Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Satmar Rebbe and the Destruction of Hungarian Jewry part I Tablet Magazine

Tablet Magazine    [see also Part II]

In her book Be-Seter Ha-Madrega (In the Covert of the Cliff), Haredi Holocaust historian Esther Farbstein writes, “Rabbi Yoel (Yoelish) of Satmar was unquestionably chief among leaders [of Haredi Jews in Hungary].” If Farbstein is correct in her claim, Rabbi Yoel’s conduct before, during, and after the Holocaust may explain, albeit only partially, the extraordinary devastation suffered by the Hungarian Orthodox community, which had regarded him as “chief among leaders.”

The first section of this article describes Rabbi Yoel’s life and actions during the Holocaust, both on personal and public levels, as reflected in his writings, the contemporary press, memoirs written by his Hasidim, and archival sources. In many cases, researchers note that Rabbi Yoel’s position regarding the Holocaust was extreme and exceptional compared to views held by other rabbis and spokespeople of the Haredi community. Yet the worldview he cultivated, coupled with his theological explanations of the Holocaust and its mystical meaning, drew a growing number of followers, in whose eyes he was the last remnant of a dying ideology. His anti-Zionist worldview, representing as it did to them the Eastern European “Old Home,” expunged his failures during the Holocaust. As his public stature grew, criticism from within diminished, while criticism from without was disregarded and dismissed as Zionist defamation.

As I argue in greater detail in the following, Rabbi Yoel’s life, activities, and decisions during the Holocaust and his pressing need to explain and justify them thereafter offer a possible explanation for the extremism of his later views. Any fair examination of the historical record shows that Rabbi Yoel’s contribution to assisting Jewish refugees and to the rescue of Transylvanian Haredi Jews was negligible. Prior to the Holocaust, he ignored the dangers threatening the Jews of Transylvania and failed to engage in the preparation of rescue and aid plans. Although he became privy to reports on the extermination of the Jewish communities in Poland, given his position as a member of the Central Bureau and through his connections with the authorities, he refrained from calling on his followers to save or prepare themselves. On the contrary, he warned any would-be immigrants to Palestine or other countries that they were in danger of severely harming their Haredi way of life. Moreover, he refrained from cooperating with the Zionist—and even with the Haredi—leadership in addressing current issues or preparing for the impending threat and even opposed measures of a religious nature, such as prayer and fast days, which he feared would be perceived as a protest against the authorities.

When the danger of war became real and immediate, Rabbi Yoel did his best to equip himself and his closest circle with certificates or visas that would facilitate their escape to Palestine or the United States. At the same time, he thwarted all attempts at cooperation between the heads of the Orthodox communities and the Zionist organizations, which could have helped to rescue them. He failed to set a personal example and rejected his associates’ advice to prepare a hiding place or attempt to cross the border to Romania. Had he done so, some of his Hasidim may have done the same and thus survived.

When put to the test, he chose to save himself clandestinely after his own congregation had already been incarcerated in ghettos and to abandon his followers in the time of their harshest adversity. His conduct stands in stark contrast to that of other rabbis in his vicinity, many of whom rejected pleas to save themselves and accompanied their congregations to the transport trains, the extermination camps, and in some cases even into the gas chambers. [...]

35 comments :

  1. so how do we explain his Chassidim feeling that he was perhaps the most righteous person of his generation, and the huge amount of amazing Ahavas Yisroel stories said in his name?

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  2. I have always wondered what type of yid would be foolish enough to offer an opinion on a fight between Rav Shach and the Lubavitcher Rebbe? Or to second-guess Rav Elchonon or the Satmar Rebbe? It is folks like you. You must have big shoulders Rabbi Eidensohn.


    I recall reading that R. Baruch Ber would tell people that when in Hungary they should rely on the Satmar Rebbe who was an Ish Emes. Now some yenta accuses him even more severely than our accusations against Pius XII. Pius we accuse of benign neglect-the Satmar Rebbe we accuse of saving himself & his friends and leaving everyone else to die-even encouraging them to remain for slaughter.


    Please tell, what is the toeles of this post? What do we gain by denigrating other Rabbanim? I am a Lithuanian CharDaL and have no association with Satmar or their hashkafah. Still, I am befuddled as to who will gain insight from this loshon harah-filled post.

