web analytics
April 27, 2015 / 8 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘World War II’

A Jewish American Warrior

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Fighting during World War II took on special significance for U. S. Jewish servicemen and women in the 1940’s. They understood that they were fighting a double war – one against the Axis of Evil, and one against blatant world anti-semitism. As Americans, they fought to protect their country, and as Jews they fought to protect their brethren suffering Nazi persecution. According to the Department of Defense, Jews made up 4.3% of the armed forces, while they were only about 3% of the overall population. Some 550,000 American Jews fought during World Ware II; 11,000 of them were killed and 40,000 wounded. They were an integral part of the Allied war effort.

The Jewish Press has been privileged to have one of those former servicemen on its staff for many years. Arthur Federman, our controller, was a member of the 103rd infantry division. The following is his story.

Ita Yankovich: Tell me about your background.

Arthur Federman: I was born in Manhattan, on the Lower East Side in 1922. My parents were both Polish immigrants. My father came in here 1912, when he was 14 and my mother came from Warsaw as an infant in 1900.

As with many of the apartments on the Lower East Side, we had no central hot water or central heat. (We had a coal stove – but rarely had coal!) We had no electricity, but we had a gas pipe hanging from the kitchen ceiling that we used for light. We had no bathroom. There was a toilet in the hallway of the building that all four families used. When it was time to take a bath, we would go to the public bath house on Rivington or Allen Street.

Around 1932 my family moved to the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. This was during the Great Depression. A few years later we were lucky enough to move into a public housing development in Red Hook – there we had hot running water and central heat.

There were no shuls in Red Hook then, so my father rented a store on Columbia Street, and with the help of a few neighbors, started a shul which was in use seven days a week. This was the focal point in building the Jewish community there. I am reminded of an amusing incident that occurred soon after the shul opened. One Monday morning a young man walked into the shul. When it was time to layn, my father who was the gabbi, asked this fellow if he was a Kohen or a Levi, he answered, “No, I’m a plumber’s helper.”

Were you afraid to be drafted?

No, I wanted to go. I felt it was my duty. In fact, when I got the draft notice and went down for the physical, the military wouldn’t accept me because I had a hernia. Unbeknownst to my parents, I went to Bellvue Hospital and had surgery so I could enlist.

You and your wife married while you were in the service. How did you meet?

I was first stationed in Fort Bragg in North Carolina. We were then shipped overseas, and landed in Liverpool, England. There was a shul there which posted lists of homes where soldiers could eat a Friday night meal; I went to eat at the Simpson home. The rest as they say is history. I met my lovely wife Anita. We have been happily married for 67 years and are great-grandparents to 22 great-grandchildren.

What was it like being a Jew in the Army?

Life changed for me dramatically, especially during basic training. There was no Shabbos or Yom Tov. Food was a big issue. Kashrus certification was not even a dream, and so for the three years that I was in the Army I survived on a more or less vegetarian diet.

103rd Infantry Division

When we got overseas we were always on the move, either going forward or retreating. We had no barracks or shelter. When we could rest, we slept on the ground in the snow or mud or in a ditch along the road. Regular meals did not exist. Being on the move all the time, we ate when and where we could. The meals consisted of C rations or K rations, which we carried with us. These C and K ration packets contained a variety of items, such as biscuits, cereal, chocolate peanut butter bar, dehydrated soup, hard candy, gum, cigarettes and Spam (a canned pork product) which I always traded for other goodies. Occasionally we got some hot cereal, powdered eggs, and hot coffee from the mess truck, but this did not happen too often.

Russia to Possess Historic Building in Heart of Jerusalem

Monday, June 25th, 2012

The transfer of one of Jerusalem’s most prime pieces of real estate to Russia will be finalized when the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) vacates its offices, following the completion of talks between Israel and Russia on Sunday.

