Just received today from Anne-Mette Prent of Norway, and I hope she will write soon to the list telling us more about the following documents. Here is an abbreviated version of what she just wrote to me:
A SHTETL IN THE CARIBBEAN tells the compelling story of two childhood friends who grew up on Curaçao, in search for their family history in Eastern Europe.
Mark and Tsale, children of Eastern European Jews that fled to Curaçao, travel back to the home countries of their ancestors. In a documentary road-movie across Curaçao, the United States, Belarus, Ukraine and Israel, we witness their discoveries, courage and despair while they are reminded of the sacrifices their parents had to make to provide their family with a better future.
This unknown story is revealed in a journey from the desolate wastelands of Eastern Europe to the exotic Caribbean, a contrast metaphoric for the history of Mark and Tsale’s ancestors.
A SHTETL IN THE CARIBBEAN originated from a strong emotion: we are all part of the same family, no matter how different we are. The film is also an homage to Curaçao, a small island with a big heart, and a place that has been a safe haven for strangers. Only in such a place a human being can truly build a home.
BIOGRAPHY MARK WIZNITZER
Named after his two deceased grandfathers per Jewish tradition, Mark Leon Wiznitzer was born in the US and brought to Curacao as a baby. There he was called “ Buchi, ” a popular island nickname that legend dates back to the strongest African slave broken by the loss of his beloved wife, and is still often given to a native first son. In Willemstad, Mark attended the Dutch-language Hendrikschool before he moved to New York City at the age of eleven with his mother. But he returned to spend all his school vacations on Curacao, where he worked with his father in La Confianza, the family-owned department store. After studying political science at the State University of NY in Buffalo, Mark went on to complete a Masters in Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He worked in Curacao for Wiznitzer Brothers, the family’s retail and wholesale business, for a year before he was selected to join the US Department of State as a career diplomat in 1976, at which time he left Curacao for good. During his various assignments in Washington DC, Latin America and Europe, he earned awards for his performance in political and politico-military affairs, and strategic trade. After retiring in 1999, Mark completed an Executive MBA in Vienna. He was a volunteer for Barak Obama’s campaigns for the Democratic nomination and election as President. As a result of his first visit in 2010 to Vashkivtsi, Ukraine, the birthplace of the four Wiznitzer brothers, he organized his family’s restoration of the neglected Jewish cemetery there. He currently lives with his wife, Paula Goddard, in Virginia, where he recently became a volunteer advocate for senior residents of Arlington County.
BIOGRAPHY TSALE KIRZNER
Tsale Kirzner was born on Curaçao as the oldest son of Socher Kirzner and Fania Shusterman, refugees who built a home on the Caribbean island in 1948. He was named after his grandfather from his mothers side, Bezalel, who was killed by a firing squad in Mikasjevits in Belarus, as a warning to the Jewish people living in the town. Tsale went to the Hendrikschool and the Radulphus College on Curaçao, after which he moved to the US to study Sinology at Harvard University and economics at The George Washington University, graduating cum laude. Since 1974 Tsale lives in The Netherlands. Tsale is married to professor Lorraine Uhlaner and is father to five children.
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.
“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
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.
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. […]”