From Under the Ground: Why Remembering the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is Important

By Jason Platzner
It only took one week after the Germans entered the Polish city of Warsaw to establish the foundations of the Warsaw ghetto. By the beginning of October 1939, Jews were forced to public embarrassment by wearing their Star of David at all times, their schools, property, and jobs were for the most part forfeited to their invaders. Nearly a year later, they were forced into the sealed ghetto, surrounded by walls with barbed wire with deplorable conditions that worsened with their captors’ cruelty. Families starved and died in the streets and the poor medical treatment couldn’t halt the widespread amounts of disease throughout the enclosed space, and yet, this was only the beginning of the Jews suffering.

In the summer of 1942, the ghettos were liquidated. Nearly 83,000 Jews already died from various causes in the preface to the mass deportation. Approximately 300,000 Jews were sent to Treblinka, widely known as an extermination camp, where 35,000 of them met their deaths. The Germans planned another deportation of those who remained in the ghetto. That is when a group of mostly young men and women got ready for a fight. The Jewish Fighting Organization led by a 23-year-old man called on all Jews to resist the march onto the horrifying railroad cars. A few months later in January 1943, the Nazis began another round-up of Jews. To their shock and horror, the Jews they rounded up produced weapons and began firing on them. The intense firefight dismayed the German soldiers and they realized quickly that they weren’t prepared or properly taught how to fight a guerilla war in the urban decay of Warsaw. The Germans retreated and the Jewish underground celebrated, but moreover, they prepared for their next clash.

On April 19, 1943, after Himmler promised to give Hitler a Jew-free Warsaw for his birthday, the uprising commenced on the Eve of Passover. Less than a thousand Jewish fighters, severely under-armed and prepared faced a force of nearly 2,000 well trained and equipped German Stormtroopers supported by tanks and heavy weapons. Despite the incredible odds, the Jews held out for several days and repelled many German attacks. The fighting would continue for nearly a month until the commander of the Jewish forces was presumably killed along with most of his staff. Still, the surviving fighters rose again and again, and in August of 1944 took part in another uprising to quell Nazi suppression. Having had enough of the myriad of uprisings, the Germans destroyed almost all of the once beautiful city.

The uprisings showed the world that the Jews were no longer marching into certain death willingly, but more importantly, the uprisings showed that to the Jews themselves. Many young Jews were aware of their inevitable deaths and decided to take a stand regardless of the outcome. The mass amount of photographic evidence of the holocaust shows families, young, old, and sick being led into rail cars or rounded up by soldiers heading to their ends in terror. The uprising showed the world that this wasn’t the case, there were many who fought and died fighting rather than give up their freedom. It taught the Jews of the world not to ever lay down and accept hatred again, something that is still relevant today.




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