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  3. The entire above post is a screed that distorts historical facts and creates its own fictional illusions. Virtually all the claims it makes against Rabbi Teitelbaum are falsehoods.

    Additionally, the Zionists never had an interest in saving European Orthodox Jewry. To quote Chaim Weizman: "The most valuable part of the Jewish nation is
    already in Palestine, and those Jews living outside
    Palestine are not too important". Weizman's cohort,
    Greenbaum, amplified this statement with the observation
    "One cow in Palestine is worth more than all the Jews in
    Europe".

    Furthermore. Zionists like Rudolf Kastner assisted the Nazis in murdering Hungarian Jewry. Kastner was Adolff Eichmann's right-hand man and Eichmann's Jewish Kapo to keep Hungarian Jewry quiet so that they could march them to the gas chambers without resistance. Over 95% of the passengers on Kastner's train was filled with his entire immediate and extended family and his Zionist colleagues. The others he sold to the highest bidders.

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  4. A muslim I know posted a video of a massacre at a funeral, and claimed it was an Israeli missile hitting a Gaza funeral. however, the flags at the funeral were Syrian flags, and the massacre was a Syrian one.
    Now the falsehoods offered by David are similar. Zionist kastner did not assist the nazis. He negotiated saving Jews. The question is whether he saved enough. Remember, R' Weissmandel was making the the opposite claims - he said that he was negotiating with the Nazis and had a deal, and it was the Zionists who refused to send money and the British/Americans who refused to send trucks to the Nazis, that cost the lives. Read Segev's book the 7th Million for the historical details.
    As for "kapo", that is a disgusting term to use. You should read what R Teichtel wrote about those who opposed Zionism.

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  5. The question is whether there is any basis in halacha to keep people in the evil reach of Amalek during the war, when it might have been posible to save them. And also, to have gaavah to claim they will be safe in Hungary, because Hashem is protecting them (but not any other Jews in Europe), due to their opposition to Zionism. Also, the Talmud says it is better to live in Eretz Yisroel even when there are idolaters there, than to live in Chu'L even when people are righteous.

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  6. @Eddie I would modify your question a bit. It is the ancient question of whether it is better to die frum or to risk spiritial death in order to live? The rishonim discuss the issue of whether it is better to kill children or students rather then let them be captured by the Crusaders and raised as Christians.

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  7. The author of this article is Menachem Keren-Kratz. It's amazing how he proceeds to indict, malign and liable Rabbi Teielbaum without first presenting documented facts supporting his claims.

    The first step that any historian will do is present documented facts. Psychohistorians will also do so. This article does not do so.



    Claims that his information is culled from authentic sources, why is he afraid to reveal his sources? What type of serious historical article, that seeks to offer a completely new interpretation of a person who passed on thirty five years ago will not include extensive footnotes with his sources for this new psychoanalysis?

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  8. You should make clear that you are asking a question, as opposed to simply attacking the SR as a bigoted leader who left everyone else to die while saving his own skin - which is the clear opinion of the writer, and presumably of the one who posted the piece, unless he indicates otherwise. There is no Remez in the post that the writer's opinion is not Rabbi Eidensohn's. Why not leave the besmirching of Gedolim to other blogs - there are plenty of them.

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  9. This is what Rudolf Vrba, who escaped Auschwitz and reported what was happening there to Kastner, said:

    "I am a Jew. In spite of that, indeed because of that, I accuse
    certain Jewish leaders of one of the most ghastly deeds of the war. This
    small group of quislings knew what was happening to their brethren in
    Hitler's gas chambers and bought their own lives with the price of
    silence. Among them was Dr. Kasztner, leader of the council which spoke
    for all Jews in Hungary. While I was prisoner number 44070 at Auschwitz -
    the number is still on my arm - I compiled careful statistics of the
    exterminations . . . I took these terrible statistics with me when I
    escaped in 1944 and I was able to give Hungarian Zionist leaders three
    weeks notice that Eichmann planned to send a million of their Jews to
    his gas chambers . . . Kasztner went to Eichmann and told him, 'I know
    of your plans; spare some Jews of my choice and I shall keep quiet.'
    Eichmann not only agreed, but dressed Kasztner up in S.S. uniform and
    took him to Belsen to trace some of his friends. Nor did the sordid
    bargaining end there. Kasztner paid Eichmann several thousand dollars.
    With this little fortune, Eichmann was able to buy his way to freedom
    when Germany collapsed, to set himself up in the Argentine . . ."

