In the face of Nazi terror, many Jews resisted the Germans and their collaborators. Underground resistance movements developed in over 100 ghettos in Nazi-occupied eastern Europe. Further, under the most adverse conditions, Jewish prisoners succeeded in initiating uprisings in some of the Nazi camps. Jewish partisan units operated in France, Belgium, the Ukraine, Belorussia, Lithuania, and Poland. Jews also fought in general French, Italian, Yugoslav, Greek, and Soviet resistance organizations. While organized armed resistance was the most direct form of opposition to the Nazis, resistance also included escape, hiding, cultural activity, and other acts of spiritual preservation.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Even at the height of the German domination of Europe, many Jews risked their lives to resist Nazi oppression.
In ghettos throughout Nazi-occupied Europe, Jews defied the indignity and dehumanization of Nazi terror through spiritual resistance and attempts to preserve their communal and cultural life.
They held clandestine religious services, established schools and libraries, and maintained cultural traditions through secret publications, lectures, and performances.
Secret archives of art and written documentation recorded conditions in some of the ghettos.
Underground networks of forgers and smugglers supplied life-saving official documents and food to people in ghettos and in hiding throughout Europe.
Organized armed resistance, though, was the most direct form of Jewish opposition to the Nazis.
In western Europe, Jewish partisans smuggled endangered people to safety and aided those in hiding.
They also joined non-Jewish resistance units and sabotaged German military operations.
Despite minimal support and even hostility from local populations, armed resistance units also formed in more than 100 ghettos.
In April 1943, the Jews of Warsaw, outgunned and outnumbered, launched the largest ghetto uprising. After almost a month, the Germans suppressed the uprising.
Jews fought the Germans both in the ghettos and behind the front lines in nearby forests.
In many cases, resistance members also joined partisan units outside the ghettos of eastern Europe.
Prisoner revolts even took place in Nazi camps, including 1943-1944 uprisings in the Treblinka, Sobibor, and Auschwitz-Birkenau killing centers.
The spirit of these and other efforts transcends their inability to halt the genocidal policies of the Nazis.