have been published, read and forgotten. There is one book, however,
which dare not be allowed to share this fate. This is the chronicles
of Rabbi Michael Ber Weissmandl, ztl, of the war years, 1942 to
1945, so aptly named "Min Hametzar" (From the Depths). published in
New York in 1961 in Hebrew. Not enough individuals have read this
book. The ghastly facts uncovered in it are not sufficiently well
imagine the Hitlerite holocaust? Where is the language to describe
it? All the known words of human speech have already been used for
conventional occurrences; they have acquired everyday meanings and
have been fashioned with an inability to describe the horrors of an
Auschwitz or a Treblinka. What can be said to make individuals
understand the wild cries of the night, when our brothers and
sisters were led to the slaughterhouses? And in what way can one
convey the conversion of precious Jews to the status of animals
preparatory to being slaughtered?
Skyscraping walls prevented their cries being heard, and in that
horrible man-made silence, the most valuable portion of the Jewish
people was compressed in the confines of the ghettos in hunger and
in thirst, in epidemics and in torture, crying bitterly, only to
themselves, until the end of their anguish; when they were loaded
into the sealed anguish; when they were loaded in the sealed
cattle-wagons for the week-long journeys, when their corpses and the
still have-living reached the slaughterhouses and gas chambers.
Where can existing words be found to fit this story, and who is
there to coin new phrases with meaning enough to tell this tale?
this was done through a directive from an innocent-looking office,
where the S.S. murderers, with the methods of modern civilization
gave the orders which, by chain reaction, set in motion all the
machinery of death and destruction to which a stop could not be
envisaged. One stroke of the pen to extinguish a hundred thousand
lives. A few words enough for a million. And these few officers set
the wheels turning in Auschwitz, in Treblinka; the Einsatzkomandos;
the deep pits on the lonely plains of Europe overflowing with human
blood. So much power behind it, such a military might enforcing it
that only the winning of the World War could interfere with this
astonished was Rabbi Weissmandl to discover that these strokes of
the pen could so easily have been erased, that the Jewish tragedy
could to a considerable extent, have been alleviated by some simple
"old fashioned" methods. How many hundreds of thousands of Jewish
lives could have been saved -- perhaps even millions.
was the German henchman for the Jews of Slovakia, Eichmann's
representative in that area for establishing the ghettos, destroying
their livelihood and finally dispatching to slaughter the hundreds
of thousands of Jews in Slovakia and the neighboring countries. He
carried out this mission as directed by Eichman and as his own
cravings commanded. His was the first country in Europe to be
designated for the supply of Jews to the slaughter houses, as it was
Slovakia that was first occupied by Hitler--even earlier than
Poland. The puppet government of Cardinal Tissu had asked Hitler to
"cleanse" its country of Jews. Officially it even paid Germany for
transportation, and Wisliceny was the ultimate ruler and organizer.
He was nearly always drunk; drunk from spirits and intoxicated with
blood -- and seemingly unassailable.
Michael Ber Weissmandl, at the end of 1943, when two thirds of the
Jews of Slovakia had already been transported for "work" to that far
destination, got to know through a certain Hochberg -- an S.S.
intriguer, and second in command to Wisliceny, that his chief was
also lustful for money and that already on more than one occasion,
money had bought relief for some individuals, postponing their
deportation. Overwhelmed with joy at this discovery, he consulted
his father-in-law, the great and renowned rabbi of Nitra, ztl, who
agreed that if this old-fashioned method was effective, there was no
reason why it would not be attempted on behalf of the great masses
to be saved.
Weissmandl writes of this same Hochberg, "I was first there on
Friday in the summer of 1942 -- Tammuz, 5702. I was standing in the
corridor near to the office of Hochberg and all of the waiting rooms
around were crowded with those who had come to Hochberg to beg a
postponement of that ultimate journey for "work in the east," as
many still believed. I heard the voice of Hochberg speaking on the
phone to his chief, Wisliceny saying, 'Her Hauptstumbandfuehrer, ich
melde ghorehsamst, the train has left: Man 727, Women 637, Children
1667: altogether 3,028 Jawohl!' Never will this total leave my
memory; 1600 children! No outcry and no tears. No one cares. The
whole world is silent. Jawohl, Herr Hauptsturmbanfuehrer.
