Relying on interviews with Jews who were interned in three Polish ghettos during World War II—Piotrokow, Tarnow, and Lachwa—this study clarifies the mechanism by which the perception of threat can motivate collective resistance. As these data show, the normal response to extreme oppression is a reliance on microsocial ties to secure survival; available resources are focused on the protection of those ties rather than committed to collective resistance. Under specific, contingent structural circumstances, however, an unequivocal perception of threat can align this desire to protect the microsocial unit with a commitment to collective action. In Piotrokow and Tarnow, structural factors counteracted the perception of immediate threat. The survival of the microsocial unit appeared to be best secured by individual strategies of action. In Lachwa, the survival of the microsocial unit seemed to be tied to collective resistance, leading to a violent collective uprising against the Nazis.

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