What would you do in the position of this Jew

Inspired by a real event in early 1943.

A Jewish man gets a knock on the door from the Gestapo. Figuring he might as well go down swinging, he throws acid in the face of one of the Nazis, who shoots blindly and hits another Gestapo man in the head and kills him.

Good result, you might think - the Jew even escapes his apartment and goes on the run. The Nazis kill 100 people in retaliation for the initial attack and let it be known that unless the man turns himself in they will shoot 5000 Jews.

Word reaches the man of what the Germans have threatened. What should he do?

In real life, he turned himself in and was promptly executed and left hanging from the gates of a Jewish ghetto.

If it was me? Bye bye. I’m not responsible for the threats of psychopaths.

And the 5000 Jews who weren’t killed because he turned himself in lived happily ever after. Cool story Bro.

No wait, they were sent to concentration camps and killed anyway.

Yeah, that’s the think about the Nazis. Nothing they could threaten would be any worse than what they were planning to do anyway.

Those 5,000 Jews were already dead. One Jew surviving is better than none.

Join the Inglorious Basterds. Keep killing nazis.

With the benefit of hindsight, that is obvious. Would it necessarily have been so for our man on the run, at the time?

Shit happens. I’d lam it. How would I know they wouldn’t kill 5000 Jews anyway? As I recall, they killed a helluva lot more than 5000 Jews when all was said and done. As was said, time to go all Inglourious Basterds.

That’s what I was thinking, and must be what he thought, that one guaranteed death (his own) might have given some in that 5000 at least a chance of survival. It’s horrendous to believe that this was not merely some hypothetical, I’ve been tossing around the morals of it in my head since I read about it. If I’d have been in his position, without the hindsight we have now, I don’t know what I’d do.

More on Yitzhak Malmed, who has a plaque today honoring his actions. This account says that the Germans threatened to wipe out the ghetto and everyone in it if he didn’t surrender, a threat he knew they would carry out. He bought the Jews of Bialystok a few more months, possibly saving a few hundred who managed to escape in the later uprising.

This happened in 1943, so I’m thinking yes. The fact that he’s answering his door with battery acid indicates he didn’t think they were selling Jugenfuhrer-scout cookies. If they’ve already rounded up more than 5000 Jews and killed them before this even happened, how do they convincingly blame the next 5000 they kill on the one guy that got away?

“See, we were gonna stop with that guy. He was going to be the absolute last Jew we carted away and murdered simply for existing. Honest. See this list? His is the last name! And it stops mid-page, so it’s not like we’ve got tons more pages somewhere listing people we were going to pick up and kill. Look at the truck! See that? We only had one seat left. This was a one and done. Of course now, we’ve got to start up again. Don’t want to. Gunter and I were planning a road trip to pick up some girls in Minsk. They’ve got some crazy little frauleins there. Drop off this last load of your friends and neighbors at the gas chambers and we were gone. Now our weekend’s blown, a bunch more people will die and it’s all his fault. I tell ya, the Fuhrer’s right - mean people suck.”

Keep running and join the partisans.

Another possible factor: could he possibly think that maybe not turning himself in might inspire those remaining to rise up (as post 8 seems to say they eventually did), either with him as an inspiration or a “nothing left to lose” thing?

I’m keeping on the run. At least in part because I figure I have to know that I’m not saving anyone permanently. (Although, many of the Jews kept holding onto the belief that they’d be saved, so I’m at least partly giving myself the benefit of hindsight).

Perhaps more importantly, if I can form some kind of resistance, I can save some real lives to offset that 5,000.

Part of my thinking is actually more selfish than you might think, though. Dying doesn’t particularly bother me, but the idea of being interrogated/tortured by a bunch of Nazis before they kill me - that I have a real problem with. Even if dying is unpleasant, at least it’s over. They can keep torturing you forever. If I was absolutely sure that turning myself in would save 5000 people, I’d make sure I had a cyanide capsule or something before I did it.

In certain situations, our modern sense of morality goes out the window. For a Jew in Nazi Europe, or as another example a black person in much of the USA in the early 19th century, your enemies are the enemies of humanity.

I don’t think I’d call it immoral if surviving underground Jewish vigilantes in 1930s and 40s Europe became horror-movie fodder serial killers of Nazis and their families. Nor could I judge harshly an escaped slave who makes it a point go around the South, murdering slaveowners and their families.

With such historical horror, pretty much anything goes and went. And that’s a big part of why that stuff was so, so evil.

I’d going to catch shit for this, but maybe the correct answer is “5000 other Jews in the ghetto should arm themselves with a little acid.”

If I understand correctly, the Jewish religion is very anti-suicide. Nearly all laws can be broken if the purpose is to save your own life. I think that would be enough for me not to turn myself in.

As a Christian, the decision is much harder. Christianity is definitely pro-martyrdom. Chances are, though, that I would chicken out and still run away.

The Nazis’ goal was to exterminate all Jews, no matter what circumstances. Did anyone think they’d keep their promise and spare 500 lives in exchange for one? Anyone who had a chance to escape should do so . . . and join the resistance.

This reminds me of The Magus by John Fowles. The main character was presented with the choice of turning a young man over to the Nazis or else the Nazis would execute the whole village. An exercise in ethics, to be sure.

Personally, though, I don’t think I could live a very fulfilled life after reading reports of my friends and family all being executed this way. I might have had the strength to turn myself in, with a noble death being preferable to a life of guilt. Note that I’m not saying that the Jew would be guilty; I’m just saying that I would be likely to feel emotional guilt, regardless of the true ethics of the situation. And perhaps some of those 5000 would have escaped.

It’s a tough situation. There really is no wrong answer. Sorta like an essay question, right?


My gut reaction was “turn yourself in”, but having read the responses I was wrong.

I think most people realize that if a crazed person demands that person A do something or person B gets it, and person B gets it, the fault likes at the feet of the crazed person, not person A. I’m not saying I would feel no guilt, but I think there’s no moral issue here.

Not to mention, as has already been said, if the crazed person was planning to kill person B anyway, no point in making their job easier.

I’d run.

I’ve told my wife, if someone put a gun to my head to force her compliance, she should give em the finger and run!!!:smiley:

The actions of the gunman are not her concern. ie if he shoots me that is none of her doing.