Invaders #12 (January 1977)
"To the Warsaw Ghetto!"
Roy Thomas-Frank Robbins/Frank Springer
Doug: I'll be proceeding with caution today, friends. Two reasons: No. 1 is the presence of Frank Robbins on the penciling. You know by now how I feel about that (his writing aside, which I enjoyed on many a Batman yarn). No. 2 is the title of the story. Our long-time readers know that I have done educational contract work for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum since 2005. I'm just a bit leery to see how the Warsaw Ghetto (and largely the Holocaust) will be portrayed by the folks at Marvel. Fingers crossed. So the next obvious question would be, "But wait, Doug -- didn't you read this mag as a 10 1/2-year old?" The answer would be "yes", but the memory would say "Uhhhhhhhh...." You know what I mean. In spite of my strong reservations about the art on this title I was a regular reader when I could find it. I think I came on with the Liberty Legion crossover in #5 and stayed when I could through the end. I was never so happy to see Alan Kupperberg! I'll be reading and scanning from the Invaders Classic, Volume 2 trade paperback. Onward, then.
Doug: We open with the Human Torch (Original variety) flying through the night skies of London. He's mad at events that had just transpired, and we get a recap of some of the events of Invaders #s 7-11 which featured the "return" of Union Jack, the introduction of his daughter Jacqueline Falsworth, the introduction of a Professor Gold's Blue Bullet armor, the wounding of Jacqueline, and finally her healing after a blood transfusion from the android Torch -- which, by the way, gave her super speed! Got it? So the Torch decides he's going to the Tower of London to visit the now-imprisoned traitor Gold. After proving his identity to the Tower guards, our friend Jim Hammond is escorted to Gold's cell. Confronted, Gold says he's not interested in speaking about anything; he merely wishes his execution. But the Torch tells him he thinks he knows why Gold used the Blue Bullet armor to fight the Invaders on behalf of Hitler's Reich: Gold must be Jewish, and there must be more to his story.
Doug: Gold begins to sob, his head in his hands, and tells the Torch that his name was anglicized from Goldstein. He then begins to narrate his story. The Goldsteins were Hasidic Jews from Warsaw, and John Goldstein (the professor) had a younger brother named Jacob. Both boys were interested in science, John in physics, Jacob in geology. When September, 1939 came and the Germans invaded Poland, the Goldsteins were among the millions of Polish Jews who began to face intense discrimination. The Goldsteins were moved to the Warsaw Ghetto (this would have been late in 1940), but John managed to emigrate to Great Britain -- he does not say how, but does tell that his brother refused to come along. Once in England, Goldstein began to work on the Blue Bullet project. Until, that is, he was visited by a shadowy figure. The Torch puts all of the pieces together -- it was the Nazi agent who blackmailed Goldstein into turning the armor on the Invaders. Hammond ask him if the Invaders could get Jacob out of Warsaw, would the professor come back to the Allied side? In a minute, John exclaimed -- but only after seeing his brother alive. The Torch flew off, obviously with a mission in mind.
Doug: The Torch returns to his teammates and is met by Cap and Namor. Cap wants to talk -- you see, the Torch had originally flown off because when Jacqueline had awoken she jumped into Cap's arms. But it was the Torch who'd fallen for her -- now he couldn't see hanging around the team if he was going to have to see the girl he was sweet on chasing one of his mates. The Torch said he had not decided if he was quitting the team, and didn't want to discuss it. They had other issues with which to deal. So he told Goldstein's story, and it was Lord Falsworth who spoke first. The older gentleman voiced his regret that he'd not be able to join them as Union Jack. But just then, a female voice erupted from stage left -- it was Jacqueline, now sporting the costume we know as Spitfire! Of course the boys try to talk her out of it, but she baits them into a trial -- a trial she wins as no Invader can lay a hand on her. Lord Falsworth's again melancholy about the injuries he'd suffered earlier, but gives his blessing to his daughter to accompany the Americans (and Atlantean).
Doug: Namor's flagship transported the team into the heart of Europe, landing under cover of the night near the Warsaw Ghetto. As the team began their quest they came upon a couple of SS harassing a Jewish woman. Spitfire was the first to action, followed by Captain America. The fight did not last long. Cap speaks Jacob Goldstein's name aloud, and the German Jewess understands. Spitfire interprets her German, and they ascertain that Goldstein is in a book store not far away. The men go to him and tell they've come from his brother. But Goldstein says he's not leaving -- his place is in Warsaw with his books and his studies. And then one of the Invaders (off-camera, but I assume it was Cap) utters the first line in the story that gave me pause: "But all of you are in peril! Why don't you fight back?" Having studied this history for many years, I can unequivocally say that it just wasn't that easy. Goldstein tells him that the Jews must submit, and await the will of God. He even invokes an old Jewish belief from Prague -- that the Golem will save them. Cap loses it -- he screams about Hitler's atrocities, the camps and ghettos, and that Goldstein's brother can help them combat all this if Jacob will accompany them to London. As they argue, Bucky comes to the window and say they'd better get outside -- company's coming.
Doug: The Nazis bring a tank unit and the Invaders meet it head on. As you might suspect, this, too, is not much of a fight. Spitfire notices that one of the tanks had gone off to the side and has it's turret aimed directly at Goldstein and three others. The Invaders don't even debate surrender, quitting the battle immediately. A gas grenade knocks them all out (the Torch included), and they are captured. But Jacob Goldstein makes a stand, only to be kicked in the back and thrown to the ground. As the tanks roll back out of the ghetto, Goldstein says that he knows what he must do. And it's back to his bookstore, to fight back. The next issue title? "The Golem Walks Again!" You see where this is headed.
Doug: Although I didn't read it for detail, I did skim Invaders #13 so I could report to you how this 2-parter turns out. The Invaders are captured and bound in creative ways (think Batman '66). There's a Nazi thug who mocks them, but the festivities are broken up by the appearance of the Golem. He's big and bad, and wreaks havoc on the Germans. And at the end of the story Jacob still commits to staying in Warsaw, even positing that some day his people may rise up against their oppressors. It's a heroic, if tragic, monologue. And here lay my misgivings about this story -- to my recollection the only time this magazine dealt with the Holocaust. I wish they hadn't. Not because it's not an important part of the Second World War -- it most certainly was and is. But to introduce super-powered heroes to that narrative, to have them in the Warsaw Ghetto and so close to the Treblinka killing center without doing anything about the events that our heroes were obviously privy to... it just serves to increase the magnitude of the genocide and the missed opportunities for Allied intervention. Yes, this is fictional, but what of the real-world intelligence that had exposed these events to the West? What of the Allied leaders who had this information yet chose to remain focused elsewhere? "Win the War first." I get that. I also get that some 12 million Jews/non-Jews perished in the Holocaust. And like I tell my students -- don't dwell on those numbers that your mind cannot comprehend anyway. Instead, think of it as it happened, in human lives: 1 and 1 and 1 and 1. Surely the Invaders could have offered some succor to those trampled under Hitler's boots.
All that being said... would that have been even more disrespectful to the history?