Title

Fighting Jews : the myth of Jewish passivity in the early twentieth century.

Date of Award

5-1-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

School

Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Letters

Abstract

The Holocaust was one the most horrifying and important events in the long history of the Jewish people. Although the Torah teaches the Jews that it is a necessity for Jews to fight for their survival, it has been assumed by many that most Jews were "lambs to the slaughter" during the Holocaust. However, this work argues that this is a myth based in anti-Semitism and lost history. From the onset of war in 1914 to the end of the Holocaust in 1945, Jews continually fought for both their rightful place in society and their survival. From the battlefields to the ghettos to the death camps, many Jews fought in any way possible to them. This study describes this ongoing struggle and provides numerous examples of how and where Jews found it necessary to stand up to those who wished their demise. A case study used to strengthen my argument was of Sam Dreben, "The Fighting Jew," (and my great-great uncle). Sam is an excellent example of why Jews, as a whole, cannot be considered a "passive" people. It is easily demonstrated that Sam was anything but a pacifist, that he loved the fight, and he felt it was his calling in life. His fighting was not merely limited to battlefields but also continued on the home front against the scourge of racism and hatred in everyday life. In this paper, examples are provided from the Talmud and Torah that delineate when and why a Jew should fight. Furthermore, I analyze how thousands of Jews fought bravely and served with honor, on both sides, during the First World War, though Jews were blamed for the rise of Bolshevism and Communism after the war. I explore how scientific and governmental communities within Germany distorted science to justify their plan of Jewish annihilation; how this plan was openly discussed within the Nazi hierarchy; and implemented through ghettoization and death squads and camps in order to accomplish the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question." With eyewitness accounts and other historical reference, it is shown that in almost every ghetto and concentration camp, Jews resisted. Not every revolt was physically violent, and often consisted of large and small acts of sabotage, delay and moral resistance. It is quite clear from the evidence that the Jews of Occupied Europe never fully became "Lambs led to the Slaughter.".