Thursday, February 05, 2009

End Bergson Ban, Rabbis Petition Yad Vashem

According to the Jerusalem Post (ht Wyman Institute), some four hundred rabbis have asked Yad Vashem to include Peter Bergson (aka Hillel Kook) in exhibits devoted to rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. Until now, mention of Bergson--protagonist of my film Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die--has been banned.
In a rare display of Jewish unity, more than 400 rabbis from every major stream of Judaism have signed a petition urging Yad Vashem to include a display about a World War II rescue organization known as the Bergson Group.

The rabbis' appeal to add information about the Bergson Group to Jerusalem's Holocaust museum came months after Yad Vashem rebuffed earlier requests to do so by a group of Holocaust scholars as well as by a cross-section of political and cultural figures.

The Bergson Group was a maverick activist group in the US in the 1940s that sought to raise public awareness of the Holocaust and campaigned for US action to save European Jews.

American Jewish leaders at the time viewed the organization - led by Hillel Kook, a nephew of Israel's first chief rabbi, who worked under the alias "Peter Bergson" - as too direct in its criticism of the Roosevelt administration's failure to rescue Jewish refugees. The group actively campaigned to save the doomed Jews of Europe through theatrical pageants, lobbying on Capitol Hill, newspapers advertisements and organizing a march in Washington by 400 Rabbis, which was the only rally for rescue held in the nation's capital during the Holocaust.

The Bergson Group is credited with helping to persuade Roosevelt in 1944 to establish the War Refugee Board, which ultimately saved 200,000 Jewish lives. For decades after the war, information about the Bergson Group was routinely left out of textbooks, encyclopedias, and museums, but in recent years most Jewish leaders and Holocaust scholars have come to recognize the group's crucial contribution to the infamously belated rescue effort.