Tragic Holocaust-Era Rabbinical Rulings Released
This article is fascinating, but more so, terribly sad.
Was it right to give a German soldier a gold watch in exchange to killing my father without torturing him? Is resorting to cannibalism allowed during famine in the ghetto? These are only two examples of dilemmas raised by Jews during the Holocaust and collected in more than 150 books throughout the years.Some of the questions are tragic:
A CD containing the dilemmas was revealed for the first time Tuesday. It was produced by the Claims Conference (an organization representing global Jewry on issues of reparations against Germany and Austria) in association with Bar-Ilan University and the Netivei Halacha institute.
One example is the question of whether a Jew can use medications produced by the Nazis after experimenting on Jewish people. Rabbis determined at the time that despite it being a medication, one cannot make use of a person who was killed and therefore using this medication is forbidden and is considered desecration of the dead.Hard to read, but I think it gives all of us, living our comfortable lives, a little perspective on the horrors faced by that generation.
As far as consuming human flesh in situations of famine, which was the general condition in ghettos and concentration camps, the rabbis' instruction was that it is permitted only if it saves lives, but the general notion was that one should not resort to it as one would lose human character.
One of the issues featured in the CD is a case in which a father and son were beaten up by a German soldier. The soldier told the child that if he gave him the gold watch he was wearing he would have mercy on the father and would kill him with a gunshot without torturing him. The child handed his watch to the German soldier and "in exchange" the solder shot and killed the father.
...A question that many Jews asked during the Holocaust was whether it is allowed to get married at a time of war. Rabbis determined at the time that holding a marriage ceremony during wartime is unadvisable since many women could remain "agunot" (women who are bound in marriage to husbands that are missing or not proven dead). Additionally, rabbis said that single women could hide or better integrate in labor camps and therefore save their lives.