One of the
famous men of Pressberg, Reb Aharon Gruenhut, finally succeeded in
gaining confidence by Hochberg in Rabbi Weissmandl, for whom a
secret appointment was arranged. On this occasion, the rabbi
presented himself as one who had connections with rabbinical circles
throughout the world. He showed Hochberg his passport that contained
a British visa issued just before the outbreak of war, and told him
of his visit to London and of conferences there to impress him with
his high standing. He then made it clear that he had come on a
secret mission of the highest importance as a representative of
Jewry abroad, who had contacted him through the American "Joint" in
Switzerland. Their message was that they were prepared to pay in
cash for the stopping of all further transports of Jews from
Slovakia to the east. The "Joint" was ready to pay the price that
his chief, Wisliceny, would name. Rabbi Weissmandl emphasized that
neither Hochberg nor Wisliceny should believe that his mission was
directed by local Jews.
this conversation with Hochberg in 1943, when the scales of war were
already a little out of balance for Hitler's Germany after the heavy
defeats in the east and the support of the allies by American might,
Rabbi Weissmandl was able, with American might, Rabbi Weissmandl was
able , with careful tact, to introduce doubts into Hochberg's mind
about German world conquest, and more specifically about Hochberg's
own position after the war. He conveyed to him that it would be very
much to his and his chief's advantage to make some provisions for
their own safety. In this respect, he was now authorized to offer
the promise of World Jewry that if they would stop all further
transports, he and Wisliceny would be save.
became enraged at such suggestions, but as the conversation
progressed, he became much softer and began to listen carefully to
what was proposed. He listened and replied, "I must go to see
immediately and Rabbi Weissmandl waited. Every minute seemed like an
hour; every hour seemed endless. He sat there exhausted, awaiting
the reply fateful for the remaining Jews of Slovakia, with so many
hanging in the balance.
He had set
there for many hours, when suddenly the door burst open and Hochberg
hurried into the room.
Speaking rapidly and
with great excitement, he said, "the deal is done. My chief asked
for $50,000 and no further transports will be sent; but he lays down
the following terms: Wisliceny will show his goodwill: three
transports -- next Tuesday, next Friday, the following Tuesday --
each of about 3000 souls, will be held up, but on Friday after that,
the first Installment of $25,000 must be handed over. After that,
there will be no further transports for seven weeks, to enable the
second installment of $25,000 to be obtained and paid, after which
there will be a final stopping of all transports. There is one
further condition. You must be able to show that the money comes
from abroad and not from Slovakian Jews themselves."
The latter was an
important point to this S.S. henchman, as a guarantee that it was
world Jewry who was behind the deal, and who would finally keep its
promise for his safety. In any case, Rabbi Weissmandl did not then
think that Slovakian Jews could possibly find such a sum, as by that
time they had been stripped of all their possessions. On that other
hand, he did not imagine for one moment that the wealthy "Joint"
would not provide such a relatively small sum to save literally tens
of thousands of lives from total annihilation in the German
Rabbi Weissmandl left
Hochberg's office with hope and joy. He hurried home to Nitra to
inform his father-in-law and to set about getting the deal
consummated. The Rabbi of Nitra, in spite of his happiness at the
possibility of saving so many lives, expressed some reservation. He
felt that from a distance the "Joint" would not see their tragedy,
and that the Zionist leaders working together with the "Joint" had a
different calculation. But he suggested, representatives from beyond
the "Kanzelel" -- the Council of Orthodox Jewish Communities --
should be drawn into this, and even the Zionists and non-Orthodox
groups taken into partnership.
The name of Mrs. Gisi
Fleischman came to the forefront, as she was of Zionist circles and
also the pre-war representative of the "Joint" in Slovakia. Besides
her prominence, she was a good-hearted and courageous women and her
word would carry weight with the "Joint". It was also decidedly to
call on Mr. Fuerst -- known for both his integrity and financial
Among the weapons with
which the Zionists have equipped themselves to pierce the walls of
resistance to their influence, there is one most predominant. This
is "ahavas Yisroel" -- love of the fellow Jew. This slogan and
catch-phrase carries extra weight with the religious Jew to whom
this concept has a special attraction. The Zionists have explained
that their aim is achieving statehood is to provide a refuge and
shelter for much tormented Jewry.
