Riveting Personal Recollection of Auschwitz “Selection” – A Must-See

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35 Responses

  1. Nachum says:

    Let’s be honest and point out that quite a few of the six million murdered must have had “miraculous escapes” themselves again and again until, well, their luck ran out. We can’t exactly talk about miracles in the face of six million dead.

    • Bob Miller says:

      1.  There is no luck.

      2.  We  are not privy to the Big Picture but owe recognition and gratitude to HaShem for His acts of deliverance regardless of context.


      • Nachum says:

        Yes, I chose the word “luck” deliberately. The alternative is, “Hashem saved them again and again until He chose not to.”

        • Mark says:

          The alternative is, “Hashem saved them again and again until He chose not to.”

          And that can’t possibly be true, because…?

      • mycroft says:

        There is fundamental debate between the Rambam and. The Mystical/ Chassidim. Whether or not not God gets involved in this world except for rare individuals like a Navi.

        For each person who one maintains it is Gods deliverance why he recovered escaped etc. one must then logically state that God did the exact reverse and condemned the righteous to die. It is Avery difficult claim when our axiom is that God is a just God.

        • Rafael Qunoaface says:

          Actually, the Ramban held the same as the Rambam. However, the view taken by the Baal Shem Tov and the Chassidishe world is also a view shared by some Rishonim.

        • Steve Brizel says:

          See Ramban at end of Parshas Shemos who writes that there is nothing that happens in this world that is solely am Derech hateva and that one denies HAshems role on such events obviously denies HaShems role in major historical events and is a kofer. Really a machlokes Rishonim.not just Rambam and mkubalim

          • mycroft says:

            The Ramban a crucial commentator deals with Sod,  the Rambam doesn’t. I agree that there are other Rishonimon both sides of the machlokes, but the general contours of the debate in this matter and some others, are Rambam and rationalists on one side and Yehudah Halevi and the Mystics n the other side.


          • Steve Brizel says:

            A very objectionable description of Ramban and his commentary on Chumash. Ramban dies not resort to gematriyos but carefully weaves in Sod in addition to his amazing knowledge of Tanach Chazal and his critiques of Rashi Ibn Ezra and Rambam

        • dr.bill says:

          not quite a blog topic but the truth lies somewhere between the above two summaries(Rafael and Steve) of Ramban’s position.  Though quite far from Rambam’s very limited scope to Divine providence, Ramban opens the extent of providence changing the natural order quite a bit further than Rambam.  the end of Ramban’s commentary on the first passuk in the second paragraph of the Shema is about as clear as Ramban gets.

          • Steve Brizel says:

            A fair restatement of Ramban whose views on any subject should always be reckoned with regardless of citing Divrei HaEmes

          • Steve Brizel says:

            A fair restatement of Ramban whose commentary should never be no described solely as one if the Mkubalim and certainly was cited many times in favor of a normative hashkafic view on many issues by RYBS in his teshuva drashos. I reject the notion that Ramban one of the Gdolei HaRishonim should be so classified. I would also add that the Chassis Yaavetz who was a refugee from the Inquisition wrote in the hakdama to one of his sefarim that many Jews whose faith was rationalist based converted while those Jews who had an Emunah Pshutah remained steadfast in their faith .

          • dr.bill says:

            as usual, i have not a clue what you are talking about.  it may be my memory, but can you please remind me where the Rav ztl quoted Ramban in his teshuvah drashot in any way supportive of what you are arguing; for that matter i can only remember two references to Ramban in the 15 years i heard teshuvah drashot.

            how the opinion of yaavetz relates to this thread eludes my limited comprehension.  in any case, the yavetz was a strong opponent of philosophy, particularly as engaged in by the multitude.  frankly, i agree with his point of view that when something limited in scope becomes the common coin of the realm, the results may well be poor.  it was sadly true in his day and afflicts us today, albeit largely in other areas.

  2. mycroft says:

    I don’t believe Rabbi Gordimer intends it to be read this way but the logical conclusion of treating the relatively few who escaped the Nazi Holocaust as miracles is that God intended to kill those who didn’t survive. One certainly can’t say looking at survivors versus those who ddnt that God intended to punish for bad behavior hose who didn’t survive.

  3. Steve Brizel says:

    On a macro level somehow the Jewish People survived the Holocaust. Instead of indulging in theodicy that suggests Any Divine reason we should be looking at how we responded to the Holocaust as individuals and as a community

    • mycroft says:

      Steve you and I agree. BTW the Rav was to put it mildly not pleased how the Jewish community responded to the Holocaust. I’ve often felt that Efrem Zuroffs holocaust works are consistent with viewpoint of the Rav. Of curse, like many matters for better or worse the Rav did not attack others that much. Thus his emphasis that we didn’t do enough.

