The Jewish Agency building in the 1940s
By now, readers are well equipped to make their own judgment when the stories of Rav Weissmandel and Nathan Schwalb are compared. As for Schwalb's statement under oath, all we can say is that he certainly had compelling reasons for making it—and they were definitely not the ones he gave in the statement about harm to his standing as a Jew and a Zionist!
Ask a thousand people in the street whether they have ever heard of Nathan Schwalb and nine hundred and ninety-nine will reply in the negative. The letter's importance is by no means in proportion to that of Schwalb himself. In fact, the reverse is true. The letter's significance lies in the fact that it doesn't mirror Schwalb's personal views (we have already mentioned that he emerges a tzaddik in comparison to the leaders of the yishuv) as much as it summarizes the agenda of those who sent him. It is a formulation of the ideology and the practical program of the leaders of the Zionist yishuv. Here are the main points of this policy which are contained therein.
First, they saw the War as an opportunity to establish a Zionist State in Eretz Yisroel, whose foundations would be built on the blood of the victims of the Holocaust. It follows from this that the Zionist interest is not served by saving Jews. On the contrary, their destruction brings the cherished goal closer. Consequently, if opportunities arise for saving Jews, no help should be extended—in fact hindrances should be arranged. Another important principle is that of "selection"—the only exceptions to the above rule are members of the Zionist Youth Movements who deserve ("atem tajlu") to be saved and brought to Eretz Yisroel.
In his book, Victims of the Holocaust Accuse, Reb Moshe Sheinfeld writes, "The articles published in this collection represent only a small part of the devastating indictment which identifies the Zionist leaders as War criminals who contributed their share to the destruction. The Zionist attitude, that Jewish blood is desirable machine-oil on the wheels of the train of the Jewish State is not a thing of the past. It persists in its full strength to this day.
"For decades, one consistent outlook guided Zionist leaders such as Weizmann, Gruenbaum, Sharett, Ben Gurion, Steven Wise, the heads of the "Judenraten" in the ghettos and the rescue committees in the free world. "The desired goal is the State, while the people and particularly the Jews [the Orthodox?], are the means to this end—anyone who does not serve this goal forfeits his right to exist."
Later on Reb Moshe Sheinfeld writes, "The Zionist leaders during the Holocaust took control not only of public opinion but also of the sources of information and communication. They represented the Jewish nation to the authorities and the nations of the world. They—and only they—bear responsibility for whatever rescue work could have been done by Klal Yisroel and was not done.
"There were three main areas in which they failed and led others astray. These were: first, information and propaganda, second, material assistance and third, preventing the destruction. Were these lapses due to mistakes or bungling, there would be grounds for judging them favorably on account of their lack of abilities. The bitter truth is though, that these failures were the outcome of a fundamental approach and a deliberate plan of action.
"The ultimate and the supreme goal was the establishment of a State. The masses of Klal Yisroel served to facilitate this end and whenever there was a clash between the interests of these two entities, the needs of the people—even their rescue—had to give way to the needs of the projected State.
"When pogroms and civil unrest broke out in Russia in 5665 (1905,) they were welcomed by the Jewish Socialists, who, together with their Russian counterparts, took comfort in the fact that the Jewish blood that was being spilled was oil on the wheels of the Jewish State. The Zionist leaders acted in the same way as a general who sends tens of thousands of soldiers out to fight, risking all their lives in order to capture a single fortress. The hands that built the Jewish State are filled with Jewish blood. They have set the bodies of Jewish children who were annihilated, into the walls of the State...
"The attitude of all the Zionist leaders during the Holocaust was: one, that the Eastern European Diaspora was doomed anyway; two, that the blood of the millions of victims was oil on the wheels of the Jewish State that was to arise after the War. This blood served as our contribution to the Allies' War effort, as well as being our trump card to be pulled out when we demand an independent State at the postwar peace talks. Three, that accordingly, whenever the interests of the Allies clashed with efforts to save large numbers of Jews, the latter had to give way to the former and lastly; four, that even when no such conflict of interests existed, the funds available to World Jewry should be channeled towards the National Homeland in Eretz Yisroel. Whatever money was left over, was to be used either for taking groups of pioneers and Zionist lay leaders out of the ghettos and bringing them solely to Eretz Yisroel, or for supporting underground groups who assist the war effort and thus cultivate a sense of national honor."
In The Wake Of "Perdition": The Controversy In Eretz Yisroel
In her article "Zionism Of Perfidy—The Sinister Connections," (Koteret Rashit, 29th July 1987,) Yael Lotan writes, "History cannot be erased and must not be evaded. Ultimately, the harsh, painful facts will emerge, despite all the efforts that are made to repress them. When that happens, the trauma to which they give rise is compounded by their total repression.
"Since the Zionist establishment has appointed itself as sole heir of the Six Million with regard to receiving compensation and putting Nazis on trial, and it takes pains to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust remains undimmed in the world's awareness as well as in our own, it must not evade the revelations of the lack of responsibility—and even of the hardened political cynicism—that it displayed during those dreadful years.