The long, bloody paths of our, till now, 2000 year long exile, with
its inquisitions, persecutions, pogroms, slaughter and torture, has
always been at the front of every Jews mind. Seldom was there a
place on this earth inhabited by Jews, or a stretch of time, without
blood and tears at the hands of our many persecutors of all nations.
It was these pogroms that provided, for the short-sighted, the
initial conditioning to seek a solution in the outward idea of
Possibly the Zionists,
themselves, at the first steps of inception, were honestly taken by
the idea of that solution; and it was this kernel of compassion that
gave to them the power to influence others with this superficial
consideration. Zionism has built on the basis that the solution of
nationhood applicable to any other nation is in the same way also
applicable to Jewry, as they could see no difference between the
nations of the world and the Jewish people. As they see it, Jews
regulate their fate by the same ways and means as all other peoples.
The belief in exile by Heavenly Decree as a punishment for our sins,
and the belief in Heavenly Redemption by the Will of the Creator
was, to Zionism, non-existent. People's thoughts were not directed
to the fundamental, all-embracing heresy upon which Zionism was
established, but grasped only the attractive promises that were
offered because unfortunately, Zionism arrived in the most feeble
and small of all generation, coupled with distressing happenings,
which contributed to the closing of people's minds to the truth and
to their being led astray by the Zionist Idea.
How much were Rabbi
Weissmandl and his colleagues overcome with joy when they succeeded
in getting the right people together! How great was their hope! But
how much were they overwhelmed by sorrow when they tried to get
things in motion, and how great was their frustration when they
learned that the Zionists, together with the "Joint", stopped every
outside help from reaching them. This was not only when it was a
question of saving the remnants of the Jews of Slovakia -- about
40,000 souls -- but also when the possibility of saving what was
still left of the Jews of Poland and Hungary was in question; a
matter then of millions of souls. Then, too, the Zionists
deliberately prevented any help from being extended under various
excuses that even a child could see through. This was their policy
-- stupid and merciless -- but they perused it relentlessly. In the
end, they admitted openly that their policy was not to help fellow
Jews, but to let them perish in the tens of thousands and in their
This is forever
unforgettable and unforgivable. Zionist "ahavas Yisroel" must be
displayed conspicuously and beyond any doubt.
The Friday when the
first installment of $25,000 had to be paid was fast approaching and
there was not yet a way how this money could be found for Wisliceny.
Mrs. Flesichman was also the representative of the World Jewish
Congress and well known to the Jewish Agency. She was, therefore,
considered to be the most suitable person to make contact with these
organizations. Her words would be listed to....
The pressure became
even greater when it was seen the S.S. oligarchy was in earnest. The
first transport has been stopped. But how can contact be made with
Zurich, with New York and with Jerusalem, the seat of the Jewish
Agency, which influenced and coordinated the work of these other two
bodies? Slovakia was then a small country sealed off by the German
occupation of the surrounding territory. There was no common border
with any free country, so how could any message be conveyed to the
Shloime Stern was
instrumental in finding a temporary solution. He obtained a
diplomatic courier, who was prepared to take all the important
messages to the "Joint" in Zurich. He was also able to borrow money,
temporarily, from various sources in Slovakia, putting together the
equivalent of the enormous sounding sum of $25,000. The money
obtained was changed on the back market for dollars and handed over
to Hochberg for Wisliceny. Hochberg accepted it and came back with
the message that there would be no further transports for seven
weeks, which time was set for the completion of the deal.
They were all convinced
that once the diplomatic courier would get their message to the
"Joint" and the Jewish Agency, not $50,000 but ten times $50,000
wold at once be put at their disposal for this and similar "deals."
Surely Jews the world over would dance for joy upon hearing that at
last the door was open in the inner circles of the S.S. and a way
found to rescue their fellow Jews.
