Warsaw ghetto rising:

The heroic resistance of the Jews in Warsaw to the final SS attempt to clear the ghetto, April/May 1943 From the time of the German occupation of Warsaw in October 1940, the existing Jewish quarter was surrounded by a wall and divided into three areas: one contained a number of minor industries, the second a large brush factory, and the central district included a number of factories and the Jewish administration. Before the end of the year, 80.000 Gentile Poles had been moved out of the `infected area' and were replaced by some 150.000 Jews who had been living in other, not specifically Jewish parts of the city. By the end of 1940, therefore, over 350.000 Jews were now confined in a 3.5-square-mile area of the city, the ghetto had been sealed and its twenty-two entrances closed. Contact with the German authorities was maintained by the Judenrat, the twenty-four members of the Jewish Council who maintained order through their own police and organized the labour battalions the Germans demanded. During the first period of the ghetto, from 1940 to summer 1942, it is estimated that 100.000 Jews died of starvation, disease or execution. In July 1942 a six-week sweep of the ghetto was carried out and 300.000 Jews were transported, most to the extermination camp of Treblinka. In March 1943 there were, officially, only 35.000 Jews in the ghetto; but there were in fact at least as many more `illegal' Jews hiding in the ghetto, those who had escaped from the trains to Treblinka or who had filtered through from other towns. From the beginning in the ghetto, Jews maintained underground activities, newsletters and an 'Anti-Fascist Block' (which was uncovered and wiped out in 1942). The underground kept in touch with other surviving ghettos in Bialystok, Vilna and Kovno through `Aryan' friends. The Farband ('Yiddischer Militarischer Farband', the Jewish military union), formed in 1939, had links with the underground Polish `Home Army', from whom they received arms. In the ghetto the Farband had the reputation of hiding Jews on the run and of catching and executing traitors and spies. In addition they made tunnels linking the three parts of the ghetto and giving access to the main town. A communist 'Jewish Fighting Organization' which also received arms from the London-based `Home Army' was set up late in 1942. This was the situation in 1943 when Himmler ordered an end to the Jews of Warsaw and the SS planned to make the city 'Jew-free' by Hitler's birthday, 20 April. They assembled 2.000 Waffen SS, supported by the artillery and sappers from three army divisions, 200 German and 350 Polish police, some Jewish ghetto police and 300 Ukrainian and Latvian SS auxiliaries; in all nearly 3.000 men with another 7.000 in reserve. The Jews were determined to resist. Against the SS, the ghetto was armed with those weapons which had been smuggled in from the Polish `Home Army' and with whatever could be captured from the Germans once the fighting began. At 6.00 a.m. on 19 April the Germans moved into the ghetto and their column was met with firing from three sides. They were forced to withdraw, leaving the dead - and their weapons - behind. A second column led by Ukrainians and Latvians was equally repulsed and tanks and armoured vehicles were countered with `Molotov cocktails'. At the conclusion of the first day's fighting Stroop's SS and auxiliary forces had suffered heavy casualties. The next day the Nazi Governor of Poland, Frank, reported to Berlin that the ghetto resistance was such that heavier forces with aircraft and artillery would be needed. Organized fighting now continued for over twenty days in the ruins of the ghetto, with fires burning in all parts. The Jews, moving from prepared bunker to bunker, forced the Germans to fight across every foot of ground. In a month's fighting some 60.000 Jews perished. By mid June the ghetto was overwhelmed, but even in July there were still occasional breakouts by hidden fighting groups. To the end of the year there were reports of fighters appearing from the ruins in search of food, and in June 1944 German police were still suffering sporadic attacks from the ghetto ruins. It is believed that only some 100 Jews survived the ghetto uprising.