Germans Honor Libeskind

On The Go

By Masha Leon

Published January 03, 2008, issue of January 04, 2008.
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Building a Following: Daniel Libeskind
Building a Following: Daniel Libeskind

“Remember! Remember! Remember! Do not repeat past mistakes! Believe those who threaten us…. What we teach our children [about the Holocaust] defines their lives,” stressed the World Jewish Congress’s Matthew Bronfman, recipient of the Yad Vashem Young Leadership Award. Bronfman received the award at the November 18 American & International Societies for Yad Vashem dinner, held at the Sheraton hotel. Honored with the societies’ Remembrance Award were Cecile and Edward Mosberg. “My children do not know what it is to have a grandmother, an aunt, uncle, a cousin,” Edward Mosberg said. “I was born in Krakow, Poland. When the war started I was 13 years old.… If you saw ‘Schindler’s List,’ my mother was in that first selection to the camp at Plaszow.… In 1944, my two sisters Helena and Karolina and my wife’s sister Mathilda… were transported to Auschwitz… then in 1945 to a camp in Stutthof, where they were shot and thrown into the Baltic Sea one night. The next day was liberation!” The Mosbergs, sole survivors of their extensive families, now schep nakhas from three daughters, two sons-in-law and six grandchildren.

Serving as master of ceremonies was dinner co-chair Ira Mitzner, a member of the societies’ executive committee. Among those who addressed the guests, survivors and their children (first generation) and grandchildren (second generation), the dais-full of communal leaders, and the European and Israeli dignitaries were Eli Zborowski, the societies’ founder and chairman; Dr. Miriam Adelson, dinner-co-chair, and Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate. Hamotzi was said by Rabbi Haskel Besser of Congregation Bnai Israel Chaim, and the benediction was offered by Sam Halpern.


“We are alive today because of you,” said a teenager, referring to her herself and to her young relatives onstage at the Waldorf-Astoria ballroom, to 82-year-old Irena Walulewicz. At great risk to herself and her family, Walulewicz had hidden and saved the kids’ now 92-year old great-grandmother, Golda Buszkaniec, in Swiecany, Poland. (Walulewicz’s brother had been killed by the Germans in 1941; her father, the town mayor, along with 50 Polish community leaders — all Christians — were executed after the town’s 8,000 Jews had been murdered in a single day of slaughter.) The November 27 Jewish Foundation for the Righteous dinner honored Walulewicz, a deaf mute, with the Recognition of Goodness Award. It was her first reunion with Buszkaniec since 1945. From the audience, someone called out: “Three of [Golda’s] grandchildren are doctors. Think of now many lives they will save!” Begun in 1986 by Rabbi Harold Schulweis, the foundation provides financial support to more than 1,200 aged and needy Christian rescuers in 26 countries and educates future generations about the rescuers’ extraordinary acts of courage. These rescuers are among the 22,000 men and women who have been recognized by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations.” “I am not the real honoree,” said Harvey Krueger, the evening’s other Recognition of Goodness Award recipient. A philanthropist, communal leader, and noted banking and investment executive, he is actively committed to Israel’s security and prosperity. “My passion is genealogy,” he said. “Some of my family were saved by Anna Kopec.” Still alive and in her 80s in Sowina, Poland, Kopec — whose profile appears in the dinner journal — hid nine members of the Krueger family, all of whom survived the war. When the parents and one son returned to their home, they were murdered by Poles. Krueger underscored, “The lesson from the Shoah is, ‘Lack of respect of the rule of law creates an environment in which evil can flourish.’”

“For me, memory and Holocaust are not negotiable,” said the foundation’s president, Roman Kent, a survivor. Kent presented the Robert I. Goldman Award for Excellence in Holocaust Education to Nicholas Coddington, a high-school teacher from Tacoma, Wash. Coddington, a former officer in the U.S. Army, explained: “I was under no obligation to teach the Holocaust… but felt it important to teach the next generation to care… that we can’t be bystanders. There are students who want to be good and noble, but don’t know how in the face of negative images on TV and in the movies. Tonight is about teaching the next generation to care.” In the darkened ballroom at dinner’s end, hundreds of guests held lighted candles and in unison said Kaddish for Christians who saved Jews.


Who would have believed — ver volt zikh gerikht— that Daniel Libeskind, a Yiddish-speaking haimisher mensch who designed Berlin’s Jewish Museum, would be awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit by Germany’s president, Horst Köhler? The ceremonial presentation, which took place at the New York residence of Germany’s consul general, Hans-Jürgen Heimsoeth, and his wife, Elizabeth Hemsoeth, in the presence of Berlin’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit, had Libeskind alternately smiling and blushing. The consul general noted the Berlin museum as the “second most visited city museum.” In an aside, the consul cited Libeskind’s designation of his wife, Nina — who was present and kvelling — as “simply a genius.”

“Mr. Libeskind’s contributions to modern architecture in Germany go beyond Berlin, and beyond the crown jewel of the Jewish Museum,” noted Heimsoeth, listing such Libeskind works-in-progress as “a commission to re-create the Military History Museum of Dresen, create stage and costume designs for the opera ‘St. Francis of Assisi’ at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and for the Wagner opera ‘Tristan and Isolde’ in Saarbrücken.” Heimsoeth explained Libeskind’s “likening architecture to music and poetry” as natural, “since he was an accomplished musician and once said that Arnold Schoenberg’s opera ‘Moses and Aron’ served as an inspiration for the Jewish Museum in Berlin.” Heimsoeth defined Libeskind’s work as having “the ability to reconcile Germany’s difficult and exasperating history with its future by means of architecture… Germany’s willingness to stand up to its history, and the necessity of living into the future by means of learning from the past…. Daniel Libeskind has created an extended basis for a dialogue of Germans with Jews in the United States and beyond.”

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