Intensive Arabic Semester students at the Moreshet exhibition halls
During their recent visit to the Givat Haviva campus, Intensive Arabic Semester students were guided around Moreshet (The Mordechai Anielewicz Holocaust Study and Research Center) by educator and Moreshet staff member Noam Liebman.
The impressive museum begins with a chamber containing background information with regard the rise of Nazism in Germany and its spread throughout Europe. One of the very first placards deals with the grip of Nazism in Czechoslovakia and when Noam asks the students if they know about this he was surprised to learn that one of the students Martina Paletova hailed from the Czech Republic and was all too aware of the difficult history presented on the walls in front of her.
“We learned a great deal about this period in school,” said Martina, nowadays a naturalized Canadian but whose mother still lives in the Czech Republic.
Walking through the exhibition dealing with life in the Polish town of Tursk prior to the Holocaust, Noam explained about the way of life of the Jewish residents, their communal organizations, education centers and the youth movements such as Hashomer Hatzair, the Bund and others.
From there they moved forward to the section dealing with the disappearance of such communities and the role played by those youth movements in resisting the Nazis.
Following some years of deliberation Moreshet staff concluded that certain subjects were disappearing from the public consciousness, one of which the role played by youth in the resistance against the Nazis, and the influence on the youth in the community in which they grew up and were educated.
“Here in this section of the exhibition hall, the connections and the phenomenon that youth, drawing their strength from the ethos of the community, later came to lead the Resistance Movement,” explained Noam entering that section but not before passing through an area of showcases showing diaries written by young children who perished.
One placard in particular caught the eye of the IAS students and this writer. A teenage boy, Moshe Flinker, a Jewish youth born in the Hague on October 9, 1926 and murdered in Auschwitz by the Nazis in 1944, who decided to learn Arabic and filled pages of lines of Arabic language sentences as he labored to master the script.
Noam Liebman pointing to the Arabic script written by Moshe Flinker and right: one of the placards dedicated to the talented young man who perished aged 18 in Auschwitz
The son of Noah Flinker of Poland who had migrated to Holland and subsequently become a wealthy businessman, the family left the Hague following the 1940 Battle of the Netherlands and went to Belgium in an attempt to evade Nazis rule and the detention, subsequent deportation, of Jews by the Gestapo. The Flinker family remained in Brussels until their arrest and deportation to Auschwitz in 1944.
Moshe Flinker began writing a diary in 1942, two years before he was murdered. The diary was saved by his siblings and eventually published in Hebrew by Yad Vashem in 1958 and an English translation later published in 1965. These days there are also translations in Yiddish and German.
“Moshe Flinker wrote amazingly maturely for such a young boy,” explained Noam as he stood by a placard with Moshe Flinker’s image and pages from his handwritten diary. What was so surprising were pages in the Arabic language and a notation from his diary where he had written:
“I started learning Arabic as many of the inhabitants of Eretz Israel and neighboring countries speak that language. It goes without saying that we must first be at peace with our brothers, the children of Ishmael, who are also the offspring of Abraham,” he wrote.
In block Hebrew letters he had inscribed MOLDETI (My Homeland) across a page full of his Arabic script, each sentence the same as he was obviously practicing writing the language.
Eretz Israel is written in block Hebrew letters on the cover of Moshe’s diary – an exercise book - and underneath that heading, a large Star of David with Zion in Hebrew written in the center.
Another placard of special interest was that of Holocaust survivor and Warsaw Ghetto fighter Yurek Plonsky, a founder member of Kibbutz Megiddo and staff member of Moreshet for many years. Yurek, who died two years ago, repaired manuscripts and books – a skill he learned at Yad Vashem. One of the many books he repaired over the years was the copy of ‘Women in Kibbutz’ taken on her dangerous mission to Slovakia by Hashomer Hatzair’s Haviva Reik and returned to Israel by partisans after she was murdered by the Germans.
Rachel Ragovin, Geoff Nixon, David Helfand, Noam Leibman, Martina Paletova at Moreshet, Givat Haviva
The late Yurek Plonsky’s placard in the Moreshet exhibition halls and right: Yurek a few years prior to his death explaining about the Warsaw Ghetto (using a model in Givat Haviva) to visiting Chinese diplomats