Jewish resistance during the Holocaust

The Jewish resistance during the Holocaust was a resistance movement of the Jews against Nazi Germany during World War II . Due to the careful organization and overwhelming military power of the German state Nazism and its supporters, many Jews were unable to resist the killings. However, there were many cases of attempted resistance in one form or another, and more than a hundred armed Jewish uprisings.

Genesis and characteristics

The Jewish Resistance itself did not have the genesis or structure or organization of other resistance groups such as the French or Italian Resistance , nor did it receive foreign aid or liaison agents between the intelligence groups of the free countries except Palestine , If not what happened as an uprising to highly oppressive factors of the Nazi regime against the ethnic groups considered subhuman by the Nazis. These factors were represented by actions of the Einsatzgruppen commandos implemented by Reinhard Heydrich and the German police actions (Fieldgendarmerie SS ) against the ghettos in the territories of the Nazi Germany.

Many Polish Jews who managed to escape joined in France to fight in the formation of l’Armée Juive or Jewish army, in Spanish. 1

While some Jews ( Judenrat ) were aware that they were not going to save everyone from extermination, they did so in order to help and save as many as possible and to demonstrate that they were not an ethnicity that was allowed to lead to death without first fighting. It should be noted that the vast majority of Jews who were eradicated, harassed and imprisoned were involuntarily brought to extermination under well-crafted deceptions and that the character of revolt was not manifested in the vast majority of them. Many Jews took refuge in the border forests of Poland, Belarus and France such as the Vilnius region , the forests of Wyszkow , Novogrudok , Espinassier (France).

Types of resistance

In his book The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy , Martin Gilbert describes the types of resistance:

“In every ghetto , in all deportation trains, in every concentration camp , even in the extermination camps , the will to resist was strong, and I took many forms.With the few weapons that were counted, individual acts of defiance And protest, the courage to obtain food and water under threat of death, the need to refuse to allow the Germans to enjoy their desire deprived more than that of panic and despair.

Even passivity was a form of resistance. Dying with dignity is a form of resistance. To resist demoralization, the brute force of evil, which refuse to be reduced to the category of animals, to live through torment, to survive the executioners, these are also acts of resistance. The mere fact of bearing witness to these events was, in short, a contribution to victory. Simply surviving was a victory of the human spirit. ” 2

This view has the support of Yehuda Bauer , who wrote that resistance to the Nazis was not only physical opposition but any activity that gave the Jewish people to human dignity in the most humiliating and inhuman conditions. Bauer opposes the popular idea that most Jews went to death passively. The author argues that, given the conditions that Eastern European Jews had to endure, what is surprising is that there was little resistance, but rather much resistance.

Passive resistors

Another notable event was the protest of the Mischlinge or mixed Jewish marriages in Berlin in 1943, called the Rosenstraße protest which had some degree of success in attracting international public opinion.

Resistance in the ghettos

Main article: Ridges in the Jewish ghettos

Resistance in concentration camps

There were also significant resistance efforts in three of the death camps

  • In August 1943 , an uprising took place in the Treblinka extermination camp . Many buildings were razed by fire, and 70 prisoners escaped, but another 1500 were killed. Gassing operations were interrupted for a month.
  • In October 1943, another uprising took place in the Sobibor extermination camp . This uprising was more successful; 11 commanders officers of the SS , including the deputy deputy commander, were killed and about 300 of the 700 inmates escaped from the camp, with about 50 survivors of war. This escape forced the Nazis to close the camp.
  • The 7 of October of 1944 , the Sonderkommando (kept separate from other prisoners so that they could not give details about their assignments, so as not to alert the prisoners who were to be exterminated, and forced to work in the chambers Gas and crematoria ) of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp organized an uprising. The inmates had smuggled explosives from an arms factory, and Cremator IV was partially destroyed by a major explosion. At this stage they were joined by the Kommando Birkenau Uno , who also surpassed their guards and escaped from the complex. It was then that the rest of the inmates attempted a massive escape, but almost all (about 250) were killed shortly after. (There were also plans for a general uprising, at Auschwitz, coordinating an Allied air attack and Polish resistance for an attack from outside.)

Partisan groups

Main article: Partisan Jews

The Bielski brothers are the most remarkable facts of the so-called Jewish Resistance against Nazi oppression. There were groups of partisan Jews who operated in many countries. Partisan Jews were more numerous in Eastern Europe .


  • American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
  • Antyfaszystowska Organizacja Bojowa
  • Betar
  • Fareinigte Partizaner Organizacje
  • Hashomer Hatzair
  • Anti-Fascist Jewish Committee
  • Zionist Youth Movement
  • Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish Combat Organization)
  • Żydowski Związek Wojskowy (Jewish Military Union)

Forces of Jewish Resistance

  • Mordechaj Anielewicz
  • Yitzhak Arad
  • Bielski partisans
  • Masha Bruskina
  • Eugenio Caló
  • Franco Cesana
  • Icchak Cukierman
  • Szymon Datner
  • Marek Edelman
  • Abba Kovner
  • Zivia Lubetkin
  • Dov Lopatyn
  • Moša Pijade
  • Haviva Reik
  • Hannah Szenes
  • Shalom Yoran
  • Simcha Zorin


  1. Back to top↑ The Resistance of the Jews
  2. Back to top^ Gilbert, Martin. The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy. London: St Edmundsbury Press 1986
  3. Back to top↑ Holocaust in Belarus