In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented the Sergei building and its 9-acre courtyard with gardens and fishponds in the Russian Compound as a gift to the Russian government.  He made the gesture during a visit to Moscow to persuade President Dimitry Medvedev not to sell arms to Syria and to back sanctions against Iran.  The decision to transfer the property was made by the prime minister, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Finance Minister Roni Bar-On and Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann.

Last year, the Agriculture Ministry and the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites evacuated their offices in the compound.  SPNI issued a request to continue working in the offices, but was denied by the Russian government.

Israel gained control of approximately 90 percent of the Russian compound in 1964, paying the Russian government $3.5 million in citrus fruits for the property due to lack of hard currency – hence the dubbing of the agreement the “Orange Deal”.

The Sergei building, not included in the sale, was completed in 1890, and served as a hotel for Russian aristocrats, royalty, and dignitaries on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It was named for brother of Tzar Alexander III, Grand Duke Sergei, then President of the Imperial Russian Orthodox Palestine Society.   The property had been purchased by Tzar Alexander II in 1860 from the Ottoman Empire.

When the plan to give possession of the property to Russia was announced in 2008, opponents protested the giving over of Jerusalem heritage sites to foreign entities, and warned that Russia was not a strong enough ally to trust with the property.  Then-candidate for Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also disapproved of the plan, calling it a “dangerous precedent, giving property in the heart of Jerusalem to foreign interests.”

Russia has vowed to keep the area open to the public, and says it will restore the yard and buildings for use by Russian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem today.

The SPNI announcement comes just a day before Russian Premier Vladimir Putin’s Monday arrivalin Israel on an official state visit.  The leader is expected to meet with top Israeli officials to discuss Iran’s nuclear progress.  He will also dedicate a monument in Netanya to the valor of the Red Army in World War II.  The large stone monument consisting of a pair of white wings, an unprecedented joint-state venturebetween Israel and Russia, will also honor the more than half a million Jewish Red Army soldiers who fought in the war.

Video: Bea Abrams Cohen – California’s Oldest Female Veteran

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Bea Abrams Cohen, who turned 102 in February, believes in mitzvahs. “Pay back. It works,” she told the LA Times.

Bea enlisted during World War II and worked for more than seventy years supporting the U.S. military and charity organizations.

She was born in Bucharest, Romania, and immigrated to America in 1920 with her mother, two siblings and stepfather. The stepfather, a widower, had nine children of his own. It’s like the Brady Family but with Rumanian Jews.

Bea won’t forget Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. “I was at the Pantages Theatre,” she told the Times. “The lights went on, the screen went black, and they said, ‘We’re at war.’ ”

She took a class on riveting and went to work, producing munitions and war supplies for Douglas Aircraft.

“I wanted to pay back for being an American,” she says.

Later on she enlisted and was sent to England, working in the communications department with top-secret documents and working in the kitchen.

She got married in 1948 and moved to Westchester, where she’s been living for the rest of that century and now this one. She told the Times she believes in “the power of prayer,” and explained that every time she gets into a fix, God sends her an angel.

Makes sense.

Will Israel Ever Get Serious About Treason?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Earlier this year Israel passed a law that would strip Israelis of their citizenship if convicted of espionage or treason. Condemned for this by countries all over the world, almost all of whom have far harsher anti-treason laws than Israel, the Israeli government has yet to apply the law to anyone.

Sometimes called the “Azmi Bishara Law,” it was motivated by the fact that an Arab member of the Israeli parliament, Azmi Bishara, from one of the Arab parties, had openly engaged in espionage and treason, including passing on intelligence to the Hizbullah terrorist organization while it was firing rockets at Israeli civilians. Bishara is now in hiding and has yet to be prosecuted.

The Anti-Israel Lobby denounced this law as “racist,” just as it denounces everything Israel does as racist (including rescuing Haitian earthquake victims). The bleating from Bash-Israel NGO groups about supposed Israeli “apartheid” sound particularly absurd when one realizes that Israel is one of the few democracies that has not utilized mass internment of hostile minority populations that identify and, in some cases, collaborate with the enemy in time of war. And Israel has yet to charge any of its extreme leftists with treason, no matter how brazen their words and deeds.

