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Holocaust Memorial

Day of Remembrance …

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The international Day of Remembrance has begun in Israel. The day that we remember the 6 million Jews, and many others that went to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps. Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

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big1402 KL Auschwitz Work makes free Arbeit macht frei Today

Nazi Records

These – Bad Arolson is where the millions upon millions of files for Nazi records have been kept and for years now been open to the public for research purposes.

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Yad Vashem. The Holocaust museum in Israel.

You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes and a no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter

Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At Home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,

Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.

Primo Levi

Survival in Auschwitz


Book Review: beatrice & virgil

Thanks to my friend Will, over on You Tube, I read another book because he really likes this author Yann Martel, the famed writer of “Life of Pi.” Thursday night is the meet and greet here in town and I will be getting Will his autograph.

I have to say that this book was interesting. A little unassuming, and surely strange. It was a short read, but a good read nonetheless. With little books, you have to pay attention to the words, because if you miss something, you will ruin the read, and that was surely the case with this book.

A couple times I wanted to put the book down but I always went back to reread something I missed. This read was interesting in that the story starts out with one story about a writer and morphs into a literary adventure between this writer and one of his readers.

And just who and what are beatrice and virgil? And why did he choose this title of the book? You’ll have to read to find that out.

What happens next needs to be tread very carefully. Every word means something. You have to read every word in the order that they were written, and not skip anything because if you do, you may miss it. You will have to buy the book to understand what “IT” is…

The twist in the book is subtle. Though the subject matter discussed is important for historical purposes. I enjoyed the read, as I am sure you will as well.


Yom Hashoa … 4-11-10

What did you do today to remember ???

It kind of slipped my  mind, the day and all. I spent the last 2 days typing out my Old Testament Samuel Diachronic Presentation into my computer 32 slides in all and I finished it earlier tonight. Now I can get to bed at a nominal hour and listen to my over night radio show.

I have three papers to write in the next seven days. In order not to be tossed from the M.A. program. The fourth paper isn’t due until the 29th and that should not be a problem. I have to get Sophia and Origen written by next Tuesday. God give me strength…

I spoke to my friend down in Florida, the lady keeping an eye on Louise. She is home now, and was sleeping when I called earlier today. Things must be going very well that they discharged her so soon after surgery.

That’s all I have for you at the moment. So from Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz, I remember …

“You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes and a no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter

Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At Home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,

Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.”

Primo Levi

Survival in Auschwitz


January 27 2009 Holocaust Memorial Day

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krystallnacht.jpg

yellow_star_of_david.jpg

fateless_240.jpg

yad-vashem-2008.jpg

You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes and a no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter

Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At Home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,

Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.

Primo Levi

Survival in Auschwitz

Let us Remember so that We Never Forget…


Merkel urges anti-racist action

krystallnacht.jpg

BBC News Online

As Germany marks the 70th anniversary of the Kristallnacht anti-Semitic riots, Chancellor Angela Merkel said all Germans must act against racism.

At a ceremony at Berlin’s largest synagogue, she said Germans “cannot be silent” in the face of anti-Semitism.

Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, is often regarded as the starting point of the Holocaust.

Nazis ransacked Jewish homes and businesses and burned synagogues as police and firefighters looked on.

More than 90 Jewish people were murdered and about 30,000 Jewish men were sent to concentration camps on 9 and 10 November 1938.

Millions were killed by the Nazi regime, including about six million Jewish people.

‘Do something’

“Indifference is the first step towards endangering essential values,” Mrs Merkel said at the commemoration service with the Central Council of Jews at the Rykestrasse synagogue in Berlin.

“Xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism must never be given an opportunity in Europe again.

The Rykestrasse synagogue was damaged in the Kristallnacht rampage but has been recently restored.

People stand outside a Jewish-owned shop attacked on Kristallnacht (November 1938)

At least 90 Jewish people were killed on Kristallnacht

The anniversary comes at a time of concern that far right sentiments are on the rise in Germany.

“There was no storm of protest against the Nazis, but silence, shrugged shoulders and people looking away – from individual citizens to large parts of the church,” Mrs Merkel said.

“We cannot be silent, we cannot be indifferent when Jewish cemeteries are desecrated and rabbis are insulted on the street.”

On Sunday evening, a concert entitled “Tu Was”, or “Do Something”, was held at Berlin’s Tempelhof airport.

Its organiser, British violinist Daniel Hope, said he was inspired by reading a book about the events in 1938 and realising there was nothing to mark the day other than the official ceremony.

“It’s difficult to know how to commemorate a day of tragedy,” he said.

“It is a wonderful chance for everybody to think about things. Not doing something is the worst thing anyone can do”.

Peaceful protests

On Saturday, police estimated that about 600 people marched in Fulda in central Germany to protest against a march by members of the right wing National Democratic Party (NPD).

An anti-Nazi demonstrator holds a sign at a rally in Fulda, Germany (08/11/2008)

Demonstrators said Fulda was a Nazi-free zone

Demonstrators held up signs saying that Fulda was “a Nazi-free zone” and waved Israeli flags.

Police said the demonstrations were peaceful and the two groups were kept apart.

The secretary general of the Central Council of German Jews, Stephan Kramer, has said there should be better education for Germany children about the events of the Nazi era.

Mr Kramer told a German newspaper that young people should “more than ever at the moment be warned against the dangers of the future, of a new anti-Semitism and of the far-right”.


Berlin inaugurates memorial to Nazi's gay victims

The memorial for homosexual victims of the Nazi regime, designed by Norwegian artist Ingar Dragset and Danish artist Michael Elmgreen, seen in Berlin on Monday, May 26, 2008. On Tuesday, May 27, 2008 the monument will be unveiled officially.

By GEIR MOULSON, Associated Press

BERLIN – Germany unveiled a memorial Tuesday to the Nazis’ long-ignored gay victims, a monument that also aims to address ongoing discrimination by confronting visitors with an image of a same-sex couple kissing.

