Marek Edelman – Death of an anti-fascist hero of the Warsaw Jewish Resistance
Marek Edelman – Death of an anti-fascist hero of the Warsaw Jewish Resistance
Last Commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt Dies Aged 90
On October 2nd 2009, Marek Edelman, Deputy Leader of ZOB, the Jewish Fighting Organisation in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, died aged 90. Marek Edelman who, after the death of Mordechai Anielwicz, became Commander of ZOB, was a living legend as well as a world famous heart surgeon. He led the Bund units in the area of the Brushworks and the Tobins factories.
In December 1990 I reviewed his book The Ghetto Fights in Return 5, a Jewish anti-Zionist magazine.
Marek Edelman was a member of the anti-Zionist Bund, the General Jewish Workers Union of Poland. The Bund has originally been formed as the General Jewish Workers Union of Lithuania, Poland and Russia, but the Stalinists had eliminated it and its leadership.
Edelman’s life was the stuff of fiction. From fighting in the Ghetto Uprising, escaping via the sewers to the ‘Aryan’ side of Warsaw, a founder of Solidarity in Poland who was briefly imprisoned by the Stalinists.
Edelman was the living proof that Jews could fight anti-Semitism where they lived and didn’t have to escape to a state mirrored on the principles of their oppressors in someone else’s land in Palestine. Above all he excoriated the Jewish collaborators and traitors who the Zionists had seen fit to call ‘heroes’. He didn’t fit in with or conform to Zionism’s narrative of the Holocaust.
Today Zionism praises the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but in the 1930’s and 1940’s it treated and made deals with the Nazis. In the Ghetto the Jewish leadership did nothing as two-thirds of the Jews were deported without resistance. The Chairman of the Judenrat, Adam Czerniakow, a General Zionist and compared to most leaders of the Judenrat, an honourable man, committed suicide. ‘what could we do’ was the familiar refrain of the Jewish leadership. But the Bund, which delayed the setting up of the Ghetto through demonstrations and mass mobilisation, believed in relying on the masses, not the lying words of the Nazi enemy.
Zionism had always preached the line of least resistance. As the anti-Nazi Boycott of German goods was launched in Britain and the USA in 1933 by the Jewish labour movement, the Zionist leaders negotiated an economic transfer agreement (Ha’avara) that led to 60% of capital investment in Palestine between 1933 and 1939 coming from Nazi Germany.
Edelman became a ‘non-person’ in Israel. He challenged the Zionist fable that the holocaust was part of a continuous road that led to the Israeli state and that the Ghetto Uprising was part of that same road. Having abandoned the Jews of Europe to their fate, Zionism created the myth that resistance to the Nazis was a Zionist endeavour.
As Yitzhak Laor noted in his review in Ha’aretz of 26.12.04. of Ruth Linn’s, Escaping Auschwitz: A Culture of Forgetting
‘How long did it take before we finally learned that there had been anti-Zionists among the fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising? Who was Marek Edelman? Why could he show up from time to time at Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta’ot (“Ghetto Fighters”) to sit down and chat with his soul mate Antek Zuckerman, while we, as readers, were kept in the dark as to the man’s charm and greatness? Because the collective memory was unable to tolerate people who had consciously chosen not to identify with the Zionist enterprise, even in the context of Holocaust memory.’
Linn’s book dealt with another Jewish hero of the holocaust hero, Rudolf Vrba, who with Alfred Wetzler, escaped from Auschwitz, to warn the 800,000 Hungarian Jews that they were next on the Nazi butchers’ list. Their detailed description of the gas chambers and the location of their murder, the Auschwitz Protocols, was suppressed by the Zionist press and movement until the Swiss newspapers , the War Refugee Board and the Vatican, among others, blew the whistle.
The reason for the silencing of Edelman and Vrba was because the Holocaust has been harnessed to the cause the dispossession of the Palestinians. The Palestinians were the new Nazis and anyone who disagreed was also an anti-Semite. As Richard Goldstone found out this week when Israel’s finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, accused him of being an anti-Semite. (BREAKING NEWS – Israel Finance Minister: Goldstone Is ‘Anti-Semite’).
As Idith Zertal wrote:
“Nationalizing the ghetto uprisings was a way of nationalizing the narrative and removing all the contradictory, non-Zionist elements…. The fact that the umbrella organizations involved in the rebellion included all the political parties was minimized or obscured. Of all the efforts to hush up and disguise the truth, the case of Marek Edelman is perhaps the most glaring.”
As Zertal pointed out, the “Encyclopedia of the Holocaust,” edited by Israel Gutman, one of Israel’s Establishment Holocaust Historians at Yad Vashem, is very vague about Edelman’s role, and devotes only one column to him. (The Living Dead, Yitzhak Laor)
Marek Edelman’s book, The Ghetto is Fighting, was first published in Poland in 1945 and republished in Britain in 1990. Given that this was the only first-hand account by a leader of the Uprising, it is hardly accidental that it took 56 years, until 2001, before it was published in Israel.
“Like Vrba, Edelman ‘ascended’ to Israel, refusing to become the ‘dead and obedient hero who could be moulded along with the political order of that time. On the contrary he remained alive and kicking and refusing and, therefore, extremely inconvenient for the creation of a heroic Zionist condensing and compensating myth.’ Zertal, I. Death and the Nation, 56-7 (Translation from Hebrew).
As another survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, Professor Israel Shahak, wrote in a letter published on 19 May 1989 in Kol Ha’ir, Jerusalem:
Nearly all the work of administration, and later the work of transporting hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths, was carried out by Jewish collaborators. Before the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising… the Jewish underground killed, with perfect justification, every Jewish collaborator they could find. If they had not done so the Uprising could never have started. The majority of the population of the Ghetto hated the collaborators far more than the German Nazis….
the entire Nazi success in easy and continued rule over millions of people stemmed from the subtle and diabolical use of collaborators… This, and not what is ‘instilled’ was the reality. Of the Yad Vashem (official state Holocaust museum in Jerusalem – Ed.) theatre, I do not wish to speak, at all. It, and its vile exploits, such as honouring South Africa collaborators with the Nazis [the visit of South African Premier John Vorster to Israel – TG) are truly beneath contempt.
And this is the reason for the silencing and invisibility of Marek Edelman and Rudolf Vrba. They were living proof that Zionism was not and never was a movement of resistance in Europe, but a movement of collaboration. Ironically, given that Zionism accuses its Jewish opponents of ‘self-hatred’, it is as Antony Lerman points out in the Guardian, ‘arguable that Zionism was actually a display of it.’ Of course there were many Zionists who, despite their Zionism, fought against the Nazis. They included the Commander of ZOB, Mordechai Anielwicz of Hashomer Hatzair. But he too began the fightback with a declaration that his Zionist work in Poland had been wasted years. Even as preparations for the Uprising were underway, Zionist collaborators such as Abraham Gancawajch of Hashomer Hatzair were targeted (unsuccessfully in his case) for assassination.
As John Rose notes in his obituary in the summer of 2002,
Edelman, intervened in Israel’s show trial of jailed Palestinian resistance leader, Marwan Barghouti. He wrote a letter of solidarity to the Palestinian movement, and though he criticised the suicide bombers, its tone infuriated the Israeli government and its press. Edelman had always resented Israel’s claim on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising as a symbol of Jewish liberation. Now he said this belonged to the Palestinians.
He addressed his letter to the Palestinian ZOB, “commanders of the Palestinian military, paramilitary and partisan operations – to all the soldiers of the Palestinian fighting organisations”. The old Jewish anti-Nazi Ghetto fighter had placed his immense moral authority at the disposable of the only side he deemed worthy of it.
And this is the response to those who query the connection between the Palestinian fighters and the Jewish fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Former Israeli Foreign Minister, Moshe Arens, in Ha’aretz: reveals that when trying to get Edelman an award of an honorary doctorate from an Israeli university, Vrba received one in 1999 from Haifa University as a result of Ruth Linn’s efforts, ‘I ran into stubborn opposition led by Holocaust historians in Israel.’ These were the Zionists’ establishment historians, people such as Yehuda Bauer, Yisrael Guttman, Gili Fatran and Otto dov Kulka, who have been in the forefront of Zionising and nationalising the Holocaust. Their task is to rewrite the history of the Holocaust so that it becomes the property of those who, in their time, were the real Jewish self-haters and collaborators.
Arens wrote of Edelman that
‘He had received Poland’s highest honor, and at the 65th commemoration of the Warsaw ghetto uprising he was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal. He died not having received the recognition from Israel that he so richly deserved.’
Some would say that he was doubly fortunate in this respect!