Articles By Don Canaan
A Father to Orphans
By Don Canaan
"The Germans began loading the train...There was still room for more inside. Urged on by whips, more and more were packed in. Suddenly the brute in charge ordered the children to be brought forward. Korczak was at the head. I'll never forget that sight until the end of my life. The heads held high, a silent protest against the murderers. All the Jewish police saluted them and snapped to attention...
"Korczak stood at his full height as he stepped into the boxcar. Carefully he helped the others climb in...They waited with dignity for the doors to be closed and sealed, then for the train to start up. The last recorded sight of him, then as in his whole life, was of a solitary man comforting the children."
These were the words of a member of Warsaw's Jewish police in 1942--forced by the Nazis to facilitate the loading of Jews destined for death. This cattle car contained ghetto youngsters from the orphanage founded 29 years previously by author, educator and pediatrician Janusz Korczak [Yanush Kor-Jacques].
Although he was offered a chance for survival, Korczak, in order to ease the anxiety of his charges, chose to accompany them to certain death. Initially a pen name of Henryk Goldszmit's, he assumed this name and died with it.
Mark Bernheim's book about Korczak, "Father of the Orphans," discussed the book with this reporter. He told of the difficulties encountered in his research. Although the pedagogical and humanitarian sides of Korczak are well known in Poland and Israel, American research facilities contained little information about this obscure hero.
While researching the book, Bernheim received many anecdotes and pictures from people who had been residents of Korczak's orphanage before the Nazis invaded Poland.
"I don't make it too horrible or too gruesome," he said, because the book is aimed at younger readers.
After a brief introduction to Korczak and the children, Bernheim flashes back to Korczak's birth in 1878. The Goldszmit's were well-to-do non-religious Jews, successfully assimilated into the Polish mainstream--or so they thought. From that point, events progress in a linear fashion.
Henryk's father, an attorney, encountered anti-Semitism and became mentally ill. He started to hallucinate while recuperating at home.
Dramatizing the scene, Bernheim describes what happened as Henryk's father, lying in bed, asks his 11-year-old son to come enter the bedroom.
Murmuring, he told the boy, "Listen to me carefully. I may be sick now, but I can see some things I wouldn't admit for a long time. I must warn you. Be on your guard always. Life is war and you never know when the real battle is going to start. Many people want to hurt us. Sometimes they only laugh and if you laugh back, they'll go away. But there are much worse ones. They are really dangerous. They aren't content with making fun, no--they want to hurt...
"They are evil. They only want to hurt those who do good. And this is the worst: They rule the world. They make the laws for their good, not ours...They've beaten me Henryk. I can't fight them any more."
Soon thereafter, his father was committed to a mental institution where he died. Because of the costs of treating his father, family possessions were sold, servants let go and the family became impoverished.
"Part of that comes from (Korczak's) diaries," Bernheim said. "Part of it comes from me...because so much about (his life as a child) was destroyed in the war...When I actually sat down to write the book and I needed more details about it--you invent...
"It's a historical biography," he said. "You do as much research as you possibly can and...then you research the period."
In his grief over the ensuing years, Henryk secretly wrote poems, a novel and a play. After entering medical school under a miniscule quota for Jews, he submitted his play to a literary competition. Under the Polish-sounding pseudonym of Janusz Korczak, he was awarded an honorable mention.
After receiving his medical degree, he continued a dual career as pediatrician Henryk Goldszmit, an assimilated Jew who ran two children's orphanages, and famous Polish writer-radio personality Janusz Korczak.
During the 1930s Korczak made two trips to Palestine. Just before the Nazis invaded in 1939, he decided the children and orphanage should relocate to Jerusalem--however, by then it was too late.
"He was going to divide his time," Bernheim said. "He was an idealist...a lot of Jews thought they could work with the Germans."
"Father of the Orphans" takes the reader to that infamous 1942 march from the Warsaw Ghetto orphanage to the railroad yard--a point at which Bernheim became stumped.
"How am I going to write that last chapter?" he recalled. "How am I going to describe cramming them into the gas chamber? How am I going to do this?"
Bernheim decided his description would be "very spare and very factual and very unemotional...What could I say? That everything was OK; that they were in heaven with their parents?"
Horror in Hocking County (Chapters 1 & 2)
A tall, gaunt-looking man, 49, and his wife, 38, stood near the police command post located next to the trestle crossing the meandering Hocking River outside Logan. This rural, county seat of southeastern Ohio's Hocking County, with a population of about 10,000, was the scene of a grisly double murder-murders with possible satanic overtones.
On Oct. 14, 1982, the mutilated bodies of two local teenagers were found. Their naked, dismembered, torsos were discovered along the north bank of the murky river.