Treason itself is left undefined under Israeli law, and in general it has been interpreted by legal authorities in Israel so loosely that virtually no one has ever been prosecuted for it.

On paper Israeli penal law defines treason as “acts that impair the integrity of Israel” or “impair its sovereignty,” and the granting of assistance to the enemy during time of war. Based on British law, Article 99(a) of the Israel Criminal Code states, “If a person with intent to assist an enemy in war against Israel commits an act calculated to do so, he is liable to the death penalty or to life imprisonment.”

It should go without saying that no one has ever been sentenced to either punishment for treason in Israel. Only a few people engaged in actual espionage – including nuclear spy Mordecai Vanunu and some old-time spies for the former Soviet Union – have ever even been charged with treason.

The Israeli law against treason is little more than a joke. Nearly all the Arabs who sit in the Knesset openly communicate and even collaborate with the enemies of Israel. They support their agendas and some have engaged in violence.

There are far left Israeli Jews who work against the sovereignty and integrity of their own country every day. Examples of this would include issuing calls for Israel’s destruction or declaring support for international boycotts against Israel. No one has been prosecuted for any of that.

The Israeli attorney general is quite militant when it comes to prosecuting right-wing Israeli Jews for “incitement” and “racism,” including offenders who wear politically incorrect t-shirts or affix bumper stickers on their cars that some might find in poor taste.

Bear in mind that Israel is in a permanent state of war. Even so, Israeli Arabs and Jewish leftists never go to jail for collaborating with the enemy during times of war.

It is instructive and illuminating to examine the history of what other Western democracies have done with traitors, especially during times of war.

Many countries have the death penalty for domestic traitors; some of these anti-treason laws are quite old. Several countries have been putting teeth into old anti-treason laws recently because of international terrorism.

Britain’s Treason Act, which allowed for the prosecution of British nationals supporting the enemy in time of war, went back to 1351. One famous application of the act was the trial of Roger Casement, who was accused of collaborating with Germany during World War I. There was debate during the trial over whether the act applied to treason committed outside Britain or only on British soil. The prosecution carried the day and the traitor was executed.

Arizona Shootings Expose Liberal Hypocrisy

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

The shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, along with federal judge John Roll (a Republican appointee) and numerous others, including a nine year-old constituent of the Congresswoman, resulting in the deaths of six (including the judge and the little girl) and brain injury to the congresswoman, prompted the usual ruminations.

While everybody made appropriate noises about the tragic circumstances, the losses, and the apparent madness of a deranged shooter, it wasn’t long before media pundits and many politicians were blaming political adversaries, with the cries going up against the usual suspects: Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Fox News (of course).

Even before we knew much about the shooter (who turned out to be a seeming paranoid who believes the U.S. government is using grammar to control our minds), aggressive, left-leaning pundits like New York Times columnist Paul Krugman blamed those on the right.

Speaking of Congresswoman Giffords, Krugman wrote: “She’s been the target of violence before. And for those wondering why a Blue Dog Democrat, the kind Republicans might be able to work with, might be a target, the answer is that she’s a Democrat who survived what was otherwise a GOP sweep in Arizona . . .”

Thus Giffords, herself conservative on a number of issues, was targeted by bloodthirsty right-wingers, in Krugman’s view. According to Krugman, “Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate.”

Somehow forgotten, by Krugman and others echoing comments like his, is all the hate their own side pumped into the discourse over the past decade that contributed to the warming of the current political climate. For eight long years, beginning in 2000, Krugman and his cohorts carried on relentless rhetorical warfare against the Bush administration and Republicans more generally.

George W. Bush, they told us, stole his first presidential election from Al Gore (when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of halting a seemingly endless demand for recounts by the Gore campaign), and his second election against John Kerry, if you believe the more extremist partisans on the left.

Bush, they baldly and routinely proclaimed, was a liar, a draft dodger, a lush, a drug abuser, a dolt and a political poseur scheming to suppress American democracy by subverting the Constitution. He never planned to step down when his terms were done, we were assured. He was a budding dictator preparing a coup d’état against our democracy. And, oh yes, he tortured captured terrorists and kept large numbers of them bottled up in a military prison at Guantanamo, violating their supposed Constitutional rights.

(Meanwhile his administration’s efforts to try those same prisoners by traditional wartime military tribunals were blocked at every turn by critics, enabling them to further claim that Bush was denying them their day in court!)

It’s legitimate in political debate to disagree on policy questions but the criticism of George W. Bush never stopped there. Bush’s opponents on the left labeled him a fascist, another Hitler, a murderer. Journalists were as hostile in their attacks on the president as anyone. The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait famously wrote that he “hated” George W. Bush. And movie makers, left-leaning on balance themselves, were no less visceral in their contempt for the 43rd president, one even making a film about his fictional assassination. Imagine the public uproar if the same thing were done about President Obama.

Recently a friend of mine, a dedicated supporter of our current president, sent me an e-mail lampooning critics of the new healthcare law, slamming such criticism as “racist.” When I wrote back and called him on it he replied that it was racist because the law was being labeled “Obamacare” by its opponents, an attempt, he believed, to demonize the president. He never replied when I asked if this was anything like calling the 2003 tax reductions the “Bush tax cuts.”

In the minds of some, criticism of one’s political adversaries seems reprehensible, even racist, when it’s directed against those they support but not when the shoe is on their foot. Eight years of bitter, overheated denunciations of a Republican president and his administration leave no trace in the political firmament of some who only see the righteousness of their own positions while demonizing their opponents. Worse, many of them see no harm in using such terrible moments to turn disaster into opportunity.

Changes Ahead? American Nuclear Policy And Israeli Strategic Doctrine (Part II)

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Fourth, the Obama anti-nuclear vision does not provide any useful guidance on how to deal with those refractory states and sub-states that may not be subject to ordinary deterrent threats. This brings to mind the perplexing security problem of prospective enemy irrationality.

How, then, should Israel’s own developing plans for dealing with non-rational adversaries be affected by the Obama anti-nuclear vision, especially where these adversaries (e.g., Iran) may soon become irreversibly nuclear?

Fifth, long-term, Israeli leaders and strategists must learn to consider seemingly irrelevant literature, real literature, not the narrowly technical or tactical materials normally generated by professional military thinkers, but the genuinely creative and artistic product of writers, poets and playwrights. The invaluable intellectual insights that can be gleaned from this literature may sometimes provide a far better source of authentic strategic understanding than the visually impressive, but very often misleading, matrixes, mathematics, metaphors and scenarios of the “experts.” Regarding limitations of the experts, it would be good for planners to consider the work of the great Spanish existentialist, José Ortega y Gasset, especially The Revolt of the Masses and History as a System.

Sixth, Israeli leaders and strategists should acknowledge and also act upon the occasional and significant advantages of private as opposed to collective strategic thought. Here, they should be reminded of Aristotle’s prescient view: “Deception occurs to a greater extent when we are investigating with others than by ourselves, for an investigation with someone else is carried on quite as much by means of the thing itself.”

There is a correct time for collaborative or “team” investigations, but in certain matters concerning Israeli security, as in science generally, one may sometimes discover optimal reasoning and greater value in the private musings of single individuals. This observation refers with particular relevance to strategic doctrine.

Seventh, Israeli leaders and strategists now need to open up, again, and with even greater diligence and formal insight, the policy question of nuclear ambiguity. Possibly under growing urgings from Obama’s will to denuclearize, perhaps even under very specific pressure to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), they will have to understand that any doctrinal re-examination of the “bomb in the basement” is not just another academic exercise. Rather, such re-examination could come at a time that new American strategic guidance would openly condemn any indispensable Israeli nuclear disclosure.

How, then, should Israel balance its almost ritual obeisance to Washington with its more obvious and indisputably more primary need for survival?

