Hello In our last meeting, we tried to expose you to the emergence of the final solution of the Jewish question, the mass murder of the Jews, as well as some aspects of its essence. Yet numerous questions still need to be addressed. Among them, many referring to the human reactions to the Holocaust, of victims, witnesses, and of perpetrators. Thus, we wish to open our discussion with the many different Jewish reactions to the systematic mass murderer, and only then turn to local reactions as well as the fundamental question of how was it humanly possible. The human actions to be discussed are closely linked to questions of knowledge and of its internalisation. For a response of any kind to be generated, information about the atrocities needed to arrive, and a sense of consciousness of an inevitable coming death had to be developed. Thus, before asking ourselves, what could or should have been done by Jews, Jewish communities, Jewish leaders, Jewish families facing death, we must understand how and when did they first hear about the mass murder. And how and when were those unprecedented and unimaginable rumors shaped into a true understanding, if at all, that all Jews-- men, women, old people, and even children, and babies-- were to be murdered. Keeping this in mind, it should be stated that the breadth and scope of the knowledge about the killings varied greatly throughout Europe. This is true not only because of factors discussed in earlier in our course, such as the varying German regimes and policies in different countries and the unique characteristics of Jewish and local communities in each place, but also due to the changing nature of the murder measures and how Jews were exposed to them. The very fact that all killing sites-- whether occasional ones or extermination camps-- were situated in Eastern Europe, again, due to Nazi ideological and practical considerations, impacted the level and mode of understandings and reactions of Jews in East and in the West. Vilna, as an example, which due to its rich Jewish life was called, before the war, Jerusalem of Lithuania, was occupied by German forces two days after Operation Barbarossa began. Einsatzgruppen units, which arrived at the city at the beginning of July, actively assisted by local Lithuanian forces, launched a series of actions, Aktionen, roundups, in which thousands of Jews were taken to the nearby forest of Ponary and shot to death. By December 1941, more than 25,000 Jews of Vilna were murdered there. And by the end of the war it became the grave of 75,000 people, mostly Jews. Most shooting pits used by the Einsatzgruppen were located in a great proximity to villages, towns and cities. Ponary, for instance, was known until the war as a holiday resort, located only about 10 kilometres from the city. Days after the shooting began, frightening rumours started circulating among the Vilna Jews. Yet their terrible meaning made them considerably difficult to be believed. On the 20th of July, 1941, Herman Kruk, an important Jewish intellectual, wrote under the title "What is happening in Ponary?", the following: "A rumour came to the Judenrat that people were shot in Ponary. The Judenrat didn't want to hear anything and considered it, an unfounded rumour." The thought that the murder of so many people, men, women, and children, without any logic or precedent, could happen was simply impossible to accept. Yet in the beginning of September 1941, a few survivors succeeded in crawling out of the killing pits of Ponary and arrived at the ghetto with shooting wounds. Kruk, who met some of them, wrote on September the 4th, 1941, the following: "The dreadful thing is hard to describe. The hand trembles, and the ink is bloody. Is it possible that all those taken out from here have been murdered, shot in Ponary?" In less than two months, what was impossible to think about became terribly clear. The shooting wounds and the detailed testimonies, some attached below, left no room for doubts. And an understanding that all those who were taken were murdered was established among most Vilna Jews, as with many other Jews in the areas which were occupied during Barbarossa campaign. Yet, those who survived in the first wave of murder were now concentrated in ghettos and enslaved mainly by the German war industry. It was an exception, a temporary halt, resulting from an ad hoc German need. But they thought, better hoped, that Nazi Germany decided to spare them, that the worst of all had already happened, and that they were now to survive. Yet as any illusion, this comforting understanding was most misleading. Nazi Germany certainly did not abandon its quest to murder all Jews. And what about Warsaw? Warsaw did not have a killing site next door like Vilna. Nevertheless, rumors reaching from the east about mass murder in shooting pits trickled into the ghetto within weeks. They were interpreted as occasional, local, impartial murders and as closely connected to the barbaric war in the eastern front of Operation Barbarossa. More disturbing were rumors that came from western Poland about numerous, tiny, Jewish communities whose members were taken to an unknown place called Chelmno. Frightening post cards reached the ghetto such as the following by Rabbi Sylman from Grabov. "Four weeks ago all Jews were deported without exception from the town Kolo; men, women, and children, and trucks took them in an unknown direction. Despite all efforts, we have not heard anything about them. But this week, some Jewish refugees who fled from that place, came and said, that they are all being killed, to the last man. Gassed to death." Yet those terrifying news were rejected by most as Marcel Reich Ranicki wrote in his memoirs "It was then, probably in March 1942, that I first heard, that somewhere in Poland, the Germans were killing Jews with the exhaust gases of motor vehicles, channelled into confined spaces. I did not believe those stories, and nobody I knew considered them even possible." For the majority of Warsaw Jews, the idea of mass murder-- not to mention mass murder of citizens of European capital city, of hundreds of thousands of people-- was rejected as being lunatic. Only much later, long weeks after hundreds of thousands of Warsaw Jews would be murdered in Treblinka death camp in the summer of 1942, would consciousness of death penetrate into the minds of the small remains of the ghetto. If in Warsaw, one can trace an inability to believe the unimaginable, what about West European Jews? German Jews who were deported to the East, as it was called, for the first time in October 1941 or Jews from other countries, where deportations started only in the summer of 1942 or even later-- could the knowledge about their future mass murder reach them? Could it really be verified or believed? True, many West European Jews considered the eastern part of Europe as a threatning place, primitive and unfamiliar. But this was far from imagining that entire communities are being led to murder sites. In mid-October 1942, the Joodse Raad, the Dutch Jewish council mentioned before, convened in a meeting to discuss some terrifying news from an unknown camp called Auschwitz. It concluded that the situation in Auschwitz-- to remind you, a death camp-- must be difficult, yet the Dutch Jews managed to live there despite the dire conditions. Even in January 1943, after additional information had arrived, the conclusion was not yet altered. And in Salonika, where Jews were deported to Auschwitz, as of March 1943, not the slightest information arrived before the last Jew was deported. Hundreds and thousands of Jews were killed in the first wave of mass murder in shooting pits, before any knowledge or understanding could base itself. And millions of more Jews would understand the true meaning of the killing site to which they will be brought only while placing their foot on its threshold. This would be too late for too many. Indeed, exceptions did exist. Throughout Europe there were, here and there, Jews who did believe the worst sensed it even without having full knowledge. Parallel to the meeting of the Joodse Raad mentioned before, on the 19th of October, 1942, a Dutch Jewish female physician, Leny Jakobs Melkman, wrote in a private letter that a decision had been made to extinguish all the Jews and that it was foolish to think that few or even one Jew could evade that fate. On April the 14, 1942, in the Warsaw ghetto, Reuven Feldshu wrote, after meeting a runaway from Chelmno, "all doubts were gone". And Abba Kovner, a member of the underground and one of its future leaders, from Vilna said on the 1st of January, 1942, "Vilna is not only Vilna, and Ponary is not merely an episode, it is a complete system. Escaping from place to place is nothing but an illusion, and as any illusion-- is futile." But even when a true consciousness of death was established by some, what could be done? What could have been done by Jewish individuals, or Jewish communities, in the light of the murderous ambition, Nazi Germany's strength and the direct and indirect wide assistance given to it?