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April 19: The Uprising, 70 Years Ago

April 19, 2013
73534608476110100Nazi casualties: only 16 dead, 100 wounded, according to Yad Vashem researcher Havi Dreifuss. Yet the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which erupted on this date in 1943, “was a moral victory,” says Dreifuss. “No one believed the Jews would fight back. It’s amazing that after three years of Nazi occupation, starvation and illness, these people found the strength to disobey the Nazi orders, stand up and fight back.” Here is an eye-witness account by Zivia Lubetkin, who was among the founders of the Jewish Combat Organization (ZOB) that led the uprising. She survived to speak these words at Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem: “I saw the thousands of Germans who surrounded the ghetto armed with machine guns and cannons, and they starting entering – thousands of armed soldiers, as if they were on their way to the Russian front. And we stood against them, 20-something young men and women. Our weapons? Each of us had a pistol and a hand grenade, two rifles between us and some primitive hand-made bombs whose fuses we had to light with a match, and one Molotov cocktail. . . . It was strange to see the 20-odd young Jewish men and women standing happy and in high spirits opposite this huge armed enemy. Why happy and in high spirits? Because we knew their end would come. We knew they would defeat us first, but we also knew they would pay a dear price for our lives. And they did. It’s hard to describe, and many won’t believe us, but when the Germans approached and marched below us, and we hurled the grenades and bombs and saw German blood in the streets of Warsaw, after so much Jewish blood and tears had flowed through the streets of Warsaw — we were filled with happiness and didn’t care what would happen tomorrow.” “Why should we fear death, if its angel rides on our shoulders?” —H.N. Bialik