Zionist General Council Discusses Plight of European Jewry
The “action committee” is the Committee of Four, elected early in the war to deal with Polish Jewry. The members were Yitzhak Gruenbaum, Moshe Shapira, Dr. Emil Shmurak, along with Dr. Dov Joseph, who was annexed to the Committee of Four after the Jewish Agency Executive, November 23, 1942, issued a statement about the systematic annihilation of European Jewry.
Comrades, for months we have been demanding that the Jewish Agency Executive set up a department for Diaspora affairs, and I find it astounding that we're discussing having a clerk deal with this. We insist that a member of the Executive deal with it. To accomplish this, there is no need for institutions, immigrants associations, and expanded committees. What we should do is establish a department under a member of the Executive, make a few people available to it, and have it devote itself to Diaspora affairs exclusively. The question of rescue and outcry should be at the forefront of our concern and action. [This department] should have been formed long ago. We have been speaking of it for months, and the time has come for this meeting to resolve the matter. If we didn't do it during those three days of response, at least let's do it now, and let's not argue about it.
The Executive has proposed an advisory committee of representatives of immigrants associations. I do not think this proposal is good, because if we're talking about immigrants associations, there are many such associations, including immigrants from Saloniki, from Bulgaria, and so on. That means a council of fifty people. Such a council cannot work; it cannot get anything done. What we need is a small, downsized committee of seven people, nine at the most, no more, whom we will choose - the Zionist Executive together with the National Committee. This committee will be answerable to these institutions, not to an executive committee of three or four people who don't do anything because each of them is busy with many other matters—one on the National Committee, another on the Jewish Agency Executive, each of them able to devote fifteen minutes to this operation. Instead, there should be a person who works on this and nothing else. That way, they'll look into everything, every possibility of assistance, and we'll do what we can. Perhaps we will not save many, perhaps we will have little success, but at least we'll have a clean conscience, knowing that we did what we could. And no one can say that we've done everything we can thus far.
The initial work, the political work, should be performed by the Jewish Agency, the Zionist Executive and other organizations. The second work — rescue at the individual level, of every Jew, every ten Jews, every hundred Jews who can be saved from the inferno — this should be done first by the Yishuv and afterward by the others, too. We know the Yishuv has much influence over the Diaspora in this sense. If the Yishuv takes an action of some kind, then the Diaspora, too, will respond and say: Since the Yishuv, which does nothing but demand money, is offering up its own soul and belongings — we should help, too. From this standpoint, I cannot agree at all, and I warn the General Council not to accept the proposals of the Executive concerning the action committee. I told you this on a different occasion, with the members of the action committee present. I do not rule out any of the members of the action committee. They are all good Zionists and Jews, and many of them are my personal friends, whom I admire. But if they can meet once a week or every other week while we've got several months to save Jewish lives, then its not an action committee. I marvel at the audacity of these people, who agree to continue serving on the action committee under such conditions. Each of them should take a leave of absence from his regular function for three or four months and hand his duties over to others. There's also some redundancy. There are two heads of the Immigration Department; let them hand their regular work over to others. Then they can be members of the action committee. If they want to belong to the action committee while they deal with their own work in their own departments and positions, we are in great trouble. What a terrible responsibility we are assuming vis-a-vis the Jewish people, the future, and Zionism. I reject the option of leaving the action committee as it is today. I do not reject the people; they can stay on, but on the condition that they drop all of their other duties and pledge themselves to this work alone. If they cannot set their other duties aside, the Zionist General Council, in conjunction with the National Committee, should pick out three or four people of their choosing. We shall have to devote three or four months to the rescue operation and to it alone, this being the longest period of time we have left to save Jews in the Balkans. We do not know what will happen in the Balkans in the spring, and whether we will have the opportunity to save anyone [then]. A secretary—of course there should be a secretary. It is very bad to have an action committee without a secretary; no one on the committee would know what was being done. But to hand the entire operation to the secretary of the committee—it's a sin, a crime to bring up such proposals.
Source: Central Zionist Archives S25/295