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Resistance and the Warsaw Ghetto

19 August 2020

3 mins

Author: Theo Pow

The objective of my dissertation was to illuminate higher levels of Jewish resistance to the Holocaust than those historians have previously argued to exist. My research contended that discovering true resistance to the Third Reich and the Holocaust from the Jewish victims required historians to focus on local communities and populations, as only once the unique asymmetrical existence between the Jewish people and their Nazi oppressors is established, can all forms of resistance be discovered. It is with this thought process in mind that I decided to focus on the Warsaw Ghetto.

The decision to focus on the Warsaw Ghetto derives from the fact that during the last months of the Ghetto the remaining Jewish people staged two acts of armed resistance to the final liquidation of the Ghetto. This is an overt act of resistance and has been rightfully classified as such, but leading up to these heroic acts of defiance there were countless other acts of resistance that have not been acknowledged as such and have in some cases even been classified as compliance and/or collaboration to the Third Reich. This negative classification of Jewish acts derives from previously constructed narrow definitions of resistance, which only classified an act as resistance if it was armed, organised and considerably affected the Third Reich’s ability operate.

Therefore, in my research I decided to employ a wider definition of resistance, which I created through the amalgamation of previous wider definitions of resistance from historians as well as a few bespoke additions from myself. A key distinction in the definition of resistance that I implemented was that I argued what was of importance was the motivation to resist, not the outcome of resistance, as the outcome of Jewish resistance was already pre-determined by the unassailable asymmetrical power relationship.

Due to the extensive breadth of the Third Reich’s scholarship in order to research this project correctly I had to cover a vast range of secondary sources. This is where Loughborough University and my dissertation supervisor were instrumental; my supervisor was able to continuously direct me to the best and most applicable sources in order to save me time, whilst still accessing the best material. I was also able to attend a seminar on how to visit and research at an archive and this gave me the confidence and the know-how to conduct independent research. Following this I visited the Wiener Archives in London, where I was able to gain access to amazing primary sources that improved the credibility and thoroughness of my dissertation.

I found researching and writing my dissertation one of the most fulfilling and rewarding pieces of work I have ever done. As Loughborough allows its History students to choose any subject to cover from modern history, I was able to choose a topic that I found interesting and challenging, which continuously kept me engaged with my research through having to come up with answers to complex and thought-provoking questions.  

Bio: I have always wanted to pursue a career in Law and when I discovered that an ideal path to Law was to first study History and then do a Law Conversion course, I instantly knew it was a perfect fit for me and decided to study History at Loughborough. I have continuously loved studying History at every step of my academic career, but I have undoubtedly enjoyed it the most whilst being at Loughborough, as you are given the opportunity, independence and skills to be able to research History in the same manner as a professional historian. 

Image by Moritz Schumacher

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