DONNING THE YELLOW STAR:
ISSUES RAISED BY THE JEWISH PARTISAN MOVEMENT
What emerges from these diaries – is a picture of a community devastated by barbarism , never embracing underground movements, partisan fighters or strategies based on violence that might bring mass reprisal. Diary entries critical to an understanding of the Jewish community’s despair describe a population increasingly suffering physical weakness and debilitation, and forced to confront the terror of not being able to protect children. By the time these victims reached the gas chambers – if they had not been killed by disease, brutality, and mass starvation –they had been depleted by hunger and the war waged by the Germans on physical survival.
Glass. Jewish Resistance. Op. cit. p.23
The politicians and their media stenographers tell us that economic development and the taste for democracy will replace the impulse to Communist totalitarianism and Jihad. After all, we are all self-interested individuals are we not ? We all want freedom and the democratic way do we not ? Computers, internet gaming, pizza, football and Lady GaGa will replace ‘death-to-the-Jews’ summer training camps for youth in Palestine(1), will they not ?
Self-interest did not motivate the Nazis: an ideology of hate did. It has returned.
Francis Fukuyama was wrong.(2) The collapse of the Soviet Union was not the End of History. . . Communist ideology never died as we see university students donning the red star, hammer and sickle, Mao hats and jackets, Fidel and Che Guevara memorabilia. Fascist ideology never died and the new Islamist-Fascism has shown more genius than the other two ideologies combined.
Just as Neville Chamberlain, the Jewish Police and well-meaning collaborators now live in the history of infamy by their appeasement of Nazism, so too will the ‘realists’, ‘pragmatists’, and ‘rationalists’ when the Jihad gains irresistible momentum in alliance with Russia, North Korea and the Communist Chinese. As Tarek Fatah said in his 2011address to Ideacity (3), “If we do not confront them today, our children will not forgive us tomorrow. . .”
As the ghettos and the trains froze, starved, infected, de-humanized and neutralized Jewish men, women and children, the partisans created survival and resistance communities in the inhospitable forests.(4) Most Jews were unwilling, unable or incapable of joining them.
Much Jewish behavior had been conditioned by history And the culture of getting by and negotiating differences. But the suddenness of the German advance and the unremitting war the Germans waged against Jewish children and Jewish families through ghettoization and the policy of mass reprisals severely restricted the Jewish response.
Glass. Jewish Resistance. . . op.cit. p. 13
A ‘philosophy of resistance’ to annihilation (with a specifically Jewish character) developed and after the defeat of Germany, it moved to Palestine to continue the fight for survival as in contravention of international law, five Arab armies swept down to eradicate the newly formed Israeli state. Had they been successful, they would have erased the only place on earth where armed Jewish women and men could legitimately defend their families and fight as Jews for their right to survive as Jews. It was an experience they had not known for 2000 years.
Though the Russians continuously tried to absorb the Jewish partisans into their ranks, the Bielski brothers(5) and Abba Kovner’s(6) group resisted and were mostly successful. They were well experienced with Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Baltic and Balkan anti-Semitism. For these men, loss of their identity into groups that hated them as Jews, would have been akin to jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Besides, as the atrocities against Jews (trying to return to their homes in Europe)(7) began to leak out, the Zionist predictions of Theodore Hertzl came true and Palestine was the only realistic option. Jews would never again be safe in Europe.
Even after the Second World War, Europe remained treacherous for the Jews. Why ? Because history does not follow the abrupt changes suggested by the dates in the history books, which read like stage directions: Exit Fascist Germany, enter Democratic Germany. The massacre did not make the Poles sympathetic to the Jews, nor did it convince most Germans that they were wrong – about the Jews, about anything. . . The decent Germany that appeared so soon after the War was an American construct, a story we told ourselves to get through the Cold War.
Cohen. The Avengers. Op cit p. 175
Jews who tried to return to their homes were ‘welcomed’ by new gentile occupants who mobbed, beat or murdered them and drove them out of communities where they had lived peacefully for centuries.
The Partisans were a key strategic feature of the war and the Jewish partisans(8) got little credit for the disproportionate damage they did to the German war machine – given their extremely small numbers. During the peak of partisan resistance the Germans lost close to 1000 trains a month, millions of dollars in lost equipment and munitions and of psychological importance – they lived in open defiance of German rule. Estimates vary as to German casualties but the lowest are in the range of 7000 (German stats) vs Soviet estimates of 500,000. Within this movement the Jews had to protect themselves from the other Partisan groups seeking to assimilate them (Soviets) threaten them or wipe them out. It became abundantly clear that most of their comrades at arms – basically hated them, but for a moment they shared a common goal.
