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Jewish Reaction Patterns

The “Jewish reaction patterns” to a threat have taken five forms: armed resistance, alleviation, evasion, paralysis, and compliance. During the Holocaust, all five were a response to various incidents at various times. Jews, under duress, assisted the Nazi terror by becoming Kapos or by serving on Judenrat. Many Jews did not resist the “Final Solution,” but many others did, and that resistance took many forms. There were many examples of armed and spiritual resistance in the death camps and ghettos which refute the myth that all the Jews walked to the gas chambers “like sheep to the slaughter.” Though the majority of European peoples and nations can be faulted with inactivity, and even at times collaboration with the Nazis, there are many documented reports of the efforts made by individual non-Jews and whole nations who took great risks to save Jewish lives.

Jewish Reactions

Historian Raoul Hilberg has stated that the “Jewish reaction pattern” to a threat has taken five forms:

1. Armed Resistance: This includes violent, confrontational challenges to persecution.

2. Alleviation: All those activities which are designed to avert danger, or, in the event that force has already been used, to diminish its effects. (Examples: petitions, protection payments, and ransom arrangements).

3. Evasion: Jews have placed less hope, less expectation, less reliance, upon the devices of evasion flight, concealment, and hiding. The Jewish tendency has been not to run from, but to survive with, anti-Jewish regimes. Jews have rarely run from a pogrom. Jews have migrated chiefly for two reasons: expulsion and economic depression.

4. Paralysis: This is the inability to respond at all. Paralysis occurs when the obstacles to resistance, to alleviation attempts, and to evasion are just as formidable as the difficulties of cooperation.

5. Compliance: This is the acceptance of requirements of the authority in order to avoid sanctions or penalties. To the Jews, compliance with anti-Jewish laws or orders has always been equivalent to survival.

History is replete with examples of Jews resisting domination by other nations. The Bible details many of these examples. Jewish rebellions to the Roman Empire occurred frequently.

During the Middle Ages, Jews resisted the persecutions against them in Spain, France, Germany and Russia. They organized self-defense units to fight off attacks of the Russian pogroms. The Jews of Palestine fought along with the British forces in World War I. Today, the Israeli army is perhaps the best-trained, most disciplined, and most highly-successful military force in history, for its size.

Source: The Holocaust—A Guide for Teachers. Copyright 1990 by Gary M. Grobman. All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form, or by any means, mechanical or electronic, or by any information storage and retrieval system or other method, for any use, without the written permission of Gary M. Grobman, except that use, copying, and distribution of the information in this electronic version of this book is permitted provided that no fees or compensation is charged for use, copies, or access to such information and the copyright notice is included intact.