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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

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.

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.
Some of the questions are tragic:
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.

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.
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.


Blogger FrumGirl said...

I read about this on Jameels blog... horrible. what else can you say?

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Horrible. I guess they had other things to worry about then asking about using a milk spoon to stir meat soup like me.

5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This certainly gives perspective to our carpool problems! On the other hand, as my Holocaust-survivor neighbor has often told me, every generation has its own nisyonos, and Rochel's tears for her children are not rationed on a comparative basis.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the most moving book I have ever read is "Responsa from the Holocaust" by Rabbi Ephriam Oshry, which deals with many of these issues.

One volume in English (3 volumes in Hebrew, but I can't make my way through it). The book is out of print, but there is a copy in the library at the YI of Woodmere (the Nassau County Library system doesn't have a copy).

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for that post. I found it strangely inspiring that anyone asked anything from any rabbonim at that point. I will link this on my site, if that's okay with you.

12:43 AM  

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