Remembering Frank Blaichman, a Jewish Partisan Hero

Jan. 31 2019

Born in the Polish town of Kamionka in 1922, Frank Blaichman died last month in his Manhattan home. In 1942, three years after the start of the Nazi occupation, Blaichman fled Kamionka for the forests, where he found fellow Jews eager to fight back against the Third Reich. Neil Genzlinger writes:

[Blaichman soon] organized a defense force, though at first its main weapon was illusion created with pitchforks. “We broke off all the teeth, left one tooth on, and put a strap on the shoulder,” he said in [his] oral history. “From far away it looked like a rifle.”

Illusion of a sort also helped them acquire real weapons in the winter of 1942-43. His group learned of a farmer who had a stash of guns. He and another man went to see the farmer and convinced him that they were Russian paratroopers under orders to establish a resistance unit to battle the Germans. The ruse worked. “When we headed back to the forest, we had eight weapons,” Mr. Blaichman wrote. “Finally we could defend ourselves.”

The group grew more sophisticated and better armed, and Blaichman eventually commanded more than 100 armed Jewish partisans. His group linked up with other Jewish partisans, as well as groups like the [Polish] Communist partisan force Armia Ludowa, and spent the war disrupting German supply lines and communications and ferreting out Poles who were collaborating with the Nazis.

After the war Blaichman was assigned to the Polish Security Police, a unit of Poland’s new government, and given the job of tracking down Nazi collaborators. [In his memoir], Blaichman [depicted] certain other resistance groups as being severely anti-Semitic. That anti-Semitism . . . continued in postwar Poland. “As part of my job, I had interviewed many Poles who, unaware that I was a Jew, made no attempt to conceal their feelings about Jews,” he wrote. “As a result, I had come to realize the depth of Polish anti-Semitism.”

Blaichman and his wife, also a partisan veteran, quickly decided Poland was no place for Jews and emigrated to the U.S. Besides writing a book about his experiences, he was also active in efforts to commemorate Jewish resistance, and was instrumental in the creation of Jerusalem’s memorial to the partisans.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Resistance

European Aid to the Middle East Is Shaped by a Political Agenda

Feb. 18 2019

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Unit dispenses millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance to dozens of countries every year. Although it claims to operate on principles of strict neutrality, independent of any political motivation and giving priority to the neediest cases, a look at its activities in the Middle East suggests an entirely different approach, as Hillel Frisch writes:

[T]he Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid—nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros. . . . The bulk of the funds goes toward meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, “Palestine,” and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount. The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh. . . . The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, . . . receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states receive less than one-eighth of that amount. . . .

Even less defensible is the EU’s claim to political neutrality. Its favoritism toward the Palestinians on this score is visible as soon as one enters terms into the general search function on the European Commission’s website. Enter “Palestine” and you get 20,737 results. Enter “Ethiopia” and you get almost the same figure, despite massive differences in population size (Ethiopia’s 100 million versus fewer than 5 million Palestinians), geographic expanse (Ethiopia is 50 times the size of “Palestine”), and degree of sheer suffering. The Syrian crisis, which is said to have led to the loss of a half-million lives, merits not many more site results than “Palestine.”

One of the foci of the website’s reports [on the Palestinians] is the plight of 35,000 Bedouin whom the EU assists, often in clear violation of the law, in Area C—the part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control. The hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Sinai, however, the plight of whom is readily acknowledged even by Egyptian officials, gets no mention, even though Egypt is a recipient of EU aid. . . .

Clearly, the EU’s approach to aid allocation has nothing to do with impartiality, true social-welfare needs, or humanitarian considerations. [Instead], it favors allocations to Syrian refugees above Yemeni refugees because of the higher probability that Syrian refugees will find their way to Europe. . . . The recipients of European largesse who are next in line [to Syrians], in relative terms, are the Palestinians. [This particular policy] can be attributed primarily to the EU’s hostility toward Israel, its rightful historical claims, and its security needs.

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More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians