Strochlitz Holocaust Center

The Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Holocaust Resource Center of the JFEC offers ideas, materials, contacts and support for teaching the Holocaust in middle and high schools throughout eastern Connecticut.

The Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Holocaust Resource Center (HRC) of the Jewish Federation is now in its eleventh year of operation. The HRC has been fortunate to have dedicated educators and invested community members on the advisory committee, whose input is invaluable.

A central goal of the Holocaust Resource Center is to help students draw lessons from the unique horror of the Nazi genocide. To this end, a grant from the Bodenwien Foundation has been used for a program entitled, "Encountering Survivors." This year, Nickie worked with small groups of students from four local schools and visited and interviewed survivors and children of survivors. Students gained an insight into the lives of Holocaust survivors from their childhood to present day. A final program was held at Waterford High School where students presented a finished poster depicting the survivor's life. In addition, Ben Cooper, a Dachau liberator, spoke to the students and survivors. Next year's program should be just as rewarding as additional schools Eastern Connecticut will be included.

The Holocaust Resource Center houses a collection of resource materials and is constantly growing thanks to donations and purchases suggest by Advisory members, Yad Vashem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The HRC's catalog is now available online and the goal is to have said materials moving into regional schools. Next year, Ms. Padilla hopes to offer a teacher workshop for Holocaust educators. Additionally, she has arranged for survivor presentations in local schools with transportation provided.

The Resource Center's goals:
  • to help teachers incorporate lessons on the Holocaust in a variety of subject areas
  • to help their students draw lessons of civic involvement and responsibility from the unique horror of the Nazi genocide.
The Resource Center provides:
  • self-study guides
  • teacher training seminars
  • consultations with teachers who have successfully incorporated the Holocaust into their curriculum
  • contacts with survivors who are available to speak to students
  • teaching materials
  • a significant resource library for high school and college students writing essays or research papers.
Nickie Padilla, Coordinator (from The Jewish Leader, 2014 Annual Report)

Encountering Survivors Culminating Program

For the past eight years, The Rose & Sigmund Strochlitz Holocaust Resource Center of the Jewish Federation has run the Encountering Survivors program. This program connects high school students to Holocaust Survivors in the area. It is an inter-generational program designed to train high school students to be witnesses to the oral histories of survivors or children of survivors of the Holocaust. Students meet and interview these survivors during three visits to their homes during the school year.

This school year, 2015-16, saw the students and teachers from four area high schools participate in the program – Fitch, Ledyard, Lyme-Old Lyme, and Waterford. On Wednesday, May 25, everyone came together for a culminating program hosted by Waterford High School. Survivors Oleg Elperin and Henny Simon and children of survivors, Joseph Biber (parents Jacob and Eva Biber) and Romana Primus (parents Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz) who were interviewed this past year were able to see the results of those interviews during the presentations given by the students. In addition to a poster, the students produced short videos about each of their encounters that will be posted to the Federation’s website over the summer.

Following the presentations, there was a candle lighting ceremony involving both survivors and students and then a presentation by Ben Cooper, World War II veteran and a combat medic with the 45th Infantry Division, shared his memories as a liberator of the Dachau concentration camp. Afterwards, Jessica Hazler of Ledyard High School presented a musical piece. Lunch for students, teachers, and survivors concluded the morning program.

Student participants from Lyme-Old Lyme High School included Peter Shoemaker, Allison Marsh, and Nathan Abraham; teacher, Brett Eckhart. Ledyard High School students were David Tomko, Jessica Hazler, Erica Grenger, Noah Hysong, Rachelle Robeson, and Shannon Barrett; teachers, Bill Casertano and Jen O’Brien. Waterford High School students were Nexhat Mucka, Jason Huang, Makayla Furlong, Thomas Kelly, and Madeline Christensen; teachers, Matt Cadorette and Brian Ash. Fitch High School students were Noelle, Butler, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX; teachers, Chris Morth, Jessica Wasylik, and Jennifer Higgins.

Nicki Padilla, Holocaust Resource Center coordinator has lined up Bacon Academy, Norwich Free Academy, The Williams School, East Lyme and Plainfield High Schools as the 2016-17 Encountering Survivors participants.

Ray Gawendo: Holocaust Survivor: 'You lose family, you lose everything'

Taken from The Bulletin 

By Adam Benson, (860) 908-7004 Posted Jan. 4, 2016 at 7:26 PM 

NORWICH — Even on her 101st birthday, the incredible arc that is Ray Gawendo’s life remains a mystery to her.

“I wonder myself. It’s a big question. God must be good to me. Something in my life, I must have done something special,” Gawendo said Monday at Norwichtown Rehabilitation and Care Center where she lives.

In fact, she has.

