Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, 1943

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. 1943. Remarkable. Because the Jews who fought and died knew from the beginning that it was going to be a futile exercise. 
It was the first time that there was any uprising against the Nazis.
It also showed that driven to desperation, the weakest (The Jews in the Ghetto had hardly any arms and no outside support; all they had was raw courage) will fight.


The final liquidation of the Jewish Quarter began on 19 April 1943, the eve of the Passover, and was commanded by Von Sammern. 850 SS, 213 Order Police/ SD and 150 Trawniki-männer entered the ghetto and were met with sustained and determined attacks by the Jewish fighters.

 This resistance took Von Sammern by surprise, and he had to withdraw the German forces from the ghetto. He was replaced within hours as SSPF Warschau by Jürgen Stroop, SS- Brigadefuhrer and Generalmajor der Polizei, who was experienced in partisan warfare. Stroop had arrived in Warsaw a few days prior to the final liquidation, after being ordered by Himmler to replace Von Sammern, who according to Himmler was soft hearted. In the first three days, street battles took place in the ghetto. Stroop decided to systematically set fire to the buildings to flush out the fighters. This meant that the Jewish fighters had to abandon their positions and seek refuge in the bunkers. 

The ghetto was now one great burning torch, enveloped in dense smoke and permeated by stifling odours. The temperatures in the underground bunkers below burning houses reached boiling point and as result most of the food was spoiled. The bunker dwellers had to quench their thirst by drinking warm and fetid water. The Jews refused to surrender to the Germans even though conditions in the underground bunkers were so terrible, breathing was difficult, and under cover of darkness they tried to escape from the burning bunkers to find other bunkers where conditions were better. In the second week of the uprising, the bunkers were the main focus of battle. In this fight the Germans had to struggle to eliminate each bunker. They used tear gas, poison gas and smoke candles, forcing the Jews to vacate their hiding places. 

In many instances Jews kept firing as they emerged and a number of women fighters threw grenades hidden in their clothes, after they had surrendered. The Germans made the Jewish women strip naked, in order to avoid being ambushed in this manner.  On 7 May 1943, the command bunker of the ZOB, at 18 Mila Street was discovered. It was attacked and opened on 8 May 1943, which according to Stroop contained 200 Jews. The command bunker had been attacked using smoke candles and explosives. When the bunker at 18 Mila Street was uncovered, its five exits were blocked, the main entrance was broken open, and canisters of poison gas were thrown inside. 

Arie Wilner and Lolek Rotblat called on the fighters to take their own lives rather than surrender to the Germans. Some of the fighters did indeed commit suicide while others perished from the the gas, whilst a handful succeeded in taking shelter in one of the alcoves and later escaped via the sewer system to the “Aryan” side of Warsaw. Many of the leaders of the Jewish underground and architects of the last battle for Jewish Warsaw, including Mordechai Anielewicz the ZOB Leader of the revolt, fell in the bunker at 18 Mila Street. 

 On 16 May 1943 Stroop announced that the Großaktion had been completed and ended his daily reports to Kruger in Cracow with the following entries: 

 “The Jewish quarter of Warsaw is no more. The Grand operation terminated at 2015 hours when the Warsaw Synagogue was blown up”. "Now there are no enterprises left in the former Jewish quarter. Everything of value, the raw materials and machines have been transferred. The buildings and whatever else there was have been destroyed. The only exception is the so called Dzielna Prison of the Security Police, which was exempted from destruction." 

 Of the total 56,065 Jews apprehended, about 7,000 were destroyed directly in the course of the Großaktion, in the former Jewish quarter. 6929 were destroyed via transport to Tll (Treblinka ll death camp), whilst 15,000 went to KZ Lublin (Majdanek), and other labour camps such as Poniatowa and Trawniki. About 5.000 of the Jews deported to KZ Lublin (Majdanek) were immediately killed in the gas chambers after the initial selection.

The fighters surrender. Brave women.

 The SS set entire buildings on fire to ferret out those hiding in there. The April 28 edition of the Voice of Warsaw (a publication of the Warsaw Committee of the Polish Workers' Party) reported, "The SS thugs set ablaze entire blocks of flats in order to force the population to come out of hiding...the water, gas, and electric supplies were cut off...."
SS assault troops capture two Jewish resistance fighters pulled from a bunker during the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Some of the Ghetto residents leave as German troops move in

Those captured during the Uprising

The SS wait as a Jew emerges from a bunker. 

SS troops set fire on buildings. An image of doom, brutality straight from hell

Brave Jewish women captured during the Uprising

These are no brave soldiers. These are SS men killing innocent Jews during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

 Jewish fighters lined up against the wall

 The ruthless SS troops move in for the kill

 The Germans used artillery to blast away buildings to flush out the fighters

 Troops ready with a machine gun at an opening of the Warsaw Ghetto wall

 Interrogating the captured

 This German is mighty pleased with the day's work

The bad guy in charge of stamping out the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. SS Major General Juergen Stroop (Second from left)


On the first day of the Warsaw ghetto uprising Stroop took over command of the German forces, replacing Dr Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg, and he produced a detailed report of the operation to destroy the Jewish residential quarter. 

Stroop recorded his deeds in a boastful seventy-five page report bound together in black pebble leather and including copies of all daily communiqués sent to Kruger – SS Police Leader East, as well as photographs with captions in Gothic script. 

 Former SS- Hauptsturmfuhrer Georg Michalsen, who was a member of Odilo Globocnik’s Aktion Reinhard staff, and had been sent to Warsaw to oversee the transfer of enterprises to the Lublin district, recalled his short time in Warsaw, serving under Stroop: 

“The witness Max Jesuiter stated that Stroop had an outspoken hatred against Jews. If it had gone according to Stroop, not one train with Jews would have left Warsaw, but Stroop would have liquidated all Jews right there.” Michalsen – “I consider this description as valid. I also was under the impression that Stroop was negatively disposed towards a transfer of Jews and under the circumstances only bent to higher pressures. I also stated that it never happened before Stroop’s time that houses were burnt down. But as soon as Stroop arrived, and that was even on his first day, houses were set on fire. I have witnessed myself how people jumped from burning houses. Most probably they died.” 

 After the Ghetto Uprising, SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Friedrich- Wilhelm Kruger awarded an Iron Cross 1st Class to Stroop on 18 June 1943 for the action at a gala reception in Warsaw’s Lazienki Park.
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Points To Ponder


It is difficult to distinguish between the quality of both the German and Russian soldiers. Both were motivated by their love for their motherland. But there were others factors that drove the two sides to such desperate fighting.

One, both sides knew that this was a no-holds bar war. Not fighting was thus not an option.

Second, both Hitler and Stalin had squads that killed any deserter. Turning away from fighting was just not possible.

Thus was seen some of the most bitter, brutal and desperate fighting on the WW2 eastern (Russian) Front.
"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
-- George Santayana


"Be polite; write diplomatically; even in a declaration of war one observes the rules of politeness."
--Otto von Bismarck

"When the enemy advances, withdraw; when he stops, harass; when he tires, strike; when he retreats, pursue.'
--Mao Zedong


"The main thing is to make history, not to write it."
--Otto von Bismarck

"When you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite."
--Winston Churchill


"In time of war the loudest patriots are the greatest profiteers."
--August Bebel

"God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best."

Quotes about War....

"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war."
---Otto von Bismarck


"Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
--Hermann Goering


"To conquer the enemy without resorting to war is the most desirable. The highest form of generalship is to conquer the enemy by strategy."
--Tzu Sun

"All men are brothers, like the seas throughout the world; So why do winds and waves clash so fiercely everywhere?"
--Emperor Hirohito