JONATHAN BOYARIN: Thanks everyone for coming. I'm Jonathan Boyarin, the Director of Jewish Studies here at Cornell. Originally from Germany, our guest tonight is a historian and a specialist in research on the Holocaust and German Jewish history, topics on which he has published 11 books and around 60 articles and book chapters.
Currently, he is finishing a book manuscript on the Nazi persecution of Jews in Bohemia and Moravia while also conducting research on forgotten acts of individual defiance, opposition, and resistance of German and Austrian Jews during the Holocaust, the subject of his talk tonight. His research interests also include the comparative history of mass violence and its resistance on a global scale as well as racial and state discrimination against indigenous populations, especially in Latin America.
His most recent book, Parias de la Patria, challenges the myth of the liberation of the indigenous people in the post-colonial 19th century Republic of Bolivia. And it was published with Plural Editores in La Paz, Bolivia. He arrived at the University of Southern California in 2008, straight from Berlin, as the Shapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies-- well, as the holder of the Shapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies.
In 2014, he became the founding director of the US Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research. And his visit in Ithaca this weekend is in connection with the actual going on-- going live, as it were, of Cornell library becoming a point of access to the complete USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, a collection of over 53,000 individual testimonies of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and other genocides as well.
His talk tonight is titled Defiance and Protest, Forgotten Individual Jewish Reactions to the Persecution in Nazi Germany. Please let us warmly welcome Professor Wolf Gruner.
WOLF GRUNER: Thank you very much Jonathan. And I think it's especially wonderful that I'm here when there is the new access to all the testimonies of the Shoah Foundation. I will actually use two testimonies from the testimony collection in my talk and also to demonstrate-- and I will mention this several times-- how important, as a resource for Holocaust Studies, actually these testimonies are.
But as Jonathan already mentioned, they are not-- they are mostly focusing on the Holocaust. But there are smaller collections now also on the Armenian genocide, the Iranian genocide, the Nanjing massacres, and also now very new one, the genocide in Guatemala against the Mayans. These are smaller connections. The big majority is on the Holocaust, over 52,000 testimonies.
So maybe also to just update you, the book on the persecution of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia is done. And I say this only because I'm very excited now to start writing this book here. This is a project which accompanies me now for six years. That's when I looked through Berlin local archives. And one of the stories I found by surprise is the one I want to introduce you to in the beginning of this talk.
So the story is taking place in 1941, Berlin.
JONATHAN BOYARIN: Sorry. It's projecting onto your face.
WOLF GRUNER: Oh. OK. Yeah. That's right. I mean I could do a shadow play here. OK, so the story takes place in Berlin, 1941. That means several months before the mass deportation in Berlin started. A Jewish woman, 36 years old, her name was [? Hetta ?] [? Weiss ?] stayed-- standing in front of the Berlin courthouse.
She was just expelled from a small sublet room where she lived-- or was forced to live with her mother and her son. They were forced to live there because, a year earlier, they had been expelled from their actual original apartment.
So after being expelled again from this sublet room, having nowhere to go she claimed-- exclaimed in broad daylight in front of the Berlin courthouse, quote, "We lost everything. Because of the damn government, we lost, finally, our home, too. This thug Hitler, the damn government, the damn people, just because we are Jews we are discriminated against," end of quote.
And it's stunning. Eight years after the Nazis took power, the woman in the midst of Berlin, the Nazi capital, has the courage to really verbally protest what happened to her. And her story challenges the widespread belief, which is still dominating, that there was a Jewish passivity under Nazi persecution and especially on the German Jews.
But, as my research over the last 6 years reveals, many Jews did resist the Nazi persecution in various ways immediately, in 1933, but still also during the war. And I think the conclusion of this research demands a reassessment of Jewish behavior during the Nazi period in Nazi Germany. And in my presentation, I will first discuss briefly the state of research regarding resistance and explain why all the efforts to describe resistance lacked results.
And the second one is-- the second part is I give you an insight and a brief overview of what individual Jewish resistance actually meant. So first, on the state of research. Until now, as I said, the public, but also many researchers and historians subscribed to the idea that Jews, in general, but specifically German Jews, did not resistance the terrors of the Third Reich.
The traditional perception was that they were passively suffering. And this had been nourished by the fact that historians mostly discussed resistance under the terms of whether group resistance, organized group resistance or armed resistance.
Some of you might have heard that, in the 1960s, Hannah Arendt and [INAUDIBLE], but also Bruno Bettelheim, they all supposed that there was a lack of resistance during the Holocaust. Although this was immediately questioned by Israeli scholars, nevertheless, the academic of discussion settled on group resistance, armed resistance, and mostly-- which mostly took place in the eastern occupied territories, like Poland or the former Soviet Union.
So a thorough evaluation of individual Jewish resistance is lacking in almost all Holocaust narratives and even those which try to incorporate Jewish voices, like Saul Friedlander's seminal volumes. He does not really systematically explore individual Jewish resistance. He has some-- very few examples. But he doesn't really go into depth what this actually means.
And there are two reasons for this void. One is I think the framework, how we approach Jewish resistance, was misconstrued. And the second reason is there was a limited source base for this-- for these assumptions. To elaborate a little bit more about the conceptual framework, so what I tried to do was not very original.
I actually revived efforts of an Israeli scholar from the 1970s, [INAUDIBLE] and of an Australian scholar, [INAUDIBLE], and an East German survivor and historian, Herman [INAUDIBLE]. All three, already in the 1970s, tried to extend the perspective on research into individual efforts.
