Thousands of Documents Rescued from the Nazis Resurface in a Church Basement

Oct. 24 2017

After the Holocaust was well under way, Nazi officials decided to establish a center for the study of “the Jewish question” that would carry on long after they succeeded in murdering every last Jew on the planet. It would, among other things, preserve the memory of the great service Germany had done the world by rendering it Judenrein. Joseph Berger writes:

[The Germans] appointed Jewish intellectuals and poets to select the choicest pearls for study. These workers, assigned to sift through a major Jewish library in Vilna (modern-day Vilnius) ended up hiding . . . books and papers from the Nazis, smuggling them out under their clothing, and squirreling them away in attics and underground bunkers. . . . Risking death by a firing squad, this “paper brigade” rescued thousands of books and documents.

In 1991, a large part of the collection was found in the basement of a Vilnius church, and [the contents] were hailed as important artifacts of Jewish history. . . . But months ago curators at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in Manhattan, the successor to the Vilnius library, were told that another trove, totaling 170,000 pages, had been found, somehow overlooked in the same church basement. . . . Among the finds [are] five dog-eared notebooks of poetry by Chaim Grade, considered along with Isaac Bashevis Singer as one of the leading Yiddish novelists of the mid-20th century, . . . [and] ten poems handwritten in the Vilna ghetto by Avraham Sutzkever, among the greatest Yiddish poets.

When the Germans were pushed out of Lithuania by the Soviets, survivors like Sutzkever spirited some hidden treasures to New York. (The Soviets frowned on anything evocative of [Jewish] ethnic or religious loyalties.) Meanwhile, a Gentile librarian, Antanas Ulpis, who was assembling the remnants of the national library in a former church, stashed stacks of Jewish materials in basement rooms to hide them from Stalin’s enforcers.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Avraham Sutzkever, Chaim Grade, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Vilna, YIVO

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam