Last survivor of massacre reveals the horror of Babyn Yar

January 28, 2022

The massacre at Babyn Yar was remembered by community leaders on Tuesday at the site near Kiev where more than 33,000 Jews were murdered in 1941.
The chief rabbi of the Netherlands, Binyomin Jacobs spoke, reading the kaddish.
The assembled dignitaries bowed and clasped their hands in otherwise silent mourning, standing entirely still despite the minus-eight cold.
Earlier, an Israeli man who is thought to be the last survivor of Babyn Yar, Michael Sidko, spoke by video link to delegates of the European Jewish Association symposium in Kiev’s Hilton.
Mr Sidko was six years old when a neighbour reported his family to the Gestapo three times as being Jewish, and they were arrested and brought to Babyn Yar.
The family were directed to “the pit” where Nazi officers supervised the killings.
As his mother held her baby son Volodya in her arms, his three-year-old sister Clara walked beside tugging at her skirt, and he and his older brother Grisha brought up the rear.
Clara ran up to Mr Sidko, he said, and asked to be carried in his arms. A policeman hit the girl in the head, knocking her to the ground.
He stamped on her chest until she stopped breathing. Mr Sidko’s mother saw this and fainted, dropping Volodya.
The policeman stamped on Volodya until he was dead.
Mr Sidko’s mother came round and screamed. She was shot, and all three bodes were hauled by the legs thrown into the pit.
The two brothers were selected for medical testing or forced labour and so permitted to live, Mr Sidko said, before a Russian or Ukrainian guard allowed them to run away.
“Hitler’s greatest mistake was making Auschwitz,” said Father Patrick of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, because the camp became evidence of Nazi crimes against humanity.
But at Babyn Yar there was “no train, no railway, just a mass grave”.
Mr Sidko long refused to talk about the massacre or even mention his Jewish identity to even his own children.
It was only in 2000 that he told his children they were Jewish and the family made aliyah.
“People should study history,” he added.“Students should be taught to love not hate.”
https://www.thejc.com/news/world/last-survivor-of-massacre-reveals-the-horror-of-babyn-yar-rHBFu0qobRGTTFoyk3GRm

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EJA never called every Jew to carry a gun

Rabbi Margolin’s clarification: He never claimed that every Jew should carry a gun
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, General Director of the European Jewish Association (EJA), made the following clarification:

Contrary to what has been written, Rabbi Margolin is not the Rabbi of Brussels but the Director of the Rabbinical Center of Europe, which represents 700 rabbis across Europe, and General Director of the European Jewish Association, a federation of Jewish organisations active at European level.
2. Rabbi Margolin never asked that every Jew carries a gun and does not advocate widespread gun use. Where licenses are issued, Rabbi Margolin calls for guns to be used responsibly and in self-defence. Referring to recent events, Rabbi Margolin has said that given the serious current climate, where Jews are afraid to go to the synagogue, to Jewish school or kosher supermarket, each Jewish institution – whether synagogue, school, kindergarten, or Jewish store… should be protected by the authorities across Europe. Should governments find they are unable to ensure the protection and security of institutions and Jewish citizens, in the long-term Rabbi Margolin called on Europe’s Interior Ministers to review current gun licensing laws “to allow designated people in the Jewish communities and institutions to own weapons for the essential protection of their communities, as well as receiving the necessary training to protect their members from potential terror attacks.”
With regard to recent claims regarding the content of Rabbi Margolin’s calls on the subject of gun licensing, the EJA Director concluded in no uncertain terms: ”Let there be no doubt, we are asking that all weapons will be issued for self-protection only, and to designated personnel that will undergo thorough investigation and training by local authorities.”
3. Rabbi Margolin thanks the Belgian Government for taking very seriously the protection of the Jewish community.
4. Rabbi Margolin repeats once again that he never claimed that every Jew must carry a gun!