But they also bound because there was not really a lot of sources available. So what I tried to do is I used these ideas and came up with a new definition. And I actually did something very simple. The definition is actually from the [INAUDIBLE]. And it's-- what I did is I only added one word, individual.
And my-- I'm convinced that this changes everything. And I will try to demonstrate what I mean with this. If you look at this picture, this is a very famous-- Now, I am the shadow player here-- very famous picture. You can find this in a lot of Holocaust narratives, representative for the terror of the first weeks, 1933 in Germany.
So this is a Jewish lawyer in Munich. He's dragged by stormtroopers through the city. When you think about individual resistance, as I do, this changes because when you-- what is written on this poster, it means, I won't complain at the police station anymore. So they dragged him not just because he was a Jew. He was actually trying to get a client out of the police station who was arrested.
Similarly, you can look at this photograph. This is a Jewish woman in front of a small town municipal swimming pool. And I use this in teaching for a reason that you see these two signs up there? They say No Access for Jews. No Access for Dogs. So I use this picture as, again, a representation for persecution.
But look at her body language. Look at how she is posing there. If you think differently, this is also an act of opposition to take a picture, in public, in front of these signs. And even more clearer it will be with the next picture, which you maybe may have seen on the poster, which is my favorite picture. So this is Lizzie Rosenfeld in Vienna in 1938. And she's sitting on a bench only for Aryans.
And look at, also, her body language. And she shows you can't do any-- everything with me. I'm my own person. And I am opposing what you do-- to what you are doing. So I think if we have this different approach, suddenly, all these examples pop up in places we have seen already. But my research actually brings us also to places no one has looked at yet.
So and I think it is specifically important that we also think about not just individual reactions toward persecution in general, but also what dd they actually respond to. And research over the last 20 years has actually pointed us to-- that anti-Jewish policies, they're much more complex, much more diverse than we have previously assumed.
So my own research on municipality showed how city governments bear much more initiative much earlier on than actual central laws. So if you think about what Jews had to respond to, you have a myriad of different persecution measures, not just the laws from Berlin, but really a lot of these local initiatives, local anti-Jewish measures.
And if you have this kind of framework, on one hand looking at the individual, on the other hand this very complex Nazi measure system, then you can find a lot of anti-Jewish efforts of opposition. So how did that come to my sources?
So I was in Berlin in the local archive six years ago. And I knew there are 40 police log books. It means log books, diaries from police precincts in Berlin. So this is the bottom of the actual archival hierarchy. So more local, you can't go. So I knew these log books are there.
Nobody had practically looked at them. And I thought, I will go through them, when I have time, and really look at them from 1933 to 1945 and see what I can find, what kind of traces of persecution I can find. At this moment, I didn't think about resistance. So I looked through them.
And in between of thousands of handwritten entries about lost keys, drunken persons, damaged roadways, naughty exhibitionists, suddenly, there were examples of Jewish protests like the one I described in the beginning of the talk.
So I tried to-- I was, first, surprised. Then, I thought since there are dozens of them and they were all arrested-- I tried to think, so where-- what happened to them? And I went to the special court in Berlin-- the archive of the special court. The special court was established after 1933 to punish political protest.
And nobody had thought that, actually, Jews also had protested. So when I went there, I looked for the names I had. I didn't find any of my name's, by the way. However, I found dozens of new cases of Jews protesting in public against the persecution. So they were punished by this law, which usually was thought this was only against political opponents, like communist or social democrats.
So then I thought, maybe this is an exception. Berlin is exceptional. It's a big city, the biggest Jewish community, but also a metropolis. It's much more anonymous. Maybe this is not true for the rest of the country. So what I did then, I started to comparative work. I did the same investigation in Hamburg, Vienna, Leipzig, Munich, Dresden, Frankfurt.
I think that's more or less it. And it was really astonishing that, in all of these archives, I found similar cases. And even more so beyond just political-- or let's say protest in public against the persecution, I found a myriad of other ways of how to ignore the Jewish laws, how to defy anti-Jewish measures, how to resist on an individual basis.
And then, as a last point, I tried to-- I looked in-- this was practically-- I started this local research when I was about to embark to come to the US. So when I was at USC, I was naturally exposed to the USC Shoah Foundation testimonies. So at some point, I decided, let me look into these testimonies. What can I find?
It was first a little bit difficult because I tried resistance. And resistance, as I said, was, in all the decades, just focusing on armed resistance. So the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising came up. But then I played with words, and suddenly, it hit home. I found 300 files of-- no. 230 files of German Jews where acts of defiance emerged.
They were in mostly English, some in German, some in Spanish. So this was the source base. And they confirmed, on one hand, the cases I had found in the archives. But they also significantly added other forms of opposition than I had found in the archive. And I give you now an overview of how Jewish defiance and protest evolved and developed over time starting in 1933 and going until the end of the war.
So first, in 1933, we have quite a lot of trials against Jews who were criticizing the terror against Jews in these wild early concentration camps, beatings and torture by stormtroopers. So they criticized this in public and were brought immediately on trial and often punished with several weeks of jail time.
Jews also protested in written form. They wrote a lot of petitions to almost any perpetrator agency, from Hitler himself to local governments, and complained about these first anti-Jewish measures. But they did not only write or protest verbally in public. They also-- and this was a surprise to me. They actually also acted-- let's say-- in a material way. So they destroyed Nazi flags or Nazi symbols. I had never heard about this.
So this is one example I found in the Hamburg archive. David Bornstein was using a local bus. And this was the logo on the local bus in Hamburg. And what he did was he scratched-- it's hard to see. But I couldn't get it to-- this was the picture they sent me. But you see here. Do you see these scratches?
