By Fr. George Welzbacher
June 26, 2011
Three weeks ago we spoke in this column of the important role played by Pope Pius XII both in exposing to the world the Nazis' secret program for the annihilation of Europe's Jews and in doing what was possible to provide protection for the Jews within the borders of Italy and in those adjacent areas, such as southeastern France, that in the course of the war had fallen under Italian control. In other countries that together with Italy were allied with the Third Reich (most importantly Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria) Pope Pius XII had considerable success through his diplomatic interventions behind the scene in forestalling or at least in mitigating the persecution of the Jews. In Hungary, for example, there were no round-ups of Jews until 1944, when the Hungarian Arrow-Cross fascists, with German assistance, overthrew the previous (more benign) government. Even then, through subsequent diplomatic intervention, Pope Pius was able to halt the deportation of at least many of the Jews who lived in the nation's capital, Budapest. (Jews living outside the capital had been the first to be seized). In those countries, however, that had been conquered by the German armies the pope had no diplomatic base whatsoever. And the alternative weapon of public denunciation was a two-edged sword: Poland's Archbishop Sapieha pleaded with Pope Pius NOT to issue a public denunciation of the Nazi atrocities in Poland on the grounds that such a denunciation would simply incite the Nazis to even further sadistic cruelty, a plea that was decidedly plausible given the consequences that had followed from the Dutch bishops' public condemnation of the Nazi persecution of Holland's Jews; in Holland Jewish converts to Catholicism, previously untouched, were rounded up in reprisal, among them the Carmelite nun, Sister (now St.) Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (the brilliant philosopher, Edith Stein), who would die in the murder camp at Auschwitz.
Efforts therefore on behalf of the Jews in Nazi-CONQUERED Europe came typically at the grass- roots level, from conscientious INDIVIDUALS. A striking example came recently to light in the obituary notice published a fortnight or so ago for a Holocaust survivor to whom death came here in the U.S.A. at the age of eighty-three, decades after the close of World War II; during World War II he had been sheltered by devoutly Catholic Polish peasants (who would themselves have been shot or at the very least would have been packed off to a concentration camp, had such sheltering of Jews become known to the Nazis).
The obituary appeared in The Wall Street Journal for June 5th. May I share it with you here.
* * * * *Polish Holocaust Survivor Founded Electronics Firm
The Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2011
Felix Zandman survived the Holocaust as a teenager crammed into a tiny underground chamber beneath a Polish peasant's cottage.
Mr. Zandman, who died Saturday at age 83, went on to found Vishay Intertechnology Inc., a major electronics firm that supplies the computer, aerospace and other industries.
He was one of the few Jews in Grodno, a Polish city during World War II and now part of Belarus, who survived the war. A strong math student, he studied engineering at the Sorbonne after the war and developed methods for stress-testing airplane wings using plastic films.
He later emigrated to the U.S., where he founded Vishay to manufacture stress gauges and a revolutionary kind of electronic resistor that worked under extremes of hot and cold. The resistors found a ready market at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and in the military and later in computers.
Mr. Zandman was born in Grodno, where his maternal grandfather ran a prosperous construction firm and his father, descended from Talmudic scholars, was a chemist with Zionist sympathies.
After surviving the first part of World War II as a young slave, Mr. Zandman and an uncle escaped to the countryside, where a Catholic family sheltered them for 17 months in a tiny underground chamber along with two other Jews.
Quarters were so cramped that they had to take turns standing and sleeping. Occasionally, German troops hunting for Jews would come by with dogs, and their host would confuse them by spreading black pepper around the chamber's air vent. To while away the hours underground, Mr. Zandman's uncle taught him trigonometry and higher math by rote.
Most of the rest of Mr. Zandman's family died in Treblinka, he wrote in a 1994 memoir, "Never the Last Journey."
In 1962, Mr. Zandman founded Vishay with financial banking from a cousin, Alfred Slaner, who had found success as manufacturer of Supp-Hose support hosiery. The name Vishay came from their grandmother's village in Lithuania. During the 1980s, with Mr. Zandman as chief executive, Vishay went on an acquisitions spree, creating a broad-based electronics company with sales of $2.7 billion in 2010. The Malvern, Pa., company has manufacturing facilities in China, Israel and several other countries.
Mr. Zandman led Vishay's $500 million 1998 acquisition of Temic Telefunken Microelectronics GmbH, a producer of semiconductors and a leading German manufacturer DURING World War II. When the contract was signed, Mr. Zandman put on a yarmulke and said a blessing, he told the Hebrew popular science magazine Galileo in 2007.
A Zionist since his youth, Mr. Zandman worked on projects with the Israeli military, including helping to develop the cannon of the heavy Merkava tank. He was made an honorary citizen of Israel in 1994.
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