Two on Rebbetzin Farbstein’s Hidden in Thunder

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7 Responses

  1. Steve Brizel says:

    Believe it or not, Haaretz gave Rebbitzen Farbstein’s book a great review when it was published by Mossad HaRav Kook in 2002. I purchased it and spent many a Shabbos afternoon in the summer carefully reading it cover. IMO, it is far superior to Dr Kranzler’s books, which IMO are the Charedi response to the secular historiography set forth by Yad Vashem. I like the fact that the author explored both sides of many of the halachic issues, as opposed to defending or condemning what were clearly major judgment calls on such issues such as rabbis leaving or staying, sending kids to monasteries and even siding with the Warsaw Ghetto revolt-in the case of R Menachem Ziemba ZTL-who clearly did so. Likewise, Rebbitzen Farbstein firmly but gently and calmly proves that a famous story involving 93 BY students from Cracow simply did not occur. I think that her book is a superbly written book for the reader who finds both the secular Zionist and the official Charedi historiographies of the period flawed in their approaches. IMO, the book is a great guidepost for any yeshiva that wishes to approach the Holocaust from a historical perspective. That being the case, I do think that Rebbitzen Farbstein defends the well known address of the Belzer Rebbe ZTL, the defense is not based on considerations of Daas Torah but rather where his services would best serve Klal Yisrael. WADR, there is not a word in the book that promotes the POV that all of the rabbinical figures who stayed or who left made the “right” decision. The bottom line is that many of the last generation of Gdolim saw that life in Eastern Europe was played out simply because of the combined assaults of many ideological movements and that this made aliyah or even immigration to the US an option worth considering. In essence, they voted with their feet for either aliyah or rebuilding in North America, as they escaped the FSU and Nazi Germany in the 1920s and 1930s and even after the commencement of WW2 prior to Pearl Harbor. I for one shudder at thinking of what would happened if all of the last generation of Gdolim had simply stayed in Europe.

  2. Yossi (Joe) Izrael says:

    That the secular Israeli establishment has long ago laid the “consensus” on what happened during the Holocaust is no news. The Mapai party and the Jewish agency did everything to pander to the British and Roosevelt, and prevented the salvation of many European Jews, especially the Jews of Hungary and Romania. Then they blamed the “rabbis” for not encouraging their constituents to come to Palestine. Ben Hecht’s book “perfidy” was censored in Israel and its sale forbidden. After the verdict in the Kasztner trial’s appeal was given, the Israeli propaganda machine was set in motion to completely rewrite history and whitewash the Mapai and Jewish Agency as well as Kasztner et al.

    Yad Vashem, until this day, focuses mainly on the Polish Jews’ fate and marginalizes the others, and leaves out many painful events that are not comfortable for the establishment. (Such as the zeal with which the freia -especially the communist/socialist- became the Nazis’ cronies and the most devout capos, and many other such things.)

    The Israeli curriculum makes zero mention of the entire affair, and lays all blame on “the rabbis”. Farbstein and prof. Chaim Zuroff are now slowly debunking this myth, albeit to my taste with far less puch than they should.

    Unfortunately history is not being dealt with as the mitzvah d’oraisa which it is “זכור ימות עולם, בינו שנות דור-ודור” in Haazinu. So Farbstein does a good job in publicising her book. I just wonder how many Toldos Aharons & Briskers will ever read it.

  3. Shira Schmidt says:

    4 b AdarI I noticed that Esther Farbstein’s “Hidden in Thunder” is available both in English and Hebrew, at great discounts, now at the YU seforim sale. You can go there in person or virtually at When the seforim sale ends on 18 bAdarI (Feb.24) you can still get it from the distributor
    If you want a taste of her approach, see my article “Joy in Dachau” which appeared in the Jerusalem Post on World Holocaust Memorial Day Jan.27,2008.
    There I explain how Rebbetzin Farbstein uses letters written fromt DP camps after the Churban of European Jewry as a springboard to explore such subjects as the role of books before, during, and after the Shoah; the history of the Bais Yaakov movement; the importance of seforim and study in rehabilitation of survivors.

  4. Chaim Wolfson says:

    Abba Kovner used the line “like sheep to the slaughter” in a manifesto he issued at the end of 1941, calling on the Jews of the Vilna ghetto to rise up against the Germans and “NOT be led like shhep to the slaughter”. Did he also use the phrase after the war, to describe the Jews that were killed? My impression is that those who decried the lack of physical resistance during the war were all armchair generals and Monday morning quaterbacks who had no personal experience with concentration camp and ghetto life.

    On a related note, several years ago I came across a book about the Treblinka uprising, written by a secular Jewish author. He, too, asks the question of why there wasn’t more resistance. His answer: Uprisings against the Germans had absolutely no chance of success, and were in fact the counsel of despair. Only those who had given up all hope of survival would think of armed rebellion. But a Jew, especially a religious Jew, never gives up hope. Given the author’s background, I thought that was a pretty amazing insight.

    On an UNRELATED note, one of Rabbi Schonfeld’s sons once asked him if he ever thinks about all the children he saved and brought to England. “No,” Rabbi Schonfeld replied, “but I often think of the children I DIDN’T save.” We would do well to think of them also.

  5. Michoel says:

    R. Chaim Wolfson,
    I agree that the insight of that secular writer is impressive. There is a beautiful vort from the Shem Mishmuel on Parshas Noach, that you remind me of. He discusses “maamin v’aino maamin”, explaining how Noach the Tzadik in whose a’chus the eniter world was saved, could be from the “katnei emuna”. It is the way of tzaddikim to see good in the people and assume that they will certainly do t’shuvah. And Hakadosh Baruch Hu we know is “y’nacheim al ha’rah”, wanting the t’shuvah of reshaim and not to have to punish them. So, the Shem Mishmuel says, the hanhaga of Noach was that he was “maamin” in the maamar of H’ that he was going to bring a mabul, but at the same time, he was aino maamin, since he was certain that the t’shuvah the people would do would revert the punishment.

  6. Baruch Pelta says:

    For anybody who’s interested, R’ Rakeffet responded to Dr. Farbstein’s critique of his scholarship in this past week’s Sunday shiur at Gruss.

  7. sima ir kodesh says:

    R. Rakeffet has several tapes that are a must to listen to analyizing some of the similiar issues that Mrs. Farbstein discusses. He disaggres with Prof. Faberstein on a few points and brings halachic marmekomos to stress his points. B”H for those who fight lshem shamayim.

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