So he took his-- what is it called-- his cane, and then he scratched over the logo. He was immediately detected by the bus driver and somebody else. He was arrested. And he was interrogated. And here, you have a very early form of historical reenactment. This is not David Bornstein. This is for the Gestapo file that somebody demonstrated what he did actually, how he scratched the Nazi logo.
So he-- let me see how much. I think he got six weeks in jail for destroying this Nazi logo. Other Jews decided to join communist resistance groups. Some did messenger services for them. The FBI found even one case where-- in the testimonies-- where [? Abraham ?] [? Wagner ?] mixed explosives with three other Jews for a communist cell.
And in general, we see that especially anti-Jewish riots and demonstrations, which we know were happening, for example, in 1935 in the summer in Berlin, but also in Munich, in 1938 in June, July in Berlin and then you [INAUDIBLE]. These waves of anti-Jewish violence produced especially-- more reactions by Jewish individuals.
So in 1935 in July in Berlin, where hundreds of people gathered in front of Jewish stores and shops and besmeared them and chanted anti-Jewish slogans. In this madness, German businesses in Berlin found a small business card like flyer. There's no original, so this is just a report about the flyer.
But you have to imagine it's like a business card size. And on this was written, I'm a German Jew. I'm loyal to the emperor. In fact, Germans should expel the foreigner Hitler. Down with Hitler. So in the middle of Berlin, in one big enterprise, somebody found this and brought this to the police. They never found the author because he signed not with his name, but with pen Kohn.
And I don't know if you know, but Kohn is one of the most common German Jewish names. So only during the month of-- 1935, 100 Jews were arrested in Berlin alone for offenses against the state or the Nazi party. And the Gestapo report in July said, it is remarkable-- or especially-- or we have to make a special note. Jews seem to have been born with a disrespect to the state.
So you see this is an interesting attitude that is being described there. So the summer riots were accompanied by a wave of new anti-Jewish measure, especially on the local level, lot of restrictions to public facilities. And then you all know this. The Nuremberg laws were enacted in September 1935.
However, although the Nuremberg laws put Jews in a second class citizenship, this didn't hinder individual Jews to protest, to act, to oppose, and to resist. So we have a lot of where people spoke out in public against the persecution, where people ignored local restrictions. They went to cinemas, which were forbidden. They went and used public libraries, where they had the sign of Jews in there.
So this was a very widespread individual effort, but also Jews still went to court and used the legal system to protest persecution. And sometimes, at this early stage, even with success. For example, when they were expelled from the work place, sometimes, they could actually, on the local level, succeed in court. Later, this changed.
So to give you just one example. In Frankfurt, Rosalie [INAUDIBLE] repeatedly, in public, cursed Hitler, called him-- called the government the Hitler pack and said that Goebbels would just tell lies.
She was punished for these comments with six months in prison in 1937. And as I mentioned in the very beginning, the Nazis used this law to punish Jewish who protested in public against the persecution. And this law was enforced by the special court. So all these trials happened at these special courts.
So this was overlooked before, as I mentioned. But it doesn't stop here. What is even more surprising is the fact that a lot of physical self-defense emerged in the archive. But I have to say, I found only one case of physical self-defense in local archives. But I found much more individual history archive with the video testimonies.
But to give you just an example from the archive in Frankfurt, the 32-year-old Oscar [INAUDIBLE] did beat up a bunch of Hitler youth teenagers because they aimed their slingshots at the synagogue where Jews left from the service. So he beat up these Hitler youth teenagers. From the Shoah Foundation testimonies, we learn that it was not so seldom or rare that Jews got into brawls with stormtroopers, mostly male Jews.
They defended their families. They sometimes acted in defense of their neighbors. So this physical self-defense was actually more widespread than I actually was ever expecting. So for example, John [? Winter's ?] father beat up a Nazi in his own apartment house because the Nazi neighbor had forbidden Jews in this apartment house to use the lift, the elevator.
So let me give you one example of how Jews also reacted towards authorities. So I hope this works now.
-The Germans have a perverse respect for courage or something. Yeah Der Sturmer, that was a German newspaper that-- which I can remember. So it was always displayed in glass display cases in public buildings. And I can remember so well looking at it. There were these horrible caricatures of Jews, these little threatening men with these hook noses.
In any case, Sturmer had a-- when my uncle Fritz's father died, who had also been a lawyer, there was a front page story in the Sturmer-- His name was [? Yusefthal ?], [? Josephthal. ?] That when Doctor Josephthal died and the authorities went into his home, in his basement, they found the bodies of Jewish virgins and children. And he had probably used there blood in Passover rituals.
That was the story in the Sturmer. My uncle Fritz, his son, had been an officer in the German during World War I and, as a matter of fact, had won the Iron Cross, which is-- I don't know if it's the highest, but a very high decoration. And when he read that story in the Sturmer. He put on his World War I uniform, his riding boots, his riding crop, put his medal on his chest, and went down to the Sturmer's office.
And Streicher-- Julius Streicher was there, the editor. And he marched up there in his uniform and up to the receptionist and said, I want to see Herr Streicher.
And the receptionist said, I'm sorry. You have no appointment. And my uncle just pushed him aside and walked in there and walked up to Streicher's desk. And Streicher looked up surprised to see this German-- uniformed German officer. And Uncle Fritz said, did you know Herr Doctor Josephthal. And Streicher said, no.
And my uncle took his whip and said, then meet his son, and beat him a couple of times. Turned around, fully expecting to be arrested, to be shot, to be something, walked out. Nothing ever happened to him. And when all the Jews were arrested on Crystal Night, he was the only man-- Jewish man who was not arrested.
