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Why Didn’t All Jews Resist The Holocaust?

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The total Jewish population was not capable to rise above and fight the substantial subjugation of Nazi Germany, as their Jewish faith psyche were destroyed by the Nazi’s violent acts. Additionally, average Jews lacked the training and resources, which was further fuelled by an inability to counter such oppression after a peaceful life in the Middle East, followed by a mass migration to Europe in the 1800’s. The Jewish doctrine strictly upheld the traditional values of the Ten Commandments and stressed adherence to all values encompassed in its monotheistic system. To inflict further damage, the Nazis had also built an extensive system of oppression that lead to most Jews to presume passivity or even co-operation in their own destruction. However, the small figure of Jews that resisted the Nazi oppression were militaristically minded and were culturally accustomed to the deep-rooted anti-Semitism European countries. Therefore, Jews didn’t resist the Holocaust as the majority of the population had never endured significant oppression in the Middle East.

The Jews were weak in resistance due to their peaceful doctrine and faith. The Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) share a similar correlation of commandments that serve a crucial function in underpinning their culture. The Ten Commandments state that respect and fulfillment surrounding God and family is fundamental, which additionally is a crucial part of the Jewish culture. Due to this, many Jews practise strict observance according to the Ten Commandments and The Bible. As the Ten Commandments state: ‘Thou shalt not kill’ and thou shalt not steal.’ Therefore, these pacifistic ideals formed a weak resistance against the Nazi’s ruthless genocide. The U.S Holocaust Museum quotes how: ‘German killing squads called Einsatzgruppen were groups assigned to specifically kill Jews by moving with the Wehrmacht’. By the spring of 1943 these highly concentrated squads had killed 1.2 million Jews, by disguising the casualties as uncooperative Soviet civilians. Consequently, the new wave migration of Jews in the 1800’s weren’t accustomed to this German zeitgeist of deep-rooted oppression and structured hate that signalled the start of the Holocaust. As historian Walter Zapotoczny states: ‘the true power of the Wehrmacht was to crush the Jewish spirit’. Hence, the damaged psyche had a significant consequence on the effectiveness of Jewish resistance and quelled a majority of their fighting spirit. Furthermore, these values were tainted by Nazi ideologies as impure, anti-nationalistic and as a degradation of an ‘Aryan’ German’s values. Consequently, the Nazis were able to destroy any major ideas about resistance before they even formed, due to the ruthless tactics which were employed to destroy the Jewish persona.

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The Wehrmacht’s control made Jewish resistance to the Nazis during the Holocaust perilous. At first, most Jews believed they would be re-settled to a productive life. As ‘We Are Not One’ by Fred Lazin states: ‘Jerusalem Yionites believed the German Jews would only work as punishment.’ Many Rabbis believed that by working for and being cooperative with the Germans they could survive and limit the suffering of other Jews. Professor M.Marrus states in an interview that: ‘The leadership of the ghettos, were utterly unprepared for the kind of catastrophes they faced. The kind of blackmail that these Jewish leaders faced is something scarcely imaginable today.’ The structured and armed force of the Wehrmacht posed a large obstacle to the resistance of mainly unarmed and low-morale civilians, especially Jews in the wake of Hitler’s agenda in 1933. The Nazis had also used the idea of ‘collective responsibility’ to thwart resistance. This tactic held whole communities and families responsible for acts of individual resistance. As the U.S Holocaust Museum states: ‘In the ghetto of Bialystok, 1943 the Germans shot 120 Jews on the street after Abraham Melamed shot a policeman. The Germans threatened to destroy the whole ghetto if he didn’t surrender.’ This structured barbarism had effectively destroyed the Jewish spirit, often making the oppressed fight each other in the process. The extreme secrecy and deception that the Germans used to carry out deportations and killings were intended to impede resistance. Millions of victims, rounded up for deportation to Nazi concentration camps, often did not know where they were being sent. Rumours of death camps were widespread, but Nazi deception and the human tendency to deny bad news in the face of possible harm. Even if they saw through it, what could they do? The German forces ordered their victims to pack their belongings, thus reinforcing the belief among victims that they were being “resettled” in labour camps. Alternatively, The Nazi regime had severe consequences on the psychological aspect on the international community. There was the unimaginable nature of what the Germans were doing. How could Nazis gas millions of innocent civilians? Mass graves in Europe were first discovered in 1941, yet in 1954, 22% of the British population denied The Holocaust. The overwhelming power of the German regime coupled with the thorough means of deception, played on the Jews, all contributed to the reason, so few Jews fought back and why there was little organized resistance.

However, due to the vast resistance they faced, certain Jews resisted the oppression. Resistance was however extremely limited and largely ineffective in Nazi Germany due to the Wehrmacht’s power and as they lacked broader international support. The acts of trying to stay alive and to maintain at least a remnant of human dignity constituted resistance to the Nazi effort to dehumanize and ultimately annihilate the Jews. Jews strove to sustain themselves both physically and emotionally in the face of the Nazi murder. In many ghettos the Judenrat and underground organizations did their utmost to distribute essentials. In many places they organized cultural, educational and religious activities, which were expressions of the vital spirit of the inhabitants. The act of providing work took on great importance in many places, both for its practical day-to-day aspects and in several ghettos, proving the value of Jewish labour evolved into a strategy for safeguarding the population. Attempts were made to document the ever-deepening suffering under the Nazis. Additionally, Jews acquired false documents that identified them as Gentiles, and used them to hide and cross international borders. As Jews became aware of the fact that the Nazis were massacring them, armed underground organizations came into being. Groups prepared for resistance against the Nazis, either within the confines of the ghettos or by joining the partisans in the surrounding area. The armed uprising of the longest duration occurred during three weeks in the spring of 1943 in the Warsaw ghetto. However, Hitler’s policy success in the mid-1930s and the drop in unemployment, trumpeted by an effective propaganda machine, helped forge widespread support for the sadistic regime.

Jews didn’t fully resist Nazi oppression as the barbaric regime had extensive power over the Jewish community and the fragile psyche of Judaism. Therefore, Jews had no previous exposure to this sort of constructed violence and had little resistance in way of ideals and morals. However, the small Jewish force that did resist were nationalistic and saw the true extent of anti-Semitism throughout Europe. The Holocaust was a vicious act in human history that was built upon the blood of many innocent civilians, many who died without a final stand.

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Why Didn’t All Jews Resist The Holocaust? (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 27, 2023, from
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