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Never Forget Meets Never Again: 10 Important Films About the Holocaust

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Click through the slides to view trailers for 10 Holocaust films

The Holocaust forms the defining moment of Jewish memory. Six million Jews were stripped of clothing, hair and names and fed to an insatiable war machine.

And it was a machine, carefully oiled and maintained. Brainwashing propaganda, from posters and speeches to salutes and faux-science, kept it in beautiful working order. To look at archival footage of thousands of polished Nazi boots marching in perfect synchronization is to stare into the whirring cogs and gears of Hitler’s locomotive.

Even as the Allies charged across Europe, such films played an integral role in the Nazi war effort. A psudo-documentary film of concentration camp Terezín made in 1944 proving the benevolent protection of the Third Reich fooled the world. Some still believe its fabricated images.

Today, we should reflect on the truth and the lies propagated throughout the years. Then, as now, film is a powerful tool able to awaken and enrage as well as coddle and deceive. How far have we come from the Nazi’s self-serving portrayal of Terezín?

3:15 PM: Buchenwald's Eternal Time

Atop the main watchtower at the Buchenwald concentration camp, a small clock sits at the highest spot, eternally set at the time 3:15 pm.

It’s an easy detail to miss, but one that holds significant historical meaning.

On April 4, 1945, US troops took over Ohrdruf, a Buchenwald sub camp, making it the first camp liberated from the Nazis. Nearby at Buchenwald, Nazis began evacuating prisoners forcing the majority on death marches in hopes of outrunning the Americans.

A group of underground resistance fighters imprisoned at Buchenwald used a secret transmitter to send a Morse code message to the allies on April 8, writing in German, English and Russian.

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“To the Allies. To the army of General Patton. This is the Buchenwald concentration camp. SOS. We request help. They want to evacuate us. The SS wants to destroy us.”

Minutes later, a message was received: “KZ Bu. Hold out. Rushing to your aid. Staff of Third Army.”

On April 11, troops arrived at Buchenwald. The time was 3:15 pm.

Reporters arrived the next day to document the horrors found behind the camp gates, realities that until then many in America had never heard in full detail. One reporter, Edward R. Murrow, radio transmitted to CBS his first person account:

“I asked to see one of the barracks. It happened to be occupied by Czechoslovaks. When I entered, men crowded around, tried to lift me to their shoulders. They were too weak. Many of them could not get out of bed. I was told that this building had once stabled 80 horses. There were 1,200 men in it, five to a bunk. The stink was beyond all description.”

“They called the doctor. We inspected his records. There were only names in the little black book, nothing more. Nothing about who these men were, what they had done, or hoped. Behind the names of those who had died, there was a cross. I counted them. They totaled 242. 242 out of 1,200, in one month.”

“As we walked out into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others, they must have been over 60, were crawling toward the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it.”

Much of the camp was demolished following the war, but some structures still stand, including the watchtower. Its clock stands frozen in time, reminding visitors that while those imprisoned within its walls suffered immeasurably, help was on the way.

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Sexual Abuse and the Hidden Children of the Holocaust

In 1984, ‘Pauline’ finally revealed a dark secret. A hidden child of the Holocaust, as a young girl she had been molested by those who had sworn to protect her from the Nazis. For two years she endured the abuse, afraid her abusers would denounce her if she told. According to Joan Ringelbaum, who interviewed her for her book, “Women in the Holocaust,” ‘Pauline’ carried her secret and her trauma long after the Shoah ended.

“She didn’t tell the Jewish woman who checked on her periodically. She didn’t tell her twin sister. After the war she did not tell her husband or her daughter,” Ringelbaum wrote. Forty-four years later, ‘Pauline,’ who still is too ashamed to reveal her real name, acknowledged when she told her tale, “This is the first time I ever admitted this.”

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In the years since the Holocaust, the atrocities of death camps, forced labor and ghetto life have been widely testified to by the victims. Yet until recently, many child survivors, like ‘Pauline,’ have remained silent about the sexual abuse they endured as young victims, in part because of the terror and shame of such an admission.

