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They Fought Back: The Story of the Jewish Resistance in Nazi Europe Paperback – January 1, 1987
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It contains a series of short, stunning narratives that are inspiring and horrifying at the same time. The primary contribution of this text to the litany of material out there, is its refutation of the bizarre notion that Jews went like sheep, passively.
When arms and opportunity met, Jews struck back. Hard.
A must read.
As an American, something I found so disturbing is the lack of help given to Jews during the years leading up to the war and during the war. Suhl doesn't dwell on this, as his thesis is presenting the heroics of the Jewish people who fought back. But I'm saying it anyway. We didn't bomb the railroad tracks going into the death camps or the ovens/gas chambers themselves even after being given overwhelming proof of what was going on in those camps. We didn't provide arms to the Jewish partisans to help them attack the Nazis. We didn't open our doors to Jewish immigration. I can only conclude that there was de facto anti-Semitism in our political leaders, such as FDR.
Yuri Suhl recounts over thirty instances of Jewish heroism in the Holocaust, including suicidally brave revolts in the ghettos, the courage of Jewish partisan groups (like the Bielski brothers) who had to contend not only with the Nazis, but virulently antisemitic fellow countrymen who were only too willing to assist in their murders or dob them in to the German authorities. In short, they had to fight on two fronts, always. There are individual acts of courage too that stand out and a tragic account of the famous Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, where a handful of Jews, men and women, held off veteran German SS and Wehrmacht troops for longer than the whole Polish Army did in September 1939. The only way the Germans could beat them was to blow up the entire ghetto street by street! There were incredibly brave uprisings in the death camps too.
It is important to remember that these Jews were peaceful, urban dwellers; family people who had no military training and who, as no one did, could never have guessed that an ostensibly civilized country like Germany would descend into the barbarism of mass murder on the basis of race and on an industrial scale. It makes their courage in fighting back against an evil unprecedented in history all the more remarkable, and especially because they fought alone.
Many photos abound of veteran German SS troops who surrendered in the Normandy campaign being marched into captivity under the guard of one or two skinny Tommies armed only with rifles. Where are the condemnations of these men for not "fighting back?' Yet the Jewish warriors in Suhl's book had none of the military training that these troops did and they had to fight against insuperable odds, always poorly armed into the bargain, and with no help coming from any quarter. No airdrops for them such as the French Maquis enjoyed.
This book is not an easy read in the sense that it is heartbreaking and harrowing, but it is a very important book that everyone should read, not just scholars of the Holocaust. It also helps the reader to understand Israel's strength and determination in defending her Jewish state, as what happened under the Germans in WW2 proved decisively that the Jewish people need their own country where they are safe from persecution. History is the great caveat and nothing can be understood outside its context.
Read this book and be humbled.