Mordechai Anielewicz (1919 – 1943)
“..most difficult struggle of all is ..one within ourselves. Let us not get accustomed and adjusted to these conditions.”Mordechai Anielewicz.
History has been so written as to commend those who have passed from us, and in the context of The Final Solution of The Jewish Question, die Endlosung der Judenfrage has been a very detailed depiction of the horror for the Jewish People who are The Holocaust. The fact that the Jews are written into the pages of this particular history is for a very specific reasoning, and not least of all due to their losses of some 6,000,000 of their People who were torn from us. The Jews are even sewn into the very fabric of those states and nations they dwelled in, even when these states or nations did not serve their Jewish Community at all well.
That position of abandonment is to be so true of all those many individual Jews whose presence or even eminence emerges from the clouds of dust, smoke, flames and the ash of their destruction. For these many Jews, recalled in their absence, so as to become identified and thus recognised by us, has far too many still to be recognised. We do recognise many, and one such whose eminent presence in the very echoes of The Holocaust is the Jewish Fighter Mordechai Anielewicz. Mordechai was born into 1919’s Wyszkow, Poland and we learn of the Jewish Boy, Man, Fighter and we recognise in him the struggle within the Polish Community for Jewish existence. #For the urgent need to both Survive, and if not to Survive, then to leave a mark upon society that we can decipher and learn from. Mordechai was born into a poor family and into a poor neighborhood and after completion of his High School education, Mordechai joined the Youth Movement Hashomer Hatzair. It has been recognised that here he made himself useful both as an organiser of the movement, and then as a leader with such qualities that would eventually serve him well.
“..Whatever may happen to you ..remember always ..Don’t adjust.” Mordechai Anielewicz.
On September 7th. 1939, merely a week after Hitler’s forces had cross the Polish border, Mordechai and other mebers of the youth movement departed Warsaw further East. The Germans were fast rolling up Division after Division of the Polish Army and nothing was halting their massive and swift advance toward victory. On September 17th. as the Russian army occupies Eastern Poland, the escape route for Polish Jews has been closed. Here though, Mordechai attempted to open a passageway through Romania for his Youth Movement to get Polish Jews to safety and to Israel. #Detained by the Russians Mordechai he was sent to one of their jails before being released and returning to Warsaw and the Ghetto established there. Mordechai only stayed in Warsaw a short time and left for Vilna, Lithuania to meet up with like minded individuals, groups of Jewish refugees fleeing from German persecution. Mordechai was preparing for the fight back and he and his Girl Friend Mira Fukrer returned now to Warsaw to deliver an educational programme and add their political issuances to form a newer underground.
All of this effort fitted in well with the resolve of Emmanual Ringelblum and the building of the Onyeg Shabbes but from January 1940 the underground activist began to sense the sea change. Once the news of der Einsatzgruppe aktions, involving the amassed killings of the Jews to the East, trickled out, a newer resolve was brought into focus. Here, Mordechai abandoned all passive or artisitc efforts and prepared himself and those he surrounded himself with for an eventuual battle with the oppressor, occupier of all of Poland.
On July 7th. 1942, and with Dr. Irmfried Eberl, Death Camp Treblinka’s Commandant, notifies Dr. Heinz Auerswald, the Commissioner of the Warsaw Ghetto, of his readiness to receive the Jews of Warsaw, the terro of expulsion of the Jews from Warsaw approached. Mordechai was expanding his view and during these formative days, he was trying to orchestrate more fighting brigades throughout the South West regions of Poland. By Mordechai’s return to Warsaw and the Ghetto, Jewish Warsaw had been cleansed, resettlement trains from the Umschalgplatz has siphoned away almost 300,000 Jews toward Treblinka. #Immediately, Mordechai set about organising his response units and formed them into fighting brigades, ill equipped to respond significantly to the German threat. The immediate crisis for the formative Fighting Force was they were without weapons and though attempts wer made to gain any weapon at all, too great was the expence demanded. Such was the larcenous intention of local, partisan and military non-Jewish Poles, that too few weapons were received that were to prove effective in battle against the common enemy. #Here though, on October 20th 1942 the Coordinating Committee of the Resistance effort, representing all Jewsh factions and political entites was formed. When Abrasha Blum and Berek Sznajdmil of the Committee were made aware of the Command structure of the new Jewish Battle Organization, ZOB, it was unanimous in appointing Mordechai as its leader. It is a rather dark period in Poland’s history that such was their attitude toward Polish Jewry the effort to strike at the German occupier would not include arming Jewish resisters.
