Today marks the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. I think that not enough is actually told about the revolt. Those who resisted knew they didn’t really stand a chance. Yet they fought valiantly.
The ŻOB(Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa-Jewish Combat Organization) fighters were armed with only pistols, grenades, many of which were homemade, and a few automatic weapons and rifles. There were only a few hundred of them. Marek Edelman, the only ŻOB commander who survived, said their inspiration to fight was “not to allow the Germans alone to pick the time and place of our deaths”
On April 19, 1943, Himmler sent in SS forces and their collaborators with tanks and heavy artillery to liquidate the Warsaw ghetto. The collaborators were the so-called ‘Trawniki’ men, Soviet prisoners of war who were offered a way out of captivity by cooperating with the SS as Hilfswilligen (relief troops). The ones who accepted the offer were mainly anti-communist and antisemitic Ukrainians, Latvians, and Lithuanians. They were trained in Trawniki and deployed from September 1941 onwards. As the war with the Soviet Union became less successful and the number of prisoners of war dwindled, regular civilians were recruited as well.
Despite being heavily outnumbered, the uprising would take nearly a month to be suppressed. A total of 13,000 Jews were killed, about half of them burnt alive or suffocated. German casualties were probably fewer than 150.
SS and Police Leader, Jürgen Stroop, led the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. His 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 was 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”
To symbolize the German victory, Stroop ordered the destruction of the Great Synagogue View This Term in the Glossary on Tłomackie Street on May 16, 1943. The ghetto itself lay in ruins.
There are many images of the uprising, but in my opinion, there is none such powerful as the one below.
A Jewish man leaps to his death from the top-story window of a burning apartment block rather than face capture on April 22.
The original German caption said, “The bandits escape arrest by jumping.”
It amazes me that the Nazis were so boastful. They had several thousand troops, including tanks and heavy artillery, and it took them nearly a month to claim victory. Victory over a few hundred resistance fighters, armed with only some rifles and self-made grenades.
Stroop’s report also backfired on him because it was used as evidence after the war.
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