An estimated 7,000 Jews were killed. Their story is heroic, and quelled the idea that Jews never resisted the Nazi atrocities.
April 19 marks the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. This was a historic revolt of Jews against their German oppressors. Desperate Polish Jews held out against the Nazis for four weeks, before they were finally crushed.
It should be noted that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is not to be confused with the Warsaw Uprising. The latter occurred in August 1944 as the Red Army of the Soviet Union (now Russia) neared the city of Warsaw. Believing their liberation was at hand, Polish residents of city, who had been stockpiling weapons and ammunition, almost literally rose from underground and attacked the occupiers. But the Soviet Army just stood by and watched as the Germans crushed the resistance as well, and leveled 80% of Warsaw.
As the Germans moved through Europe during WWII, they forced Jews into restricted areas within occupied cities such as Lodz and Warsaw in Poland. They limited the activities of Jews in the ghettos as well as severely curtailed food and medicine. Moreover, they began to move Jews from the ghettos to death camps such as Treblinka and Auschwitz.
The Ghetto in Warsaw was the largest of them all. In 1942, the Nazis shipped about 265,000 Jews from there to Treblinka; only about 50,000 remained in 1943. As the deportations continued, despair gave way to a determination to resist.
Finally, fearing deportation to Treblinka, the Jews who remained in the Warsaw Ghetto rose up against the Germans on April 19, 1943. With little to lose, with few weapons, they bravely staved off the Nazis until they were finally defeated on May 16. An estimated 7,000 Jews were killed. Their story is heroic, and quelled the idea that Jews never resisted the Nazi atrocities.
The brave Jewish fighters that fought the Nazis in Warsaw left an indelible legacy that still resonates with the world today. Indeed, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is mentioned on 557 pages in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History.
During WWII, it was tough to obtain accurate news from occupied territories. In fact, the JN ran a weekly report of international news under the title “News From Occupied Territories.” The Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) did its best, but it could not always verify stories from Nazi areas. For example, one JTA story that the JN ran on Feb. 12, 1943, stated that “Not a single Jew remains in the Warsaw Ghetto.” Yet, there were enough left to stage a revolt two months later.
Many stories in the JN are reports of commemorations. See “To Salute Warsaw Ghetto Heroism” (March 29, 1953), or more recently, a 70th anniversary event of the Ghetto Uprising at Wayne State University (May 23, 2013). Or see the story about one of the Workmen’s Circle’s annual commemorations (April 21, 2004).
There are also sad reports. Obituaries for Simcha Roten, believed to be the last known fighter (Jan. 3, 2019), and Marek Edelman, the last known leader of the resistance in the Uprising (Oct. 15, 2009), were published in the JN.
If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, then see the iconic photo from the Warsaw Ghetto that shows the little boy with his arms raised under German guns. It accompanies the article with the salient message, “Remembering” (May 2, 2003)
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.