“..Mordecai made a second mistake that took its bitter revenge on ..history of Warsaw Jews and ..Polish Jews. ..youth paid too much attention to ..opinions of ..adult gneration ..experience ones ..wise ones ..those who weighed and considered and had a hand in 1,000 well reasoned arguments against fighting ..occupier. ..worried about surviving. ..adults dreamed about life. ..youth ..best ..most beautiful ..noblest element that ..Jewish People possess ..spoke ..thought ..about an honourable death. They did not think about survivng ..they did not arrange aryan papers ..apartments on ..other side. Their only worry was ..most honourable death ..a 2,000 year old People deserves.” Emmanuel Ringelblum.
Already there was a burgeoning growth in respect between Mordechai and Emmanuel Ringelblum, which turned into a warm friendship. Though disagreement lingered with how best to spend zloty, Emmanuel clearly pointed to the extortion being inflicted upon Mordechai for the few revolvers he was forced to pay exorbitant amounts for. However, the cultural integrity of Jewish Poland required a concerted effort which Mordechai reluctantly appreciated while forging attempts to gain ever more weapons. #As such, Emmanuel Ringelblum was not so short sighted to not see the conviction and deciation of Mordechai, so he was also hugely supportive of Mordechai’s efforts. As an educator he was especially proud of this Youth led resistance which offered barely any chance of survival for those involved. It was clearly recognised by them both of the losses that were to come, and it was certainly a given appreciation that there wouldn’t be any prospect victory.
“..Jews from all sorts of organisations ..approach ..ask for arms ..as if we had an arsenal ..of weapons. ..I shall not give ..them weapons.” General Stefan Rowecki.
Nor would there be a chance of other than a crushing defeat for any of these Jewish Youth, and in the final attempt to strike a blow, the blow against them was crushing. Here though, and it is mutually recognised that an historic event was approaching and Judaism and the Jewish People would have much to praise. What further loss was soon to be exercised only added to the immeasurable grief that was permeating the entire area of Jewish Warsaw, as it was in Jewish quarters throughout the whole of Europe.
“..I don’t know what to write to you. Let’s dispense with personal details this time. I have only one expression to describe my feelings and ..feelings of my comrades ..things have surpassed our boldest dreams ..Germans ran away from us twice.” Mordechai Anielewicz.
Then, on January 9th. 1943 and with Himmler in Warsaw, this was all seen as a precursor to the final liquidation of the Ghetto of Warsaw’s Jews. The assembling of a Jewish Fighting Resistance however, spurred Himmler to act more swiftly against the ill equipped Jewish Resisters. As 8,000 more of Warsaw’s Jews are ordered toward the Umschlagplatz and their final resettlement, it is recognised that for Mordechai, the time is fast approaching to act. On January 18th. 1943, with 6,000 more of the Warsaw Ghetto’s Jews being murdered at Treblinka, the Warsaw Ghetto was surrounded for this 2nd. Liquidation, the Jewish fight was brought to the Nazi’s.
At 4 separate Battle Group Barricades, there was a concerted effort by the Jewish Resisters to strike and in some way, and with plans to to do so, to disrupt all future resettlement operations. Here, 1,000 of these Ghetto Fighting Jews are murdered after Resisting on this, the 1st. Jewish Fighting Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto, a Resistance which lasted for 4 days. Mordechai, commanding the battles in the main streets, mingled with those Jews set for resettlement and the entire transport of Jews dispersed. The success of this foray was indeed realised with the very fact of the abandonment of the resettlement transports that were still unfinished.
“..One of our companies held out for 40 minutes ..other one for more than 6 hours. ..mine planted in ..Brushmakers’ area exploded. So far ..we have had only one casualty ..Yehiel who fell as a hero at ..machine gun.” Mordechai Anielewicz.
As I add my words, and in the following sections they are interlaced with the words from Mordechai’s last letter to his his Friend, they settle appropriately amongst my own words. Repeated, so as to do further honour to the Jewish Memory and pay especial tribute to those like Mordechai Anielewicz, who stood so tall against the Nazi rage, his words are worth more than the words they stand to represent. These are the last and final words Mordechai has gifted to us and it shares a belief that in their struggle to strike back, it has set a future precedent. In any future conflict, no Jew anywhere, should ever be presented with such a murderous intention without the ability and resource to strike back.
