Jewish Resistance Against the Nazis
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: The Catholic University of America Press
Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication
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I am profoundly indebted to the contributors to this volume, almost none of whom knew me personally when I contacted them and asked if they would be willing to write an essay about Jewish resistance against the Nazis in a specific geographical location. The fact that just about everyone I asked immediately agreed to do so strengthened my confidence in the importance of this work. I am particularly grateful to those contributors who persisted despite trying...
Introduction. Jewish Resistance against the Nazis
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Although the myth of Jewish passivity during the Holocaust has been thoroughly discredited in the scholarly world, it lives on in the popular mentality and is often expressed in such phrases as “the Jews were led to the slaughter like sheep.”1 The myth still finds its way into the media and often goes unchallenged. Most recently, in the 2010 film The Debt (directed by John Madden), we hear the fictional Nazi Dieter Vogel, known also as the “Surgeon of Birkenau,”...
Part 1. Myths and Facts
1. The Myth of Jewish Passivity
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One aim of our volume is to demonstrate definitively that Jews during the Holocaust did not go passively like sheep to slaughter. One might ask why such a project is necessary given the voluminous evidence attesting to the fact that Jews resisted the Nazis whenever, wherever, and however it was possible. The compelling evidence has simply done little to change a nearly universal perception. Built from stereotypes and simplifications, reinforced by the ever-looming...
2. Why Didn't They Resist More?
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“Why didn’t they resist more?” first appeared as a briefer and still more damning question: “Why didn’t they resist?” Both questions recur still in relation to the Holocaust, and there can be no doubt against that background about the “they” to whom the questions refer. It is the Jews of Europe whose alleged actions— that is, inactions—are criticized: the approximately 6,000,000 who died in the Holocaust, victims of the design for genocide that evolved in Nazi hands...
3. Jewish Resistance: Facts, Omissions, and Distortions
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There are many more questions than answers concerning Jewish resistance
during World War II. Most discussions of the subject evince myriad forms of the
same queries: Why did the Jews go like sheep to their slaughter? Why did they
not stand up to the Germans? Why did they refuse to fight?
Behind each of these questions are unexamined assumptions. Each claims that European Jews went to their death passively, without a struggle. Each alleges...
Part 2. Western Europe and the Yishuv
4. Up in Arms: Jewish Resistance against Nazi Germany in France
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The story of Jewish resistance against the Nazis in France is in fact composed of an entire set of interrelated, multifaceted narratives. First, this resistance evolved over time. Jews adapted their opposition to the Third Reich in response to the changing realities of the war and the German occupation of France, as they successively faced the outbreak of hostilities; the defeat and the armistice; Vichy’s collaboration in excluding, pillaging, arresting, and detaining the ...
5. Unarmed Combat: Jewish Humanitarian Resistance in France during the Shoah
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Much has been written on the general subject of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust and on Jewish resistance in specific countries. While some accounts appeared in the immediate aftermath of the war, each decade since has seen the publication of substantial new scholarship that has significantly enriched our knowledge in this regard.1 Yet, Jewish resistance remains an alien concept. Until recently, only one image of a Jewish resister had firmly implanted itself in...
6. Unique Aspects of Jewish Armed Resistance and Rescue in Belgium
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On July 25, 1942, four armed men stormed into the new offices of the Association des Juifs en Belgique (AJB). Two of the men herded the employees into a room and castigated them about working for this organization, established by the Nazis to transmit and execute their orders within the Jewish community. In an adjoining room, the two other men quickly set fire to AJB files containing the names and addresses of all Jews to be called up for so-called labor in the East. ...
7. Resistance and Italian Jews in Wartime Italy
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As a case study in wartime resistance, Italy proves to be unique in a number of ways. First, the existence of the Fascist regime in Italy, and its alliance with Hitler, meant that armed resistance against the Nazis began only in September 1943, when the armistice with the Allies was signed, and when Germany invaded its former ally. Indeed, after September 8, 1943, Italy was essentially split in half, with the Allies controlling southern Italy and the Axis controlling the...
