10/25/14

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


10/4/14

Selma Merbaum – Ich habe keine Zeit gehabt zuende zu schreiben

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Gabriele Weissmann: On Monday night the reading for Marion Tauschwitz’s new book “Selma Merbaum – Ich habe keine Zeit gehabt zuende zu schreiben” [I had no time to finish writing] took place at Berlin’s big book-store, Dussmann. Organized as a dialogue between Marion Tauschwitz and the well-known (and beautiful actress)  Iris Berben, introduced by the publisher. The room was packed, and the interest great. Selma’s poems are already quite well-known in Germany and often read in schools. They both read from the book, Marion Tauschwitz also giving a general view of her search for Selma’s background and  Iris  Berben spoke of her love for the poems. She was deeply impressed when she read them in Czernowitz, in the Chessed Shoshana hall, with Prof. Rychlo interpreting.  Berben then read “Poem”, in a personal, very moving manner, in which Selma’s  yearning for love, for life, her sensibility, her premonitions, are so well formulated.   At the end Iris Berben read part of her well-written introduction. Tauschwitz’ book is an insider’s view of Selma’s life and writing, with very accurate research into the family history. She has searched  family records,  read intensively documentation and literature on the subject, interviewed  persons in Europe and Israel, has corrected irregularities including Selma’s correct name. She describes Selma’s strong personality against the background of the social, cultural and political influences on the young girl’s spiritual development.  Her sensitive poetry, her hunger for life, her political views and her sight of the tragic events which took place in the last years of her life. The tragedy of the concentration camps… Selma, through Marion Tauschwitz’s book has become alive again. Her poems are world literature. A lot of applause at the end, and people literally rushed with the books for signature.

Marion Tauschwitz and Iris berben at Kulturkaufkaus Dussmann, Berlin, on 29.09.2014

Ein Radiobeitrag der ARD-Kulturkorrespondentin Maria Ossowski,

auf amazon die ersten Leserstimmen,

sensibel die Einschätzung auf haGalil von Ramona Ambs,

auch ein Literaturblogger hat Selma Merbaums Biografie schon gelesen,

und auch avivia – online magazin hat genau gelesen,

weiterhin eine Rezension von Christel Wollmann-Fiedler.

Read more on Marion’s (litera)tour guide for October/November 2014 at:
http://www.marion-tauschwitz.de/lesetermine/

Czernowitz-5-13 2782

06/4/14

Football in the Vanished World: Bukovyna Chernivtsi

Guest post by Michael Hudson, originally published at The Accidental Groundhopper on 12 October 2013 and reposted by courtesy of the author. Thank you so much, dear Michael!

“English games are played, as out on the vast exercising ground we saw football in full swing, several games going on”. 

“I also played a bit of football, near our house there was a football field; it was the town’s football field, called Maccabi. We had a really good football team. Sports…were very popular among the Jewish organizations”.

For almost two centuries the eastern gateway to the Habsburg Empire, Bukovina was ceded to Romania between the two world wars and is now one of the sleepiest parts of south-western Ukraine.  Two hundred kilometres south of Lviv, and a four-hour bus ride from Suceava across the EU border, Chernivtsi, the quirky, down-at-heel provincial capital,  was formerly known  as Little Vienna and Jerusalem on the Prut; the second city of Austrian Galicia, Czernowitz /Cernăuți was a cosmopolitan mélange of ethnicities, home to Romanian, German, Ukrainian, Yiddish and Polish speakers,  the birthplace of the poet Paul Celan, and one of the first places in modern day Ukraine to embrace the sport of football.

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The first organised team Turn- und Sportverein Czernowitz, was founded by German students in the autumn of 1903,  the black and whites outlasting several name changes and two  losing appearances in the semi-final of the Romanian Cup until they were finally broken up in 1940, when the entire German-speaking population, including the playing staff and officials of  Fußballsektion Jahn Czernowitz, was forcibly transported out of Bukovina in the wake of the Nazi-Soviet pact.  Many Bukovinan Germans settled in or around Stuttgart, their sporting legacy surviving with TSV Jahn Büsnau, who currently play in a district league at the twelth level of the German football league.

