17 Kislev and 21 Kislev

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pearl-harborBy Yisroel Feldman, Novato, California

17 Kislev, 5702, which was December 7, 1941, was the famous date of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The massive Japanese air assault on a major American naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii, massacred well over two thousand people and severely knocked out much of American military power in that region of the world. 

[According to the shitos that the Torah Dateline is east of Hawaii, the Torah date of that day in Hawaii (where the attack took place) was the next day, 18 Kislev, 5702.]

The bombing of Pearl Harbor was one of the key turning points of World War II. The war had already been fiercely raging for a number of years, with Germany brutally conquering most of Europe and Japan brutally conquering much of Eastern Asia. Despite this, most of the American populace had an attitude of isolationism, which was a callous indifference to conflicts and suffering in other parts of the world. 

Then came this heavy “kick in the back,” which was a piece of fiendish trickery, for at that moment, the Japanese government had envoys in Washington who were supposedly discussing a peaceful resolution of tensions. The next day, 18 Kislev/December 8, a joint session of Congress was held and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt exclaimed one of the most famous lines of the war: “December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy!” By a unanimous minus one vote, Congress retroactively (from the time of the attack on the day before) declared war on Japan. The isolation business was gone. In its place was a firm determination to fight and win the war and take awesome revenge on Japan.

Furthermore, Germany, Italy and Japan had signed a number of treaties, the most notable one being the “Tripartite Pact” on 24 Elul, 5700/September 27, 1940. This formed them into a united Axis alliance. One of the pact’s terms was that if one of these three countries is attacked, the other two would help it. On various occasions in 1941, Germany gave Japan a number of further assurances of support in the event of war with the United States.

When Japan made its sneak attack on the United States, Hitler ym”sh was euphoric. He had tremendous admiration for the Japanese, whom he called “honorary Aryans.” 

A bit later, on 24 Kislev, 5702/December 14, 1941, when the American people were fully raging about the “Day of Infamy,” the Japanese ambassador to Berlin, General Oshima, was actually awarded a high level German decoration, and Hitler heaped upon him great praise for Japan’s treachery.

On 18 Kislev, 5702/December 8, 1941, Hitler ordered the German navy to openly attack all American ships. The next day, 19 Kislev/December 9, he made his decision to join Japan in its new fight. On 21 Kislev, 5702/December 11, 1941, Germany and Italy formally made declarations of war on the United States. Congress immediately responded that day with declarations of war on Germany and Italy. (This time the votes were unanimous, as the pacifist Congresswoman who had voted against the Japan declaration now merely abstained.)

(For a full detailed account and analysis of the complex Berlin-Tokyo relationship, see the magazine article “Hitler’s Biggest Blunder,” by Nicholas Henderson, in “History Today,” Vol. 43, April 1993, at http://www.questia.com/read/5000170289?title=Hitler’s%20Biggest%20Blunder.)

With the United States now having fully entered the war, it would be just a matter of time before it would join with those forces that had been resisting the Axis’ aggressions.

However, to the countless people suffering under the rule of the Axis conquests, and especially to the millions of Jews in Europe targeted by the Nazis for death, relief did not come immediately at all.

(Of course, this is not the place to discuss a full history of the Second World War, but once the subject has been raised, it is not possible to leave it without proper continuation and conclusion.  Therefore, I will try to briefly, but descriptively, relate some of the key points.)

Upon the entry of the United States into the war, some of the top US military officials, including Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, argued for an immediate full assault upon continental Europe to knock out the Nazi bastion. This was not done, though, for US and British leaders did not want to undertake such an enormous operation until they were adequately prepared with some assurance of success. (See http://www.historynet.com/operation-torch-allied-invasion-of-north-africa.htm.) Several circumstances would prevent the Allies from being ready for such a European invasion for quite a long time.

1. When the United States was suddenly thrown into the conflict by Pearl Harbor, it was ill prepared for war. It had a very small military, for it had had little interest in war. There had even been a popular slogan, “The business of America is business!” This was in contrast to Germany and Japan, which had built up gigantic military machines. There was thus a real fear of a negative outcome.

With its extensive business/industrial base, the United States would eventually build up an arsenal that far surpassed what anyone else had.  This was going to take a good while though.

2. Immediately with the Pearl Harbor attack, Japanese forces swept through Southeast Asia, greatly expanding their already large empire far out into the Pacific Ocean. The official strategic plan of the US government was to first take care of Europe and then deal with the Pacific situation. At the same time, though, there was an urgent priority to stop the Japanese advance and begin the exceedingly long and tedious job of, island by island, pushing the Japanese out of their stolen holdings. A major thrust of the American effort was thus in the Pacific, against Japan. There were even many who argued that America’s fight should be only against Japan, with no fight against Hitler at all.

