“Their horse cavalry, of which they had twelve brigades, charged valiantly against the swarming tanks and armored cars, but they could not harm them with their swords and lances.”
Thus did Winston Churchill describe Poland’s attempt to defend itself against the German invasion of September 1st, 1939. In his war memoirs, German general Heinz Guderian wrote, “The Polish… in ignorance of the nature of our tanks, had charged them with swords and lances and suffered tremendous losses.” In his 1959 novel, The Tin Drum, German novelist Gunther Grass likened the Polish horsemen’s doomed assault against a Germany Panzer division to Don Quixote’s hopeless idealism.
There’s only one problem—it never happened.
In reality, at 2:00pm in the afternoon on the first day of World War II, the commander of the 18th Regiment of the Pomorska Cavalry Brigade, successfully attacked and overran a badly exposed battalion of German infantry near the Polish village of Krojanty. Suddenly German tanks appeared and began firing at the retreating Poles, most of whom were killed. The next day, the Germans brought war correspondents to the scene and told them that the Polish cavalrymen had charged the German tanks.
This was a falsehood preserved as truth. However, some truths eventually become thought of as false.
In times to come, people will assume that some of World War II history was fabricated. They will claim that it’s hard to believe that the ‘bad guys,’ Hitler, Stalin, and Molotov really had sinister-sounding names that mean ‘wolf’, ‘steel’ and ‘hammer’ respectively while France was led by a man, De Gaulle, whose name just coincidentally means ‘Of France’. England’s leader just happened to be a ‘Church-on-the-hill’ and America’s a ‘Field-of-Roses’ whose speeches were written for him by the rose-man, Samuel Rosenman. Let’s not forget that the hull of the ship of state was in the hands of Secretary of State, Cordell Hull and that the man who nourished the roses with money or morning dew (morgen thau in German) was Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau.
They will say that historians made up the name of the man who led the allied invasion from England to Normandy on D Day in 1944, Eisenhower. The general’s real name must have been lost in the mists of time so the literary academics decided to be poetic. One of the invading leaders of the Norman invasion of England in 1066 was Taillefer whose name means ‘Hewer of Iron’. Improvising a name for the World War II leader, they simply translated Hewer of Iron into German and got, yes, Eisenhower.
So it just happened that back in the 20th century, the bad guys all had malevolent names and the good guys all had benign ones? Puh-leez.
That these things are all true, challenges rational belief. Yet they are true.
We are in the annual three week period of mourning that commemorates the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, two millennia ago.
It defies rational thought that through the centuries so many Jewish tragedies, instead of being randomly dotted around the calendar, cluster in this 3-week period. Yet it is true.
It defies rational thought, that people, exiled from Israel and facing discrimination, persecution and mass murder wherever they set foot, are still alive and again in their homeland. Yet, it is true.
Moslem radicals deny that a Jewish Temple ever stood in Jerusalem. In the 1970’s, Arthur Koestler wrote an academically acclaimed book charging that present day Jews do not descend from Abraham and those who built Jerusalem. His denial of Jewish history made rational sense. No other people has survived in this way. Yet Jews have done so. I am mourning during this period just as my father and grandfather did before me and just as my ancestors who watched the temple burn also did.
Some things, no matter how strange, really are true.
This unbroken chain of transmission is not confined to mourning. More importantly, it is how ancient Jewish wisdom passes down through the generations. We currently face turbulent times. Our audio program, The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah, on sale now, will help you understand the dangers and the road to survival as laid out long ago. You’ll enjoy it.
This week’s Susan’s Musings: Good Old Massapequa High:
Recently, I stopped off to take a few pictures at my alma mater, Massapequa High School. While, admittedly, most readers will gloss over those words, those of you who have known me for years will say, “Susan, you didn’t go to Massapequa High. You didn’t even live anywhere near there. ” They are correct, and therein lies a story…READ MORE
Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here.
Dear Rabbi and Susan,
Although I am not a religious Jew, I consider myself always to be Jewish. I’m also proud to be American and do my best to uphold the American tradition of being self-sufficient.
In patriotic circles, one constantly hears that unless and until this country gets back to its Christian roots, we’re doomed (I’m, of course, greatly paraphrasing here).
How, as a Jew, can I fully participate in being a patriot while at the same time being involved in a process that so promotes Christian values? Even Glenn Beck, who I think is a true hero and leader, bases his work in his Christian-based values.