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Yitzhak Arad, Who Led Holocaust Study Center in Israel, Dies at 94

Yitzhak Arad, who as an orphaned teenage partisan fought the Germans and their collaborators during World War II, then went on to become an esteemed scholar of the Holocaust and the longtime chairman of the Yad Vashem remembrance and research center in Israel, died on May 6 in a hospital in Tel Aviv. He was 94.

Yad Vashem announced the death but did not specify the cause.

Mr. Arad was not even bar mitzvahed when the Germans invaded Poland and what is now part of Lithuania in 1939 and began rounding up and murdering Jews and forcing them into ghettos. His parents and 30 close family members would perish before the war ended in 1945.

But he survived, at first as a forced laborer — cleaning captured Soviet weapons in a munitions warehouse — and then, sensing what fate awaited, by smuggling weapons to partisans in the nearby forests and forming an underground movement in the ghetto. He, his sister and their underground associates eventually stole a revolver and escaped, meeting up with a brigade of Soviet partisans.

Acquiring the lifelong nickname Tolya (diminutive for Anatoly), he took part in ambushing German bases in what is now Belarus and setting up mines that blew up more than a dozen trains carrying German soldiers and supplies. Among his exploits was a battle with pro-German Lithuanian partisans in fields and forests covered in deep snow in the village of Girdan.

“We fought with them for a whole day, but by evening none of them remained alive,” he wrote in a 1979 memoir, “The Partisan: From the Valley of Death to Mt. Zion.” “The next day we counted over 250 Lithuanian dead.”

A Zionist since childhood, Mr. Arad made his way to Palestine, then a British mandate, aboard a ship, the Hannah Senesh, filled with immigrants.

He changed his Polish name, Icchak Rudnicki, to the Hebrew, Yitzhak Arad, and joined the fight for an autonomous Jewish land, serving with the Palmach, the elite fighting force that was eventually incorporated into the Israeli Army after Israel declared its independence in 1948. Assigned to an armor brigade, he rose to the rank of brigadier general, retiring in 1972.

He devoted himself to researching the history of the Holocaust, completing a doctorate at Tel Aviv University with a treatise on the destruction of the Jews of Vilna, Lithuania’s capital, now known as Vilnius. He was among the first scholars to study the Jewish partisans in the forests and the ghettos and the systematic murder of Jews by killing squads as the German Army moved deeper into Soviet territory.

“What gave Yitzhak Arad credibility was both the fact that he was a survivor and a historian,” said Abraham H. Foxman, former national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “He could discuss and teach about the Shoah from a very personal perspective.”

When another Palmach veteran, Yigal Allon, became a minister of education and culture, he asked Mr. Arad in 1972 to lead Yad Vashem — which means “a memorial and a name” and is taken from a verse in Isaiah.

A complex of museums, archives and memorial sculptures on a Jerusalem hill, Yad Vashem is considered the world’s leading repository of Holocaust documents, survivor interviews and other material. He served as its chairman of the directorate for more than two decades, until 1993.

“He never forgot,” said Avner Shalev, Mr. Arad’s successor as chairman. “He was part of the most important event for Jews in the 20th century — the Shoah — and he understood that it is an important mission in his life to research and commemorate that event.”

For most of his tenure at Yad Vashem, the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries in its bloc cut off diplomatic relations with Israel. But Mr. Arad took pride in having established working relationships with archivists in those countries and securing hundreds of thousands documents that detailed the scope of the Holocaust.

Under his leadership, Yad Vashem added a number of monuments, including the Valley of the Communities, 2.5 acres of intersecting walls made of rough-hewed stone blocks engraved with the names of 5,000 Jewish communities, most of which were destroyed in the Holocaust.

He lectured at Tel Aviv University and wrote several books considered essential for scholars, including “The Holocaust in the Soviet Union,” which won a National Jewish Book Award in 2009, and “Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: the Operation Reinhard Death Camps,” which chronicled the murder of millions in those death camps.

In 2006, he was briefly the target of a war crimes investigation in Lithuania. A state prosecutor claimed there was evidence that a Soviet partisan band to which he belonged had killed 38 civilians, mostly women and children, in January 1944 in the village of Koniuchy.

