Holocaust Victims Accuse
Published in 1977 by
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HE WHO SERVES THE ALMIGHTY AND HE WHO DOES NOT
More than once, the witnesses who appeared at the Eichmann trial were asked, by the judge and by the prosecution, a question which concealed within itself rebuke and stinging criticism: “Why didn’t you resist, why didn’t you rebel?” The witnesses tried to explain on behalf of their absent, martyred brethren (and their own inaction thereof) with circumstantial and psychological explanations, as if they were obligated to clear their reputation in the minds of those present. They could not arouse within themselves the strength of spirit to answer by flinging back a question before the government and the rulers (whom the general prosecutor represented) that delves into the depths: “Why didn’t you save and why did you conceal and why did you look the other way, knowingly, at what transpired during the period of the holocaust?”
Such an unpleasant happening didn’t occur during the entire course of the trial. The prosecution thought it to be right to choose witnesses who would not cause such a scandal, whether they were simple Jews, who knew how to tell only of what their eyes saw, or they were personalities, to whom the chapter of the holocaust was familiar, along with its realities. But the latter had a skeleton in the closet (heavy with guilt), which had attained for them positions of specific leadership in the ghettoes or in the camps and in the midst of the partisan groups. They identified with the world Zionist leadership in its main contention that the ruins of the exile (European Jewry) would be the cradle after the birth of a Jewish state, and that the nationalistic upbringing would appear from the clouds of smoke emanating from the furnaces.
Who doesn’t remember the touching testimony of Abba Kovner, wrapped with the halo of underground fighting in the Vilna Ghetto and as commander of the partisan divisions? Who doesn’t remember this “poet of the holocaust” and “hero of the rebellion,” who rebuked the judges angrily, when they tried to limit the flow of his statement and to hint to him that he wasn’t standing on a platform at a gathering of people, but at the witness stand? The audience present in the courtroom was touched, and cried bitterly, when Abba Kovner recited the lament (dirge) about the murdered and their bravery and about the crimes of Eichmann, may his name be cursed. Nevertheless, if the Lithuanian writer Chaim Lazar would have been invited to testify about the cruel deeds of the same Abba Kovner during the holocaust, those assembled would have been choked with silence and burning shame, concerning the guilt of this man who came forth from Jewish seed, as well as the fate of his victims — the elderly, women and innocent children who were all overwhelmed with cruelty and bitterness at the hands of a cruel Jewish oppressor. It is more than 10 years since Chaim Lazar published his book, “Destruction and Rebellion”, that contains hair-raising details about Abba Kovner. The latter did not call him to account with charges of slander, confirming with his silence the truth of the actions attributed to him.
Here are the facts from the book, which do not need any further explanation:
Kovner, the representative of the “Hashomer Hatzair,” succeeded in appointing himself as commander of the underground fighting forces in Vilna, which hoarded ammunition and recruited strong, trained individuals, prepared for battle. But it never used its resources against the Germans in the ghetto and, consequently, Kovner arrived at an agreement with the head of the ghetto (Gans) and the leader of the Jewish police (Dessler), according to which they were obligated, in ex change for the holding back of action by the underground, not to harm any of its members — and also to promise them exit from the ghetto on the verge of its final destruction. These three — Gans, Dessler and Kovner — held a common view, which was also the approach of Dr. Weizmann and Nathan Schwalb, Jewish Agency representative in Switzerland: to sacrifice the aged and the multitude, and to save the “elite” group of youth — “our friends”. In Vismini, near Vilna, the Germans handed over the deportation procedure to the kapos (Jewish police) in Vilna. In the book, “Destruction and Rebellion”, it is recorded:
Photo - Russian partisans in the forests save Jewish refugees from Kovner’S hands.
Dessler, commander of the Jewish police, wrote in his diary:
‘those who were deported were chosen by my Jewish police, for I wanted to save the young and the intelligentsia, who are our future. Gans, the head of the Vilna Ghetto, husband of a Lithuanian Christian woman, notified him that from Vismini, 400 old people were gathered together and handed over to the Germans. When Weiss (Gestapo) came and demanded women and children, I told him to take the old, as the old Jews will forgive us; we had no choice but to sacrifice them on the altar of our future’.”
PHOTO - The tragic fate of women and children was decided by Abba Kovner.
When representatives of the partisans arrived in Vilna, with news of the final solution and advice to the Jews of Vilna to save themselves in the forests and join the partisan camps, what did Kovner do?
