The end of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising

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I often like to play with words for example when you take Warsaw and switch some parts of the name you get an accurate description of what the city went through during WWII . Saw War and Was raw.

Warsaw saw the war in its rawest  and most brutal form. It is also one of the few cities that fought back. The Warsaw ghetto uprising was  revolt that occurred from April 19 to May 16, 1943,by Jews in the ghetto and members of the Polish underground.

The uprising commenced on April 19 when the Ghetto refused to surrender to the police commander SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop, who then ordered the burning of the Ghetto, block by block. This is what Stroop said about fighters in the uprising in his report .

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“When we invaded the Ghetto for the first time, the Jews and the Polish bandits succeeded in repelling the participating units, including tanks and armored cars, by a well-prepared concentration of fire.  The main Jewish battle group, mixed with Polish bandits, had already retired during the first and second day to the so-called Muranowski Square. There, it was reinforced by a considerable number of Polish bandits. Its plan was to hold the Ghetto by every means in order to prevent us from invading it.  Time and again Polish bandits found refuge in the Ghetto and remained there undisturbed, since we had no forces at our disposal to comb out this maze.  One such battle group succeeded in mounting a truck by ascending from a sewer in the so-called Prosta [Street], and in escaping with it (about 30 to 35 bandits).  The bandits and Jews – there were Polish bandits among these gangs armed with carbines, small arms, and in one case a light machine gun – mounted the truck and drove away in an unknown direction”

By May 16th an estimated A total of 13,000 Jews had died, about half of them burnt alive or suffocated.  It was the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II.

General Stroop reported after the destruction of the ghetto that 56,065 Jews had been taken; of those 7,000 sent to the Treblinka killing center, and the remainder deported to forced-labor camps and the Majdanek camp. Some of the resistance fighters succeeded in escaping from the ghetto and joined partisan groups in the forests around Warsaw.

Below some pictures of the uprising.

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Ghetto Resistance

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“It is not you who are in charge. God will judge you” the bravery of Fr.Józef Cebula.

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The word ‘Hero’ is branded way too easily nowadays, Recently I heard someone on a current affairs program saying he saw the Kardashians as his role models and heroes, that actually scared me. If people whose only contribution to society is self indulgence and self promotion are seen as heroes, then real heroes like Father Józef Cebula will soon be forgotten.

Father Józef Cebula was born into a modest family of Polish origin on March 23, 1902, at Malnia in southern Poland. He suffered tuberculosis as a child,and was in fact declared incurable . After an unexpected recovery, he visited an Oblate shrine where he shared his story with an Oblate priest. The priest advised Józef to study with the Oblates at the newly-established Oblate minor seminary.

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Jozef entered the Oblate Junior Seminary in 1920, and was ordained to the priesthood on June 25, 1927.While still in a seminary. Father Cebula became a superior at the Oblate seminaries in 1931, and became novice master at Markowice in 1937.

When the Germans invaded and occupied Poland in September 1939, they declared loyalty to the Church illegal. In October 1939 the 100 member community at Markowice was placed under house arrest, and set to work as farm laborers.

Later on that month, the Community was evicted and the novitiate was turned into a centre for the Hitler Youth.

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Fr. Jozef was called before the authorities on several occasions for refusing to stop saying Mass and hearing confessions. Eventually he was arrested and sent to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria.

Known for his humility, Fr. Cebula was a man of quiet prayer with a deep spiritual life. He radiated peace in the very middle of the death camp, even when tormented by the Nazis.

Mauthausen

In Mauthausen he was harassed and forced to work hard, to break rocks in the quarry, simply because he was a Roman Catholic priest. Father Cebula was forced to carry 60-pound rocks from the quarry to a camp two miles away. He had to climb a 144-step staircase called the Death Stairs, while being beaten and insulted by his tormentors. The guards humiliated and mocked him by ordering him to sing the texts of the Mass while he worked.

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On May 9th 1941 , Fr. Cebula summoned up his strength and courage  and said, “It is not you who are in charge. God will judge you.” The Nazis ordered him to run, with a rock on his back, towards the camp’s barbed wire fence, where a guard shot him with a sub-machine gun and declared that Fr. Cebula “was shot while trying to escape”. He died  in this volley of bullets. His body was taken to a crematorium and burned.

It takes a Hero to stand up against evil knowing it will cost you your life. Lets never forget the real heroes.

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They paid a high price-The heroes of the Warsaw uprising.

