Author Archives: HSF editor

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I prayed I would never see this again but never doubted it was possible | Opinion

By David Schaecter

November 5, 2023 at 4:30 a.m.

I survived the hell of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, but I survived alone.

I lost my mother, father, sisters, brother, aunts, uncles and cousins in the Holocaust. After the war, I was fortunate to prosper in this great land — the United States — and build a family with my wife and two children, five beautiful grandchildren and two beautiful great-grandchildren.

Yet, I am haunted by the fact that America’s heroism in World War II came too late for 105 members of my family, and 6 million other innocent Jewish people, including 1.5 million children — potential scientists, physicians, philosophers, artists, and loving family members whose lives were so cruelly denied to them.

It gives me tremendous pain to say that Hamas’ savage murder and kidnapping of hundreds of innocent Jewish grandparents, children, mothers, fathers and young adults celebrating freedom and peace, was a tragedy I prayed I would never see again, but never doubted was possible.

The barbarity of the Hamas attacks indeed reminds us that hatred of the Jewish people, and the infinite capacity for cruelty against our people, is a cancer that will never be eradicated, but must be recognized, protected against and crushed when it threatens.

It is a sobering fact that more Jews were killed on that Saturday — a Jewish holy day — than any other day since the Holocaust.

The Nazis and their collaborators slaughtered our people with a disgusting collection of political, economic and military power. How could it happen? How did it happen? But it did. That is why I have devoted my entire life to telling people the true history of what we experienced in the Shoah, and the unimaginable scope of our loss. So many of our fellow survivors are now gone, and I fear that our pain and the true history will be forgotten or corrupted by immoral, self-interested political and economic forces.

Today, after the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre, all people have witnessed, in real time, slaughter of the kind I somehow survived more than 80 years ago. More than 1,400 innocent Israeli people just living their everyday lives, gunned down, kidnapped, mutilated, raped, terrorized by evil monsters.  Parents, brothers, sisters, children, aunts, uncles and cousins traumatized by the murders, and the terror inflicted on the hostages now held by Hamas, and their desperate families.

We see the mainstream media slanting coverage to suggest moral equivalency between Hamas’ unspeakable atrocities against innocent Israelis and Israel’s right of self-defense — against terrorists who use Palestinian children as human shields and stockpile food, water and fuel for a war with Israel while starving the civilian population it governs, so Israel can be blamed. Israel follows the international law of warfare in attempting to avoid civilian casualties, while Hamas has intentionally butchered innocent Israelis and intentionally endangered innocent Palestinians.

Members of the echo chamber that blames Israel for Hamas’ brutal murders because of “occupation” never acknowledge that the Palestinian leaders have rejected repeated offers of statehood, choosing war and terror instead. These so-called progressives, including some Jewish people, that justify and rationalize the cold-blooded murder of Jews in the 21st Century, should be ashamed of their hypocrisy and cowardice.

I was born in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1929. I am now 94 years old. Along with Holocaust education, I have devoted every day of the last seven decades to building and supporting the state of Israel, our Jewish homeland. We cannot take our future security for granted. The Jewish people must always have the means and the will to defend and protect ourselves, and that means creating a society and government that are decades ahead of our adversaries in military and security preparation.

Though we must be responsible, we cannot do it all alone. I am grateful to President Joe Biden, and the bipartisan leaders and members of Congress, and other elected officials, who have stood squarely with Israel and already taken steps to support Israel with moral, intelligence and military support in her most dangerous moment in over 50 years.

But the onus is on us, the Jewish people, to support Israel financially and in the court of public opinion. I have faith that, unified in spirit and conscience, Israel and the Jewish people will learn from whatever lessons will be revealed from that Saturday’s incomprehensible, horrific catastrophe, a Shoah in its own right, and build an even stronger, prosperous, stable and just society.

David Schaecter, a Miami resident since 1955, is president of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA.

Gunshots and blood stains are seen on a door and walls of a house where civilians were killed days earlier in an attack by Hamas militants on this kibbutz near the border with Gaza, on October 10, 2023 in Kfar Aza, Israel. (Photo by Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Gunshots and blood stains are seen on a door and walls of a house where civilians were killed days earlier in an attack by Hamas militants on this kibbutz near the border with Gaza, on October 10, 2023 in Kfar Aza, Israel. (Photo by Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Link to original article in the Sun Sentinel

NY Times Nazi Loot

Christie’s Jewelry Sale Trailed by Nazi Shadow

Article from the July 4, 2023 Edition of the New York Times

Zachary Small

By Zachary Small July 4, 2023

Facing criticism for its sale of jewelry from an estate partly built on profits made from the purchase of Jewish businesses during the Holocaust, Christie’s promised in spring to donate a portion of its proceeds to further Holocaust research and education. But the auction house has struggled to find organizations willing to accept money from the sale, which went forward despite the objections of Jewish groups.