Eighth, again with a very clear view to changing nuclear doctrine in the United States, Israeli leaders and strategists will need to expand their consideration of much wider questions of nuclear weapons and national strategy. Ideally, this would be done in concert with all of the other above-listed strategic requirements. Key issues here would be nuclear targeting doctrine (counter value versus counterforce); preemption, and ballistic missile defense.

Depending upon Israel’s willingness to risk Washington’s displeasure, these strategic postures will be more-or-less impacted by President Obama’s naive and dangerous nuclear vision.

Nuclear weapons are neither good nor evil in themselves. In the case of Israel, such weapons incontestably represent an important instrument of peace. They are, in fact, an utterly critical impediment to regional nuclear war.

With its nuclear arsenal unimpaired, Israel – assuming rational adversaries – could effectively deter enemy unconventional attacks, and also most large conventional ones. While still in possession of such an arsenal, Israel could also launch assorted non-nuclear preemptive strikes against an enemy state’s hard targets. Without its secure nuclear arsenal, ambiguous or disclosed, any such expressions of anticipatory self-defense could trigger the onset of a much wider and more catastrophic war. This is because there would no longer be any compelling threat of an Israeli counter-retaliation.

Israel’s secure nuclear arsenal is required to fulfill essential deterrence options, preemption options, war-fighting options and even the so-called (last resort) “Samson Option.” This arsenal should never be negotiated away in any formal international agreements, especially in the midst of an American-brokered “peace process” and its attendant creation of “Palestine.” This Israeli existential obligation obtains no matter how appealing might be the idealized vision of “a world without nuclear weapons,” and no matter how high the authority of this deceptively attractive vision’s most enthusiastic and visible advocate.

In the final analysis, regrettable as it may seem, the structure of long-term Israeli security must be built upon the recognizable foundations of secure nuclear forces and strategic doctrine, and not on the thoroughly idealized world constructed by an American president.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971), Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is the author of ten books and several hundred scholarly articles dealing with international relations and international law. Born in Zürich, Switzerland, at the end of World War II, he lectures and publishes widely on nuclear matters in the United States, Europe and Israel. Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue, Dr. Beres was the Chair of Project Daniel (Israel).

Israel’s Rebirth ‘A Boring Story’ To U.S. Jews: An Interview with American Zionist Hero Dr. David Gutmann

Monday, March 29th, 2010

In 1947-1948 I lived in Boro Park where, against parental and rabbinic advice, I joined a Zionist group. By 1950 I was packing machine-gun parts for Israel in a home not far from the Young Israel. But what I did as a child does not compare to what my friend and colleague David Gutmann did for love of Zion at that very time on the dangerous open seas.

Dr. Gutmann was a 21-year-old Jewish-American volunteer sailor for Aliyah Bet, the name given to “illegal” Jewish immigration into British-controlled Palestine (1934-1948). Hundreds of boats tried to run the British blockade. One was stranded on the Danube and its passengers later sent back to Vienna and executed, another boat was bombed by the Soviets.

Once Hitler was defeated, British disdain for Jews quickly became visible. Some Jews made it, many (more than 1,600) drowned, and most were captured and imprisoned on Cyprus. The British actually sent some boats right back to Europe, to Germany, as was the case with the SS Exodus. This public relations fiasco backfired; my friend Ruth Gruber’s on-board photo of the SS Exodus made the cover of Life magazine.

The Jewish Press recently met with Dr. Gutmann. Although he is no longer young, he is a large and sturdy man, a solid presence. He is also very witty. His generation of heroes is mainly gone but he is still here.

The Jewish Press: How did you become a sailor?

Dr. Gutmann: I served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II.

The ship manifests list you as serving on two ships, the Paducah-Geulah and the Ben Hecht. Were they the same kind of boat? Who served with you?