“The representatives of the partisans Kovner kept isolated, so that they should not come in contact with the crowds in the ghetto and they shouldn’t organize groups of plain Jews for escape into the forests.
“However, escape into the forest does not remain a secret to the residents. Every time a group leaves, hordes run after them and want to join them. But, according to Kovner’s orders, a thorough search is carried out at the time of the departure and the Jews are chased away from the gate. Only infrequently does one of them succeed in mingling with the fighters and get out with them. It is an interesting thing that just these ‘illegals’ are later to become the best fighters in the forests.
“The Jews begin to gossip about the head of the organization, Kovner: How is he better than the co of the police? One decides who will die, and the other chooses who is allowed to live. They permitted hundreds of Jews to be slaughtered who certainly would have succeeded in making an important contribution in the fight against the enemy, and it is Jews who lock the gates of rescue before them.”
The fate of the Vilna Ghetto was sealed. The day before the final annihilation arrived, Kovner betrays the constitution of his underground organization. The 22nd paragraph of the constitution states, “We will go to the forest only as a result of battle, after we have accomplished our goal. We will take with us the largest number of Jews possible and we will clear a path to the forest, from whence we will continue our battle against the murderous conquerors.”
“In reality, Kovner promises exit to 50 of his friends from the organization exclusively. In spite of all the precautions, it became known in the ghetto that the fighters are gathering to leave. Tens of young, healthy, strong people gather in the courtyard and plead before Kovner that he permit them to join those leaving, but Kovner hardens his heart, threatens them with his revolver and chases them away. The opening of the sewer is guarded carefully by Kovner’s own man so that no ‘illegals’ should sneak through.”
In the forests, too, as commander of the partisans, Kovner continues to prevent rescue and ships to death any Jew who wasn’t counted amongst his friends — the members of the “Hashomer Hatzair.”
Here are a few facts:
“Into the forest arrive two women. One of them brings with her a son and daughter. For many weeks they wandered on the roads. They heard that in the forest there were Jews from Vilna and they hoped that they would have mercy on them and take them into the camp, but they are mistaken. For a few weeks they remain at the edge of the forest — starving, ragged and trembling from cold — but the staff of the division doesn’t have compassion for them. Several times they threaten them that if they don’t leave the place, they will shoot. Several times the staff sends men to herd these unfortunate women and children far into the forest and forsake them there, but the youths do not comply with the cruel orders, occasionally bringing them some necessities — in secret, of course. so that it would not, G-d forbid, be discovered by the commander.
“In the camp, they remember the day that a group of Jews from Ishishuk came to the forest. They had been sheltered by farmers, until the danger of their being discovered became too great and they could not remain in their hiding place. In vain did they plead to be accepted into the camp. The staff members remained firm in their refusal, although they knew that they were actually pronouncing a death sentence for these people. For many weeks, these Jews wandered near the Jewish camp, suffering from cold and starvation. Only after the Russian partisan camp absorbed some of them did ‘our commander’ also agree to absorb the rest.
“They also remember the incident involving a woman from Ishishuk-Potzter and her two children, who wandered for a few weeks in the forest in the freezing cold. The boys would bring them stolen food until the staff was forced to give in to popular opinion and accept them.
“Three Jews decide to join the Jewish camp and bring with them a Czechoslovakian cannon. The staff members ponder acquiring this precious munition without also having to accept the men. They invite them for a conversation in the staff tent, a com missioner draws a revolver, takes their cannon from them and arrests them. The staff spreads the news that the three are traitors and should be killed. One of them succeeds in fleeing and alerting the commander of a Russian division. The Russians rush to their aid and threaten to attack the Jewish camp. They free the three men, who join their division.”
These are but a few links in the long chain of crimes of Abba Kovner, publicized by Chaim Lazar, who personally witnessed them and fought as a partisan, losing an arm in the process.
Mapam placed Abba Kovner at its “eastern wall.” The kibbutz movement raised his image in the eyes of the youth as the venerable image of a courageous poet.
Mapam also did not hesitate to suggest the candidacy of Greenbaum for the presidency of the “Jewish” state, despite the fact that Greenbaum, in the role of chairman of the rescue committee, concealed the holocaust and sabotaged rescue attempts.
This same Mapam organized protests on the occasion of the German, Strauss, visiting Israel, even though it was never proven that the latter ever harmed a Jew.
Mapam invokes the spectre of the holocaust fraudulently. She immerses herself in moral piety and, at the same time, clings to and up holds the blemish of Jewish war criminals and even elevates them as praiseworthy.
