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January 23, 2017 / 25 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Romania’

Israeli-American Nabbed in Taliban weapons Jailed for 15 Years

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

An Israeli-American man caught in a sting operation trying to sell weapons to Taliban terrorists was sentenced on Wednesday to 25 years in prison.

Oded Orbach, 55, of Highland Park, Ill., was convicted in April of conspiring to provide material support to the Taliban and conspiring to acquire anti-aircraft missiles.

A U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency undercover operation caught seven men, including Orbach, who agreed to provide various military-grade weapons to an individual they believed to represent the Taliban. The weapons included heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles.

The men traveled to Africa, Ukraine and Romania in order to arrange a sale of $25 million in weapons, ammunition and training to the man they believed to be a Taliban official. They planned to make $800,000 on the deal, but were arrested in February 2011 in Romania and extradited to the United States to face trial.


Ukrainian Jewish Leaders: Romania Unfit to Lead Holocaust Body

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Ukrainian Jewish leaders said Romania was unfit to head a Holocaust remembrance forum because it has not done enough to come to grips with its own Holocaust-era culpability.

Approximately 380,000 Jews were murdered in Romania-controlled areas during the Holocaust, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

“Romania’s actions prove it is not ready to assume responsibility for the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust, when Romanian troops acted as an occupying force in large parts of Ukraine under orders from the country’s pro-Nazi leadership,” Oleksandr Feldman, a Ukrainian lawmaker and president of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, told JTA.

Feldman was reacting to reports that Romanian Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean was interested in having Romania head the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, or IHRA, in 2016. Canada currently heads the alliance.

Ukrainian Jewish Committee Secretary Eduard Dolinsky said that Romania’s embassy in Ukraine has rejected invitations by his organization to discuss ways to jointly commemorate the murder of Jews by Romanian troops.

The Romanian bid is supported in principle by Rabbi Andrew Baker, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international affairs and personal representative on combating anti-Semitism for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe — an intergovernmental agency with 57 member states known by the acronym OSCE.

“There may be additional issues to tackle but Romania has taken some important steps toward coming to grips with its Holocaust-era record,” Baker said. He noted the 2005 establishment of the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of Holocaust in Romania and the 2004 designation of a national Holocaust remembrance day on Oct. 9 — the day that Romanian authorities began deporting Jews to their deaths 72 years ago.


The Ultimate Revenge for Holocaust Survivor: New Torah Scroll

Monday, August 19th, 2013

An 88-year-old survivor of the Auschwitz death camp has donated a new Torah scroll to the Lubavitch Chabad of Skokie, near Chicago, the ultimate revenge against the Nazis who tried to eradicate Jews and Judaism.

Her other revenge was to dwell in the future and present, instead of the past, and marry and bring more Jews into the world.

Marge Fettmen, her children and grandchildren attended a recent Torah dedication ceremony, in memory of her late husband Daniel, also a Holocaust survivor.

Fettman, known by the Nazis as prisoner No. 21880, told the Chabad website, “God gave me a good idea – to have a Torah written. It is our guide. I want the Torah to be used to teach people about Judaism.”

Fettman was living with her family in Romania in 1944 when the Nazis stormed into their town of Szaszregen and herded her and her relatives into a cattle car for Auschwitz.

“When we arrived, Dr. [Josef] Mengele stood there flicking his whip, sending some of us to the right and others to the left. I was separated from my family,” she told Chabad. “Since I had the snacks we had packed for the children, I was concerned that they would be hungry. I wanted to bolt to the other side to be with them, but Mengele saw and shouted at me in German, ‘Are you a fool?’ I stayed where I was, and my life was spared.”

After surviving the death camp, she married her husband, and the couple moved to the United States in 1949, where they raised they raised their children in the Jewish tradition. Her husband, a grocery store owner, died in 2004 at the age of 83.

Her parents were very religious, and she decided that dedicating a new Torah scroll was the best way to remember them forever.

Jewish Press Staff

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

Reaping The Fruits Of His Labor

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Reb Pinchos, born in Romania, moved shortly after birth with his parents to Vienna. As a teenager, he learned in another city and took his Gemara with him. Pinchos remembered how his rebbe always liked to teach from his Gemara. He remembered Kristallnacht vividly, as he and his parents left Vienna fearing for their lives. Upon returning to their house, the family found all the books and furniture smashed, but miraculously, of all the sefarim that had been destroyed, the Gemara that he took with him to yeshiva was untouched. In addition, the sefer Torah they had hidden on top of a bookcase in their home had fallen behind the bookcase – but was untouched.

