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Jewish Honor Courts: Revenge, Retribution, and Reconciliation in Europe and Israel after the Holocaust;Jewish Collaboration With the Nazis: How Jews Tried to Deal With It. Insufficient Analyses of Basic Questions That Are Raised

jan peczkis|Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Jewish honor court was one that determined whether a Jew was, based on his wartime conduct, entitled to standing in the Jewish community. This work takes a mostly geographically-oriented approach, focusing on post-WWII Jewish honor courts in Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, France, etc.


After a flurry of Jewish interest in the immediate postwar years, the question of Jewish collaboration became taboo in the 1960s and 1970s. (Jockusch and Finder, p. 12). In recent years, with the passage of time, this question has passed from a moral to a historical plane, and there is no longer any need to attribute blame or valor. (ibid, p. 15). [Has it? Would it not be more accurate to say that the question of blame has been erased by the tendency to see Jews unilaterally as victims and never as victimizers? For more on this, please click on, and read my review, of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law (The Collected Courses of the Academy of European Law)].


For a long time after the war, no one thought of treating Jewish collaboration with the Nazis as any different from the collaboration of non-Jews with the Nazis. In fact, the Jewish desire to punish Jewish collaborators explicitly followed the same process as the French and Poles, for example, in punishing their own respective collaborators. (e. g, Gabriel N. Finder, p. 84; Simon Perego, p. 140).

Individual Jews sought justice against those Jews who had helped the Nazis. This went on for some two decades after WWII. (Dan Porat, p. 304).

As time went on, the Nazi genocide of the Jews, given a special name (Holocaust, or Shoah), was dichotomized from all other genocides. The presumed special-ness of the Jewish experience under the Nazis was extended to the matter of Jewish collaboration--which was essentially transformed into a non-collaboration. The remainder of my review focuses on some ramifications of this thinking.


Laura Jockusch (p. 53) claims that early-postwar Jews, in their desire to punish Jewish collaboration, were driven by a sense of justice—albeit one that greatly exaggerated the roles of Jewish collaborators and misjudged their power inside the Nazi terror system. (p. 53). She provides no evidence to support the latter. In fact, as elaborated below, there is indirect evidence to the contrary.

In addition, her reasoning confuses the issue. It conflates two different things: The IMPACT of the treason and the FACT of the treason. [As an example, suppose that the information supplied to the USSR, by the Greenglass-Rosenberg atom spies, was already known to the Russians, and did not hasten the explosion of the first Soviet atom bomb, in 1949, by even a single day. It would not have any bearing on the FACT of the treason of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. It would only obviate the IMPACT of the treason.]


Author Dan Porat cites Gershom Sholem, who had modified the "Jews really had no choice" argument (or exculpation), in serving the Nazis, to one where Jews did have a choice, but it was a pick of terrible decisions under unimaginable circumstances. (p. 319). Unfortunately, this reasoning is not developed. In fact, much the same exculpatory argument could be made by others. [Consider the Pole who fell into the hands of the Germans, was broken by Gestapo tortures, and was given the choice between being sent to a concentration camp, or serving the Germans as an informant and a denouncer of fugitive Jews. Could it be said that the Pole had a choice, or would it be more accurate to say that he had to take his pick of two terrible choices, and that under unimaginable circumstances?]


A number of the authors (notably Rivka Brot, especially pp. 334-on) bring up the argument that Jews who collaborated with the Nazis were not really collaborating, because normal considerations of right and wrong did not apply under the circumstances. There were only gray areas. In addition, according to this argument, Jews acting in a normally-objectionable way could actually save Jewish lives by obeying the Germans.

However, the authors fail to take this line of argumentation to its logical conclusion, much less examine its impact on other peoples’ collaboration. [Consider, for example, the Poles. Could those Poles who had "voluntarily" participated in the German-sponsored JUDENJAGD (hunt for the Jews) also have argued that the brutal power of the Nazis had erased all normal considerations of right and wrong? In addition, could such Poles have successfully argued that their collaboration was actually an attempt to INCREASE Jewish (and Polish) survivorship? That is, without Polish participation in the JUDENJAGD, the Germans would only have flooded the Polish countryside with German Jew-hunters, would have found the fugitive Jews (and more) themselves, and would have uncovered many previously-unsuspected Jews hiding among Poles, leading to the deaths not only of both, but also the reprisal destruction of more Polish villages.]


Some of the authors appear to belittle Hannah Arendt, but present no evidence to undermine her argument that the collaborationist Judenraete policies played a crucial role in making the Nazi murder of 5-6 million Jews even possible. (Jockusch and Finder, p. 9). The only material fact, relative to this question, is brought up by David Engel. He mentions Yitzhak Zuckerman's suggestion (p. 34), that, were it not for Jewish-Nazi collaboration in the Warsaw Ghetto, the German authorities would have needed to bring in 10,000 Germans to do the work of 2,000 to 3,000 Jews.

The reader is left hanging: Would a systematic refusal by Jews to collaborate with the Nazis have ameliorated, or even stopped, the Holocaust—as asserted long ago by Hannah Arendt? In fact, consistent with the premise that the Nazis were already near a tipping point in terms of discontinuing the Holocaust, Hans Frank had been of the position that the Nazi extermination of the Jews (even with all the ongoing Jewish collaboration), was too difficult in a wartime setting, and should be postponed until the German victory (which, of course, never came). Click on, and read my detailed review, of Hans Frank, Lebensraum and the Final Solution.


Do any Jewish terms refer derisively to Christians? Yes. Gali Drucker Bar-Am informs us that, “The term MINOT (derived from the Hebrew word for species or type) denotes heretical Jews who strayed from the community and accepted other orthodoxies and became the first Christians and followers of Gnostic cults and subsequently Sabbateans, Frankists, and atheists.” (p. 279).


The question of whether Jews should appease their enemies by turning over one of their own, in hope that the enemy will spare the remaining Jews, is long-standing. David Engel brings up GENESIS RABBAH 94:9 in this regard. (p. 44). [Another relevant item is from the Talmud---Yoma 82b and Sanhedrin 74a. The blood of one potential victim is no redder than the blood of another potential victim. So, if a murderer orders you to kill a person, or else they will kill you instead, you should not obey the order and kill the person.]

For another book on the subject of Jewish-Nazi collaboration and its implications, please click on The Holocaust in Israeli Public Debate in the 1950s: Ideology and Memory.
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