Rabbi Weissmandl,a Holocaust hero

Fuchs summarized some of the major Holocaust rescue efforts of Weissmandl and the people he worked with, called The Working Group.

Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, meeting with Adolf Hitler in 1941 (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST ARCHIVE)
Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, meeting with Adolf Hitler in 1941
Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandl was a writer, publisher, inventor, Talmudic and Biblical scholar, original discoverer of the Biblical codes, leading Holocaust researcher, Holocaust rescue hero, researcher of ancient and medieval manuscripts, and rosh yeshiva.
The Unheeded Cry by Abraham Fuchs does justice to Weissmandl in these roles, to the extent that any book can do justice to such a brilliant and unique individual. Like Weissmandl’s Min Hametzar, Fuchs’s The Unheeded Cry is a superlative work of Holocaust research. It also narrates other aspects of Weissmandl’s life, including his research at the British Museum, and his friendship with the archbishop of Canterbury.
In addition to Min Hametzar, Weissmandl’s books include Torat Chemed and Hayeshiva Vehayishuv. The latter book was published during his lifetime, while the other two were published posthumously.
Fuchs has summarized some of the major Holocaust rescue efforts of Weissmandl and the people he worked with, called The Working Group:
• Through bribes, Weissmandl stopped the deportation of Slovakian Jews for two years, starting after Yom Kipper 1942.
• Weissmandl negotiated with the Nazis to stop the deportation of European Jews for $2m. Weissmandl kept up these negotiations, even though the Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Agency, and the World Jewish Congress refused to supply the needed money. This was called the Europe Plan.
• Weissmandl helped to create and support labor camps for Jews so that those who worked there would not be deported to their deaths.
Through bribes, Weissmandl sent money and negotiable items, including jewelry, to Jews in Poland, so they could trade these for food from the Polish people.
• In May 1944, Weissmandl sent a map of Auschwitz to the Allies and Jewish organizations in the free world, with demands to bomb Auschwitz’s gas chambers and railroad lines and the bridges leading to Auschwitz. Weissmandl demanded that American Jews put everything else aside to get that done. John Pehle of the US War Refugee Board requested the bombing of the gas chambers and the railroad lines. In The Unheeded Cry, the US War Department’s J.J. McCloy’s letter to Pehle denying this request is published. At the Eichmann trial, it was brought out that the British military refused to bomb Auschwitz and the railroads leading to it for “technical reasons.” It was never specified what the technical reasons were.
• Weissmandl helped send Jewish refugees from Slovakia to Hungary – before Hungary was occupied – and from there many of them were able to get to pre-State Israel.
• Weissmandl advocated parachuting American Jewish soldiers into concentration camps to organize resistance and join in the Allied war effort.
In 1941 and again in 1942, Weissmandl helped communicate to Jewish groups in Switzerland and Turkey a Nazi proposal to send European Jews to Spain for $1,000 per family, if they could make their way to the American continents, and not go to Palestine.
This was because of an agreement the Nazis had with the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who believed this would break Jewish attachment to the Holy Land.
The Zionist organizations’ representatives in Switzerland and Turkey twice refused these offers – they would only support Jewish immigration to Palestine, and would not support massive Jewish emigration. This contributed to Weissmandl’s post-World War II anti-Zionism. He also seems to have been influenced in these anti-Zionist views by his very good friend Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe. It should be noted that Weissmandl did work very closely with Zionist leader and Zionist activist Gisi Fleischmann, a Zionist activist associated with the Women’s International Zionists Organization (WIZO) and who was herself a Holocaust rescue activist.
Weissmandl’s teacher, rabbi and mentor was Rabbi Samuel David Ungar, rosh yeshiva of the Nitra Yeshiva, which functioned throughout most of the Holocaust. Unger was also a Holocaust rescue activist, and advised Weissmandl to join the Working Group, which was led by Fleischmann, a first cousin of Unger.
After the war, Weissmandl acted to promote Torah learning. His unique yeshiva – the Yeshiva Farm Settlement in Mount Kisco, New York – included farming, publishing, printing, and intense Torah study, advocating gaining a broad knowledge of Talmud. Weissmandl was aided by Yeshiva Torah Voda’at.
For laymen engaged full-time in their occupations, he advocated Mishna study, being easier for laymen to learn than to learn Talmud. His students were expected to study at least four hours a day.
In Min Hametzar, there is only one English-language document, a letter from the US War Refugee Board dated November 1944. It reports to the American public about the mass murder of Jews and Christians in Europe by the Nazis, and it tells of the superhuman efforts of the War Refugee Board to save as many people as possible, in many places in Europe.
The Unheeded Cry is a useful book for anyone seeking to stop genocide anywhere in the world. The footnotes and bibliographies are excellent, but the names of publishers are not usually given, although cities of publication are. The bibliographies and sources in the footnotes are an excellent resource for future research on the Holocaust.
Raymond S. Solomon’s horror of genocide led him to support activities on behalf of the Biafran people. This included working for the research and writing department of the American Committee to Keep Biafra Alive