Twice Dead: Moshe Y. Lubling, The Ethics of Mem­o­ry, and the Tre­blin­ka Revolt

Yoram Lubling
  • Review
By – March 2, 2012
On August 2nd, 1943 a revolt took place at the anni­hi­la­tion cen­ter, the infa­mous Tre­blin­ka. The pris­on­ers blew up the front gate, fire destroyed areas of the camp and approx­i­mate­ly 200 to 300 pris­on­ers escaped. Most were even­tu­al­ly killed or cap­tured and very few eye­wit­ness­es were alive at the end of the war. Yet it was, along with the War­saw Ghet­to upris­ing, the most sig­nif­i­cant expres­sion of Jew­ish resis­tance to the Nazi geno­ci­dal onslaught.

In this impor­tant new work, the Israeli-born philoso­pher Yoram Lubling sets out to cor­rect a glar­ing his­tor­i­cal omis­sion. His beloved grand­fa­ther, Moshe Y. Lubling, was nev­er acknowl­edged by the Holo­caust his­tor­i­cal estab­lish­ment as a chief archi­tect of the Tre­blin­ka revolt and an authen­tic hero of the Jew­ish peo­ple. Giv­en the secre­cy sur­round­ing the revolt’s prepa­ra­tion and the tight com­part­men­tal­iza­tion of the plan­ning process, some sur­viv­ing eye­wit­ness­es were unaware of Moshe Lubling’s cen­tral role in the revolt. Holo­caust his­to­ri­ans, archivists and all stu­dents of the Shoah will find this mov­ing work thought pro­vok­ing and provoca­tive. The keep­ers of the flame at Yad Vashem and at the Nation­al Holo­caust Muse­um in Wash­ing­ton retain the accept­ed ver­sion of events on that fate­ful day in 1942

In search of dig­ni­ty and an appro­pri­ate place for his grand­fa­ther in the annals of Jew­ish resis­tance and hero­ism, the author devotes con­sid­er­able time and ener­gy to prov­ing that his grand­fa­ther was indeed a true leader of his peo­ple in its dark­est hour. The author dis­cov­ers that not only did Moshe Lubling help plan the revolt, he yelled from the camp’s destroyed gate for pris­on­ers to flee and then returned to the camp to con­tin­ue the fight. He was killed that day. He was 41 years old. 

The book suc­ceeds in con­firm­ing the courage and hero­ism of Moshe Lubling. The author leaves the read­er with a por­trait of a man of supreme integri­ty who was deter­mined to die with dig­ni­ty. He was able to over­come the paral­y­sis of ini­tia­tive that was the norm in an envi­ron­ment whose sole pur­pose of exis­tence was to gas and burn fel­low human beings around the clock. The book’s sub­text, the ethics of mem­o­ry, should not be ignored because it allows the author to place the event of the Holo­caust under his moral philo­soph­i­cal lens. 

In what, for this review­er, are the book’s most sig­nif­i­cant pas­sages in terms of con­tem­po­rary impli­ca­tion, Lubling takes his col­leagues on the aca­d­e­m­ic left to task for their inau­then­tic and self-serv­ing use of the Holo­caust for polit­i­cal ends. Lubling, with grip­ping clar­i­ty, out­lines the man­ner in which many Amer­i­can and Euro­pean intel­lec­tu­als dis­tort the past and mis­ap­ply the facts of the Holo­caust to the Israeli-Pales­tin­ian con­flict. In this phan­tas­magoric world, Gaza and the West bank are the new con­cen­tra­tion camps, the Pales­tini­ans are the Jew­ish inmates and the Israelis and the Amer­i­cans are the tor­tur­ers and genocidists. 

Twice Dead is a labor of fil­ial devo­tion whose author’s keen intel­lect and ana­lyt­i­cal skills make for a major con­tri­bu­tion to the Holo­caust his­to­ri­og­ra­phy lit­er­a­ture. Acknowl­edg­ment, for­ward, index, notes.
Steven A. Luel, Ph.D., is asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of edu­ca­tion and psy­chol­o­gy at Touro Col­lege, New York. He is a devel­op­men­tal psy­chol­o­gist and psy­cho­an­a­lyst in pri­vate prac­tice. He is co-edi­tor (with Paul Mar­cus) of Psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic Reflec­tions on the Holo­caust: Select­ed Essays.

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