The Last Survivors Say Kaddish

Allan Appel PhotosIsidor Juda was on a train bound for Nazi death camps when miraculously it slowed down. He leapt off and escaped. Three uncles, three aunts and two cousins weren’t as lucky. Sunday, decades later, he said the prayer for the dead for them at a memorial gravesite in New Haven.

Stanley Swimmer survived two years as a slave laborer in Germany running a drilling machine that bored holes for the armored plates on Nazi tanks. He lost his entire family in the Holocaust.

Juda’s and Swimmer’s stories — some of the last living testimonials New Haven will get to hear — emerged Sunday afternoon as our area’s dwindling number of Holocaust survivors and their families assembled to say the mourners’ kaddish, the prayer for the dead, and also to mark the 40th anniversary of the erection of the New Haven Holocaust Memorial, where the solemn ceremony was held.

As 50 people gathered at the sun-lit memorial, Swimmer had tears in his eyes remembering his large family of Polish Jews who were sent to the Sosnowiec Ghetto after the Germans occupied Poland.

Before they were all deported to their planned deaths in Auschwitz, Swimmer and other older boys and young men were sent to work as slave laborers in a tank factory at Katzenfurt in Germany.

While he never thought he would survive, he did. When his liberators, the U.S. Army’s Third Division, arrived, 15-year old Swimmer was made a “mascot” by the GIs. Swimmer pulled out a photograph Sunday to show him in the outfit’s uniform.

He got a measure of satisfaction ten years after the liberation when now himself was a G.I., with an intelligence unit of the Air Force in Germany. His job — because he knew the languages — was to try to pick up Russian secrets during the first years of the Korean War.

Many Jews visit their departeds’ graves during the period between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and next week’s Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Survivors like Swimmer and Juda have no physical gravesite to visit to say their kaddish, or memorial prayer, for their dead relatives who perished in camps without being buried in graves..

The memorial at Whalley and West Park Street offers that opportunity to say kaddish..

The monument was erected in 1977, the first Holocaust memorial in the country where a municipality gave survivors and their families the land.

Sunday’s event was organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, one of the funders of a separate New Haven Holocaust Memorial group that maintains the site.

Federation CEO Judith Alperin estimated perhaps 40 Holocaust survivors are left in the New Haven area.

Temple Mishkan Israel Rabbi Herb Brockman, who offered prayers of remembrance Sunday, noted that one survivor, Gershon Percman had been buried that very morning.

Juda Sunday was reciting the kaddish for the third year at the ceremonies. He said that when he does, he specifically remembers his uncles, aunts, and cousins — the Wirshobsky, Monath, and Kwartler families — all Austrian Jews who were sent to Theresienstad concentration camp, before being deported to Auschwitz.

Juda’s parents had made it to Vineland, New Jersey, at the end of 1939. The now 96-year-old Juda spent his 17th and 18th years in a displaced persons camp in Switzerland after his escape.

In August 1938 he had been arrested by the Germans as he tried to cross a railroad bridge and make his way to Switzerland. The next day they put him on the train they told him was bound for Salzburg.

Juda suspected immediately that the train was going elsewhere. “The train slowed down. I don’t know why,” he said with a look skyward, suggesting some divine intervention. But it was enough. He jumped and walked two days to Switzerland and to safety.

Swimmer PhotoAfter the ceremonies, Swimmer had another picture in his pocket to share with a reporter and admiring friends. It shows him, ten years after having been an army mascot, calling attention to his holstered gun. He carried the weapon as an Air Force intelligence officer between 1952 and 1955, part of a unit which was then transitioning, he said, into the CIA.

He had a chance to get some satisfaction, if not revenge, he said, to show some Germans still sympathetic to the aims of the Third Reich who was now boss. “I was the occupying force [now],” he added.

Swimmer says he has diagnosed PTSD He still dreams about his years as a slave laborer.

He put his photographs back into his pocket and walked over to his car, which he then drove back to his home in Woodbridge.

Fay Sheppard, who helps run the not-for-profit to maintain New Haven’s Holocaust Memorial park, discussed the memorial’s history as well as her father’s experiences as a Nazi Holocaust survivor, on a recent episode of WNHH FM’s “Chai Haven” program. Click on the above audio file to hear the episode, or watch the Facebook Live version below.

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posted by: Dwightstreeter on September 25, 2017  7:29am

We will never forget.

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on September 25, 2017  10:56am

Certainly puts things into perspective when I am tempted to complain about my fate.  God bless you and I am so sorry for your pain.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on September 25, 2017  11:27am

Let us always keep these survivors and their families in our prayers.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 25, 2017  3:55pm

Before they were all deported to their planned deaths in Auschwitz, Swimmer and other older boys and young men were sent to work as slave laborers in a tank factory at Katzenfurt in Germany.

At least the German government has paid more than $70 billion in reparations to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.
Holocaust Reparations

Germany to Pay 772 Million Euros to Survivors

The German government has committed to pay nearly 800 million euros for the care of elderly Holocaust survivors as a result of negotiations in Israel between Berlin and a fund for Jewish victims of Nazi aggression. Nearly 60,000 people will benefit from the aid money.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/germany-to-pay-772-million-euros-in-reparations-to-holocaust-survivors-a-902528.html

I wonder when the U S government will pay reparations to black survivors of the African Holocaust?


My bad I forgot.How come no talk about this.