The record-breaking sale of jewelry from the estate of Heidi Horten generated $202 million. Horten was an Austrian heiress whose husband, Helmut, built a retail empire in Germany partly by taking advantage of Nazi policies that forced Jewish businessmen to sell their companies.

Yad Vashem, the organization that operates Israel’s official memorial to Holocaust victims, has announced that it declined a donation from Christie’s because of the source of the money. The Jerusalem Post reported that several other Jewish organizations in Israel have also rejected Christie’s donations from the Horten sale.

Deidrea Miller, a spokeswoman at Christie’s, said that the company was still looking to donate money to organizations that promoted an understanding of the Holocaust.

“Christie’s is actively working with various organizations on donation agreements to support Holocaust education and research, including issues of Aryanization and spoliation,” Miller said in a statement, “and we leave it to those organizations to communicate about the donations as they see fit.”

Now, a major Israeli museum has canceled a joint conference with Christie’s because of the auction house’s role in the jewelry sale.

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art announced over the weekend that it had decided against participating with Christie’s in an event designed to look at restitution policies for objects lost by Jews during the Holocaust. The decision was made in coordination with city officials, a museum spokeswoman said, because the museum is government funded.

“Since we understand that this issue has raised sensitivity among Holocaust survivors organizations, we are not holding the conference anymore,” said the museum’s director, Tania Coen-Uzzielli, in an email interview.

“We respect the Tel Aviv Museum of Art’s decision to cancel the long-planned program on restitution, scheduled to take place at the museum in December,” Miller, the Christie’s spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Criticism began to build before the sale, which featured jewelry bought with Helmut Horten’s fortune. Horten started his retail empire in the 1930s under the Nazi policy of Aryanization, when Jews were pressured or forced to sell their businesses at steep discounts. During the regime, he had department stores across Europe, from Amsterdam to East Prussia.

Heidi Horten met her husband long after World War II when he had reinvented himself as a supermarket king during the German economic miracle of the postwar years. She was 19 and he was more than three decades older. They married in 1966, a union that lasted until Helmut’s death in 1987, after which Heidi inherited nearly a billion dollars.

Some organizations rebuked Christie’s for the sale, and asked collectors to take their business elsewhere.

“Jewish clients and institutions, and anyone with a heart and integrity, should think twice before doing business with Christie’s, which chose profit over principle when it sponsored the auction of the Heidi Horten jewelry collection,” said David Schaecter, president of Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation USA and a survivor himself.

Before the Tel Aviv Museum canceled its conference with the auction house, Schaecter also sent a letter to museum trustees saying that it would be “providing a platform within the Jewish State for Holocaust profiteers to justify their plunder.”

Christie’s executives said they had weighed the reputational risks before agreeing to sell the Horten collection.

“We are aware there is a painful history,” Anthea Peers, president of Christie’s Europe, Middle East and Africa, told The New York Times in April. “We weighed that up against various factors,” she said, adding that the Heidi Horten Foundation would be “a key driver of philanthropic causes,” which include a museum named after the heiress in Vienna.

Accusations from scholars and the daughter of a businessman who said he was targeted by Helmut Horten during the Nazi era have circled the family for years. In 2020, Heidi Horten commissioned a report on her husband by the historian Peter Hoeres. He found that Helmut Horten had undoubtedly profited from Jewish persecution, but also said that Horten was motivated by an opportunistic business sense rather than the antisemitism of the Nazis, with whom he ultimately had a falling out.

The criticism failed to slow the bidding in May, when several objects from the jewelry collection sold for more than $1 million, including a Bulgari ring with a large pink diamond that went for nearly double its high estimate, at $10 million with buyer’s fees. Almost 98 percent of the auction’s 400 jewels sold. Half the bidders were from Europe and the Middle East, according to the auction house. More than a quarter lived in the United States.

A second sale of jewelry from the Horten collection containing roughly 300 lots is scheduled for November, though some Jewish organizations, like the Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation USA, are trying to convince Christie’s to cancel it.

The company has not said what amount of fees from the sales it is planning to donate.

Zachary Small is a reporter who covers the dynamics of power and privilege in the art world. They have written for The Times since 2019.

