“For six years, I have lived with the people – and countless stories of resistance, courage and survival – you will meet in Beyond Courage.”


Doreen Rappaport with Rabbi Burt Schuman and guide Anna Wiernicka on “Path of Remembrance” in the Sobibor death camp (Poland). On the stones are the names of people who were murdered in the camp.

The nightmare that turned into the Holocaust began in Germany. Under Adolf Hitler’s rule, the Nazis initiated the Final Solution, a policy aimed at annihilation of all Jewish men, women, and children in Europe. Under this policy, the Germans and their Axis partners caused the deaths of as many as six million Jews. During World War II, the Germans and their Axis allies also killed between 1960,000 and 220,000 Roma and Sinti (Gypsies) and millions of other civilians.

When I first began researching my book, the only examples I knew of Jewish resistance came from popular books and movies, and were limited to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the escape from the Sobibor death camp. And still I did not know the real or complete stories behind those two extraordinary events. Even as a Jew, growing up in a Jewish household, I had only every heard that “Jews went like lambs to the slaughter” during the war.

Researching my book, I learned that the truth was quite different.From the beginning of Hitler’s ascent in Germany and all through the war, Jews resisted the Nazis with uprisings and escapes and rebellions. But resistance is not defined just by dramatic, militant events. Jews refused to renounce their religion and celebrated their holidays in secret, improvising essential ritual objects. They set up Secret Schools, giving their children hope for the future.

“The Art Teacher”

Drawings by Children of Theresienstadt – Terezin

They collected diaries, testimony, art, and photographs so the rest of the world would have a record of what had happened. They became expert forgers, providing other Jews with new identity and ration cards so they would not starve. They devised ingenious plans to smuggle children out of danger to find hiding places for them, and to take them across mountains and through barbed wire to safe countries.

Perhaps Eta Wrobel, a Jewish partisan said it best:

“The biggest resistance we could have done to the Germans was to have survived.”

The stories of Jewish resisters during the Holocaust – many of them teenagers or young adults – have become a seed in me that keeps growing. I will continue my journey and I invite you to consider traveling with me as we add more stories to this website; to take the first step in your own journey of discovery, exploration and remembrance.

“The scope and extent of Jewish resistance cannot possibly be contained in one book. Join me here and add your voice.”

 

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