In 20 years of studying the Holocaust, it didn’t occur to me that German officials might, when petitioned by German Jews or by Germans advocating for German Jews, change their minds. But it turns out that, sometimes, they did. And even when they didn’t, petitioning local, regional or national officials (often all at the same time) could delay deportations or punishments or even function as a form of resistance.
Resisting Persecution: Jews and Their Petitions during the Holocaust
(Berghahn Books) looks at these petitions from a variety of perspectives. As editors Thomas Kaplan and Wolf Gruner argue, this is a topic that is surprisingly undercovered. And it’s a topic rich in insight and importance. The book shows clearly that petitioning was a common practice. It shows clearly that petitions were sometimes granted. It shows clearly that petitions sometimes led to unexpected and unusual outcomes. And it shows us that studying petitions sometimes opens our eyes to new ways of understanding old topics.
The book isn’t the last word on petitions, nor does it pretend to be. Rather, Kaplan and Gruner open up a new avenue of investigation, one that offers researchers topics to work on for many years to come.
Thomas Pegelow Kaplan
is the Leon Levine Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies at Appalachian State University.
is the Shapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies, Professor of History and Founding Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research at the University of Southern California.
Kelly McFall is Professor of History and Director of the Honors Program at Newman University. He’s the author of four modules in the Reacting to the Past series, including The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994, published by W. W. Norton Press.