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The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising ( ; ; ) was the Jewish resistance that arose within the Warsaw Ghetto in German occupied Poland during World War II, and which opposed Nazi Germany's effort to transport the remaining ghetto population to Treblinka extermination campmarker.

The insurgency was launched against the Germans on January 18, 1943. The most significant portion of the rebellion took place from April 19 until May 16, 1943, and ended when the poorly armed and supplied resistance was crushed by the German troops under the direct command of Jürgen Stroop. It was the largest single revolt by the Jews during the Holocaust.


Żelazna Street (looking East) from the intersection with Chłodna Street.
In the back building Chłodna 23 róg Żelazna 70.
This section of Żelazna Street was connecting Little and Big Ghetto.

In 1940, the German Nazis began concentrating Poland's population of over three million Jews into a number of extremely crowded ghetto located in large Polish cities. The largest of these, the Warsawmarker Ghetto, concentrated approximately 300,000–400,000 people into a densely packed central area of Warsaw. Thousands of Jews died due to rampant disease and starvation under the SS and Police Leader Odilo Globocnik and SS-Standartenführer Ludwig Hahn, even before the mass deportations from the ghetto to the Treblinka extermination campmarker began.

The Nazi forces conducted most of the deportations during the operation code-named Grossaktion Warschau, between July 23 and September 21 1942. Approximately 254,000–300,000 Ghetto residents met their deaths at Treblinka during the two months-long operation. The Grossaktion was directed by SS-Oberführer Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg, the commander of the Warsaw area since 1941. He was relieved of duty by SS-and-Polizeiführer Jürgen Stroop sent to Warsaw by Heinrich Himmler on April 17, 1943. Stroop took over from Sammern following his unsuccessful ghetto offensive. Just before the operation began, the German "Resettlement Commissioner" SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle called the meeting of the Ghetto Jewish Council Judenrat and informed its leader Adam Czerniaków about the "resettlement to the East". Czerniakow committed suicide once he became aware of the true meaning of the treacherous Nazi plan.

When the deportations first began, members of the Jewish resistance movement met and decided not to fight the SS directives, believing that the Jews were being sent to labour camps and not to their deaths. By the end of 1942 however, it became known to Ghetto inhabitants that the deportations were part of an extermination process. Many of the remaining Jews decided to resist.

The fighting

January 1943 rebellion

On January 18, 1943, the Germans began their second deportation of the Jews, which led to the first instance of armed insurgency within the ghetto. While Jewish families hid in their "bunkers", Jewish Military League (Żydowski Związek Wojskowy, ŻZW), joined by elements of the Jewish Combat Organization (Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa, ŻOB) fighters engaged the Germans in two direct clashes. Even though the ŻZW and ŻOB suffered heavy losses (including some of the leaders of both organizations, among them Yitzhak Gitterman), the deportation was halted within a few days; only 5,000 Jews were removed instead of the 8,000 as planned by Globocnik. There were hundreds of people in the Warsaw ghetto ready to fight, adults and even children, scarcely armed with handguns, gasoline bottles and a few other weapons that had been smuggled into the ghetto by the resistance fighters.

Two resistance organizations, the Jewish Military Union (Żydowski Związek Wojskowy, ŻZW) and the ŻOB took control of the Ghetto. They built dozens of fighting posts and executed individuals who collaborated with the Germans, including Jewish Police officers, members of German-sponsored and controlled Żagiew organization as well as the Gestapomarker agents (like Judenrat member Dr Alfred Nossig on 22 February 1943). The ŻOB established a prison to hold and execute traitors and collaborators. Józef Szeryński, the former head of the Jewish Police, committed suicide in hiding.

