Seconds often make the difference between life and death and new technology makes the difference…
Last week, when Jews around the world recited the traditional Tisha B’Av lamentations focusing on the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, a number of communities added a lamentation referring to a much more recent tragedy – the failure of the Allies to bomb the Auschwitz death camp in 1944.
What makes this additional lamentation, or kina in Hebrew, especially interesting is that it not only refers so specifically to the failure to bomb Auschwitz, but it was written by the rabbi who was himself the first person to appeal to the Roosevelt administration to order the bombing of Auschwitz and the railway lines leading to it.
The author, Rabbi Chaim Michael Dov Weissmandl (1903-1957) grew up in Slovakia and became a prominent figure in the famous Nitra Yeshiva.
When the Germans began deporting Slovakia’s Jews to Auschwitz in the spring of 1942, Rabbi Weissmandl and his cousin Mrs. Gisi Fleischmann, a community activist, established an underground rescue organization known as the Prakova Skupina, or Working Group.
Their efforts included smuggling hundreds of Jewish children across the border into Hungary, which at that point was a safe haven. Most notably, they paid a $50,000 bribe to Nazi official Dieter Wisliceny to halt the deportations. From the autumn of 1942 until October 1944, no Jews were deported from Slovakia.
Although some information about the mass killings in Auschwitz leaked out earlier, the full details of the camp’s operations were revealed in late April 1944, when escapees Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler reached Slovakia. They gave Rabbi Weissmandl and his Working Group colleagues a thirty-page report explaining the mass murder process, including maps showing precisely where the gas chambers and crematoria were situated.
The report was sent to U.S. and British diplomats, officials of the Vatican, and Jewish rescue activists in neutral Switzerland, together with letters from Rabbi Weissmandl urging the Allies to bomb the death camp.
“We ask that the crematoria of Auschwitz be bombed from the air,” he pleaded. “They are sharply visible, as shown on the enclosed map. Such bombing will delay the work of the German murderers. What is more important – to bomb persistently all the roads leading from Eastern Hungary to Poland and to bomb persistently the bridges,” over which thousands of Hungarian Jews were being deported in cattle cars bound for the death camp.
The rabbi’s appeals reached the Roosevelt administration, which turned them down cold. Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy told American Jewish leaders that a study had found the bombing proposal was “impracticable” because it would require “diversion of considerable air support essential to the success of our forces now engaged in decisive operations elsewhere.”
In fact, no study was ever done and no planes would have had to be diverted, because U.S. bombers were already flying directly over Auschwitz in preparation for the bombing of German oil factories less than five miles from the gas chambers.
The real reason for the refusal was that the Roosevelt administration had already decided, as a matter of principle, to refrain from expending even minimal resources on humanitarian objectives such as interrupting the mass murder of the Jews.
(The U.S. position will be explored in depth at a conference on “The Failure to Bomb Auschwitz: History, Politics, Controversy,” sponsored by The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, to be held at Fordham University Law School on Sunday, September 13, 2009. Those interested in attending can call 202-434-8994 to register.)
Rabbi Weissmandl himself narrowly escaped death. Captured by the Germans in August 1944 and placed on a train bound for Auschwitz, he cut a hole in the cattle car with an emery thread hidden in a crust of bread. After the war he immigrated to the United States, where he established a new Nitra Yeshiva, in Mount Kisco, New York.
It was there, in approximately 1955, that Rabbi Weissmandl composed his Tisha B’Av lamentation, titled Kinat Min HaMeitzar (or From the Depths – the opening words of Psalm 118). Long unknown except to the rabbi’s own students, Kinat Min HaMeitzar is now gaining wider circulation thanks to its recent publication, together with commentary, by the Jerusalem-based scholar Jacob Fuchs.
The text, which is available from Feldheim Publishers, overflows with the anguish of someone who watched the Jewish world go up in flames while his cries for help went unheeded. In the fifth stanza, Rabbi Weissmandl reaches back into the depths of his painful experiences, bringing a modern event into a narrative rooted in ancient history.
“How is it,” he writes (using the Hebrew phrase Eicha, which is also the title of the biblical text read on Tisha B’Av), “that while the world’s transport lines were destroyed by the fury of the war, [the Allies] did nothing about the lines transporting the Jews to the [Auschwitz slaughter house]? They [the Allies] claimed it was because of a lack of airplanes. But the answer was that the Allies were not concerned about the fate of the Jews.”
A difficult and thought-provoking outcry, bitterly appropriate for Tisha B’Av and any other time we pause to consider the depths to which human beings can sink – not only the murderers, but the bystanders as well.
About the Author: Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C., and author of 14 books about the Holocaust, Zionism, and American Jewish history. His latest book is 'FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,' available from Amazon.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Groups promoting anti-Israel/anti-Jewish BDS right on their websites are running in the WZC election
Pataki is the last Republican Governor to win a majority of Jewish votes.
Obama’s desire to be “fair” enables Iran to get nuclear weapons which will threaten global security
The one reason to make Aliyah outweighs all the arguments not to move to Israel.
“We returned to this Land not in order to be murdered, or uprooted. We came here to be replanted!”
I don’t fear for the future of our people because I believe Yeshiva University has created an “Iron Dome” of Jewish leadership
Poland’s great Jewish cities where Jewish life had once flourished and thrived, were now desolate
Chief rabbi, Rav Dovid Lau, stated that the Torah community’s turnout in the WZO election is vital.
Iran has at its core the same ideology as that of ISIS but, inaccurately, is thought a lesser threat
An early Yom Ha’atzmaut gathering for Israel’s 67th birthday with Pres. Rivlin of Israel and guests
Israel’s Memorial Day shouldn’t be a day of mourning, it’s a day to honor, not another Holocaust Day
God’s 3 part promise for Israel: to the Avot; a plentiful land; the eventual return home by all Jews
A committed Religious Zionist, he was a sought-after adviser on Zionist affairs around the world.
Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers
The long ordeal of the Armenian Orphan Rug, held hostage to fears of angering Turkey, has finally ended. Or has it?
Carter developed a fondness for Arafat believing “they were both ordained to be peacemakers by God”
With generous support from the Egyptian Jewish community, the exiled family built a new life for itself in the Mafruza and Gabbari refugee camps near Alexandria.
While grateful not to be returned to Germany, the passengers understood they were still in the middle of a danger zone.
These “Jewish Amazons” were living proof of the failure of the enemies of the Jewish people.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/lamentation-for-the-failure-to-bomb-auschwitz/2009/08/05/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: