Sunday, June 14, 2009

Archival Film of American Betar 1942

The Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive has an almost 30 minute film produced in 1942 or 1941 composed of various events and scenes related to American Betar. It's here. And the data base card is here but the year could not have been 1940 as Jabotinsky died in August 1940. The Committee for a Jewish Army was founded in January 1942 so it is a presumption that the film was made in 1942 although it could have been in 1941. If one goes here, ZionNews seems to announce, on p. 7, the opening of the flying school in the Fall of 1940. And on p. 13 we read that Eri on set sail from Mandate Palestine in December 1940. In the issue of Febraury 26, 1941, p. 21, Eri is not yet in NY but p. 22 announces the Aviation School opening. See p. 39 for news that Yirma was sailing to the US from England. And p. 40, dated late December 1941, notes the graduation of its first pilots. So the film was made over a period of later 1941 to summer 1942.

It includes an inaugural ceremony of the Betar air training school out at the Rockaways including pilot lessons. A Betar Misdar. A field day up in the mountains. A demonstration on 5th Avenue in Manhattan on behalf of a Jewish Army and the second yahrtzeit ceremony at Jabotinsky's grave.

Steve Adler notes that the blurb for the film "The Jabotinsky Aviation School" reads:

Alex LOEB (b. 1902, d. August 1939) lost at sea in late August 1939 along with Richard DECKER, 23, in the Ryan C2 Brougham monoplane "Shalom". They were making a transatlantic flight with Palestine the ultimate destination. They were involved with Jabotinsky's Aviation Schools and Jewish Army. The plane had been owned by the Horrocks Malted Milk Company and had a British Roundel on the fuselage side as did some of the the Jabotinsky aircraft at their Rockaway school on Long Island. They blew a tire at Roosevelt Field on takeoff, got caught, and US authorities denied the Shalom permission to take off and so they transported the Shalom to St Peters, Nova Scotia, where they took off from the beach at low tide, without permission of authorities (two pilots had already been lost attempting these Atlantic flights in little planes that year) and were never heard from again. At the time of the flight Jewish refugees and the ship St Louis were gripping the Jewish community along with the war clouds in Europe. Loeb and Decker were dramatizing Palestine and the Jewish Brigade there. The war news doomed them to oblivion, however.

Moshe Arens writes:

This is a film of considerable historic value. It was taken by Sam Pickart, an American Betari, originally from Czechoslovakia, who fell in the service of the US Air force in WWII. Among those who appear in it are Col. JJ Mendelson, a Spanish-American war veteran, who was at the time the head of the Revisionist organization in America. Also [Aaron] Propes, Irma Halperin, [Joseph B.] Schechtman, Aaron Hanin, at the time Netsiv Betar in US, Isaiah Warsaw, a hero of the war in the Pacific, who came on the Altalena and fought with the Irgun in Jerusalem. Also Marty Marden who was a Captain in the US Army in Europe, and many others.

Yitz Heimowitz adds:

In addition to the names mentioned by Misha, I think I recognized Harry Levi and Seymour Simcha Rosenberg who followed Misha as Netziv.

Barak Koffler had previously commented:

I found a letter from Eri Jabotinsky and signed by him, from the 1940s --to Betarim in New York City. It invited them to attend the Jabotinsky Flying School and I think it was at far Rockaway. I donated that letter to the Jabotinsky Institute many years later, and have a letter of acknowedgement from them, thanking me for the document to be placed in their archives.


An additional notation here would seem to be wrong in its details:

Reel 4 and 5: Scenes of Zeev Jabotinsky's Yarzheit in Hunter, NY., activities at the Brit Trumpeldor summer camp in Hunter, NY and of a Betar Youth demonstration against Nazism in New York in the 1930s.

Rosh Betar was buried in Queens and as WW II broke out in 1939, the demo would have to be later.



Rafael Medoff writes p. 69:

However, this newspaper announcement makes no effort to note the Betar connection, quite the obvious.

1 comment:

Ken Tauber said...

The man speaking to the group (double-breasted jacket)at about 6 minutes and 45 seconds into the film (inaugural ceremony?),is my father, Jack Tauber, a personal secretary to Rosh Betar, and Executive Secretary of the Jewish Aviation League.