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Liberation and the Return to Life: Marking 70 Years since the End of World War II - July 2015

Shalom and welcome to the 33rd issue of Teaching the Legacy. 
This year marks 70 years since the end of World War II. As such, we have dedicated this newsletter to liberation and the return to life. As the German army retreated during the last months of the war, the Allied soldiers discovered tens of thousands of Nazi concentration camps. Soviet soldiers were the first to liberate concentration camp prisoners in the summer of 1944. The first major concentration camp they liberated was Majdanek near Lublin in Poland. When they liberated Auschwitz in January 1945, Soviet soldiers found only several thousand emaciated prisoners alive who resembled skeletons. The months and years of abuse, violence, brutality, forced labor, disease, horrifying sanitary conditions and the lack of food made many so weak that they could hardly move. Those who survived the first weeks after liberation faced a long and difficult return to life.

In this newsletter we have included an introductory article that deals with the survivors' first moments of liberation and the difficulties of their return to life. One article describes the survivors' return to life in the Displaced Persons Camps that were established after the war to aid the so-called displaced persons. Another article deals with the most notorious postwar pogrom that was carried out not by Nazis but by the local populations in the city of Kielce, Poland in July, 1946. One of the articles is devoted to the postwar fate of children that were rescued by non-Jews in Poland during the war. We have also included an article on poetry after the Holocaust. We feature an interview with Holocaust survivor June (Goldie) Salholz who spent some time in the Displaced Persons Camp Lampertheim in Germany. The newsletter also contains two book reviews.

As always, the newsletter features updates on recent and upcoming activities at the International School for Holocaust Studies and across Yad Vashem. We hope you find this issue interesting and resourceful and we look forward to your feedback.

Liberation and the Return to Life

Liberation and the Return to Life

World War II ended in May 1945. After six years of war, there were victory celebrations all throughout the streets of Europe. For the Jewish survivors, though, the victory had been too long in coming. Entire Jewish communities in Europe had been wiped out and their Jews exterminated. For instance, the Jewish community in Poland, the largest in Europe, had been decimated: of the 3,500,000 Jews living in Poland before 1939, only 250,000 were still alive, most of them in the Soviet Union; fully 93 percent had perished.1 In all of Europe, not including the Soviet Union, where over seven million...
Jewish children who were hidden on the Aryan side, Lublin, Poland

The Difficulties Involved in the Rescue of Children By Non-Jews – Before and After Liberation

In many of the countries of Nazi-occupied Europe, Jewish parents tried to save their children by hiding them with non-Jews who were brave enough to help. When the war ended, these non-Jewish rescuers, together with the children they had hidden, found themselves in a very difficult reality. This article will try to present a glimpse into the complexity of the situation of the children at war's end. What did liberation hold for them? What happened to their identity with the changes of names, homes (parents) and religions they had experienced? What was to be done with the children whose parents...
Salzburg, Austria: Kindergarten in a DP Camp

Displaced Persons Camps

When World War II ended and the German occupied territories were liberated by the Allied soldiers, those soldiers encountered hundreds of thousands of Jews who had survived the Holocaust. These people had survived years in hiding, in the ghettos or camps. Now that they were liberated many tried immediately to return to their homes. There they faced many difficulties. They suddenly realized that they had no place to go. Their homes, families, friends, entire villages and towns didn't exist anymore. In some places, particularly in Eastern Europe, survivors who had returned home encountered antisemitism...
Kielce, Poland, A mass grave of the victims of the pogrom in town, July 1946

Anti-Jewish Violence in Poland After Liberation

After liberation, Jewish survivors emerged from labor and concentration camps, crept carefully from hiding places, and cast off borrowed identities. They stood up and looked around at the smoking ruins and mountains of rubble that much of Europe had become while they had been incarcerated or hidden. Their first step, after evading death, was to search for family, friends and neighbors who might, like themselves, have somehow managed to remain alive in the inferno against all odds. Many decided to go back to their prewar homes, but in some places, especially in Eastern Europe, Jews met with severe...

Poetry At Liberation

In the Holocaust museum of Yad Vashem, there is a big screen near the end depicting the celebrations and jubilation across the whole of Europe after the Germans surrendered at the beginning of May 1945. One can view Stalin presiding over a huge military parade at the Kremlin, De Gaulle driving in a motorcade towards the Eiffel Tower and snatches of Churchill and Montgomery joining in the general revelry.The pointed irony of this screen is that after more than 200 years of integrated contact between Germans and Jews in Germany, from Moses Mendelssohn's entry into Berlin in the mid-18th century...
Interview with June (Goldie) Mann, Holocaust Survivor

Interview with June (Goldie) Mann, Holocaust Survivor

The Lampertheim Displaced Persons ("DP") camp was located in a small town on the bank of the Rhine in the Frankfurt District of the American occupational zone. It operated between the end of 1945 and May 1949 and housed 1200 Jewish DPs, mainly from Poland. In comparison with other camps, the inhabitants of Lampertheim were relatively well-off. They lived in requisitioned private houses in the village. The camp organized its own civic administration, with thirty unarmed policemen and a uniformed fire service. There was a post office which operated as a tracing bureau for missing relatives...