Yom Hashoah and Jewish Resistance - April 12, 20072007-05-30 09:39:12
By MARK MIETKIEWICZ
This year on the evening of April 15, people will pause to remember the heroism of the millions of Jews who perished in the Holocaust. They will also remember the Jews who marshaled what resources they had in order to fight back against Nazi oppression. As Yom Hashoah approaches, a look at Jewish resistance during the Second World War.
There are many sites which do an excellent job documenting the events leading up to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943 such as the Jewish Virtual Library http://tinyurl.com/d8txe and Yad Vashem Magazine. http://tinyurl.com/yues7k
But to get a feel for what it was like to be there, I recommend reading the lengthy memoir written by Marek Edelman, the only surviving leader of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. "The partisans were on the alert everywhere. ... From balconies, windows, and rooftops they showered the moving truckloads of SS-men with hand grenades and with rifle and pistol fire. Once even a truck speeding on the 'Aryan side' was blown up. On one occasion Rozowski and Sziomo, during the course of an area inspection, noticed an approaching German truck. They thought for an instant and then swiftly climbed to a balcony. From here they threw a four-pound powder charge straight down into the truck killing all but five of the sixty SS-men in it." http://tinyurl.com/2cbgyq
Although it was the most famous act of defiance, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was far from being the only Jewish rebellion during the war. As the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum points out, "between 1941 and 1943, underground resistance movements developed in approximately 100 ghettos in Nazi-occupied eastern Europe (about one-fourth of all ghettos), especially in Poland, Lithuania, Belorussia, and the Ukraine." http://tinyurl.com/29ts9n
You can find out much more about those other movements at The Miles Lerman Center for the study of Jewish Resistance http://tinyurl.com/27gwgr and at the Resistance Timeline, part of the Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust created by the University of South Florida. http://tinyurl.com/yt64k8
When you arrive at the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation website, you are greeted with some difficult questions: Would you leave your family? What would you risk? Would you fight back? How far would you go? Then you are invited to "Learn about the tens of thousands of young people who stood up to Nazi tyranny and oppression and saved the lives of thousands of Jews." This excellent site is geared toward young people and is relatively light on text but gets the message across through dozens of gripping video interviews with partisans.
As well, visitors are encouraged to email questions to a panel of six partisans who post their responses on the site. One sample question: "How did you survive the winter's cold?" Frank Blaichman's response: "Outside like an animal. Sleeping on the freezing ground. Went through hail, snow storms, rain storms. When you woke up in the morning I was covered with a blanket of snow many times. Snow was like insulation. It was not cold. Kept you warm a little bit. That is how we survived the first winger 1942-1943. We had no bunkers, they were destroyed in November, and we could not build any more bunkers. The spirit was high. We know we were going to live." http://www.jewishpartisans.org
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I recently focused on websites that look at the challenges and resources available to Jews in prison. Karen Paikin of Jewish Family and Child Service in Toronto wrote to point out that the situation faced by Jewish prisoners in the U.S. is very different from that in Canada. You can learn more about the plight of two Jews behind bars on this side of the border from an article in a Canadian Jewish News which also focuses on the work of chaplain Rabbi Ronald Weiss. http://tinyurl.com/ywkol2 As well, Jewish Family and Child Service has created an overview of its chaplaincy department which services hospital patients, residents of long-term care facilities, as well as Jewish inmates. http://tinyurl.com/2lepy9
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Mark Mietkiewicz is a Toronto-based Internet producer who writes, lectures and teaches about the Jewish Internet. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.