At 91 – after a lifetime of living with the quiet but piercing pain of surviving the Holocaust – Gawendo went public with her story, bringing its horrors into area high schools, synagogues and community centers to educate and speak out against hatred and intolerance as part of the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut’s “Encountering Survivors” program.

Ten years later, her public appearances have slowed, but Gawendo, with her soft Polish accent and gripping recollection of the 27 months she spent at the Klooga labor camp in Estonia, has left an indelible mark on the region she’s called home since the 1950s.

“Her impact has reached hundreds of people, if not thousands. Her courage is an inspiration. Her longevity is an inspiration. It’s just amazing,” said Jerry Fischer, executive director of the New London-based federation. “You could see the impact of seeing a woman who survived the Holocaust and lived to 100, and still looks beautiful and looks young.”

In 2010, Gawendo was keynote speaker at the state’s Holocaust commemoration at the Capitol complex in Hartford. She’s the fourth centenarian at Norwichtown Rehab.

Gawendo was born Raja Axelrod on Jan. 4, 1915, in Minsk, Russia, before her family migrated to Poland. Her name was anglicized to "Ray" by U.S. immigration officials at Ellis Island. Gawendo had just completed her first year of college and was a new bride when Germans occupied Lithuania.

She was separated from her first husband, Fayvush Favusevitch and was eventually transported from a ghetto to the 20,000-person Klooga camp. She would never see him again.

Wholesale murder, widespread disease and deplorable living conditions were the norm for Gawendo between June 1942 and September 1944, when Russian forces finally liberated her and 38 other Klooga survivors.

“My family was dead already before I started the concentration camp. I was by myself,” Gawendo said. “I had a sister a little bit younger than me. All my family was gone. I am the only one who survived.”

And she only did so by playing dead among a pile of corpses. Four days before the camp was freed, Nazi soldiers began liquidating it. Gawendo was hiding in an attic with 33 other people.

“A woman German SS trooper sprayed the barracks with a machine gun and I was hit in the buttocks. I was bleeding. I crawled out from under the bed as I wanted a rag to stop the bleeding, but two woman SS troopers came into the barracks. I turned over and lay in my blood and heard one of the women say, ‘take a look, I think she is alive,’” Gawendo recounted in 2006 at Temple Emanuel in Waterford – the first time she ever told her story. A transcript of her remarks is on the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut’s website. “I crawled over to the pile of dead bodies and lay down there. More people were brought to the pile and shot and fell on top of me.”

Gawendo met her second husband, Jacob, soon after the camp was freed. In 1947, Gawendo’s uncle sponsored their arrival to the United States, and the couple was able to purchase a chicken farm in Moosup through the Jewish Agricultural Society.

Gawendo’s son, Evert, said his father never spoke of his experiences. He died in 1983. And it wasn’t until his mother turned 91 that Evert learned of her ordeal.

“It was shocking to me, because at that point I was about 50 years old and I never heard it,” he said. “To me, it was the norm because I grew up with other immigrant children, and none of our parents talked about it. Our parents were stung by what happened and just wanted to put it out of their mind and never, ever spoke.”

Earlier Monday, Gawendo enjoyed a slice of chocolate cake after lunch, and her family arrived in the evening for a celebration dinner. With four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, she has much to be grateful for.

But, she admits, a pang still tugs at her heart.

“Mentally, you absorb everything, and you are ashamed what happened to you,” she said. “You lose family, you lose everything.”

Fischer said that aspect of Gawendo’s life is what he admires most.

Polish Jews split over plan to exhume massacre victims 

By Cnaan Liphshiz September 17, 2014 5:21pm 
Taken from JTA

Researchers searching for human remains in Wasosz, the site of a massacre of Jewish villagers in 1941. (Podlaska Archaeological Laboratory)

(JTA) — In September 1941, a group of villagers wielding axes and other tools descended upon the homes of their Jewish neighbors and murdered every last one, according to testimonies gathered by Holocaust scholars.

Not much else is known about the massacre in Wasosz, a village 100 miles east of Warsaw, including basics like the number of victims. Current estimates range widely, from 180 to 1,200.

In an effort to provide conclusive forensic evidence about the massacre, in July a Polish prosecutor asked Jewish community leaders for permission to exhume the bodies. The plan has split the community, with some passionately supporting what they see as a last chance for justice and others claiming it would violate the dignity of the dead and Jewish religious law, or halachah.

“Once the bodies are in the ground, halachah teaches us they are not to be disturbed except when it is done to protect the dignity of the dead or to save lives,” Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told JTA. “I and other rabbis and the leadership of the Jewish community in Warsaw, among others, feel neither stipulation applies to Wasosz. A desire to clarify history is not enough.”

Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, the country’s main Jewish umbrella group, called Schudrich’s position “a serious mistake, with detrimental implications.”

“We have tools to determine details about both victims and perpetrators in a matter which is still a criminal matter,” said Kadlcik, who is seeking an exhumation followed by Jewish burial of the human remains. “If we let this chance go, the case of Wasosz will become history — an unclear one and subject to falsification.”

In a move to undermine opponents to exhumation, Kadlcik has requested an opinion from Rabbi Yakov Ruza, a prominent authority in Israel on forensic medicine. Polish prosecutors have also reviewed the Israeli law that permits exhumation in cases involving a murder investigation, Kadlcik said.

Meanwhile, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance — the government body whose prosecutor, Radoslaw Ignatiew, initiated the investigation of Wasosz — is holding off on any exhumation until at least 2015 while the issue is discussed within the Jewish community.

The debate has ramifications well beyond an internal Jewish dispute over halachah and forensics. In the background are echoes of Jedwabne, an earlier investigation of another wartime mass murder of Jews by Poles.

The opening of that probe in 2001 was a watershed moment for Poland, according to Joanna Michlic, a historian at Bristol University, who wrote a 43-page paper chronicling how the debate split the Catholic Church, generated ultranationalist protests featuring anti-Semitic hate speech, led to the replacement of a memorial plaque that blamed the Germans for the murders and, finally, yielded the first admission by a Polish president of Polish guilt.

Before Jedwabne, Holocaust-era crimes by Poles were taboo because they undermined the communist narrative that all Poles were equal victims of Nazism. The subject remains divisive today because it undermines the current government’s focus on Polish wartime heroism and resistance to totalitarianism.

From a forensic perspective, the dig in Jedwabne was inconclusive. Though an excavation of the site revealed some human remains, it never progressed to include exhumation — as per understandings reached between Polish authorities and rabbis, including Schudrich.

Without exhumation, it was impossible to answer such basic questions as how many people died, which in turn left the door open to revisionism in far-right circles. Several nationalist lawmakers, clergymen and journalists continue to dispute Polish complicity.

“Jedwabne was ultimately a missed opportunity,” Jan Gross, the Princeton historian whose research triggered the 2001 debate, told JTA. “Some important findings were recovered, but questions persisted because the probe was interrupted before basic facts could be recovered.”

For Kadlcik, Wasosz is a chance to correct the opportunity missed at Jedwabne.

“For the ultranationalists, the bottom line from Jedwabne is as follows: The Jews made accusations but hid behind their religious laws at the first attempt to corroborate,” Kadlcik said. “Well, this time we need to settle this and serve justice.”

But Schudrich also drew painful lessons from the Jedwabne probe.

“The entire place was littered with human remains — not just the area where we thought the bodies lay,” he said. “So as soon as the digging began, we saw bones fused together in fire, earrings of little girls. We found children’s bones. To any reasonable person, that settled any doubts there may have been about a massacre. There is no justification to violate the dignity of the dead.”

As for serving justice, Schudrich said, “The perpetrators will get justice from God. The small minority that refuses to face reality and historical evidence, no exhumation is going to change their minds.”




How to remember, how to atone, how to forgive

Holocaust survivor Henny Simon z"l visits the Memorial Museum that was once the Jewish Landscape and Gardening School in Ahem, just outside of Hannover, Germany. Her father, Ludwig Rosenbaum, painted those walls. During the war, the Nazis converted it for use by the Gestapo. The museum recalls the history of the building. (Courtesy of Jerome E. Fischer)

Published in THE DAY January 08. 2017 12:01AM 

by Jerome E. Fischer

Are there sins so grievous that atonement is unattainable? Are there wounds so deep that forgiveness is impossible.

Given the realities of the Holocaust, I would have answered “yes” to both questions. That changed after I recently accompanied 91-year-old Henny Simon to Hannover, Germany.

The occasion was the 75th anniversary of the roundup and expulsion of the Jews of Hannover to a ghetto in Riga. The Nazis would later take many of them into the forest, line them up, shoot them and bury them in the pit they fell into, dug for that purpose.

Ludwig and Jenny Rosenbaum were Henny’s parents. Ludwig had fought for Germany in World War I and received the Iron Cross, 2nd Class, for his meritorious service. After the war, he returned to Hannover, went to school and became a master painter, qualified to train apprentices.

In 1933, the Nazis came to power. In 1935, Ludwig and Jenny’s only daughter, Henny, an athlete and scholar, was excluded from public school. On March 12, 1940, after refusing for years to believe that Germany would turn on its Jewish citizens, Ludwig received a passport and visa for Shanghai, China. On April 8, 1940, he left by way of Italy.

