Tom Roeper: Cease-fire opportunities

The sun sets over the Gaza Strip as seen from southern Israel, Monday, March 4, 2024.

The sun sets over the Gaza Strip as seen from southern Israel, Monday, March 4, 2024. AP PHOTO/OHAD ZWIGENBERG

Published: 03-14-2024 2:47 PM

What can a cease-fire bring? History has some surprising examples — for instance, the assistance of the Red Cross in the Korean War armistice. In addition, let me tell you the story of my great-uncle Curt Bondy, whose stories enriched my life.

He was one of the Jewish professors in Göttingen fired in 1933 by edict of the Nazis. There is a plaque honoring him and five other Jewish professors (including Max Born, a famous physicist) in Göttingen now. Later, as is well known, the Nazis cooperated with Zionists in Germany (1936-1939) to relocate Jews out of Germany, mostly to Palestine, but also to the United States.

Curt Bondy was asked to start a school for Jewish kids who wanted to emigrate to the U.S., which was called Gross-Breesen. (This is beautifully recounted in the book “Escape to Virginia” by Robert H. Gillette, in a long article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, a YouTube video by Ron Kaplan, and a movie by Steven Strauss.)

Then one day, shifting to overt antisemitism, the Gestapo came and took him and 25 older boy students to the concentration camp Buchenwald, as the Nazis moved toward the “Final Solution.” Then, American businessman William Thalhimer persuaded the U.S. State Department to negotiate with the Nazis and they released them all from Buchenwald to go to a farm in Virginia.

The students involved have maintained an association up until recently with histories, reunions and a newsletter. It is often the case that enemies maintain forms of mutually advantageous contacts and negotiations.

The huge amount of integration of Palestinians into Israeli society and government that exists today may offer many angles for negotiations on behalf not only of the hostages in Gaza but Palestinians in Israeli jails, and perhaps most importantly for building and rebuilding Palestinian social institutions with Israeli support and cooperation, which in turn will buttress a Palestinian state.

It is the only real way forward. A cease-fire can open many doors that we may not know or yet see. It would be great to see Amherst institutions as well working in alliance with new Palestinian ones.

Tom Roeper