Tuesday, July 22, 2008

David Wyman: Include Peter Bergson (Hillel Kook) in Yad Vashem

From Haaretz (ht the Wyman Institute):
Silberklang concludes by trying to justify Yad Vashem's exclusion of Bergson from its exhibit. Yad Vashem's museum "focuses on the main points of the history of the Holocaust," whereas, he says, the Bergson Group is part of the side story of how American Jews responded to the Holocaust. In fact, the story of the Bergson Group is an integral part of the history of the American government and public's response. Operating independently of the organized American Jewish community, Bergson mobilized large numbers of prominent non-Jews and built an ecumenical coalition that made rescue a major issue in 1943. These efforts played a critical role in pressuring Roosevelt to establish the WRB. The WRB, in turn, sent Raoul Wallenberg to Budapest, financed his life-saving work, and engaged in other rescue activities that, all told, helped save more than 200,000 lives.

That is not a side story. It is an important part of the history of the Holocaust and it deserves to be acknowledged in Yad Vashem's exhibition, which already includes a number of materials about other aspects of the U.S. response to the persecution and genocide of European Jewry.

As an American, I am deeply troubled that while Yad Vashem recognizes America's failures during the Holocaust, it does not acknowledge the accomplishments of those in America, such as the Bergson Group and the WRB, who helped bring about the rescue of so many Jews from the Holocaust.