ripped apart in the process. Before we left for Krakow we wrote a post about love and advised that everyone should tell the people that they love, that they love them. This sentiment is even more important to us now. Imagine never getting the opportunity to tell your family, your friends, your lover how you feel about them before you lose them forever. To us that is unthinkable. So, take this opportunity to tell your loved ones how you feel, remembering how lucky you are that you are able to do that, and remember that millions of people never get or got that simple basic opportunity.


Mrs. Naftali.

After our twenty two hour journey we slept for about three hours and then went straight into an interview with Mrs. Yolande Naftali. She survived Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald concentration camps.


Her town, although now in Romania, used to be part of Hungary so was not overrun by the Nazis until 1944. Mrs Naftali and her mother, grandmother and aunts were deported on a cattle car to a nearby ghetto, from there they were taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where her grandmother was gassed. Along with her mother and aunt, Mrs. Naftali  was taken to work. After becoming unwell her aunt was murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau. As the allies closed in there they were taken to a number of work camps in Germany in horrendous conditions including Buchenwald concentration camp. After being left by the Nazis, they were liberated in Germany on April 25th by the Americans. 


Out of forty four, only seven of Mrs. Naftali's family survived.


She was an amazing women, she spoke clearly and with strength, despite what she had suffered. She seemed delighted to see us (she gave us the most AMAZING ice-cream) and was thrilled to tell the story of the her Holocaust for the first ever on camera. She told us that we had to make sure that people knew what happened to her and her family and that they should never, ever forget.


Targu-Mures.

After a twenty-two hour journey which included, one snickers, one lion bar, one juice box, one neste bsoshkveenya, one sandwich, one packet of crisps and one pain au chocolat (all of which were finished within the first hour of the journey, sad face) we have FINALLY arrived in Targu Mures!

We were met at the bus station by Susie, the Targu Mures Trust representative on location who has so kindly agreed to coordinate our trip and arrange interviews with Holocaust survivors and the remaining Jewish community. It is going to be an extremely interesting, and we are sure emotional, few days.  



We are so fortunate that we get the chance to interview Holocaust survivors, our first of which is this afternoon, in a few years due to their old age, many survivors will no longer be with us and that will present the challenge of educating about the Holocaust with no eye-witnesses. We just need to make sure that we record as many survivor testimonies as possible to ensure their story is remembered.


Link to Targu Mures Trust:
http://www.targumurestrust.org/


Right, we are unbelievably sleepy after that journey so we are going to have a nap before our interview laterz.


xx

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Onwards.

Today we say goodbye to Krakow and Poland (sob, sob). It has been an amazing twenty one days and we have seen and learnt so much. In fact we got so used to being here and speaking Polish so fluently, that we almost forgot we are visiting three more countries!

We are so glad that we have seen Poland in a way which we have never seen it before. Previously when we came to Poland, we were on organised trips so we never got a chance to venture and explore the city (like the intrepid explorers that we quite clearly are) but this time we explored to our hearts content. We have really enjoyed every city that we have visited (Krakow, Lodz, Warsaw and Lublin) and they have all offered something different to our trip. It is amazing to see Poland in a positive light especially when it is associated with so much darkness. There is a positive, hopeful story here, especially in Krakow and they are so important to focus on.



This afternoon we are travelling south through Slovakia to Budapest in Hungary and then taking a night bus from Budapest to Targu Mures in Romania. After Targu Mures we are travelling to Bucharest (the capital city) and then on to Odessa in Ukraine.



The reason we are visiting Targu Mures is because of the links it has to Glasgow through the Targu Mures Trust.  This trust was set up in January 2000 to aid and assist Holocaust survivors living in poverty. The trust helps with medical needs and has set up a care home system helping people cook, shop amongst other things. It is going to be an amazing experience to visit Targu Mures and it is going to be really emotional to conduct the interviews with Holocaust survivors and seeing the remaining Jewish community left today. In Targu Mures we are wanting to really focus on capturing the human cost of prejudice.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Opportunities.

We spent our last full day in Krakow in the company of some very fine people! We filmed at the Galicia museum before heading to the Krakow JCC to see Jonathan Ornstein one last time (sob), Jonathan then very kindly set up an interview with a Holocaust survivor who hid under false papers with her mother during the occupation of Poland. It was really interesting and very emotional to hear her accounts of her time during the war. 


