When I set out to compose this write up I realised I could ramble on and on, get upset, get angry and lose my sense of direction but I would not enlighten or teach you anything with by doing that. I have tried to maintain this as objective as possible, and hopefully have produced an informative essay that will not wound anyone sensibilities with regard to the place and events depicted.

The Warsaw Ghetto was established in 1939 after a three-week siege in which the German army took the city. The residents of the city in an armed militia tried to fight back but where out manned, out powered and out blasted by the German superiority. Once the occupation was complete the dissemination of the Jews began and within weeks that erected a massive settlement called the Ghetto. Spanning a 16x16 block area it had no walls and no gates. The land used for the construction of the Ghetto was a poor area, already home to many non-Jewish Poles who were ordered out but allowed to take possession of the soon vacant rich Jewish homes, and businesses.

Residence was compulsory the Jews were allowed only to take a few basic personal items, all of them minor, clothes, small objects such photographs and suitcases were allowed. Jewellery was taken at the entrance.

Living conditions in the settlement were dire to say the least. Since no major supplies were allowed to be taken and few enough to be negligible were provided even caring for basic necessities became near impossible. The accommodation itself was terrible; the Germans had erected new buildings with no care for the materials used the state they were in or the structures themselves. All of the buildings had rats and few lacked even full walls and roofs. To make matters worse the people in the Ghetto far outnumbered the houses, and there have been accounts recorded of up to seven or eight families living under the same roofs. All of these factors led to chronic epidemics across the settlement.

Meanwhile without the outlawing of Jewish owned stores the people struggled to get supplies and ration cards were not available for everyone, even the lucky ones often came back empty-handed. Malnutrition and starvation was common place. Work came from only factories that produced munitions and weapons for the war and even then it was for few and far between. Even in their personal lives the inhabitants of the Ghetto suffered torment, elderly men where sometimes made to wash the street with soap and water without the aid of a simple brush, harassment by the soldiers was normal with such things as random beatings, the confiscation of anything they had and shaving their heads. It has to be said that this was a regime imposed on al non-German inhabitants of Warsaw, but those in the Ghetto suffered the worse, not just because of the discrimination but as well they were surrounded at all times by soldiers and could not avoid it.

On the 15th of November 1940 tall, barbed wire walls were erected around the Ghetto and all inhabitants were restricted inside. In less than a year the German army had decimated one of the largest independent sectors of the city and devastated a community. After this hopes that the Ghetto was temporary accommodation were quickly disappearing. The feelings of the camp were that they were going to be worked to death or imprisoned there as slave labour. They were right in a way, the mortality rate in the Ghetto was as high as 80% and the population was indeed worked to death. What they did not know, or refused to believe was that this settlement was just a measure to keep them out of the way before they were sent to the so called Death Camps, or Concentration camps if they were lucky.
The enormity and horror of this idea was to much to believe and even the enlisted German soldiers working in the city did not know or believe these stories either. Over a hundred members of the community were shipped out every day to these camps, but the denial of information and the seemingly randomness of the chosen ones maintained the confused atmosphere and the rumours that they were to be reunited with them soon. In a way this was true.

On the 22nd of July of 1942 orders from above were sent to ship out as many of the remmaning 300,000 who had not died at the hands of disease or the soldiers to Trebinka. During this period over 6000 people a day were sent to the death camp. The Jews didn’t know what was happening but whispers and ghosts of rumours floated back and slowly the realisation sunk in that those 300 thousand people, the brothers, sisters, children and lovers, were not coming back.

Originally the Ghetto had been populated with over 500,000 residents, by 1943, April only 50 000 were left and these “lucky” ones who knew that they would not be so lucky for much longer. On April the 19th 1943 they decided to take their destinies in their own hands. With virtually no weapons, no training and little ammunition for the weapons they did have they took to the streets and started fighting Warsaw Ghetto’s officials and commanders. Fights and battles broke out on the streets and on nearly every corner, from windows high to gutter low blood was shed. In what should have been by all rules quick futile revolt lasted for nearly three weeks. During this time the size of the Ghetto had been reduced to an area measuring no more than 1000x300 yards.

