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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 $120.00/£89.00 Hb Published (June 2020)
eISBN 978-1-78920-721-7 eBook
“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 Leon Levine Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies at Appalachian State University. He is the author of The Language of Nazi Genocide (2009) and the co-editor of Beyond ‘Ordinary Men’: Christopher R. Browning and Holocaust Historiography (2019).
Wolf Gruner is the Shapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies, Professor of History and Founding Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research at the University of Southern California. He is the author of nine books on the Holocaust, including Jewish Forced Labor under the Nazis (2006) and the prize-winning The Holocaust in Bohemia and Moravia (English edition 2019, German original 2016).