In prose that simultaneously horrifies and mesmerizes, Tuvia Friling recounts and analyzes the complex, courageous, often futile attempts by the Jewish community of Palestine to save European Jews from destruction by the Nazis. Friling, director of the Ben-Gurion Research Center at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, details the activities carried out at the behest of David Ben-Gurion and the Yishuv leadership in Palestine.
Daring attempts to extract Jews from Nazi-occupied lands, ransom plans, and proposals for direct negotiations with the murderous régime are described in exhaustive detail gleaned from official and unofficial documents, newspaper accounts, historical research, journals, letters, interviews and testimonials.
Out of the chaos of the era, the author masterfully organizes the material into three main parts. Part one, “Confronting the Information,” tells what Ben-Gurion knew about the unfolding massacre, how he knew it, and how he used the information to help his brethren and warn the world. The Zionist leader’s role is often described in prophetic terms.
Part two focuses on rescue plans, with particular attention to the plight of Jewish children in Europe. The author’s description of attempts to rescue Hungarian Jews is especially riveting. Part three explores the financing of rescue attempts, including the financial maneuvers of Ben-Gurion and Eliezer Kaplan, treasurer of the Jewish Agency. The title of this two-volume paperback set comes from a quote from Kaplan: “The Jewish Yishuv in Palestine must shoot an arrow in the dark, it must grasp at every opportunity, no matter how weak, to save Jews from annihilation.”
Author of many scholarly articles on Ben-Gurion, the Holocaust, and Israeli history, Friling has been Israel’s state archivist since 2001.