Israel Opera Conductor Acquitted of Hostility to Jews Under Nazis

Hirsh Barenblat, a conductor of the Israel National Opera who was recognized as a former head of a Jewish police unit organized by the Nazi authorities in Nazi-occupied Poland, was acquitted today in Tel Aviv District Court of a charge that he was a member of an organization “hostile to Jews.” He still faces a charge of maltreating Jews in the Nazi-held city of Bendin.

Barenblat, who came to Israel in 1958, was arrested after a survivor of Bendin, the Polish town where the musician served as an officer of the Jewish police set up by the Nazis, recognized him. He was indicted under the 1950 Israeli law for the punishment of Nazis and their collaborators.

The court did not deal with the issue of whether the Jewish police who served under the Nazis in wartime occupied Europe constituted a hostile organization under the Israeli law. The prosecution admitted it could not provide proof that the Jewish police was a hostile organization.

The final prosecution witness testified that Barenblat did carry out selections for deportations and that on one occasion he helped to evacuate a Jewish hospital and despatch patients for deportation. Another witness testified that Jewish police separated him from his parents who were sent to concentration camps, and later separated him from his sister. The witness said these actions in Bendin were carried out by Jewish police, but that he could not say whether Barenblat took part personally in those activities.

A former underground leader, who helped Barenblat to leave Bendin, also testified. He said that every member of his underground group identified Barenblat as “head of the Jewish police” and refused to talk to him. On his arrest, Barenblat contended he had been tried on the charges in Europe, and had been acquitted.

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