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.
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
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