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Masha Bruskina

Nancy Spero (American, 1926-2009)

Masha Bruskina, 1995

  • Acrylic on linen
  • 122 1/4 x 146 1/2 in. (310.5 x 372.1 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Purchase: Fine Arts Acquisitions Committee Fund, Blanche and Romie Shapiro Fund, Kristie A. Jayne Fund, Sara Schlesinger Bequest, and Miki Denhof Bequest, 2002-12a-c

Not on view

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Masha Bruskina

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Masha Bruskina

RESISTANCE AND RESCUE

Masha Bruskina is a symbol of strength and resistance. She is one of thousands--some renowned, some virtually unknown--who resisted the Nazis or risked their lives to save others.

Jewish resistance against the Nazis was extremely difficult. Jews in hiding or living in ghettos or camps had few resources and were often weakened by disease and hunger. And they were frequently unaware of the Nazis' true plans and motives until it was too late. Nonetheless, many found ways to fight back, even in the harshest of circumstances.

Resistance movements existed in almost every concentration camp and ghetto. With a few smuggled weapons, home-made bombs, and sheer courage and endurance, residents of the Warsaw Ghetto managed to stave off the German army for a month in April and May of 1943. Even in the death camps of Sobibor and Treblinka, there were armed rebellions. Other prisoners escaped to the countryside and joined underground partisan fighting squads.

Resisting the Nazis to help others was extremely dangerous. One could be shot on the spot for helping a Jew elude capture. Yet, many took the risk. In every land occupied by the Nazis, there were people who hid Jews in basements, attics, and farmhouses; gave food to the starving; or helped an innocent victim escape. Sadly, though, these Righteous Among the Nations, as they were called, were far outnumbered by those who collaborated with the Nazis or simply stood by and did nothing.

Throughout Europe--especially in the expansive forests of Eastern Europe--Jews and non-Jews also joined partisan groups. These were covert militias that engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Nazis and their collaborators. Partisans sabotaged factories, derailed trains, cut communication lines, and blew up bridges in an attempt to undermine the Axis war effort.