Bergson Group recalled at Memorial Pk • Brooklyn Paper

Bergson Group recalled at Memorial Pk

A large crowd assembles at the site for the unveiling.Photos by Steve Solomonson

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch helped administer the rites when Holocaust Memorial Park unveiled a memorial stone in honor of a group of Jewish resistance fighters, who “spoke out while the world looked away” and helped rescue 200,000 Jews from the Holocaust.

The Bergson Group was immortalized with a solemn ceremony, co-sponsored by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and the Brooklyn Holocaust Memorial Committee, at the memorial oasis, Shore Boulevard and Emmons Avenue, where a simple slab of stone was dedicated with reflection and prayer by members of the community and a distinguished roster of guests.

Among them was Dr. Rebecca Kook, daughter of Lithuanian-born revisionist Zionist Hillel Kook, who founded the Bergson Group after relocating to America in 1940 and assuming the name, “Peter Bergson,” apparently to avoid embarrassment to his Uncle Abraham, who later became Israel’s first Ashkenazi chief rabbi.

As a hard-core faction of 10 Irgun activists from Europe, America and Palestine, the “Bergsonites” gained an international following for their unrelenting campaign to bring global attention to the Jewish plight, and boasted among their ranks author and screenwriter Ben Hecht and cartoonist Arthur Szyk.

They placed full-page advertisements in national newspapers; among them, “Jews Fight for the Right to Fight,” which appeared in The New York Times in 1942, and “For Sale to Humanity 70,000 Jews, Guaranteed Human Beings at $50 a Piece” after Romania offered to safely evacuate its Jews if their travel expenses were paid.

A year later, Kook formed the Emergency Committee for the Rescue of European Jewry, comprised of Jewish and other writers, public figures and politicians, and lobbied President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress to act on behalf of the Jews left in Europe.

At the time, the United States limited immigration to just two-percent of the number of each nationality in the country, but the Jewish quotas remained largely unfilled due to pressure by the United States State Department to obstruct the immigration of refugees.

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