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Peter Bergson

Peter Bergson

Male 1911 - 2001  (90 years)

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  • Name Peter Bergson 
    Born 24 Jul 1911  Lithuania Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Biography Hillel Kook
    (a.k.a. Peter Bergson)
    (1915-2001)

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Peter H. Bergson was born Hillel Kook in Lithuania in 1915. Bergson was a nephew of Ashkenazi chief rabbi Abraham Isaac Hacohen Kook. At the age of 10 immigrated to Eretz Israel with his family. In 1929, he joined the Haganah and when the Irgun (IZL) was founded, he left the Haganah and joined the new organization.

    Graduated in Judaic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was part of the Sohba (Comradeship) - a group of students whom later played key roles in the Irgun, including David Raziel, Avraham STERN and others.

    At the end of 1937, Bergson was sent to Poland and engaged in organizing illegal immigration. When World War II broke out, he went to the United States together with several other commanders (including Aryeh Ben Eliezer and Alexander Raphaeli). At first they promoted the establishment of Jewish armed units within the allied armed forces to take part in the war effort against Nazi Germany. When information came through about the mass extermination of Jews, the group set up the Committee for the Rescue of European Jewry. In 1940, he accompanied Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky to the United States as a representative of the IZL. After Jabotinsky died in August 1940, Bergson remained in the U.S. to continue his activities.

    Bergson's primary assignment in the United States was to mobilize support for the IZL and for the creation of Jewish military units, and, later to gather support for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Bergson set out to accomplish these tasks by creating a series of interlocking organizations, including the Committee for a Jewish Army of Stateless and Palestinian Jews, the American League for a Free Palestine, the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, and the Hebrew Committee for National Liberation. Supporters of these organizations included Harry Truman, Dorothy Parker, Herbert Hoover, Will Rogers, Jr., Labor leader William Green, U.S. Solicitor General Fowler Harper, and U.S. Interior Secretary Harold Ickes.

    The network of organizations issued a strong challenge to the Jewish establishment in the United States by working outside the normally conservative and secret diplomatic channels used by the leaders of such organizations as the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress. Bergson used direct ó and often bombastic ó appeals to the American public and to members of Congress to demand the creation of a Jewish army (between 1940 and 1942) and to rescue Jews from Nazi terror by any means (between 1942 and 1944).

    While it is difficult to assess the success of Bergson's activities, they resulted in a greater public awareness of the Holocaust, and helped create an atmosphere conducive to changes in American rescue policy. Thus, at the least, Bergson's activities contributed to the creation of the War Refugee Board and the Oswego free port in 1944.

    When the Revolt was proclaimed (1944), Bergson, together with several comrades, established the Hebrew Committee for National Liberation. The Committee appealed to the American public and its elected representatives, and won considerable support for the Irgun's activities in Eretz Israel.

    When Israel was established, Bergson returned home and reverted to using his Hebrew name. He was elected to the First Knesset on behalf of the Herut movement and served from 1949 to 1951. Disillusioned with his political experience, he left Israel in 1951 with his wife Betty and daughter Astra, and emigrated to the United States. In 1968, four years after his wife's death, he returned to Israel with his daughters Astra and Rebecca. He remarried in 1975 and lived near Tel Aviv until his death in 2001.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    HILLEL KOOK, who has died in Israel aged 86, was a prominent member of the Irgun, Menachem Begin's underground organisation which fought the British Mandate in Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s.

    In the early 1940s, Kook represented Irgun in the United States. When information came through about the mass extermination of Jews in Europe, Kook set up the Committee for the Rescue of European Jewry and, adopting the pen name of Peter Bergson, he published articles in leading newspapers, calling on the world to rescue the Jews.

    In America, Kook also collected funds to purchase the 5,500 ton cargo boat Altalena, which was then dispatched to France to load arms (some 5,000 rifles, 100 machine-guns, five caterpillar-track armoured cars, four million rounds of ammunition, and several thousand air combat bombs) and 900 Jewish immigrants destined for Palestine.

    By the time Altalena reached Israel (which Palestine had by then become), on June 10 1948, Kook was there, along with other Irgun commanders, to receive the vessel. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion insisted that the arms should go to the IDF, Israel's new armed forces. But Begin, leader of the Irgun, insisted that some of the arms should be given to the Irgun in Jerusalem, which was still operating more or less independently of the government.

    Ben-Gurion ordered his loyal forces to seize the ship by force, while Irgun was ready to defend Altalena and keep the arms. Israel was on the brink of civil war. A young military commander, Yitzhak Rabin, a future Prime Minister of Israel, fired at the ship with a cannon (it later became known as the "Holy Cannon"), hit her and put Altalena out of action.

    The Irgun was then compelled to surrender to government forces and Kook, along with other Irgunists, was arrested and imprisoned. After this showdown the Irgun was finally dismantled.

    Born in Lithuania in 1915, Hillel Kook emigrated to Palestine, then under British Mandate, when he was 10 years old. He received a religious education, first in Afula, northern Palestine, where his father was a rabbi. After this grounding, Kook was then educated at the Merkaz Ha'rav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, a notable institution which had been founded by his uncle, the rabbi Avaraham Yitzhak Ha'COHEN Kook.

    But young Hillel soon turned his back on religion, and instead joined Hagana, the main Jewish militia in Palestine. Despite his loss of faith, however, Kook remained firmly attached to his cultural background, and later enrolled as a student of Judaic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

    When Hagana split in the mid-1930s, Kook joined the splinter group which formed itself into a new organisation - Irgun. During the initial phase of the 1936 Arab rebellion in Palestine, Kook commanded Irgun forces in the district of Motza, near Jerusalem, fighting Arab bands.

