Today, April 19th 2023 marks eighty years since the commencement of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on April 19th 1943.
Early in the Nazi occupation of Poland, the Nazis had concentrated the Jewish population of Poland into a number of densely crowded ghettos, the largest of which was in Warsaw. During the summer of 1942, the Nazis had removed some two hundred and fifty-four thousand to three hundred thousand Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, sending them to their deaths in the Treblinka Death Camp.
By late 1942, the Jewish resistance organizations in the Warsaw Ghetto were aware of the true fate of their fellow Jews who had been removed. The German propaganda line was that the Jews who had been removed were simply being sent to labour in labour camps in what was called "resettlement to the east".
News of the fact that the Jews who had been removed had in fact been murdered, and that this act of mass murder was part of a much larger Nazi operation of mass murder against the Jewish people, led the Jewish resistance organizations in the Warsaw Ghetto to decide to organize an armed uprising against the Nazi occupiers, rather than going meekly to their deaths.
On April 19th 1943, the Jewish resistance commenced the uprising, armed mostly with handguns, Molotov cocktails, grenades and other small hand-held weapons.
The resistance knew they were dramatically outnumbered by the Nazi occupying forces, and that, most likely, most of them would be killed, and that they could probably only slow down the deportation of the remainder of the Warsaw Ghetto population for a short time. As one survivor put it, we staged the uprising because we did not want to allow the Germans alone to choose the time and place of our deaths.
This bold act of resistance at the heart of the Holocaust stands today, perhaps, as a brave though painful example of courage and defiance in the face of megacide.
Let us remember today these brave men and women who dared to resist rather than going meekly to their deaths, and in doing so, took a stand for life, humanity and human dignity.