THE SEQUEL - "NEVER FORGET”

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“ Never Forget”  


Those Who Brought The Guilty To Be Judged  
—  And Family Roots  —

When I Was Old Enough I Learned About My Uncles  —  Some time back I remembered a conversation with my uncle, telling me a story about the triumph over the evils in this world in Europe and then the Pacific, during World War II and the aftermath, the Holocaust.  As a child I saw the tattoos on my older cousins arms like they tag cattle, I never knew how he was involved.   I live in Tampa Bay and today we have a Holocaust museam in downtown St. Petersburg… similar to the one in Washington. 

Note: On 6/4/2021, some lowlife, vandalized and painted Swaztikas on the walls of the Holocaust museam in downtown St. Pete. I hope they got him on camera. Secular hatred well provoked by supremacists led on by the likes of Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller do not deserve to be alive.  


Quite a secret kept in our community because there were people who would have harmed him.  He died and the family met for the funeral.  I was living in Florida and I flew with my mother to NY for the funeral.  Cars were lined up block after block and the funeral home was packed.  It took up both sides of Queens Boulevard and somehow I knew this was more important than just the loss of a relative.  Many of the owners of the great garment houses in NYC were in attendance…in those days clothes were made in factories here… not elsewhere in the world.  

We knew something different,  when we met a man at his funeral, to whom we were introduced on the receiving line. And I did not have my cameras.  I was told leave them home.  I regret that.

I never ever listened to that command ever again… from my mother she took a great moment from me…my cameras were my eyes and I was blindsided…

My uncle began to appear as an important man in the community, only we knew little.  He never mentioned it to family, again for safety.  

Maybe that was he reason for no cameras, paranoia of the Holocaust was fresh then and even today we are daily reminded, seventy years later…there are still Nazi’s around… 

The Bannons, Millers and other T-RUMP Acolytes are alive and well.

My uncle Hy owned several businesses in the garment center and quite a unique import business from both the Philippines and Japan.    In those days most clothing was made in the garment center of Manhattan. 

He was a world trader.  And a sharp business man.  My aunt went to Europe to the prestigious fashion shows, saw what she liked, bought some, brought them home, made a few changes and weeks later the knock-offs came to the states faster than the originals but at lower prices for the masses.  It was a 60 million dollar business.  In those days K-Mart was big for the average consumer and they were one of his best customers.  Before blue lights and all…


Characteristics  —  In her memoirs, Justice Ruth Ginsburg remarked her mother worked in that garment center.  Our family came from that same area in the Ukraine that her family came from…  On my fathers side he came from an obscure town in Russia ... about the same time she immigrated to the United States.  

I was introduced to the distinguished gentleman who came from overseas, traveled from AUSTRIA to offer the eulogy for my uncle.  His eulogy explained things, now I understood,  I soon put it all together…

He spoke of being on this earth is a blessing from God, and one day you will meet God and he will ask of your credentials, the most important question…“ He will ask you what did you do for your fellow man, or your people”.  Then he told me what my Uncle did, and the reason he traveled half way around the world to speak at his funeral. It was a deal they had made years ago

A very long conversation with the man ensued, I then knew who he was and of his journey, I learned of the role my uncle and his brother in law had played all these years in his support … from the garment center and who had been brought to justice… It changed my whole life… I had an exclusive with  ― Simon Wiesenthal  -  The Nazi Hunter. And  I wasn’t even a reporter yet, but it was a trigger.  There are three kinds of people contact in this world…those you meet and those you remember, the third being those who challenge you and willfully accepting their challenge to do something…


Mr. Simon Wiesenthal From The Eulogy…  When the Germans first came to my city in Galicia, half the population was Jewish: one hundred fifty- thousand Jews. When the Germans were gone, five hundred were alive. ... Many times I was thinking that everything in life has a price, so to stay alive must also have a price.   And my price was always that, if I lived, I must be deputy for many people who are not alive.

The words are we will “ NEVER FORGET”  Many people believe “Never forget!” was first used this way in referring to the Holocaust. We can't confirm that, but we have found an example of that usage from soon after World War II. As part of Allied de-Nazification efforts, an exhibition entitled “Never Forget” opened on Sept. 14, 1946, in Vienna.

