With the attrition of the population there, the remaining 55,000 to 60,000 Jews coalesced to form the Jewish Combat Organization, or Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa, known popularly as ZOB. The Jewish underground combatant forces were an important example of active Jewish resistance.
There were much greater examples of unarmed Jewish resistance that were instrumental in the defeat of Germany’s army, yet this piece of history remains unknown to most.
Europe’s Jews were, in fact, a fourth army that was crucial in defeating Nazi armies; Hitler’s destruction of the Jews absorbed immense amounts of arms and effort while the Allies concentrated only on defeating the Nazis in battle.
In observing Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jewish people and others say “Never again!” They will never allow such a thing to happen again, and everyone should fully understand the Shoah to ensure that massive killings stop, but there remain many examples today that show a level of violence perpetrated in the Holocaust can happen again.
How can all of society help to keep that promise? Please allow me to offer some information to remember from a labor-economics perspective.
1. Do not be tempted into whitewashing industrialized genocide in any way. In today’s Germany, conventional thought has it that the average citizen didn’t know genocide was being perpetrated during World War II — that it was a fairly well-kept secret among 10,000 psychopathic Nazi Party members. But the systematic murder of 6 million people was a national effort on an industrial scale. While many Germans may not have known the extent of Hitler’s plan, the genocide was simply too big not to recognize; non-Nazi workers had to assist in this industry of murder. We need to be honest about the fact that hundreds of thousands of people worked in the feeder system that delivered Jews and others to the ovens, and many decent people looked away. [This should be remembered] so that decent people won’t do that [look away] again in the future.
2. Hitler’s racist obsession was a logistics nightmare that cost his army dearly. The Nazi genocide was a determinant factor in the defeat of the Nazi armies. In war, the ability to quickly transport resources is a vital factor for victory. With gasoline and fuel being of utmost importance to fuel tanks, planes and other vehicles, the railways were a preferred method of moving goods. More importantly, Hitler’s determination to move Jews out of their hometowns and into concentration camps significantly obstructed the efficient transport of Nazi army goods, including food, coats and arms. Rather than focusing on support for his army, Hitler diverted large numbers of soldiers, transport experts, professionals and massive amounts of materials and supplies to killing Jews.
3. The Nazis caused a true bleeding of human resources from which Germany did not fully recover for 50 years after the war. Part of Hitler’s murderous resentment of the Jews was due to the population’s tremendous success. There were more than 1 million registered German-Jewish citizens in January 1933. Many were highly skilled professionals, academics and artists who would soon no longer contribute to German industry; some were able to emigrate before being detained and deported to death camps. Horrified, many other Germans, including Nobel Prize-winning author Thomas Mann, also fled, and a vast array of Europe’s Jewish surgeons, pharmacists, teachers, lawyers, judges, businessmen and tradesmen died in or on the way to the camps.
4. The Shoah is unique in showing a new level of industrialized violence and murder. We remain awash in violence today and must learn to recognize new forms of violence to keep the promise of “Never Again.”
(About the writer: L. Craig Williams, author of “The Fourth Army,” holds a bachelor's degree in European history and a Juris Doctor, specializing in international law. He has written extensively about human resources and individual leadership. Williams has been an International Fellow of Columbia University and has published articles on comparative law and was a director of the German-American Law Association for many years. Williams’ book adds perspective on the Holocaust, or the Shoah, and maps important lessons from that nightmare for today’s society.)