Thursday, January 31, 2013

UK: Liverpool's Deane Road Jewish Cemetery Restoration and Conference

Liverpool, UK. Deane Rd. Jewish Cemetery. View during restoration from a large tree that was subsequently removed during the restoration.   Photo: Tom Fowles, courtesy of Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

UK: Liverpool's Deane Road Jewish Cemetery Restoration and Conference

The Deane Road Jewish Cemetery in Liverpool, site of one of Europe's most ambitious recent  Jewish cemetery restoration projects, will be the subject - along with other local cultural heritage efforts - of a one-day conference on heritage restoration on February 27, 2013.  The cemetery's  first burials were in 1837 and continued until 1904.  It was abandoned and overgrown for much of the past century.

Restoration of the site is substantially complete this year, though a rigorous schedule of maintenance and repair needs to be maintained.  The cemetery is still owned by the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation (LOHC), housed in the historic Princes Road Synagogue, one of the grandest Victorian synagogues surviving in the UK and the only Grade I listed synagogue outside of London.  The synagogue has been object of a continuing restoration project since the 1990s and has received several recent grants (2008, 2010) from the Heritage Lottery Fund for roof repair.

The cemetery project is developed with help  by an active group of  volunteers from the congregation and the larger community.  The volunteers maintain an impressive website about the cemetery and those buried there. The cleaning of the cemetery revealed many unknown gravestones and the volunteers have been researching and writing biographies of those buried in the cemetery.

There have been many attempts since the 1970s to clean and restore the 19th-century cemetery, but these have all failed.  A new effort begun in 2003 received nearly £500,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2010 and this has allowed a full scale restoration to proceed, from the impressive Greek Revival gateway to finally addressing the problem of invasive and destructive vegetation.  The size and scope of the project recalls that undertaken for the old Jewish cemetery in Florence, Italy more than decade ago.

The Liverpool: Conference on Heritage Restoration (Feb. 27, 2013) will conclude with a tour of the cemetery and celebrate its new condition.  Lessons from the project and other local preservation efforts will be discussed at the conference.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

London's Ben Uri Museum to Adds George Grosz's The Lecture (also known as Anti - Semite) to Its Growing Collection


 George Grosz, The Lecture (also known as Anti - Semite). Photo courtesy of Ben Uri Collection

London's Ben Uri Museum to Adds George Grosz's The Lecture (also known as Anti - Semite) to Its Growing Collection 
by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) The Board of Trustees of the Ben Uri Museum in London has announced the acquisition of George Grosz's (1893-1959) ink and watercolor satiric sketch The Lecture (also known as Anti - Semite), an important work that depicts the radical Jewish writer Erich Mühsam, a friend of Grocz's who was murdered in the Oranienburg concentration camp in 1934. Mühsam is shown as one of two heads on a poster a which a Nazi lecturer gesticulates.  

The work has been donated to the Museum by Sally, Richard and Andrew Kalman from their family collection in honor of their late father Andras Kalman (1919 - 2007).  Kalman  came to study in England in 1939. When war broke out, he was cut off from his parents and brothers in Hungary, who late perished in the Holocaust.

The Museum acquired Grosz’s Nazi Interrogation, from the same period, in 2010.  Grosz was one of the most prominent artists of the Weimar periodIn Berlin, Grosz was a fierce critic of war and capitalism, and one of the most biting artistic opponents of the Nazis before their seizing power, and after he left Germany for America in 1932Grosz was among the first Germans to be stripped of his citizenship by the Nazi regime.  

Today, Grosz's son, who lives in Philadelphia, is still trying to regain some of the many Grosz paintings confiscated after his father left Germany.  Many of these were sold by the Nazi's or surfaced after the war are are now in major museum collectionsYou can read more here and from the New York Times here.

 
 George Grosz, The Interrogation. Photo courtesy of Ben Uri Collection

Ben Uri will  mark the acquisition of the new Grosz work by launching its 'Holocaust Education Through the Ben Uri Collection' website, a learning resource for teachers and GCSE students created in partnership with the London Grid for Learning.  For a preview of the website please go to:  www.benuriholocaust.lgfl.net 

The Ben Uri was founded in London's Jewish East End nearly a century ago, in 1915 (read history here), as ‘The Jewish National Decorative Art Association (London), “Ben Ouri”. The museum, in its present orgniazaiton, was founded in 2001 and recent years under the leadership of David Glasser has been greatly expanding its collection of works by artists of Jewish origin, and has mounted many important exhibits.  In 2010 the museum acquired an important Chagall crucifixion, which then led to the mounting of an ambitious exhibition of modern crucifixions - many by Jewish artist.  The collection is limited, however, by its small current space and continues to plan for a new and permanent home somewhere in Central London.  Perhaps we will see that happen - or at least announced - in time for the centennial.

