Meet some of the people in my alternative history, Part III

Here are a few of the other real people who appear as characters in my alternative history, whom I haven’t already featured. Not everyone is from the Russian Imperial Family!

Captain Aleksandr Aronovich Pecherskiy (22 February 1909–19 January 1990) was born in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, and grew up in Rostov-na-Donu. He earned a diploma in literature and music, and worked as an accountant and manager of an amateur musicians’ school, and as an electrician at a train repair plant. He served in the army from 1931–33.

The day the war began, he was drafted as a junior lieutenant, and served with the 596th Howitzer Artillery Regiment. In autumn 1941, he saved his wounded commander from capture, but didn’t get any medals for his bravery.

He was captured in October 1941, and suffered with typhus for seven months. He and four other POWs escaped, but were recaptured that same day. They went to a penal camp and then a POW camp, where it was discovered he was circumcised. He admitted he was Jewish, knowing he’d be whipped for lying.

Severe punishments and several other POW camps followed. He ended up in Sobibór, where he organized and led the revolt and mass escape of 14 October 1943. After serving with two partisan groups, he reunited with the Red Army, and was promoted to Captain. He was wounded in Latvia in August 1944.

During the last years of Stalin’s reign, he lost his job, was briefly arrested, and was unable to find new employment. The Soviet government prevented him from testifying at several trials of Nazi war criminals abroad.

For his courage, he has received four medals (two posthumous), and many other awards and honors.

In my alternative history, Captain Pecherskiy and 50 other Jewish partisans, mostly escapees from camps and ghettoes, arrive at the Aleksandr Palace in September 1944 to petition Aleksey and Arkadiya to create all-Jewish regiments in the Imperial Russian Army. He becomes commander of an eponymous infantry regiment, and receives many medals and honors after the war.

King Mihai (Michael) of Romania (25 October 1921–5 December 2017) was the last king of Romania, and the last true surviving WWII head of state. He was the son of the repulsive King Carol II and Queen Mother Elena (née Princess Eleni of Greece and Denmark); grandson of King Konstantinos I of Greece and King Ferdinand and Queen Marie of Romania; great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria and Tsar Aleksandr II; great-great-great-grandson of Tsar Nicholas I.

Soon after Mihai’s birth, his sleazy father was embroiled in yet another scandalous relationship, and renounced his claim to the throne. Mihai became king in 1927, after Ferdinand’s death, with a regency including his uncle Nicolae.

Carol returned to Romania in 1930, and refused to reconcile with his wife. He forced her out of the country and only let her see Mihai a few months a year, on his own terms. After Carol abdicated in September 1940, Mihai became king again.

Mihai frequently suffered bouts of depression, feeling he were too young and inexperienced to be king, and upset at being treated like a pathetic figurehead by the ruling fascists and Germans passing through. His mother provided teachers to shape him into a strong, active king, and urged him to depose the fascist Prime Minister Ion Antonescu.

She also made him to understand he had to take a stand against Jewish deportations, or risk going down in history as King Mihai the Wicked. He listened to his mother (who posthumously was honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations).

In June 1944, Mihai began secret talks with members of the opposition, to discuss overthrowing Antonescu. His successful coup in August turned Romania to the Allies and shortened the war by as much as six months. Sadly, the Soviets forced him to abdicate in December 1947.

In 1948, Mihai married Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma, with whom he had five daughters and enjoyed 68 years of marriage.

In my alternative history, Mihai and Nicolae secretly come to Russia in June 1944 to discuss the planned defection and overthrow of Antonescu. He returns in August for the belated baptism of Aleksey and Arkadiya’s surprise fifth child Shura and their nephew Oleg. It means a lot to him that Aleksey, who also came into a throne at a very young age, says he believes in him. Good kings are gradually made, not instantly created.

Zionism and “Zog Nit Keyn Mol”

My WeWriWa post is here.

z

herzl_retouched

Theodor (né Tivadar) Herzl (2 May 1860–3 July 1904), Father of Zionism

Contrary to what you might’ve heard about Zionism from the modern-day extreme Left, it’s simply a movement for Jewish sovereignty in our own nation. It never outlived its usefulness, and there’s absolutely nothing racist about it. Certain individuals don’t speak to the movement as a whole.

