Holocaust survivors rebuild lives and traditions in Rio de Janeiro

UNIC Rio Freddy Glatt performs the Hadlakat Nerot, a Jewish candle-lighting ceremony at dusk for the start of Shabbat.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


With millions of people displaced from their homes worldwide, a UN ceremony celebrating Holocaust survivors in Brazil, has provided a stark reminder that throughout the 75 years of the Organization’s existence, the plight of refugees has been an ever-present theme.

On a Friday night, which marks the beginning of Shabbat, the holy day for Jews worldwide, Freddy Siegfried Glatt gathers with his family in his apartment in the city of Rio de Janeiro, where he performs the Shabbat prayers alongside his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

About to turn 92, he bows before the dinner table full of wine glasses and pieces of bread, and performs the Hadlakat Nerot — the Jewish ritual of lighting candles at dusk.

“I am very grateful to Brazil. I have Brazilian grandchildren and great-grandchildren. On Shabbat, this table is full of people. And small children run around the house making a mess”, he said.

Forced to flee, again and again

The son of a Polish couple, Glatt was born in Berlin in 1928. His family was forced to flee just months after Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, after his parents’ sewing shop was stoned by members of the Hitler Youth.

His life was marked by repeated forced displacements. At the age of five, he would become a refugee alongside his parents and his two older brothers, Bubbi and Heinz. The family would initially settle in Antwerp, Belgium, where their maternal grandparents already lived.

With the intensification of the Second World War in 1940, Antwerp was targeted by a German aerial bombing campaign.  The family had to move again, this time to France.

“From Belgium, I fled to France. From France, I went back to Belgium, but to another place (Brussels). I adopted a false name: Freddy Van Damme, a Flemish name. And so, I saved myself”, said Mr. Glatt.

In Brussels, a law required the Jewish people to sew a Star of David on their clothes with the inscription: “Jew”. Glatt refused to wear it. “I pulled it off and threw it away. I wasn’t an animal to be branded. I didn’t want everyone on the street to see that I was a Jew. I was very scared”, he recalled.

Brothers, grandparents, classmates; all killed

In 1942, young Jews who lived in occupied Belgium were asked to volunteer for construction work. One of the calls from the German authorities listed the names of Mr. Glatt’s two older brothers, who at the time, were 19 and 21 years old.

The call to work was just a trap. Mr. Glatt later learned that his brothers were taken and murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest German Nazi concentration and extermination camp in occupied Poland. Shortly thereafter, Glatt’s grandparents were also deported to their deaths at the infamous site.

“They killed my brothers, my grandparents. They killed all of my high school classmates. I am here today because I was very lucky. I am lucky,” said Mr. Glatt.

In weeks, the family had been reduced from six individuals – Glatt’s parents had been separated – to just two, Glatt and his mother. The German occupation was expanding in Belgium and soon the family would receive a warning from a neighbour that the Gestapo would soon be in search of Jews.

Mr. Glatt and his mother had to move again to another apartment in Brussels and avoided going out into the streets. They sold belongings to get food and lived in a state of constant dread. “I went without food several times. Eight days without eating, just drinking cold water from the tap”, he said.

In 1943, Mr. Glatt’s mother contacted the chief rabbi of Belgium, who worked to rescue Jewish youth and children and shelter them in Catholic orphanages and seminaries. Mr. Glatt took shelter there until the end of the occupation in 1944. His mother continued to live in hiding in the old apartment.

Bound for Brazil

The reunion between mother and son occurred after the arrival of the Allied forces, signalling an end to the war.

Even having survived, the family continued to struggle, as Belgium – like all of Western Europe – was experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis. It was time to pack again, this time, bound for Brazil, where Glatt’s father had already settled.

“For me, Rio de Janeiro was a new adventure. Imagine, having a beach! I went there the first weekend,” said Mr. Glatt, who was 19 when he arrived in the country. After 12 years apart, his parents remarried. He soon got a job in a factory and in 1951 he met his wife, Betty Glatt, with whom he lives today.

In 2013, at 85, Mr. Glatt was finally able to make his Bar-Mitzvah, the rite of passage to adulthood. “I did it with a rabbi who was a friend of mine who left Brazil, went to Israel. It was very exciting”, he declared.

As the current president of the Rio de Janeiro Holocaust Survivors Association, Mr. Glatt has given hundreds of lectures to explain how he overcame the barbarities of the Nazis and their attempt to destroy Jewish life, culture and religious traditions. In 2018, he published his autobiographical book “They stole my childhood”.

“I think it is very important for people to know what happened. The injustices that were committed”, he said, recalling that the lectures alert young people about the dangers of anti-Semitism.

Mr. Glatt has three siblings, two girls and a boy, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. “Brazil welcomed me,” he said. “I had opportunities. I soon became naturalized (Brazilian). I have been a Brazilian for many years. I feel good as a Brazilian, I am proud”, he concluded.

Mr. Glatt is just one of many Holocaust survivors who have found shelter in Brazil. They were honoured on 28 January this year, in observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, during a ceremony organized by the United Nations Information Centre in Rio de Janeiro.

