Thursday, April 19, 2018

Today is the 75th Anniversary of the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto Uprising

The Nazis crammed 300,00-400,000 Jews into the Warsaw Ghetto (1.3 sq. mi.) beginning in October and November 1940. Many died in the ghetto from disease and starvation. About 254,000 Jews were sent to the Treblinka extermination camp during the summer of 1942. The remaining Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto raised up against their Nazi oppressors 75 years ago on April 19, 1943. The SS had emptied most of the Ghetto. The remaining Jews knew deportation meant extermination at the death camps. The Jews once believed the Nazi promises of “resettlement.” They could say “Next year in Jerusalem.” No more; they knew the Nazis were sending the Jews to death camps. They knew their fate. Armed resistance began in January 1943 as the Germans started a second wave of deportations, which soon stopped. The Germans entered the Ghetto on Passover Eve, April 23 with the intent of liquidating the Ghetto – the “Final Solution” in Warsaw. About 400 Jews confronted the Nazis with a limited armory consisting of 2 heavy machine guns, 4 light machine guns, 21 submachine guns, 30 rifles, 50 pistols, over 400 hand grenades, and their spirit. Their fight was not a replay of David v. Goliath. The odds of defeating the SS and the German Army were nil, but they could send a message. They fought, as did the rebellious Jews at Masada 19 centuries earlier against the Romans. The Masada Jews committed suicide as the Roman Army was about to conquer Masada. They were not 300 Spartans at Thermopylae or 200 Texans at the Alamo buying time for the larger army. The Warsaw Jews exemplify the human spirit. They exemplify the Jewish spirit. They would not go quietly. Better to die with dignity than be part of a mass slaughter. They would take Germans with them. The SS attacked under the war criminal Jurgen Stroop, waging a scorched earth policy, building by building, block by block, basement by basement, tunnel by tunnel with dynamite and flamethrowers. Everyone and everything in the way was destroyed- an estimated 13,000 Jews. They razed the Jewish ghetto in the process. Only a few remnants remain. Fighting continued into mid-May. A few of the leaders and fighters managed to escape, to fight another day. Poland remembers their heroism, as it does the Warsaw Uprising a year later. The Jewish world remembers their heroism. Government financial support and worldwide contributions funded the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which initially opened in 2013 and had its grand opening in October 2014. It faces the Ghetto Heroes Monument, growing out of the rubble of the decimated Warsaw Ghetto. About 13,000 Jews died during the uprising with another roughly 50,000 survivors sent to the death camps. Stroop’s final report lists 110 casualties, including 17 fatalities. Unofficial reports are much higher. Jewish uprisings also occurred at Auschwitz, Sobibor, and Treblinka. The Jews did not go quietly. The Jews in Warsaw, Auschwitz, Sobibor and Treblinka are chapters in the epic history of the Jewish struggle for freedom.

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