(photo credit: Mordecai I. Twersky)
Twenty-eight years after historian David S. Wyman wrote “The Abandonment of the Jews” – the searing indictment of America's record during the Holocaust – he is still a man with a message.
During a recent visit to Israel, Wyman and the institute carrying his name held a joint academic conference at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem to explore that troubled legacy and to bring attention to the effort of a small but effective cadre of activists known as the “Bergson Group” that resulted in the rescue of an estimated 200,000 Jews.
A grandson of Protestant ministers, Wyman still expresses deep anguish over the troubling findings of his research. Seventy years after the Holocaust, he says, there is a resounding moral imperative for mankind.
“That lesson is inculcating the concern of people to take action when there are tragedies,” Wyman told Inside Israel's Mordechai I. Twersky
in an exclusive interview. “Whether massive tragedies or smaller tragedies, it's the same evoking of the human spirit and the decency that we all have within us to help other people when they need help. We need to open that part of us.”
Wyman says the free world must remain vigilant.
“When there's a call, when there's a necessity, it's the responsibility of each of us as a human being for all of humanity,” said Wyman, who taught in the History Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and chaired its Judaic studies program. “It's too idealistic, in a sense, but I don't know how we can move forward in any social area of importance unless we have that capability and willingness...We're responsible for each other.”
Most Americans, Wyman contends, understand Israel's need to defend itself. He is among those Americans who support Israel to such an extent that he is willing to pay even the ultimate price.
“I'd come here and die for Israel if I were ever of any use,” said Wyman, 81. “I'm too old to be of any use. That's extreme for anybody, but a lot of Americans feel in that direction.”
According to Wyman, “Israel is the strongest bulwark that exists against anti-Semitism. It must continue to exist at all cost.”