We are relieved that the Tel Aviv Museum of Art withdrew from the Christie’s event branded “Reflections on Restitution.”

Statement on Tel Aviv Museum’s Withdrawal from Christie’s “Reflections on Restitution” Workshop

We are relieved that the Tel Aviv Museum of Art withdrew from the Christie’s event branded “Reflections on Restitution.”   

The Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA worked hard, from the outset of the controversy, to educate Christie’s leadership, to take a stand against glorifying the shameful history of Helmut Horten’s participation and profit from Nazi crimes against the Jewish people.  Christie’s refused, and bought in to the narrative, which we’ve seen over and over, that the passage of time and the “charitable purposes” of the ex-Nazi’s foundation, made it OK for Christies’ to hold the sale.   We even proposed an outcome that would have served to educate the public about what really happened, i.e. to use the proceeds of the sale to locate and compensate the heirs of the Jewish people whose properties Horten looted, and use the remainder to provide for survivors in need around the world.    They refused.

This episode should send a clear message to all auction houses, museums, and private collectors that every collection, and every sale, will be scrutinized. The passage of time cannot be allowed to sanitize the Nazis’ crimes against the Jewish people.   The Nazis and their collaborators robbed and killed millions of Jewish people in the pursuit of power and a hateful ideology.   Billions worth of looted assets remain in the wrong hands today, while families are forced to fight powerful institutions to recover their legacies.  To make matters much worse, tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors live in poverty and cannot afford the services needed for health and dignity after all they suffered. 

The Horten-Christie’s playbook of rewriting history to deny the essential facts of the Holocaust, and even citing profiteers’ current “charitable purposes,” has been used again and again by Holocaust profiteers to avoid the accountability that history and morality require.  These include global insurers such as  Allianz and Generali, who have avoided repaying the vast bulk of their unpaid insurance policies by minimizing or denying the facts about their conduct, and misrepresenting their track record of restitution – with the support of the U.S. State Department no less!  Families seeking to recover looted artworks also face egregious distortions of history by museums, collectors, and even governments, such as Spain’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation (fighting the Cassirer family of California), who trivialize the Holocaust to justify holding onto Nazi loot.

Let the Tel Aviv Museum’s commendable decision signal the end to this damnable practice among governments, institutions, and people who are willing to participate in whitewashing Holocaust perpetrators, collaborators, and profiteers, for power, money, and prestige.   

David Schaecter, President

 Joined by the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA Executive Committee: 

Dena Axelrod, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Magda Bader, Boston, MA                              

Esther Finder, Las Vegas, NV                         

Renee Firestone, Los Angeles, CA

Ella Frumkin, Los Angeles, CA

Jay Ipson, Richmond, VA                 

Vera Karliner, Miami Beach, FL     

Annette Lantos, Washington, D.C.

Louise Lawrence-Israels, Wash. D.C

Steve Moskovic, New York, NY

Shirley Rubin, Boynton Beach, FL

Anita Schuster, Las Vegas, NV

Neal Schaecter, Miami, FL

Charles Srebnick, New York, NY                            

Agnes Vertes, Weston, CT

Thomas Weiss, M.D., Miami Beach, FL


Supreme Court unanimously sides with Holocaust survivor heirs in multigenerational dispute over looted artwork

Some good news from the Supreme Court.

The high court has ruled, in a unanimous 9-0 decision, to return to a lower court a case involving a priceless artwork that was expropriated from a Jewish family by the Nazis.

A new article in describes the Cassirer case as follows,

The question before the Court pertained to legal rules determining whether federal or state “choice-of-law” standards for adjudicating the case should be applied in deciding possession of the artwork, estimated to be worth more than $30 million. These rules determine whether the case would be adjudicated under domestic or Spanish law.

“Supreme Court unanimously sides with Jewish family in Nazi looted art case” by Mark Rod April 26, 2022

Justice Kagan wrote in the unanimous US Supreme Court opinion “A foreign state or instrumentality… is liable just as a private party would be.”

“Everywhere, people, governments, and private institutions have looked the other way to profit from the Nazis’ genocidal thefts from the Jewish people — just like Spain and the Museum in this case. Heaven-willing, today’s Court’s decision will not only result in the Cassirers finally recovering their painting, but bring an end to the lies and obfuscations that have been used to deny justice to untold numbers of other Holocaust survivors and their families.” 

