The Holocaust's forgotten victims? : Jews, suicide, and resistance / by Mark Alan Mengerink.
The debate surrounding Jewish resistance to the Holocaust has raged for 60 years, yet until relatively recently, scholars and commentators have narrowly defined resistance, focusing on armed action against the perpetrators to the exclusion of other actions taken by Jews. Drawing on scholarship that has attempted to broaden the definition of Jewish resistance, this dissertation examines suicide as a potential act of resistance to Nazi persecution, an idea first postulated by Konrad Kwiet, but since ignored by the scholarly community. Roger Gottlieb argued, in part, that to view any act as resistance we must examine several factors, including the intention of the actor. To view suicide as an act of resistance, we must not only consider whether the suicide victim intended to resist the Nazis, but also how Jewish witnesses and German perpetrators viewed suicidal acts by Jews. When viewed from these different perspectives, we can conclude some suicides of Jews during the Holocaust were acts of resistance because the victim, Jewish witnesses, and German perpetrators saw these acts as such. Viewing suicide as resistance to oppression has deep roots in the Western tradition, not only by victims dissatisfied with life, but also by religious and political authorities, who attempted to maintain the traditional economic, social, and political order. Yet an examination of suicide as Jewish resistance to Nazi persecution, humiliation, and murder will also help scholars rescue Jewish victims of suicide from obscurity. In many respects, Jews who ended their lives during the Holocaust have become "forgotten victims" because they have generally not entered the normal Holocaust discourse. By examining suicide among Jews, especially in the camp environment, using survivor accounts, memoirs, and diaries, we can also better understand attitudes of survivors toward those Jews ended their lives voluntarily and attitudes about life and death during the Holocaust.
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