Awakened Lambs: Jewish Armed Resistance in the Ghettos, 1939-1944

Date of Graduation

Summer 2004


Master of Arts in History



Committee Chair

Wayne Bartee


Contrary to some interpretations, Jewish armed resistance did occur in Hitler's ghettos. This thesis corrects the flawed impression that all Jews went like sheep to the slaughter. Drawing on archival documents, diaries and memoirs, and secondary sources, it argues that under severe human degredation and suffering, many Jews in the ghettos chose to defy their Nazi oppressors. It illustrates that it was impossible for the Jews to comprehend the fate that was being prepared for them, that the persistence of ideological disagreement limited the formation and success of armed resistance, and that the Nazi policies of deception, collective reprisals, and sheer brutality greatly restricted the incidences, and successes, of armed resistance in the ghetto. However, it also reveals that in spite of the destructive forces working against the Jews, armed resistance did occur in numerous Eastern European ghettos. In the smallest ghettos, such as Tuczyn, which had "only" 2,000 inhabitants, and the largest, Warsaw, which had nearly 500,000 before the massive deportations to the death camps, armed resistance occurred. The sources reveal that whether planned or spontaneous, revolts in the ghettos were mainly motivated by the desire to die with dignity and only occasionally in the hope of saving the participants or the ghetto inhabitants.


Holocaust, resistance, ghettos, Jews, Nazis

Subject Categories



© Gregory A. Katzin