Many ask why the Jews did not ressist more and instead resigned themselves to their fate. We find this this question is most commonly asked by those who are incredulous about the Holocaust itself and those who do not understand how difficult ressistance was. It is also commonly asked by anti-Semmites who have convinced themselves that Jews among other characteristics are cowardly. In answering this question, first it must be mentioned that there was ressistance. Resistance was made difficult by the fact that except in Poland, Jews were a very small part of the population making any kind of effective ressistance difficult. It must also be understood that the Holocaust was very well planned. It was often carefully staged, designed to create the impression a every stage that conditions could not get worse. In the end the Holocaust played on the strength of the Jewish family. As bad as conditions thought, many Jews felt that at least the family was together. Only when the transports reached the death camps were the families separated.
Many ask why the Jews did not ressist more and instead resigned themselves to their fate. We find this this question is most commonly asked by those who are incredulous about the Holocaust itself and those who do not understand how difficult ressistance was. It is also commonly asked by anti-Semmites who have convinced themselves or want to believe to cofirm their stereotying that Jews among other negative characteristics are cowardly.
In answering this question, first it must be mentioned that there was ressistance includng armed resistance. Jews served with the partisans. The most famed example is the Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Getto during 1943, but there was other armed actions. Although they had only a small number of small arms, the Jewish resistance was legendary.
The interned Jews planned resistance from Day One, and requested weapons from the Polish Resistance - The Polish Home Army. After two years, Polish Home Army grudgingly consented, and then handed these thousands of starving and ill Jews a few hand guns! So they made their own Molotov cocktails and some other enterprising weapons, and in the final days of the ghetto managed to kill some SS and Ukrainians, even driving them away at one stage, until every remaining Jew was killed by German mortars (most inmates had, of course, been deported to Treblinka and gassed on arrival). [Gilbert, Atlas.]
Jewish partisans organized in the forests of Eastern Poland, modern Belarus. The partisan story alone is remarkable, partly because Jewish people managed to save both themselves and others, building underground villages in the hearts of these giant forests, and sending out scouts for ghetto escapees whom they then brought to their shelters; no matter what their age or state of health, all were saved and protected. This is particularly remarkable, because they were hunted not only by the Nazis, but in ome cases the Russian partisans and Polish partisans also active in the forests.
So it was a terrible fight to survive. One example was the Bielski brothers from the village of Stankevich in what now is Belarus. They formed a partisan band operating behind the front lines. [Duffy and Tec]
There was also risings in the concentration camps, the most important being at Sorbibor. Tere was also an urising at Treblinka in 1943. These actins contributed to the decesion to shut down both camps. And there was the final, sad revolt in Auschwitz when the Jews managed to successfully destroy one gas chamber - an amazing achievement.
Any kind of ressistance to the NAZIs in occupied Europe was very difficult even for non-Jews. This was true even for members of the majority population, let alone a minority. Resistance was made difficult by the fact that except in Poland, Jews were a very small part of the population making any kind of effective ressistance difficult. The Ressistance was conducted by individyals of great bravery, but except in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia the Ressistance was only of minor military importance in the War. Most active members of the Ressistance did not survive the War and this was the case with the majority population. The chance of a minority group resisting the NAZIs was very limited. A reader writes, "In fact, wherever possible (and it was not often possible, for all the reasons you have stated, and more), Jews did resist very strongly indeed when one considers their state of starvation, ill health, demoralisation, lack of weaponry, lack of help in Eastern Europe, Jew hunts by locals, etc." [Novitz] A HBC reader has provided an essay summarizing the difficulties of resistance.
It must also be understood that the Holocaust was very well planned. It was often carefully staged, designed to create the impression a every stage that conditions could not get worse. The NAZIs had several years in power perfecting methods of suppressing ressistance. he Gestapo was never a huge force, but was to effectively eliminate effective ressistance in Germany within a year, despite the fact that the NAZIs were a minority and the opposition included other committed groups like the Communists. The NAZIs also perfected their procedures of how to effectively isolate and plunder the assetts of the Jews. This was important because isolated from gentile neighbors and without assetts, a Jews's limited chances of escaping the Holocaust fell even further. Few Jews appreciated what the Final Sollution was. After the NAZIs invaded a country, anti-Jewish measures were applied in carefully planned staggered steps. The actual process varried from country to country
In the end the Holocaust played on the strength of the Jewish family. As bad as conditions thought, many Jews felt that at least the family was together. Only the shock of Kristallnacht convinced German Jews to part from their children in the Kindertransport and even then many could not bring thmselves to do it. Only when the transports reached the death camps were the families separated. If parents had abanoned their children they could have had a better chsnce to escape, but few could bring them selves to do this.
There were other ways of resisting the Holcaust besides armed resistance. Given the German commitment to exterminate the Jews, the only really effective measures were armed resistance. But as described bove this was rarly possible and the German stratgy in implemening the Hiloaust made it espcially difficult. Other Jewish efforts at resistance need to be mentioned. Jews in te Warsw GHetto recorded every detail of what was done to them and of what happened to them, in writing. This information was placed in a number of large milk cans and buried beneath the ghetto. All the milk cans, bar one, were eventually found, and the information remains in archives and museums. It has also been published in readily available books. This too was a form of resistance. [Novitz] And similar efforts occurred in other ghettos as well. There is a photographic record of the Lodz. Ghetto Once deported to te camps this was more difficult.
Duffy, Peter. The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Saved 1,200 Jews and Built a Village in the Forest (Harper Collins, 2003), 297p.
Gilbert, Martin. Atlas of the Holocaust.
Novitz, Sheila. E-mail message (April 5, 2014).
Tec, Nechama. Defiance: The Bielski Partisans (1993).
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