For now, you can see around 400 selected works from the Ben Uri Collection (of over 1300) in the Museum's online gallery.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Italy: Plans for Rome's Holocaust Museum Move Forward


 Rome, Italy. Top: Project design for the the new Holocaust Museum at the Villa Torlonia (photo courtesy Museo Nazionale della Shoah). Below: Detail of the Jewish catacomb wall painting in situ beneath the Villa Torlonia (photo courtesy World Monuments Fund).

Italy: Plans for Rome's Holocaust Museum Move Forward - but Lentemente
by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) Ruth Ellen Gruber reports from Rome that plans for a Holocaust Museum at the Villa Torlonia move forward - but lentemente (slowly)  Now, with the new museum Rome follows other towns and cities in Europe such as Mechelen, Belgium which opened its new Museum and documentation Center in December, and Drancy, France, which opened a new facility last September.   More and more these Holocaust museums and centers are taking the form of high-design mausolea/boxes - in black, white or gray.  These buildings strive for simplicity and dignity, and mostly fall back on simple modernism and minimalism for their architectural/sculptural form.  In the case of the Rome Museum, the inscribed names of victims will  symbolically enliven - or at least enlighten - the exterior.  This will be the first Holocaust Museum in Italy, though there are many Jewish museums (Rome, Florence, Bologna)  and memorial sites (especially that of Carpi, but also in Rome) that reference and commemorate the deportation of Italian Jews.

Carpi, Italy. Detail of the memorial to deported Jews.  Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2006)

 Rome, Italy. Largo 16 Ottobre 1943. Commemorative Plaques.  Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2004)

The design for the museum is by architects Luca Zevi and Giorgio Tamburini.  Zevi is son of architect and critic Bruno Zevi (who compiled a masterful work on the architecture of Erich Mendelsohn, whose design for the hoped-for first-ever Holocaust memorial in Riverside Park, New York, was never built).  Luca's mother Tullia Zevi was the head of the Italian Jewish community in the 1980s and 90s, when control of the Jewish catacombs was wrested from the Catholic Church and shared by the Jewish Community of Rome and the Rome archaeological superintendency.   Historian Gav Rosenfeld (author of Building After Auschwitz: Jewish Architecture and the Memory of the Holocaust interviewed Luca Zevi about the project the The Daily Forward in 2011.

In the early 1990s I worked with Tullia and Prof. Giorgio Torraca on studies of the Jewish catacomb underneath the villa to ascertain what - if any - level of public visitation the fragile site could bear.  The catacomb is the site of some of the most precious Late Antique (probably 4th century) Jewish painting and inscriptions.  Significantly, many of these are about memory, and suggest some sense of an eternal life, the very themes to be enshrined in the new memorial/museum for the thousands of Italian Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Bureaucracy stalls construction of Italy’s first Holocaust museum



ROME (JTA) -- If all goes according to plan, a starkly modern, $30 million Holocaust museum will soon rise on the site of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini’s Rome residence.
The site, also the location of ancient Jewish catacombs and now a city park, will be home to a museum first proposed in 2005 but held up repeatedly by financial and bureaucratic problems.

“I hope construction begins this summer,” Leone Paserman, the president of the Museum of the Shoah Foundation, told JTA. “Of course in Italy, it is always hard to say.”
The facility will be the first Holocaust museum in Italy, which despite its wartime alliance with Nazi Germany has a somewhat mixed Holocaust record. The country adopted fiercely anti-Semitic legislation in 1938, barring Jews from schools, dismissing them from public positions and outlawing intermarriage, among other restrictions.

At the same time, the Italian military generally declined to take part in the murder or deportation of the country’s Jews, and territories occupied by Italian forces were considered relatively safe. The first deportations to death camps came only after Nazi Germany occupied parts of Italy in 1943 following the surrender of the fascist government to allied forces.

Read the full story in JTA

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Greece: Ioannina Jewish Cemetery Designated Protected Historic Site


Ioannina, Greece. Views of Jewish cemetery. Photos: Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos
Greece: Ioannina Jewish Cemetery Designated Protected Historic Site
by Samuel D. Gruber 

(n.b. this article contains information provided by Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, President, Association of Friends of Greek Jewry  and the late Vincent Giordano)

(ISJM) Last summer, Congregation Kehila Kedosha Janina (KKJ) in New York announced that the Jewish Cemetery in Ioannina, Greece, the ancestral home of the Lower East Side congregation, has been designated an historical landmark.  KKJ submitted photographs of gravestones of the cemetery identified as dating from the early 15th century to the Jewish Community of Ioannina, who then submitted them to the Municipality of Ioannina (see the website kkjsm.org for photos) and these helped secure the designation by the municipality. The oldest gravestone discovered thus far is that of Rabbi Aaron Matathia Halevi and is dated 1426.  A second gravestone of similar style is for Matathia Joseph Halevi.  In 2009, when I wrote about this cemetery, and reported the prediction that such gravestones (and maybe even older ones) would be discovered.
 
