Wednesday 7 October 2009

Greenstein pre-empted on Edelman

Here is Tony Greenstein's post dated October 7, 2009 on Marek Edelman

...Today Zionism praises the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but in the 1930’s and 1940’s it treated and made deals with the Nazis..... Of course there were many Zionists who, despite their Zionism, fought against the Nazis.

Below is a comment to Harry's Place dated October 3, 2009 - I think the point is made:

Michael Ezra
3 October 2009, 8:54 pm

Marek Edelman should certainly be remembered.

One thing that can be mentioned is that are some anti-Zionists who would like to believe, and this was a theme of the anti-Zionist playPerdition, that the Zionists were not interesting in fighting Hitler. The argument runs along the lines that maybe some Zionists did fight Hitler but this was in spite of their Zionism not because of it. As far as this warped section of the anti-Zionist community are concerned, the Zionists collaborated with Nazism and did not fight against it.

This is of course nonsense and it has been highlighted in this thread with the mention of names such as Mordecai Anielewicz, an activist in Hashomer Hatzair who bravely fought in the Warsaw Ghetto. But it was not just the socialist Zionists amongst the Zionists in the Warsaw Ghetto that fought. As Moshe Arens points out (Israel Affairs, Vol.14, No.1, January 2008):

ZZW (Zydowski Zwiazek, Wojskowy), was led by Pawel Frenkel, a member of the Revisionist Youth Movement, Betar; Leon Rodal, a member of the Revisionist movement, and David Apfelbaum, a former officer in the Polish Army who was an adherent of Ze’ev Jabotinsky. It was built around a core of fighters who were members of Jabotinsky’s Zionist-Revisionist movement and its youth movement, Betar….

The heaviest battles of the uprising took place at Muranowski Square, where ZZW fighters withstood the repeated onslaught of German forces. The ZZW fighters there were better trained and equipped than the other fighters in the ghetto, had prepared defensive positions in anticipation of the impending battle and had dug a tunnel under the ghetto wall that allowed for the bringing in of supplies and the evacuation of the wounded. Muranowski Square was the main battleground of the uprising.

Even in the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine) they were delighted to hear of the resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto. An editorial in Davur in October 1942 headlined “The Zionist Underground” mentioned “There is also quiet bravery…the defense of honour….There is dedication to the people fighting.” In April 1943 an editorial in one paper commented on the Jewish resistance “An eternal symbol of a people which refuses to be destroyed by the Gentile – the symbol of life. The honour and the glory of this heroism, enacted on the front line of the war against Nazism, has perhaps no parallel.” A further note of pride of the Warsaw ghetto uprising was expressed in Hapoel Hatzair in an article entitled “Defence Filled With Glory.” As far as the editor, who wrote the article, was concerned it proved “Jews are not always led like sheep to the slaughter.”

I have taken the above examples of press reports from the following essays

Yechiam Weitz, “The Yishuv’s Response to the Destruction of European Jewry, 1942-1943″ Studies in Zionism, Vol. 8, No. 2 Autumn 1987 and
Yoav Gelber, “Zionist Policy and the Fate of European Jewry, 1943-1944,” Studies in Zionism, Issue 7. Spring 1983.

None of this takes away from the Bundists who were very active in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The vast majority of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto were wiped out. Edelman was one of the few who managed to survive and as a result we have his published account,The Ghetto Fights, a memoir that is well worth reading for anyone interested in this terrible period of history.

Monday 13 July 2009

Greenstein to review Nicosia's latest book

In his latest blog post, Tony Greenstein informs his readers that he is to review the following book:

Francis R. Nicosia, Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany (Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Greenstein informs us in his blog post that he found the book, "extremely disappointing." This is not surprising because Greenstein regularly tries to link Zionism with Nazism. Aware of such claims, Nicosia is very clear in dispelling any notion of such an absurd linkage. Below I provide some short quotations from the book; no doubt these explain why Greenstein finds the book "disappointing."


"lest the reader imagine that the purpose of study such as this to somehow equate Zionism with National Socialism, Zionists with Nazis, or to portray their relationship as a willing and collaborative one between moral and political equals. The research, analysis and conclusions, do not in any way support such notions. The existence of certain common assumptions on the part of Zionists on the one hand, and nationalist and anti-Semitic Germans on the other, does not in any way connote moral and/or political equivalency." (pp. 2-3)

"The dominant Zionist approach, like that of most non-Jews at the time, shared a reliance on the idea of an ethno-nationalist state, an idea that was the societal norm in Central Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Their embrace of that norm does not make the Zionists the moral equivalent of the Nazis. Nor does the willingness of the Zionist or any other Jewish organisation in the Third Reich to cooperate with the state make them willing collaborators in the Nazi destruction of Jewish life in Germany; to suppose that any Jewish organisation in Hitler's Germany prior to the 'final solution' had the option of refusing to work on some level with the state is fantasy." (p. 3)