On Dec. 4, 1941, Jenny Rosenbaum and Henny received passports and visas to join him in Shanghai. On Dec. 7, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. German officials cancelled all exit visas, trapping the mother and daughter.

On Dec. 15, they were among the thousand and one Jews who the Nazis rounded up, took to the small train station of Fischerhof, and transported to the ghetto in Riga. Among those murdered in the forest outside of Riga was Henny’s mother. Henny, by wits, luck, and help from friends Ursala Tasse and Margie “Putti” Israel, survived the war.

She returned to a Hannover destroyed by Allied bombing. Learning her father had reached America, she decided, after first considering Palestine, to come to America with her husband and new son and reunite with her father.

Click HERE to finish reading Jerome Fischer's recount of Henny Simon's trip to Hannover, Germany.

Holocaust Survivor, Henny Simon, 91, to Speak of Ordeal in Germany

Holocaust survivor Henny Simon of Colchester talks at her home Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, about her experiences during World War II being expelled by the Nazis from Hanover, Germany, and her hopes for her return trip to Hanover to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the expulsion. A photo album of Simon's that was saved by an aunt lies open with a photo of Simon as a teenager. (Tim Cook/The Day)

Taken from THE DAY; 

Ruin of war

In time, Germany rebuilt Hannover. On May 27, 1983 it became a sister city to Hiroshima. A bell from Hiroshima sits in Hanover's Aegidienkirche, a church ruin preserved as a memorial to the victims of war and violence. Every Aug. 6, the bell is struck, marking the anniversary of the dropping of the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It is an expression of solidarity, and commonality, between cities once incinerated by war.

Yet the twinning of Hannover and Hiroshima did not address the sins of Hannover against their Jewish citizens who were murdered and incinerated. That required recognition of the citizens’ complicity in the atrocities of the Holocaust.

The steps the city and citizens of Hannover took to atone and ask forgiveness were sincere and remarkable. They invited survivors to return to the city. They documented the history of the Jews of Hannover, and their suffering under the Nazis. They built a museum in Ahlem, once the site of a Jewish landscaping school, a school whose interior Ludwig Rosenbaum painted.

During the war the school had become a Gestapo headquarters and the location of a concentration camp, liberated by U.S. soldiers in 1945. The translator for the American liberating unit was Henry Kissinger. The museum tells the story of the Jewish school, the Gestapo headquarters, and the concentration camp. Some of the graduates of the former landscaping school managed to survive and reached Palestine, where they created parks and landscapes in Israel that are still there today.

Most importantly, in reaching out to the survivors, by using their input in publishing books, designing museum exhibits, and developing school curricula to preserve and honor the memory of the Jews killed by the Nazis, the people of Hannover re-established a Jewish community in the city.

In 1933, about 4,800 Jews lived in Hannover, a community dating to 1292. Sixty-nine survived the war.

As the city, its elected officials and employees struggled to confront the legacy of the Nazi regime and murderous political culture that overtook Germany and their city, these survivors were located, invited back, interviewed, and their testimonies documented. Hannover used this information to place Stolpersteine, “Tripping Stones,” in the sidewalks marking where Jewish families had lived, noting the name, the date of capture, and the camps were they were taken and murdered.

Today, there are more than 6,000 Jews in Hannover with three active congregations.

Welcome home 

As commemorations marked 50, 60, and 75 years since the roundup, the survivors came to participate and give testimony both to the horror of the history and to the city’s atonement for its complicity.

This was Henny’s third official visit. She had returned once on a private visit to Hannover, Riga, and then to the mass graves in the Bikierniki Forest where her mother’s remains are part of the 24,000 Latvian Jews and 1,000 German Jews slaughtered there. Each visit brought her closer to the local people who were dedicated to remembering and honoring the memory of the Jews of Hannover, particularly the journalists Hans-Juergen and Cecily Hermel and their son, Shaun Hermel, who is a curator at the museum in Ahlen, and Dr. Anke Sawahn, a historian and educator.

Henny was among six survivors invited back to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the roundup and expulsion. Only Henny Simon of Colchester, Conn. could make it. Shaun and Anke arranged for Henny to speak to students at a school in Ahlem. All the students were refugees from Africa, the Middle East, and Afghanistan. They also arranged for Henny to give an open talk to any adults who wished to hear the story of a 91-year-old Jew from Hannover who had survived the war. Hundreds, spanning all generations, came.

Stolpersteine, or “Tripping Stones,” mark where Hannover’s Jewish families had lived, noting the name, the date of capture, and the camps where they were taken and murdered. As a child, Henny knew the Binheims. (Courtesy of Jerome E. Fischer)

Several TV stations interviewed Henny.

