CARACAS, Wednesday April 01, 2009 | Update
One of the most infamous episodes of World War II took place in Warsaw, were the Polish Jews -packed in an inhumane ghetto- stood up before the Nazis. With molotov bombs and a few weapons, the Jews faced the German troops, who attacked furiously, grounding the barrio to dust, with most residents in their homes. The rebellion started on January 8, 1943 and ended four months later, when the synagogue in Tlomacka street was demolished
Infuriated Nazis vented their cruelty on Polish Jews; reduced the Warsaw Ghetto to rubble and executed its residents (Photo: Andrés Mata Foundation)
The Polish Jews, estimated at three million people in 1940,
were relocated in small sectors when the Nazis invaded Poland.
The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest, with almost 380,000 Jewish residents. There, the Nazis took them to Treblinka, a concentration and extermination camp.
Initially, resistance leaders ordered not to fight. They thought that the Jews had been sent to a labor camp. However, when the very German soldiers bore witness to the slaughterhouse there, the Polish Jews rebelled against the invaders with the small amount of available arms.
On January 8th, 1943, a rebellion started when the German authorities at the ghetto tried to deport the Jewish people remaining in the Warsaw barrio. Underground Jewish organizations Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (ZOB) and Zydowski Zwiazek Wojskowy (ZZW) evicted the oppressors and took control of the ghetto. Checkpoints were installed in each corner and every Jew accused of cooperating with the Germans was executed, including the members of the Jewish Gestapo. The initial fight took four days until the Germans withdrew and asked for reinforcements to retake control. Amidst a tense calm, the Jews dug hundred underground shelters, including 618 sites able to stand air raids. The shelters linked each other through the drainage system and had electric power and water supply.
However, the Nazis did not remain with their arms crossed. A total of 2,054 troops and 36 officials were deployed around the ghetto. Also, 363 members of collaborationist The Navy-Blue Police were ordered to surround the area. No Jew could flee the siege. Tanks, armored vehicles, gas weapons, flamethrowers and artillery were ready for the raid on April 19th, 1943.
The Jewish rebels hurled Molotov bombs. For their part, the SS soldiers burned house after house; demolished basements and drainage systems, and killed any captured Jews.
By May 8th, there had been 20 days of continued fight. At this point, the ghetto buildings were smoldering remains. Survivors hid in the basements, sharing their shelter with the victims' bodies.
On May 16th, General Jürgen Stroop -the commander of the German forces who led the attack on the Warsaw Ghetto- declared that the battle was over. A synagogue in Tlomacka street was demolished to signal the end of the Jews in Warsaw. Polish collaborationists started chasing the ghetto's survivors and put a name to the action -Hunt the Jew. Nevertheless, many Jews managed to escape.
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