There are many streams—Religious, Socialist, Practical, Political, Labour, Synthetic, Revisionist, Revolutionary, Cultural, Neo, et al. It’s a total lie that you have to be super-religious and/or super-conservative politically to be a Zionist. Many of the early Zionists were committed Socialists.

DSC06072

Though many countries emancipated their Jewish communities between 1791–1923, it was still very difficult to live as a religious minority. Just because the law says one thing doesn’t mean all of society will change long-established attitudes overnight.

There also wasn’t any emancipation in places like the Russian Empire, and while the Jewish communities in the Islamic world were almost equal legally, they had dhimmi status. Dhimmitude entailed certain restrictions, and the payment of special taxes.

While I still feel it held people back to exclusively speak Yiddish and make no attempt to become a real part of their respective host cultures, I now understand why so many resisted. What incentive did they have to, e.g., adopt real Russian names, speak Polish, dress in modern clothes, or apply to secular schools when they were so hated and held back from so many opportunities?

DSC06075

Moving to Israel, then called Palestine, was freedom. Even North America, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand didn’t afford the opportunity to be surrounded by one’s own people, instinctively understood, part of the majority. The Romans renamed Israel Palestina as a humiliation, a punishment, using the name of the enemy Philistines. Arabs in Israel didn’t begin calling themselves Palestinians till 1967!

These early pioneers took desert wastelands and turned them into oases, dug ditches, planted crops and fruit trees, established modern towns and cities, brought this largely abandoned land into the modern era. This is how Tel-Aviv looked in 1909, when the first settlers (drawn by lot) arrived:

DSC06074

People needed a safe refuge from pogroms, institutionalised discrimination, numerus clausus quotas for schools, anti-Semitism, denied opportunities. Had there been a self-governing State of Israel, free of British rule, so many people would’ve been saved from the Shoah. Thanks to the horrific White Paper, countless people were denied immigration visas when there was still a window of opportunity to flee.

Most of my Hungarian-born characters were deeply involved in the Socialist–Zionist youth group Hashomer Hatzair, which convinced them their place is in Israel. After the war, all the survivors do indeed go to Israel, either on legal visas after the British are gone, or through relatives already in Israel sending papers for them.

800px-jewish_partisans_anthem

Partisans’ Memorial in Givatayim, Israel, Copyright Avi1111 (Dr. Avishai Teicher)

“Zog Nit Keyn Mol” (“Never Say”) was written by Yiddish poet and partisan Hirsh Glik in 1943. Born in Vilna (then part of Poland) in 1922, he began writing poetry in his teens and co-founded Yungvald (Young Forest), a group of young Jewish poets. Following the German invasion of the Baltic states in 1941, he was sent to the camp Weiße Wache, and later transferred to the Vilna Ghetto.

Many ghettoes tried to keep up a semblance of normalcy with a strong cultural life, and Vilna was possibly the greatest of all cultural centres. Hirsh was a big part of the artistic community, and simultaneously served in the underground. On 21 January 1942, the Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye (United Partisan Organisation) was founded, with the motto “We will not go like sheep to the slaughter.”

Paul Robeson, one of my heroes, singing a shortened version in the USSR in 1949

In 1943, Hirsh wrote “Zog Nit Keyn Mol” to the music of Russian composer Dmitriy Yakovlevich Pokrass. Though he managed to flee during the ghetto’s liquidation in October 1943, he was recaptured and deported to a camp in Estonia. He continued writing poetry and songs in captivity, and escaped in July 1944 as the Red Army neared. Hirsh was never heard from again.

The song made the rounds among other partisans, and today, it’s commonly sung at Shoah memorial services all over the world. Though my characters aren’t from a Yiddish-speaking area, they nevertheless express sentiments from the song a few times, “Never say this is our final road when the hour we longed for is so near.”

Full version