74th anniversary of ghetto uprising marked in Warsaw
Events marking the 74th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began in Warsaw on Wednesday.
Observances began with a ceremony in front of the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes attended by Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, Undersecretary of State in the Chancellery of the President Wojciech Kolarski, and other officials as well as representatives of Jewish organisations.
Those taking part in the anniversary observances included holders of the Righteous Among the Nations medal, in addition to state and local government officials, diplomats, representatives of Polish cultural institutions, and Warsaw residents.
Later in the day, ceremonies were also scheduled to be held at other memorial sites connected with the Warsaw ghetto.
April 19 marks the 74th anniversary of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in which Warsaw's Jews gave armed resistance to the city's German occupants, who were planning to liquidate the ghetto.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising broke out on April 19, 1943 in the final phase of the ghetto's liquidation launched by the Nazis few months earlier. The insurgency, that lasted until May 16, had been a symbolic act taking the small chances of success. In an uneven, almost one-month-long struggle, the poorly armed fighters of the Jewish Combat Organisation (ZOB) and the Jewish Military Union (ZZW) stood against SS and Wehrmacht soldiers, the Security Police and auxiliaries.
At 6 am on April 19, ap. 2,000 German troops along with units of Ukrainian and Lativan collaborators entered the ghetto from 2 sides. The plan was to complete the deportation action within three days, but Germans encountered heavy resistance and found themselves in an ambush by Polish Jewish insurgents maintaning a sustained fire and tossing Molotov cocktails as well as hand grenades from alleyways, sewers, and windows.
A couple hours into the fight, on the afternoon of 19 April, a symbolic event took place when two boys climbed up on the roof of a building on the square and raised two flags, the red-and-white Polish flag and the blue-and-white banner of the ŻZW. These flags remained there, highly visible from the Warsaw streets, for four days, infuriating Germans.
After a few weeks of uneven fight on May 8, 1943 the then commander of the uprising Mordechaj Anielewicz together with a group of ZOB soldiers committed suicide in a bunker at 18 Mila st. Just a handful of fighters managed to escape from the burning ghetto through the sewage system. Among them was the last commander of the uprising Marek Edelman.
It is presumed that about 6,000 insurgents died in the fighting. Survivors were mostly deported to concentration camps. Of what remained from the ghetto was razed to the ground by German troops led by SS General Juergen Stroop. Stroop was tried, convicted, and hanged for crimes against humanity in Poland March 6, 1952.
The Warsaw ghetto was established on October 12, 1940. A German decree required all Polish Jews from Warsaw to move into a designated area which German authorities sealed off from the rest of the city in November 1940.
The ghetto's population reached at its peak over 400,000 Polish citizens of Jewish descent. The first wave of mass deportations from the Warsaw ghetto to the Treblinka German Nazi extermination camp started on July 22 and lasted until September 12, 1942 embracing some 300,000 Polish Jews.
On April 19, 1943, German forces arrived at the ghetto with the intention liquidate it and deport the remaining inhabitants. This sparked the uprising.
Warsaw was the only city in Europe to have held two uprisings against the Third Reich, the 1943 ghetto uprising and the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. (PAP)