Mr. Arad denied ever killing anyone in cold blood and pointed out that the village had been defended by a Lithuanian militia that collaborated with the Nazis. In the international outcry that ensued, historians noted that, at that point, Lithuania had never charged any non-Jews with war crimes despite the thousands of Lithuanians who had collaborated with the Nazis in the slaughter of 200,000 Jews. The case was dropped in 2008.

Mr. Arad was born on Nov. 11, 1926, in the ancient town of Swieciany, then within Poland but now part of Lithuania and known as Svencionys. (Another prominent resident was Mordecai Kaplan, the co-founder of Reconstructionist Judaism.) His father, Israel, was a synagogue cantor, and his mother, Chaya, a homemaker. The family moved to cosmopolitan Warsaw and sent Yitzhak to a Hebrew school. He belonged to a club that was part of the Zionist movement.

After the German blitzkrieg, his parents sent him and his older sister to live with his grandparents in his hometown, Swieciany, thinking they would be safe there. But the Germans occupied the town in June 1941, ordered all the Jews into a ghetto and soon began deportations to death camps and labor camps.

Mr. Arad’s wife, Michal, died in 2015. He is survived by two sons, Giora and Ruli, a daughter, Orit Lerer, 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Mr. Arad remained active with Yad Vashem until his last weeks. Last year, he took part in a photography exhibition about Holocaust survivors and their lives after the war. When it was his turn to speak, he confronted the audience with a hard truth borne of his own ordeals.

“What happened in the past,” he said, “could potentially happen again, to any people, at any time.”

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Heirs Sue Over Ownership of a Pissarro, Saying It Was Seized by Nazis

More than a dozen heirs of a Jewish couple who left Germany as Hitler rose to power have filed a lawsuit in Georgia seeking to recover a Pissarro painting said to have been part of an extensive collection of works seized by Nazis.

The painting, “The Anse des Pilotes, Le Havre,” an oil on canvas work depicting a harbor scene, was among works belonging to Margaret and Ludwig Kainer taken by Nazis after they left Germany, according to the lawsuit filed on Monday in Federal District Court in Atlanta.

Dated 1903, the year of Pissarro’s death, the painting has been valued at about $500,000 to $1 million. It is believed to now be in the possession of the Horowitz Family Foundation in Atlanta, or members of the Horowitz family there, the lawsuit said, naming as respondents the foundation and members of the family: Gerald D. Horowitz; his wife, Pearlann Horowitz; and their son, Scott Horowitz.

“The Nazis confiscated or misappropriated hundreds of thousands of pieces of art as part of their genocidal campaign against the Jewish people,” the suit says, adding, “The story continues today, with the Kainers’ heirs continuing to try and locate and demand their rightful property.”

lawsuit that the Kainer heirs filed, in State Supreme Court in New York in 2013, which described the foundation as “a sham” meant to cheat them out of their inheritance. Lawyers for UBS said years ago in court papers that the company has no relationship with the foundation. The foundation has maintained that, under the terms of Norbert Levy’s will, it has a legal right to the assets it has collected.

In 2017, a judge dismissed the case against the foundation and UBS, saying that the court system in New York was not the proper forum for the heirs’ claims, and an appellate court upheld the decision. Lawyers for the heirs are now challenging those rulings in the state’s Court of Appeals, arguing that the case should be decided in New York.

It is not clear whether the existence of the Swiss foundation could further complicate the dispute over the Pissarro. A lawyer who has represented the foundation in the New York litigation did not reply to an email message asking whether the foundation plans to make any claims of ownership of the Pissarro painting.

According to the lawsuit filed this week in Atlanta, Margaret and Ludwig Kainer left for Switzerland in 1932 to obtain medical care, but never returned to their home in Germany. Alarmed by the persecution of Jews there, they instead moved to France. Meanwhile, the lawsuit said, Nazis sold the stolen Pissarro at auction in 1935.

Eventually, the Kainers registered the work as looted with the French Department of Reparations and Restitutions, the plaintiffs said, adding that information about the painting, along with a photograph of it, was included in a directory of property looted in France and elsewhere during the war.