He was a Jewish Austrian Holocaust survivor who became famous after World War II for his work as a Nazi hunter He was born in Buchach, Ukraine on December 31, 1908 and Died On September 20, 2005.  I met him once in Queens New York and we spent a fascinating too few hours together …   

  • “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (Var.)  It was his favorite quote, but it was not his.  This quote can be traced to similar quotes as far back as Talmudic times and later credited to Edmund Burke, who never used it,  including its use by John F Kennedy in a speech in 1961  — Never happened, Burke never said it…
  • Humor is the weapon of unarmed people: it helps people who are oppressed to smile at the situation that pains them.  God must have been on leave during the Holocaust.
  • There is no denying that Hitler and Stalin are alive today… they are waiting for us to forget, because this is what makes possible the resurrection of these two monsters.
  •  Violence is like a weed - it does not die even in the greatest drought.
  • Justice for crimes against humanity must have no limitations.
  • I know I am not only the bad conscience of the Nazis. I am also the bad conscience of the Jews. Because what I have  taken up as my duty was everybody’s duty and many ignored it.
  • For your benefit, learn from our tragedy. It is not a written law that the next victims must be Jews. It can also be other people.
  • The combination of hatred and technology is the greatest danger threatening mankind.
  • The end was surely near. The Nazis killed you only when you were naked, because they knew, psychologically, that naked people never resist.
  • Technology without hatred can be a blessing. Technology with hatred is always a disaster.
  • We know that we are not collectively guilty, so how can we accuse any other nation, no matter what some of its people have done, of being collectively guilty?
  • When we come to the other world and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps and they ask us, ‘ What have you done?' there will be many answers. You will say, 'I became a jeweler.' Another will say, 'I smuggled coffee and American cigarettes.' Another will say, 'I built houses.' But I will say, ‘I didn't forget you.' 
  • The only value of nearly five decades of my work is a warning to the murderers of tomorrow, that they will never rest.
  • Should history repeat itself, my example will repeat itself too…and not once, but fifty-fold  —  



Roza ROBOTA and SAM SPITZER

921, Ciechanów – 5 Jan 1945

History  —  Much of this technical, dates and times information was gleaned from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and most importantly the story came by my personal contact and interview with Sam Spitzer, my nephews grandfather in law and my relatives during a trip to Australia.

The family pictures at the Roza Robota gate were taken with Sam Spitzer and my late brother Cye Jacobson.  Cye's son is married to Sams granddaughter, friends called him "Poppy".  

I had the rare opportunity to spend quality time with Sam Spitzer and learn of this story, his incredible life of survival and involvement.  I realized how really important  their lives had been, unselfishly and totally devoted to saving others during the most of horrific times.

There were things he disclosed in the too few hours we spent together that went beyond any kind of conduct normal humans are capable of.  From the depths of depravity and torture to the courage of those who fought back, it has a scope too wide to imagine.

It was one of the most remarkable conversations I have ever had. I learned things about the resistance movement during WWII that didn't show on the History channel. I also learned more about the camps and the relentless brutality and inhumanity exhibited there.

 

Ms. Rosa Robota  —  (Referred to, variants of spelling in other sources as Rojza, Rozia, or Rosa), was the leader and one of four women hanged in the Auschwitz concentration camp for their role in the Sonderkommando revolt of 7 October 1944.

Born in Ciechanów, Poland, to a middle-class family, Roza had one brother and one sister. She was a member of Hashomer Hatzair Zionist-socialist youth movement, and joined that movement's underground upon the Nazi occupation. Roza often used her Hebrew name, "Shoshanah."

She was transported to Auschwitz in 1942, and was sent to Auschwitz-II, the adjacent Birkenau labor camp for women, where she was involved in the underground dissemination of news among the prisoners. 

No one else from her family in Europe is known to have survived. She worked in the clothing depot at the Birkenau Effektenlager adjacent to Crematorium III of Birkenau, where the bodies of gas chamber victims were burned. She had been recruited by men of the underground whom she knew from her hometown, to smuggle "schwartzpulver", a rapidly burning compound collected by women in the "Weichsel" munitions factory, transferring it to a Sonderkommando surnamed Wróbel,who was also active in the resistance. 

This "schwartzpulver" was used to manufacture primitive grenades and possibly to help blow up the crematorium during the Sonderkommando revolt. In her work she was assisted by Hadassa Zlotnicka and Asir Godel Zilber, both also from Ciechanów, whom Robota apparently enlisted in the resistance. 

