Ben-Gurion and the Holocaust in Yad Vashem Studies, Volume XVIII

Tuvia Frieling


Ben-Gurion and the Holocaust of European Jewry 1939-1945: A Stereotype Reexamined

What was the role of Ben-Gurion in the attempts of the Yishuv to rescue Jews during World War II? In general, the approach of the Mapai leadership was negative and many Mapai contemporaries found this attitude puzzling. Allegedly, Ben-Gurion did not really want to address the disaster in Europe and did not clearly reveal the calamity to the Yishuv. Neither did he initially spur American Jewry to pressure their government to become involved in rescue activities. Hence, the stereotypical view was born. However, he did see the survivors as potential immigrants to an independent Jewish homeland in Eretz Israel. Towards the end of 1942 Ben-Gurion issued a strong statement to save as many Jews as possible, particularly children, from the Nazi hell. He directed his words to the leaders of free countries, especially to President Roosevelt. He also understood that money (mainly for bribes) was essential for rescue operations and raised money from wealthy entrepreneurs in the Yishuv. During 1943 and 1944, he became increasingly involved in secret schemes — most of which never came to fruition — to save Jews. He stressed that time was of the essence. He visited Bulgaria in 1944 and met the “surviving remnant.” It is more than likely that Ben-Gurion’s attitude was “Zionism and rescue” and not “either Zionism or rescue.”

Products specifications
ISSN 0084-3296
Year 1987
Catalog No. 198706
No. of Pages 34 pp.
Format Electronic article in Yad Vashem Studies, Volume XVIII, pp. 199-232, Edited by Aharon Weiss
Publisher Yad Vashem
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