Gunman kills two in livestreamed attack at German synagogue

By Thomas Escritt and Stephan Schepers

BERLIN/HALLE, Germany (Reuters) – A gunman who denounced Jews opened fire outside a German synagogue on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, and killed two people as he livestreamed his attack.

Several German media outlets said the perpetrator acted alone on Wednesday in the eastern German city of Halle. He fatally shot a woman outside the synagogue and a man inside a nearby kebab shop.

Two other people were seriously injured, but regional broadcaster MDR said their condition was not critical.

Police said they had detained one person, reported by German magazines Spiegel and Focus Online to be a 27-year-old German named Stephan B. His full name cannot be published under German privacy laws.

Video broadcast on Amazon’s gaming subsidiary Twitch showed a young man with a shaven head first reciting a short statement in broken English while sitting in a parked car.

“I think the Holocaust never happened,” he began, before adding “feminism is the cause of decline in birth rates in the West” and mentioning mass immigration. He concluded: “The root of all these problems is the Jew”, before embarking on his shooting spree.

A spokeswoman for Amazon said Twitch “worked with urgency to remove this content and will permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act.”

The company later said its investigation suggested that “people were coordinating and sharing the video via other online messaging services,” but did not elaborate.

Reuters found copies and links to the footage posted on Twitter, 4chan and message boards focused on trolling and harassment, as well as multiple white supremacist channels on messaging app Telegram.

In the video, the man drove to the synagogue, found the gates shut and unsuccessfully sought to force the gates open. He then shot several rounds at a woman passerby.

“We saw via the camera system at our synagogue that a heavily armed perpetrator with a steel helmet and a gun tried to shoot open our doors,” Max Privorozki, Halle’s Jewish community chairman, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper.

“We barricaded the doors from inside and waited for the police,” he said, adding that about 70 to 80 people were inside the synagogue observing Yom Kippur, known as the Day of Atonement which is marked by fasting and solemn prayer.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported, without citing its source, that when he was detained the suspect had a wound to the neck and that security authorities suspected he had attempted suicide.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government voiced outrage over the attack on Yom Kippur and urged tougher action against anti-Semitic violence.

Merkel visited a Berlin synagogue as around 200 people, some holding Israeli flags and candles, held a vigil outside. Merkel’s spokesman tweeted: “We must oppose any form of anti-Semitism.”

‘CALM, LIKE A PROFESSIONAL’

Rifat Tekin, who worked at the Halle kebab outlet, said he was making a kebab for two construction workers when a perpetrator threw an explosive at the restaurant before shooting.

“He was very calm, like a professional,” Tekin told n-tv television. “He didn’t say anything. He just kept coming and shooting … I was hiding behind the salad counter.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent condolences to the victims’ families and said in a Twitter post: “The terrorist attack against the community in Halle in Germany on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of our nation, is yet another expression that anti-Semitism is growing in Europe.”

“I call upon the authorities in Germany to continue to work determinedly against the phenomenon of anti-Semitism.”

Anti-semitism is a particularly sensitive issue in Germany, which during World War Two was responsible for the genocide of 6 million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust. Around 200,000 Jews live today in the country of around 83 million people.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the shooting was anti-Semitic, adding: “According to the federal prosecutors’ office, there are enough indications that it was possibly a right-wing extremist motive.”

Despite comprehensive de-Nazification in the post-war era, fears of resurgent anti-Semitic hatred have never completely gone away, whether from fringe, far-right neo-Nazis or more recently from Muslim immigrants.

Occasional past attacks have ranged from the scrawling of Nazi swastikas on gravestones to firebombings at synagogues and even several murders. In recent years, cases of assault or verbal abuse, in some cases directed against people wearing traditional Jewish skullcaps, have raised an outcry.