“[The] desire to reveal or even to remember may be intercepted by a fleeting terror and splitting of consciousness or dissociation,” noted psychiatrist Paul Valent, who works with child survivors of the Holocaust.

Others, Valent claims, tried to bury their past once the war was over. “Certainly few, even (or especially), parents, wanted to know how they were affected,” he said. “The children responded by continuing to not feel or think but again hoped for the future.”

Recently, a number of former child survivors have found the strength to share their stories. Their accounts reveal a dark side for some of the children ‘lucky’ enough to be hidden away from the Nazi terror.

1 in 6 Hidden Children Sexually Abused

The trauma endured by children hidden during the Holocaust has long been overlooked. Unlike their peers, who starved to death in the ghettos or died in concentration camps, most hidden children survived the war and many were reportedly treated well by their well-meaning surrogate caregivers.

Yet for some, physical and sexual abuse was a way of life in their hidden homes. While exact numbers are unknown, experts estimate that one in six children in hiding during the Holocaust were sexually abused and at least five percent were treated ‘very badly’ by those charged with their care.

Anne, who was a young girl during the Holocaust in occupied France, recounted her tale of abuse to Dr. Valent. “I moved from family to family each three months. They were not fond of me; they were paid to have me. They made sure I suffered,” she revealed.

Anne was both physically and sexually abused by those who hid her. “I had to have sex with men, kneel on wooden chairs to which they tied me; I was made to lie in prickles. They punished me because their lives were in danger.”

Like ‘Pauline,’ Anne was threatened with violence and denouncement if she told. “They threatened me with the wall oven. I knew Jewish children had been burnt in a synagogue. They threatened to turn me over to the Germans.”

While extreme, over 50 years later, the pain Anne suffered still caused nightmares and trauma for the now-adult. “And they are the same pains as I had kneeling, sleeping on wooden floors, feelings with the men,” she told Dr. Valent. Like many hidden children who suffered sexual abuse, the memories remain vivid, even after many years.

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Vivid Memories of a Painful Childhood

In fact, the pain of sexual abuse often impacts childhood survivors far greater than other losses and traumas endured during the Holocaust. In a 2006 study, the first of its kind, Professor Rachel Lev-Wiese of Haifa University interviewed 22 men and women, whose average age was 68 at the time of interviews, about the sexual abuse they endured while on the run from the Nazis during Shoah.

From the outset, Lev-Wiese realized that the pain of revealing their childhood trauma would be too much for some, who ultimately were not included in the study. For those that were able to speak about their abuse, the traumas remained vivid, even half a century later.

“This abuse still causes incessant thoughts on the subject and nightmares,” Lev-Wiese said. Lev-Wiese’s research also showed that the lingering trauma of sexual abuse had a greater impact on survivors than the loss of their parents, separation from families, death of loved ones, hunger and other Holocaust related traumas experienced by the child survivors.

This may be in part due to the intense conflict caused by the ‘lucky’ hidden children who faced sexual abuse at the hands of their savior-abusers. “They cannot reconcile the feelings of having been saved from death by their saviors, and concomitantly, abused by them while in their care,” Carla Lessing said in 2011.

Trying to Forget and Move On

For many after the war, the painful memories of sexual abuse were often buried and not discussed. Lessing points out, “The adults often could not listen to the children’s sorrowful stories of their lives while in hiding.” The abuse also left many hidden children unable to form strong bonds that would allow them to share their experiences with others.

“Trauma during childhood greatly affects the development of trust in others. Violent childhood victimization, such as sexual abuse, has a harmful effect on attachments and intimacy,” Lessing adds, pointing out that this left the young victims of sexual abuse even more isolated.

For some, the pain was just so strong that they wanted only to suppress it and try desperately to move on and focus on other things. In 2007, the Australian Jewish News recounted the story of Dr. Simonne Jameson, who, at age 12, endured sexual abuse in a dank basement in occupied France.

