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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Europe’

Sobibor Death Camp Gas Chambers Uncovered

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

The location of the gas chambers at the notorious Sobibor death camp has been revealed, Yad Vashem announced Wednesday.

On October 14, 1943 some 600 prisoners rose up in revolt and escaped from the camp. Most were recaptured or murdered, but 100 to 120 managed to survive. Of those, 60 made it through to the end of the war, when Allied Forces arrived to free the captives.

But a quarter of a million Jews were murdered at the death camp in Poland, where the Nazis worked hard to cover up their evil crime. After the uprising, the Nazis bulldozed the site and planted evergreen trees to conceal the mass graves.

Now, an archaeological dig has uncovered the truth nevertheless.

Dr. David Silberklang, a senior researcher at the Yad Vashem International Institute for Holocaust research said, “The discovery of the exact location of the gas chambers at the Sobibior Camp is a discovery of the utmost importance in Holocaust research.”

He said it was important to understand that “there are no remains from any Jews who worked in the area of the gas chambers, and therefore these findings are the only thing left from those who were murdered.” Silberklang said “a small window has been open into their daily suffering.”

Personal effects of the victims who lived and died in the tragedy have been found near the gas chambers. Among the items uncovered were jewelry – including wedding rings – and perfumes, medicine and utensils.

Archaeologist Yoram Haimi added that “we found near the gas chambers wedding rings with the inscription in Hebrew, ‘Harei at mekudeshet li” (Behold, thou art consecrated unto me.”)

Silberklang said that for the first time the excavation taking place at the site would enable researchers would be able to better understand the murder process in the camp and what the Jews went through before their deaths.

Hana Levi Julian

Time to Go Home

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Here’s the mausoleum in the old Jewish cemetery in Medzhybizh, Ukraine, of Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the holy Baal Shem Tov, who changed and healed Eastern European Jewry.

The “Besht” appeared in about 1740, a little less than a century after the holocaust of 1648 (Gzeirot Tach-Tat, the decrees of 5408-9), which were followed by the catastrophe of false messiah Shabtai Tzvi, who heaped even more ruin and chagrin on Eastern European Jews, from about 1655 to 1670.

This man of mystery, whose teachings sounded a whole lot like Shabta Tzvi’s, except for the part about trumpeting himself the messiah, has been used as a model by every known Jewish movement, from extreme Haredim to Soviet Socialists, channeled into the world a wondrous spiritual and psychological change, without which we may have looked very different as a nation—and some say we may not have survived at all.

This is a particularly mysterious looking night image, of a relic in a foreign land, long emptied out of most of its Jews, one way or another.

I bless all of us that we’ll have the courage and the wisdom to turn our backs on these relics, including the very beautiful and mysterious ones, face east and start moving.

Next year in Jerusalem (or Netanya, or Haifa, or Tel Aviv – take your pick).

Yori Yanover

Henry Shaw & Names

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

What’s in a name? My late father had an only sibling called Henry Shaw. We loved our Uncle Hashy as we called him. He was huge, almost six-and-a-half feet tall, and had to stoop to get through the doors of our house. He had a deep but soft bass voice and a wonderful sense of humor. He was a marvelous raconteur, steeped in Yiddish culture and the intricacies of internal Jewish political warfare in Eastern Europe. His greatest impact on my life was the range of experiences he introduced me to, from Chazanut to Verdi’s Requiem, from Hillel Zeitlin to AJP Taylor, from Martin Buber to Bertrand Russell. He was less charismatic than my father, less combative, but a much more approachable person.

He qualified in social studies at London University and spent his life devoted to the Jewish Community, first in London in the Association of Jewish Youth, then running Hillel House in Endsleigh Street, London. He and his devoted wife, Sybil, provided a home from home for thousands of Jewish students from around the world for over twenty years. I saw most of him in my own student years and he was very supportive and encouraging. But then they ‘disappeared’ from my life and went off to Australia to take over the Hillel Foundation of Victoria which involved the Melbourne and Monash Universities. Five years later Henry switched to academia to help establish a Jewish studies program at Prahran College. His work eventually morphed into the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization at Monash. Sybil died in 1978, but Henry flourished until 1996.

