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October 22, 2016

“Museum of an Extinct Race” is back in the news

Filed under: Holocaust, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 12:35 pm

I previously blogged about the “Museum of an Extinct Race” at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/09/05/hitlers-proposed-museum-of-an-extinct-race/

The subject of the “Museum of an Extinct Race” is back in the news. You can read all about it at: https://www.bu.edu/today/2016/spiritual-resistance-to-the-holocaust/

The following quote is from the news article, cited above:

Begin Quote

Held at Auschwitz during World War II, a man presented fellow prisoner Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Meisels with an impossible ethical choice. His son was marked for execution, he told the rabbi, but he could ransom his boy by swapping another person in his place. Would Jewish law permit that awful decision?

“The rabbi said, ‘Don’t ask me the question,’” says Michael Grodin, a core faculty member at BU’s Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies and director of the center’s Project on Medicine and the Holocaust. “From that, the man gleaned the fact that he probably shouldn’t do that, because otherwise the rabbi would have said OK.…His son died in the gas chambers.”

End quote

The debate over the “Judenrat” –  the Jewish officials who, on behalf of their communities, had to face the Nazi-Fascist authorities in Shoah time – is still going on.

In the following quote, from one of his essays, Wolf Murmelstein, a Holocaust survivor, seeks to defend the good name of the members of the Judenrat.

Begin quote

Begin essay written by Wolf Murmelstein:

WHO WERE THE JUDENRAT?

The Judenrat had been selected mainly among former Community Officials, such as Board members and high ranking clerks; besides, Eichmann wanted to secure also the experience that local Zionist leaders had in the emigration sector. Later, mainly in the Ghettoes, also persons with little or no community affiliation had been appointed.

In 1938 at Vienna, Loewenhertz (Community Manager and Zionist leader), after some weeks of imprisonment, had been appointed by the SS with the order to set up the emigration; Goering had forecasted a two-year time frame for Vienna without Jews. In 1939 at Prague, Weidman, the only qualified Community clerk in office that the Nazis had met upon their arrival, had been appointed; President and Vice-president stood already safe abroad. In 1939 at Lodz, the famous Chaim Rumchowsky had been appointed perhaps only accidentally. In 1941, in many Lithuanian communities, the Judenrat had been chosen by draw. Clearly the right knowledge of German was important.

FOLLOW A NO-PARTICIPATION ATTITUDE OR TAKE THE BURDEN?

Persons who stood safe in the time of “that darknes” worked out the theory that the Judenrat, by taking the burden of their appointment, made it easier for the Nazis to manage the deportation of the Jews. This theory should be evaluated, as much as according to moral point of view as according to consistency with real conditions of power in that time in those countries.

The moral point of view:

In 1941, the rabbis of the Vilna School in Lithuania ruled that the burden had to be taken by accepting appointment as Judenrat. The Rabbi of Kaunas/Kovno ruled that in the event the enemy had decided to exterminate a community, but by one means or another, it is possible to put safe a part of the community, then the leaders have to call upon all their spiritual forces and make every possible effort to put safe that part of their community.

In Poland, a Rabbi remarked that “the law of a kingdom is law even if it is a bad law.”

The real conditions of power at that time in those countries:

In 1933 Hitler had been appointed Chancellor by President Hindenburg, according to the Weimar Constitution procedures. So the Holy Seat, as with other foreign governments, had regular diplomatic relationships and negotiated treaties with the Nazi regime, while the racial laws had been considered internal affairs, not subject to any objection. There had not been, in 1938, any meaningful objection to the annexation of Austria, while that of the Sudetenland resulted from the Munich treaty. In March 1939, as Bohemia-Moravia became a Protectorate, Prime Minister Chamberlin expressed deep feelings of sympathy.

The Jewish leaders – Baeck (Berlin), Loewenhertz (Vienna), Murmelstein (Vienna/Terezin), Cerniakow (Warsaw), Rumchowsky (Lodz), Gens (Vilna), Elkes (Kaunas/Kovno) and others – could not be stronger than many “statesmen,” nor resist better than the governments of all the countries defeated and overrun by the Wehrmacht. They had to cope with the real conditions of power and “as ruled by Rabbi Ytzhak Shapiro of Kaunas/Kovno,” put safe the part of their communities that was possible.

The visas for emigration had been granted by the various consular officials on passports issued by the Nazi police. The International Red Cross Commission had to deal through the German General Consul at Geneva in order to obtain access to the last Concentration Camps to help the survivors. In a briefing on May 4th 1945, the Red Cross Delegate M. Paul Dunant referred to the State Minister for the Protektorate, SS General K. H. Frank, and to the Security Police Chief SS Colonel Weinmann for having granted the safe handing over of power at Theresienstadt and the release of the prisoners of the nearby prison. Indeed M. Paul Dunant took over the control of the Theresienstadt Ghetto on May 5th, as the last Commander had just received a regular order to leave from SS General K. H. Frank. The Red Army reached Theresienstadt only two days later.

