Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (January-May 1943)


Figure 1.--The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the single most important Jewish act of defiance against the NAZIs (April 1943). The Germans shot large numbers of Jews in the Ghetto as they reduced it. Others were transported to Auschwiyz where they were mirdered in the gas chambers. The Germans used different units to clear the Warsaw Ghetto. I am not sure just who the men posing by their handiwork here were.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the single most important Jewish act of defiance against the NAZIs. We have found various estimates of the number of Jews remaining in the Ghetto. Estimates vary widely, 35,000 to 80,000 survivors of the earlier transports. They were used for various slave labor projects. Surprisingly the Germans gave them permission to build some bomb shelters. Presumably their labor was useful. SS and police units returned to Warsaw Ghetto (January 1943). Their orders were to transport the remaining Jews to forced-labor camps specifically for Jews in Lublin District. The Jews in the Ghetto understandably assumed that this was another transport to Treblinka. They resisted the SS and police with small arms that they had managed to smuggle in from the city. After seizing about 5,000 Jews, the relatively small SS and police force, suspended the deportation operation and withdrew. At the time, because of the Stlingrad crisis, combat units were not available to back up the small deportation force. A stronger SS and police force deployed outside the ghetto walls (April 19, 1943). This time they arrived with heavy weapons. They were ordered to liquidate the ghetto and deport the remaining Jews to the forced labor camps in Lublin district as originally intended. The Ghetto Jews again resistance the Germans and managed to inflicting casualties on the much better armed SS and police units. Organized resistance broke down after a few days, but the Jews continued to resist deportation as individuals or in small groups for four weeks. Finally the NAZIs terminated the action (May 16). The SS and police deported approximately 42,000 Warsaw ghetto survivors to the forced-labor camps at Poniatowa and Trawniki and to the Lublin/Majdanek concentration camp. At least 7,000 Jews died in the fighting or while hiding in the Ghetto. The NAZIs sent the remaining 7,000 Jews to the Treblinka death camp.

Ghetto Survivors (Winter 1942-43)

The Warsaw Ghetto seems to have had a population of nearly 0.5 mullion Jews. This was virtually the entire Jewish population of the city as well as the Jews in syurrounding towns who were forced into the Ghetto. The SS forcibly deported most of the Ghetto inhabitants to Treblinka where almost all were immediately killed (July -September 1942). The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the single most important Jewish act of defiance against the NAZIs. We have found various estimates of the number of Jews remaining in the Ghetto. Estimates vary widely, 35,000 to 80,000 survivors of the earlier transports. They were used for various slave labor projects.

Bomb Shelters

Surprisingly the Germans gave them permission to build some bomb shelters. The Jews built 631 air-raid shelters. Presumably permission was granted because their labor was useful.

ZOB

The Warsaw Jews knew the Germans wpuld be back and some began preparing. A group of mostly young people formed Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (ZOB--Jewish Fighting Organization). It was led by 23-year-old Mordecai Anielewicz. ZOB issued a proclamation calling for the Ghetto Jews to resist going to the rail transports. They began collecting a small supply of weapons that they were able to smuggle into the Ghetto. They mostly obtain pistols and a small cache of amunition. They also made Molotov cocktails.

Planned Transports (January 1943)

SS and police units returned to Warsaw Ghetto (January 1943). Their orders were to transport the remaining Jews to forced-labor camps specifically for Jews in Lublin District. The Jews in the Ghetto understandably assumed that this was another transport to the Treblinka death camp. The half-starved, disease-weakened Jews facing what they saw as certain death at Treblinka decided to fight. They resisted and fired on the SS and police with the small arms that they had managed to smuggle in from the city. There were over a thousand ZOB fighters, including some children. The force was limited in part because of the shortge of arms. In addition, most of the Getto inhabitants believed that resistance was futole. Someghow the poorly armed ZOB fighters suceeded in repulsed the Germans. The small German force was surprise by the resistance. They managed to seize about 5,000 Jews, but after a few days the relatively small SS and police force, suspended the deportation operation and withdrew. At the time, because of the Stlingrad crisis, heavily armed combat units were not available to back up the small deportation force. ZOB's victory inspired the ghetto residents to prepare for the next German assault.

ZOB Preparations


Final Operation (April-May 1943)

A stronger SS and police force deployed outside the ghetto walls (April 19, 1943). Himmler ordered SS Major General Jürgen Stroop to oversee the reduction of the Ghetto. This time the Germans arrived with heavy weapons. They were ordered to liquidate the ghetto and deport the remaining Jews to the forced labor camps in Lublin district as originally intended. The Ghetto Jews again resistance the Germans and managed to inflicting casualties on the much better armed SS and police units. Rather than engage in street figghting, the Germans used their heavy weapons to simply destroy entire buildings. Thus they building by building methodically destroyed the entire Ghetto. After the first day, they broke into the hospital and shot everyone there in their beds. They then burnt down the building. The air-raid shelters proved a problem. The Germans drilled into them and gassed people sheltering there. Some of the fighters escaped to the city sewers. To drive them olut the Germans pored in water to raised the water levels. Organized resistance broke down after a few days, but the Jews continued to resist deportation as individuals or in small groups for four weeks. Finally the NAZIs terminated the action (May 16). Every building in the Ghetto was destroyed.

Outcome

The SS and police deported approximately 42,000 Warsaw ghetto survivors to the forced-labor camps at Poniatowa and Trawniki and to the Lublin/Majdanek concentration camp. At least 7,000 Jews died in the fighting or while hiding in the Ghetto. The NAZIs sent the remaining 7,000 Jews to the Treblinka death camp.

International Reaction

The Warsaw Ghetto uprising occurred at a time that Warsaw and all of Poland was well behind German lines. The Red Army was batteling with the Wehrmacht in the Ukraine, but the Western Allies had not yet landed on the Contnent. There had been reports of Germans killing Jews in occupied Poland, but the idea of the Holocaust was not yet known to the public. Scattered reports on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising leaked out from underground sources, but the NAZI-cotrolled media was the main source of information. The resulting reporting in the Western press is today difficult to believe. American publications after the World WarI experience were hesitant to accept charges of German war crimes without proof, which of course was impossible to obrain in 1943. Surely anti-Semitism is a factor which can not be dismissed. The idea of Jews defending themselves is something that Western media seems to still have difficulty with.






HBC









Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main Warsaw Ghetto page]
[Return to Main Polish ghetto page]
[Return to Main Polish Holocaust page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]



Created: 3:23 AM 8/21/2008
Last updated: 8:00 AM 7/10/2009