Over my last three posts I have reviewed books. on
the Danish Resistance and discussed a real life flight which led Ken Follett to write Hornet Flight. I have had previous posts on
European Resistance movements during WW II. One post stands out for me as it
discusses real life members of the Resistance I have had the chance to meet.
The post was about a Dutch teenager and about a Danish farm couple and their
inspiring actions. My posts on the Resistance have always drawn comments from
regular commenter to my blog, Kathy D. For a post I wrote titled Alan Furst’s Quiet Heroes
we exchanged a series of comments I felt fitted with my recent posts on the Danish Resistance. I want to
share our exchange with all readers of my blog.
Kathy D. December 10,
2013 at 9:15 PM
So glad to read this review about Alan
Furst's books and characters. If I read this genre, and could bear to read
about WWII, I would read his series first.
|The paperclip was a symbol of the Norwegian Resistance |
partially chosen as it binds things together
I have given Spies of the Balkans to a friend as a holiday gift, hoping he'd
like it. I think I'll give him another book by Furst this holiday.
On resistance in Europe, the more one reads blogs, books and talks to people
about the subject, the more one learns about this. The NY Times ran a piece a
few years ago about Germans hiding a Jewish musician during the war.
Irene Sandler, with help from others, smuggled 2500 Jewish children out of the
Warsaw Ghetto, to farm families in rural areas. She was arrested, tortured and
then released from prison. She won a Nobel Prize for this.
Then there's a book out about a couple, which saved 300 people in the Warsaw
Zoo and in their homes. A blogger wrote of an elderly woman living on a French
farm who hid three Jewish men in her cellar, wrapping her groceries in
newspaper every day so she could bring home the war news to them.
There were many resistance fighters. After I saw the film Defiance about the
Bielski brothers who saved 1200 Jews in the forests of Belarus,, I looked up
more about partisans and Resistance fighters, found more in Belarus, some in
Poland (a tough place), and, of course, in Italy. Read The Collini Case for a
legal mystery about that.
Greece had a strong partisan movement, as did Yugoslavia. Even Malta; I read
about a teenage girl who was shooting a machine gun at the Nazis;
unfortunately, she was caught.
And then within Germany itself, reportedly 800,000 political prisoners under
Nazis, including students Sophie Stoll and her friends.
Margaretta von Trotta's film Rosenstrasse tells of non-Jewish German women who
demonstrated every day in front of the deportation center where their Jewish
husbands were held. They stood up to Nazis with machine guns. They won their
And then the famous Warsaw Ghetto uprising happened in 1943; the Resisters had
nothing to lose. My grandmother, a Russian/Polish/Jewish immigrant had a friend
who wrote a book about other resisters in other Jewish ghettoes.
And then in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, resistance, too. This post reminds
me that I know a man who never knew his Dutch uncle. He died at the hands of
the Nazis while in the Dutch Resistance movement. And there's the famous
burning down of the population records building in Amsterdam. Although most
involved were caught and paid the ultimate price, thousands of Jews were saved.
So, if one keeps reading, one finds out a lot more about European resisters.
Kathy D. Thank you for a thoughtful and insightful comment.
As I read your comment I think Mazower
was too narrow in his conclusions about lack of resistance in Western Europe.
He took resistance to require armed action against the nations. I think your
Examples, as with my examples, show resistance took many forms.
When I was in the Lofoten islands north of the Arctic Circle in Norway last
year I met people who told me the Nazis had required them to help build
fortifications against a potential Allied seaborne assault. Required to carry
stones for the project they would stumble when they could so the stones would
roll down hills and they would have to go get a new stone to carry.
12, 2013 at 7:47 PM
Good you added that.
Another point, which is quite astounding is that women who were rounded up in
France in a 240 or so in a women's convoy were at a camp. Even though they were
of different religions and political ideology, they all jointly sabotaged the
labor in the Germans' work camps. They deliverately sabotaged the machinery,
did slowdowns of work and protected the more fragile women who couldn't do hard
physical work. This is from my reading of marks by a leading French resister who
was imprisoned in a camp. After she got out, she testified at the Nuremberg
trials, then told of the women's resistance inside a camp.
I think if more people had weapons in Europe and military training, many more
would have fought back physically. When people have no weapons or training and
are taken by surprise by the German military with a lot of force and weaponry,
what do they do? And what do villages do without guns, ammunition, military
In the movie "Defiance," the Bielski brothers and people in their
encampment did fight back with whatever weapons they could buy or get via
bartering or just finding and seizing.
I left out but should have included the massive resistance in Spain to Franco
and fascism; so many sacrificed and died then.
