What’s it about: “The Nazi, the Painter and the Forgotten Story of the SS Road”?

Drawings dedicated by Arnold and Anna Daghani to Erich Dubowy

These two letters – Click here for the German transcription! – and the drawings above were sent by Arnold and Anna Daghani to Erich Dubowy between June and September 1976. They are reproduced by special courtesy of Erich’s son Daniel Dubowy from Canada. Concerning the relationship between Arnold Daghani and Erich Dubowy, we learn from Daniel: “…they knew each other from Czernowitz, (they were of the same age) but surely from Bucharest. In the early fifties in Bucharest there were quite a few Czernowitzer artists who socialized and met regularly, and my father who was an architect but also a decent piano player, must have intermingled with them. [...] They may not have been close friends but acquainted enough to be in some constant correspondence before and after.” Even more, one of the reasons these letters make compelling reading is their historical relevance, far beyond just personal considerations. 

Arnold Daghani shines a light on his artistic self-conception as well as on his relationship to the Romanian post WW2 artist community, such as to the Czernowitzer poet Alfred Kittner, the Romanian art reviewer Eugen Schileru, the Armenian businessman and art collector Krikor H. Zambaccian, the diplomat and art critic Oscar Walter Cisek, who authored short stories, novels, poems and essays in both German and Romanian. In addition we discover at the bottom of these letters a catalogue of Daghani’s works, which apparently were still in his possession before finally emigrating to England and settling in Hove, near Brighton, one year later in 1977. Daghani died in 1985, a deeply frustrated man, and his work is now held at Centre for German-Jewish Studies at the University of Sussex.

Dr Deborah Schultz comes straight to the point stating in her article “Pictorial Narrative, History and Memory in the Work of Arnold Daghani” as follows: “His frustrations were intensified by the lack of public interest in the camps in Ukraine, with all the attention focused on better-known camps such as Auschwitz, and he strongly believed that his account had to be heard. For Daghani writing and image making may have been the means of locating himself and of finding his way.” You will better comprehend this by reading the first paragraph of Daghani’s second letter: “As an ‘homage’, I received from the public prosecutors the entire investigation procedure file, since, according to the chief prosecutor [Fritz Bauer], it’s solely due to me, that they gained knowledge of the atrocities committed on the other side of the Bug River.” But it’s finally G. H. Bennett,  Associate Professor in History at the University of Plymouth, who – by his article “The Limits of West German Justice in the 1960s: The Post-War Investigation of Walter Gieseke” and his book “The Nazi, the Painter and the Forgotten Story of the SS Road” – is enlightening the historical dimension for us.

Well, the “Nazi” was Walter Gieseke, Oberstleutnant of the Gendarmerie and SS, the “Painter” was Arnold Daghani and the DG IV (Durchgangsstraße IV) was the “SS Road”, the road building project across the Ukraine which resulted in the murder of substantial numbers of Jewish forced labourers, among those many from Bukovina.

At my previous posting “The Stone Quarry on the Bug River at 8 Miles from N 48°40′ E 29°15′” you’ll find additional reports on the fate of the Jewish forced labourers including excerpts from Andrej Angrick’s article “Forced Labor along the ‘Straße der SS'” and Gerhard (Bobby) Schreiber’s memoirs “A Tale of Survival”. After getting numerous answers to our initial question, the final question concerns the moral condemnation and criminal conviction of the war criminals, but read by yourself G. H. Bennett’s conclusion:

“Gieseke was never brought to trial and Daghani would eventually conclude that the West German investigations into the crimes committed along DGIV were ‘merely a farce, a meaningless gesture’. [...] The investigation of Walter Gieseke highlights the problems in the 1950s and 1960s of securing justice for crimes committed during the war. The processes of investigating and prosecuting of German war criminals in the context of West German justice in the 1950s and 1960s were not likely to result in a conviction. Gieseke’s defensive strategies maximized the problems facing investigators which resulted from the set of legal, political, social and investigative contexts that made a trial difficult and, in the eyes of many West Germans, unwanted and unwarranted. [...] In the case of Walter Gieseke can be glimpsed many of thecomplexiti es that protected the guilty men and women of post-war Germany. Moreover, study of this case hopefully demonstrates the need to discount concerns about ‘practitioners’ trespassing onto the territory of historians. In studying post-war German justice, and indeed most aspects of legal history, there is ample scope for practitioners and historians to pool their skills and approaches to the mutual benefit of truly interdisciplinary scholarship.There is much to be learned from each other and little to be feared.

Additional Links:
“SS film links officer with war crimes” by BBC
“Lost film unearthed in Devon church…” by Daily Mail 
“Arnold Daghani. Who is he?” by Miha Ahronovitz
“The Art of Arnold Daghani” by The Art of Polemics


Important Czernowitz Dates

From Gaby Rinzler — regarding the list discussion about ‘important Czernowitz dates':

In an attempt to leave my children and grand children information about my past I made a Geopolitical introduction. It may be pertinent to the present discussion re: what 1848, 28 of March 1914 and 1944, etc. meant to our group.

[Note* See List Archives on the website 2014 Archives II, starting June 27th 2014 for the discussion -- Subject: 28 June 1940.]


Transnistria, Then and Now

The territory of Romanian-ruled Transnistria (1941-44, 42,000 km2 / 16,216 sq mi) is incongruent with and included present-day Transnistria (4,163 km2 / 1,607 sq mi). Learn more on that subject from the disambiguation effected by Daniel Katz by clicking here for a PDF download of Daniel’s presentation, including detailed maps and additional links.