(Additional reporting by Tassilo Hummel, Joseph Nasr, Thomas Escritt, Riham Alkousaa, Gabi Sajonz-Grimm, Michelle Martin, Elizabeth Culliford, Katie Paul and Stephen Farrell; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Cynthia Osterman and Tom Brown)

Synagogue attack sparks fear among Jews in Germany

By Joseph Nasr

BERLIN (Reuters) – As Jews left Yom Kippur prayers across Germany on Wednesday, they were jolted by word that an anti-Semitic gunman had attacked a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle hours before, killing two people.

The news heightened fears of more anti-Semitic violence in a nation still scarred by the Holocaust and witnessing the rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

“It’s very scary,” said Samuel Tsarfati, a 27-year-old stage director, as he left a Berlin synagogue with fellow French national Samuel Laufer.

The pair, who live and work in the German capital, had spent the holiest day in the Jewish calendar secluded in prayer and switched off their mobile phones for 25 hours of fasting.

Other members of Germany’s 200,000-strong Jewish community expressed similar alarm over the attack. After trying to blast into the Halle synogogue, a lone suspect killed a woman outside and a man in a nearby kebab shop.

“It’s not a coincidence it happened in east Germany. The far-right AfD is very strong there,” Tsarfati said. Leaders of the AfD, which made big gains in elections in two eastern states last month, condemned Wednesday’s attack in Halle.

Attacks on Jews rose by 20% last year and were mainly carried out by right-wing extremists. Even before the Halle shooting, a heavy police presence guarded the synagogue in the trendy suburb of Prenzlauer Berg where Tsarfati and Lauferis attended prayers.

Jews and German politicians have been particularly worried by comments by Bjoern Hoecke, the AfD leader of eastern Thuringia state, that the Holocaust memorial in Berlin is a “monument of shame” and that schools should highlight German suffering in World War Two.

“What happened today shows that the AfD should not be underestimated,” said Laufer. “AfD leaders like Hoecke don’t want to see that their words encourage some people to kill.”

Hoecke was among the AfD leaders to condemn the Halle attack.

The Halle gunman broadcast anti-Semitic comments before he opened fire. Several German media outlets said he acted alone although police have not confirmed this.

The far-right AfD entered the national parliament for the first time two years ago, riding a wave of anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to welcome almost 1 million migrants. The party’s rise has alarmed Jewish leaders who condemn the party’s verbal attacks against Muslim migrants.

‘BLINDED BY HATRED’

Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor and president of the Jewish Community in Munich, suggested that the AfD’s anti-immigrant rhetoric was contributing to an atmosphere of hate that encouraged political violence.

“This scary attack makes it clear how fast words can become acts of political extremism,” she said in a statement. “I’d be interested to know what that AfD has to say about such excesses, for which it had prepared the ground with its uncultured hate and incitement.”

At the gold-domed New Synagogue in Berlin’s city center about 200 people, including Muslim leaders, held a vigil, some carrying Israeli flags and others holding candles. Merkel visited the synagogue in the evening and took part in prayers.

Renate Keller, a 76-year-old attending the vigil with her husband, said the attack in Halle showed that Germany was not doing enough to fight anti-Semitism.

“It scares me that after the Holocaust some people have learned nothing from our history, which still weighs on us today,” she said. “People like the attacker have probably never met a Jew in their lives. They are just blinded by hatred.”

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, warned of the incendiary potential far-right politics.

“It shows that right-wing extremism is not only some kind of political development, but that it is highly dangerous and exactly the kind of danger that we have always warned against.”

mtpi

(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Belarus reburies over 1,200 Jews unearthed in Nazi-era mass grave

People attend a ceremony to rebury the remains of Jews killed by Nazis in a local ghetto during World War Two, which were recently found at a construction site in a residential area, in the city of Brest, Belarus May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

BREST, Belarus (Reuters) – Belarus on Wednesday buried more than 1,200 Jewish Holocaust victims whose remains were unearthed this year after builders stumbled across a Nazi-era mass grave beneath a construction site in a residential area.