      • Jake says:

        I am not so familiar with the Rav’s thoughts here. can you elaborate? “we did not do enough” — in what way?

        • mycroft says:

          During WW II , essentially the Jewish community did not really treat the Holocaust as seriously as we should have. We went oN our normal way.  It is certainly likely that WWII was responsible for the Ravs change from Agudah to Mizrachi. He was on executive committee of Agudah pre WW II and gave the memorial tribute to Rav Chaim Ozer, by 1946 he is on the world wide Mizrachi executive. I suspect change happened by 1944. Read Farbers book about Maimonides School and section of the Rav being behind a new Jewish school in Milton? Ma only a few miles from Maimonides, the Rashi school was affiliated with Mizrachi. See Farbers book on it. 99% of my knowledge on the Rashi school is from the book.

          • David F says:

            Why would the Rav have joined Mizrachi as a result of the inaction of the Jewish community during the War? Was the Mizrachi community more active in that regard? I don’t recall that to be the case. Am I missing something here or can you clarify your intent?

          • Steve Brizel says:

            Does anyone know or can confirm whether RYBS was involved in Vaad Hatzalah and participated with many other rabbanim in a march on Washington in 1943?

          • mycroft says:

            Mizrachi was in general a more activist in terms of human action. One must assume given the Ravs dissatisfaction with the lack of unity during the HOlocaust, which BTW having unity involving klapei Chutz is the reason why the Rav was opposed to leaving the SCA.An example the Vaad Hatzalah was interested in saving Talmeidei CHachamim and Yeshiva student. A factoid from Zuroffs book, he went through their financial statements, to their credit, audited by an accounting firm and one year they spent more money on aid to yeshiva students who had left Europe than on all the Hatzalah work trying to save  Jews. When one has separate rescue groups rather than unified this is what happens.

            Of course, the Rabbis march in wold war 11 when FDR wouldn’t meet them was an attempt to try and pressure. It was not Bly comparative lack of interest but lack of unity that harmed rescue efforts.

            Read Zuroffs work.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I have thought that the role of the American Jewish community was poor but one cannot discount the fact that anti Semitism was alive and well in the US thanks Coughlin Henry Ford quotas in the Ivies anti Semites like Joseph Kennedy and the KKk which burned crosses in my home town during the 1920s and a Jewish community that adored FDR. Zuroffs works suffer from a lack of importance and appreciation of the saving and refuge of the yeshivos and RY. One wonders why.






        • mycroft says:

          Neither of us were around in WWII. It is certainly important to understand the relative lack of action by the Jewish Community US was in a war and patriosm was crucial.

          Zuroffs work IMOis much more accurate than the rosy colored histories that attempt to show what your last sentence shows. I recall many facts from Zuroffs books that are inconsistent with the general tenor of your last sentence.

          There certainly was an interest by some t save Jews on the Agudah side, but even the Art Scroll book on Mike Tress essentially agrees with Zuroffs very inefficient when run by RAbbis until Mike Tress tried to  make things more efficient.

          • Steve Brizel says:

            Saving yeshiva students and their RY was or should have been seen by rational and unbiased observer as act of hatzalah. The secular Zionist establishment hRdly viewed such as an imperative.

          • Steve Brizel says:

            The facts as to anti Semitism and isolationism after the rise of Nazism cannot be disputed or minimized. There was no AIPAC or Presidents conference during that period of time and only the Bergsonites and their allies held and sponsored public rallies much to the displeasure of Stephen Wise and FDRs advisors who felt no incentive whatsoever to even think of bombing the railroads to or the extermination camps themselves. you are aware that RYBS support of SCA participation was based on a rarely used veto power over at issues that even remotely smacked of a theological nature consistent with the difference between klapei chutz and Maori pnim which did not exist with respect to the NY Board of Rabbis and other such groups.






          • Steve Brizel says:

            Zuroff in his writings suffers from a lack of appreciation of the value of spiritual resistance and the importance of rescuing yeshiva students and their RY. That is apparent in what can only be described as a mean spirited  review of Esther Farbstein’s monumental and definitive book published originally by Mossad HaRav Kook on the subject.I am sure that if you ever read anything about anyone who survived WW2 in Shanghai,  you will see it was hardly a vacation.

            You seem to be unaware of the well documented anti Semitism and isolationism in pre WW2 America and the absence of a President’s Conference and AIPAC type group, and the general reluctance of FDR’s fans within RJ especially and his advisors, many of whom were Jewish, to even lift a finger about the plight of European Jewry, with Henry Morgenthau being a sole and notable exception.

