Author: Benjamin Ginsberg

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc
ISBN: 978-1-4422-2238-0

Benjamin Ginsberg informs us in his introduction to How The Jews Defeated Hitler: Exploding the Myth of Jewish Passivity in the Face of Nazism that what motivated him to write his book was a discussion he had with one of his students concerning Nazism. Apparently, the student could not understand why the Jews facing annihilation did not resist the efforts of the Germans.

This is a question that has often been raised and Ginsberg's response, which he backs up in this excellent book was: “the Jews not only resisted but actually played a major role in the defeat of Nazi Germany. The question, I said, was not whether the Jews fought but where and by what means.” He goes on to support his reply by bringing up two very important elements to his argument:

  1. Jewish resistance to the Nazis has to be characterized as a form of cumulative rather than collective action as it basically consisted of a host of disparate groups, individuals, and organizations spread over several continents reacting and expressing themselves in a variety of responses ranging from partisan warfare through nuclear research. These uncoordinated efforts were channeled by a common threat and assembled into what was a potent, although at times futile response to the Nazis.

  2. Secondly we have to define what we mean by “resistance.” Very often Jewish resistance is narrowly defined and restricted to activities of the Jews in the occupied lands of Europe. “Jewish resistance and opposition to the Nazis manifested itself in a number of settings both inside and outside German-occupied territory. To ignore this point is to risk distorting the historical record.”

There has always existed a narrow perspective concerning the non-resistance to the Nazis by the Jews as it gets caught up in focusing only on the villages, ghettos and concentration camps and other locations where whenever resistance did arise it was feeble and often futile. However, as pointed out we forget to focus on the broader picture where Jews played an important role in the Soviet Union as not only in the military but also in their war machine production contributing immensely to the building and designing of tanks, aircraft, and artillery, which ultimately led to the defeat of Germany. As Ginsberg notes, during the latter part of the war the USSR outproduced the Germans in the building of these war materials ensuring that Soviet battlefield losses of equipment could be replaced while the German losses could not.

Jewish contributions also existed in the United States as well as Britain in such areas as the movies, military, financing the military effort, wartime propaganda, weapons, signals intelligence, human intelligence, and a plethora of other areas.

In addition, Jews played active roles in various Partisan movements in Greece, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, Poland, France, Czechoslovakia and various other southern and eastern European countries. Although it may be true that Partisan warfare did not defeat the Germans, it did hasten their defeat.

One extremely important area where Jews played a pivotal role was that of intelligence against Nazi Germany and its Axis partners particularly in the realms of American cryptanalysis and Soviet espionage. America's Secret Intelligence Services (SIS ) came to rely heavily on the Jewish talents as they developed code-breaking techniques as well as a code machine, SIGABA that was an invaluable tool to breaking Axis cryptology. In the Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence, Jews learned a great deal of many of the German secrets while preventing them from learning about Soviet capabilities and intentions.

That the Jews played an important role in defeating the Nazis is beyond doubt. Could the Germans have been defeated without the aid of the Jews is another question and one that is very difficult to answer. And going back to the original question that Ginsberg was asked as to why the Jews did not react, the reply is that they did react if you look at the broader picture where in many instances their motivations and actions were greatly strengthened by the atrocities that were being committed by the Nazis.

Benjamin Ginsberg is the David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and chair of the Center for Advanced Government Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. He has authored and coauthored several books.

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