"However, using the Holocaust to put the Zionist movement on the bench as an accused is explosive, whichever way you look at it. It's not a simply an historical-moral dilemma like, for example, the question of whether Churchill was correct in not evacuating the city of Coventry, though he had found out it was going to be bombed by the Germans, in order not to reveal the source of his information.
"The Holocaust has always been Zionism's strongest moral claim to Statehood. It is the Holocaust that has influenced the world community to back Israel since the Partition vote in 1947, up until the present.
"In and of itself, [Jim] Allen's mediocre 1987 drama (Perdition) wouldn't have been powerful enough to affect this historical-moral claim, especially since the play basically centers around the guilt of a few individuals who acted in a criminal fashion in an unreal situation and does not succeed in proving the collective guilt of the Zionist Movement. However, the scandal that has erupted and that may grow even greater if a libel suit is brought, carries within it the potential of sparking a massive conflagration.
"All this makes it a little easier to understand why Zionist historians are going to extraordinary lengths in attempting to contradict Rav Weissmandel's story and to claim that the letter never even existed. On the whole, they are employing the same old ammunition—a favorite tactic of the researchers which by now is rusty from overuse—namely, `anti-Zionist.' By hurling this accusation, every proof or relevant argument can be repulsed without genuinely examining the facts. `Anti-Zionist'—the trump card."
The most caustic and primitive expression of this attitude can be found in Dr. Dinah Porat's article, "The Weissmandel Episode As Muckraking." (Ha'aretz, 13th May, 1984)
She wrote: "I maintain, and I take full responsibility for so doing, that the letter which contained the refusal to pay, that was sent to Rav Weissmandel by the Jewish organizations in the free world, never existed at all. It was, and remains, nothing more than an anti-Zionist attack. Rabbi Weissmandel was an Agudist, as were the editors of his book, Min HaMeitzar, and those who base themselves upon it, like Abraham Fuchs and Agudas Yisroel. The story of the Europe Plan, as they tell it, provides them with further weaponry with which to attack Zionism, the State of Israel, which is the heir of the yishuv of those days, and the Ma'arach, the continuation of the Mapai Party."
In his article in Ha'aretz, Dr. Fuchs reacted to these charges as follows. "Dr. Porat, who has not read my book and who does not know me at all, called Rav Weissmandel and myself "Agudists." This, as far as I am concerned, is a libelous slander."
I must note here that on the basis of my own acquaintance with Dr. Fuchs, he supports not Agudas Yisroel but the Mizrachi. He is a man of great refinement, a reliable researcher and an excellent historian.
In her book, Leadership Ensnared, which is regarded in the academic world as the oracle concerning the behavior of the leadership of the yishuv during the Holocaust, in the chapter on "The Europe Plan" and the bribery in Slovakia, Dinah Porat writes, "In November 1942, the heads of the Working Group launched a series of appeals to the major Jewish organizations. Rabbi Weissmandel and Armin Frieder wrote to Saly Meyer via Nathan Schwalb... In a collection of Rabbi Weissmandel's letters there appears one of the replies which they supposedly received from the Jewish institutions, within less than six weeks... according to this collection, a similar letter reached Schwalb as well but the copies are all lost. `Everything should be done to ensure that the land of Israel becomes the State of Israel,' Rabbi Weissmandel quotes from memory. `All the nations are spilling their blood in the war and if we do not make some sacrifices, how will we gain a place at the negotiating table after the War? It is therefore ridiculous and even audacious on our part to ask the nations who are spilling their own blood, to give us permission to bring their money into enemy countries in order to protect our own blood. We will only have the land with blood.'
"The contents of this letter—which Schwalb utterly repudiates—are strange. In other letters of both Rabbi Weissmandel and Gisi Fleischmann, copies of which have been preserved, there appear many expressions of love and admiration for Schwalb. They appear even after the `Europe Plan' was no longer relevant... in Schwalb's letters to Palestine, he approves of the Plan from the moment he first hears of it and recommends sending the money. It is not possible that he would apply the terms `ridiculous and audacious' to something that was in line with his own point of view, which he even adopted more strongly as time passed."
This distinguished historian's arguments are themselves somewhat strange, to say the least. First, as regards the dates—the episode of the Slovakian bribes had been concluded by Yom Kippur, long before November, as we have seen. Schwalb's letter to Rav Weissmandel was received no earlier than August and no later than September. Furthermore, the letter was in reply to the proposal to employ bribery in Slovakia whilst Dr. Porat treats it as a response to the Europe Plan. She is confusing two different projects, the Slovakian bribes and the Europe Plan.
