RESISTANCE Document Based Question Directions: The following question is based on the accompanying documents. Read the question below and prepare an essay that addresses all parts of the question. Your essay should include a detailed thesis statement and use of the documents throughout your essay. You may refer to relevant historical information not mentioned in the documents.
Question: Analyze the various types of resistance used by Jews during the Holocaust. Explain the reasons for and obstacles to resisting. Compare this resistance to that of Rwandans during the genocide in 1994. Historical Background:
The Holocaust: The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews, deemed "inferior," were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community (from USHMM).
The Rwandan Genocide: Problems between the Tutsis and Hutus dated back to the era of European imperialism which had placed the Tutsi minority in charge of the Hutu majority in Rwanda. The event that triggered the genocide in the country occurred on April 6, 1994. A plane carrying President Habyarimana, a Hutu, was shot down. Violence by the Hutus against the Tutsis began almost immediately after that. Under the cover of war, Hutu extremists launched their plans to destroy the entire Tutsi civilian population. Political leaders who might have been able to take charge of the situation and other high profile opponents of the Hutu extremist plans were killed immediately. Tutsi and people suspected of being Tutsi were killed in their homes and as they tried to flee at roadblocks set up across the country during the genocide. Entire families were killed at a time. Women were systematically and brutally raped. It is estimated that some 200,000 people participated in the perpetration of the Rwandan genocide.
In the weeks after April 6, 1994, 800,000 men, women, and children were murdered in the Rwandan genocide, perhaps as many as three quarters of the Tutsi population. At the same time, thousands of Hutu were murdered because they opposed the killing campaign and the forces directing it.
Izik Sutin, Polish Jew, one of 800 Jews crammed into the Mirski Castle – in Polish, mir zamek – on the outskirts of Mir, a small Polish town near the border. Over the course of two days, Germans had marched most of the Jewish men, women, and children from the ghetto to the outskirts of town and forced them at gunpoint to dig their own mass grave. Sutin’s mother Sarah died in the massacre. “It was during that summer in the zamek that roughly forty of us younger persons – many of whom had gotten to know one another in the Hashomer Hatzair [the labor-oriented Zionist youth organization] – began to attempt to organize some sort of resistance. We ranged in age from roughly sixteen to thirty. The majority were men, but there were some women as well. In any ordinary sense, our situation was completely hopeless. We had no weapons except for rocks, bottles, and a few knives. We were completely outnumbered and surrounded by a trained German military force supported loyally by the local population. But then again, we had no expectation that we would live beyond the next few weeks or months. Why not resist when the alternative was death at a time and place chosen by the Nazis? Desperation was what drove us, along with the desire for revenge. Our families had been butchered and piled into nameless graves. The thought of taking at least a few German lives in return was a powerful incentive.”
Krakow resistance song “Our Town is Burning” by Mordecai Gebirtig. Mordecai Gebirtig was born in 1877 in Krakow, Poland, and was a Yiddish folk poet and songwriter. He wrote “Our Town is Burning” in response to a 1936 pogrom in Przytyk. It is not about the Holocaust. During the Holocaust, this song became the anthem of Krakow’s underground Jewish resistance movement. Gebirtig was killed in June 1942 during a roundup for deportation from the Krakow ghetto. It’s burning, brothers! It’s burning!
Oh, our poor village, brothers, burns!
Evil winds, full of anger,
Rage and ravage, smash and shatter;
Stronger now that wild flames grow –
All around now burns!
And you stand there looking on
With futile, folded arms
And you stand there looking on –
While our village burns!
It’s burning, brothers! It’s burning!
Oh, our poor village, brothers, burns!
Soon the rabid tongues of fire
Will consume each house entire,
As the wild wind blows and howls –
The whole town’s up in flames!
And you stand there looking on
With futile, folded arms,
While our village burns!
It’s burning, brothers! Our town is burning!
The Vilna Partisan Manifesto, 1943. The first Jewish fighting organization formed in Vilna was called the United Partisan Organization (FPO was the acronym for the name in Yiddish). Mass killings and shootings occurred in Ponar, a wooded area 6 miles away. The Vilna FPO issued the manifesto to the ghetto imploring the remaining 14,000 Jews to resist deportation to their deaths. Offer armed resistance! Jews, defend yourselves with arms!
