‘Heroic’ Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Remembered With Personal Stories, Symbolic Flowers on Anniversary of Outbreak

A Polish soldier lays a wreath during the commemoration of the 78th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in front of the Warsaw Ghetto monument in Warsaw, Poland April 19, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The largest act of Jewish military resistance during World War II was remembered by world Jewish groups as well as diplomats from Israel and Poland on Monday, 78 years after the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

“Today marks the 78th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, when ordinary people rose up against Nazi barbarism in the largest civil rebellion during WWII,” the American Jewish Committee (AJC) tweeted. “Their bravery lives on in our memories.”

The uprising, which began on the eve of the Passover holiday, was led by several hundred members of the Jewish Combat Organization, or Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa (ŻOB), who bravely held off the overwhelming Nazi forces for nearly a month. Some 7,000 died in the fighting before the ghetto was razed, with nearly all survivors deported to concentration camps.

In an interview with the American Jewish Committee Central Europe, Marian Turski — an Auschwitz survivor and well-known Polish journalist and historian — cited the words of a fellow survivor, the poet Halina Birenbaum.

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April 19, 2021 6:14 pm

“Hope dies last,” Turski said, quoting the title of the poet’s masterwork. “It is true. As long as we live, there is hope. It is true, because if not, I myself would not be alive.”

Marking the anniversary, the Simon Wiesenthal Center tweeted, “Jewish people and freedom-loving people everywhere are still in awe at the courage of Warsaw Ghetto fighters who, 78 years ago, fought the #Nazi beast that annihilated their families. G-d bless their heroic souls. Their courage inspires us to declare #NeverAgain!”

Many of those observing the day — including the foreign ministers of Israel and Poland and a number of their countries’ ambassadors — continued an annual tradition of wearing paper yellow daffodils in homage to Marek Edelman (1922-2009), the last surviving commander of the Uprising, who would receive a stem of the flower from an anonymous sender every April 19th.

Ruth Cohen-Dar, Director of Israel’s Department for Combating Antisemitism and for Holocaust Remembrance, said that the daffodil campaign is a “tribute to the young men and women who decided to take their fate into their own hands. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs sees great importance in preserving the memory of the Holocaust, and is working towards the commemoration of significant dates in its history.”

Pairs of Israeli and Polish diplomats around the world paid tribute to the memory of the Uprising heroes, during ceremonies in their host countries.

The World Jewish Congress emphasized the role of women during the events, tweeting, “A few hundred ghetto fighters fought the Nazis for nearly a month, determined to fight and die with dignity. And women played a critical role in the Resistance and the Uprising. Zivia Lubetkin was one of the leaders.”

The USC Shoah Foundation posted an excerpt of an interview with David Jakubowski, a survivor of the events, who recalled the moment when the Jews heard of the new “order to liquidate the ghetto, make it judenrein — meaning free of Jews — as a birthday gift to Hitler on April 20,” at the direction of SS commander Jürgen Stroop.

“There was no birthday gift for him,” Jakubowski said.


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