I am writing this piece because this week is his Yahrzeit. But also because I am embarrassed to admit that I never found out why he adopted the surname Shaw. Which leads me to the issue of Jewish surnames. We Jews never really took them very seriously. Napoleon’s civil reforms insisted that everyone had to have a surname. Previously non-Jews had Christian names (yes, that’s what first names were called in Britain until the sixties) and Jews had Jewish names on to which occasionally one added a location or a profession. When the law of the land insisted on surnames Jews usually took their profession, the town they came from, or a Latin version of a Hebrew word like Benedict or Priest. Amongst themselves they invariably used only Hebrew names, until the process of acculturation took hold. This explains why Jews tended to be rather cavalier about changing their civil names or having them changed by others.

My paternal grandparents came from Radomsk. My grandmother was a Bialystock, the name of a Polish town. My grandfather’s family name was a more Russian, Rozrasowski . During the great migrations of over a hundred years ago, lots of migrants took or had simpler or more western names given to them as they came through immigration. You have heard of the old Jewish gentleman called, improbably, Shawn Fergusson because when he arrived at immigration in a state of exhaustion and shock and was asked his name he said in Yiddish, “Shoyn Fergessen“ (“I forgotten.”). Or the Chinese man called Moishe Greenberg because as he came through after a Jewish migrant and gave his name as Sam Ting, they thought he meant “the same thing”.

Seriously, when the Rozrasowskis came to London in the early part of the twentieth century the family simplified its name to Rosen. They must have thought it would sound more English! There were five girls and four boys. The boys decided that they’d rather be known by their first names, so as to differentiate themselves. That was how my Grandfather Shlomo came to be known as Mr. Solomons. Indeed his tombstone in Dublin (where he moved during the Depression) gives his name as “Mr. Sydney Solomons (Rosen)”.

My father was always known as Rosen, but his elder brother Hashy became Shaw. Was it to sound more English, or actually Irish? Shaw is a popular Irish name. When his parents moved to Ireland this was an era in which when getting a job or an apartment with a Jewish name was as difficult as getting one with an African name fifty years later. Or was it just a play on Henry’s nickname Hashy? One family tradition had it that he had lost his papers and got an Irish passport on the black market. The most improbable was that he had accidentally killed an anti-Semitic drunk in a fight and carried his name as a penance. Who knows? He never gave me a straight answer.

But if you think this story strange, let me tell you about my maternal grandfather, Moishe Yaakov Cohen, known as MJ. He was born Moishe Shumacher in Uman in the Ukraine. As a boy he emigrated to Tredegar in Wales. There he was taken under the wing of a relative whose name was Cohen, who had become the godfather of Jewish peddlers servicing the isolated Welsh mining villages of the Rhonda with haberdashery and other supplies that the miners paid for in installments. The peddlers went out on foot on a Sunday with goods provided by Mr. Cohen and did not come back till Friday to spend Shabbes together and make up the minyan. It was suggested to Moishe that if he had the same name as the boss it would inspire confidence. So Moishe Shumacher, the Levi from Uman, became MJ Cohen. Soon he did well enough to set himself up in business on his own in Manchester as MJ Cohen, General Draper (a fancy name for selling odds and ends). Later he transferred to Cardiff. One day he sent a letter back home on his notepaper inviting relatives to come and join him. When they read the invitation they had no idea who MJ Cohen was, but they did recognize the word “General” and assumed he’d been promoted in the army and had changed his name to Draper. Which explains why we once had relatives in Manchester called Draper.

All these people I have mentioned here only had one Hebrew name from the beginning to the end, names that linked them directly to their heritage of millennia. Their surnames were secondary, like a chameleon’s skin. But they, like my Uncle Hashy, were and are all proud and contributing members of the Jewish people. As far as I am concerned that’s what counts.

Jeremy Rosen

How the Holocaust Never Happened in Rumania

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

The virus of antisemitism is alive and well in Eastern Europe, and so is the denial of the Holocaust. It is particularly disconcerting that a younger generation in Rumania, and more than likely everywhere else in the world, should be infected with this virus, and is — or claims to be — ignorant of the real treatment of Jews in the 20th century.

