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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Jew against Jew

Right now I’m reading the book Five Years in the Warsaw Ghetto by Bernard Goldstein. He was a comrade in the Bund who recounted the years in the Ghetto during World War II. I’m about halfway through and what strikes me, other than the Nazi horrors of ghetto life, is the terror that Jews inflicted on Jews.


I’d read about the Jewish Kapos in Auschwitz, but never about the Judenrat (Jewish Race) in the Warsaw Ghetto. I had never imagined that there were Jewish Police who were basically agents for the Gestapo. That Jews rounded up other Jews for deportation. That Jews killed other Jews.

I can only assume that starvation and fear can make you act in unimaginable ways. Unimaginable to me. I have never lived in constant fear of anything. Sure, there is a low-level of anxiety living in America. Sometimes my heart races when I walk through a group of strangers on a corner. I occasionally consider buying pepper spray and clutch my keys as weapons. Sometimes I worry about terrorism, but my life has never been interrupted by true destruction.


I can not imagine what it was like to be a Jew during the holocaust. Or a gypsy. Or a Pole. Or a socialist. I can not say that I would have been an outstanding member of the Bund. Putting my life at risk to hide Goldstein. From my seat of privilidge, a jew by choice, a modern American woman, I can say, “Yes! I would have stood strong with my comrades. I would not have joined the Judenrat. I would have resisted to the end.”


But would I?



I hope that I will never be tested. (That seems trite to say, but it is true.) If I did not have the fortitude to face starvation and resist to the end, I would die heart broken. It is easy to be a comrade in America—but what about the America we might have in ten years? Will it still be easy to be a comrade?



No, I’m not comparing our government to the Nazi party. Not yet, anyway. There are subtle changes happening and one day, American might turn on American and we’ll all be shocked it happened so suddenly. A return to the times McCarthy. A return to blacklists and turning neighbor against neighbor. Demonizing the liberals.



I’m edging into territory that I don’t know well, so I’ll stop. If there is something I hate, it is ignorant political ranting and that is where I’m headed.

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