Opposing forces

Jewish insurgents

The Ghetto fighters (numbering some 400 to 1,000 by April 19) were armed, if at all, mostly only with pistols and revolvers, which were of limited value in combat and were practically useless at larger distances; just a few rifles and automatic firearms smuggled into the Ghetto were available. The insurgents had little ammunition, and relied heavily on improvised explosive devices and incendiary bottles; more weapons were supplied throughout the uprising or captured from the Germans. Some weapons were hand-made by resistance: sometimes such weapons worked, other times they jammed repeatedly. In his report, Stroop wrote his forces were able to recover the "booty" consisting of:

Polish support

Support from outside the Ghetto was limited, but Polish Resistance units from Armia Krajowa (the Home Army) and Polish Communist Gwardia Ludowa (the People's Guard) attacked German units near the ghetto walls and attempted to smuggle weapons, ammunition, supplies and instructions into the ghetto. Polish resistance also provided the insurgents with a limited number of badly needed weapons and ammunitions from its meager stocks. Jewish fighters from ŻZW received only from PKB: 2 heavy machine guns, 4 light machine guns, 21 submachine guns, 30 rifles, 50 pistols, and over 400 grenades. AK also disseminated information and appeals to help the Jews in the ghetto, both in Poland and by way of radio transmissions to the Allies. Several ŻOB commanders and fighters later escaped through the sewers with assistance from the Poles and joined Polish underground.

Polish AK unit, the National Security Corps (Państwowy Korpus Bezpieczeństwa), under the command of Henryk Iwański ("Bystry"), fought inside the Ghetto along with ŻZW. Subsequently, both groups retreated together (including 34 Jewish fighters) to the so-called Aryan side. Although Iwański's action is the most well-known rescue mission, it was only one of many actions undertaken by the Polish resistance to help the Jewish fighters. In one attack, three cell units of AK under command Kapitan Józef Pszenny ("Chwacki") tried to breach the Ghetto walls with explosives, but the Germans defeated this action. AK and GL engaged the Germans between April 19 and April 23 at six different locations outside the ghetto walls, shooting at German sentries and positions and in one case attempting to blow-up a gate.

Participation of the Polish underground in the uprising was confirmed by a report of the German commander Jürgen Stroop, who reported:

Nazi forces

Ultimately, the efforts of the Jewish resistance fighters proved insufficient against the German forces. The Germans eventually committed an average daily force of 2,090 well-armed troops, including 821 Waffen-SS Panzergrenadier troops (consisting of five SS reserve and training battalions and one SS cavalry reserve and training battalion), as well as 363 Polish Blue Policemen, who were ordered by the Germans to cordon the walls of the Ghetto.

The other forces were drawn from the SS Ordnungspolizeimarker (Orpo) "order police" (battalions from the regiments 22rd and 23rd), the SS Sicherheitsdienstmarker (SD) security service, Warsaw Gestapomarker, one battalion each from two Wehrmacht railroad combat engineers regiments, a battery of Wehrmacht anti-aircraft artillery (and one field gun), a battalion of Ukrainian Trawniki-Männer from the Final Solution training camp Trawnikimarker, Lithuanianmarker and Latvianmarker auxiliary policemen known by the nickname Askaris (Latvian Arajs Kommando and Lithuanian Saugumas), and technical emergency corps. Polish fire brigade personnel were ordered to help in the operation. In addition, a number of criminals and executioners from the nearby Gestapo Pawiakmarker prison, under the command of Franz Bürkl, volunteered to "hunt the Jews". Most of the remaining Jewish policemen were executed by the Gestapo, or used in the offensive and then subsequently executed as well.

German assault

On April 19, 1943, on the eve of Passover, the police and SS auxiliary forces entered the Ghetto planning to complete their Aktion within three days. However, they suffered losses as they were repeatedly ambushed by Jewish insurgents, who shot and launched Molotov cocktails and hand grenades at them from alleyways, sewers and windows. A French-made Lorraine 37L armoured fighting vehicle and an armoured car were set afire with ŻOB petrol bombs, and the German advance was halted.

The Jewish insurgents achieved noteworthy success against von Sammern-Frankenegg and he subsequently lost his post as the SS and policemarker commander of Warsaw. He was replaced by SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop, who rejected von Sammern-Frankenegg's proposal to call in bomber aircraft from Krakówmarker and proceeded with a better-organized ground assault.