The memorial — a sloping gray concrete slab on the edge of Berlin’s Tiergarten park — echoes the vast field of smaller slabs that make up Germany’s memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, opened three years ago just across the road.

The pavilion-sized slab includes a small window where visitors can view a video clip of two men kissing.

Berlin’s openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit, said the monument was a reminder of the ongoing struggles that still confront gays.

“This memorial is important from two points of view — to commemorate the victims, but also to make clear that even today, after we have achieved so much in terms of equal treatment, discrimination still exists daily,” Wowereit said as he inaugurated the memorial alongside Culture Minister Bernd Neumann.

Nazi Germany declared homosexuality a threat to the German race and convicted some 50,000 homosexuals as criminals. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 gay men were deported to concentration camps, where few survived.

“This is a story that many people don’t know about, and I think it’s fantastic … that the German state finally decided to make a memorial to honor these victims as well,” said Ingar Dragset, a Berlin-based Norwegian who designed the memorial along with Danish-born Michael Elmgreen.

The commemoration “unfortunately comes too late for those who were persecuted and survived in 1945,” said Guenter Dworek, of Germany‘s Lesbian and Gay Association. “That is very bitter.”

He said the last ex-prisoner that his group knows of died in 2005.

Wowereit echoed his regret over the time it took to honor the Nazis’ gay victims.

“That is symptomatic of a postwar society which simply kept quiet about a group of victims, which … contributed to these victims being discriminated against twice,” he said.

Few gays convicted by the Nazis came forward after World War II because of the stigma attached to homosexuality. The law used against them remained on the books in West Germany until 1969, and Dworek said there were 50,000 convictions under the legislation after the war.

Not until 2002 did the German parliament issue a formal pardon for homosexuals convicted under the Nazis. One reason it took so long was because the legislation had been linked to a blanket rehabilitation of 22,000 Wehrmacht deserters — a move many conservatives opposed.

The effort to get a memorial built started in 1992, and a 1999 parliament decision to build the memorial to the Holocaust‘s 6 million Jewish victims also called for “commemorating in a worthy fashion the other victims of the Nazis.” In 2001, Jewish and Gypsy leaders backed an appeal for a monument to the gay victims.

After lawmakers approved its construction, a jury picked the winning design in early 2006 out of 17 design proposals.

The federal government financed the $945,660 building costs, while Berlin’s city government provided the site.

The designers’ original plan to feature only a video of two men kissing ran into criticism that lesbians were left out. Last year, a compromise was reached to change the memorial’s video every two years, allowing lesbian couples to be shown in the future.

The first film — a repeating clip of two men kissing, shot at the site of the memorial before it was built — was done by photographer Robby Mueller and directed by Denmark’s Thomas Vinterberg.

“It was quite important to have a direct imagery of a love scene, a passionate scene … because that is the main problem in homophobia,” designer Elmgreen told AP Television News. “You can get acceptance on an abstract level, but they don’t want to look at us.”

Germany has allowed gay couples to seal their partnerships at registry offices since 2001, although the law stops short of offering formal marriage. Berlin has a large gay community, as do other major German cities, such as Cologne and Hamburg.

The memorial to the Nazis’ Jewish victims and the new monument will soon be joined by a third memorial honoring the Roma and Sinti, or Gypsy, victims. Some 220,000 to 500,000 Gypsies were killed during the Holocaust.

Work begins this year on that memorial, also in Tiergarten park.

“We stand stunned before the brutality with which the Nazis threatened, persecuted and destroyed all those who did not correspond to their inhuman ideology,” Neumann said.

“The experience of war and Holocaust, state terror and tyranny, puts on us Germans a special responsibility to protect freedom and human rights.”


Berlin inaugurates memorial to Nazi’s gay victims

The memorial for homosexual victims of the Nazi regime, designed by Norwegian artist Ingar Dragset and Danish artist Michael Elmgreen, seen in Berlin on Monday, May 26, 2008. On Tuesday, May 27, 2008 the monument will be unveiled officially.

By GEIR MOULSON, Associated Press

BERLIN – Germany unveiled a memorial Tuesday to the Nazis’ long-ignored gay victims, a monument that also aims to address ongoing discrimination by confronting visitors with an image of a same-sex couple kissing.

The memorial — a sloping gray concrete slab on the edge of Berlin’s Tiergarten park — echoes the vast field of smaller slabs that make up Germany’s memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, opened three years ago just across the road.

The pavilion-sized slab includes a small window where visitors can view a video clip of two men kissing.

Berlin’s openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit, said the monument was a reminder of the ongoing struggles that still confront gays.

“This memorial is important from two points of view — to commemorate the victims, but also to make clear that even today, after we have achieved so much in terms of equal treatment, discrimination still exists daily,” Wowereit said as he inaugurated the memorial alongside Culture Minister Bernd Neumann.

Nazi Germany declared homosexuality a threat to the German race and convicted some 50,000 homosexuals as criminals. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 gay men were deported to concentration camps, where few survived.

“This is a story that many people don’t know about, and I think it’s fantastic … that the German state finally decided to make a memorial to honor these victims as well,” said Ingar Dragset, a Berlin-based Norwegian who designed the memorial along with Danish-born Michael Elmgreen.

The commemoration “unfortunately comes too late for those who were persecuted and survived in 1945,” said Guenter Dworek, of Germany‘s Lesbian and Gay Association. “That is very bitter.”

He said the last ex-prisoner that his group knows of died in 2005.

Wowereit echoed his regret over the time it took to honor the Nazis’ gay victims.

“That is symptomatic of a postwar society which simply kept quiet about a group of victims, which … contributed to these victims being discriminated against twice,” he said.

Few gays convicted by the Nazis came forward after World War II because of the stigma attached to homosexuality. The law used against them remained on the books in West Germany until 1969, and Dworek said there were 50,000 convictions under the legislation after the war.

Not until 2002 did the German parliament issue a formal pardon for homosexuals convicted under the Nazis. One reason it took so long was because the legislation had been linked to a blanket rehabilitation of 22,000 Wehrmacht deserters — a move many conservatives opposed.