Abba Kovner Partisans
However, for the Jewish partisans, rescue and revenge were their primary motivators amidst the very specific attack that had been made on them as a people, unlike any other people: “. . . the perpetrators were going to pay for exterminating my mother, my father, my sisters, my brother, my aunt, my uncle, my neighbours, my friends, my community, my work, my life, my history, my people, my humanity. . .”
I will tell you about a world that went crazy, a world where humans became beasts, turned worthless, and the forests became “home”. And I will tell you about people who refused to surrender to bestiality, people who resisted the descent into darkness. Most of them are gone, but I see them still, in their tattered rags, city boys darting from tree to tree in the forest, repaying death with death.I too, was a city boy, and although I survived, I have never really left those forests.
Glass. Jewish Resistance. Op cit pp. 97-98.
Thus, these Jewish Partisan Warriors, motivated by the desire to rescue their ‘race’ and to avenge their family’s deaths, were of remarkable strategic significance in defeating the Nazis by disrupting the supply lines to the Russian Front. Especially in Belarus, the Jewish Bielsky Otriads dignified themselves with the rescue of some 1200 Jews (in what would otherwise have been a totally obliterated community) by inflicting significant damage on the German war machine.
But what was most important to the Jewish mind was the development of a ‘resistance community’ that not only defied extermination and defended itself but a community forged in the forests that was determined to exact a very high price in violence against those who considered them (the Jews) to be without humanity. In so doing, they psychologically and socially established their indisputable humanity. But the values of civilized Jewish, European urban life had to be replaced by a new social dynamic: survival as a people.
Bielski’s Rousseauian community demonstrates how fragile traditional values in dealing with the ‘outsider’ are in an environment where the political and cultural rules of the game have been shattered. What today we take for granted – individuality, tolerance skepticism, suspension of belief, respect for the rules of the game, and so on – in the ghettos and forests became serious dangers to life.
Glass. Jewish Resistance. . .op cit p. 100
Driven from their homes, from nations to which they had been loyal, from a continent and a civilization to which they had contributed disproportionately, the Jews went on to Palestine where a new attempt was made to drive them out.
But after May 14th, 1948 they had a Jewish nation, a Jewish government, a territory (not named by other national groups) and the right to fight to the death or to life, dressed in a uniform that was not marked with the symbols of ‘the nations’ but had the Jewish Star on it. They could open their doors to every other Jew in the Diaspora to join them in their fight to survive the genocidal impulses of their ancient neighbours and to not be ruled by goyim who would eventually scapegoat them for every failure of their own administrations. They would have sons and daughters, each of which represented new birth and resistance to a world that wished them to disappear off the face of the earth
The ‘Resistors’and The Avengers were instrumental in building the Israeli Defense Force and in psychologically motivating the new soldiers. Israel’s survival against overwhelming odds in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 was significantly influenced by these ‘fighting survivors’ who were heroes to those who had grown up in Israel. They were instrumental in the development of the ideology of specific Kibbutzim and the foundation of a nation whose slogan was: “Never Again. . . “
Their heroic resistance was not primarily (nor even significantly) motivated by Torah nor Tanakh as was the case with most of the Zionist groups to settle in Palestine before Independence. The modern state of Israel is primarily a secular culture. But in a remarkable (but oft-repeated) phenomenon, one might say it was the faithless who by their actions became the instrument God used to fulfill the prayers of the faithful.
And he will set up an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
(4) Edward Zwick film Defiance. Paramount Pictures 2008 starring Daniel Craig
(5) Nechama Tec. Defiance: The Bielski Partisans. New York: Oxford Univ. Press 1993
(6) Rich Cohen. The Avengers: A Jewish War Story. Vintage Books New York. 2000. In the enclosed photographs you see the core of ‘the Avengers’: Abba and 2 teenage girls: Vitka Kempner, and Ruzka Korczak, unremarkable European Jews who became fierce warriors in the face of unspeakable barbarity and an inspiration to the young state of Israel.
(7) Cohen. The Avengers. Op cit p. 175
(1) Abba Kovner Partisans: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abba_Kovner
(2) Abba Kovner, Ben Gurion: The Avengers. Cohen
(3) Abba Kovner in later years: The Avengers. Cohen