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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘the Holocaust’

Peacenik McGovern: We Should Have Bombed Auschwitz

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

George McGovern is widely remembered for advocating immediate American withdrawal from Vietnam and sharp reductions in defense spending. Yet despite his reputation as a pacifist, the former U.S. senator and 1972 presidential candidate, who died Sunday at 90, did believe there were times when America should use military force abroad.

Case in point: the Allies’ failure to bomb Auschwitz, an episode with which McGovern had a little-known personal connection.

In June 1944, the Roosevelt administration received a detailed report about Auschwitz from two escapees who described the mass-murder process and drew diagrams pinpointing the gas chambers and crematoria. Jewish organizations repeatedly asked U.S. officials to order the bombing of Auschwitz and the railroad lines leading to the camp. The proposal was rejected on the grounds that it would require “considerable diversion” of planes that were needed elsewhere for the war effort.

One U.S. official claimed that bombing Auschwitz “might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans.”

Enter McGovern. In World War II, the 22-year-old son of a South Dakota pastor piloted a B-24 “Liberator” bomber. Among his targets: German synthetic oil factories in occupied Poland – some of them fewer than five miles from the Auschwitz gas chambers.

In 2004, McGovern spoke on camera for the first time about those experiences in a meeting organized by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies with Holocaust survivor and philanthropist Sigmund Rolat and filmmakers Stuart Erdheim and Chaim Hecht.

McGovern dismissed the Roosevelt administration’s claims about the diversion of planes. The argument was just “a rationalization,” he said, noting that no diversions would have been needed when he and other U.S pilots already were flying over that area.

Ironically, the Allies did divert military resources for other reasons. For example, FDR in 1943 ordered the Army to divert money and manpower to rescue artwork and historic monuments in Europe’s battle zones. The British provided ships to bring 20,000 Muslims on a religious pilgrimage from Egypt to Mecca in the middle of the war. Gen. George Patton even diverted U.S. troops in Austria to save 150 of the famous Lipizzaner dancing horses.

“There is no question we should have attempted…to go after Auschwitz,” McGovern said in the interview. “There was a pretty good chance we could have blasted those rail lines off the face of the earth, which would have interrupted the flow of people to those death chambers, and we had a pretty good chance of knocking out those gas ovens.”

Even if there was a danger of accidentally harming some of the prisoners, “it was certainly worth the effort, despite all the risks,” McGovern said, because the prisoners were already “doomed to death” and an Allied bombing attack might have slowed down the mass-murder process, thus saving many more lives.

At the time, 16-year-old Elie Wiesel was part of a slave labor battalion stationed just outside the main camp of Auschwitz. Many years later, in his bestselling book Night, Wiesel described a U.S. bombing raid on the oil factories that he witnessed.

“[I]f a bomb had fallen on the blocks [the prisoners' barracks], it alone would have claimed hundreds of victims on the spot. But we were no longer afraid of death; at any rate, not of that death,” Wiesel wrote. “Every bomb that exploded filled us with joy and gave us new confidence in life. The raid lasted over an hour. If it could only have lasted ten times ten hours!”

At the time, McGovern and his fellow pilots had no idea what was happening in Auschwitz.

“I attended every briefing that the air force gave to us,” he said. “I heard everyone, from generals on down. I never heard once mentioned the possibility that the United States air force might interdict against the gas chambers.”

Ironically, in one raid, several stray bombs from McGovern’s squadron missed the oil factory they were targeting and accidentally struck an SS sick bay, killing five SS men.

McGovern said that if his commanders had asked for volunteers to bomb the death camp, “whole crews would have volunteered.” Most soldiers understood that the war against the Nazis was not just a military struggle but a moral one, as well. In his view they would have recognized the importance of trying to interrupt the mass-murder process, even if it meant endangering their own lives in a risky bombing raid.

Jane Fonda to Host Holocaust Event on Sexual Violence

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Jane Fonda will host an event in Los Angeles focusing on sexual violence during the Holocaust.

More than 200 people are expected for the invitation-only event on Nov. 8 at the Ray Kurtzman Theater. The event is sponsored by the USC Shoah Foundation and Remember the Women Institute.

Fonda, an award-winning actress and a political activist, was asked to be involved because she is active with programs and charities that deal with genocide and gender, a source familiar with the event told JTA. Fonda will read aloud works from Israeli playwright and author Nava Semel, and also will introduce a reel of testimonial clips from Holocaust survivors discussing sexual violence.