The longest-lasting defense of a position took place around the ŻZW stronghold at Muranowski Square from April 19 to late April. In the afternoon of April 19, two boys climbed up on the roof of the headquarters of the Jewish Resistance there and raised two flags: the red-and-white Polish flag and the blue-and-white banner of the ŻZW (blue and white are the colors of the flag of Israel today). These flags were well-seen from the Warsaw streets and remained atop the house for four entire days, despite German attempts to remove them. Stroop recalled:

Another German armoured vehicle was destroyed in an insurgent counterattack, in which ŻZW commander Dawid Apfelbaum was also killed. After Stroop's ultimatum to surrender was rejected by the defenders, the Nazis resorted to systematically burning houses block by block using flamethrowers and blowing up basements and sewers. "We were beaten by the flames, not the Germans," resistance leader Marek Edelman said in 2007. In 2003, he recalled:

The ŻZW lost all its leaders and, on April 29, 1943, the remaining fighters escaped the ghetto through the Muranowski tunnel, and relocated to the Michalin forest. This event marked the end of the organized resistance, and of significant fighting.


The remaining Jewish civilians and surviving fighters took cover in the bunker dugouts which were hidden among the ruins of the Ghetto. The German troops used dogs to look for the hideouts. Smoke grenades, tear gas and reportedly even poison gas were used to force people out. In many instances, the Jewish fighters came out of their hiding places firing at the Germans, while a number of female fighters lobbed hidden grenades or fired concealed handguns after they had surrendered. Small groups of Jewish insurgents engaged German patrols in night-time skirmishes. However, German losses were mostly minimal following the first days of the uprising.

On May 8, 1943, the Germans discovered the ŻOB's main command post, located at Miła 18 Street. Most of its leadership and dozens of remaining fighters were killed, while others committed mass suicide by ingesting cyanide. The dead included the organization's commander, Mordechaj Anielewicz. His deputy, Edelman, escaped through the sewers on May 10 with a handful of comrades. Two days later, the Bundist Szmul Zygielbojm committed suicide in Londonmarker in protest, citing a lack of assistance for the insurgents on the part of Western governments:

The suppression of the uprising officially ended on May 16, 1943. Nevertheless, sporadic shooting could be heard within the Ghetto throughout the summer of 1943. The last skirmish which took place on June 5, 1943 between Germans and a holdout group of armed criminals without connection to the resistance groups.

Death toll

Approximately 13,000 Jews were killed in the ghetto during the uprising (some 6,000 among them were burnt alive or died from smoke inhalation). Of the remaining 50,000 residents, most were captured and shipped to concentration and extermination camps, in particular to Treblinka.

Jürgen Stroop's internal SS daily report for Friedrich Krüger, written on May 16, 1943, stated:

According to the Stroop's report (both causality lists and separate daily reports), his forces suffered 17 killed in action (16 listed by name) and 93 wounded (86 of them listed by name); these figures included over 60 members of Waffen-SS, and did not include the Jewish collaborators). The real number of German losses, however, may be well higher if unknown (by Edelman's estimate about 300 casualties). For the propaganda purposes, official German casualties were announced to be only a few wounded, while bulletins of the Polish Underground State claimed that hundreds of Nazis died in the fighting.

German daily losses and the official figures for killed or captured Jews and "bandits", according to the Stroop's report:

