Jew­ish Resis­tance Against the Nazis

Patrick Hen­ry, ed.
  • Review
By – August 14, 2015

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.

Relat­ed Content:

Michael N. Dobkows­ki is a pro­fes­sor of reli­gious stud­ies at Hobart and William Smith Col­leges. He is co-edi­tor of Geno­cide and the Mod­ern Age and On the Edge of Scarci­ty (Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty Press); author of The Tar­nished Dream: The Basis of Amer­i­can Anti-Semi­tism; and co-author of The Nuclear Predicament.

Discussion Questions