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FACES OF RESISTANCE Jewish and Non-Jewish Resistance to the Holocaust What is Resistance? In World War II this took many forms: Protesting the Nazi Regime Violent uprisings in and out of concentration and death camps Espionage Forgery of documents Seizing and smuggling weapons Assisting in escape Strategically disrupting Nazi activities The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising • • • • The Warsaw Ghetto, the largest ghetto in Poland, concentrated 300,000-400,000 Jews and others. 30% of Warsaw’s population was now effectively sequestered in 2.4% of Warsaw’s total area. In the densely packed ghetto quarters, diseases like typhus spread rapidly and kept the ghetto population from expanding. Food rations were meager, sanitation was poor, and space was limited. Before deportations even began, 100,000 ghetto residents died from disease, starvation and Nazi brutality. Map of the Warsaw Ghetto Life in the Ghetto Deportation Begins • • • • Deportations began from July-September 1942. Adam Czerniakow, head of the Jewish Council in the ghetto, was order to provide lists of Jews and maps of their residences. After the Nazis refused to grant exemption from deportation for the children of an orphanage, Czerniakow committed suicide on July 23, 1942 by swallowing a cyanide capsule: “They demand me to kill children of my nation with my own hands. I have nothing to do but to die.” Anywhere from 254,000-300,000 Jews were killed at the Treblinka concentration camp as a result of the Warsaw Ghetto mass deportation. Jewish resistance leaders at first did not resist, believing that Jews were being sent to work camps. However, by the end of that year it became apparent that deportees were being sent to their deaths. Adam Czerniakow (1880-1942) Resistance Begins • Members of the Jewish Military League, joined • • by the Jewish Combat Organization, engaged the Nazis in direct combat in January 1943. Despite attacks, the Nazis still managed to carry out deportations, but at a significantly reduced capacity. The JML and JCO began constructing fighting posts and executing Nazi collaborators By January, the ghetto fighters numbered around 400. Their numbers swelled to 1,000 fighters by April of 1943. Resources of the Resistance • • • • Jewish insurgents typically fought with pistols and revolvers, which were ineffective in combat and virtually useless at long range. Rifles and automatic weapons were sometimes smuggled into the ghetto by members of the Polish Resistance, but in small quantities. Ammunition and weapons were a constant scarcity. Insurgents relied heavily on improvised explosive devices and “incendiary bottles”, i.e. Molotov cocktails (bottles filled with gasoline and then lit on fire). Resources of the Nazis • • • The Nazis committed an average daily force of 2,090 well-armed soldiers to oppose the Uprising. This included 363 Polish policemen who were stationed around the perimeter the ghetto. The German force includes army battalions, the Warsaw Gestapo, anti-aircraft artillery, a Ukrainian battalion from Trawinki camp, and a group of criminals and executioners from a nearby prison who volunteered to “hunt the Jews”. Jewish policemen working under the Gestapo were either executed outright, or used in the offensive and then subsequently executed. Combat • • • April 19, 1943, Nazi forces entered the ghetto with the intention of crushing the uprising within three days. However, Jewish resistance fighters managed to ambush Nazi forces, launch Molotov cocktails against advancing troops, and curtail the offensive. This led to the replacement of the SS police commander of Warsaw and the appointment of Jurgen Stroop. From April 19th to end of April, Jewish fighters defended a stronghold against aggressive Nazi retribution. In a famous incident, two boys climbed to the roof of the headquarters of the Jewish Resistance and raised two flags - a Polish flag and the blue and white banner of the Jewish Military League. The Ghetto in the midst of combat The Burning of the Warsaw Ghetto • • • After Jewish resistance fighters destroyed a German armored vehicle in a counterattack and rejected an ultimatum to surrender, the Nazis embarked on a plan to systematically burn the ghetto to the ground using flamethrowers and explosives. The Jewish military league lost all of its leaders, and some of its remaining members escaped through a sewage tunnel into a forest outside of Warsaw. Others in the ghetto, resistance fighters and civilians alike, hid in bunker dugouts amidst the ruins of the ghetto. Nazi troops used dogs to seek out these hideouts. Smoke grenades, tear gas and poison gas forced them out from hiding. The Ghetto in Ruins End of the Uprising • • On May 8, 1943, Nazi troops discovered the last remaining resistance command post. All remaining leaders and a few dozen remaining fighters were killed. Others, refusing to be killed or captured by the Nazis, committed suicide by taking cyanide. The Uprising officially ended on May 16, 1943. The Human Toll • • • • Approximately 13,000 Jews were killed in the ghetto during the uprising. 6,000 Jews were burnt alive or died from smoke inhalation during the burning of the ghetto. The remaining 50,000 residents were captured and shipped to concentration camps. Most were sent to Treblinka. Anywhere from 100 to 300 Nazi soldiers were said to have been killed in combat. Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, Warsaw Jewish Partisans Eastern Europe In Lithuania and Belorussia in particular, heavily forested areas became places of refuge for Jews fleeing the Einsatzgruppen and Wehrmacht Jewish partisans focused on doing whatever they could to disrupt the activities of the Nazis and their allies, including rupturing communication and transport lines The most dangerous missions, however, were missions for obtaining weapons and food from local farmers, since this brought the partisans out of hiding and within range of their enemies How many partisans were there? An estimated 20,000-30,000 partisans operated throughout Eastern Europe from 1941-1945 There were an estimated 30 fully Jewish partisan groups and another 21 non-Jewish groups in which Jews fought One of the most famous was the Bielski Otriad (Defiance Film) The Bielski Otriad The Bielski Otriad performed such successful sabotage against the Nazis that the regime offered a reward of 100,000 Reichmarks for assistance in the capture of Tuvia Bielski, and in 1943 led major clearing operations against all partisan groups in the area. The Soviet partisan leaders split the group into two units, named Ordzhonikidze, led by Zus, and Kalinin, led by Tuvia. According to partisan documentation, Bielski fighters from both units killed a total of 381 enemy fighters, sometimes during joint actions with Soviet groups. Treblinka Uprising 1942-1943 The original plan of the resistance group was to set fire to the whole camp and destroy the engines which powered the gas chambers. They intended to sacrifice their lives to accomplish this goal. The plan: 1. Seize arms from the camp's arsenal 2. Set fire to the camp There was a Jew whose sole job was to walk around the camp all day and spray disinfectant. In order to set fire to the camp, the resistance switched out the disinfectant with gasoline and had the Jew spray every possible building in the camp. 3. Escape in the ensuing chaos This is by far the roughest part of the plan. Most accounts do not give any more information on the plan of escape other than to escape through the gates by killing the guards once the fires are set. The revolt happened August 2, 1943. The signal to begin the revolt was a rifle shot which killed the chief of guards, Kittner. The 20 stolen rifles, revolvers, and grenades were then put to use, the grenades tossed at the "disinfected" areas in order to start the fires. "At 3:45 p.m. we heard the signal -- a rifle-shot near the gates of the Jewish barracks. This shot was followed by the detonations of hand grenades hurled at previously "disinfected" objects. An enormous fire broke out in the whole camp. The arsenal exploded and everything was burned, except the "bath" cabins, because it proved absolutely impossible to get near them. The victim of the first shot was Obersharführer Kittner, the chief of the guards and the leading camp spy. The flames devoured all the storerooms for clothes and shoes. Of the 700 workers on the camp grounds, only 150 to 200 succeeded in escaping; the others perished in the camp as well as over 20 Germans. Of the 150 to 200 who managed to escape, only 12 are still alive; the others were later murdered by the German hangmen."(Rajzman 132). 12th Sonderkommando Uprising The Sonderkommando were responsible for doing the “dirty work” of the Holocaust: stripping bodies, pulling teeth, removing hair and valuables, burning the remains, and spreading the ashes of the victims These Jews were only kept alive about 3 months at a time, and then were sent to the gas chambers themselves In October 1944, a group of Sonderkommando who noted the end of the war was nearing, decided to fight back rather than be gassed Planning the Attack Smuggled gunpowder was packed into empty sardine tins to make grenades; Much of the gunpowder was used in creating demolition charges. Small arms were smuggled into the camp through the barbed wire by local partisans Knives and axes were made and hidden by the Sonderkommando in strategic locations The plan was for a general uprising timed with the arrival of the Red Army, but some Sonderkommando were certain that they would not live until that day. The Attack On October 7, 1944, at about 3 in the afternoon, the Poles in Crematorium 1 begin the revolt. Hungarians in Crematoria 3 and 4 joined in while the Sonderkommando of Crematorium 2 broke through the wires of the camp. An especially sadistic Nazi guard in Crematorium 1 was disarmed and stuffed into an oven to be burned alive Several hundred guards counterattacked and penetrated the buildings, indiscriminately shooting at all prisoners they encountered. In a defiant suicide, the Sonderkommando in Crematorium 4 dragged their demolition charges into the oven rooms and detonated them. The revolt was quickly suppressed and the escaped men recaptured with the help of local citizens. Aftermath Approximately 200 Sonderkommando are forced to lie face down outside the crematoria where they are executed with single shots to the back of the head. Some of the men are spared for interrogation, but the bodies of the 12th Sonderkommando are soon disposed of by the 13th Sonderkommando. The men give up names, including those of some women who were engaged in smuggling gunpowder. Despite months of beatings and rape and electric shocks to their genitals, the only names given up by the women are those of already dead Sonderkommando. Aftermath On January 5, 1945, the four women were hanged in front of the assembled women's camp. Roza Robota shouted, "Be strong and be brave" as the trapdoor dropped. Crematorium 4 was damaged beyond repair and never used again. On November 7th, 1944, the Nazis destroyed the gas chambers to hide their crimes. Twelve days after the hanging of the four women, the camp personnel forced 56,000 prisoners on a Death March into what remained of the Third Reich; 7500 prisoners left behind were liberated by advancing Soviet armies on January 27th.