Today in History: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 80 Years Later
By: BZ Green
It was the winter of 1943, and Poland’s Jews had been under the boot of the Nazis, ym”sh, for more than three years. The occupants of the Warsaw Ghetto had watched their fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, sons, daughters, and wives, transported en masse to extermination camps.
This was in addition to the suffering that they were experiencing on a daily basis. 400,000 Jews were forced to live in an area of about 1.3 square miles, and between July 22 and September 12, 1942, the German authorities deported or murdered around 300,000 Jews inside the ghetto.
The conditions brought to the fore a strong will to resist—as illogical and irrational as it may have been.
In response to the deportations, on July 28, 1942, several Jewish underground organizations created an armed self-defense unit known as the Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa; ZOB. It began on January 18, when the Germans resumed deportations, and a group of fighters carried out an attack on an area where Jews were being deported. The deportations were halted within a few days.
From here, the group spent months training and preparing, and when the Germans resumed the deportations in April, they were attacked. But this time, they went block by block, burning down the entire ghetto. 13,000 Jews were killed during this action, Hy”d, but the organizers saw in this an honorable act of defending the honor of the Jewish People.
The commander and mastermind of the Uprising was Mordechai Anielewicz later wrote of the Uprising: “What happened exceeded our boldest dreams. The Germans fled twice from the ghetto. One of our companies held its position for forty minutes, while the other one lasted – upwards of six hours…
“I cannot describe to you the conditions in which the Jews are living. Only a handful will survive. Al the rest will succumb, sooner or later. Their fate has been sealed. In almost all of the bunkers in which our friends are hiding, one cannot even light a candle at night for lack of air. Goodbye, my friend. Perhaps we will see each other again. The main thing is this: My life's dream has become a reality. I have seen the Jewish defense of the ghetto in all its strength and glory.”
photo credit: Flickr