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Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust Interviews

7. Resistance

Suffering as a form of resistance

Survivor Rabbi Manfred Swarsensky reflected on the argument that imprisoned Jews should have fought back more often

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"So, I say, yes, there must have been other Jews who resisted. But, unfortunately, the majority just couldn't help.

They were lined up in Auschwitz coming from the cattle cars and were assigned to the crematoria; the gas chambers, right away, right and left and left and right. Yes, they were lead to the slaughter like sheep. They were. But there was just nothing they could do.

They couldn't even take their own lives. They couldn't even do that. And again most Jews in concentration camps, at least they had a chance, they wouldn't do it because they had faith in mankind and in the future.

So, when somebody tells me this stuff I would say, 'Boy, how would you have reacted? What would you have done?'

It's easy to sit at a desk and write stories and tell people how should they behave.

Nothing in life becomes real until it becomes personal. If you go through this personally what would you do? Whom would you murder?

Well then, Mr. Bettelheim says, 'This poor little Frank family in Amsterdam they wanted to continue the lifestyle to which they have been accustomed, mainly to live together and stay together as a family.' He accuses them of that and said they should have separated, one here, one there and plus they should have, if somebody came and took a stick and hit them over the head [laughs]. This is childish!

I think I admire people who wanted to maintain a semblance of the life they had lived. There is strength in numbers and in the family and not splitting up.

Of course, they couldn't anticipate the sadistic tortures of the Nazis. Who could anticipate this? So I think it is just utter nonsense.

And it is really burns me up when I hear people talk that way. Yes, yes, as if the people who went through this they were cowards.

They were heroes, they were heroes in their way; heroes of suffering."

Swarsensky Interview, Tape 12, Side 1
Transcript page 190 (PDF, 846 KB)

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