Jewish Resistance and the Holocaust

From armed confrontation to religious defiance, Jews fought back against the perpetrators of the Holocaust.

Poster featuring two women in uniform, one of whom is wearing a mask, in front of a flag, and Hebrew writing along the top and bottom. Dobkin Family Collection of Feminism.

Curated by Deborah Dash Moore and Noam Pianko

Weapons, Written Words, and Religious Defiance

During the Holocaust, Jews resisted with weapons, paper, pen, archives, schools, smuggling, and a variety of other brave efforts to demonstrate human dignity in the face of annihilation. These sources highlight several forms of resistance, from Abba Kovner’s call to armed confrontation, to written documentation from the prison cell diary of Gusta Dawidsohn-Draenger, to the defiant Warsaw ghetto sermons of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira.

HolY fire

The Holy Fire

The Holy Fire, one of the greatest examples of religious resistance in the Warsaw ghetto, explores a theological explanation for Jewish suffering during the Holocaust.
Vilna Ghetto

Justyna’s Diary

While imprisoned by the Nazis and awaiting her death, Gusta Dawidsohn-Draenger recalls her last supper with other resistance leaders in the Vilna ghetto.
Jewish Partisan Monumnet
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Never Say

Inspired by the Warsaw ghetto uprising, this hymn became the anthem of the Vilna partisan fighters and many other Jewish efforts to resist the Nazis.
Abba Kovner
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Call to Arms

Vilna ghetto partisan leader Abba Kovner publicly predicted the Final Solution weeks before the Wannsee conference finalized the Nazis’ plans to systematically murder millions of Jews.
Warsaw Ghetto German Soldiers lead family away for deportation
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Yizkor, 1943

An elegy to the Jews deported from the Warsaw ghetto from a Jew hiding on the “Aryan” side of the city.

Non omnis moriar

“Even if you kill us, we will leave traces,” insists the poet. Poems such as this one affirm the power of humanity even in the midst of atrocities committed by neighbors.

Post-Holocaust Resistance

Resistance against Nazi efforts to exterminate millions of Jews did not end with the defeat of Germany at the end of World War II. Survivors and postwar Jewish leaders concerned about the endurance of antisemitism and the changing historical narrative of the Holocaust continued to grapple with the internal and collective reverberations of genocide. The legacy of resistance surfaces in debates about whether to bring children into the world, how to respond to Holocaust denial, and efforts to expand Holocaust narratives to underscore the particular plight of women.

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