The German and Lithuanian executioners are at the gates of the ghetto. They have come to murder us! Soon they will lead you forth in groups through the ghetto door.
In the same way they carried away hundreds of us on the day of Yom Kippur [the holiest day in the Jewish calendar]. In the same way those with white, yellow and pink Schein [safe-conduct passes] were deported during the night. In this way our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and sons were taken away.
Tens of thousands of us were dispatched. But we shall not go! We will not offer our heads to the butcher like sheep.
Jews defend yourselves with arms!
Do not believe the false promises of the assassins or believe the words of the traitors.
Anyone who passes through the ghetto gate will go to Ponar!
And Ponar means death!
Jews, we have nothing to lose. Death will overtake us in any event. And who can still believe in survival when the murderer exterminates us with so much determination? The hand of the executioner will reach each man and woman. Flight and acts of cowardice will not save our lives.
Active resistance alone can save our lives and our honor.
Brothers! It is better to die in battle in the ghetto than to be carried away to Ponar like sheep. And know this: Within the walls of the ghetto there are organized Jewish forces who will resist with weapons.
Support the revolt!
Do not take refuge or hide in the bunkers, for then you will fall into the hands of the murderers like rats.
Jewish people, go into the squares. Anyone who has no weapons should take an ax, and he who has no ax should take a crowbar or a bludgeon!
For our ancestors!
For our murdered children!
Attack the murderers!
In every street, in every courtyard, in every house within and without this ghetto, attack these dogs!
Jews, we have nothing to lose! We shall save our lives only if we exterminate our assassins.
Long live liberty! Long live armed resistance! Death to the assassins!
Excerpt from the Jewish Virtual Library on the April 7, 1943 Jewish resistance led by Michael Glanz that occurred at Skalat, Ukraine. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0018_0_18682.html By 1939 there were 4,800 Jews in Skalat (town formerly in Poland, currently part of the Ukraine). When the town passed to Soviet rule (1939–41), all independent political activity was suppressed, and as private enterprise was stifled, Jews sought employment in government service and cooperatives. When the Soviet-German war broke out on June 22, 1941, about 200 Jews in Skalat fled with the retreating Soviet army. The town fell to the Germans on July 5, and that day 20 Jews were murdered by German troops. On July 6 Ukrainian nationalists killed 560 Jews. A Judenrat was set up, headed by Meir Nierler. He was accused of collaboration with the Germans in rounding up Jews for deportation. In the autumn of 1941, 200 young Jews were sent to a slave labor camp in Velikiye Borki. A group of Jewish women were sent for forced labor to Jagielnica. Early in 1942, 600 sick and elderly persons were rounded up and assembled in the synagogue, and from there taken to *Belzec death camp. In an Aktion on Oct. 21, 1942, 3,000 victims were sent to Belzec, while 153 Jews were shot in Skalat itself. On November 9, in a second raid, 1,100 were rounded up and sent to the death camp. On April 7, 1943, about 750 persons were murdered and buried in mass graves near the town. Following this Aktion a resistance group was organized, headed by Michael Glanz. The young members collected arms, but the Germans, aware of the existence of the group, advanced the date of the next Aktion, for which the group was still unprepared. In this Aktion, carried out on May 9, 1943, 660 persons were killed. The city was then declared Judenrein. Only 400 Jews survived in the local labor camp. A resistance group was formed in the camp as well, and when the partisan units under General Kowpak began operating in the vicinity, 30 Jews escaped and joined their ranks. All but seven fell in fighting against the Germans. On July 28, 1943, the last of the Jews in the Skalat camp were murdered. About 300 Jews had found temporary refuge in the forests in the vicinity, but they were attacked by the Ukrainian bands led by Bandera, and only 200 survived the war.
Account from Richard Glazar who participated in the Treblinka revolt and managed to escape with Karl Unger.
“The idea was almost ripe back in November 1942. From about November 1942 we’d noticed we were being `spared’ in quotes. We noticed it, and we also learned that Stangl had decided it would be more efficient to hang onto trained people – specialists trained for various jobs such as sorters, corpse haulers, barbers to cut the women’s hair, and so on. And this is what later gave us the chance to prepare, to organize the uprising. We had a plan worked out January 1943, code-named 'The Hour’. At a set moment we were to attack the SS everywhere, seize their weapons and storm the Kommandantur. But it didn’t happen because the camp was at a standstill and because typhus had already broken out.”
Note: Glazar and Unger escaped together from Treblinka during the prisoners’ revolt on 2 August 1943, via the Ukrainian barracks. They broke out through a damaged gate, raced across the vegetable field, and fled into the peat bogs. Making their way across Poland they were arrested by a forester. Using their new false names (Glazar becoming Rudolf Maserek, and Unger becoming Vladimir Frysak), they were able to convince their captors that they were Czechs working for the Organisation Todt in Poland, and had been attacked by partisans. They were both sent to Germany to work for Heinrich Lanz in Mannheim
Song lyrics from “A Quiet Night” by Hirsh Glik from the Partisans of Vilna CD. The first act of sabotage against the Nazis in the Vilna region was the mining of a train in July, 1943. This extraordinary feat was accomplished by a trio from the FPO (Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye – United Partisan Organization): a girl (Vitka Kempner) and two boys (Itske Mackiewicz and Moyshe Brause). Hirsh Glik based his song on this episode, though the references to frost and snow were his embellishments. He was deported from the Vilna Ghetto to a work camp in Estonia, where he was active in the resistance. He perished in 1943. “A Quiet Night”
Silence, the night is all be-starred
And the frost burned strong.
Do you remember when I
To hold a machine-gun in
A lass, a fur jacked and a beret,
Holding a pistol tight in her hand.
A lass with a velvet face
Watches over the enemy’s caravan.
Aimed, fired and – hit,
With her dear little pistol.
She stopped a car – a nice
one full of arms –
With one bullet.
At daybreak, she crawled
out of the woods
With snow-garlands on her hair.
Encouraged by the precious
For our new, free generation.
Account of Emanuel Ringelblum’s milk cans used to collect archives on the ghetto.
Emanuel Ringelblum was born in Buczacz, Poland (now Ukraine) in 1900. He earned a doctorate in history at the University of Warsaw in 1927. From a young age, Ringelblum belonged to the Po'alei Zion and was active in public affairs. For a while he taught high school and subsequently commenced working for the Joint Distribution Committee in Poland. In November 1938 the JDC sent him to the border town of Zbaszyn, where 6,000 Jewish refugees from Germany were gathered. These people had been forced out of Germany and not allowed into Poland. Ringelblum spent 5 weeks in Zbaszyn as the person in charge of the refugees and his experiences there had a great impact on him.
After the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, Ringelblum continued working for the JDC. He ran welfare programs and soup kitchens for the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto. He instituted House Committees, which attempted to deal with the growing deprivation within the ghetto. Along with his friend Menahem Linder, Ringelblum also founded a society for the advancement of Yiddish culture (Yidishe Kultur Organizatsye) in the ghetto.
In 1923, several Jewish historians in Poland had formed a historical society, with Ringelblum as one of its leaders and prominent scholars. The group was eventually associated with the Institute for Jewish Research (Yidisher Visenshaftlikher Institut, YIVO). Ringelblum was one of the editors of the society's publications, and by 1939, he himself had published 126 scholarly articles. His efforts within that group were just a preview of what he would later accomplish in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Within the first few months of the war, Ringelblum launched his greatest feat: the secret Oneg Shabbat Archive. The name means "Sabbath pleasure," and usually refers to cultural gatherings taking place on Sabbath. Thus, Ringelblum's archive was aptly named because its members met in secret on Saturday afternoons. Initially, the archivists would collect reports and testimonies by Jews who had come to the ghetto to seek help from the self aid organizations.
