Rescue as Resistance: How Jewish Organizations Fought the Holocaust in France

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Elie Wiesel

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Editorial Reviews

Elie Wiesel
I read Lucien Lazare's book when it was published in French. It is an important, well-researched document that must be read and studied by anyone interested in what happened in occupied France.
Robert O. Paxton
Lazare perceives that among all those who resisted Nazism in Occupied France, the Jews were special: they alone were marked for extermination even if they never violated a law, and they alone were doomed if they obeyed all the laws. Starting from the unique character of the Jewish Resistance in France, Lazare can take all its forms as his province, from sheltering children to blowing up trains. He examines them all more fully than any other author, and he does it with care, sympathy, and vividness.
Michael R. Marrus
With a keen eye for the diversity of circumstance in which the victims found themselves, Lucien Lazare makes a powerful case that Jews themselves had a vital role to play in rescue operations, particularly of Jewish children. Highly recommended as an antidote to notions of Jewish passivity, this book stresses the inventive, divergent, painstaking, risky, and often heroic strategies for survival adopted by many Jews in wartime France.
Library Journal
Lazare, the science editor for the International Center for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vasham, in Jerusalem, participated in many of the events he describes. His is certainly not the first book on Jews in France during World War II nor on French resistance to the Nazis. But Lazare delves much further than any previous author into the question of what Jews did, rather than what was done to them. Using private and public archives from Israel, France, and the United States, plus hundreds of books and articles, Lazare documents the efforts of thousands of French Jews who rescued fellow Jews from prison, sheltered those who were in hiding, and enabled yet others to camouflage themselves as Aryans through false identification papers. His work is both poignant and authoritative; highly recommended for all libraries.Thomas J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., N.Y.
Lazare, Holocaust survivor and scholar of Jewish history, argues that rescue--including such activities as smuggling Jews across borders or fabricating false papers--constituted a significant means of fighting back for French Jews and that, although unprepared for the severity of Hitler's genocidal onslaught, the Jews of France launched widespread and effective rescue and relief efforts following the first deportations in 1942. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Kirkus Reviews
A challenge to traditional views of Jewish passivity in the face of the Holocaust.

One of the most contentious aspects of that tragedy concerns the disputed role of the Jews themselves during WW II. Introduced into the postwar debate about the Holocaust with Hannah Arendt's accusations against Jewish leaders in her landmark work Eichmann in Jerusalem, the Jews have since been accused of accepting extermination with resignation and docility. That scenario is effectively contested by Lazare, a Holocaust survivor himself, a member of the French Jewish underground during WW II, and scientific editor at the International Center for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. He presents overwhelming evidence that French Jews were active in the Resistance. And he demonstrates in compelling detail how Jewish resistance took many more forms than just armed insurgency. He traces how the myriad array of small actions undertaken by French Jews—from the establishment of underground networks to the smuggling of children across borders—eventually coalesced into a concerted and collective effort to survive the Nazi program of extermination. Besides the study's value in gathering this material, Lazare offers an important theoretical reconsideration. French Jews were acutely conscious of an inevitable fact: French gentiles could obey the laws of Vichy and occupied France and survive. Jews had no such option. Therefore, the Jewish Resistance in France, according to Lazare, was qualitatively different from the French Resistance. Christian French were fighting for their country's independence, while Jews were fighting for the survival of their people. This distinction generated much controversy when the book was published in France. Perhaps the formulation is overly rigid: The Resistance also saw itself as fighting for survival, both its own and that of civilization itself.

The controversy, however, does nothing to diminish Lazare's accomplishment in bringing to light an important episode in the history of the 20th century.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231101240
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 6/20/1996
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.27 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Meet the Author

Lucien Lazare is Scientific Editor at the International Center for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. An active participant in Jewish resistance groups in France during World War II, he is a member of the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous among the Nations.

Jeffrey M. Green lives in Jerusalem and translates from Hebrew and French.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Pt. I The Rising Danger 1
1 France from 1938 to June 1940 and the Problem of Foreign Nationals 3
2 The Jews in France in 1938-1939 11
3 The Uniqueness of Jewish Resistance 23
Pt. II Organized Jewish Reactions From June 1940 to July 1942 33
4 Jewish Assistance Organizations 35
5 The Youth Movements 51
6 From Social, Political, and Cultural Action to the Military Option 74
7 The Jewish Communist Organizations 104
8 The Consistory and Other Religious Associations 114
9 The Particular Case of Jewish Children 126
Pt. III Jewish Clandestine Action from August 1942 to the Liberation 141
10 The Establishment of Underground Networks 143
11 The Rescue of Jewish Children 172
12 The Jewish Underground: Solidarity and Vitality 216
13 The Primacy of Tendencies Toward Unity and the Dynamism of Spiritual Life 236
14 The Budgets of the Jewish Resistance 255
15 The Groundwork of the Postwar Community 267
16 The Armed Struggle 275
Conclusion 307
Notes 313
Bibliography 365
Index 375
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