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August 16: The Bialystok Ghetto Uprising

August 16, 2014
041808_07_bThe second-largest Jewish ghetto uprising in Nazi-occupied Poland (after Warsaw) broke out in the Bialystok Ghetto on this date in 1943. Its main purpose was to halt mass deportations to the death camps and enable as many Jews as possible to escape into the neighboring Knyszyn Forest. Some 300 fighters, led by Mordechai Tenenbaum (fourth from left in the photo at right) and Daniel Moszkowicz and armed with only 25 rifles, 100 hand guns, home-made Molotov cocktails, and bottles filled with acid, were quickly overwhelmed by the Germans and their Latvian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian allies. Resistance persisted for several days, however, and while the deportations continued unabated, several dozen Jews succeeded at reaching the forests and joining some 150 Jewish partisans already there. Of some 60,000 Jews who lived in Białystok before World War II, only a few hundred survived the genocide. Among the fighters who survived was Haika Grossman, who escaped to the “Aryan” side of Bialystok and became a smuggler for the partisans in the woods. Grossman settled in Israel in 1948 and became a member of the Knesset. “The Germans, having the experience gained in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, were well prepared for the elimination of the Białystok Jewish communities. ‘The fight is uneven. About 300 poorly armed Jews fighting against the SS troops consisting of over three thousand soldiers armed only with machine guns,’ wrote [Szymon] Datner. ‘To the fight against the Jewish fighters they added also armored cars, light tanks and... aircraft.’ ” —Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute