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Resisting Persecution: Jews and Their Petitions during the Holocaust

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Volume 24

Studies in Contemporary European History

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Resisting Persecution

Jews and Their Petitions during the Holocaust

Edited by Thomas Pegelow Kaplan and Wolf Gruner

262 pages, 13 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-720-0 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (June 2020)

ISBN  978-1-80539-123-4 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (October 2023)

eISBN 978-1-80539-381-8 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“…the book succeeds in being informative and provocative… Taken together, these essays highlight a generally neglected subject that clearly merits more scholarly attention…[they] make a worthy contribution to scholarship and is well worth the read.” • Studies In Contemporary Jewry

“The sheer breadth of these materials is fascinating. The petitions were written from all over occupied Europe. Central Europe was a center of these petitioning activities, with thousands of documents showing strong feelings of attachment to the dominant culture…Overall, this volume coheres nicely. The editors acknowledge in their conclusion that this is only the beginning of a conversation, that much more work needs to be done to understand how petitions function and how they might help reshape our understanding of the Holocaust. Thomas Pegelow Kaplan and Wolf Gruner are to be commended for opening this conversation.” • Central European History

“This title is recommended for academic libraries and school libraries that want to deepen their collection(s) on the period. Written documentation, and especially firsthand accounts of specific areas, people or episodes can help provide a deeper understanding of the varied ways Jews tried to survive this horrible period.” • AJL News and Reviews

“In exploring how persecuted Jews petitioned Nazi officials—and, in some cases, Jewish leaders—for justice, rights, and mercy, editors Wolf Gruner and Thomas Pegelow Kaplan have initiated a thought-provoking and entirely new approach to Holocaust Studies. Challenging those who claim Jews were “passive” victims or that only political or armed defiance can “count” as resistance, this volume distinctly reveals that despite having far less power than the authorities, Jews demonstrated agency, protested -- even defied -- persecution, and, in some instances, succeeded. These eye-opening essays highlight a spectrum of responses over geographical regions and over time, becoming ever more urgent. Here we see active Jewish individuals and groups grasping at the kind of actions available to them, contesting oppression as it increased exponentially.” • Marion Kaplan, New York University

“This impressive book covers an important and hitherto overlooked research topic. It is a welcome contribution to developing a more nuanced understanding of the role of petitions as acts of resistance.” • Gilad Ben-Nun, Leipzig University

“The eight chapters of this collection, each by distinguished scholars in the field, bring to the fore the pleas of Jews suffering persecution in Nazi-occupied Europe. They demonstrate the value of petitions as an underused historical source that helps recover these voices.” • Greg Burgess, Deakin University


Since antiquity, European Jewish diaspora communities have used formal appeals to secular and religious authorities to secure favors or protection. Such petitioning took on particular significance in modern dictatorships, often as the only tool left for voicing political opposition. During the Holocaust, tens of thousands of European Jews turned to individual and collective petitions in the face of state-sponsored violence. This volume offers the first extensive analysis of petitions authored by Jews in nations ruled by the Nazis and their allies. It demonstrates their underappreciated value as a historical source and reveals the many attempts of European Jews to resist intensifying persecution and actively struggle for survival.

Thomas Pegelow Kaplan is the Louis P. Singer Endowed Chair in Jewish History, Professor of History, and Interim Director of the Program in Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is the author of The Language of Nazi Genocide (2009) and The German-Jewish Press and Journalism Beyond Borders, 1933-1943 (2023, in Hebrew) as well as the co-editor of Beyond ‘Ordinary Men’: Christopher R. Browning and Holocaust Historiography (2019) and Police and Holocaust (2023, in German).

Wolf Gruner is the Shapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies, Professor of History and Founding Director of the USC Dornsife Center for Advanced Genocide Research at the University of Southern California. He is the author of eleven books, ten of them on the Holocaust, including Jewish Forced Labor under the Nazis (2006), The Holocaust in Bohemia and Moravia (2019) and Resisters. How Ordinary Jews fought Persecution in Hitler’s Germany (2023).

Subject: History: 20th Century to PresentJewish StudiesGenocide History
Area: Europe


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