At the close of my review of the late David Cesarani’s Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews, 1933–1949, I remarked that “the Holocaust,” as a cultural concept, had performed one of the greatest vanishing acts in history — the disappearance of the Jews as active participants during World War II.Faced with an almost blanket portrayal of Jewish victimhood and passivity during the period, I commented: “Examining the thousands upon thousands of histories of World War II, one would get the impression that there was not only one war, but also only one aggressor. Quite how and why “the Jews” leave the historical stage as belligerents in 1939, when the preceding six years had witnessed them engaging in international propaganda wars, political maneuvering, and targeted assassinations in several European countries, has been surprisingly overlooked.” Benjamin Ginsberg’s relatively short but efficient work, How the Jews Defeated Hitler (2013, First Paperback 2016), may be considered a significant exception to this overwhelming omission, offering an argument that Jews played “a major role in the defeat of Nazi Germany.”
In the introduction to his text, Ginsberg, a Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University, outlines the structure of his argument along with his definition of Jewish resistance to the advance of National Socialism in Europe. Ginsberg’s definition of Jewish resistance is important because it differs significantly, in terms of its discursive parameters, from those generally employed in Holocaust historiography and its offshoots. For those interested in a more detailed exploration of the issue of Jewish resistance during World War II, as a subject of historiographical debate, The Holocaust in History by Michael R. Marrus (Penguin, 1989) and Histories of the Holocaust by Dan Stone (Oxford University Press, 2010) are perhaps the best and most succinct introductions to the most pertinent themes. However, in brief, historiographical argument prior to the 2010s was limited to two strands of thought, each biased and deeply flawed. The first strand of ‘resistance’ historiography was the negation of the idea of Jewish resistance. This involved lachrymose assertions that Jews offered no opposition to an unprovoked and irrational German hostility, and were led to sensationalized forms of mass murder like ‘lambs to the slaughter.’ A prime example within this strand is Martin Gilbert’s The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy (Harper Collins, 1986), and is also strongly associated with Raul Hilberg’s assessment that “the reaction pattern of the Jews is characterised by almost complete lack of resistance.” This first strand of argument was particularly popular in the diaspora, and in the United States and Great Britain in particular. The Holocaust developed as a cultural trope in these countries in tandem with the development of this lachrymose strand of historiography.
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Reproduced from The Occidental Observer