Remembering the Warsaw Uprising

“It took government to translate Mein Kampf into concentration camps.”

                                   -William F. Buckley

Last Sunday was International Holocaust Rememberance Day. The date is the date Auschwitz was liberated by allied troops. Beth Bailey of the Washington Examiner commemorated the day by writing about the Warsaw uprising, where Jews who had been shoved into a ghetto to await being sent to the death camps staged an armed rebellion against the Nazis.

The story is a powerful reminder of the importance of the right to keep and bear arms for the preservation of human liberty.

You can read the whole article here -and below are excerpts: :

The Warsaw ghetto was formed in 1939 after Germany invaded Poland. Consisting of a 1.3-square-mile segment of the city walled off with brick and barbed wire, the ghetto would eventually be home to 450,000 Polish Jews. Inhumane treatment, disease, and a subsistence diet resulted in 100,000 deaths even before the Germans began “resettling” the ghetto residents in 1942 by sending them to their deaths in the Treblinka gas chamber

No matter how secretive the Germans were about the genocide they were undertaking, rumors of the fates of the Warsaw Jews spread through the ghetto by late 1942. With help from the Polish Home Army, the Jews began to collect a supply of arms. When German forces arrived to carry out mass deportations of the ghetto’s remaining 60,000 inhabitants in January 1943, they met four days of armed rebellion.

On April 19, 1943, the eve of Passover, the Germans arrived again at the walled entrance of the ghetto, determined to “resettle” the remaining Jews once and for all and gift Hitler a “Judenrein” ghetto (free of Jews) for his birthday on April 20.

Waiting for them inside were two groups of Jewish resistance fighters, together containing between 750 and 1,000 members, as well as several thousand additional nonaligned fighters. Armed with homemade Molotov cocktails and a supply of grenades, handguns, and machine guns procured from the Polish Home Army, the Jews had prepared fortified fighting positions and had constructed an elaborate system of tunnels and underground bunkers beneath the ghetto.

Soon after entering the ghetto walls, German forces came under heavy attack and were forced to retreat. To their surprise, this phenomenon continued throughout the first three days of fighting, with the Germans taking losses of both personnel and material.

On April 22, the Germans razed the ghetto in pursuit of a quicker victory. As massive fires turned the Warsaw sky red, the resistance fighters used the sewer tunnels to lead groups of residents to safety outside the ghetto.

Some fighters were discovered as they escaped. Their fate was immediate death. Still others managed to bring survivors to safety in a nearby forest.

The rebellion continued until May 16, 1943, more than a week after German forces seized the resistance command bunker. During the uprising, 7,000 Jews were killed. The Germans suffered losses of around 1,000.

In the ghetto, the Germans captured 56,065 Jews. Of these, 7,000 were sent to Treblinka, where most died in the gas chambers. The remainder were sent to Lublin/Majdanek concentration camp or the forced labor camps of Poniatowa, Trawniki, Budzyn, and Krasnik. By November, except for “a few thousand laborers at Budzyn and Krasnik,” the captured Warsaw Jews had been executed.

Unbeknownst to the Germans, a number of Jews remained in Warsaw. The preparations for their rebellion allowed them to survive, hidden within the non-Jewish population, living in the forests outside the city or hunkering down in the ghetto bunkers, from which armed Jews continued to attack the German forces that sporadically entered the ghetto long after the uprising was over.

The uprisings in the Warsaw ghetto had far-reaching consequences. They inspired similar rebellions in the Bialystok and Minsk ghettos, and in the death camps of Treblinka and Sobibor. They diverted German resources destined for other battlefields for weeks. Finally, they proved to Allied forces that the Jews “were not passive victims, but … partners who have fought the common enemy.”

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