Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
|Warsaw Ghetto Uprising|
|Part of World War II and the The Holocaust|
Photo from Jrgen 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". The boy in the picture might be Tsvi Nussbaum, who survived the Holocaust.
(Waffen-SS, SD, OrPo, Gestapo, Wehrmacht)
(Latvian police, Jewish police, Polish police, Lithuanian police, Ukrainian volunteers)
| Jewish resistance
Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg
|Mordechaj Anielewicz –
Dawid Moryc Apfelbaum –
PaweÅ Frenkiel –
Henryk IwaÅski (AK)
|Official daily average of 2,090 troops (including 821 Waffen-SS) according to the German internal report.||Some 220 to 600 Å»OB and 150 to 400 Å»ZW fighters (on April 19, 1943), thousands of civilians either fought or provided support. Smaller numbers of Polish fighters outside of the ghetto provided support.|
|Casualties and losses|
|13,000 killed on site
|According to Stroop's unofficial account, 71,000 Jews and Poles were killed or deported. The 17 Germans killed do not include Jewish forced collaborators|
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (Yiddish: ö¿ö ö ö; Polish: Powstanie w getcie warszawskim; German: Aufstand im Warschauer Ghetto) was the Jewish resistance that arose within the Warsaw Ghetto in German occupied Poland during World War II, and which opposed Nazi Germany's effort to transport the remaining ghetto population to Treblinka extermination camp.
The insurgency was launched against the Germans on January 18, 1943. The most significant portion of the rebellion took place from April 19 until May 16, 1943, and ended when the poorly armed and supplied resistance was crushed by the German troops under the direct command of Jrgen Stroop. It was the largest single revolt by the Jews during the Holocaust.
In 1940, the German Nazis began to concentrate Poland's population of over three million Jews into a number of extremely crowded ghettos located in large Polish cities. The largest of these, the Warsaw Ghetto, concentrated approximately 300,000–400,000 people into a densely packed central area of Warsaw. Thousands of Jews died due to rampant disease and starvation under the SS and Police Leader Odilo Globocnik and SS-Standartenfhrer Ludwig Hahn, even before the mass deportations from the ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp began.
The Nazi forces conducted many of the deportations during the operation code-named Grossaktion Warschau, between July 23 and September 21, 1942. Just before the operation began, the German "Resettlement Commissioner" SS-Sturmbannfhrer Hermann Hfle called the meeting of the Ghetto Jewish Council Judenrat and informed its leader Adam Czerniakw about the "resettlement to the East". Czerniakw committed suicide once he became aware of the true meaning of the treacherous Nazi plan. Approximately 254,000–300,000 Ghetto residents met their deaths at Treblinka during the two months-long operation. The Grossaktion was directed by SS-Oberfhrer Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg, the commander of the Warsaw area since 1941. He was relieved of duty by SS-and-Polizeifhrer Jrgen Stroop sent to Warsaw by Heinrich Himmler on April 17, 1943. Stroop took over from Sammern following his unsuccessful ghetto offensive.
When the deportations first began, members of the Jewish resistance movement met and decided not to fight the SS directives, believing that the Jews were being sent to labour camps and not to their deaths. By the end of 1942 however, it became known to Ghetto inhabitants that the deportations were part of an extermination process. Many of the remaining Jews decided to revolt.
On January 18, 1943, the Germans began their second deportation of the Jews, which led to the first instance of armed insurgency within the ghetto. While Jewish families hid in their "bunkers", Jewish Military Union (Å»ydowski Zwiäzek Wojskowy, Å»ZW), joined by elements of the Jewish Combat Organization (Å»ydowska Organizacja Bojowa, Å»OB) fighters engaged the Germans in two direct clashes. Even though the Å»ZW and Å»OB suffered heavy losses (including some of the leaders), the Germans also took casualties, and the deportation was halted within a few days. Only 5,000 Jews were removed instead of the 8,000 as planned by Globocnik. There were hundreds of people in the Warsaw ghetto ready to fight, adults and even children, sparsely armed with handguns, gasoline bottles and a few other weapons that had been smuggled into the ghetto by the resistance fighters.
