Honoring the Present –– and Future –– Nobel Laureates


By Masha Leon

Published November 05, 2004, issue of November 05, 2004.
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“It’s the first time Israelis have been awarded a Nobel Prize in Science” said Ben Sosewitz, chairman of Technion International’s board of governors, at the October 14 American Technion Society 80th anniversary dinner at The Plaza in New York. While applauding Technion professors Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover — discoverers of ubiquitin, which is a key to the recycling of spent cellular protein — Sosewitz touted Technion’s 60,000 graduates “who helped transform… Israel into a first-world nation.” According to the Technion Fact Sheet, “Israeli companies led by Technion graduates generate nearly a third of Israel’s $100 billion Gross Domestic Product.”

“For a kid who didn’t have a bar mitzvah, he did pretty good,” Senator Frank Lautenberg said in reference to Henry Taub, a founder of Automatic Data Processing, Inc. He and his wife, Marilyn Taub, were the evening’s honorees. In 1999, the Henry and Marilyn Taub and Family Science and Technology Center was dedicated at Technion. It was noted: “The Technion’s computer science department… is… larger than the one at MIT or Caltech.”

“Henry and I, we love our country, we love our heritage.… We love being able to give something back,” said Lautenberg, a past CEO of ADP. “My allegiance is to my country.… [But] we in America need Israel.… Imagine if we did not have Israel.” An emotional Henry Taub spoke of his family, a trip to Poland on the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and of the Technion faculty: “[Many] survivors, immigrants.… Our dollars… their brains….The best stem cell lines exist at Technion,” he added.“[To] help relieve pain.… Miracles are happening. I close with a prayer for Israel and all mankind in this treacherous world.”

Among the 350 dinner guests, were committee member Harvey Kreuger and Yiddish scholar Ruth Wisse (with whom I reminisced about 1940s Yiddish Montreal). “My father read the Forverts and listened to WEVD,” Harry Taub told me. “I still remember the Forverts’s rotogravure section.”

* * *

“Everyone knows about the [1943] Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. But the story of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising is not known,” Norman Davies told the guests at the October 18 luncheon at the Kosciuszko Foundation, hosted by Sir Philip Thomas, consul general of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and by Poland’s consul general, Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska. To differentiate the 1944 Polish resistance — “which poured 40,000 armed fighters into the streets to drive the Germans out” and cost 250,000 civilian lives — from the Ghetto Uprising of 1943, Davies, a British historian and author of the two-volume “God’s Playground: A History of Poland” (Columbia University Press 1982), said he chose “rising” instead of “uprising” as the title for his current best seller, “Rising ’44: The Battle for Warsaw” (Viking Books).

“No one wanted to talk about [the rising] after the war,” said Davies (who is Welsh and received his doctorate from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow in 1973). “Roosevelt washed his hands… FDR misled Polish Americans when he received a [Chicago] Polish delegation… whom he courted for his upcoming election…. Here one ally was killing another ally… Soviets killed Poles.” As Soviet troops across the Vistula River watched, the Germans reduced Warsaw to rubble. “The Soviets would bring down British and American planes en route to Warsaw with aid.”

Davies told of how survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising who came out of the sewers instructed the Polish Home Army on how to use those sewers in the defense of Warsaw against the Germans. In “Rising,” Davies addresses the claim “that the Home Army was an anti-Semitic organization.” He writes: “The fact is, Jews with various religious and political connections served with distinction both in the Home Army and the People’s Army… which, particularly short of recruits, agreed to organize a separate Jewish section that was mainly composed of ghetto fighters.” In the book there is an eyewitness report of the liberation of an extermination camp called “Goose Farm” by Poles dressed in German uniforms. The eyewitness reports: “An inmate approaches and salutes: Sergeant Henryk Lederman, sir… and the Jewish Batallion ready for action.” More than 1,000 Jewish survivors fought with the Poles in the 1944 rising.

* * *

The October 29 Bal Polonaise at The Plaza opened with the Old World grandeur of a Grand Polonaise. Led by Lady Blanka Rosenstiel, the gowned ladies wore long white gloves. The gentlemen sported decorations. Among the roster of guests and committee members were Anna Moffo Sarnoff and Ms. Eva Rubinstein.

David Ensor, national security correspondent for CNN (in the 1980s he had been ABC’s Warsaw bureau chief), was presented with the White Eagle award for his documentary, “Warsaw Rising: The Forgotten Soldiers of World War II,” which aired on “CNN Presents” in June.

When I mentioned Davies’s coverage of “Goose Farm” to Ensor, he recounted his interview with Capt. Waclaw Micuta (“Wacek”), now living in Geneva, who led the Zoshka Panzer Platoon that liberated the “Goose Farm” death camp.

According to Micuta’s eyewitness report in Davies’s book: “On July 27, 1944.… The Germans decided to evacuate the camp to Dachau. More than 400 inmates, incapable of marching, were shot…. A column of about 4,000 Jews was marched off, but disappeared without trace.”

Ensor told me how Micuta, during his interview for the film, described the taking out of the camp’s guard towers by blasts from the Polish-captured German tank. “[Micuta] got up, snapped to attention to show me how the liberated Jewish inmates lined up in precise military form and proclaimed: ‘Reporting for duty’…. More than 100 of these men died fighting the Germans.”

I was struck by the frankness of Micuta’s quote in Davies’s book: “Let us remember that anti-Semitism is a sickness of half-intelligent people who are underdeveloped spiritually. It is the same with anti-Polonism on the Jewish side.

We must struggle on all sides that people be brothers to other people.”

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