Barbara Epstein

in The Minsk Ghetto 1941-1943

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9780520242425
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520931336 | DOI:

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The Warsaw ghetto uprising and strategy of internal revolt has been the golden standard of the Holocaust resistance. In much of the literature that delved into the Holocaust period, internal strategies by the ghettos formed the focus and core of these studies, leaving the story of the Minsk ghetto near oblivion. While experts are fully aware of the existence of an alternative strategy, the focus on the internal ghetto revolt was so overwhelmed that the memory of the Holocaust has come to mean internal ghetto revolts. This book has attempted to restore to memory the model of Holocaust resistance exemplified and carried out by the Minsk ghetto underground. The forest/partisan model of resistance was predicated on the view that Jews and non-Jews had a common interest in fighting Nazis, and it involved fostering such alliances. This form of resistance was not possible everywhere, but the fact that it was possible on a large scale in Minsk casts a different light on the Holocaust than do the accounts of the isolated Jews. This effort to bring the Minsk ghetto model of resistance back into memory raises two questions. First, why has the history of Holocaust resistance been so inclined toward the Warsaw ghetto model? Second, what difference does it make to include the alternative represented by the Minsk ghetto? Every political current within the ghetto resistance movements regarded armed struggle as far more important than saving lives. Of the many Byelorussian and Jewish women who worked to save lives, only a few took part in writing their memories and most gave sparse attention to the accounts of forest resistance. This gave the impression that saving human lives was important on a moral level yet, at the political level, it was their contributions to armed struggle that counted. At the beginning of the war, this attitude was understandable but as the war wore on, if it had not been for the view of Zionists, Communists, and others, saving the lives of the Jews trapped in ghettos might have been the higher priority.

Keywords: Warsaw ghetto; internal revolt; Holocaust resistance; Minsk ghetto; ghetto revolts; partisan model

Chapter.  4448 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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