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 A Polish team, Polonia Cernăuţi, was established after the German club splintered in 1912, and went on to become the region’s dominant force during its twenty-two years in the Kingdom of Romania.  Despite rarely owning a stadium of its own, Polonia spent three seasons in Divizia A, won the Bukovinan regional championships and held the Romanian national side to a 1-1 draw in front of 12,000 spectators in September 1922 before they too were dissolved in 1940. Fotbal Club Dragoş Vodă Cernăuţi, the favoured team of the city’s Romanian speakers, won the Bukovina championship four times between 1925 and 1933 but managed only a single season in the national top-flight, during which they won four out of eighteen games.  They did, though, share briefly in the development of Cernăuţi’s most famous footballing son, Alfred Eisenbeisser transferring from Jahn shortly before representing Romania at football at the 1930 World Cup .  Appearing against Peru and Uruguay,  Eisenbeisser contracted pneumonia on the return journey and was forced to stay behind when the ship docked at Genoa.  Rumours of his death spread through Bukovina; when he finally reached home, he found his mother busy preparing the funeral arrangements.  Eisenbeisser recovered sufficiently  to place thirteenth in the figure skating championships at the 1936 Winter Olympics, win another seven caps, and turn out over 140 times in the colours of Venus București.  Venus, like Dragos, were wound up in the late-1940s, having won eight national championships before Romania entered the war.

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In 1919, when the region was annexed to the Kingdom of Romania,  Czernowitz’s Jewish population  had reached almost 30,000 people – or a third of the entire town.  The city twice elected Jewish mayors, streets were named after Jewish authors, rabbis and prominent city councillors, the first ever Yiddish [Conference] was hosted there in 1908, and the community’s two club sides,  Maccabi and Hakoah Cernăuţi, enjoyed regular success in regional competitions.

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Maccabi, the oldest, had first taken to the field in 1909-1910, and would later supply a Romanian international of their own when Isidor Gansl, formerly of Fernencvaros [Ferencváros] and Hakoah Vienna, was capped against Turkey in 1923.  Hakoah played their first competitive game in 1920, and reached Divizia A and the Romanian Cup quarter-finals before they were subsumed by Maccabi eleven years later.  In 1932, a victory over Jahn resulted in a pitch invasion during which Maccabi players were attacked by supporters carrying revolvers shouting “Jews go to Palestine!”  By 1941, the team had been disbanded and many of its players transported to camps.  When the Soviets rolled back three years later, almost 50,000 Bukovina Jews had perished, either shot out of hand or loaded in to cattle trucks.  Jewish Czernowitz vanished in all but memory, its synagogue turned into a cinema six years after Celan published ‘Todesfuge‘ (Death Fugue):  Death is a gang boss…his eyes are blue. He shoots you with leaded bullets, his aim is true. 

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Eight years after the traumatised city was incorporated into the newly-expaned Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Bukovya Chernivtsi emerged.  In 1958, a team including veteran inside-right Evgeny Archangelskiy, scorer of four goals during Dynamo Moscow’s 1945 tour of England, made its first appearances in the Soviet League.  Three decades later, with the Soviet Union on the verge of dissolution, Chernivtsi finally made their mark on the national stage, finishing in fifth place in the 1991 First League, a division which included Rotor Volgograd, Kuban Krasnodar, Zenit St Petersburg and Tavria Simferopol, the surprise first champions of independent Ukraine.  Present in the top-flight of Ukrainian football for three seasons, the yellow and blacks were relegated along with Metalist Kharkiv in 1993-94 and have since spent eleven seasons in the second tier and the same number in the third.  Narrowly surviving extinction this summer, survival is an achievement in itself in a country where four of the original twenty top-flight clubs no longer exist in any form whatsoever.

Chernivtsi has recently spruced itself up, with its red-brick university added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2011 and both Central Square and the nearby Olga Kobylianska Street repaved and pedestrianised. The football stadium is just off Holovna, a ten-minute walk from the centre on the other side of Shevchenko Park.  The Bukovyna, the city’s fanciest hotel, is directly opposite, the bus station another ten minutes up the road.  When I went there, the stadium was empty except for a small group of workmen repairing seats and three sprinters practising their starts.  On a dirt pitch next to the ground, a shirts against skins game had just got underway.  I watched from the top of the uncovered stand, dust and sunflower shells blowing across my feet.