The effort to get a memorial built started in 1992, and a 1999 parliament decision to build the memorial to the Holocaust‘s 6 million Jewish victims also called for “commemorating in a worthy fashion the other victims of the Nazis.” In 2001, Jewish and Gypsy leaders backed an appeal for a monument to the gay victims.

After lawmakers approved its construction, a jury picked the winning design in early 2006 out of 17 design proposals.

The federal government financed the $945,660 building costs, while Berlin’s city government provided the site.

The designers’ original plan to feature only a video of two men kissing ran into criticism that lesbians were left out. Last year, a compromise was reached to change the memorial’s video every two years, allowing lesbian couples to be shown in the future.

The first film — a repeating clip of two men kissing, shot at the site of the memorial before it was built — was done by photographer Robby Mueller and directed by Denmark’s Thomas Vinterberg.

“It was quite important to have a direct imagery of a love scene, a passionate scene … because that is the main problem in homophobia,” designer Elmgreen told AP Television News. “You can get acceptance on an abstract level, but they don’t want to look at us.”

Germany has allowed gay couples to seal their partnerships at registry offices since 2001, although the law stops short of offering formal marriage. Berlin has a large gay community, as do other major German cities, such as Cologne and Hamburg.

The memorial to the Nazis’ Jewish victims and the new monument will soon be joined by a third memorial honoring the Roma and Sinti, or Gypsy, victims. Some 220,000 to 500,000 Gypsies were killed during the Holocaust.

Work begins this year on that memorial, also in Tiergarten park.

“We stand stunned before the brutality with which the Nazis threatened, persecuted and destroyed all those who did not correspond to their inhuman ideology,” Neumann said.

“The experience of war and Holocaust, state terror and tyranny, puts on us Germans a special responsibility to protect freedom and human rights.”


Harper visits Auschwitz

CBC.ca Story Here

Prime Minister Stephen Harper toured the former death camp at Auschwitz on Saturday, a historic site in Poland that has come to symbolize the Nazi genocide against Jews during the Second World War.

Harper walked through the grounds accompanied by Piotr M.A. Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, and laid a wreath at the foot of a wall where thousands of prisoners were gunned down.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives at the Wall of Death for a moment of reflection at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives at the Wall of Death for a moment of reflection at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
(Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

The prime minister then toured the rest of the camp in southern Poland where an estimated 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, were killed.

Harper saw the barbed wire fences that kept prisoners penned in, gallows where they were hanged, gas chambers where they were slain in staggering numbers and ovens where their bodies were burned.

The prime minister said nothing publicly during his visit. His message in a book of remembrance read, “We are witnesses here to the vestiges of unspeakable cruelty, horror and death.”

Harper is the second Canadian prime minister to visit Auschwitz. Jean Chrétien paid a visit in 1999.

Earlier on Saturday, Harper met briefly with former Polish president Lech Walesa, the founder of Poland’s Solidarity movement.

Walesa, who organized strikes and protests in the 1970s and 1980s against Poland’s then Communist government, has an office in the old town section of the port city of Gdansk.

After meeting with Walesa, Harper travelled to Wawel Castle, near Krakow, to view wall tapestries and other artifacts that Canada helped preserve during the Second World War.

He arrived in Poland on Friday, flying in from a NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, where he secured a commitment from allies for increased troops for the war in Afghanistan.


Holocaust Memorial Day …

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krystallnacht.jpg

yellow_star_of_david.jpg

fateless_240.jpg

yad-vashem-2008.jpg

You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes and a no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter

Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At Home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,

Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.

Primo Levi

Survival in Auschwitz

Let us Remember so that We Never Forget…


Holocaust survivor learns father’s fate

 holocaust-files.jpg

By ARON HELLER, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM – In 1942, 8-year-old Moshe Bar-Yuda walked hand-in-hand with his father to a collection point in his hometown in Slovakia and watched him being shipped off to a Nazi labor camp. The boy never saw him again, and for 66 years was left to wonder about his father’s fate.

Because of a newly opened Nazi archive, the mystery has been resolved.

Bar-Yuda, now 74, was one of the first to obtain Nazi documents now available to the public after they were stashed away for more than 60 years in a secret German archive. Up to now, only limited queries were answered.

The Bad Arolsen documents — transportation lists, Gestapo orders, camp registers, slave labor booklets, death books — contain references to about 17.5 million people, Jews and non-Jews. It is the largest registry of Holocaust victims ever.

The archive showed that Bar-Yuda’s father, Alfred Kastner, was killed in a Nazi gas chamber at the Majdanek death camp in Poland on Sept. 7, 1942, less than six months after his son watched him being taken away. Bar-Yuda said despite the tragic ending, he was grateful to finally have some closure and an exact date to recite Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.

“I don’t want to say I feel terrible, and I don’t want to say the word ‘happy,’ but I feel like this open wound has finally been closed,” he said. “It closed very sadly but at least it closed.”

About 6 million Jews were killed by German Nazis and their collaborators in the Holocaust of World War II.

In August, the International Tracing Service (ITS) of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which administers the archive, began transferring digital copies of its documents to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, to Yad Vashem, Israel‘s Holocaust memorial, and to the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw, Poland.

The vast archive of war records in the small German town of Bad Arolsen opened its doors to the public in November, giving historians and Holocaust survivors access to concentration camp records detailing Nazi horrors.

The ITS has completed digitizing some 50 million index cards from shelves that would stretch 16 miles long and fill a half-dozen buildings in Bad Arolsen. The remainder of the records, relating to slave labor and displaced persons camps, will be transferred in installments between 2008 and 2010, the agency said.

Yad Vashem said it would begin responding to queries in February.

Bar-Yuda already has his answer. After reading about the opening of the archive, he turned to an old friend who worked at Yad Vashem and had been to Bad Arolsen, to find out if she could uncover any information about his father. Two weeks ago, he was handed the document that recorded his father’s execution.

