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On April 19, 1943, the revolt of Warsaw ghetto enters its ultimate and most cruel phase. Since January the “Jewish Military Union” and the “Jewish Combat Organization” sporadically supported by the Polish “Interior Army” have forcibly opposed the deportations, which have already affected more than 300,000 people. The Germans originally overwhelmed by the situation, decide to react and crush the insurrection, by all possible means.
The creation of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw
After the attack on Poland by Germany on September 1, 1939, which marked the beginning of the Second World War, the German occupiers implemented, in the name of National Socialist ideology, the concentration and isolation of Jewish populations. In Warsaw live 393,000 Jews, a third of the city's population.
In 1941, some 550,000 Jews from Warsaw and the surrounding area lived in the ghetto, plus Jews from Germany, Austria and Bohemia-Moravia. During the winter of 1941-1942, hunger and epidemics, particularly typhus, caused the death of 100,000 ghetto inhabitants. In fact, the establishment of the ghetto is part of the “administrative” preparation for the Shoah. It was a transitional step towards the extermination camps, to which the mass deportations began in June 1942, after the Wannsee conference. Between July 23 and October 3, 1942, 310,000 Jews from the ghetto were deported to the Treblinka extermination camp, 120 km away. Only around 33,000 people remained in the ghetto. A few days later the Jewish Combat Organization (OJC) was founded.
The uprising of April 1943
The new deportations organized in January 1943 triggered the start of resistance operations, and on April 19, 1943, when the Germans decided to liquidate the ghetto, they encountered an insurrection that lasted three weeks. Under the command of SS General Jürgen Stroop, several thousand men gathered: Police, SS, Waffen SS, members of the SD (intelligence service) Ukrainian and Baltic auxiliaries, artillery ... These disparate units must seize the Ghetto and liquidate all resistance in 3 days. In front of them less than 500 Jewish fighters, very weakly equipped and tormented by hunger ... they will however hold out for more than a month against the German forces.
A month of fierce and hopeless resistance, to which the Nazi leaders responded with a policy of absolute terror. The ghetto will finally be completely razed, several thousand of its inhabitants burned alive or asphyxiated by the toxic fumes of the fires. The rest will be deported and will experience an abominable fate in the work and extermination camps.
Only a handful (40 maybe a little more) of ghetto inhabitants and resistance fighters managed to escape like the famous Marek Edelman who died in 2009.
- The 948 days of the Warsaw ghetto, by Bruno Halioua. Liana Levi, 2018.
- Oneg Shabbat - Journal of the Warsaw Ghetto, by Emanuel Ringelblum. Calmann-Lévy, 2017.