January 21, 2019

A Ray of Light From a Black Hole

When I reviewed Ronald Florence’s impressive and important book, “” title=”Killing Kasztner”>Killing Kasztner,” in these pages.  Tom, whose late father also knew Kasztner, points out that “Kasztner has been faulted on many counts: for whom he saved and how he chose them (even though Kasztner personally chose very few of the train’s passengers, he did put his wife and 19 of his relatives on the train).”

So I hasten to clarify my own review of “Emissary of the Doomed,” and I need to make it clearer than I did that I do not claim to sit in judgment on men and women whom we observe from a safe distance in time and space.

Indeed, one of the great outrages of the Holocaust is that Nazi Germany did not merely torture and kill its Jewish victims; the Nazis and their collaborators also seemed to delight in compelling at least a few of their victims to play a role in deciding who would live and who would die. The same awful predicament was imposed on Jews who were forced to sit on the Judenrate (“Jewish Councils”) that the Germans set up in Jewish ghettos during the Holocaust.  But we should never allow ourselves to forget who initiated and carried out the carnage, and we should never blur the line between the murderers and their victims.

At the same time, the moral burden of Jewish history obliges us not merely to remember the Holocaust but also to extract some measure of meaning from the grim facts.  It is not an easy task, and it requires the kind of exacting attention to detail that George Bishop has modeled for the rest of us.

We can only hope that we will be rewarded for our efforts with the occasional ray of light from the black hole of the Holocaust.

Jonathan Kirsch is the book editor of The Jewish Journal and can be reached at books@jewishjournal.com.