Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Zionist activists who collaborated with Nazis, and were executed by Jewish partisans


Zionism Betar Nazi collaboration partisans treason corruption

The Betar movement has ignored a melancholy chapter of its history that occurred in the Vilna ghetto during the Holocaust: the execution by Jews of other Jews who collaborated with the Nazis

When Lotek Salzwasser joined the partisans in the forests of Lithuania in the fall of 1943, he thought he had escaped certain death at the hands of the Nazis. He could never have imagined that death would come at the hands of other Jews, his comrades in the underground. Yet that is what happened. Abba Kovner, the commander of the underground in the Vilna ghetto, sealed Salzwasser’s fate after hearing testimonies that he had collaborated with the Nazis.

“Salzwasser reached the forest and some time later he was shot by order of the partisans’ command. They took him along on a supposed operation – and shot him,” says Miri Yahalom, an archivist at the Jabotinsky Institute who is doing research on the activities of the Revisionist Zionist movement and its youth wing, Betar, in the Vilna ghetto.

Salzwasser was not the only Jew who was suspected of colluding with the Germans and was killed by other Jews during the Holocaust. But his story caught Yahalom’s eye because he was a well-known Betar activist in Warsaw on the eve of the war – but after his execution, he was excised from the history books of that right-wing movement. Recently, Yahalom located a number of photographs from the period of Salzwasser’s activity in the movement, in the collection of the late partisan and historian Haim Lazar, himself a Betar man, who devoted himself to commemorating members of the movement in the Holocaust.

It wasn’t by chance, apparently, that the photos gathered dust in the archive for decades. They document a forgotten chapter, sensitive and bleak, in the annals of right-wing Jews in Vilna ghetto.

“Here, he has a face and he’s even photographed with the Betar commissioner in Poland,” Yahalom says emotionally, and adds, “Probably the members of his movement were ashamed of his deeds and decided to ostracize him.”

How did this come about?  (more...)

The Zionist activists who collaborated with Nazis, and were executed by Jewish partisans

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