Thousands in Budapest flock to Jewish street fair in sign of community’s revival

In scene uniting Jews of all denominations, some 10,000 brave thunderstorm to throng Hungarian capital’s touristic Kazinczy street for annual Judafest

BUDAPEST – Thousands flocked to Budapest’s Kazinczy street in the heart of the historic Jewish ghetto on Sunday to celebrate the city’s Judafest.
Braving an afternoon downpour, tourists and locals alike visited the massive street festival, which annually showcases all things Hungarian and Jewish. It’s quite a coup for a central European Jewish community still recovering from World War II and decades of Communism.
The thoroughfare, a common tourist destination throughout the year, teemed with both Jewish and non-Jewish onlookers who stopped at the dozens of stalls offering traditional Jewish foods, handmade items for sale, and information on the multitude of religious and community initiatives that operate in Hungary and the surrounding areas.
Parents pushed baby carriages and walked hand-in-hand with children who sported brightly colored face paint and clutched balloons decorated with the logos of Jewish organizations.
“I think we have even more people than last year,” festival organizer Pepe Berenyi told The Times of Israel. Berenyi, who is also the deputy director of Budapest’s Balint House JCC, estimated that 9,000 to 10,000 people had passed through the festival by mid-afternoon.
Judafest perennially brings together congregations and organizations from all walks of Hungarian Jewish life and across secular and all religious denominations — no mean feat for any Jewish community. The festival was organized by Budapest’s Balint House JCC and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and featured over 30 partners from across the community.
This year also saw significant representation from the country’s periphery and Israel, including the towns of Koszeg, on the Austrian border, and Komarom, on the border with Slovakia – in keeping with the festival’s theme of “Hungarian-speaking Jewish communities.”
A secular humanitarian organization set up shop across from Chabad Hasidic emissaries who gave passersby the chance to say a short prayer with a set of phylacteries. Representatives from many of the city’s various synagogues lounged together amid the many food stands offering tastes of traditional Jewish fare ranging from cholent to freshly baked challah to plates of Israeli hummus.
In the late afternoon, the sunshine gave way to heavy gray storm clouds when a not-completely-unexpected thunderstorm struck. But revelers stuck it out, huddling with umbrellas for half an hour in stone alcoves along the alleyway. As the rain finally started to let up, a handful of teenagers with matted hair took back to the street and danced in their wet clothing to Israeli music that continued to play from a nearby stall.
“Well, it was a great six hours,” joked a resilient Berenyi, who worked for months to put the festival together.
But despite some setbacks – the amplification system and other electronics were taken out of commission by the storm – visitors did not seem deterred. Stall owners bailed out water, dried off their merchandise, and went back to serving the many attendees who stuck around.
A planned concert went forward as an acoustic performance, and the three singers made up for the lack of a sound system by asking the audience to accompany them, turning the show into a sing-along.
At 19:48 Israeli time, to correspond with the year Israel was established, 70 community dignitaries released dove-shaped balloons in honor of Israel’s 70th year of independence.
Onstage, Balint House JCC director Zsuzsa Fritz sang “Lech L’cha,” by singer Debbie Friedman, citing the song’s significance.
“The song is taken from the biblical passage where God first commands Abraham to go to Israel, and promises to bless his offspring and make them into a great nation,” Fritz later told The Times of Israel. “I really felt that this was especially appropriate here as we continue to grow our community.”
Fritz said that the event was an incredibly effective outreach tool, and could encourage many people to engage with Budapest’s Jewish communal life who otherwise wouldn’t take the initiative.
Berenyi said that in Judafest’s inaugural year, Hungarians were hesitant about street festivals of any type – let alone obviously Jewish ones. In all, there were seven partners that first year, and, unexpectedly, the daylong festival was a huge success, drawing 2,500 people.
But in recent years, Judafest has grown considerably, attracting dozens of partners and drawing 12,000 attendees.
Fritz cited an impact study that the Balint House JCC conducted at the event, with pollsters asking attendees questions related to their levels of Jewish participation.
“I was walking by and overheard one of our surveyors speaking to a woman of about 60,” Fritz told The Times of Israel.
“She asked the woman if this was the sole Jewish event that she attended this year, and to my surprise, the woman answered yes,” Fritz said.
“I was sure that she looked like she participated more regularly – in this business you get a feel for these things – but this just shows that events such as this are of the utmost importance and can bring people into the fold who otherwise would feel insecure.”
The article was published on The Times of Israel