“She tries to forget about the daily rapes [by police officers], the small food rations, the loneliness and the unwavering fear,” the paper reports. “Instead, she focuses on the books, which she says ‘kept my sanity and gave me a refuge from reality.’”

Other childhood victims feared they would not be believed or were silenced when they tried to speak up. Unlike the atrocities of the concentration camp, the intimate crime of sexual abuse leaves little evidence years after the abuse occurred, and the subject was often taboo to discuss, even among loved ones. As result, Dr. Valent points out not only were the child victims not asked about the abuse in the years following the war, they were often invalidated when they summoned the courage to tell their tales.

“The sexually abused were not asked for their memories, in fact they were discouraged to have them, they were invalidated, called crazy, told they were too young to remember, they were wrong,” Dr. Valent reported about his experiences working with child survivors.

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The Courage to Speak Up

As the survivors of the sexual abuse age, however, they often find that the painful memories are too much to bear. No longer distracted by the busyness of raising a family, building a career, or starting a new life, the former hidden children are finding that as they ease into retired life, the change of pace and status can bring back painful memories full force.

“The change of status and social identity may be a burden for many aging people, but in the case of Holocaust survivors it brings back warded-off memories, survivors’ guilt and mistrust,” states Dr. Haim Dasberg.

For Anne, retiring from work gave her too much time to think about her painful past. “The Holocaust is keeping coming back and I get depressed,” she told Dr. Valent. “I have done well. I have a husband and three children. But since I am not working, I think more.”

After meeting with Dr. Valent to help deal with her sexual abuse in her 60’s, Anne finally decided to talk to other childhood survivors about her story to help others know they are not alone. On her past anonymity, Anne finally concluded, “That is a mistake, because it denies my identity.”

In recent years, childhood survivors are also forming support groups specially geared toward the discussion of molestation and sexual abuse. In 2001, at a conference of the Hidden Children of the Holocaust held in New York City, sexual abuse was first openly acknowledged. Since then, some have found a safe place to share their stories among other survivors.

Researchers are also beginning to study the impact of sexual abuse on these young lives and encouraging survivors to speak out about their painful past. In 2011, based on her research with the aging survivors, Lev-Wiese published a landmark book, “Hell within Hell: Sexually Abused Child Holocaust Survivors,” to make certain the children’s hidden lives during the Holocaust and their lifelong trauma would not be forgotten.

For ‘Pauline,’ Anne, Simonne, and other victims, remembering is not the problem, it is the all too vivid painful memories and conflicted feelings of their past as children hidden by savior-abusers that continue to haunt them decades later. “Regardless what he has done to me, I can’t hate him,” one recounts in Lev-Weise’s study. “ I wonder if he ever loved me… after all, he saved my life.”

Jspace Quotables: 10 Memorable Quotes About the Holocaust

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Click through the slides to view quotes about the Holocaust

Countless survivors, victims, Nazi hunters and Righteous gentiles have shaped our understanding of the Holocaust. Here, find 10 memorable quotes about the Shoah, from people who witnessed the unspeakable tragedy firsthand.

History Through Images: 10 Striking Photos from the Holocaust

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Scroll for 10 striking images of the Holocaust

The lessons of the Holocaust are vast, and have been carried by the Jewish community for generations. Part of this shared history includes an arsenal of leftover images, their sepia tones acting as visual proof to the stories we’ve worked so diligently to keep alive. Here are just a few of the most arresting photographs to have survived the Shoah.

Irena Sendler, a Holocaust Heroine

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For years during World War II, a group of young Polish women, some of them barely out of their teens, outfoxed the Nazis. At great personal risk they saved the lives of thousands of Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw ghetto to safety. Yet for years their work went unheralded; indeed very few people even knew what they had done. Only decades later did they finally receive the credit their heroism merits.

This remarkable true story begins with the Nazi Germany invasion of Poland in 1939. Soon afterwards the Germans set up a ghetto in the Polish capital Warsaw. More than 440,000 Jews were forced inside its walls, where they had to face abject conditions. That number bears repeating: Over 440,000 men, women and children—almost a third of Warsaw’s population—were forced into a tiny, heavily guarded section of the city and barricaded behind 7-foot-high walls.

