August 29: The rescuers must get their due

We argued that the omission of the Bergson Group was a mistake that requires correction now, and not in 10 years (if at all).

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The rescuers must get their due Sir, - Yad Vashem spokesperson Estee Yaari described a meeting my colleagues and I held earlier this summer with the museum's chief historian Prof. Dan Michman, concerning its omission of the Bergson Group and its Holocaust rescue activities ("Yad Vashem and the Bergson issue," Letters, August 25). Ms. Yaari claimed that Prof. Michman asked us to make suggestions for including the Bergson Group "in the many avenues available at Yad Vashem aside from the Holocaust History Museum." According to her, my colleagues and I "ignored" Prof. Michman's proposal. Ms. Yaari, however, did not attend the meeting, and her account of it is erroneous. Prof. Michman began the meeting by stating categorically: "As a matter of principle, Yad Vashem will never change any of its exhibits." We asked if they would change an exhibit that was found to have a mistake. He said that once every 10 years, the museum staff reviews the exhibits to determine if there are any mistakes that require correction. We argued that the omission of the Bergson Group was a mistake that requires correction now, and not in 10 years (if at all). He replied, "An omission is not necessarily the same as a mistake." We made specific suggestions - in the meeting, and in a subsequent letter - as to how the museum's panels on America's response to the Holocaust could be corrected to include acknowledgment of the Bergson Group. Prof. Michman did claim, in the meeting, that Yad Vashem already acknowledges the Bergson Group's achievements through "other avenues." He pointed out that in 1993 it published a Hebrew-language edition of my book The Abandonment of the Jews and asserted that it was in print and available. But, in fact, there are no copies in Yad Vashem's book store, and its publications department has confirmed to me, in writing, that the book was allowed to go out of print two years ago; it has not been available since then. Nor have I been informed of any plans by Yad Vashem to print a new edition. The second "other avenue" Prof. Michman cited was Yad Vashem's Web site, where, he said, the Bergson Group's achievements are described. The site does contain a profile of the group, but it is extremely brief - just five paragraphs long. Is this adequate attention, on Yad Vashem's enormous Web site, to a group that played a key role in the events leading to the rescue of more than 200,000 Jews from the Holocaust? To make matters worse, another item on the Yad Vashem Web site erroneously describes the Bergson Group as "a radical right-wing group" and claims that Bergson's march by 400 rabbis in Washington in 1943 had "absolutely no impact whatsoever." In fact, the march was an important part of the process of alerting Congress, the American public and the American Jewish community to the need for rescue, and it undoubtedly played a role in galvanizing Congressional concern about the plight of the Jews. Clearly, Yad Vashem's "other avenues" are not the answer. A book that is unavailable, and a Web site that contains a negligible amount of information about the Bergson Group - some of it inaccurate - are not the way to address this vital historical topic. A museum that includes materials about America's abandonment of the Jews, as Yad Vashem appropriately does, should also acknowledge those in America who spoke out for rescue. DAVID S. WYMAN Amherst, Massachusetts A betrayal Sir, - Your editorial "Unparalleled cruelty" (August 26) led me to the conclusion that our government acted in an uncivilized and even barbaric fashion by releasing 198 Palestinian prisoners while a lone Israeli soldier languishes in Palestinian captivity. I have always seen Israel as a democracy that upholds the political and social equality of all. Now it feels as if one Israeli soldier doesn't equal even 198 of the enemy. HINDE FEKETE Netanya Come, now Sir, - To Andrew Carew-Morton I would reply: The UN constitution stated that all Mandatory agreements would be adopted in their entirety. The Palestine Mandate stated that all of "Palestine" west of the Jordan River was destined to be a Jewish state. The Partition proposals of the UN were illegal by its own constitution. As for the second part of his letter (More than misguided,"August 28), it read like virulent Arab propaganda. REUVEN BEN-DANIEL Kfar Mordechai