“The enemy trapped the Jews in the city by building a wall around it. Foodstuffs
could not be brought in: starvation and crowded conditions gave rise to disease,
and epidemics spread among the populace. But surprisingly the Jews held on.
Then the enemy massed troops outside the wall and brought out the latest in
weaponry. They attacked, using fire to spread destruction. The Jews repelled the
enemy a number of times. So savage was the resistance that the campaign to
destroy the Jewish population took much longer and cost more troops than
anticipated. Street by street the fighting raged with hand-to-hand combat
between the heavily armed troops and the haggard defenders. Some Jews tried to
escape through the sewers, but they were flushed out by fire. At the end the
Jews had taken a heavy toll on their enemy but the city lay in smoking ruins.
The remaining Jewish survivors were rounded up to be used as slave laborers or
to be killed.
What episode in Jewish history is depicted in this scenario? Most people would
say this was the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against the Nazis in 1943. But in fact
it was the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in the year 70
The destruction of the Second temple and the attack on the Warsaw Ghetto,
although separated by nearly two thousand years have and eerie sameness. The
Germans sealed off the Warsaw’s Jewish population with and eight-foot brick
concrete wall. The Romans built a high earthen barricade around Jerusalem to
make certain the Jews could not escape. Germans shot, on the spot Jews
discovered outside the Warsaw Ghetto. The Romans crucified the Jews they found,
placing crosses atop the hill to terrorize those watching from inside the city:
as many as 500 were crucified in 1 day. The Germans tried to starve the Polish
Jews into submission reducing their rations at first to 800 calories a day and
later cutting off all food to the ghetto. The Romans used the tactic of siege to
bring starvation in Jerusalem. In both episodes the actual fighting was in some
ways similar. “Since the ghetto was impenetrable in frontal attack, General
Stroop’s forces set fire to the buildings with incendiary bombs and flame
throwers” Titus’s Roman legions used flaming torches of wood to set fire to the
Temple and other buildings in the final battle. “Through the roar of the flames
as they the Romans swept relentlessly on could be heard the groans of the
falling the entire city seemed to be on fire.
The Nazis not only killed but plundered Jews if their possessions; the Romans
“were so avaricious that they pushed on climbing over the piles or corpses for
many valuables were found in the passages and all scruples were silenced by the
prospect of gain. “The Romans took so much gold from the Jews that it’s price
fell by half in Syria.
The Nazis used Jews for slave labor the Romans sent thousands of Jewish captives
to work on projects on Egypt. The Nazis made grisly sport with their victims and
conducted fiendish medical experiments before killing the Jews. Titus had
thousands of Jewish captives killed in gladiatorial contests and staged fights
between them and wild beasts to celebrate his victory and, on one occasion this
brother’s birthday and Vespasian the Roman Emperor had non swimmers shackled
with their hands and feet behind them and thrown into the deepest parts of the
Dead Sea to test the theory that no one could sink in the heavily salted water.
There was one difference between the two events. Three years after destroying
Jerusalem, the Romans put down the final Jewish revolt of the war by capturing
Massada. Three years after the Holocaust ended the State of Israel was reborn.
The destruction of the Second Temple serves with the Holocaust as a frame the
Jewish experience in the world. For instance just as no other people in the
modern era has suffered a devastation comparable to that of the Jews during the
Holocaust the attack on Jerusalem was unparalleled in the ancient world. “No
destruction ever wrought by G-D or man approached the wholesale carnage of this
war” said Josephus.