Thursday, April 23, 2009

Heroines of Fantasy

I remember the story of Bais Yaakov martyrdom from childhood. I think it was Yom-Tov Ehrlich who composed a lyric euphemistically describing a flock of white doves ascending to heaven, but I’m not sure.
In 1943, ninety three Bais Yaakov teachers in Krakow Ghetto preferred to leave their bodies washed and pure rather than defiled and contaminated by the Vehrmacht—or so the story goes. A letter supposedly written by Chaya Feldman, the ring leader, relates the events to Meir Shenkolevski, director of Global Bais Yaakov in New York.
Apparently, Holocaust researchers have long doubted the veracity of the story. Some serious questions need to be answered before it can be accepted as believable. Rafi G. wrote a post yesterday at DovBear, where he quoted an article in Maariv that asks:
1) How did the suicide note found its way from a hermetically closed ghetto to a rabbi in NY?
2) How did they procure poison in quantities enough to put 93 adults to sleep in a ghetto where everything was rationed?
3) Why were Holocaust survivors from Krakow unfamiliar with the story?
4) Why was the letter written in a Hungarian Yiddish dialect when the author, Chaya Feldman, was most likely a Pole?
5) The Aryan doctrine prohibited the Nazis from such relations. Even if the policy was occasionally broken in isolated incidents, the same cannot be said about such a large group.
The questions are tough, but not breaking. Question #1 is challenging indeed, but the others not so much. They could have concocted a poison from household chemicals. Thousands perished everyday, so it’s not unlikely that a mere 93 passed unnoticed. I’m not a linguist, but I did read Yiddish from Polish and Hungarian sources. I’m unaware of any noticeable difference in the written word between both dialects. Anyway, I’d love to see a copy of the original letter. Finally, the story doesn’t claim the Germans actually had relations with the loathed Jewesses; rather the women themselves believed they were going to be raped. Maybe their captors told them that to frighten them in vain.
However, I don’t have any agenda to defend the story as anything more than a nice legend. As the Maariv article says, just as there are Holocaust deniers, so are there Holocaust fabricators. And the danger of both is equal. If one story turns out to be a myth, it casts a shadow on all the rest. As Simon HaAmsoni said (Kidushin 57a), just as we take reward for telling, we take reward for rescinding. God’s name is sanctified by the courageous act of pure women, and God’s name is sanctified by being honest and admitting a lie.
I wondered if it’s all a myth, why was the number 93 was picked? The following liturgical chant, (with an obscure interpretational twist), explains.
נחשב כצג באיתון דחות בפילולי עקלתון ונקדישך בשבת שבתון קדוש (מוסף יו"כ)
We deemed the 93 as courageous, reject with trials the dishonest, and we will sanctify you by the elimination of the pantheon of martyrs.


Roots for irregular translation

כצג: צג בגימטריא 93

איתון: איתן מושבך (במבדבר כד)

בפילולי: ונתן בפלילים (שמות כא)

בשבת: תשביתו שאור מבתיכם (שמות יב)

שבתון: יושב בשבת תחכמוני (שמואל ב כג)

1 comment:

kisarita said...

it's unfortunate... if people are going to make up stories and role models to inspire the new generation, i'd rather they tell stories of people who used their ingenuity and daringness to survive... and yes, even if it meant fucking the enemy