Some were neighbours

The event in Rio was also the occasion for the launch of the exhibition “Some were neighbours: choice, human behaviour and the Holocaust”, which will run until February 20 at the Federal Justice Cultural Centre. The exhibition reflects on what people did – or didn´t do – during the Second World War, in ways that helped the victims – or did not, by contributing to the rise of antisemitism and Nazism.

“When we think of the Holocaust, the first person we think of is Hitler and the responsibility of the German government. But this exhibition inspires us to think about how the Nazis managed to gain so much support from ordinary people. It raises the question why some people supported the Nazis and their racist ideology during the Holocaust, while others decided to help the Jews,” explained UNIC Rio director, Kimberly Mann.

The exhibition was produced in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme.

Today, the UN Country Team in Brazil continues to defend human rights and religious freedom, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees has helped millions of forcibly dislocated people. Most recently, representatives of several UN agencies, based in Brazil, have mobilized to support the more than 4.6 million Venezuelans, forced to leave political unrest, and economic meltdown in the country.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Here’s why the world’s recovery from COVID-19 could be doughnut shaped

Politicization of migrant ‘crisis’ in Hungary making them scapegoats, independent UN human rights expert warns

We need a new approach to cutting greenhouse gas emissions: and it’s all about innovation

President Michel’s MFF proposal not acceptable for Parliament

The developing countries keep the world going

To beat hunger and combat climate change, world must ‘scale-up’ soil health – UN

Global ageing is a challenge – and an opportunity

The climate and COVID-19: a convergence of crises

M360 Security for 5G: Security for 5G Predictions 2020, in association with The European Sting

Ukraine: Is there a political force able to undo the division?

China is building 8 new airports a year

Stuck at sea: How to save the world’s seafarers and the supply systems they support

Africa’s shrinking lake shows the impact of climate change on women and indigenous people

Eurogroup asked to reduce public debts of its member states

EU budget: Regional Development and Cohesion Policy beyond 2020

E-energy declaration: will energy digitalization be beneficial to the climate?

Seaweed straws and loose-leaf tea: 6 ways to reduce plastic waste

The AI moment: preparing for the revolution

Parmesan cheese on shelves in Italy (Copyright: European Union, 2014 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: Daniela Giusti)

CETA at risk again: Italy says it won’t ratify EU-Canada trade deal over product protection fears

Repression, use of force risk worsening Bolivia crisis: UN human rights chief

Easing US-China trade tensions could save millions of jobs: Asia-Pacific UN report

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Hunger crisis in DR Congo, Swine Fever in Asia, Venezuela death investigation call, updates on Eritrea and Syria

The Five Chinese Girls

How can entrepreneurship tackle the migration crisis in the EU?

Yemen consultations have started, insists top UN negotiator

Cédric in India

UN’s Bachelet rejects Sri Lankan official’s ‘spin’ on Human Rights Council encounter, urges reforms

Coronaviruses: the truth against the myths

Corruption undermines democracy and contributes to instability, warns senior UN anti-crime official

These 4 leaders are working to improve integration in Southeast Asia

MEPs to prioritise environment and climate action in next long-term budget

EU Parliament: ECB accountable for not supporting real economy

MEPs call on EU countries to end precarious employment practices

UN chief announces progress on committee to shape Syria’s political future

Coronavirus: Commission concludes exploratory talks with Valneva to secure a new potential vaccine

How AI and satellite imaging can stamp out modern slavery

Media Advisory : Coronavirus COVID-19 – measures introduced by the European Parliament

Greening the Belt and Road is essential to our climate’s future

‘Moral obligation and political imperative’ to support Syria on path to peace: Guterres

EU leading in global agri-food trade

Commission adopts €70 million package for early access to EU COVID-19 vaccines in the Western Balkans

Gender disparity in salary and promotion in medicine: still a long way to go

Welfare of transported animals: MEPs urge EU states to do a better job

Harnessing the power of nature in the fight against climate change

270 million people are migrants, who send home a staggering $689 billion

There’s a single-use plastic you’ll throw away today without realising

10 tonnes of trash was taken off Everest – and repurposed

This Danish scheme is offering free kayak rides… for picking up trash

‘The welfare of the Libyan people’ the UN’s sole agenda for the country, says Guterres in Tripoli

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: hate speech, dementia, Libya and Yemen, human rights in Brazil and Lebanon

COP21 Breaking News_03 December: Argentina Accepts KP Amendment

Palestinian Bedouin community faces demolition after Israeli court ruling, warns UN rights office

Mental Health: In Times of COVID-19

Japan to invest in euro values

Commission disburses €17 billion under SURE to Italy, Spain and Poland

MWC19 Wrap Up, in association with The European Sting, GSMA’s Brussels Media Partner for the 6th Consecutive Year

Funding boost for sustainable development data agreed at UN conference

Europe faces economic turmoil as Italy gets closer to the Excessive Debt Procedure

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission registers ‘Stop Finning – Stop the trade’ initiative

Why philanthropy for – and by – Africans is the future

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s