Last Known Survivor of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Leon Kopelman, Dies at 97
i24 News – Leon Kopelman, the last known survivor from the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against the German Nazis, died on Friday at the age of 97.
Kopelman was born in Poland in 1924. When the Nazis occupied the country and established the Warsaw Ghetto, his family was forced into a small home in the open-air prison.
During his time there, Kopelman became active in the underground Jewish military that resisted Jewish deportations to extermination camps. The Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa, or ZOB, was formed in the summer of 1942 during a two-month wave of deportations to the Treblinka death camp, according to Yad Vashem.
“I fought in the Warsaw Ghetto after the Aktions began, as Germans began taking Jews to annihilation. In 1942, when I was 18 and my mother was 40, she was taken to Treblinka. One day I came back from work for the Germans and she was gone,” Kopelman told Ynet news in 2018.
He joined the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II, killing German soldiers in the ghetto in battles before the final confrontation in April 1943.
Kopelman was captured by the Nazis and instead of being sent to Treblinka with the other fighters, he was sent to work as a mechanic at a Warsaw garage, having lied about his experience, which saved his life.
He was freed by Polish resistance fighters in September 1944 and joined them in their efforts against the German Nazis.
Kopelman would eventually use false identity papers to reach Italy and then board an illegal ship to Israel where was rejoined with his sister and father. He joined the Israel Defense Forces and fought in the War of Independence in 1948.
He then met his wife and raised a large family, which he said was his greatest victory over the Nazis.
His wife, Hava, who he had been married to for nearly 70 years, died several months ago. They leave behind three children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
It was originally thought that Simcha Rotem was the last surviving fighter from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising until Kopelman spoke up that he was a fighter as well. Rotem died in 2018.