Soldiers were called into the city center of Brest on Belarus’ western border with Poland where they exhumed the bones of 1,214 people killed during the Nazi occupation at the site of what served as a Jewish ghetto from 1941-42.

Their remains were buried on Wednesday in 120 blue caskets embossed with the star of David that were laid side-by-side and two-deep in a giant grave in a city cemetery to the north of Brest at a ceremony led by a local Jewish rabbi.

The funeral ceremony, which also featured a gun salute by Belarusian soldiers, was attended by around 300 people including Israel’s ambassador in Belarus and Jewish community members.

Attendees, some of whom closed their eyes in prayer, took turns to toss earth onto the caskets before the pit was filled in.

“The soul goes up to heaven through this process, so it was very important for the Jewish community that it was all done with Jewish custom,” said Israel’s ambassador in Belarus, Alon Shoham.

Nazi Germany occupied Belarus, then part of the Soviet Union, during World War Two. Tens of thousands of its Jews were killed by the Nazis. Brest was part of Poland before the war.

The mass grave was uncovered by chance in January as builders were laying the foundations for an elite housing development, prompting an operation to exhume their remains.

Some of the skulls they found bore bullet holes, suggesting victims had been executed by a shot to the back of the head. Soldiers also found personal effects such as leather shoes that had not rotted.

“I have mixed feelings,” Jewish community member Regina Simonenko said after the funeral. She said she had been shaken by the sheer horror of the events, but that it was important that they had been remembered.

“If we don’t remember, then things like this can happen again.”

(Reporting by Reuters TV; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Gareth Jones)

Holocaust survivor meets with California teens involved in Nazi salute photos

Auschwitz survivor Eva Schloss, stepsister of Holocaust diarist Anne Frank, talks to the media at Newport Harbor High School after speaking with a group of students seen in viral online photos giving Nazi salutes over a swastika made of red cups that sparked outrage in Newport Beach, California, U.S., March 7, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Steve Gorman

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (Reuters) – An Auschwitz survivor and stepsister of Holocaust diarist Anne Frank met on Thursday with some of the California high school students who posed in social media photos giving Nazi salutes over a swastika made of red cups used in a drinking game.

The anti-Semitic images, one with the caption “master race” – a reference to the Nazi belief in ethnic purity – went viral after being posted to Snapchat on Saturday, fueling concerns about a recent surge in incidents of hate speech in public schools nationwide.

Eva Schloss, 89, a peace activist who has chronicled her Holocaust experiences in several books, visited privately for more than hour at Newport Harbor High School with about 10 of the teens involved, along with their parents, student leaders, faculty members and a local rabbi who helped organize the meeting.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Schloss said the students described the Nazi salute incident as “a joke,” and she was surprised when they professed not to have fully understood the meaning and consequences of their behavior.

“It did show that education, obviously, is still very, very inadequate,” said Schloss, a London resident who was in California this week on a U.S. speaking tour. She said the students expressed sincere remorse for what happened on Saturday.

“I was 16 when I came out of Auschwitz,” Schloss said she told the students. “I was their age when I realized my life was completely shattered.”

The photos were taken at a party attended by students from several high schools serving a cluster of predominantly white, largely affluent Orange County communities. The images included teens with arms raised in a Nazi salute and students crowded around the cups arranged in the shape of a swastika.

School officials said they have interviewed more than two dozen students and are weighing possible disciplinary action.

LIVES INTERTWINED

The early life of Schloss, a native Austrian, closely parallels that of her German-born stepsister, Anne Frank. Both families moved to Amsterdam to escape anti-Jewish Nazi persecution in their homelands.

The two girls lived near each other and were friends before Germany’s Dutch occupation, forcing both families into hiding. Frank’s personal journal about her family’s ordeal was posthumously published in 1947 as “The Diary of a Young Girl.”

Frank died at age 15 at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany in early 1945.

