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August 19, 1966 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1966-08-19

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Purely Commentary

The Fifth WJ Congress Plenary in Brussels
BRUSSELS, Belgium — In retrospect. although it is only a few
days in the past, the fifth plenary of the World Jewish Congress,
whose 10 days of sessions were held here in the Palais des Congres,
the EEC headquarters, will surely be viewed as an event of great
Several of the plenary's occurrences contributed to the historic
importance of the "Jewish Parliament," as the WJCongress plenaries
have come to be known. Dr. Nahum Goldmann, the unquestioned
leader of world Jewry, summarized the sessions with great skill at a
press conference that took place some 10 hours before the final closing
of the plenary sessions on Aug. 9. He had advocated that dialogues
be held by world Jewry with the West German Federal Republic, and
he won his point against serious opposition but by an overwhelming
majority. He has differed with many in Jewish ranks in the approach
to the Russian-Jewish problem and he won a unanimous vote in sup-
port of his contention that Jews are free citizens in Russia but that
they are deprived of the rights to live and to worship as Jews, and
that the appeals to the Soviet Union must be that Jews be granted
the right to live as Jews, just as 100 or more nationality and religious
groups are permitted to enjoy the traditions they inherited.
Because he considered the Russian resolution of such great
importance, Dr. Goldmann requested that its adoption be marked
by a standing vote of solidarity with Russian Jewry by all the
delegates. There is no doubt that Dr. Goldmann's view on the
Russian relations has won overwhelming acclaim because of its
pragmatism. As in the instance of Dr. Goldmann's great triumph
in having arranged the reparations agreement with Germany, it
is possible that he may yet reach accord with Russia to assure
just rights for Russian Jewry.
Justifiably, Dr. Goldmann was pleased with the participation of
two delegations from Communist countries — from Romania and Hun-
gary. Those who had been at the fourth plenary in Stockholm re-
gretted that Polish Jewry was not represented. But the presence of
Hungarian and Romanian spokesmen was an indication that there is
a dent in the Communist wall, that Dr. Goldmann is justified in his
optimistic expectations that Russian Jewry yet will be part of the
world Jewish movement.
It is on this score that the Brussels sessions may be considered
significant. Dr. Goldmann maintained at the press conference that not
more than 60, possibly 62, Jewish communities in the world could be
expected at the plenary — excepting Russian Jewry, which has no
address because there is no central Jewish organization in the USSR—
this being one of the complaints about Russian prejudices against
Jews. Since 57 countries were represented at the Brussels sessions,
making the WJCongress' fifth plenary the best represented Jewish
assembly ever convened, last week's meetings were of the utmost
value historically.
The success of the WJCongress is due in large measure to the
genius of Dr. Goldmann. This commentator was among the American
Jewish Congress national administrative committee leaders who, in the
early 1930s, welcomed Dr. Goldmann on his arrival in this country to
assume a role of leadership in the Congress movement. There was
an overflow audience in Carnegie Hall when Dr. Stephen S. Wise
delivered the welcoming address and spoke of Dr. Goldmann as
Nordau redivivus. In the course of the ensuing years, Dr. Goldmann,
firm, dedicated, fearless in dealing with Jewish issues, proved that
Dr. Wise had not exaggerated. Dr. Goldmann proved his ability to
lead in Zionism and in other movements, and now he is directing
the world Jewish forces in efforts to inspire cultural ativities to
assure understanding of Jewish - needs- by all, and especialti the youth.
Dr. Goldmann holds at least five world presidencies and=
chairmanships in Jewish ranks. In addition to being president of
the World Jewish Congress and the World Zionist Organization,
he is the chairman of the Conference of Jewish Material Claims
Against Germany, chairman of the Conference of Jewish Organila-
tions and the head of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture
which has inspired the formation of the World Council on Jewish
Education. Perhaps they are too many jobs for a single person,
and the cause for regret is that there are so few in view who
can replace Dr. Goldmann. But in the meantime there are ex-
pressions of gratitude that he is on the scene to direct world
Jewish affairs.
The Brussels sessions were lengthy. There were many — the