            Obviously, RYBS viewed participation in the SCA as dependent on the issues therein being solely Klapei chutz in nature with a rarely used power of a veto by the RCA and the OU to ensure that any issues that even remotely smacked of Klapei Pnim ( issues of interdenominational theological discussion) being viewed as the subject of a veto. FWIW, the SCA closed down due to its financial problems, as opposed to the often discussed but never materialized threat of the OU to walk out of the SCA.

        • mycroft says:


          Re the March on Washington, I don’t know, about the only people alive who would know are his children, there mat be some talmid from 1943 alive, but the few I can think of  from that time period have entered the Olam haemet.

          Wikipedia doesn’t list his name and he was not part of group sponsoring it, but a search engine request of  the Ravs name and March of Rabbis on Wahington and 1943 showed an article from 2010 that quotes someone quoting the Rav at the demonstration.

          The March  date October 6, 1943 exactly 30 years before Yom Kippur war started.

          Steve a very interesting question Steve, if he went where is the record.

          • Mycroft says:


            Re your March 24 127pm post

            The time in Shanghai was not a vacation, but it might be of interest to take the MOOC on Jews in China by some Chinese Prof of Judaism. Directly relevant is that all Jewish refugees in China received including Mir Yeshiva students received the same aid from the JDC but Zuroffs shows that in addition the Yeshiva students one year received as additional aid from the Vaad Hatzalah an amount greater than the Vaad spent on rescue activities that year. I said to the Vaads credit, they have transparency in how they spent their money. Today many Jewish organizations including some major ORthodox ones have no transparency. To give credit where it is due the Agudah has very good transparency.

          • Mycroft says:

            We agree that the SCA closed down due to financial problems- a combination of reasons a change of executive directors the paid position left them with a less skillfully exec, and no organization was really concerned with its existence, Orthodox didn’t care, and R and C were tired of Orthodox veto, thus they essentially started  a new organization based out of I believe Stamford, essentially R and C  and a smattering of Orthodox, frankly IMO who I would less likely ask sheilas to than Steve you would of YCT


            it is not so clear that no fingers were lifted to help during Holocaust, it is a canard which I have heard Rabbi Weiss state but I believe is false, maybe more could have been done but given US war and administration sadly not to much more could have been done. Madison Square Garden for example was filled a couple of times with protest rallies. Not much but saw a letter from a then future Speaker of the Hiuse McCormick responding to a letter that my mother AH apparently had sent with her concern about the Jews in Europe. It is very easy to judge after the fact. Inefficiency and maybe more could haw been done is a far cry from stating that there was no concern.

  4. Yossie Nemes says:

    Yasher Koach for sharing. Riveting.

  5. Nachum says:

    Jake and David F: The Rav wrote about it himself in Chamesh Drashot. He saw that Zionism, at least, including of course Religious Zionism, anticipated that things were going to have to change in a big way, and there was resistance to that. He famously compared it to Yosef’s brothers resisting Yosef’s dreams that things were going to have to change. (Although, of course, in that case it involved *leaving* Israel, not going to it.) There was also (again, this is the Rav’s words) the resistance of the Agudah to too-publicly attacking the Nazis in the 1930’s.  He brought this up when asked about the Soviet Jewry protests of the 1960’s, saying that the Jewish people should have learned that lesson thirty years earlier. He had similar sentiments about the way organized Jewry (granted, the non-Orthodox part) tried to avoid making waves in the US during the war itself.

    Steve: The Rav was indeed one of those marching on Washington, but as he himself said, he was a very junior member of the delegation compared to some of the others and thus appropriately isn’t usually listed as one of the leading participants. I don’t know how closely the march (or the Rav) was connected to Vaad Hatzalah- the march was an effort of the Bergson Group with the participation of the leading members of Vaad Hatzalah.

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Bill wrote in relevant part:

    “as usual, i have not a clue what you are talking about.  it may be my memory, but can you please remind me where the Rav ztl quoted Ramban in his teshuvah drashot in any way supportive of what you are arguing; for that matter i can only remember two references to Ramban in the 15 years i heard teshuvah drashot.”

    Look in Al HaTeshuvah, which I was told RYBS had a great deal of respect for the rendition by Dr Peli ZL of the teshuvah drashos transcribed therein. RYBS discussed therein in a very favorable manner  Ramban’s famous view on Karbanos which is in next week’s Parsha as well as Ramban’s view of the Seir LaAzazael. In the Toras haRav book on Avraham Avinu, RYBS also dealt with Ramban’s famous statement based on the Medrash that Maaseh Avos Siman LaBanim. In R D Holzer’s book on Breishis, RYBS is quoted verbatim in 1968 at a shiur given to the RCA  as preferring Ranban to Rambam as a far more authentic source of Hashkafas HaYahadus which was far more rooted in Chazal than the MN which RYBS dismissed as the product of Rambam’s encounter with Aristotelian philosophy.IIRC, R D Y Twersky ZL described RYBS as having a great knowledge of and being influenced in no small manner by the Ramban. Obviously, RYBS was as equally at home with the Ramban and his commentary on the Torah as  he was with the MN.

