image from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website

The 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 captors. Among the fighters was Mordecai Anielewicz, the 24-year-old who had been made commander of the ghetto’s Jewish Fighting Organization (aka the Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa or ZOB) the previous 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 rooftop passages, and accumulated or assembled 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.

“Today it will be half a year since our destruction began [July 1942]. Had we but resisted then, at least as much as we resisted during the last deportation [January 1943], the Nazis would not have succeeded so easily in destroying such a large Jewish community. . . One shudders to think that it required a quarter of a million Jews to give their lives, for the remainder to understand the reality of the situation and come to the right conclusions.” –from the diary of Shmuel Winter