ALBANY— Richard Marowitz was just a day removed from witnessing the horrors of Dachau when he found a top hat on a shelf in a closet in Adolf Hitler’s Munich apartment.
Still furious over the gruesome sights he had seen at the nearby Nazi concentration camp, the 19-year-old self-described “skinny Jewish kid” from New York threw the black silk hat on the floor, jumped off the chair he had used to reach the item and stomped Hitler’s formal headwear until it was flat.
“I swear to this day I could see his face in it,” Marowitz told The Associated Press in a 2001 interview, recalling how he “smashed the hell out of it.”
Marowitz, who brought the souvenir back to New York after World War II ended, died this week at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Albany. His son, Larry Marowitz, told The Associated Press on Friday that his father died Wednesday after battling cancer and dementia. His death was first reported by The Times Union of Albany.
Welcoming the overflow crowd at the Jan Karski Humanitarian Award 2014 ceremony at the Polish Consulate honoring Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis, and Polish rescuer Irena Sendler, was consul general Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka who thanked members of the Polish-Jewish Dialogue Committee — Polish American Congress, the N.Y. Downstate Division and the Polish-Jewish Dialogue Committee — for their dedication to their noble mission.”
Addressing an assemblage that included a sizeable number of Polish-Jewish survivors, cantor Joseph Malovany and the Forward’s publisher Samuel Norich, the consul thanked The Committee — whose members are predominantly Catholic priests and rabbis — “for their dedication to their noble mission” and amplified that “the Jan Karski Humanitarian Award ceremony is a perfect example of fruitful cooperation between Polish diaspora organizations on the one hand and American-Jewish organizations on the other.” She noted that “Pope John Paul II, who visited a synagogue in Rome and prayed at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, considered anti-Semitism a sin and called the Jews…’Christians’ brothers-in faith,’ During his papacy he encouraged a very difficult Polish-Jewish dialogue” believing that “this dialogue was necessary to overcome stereotypes and prejudices.”
New Brooklyn Museum committed to revealing the unknown stories of heroism and faith that withstood the horrors of the Holocaust.
The joy of Adar abruptly turned to terror on Shabbat morning, 8 Adar, 5703 (February 13, 1943), when German officers stormed the synagogue and threatened to wipe out the entire community.
The Jewish community of Djerba, a sunny island off the Tunisian coast, had flourished for over two millennia, but during the Second World War, Nazi Germany occupied the island, putting the lives of its Jewish population in immediate and grave danger.
The officers demanded from the community an exorbitant bribe of 50 kilograms (110 lbs.) of gold in exchange for the right to live. They warned that if the gold was not handed over within three hours, the community members would all be killed. Rabbi Khalfon Moshe Hakohen, the revered rabbi, immediately instructed the people to bring their gold in order to save the community. The rabbi’s illustrious disciple, Rav Rachamim Hai Havitah Hakohen, broke the wall in his house to take his life’s savings which had been hidden inside the wall. Many others did the same, bringing all the money and jewelry they owned. Still, it was not enough to pay the extortionate bribe.
Seeing there was still a shortfall, Rav Khalfon rode by car – although it was still Shabbat – to the Hara Seghira community in the small Jewish Quarter to collect the outstanding amount. Even the golden bells decorating the Torah scrolls were removed in a desperate attempt to save the Jews’ lives. The Germans collected 42 kilograms of gold, and agreed to give the Jews until Sunday to come up with the balance. On Sunday, the Jews were prepared to deliver an additional eight kilograms, until the joyous news arrived – Allied forces had invaded Tunisia, driving the Nazis out of the country.
The Jews still had the eight kilograms, and they were now faced with the question of how it should be returned. Was it to be distributed proportionately among the community, or should the Hara Seghira receive its portion back in full? This question was addressed by Rav Rahamim Hai Havitah Hakohen in his work Simhat Kohen, where he discusses the halachah in great detail (he ruled that it should be distributed proportionally).
This remarkable story, and the concern for strict compliance with halachic minutiae even under the most trying circumstances, is just one example of how Jews continued to show unwavering loyalty to the Torah during the dark days of the Holocaust.
This heroic fealty to faith during World War II is now being memorialized by a new initiative – the Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center (KFHEC), which is set to open in Boro Park next year.
From Pre-War Glory to Post-War RenewalRead More »THE KLEINMAN FAMILY HOLOCAUST EDUCATION CENTER