Nicosia specifically states that it is a-historical and simplistic to"

dismiss Zionism as yet another of racism, the substance of which has not been very different from German National Socialism." (P. 8)

He adds:

"Most anti-Semites could never embrace Zionism and its institutions as partners in a common quest because Zionists were, after all, still part of what they believed to be a monolithic world Jewry." (P. 9)

"For most anti-Semites in Germany, therefore, including the Nazis prior to 1941, their willingness to use Zionism and the Zionist movement was never based on an acceptance of the Zionist view itself." (p. 10)

"the Jewish Agency for Palestine and the Zionist movement in general recognized the critical link between its own survival and the survival and well-being of all Jews in the Diaspora. Even on a practical level, the Zionist view was that if the Nazis succeeded in murdering the great majority of Jews in Europe, a Jewish majority and state in Palestine might never be achieved." (pp.8-9n15)

Finally, I enclose one factually accurate quote from Nicosia

"Of Course, the Nazis opposed a Jewish state, in any form, in any part of Palestine or anywhere else in the world." (P. 197)

These quotes simply refute Greenstein's analogies. Disappointing for him, indeed.

Friday 15 May 2009

Distorting the Holocaust: The Case of Haim Bresheeth

Following a request, I reproduce a post that I once made as a comment in a thread to Harry's Place blog about Haim Bresheeth. The post was made in October 2007 and for some reason, when Harry's Place moved to a new blog in 2008, the posts from that month were not copied accross. A point that I would change in that post is that I would not use  Anna Porter's book for the reference for footnote 5 as Porter's book, in my opinion, is unreliable. A better reference for the same point from a far more reliable scholar is the following:

Randolph L.Braham, The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary, Volume 2, (New York: Columbia University Press, Revised and Enlarged Edition, 1994) p.1,115

Subsequent to me writing that post, I have obtained a copy of the 1994 book, The Holocaust for Beginners, of which Bresheeth is  a named author along with Stuart Hood and Litza Jansz. In my opinion it is an absolute disgrace that Icon Books published this ideologically motivated travesty of history.  I feel that I must comment on the following. On page 144, the claim is made:


the Judenrat [in Hungary] ... went so far as to fabricate postcards from a non existant work camp with optimistic reports about food and conditions, in order to entice those left behind to join them.

What is a clear fabrication is that claim. The Jewish Council [Judenrat] did not fabricate any postcards and Bresheeth has no evidence that they did. As Randolph Braham comments (The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary, Volume 2, p.737), the postcards were "brought back from Auschwitz ....[and] were often written by the victims just before they were gassed."

On page 156, the book alleges that Jews who escaped from Auschwitz "delivered [to the Allies] in 1942 ... extremely accurate information about the camps and the numbers killed since 1941."  This again is a disgraceful error. The report that Bresheeth and his co-authors are referrring to is known as The Vrba-Wetzler Report. Given that  Vrba and Wetzler did not escape from Auschwitz until April 1944, .(Rudolf Vrba, I Escaped From Auschwitz, [London: Robson Books, 2006] pp. 246-7), the Allies could have hardly seen the information in 1942.  In fact, by the time the report was written and it was in the hands of the Allies, it was the middle of June 1944. (Martin Gilbert, Auschwitz & The Allies: The politics of rescue, [Feltham, Middlesex: Hamlyn Publishing Group, 1983] pp. 231-9). Given how many Jews were killed at Auschwitz between 1942 when the authors allege that the Allies received this information and June 1944 when the Allies did recieve this report, such an error by the authors is simply inexcusable. 

The section at the end of the book (pp.170-173) "The Zionist View of the Holocuast" is where the authors have gone to town with their own crass political views e.g. on page 171: 

While it is unfair and inaccurate to compare the Israeli occupation of eastern Palestine since 1967 to the Nazi occupation of Europe, there are undoubtedly similarities between the Israeli occupation and some of the worst, most racist occupations elsewhere.... This has produced ideas, practices and policies which resemble those found in Germany in the late 1930s
.On a book that theoretically should be suitable for school children, the inclusion of such drivel should mean that no school librarian should allow such a book on their shelves. 

The post that I made to the comments section of Harrys Place is copied below:

For those not familiar with the despicable Bresheeth he was associated with the notorious but defunct RETURN magazine and infamously wrote an article for that magazine entitled "Zionism and the Holocaust."