Like Frank’s family, Schloss was captured by the Nazis in 1944 in Amsterdam and was sent to Auschwitz, where her brother and father died. Schloss and her mother were liberated by the Soviet army, and her mother married Frank’s father, Otto, in 1953.

Newport Beach Rabbi Reuven Mintz, who helped organize the students’ meeting with Schloss, said the controversy should be a “wake-up call” to a rising tide of anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which tracks acts of racism, says the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported at U.S. public schools jumped 94 percent from 2016 to 2017, the latest year such figures are available.

One factor appears to be wide-scale human migration stirred by war, political upheaval and environmental degradation, which in turn has fed a global rise in xenophobia and discriminatory politics that is “becoming mainstreamed in much of the Western world,” said regional ADL director Peter Levi.

“High school kids are not immune from that,” he said.

Another factor, he said, is the spread of extremist ideology by way of social media and the Internet, “and everyone has access to that in his pockets.”

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Newport Beach, California; Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Darren Schuettler and Lisa Shumaker)

Palestinian leader Abbas offers apology for remarks on Jews

FILE PHOTO - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas heads a Palestinian cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah July 28, 2013. REUTERS/Issam Rimawi/Pool/File Photo

By Stephen Farrell

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday offered an apology after he was accused of anti-Semitism for suggesting that historic persecution of European Jews had been caused by their conduct, not by their religion.

Abbas condemned anti-Semitism and called the Holocaust the “most heinous crime in history” in a statement issued by his office in Ramallah after a four-day meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), at which he had made the remarks.

“If people were offended by my statement in front of the PNC, especially people of the Jewish faith, I apologize to them,” Abbas said in the statement.

“I would like to assure everyone that it was not my intention to do so, and to reiterate my full respect for the Jewish faith, as well as other monotheistic faiths.”

Abbas, 82, was excoriated by Israeli and Jewish leaders and diplomats who accused him of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial for his remarks on Monday during his opening speech to the PNC, the de facto parliament of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

He said that Jews living in Europe had suffered massacres “every 10 to 15 years in some country since the 11th century and until the Holocaust”.

Citing books written by various authors, Abbas said: “They say hatred against Jews was not because of their religion, it was because of their social profession. So the Jewish issue that had spread against the Jews across Europe was not because of their religion, it was because of usury and banks.”

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman swiftly rejected Abbas’ apology. He wrote on Twitter: “Abu Mazen is a wretched Holocaust denier, who wrote a doctorate of Holocaust denial and later also published a book on Holocaust denial. That is how he should be treated. His apologies are not accepted.”

Reacting to the speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday accused Abbas of grave anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the U.S.-based Jewish human rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Abbas’ words were those of “a classic anti-Semite”.

U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov called Abbas’ comments “deeply disturbing”.

PREVIOUS COMMENTS

A veteran member of Fatah, the PLO’s dominant faction, Abbas served for decades as a loyal deputy of his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. He assumed the leadership of Fatah, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority after Arafat died in 2004, and was re-elected as chairman of the PLO’s Executive Committee on Friday.

In 1982 Abbas obtained a doctorate in history at the Moscow Institute of Orientalism in the then-Soviet Union. His dissertation, entitled “The Secret Relationship between Nazism and the Zionist Movement” – to which Lieberman referred – drew widespread criticism from Jewish groups.

The following year the Simon Wiesenthal Center released translated quotations from the book, including one excerpt about World War Two in which, according to the center’s translation, Abbas wrote:

“Following the war…word was spread that six million Jews were amongst the victims and that a war of extermination was aimed primarily at the Jews…The truth is that no one can either confirm or deny this figure. In other words, it is possible that the number of Jewish victims reached six million, but at the same time it is possible that the figure is much smaller – below one million.”

After Abbas’ speech on Monday, Hier and Cooper said: “The world can now see that see that, for Palestinian Authority President Abbas, nothing has changed in the 45 years since his doctoral dissertation was first published.”

