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January 18: First Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Lawrence Bush
January 18, 2010

mordecai anielewiczThe first armed resistance against Nazi liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto took place on this date in 1943. Jewish fighters, armed with pistols, infiltrated columns of Jews who were about to be deported to Treblinka death camp, and then broke ranks and fired upon their guards. Among the fighters was Mordecai Anielewicz, the 24-year-old who had been made commander of the ghetto’s Jewish Fighting Organization in November. Three days later, after deporting several thousand more Jews to their deaths (a quarter of a million had already been sent to Treblinka), the Nazis suspended deportations until April. During the lull, Jewish fighters took control of the ghetto, executed or neutralized collaborators, constructed subterranean bunkers, and accumulated or constructed whatever weapons they could in preparation for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April 19, 1943 (the eve of Passover), which would rage for more than a month.
“The population of the ghetto, increased by Jews compelled to move in from nearby towns, was estimated to be over 400,000 Jews . . . [confined to] an area of 1.3 square miles, with an average of 7.2 persons per room. ” —U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

​​​​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.