The next journey begins CHINA!!

The next journey begins CHINA!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

At The Edge of The Abyss ( David Koker)

I am re reading David Koker's diary written in Vught 1943-44
He was a prolific writer and although this is a translation, I wanted to add his poem to the blog. I had read the diary before but it did not have as much meaning as it does now- having been where David was and wrote his diary.
David, unlike Anne Frank, had no book to write in. He wrote his entries on scraps of paper he was able to find. Later he used school exercise books for children who had been deported and murdered. With the help of civilian workers David was able to smuggle out his pages, In June 1944 David was deported first to Auschwitz, and then on to Dachau in February 1945- he did not survive the journey and died at the age of 23.
              "Departed now the final train
               In Total darkness and in rain
               the world has suffering to spare
               I hear the weariness, despair
               when neighbors talk to one another

               no Jew's left in existence

               The falling rain would not subside
                I sat at my open doors staring
                at all that was cheerless outside
                and thought: Seen it all, I'm past caring.

                No need for more self-promising
                there's never been all that much here
                it's over and that's just as well
                I also look now without fear

                on what will be the bitter end
                 and concern myself no more with dangers

                 though I have no desire to die.

                to have been born at such a cursed time

                Maybe it's festive there outdoors
                I'm fearful though and worn
                Where can I go?
                Never before have I felt so

                Forgive me
                Forgive this cheerless song full of regret
                Forgive me thousands of unpleasantnessess
                Forgive me everything but don't forget."

                                                                                    David Koker

Friday, August 9, 2013

Majandak July 31

Again- we are so busy that the blog has been put on the back burner. I was suppose to have a lovely dinner with my friend Kazia but there was a mis communication on my part and she came and had dinner with us tonight. She will be graciously joining us tomorrow and will be able to speak about her teaching experiences in Poland.
We went first to Lublin today and on to Majdanak camp.  I must say that my first trip there was a bit more detailed and this time many of the exhibits are now behind plexi glass whereas before I was free to touch ad see the ovens, dissection tables, and

walk through the barracks


I have returned home, unfortunately to a flooded basement due to a broken toilet.  Although it was upsetting, I looked at it differently having experienced and visited places of such horror, hatred, deception and hope... yes hope.  Maude Dahme's story shows us that in the pit of inhumanity there are shreds of goodness, and that goodness allowed two little Jewish girls to be saved.
I will try to review the blog and add what I feel needs to be added to the places I have seen.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fun in Amsterdam

August 5- Vught

Our last day here in Amsterdam.  We visited a camp I had wanted so much to see.  I had read the diary of David Koker, recently translated and was quite taken with this young man's penchant to write and describe his feelings about love, life and anguish,  He was held in the Vught Concentration camp and died on his way to Dachau at the age of 24. The camp is off the beaten trail and over 750 people lost their lives here, including over 200 children., The camp was the only on in the Netherlands, each bunk held 200 people.  You will see in the photos the ovens used to burn the bodies of those that were shot or died ass a reult o the conditions at the camp.  Camp women rebelled at one point and 75 were locked in a tny room with no windows for over 14 hours, many died from the heat and the substance similar to acid that collected on the walls. Maude was overcome with emotion knowing that she and her sister could have easily been taken here if it had not been for the righteous people who helped them. The camp was liberated by Canadian soldiers in October 1944.

The day concluded with a wonderful meeting with my friends Ranier and his lovely wife AnnaLesie. I had met them by chance on a plane several years ago and they live here in Amsterdam. They took Vicki and I to a little fishing town and then to the town of Edam ( same as the cheese) it was lovely, and serene.  They too had Holocaust connection through their grandparents and parents. Ranier's grandfather worked for the resistance and was arrested by the Nazis' He however rarely talked about it. His wife's grandmother was attacked by Nazis and her father was at a labor camp so her mother had little food for the family. It is amazing to learn these things about people and to realize how many people even today have stories related to the atrocities of the war. We returned by ourselves on a ferry and we had our last group dinner. We listened to Maude tell some stories and to thank us and much as we thanked her, the photo is of David Koker and the diary is called "At The Edge of The Abyss"

An interesting story alike to Schindler is the story of the Phillips Enterprise. Some feel that Phillips (yes the light bulb people) took advantage of free Jewish labor- others see him as a savior. Here is sosme information about it.

