David Kranzler, who passed away last week, was a religiously observant Jew who was immersed in the historical role of the Orthodox Jewish community during the Holocaust. While the countries of the world closed their hearts and minds to the destruction of European Jewish life, David was a flee case, a child survivor, who discovered during his extensive research that one group, the Orthodox community, was actively engaged in rescue. It would be an illuminating revelation that would direct his research for the rest of his life.

I first met David when I sought to learn more about the Kastner Transport, the train that transported 1,684 passengers—most of them were held hostage in Bergen-Belsen and released to freedom in Switzerland in December 1944. My mother, a Polish woman, was on that Hungarian train, and so was David’s wife, Judy. Agudath Israel archivist, Rabbi Moishe Kolodny, introduced us, and David and I worked together on some projects, notably The Goldberg Commission Report that reported on the inactivity of the American Jewish community during the Holocaust era. He became a trusted friend, a reliable source and someone who appreciated a good, solid, knock-down, drag-out intellectual battle.

Although David was a diligent and exact researcher, he was nevertheless stubborn, cantankerous and exacting. His long-winded writing style often got in the way of the incredible facts he managed to dig up from archives and interviews, driving a humble editor to distraction and despair. But he admitted when you were right—usually after yelling himself hoarse. On the day of his funeral his wife told me: “There were days he wanted to kill you.” The feeling was entirely mutual—and then she reminded me of his gentle, generous side, like the day he helped me cross Lexington and 68th right after my knee operation, and invited my daughter to his home for Shabbat. David was a special soul.

David’s seminal work was Japanese, Nazis and Jews, a massive work about the refugee community in Shanghai from 1938-1945 and the rescue efforts of Jan Zwartendyk and Chiune Sugihara. Published in 1978 by Yeshiva Univerity Press, it was one of many books that he wrote about the Holocaust that focused on the actions of the Orthodox.

In the early ’80s, as a member of the “Goldberg Commission to Examine the Role of American Jews During the Holocaust,” I read the rough draft of a document he submitted called “Orthodox Ends, UnOrthodox Means.” In painstaking detail, it described the rescue efforts of Rabbi Michael Ber Wiessmandl and Gisi Flieschmann in Slovakia and the Sternbuchs and others in Switzerland, as well as many other attempts to save Jewish lives during the war—along with the constant attempts of the American and Zionist Jewish establishment to thwart those efforts. Like Japanese, Nazis and Jews, the document was a tough read, but buried in the text were nuggets of pure historical gold—

and an indisputable damnation of the American Jewish establishment.

As an editor, I couldn’t help but pull out my blue pencil and start cleaning it up, so I called him and asked him if I could officially work on the document. That’s how we began working together. I contacted a personal friend, Tim Noble, one of the finest editors I have ever known and then the op-ed page editor of The Record in Bergen County, New Jersey, who agreed to do the final vetting. It was tumultuous and noisy work, but we were determined to make this document air-tight, with little wiggle-room.

One reason for this was that David’s degree was in library science, not history, so many mainstream historians treated him with contempt while they “borrowed” his material without giving him due credit. This naturally put him on the defensive and sometimes made things tough. But when the editing of “Orthodox Ends” was done, David gave me a copy of Henry Feingold’s Midrash on American Jewish History. He inscribed it in his own illuminated way and I had it with me when I ran into Feingold at a meeting.

I also had the final draft of “Orthodox Ends” and asked Feingold to read it. He said Kranzler couldn’t write. I said Kranzler could dig and that this document was edited, so he did me a favor and read it. When he was done reading, I handed him Midrash to autograph and under Kranzler’s dedication to me he wrote, “Litvaks never succumb,” and then admitted, though not in writing, that “Orthodox Ends” may well be one of the best documents in the report.

David, you will be missed. You were, indeed, one of the best.