I served first on the Hecht, after that on the Geulah. I was an engine room oiler on the Hecht, a second engineer on the Geulah. The Hecht was purchased and run by the Irgun. She was a German-built twin-diesel luxury yacht originally named Abril (April). She sailed for the U.S. Navy on anti-sub patrol during World War II.

After the Brits left Palestine, the Hecht/Abril became part of the Israeli navy and was used to launch frogmen against Egyptian naval craft off Gaza. Last I heard, she was running tourists between Naples and Capri.

The Hecht/Abril’s crew was a mix of Jews and non-Jews, kids and veteran seamen, crazies and idealists . We ended up in Acco (Acre).

The Geulah was purchased and run by the Haganah. A twin-screw steamship built around 1905, she served during World War II as, I believe, a gunnery-training vessel on the Great Lakes. She was scrapped in Naples in ’49. The Geulah’s crew was more decorous than the Hecht’s complement. A mix of veteran sailors (Jews and non-Jews), and Zionistic college kids.

We also had a few exiled Spanish loyalist sailors and our second mate was Don Miguel Boeza, who had been high admiral of the loyalist navy. Our captain was Rudy Patzert, an old commie married to a Jew. He wrote a book about the voyage – Running the Palestine Blockade. Our Haganah commander was Moka Limon, a legendary hero of Aliyah Bet who later became admiral of Israel’s navy. He was the guy who pulled off the legendary “boats of Bordeaux” operation. We all ended up in the Cyprus prison camps.

Would you consider writing a memoir?

Depends on the kind of memoir. I wouldn’t want to deal with the whole operation – too much I don’t know. Perhaps something more personal and anecdotal. I’ve got a few good stories.

Are Jews still eager to hear your stories?

Despite the fact that I’m willing to speak without honoraria, even during 2008 – Israel’s 60th anniversary year – the response from heads of congregations was at best tepid. And since then, perhaps one in three rabbis show interest. Some who showed initial interest never followed up. Nowadays, they might suggest 10-minute gigs at men’s club breakfast meetings.

Why the disinterest?

Rahm Emanuel reportedly said, “I’ve had it with Israel.” I think a lot of Jews now feel that way. They’re tired of worrying about Israel, unendingly, from crisis to crisis . The Palestinians are the heroes of our victim-adoring age; accordingly, many liberal Jews have come to believe the Palestinian “Nakba” revision, the lies that turned a miracle into another Jewish blood libel.

But whatever their politics, modern Jews have little sense of history. I speak about the ’48 war, and the lies about it that are now believed by too many Jews. For most U.S. Jews, the ’48 war is an old and perhaps boring story. They saw “Exodus”; they don’t want to see it again. They don’t realize that history is the present, and that [post-Zionist] revisionist history is central to the attack on contemporary Israel. It is one of the manifold attempts to bring it down, first morally and then physically.

Did you stay in touch with others from Aliyah Bet?

Yes. I was one of the founders of the now defunct American Veterans of Israel organization. I held office and attended their reunions in Israel and the States. But that was then. Most of us are dead now, and I haven’t had a drink with an old shipmate in years.

Bob Levitan, our captain, participated indirectly in the breakout from Acco. With his Leica, he took ID-type photos of all the Irgun and Lehi prisoners, and these were later used in the phony ID cards issued to them prior to their escape.

What similarities, if any, do you see between American Jewish attitudes in the 1930s and 1940s and today?

In the 1930s and ’40s, American Jews sanctified FDR. Now they are equally loyal to Obama. Despite their growing awareness of the Holocaust, during World War II American Jews for the most part stayed silent – very few mass protests and very little covert action. “FDR will save the Jews.”

My fear is that too many contemporary Jews are preparing to repeat this pattern. They will not embarrass the great and good Obama with their selfish concerns for what they view as a victimizing country – Israel – that no longer deserves their loyalty. Too many will follow Obama’s lead and stay silent while Israel is weakened or even destroyed.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/israels-rebirth-a-boring-story-to-u-s-jews-an-interview-with-american-zionist-hero-dr-david-gutmann/2010/03/29/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: