« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

Chapter V

The Jews challenge the White Paper

As already mentioned, Britain decided to adhere to its White Paper on Palestine regardless of costs. These climbed by the day because the Jews of Palestine challenged Britain on every corner in Palestine. Military actions became a daily occurrence. Illegal ships with Shoah survivors streamed to the shores of the Holy Land. Fights ensued aboard the ships that were intercepted by the British navy and brought to the port of Haifa. Force had to be used because these survivors were determined to get to their potential home in Palestine and were willing to pay the price. Screaming headlines and pictures showed tattooed concentration camp survivors being manhandled by British soldiers. The pictures enraged the Palestinian Jews who had lost most of their families in Europe. The pictures also awakened American Jewry to action. It was told to wait until the war ended. The military action demanded full attention. The British were extremely well adapted to this game of conferences, meetings and understatements; namely the Jewish problems would be solved after the war. The war finished and still no action. Pictures began to appear of British soldiers pushing and shoving Jewish Shoah survivors with numbers. These photos galvanized American Jewry into action. American Jewry demanded acts: let the Jews enter their homeland. British leaders did not expect such a forceful reaction. They expected more conferences and tea sessions. The pressure on the White House increased by the day; President Truman had to do something. He urged Britain to admit about 100,000 Jewish refugees. Britain refused. Both governments decided to form a committee to try to solve the problem.

The Anglo–American Committee of Inquiry was a joint British and American committee assembled in Washington on January 4, 1946. The Committee was tasked to examine political, economic and social conditions in Mandatory Palestine as they bore upon the problem of Jewish immigration and settlement, to consult representatives of Arabs and Jews, and to make other recommendations if necessary.

The Committee visited Washington, D.C., and London to gauge the official American and British policies and positions toward Palestine. They proceeded to Vienna where they visited a displaced persons camp and interviewed Holocaust survivors, then Cairo to

 

chi057.jpg
David Ben–Gurion testifying before the Anglo–American Committee of Inquiry

 

discuss Arab sentiments. The Committee then visited Palestine and spent three weeks there. Rabbi Herzog appeared before the Committee and pleaded for the admission of Jewish refuges to their homeland. He described the displaced person camps in Italy that he had just visited and where he saw hopeless people who had no home and were wanted by nobody. David Ben Gurion and Chaim Weitzman, president of the World Zionist Organization, also appeared before the Committee. The Committee visited Jewish and Arab areas, and heard testimony from or held meetings with many Jewish, Arab and British officials. The Committee finally retired to Lausanne, Switzerland, to debate and draft its findings that were published on April 20, 1946. The Committee recommended the admission of 100,000 Jewish refugees to Palestine immediately, permission to sell and buy land and a few other recommendations.

United States President Harry S. Truman endorsed the Committee's recommendation that 100,000 Jewish refugees be immediately admitted into Palestine, and the right of the Jews to purchase land. The British government refused to accept the recommendations and used all kinds of delaying tactics ostensibly because of concern that the Arabs of the region would attack the Jews in Palestine. Suddenly Britain was concerned about Jewish safety. The situation in Palestine deteriorated rapidly and the British military expenditures grew by the day, expenditures that it could not afford. Furthermore, President Truman was getting irritated by the British unwillingness to make some concessions. Bevin continued his white paper policies and refused to listen. He forced Truman's hand to act. Truman faced tremendous public pressure to do something prior to elections or he would face the loss of the presidency. He tried to talk to the anti–Semitic Bevin to help him by making some gestures. Bevin refused and decided to send the illegal Jews to camps in Cyprus or Germany, causing a deep rift between the United States and Britain.

Rabbi Herzog rested a bit and met well wishers and supporters at home. He was determined to return to Europe and devote himself to saving Jewish children who had survived the war in non–Jewish homes. In his mind, he began to evolve a plan similar to the one that involved the “Teheran Children” with which he was involved, that is, a large transport of Jewish children. He and his son Yaakov began to think of ways to implement the plan. Meanwhile, the rabbi's requests for a visa to Poland were not answered. The British government tried to keep Palestine isolated. The rabbi's application was not rejected nor answered. Rabbi Herzog turned for help to the Joint Distribution Committee, headed by Charles Passman in Jerusalem. The answer was

 

chi058.jpg
Letter informing Rabbi Herzog that a visa is waiting for him to visit Poland

 

soon received in the form of a letter dated December 29, 1945, that was sent from the office of the JDC to Rabbi Herzog. The letter contained a cable received from David Guzik, head of the JDC in Poland who requested that the cable be delivered to Rabbi Herzog.

 

chi059.jpg
David Guzik

 

David Guzik, a prewar official of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, or JDC, in Poland, emerged from hiding and took matters into his own hands.[1] Throughout the war he had been active raising money for the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw and later for the Jewish revolt in Warsaw. Following the war he assumed the post of Director of JDC in Poland. Guzik was well connected and keenly aware of the problems that Jews faced in liberated Poland. He organized an extensive system of welfare assistance to the surviving Jewish communities in Poland. He gave aid to Jewish old age homes and orphanages and organized an extensive operation to bring food, medicine and money that was so desperately needed by Polish Jews. He died tragically in a plane accident on March 5, 1946, in Prague.

Rabbi Steinberg was also involved in Jewish religious life in liberated Poland. Both had influence and used it to get the necessary travel document for Rabbi Herzog. In the JDC cable to Rabbi Herzog, the suggested contact for the rabbi is “Rabbi Dr. Kahana.”

David Kahana was at the time one of the few rabbis in Poland to have survived while hiding during the Shoah.[2] Rabbi Kahana later became Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Air Force and then Chief Rabbi of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was born March 15, 1902, in the village of Grzymalow in the Tarnopol region of Eastern Galicia.[3] He was ordained as a rabbi in 1929 in Vienna where he also received his Ph.D. After his studies, Kahana settled in Lwow (Lemberg), Poland, and became the rabbi of the Sistoska Synagogue.[4]

 

chi060.jpg
Rabbi Dr. Major David Kahana in his military uniform (with his family)

 

He held that position until the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939. In his memoir Lwow Ghetto Diary, Rabbi Kahana describes how he survived the war by playing cat and mouse with the Nazi troops searching the city for Jews.[5] At one point, Kahane describes how he scurried out from behind a place he was hiding and ran while Nazi soldiers shot at him. But Kahane was soon captured and moved with the other Jews of Lwow to the ghetto built by the Nazis. Eventually he was deported from the ghetto and wound up in the Janowska labor camp outside the city of Lwow.[6] Janowska was also a transit camp. From there Jews unfit to work were sent to the death camp of Belzec. According to Rabbi Kahane, conditions in the camp were so horrible they defied description. Kahane escaped the Janowska camp and pleaded for refuge in the palace of Lwow's Ukrainian Metropolitan Archbishop, Andreas Sheptytsky. During the war, Sheptytsky harbored hundreds of Jews in his residence and in Greek Catholic monasteries. He also issued the now famous pastoral letter, “Thou Shalt Not Kill” to protest Nazi atrocities.

By the end of World War II, over one and a half million innocent Jewish children had been slaughtered by the Nazis. But some Jewish children survived because parents rushed to neighbors and friends, even to the local priests, monasteries and convents, begging shelter for the children. If possible, parents trekked to peasant farmers they knew in the Polish countryside and paid to have the children hidden. Reportedly, some parents tossed their children over walls the Nazis had built around Jewish ghettos in hopes the children would be picked up by a passing tender–hearted Pole.

According to later testimony by Rabbi Kahana, the Jewish religious establishment debated whether it was permissible to hide Jewish children in Christian institutions. Kahana said most of the rabbis were in favor of the move, “believing that, if the children survived, someone would remove them from the convents and return them to the fold.” Several rabbis, however, believed it preferable for the children to die with the rest of their families and their people rather than be placed in a convent. Rabbi Kahana disagreed, believing the highest duty of a Jew was to save the children's lives. He arranged with the archbishop to place his own daughter in a convent. She survived the Shoah as did Kahane's wife, who was admitted to a Uniate institution under orders of Archbishop Sheptytsky. The archbishop also issued orders to the Uniate convents of the Studite Order in Eastern Galicia to accept Jewish children and hide them. Mother General Josefa–Helena Witer, head of the Convents of the Uniate Studite Order in Eastern Galicia, personally greeted Jewish children and distributed them among her institutions, ensuring their safety. Archbishop Sheptytsky died in 1944 and is buried in St. George's Cathedral in Lwow. Kahana's experience led him to a deep understanding of the complexities the Jewish community faced following the war. Having survived with his family due to the good offices of the Christian community, he respected any Christian family or institution that harbored Jews during the Nazi terrorist rule. With the liberation, Lwow became Soviet territory and Rabbi Kahana began the uphill battle of reviving the decimated Jewish community.

One day, Kahana was surprised to receive an invitation to come to Lublin to meet Emil Sommerstein, head of the temporary Central Organization of Polish Jews in liberated Poland, and a member of the Soviet–sponsored Polish government.[7] Sommerstein had convinced the government of the need to establish a Jewish chaplaincy in the Polish Army. When Kahana arrived, Sommerstein took him to meet the Polish Minister of Defense, General Rola–Zymierski, who offered Kahana the job of Chief Military Chaplain of the Polish Army, with the rank of major (he was later promoted to colonel). The rabbi thanked the Polish minister but insisted that he be given permission to revitalize the destroyed Jewish religious communities in liberated Poland. His request was granted and he appointed Chaplain Aaron Becker to organize the Association of Jewish Religious Community Centers (AJRCC) in liberated Poland. He also hired Yeshayahu Drucker who was promoted to the rank of captain in the Polish army attached to the chaplaincy office. Rabbi Kahana provided Drucker with a list of communities that he would have to visit and where he would conduct services during the forthcoming High Holidays. Drucker began to assemble the necessary materials for the communities and set out to infuse the surviving Jews with some hope and fortitude. The most important message that he carried was that the Jews were not isolated and hopeless. The chaplains were also busy preparing lists of Polish Jewish officers who wanted to retire from the army. These lists were then submitted to Rabbi Kahana who in turn submitted them to the Polish minister of defense, Marshal Michal Rola–Zimiersky. The latter usually approved the requests and some officers then left Poland while others retired to civilian life as did Aaron Drucker.

The chaplaincy office received many letters from Poland, the United States, Palestine and Britain inquiring about the whereabouts of their families in Poland. The next question followed: Were there any survivors?. The office replied if it had information. Many letters informed the chaplaincy office that some of their family survivors lived with non–Jews and asked for help and advice. The chaplaincy office was also frequently visited by local Polish Jews who asked for help in redeeming their relatives from non–Jewish homes. One Jewish couple visited the chaplaincy office several times begging for help. Rabbi Kahana asked Drucker to help the couple. Drucker had no experience in dealing with the redemption of Jewish children from non–Jewish homes.. Still, he asked the couple to his office and listened to their story. They told him that their nephew was living with a non–Jewish baker. The couple had talked to the baker but he did not want to let the boy go and the boy was attached to the baker. Drucker did not know where to start.

Drucker asked the Jewish couple to join him and they went to meet the baker at the village of Wesola, near Warsaw. The baker refused to give up the child who also refused to leave the baker. They returned empty handed to the capital. Drucker pondered various approaches to solve the problem. He started to visit the baker and appealed to his religious conscience as a man who had done a great deed in saving the child but now was acting in a selfish manner. He also stressed that the law was on the side of the relatives. After several meetings, the baker mellowed his stand.[8] Drucker then mentioned to the baker that he was entitled to some monetary compensation for his expenses in providing food and shelter to the boy. These were difficult times in Poland where everything was very expensive and everybody could use some money. Finally, the baker consented to release the child, who was named Tulusz. The boy remained with the baker because the couple had no place for him and Drucker had no place for him. Finally, the Jewish couple received a certificate to Palestine and took the boy. The story made the rounds of the Polish Jewish community in Warsaw and Drucker became a local Jewish hero. Years later, Drucker met the boy in Israel who told him that the so–called relatives were not related to him. They had wanted a child and invented the whole family story. Drucker and Rabbi Kahana were bothered by the fact that there was no acceptable location to place children who had been redeemed from non–Jewish homes. There was one option, to take the child and place him or her in a home of the Central Committee of Polish Jews. Both Rabbi Kahana and Chaplain Drucker did not like the idea of placing a Jewish child in these homes. Most of the Central Committee members were committed to the idea that Jewish life should be restored in Poland. Most of them were opposed to the emigration of Jews to other countries namely the Bund and the Jewish Communists. The Central committee began to restore Jewish life in the liberated areas of Poland. It established a child welfare department headed by Dr. Shlomo Hershhorn, a member of the Bund, who developed guidelines for the Jewish orphanages that were

 

chi061.jpg
Poster of the Bund movement in Yiddish stating that; “your home is where you live”.
The poster aimed at the Zionist movement that encouraged Jews to move to Palestine.

 

under the control of the committee. These guidelines stressed the Yiddish language and some aspects of Yiddish culture. But no Jewish history, religion or Hebrew was taught. The official Polish school curriculum was followed at the homes. The committee guidelines were sent to the Jewish orphanages in Yiddish but they reflected the new regime. The stress of these guidelines was socialist brotherly love and love of Poland under the new leadership. Rabbi Kahana and Chaplain Drucker did not work hard to place the redeemed Jewish child in such a home. Rabbi Kahana and the chaplains realized that they must have a home to which the rescued children could be sent. A home was soon located in Zabrze or Hindenburg near Katowice. The building was originally a home

 

chi062.jpg
Zabrze orphanage

 

for the aged of the Jewish community of Hindenburg. The building survived the war and was given to the association of the Jewish religious communities in Poland. To maintain its original charter, the upstairs was reopened as an old age home and the bottom floors were reserved for the children. The building was part of a compound of the Jewish community that had several buildings, most of which had survived the war. Unfortunately the synagogue of Zabrze was torched during the pogrom of the “Broken Glass” November 9–10, 1938. The building was totally destroyed as was the local Jewish community a few years later. Drucker devoted himself to one task, redeeming Jewish children from non–Jewish homes and institutions. Another home was soon acquired for the association at Gluszyca near Waldenburg or Walbrzych. This home was mostly for Jewish children repatriated from the Soviet Union. Both homes needed large sums of money to keep going. The Central Committee of Polish Jews, the Polish Joint Distribution Committee, the Vaad Hatzala, the chief rabbi of England, Rabbi Hertz, and Rabbi Herzog supported these homes. As a matter of fact, Rabbi Kahana and Rabbi Herzog were in constant contact by mail. Rabbi Kahana kept Rabbi Herzog posted on events in Poland, especially Jewish events.

 

chi063.jpg
The Gluszyca Home for Children and Old People, 1946–1947

 

chi064.jpg
Rabbi Kahane and Becker visit the Children's Home at Gluszyca near Walbrzych, Poland

 

Rabbi Kahana replied that he needed another chaplain in his office. He also informed Drucker that he would send his car to bring him to Warsaw. On the scheduled day, the car arrived and Drucker was driven to the office of the chaplaincy at 16 Allee Sucha in Warsaw, formerly the Gestapo headquarters in Warsaw. This was the residence of Rabbi Kahana and the chaplaincy offices as well as the offices of the Association of Polish Jewish Religious Communities. Drucker was promoted to the rank of Captain in the Polish Army. His major assignment would consist in helping restore Jewish religious communities throughout liberated Poland and providing them with the necessary religious articles such as prayer books, bibles and prayer shawls. Druckers job would also include searching for and locating rabbis who had survived the war among the repatriated Jews from the Soviet Union and assigning them to communities that wanted rabbinical help. It would also be his job to help restore Jewish cemeteries and assist in opening kosher kitchens.[9] Chaplain Drucker accepted the position.


Footnotes

  1. William Leibner, Zabrze–Hindenburg–Zabrze Yizkor Book. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, pp.50–54 Return
  2. William , Leibner, Mass Exit Transport of Jewish Children from Poland, Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2010. Return
  3. Kahana, David, Rabbi. After the Deluge, Jerusalem, Israel 1981 pp, 12–14. Return
  4. Ibid, pp .12–14. Return
  5. Kahana, David Rabbi. Lwow Ghetto Diary. Jerusalem, 1978, p.87 Return
  6. Ibid, p.125 Return
  7. Kahana, Deluge, pp12–14. Return
  8. Drucker, Testimony, p.38 Return
  9. Drucker Tapes at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem Return

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Children Train     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2019 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 26 Mar 2018 by JH