Advocates of teaching North Carolina students about the historical suffering of Black people and Native Americans were told to file their own legislation instead of including it in a new bill about the Holocaust.
The state House Education Committee backed legislation requiring the State Board of Education to include Holocaust and genocide instruction in English and social studies standards used in middle and high schools.
The committee narrowly rejected an amendment that would have required the state board to also integrate Black history into the standards.
A CORPORAL AND A KAPO crossed the yard toward the hospital block. They saw kapos and guards throwing piles of paper into burning death pits. They came to the hospital block. The kapo opened the door. “Careful,” he said. “Don’t step in any shit.”
The corporal waved a cigar. “Phew. They stink more alive than dead.”
“The Kommandant wants it cleaned.”
The corporal unclipped his revolver. He aimed toward the ceiling and fired. “Time to clean up. You hear!”
They walked among the bunks. People turned their eyes.
The two men stopped near Shosha’s bunk. She looked at their legs and feet. They looked in at Janusz Jerczek, sandwiched between Julia and Shosha.
“What are you doing?” Shosha said.
The guard and the kapo dragged Jerczek out of the bunk.
The corporal dropped his cigar.
“What are you doing?” another voice said. “What do you want with him?”
“Where are you taking him?” Shosha asked. Jerczek looked at her sternly but knowingly.
“Shut up or I’ll shut you up,” the corporal said.
They dragged Jerczek out of the hospital block.
“Where are they taking him?” Shosha said. “Are they going to kill him?” Julia took Shosha’s wrist and squeezed. “Are they going to kill him?” Shosha asked. “Why did they take him?”
Shosha lay in the bunk. She stared at the floor. Her eyes moved to the corporal’s cigar butt. She stared at it. Then she extended her hand toward it.
“Leave it,” Julia said.
Shosha picked it up.
“It’s mine,” Julia said. “You don’t smoke.”
“You can have it when I’m done.”
She tore a piece of her dress and set the lit end to it. Soon she had a flame.
“You have a fire.”
“Dear God—a fire.”
Shosha sat next to her bunk, peeling thin slivers of wood from planks and posts. Other prisoners crawled over. They handed her papers and rags and pieces of wood.
“We ought to burn this fucker down,” Julia said.
The man from the bunk over Shosha watched the fire grow. “You have a fire,” he said. “That means you can eat a warm meal.”
“With what?” Julia asked.
“With this.” The man held out his bony hand.
“Go away,” Shosha said.
“You think I’m crazy.”
Shosha wouldn’t look at him.
“I’m not living long,” he said. “Why should my death be meaningless?” The other prisoners looked at Shosha. The man lowered his hand. He started to withdraw it when Shosha reached up and grabbed it. She looked up at him.
He could see her eyes, purple-blue and clear in the flame.
“You won’t die,” she said.
“Wanna bet?” Julia said.
Shosha looked around at the others. She licked her dry lips and took a deep breath. “L’Chaim,” she said. Then louder, “L’Chaim!”
No one responded.
“L’Chaim,” Shosha yelled again.
Silence. No one spoke. Julia looked at Shosha.
“Okay,” Julia said. “L’Chaim!”
“L’Chaim,” someone else finally responded.
“L’Chaim,” from a little farther down. “L’Chaim.”
“You Jews stop saying that. You’ll get us all killed.”
But the echo kept traveling.
“L’Chaim! L’Chaim! L’Chaim!”
“I’m not a Jew, but L’Chaim!”
“Make that a double! L’Chaim! L’Chaim!”
“Ah what the hell,” another woman said. “L’Chaim!”
Shosha looked up at the man with the bony hand. “We live,” she said.
From The Fires of Lilliput, Chapter 47
Photo: Auschwitz survivor Zofia Posmysz, who turns 98 this August.
Polish hat-maker and restaurateur Wolf Wengrowicz sought to save his twin boys when Nazi forces invaded in 1940.
“He feared the worst when he heard Nazis were murdering Jewish people, and reluctantly dropped off his sons Jack and Leon, both 4, from the Jewish ghetto of Anderlecht in Brussels, to the nearby Wezembeek orphanage,” Jack’s son, Max Cohen, said Saturday.
“Wolf's fears were justified," Cohen explained. "He was sent to Auschwitz."
New light on what happened to Jack and Leon is shed in a book by fourth-year Dutch law student Reinier Heinsman, 24, who volunteered to help a Belgian museum.
Heinsman gathered some 50 testimonies and many photos during his Holocaust research. About 10 files centered on murdered orphans, while the remainder were about surviving orphans from seven countries, including Canada.
“Reinier discovered among many items, a photo of my dad Jack and brother Leon,” said Cohen.
Cohen said Reinier’s work has helped complete “a part of myself that has been a void my entire life.”
Heinsman reports Jack and Leon were on their way to Auschwitz and almost certain death when trains were delayed by courageous individuals.
“The orphans eventually reached the attention of Yvonne Nevejean, leader of the Children’s National Care Authority in Belgium,” says the author. “Some 150 children were saved.”
In 1947, the twins were among 1,116 youngsters brought to Canada by the Canadian Jewish Congress and settled in 38 communities.
Jack died in 2017. His twin brother Leon died only nine months after Jack.
KARL AND SHOSHA CROSSED several streets with soldiers nearby.
“I don’t want to risk it,” Karl said. He motioned Shosha toward a building. “Let’s go through here.”
The building was partly collapsed and smoldering but passing through it would lead to a different street. They stepped inside, over bricks and heaps. Heat from rocks and mortar made it hard to breathe. They started to sweat and their dirty clothing clung to their skin.
“Don’t touch anything,” Shosha said.
They got through the building and stopped and gasped for air on the street. Karl bent down. Shosha leaned against a light pole.
“Look at this.” Karl pulled his wet shirt away from his chest and it made a sucking noise as it separated from his skin. He did it again. He made the shirt breathe in and out like a makeshift accordion. Shosha smiled and giggled.
“I can’t believe I’m laughing,” she said.
They walked through clouds of dust and smoke, the smell of fire, the sound of rumbling between buildings. A tank came around the corner behind them.
From Chapter 39, The Fires of Lilliput
Karl Chelzak and Shosha Mordechai are fleeing Warsaw proper as the 1944 Warsaw Uprising wends toward a Nazi victory.
This is Shosha's second revolt (!)
She fought in the 1943 Warsaw Jewish Ghetto Uprising with her family and Karl's brother, Jakub.
Photo from the 2014 film Miasto '44, about the Warsaw Uprising.
New book alert! Holocaust history, set in Russia.
"Inspired by the true story of the author’s great-grandmother’s journey during World War II, The Girl with the Silver Star is the extraordinary story of a mother’s love and will to survive during one of history’s darkest times."
One reader says:
There is something magnetic about this novel based on real events. Is it the story itself or the people who are in the center of the events? Is it the author’s voice? Or something ephemeral this reader cannot describe?