Obituaries for March 22, 2018


David Wyman, author of ‘The Abandonment of the Jews,’ dies at 89

David S. Wyman, author of “The Abandonment of the Jews,” the groundbreaking study of America’s response to the Holocaust, has died.

Wyman, the son of two Protestant ministers, died March 14 at his home in Amherst, Mass., after a lengthy illness. He was 89.
From 1966 until his retirement in 1991, Wyman taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he was a history professor and twice served as chairman of the Judaic studies program.

He spent 15 years researching “The Abandonment of the Jews,” which was published in 1984, according to the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, a research and education institute based in Washington, established in 2003 to continue Wyman’s scholarship.

The book was a sequel to the critically acclaimed “Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis, 1938-1941,” which was published in 1968.

Wyman’s research determined that there were many ways the United States could have aided European Jewish refugees without interfering with the war effort or undermining America’s immigration laws. He also documented how President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his State Department suppressed news about the Holocaust and ignored opportunities to rescue refugees.

Wyman often spoke about how difficult it was for him, as a Christian, to be confronted with the evidence of the meager response by American Christians to news of the Holocaust, the institute said in a statement, and sometimes he “cried for days” and had to take a break from his research.

“It is testimony to David’s greatness that the achievement of which he was proudest was not any of the numerous awards he received for his pioneering scholarship, or the many laudatory reviews of his books, but the fact that ‘The Abandonment of the Jews’ contributed directly to the rescue of more than 800 Ethiopian Jewish refugees,” said Rafael Medoff, founding director of the Wyman Institute.

The refugees were left stranded and starving along the Ethiopian-Sudanese border in early 1985, when an Israeli airlift operation was interrupted. Jewish activists, together with Rep. John Miller, gave copies of “The Abandonment of the Jews” to Vice President George H.W. Bush and his aides, pleading with them to “do now what we didn’t do then.” As a result, the United States sent a fleet of C-130 Hercules transport planes to rescue the refugees and bring them to Israel. Bush subsequently sent

Wyman a handwritten note of thanks for inspiring the rescue mission.

A public event commemorating Wyman’s life and legacy will be held by the institute in New York City.
Wyman graduated from Boston University with a bachelor’s degree in history, and from Harvard University with a doctorate in history.

—JTA News and Features


Sala Kirschner, whose letters hidden from the Nazis became a book

Sala Kirschner, a Holocaust survivor whose 350 letters, postcards and photographs that she hid from Nazi guards eventually became a book written by her daughter, has died.

Kirschner died March 7 in New York of congestive heart failure. She was 94.

Born in Sosnowiec, in southwestern Poland, Kirschner and the rest of the city’s Jewish population were confined to a ghetto until their deportation — most to Auschwitz, where her parents died.

Kirschner, who also lost four siblings in the Holocaust, was an inmate in seven labor camps over five years, starting when she was 16, according to an obituary published March 13 in The New York Times.

In her first years in the camps she was permitted to send and receive mail as the Nazis continued to try to make it look like everything was normal.

Kirschner hid the letters in the camps’ barracks or buried them despite the possible horrific punishments if they were discovered. She told The Times in earlier interviews that she kept them since they represented her only link to her family, whom she believed she would never see again.

Kirschner was liberated by the Soviet Army in May 1945 and was reunited with two of her sisters. She married a Jewish soldier she met at Rosh Hashanah services shortly after the war ended and who brought her home as a war bride.

In 1991, hours before cardiac surgery that she worried she would not survive, Kirschner gave her daughter Ann the trove of letters and other documents hidden in the red cardboard box of an old board game. She said she had kept them hidden to protect her children from being emotionally wounded.

The letters and a diary Kirschner kept were put on display in 2006 at the New York Public Library. The same year, Ann Kirschner, a professor at the City University of New York, published a book about the letters , “Sala’s Gift: My Mother’s Holocaust Story.” A play, “Letters to Sala,” also was written by Arlene Hutton.

Along with her daughter, Kirschner is survived by her husband of 72 years, Sidney; a son, David; eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by a son.
—JTA News and Features


Estelle Levine
Estelle Levine, of Silver Spring, died March 13. She was 105. Levine grew up in Lynn, Mass., and attended business school in Lynn. She eventually became a homemaker.
Levine was predeceased by her husband, Harry Levine, and parents, Lena and Simon Berstein. She is survived by children Norman (Susan) Levine of Silver Spring and Audrey (David) Funk of Baltimore; grandchildren Shira Levine, Jason Funk, Jesse Funk (Julie), Lawrence Levine (Alyson); great-grandchildren Sawyer and Wyatt.
Contributions may be made to Holy Cross Hospice, 10720 Columbia Pike, 2nd Floor, Silver Spring, MD 20901 or a charity of one’s choice.

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