After reading the two iconic books, “The Holocaust by Bullets” and “In Broad Daylight,” by Father Patrick Desbois, I have modified my views on the issue of the Holocaust. I used to believe that the Jews had put up insufficient resistance, and to some extent I still believe that. Yet, these massacres were so well-organized by the Germans with typical efficiency and so surprising to the victims that there was no way that any effective resistance could have been mounted. It would have taken many years prior to the advent of WWII for these Jews, living scattered as a minority throughout a huge area and under very repressive governments to have initiated a secret program of training and acquiring weapons to have mounted any kind of resistance. It was in fact impossible. The combination of German Nazi hatred and organization and Jewish defenselessness and fatalism was a lethal formula.
Yet, where there was a possibility of active resistance, as in the Warsaw Ghetto, and other ghettos, it did arise, Jews fought and sacrificed themselves rather than being simply murdered. As a source for this I refer to “Flags Over the Warsaw Ghetto” by Moshe Arens. It was clear that the acquiring of weapons, refused by the Polish National Army, was a limiting factor. An early narrative of Jewish resistance was “They Fought Back” by Yuri Suhl. And there was Jewish partisan resistance, as exemplified by the story of the Bielski brothers (see “The Bielski Brothers” by Peter Duffy and the movie “Defiance“). Also in Western Europe, Jews played a major role in the resistance, for example in France, Suhl (p.181-3) estimated that up to 20% of the members of the French resistance forces (the Maquis) were Jews, including many refugees from Eastern Europe. On the other hand an acquaintance of mine, Jerzy Lando, who wrote a memoir entitled “Saved by my Face,” because he was a blond Aryan-looking Polish Jew who spoke fluent German, told me, “if you think there could have been resistance, then you have no idea what it was really like.”
There is a supreme irony in the fact that the Holocaust, the murder of 6 million Jews out of the 11 million in Europe targeted for annihilation at the Wannsee Conference in Berlin in Jan 1942, gave such an impetus for the establishment of the State of Israel, as the sovereign homeland of the Jewish people. In reality, the basis for the Jewish State in the British Palestine Mandate, was well-established long before WWII. There were successive waves of Jewish immigration, that the British initially allowed under the terms of the Mandate. Also these Jews were Zionists who had come to establish their State, and the British were not going to deter them. So there was active anti-colonialist resistance to the British long before WWII and the Holocaust.
Further, David Ben Gurion declared a policy of supporting the British during the War and opposing them afterwards. As a result, many Palestinian Jews joined the British forces during WWII mostly in Egypt (while the Arabs mainly supported Germany), and eventually formed the Jewish Brigade. Although the British disbanded the Brigade after the War, these Jews had received valuable military training, which they used to help defeat the British forces in Palestine and then to form the IDF. The fact is that Jewish DP’s from Europe began arriving in Palestine only around 1948, by which time the die was cast, the British had decided to leave and the Jews were organized and able to defeat all the Arab armies. The role of the Holocaust in the establishment of the State of Israel was more of a psychological factor among Jews and a strong public opinion around the world against the British and Arab attempts to prevent Jewish self-determination. What a pity that this has now been turned around by the clever use of propaganda and PR by the losers.
One largely unremarked contribution of the Holocaust to the establishment of the State of Israel was that the annihilation of such a large proportion of the Jewish people (ca. one-third) removed a largely pious, religious and anti-Zionist element from the Jewish population. Also, the pre-war international “brotherhood” (communist and socialist) or religious arguments against Zionist aims to re-establish a modern Jewish State were untenable in the face of what had actually happened during the War. Anne Frank’s beautifully expressed liberal views, that have been used so effectively as propaganda by modern anti-Zionists, were written before she was denounced, arrested and brutally murdered without food, water or shelter in a Germans camp.