Dan Sova, a 39 year old Rumanian lawyer and Social Democrat, who has been a Senator in the Parliament since 2008, was promoted to the position of Minister for Parliamentary Relations by the Prime Minister Victor Ponta on August 6 after saying on a television broadcast on March 5, that “no Jew suffered on Rumanian territory (during the Holocaust) thanks to Marshal Antonescu.” Two days later Sova was removed “temporarily” from office as speaker of his political party. He has also said that “only 24 Jews were killed during the Iasi pogrom (of June 28-29, 1941) by the German army.”

Both statements by Sova were false and malicious. Ion Antonescu, the pro-Nazi dictator of Rumania during World War II was “leader of the state,” prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister, and self-appointed Marshal. He joined the Tripartite Pact of Germany, Italy, and Japan against the Allies in November 1940, two months after it had been signed. He also established close personal contact with Hitler. It was Antonescu who on June 27, 1941, ordered the commander of the military garrison of the town of Iasi, in northeast Rumania, to “cleanse” the city of its Jewish population. The action was not instigated by the Nazis but by the Rumanian authorities and the Rumanian army on their own initiative.

It is estimated that during the two days of the pogrom in Iasi, between 13,000 and 15,000 Jews were massacred in the streets or else died in the death trains on which 100 Jews were herded into each boxcar; most died of thirst, starvation, or suffocation. The actions of the Rumanian regime in the Holocaust led to the deaths, not of 24 Jews, but a number estimated to be between 280,000 and 380,000 Rumanian Jews — most likely the larger number, in the territories under its control.

It was not Nazi policy that triggered the massacre of Jews but the Rumanian government itself — with the enthusiastic participation of the military, and the endorsement of the broader society, similar to the better-known participation of the French Vichy regime and French authorities during the war.

In the period after World War II, from 1945 to 1989, Rumania was under Communist control, first by the Soviet Union and then as an independent country; information about the country’s actions during the war was largely suppressed. Few Rumanians were aware of the involvement of their country during the Holocaust. Perhaps the kindest thing to be said of Dan Sova is that his schooling did not include any information about the Holocaust.

It is difficult, however, to believe that a young lawyer educated at the University of Bucharest could be so ignorant. When criticism arose of his promotion on August 6, four days later he confessed that his remarks on the Holocaust were “completely wrong.” It would be nice to take at face value his plans to take concrete actions on the matter, one of which will be a course of lectures on the Holocaust.

No matter the degree of sincerity in Sova’s apologies and regrets, a few lessons could be drawn from his case: there is a critical need to keep on discrediting Holocaust deniers, ranging from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran to Ernst Zundel, a German who lived in Canada. Education, especially of the young, about the Holocaust is urgent and essential to put an end to the falsehoods of distortions of history by individuals such as David Irving in Britain, Robert Faurisson in France or Louis Farrakhan in the U.S. Both the young and the old should continue to be informed of the assertions of the deniers — the allegations that the Diary of Anne Frank was a hoax because parts of it were written with a ball point pen, or that Auschwitz was too small to have been an extermination camp — to be able to refute them.

Michael Curtis

Legends And Fantasies In Jewish Life

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Legends are necessary for nation building and community cohesiveness. Legends of holy and pious people and legends about villains and the wicked are often subject to fabrication and gross exaggeration, but they leave no doubt in the minds of later generations as to who was the holy and pious person and who was the villain.

Midrash is probably the main conveyor of legend to Jews as far as the biblical and Talmudic periods are concerned. However, there is a plethora of legends about great Jews throughout the centuries that exists in an oral and sometimes written fashion. The great rebbe of Kotzk, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern (Halperin), said the definitive word about all of these legends and stories: “He who believes all of these tales is a fool and yet he who states that they could not have occurred is a non-believer.”

Many times there are legends that contradict one another. This should not faze us, for again, each legend comes to emphasize a particular insight into an event or a personality trait of a great person and does not declare the statement it makes as fact.

Midrash is full of contradictory statements and opinions about the very same incident or person – but this in no way compromises the value of Midrash to us as a conduit of Jewish values and insights. It is only when Midrashand legends are taught as facts that these problems of contradictions and obvious exaggerations arise.

The Jewish people as a whole possess a strong collective memory. We remember leaving Egypt on a Thursday and standing at Mount Sinai and receiving the Torah on Shabbat. We remember all of the glories of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem as we do the Babylonian exile and the story of Purim. Ezra and the Second Temple, the Hasmoneans and Herod as well are all stored in our genetic memory cells.

