Religious : : Thoughts from Our Rabbi

As we begin this month of May at 3:00 pm May 1st with the observance of Yom HaShoah, the voices of six million yet cry out before God for justice. The Shoah arouses feelings within us that are difficult to bear and raises questions to which we have no answers. It is difficult to know how to respond. We want to understand, though there is no possibility of understanding. It challenges our faith in God, in religion, and
our faith in humanity.

We have no answer but the sound of silence. Yet we must never say and never teach that the Shoah represented the will of God, that the Shoah was God’s punishment, or that it was justified because soon followed the creation of the State of Israel. We may not have the answers, but some answers we must reject completely for the honor of our people and the honor of God.

From early 1941 to April 1945, citizens of the Third German Reich and those who cooperated with them butchered some six million Jews, mostly in Eastern Europe. Often with no humility, we hear the question: Where was the Jewish resistance? or more bluntly, Why did they go like sheep to the slaughter?

Of the six million, some 2.5 million plus need to outside the frame of discussion: 1.5 million infants and children; more than one-half million aged; more than one-quarter million blind, crippled, mentally ill, or with serious disease. Then about 300,000 Hasidic orthodox Jews, whose leaders held the belief like Job, What, shall we receive good at the hand of God and not receive evil? Children or aged or ill or offering glory to the living God, the Nazis murdered them all. Yet these being what they were, are all outside the harsh question why didn’t they fight?

Resistance fighters do not have the power of a state to control a group of people and wage war. We create Resistance individually and voluntarily. The Germans decreed death as legal punishment for resistance. Often, entire families, all apartment building residents or all workers in a factory were murdered as punishment for a single gun found. A brave person can choose fight yet can they consign the un-consulted to death? This led to indecision.

In addition, no resistance movement can exist among a people hostile to it as people will refuse it help and betray or fight it. In WWII, the strength of resistance movements in each country was directly proportional to the anti-Nazi sentiment. The German people were not anti-Nazi and the same in Austria, Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria. The Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, and Ukrainians murdered Jews on their own, receiving grudging admiration from the SS. The Polish resistance took its orders from the government-in-exile in London and had no unified policy toward the Jews. Not only no fertile soil existed for anti-German resistance, populations that were historically violently anti-Semitic surrounded the Jewish ghettos. Unlike any resistance movement in history, no Jewish resistance in the Eastern Europe could safely seek allies among the surrounding populations, not even those fighting the Germans.

They had no weapons. All along the Eastern Front, no Allied army ever parachuted or supplied arms to the Jewish resistance in the ghettos or forests. The Jews were isolated in 85 ghettos across Eastern Europe; cutoff from each other and alone. Early on, there was no Final Solution, Jews shoved into the ghettos by the Germans also sought safety. They worked in labor camps holding onto hope to survive. “They need our labor, why would they kill us?” The most evil deception was crafted with care. The Jews were starved, given barely enough calories to stand up.

So the wonder that emerges, is not that the majority went un- resistant to their deaths, but despite their isolation and terror of their reality, Jews in the hundreds of thousands in the eastern ghettos did resist and fight. Stand with us to say: Never Again!

B’vrachot, blessings, Rabbi Dennis