The Berg­son Boys” and the Ori­gins of Con­tem­po­rary Zion­ist Militancy

Judith Tydor Baumel
  • Review
By – June 25, 2012
Peter Berg­son was a pseu­do­nym. It was the name cho­sen by Hil­lel Kook, a nephew of the great rab­bi and first Ashke­nazi Chief Rab­bi of Pales­tine, Rab­bi Abra­ham Isaac HaKo­hen Kook. Hil­lel Kook changed his name in order to pro­tect his fam­i­ly and to pre­serve the rep­u­ta­tion of the illus­tri­ous rab­bi. 

Berg­son was a 20th cen­tu­ry hero, and a mil­i­tant. Peter and his boys” — all fer­vent believ­ers in the Jew­ish cause and ded­i­cat­ed to a Jew­ish home­land — left Pales­tine and came to the Unit­ed States with the inten­tion of rais­ing mon­ey for a Jew­ish bat­tal­ion with­in the Allied forces in order to help fight the Nazis. 

The Nazi effort esca­lat­ed while Berg­son and his boys were in the Unit­ed States. When the news of the mass mur­der of the Jews of Europe reached them, Berg­son decid­ed to change his mis­sion. Now his pur­pose was to influ­ence Amer­i­can Jew­ry to save Euro­pean Jewry. 

Rather than ral­ly by his side, the major­i­ty of Jew­ish lead­er­ship in the Unit­ed States did not want to make waves. Amer­i­can Jew­ry was so shocked by Bergson’s tac­tics that they even attempt­ed to have him deport­ed back to Pales­tine. But Berg­son was tena­cious; he refused to give up. He orga­nized protests and staged pageants to draw atten­tion to the plight of Europe’s Jews. He enlist­ed the help of Ben Hecht, one of Hollywood’s great­est screen writ­ers, and took out full-page ads in major newspapers. 

This work is long over­due. The Berg­son Boys deserve to be laud­ed. Author Judith Tydor Baumel tells a tale of hero­ism, a sto­ry of young men who dared to chal­lenge the estab­lish­ment and who helped bring the plight of Europe’s Jews to the pub­lic eye.
Mic­ah D. Halpern is a colum­nist and a social and polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor. He is the author of What You Need To Know About: Ter­ror, and main­tains The Mic­ah Report at www​.mic​ah​halpern​.com.

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