And the reason I know that story so well, aside from his telling it, is that--
WOLF GRUNER: So this is a remarkable example. And you could say, this sounds pretty unlikely that somebody does this. But this is actually confirmed by another testimony from a woman not related to this family. So I don't know how much happened, but something happened there, which was really told in the same-- very same way as [? Ingrid ?] [? Frank ?] did it.
So let me comment. I think this was a good segue into the November pogrom. So first I thought, I get it-- in the 1930s, there was probably much more possible than later on. And later on, it's unlikely that I'll find these cases. But as I-- the beginning of the talk already suggested, this was not the case.
It was actually-- the act, I found, was almost equally distributed over the whole course of the persecution. So during the November pogrom, Jews responded in a variety of ways. Some, you might have heard already. But if you bring this in this context, they appear in a different light. So for example, securing sacred objects from the burned synagogues. To try to secure looted goods from the shops and the stores.
But what I found in the archives is also the files-- rest of Jews who photographed devastation as document-- as a documentation of the terror. And so we know there are photographs which were not taken by, let's say, official Nazis. And they survived. And so, for example, this photograph you see here, there was an apartment raided. And everything was-- maybe it was an institution because there's a lot of paperwork there.
So it maybe a Jewish organization. But look at how this picture was taken. It was taken from the other street, from the second floor. This was not an official photograph. Somebody took it hiding. And so I found several cases in Berlin where Jews were arrested for taking pictures. And again, during Kristallnacht, Jews again protested in public.
So for example, another case, Henrietta Schafer. She was born in 1882. And the shop owner made a comment, yeah, the German people are now answering the crime what was taking place by the Jew in Paris.
And then she said to him, "This is not the people, but the government. They are all black arts, scams, and criminals. Hitler is the biggest bandit. And if I could, I would poison them all," end of quote. This is during Kristallnacht.
And then even more remarkable case is the next video I wanted to share with you. So you probably all have heard about the retraining camps, [INAUDIBLE] camps, which provided some kind of agricultural education to prepare young Jews in Germany for the immigration, mainly to Palestine. So picture one of these retraining camps where mostly 16, 17, 18-year-old teenagers were getting this agricultural training.
The Kristallnacht happens, and this place is raided by stormtroopers. So this is Diane Jacob. She was 16 years old when she was in this camp. And she talks now about how the storm troopers came into their-- broke into their facility and what they did.
-And what kind of organized resistance did you accomplish?
-Well, I told you, with the marches. We marched. They always told us, you kill them, be sure and save the uniforms. They stole uniforms from the Nazis. They put us in uniforms, Hitler, whatever they could find. They were the ones that did it. We were the ones that followed orders.
-Who gave you those orders?
-Oh, different group leaders. We--
WOLF GRUNER: So she was, earlier on doing, some work for Communist cells. That's what she talks about here. But the actual camp scene-- let me see if I can find this.
-In [INAUDIBLE] you see. And now they are smashing everything in town. And then they make us-- then they form two rows with the clubs. And they make us walk through the rows, and then they hit us with the clubs from both sides as we walked by.
-Your whole family?
-No, there was not a family. They were the kids I was with on [INAUDIBLE].
-Oh, OK. You didn't--
-I am now [INAUDIBLE].
-OK. But you didn't clarify that, that you--
-My family was nowhere near. My family was out of it already. I was not with my family. But anyway, the kids, the youngsters. And the boys, they were bleeding. And then, all of a sudden, it came my turn. I said, hell, I'm not going to run. I'm going to walk. Here I am, I mean 5 foot nothing-- I'm 5'1"-- 5 foot nothing and I'm a skinny, little girl.
And all of a sudden, they was not having fun anymore. And I remember one, getting one on the back. And that was it. I just walked away slowly looking at all of them. Now, here big, tough guys. You want to hit a little girl? What can I do about it? That was the attitude. And I only got hit by one in the back. It hurt.
When I got to the other line, one of them grabs me, grabs this hand-- my right hand-- and starts sawing into it with a rusty knife-- pocket knife type thing. Well, I had learned a little trick, and that's digging my head into someone's stomach, which doesn't feel great. And I turned around to see what I could do with him, and I started fighting.
And I started kicking with my legs his legs. He wasn't very big either. And he was young. Anyway, I finally managed to get my hand out and under the knife. I twisted the knife out of his hand. I used the knife. I stabbed him. And I dug my head into his stomach. I don't know how I did it. It was just a fast thing that they had taught me.
The others didn't notice it. So a couple of the guys-- the others were too busy beating up on [INAUDIBLE]. A couple of the guys saw is, and they dragged him underneath a bed or some kind of a sofa type thing that had been kicked over so the others wouldn't see him. He was bleeding. He wasn't dead. But he was bleeding.
Anyway, that's when we took off.
WOLF GRUNER: So I think you would agree with me that's a remarkable story, unheard of, having this kind of resistance during Kristallnacht. So after Kristallnacht, a new wave of restriction was initiated, especially by local governments, but also on a central level. Many of these new restrictions targeted now the whole Jewish population.
And in any of the local archives I went to, I found dozens of cases how Jews resisted against these new restrictions. So for example, they opposed to hand over precious metals. They just kept part of it at home or all of it. Then, others resisted to wear these special identification cards marked with a J. And others resisted to adopt the discriminatory middle name, Israel and Sara.
And I never thought about it because we all went from the idea the Nazis obliged the Jews to adopt these middle names, and that's it. But it was much more complicated because by German law, when you want to have another name, you need to apply for it. So the Nazi law didn't change the fact. So every Jewish individual had to apply for the Sara and Israel.
