How the Jews Defeated Hitler: Exploding the Myth of Jewish Passivity in the Face of Nazism by Benjamin Ginsberg

reader review:
Format: Hardcover

Benjamin Ginsberg informs us in his introduction to How The Jews Defeated Hitler: Exploding the Myth of Jewish Passivity in the Face of Nazism that what motivated him to write his book was a discussion he had with one of his students concerning Nazism. Apparently, the student could not understand why the Jews facing annihilation did not resist the efforts of the Germans.

This is a question that has often been raised and Ginsberg’s response, which he backs up in this excellent book was: “the Jews not only resisted but actually played a major role in the defeat of Nazi Germany. The question, I said, was not whether the Jews fought but where and by what means.” He goes on to support his reply by bringing up two very important elements to his argument:

Jewish resistance to the Nazis has to be characterized as a form of cumulative rather than collective action as it basically consisted of a host of disparate groups, individuals, and organizations spread over several continents reacting and expressing themselves in a variety of responses ranging from partisan warfare through nuclear research. These uncoordinated efforts were channeled by a common threat and assembled into what was a potent, although at times futile response to the Nazis.

Secondly we have to define what we mean by “resistance.” Very often Jewish resistance is narrowly defined and restricted to activities of the Jews in the occupied lands of Europe. “Jewish resistance and opposition to the Nazis manifested itself in a number of settings both inside and outside German-occupied territory. To ignore this point is to risk distorting the historical record.”

There has always existed a narrow perspective concerning the non-resistance to the Nazis by the Jews as it gets caught up in focusing only on the villages, ghettos and concentration camps and other locations where whenever resistance did arise it was feeble and often futile. However, as pointed out we forget to focus on the broader picture where Jews played an important role in the Soviet Union as not only in the military but also in their war machine production contributing immensely to the building and designing of tanks, aircraft, and artillery, which ultimately led to the defeat of Germany.

 [see The Jew Who Defeated Hitler:  Henry Morgenthau, Jr. …”:  Morgenthau and Harry Dexter White ensured that US Treasury funneled funds and weapons to Stalin’s Russia.  White was a spy for USSR even as he negotiated at Bretton Wood and established the US dollar as the world’s currency. -ed. ]
As Ginsberg notes, during the latter part of the war the USSR outproduced the Germans in the building of these war materials ensuring that Soviet battlefield losses of equipment could be replaced while the German losses could not.

Jewish contributions also existed in the United States as well as Britain in such areas as the

financing the military effort,
wartime propaganda,
signals intelligence,
human intelligence, and a plethora of other areas.

In addition, Jews played active roles in various Partisan movements in Greece, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, Poland, France, Czechoslovakia and various other southern and eastern European countries. Although it may be true that Partisan warfare did not defeat the Germans, it did hasten their defeat.

One extremely important area where Jews played a pivotal role was that of intelligence against Nazi Germany and its Axis partners particularly in the realms of American cryptanalysis and Soviet espionage. America’s Secret Intelligence Services (SIS ) came to rely heavily on the Jewish talents as they developed code-breaking techniques as well as a code machine, SIGABA that was an invaluable tool to breaking Axis cryptology. In the Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence, Jews learned a great deal of many of the German secrets while preventing them from learning about Soviet capabilities and intentions.

That the Jews played an important role in defeating the Nazis is beyond doubt. Could the Germans have been defeated without the aid of the Jews is another question and one that is very difficult to answer. And going back to the original question that Ginsberg was asked as to why the Jews did not react, the reply is that they did react if you look at the broader picture where in many instances their motivations and actions were greatly strengthened by the atrocities that were being committed by the Nazis.  