Alfred Kastner, number 2802, was executed in Majdanek.

Bar-Yuda, a retired journalist and envoy for the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, was hidden during the war with his mother and two siblings and later escaped to Palestine.

Other survivors said his father had perished, either in Majdanek or in the Auschwitz death camp. But there was nothing official and no records about him — beyond the one that showed he was deported from Bratislava on March 27, 1942.

“I’ve been trying to find out what happened to him. I didn’t know anything,” said Bar-Yuda, who recently wrote a book about his own Holocaust experience.

Bar-Yuda said knowing how his father’s life ended was a great comfort after years of devastating uncertainty.

“The question marks are gone,” he said. “Now I know how to deal better with the knowledge, and not with the confusion.”

Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said the Holocaust museum was speedily integrating the new material into its database in the hopes of providing more answers.

“This story illustrates how the millions of documents in Yad Vashem’s archives, including the recently received documents from the ITS, allow us to be able to uncover the missing pieces of information, so that survivors and others will be able to finally complete the picture as to what happened to their loved ones during the Holocaust,” he said.

Allied forces began collecting the documents even before the end of the war, and eventually entrusted them to the Red Cross. The archive has been governed since 1955 by a commission that ratified an accord in November that unsealed the archive.

Yad Vashem expects the next batch of material from Bad Arolsen to arrive later this year and to have the full copy of all the ITS records by 2010.

It recently uploaded a special online request form on its Web site, and encouraged survivors seeking material from the German registry to do so.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington said the museum will begin responding Thursday to requests for information from the archives made by Holocaust survivors and their families. The museum also will be open for members of the public to look at documents.


Holocaust survivor learns father's fate

 holocaust-files.jpg

By ARON HELLER, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM – In 1942, 8-year-old Moshe Bar-Yuda walked hand-in-hand with his father to a collection point in his hometown in Slovakia and watched him being shipped off to a Nazi labor camp. The boy never saw him again, and for 66 years was left to wonder about his father’s fate.

Because of a newly opened Nazi archive, the mystery has been resolved.

Bar-Yuda, now 74, was one of the first to obtain Nazi documents now available to the public after they were stashed away for more than 60 years in a secret German archive. Up to now, only limited queries were answered.

The Bad Arolsen documents — transportation lists, Gestapo orders, camp registers, slave labor booklets, death books — contain references to about 17.5 million people, Jews and non-Jews. It is the largest registry of Holocaust victims ever.

The archive showed that Bar-Yuda’s father, Alfred Kastner, was killed in a Nazi gas chamber at the Majdanek death camp in Poland on Sept. 7, 1942, less than six months after his son watched him being taken away. Bar-Yuda said despite the tragic ending, he was grateful to finally have some closure and an exact date to recite Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.

“I don’t want to say I feel terrible, and I don’t want to say the word ‘happy,’ but I feel like this open wound has finally been closed,” he said. “It closed very sadly but at least it closed.”

About 6 million Jews were killed by German Nazis and their collaborators in the Holocaust of World War II.

In August, the International Tracing Service (ITS) of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which administers the archive, began transferring digital copies of its documents to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, to Yad Vashem, Israel‘s Holocaust memorial, and to the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw, Poland.

The vast archive of war records in the small German town of Bad Arolsen opened its doors to the public in November, giving historians and Holocaust survivors access to concentration camp records detailing Nazi horrors.

The ITS has completed digitizing some 50 million index cards from shelves that would stretch 16 miles long and fill a half-dozen buildings in Bad Arolsen. The remainder of the records, relating to slave labor and displaced persons camps, will be transferred in installments between 2008 and 2010, the agency said.

Yad Vashem said it would begin responding to queries in February.

Bar-Yuda already has his answer. After reading about the opening of the archive, he turned to an old friend who worked at Yad Vashem and had been to Bad Arolsen, to find out if she could uncover any information about his father. Two weeks ago, he was handed the document that recorded his father’s execution.

Alfred Kastner, number 2802, was executed in Majdanek.

Bar-Yuda, a retired journalist and envoy for the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, was hidden during the war with his mother and two siblings and later escaped to Palestine.

Other survivors said his father had perished, either in Majdanek or in the Auschwitz death camp. But there was nothing official and no records about him — beyond the one that showed he was deported from Bratislava on March 27, 1942.

“I’ve been trying to find out what happened to him. I didn’t know anything,” said Bar-Yuda, who recently wrote a book about his own Holocaust experience.

Bar-Yuda said knowing how his father’s life ended was a great comfort after years of devastating uncertainty.

“The question marks are gone,” he said. “Now I know how to deal better with the knowledge, and not with the confusion.”

Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said the Holocaust museum was speedily integrating the new material into its database in the hopes of providing more answers.

“This story illustrates how the millions of documents in Yad Vashem’s archives, including the recently received documents from the ITS, allow us to be able to uncover the missing pieces of information, so that survivors and others will be able to finally complete the picture as to what happened to their loved ones during the Holocaust,” he said.

Allied forces began collecting the documents even before the end of the war, and eventually entrusted them to the Red Cross. The archive has been governed since 1955 by a commission that ratified an accord in November that unsealed the archive.

Yad Vashem expects the next batch of material from Bad Arolsen to arrive later this year and to have the full copy of all the ITS records by 2010.

It recently uploaded a special online request form on its Web site, and encouraged survivors seeking material from the German registry to do so.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington said the museum will begin responding Thursday to requests for information from the archives made by Holocaust survivors and their families. The museum also will be open for members of the public to look at documents.


Vast Nazi archive opens to public

holocaust-files.jpg

By ARTHUR MAX, Associated Press Writer

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – After more than 60 years, Nazi documents stored in a vast warehouse in Germany were unsealed Wednesday, opening a rich resource for Holocaust historians and for survivors to delve into their own tormented past.

The treasure of documents could open new avenues of study into the inner workings of Nazi persecution from the exploitation of slave labor to the conduct of medical experiments. The archive’s managers planned a conference of scholars next year to map out its unexplored contents.

