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Defiance and Rebellion during the Holocaust: Marking 70 Years since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Shalom and welcome to the 30th issue of Teaching the Legacy. This e-newsletter focuses on defiance and rebellion during the Holocaust.

When researching the ghettos and camps during the Holocaust, we begin to understand that there was always some form of Jewish protest or resistance to the German oppression. From escape to hiding, from mutual help efforts to educational and creative activities, from spiritual to armed resistance – all these acts embodied the relentless struggle of Jewish individuals and communities to counteract the restrictions and dangers raining down upon them. Resistance of various kinds took also place at forced labor camps, concentration camps, and extermination camps.

Because this year marks 70 years since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, we have chosen to focus on resistance in Warsaw and in certain other large ghettos. The main article of the newsletter is about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which has become a universal symbol of heroic resistance. The newsletter includes articles about the dilemmas of armed resistance in general, and about resistance in the Krakow and Bialystok ghettos. The newsletter also includes articles enabling interdisciplinary approaches regarding resistance such as poetry, art and film. We also feature an interview with Shulamit Imber, the pedagogical director of the International School for Holocaust Studies, who describes the changing approach to what we define as "resistance", and an interview with Simha Rotem, a survivor and fighter of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The newsletter contains a book review, an artifact, and a featured story of a Righteous Among the Nations.

As always, the newsletter features new publications and updates on recent and upcoming activities at the International School for Holocaust Studies and across Yad Vashem. We hope you find this issue interesting and resourceful and we look forward to your feedback.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

We stand now seventy years after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. This uprising was born out of the severe oppression suffered by Jews in the ghetto under German occupation. At the same time, the mere fact of its occurrence shattered the limits of the imagination.The situation in Warsaw, the largest ghetto in Europe, was completely different from the situation in any other ghetto. Warsaw was the city with the largest Jewish population in prewar Europe; the number of Jews living in the city was rivaled in the rest of the world only by New York. At its height, almost half a million Jews were imprisoned...
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Jewish Resistance and Uprisings

Jewish Resistance and Uprisings

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, film has evolved into the primary medium through which we learn about the world and through which we form our perceptions about personalities, places and events. The motion picture is a special and invaluable resource that conveys the impression of immediacy and authenticity for us. It takes the viewer inside a certain topic and creates the illusion of truth more than any other medium. It contains within it many other art forms. It carries over the image from photography, painting and other visual arts; it carries over the melody and harmony from music;...
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Armed Resistance in the Krakow and Bialystok Ghettos

Armed Resistance in the Krakow and Bialystok Ghettos

Although the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is the most celebrated act of armed resistance during the Holocaust, this article will focus on two lesser-known, but very important, acts of armed resistance: those in the ghettos of Krakow and Bialystok.Just as there was no uniformity among the German-created ghettos of Europe with respect to the degree of their isolation, their establishment, their physical circumstances, and other facets of ghetto life, there was no uniformity among the ghettos with respect to armed resistance. While in Warsaw and in other ghettos resistance occurred inside...
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Baruch Shub- The Holocaust in Vilna

Armed Resistance in the Ghettos: The Dilemma of Revolt

The dire circumstances of life in the ghettos forced the ghetto residents to struggle for survival on a daily basis. Thousands died of hunger, cold, disease and overcrowding. Physical survival was the primary battle of the ghetto residents. Engaging in armed resistance was a different, and much more difficult, type of battle. Most ghetto residents, including infants, children, the elderly and the sick, had neither the will nor the strength required for armed resistance. Those who did attempt to engage in armed resistance had to find within themselves the extra determination, resolve and physical...
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Czeslaw Milosz

Two Poets and a Dividing Wall

Two poets on opposite sides of one great divide,
With angles of vision that must surely collide,
Who will live and who will die
Who will write and who will be denied?This article will focus on two famous poets who, after the German occupation of Warsaw, found themselves on separate sides of the wall dividing the Jewish ghetto from the Aryan part of the city.1 Wladislaw Szlengel, a Jewish writer, became one of the best-known Jewish poets during the difficult days of the ghetto’s existence. Czeslaw Milosz, born in Lithuania in 1911, was a young Polish poet who published...
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Rapoport's Memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – a Personal Interpretation

Rapoport's Memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – a Personal Interpretation

Bravery. Sacrifice. Towering heroism. These are the lofty words that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising memorial elicits from those who view it, either in Warsaw or at Yad Vashem. The work is a monumental tribute to the bravery and spirit of the Jewish ghetto fighters who audaciously and against all odds stood up to the Nazis in April and May 1943, in an unprecedented uprising.The memorial, created by Nathan Rapoport1 in 1948, and originally erected amidst the ruins of the Warsaw ghetto, is a product of its time: from the enormous chasm of postwar loss and chaos, from the shock and mourning of those...
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Interview with Shulamit Imber, Pedagogical Director of the International School for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem

Interview with Shulamit Imber, Pedagogical Director of the International School for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem

How would you say that our understanding of what constitutes resistance has changed over time?I would say that in the past there was a debate about what we call resistance. There were many years when the Israeli society focused on armed resistance; it was something with which the society could more easily identify. The gap between the Diaspora and Israeli society led to a kind of thinking that the fighters were the group that Israelis could identify themselves with. When I was young we talked a lot about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. And at that time when you talked about the uprising, you only focused...
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Conversations with Simha ("Kazik") Rotem, a member of the Jewish Fighting Organization who fought against the Germans in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Conversations with Simha ("Kazik") Rotem, a member of the Jewish Fighting Organization who fought against the Germans in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Simha Rotem (Ratheiser), known as "Kazik," was born in 1924 in Warsaw, Poland. He was the eldest of four children in the family. When Kazik was twelve, he joined a Zionist Youth Movement called "Hanoar Hazioni". When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, Kazik lost his brother Israel and an additional five family members with the destruction of their house in German aerial bombing. Kazik himself was injured in the attack. Shortly after the Jews were imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto, Kazik’s parents sent him to family relatives in a village called Klwów, near...
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Righteous Among the Nations: Anton Schmid

Righteous Among the Nations: Anton Schmid

This segment spotlights unique individuals who risked their lives in order to save Jews during the Holocaust. Here you can read the story of the Austrian soldier Anton Schmid who saved many Jews....
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A hollow wooden duck that was used to smuggle documents. The toy was used by Judith Geller in the course of her activities in the French Resistance, in her guise as a social worker visiting children

Wooden Duck Used by the French Underground for Smuggling Documents

In the course of her activities in the French underground, Judith Geller (or as she was known by her pseudonym - Jacqueline Gauthier) received a hollow toy duck containing hidden documents. The duck was added to a collection of toys used by Judith under her assumed identity as a children’s social worker. The duck was made by “Kor” who brought people from Holland to France, and was connected to both the French and Dutch undergrounds. Judith received the duck from him after she was arrested with a package of documents belonging to the underground that miraculously was not discovered...
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Justyna's Narrative - Gusta Davidson Draenger

Justyna's Narrative - Gusta Davidson Draenger

Justyna's Narrative
Gusta Davidson Draenger
University of Massachusette Press, Amherst 
144 pages“From this prison cell that we will never leave alive, we young fighters who are about to die salute you. We offer our lives willingly for our holy cause, asking only that our deeds be inscribed in the book of eternal memory. May the memories preserved on these scattered bits of paper be gathered together to compose a picture of our unwavering resolve in the face of death".1
…. "Justyna" – Gusta Davidson Draenger. January, 1943, Montelupich Prison...
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