Annual Herbert Lieberman Scholarship Award Ceremony
The program began with a dinner, then moved into a דבר תורה (matter of Torah) given by the ראש הישיבה (academic head of the school), Rabbi Dov Linzer (for the link, you'll have to scroll down a little). This was followed by Rabbi Avi Weiss (see previous link), the dean and founder of the school, who explained his protesting against the Belzec drilling project. This was followed by an introduction into the keynote speaker, Dr. Walter Reich.
Dr. Reich then spoke for over an hour on the Belzec concentration camp. He announced at the beginning of his speech that he had initially intended to speak about community service, but had realized that he wanted to speak about Belzec, as it was the least known of the German death camps. It was one of the six extermination camps of the Nazis - whereas Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was the most well-known of the camps, largely due to it being responsible for about 1.1 million Jewish deaths, but also because it was a work camp, and not solely an extermination camp, whereas Belzec was an extermination camp, where about 600,000 Jews met their end, and there are only two known survivors(!).
He spoke on the history of the camp that from March through December 1942, the killing operations took place, with the corpses thrown into graves. However, when the Germans started realizing that they were losing the war and that all of these bodies would have been found by the advancing Soviet soldiers, they exhumed the graves of those hundreds of thousands Jewish bodies, then tossed them into fires. What was left of those corpses within the pyres were ashes and bones, which were then further ground up, then thrown back into those pits.
Dr. Reich then spoke about his various trips to what was left of the concentration camp, which had been landscaped in 1962. He then voiced his disapproval of the way various things were handled with the area of the former concentration camp, where ashes and bone fragments were easily found along the surface of the ground. He had long wanted that there should be a fence surrounding the area. In addition to his recounting of the recent history of Belzec concentration camp, he accompanied it with slides of his various trips there in 1989, 1996, 2003, and 2004.
Following up on the heels of Dr. Reich was Steven Lieberman (the only one in this posting with no accompanying picture (sorry)), who spoke about the law suit that was taken against the AJC in 2003. He then spoke briefly a little further on legal actions as activist rabbis. He then presented the Herbert Lieberman Scholarship for Community Service award to Michael Schultz (for his activity in getting things going at YCT in terms of social action, see the Blueprint's article on him).
Schultz spoke a little on the necessity and importance of חסד (helping out (it's not a great translation, but it should suffice)), and that we can, and do, do it in various types of ways and spoke of the praise of his fellow students, and thanked Rabbi Linzer for giving him ear about חסד projects and the second-year students חסד curriculum this year.
Tags: Herbert Lieberman Award, YCT, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Rabbi Avi Weiss, Rabbi Dov Linzer, Michael Schultz, Walter Reich, Belzec, Nazi Death Camps, Holocaust, Shoah, community service, hesed