Yom Hashoah  Articles

 
Safe in Our Hands  

by Laura Kaye

Shoah – a simple yet utterly incomprehensible word.  What does it really mean to each one of us?

 

No matter how many words are written, how many testimonies spoken or images seen, we will forever be unable to comprehend the tragedy that befell the Jewish people just over 70 years ago.

 

In the years that followed it became a mission of the Jewish community to arouse the consciousness of the outside world on the subject of the Holocaust and to this end we have achieved much.  We now have a pressing duty to pass the baton of responsibility for its legacy to future generations within our own community.

 

Our rich traditions teach us that in order to know where you are going you have to reflect on where you have come from.  The voices of Shoah survivors are fading; their testimonies and those of the victims cannot be consigned to the past.  We must lift them from the history books to conserve them and provide them with a voice – our voice.  The next generation in their turn will then become our witnesses to the witnesses.

 

The time to do this is on Yom HaShoah, 27th Nisan, inaugurated in 1953 as the Yahrzeit for the Holocaust.  It is due time for this most important of days to be elevated in the calendar of UK Jewry.

 

In Israel, in an act of national unity, the country observes a two minute silence. Today, you are uniting with other communities across the UK to mark this special Shabbat, renamed Shabbat Zichron HaShoah in 2012 by former Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Lord Sacks.

 

During the new Yizkor prayer written especially for Yom HaShoah, the names of family members from this community who perished in the Holocaust will be read out ensuring that each person will be remembered as the individual they were, not just as one of 6 million.

 

 

For more information, see www.yomhashoah.org.uk

 
Jenny Dreifuss

by Doris Levinson

The article below has been sent in by Richard Dreifuss and is the story of his Aunt Jenny. It was written & told by his sister Doris in the Sussex Jewish News of August last year.

 

It was by sheer coincidence that my cousin's son Marc, who lives in Strasbourg, was surfing the internet and noticed that the name of my aunt Jenny Dreifuss came up as having a Stolpersteine set in her memory in the city of Mannheim. Our family had never been contacted and were not aware that Jenny had been commemorated in this way.

 

I had planned to visit my cousin Laure early in May. She lives in Wissembourg, a beautiful little Alsace town east of Strasbourg and on the French/German border. I was determined to find out more and to visit the memorial site with her. I read on the Mannheim website that a Stolpersteine had indeed been laid in memory of my aunt Jenny in 2008 in front of the main entrance of the Elisabeth-Gymnasium (previously known as the Elisabeth-Schule) where she had been a professor of languages from 1933 onwards. I contacted the headmistress of the school who was overjoyed to hear from us and could not wait to see us.

 

The teachers were so happy to learn that members of Jenny's family still existed, despite all the research that they had done to try and trace them in 2007. It had proved to be an impossible task in view of the fact that Jenny never married her sister and family had moved across the border to France and her brother (my father) had emigrated to England.

 

Since then, of course, with our being the next generation, our names had changed through marriage. It was Klaus Riebel and his wife, both of them teachers at the school and members of the Mannheim Friends of Israel, who had inspired some of the pupils to research and prepare a 'Book of Life' for my late aunt. Its public presentation took place on 27 January 2008 at the city of Mannheim's Holocaust Memorial Day event. He and the headmistress of the school organised the Stolpersteine to be laid outside the main entrance to the school by the artist Gunther Demnig, and here a dedication to honour her memory took place.

 

Of course when they heard that we were coming, Klaus immediately invited us for lunch, but we declined, thanking him for his generosity, as we felt that we could not insist on the school providing a kosher meal for us. But we did agree to a nice cup of coffee in the canteen.

 

Laure and I were absolutely overwhelmed by the welcome that we received and to hear how much our aunt had been venerated and loved by her pupils. We were shown the Book of Life and introduced to the teachers and the students who had done the research. Amazingly, they had received a letter from one of Jenny's pupils who was still alive saying in glowing terms what an exceptionally talented and inspirational teacher Jenny had been. We were shown round the school and then taken to the Glas Kubus (a huge glass cube) situated in the centre of Mannheim, on which are inscribed 2000 names of the Jews from that city who had died at the hands of the Nazis, my aunt's among them. We also went to the Jewish cemetery to say Kaddish at the gravestone where Jenny is buried. It was a very emotional and traumatic time for us both.

 

In fact, Jenny Dreifuss, my late aunt, was one of the eight Mannheim Jewish citizens who felt it was more honourable to take the ultimate step themselves on 22 October 1940, than the degradation of being taken by the Nazis on the following day for deportation to the concentration camps.

 

In 1933 she had come under Hitler's dictat that, as a Jew, she was not a suitable person to teach German children and was therefore dismissed. However, as there were still some Jewish children at the school, she was reinstated in 1936, but with heavy restrictions and severe discrimination, her life as an upright and honest German Jewish citizen had become for her quite unbearable.

 

There were just thirteen pupils left in her class in the Elisabeth-Schule and the title of her last lesson was on the subject of 'Shame'. It is recorded that, after a lively and interesting discussion, she ended the lesson with these last words, "But one day all 13 of you will feel ashamed, because all of you are decent people."

 
Holocaust Testimony

by Shirley Huberman

Alfred was the father of Maurice Huberman one of our WPS shul members…his story is told by Maurice’s mother Shirley. His story was first printed in the Argus:-  a local newspaper based in Brighton and Hove in East Sussex...

To go to the Argus website please click here

 

‘My husband grew up in a split second’

 

As a young teenager, Alfred (Abram) Huberman thought his journey at the hands of the Nazis was a big adventure. He had already suffered at the hands of the Germans when his hometown of Pulawy in eastern Poland was bombed and his house destroyed in September 1939. Yet, despite this and the killings of his uncle and older sister in Warsaw some 80 miles away, he was still a boy at heart. The Germans rounded up all the Jews and separated the men from the women. Mr Huberman lost his family and, before being loaded on to a lorry, had to help bury the body of a dead Jew.

 

“One of the men onboard the lorry bribed the German guard to let him jump off. But when he did, the guard shot him,” said Shirley Huberman, Alfred’s wife. “That’s when Alfred grew up,” she added, “That’s when he knew it was real and not an adventure anymore.” What followed for Alfred was a series of gruelling terms at concentration camps. On entering his first camp, Skarzysko Kamienna in Poland, in 1942, Alfred had to drill holes in shells to insert detonators. The job gave him tuberculosis and the yellow TNT powder in the shells ate into his skin. From her home near Old Shoreham Road in Hove, Shirley told The Argus: “You were nothing, you were worthless, you weren't human. “The survival rate in the camps was just six weeks but he lasted 18 months. “He said it was out of sheer luck.”

 

His journey continued to Czestochowa and then to Buchenwald. When he first went into Buchenwald his captors plunged him in a vat of disinfectant, with the Germans using sticks to push heads under the surface. His ordeal was then extended to Remsdorf, a camp that was not finished, meaning his first night was spent sleeping in a field in the snow. Once, when Alfred had an abscess in his tooth, he had to pass it off as toothache after a guard questioned his swollen face. Shirley said: “When you were sent out to work you couldn't come back empty-handed. You either had to carry back a dead body or some bricks. And there was no reason, it was just cruelty.”

 

Towards the end of the war Alfred was taken from a camp and put on a train. Shirley said: “The train was bombed and they were so pleased. I mean, they were frightened but they knew it was the Allies.” The prisoners were then taken on a death march where those who could not keep up were shot and pushed into a ditch. They marched through the Sudetenland, Hitler’s annexed part of Czechoslovakia. Alfred’s journey ended at the Theresienstadt camp, where he was liberated by the Russians. On liberation day he looked out of the window and saw a Russian tank. The driver waved at him and said hello. Shirley said: “He said it was the most wonderful feeling when the Russians came into the camp.

 

“The first thing he did was go for a walk around the town. He wanted to feel freedom.” He was made to wait, though. His liberation came on the last day of the war, May 8, 1945, some three-and- a-half months after Auschwitz was captured. Shirley said: “The Nazis kept moving the prisoners. They didn’t want the Allies to know what they were up to.” Indeed, when the Russians turned up in the Theresienstadt camp, they opened a cupboard and a pile of dead bodies fell out. Shirley said: “Normal people like us couldn't imagine why people would want to do that. “He was there and, living through it, even he couldn't understand.

 

“He said if one guard was watching them he was nice to them, but if there was more than one...”What worked in Alfred’s favour was his age. He did not know how old he was. Being about 13, he was able to pass himself off as old enough to work for the Germans, and avoid being sent to the gas chambers.

 

Before the war Alfred had more than 50 relatives. None survived except his sister, who somehow live through Auschwitz.

After the war, the British pledged to accommodate 1,000 survivors. Following a spell in the North of England Alfred, moved to Hove in 1946. Shirley met him at a Jewish youth club in Hove in 1953 when she was 19. They married and had three children together: Bryan, Caroline and Maurice.

 

Alfred worked as a tailor in Hanningtons in North Street until the shop closed in 2001. He died in 2011, aged about 83. Shirley, 80, said: “He had all these scars from the things that happened but he was the kindest person you could know. He wasn’t bitter. “He said if you are bitter it eats you up. You would imagine he had all sorts of hang-ups but he didn’t. “He didn’t want to talk about it but he thought he should do because he wanted the world to know what was going on. “A lot of people didn’t know anything about it and he was pleased to tell it. “Of course, he never made it as bad as it obviously was, because it was hell.”

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