Shortly after, Reb Pinchos and his parents left Vienna for England. Little did he know what the future had in store for him. Hundreds of people had escaped from Europe to England and the British were afraid that Nazi spies might have been among the escapees. His parents, being in their 70s, were allowed to remain in England, but Reb Pinchos and 2,000 other Jews were told that they were going to be deported from England. With a heavy heart he bade farewell to his parents, knowing that this would be the last time he would see them.

He and his fellow Jews were taken to a large ship, the infamous Dunera, which had a transport capacity of 800 – but was now packed with 2,000 people. They had no idea where they were going, and most only had their personal belongings in a small bag. The ship’s British soldiers went through all those belongings and stole anything of value – while personal papers were thrown into the sea. Conditions on board were terrible, with little food available, and the deportees were allowed on deck for fresh air for only an hour a day.

One day while at sea everyone was told, without explanation, to go below deck. Suddenly, the whole ship shook as if something had hit it. Little did they know that a torpedo had hit the ship, but miraculously didn’t explode. Not long after the war, the captain of the U-boat that had fired the torpedo wrote that he had noticed papers in the water and sent divers in to retrieve them. It turned out that about 200 German prisoners of war were on the Dunera, and when the German submarine’s commander found papers belonging to these prisoners, he commanded all the U-boats in the area not to fire at the ship. He accompanied the boat into safe waters.

After about 7-8 weeks, the ship arrived in Australia. The headline in the paper there read, “Enemy Aliens Arrive In Australia.” Reb Pinchos and the other Jews were taken to Tatura in New South Wales, where they were interned and kept behind barbed wires.

With World War II in progress, all able-bodied men had gone off to war and people were needed to pick fruit. Reb Pinchos and others were taken to the orchards to pick the fruit. As the first Shabbos was approaching, Reb Pinchos was concerned about having to work on Shabbos, but as he was officially a prisoner of war he questioned as to what to do. He decided to speak to the farmer, explaining to him the prohibition of working on Shabbos and offering to work on Sunday instead. To his surprise the farmer said that he would honor the request to not work on Shabbos, and he added that he did not want Reb Pinchos to work on Sunday either, since that was his “Shabbos.”

While working there, Reb Pinchos discovered that there was a shul in the area belonging to the Feiglin family. After his first visit to the shul, one of the Feiglin sons picked him up every Friday in order to spend Shabbos with the Feiglins. Reb Pinchos was returned to the farm on Sunday. When Reb Pinchos completed his job of picking the fruit at this farm, the farmer told him that he found a job for him picking fruit at a neighboring farm. And the farmer mentioned to Reb Pinchos’s new boss that Reb Pinchos did not work on Shabbos, a condition she accepted.

Eventually Reb Pinchos joined the Australian army. He married and raised a heimishe Jewish family – instilled with the values of Torah and Yiddishkeit.


The Romanian Gaon

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

This article was written by Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, z”l, the Seridei Eish, about my grandfather, the Gaon Rabbi Bezalel Ze’ev Shafran, z”l, of Baku, Romania, author of She’elot U’tshuvot R’BAZ. He died on the 14th of Kislev 5690 (1930).

The essay was originally published in different form in the volumes Otsar Hachaim and Kibutzei Ephraim, and translated in 1932 in the local Romanian Jewish publications Tribuna Evreska (issue 22) and Bakuvel (issue 203). It was included in Rav Weinberg’s collection of essays L’Prakim.

I offer this revised version in my grandfather’s memory for his yahrzeit.

– Rabbi Eliyahu Safran, vice president of communications and marketing, OU Kosher.

To be called “gaon” is a mark of distinguished honor, one bestowed only upon the most grand of the grandest Torah luminaries; it is a title granted by historical Jewry that imparts special love and admiration on its bearer by every Jewish heart.

Although derived from and related to the Germanic term meaning “genius” – a person of prodigious talents – mere genius falls far short of all that is meant by the honorific gaon.

The Jewish gaon is greater, more elevated, more holy than any “genius.” Upon him and within him resides an echo of distant, nearly mythic worlds.

A European “genius” is fully a member of his society; he is of his time and place. While the Jewish gaon exists in his time and place, he is more than his time and place.

To attempt to describe what a gaon truly is would be like trying to describe the majesty of the Swiss Alps to a youth who knows only the unending flatness of the Kansas plains. Rather than description, the youth needs to visit the Alps themselves, to observe their greatness and absorb their beauty and majesty.