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On April 19, 1943, the Warsaw ghetto uprising began after German troops and police entered the ghetto to deport its surviving inhabitants. By May 16, 1943, the Germans had crushed the uprising and left the ghetto area in ruins. Surviving ghetto residents were deported to concentration camps or killing centers..

So many times have I heard the argument “Why didn’t the Jews fight back” In the Warsaw they did fight back and they paid the ultimate price for it. I am not going into individual accounts for to me they were all heroes.

But as so many times before there are very few living heroes.

13,000 Jews were killed in the ghetto during the uprising (some 6,000 among them were burnt alive or died from smoke inhalation). Or died trying to escape the fire, in the picture below you can see a man jumping out of the window from a multi-story building.1024px-Stroop_Report_-_Warsaw_Ghetto_Uprising_-_26568

Of the remaining 50,000 residents, most were captured and shipped to concentration and extermination camps, in particular to Treblinka.

Jürgen Stroop’s internal SS daily report for Friedrich Krüger, written on 16 May 1943, stated:

“180 Jews, bandits and sub-humans, were destroyed. The former Jewish quarter of Warsaw is no longer in existence. The large-scale action was terminated at 20:15 hours by blowing up the Warsaw Synagogue. … Total number of Jews dealt with 56,065, including both Jews caught and Jews whose extermination can be proved. … Apart from 8 buildings (police barracks, hospital, and accommodations for housing working-parties) the former Ghetto is completely destroyed. Only the dividing walls are left standing where no explosions were carried out.”

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Stroop’s report is one of the most disturbing pieces of reporting of the Holocaust. It is just so ‘matter of fact’ as if they are minutes of meetings or reports of an ordinary working day, rather then committing mass executions and genocide. If the title of the report “There is no more Jewish residential district in Warsaw”

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But because of the detailed description of the actions taken in the report it became a blessing in disguise,for lack of a better word. there were 4 copies but only 2 were discovered after the war, Both copies were introduced as evidence at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, sharing the document number 1061-PS, and used in the trial as “US Exhibit 275”

The assistant prosecutor dealing with the persecution of the Jews referred to it as “the finest example of ornate German craftsmanship, leather bound, profusely illustrated, typed on heavy bond paper … the almost unbelievable recital of the proud accomplishment by Major General of Police Stroop.Jürgen_Stroop

Although they must have been aware they had little or no chance of succeeding the people in the Warsaw ghetto said “enough is enough” and decided to act and paid a heavy price for that action. But they did it with their heads held up high, Let us never forget the heroes of Warsaw.

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A tear rolls down my face

Henio

A tear rolls down my face because you made me cry, not because you hurt me.

A tear rolls down my face because you made me sad, not because you did me wrong

A tear rolls down my face and I wonder why, because I don’t know you.

A tear rolls down my face although I have never met you.

All I see is a young boy aged 9 with a happy smiley face, full of life .

This last picture of you, taken outside the entrance of a bank. is all that remains of you.

On the same day  day you started 1st grade in school, September 1,1939 an evil force swept through your land and declared you an enemy.

An ‘enemy’ that was all in their twisted mind, for how could a 6 year old be a threat.

There was no room anymore in your own land for people like you, so the evil force gave you a new ‘home’., called  Majdanek concentration camp.

You and your family had to go through a selection in this new home, in spring 1942 you survived.

On November 9th 1942 you were killed in a Gas chamber, you were 9. Your name is Henio Zytomirski

A tear rolls down my face because now I know your name and age.

A tear rolls down my face because I know I was 9 once.

A tear tolls down my face for I know the pain you felt was real.

A tear rolls down my face, knowing you died innocent.

A tear rolls down my face.

 

 

Where eagles dare- The story of Ingrid Pitt aka Heidi

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I don’t know how often I have watched this movie but it is one of my favourite war movies.It is funny though that you never really know anything about the real lives of actors or actresses. You may know something about the big stars in movies, but when it comes to the people who play the smaller parts, you just know nothing about them.

Ingrid Pitt (born Ingoushka Petrov) survived World War II and became a well-known actress on the East Berlin stage, however, she did not appear on screen until well into her twenties.

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Ingoushka Petrov was born in Warsaw, Poland, to a German father of Russian descent and a Polish Jewish mother.During World War II, she and her family were imprisoned in Stutthof concentration camp in Sztutowo, Free City of Danzignow present-day Nowy Dwór Gdański County, Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland.

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She survived, and in Berlin, in the 1950s, married American soldier, Laud Roland Pitt Jr. and moved to California. After her marriage failed, she returned to Europe, but after a small role in a film, she took the shortened, stage name, “Ingrid Pitt” and headed to Hollywood, where she worked as a waitress while trying to make a career in films.