Editorial Review:  Offers a provocative new answer to an old question. In seeking to explain why the Jews failed to resist the Nazis during World War II, he declares that they not only resisted, but also helped bring about the Nazis’ defeat. . . . Readers will be especially impressed to learn about little-known Jewish contributions to the Soviet cause, including their role in inventing the T-34 tank, the La-5 aircraft, and the Katyusha rocket. . . . [R]eaders. . . are sure to be stimulated by his engaging and provocative book. (Forward)

Political science professor Ginsberg (Downsizing Democracy) takes a broad look at Jews who countered Nazism through

military force and
scientific and engineering discoveries,
intelligence work, and
political organizing.
He devotes almost as much attention to little-known figures like Mikhail Gourevich, designer of the MiG fighter, as he does to the Warsaw Ghetto revolt. Ginsberg’s most interesting chapter, reveals how Jewish financiers and other leaders, such as James Warburg, joined forced with WASP leaders like Dean Acheson who favored America declaring war against Nazi Germany. (Publishers Weekly)

[T]hrough the lens of Benjamin Ginsberg, a second generation survivor and political science professor, the truth (which is more about brains and gumption than brawn and gore) is better than the fiction. In How the Jews Defeated Hitler: Exploding the Myth of Jewish Passivity in the Face of Nazism, Ginsberg gives an unexpected and thrilling history of key, Jewish contributions to the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany. (St. Louis Jewish Light)

The apparent lack of Jewish resistance to the Holocaust has long been troubling. Johns Hopkins political science professor Benjamin Ginsberg proposes a new way of understanding what actually happened: Jews did resist, not so much in the impossible environs of Nazi-occupied Europe but from elsewhere.

Jews took leading roles in Britain’s codebreaking program and
America’s nuclear project,
eagerly served in the U.S. and Soviet military and designed some of Russia’s best weapons, including the T-34 tank.
Ginsberg leaps to some invalid assumptions—the atom bomb almost certainly would not have been dropped on Germany had the Nazis held out a few months longer—but his thesis brings fresh eyes to an old subject. (Express Milwaukee)

[Benjamin Ginsberg] makes a compelling case for Jewish resistance and gives the lie to those who question otherwise. (Hadassah Magazine)

It is a common belief that the Jews of Germany and Europe went passively to their deaths in the concentration camps and surely millions were duped by the Nazis that they were merely being ‘relocated.’ Information about the camps was kept secret from Jew and non-Jew, and often not believed when it leaked out. How the Jews Defeated Hitler by Benjamin Ginsberg reveals that it was not whether Jews fought, though poorly armed, outnumbered, and without resources, but the means they used as participants in the anti-Nazi resistance units. . . Ginsberg concludes with a look at the way old enemies of the Jews have mutated into new ones, the most obvious being Muslims worldwide, but also those on the Left seeking an alliance with them. This is a fascinating story that has not been told in its full context until now. (Alan Caruba, Editor, BookViews)

Benjamin Ginsberg’s pathbreaking study demolishes the widely held view that Jews failed to resist during the Holocaust. He conclusively demonstrates the immense Jewish contribution, on many fronts, to the defeat of Nazi Germany. Ginsberg uncovers many forms of Jewish anti-Nazi resistance largely overlooked by other scholars. His book analyzes and details European and American Jews’ prominent role in conventional and partisan military efforts, in scientific and engineering breakthroughs critical to the Allied war effort, in undermining Nazi propaganda, and in counteracting isolationism in the West. This work will transform how scholars and the public view Jews and the Holocaust.(Stephen H. Norwood, University of Oklahoma; author of The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower and Antisemitism and the American Far Left)

An exceptionally well-written and cogently argued study showing how Jews resisted Nazism vigorously and effectively. Ginsberg has done a prodigious amount of work in military, political, economic, scientific, intelligence, and cultural sources. The result is a synthesis that makes for fascinating reading, showing how and why Jewish resistance and opposition to the Nazis manifested itself in a number of settings both inside and outside German-occupied territory. A beautifully researched and written analysis of, and an original contribution to, an important subject.(Donald M. McKale, Clemson University; author of Hitler’s Shadow War and Nazis after Hitler)

About the Author

Benjamin Ginsberg is David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins University. His many books include The Fall of the Faculty, Presidential Power: Unchecked and Unbalanced, and Downsizing Democracy: How America Sidelined Its Citizens and Privatized Its Public.