The Yellow Star: The Persecution of the Jews in Europe, 1933-1945

By Gerhard Schoenberner | Go to book overview

RESISTANCE

The passive acceptance by Jewish people of their fate as they went to their death has often been admired. But if anything merits admiration, it is the indomitable will to live of the victims of persecution. Year after year, in their long heroic struggle, every day wrested from death and every crust of bread for their children represented a victory over the murderers who had already decreed their death.

Many of those who survived a raid by hiding, or who fled from the ghettos, escaped the firing squads, and jumped from the death trains, joined the partisans in the forests.

But even in the ghettos and camps themselves, they took up the struggle. In April 1943, the heroic Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against final extermination was a symbol of all-out courage and all-out sacrifice. The SS has left us an illustrated account.

After the large-scale deportations of summer 1942, a precarious calm fell upon the sparsely populated ghetto. Those remaining behind clung to any hope, however slim. The report that all those who had been deported—a whole city of people—had been killed seemed to them too insane to be believed. It was a long time before they finally grasped what was in store for them all, without exception.

In January 1943, when the deportations were resumed, the first armed outbreak took place. Himmler ordered the destruction of the ghetto. The Jewish Resistance Organization called on the condemned to fight. Secretly, during the night, deep trenches were dug in the ground. Primitive underground bunkers were feverishly constructed to serve as protection for the women and children against the manhunters.

On April 19, the SS stormtroopers broke into the ghetto. They encountered bitter resistance. The youths of the ghetto heroically stood up for the lives of their defenseless mothers, brothers, and sisters. Nearly weaponless, with despair lending them strength, they fought the SS for every street, every house, every cellar. The battle lasted for twenty-eight days and nights. For most, it ended in death.

All those who survived the fighting were transported to the gas chambers in Treblinka. Only a few escaped the burning caldron. But the uprising demonstrated to oppressors and oppressed alike that human dignity and self-respect cannot be completely extinguished even in the midst of brutality and murder. In the ghettos of Bialystok and Czenstochowa, the example of Warsaw was followed. Even in the death camps of Treblinka and Sobibor there were bloody uprisings; in Auschwitz-Birkenau courageous prisoners set fire to a crematorium.

The Jews were not alone in this struggle. In France, young people wore the yellow star as

-203-

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The Yellow Star: The Persecution of the Jews in Europe, 1933-1945
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Introduction xi
  • In Hitler’s Germany 1
  • Poland — ExperimeΝtal Field 33
  • In the Ghettos 55
  • Mass Executions 93
  • The Deportations 123
  • The Extermination Camps 159
  • Resistance 203
  • Liberation 227
  • Epilogue 263
  • Chronological Table 269
  • Military Ranks 280
  • Abbreviations 281
  • Sources 282
  • Bibliography 287
  • Resistance 290
  • Acknowledgments 291
  • The Yellow Star Project 293
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