In the early 1960s, Pitt was a member of the prestigious Berliner Ensemble, under the guidance of Bertolt Brecht’s widow Helene Weigel. In 1965, she made her film debut in Doctor Zhivago, playing a minor role. In 1968, she co-starred in the low-budget science-fiction film The Omegans, and in the same year, played British spy, Heidi Schmidt in Where Eagles Dare opposite Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.

But she was best known as Hammer Films’ most seductive female vampire ,Countess Dracula, of the early 1970s, the Polish-born Pitt possessed dark, alluring features and a sexy figure that made her just right for Gothic horror.

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She also played in “The Wicker Man” and several episodes of “Dr Who”But I will always remember her as Heidi Schmidt in “Where Eagles Dare”

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Just another day on the job-Felix Landau diaries

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Felix Landau (May 21, 1910, Vienna, Austria – April 4, 1983), was a SS Hauptscharführer, a member of an Einsatzkommando , based first in Lwów, Poland (today Lviv, Ukraine), and later in Drohobycz. He was a “central figure in the Nazi program of the extermination of Galician Jews”.He is known for his daily diary and for temporarily sparing the life of the Jewish artist Bruno Schulz in 1942.

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Landau liked Schulz’s art and supplied him with protection and extra food. In return, he ordered the artist to paint a set of murals for his young son’s bedroom, depicting scenes from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale.

In June 1941, Felix Landau volunteered for Einsatzkommando service. He began his diary in July 1941, interspersing sentimental letters to his fiancée with detailed records of his participation in atrocities of what later came to be known as the Holocaust. He describes “shooting exercises” and “wild actions”, shooting sprees wherein he and his men would pick off random Jews who worked nearby or passed by on the street. In one such event in November 1942, Landau killed the personal dentist of a fellow officer, Karl Günther. In revenge, Günther caught up with Bruno Schulz, then under the protection of Landau, and shot him twice in the head. Later, Günther told Landau: “You killed my Jew – I killed yours.

Below are some excerpts from Felix Landau’s diaries.

“At 4.00 pm on 2 July 1941 we arrived in Lemberg. First impression: Warsaw harmless in comparison. Shortly after our arrival the first Jews were shot by us. As usual a few of the new officers became megalomaniacs; they really enter into the role wholeheartedly. We took over another military school in the Bolshevik quarter.

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Here the Russians must have been caught in their sleep. We quickly gathered together the bare essentials. At midnight after the Jews had cleaned the building, we went to bed.

July 4 1941,

One of the Poles tried to put up some resistance. He tried to snatch the carbine out of the hands of one of the men but did not succeed. A few seconds later there was a crack of gunfire and it was all over. A few minutes later after a short interrogation a second one was finished off. I was just taking over the watch when a Kommando reported that just a few streets away from us a guard from the Wehrmacht had been discovered shot dead.

One hour later, at 5 in the morning, a further thirty-two Poles, members of the intelligentsia and the Resistance, were shot about two hundred meters from our quarters after they had dug their own grave. One of them simply would not die. The first layer of sand had already been thrown on the first group when a hand emerged from out of the sand, waved and pointed to a place, presumably his heart. A couple more shots ran out, then someone shouted — in fact the Pole himself — “shoot faster” What is a human being? […]

July 6 1941.

found a lovely big traveling bag for only 3.80 reichmarks.

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Friend and Foe- The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact

Bad as World War II and all its horrors were it could have been a lot worse if the Germans didn’t break the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

The impact it would have had if Hitler and Stalin had remained “friends”would have been unfathomable. In all likelihood it might have saved a lot of Soviet and German lives but the outcome for the citizens of the other  European nations would have probably been more devastating.

Molotov–Ribbentrop_Pact_(German_copy)

Japan probably would not have allied themselves with Germany and may not have attacked Pearl Harbor.

These of course are speculations stemming from a “what if ?” scenario, the fact is that Germany and the Soviet Union were allies at the start of the war. at a high cost for Poland.

Following are some impression on how that Soviet -German friendship looked like.

Soviet and German officials having a friendly conversation in the newly captured Polish city of Brest, September 1939.

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German–Soviet military parade in Brest-Litovsk on September 22, 1939

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Rolling Soviet tanks and German motorcyclists.

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Common parade of Wehrmacht and Red Army in Brest at the end of the Invasion of Poland. At the center Major General Heinz Guderian and Brigadier Semyon Krivoshein

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German and Soviet personnel amid parade display material.

