Category Archives: photo

BBC News – Opera PUSH tells how a young boy escaped Auschwitz horror

transport-xx-to-auschwitz-scene-chana-and-ita-gronowski

BBC News – 2 October 2016 – now with online video (click image above)

How a young boy escaped Auschwitz horror

A new opera tells the story of how 11-year-old Simon Gronowski escaped incarceration in Auschwitz in 1943, after being pushed from the train transporting the family to the camp by his mother.

Note
Source of this BBC film poster image – of Simon’s mother Chana (Kaplan) Gronowski, and his sister Ita – is our doco Transport XX to Auschwitz –  available online via Richard Bloom’s youtube channel.
More info on this film is posted at this site in this post : Documentary film “Transport XX to Auschwitz

Inge’s Tiroler New Year’s Concert

Inge’s Tiroler New Year’s Concert

Inge’s Tiroler New Year’s Concert -video online

Inge Hartmann in concert in Gasthof Turmbichl in Vill , Innsbruck, Tirol, Austria on New Year’s Day 2014 – filmed ,  using a simple compact camera.
 Click the image on top to watch the video on youtube ,
or watch it here  below

Justice ! Successful solidarity march for Afghan refugees in Brussels

Justice! Very successful solidarity march by Belgians and Afghans for the Afghan refugees in Brussels , today 2 years ago (20 nov 2013). Many are now regularized.

Belgians and Afghan refugees march for justice – Brussels 20 nov 2013

Justice!  Very successful solidarity march by Belgians and Afghans for the Afghan refugees in Brussels , today 2 years ago (20 nov 2013). Many are now regularized. One of these refugees I know – Kamran – recently got visa for his wife and kids to come to Belgium. He started just days ago a fresh start for his family in Belgium .. and a gofundme campaign for some help for his family — while he himself is helping tonight newcomers in the rainy streets of Brussels.

Video report Afghans & Belgians « We want justice »

Background (together with my NY partner Kristen Cattell) in the Beguinage church in Brussels.

Afghan refugees in Brussels – Beguinage Project

 May 28th, 2014 report* from the Afghan refugees camp in the Saint John the Baptist church at the Béguinage in Brussels (Belgium) – click 1st image to start slideshow

Beguinage Project

In March 2014 I traveled to Brussels, Belgium to meet a group of Afghans living inside an old Catholic church. At the time, nearly one hundred Afghan refugees had set up camp within the walls of the seventeenth century compound. There were camping tents and make-shift walls within the Baroque interior. Respectfully abiding by the teachings of Islam, the main religious practice of the Afghans living in the Catholic church, there was one side for woman and children and one side for males.

Their shoes were piled up outside of the doors of their tents and warm pots of chai were passed around during mealtime. On a sunny afternoon dozens joined in on a game of cricket, cautious to not start a scene or cause too much noise. All they could do at this point was wait for a potential interview date and hope to receive legal status in a country that they could only half-heartedly call home.

A majority of the males I spoke with were well-educated; most speaking French, Dutch, and English in addition to their native Afghan language of Dari or Pashto. Their skills and experiences as translators, guards, and service men in Afghanistan had threatened their livelihood and ultimately forced them to flee their homeland. The priest of the church, Daniel Alliet, opened the space to the Afghan refugees because he disagreed with Belgium’s asylum policy.

One Afghan gentleman, who asked to remain anonymous, told me about his journey to Brussels: “When you are working with America or other organizations in Afghanistan the Taliban is a big problem. I was with the forces in Kandahar Province for one year. This was a big, big company in Kandahar. After one year the Taliban send some letters to my family saying, ‘Your son is working for the enemy.’ And they said, ‘He will come and he will work with us.’ Then I went to my home. And after the Taliban found out about me, I came to Iran, then I went to Europe, and this country.”

At present, the situation continues to evolve: the church is now used as an Afghan community center instead of a shelter, some have been granted alternative housing accommodations throughout the country, and many refugees were granted the right to stay in the country legally. In Brussels, and around the world, Afghans are facing the harsh realities of displacement while others are struggling to resettle without official resident status, nevertheless, their strength is what binds them and they tirelessly continue to fight for justice.