On behalf of the Jewish Community of Ioannina and its president, Moses Eliasof, KKJ now plans to move ahead with a fund raising effort to enable a cleanup and restoration of the cemetery.

Tradition has it that gravestones were moved from Ioannina's oldest cemeteries, which no longer survive, to the present cemetery which was founded in the early 19th century on land purchased from Ali Pasha.
 

The Zosimaia School now stands on this site of a former Jewish cemetery, but it is not known from when it dates.  At some point after 1892, another cemetery was opened by the community in the Kalkan area of the city.  In 1922, a portion of this property was used to build homes and at that time, the community began to use a field known as Gem for their new cemetery; today's  Bet Chaim Jewish Cemetery.   It is not known if bodies were exhumed and moved, but gravestones of rabbis were moved and some of these are the ones recently discovered.

Over the gate to the cemetery is the Hebrew inscription:

"The Almighty Who dwells among us has allowed us to erect a wall around this field so they (the deceased) may repose in the land of the living; for the consecration of the Society of the Righteous (Hevra Hesed) and with the notables of the day."

During the junta of 1967-1974, the military wanted to take the unused property over. The Jewish community protested; since the deed no longer existed, a legal battle followed and the community prevailed. As part of the legal decision, it was stated that should the Ioannina Jewish community cease to exist, the field would be turned over to the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Athens.


In 1999 the local Jewish Community transferred an area of 6,000 sq. m. of the cemetery to the Municipality of Ioannina.  The Municipality (claiming the change of the city plan) then trespassed on a large part of the cemetery, and tried to expropriate the area.  The Central Board of the Jewish Communities of Greece, with the cooperation of the local Jewish Community, strongly reacted, setting in play a series of events that has led to better documentation and appreciation of the site. The community in New York has acted as a strong lobbying force for the community in Ioannina, making its presence known annually and assuring that the municipality knows that the remaining Jewish Community of 32 does not stand alone.  
 
The cemetery was been vandalized several times, most recently in 2009. The construction of a protective wall around the cemetery in 2009 is designed to protect the cemetery and clearly demarcate its boundaries.  

The Jewish sites and community of Ioannina  have long been of special interest to the international Survey of Jewish Monuments, which sponsored the documentary work of the late Vincent Giordano.  Despite Vincent's death, ISJM still plans to proceed with completion of his Before the Flame Goes Out project.

Judaica Auction: Kestenbaum Offers a Trove of Varied Mansucripts, Books and Art

http://www.kestenbaum.net/images/Big_cvr_0113.jpg

Judaica Auction: Kestenbaum Offers a Trove of Varied Manuscripts, Books and Art 

(ISJM) The following is re-posted from the Kestenbaum & Company website, announcing a forthcoming auction of Judaica on January 31st.  This sale includes as an especially large number of Judaica ritual objects and art works, many by noted Jewish artists of the 19th and 20th century.  These are mostly graphic works, but there are two fine pastels by Artur Markowicz, and oils by Jozef Israels, Lazar Krestin, William Gropper and others.  You can download the full illustrated catalogue.  Even if you cannot afford to collect, you can use this catalogue as a handy reference. 
Fine Judaica: Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Graphic & Ceremonial Art
To Be Auctioned On Thursday, January 31st (2013)
 


