Bergson’s race against the Shoah in America

Two Holocaust scholars, in a book based largely on interviews, give voice to Peter Bergson, a key Holocaust rescue activist in America

May 3, 2019 06:53
Bergson’s race against the Shoah in America

A Race Against Death: Peter Bergson, America and the Holocaust. David S. Wyman and Rafael Medoff 288 pages; $26.95 (Hardcover). (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Shortly after the beginning of the Second World War, seven young Irgun members from pre-state Israel came to America with the aims of gaining support for an independent Hebrew state in Palestine, raising a Jewish army to fight against Nazi Germany, and above all else, to save the Jews of Europe from the imminent Holocaust. These followers of Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky were led by Hillel Kook, who used the name Peter Bergson while in America. Hillel Kook (Peter Bergson) was the nephew of the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook.

Rav Kook was a very great person, beloved by both secular and Orthodox people in the Land of Israel. Hillel Kook’s greatness paralleled Rav Kook’s greatness, but in different areas.
Bergson’s greatest ability was political. This involved pounding the floors of Congress. At first he concentrated on Senators and Congressmen from states with large Jewish population. Inevitably these Senators and Congressmen told Jewish leaders they met about these young Jewish people from Palestine; and inevitably they were told in effect, “These people are bad. Don’t touch them with a 10 foot poll.” Such was the prejudice against Jabotinsky’s followers. So a big source of possible support dried up.


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