Some Defy, Some Comply With BDS Demands To Cancel Rock Concerts In Israel By Saul Jay Singer and What's My Line? - Peter Lorre; Steve Allen [panel]; Martin Gabel [panel] (Feb 14, 1960) and Biden Kneels before Haredi Mother of 12 on Rivlin’s Staff By David Israel and London exhibition focuses on ‘overlooked and understudied’ Nazi death marches
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Biden Kneels before Haredi Mother of 12 on Rivlin's Staff By David Israel
Last Monday, during President Reuven Rivlin's visit to the Oval Office in the White House, when President Joe Biden was introduced to Rivka Ravitz—who has worked as Rivlin's bureau chief, campaign adviser, and chief of staff since 1999—and found out she was the mother of twelve children, the President of the United States knelt before her.
"I have a picture of my mother here," Biden said, "You must see who she was."
This charming anecdote is even more curious considering the fact that The White House's 2022 fiscal year budget replaced the word "mothers" with "birthing people" in a section about public health funding.
The 2022 White House fiscal year budget proposal reads, I kid you not: "The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations, with an unacceptably high mortality rate for Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and other women of color. To help end this high rate of maternal mortality and race-based disparities in outcomes among birthing people."
Back to Rivka Ravitz, it looks like Joe Biden can appreciate a birthing person when he sees one.
Ravitz has had a previous incident involving body gestures: during President Rivlin's 2015 visit to the Vatican, a photograph showing Pope Francis bowing to Ravitz while she remained standing upright led to media reports that the Haredi chief of staff refused to bow because the pope was wearing a cross. But it was later revealed that Ravitz had bowed first, instead of shaking hands with the pope, so he returned the gesture with his own bow.
So, to sum up: twelve children and making two heads of state bow before her. Not bad for this Haredi lady, the offspring of—you guessed it—two Jewish American parents. Ravitz is a Bais Yaakov graduate, the second of two siblings. She later pursued a degree in management and computer science at Israel's Open University and earned an MBA. As of 2017, she is on a Ph.D. track in public policy at the University of Haifa.
She is married to Yitzhak Ravitz, who served as deputy mayor of Beitar Illit between 2014 and 2018. The Ravitzes do not have internet service at home, nor do they let in any newspapers, secular or religious.
What's My Line? - Peter Lorre; Steve Allen [panel]; Martin Gabel [panel] (Feb 14, 1960)
MYSTERY GUEST: Peter Lorre
PANEL: Dorothy Kilgallen, Steve Allen, Arlene Francis, Martin Gabel
Some Defy, Some Comply With BDS Demands To Cancel Rock Concerts In Israel
Initially a Palestinian-led movement that has expanded to antisemitic groups worldwide, the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement is a program designed to delegitimize Israel and to ultimately destroy it.
Massive and well-financed campaigns have been launched threatening university, municipal, church, union and other investment portfolios in the United States and abroad unless they yield to BDS demands, which include boycotting Israeli products, professionals, professional associations and academic institutions. Although the terrorist-supported movement has proven largely ineffective, it has had some success in convincing performing artists not to perform in Israel.
Performers who have cancelled concerts in Israel or refused to perform there include Santana, Sting, Lorde, Lana Del-Rey, Shakira, Elvis Costello, Lauryn Hill, Pharrell Williams, Snoop Dogg, Coldplay, Lenny Kravitz, Cassandra Wilson, Cat Power, and (the aptly-named) Faithless. But the worst of them may be Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, perhaps the leading supporter of the worldwide cultural BDS movement, who has compared performing in Israel to appearing in Nazi Germany, and, to drive the point home, often flies a large pink pig balloon emblazoned with a Magen David at his concerts.
Other performers have resisted enormous pressure from BDS and its supporters, and this is the story of three of them.
The chronicle of the Beatles in Israel is intriguing. In 1965, the band's plan to play in Israel fell through when they refused payment in Israeli lira and foreign currency sufficient to pay them could not be raised. (Others argue, incorrectly, that the Israeli government barred them from performing in Israel because they were "undesirables" who would have a deleterious effect on Israeli youth.)
In 1979 Paul McCartney's band, Wings, had accepted an invitation to perform, and dates were secured in Tel Aviv for July or August. However, a strong disagreement between Harvey Goldsmith, Wings' promoter, and the management of what was then the only hall in Tel Aviv that could host such rock concerts, forced cancellation of the proposed performances.