The Oberburgermeister, (High Mayor) of Hannover, Stefan Schostok, greeted her in an elaborate welcome in the City Hall, and again, together with Hauke Jagau, the President of the Region of Hannover, in a farewell ceremony in the synagogue of the Jewish Retirement Home. Liturgical, choral and instrumental music permeated the ceremonies. These ceremonies, exhibits, and programs were the result of the dedicated work of Dr. Karljosef Kreter, a municipal employee who is in charge of these commemorations.

On Dec. 15, as we gathered at the memorial monument in the Opera Plaza, over a hundred students from a local high school marched through the city carrying 1,001 roses, each tagged with the name of a Jew expelled from Hannover 75 years earlier. They placed them on the grounds in front of the memorial, creating the shape of a Jewish star.

That night, in the Jewish Retirement Home, as I presented silver pins from Yad V’Shem, the Israeli Holocaust Memorial, in appreciation to the organizers of the 75th commemoration, I recalled the words spoken by German Chancellor Willy Brandt in 1988. “My real success was in having contributed to the fact that in the world in which we live the name of our country and the concept of peace can again be mentioned in the same breath,” said Brandt.

With tears in my eyes I thanked the assembled guests for their unflinching confrontation of the Holocaust. I thanked them for demonstrating to us that kindness, friendship, and sincere and rigorous remembrance of history can help atone for even the most grievous sins. With these efforts Henny, though experiencing all the agonizing emotions of her personal history, again felt at home in Hannover.

Jerome E. Fischer is the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut.

Taken from THE DAY;  LindsayABoyle

Holocaust survivor Henny Simon of Colchester talks at her home Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, about her experiences during World War II being expelled by the Nazis from Hanover, Germany, and her hopes for her return trip to Hanover to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the expulsion. (Tim Cook/The Day)

Colchester — Henny Simon learned about it before her mother did.

It was a Tuesday late in 1941, and she’d gone to the gym in Hanover, Germany, for a regular meeting of her sport club.

“The teacher said, ‘This is the last time we meet,’” the 91-year-old Simon recalled. “He said, ‘Tomorrow you’re all going to get a letter from the Nazis saying that you have to leave your apartments.’”

Devastated, the then 16-year-old Simon sobbed as she told her mother the news.

“She said, ‘Come on,’” Simon said. “She didn’t believe me.”

The letter came the next day.

“When they collected us in Hanover, they put us in a gym ... and there were only mattresses on the floor, one mattress to the other,” she said. “If you had to walk somewhere, you had to walk over the mattresses.”

To Simon, the bedding-filled floor was a symbol of the freedom she’d already lost.

On Dec. 9, just shy of 75 years to the day the Nazis evicted her and her mother from their home, Simon will embark on a trip to help the city of Hanover remember the actions Germany is now so ashamed of.

As in previous trips to Hanover, she’ll address students and adults alike to keep the memory of the atrocities alive.

“If we survivors don’t speak about it,” she said, “it actually will be forgotten.”

• • •

The SS murdered her mother.

Jenny Rosenbaum was one of more than 6 million Jews the Nazis systematically killed from 1941 to 1944. Some were burned alive in the basements of synagogues. Others died in gas chambers after being herded there like cattle. Many didn’t survive the long, harsh marches from camp to camp.

Members of the SS paraded Rosenbaum into Bikernieki Forest near Riga, Latvia, after promising her and thousands of other young, old or sick people they would find easier work there. Instead they shot her and placed her in a mass grave. 

Simon cried when she flipped to the page in her delicate, leather-bound photo album that depicts the forest, where a memorial now stands. She visited it on a previous trip.

"That was very emotional," Simon said.

Her father, Ludwig Rosenbaum, didn’t have to see the sign at the Riga ghetto advising that people who tried to climb the fence “will be shot without warning.”

He didn’t have to watch as his daughter lived on rotten potatoes and tried to shovel snow in spite of a gangrenous toe so she wouldn’t be the next one sent to her death.

He wasn’t there when she found uneasy sleep on a wooden shelf in the work camp Strasdenhof, or when she was moved to concentration camp Stutthof, which she’ll only say “was hell” compared to the others.

Ludwig Rosenbaum made it to Shanghai, China, in April 1940 because his wife had worked day and night to secure a visa for him. He eventually made his way to the United States after the war, where he met back up with his daughter.

Simon and her mother originally were supposed to join him in China. Their visas were canceled on Dec. 8, 1941.

• • •

For years, Simon suffered anxiety attacks. Doctors couldn’t tell her why.

“Then I started writing my book and speaking about it,” she said, referring to "Am I My Brother's Keeper?: The Story of A Holocaust Survivor."

She has since recounted her experiences dozens of times locally and around the world, receiving various citations and other honors for the effort.

