There was a famous controversy regarding the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that was the largest uprising the Jews performed against the Nazis.

I have heard tell that a lot of Rabbonim banned fighting back against the Nazis and some (I believe Rabbi Menachem Ziemba included) were pro fighting against them.

  1. Which Rabbis were for and which were against? (Best is sources but even rumours would be something to let me research further)
  2. What would be the reason to go like sheep to the slaughter and not fight back?

2 Answers 2


R' Ephrayim Oshry answered in MiMaamakim (4:10) regarding someone's question if he can join the partisans.

It looks like the Teshuva was written around the time that the extermination camps were just beginning and their existence was still just a rumor. Following this rumor, many ran away at night to join the partisans, saying that this is the only way they'll stay alive.

However, joining the partisans was no picnic either. Running away from the Ghetto was dangerous, and the partisans weren't interested in people without guns. Moreover, plenty of the partisans were anti-Semitic themselves and would kill any Jew they could.

He says that there are two ways to look at it. One is that living in the Ghetto is a death-sentence and running away could save one's life, or maybe the Ghetto is "safe" (there was no concrete proof that all Jews were going to be killed, and many believed that if they just behave they'll stay alive) and running away is putting oneself in a safek sakana.

To answer this question he quotes the Gemara in Eiruvin which says that when non-Jews come to attack a border city on Shabbos (even if they're only coming for money), we're allowed to fight back since "lest land will be open in front of them". Any battle is a "doubtful danger", yet one can put oneself in doubtful danger to save the rest of the Jews from a definite danger. From here he derives that it's even more required for a Jew to put himself in a doubtful danger to save himself from a definite danger.

Therefore, as it appeared that there was more danger in staying than running away, one should run away to the forest.

Moreover, says R' Oshry

מעתה לפי דברי המנחת חינוך הרי ברור, שהמלחמה הזאת שהגרמנים הארורים צאצאי עמלק ימ״ש הכריזו על היהודים לאבדם ולהשמידם, בודאי שהחיוב והמצור, מוטלים על היהודים להשיב מלחמה שערה ולהשיב להם כגמולם ולעשות להם כאשר הם זוממים עלינו ומצוה לרדוף אותם באף ולהשמידם מתחת שמי ה׳

Now, based on the Minchas Chinuch it's clear, that [in] this war which the cursed Germans, descendants of Amalek, declared on the Jews to plunder and destroy is definitely an obligation on the Jews to return to their gates and to answer them the way they planned to do to us and it's a mitzva to chase after them and destroy them from under the heavens of Hashem.


I am reminded of this recollection of a visit by Harvey Swados with the Lubavitcher Rebbe:

I began ... by asking his opinion of ... of the controversy about the behavior of the German masses and the Jewish leadership, which has tormented the western world ever since, particularly since the appearance of Hannah Arendt's book on the Eichmann trial. ...

Speaking of the hardship and the anguish undergone by the Jews of Communist Russia, he asked rhetorically: How much more difficult do you suppose it was to keep hold of one's integrity under the crushing weight of the German tyrants, who were so much more efficient than the Russians? No, he said firmly, the miracle was that there was any resistance at all, that there was any organization at all, that there was any leadership at all.


I was flabbergasted. Here I was, sitting in the study of a scholar of mystic lore late on a wintry night, and discussing not Chabad Hasidism, Aristotelianism or scholasticism but proletarian literature! "Why," I said, "I would hope that it is less narrowly propagandistic than Sinclair's. I was trying to capture a mood of frustration rather than one of revolution."

Suddenly I realized that he had led me to the answer that he was seeking -- and what was more, with his next query I realized how many steps ahead of my faltering mind: "You could not conscientiously recommend revolution for your unhappy workers in a free country, or see it as a practical perspective for their leaders. Then how could one demand it from those who were being crushed and destroyed by the Nazis?"

  • 1
    Good quote but I don't see how it answers the question. Feb 11, 2015 at 22:51
  • @shmuel it says that the Rebbe would be for fighting back.
    – Yishai
    Feb 11, 2015 at 23:21

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