20 January 2013

The earlier Warsaw Ghetto uprising

Earlier, that is, than the one you're thinking of.

I came across this item via normblog, the blog of Norman Geras, retired Professor of Political Philosophy at Manchester University (UK) and author of, inter alia, 'The Contract of Mutual Indifference' (about the mutual indifference of German Jews and German non-Jews). In it, he links to the Jerusalem Post and an item by Robert Rozett, in which the latter tells the story of the January 1943 Warsaw Ghetto revolt.

What happened was that a small group from Hashomer Hatzair, led by Mordecai Anielewicz, resisted the Nazis entering the Ghetto to carry out an "Aktion" to take away 8,000 of the inhabitants. Although nearly all of the group were killed (except for Anielewicz), the Germans left virtually empty-handed.

When they re-entered the Ghetto a few days later, others (this time from the Bund) resisted, and they left, having rounded up far fewer they intended. Eventually, the Nazis left the Ghetto alone until April, when the final battle occurred, with the results we all know.

Both Geras and Rozett note that the armed resistance didn't affect the outcome of the Nazis intentions in any material way, but they did take some of the bastards with them, and, even though the inhabitants knew that they were doomed anyway, they still determined to resist from then on. It's suggested that the mere act of actively resisting enabled some of the Ghetto inhabitants to survive the Holocaust (as, for example, did Anielewicz, to become one of the founders of The `ghetto Fighters Museum, near Haifa).

This is hardly a heart-warming story (the ultimate tragedy was essentially pre-ordained), but, given the history of our people, it is heartening. This close to Holocaust Memorial Day, I make no apologies for posting it.

By: Brian Goldfarb