8. Greek Responses to the Nazis in the Mountains and in the Camps
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Several factors together single out the Greek experience of resistance during World War II. First and foremost are the fighting spirit of the Greeks and the fierce tradition of nationalism that had infused the spirit of independence in the modern monarchy for well over a century. The Greek Revolution of the 1820s was a model for the Balkan peoples that stimulated the continuing revolts which finally ended Ottoman control on the eve of World War I. Greek...
9. "Therefore Be Courageous, Too": Jewish Resistance and Rescue in the Netherlands
Yehudi Lindeman and Hans de Vries
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By most accounts, about 102,000 Jews were murdered in the Netherlands during World War II. That amounts to 75 percent of the prewar Jewish population, a percentage unmatched in Western Europe. In comparison to France, for example, where 25 percent of the country’s estimated 320,000 Jews perished, the Dutch mortality figures are stunningly high. We may well ask what went wrong in the Netherlands. In the early postwar years, roughly from 1945 to 1960, the...
10. Between Accomodation and Awareness: Jewish Resistance in Scandinavia under Nazism
Cecilie Felicia Stokholm Banke
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It might seem paradoxical at first to speak of Jewish resistance in Scandinavia, especially in the case of Denmark, since one usually refers to the escape of the Jews in October 1943 as an act of rescue rather than resistance. Indeed, if we examine the stories told by those who fled, it is clear how much they, themselves, felt that they were rescued and how grateful they were for the help they received. The escape was not experienced as a particularly Jewish act—let alone...
11. Organizing Jewish Resistance: The Decision-Making and Executive Array in Yishuv Rescue Operations during the Holocaust
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It took only until the early 1950s before the debate over what the Yishuv, and its leadership, did to rescue European Jews from the Holocaust overstepped the boundaries of a historical debate rooted in a certain context and circumstances; with growing celerity, the debate became an instrument in the ideological struggle for the shaping of Israel’s image. Both the general public and scholars debated the extent of the “purity” of the Zionist revolution, how the...
Part 3. Children and Resisters and Music as Resistance
12. Raising Their Voices: Children's Resistance through Diary Writing and Song
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Helga Kinsky-Pollack was eight years old when her parents sent her from her native city of Vienna to her father’s family in Kyjov, over the border in Czechoslovakia. It was just after the Anschluss in spring 1938 and the faces of their infatuated neighbors told her parents how popular Hitler and his policies would be. A year later, in spring 1939, Helga’s mother went to England as a domestic worker. Her plan was to arrange the emigration of her daughter. Time was not...
13. An Untold Story of Rescue: Jewish Children and Youth in German-Occupied Poland
Joanna Beata Michlic
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In recent years, scholars have come to realize that they had neglected research on Jews who rescued Jews during the Holocaust and that this has resulted in a limited understanding of Jewish self-help “as a phenomenon of pre-armed stages of resistance and also as counterevidence to the perception of Jewish passivity in the face of their powerlessness.”1 There is an unmet need for analytical concepts to delineate a variety of complex and nuanced...
14. Music as Resistance
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Long after World War II, Norwegian television broadcast an interview with Paul (Rabinowitsch) Sandfort, a survivor of Theresienstadt concentration camp who had been active as a trumpet player there. When asked why music played such an important role in the camp, Sandfort said, “it is because you hunger. You do not hunger just for food.” At this point the interviewer interrupted him, saying, “the fact that they hungered for food in the camp is understandable....
Part 4. Central and Eastern Europe
15. Jewish Resistance in Nazi Germany and Austria, 1933-45
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In 1871, Jews were granted full civil rights within the newly unified German state and over the course of the nineteenth century—and especially during the first three decades of the twentieth century—Germany’s Jewish population gradually expanded its participation in Germany’s economic development, cultural arena, and social and political life, aspiring ultimately to achieve full assimilation within the German nation. Most German Jews thought of themselves...