Polen, deutsch-sowjetische Siegesparade

Soviet and German soldiers in Lublin.

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Polish hostages being blindfolded during preparations for their mass execution in Palmiry, 1940.

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Ribbentrop taking leave of Molotov in Berlin, November 1940

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Germany terminated the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact at 03:15 on 22 June 1941 by launching a massive attack on the Soviet positions in eastern Poland which marked the beginning of the invasion of the Soviet Union known as Operation Barbarossa.

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It’s the beauty that killed the beast:The bravery of Franceska Mann.

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Franceska Mann   (February 4, 1917 – October 23, 1943)

Franciszka Mann was a young dancer residing in Warsaw before the Second World War. She studied dance in the dance school of Irena Prusicka. Her friends at that time included Wiera Gran and Stefania Grodzieńska. In 1939 she placed 4th during the international dance competition in Brussels among 125 other young ballet dancers.She was considered one of the most beautiful and promising dancers of her generation in Poland both in classical and modern repertoire.

 

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At the beginning of the Second World War she was a performer at the Melody Palace nightclub in Warsaw. She was a prisoner of Warsaw Ghetto.

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After  Nazi Germany had invaded and occupied Poland she escaped the ghetto and went into hiding on the “Aryan” site of Warsaw.
In spring 1943 the Germans declaired that all Polish Jews, who possessed visas of the neutral South American counties would be sent there.
Ms. Mann obtained (or forged) one of those visas and then sought refuge in “Hotel Polski”, transformed by the Nazis into the transit camp.

However, the allegedly neutral South American states that admitted numerous Nazi War criminals after 1945 did not lift a finger to rescue their victims, who were deported from “Hotel Polski” first to Bergen-Belsen and then (on October 23, 1943) to Auschwitz.
After the train arrived at the death camp the Jews were told that they were to be “disinfected” before crossing the Swiss border. While some began to comply with the SS orders to undress and enter the gas chamber, others hesitated, unwilling to take off clothes which contained their precious travel documents. As they delayed, the SS assumed more menacing stances, threatening the Jews with guns and finally beating them mercilessly with sticks.
Franceska Mann was a girl of striking beauty and had not lost it completely despite all suffering.

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Thus she attracted the attention of the SS man Schillinger, who ogled her as she undressed.
Suddenly she threw an article of clothing at Schillinger, hitting him in the head. As he opened his holster, Franceska Mann grabbed his pistol and shot twice mortally wounding him; the third shot wounded a second SS man, Emmerich, who later recovered, but was disabled.
Inspired by her courage the fellow prisoners attacked the SS guards and severely injured two of them, but could not do anything against the machine guns and were within minutes shot or driven into the gas chamber.

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Vasily Blokhin-Stalin’s butcher

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Born to a Russian peasant family in 1895, as a young man he quickly earned a reputation for “chernaya rabota”, or “black work”, while serving in the Tsarist army during World War I- gaining recognition from Stalin himself for his covert assassinations, torture, and executions. Blokhin quickly rose through the ranks of Russia’s secret police at the time—the NKVD—eventually becoming the head of the Kommandatura department.

Vasily Blokhin is recorded as having executed tens of thousands of prisoners by his own hand, including his killing of about 7,000 Polish prisoners of war during the Katyn massacre in spring 1940, making him the most prolific official executioner in recorded world history. He was the NKVD major in charge of executing the Polish officers from the Ostashkov camp, and he believed in personally doing the killing that his superiors had ordered him to supervise.

Vasili Blokhin 2

Born in 1885, he was known as the NKVD’s chief executioner, having been hand-picked for this position by Joseph Stalin himself.

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Blokhin personally killed tens of thousand of men and women during Stalin’s Great Purges of the 1930s, so it was only natural that the NKVD would turn to him when it came time to dispatch the officers held in the Soviet prison camps. Along with a team of about thirty NKVD men from Moscow, mainly drivers and prison guards, Blokhin arrived at the NKVD prison in Kalinin (Tver) and set himself up in a sound-proofed cellar room that had a sloping floor for drainage.

Tver Execution room of Polish soldiers buried later at Mednoye- Photograph Katyn Museum

He then put on his special uniform, consisting of a leather cap, long leather apron, and elbow-length gloves. On a table next to him was a briefcase filled with his own personal Walther PPK pistols, for Blokhin, a true artist at his trade, would use no one else’s tools but his own.