They were finally defeated when the SS carried out a special operation in which they attacked with tanks, guns and flamethrowers. Nearly all of the fifty thousand were slaughtered and most the known leaders of the resistance were killed except for Marke Edelman, who is one of the few Jews who remained in Poland after the war. The rest of the survivors who managed were banned from the city. In the rest of the city Polish, civilians and soldiers almost 20,000 died during the uprising and the Germans systematically burnt or blew up the city, this was despite the fact the Jews received help only from the Communist Poles.

Until that day the Germans had been proud to say that they took Europe with no resistance expect by outside forces. In the Warsaw Uprising they were proved wrong. The devastation of Warsaw, the city, itself and the Ghetto resulting form the revolt was incredible, most of it had been destryoed by the German army and the rest of the settlement lay in ruins. So much so that the very day after the defeat of Jews it was closed. The few remaining survivors were shipped to various camps to die in the hands of the Third Reich.



This is for NothingLasts4ever.
On 19th April 1943 General Stroop ordered his SS troops into the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw. By now, knowing their fate, some 60,000 Jewish people had refused to obey the order to leave and were resisting forcible deportation. The German High Command decided to send their troops in to eliminate them.

In three’s and four’s through still night streets the soldiers gathered, hoping not to alert the inhabitants, to catch them by surprise. By dawn they had assembled in their platoons and companies and were ready, tanks and armoured vehicles entered the Ghetto, artillery was located just outside the walls of the Jewish area.

Confident of minimal resistance from an unarmed and starving people, the SS began their high stepping triumphant march. They were ambushed at the corner of Mila and Zamenhofa Street. Home made petrol bombs and hand grenades rained down upon them from battle groups carefully organised and barricaded at the four corners of the street. Careful, accurate, pistol shots found their targets – ammunition was precious. Even more rare, the sound of rifle fire, methodical and unhurried. Unexpectedly and heroically, the Ghetto was fighting back.

The Germans tried to pull back, only to find their movements had been closely monitored and the escape routes cut off. Shameful though it was for the SS, they called on the aid of the tanks. Only then did they appreciate the organisation behind the rising. The first tank in the convoy was hit by incendiary devices and burnt out, the others halted. The fate of the SS was sealed. Panicked they hid in doorways and were hunted down. Jewish civilians had annihilated the ‘glorious’ SS.

That day all over the Ghetto fierce resistance prevented the German army from deporting the people. A second tank was burnt out and two machine guns were captured. Long lines of German wounded formed for treatment at the military hospital. By 2pm they withdrew from the Ghetto entirely, defeated.

It took the Germans a month to capture the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw, and they only succeeded by utterly destroying it, burning the entire area and bombarding it with artillery. There were very few Jewish survivors – who had escaped the Ghetto through sewers or had somehow lived on in cellars through the war and the hunting dogs and listening devices. But their stand transformed the political situation. The German occupiers no longer seemed invincible. The Ghetto rising inspired further armed resistance by Jewish communities faced with annihilation, three month later at Treblinka, and soon after at Sobibor, uprisings succeed in overcoming the guards and hundreds of people escaping.

The rising also electrified the wider Polish population, removing the aura of invincibility from the German authorities. A period of strikes and partisan warfare began to undermine their rule.

It also demolished the myth that Jewish people passively accepted their extermination.

The organisation behind the rising was the Jewish Resistance Organisation (ZOB), a united front between the main Zionist organisations, the Communist Party and the Bund – a radical socialist party.

It had taken a long, dangerous, and inspiring political struggle to create an organisation capable of mounting last-ditch resistance to the fascists.

The German occupation of Poland had led to the rounding up of the Jewish population from all over the local area and their confinement to the Ghetto. Movement in and out was restricted to essential workers – who were severely exploited – and all Jewish people were required to wear armbands with the Star of David.

300,000 people were living in the Ghetto, rich and poor. Lively cafe life took place in streets filled with paupers. But slowly the impoverishment of the whole community began. Insufficient food was allowed into the Ghetto to feed the population; only those with black market resources could avoid hunger. Arbitrary shootings cowed the population and an unwritten law of ‘common responsibility’ meant that where there was resistance to German rule, it was deeply unpopular. 53 male inhabitants of one street were summarily shot for the beating up of a policeman and the mood of the Ghetto was one of trying not to antagonise the authorities.

But then the death camps began their industrial scale executions.

