Saturday, April 17, 2021

Otto do Kulka, 87, Dez; Studied, and witnessed, the Holocaust

At the age of 31, Otto do Kulka was the youngest survivor of Auschwitz to testify in 1964, when the German’s two decades of failure with the Holocaust ended with the trial in Frankfurt of nearly two dozen SS officers, The exorcists had served in the camp.

He described how Jewish prisoners sang Jewish hymns before being loaded onto trucks that would lead them to the gas chambers, at the age of 9 he survived the mass slaughter of his mother and all of the friends who swept along with him . From Czechoslovakia, as he was ill and quarantined in the medical block of the camp.

But for nearly 50 years, as a historian of the Holocaust at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he would resist coloring his scholarship on his personal experiences. Only in 2013 will he finally reveal them, in a haunting memoir, titled “Metropolitan Landscapes: Reflections on Death, Thoughts on Memory and Imagination” (translated from Ralph Mandel into original Hebrew to English).

“Some are aware of my existence within the dimension of silence,” he wrote, “as a choice I made to separate the biography from the historical past.”

Professor Kulka, who retired in 1999, died in Jerusalem on January 29, the university said. He was 87.

Even if his research was disguised, he concluded unevenly, beginning with his book, “The Jewish Question in the Third Reich” (1975).

Professor Kulka argues that centuries-old religious hostility toward Jews, combined with German belief in the redemption of Jews if they convert to Christianity, turns into a messianic political “redemptive anti-Semitism” that Germany Tries to purify the “Jewish spirit”. “

He concludes that the National Socialist Party or the Nazis saw the modern world as having “Jewish-Christian-Bolshevik” doctrines based on a “destructive” belief in the unity of the world and the equality of men in all. Fields of Life “- Theory” Natural Order. Opponent of the Nazi social-Darwinist version of ‘.

He challenged the traditional view that the German people were indifferent to the fate of the Jews. Instead, he argued, they were widely in favor of deportation, stating that “this approach remained despite the population’s knowledge of the fate of the deported Jews.”

He was born on 16 April 1933 in Novo Hrogenkov, Czechoslovakia to Otto Develbaum. His mother, Eli (Kulakova) Deutlbaumova, was married to Rudolf Deutlbaum, who owned a lumber mill. The two divorced in 1938 after a court ruled that Otto’s biological father was Rudolph’s nephew and apprentice Erich Schön, whom Ellie married.

Rudolf, his second wife, and Otto’s half-sister were murdered in the Treblinka extermination camp, which was also under the occupation of Poland. Erch Schön was sent to Germany in 1939 and later to Auschwitz. Otto and his mother were deported in September 1942 and eventually sent to the satellite. Theresienstadt Auschwitz II-Camp at Birkenau. The Nazis designed Theresiensta as a “model family camp” to deceive the International Red Cross; Once the organization’s health inspectors were satisfied with the conditions of the camp and left, around 5,000 prisoners were gathered there.

After the war, Otto and his father, Erich, returned to Czechoslovakia. To honor his mother, he changed his surname to Kulka. Otto emigrated to Israel in 1949, joined a kibbutz and added the Hebrew name Doe.

After graduating from Hebrew University, he began teaching in his department of the history of the Jewish people in the mid-1960s. He was named a full professor in 1991 and retired as Professor Emeritus in 1999, although he continued to research and publish.

Before writing his memoirs, Professor Kulka had done his research on Holocaust in a largely impersonal manner. The memoir gave him a new way of addressing the subject. He saw this as an effort to bridge what he called “two ways of knowing – historical scholarship and analysis on the one hand, contemplative memory and imagination on the other”.

I am writing Guardian In 2013, the American historian Thomas W. Lakur wrote of the memoir: “The testimony of Primo Levi, it is often said, is that of a chemist: clear, calm, precise, distant. So with Kulka’s work: it is the product of a master historian – irony.” , Probes, present in the past, capable of connecting the special to the cosmic. “

But Professor Kulka admitted that he had not been able to put the past behind him in his long years of scholarship. “In my dreams and diaries,” he wrote, “I lived a double life.”

British historian Ian Kershav Persuaded him to preserve those memories, resulting in memoirs. It was awarded the Geschwister-Schol Prize in Germany and the Jewish Quarterly Literary Wing Prize in Britain.

Professor Kulka is survived by his wife, Chia (Braun) Kulka, whom he married in 1954; His daughter, Eliora Kulka-Soroka; His brother, Tomas Kulka; Three grandchildren; And a great-great-grandson.

After his mother died in contact with the Red Army in January 1945, while Typhus was in a work camp, Auto Kulka and his father died in March from Auschwitz. .

“At first as I freely drunken, leaving behind a barbed wire fence, that wide-open night landscape, the village we passed through.” “Then I looked more closely at one of the darker spots – and I saw what they were: human bodies.”

He became weak, but knew that “whoever stumbles, whoever is left behind, is shot and becomes a black spot on the side of the road.”

As an adult, he told Guardian In 2014, he was saddened by the thought that “away from the crematorium, which burns day and night,” classes and cultural activities were organized by Jewish prisoners at the Theresenstadt “family camps”, such as preparing for future life. , Although the camp, he knew, was a place where “the future is the only sure thing that does not exist.”

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