Sam Dubbin, quoted in “Supreme Court unanimously sides with Jewish family in Nazi looted art case” by Mark Rod April 26, 2022

High court hears case involving painting stolen by Nazis

“The Nazis murdered more than 6 million Jews, including 1.5 million children under the age of 12, and including 105 members of my family.  How on God’s Earth can Spain fight so hard to deny a Jewish family its precious legacy that was looted by the Nazis?” David Schaecter, Holocaust Survivor and HSF-USA President told the LA Times in 2020.

The case is David Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation, 20-1566.

From the Associated Press Story:

The case itself is not directly about ownership of the painting but about how to decide the case, which has been going on since 2005. Lower courts had sided with the museum.

On the other side is San Diego resident David Cassirer. His great-grandmother Lilly Cassirer Neubauer, a German Jew, at one time owned the Pissarro oil painting. The 1897 piece, whose title translates to “Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon, Effect of Rain,” is one of a series of 15 that Pissarro painted of a Paris street as seen from his hotel window.

In 1939, in order to get visas for herself and her husband to leave Germany, Neubauer was forced to surrender the piece to a Nazi art appraiser. She was paid about $360, well below the painting’s value, and the money went into an account she was blocked from accessing.

The painting changed hands a number of times since then but is now in the collection of a Spanish museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum in Madrid, which has fought to retain it. It has been said to be worth more than $30 million.

Lower courts found the museum to be the lawful owner of the painting while also criticizing Spain for not living up to commitments to return Nazi-looted art.

remembering israel arbeiter

Remembering Izzy Arbeiter

Israel Arbeiter passed away Friday, October 29 2021 on at age 96.   

Mr. Arbeiter’s life and leadership were legendary.  He was a force of nature and inspiration to people of many generations, faiths, and backgrounds.   

Izzy was the President of the Holocaust Survivors of Greater Boston for many decades, and was the driving force behind efforts to keep Holocaust memory and education alive in the Boston community. Always a dedicated advocate for survivors, Izzy was also a treasured resource for modern Germany’s and Poland’s efforts to educate their young people about the Holocaust

Israel Arbeiter, a forceful driver of Holocaust memory in Boston, dies at 96 (JTA)

“There is Never Enough Remembering” Remembering Holocaust Survivor Izzy Arbeiter, 96 (Boston Globe)

Izzy was a fierce champion of justice and dignity for Holocaust survivors.   He was a founding director and member of the executive committee of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA, joining with survivor leaders from throughout the U.S. in the year 2000 to advocate for survivors’ rights, interests, and needs. 

He testified three times before the United States Congress about his family’s Generali policy that was never honored, and the need legislation to hold insurers accountable.

Israel Arbeiter shares his story as a first-person witness and survivor of Nazi atrocities in a Holocaust forum.

Izzy was also a member of the survivor advisory committee of the Boston Jewish Children’s and Family Services.  With that, and his knowledge of survivors’ living conditions, Izzy fearlessly drew attention to horrendous shortfalls in funding for survivors’ medical, dental, mental health, long-term care, and other financial needs, and advocated for full funding for survivors needs.

It never took long in a conversation for Izzy to remind you that the Red Sox, the Celtics, and the Patriots, were better than your team, and he knew every game,  play, injury, coaching decision, or official’s call to support his teams’ superiority.

Most importantly, Izzy was extremely proud of his family, especially his grandchildren, and their growth and maturity, their achievements, and the miracle that his and other survivors’ families were able to flourish after what they experienced.

The Jewish community, the survivor community, and the world have lost another great man.

May God comfort Izzy’s wife Anna, and their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, with all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Remembering David Mermelstein

We are deeply saddened to share the news that former HSF President David Mermelstein, who survived Auschwitz and devoted much of his life to the service of fellow survivors and Holocaust education programs like March of the Living, passed away at 92 on July 6, 2021.

David always had a smile on  his face and endeared himself to thousands of people he met as a family man, entrepreneur, Holocaust survivor, and community leader.

In addition to his vigorous advocacy for survivors’ rights, interests, and needs as HSF Vice President,  David’s legacy includes decades of personally educating thousands of people of all ages through the schools, community groups, churches and synagogues, the Holocaust Memorial, and the March of the Living, who were mesmerized by his and Irene’s telling of their experiences.

The HSF network recognizes David Mermelstein’s important contributions across decades of advocacy work, Holocaust education and community service. Mr. Mermelstein’s brave efforts as a witness and storyteller will be dearly missed, but his spirit endures in the pursuit of justice and dignity for victims of the Shoah.

David is survived by his wife of 70 years, Irene, daughters Helene and Debbi, son Michael and three grandchildren and one great-grandson.