In the same way, one must be in the presence of an old-world gaon to fully understand what is meant by this high honor. By doing so, he will stand in the true light which shines from a human soul when it reaches its full stature.

The gaon brings together the full range of human attributes – a unique composition of fierce spirit and gentle soul; a prodigious mind and the delight of a child. He is restless and stormy internally, but calm and peaceful externally. He combines the vigor and intensity of a warrior with the soft wonderment of a dreamer.

A gaon aspires for the loftiest of accomplishment and conquest, yet is accepting of concession and humility. Mentally, he is the consummation of human aptitude. Morally, he is a faithful guardian of the spirit of man as created in the image of God.

He is, when all is said and done, the personification of the triumphant spirituality of man. Fortunate is the man who merits being in the presence of a Jewish gaon.

* * *

We ask that God give us strength.

The Hand of God has afflicted the congregation of the rabbis of Israel in the Diaspora. We find it to be more diminished and impoverished from one day to the next. One by one, its principal luminaries are fading away.

These days, when the Jewish rabbinate is changing so dramatically, as it becomes modernized and diminished, there is a special charm that imbues those few remnants carrying the flag of Torah, religious teachers of the speedily diminishing old school.

Such ancient glory, reflecting the noble spirituality of a world that will never return, rests upon these unvanquished spiritual heroes; great scholars and souls who are defeated only by life itself.

They call to mind the days when our spiritual lives were whole, unaffected by external and internal wars; when Judaism sang with a single voice, one that called both back to the past and forward to the future, forming an unbroken continuation of our ancient culture.

As these great remnants die out, we are left to face an unclear and clouded future. They carry with them to their eternal rest the security and the faith that seems lost to the young generation, a generation scattered on uncharted paths.

From among the few there towered a Jew of physically modest stature – weak, thin, adorned in worn clothing, with a crushed hat upon his head – the rabbi of Baku, z”l, bearer of the totality of the beautiful rabbinic ideology of the old generation, devout in his beliefs, guileless in his character, guardian of ancient traditions, and brother to everyone whose path he crossed.

Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg

Perfect Heroes

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

In the summer of 1993, shortly before I was to participate in an international conference on the concept of the hero in Jewish history, I began researching how Israeli society had perpetuated the memory of the Yishuv (Jewish community in pre-state Israel) parachutists from World War II.

These were a group of some three-dozen young parachutists (including three women) from Eretz Yisrael who were dropped by the British behind enemy lines in Eastern Europe and the Balkans during World War II.

The young parachutists, most of whom had arrived from Europe only a few years earlier, faced a double mission. Their British mission was to make contact with pilots who had jettisoned over enemy territory and assist them in making their way back to Allied occupied lands. Simultaneously, their Zionist mission was to contact Jewish communities in Europe, assist them in rebuilding the local Zionist movement, and, when necessary, help their members escape from the Nazis.

Seven of the parachutists, including two of the women, lost their lives during the operation. The most famous of them was undoubtedly Hannah Szenes, a young Jewish immigrant from Hungary who had been in the Yishuv for only four years before volunteering for this mission.

Having made contact with those parachutists who had returned from the operation and relatives of those who had not, I became determined to continue the project. And when I was knee-deep into the documentary section – burrowing through dozens of archives containing material on one parachutist or another – I realized that the book I would write had essentially been conceived at the intersection of three incidents during my childhood. Two and a half decades later, the seeds planted in me at this time ultimately sprouted into a decision to study how the parachutists underwent a metamorphosis from ordinary people to “perfect heroes.”

The first incident took place when I was four or five. Every Shabbos afternoon my father and I would go for a walk in our New York neighborhood, heading toward the nearby park, with its huge statue of Atlas bearing the world on his shoulders. To while away the long summer afternoons my father would tell me stories about the hero who bore the world on his back, whom he called koyach (“strength” in Yiddish).

I often confused that Greek hero with the ancient Jewish fighter Judah Maccabee, about whom he also spoke, but the message was clear. Every generation needs heroes – contemporary heroes, my father insisted, and not only those from the distant past.

The second incident took place during my early school years. Throughout the hour-long ride to my school, the younger children often tormented each other with shouts and shoves, but, when tired of mischief, would exchange stories as well. A favorite friend of mine on these rides was Danielle, and my mother often spoke about Danielle’s distant cousin, a true heroine who had been killed in the Holocaust. She was a parachutist who had been sent to rescue Jews from the Nazis. Danielle’s last name was Reik and the parachutist was named Haviva.

