70 Years Later, Recalling the First Battle Against the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto

January 17, 2013 2:15 am 1 comment

Crowd near the wall of the Warsaw Ghetto. Photo: courtesy of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

Seventy years ago this month, the Nazis began their second deportation of the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. In response, on Jan. 18, 1943, the first organized and armed Jewish/Zionist resistance action in the Ghetto was launched.

The fighters of the ZZW and ZOB drove the Nazis from the Ghetto. Months later, on April 19, 1943, on the eve of Passover, the Nazi SS and police units entered the Ghetto and were attacked by organized Jewish partisans yet again.

There were two separate armed resistance organizations in the ghetto—the ZZW and ZOB. The most famous Jewish leader of armed resistance is Mordechai Anielewicz, commander of the ZOB (Jewish Fighting Organization) during the uprising. The ZOB was an alliance of several Zionist and non-Zionist youth groups. Anielewicz received paramilitary training in Betar as a young teenager and left Betar before the war. The ZOB had a socialist orientation, and Betar as an organization did not participate in it, in part because of politics.

ZZW, the Jewish Military Organization, was commanded and manned by Betar members and their allies. Betar’s fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising have been largely written out of history. Moshe Arens, Israel’s former defense minister and a Betar alum, recently wrote a yet-to-be published book on Betar’s heroic battle against the S.S. in the ghetto. Flags Over the Warsaw Ghetto was released by Gefen Publishing in November 2011. That book and articles by Arens about the ZZW that were published in Yad Vashem Studies, Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post have helped to create a far more accurate account of the ZZW’s participation in the uprising, and did much to recall the heroism of Pawel Frenkel, ZZW’s commander.

The ZZW is now thought by historians to have been the better-equipped force in the Ghetto, and had procured machine guns. The ZOB, however, had more fighters.

The groups finally decided to coordinate their efforts in the last moments before the April 19 battle began. For 28 days, Jewish warriors fought the enemy and showed bravery not seen since the days of Bar Kochba’s uprising against Rome.

In the Vilna Ghetto, Betar leader Joseph Glazman was deputy commander of the United Partisan Organization, the only armed Jewish resistance group in that ghetto.

Betar was founded in 1923 by Ze’ev Jabotinsky (1880-1940), a figure who is too often forgotten today. Professor Daniel J. Elazar (1934-1999), a scholar of the Jewish political tradition, in the May 15, 1981 edition of the journal Sh’ma Elazar remarked about Jabotinsky’s legacy:

“Would there be serious public commemoration of the 100th birthday of Zev Jabotinsky had it not been for the fact that the Likud won the election in Israel in 1977? Not likely. For thirty years and more, Jabotinsky was one of those non-persons in Israel and the Jewish world… The ruling Labour Party made him a non-person for the same reasons that it portrayed Menachem Begin and his supporters as uncivilized fascists—it is easier to beat the opposition by painting it as irrelevant, intolerable and non-existent, until it is too strong to be dismissed.”

This year’s 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising offers an opportunity to remind today’s Jews about Jabotinsky’s vital contributions. His words and ideas animated a generation of young Jews to resist the Nazis and fight for the freedom of Israel as soldiers in the Irgun and Stern Group/LEHI. The fact that the Islamofascists and the Iranians are so focused today on destroying Israel and the Jewish People in a future Holocaust, and at the same time denying the original Holocaust, demands a new look at Jabotinsky and his ideas.

Moshe Phillips is the president of the Philadelphia Chapter of Americans For a Safe Israel/AFSI. The chapter’s blog can be found here and Moshe tweets at @MoshePhillips.

1 Comment

  • Contrast this story with all of the Democratic politicians in the US who happen to be Jewish and are some of the leading voices for banning the same types of weapons that heroic Jews used in the Warsaw Ghetto to defend themselves and take revenge.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.