Frits Philips, 100; Head of Electronics Company Helped Save Jews From Nazis

Frits Philips, the former president of the Dutch electronics giant that bears his family name, who helped save hundreds of Jewish workers after Nazi occupiers forced him to open a workshop in a concentration camp in the Netherlands during World War II, has died. He was 100.
Philips, the last family member to lead the electronics group, died Monday of pneumonia and complications resulting from a fall at his estate in Eindhoven in the southeast Netherlands, the company announced.
His strategy in becoming an employer at the prison camp near Vught, about 20 miles north of company headquarters in Eindhoven, was deceptively simple.
Philips put as many Jews to work as possible and argued that they were indispensable, delaying their deportation to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.
Of the 469 Jewish prisoners who helped make radio receivers and electric shavers for Germany, 382 survived the war, according to a company history.
In 1996, when he was awarded a Yad Vashem medal, given to Holocaust rescuers, Philips said that he was no hero and that many others had helped save lives.
Philips "showed extraordinary courage in the face of terrible circumstances," the Yad Vashem memorial group told Reuters this week.
His personal drama escalated when thousands of workers at his factories went on strike in 1943. The Nazis imprisoned Philips and threatened to execute him unless his employees went back to work. They did, but Philips was detained for five months.
On entering the prison, Philips "felt as if the colossal weight of my responsibility was suddenly being lifted from me," he wrote in his 1976 autobiography, "45 Years With Philips."
Much later he realized that his "life had been that day hanging by a silken thread."
The same May day that Philips was arrested, seven men -- including four in his employ -- were executed by the Germans at a company plant. For the rest of his life, Philips visited the yard to lay flowers where the men were murdered.
At 25, he had joined the family business and later played a key role in transforming it into a multinational electronics corporation. Philips spent more than 40 years at the company, including a decade at the helm beginning in 1961.
Under the leadership of "Mr. Frits," as employees affectionately called him, revenue tripled, partly because of the sale of color television sets.
He also emphasized scientific research. The electronics group produced the first compact audiocassette player in the early 1960s. Work was also started on what would become the compact disc.
Today the enterprise, now called Royal Philips Electronics, is Europe's leading electronics manufacturer, with annual sales of more than $35 billion and nearly 160,000 employees. It sells consumer electronics, lighting, semiconductors and medical technology.
Frederik Jacques Philips was born in Eindhoven on April 16, 1905, the only son of Anton Philips, who co-founded a lightbulb business in the early 1890s with his brother Gerard.
Frits Philips was raised to take his place at what the family called "the factory," graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1929 from the Technical University in Delft.
By the time Philips joined the business in 1930, it was also making medical X-ray tubes and radio valves and experimenting with television technology. Later in the decade, it introduced one of the first electric razors.
When Philips got word on May 9, 1940, that the Germans were going to invade the Netherlands the next day, he stayed behind while other family members fled to North America. A deeply religious 35-year-old, Philips wanted to protect his employees and prevent the family enterprise from aiding German occupiers.
During the war, the company deliberately manufactured faulty radio valves, hid its capacity to make weapons and tried to be as unproductive as possible.
Still, the firm was forced to make electrical equipment for the German army. It became one of the few Dutch targets for Allied bombers, and Philips factories were extensively damaged.
In July 1944, fearing that he was going to be deported to Germany, Philips escaped through a window just as German guards arrived at his office. He hid in friends' attics until Eindhoven was liberated two months later.
In an attempt to flush Philips out of hiding, the Germans imprisoned his wife, Sylvia, in the Vught camp for several weeks.
From 1945 on, Philips oversaw reconstruction of the operation in the Netherlands and the expansion of the company in South America and Asia.
When he turned 100, the festivities received national television coverage in his country. Eindhoven renamed itself "Frits Philips City" for the day, and his beloved professional soccer team, founded in 1913 as a sports club for Philips employees, called itself "Frits."
Sylvia Philips died in 1992. He is survived by three sons and three daughters; another daughter predeceased him.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Amsterdand today Aug 4

