The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Almost since the very beginning of the World War II, Poland went completely under control of German Army. About 3 millions of Jewish people were collected in this country in special ghettos and concentration camps, located all around the territory. The Warsaw Ghetto was established in 1940 and became the largest and the most crowded ghetto, which held from 380,000 up to 450,000 Jewish prisoners. Thousands of people died there much before the uprising, mostly from hunger and different diseases. In 1942 Hitler ordered to begin deportation of ghetto residents in order to liquidate such camps. Till September 1942 about 300,000 Jewish people were transported to another death camp in Treblinka, where the soldiers murdered all the prisoners. Therefore, only about 55,000 – 60,000 people left in the Warsaw Ghetto, and in January 1943 this amount decreased down to 37,000 of exhausted and hardly alive people.

Nevertheless, it became obvious for the survivors that sooner or later they would be also taken to the other place to be murdered by the Nazis. First of all, all the residents of the Warsaw ghetto fell into great despair and started living in expectations of death, but soon the idea of resistance appeared among the survivors. Members of Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB), which was formed in the ghetto and leaded by 23-year-old Mordecai Anielewicz, started agitation among young people for joining the armed forces for resistance. The first fight took place in January 1943, when German forces undertook one more attempt to direct some “human cargo” to Treblinka. Jewish rebels, armed with firearms and other weapons, managed to expel the Germans from some areas of the camp and save own lives. This small victory inspired the prisoners a lot, because they could understand that the resistance had been effective.  For some following weeks the troops of rebels had some training sessions and worked on creating the strategy of defense in case of future attempts of German Army to take over the ghetto.

Later on, in April, Germans gathered more power and human resources in order to crash the resistance, to collect and deport all the rest of the Warsaw Ghetto residents to extermination camps.  Therefore, on the 19th of April, 1943, the long lasting defense of the Ghetto started. Several hundreds of Jewish prisoners, armed with some guns, pistols, riffles and grenades, set off towards German tanks and crowded troops. The great uprising has started. After the first battles, German troops were forced to withdraw. For some days the rebels could control the majority of the ghetto territories, though all the time shooting could be heard here and there. Finally, German army and police managed to round up the ghetto, and this allowed attacking the rebel troops from all the sides. German General Stroop ordered his army to burn down the ghetto and destroy all the rebels without any delay.Since the end of April German forces started massive attacks on the ghetto: they were ruining all the buildings and capturing more and more prisoners. The troops of rebels continued courageous battles till the end, but the sides in this fight were obviously not equal. Almost all the young people and other members of ZOB, including Mordecai Anielewicz and his closest companions, were killed in the battles. Some people could somehow escape, but sooner or later they were caught by the Nazis and sent to execution.

On the 16th of May the uprising was totally repressed. “Jewish quarter” in Warsaw was completely ruined, all the streets and houses were captured by German forces and everybody alive was gathered and sent to the concentration camps for death. As a result of this fight, about 7,000 Jewish prisoners were killed, 6,000 were burnt alive or destroyed by gas attacks, and about 50,000 of the rest were taken to the Treblinka death camp and ended their lives there. Only about 300 of German soldiers died during the upraise. Therefore, the main goal of the uprising was not achieved and all the inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto were killed and murdered by the Nazis. But, certainly, the uprising was an act of great heroism and courage. Knowing that the opponent was much better armed and much more crowded, Jewish prisoners still put every effort into this attempt of saving own lives and lives of their families. This dramatic event was a descriptive example of invincible will and belief, and it inspired many similar movements of rebellion and resistance of Jewish people, which took place later on in other ghettos and extermination camps.

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