The police had a quota of 6,000 Jewish people to be sent to Treblinka a day. At first they were overwhelmed with volunteers. The offer of bread and marmalade, in order to relocate people to factories in the east lured tens of thousands to their unsuspecting deaths. After all, what sense did it make for the German occupiers to want to kill everyone because of certain imagined physical differences?

Worse still, Jewish representatives themselves were implementing the fascist policy. The Jewish Council signed the poster that was placed all around the Ghetto explaining the relocations. Jewish police were put in charge of rounding people up.

The Bund, being more alert to the nature of fascism than the public, were quick to urge resistance. On their secret printing press they rushed out posters and leaflets urging people to resist, ‘with their bare hands’ if necessary. They also attempted to get arms through the Polish underground, but those organisations were only beginning to equip themselves and guns proved almost impossible to obtain.

On the second day of the deportations the President of the Jewish Council, Adam Czerniakow committed suicide. But this act did nothing to clarify the meaning of the deportations.

The Bund smuggled Zalmen Frydrych out of the Ghetto and onto a train driven by a sympathetic worker. He was shown the track to Treblinka, from which no one returned. He met two escapees from the camp. The Bund rushed out a leaflet with this eyewitness testimony. But still the majority turned a blind eye, they did not want to believe it.

By mid September 1942 only 120,000 people remained in the Ghetto, the Bund had seen its carefully built underground organisation collapse as a result. Everything had to be started again, and still the majority did not understand what was happening to them. A massive round-up assigned papers to some 20,000 essential workers, the rest were scheduled for deportation and if they hid, it was the Jewish police who hunted them down and shot them.

Because Zionism argues that Jewish people should separate themselves from gentile society some of their prominent leaders had accommodated themselves to the rise of fascism and thought they could utilise the anti-Semitism of the fascists to promote the idea of the need for a Jewish state. Only at the very last did the Zionist organisations that remained in the Ghetto gave up hope of working with the authorities and together with the Communist Party and the Bund form an organisation for bitter resistance.

ZOB gained instant popularity with the population for executing brutal factory foremen and leaders of the Jewish police. Suddenly there was a new mood in the Ghetto. The resistance had begun, and those who remained shed the feeling of helplessness that had dominated their lives.

As guns began to be smuggled in, battles were staged to prevent deportations. The early battles were very costly in personnel for ZOB who lost more than half of their fighters. But now the population were behind them and they were effectively the government of the area. The authorities could no longer fill their quotas and deportations slowed up dramatically. Desperate Jewish Police were given personal goals of 7 arrests a day but could only succeed in getting hold of the infirm. Even then ZOB actions could sometimes free prisoners before they left the Ghetto area.

Stories of Jewish resistance started to spread in Warsaw and beyond, creating great excitement among anti-fascists, more arms found their way into the Ghetto including 50 pistols and 55 hand grenades. In this way, under constant threat of execution from the soldiers and police raids, ZOB prepared itself for what it knew was coming, a final onslaught by the German army.

When the rising did come, it was one of the most extraordinarily brave acts of a doomed people, yet a people who were determined to fight for whatever revenge they could and a people who had their eyes on the future that their action would help create. In the middle of the fighting ZOB smuggled the following manifesto out of the Ghetto to the Polish people.

Poles, citizens, soldiers of Freedom! Through the din of German canons, destroying the homes of our mothers, wives and children; through the noise of their machine guns, seized by us in the fight against the cowardly German police and SS men; through the smoke of the Ghetto, that was set on fire, and the blood of its mercilessly killed defenders, we, the slaves of the Ghetto, convey heartfelt greetings to you. We are well aware that you have been witnessing breathlessly, with broken hearts, with tears of compassion, with horror and enthusiasm, the war that we have been waging against the brutal occupation these past few days.

Every doorstep in the Ghetto has become a stronghold and shall remain a fortress until the end! All of us will probably perish in the fight, be we shall never surrender! We, as well as you, are burning with desire to punish the enemy for all his crimes, with a desire for vengeance. It is a fight for our freedom, as well as yours; for our human dignity and national honour as well as yours! We shall avenge the gory deeds of Oswiecim, Treblinka, Belzec and Majdanek!

Jewish Armed Resistance Organisation.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.