Following the firm’s exclusive sale of Magnificent Silver Judaica last month, Kestenbaum & Company is now pleased to present on Thursday, January 31st at 3:00 pm, an auction of nearly 400 lots featuring the broad variety of Fine Judacia for which the company is celebrated. In addition to Rare Books and Manuscripts, this particular auction has an unusually strong section of Graphic Art highlighted by the famous 18th century portrait of the Ba’al Shem of London which is featured on the auction catalogue cover, as well as a collection of very fine Epraim Moses Lilien artwork.
The celebrated painting of Hayim Samuel Jacob Falk, the Ba’al Shem of London, was painted in the 1770s probably by the French-British artist, Philip James de Loutherbourg. For more than a century it was broadly accepted that this was a portrait of the Ba’al Shem Tov himself. This framed oil on canvas is estimated at $30,000-50,000 (Lot 287).
Ten fine engravings by E.M. Lilien, each beautifully framed, that were purchased in the 1950s directly by the consignor from the artist’s sister, are sure to be of interest to art collectors. The highlight is a large watercolor from 1904 featuring the Biblical Moses as Liberator designed for a stained glass window in Hamburg, Germany, the pre-auction estimate for which is $10,000-15,000 (Lot 296). Also of particular interest in this section is a large hand-colored Micrographic Engraving for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur composed by Levi Van Gelder, New York, circa 1865, estimate $15,000-20,000 (Lot 310) and a rare engraved Portrait of Moses with the Ten Commandments in Hebrew by Hyam Sakolski, New York, 1872 at an estimate of $5,000-7,000 (Lot 282).
Other artists featured within the Graphic Art section include Imre Amos, Jacques Emile Edouard Brandon, William Gropper, Jacques Lipchitz, Jozef Israaels, Lazar Krestin, Artur Markowicz, Baruch Nachshon, Saul Raskin, Jakob Steinhardt, Abraham Walkowitz, Max Weber, Issachar Ryback and Shalom Moskowitz of Safed.
A varied and interesting selection of Ceremonial Art is being offered for auction. Particularly striking is a beautiful and opulent late 19th century Continental gold Megillah case housing a Scroll of Esther on vellum, estimated at $30,000-50,000 (Lot 334). Another rarity of gold Judaica is an attractive Louis XIV-style Torah Pointer applied with jewels, at an estimate of $10,000-15,000 (Lot 335). Further highlights include an Italian illuminated Scroll of Esther, 18th century, estimate $10,000-12,000 (Lot 358), an Italian silver-bound Prayer-Book, estimate $4,000-6,000 (Lot 359), and a miniature Bezalel silver Megillah case housing an illustrated Esther Scroll, circa 1920, estimate $1,500-2,000 (Lot 357). Also featured are Chanukah Lamps, Kiddush Cups and Spice Towers. Particularly noteworthy within a section devoted to textiles is an exceptionally fine 19th century embroidered linen Torah Binder, previously in the Collection of the Hechal Shlomo Museum of Jerusalem, at an estimate of $5,000-7,000 (Lot 368).
Among the Manuscripts to be auctioned, the most noteworthy is an Ibn Ezra, Peirush HaTorah, written in 1381, the earliest known Hebrew Manuscript written in Kastoria, Macedonia, at an estimate of $50,000-70,000 (Lot 255). Further  highlights include Sepher Rav Mordechai (Riva di Trento, 1559) with extensive contemporary marginal notes written by a student of the great Rabbi Moses Isserles, estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 256) and a large esoteric 18th century Kabbalistic chart on vellum describing the Creation, at an estimate of $10,000-15,000 (Lot 257). Also notable are two autograph manuscript pages of Birkei Yosef  by Chaim Joseph David Azulai, circa 1770, estimate $5,000-7,000 (Lot 245) and Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach’s personal copy of the Chidushei Rabbeinu Chaim Halevi (Brisk, 1936) with his autograph marginal notes, at an estimate of $4,000-6,000 (Lot 271).
Of note among the Autograph Letters section are letters written by R. Chaim Zanvil Abramowitz (The Ribnitzer Rebbe), David Friedlaender, R. Yisroel Meir Kagan (The Chofetz Chaim), R. Yisroel Perlow (The Yanukah), Rebbetzin Shterna-Sorah Schneerson, and a letter from  the Eidah HaChareidith written to R. Yoel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe, from Jerusalem, 1965 (Lot 278).
Fine examples of 16th century Hebrew books are two rare, circa 1515, Constantinople imprints: Shimon ben Tzemach Duran’s Pirush HaKethubah, estimate $10,000-12,000 (Lot 70) and Mishpatei Hacherem, Vehanidui, Vehanezipha, at an estimate of $10,000-12,000 (Lot 171). Most prominent among later Hebrew printed books is the first edition of Judah Aryeh Modena’s Tzemach Tzadik, a scarce illustrated book of fables, Venice, 1600, estimate $25,000-30,000; Menasseh ben Israel’s Nishmath Chaim with the rare engraved portrait of the author, Amsterdam, 1652, estimate $15,000-20,000 (Lot 159) and a Bible with two finely hand-colored title pages and bound in an elaborate 18th century Dutch binding, Amsterdam, 1726, at an estimate of 7,000-9,000 (Lot 39). Leading a strong section of Chassidic books is a complete early edition of Elimelech of Lizhensk’s No’am Elimelech, Slavuta, 1794, at an estimate of $20,000-25,000 (Lot 44).
Other significant books include the first edition of Martin Luther’s work of Antisemitica, Vom Schem Hamphoras, Wittemberg, 1543, estimate $4,000-6,000 (Lot 22), the first separate publication of Karl Marx’s essay “On the Jewish Question”, London, 1896, estimate of $2,000-3,000 (Lot 158) and the first kosher cook-book in the English language, 1846, at an estimate of $6,000-8,000 (Lot 67).
Further categories within the Printed Books section of the auction include Americana, Anglo-Judaica, Liturgy, Illustrated Books, French material, Passover Hagadahs, Holocaust related books and important books related to The Enlightenment

For further information relating to bidding or any other queries, please contact Jackie Insel at 212-366-1197 or Jackie@kestenbaum.net.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Latvia: Rezekne Green Synagogue Restoration Update


Rezekne, Latvia. Green Synagogue.  Photos: Aadne Sollid (2009). See more project photos here.

