A Few Pre-Rosh Hashana Thoughts

1. I just read “The Tehran Operation: the Rescue of Jewish Children from the Nazis”, based on the diaries of David and Rachel Laor. More extraordinary life stories coming out of World War II in Europe. David and Rachel, teenagers who did not know each other, escaped the Nazis by moving east into Russian controlled territory with their families. The Russians were less than friendly to Polish refugees, Jewish or not, and many were arrested on various grounds and sent to work camps in the far north. Rachel’s family wound up in Siberia; David wound up in Karelia, the Russian area on the Finnish boarder. After several years in the camps living under terrible conditions, in 1941, the Russians freed all Polish prisoners, again Jewish or Christian. Many freed Polish citizens traveled south, in an attempt to get to Iran, which was neutral in the war, and agreed to accept Poles on a temporary basis. Of course, it was not easy to get to the southern parts of the Soviet Union, it was not easy to leave the country, and it was not easy to get to Iran.

Many of these refugees were Jewish, many were alone, having lost family members along the way, or even before their initial arrest. Many were children.

David and Rachel were quite resourceful and wound up helping Jewish children escape to a temporary transit center/camp in Iran. Their individual stories (how they got where they got) were remarkable. But this is true also of each of the children.

Eventually, they went by ship from Iran to Karachi, and from Karachi to Aden, and from Aden to the Suez and then overland to Palestine. David and Rachel married.

But the foci of the book: a nice if sometimes hard pre-war life in Poland, harrowing escapes following the German invasion in 1939, a new life under the Russians, arrests and transports to the north, and conditions in the northern work camps, liberation, confusion traveling south, trying to find lost relatives (sometimes successfully, sometimes miraculously), working with the children, making arrangements for the trip to Palestine, and the trip itself. A story of David and Rachel and their family members, to be sure, but also of the people they met in the work camps, on the road, in Uzbekistan waiting for an opportunity to leave, the children in Tehran. So many stories, each the same, each different.

Which leads to the old question: why virulent anti-Semitism? And that brings me to another book, this one by John Beaty, called “Iron Curtain Over America”, written in 1951, the story of how the Jews, and especially the Zionists, and their willing tools the Democrats, and the Bolsheviks, wreaked havoc on 20th century America, and how the Germans under Hitler, and those who should have been their natural allies, the Anglo-Saxons and Germans who constituted 80% or so of the American population, should have been able to stop them. Like many other similar books, this book purports to be an historical account, filled with quotes and references and allusions. Someone reading it cold would have to say: boy, this guy is smart, this is interesting history.

I am reading through parts of Beaty’s book. My question is how it is possible to write a book that appears to be so carefully researched, and which obviously took a great deal of effort, and reach such inane conclusions. In this case, that the Jews are really Asiatic Khazars who have always been semi-savages (like the Turks), with a totally different mind set than Americans or Western Europeans, and who have been out to destroy western civilization. Do the writers believe what they write? Do they all work backwards from their conclusions to fill in the historical blanks, knowing that they are creating distortions, and selectively leaving things out (such as German discrimination against the Jews or even the Holocaust)? They aren’t dumb; if they were, they couldn’t turn out books like this. But if they are smart, why aren’t they smart enough to know better?

Beaty would conclude that, i assume, that the Germans were right in invading Poland to stop the judaizing of Europe, that the Bolsheviks were wrong in arresting Poles, but not wrong in arresting Polish Jews, etc. etc. How can someone reach these conclusions?

Two books, two things to think about on Rosh Hashana. Why do these things happen, and why do some people obviously think that they should?

Last Saturday, at the Slichot services at my synagogue, Zemer Chai, Washington’s Jewish choir, sang. The music, in Hebrew, Engish and Yiddish, the tunes familiar and new religious and secular, prose and poetry, well selected and beautifully performed. For a while, you can forget some of the horrors, and luxuriate in the sounds.

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