“Sexual violence during the Holocaust is rarely spoken about; many historians and scholars don’t want to address it,” said Rochelle Saidel, executive director of Remember the Women Institute. “It’s hard to have rape documentation of the Holocaust because many of the victims were silenced, since it was against Nazi law to have any sexual involvement with Jews. But the reels being shown are gathered testimonials, and it’s a part of history that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Following Fonda’s presentation, a panel will feature Saidel and Stephen Smith, executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation, moderated by Jessica Neuwirth, president of Equality Now.

I Am Proud

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

As I approached the home of Irving and Miriam Borenstein in the Mill Basin section of Brooklyn, two things became clear: the pride they feel at being Jewish and their joy at living in America. On their front lawn are large American and Israeli flags with a plaque in front which reads:

Irving and Miriam

Never forget the six million murdered in the Holocaust and the three thousand murdered on 9/11.

May G-d remember them for the good with the other righteous of the world.

Inside their home the theme continues; their walls are covered with pictures, souvenirs and memorabilia related to Israel.

Where did this sense of pride come from? Join me as we learn a little bit about Miriam and Irving’s backgrounds and hear their incredible stories.

Irving: I was born in America in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. It was like the “Yerushalyim of New York.” I went to yeshiva there and then to Harron High school. My father owned a shomer Shabbos grocery store. When I was 16 he passed away; my mother continued to run the store and at some point I began to take responsibility for it, but ultimately it wasn’t for me. I studied and excelled in electrical engineering, which helped me when I was in the military.

Miriam: I was born in Czechoslovakia in the Carpathian mountain region. I have been living in the states for 67 years. Carpathia became a hostile region to live in once the Hungarians took over. First, they put all the Jews in a ghetto. I was in a ghetto called Izah for 6 weeks before they transported us to Auschwitz.

The Borensteins in Germany after the war.

Mr. Borenstein, when did you join the service?

I was drafted into the army when I was 18, like so many others. I could have easily gotten a 4-D (a deferment) since I was a rabbinical student in yeshiva at the time but I didn’t feel that was right.

Were you scared to join the army?

No. I was happy to go. I had no fear. My mother wasn’t too happy about it but I was a strong-minded kid and running the family grocery store was not for me.

What are your thoughts about those who avoided service due to religious observance?

I am a Zionist. I told people you cannot hide behind the Torah. In fact, the Torah demands that we go and help our fellow brethren.

What was your position in the military?

Luckily, I was not in man-to-man combat. I was involved in the anti-aircraft artillery outfit. Basically, I was a utility repair soldier.

Were you ever injured?

I was hurt badly when a car near me blew up; I was unconscious for a while. I was hospitalized for 5 months in London with a fractured skull and malfunctioning kidneys. Eventually I healed, and those of us who were feeling better were given office jobs, so the office clerks could go fight.

Did you experience any anti-Semitism in the military?

Not really. I am as strong as an ox and growing up in Brownsville you knew how to defend yourself. I recall one incident where a non-Jewish man and I were reaching for the same butter during mealtime and I got it first. He said, “Just like a (expletive) Jew!” I flipped over the table and that was the end of that.

In the DP camp in 1945. Irving and Miriam are on the far right.

Were you able to be observant in the army?

Not really. It was hard. I did manage to daven with tefillin every day. One day my captain was inspecting the barracks and I was standing in the corner engrossed in my davening. He asked a fellow soldier what I was doing and when they told him I was praying he said, “If anybody bothers him they are going to have to deal with me!”

What about keeping kosher and Shabbos?

Impossible. The only thing I could do was stay away from meats. As for Shabbos, that was out of the question. The first time I drove a car on Shabbos, I thought it was going to blow up. They did let me go home for the holidays when I was in basic training.

Were there other Jews stationed in your outfit?

It was a 25% Jewish outfit with mostly New Yorkers. This is maybe why anti-Semitism wasn’t so prevalent. I did have to tell one Southerner that Jews don’t have horns though!

The Home-Run Hitter

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Twenty-five years ago, when kiruv was still a relatively new concept, a group of four young rabbis left Ner Yisrael with families in tow to head down south to Atlanta, Georgia. Rabbi David Silverman was one of those pioneers who founded the Atlanta Scholars Kollel. He is a powerhouse of kiruv – his charisma, sincerity and broad knowledge have helped him inspire thousands of Jews, including this writer. Though he is already a grandfather, his youthful looks and stamina have given him an entrée to reach college and high school students, while his wisdom has endeared him to their parents and grandparents. And yet he is the first to admit that his success has come from far above himself.

Himself a ba’al teshuva, Rabbi Silverman learned at Ner Yisrael for eleven years before moving to Atlanta. Over his many years in kiruv he has received many challenging questions, and the most complex ones are always asked only at the end of a class. It sounds something like this:

“There are just a few minutes left to our discussion group…Any questions?”

