Jewish Resistance Against the Nazis

Catholic University Press  2014

 

Patrick Henry’s superb collection of essays provides a comprehensive treatment of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. The contributors are among the most respected Holocaust scholars in Israel, Europe, Canada, and the United States and their writing and scholarship are uniformly cogent and excellent, a tribute to the editorial skills of Patrick Henry. The volume puts to rest the myth that Jews went passively to their deaths—an historical assumption that issue has been contended before, but never in such a comprehensive and sweeping manner. All major approaches and geographical sites are addressed. The first section contains three essays that debunk the charge of Jewish passivity. Particularly useful are Berel Lang and Nechama Tec’s pieces. The eight essays of the second section deal with Jewish resistance in France, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Holland, Scandinavia, and the Yishuv. The third section contains three essays that focus on children as resistors and music as resistance. The essays by Debórah Dwork and Nick Strimple are particularly noteworthy. The nine essays in the final section address Jewish resistance in Central and Eastern Europe, with Yehuda Bauer, Dalia Ofer, Dieter Kuntz and Robert Jan van Pelt headlining a group of especially strong contributions.

The essays consider Jewish resistance to be resistance either of Jewish persons in specifically Jewish groups or by Jews working in non-Jewish organizations. Jews resisted through armed conflict; in revolts in ghettos and concentration camps; through efforts to escape Nazi-occupied Europe; through organized rescue of Jews by Jews and other examples of mutual aid; through the desperate efforts of Jewish children who taught one another how to survive in an environment intent on killing them.

Other forms of resistance include any life-sustaining activities that fostered human dignity in the face of a genocidal process dedicated to extinguishing it: smuggling and sharing food, clothing, and medicine into the ghettos; putting on plays and concerts; forming schools and clandestine yeshivas and shuls; publishing underground newspapers and documenting what was happening in diaries and in the Oyneg Shabbos project. Yehuda Bauer applies the Hebrew term amidah (to stand against) to define a broad range of resistance movements. Bauer and his colleagues also are able to delineate how and why resistance took different forms and had different outcomes depending on the country, the terrain, the posture of the indigenous non-Jewish populations, and the course of the war. Resistance was shaped in each country and locale by political, military, social, economic, geographic, religious, and legal realities. This volume provides a comprehensive treatment of the issue and will be an indispensable resource for Holocaust scholars as well as the general public.

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