In 1942, George (Mandel) Mantello, who had been named honorary consul for El Salvador in Geneva, began issuing Salvadoran citizenship papers to thousands of Jewish families in a little-known major-scale rescue effort.
In 1944, Mantello received a report of eyewitness accounts of what was happening at Auschwitz. He proceeded to launch a worldwide press campaign. Dr. David Kranzler, z”l, in The Man Who Stopped the Trains to Auschwitz: George Mantello, credits Mantello with inspiring even anti-Semitic Swiss newspapers to distance themselves from the Nazi barbarity and condemn the atrocities.
Soon, the campaign mushroomed; “Many of these were front-page articles, which, for the very first time, revealed the gruesome facts of Auschwitz.”
The resulting uproar resulted in Hungarian Regent Miklós Horthy — a Nazi collaborator — permitting the release of 10,000 Jewish children and, later, a halt to deportations.
Dr. Kranzler made the point that had the newspapers reported earlier what the Nazis were doing, thousands, if not millions, more Jewish lives could have been saved.
It had been the policy of Western newspapers, particularly the New York Times, to “bury” news stories about the Holocaust. A notable exception was when the rescue activist Peter Bergson (aka Hillel Kook) enlisted the help of author Ben Hecht to write full page ads proclaiming “For sale to humanity: 70,000 Rumanian Jews, Guaranteed Human beings at $50 a Piece.” Even the Times had its price.
Some assimilationist “leaders” denounced the ads. They didn’t want to rock the American boat.
It’s only natural for parents to want to protect their children. A generation of Jewish children, even in yeshivos, grew up largely ignorant of the Holocaust. Perhaps because the truth was too horrible to talk about.
I was reminded of this when I was confronted with “the other side of the story.” A friend felt quite strongly that the cover photo (Hamodia, Wednesday, January 31) — a Nazi soldier gleefully cutting the beard of a Jew — was, first of all, undignified and, second of all, too jarring for children.
But, as Mantello, Bergson and Hecht proved, truth saves lives.
Newspapers are not children’s books. Hamodia distinguishes itself in genuine sensitivity and journalistic responsibility. I know. I know how many times I’ve been told, “You can’t say that; it might hurt some readers.” But sensitivity is not a gag order. And children should not be outfitted with non-removable blindfolds and earplugs.
They have to know the truth. Otherwise, some parents would never allow their precious young to learn Chumash or Gemara.
A story I heard has it that a Chassid once came to the Kotzker Rebbe, zy”a, and said, “I can’t take it anymore. Everything I hear, everything I read; it’s like it says in Koheles: “Yosif daas, yosif mach’ov — the more you know, the more you suffer!”
The Kotzker replied, “Krenken zolst di; abi vissen zolst di — Suffer; as long as you know!”
Mordechai Schiller, Brooklyn, N.Y.