Mapam is not the only one to maintain this double standard. Even “Herut” has never organized public street demonstrations against Jewish war criminals as it did against official German visitors.
“And we returned and we saw what the difference is between one who serves the AlMighty and who doesn’t.”
The archbishop of Warsaw made contact, through the architect Shtultzman, a member of the Judenrat, with the three remaining rabbis of the Warsaw Ghetto (Rabbis Menachem Zemba, Shimshon Stockhamer and Dovid Shapiro SLIT”A), suggesting that they save themselves before the annihilation of the ghetto, by escaping to the bishop’s palace. They weighed the matter and decided that it was forbidden for them, as leaders, to save themselves from the sinking ship. With a similar refusal did Rabbi Y. Pinner, of blessed memory, spiritual leader of Lodz, answer the suggestion of the bishop of Lodz.
PHOTO: Rabbi MenaChem Zemba
PHOTO: Rabbi Dovid Shapiro
PHOTO: Rabbi Sftimshofl Stockhamer
The meeting between the three is described by “Zhid” in the American newspaper, “Forward,” of March I, 1947:
“It is not known how much time the silence lasted. Perhaps a minute; perhaps hours. Reb Dovid, who was the youngest of the three, broke the silence and said, ‘1 am younger than both of you. My words do not obligate you. It is obvious to all of us that ii is not in our hands to help these people in any way. Nevertheless, by the very fact that we are with them, that we did not leave them, there is some encouragement for them — the only encouragement. I do not have the strength to leave these people — and there is no place bereft of Him. Will we hide from the AlMighty? The same G-d who is found there is found here.’
“The words came forth from the youngest rabbi and the silence continued. Then it was replaced by crying. Not one word was said. Only crying gushed forth from within the three hearts. Then they left the room and Reb Menachem said, ‘we are not to conduct any debate in this matter’.”
Chaim Lazar describes in his book the figure of a ray from Vilna marching to the death transport:
“Suddenly we saw a group of men. At their head was an old ray, wrapped in his talUs and holding in his hand an open siddur. He passed before us as a figure from out of this world and called aloud: be comforted, be comforted, my people’.”
ABANDONMENT OF THE DIASPORA TO ITS FATE:
A ZIONIST TRADITION
When Rommel approached the gates of Alexandria, a distance of 200 miles from the boundaries of Eretz Yisroel, and the heads of the Jewish Agency prepared for themselves an airplane (they did not worry that they would be asked, ‘Why didn’t you stand up against them? Why didn’t you rebel?’), the remnant of Polish Jewry declared a fast for them. They — the wounded and bereaved, who were standing in line to be suffocated in the gas chambers — pulled themselves together for the only possibility in their hands to save their brothers in Zion, who were exposed to a danger to which They had already fallen victim. Those suffering from starvation fasted for us. The Jews of Poland, whose eyes no longer could shed tears, whose lips were parched from the outpouring of prayer for their own families, tore the heavens with bitter crying and shouting for us. And who knows if it was not the pleas of these condemned persons, that at least in the Mount of Zion there be a remainder, which tore the decree and, in their merit, Rommel was defeated and the settlement in Eretz Yisroel was saved?
How did we repay them? How did the love for Eretz Yisroel and the mutual feeling of responsibility of the heads of the “yishuv” and the leadership of world Zionism express itself? This is not the place to un fold the chapters of Joel Brand’s mission to save Hungarian Jewry under the terms of the famous deal, “cargo in exchange for blood,” which was frustrated by the Jewish Agency for fear that it would sidetrack Zionist fund-raising. Typical of this were the efforts of Zionist leaders to cut Brand off from all contact and isolate him from the people.
When Brana arrived in Constantinople (Istanbul), officials of the Jewish Agency convinced him to come to Eretz Yisroel to meet with them. Brand (who, by the way, was a loyal member of Mapai) testified at the Kastner trial that the representative of Agudas Yisroel in the rescue committee in Turkey, Reb Yakov Griffel, was suspicious that Jewish Agency officials wanted to thwart Brand’s mission and warned him not to go to Eretz Yisroel because the British would jail him. But Brand did not pay attention to these warnings and added, in his testimony, that “to me, the representatives of the pioneer movements were the authority, and not the representative of Agudas Yisroel.” The committee of the Jewish Agency which heard his account of the annihilation did not believe him. Vanya Pomegranate, a member of the committee, asked: “Joel, are the Nazis really murdering, as you described?”
Ehud Avriel arrived in Constantinople to accompany Brand to Eretz Yisroel. The leadership concealed and prevented rescue — concealing knowledge of the holocaust was a prerequisite to preventing rescue. The leaders knew that in the event that the details and magnitude of the holocaust would become widely known, a public storm would arise which would force them to either take strong action or be turned out of their positions of power. Therefore, they hid, in archives, the facts which were smuggled to them secretly, later defending themselves with the excuse that they were doubtful of their veracity. In this area, too, there was a united front encompassing the leaders in the “yishuv” and those in the diaspora.
When Brand asked Chaim Barlas whether he might be detained by the English and thus be unable to return, Barlas became angry with him: “Don’t embarrass us.” When the train reached Aleppo, AvrieI hurried away and Brand was seized by the British who were waiting for his arrival. He was brought to Cairo and detained. The Jewish Agency did nothing to free him, and he writes in book, “The Satan and the Soul”: “No attempt to rescue our people was desired...The Jewish Agency decided against my return to Hungary.”
In the meantime they were waiting for him in Budapest as Eichmann had given him a total of three weeks to prevent the exterminations. When he was late in returning, the deportations to A were resumed at a rate of close to 13,000 Jews daily. In May 1944, Brand arrived in Constantinople. On July 24, they were prepared to free him on the condition that he return to Hungary by way of Eretz Yisroel. And then something occurred which amazed even the British rulers: “Delay his release,” the Jewish Agency cabled to the British authorities in Cairo. During that time, Eichmann informed Kastner, “if Brand doesn’t return in three days, I will resume the deportations to Auschwitz” (see the book, “The Satan and the Soul”).
After Brand was released, he requested a meeting with Dr. Weizmann and received the following letter in return:
Rehovoth, 29 Dec. 1944
Mr. Joel Brand
Dear Mr. Brand:
I beg you to forgive me for having delayed in answering your letter. As you may have seen from the press, I have been traveling a good deal and generally did not have a free moment since my arrival here. I have read both your letter and your memorandum and shall be happy to see you sometime the week after next — about the 10th of January.
Miss Itin — my secretary — will get in touch with you to fix up the appointment.
With kind regards,
Yours very sincerely, Ch. Weizmann
PHOTO: “I did not have a free moment” (Weizmann’s letter to Brand), while 12,000 per day were being killed.
Incidentally, the original letter was stolen by the Israeli secret service from Brand’s house so that he would be unable to present it at the Kastner trial, and we are fortunate that attorney Tamir had prepared a photocopy of it beforehand so that this document was saved for posterity as a memorandum of shame.
The president of the Jewish Agency did not have any free time to meet with a representative of Hungarian Jewry and to hear plans for saving it. He remained obscure, as is befitting the Anglicized native of the swamps of Pinsk. In the meantime, for this branch of Jewry, the end came.
In the book, “Chaim Weizmann, Builder of Zion,” published by Hebrew University and edited by Weizmann’s secretary, Meir Weisgal (who isn’t suspected of defaming the man he respected and glorified), it is told:
Somebody has turned on a radio. 22nd of June, 1941. The radio brought the news. Germany has launched an offensive on Russia. The Germans have already marched through the border. I watched Weizmann. His eyes were dark.
“This is the second time,” he said.
He recalled that when the First World War broke out, two years after the death of his father, his mother still lived in Pinsk and had to escape from the fear of German invasion.
And now they come again — the Germans. What will be the fate of all these people? I saw in his eyes the tragic vision of what has really happened to them. There was a silence in the room.
“Yes,” he said, “For our people, there, for millions of them, a horrible and monstrous fate is waiting.” But after a moment his eyes lighted, his body leaning forward. “At the end — and this is the most important thing — this war is bound to bring about a blessing to England,” he added.
This man, who viewed the destruction of his brethren as less important than the main thing — England’s victory — was found worthy of being chosen as the first president of the “State of Israel”.
Joel Brand writes in his book about his meeting with Ehud Avriel, executive director of the foreign ministry of the State of Israel: In a coffee house in Tel Aviv, Avriel said to him, “Joel, stop this. Erase from your heart what was, for if not, you will not be able to get in Tel Aviv even a job as a Street cleaner.”
