Archive for the ‘other reports’ Category

The Jewish Sonderkommando at Auschwitz death camp 

Monday, September 6th, 2010

By Michael de Laine, Copenhagen, 6th September 2010

“We Wept Without Tears”, a best-selling book containing interviews with the few surviving Jewish members of the Sonderkommando at the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, is now available in a Danish version. Published by Introite! Publishers and released on 7 September, the book – “Vi græd uden tårer” – contains material not published before.

“We Wept Without Tears” comprises interviews with the few surviving Jewish members of the Sonderkommando.

The Sonderkommando consisted primarily of Jewish prisoners forced by the Nazi Germans to facilitate the mass extermination at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Though never involved in the actual killings, they were compelled to be the “members of the staff” of the Nazi death factory and deal with incoming prisoners, collect their clothes, jewelry and other belongings, remove hair and gold fillings, and remove their remains from crematoria.

Some of these men, who witnessed at first hand the unparalleled horror of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, had never spoken of their experiences before.

Over a period of years, the book’s author, Dr Gideon Greif, conducted intensive interviews with all the Sonderkommando survivors living in Israel. They described not only the specific technical details of the Nazi killing programme, but also the moral and human challenges they faced while fulfilling their appalling work.

The book provides direct testimony about the “Final Solution of the Jewish Problem”, but it is also a unique document on the boundless cruelty and the deceit practised by the Nazi German regime on the victims.

“We Wept Without Tears” documents the helplessness and powerlessness of the 1.5 million people, 90% of them Jews, who were brutally murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The book also contains a 100-page historical and updated overview of the Sonderkommando and its role in the Nazi regime.

Already published in Israel, Germany, USA, UK and Poland, “We Wept Without Tears” was launched in a Danish version on 7 September with the title “Vi græd uden tårer”.

The 500-page hardback book contains five new and never before published drawings and plans of the crematoria by the architect Peter Siebers; 20 photos from the Auschwitz Album; some of the clandestine photos; and a foreword by the well-known Danish researcher Dr Therkel Stræde.

Dr Gideon Greif was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1951.

He is an Israeli historian who has primarily dedicated his research to the history of the Nazi German extermination camps.

For many years he worked for Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel, the principle institution in the world studying the history of the Holocaust. He was also an international research scholar at the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies at the University of Miami.

The author is now chief historian and researchers at the Shem Olam Institute in Israel, and senior historian and researcher at the Foundation for Holocaust Education Projects in Florida, USA.

Gideon Greif is the author of a lot of scientific articles and documentaries about Shoah (the Holocaust) for radio and television. Today he travels all around the world doing lectures for students and researchers.

Vi græd uden tårer” was translated by Tom Havemann
. 500 pages. Hardback. Publisher: Introit. ISBN: 978-87-90820-42-8. Recommended retail price: 399.95 Dkr.

Click here and here to see a two-part interview by the Copenhagen Voice with Gideon Greif.

New group will turn Denmark into the birthplace for 21st century citizenship 

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

By Michael de Laine, Copenhagen, 5th June 2010 – Constitution Day

Danish society should be freer, more cohesive, more responsible and more tolerant, says Citizen 21, an organisation of all citizens who believe in democracy, humanity wherever it is, life in all its forms, freedom and peace. The organisation, which was officially launched today, also wants to spread these values around the world, just as the philosophy of Grundtvig has spread worldwide over the past 150 years.

Denmark is rich in islands, but it is not an isolated island in the world,” says Aziz Fall, the founder and resident of Citizen21, which terms itself an organisation of all citizens who believe in democracy, humanity wherever it is, life in all its forms, freedom and peace.

Officially launched today, Constitution Day, the organisation will work to turn Danish society into a freer, more cohesive, more responsible and more tolerant society that can become the birthplace for 21st century citizenship.

Using the Danish constitution – first signed on 5 June 1849 by King Frederick VII to mark Denmark’s transition to constitutional monarchy, thus putting an end to the absolute monarchy which had been introduced in Denmark in 1660 – as the background for Citizen21, Aziz Fall says, “Denmark has something to give to the world, and the time is right. We have the resources, the spiritual ballast and we have something in our mind. From this foundation we can build bridges and conquer the 21st century.”

He adds that doing this means the Danes themselves must wake up and become conscious and active citizens who will work to promote Citizen21’s ideas

The organisation “will draw on the country’s history in democracy, liberty and sense of social responsibility to show how a society can prepare for the challenges of the 21st century.

As well as turn Denmark into the birthplace for 21st century citizenship, Citizen21 wants to strengthen Denmark’s good reputation around the world. It will promote a more responsible civic society, where individual and joint responsibility go hand in hand, as well as consolidate the principle of freedom of expression, democracy and respect for diversity.

Aziz Fall, a Senegalese who came to Denmark 10 years ago, says the members of Citizen21 are “united by the single will to see the country more open, where everybody who lives here feels part of a human adventure where respect, dignity and active citizenship are a reality; where everybody is aware of their opportunities and obligations toward themselves, each other and the world around us.”

Citizen21 and the speakers at the official launch drew on the philosophy of Nikolaj Frederik Severin (N F S) Grundtvig, a Danish pastor, author, poet, philosopher, historian, teacher and politician whose philosophy gave rise to a new form of nationalism in the last half of the 19th century.

Grundtvig and his followers are credited with being very influential in the formulation of modern Danish national consciousness. It was steeped in the national literature and supported by deep spirituality.

An inspiration for many educationalists around the world, Grundtvig is regarded as the ideological father of the folk high school movement through his ambition for a school for life. Grundtvig believed schools should provide life-long learning preparing students for active participation in society and popular life, so practical skills as well as national poetry and history should form an essential part of the instruction.

Through his, for that time, highly unorthodox way of teaching, Kristen Kold, one of Grundtvig’s followers, gave the folk high schools a broader democratic basis in comparison to the initial religious focus.

Grundtvig was also active in discussions about the development of the 1849 constitution.

The founders of Citizen21 say they have no unity of political views or religious obedience or cultural background. They say they “are a pure reflection of the society and our belief is that the core values of democracy and humanity that founded our community provide us with tools to overcome differences and build a 21st model of society.”