It was 1943… the evacuation of the Warsaw Ghetto
It has been 80 years since one of the most significant episodes of World War II took place, which focused on the evacuation of the Warsaw Ghetto
A macabre story
In September 1939 Germany invaded Poland. The beginning of the German occupation can be felt very quickly in Warsaw. In November 1940, a three meter high wall will be erected that will extend over 300 hectares to form the so-called Warsaw Ghetto, inhabited by half a million Jews. They even bring Jews from other areas, about 100,000 more, into the famous ghetto, which is not long in coming. An engineer, Adam Czerniakow, was appointed by the Warsaw City Hall as chairman of the “Jewish Council‘, a Jewish council meant to act as an intermediary between the ghetto and the Nazi authorities.
The inhabitants of the ghetto cannot leave and are used for forced labour, the only way to support themselves. On July 22, 1942, the Germans requested lists of children from Adam Czerniakow in order to send them to “labor camps” in the east. Faced with this impossible-to-fulfill injunction, the man chooses to kill himself by leaving a touching letter, with no further information as to the nature of these injunctions. From that moment on, every day that God makes, 5,000 to 6,000 people are brought to the transshipment point and then transferred to Treblinka. From that moment on, they were all exterminated.
A heroic uprising
On September 12, 1942, when the first deportation was completed, there were only 60,000 survivors in the ghetto. SS and police units took 265,000 Jews and tens of thousands more to forced labor camps, and another 10,000 Jews were murdered directly in the ghetto. Between July 22 and September 12, 1942, i.e. in less than two months, 300,000 Jews were murdered. It is one of the first large butcher shops in the notorious empire.
But on July 28, 1942, the Jewish Combat Organization (Jewish fighting organizationZOB), around 500 fighters, and the Jewish Combat League (Jewish Military Union, ZZW) about 250 people, born. Their aim is to oppose this deportation to the death camps. On January 18, 1943, the second action (deportation in German) of the German armed forces was carried out. As the enemy enters the ghetto to conduct another raid, the SS are greeted with gunfire and eventually pushed back. Young Mordechai Anilewicz, (young Polish Zionist and socialist activist, 23 years old) is the leader of the ZOB, he manages to completely stop the deportations between April and January. It’s a great symbolic victory.
Die with guns in hand
This Jewish coalition insists on organizing itself by digging bunkers and buying some arms from the Polish resistance on the other side of the wall. By drinking water and eating sugar from the homes of the deportees, these insurgents, despite their weakness, found the strength to face the German army. On April 19, 1943, the day of Passover, the Germans stormed into the ghetto, but were immediately surprised by the Jewish troops. They were then repelled but came back with a vengeance, this time with more than 2,000 police and SS equipped with tanks, artillery and flamethrowers. It’s carnage.
On May 8, Mordechaï Anielewicz commits suicide. The end of the Warsaw Uprising seemed to come to an end with the destruction of the Dohány Street Synagogue on Tlomacki Street on May 16, 1943. The destruction of the Great Synagogue marked a symbolic end intended by the Nazis. However, some manage to escape through the sewers, such as Marek Edelman, one of the leaders of the Jewish opposition. Finally, this Warsaw Ghetto Uprising remains important and symbolic because it represents the largest Jewish uprising in the largest ghetto in Europe. This uprising influenced others in the occupied zone. The duty of remembrance is essential. Because, as historian Audrey Kichelewski tells France 24: “It was very important for the young Jewish state to celebrate Jewish heroism and to counter the idea of weak, passive Jews who had left the drive to the slaughterhouse”. In the end, only 40 survivors managed to escape from the Warsaw ghetto through the sewers.