It cost 3 reichsmarks. First of all, you had to pay money. And then you had to fill out and get it registered. So some just didn't do it. And, for example, one case in Berlin, the 68-year-old painter, Max [? Andlus, ?] declined the repeated request to fill out the form. And then he was called to the police station. And even then, he resisted to adopt this middle name Israel.
At the same time, in the 1939, still I found cases where Jews spoke up in public and protested against these new measures, but also the general persecution. In Vienna, for example, in the municipal housing office, Doctor [INAUDIBLE] loudly cursed Hitler because he was supposed to move into a sublet room and had to give up his apartment.
But he was not just protesting against his individual fate. He also called all the other Jews in this office to kind an uprising in Vienna, summer 1939. And these protests didn't even stop in war time. So there's one case from former tailor, Alfred [? Leviathan ?]. He was already in jail because of form of protest against the persecution. But what did he do in jail?
They had to print-- what is it-- mail order catalogues for department store. That's what they did in jail. So what he did is, in the mail order catalog, he wrote messages in. He called for an uprising against the Nazis. He called for an uprising and all Jews should join him. And he protested against the persecution in this mail order catalog which was sent throughout Germany.
And unfortunately, he was caught and arrested and got another jail sentence. In Berlin, as in other cities, local restrictions were introduced, which limited the shopping-- the time where Jews could actually go shopping to, often, one hour in the afternoon. And I found several cases where a Jewish woman would just ignore this, sometimes with the help of the non-Jewish shop owners.
Sometimes, they also got arrested because the Germans didn't-- the non-Jewish Germans didn't help them. So in one case where a widow tried to buy bread. And the bakery-- the baker-- the owner of the bakery declined this request and said, you are not in the restricted hours here.
And then she snapped and exclaimed, "The new decree that has limited shopping hours, that is too much. Soon we won't get ration cards anymore either, and we will dies a retched death," end of quote.
At the same time, in 1940, Max Mannheimer, who performed forced labor in Bohemia at a road construction site, he made a note in his diary. And this is one of the few instances where I found these kind of acts actually mentioned in the diary. I tried also to use diaries, but this was not so helpful except in this one case.
And I quote, "My home is in a wooden hut behind a tool shed. From there, I go to the public park, despite the 8:00 PM curfew and despite the ban to visit the park. On my way, I count the signs with the slogan forbidden for Jews. In total, there are 6. Later, at 11:00 PM, I rip the signs out and throw them to the ground or in the bushes, some in the creek.
However, all my courage proved futile. The next evening, all the signs reemerged. For a second time, I didn't have the courage. I'm just not a hero," so end of his quote.
So while forms of public protests were punished under this law of the treacherous acts, what I showed you. Other acts like breaking the curfew, they're punished under regular German laws. So that's also why they are often overlooked. They are actually very prominent in these court records when you go to the local archives.
So for example, the Jews who had ignored to hand over radios, they were punished under the law against radio crimes. Jews who broke the curfew, they were punished under German penal code. And breaking the curfew, as I said, was-- no, I didn't actually mention it. So breaking the curfew, during the war, was very widespread phenomenon.
And you can actually read this in some of the testimony, written testimonies. You'll find this mentioned. People said we, nevertheless, tried to go to the cinema or went to a theater. But some Jews broke the curfew for other reasons as, for example, a 17-year-old boy in Frankfurt who went out every night, broke the curfew. And when the allied bombers came in 1941, he waited for the bombers to come in and drop their load. And then he made wrong fire alarms to divert the fire trucks from the actual bombing sites.
After dozens of these attemps-- successful attempts-- he was caught and was brought on trial. He received two years in prison and then was sent to Auschwitz where he perished. Jews were also sentenced for treason. Like in Munich, a former real estate broker, Ben Neuberger, he had send out dozens of postcards in fall of 1941 and in summer 1942.
And he had very foresighted comments on them, on these postcards, for example, "The eternal mass murder, Hitler, disgusting" or "Murderer of 5 million." When he was brought on trial for treason, Neuberger argued that he hated Hitler especially for his announcement to exterminate the Jews in 1939.
So there are a lot of more cases. For example, Jews escape from arrest. They sabotage forced labor. So there's countless of these cases. And I want to share just the last case with you, which overlaps the old notion of resistance of armed resistance and my new framework of individual defiance. This is the story of [? Cole ?] Jacobson who was shot in a street in Berlin in 1943.
That means-- this was actually in August 1943. This means after the mass deportations had ended already. How did he survive until this late moment? He was running a factory in [INAUDIBLE]. Because he went into this factory as a forced labor, and the owner was an incapable German who had Aryanized this factory, he needed desperately somebody who can manage the firm.
He detected that this was a former merchant who had actually capabilities. So he said to him, run my company. And he hid him in a hidden department in the factory. But he didn't-- Jacobson did not only run the factory, he actually formed a small network of rescue operations where they forged-- or tried to get forged documents for Jews. And they had even arms.
And I came across this document. This is from one of these police log books I told you in the beginning. So this is just a small entrance about the shooting. But it mentions, also, that this was-- he was discovered only by coincidence because the Gestapo raided the factory. And they found the secret department.
And there, they found guns and ammunition, live ammunition, and luggages and forged documents. So most of these cases are forgotten today for various reasons. First of all, they are overwhelmed by the atrocities which took place in Poland, the extermination in general. And many of the people who did these, never really perceived themselves as resistors.
For them, it was more natural and, sometimes, also coincidental how they reacted. But if you think in what position they were, that every act of a Jew in Germany, because they were in a second status citizenship, could be punished, every small act already actually is an act of resistance. Many of the people here, which I mentioned here, did not survive because when they-- especially in the later period, when they were arrested, they were usually sent on deportation.
