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What I Learned about the RMS Titanic and The Holocaust

by Terri Bey

I went to the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge about a week and a half ago as part of a Titanic Conference. I loved going to the Attraction as usual. I even went to the Attraction on the Fourth of July last year by myself, as it is a great museum. As a Titanic Enthusiast, I get to look at all of the artifacts and exhibits that are all related to the great liner. I forget about all the outside world and get immersed in all things Titanic when I am there. My favorite exhibit is the room containing the photos of the RMS Titanic by Father Brown and by The O'Dells. Without those photos, we would not have photos of the Titanic at all. Of course, I had to buy a few shirts from the gift shop.

What was very special about this particular visit was the Museum's special exhibition dedicated to the Jews of the Titanic and the ship's connection to the Holocaust. There were displays of artifacts belonging to Jewish passengers. There were plaques displaying photos of the Kosher kitchen on the ship. Visitors got to see Kosher menus. The exhibition discussed the Straus Family and other Jewish passengers, and artifacts.

I learned about an interesting connection between the Holocaust and the Titanic. Otto Frank, the father of Anne Frank, was best friends with Nathan Straus, brother of First Class Passenger and Titanic victim Isidor Straus, both of whom co-owned Macy's. Nathan Straus and Otto Frank went to Heidelburg University together and Mr. Frank even worked at Macy's for six months. The two men and their families were best friends, also. Otto Frank returned to Germany in 1911and as most people know, Frank and the rest of his family, including Anne, were captured by the Nazis, while in hiding and sent to concentration camps. Only Otto Frank survived the Holocaust.

We visitors we told by the workers at the Museum that after World War II, Otto Frank wanted his daughter Anne's diary, but couldn't find a publisher. Frank was told that the diary should be published, but no one would want to read a kid's diary. Frank then remembered his old friend Nathan Straus, who was a politician. Frank sent it to Straus. Straus told Frank that he agreed the diary should be published, but he didn't have the means.

However, Straus said he had a close friend who could get it published. The "close friend" not only got Anne Frank's diary published but wrote the introduction. She was none other than Eleanor Roosevelt. Not only is there a Titanic connection to the Holocaust, but there is one to Eleanor Roosevelt as well.

I learned about another connection between the Holocaust and the Titanic. It involved a man who would be the very first person to write and mail a letter from the ship. The gentleman wasn't a passenger but was visiting one before the ship left Southampton. His name was Paul Danby.

Paul Danby, a German Jew, was visiting his uncle, Adolphe Saalfeld, a London-based perfumer before the liner left Southampton by taking advantage of his uncle's ticket, so he could look at the ship. Danby quickly wrote his wife Rose a letter about how he was the first to write a letter from the ship and how his uncle Saalfeld had such a nice cabin. Saalfeld survived the disaster and his vials of perfumes were recovered from the wreck. In fact, at the Museum, as part of the "Jews of the Titanic" Exhibition," there was a video of an actor portraying Adolphe Saalfeld. The video showed the actor as Saalfeld discussing how elegant the ship was.

Sadly, during World War I, Paul Danby was imprisoned in England because he was German. Danby and his family moved to The Netherlands after the war. However, Danby, his wife, and his mother were sent to Sobibor and they perished there. Danby's two daughters, Margaret and Ellen did survive the Holocaust.

Ellen Danby survived the Holocaust by skating for one of the guards at Westerbork Transit Camp. Danby eventually met her husband Jan Burka at Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. After being freed, they eventually moved to Toronto, Canada, and Ellen Danby became one of the best-known figure skating coaches, coaching such skaters as Toller Cranston, Elvis Stojko, her own daughter, Petra Burka, and others.

In the Titanic Museum Attraction Gift Shop, there were plenty of copies of "The Diary of Anne Frank" and a recently released book named "The Jews of the Titanic: A Reflection of the Jewish World on the Epic Disaster" by author Eli Moskowitz. Moskowitz was supposed to be one of the speakers at the Titanic Conference, but because of COVID concerns, he, unfortunately, had to cancel. Perhaps at the 2022 Conference, Mr. Moskowitz will be able to attend. He is a great person and I was looking forward to his presentation. Hopefully, I will get to meet him and hear him speak next year.

The "Jews on the Titanic" Exhibition at the Titanic Museum Attraction was very informative and educational. I learned that the RMS Titanic had connections to historic events that I never knew existed. There was something I noticed on many of the plaques. There was an expression stating and I am paraphrasing "Intolerance is a virus, too." That is very true. When I read "On a Sea of Glass," by Tad Fitch, Bill Wormstedt, et. al., I read about a couple of incidences of anti-semitism, also.

If one thing can put these two events together, it is the phrase, "Never Forget!" We must never forget the tragedy of the Holocaust and most importantly, the events that led to the Holocaust, the extermination of 6 Million Jews in the Nazi Concentration Camps. We all must never forget the tragedy and the lessons of the sinking of the RMS Titanic as well.

Thank you for reading.

Titanic (1997) dir: James Cameron - Deleted Scene. Ida and Isidor Straus stay together.

Trailer for the film "The Diary of Anne Frank" (1959) dir: George Stevens 3x Oscar winner

Petra Burka's Free Skate in the 1965 World Figure Skating Championships in Colorado Springs, CO, where she won the Gold Medal. Burka was coached by her mother Ellen Danby Petra, whose father Paul Danby wrote the first letter from the RMS Titanic.


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