The leadership role of the rabbinate in Eastern Europe during the Holocaust: a reappraisal

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Many European rabbis fled from German-occupied areas; some others, a minority, joined Jewish councils established by the Nazis. Focuses on those rabbis who refrained from abandoning their communities on the eve of or at the beginning of the German occupation and did not join the Judenrats. These people - be they community rabbis or hasidic rebbes - often continued as authority figures and should therefore be viewed as an integral part of the Jewish leadership during the Holocaust. Provides several examples of rabbinic leadership, from spiritual guidance to decisions on painful problems faced by Jewish communities. Challenges the view that religious Jews sacrificed their lives in punctilious observance of even minor commandments; on the contrary, sometimes rabbis were the first to violate some commandments, such as Sabbath or Jewish dietary laws, if a critical situation demanded this for saving human lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-11
Number of pages10
JournalLegacy; Journal of the International School for Holocaust Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010


  • Holocaust (Jewish theology)
  • Jewish leadership -- History
  • Rabbis
  • Holocaust
  • Jewish (1939-1945) -- Personal narratives
  • Holocaust and Jewish law
  • Jewish (1939-1945)


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