Text: Kristen Cattell / Photography : Michel van der Burg

Special thanks to Isabelle Marchal and the many friends that welcomed us , and also others whose works were on display at the church and are shown in these pictures.

* Update Sept 6th 2015 – Our full report first appeared May 28th, 2014 (via the now no longer existing web site “Rising Afghans”) and is now fully included here.
Republishing of the short second photo report that appeared also then , will follow soon (the Inside Out project by JR – with original portraits by Chiara Ravano – at Salon Mommen, Brussels.)

Update Nov 15, 2015 – Added video “Béguinage shadows”

Update Nov 19, 2015 – Added info (below) on the  silent solidarity march for Afghan refugees in Brussels Nov 20th 2013 – “Belgians and Afghans demand justice”

Belgians and Afghans demand justice

Belgians and Afghans demand justice – Video report by Michel van der Burg. Belgians and Afghan refugees demand Belgium changes its asylum policy.
Speeches by Amir Mohammad Jafari (12 y, student and Afghan refugee in Belgium) & Simon Gronowski (Belgian lawyer) 20 nov 2013 on the arrival of the silent solidarity march for Afghan refugees in Brussels. « link to full post »

Simon Gronowski and Koenraad Tinel present "Finally Free after 70 years" on Sept. 7, 2013 at the 13th Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin

Simon Gronowski and Koenraad Tinel present “Finally Free after 70 years” on Sept. 7, 2013 at the 13th Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin – with Vincent von Wroblewsky (interpreter) and Christine Eichel (host), Joachim Sartorius (Berliner Festspiele), Ulrich Schreiber (festival director), and Joke Schauvliege (Flemish Minister for Culture) in the Haus der Berliner Festspiele.
Photo report (BUM10022V01): Michel van der Burg – michelvanderburg.com

“Auschwitz and forgiveness” by Simon Gronowski (English translation)

Simon Gronowski & Koenraad Tinel in Auschwitz

Simon Gronowski and Koenraad Tinel together in the Auschwitz camp, May 2012.
(image BUM10010V01 – michelvanderburg.com)

“Auschwitz and forgiveness” – a letter by Simon Gronowski (lawyer) was published in French originally as “Auschwitz et le pardon” in Le Monde (France) on Sept. 20, 2013.

Below the English translation of Simon Gronowski’s letter by Michel van der Burg

Auschwitz and forgiveness  

I lost my mother and sister in the gas chambers of Auschwitz – Birkenau and my father died in despair, in July 1945.
I myself was 11 years old when, on 17 March 1943, the Nazis took me, threw me into a dungeon, the basement of the Gestapo on the Avenue Louise in Brussels, then in a big prison, the Dossin barracks in Mechelen, the ‘Belgian Drancy‘. A month later, April 19, 1943, they put me in a cattle car of the 20th Convoy to Auschwitz. Miraculously, I jumped off the train and escaped death. And all this for what? Because my parents were born Jews.

It took me 60 years to tell the drama of my childhood (L’enfant du 20e convoi [tr. The child of the 20th convoy], ed. Luc Pire, 2002, reprinted Renaissance du Livre, 2013). It took sixty years for Koenraad Tinel to tell his own history of a son of a Flemish Nazi. He did this courageously by extraordinary drawings in a book titled Scheisseimer (Lannau, 2009); he is an artist, a sculptor, and he draws.

Forgiveness

His father adored Hitler. He had his two elder sons in the Waffen SS, the oldest one to the eastern front, the other, at sixteen and a half years old too young to fight, in the Flämisch Wachzug (Flemish Guard), a subsidiary of the Gestapo, camp guards of Breendonk and Mechelen. Fortunately, Koenraad was only 6 years old when Hitler came into Belgium, otherwise he would have imitated his brothers. He has rejected completely the ideology of his father.

