Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

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German soldiers burning house after house

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, sometimes called the Warsaw Uprising 1943, was an insurrection in Poland's Warsaw Ghetto against Nazi Germany during World War II. The main rebellion lasted from April 19, 1943 to May 16 that year and was crushed by SS-Gruppenführer (then Brigadeführer) Jürgen Stroop. The significant precursor to the main uprising was an armed action launched against the Germans on January 18, 1943.


The fight

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The Wehrmacht during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

On January 18, 1943, the first instance of armed resistance occurred when the Germans started the second expulsion of the Jews. The Jewish fighters had some success: the expulsion stopped after four days and the ŻOB and ŻZW resistance organizations took control of the Ghetto, building dozens of fighting posts and operating against Jewish collaborators.

During the next three months, all inhabitants of the Ghetto prepared for what they realized would be a final struggle. Hundreds of bunkers were dug under the houses (including 618 air raid bunkers), most connected through the sewage system and linked up with the central water supply and electricity, and in some cases featuring camouflaged air supplies and tunnels leading to safer areas of Warsaw.

Support from outside the Ghetto was limited, but Polish units from Armia Krajowa (AK) and Gwardia Ludowa sporadically attacked German sentry units near the ghetto walls and attempted to smuggle weapons and ammunition inside. One Polish unit from AK, namely KB under the command of Henryk Iwański, even fought inside the Ghetto together with ŻZW. The AK tried twice to blow up the Ghetto Wall, but without much success.

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The victims

The final battle started on the eve of Passover, April 19, 1943. Jewish partisans shot and threw grenades at German and allied patrols from alleyways, sewers, house windows, and even burning buildings. The Nazis responded by shelling the houses block by block and rounding up or killing any Jew they could capture. Significant resistance ended on April 23, and the uprising ended on May 16. Nevertheless, sporadic shooting could be heard in the area of the Ghetto throughout the summer of 1943.

After the uprising, the Ghetto became the place where Polish prisoners and hostages were executed by Germans. Most of the houses were levelled to the ground. Later the KL Warschau concentration camp was founded in the area of the Ghetto. During the later Warsaw uprising in 1944, Polish Home Army battalion "Zośka" was able to save 380 Jewish concentration camp prisoners from the Gęsiówka and Pawiak prisons, most of whom immediately joined the AK.

During the fighting approximately 7.000 of the Jewish partisans were killed. Additional 6.000 were burnt alive or gassed in bunkers. The remaining 50.000 people were sent to German death camps, mostly to Treblinka extermination camp.

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A man jumping out of a window of a burning house during the fights; German soldiers nick-named such people Parachutists

Relation to 1944 Warsaw Uprising

Captured inhabitants of the Ghetto await removal to the  for deportation.
Captured inhabitants of the Ghetto await removal to the Umschlagplatz for deportation.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 is sometimes confused with the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The two events were separated in time, and were quite different in aim. The first, in the Ghetto, was a choice to die fighting, with a slight hope of escape, rather than a sure death in a concentration camp, with the moment to fight being chosen as the last moment when the strength to fight was still available. The second was a coordinated action, part of a large Operation Tempest. Still, there are links between the events. A number (approximately 1000) of the fighters from the Ghetto Uprising took part in the later Warsaw Uprising. The brutality of the Nazi forces was similar. Some leaders of the Warsaw Uprising took inspiration from the fight in the Ghetto.

Further information

External links

See also

he:מרד גטו ורשה pl:powstanie w getcie warszawskim


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