MUSEUM MEZZANINE 2: RESISTANCE
Amidah is the title of a striking new exhibition about Jewish resistance in the Holocaust, forming part of the Sydney Jewish Museum’s permanent displays.
The old image still prevalent today that Jews went ‘like lambs to the slaughter’ falls into the realm of historical legend. The exhibition presents some of the countless acts of defiance and resistance that took place to resist the Nazi genocide.
Jews resisted in groups or as individuals, in public or in hiding. Jews fought as soldiers in all theatres of war and participated as partisans and anti-Fascists in the organised underground movements in Hitler’s Europe. Jews responded to the Nazi assault with protests. They defended their humanity and dignity, performing courageous acts of self-assertion which bear witness to their spiritual and moral resistance.
Oscar Borecki, aged 12, fled into the forest when his shtetl was destroyed by the Nazis. He spent three weeks sleeping in barns and fields, and travelled some 60km before making contact with the famous Bielski partisans. At that time (March 1943) there were around 460 Jewish men, women and children in the group. At their liberation by the Russians, there were 1,200 partisans. “The Bielski brothers kept me and conditioned me when I first arrived. Later, I was sent on different jobs – taking horses to the village, taking grain to the mill. I didn’t look typically Jewish, so I was used as a scout and courier.” Oscar Borecki
Marian Pretzel used his talent as an art student to forge documents and stamps, which enabled him and his friends to escape through occupied eastern Europe from Poland. He understood the German ingrained respect for official procedure and made sure his forgeries were well-stamped. “To a German,” he says, “one stamp on a document meant that someone had checked it; several stamps meant that several people had checked it.”
These and other personal stories of resistance complement the historical narrative together with objects, documents and photographs.
The exhibition has been generously supported by the late Dr Bronia Hatfield, and a Grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.