We then met a group of French students who at first were very hesitant to say that they were Jewish because they were afraid of negative reactions. Last week students in a Jewish school in Toulouse were gunned down in an anti-Semitic attack and it was so sad to see these people so afraid. We had an interesting chat with their headmaster from Paris, who we enquired about job opportunities. As we said, we are shameless self-promoters.


Self-promotion outside the Krakow JCC with our new friend Karolina W√≥jcik


We then had a lovely and enlightening dinner with Helen and Aaron (from Melbourne, NOT Sydney - our apologies) and discussed the possibilities of taking our project (and us) to Australia. It is so incredible the places that this project could take us and for people from all over the world to have taken interest in what we are doing. It's all a bit surreal!


Helen and Aaron




We then met with Anna and Pitor Makowka, Holocaust educators in Poland and we discussed what it means to be Jewish in Poland and to be the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. They talked a lot about the trauma that people suffer when they are exposed to prejudice. They have such an interesting take on the whole subject and it was so great to bounce our ideas off them. We also talked briefly about the possibilities of using the documentary as an educational tool in schools in Poland.


This is all getting a bit mental!!


Getting mental

In other news, we have information to report: At 2:30pm we will begin a twenty two (one hour has mysteriously been added to the previous estimation of twenty one) hour journey to Romania, by bus. It is going to be quite an experience that will test our skills as intrepid explorers.


Please, for the love of all that is good, wish us luck.

Revival.

We are sitting in the Galicia museum after making the lovely receptionist like our Facebook page and view the blog! We are shamelessly self-promoting.




Today is our last full day in Krakow (sob) and we are spending it wisely. We are filming at the Galicia today and then moving on the Jewish Community Centre to film there. It is so important to talk about the revival of the Krakow Jewish Community. In Glasgow, Jewish events require security from Jewish security organisations and sometimes even the Police, in Krakow the centre is open without an intrusive visible security. That, to us is amazing that in Krakow such a place exists! It is quite remarkable that we ate dinner on the Sabbath at a communal dinner at a Jewish organisation just forty five minutes from Auschwitz.

We think that there is no point in talking about the Holocaust if there is no positive message from it, otherwise it is just an extremely depressing history lesson without any hope for the future. Long term changes can only be made if there is a positive message which leaves people with something to look forward to. 
The revival of the Jewish community in Krakow is extremely positive and it is not just a Jewish story it is a human story. The strength of the human spirit and the ability for people to carry on with their lives after suffering a great tragedy is pretty remarkable.  We must continue on with our lives whilst still remembering and learning from the past. 

Monday, 26 March 2012

Bystanders.

Why did so many people stand by and do nothing?

The bystander effect (the idea of ignoring a situation if it does not personally impact on you) is really interesting to us and we wanted to understand why so many people choose not to act upon what is going on around them.

We stopped people in the Sukintza (main square in Krakow) and asked them their knowledge of the Holocaust, what it means to them, why it happened and why terrible things continue to happen today. People gave such different views and we love getting other people's opinions and thoughts on this super interesting subject. We weren't asking to gain some definitive answer but to understand the different views out there.



Left to right: Mariam Fabian, Megan McFarlane, Kelly Fabian, Leanna Ratcliffe

Left to right: Ben, Asia Rychlicka, Justyna Michalik, Jared

Left to right: Marina Ivanova, Alena Aniskiewicz, Tom Duffy

A Family of British guys visiting the Galicia Museum

It was really interesting and we were so happy that people were so generous with their time, stopping and chatting to us for up to forty five minutes! 


As we said earlier we think the Holocaust happened because good people did nothing. We genuinely believe that if people had felt an element of responsibility to the welfare of their fellow man (regardless of religion, sexuality, colour, background) then they would have stood up against the Nazi policies. And before the age old argument that they were too afraid to do so, we want to point out the systematic murder of physically and mentally handicapped men and women and children under Aktion T4 was halted after public protest. If they could halt the systematic murder of children with disabilities, then why couldn't they halt the murder of Jewish children? Is it because they saw Jewish people as a different group in society that had nothing to do with them, whereas, the mental and physically handicapped were considered German?

The bystander theory only works if people deflect responsibility to the world around them and if they stop caring.

Guilt.

Last night we finished watching the incredible film, 'Judgement at Nuremberg' which stars Montgomery Clift(!) and Judy Garland(!), amongst others. It details the 1947 trials of German judges who upheld Hitler's 'law' and it really focusses on who is guilty.