When McCartney initially announced plans for his 2008 concert in Israel, he received numerous death threats from Islamic and Palestinian leaders, and they threw even greater terrorist tantrums when he dared to visit the Western Wall. For example, terrorist spokesman Omar Bakri Mohammed publicly proclaimed:
Paul McCartney is the enemy of every Muslim . . . If he values his life, Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there. The sacrificial operatives will be waiting for him.
Israel, taking the threats very seriously, reportedly assigned a security detail team of some 5,000 officers and guards, including 20 elite Mossad agents, to protect him. But McCartney would not be intimidated; he publicly acknowledged the threats but, as he told the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs: "I got death threats, but I have no intention of surrendering and I'm coming anyway." He told the media "I've heard so many great things about Tel Aviv and Israel, but hearing is one thing and experiencing it yourself is another."
And he did: in the face of continuing death threats from Islamic and Palestinian leaders, McCartney became the first Beatle to play Israel, as he played before some 40,000 fans in Ganei Yehoshua Park in Tel Aviv. He began with Hello, Goodbye and went on to perform beloved songs from the Beatles catalogue, including Let It Be, Give Peace a Chance, GetBack, I'll Follow the Sun, and Something – which he played on a ukulele. He introduced Hey Jude by calling it "Ahalan Jude," delighting the audience. ("Ahalan" is a common Hebrew slang word of greeting indicating an enthusiastic "Hey, there").
He sprinkled his performance with various Hebrew phrases, including wishing the crowd a "Shana Tova" (Rosh Hashanah was five days later), adding "ze mi'pa'am" (this one is from a long time ago), and quipping "I will also speak some English tonight."
Before playing My Love, he declared "ze l'zecher Linda" ("this is in memory of Linda), dedicating the song to his late wife, Linda Eastman. (Many people do not know that Linda was Jewish which means, of course, that all of McCartney's children through her are Jewish.)
Though he carefully avoided political statements during the performance, McCartney met before the concert with Israelis from the One Voice Movement, whose mission is to empower Jews and Palestinians to push for peace and a two-state solution. He had also been scheduled to visit Ramallah, but Palestinians began a mass protest and the visit had to be cancelled for security reasons.
Instead, Sir Paul visited Bethlehem, where he stopped at a school for Palestinian children learning music. The music legend sat with a group of 5- to 12-year-old students and joyfully joined in their singing of "do, re, me." He entered a room where, seeing a young girl practicing violin obviously nervous and near tears, he took the instrument from her, played a few screeching notes, and said "See, I'm much worse than you." He jammed with students, including playing a song for them on harmonica, and told the teachers that it was important to remember to use music, a universal language, as an opportunity for tolerance.
Exhibited below is a ticket from Elton John's June 17, 2010, concert at Ramat Gan Stadium. In the midst of anti-Israel political rallies and show cancellations by other artists, John held a wildly successful one-night concert at Ganei Yehoshua near Tel Aviv, telling the audience that, notwithstanding cancellations by other artists, "ain't nothing gonna stop me from coming here, baby." He added that there could not be a nicer place than Israel for him to open his eight-week European tour.
Ticket to Elton John's 2010 concert in Israel.
Pounding his piano in blue-tinted sunglasses before nearly 50,000 screaming fans, Sir Elton took center stage in a battle over Israel's image, performing a broad range of his best-loved songs from Crocodile Rock to Your Song. To quote Israel's local station, Channel One, John was the "single righteous artist in a sea of boycotters."
John's appearance in Israel (he had last performed there in 1979 and 1993) came on the heels of cancellations by well-known artists such as British rocker Elvis Costello and Carlos Santana, who yielded to pressure from pro-Palestinian groups. Following the May 31, 2010, interception by Israel of a Gaza-bound flotilla that left nine passengers dead, many other artists cancelled, including The Pixies, Klaxons, Gorillaz, and Devendra Banhart. Many of the cancelling acts admitted that they had been targeted by pro-Palestinian groups.
The British music star greeted the enthusiastic crowd of some 50,000 by saying "Shalom." After singing Your Song, one of his most popular early hits, he turned to the audience and enthusiastically announced "that's your song, Israel."
