pieces of the past

by tobybee

I think a lot about how to create social change, or how to engage with people in effective ways, or when to scrap strategy and just stand in solidarity. I have no idea how effective Szmul Zygielbojm thought he was being when he killed himself 70 years ago, on May 12, 1943 – he gassed himself and asked to be cremated – or when he sent this letter explaining why. But it is clear that his actions are affecting and that they ask us to consider what we are willing to do in solidarity with others.

Szmul Zygielbojm letter

Zygielbojm – a Bundist – wrote this letter, Yiddishkeyt explains, “in utter despair upon receiving the news of the complete destruction of the Warsaw ghetto, in protest at the passivity with which the world was reacting in the face of the ongoing genocide, and in an act of unimaginable solidarity — killed himself by gas in his London apartment. In his note he wrote: ‘I cannot remain silent. I cannot live while the remnants of the Jewish people in Poland whose representative I am are being exterminated.'”