As Mowery spoke to the couple on the trestle, he thought their "reaction to finding two torsos was kind of strange. It was not the kind of reaction you would normally expect from parents; the possibility that these torsos we found in the river could be their children. They just hugged each other without any verbal reaction." Mowery said the stepfather, Dale Johnston, told him, "I used to work in a funeral home and that sort of thing doesn't bother me."
Why were the Johnstons at the river? Dale claimed that he had seen "visions of trees and running water."
And two days later on Oct. 16th, at 5 p.m., one victim's arms, legs and heads were found buried in seven small, shallow graves in the West Logan cornfield bordering the river's bank--400 yards from where the first torso had been discovered.
A passerby had found a sock on the nearby railroad track. Inside were small body parts. Authorities said it contained parts of Todd's penis.
Sheriff Jim Jones told the press that blood on the ground in the cornfield indicated the teenagers had been dismembered there and later dragged to the river
Dale Nolan Johnston, his wife Sarah and her teenage daughters, Margaret Annette Cooper and Michelle Cooper, lived in a mobile home on Dale's property at 20320 Trowbridge Road in New Plymouth, seven miles south of Logan, Ohio.
Todd Schultz, 19, Annette's fiancé, lived with his mother, Sandra, in their house on the outskirts of Logan. Don, Todd's father, a fire department lieutenant, lived in an apartment in Logan.
An 11-month investigation into the murders of Annette Cooper Johnston and Todd Schultz was about to unfold.
On Sept. 29, 1983, a Hocking County grand jury, after three days of testimony, indicted Dale Johnston for the two murders. When asked whether he would make the arrest himself, the sheriff said, "Are you kidding? After 12 months I want some action one way or another."
Eight deputies, led by Jones, as well as members of Logan's police department converged on the Johnston farm.
Dale and Sarah stood outside their mobile home as authorities pulled onto the property to arrest him. He surrendered quietly, was handcuffed and read his Miranda rights. As the cars were about to leave, Sarah asked for permission to approach one cruiser. She kissed her husband, lifted her hand and tearfully returned to an empty home.
The arraignment courtroom was crammed with friends of the teenagers. Johnston, wearing a western-cut, blue print shirt and brown, double-knit polyester trousers, pleaded innocent to two counts of aggravated murder. He was denied bail.
As he was being led to a waiting police car for transfer to the more secure Pickaway County jail, somebody spit in Johnston's direction. One onlooker explained, "Everyone has been kind of tense around here."
A Typical Day on Ohio’s Death Row
By Don Canaan
A day on death row begins at 6 a.m. Prisoners are allowed to shower three times per week. “We’re permitted 10 minutes under the water,” one inmate said.
“Upon returning to your cell, you may then shave. You are provided a disposable razor, one for all 20 men. Pity the last few men. Now you can understand why some men have grown a beard.”
Beside convicted killers, death row is home to “troublemakers from the general population. They are very disruptive. They flood their cells and the water comes down on us. They’re very rowdy. Several are homosexuals. We’re bombarded by loud, obscene, filthy language.”
Food was described as “not all that bad. It is a balanced meal. Considering the number of men served, the cooks really do an excellent job,” an inmate said.
Television restrictions have been eased. Inmates are now allowed access to psychological and social worker services, correspondence education courses and the privilege of borrowing up to three books from the prison’s law library.
“Thursdays are laundry day. Your sheets go to the laundry—or should I say sheet; one is all we now have.
“Each man is permitted out of his cell for one hour, twice a week. This is the only time you’re out, except for the time in the shower.” If it is cold or foggy outside, they must exercise in the cell block.
Residents of death row spend their time reading books and magazines, writing letters, reading and re-reading letters from their wives and sweethearts, children and relatives.
Visitors are spoken to through a steel and glass cage with a small opening. Touching is prohibited. The prisoners are strip-searched before and after each meeting, as well as being handcuffed during the visitation.
State officials have defended these restrictions for security reasons. “Our rules and regulations are fair,” a spokesman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, said.
Don Canaan is a retired print and television journalist who can’t keep away from words. And now daily news and features from Israel and the Middle East comes alive on his web site at www.IsraelFaxx.com. The site includes the world-famous Dry Bones political cartoon, more than 1,700 links to sites of Jewish, Christian and Muslim interest, as well as the complete, searchable archives for www.IsraelFaxx.com 1994-to the present.
His other web sites include www.HorrorInHockingCounty (possible satanic murder), (www.CanaanCommunications.us (aliyah blog), www.NewsFromHeaven.com (humor), and www.Algae2Gas.com (becoming energy independent. This site and others in the category are for sale).
The Jewish Chaplaincy
By Don Canaan (412 words)