Latvia: Rezekne Green Synagogue Restoration Update 
by Samuel D. Gruber
 
(ISJM) David Michaelson has provided me with an update and links on the long hoped for/planned restoration of the Green Synagogue of Rezekne, Latvia, a project which he first brought to my attention almost ten years ago.  David's great-grandparents were from Rezekne, a town which had the substantial Jewish population of around 20,000 people before 1900.  At the time of the Second World War only 10,000 Jews lived there,  and now only small number - a few dozen Jews at most - still live there.  He and his wife first visited Rezekne in 2003 and were shown the closed and dilapidated (Green Synagogue, built 1845) by Rashel Kuklya, head of the small Jewish community.  The building was last used by the Jewish community in the early 1990s. 

The Green Synagogue, which is built of wood, is the only synagogue building (of at least 11) to have survived in Rezekne.  While the government had considered restoring the building as a museum, the cost of the project (then estimated at $160,000 - $165,000) was daunting.  At that time the emphasis on Jewish heritage and Holocaust commemoration  projects was in Riga, the capital of the country and where most of the country's Jews live today (Riga's beautiful Egyptian Revival/Art Nouveau Peitav synagogue was restored in 2009).  The Kadisha Synagogue in Daugavpils was also restored in the past decade.  But the survival of the Green Synagogue is now more important than ever, since the wooden synagogue in Subate, Latvia, was destroyed in 2009.

David, however, was not to be put off.  With some assistance from the International Survey of Jewish Monuments and Meier Melers of the Jews of Latvia museum in Riga, David was able to submit an application to the World Monuments Fund, which WMF approved for funding of a preservation plan. At first, the hope was the EU funding would become available for the restoration.   Eventually, however, a Norwegian team adopted the project and after several attempts received funding.  It appears that the WMF-funded plan is still the basis for the project, which will begin this spring. 

Norway is not a member of the European Union, but to have access to the European markest, the country is required through the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA Agreement) to support projects in "new" EU countries.  The Green Synagogue project is one of these,  costing 711 000 EURO (close to one million US dollars).   85% of the funding come from Norwegian grants, 10%  is from the Latvian culture ministry, and 5% from the Rezekne municipality. 

It is interesting to note that the basis of the project is the exchange of restoration, craft and education skills between Norway and Latvia, and  unlike similar projects funded by international donors, the Jewish history and significance of the building did not (at least overtly) play a major part the scope of the project.   

The restoration of the building will engage students and teachers from Sam Eyde vgs, the Lunznava vocational school, the technical school Vilanu, the Rezekne art school and local artisans in Latgale; organize and strengthen cooperation between regional (latgalske), National (Latvian) and international (Norwegian) craftsmen, teachers, students and authorities; organize workshops for participants to develop meeting and communication models; and rain craftsmen, teachers and students in the restoration of wooden structures. 

According to the project website the synagogue was chosen because the wooden construction is similar to that in Norway from the beginning of 18th century (the synagogue was built around 1845),  it is not privately owned, and it is the only surviving wooden synagogue in the area.   

The Green Synagogue is one-and-a-half story square-plan building with a shallow four-slope roof.  The facade is modest; the windows of the ground floor have semicircle lintels, and above them are "blind windows".  Inside, benches, bimah and Ark are still intact, but these may not be original to the building.  A one-and-a-half story glazed gallery is above the main entrance.  The building suffered significant water damage until the roof was repaired with government funds a few years ago. The interior painted ceilings are in bad condition with sections missing and the interior walls also are damaged. Overall, the exterior is in better condition but also shows signs of damaged timbers including some damage that may be the result of vandalism over the years. 

After restoration (which should take 18-24 months) the synagogue will be a part of the Latgale (which is the region of Latvia Rezekne is in) Cultural Museum.  It will be available for use as a synagogue upon request. It is not clear how this work, but militarism arrangements have been made at restored historic synagogues in other countries. 

Here is the Norwegian website describing the project: (Google Translate does a good job with it)

More pictures can be found here:



Call for Papers: Southern Jewish Historical Society's Annual Conference

 Brenham, Texas. B'nai Abraham Synagogue (1893). Photo: Shirley Moskowitz.

Southern Synagogues

The very first talk I ever gave about synagogue architecture (at the College Art Association in Houston in 1988) was about the little B'nai Abraham synagogue in my ancestral town of Brenham, Texas.  I've always been interested in the development of synagogue architecture in the American south and west - since the history of Jews in those areas is in many ways so different from the best-known narrative of the East-coast American Jewish experience.

