Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (April 19 Term Paper

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[. . .] Due to its contacts with the Polish underground, the organization possessed a limited quantity of small arms. The Hashomer Hatzair was a Zionist socialist youth movement that later evolved into the ?OB (the Jewish Fighting Organization); it played a major role in the armed revolt against the Germans during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The Bund had its own malitia that confronted Polish hoodlums in street battles and helped to organize public kitchens in the ghetto. All these Jewish groups, however, were not effective in opposing the Germans as they were not united and differed on the best way to oppose the Nazis. Moreover, the Germans had been succesful in dividing the Jews by forming a Jewish Council for governing Warsaw (the Judenrat) and they were collaborating with the Germans, supposedly as representatives of the Jews.

Deportation from the Ghetto:

On July 22, 1942, the Germans announced to the Jewish Council for Warsaw that "all Jews living in Warsaw, without regard to age or sex, are to be deported to the East" with certain exceptions for productive Jews. (Bell, 168) The Council was asked to provide a minimum contingent of six thousand people as the daily quota for deportation.

The Council complied and the round-up started on the very same day as the ghetto was surrounded by Ukrainian and Latvian guards, and the Jewish police carried out the task of rounding-up of the required number of Jews. Most people, starved into numbness, complied with the order without a semblance of resistance. Anyone who did was executed immediately. The deportations from Warsaw continued, without pause, until September 12 and in the seven-weeks period, a total of 265,000 Jews were sent by train, supposedly for 'resettlement in the East' and slave labor. Their actual destination was Treblinka, where three gas-chambers awaited them. (Bell 168)

On the day following the start of deportation, the Chairman of the Jewish Council, Adam Czerniakow, committed suicide probably because he knew about the fate of the depotees. On the same day, a meeting of the Jewish underground factions was held. Only Jewish youth groups, such as the Hechalutz and Hashomer organizations and the Bund supported active resistance against the deportation. The majority still thought that such action would be provocative and did not believe that the deportations were being made for mass execution of the Jews. Armed resistance was, therefore, postponed. (Edelman)

The youth groups, nevertheless, exhorted the people in the ghetto to resist deportation and distributed pamphlets warning them of the fate which awaited them. The Germans, in the meantime, countered by offering bread and marmalade to everyone who registered voluntarily for "deportation." The people in the ghetto were in such a state of starvation that they gladly took the bait. The German ploy was so successful hundreds of volunteers had to wait in line for several days to be deported.

Those who resisted, fearing the worst, were hunted down mercilessly and the Jewish Police, which rounded up the required numbers with ruthless efficiency, made the Germans' task easier. When the first phase of deportations finally ended on September 12, 1942, the population of Warsaw Ghetto had officially dwindled to just 37,000

; in reality the numbers were closer to 70,000 as thousands of people had hidden in secret bunkers or secret rooms. (Bell 169)

The Uprising

Preparing for Resistance.

During the pause in deportations, youth organizations convinced about the fate of the deportees, vowed to resist any future German attempts to deport the remaining Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. Although efforts to create a single fighting organization were not successful, the Jewish Fighting Organization (?OB) with Mordechai Anielewicz as military commander was formed. The Zionist Revisionist movement did not unify with ZOB and established a separate military organization called ZZW (the Jewish Military Union). The ZOB organized different fighting groups for resistance against future German moves in the ghetto but providing them with arms proved very difficult. Contacts were made with the Polish resistance groups on the "Aryan side" but they were reluctant to supply arms as they apprehended their confiscation.

A token contribution of just ten pistols is reported by some Jewish writers to have been provided by the Polish Home Army to the Jews. A few secret factories were set up to produce a handful of grenades and bombs. Some weapons were purchased and smuggled in by persuading and even blackmailing the wealthy Jews to contribute to the arms fund. Still the Jews were so poorly armed that the planned resistance seemed hopeless. Leaders of the ZOB were not unaware of the hopelessness of their effort, but they hoped to die with honor and inflict some casualties on their oppressors instead of meekly dying in the gas chambers.

The First Confrontation:

In January 1943, after a visit of Henreich Himmler himself to the ghetto, the Germans decided to carry out the final liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto. On January 18, the Germans began another action to round up the remaining Jews still in the Ghetto. This time, the ZOB under the command of Anielewicz confronted the Germans in the streets. Although surprised at the affront of the Jews, the Germans slaughtered most of the ill-armed ZOB fighters in a firefight, while Anielewicz escaped miraculously. The Jews were exhilarated at their "success" in inflicting actual casualties on the Germans and the ZOB fighters now harassed the Germans regularly by directing sniper fire from ghetto buildings. The Germans retaliated by rounding up between 6,500 and 8,000 Jews but faced resistance and some casualties while doing so. (Bell, 170-172) During February and March there was sporadic fighting between the German SS troops and the Jewish fighters including a major fire fight on March 13 in which 400 Jews were killed but the Germans had to withdraw in the battle and were now reluctant to move about freely in the Ghetto.

The April Uprising:

Humiliated by the continuing resistance by Jewish fighters in the Ghetto, Himmler decided on its total destruction and appointed SS General Jurgen Stroop to direct the operation. The Germans started their action in the early hours of April 19 supported by tanks and armored cars with the SS troops marching behind the armor. The Jewish Fighters under the command of Anielewicz were prepared and lured the Germans into the inner Ghetto to effectively use their limited firepower before ambushing them with grenades and Molotov cocktails. The Germans were forced to pull back by the afternoon; the Jews were ecstatic.(Bell 174) On the second day of the fight, the Germans brought in more troops but were again repulsed when faced with more concentrated fire and well-laid mines in their path.

From the third day onwards, Stroop decided to adopt the devastating tactic of setting the Ghetto buildings on fire after directing heavy artillery and tank fire at them. The individual fires soon began to merge into a giant firestorm. The Jewish fighters still held out and were determined to fight to the bitter end, preferring to die in the flames rather than surrender. The Germans settled into a routine of setting the ghetto on fire, block by block and the sky over Warsaw turned red. The Jewish fighters had built fortified bunkers, some of which remained intact even among the burned and blasted ruins. The Germans used dogs and special sound detector devices to flush out the remaining fighters. During the first week of the rising, a further 14,000 Jews were captured and deported while 3,000 were burned to death and 2,000 more were killed in their houses. On May 8, the Germans discovered underground bunkers of the central headquarters of the Jewish Fighting Organization, sealed its exits and released gas into it killing over a hundred hard-core fighters including Anielewicz. The resistance refused to die down even then with many fighters using the sewers to move around the ghetto. However, by May 16, 1943 most of the resistance had been eliminated and on that day the last standing building in the ghetto, the Great Synagogue on Tlomacki Street was destroyed to symbolize German victory. Stroop proudly titled his final report on the operation: "Jewish Warsaw Has Ceased to Exist" and claimed in it that 56,065 Jews were captured and estimated 5,000 to 6,000 more had died in the flames. The April Ghetto uprising had come to an end but it was the beginning of the end for the Nazis. (Bell, 175-179; Krakowski 169-172)

The Aftermath

Out of the approximately 56,000 Jews captured during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising about 7,000 were deported to Treblinka and exterminated in its gas chambers. Another 18,000 survivors of the uprising along with the operations of former ghetto factories were transferred to the Majdanek concentration cum forced labor camp. The remaining survivors were sent to for forced-labor at Poniatowa and Trawniki. Many of these Warsaw ghetto survivors were later killed or died in these camps while a few survived to the end of the war when the Soviet troops liberated… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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