Two Anti-Semitic Tyrants and One Jewish Family

“So there came in the West a booted ruler with a little mustache, and in the East a booted ruler with a big mustache, and both of them together kicked the wise man to the ground and he sank into the mud.” Thus the novelist Chaim Grade has one of his characters describe the fate of Central European Jewry in the 1930s and 40s. These words aptly describe the story told in Hitler, Stalin, Mum and Dad, the British journalist and Conservative peer Daniel Finkelstein’s telling of his family’s experiences in the 20th century. Robert Philpot recounts what befell some of its key characters:

Finkelstein’s grandfathers were impressive men. A fiercely patriotic German Jew, Alfred Wiener can lay claim to having been one of the first intellectuals to sound the alarm about the rise of anti-Semitism after World War I. “A mighty anti-Semitic storm has broken over us,” he wrote in his 1919 tract, Prelude to Pogroms? Working for the main German Jewish communal body throughout the 1920s, he accurately predicted the danger posed by the Nazi party, then still very much a fringe movement.

After Alfred left Germany in 1933—traveling first to the Netherlands, then to Britain in 1939 and the US in 1940—his now-renamed Jewish Central Information Office continued meticulously to track the Nazis’ activities. During World War II, Alfred’s files became, one of the heads of British wartime intelligence said, “by far the most useful of the outside sources of information available to us.”

No less impressive was Finkelstein’s paternal grandmother, Lusia, who lived in the Polish city of Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine) with her husband Dolu Finkelstein when World War II began:

The [1939] Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, under which Hitler and Stalin had secretly agreed to carve up Poland, saw Lwów occupied by the Soviets. As a member of the Polish elite, which Stalin was determined to destroy, Dolu was detained in April 1940, interrogated for months, and found guilty in absentia of being a “socially dangerous element.” In freezing temperatures, he was then transported 2,175 miles to a gulag on the edge of the Arctic Circle, where he was to serve his eight-year sentence. It was a brutal existence, with Dolu initially reduced to serving as a packhorse, hauling felled trees through a nearby forest.

Lusia and [and her son] Ludwik, meanwhile, fared little better. As part of the Soviets’ plan to smash Poland and suppress its people, they were exiled to a state farm in Siberia. It was, Lusia, later recalled, “an island of hunger and death.” Existing on small rations of unsifted flour, she made bricks from cow dung by day and slept in a cowshed by night. The winter—when she and Ludwik shared a small room in a freezing shack with four others—was worse still.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Jewish history, Joseph Stalin, Nazism, Polish Jewry, World War II

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security