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Yosef Zohar
The Institute for Safety in the Criminal Justice System

Courage

"Ka-Tsetnik - The Return from the Other Planet"

Last week, while watching the documentary “The Return from the Other Planet” about Holocaust survivor and author Yehiel Di-Nur, mostly known as Ka-Tsetnik, it brought back memories of a time in high school when I woke up drenched in sweat with a racing heart due to nightmares about Holocaust experiences.

I once shared this with a psychologist, but his response was unemotional. He remarked that in Israel, the Holocaust looms so large that even Arabs dream of experiencing it. What I didn’t tell him is that in those nightmares, I couldn’t discern which side of the Holocaust I was on – whether I was the perpetrator or the victim.

I pondered which role I would prefer, but couldn’t come to a clear answer. I certainly didn’t want to inflict suffering, yet I couldn’t consciously choose to endure such intense suffering myself to prevent causing it to another.

This introspection led me to a disconcerting realization – I couldn’t say with certainty that I wouldn’t have become a Nazi if I were German at that time. This revelation shook me to my core.

In the documentary, Di-Nur/Ka-Tsetnik, after a profound experience with LSD treatment that made him relive Auschwitz, speaks about his own inner awakening:

“It’s not sufficient that a German, who in my eyes could have been in my place, but that I, and this is the most terrible of horrors, I could have been in his place…. Auschwitz is not another planet…. I, the human being, created Auschwitz…. The finger that will press the button that could turn this world into chaos is a human finger. And that is what happened in Auschwitz.”

But unlike me, Di-Nur/Ka-Tsetnik courageously continues:

“If man is destined to send the other man to the crematorium, I want to be the one sent, not the sender.”

What drives individuals to uphold humanistic values at any cost, even risking their own lives? Is it education, genetics, society? I don’t have the answers.

My late father, Moshe Zohar Klepker, embodied such values. Stories of his bravery in Israel’s wars and his assistance to friends in need resonate with me. As a child, I witnessed firsthand his exhaustion after rescuing a drowning woman from turbulent waters, leaving others to revive her.

Engraved on his tombstone at my request is “Who is the man that desireth life, and loveth days…” (Psalms 34, 13) – a reflection of his character until his last breath.

Thursday marked the 22nd anniversary of his passing. I recited Kaddish in his memory at synagogue and visited his grave on Sunday, placing a stone I collected from the beach.

Unlike them, I perceive myself as a coward. What drives me is not so much my fear for myself, but rather the fear that my father would be ashamed of me, and that I wouldn’t be able to face myself in the mirror.

About the Author
Researcher and Lecturer, Department of Criminology at Western Galilee College. Managing director, The Institute for Safety in the Criminal Justice System. Research Fellow, Judicial Conflict Resolution (JCR) project at the Faculty of Law, Bar Ilan University.
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