In Berlin, we saw a memorial to a certain event from the Holocaust. Even though this event was deemed memorial-worthy, our guide was confident that none of us had ever heard of it. Even though our group is fairly well-informed when it comes to the Shoah, she was not mistaken in this assumption. The event is as follows:
In 1943, the SS rounded up certain Jewish men for deportation. These were men who were married to non-Jewish women and who had non-Jewish children. About 2,000 were rounded up, 20 of whom were actually forwarded to Auschwitz.
The wives and children of these men staged a protest outside the SS, shouting “Give us back our husbands!” Accounts differ widely as to the number of women who participated in the protest but they are not mutually exclusive as the protest lasted several days. Finally, the SS gave in. Not only were the men in custody released, even the ones already sent to Auschwitz were returned. This was the largest civil protest against the SS, and it was successful. (In fairness, the SS figured they would just regather these Jewish men later, and they may in fact have done so, but that in no way detracts from this victory.)
It should be noted that, while the memorial is to the non-Jewish women, it is replete with Jewish imagery.
Our guide asked us why we thought that we, as informed Jews, had never heard this story before.
One participant thought that perhaps it was considered unseemly, seeing how the entire incident hinges upon intermarriage and assimilation.
Another participant speculated that perhaps it makes us look bad, suggesting that if we had protested, things might have gone differently.
I don’t know why none of us knew this story – an incident that Germany considers deserving of a memorial!
Have you heard this story before? If not, why do you think that might be?