“‘Rabbi, how do you explain the Holocaust?”

“What is Kabbalah?”

“Do we believe in life after death?”

“As they’re putting their coats on, I’m trying to explain hashgacha pratis,” Rabbi Silverman exclaims.

Rabbi Silverman has developed clear, succinct answers to these recurring questions. However at one class he was asked a completely new and challenging question on a specific topic related to the Holocaust. Without thinking Rabbi Silverman delivered a perfect answer, and yet he had no idea where it had come from.

A few days later while driving in his car, he was listening to a tape of a study group he had been part of seventeen years earlier with Rabbi Yaacov Weinberg, ztz”l, the Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael. Rabbi Silverman slammed on his brakes and had to pull over when he heard someone ask the exact same question on the Holocaust. As he heard the Rosh Yeshiva’s words, he realized he had given the identical answer that he had heard in the group! He rewound the tape to listen again and strained to try to identify who had asked the question. To his astonishment he realized, it was himself!

“The answer was obviously inside me on a certain level, but I was not consciously aware of it,” Rabbi Silverman said. “I clearly felt Hashem’s hand – I needed that experience to know how to answer the question. I felt that HaKadosh Baruch Hu wanted me to do it. It was so validating.”

A few years after moving down South, another episode clearly reminded him and his family that all comes from Hashem. Today, after growing up with guests in and out of their house, the Silverman children are pros at hosting newcomers and introducing them to Judaism. The oldest children have already grown up, married and have begun their own involvement in kiruv. But twenty years ago, when they were still young, getting them to understand the finer points of kiruv was harder.

One week, Rabbi Silverman invited a new family to come for Friday night dinner. It was their first taste of Shabbat. The Silvermans tried to do everything to make it a perfect dinner. Before the meal Rabbi Silverman tried to explain to their children that they could make a Kiddush Hashem by acting like little angels at the Shabbat table, saying divrei Torah and acting respectably.

“I wanted to make a good impression. I was concerned about how the food would taste, that my dvar Torah would be meaningful and it would be a real beautiful, enriching, uplifting experience.”

Things didn’t go quite as he had hoped.

“Every possible thing went wrong. At one point we had one kid in the bathroom yelling, ‘I’m done!’ Other kids were fighting. One kid got on the table, crawled across it and spilled grape juice everywhere. Anything and everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.

“I was standing in the bathroom changing a kid’s diaper, trying to get another kid to say a dvar Torah when there was a knock on the bathroom door.

‘I’m sorry we have to go,’ the wife said.

(‘Oh no,’ I thought to myself. ‘We blew it!’)

As We Care For Survivors, Don’t Forget The Damage Done To Their Descendents

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The words “Never Forget” have become synonymous with the Holocaust, but as the actual horror of the Holocaust starts to fade, it’s time we add to the mantra an addendum: “Never Ignore.”

As the events of 60 years ago start to slip into history, the suffering of those who survived the Holocaust has been a steadfast reminder of the atrocities of which humanity is capable if we do not keep ourselves in check. Their scars are front and center, their tattooed arms impossible to ignore. And helping them heal will be our cause even as they enter the last stages of their lives.

Yet as we focus on that generation, often lost are those whose pain will endure long after the last survivor is gone – the generations of their children and grandchildren who have been traumatized by growing up with the pain their families endured during the Holocaust and scarred by the trauma of growing up with those in post-Holocaust shock.

The tales of some survivors are certainly famous, but most suffered in silence, refusing to discuss their terror as they tried to protect their children from pain. Their children grew up with parents who never dealt with their own trauma, and the silence was often deafening and painful.

Some have been able to deal with the silence constructively, teaching about the Holocaust, not letting the world forget what happened. Some fight it by being vocal about genocide. Others research the genocide in attempt to understand what happened to their parents.

Yet thousands more simply suffer from psychological disorders such at PTSD, low self-esteem, and hoarding, according to such publications as the Cambridge Journal.

Take for instance “Anna,” a 35-year-old architect and grandchild of survivors, who suffers from a hoarding disorder.

Her apartment is packed with things she will not throw out. Every counter space is covered and every draw is bursting forward. She keeps a pair of shoes that she swears she threw out 26 months ago. Walk into her apartment, and you’ll find one thing: stuff. The more that is available, the more she keeps. She just can’t escape the need to hold on to stuff.

Yet she can’t let go of things that even she knows are meaningless junk, and she can tell you. Why? Because that is how her parents acted – and how can she throw away an old pair of shoes, when her grandparents would have died for a pair of shoes?

It’s time we begin paying attention to the thousands of children walking around today with these disorders.