Together with a few other women who worked in the Nazi factory's "pulverraum," they were able to obtain, hide, and turn over to the men of the underground no more than one to three teaspoons of the "schwartzpulver" compound per day, and not every day. The Sonderkommando blew up Crematorium III on 6 October 1944.

Robota and three other women – Ala Gertner, Estusia Wajcblum, and Regina Safirsztajn – were arrested by the Gestapo and tortured in the infamous Bloc 23 but they refused to reveal the names of others who participated in the smuggling operation. 

They were hanged on 5 January 1945 – two women at the morning roll-call assembly, two others in the evening. Robota was 23 years old. According to some eyewitness accounts, she and her comrades shouted "Nekamah" ("Vengeance!"), or "Be Strong" to the assembled inmates before they died. Some say they shouted, "Chazak V'amatz" – "Be strong and have courage", the Biblical phrase that God uses to encourage Joshua after the death of Moses.

The Sonderkommando Revolt caused some 70 fatalities among the SS and kapos, and blew the roof off one crematorium, yet the Nazis knew the advancing Russian Army was very close to liberating the camp. It was clear to the Nazis that all evidence of the war-time atrocities had to be concealed, so the Germans attempted to destroy the other four crematoria themselves.

 

The Rosa Robota Gate  —  Roza Robota's memory lives on, in the naming of the Roza Robota Gates at Montefiore Randwick (Sydney, Australia). 


This initiative was made possible by Sam Spitzer, a resistance fighter during World War II and now a resident of Sydney.  He named the gates in honor of his war-time hero, Robota, and his late wife, Margaret. Spitzer’s sister was in Auschwitz with Robota.  At Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, a monument was built to honor Robota and the three other executed women. It stands in a prime location in the garden.


Samuel Spitzer (1922-2009)  “Poppy”  —  Excerpts from Rabbi Paul Jacobson, my nephew, eulogy for “Poppy”  I remember pulling up alongside his apartment building.  He greeted me with a warm smile and a very strong handshake, introducing himself saying, “I am called Sam.”  And when I said, “Hello Sam.  My name is Paul, ” Lisa corrected me and said, “No, no, you don’t call him Sam.  You call him Poppy.  All of my friends always call him Poppy.”

I will say only that I learned early on that Poppy was a man of conviction, a crusader for what he thought was just and right.  The events of World War II were not history to Poppy; they were the moments of his life that scarred him, that tried his faith, and brought unspeakable anguish and torment to his soul and spirit. Try as he would throughout his long life, raging against and seeking to correct the injustices of the world, Poppy was never able to find total healing for his wounds.

What we know about Poppy is that he was involved in the socialist underground movement, Ha-Shomer Ha-Tzair.  When the political party was banned, he was thrown in prison for two years.  During his imprisonment, Poppy recounts that he benefited from the mentorship of Stefan Dubchek, Slovakian politician Alexander Dubcek’s father.  

In August 1944, the Slovak national uprising, organized by communists, discovered that he was Jewish and relocated him to a concentration holding camp.   

Before he was sent to the concentration camp, he escaped into the mountains.  Poppy managed to arrange papers identifying him as non-Jewish.  He fought during the final months of World War II until Czechoslovakia was liberated in April 1945.  

An enormous turning point in Sam’s life occurred in 1942 when he was arrested as a political prisoner by the Slovak government of the time. In jail he spent many lengthy spells in solitary confinement as well as being experimented on with radium treatment. 

But what he managed to gain in that time was a development of friendship and mentorship with some of the great political characters of the time. Alexander Dubcheck (former president of Czechoslovakia) and his friendship with Alexander’s father Stefan who was a mentor to him during those 2 years in jail.

On his release from jail it was uncovered that he was Jewish and therefore he was sent straight to the camps in Sered. Amazingly he and some other young men managed to escape. 

They joined with the partisans up in the mountains where he continued to fight until well after the war ended and word finally came to them that it was over. 

He would often describe to us the fear and loneliness he felt on the mountain, coming across countless frozen bodies of families many he had known in his childhood.  

After immigration to Australia, he was involved in sports, feared by politicians and vested in real estate, he became a very successful businessman. 

If there was a cause he believed in or an injustice he was aware of he was relentless, never ceasing till he found justice. He did not care what others thought of him as he challenged Rabbis, communal leaders and organizations standing up the rights of others, especially those killed in WWII who were no longer here to speak up for themselves.