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  10. you are relying on Eichman's testimony - you seem to have emuno peshuta in whatever he said.
    You attack Kastner for talking to the nazis, but so did R' Weissmandel.
    Anyway, you are talking about what could have been done after the Jews were taken in to the camps by the nazis. the critique of the Satmar Rebbe (and others) is that it was their ideological blindness and obstinacy that put the people at risk of this , in forbidding them to leave, years earlier.

    This is no joking matter, but the Jewish comedian Jackie Mason (who had semicha from RMF) tells a joke about people walking around saying "I would have been a millionaire if it wasn't this man, or that man". That is about all the Haredi apologists can do in this tragic part of history. First they fought war against the Zionists. They put them in herem. Then they forbid their many followers from leaving. Some refused visas, e.g. procured by religious Zionists like R Warhaftig, or by YU. After teh war, one of Agudah's leaders said "did the Zionists have ruach kodesh to see the holocaust" i.e. mocking them.
    Then R' weissmandel who was in the trucks for blood negotiations (with Eichman) blames the Zionists, saying if the Zionists had given the money and the trucks, they could have save all of European Jewry.
    There is no way to know what would have happened if the negotiations had made more progress. Segev relates that the money was actually given, but it did not help stop the killings.
    I am sure more lives couidl have been saved if action was taken by: the Zionists; the non Zionists; the anti Zionists; the British; the Americans; the Hungarians. The communists; the American Jews, etc etc. But the idea that kastner could have saved all of jewry but didn't want to is ridiculous.

    But it is worse than this. Since in your own paradigm, you are not comparing like for like. In your paradigm, the Rebbe of satmar was a Gaon and Tzaddik, whilst the secular kastner was a chiloni and a rasha. you are saying that the rebbe's actions lechatchila were not as bad as kastner's bedieved. L'chatchila means before the war, before the holocaust, bedieved means at the depth of the war in occupied Hungary in the darkest period of the shoah.
    that is what you are trying to camouflage. your system claims that the rebbe has clear insight, that he is like Moshe rabbenu in our generation, and can make a decree and it will be fulfilled by Hashem.
    A secular zionist, however, does not enjoy these superpowers.
    Even so, kastner saved more lives than the Rebbe of Satmar.

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  11. The accusations against Rabbi Teitelbaum are rank speculation without a shred of evidence or proof. It is concocted by rabid anti-Orthodox haters.

    The evidence against Kastner is overwhelming and well documented. Rudolf Vrba was a Jewish survivor of Aushwitz and personally testifies how Kastner sold out Hungarian Jewry to Eichmann's Aushwitz so he could save his family and friends skin. Kastner is single-handedly responsible for the murder of more of European Jewry than any other Jew. He was Eichmann's little shlepper.

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  12. You also fail to explain, since there can be no explanation, why Rudolf Kastner testified on behalf of SS Officer Kurt Becher and four other Nazis, saving them from being executed in Nuremberg at their war crimes trial, AFTER THE WAR WAS OVER and he needed nothing from these vile Nazi mass murderers of Jews.

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  13. Vrba was a great man and a hero. It is unlikely that Kastner could have saved everyone this is a piece of wishful thinking on Vrba's part,and projection on yours and other haredim who have only ever read one secular book, namely Perfidy (since secular books are not on the curricula of Yeshivot).

    Vrba believed that there would be a rebellion against the Nazis, if his report was widespread. Since only 2 people escaped from the camps, it is obvious that even the one who knew first hand what was going on did not or could not rebel.
    Also, under the Satmar - who created a new religion, with only 3 ikkarim, the rebellion against the nations was yehareg v'lo yaavor. Hence, Satmar is doubly guilty of religio-war crimes: once for preventing its followers from escaping, and a second time for preventing them from rebelling.

