It was several decades ago that I purchased the book “The Holocaust Victims Accuse” written by Reb Moshe Shonfeld. This book related, citing many references, how the secular Zionists did next to nothing during the Second World War to save Jews from the Holocaust. They had their own agenda at the time.
In July 2004, an article appeared in the English edition of Yated Ne’eman entitled “Collaboration Between the Chareidim and the Zionists During the Holocaust” (which showed there wasn’t!) It referred to a book in Hebrew by Rabbi Tzvi Weinman entitled “VeDa Ma Shetoshiv” (Know How to Answer). This book was only obtainable directly from the author. I suggested that the local library in Kiryat Arba purchase it and I would collect it for them. I accordingly went to Weinman’s office (he is a Rabbinical pleader) in Rehov Ben Yehudah in Jerusalem and purchased a copy of this book for the local library. A section of this book deals with the subject discussed by Moshe Shonfeld.
I also found in the Jewish National Library and Kiryat Arba Municipal Library, further books and articles on this subject, such as Abraham Fuchs’ “The Unheeded Cry”, a paper by Aryeh Morgenstern on the “Rescue Committee”, a paper by Arik Kochbi and some books by David Kranzler.
Such material was of course only secondary or even tertiary sources of the statements made by the secular Zionist leaders. Furthermore, it was rare for these books to give a facsimile of an original source.
I therefore I decided to write a paper on this subject. The novelty would be that I would only quote the statements of a secular Zionist leader if I had a photocopy of the original document in my possession, and in addition, I would give a facsimile of the relevant part of the original source. If I did not have such a document, I would omit such a source completely. As we shall see, this meant that many important alleged statements made by secular Zionists did not appear in my paper.
An example of this is the letter written by Nathan Schwalb, who was the Jewish Agency’s representative in Switzerland, in which he stated “And so it would be foolish and even impertinent on our side to ask the nations whose blood is being spilled for permission to send their money to the land of their enemies in order to protect our own blood. Because only through blood [of the Jews of the Diaspora] will the land be ours, As to yourselves – [members of his group] – you will get out and for this purpose I am providing you with black money by this courier.” This letter was in Hebrew but written with English characters. We know of its contents since Rabbi Michael Ber Weissmandel saw it and recorded its contents from memory in his book. However the original letter has disappeared – possibly it was intentionally destroyed. The archives of Schwalb which are at the Labour Movement Archives in Tel Aviv were until recently closed to the public. However, they have now been opened and I started to investigate how to travel to these Archives.
This letter is referred to by Abraham Fuchs in his book “The Unheeded Cry.” In December 2004, I contacted him and he said that he had searched for this letter in these archives but could not find it, and that neither could others who had searched. He added that should I every come across this letter, I should let him know. Fuchs felt that that one could not blame Schwalb too much for this letter. He was only about 30 years old at the time and was carrying out the policy of the Jewish Agency.
An infamous quote that many books attribute to Yitzchak Gruenbaum is that “One cow in Palestine is worth more than all the Jews of Palestine.” However, those bringing this quote don’t state a source, or, if they do, the quote does not appear in such a source. I therefore decided to ask a question on the Wikipedia Reference desk for the source of this quote. One person answered said he had searched via “Google Book Search” and had found a very similar quote in the book “Three Cities” by the Yiddish novelist Sholem Asch. He then added that “it’s possible that Greenbaum (sic) was quoting from the book.” As yet, I myself have found no evidence of Gruenbaum making that statement.
I found in a paper that Chaim Weizmann had, on the day following Kristallnacht, said that although one must do everything to save the Jews of Germany, it must not be at the expense of the main objective, namely Eretz Yisrael. This paper stated that this statement appeared in the newspaper “Davar” on 11 November 1938. I searched the microfilm of “Davar” in the Jewish National Library but could not find this quote. I accordingly wrote to the Weizmann Archives in February 2005, asking them “whether this quote is authentic and if so, where the original may be found.” They replied “I could not find the exact quotation, but it sound (sic) as Chaim Weizmann said it.”
Sometimes the reference for a quote was incorrectly given. An example was for the statement made by Ben-Gurion that “Our political future is more important than saving 2,900 Jews.” Several sources reported that it was to be found in Moshe Shertok’s (Sharett) diary entry for 18 November 1939. I first looked up this date in the printed edition of his diary, but this quote was not there; however there were dots in this entry, indicating an omission in the printed version. I therefore ordered the handwritten edition, which is now on a microfilm in the Central Zionist Archives – but again no luck. It then crossed my mind that maybe it appeared in Ben-Gurion’s diary for that date. However, I decided to check the diary entries for Shertok on the days before and after the 18 November and, lo and behold, I found it in the entry for 13 November! I therefore again ordered the microfilm of the diary and had the appropriate page photocopied.
Almost without exception, the various archives where the material I required was to be found, were cooperative and sent me copies of their material. On one occasion the archives asked if they could fax it to me. However there was a defect in the faxed copy and I asked them to post me a photocopy, which they did. The only case of a refusal was with an individual who had in his possession a copy of one document which I wanted. When I answered him what I wanted it for, he replied that he would not supply me with any document since I was in competition with him!