  • 19 April --- 1 killed, 24 wounded --- 580 captured
  • 20 April --- 3 killed, 10 wounded --- 533 [ditto]
  • 21 April --- 0 killed, 5 wounded --- 5,200 [ditto]
  • 22 April --- 3 killed, 1 wounded --- 6,580 [ditto] + 203 "Jews and bandits" killed + 35 Poles killed outside the Ghetto
  • 23 April --- 0 killed, 3 wounded --- 4,100 [ditto] + 200 "Jews and bandits" killed + 3 Jews captured outside the Ghetto. Total of 19,450 Jews reported caught
  • 24 April --- 0 killed, 3 wounded --- 1,660 [ditto] + 1,811 "pulled out of dugouts, about 330 shot"
  • 25 April --- 0 killed, 4 wounded --- 1,690 [ditto] + 274 shot + "very large portion of the bandits...captured". Total of 27,464 Jews caught
  • 26 April --- 0 killed, 0 wounded --- 1,722 [ditto] + 1,330 "destroyed"+ 362 Jews shot. 30 Jews "displaced"{?} Total of 29,186 Jews captured.
  • 27 April --- 0 killed, 4 wounded --- 2,560 [ditto] of whom 547 shot + 24 Polish "bandits killed in battle" + 52 Polish "bandits" arrested. Total of 31,746 Jews caught
  • 28 April --- 0 killed, 3 wounded --- 1,655 [ditto] of whom 110 killed + 10 "bandits" killed and 9 "arrested". Total of 33,401 Jews caught
  • 29 April --- 0 killed 0 wounded --- 2,359 [ditto] of whom 106 killed
  • 30 April --- 0 killed 0 wounded --- 1,599 [ditto] of whom 179 killed. Total of 37,359 Jews caught
  • 01 May --- 2 killed, 2 wounded --- 1,026 [ditto] of whom 245 killed. Total of 38,385 Jews caught + 150 killed outside Ghetto
  • 02 May --- 0 killed, 7 wounded --- 1,852 [ditto] and 235 killed. Total of 40,237 Jews caught
  • 03 May --- 0 killed, 3 wounded --- 1,569 [ditto] and 95 killed. Total of 41,806 Jews caught
  • 04 May --- 0 killed, 0 wounded --- 2,238 [ditto] of whom 204 shot. Total of 44,089 Jews caught
  • 05 May --- 0 killed, 2 wounded --- 2,250 [ditto]
  • 06 May --- 2 killed, 1 wounded --- 1,553 [ditto] + 356 shot
  • 07 May --- 0 killed, 1 wounded --- 1,109 [ditto] + 255 shot. Total of 45,342 Jews caught
  • 08 May --- 3 killed, 3 wounded --- 1,091 [ditto] and 280 killed + 60 "heavily armed bandits" caught
  • 09 May --- 0 killed, 0 wounded --- 1,037 "Jews and bandits" caught and 319 "bandits and Jews" shot. Total of 51,313 Jews caught + 254 "Jews and bandits" shot outside Ghetto
  • 10 May --- 0 killed, 4 wounded --- 1,183 caught and 187 "bandits and Jews" shot. Total of 52,693 Jews caught
  • 11 May --- 1 killed, 2 wounded --- 931 "Jews and bandits" caught and 53 "bandits" shot. Total of 53,667 Jews caught
  • 12 May --- 0 killed, 1 wounded --- 663 caught and 133 shot. Total of 54,463 Jews caught
  • 13 May --- 2 killed, 4 wounded --- 561 caught and 155 shot. Total of 55,179 Jews caught
  • 14 May --- 0 killed, 5 wounded --- 398 caught and 154 "Jews and bandits" shot. Total of 55,731 Jews caught
  • 15 May --- 0 killed, 1 wounded --- 87 caught and 67 "bandits and Jews" shot. Total of 56,885 Jews caught
  • 16 May --- 0 killed, 0 wounded --- 180 "Jews, bandits and subhumans" killed. Total of 56,065 Jews either captured or killed, and Stroops forces have 110 casualties total.


Former Ghetto under continued Nazi occupation

After the uprising, most of the incinerated houses were completely razed, and the Warsaw concentration campmarker complex was established in their place. Thousands of people died in the camp or were executed in the ruins of the ghetto. At the same time, the SS were hunting down the remaining Jews still hiding in the ruins.

In 1944, during the general Warsaw Uprising, the AK battalion Zośka was able to rescue 380 Jewish concentration camp prisoners from the Gęsiówka sub-camp, most of whom immediately joined AK and fought in the Polish uprising. A few small groups of Ghetto inhabitants also managed to survive in the underground sewer system.

Fate of the Germans involved

Bürkl was assassinated by the Polish resistance in the Operation Bürkl in October 1943. In the same month, von Sammern-Frankenegg was killed by Yugoslav partisan ambush in Croatiamarker.

Globocnik, Himmler, and Krüger all followed Adolf Hitler and committed suicide in May 1945.

Stroop was convicted of war crimes in two different trials and executed by hanging in Poland in 1952 (his aide Erich Steidtmann was exonerated for "minimal involvement"). Hahn went into hiding until 1975, when he was apprehended and sentenced to life for crimes against humanity; he died in prison in 1986.

Relation to 1944 Warsaw Uprising

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 took place over a year before the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The Ghetto had been totally destroyed by the time of the Warsaw uprising, which was part of the larger Operation Tempest. Hundreds of the survivors from the first uprising took part in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, fighting in the ranks of Armia Krajowa and Armia Ludowa.