It is such an interesting issue and is not as clear cut as one would think. In our opinion guilt obviously falls with Hitler and his major Nazis (Goering, Goebells, Eichman, Himmler etc.) and also those who personally perpetrated the crimes, but what about when you move away from them?  What about the people involved at every single stage of the Holocaust? What about the old cleaning lady who told the Gestapo that her Jewish employer was sleeping with a 16 year old German girl (breaking the 1935 Nuremburg law of Racial defilement) resulting in him being hanged? What about the driver who drove the trains to the concentration camps? What about the neighbours who did nothing when they saw trains go by crammed with people on the tracks to death? 


Guilt is an enormously difficult and controversial subject, but we do think it is one that needs to be addressed in order that people can move on and also so we can learn from it. How can anyone be expected to move on with their lives if the people who 
ordered their forced sterilisation or murdered their family walk free

When we were younger our schools told us that if you see someone being bullied and you do not do anything about it then you are as bad as the bully, well we think in some ways that can apply here.  The people who told the Nazis where Jewish people were hiding, the people who turned their heads when they saw trains go by filled with children also share some of the guilt, not all of course, but certainly some.

It is too easy for us to say 'well, people were scared, what could they do?' and although in some regards that is a totally valid argument, it is not the entire argument. As we have 
writing about, twice a day for over two weeks, people have a responsibility to one another and that the Holocaust did not just spontaneously happen, it was part of a process, a process which needed millions of people to either actively participate or to turn their eyes. The good citizens of the world who turned their backs as one and half million children were either starved to death, buried alive, gassed or shot in the head do share some of the responsibility for the Holocaust and the quicker we realise that the quicker we realise the impact that we have in the world around us.


Link to Judgement at Nuremburg, its a goood'n:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GagXIYvnY1s

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Meetings.

We had a great day!

We had to return to the car rental place because we left our microphone in the car yesterday, and the man was really rather rude! He misunderstood our Polish (shock!) and he thought that we wanted to rent the car again, he shouted at us in Polish but we weren't so bothered to be honest as we had absolutely no idea what he was shouting about! 



We then met the ever interesting Marla and Jay Osborn for brunch and we had really interesting chats about our trip  and their plans over the next few months. We then hung out in the ice-cream shop (for such a cold country Poland has a rather odd pre-occupation with ice-cream), although we had muesli, and labelled our footage from yesterday's filming.


We then went to Marla and Jay's apartment where we hung out and chatted some more before going with Marla to meet Anna Makokwka, who is very involved with the Czulent group (a cultural Jewish association of young people) - we are having a meeting with her on Tuesday night to discuss our project and to interview her.


In other news, we got haircuts. 

Announcement.

We have decided to change our itinerary: We are no longer going to Budapest we are going to stay in Krakow until Friday 29th before making our way to Targu Mures in Romania. 


Our time in Krakow has been so positive and we didn't feel ready to cut it short and move on to Budapest, (we don't like change). We have met so many interesting people and there are such fantastic resources for the documentary here that we knew we had to stay. Although Budapest is a stunning city, we felt our time would be put to better use here.

Yesterday was such an emotional day, so we are going to chill today and do some admin work for the documentary. We are meeting our new friends Marla and Jay Osborn for tea at Galeria Krakowska (a huge, modern shopping mall) and we are really looking forward to discussing how we move our project forward.


It is quite strange, in some ways it seems like we have been away FOREVER, but in other ways it feels like we've just left. We are so use to "speaking" Polish and it will be so strange to move on to a new country but onwards we must go!



xx

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Pride.

So, today was extremely tiring and emotional.





We drove to Auschwitz-Birkenau (the death camp part of the Auschwitz complex) this morning and we spent the entire day filming there. We interviewed different people who were touring the site, asking them how they felt. Those people, just like us, were totally overwhelmed and devastated. We met a woman from California called Annie who couldn't contain her emotions during our interview. It really shows the Holocaust is a human, not a solely Jewish tragedy. We also spoke with a group of young Christians who are part of a group called Ywam (Youth with a mission), people like us who are trying to make a difference. They prayed for us which was quite special.