Today was another very busy and emotional day, once again ending with a fun adventure.  We began with a scenic canal our of Amsterdam, slowly going under bridges and viewing the house boats, and various other beautiful areas.
We stopped at the Anne Frank House , which I had never been to. The house overlooks a canal and is beautiful.  One cannot see this and not think of Anne Frank describing how she would go to the attic and look out the window.  We also heard the church bells ring, bells Anne described in her diary. The house is very narrow and we were able to see the office of Otto Frank, a place not open to tourists
. We walked up to the narrow stairway and the original book case that camouflaged the hiding place still stands. We went into Anne's room that she shared with the dentist. and preserved ( under pl;exi glass) in her room are all the clippings, drawings, pages of magazines pasted on the wall . Her actual diary is on display and our guide, being Dutch, read it to me as I stood with her.  Today we realized that it was Aug 4th the same day the Frank family were denounced and arrested. An interview plays with Otto Frank who talks about his daughter and how no parent really knows their child- after reading her diary he felt like he did not really know her.  Anne and her sister died of typhus in Bergen Belsen just 2 weeks before liberation.

After this we visited the Portuguese synagogue. it dates from 1600's and is still used today. We then went to the Jewish Memorial museum which stands on the place where the Jews from Amsterdam were deported from: The Frank family and Maude Dahme's grandparents as well.  Maude saw her grandparents name listed amongst all the other 24,000 people - 20,000 which perished.
We continued to a Jewish Museum of History containing many religious and cultural artifacts.
The day ended with dinner and an impromptu adventure through the Red Light District, China Town, all the colorful areas that make Amsterdam such an 'intriguing" place. Tomorrow is our last day we will be visiting Vught a concentration camp where David Koker wrote and dies. I read his diary and mention him here because he too was deported from the place I stood on today.  It still awes me every day when I go to these places how humans can be so inhuman. How does this happen? Is it within us all? I wish I had answers but these trips only make me ask more.
I added a photo from Bergen Belsen from 2010- where Anne and Margot Frank died of thypus two weeks before liberation

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Once again we have been so busy that there has been little time to post so I hope to fill in the blanks from home.
Yesterday was a day filled with uplifting stories and firsthand accounts that brings in the very important aspect  of hope and the fact that many people DID help, and care. True, most people did not help the Jews but were it not for the righteous people that thought little of themselves and the consequences, people like Maude Dahme would not be here.
A film crew followed us yesterday as they were making a documentary for Netherlands about Maude.
We first visited a place I knew nothing about called "The Hidden Village" Amazing place in the woods in a town called Nunspeet. Hidden bunkers were built in an area of about 4 football fields. it had 9 bunkers and hid about 20 people in each bunker- not only Jews but several Allied forces who had downed pilots. Unfortunately 8 people lost their lives when Germans discovered one boy carrying water in the forest. He was smart and said that it was for lumberjacks and that if the Germans shot into the air the lumberjacks would pop up. They did, and it served as a warning to the hidden people who scattered.  8 were caught and forced to dig their own graves before being killed.
140,000 Jews lived in Holland, 107,000 were deported (75-80% murdered) about 24,000 hid and about 20,000 survived.
Canadian and American troops liberated Holland.
Maude was 7 and her sister 4 when their parents made the excruciating decision to place them with Christian strangers who said they would hide the girls.  We visited the farm house where they were hidden and the closet where they slept.  The people have passed, but the new owners allowed us to go through their home to see where Maude and her sister hid until they were recognized and had to move to another location which was Elberg, a lovely town that Maude said looks exactly as it idid when she was hidden there until liberation.  We also visited the house which is now a church.

In Amsterdam the streets were filled with balloons, confetti, and thousands of people dressed up for Gay Pride Day! Boats on the canals were all decorated. It was a party all night long.

Today we will begin with a canal ride and visit to the Anne Frank House- a family also in hiding albeit a sad ending to their story.