In the earlier cases, often the people, after they got-- they served their jail time, they immediately emigrated. So some of them survived fortunately. So to sum up, I think now, with this different frame, this different perspective, you can actually, for the first time, understand why in a lot of the Gestapo and SS reports, which were used by historians, there is often one phrase mentioned, the impudent Jew.
And when I started with my research on the Holocaust, I always thought that's just Nazi slang because they want to have a pretext for introducing new anti-Jewish laws. But if you think about what I demonstrated here, it seems to be some truth in it that there is much more to it than that this is just a prefix to introduce new laws.
So I think we have all misunderstood these phrases there. And what I think is-- what is the result of my research is that almost every Jewish individual in Nazi Germany, overtime, developed strategies to respond, to resist, to defy Nazi measures. Not all of them, not every time, but much more than we ever thought. First, against Nazi propaganda and economic measures. Later, against segregation. And much later, during the war, against forced labor, deportations and to the east.
We saw that they protested in public verbally, but they also produced leaflets or postcards. And interesting is there is no trend to see that this is depending on a certain age, depending on a certain gender, depending on socialization or an education. The examples are widespread over all walks of Jewish life, so to speak.
And I think that this view, resulting from these micro historical studies, changes our macro-- or should change our macro historical view on to how Jews reacted towards persecution.
And I think the assumption of passivity is obsolete if we take into account the result of this research. However-- and this is why I'm so excited to start writing now-- this still needs to be incorporated in this general narrative of the Holocaust, how Jews behaved during these times. And I just wanted to end with a quote from Berlin Rabbi Marx Nussbaum to emphasize that these reactions were as diverse as the Nazi anti-Jewish policy was. He said, I quote, "We were besieged in 100 of different manners. And therefore, we fought back in 100 different manners," end of quote.
And I think when we rethink that so many people, in one way or the other, responded, reacted, resisted, this gives a lot of agency back to the Jewish population under these terrible circumstances. Thank you so much.
JONATHAN BOYARIN: Do you want to take your own questions?
WOLF GRUNER: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: I have two questions. The first question is how did-- were the Jews that were arrested for protesting-- resiting, were they identified in the records as Jews. That's my first question.
WOLF GRUNER: Yeah, so this is difficult, a good question because in the 1930s, for example, you didn't have-- when I used the police log books, you didn't have the J here. So it depended on the policeman if he would use, in his inscription-- in his note, the word Jew. Some of them did. But sometimes, I can also detect this by what are they protesting to and also if they were handed over to the Gestapo.
So in the beginning, it's much more difficult to identify. From 1938, it's always the J in. So this was then, for the research, much more-- much easier. And in the court records, they usually identify, from very early on, Jews when they have to-- for example, the prosecution-- the indictment, and they say the Jew.
And this has to do that the special courts where specific Nazi installation, so the prosecutors were all heavy Nazis. And that's why they immediately identified them as a Jew.
AUDIENCE: My ancillary question-- can I ask my ancillary question, and that is, did you find clear evidence who are not Jews, [? Arya, ?] who also protested against Jewish persecution.
WOLF GRUNER: That's an excellent-- because this is what I left out totally. So on a-- as a side effect of my research on Jewish behavior, I found much more solidarity and even protest of non-Jews. But I found also, on the other hand, much more extremism and looting and acts against Jews.
So it is on both ends on the-- from the Nazi end, but also on the end of solidarity, we have much more. And what I think is, often, we operate with this triad of perpetrators, bystanders, and victims. First of all, I think my contribution here is we can't really talk about victims here. If you want to give the Jews their agency back, you cannot describe them as pure victims here.
And also, bystanders is a term, which I find apologetic. When I-- did research on articles for 20 years. And I worked on different institutions. And what I've found is almost every individual in Nazi Germany was exposed to persecution at a certain moment in time, often frequently, sometimes not so frequently.
But there was not even one individual which had not to make a considerate choice how to behave. Am I joining the persecution? Do I tolerate this? Or do I speak up? Or do I help Jews? So the word bystander is, I think, very misleading, and also the term indifference. So I think we have to look much closer what people actually do. Look at their actions.
And it's much more complex as we previously assumed. Here?
AUDIENCE: So you said you saw no correlation with anything, in the age, gender, and so on. But in your words there was a little correlation. And you mentioned communists [INAUDIBLE]. So have you found some correlation between significant resistance and being a communist?
WOLF GRUNER: Not so much. It was more the examples I found were more leftist Jewish organizations. So for example, Diane Jacob, she was Hashomer Hatzair. And they cooperated, at some point, with some communist cells. But they were not themselves communists. They were leftist maybe.
But the other hand, then you have other teenagers who have no political affiliation doing this, at the same time, other things. That's why I say there is not really a trend which I can extract from this.
AUDIENCE: What's behind my question is that I perceive such a trend in-- and we can talk about the spectrum between Hashomer Hatzair and the communists. But that trend, in all the years of the Cold War, was suppressed in the West in identifying on the part of historians. And that is unfair to the participants in there.
So what I am asking is for a more balanced view of you the real role of socialists and communists in the resistance.
WOLF GRUNER: No. I totally hear you. And actually, since I grew up in East Germany, I was much better informed about communist activities. You can imagine. But I'm really sympathetic. But interesting is when we think about Jewish resistance or Jewish persecution, there's a new study in Germany-- just finished a PhD in Sociology about rescue networks.
