Tag Archives: avengers

Jew of the Week: Abba Kovner

“The Jewish Avenger”

Abel “Abba” Kovner (1918-1987) was born in what is today Belarus and grew up in Vilnius (then part of Poland). As a young man, he was a member of HaShomer HaTzair, the Zionist youth movement. When the Nazis invaded Vilnius in 1941, Kovner escaped to a convent, but soon returned to the Vilna Ghetto to organize a Jewish resistance. At the start of 1942, Kovner secretly published a manifesto inside the Ghetto to inspire the Jews to fight back, writing that it was better to die than “go like lambs to the slaughter”. Along with several other young men, Kovner formed the United Partisan Organization, possibly the first armed underground Jewish group in Nazi Europe. Before they could launch their first large-scale attack, the Vilna Ghetto was liquidated in 1943, forcing the group to flee to the surrounding forests. From there, they launched a guerrilla warfare campaign against the Nazis. The small group began calling themselves “the Avengers” (HaNokmim) and were successful enough to draw the attention of the Red Army. They would go on to coordinate with the Soviets to crush the Nazis in Eastern Europe. Once the fate of the Nazis was sealed towards the end of 1944, Kovner was among the founders of a new group, called Bricha (“Escape”), which worked to get Jewish refugees out of Europe and to the Holy Land. Over the next couple of years, they would successfully move 250,000 Holocaust survivors to Israel. Having seen first-hand the horrific devastation inflicted by the Nazis, Kovner yearned for revenge. He started yet another group, called Nakam (“Vengeance”), seeking to punish Germany for the Holocaust. “Plan B” was to poison the water supply in Allied prisoner-of-war camps where Nazi SS soldiers were kept. The far more controversial and shocking “Plan A” was to poison the water supplies of several major German cities in order to kill 6 million Germans, one for each Jew lost in the Holocaust. Thankfully, Plan A was soon abandoned, though Kovner was still arrested by the British and held in a Cairo prison for several months. He did aim to accomplish Plan B, and Nakam members infiltrated a POW camp bakery in April 1946, coating the loaves of bread with arsenic. Over two thousands German soldiers fell ill, though no deaths were reported. In December 1947, Kovner joined the Haganah and fought in Israel’s Independence War as a captain of the Givati Brigade. Following this, he lived out the remainder of his life in a kibbutz, working tirelessly to strengthen the nascent state. He also helped to design several Holocaust museums, and testified at the Eichmann trial. More famously, Kovner wrote a series of poetry books (in Hebrew and Yiddish) describing the struggles he faced during the Holocaust and in Israel’s early years. This made him one of the country’s most celebrated poets and writers. For this, he won the Israeli Prize for Literature in 1970. A heavy smoker, Kovner succumbed to tracheal cancer before his 70th birthday.

Words of the Week

It is perfectly clear that the Arab nations do not want to solve the Arab refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront against the United Nations, and as a weapon against Israel… Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die.
— Sir Alexander Galloway, former head of UNRWA

Abba Kovner (Centre) and his Avengers.

Jew of the Week: Comic Books

What do Batman, Spider-Man and Superman have in common?

The now-ubiquitous superhero comic book was originally a product of poor Jewish immigrants to America. (Look closely and you’ll find Jewish themes in all of them. Superman’s real name? Kal-El!) During the Great Depression, Max Gaines’ (born Max Ginzberg) only solace was reading newspaper comic strips. He wondered how it would be possible to maximize this experience, and thus was born the comic book. Teaming up with Harry Wildenberg, who worked for a colour printing company, they debuted the first ever comic book in 1934. By 1938, comic books had already taken America by storm when two Jews changed the industry forever. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster came up with Superman, the first action superhero. In 1939, Bob Kahn (who became Bob Kane in America) and Bill Finger (a poor Jew from Colorado) brought Batman to the world. In 1941, Joe Kirzberg (who became Joe Kirby) and Joe Simon created Captain America. Meanwhile, a young Romanian Jew named Stanley Lieber, also known as Stan Lee, dreamed up Spider-Man, the Hulk, Avengers and the Fantastic Four, as well as X-Men, Thor and Daredevil, propelling Marvel Comics (which was founded by Martin Goodman) from obscurity into a comics powerhouse. So why the Jews? Will Eisner, the originator of Wonder Man, said it was nothing more than a re-branding of Biblical heroes: “We are people of the Book; we are storytellers essentially. Anyone who’s exposed to Jewish culture, I think, walks away for the rest of his life with an instinct for telling stories…”

 

 

Words of the Week

He shall be free to his home for one year, and he shall cheer his wife whom he has taken.

– Deuteronomy 24:5

A newly-married groom, for the first year following his marriage, is commanded to remain together with his wife, and should not embark upon journeys, join the army in battle, or anything of the like (including civic duties). Rather he must rejoice with his wife for a full year – this is one of the 613 commandments (#214)!