16. "Three Lines in History?": Modes of Jewish Resistance in Eastern European Ghettos
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My aim is to present resistance as it was conceived by the inmates of the ghettos, by survivors, and by historians. My hypothesis is that the ideas articulated by historiography on Jewish resistance were already expressed by the Jews under Nazi occupation. Under the yoke of Nazism a rather sophisticated understanding of Jewish reality was shared by people of all walks of life, which is evident in the contemporaneous documentation of different genres....
17. Jewish Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto
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The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (April 19, 1943–May 16, 1943), the largest mass revolt in a major city in German-occupied Europe, is the defining symbol of Jewish resistance to Nazi oppression during World War II. Immediately after the war, Holocaust survivors in Europe seized upon the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as the basis for Holocaust commemoration activities and the dates of the uprising have since been linked to annual Holocaust commemoration events in countries...
18. Courage to Defy: Jews of the Independent State of Croatia Fight Back, 1941-45
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I will focus on Jewish resistance against the Axis powers and their local collaborators, the Croatian Ustaše, in the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH) which, during World War II, also included Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). This essay uncovers the available evidence that Jews in NDH exhibited a strong will to resist while the Ustaše, acting under the auspices of Nazi authorities, transported approximately 30,000 Jews to local concentration...
19. Legal Tools Instead of Weapons: Jewish Resistance to the State Takeover of Urban Real Estate and Businesses during the Antonescu Regime, 1940–44
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I will investigate the different forms of Jewish resistance to the Antonescu regime, focusing on the use of legalities to bypass the process of Romanianization or Aryanization or state takeover of businesses and urban real estate, a process that aimed to exclude Jews from the local economy and, ultimately, from society.1 The use of legal tools, mainly sabotage and judicial contestation by tens of thousands of Romanian Jews, was resistance to the Holocaust at its best.2 If the seizure of Jewish properties, businesses, and jobs, as envisioned ...
20. Jewish Resistance in the Ukraine and Belarus during the Holocaust
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What exactly is meant by “Jewish Resistance?” In parts of Europe, especially in the West, many Jewish individuals joined resistance movements for a variety of reasons. Were these cases of resistance by Jews, or Jewish Resistance? Do we speak only of armed resistance, or do we include unarmed resistance by Jews not able to use firearms but only so-called “cold” weapons (knives, clubs, pitchforks, and other implements)? Do we include or exclude unarmed reactions,...
21. Jewish Resistance in Slovakia, 1938-45
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“Slovakia is our only homeland, it is here that we want to live, work, establish things and, if needed, suffer with our Christian fellow citizens, share the same destiny and die.” This statement composed by Jews from Žilina, a city in the northwest of the country, expressed Jewish loyalty to Slovakia and its newly established autonomous government.1 The Jewish minority in Slovakia—136,737 according to the 1930 census—voiced their loyalty on numerous occasions following ...
22. Defying Genocide: Jewish Resistance and Self-Rescue in Hungary
Gábor Kádár, Christine Schmidt van der Zanden, and Zoltán Vági
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For a variety of reasons, armed Jewish resistance was virtually nonexistent in Hungary during the Holocaust. This does not mean that the Jews gave up. The Holocaust claimed approximately 500,000 Hungarian Jewish lives between 1941 and 1945. The number of victims surely would have been higher if many of the persecuted—in groups and individually—had not defied the perpetrators’ genocidal intentions by disobeying the German and Hungarian authorities’ ...
23. Resistance in the Camps
Robert Jan van Pelt
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Primo Levi once compared the core reality of the death camps to a Gorgon, the mythological being that turned all men who approached it into stone.1 When I began to think about the topic of “Jewish resistance in the camps,” I felt paralyzed. Should I take a narrow definition, which limits resistance to open revolts such as those undertaken by the Jews in Treblinka and Sobibor, the Sonderkommando of crematorium 4 in Auschwitz, or the group of Warsaw Jews who resisted...
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Index of Names
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Page Count: 640
Publication Year: 2014