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  14. What a crock of RUBBISH!
    ?President Roosevelt convened the Evian conference July 6-15 1938, to
    deal with the Jewish refugee problem. The Jewish Agency delegation
    headed by Golda Meir (Meirson) ignored a German offer to allow Jews to
    emigrate to other countries for $250 a head, and the Zionists made no
    effort to influence the United States and the 32 other countries
    attending the conference to allow immigration of German and Austrian
    Jews. [Source]
    On Feb 1, 1940 Henry Montor executive vice-President of the United
    Jewish Appeal refused to intervene for a shipload of Jewish refugees
    stranded on the Danube river, stating that "Palestine cannot be flooded
    with... old people or with undesirables." [Source]

    On Feb. 16, 1943 Roumania offered 70,000 Jewish refugees of the
    Trans-Dniestria to leave at the cost of $50 each. This was publicized in
    the New York papers. Yitzhak Greenbaum, Chairman of the Rescue
    Committee of the Jewish Agency, addressing the Zionist Executive Council
    in Tel Aviv Feb. 18 1943 said, "when they asked me, "couldn't you give
    money out of the United Jewish Appeal funds for the rescue of Jews in
    Europe, I said NO! and I say again, NO!...one should resist this wave
    which pushes the Zionist activities to secondary importance." On Feb.
    24, 1943 Stephen Wise, President of the American Jewish Congress and
    leader of the American Zionists issued a public refusal to this offer
    and declared no collection of funds would seem justified. In 1944, the
    Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People called upon the American
    government to establish a War Refugee Board. Stephen Wise testifying
    before a special committee of Congress objected to this proposal.
    [Source]

    During the course of the negotiations mentioned above, Chaim Weizman,
    the first "Jewish statesman" stated: "The most valuable part of the
    Jewish nation is already in Palestine, and those Jews living outside
    Palestine are not too important". Weizman's cohort, Greenbaum, amplified
    this statement with the observation "One cow in Palestine is worth more
    than all the Jews in Europe".

    And then, after the bitterest episode in Jewish history, these
    Zionist "statesmen" lured the broken refugees in the DP camps to remain
    in hunger and deprivation, and to refuse relocation to any place but
    Palestine; only for the purpose of building their State.

    In 1947 Congressman William Stratton sponsored a bill to immediately
    grant entry to the United States of 400,000 displaced persons. The bill
    was not passed after it was publicly denounced by the Zionist
    leadership. [Source]

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  15. At the bottom of both parts of the Tablet article the following appears:

    "This article is adapted from an essay that appeared in Dapim 28:2 (2014), available here , and in Menachem Keren-Kratz’s forthcoming biography, The Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum."

    That is a scholarly journal and while the article is behind a paywall, I understand that the sources appear there. The biography mentioned above seems to be Dr. Keren-Kratz' latest(!) PhD dissertation and therefore necessarily sourced; he also has a PhD in Yiddish Literature and is a practicing dentist.

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  16. Rav Moshe Shternbuch shlit"a holds very highly of the Satmar Rebbe ztvk"l zy"a.

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  17. what is not so well known is that Rav wasserman tried to leave later on and actually stood in line behind Rebetzin Zaks the daughter of the chofetz Chaim but the clerk closed up right after her

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  18. That is my point. Rav Daattorah says that Rav Shternbuch said he can post about the abuse because that is toeles (which makes sense although I doubt Rav Shternbuch actually ever saw and read what goes on in the comments etc and am curious if he still would support this) but about the Satmar Rav over 30 years since he was niftar I am questioning if Rav Daattorah asked Rav Shternbuch about posting this.

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  19. You can acutally view and even download the article for free on the Dapim website. Almost everything the author states is backed up by sources.

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  20. It seems that a lot of the comments are focused on the idea that the Zionists were also responsible for a lot of Jewish deaths. It's true that the author does makes a contrast between the actions of the Zionists to that of the Satmar Rebbe, so it is a valid point. Hoewever, even if the Zionists were equally or even more guilty, this itself has no bearing on the question of whether or not the Satmar Rabbe's actions were correct.

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  21. You're 100% correct - the other states in numerous places that most Rabbonim were in fact willing to sacrifice themselves or do whatever they could to try and save their communites. Their is actually no indication in the entire article that the author has any "axe to grind" with any other Rabbi.


    Regarding the next part of youur comment, please refer to my most recent comment above.

