Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust Research Paper

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Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust

There is a common misconception that the Jewish people put up little resistance against the Nazis during World War II. The following paper shows that this was not the case, and that Jewish resistance has an important place in the history of the Holocaust.

Firstly, resistance in a militant sense was almost impossible, since Germans actively deceived the Jews at every stage of the process insisting that deportations were to worksites, and having camp-mates send home postcards, stamped Waldsee, which read: 'I am well. I work and am in good health'1.. Deception reached the extent that at Belzec, 18 August, 1942, an SS disinfectant officer, Kurt Gerstein, heard an SS officer chant, whilst naked people were being pushed into the death chamber: "Nothing is going to hurt you. Just breathe deep and it will strengthen your lungs. It is a way to prevent contagious disease. It is a good disinfectant.2" Similarly, a note found in the clothes of one of the victims read: "We arrived at the place after a long journey and at the front of the entrance is a sign "Bathhouse." Outside, people receive soap and a towel. Who knows what they will do with us?"3 He was most likely one of the many to find out.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Research Paper on Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust Assignment

Nonetheless, resistance did occur and it occurred in many more instances than is popularly known. In a way almost everyone was involved in resistance of some form or other be it in the form of children who were engaged in smuggling activities at the risk of their life, or adults who conducted prohibited groups in the ghetto that focused on raising the spirit of the inhabitants. Zionist groups (such as Werkleute, Hashomer Hatzair, and Habonim) trained people in skills needed for settlement in Israel and taught them its songs and folklore; children squeezed their tiny bodies through the ghetto walls knowing full well that they would be shot in the back would a German guard see them; "Actors, musicians, comics, singers, and dancers all entertained small groups who came together for a few hours to forget their daily terror and despair.4" Understandably, this was done voluntarily, of course, whilst the charitable activities increased and went on unabated despite the lack of resources. In this way, resistance was a mark of the masses. It was not limited to the few5.

Resistance in Everyday Life

The simplest form of resistance resembled the activities of those who were determined to create an existence in the ghetto that would allow people to surmount the horrors of daily living. Underground newspapers were printed at the risk of the lives of those who participated. Synagogue services were held regularly, and classes on Jewish teaching conducted covertly, even though both of these activities were forbidden. Similarly, although observance of Jewish rituals were prohibited, many Jews both within the ghetto and later within the camps secretly endeavored to practice whichever rituals they could to their optimum extent. In one camp, for instance, a menorah was fashioned out of potato slices that inmates had carefully collected from their 'meals', shoelaces being cut and used as wicks6. And then, other Jews resisted by hiding in attics and cellars, and by disguising themselves as non-Jews.

However, although resistance was a concept that was literally practiced by the masses, it is the extreme, most dramatic instances (no less courageous in a way that are best known; and some of these are hardly known at all partly because many of those who participated in resistance of this type were captured and killed before their stories could be told.

Ghetto Resistance

The most famous case is the Warsaw Ghetto uprising 7 where as the ghetto was being gradually emptied, under pretence of building air-raid shelters, Jews constructed dugouts connected to the sweaty system. They were led by the twenty-four-year-old Mordechai Anielewicz who, with 750 fighters, nine rifles, fifty-nine pistols, and a few Molotov cocktails contrived to hold almost 3,000 Waffen-SS with 7,000 reinforcements at bay. They killed sixteen Germans and wounded eighty-five8. Anielewicz was killed on May 8, and eight days later the rest were caught. General Heinrich Himmler had promised Hitler that the uprising would be quelled in three days; it took four weeks and, as Johnson (1987) notes, "some European countries, with well-equipped armies had not resisted the Nazis for so long"9 as had those in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Even Auschwitz had a revolt on 7 October 1944. Explosives smuggled in by Jews working in a Krupp plant were turned into grenades and bombs by Soviet POW. The Sionderskommando of Crematoria III and IV then managed to blow up Crematorium II and kill three SS men. 250 Jews were massacred by the guards, as a result; twenty-seven, however, escaped. Three SS men were killed in the uprising, including one who was pushed into one of the ovens. Four Jewish girls who assisted in contriving the explosives died under torture without revealing information. The message of one of them simply said: "Be strong and brave." Another who was hung cried "Revenge!" As she died10.

The Tuchin Ghetto, in the Ukraine, was another case where, on September 3, 1942, seven hundred Jewish families escaped. Only 15 survived. In the Bialystok Ghetto, Jewish paramilitary organizations attacked the Nazis on the eve of liquidation. The battle lasted one day; most of the resisters were killed or captured. In the Vilna Ghetto, some inhabitants began an uprising on September 1, 1943. Most were killed although some escaped and joined partisan outlets in the forest11.

Resistance in the Death Camps

Seven hundred Jews were successful in blowing up one of the most notorious of all camps, Treblinka, known as the 'Death Camp' on August 2, 1943. Over 20 Germans and approximately 200 Jews died. Only 12 survived the war12. Gassing activities were interrupted for a month. In Sobibor, on October 14, 1943, 60 of 600 prisoners escaped by digging an underground tunnel leading into the forest. Those who survived joined Soviet partisans. Ten SS guards, including the deputy commander were killed13 and one was wounded, and the Nazis were forced to close the camp.

There are tens of thousands of stories of individuals who heroically resisted Nazidom either alone or by joining groups. Volumes are written on the subject14. Celebrated stories include the instance of Helmut Hirsch, a Jewish architectural student who attempted to bomb Nazi Party Headquarters in Nuremberg, as well as planning to murder Julius Streicher, a leading Nazi official and propagandist; Hirsch was beheaded on June 4, 1937 with an axe. Another German resistance group, the Berlin-based Baum-gruppe was active from 1937 to 1942. The group disseminated anti-Nazi leaflets and bombed some sites including an anti-Soviet exhibit organized by Goebbels.

Samuel Dormits was another example of a courageous individual who formed the Dutch Peoples Militia in the Netherlands that contained about 200 participants (mainly Jewish). Their bomb attacks included assaults on German trains, cinemas, and troops. Dormits himself committed suicide when discovered, whilst 200 participants and many more connected people in Rotterdam, the Hague and Amsterdam were arrested and tortured.

On April 19, 1943 Yura Lifshitz, a young Jewish doctor, and two Belgian students, Robert Maistriau and Jean Franklemore, actually attacked the 20th Transport train going from Mechelne, in Belgium, to Auschwitz. 122 Jews escaped.

Hertz Jospa, Abush Verber, leader of a left-wing Zionist organization, and Chaim Perleman, professor at the Free University of Brussels, founded an organization 15 that helped hide more than 3000 Jewish children in Catholic institutions, non-Jewish homes, and orphanages. And then there were the many groups of Jewish partisans organized in the forest, either alone or in unison with others (primarily the Soviets) who risked their lives time and again in sabotaging German property, activities, and sites. They are a whole different story.

These stories of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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