Ringelblum would collect information during the day, and write notes at night. He knew that what was happening to the Jews was unprecedented, and he was determined to record a complete description of the time and place for future historians. He and his colleagues collected data and wrote articles about towns, villages, the ghetto, and the resistance movement. They also documented the deportation and extermination of Polish Jewry. Near the end of the ghetto's existence, the archivists sent every bit of information they had about the murders, to the Polish underground, which in turn smuggled it out of the country. Thus, Ringelblum helped expose the Nazis' atrocities.
The Oneg Shabbat materials were preserved in three milk cans. One of the sites was uncovered in 1946 and a second in 1950; the other has yet to be located. The archive materials and Ringelblum's own written chronicles constitute the most comprehensive and valuable source of information we have, concerning the Jews in German-occupied Poland and the significance of the events taking place.
In March 1943, Ringelblum and his family escaped the ghetto and went into hiding in the non-Jewish area of Warsaw. During Passover of that year, he returned to the ghetto, which was in the midst of an uprising. He was deported to the Trawniki labor camp, but escaped with the help of a Polish man and Jewish woman. He went back into hiding with his family, however, in March 1944 their hideout was discovered. Soon after, Ringelblum, his family, and the other Jews he had been hiding with were taken to the ruins of the ghetto and murdered.
Source: USHMM Photo Archives: One of the two milk cans in which portions of the Ringelblum Oneg Shabbat archives were hidden and buried in the Warsaw ghetto. The milk cans are currently in the possession of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. [Photograph #27086]
In January of that year, SS chief Heinrich Himmler had ordered further deportations, but Jewish resistance impeded that effort. Aware that they would meet determined resistance, the Germans regrouped and returned on Monday, April 19, the eve of Passover, to finish the job. What ensued was, in Gutman's words, "the first urban uprising in German-occupied Europe, and, among the Jewish uprisings, the one that lasted the longest, from April 19 to May 16, 1943."
The poorly armed Jewish fighters, who also lacked military training and battle experience, were outnumbered three-to-one by Nazi forces, who had tanks and cannons. The Jews' "arsenal" consisted mainly of pistols, Molotov cocktails, and a few rifles, which had been smuggled into the ghetto or looted from Germans who were ambushed in January's resistance. Using hit-and-run tactics and taking advantage of bunker hiding places, the Jewish fighters kept the Nazis off balance during the uprising's early days. However, the Germans retaliated by burning the ghetto, building by building. Even then, Jewish resistance continued--doomed though it was. Not until May 8 did the Germans destroy the Jewish Fighting Organization's headquarters bunker at 18 Mila Street, a struggle in which Mordecai Anielewicz, the organization's commander, perished.
Photo of Jewish families surrendering to the SS during the suppression of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The original German caption reads: “Smoking out the Jews and bandits.” Photo from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum photo archives #50992
Account from Valentina, Rwandan survivor “There was so much noise,” Placide (Valentina’s classmate) recalled. “People were begging for mercy and you could hear the militia saying ‘Catch them, catch them, don’t let them get away.”
Valentina and Placide hid among the bodies pretending to be dead. Valentina had been struck on the head and hands with a machete and was bleeding heavily. Following her child’s instinct, she crawled to her mother’s body and lay there. During the killing she had seen the militia murder her father and her 16 year old brother, Frodise.
After several days Valentina crawled to the room where there were the fewest bodies. For the next 43 days she lived among the rotting corpses, too weak to stand up and convinced the world had come to an end.
Account by Simeon Karamaga, survivor of the Rwanda genocide in 1994. He fought in the resistance at Bisesero, but lost his wife and eight children in the genocide. Many Tutsis came to Bisesero from other regions because they thought that the area was safe. Everyone that the military would be unable to attack Bisesero area because we were warriors, and we had defended ourselves so ably in the past. However, this time was different. The militia attacked us at the very beginning of the genocide.
The militiamen launched their attack on Gishyita on Friday and Sunday. We were still in our homes. We could hear our neighbor call for help that people were dying. We then decided that whoever tries to kill us, we will kill them first. Otherwise, there was no hope of survival, as we were surrounded. It was the militia that were doing the killing, but our neighbors were still frightened of us. They began to mix with the soldiers.
