From 1945 until around 1960, ceremonies of a new kind took place throughout Europe to
commemorate the Holocaust and the deportation of Jews; ashes would be taken from the site
of a concentration camp, an extermination camp, or the site of a massacre and sent back to
the deportees country of origin (or to Israel). In these countries, commemorative
ceremonies were then organised and these ashes (sometimes containing other human remains)
placed within a memorial or reburied in a cemetery. These transfers of ashes have,
however, received little attention from historical researchers. This article sets out to
describe a certain number of them, all differing considerably from one another, before
drawing up a typology of this phenomenon and attempting its analysis. It investigates the
symbolic function of ashes in the aftermath of the Second World War and argues that these
transfers – as well as having a mimetic relationship to transfers of relics – were also
instruments of political legitimisation.
This article has two aims: to examine the effects of victim proximity to crematoria ashes and ash pits both consciously and unconsciously in a subset of Holocaust survivors, those who were incarcerated at the dedicated death camps of Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, as well as Auschwitz-Birkenau; and to contrast these effects, the subject positions they produce, with their suppression as the basis both for a strategy of survival during incarceration and for a reimagined identity after the war. Within a cohort of four survivors from Rudolf Reder (Belzec), Esther Raab (Sobibor), Jacob Wiernik (Treblinka) and Shlomo Venezia (Auschwitz), I trace the ways in which discrete memories and senses became constitutive in the formation of the subject prior to and after escape – the experience of liberation – so that essentially two kinds of subjects became visible, the subject in liberation and the subject of ashes. In conjunction with these two kinds of subjects, I introduce the compensatory notion of a third path suggested both by H. G. Adler and Anna Orenstein, also Holocaust survivors, that holds both positions together in one space, the space of literature, preventing the two positions from being stranded in dialectical opposition to each other.
During the Second World War and its aftermath, the legend was spread that the Germans
turned the bodies of Holocaust victims into soap stamped with the initials RIF, falsely
interpreted as made from pure Jewish fat. In the years following liberation, RIF soap was
solemnly buried in cemeteries all over the world and came to symbolise the six million
killed in the Shoah, publicly showing the determination of Jewry to never forget the
victims. This article will examine the funerals that started in Bulgaria and then
attracted several thousand mourners in Brazil and Romania, attended by prominent public
personalities and receiving widespread media coverage at home and abroad. In 1990 Yad
Vashem laid the Jewish soap legend to rest, and today tombstones over soap graves are
falling into decay with new ones avoiding the word soap. RIF soap, however, is alive in
the virtual world of the Internet and remains fiercely disputed between believers and
Dead bodies, evidence and the death march from Buchenwald to Dachau, April–May 1945
Christopher E. Mauriello
This article utilises the theoretical perspectives of the forensic turn to further expand our historical understandings and interpretations of the events of the Holocaust. More specifically, it applies a theory of the materialities of dead bodies to historically reconstruct and reinterpret the death march from Buchenwald to Dachau from 7 to 28 April 1945. It focuses on dead bodies as ‘evidence’, but explores how the evidential meanings of corpses along the death-march route evolved and changed during the march itself and in the aftermath of discovery by approaching American military forces. While drawing on theories of the evidential use of dead bodies, it remains firmly grounded in empirical historical research based on archival sources. The archives at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp contain eyewitness accounts and post-war trial testimony that enable a deeply contextualised ‘microhistory’ of the geography, movements, perpetrators, victims and events along this specific death march in April and May 1945. This ‘thick description’ provides the necessary context for a theoretical reading of the changing evidential meanings of dead bodies as the death march wove its way from Buchenwald to Dachau and the war and the Holocaust drew to an end.
This article describes the powerplay around the recent discovery (summer 2015) of
eighteenth-century Jewish graves in the French city of Lyon. Prior to the French
Revolution, Jews had no right to have their own cemeteries, and the corpses of the
deceased were buried in the basement of the local catholic hospital, the Hôtel- Dieu. In
recent years this centrally located building was completely renovated and converted into a
retail complex selling luxury brands. The discovery and subsequent identification of the
graves – and of some human remains – led to a complex confrontation between various
actors: archaeologists, employed either by the municipality or by the state; religious
authorities (mostly Lyons chief rabbi); the municipality itself; the private construction
companies involved; direct descendants of some of the Jews buried in the hospital‘s
basement; as well as the local media. The question of what to do with the graves took
centre stage, and while exhumations were favoured by both archaeologists and the
representatives of the families, the chief rabbi – supported by the construction companies
– proved reluctant to exhume, for religious reasons. In the first part of his article the
author details the origins of this Jewish funerary place and current knowledge about it.
He then goes on to analyse what was at stake in the long negotiations, arguing that the
memory of the Holocaust played a role in the attitude of many of the parties involved. By
way of conclusion he considers the decision not to exhume the graves and elaborates on the
reasons why this led to some dissatisfaction.
Marie-Luce Desgrandchamps, Lasse Heerten, Arua Oko Omaka, Kevin O'Sullivan, and Bertrand Taithe
the leadership of the American Jewish Committee in New York. In the meeting, they
spread out photographs of famished Biafran children, prompting reminders of the
Holocaust. The sources show us that the Holy Ghost Fathers already verbally framed
the pictures in that way themselves. Feeling reminded of reports by survivors of the
camps in the 1940s, the American Jewish leaders felt they could not make the mistake
of ignoring them again: they had to do something about this crisis that was
aftermath of the events in Biafra – in particular, the emergence of different types of humanitarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and use of the word ‘genocide’ – and memory of the Holocaust – to internationalise a cause and mobilise against extreme acts of violence.
Hakim Khaldi, Abdulkarim Ekzayez and Ammar Sabouni were all aid workers during the Syrian conflict and all analysed the situations they observed in the field. Khaldi, as a member of an international humanitarian organisation, tells of the
the Holocaust. In March 1995, a research team organised by Alison Des Forges of HRW and Eric Gillet of FIDH established an office in Rwanda and began to gather evidence, focusing both on the organisation of the genocide at the national level and on its execution at the local level, with an exploration of three local case studies. The research project that ultimately involved a dozen researchers culminated in the publication in 1999 of the 789-page report, Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda , written primarily by Des Forges (1999) .
Leave None to
scientific veracity. From the opening exhibits featuring some prehistoric hominids crouched in some dark and dank cave, to men walking on the moon shadowed by clouds of a nuclear Holocaust, so our entire history is commonly narrated as a tale of survival against the odds. That the history of the human condition is a natural history of violence is rarely questioned today. And yet, in times of extreme collapse, humans often show their very humanness, compassion and dignity, and it is often those indigenous peoples most attuned with nature who have contributed the least to
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