Please remember, Fabius Ornstein’s testimony “The Suffering of the Deportees in Transnistria” is still available at our Blog! On Fabius Ornstein’s life-saving activity in Transnistria we learn from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency report dated July 26, 1943 as follows:

Thousands of Jews in Transnistria Have Not Seen Bread for Months, Hundreds Starving
Thousands of Jewish deportees confined in the various ghettos which the Rumanian occupation authorities have established in Transnistria, the Rumanian-administered section of the Russian Ukraine, have not seen any bread for months and the vast majority of them are threatened with starvation unless some assistance is forthcoming soon, according to private advices received here today. In the township of Copaigorod about 2,220 Jews are confined at present, the report discloses. Under the leadership of one of the deportees, Fabius Ornstein, the Jewish community has organized a free kitchen which has so far managed to distribute about 500 meals twice daily. These ‘meals,’ however, almost always consist of potatoes and nothing else. [...]

Maps of 2 territories named TransnistriaMaps of 2 territories named Transnistria1


Rohatyn and Bukovina Memorials at the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv


Marla Raucher Osborn at the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv, with Rohatyners standing before the Rohatyn Memorial to the victims of the Shoah

Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio broadcast on “Ukrainian Jewish Heritage – Rohatyn”



Bukovina Holocaust Memorial at the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv

JEWISH GALICIA & BUKOVINA: Galicia and Bukovina were major Jewish centers as far back as the 13th Century and were home to over one million Jews, with unique cultural characteristics and a vibrant intellectual and spiritual life. These regions produced prominent Jewish thinkers, rabbis and Hassidic courts, who created influential texts and institutions that have had a long-lasting impact on the Jewish world. The Torah scholars and Jewish intellectuals of Galicia and Bukovina were known for their tolerance and openness towards modernity, while being firmly rooted in Jewish tradition and learning. This thriving Jewish world was wiped out in the Holocaust.


Irena Sendler, Social Worker, Humanitarian, Legend


Guest post by Laurie Rappeport, Safed/Israel: One of the biggest challenges that present-day Holocaust researchers face is the dwindling number of survivors who are still alive to bear testimony to their lives under Nazi rule. Many Holocaust memorials and museums, among them Yad Vashem, are working against the clock to collect testimonies and conduct research that can only be accomplished as long as first-person witnesses are accessible.

In addition to memorializing the victims these investigations are also frequently used to honor Righteous Gentiles — people who risked their lives to save Jews during WWII. Numerous archivists and researchers at Yad Vashem are trying to ascertain the needed information in order to acknowledge these individuals.

Sometimes, information about an episode or activity comes to light unexpectedly. Such was the case of Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who was honored by Yad Vashem in 1963 for her role in saving over 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto. Sendler received one of Yad Vashem’s first Righteous Among the Nations honorariums but after she returned to Poland her story was forgotten. In 1999 however, a group of non-Jewish schoolgirls from  Kansas, involved in a social studies assignment, heard a rumor about Sendler and decided to pursue the story. Thanks to these girls the incredible story of Irena Sendler’s wartime activities was publicized worldwide at the Milken Center .

Irena Sendler was an employee of the Warsaw Department of Welfare when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. She became an active member of the Zagota underground — a resistance group which specialized in assisting Jews who were trying to escape from German persecution. In conjunction with Zagota Sendler helped Jews find hiding places and obtain false papers to enable them to hide. By 1940 Sendler was Zagota’s head of children’s services and she began to look for ways to help Jewish children escape from the Germans.

In 1940 the Germans built the Warsaw ghetto and imprisioned almost half a million Jews behind the ghetto walls without adequate food, shelter or medical care. Irena Sendler was able to obtain a pass that identified her as a nurse. She had free passage into and out of the ghetto and, at first, she used her pass to try and smuggle food and medicines into the ghetto. Sendler quickly saw that such efforts were like a drop in a bucket and she decided that, in order to help the largest number of people, she would have to find another course of action.

Sendler and the Zagota organization devised a plan which would allow her to smuggle children out of the ghetto. She began to pick children off the street — children whose parents had been murdered or simply disappeared. She sedated the children and smuggled them out of the ghetto by hiding them in toolboxes, luggage and in wagons under barking dogs and garbage. She found tunnels and sewers under the ground and, using those tunnels, was able to lead the older children to the “free” side of Warsaw.

Sendler’s next course of action involved speaking to parents and asking them to allow her to take their children out of the ghetto. In an interview that Sendler conducted in 2004 she described those experiences.”I talked the mothers out of their children. Those scenes over whether to give a child away were heart-rending. Sometimes, they wouldn’t give me the child. Their first question was, ‘What guarantee is there that the child will live?’ I said, ‘None. I don’t even know if I will get out of the ghetto alive today.” Many parents refused to allow Sendler to take their children. They held out hope that, by staying with their families, the children had the best chance of survival. Other parents were concerned that the children would not be able to survive among anti-Semetic Polish gentiles. Over the course of two years however, Sendler was able to smuggle over 2500 children out of the ghetto. She recorded their names and their hiding places on pieces of tissue paper and hid them in glass jars which she buried in her yard. Zagota found hiding places for the children in convents, orphanages and with sympathetic Polish families.  Sendler was arrested after the fall of the Warsaw ghetto and sentenced her to be shot but Zagota was able to rescue her and she lived out the rest of the war in hiding. When the Kansas students began to research Sendler’s actions during the war, there was little information available, but Sendler herself was still alive. The girls obtained funding that allowed them to travel to Poland and interview Sendler. They then created a massive project, Life in a Jar, to honor Irena Sendler’s heroism and bravery.

Laurie Rappeport lives in Safed, Israel. She teaches Judaism and Israel-related subject via elearning to American day school and Hebrew school students.