After his second number, Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting, he attacked other artists who skipped their Israel dates; pumping his fist, he said, "We are so happy to be back here! . . . Musicians spread love and peace and bring people together. That's what we do. We don't cherry-pick our conscience." Later, he took an additional swipe at Israel boycotters on his website and defended his decision to appear in Israel:
I have always believed that music inhabits a world set apart from politics, religious differences or prejudice of any kind . . . Throughout my career I have made a point of playing concerts in challenging places, such as the USSR and Northern Ireland in the 1970s, Israel in the 1990s and very recently Morocco . . . Music is, and always will be, a universal language, free from boundaries. It can and does inspire unity and builds bridges between people, and I will continue to play concerts anywhere in the world where I can encourage that unity.
Sir Elton took heat from the moment he booked the concert, months before the June date and long before Israel's flotilla raid gave international haters their latest pretext for seeking to boycott Israel. For example, the British Committee for Universities of Palestine wrote in an open letter to John urging him to boycott Israel:
When you stand up on that stage in Tel Aviv, you line yourself up with a racist state . . . Do you want to give them the satisfaction? . . . You may say you're not a political person, but does an army dropping white phosphorus on a school building full of children demand a political response? Does walling a million and a half people up in a ghetto and then pounding that ghetto to rubble require a political response from us, or a human one?
Moreover, Facebook groups were established to apply pressure on John. It would have been easy for him to use the flotilla as an excuse to pull out, especially since his last appearance in Israel back in 1993 was somewhat problematic (he was mobbed by the paparazzi), but he was determined to play in Israel and very much enjoyed his time there.
There are many Jewish connections in the history of the Rolling Stones. Andrew Loog Oldham, who managed the Stones and is credited with shaping their "bad boy" image; photographer Gered Mankowitz, who shot the group's early album covers and contributed to their "rebellious and dangerous" reputation; and Allen Klein, who managed the band and negotiated a tremendous record deal for them, were all Jewish.
The Stones' first Top 10 hit in America, Time Is On My Side (1964), was written by Jerry Ragovoy, a Jewish rhythm and blues songwriter. In Shattered (1978), Jagger's lyric includes what may be the only use of Yiddish in a rock and roll song to hit the charts: "Shmatta shmatta shmatta, I can't give it away on Seventh Avenue."
Many musicologists maintain that Paint It Black (1966) drew on klezmer music; in fact, Keith Richards himself famously acknowledged the Jewish quality of the song, advising Rolling Stone magazine, "It was a different style to everything I'd done before . . . Maybe it was the Jew in me. It's more to me like Hava Nagilla or some Gypsy lick." There are many other Jewish references in the band's songs and albums, too numerous to discuss here.
According to guitarist Ronnie Wood, the inspiration for the Stones to perform in Israel was Bob Dylan who, after a concert, told Wood with great delight and sporting an ear-to-ear grin – Dylan was not known for such exuberant expressions, to say the least – "Next is Israel – we're going to Tel Aviv!"
The appearance of a world-class group of this magnitude in Israel represented an important victory against BDS in general and Waters in particular. In deciding to play Israel, the Rolling Stones resisted incredible pressure from Pink Floyd and others not to play there, including open letters to the public castigating the band for supporting "an apartheid state."
Moreover, Jagger and the Stones showed remarkable sensitivity to the religious needs of Israelis by delaying the start time of the concert to allow Orthodox Jews time to get to the show after Shavuot and obtaining permission from the Tel Aviv municipal government to extend the 11:00 p.m. curfew for public performances. Many observant Jews had rented apartments in Tel Aviv for Shavuot so that they could get to the concert after Yom Tov.
Mick Jagger began the concert in Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv by wishing everyone a "Shavuot Sameach, Israel," and he peppered the audience with occasional attempts at Hebrew phrases, which elicited cheers from the crowd, including referring to the band as "Avanim Mitgalgalot" (Hebrew for "Rolling Stones"). He told the crowd appreciatively that "atem kahal meturaf! ("you are an insane audience") after the audience sang a heartfelt "Happy Birthday" in Hebrew to Charlie Watts, and he closed the show with "shalom Tel Aviv" and "layla tov."
Copy of photo of the Rolling Stones at the Western Wall; Charlie Watts.
On the day before the concert, lead singer Mick Jagger, guitarist Ronnie Wood, drummer Charlie Watts and keyboardist Chuck Leavell traveled to Jerusalem to visit the Old City, where they also visited the Western Wall. Jagger posted a photo of himself with his palms against the Kotel with the caption "The Holy Land . . . what an experience. I will never forget this day," which sent the BDS supporters and Israel haters into a frothing frenzy. Jagger also visited Caesarea, and he and other members of the band were seen in a Tel Aviv café near their hotel having a grand old time in Israel.
