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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.

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 Herbert Karliner

We are stricken with sadness on the passing of Herbert Karliner, one of the
last living survivors of Kristallnacht and the SS St. Louis, on the evening of June 1, 2021. Herb was 94.

Herbert Karliner was a beloved member of the Miami community, widely
known and respected for his decades of engagement with community groups, schools, churches, and synagogues, discussing his extraordinary life experiences. He was also a ubiquitous presence as teacher and docent at the Holocaust Memorial on Miami Beach, helping educate generations of school children and other visitors about the Holocaust.

Remembering Herbie Karliner
Herbert Karliner holds up the Miami Herald coverage of the St Louis refugee ship, which he was on when it was turned away with more than 900 other German Jewish refugees in 1939.
Leo Rechter in Washington City Paper, 2009

Remembering Leo Rechter

Leo Rechter, a widely loved and respected Holocaust survivor leader, passed away in New York on Friday at the age of 93. Leo was the founding Secretary of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA (HSF), and served on its board of directors and executive committee since the group’s founding. Leo also served as the long-time President of the National Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors (NAHOS), and publisher of the NAHOS Newsletter, the authoritative voice of grass roots Holocaust survivors in the United States. At its peak, the NAHOS Newsletter had thousands of subscribers among survivors, community leaders, and public officials in 20 states.

“Leo Rechter was a quintessential survivor. He was determined to rebuild the Jewish world, and show the Nazis who remained, and others who stood by silently, that we were going to fill the void with Jewish children, and fully live the values and traditions of the Jewish people. The survivors and the Jewish community have lost a giant.”

David Schaecter, HSF-USA President

Watch Leo Rechter’s survivor testimony with the USC Shoah Foundation.

Photo Courtesy of Herbert Karliner

What Kristallnacht survivor Herbert Karliner says about Kristallnacht comparisons

Today in the Forward, Herbert Karliner tells Stewart Ain “it is shameful for anyone to compare anything to Kristallnacht.”

“On Kristallnacht, my father, Joseph Karliner, had his store set on fire and destroyed. Within hours, the Gestapo arrived and took him to the Buchenwald concentration camp. It was a time of absolute terror for Jewish people. My father returned a few weeks later, and we thought we were lucky to be escaping Germany on the SS St. Louis. Well, as most people should know, we were turned away from this great country, dooming my father, my mother, my two sisters, and hundreds of others to their deaths in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camps.”

“My brother and I were very, very lucky to survive, and I was privileged to emigrate to the United States. I served in the U.S. Army and raised a family here. I believe in the strength and virtue of the American people to overcome the political differences of today, and pray for President Biden and all of our elected leaders to help heal us. But analogies to Kristallnacht or Nazism reflect a very serious misunderstanding of the vast scope of Nazi Germany’s crimes, and the crimes of its collaborators. They also denigrate the memory of 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.”

Read the rest of the interview with Herbert Karliner, who also serves on the HSF-USA executive committee, today in the Forward.

Capitol Police defend the US Capitol building from encroachment by violent insurrectionists Wednesday. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Survivors Condemn Capitol Attack, Antisemitic Imagery of Insurrectionists

HSF-USA Statement on Riots at the United States Capitol
January 10, 2021 

As Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors, we are profoundly saddened and angered by the violent attack on the United States Capitol and Congress to prevent our Nation’s sacred peaceful transition of power. It was an insurrection, an effort to overturn the people’s will in the November 3 election. For shame! We abhor the violence that threatens our ability to live together in the diverse, free, and democratic United States that we so deeply love.

It is also painful, in the year 2021, to see so many people brandishing symbols of anti-Semitism and racial bigotry, such as shirts glorifying the Holocaust, a gallows and noose, and the Confederate flag, as they attacked our Democracy. We appreciate President-Elect Biden’s clear denunciation of the anti-democratic riots, and his recognition of their anti-Semitic and racist elements.

 Dangerous anti-Semitic conspiracies once confined to dark corners of the internet are gaining traction in “respectable” quarters, without clear condemnation by all who call themselves leaders. We have previously spoken out about the painful rise of anti-Jewish rhetoric and violence including murders at religious gatherings in Pittsburgh, Poway, Monsey, and in Europe as well.

We, the remaining voices for six million Jews who were murdered because of the “normalization” of these tactics in Nazi Germany and Europe, are speaking out to sound the alarm loud and clear. The poisonous political rhetoric from government leaders and media designed to arouse hateful passions, fan the flames of anger and violence, must be condemned by our leaders at every level, and by all of us in our families, businesses, religious institutions, and communities.

As Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors, we are profoundly saddened and angered by the violent attack on the United States Capitol and Congress to prevent our Nation's sacred peaceful transition of power. It was an insurrection, an effort to overturn the people's will i the Novemmber 3 election. For shame! We abhor the violence that threatens our ability to live together in the diverse, free, and democratic United States that we so deeply love.

HSF Statement on the Passing of Congressman John Lewis

Civil Rights leader John Lewis stood up for his family and all Black Americans to demand desegregation of white supremacist institutions and address systemic injustice through nonviolence and direct action. HSF-USA recognizes the importance of Representative Lewis’s voice, from the Freedom Riders to the House of Representatives, in advancing the cause of freedom, justice, equality and dignity for all people.

Many candles in a vigil, symbolizing the millions of lives that were destroyed by the Nazis.

Holocaust Remembrance Day: We have to help each other

Today is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is occurring in 2020 during the very uncertain and dangerous coronavirus pandemic, with its terrible toll in human lives and suffering. Our hearts go out to all who have lost loved ones.

We are compelled to speak out about continuing injustices and at the same time, reflect on our survival, and the survival of the Jewish people, and share a common message of hope. It is our belief that the only way forward is to help each other, to rely on ourselves.