Despite the fact that we have been to Birkenau a total of ten times between us, it does not get any easier. It is so enormous and every means possible was taken to trap the victims with no means of escape. It feels like a small city and we can't imagine the horror people would have felt arriving there. To stand in the exact spot where families were ripped apart, where people endured complete humiliation and mental torture before being gassed to death, where men and women were turned into units is a harrowing experience.








We cried when telling the story of David, a boy whose mother realised that to stand with the women during the selection would result in his death. Due to the confusion and the hysteria, her only thought was to get him to stand in the men's line. She told him to get away from her, shooing him to the other line, of course David didn't understand his mother's actions, so the last words he spoke to his mother were 'mother why do you hate me?'. 




We felt overwhelming sadness for those who were so cruelly murdered and also for those who survived. How could these people continue to live (and we mean live, not exist) in this place? What horrendous trauma do these people and their families still endure today?



Despite all this, we actually felt extreme pride in the human spirit and what it is capable of. It is remarkable that anyone survived the Holocaust, but survive they did. We must take pride in that and take admire the resilience of humanity. We also felt pride in what we are doing (trying not to sound arrogant), we are trying to make sure that the Holocaust never happens again and the people learn from the mistakes of history and that we can move forward towards a better tomorrow. 





Despite the overwhelming devastation and the tears we did feel proud today. 


'In those times, one climbed to the
summit of humanity by simply
remaining human.'


 - Elie Wiesel

Auschwitz.

We are going to Auschwitz today. 

Auschwitz is the name given to a complex of concentration camps set up by the Nazis, the three major camps in this complex were Auschwitz 1, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Monowitz-Buna. There were 43 sub-camps in the areas surrounding these main camps.

Auschwitz 1 (set up in 1940 and was originally a Polish military barrack) and Monowitz-Buna (created in 1942) were concentration camps where the 'prisoners' were subjected to forced labour either in the camps or in nearby factories.

Gates to Auschwitz 1 with the phrase 'Work makes you free' 

Auschwitz-Birkenau, set up in 1942, was a camp whose sole purpose was to exterminate people.  Over one million people were murdered there. People were deported to Auschwitz from all over Europe; Hungary, Greece, France, Italy, the Channel Islands and countless other countries. They arrived in Cattle trains and on arrival were split into two lines; men and women.  The people in these lines were then sent to the left or the right. With the flick of a wrist from Doctor Mengele (infamous for the experiments he carried on, especially on dwarfs and twins) people were either sent directly to the gas chambers or sent to work the camp. At this spot families and loved ones were separated. Imagine the confusion, the hysteria, being forced to disembark the hideous conditions of the trains, then you are being barked at my ferocious dogs, beaten with truncheons and screamed at in a language you dont understand and then being separated from your loved ones, never having the opportunity to say goodbye to to tell them you love them. The destruction of love is the Holocaust.

The gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau 

It is an incredibly harrowing experience going to Auschwitz and despite the fact that we have been there a combined total of eight times it never gets any easier, you just get deeper into the story.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Contacts.

We had an incredibly interesting day!

Whilst spending time at the Galicia museum we eavesdropped on a conversation happening at the table behind us! Jacob the Director of the Galicia museum was speaking to an American couple and because they spoke English we totally listened into their chat and then introduced ourselves (that's chutzpa!) and arranged a meeting for later on today. The couples names were Marla and Jay Osborn and they are Holocaust researchers with the most incredible links to Ukraine and other organisations in the US and Paris. 



Marla is on the Board of Directors of Gesher Galicia, an organisation really focussed on the area of Galicia (former South East Poland and West Ukraine) as Marla's family originally came from that area. In Marla's family's home town of Rohatyn, they organised a project to gather the headstones from Jewish cemeteries which the Nazis had used as building blocks and paving stones. This is such an important project as it is important to remember that thousands of Jewish people lived in these areas and their story has to be commemorated and respected.  We also talked about research carried out in the Ukraine by a Catholic Priest called Father Patrick Dubois who researched the mass murder of people, who were shot into mass graves. Research now suggests that between seven and eight million Jewish people were murdered in the Holocaust. 


Marla and Jay


We also interviewed Jonathan Ornstein today, Director of the Krakow Jewish Community Centre, and that was extremely interesting as he gave us perspectives on Holocaust education that we are not overly familiar with; a focus of Holocaust education has to be on the revival of Judaism in Krakow and the positive messages of the strength of the human spirit. 