The files entrusted to the International Tracing Service, an arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross, have been used until now to help find missing persons or document atrocities to support compensation claims. The U.S. government also has referred to the ITS for background checks on immigrants it suspected of lying about their past.

Inquiries were handled by the archive’s 400 staff members in the German spa town of Bad Arolsen. Few outsiders were allowed to see the actual documents, which number more than 50 million pages and cover 16 linear miles of gray metal filing cabinets and cardboard binders spread over six buildings.

On Wednesday, the Red Cross and the German government announced that the last of the 11 countries that govern the archive had ratified a 2006 agreement to open the files to the public for the first time.

“We are there. The doors are open,” said ITS director Reto Meister, speaking by telephone from the Buchenwald concentration camp where he was visiting with a delegation of U.S. congressional staff members.

Survivors have pressed for decades to open the archive, unhappy with the minimal responses — usually in form letters — from the Red Cross officials responding to requests for information about relatives.

“We are very anxious,” said David Mermelstein, 78, an activist for survivors’ causes in Miami, Fla., who wants to scour the files for traces of his two older brothers whom he last saw as he passed through a series of concentration camps.

“Now I hope we will be able to get some information. We have been waiting, and time is not on our side,” said the retired businessman.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem began receiving digital copies of the entire archive in August, allowing survivors and historians more access points.

Izzy Arbeiter, 82, the head of a survivor’s organization in the area of Boston, Mass., said he hoped to go to the museum next month to browse the files.

“My goodness, I don’t know where I would start, there are so many things I am interested in,” he said. “The history of my family, of course. My parents. One of my brothers is missing. We never knew what happened to him.”

Yad Vashem said the opening of the archive was “a breakthrough” for survivors and others.

“Our understanding and knowledge of the personal story of the Holocaust will be deepened,” said Yad Vashem’s chairman Avner Shalev.

The records are unlikely to change the general story of the Holocaust and the Nazi era, probably the most intensely researched 12-year period of the 20th century.

But its depth of detail and original documentation will add texture to history’s worst genocide, and is likely to fuel a revival of academic interest in the Holocaust.

Among its files, seen by The Associated Press during repeated visits to Bad Arolsen in the last year, are the list of deportees from the Netherlands to Auschwitz on which Anne Frank‘s name appears, the list of employees of Oskar Schindler’s factory who were sheltered from death, medical records showing the number of lice on the heads of prisoners, the list of inmates evacuated by the Nazis from the Neuengamme labor camp who later died on prisoner boats mistakenly bombed by the British air force.

Defying its orderly appearance, the archive is a labyrinth of paper that has never been organized by a historian or even by a professionally trained archivist. Its main database comprises 50 million entries of names, often duplicated in different spellings, referring to 17.5 million victims of Nazi persecutions.

The Bad Arolsen facility, which has received 50 applications this month alone from researchers and institutions seeking to examine the archive, has opened a visitors room with 10 computer terminals to enable searches of files that have been scanned. But less than half of the 50 million pages have been digitized and are available on computer.

Though the archives are now open to the public, Erich Oetiker, the ITS deputy director, said anyone seeking specific information would need professional assistance and all visitors are asked to make an appointment in advance.

While it is not set up to receive unannounced visitors off the street, he said, “we will refuse nobody, but we have very limited staff to provide support.” Guided tours are also available.

Visitors have to show ID and cannot access a special category of documents — correspondences between the ITS and private or official inquirers that are less than 25 years old. Researchers must sign a waiver stating that they are personally responsible for respecting privacy laws.

The ITS gets about 700 requests each month for information about relatives, and has not yet cleared away a backlog of inquiries that reached nearly half a million a few years ago.

The Tracing Service, the Washington museum and Yad Vashem intend to hire new staff to help to ferret out specific documents.

“The challenge now is organizing the material in such a way that people can easily find what they want and what they need,” said Paul Shapiro, director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the Washington museum.

The museum took the first step by creating a database to search an inventory of more than 21,000 collections of documents, each ranging a few pages to thousands.

Allied forces began collecting the documents even before the end of the war, and eventually entrusted them to the Red Cross. The archive has been governed since 1955 by a multinational commission that normally met once a year.

Access to the archives had been closely guarded by Red Cross officials who viewed requests for academic information as a distraction from what they saw as their humanitarian task of answering requests about individuals.

In 2001 the State Department, urged on by the Holocaust museum, began pushing the 11-member governing commission to open the doors to the rapidly dying survivor population and for research.

The decision was adopted in May 2006, but it took 19 months to complete the required ratification process.

_____

Investigative researcher Randy Herschaft contributed to this report in New York.

**********************

Vast Nazi archive opens to public

 

The archive at Bad Arolsen - 28/11/2007

The archive contains details on the fate of millions of the Nazi’s victims

A vast archive of wartime German documents on the Nazi Holocaust has been opened to the public. The 47m documents, kept in Germany, contain detailed records on 17.5m forced labourers, concentration camp victims and political prisoners.

Previously, the files were only used to trace missing persons, reunite families and provide information for compensation claims.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) manages the files.

The whole archive takes up some 26km (16 miles) of shelving in the town of Bad Arolsen in western Germany.

Minute details

The files are not expected to shed dramatic new light on the Nazi regime – already one of the most researched periods of modern history.

But it will provide historians with more details about the murder and exploitation of millions of Jews, Roma (Gypsies) and other victims.

The Nazis kept records on the smallest details – from the number of lice on a prisoner’s head to the exact moment of their execution.

Allied forces began gathering the records from concentration camps and other Nazi prisons as they swept across Europe at the end of World War II.

The move to open the archive came after the last of the 11 countries that sit on the body managing the archive ratified a 2006 agreement to allow public access.

“I would like to invite all researchers to make use of this, and work through this dark chapter of German history,” said Guenter Gloser, Germany’s deputy foreign minister for Europe.


A Holocaust mystery finds some answers

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By ARTHUR MAX and MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press Writers 

BAD AROLSEN, Germany – Deep in Shari Klages’ memory is an image of herself as a girl in New Jersey, going into her parents’ bedroom, pulling a thick leather-bound album from the top shelf of a closet and sitting down on the bed to leaf through it.

What she saw was page after page of ink-and-watercolor drawings that convey, with simple lines yet telling detail, the brutality of Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp where her father spent the last weeks of World War II.

Arrival, enslavement, torture, death — the 30 pictures expose the worsening nightmare through the artist’s eye for the essential, and add graphic texture to the body of testimony by Holocaust survivors.

“I have a sense of being quite horrified, of feeling my stomach in my throat,” Klages says. Just by looking at the book, she felt she was doing something wrong and was afraid of being caught.

Now, she finally wants to make the album public. Scholars who have seen it call it historically unique and an artistic treasure.

But who drew the pictures? Only Klages’ father could know. It was he who brought the album back from Dachau when he immigrated to America on a ship with more than 60 Holocaust orphans — and he had committed suicide in 1972 in his garage in Parsippany, N.J.

The sole clue was a signature at the bottom of several drawings: Porulski.

Klages, 47, has begun a quest to discover who Porulski was, and how her family came to be the custodian of his remarkable artistic legacy. The Associated Press has helped to fill in some of the blanks.

What unfolds is a story of Holocaust survival compressed into two tragic lives, a tale with threads stretching from Warsaw to Auschwitz and Dachau, from Australia to suburban England, and finally to a bedroom in New Jersey where a fatherless girl makes a traumatic discovery.

It shows how today, as the survivors dwindle in number, their children and grandchildren struggle to comprehend the Nazi genocide that indelibly scarred their families, and in the process run into mysteries that may never be solved.

This is Shari Klages’ mystery: How did Arnold Unger, her Polish Jewish father, a 15-year-old newcomer to Dachau, end up in possession of the artwork of a Polish Catholic more than twice his age, who had been in the concentration camps through most of World War II?

None of the records Klages found confirm that the two men knew each other, though they lived in adjacent blocks in Dachau. All that is certain is that Unger overlapped with Porulski during the three weeks the boy spent among nearly 30,000 inmates of Dachau’s main camp.

“He never talked about his experiences in the war,” said Klages. “I don’t recall specifically ever being told about the album, or actually learning that I was the child of a Holocaust survivor. It was just something I always knew.”

As adults, she and her three siblings took turns keeping the album and Unger’s other wartime memorabilia.

The album begins with an image of four prisoners in winter coats carrying suitcases and marching toward Dachau’s watchtower under the rifles of SS guards. It is followed by a scene of two inmates being stripped for a humiliating examination by a kapo, a prisoner working for the Nazis.

One image portrays two prisoners pausing in their work to doff their caps to a soldier escorting a prostitute — intimated by the seam on her stocking. Another shows a leashed dog lunging at a terrified inmate.

The drawings grow more and more debasing. Three prisoners hang by their arms tied behind their backs; a captured escapee is paraded wearing a sign, “Hurray, I am back again”; an inmate is hanged from a scaffold; and, in the final image, a man lies on the ground, shot dead next to the barbed-wire fence under the looming watchtower.

The album also has 258 photographs. Some are copies of well-known, haunting images of piles of victims’ bodies taken by the U.S. army that liberated the camp. Others are photographs, apparently taken for Nazi propaganda, portraying Dachau as an idyllic summer camp. Still others are personal snapshots of Unger with Polish refugees or with American soldiers who befriended him.

Barbara Distel, the director of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, said Porulski probably drew the pictures shortly after the camp’s liberation in April 1945. He used identical sheets of paper, ink and watercolors for all 30 pictures, she said, and he “would never have dared” to draw such horrors while he was still under Nazi gaze.

“It’s amazing after so many years that these kinds of documents still turn up,” Distel told the AP. “It’s a unique artifact,” and clearly drawn by someone with an intimate knowledge of the camp’s reality, she said.

Holocaust artwork has turned up before, but Distel and Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum, who is with the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, say they are unaware of any sequential narrative of camp life comparable to Porulski’s.

“I’ve seen two or three or four, but never 30,” said Berenbaum.

In Coral Springs, Fla., where she now lives, Klages showed the book in 2005 to a neighbor, Avi Hoffman, executive director of the National Center for Jewish Cultural Arts. Hoffman immediately saw its quality and significance. The two became determined to uncover its background and find out if the artist had created an undiscovered body of work.

In August, Klages, Hoffman and Berenbaum went to Germany to begin their hunt. They hired a crew to document it, hoping a film would help finance a foundation to exhibit the book.

They began chipping away at the album’s secrets at the Dachau memorial, outside Munich, where they found an arrival record for Michal Porulski, which listed his profession as artist, in 1941.

They learned that Unger hid the fact that he was Jewish when he reached Dachau three weeks before the war ended. “That probably saved his life,” Hoffman said. They also discovered a strong likelihood that the album’s binding was fashioned from the recycled leather of an SS officer’s uniform.

Unger, an engaging youngster, became an office boy and translator for U.S. occupation authorities at Dachau, which was turned into a displaced persons camp, and obtained a U.S. visa in 1947.

Research by Klages’ group and the AP has begun to pull together the scattered threads of Porulski’s life from long forgotten records at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, a tiny museum in Warsaw, Auschwitz and Dachau, the International Tracing Service of the Red Cross, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial archives in Jerusalem, Australian immigration records and data from England.

Porulski enrolled in the Warsaw arts academy in 1934 after completing two years of army service. Attached to his neatly written application is a photograph of a good looking young man with light hair and dreamy eyes.

It says he was a farmer’s son, born June 20, 1910, in the central town of Rychwal, although in later records Porulski said he was born five years later.

Chronically poor, he left the academy after failing to secure a loan for his tuition but was later reinstated. After Germany invaded in 1939, he made some money painting watercolor postcards of Nazi-occupied Poland, two of which have survived and are now in the Warsaw Museum of Caricature.

