70 Years Ago Today: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

| April 19, 2013

Today marks the anniversary of a generally little-known battle of World War II.  On this day in 1943, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began.

The uprising was a desperate attempt by the Jewish residents of the Warsaw Ghetto to avoid deportation to the Treblinka Extermination Camp.  It was supported to various extents by other Communist and non-Communist Polish resistance forces.

The Polish Jews forced into the Ghetto were abysmally badly armed and supplied.  Nonetheless, they decided it was better to fight – and very likely die on their feet – than be led away to slaughter.

From 19 April to 10 May, the residents of the Warsaw Ghetto battled Nazi forces.  Using fire as their most effective weapon, the Nazis prevailed.

Prior to the uprising, the Warsaw Ghetto was approximately 1.3 square miles.  At the end, few buildings within the entire Ghetto were useable.  What was left were largely burned-out shells.  The Nazis razed those and built Warsaw Concentration Camp on the site.

Approximately 13,000 are thought to have died during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising – 7,000 in the fighting, and 6,000 by being burned alive or via smoke inhalation.  After the fighting ceased, the remaining 50,000 residents were deported to Treblinka.  Most were murdered there.  

However, the first group deported early during the uprising reportedly reorganized into resistance groups while at Treblinka.  Reputedly they also  played a pivotal role in the 2 August 1943 revolt and mass escape which occurred there.

Spoczywaj w pokoju, mój starszy bracia broni. Szalom.

Category: Historical

Comments (22)

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  1. CavScoutCoastie says:

    Thanks for mentioning this.

    My grandfather was a Polish Cavalry officer in 1939. After Poland fell, he joined the resistance and helped to smuggle weapons to the ghetto. I believe he was captured and sent to a prison camp before the uprising. After the war, he stayed in Germany since there was nothing left to go home to in Poland. Eventually he came here. 60 years later, his grandson became a Cavalry Scout (although we had no horses).

  2. Nicki says:

    A beautiful and sad anniversary. Good to remember the courage and pride in standing up to the Nazis.

    As an aside, a quick look at the closing quote, I seriously thought you were referencing Bronies, until I realized it was in Polish and switched mental gears to understand the quote!

  3. Twist says:

    They decided to die on their feet. It wasn’t the only time the Jews fought back. I just got done reading a book about the SonderKommando uprising at Auschwitz.

  4. PintoNag says:

    Talk about the Valley of the Shadow of Death. A true reminder of the best — and worst — that humans are capable of.

  5. LIRight says:

    I read “Mila 18” by Leon Uris in the mid 80’s, which was a novel about the Warsaw Ghetto. As I recall, it was one of those terrific page turners that was difficult to put down.

    While Mr. Uris took literary license with his book, much of its content was historically accurate.

    (I had to Google info about the name of the book, cause I’ll be damned if I could remember it. What was it I had for breakfast??)

  6. B Woodman says:

    Thank you for the anniversary reminder. Lessons learned, if nothing tactical, at least in attitude and will.

  7. BK says:

    Thank you very much for posting this.

    My wife’s aunt, of blessed memory, along with her sister and mother, had been moved to the ghetto, but then were shipped to labor camps and ultimately Auschwitz before the uprising. They narrowly survived the war to be liberated by the Russians (who being Polish Jews, they had no more time for than the Germans), and came here to be with the rest of my wife’s family.

    My side of the family’s remnants perished in Ukraine between Babi Yar and other mass killings.

    It could never happen here. I love looking at my neighbors and knowing this to be a fundamental truth about America.

    Thanks so much.

  8. BK says:

    * my family’s remnants in Europe. My family came over to Baltimore and Central Pennsylvania in the late 1800s, keeping in touch with siblings and later generations up until the 1930s.

  9. Hondo says:

    You’re welcome, BK/B Woodman/CavScoutCoastie.

    There was a reason I posted this. Though not Jewish, one side of my family hails from that sorrowful land as well. They were originally from the region where a fellow you might have heard of grew up. His name was Karol Józef Wojtyla. He was better known as “John Paul”.

  10. MAJMike says:

    Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

  11. Hondo says:

    MAJMike: apropos – and I nearly used that quote in the article. Zapata certainly did express the sentiment well, even if I’m not sure I agree with his politics.

  12. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Historical events lose their coldness and distance when delivered in personal accounts. One could write all week about the sheer numbers, the cruel, heartless, and inhumane acts and I wouldn’t be moved nearly as much as a solitary account of one toddler being separated from her mother by the Nazi bastards.

  13. OWB says:

    Forgot to say earlier, Hondo, nice piece, And thanks for posting it.

  14. brat says:

    Lest we forget. Thanks, Hondo.

  15. CavScoutCoastie says:

    Yeah, we’re not Jewish either but my family was swept up in these events. As I said above, my grandfather stayed in Germany and ended up marrying a German woman so that side of my family is German and Polish.

    I’m not Catholic either but Pope John Paul is one of my heros.

  16. Roger in Republic says:

    There have been several historic events on this date. The one I always remember is April 19, 1775. The Battles of Lexington and Concord Bridge. That date has been connected to revolutionary acts even up to our era. Both Waco and Oklahoma City occurred on that date.

  17. Herbert J Messkit says:

    Iconic photo

    The SS troop looking at the camera survived the war. Was executed in Leipzig in 1969. He evaded capture for years because his face was deformed in a mining accident after the war.

  18. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    If that photo (c/o HJ Messkit) of that youngster doesn’t get your blood boiling, you died despite the fact that you’re still breathing.

  19. Andy Kravetz says:

    I am Jewish and i can say that it’s stories like that which fill me with pride. As many have said here, it’s better to die on your feet than on your knees. thanks. It was just Yom HaShoah, which is Hebrew for the Holocaust Remembrance Day.

    As someone else said, “lest we forget.” Thanks for posting and remembering.

    Andy Kravetz, reporter
    Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star

  20. Herbert J Messkit says:

    #20 It should be a warning to other nations that when the Nation of Israel says “Never again” they mean it.

  21. Mike says:

    Shalom to all the Jewish people out there. RIP to those who died in the Warsaw Ghetto.