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How do I answer those who say that the state of Israel took in the Holocaust survivors who had nowhere to go?

Dec. 31, 2007

Dear Rabbi,

someone asked me what would have happened to the Holocaust survivors had Israel not been founded, I wasn't sure if our opinion was that the Holocaust would not have happened if not for Zionism. They were of the opinion that no other nation wanted the survivors.

Dear Nate,

The Satmar Rav did say that the Holocaust was a punishment for Zionism, and the Chazon Ish also said something similar. But you can't use this as an answer to people, because it's a matter of theory and speculation; there is no factual evidence that this was a punishment for that.

Rather the correct answer is that the Zionists were amazingly successful at creating the impression that there was nowhere else for European Jews to go. But in fact, President Truman and other leaders were making great efforts to resettle the European Jewish refugees in places other than Palestine. It was the Zionists themselves who prevented this from happening and instead put the refugees on ships to Palestine, where most were intercepted by the British.

In December 1945, American and Britain announced the formation of the Anglo-American Committee on Palestine, a committee empowered to "examine political, economic and social conditions in Palestine as they bear upon the problem of Jewish immigration and settlement therein," and to examine the position of European Jews to see if they wished to go to Palestine or to other countries outside of Europe.

As the committee began its work, President Truman took a step to make it possible for those 226,000 European Jewish refugees to come to America. During the war, the regular immigration quotas for the Nazi-occupied European countries in which Jews lived had barely been used, due to the fear of enemy agents. In 1942 only 10% of the quotas were used; in 1943 only 7%; in 1944 only 6%; and in 1945 only 7%. Truman asked the State Department to put those unused quotas to use now, allowing 400,000 refugees from Europe into America. However, this required legislation in Congress. The legislation was introduced by Congressman William Stratton in 1947, but did not pass because it failed to get any support from the major Jewish organizations, which were all controlled by the Zionist movement. The Zionists knew that if all the refugees went to America, they would lose their most powerful weapon in bargaining for a state.

Philip S. Bernstein was a Reform rabbi who served as an advisor to the American army in Germany after the war. In October 1946, he met with Truman and told him that 90% of the Jewish refugees wanted to go only to Palestine. Later, in a 1950 article, he admitted that this had been a lie in the interest of Zionism: "By pressing for an exodus of Jews from Europe; by insisting that Jewish DPs did not wish to go to any other country outside Israel; by not participating in the negotiations on behalf of the DPs; and by refraining from a campaign of their own - by all this they (the Zionists) certainly did not help to open the gates of America for Jews. In fact, they sacrificed the interests of living people - their brothers and sisters who went through a world of pain - to the politics of their own movement."

Meanwhile, the Anglo-American Committee had published its conclusions in April 1946, calling for 100,000 Jews to be admitted to Palestine, but recommending that Palestine become neither a Jewish state nor an Arab state. Rather, the Mandate was to continue until the United Nations would execute a trusteeship agreement with Britain as the trustee. Had this plan been accepted, a good part of the refugee problem could have been solved without a Jewish state.

But Zionism opposed the committee's report and insisted on a Jewish state. The two Zionist terror organizations, Irgun and Stern Gang, turned on the British, while the mainstream Zionists intensified their illegal immigration, challenging the British to stop the ships and send their passengers back to war-torn Europe. Images of the Jews on those ships were featured prominently in the news and gave Zionism a propaganda victory.

Upon the founding of the state in 1948, most of the young Jewish immigrants, who had never been trained for war, were sent to the battlefields to fight the Arabs; thousands of them died. As the Brisker Rav remarked, "They bring Jews to be killed, and call that the ingathering of the exiles!" (Uvdos Vehanhagos L'veis Brisk v. 4, p. 195)

So no, the state did not bring any benefit to the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. If not for Zionism, they would have all gone to America and rebuilt their lives.