“..we got information that ..PPR attacked ..Germans and ..radio station Swit broadcast a wonderful bulletin about our self defense ..I had a feeling of fulfillment. Even though there’s still a lot of work ahead of us ..whatever has been done so far has been done perfectly.” Mordechai Anielewicz.
Following on from this first excustion into fighting the common enemy in Poland, the coming 3 month period of developed the air of urgency. What grew, as preparations further develeoped the reference point to fighing back and producing another blow against the occupiuers, Mordechai Anielewicz’s dream would emerge. There was, with renewed vigor, and as the last deportations of Warsaw’s Jews began Jewish Warsaw rose up again. The Jews of all of Europe, beginning with Poland, were hounded, demoralised, enclosed within Ghettos, denied assistance by their own states and presented with a hope that did not exist for them, now it was the turn of the Jewish People to strike further, deeper, stronger, wider.
“..From ..evening ..we are switching to a system of guerila action. At night ..3 of our units go out on 2 missions ..an armed reconnaisance patrol and ..acquisition of weapons. Know that ..pistol has no value ..we practically don’t use it. We need grenades ..rifles ..machine guns ..explosives.” Mordechai Anielewicz.
All of this Jewish passivity changed with Bielski, Bialystok, Czestochowa, Koretz, Sachsenhausen, Sobibor, Treblinka, Tuczyn and of course, here in Warsaw. This is not to say, in the least that the Jews did not resist, but as has been identified, there are many forms of Resistance which do not always include physical responses. Here again though, with this, the recognisable Warsaw Ghetto Uprising beginning April 17th. 1943 and with the remnants of Warsaw’s Jews, some 70,000 Jews who were still alive, there was still this feeling for a freedom they had thought evaporated.
Friday April 23rd. 1943 “..I can’t describe to you ..conditions in which ..Jews are living. Only a few individuals will hold out. All ..rest will be killed sooner or later. ..die is cast. In all ..bunkers where our comrades are hiding ..you can’t light a candle at night for lack of oxygen.” Mordechai Anielewicz.
At first the superiority of the weaponry of Nazi resistance was clear and yet, the Nazis suffered many consequential losses which prompted a more ferocious and escalating response. The Jews took the battle to the oppressor and for days on end, the Nazi terror was contained and it shrank back from contact. However, Hitler could not allow for a handful of Jews to resist what the forces of the Reich had marked in 1,000’s of waged War, without the cumulative effort of all that he could now throw at the Warsaw Ghetto and its Jews.
Friday April 23rd. 1943 “..Of all ..units in ..Ghetto ..only 1 man is missing ..Yehiel. That too is a victory. I don’t know what else to write you. I imagine you have many questions. But for now ..be content with this.” Mordechai Anielewicz.
Being one of the few, Mordechai Anielewicz not only exemplifies what the Jews could do and should achieve, but given their opportunity to do so, they would achieve. Mordechai too lays down a marker to what the Polish state failed to do to save its own Jewish People. Throughout the history of the time, antisemitic hatred in many parts of Europe precluded the Jewish armed resistance from being properly assisted, armed and more resolutely established. Though there were indeed many armed insurrection, revolts and resistances, these were never coordinated enough to present a Jewish concerted effort.
Friday April 23rd. 1943 “..general situation ..all ..workshops in ..Ghetto and outside it were closed ..except for Werterfassung ..Transavia ..and Daring. I don’t have any information about ..situation in Schultz and Tobbens. Contact is cut off. ..Brushmakers’ workshop has been in flames for 3 days.” Mordechai Anielewicz.
From here on in, everything that could be thrown at the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, with blocks to any form of armed resistance, to any formal assitance, all of this was heightened by Polish military tardiness and obstruction. But once Battle commenced, the Jewish struggle from within the Ghetto itself gave these well outnumbered Jews a brief taste of the freedom they had sought. The poorly armed rebels knew that they could not defeat the Nazis but they managed to resist the Germans for a month.
