Every year, especially in Israel, we hold ceremonies to remember the victims of the Holocaust. We have built museums, innumerable memorials for the fighters in the ghettos, for the partisans who took the war to the forests of Eastern Europe, for the brave parachutists like Hannah Senesh ahd Enzo Sereni who volunteered to jump in the flaming cauldron of Nazi occupied Europe to aid in the escape of captured Allied fliers and to send vital intelligence back to the British military and, if possible, to make contact with their Jewish brethren suffering under the Nazi jackboots. All this is honorable and necessary to remind us, and more importantly, for our youth as to the costs of apathy and the utter silence of the world in the face of Jewish blood and tears.
However, there is a far better and more meaningful way to give homage to those whose lips are forever sealed by the passing of the decades since the Sho’ah. With many of the survivors dying out every year, those whose testimonies bear witness to what they saw with their own eyes is disappearing day by day. The great works undertaken to record their experiences through film, videos and audio recordings are a vital resource for our coming generations who will undoubtedly face future naysayers and Holocaust deniers with their incredibly evil propaganda and anti-Semitic detritus. So the question arises, how best to remember our sacred dead and give meaning to their sacrifice? How can we, as a people, in the face of this inhuman and great tragedy, truly honor and consecrate the slaughter of one third of our people.
This passed week, a Jewish hero went to his final reward. Samuel Willenberg, z”l, a 93 year old man, the last survivor of the Jewish revolt at the Nazi death camp, Treblinka, died in the city of Tel Aviv.
Treblinka, where 800,000 Jews were exterminated, was built specifically to liquidate the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto. Unlike Auschwitz, where thousands of prisoners were worked to death in hundreds of slave labor factories, Treblinka existed merely for killing. Young Jews were spared, a few out of each transport, to live temporarily to facilitate in the murder machine. Those Jews, among whom were hundreds of Russian prisoners of war, mostly Jewish soldiers culled out of the massive numbers of captured Soviet fighting men, knew exactly what fate had in store for them.
Unlike the aborted and short lived rebellion by the “sonderkommando” (Jews who worked in the gas chambers and crematorium) at Auschwitz, whose brave, yet failed attempt to escape the camp by blowing up one of the crematorium, the prisoners at Treblinka, launched a carefully planned attack on their Nazi captors in August, 1943.
With weapons stolen from the SS armory, taken by stealth over a period of time, with tools and knives secreted in hidden locations and with the calm demeanor of men knowing that death was ever present, they struck at the guards on a summer’s afternoon while those on sentry duty were coming off their shifts and those who were sleeping before their turn to man the watchtowers at night.
They braved the fire from the machine gun pits and tore down the barbed wire surrounding the area, ran through a minefield and escaped into the woods, They were tracked down, one by one, many of them turned in by the local Poles who were amply rewarded for handing over a Jew. Some made it deep into the forests and joined partisan groups, but out of 600 escapees, only 200 survived the assault and out of that number, only 67 lived to give testimony after the war. Samuel Willenberg was one of these.
The Nazis were so shocked at this even that they immediately tore down any vestige of Treblinka. not only did they demolish the buildings and the crematoria, they even seeded over the grounds so that today, the entire site of the infamous death camp is overgrown with grass and trees. A poignant and somewhat strange viewpoint regarding the heroism of those Jews who bore arms against their Nazi oppressors can be found in the diary of non-other that the Nazi Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, Josef Goebbels, who wrote at the end of the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt “One sees what Jews are capable of when armed.”
The most important lesson that the revolt in Treblinka teaches us is that surrendering to an evil foe is never an option. Resistance to those who seek to destroy Jewish life is the only answer and the only tool we have as a nation is our willingness never to slacken in the defense of Israel.
There is no other strategy then a ruthless and overwhelming military response to any act of terror perpetrated upon our people. Regardless of whatever is socially acceptable, or deemed punishment enough by the liberal defeatists in our government, we must answer terror with fire and sword. A murderer of any age, from whatever background, must be destroyed. There can be no quarter given and no mercy shown. Just as the Nazis were determined to exterminate the Jewish people, so are the terrorists of Hamas, Hezbollah and their lackeys. Just as the Nazis proclaimed, publicly and often, their aim to liquidate our people. so do the documents of Arab terror.
What we must do to honor the memory of those who raised their arms against an enemy that had conquered millions of square miles of Europe, and enslaved their families, is pay no heed to the bigots and liberals who plead for the understanding of those who stab pregnant women, butcher men at prayer in a synagogue, and knife children on their bicycles.
Whenever the news reports of the murder of another civilian or soldier or police officer by one of these barbarians, I see the initials “BDE”-“Baruch Dayan Emet”-“Blessed is the Judge of Truth,” written on the pages of newspapers and social media. It is a traditional phrase used to attempt to convey condolence to the families and friends of the slain. I say it is time to change the alliteration to “DIN”-“Dam Israel Noke’am.”-“The blood of Israel shall avenge.” Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word, “DIN” also means “Judgement.”
We must execute judgement upon our enemies. Just as the Jews who revolted in Treblinka, Warsaw, Auschwitz and in dozens of ghettos and in the forests of Eastern Europe-remember and honor them by never surrendering to the enemies that surround us, and never surrender to the paeans whose platitudes would mean our death.