Friday, March 20, 2009

Sorry for the delay in posting the next stage of this piece but we have had no internet access where we were in Bali.
Knowing that some of you were on the edge of your seats it was frustrating not to be able to post but we just arrived back today.

Gifted antique marble papers from Judi Riesch, Philadelphia.

Thanks for all the wonderful and heartfelt comments about this piece. They were truly amazing and inspiring for me and it means so much to me that bloggers are reading this important artwork.

So without any further delay...

“The Righteous”
Part 3

It was a beautiful autumn day. The Vistula’s waters reflected the foliage of a Polish autumn. The Wavel, the ancient castle of the Polish kings looked as majestic as ever.

A boat of Jew being deported along The Vistula

Mothers strolled with their little children and she, the young Jewish mother, was trying to hold back her tears.

Seperation of Jews who had to sit in the back of Trolley Cars

She slowed her hasty, nervous steps so as not to betray herself and changed her hurried pace to a leisurely stroll as if she too were out to enjoy the sights of ancient Cracow.

Found and repaired, a discarded cutlery box found on a Sydney Street

To thwart all suspicion Helen displayed a huge cross hanging around her neck and stepped in for a moment to the Holy Virgin Church in the Old Square.

Found old cross, vintage jewellery vault, Sydney Australia

Smuggling little Shachne out from the ghetto to the Aryan side was indeed timely.

Found Polish text in local Library Book sale and rusty porthole-type object, gift from Jen Crossley

In March 1943, the Cracow ghetto was liquidated.

People in the work camp adjacent to the ghetto were transferred to nearby Plaszow and to the more distant Auschwitz. Anyone found hiding was shot on the spot.

Cracow Ghetto

Cracow the first Jewish settlement on Polish soil, dating back to the thirteenth century, was Judenrein!

Found discarded antique Yiddish book New York

Mr and Mrs Jachowitch constantly inquired about the boy's young parents.

Eventually they found out that the Hillers had shared the fate of most of Cracow's Jews.

Both of them were consumed by the flames of theHolocaust.

Found cross, New York and found poem with found vintage book Sydney, Australia

Mr& Mrs Jachowitch, also, faced many perilous days.

They moved to a new home in a different town.

From time to time they had to hide in barns and haystacks.

Found vintage book Sydney, Australia

When little Shachne suffered from one of his crying spells, calling for his mother and father they feared that unfriendly suspicious neighbours would betray them to the Gestapo. But time is the greatest healer.

Found antique original music sheet, recycle shop, Sydney, Australia

Little Shachne stopped crying. Mrs Jachowitch became very attached to the child and loved him like her own. She took great pride in her “son” and loved him dearly. His big, bright, wise eyes were always alert and inquiring.

Found tin type paper frame holder, Philadelphia

She and little Shachne never missed a Sunday service and he soon knew by heart all the church hymns. A devout Catholic herself, Mrs Jachowitch decided to baptize the child and indeed make him into a full-fledged Catholic.

She went to see a young, newly ordained parish priest who had a reputation for being wise and trustworthy. Mrs Jachowitch revealed to him her secret about the true identity of the little boy who was entrusted to her and her husband and told him of her wish to have him baptized so that he might become a true Christian and a devout Catholic like herself.

The young priest listened intently to the woman’s story. When she finished her tale, he asked, “And what was the parent’s wish when they entrusted their only child to you and your husband?”

Waxed papers from a book for Jewish Children from Ruth Rae, the title is seen here, "Ways to keep the Commandments".

Mrs Jachowitch told the priest about the letters and mother's last request that the child be told of his Jewish origins and returned to his people in the event of his parent’s death.

The young priest explained to Mrs Jachowitch that it would be unfair to baptize the child while there was still hope that the relatives of the child might take him.
He did not perform the ceremony.
This was in 1946.

Found rusty antique artist paint tin in recycle shop Sydney, Australia

Sometime later, Mr Jachowitch mailed the letters to the United States and Canada. Both Mrs Berger from Washington and Mr &Mrs Aron from Montreal responded, stating their readiness to bring the child to the USA and Canada immediately.

Found text within antique book spine

But then a legal battle began on both sides of the Atlantic that was to last four years. Polish law forbade Polish orphan children to leave the country. The immigration laws of the US and Canada were strict & no visa was issued to little Shachne.

Found 1940's toy car, Sydney Australia

Finally in 1949, the Canadian Jewish Congress obtained permission from the Canadian government to bring 1210 orphans to the country. It was arranged for Shachne to be included in this group, the only one in the group to come directly from Poland.