Haiti History: During the Holocaust Haiti Issued Passports To Jewish Families to Leave Germany

http://kreyolicious.com/haiti-holocaust/3976

The Afro-German Experience Under Hitler

We must remember the victims and the survivors of African descent who were persecuted by Nazis because their skin was darker.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chika-oduah/the-afrogerman-experience_b_9234700.html

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on September 26, 2017  6:50am

Threefifths,

Is nothing sacred to you in and of itself?  You seek to exploit every people and situation into the confines of your narrow agenda which in the end only divides us further. You resent the fact that people would actually memorialize one brutality with having the nerve not to mention yours.  Have some respect for other people’s pain without jealously coveting yours.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 26, 2017  7:25am

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on September 26, 2017 7:50am

Threefifths,

Is nothing sacred to you in and of itself?  You seek to exploit every people and situation into the confines of your narrow agenda which in the end only divides us further. You resent the fact that people would actually memorialize one brutality with having the nerve not to mention yours.  Have some respect for other people’s pain without jealously coveting yours.

I did.That is why I said At least the German government has paid more than $70 billion in reparations to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

Are you saying that the U S government should pay reparations to black survivors of the African Holocaust?

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on September 26, 2017  7:44am

Threefifths,

I am saying not everything has to do with you and your agenda.

posted by: Diane Panasci on September 26, 2017  10:41am

To Timothy G. ORourke Jr and to THREEFIFTHS. Very often it is easier to understand the pain of others when comparing it to our own experiences. Mr. ORouke, I am a Jew, and find nothing offensive in what THREEFIFTHS is saying. My own family was very lucky to have escaped the Holocaust in Germany because my grandparents, and great grandparents were all here by 1906. They were here because they were escaping the pogroms and anti-semitism of Russia. Long before Hitler, actually, going back to our very beginnings, Jews have been subjected to hatred, bigotry, slavery, mass murder and expulsion from their homes.
Today that fear is here in the United States, as our president snuggles up to neo-nazis, white supremacist and the KKK. If you are against one people you are against all! And I salute Germany for the apology she, as a country, has given to the Holocaust survivors and their families. I applaud the reparations. I am gladdened to know that a Hitler salute is illegal in Germany. There are no statues to be found of any of the murderous regime of the 1930s and 40s. At the same time, in Charlottesville we had men with Tiki torches marching and saying “a Jew will not replace me.”
The KKK, neo-nazis, and white supremacists were angry because the ugly relics of the confederacy and slavery were being taken down. And our “president” was saying that history was being destroyed by that removal.
The treatment of people other than white anglo-saxon protestants, has always been cruel and hateful in this country. Therefore, I can see people comparing their own issues. They are the same. In Hitler’s Germany, I would not have been white. In many communities in this county, I am not white. So, I choose not to be. I am OTHER. So yes, we honor these last Holocaust survivors. Their pain was unimaginable.  But it does not diminish the pain of others. Only when white, black, brown, red, and yellow human beings come together and accept each other as equal will we be whole as a country.

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on September 26, 2017  12:23pm

Ms. Panasci,

I appreciate the tone of your rebuke and your explanation of the similarities of hate.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 26, 2017  3:20pm

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on September 26, 2017 8:44am

Threefifths,

I am saying not everything has to do with you and your agenda.

Tell me what is my agenda..Second.Read !!! what I wrote which was At least the German government has paid more than $70 billion in reparations to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.Which I am glad they got reparations.I study the history of the Holocaust..Do you know who the Rhineland Bastards are? Also you seem to duck my question which is Should the U S government pay reparations to black survivors of the African Holocaust?

My bad.I forgot.My. grandfather was a Rabbi in Harlem under Rabbi Matthew, Founder of the Commandment Keepers of Harlem.

The Commandment Keepers documentary

https://youtu.be/stKpJhTYn9I

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on September 26, 2017  4:44pm

Threefifths,

This is exactly my point and it is why I will not answer your question. You sully remembering a specific event in humanity by drawing inferences which, in my opinion, detract from the honor due exclusively to them and this you do for your own end. Just be happy that they received reparations and not indignant that you did not.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 26, 2017  5:49pm

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on September 26, 2017 5:44pm

Threefifths,

This is exactly my point and it is why I will not answer your question. You sully remembering a specific event in humanity by drawing inferences which, in my opinion, detract from the honor due exclusively to them and this you do for your own end. Just be happy that they received reparations and not indignant that you did not.

I like what Diane Panasc said.

To Timothy G. ORourke Jr and to THREEFIFTHS. Very often it is easier to understand the pain of others when comparing it to our own experiences. Mr. ORouke, I am a Jew, and find nothing offensive in what THREEFIFTHS is saying.

So why do you find what I said offensive? Again read what I wrote.Again are you saying that the U S government should no pay reparations to black survivors of the African Holocaust?

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on September 26, 2017  6:28pm

Ask me again under a different thread and I would be happy to answer.  Or, perhaps, you could tell me your name and I will personally write to you.

posted by: Diane Panasci on September 27, 2017  12:19pm

To Timothy G. ORourke Jr and to THREEFIFTHS.
Let us not continue to argue on this post. The article “The Last Survivors Say Kaddish” is so very important. Is there a way to continue this discussion on another thread. Or, are we all local to New Haven? Perhaps we could meet, have a cup of coffee somewhere and discuss. We might all have insights to share.  THREEFIFTHS,  I watched the video and was greatly moved.

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on September 27, 2017  3:45pm

Shalom Ms. Panasci,

You seem to be echoing the sentiment that I have maintained throughout. However, I appreciate your offer to meet.  Perhaps, a better idea would be to drop a line.  My address is 718 Congress Avenue.

posted by: Diane Panasci on September 27, 2017  4:30pm

To Timothy G. ORourke Jr.
I am much better at texting or emailing, but sure I will drop you a line. Thanks. Shanah Tovah, Wishing you a good new year, Mr, ORourke. May 5778 be better than 5777, as Stephen Colbert said last week! ;)