Page 14 - Church Review JUNE 2020 [IM)
P. 14

World War II
and the
Holocaust ended
 Patrick Comerford
The Covid-19 pandemic ‘lockdown’ is being lifted gradually, and some people are now holding out hopes for a short getaway at the end of this summer or rebooking their holidays into next year.
Earlier this year, before the pandemic took its grip on Europe, I managed to spend a few days in Valencia in Spain and had two visits to London for USPG meetings and interfaith work.
However, a planned visit to the Anglican Church in Myanmar on behalf of USPG was the first trip that was cancelled. This was followed by cancelling a short personal retreat in Lichfield, abandoning plans for Greek Orthodox Easter in Crete, and the cancellation of the General Synod in Dublin in May.
These disappointments were followed by the cancellation of visits to Italy, Poland, and Greece. I particularly wanted to see Warsaw and visit the site of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Jewish uprising near the end of World War II.
This is the second time circumstances have cancelled a planned visit to Warsaw. Now I am wondering whether I am going to get beyond Limerick or Dublin for the rest of this year.
I never took up playing golf – it is a bit wearisome now to joke that I am too young to play golf – and so quick, short city breaks, thanks to cheap flights with Ryanair, are my alternative to golf, and they have provided many topics for this column in the Church Review.
In my own way, I have compensated myself by occasional blog postings that offer ‘virtual tours’ of a dozen sites, such as the churches of Athens, Cambridge, Lichfield, Rome, Tuscany and Venice, the churches, monasteries and restaurants of Crete, or Sephardic synagogues across Europe.
Holocaust anniversaries
Stones at a Jewish memorial in Berlin ... this year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps and the end of the Holocaust, Patrick Comerford, Berlin, 2018
On a much more sober note, I have also been blogging about the commemorations of the 75th anniversaries of the end of World II and the end of the Holocaust in 1945.
In a way that is typical of the worst sort of bias, the Daily Mail allowed its ‘Brexit’ prejudices to overcome historical accuracy and impartial journalism when one souvenir offer referred to VE Day on 8 May as ‘Britain’s Victory over Europe Day.’ There was almost no discussion in newspapers of this sort of the end of the Holocaust.
In recent years, I have visited the concentration camps at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Sachsenhausen, the Holocaust memorials in Berlin, and the former Jewish ghettoes in many European cities. In addition, I found that telling the stories of the concentration camps at Theresienstadt and Ravensbrück involved telling the stories of members – albeit very distant members – of the Comerford family.
I began this year with a visit to the House of Lords for the launch of resources by the Council of Christians and Jews to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. Over the following weeks, the 75th anniversary commemorations included the liberation of the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau (27 January), Buchenwald (11 April), Bergen-Belsen (15 April), Sachsenhausen (22 April), Dachau (29 April), Ravensbrück (30 April) and Mauthausen (5 May).
Remembering Auschwitz
A series of memorials in a variety of languages in Birkenau commemorates the victims of the Holocaust who were murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz and Birkenau. Over 20 languages appear on separate plaques, representing the languages and nationalities of the victims.
Although there is no plaque in Irish, it would be wrong to think that the Holocaust was something that did not affect Ireland, for the Nazis were planning to extend their genocide to Ireland too. During a visit to Auschwitz, I
was chilled by one exhibit that shows how the Nazis plan to exterminate 11 million Jews in Europe included 4,000 Jews in Ireland.
Four Irish citizens, Ettie Steinberg and her son Leon, and Ephraim and Lena Sacks from Dublin were murdered in Auschwitz, and Isaac Shishi from Dublin and his family were murdered by the Nazis in Lithuania.
Esther, or Ettie, was one of the seven children of Aaron Hirsh Steinberg and his wife Bertha Roth. She grew up at 28 Raymond Terrace, in ‘Little Jerusalem’ off the South Circular Road in Dublin. Ettie went to school at Saint Catherine’s School, the Church of Ireland parish school on Donore Avenue, and she married Vogtjeck Gluck in the Greenville Hall Synagogue on the South Circular Road, Dublin, in 1937.
She was 22 and he was 24, and they moved to France.
When the Vichy regime began rounding up Jews in France, Ettie’s family back in Dublin secured visas that would allow them to travel to Northern Ireland. But when the visas arrived in Toulouse, it was too late: Ettie, Vogtjeck and Leon had been arrested the day before.
As they were being transported to the death camps, Ettie wrote a final postcard to her family and threw it out a train window. A passer-by found the postcard and it eventually reached Dublin. The family arrived in Auschwitz on 4 September 1942. It is assumed that they were put to death immediately.
Isaac Shishi, Ephraim Saks and his sister Lena, were all born in Ireland, but their families moved to Europe when they were children.
Isaac was born in Dublin on 29 January 1891, when his family was living at 36 St Alban’s Road, off the South Circular Road. Isaac, his wife Chana and their daughter Sheine were murdered by the Nazis in Vieksniai in Lithuania in 1941.

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