One of those came from the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut in June 2011.

“Henny, you have been a pillar of strength in the community of Survivors in eastern Connecticut,” the citation reads, noting that she’d spoken in schools and in the community 132 times since 1998. “You have made friends with faculty and students at many of the schools, and your presence among these students has led to a better world and a better future for all of us.”

Jerry Fischer, executive director of the federation, said he met Simon “years and years ago” when he began working in Holocaust education.

She was kind, he said. Articulate. Ecstatic to be alive.

And as Simon spoke to students across the region, Fischer noticed something striking: The students weren’t only learning about an event in history in a new way, they were finding resolve to overcome their own struggles.

“You don’t get that out of a history book,” Fischer said.

On Dec. 9, he’ll accompany her to Hanover, where she plans, in addition to speaking publicly, to visit friends, museums and other sites of note.

“As she gets old, she continues to be a determined person,” Fischer said. “I admire that.”

• • •

Simon said she was too young to grasp the magnitude of the situation in Germany.

When the Nazis fired Jewish teachers and kicked Jewish students out of public schools, Hanover opened up a Jewish school. Simon was one of the first to attend.

When Simon wanted an accordion, her father told her she’d have to win first prize at a sports tournament held in Berlin for all of the country’s Jewish schools. She did. She got only a few lessons on it before the instructor said he could no longer teach Jewish students.

 “I was sheltered,” she said.

Still, she remembers watching people standing in groups across the city, reading the pages of the propaganda tabloid Der Stürmer plastered on walls.

“You can’t believe how they talked — and what they wrote,” Simon said. “If you say something often enough, people start to believe it.”

Simon said this return trip, at least her fourth, won’t be at all like the first one.

“The first time they invited us, we all were thinking, 'we don’t want to go,'” Simon said of Hanover survivors from Connecticut. “Then they told us they wanted us to speak at their schools.

“I said, ‘You know what? We should go. Because we are the witnesses. We have to go.’”

She compares her trips to the construction of a bridge. The first time, the foundation toward friendship was laid, but the bridge wasn’t ready to cross.

By the third visit, she said, the bridge was complete.

“They’re bending over backwards to try to make up for what happened,” Simon said of Hanover’s residents. “They want to show us that they are different. And they are.”

Simon said it’s weird she’ll be the only local Hanover survivor making the trek this time. Others are still alive, she said, but one is 96 and another has Alzheimer’s disease, so it wasn’t feasible for them to come.

She hopes only that she’ll retain the good health she needs to carry out all the plans she has.

“It’s a beautiful city now, it’s really beautiful,” Simon said. “I wouldn’t want to live there anymore with my family here, but I think I could now. Before I couldn’t, but I think I could now.”

Echoes and Reflection program

By Nickie Padilla, Strochlitz Holocaust Resource Center Coordinator

On March 17, 2015 the Strochlitz Holocaust Resource Center of the Jewish Federation of Eastern CT and the Anti-Defamation League co-hosted a teacher professional development training on Holocaust education.

Thirty-two teachers from over 20 different schools across the state were in attendance. It was the largest turn-out in the history of the program. Language Arts and Social Studies teachers of grades 6-12 joined in the day.

The Echoes and Reflections program and was facilitated by Marji Lipshez-Shapiro of the ADL. It is designed to prepare teachers to teach the complex history of the Holocaust in a way that stimulates engagement, critical thinking and personal understanding among students.

The program is organized around ten themes each focusing on a different dimension of the Holocaust. The teachers received a ten chapter resource guide filled with lessons, and primary sources to use with their students. Also included were a DVD of visual history testimonies and an expansive website with supplementary multimedia assets and supportive tools.

Teachers also had the opportunity to hear Anita Scholl, a Holocaust survivor from the former Czechoslovakia. The event was held at the Zachs Hillel House on the campus of Connecticut College. The Strochlitz Holocaust Resource Center aims to host such an event every year.  

About the Echoes & Reflections program

“My goal is for every student to participate in at least one week of Holocaust education before they graduate from high school.” -Yossie Hollander 

With this vision, Dana and Yossie Hollander provided the founding funding to create and launch the Echoes and Reflections program in 2005. Bringing his collaborative and entrepreneurial expertise to the initiative, Yossie recognized the value and importance of bringing together three world leaders in education to develop a unique and meaningful model for engaging students in Holocaust education throughout middle and high schools in the U.S.

Henny Simon Returns to Hanover, Germany

By Sheila Horvitz
Henny Simon observing the wall of Holocaust victims at the museum which included her mother.