The painting’s path during the 60 years after the auction in Germany is uncertain. In 1995, the lawsuit said, Gerald D. Horowitz bought the painting from Achim Moeller Fine Art in New York.

the Mondex Corporation, an art recovery company representing the Kainer heirs, that the painting still existed.

People working with Mondex sent letters inquiring about the painting to the museum and to the Horowitz family. Later, lawyers for the heirs sent letters to members of the family and to the Horowitz Foundation, asking for the return of “The Anse des Pilotes, Le Havre.”

The lawsuit added that lawyers for the Horowitzes refused the demand that the work be turned over and denied that the heirs had any right to it.

Now, the precise location of the painting remains a mystery to the heirs.

The lawsuit said that in the summer of 2015, representatives of the Kainer family had spoken briefly with Scott Horowitz.

“Mr. Horowitz was unwilling to confirm whether his father still possessed the painting,” the lawsuit stated, “and refused to disclose its whereabouts.”

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‘Colette,’ From the Video Game Medal of Honor, Wins an Oscar

It was a night of firsts: First Korean actor to win an Oscar, oldest performer to win best actor, first woman of color to win best director.

And, for the video game industry, its first Oscar recognition for best documentary short.

The statuette was for “Colette,” a short film featured in the Oculus virtual-reality game Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, which is also the first Oscar for Facebook. (It owns Oculus, the virtual-reality group that produced the documentary short along with EA’s Respawn Entertainment.)

Oculus TV or YouTube, or on the website of The Guardian, which later acquired and distributed the film.

“We hope this award and the film’s reach means” that the memories of all of who resisted “are no longer lost,” Doran said.

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Marie Supikova, Survivor of Nazi Terror in Czech Village, Dies at 88

And her mother was dying of tuberculosis.

“We recognized each other instantly, but we couldn’t talk to each other because I spoke only German and had forgotten the Czech language,” she told BBC Radio in 2012 about their reunion. “We had to have a translator from Lidice who helped us to talk, and my mother told me that she always believed I had lived and that she would see me again.”

After her mother’s death in Prague in late 1946, Marie went to live with an aunt in Kladno. She graduated from a nursing school in Ostrava.

She bore witness to her Holocaust experience when she testified in October 1947 at the Nuremberg trial of members of the SS Race and Resettlement Main Office. Then only 15, Marie was one of three people — two teenagers and one middle-aged woman — to testify that day about the massacre and their lives afterward.

By the mid-1950s, she was married to Frantisek Supik, adopting the feminine version of his surname, and had a daughter, Ivana. They moved from Ostrava to Lidice, which was being rebuilt, in 1955. She took on a series of local administrative jobs and was the secretary of the Lidice National Committee, which took care of the operation and maintenance of the village.

And she continued to tell her story, often to children. In July 2018, she and her great-granddaughter, Karolina, then 10, laid a bouquet on the gymnasium floor at the high school in Kladno to mark the location where the Gestapo separated Marie from her mother in 1942.

In addition to her daughter and her great-granddaughter, Mrs. Supikova is survived by two grandchildren and three great-grandsons. Her husband, a roofer, died in 1990.

Before Mrs. Supikova’s mother died, she took her daughter to the ruins of Lidice.

“She told Marie, ‘We’re going to see your father,’” said Elizabeth Clark, a retired journalism lecturer at Texas State University, San Marcos, who is writing about Lidice for a faculty writing project. “Marie didn’t understand at first that they were going to the mass grave where he had been buried.”

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In New Holocaust Survivor Testimony, Hate Speech Is a Dangerous Seed

So far, more than 30 videos, each a little over a minute long, have been submitted by Holocaust survivors. The videos will be posted each week on the Claims Conference’s social media platforms.

One of the first is from Abraham H. Foxman, who was born in Eastern Europe in 1940 and was saved from the Holocaust by a Catholic nanny. He immigrated to the United States in 1950, and joined the Anti-Defamation League the day after he passed the bar exam. He retired from the organization in 2015.

In his video for the campaign, he talks about the beginnings of the Holocaust.

