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Suitcases confiscated from prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp, circa 1941–45. —Państwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau w Oświęcimiu

The Nazi campaign to rid Europe of its Jews started with seizing their property and possessions. The Third Reich deprived Jewish families of the things that made their dwellings a home — clothes, books, tools, photographs, and keepsakes. Before their exile or deportation, many people buried valued items, entrusted cherished goods to neighbors, or shipped belongings abroad. Some prisoners made clothing, jewelry, spoons, and combs in the concentration camps that survivors or others carefully preserved. After the war, while most of what Jews owned was gone, some possessions were salvaged or reclaimed.

Now, as survivors age — and Holocaust denial is a rising threat — ownership of these objects can be contentious, raising questions such as: Should public institutions hold Holocaust artifacts as crucial evidence of the crimes and as educational resources? When do families have a right to keep mementos as connections to their past? …


Make the Walnut Cream Cake

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The Fenyves family at their vineyard in what was then Subotica, Yugoslavia, circa 1935–38. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Steven J. Fenves

In 1944, 12-year-old Steven Fenves and his family were forced into a Jewish ghetto in their hometown of Subotica, part of Axis-occupied Yugoslavia. Neighbors awaited the family’s eviction so they could rush in and loot their belongings. Their former cook, Maris, was able to save a few treasured items. After the war, she returned those pieces — including artwork and a recipe book — to the family.

Watch Steven tell about his family’s experience


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Lennie Kropveld received this illustrated kosher cookbook as a wedding present in July 1942 in Aalten, Netherlands, and buried it underground when she went into hiding. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Lennie Kropveld Jade

The Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1940 forever changed the lives of Dutch Jews, including 17-year-old Lennie Kropveld. As persecution increased and deportations began in 1942, Lennie’s family made plans to go into hiding. Lennie planned to hide with Rabbi Yitzchak Jedwab, to whom she was engaged. Her father insisted they first marry.


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Visitors observe social distancing markers during the week the Museum reopened in October 2020. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Update: The Museum will temporarily close again beginning November 23 due to increasing coronavirus cases locally and nationally.

We know that the American public overwhelmingly supports and values museums. What was less clear is whether their trust in these institutions extends to this challenging time: as museums reopened their doors after unprecedented months-long closures due to the ongoing pandemic, would people come?

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum can now confirm what fellow museums have reported: Yes, the public will visit. Yes, people trust us to keep them safe. And yes, we have a role to play in these uncertain times.

During the first week our Museum was open since March, each of the 250 daily tickets was reserved — usually 2,500 people visit per day at this time of year. While most visitors were local, some visiting the nation’s capital from other regions and countries sought us out. …


Rare photographic evidence refutes denial and paves the way for new research

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SS personnel relax on the patio of the officers’ mess hall at the Sobibor killing center, 1943. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum

In an image from 1943, uniformed men relax around a table, with drinking glasses in hand, while in the presence of civilian housekeeping staff.

This scene of SS personnel at leisure is remarkable for what is just out of frame: the extermination area at the Sobibor killing center. It is only about 400 yards away from where this picture was taken and was in operation.

Johann Niemann, the deputy commandant of Sobibor, kept this photograph and 360 others with his personal possessions. Earlier this year, the Bildungswerk Stanislaw Hantz, a German educational nonprofit, donated them to the Museum so they could be preserved and made accessible to scholars around the world. The collection includes 62 images taken at Sobibor, located in German-occupied Poland. …


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Werner Teitz, pictured with his mother, was born in Germany with physical disabilities. Werner could not immigrate to America with his family because the United States denied him a visa because of his disability. He was deported from the Netherlands and killed at Sobibor in 1943. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of the Dumais, Teitz, and Zuckerman families

People with physical and mental disabilities were the Nazis’ first victims of mass murder. Seeing them as a threat to “Aryan genetic purity,” the Nazis deemed these Germans “unworthy of life.” But most of these early victims of Nazism remain anonymous. Laws protecting medical records conceal the identities of many of the 250,000 people murdered by doctors and nurses in this program.

In this digital program in recognition of #DisabilityAwarenessMonth, learn the stories of some of the victims whose names a German doctor has brought to light in order to confront the past sins of his profession.


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Johann Niemann (center) sits with fellow workers responsible for burning bodies of victims as part of the Nazi “euthanasia” program, Brandenburg, Germany, 1940. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Johann Niemann joined the Nazi Party at age 18. He was not only a true believer in Nazi racist ideology, but also an opportunist seeking to rise above his humble origins. Niemann demonstrated his loyalty by becoming a guard at a concentration camp, participating in the systematic murder of people with disabilities at “euthanasia” facilities, and then facilitating the mass slaughter of tens of thousands of Polish Jews. For this, he was rewarded with a promotion to deputy commandant of the Sobibor killing center when he was just 29.

Niemann was so proud of his “glory days” that he documented his career in private photo albums, which are now part of the Museum’s collection. Join us on the anniversary of the prisoner uprising at Sobibor to learn how an “ordinary German” so quickly became a professional killer and died at the hands of those he sought to obliterate. …


Bold Actions That Led to Refuge in Latin America

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Betty and Marcel Frydman were rescued in the early 1940s by Chilean social worker Maria Errazuriz (formerly Maria Edwards). —Courtesy of Yad Vashem

Chilean immigrant Dr. Natalio Berman, who was a Parliament member, helped 68 Jews escape Nazi Europe and find safe haven in his adopted country despite tight immigration restrictions. Repeated torture by the Gestapo didn’t stop Chilean native and French resistance member Maria Edwards from risking her life to rescue Jewish children bound for concentration camps. Latin America also became a refuge for some of the most despicable Holocaust perpetrators.

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Museum explored stories of individuals who sought or provided refuge in Latin America during and after the Holocaust. Watch this digital discussion between Alejandra Morales Stekel, Holocaust researcher and educator, former director of the Interactive Jewish Museum of Chile, and Jaime Monllor, International Outreach Officer at the Museum. …


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Rushan Abbas shares a photo of her only sister, Dr. Gulshan Abbas, who has been missing since 2018. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Days after activist Rushan Abbas spoke publicly for the first time about the disappearance of her husband’s entire family in China, her sister and aunt disappeared, too.

“My only sister became the victim for my activism here in America [that I undertook] as an American citizen,” said Abbas. “These two women got picked up on the same day as the Chinese government’s way of sending me a loud and clear message to try to pressure me to be silent.” In response, she only became more vocal.

Abbas and her family are Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim ethnic minority who mostly live in the Xinjiang province of western China. For decades, the Chinese government has tried to assimilate Uyghurs by force into the country’s majority Han cultural identity. …


A recent survey put forward troubling findings about young Americans’ knowledge about the Holocaust. Almost half of the respondents could not name a single concentration camp, and more than a third thought fewer than two million Jews were killed. Even more disturbing, 11 percent said Jews caused the Holocaust. However, 80 percent said it is important to teach about the Holocaust, in part so it doesn’t happen again.

The study reinforces the critical need for reliable and rigorous research, which the Museum’s William Levine Family Institute for Holocaust Education has begun to address. For decades, we have worked with a community of experts, educators, and local Holocaust organizations to expand and improve Holocaust education, urgent efforts as we confront rising antisemitism and hatred. …

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United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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