As she walked through her native city, Hanover, Germany, toward home, she saw the smoke and firebombs destroying her beautiful Hanover Synagogue; Jewish businesses looted and ransacked; hospitals, homes, schools and Jewish cemeteries vandalized and men forcibly taken from their homes by the Nazis and sent to prisons and concentration camps. She was Henny Rosenbaum, age 14, and the day was November 9, 1938.

It was on that day that she realized that Jewish survival in her homeland of Germany was impossible. Although by then the Nuremberg laws had been passed by Hitler and Jews were restricted from many occupations and schools, the Night of Broken Glass - or Kristallnacht as it came to be called, symbolized the final shattering of Jewish existence in Germany.

Hanover, Germany Synagogue before its destruction on Kristallnacht, 1938

Hitler ordered pogroms throughout Germany and Austria, actions especially against Jewish synagogues. Police were instructed to arrest the victims and fire companies stood by synagogues in flames with explicit instructions to let the buildings burn.

In two days and nights, more than 1,000 synagogues were burned and thousands of Jewish businesses destroyed and over 100 Jews killed. The attackers were often neighbors. Over 30,000 Jewish men were arrested. The rubble of the ruined synagogues had to be cleared by the Jewish community.

When Henny arrived home, she learned that her father had been arrested. After serving two years in prison, he was able to gain passage to Shanghai, China. Henny and her mother could not escape. From detention centers to concentration camps, she and her mother tried to survive and stay together. In April, 1944, her mother, Jenny Rosenbaum, was taken from the Kaiserwald Concentration Camp in Riga, Latvia, to the killing fields of the Bikernicki Forest and murdered.

Hanover, Germany Town Hall.

After liberation, Henny married and moved to New York before buying a farm in Colchester, Connecticut. Miraculously, she and her father were reunited in 1949 and he lived with her until his death in 1966 at the age of 85.

Like so many cities in Germany in the 1920's and early 1930's, Hanover was a city with several thousand Jews who were well integrated into the political, social, educational and economic life of the city. Very few survived the Holocaust.

Holocaust Memorial - Hanover, Germany

In recent years, many German cities have attempted to atone for the atrocities of the Third Reich by establishing memorials, museums and commemorations of Jewish life and death in Germany. Many of these efforts have come too late for so many of the Holocaust victims.

For Henny and a small group of Hanover Holocaust survivors, their home city welcomed them for a week-long commemoration in July, 2014 as guests of the city.

This homecoming week was the subject of the Hadassah Monthly Coffee Klatch on September 11. Henny's story of her trip to Hanover was interwoven with the story of another Jewish girl who was also 14 on November 9, 1938 - a Vienna teenager and pianist, lucky enough to get a ticket to the Kindertransport which rescued ten thousand Jewish children from 1938 to 1940 by sending them alone to England. The life and music of Lisa Jura was memorialized by her concert pianist daughter, Mona Golabek, in a book entitled "The Children of Willesden Lane" and a moving theater piece entitled "The Pianist of Willesden Lane".

Henny Simon with the Mayor of Hanover, Germany at the opening ceremonies of the week honoring Hanover's remaining Holocaust survivors.

In Hanover, Henny was honored by the Mayor and participated in many programs of remembrance and commemoration. She visited the Holocaust Memorial in Hanover as well as the Memorial to the Hanover Synagogue which was considered one of the most beautiful in Germany. She visited the Old Jewish Cemetery and her grandmother's grave for a special memorial service.

The highlight of the trip was the dedication of the re-opening of the Ahlem Memorial Museum.

The Ahlem Memorial (Gedenkstatte) Museum documents the turbulent history of its site. It operated as the Israelite Horticulture School as a Jewish educational institution - and then became a collection point for deportations, a prison and a place of execution. So it is a unique commemorative site of German history. Twenty five years after its foundation, the Memorial was redesigned to make it an intergenerational, intercultural place of learning where history becomes comprehensible and remembrance is kept alive.

Henny's video interviews about her experiences in Hanover and the Holocaust were featured exhibits at the museum. When Henny put on the ear phones to listen to the exhibit, to her surprise and amazement, the first interview she watched was her own! There she was, watching and listening to herself. One of her photos captures those moments.

But the most moving and heartrending moments at the museum came when Henny saw a photograph of her own mother, Jenny Rosenbaum, featured on a memorial wall of victims.

The pain, the flood of memories, the love - were all etched on Henny's face as she looked and looked at her beloved mother.

Henny Simon's mother Jenny Rosenbaum - murdered by the Nazis in 1944.

80 death squad members still at large, Nazi hunter says

Efraim Zuroff sends German government a its of former top officials from the so-called Einsatzgruppen who may be still alive

BY DAVID RISING October 1, 2014, 6:03 pm

Efraim Zuroff in 2009 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

BERLIN (AP) — The Simon Wiesenthal Center has identified dozens of former members of Nazi mobile death squads who might still be alive, and is pushing the German government for an investigation, The Associated Press has learned.