Her claim that Schwalb supported the Europe Plan has no relevance to the Slovakian bribes. As we saw earlier, in his letter of December 1942, Schwalb indeed supported the Europe Plan while at the same time writing that, with respect to the Slovakian proposal, he had "entertained questions of principle..." In other words, when it came to the Europe Plan, he had changed his mind. Dr. Porat does not distinguish one scheme from the other.
As for her argument that many terms of friendship and admiration for Schwalb appear in the letters, all in all, just one such letter exists, dated 30th August 1942, in which Rav Weissmandel writes to his friend in Switzerland to pass on information to "our beloved N. Schwalb..."
It is certainly possible that this letter, bearing the date of August 30th, was written before Schwalb's letter came into Rav Weissmandel's hands. And even if not, what is surprising about Rav Weissmandel referring to Schwalb in flattering terms?
If Rav Weissmandel was able to flatter Hochberg and Wisliceny in order to rescue Jews, he would presumably not hesitate to do the same to Schwalb, just as long as he received the financial help he needed to save his fellow Jews.
Dr. Fuchs writes, "It is possible that several historians are disturbed by the fact that the initiator of all the rescue work was a religious Jew... Professor Bauer, who has devoted more attention to Rav Weissmandel than any other researcher and who, to a great extent has portrayed his achievements in the correct perspective, was nevertheless unable to free himself from the current opinion in certain circles about religious Jewry. On page 12 of his book The Jewish Emergence, he writes, "Rabbi Weissmandel made contact with those who had until then been his greatest enemies, the Zionists."
"When the war broke out [continues Dr. Fuchs] Rav Weissmandel was a man of thirty-seven. It is reasonable to assume that he was opposed to Zionism already before the War. His main opposition however, was only expressed after the war, in the wake of his disappointment in the various institutions which, according to him, did not help him save lives during the Holocaust. He became one of Zionism's most extreme opponents. However, to attribute to Rav Weissmandel in the period preceding the War the title, "chief enemy of the Zionists," or "the well known leader of the anti-Zionists," is nothing more than an historical anachronism and could possibly even be intentional tendentiousness."
Hurling the Label Anti-Zionist
At this point, we need to take an objective and dispassionate look at the material before us. For historians to content themselves with affixing labels such as, "anti-Zionist," instead of objectively investigating the facts is irresponsible and certainly not academic behavior. This is especially applicable to a subject such as the Holocaust, in view of what we explained in our general introduction—that the attitude of the Zionist leadership towards European Jewry should be understood as an integral part of Zionism's war against Judaism.
Professor Bauer is a member of Kibbutz Shoval which belongs to the Hashomer Hatzair movement. In a newspaper interview several years ago he said that if a synagogue were ever to be built on his Kibbutz, he would leave immediately. He isn't prepared to stay in the same place as a beis haknesses. If the opinions of an anti-Zionist about the Holocaust are considered invalid, those of someone like Professor Bauer are certainly no less so.
It is impossible to maintain that, in a debate which takes place against the background of the Zionist-Jewish struggle, a Zionist may state his views while another Jew may not. Dr. Porat's comments, quoted earlier, are especially instructive in this respect. According to her way of looking at things, any attempt to place blame on the leadership of Mapai with regard to their conduct during the Holocaust is automatically invalid.
How can she possibly make an objective appraisal of historical facts? For, if the facts end up showing that Zionism and Mapai carry some guilt, it means that those facts are nothing more than "part of an anti-Zionist attack."
At this point, permit me to introduce a personal note. My last job as a secular Jew was as manager of a Zionist educational institution, Beit Rottenberg in Haifa. My work involved giving seminar courses on Jewish identity to seventh and eighth grade pupils. I came across the subject of Holocaust research in my preparations for these courses and I can honestly say that until then, there was nothing negative in my attitude towards Zionism.
However, the more I studied the subject in depth, unearthing books, documents, articles and testimonies, my awareness that Zionism had been guilty of a terrible, dreadful crime during the War grew stronger and stronger. If I describe myself today as an anti-Zionist, it is certainly not because I became religious. Perhaps it happened the opposite way around—the greater my disappointment grew with all my discoveries about the Zionist Movement, the stronger became the force propelling me back to Yiddishkeit.
Rav Weissmandel is a shining example of cooperation with Jews from all backgrounds and persuasions. The fact that he was such a bitter opponent of Zionism after the War is certainly a result of what took place during the War and of Zionism's attitude towards European Jewry. The attempts made by a number of researchers to besmirch Rav Weissmandel with the crime of forging documentation in order to attack Zionism, is a complete distortion. The reverse is true—the letters and stories which Rav Weissmandel cites in his book are what led to the intensification of his anti-Zionism.
It is quite reasonable to assume that if the truth about what happened in the Holocaust were to become public knowledge, there would be a strong anti-Zionist backlash. This is what the establishment wishes to prevent. To achieve this end they use the academic world, who are subservient to them and their financial resources. The argument that someone's assertions are to be dismissed simply because they are "anti-Zionist," is nothing but a smokescreen.
This concludes this particular series of articles.