WHAT KIND OF PROBLEMS DID A JUDENRAT HAVE TO COPE WITH?

With the racist laws, economic and social conditions of Jews got continuously worse, so the need for social and educational services that communities had to grant was increasing. Until 1938, people willing to emigrate had to be advised, while from 1938 on, a proper emigration service had to be set up and assistance given for people imprisoned in the Concentration Camps, since for persons at every possible contact with the Nazis, red-tape was involved. Furthermore, new heavy tasks arose in 1939 with the outbreak of war, as Eichmann made an attempt to establish a kind of “Super Ghetto” in Poland, between the Sun and Bug rivers, in the Lublin distict.

As the first groups of Jews from Vienna and Prague had reached the little Polish town of Nisko, thought to become the centre of that “Super Ghetto,” Eichmann in a speech explained clearly the need of various kinds of work to be performed because “otherwise it would mean to die.” Indeed, in the Ghettoes, the Judenrat had to take care of various town services, distribution of food, utilities, etc.

The recruitment of working groups to work for the German army or factories seemed a good way for survival. That this recruitment later turned out as the first step for further deportations is tragic but the Judenrat can not be blamed for it. A Judenrat had the need to keep under strict control, in too many instances without success, all the many associates in order to prevent abuses against the weak categories (like aged or sick people, orphans) since they had dangerous contact with the SS, who looked every time for informers.

Clearly, strict secrecy had to be kept on meaning and details of every action aimed to help people to survive; unfortunately the SS had too many well-informed informers. So a Judenrat stood between the hammer of the SS with its harsh orders and the anvil of the fellow inmates with their natural, but in no way realistic, expectations. When denying a request, the Judenrat could not state the real reasons and so these tragic figures are blamed even sixty years later for the sins of the SS.

HOW DID A JUDENRAT HAVE TO FACE THE SS?

At the time of “that darkness,” Jewish leaders could meet only high-ranking SS officers who had only strict margins of power and were themselves spied upon. Furthermore, the encounters were between those who hated and those who were hated, between one who was sitting comfortably in his armchair and one who had to stand for hours receiving foolish orders expressed in a rude way and could not make any objection. It should be noted that any encounter a Judenrat had with the SS Commander could turn out to be the last one. Indeed, Gens of Vilna had been shot in the mouth as soon he was about to enter the Commander’s Office, Eppstein of Theresienstadt had been shot in a nearby prison

WHAT KIND OF PROBLEMS DID A JUDENRAT HAVE TO COPE WITH?

With the racist laws, economic and social conditions of Jews got continuously worse, so the need for social and educational services that communities had to grant was increasing. Until 1938, people willing to emigrate had to be advised, while from 1938 on, a proper emigration service had to be set up and assistance given for people imprisoned in the Concentration Camps, since for persons at every possible contact with the Nazis, red-tape was involved. Furthermore, new heavy tasks arose in 1939 with the outbreak of war, as Eichmann made an attempt to establish a kind of “Super Ghetto” in Poland, between the Sun and Bug rivers, in the Lublin distict.

As the first groups of Jews from Vienna and Prague had reached the little Polish town of Nisko, thought to become the centre of that “Super Ghetto,” Eichmann in a speech explained clearly the need of various kinds of work to be performed because “otherwise it would mean to die.” Indeed, in the Ghettoes, the Judenrat had to take care of various town services, distribution of food, utilities, etc.

The recruitment of working groups to work for the German army or factories seemed a good way for survival. That this recruitment later turned out as the first step for further deportations is tragic but the Judenrat can not be blamed for it. A Judenrat had the need to keep under strict control, in too many instances without success, all the many associates in order to prevent abuses against the weak categories (like aged or sick people, orphans) since they had dangerous contact with the SS, who looked every time for informers.

Clearly, strict secrecy had to be kept on meaning and details of every action aimed to help people to survive; unfortunately the SS had too many well-informed informers. So a Judenrat stood between the hammer of the SS with its harsh orders and the anvil of the fellow inmates with their natural, but in no way realistic, expectations. When denying a request, the Judenrat could not state the real reasons and so these tragic figures are blamed even sixty years later for the sins of the SS.

HOW DID A JUDENRAT HAVE TO FACE THE SS?

At the time of “that darkness,” Jewish leaders could meet only high-ranking SS officers who had only strict margins of power and were themselves spied upon. Furthermore, the encounters were between those who hated and those who were hated, between one who was sitting comfortably in his armchair and one who had to stand for hours receiving foolish orders expressed in a rude way and could not make any objection. It should be noted that any encounter a Judenrat had with the SS Commander could turn out to be the last one. Indeed, Gens of Vilna had been shot in the mouth as soon he was about to enter the Commander’s Office, Eppstein of Theresienstadt had been shot in a nearby prison suddenly after having been put under arrest, etc.

