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< Echoes of Memory

Jews Against the Nazis

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By George Salamon

I was always shocked and disturbed when I heard that there were millions killed during the Holocaust without a fight.

I learned that the Jews did not know for a long time what was happening. The Nazis were very good at lying and misleading people. Jews were told they were being sent somewhere to work and were instructed to bring a certain amount of luggage. No wonder those poor people had no idea that many of them could be dead very soon, and many of them were. 

Later, when Jews learned about these crimes, they did not believe it. How could they? How could they think that people can do such horrific things?

In the same way, how could Jewish men know that when they were taken out of Hungary in forced labor battalions to help the army, some leaders of the battalions had the idea not only to make them work, but to kill them? Unfortunately, my father was among those who were killed. I learned from my mother’s notes that he wanted to escape but got sick and had no opportunity. Of the 100 people in the battalion, only eight came back alive. The two leaders of the battalion were hanged after the war as war criminals.

When I visited Auschwitz, I was shocked not just by what I saw, but by how easy it was to kill millions of people with rather simple methods.

It is well known that the Jews were victims of Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, but it is less known that there were a substantial number of Jews who fought the Germans. Here are some examples. According to Yad Vashem’s website, approximately 1.5 million Jews fought in the Allied forces. About 500,000 Jews served in the Soviet Red Army and 550,000 in the US Armed Forces. Many of them received military awards from these armies. The commander of the Soviet battalion that liberated Auschwitz was a Jew. Many Jews also served in the Canadian and Polish armies.When I visited Normandy, France, I saw many tombstones with the Star of David along with the crosses in the military cemetery.

There was a Jewish brigade from Palestine in the British army. It fought the Germans on different fronts of Europe. Later they played a key role in the establishment and protection of Israel. There were Jewish partisans in Eastern Europe and also in such countries as France,  Belgium, Greece, Italy, and Yugoslavia. The movie Defiance took place in the forest of Belarus. It was based on the Jewish Bielski brothers who established a partisan brigade. They fought the Germans and saved many lives.

Jews were actively participating in the French resistance. Some were in London with the head of the resistance General De Gaulle. Jews also established resistance newspapers.

There was armed resistance in at least 50 ghettos and two killing centers. The most famous was the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto. The Jewish fighters were no match for the German army, but in spite of their small numbers and limited weaponry, they kept the Germans at bay for nearly a month.

I am proud of those heroes who made an impact on the war and helped to defeat Nazi Germany.

Tags:   george salamonechoes of memory, volume 13

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