In Moshe Shonfeld’s book, he reproduced the first and last page of a letter which Henry Montor, the Executive Vice-Chairman of the United Jewish Appeal for Refugees, had sent Rabbi Baruch Rabinowitz on selective immigration to Eretz Yisrael, including the rejection of the Aliyah of old people. Unfortunately the page regarding this rejection was not reproduced.
I therefore, at the end of July 2004, began a search to locate a copy of this letter. I contacted his community in Hagerstown in Maryland where Rabinowitz had been the Rabbi. All they could give me was a telephone number in Israel. However this turned out to be an office in Kfar Saba, which had no connection whatsoever with my search! Somehow (I don’t remember how) I then received an e-mail from the Jewish Museum of Maryland which put me in touch with the “David Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies” where the “Baruch Rabinowitz Papers” are located. It would seem that from an obituary of Baruch written by this Institute, I discovered that Malka Robbins (Rabinowitz), the widow of Baruch, had lived in Elon Moreh. I therefore contacted Benny Katzover, a former Mayor of the Shomron Regional Council, who lives in Elon Moreh and he gave me her daughter’s telephone number, and using that, I finally succeeded in obtaining Malka’s telephone number, which was in Nokdim, a settlement of Gush Etzion. At the time she was abroad and only in November 2004 did I manage to speak to her. She said that she thought she had a copy of the Montor letter and she would look for it. However, she was unable to do so since soon after she broke her hand but she then informed me that she thinks that the original of that letter in the Jabotinsky Archives and I accordingly contacted them.
Finally I managed to receive copies of this letter from a number of the sources I had contacted. It was fortunate that I did, since I needed a copy as perfect as possible because I intended to reproduce it in my booklet. One of the copies I received had underlining’s under the passage I wanted. In another it was poorly photocopied particularly at that passage, and only one of the photocopies I received was satisfactory for my use.
Another chapter of my paper concerned Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld. He was involved with fights with the British secular Zionists who sabotaged his attempts to find refuge for Jews under Nazi occupation. There were several books which spoke about this fight, and the archives for his papers are in Southampton University. One particular document that I wanted was a telegram sent by the South African Zionists asking why there were visas to send refugee Rabbis to Mauritius and not Palestine – (due to the war and political situation it was Mauritius or nowhere!). Southampton University photocopied for me at no charge their catalogue of the Schonfeld papers. It was over one hundred pages long and included the names of thousands of children who were in the Kindertransports. They obviously realised that this catalogue might not be of much help for my research, since in an accompanying note they wrote, “I fear there may not be a great deal of relevance for you in this material, but enclose the section of the catalogue for your information.” They also sent me an order form which stated the conditions appertaining to obtaining photocopies from them. After going through this catalogue, I was able to inform them where I thought they would find this telegram. Unfortunately despite many letters and telephone calls between us, on and off for a period of two years, they could not locate it. I also on the off chance searched for it in the files of the South African Zionists at the Central Zionist Archives, but again, without success.
From various archives in Israel, I assembled a number of photocopies of relevant primary documents. I also, from the Jewish National Library newspaper microfilms and files assembled further material.
I was then in a position to write up my paper. The subjects included how the secular Zionists used their own priorities to issue the limited available immigration certificates to Eretz Yisrael; how their agenda took precedence over saving Jewish lives; how they tried to sabotage the Evian Conference which, if successful, would have given Jews a refuge in a number of countries to the endangered Jews of Europe; the refusal to give Zionist funds to rescue Jews; and how the British Secular Zionists also tried to sabotage rescue activities. I would, throughout this paper, show the contrast with Torah Jewry, who did their utmost to rescue all Jews at that period, irrespective of their political orientation or religiosity.
As I said above, the novelty of this paper was to show facsimiles of the relevant sections of the primary documents containing the letters and speeches of the Secular Zionists. In doing this, I utilized the heading and the relevant portions of the documents. In the case of a letter I would also include the signature of the writer. An asterisk after the number of the footnote informed the reader that a facsimile of the section of the document containing this quote would be found after the text part of the paper.
In the photocopy of the microfilm of Shertok’s diary, there was a line through the words I wanted to illustrate. However this was not a crossing out! This line appeared on every frame of the microfilm. Shertok himself had made a handwritten copy of this part of his diary and a printed copy has been published. Needless to say that in these two items, there is no line and I therefore also reproduced the relevant part of them in my paper.
Naturally, every file in the Central Zionist Archives has its “call number”. I noticed however, that with the files dealing with “rescue”, the same “call number” had been given for two different files, or a particular file had a different “call number” than had been quoted in various books and articles! On enquiry, I was told that the Central Zionist Archives had in the past changed the numbering of these files. However, I must say that I found this very confusing in my research and I am sure that other researchers will feel likewise.
My booklet was published in August 2007 and amongst those I sent copies to were some libraries, Malka Robbins, Tzvi Weinman and Abraham Fuchs. A copy of the text (without the facsimiles of the documents, due to limitations in the memory of my website) was put on to my site on the Internet.
In January 2008, I received by post from Eire, a booklet. A copy of my paper had been sent by Philip Power to Alan Shatter. (Via the Internet, I discovered Shatter was a member of the Dail Eireann, the lower house of the Irish Parliament.) Most of the front page of this booklet was a photograph of Shatter and this was followed by my entire paper, properly attributed to me. Power had written in a letter to Shatter, “I ... wondered if you would be so kind as to read the enclosed and give me your opinion.” As yet, I have heard nothing further on this.