Warsaw Ghetto & Uprising

Warsaw Ghetto & Uprising


Stories about Warsaw Ghetto & Uprising


    The Warsaw Ghetto (pol. "Getto Warszawskie" ) was the largest of all Jewish Ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. It was established in the Polish capital between October and November 15, 1940, in the territory of General Government of the German-occupied Poland, with over 400,000 Jews from the vicinity crammed into an area of 1.3 square miles (3.4 km2).

    From there, about 254,000 Ghetto residents were sent to Treblinka extermination camp during the two months of summer 1942. The sheer death-toll among the Jewish inhabitants of the Ghetto during the Großaktion Warschau would have been difficult to compare even with the liquidation of the Ghetto in spring of next year during and after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising which meant annihilation of additional 50,000 people followed by the actual razing of the ghetto.With the inclusion of the Ghetto falling at least 300,000 Polish Jews lost their lives there.

    Like all the Ghettos in Poland, the Germans ascribed the administration to a Judenrat (a council of the Jews), led by an "Ältester" (the eldest). In Warsaw this role was attributed to Adam Czerniaków, who chose a policy of collaboration with the Nazis rather than revolt. Adam Czerniaków confided his harrowing experience in several diaries. He became aware of his own tragic duplicity in July 1942 and committed suicide.

    Although his personality has remained less infamous than Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, the "Ältester" of the Lodz Ghetto, Adam Czerniaków's collaboration with the Nazi policy is the paradigm of the attitude of the majority of the European Jews vis à vis Nazism. The Jewish collaboration authority was supported by a Jewish Ghetto Police.

    According to Lucy S. Dawidowicz:

    From its inception, the Judenrat was looked upon as a reincarnation of the kehillas. Czerniakow's first draft of October, 1939; for organizing the Warsaw Judenrat, was just a rehash of conventional kehilla departments: chancellery, welfare, education, rabbinate...

    But she adds:

    In performing these functions, the kehilla had operated a "gemeinschaft" institution... But the Kehilla was an anomalous institution. Throughout its history in czarist Russia, it served also as an instrument of the state, obligated to carry out the regime's policies within the Jewish community, even though these policies were frequently oppressive and specifically anti-Jewish.. Conditions

    A child dying in the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto September 19, 1941

    During the next year and a half, thousands of Polish Jews as well as some Romani people from smaller cities and the countryside were brought into the Ghetto, while diseases (especiallybtyphus), and starvation kept the inhabitants at about the same number. Average food rations in 1941 for Jews in Warsaw were limited to 186 calories, compared to 1,669 calories for gentile Poles and 2,614 calories for Germans.

    Unemployment was a major problem in the ghetto. Illegal workshops were created to manufacture goods to be sold illegally on the outside and raw goods were smuggled in, often by children. Hundreds of four to five year old Jewish children went across en masse to the "Aryan side," sometimes several times a day, smuggling food into the ghettos, returning with goods that often weighed more than they did.

    Smuggling was often the only source of subsistence for Ghetto inhabitants, who would otherwise have died of starvation. Despite the grave hardships, life in the Warsaw Ghetto was rich with educational and cultural activities, conducted by its underground organizations. Hospitals, public soup kitchens, orphanages, refugee centers and recreation facilities were formed, as well as a school system.

    Some schools were illegal and operated under the guise of a soup kitchen. There were secret libraries, classes for the children and even a symphony orchestra. The life in the ghetto was chronicled by the Oyneg Shabbos group. In May 1942 a propaganda film was filmed in Warsaw ghetto- the A Film Unfinished which however was never shown.

    Over 100,000 of the Ghetto's residents died due to rampant disease or starvation, as well as random killings, even before the Nazis began massive deportations of the inhabitants from the Ghetto's Umschlagplatz to the Treblinka extermination camp during the Grossaktion Warschau, part of the countrywide Operation Reinhard. Between Tisha B'Av (July 23) and Yom Kippur (September 21) of 1942, about 254,000 Ghetto residents (or at least 300,000 by different accounts) were sent to Treblinka and murdered there.

    Polish resistance officer Jan Karski reported to the Western governments in 1942 on the situation in the Ghetto and on the extermination camps. By the end of 1942, it was clear that the deportations were to their deaths, and many of the remaining Jews decided to fight.

    Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and destruction of the Ghetto

    Warsaw Ghetto; 1943
    Warsaw ghetto {east view} in 1945

    On January 18, 1943, after almost four months without any deportations, the Germans suddenly entered the Warsaw ghetto intent upon a further deportation. Within hours, some 600 Jews were shot and 5,000 others rounded up. The Germans expected no resistance, but preparations to resist had been going on since the previous autumn.

    The first instances of Jewish armed resistance began that day. The Jewish fighters had some success: the expulsion stopped after four days and the ?OB and ?ZW resistance organizations took control of the Ghetto, building shelters and fighting posts and operating against Jewish collaborators.

    The final battle started on the eve of Passover of April 19, 1943, when a Nazi force consisting of several thousand troops entered the ghetto. After initial setbacks, the Germans under the field command of Jürgen Stroop systematically burned and blew up the ghetto buildings, block by block, rounding up or murdering anybody they could capture.

    Significant resistance ended on April 23, and the Nazi operation officially ended in mid-May, symbolically culminating with the demolition of the Great Synagogue of Warsaw on May 16. According to the official report, at least 56,065 people were killed on the spot or deported to German Nazi concentration and death camps, most of them to Treblinka.

    Ruins of Warsaw Ghetto, leveled by German forces, according to Adolf Hitler's order, after suppressing of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. North-west view, left - the Krasi?ski`s Garden and Swi?tojerska street, photo taken in 1945 Remnants of the Ghetto today
    A remnant of the Ghetto's wall at backyard of house at Z?ota Street 60

    The ghetto was almost entirely levelled during the uprising; however, a number of buildings and streets survived, mostly in the "small ghetto" area, which had been closed earlier and was not involved in the fighting.

    The buildings on Pró?na street are the original residential buildings that once housed Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. The buildings have largely remained empty since the war and the street is the focus for the annual Warsaw Jewish Festival. Nearby, the No?yk Synagogue also survived the war, as it was used as a stables by the German Wehrmacht.

    The synagogue has today been restored and is once again used as a synagogue. The last remaining piece of the ghetto wall is located at ul. Z?ota 62. There is a small monument on a mound at ul. Mila 18 to commemorate the site of the Jewish underground headquarters during the Ghetto Uprising.

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