Meantime a court action was instituted in Cracow, and Shachne was awarded, by a judge in Poland, to the representatives of the Canadian American relatives.

In June 1949 Shachne Hiller boarded the Polish liner MS Batory, the parting from Mrs Jachowitch was a painful one.

Found antique passenger identification tag Melbourne Australia

Both cried but Mrs Jachowitch comforted little Shachne that it was the will of his real mother that one day he should be returned to his own people.

On July 3, 1949, the MS Batory arrived at pier 88 at the foot of west 48th street in New York City. Aboard was little Shachne, first class passenger cabin no. 228.

He was met by his relatives, Mrs Berger and Mrs Aron. For the next year Shachne lived in Canada. On December 19, 1950, after two years of lobbying by Mrs Berger, President Harry S Truman signed a bill into law making Shachne Hiller a ward of the Berger Family. When Shachne arrived at the Berger’s' home on Friday February 9, 1951, there was a front-page story in the Washington Post.

Found antique book, Sydney Australia

It was more than eight years since Shachnes’ maternal grandmother ReizelWurtzel, in the ghetto of Cracow, had written the letter to her sister-in-law (his great-aunt) Mrs Berger, asking her to take her little grandson to her home and heart. Her will and testament were finally carried out.

Found part spine of book which says "One Jude" - "One Jew"

Years passed. Young Shachne was educated in American universities and grew up to be a successful man, vice-president of a company, as well as an observant Jew. The bond between him and Mrs Jachowitch was a lasting one.

They corresponded, and both Shachne and his great-aunt Mrs Berger continually sent her parcels and money, and tried as much as possible to comfort her in her old age. He preferred not to discuss the Holocaust with his wife, sons, family, or friends. Yet all of them knew about the wonderful Mr and Mrs Jachowitch who saved the life of a Jewish child and made sure to return him to his people.

In October 1978, Shachne, now Stanley, received a letter from Mrs Jachowitch.

Found book page in an antique book titled "Left in charge" Australia

In it she revealed to him,
for the first time,

her inclination to baptize him and raise him as a Catholic.

She also went on to describe, at length, her meeting with the young Parish Priest on that fateful day.

Found cover and back of photo album, gift from Michael deMeng, from Italy

Indeed, that young Parish Priest was none other than the man who became

Found and repaired antique bible cover and back- fought hard for but lost the bidding war at an auction in Sydney Australia - I walked away shattered, only to be offered the cover and back, not the contents for a minimal sum after the crowd booed and hissed the purchaser who was told I needed it for a piece of art - love my supportive auction competitors who knew I really needed the item but could not afford to go as high as the winner.

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Cracow

on October 16, 1978

Found antique French haberdashery sign Sydney

was elected by the College of Cardinals


Pope John Paul II.

Found antique book whilst in Philadelphia shopping with Judi Riesch, Karen Cole and Leslie Marsh

Found antique pearl buttons attached to the Papal Cross to represent the "hidden"child - as pearls are hidden within an oyster so to Shachne was hidden, only to be revealed when safe.
This story was based upon several of the conversations of YaffaEliach with Shachne Hiller his family, and his mother-in-law, September 1977-October, 1981.YaffaEliach. 1982. Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust. New York: Avon Books.

Thank you for reading these posts and for viewing this amazing tale of courage.
Courage from a mother
Courage from a Non-Jewish neighbour
Courage from a young Priest

For me this story of heroism is a lesson for all of us today.
I was left questioning whether or not I would have had the courage to stand up and take in a child that was not mine and would, in doing so, put my life and that that of my family’s at risk, not for a day, but for years. It is impossible to answer.

Imagine the strength of Mrs Jachowitz to bring up a child not her own, to hide his true identity then to fall in love with the child and then to have to give him up. She did not have to reveal the identity of the hidden child to the Priest, however being a truly religious Christian, she did just that.

Imagine the presence of mind, the emotions and fortitude of Helen Hiller to separate herself from and to try and save her child.

Imagine the strength of character of a young, Pope John Paul II, to keep the secret of the hidden Jewish child and to insist that he be given back to his people.

Imagine what we can all do if we opened our hearts to each other today and let the courage of our convictions and the humanity within each and everyone of us to shine through.

The Righteous Among The Nations, truly honourable people and wonderful examples of human kind at their best.

Thankyou and please

Never Forget!

