The year was 1946. Across Europe, Jewish survivors of the Holocaust were reeling from the murders of their parents, their siblings, their entire families. Many were picking up and moving to Israel, ready to start new lives and try to forget the horrors inflicted upon them.
But others were not ready to move on. They were furious, and hell-bent on one goal: revenge.
A new documentary airing Saturday night on UK’s Channel 4 explores the revenge plots pursued by a group of Holo- caust survivors in 1946. The film, Holo- caust: The Revenge Plot , brings to life the stories of these survivors and warriors and shares new details of the shocking scheme. Internationally, the film will be known as Avenging Evil , and distributed by Global Road Entertainment, though plans for distribution are not yet available.
The documentary reveals for the first time an audio recording made in 1985 by many of the key players in the scheme. When Abba Kovner, one of the central members of the avengers, was dying of cancer, he gathered together many of his compatriots to officially record their memories of the group’s activities. That audio tape, which has never before been published, is among the explosive and shocking testimonies told in the hour- long documentary.
“We thought of finding a weapon as unconventional and as severe and as cruel and inhuman as the action that the German nation had inflicted upon us,” Kovner can be heard saying on the record- ing, two years before his death.
Joseph Harmatz, another key member of the group, who died in 2016, is clear on the tape about the goals of their planning.
“The gentiles will forever know, and so will history,” he said, “that this is an act of vengeance of the Jewish people.”
Many of the survivors in the documenta- ry also recount their wartime experiences and their horrifying, heinous memories. More than 70 years later, the emotion and anger is still apparent on their faces.
“I wanted revenge the moment that I saw what they did to my mother,” said avenger Rachel Glicksman.
Yehuda “Poldek” Maimon had one clear goal once he was liberated: “Revenge was my basic right,” he said. “And it wasn’t important to me if I lived.”
The documentary weaves together historical footage, interviews with the remaining avengers, the long-lost record- ing and some recreated dramatic scenes to tell the stories of revenge.
So what was that vengeance? Plan A, according to the recording and the testi- mony of those interviewed for the film, was to poison the water supply of major German cities, and indiscriminately kill six million men, women and children.
“Just as they killed our children,” said Maimon, an Auschwitz survivor, “We can kill theirs.”
But while the Jewish Brigade of the Brit- ish Army carried out targeted assassina- tions of Nazi officers in the years after the war, its members were not on board with mass murder.
But in the audio recording, Kovner said he received the support of Chaim Weizmann, the future president of Israel. “If I was your age, I would do it,” Kovner reported him as saying. “What can I do to help?”
Testimony and records indicate they received poison from Ephraim Katzir, a chemist and also a future president of the state. But on his way to carry out the plan, Kovner was arrested, and threw the poison overboard.
Yehuda “Idek” Friedman is still angry at the failure of that plot.
“I dedicated my life and soul to revenge,” he tells the filmmakers.
But the group was not done yet. Their Plan B was to specifically target SS soldiers being held by the British at prisoner of war camps in Germany. Several members infil- trated the bakeries that provided bread to the prisoners, and painted them with arsenic, hoping for the deaths of tens of thousands of the men.
“I forgot that I was a victim,” Maimon said while describing his role in the plot. “Now I felt like I was the one who was winning.”
According to news reports from the time, thousands of SS soldiers fell ill from the poisoning and were hospitalized, although no deaths were reported. But according to Michael Bar-Zohar, a histo- rian, author of a book about the avengers, and a former MK, there were fatalities.
“I believe there were about 100 or more people [who] died,” he said. “I believe that they did not publish it in the paper because of the panic that could have erupted.”