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The Gantseh Megillah

The Outspeaker endorses speaking out

Joel Wayne When I first started writing for the Megillah some six years ago (how time flies when you’re having fun!) There was an issue concerning whether a purely political column was appropriate for a purely Jewish publication. Our editor at first asked me to devise some sort of cultural “hook” for my pieces. Somehow, I convinced him that political outrage and discourse was as Jewish as Matzo. At least it was in MY family! As I continued to write, there arose (not from our beloved editor) but from some readers, problems with my “bluntness” and some of the language I used to attack the fucking shitheads who stand in the way of my progressive and liberal ideas coming to fruition. These objections came in the form of letters to the editor, and I took them for what they were worth; mostly an excuse to chastise me for my politics without having to actually refute the facts I presented point by point. I bore, and bear, these objections with good will, thinking that at least those few who took the time and effort to lambaste me had taken the time to actually read and consider what I had written, and had further taken the time to comment on it. This, in my opinion, put them one level above those who had nothing to say. As we speak, there is a small form at the end of this rant, placed there at great trouble (have YOU ever tried to program in HTML?) by our unheralded art director and designer Arnold Hanna-Fein, for the purpose of affording you an opportunity of “hocking mein chanik,” correcting my facts, disagreeing with my views, or otherwise participating in the Megillah Experience.

When have Jews EVER had “Nothing to Say?”

I am at present re-reading a book I first read upon its publication in 1976. It is entitled “The Bravest Battle,” and is an almost hour-by-hour account of the Jewish uprising against the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto. It is among the most heartbreaking and stirring works I have ever read. The uprising began on April 19, 1943, (Erev Pesach), and continued until every Jew in the Ghetto had either been murdered, committed suicide, or escaped to continue the fight in the Polish forests.

The book prints a few letters sent by the resistance to officials in the Polish Government in exile, based in London, begging for arms, food, or at the very least, some publicity. At least let the world know that  SOMEWHERE Jews were not marching in lockstep to the gas chambers, but were killing Nazis. And not simply Nazis, but the best troops Hitler had to throw against them: the Waffen SS, Led by General Jurgen Stroop. Against these trained, well armed troops, supported by aircraft, tanks, flamethrowers and automatic weapons, a few hundred Jewish men and women, armed with only pistols, hand grenades and Molotov cocktails, slaughtered hundreds of Nazi pigs and held out for over a month.

Mordechai Anielewicz.

There is not even a statue, or a plaque, or a line in a book, to commemorate this man. He was the 24 year-old leader of the ZOB (Jewish Fighting Organization), a group of a few hundred men and women who had made the decision to die rather than submit. This decision, like the one made at Masada, I’m sure was not arrived at lightly. This band of “Jewish Bandits,” as Stroop referred to them in his daily reports to Himmler, had decided to take as many Nazis with them as possible before being killed, or ending their own lives.

There were other resistance groups in the ghetto; mostly they broke along political lines. The ZOB were Zionists, the ZZW were Socialists, and there were others. They were all Jews, but disagreed on anything and everything except their hatred of Fascists and Nazis. Sharing this hatred of the Nazis was the Polish resistance, The Polish Home Army, the military arm of the Polish government in exile. The Jews appealed on many occasions to these Polish groups for arms. Not money, mercy, or help; just give us rifles, machine guns, and explosives with which to kill Nazis. For the most part, they were refused, hence the situation in which the Jewish resistance had only pistols to accomplish what they could against the SS. Let’s not forget that the Poles were rivalled only by the Nazis in their enthusiastic embrace of anti-Semitism.

In one of the many letters sent to the Jewish representatives in the Polish Government in Exile, the resistance outlined what these two Jews could do to help. It enjoined them to take neither food nor water, to die a slow public death to demonstrate to the world what was taking place in the Ghetto, what the Nazis were doing, and what the Jewish Resistance was prepared to do if only they could count on the rest of the world to help.

Apparently, the Jewish representatives were not disposed to take the advice of those who were fighting and dying, for the world never knew what was taking place in Warsaw (I suspect that HAD the rest of the world known, it would have done nothing).

Even now, decades after the fact, very few know. In Poland, there is no more ghetto, indeed there are precious few Jews. The entire area has been rebuilt. Only recently has the Polish Government agreed to erect a monument on the site. It is a statue and a plaque. It is dedicated to the Polish resistance! There is no mention of Mordechai, or of his band of fighters. The Poles would have the world believe that the cowardly, anti-Semitic scumbags who called themselves a Polish Army fought a brave battle on the site. The Jews had nothing to do with the affair. Right.

Oh yeah, I had a point to make. During the final days of the battle, the last of the fighters were huddled, wounded, cold, and starving, in a sewer. They were knee deep in excrement and filth, out of ammunition, hoping that a few Jews on the Aryan side of Warsaw would show up with a promised truck that would take them to the forest, where they could continue the fight. At some point, they received a note from a contact on the outside. The note was written in Hebrew.  It said that they would have to wait until nightfall for the truck, some 12 hours away. A discussion started concerning the quality of the writer’s Hebrew. It turned into an argument over the relative merits of Hebrew (favored by the Zionists) as opposed to Yiddish (favored by the Socialists). This argument turned into a fierce shouting match over politics. It reached such a volume that the leaders of each faction had to put an end to all talking, lest they be heard on the street above!

My point? Write a letter, send an email, or visit in person Senator Diane Feinstein, “Democrat” of California. She has recently said that those of us (75% as of the last poll) who desperately want a public option in the health care legislation might as well save their time and money, ‘cause it isn’t happening. Let her know how you feel. And sign your name to it. If you feel she is correct, congratulate her on her courageous stand.

Give our writers some feedback, even if only to tell them they’re boring!

And next Seder, mention the name of Mordechai Anielewicz…

And never forget.

Addendum: Mordechai Anielewicz actually does not go un-memorialized. He has a Kibbutz named after him, along with a statue and plaque. From the web: "In Israel, Kibbutz, "Yad Mordechai" was named in memory of Mordecai Anielewicz, and a monument is erected in his memory."  Mordechai shot himself (along with most of his remaining fighters) on May 3rd, 1943 to avoid succumbing to the gas the Nazis were piping into the main Bunker in the Ghetto.

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