In Defiance: Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust

Although many early histories of the Holocaust portrayed Jews as passive victims, recent accounts have contributed to a more nuanced representation of Jews as active resisters.

Jewish resistance assumed many forms and took place at the various moments and settings of the Holocaust. As Nazi power expanded across Europe, Jews responded to changing circumstances. They participated in resistance activities in ghettos, in slave labour camps, and even in concentration and extermination camps.

In addition to armed resistance, Jews acted collectively and individually in a variety of ways. They attempted to survive and help others survive in the face of annihilation. They tried to perpetuate their culture in the face of attempted erasure and struggled to maintain their dignity in the face of dehumanization.

The significance of such acts of defiance must be considered against the obstacles that made resistance to the Nazis both difficult and dangerous. Given the conditions Jews faced, perhaps what is surprising is not how little resistance there was, but rather how much.
The five individuals profiled in this exhibit demonstrate the range of responses to Nazism and the many ways in which Jews sought to maintain their humanity.

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