Jonathan Ornstein and us

We also met an Australian couple from Sydney called Helen and Ahron who we sat with at the communal Friday night Shabbat dinner that Jonathan invited us to (t'was lots of fun!). Afterwards we went for drinks and hot chocolate with them, we talked about everything from love, heartbreak, Israel, the Holocaust and Paris. It is so incredible the people that we are meeting on our travels and everyone is so interesting and supportive of what we are doing, it's really special.



Tomorrow we are going to Auschwitz, the largest death camp created by the Nazis. Estimates are that 1.5 million people died there. It is going to be harrowing, to say the least.

We will write more tomorrow.

xx

Definitions.

We had a very nice taxi ride from our hostel to the Kazmierz (Jewish quarter of Krakow) and we realised just how beautiful Krakow is. We also thought how the city itself must be scarred by the events of the Holocaust, 64,000 of its people were murdered. It is the strange situation that Poland finds itself in, victim as well as perpetrator. The reality is that nothing to do with the Holocaust is simple.




We just spent some time filming in the lovely Szeroka Square, there used to be six synagogues in this square alone (now there is only one), there were 300 in the whole of Krakow and there are six active synagogues in the whole of Glasgow, so that will give you some idea of the number of Jewish people who lived here. 



We had some delicious Neste Bshoshkveenya in the sun and we thought again about the story of prejudice. We decided upon this definition, prejudice (in general) falls into three categories; Cultural (name calling, bullying, racism, homophobia, sexism), Legal (laws enacted against particular groups in society, i.e  the fact that gay men and women still cannot marry in the UK) and Persecutory (people being segregated in society, hate crimes, murders, gas chambers). This is the story of prejudice and each stage CANNOT exist without the previous one and whether we like it or not if we participate even in cultural prejudice then we are part of the the process that leads to legal and persecutory. It's all about choice people!






We are carrying on with interviews today, we are meeting with Jonathan Ornstein, the Director of the Krakow Jewish Community and we are going to be discussing how he thinks that people should deal with the Holocaust today.  We are currently back in the Galicia museum (the most AMAZING resource) carrying on with research.


Happy Friday
xx

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Courage.

What a day!


We spent the morning researching at the Galicia Museum and it was super interesting! We took notes and read some fascinating books. After a lovely lunch of  tasty tomato soup and a salmon salad we prepared for the afternoon's interviews.





We have never interviewed before so it was actually quite daunting but we think we did ok. Our first interview was with Jakub, the director of the Galicia Museum who talked about the future of Holocaust education especially as the number of survivors are decreasing all the time, we also chatted about how we get people to relate to the Holocaust. He asked if they could use our documentary as an educational tool once it's done, we said sure (although he is kinda jumping the gun, they might not want it once they've seen it!).


Jakub Nowakowski
We then interviewed, Miroslawa who along with her mother and sister saved Mira, a young Jewish girl from the Krakow ghetto. They hid her during the war, helped arranged forged papers to say she was catholic and protected her from the Nazis. Mira now lives in Israel with her family and they have remained close friends. Amazingly almost all of Mira's entire family survived war (her mother was gassed at Belzec), her brother survived by jumping out of a moving cattle car on the way to Belzec, with his mother. He was then saved by Oscar Schindler. It is amazing that these stories happened to real people. Miroslawa's families courage was quite remarkable, and she explained their decision to help by stating that they simply made a choice to save Mira's life.



Their are certain specific criteria to being named as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, Holocaust centre in Israel. You need to have saved Jewish people during the war and you must not have profitted from the war. This made Oscar Schindler really controversial as he did make money from using Jewish prisoners in his factory. Miroslawa, her mother and sister were awarded this medal in 1989.

Miroslawa with her Righteous Among the Nations medal.
Their courage is inspirational and it's such a joy to focus on the positive messages of the Holocaust for a change!

Questions.

If you have any questions that you would want us to ask someone who put their lives at risk during the Holocaust to save those being hunted then please let us know!

Either comment below or email any questions to benmfreeman@gmail.com.

We are in the middle of research and the Galicia Museum is such an amazing resource - the number of books they have is insane!

xx

Positive.

All of our neighbours are noisy (sad face).


We have been RUDELY awoken in Krakow by our noisy neighbours AGAIN, fear not though concerned readers they have been evicted by the Hostel (nar, we're only kidding, they just left)!

