The Jewish Avengers

(Image courtesy of Marvel Comics)


It was prophetic. In March of 1941 (some six months before Pearl Harbor), two Jews drew Captain America punching Hitler right in the face knocking him for a loop. 
That now iconic, inaugural issue of the soon-to-be famous super hero, was so ingrained into pop culture then, it became a scene acted out in the 2011 movie, “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
The embodiment of all that was great about America—Cap, (like Superman, Batman, X-Men and so many other superheroes), was created by two Jews—Joe Simon (born Hymie Simon) and Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg.)
But unlike Krypton or Gotham City, Kirby grew up on the tough streets of New York’s Lower East Side, the hub of the Jewish immigrant experience.  It became Cap’s address too.  As Kirby recalls, the neighborhood was a rough and tumble place with street fights a common occurrence.
Likewise, Steve Rogers (Cap’s alias) who started as a small weakling to feeble to join the military was picked on and bullied. But after an experiment performed by Dr. Reinstein (sounds like Einstein), he becomes a super soldier.
Indeed, in time Cap would become the leader of a group called “The Avengers”, which Marvel plans to release in movie theaters on May 4th.
To many, all of this may seem like fantastic child’s play. But rewind some 65-years ago, and you’ll discover there actually were a group of heroic Jews, who took on the handle The Avengers.
One of the leaders of this brigade was Abba Kovner, the famous organizer of the Vilna Ghetto uprising who fought back against the Nazis and who planned to carry out a mass act of revenge on the German people soon after the war ended.
Their story was documented in, “The Avengers” by Michael Bar-Zohar, written in 1967 about Holocaust survivors who tracked down Nazi criminals in an effort to avenge their massacred brethren.
According to the story, which you can also find on The History Channel, the fact that huge numbers of Nazi soldiers were allowed to simply go home once the war had ended was for many Jews, intolerable.
In addition to the ’67 book, there’s even another one, by the same title, that came out in 2000 by Rich Cohen, also about Jews who sought revenge (נקמה.) Cohen writes:
In the winter of 1941, a charismatic young poet named Abba Kovner formed a Jewish guerrilla group in the Vilna ghetto, in Lithuania. They sneaked through the city''s sewers, blowing up German transports and outposts with homemade bombs. After the war Kovner and his Avengers hatched a plan to poison 8,000 Nazis imprisoned at Stalag 13 in Nuremberg.
While Jews, Muslims, Christians and all sorts of modern families around the world, with children in tow, will surely flock to see the amalgamation of Iron Man, Thor, Cap and The Hulk this summer, in what’s surely one of the most anticipated movies of the year, most of them won’t have the slightest clue that deep under their colorful costumes—within their true identities— lies a deeper storyline.
Abe Novick is a writer and communications consultant ( and can be reached at [email protected]