THE VICTIMS Essay, Research Paper
Written by Alexander Kimel – Holocaust Survivor.
The Jews were a strong people that survived 2000 years of dispersion without assimilation. Their strong
survival mechanism was based on adaptation to persecution. They were like a reef that bends to the
hurricane and survives, while an old tree is broken. Even their Arch-enemy, Hitler grudgingly
acknowledged this strength. In Mein Kampf Hitler wrote:
In hardly any people in the world is the instinct of self preservation developed more strongly
than in the so-called “chosen” [Jews]..What people, finally, has gone through greater
upheavals than this one- and nevertheless issued from the mightiest catastrophes of mankind
unchanged? What infinitely tough will to live and preserve the species speaks from these
The Jews survived until Hitler came along. What happened? Why did the survival mechanism, that worked
so splendidly for 2000 years, fail? What were the tools of survival?
The extended religious Laws, took precedence over local secular laws.
The Royalty of the Torah and the Dream of Return to Zion were the symbols of a homeland.
Military traditions were suppressed and substitutes with the acceptance of martyrdom.
Lack of Central Authority helped in responding to emergencies and self-reliance.
Strong family ties and communal spirit, were necessary for survival.
Through the ages, the Jewish spiritual leaders guided the adaptation process, through the interpretation of
the Torah, thus assuring the survival of the Jews as an independent group. The above is reflected in the
values stressed in Jewish liturgy, religious holidays and festivals. The values stressed were loyalty, beauty,
hard work, humility, responsibility and belief in the divine protection – Israel b’tach badonai- Israel is
shielded by God. Armed resistance, heroism on the battlefield, military prowess was pushed into the
The strong family ties, the martyrdom, the lack of central national authority, the social responsibility; all the
tools for survival that worked very well for two thousand years, but they were a hindrance during the
Holocaust. The strong family ties hindered the organization of a resistance, the youth could not abandon
their starving parents to undertake an armed struggle and many families stayed together helping each other
in the final journey of their lives. The mystic reliance on God’s help made people passive and made them to
accept their tragic fate. The notion of Kiddush Hashem made the martyrdom acceptable, and in addition the
religious Jews believed strongly that God determines everything.
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