Telling Story of Holocaust's Horrors Through Ultra-Orthodox Eyes

Brooklyn Museum Plans To Offer Neglected Shoah Perspective

yad vashem

By Paul Berger

Published April 09, 2014, issue of April 18, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 6)

“What is it about the law of pikuach nefesh [preserving human life above other religious laws] that you don’t understand?” he asked, according to Berenbaum. Weissmandl feared that the partisan could be murdered by the Nazis or even by his fellow partisans if people knew he was Jewish. As Berenbaum related it, the rabbi instructed the partisan, “Your most important task is to survive.”

“They are in a process of wrestling with these kinds of stories,” Berenbaum said.

Kleinman has aims for the museum that go beyond just telling the story of the Holocaust itself. He wants visitors to learn about the vibrancy of Orthodox life in prewar Europe and about the flourishing of Orthodox life after the Holocaust. He also wants them to think more about anti-Semitism and about how easily a civilized country such as Germany could descend into barbarity. Jews often refer to America as a medina shel chessed — a country of kindness — Kleinman said. But toleration can disappear in an instant.

“We want these children to understand that [it] can be taken away from you like that,” he said, snapping his fingers. The Holocaust is a complex issue in the Orthodox world.

Many liberal or secular Jews refer to the Holocaust using the term Shoah, Hebrew for “catastrophe.” Ultra-Orthodox Jews are just as comfortable using the phrase Khurban Europa, which uses the same Yiddish word, khurban, with which they describe the destruction of the Temple.

A small but significant minority in the ultra-Orthodox community believe that the Holocaust was divine punishment for Jewish assimilation, intermarriage and the emergence of liberal streams of Judaism, such as the Reform movement, that do not accept traditional Judaic religious strictures.

“The minority of the righteous undergo the tribulations sent because of the sinful majority,” wrote Avigdor Miller, a popular ultra-Orthodox rabbi who died more than 10 years ago, in “A Divine Madness,” a collection of his reflections on the Holocaust.

In an interview last year, Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter, editor of the Orthodox publication Ami Magazine, pushed Kleinman on whether the KFHEC would include different interpretations of the Holocaust.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.