    As far as Jewish history is concerned, the Chasid Yaavetz’s comments deserve to be treated as an observation of his times, as opposed to being seen merely as a footnote rendered by someone who was hostile to a solely rationalist and philosophically based approach to Yahadus. One can argue that Hashkafas HaYahadus in its classical sense clearly has room for those who subscribe to the views of Chazal and all of the great Baalei Machshavah ranging from Rambam to Ramban to the Baalei Chasidus, Baalei Musar, Machshavah and their disciples today within the Mesorah of Torah.

    • dr.bill says:

      thank you.  exactly as i remember – two references both entirely irrelevant to this discussion.

      your other references are NOT to teshuvah drashot.  The Rav ztl loved the Ramban and quoted him extensively.  those who understand how the Rav approached teshuvah drashot understand why the Ramban is hardly mentioned.  IIRC, Rabbi Genack described how the Rav’s behavior was in some ways similar to Ramban, who he qouted broadly IN OTHER CONTEXTS.

      the talmid who told the Rav approved probably did not know the whole story.  There is a talmid, who is still very much alive, who can, but probably would not, give you the details of the Rav’s INVOLVEMENT in the process.  and btw, the late Prof. Peli was friendly with the Rav despite his association with JTS, authoring an intellectual biography of the late prof. AJ Heschel, and his major involvement in Jewish-Christian dialogue. (he even taught at Notre Dame!!) The Rav wanted his shiurim written well (not a transcription of what he said!) and did not assign that responsibility to those you often mention as his talmidim muvhakim.  I remember sitting in close proximity to Prof. Peli, when the Rav mentioned him during a part of a shiur that is rarely quoted.

      and please don’t tell me about HaChossid Yaavetz.  i believe what is said is relevant today, as I explained above.  He is a mainstay in my shiurim on pirkei avot, despite the explanation of many mishnayot in historic context including an emerging rabbinic class and the philosophic milieu.

      • Mycroft says:

        Besides Prof Peli there were others who were close to the Rav who engaged in discussions, conversations with non Jewish and non Orthodox groups.Until the Rav stopped being engaged in public life in the early mid 80 s it was a given that before any meeting these people would meet with the Rav for hours and review what exactly would be said etc. of interest when discussing new Catholic encyclicals, the Rav was fluent in Latin to the extent that he would wait to translate to English himself from the original Latin and then compare it to the Vatican translation and look for the different nuances.

        My suspicion is that these people in general are not the same as those referred to as the Ravs talmidim muvhakim. Depending what one wants to know about the Rav there are different accurate sources. Want to know his policies on Maimonides ask members of the school committees, sadly time is marching on and very few left. Want to know what he said in shiur re Chiddushei Torah various People have given good secondary information based on notes, want to know public policy ask those who worked on those issues, sadly here again due to the nature of things the Rav stopped being active over thirty years ago and generally dealt in these matters with people. With some experience many are now in Yeshiva shel Malah. There are of course, records of what happened and some writings good secondary evidence.

        Time marches on as can be seen by the very recent death of Cardinal Kkeeper of Baltimore who for many years was the point man for the Catholc Church in their relations with Jews.

        There is a record out there and those who wish to find it can find it. It is much more complicated than taking words theological and non theological one has to look lemaaseh what the Rav did in practice for interpretation of those words.

  7. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Bill-look in Al HaTeshuvah, which I was told by a talmid of RYBS now in the Olam HaEmes that RYBS very much approved of. RYBS discusses Ramban’s famous views on Karbanos and the Seir LaAzazael. In the Toras HaRav on Avraham Avinu, RYBS discussed at length the Ramban’s view of Maaseh Avos Siman LaBanim as indicative of historical trends. IIRC, RDH expressed concern and dissapointment  that RYBS liked the idea of Nisayon as a test of man with respect to the Akedah as opposed to Avraham challenging HaShem prior to the destructioon of Sdom and Amorah. In the letters edited by R Helfgott, RYBS recommended that smicha  students in RIET have a thorough understanding of Ramban’s commentary on Chumash. IIRC, R Y Twersky ZL described RYBS as very much a devotee of Ramban and RYBS told the RCA that Ramban expressed authentic hashkafas HaYahadus based on Tanach and Chazal.

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