EU seeks to rally against anti-Semitism

Under Germany’s presidency, the member states are planning to take decisive action against antisemitism in Europe in light of increase anti-jewish conspiracy theories during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In December, the heads of state and government seek to adopt a declaration at the next EU summit to establish a uniform approach within the European community against all forms of hatred towards Jews.
“It is our constant, shared responsibility to protect and support Jewish life actively,” says the draft resolution, which is set under the preamble: “Anti-Semitism is an attack on European values.”
The initiative to develop binding guidelines was put on the agenda by Germany, which holds the EU Council Presidency until the end of the year. Two years ago, the member states committed themselves to national strategies against anti-Semitism the first time.
Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was observed how anti-Semitic prejudices were openly conducted.
Among other things, the declaration calls for “awareness of anti-Semitism in all political areas” and the tackling of “a cross-cutting issue in which various government agencies and policy areas at local, national and European level should be involved.”
Recently, a study by the Israeli foreign ministry indicated how anti-Semitism significantly increased ever since the pandemic had started, particularly in regard to conspiracy theories.
According to the analysis, most anti-Semitic statements connected with the world health crisis were posted online in the US, France, and Germany.
The EU’s plan states that “anti-Semitic conspiracy myths are often the first step that can lead to hatred, hate speech, incitement to violence, and hate crimes.”
The latter is why the heads of state and government and the European Commission seek to upgrade the European anti-Semitism commissioners’ work.
In drawing up the declaration, they worked closely with the Jewish organizations and responsible specialist politicians in Europe. There is positive progress at the European level; however, the effects are not yet reaching the Jewish Europeans. The latter is why the EU Commission also seeks to present a common strategy with further concrete measures against anti-Semitism next year.
Within the member states, the new EU agreement is intended to provide authorities such as public prosecutors and police forces and social institutions such as schools in the future as a practicable basis for assessing anti-Jewish tendencies.
Germany’s council presidency has been under the radar due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The upcoming December declaration, however, could mark a significant moment, nonetheless.
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Austrian Initiative Promoting Holocaust Education in Awake of WWII Victory Anniversary

EJA had received the following letter from the Federal Chancellery of Austria:

Dear Sir/Madame,

I hope this message finds you well. 

The 8th of May 1945 marked the end of the Second World War in Europe and the end of the Nazi reign of terror in Austria. While looking back at the darkest chapter in Austria‘s history, the 8th of May also represents a day of liberation and joy.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache spoke at today’s commemorative event, emphasizing that remembrance must be followed by concrete action. Austria has a special responsibility in the fight against antisemitism and in safeguarding Jewish life in Europe, Israel and in the rest of the world. The first ever agreement of the EU countries to decisively fight antisemitism which Austria managed to reach during its Presidency, was an important step into the right direction.

“My generation is probably the last one that is able to speak to holocaust survivors. In this context, I fully support the proposal to give all secondary students in Austria the possibility to visit the Mauthausen memorial at least once in their lifetime,” so the Chancellor.

Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache also underlined Austria’s commitment to remembrance on such a significant day: “The Shoah was the most horrible and vicious manifestation of the Nazi terror regime. I bow my head to all those who became victims to this gruesome and cruel time in our history.”

Austria has been cooperating actively with the memorial Yad Vashem over the past decades. Since the year 2000, around 800 Austrian teachers participated in seminars/courses at the memorial to improve the curricula of Austrianstudents, and last year, as Austrian Federal Government, we contributed 1 Million Euros to the construction of the Shoah Heritage Campus. 

To further strengthen this relationship, today Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has signed on behalf of the Austrian Federal Government an archival agreement with Yad Vashem. The agreement will give historians from Austria and Israel the opportunity to access their respective archives and conduct their research. We are firmly committed to make sure that no individual story will ever be forgotten.

Feel free to come back to me at any time in case of further inquiries or comments.

Kind Regards,
Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal

Federal Chancellery of the Republic of Austria

Spokesperson of the Federal Government

Ambassador

Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal

EJA Chairman, Rabbi Menachem Margolin had reply to the letter:
c and vc at

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