Archive for May, 2012

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
Voltaire (1694-1778)

In my state, New York, the educational gurus and data driven whiz kids at State Ed and outside testing consortiums are redefining public education in a way that is scary. Test, Test, Test. Measurement, accountability, formative assessment, summative assessment, normative assessment, on and on. Goodbye to meaning, depth, compassion, empathy.

How does one measure life changing experiences? The reunions I have organized of Holocaust survivors and their American liberators meeting with thousands of students are now a thing of the past. Now it’s time to focus on the pretests and the post tests. And the tests in between.

 God be with you if you as a teacher have the courage to stand up and say no.

German Medical Association Apologizes for Holocaust Horrors

The German Medical Association has apologized for sadistic experiments and other atrocious actions of doctors more than six decades ago under the Nazis.

By Christine Hsu | May 25, 2012

The German Medical Association has apologized for sadistic experiments and other atrocious actions of doctors more than six decades ago under the Nazis.

In the statement adopted on Wednesday at the Bundesärztekammer (German Medical Association) meeting in Nuremberg, the association said that many doctors under the Nazis were “guilty, contrary to their mission to heal, of scores of human rights violations and we ask the forgiveness of their victims, living and deceased, and of their descendants.”

The declaration also says that contrary to popular belief doctors were not ordered by political authorities to kill and to experiment on prisoners, instead the doctors had engaged in the Holocaust as leaders and enthusiastic Nazi supporters.

Besides conducting pseudo-scientific experiments on prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, German doctors played a large role in the Nazi’s program of forced sterilization or euthanasia of the mentally ill or others deemed “unworthy of life.”

The association noted that “outstanding representatives of renowned academic medical and research institutions were involved” in establishing and carrying out the mass execution of millions in the Holocaust.

They said “these crimes were not the actions of individual doctors but involved leading members of the medical community” and should serve as a warning for the future [my emphasis].

OK. About time, I suppose.

Now read the quote below. Israeli educational psychologist Haim Ginott writes about a letter that teachers would receive from their principal each year:

I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness: gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot by high school and college graduates.

So, I am suspicious of education.

My request is this:  Help your children become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths or educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.

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Dear Mr. Rozell,

Hilersleben -Luca Furnari

 My grandfather, Luca Furnari, is 90 years old and served in the 95th medical battalion with Mr. Gantz at Hillersleben. He has a number of photographs from this period.  For many years he has thought about trying to find a particular young girl who he helped sneak extra rations to at the DP camp and whose mother asked him to take back to the United States. He and some friends actually had a whole plan of how they were going to sneak her onto the boat back to the US, it’s a great story. Unfortunately, as you know, they were told they were going to the Pacific theatre and the plan became impossible.  Her name was Irene / Iren / Irena.  I have a photograph and have searched the manifest on your website, there are 3 possible people of approximately the right ages: Irena Gitler, Iren Roth and Iren Wittels.   I was wondering if you had come across any survivors from Hillersleben with the same name. 

Hilersleben-Irene is in the flowered dress

Also, I know my grandfather would love to be connected to any other surviving members from the US Army that were at Hillersleben.  

 My grandfather is the large picture on the left hand side.  Irene is in the flowered dress in the picture by herself and on the lap of another US soldier, whose name is Turner (?).  The picture with the baby is also Turner, and they are in the DP camp.  My grandfather’s inscription reads

Hilersleben-Turner-boy that kid sure did cry that day — until we gave her some chocolate.

“boy that kid sure did cry that day — until we gave her some chocolate”.  The picture of the building with barrels in the foreground is from Hillersleben too. It has a strange inscription from my grandfather

Hilersleben-some disorderly DPs getting a shower bath (DDT?)

“some disorderly DPs getting a shower bath”.  The one with the two girls just says “Two of the children that lived in the D.P. center we were taking care of. Cute eh hon?” (He was sending the pictures to my grandmother back in the States.)

The child Irene is the girl that my grandfather would like to try to locate. 

Soldier Turner and Irene.

Any help you can provide is MOST appreciated.


Hilersleben-Two of the children that lived in the D.P. center we were taking care of. Cute eh hon?

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JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight, one woman’s story of survival during the Holocaust and her new life in America as a champion of immigrants and citizenship.

Judy Woodruff has our conversation.

And a warning: It includes some disturbing images.

GERDA WEISSMANN KLEIN, Holocaust survivor: I guess we all knew that this was going to be the first step to the end of the road, either to liberation or to — to doom.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Those first steps for 20-year-old Gerda Weissmann from Bielsko, Poland, that snowy, frigid January in 1945 did lead to liberation, but only after three-and-a-half months and 350 miles of unimaginable horror.

Of the more than 2,000 young Jewish women and girls who the German S.S. forced to walk that death march through the snows of Eastern Europe, fewer than 150 survived. Most already had endured six years of ghettos, concentration camps and slave labor after Hitler’s army had invaded Czechoslovakia and Poland in 1939.