That’s why Yeshiva University students who are third-generation Holocaust survivors, and who still live with the repercussions of the Holocaust, have created a forum in which we can address some of the unique challenges our generation faces, and learn how to finally move forward.

We are hosting a conference that will discuss in scientific and medical terms what many of us still endure because of the Holocaust. We want to ensure that our generation is informed and sensitive about how the pain of the Holocaust lives on even today.

On October 21, we will bring our issues to the forefront and publicly grapple with them at a forum at Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus that will include such speakers as Dr. Michael Grodin of Boston University, Irene Hizme, a survivor of Mengele’s experiments on twins, and renowned psychologist Dr. David Pelcovitz.

As descendents of survivors, we have are responsible for remembering the six million of our parents’ and grandparents’ generation who were needlessly killed. We know that we need to keep alive their message. After all, it is we who have been privileged to hear their first-hand accounts, and we must inform our children of what happened.

But with that responsibility comes a price that many of us have paid. It’s time that we teach about that as well.

Mordechai Smith and Yosefa Schoor are co-presidents of Yeshiva University’s Student Medical Ethics Society. Learn more at www.yumedicalethics.com.

Rabbi who Sold Phony Holocaust Torahs Gets Four Years in Jail

Friday, October 12th, 2012

A rabbi who called himself the “Jewish Indiana Jones” was sentenced on Thursday to four-plus years in jail for attempting to sell Torah scrolls which he claimed he had salvaged after they were lost during the Holocaust, the NY Post reports.

Menachem Youlus, 51, stood with his eyes closed while Manhattan federal Judge Colleen McMahon rebuked him for swindling $1.2 million through a charity organization called the Save a Torah he co-founded in Maryland.

Youlus was ordered to return more than $990,000 to his victims.

Judge McMahon said Youlus’ her stomach was turned by Youlus’ exploitation of his “co-religionists.”

Youlus, who never spent the money he stole, invented imaginary tales of his risking his life in search of Torah scrolls buried in concentration camps.

“The reason, as near as I can tell, is that, Mr. Youlus has a screw loose,” the judge said.

Prosecutors said Youlus simply lied about the used Torahs he was selling, which he had bought in the United States.

Sherri Mandell: The Blessing Of A Broken Heart

Friday, October 5th, 2012

How can one fathom the depths of a mother’s pain upon the brutal loss of her child? Sherri Mandell’s first-born son was viciously murdered near their home on May 8, 2001. How does a mother cope with the news that her spirited thirteen-year-old, while hiking in the neighborhood, was bludgeoned to death by rock-yielding Arabs?

The Blessing of a Broken Heart is the title of Sherri Mandell’s amazing book in which she depicts the process of her coping, of her determination to choose hope and faith over despair and hate. In it Sherri reveals how she struggled to embark on a journey of faith, identifying her agony in the context of 3,000 years of Jewish suffering.

Tekoa, in the Judean Hills, where the Mandell family lives, is 2,177 feet above sea level on a ridge surrounded on three sides by a deep canyon studded by caves. It was one of these caves that Koby and his friend Yosef Ishran went to explore. And it was this cave that became the scene of devastating evil.

Sherri and her husband, Rabbi Seth Mandell, confronted their heartbreak with a conscious decision to transform cruelty into kindness. They created the Koby Mandell Foundation which provides healing programs for families struck by terrorism, allowing them to overcome the isolation that keeps them from returning to life. Participants are helped to find meaning in their loss, so that families become stronger from their traumas. In this way, they keep Koby’s spirit alive.

A New Yorker, with an M.A. in creative writing from Colorado State University, Sherri Lederman visited Israel for the first time in 1984. In Jerusalem she met Seth Mandell, a personable, intelligent yeshiva student. The two were married a year later and made their home in the Holy City where Sherri taught English and creative writing at the Michlalah College.

In 1996, after a short stint in the United States, Sherri and her rabbi husband returned to Israel, the land they loved deeply, with Judaism in the center of their family’s lives. Besides The Blessing of Broken Heart, she authored Writers of the Holocaust, (Facts on File, 2000) and has written for numerous magazines and journals, including The Washington Post, Denver Post and The Jerusalem Post. In addition, she is now director of The Koby Mandell Foundation’s numerous projects, among them the Women’s Healing Retreats for Bereaved Mothers and Widows. The expanse of this column does not accommodate the entire list of offerings of the foundation. I wish merely to mention a unique all-expenses-paid sleepover camp for more than 400 children who have lost loved ones.

One camper explains: “One of the amazing things about Camp Koby is that you are together with other kids who have similar stories. It doesn’t only give us a safe place to be together, but it also gives us a chance to grow outside of camp.”

