Author explodes myth of Jewish passivity during the Holocaust

“How the Jews Defeated Hitler: Exploding the Myth of Jewish Passivity in the Face of Nazism” (Rowman & Littlefield, 234 pp., hardback: $35, Kindle: $19.24) by Benjamin Ginsberg.

By Elaine K. Alexander, Special to the Light

In the 2009 film “Inglourious Basterds,” director Quentin Tarantino offered a visceral and perversely, comic, alternative history of World War II. Tarantino’s version features a suicide arsonist who is a pretty, blonde, French Jew (Mélanie Laurent) and a Jewish-American band of butchers. As readers may remember, these parties, unwittingly but successfully, collude in parallel plots for the assassination of Nazi top brass including Hitler, which presumably will bring about a de facto Nazi defeat—in 1944 rather than 1945.

In Tarantino’s mind, were the Jewish assassins—led by A-list actor Brad Pitt playing a non-Jewish army officer—a belated consolation prize for world Jewry?

Well thanks, no thanks, Mr. Famous Hollywood Director. Because through the lens of Benjamin Ginsberg, a second generation survivor and political science professor, the truth (which is more about brains and gumption than brawn and gore) is better than the fiction. In “How the Jews Defeated Hitler: Exploding the Myth of Jewish Passivity in the Face of Nazism,” Ginsberg gives an unexpected and thrilling history of key, Jewish contributions to the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany.

Ginsberg teaches at Johns Hopkins University where the June 2000 graduating class selected him for the George E. Owens award for superior commitment. He has previously published some one dozen books, including “The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State” about the politics of anti-Semitism.

In discussions of the Shoah, the Jews have sometimes been crudely cast as sheep herded to their own annihilation. This ignores: Judea had no sovereign state, no organized military defenses, no means of “central coordination.” Ginsberg points out that it is insensible to focus on the “villages, ghettos, [and] concentration camps” where desperate civilians could never have effectively resisted armed troops. “The question,” says the author, “is not [if] the Jews fought, but where.”


For starters, Jewish refugees who had fled the Third Reich—because they were native, German speakers and had a naturally acquired familiarity with German culture—were (ironically) perfect candidates for American and British covert operations. And Jewish partisans played a critical role in severing the German military’s supply lines. But that’s not all.

American Jews (after an era of “severe discrimination”) were recruited by Franklin Roosevelt for a “coalition of forces [in] the Democratic Party,” which helped the United States “get ready to fight.” Jews were largely responsible for a refined regime for the collection of income tax, which raised the billions of dollars needed to fund a war. In the film industry and within well-organized advocacy groups, Jews collaborated with the East Coast Protestant elite (who were staunch Anglophiles), to forge a national campaign against isolationist and pro-German forces. This earned support for early preparation of a military force and (before the United States had officially entered the war) critical aid by way of older naval destroyers, armaments, and troop supplies to the British and even the “Communist” Soviet Union. (About this bit of foreign policy, a politician explained, “It is permissible to walk with the devil until the bridge is crossed.”)

Plus, an overwhelmingly Jewish majority prevailed among the key, Manhattan Project scientists who produced the atom bomb, the ultimate weapon that would have certainly secured an Allied victory if Germany hadn’t already surrendered at an earlier date. But that’s not all.

In the Soviet Union, on account of a favorable period for access to education, Jews were disproportionately represented among leadership positions in the armed services. It was a Jew who developed the evacuation plan to the Urals for continued and protected armaments manufacture. And Jewish engineers designed powerful tanks and fighter planes without which, despite the solidity of the Red Army, the Soviets could not have won the war.

But even that—sadly—is not all. The last chapter, a full 25 percent of the book, is a rueful review of WWII’s aftermath when “several hundred thousand,” stateless, Jewish survivors were permitted to emigrate to Palestine as “the least undesirable alternative.” Then after the passage of a few decades, the American and European Left, African-Americans, and the global, Muslim community “mobilized anti-Semitism” to make common cause against the children and grandchildren of the refugees, branding them as Zionist aggressors and governors of an apartheid state.

Clearly Benjamin Ginsberg finds this bitter compensation for the Jews without whom the Allies might have won WWII—but they didn’t.