And she looks into this. Is there a correlation? Are communists more prone to help Jews and rescue Jews? And what she find out was interesting. She said, her sample does not say that Jewish communist organizations helped, but more the members of the communist organization themselves as individuals were more prone to help.
So there is a little bit what you say that there is a little bit this ideology, which toward Jews. But there's also a negative effect because often when, for example, we talk about resistance and the communist underground, they are often not really in favor of Jew-- to integrate Jews because they were double risk.
So for example, the cell that I mentioned with the explosives, they had to be very separate. So they were for Jews doing-- mixing these chemicals. But they had almost no relationship to the actual communist cells. They had just one contact, and they didn't know with whom they actually operated because of this double risk.
AUDIENCE: Did you find any evidence that Jewish parents held back on circumcision or modified it as the years progressed?
WOLF GRUNER: No. No, I have to say that's beyond my knowledge. Yeah. Yeah. I really can't say anything to this.
AUDIENCE: I have two questions that I heard some of the other. I remember reading a number of years ago [INAUDIBLE] book, called Last Jews in Berlin, that the Nazis set out to find Jews who were surviving [INAUDIBLE] some Jews, spot them on the metro, [INAUDIBLE], whatnot. So that's one question. The other is, was there any resistance from resistant German groups or something, the White Rose Group and others that might have existed like that?
WOLF GRUNER: Yeah. So there were some German groups-- start with the last one-- some German groups who tried to create hiding places-- to offer hiding places, to acquire forged papers. We have something about this, especially in Berlin where, in 1943, 4,000 Jews went into hiding in one week. One week.
And this was the week of the Factory Action. I don't know if you heard about this. This was the operation which was about to connect the last Jewish forced laborers from all these factories in Berlin where they worked in armament industries. So they rounded up the Jews in these factories. That's why it's called-- but this is also speaks to the level of-- was there help from the non-Jewish Germans?
These 4,000 Jews were mainly warned by neighbors, fellow workers, engineers, sometimes, by police. And in one case I found, even by an SS officer. And then they went into hiding. And then they needed a whole network of helpers. And these underground groups-- and some even were just forming themselves for the pure reason to help these hidden Jews.
So there was this. And the first question was the-- about hiding?
AUDIENCE: The Nazi effort to continue to search out.
WOLF GRUNER: Oh, yeah. So I mean since so many Jews went into hiding-- in total, we-- there is a long research project now, for almost two decades, trying to identify how many Jews hid and who helped them, how did they survive. So now the estimates are, like in Germany, 10,000 to 12,000 went into hiding. From these, 5,000 to 7,000 alone in Berlin.
And the Nazis were fully aware of this because they had their numbers registered how many they wanted to collect during this raid. And suddenly, they had 4,000 less. So they started immediately with raids. I found in these log books, for example, that some days after the raid, Jews were detected by coincidence on the street and were immediately also deported.
Some were denounced when they came back to their apartments trying to get stuff out to survive. And so there were efforts. They did more police patrols. And then they tried to convince some Jews to spy and to denounce fellow Jews. Yeah, and this went on for several months and almost a year in Berlin.
AUDIENCE: I just wondered if you-- if there was a lot of scholarship on artists' response to persecution, especially Jewish artists in Germany. Is that a field that has been explored a lot? And are their good examples or, for instance, books that we should be looking at in this regard?
WOLF GRUNER: Yeah. I mean mainly the focus was on early responses of artists in 1933, when the Nazis took over. They were-- there are famous cases, which you always can find, like Max Liebermann, when he denounced his-- resigned from the academy there.
But there is not so much for the later period as far as I know. But there is a new study, which I have not read. I have to admit it's just on my desk, about writers actually, the response of novelists and Jewish writers.
And I was told from the author, a Berlin literary scholar, that she found similar things what I described here actually in the writings of these authors. So she said, because she heard a talk of-- I gave a similar talk. And she responded and said, that's exactly what I found in these writings. And some are also-- I mean this is also what we often not really think about.
This was-- the Third Reich was very complex. And it was not, from the very beginning, everything was closed. So there were also some lee-- there was leeway to maneuver. And even you could do publications. For example, in the [INAUDIBLE] in 1935, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, he could talk about the ghetto, the virtual ghetto because the neighbors left the Jews alone.
So you could even publish about this, not very open, but open enough that people would understand what was meant there. So I think that's a good point. I think there should be much more because I'm-- my-- if I can admit this, I was a writer. I wrote poems before I studied history. So this is actually close to my heart. And I think there's a lot to study and to find.
And I found, in other cases-- since it was mentioned that I do comparative genocide-- so that art is always a tool of resistance. And I had a conference in-- USC last September, which I organized, on music as a tool of resistance where we compared music written. But also we interpreted existing music during the Holocaust, but also, for example, during the apartheid regime, the Armenian genocide, and so on.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Thank you for your talk. Anyway, I'm here on behalf of both my parents, both of whom were German Jewish resisters of different kinds. My mother was born in Berlin. Her last name happened to be Frank. And her family left in 1933 and then went to Holland. In 1940, she and her family went underground in the Hague. And her family was one of the few hundred families-- Jewish families to survive the whole war intact, underground.
I wrote a book about her story. I have a copy of it to give to you. My father, [INAUDIBLE], left Berlin at the same time. He spent two years in Denmark, wasn't able to find any work. He came to the United States. In 1941, he joined the United States army. And he became one of the German Jews who fought for the American army in World War II.
He was with the 83rd division, which was the first division to reach the [INAUDIBLE]. In 1946, he was asked to be one of the interrogators at the Nuremberg war trials. So I am a son of two German Jewish resisters.
