The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust
A new exhibition at the Wiener Holocaust Library in London showcases accounts of resiliency and defiance
Article caption: "Group of Jewish partisan fighters in Soviet territories (Wiener Holocaust Library Collections)."
By Claire Bugos
AUGUST 6, 2020
During World War II, Jewish resistance fighters launched attacks, created underground networks, led rescue missions and documented their experiences at great personal risk. But though historians have ample evidence of such acts of defiance, the idea that Europe’s Jews didn’t fight back against the Nazis persists. Now, a new exhibition at the Wiener Holocaust Library in London seeks to honor these individuals’ largely unheralded contributions.
“Jewish Resistance to the Holocaust” draws on documents, artifacts and survivor testimonies, many of which were gathered by library researchers during the 1950s. The show tells the stories of Jewish partisans in the Soviet Union, organized resistance in concentration camps and ghettos, and individual instances of bravery, among other topics.
“Sometimes the view that people have is that the Jews didn’t really resist, and people have commented on ‘why wasn’t there more resistance?’” senior curator Barbara Warnock tells the Guardian’s Caroline Davies. “But in these incredibly extreme circumstances there are just so many examples of resistance, even in the most desperate situations.”
So this Holocaust exhibition glorifies illegal combatants (partisans) of Jewish ancestry.
One example is a domestic terror attack:
In May 1942, the Baum Group led an arson attack against the Soviet Paradise, an anti-communist, anti-Semitic exhibition that attempted to justify the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union
The kinds of "resistance" it shows among concentration camp inmates are:
some prisoners undermined Nazi efforts to eradicate their culture by continuing religious practices and education [...] [and] diaries served as one of the most explicit ways in which individuals could “keep a sense of their humanity” and document Jewish experiences.
Filip Müller, for instance, smuggled evidence of Nazi atrocities out of Auschwitz-Birkenau while working as a member of the Sonderkommando
“Jewish Resistance to the Holocaust” is on view at the Wiener Holocaust Library in London from August 6 to November 30.