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August 3: Frumka Plotnicka and the Bedzin Ghetto Uprising

Lawrence Bush
August 2, 2016

Frumka Plotnicka, a partisan in the Warsaw Ghetto who relocated to the Będzin Ghetto and staged an uprising against the Nazis that lasted for several days, died at 29 fighting on this date in 1943. Plotnicka was a Socialist Zionist youth leader who participated in the resistance using false identities to travel across Nazi-occupied Poland as a courier and to deliver guns and instructions for building other weapons to Jewish fighting organizations. She saw so many trains bound for the death camps and reported on so many ghetto liquidations that she began to refer to herself as a gravedigger (though to the fighters in the ghettos she visited, she was known as ‘die mameh’ for all of the information and assistance she brought with her). Emanuel Ringelblum, the archivist of the Warsaw Ghetto, described Plotnicka and Haika Grossman as “in mortal danger every day,” relying “entirely on their ‘Aryan’ faces and on the peasant kerchiefs that cover their heads” as they “accept and carry out the most dangerous missions.”

“Jews would flock around her from all sides. One would ask her if he should return home or continue his way eastward to the Soviet-dominated provinces. Another would come in search of a hot meal or a loaf of bread for his wife and children. . . . she was a devoted mother to them all. She had an extremely positive influence on the larger Jewish community in Warsaw. The fact that many of its former leaders had deserted the city, and she had chosen to return, greatly impressed the Jewish community workers.”--Zivia Lubetkin

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.