The events of the long exile and of our longing to return home to Zion and Jerusalem are a significant part of our memory bank. This memory bank has been fed by stories about great people, significant events and terrible tragedies that have occurred over the millennia of Jewish life. These legends, whether completely accurate or not, help us recall the core event about which they revolve and, in so doing, keep our memory of the past alive enabling us to deal so much better with our present situations and challenges. A people cannot survive for long having lost its memory.

Most of the secular Jewish world today suffers from this type of amnesia regarding its past. There was a Jewish people before 1897 and the Zionist movement, before the Holocaust and before 1948 and the establishment of the State of Israel. Ignoring and ridiculing Jewish legend, even when one is seemingly historically or empirically correct in so doing, helps destroy accurate Jewish memory as well.

One must be careful to remove and differentiate legend from fact. But legend should nevertheless be retained, for it casts light and shadow, nuance and insight on the facts that we do know and have at hand. Facts are knowledge while legend often is pure inspiration. It is legend and Midrash that create sermons, dreams, goals and action in the Jewish world. It is legend that has contributed to the revival of Jewish life in individuals and communities over the past decades. Legend is to be treasured.

Nevertheless, the main problem with legend is that it is often translated into reality and fact and replaces the simple understanding of words and events that appear in the Torah. The Talmud was well aware of this tendency and therefore stated: “A verse in the Torah never loses its plain simple meaning.”

Rabbi Shmuel ben Meir (Rashbam), the grandson of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi) in eleventh-century France, chided his grandfather for wandering too far away from this principle in his immortal commentary to Torah. Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra struggled mightily to separate legend from fact in his Torah commentary. So did Don Yitzchak Abrabanel and Rabbi Ovadya Sforno.

Even in the Talmud there is strong criticism of “those who continually distort the plain meaning of the verse” and substitute legend for it. But as any pulpit rabbi having to deliver a sermon every Shabbat to his long-suffering congregation will tell you, it is the stuff of legend that piques the interest of an audience and captivates it.

So the quest for the perfect balance in this matter still continues in the pulpit, the classroom and in the works of commentary to Torah and Judaism. The Talmud has been eminently successful in achieving such a balance when discussing the past of Israel and its biblical heroes and leaders. It records everything, hides nothing and yet preserves legend as the essential understanding of the person and the situation.

* * * * *
There is an admonition in Judaism not to speak ill of the dead. There are also halachic restraints on what can be said about the living. Slander has a very broad definition in Judaism and thus even the “truth” is often prohibited from being said or printed in many circumstances.

All of this naturally creates somewhat of a vacuum regarding the true events and behavior patterns of the lives of famous people and then, inexorably, legend rushes in to fill that vacuum. Thus most biography in the religious world of Judaism is fanciful, hagiographic and laden with anecdotes and stories, some of which are too fantastic and incredible for even to the most na?ve to believe. Yet it is clear that the very existence of a legend can tell us something about the person. Two men once exchanged stories about a great sage for whom fantastic claims of spirituality and piety were being made. One asked, “Do you really believe that story?” The other replied, “No, I do not. But no one tells such stories about the two of us.”

Thus legend does in fact tend to be valuable in assessing the character and achievements of great figures of the Jewish past and present. Again, the caveat in all of this remains the ability to remember it is legend and not necessarily reality one is dealing with in such matters. And the Jewish penchant for legend is so strong that when books of true biography, warts and all, are written about great Jewish figures, these works usually face withering criticism if not outright bans in religious circles.

Many times legend becomes myth. Myth is a sense of human recognition that the story being told is not factual but it nevertheless changes legend from history or biography into literature and philosophy – sometimes sacred holy literature and philosophy.

For instance, there is an opinion in the Talmud that Job as a person never existed, and that the entire book of Job is an allegory introduced into the holy canon of the Bible to teach us the philosophy and worldview of Judaism on the subjects of reward and punishment, man’s travails on earth and the inscrutability of the divine will as reflected in our lives.

Myth is therefore much more philosophical than mere legend. It transcends this “real” world to discuss and teach values and insights that are eternal and almost never changing in the human existence. It provides the background lighting for our brief appearance on the stage of life.

