Thursday, October 18, 2007
The Rescue Efforts
(Reb Shmuel Walkin with Alte Mirrer in Shanghai)
I can't really blame the Snags for buying into this, since this was "information" that was placed right in their laps by so-called and "historians", "truth-seekers" and "history buffs," but what I can blame them for is taking the bait without thinking just a little bit. By "thinking" I mean about the can of worms that they open every time they say "Lubavitch did diddly squat," Und So Veiter. Then again, nobody ever accused them of being able to think, at least not the Snags of the last 60 years, the Litvishe Yidden of Amohl could think. I'm still in the midst of reading the biography of RMBW, and I'm intently reading the chapters pertaining to the holocaust and his rescue efforts. Truthfully the Zionist-bashing, directed mostly at the leadership in Palestine and its affiliates in the free world - although it shouldn't - bothers me somewhat. I guess that's what happens when you dislike some of the ways of the Satmar you dislike much of what they do. The author -a grandson of the protagonist - seems to be heavily influenced by the Satmars, but you've already heard that from me, no need to repeat it. Most of the book, and understandably so, deals with what the protagonist and his associates did to save Jews, but a lot also deals with him being frustrated at the fact that the Jews in the free world, in America, England, Switzerland, and Palestine, did little to help.
He blames the inaction of the Leftists-Zionists on the fact that they saw this as an opportunity to finally get their wish: the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine. There's also the idea that they hated frum people so much that they mamesh didn't care that they'd all be exterminated, especially if it was going to get them a state. The fact that some of the people he worked with were also Zionists - although maybe not Leftists - may seem to cast doubts on that accusation, but this has become fact within Charedi circles, especially the anti-Zionist factions. The official excuse they gave was they didn't want to send money to the enemy, which is where the money would've ended up, since RMBW's plan was to "buy" lives by giving the Germans first money and later trucks and supplies, since by late 1944 the money couldn't buy much, so they needed supplies. IIRC the Allies weren't happy with that plan either, since all they wanted was to see the defeat of the German army. Then again; the fact that Kastner was assassinated before he could testify at the trial held in Israel in the '50s sure makes things look suspicious. This is not the point of the thread here, but will serve as a springboard to our relevant topic.
(Shlomo Wajsfeld, Belzer Chossid and refugee from Antwerp who escaped to Switzerland)
RMBW was quite frustrated at the lack of activity on the part of frum Jewry in the free world, and wanted answers - no, demanded answers. I had no real relatives here during WW2, so I can't ask them what they did, and the excuses are plenty. "We didn't know what was going on." "We couldn't believe that the GERMANS, the cultured people of the West, would do such a thing." I've read all the Artscroll books on the history of WW2, - although not recently - and about the Hatzoloh actions that were done by the Sternbuchs and the Griffels and the Sheinfelds etc. I also know about the march on Washington in 1943 by 300 Rabbis led by the venerable Rav Lazer Silver, and about the story how Reb Aron Kotler once took a train to Washington DC in order to save lives. Reb Avrohom Kalmanovitch's work for refugees is well-known, as is his work after the war in bringing in students from the Sefardic lands and integrating them into the Yeshivah and community. But in the greater scheme of things, when we speak of Hundreds upon Hundreds of Thousands that could've been saved, even after Polish and Russian Jewry (in the Nazi-occupied parts) were wiped out, those numbers don't seem like much. Then again, I wasn't there, but neither were any of you. Does it make sense for me to sit here Sixty some-odd years later and judge them for what they could've done? of course not.
However, since many of you out there, and you know who you are, see fit to decide what was and wasn't done by certain people you never liked anyway, and you decide whether or not others have the right to crtiticize, let's sit and examine the facts, shall we? Legend has it that the Ponovizher Rov z"l, who himself was not known to be very active in the Hatzoloh efforts, was quite unhappy with the Chazon Ish's lack of action during that time. A Quote that goes something like "M'hut GeTrunken Orange Juice in Eretz Yisroel BeSha'as Yidden hubben gebrent" is attributed to the PR about the leadership in the Holy Land. However, he himself was busy starting the esteemed Ponovizher Yeshivah while Europe was burning, and opened its doors in 5704, when there still was much to be done. That was the case in America as well, where the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe established a network of schools, Yeshivas, and educational organizations dedicated to strengthening Yiddishkeit in America and Canada. The book Ish Chamudos seems to think that not much was done as far as raising money for the rescue of Jews. They mention that in 1943, when Stephen Wise's rescue organization disbanded the religious Jews then began to mobilize somewhat. Until then their hands were supposedly tied, whatever that means.(That was the time of the march on Washington by the Rabbis.) Rabbi Kalmanovitch ran around collecting money, and managed to put together 100,000 Dollars, which was forwarded to Europe. Students from Yeshivos Torah VoDaas and RIETS remember getting a few days off to go and collect money. Other than that there doesn't seem to be much as far as major rescue efforts. IMHO the Artscroll books on the War rescue effort were BiBechinas Makdim Refuoh LeMakeh, beating the criticism to the punch, showing the world that "look, we saved lives!" When in reality, after the Mirrer and Kletzker Bochurim were fed and clothed there wasn't much to speak of. After the war lots of care packages were sent, sure, but most of that was done by the irreligious "Joint" anyway.
(Bochurimm at the Zeilsheim DP Camp)
Sorry if I offended anybody, and I welcome any and all relevant criticism.
(Photos courtesy of the USHMM)