There’s always kind of a calming feeling I tell folks when I think of the Holocaust, and the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the fact that it was my ancestors — Palestinians — who lost their land and some lost their lives, their livelihood, their human dignity, their existence in many ways, have been wiped out, and some people’s passports. And just all of it was in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post-the Holocaust, post-the tragedy and the horrific persecution of Jews across the world at that time. And I love the fact that it was my ancestors that provided that, right, in many ways. But they did it in a way that took their human dignity away and it was forced on them.
(Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib)
Atara Abramson was born in Poland on December 28, 1926. She was just a teenager when she was deported with her family to Auschwitz, and was the only one to survive. In 1946, she joined a religious Zionist youth movement and boarded a boat headed for Eretz Yisrael. The boat was intercepted by the British army, and Abramson was sent to a camp in Cyprus for six months before finally making it to her destination. Along with several other Holocaust survivors, she settled in Kfar Etzion, a religious kibbutz in the Judean hills established in 1927.
On May 12, 1948, two days before Israel’s Declaration of Independence, an Arab army consisting of Jordanian legionnaires and local Palestinian gunmen attacked Kfar Etzion with armored vehicles and heavy artillery. The Jewish defenders, armed with just a handful of rifles and mortars, did their best to fight back, but by the following day were no longer able to persist. Their leader, Avraham Fishgrund, who escaped Bratislava just a few years before Hitler’s armies marched in, stepped into the open, waving the white flag of surrender. He was shot on the spot by an armed Palestinian.
The rest of the people in Kfar Etzion, numbering 133 men and women, had no choice but to reiterate their surrender and hope for the best. Again, they stepped into the open waving a white flag and declaring their surrender. Again, they were met with gunfire. They rushed to take shelter in the basement of a nearby monastery; gathering outside, local Palestinians tossed grenades into the building and shot at anyone trying to escape. Like most of Kfar Etzion’s residents, Atara Abramson did not survive. She was 21 when she died, one of 18 women who had survived the Holocaust only to be slaughtered by Palestinians that day.
Ya’acov Goldwasser, too, survived the Holocaust. After he was liberated, he rode a bicycle to his hometown, where he was informed that none of his family had survived. He got back on his bike, rode to Prague, and went to meet with the British ambassador there, claiming that, like every Jew, he was forever a resident of Eretz Yisrael and demanding to be allowed to return to his spiritual home. Goldwasser was fortunate enough to make it to Jerusalem in 1945, becoming a brilliant scholar of geography and archaeology in the Hebrew University. On March 22, 1948, he risked his life and joined a convoy headed for Jerusalem, then under Arab siege. He delivered food and supplies to the city’s starved residents, and dropped off his latest academic manuscript, refusing to abandon his intellectual work even in wartime. Two days later, on his way out of the city, his vehicle drove on a landmine left there by cheerful and neighborly Palestinians, killing Goldwasser and everyone else inside.
Avraham Asher grew up outside of Lodz, and watched with horror as the Nazis forced his family into the ghetto and began starving, hanging, and torturing the dwindling Jewish population. He survived thanks to a job in a sausage factory, deemed essential to the German war effort, the only member of his family not murdered in the Holocaust. He made aliya in 1945, renting a small apartment in Ramat Gan and trying to build for himself a new life. It didn’t last long: With Arab militias everywhere attacking Jewish communities, he volunteered to travel to Kibbutz Yehiam in the north of Israel and help its residents defend themselves against Fawzi al-Qawuqji’s army of Palestinian gunmen. On January 20, 1948, hundreds of armed Palestinians attacked the small and isolated kibbutz; the kibbutz prevailed, but Asher was killed. He was 20 when he died.
There were 433 more Holocaust survivors killed by Palestinians and Jordanians violently opposing the creation of a safe haven for Jews in what had historically and spiritually been their homeland. To attempt and rewrite their well-documented experiences is to victimize them yet again, an unforgivable and deeply anti-Semitic act.