3. In the European arena, the Atlantic Ocean itself was quite blocked, as it was severely saturated with German submarines called “U-Boats.” A major aspect of the European war, beginning long before the formal entry of the US into the war, was thus countless fierce and deadly battles to regain Atlantic passage.

4. As a frontal assault on Europe was not yet feasible, the Allies staged a different operation. On 28 Cheshvan, 5703/November 8, 1942, American and British forces landed on the coasts of Morocco and Algeria in Northwest Africa. This invasion was done in conjunction with an offensive that had just started two weeks earlier on 12 Cheshvan, 5703/October 23, 1942, by British forces in the northeastern corner of Africa in Egypt. So now, the German-Italian-Vichy French presence in North Africa was being hit from both sides at the same time. The Vichy French quickly capitulated and joined the Allies. After a few months of fierce fighting, the German-Italian forces surrendered on 7 Iyar, 5703/May 12, 1943.

Being kicked out of their illicit holdings in North Africa was certainly a big blow to the Axis powers. Furthermore, it put an end to the possibility of an Axis land invasion of Eretz Yisroel, which hitherto had been a grave threat.

4a. After this, the Allies moved over to liberate the nearby Mediterranean island country of Cicely, and they then moved over to invade nearby Italy from the south. On 13 Sivan, 5704/June 4, 1944, as American tanks were riding down the avenues of Rome, the American president quipped, “One down. Two to go!”

5. Two days later, on 15 Sivan, 5704/June 6, 1944, the media flashed even more dramatic headlines: the invasion of Europe had begun. For several months in southern England, a massive army of US, British, Canadian, Polish and Free French forces had been formed. Now, long before dawn during a heavy rainstorm, this “Allied Expeditionary Force” sailed across the English Channel to land on the beaches of the Normandy Peninsula in Northern France.

The second that the soldiers touched the shore, there was a bloodbath of indescribable horror. The sand itself was thickly laced with barbed wire, traps and mines. The German gunners poured endless fire down on the soldiers, severely slashing them. This was just barely the beginning of what would be a long hard campaign of some of the most deadly battles in world history. The Allied armies, however, steadily advanced. 

5a. As they approached the core of Europe, in town after town, they encountered a certain kind of “camp.” They were shocked. They saw before them what Hitler said he would do to Klal Yisroel. They saw before them the pure evil of the demonic German/Nazi super monster. Film footage – of endless heaps of mutilated corpses, of endless mass graves of victims in the thousands, of endless people with caved in stomachs and withered skin stretched over the bones of their skeletons – was sent back home so that the populace would begin to have a little bit of an idea of what the war was about.

5b. It must be noted, though, that from nearly the beginning of the war, through various sources, the Allied governments had been made aware of these secret sadistic genocide projects of the Nazis. Unfortunately, though, they did very little to save the victims from their deaths.  When Jewish religious groups repeatedly went to government officials with rescue proposals, the officials almost always in effect told them: “Yes, these Nazis are horrible. That is why we must win this war! The very best way that we can save these victims from the Nazis is to, as quick as possible, win this war. So to make any diversion to humanitarian rescue missions – and thus delay the fighting of the war – is really counter-productive.” 

For example, there was a proposal to bomb the concentration camps (to take out the crematoriums, gas chambers, tracks and bridges of railroad lines leading to the camps, etc.). The response was that to put together a whole new fleet of warplanes to fly over to where the camps were would be a significant diversion of air power needed for military work.

The real truth is that survivors of Auschwitz relate how, night after night, they actually saw hundreds of US warplanes flying directly overhead to bomb a nearby oil refinery.

A number of recent American presidents – including President Barack Obama – have openly stated that this was a tragic failing of our effort in the war. [When the previous president, George W. Bush, went to Eretz Yisroel for the 60th anniversary of the state, he visited the famous Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. While he was examining a certain set of concentration camp pictures, he brought up this issue (of bombing the concentration camps). He turned to then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and asked her, “Why didn’t Roosevelt want to bomb it? He should have bombed it!”]

5c. The terrible story, though, is a lot more complicated. Our Toras Hashem is called “Toras Chayim,” a “Teaching of Life.” Thus, the fundamental teaching of our Torah is the extreme importance of human life. Therefore, those people who adhered to this Toras Chayim did whatever they possibly could to pull people out of the Nazi blood machine. They were only a few people, though, and the operations that they set up, like the Working Group, Agudas Yisroel, and the Vaad Hatzolah, had very little resources and were thus only able to save very small numbers. 

The major Jewish organizations, like the American Jewish Congress, the Joint Distribution Committee, the United Jewish Appeal and the Jewish Agency, were well established with numerous official connections, and they had countless millions of dollars in their accounts. However, most of them were completely secular in orientation; they therefore did not see saving the lives of the victims as an absolute crucial priority. Instead, they had other ideas of what they thought would save the Jewish people, mainly the creation of an independent Jewish country. One of the main Zionist leaders thus bluntly stated that having even just one cow in Palestine is more important than (saving) all the Jews of Europe! 