We met by chance in February 2012. A 16 year old boy I did not know but who knew our two stories, brought us together. Koen said at that time: “When I read your story, I cried.” I replied: “Children of the Nazis are not responsible.” A great friendship is born between us. We were two children crushed by a war we did not understand at all, one on each side of the fence, I at the side of the victims, he the side of the executioners.

For sixty years, he has carried the burden of his father’s fault. Our grief is not comparable but I understand his. He has freed himself of it first by his book Scheisseimer, then by our friendship.

We made a book on this: Neither victim, nor guilty, FINALLY LIBERATED (Ni victime, ni coupable, ENFIN LIBÉRÉS; Renaissance du Livre, 2013): I wrote, Koenraad drew with ink. In January, Koenraad told me: “My brother knows your history, he wants to see you“, this brother, guardian at the Dossin barracks (Kazerne Dossin) when I was detained there, took me at gunpoint into the wagon of death.

So he regretted what he had done and asked me to forgive.
When I saw him, we hugged each other without saying a word, in tears. I forgave him only on my own behalf, not on behalf of other victims and I forgave him alone, not all Nazis. I did it especially for me, feeling I transcended it.

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. On the contrary, it gives the memory greater prominence, a larger dimension. Our memory is essential: we must know the barbarism of the past to defend democracy today. Democracy is a struggle every day.

Amnesty is unacceptable : it is a blind collective measure that absolves all culprits without requiring them to repent.
Forgiveness is a religious virtue. For Buddhists, it is an act of liberating wisdom.
The bigger the crime, the greater forgiveness.

Some say they would not be able to forgive: – this statement does not make sense because they have never been asked as I have been and it is unlikely they will ever be, but if it happened to them, what would they do ? – 70 years later, they still suffer from their wounds and their resentment when they should love life and believe in happiness, out of respect for the deceased relatives.

When the culprit repents and asks for forgiveness, the victim not only can but must forgive, for refusing means maintaining hatred from both sides. Some criticize my friendship for Koenraad and my forgiveness for his brother.
They want to keep the children and descendants of victims and perpetrators separated forever into two enemy camps.

They are often victims of Nazism. This is normal, they have suffered terrible trauma in their body and in their soul. But they freeze in their victim posture, locked in their bitterness.
Aren’t they thinking too much of their own pain, and not enough of that of the other? Some, born after the war and who have not suffered the Holocaust, are not less hateful.

Such an attitude opens the way to new animosities, new wars, new suffering for our children.
It is not because children of victims and children of offenders for long, for generations, unconsciously, carry the stigma of absolute evil, that they must stay pitted against each other.
Men should not be divided but brought closer together, one must go toward the other to progress and grow together for a better world of peace and mutual respect. This is a message of hope and happiness.
I who lost my family by criminal hate, I do not hate. Despite the tragic events of yesterday and today, because even today in the world there are peoples who suffer, men who suffer, I keep my faith in the future because I believe in human goodness.

Long live peace and friendship between men !

Simon Gronowski (Lawyer)

Simon Gronowskiescaped from the 20th convoy – received the 2006 Grand Prix Condorcet-Aron for democracy – is a former president of the Union of Jews deported from Belgium (Union des Déportés Juifs de Belgique).

Notes –  by Michel van der Burg
– English translation (with help from Richard Bloom) by Michel van der Burg
– I inserted some extra links
– “Auschwitz and forgiveness” – a letter by Simon Gronowski (lawyer) was published in French originally as “Auschwitz et le pardon” in Le Monde (France) on Sept. 20, 2013. (I left out the photo published with the Le Monde letter)
– The image in this post is a frame from video I captured during the visit of Simon Gronowski and Koenraad Tinel in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Oświęcim, Poland on May 24, 2012. (image BUM10010V01 – michelvanderburg.com)

Update – Full letter – Sept. 27. Now the translation of the (final) 2nd part of the letter was added (after it became publicly available for all on the website of Le Monde today). This second part starts with: Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. On the contrary,…….
Also the last sentence of the first part was altered.