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CULTURE & HERITAGE - Culture & History

By Gilberte Jacaret

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
(April 19-May 19, 1943)

holo 1Photo from Jürgen Stroop's report to Heinrich Himmler from May 1943 and one of the best-known pictures of World War II.
The original German caption reads: "Forcibly pulled out of dug-outs."

From the Jewish Virtual Library, by Mitchell Bard

In 1942, Hitler decided to liquidate the ghettos and, within 18 months, had the more than two million Jews who’d survived the ghettos deported to death camps.
The Germans ordered the Jewish “police” in the Warsaw ghetto to round up people for deportation. Approximately 300,000 men, women, and children were packed in cattle cars and transported to the Treblinka death camp where they were murdered. This left a Jewish population of between 55,000 and 60,000 in the ghetto.

In April 1943, the Jews learned the Germans planned to deport all the people who remained in the Warsaw ghetto to Treblinka. A group of mostly young people formed an organization called the Z.O.B. (for the holo2Polish name, Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa, which means Jewish Fighting Organization). The Z.O.B., led by 23-year-old Mordecai Anielewicz, issued a proclamation calling for the Jewish people to resist going to the railroad cars.

In January 1943, Warsaw ghetto fighters fired upon German troops as they tried to round up another group of ghetto inhabitants for deportation. Fighters used a small supply of weapons that had been smuggled into the ghetto. After a few days, the troops retreated. This small victory inspired the ghetto fighters to prepare for future resistance…….
The Jews in the ghetto believed that what had happened in January was proof that by offering resistance it was possible to force the Germans to desist from their plans. Many thought that the Germans would persist in unrestrained mass deportations only so long as the Jews were passive, but that in the face of resistance and armed confrontation they would think twice before embarking upon yet another Aktion. The Germans would also have to take into account the possibility that the outbreak of fighting in the ghetto might lead to the rebellion spreading to the Polish population and might create a state of insecurity in all of occupied Poland. These considerations led the civilian population of the ghetto, in the final phase of its existence, to approve of resistance and give its support to the preparations for the uprising. The population also used the interval to prepare and equip a network of subterranean refuges and hiding places, where they could hold out for an extended period even if they were cut off from one another. In the end, every Jew in the ghetto had his own spot in one of the shelters set up in the central part of the ghetto. The civilian population and the fighters now shared a common interest based on the hope that, under the existing circumstances, fighting the Germans might be a way to rescue.

After the January battle, the Jews spent the following weeks training, acquiring weapons, and making plans to defend of the ghetto. The Germans also prepared for the possibility of a fight. On the eve of the final deportation, Heinrich Himmler replaced the chief of the SS and police in the Warsaw district, Obergruppenfuhrer Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg, with SS und Polizeifuhrer (SS and Police Leader) Jurgen Stroop, an officer who had experience fighting partisans.

The ghetto fighters were warned of the timing of the final deportation and the entire Jewish population went into hiding. On the morning of April 19, 1943, the Warsaw ghetto uprising began after German troops and police entered the ghetto to deport its surviving inhabitants. Seven hundred and fifty fighters armed with a handful of pistols, 17 rifles, and Molotov cocktails faced more than 2,000 heavily armed and well-trained German troops supported by tanks and flamethrowers.
After the Germans were forced to withdraw from the ghetto, they returned with more and more firepower. After several days without quelling the uprising, the German commander, General Jürgen Stroop, ordered the ghetto burned to the ground building by building. Still, the Jews held out against the overwhelming force for 27 days. On May 8, the headquarters bunker of the ZOB at 18 Mila Street was captured. Mordecai Anielewicz and a large number of his colleagues were killed in the fighting, but several dozen fighters escaped through the sewers.
On May 16, Stroop announced the fighting was over. He said his forces had captured 56,065 Jews and announced that he was going to blow up the Great Synagogue on Tlomack Street (which was outside the ghetto) as a symbol of victory and of the fact that “the Jewish quarter of Warsaw no longer exists.”
Approximately 300 Germans and 7,000 Jews were killed in the uprising, and another 7,000 Jews were deported to Treblinka. The outcome was preordained, but the dramatic act of resistance helped raise the morale of Jews everywhere, if only briefly.