Although many Catholic Poles were indifferent or indeed openly hostile to Poland’s 3.5 million Jews—who made up 10 percent of its total population—there were some Poles who felt compelled to help their Jewish neighbors. Among them was Irena Sendler, who was a 29-year-old social worker when the Nazis invaded.

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Sendler appealed to her friends and colleagues to help the Jews imprisoned behind the ghetto’s walls without food, medicine or contact with the outside world. They had to do something, Sendler believed, even if the Nazis strictly forbade interactions between Warsaw’s Jews and “Aryans.” So she used her position as a social worker in the city’s Welfare Department to obtain a municipal permit to enter the ghetto. Her pretext was to inspect sanitary conditions there. She was preying on the Nazis’ fear that the typhus that plagued the ghetto would spread beyond its walls. But in fact Sendler used the pass as a ruse to enter the ghetto, where she hoped to provide help. Once there she made contacts with members of Jewish welfare organizations, and Sendler and her friends began to smuggle aid into the ghetto.

“The first time I went into the ghetto it made a hellish impression on me,” Sendler recalled. “I’d go out on my rounds in the morning and see a starving child lying there. I’d come back a few hours later and he would already be dead, covered with a newspaper.” She soon realized that she could not possibly bring in enough aid to provide much help to Warsaw’s Jews. The situation was just too dire. Then the Nazis began deporting Jews from the ghetto to death camps. In fall of 1942, the Germans sent 280,000 Jews from Warsaw to Treblinka. “I knew they were going to the freight yard and to their death,” she said. “Very quickly we realized that the only way to save the children was to get them out.”

During Nazi occupation there was a Polish underground organization to save Jews, known as the Council for the Aid of Jews (or Zegota in Polish), operating clandestinely in Warsaw and Sendler became the head of its children’s division. She had about 30 volunteers in her group, mostly young women, and their mission was simply to save as many children and teenagers as possible from the ghetto. Zegota used its network to work both within and without the ghetto: it would rescue Jews from the ghetto and attempt to assist Jews trying to survive in hiding beyond the ghetto walls. The organization tried to find hiding places for Jews who did manage to escape and paid for their upkeep and medical care.

Taking the underground name Jolanta, Sendler leveraged the contacts she had as a social worker. She believed she could send Jewish children to the orphanages and children’s homes she knew of. And it was a great plan. But it was incredibly hard to get children out of the ghetto. To do so, Sendler and her comrades hid Jewish infants on trams and garbage wagons. They led older children out through secret passageways and the city’s sewers in order to free them. “Some children were placed in coffins, their mouths taped, or they were sedated so they wouldn’t cry,” Stanlee Stahlof the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous told the New York Times. “Other children were smuggled out in potato sacks.” Sometimes they would use an ambulance wagon with a driver and a dog to take Jewish children through the ghetto gates. “Children were under the floorboard,” Stahl explained. “The barking dog would drown out a child’s cries.”

But it wasn’t just a question of getting children out of the ghetto. Sendler had to determine where they could be kept safe outside. She figured outside of the heavily patrolled city was best. But in order to take the children from safe houses in Warsaw to orphanages and convents in the surrounding countryside, they’d need paperwork. The Germans—notorious bureaucrats—would always ask for documents. So Zegota’s underground activists used forged Catholic birth certificates and fake identity papers, which they had signed by priests and high-ranking social services officials. It was a well-orchestrated conspiracy, but fraught with danger.

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Any non-Jew caught with a Jew would be killed, as would their family. Obviously the Jew would be killed too. And the Nazis were always looking for Jews beyond the ghetto, while there was no shortage of Poles happy to deliver a Jew to them. Any child stopped in the street by the Gestapo who was unable to recite a Catholic prayer was liable to be shot on the spot. So Sendler taught Jewish children the prayers any non-Jewish Polish kid would know; she would even wake them up in the middle of the night to test them. She knew that knowing them could be a matter of life and death.

