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.