Cara Black who writes the Aimee Ledoc series set in Paris, has written of
commemorations to deceased and still living French Resistance fighters, who are
highly honored still. And in Greece, I believe the Italian government gave that
government two hours to either capitulate or not at the start of the war. The
Greek people said NO and valiantly fought back, including Jewish people. Just
read at Murder Is Everywhere about the last living Jewish Resistance fighter in
Greece, a retired dentist. And so on.
All over the world, people have fought for independence and freedom throughout
the centuries. I don't think Jewish people or Polish people or Italians or any
other people were more passive than others.
Kathy D.: Thanks for the further comment.
I think the word "resistance" was an appropriate word to describe the
response in conquered nations. "Resistance" is not confined to arms.
It takes all the forms described by you in your comments.
The peoples of Nazi occupied nations could not have expected as brutal and
systemic scheme of murder as carried out by the Nazis. Certainly there have
been atrocities and killings by previous occupying powers but they could not
have expected the scale of Nazi brutality. Had they realized sooner what was
going to happen "resistance" would have been far more.
Agree. If people had known -- and had access to weapons
and were trained in how to resist, more resistance would have happened.
And as a further bit of information, as I was reading Rachel Donadio's piece
about traveling to Naples in the New York Times Sunday Travel section, I came
to this section, which is new to me:
In 1943, when the Nazis began rounding up Neopolitan men, the furious women of
Naples fought back, successfully driving the Nazis out of town, albeit on a killing
spree, in a rare mass citizens' revolt against the German occupation!
So glad to see this group resistance by women. I do know that women were part
of the Resistance Movement in occupied countries and carried out many tasks. In
addition to other tasks, women were also often couriers of messages for
Kathy D.: I was not aware of the battle in Naples.
It is ironic that Allied governments were far more willing to use women in
clandestine operations than they were to allow them in regular military forces.
That's interesting; it's true.
But women were in the Resistance movements all over Europe. I've read amazing
stories of courage and determination, of great risk-taking. Women were part of
the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance, and were among French resisters, too.
Although I just can't bring myself to read it, there is a book about the convoy
of women rounded up in France and taken to a camp. It was about 240 women.
Their stories are told in this book. I think about 49 survived. A friend got
the book, but became too sad and also upset at their suffering, so she stopped
But some wonderful heroes are mentioned, leaders, organizers even within the
There is also the choir at Terezin camp. These Jewish prisoners sang to resist,
and they kept on singing even while their numbers were dwindling around them.
There is a terrific documentary about them. Survivors speak of how even if the
German soldiers had burst in and threatened their lives, they would have stayed
in their places and kept on singing. It's quite a story.
Kathy D.: Have you read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl in wich the author, a
pyschologist from Vienna, discusses life in concentration camps and what he
learned from the experience. I posted a review on January 18, 2011. The book
has influenced me since I was taught about it in 2nd year university 42 years
ago. His observation that the inmate who lost “faith in the future – his
future – was doomed” is a powerful statement on the importance of hope.
Kathy D.: I hope you get a chance to read the book. It can
change the way you think about life.
I have read a great deal about Frankl's book. I may or
may not read it. I try to steer clear of reading about the horrors of WWII,
which is why I don't read novels set during the war. I know enough. As a
5-year-old living in New York, my friend's lovely parents had numbers on their
Her mother looked so sad and gaunt. Her eyes looked haunted.
I noticed this at that age, and also knew that she was a kind person to her
child and her friends.
I asked my parents about the numbers on the adults' arms,
and I was told by my Jewish mother enough that I could grasp at that age. By 9,
I knew about the Holocaust enough to talk about it.
Sara Paretsky's latest excellent book, "Critical Mass," harks back to
1938-1942 Vienna in the Jewish ghetto, and mentions the deportation of the
characters, except the grandchildren who were able to go to London. The adults
could not get visas, and we know what happened then.
Kathy D.: I would not be afraid to read Frankl's book.
What happened in the camps was awful. Frankl takes us into the minds of those
who were there and challenges us on how to live our current lives and deal with
Thank you Kathy for your thoughtful and
thought provoking comments. You have made my blog better through your comments.
I am angry each time I read how the Nazis were so brutal and caused so much
suffering and loss. At the same time I admired how Frankl developed a
philosophy of life out of those terrible circumstances.
Frankl was in Vienna during the years of 1938 - 1942. The book delves into why
From one anecdote, I learned that on Frankl's birthday, a fellow inmate had given him a pencil stub and matchbook so he could write. What an incredible kindness amidst that horror.