“The crematoria, gas chambers in Auschwitz and elsewhere did not begin with bricks, it began with words — evil words, hateful words, anti-Semitic words, words of prejudice,” Mr. Foxman, 81, says. “And they were permitted to proceed to violence because of the absence of words, because of silence.”

Credit…United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

In his testimonial, Mr. Zoltak, 89, described visiting his grandparents in 1935, when he was 4, in the Polish village where they operated a general store. He remembered young Polish people standing in front of the store, “not allowing people to enter, with signs that said ‘Don’t Buy From a Jew.’”

Mr. Zoltak said he didn’t yet know what anti-Semitism was, but that was his first encounter with it.

About seven years later, he and his parents escaped from a “ghetto that was being liquidated.” He recalled how his mother, who sought help from friends and former classmates, would knock on their doors, only to be called “dirty” and turned away.

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He Led Hitler’s Secret Police in Austria. Then He Spied for the West.

The Nazi leaders building that force needed experienced police officers, said Michael Holzmann, the son of an Austrian Nazi who has for many years been researching the activities of the Gestapo in that country. “Huber seized this opportunity and turned from a little investigator into a most successful leader of the Gestapo terror regime in former Austria,” he said.

In March 1938, after Germany annexed Austria, Huber was made the Gestapo chief of the most important part of the country, including Vienna, the capital. Shortly after, the Gestapo began an extensive hunt for dissidents in Austria, and Huber gave orders “to arrest immediately undesirable, particularly criminally motivated Jews and transfer them to the concentration camp Dachau.” A few days later, the first two transports of Jews left Vienna for the camp, with many more to follow.

Huber remained in his post until the end of the war, being given more and more personnel and authority. During that time, 70,000 Austrian Jews who were not able to leave the country were murdered, close to 40 percent of the original community, while their property was looted by the Nazis.

Eichmann confirmed at his trial that he was involved in the deportation of Jews but refused to plead guilty to genocide, saying, “I did not have any other option than to follow the orders I got.”

Huber took a different approach. Speaking to an official of the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal in 1948 — who interviewed him as a witness, not a suspect — he said he had known nothing about the extermination until the end of 1944, when his deputy told him something vague.

“But the historical evidence paints a completely different picture,” says Prof. Moshe Zimmerman, a historian and Holocaust scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Eichmann may have been a face more familiar to the Jewish community, but the one who shared responsibility for carrying out the terror against the Jews, their collection, their forced boarding on the trains and their deportation to the camps, was the police and the Gestapo under Huber.”

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His Ancestors Were German Kings. He Wants Their Treasures Back.

“It is not just about family history, it is German history,” he added.

Prinz von Preussen’s great-great-grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was the last emperor of Germany and by far the richest man in the country before World War I. After Wilhelm abdicated in 1918, he retained substantial wealth: At least 60 railway wagons carried furniture, art, porcelain and silver from Germany to his new home in exile in the Netherlands. The kaiser and his family also held onto substantial cash reserves and dozens of palaces, villas and other properties.

But after World War II, the Hohenzollerns’ forests, farms, factories and palaces in East Germany were expropriated in Communist land reforms, and thousands of artworks and historical objects were subsumed into the collections of state-owned museums.

Prinz von Preussen’s claim for restitution was first lodged by his grandfather after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when thousands of Germans took advantage of new laws allowing them to seek compensation and restitution for confiscated property. Officials assessed it for more than 20 years before negotiations with the family began.

If Prinz von Preussen pursues the case in court, success could hinge on how much support his great-grandfather, Crown Prince Wilhelm, gave to the Nazis in the 1930s. Under German law, if a court deems someone lent the Nazis “substantial support,” then their family is not eligible for compensation or restitution of lost property.

The crown prince hoped that Adolf Hitler would reinstate the monarchy, and wrote him flattering letters. He defended Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies and wore a swastika armband in public. If a court were to agree that Crown Prince Wilhelm’s support for Hitler was “substantial,” then Prinz von Preussen’s claims would be dismissed.

Prinz von Preussen said his great-grandfather had “recognized this criminal regime, and it very quickly became clear that he didn’t have the moral fortitude, or courage, to go into opposition.” But he questioned whether that amounts to “substantial” support, adding that this was a “question that has to be cleared up by legal experts.”

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