Go to this link to read more about the Hidden Village

Friday, August 2, 2013

Aug 3

Arrived to Amsterdam last night so much to fill in.
On July 31 we visited Treblinka extermination camp.  I had been there before and again it is an empty place far from cities, hidden well from anyone that could know what happened there.  Tiday it is a memorial of stones indicating all the places where the 600,000 some odd Jews where taken to be immediately(within 20 minutes of arrival) deceived into thinking they had arrived to a transit camp, sent to the gas and burned in an open pit.  The only stone with a name is Janus Korchak the teacher who took all of the orphans from his orphanage, dressed them in their finest, and went with them to their death at this camp. The significance of this day, which truly made it a special day was the presence of "Chrisitna" Adams Great grandmother-in law.  She is a Polish Christian of 93 who swore she would NEVER set foot in any of the camps.... today she did so and shared her story.  It is important to realize that many Polish citizens suffered as well as the Jews.  True, there were moe Poles who did turn in Jews, and today still there are anti Semitics in Poland, but the ones like Christina are the unsung heroes. She was 16 at the start of the war and fled east to Budapest. She studies pharmacy and also became active in forging documents for people who wanted to go back to Poland. She signed as a German officer. After several years she heard of the uprising to come to Warsaw and went to Poland illegally in order to join the Polish resistance. She had family in Warsaw and they were shocked when she knocked at their door. Christina is the only woman known to have come from another country to join the underground. She worked in a hospital in Warsaw during the night and slept during the day. August 1, 1944 the Warsaw uprising began which lasted 63 days. Amid bullets flying, she went to the hospital to help. She escaped through the sewers but was caught by the Germans and sent to a labor camp in Dachau. She suffered there for several months until the Americans came to liberate the camp.  Through the translation of Adam, Christina expressed her inner most desire to rid the world of hatred and evil.  At exactly 5 pm on August 1st as the buss rolled along the back roads from Treblinka, we stopped- ass did many throughout the country of Poland to mark the anniversary and time of the uprising the and valiant fight of the Poles and Jewish underground to fight against evil.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Majdanak July 31

Tonight my friend Kazia joined us for dinner and will join our group tomorrow for a while. We are in Warsaw, capital of Poland and once a thriving Jewish community.  We came here via Lublin and then to Madjanik death camp.  My previous trip there was more detailed as now much of the camp is not touchable. the crematorium is protected by plexi glass and we did not visit the gas chambers as I had done three years ago, However, it still remains a haunting place with many things in tact such as the ovens, barracks, shoes etc.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Aushwitz-Birkineau July 29

A very hot day , over 100 F, and we began at 8 am and it ended after 10 pm.  Again I will be posting out of order.  I apologize for this but will try to edit this blog later on adding more information.
My friend, Media director, Pawel Sawicki- surprised me by being our actual guide for the day. Maude Dahme arranged it and l did not know.. Pawel and I met several years ago at the JFR fellowship. I am so fortunate to have him as a friend who has skyped with my classes, and now has inspired 22 teachers. He took us to places, which is off limits to the public such as the actual, not renovated building Block 10 where women were unfortunately subjected to horrific experiments. The dissection table stands where it was along with actual drawings on the walls by the women who died there.
He also took us the the private garden of commandant Hoss in the back of te home he occupied

outside the camp gates.  Pawel explained so much to us and did it from an educators point of view to other educators, He said that the three most important things teachers much remember is that the point of education  is to "remembrance, awareness, and RESPONSIBILITY.
In the 100 degree heat, and in the open pounding sun we all learned so much today and became even more inspired by Pawel's passion in this continuing quest of education.  His last project is a book ( which many of us purchased) where he had painstakingly used the photos of the "Auschwitz album" and found the actual locations of the photos, his book "The Place Where You Are Standing" and juxtaposed the original next to the spot as it looks today.

After we left the camps after 7 hours, we went changed the mood by visiting the home town of Pope John Paul the II.  A very quiet hamlet that has become a famous town Wadowic.
We ended the evening with dinner and several guests of Maud who discussed their experiences in teaching Holocaust to students.