The Stones were reportedly paid $6.7 million for the one-night performance, which was arguably the most technologically sophisticated show in Israeli history, including LED panels and a 111-foot catwalk extended from the stage.
Other performers who should be recognized and appreciated for standing up to the BDS movement and performing in Israel include Paul Simon on July 21, 2001; Jethro Tull on September 12, 2004; and Bob Dylan on June 11, 2020. Other brave performers include Alicia Keys, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the late Leonard Cohen, Guns N' Roses, Aerosmith, Cyndi Lauper, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Soundgarden, The Pixies, Neil Young, Paul Anka, Prodigy and Boy George.
London exhibition focuses on 'overlooked and understudied' Nazi death marches
Wiener Holocaust Library highlights early postwar efforts to investigate 'mobile concentration camps' and the identity of their victims
An undated clandestine image of a Nazi-led forced march. (Courtesy US Holocaust Memorial Museum)
LONDON — It has been described as the "last murderous eruption" of the Third Reich. In the closing months and weeks of World War II, the SS evacuated its vast network of concentration camps, forcing hundreds of thousands of prisoners onto death marches.
The exact number of those who perished is impossible to quantify. Many died by the sides of roads from exhaustion on routes which sometimes snaked for hundreds of miles across the ever-shrinking territory of Hitler's Germany. Others were picked off and shot by guards as they fell behind or were murdered in apparently random acts of killing.
But, as a new exhibition at London's Wiener Holocaust Library details, this final act of Nazi savagery has often been an "overlooked and understudied" aspect of the Holocaust.
The exhibition, which runs until August 27, contains survivor testimonies which have been translated into English for the first time. It outlines early postwar efforts to investigate the death marches and the identity of their victims.
It also graphically challenges the notion that the Nazis kept German civilians entirely insulated from their darkest crimes.
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"As the marches crossed through communities throughout Germany, these 'mobile concentration camps' entered into their lives," write Prof. Dan Stone and Dr. Christine Schmidt, the exhibition curators, in an accompanying guide. "No one could fail to observe the emaciated, weakened inmates, the dead bodies that littered the road, and the brutality of the guards."
Dr. Christine Schmidt, deputy director and head of research at the Wiener Holocaust Library. (Toby Simpson/ Adam Soller Photography)
The exhibition also highlights how the vast majority of those responsible for the death marches went unpunished.
The death marches occurred in three stages as Hitler's armies retreated in the face of the Allied advance. In the first, commencing in the summer of 1944, camps in eastern Poland and the Baltic states were evacuated. In January 1945, a new stage began involving prisoners in large camps, including Auschwitz, in occupied Poland. For many inmates, their final destination — if they reached it — was Bergen-Belsen.
Prof. Dan Stone of the Royal Holloway University of London and co-curator of the Wiener Holocaust Library's 'Death Marches: Evidence and Memory.' (Courtesy)
Two months later, a final stage saw camps in Germany itself evacuated. By the time of the German surrender, at least 35 percent of the more than 715,000 inmates still held in concentration camps in January 1945 were dead. Those forced to participate in the death marches included every nationality from across Europe. Jews, who were murdered in disproportionately large numbers, were singled out for especially brutal treatment.
The first accounts of the death marches were provided shortly after the end of the war by survivors to relief workers in displaced persons camps and to agencies attempting to trace missing people. Investigators compiling evidence for war crimes trials and historical commissions also collected valuable testimony. Today, the Wiener Holocaust Library holds 45 eyewitness accounts of death marches which have been translated into English, digitized and made available online for the first time.
As the exhibit makes clear, survivors' accounts are often fragmentary — reflecting the arbitrary violence and chaotic nature of the death marches — and can be difficult to interpret. Nonetheless, they provide historically vital evidence about the appalling conditions on the marches and about how some prisoners managed to survive them.
'Death Marches: Evidence and Memory,' a new exhibition at the Wiener Holocaust Library in London. (Courtesy)
Hungarian survivor István Klauber, for instance, provided a graphic account in August 1945 of the "indescribable ordeals" faced by those on a death march to Dachau in the final days of the war.
"The real suffering started then," he told Hungary's National Committee for Attending Deportees. "After three days of marching we arrived in Gleiwitz. The next day we were taken to Buchenwald. It took us 11 days to get there… We traveled in open freight cars in a wild blizzard, we were wearing ragged summer clothes, we had no blankets and we had no food or water… The guards were not satisfied with hundreds of people dying of fatal exhaustion, so they used more radical methods: they attacked with machine guns."