Legend teaches us how to view others and events; myth is meant to teach us how to view ourselves. Legend is often only storytelling. Myth is a psychological counseling session. Great empires – Greece, Rome, China, Japan, Sweden, Germany, and Britain, among others – have been built upon the mythology of the founding tribe of that empire. This strong sense of the founding mythology has remained present, unfortunately often for evil purpose, throughout the centuries of these countries’ existence.

The Torah does not deal with myth per se. Yet the Flood and Noah’s ark, the Tower of Babel, the centrality of the land of Israel, factual as they all are in the biblical narrative, nevertheless were all combined to create a basis for the holy mythology of the Jewish people. In addition, the idea that the “events of the works and decisions of our founders, the fathers of Israel, are a sure guidepost for their descendants” helped strengthen a mythology that binds the Jewish generations together and gives us insights into the values of Judaism and historical events, past and present.

* * * * *
There are many types of fantasies that exist in Jewish life. There is a natural tendency among all humans to be nostalgic about the past – “the good old days.” The truth of the matter is that “the good old days” may have been old but they rarely were good. Yet this fantasy is still today a major one in the Jewish world, especially in the religiously observant Jewish society.

The portrait of Jewish life that emerges from this oft repeated and taught fantasy is that Jewish life in eastern Europe, difficult as the physical conditions might have been, was spiritually wonderful and that Jews were somehow serene and happy in that time and place. Also part of the fantasy is that in Eastern Europe Torah study was rampant, the Torah scholar was honored and treasured by the community and that almost everyone was observant of Jewish law and halachic ritual.

This fantasy is not only false, it is terribly dangerous. It allows us to currently repeat the errors of the past that led to the secularization of the majority of the Jewish people in Eastern Europe and to the breakdown of rabbinic and Torah authority.

In the nineteenth century, Jews in Eastern Europe became assimilated. They became Marxists and revolutionaries, secular and agnostic if not even atheistic. By the 1930s, seventy percent of all Jewish children in Poland no longer attended Jewish schools of any kind. Urbanization took a tremendous toll on traditional Jewish lifestyle. Terrible working conditions and onerous work hours in the city’s factories destroyed the Sabbath for many. Child labor was common and unemployment in Jewish society reached astronomical figures. Poverty, disease and malnutrition were the lot of most of the Jewish masses. The educational system, the traditional cheder, the one-size-fits-all approach to curriculum and the students, all began to collapse of its own weight.

The breakdown of the traditional Jewish world in the twentieth century, of which the Holocaust was naturally a very strong and dominant contributing factor, nevertheless began in nineteenth-century Eastern Europe. It was not a phenomenon caused by America or modern Israel, though that is where the results of this breakdown of Jewish life are currently playing out. And, therefore, portraying and perpetuating the fantasy of Eastern European Jewish life as idyllic is counterproductive to any attempts to build Torah Judaism today in America and Israel.

Other fantasies exist in the Jewish world. Superstitions abound. There are many charlatans who prey on innocent people. Selling fantasies is big business, and it is thriving. The fantasy that such pressing and dangerous problems as sexual deviancy, monetary cheating, criminal behavior, substance abuse, etc., cannot and do not exist in observant Jewish society is perpetuated, all real evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. People always prefer to whistle past the graveyard, and therefore this fantasy of perfection in our society persists.

There is a fantasy that alleged kabbalism-based healing exists and that therefore one should always pursue this type of alternative medicine. Prayer to God certainly helps and works but magical potions of holy water and other such fantasies are the stuff of the gullible and credulous, sold by the exploiters of other people’s troubles, usually for personal monetary gain.

Judaism is a very sophisticated faith. It does not lend itself to fantasies about things that are not real or beneficial. Yet superstitions exist because life itself is irrational and humans find it difficult to deal with. Therefore, fantasies are always with us and part of our psychological makeup. Some are very dangerous. Others are relatively benign. The rabbis of the Talmud always sought to dampen Jewish fantasies, even about the messianic era. But the pattern of recurring fantasies in Jewish life always reemerges in every generation and society. It is part of human nature – it may even be a necessary part – and Jews are no exception to the governing rules of human nature.

Then there exists in Jewish society outright falsifications about the past and the present. I mentioned earlier the falsification of the real situation of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Eastern European Jewry. Stories and descriptions about people and events are made up of whole cloth. The ideas and philosophies of great people of the past are twisted to make them conform to modern political correctness in sections of Jewish society. Photographs are doctored, skullcaps are added or removed, unpleasant incidents are sanitized – all in the name of advancing the true faith as it is currently understood to be.

It is this tendency that makes falsification so dangerous for, by perverting history and biography, it robs us of the ability to truly learn valuable lessons from the past and from the great people who lived then. Truth has to win out eventually; it will always find its way, and the more falsifications piled on it only makes its eventual emergence more shocking and traumatic.

So again, separating the wheat from the chaff of Jewish history and biography has been an ongoing pattern throughout Jewish history. We find it in the Talmud and in all later works of Jewish scholarship. Just as the scholars of Israel throughout the ages have labored mightily to present us with a correct text of our holy books, free of emendations and copyist errors, so, too, there should continue to be an effort to present us with a record of Jewish history and biography free from purposeful or negligent falsifications.

We have a great deal to learn from the past. One of those lessons is that a false history is as dangerous as, if not more dangerous than, no history at all.

Rabbi Berel Wein is an internationally acclaimed scholar, lecturer and writer whose audiotapes on Torah and other Jewish subjects have garnered a wide following, as have his books, which include a four-volume series on Jewish history. A pulpit rabbi for decades, he founded Yeshiva Shaarei Torah of Rockland in 1977 and moved to Israel in 1997His latest book is “Patterns in Jewish History” (Koren Publishers), from which this essay is adapted.

Rabbi Berel Wein

It’s My Opinion: Freedom

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

A boat was intercepted in the Florida Straits on July 13. A surveillance plane spotted the vessel and directed the U.S. Coast Guard to intervene. The boat held a passenger who had fled the island of Cuba.He was parched and exhaustedand was said to have been adrift for weeks. Rescuers were shocked to see that the seven-foot craft was made of Styrofoam.


Since the Communist takeover of Cuba, thousands of desperate men, woman and children have flocked to the shores of Florida. Often they risk their lives in homemade and rickety crafts. Some are made of inner tubes tied together with rope. Others are makeshift rafts. One amazing “boat” was an old taxicab that incredibly was set afloat. Desperation seems to have inspired ingenuity.


What could drive an individual to make such a perilous journey? What could motivate a human being to put himself through such danger? The answer is compelling.


The quest for freedom is a powerful motivator. It can cause people to act in remarkable ways. Throughout the course of time, revolutions and uprisings, revolts and freedom movements have been sparked by this desire.


The United States of America was created as a bastion of freedom. The Founding Fathers understood how precious this concept really was. Cubans, as well as people from around the world, are aware of this and that is why they flock to our shores.


My family escaped the tyranny of Eastern Europe to come to America in the beginning of the 1900s. They came from shteiblach in Poland and Jewish enclaves in Russian cities. They suffered from state-sanctioned anti-Semitism and stifling government control. They had no prospects of improving their lot. They sought freedom from these injustices. They prospered in this country. Their story is the quintessential American tale.


It is quite ironic that without a fight, war or declaration of intent, America’s citizens have given up many of their hard-won freedoms. Without even noticing, freedoms of choice, finances, business and privacy have been compromised, many within the last year-and-a-half.


The idea of an all-knowing big government (that caused so many to run away from other countries) has incrementally been introduced here. We have exchanged the American idea of free enterprise, that gave us prosperity, for a bail-out mentality that has never worked in any of the places and times that it has been tried.


This seems to be an age that rewards incompetence. The same federal bureaucracy that faces a failing Medicare and Medicaid system has now taken on national health care. The same federal bureaucracy that suffered the debacle of an embarrassing “cash for clunkers” car exchange, now heads General Motors. The same federal bureaucracy that has suffered many breaches of security on its most sensitive computer data has now exposed all Americans to have their most personal and private medical records on a national data bank.


It is time to wake up. Freedom is a priceless commodity. The American people need to be aware of how easily it can be lost.