The third incident occurred a few years later. In my summer camp the directors and counselors took advantage of every opportunity for “Zionist brainwashing.” It seems to have succeeded since many of my fellow former campers now live in Israel. Not only were all camp instructions given in Hebrew – an unusual policy in an American Jewish summer camp – but every age group had a Hebrew name and every activity cabin bore the name of someone whom the camp directors of the 1950s and 1960s considered a Zionist hero.

We would start our morning roll call in Hannah Szenes Hall, hold afternoon activities in Haviva Reik House, and finish off the day with an evening campfire outside Enzo Sereni Cabin. No one ever explained to the campers exactly who these heroes were; the directors and counselors apparently adhered to the policy that it was the symbolism that mattered. Nevertheless, my bunkmates, many of whom were also my schoolmates, understood how great an honor it was to conduct activities in a building named after a Jewish hero or heroine from Eretz Yisrael.

A quarter century later the three incidents metamorphosed into the basic coordinates of what would become my book Perfect Heroes: heroism, Zionism, and parachutists – more precisely, the Yishuv parachutists of World War II. What began as an investigation into the history of the parachutist-emissaries (as they preferred to be called) gradually became an exploration of how the concepts of heroism and the hero evolved in an emerging state and a developing society.

To this day the parachutists’ mission is considered the pinnacle of Yishuv activity within the framework of the British army, on behalf of European Jewry during the Holocaust. At its height the operation encompassed some 250 volunteers who came from settlement movements, the military, and the Palmach, a Zionist military home guard originally established by the British to defend Eretz Yisrael against invasion. Of those, 110 were trained in various preparatory courses in Eretz Yisrael and abroad. Thirty-seven men and women were assigned to the operation and thirty-two of them did, in fact, participate reaching Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Bulgaria, and Italy during the war or immediately thereafter.

On the night of Rosh Hashanah 5704 (October 1, 1943) the first two volunteers – Liova Gukowsky (Ahisar) of Kibbutz Yagur and Arye Fichman (Arany) of Kibbutz Beit Oren – parachuted into Romania. It was a cold, moonless night. The operation had been planned down to the last detail and, at least on paper, the chances of success seemed high. Jewish Agency personnel in Istanbul had notified Zionist activists in Bucharest of the two parachutists’ arrival, and a sum of money had already been sent to someone in the local Zionist underground to be passed along to them. In a picturesque passage in his memoirs Gukowsky described his fears and hopes as he jumped:

We knew that an alarm had been sounded all over the country and that the plane was being watched . Your heart pounds, thick sweat floods your body, the opening to the depths below darkens before your very eyes … and suddenly, after the torments of expectation, the signal is given. The shades of light playing on the airplane gave the command: Jump! My comrade jumped first, and I instantly slipped out after him. When I jumped, the parachute opened and I felt enfolded in its secure arms. The cry “Shema Yisrael …” flashed like lightning in the darkness of my soul – a sort of feeling of the sanctification of God’s name that passed, was cut off . And along with this came a sense of death. My ears perceived the bullets buzzing around me, a hail of bullets. “I won’t make it” was the thought that passed through my mind.

The operation that had begun hopefully ended in disaster with both parachutists captured by the Romanian authorities, their location having been revealed by double agents working both for the Yishuv and for the locals. During the next few months additional groups were sent to Europe, some to Yugoslavia from where they were supposed to make their way to Romania and Hungary, others to Slovakia where there was a free enclave. One parachutist, Enzo Sereni, was parachuted into Italy where he fell directly into Nazi hands. He spent the next months in detention camps and finally was deported to Dachau where he was murdered in late 1944.

The group in Yugoslavia waiting to enter Hungary – Hannah Szenes, Peretz Goldstein and Yoel Palgi – had a unique problem to deal with that totally disrupted its original plans: just after they reached Yugoslavia Hungary had been occupied by the Germans.

Despite this situation in June 1944 Szenes and later Palgi and Goldstein crossed the border from Yugoslavia to Hungary in an attempt to aid the Jews of that country. Szenes was caught immediately and put in prison, and through a set of circumstances Palgi and Goldstein were forced to later turn themselves over to the Nazis. The three spent the summer and early autumn of 1944 in a Hungarian jail, waiting for the Russian forces to advance and liberate Budapest, to no avail.

