Review of Bitter Reckoning: Israel Tries Holocaust Survivors as Nazi Collaborators, by Dan Porat. 2019. Belknap Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Jewish Collaboration Not Only Recognized, But Actively Punished, in Early Israel. The Exculpatory “All Jews Were Victims” Came Later
Immediately after WWII, the question of Jewish collaboration with the Nazis was a no-brainer. Jewish survivors of the concentration camps went not only after the Germans, but also the Jews who served them. (p. 14). Jewish soldiers, in the Allied armies, personally killed Jewish collaborators. (p. 16).
JEWISH NAZI COLLABORATORS: CALLING A SPADE A SPADE
The new Jewish state sought to bring Jewish Nazi collaborators to justice, as explained by author Dan Porat, “The Nazis and Nazi Collaborators Punishment Law, passed by the Knesset in 1950, inaugurated what became known as the kapo trials, which would go on for the next twenty-two years.” (p. 3). “During the first phase [August 1950—January 1952], alleged collaborators were subjected to uncompromising treatment. Israeli legislators and prosecutors zealously sought retribution against these Jews, whom they viewed as partners with the Nazis in their crimes against European Jewry.” (p. 4). “In the second phase (February 1952-1957), functionaries were cast not as Nazis but as Jewish collaborators of the Nazis.” (p. 4).
DAVID BEN GURION: NO DOUBLE STANDARDS ON JEWISH AND NONJEWISH COLLABORATION!
Porat comments, “[Eliyahu] Dobkin’s words hinted at an idea prevalent in the Yishuv: that an ‘adverse selection’ had taken place in the camps, whereby the worst sort of people survived, while the better sort perished. Unlike Dobkin, David Ben-Gurion felt no need to apologize for the actions of Jewish collaborators. In late 1942, he learned from Stanislaw Kot, a member of the Polish government-in-exile, that the government had avoided publicizing the role of Jewish policemen in leading Jews to their deaths, for fear of the implications of such news. Responding to this report, Ben-Gurion, who rarely spoke about the topic of Jewish collaboration, stated that the Jewish nation was no different from any other nation. Just like other nations, the Jews had their own ‘quislings and bastards,’ he said. Ben-Gurion accepted the fact that within any society there would be a variety of responses to repression, including collaboration.” (p. 52).
[Would that Polonophobes today, who never tire of making reckless accusations of “Polish complicity in the Holocaust”, listen instead to Ben Gurion!]
AFFIRMING A SINGLE STANDARD FOR JEWISH AND NONJEWISH COLLABORATORS
Author Dan Porat writes, “In a 1951 gathering of intellectuals, a debate developed over the appropriate handling of alleged collaborators. Some participants argued that if Jews did not try their own criminals, how could one expect other nations to pursue justice with their criminals?” (p. 247).
HANNAH ARENDT CONFIRMED: JEWISH CONDUCT WAS PARTLY VOLUNTARY, AND THE GERMANS COULD NOT HAVE CONDUCTED A FULL-BLOWN HOLOCAUST WITHOUT JEWISH HELP
The following was part of the trial of Hirsch Berenblat, around 1963, and the complainants included Jewish anti-Nazi resisters David and Aryeh Liver. Porat notes that, “Judge Haim Ehrlich questioned the witness: ‘What would have happened if all Jews had decided that no one would accept a position in the Jewish Council, or that the Jewish Council would be dismantled?’ ‘I believe that the Germans would have been unable, on their own, to conduct the annihilation they carried out. It’s hard for me to imagine it,’ Aryeh said, echoing Arendt’s assessment that chaos within a leaderless Jewish community would have resulted in fewer casualties. Regardless of the question of whether the Germans could have achieved their goal without Jewish collaboration, he then added a moral argument, ‘I knew one thing: that we should not do the Germans’ work for them.’” (p. 189).
EVEN IF “ALL JEWS WERE VICTIMS OF THE NAZIS”, THIS DOES NOT EXCUSE THE FREQUENT CRUELTIES OF JEWISH KAPOS AND JEWISH POLICE
Defendant Julius Siegel implicated himself in actions not required by the German overlords, “On July 19, 1946, Siegel made his closing statement, in which he admitted wrongdoing, speaking about himself in the third person: ‘He beat Jews, and not only when the Germans were watching. He honestly regrets this.’” (p. 39).
The trial of Lube Gritzmacher (1972), the last of the trails of the Jewish functionaries, is also instructive. The Israeli judges heard testimonies of her viciousness to Jewish prisoners, with the following verdict: “In their ruling, the judges stated that ‘when we speak of defendants who were themselves persecuted…while we do take this issue into account, we cannot, on the other hand, ignore another consideration, which is that these defendants used their special status in the camp in which they served to treat their brethren and others cruelly.’ The status of a persecuted person, the court made clear, did not give that victim impunity to act in a ‘cruel’ and ‘sadistic’ manner.” (pp. 211-212).
JEWISH COLLABORATION WITH THE NAZIS IS NOW LARGELY SWEPT UNDER THE RUG
Porat comments, “For decades, the Israel State archives have limited access to all documents related to these trials. Only recently, and thanks in part to the effort of researchers, has it permitted access to the court files. As I write these words, the sixty-year-old police files are undergoing a lengthy process of declassification.” (p. 214).
IGNORING JEWISH-NAZI COLLABORATION IS NOW PART OF HOLOCAUSTIANITY IN ISRAEL
Although Porat does not use this wording, he makes it obvious that it is so, “With a few exceptions, a taboo developed with regard to discussing instances in which Jews acted harshly during the Holocaust. The taboo on discussing the questionable behavior of Jewish functionaries in the camps enabled the rise of a strong identification with the victims among Israelis.” (p. 214).