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We can't travel to Central Europe this summer. 
We're bringing Central Europe to you

Through drone tours, scholarly talks, panel discussions, and first-hand accounts from Centropa interviews, we are going to explore four turning points in 20th century history:

Germany and Austria on the eve: 1933-1938

Poland: The German invasion of 1939 and the Final Solution

The destruction of Sephardic Jewry in the Balkans during World War II

Operation Barbarossa and the Final Solution on German-occupied territory 


In our Border Jumping Program, during four hands-on sessions, teachers from a dozen countries will work together to turn Centropa content into cross-cultural projects lessons they can use in class next school term.

Four 20th century dates that changed everything.

Four European regions that went through hell.

Four families and how they tried to survive it all.


Hillel Kempler, Berlin, 1932

Hillel Kempler, Berlin, 1932

Hillel Kempler as a schoolboy in September, 1932. The Nazis took power in January, 1933, Hillel’s father’s café was ransacked by the SA, and the family went on the run.

1933-1938: The Nazis come to power in Germany. Jews are fired from their jobs, thrown out of school. Worse is to come, and Austria falls to Adolf Hitler in March, 1938. Kristallnacht/Reichspogromnacht follows in November. It is the beginning of the end of the Jewish communities that gave the world Moses Mendelssohn, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein.


Hillel Kempler was eight years old in 1933 when Nazi thugs broke into his father’s café in Berlin. The family knew they'd have to run for their lives. But where to? How? And who would survive the journey?


Gizela Fudem

September 1, 1939: Geography, they say, is destiny, and Poland lay between two hostile powers bent on its destruction. Adolf Hitler sends his troops into Poland on the first of September and, seventeen days later, Joseph Stalin sends the Soviet Army in from the east. Jews are herded into ghettos and the largest Jewish community in the world is slated for destruction.


Gizela Fudem (born Grunberg) was fifteen years old when she watched the Germans storm into her town of Tarnow. She and her family were forced into the infamous Tarnow Ghetto. Soon they would be led to overcrowded trains heading for hell.

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Matilda Kalef, Belgrade,

pre 1918

Matilda Kalef, Belgrade, 1941

This picture of Matilda Kalef, was given to us by her granddaughter, Matilda Kalef-Cerge. In April, 1941, Belgrade was occupied, the Kalef family was doomed. Matilda Kalef was murdered in a gas van in March, 1942, with her handicapped son.

April 6, 1941: Nazi Germany invades Yugoslavia and Greece. Aside from Bulgaria, these are the largest Sephardic Jewish communities in Europe, where Jews have lived since their expulsion from Spain in 1492. The Nazis occupy Belgrade in April 1941.


Four Kalef families—wealthy, traditional, community-minded—all live in Dorcol, Belgrade's Jewish quarter. Thirty-four members of the family, ranging from six months to ninety-one, live just next to each other. Then come the knocks on their doors. Who among them would manage to get away?


Anatoliy Yufa, Kyiv, 1938

Anatoliy Yufa, Kyiv, 1941

Zhenia Kriss showed us this picture of her first cousin, Anatoliy Yufa, who helped defend Kyiv from the German army. He was shot in Babyn Yar.

June 22, 1941: Operation Barbarossa is the largest invasion in history and Adolf Hitler is determined to destroy the Soviet Union. The Waffen SS join the Wehrmacht in rounding up Jews, shoving them into ghettos and shooting them. Six months later, in a villa just outside Berlin, Reinhard Heydrich of the SS brings together 13 top German officials to discuss The Final Solution. Soon the death camps are operating.


When the Germans attack Kyiv in September, 1941, Anatoliy Yufa rushes to defend his city. Once forced to surrender, he, like 33,000 other Jews, are instructed to come to a ravine just outside of town: Babyn Yar. We know of his story through one of our interviewees, Zhenia Kriss, who tells us how she managed to run for her life.

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