The Municipality of Barcelona – Zone under surveillance
Some were saved by erstwhile German Communists who had hidden their party membership and were in the Wehrmacht. Many young Jews saved themselves by fleeing into the forests and joining Soviet partisans, not all of whom welcomed them but needed them, if only temporarily, to kill Germans and their allies. (Soviet anti-Semitism would flourish after the war) Some few managed to live to tell the tale but recognized that it was merely chance that allowed them to live. All came close to death. “Some of them thought it had been the work of God, but most knew better: the same God, if he existed, had failed to protect their loved ones.”
From an interview with Bauer:
MO: In the book, you use the term “amida” to signify defiance, was there defiance in the shtetl?
YB: There certainly was defiance in many shtetlach — there was also a total collapse of society and the lack of any kind of defiance in other shtetlach. I tried to find out why there should have been just widely different types of reaction in communities that were geographically and socially so near to each other.
MO: How did the partisans fare?
YB: There were many, probably thousands, of Jews that were murdered by Soviet partisans, and there were thousands who survived because they joined the partisans. It is far from being a black-and-white story, and I tried to explain why that should have been so. Most people who survived owed their lives to either the few people who hid them and fed them, or to Soviet partisans. At least one major partisan commander (Vassily Chernishev [“Platon”]) was recognized as a “Righteous.” Some of the murderers among the partisans are also known by their names.
From another review:
Here is how Bauer describes the phenomenon of Amidah in his earlier book, Rethinking the Holocaust:
“The Hebrew term amidah…means literally “standing up against,” but that does not capture the deeper sense of the word. When I speak of resistance, I mean amidah, and that includes both armed and unarmed actions and excludes passive resistance, although that term is almost a non sequitur, because one cannot really resist passively. When one refuses to budge in the face of brutal force, one does not resist passively; one resists without using force, and that is not the same thing.
What does amidah include? It includes smuggling food into ghettos; mutual self-sacrifice within the family to avoid starvation or worse; cultural, educational, religious and political activities taken to strengthen morale; the work of doctors, nurses and educators to consciously maintain health and moral fiber to enable individual and group survival; and, of course, armed rebellion or the use of force (with bare hands or with “cold” weapons) against the Germans and their collaborators.(Rethinking the Holocaust, p. 120.)
The discussion in this book notes that, “Unarmed Amidah in the Kresy was limited by the impossible external circumstances, although it did exist in some places and was expressed in ways that were specific to the areas discussed here.” (And note how in this later book he capitalizes Amidah.)
A book I want to read: Letters from Barcelona: An American Woman in Revolution and Civil War edited by Gerd-Rainer Horn, letters by American socialist Lois Orr and some by her husband Charles Orr.
Letters from Barcelona provides a unique insight into the mentality and actions of an entire generation of socialist activists caught up in the maelstrom of cataclysmic events in interwar Europe. Based on carefully chosen representative selections from the copious letters sent by the young protagonist to family and friends in the United States, the atmosphere described in these letters vividly recreates the challenges, the hopes and the disappointments associated with living in Barcelona in the first year of the Catalan Revolution and the Spanish Civil War. These letters reconstruct the vibrant atmosphere of the campaign for a self-managed socialist society, stymied and ultimately crushed by the twin challenges of fascist and Stalinist dictatorships. The primary documents are placed into a larger context by the editor’s introductory remarks on the nature of the Catalan Revolution and the place of Lois Orr’s writings in the emerging literature on women’s autobiographies.
Bertrand Russell, for example, was both a public intellectual and a leading authority within a rigorous field. But the Bertrand Russell who is relevant here is not the author of landmark treatises on mathematics but the Bertrand Russell who advocated “unilateral disarmament” for Britain in the 1930s while Hitler was re-arming Germany. Russell’s advocacy of disarmament extended all the way to “disbanding the army and navy and air force”—again, with Hitler re-arming not far away. The Noam Chomsky who is relevant here is not the linguistics scholar but the Noam Chomsky of similarly extravagant political announcements…
Visiting the United States in 1933, George Bernard Shaw said, “You Americans are so fearful of dictators. Dictatorship is the only way in which government can accomplish anything. See what a mess democracy has led to. Why are you afraid of dictatorship?” Leaving London for a vacation in South Africa in 1935, Shaw declared, “It is nice to go for a holiday and know that Hitler has settled everything so well in Europe.” While Hitler’s anti-Jewish actions eventually alienated Shaw, the famous playwright remained partial to the Soviet dictatorship. In 1939, after the Nazi-Soviet pact, Shaw said: “Herr Hitler is under the powerful thumb of Stalin, whose interest in peace is overwhelming. And every one except myself is frightened out of his or her wits!” A week later, the Second World War began, with Hitler invading Poland from the west, followed by Stalin invading from the east.
Talking of Stalin’s fellow travellers, read this review of a book about Arthur Ransome, British ruling class Stalinist useful idiot/spy.