“Jewish Resistance and Rescue during the Holocaust”
“Jews went like sheep to the slaughter,” is often heard in popular accounts of how the Holocaust unfolded. “Why didn’t Jews fight back, resist?” “If death was a certainty, why didn’t they rise up?” These are some of the most often repeated questions students ask educators when addressing the image of Jewish passivity in the face of Nazi persecution. These types of questions, while completely discredited by scholarly works, continues to live on in everyday conversations about the Nazi attempts to annihilate the Jews. This year, our conference will add more knowledge about the various ways Jews attempted to resist the Nazi plan of the mass murder of their community. What will emerge from the panels will be a variety of ways in which Jews did, in fact, offer resistance. In some cases, Jews joined partisan groups or participated in uprisings in ghettos and concentration camps, taking up arms to fight against their oppressors. In other instances, Jews practiced resistance by joining underground activities to preserve artifacts and accounts of the Jewish community under the Nazi regime. Still others, in their everyday lives, continued to resist the Nazis by maintaining their spiritual practices, by engaging in sports activities such as soccer, or by creating music to lift people’s spirits. Jews also worked in underground organizations to assist in aid and rescue work, risking their own lives in an attempt to keep others alive as well.
The methods of resistance and rescue work varied according to circumstances. Not everyone could have access to weaponry, nor would every Jew have been familiar with how to use a gun. So, some opted for passive forms of resistance, others went into hiding, some decided to disguise themselves as gentiles, living in the “Aryan” world among potential enemies. No matter what course of action, passive or active resistance, Jews adopted, all of their efforts were not in vain. Simply holding onto one’s identity and fighting to maintain that identity was a moral victory over the brutality of the Nazi regime.