Camp Koby Sleepaway Camps are fun-filled, six-week summer experiences, an intense and meaningful opportunity for recovery and healing process. In the camps kids have a great time and feel free to express their feelings – both to other children who experienced a similar loss and to Israeli and American counselors who are trained to really understand. In addition to regular activities, therapeutic programs are offered to help the campers cope with the trauma and other emotional issues associated with their tragedy. In addition to Israeli children who are campers, teens from around North America participate as counselors. “I wasn’t looking for a regular summer in Israel; I was looking to give back,” said a15-year-old from Woodmere, New York. “These amazing campers taught me that even if something terrible happens, it is still possible to move on and be happy. I became so connected with them – it changed me as a person.”

I must admit, it changed me, as well. I gained insight into the management of grief through Sherri Mandell’s example and by choosing to participate in the mitzvah. You, too, can share in the mitzvah of transforming cruelty into kindness.

Make check payable to “The Koby Mandell Foundation” and send to: The Koby Mandell Foundation, 366 Pearsall Avenue, Suite #1, Cedarhurst, NY, 11516

The Way We Were

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

I though I might take a break from my regular fare here and talk a bit about my illustrious family. Many people know my New York cousins. Not so many know me. At least not outside my blog.

I found this picture not long ago in a box of pictures I have in my bedroom closet. It was a small black and white print which has been restored and enlarged. It is currently hanging in my den.

The two people in the photo were always referred to by my parents as “the uncle” and “the tanta” (Yiddish for aunt). Binyamin (Binny Mendel) Maryles was my father’s uncle – his mother’s brother. The tanta was his wife, Chaya. She was a Baumel and the sister of Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm’s grandmother.

These two figures had tremendous impact on my life. They were the one’s that sponsored my parents’ immigration to the US after the Holocaust. That was in 1946, the year of my birth. These two people and their children made it happen. The uncle and the Tanta were also the patriarchs of the much bigger New York branch of the Maryles family.

Their four children, Simon (Symie), Toby, David (Dave), and Joe (Yoshe) are patriarchs and a matriarchs in their own right. Two of them have passed away. Simon who joined the Canadian army during WWII so that he could fight Hitler before the US got involved – died a few years ago. David died very tragically from leukemia back in the 50s.

David is featured prominently in the ArtScroll biography of Mike Tress. Mike, Dave and a little known Askan by the name of Moshe Sherer were very active in Hatzalah during and after the Holocaust. They were also for all practical purposes the founding fathers of Agudath Israel in America. When I had an occasion to meet with Rabbi Sherer and he heard my last name, he immediately asked me if I was related to David.

David’s children have made their mark too, as did Yoshe’s children, Toby’s children and Simon’s children . Some of them were very active in Jewish education. Ironically David’s children all became active in modern Orthodox and religious Zionist organizations. His grandchildren attended MO schools. His great grandson and namesake, Binny -a Musmach of YU, is the rabbi of a Young Israel and is involved in he hierarchy of the Young Israel movement.

The uncle’s grandchildren run the entire gamut of Judaism. From Lakewood Charedi to Yeshiva of Flatbush modern Orthodox… to secular. One of his great grand-daughters is a Yoetzet. Another is an Orthodox Jewish feminist who was recently tapped to head JOFA.

While I have my differences with some of them on both ends of the religious spectrum, I could not be prouder than to be a bearer of the name.. and a member of the clan.

My father was not a Maryles. He was a Shapiro. My New York cousins – jokingly – do not hesitate to remind the Chicago branch of the family of that all the time. My father changed it to his mother’s maiden name –Maryles – during the Holocaust. That is a story in and of itself, but not for now. I was however born a Maryles.

What few people know is that the name Maryles has some very significant Chasdishe Yichus attached to it. The uncle was the fifth generation grandson of a Chasidic Rebbe by the name of Rav Shimon Elbaum – the Yaroslover Rebbe. He was a Talmid Muvak of the Chozeh M’Lublin. He changed his name from Elbaum to Maryles – which is a Hebrew acronym “Mei R. Yisroel Leib’s meaning “From Rav Yisroel Leib”. That was his father’s name.

Yisroel Leib was a Misnagid – a strong opponent of Chasidus. He so opposed his son’s “conversion” to Chasdidus that he said on his death bed that he should not say Kaddish for him if he included “VeYatzmach Purkanei V’Karev Meshichei”. That is the added sentence of Nusach Sephard that Chasidim use. I guess that R’ Shimon changed his last name because he wanted to pay tribute to his father in some way to sort of make amends for his break from tradition by becoming a Chasid.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/the-way-we-were/2012/09/30/

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