Monday, January 14, 2008

Tragic bond

January 13, 2008
Boston Globe
By Erica Noonan
Globe Staff
The history ties between Jews and Armenians are so strong that it is doubly tragic and transparent when some organizations including Israel play their political cards to minimize the importance to history of the Armenian genocide.
For over 60 years, Meyer Hack, who survived the notorious Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, hid a grim secret - artifacts he found while processing clothes confiscated from new arrivals. Now, Hack has donated the items to the Israeli national Holocaust memorial. But first, they will appear in Watertown, in an unusual collaboration between the local Armenian and Jewish communities, which have been at odds over interpretations of history.

WATERTOWN - Auschwitz survivor Meyer Hack kept his secret for more than 60 years - a small cache of pocket watches, an exquisite diamond ring, an ornate Old World bracelet of gold and emerald, and other jewelry that Jewish Holocaust victims took to their deaths.

Hack spent four years as an inmate at the notorious Nazi concentration camp, where he worked on the camp's laundry crew - processing clothing the Nazis had confiscated from new arrivals to Auschwitz, and handing out uniforms to other prisoners. He would occasionally find jewels and other valuables in the pockets, or sewn into garment linings, and kept them hidden in a sock in his barracks.

As Hack and his wife, Sylvia, also an Auschwitz survivor, raised their two sons, and moved to Brighton in the 1960s, the 16 pieces of jewelry remained with him, hidden in his attic, a morbid collection he could not bring himself to reveal.

Now a frail 92-year-old, Hack has chosen to unveil the precious artifacts on Jan. 20 in an unusual joint exhibit at the Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown, home of the nation's only permanent display on the Armenian genocide. As the first public unveiling of the objects he kept secret for so long, the exhibit offers some closure to Hack, but it also offers the hope of resolution for members of two communities split over interpretations of history.


The Armenians understand Jewish suffering, said Hack, who will be joined at the exhibit opening by Armenian genocide survivor Kevork Norian of Arlington.

"We have to tell the world what happened. My diary is written on my heart, and I have to tell the world about what I saw," said Hack, a Polish-born Jew who was deported to Auschwitz in 1941 at age 27. His mother, brother, and two sisters were put to death.

Norian, who is also 92, will sit side-by-side with Hack during the two-hour long event, and tell the assembled crowd about his own connection to tragedy. "We can't let these memories die," said Norian. "I do not expect to be around too much longer."

The local showing was organized by Susie Davidson, a writer from Brookline who profiled Hack in her 2005 book about Boston-area Holocaust survivors, "I Refused to Die."

Watertown, home to 8,000 Armenian-Americans, is an ideal place for the joint exhibit to reaffirm relations between the Jewish and Armenian communities, she said, adding her hope that it will also heighten awareness of modern-day genocide.

"You realize how similar suffering is between people who have gone through something like this," said Davidson, who has studied contemporary genocides in Africa, as well as mass murders in Bosnia, Cambodia, and Europe.


Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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