All had been separated from their families and loved ones.

GERDA WEISSMANN KLEIN: I was the only one from my family who survived, the only one of my dearest friends.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Among the American forces who found the starving and half-dead women was a young Jewish intelligence officer, Kurt Klein. While she was convalescing, Gerda and Kurt fell in love. They were married in 1946, and she emigrated to the U.S. They raised a family in Buffalo, N.Y., and devoted their lives to community service, working for tolerance, and honoring those who had died in the Holocaust.

Her 1957 memoir, “All But My Life,” led to an Oscar-winning documentary in 1996.

GERDA WEISSMANN KLEIN: I have been in a place for six incredible years where winning meant a crust of bread and to live another day.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In 2011, President Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive.

For the past several years, Gerda Weissmann Klein has been championing the values of citizenship and the immigrant’s role in creating a diverse and vibrant America.

And, Mrs. Klein, it’s an honor to have you with us.

GERDA WEISSMANN KLEIN: The honor is mine. I’m deeply grateful.

JUDY WOODRUFF: First of all, tell — tell me, why is it so important for people to keep talking about the Holocaust and what happened?

GERDA WEISSMANN KLEIN: I think, of course, the importance of the Holocaust should only be too illuminate the fact that it — that hatred and tyranny and all that is not over.

It is going on every single day. And I think that we should have more people come from countries where it is happening to see the type of pictures. You know, when I see pictures of little children holding battered little things for food, when villages are being burned, this is still going on.

I just think the Holocaust should be used as a beacon to show of what hatred and intolerance and all those things which have led to so much pain all over the world is capable.

JUDY WOODRUFF: People read your story or they hear your story, and they want to know what gave you the strength to survive, when so many others didn’t, that terrible experience.

GERDA WEISSMANN KLEIN: I do believe that it is 95 percent of luck, to be at the right moment at the right time, you know when selection came, you, you, you know.

Furthermore, I obviously had a very good and healthy constitution. And the will to live is extremely strong. You know, even I – I’ve just gone through quite a bit of illness. I’m going to be 88 years old, and I was in the hospital with people who were over 90, and the will to live is still strong.

I think that’s the very magic of life, and particularly if you were as young — we were all in our early 20s when it happened — or not quite 20 — the will to live pushes you on.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re now — what, it’s 62 years later. You are a very young 87. What’s kept you going?

GERDA WEISSMANN KLEIN: What kept me going is what kept everyone else going, the hope that, when it’s all over, we will go home to our families, to the life we left behind.

And I think that was probably the worst is, when it was over, there was nothing there. In my case, I met my beloved husband at the very moment of liberation, and my life took a different turn. And I could credit him with everything.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about in the six decades since? What’s kept you going all this time? You’ve dedicated yourself to work on. . .

JUDY WOODRUFF: . . . intolerance.

GERDA WEISSMANN KLEIN: I’ve been so fortunate.

I mean, you know, I need to ask myself every day, why am I here? I’m no better. Why was I was holding my children and grandchildren in my arms, sitting down to dinner with friends, walking in the rain? And I said I’ve been given the privilege of a meal. So, you know, you have to look back and say, if you have what you have, you know, survival is an incredible privilege. It’s also a very nagging and deep obligation. You know, it’s all the time.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And one of the ways you have given back is, you have been involved in so many causes.

GERDA WEISSMANN KLEIN: Well, hopefully to try to help a little.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … the Holocaust Museum. And you founded a few years ago this organization. . .

GERDA WEISSMANN KLEIN: Citizenship Counts.

JUDY WOODRUFF: . . . Citizenship Counts.

What is it that you want to convey to the younger generation through this?

GERDA WEISSMANN KLEIN: Well, let me put it this way.

I was so fortunate in meeting my husband, who brought me here, and I love this country. I love it with the love that only one who has been hungry and homeless for as long as I have been.

And my dream was, which probably is everybody else’s, complete assumption, my dream was to be married, of course to him, to live in a home and become a part of a community, to have children, to be involved. And all this became mine.

I came here not being able to speak English, and I always wanted to write. I came here not knowing one soul but my beloved husband. And look what happened. I didn’t — I wasn’t Mother Teresa. I didn’t work in the slums of Calcutta. I didn’t give my life to it. I have lived a good middle-class life. I didn’t discover a cure to cancer. You know, I didn’t become rich to endow great things.

I was just an average person. And why did it happen to me? And it only can happen in America, only in America. And I want to give back to this country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, do you think the United States is handling immigrants, immigration the way it should be today?

GERDA WEISSMANN KLEIN: I don’t know that — having had yearned so much for freedom, you can imagine that that’s a very difficult question for me.

And I hope and pray that, in the ultimate decision of justice, the heart will win over the brain.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Gerda Weissmann Klein, again, it’s our honor to talk with you. Thank you very much for being with us in the studio. Thank you.



Watch Holocaust Survivor: Hatred, Tyranny Continue ‘Every Day’ on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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