Two resistance organizations, the Å»ZW and Å»OB, took control of the Ghetto. They built dozens of fighting posts and executed collaborators, including Jewish Police officers, members of German-sponsored and controlled Å»agiew organization, as well as the Gestapo agents (like Judenrat member Dr Alfred Nossig on 22 February 1943). The Å»OB established a prison to hold and execute traitors and collaborators. Jzef SzeryÅski, the former head of the Jewish Police, committed suicide.
The Ghetto fighters (numbering some 400 to 1,000 by April 19) were armed primarily with pistols and revolvers. Just a few rifles and automatic firearms smuggled into the Ghetto were available. The insurgents had little ammunition, and relied heavily on improvised explosive devices and incendiary bottles; more weapons were supplied throughout the uprising or captured from the Germans. Some weapons were hand-made by resistance: sometimes such weapons worked, other times they jammed repeatedly. In his report, Stroop wrote his forces were able to recover the "booty" consisting of:
Seven Polish rifles, one Russian and one German rifle, 59 pistols of various calibers, several hundred incendiary bottles, home-made explosives, infernal machines with fuses, a large amount of explosives and ammunition for weapons of all calibers, including some machine gun ammunition. Regarding the booty of arms, it must be taken into consideration that the arms themselves could in most cases not be captured, as the bandits and Jews would, before being arrested, throw them into hiding places or holes which could not be ascertained or discovered. The smoking out of the dug-out by our men, also often made the search for arms impossible. As the dug-outs had to be blown up at once, a search later on was out of the question.
|–||The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising had a real influence...in encouraging the activitity of the Polish underground||–|
Support from outside the Ghetto was limited, but Polish Resistance units from Armia Krajowa (AK) (the Home Army) and Polish Communist Gwardia Ludowa (GL) (the People's Guard) attacked German units near the ghetto walls and attempted to smuggle weapons, ammunition, supplies and instructions into the ghetto. Polish resistance also provided the insurgents with a limited number of badly needed weapons and ammunitions from its meager stocks. Jewish fighters from Å»ZW received only from PKB: 2 heavy machine guns, 4 light machine guns, 21 submachine guns, 30 rifles, 50 pistols, and over 400 grenades. AK also disseminated information and appeals to help the Jews in the ghetto, both in Poland and by way of radio transmissions to the Allies. Several Å»OB commanders and fighters later escaped through the sewers with assistance from the Poles and joined Polish underground.
Polish AK unit, the National Security Corps (PaÅstwowy Korpus BezpieczeÅstwa), under the command of Henryk IwaÅski ("Bystry"), fought inside the Ghetto along with Å»ZW. Subsequently, both groups retreated together (including 34 Jewish fighters) to the so-called Aryan side. Although IwaÅski's action is the most well-known rescue mission, it was only one of many actions undertaken by the Polish resistance to help the Jewish fighters. In one attack, three cell units of AK under the command of Kapitan Jzef Pszenny ("Chwacki") tried to breach the Ghetto walls with explosives, but the Germans defeated this action. AK and GL engaged the Germans between April 19 and April 23 at six different locations outside the ghetto walls, shooting at German sentries and positions and in one case attempting to blow-up a gate.
|–||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.||–|
Ultimately, the efforts of the Jewish resistance fighters proved insufficient against the German forces. The Germans eventually committed an average daily force of 2,090 well-armed troops, including 821 Waffen-SS Panzergrenadier troops (consisting of five SS reserve and training battalions and one SS cavalry reserve and training battalion), as well as 363 Polish Blue Policemen, who were ordered by the Germans to cordon the walls of the Ghetto.
The other forces were drawn from the Ordnungspolizei (Orpo) "uniformed order police" (battalions from the regiments 22rd and 23rd), the SS Sicherheitsdienst (SD) "security service", Warsaw Gestapo, one battalion each from two Wehrmacht railroad combat engineers regiments, a battery of Wehrmacht anti-aircraft artillery (and one field gun), a battalion of Ukrainian Trawniki-Mnner from the Final Solution training camp Trawniki, Lithuanian and Latvian auxiliary policemen known by the nickname Askaris (Latvian Arajs Kommando and Lithuanian Saugumas), and technical emergency corps. Polish fire brigade personnel were ordered to help in the operation. In addition, a number of criminals and executioners from the nearby Gestapo Pawiak prison, under the command of Franz Brkl, volunteered to "hunt the Jews". Most of the remaining Jewish policemen were executed by the Gestapo, or used in the offensive and then subsequently executed as well.
On April 19, 1943, on the eve of Passover, the police and SS auxiliary forces entered the Ghetto planning to complete their Action within three days. However, they suffered losses as they were repeatedly ambushed by Jewish insurgents, who shot and launched Molotov cocktails and hand grenades at them from alleyways, sewers and windows. A French-made Lorraine 37L armoured fighting vehicle and an armoured car were set afire with Å»OB petrol bombs, and the German advance was halted.
The Jewish insurgents achieved noteworthy success against von Sammern-Frankenegg and he subsequently lost his post as the SS and police commander of Warsaw. He was replaced by SS-Brigadefhrer Jrgen Stroop, who rejected von Sammern-Frankenegg's proposal to call in bomber aircraft from Krakw and proceeded with a better-organized ground assault.
The longest-lasting defense of a position took place around the Å»ZW stronghold at Muranowski Square from April 19 to late April. In the afternoon of April 19, two boys climbed up on the roof of the headquarters of the Jewish Resistance there and raised two flags: the red-and-white Polish flag and the blue-and-white banner of the Å»ZW (blue and white are the colors of the flag of Israel today). These flags were well-seen from the Warsaw streets and remained atop the house for four entire days, despite German attempts to remove them. Stroop recalled:
The matter of the flags was of great political and moral importance. It reminded hundreds of thousands of the Polish cause, it excited them and unified the population of the General Government, but especially Jews and Poles. Flags and national colors are a means of combat exactly like a rapid-fire weapon, like thousands of such weapons. We all knew that - Heinrich Himmler, Krger, and Hahn. The Reichsfuehrer [Himmler] bellowed into the phone: "Stroop, you must at all costs bring down those two flags."
Another German armoured vehicle was destroyed in an insurgent counterattack, in which Å»ZW commander Dawid Apfelbaum was also killed. After Stroop's ultimatum to surrender was rejected by the defenders, the Nazis resorted to systematically burning houses block by block using flamethrowers and blowing up basements and sewers. "We were beaten by the flames, not the Germans," resistance leader Marek Edelman said in 2007. In 2003, he recalled:
The sea of flames flooded houses and courtyards... There was no air, only black, choking smoke and heavy burning heat radiating form (sic) the red-hot walls, from the glowing stone stairs.
The Å»ZW lost all its leaders and, on April 29, 1943, the remaining fighters escaped the ghetto through the Muranowski tunnel, and relocated to the Michalin forest. This event marked the end of the organized resistance, and of significant fighting.
The remaining Jewish civilians and surviving fighters took cover in the bunker dugouts which were hidden among the ruins of the Ghetto. The German troops used dogs to look for the hideouts. Smoke grenades, tear gas and reportedly even poison gas were used to force people out. In many instances, the Jewish fighters came out of their hiding places firing at the Germans, while a number of female fighters lobbed hidden grenades or fired concealed handguns after they had surrendered. Small groups of Jewish insurgents engaged German patrols in night-time skirmishes. However, German losses were mostly minimal following the first days of the uprising.
On May 8, 1943, the Germans discovered the Å»OB's main command post, located at MiÅa 18 Street. Most of its leadership and dozens of remaining fighters were killed, while others committed mass suicide by ingesting cyanide. The dead included the organization's commander, Mordechaj Anielewicz. His deputy, Edelman, escaped through the sewers on May 10 with a handful of comrades. Two days later, the Bundist Szmul Zygielbojm committed suicide in London in protest, citing a lack of assistance for the insurgents on the part of Western governments:
I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being murdered. My comrades in the Warsaw ghetto fell with arms in their hands in the last heroic battle. I was not permitted to fall like them, together with them, but I belong with them, to their mass grave. By my death, I wish to give expression to my most profound protest against the inaction in which the world watches and permits the destruction of the Jewish people.