The cover page of The Stroop Report with International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg markings


Warsaw Jewish Museum Opens on Ghetto Uprising Anniversary
By Piotr Skolimowski - April 19, 2013

Poland is hoping for an image makeover today as it marks the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising with the unofficial opening of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
The 13,000 square-meter (140,000 square feet) building sits on the historical site of the Warsaw Ghetto amid gray apartment blocks built using rubble left over from the destruction of Europe’s biggest Jewish neighborhood during World War II.

“This museum will be a major bridge between Poland andIsrael,” Nili Amit, who handles relations between the two countries at the museum, said last week. “People from all over the world will love it.”

Poland’s role in the Holocaust is often miscast by global media, prompting criticism from Warsaw. About six million Jews were killed during World War II as Germany’s Nazis ran a campaign across Europe that included random executions,  plunder and death camps, many of them set up in occupied Poland.

By showing the coexistence of the two peoples through the centuries, the new museum will attempt to change Poland’s image as the home of camps, including the biggest one in Auschwitz.
….The Jewish population in Poland grew to 3.3 million before World War II. About 90 percent of them perished in Holocaust. The remainder left the country after the war in part due to communist-era persecutions.

The museum will run temporary displays, film screenings and educational workshops until the grand opening of the permanent exhibition featuring the history of Jews in Poland since the Middle Ages. That’s planned for the beginning of next year, according to Piotr Kossobudzki, a spokesman.
The museum’s exterior features glass panels with the patterns of the word “Po-lin” in Hebrew and Latin. It refers to a myth of the first Jewish settlers fleeing persecutions in western Europe in the 13th century. They settled in Poland after hearing a divine voice in the wood telling them “Po-lin,”which means “you should rest here” in Hebrew.
Virtual Shtetl

The museum is also running a web-based Virtual Shtetldatabase that compiles information about Jewish places in Poland from before and after the war. “Shtetl” is the Yiddish word for small town.
About 30,000 Israeli students visit Poland annually, according to Israel’s Education Ministry. The ministry wants to “integrate the museum” into the schedule of those trips, according to Amit. “There is huge interest to find your roots,” she said.
The main hall of the building, designed by Finnish architect Rainer Mahlamaki, features undulating sand-colored walls linked with one of the building’s five bridges. The rift between the walls is meant to symbolize the void left by the Holocaust.

Sirens Blare

Sirens rang out across Warsaw at 10 a.m. to mark the start of today’s events, with volunteers set to hand out thousands of daffodil badges in remembrance of Marek Edelmann, the last surviving uprising leader who died in 2009. Edelmann had laid daffodils at the monument to the uprising’s heroes in front of the museum.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski addressed a gathering at the monument, including two survivors of the uprising: Havka Folman Raban and Simha Rotem, who’s known as “Kazik” and helped Jewish fighters flee through an an underground passage.
“Due to Germany’s insane plan, Warsaw became the biggest ghetto of occupied Europe,” Komorowski said today. “The uprising is an important part of the history of Warsaw and Poland.”
The uprising began on April 19, 1943 as Nazis attempted to wipe out the remainder of Jews living in the ghetto in time for Hitler’s birthday the next day. The Germans, facing fighting groups and inhabitants barricaded in bunkers, began systematically burning down the ghetto. For almost a month, the Jewish fighters battled the Germans in what was the first popular uprising in a city in Nazi-occupied Europe.

As many as 3,000 people holding burning candles will line what once were the ghetto walls in the so-called “chain of remembrance” to commemorate the dead on April 21. Jews made up one-third of the capital’s population before the war.

A survey by the Homo Homini research institute found that 23 percent of Polish high-school students thought Jews won the ghetto uprising. The poll, commissioned by Jewish Community of Warsaw, was carried out among 1,250 students aged 17-18 and didn’t give a margin of error.
“Young people in Poland aren’t really aware of the common history they share with Jews,” said Piotr Wasowski, 16, one of the organizers of today’s events. “I’m hoping  this will change.”