Intermarriage And The Holocaust: Part II
10/26/2011 - 14:42

Perhaps it’s the upcoming anniversary of Kristallnacht, perhaps it’s my children’s “Sound of Music”-inspired questions about the Holocaust. (Most recently: “Were there any Jews living in Austria when the Nazis took over?” A reasonable question, given that this population of 192,000 is never mentioned in the Von Trapp family’s story.)

In any event, the Holocaust has been on my mind more than usual lately.

Interestingly, Israel’s former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, has reportedly breathed new life into the old “intermarriage equals the Holocaust” trope in a speech he gave recently at Ohel Shem High School in suburban Tel Aviv.

According to Ynet, the rabbi, himself a Holocaust survivor who now chairs the Yad Vashem Council (Yad Vashem is Israel’s Holocaust museum), told students: "Marrying gentiles is like playing into the hands of the Nazis.”

More interesting: several students were so offended by his comparison that they walked out.

Meanwhile, another interfaith-Holocaust story caught my eye in Monday's New York Times obituaries: the touching tale of Jerzy Bielecki, a Roman Catholic Pole who fell in love with a Jewish girl at Auschwitz and helped her escape in 1944.

Bielecki just died at age 90; Cyla Cybulska, his Jewish paramour, died five years ago.

The two “though much in love” didn’t actually marry. Upon reaching freedom, Bielecki — who had been imprisoned in Auschwitz since 1940 for being in the Polish resistance — decided he had to join the Polish underground. He found a hiding place for Cybulska, and the two, who each thought the other had died, did not meet again for 39 years.

Cybulska immigrated to the United States, married another Holocaust survivor and settled in Brooklyn, while Bielecki stayed in Poland and started a family of his own.

They met again in 1983, after Cybulska’s husband had died: her Polish cleaning lady, upon hearing the tale of lost love, told her she’d seen Bielecki on Polish TV. Cybulska tracked him down and visited him in Krakow; he apparently greeted her at the airport with 39 roses, one for each of the years they had not seen each other, and the two saw each other another 15 times before her death.

Not clear from the obituary whether Bielecki was still married to his Polish wife at that point.

In any event, a moving story that serves as an interesting counterpoint to Rabbi Lau’s somewhat facile intermarriage-Holocaust equation.

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BUT JULIE the story the backstory might be highly embellioshed and fabricated a la Herman Rosenblat case a few years ago which i also helped take down......apples at the fence? this one has a PEAR TREE, a wink on first meeting the girl, and 39 roses..... Hollywood anyone? see more here

Polish Holocaust Story Questioned

First, before we begin. cue the violin music. And open the Hollywood movie theater curtain half way so you can see the opening credits. Ready? Hit projector button!

When the New York Times ran a weepy obituary last October headlined ”[Catholic Polish man ] Jerzy Bielecki Dies at 90; Fell in Love [With Jewish Girl] in a Nazi Camp,” not every Times reader was convinced that the back story was true. Was it?

Julie Wiener's IN THE MIX column at the Jewish Week in NYC notes:

Not clear from the obituary whether Bielecki was still married to his Polish wife at that point. YES, and two daughters, four grandkids, one g g kid.


I don't have statistics showing that the majority of children of interfaith marriages are Jewish. Nor have I ever seen any statistics showing they are not. All I hear on both sides is anecdotal evidence. It would be great if a comprehensive, unbiased study were conducted to help answer this question.

Although Orthodox and/or Conservative Jews may say children of a Jewish father and Gentile mother are automatically not Jewish, the Reform movement says that if they are raised as Jews, they are Jewish, even without a conversion. So we don't all agree on the status of these children.

If the non-Reform Jews insist these kids are not Jewish, and count them that way, and the Reform count them as Jewish, then we're just talking past each other without actually changing the fact that these children are carrying forward Jewish practices, rituals, spirituality, study, and culture into future generations, which is certainly not something the Nazis would want to see happening.


The reality is that MOST of the offspring of intermarriages DO NOT convert to Judaism. If their mother is not jewish, they are not Jewish, conversion is rare. In cases where the mother is Jewish, and the father is not, these children's connections to the Jewish religion tends to be pretty weak.

Intermarriage cuts off Jews from Judaism, and the loss of countless Jewish Souls .... Hitler would be proud!

Avi -

Jewish men marrying Gentile women does not necessarily result in Gentile offpring. The couple can raise the children as Jewish, and the children can be converted to Judaism.

In addition, I don't see any evidence that the rabbi was only talking about Jewish men marrying Gentiles.

Live Gentile children of Jews are better than dead children of Jews, so the Nazi analogy doesn't work in any case.


Thanks for your comment. I have a couple of questions and clarifications.

"Jewish men marrying Gentile women does not necessarily result in Gentile offpring. The couple can raise the children as Jewish, and the children can be converted to Judaism." -- You are correct that this is possible. Are you aware of any statistics that suggest that this is happening in significant numbers?

"I don't see any evidence that the rabbi was only talking about Jewish men marrying Gentiles" -- You are right, he wasn't. I restricted my comments to men intermarrying because the offspring of Jewish women are Jewish.

"Live Gentile children of Jews are better than dead children of Jews, so the Nazi analogy doesn't work in any case" -- I agree. I also object to the use of the Holocaust analogy. I was trying to call attention to the point he was making, despite the analogy.

Dear Julie and Avi:

Julie -- I am glad that you mentioned the Bielecki-Cybulska romance. As the Coordinator of the Half-Jewish Network, I have studied dozens of Holocaust stories about interfaith families.

While some Christian spouses divorced or abandoned their Jewish partners, the vast majority of Christian spouses, as far I can tell from anecdotal evidence, stayed with Jewish wives and husbands even when receiving all kinds of social pressure and demands from the Gestapo to end the marriages.

Intermarriage protected the Jewish spouse -- when the Christian spouse divorced them, the Gestapo was legally allowed to arrest and deport the intermarried Jewish spouse.

Avi -- I am sorry that Rabbi Lau's bitterness from his experiences as a child survivor of the Holocaust have led him to attack interfaith couples.

The Nazis also were very interested in the ancestry of half-Jewish people, whether or not they practiced Judaism or another faith, whether they 'looked Jewish,' etc. They were also very hostile to them, routinely letting them know that they weren't 'Aryan enough.'

Why is the Jewish community repeating the same mistakes?

Such hostility also ignores the half-Jewish people who practice other faiths but still retain -- amazingly! -- given the harsh comments they read in the Jewish media -- goodwill towards Judaism and the Jewish people.

Robin Margolis
Half-Jewish Network

So are you saying that intermarriage is a good thing?

The Talmud says that when the blood rushes from the brain to the lower part of the body the brain does not think correctly. This is what happens when Jewish men interact with gentile women and visa versa.
What Rabbi Lau meant certainly was that every intermarriage has the potential of destroying the Jewish people bit by bit. The best way to stop this is either education, religious observance or parental disapproval.
This is not disparaging gentiles- they are wonderful people ( except for the ones who killed our families).
The trouble is that liberalism has distorted Jewish beliefs. Disregarding Jewish law will lead to intermarriage. It is no wonder that a Conservative based
newspaper supports interfaith dialogue which can lead to intermarriage.

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