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How Ordinary Jews Fought Persecution in Hitler's Germany

Wolf Gruner



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Yale University
01 November 2023
A highly original and compelling account of individual Jews who resisted Nazi persecution, challenging the traditional portrayal of Jewish passivity during the Holocaust


Drawing on twelve years of research in dozens of archives in Austria, Germany, Israel, and the United States, this book tells the story of five Jewish people—a merchant, a homemaker, a real estate broker, and two teenagers—who bravely resisted persecution and defended themselves in Nazi Germany. These stories have not been told until now, and each case is one of many, as Gruner shows by resurfacing similar accounts of Jewish refusal to accept persecution and violence in Germany and Austria between 1933 and 1943, upending the notion of passive Jews and expanding the concept of resistance.


Each individual described here represents a category of resistance: written opposition, oral protest, contesting Nazi propaganda, defiance of anti-Jewish laws and measures, and self-defense against physical attacks. Many of these courageous acts resulted in the resisters being prosecuted and put on trial, and often receiving harsh punishments, while some led to acquittal by courts and others to changes in Nazi policies. Taken together, these accounts reframe our understanding of German Jewish attitudes during the Holocaust, while also providing an astonishing examination of the complex Nazi reactions to the many individual acts of Jewish resistance.

Imprint:   Yale University
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 156mm, 
ISBN:   9780300267198
ISBN 10:   0300267193
Pages:   232
Publication Date:  
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Wolf Gruner is the Shapell Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies and professor of history at the University of Southern California. He is the founding director of the USC Dornsife Center for Advanced Genocide Research, and the author of ten books on the Holocaust. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Reviews for Resisters: How Ordinary Jews Fought Persecution in Hitler's Germany

“This important book shows in great detail, on the basis of numerous moving and often heartwrenching individual stories, that German and Austrian Jews often rebelled against and resisted their oppressors in a variety of ways. Gruner has given us a crucial corrective to the historiography of the Holocaust.”—Omer Bartov, author of Tales from the Borderlands: Making and Unmaking the Galician Past “This deeply researched and highly original study highlights multiple forms and cases of courageous recalcitrance on the part of German Jews subjected to Nazi persecution. A welcome book as both a tribute to the tormented protagonists and a corrective to the historical record.”—Peter Hayes, author of Why?: Explaining the Holocaust “Sensitized to the complexities of living as a non-conformist in a persecutory dictatorship by his own upbringing in East Germany, Gruner is ideally suited to teasing out from fragmentary evidence the historical reality behind the Nazi caricature of the ‘impudent Jew.’ He compiles impressive evidence and argumentation against the widespread assumption of Holocaust victim passivity.”—Christopher R. Browning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill “Wolf Gruner has developed a unique perspective in Holocaust history, uncovering countless examples of individual Jews who protested Nazi policies. While devastating, these poignant stories are also hopeful, demonstrating that even in the worst dictatorships, individuals can and do defy discriminatory and even exterminatory policies.”—Marion Kaplan, author of Hitler’s Jewish Refugees: Hope and Anxiety in Portugal, 1940–1945

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