WOLF GRUNER: Yeah. I think especially the first case is very interesting. There needs to be also studies on this. A lot of the German Jews who were caught in the Netherlands went into underground And then, actually, some of them were part of the Dutch resistance to rescue Jews in the Netherlands. So Jews actually helping to rescue and hiding Jews.
So we have a case in Los Angeles where a very well-known actor who comes-- I'm always inviting him to my class because of this reason. He was one of those from Berlin, went to the Netherlands, and then helped. He even rescued two American fighter pilots beyond all the Jews he rescued. And ironically, he had to play Nazi characters after the war in Los Angeles.
AUDIENCE: But I think it's great that your-- I want to endorse your expansion of the definition of resistance because going into hiding was an act of resistance.
WOLF GRUNER: Yeah. I'm even thinking-- and this is what I didn't mention here because it's very complicated. So in my definition, I always also include suicide, for example, which is very debatable. But what I found is some of the Jews took their own lives as an act of resistance. And how can I determine this?
When they-- for example, in some of the cases I found in the police files, so some-- one of-- some of them had left notes. And the note said, not I'm over this life. No, it said, since I'm German, since I'm Jew, I had so much to do with this homeland. And I take my life to protest. That's really what I found. So not all of the cases are. Some is really just of desperation.
But some of them made it a public act. And the act is public because when they were detected that they 50 committed suicide, the police found the-- or the neighbors found these notes usually, so that's immediately public. And then the police and then we find the note in the log books, and so on. So even suicide can be an act of resistance. So I'm pretty wide open there.
AUDIENCE: In the camps, it was illegal to commit suicide, and the Nazis would punish the prisoners.
WOLF GRUNER: Can you repeat--
AUDIENCE: If someone in the barracks committed suicide, the rest of the barracks would be punished somehow.
WOLF GRUNER: Yeah, this is a--
AUDIENCE: Or if somebody attempted suicide, they would be beaten and hung up outside by a soldier.
AUDIENCE: Yeah. I mean this is a very different situation. But it speaks to the fact that what I always come about when I think about resistance to mass violence is that, unfortunately, the act of resistance, an open resistance, often radicalized the perpetrator. So when you think about what happened after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, that's actually-- Himmler was radical-- reacting much more radical towards this incident.
So we have this ambivalent situation were, on one hand, this is a very important act of self-determination, courage, and also to keep pride. But it can have very negative consequences for the others. So I agree with you.
JONATHAN BOYARIN: Perhaps we will take one more question if anyone else has. Yeah?
AUDIENCE: Hi, I just have a brief comment [INAUDIBLE]. You mentioned micro history. And it seems to me that the research you're presenting here is an important contribution to what you call in German, [SPEAKING GERMAN], history of the everyday, especially under the Third Reich, and contributing not only a new dimension to the question of Jewish resistance, but as you were saying, to the nuancing of our picture of everyday life during the Third Reich.
WOLF GRUNER: Yeah. And I'm very happy to do this because I think we often tend to generalize certain developments. We have certain traditions how to think about the Third Reich, which are established often right after the war. And often, we don't realize that they are of apologetic nature.
So a lot of the ideas about how the Third Reich functioned, who was responsible for what, they were actually established out of trying to set most of the Germans flee and focus on just SS and the Nazi party and certain agencies. And then, over the course of time, also to relieve the other Germans from responsibility.
In a way, when you say, yeah, the Jews were segregated, so there was no contact anymore. However, when you go into these police files, it seems very different. So I found a case-- maybe I can conclude with this. But it's a stunning case. A Jewish woman in Berlin, in an apartment house where they are all rentals, maybe 30 different parties, and she had a small shop in this house.
She was expelled from the-- she lost her shop by a non-Jewish German who Aryanized the shop. She needed to move from the apartment, which was behind the shop, to the basement. And then, two years later, I find this file in the police records that the guy who Aryanized the shop was complaining about this Jewish woman that she would talk to his customers, which were her former customers, and try to get-- ruin his business.
And she ruins not only his business, she is also-- she has sexual diseases. She is-- does-- harms the Nuremberg laws. So he really the denounced this woman at the police station. What happens is the police station go-- the police goes into this apartment house and interrogates the neighbors.
What happens is most of the neighbors actually stood by the Jewish woman and even several Nazi party members. They all, for some reason, were not on the side of this Nazi party-- Aryan-- what is it? Aryanizer-- the guy who Aryanized the shop.
So this is what I never expected to find at this late stage just briefly before the war, that these kind of relation-- also, they actually said to the police, we have a good neighbor-- what is it-- neighbor community, which is strange when you think there's the prosecution. There are all these laws. And how can they have, in the apartment house, good relationships between Nazis, non-Nazis, and Jews here.
So I think life was much more complex, much more contradictory than we thought. But this explains, also, and allows us to explain certain things. First of all, what I described here that here was room for maneuver for Jews. And also, on the other hand, there was room for maneuver for non-Jewish Germans.
And this was all about their personal choices, what they would do and what kind of actions they would take. If they were in favor of the Jews or against the Jews, it was a personal choice. OK. That's it.
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Wolf Gruner, director of the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research, spoke at Cornell March 17, 2016, drawing on previously unused local archival sources from various cities, as well as video testimonies, to demonstrate that German Jews performed many individual acts of defiance and protest against Nazi persecution starting in 1933 and well into the war.
The talk, sponsored by Cornell Jewish Studies and the Cornell University Library, is part of a series of events designed to highlight new access, through Cornell Library, to the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive. This archive is a collection of 53,000 video testimonies by survivors of the Nazi genocide, as well as the Rwandan genocide, the Nanjing massacre and the Armenian genocide.