Hitler’s “final solution” meant genocide for Europe’s Jewish population: 6 million died in the Holocaust, 3 million of them in Poland. Only 5 percent of the Jewish population of Poland survived. Anti-Semitism could take no more dreadful form. 

Following the Hitler-Stalin pact in August 1939, Germany invaded Poland. The Soviet Union invaded two weeks later, and it was all over by 27 September. Hitler gained control of 48 percent of the country, which was then divided into two parts. The Nazis annexed outright the western part of Poland, which became a part of “greater Germany”, and controlled the remainder of the occupied area through a regime called the General Government. Later a third region was added when Germany occupied the area previously occupied by the Soviet Union. 

Immediately following the invasion, Jews were subject to attacks and atrocities. Following the Wannsee Conference in January 1942, the Nazis constructed the extermination camps at Auschwitz and Treblinka. From July 1942, Operation Reinhardt initiated the systematic annihilation of the Jewish population.

But we must not see the Jews simply as victims. There is a widespread misconception that they went passively to the gas chambers. In fact, there was widespread resistance, stories which deserve greater recognition and people whose heroism should be remembered.

Jewish armed resistance in ghettos and camps, 1941-1944
Jewish armed resistance in ghettos and camps, 1941-1944. Source: US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Jewish partisan activity in eastern Europe, 1942-1944
Jewish partisan activity in eastern Europe, 1942-1944. Source: US Holocaust Memorial Museum

About the author

Janey Stone is a life-long socialist and was a founding member of Socialist Alternative's predecessor group. She has written many articles for Socialist Alternative publications and given many presentations on a range of subjects. Her piece, “The real iron ladies: Women in the 1984/85 British miners' strike”, appears in Marxist Left Review #20. Janey has had a long time interest in the radical Jewish tradition of struggle and resistance, and is currently writing a major article on the subject. A version of this piece appears in Donny Gluckstein (ed.), Fighting On All Fronts: Popular resistance in the Second World War, available from Bookmarks.


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