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May 24: Judith Nowogrodzka and the Bialystok Ghetto

May 24, 2014
[caption id=“attachment_28734” align=“alignright” width=“300”]Deportees from Bialystok, January, 1943 Deportees from Bialystok, January, 1943[/caption] A group of sixteen Jewish teenagers organized by Judith Nowogrodzka, 35, a Communist partisan whose husband Moses had been killed in a Nazi massacre in 1941, escaped from the Bialystok Ghetto on this date in 1943. Judith Nowogrodzka, 35, afflicted with heart disease and struggling to feed her mother, “formed her own organization, which became known as Judith’s Group,” according to her family’s geneaology page, “the majority [of whom] were . . . young people without party affiliations, including individuals with a criminal record.” The group, led by Szymon Datner, a teacher, was forced to return to the ghetto the very night they escaped, but succeeded in leaving again and reaching the forests on June 3. They fought as partisans, at first alone and then with units from the Red Army, until the war’s conclusion. Datner survived the war to become an historian specializing in Nazi war crimes in eastern Poland; he died in Warsaw in 1989. Judith Nowogrodzka, who stayed in the ghetto to continue to organize escapes, died in the uprising that was launched in Bialystok on August 16, 1943. “[I]n order to destroy 30,000 people . . . the Germans would need a little, time and 300 men, because the thousands of unarmed Jews were in fact inside a prison and as strictly controlled as prisoners. Assuming that the ghetto possessed a few dozen revolvers and even a few rifles, our struggle was doomed to end in total defeat — all of us would die and the German losses would be minimal. On the other hand, even 30,000 Germans could not exterminate 300 partisans operating in open country covered by forests. I summed it all up: If the Germans had to accept the existence of Jewish armed resistance directed against them, they would be happy to have it confined inside the ghetto. The only place for fighting was the forest. -Szymon Datner