After the prisoner’s identity was verified, he was brought handcuffed into the cellar room where Blokhin awaited in his long apron, like some horrible butcher. One guard later testified: “The men held [the prisoner’s] arms and [Blokhin] shot him in the base of the skull…that’s all”. Blokhin worked fast and efficiently, killing an average of one men every three minutes during the course of ten-hour nights – the killings were always done at night, so that the bodies could be disposed of in darkness.

Although this has never been completely proven, historians suspect that Blokhin shot 7,000 men over a period of twenty-eight days, which would make him one of the most prolific murderers of all time. However many people he killed, Blokhin was consistently promoted by his superiors for performing “special tasks”. He lost his job after Stalin died. The cause of Blokhin’s death, in 1955, was listed as suicide.

Katyn massacre
The Katyn massacre, also known as the Katyn Forest massacre was a mass execution of Polish nationals carried out by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), the Soviet secret police, in April and May 1940. The massacre was prompted by NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria’s proposal to execute all captive members of the Polish Officer Corps, dated 5 March 1940. This official document was approved and signed by the Soviet Politburo, including its leader, Joseph Stalin. The number of victims is estimated at about 22,000.

 

Corporal Wojtek reporting for duty.

 

_56736853_wojtek-feedingDuring World War II, the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the 2nd Polish Corps had an unusual soldier among its ranks, a 440-pound Syrian bear named Wojtek.

Wojtek first came to the company as a cub, but over the course of the war he matured and was given the rank of corporal in the Polish army.

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.Amid a long journey to join forces with the British Army in World War Two, one unit of the Polish II Corps stumbled upon an unlikely, and invaluable, comrade: A Syrian brown bear.

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Poland bore a bulk of World War Two-related traumas. After the Nazis invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 — only to be followed by the subsequent Soviet invasion on the 17th — the country had only experienced a couple of decades of independence before it found itself under occupation once again.

Following the invasions, Stalin and Hitler agreed to a nonaggression treaty, which effectively divided Poland in two. Hitler broke that pact on June 22, 1941, when he ordered an invasion of the USSR.

In what came to be known as the Sikorski-Mayski Agreement, Stalin declared all previous pacts between the USSR and Poland to be null and void.

Sikorski-Mayski_1941_agreement

Among other things, this allowed Poles to create their own army, despite technically being on Soviet soil. That they did, and the army became the Polish II Corps led by Lieutenant General Władysław Anders.

Anders

In the spring of 1942, the newly-formed army left the USSR for Iran, along with the thousands of Polish civilians released from Soviet gulags. On the way to Tehran, the traveling Poles encountered an Iranian boy in the town of Hamadan who had found an orphaned bear cub. Irena Bokiewicz, one of the civilians, was so enamored with the cub that one of the lieutenants purchased him in exchange for a few tins of food.

The cub became a part of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, and soon received its own Polish name, Wojtek (pronounced voy-tek), which translates to “joyous soldier.” Wojtek traveled with the company through the Middle East, as the unit made its way to join forces with the 3rd Carpathian Division of the British Army in Palestine.

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Growing up with soldiers, Wojtek adopted some rather curious habits. Indeed, reports say that the bear would drink milk from an old vodka bottle, imbibe beer and wine, and smoke (and eat) cigarettes with his army buddies, just as any soldier would.

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Wojtek quickly became a source of light in the midst of war. He would often wrestle with his fellow fighters, and even learned to salute when greeted by his company men.

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Wojtek’s fate with the company fell on uncertain times in 1943, when the unit prepared to board a ship and join the Allied campaign against Italy in Naples. Officials at the Alexandria, Egypt port refused to let the bear on as he was not officially part of the army.

In a quick, if not bizarre, workaround, soldiers made Wojtek a private of the Polish II Corps, and gave him a rank, service number, and pay book to legitimate his status. It worked, and Wojtek joined his comrades onto the Italy-bound vessel, this time as a legal member of the army.

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By the time the united arrived in Italy, Wojtek had grown significantly from cub to a 6 ft tall, 485 lb. adult Syrian brown bear. Making good use of his size and strength, the company taught Wojtek how to carry crates of mortar rounds, which he reportedly did without fail during the bloody battle of Monte Cassino.

Wojtek not only survived the conflict — soon after, he achieved immortality. Indeed, following Wojtek’s valiant performance, Polish high command made Wojtek the official emblem of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company.

When the war came to a close in 1945, Wojtek retired from army life and traveled to Scotland with his fellow soldiers. Unlike his fellow veterans, Wojtek retired to the Edinburgh Zoo.

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