In the letter that Rabbi Weissmandel sent to the World Jewish Congress, in which he called/it to action, he attached the testimony of wit nesses who escaped from Belzitz: how the Nazis removed the gold teeth from the bodies and how they cooked the Jews’ flesh into soap. In his book, “Mm Hamaitzar,” Rabbi Weissmandel notes: “In spite of this, when Tartakover (executive director of the World Jewish Congress) translated the letter into English for the Congress, some months after it was written, he omitted the part about the gold teeth and the soap. Obviously, they didn’t believe or didn’t want to believe.”
Why didn’t they believe? This was revealed to Rabbi Weissmandel when he accidentally opened a letter from officials of the Jewish Agency in Constantinople to Moshe Dachs, representative of the Hebrew Workers Party (Histadrut), and Gizi Fleischman, the representative of Zionist federations in Pressburg (Bratislava).
“In the note from Constantinople, it was written that they received a letter from some ‘fanatic,” suggesting a way to save all the Jews from deportation. They do not believe any “oduk” (fanatic), so they are therefore asking their “chaver” (friend), Moshe Dachs, if there is any substance to this matter. Then they will believe.”
In regard to this, Rabbi Weissmandel writes:
“This, we did not imagine and this 1 did not want to believe under any circumstances. Even for me, the faithful student of our rabbi from Nitra, may his memory protect us, and his son-in-law, who warned from the beginning that the end of all hope will be terrible heartbreak. Since everything is in the hands of irresponsible secularists, who are referred to as the most arrogant of the nations by our sages, according to the interpretation of the Maharsha.
“Until I faltered over this great saw, I did not know and did not believe that they would hold back the letters of the rabbis, written in the lands where blood flowed freely, from reaching the rabbis of the free countries to whom the letters were addressed.
“I did not know and did not believe that they would reach the point where their hate of Torah overcame their love for Jews; that their rejoicing over the uprooting of the Torah would be greater than their capacity for mercy; that what was written and signed by rabbis would be an obvious reason to sabotage the acts of rescue of tens of thousands from certain death.
“Then in Tammuz (July) of 1942, 1 did not know and I did not believe.”
Only in November, 1942, did the heads of the World Jewish Congress and the president of the American Zionists, Dr. Stephen Wise (whose shameful deeds will yet be mentioned) travel to Washington to clarify what truth there was in the “rumors” about “persecution”of the Jews in Europe. Only after Dr. Wise was brought soap made from the fat of Jews did he decide to organize a gathering to protest...
Even so, there was one who did believe — a leader of the secular community (Neologen) of Budapest, who came to Pressburg at the request of the rescue committee there. But he, too, was calm, and he also knew how to comfort others. This is what Rabbi Weissmandel writes in his book:
“It was in those days that the first rumors arrived about the deathly suffocation in the horror chambers and the murders with gas. I told him (the Budapest leader) this with much emotion emanating forth from my heart. Then this gentleman answered and said that he also heard rumors like this and, considering that he was an expert in chemistry, he was able to say that the Germans were using for the purpose a gas known to cause a sweet death — like opium. When we heard this, it was enough for us. When he heard what we had to say, it was also enough for him.
Berel Katznelson was given the description, “conscience of the Histadrut,” by those connected with it. How did the “conscience” react to the crime of creating a silence around the holocaust and abandoning the dying diaspora? This is told to us by Eliezer Livneh, once one of the outstanding leaders of Mapai, in his article of confession in Yediot Acharonot of 25 Nisan of this year:
“My words are not a criticism of others. The fate of the European exile did not seem like a disturbing vision. Yet doubts were aroused in me, if my evaluation was correct, and I differed in this with Berel Katznelson. But I accepted his opinion and the opinion of what was then my party — that one shouldn’t differ —— but not because I hesitated to argue over decisions of the party. But here, standing on the side, were three generations of Zionist heritage, including the heritage of my house, and I accepted their judgment.”
In a previous article in Digleinu, the words of Livneh were quoted, explaining that the apathy to the destruction of the diaspora is a part of the essence of Zionism, which is building a new nation and a new homeland. Probably there are, amongst the readers of Digleinu, some whose peace of mind is being affected by the details included in these articles. There can be found those who are shook up by the very recalling of such disturbing forgotten occurrences. They will permit me to answer their discomfort with the parting words from Livneh’s article:
“This Zionist heritage had in it something faulty to begin with. We have paid a terrible price for it. Many defects, injustices and ugliness of the present find root in forgetting the near past. It is incumbent upon us to bring it up anew, and to oppose it with our complete awareness, so that the soul of the nation will cure itself of its sickness.”
PHOTO: The entrance gate to the Auschwitz camp and the three rail lines on which 2 million Jews were brought for extermination.