South Sudan and the Holocaust

How little known stories from the Holocaust can shed light on current affairs in South Sudan and the true purpose of the State of Israel.


In the past week I spoke with many people, rabbis, aids of members of Knesset, friends and other citizens. I sent hundreds of text messages and at the end of the day many people simply don’t understand.  What’s got into me? Why do I suddenly care about what is going on in South Sudan? We dont have enough of our own problems here in Israel?

So what is going on in South Sudan and why do I care? The story goes like this: In 2011 South Sudan became independent thanks to a lot of aid from America, Europe and Israel.  Two years later a major feud broke out between President and his tribe (the Dinka) and the Vice President and his tribe (the Nuer).  The Dinka tribe started murdering Neur women and children, raping and burning people alive and committing other atrocities. The United States and Europe retracted all support after UN reports of war crimes.

Unfortunately, people in Israel did not feel the same way.  Israeli arms companies saw the potential to profit from the conflict and jumped on it.  Not only are companies sending weapons that enable the war crimes, they are offering tremendous salaries to released IDF soldiers from special forces units to train forces in Africa who are not guided by the sanctity of human life – and consequently there’s a high probability that many of these forces could be involved in war crimes. Although these blatant violations of human rights have led to the cessation of ties between South Sudan and the United States and Europe, just last Thursday night the ambassador of South Sudan in Tel Aviv had a party for the independence of South Sudan together with Israeli Members of Knesset.

I have been working day and night to raise awareness about this issue. My decision to go on a hunger strike was first and foremost to allow myself to feel their pain and then hopefully to get others to feel the pain. Feeling the pain being the first step in trying to find a new way.

Despite many efforts the members of Knesset and the press ignored me. As you can imagine, I was in great need of someone to encourage my spirits. And then, I recalled a man called George Mantello.  George Mantello worked for the Embassy of El Savador in Geneva Switzerland during the Second World War. He used his specific role there to hand out many protective diplomatic documents to many Jews and thereby saved them. On the 9th of June 1944, he sent a friend to Budapest to find out exactly what was going on there with the Jews of Hungary. His friend returned with a report from Rudolph Verba and Alfered Vexler.

Most people have never heard of those names but these two Jews succeeded in fleeing from Auschwitz just before Pesach 1944 and they wrote a detailed report, 33 pages long, of what was going on in Auschwitz and they pleaded: Tell the Jews of Hungary NOT to get on those trains! The report arrived in Budapest and its basic message was transferred to the offices of the Jewish Agency in Turkey and back to Palestine. However the Jews in the rural areas of Hungary were not warned in any official or clear way. 437,000 Jews went to the trains over three weeks after the escape of Verdaw and Vexler.

Rudolf Vrba
Rudolf Vrba

Rudolph Verba cried out: “I cannot forgive”. Many of our historians mock Rudolph Verba and Alfered Vexler claiming that warning would simply not have helped anyways. No wonder that Verba’s book is hardly known in Israel. With a great delay, George Mantello received the report and went on to prove the historians wrong. He too was warned not to publish it because “it won’t  help anyways and it could just create problems.” Thank G-d that Mantello did not listen to those warnings and he immedietly published the documents.  Next he contacted the Churches of Switzerland and on the following Sunday literally hundreds of priests spoke to their congregations with great emotions about the crime of the destruction of the Jewish people. Thousands went to the streets.

There were more than 400 headlines in the Swiss press about Auschwitz (much more than in Palestine). The protests and the crying out reached the ears of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill and the President of the United States, Roosevelt who called Hungarian’s leader, Horthy and demanded that the trains be stopped immediately.

On the 9th of July 1944, the trains stopped for a period and permitted Raoul Wallenberg and Carl Lutz to provide shelter and save 100,000 Jews.

What did I learn from this story? Firstly, contrary to what historians may teach us, our emotions are extremely powerful. Secondly, they can move others, even people from a different religion. Back to the present day — all the answers are in our hearts and not in our minds. Our minds may be wise but there is no truth there. Truth is what one feels and what opens our heart to love.

We have been taught that we learn about the Holocaust in order to remember. With all my strength, I disagree with what we’ve been taught.  To remember is not a worthy aim. I learn about hell in order to have motivation to create paradise.  This is the same way that the darkness motivated me to look for and to find light.

To remember is a means that will allow us to love with great power. Now the time has come to love ourselves, our soul and the whole of the human family. So lets stop this crime and let us heal ourselves and humanity will recognize the Jewish people as a people that loves.

What do you want? You want to destroy the military industry of Israel? I have been accused that I want to destroy Israel’s military industry.  First of all, I love Israel, I love Tzahal and I love the people of Israel.  I would never want to hurt what is good for the people of Israel.  Is it good for the people of Israel to export arms and military aid to a murderous regime that kills women and children? Do we want the best of our boys to finish the elite units in Israel to be tempted by large sums of money to go train forces in Africa and those same forces may be involved later on in war crimes? Arming these murderers will bring more hate and eventually this hate will come back towards us.

We have another purpose: to become a power of humanity. To show nations in Africa that there is another way. We can export technology and agriculture motivated by humanitarian aims full of heart that really cares for the women and children in Africa.

About the Author
Eli Yossef is an educator, lecturer and activist. He currently works with the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, Machon Meir and Machon as well as in Real Estate. Published works include “The Act” (1992) for which he won the Yair Prize.