Holocaust and Heroism: the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in Zionist Mythology Open Access

Sosnick, Noah Zachary (2017)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/t722h963h?locale=en


The April 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising represented the single largest instance of Jewish resistance to the Nazis during the Second World War. Despite its status as an anomalous instance of armed resistance, the Israeli narrative of the Holocaust came to disproportionately center around this outlier. Through a process of mythologization, the Zionist movement adopted the narrative of Zionist-inspired heroism conveyed by a group of survivors of the Uprising who made their way to Palestine. Through parallel processes of myth-making, the surviving leaders of the Uprising established themselves and their fallen comrades as national heroes, while the State of Israel embraced their mythologization, and retroactively established the Uprising as part of the Zionist struggle for a homeland in Palestine. By firmly placing the Uprising into the context of other foundational national myths, the Zionist movement positioned the Uprising as the focal point of Holocaust memory. In essence, the story of the Holocaust became the story of the Uprising.

The narrative of the Holocaust as expressed through the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began to shift after the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961, as it broadened to reflect the multiplicity of experiences the Jews of Europe underwent. Nevertheless, the Uprising has retained its symbolic significance. Israeli commemoration of the Holocaust continues to invoke imagery of the Ghetto Uprising disproportionately. The State of Israel has continued to both bankroll and endorse projects initiated by the Uprising's survivors which present the mythologized narrative. Though the memory of the Ghetto Uprising has been the subject of shifts and contestations, it remains a central symbol of both the Holocaust and state-building in Israel.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising


I. "They Have Learned the New Lesson": The Zionist Mythologization of the Uprising


II. "Who Defended Our Honor?": The First-Hand Accounts of the Zuckermans, Marek Edelman and Israel Gutman


III. "None of Them Had Ever Looked Like This": Israeli Commemoration of the Uprising


IV. "From Holocaust to Revival": The Two Kibbutzim


V. "The Truth Conquers": Political Contestations over Memory


Conclusion: The State of the Myth Today




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