But in his apology on Friday, Abbas said: “I would also like to reiterate our long held condemnation of the Holocaust, as the most heinous crime in history, and express our sympathy with its victims.

“Likewise, we condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms, and confirm our commitment to the two-state solution, and to live side by side in peace and security,” he said, referring to an eventual resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

(Reporting by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Britain says Abbas Holocaust remarks ‘deeply concerning’

FILE PHOTO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waves in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank May 1, 2018. Picture taken May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Thursday that recent remarks by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the Holocaust were “deeply concerning” and unhelpful to peace in the region.

Israel has accused Abbas of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial after the Palestinian leader suggested in a speech that historic persecution of European Jews had been caused by their conduct.

“Palestinian President Abbas’s comments at the Palestinian National Congress were deeply concerning. Any attempt to justify or explain away any element of the Holocaust is unacceptable,” Britain’s Middle-East minister Alistair Burt said in a statement.

“President Abbas has shown a commitment to non-violence and a two-state solution. But his recent rhetoric does not serve the interests of the Palestinian people and is deeply unhelpful to the cause of peace.”

(Reporting by William James, editing by Estelle Shirbon)

Netanyahu accuses Palestinian leader of anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem April 15, 2018. Gali Tibbon/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

By Stephen Farrell

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Mahmoud Abbas of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial on Wednesday after the Palestinian leader suggested in a speech that historic persecution of European Jews had been caused by their conduct.

Jewish groups also condemned Abbas’ comments, made in a speech on Monday to the Palestinian National Council, that Jews had suffered historically not because of their religion but because they had served as bankers and money lenders.

“It would appear that, once a Holocaust denier, always a Holocaust denier,” Netanyahu said on Twitter.

“I call upon the international community to condemn the grave anti-Semitism of Abu Mazen (Abbas), which should have long since passed from this world.”

Abbas said in his speech that Jews living in Europe had suffered massacres “every 10 to 15 years in some country since the 11th century and until the Holocaust”.

Citing books written by various authors, Abbas argued: “They say hatred against Jews was not because of their religion, it was because of their social profession. So the Jewish issue that had spread against the Jews across Europe was not because of their religion, it was because of usury and banks.”

“CLASSIC ANTI-SEMITE”

Netanyahu’s criticism was echoed by Jewish leaders around the world.

“Abbas’ speech in Ramallah are the words of a classic anti-Semite,” said Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the U.S.-based Jewish human rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“Instead of blaming the Jews, he should look in his own backyard to the role played by the Grand Mufti in supporting Adolf Hitler’s Final Solution,” they added.

They were referring to Muslim Grand Mufti Haj Amin Husseini, a World War Two ally of Adolf Hitler, whose “Final Solution” led to the killing of six million Jews in Europe.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweeted that Abbas had “reached a new low in attributing the cause of massacres of Jewish people over the years to their ‘social behavior'”.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and the foreign service of the European Union, the biggest donor of aid to the Palestinians, also condemned the comments.

“We reject any relativisation of the Holocaust,” Maas told Die Welt daily.

“Germany bears responsibility for the most atrocious crime of human history,” he said, adding the memory of the Holocaust was a constant reminder to tackle any form of anti-Semitism.

The European External Action Service in Brussels said in a statement: “Such rhetoric (about the Jews) will only play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution, which President Abbas has repeatedly advocated.”

Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah declined comment on the criticism.

Abbas, 82, made his remarks in the West Bank city of Ramallah at a rare meeting of the Palestinian National Council, the de facto parliament of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which Abbas heads.

A veteran member of Fatah, the dominant faction of the PLO, Abbas served for decades as a loyal deputy of his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. He assumed the leadership of Fatah, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority after Arafat died in 2004.

Abbas was born in 1935 in Safat, a town in the north of what was then British-ruled Palestine. His family became refugees in 1948, fleeing across the border to Syria as violence intensified between Jews and Arabs, culminating in war between the newly created State of Israel and its Arab neighbors in May 1948.