“You are not Rachel but Roma. You are not Isaac but Jacek,” Sendler would tell those she tried to save. “Repeat it ten times, a hundred, even a thousand times.” But while Sendler and her colleagues gave the Jewish children Polish pseudonyms, they kept meticulous records of the children’s Jewish names so they could be reunited with their families after the war. That was the plan, at least. But persuading a family to entrust their child with her was understandably tricky, even if the family knew that life in the ghetto was so dire. “Their first question was: ‘What guarantee is there that the child will live?’” Sendler recalled. “I said, ‘None. I don’t even know if I will get out of the ghetto alive today.’”

Sendler’s luck ran out in October 1943, when the Gestapo arrested her. They knew she was part of an underground network, tortured her and sentenced her to death. But Sendler managed to conceal incriminating evidence including the addresses of the children she had saved. This no doubt save the Jewish children’s lives once again. The Gestapo sent Sendler to Warsaw’s notorious Pawiak prison for execution, but her comrades bribed prison officials and she was released before it could take place.

Even after her narrow escape Sendler continued to try to save Jewish children from murder, working as an underground activist until the end of the war. Once the Nazis were defeated, she and her colleagues brought together all their records of the children they had saved, including their names and locations. They gave the records to Zegota’s Adolf Berman, the head of the Central Committee of Polish Jews, so that the children might be reunited with their families. However despite Zegota’s good intentions, this would be impossible: Almost every parent of the children they saved had been killed in a concentration camp or the ghetto.

Poland became part of the Soviet Union after World War II and instead of celebrating Sendler and her comrades as heroines, the Communist authorities silenced them. Their actions did not fit the collective narrative; only years later could their story be told in Poland. Israel was more appreciative and Yad Vashem recognized Sendler as one of the first “righteous among the nations” in 1965. But because Poland’s Communist leaders did not allow her to travel to nefariously “Zionist” Israel, she could only receive the award in 1983. It was the first of many accolades she received. In 2003 Pope Jean-Paul II sent Sendler a personal letter in praise of her wartime efforts and she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Irena Sendler died a year later at the age of 98.

“She was the inspiration and the prime mover for the whole network that saved those 2,500 Jewish children,” Debórah Dwork, a professor of Holocaust history at Clark University told the New York Times after her death. Sendler and her comrades managed to save their lives with the help of the Polish Resistance and about 200 convents and orphanages in Warsaw and beyond. The work was not easy and it was very dangerous, but it was vital. Sendler personally smuggled out of the ghetto about 400 children. Among the 400 was Elzbieta Ficowska, who was just a baby in 1942. “Mrs. Sendler saved not only us,” Ficowska said, “but also our children and grandchildren and the generations to come.”

Watch Only Existing Video Footage of Anne Frank

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Anne Frank’s physical appearance is known to most who have even just briefly learned about the young Holocaust diarist.

Her short, dark hair and crooked smile have been immortalized in the tens of millions of copies of “The Diary of Anne Frank” that have been sold around the world.

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Today, the world can also see moving images of the Shoah heroine, who lost her life to Nazi hands at the age of 15.

A brief but touching clip from July 1941 of Anne leaning out a window has been in the ownership of the Anne Frank House, which has also made the video available online to the public. In the clip, believed to be the only video footage of the teen, Anne is stretching out to get a look at a young man and woman, neighbors of Anne’s who have just been married.

The married couple actually donated the footage to the Anne Frank House, a museum and trust located in the building of the annex Anne hid in with her family for two years. It is during that time that Anne penned her famous diary, which became a world best seller following her death.

April 19, 1943: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

On April 19, 1943, a rebellion within the Warsaw Ghetto became one of the most lasting examples of Nazi resistance. The revolt, which lasted nearly a month, became known as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

This year marks the 71st anniversary of the Uprising. During last year’s 70th anniversary commemoration, Yad Vashem made the significant anniversary a major focus of its Yom HaShoah memorials. The Holocaust trust put together a series of exhibits and testimonies to speak to the Uprising, in a program called “Defiance and Rebellion During the Holocaust.”