On October 28, Szenes’s trial opened in Budapest. All three parachutists were originally supposed to appear in court, but only Szenes was actually brought before the judges, who refused to issue a verdict on that occasion. Despite a valiant speech she made before her judges she was not set free and no judgment was issued.

On the morning of November 7 the Hungarian prosecutor entered Szenes’s small cell and informed her that the sentence that had just been passed – death by firing squad – would be carried out immediately. The brave parachutist vehemently refused to ask for clemency. Before she was executed she wrote two notes that she entrusted to her cellmate, one for her parachutist comrades and one for her mother who lived in Budapest and for a time had been incarcerated with her in the same prison.

While Szenes was marching in the snow to face a firing squad (she refused a blindfold), her mother was waiting in the Hungarian prosecutor’s office for permission to visit her daughter. A few minutes after the young woman had been shot the prosecutor cruelly informed Katherine Szenes that she no longer had anyone to visit.

As the Germans advanced toward Budapest, it seemed that the fate of the two other parachutists was sealed. Peretz Goldstein was transferred to the Oranienburg concentration camp in Germany where he was murdered. Yoel Palgi managed to escape from the deportation train and made his way back to Budapest where he hid until the liberation.

During that same summer of 1944 another group of parachutists – Haviva Reik, Rafael Reiss and Zvi Ben-Yaakov – had been sent to Slovakia where they assisted Jews living in the free enclave of Banska Bystrica. At some point they were joined by parachutist Abba Berdiczew who later left for Romania. With the advance of local Nazi-collaborating forces, they were forced to retreat to the mountains where they were assaulted by the Ukrainian auxiliary army and captured.

Reik and Reiss were executed along with 250 Jews who had been imprisoned with them and their bodies left in a ditch covered with dirt. Ben-Yaakov, who had pretended to be a Canadian soldier, was sent to Mauthausen where he was executed. So was Abba Berdiczew, who had been captured by Nazi forces on his way to Romania and sent to that same camp.

Meanwhile, no one in the Yishuv knew of the parachutists’ fate. Word of Szenes’s death reached the Yishuv through Palgi, who had learned of it from Szenes’s mother even before the liberation of Budapest. In June 1945 Yishuv representatives got final word of Reik and Reiss’s murders. As for Berdiczew, in June 1945 British intelligence decided that in all probability he had been murdered shortly after his capture.

Only at the end of the summer of 1945, when the British army had obtained confirmed evidence that most of the missing parachutists had indeed perished, were official death notices sent to the families. Katherine Szenes – the first to officially join the family of the bereaved – was now joined by the Reiss, Reik, Sereni, and Berdiczew families. In the absence of verified information about the fate of Goldstein and Ben-Yaakov, their families had to wait several months longer for official notices and letters of condolence.

The last missing parachutist was also the oldest of the group, Enzo Sereni. The Labor party functionary, founding member of Kibbutz Givat Brenner and scion to an aristocratic Italian Jewish family, had accompanied the parachutists as liaison with the Yishuv authorities and only at the last moment had decided to join the mission and parachute with them into Europe.

Only in October 1945, almost a year after his death, did Enzo Sereni’s widow, Ada, who was on a Yishuv mission in liberated Europe, learn that her husband had died in Dachau on November 18, 1944.

Every nation needs heroes but often finds it difficult to cope with giants who are also flesh and blood. The process by which those who died became tiles in the mosaic of national heroism sometimes requires cosmetic touch-ups to their image, to the story of their lives, and even to the depiction of their political loyalty – all in order to make them blend in with the collective portrait of Yishuv heroism at the time.

This trend was manifested even before the ink had dried on the letters of condolence sent by the British army. Perhaps it is precisely this that the parachutists feared when they asked not to be considered heroes. In his last letter to his wife Zvi Ben-Yaakov had written: “Please don’t let them make me a national hero because this wasn’t heroism. Only here did I see just how much too weak we are to be called heroes.”

His request, like that of Rafi Reiss, was ignored. As long as they remained alive, the parachutists belonged to their families, their friends, and their kibbutzim. However, when they died new rules applied to them, a different dynamic that removed them from the personal framework of those who knew them and mourned their loss and transferred them into a national framework in which they would fulfill completely different functions.

For as soon as the parachutist died, the hero was created; as soon as the person dies, the symbol is born.

Prof. Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz is chair of the graduate program in Contemporary Jewry and teaches in the Department of Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. This essay is adapted from her new book, “Perfect Heroes: The World War II Parachutists and the Making of Israeli Collective Memory,”

Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/perfect-heroes/2010/05/26/

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