Friday, May 26, 2017

Reflections: 2016 Auschwitz Jewish Center Annual Alumni Journal

Click the image below to view the second issue of Reflections, the Auschwitz Jewish Center's Annual Alumni Journal.


Please contact DBramson@mjhnyc.org with questions and feedback.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Salomon Kupperman Documents



This document is a work identification that belonged to Salomon Kupperman, who was employed at the Chemical Plant in Oświęcim as manager of production planning. The Kuppermans lived on 1 Parkowa St. and Salomon worked in the local chemical factory as a clerk. As soon as the war started, Salomon, a member of the Hitahdut left Zionist party, escaped to the Soviet Union with his brother and remained in Siberia and Uzbekisthan for the duration of the war. In 1962, he emigrated to Israel with his wife Regina and daughter Elina. The item is on loan from Elina Shaked. Please click here to learn more about the family.

Volunteer Profile: Judith Althaus, 2016-2017

Hometown: Berlin, Germany

What attracted you to the AJC?

During my last year in high school I thought about what I would do next. I wanted to do a gap year between high school and university in Germany, like many young people. As a German, I don’t feel guilty about the Second World War, but I feel responsible to remember and support education about the Holocaust. I wanted to work in a museum and thought it would be interesting to do tours through the museum. I was also interested in Judaism in general, so the AJC seemed perfect.

What are you enjoying most about your volunteer experience?

I really like to lead tours in the museum and in the city of Oświęcim. I enjoy it when people are interested in the topic and especially when they ask questions. It happens sometimes that I can’t answer a question but this inspires me to do research and learn more. It is a great opportunity.

How has volunteering affected you?

I have learned so much about different topics: Judaism, the history of Poland and Galicia, and improved my teaching abilities. The educational work at the AJC is very interesting to me. I can imagine doing something similar when I study at university.

What is one thing you'd like others to know about the AJC or think people don't know?

The AJC has the perfect balance between history and present life. In the museum, visitors can learn about the past and present during workshops, especially the projects on prejudices and racism. There are always the questions: What can I take home? How will this information influence my daily and future life? In my opinion, that is very important.

Hope: A Paradox

Robert Kishaba, 2016 American Service Academies Program Alum

Hope is powerful. Its existence is undeniable, and its intimate involvement in our lives is similarly strong.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl articulates the necessity of hope through his time spent as a prisoner at various concentration camps during WWII. He supplied one particularly poignant example: between Christmas 1944 and New Year’s 1945 the camp’s sick ward experienced a death rate “beyond all previous experience,” not due to a food shortage or worse living conditions, but because, “the majority of the prisoners had lived in the naïve hope that they would be home again by Christmas.” When this hope was unmet, prisoners found no reason to continue holding on, nothing to look forward to. When a mind lets go, so does its body.

Philosophers have dealt with the idea of “hope” for centuries, disagreeing on subtleties or on the definition altogether. Aristotle, for example, once said that hope “is a waking dream” (Laertius). Plato identified hope as a pleasure. To him, once a belief “inscrib[es] words in our soul,” and once “these words concern the future they are hopes.” (Brittain). Not every philosopher stayed as abstract as the earliest ones, however. In a twentieth century work A Philosophy of Hope, for example, hope must meet six criteria, including that it be “difficult to obtain” and that it “lies beyond the control of the one who hopes” (Schumacher). Others include a spiritual component; St. Thomas Aquinas defined hope as “…a future good, difficult but possible to attain…by means of the Divine assistance…on Whose help it leans.” Hope is difficult to pinpoint, but on some level I think we know “hope” when we experience it.

According to Frankl’s observation regarding a higher death rate after Christmas, hope is a choice. Hope, it appears, is capable of sustaining life. While every external factor may root against you, one single act of internal defiance can counteract it all. Hope is powerful indeed. However powerful, the end result is never guaranteed. One can hope with the fiercest passion for something to occur (or not occur), but it gives no assurances. Choosing hope is inherently risky, because it can cause one to become attached to an idea that will never actualize.

Hope is curious in this way: on one hand, it can save your life, and on the other, it may have no bearing on the outcome. For having such varying effects, hope requires many things of an individual: an unquenchable thirst for whatever one hopes for, a stubbornness to reject any outcome other than the one desired, and a genuine belief that the hope will come to fruition. Hope has the power to save, yet at the same time it guarantees nothing. But that is just it: people recognize that hope does not guarantee a result. In fact, the uncertainty of the situation is the whole reason for them to hope in the first place. Hope is purely an internal shift. Hope relates to the well-being of the individual, not their external context.

Frankl’s text depicts the prisoners awaiting liberation from the Allies. Trusting in the Allied front and hoping that they break through the German defenses could have been a reasonable thing, depending on the point in the war. Hearing news of the eventual Allied progression must have inspired hope for many. But while some were fortunate enough to live to see the liberation of their camp, most did not see that glorious day. In this way, hope has no timeline. No one knew when they would be saved—or rather, if they would be saved. Hope is a disposition, and trusting in the Allies permitted this attitude. The Allied forces were both a symbol and a reality. They represented the idea of freedom and eventually followed through tangibly. But before the war ended, the prisoners had no assurance of this. Whether in the next moment, day, or year, they hoped that the Allies would eventually come. There was no certainty of eventual freedom, but they knew that someone somewhere was actively fighting for them, and that supplied some with everything they needed in order to hope.

The Nazis used hope as a means to an end. They deceived their prisoners because people respond to hope. It was a tool, and a very effective one—this is hope in its unnatural state. In a way, hope should remain undisturbed; let a man hope freely and fully. To be involved with a man’s hope is to be involved intimately with his life. One ought not to give hope only to tear it away—this is truly heartbreaking and potentially life-taking. Hope is powerful in this way.

Yes, hope is uncertain. No, the outcome cannot be guaranteed. Yet in the words of Frankl: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to chose one’s own way.”

Robby Kishaba is currently a junior at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is a Political Science major with a Philosophy minor. He is involved in the Swing Dance Club and the Triathlon Team. He was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and is the youngest of five children. Robby is currently a Cadet Squadron Superintendent and hopes to pursue becoming a pilot upon graduation.

A New Chapter

Yael Friedman, Senior Manager of International Fellowships



Since I took the position of Senior Manager of International Fellowships in December, time has flown by. As an Auschwitz Jewish Center Fellow alumna from 2013, I had been interested in working with the AJC ever since. I was, and continue to be, inspired by their important work to teach about the Jewish history of Oświęcim, examine the impact of the Holocaust on the town and in Poland, and fight contemporary discrimination. Having worked even more closely with the AJC since 2015, leading the American Service Academies Program and then the Fellows program as well the following year, this view has been solidified. It is even more rewarding to be part of the program planning process. It is a privilege to prepare and guide military cadets and midshipmen, college and graduate students, and adults, through meaningful engagement with the historical content as well as the personal and emotional experience of being in Poland.

The granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor and two Jews who left Poland during the interwar years, I have a personal connection to this history. My grandmother has regaled me with stories of life in Włocławek, Poland, both the happy memories and those that are deeply upsetting. It wasn’t until I traveled through Poland with AJC staff, my second trip to Poland, that I was able to see some beauty in Poland and develop a deeper understanding of its complex history. With every group, visiting sites related to Polish history, Jewish history, and the Holocaust, is a new and unique experience, and I’m looking forward to many more!

Over these past few months I have had the opportunity to connect with many of you, by phone and in person, and hope to meet many more. I look forward to working with you. Let me know if I can be of any help to you and stay in touch!