Friday April 23rd. 1943 “..During ..day ..e sit in hiding places. Be well my friend. Perhaps we shall meet again. ..main thing is ..dream of my ife has come true. I’ve lived to see a Jewish defense in ..Ghetto in all its Greatness and glory. Mordechai.” Mordechai Anielewicz.
The winds of change were in the air, and it was spreading like a brush fire and in what was the first major Jewish, or otherwise, uprising to be played out anywhere in occupied Europe, these Jewish Fighter set a future precedent. In the preceding months and in fact the months that would follow this Great Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, other groups followed there example. There were to be revolts in the Ghetto’s the length and breadth of Poland, Byelorussia, Ukraine and in the areas of Russia were Jewish Partisans now ranged. To counter this, Hitler obliged Himmler to seek ever more draconian methods and the application of brutal criminal and mercenary forces were encouraged into the fight.
Thursday April 29th. 1943 “..strength of ..German military and police machine ..being weakened daily. This strength broke near Stalingrad ..had to retreat from Tunis now stands powerless before a group of Jews who defend themselves in ..ghetto.” Polska.
Such was the ferocity of the destruction, artillery mounted from within range of all of Warsaw pounded the beleagured few, who still held out. The Nazi’s not only sought now to crush the Resistance, they fully sought to obliterate every trace of the Jewish presence within Warsaw and witnessed for themselves a Jewish resurgence that was to rage on every street defended by Warsaw’s Ghetto Jews. As this particular facet of the Uprising came to a head, Mordechai and his command were forced to move to their headquarters, a shelter of cover at Mila 18 street.
“..Contact is cut off. ..Brushmakers’ workshop has been in flames for 3 days. Yesterday ..hospital burned. Blocks of buildings are in flames.” Mordechai Anielewicz.
Then, on May 8th. 1943 Mordechai Anielewicz, this acclaimed activist and well respected Commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, was shot and killed. Here, at the age of 23, still a relatively Young Man, he died fighting as he saw fit, fighting the very regime that had already so extinguished Jewish existence in Warsaw and Poland. For Polish Jewry, so arbitrarily attacked and so devastatingly destroyed, so that it would barely recover, that pain of recovery is an every day effort for Jews within Warsaw, let alone Poland.
Here, in the headquarters bunker Mordechai had managed to hold up in, and together with a few of those other youthful Jews, who had the same vision, they have stood before History and are recognised for what they achieved. The Nazi’s own forces of Waffen SS, Common Criminals and another array of collaborating non-Jewish Poles, together they sought to burn through all Jewish Resistance, house by house. Every shelter in the Ghetto was targetted and this handful of Jewish Men, Women, Boys and Girls did what the Polish Army did not do.
“..One by one ..factories were systematically cleared ..then destroyed by fire. Almost always ..Jews then emerged from their hiding places and bunkers. Not rarely ..Jews stayed in ..burning houses until ..heat and fear of being burned to death caused them to jump from ..upper floors after they had thrown mattresses and other upholstered objects from ..burning houses to ..street. With broken bones they would then try to crawl across ..street into buildings which were not yet ..in flames. Often ..Jews changed their hiding places during ..night ..shifting into ..ruins of buildings already burned out and taking refuge there until they were found by ..shock troop units. ..Only as a result of ..unceasing and untiring efforts of all forces did we succeed in capturing altogether 56,065 Jews ..definitely destroying them. To this figure should be added Jews who lost their lives in explosions ..fires ..number of which could not be definitely established. Warsaw ..May 16th. 1943 ..SS und Police Leader ..Warsaw District ..Stroop ..SS Brigadefuhrer..Major General of Police. Jurgen Stroop.”
The Warsaw Ghetto Jews, fighting against a common enemy of Poland, and non-Jewish Poles also, defended the right of existence for those all of those Polish Citizens, particularly who were Polish Jews facing extinction. The battle itself lasted for some 4 weeks and on May 10th, 1943, with the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Uprising collapsing under the rubble of Warsaw. When the end came, it wasn’t until a week later, on May 17th. 1943 that Stroop could then report back to Hitler that the Ghetto was no more and that Warsaw was now declared ‘Judenrein. #Mordechai Anielewicz’s Last Letter to His Friend and fellow Resistance Fighter Yizhak Zukerman.
