The Holocaust

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Student Question

What factors limited Jewish resistance during the Holocaust?

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First of all, we must acknowledge that Jews did resist the Holocaust in many ways.  This ranged from "spiritual resistance of the Nazis' attempts to destroy Jewish culture to actual armed resistance such as in the Warsaw ghetto.

That said, resistance was more limited than one might expect from a people facing genocide.  There are a number of reasons for this.  They include:

  • A lack of awareness of what was going on.  This was particularly true early in the Holocaust.  It seemed impossible that the Nazis could be conducting a genocide and so people did not want to cause further trouble for themselves.
  • Nazi punishments.  The Nazis did not simply punish those caught resisting.  Instead, they practiced collective punishments in which they held entire populations responsible for the actions of their members.  Jews who thought of resisting might hesitate at the knowledge that their actions could lead to the deaths of many of their innocent fellow Jews.
  • Overall lack of power.  Nazi Germany was an extremely powerful state.  The Jews lacked the organization or the weaponry to have any serious chance at meaningful resistance.

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