Any request for allowance of conditions, for exemption from deportation transport, etc. had to be submitted in a way that an SS could understand. And in the event, the allowance or the exemption had not been granted for reasons never stated and which today can only be conjectured. Fellow inmates, followed years later by so-called historians, of course blame the Judenrat as not capable or brave enough.

A Judenrat, after having stood for hours before a rude SS officer, certainly could not behave in a polite, gentlemanlike way; the physical stress should be properly considered. In the states allied with Hitler, the Jewish leaders had some possibility of approaching higher ranking figures. In Bulgaria, it was possible to save almost the entire community and in Rumania a large part. In Slovakia, high-ranking officials had been bribed and the deportations had been stopped; a part of the community could survive.

HOW DID THE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST THE JUDENRAT ARISE?

The first to blame the Judenrat had been, already before the liberation, persons who stood safe in London, Jerusalem, New York or Geneva and, as shown by historians like Hilberg or Laqeur, they had been unable to start any useful action to help those who stood in the hell of that darkness. For such persons, the accusations raised by former inmates against the Judenrat, almost all dead as Martyrs, resulted in being very useful in order to divert attention from their failure to start any useful action, just as from their own political bankruptcy in 1938 and 1939.

The accusations raised by former inmates against the Judenrat can be subdivided into four classes:

1. Accusations arising from hysteria and a persecution complex which suddenly resulted in absurdity at hearings by investigating officers or magistrates.

2. Accusations raised by persons who had been prevented by the Judenrat from trafficking in various ways.

3. Accusations raised by persons for the denial of petty, but absurd, favours.

4. Accusations raised, mainly by Communists, for the purpose of political hatred. Indeed in Poland, the Communist government had an interest in blaming the Judenrat and speaking about Jewish accomplices, in order to have the support of anti-Semite nationalists. Besides those who wanted to divert attention from their failures to help or to politically bankrupt, the absurd accusations against the Judenrat turned out to be advantageous for banks, insurance companies, big corporations and many persons who had bought Jewish properties at very bargain prices. Indeed, the few survivors among the Judenrat – Loewenhertz (Wien), Murmelstein (Wien/Theresienstadt), Cohen (Netherlands) – would have been precious for their knowledge about details of the seizures of Jewish properties in order to obtain a prompt restitution, at a time when documents had been still available and survivors would have had so many more opportunities to start again. Some years later, the “revisionist historians” could speak about Jewish accomplices and guilt.

The writer of the present essay is the son of the last survivor among the few Judenrat who reached the liberation alive, and he feels therefore that it is his duty to fight for the reputation of those Martyrs who had left no one who could do this.

End quote from the writing of Wolf Mermelstein

 

 

 

 

 

August 20, 2015

A contribution from Dr. Wolf Murmelstein, a survivor of Theresienstadt

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:48 am

My photo of one of the buildings in the Theresienstadt ghetto

The following article, entitled The Judenrat in Shoah History, was written by Dr. Wolf Murmelstein, one of the regular readers of my blog, who is the son of Dr. Benjamin Murmelstein, the last Jewish elder at Theresienstadt.

Begin reading the words written by Wolf Murmelstein:

As a reader [of this blog] has considered me a WEIRDO, only for sharing my best knowledge and experience, I am submitting for publication the enclosed article — a contribution at a meeting at Padua University about SURVIVAL POLICIES — which I presented at the request of the Chairman, as I am considered a qualified person for that subject.

This year the article has been reprinted in a specialized Italian paper.
I would appreciate your opinion on the enclosed article.
Best Regards.
Wolf Murmelstein.

The Judenrat in Shoah history

[the following article was written by Dr. Wolf Murmelstein, the son of Dr. Benjamin Murmelstein. ]

I am offering a reconsideration, based only on historical facts, of the Judenrat Question, pointing out how those tragic figures had been overburdened by events and circumstances clearly out of their control but did their best, in order to salvage as much as possible.

After I have explained who the Judenrat had been, some meaningful rabbinical responses are quoted in order to rebuke theories worked out by persons who never had to face a Nazi official.

The contributor [Wolf Murmelstein] recalls how the Nazis obtained legally the power, first in Germany and, later, by overrunning other countries.

The Judenrat had to cope with many problems in their attempt to help fellow inmates and to face, under heavy duress, the lower ranking Nazi officials who held little power and, themselves, were being spied upon. Being between hammer and anvil, the Judenrat certainly could not care about their future, after war, [their] image in various essays.

Only a very few of those tragic figures survived and had to face heavy accusations, due to hysteria, persecution complexes, interest in discrediting witnesses of wrong doing and political reasons. The still-lasting accusations, to have been informed about the Gas Chambers, and not having called fellow inmates to revolt, turns out as not consistent.

End of article

You can read another article, written by Dr. Wolf Murmelstein, on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Contributions/Murmelstein/JudenratQuestion.html