St. John's University New York Campuses Closed

Due to the icing and unsafe driving conditions, all St. John's University's New York campuses will close today, Thursday, March 5.

Hannah Berliner Fischthal

Two Nazi Camps out of 42,500:  Anhalt and Karviná

Hannah Berliner Fischthal, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Science, Department of English, and Visiting Scholar, Center for Jewish History, New York

Abstract
As a contributing author to the Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, I am at present completing entries for two forced labor camps for Jews:  Anhalt, currently Holdunόw, Poland; and Karviná in what is now the Czech Republic.   Anhalt, opened in the fall of 1940, was subordinate to the Reichsautobahn (RAB) authority, which used Jewish prisoners to construct highways in Eastern Upper Silesia.  The labor was grueling and the food rations were starvation level.  Prisoners were tortured for minor offenses by both officials and their dogs. In 1942, the administration of Anhalt was transferred to Organization Schmelt; the purpose of the camp then changed to coalmining, and Anhalt became more lethal.  Although the population of the camp originally consisted mainly of Polish Jews, Jews from the Netherlands, France, and Belgium were also transported to Anhalt in 1942.   Some labored in the coalmines under the command of Bialka, a Pole who killed at least 30 men with a pickaxe.  The Jewish forced laborers in Karviná worked for the Kraftanlage [power plant] Barbara.   It was a filthy camp where vermin and lice thrived but men dropped dead from starvation and exhaustion.   Whippings and torture were commonplace. Laborers worked at excavations and construction.  Russian POWs starved to death on the other side of the barbed wire.  Both Anhalt and Karviná shut down after the Final Solution was implemented in 1942, as Nazi ideology to murder all the Jews proved stronger than their desire for labor.

Yiddish Antwerp Between the World Wars

Hannah Berliner Fischthal, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Science, Department of English, and Visiting Scholar, Center for Jewish History, New York

Abstract
Between the end of World War I in 1918 and May 1940, when Belgium capitulated to Nazi Germany, Jewish life thrived in Antwerp.  Many Jews, fleeing pogroms and injustice in Russia and Poland, had settled in this modern city.   Antwerp became a haven not only for observant Jews, most of whom found employment in the diamond industry, but also for less religious and even secular Jews who were represented in every profession.  There were scores of Jewish social organizations; dozens of newspapers in Yiddish, Flemish, and German; Yiddish theaters; all sorts of Yiddish cultural events; Yiddish authors, including Esther Kreitman, the talented sister of Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer; there was even a Yiddish school, Di ershte yidishe tsugob shul baym hantverker farayn  [the first Yiddish supplementary school of the artisans’ union] founded by my grandfather Emmanuel Rubinstein.   All of these accomplishments were annihilated together with the Jews of Antwerp during the Holocaust.  The Chasidim living in Antwerp today are generally survivors from Hungary, not Belgium.  I am completing the first English language study of Yiddish Antwerp between the wars.