Friday April 23rd. 1943
I don’t know what to write to you. Let’s dispense with personal details this time. I have only one expression to describe my feelings and the feelings of my comrades, things have surpassed our boldest dreams, the Germans ran away from us twice. One of our companies held out for 40 minutes, and the other one for more than 6 hours.The mine planted in the Brushmakers’ area exploded. So far, we have had only one casualty, Yehiel who fell as a hero at the machine gun.
Yesterday, when we got information that the PPR attacked the Germans and that the radio station Swit broadcast a wonderful bulletin about our self defense, I had a feeling of fulfillment. Even though there’s still a lot of work ahead of us, whatever has been done so far has been done perfectly.
From the evening, we are switching to a system of guerila action. At night, three of our units go out on two missions, an armed reconnaisance patrol and the acquisition of weapons. Know that the pistol has no value, we practically don’t use it. We need grenades, rifles, machine guns, and explosives.
I can’t describe to you the conditions in which the Jews are living. Only a few individuals will hold out. All the rest will be killed sooner or later. The die is cast. In all the bunkers where our comrades are hiding, you can’t light a candle at night for lack of oxygen.
Of all the units in the Ghetto, only one man is missing, Yehiel. That too is a victory. I don’t know what else to write you. I imagine you have many questions. But for now, be content with this.
The general situation, all the workshops in the Ghetto and outside it were closed, except for Werterfassung, Transavia, and Daring. I don’t have any information about the situation in Schultz and Tobbens. Contact is cut off. The Brushmakers’ workshop has been in flames for three days.
Yesterday, the hospital burned. Blocks of buildings are in flames. The police force was dismantled, except for the Werterfassung. Szmerling has surfaced again. Lichtenbaum has been released from the Umschlag. Not many people have been taken out of the Ghetto.
But that is diffrent in the shops. I don’t have the details. During the day, we sit in hiding places. Be well my friend. Perhaps we shall meet again. The main thing is the dream of my ife has come true. I’ve lived to see a Jewish defense in the Ghetto in all its Greatness and glory.
97 Jewish Resistance Fighters Died that Day and more than 80% of all those who threw themselves into the fight lost their lives doing so. With the Jewish refusal to succumb to the obvious technical, military and crushing weight of weaponry, which the Nazi’s qpply as they obviously possessed, the Resistance had very little other than a fighting chance at Resisting.
Amonsgt these Heroes are those of Mila 18 Street and some of these are, Chaim Akerman, Malka Alterman, Mordechaj Anielewicz, Nate Bartmeser, Heniek Bartowicz, Franka Berman, Tosia Berman, Icchak Blaustein, Melach Blones, Berl Braude, Icchak Chadasz, Nesia Cukier, Icchak Dembinski, Jozef Fass, Efraim Fondaminski, Towa Frenkel, Emus Frojnd, Mira Fuchrer, Wolf Gold, Miriam Hajnsdorf, Aron Halzband, Rut Hejman, Mira Izbicka, Salke Kamien, Ziuta Klejnman, Jaffa Lewender, Lolek, Sewek Nulman, Abraham Orwacz, Rywka Pasamonik, Majloch Perelman, Aron Rajzband, Lutek Rotblat, Miriam Rotblat, Jardena Rozenberg, Salka, Jerzy Sarnak, Szmuel Sobol, Basia Sylman, Szyja Szpancer, Moniek Sztengel, Szulamit Szuszkowska, Mojsze Waksfeld, Olek Wartowicz, Icchak Wichter, Arie Wilner, Zeew Wortman, Hirsz Wronski, Sara Zagiel, Rachelka Zylberberg and Moszek Zylbertszajn.
Today, and it is a prejudicial questioning, as far as I am concerned that it has always been asked of those 6,000,000 Slaughtered Jews, who had no reason to believe that the very devil was in the detail of the hatred spouted by Hitler. How could honestly civilised People see in such corruption of all morals and in a supposedly ethical community, a scene as has been sought from and deplorable destruction of 6,000,000 Jews The Holocaust presents. The question, why did these Jews not add to the resistance necessary to interrupt, slow down or even prevent the terms of The Holocaust from being enacted, is a question best left to the dignity of an innocent Jewish People so conflicted by the atrocity they were presented with.
“..so died one of ..best ..one of ..noblest ..who had from ..beginning of his life dedicated himself to ..service of ..Jewish People ..to protect its honour and dignity. ..working class will remember ..he was one of ..few.” Emmanuel Ringelblum.