This particular article makes absurd suggestions that the Zionists in Nazi German had "political power" when of course they had no such power. The whole purpose of the article is to try and argue that the "lives of individuals, Jews and non Jews" were secondary to "the Zionist enterprise in Palestine" and that is why the Zionists were involved with "collaboration" with the Nazis "over the death of almost a million Jews." [1] Bresheeth's article is simply ahistorical and full of distortions of the truth. The litany of errors is truly frightening. It argues that Eichmann's first act after the Nazis invaded Hungary was to appoint "Zionist federation members, headed by Kastner, as the agent and the clearing house for all Jews in their relationship with the SS." This was not the case. Kasztner's committee was not appointed by the Nazis, it was formed in late 1942/early 1943 before the Nazis even invaded Hungary. Moreover Kastner was not head of that committee. It's head was Otto Komoly. Furthermore the Nazis had dealings with the Jewish Council – a body that Kastner was not a member of. Three mistakes in one sentence alone. What is more concerning is what Bresheeth leaves out. For example, when discussing the Kastner matter, Bresheeth does not mention that is ruled by the Supreme Court in Israel that he had not collaborated with the Nazis despite the views of Bresheeth. [2] One wonders if Bresheeth had even read the Supreme Court judgment because Bresheeth discusses that collaboration was "the price paid" of rescuing the Jews on the Kastzner train. Had Bresheeth read the ruling of the Supreme Court he would know that that argument was ruled to be wholly wrong and Kastner's actions were reasonable .[3]I can continue here - Bresheeth argues that Kaszner persuaded Hannah Senesh to give herself up. This is a blatant lie. Senesh was arrested virtually as soon as she crossed the border in Hungary on June 9, 1944 and it had nothing to do with Kastner.[4]He argues "Kastner acted as a result of his strongly held Zionist convictions" but fails to mention that other Zionists such as Moshe Krausz who was with hi in Hunagry and who were also strong Zionists disagreed with the actions of Kastner. [5] He spends a long time discussing the Ha'varah (Transfer Agreement) that enabled Jews to leave Germany for Palestine. Pehaps Bresheeth would have preferred it those Jews who were saved by this agreement would have stayed in Germany and met the same fate as millions of other Jews in Europe.

He states "Zionism agrees with the basic tenet of anti-Semitism, namely that Jews cannot live with non-Jews." This is a ludicrous and false argument. There are many non Jews living in Israel and no serious Zionist thinker in the mainstream has suggested that Israel should purely be for Jews.

The above is just about one article and I could go on pointing out distortion after distortion - but I believe I have made the point so I will leave you with a review of Bresheeth's book on Holocaust that was written for school children.

Editorial Reviews
From School Library Journal
"Grade 9 Up-This strange and contradictory book is not an introduction to the Holocaust; it is a statement of the authors' revisionist political beliefs about that dark period of history. Written and illustrated in a graphic-comic format, it promulgates the view that the Nazis did not intend "to destroy European Jewry physically" but rather, that "many forces within the German state as well as outside it helped to bring it [the Holocaust] about." The authors do not deny that the Holocaust occurred, but assert that the Nazi policy of genocide evolved only after Hitler was unable to expel all the Jews. They indict Western nations for refusing to accept Jewish refugees and argue that Zionists worked to impede immigration to all countries other than British-controlled Palestine. They also postulate that middle-and upper-class European Jewish communities colluded with the Nazis instead of resisting them. The "Aftermath" presents the revisionist stance that Israel today has become the executioner instead of the victim, the colonial oppressor rather than the oppressed. In addition to the bizarre and unproven propaganda permeating the text, the authors' account negates one of their primary assumptions; they demonstrate repeatedly that the killing fields and concentration camps were the results of Nazi policy initiated by Hitler and his henchmen. There is no reason why libraries serving young people should consider this highly politicized, inconsistently argued, and misleading title. Steer them instead to Milton Meltzer's Never to Forget (HarperCollins, 1976), Barbara Rogasky's Smoke and Ashes (Holiday, 1988), or Art Spiegelman's "Maus" books (Pantheon)."
Jack Forman, Mesa College Library, San Diego
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.[6]

[1] Haim Bresheeth "Zionism and the Holocaust" RETURN issue 1 March 1989 pp.25-26 (subsequently reproduced on the following web site
[2] Yechiam Weitz "Kasztner, Rudolf (Israel) (1906-57)" in Walter Laqueur ed. The Holocaust Encyclopedia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001) pp. 379-82
[3]Leora Bilsky Transformative Justice: Israeli Identity on Trial (USA: University of Michigan, 2004) pp. 41-66
[4] Judith Tydor Baumel "'Parachuting to Their People' – the Operation of the Parachutist-Emissaries During World War II in Historical Perspective" Yad Vashem Studies Vol XXV 1996 pp. 137-180
[5] Anna Porter Kasztner's Train: The True Story of Rezso Kasztner, Unknown Hero of the Holocaust (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2007) pp. 395-6
Posted by: Mikey at October 30, 2007 03:11 PM