    In 1937, Hillel Kook was sent by Irgun to Poland to set up branches in Eastern Europe, purchase weapons and organise illegal immigration. This was in direct defiance of British policy, which at that time limited the number of Jews allowed into Palestine. Kook remained in Poland until the outbreak of the Second World War, after which he moved his operations to the United States.

    On May 5 1948, a day after the British left Palestine and a Jewish state was established, Kook returned to Israel.

    After the Altalena affair, the dismantling of Irgun and Kook's release from prison, he was elected to Israel's first Knesset as a candidate for Begin's Herut party, which was largely made up of former members of Irgun. In 1951, Hillel Kook emigrated to the United States where he set up a private business. He lived there for nearly 20 years, before returning to Israel in 1970.

    Hillel Kook was married and had two daughters.

    --------------------------------------------

    KOOK, HILLEL (1915–2001), political activist in World War II. As a teenager in British Mandatory Palestine in the 1930s, Kook became active in the *Irgun Ẓeva'i Le'ummi , the Jewish underground militia associated with Revisionist Zionist leader Vladimir Ze'ev *Jabotinsky . The Irgun sent Kook to Poland in 1937 to help organize Jewish immigration to Palestine. In 1940, Jabotinsky dispatched Kook and other Irgun emissaries to the United States for fundraising and political activity.

    After Jabotinsky's death that year, Kook – using the pseudonym Peter Bergson – and several colleagues created the Committee for a Jewish Army of Stateless and Palestinian Jews, which campaigned for the establishment of a Jewish armed force to fight the Nazis. Their rallies and newspaper advertisements attracted the support of celebrities, intellectuals, and many representatives of Congress. This public pressure, supplemented by the quiet lobbying efforts of major Jewish organizations, ultimately persuaded the British to create the Jewish Brigade.

    When news of the Nazi genocide was confirmed by the Allies in late 1942, Bergson shifted his focus and established a new group, the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe. It lobbied Congress, sponsored more than 200 newspaper advertisements, and organized public rallies, including a march of 400 rabbis in Washington. Bergson's campaign culminated in the introduction of a Congressional resolution urging creation of a government agency to rescue Jewish refugees. The Congressional hearings on the resolution, combined with pressure from Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., convinced President Roosevelt to establish the *War Refugee Board . The Board played a major role in the rescue of more than 200,000 Jews from Hitler.

    In 1943–44, Bergson established the American League for Free Palestine, to rally American public support for Jewish statehood, and the Hebrew Committee of National Liberation, to serve as a government-in-exile for the future Jewish state. Through newspaper ads, Congressional lobbying, and theatrical productions, they sought to increase the pressure on the British to withdraw from Palestine.

    Bergson's efforts were opposed by some mainstream Jewish leaders, who feared his unorthodox tactics would provoke antisemitism or usurp their positions of leadership in the community. The clashes between the Bergson group and Jewish leaders undermined both sides' political effectiveness.

    Reassuming his real name, Kook moved to the newly established State of Israel in 1948, and served a term in the Knesset as a representative of Menaḥem Begin's *Ḥerut Party .  [1
    Hebrew Birth 28 Tam 5671 
    Immigration 1923  Israel Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Residence 1915-1925  Lithuania Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Immigration 1939  New York, NY, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Residence 1925-1939  Israel Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Immigration 1948  Kfar Shmaryahu, Israel Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Residence 1939-1948  New York, NY, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Immigration 1951  New York, NY, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Residence 1948-1951  Israel Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Immigration 1968  Israel Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Residence 1951-1968  New York, NY, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Residence 1968-2001  Kfar Shmaryahu, Israel Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Hebrew Death 29 Ab 5761 
    Occupation Activist and Member of Knesset 
    Died 18 Aug 2001  Kfar Shmaryahu, Israel Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I10571  Blank Family
    Last Modified 28 Feb 2010 

    Father Rabbi Dov Ber Kook,   b. 1872, Griva, Latvia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 Mar 1950, Jerusalem, Israel Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 78 years) 
    Mother Rivka Schachen,   b. 1876, Greece Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 May 1953, Jerusalem, Israel Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 77 years) 
    Family ID F7333  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Betty Caplan,   b. 13 Nov 1919, Kansas City, MO, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 2 Mar 1964, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 44 years) 
    Married 1950  Israel Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
     1. Astra Kook,   b. Yes - date unknown, Israel Find all individuals with events at this location
     2. Living
    Last Modified 28 Feb 2010 
    Family ID F7390  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Nili Haskel 
    Married 1975  Israel Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 27 Dec 2009 
    Family ID F7424  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 24 Jul 1911 - Lithuania Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsImmigration - 1923 - Israel Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1915-1925 - Lithuania Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsImmigration - 1939 - New York, NY, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1925-1939 - Israel Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsImmigration - 1948 - Kfar Shmaryahu, Israel Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1939-1948 - New York, NY, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 1950 - Israel Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsImmigration - 1951 - New York, NY, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1948-1951 - Israel Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsImmigration - 1968 - Israel Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1951-1968 - New York, NY, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 1975 - Israel Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1968-2001 - Kfar Shmaryahu, Israel Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 18 Aug 2001 - Kfar Shmaryahu, Israel Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
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  • Photos
    Peter Bergson
    Peter Bergson

  • Sources 
    1. [S14] Encyclopedia Judaica.


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