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  22. Esther Farbstein
    Where are your sources? Do you even have any real sources ?How dare you make such SMOOTH statements without even a shred of proof!
    What is you agenda?!!!??
    Are you frum ? are you religious ,? doubtful,
    Do you know ANY public figure in ANY country that was informed and issued public warnings ? besides Rabbi Weissmandel ?
    Even in free America hardly nothing was known .
    The only ones who may have known were the Zionists
    Yes they saved and included Rabbi Teitelbaum Because Mr. Fisher's dead mother came to him in a dream and told him to take along Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum on the train otherwise it is doomed to fail.
    This is a well known published fact! and yes there are numerous records of Polish people that came to Hungary and even at great personal risk were Helped by the orthodox kehilla and many cases where they hid in the public mikvah at great risk
    Your discourse has absolutely no scholarship to it and no credentials to it

    Kol Hamaitzer Liyisroel Naseh Rosh !!!!

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  23. Check these out:


    http://classic.frumteens.com/topic.php?topic_id=6312&forum_id=45&topic_title=Kastner+trial+-+Satmar+Rov's+salvation&forum_title=&M=1

    http://www.yoel-ab.com/katava.asp?id=117

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  24. And check this out:

    http://www.truetorahjews.org/kastner

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  25. hello?? r. Eidensohn?!?! we are wondering WHY -for what purpose did you post this article on reb yulish ztsvk"l?? & did you indeed ask rav m. sternbuch??

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  26. Wondering is still wondering. Usually Rav daattorah considers silence as agreeing to the point is he considering taking it down

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  27. Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn, ...still wating.. i believe an answer- explanation should be forth coming,

    as to WHY -for what purpose did you post this article on reb yulish ztsvk"l??

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  28. The accusations against the Satmar Rebbe in the above article are a bunch of rubbish and without a shred of proof offered by the author.

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  29. His so-called "sources" themselves lack a shred of proof.

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  30. Kapo is too nice a title for that filthy mass murderer Rudolf Kastner.

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  31. It is a well known fact that Rav weissmandel held The Satmar Rebbe in the highest esteem & regard , and Rabbi Weissmandel the Author of 'Min Hameitzar 'The man who actually risked his life and negotiated with Eichmann,

    and actually held up the deportations for some months , Was extremely close to Reb Yoel Teitelbaum! very friendly terms.

    Thats the best proof that he didn't have any complaints on how the Rebbe handled himself throughout the prewar years and during the war .

    Its also well known that rabbi teitelbaum told rabbi weissmandel had you contacted me about bribing Eichmann I could have raised the whole money needed in Hungary itself from wealthy Hasidim and you didn't have to resort to all the Zionists who never helped out but only delayed delayed till it was too late.

    So this article by a so called "Historian" Esther Farbstein is total nonsense . and on the believability level of David Irving and other well known Holocaust Deniers !

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  32. The attacks on farbstein are out of place... It is all kenKratz mistakes

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  33. 'It is all kenKratz mistakes'
    Mistakes?!
    Intentional rewriting of History! LIES! Distortions!

    No different than David Irving and others !

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  34. "When put to the test, he chose to save himself clandestinely after
    his own congregation had already been incarcerated in ghettos and to
    abandon his followers in the time of their harshest adversity. His
    conduct stands in stark contrast to that of other rabbis in his
    vicinity, many of whom rejected pleas to save themselves and accompanied
    "
    See the book on the Satmar rebbe by abraham fox (non Hassidic ) printed way back in 1979 greatly details the saving of Satmar rebbe and you will see this quote is Just a Libel and a lie ' no diffrent then David Irvings lies ! Historian ?? Fiction writer! Ken Kranst or farbstien or whatever.
    Just wait 40 years till all is forgotten and rewrite history the way you want it to apear!
    What lies! He never did any hishtadlus to get saved at all ! he was leaving the ghetto after all was lost and was trying to escape to klausenberg by AMBULANCE but because they crammed som any people in they forgot to include the one who knew the address of the talmid ! So the driver being in great danger deposit the contents of his ambulance on the sidewalk of Klausenberg Of course they were promptly caught and arrested . they remained in the klousenberg custody until they were sent to Bergen Belsen Camp for another five months It was Never sure he would get saved until much later He never tried to save himself at all this a lie he was included in the transport by Fisher . as a matter of fact the whole transport was delayed and cancelled many times and even on th way out it was rumored to go to Auschwitz not switzerland and His Chassidim came and gave the final payment and met them by the border to pay the last payment bribe !
    Sali Mayer and the zionists was nowhere to be found !!
    Read it astounding .

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