When he was young, he learned to live in a tough world, it made him tough, 
and he never altered his principles, "Poppy" rest in peace, to this day knowing you were
instrumental in making this world a lot better by your presence, 
I enjoyed our intelligent conversation… It was the best two and half hours of my life...

 

From My Nephews Eulogy For “Poppy”  —  Nephew and Rabbi Paul Jacobson: —  Lisa first introduced me to Poppy a couple of months into our relationship in early 2007 when we met for dinner on a weeknight.  I remember pulling up alongside his apartment building.  He greeted me with a warm smile and a very strong handshake, introducing himself saying, “I am called Sam.”  And when I said, “Hello Sam.  My name is Paul,”  Lisa corrected me and said, “No, no, you don’t call him Sam.  You call him Poppy.  All of my friends always call him Poppy.”

I will say only that I learned early on that Poppy was a man of conviction, a crusader for what he thought was just and right.  The events of World War II were not history to Poppy; they were the moments of his life that scarred him, that tried his faith, and brought unspeakable anguish and torment to his soul and spirit. Try as he would throughout his long life, raging against and seeking to correct the injustices of the world, Poppy was never able to find healing for his wounds. 

He was born on the 3rd of May 1922 in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. He had to work life out for himself in a tough, dog-eat-dog, dangerous world.  He learned his life lessons at a very young age, lessons that would stay with him until the very end.  No matter what came his way, Poppy held fast to his principles.

What we know about Poppy is that he was involved in the socialist underground movement, Ha-Shomer Ha-Tzair.  When the political party was banned, he was thrown in prison for two years.  During his imprisonment, Poppy recounts that he benefited from the mentorship of Stefan Dubchek, Slovakian politician Alexander Dubchek’s father.  In August 1944, the Slovak national uprising, organized by communists, discovered that he was Jewish and relocated him to a concentration holding camp. 

Before he was sent to the concentration camp, he escaped into the mountains.  Poppy managed to arrange papers identifying him as non-Jewish.  He fought during the final months of World War II until Czechoslovakia was liberated in April 1945.

The span of Sam’s younger years were colorful. His father remarried and two half brothers were born. He spoke of them with love and cared for them both very deeply. He also spoke of all the odd jobs he would take on to earn a few coins to help his father who worked as a tailor often struggling to provide for his family. For many years he worked in his lunch hour at school delivering meals to his teachers disabled brother and in return being given lunch and a small wage.

An enormous turning point in Sam’s life occurred in 1942 when he was arrested as a political prisoner by the Slovak government of the time. In jail he spent many lengthy spells in solitary confinement as well as being experimented on with radium treatment. But what he managed to gain in that time was a development of friendship and mentorship with some great political characters of the time. Many of us gathered today would have seen the photo in his study with Alexander Dubcheck (former president of Czechoslovakia) and heard of his friendship with Alexander’s father Stefan who was a mentor to him during those 2 years in jail. 

On his release from jail it was uncovered that he was Jewish and therefore he was sent straight to the camps in Sered. Amazingly he and some other young men managed to escape. They joined with the partisans up in the mountains where he continued to fight until well after the war ended and word finally came to them that it was over. He would often describe to us the fear and loneliness he felt on the mountain, coming across countless frozen bodies of families many he had known in his childhood. He told us of the tears he cried and the prayers he shouted to an empty mountain, his dead mother and to a g-d he feared had forgotten him.

Sam was not idle in those years, he continued his strong involvement with soccer in Australia, even acting as a selector for the Australian team. He forged many close friendships in the soccer arena and Margaret was also famous for her incredible hospitality and warmth that they shared with many of the young up and coming players. Sam was also there to lend an ear and advise to others in the business world. He always had a solution of how to find loopholes in the local zoning laws for business and developed a relationship of mutual respect and fear with the local politicians of his day.

But as close as Sam was with his family, there are many of us here today who can share stories of their friendships and connections to Sam.  He was a man who was always willing to hear someone’s cause, tell them a tale or two of his own.  But always willing to give advise and help in any way that he could. He was a real crusader. If there was a cause he believed in or an injustice he was aware of he was relentless, never ceasing till he found justice. 

He did not care what others thought of him as he challenged rabbis, communal leaders and organizations standing up the rights of others, especially those killed in WWII who were no longer here to speak up for themselves.  He was young, he learned to live in a tough world and he never altered his principles.



10/21/2021   aljacobsladder.com