In June 1940, he was arrested in a Nazi roundup “without any reason,” he wrote many years later in an appeal for help from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Two months later, he and 1,500 others were the first Poles to be shipped from Warsaw to Auschwitz. He spent eight months there, then was sent to the Neuengamme camp and finally to Dachau, near Munich, in May 1941.

In Dachau, according to a brief reference in a Polish book on wartime art, he painted portraits, flowers, folk dance scenes and decoration for a clandestine theater.

In 1949 he sailed to Australia and tried to work as a painter and decorator but mostly lived off friends. He returned to Europe in 1963 and lived in England and France. He visited Poland in the early 1970s for several months, and stayed with his sister, Janina Krol, in Gdynia on the Baltic coast, and another relative outside Warsaw, Wanda Wojcikowska.

He brought his sister paintings of Dachau, his niece, Danuta Ostrowska, now 75, recalls. But her mother threw them away, saying “I can’t look at them.” The family still owns 10 of his mostly prewar paintings.

He was robbed of his money and passport, and Poland‘s communist authorities wanted Porulski out of the country, Wojcikowska’s daughter, Malgorzata Stozek, recalls. “My mother even found a woman willing to marry him, to help him stay in Poland,” she said. But he already had borrowed money from his sister and left.

His letters from England said he found work maintaining bridges, Stozek said. “He wrote that the moment he finished painting a bridge over some river, he had to start again.” It could have been a metaphor for a life going nowhere.

“One day I came to see my mother and she was crying because he wrote to her that he had no money, he was hungry and was sleeping on park benches. He lived in terrible poverty,” Stozek told the AP.

He was so lonely, she said, he had considered suicide.

In 1978 he sent a request for war compensation to the International Tracing Service in the central German town of Bad Arolsen, which houses the world’s largest archive of concentration camp records and lists of Holocaust victims.

“I have no occupation of any sort. I was unable to resume my studies after all those years in the camps,” he wrote. “I am just by myself, and I live from day to day.”

The ITS replied that it had no authority to give grants, but was sending confirmation of his incarceration to the U.N. refugee agency to support his earlier reparations claim.

Unger also shows up in the Tracing Service, in a 1955 two-page letter he wrote recounting his ordeal that began when he was 9.

Unger’s father had a prosperous furniture business near Krakow. “Then the infamous horde of Nazis overran our town, disrupted our life, murdered my parents and little sister, and robbed us of all we had.” He was the only survivor of 50 members of the Unger family.

Christian friends hid him for a while, but he ended up imprisoned inside the Krakow ghetto, then was moved to a series of concentration camps.

His daughter says that after he immigrated to America, he told a cousin with whom he lived in New Jersey that his job at Dachau had been to tend the ovens. The Nazis commonly used inmates for such purposes — it was one of the few ways of surviving.

Newly arrived in America, Unger spoke to Newark newspapers of his years of torment, saying he escaped three times during marches between camps but was always recaptured.

At one point, he told the Newark Evening News, he was herded into a gas chamber at Natzweiler camp with 50 other prisoners, but they were spared at the last minute because some of them were electricians whom the Nazis needed for their war effort.

The two lives, briefly intertwined by the Holocaust and an album of photos and paintings, ended 17 years apart — Unger by hanging himself in 1972, Porulski in 1989 in St. Mary’s Hospital near Hereford, England, of pneumonia and tuberculosis.

The death certificate gives his age as 74 and his profession as “painter (retired).”

Shari Klages was 12 when her father died.

He had just been laid off from his 18-year job in the aeronautics industry, and his wife had been diagnosed with brain cancer. His suicide is given added poignancy by the image of the hanged inmate in the album, and Klages believes it was his Holocaust experience that weighed most heavily on him.

“I have no doubt it was the most significant contributor to his death,” she said.

___

Associated Press investigative researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this report. Arthur Max reported from Bad Arolsen, Germany, and Monika Scislowska from Warsaw.

On the Net:

National Center for Jewish Cultural Arts

Dachau

International Tracing Service


Pope speaks of Europe’s tragic past

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By VICTOR L. SIMPSON, Associated Press Writer 

VIENNA, Austria – Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged Europe‘s tragic past and warned of its uncertain future Friday as he honored Jews killed in the Holocaust and urged the continent to accept its Christian heritage.

Abortion must never be considered a human right, Benedict said, and urged European political leaders to encourage young married couples to have children and the continent’s graying population “not to become old in spirit.”

“Europe cannot and must not deny her Christian roots,” the pope declared, saying that Christianity has “profoundly shaped this continent.”

Benedict opened a three-day pilgrimage to Austria, once the center of a Roman Catholic-influenced empire and now a wealthy but small nation that has seen considerable dissent against the church, as in much of Europe.

In an evening address to Austrian officials and diplomats in the former imperial Hofburg Palace, Benedict spoke of the “horrors of war” and the “traumatic experiences of totalitarianism and dictatorship” that Europe has undergone.

The pope, born in neighboring Bavaria, Germany, began his visit by paying tribute to Holocaust victims.

He stepped out of his popemobile in a driving rain and joined Vienna‘s chief rabbi, Paul Chaim Eisenberg, in prayer before an austere stone memorial honoring the 65,000 Viennese Jews who perished in Nazi death camps and others burned at the stake in the 1400s after refusing to convert.

He made no public remarks during the seven-minute stop but told reporters aboard his plane from Rome that he wanted to extend his sense of “sadness, repentance and friendship to the Jewish people.”

In 1938, the city’s vibrant Jewish community numbered 185,000 members. Today, there are fewer than 7,000.

Alluding to the nation’s past complicity with the Nazis, President Heinz Fischer conceded in a greeting to the pope that Austria had “dark hours in its history.”

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, Austria’s top churchman, noted Christianity’s roots in Judaism and urged his countrymen never to forget the atrocities committed against the capital’s Jews.