The suppression of the uprising officially ended on May 16, 1943. Nevertheless, sporadic shooting could be heard within the Ghetto throughout the summer of 1943. The last skirmish which took place on June 5, 1943 between Germans and a holdout group of armed criminals without connection to the resistance groups.
13,000 Jews were killed in the ghetto during the uprising (some 6,000 among them were burnt alive or died from smoke inhalation). Of the remaining 50,000 residents, most were captured and shipped to concentration and extermination camps, in particular to Treblinka.
Jrgen Stroop's internal SS daily report for Friedrich Krger, written on May 16, 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.
According to the Stroop's report (both causality lists and separate daily reports), his forces suffered 17 killed in action (16 listed by name) and 93 wounded (86 of them listed by name); these figures included over 60 members of Waffen-SS, and did not include the Jewish collaborators). The real number of German losses, however, may be well higher if unknown (by Edelman's estimate about 300 casualties). For the propaganda purposes, official German casualties were announced to be only a few wounded, while bulletins of the Polish Underground State claimed that hundreds of Nazis died in the fighting.
German daily losses and the official figures for killed or captured Jews and "bandits", according to the Stroop report:
After the uprising, most of the incinerated houses were completely razed, and the Warsaw concentration camp complex was established in their place. Thousands of people died in the camp or were executed in the ruins of the ghetto. At the same time, the SS were hunting down the remaining Jews still hiding in the ruins.
In 1944, during the general Warsaw Uprising, the AK battalion ZoÅka was able to rescue 380 Jewish concentration camp prisoners from the Gäsiwka sub-camp, most of whom immediately joined AK and fought in the Polish uprising. A few small groups of Ghetto inhabitants also managed to survive in the underground sewer system.
In October 1943 Brkl, as "a sadist and a mass murderer", was convicted of crimes against the Polish nation by the Polish resistances Special Courts, sentenced to death, and shot dead on the street of Warsaw in Operation Brkl a part of big action known as Operation Heads. In the same month, von Sammern-Frankenegg was killed by Yugoslav partisan ambush in Croatia.
Globocnik, Himmler, and Krger all followed Adolf Hitler and committed suicide in May 1945.
Stroop was convicted of war crimes in two different trials and executed by hanging in Poland in 1952 (his aide Erich Steidtmann was exonerated for "minimal involvement"). Hahn went into hiding until 1975, when he was apprehended and sentenced to life for crimes against humanity; he died in prison in 1986.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 took place over a year before the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The Ghetto had been totally destroyed by the time of the Warsaw uprising, which was part of the larger Operation Tempest. Hundreds of the survivors from the first uprising took part in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, fighting in the ranks of Armia Krajowa and Armia Ludowa.
On December 7, 1970, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt spontaneously knelt while visiting a monument to the Uprising in the former People's Republic of Poland. At the time, the action surprised many and was the focus of controversy, but it has since been credited with helping improve relations between the NATO and Warsaw Pact countries.
A number of survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, known as the "Ghetto Fighters," went on to found Kibbutz Lohamey ha-Geta'ot (literally: "Ghetto Fighters' Kibbutz"), which is located north of Acre. The founding members of the kibbutz include Yitzhak Zuckerman, Å»OB deputy commander, and his wife Zivia Lubetkin, who also commanded a fighting unit. In 1984, the members of the kibbutz published Dapei Edut ("Testimonies of Survival"), four volumes of personal testimonies from 96 kibbutz members. The settlement also features a museum and archives dedicated to remembering the Holocaust.
The uprising was the subject of the 1948 film Border Street by Aleksander Ford, the 1955 film A Generation and the 1995 film The holy week, both by Andrzej Wajda, the 2001 film Uprising and the 2002 film The Pianist by Roman Polanski, as well as the 1961 novel Mila 18 by Leon Uris. Johnny Clegg has also written and sung a song devoted to the uprising, "Warsaw 1943". It was also featured in the 1978 NBC miniseries Holocaust, the 1986 film Highlander and the 2009 video game Velvet Assassin. The power-metal band Sabaton also released the track "Uprising" on their newest album, Coat of Arms in dedication to the people of Warsaw.
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