Out of the 10,000 prisoners leaving with the transport, Klauber recounted, only 2,000 arrived in Dachau on April 27, 1945. "All of us were close to death," his account concluded.
Efforts at escape were, other survivors recalled, perilous and the guards exacted a high price on those who tried and failed.
Items on display at the Wiener Holocaust Library's new exhibition, 'Death Marches: Evidence and Memory.' (Courtesy)
"What prevented so many prisoners from attempting to escape was the thought of months of having to wander around in the woods with the constant fear of being captured," Flossenbürg concentration camp survivor Leon Unger said in 1959.
"As long as you still had strength and you could march, you clung too much to life in order to endanger it by an escape attempt so close to the end of the war. And when you lost the physical strength, the will and the moral decisiveness for escape went also," he said.
Moreover, Unger noted, although the prisoners assumed that the war was going to finish quickly, "we had no idea that the American soldiers were so close on our heels."
The sense of hopelessness felt by some of those who survived is illustrated by the words of Iby Knill, who was liberated on a death march towards Bergen-Belsen.
"Time seemed unimportant now," she recalled. "Contrary to friends, I felt no desire to go back home; I felt certain that there was nobody waiting for me. I felt that it did not matter where I was or what was to happen to me. There was no euphoria — no joy."
The story of Eugene Black, a Jewish teenager who survived Auschwitz, Buchenwald and a forced march in March 1945 from the Mittelbau-Dora camps to Nordhausen, offers a rare slim shard of light in an otherwise bleak tale. He then spent seven days on a train — "the train would pull up, the doors would open, and we had to throw the dead bodies out" — before a further march to Bergen-Belsen. The camp, he recalled, was "a hellhole."
Eugene Black at Paderborn. (Courtesy of the Black family)
On liberation, the 17-year-old, who discovered that he had lost most of his family, worked as an interpreter for the British army. There he met his future wife, Annie, with whom he went to live in England in 1949.
On occasion, as the exhibition shows, the hopes and fears of those who did not survive the marches were captured and preserved. The last poem written by famed Hungarian poet Miklós Radnóti, who was murdered on a march from Bor (now in Serbia) toward Austria, was found in his notebook. It was retrieved when Radnóti's body was exhumed from a mass grave after the war.
Another poignant message was found on a scrap of a letter retrieved among the personal belongings of one of the 140 victims of a death march exhumed near Neunburg vorm Wald on the Czech border. "Now I know that I will never and nowhere feel so happy as when I am with you," it reads.
Those exhumations were part of a massive postwar Allied effort, undertaken by what would become the International Tracing Service (ITS), to identify the victims of the death marches. Local mayors were ordered by the Allies to provide cemetery maps and drawings indicating where "united nationals" were buried.
Fieldworkers attempted to retrace the route of the death marches, locate where those who had perished might have been buried, and, with the permission of military authorities, exhume bodies. But what the exhibition describes as "gruesome" forensic processes only rarely revealed the identities of victims.
Police photographer, forensic investigators and workers carrying out an exhumation in Neuenkirchen 1949. (ITS Digital Archive Wiener Holocaust Library Collections)
The evacuation of the Flossenbürg camp in mid-April 1945 was the first death march to be investigated by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration's (UNRAA) Bureau of Documents and Tracing, a forerunner of the ITS.
Over several days, most of the camp's more than 45,000 prisoners had been forced from the camp in multiple directions. The UNRRA probe, intended as model for future efforts to trace death marches, eventually produced three volumes of research and an archive including maps, forensic evidence and photographs. It also succeeded in identifying the sites of atrocities and graves along the entire route to the Bavarian city of Cham. The primary focus of the investigation, an ITS review made clear, was "to identify the victims, rather than to count the graves or to indict the Nazis responsible for these mass murders."
Iby Knill endured a death march at the end of World War II. (Holocaust Survivors Friendship Association)
The ITS was not, though, without its own prejudices. In 1959, Lina Exel contacted the tracing service to enquire if her father, Karl Franz, might still be alive. He had been deported to Auschwitz and later transferred to Buchenwald. A report compiled after the Neunburg vorm Wald exhumation detailed a wallet, containing photographs of his children and wife, found on Franz's body at the site. However, in an indication of the poor treatment which Roma-Sinti sometimes received from the ITS at this time, Exel was not informed of her father's fate and place of burial.
Perhaps one of the most shocking aspects of the death marches detailed by the exhibition is the manner in which they challenge the notion of the Holocaust as an "industrial genocide."
"In the final stages of the war, killing took place face-to-face in public, in a brutal way and on a huge scale," the curators state. This is illustrated by clandestine images taken by Maria Seidenberger of a forced march from Buchenwald to Dachau as it passed near her family's home in Herbertshausen, north of Munich.
Seidenberger's mother gave potatoes to the prisoners, reflecting the manner in which some Germans attempted to provide inmates with food and water. This action was itself not without risk, as those who came to the aid of the prisoners were threatened by guards. Indeed, some German civilians even helped inmates by offering them shelter in their homes — an act of resistance that could have brought severe consequences.
An undated clandestine image of a forced march by Nazis. (US Holocaust Memorial Museum)
But such resistance was all too rare. Some civilians refused pleas for food from those on the marches. Others shot inmates or assisted the SS in recapturing escaped prisoners who had gone into hiding. As Gabor Teller, a Jewish survivor who was on a march from Flossenbürg to Wetterfeld, recalled: "Nobody wanted to take us in. The mayors, from the city or from the villages, they told us they would not make the village dirty with the Jews."
Predictably, few civilians who assisted in the persecution of prisoners paid any price for their actions. Only three were prosecuted after the war in West Germany, although the search for justice was hampered by the fact that survivors did not know, or couldn't remember, the names of perpetrators.
More shocking, but no less surprising, was the manner in which those who organized the marches, or ordered or participated in the killing of prisoners, also escaped justice.
The arrow in this drawing of a cemetery indicates the burial of three non-German civilians. (ITS Digital Archive, Wiener Holocaust Library Collections)
In April 1945, for instance, Gerhard Thiele, a local Nazi Party boss, ordered the brutal murder near the town of Gardelegen of 1,000 slave laborers who had been evacuated from the Mittelbau-Dora and Hannover-Stöcken concentration camps. Despite Thiele's efforts to cover his tracks by changing his name, he was subject to investigations in West Germany in the 1960s and 1980s. He was, however, never prosecuted and died peacefully in 1994.
But some German civilians were nonetheless made to face up to the consequences of the death marches. Barely 10 days after the massacre, by which time the town had fallen to the Allies, the American authorities ordered Gardelegen's entire population to gather in its main square. Residents were then made to carry crosses to the local cemetery and plant them by the graves of the massacred slave laborers.
Civilians from Gardelegen assembled in town square by US military to march to nearby cemetery of massacre to plant crosses. (Stiftung Gedenkstätten Buchenwald und Mittelbau-Dora National Archives Records Administration)
Elsewhere, as Allies forces came across massacre sites, they ordered local people to exhume bodies, build coffins and afford the victims a decent burial. Described by one historian as "forced confrontations," these actions were also, the exhibition notes, "designed to humiliate and admonish the German people for crimes committed in their name."
It is, argues Stone, hard to explain why the death marches have often been overlooked by historians. This may, he suggests, reflect the fact that the late stages of the war in general, not just the Holocaust, were neglected by scholars — apart from military historians — because they were "chaotic and confusing."
"In some ways, it was easier to go from the period of mass killing to the liberation of the camps," Stone writes. Nonetheless, he believes, "we learn a good deal about the nature of Nazism and the Third Reich in its final days" from the death marches.
As with any aspect of the Holocaust, it is impossible to understand why the death marches occurred and the exhibition purposefully leaves the question open. It emphasizes, however, that the power of life and death often lay in the hands of individual guards. It was, the historian Daniel Blatman has argued, "these local decisions that transformed the evacuations into murder routes."
Perhaps, though, the words of Thomas Buergenthal, who was 10 years old when he was forced onto a march when Auschwitz was evacuated, offer the simplest explanation.
"In January 1945 Germany was fighting for its survival and yet the Nazi regime was willing to use its rapidly dwindling resources — rail facilities, fuel and troops — to move half-starved and dying prisoners from Poland to Germany," Buergenthal said seven decades later. "Was it to keep us from falling into the hands of the Allies or to maintain Germany's supply of slave labor? The insanity of it all is hard to fathom, unless one thinks of it as a game concocted by the inmates of an asylum for the criminally insane."