Dictator of the Lodz Ghetto
The Strange History of Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski
A few years ago a tremendous and extraordinary catastrophe struck the Jewish people. We are not in any danger of forgetting it, but rather of fearing to think about it and discounting it, as it were, as the consequence of one of the many “isms” that lie ready to hand: fascism, sadism, the-last-stage-of-capitalism, militarism gone mad, and so on. For our age abhors the unexplained event. Better a dozen theories than one obstreperous fact. We are in the way of killing true knowledge by premature understanding. Far from being comprehended, the Jewish catastrophe, and all the other Nazi horrors, bid fair to tease us out of thought, as the poet said, alas, of beauty and eternity.
These are matters of which it is important to know everything before concluding anything, not to speak of judging. And yet, the tragedy is unfamiliar to us in most of its crucial details. Particularly unfamiliar is the action and reaction of the Jews and their leaders on the spot. We have heard something, and not enough, of the resistance of various ghettos, and notably of the glorious rebellion of the Jews of Warsaw. But we have learned little of other, border-line cases, where resistance was mixed with a numb despair and a hope too long drawn out.
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