Rank and File: Remembering a Holocaust Hero and the 'Partial Jews'

The week’s events are dominated by Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday

Alex Konstantyn speaking in Tel Aviv about his experiences during the Holocaust, April 18, 2017.
Alex Konstantyn speaking in Tel Aviv about his experiences during the Holocaust, April 18, 2017. Rabbi Ariel Konstantyn

REMEMBERING THE ‘PARTIAL JEWS’: Beit Hillel will host Roger Grunwald’s one-person play “The Mitzvah Project: An exploration of Antisemitism and The Holocaust” at the Hebrew University on Monday (Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel). The English-language performance “dramatically explores one of the most shocking stories of World War II: tens of thousands of ‘partial Jews’ who served in Hitler’s military, most of whom were discharged in 1940, and nearly all were sent to forced labor camps – or worse,” according to the organizers. The show will be followed by a panel discussion that includes Dr. Amos Goldberg, chairman of the school’s department of Jewish History and contemporary Jewry; Dr. Jeanette Malkin, chair of Hebrew University’s theater studies department; and Prof. Manuela Consonni, head of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, which is sponsoring the free event together with the Posen Foundation. The event starts at 12:30 P.M., with a reception at noon. For more info, call 02-588-2494.

HERO OF THE HOLOCAUST: Hannah Szenes was one of the most iconic heroes of the Holocaust. The Hungarian Jew moved to Israel on the eve of World War II, but joined the partisan movement and parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe, where she met her death. J-Town Playhouse, in conjunction with the AACI (the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel), will hold a special ceremony and performance about her life at the Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center in Jerusalem on Sunday evening. There will also be performances on Monday and Thursday, as well as four dates next month through May 11. For tickets, call 02-566-1181. Also on Monday, the English Speaking Resident Association’s Modi’in branch, along with Hadassah Israel’s Levonah Chapter, will be holding a special Holocaust Remembrance Day program about the testimony of survivors. Guest speakers include psychologist Teria Shantall and Yad Vashem’s Sara Shor. If you are interested, RSVP Friday to Rhona Berzack at 054-420-8550.

A SURVIVOR’S TALE: While most Holocaust survivors needed some luck to survive during World War II, Alex Konstantyn needed it several times as a child. Born in a tiny Jewish village in northeastern Poland, his mother sensed that something was wrong when, in 1941, refugees told them stories of entire communities being sent to “labor” camps and had the family pack up and pass for non-Jewish Polish refugees. He survived a poisoned blueberry pie that killed his father. And a bath helped his mother get a cooking job at a police station after a Polish woman betrayed her and Alex, to name but a few. Konstantyn, who told Haaretz he didn’t speak publicly about his experiences until about a decade ago, told his captivating story Tuesday at the Tel Aviv International Synagogue, where his son Ariel Konstantyn is the rabbi. “I heard it as a kid but not in a formal presentation,” said Ariel afterward. “Each time, I hear new nuances or details.” Alex, who was a school principal for 26 years, lives in Long Island with his wife Susan Konstantyn, who is writing a book about his saga.

Alex Konstantyn speaking in Tel Aviv about his experiences during the Holocaust, April 18, 2017.
Rabbi Ariel Konstantyn