On April 11th, we hosted three local synagogues (Congregation KTI, Community Synagogue of Rye and Congregation Emanu-El of Westchester) in a communal Yom HaShoah commemoration program of music, film, readings, and prayer. Each year, our JCCH members — Minna Brown, Joseph Kaidanow and Daniel Weinreb — play a major role in planning for this commemoration. Our excellent program that evening was on the theme of Resistance during the Shoah, marking in particular the 75th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
While many of us are well-acquainted with the basic history of the Shoah, less is known of the heroic Jewish Resistance — which fought against over-whelming odds in the ghettos, camps and forests of Europe. This tenacious Resistance remains an inspiration not only for the Jewish people but for all those committed to the right of every human being to live in freedom, dignity and peace.
As we explored the topic of resistance during the years of the Shoah, we considered the widest range of what might be considered quote “Resistance.” Of course, physical resistance comes to mind first. There was armed resistance – in every country. Sometimes, it resulted in the loss of Nazi lives and untold damage to German property.
Additionally, Resistance took forms far beyond armed resistance. Resistance was also psychological – the preservation of Jewish culture, even in the ghettos. Resistance was also spiritual – continuing to live Jewish lives, despite extraordinary circumstances. Some Jews fasted on Pesach because they had no food that was kosher for Passover, even as this be-came a factor in a significant rise in mortality. Sabotage, also, as an act of resistance: The Jewish slave-tailors working for the Germans wished to do their part – they sent off a transport of military uniforms with buttons on backwards, pants sewed together, pockets upside down, sleeves reversed.
Mordechai Anilewicz, leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, 75 years ago – who died at age 24 – 24! – wrote, “It is impossible to put into words what
we have been through. What happened exceeded our boldest dreams. The Germans fled twice from the ghetto… My life’s dream has come true.
I have witnessed the glorious and heroic combat of the Jewish fighters… Whatever may happen to you, remember always: Don’t adjust! Revolt against the reality!”
May these strong, brave words of Mordechai Anilewicz continue to inspire us all as we honor the many acts of Resistance during the Shoah.