Zuroff displeased that Holocaust historian Prof. David Kranzler had been invited to speak.
By JONATHAN SCHNEIDER
An event dedicated to lauding the wartime achievements of both Jewish and gentile rescuers was boycotted Tuesday evening by Dr Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, because of his displeasure that Holocaust historian Prof. David Kranzler from New York had been invited to speak.
Zuroff, who recently launched a worldwide campaign called Last Chance, aimed at catching lesser known Nazi war criminals, rescinded his original agreement to participate in the privately sponsored International Rescuer Day 2006 due to a fundamental disagreement with Kranzler's largely positive analysis of the Orthodox leadership's actions at that time, which Zuroff claims is "both nonobjective and hagiographical."
Zuroff said his main concern was that Kranzler had contributed to the portrayal of groups such as the Va'ad Hatzala (an Orthodox rescue committee established in 1939) in an overly biased light, though he did admit that his decision to cancel was also personal.
"Kranzler accused me of purposely falsifying research in order to increase sales of my own book on this topic," he said. "I therefore cannot endorse any initiative that acknowledges or rewards him."
In response, Kranzler asserted that the harsh criticism meted out to Zuroff's book in an essay he wrote for the Orthodox Union magazine Jewish Action was completely justified, further insisting, "I challenge anybody to evaluate my own work, which is based on primary evidence and many original manuscripts."
Larry Pfeffer, founder of the Jerusalem Working Group, which hosted the event at the Beit Belgia building in the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University, said he was, "disappointed at Zuroff's cancellation." He pointed out that January 17 had been specifically chosen for the event because it was also the date of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg's capture by the Soviets in 1945.
But Pfeffer noted that the major purpose of the event was to enlighten the public about the actions of Jewish heroes such as Rabbi Michael Ber Weissmandel and Recha Sternbuch, and to push for wider credence to their achievements.
"We would like Yad Vashem to honor these people in a similar fashion to Righteous Gentiles such as Wallenberg and Sempo Sugihara," he said.
Dr Robert Rozett, director of the Yad Vashem libraries, said that due to the large number of Jews who assisted their kin in the Holocaust, it was almost impossible to honor them all. He added that "not everything that happened in the Holocaust should be dealt with by giving an award.
Rather, it is far more important that children learn about the widespread help that people offered each other in this time of crisis."
The theme of the evening was "beacons in the dark" and the occasion included a talk given by Louise de Dardel (Raoul Wallenberg's niece), an exhibition by artist Hannah Omer and the performance of new songs by David Ben Reuven.