Saturday, April 19, 2014

For the RIGHT Reasons

After nearly 600,000 Jews had been deported/murdered from the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland to either death camps, forced labor camps, or the Treblinka Killing Center from July 22, 1942 to September 12, 1942, the Ghetto's population was to be "held" at 35,000.  An additional 20,000 men and women were in hiding in the ghetto.  In response, the Jewish Combat Organiztion (Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa; ZOB) and the Jewish Military Union (Zydowski Zwiazek Wojskowy; ZZW) joined forces to protect the lives of those they loved and lived with.  In preparation they began to make homemade STEN guns and grenades out of any metals they could find in the basements of the ghetto.

The Polish STEN.  Often the ones used in the Ghetto Uprising were not automatic, but rather single shot which were then reloaded and fired again, similar to the way a black powder musket would have worked but requiring less material to build, less powder to charge, and a lighter, more deadly round to deliver.

The initial quest of the uprising began when Heinrich Himler decided to liquidate the ghetto in October 1942.  The first attempt at mass deportation to forced labor camps on January 18, 1943 was met with enough chaos from the dissidents in the ZOB and ZZW that only 5,000-6,000 were able to be deported before the SS had to stop their mission.

When they returned on April 19, 1943 they were met with a resistance they could never have surmised coming from the ghetto's residence.  On the eve of Passover, 1943 Nazi troops arrived to find the streets deserted and were picked off and isolated by ZOB and ZZW units around the ghetto.  For 20 days the Uprising fought for their lives until their command bunker was captured on May 8.

The Warsaw Ghetto after the Uprising had ended.
Photo courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

While nearly 100% of those in the Warsaw ghetto were murdered for their efforts and the ghetto itself was reduced to ruin, the spirit of what they had accomplished lived on and rumors of their successes spread across Europe.  In the ultimate cry of "We're not going to take it anymore!" they rose up and fought for their freedom when they had no choice left.

Ultimately the Warsaw Ghetto Rebellion was the largest rebellion by the Jewish population and the first urban uprising against the Nazis.  They are the ones that inspired thousands to fight for their own freedom and turn the tide against the Germans in formal resistance movements.

May the Lord bless those who have risen up against tyranny and those who came to their aid.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." ~ Matthew 5:9

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