Mrs. Fleischman sat
down to write the memorandum to Salli Mayer, the "Joint"
representative in Switzerland. She was careful in her every word,
explaining the situation of hope that had been ignited. The "Joint"
should hasten its help at this last moment and miss the life-saving
opportunity that had been so dramatically forced. The memorandum was
sent to the "Joint", to the Jewish Agency and to a personal friend
of hers, Mr. N. Schwalbe in Zurich. And then they sat down to wait.
Days went by, swallowed
by weeks, and of the seven not many were left. The time for the
final settlement was fast approaching and a great sum of money was
needed. Many people had managed to escape from the hell of Poland to
Slovakia on their way to Hungary and Romania, which were not yet
being so intensely processed by the Hitler hordes. They were not a
thousandth of a percent of those who were so brutally done to death,
but still a number to be supported and a problem of Slovakian Jewry.
Money was needed to bribe the Slovakian genarmerie and police to
stop their pressure for the deportations to continue. Money was
needed for the labor camps in Sered, Novaki and Wiener in Slovakia.
anti-Semitic government had built these camps for a slave labor
before deportation began, and it was put to those Jews still left
there that if they, themselves, would build up and increase the
capacity of those labor camps, they would absorb more and so relieve
the pressure for "deportations." and above all, the money was needed
to refund the temporary loans from so many sources that had gone
towards the first payment to Wisliceny and to provide the second
$25,000 that would finally seal this blood transaction.
All this money was a
matter of life or death for the tens of thousands of Jews in
Slovakia and, in the end, for millions still alive throughout
Europe. Who could provide and who should provide, if not the "Joint"
and the Jewish Agency, who held possession of the vast sums of money
given by Jews the world over for the help of their brethren in need?
Was there anywhere at all any need that was greater?
The diplomatic courier
left for Zurich, holding in his hands the lamentations of the
strangling remnants of Jewry; in his hands, their appeal from death.
This courier had to
spend some days in Zurich before his return. He was awaited with
mounting anxiety, for with his advent were tied up all the hopes of
the masses under sentence.
And he returned. But
not even a letter was sent with him by those "help organizations"
only a verbal message that they had no time to write, and of help
there was no mention at all.
Rabbi Weissmandl writes
that on hearing this message, they 'felt as though the house had
collapsed on them'. It was only Mrs. Fleischman who started to
explain matters after this great shock. She said that "uncle" Salli
Mayer was a very cautious man and it was necessary to write again.
It was also necessary to write to Mr. Silbersten, the Jewish
Congress representative. "And who knows, maybe they are doing
something great," she added. Maybe for such a big undertaking they
had to refer to New York and Jerusalem -- who knows?
himself, followed up with letters to the Agency and the "Joint" in
the name of the Rabbis left in Slovakia -- letters of tears and of
pleading -- but still there was no reply. Meanwhile, the seven weeks
had passed and they had to send to Hochberg, asking him to explain
to Wisliceny that the messenger that was to bring the money from
Switzerland had met with an accident and was delayed in a hospital
there. He would be bringing the money in three or four weeks time.
Wisliceny agreed to wait.
In the end, a letter
did come from the "Joint"; a letter written by Salli Mayer, which
said that $50,000 was a lot of money for such a small country, and
that in the previous year's budget of the "joint", only a few
thousand dollars had been allocated for them. The "Joint" had to be
run according to their system. The explanation given in the
memorandum why they now need all this money and the documentary
evidence as to what was happening in Poland, to which country the
"deportations" took place, were exaggerated stories. This was the
way of Eastern European Jewry, who were always asking for money. In
general, he added, it was impossible to send anything at all just
then, as the money was coming from America, which had prohibited the
sending of funds to enemy countries. What was possible to do was to
render some small help, monthly, if the "Joint" in Hungary would
agree to do this out of the blocked account that been held since the
outbreak of the war.
Rabbi Weissmandl and
his colleagues read the letter, but they could not believe it had
been written by fellow Jews. Their hearts stopped beating when its
contents became clear to them. But this was not the end. There was a
further letter. It fully explained the first. But it was more deadly
and more devastating. It disclosed the bottomless abyss to which
born- Jews can sink -- the responsibility of Zionism.