How Orthodox Jews Escaped from, and Fought, the Nazis

During World War II, Orthodox Jews in America—and Hasidim especially—undertook intensive efforts to rescue leading rabbis as well as yeshiva students, often with remarkable success. Glenn Dynner documents some of these efforts, which got hundreds if not thousands of Jews out of Europe before the slaughter began in earnest. For instance, there is the story of the escape of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, which, in Dynner’s words, is “stranger than fiction.”

To rescue their rebbe, American Lubavitchers activated a remarkable network of political connections that included the New York state senator and judge Philip Kleinfeld, Senator Robert F. Wagner, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Representative Adolph J. Sabath, Representative Sol Bloom, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, Roosevelt’s adviser Benjamin V. Cohen, and Robert T. Pell, assistant chief of the State Department’s European Affairs Division.

Pell managed to convince Helmuth Wohlthat, the chief administrator of Hermann Göring’s Four-Year Plan, that helping Schneersohn leave Poland would restore some goodwill between Germany and the United States. (The two countries were not yet at war.) A part-Jewish Nazi officer named Ernst Bloch was chosen to spearhead the rescue mission.

Dynner also tells a story that gives the lie to the stereotype of the timid and unwarlike yeshiva student, and of Jewish passivity in the face of the Nazis:

In Lublin, 45 remaining Yeshivat Hakhmei Lublin students were arrested or shot as early as November 1939. They did not go quietly: a Nazi officer admitted to having met “unexpected and stubborn resistance by a large group of Jewish youths with beards and sidelocks clad in long clothing [who] fortified themselves in the large building of the yeshiva where they studied and shot at German soldiers from the windows and holes in the walls.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: Chabad, East European Jewry, Hasidim, Holocaust, Holocaust rescue

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7