I've posted on this blog and elsewhere about southern synagogues on several occasions.  Here is a call for papers from the Southern Jewish Historical Society.  I'm thinking about submitting a proposal for a paper of session about southern synagogue architecture - if only because I've never been to Birmingham and there are buildings old and new I'd like to see there, including the near-100-year-old Temple Emanuel, one of the country's best surviving (domed) classical-style synagogues.  If you are working on a related topic - a single building, an architect or a building type, let me know. 

 Savannah, Georgia. Congregation Mickve Israel synagogue (1874). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2006).

Lee Shai Weissbach's excellent book the The Synagogues of Kentucky remains the best introduction to the varieties of types of styles to be found in the region and some of the social and religious circumstances leading to their construction and use. but there have been some other good local studies of specifically Jewish sites, and Jewish sites within local historical and architectural contexts.

For those wanting to know more about some southern synagogues and their communities, check out the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities edited by Stuart Rockoff of the Institute of Southern Jewish life.   

 Birmingham, Alabama.  Temple Emanuel (1914). Photo: postcard.

Here is the Southern Jewish Historical Society call for papers:
Call for Papers: Southern Jewish Historical Society's Annual Conference

Since 1977, the Southern Jewish Historical Society has worked to foster scholarship about the experience of southern Jews.  With an annual conference, academic journal, and active grant and award programs, the society has helped to move southern Jewish history from the margins of the American Jewish narrative into the mainstream.  For more information about the SJHS, please go to http://www.jewishsouth.org/.

The Southern Jewish Historical Society will hold its annual conference on November 1-3, 2013, in Birmingham, Alabama.  2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham civil rights demonstrations, and the SJHS meeting will be part of the city's commemoration of the events.  Although the history of Jews and the Civil Rights Movement will be of particular interest, we invite the submission of paper proposals that deal with all dimensions of southern Jewish history.   Submission of panel proposals will also be considered.

Paper proposals are due by March 15, 2013.  Abstracts should not exceed more than one page.  Submissions should include an abstract, a CV, and contact information.  For panel proposals, please include abstracts of each paper, CVs for presenters and panel organizer, and contact information for all participants.

Please submit your proposal to Dan Puckett at dpuckett45442@troy.edu.

For additional information please contact:

Dr. Dan Puckett at (334) 241-5478 or Dr. Stuart Rockoff at (601) 362-6357
(Rockoff@isjl.org)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Belgium: New Holocaust and Human Rights Museum Opens at Mechelen


 Mechelen, Belgium. Kazerne Dossin. New Museum and Documentation Center.  Photos: Kazerne Dossin website.


Mechelen, Belgium. Kazerne Dossin. New Museum and Documentation Center, new memorial set inside the old barracks. Photos: Kazerne Dossin website.


Mechelen, Belgium. Kazerne Dossin in 2005 Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2005)

Belgium:  New Holocaust and Human Rights Museum Opens at Mechelen
by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) King Albert II of Belgium opened a new Holocaust and Human Rights Center in Mechelen, Belgium in early December, 2012.  The new white cube-like building (actually its a pentagon) is situated adjacent to the18th-century Kazerne Dossin (barracks) that served as a last-stop transit camp for Belgian Jews begin shipped to their deaths at Auschwitz.  

According to the Museum website: 

"The old Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance is now a memorial, a place of reflection for victims and their relatives, while a brand-new building – a white monolith - opposite the old barracks houses the permanent historical exhibition. The new building occupies the site of the former detention building, opposite the barracks, emphatically marking the spot where the events of the Second World War unfolded....The museum is pentagon-shaped with large expanses of glass on one side and bricked-up windows on the other. On top of the building is a terrace which looks out over the old barracks. 

The infrastructure is designed to accommodate school and other groups as well as individual visitors. With four floors of galleries, a spacious auditorium, cafeteria and two educational areas, the museum has everything it takes to put itself on the map nationally and internationally."

You can see images of the construction and completion of the new center here.

The Mechelen transit camp site was strategically sited at a major rail junction halfway between Brussels and Antwerp, the major Jewish population centers of the country.  In the 1980s part of the complex was renovated for housing,  but part became the Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance, which opened in 1995 due to the initiative of Belgium's Jewish community.  In 2001, the government began an expansion of the institution with the construction of a new complex opposite the old barracks.  This new facility houses an expanded museum, documentation center and memorial.

Mechelen, Belgium. Kazerne Dossin commemorative exhibit in 2005. This has now been changed.  Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2005)

The new building was designed by Flemish architect bOb Van Reeth and financed by the Flemish government. The 25,852 bricks used in the construction are meant to signify the number of Jews and Roma sent to Auschwitz from the barracks, located just a few meters away.
Read more abut the new center here.

In related news, last summer Antwerp Mayor Patrick Janssens announced plans for a commemorative  monument to the city's Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.

Mechelen was the site of several incidents of Jewish resistant and prisoner escapes.  According to Wikipedia, based on the research of Maxime Steinberg: "The Belgian Jewish underground, assisted by the Belgian resistance, derailed several trains carrying Jews from the camp to Auschwitz during 1942–1943. Though most of these people were soon put on the next transports, about 500 Jewish prisoners did manage to escape. At an attempted escape on 19 April 1943, resistance fighters stopped the 20th transport near the train station of Boortmeerbeek, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) south-east of Mechelen. 231 prisoners managed to flee although 90 were eventually recaptured and 26 were shot by train escort guards.  you can read a more detailed history fo the camp by Lawrence Schram here:

Laurence Schram,The Transit Camp for Jews in Mechelen: The Antechamber of Death, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence


By: Philippe Siuberski BRUSSELS (AFP).- Belgium's newly-opened Holocaust and human rights museum stands symbolically on the site of a barracks commandeered by the Nazis as a wartime transit centre for Jews and Gypsies being sent to the death camps. The new "Kazerne Dossin" in the Flemish town of Mechelen, comprising a museum, memorial and documentation centre, is located at the site of an 18th century barracks that officials dub "a silent witness to the greatest war crime, in the form of genocide, in Belgium." The new World War II remembrance complex some 30 kilometres from Brussels was inaugurated by Belgian King Albert II and opened to the public last month. Like the Drancy camp outside Paris where Jews were rounded up and sent to death camps, the Dossin barracks -- directly linked to the Belgian rail network -- was turned into a last-stop transit centre for the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau camp run by the Nazis between 1942 and 1944. More than 25,500 Jews and 350 Gypsies from both Belgium and northern France were sent there after their arrest, often with the help of local police. There were more than 70,000 Jews in Belgium before the Second World War broke out, notably 18,000 in the nearby port city of Antwerp. After two or three months at Dossin, deportees were herded into trains for the Third Reich's death camps. Only five percent of the Jews and Gypsies who left Mechelen in 28 convoys ever returned. Last September, Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo presented the country's apologies for crimes committed by people who had worked hand-in-hand with Nazis to deport Jews. "This new museum takes a more profound look at the history of the persecution of the Jews in Flanders and Belgium, based on new historic sources of information and insights," said Kris Peeters, who heads the Dutch-speaking government of Flanders. "It also provides a link between the concepts of holocaust and human rights." In 1995, members of the Jewish community opened a small museum in a part of the barracks but much of the building had already been turned into flats and sold. The new complex, built with the help of a 25-million-euro investment by the government of Flanders, adds a state-of-the-art cube-like museum designed by celebrated Flemish architect Bob Van Reeth. The top fourth floor, destined to house temporary exhibitions, is open to the light of day but the other three storeys smack of a mausoleum. Rectangular shapes in the white facade symbolise bricked-up windows while the heavy sliding steel door recalls those on the freight trains used to carry the victims to their death. Van Reeth said the total volume was equivalent to that of the freight cars used in the 28 convoys to the death camp; the number of bricks used being the same as the number of people deported. The three floors touch on three themes -- intolerance, fear and death. The museum expects to see 100,000 visitors a year. © 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse

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By: Philippe Siuberski BRUSSELS (AFP).- Belgium's newly-opened Holocaust and human rights museum stands symbolically on the site of a barracks commandeered by the Nazis as a wartime transit centre for Jews and Gypsies being sent to the death camps. The new "Kazerne Dossin" in the Flemish town of Mechelen, comprising a museum, memorial and documentation centre, is located at the site of an 18th century barracks that officials dub "a silent witness to the greatest war crime, in the form of genocide, in Belgium." The new World War II remembrance complex some 30 kilometres from Brussels was inaugurated by Belgian King Albert II and opened to the public last month. Like the Drancy camp outside Paris where Jews were rounded up and sent to death camps, the Dossin barracks -- directly linked to the Belgian rail network -- was turned into a last-stop transit centre for the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau camp run by the Nazis between 1942 and 1944. More than 25,500 Jews and 350 Gypsies from both Belgium and northern France were sent there after their arrest, often with the help of local police. There were more than 70,000 Jews in Belgium before the Second World War broke out, notably 18,000 in the nearby port city of Antwerp. After two or three months at Dossin, deportees were herded into trains for the Third Reich's death camps. Only five percent of the Jews and Gypsies who left Mechelen in 28 convoys ever returned. Last September, Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo presented the country's apologies for crimes committed by people who had worked hand-in-hand with Nazis to deport Jews. "This new museum takes a more profound look at the history of the persecution of the Jews in Flanders and Belgium, based on new historic sources of information and insights," said Kris Peeters, who heads the Dutch-speaking government of Flanders. "It also provides a link between the concepts of holocaust and human rights." In 1995, members of the Jewish community opened a small museum in a part of the barracks but much of the building had already been turned into flats and sold. The new complex, built with the help of a 25-million-euro investment by the government of Flanders, adds a state-of-the-art cube-like museum designed by celebrated Flemish architect Bob Van Reeth. The top fourth floor, destined to house temporary exhibitions, is open to the light of day but the other three storeys smack of a mausoleum. Rectangular shapes in the white facade symbolise bricked-up windows while the heavy sliding steel door recalls those on the freight trains used to carry the victims to their death. Van Reeth said the total volume was equivalent to that of the freight cars used in the 28 convoys to the death camp; the number of bricks used being the same as the number of people deported. The three floors touch on three themes -- intolerance, fear and death. The museum expects to see 100,000 visitors a year. © 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse

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By: Philippe Siuberski BRUSSELS (AFP).- Belgium's newly-opened Holocaust and human rights museum stands symbolically on the site of a barracks commandeered by the Nazis as a wartime transit centre for Jews and Gypsies being sent to the death camps. The new "Kazerne Dossin" in the Flemish town of Mechelen, comprising a museum, memorial and documentation centre, is located at the site of an 18th century barracks that officials dub "a silent witness to the greatest war crime, in the form of genocide, in Belgium." The new World War II remembrance complex some 30 kilometres from Brussels was inaugurated by Belgian King Albert II and opened to the public last month. Like the Drancy camp outside Paris where Jews were rounded up and sent to death camps, the Dossin barracks -- directly linked to the Belgian rail network -- was turned into a last-stop transit centre for the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau camp run by the Nazis between 1942 and 1944. More than 25,500 Jews and 350 Gypsies from both Belgium and northern France were sent there after their arrest, often with the help of local police. There were more than 70,000 Jews in Belgium before the Second World War broke out, notably 18,000 in the nearby port city of Antwerp. After two or three months at Dossin, deportees were herded into trains for the Third Reich's death camps. Only five percent of the Jews and Gypsies who left Mechelen in 28 convoys ever returned. Last September, Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo presented the country's apologies for crimes committed by people who had worked hand-in-hand with Nazis to deport Jews. "This new museum takes a more profound look at the history of the persecution of the Jews in Flanders and Belgium, based on new historic sources of information and insights," said Kris Peeters, who heads the Dutch-speaking government of Flanders. "It also provides a link between the concepts of holocaust and human rights." In 1995, members of the Jewish community opened a small museum in a part of the barracks but much of the building had already been turned into flats and sold. The new complex, built with the help of a 25-million-euro investment by the government of Flanders, adds a state-of-the-art cube-like museum designed by celebrated Flemish architect Bob Van Reeth. The top fourth floor, destined to house temporary exhibitions, is open to the light of day but the other three storeys smack of a mausoleum. Rectangular shapes in the white facade symbolise bricked-up windows while the heavy sliding steel door recalls those on the freight trains used to carry the victims to their death. Van Reeth said the total volume was equivalent to that of the freight cars used in the 28 convoys to the death camp; the number of bricks used being the same as the number of people deported. The three floors touch on three themes -- intolerance, fear and death. The museum expects to see 100,000 visitors a year. © 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Czech Republic: Nationwide Jewish Museum Links Historic Sites Across Country

Jicin, Czech Republic.  Restored Synagogue.  Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2009.

In the past I've written about the exceptional work being done in the Czech Republic to restore and present notable Jewish historic and architectural sites.  Since at least 2009 plans have been laid to create a linked network of sites with exhibitions and tourist infra-structure to help draw visitors out of Prague and to explore the fascinating, beautiful and still-oft preserved place of Jewish history throughout the country. As Ruth E. Gruber reports in an JTA article, the plan for what is essentially a nation-wide Jewish museum, is now moving ahead with significant support from the EU.

New Czech Jewish museum to spread exhibits across 10 sites nationwide


PRAGUE (JTA) -- A large Jewish museum set to open in the Czech Republic in October will be a far cry from any Jewish museum in Europe.

Instead of one building or a complex of exhibition halls in one city, it will be a nationwide museum comprising 10 linked thematic exhibitions in 10 restored synagogue buildings located in as many different towns and cities.

Called 10 Stars, the project is being coordinated by the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities, which owns the buildings, with the bulk of the funding coming from a $14 million grant from the European Union. About 15 percent of the financing is being provided by the Czech Culture Ministry.

“It’s actually one museum scattered around the country,” said Tomas Kraus, the executive director of the federation.

“The exhibition in each site will be linked to one certain phenomenon in Jewish history, culture, religion, traditions,” he said. “The idea is that if you visit one of the sites, even by chance, you will realize that there are nine other parts of the exhibition, so you will want to visit them, too.”

Read the full article here