Friday, March 31, 2017

Resistance: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising by Israel Gutman

Resistance: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising by Israel Gutman chronicles the famous 1943 revolt.  There are important things to keep in mind about this event, which Gutman’s stresses throughout this work.  The uprising did not take place when the ghetto was filled with hundreds of thousands of Jews, but only after nearly all had been transported to Treblinka.  Early efforts to provide resistance were blocked or stalled; both the rank and file in the ghetto and the Jewish Council still had a flicker of hope that their end point was not mass murder.

When the Great Action occurred, and the ghetto was emptied, there were no more illusions.  The uprising was led by young members of various Zionist organizations and the socialist Bund. Most were in their early twenties and had no military experience.  The commander, Mordechai Anielewicz, considered experienced, was only twenty-four  The right wing Betar movement also had a fighting force, but the ideological differences between right and left were too great to bring them together, even on the eve of complete destruction.  They were never a part of the Jewish Fighting Organization.  Therefore, accounts of their exploits are meager.

Emanuel Ringelblum, a noted historian of Polish Jewish history, started a secret organization, Oyneg Shabbos, to collect details and artifacts from daily life in the ghetto, creating an archive.  Three milk cans were filled with material as the Uprising approached and buried.  In the post war years two have been discovered, but the third is still buried in Warsaw, awaiting discovery. In that sense, part of the story of life in the Warsaw Ghetto still awaits to be told

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