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Yom Kippur Blues, by Clancy Sigal

[from an aging, conflicted Jewish journalist ~ RT]
“If we cannot forgive others, how can we expect God to forgive us?” – Baal Shem Tov, the Hasidic master.
As a non practicing Jew, I’m always conflicted about the upcoming Yom Kippur holiday where God commands us to confess our sins and more importantly forgive our enemies and apologize to those we have wronged. That’s especially timely this new year of Rosh Hashonah (it’s 5777, shanah tova to you novices) the last of the “Nakam” revenge partisans has just died, in Israel age 91.
He’s Joseph Harmatz, a WW2 Jewish survivor of the Vilnius, Lithuania ghetto where his family was murdered. After the war 21-year old Harmatz, under the leadership of the poet Abba Kovner’s 50-man-and-woman Jewish Revenge Organization, brainstormed a nearly successful plot to kill 12,000 SS concentration camp guards in an Allied prison a mile or so from where I was at the Nuremberg war crimes trial. 
Frustrated by the courtroom’s legal nitpicking, Harmatz’s vigilantes, realizing that most criminal Nazis would probably go free (as happened), contaminated bread to be eaten by the SS prisoners at Stalag 13.   At the time I was told that 6000 SS had died, but they’d only got sick due to a screwup when Harmatz painted the bread loaves a bit too thinly with a mix of arsenic and glue.
Context: Only 161 top Nazis were punished for war crimes.  We Americans were more interested in making friends with the Germans as our new Cold War allies – and many Germans I met were only too happy to oblige to revive their anti-Jewish anti-Bolshik crusade.
Undaunted by their bad luck in failing to kill all the SS who had destroyed their families, Harmatz and his Nakam boys and girls executed – le mot juste – “death sentences” on a whole rogues gallery of former, and freely living, high level Nazis.  A number of these criminals were found mysteriously dead, in roadside ditches or cut down by hit and run drivers.  One senior Gestapo waiting in hospital for an operation somehow got kerosene in his bloodstream.  Probably dozens of Nazis were quietly assassinated by the revengers.  One of them was Himmler’s aide, Obersturmführer Joachim Peiper, officer in charge of the Waffen SS that massacred 84 surrendering GIs at Malmedy, Belgiium. 
The inglorious basterds of Nakam never confessed or apologized.  The last survivor Joe Harmatz died unrepentant.“We showed the world that we were not ready to suffer in silence…Our ultimate intention was to kill six million Germans,
one for every Jew…It was revenge, quite simply…And should I look to my conscience?  Maybe I was a bastard.  But there is no pardonnez-moi…Other people should look to their conscience not us.”
Here in Los Angeles, with its gang wars, I admire from my heart the mothers and relatives of the murdered who in their courtroom “victim impact statement” can sometimes find it in themselves to forgive the gunmen who destroyed their families.  I recall Dean Takahashi who told his brother’s two killers not to fear him because “I don’t believe in the macho folly of retaliation.”  It takes a great soul to say that.
On Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement, I wish I had that sort of great soul.