We fought back, but were increasingly forced into a corner. That morning we took our clubs, machetes, and spears, and tried to drive back the attack that the militiamen had launched on us. We succeeded, but only after having lost nine of our people. This was because the militia had such an advantage, being armed with guns. But despite this, they ran away.
I came home for Easter holiday in April 1994, and three days later the president was killed. The government blamed the Tutsi for the assassination, and they gave orders to murder every Tutsi in the country, from babies to elders. It was an excuse. The genocide had been planned for a very a long time, and the death of the president was just a pretext to start the killings.
The government had lists of people they wanted to kill, and the whole country descended into madness. My parents were worried about me and sent me to hide at a neighbor's house, who was a member of the other tribe in Rwanda, the Hutu. They hoped that we would see each other again when the violence had died down in three or four days. The man hid me and seven other women in a small bathroom. We ended up spending three months in this small 3-by-4-foot bathroom.
During those three months, the house was constantly searched by Hutus. They were looking for Tutsis so they could kill them. It was agonizing. We were waiting to die every single day. I prayed and prayed to God to save us. If they didn't find us, it would be by his grace. After three months, the genocide was over and a million people had been killed, including my parents, my two brothers, my grandparents and many other family members and neighbors. It felt like the end of the world to me. It was unreal, and not easy to accept. I still cry to this day, but I have accepted it.
Excerpt by Paul Rusesabagina from his autobiography, An Ordinary Man. My name is Paul Rusesabagina. I am a hotel manager. In April 1994, when a wave of mass murder broke out in my country, I was able to hide 1,268 people inside the hotel where I worked.
When the militia and the Army came with orders to kill my guests, I took them into my office, treated them like friends, offered them beer and cognac, and then persuaded them to neglect their task that day. And when they came back, I poured more drinks and kept telling them they should leave in peace once again. It went on like this for seventy-six days. I was not particularly eloquent in these conversations. They were no different from the words I would have used in saner times to order a shipment of pillowcases, for example, or tell the shuttle van driver to pick up a guest at the airport. I still don’t understand why those men in the militias didn’t just put a bullet in my head and execute every last person in the rooms upstairs but they didn’t. None of the refugees in my hotel were killed. Nobody was beaten. Nobody was taken away and made to disappear. People were being hacked to death with machetes all over Rwanda, but that five-story building became a refuge for anyone who could make it to our doors. The hotel could offer only an illusion of safety, but for whatever reason, the illusion prevailed and I survived to tell the story, along with those I sheltered. There was nothing particularly heroic about it. My only pride in the matter is that I stayed at my post and continued to do my job as manager when all other aspects of decent life vanished. I kept the Hotel Mille Collines open, even as the nation descended into chaos and eight hundred thousand people were butchered by their friends, neighbors, and countrymen.
It happened because of racial hatred. Most of the people hiding in my hotel were Tutsis, descendants of what had once been the ruling class of Rwanda. The people who wanted to kill them were mostly Hutus, who were traditionally farmers. The usual stereotype is that Tutsis are tall and thin with delicate noses, and Hutus are short and stocky with wider noses, but most people in Rwanda fit neither description. This divide is mostly artificial, a leftover from history, but people take it very seriously, and the two groups have been living uneasily alongside each other for more than five hundred years.
. . . And this is what I want to tell you: Words are the most effective weapons of death in man’s arsenal. But they can also be powerful tools of life. They may be the only ones.
Today I am convinced that the only thing that saved those 1,268 people in my hotel was words. Not the liquor, not money, not the UN. Just ordinary words directed against the darkness. They are so important. I used words in many ways during the genocide—to plead, intimidate, coax, cajole, and negotiate. I was slippery and evasive when I needed to be. I acted friendly toward despicable people. I put cartons of champagne into their car trunks. I flattered them shamelessly. I said whatever I thought it would take to keep the people in my hotel from being killed. I had no cause to advance, no ideology to promote beyond that one simple goal. Those words were my connection to a saner world, to life as it ought to be lived.