Friday, March 6, 2009

“The Righteous”
Part 2

(Found suitcase dumped on Sydney street)

This is a true story.
It speaks of the courage of a number of key people
who risked their lives

in a time of terror and war

to save the innocent.

(Shoes found or given -if you sent them to me please identify yourself)

I ask that if you know the story please do not divulge any part of it, especially if you decide to leave a comment, until the final post when the dramatic ending is revealed.

So as not to reveal the ending the images displayed will not be in order. Any credits will be given at the conclusion.

After reading this story, I knew I had to do a piece if artwork on it, just how to do it took over a year of thought and the gathering of objects.

(Book found on the street in Sydney - it says "German Living". The swastica's were drawn on the book by the owner of the book when found).
The story:

It was June 1942 the murder of Jews in the Cracow ghetto was at its heights. About 5000 victims were deported to Belzec death camp. Hundreds were being murdered in the ghetto itself, shot on its streets on the way to deportation.

The Hiller family realized that their days in the Cracow ghetto were numbered, they too would soon be swept away in one of the frequent Aktions, yet there was still a glimmer of hope.

They were young and skilled labourers if they were deported to a labour camp perhaps they would still have a chance of survival.

But the fate of their little son Shachne was a different matter, small children had become a rare sight in the ghetto, starvation, disease and the most ever increasing selections took their constant toll.

Helen and Moses Hiller began feverishly to plan the rescue of their little Shachne.

After considering various possibilities they decided to contact family friends on the Aryan side in the small town of Dombrowa, childless gentile people named Jachowitch.

Helen Hiller, with help of the Jewish underground made her way to Dombrowa. She went to Mr and Mrs Joseph Jachowitch and begged them to take care of her little son. Although they could do so only at a great risk to their own lives, the Christian friends agreed to take the child.

Despite the ever-increasing dangers of the ghetto, the young parents could not bring themselves to part from their only child. Only after the large Aktion on October 28, 1942 when 6000 additional Jews were shipped to Belzec and the patients at the Jewish hospital, the residents of the old-age home, and 300 children at the orphanage were murdered on the spot, did the Hiller family decide to act.

On November 15, 1942 Helen Hiller smuggled her little boy out of the ghetto. Along with her son she gave her Christian friends two large envelopes.

One envelope contained all the Hillers’ precious valuables and the other contained letters and a will.

One of the letters was addressed to Mr and Mrs Jachowitch, entrusting them with the little Shachne and asking them to bring up the child as a Jew and to return him to his people in case of his parents' death.

(Random book pages gathered and given by friend Ruth Rae, Los Angeles. The book pages are from a book for Jewish children and these specific pages are titled "Ways to keep the Commandments").

The Hillers thanked the Jachowitch family for humanitarian act and promised to reward them for their goodness. The letter also included the names and addresses of relatives in Montreal and Washington D.C.

(Found vintage stamping which dropped on my foot when I dropped an entire drawer of stampings whilst shopping with my friend Michelle Ward in New York - it says 'Forget Me' not in French and German).

The second letter was addressed to Shachne himself, telling him how much his parents loved him that it was this love that had prompted them to leave him with strangers, good and noble people. They told him of his Jewishness and how they hoped that he would grow up to be a man proud of his Jewish heritage.

(Found book Sydney)

The third letter contained a will written by Helen's mother, Mrs Reizel Wurtzel. It was addressed to her sister-in-law Jenny Berger in Washington. She wrote to her of the horrible conditions in the ghetto, the deportations, the death of family members and of the impending doom.

She wrote: “Our grandson, by the name of Shachne Hiller, born on the 18th day of Av, August 22 1940, was given to good people, I beg if none of us will return, take the child to you bring him up righteously. Reward the good people of for their efforts and may G-d grant life to the parents of the child. Regards and kisses your sister, Reizel Wurtzel.”

(Found crocheted cross lying between the pages of a book found in Melbourne Australia)

As Helen was handing the letters to Mrs Yachowitch, she once more stated her instructions: “If I or my husband do not return when this madness is over, please mail this letter to America to our relatives. They will surely respond and take the child. Regardless of the fates of my husband or myself I want my son to grow up as a Jew.”

The two women embraced and Mrs Jachowitch promised that she would do her best. The young mother hurriedly kissed her little child and left, fearing that her emotions would betray her and she would not be able to leave her little son behind in this strange house, but instead would take him back with her to the ghetto.
(Found antique paper frame - Philadelphia)
To be continued...