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Jewish resistance to Nazism

Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann

Subject History
Social Movements » Collective Behaviour

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics anti-Semitism, holocaust, Jewish, resistance, revolution

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.00833.x


Jewish resistance to Nazism should be seen within two contexts: the history of Jewish responses to the virulent European Christian anti-Semitism of the approximately 1,000 years which preceded the Holocaust on the one hand, and the history of religious, ethnic, and political resistance to totalitarianism in the twentieth century on the other. In the first context, Jewish consciousness of Nazism as a qualitatively different, more radical, threat to Jewish existence came tragically late. This led to ineffective “shtadlanut” responses of traditional communal leaders, who chose to bargain with, negotiate with, or bribe those in power. There were also defiant expressions of religious observance, particularly among the Orthodox Jews. Passive resistance to the Nazi onslaught began in Germany under the spiritual leadership of figures such as Rabbi Leo Baeck and the philosopher Martin Buber who organized a revival of Jewish education and cultural activity in the late 1930s. In the ghettos and camps throughout Europe, self-help, medical, social, educational, and cultural institutions served to counter demoralization, focus passive resistance, and sometimes create environments from which activist rescue and armed resistance groups could work and recruit participants. In the second context, Jews of the more ideological modern movements became increasingly aware that they were faced with ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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