The Holocaust survivors who tried to poison Germans

A new British documentary promises explosive new evidence of 1946 revenge plots against Nazis.

Jewish fighters from the Vilna Ghetto (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Jewish fighters from the Vilna Ghetto
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A new documentary promises to reveal the details of an explosive post-World War II plot by a group of survivors to exact revenge on the German people.
The film, commissioned by the UK’s Channel 4, will tell the story of a group of survivors living in Israel who tried – and perhaps partially succeeded – in their mission in 1946.
According to Channel 4, the “extraordinary story” focuses on a group known as The Avengers, led by Abba Kovner, a survivor of the Vilnius Ghetto who later become a well-known Hebrew and Yiddish poet. Other members of the so-called “Avengers” include Auschwitz survivor Yehuda Maimon, Warsaw Ghetto uprising fighter Simcha Rotem and Hasia Warshawski, who producers say has never publicly spoken about her experiences before.
“At the heart of this documentary is an extraordinary piece of new evidence – a tape recording made in 1985 in which the key members of Kovner’s operation – including Kovner himself, who was dying of cancer – put on record what they did,” said Channel 4. “The tape has never before been heard in public and even those who appear on it have never heard it.”
Film producers say the recording unveils details of the multiple plots to exact revenge. Those include infiltrating the water systems of four Germany cities to poison the supply and attempting to poison thousands of SS officers held in POW camps in Germany. Indeed, an AP report from April 1946 noted that “Poison Bread Fells 1,900 German Captives in US Army Prison Camp near Nuremberg.” The news article noted that the officers were “seriously ill” but no fatalities were reported. According to the film, two future presidents of Israel, Chaim Weizmann and Ephraim Katzir, also aided the Avengers in their plans.
A 1998 book by Joseph Harmatz, also a purported member of the Avengers, detailed some of the postwar plots. As did Rich Cohen’s 2000 tome The Avengers, which detailed both partisan activities during the war and revenge plans once it was over.
Channel 4 did not provide an air date for the documentary, which is coproduced by Caravan and Global Road Entertainment. It will be broadcast on Channel 4 as Holocaust: The Revenge, and internationally known as Avenging Evil.
Dinah Lord of Caravan, who was also an executive producer on the film, said it is told “from the first-hand perspective of the last survivors directly involved and based on extensive research which has unearthed remarkable new evidence.”
Rob Coldstream, an editor with Channel 4, said the film is “both intensely moving and deeply shocking – it packs a real emotional punch – and by flipping the traditional Holocaust narrative on its head asks profound questions about the nature of justice.”