Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wartime Jugoslavia, A lesson For the Jewish People

Draza Mihailovic Marshal Tito

Svoju zemlje srce, a war memorial video

When I think of the tragedy of Jugoslavia during World War Two I take it as a lesson to the Jewish people in the Holy Land and abroad. I chose two pictures above, those of Draza Mihailovic, leader of the Chetnik army fighting the Nazis and Josip Tito, the leader of the Communist Partisans who fought the Nazis also. History records both armies as having fought each other so bitterly as they fought the Nazis that it seriously undermined the war effort in Jugoslavia. In the end , Jugoslavia suffered 1,700,000 deaths in the war. Their were mutual accusations of collaborating with the enemy. As the victor in the fight between the two armies, Tito's communist version of the war's history became official. After the fall of communism and the dissolution of Jugoslavia, history is now treating Mihailovic far more kindly. It can safely be said that people of good will joined both armies for worthy purposes, and ended up carried against their will into fratricidal disputes.
In Crown Heights, we have two civilian patrols. There is no question that both have saved lives and property, both through direct intervention and in a deterrent capacity. Despite common aims, they are locked in a seemingly intractable dispute that almost impossible to sort out. Other such arguments abound not only in Crown Heights but among Satmar in Williamsburg as well The bitterness of the divide between secular and religious in Israel itself is a prominent feature in Israeli politics even as we face a fierce enemy that wants to push us all into the sea.
I am proposing peace talks between Jews. In Auschwitz, with shaven heads and identical striped uniforms, there was no visual means to distinguish between one kind of Jew and another. A kind look, a shared crust of bread or scrap of blanket was what established one's decency as a human being. I am trying to fast forward that spark of truth and clarity to the present. The lesson of Jugoslavia resonates in my soul because of my ancestors from that part of the world. I am sharing my feelings during the days between Passover and Shavuot, when we reflect upon the needless hatred among Jews that brought a plague upon Rabbi Akiva's disciples. This seems to be an auspicious time to share a plea for peace and unity. May the remaining days of this time between Passover and Shavuot, the counting of the Omer be a time of love, unity and healing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

During WWII the Nazis did not discriminate between the kippah srugah, the shtraimel, the long beard and payos, the straw hat or the Jew who did not care much about his religion. To the Nazis we were all just as hated!

Why then must we Jews, surrounded by those who gleefully expect our downfall fight among each other.

If only we could once again become an "Am echod, beleiv echod - One people, of one heart"...