“It is part of the tragedy of the city that here, of all places, this root was forgotten — even denied — to the point where godless will destroyed the people to whom God gives his first love,” he said.

Benedict, who visited and vacationed here often as a cardinal, faced a challenge: Many Austrian believers, disgusted by clergy sex scandals and deeply resentful of a government-imposed church tax, have grown cold — and tens of thousands have left the church altogether.

Benedict’s trip underscored the difficulties the Vatican confronts across Europe, where cathedrals are empty as disillusioned believers question the relevance of faith in the postmodern era.

The pope defended the vitality of Christianity today, saying Christians throughout history have been examples of “hope, love and mercy.”

In his condemnation of abortion, Benedict said he was speaking out “for those unborn children who have no voice.”

He also urged Europeans to ensure humane care of the elderly, assailing “actively assisted death,” a reference to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

In a reflection of anti-pope sentiment held by some Austrians, about 300 young demonstrators marched through central Vienna on Friday to protest the pontiff’s conservative stance on homosexuality, gay marriage and other issues.

“I think the pope represents a system that has repressed people and other religions for hundreds of years. It’s simply antiquated,” said Ludwig List, 19, holding a banner that read: “Papa Don’t Preach.”

Security was heavy for Benedict’s visit, with more than 3,500 police officers and soldiers and 50 aircraft deployed to protect him. The Interior Ministry said the measures were taken even before this week’s thwarted terrorist plot in Germany.

On Saturday, the pope holds an open-air Mass to commemorate the 850th anniversary of the founding of Mariazell, a famous shrine to the Virgin Mary about 60 miles southwest of Vienna.

The Vienna Archdiocese said 33,000 pilgrims had received tickets for the event and that 70 bishops, mostly from Eastern Europe, would join in. Benedict called the anniversary “the reason for my coming” and said he would go as a simple pilgrim.

Benedict’s visit concludes Sunday with a Mass at Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral and a visit to the Heiligenkreuz abbey outside the capital.

___

Associated Press Writers William J. Kole and Veronika Oleksyn contributed to this report.


Pope speaks of Europe's tragic past

capt4bd015a8a6c14b13901156475e6cc741austria_pope_papa102.jpg

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON, Associated Press Writer 

VIENNA, Austria – Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged Europe‘s tragic past and warned of its uncertain future Friday as he honored Jews killed in the Holocaust and urged the continent to accept its Christian heritage.

Abortion must never be considered a human right, Benedict said, and urged European political leaders to encourage young married couples to have children and the continent’s graying population “not to become old in spirit.”

“Europe cannot and must not deny her Christian roots,” the pope declared, saying that Christianity has “profoundly shaped this continent.”

Benedict opened a three-day pilgrimage to Austria, once the center of a Roman Catholic-influenced empire and now a wealthy but small nation that has seen considerable dissent against the church, as in much of Europe.

In an evening address to Austrian officials and diplomats in the former imperial Hofburg Palace, Benedict spoke of the “horrors of war” and the “traumatic experiences of totalitarianism and dictatorship” that Europe has undergone.

The pope, born in neighboring Bavaria, Germany, began his visit by paying tribute to Holocaust victims.

He stepped out of his popemobile in a driving rain and joined Vienna‘s chief rabbi, Paul Chaim Eisenberg, in prayer before an austere stone memorial honoring the 65,000 Viennese Jews who perished in Nazi death camps and others burned at the stake in the 1400s after refusing to convert.

He made no public remarks during the seven-minute stop but told reporters aboard his plane from Rome that he wanted to extend his sense of “sadness, repentance and friendship to the Jewish people.”

In 1938, the city’s vibrant Jewish community numbered 185,000 members. Today, there are fewer than 7,000.

Alluding to the nation’s past complicity with the Nazis, President Heinz Fischer conceded in a greeting to the pope that Austria had “dark hours in its history.”

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, Austria’s top churchman, noted Christianity’s roots in Judaism and urged his countrymen never to forget the atrocities committed against the capital’s Jews.

“It is part of the tragedy of the city that here, of all places, this root was forgotten — even denied — to the point where godless will destroyed the people to whom God gives his first love,” he said.

Benedict, who visited and vacationed here often as a cardinal, faced a challenge: Many Austrian believers, disgusted by clergy sex scandals and deeply resentful of a government-imposed church tax, have grown cold — and tens of thousands have left the church altogether.

Benedict’s trip underscored the difficulties the Vatican confronts across Europe, where cathedrals are empty as disillusioned believers question the relevance of faith in the postmodern era.

The pope defended the vitality of Christianity today, saying Christians throughout history have been examples of “hope, love and mercy.”

In his condemnation of abortion, Benedict said he was speaking out “for those unborn children who have no voice.”

He also urged Europeans to ensure humane care of the elderly, assailing “actively assisted death,” a reference to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

In a reflection of anti-pope sentiment held by some Austrians, about 300 young demonstrators marched through central Vienna on Friday to protest the pontiff’s conservative stance on homosexuality, gay marriage and other issues.

“I think the pope represents a system that has repressed people and other religions for hundreds of years. It’s simply antiquated,” said Ludwig List, 19, holding a banner that read: “Papa Don’t Preach.”

Security was heavy for Benedict’s visit, with more than 3,500 police officers and soldiers and 50 aircraft deployed to protect him. The Interior Ministry said the measures were taken even before this week’s thwarted terrorist plot in Germany.

On Saturday, the pope holds an open-air Mass to commemorate the 850th anniversary of the founding of Mariazell, a famous shrine to the Virgin Mary about 60 miles southwest of Vienna.

The Vienna Archdiocese said 33,000 pilgrims had received tickets for the event and that 70 bishops, mostly from Eastern Europe, would join in. Benedict called the anniversary “the reason for my coming” and said he would go as a simple pilgrim.

Benedict’s visit concludes Sunday with a Mass at Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral and a visit to the Heiligenkreuz abbey outside the capital.

___

Associated Press Writers William J. Kole and Veronika Oleksyn contributed to this report.