As part of that theme, Yad Vashem invited Peretz Hochman, a Warsaw Ghetto hero, to light one if its six torches at an opening ceremony. Hochman passed away the week before, just days before he would have participated. His widow Sima lit the torch in his memory.

Yad Vashem also put together an online exhibit for users, “Voices from the Inferno.” The exhibit included excerpts from video testimonials, first person accounts from former combatants, extensive photo coverage from the Uprising, a section on the last Passover in the Ghetto, and preserved artifacts to browse.

The virtual exhibit also included academic commentary, including an introduction by Dr. Havi Dreifuss, a senior lecturer of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University.

“In time, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising came to be one of the most well known events in the history of the Holocaust,” she wrote. “For both Jews and non-Jews this event has become the symbol of the desperate heroism and resolute struggle of the Jewish spirit.”

The Uprising followed months of deportations, which marked the second round of deportation for prisoners living within the Ghetto’s walls. Minor clashes broke out from January to April, the first instances of armed insurgency.

The night before the Passover holiday was set to begin, however, Jewish insurgents within the Warsaw Ghetto launched a systematic resistance. As SS guards entered to complete deportations, they were met with handmade grenades, Molotov cocktails and petrol bombs.

Hundreds took part, including women and children, participating in what they no doubt believed to be their last chance for survival against being taken to the camps.

Ultimately, the 27-day uprising resulted in 13,000 Jewish deaths. The remaining 50,000 were mostly sent to nearby death camps like Treblinka. Sixteen Germans were killed, and 85 wounded.

Though their ultimate fate was indeed deportation and, for most, death, the nearly month-long resistance was seen by many as a heroic sign of perseverance no matter how bleak the circumstances.


April 15, 1945: The Liberation of Bergen-Belsen Copy

Bergen-Belsen was one of the most notorious and fatal of the Nazi concentration camps.

Located in northwest Germany, it was the site of Anne Frank’s death from typhus and the source of some of the first archival evidence of the atrocities of the Holocaust for many US citizens.

On April 15, 1945, after five years of horror, the camp was finally liberated.

Bergen-Belsen was originally built to act as a prisoner of war camp. In 1943, it was doctored into the system of concentration camps to accommodate growing lists of Jewish prisoners.

Many of the Jews held at Bergen-Belsen were seen as potential pawns that the Nazis wanted to use with rival nations for prisoner exchanges or currency.

In 1944, a women’s camp was set up, with the first deportation of female prisoners including 9,000 women and girls, mostly from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Over time more train cars filled with women turned up, including Anne and her sister Margot.

Finally, in the spring of 1945, British and Canadian forces negotiated a handover of the camp. The Nazi forces agreed to relinquish control over Bergen-Belsen due to fear of a typhus endemic.

On the afternoon of April 15, allied troops arrived.

Many of the soldiers involved in that liberation called it the worst scene they had ever witnessed. Upon discovering the emaciated prisoners, which numbered over 50,000, troops were desperate for a way to provide some nourishment.

Accounts of the futile attempts to feed the prisoners from their own Army rations—the inmates could keep nothing down—did much to paint a picture for folks back home about how dire the situation had grown.

Of the living survivors at Bergen-Belsen, 13,000 would die within days, despite medical care and extreme efforts to keep them alive.

In the aftermath, troops famously set the camp ablaze, so disgusted were they with what they had found. Before destroying much of the camp, however, the soldiers worked to bury the thousands of corpses scattered across the site’s grounds.

Today, a series of memorials and monuments sits at the site of Bergen-Belsen, a tribute to the 70,000 that died there.

Jspace Quotables: 10 Pieces of Advice From the World’s Jewish Billionaires

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Click through the slides to view advice from Jewish billionaires

This year, 22 of the world’s richest billionaires have Jewish ties, according to Forbes’ annual rankings list. The top 10 Jewish billionaires are a diverse group, ranging from secretive international bankers to outspoken casino moguls and technological innovators. Here is a selection of advice these very wealthy men have offered over the years.

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