The World Jewish Congress in Brussels:
Its Numerous Lessons and Its Aftermath

feeling was they were too many — speeches. But in a world parliament
this is inevitable. Witness the endless talks in all other parliaments—
including both Houses of the U.S. Congress!
In its totality, therefore, the sessions here must be viewed as of
great importance. If only it could be said that many of the delegates
who were here for the fifth plenary — many of us also were at the
fourth in Stockholm — will be around to attend the sixth plenary
session seven years hence. The major hope, therefore, is that the
youth will be enrolled to take over when the next Jewish Parliament
meets in 1973.

Because hardly an item of concern to world Jewry was eliminated
from the discussions in Brussels, the sessions quite naturally echoed
the interests of Jews everywhere on all conceivable problems affecting
Jewish life. The issues that are difficult to solve in any one land are
similarly perplexing on a worldwide scale. A typical example is the
educational problem. The WJCongress resolved to devote its interests
to the cultural field, in efforts to stimulate learning and to inspire an
understanding of the Jewish position among the youth. But when we
asked Dr. Goldmann, at the press conference on the concluding day of
the plenary, whether practical action is in the offing, his reply was that
the World Jewish Congress can only serve "as a guide" to the world
communities in this sphere; that the aim is to "create an atmosphere"
through the World Council for Jewish Education and the Memorial
Foundation for Jewish Culture whose aim is "to create a climate to
concentrate on this work,"
But because, as Dr. Goldmann said, "the geographical totality of
the Jewish people" was represented in Brussels, there is at least
another medium through which to inspire the major efforts for Jewish
• • •

The German Jewish dialogue proposal remains a question that
continues in a state of tension. Neo-Nazism, admittedly, is not dead,
and while dialogues have been conducted by Israel with West Ger-
many, and by Jewish delegations from numerous lands with German
spokesmen, the formalization of such discussions inevitably is accom-
panied by suspicions. The German spokesman at the Brussels session
on Germany, Dr. Eugen Gerstenmaier, president of the Bonn Parlia-
ment, recognized it, and the Jewish spokesmen became so involved in
polemics that they hardly clarified the issue.
Meanwhile the swastika is still the symbol of anti-Semites every-
where, as an inheritance from Nazism, and the never-forget-never-
forgive attitude is certain to remain as an historic rebuke to Nazism.
There were repercussions involving anti-German protests in. Israel,
in the course of the Brussels discussions. References were made to a
recent statement by the Israeli ambassador to Bonn, Asher Ben Nathan,
who had said that "it is hypocritical to request money from Germany
for cultural projects and to oppose Israel-German cultural relations,"
and that: "It is hypocritical when people oppose playing German music
and then enter their Volkswagens and drive home."
"I cannot agree that every German should be treated with contempt
simply because he is a German. After all, 60 per cent of the people in
the German Federal Republic today were not born during World War
II or were too young to have taken part."
Dr. Goldmann won overwhelming support for his proposals for
dialogues between Jews and Germans. But he concurred that the Nazi
crime can not be forgotten, and the delegates' tribute to the victims of
Nazism—to those who were herded together for deportations and the
mass murder at Malines, outside Brussels—was deeply moving.
On the wall of the General Baron Dossin de St. Georges Kazerne at
Malines, there is a plaque in French and in Flemish with the follow-
ing words: "Belgians, remember that from this barracks 24,161 Jews
were deported to the camps of Germany, 1942-1944. The text in French
reads as follows: "Beiges, souvenez vous que cette caserne 24,161 Is-
raelites,ont ete deportes vers les camps d'Allemagne 1942-44."
The gathering at Malines was an occasion to recall the total mass
murder, the numerous concentration and extermination camps. It was
a reminder of the tragic era that can not be forgotten.
For some delegates, the WJCongress period was an occasion to
visit the city of Amsterdam in Holland, where the Anne Frank House
has been turned into a museum that is visited by many thousands,
where people from many lands come to pay tribute to the young girl
who recorded in her diary the experiences under Nazism. Many Ger-
mans visit the Anne Frank Museum, climb the narrow and steep
stairs, study the records—as a reminder of the crimes under Hitlerism.
In Amsterdam there is an opportunity to visit the Joods Historical
Museum which was closed during the war, reopened in 1955, now, as
its sponsors state in a plea for its upkeep, to have it perpetuated as "a
memento of the rich and glorious past, a summons to lasting corn-
meinoration." The Jewish ceremonial objects and art works gathered
in this museum are of historic interest.
For the record, in view of the commemoration in Holland, it should
be noted that Delta, a quarterly review published in the Netherlands,
some time ago published the following record of sufferings by the
Dutch under the Nazis:
"Died in German prisoner-of-war camps, 104,250, including
104,000 Dutch Jews."
"Resistance members shot in the Netherlands-2,500."
"Died in prisons and concentration camps-11,000."
"Civilian victims of bombings and other acts of war-23,000."
"Victims of starvation 1944-56-15,000."
"Victims of forced labor-8,000."