Many times, the bnei Torah groups, having almost no money of their own, were compelled to ask the large Jewish organizations for help with various rescue projects, several of which involved the possible rescue of millions of Jews. These were proposals which may have well prevented the deaths of millions of Jews. As just elaborated, though, these non-Torah establishments had other priorities over that of saving lives, and so they gave the Torah groups’ projects very little cooperation and almost no financial support. What they did give them was a lot of ridicule and even outright public humiliation. At one point, because of a certain relief project that they did not approve of, they sharply vilified Agudas Yisroel in the Jewish newspapers, and a segment of the American Jewish Congress called the “Joint Boycott Committee” staged an actual picket line demonstration in front of the Agudah office.

At one point, the bnei Torah groups in the United States organized for a contingent of 400 rabbonim to go to Washington, DC, to impress upon the government the urgent need to rescue Nazi victims. One of their key plans had been to try to meet with the American president himself. Officials informed them that the president was, understandably, extremely busy and could not meet them. Instead, the Vice President went outside – not even in his office, but outside on the steps of the Capitol Building – to see them. (This was really an insult, because in that era, the Vice President was mostly a job on paper, with very little actual work and authority.)

The real truth is that that afternoon, President Franklin Roosevelt had two full open hours in his schedule. (I actually saw the picture of that page of the President’s calendar in a documentary.) The further truth is that at that very moment when the rabbonim were in Washington requesting a presidential audience, one of the key secular Jewish leaders, Mr. Abba Hillel Silver, was actually inside the White House. Regarding the rabbonim, he told President Roosevelt to simply ignore them. “They represent nobody!” he said.

Finally, on 24 Iyar, 5705/May 7, 1945, in the French city of Reims, at the headquarters of the supreme Allied commander, Germany signed an unconditional surrender. The next day, 25 Iyar 5705/May 8, 1945, was V-E Day. What was supposed to be a 1,000-year-old Third Reich was over.

6. By the time the Allied liberation of Europe occurred, which was quite late in the war, the Soviet Union forces had not only driven the invading Germans out of Russia, but they were now rolling right into and liberating the countries of Eastern Europe as well. Realizing this, the leaders of the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union officially agreed that this would be the plan. The US and British forces would liberate the western part of Europe, and the Soviet forces would “liberate” the eastern part of Europe. The line was drawn right down the middle of Europe and right down the middle of Germany. In the leading city of Germany, Berlin, which was located in the eastern Soviet side, the agreement was that the western Allies would have the western side of the city and the Soviets would have the eastern side of the city.

In the above paragraph, the word “liberate” is in apostrophes, for when the Russian army moved into and abusively plundered the eastern European countries, it became rapidly obvious that these countries had been “liberated” from one tyranny only to be under another tyranny.  Furthermore, as bnei Torah, we well know what our gedolei Torah taught us: As horrifically terrible as the Nazi Germans were, the Communist Russians were much worse. This bizarre division of Europe, Germany and Berlin placed millions of people into Communist slavery, greatly expanded the power of Communism in the world and set the stage for the severely dangerous 45-year standoff of the “Cold War,” which, at any moment, could have easily erupted into a World War III.

7. With the European war over, the US was now free to concentrate on knocking out Japan. The US forces had already rammed the Japanese out of most of their illicit island empire. Now, they brought over to the Pacific some of their top air force commanders from Europe, who had seen how fire-bombing had leveled numerous German cities. With the very newest and most advanced war planes and weapons, they directed massive fire-bombing and even atomic nuclear bombing air assaults on Japan that far surpassed what had been done to Germany. The bulk of Japan was thus turned into a “parking lot.” With the US warning of even more punishment, on 5 Elul, 5705/August 14, 1945, the defiant country finally gave up. [According to the shitos that the Torah Dateline is west of Japan, the Torah date of that day in Japan where the surrender announcement was made was the day before, 4 Elul, 5705.] The next day, 6 Elul, 1945/August 15, 1945, was V-J Day.

On Sunday, the first day of Selichos, 24 Elul, 5705/September 2, 1945, on the USS Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay, the formal surrender documents were signed, marking the official end of World War II. 

[According to the shitos that the Torah Dateline is west of Japan, the Torah date of that day in Japan where the surrender was signed was the day before, Shabbos, 23 Elul, 5705.  If we were to then also put the secular date as being September 1, this would amazingly make World War II an exactly six-year war, starting on September 1, 1939, and ending on September 1, 1945.]

8. It was noted here in the Yated (Vol. 21 No. 46, November 27, 2009/10 Kislev 5769), in the News Roundup column, the various occurrences for the date of 17 Kislev. They included: “Ezra went to the Bais Hamikdosh and fasted, davened and cried in public, 348 B.C.E. A large assembly joined him in tefillah, and the kohanim swore to send away their non-Jewish wives. He issued the call for a gathering of all Jews living in Eretz Yisroel to come to Yerushalayim.” 

