Holocaust drawing (2)
Drawing by Raymond Verdaguer

Seventy years ago today,a group of young men and women fired the shots that began the largest single act of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust.

The Warsaw Ghetto uprising was an extraordinary act of courage in the face of certain death.

In 1940, the Nazis herded over half a million Polish Jews into a ghetto in Warsaw. The Nazis forced them to build a wall, and then sealed them inside, using them for slave labor and worse. Many began dying from cold, and disease from lack of proper medicines, then in 1942, the Germans began daily deportation to the death camp in Treblinka.

It was not easy to organize a Jewish resistance from inside the Ghetto wall under the extreme circumstances, but somehow guns and ammunition were smuggled in piece by piece, and an organized group of men and women dedicated to fight to the death were formed.

By early 1943, most Jews of the Ghetto had already been gassed. Those who remained were often young and alone, having lost their families. In January, 1943, Jewish fighters surprised the German forces entering the Ghetto with gunfire, and the Germans soon ceased the deportation. The Star of David and the Polish flag were raised side by side on the Ghetto’s tallest building. Three months later, the Germans set fire to the Ghetto. Those who did not burn in the fire were shot, or sent to concentration or death camps. When the Germans surrounded them, many of the fighters committed suicide.

The only way out was the sewers, and one young man, Marek Edelman, led the last surviving Ghetto fighters to freedom through the horrors of ancient sewers. They were trapped for days underground, and many died on the way. Only about 40 survived the terrible trip through the sewers. Edelman was the last living commander of the uprising, and after the war, he continued to fight the Germans with the Polish Communists.

After the war, Edelman became a cardiologist: “to outwit God”, as he once said. He is still celebrated as a hero in Poland.

((This information was taken from an article by Marci Shore, associate professor of history at Yale University.)

Author: kaytisweetlandrasmussen83

I am a retired fine arts teacher, sculptor/painter, writer, and a native Californian. I love my family,dogs, horses, movies, reading and music, probably in that order. I have been married forever to a very nice man who is nice to old ladies, dogs and children.


    1. Yes, it is hard for any of us to imagine.  There is courage in all of us, though sometimes it is hard to find.  The Anzacs showed similar courage at Gallipolli.  During each War, there are so many stories of great heroism.  We need to poke ourselves now and then to remember them all.



  1. Loved the story.Its the first I have heard of this uprising.Nothing in our school history books ever even suggested of the jews fighting back.
    My salute to these brave resistance fighters,even if its many decades too late.


  2. Interesting comment gerard. I’ve been reading essays, journals, and books about Holocaust memorials and monuments and the conundrum they pose. What are the for? For us to remember? Or for us not to forget?


  3. Cheri;
    Lest- in order that not. (forget). In Australia that in embossed on all our war memorials. Tomorrow (Monday) we have a day ro remember the fallen soldiers and is called Anzac Day.


  4. Warsaw … Ghetto. Two words laden with shame, cruelty, hatred and all else in human nature that shocks and and sears the imagination.

    Images of little children, wide-eyed with fear, in rags, curled and starving in the gutter, a boy with a stolen sack of potatoes, challenged by a soldier with a bayonet, watches helpless as the sack is cut open and his life tumbles to the ground, gun shots, round-ups, Juden scrawled on shop windows, compulsory arm bands with a solid yellow Star of David.

    Then, Kayti, you tell of a breeze of courage in this vacuum of despair, of strength from nowhere, of hope fulfilled amid the horror, and my belief in humanity is restored.

    Deep, deep within men and women is an ugliness which surfaces in all degrees of abomination, and prevails – for a while – until the nobler passions transcend.

    May I forgive, therefore, but may I ever be reminded what I really am, for easily do I forget, and in forgetting I forget myself and my urgent need to amend.


  5. A pseudo historical/fictional; account of the resistance was written by Leon Uris in a book called Mila 18. Very powerful story. Barry


  6. I tried to comment but found my words can’t match what the posting made me feel. This is what I love about blogging, People speak truths that make us feel, lest we forget how to do that too. Thank you for the post, forgive but don’t forget.


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