Saturday, May 25, 2024

Stoliner Rebbe and the Holocaust

Rav Avraham Elimelech’s dire warnings seemed taken from nowhere. Yes, the puzzle pieces of a dreadful world war were falling into place. This was the month when Germany and Italy signed the military pact that undergirded their Second World War alliance. But Britain was still busily practicing diplomacy to defuse German-Polish border tensions and Hitler’s threats against European Jewry seemed fantastical.

It wasn’t the first time the Rebbe had warned of a black future for European Jews, though. From 1933 onward, he spoke of Hitler’s threat constantly. A full year before the outbreak of war, Rav Zalman Brizel, a leading Karliner chassid from Yerushalayim, had spent Rosh Hashanah with the Rebbe and returned with a disturbing account of what went on.

Although British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had returned from meeting Hitler with a proclamation of “peace for our time,” saying that the German leader wasn’t bent on war, unlike most observers, the Rebbe wasn’t heartened.

Before the tekios began, he addressed the crowd. “We’re faced today with the same threat as in the times of Mordechai and Esther. We need to storm the Heavens for miracles.”

Standing now by the Kosel, one Karliner chassid turned to the Rebbe and asked what was on everyone’s mind. “Why is the Rebbe scaring us so much?”

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