With his tremendous madreigah of nevuah and ruach hakodesh, Ezra probably well knew about the extreme horrors of the future World War II and the decree of annihilation. This is probably one of the reasons why Ezra made this yom tefillah uteshuvah, this day of prayer and repentance.  In the zechus of what he did, Hashem certainly gave us a “mamtik hadinim,” a “lessening (literally a ‘sweetening’) of punishments,” for this day of 17 Kislev became the big turning point in the war that eventually ended the Holocaust bloodbath.

{Yisroel Feldman-Matzav.com Newscenter}

5 COMMENTS

  1. The claim that the major secular Jewish organizations did nothing to save lives is patently untrue. The Joint Distribution Committee, for one, had extensive operations going on in southeast Asia to help the Jewish refugees who escaped to that part of the world; they were instrumental in providing food and shelter to the Jews in Shanghai who were forced into the ghetto by the Japanese.

  2. You are correct that the secular Jewish organizations, especially the Joint Distribution Committee (the “Joint”), DID do some exemplary relief efforts. And for those actions, we certainly commend them.

    However, the relief operations that they did do were done only within certain VERY STRICT parameters of certain priorities that they had. Yes, they had several “rules” of considerations that they believed took priority ABOVE the consideration of saving victims’ lives. So when religious Jewish groups attempted to do a number of rescue projects — these were relief and rescue projects that very well could have saved, I repeat, could have SAVED the lives of millions of victims, the secular Jewish organizations told them: “Oh no no no! You cannot do this! Oh no no no! You cannot do that! You are breaking this rule! You are breaking that rule!”

    And therefore, in addition to the Nazis, Yimach Shemam V’Zichram, in addition to those specific wicked local peoples of the occupied countries who deliberately and actively took part in countless sadistic massacres, in addition to those specific wicked officials in the allied governments who deliberately blocked possibilities of escape from death, the blood of many millions of Holocaust victims is also heavily on the hands of these wicked secular Jewish organizations and forerunners of the modern secular State of Israel!!!!

  3. (continuation of above comment)

    Exactly what were these rescue possibilities and what were these rules that the secular groups and secular Zionest officials adhered to is quite a long complicated story. A number of excellent books have been written on the subject, which relate the incidents in detail.

    I will mention four of them here:

    1.) “Thy Brother’s Blood:
    The Orthodox Jewish response during the Holocaust.”
    By Dr. David Kranzler (Author) 
    (To purchase see: http://www.artscroll.com/Products/THYH.html)

    2.) “The Unheeded Cry: The gripping story of Rabbi Weissmandl, the valiant Holocaust leader who battled both Allied indifference and Nazi hatred.”
    By Abraham Fuchs (Author) 
    (To purchase, see: http://www.artscroll.com/Products/UNHH.html)

  4. (continuation of above comment)

    3.) “A Fire in His Soul: Irving M. Bunim and His Impact on American Orthodox Jewry”
    by Amos Bunim
    (This is a biography of the communal activist, Mr. Irving M. Bunim, ZT’L. At least one chapter is devoted to Holocaust rescue projects he was involved in.)
    (To purchase, see: http://www.feldheim.com/a-fire-in-his-soul.html)

    4.) “Perfidy”
    by Ben Hecht
    (To purchase, see: http://www.amazon.com/Perfidy-Ben-Hecht/dp/0964688638)
    (For an online copy, see: http://www.hirhome.com/israel/perfidy.pdf)

  5. To: Mr. or Mrs. “Good analysis but…”

    You are correct that the secular Jewish organizations, especially the Joint Distribution Committee (the “Joint”), DID do some exemplary relief efforts. And for those actions, we certainly commend them.

    However, the relief operations that they did do were done only within certain VERY STRICT parameters of certain priorities that they had. Yes, they had several “rules” of considerations that they believed took priority ABOVE the consideration of saving victims’ lives. So when religious Jewish groups attempted to do a number of rescue projects — these were relief and rescue projects that very well could have saved, I repeat, could have SAVED the lives of millions of victims, the secular Jewish organizations told them: “Oh no no no! You cannot do this! Oh no no no! You cannot do that! You are breaking this rule! You are breaking that rule!”

    And therefore, in addition to the Nazis, Yimach Shemam V’Zichram, in addition to those specific wicked local peoples of the occupied countries who deliberately and actively took part in countless sadistic massacres, in addition to those specific wicked officials in the allied governments who deliberately blocked possibilities of escape from death, the blood of many millions of Holocaust victims is also heavily on the hands of these wicked secular Jewish organizations and forerunners of the modern secular State of Israel!!!!

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