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1943: Death and Resistance
 pg. 405 
    Although they rarely knew their Jewish victims' names, the Nazis intended that Zivia Lubetkin, Richard Glazar, and Thomas Blatt would not survive the "Final Solution." Nevertheless, they did, and after the Holocaust ended each wrote a book about resisting disaster in 1943.

Some 400,000 Jews had inhabited the crowded Warsaw Ghetto, but disease, starvation, and deportations to Treblinka--300,000 of them from July to September 1942--drastically reduced that number. Estimating that 40,000 Jews still lived there (the actual figure was closer to 55,000), SS chief Heinrich Himmler ordered the deportation of 8000 more when he visited the ghetto on January 9, 1943. However, the Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (ZOB; Jewish Fighting Organization), led by 23-year-old Mordecai Anielewicz, launched armed resistance when the Germans implemented Himmler's order on January 18. Although more than 5000 Jews would be deported by January 22, Jewish resistance--it included hiding and refusal to report as well as violent struggle--prevented the ordered quota from being met and led the Germans to terminate the Aktion. The reprieve, however, was temporary.

Zivia Lubetkin helped to found the Jewish Fighting Organization, and participated in the Warsaw Ghetto's January uprising. "We fought with grenades, guns, iron rods and light bulbs filled with sulphuric acid," she recalled in her book, In the Days of Destruction and Revolt. "For a few minutes we were intoxicated by the thrill of the battle. We had actually witnessed the German conquerors of the world retreat in fright from a handful of young Jews equipped only with a few pistols and hand grenades."

Lubetkin knew the Germans would return. The only question was when. For the 50,000 Jews who remained in the ghetto, the decisive answer came on April 19, 1943, the eve of Passover. This time, General Jürgen Stroop's well-equipped German troops expected armed resistance upon entering the ghetto, and they got it. Outgunned by the Germans, the poorly armed Jewish fighters--about 700 to 750 strong--had no illusions about defeating Stroop. But Lubetkin saw the Germans fall back at first as the limited store of Jewish guns, grenades, and "Molotov cocktails" brought fear and death to the German invaders.

Again, the reprieve was temporary. "The enemy set fire to the ghetto," Lubetkin testified. "How can one describe the enormous suffering and terror of the Jews trapped in the flames?" Still, the ghetto fighters resisted. Not until May 16 could Stroop report that "the Jewish Quarter of Warsaw no longer exists." By then Lubetkin had escaped through the sewer system to Warsaw's "Aryan" side, where her resistance continued

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Members of the Greenspan partisan group assemble in Poland's Parczew Forest.
Photo: Moshe Kaganovich / United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive

1943: Death and Resistance
 pg. 405 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.