The Warsaw kneeling

Monument to the Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw in 2006

On December 7, 1970, West Germanmarker Chancellor Willy Brandt spontaneously knelt while visiting a monument to the Uprising in the former People's Republic of Poland. At the time, the action surprised many and was the focus of controversy, but it has since been credited with helping improve relations between the NATOmarker and Warsaw Pact countries.

Remembrance in Israel

A number of survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, known as the "Ghetto Fighters," went on to found Kibbutz Lohamey ha-Geta'otmarker (literally: "Ghetto Fighters' Kibbutz"), which is located north of Acremarker. The founding members of the kibbutz include Yitzhak Zuckerman, ŻOB deputy commander, and his wife Zivia Lubetkin, who also commanded a fighting unit. In 1984, the members of the kibbutz published Dapei Edut ("Testimonies of Survival"), four volumes of personal testimonies from 96 kibbutz members. The settlement also features a museum and archives dedicated to remembering the Holocaust.

Yad Mordechaimarker, another kibbutz just north of the Gaza Stripmarker, was named after Mordechaj Anielewicz.

In 2008, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi led a group of IDF officials to the site of uprising and spoke about the event's "importance for IDF combat soldiers."

In popular culture

The uprising was the subject of the 1948 film Border Street by Aleksander Ford, the 1955 film A Generation and the 1995 film The holy week, both by Andrzej Wajda, the 2001 film Uprising and the 2002 film The Pianist by Roman Polanski, as well as the 1961 novel Mila 18 by Leon Uris. It was also featured in the 1978 NBC miniseries Holocaust, the 1986 film The Highlander and the 2009 video game Velvet Assassin.

See also


  1. Jewish uprisings in Ghettos and Camps, 1941-1944 USHMM
  2. The Nizkor Project, Statement by Stroop to CMP investigators about his actions in the Warsaw Ghetto (February 24, 1946) Wiesbaden, Germany, 24 February 1946.
  3. Moshe Arens, Who Defended The Warsaw Ghetto? (The Jerusalem Post)
  4. Jurgen Stroop Diary, including The Stroop Report: Table of Contents (Jewish Virtual Library)
  5. Jewish Virtual Library, Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg Source: Danny Dor (Ed.), Brave and Desperate. Israel Ghetto Fighters, 2003, p. 166.
  6. "Operation Reinhard: Treblinka Deportations" The Nizkor Project, 1991–2008
  7. Treblinka — ein Todeslager der "Aktion Reinhard", in: "Aktion Reinhard" — Die Vernichtung der Juden im Generalgouvernement, Bogdan Musial (ed.), Osnabrück 2004, pp. 257–281.
  8. Court of Assizes in Düsseldorf, Germany. Excerpts From Judgments (Urteilsbegründung). AZ-LG Düsseldorf: II 931638.
  9. Warsaw Ghetto Uprising USHMM
  10. Note: Chariton and Lazar were never co-authors of Wdowiński's memoir. Wdowiński is considered the "single author."
  11. World War II: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
  12. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, by Marek Edelman
  13. Benjamin Wald Jewish Virtual Library
  14. Josef “Andzi” Szerynski Jewish Virtual Library
  15. Addendum 2 – Facts about Polish Resistance and Aid to Ghetto Fighters, Roman Barczynski, Americans of Polish Descent, Inc. Last accessed on 13 June 2006.
  16. Getto 1943
  17. Andrzej Sławiński, Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and The Polish Home Army – Questions and Answers . Translated from Polish by Antoni Bohdanowicz. Article on the pages of the London Branch of the Polish Home Army Ex-Servicemen Association. Last accessed on March 14 2008.
  18. Richard C. Lukas "Forgotten holocaust - The Poles under German Occupation 1939-1944" Hippocrene Books 1997 ISBN-10: 0-7818-0901-0
  19. Stefan Korbonski, "The Polish Underground State: A Guide to the Underground, 1939-1945", pages 120-139, Excerpts
  20. Stefan Korbonski The Polish Underground State: A Guide to the Underground, 1939-1945
  21. From the Stroop Report by SS Gruppenführer Jürgen Stroop, May 1943.
  22. Two Ukrainian Members of the SS
  23. World War II: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
  24. Azoulay, Yuval. "IDF Chief, in Warsaw: Israeli, its army are answer to Holocaust.", Haaretz, 29 April 2008.

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