Shelley Benveniste

Title: The Bugs Are Burning: The Role of Eastern Europeans in the Exploitation, Subjugation and Murder of Their Jewish Neighbors During the Holocaust

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Title: THE BUGS ARE BURNING: The Role of Eastern Europeans in the Exploitation, Subjugation and Murder of Their Jewish Neighbors During the Holocaust

Authors: Dr. Sheldon Hersh and Dr. Robert Wolf

Publisher: Devora Publishing 



In this meticulously documented treatise of centuries old European anti-Semitism, authors Drs. Sheldon Hersh and Robert Wolf graphically depict the hellacious barbarism and heinous atrocities committed against the Jewish people throughout Eastern Europe before, during and after the Holocaust by those they believed to be their close neighbors and friends.


        They painstakingly take us through a nightmarish odyssey of the toxic manifestations of deeply entrenched anti-Semitism in such countries as Lithuania, Latvia, the Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Croatia and Poland in the decades preceding the Holocaust. Quoting from a litany of respected books on the history of pre-Holocaust Jew-hatred, they impart unique perspective on the nihilistic philosophies that proliferated throughout Europe in the early 20th century and offer, as well, a salient exploration of the genesis of bellicosity towards Jews and the ramifications thereof. 


Lusting for Jewish blood, the indigenous gentile population of Eastern Europe, the authors inform us, rapidly morphed into unabashed miscreants. Gladly becoming more than “willing participants” in the wholesale slaughter of the Jews when their respective countries were occupied by Nazi forces, these Eastern Europeans   possessed no compunction about liquidating Jewish assets and property, or for that matter, engaging in the most horrific forms of sadistic mass murder of their Jewish neighbors.  


        Clearly, rabid Jew-hatred was endemic to Eastern Europe since the influx of Jewish immigrants centuries before. Aided and abetted by the insidious dogma of the Church and the hateful rhetoric against Jews in the media and the government, resentments of the Jews grew exponentially as the continent stood poised to explode like a powder keg. One need only read of the wanton murder of Jews prior to the   advent of Nazism throughout Europe to gain a cogent understanding of why   Hitler’s manifesto held sway in these countries – they were already soaked with Jewish blood and tears.


In June of 1941, when German forces occupied a town called Jedwabne, the Polish residents held a town meeting in which they decided that the Jewish residents be annihilated. One can only recoil in horror as the authors tell us, “Hooks and wooden clubs were the murderers’ instruments of choice. Jews were set upon; their heads severed from their bodies and kicked about like soccer balls. To escape the killers, women fled to a nearby pond and drowned themselves along with their babies. Those who survived were brought to the town square, where they were beaten with clubs and stones, and herded into a barn that was set ablaze by their Polish neighbors. As for the younger children, they were roped together by their legs, carried on the executioners’ backs to be impaled on pitchforks, and thrown onto the smoldering coals of the burning barn.”


        Other such depraved stories of mass murder of Jews in other countries are also told here in chilling detail. The authors give us something to reflect upon as it pertains to the scourge of modern day anti-Semitism when they quote Deborah Lipstadt in her book, Witnesses to the Holocaust. She writes, “The Holocaust was not committed by a cadre of sadistic beasts. Before the war these people were doctors, lawyers, architects, teachers, clerks, farmers and students…It means that it takes relatively little to turn ‘normal’ humans into creatures capable of the most sadistic acts.”


        Eastern European collaborators murdered well over a million Jews sans the assistance of the Nazi death machine while the world stood in abject silence.  They had interpreted the world’s reluctance to voice objections to such acts as tacit imprimatur to continue their rampages. 


This book is replete with a plethora of profound lessons on the vituperative and lethal nature of unchecked anti-Semitism, but its most paramount insights relate to the existential perils that the Jews of today’s world confront.


Jew hatred has become a fashionable and “politically correct” phenomenon in the spheres of the Western academy, but this time around it is couched in semantics. While classical Jew-hatred is dismissed by intellectuals as blatantly racist, the very same menacing sentiments have been summarily replaced by the en vogue terminology better known as “anti-Zionism”. Much more than a cut and dry history book, The Bugs Are Burning teaches that the brand of Jew-hatred we are now witnessing must be accorded intellectual and emotional gravitas and addressed in the strongest of terms. Now, before it is too late.

Fern Sidman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/title-the-bugs-are-burning-the-role-of-eastern-europeans-in-the-exploitation-subjugation-and-murder-of-their-jewish-neighbors-during-the-holocaust/2010/01/13/

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