In 1982 Abbas obtained a doctorate in history at the Moscow Institute of Orientalism in the then-Soviet Union. His dissertation, entitled “The Secret Relationship between Nazism and the Zionist Movement”, drew widespread criticism from Jewish groups, who accused him of Holocaust denial.

(Additional reporting by Berlin and Brussels bureaus; Reporting by Stephen Farrell, Nidal al-Mughrabi, Ali Sawfta, Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Holocaust letters contained ‘a lot of hope’, exhibit shows

Holocaust survivor Betty Kazin Rosenbaum, 76, holds an old letter and a family photo during an interview in her house in Zichron Yaakov, Israel, April 10, 2018. Picture taken April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Nir Elias

By Elana Ringler

Zichron-Yaakov, ISRAEL (Reuters) – “Hope to see you in good health, a thousand kisses, mommy,” were the last words Betty’s mother wrote to her before being sent with her eight-week-old baby to their deaths at the Sobibor Nazi concentration camp in eastern Poland in 1943.

Holocaust survivor Betty Kazin Rosenbaum, 76, stands under a tree in her garden in Zichron Yaakov, Israel, April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Nir Elias

Holocaust survivor Betty Kazin Rosenbaum, 76, stands under a tree in her garden in Zichron Yaakov, Israel, April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Nir Elias

Sitting at her home with a pastoral view from a hilltop town overlooking the Mediterranean sea, 76-year-old Betty Kazin Rosenbaum read the hand-written letter in Dutch from the mother she never really got to know.

Betty keeps her mother’s original letter in her home, but she provided a scanned copy for a new digital exhibition unveiled at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust research center and museum in Jerusalem.

After spending several years in a ghetto in Amsterdam, the family separated. In 1943, two-year-old Betty was sent to a Christian foster home in the town of Eibergen in The Netherlands until the end of the war.

Her mother and eight-week-old baby brother were hidden by a Christian family in Neede, but were betrayed by locals in the town and were subsequently sent on a train to their deaths. The father, too, according to records, was eventually sent to Sobibor.

Betty did not know who sent her the letter her mother had written, nor the postcard she wrote from the train. But the handwriting was the same as in the well-kept baby record book that she carried, along with several other articles, in a big square blue box that she brought with her from Holland when she emigrated to Israel in 1964.

“She always wrote with a lot of hope and never depressive,” said Betty with a smile. “Here she writes mommy. It is her and then I feel very close with her.”

Yad Vashem recently launched its third digital exhibition of letters obtained from the Holocaust, entitled “Last Letters From The Holocaust: 1943.” The exhibit “I Left Everyone At Home” includes ten handwritten letters in different languages.

A letter written in Dutch to 76-year-old Holocaust survivor Betty Kazin Rosenbaum by her mother before she was killed in the Holocaust is seen in her house in Zichron Yaakov, Israel, April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Nir Elias

A letter written in Dutch to 76-year-old Holocaust survivor Betty Kazin Rosenbaum by her mother before she was killed in the Holocaust is seen in her house in Zichron Yaakov, Israel, April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Nir Elias

The letters are mostly hopeful and optimistic.

“All those who wrote the letters and are presented online … became victims of the Holocaust. They didn’t know that when they wrote it,” said Yona Kobo, the digital curator and researcher at Yad Vashem. Their fates, she said, were all “more or less the same.”

Kobo tracked down each family of the people who wrote the letters. “Each story is different and each family is different and that also allows us to give them back their names, their human dignity and to commemorate them,” she said.

Like the rest of Israel, Betty will mark the annual Holocaust Memorial Day on Wednesday (April 11) to commemorate six million Jews murdered by the Nazis in World War Two.

Betty said sometimes she feels anger, but now she is focused on researching her family’s history, putting together the pieces of the puzzle and sharing her story with younger generations.

“The war years vanished, and they never told me anything. Now… there’s nobody to ask anymore and that is very painful,” she said as she looked at the fading photographs, prayer books and old, yellowing paper notes she has carried with her around the world.

According to Yad Vashem, fewer than 80,000 Holocaust survivors are still alive in Israel.

(Reporting by Elana Ringler; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Court rules Nazi death camp ‘Bookkeeper of Auschwitz’, 96, must go to jail

Oskar Groening, defendant and former Nazi SS officer dubbed the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz" leaves the court after the announcement of his verdict in Lueneburg, Germany, July 15, 2015.

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s constitutional court has ruled that a 96-year-old German must go to jail over his role in mass murders committed at the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz during World War Two, refusing to overturn a lower court ruling.

Oskar Groening, known as the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz” for his job counting cash taken from the camp’s victims, was sentenced to four years’ jail in 2015, but wrangling over his health and age have delayed the start of his sentence.

The constitutional court rejected the argument by Groening’s lawyers that imprisonment at his advanced age would violate his right to life, adding that the gravity of his crimes meant there was a particular need for him to be seen to be punished.

“The plaintiff has been found guilty of being accessory to murder in 300,000 related cases, meaning there is a particular importance to carrying out the sentence the state has demanded,” the judges wrote, upholding the Celle regional court’s ruling.

There is no further appeal to the constitutional court’s ruling. The ruling does leave open the possibility that Groening could be released if his health deteriorates.

In a 2015 court battle seen as one of the last major Holocaust trials, prosecutors said although Groening did not kill anyone himself while working at Auschwitz, in Nazi-occupied Poland, he helped support the regime responsible for mass murder by sorting bank notes seized from trainloads of arriving Jews.

Groening, who admitted he was morally guilty, said he was an enthusiastic Nazi when he was sent to work at Auschwitz in 1942, at the age of 21.

He came to attention in 2005 after giving interviews about his work in the camp in an attempt to persuade Holocaust deniers that the genocide had taken place.

Some 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust carried out under Adolf Hitler.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Alison Williams)

Trump calls Nazi Holocaust ‘history’s darkest hour’

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania lay a wreath during a ceremony commemorating the six million Jews killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust, in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump paid tribute at Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial on Tuesday to the six million Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust, calling it an indescribable act of evil.

Holding hands, the president and First Lady Melania Trump walked solemnly to lay a wreath together upon the ashes of Holocaust victims, buried at the site’s Hall of Remembrance.

“Words can never describe the bottomless depths of that evil, or the scope of the anguish and destruction. It was history’s darkest hour,” Trump said in a short speech after the memorial ceremony.

“It was the most savage crime against God and his children,” said Trump, who is visiting Israel and the Palestinian Territories on the second leg of his first foreign trip since taking office in January.

Trump’s administration has drawn anger over past omissions and utterances regarding the Holocaust.

In January, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a Trump administration statement failed to mention Jews, the overwhelming majority of those who were killed in the Holocaust.

In April, White House spokesman Sean Spicer triggered an uproar when he said Hitler did not sink to the level of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by using chemical weapons on his own people. Spicer also used the term “Holocaust centers”, in an apparent reference to the Nazi death camps.

Spicer later apologized after his comments sparked an uproar on social media and elsewhere for overlooking the fact that millions of Jews perished in Nazi gas chambers.

The Anti-Defamation League said in April that anti-Semitic incidents, from bomb threats and cemetery desecrations to assaults and bullying, have surged in the United States since the election of Trump, and a “heightened political atmosphere” played a role in the rise.

Trump had been criticized for waiting until late February to deliver his first public condemnation of anti-Semitic incidents, previously speaking more generally about his hope of making the nation less “divided.”

He later called such incidents “horrible … and a very sad reminder” of the work needed to root out hate, prejudice and evil.

Trump was due to travel to Rome later on Tuesday, where he will continue a nine-day trip that began in Saudi Arabia.

(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Trevelyan)