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April 16, 1982 - Image 19

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1982-04-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, April 16, 1982

Epitaph for the Leader of the Red Orchestra

By SIMON GRIVER

r

Chief Admiral Wilhelm
Canaris said 200,000 Ger-
man soldiers fell as a result
of the Red Orchestra's work.
The stenographer at some
of the meetings in which
Hitler briefed his leading
generals was a member of
the spy ring and though Sta-
lin disbelieved the informa-
tion, the Red Orchestra was
able to warn Moscow in the
summer of 1941 of the Nazi
invasion of the USSR.
Trepper spent these
years as Jean Gilbert,
Belgian industrialist liv-
ing in Paris with his fam-
ily. When he spent a
period in Brussels he was
Adam Mikler, a French
Canadian. His wife had
gone to the USSR with
her child in 1941.
Trepper played these
parts so well that when
there was a resurgence of
interest in Poland during
the late 1960s in the activi-
ties of the Red Orchestra,
the country's press asked,
"Whatever happened to
Jean Gilbert?" As Trepper
comments in his autobiog-
raphy, "Trepper was Jewish
— whereas Jean Gilbert
wasn't."
It was in Poland, in the
small town of Novi larg
that Trepper was born in
1904. The current atmos-
phere and traditional
Jewish values of his parents
molded his belief in Zionism
and his commitment to
Communism. When he was
17 his family moved to the
industrial region of Silesia
and his burning passion to
change both the world and
the situation of the Jews
was reinforced by spells in
an iron works and a soap
factory.

were not appreciated by the
World Zionist Press Service
British and he was expelled
JERUSALEM — The
in 1929.
courage of the anti-Nazi
He spent many years
underground has an irresis-
in France and Belgium
tible fascination for people
and then came his chance
of all generations, in and
to do something for both
out of Europe. Neverthe-
his own people and the
less, of those involved in
world in combatting Hit-
this, the most dangerous of
ler. Although a- Com-
all war work, few can have
munist, he had always
had so much influence in
seen Stalin as a tyrant. In
daring espionage exploits as
1945, he went to Moscow
Leopold Trepper, who died
where his wife and chil-
in January in Jerusalem.
dren had sought refuge.
Trepper was the ingeni-
In the euphoria of Hit-
ous leader of the Red Or-
ler's defeat, he naively
chestra, an all-European
believed that Stalin's
it fighting against the
political path may have
azis between 1938 and
changed. He was ar-
1945, and including many
rested on arriving in
Jews. In his own view, he
Moscow and incarcer-
was not so much a spy as a
ated in the Lubianka
soldier in the battle against
prison for 10 years.
Hitler.
On being pardoned and
In his autobiography,
rehabilitated following Sta-
"The Great Game," he mod-
lin's death, he made, by his
estly detracts from the
own admission, a second
achievements of the people
naive blunder. He dreamed
he commanded all over
of revitalizing Polish Jewry,
Europe by claiming that it
so he returned to the land of
was the foot soldiers of the
his birth to play a leading
Allied and Soviet armies
role in Jewish life; but as he'
that defeated the Nazis.
soon discovered Poland was
But the facts show that
not the land of his people.
in World War. II, the 290
Following an upsurge of
members of the Red Or-
anti-Semitism in the late
chestra (the name was
1960s, he returned his
invented by the Nazis),
Communist Party member-
many of whom suffered
ship card and applied to
the most excruciating
leave for Israel. While his
torture when caught,
family was able through
played a role out of all
various devices to receive
proportion to their rela-
visas, his was cruelly denied
tively small number.
until 1973.
In 1,500 dispatches,
An international cam-
transmitted by this "or-
paign was launched for
chestra" of radio operators
Trepper's freedom with
from Nazi-occupied West-
hunger strikes arousing
ern Europe to Moscow, some
public opinion all over the
spectacular feats were pul-
world. It was this which
led off. German plans for a
brought about his release.
new T6 Tiger tank reached
One of Trepper's sons
Russia in time for the
demonstrated in Denmark
Soviets to develop the more
and the other in the U.S.
advanced KV tank to coif-
Trepper dreamed of a new Jerusalem's Western Wall
front it. The Nazis must breed of men, free of prej- was the scene of another
have been equally stunned udices, and so in 1924 he set hunger strike. Trepper ar-
to discover that their most out for Palestine, deter- rived in Jerusalem to be re-
sophisticated Mes- mined to incorporate this united with his wife and the
serschmitt aircraft was out- dream' into the Jewish na- Jewish people.
flown by a superior Russian tional revival. He found the
But he had not come
model — once more, thanks backbreaking work of
to information passed by draining swamps not disil- "home" simply to live out
lusioning but purifying. But his laA years. As his close
Trepper's network.
German Intelligence his Communist politics friend Max Melman
writes, "Leiba, as we
used to call him, was a
fountainhead of plans
and projects even in his
last years when he suf-
fered a torturing illness."
He wrote his autobiog-
raphy, an account so popu-
lar that it has appeared in
18 languages. He had hoped
to write more material
about the Red Orchestra.
His wife has a strong desire
to put on record much that
Trepper was unable to com-
plete. In her modest flat in a
suburb of Jerusalem, she
says she sometimes feels
her husband is still alive,
living Israel's present and
recalling his own stormy
past.
At a ceremony in
‘11.7 each
,,
Jerusalem 30 days after
They're all 14K gold and are they cute. You'll want to give these
Trepper's death, many
as gifts. Charms are movable, lovable, and 11/4 inch in actual
size. Make someone very happy. Where else but TAPPER"SI s
warm eulogies were deliv-
ered, including one by Yit-
I
FREE
CASH
Tapper's
zhak
Arad, head of Yad
GIFT
REFUNDS
k..)
Vashem. "Jews fought in
WRAPPING
I
every part of the world to
26400 West Twelve Mile Road
MON.-SAT.
bring down Hitler," he said,
in Southfield's Racquetime Mall
10:00-5:45
a
"but none fought in the
THURSDAYS
357-5578
10:00-8:45
unique way of Trepper."
Former partisan Chayka

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Grossman said she consid-
ered Trepper to have been
an authentic Jewish hero,
whose life was motivated by
his love for the Jewish
people.
The meeting closed with a
reading from Trepper's
autobiography. The moving
passage recalled his release
from a decade in a Soviet
prison, only to return home

19

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unrecognized by his own
sons, for his wife had been
informed 10 years earlier of
his death. The recollection
was both poignant and per-
tinent, for Trepper's life did
not lack disappointments
which might have broken a
lesser man.

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