The Wiesenthal Center’s top Nazi hunter, Efraim Zuroff, told the AP on Wednesday that in September he sent the German justice and interior ministries a list of 76 men and four women who served in the so-called Einsatzgruppen.

The Einsatzgruppen, made up of primarily SS and police personnel, followed Nazi Germany’s troops as they battled their way eastward in the early years of the war, rounding up and shooting Jews in the opening salvo of the Holocaust before the death camp system was up and running.

According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, they had killed more than a million Soviet Jews and tens of thousands of others by spring 1943.

“In the death camps the actual act of murder was carried out by a very small number of people — the people who put the gas into the gas chambers — but the actual act of murder in the Einsatzgruppen was carried out individually,” Zuroff said. “Almost every person in the Einsatzgruppen was a murderer, a hands-on murderer.”

Zuroff narrowed down the list of possible suspects by choosing the youngest from a list of some 1,100 with dates of birth known to his organization, from the estimated 3,000 members of the death squads.

All 80 would be very old if still alive, born between 1920 and 1924, Zuroff said.

“Time is running out,” he said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem. “Something has to be done.”

Because of Germany’s strict privacy laws, the Wiesenthal Center has been unable to confirm where the suspects live, but Zuroff said that task, and determining if they’re still alive, should be relatively easy for police or prosecutors.

Meantime, he said, his office is willing to assist in any way possible in coming up with evidence or other details.

“The hope is that as many as possible will be alive, but there’s no guarantee obviously,” he said. “But every person alive today is a victory of sorts.”

Germany’s Interior Ministry had no immediate comment but the Justice Ministry said it had passed the details of the letter to the special federal prosecutors’ office that investigates Nazi-era crimes.

The head of that office, Kurt Schrimm, told the AP he hasn’t yet received the new information.

A handful of Einsatzgruppen members were tried and convicted after the war but most have gone unpunished.

Schrimm has said, however, they could now be prosecuted under new German legal theory that service in a Nazi unit whose sole purpose was murder is enough to convict someone of accessory to murder — even without evidence of participation in a specific crime as had previously been required.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

Germany charges 93-year-old as accessory to 300,000 Auschwitz murders

By Frederik Pleitgen and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN updated 10:54 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014

The gates of the Auschwitz prison camp run by the Nazis during World War II

Berlin (CNN) -- German prosecutors have charged a 93-year-old man with being an accessory to murder in at least 300,000 cases while working for the Nazis at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The man, from the German state of Lower Saxony, is accused of having helped remove the luggage left by new arrivals to the camp at the Birkenau rail platform.

The aim was to get rid of any clues to the mass killings going on at the camp for inmates arriving later, the state prosecutor's office in Hanover said in a statement.

The man, who was not named in the statement, was also tasked with counting the cash found in the belongings and sending it to Nazi headquarters in Berlin, it said.

"The accused must have known that those arriving, mostly Jews, inmates who were deemed as not being fit for labor after the selection process, would immediately be murdered in the purpose built gas chambers," the statement said.

"With his actions, the accused helped the Nazi regime gain economic profit and supported the killing that was going on."

The charges are limited to a period that started with an operation by the Nazis to deport mostly Jews from Hungary in 1944.

"Between May 16 and July 11, 1944 at least 137 prison trains arrived at the camp Auschwitz Birkenau, carrying around 425,000 prisoners from Hungary. According to the charges at least 300,000 of those were killed," the statement said.

The accused was previously charged in 1985 but that case was dropped because of a lack of evidence, it said.

A regional court will decide whether the new charges are brought to trial, the state prosecutor's office said.

There are already 16 applications from survivors and relatives of survivors of the Hungary operation to be secondary plaintiffs in the case, it added.

89-year-old Philadelphia man accused of war crimes as Nazi death-camp guard

Suspected Nazi war criminal dies hours before court approves extradition

Ray Gawendo's Remarks: April 24, 2006

Jewish Federation 
Holocaust Commemoration Program
Temple Emanuel in Waterford, CT

"My name is RAY Gawendo. I am a survivor. I am 91 years old and I have never told my full 
story before, not even to my children. When the Holocaust Commemoration Committee decided to ask me to tell my story, I agreed and recently say with Jerry Fischer and my son, Evert, and told my story. The next day I called Jerry and told him some more details. I had also given an article I had written for a Survivors' yearbook that is published in Florida. My talk to day is a result of those exchanges." 

Click here to read Ray Gawendo's full story.

Kristallnacht: The Night of Broken Glass

Rachel Sheriff,
Aug 13, 2014, 4:34 AM