Spiritual Resistance In Jewish Ghettos Essay

1935 words - 8 pages

The Unconventional resistance

The establishment of the ghettos in spring 1940 is viewed by numerous scholars as the beginning of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. The Nazi regime sought to uproot the Jews from German life in accordance to racist principles and shut them behind the walls of the ghettos. Concurrently, Jews became the primary source of forced labour for the war economy. During this dark period in Jewish history, the oppressed sought to defend themselves, even at great risk, through different methods. While organized armed resistance was the most forceful form of Jewish opposition to Nazi policies, it was not the most successful. Jewish civilians offered armed resistance ...view middle of the document...

Call To Armed Self-Defense was published in the Ha-Za’ir newspaper Jutrznia (“Dawn”) that glorified Jewish heroism and struggle and was worded to sway the Jewish youth.

Despite the enormous risks, underground political groups and youth organizations also engaged in many acts of sabotage that signified unarmed resistance. Jews working as forced labourers in the ghettos undertook various efforts to damage and undermine the Nazi war efforts. These saboteurs stole important documents, produced damaged weapons, slowed down assembly lines, tampered with important machinery, and set fires in factories.

Perhaps the most daring act of unarmed resistance by the Jewish underground political organizations was the establishment of an underground communication network that spanned occupied Poland and the Soviet Union and helped connect isolated ghettos. Traveling under false German identities, couriers’ smuggled weapons into ghettos, carried banned documents, underground newspapers, medical supplies, forged identity cards, money and news of German activities. Unlike a circumcised male Jew, a physical check by a Nazi officer could not divulge the identity of a Jewish woman; it was for this reason that women were a key part of the underground political organizations and played a particularly important role as couriers. The kashariyot (women couriers) were a lifeline - they were important sources for news and information and trusted contacts for supplies and resources. The kashariyot were also symbolically important as they embodied Jewish resilience. Due to the widespread knowledge of their heroic escapades, many had acquired a legendary status among the Jewish masses. Emmanuel Ringelblum, the pre-war historian and organizer of the underground archive in the Warsaw ghetto, honoured the women couriers his diary entry of May 19, 1942: “These heroic girls, Haika and Frumka, are a theme that calls for the pen of a great writer. Boldly they travel back and forth through the cities and towns of Poland...They are in mortal danger every day...Without a murmur, without a moment of hesitation, they accept and carry out the most dangerous missions...How many times have they looked death in the eyes? How many times have they been arrested and searched?”

It is important to note that concurrently with the unarmed resistance focused on opposing the plans of the authorities, spiritual resistance was also prevalent. The Jewish attitude of spiritual resistance is accurately captured in this excerpt from the Warsaw ghetto diary of Chaim A. Kaplan: “According to the laws of nature, our end is destruction and total annihilation...But even this time we did not comply with the laws of nature. There is within us some hidden power, mysterious and secret, which keeps us going, keeps us alive, despite the natural law...Say what you like, the will to live amidst terrible suffering is the manifestation of some hidden power who nature we do not yet know.” Spiritual resistances in...

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