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The Minsk Ghetto 1941-1943Jewish Resistance and Soviet Internationalism$
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Barbara Epstein

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780520242425

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520242425.001.0001

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Jewish-Byelorussian Solidarity in World War II Minsk

Jewish-Byelorussian Solidarity in World War II Minsk

(p.11) Chapter 1 Jewish-Byelorussian Solidarity in World War II Minsk
The Minsk Ghetto 1941-1943

Barbara Epstein

University of California Press

During the Holocaust, Jews had few reliable allies, making them susceptible to annihilation by Nazi anti-Semitism. In many parts of the world, this was the case for Jews. However, major underground Jewish movements in Warsaw, Bialystok, Vilna, and Kovno were able to find few allies outside ghettos. There were individual non-Jews who risked their lives by helping Jews escape or assisting the Jewish underground movements. When the German army occupied the Soviet Union and reached Minsk, the capital of the Soviet Union of Byelorussia, the Communist government fled to the east and the German army was less restrained in their violence against Jews. In many cases, these massacres were conducted in plain sight of local inhabitants. In Byelorussia, the Germans proceeded as if unconcerned about the reaction of the local inhabitants, or assuming their support for attacks on the Jews. If the Germans assumed unanimous local support, they were wrong, at least in the case of Minsk. In Minsk, a powerful resistance movement emerged, which is discussed in this chapter. These opposition groups were made up of rank-and-file Communists and others whom the Communists trusted. They came together to form a united underground movement that included both Byelorussians and Jews. This united underground movement and many Byelorussians aided Jews in escaping ghettos and participating in partisan units in the surrounding forests of Minsk. This chapter is based on the interviews of ghetto survivors and ghetto and Byelorussian underground movements. Their accounts show the existence of a widespread resistance in the Minsk ghetto and the emergence of a different form of resistance movement. Unlike the other resistance movements which aimed to mobilize revolts, the Minsk ghetto resistance movement aimed instead at sending as many Jews to the forest as possible to join the growing Soviet-aligned partisan movement.

Keywords:   Holocaust, Jews, Nazi anti-Semitism, Minsk, Soviet Union, Byelorussia, resistance movement, underground movement, ghetto resistance movement

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