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Blessed is the Match: The Story of Jewish Resistance

by Marie Syrkin

Bibliographic information

TitleBlessed is the Match: The Story of Jewish Resistance
AuthorMarie Syrkin
PublisherVarda Books
Publication Date2002
SubjectHolocaust
Pages384


Description 

In 1946, immediately upon the close of World War II, Marie Syrkin traveled to Palestine to discover how the network of Jewish resistance had operated in the Nazi charnel house. She interviewed partisan leaders, ghetto fighters, and parachutists from Palestine who had been dropped behind the Nazi lines to organize resistance. The mother of the legendary Hannah Senesch described to the author her daughters last days in Hungarian prison. In a Tel Aviv caf Joel Brandt told of his negotiations with Eichmann, the Nazi henchman, for the ransom of European Jewry. Young organizers of the illegal immigration added their narratives to the history of martyrdom and glory. All this Miss Syrkin conveyed in Blessed is the Match (JPS, 1947), one of the first works to deal with the horrors and the heroism of the Holocaust years. It is a classic account of Jewish tragedy, faith, hope, and triumph.



About the Author 

Marie Syrkin ---

Marie Syrkin, professor emeritus of humanities at Brandeis University, is an author, lecturer, teacher, and former member of the World Zionist Executive. She was for many years editor of the Labor-Zionist monthly Jewish Frontier and editor of the Herzl Press.




Contents 

Introduction

I. UD

II. THE PARACHUTISTS FROM PALESTINE

1. The Mission

2. Blessed Is the Match

3. Behind the Lines with Tito

4. In a Hungarian Prison

5. Resistance in Budapest

6. A Shepherd in Rumania

7. What Did They Achieve?

III. THE UNDERGROUND NETWORK

1. The Office in Istanbul

2. Eichmann Makes an Offer

3. Negotiations with Wislitzeni

4. Eichmanns Last Offer: Goods for Blood

IV. THE GHETTO BATTLE

1. The Witnesses

2. Why They Went: Hopelessness and Hope

3. The Struggle of the Spirit: To Live With Honor

4. The Youth Groups Prepare: To Die With Honor

5. The Last Stand: The Jewish Fighting Organization

6. The Indictment

7. Understand It Humanly

V. JEWISH PARTISANS IN EASTERN EUROPE

1. The Woodmen

2. In Vilna: The United Partisans

3. Jerusalem in White Russia

VI. IN WESTERN EUROPE

1. In Holland It Was Different

2. Rescue Is Resistance

3. FranceService des Jeunes

4. The Jewish Maquis

VII. RESISTANCE IN PALESTINE

1. Haganah: A Peoples Army

2. The Poetry of Action

3. Ha apalah: Illegal Immigration

4. The Blood Be on Your Head

5. The Seventh City

Epilogue: 1976



Excerpt 

I do not wish to be understood as claiming that they were the only factor in the Jewish underground. As time went on, every political grouping in Jewish life joined in the organization of resistance. But just as the Jewish community of Palestine, despite its numerical smallness, played a disproportionately large part in all efforts to rescue the Jews of Europe, so the representatives of this movement in the Diaspora showed the same readiness for imaginative action. Within the countries under Nazi domination those accustomed to meeting Jewish problems in Jewish terms were least paralyzed by the blow. In the general impotence they still had nerves that could react and muscles that could move. Above all, they expected no saviour from the outside. They knew that there was no time to wait either for the brotherly cooperation of the Polish underground, the arrival of the Red Army, or the coming of the Messiah. All these would help eventually, though incidentally, for their own purposes. The major impetus had to spring from Jews themselvesif they were to live with honor as long as possible, and to die with honor when that became inevitable.

All political parties among the Jews came to share this conviction. The work of the Jewish underground resolved itself essentially into two phases: to maintain morale and dignity in the ghettos as long as that could be done, and to prepare for the final struggle.

A dubious kind of organization had existed in the ghettos from the outset. The Nazis had ordered the constitution of a Jewish council (Judenrat) whose function was to act as official representative of the Jewish community and to be responsible for the execution of all Nazi decrees. The council was assisted by the Jewish police, consisting of Jews selected by the council. This Jewish police had to maintain order in the ghetto and aid the council in securing the compliance of the community with the edicts issued by the G Germans. Under these circumstances it was probably unavoidable that both council and police came to be viewed as the henchmen of the Nazis and detested as such.

But one must distinguish between the part played by the councils and that by Jewish police. I have heard many bitter attacks on the councils, or on particular individuals who served in them, on the ground that they toadied to the Germans or that the members strove to save their own skins at the expense of the community as a whole. In view of the function of the council such charges were bound to be made. Anybody which had as its task the wretched business of enforcing Nazi orders could not escape accusations, in many instances justified. But it would be grossly unfair not to point out that a large proportion of the council members assumed their unwelcome positions in the hope of improving the lot of the community they represented.

The story of Adam Czerniakow, head of the council of the Warsaw ghetto, is familiar and in a sense s symbolic of the moral impasse in which the councils found themselves. Czerniakow committed suicide rather than provide lists of Jews for deportation when he realized the true purpose of the transports. His suicide aroused the sympathy and admiration of the whole world. Yet, I have heard the most scathing criticism of Czerniakow from ghetto survivors. He had understood too late, they claimed. There should have been no negotiations with the Germans at any time. Nevertheless, it is obvious from the record that Gzerniakow had been impelled by honorable motives throughout his dealings with the Nazi authorities, even though he has been strictured as shortsighted and timid. Like many of his fellows, he believed that he was tempering the fury of Nazi persecution by his parleys and compromises. When he understood the vanity of these hopes, he killed himself.

The condemnation of the Jewish police is more universal. Those who served on this force had to round up Jews for deportation if the required number failed to appear at the transfer point. In the beginning there were apparently many instances when the Jewish police strove to shield the community, but they finally degenerated into out-and-out Nazi assistants. When the Jewish police were informed by the Germans that, if they failed to deliver the required quota of victims, they and their families would be used as substitutes, many of them broke. Furthermore, the police were fed on the illusion that they would be permitted to survive in recompense for faithful service. As might have been expected, when their aid ceased to be of value, they shared the fate of the rest.

It would be pointless to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude and envelop the Jewish police in a blanket condemnation. One can understand the anger and contempt they aroused among the inhabitants of the g ghetto, but those who were never subjected to a similar test should be wary of passing moral judgments. Certainly, men who sought to buy their lives by becoming agents of the Germans have small call on our sympathy. In justice to them, however, we must bear in mind that those who became members of the Jewish police knew that, if no Jews willing to maintain order in the ghetto were found, the task would be assigned to Ukrainians, Poles, Lithuanians, or S.S. men. In this sense they were helping the ghetto to avoid a worse alternative.

The breed of martyrs has never excelled by its size. We need not, therefore, be vicariously shame-stricken at admitting the existence of Jews who in the Nazi torture chamber showed themselves to be neither brave nor idealistic.




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