We are getting ready for a major day of research at the Galicia Museum (see Exhaustion post for more details) and this afternoon we are interviewing Jakub Nowakowski, the Director of the Museum. We are especially interested to speaking to him because he is in the business of keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive (albeit through a different form) and it will be interesting to hear from him, his experience of working in Holocaust education.



We will also be interviewing a Righteous Among the Nations, a non-Jewish Polish person who saved Jewish people during the Holocaust. This will be an incredibly moving interview and we can't wait to hear first how this person and their family put themselves at risk to save others. Just like the ghetto fighters, this story is one we can take a lot of inspiration from; standing up for the rights of others regardless of the fact that your rights may still be intact. We must also learn from these stories as there is good in humanity and we must focus on that, if we continuously focus on the negatives then what hope can we have for the future?


We just want to thank you once again for reading this blog, to know that we have support from you is very special. This project is of course our own personal journey, but we feel that you are with us here, at least in spirit.


xx

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Exhaustion.

We are SO tired.


We drove the three hour journey from Lublin back to Warsaw today, we then rushed to the train station and dumped our RIDONCULOUSLY heavy bags in a locker, THEN we rushed to the headquarters of the Warsaw ghetto fighters to reshoot some footage and then we had a meeting with our assistant(!) Vicky to discuss the narrative and story of our documentary. It has been the busiest day EVER!





After an interesting chat with Vicky about which way our project was going we visited The Jewish Historical Institute which houses an amazing, interesting and moving exhibition on the Holocaust and the specifically the Warsaw Ghetto. We were totally stunned to see pictures of bodies being thrown into ditches at a mass grave that we filmed at just last week, we were overcome with emotion. We also saw the faces and names of the incredibly inspirational ghetto uprisers. The Institute is named after Emanuel Ringelblum, a philosopher and historian who experienced the Warsaw ghetto and had the amazing foresight to gather documents and testimonies detailing the crimes of the Nazis. He buried his information in three milk cans around the ghetto, only two have been found today.

Milk can used to hide testimonies from Warsaw ghetto

Life inside the Warsaw ghetto

Warsaw is such an interesting place, the history is so rich and its story of the Holocaust is so tragic. We have learn a lot spending time there and also from Vicky, so we want to thank her for that!

After a FOUR HOUR train journey (that makes SEVEN hours of travelling today people!) we are now in our lovely, little, stripey room in Krakow and we are going to relax. Tomorrow, is the first of our interviews, we are interviewing the Director of the Galicia Museum (a photography museum dedicated to photographing sites of former Jewish life in the Galicia region (modern day south-eastern Poland and south western Ukraine)) and Righteous Among the Nations, a Polish person who saved the lives of Jewish people during the Holocaust.

We can't wait to share with you what we learn.

xx

Lovely.

We are leaving the lovely Lublin today (sad face), and we have had enjoyed this city MUCH more than we thought we would. We actually only came to here as it is the nearest city to Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka death camps but it turns out it is a really nice city! The old town is pretty beautiful and we ate dinner there every night, was was tres cool.




It has been an intense few days; filming at three death camps in as many days was never going to be easy, and it wasn't. People may wonder why we bothered driving three hours to visit a field/memorial for only a two hour visit and especially as so many of the stories are the same but we wanted to see for ourselves. We also wanted to pay our respects to the hundreds of thousands of people who were murdered there. It was also especially interesting filming at places which are in such different conditions; Majdanek is pretty much as it was, Sobibor has nothing left and even the museum has been abandoned (although a new one is being built in two years) and Belzec has an excellent museum with a very moving and thought provoking monument.  It has been intense but worth it.

We are going to drive back to Warsaw today (takes about three hours) to drop off the car and then do some reshooting of the Warsaw ghetto uprising sites. Then, we are back to the trusty train as our mode of transport, choo chooing it south to Krakow, our last stop in Poland. Krakow will be interesting because of the interviews we have set up, with the Directors of the Jewish Community and the Galicia Museum. We will also be interviewing a Righteous Among the Nations, an person who saved Jewish people during the war.  That will be quite an experience, we are also going to visit Auschwitz death camp. Then, we go to Budapest. We can't believe that we have nearly finished our time in Poland. 




Jewish lunch in the Jewish restaurant (mum's chicken soup is better)





We hope that you are enjoying reading this blog, if you have any requests for particular information then please let us know!


xx