Friday, 27 January 2017

Yankie Gun Nuts and the Myth of the Passive Victim

I started writing this many moons ago and ran out of steam, but today is Holocaust Memorial day and recent events have made me rather annoyed so I decided to dust it off. 

A prominent spokesmen for the National Rifle Association and known for bigoted rhetoric shockingly has issues with the Jews. I am of course talking about Ted Nugent. Ted isn't one of those right wing pundits whose particularly known in Britain like Glenn Beck who got clips shown on television, or Alex Jones who managed to cadge an interview. But I'm familiar with him, I discovered him wayback when I was still in school doing a project on Gun rights groups. As a result my ears prick up whenever I hear the name.

Apparently Ted's comments about Jew's have landed him in hot water, for me the standout is this facebook meme and commentary calling Holocaust victims "soul less sheep".

She shouldn't really surprise anyone, antisemitism is a pernicious strain of bigotry that pops up in many places but often finds fertile soil mixed in with other ugly ideas. So I'm not really going to talk about Ted any further. I mean what's the point? He's not being ambiguous even if he denies it. No instead I'd like to turn lemons into lemonade here by using this opportunity to tackle the bigger issue, namely the idea that Jews (and the other groups mark for Nazi persecution, exploitation and extermination) submitted meekly to their fate.

I think its important to do this not just for accuracy sake, but because its become a rather nasty blank in many anti semitic platforms. Some use the supposed passivity to deny the Holocaust itself, they point to the supposed absurdity of millions of people just meekly going to their deaths as a means to paint the whole operation as absurd by proxy. Others still use this to try and cement their argument that the Holocaust was part of a fiendish ploy by the Jews to gain the sympathy of the world. And some bring this up for reasons I can't even fathom.

Not only are these arguments repugnant they are also dishonest, I am going to list a series of acts of resistance taken by Jews against the Nazi regime in Germany from 1933-1945. It is important to note that this is not a complete list, merely the acts I am familiar with.

Violent Resistance 

1943  Warsaw Ghetto uprising (not to be confused with the Warsaw uprising of 1944)

This one's rather famous, though people have a tendency to confuse it with the uprising of Warsaw in 1944. 

The uprising involved several resistance groups, most well known was the Jewish Fighting Organisation or Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (ZOB). The fighting lasted for about a month and around 300 German soldiers were killed or wounded. In addition a system of bunkers and tunnels constructed by the resistance forced the German army to level much of the ghetto entirely. They razed the streets because the resistance was so determined. A group of around seven hundred and fifty armed with smuggled guns and blackmarket ammunition managed to stall the most efficient and brutal war machine on the planet for twenty seven days.


Treblinka was an extermination camp, its sole purpose for existing was the murder of those who went there.  On the second of August 1943 inmates staged a revolt and mass break out.

A great commotion broke out. All the time people kept coming back and reported that they were beating them, and they would certainly reveal information – perhaps they had already done so – and if that was the case, there was nothing to lose, we should start right away. But most of the people had been advised that the revolt was to begin at four. However, as I ascertained - we were told this afterwards, Rudek fired at the SS man who was beating these two young men, and subsequently a grenade was thrown.


Group photo of survivors of the revolt

Sobibor was another death camp whose prisoners formed an underground group to stage a revolt. The revolt happened in October 1943. They set fire to the camp, seized a number of fire arms from their guards and escaped into the countryside. Many were killed but some survived (around 47 at the end of WWII) and joined the Polish underground.

They devised a daring plan. SS officers would be lured into storehouses on the pretext that they were to be given new coats and boots. Once inside – aided by the bold efforts of Thomas (Tuvia) Blatt—they would be attacked by the prisoners and killed with axes and knives. Nazi weapons were to be seized, and at roll call the camp would be set ablaze. All prisoners would have a chance to bolt for freedom. Once outside Sobibór’s gates, they would all be on their own.
At 4:00 p.m. on October 14, 1943, the first SS soldier was killed with an axe. Ten more SS men were killed, as were several Ukrainian guards. Telephone wires and electricity lines were cut. Within an hour, the camp was burning, guns were aimed at the guard towers, and the first group of prisoners fled across the German mine fields surrounding the facility.
By dusk more than half the prisoners—about 300 people—had escaped. Most were killed by their Nazi pursuers or died crossing the minefields. After the revolt, some joined partisan units; others found shelter among sympathetic Poles. It is estimated that just 50 of the escapees survived the war.
After the uprising, the Germans destroyed all traces of Sobibór. By the end of 1943, the death camp was plowed under and crops were planted to cover the place, where, between March 1942 and October 1943, at least 167,000 people were killed. Virtually all of the victims were Jews.

Auschwitz is well known its probably the most  famous camp network in the Holocaust program. Less well known is that even there the prisoners managed to resist the Nazi regime. A group of Sonderkommando and Soviet POW's had been stockpile explosives and other tools for awhile before starting their revolt on the 7th of October 1944.

Then Chaim Neuhof, a Jew from Sosnowice, who had been a member of the Sonderkommando since 1942, approached SS Staff Sergeant Busch and after a brief exchange, yelled the password “Hurrah” and struck the SS man with a hammer.

"They showed an immense courage refusing to budge from the spot. They set up a loud shout, hurled themselves upon the guards with hammers and axes, wounded some of them, the rest they beat with what they could get at, they pelted them with stones without further ado.

It is easy to imagine what was the upshot of this. Few moments had passed when a whole detachment of SS men drove in, armed with machine guns and grenades. There were so many of them that each had two machine guns for one prisoner. Even such an army was mobilised against them.”
 In addition to wounding the SS guards they used their smuggled explosives to blow up Crematorium IV, some managed to cut the wire and escape into the woods. Another group of Sonderkommando also revolted and managed to break out before SS reinforcements could lock down the camp. Unfortunately both groups of escapees were hunted down though we know that atleast three SS guards were killed and a dozen wounded. The three casualties:
  • Rudolf Erler – SS Corporal born on 31 August 1904 – 5th SS Stormtroopers
  • Willi Preeze – SS Corporal born on 30 September 1921 – 2nd SS Stormtroopers
  • Jozef Purke – SS Corporal born on 28 February 1903 – 1st SS Stormtroopers

  • Partisans

    Bielski partisans. The group of escaped Jews in western Belarus that grew into a safe haven and partisan army based in the Naliboki forest has become quite famous due to Defiance the film starring Daniel Craig. At its peak the community held over 1,200 Jewish individuals and the group was active in fighting the German military and its auxiliaries. The Bielski's became such a thorn that the German military offered a reward of 100,000 Reichmarks for information leading to Tuvia Bielski’s capture. And the group started receiving weapons from the Soviet military in 1944.

    Some of the fighters in Bielski's group

    The Baum Group

    On the 18th of May 1942 a mostly Jewish group of resistors set fire to the "Soviet Paradise" display, an anticommunist and anti-Semitic propaganda display designed by Goebbels in Berlin.  In retaliation hundreds of Jewish Berliners were executed including members of the Baum group (named after their main leaders Herbert and Marianne Baum).

    The United Partisan Organisation

    The  Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye (FPO) was an alliance between Zionist and Communist Jewish militants in the Vilna ghetto of Lithuania. The FPO had established a small militia in the ghetto and was trying to incite the ghetto to revolt with them. However they were betrayed by the Judenrat (council put in charge of the ghettoes by the Nazis) and the camps leader the right win Jacob Gens. Both Gens and the Judenrat feared that resistance would mean immediate liquidation of the ghetto. Of course the liquidation happened anyway in 1943 with the FPO unable to mount a serious defence they retreated into the woods.

    The FPO did however remain active and was able to link up with Soviet Partisans. Members of the FPO took part in the liberation of Vilna in July 1944.

    The Jewish Brigade

    In 1944 the British army established a force of 5,000 Jews from the mandate of Palestine. The Brigade fought in the Italian campaign. The Brigade fought on the frontlines of the Spring offensive of 1945. The Brigade also fought against the German 4th Parachute division sucessfully crossing the Senio river, and established beachead. After the operations in Northern Italy the brigade was stationed in Tarvisio on the border with Yugoslavia and Austria. There the Brigade searched for holocaust survivors and gave them much needed aid.

    Overall, in the course of World War II, the Jewish Brigade's casualties were 83 killed in action or died of wounds and 200 wounded.  Another 78 of the brigade's soldiers were mentioned in dispatches, and 20 received military decorations (7 Military Medals, 7 Order of the British Empire medals, 4 Military Crosses, and 2 US awards).

    This is just a small sample of the Jewish militants who took up arms to fight against the Nazi regime, it is not comprehensive, not every group or significant action is mentioned and it doesn't include the thousands of Jews in the ranks of the Allied armies or general resistance movement. Nevertheless this should be enough to put to rest the myth of passivity in the Holocaust.

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