Anne Frank and
the historic Anne
Frank House in
Amsterdam that
now serves as a
museum to
the tragedy under

2—Friday, August 19, 1966

The large Netherlands Jewish
community has been reduced to
about 10,000. The historic syna-
gogue now usually depends for a
minyan upon tourists. But the
synagogue, like the Great Syna-
gogue in Brussels, has been pre-
served, by intercession of the
ruling families of Belgium and
Holland. The Antwerp synagogue,
however, was burned, and we had
occasion to speak to survivors who
had helped save Tora
from the Antwerp synagogiL,
and near the main Amste: m
synagogue there is the one whence
Nazis had pulled scrolls and
benches to use for firewood. The
memory of the terror still haunts
the surviving witnesses!
* * *
In view of what had transpired
when the World Jewish Congress
was founded by Stephen S. Wise
30 years ago, and recognizing that
neo-Nazism still is a disease to be
reckoned with, it is no wonder
that concern should have been ex-
pressed over the rising tide of
bigotry in Germany. There is an
overwhelming desire to meet with
the West Germans and to discuss
with them the need for coopera-
tive activities, but the re-emer-
gence of a semblance of Nazism is
not overlooked.
At the same time, the Brussels
plenary took into account the rise
of anti-Semitism and expressed
itself unanimously in this resolu-
"The Assembly draws atten-
tion to the resurgence of anti-
Semitic activity in various parts
of the world and the develop-
ment of international organiza-
tions, some public and some
clandestine, which seek to co-
ordinate the agitation of na-
tional groups and to disseminate
racist and anti-Semitic material
throughout the world.
"The Assembly expresses the
hope that the governments of
the countries which both export
and receive this racist material
will cooperate in preventing a
traffic which can only lend en-
couragement to movements sub-
versive of democratic institu-
"The Assembly calls upon all
its affiliated communities and
organizations to maintain a vigi-
lant watch on anti - Semitic
groups in their countries, and to
keep the headquarters of the
Congress informed on such
movements and their activities
in order that appropriate action
may be taken on an international
"The Assembly also expresses
the hope that governments will
ratify without delay the Conven-
tion adopted by the United Na-
dons on the eradication of r ,gal
discrimination and, und'
provisions of this instru'L,
will take the necessary stepS to
curb and outlaw the efforts of
anti-Semitic organizations to in-
cite to racist and religious
The sum total of this declaration
is the admonition to libertarians
everywhere and to Jewish com-
munities: be on guard against the
re-emergence of bigotry !






By Philip


The concentration and extermination camps of the holocaust

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