From the beginning of Nazi rule, they will be a double persecution political and racial. This persecution is reflected in their professional lives and that by limiting their rights and their exclusion from German society. From 1933, the discrimination of Germans of Jewish origin gradually spread to all domains of social life.
The "Nuremberg Laws" of 1935 form the Nazi regime legalized racial politics and formed the basis for new forms of harassment and persecution. Their enactment also permitted removal of civil rights to Jews, prohibited the marriage between Jews and non-Jews and made a classification of the population by racial lines (The Nuremberg Race Laws). In consequence to this law the world saw the looting of Jews of German origin and the forced aryanisation and capturing of Jewish assets. The persecution reached their peak in November 1938. During the incident of Kristallnacht (Reichskristallnacht) or Night of Broken Glass, synagogues were burned, and homes of local Jews were destroyed. In Berlin alone, 12,000 men and women were arrested, tortured and deported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp (Browning, p.102). New measures of deprivation of rights followed: in the capital Berlin the banishment Jews from public life took place, which prohibited Jews from accessing certain neighborhoods and this was followed by the exclusion of all cultural infrastructure, expulsion from their apartments and recruitment for forced labor. After years of encouragement of the emigration of Jews, in the fall of 1941, the National Socialists radically changed their strategy: emigration was banned and replaced by deportation. At the Wannsee Conference of January 25, 1942, under the presidency of General Reinhard Heydrich of the Schutzstaffel or SS, the policy of definite extermination of Jews from Europe was adopted.
Policies of oppression and genocide fueled resistance to the Nazis in the Third Reich and in occupied Europe. Jews and non-Jews alike responded to Nazi oppression in many ways.
The Jews started an armed resistance against the Nazis which proved to be the only planned resistance from the Jewish side. The biggest armed revolt was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (April-May 1943), which was triggered by rumors that the Nazis wanted to deport the remaining inhabitants of the ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp, located in Poland. When German forces entered the ghetto, the members of the Jewish Combat Organization threw hand grenades at the German tanks. The Nazis spent 27 days to destroy the ghetto and catch the last resisters (Altusky, p.27).
The rebellion took place in Vilna and Bialystok, as well as a number of other ghettos. Many ghetto fighters knew that armed resistance led by a minority will fail to save the Jewish masses of destruction. But they fought for the honor of the Jews.
A number of fighters opposed by fleeing into the forests of the ghettos and camps and joined the supporters. Leaders of Jewish Councils (Judenrat) resisted by refusing to obey to deliver other Jews for deportation.
A revolt occurred in three camps. At Sobibor and Treblinka, captioves took hold of stolen weaponry and attacked the SS staff and guards who were Ukrainian auxiliaries. A large amount of the insurgents were killed, but many of them succeeded to escape. At Auschwitz, four Jewish women helped the Jewish workers of the Sonderkommando of cremation by making them jump through the provision of explosives. These four women were executed.
In most countries satellites were taken over by the Nazis, the Jewish resistance concentrated its efforts on aid and relief. The Jewish authorities in Palestine, sent parachutists secretly like Hannah Szenes in Hungary to help the Jews. In France, members of the Jewish resistance met to form the Jewish Army. Many Jews became a part of the national resistance movements in Belgium, France, Italy, Poland and other Eastern European countries (Kaplan, p.112).
Jews in ghettos and camps also responded to Nazi oppression by various forms of spiritual resistance. The creation of Jewish cultural organizations, the pursuit of religious practices and willingness to remember and pass on the history of the Jews (through, for example, archives of the Oneg Shabbat in Warsaw) were aware of attempts to preserve the history and community life of the Jewish people despite Nazi efforts to permanently eliminate the Jews.
Much of Europe was then under Nazi rule and the majority of states and peoples without intervening silent and worse still, some collaborate with the murderers.
Yet few, risked their own freedom or even their lives, tend a helping hand to rescue Jewish children and families. Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial, Israel had identified as of 1 January 2006, across Europe, over 21,000 persons to whom tribute is paid as part of a project created by an Act of 1963. They are labeled as the "Righteous among the Nations".
But it is still argued that the Nazi terror machine paralyzed initiatives, which is contrary to official policy and the actions of thousands of people from all walks of life who helped Jews escape the Final Solution. Some rescuers were clergymen who saw resistance to Nazism and assistance to Jewish victims of Nazi genocide as a religious imperative. Others were animated by humanitarian ideals, others outraged by what their functions could lead them to commit as many police officers or gendarmes.
Denmark and its movements of resistance, saved nearly all of the country's Jewish community (about 7200 people on an estimated 8000), in a single operation in October 1943 by the evacuating surreptitiously by the Oresund Strait between Denmark to Sweden. Similarly the Netherlands, the village of Nieuwlande in the province of Drenthe also played an important role helping the stoppage of Jewish persecution in Europe. In the mountainous region of southern France, the Protestant community of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon also prominently helped the Jewish community.
A specifically Jewish resistance also existed, but did not necessarily do much for the fight against the deportation as a priority. Thus the Jewish battalions of the MOI in France, linked to the CPF, were primarily used to sabotage or attack the occupation forces. Jewish armed resistance particularly in Eastern Europe faced significant barriers. Because of no experience of arms by centuries of discrimination, most Jews were unaware of their use, nor could often resolve to break the cultural taboos and religious violence. The fatalism of religious inspiration was sometimes able to play its role. The most likely to fight immigrated to Palestine before the war or, to the USSR, and mobilized the Red Army. The weapons were extremely difficult to obtain. The constant terror that many prefer to express through an attempt to fight alone, without hope and through radically unequal grounds scared a lot of people. The vast majorities of Jews first seek to survive and feed themselves and though did get help from the fellow human beings but most of them could not escape the horrors of war alive.
Altusky, Hirsh, ed. Commemoration Journal: Thirty-Eighth Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto
Uprising, 1943–1981. New York: Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Organization, 1981.
The Nuremberg Race Laws, retrieved on 11 May 2011 from
Browning, Ch., Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers and German Killers, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2000.
Kaplan, M., Between Dignity and Despair, Jewish Life in Nazi Germany, Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1998.
Third Reich: An Overview, retrieved on 11 May 2011 from
The Third Reich, retrieved on 11 May 2011 from
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