Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

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Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Part of World War II and the Holocaust
Stroop Report - Warsaw Ghetto Uprising BW.jpg
Jewish women and children forcibly removed from a bunker; one of the most iconic pictures of World War II.
Date19 April – 16 May 1943
Location
52°14′46″N20°59′45″E / 52.24611°N 20.99583°E / 52.24611; 20.99583 Coordinates: 52°14′46″N20°59′45″E / 52.24611°N 20.99583°E / 52.24611; 20.99583
Result Uprising defeated
Surviving Jews deported to Majdanek and Treblinka
Belligerents
Commanders and leaders
Strength
Daily average of 2,090 including 821 Waffen-SS About 600 [1] ŻOB and about 400 [2] ŻZW fighters, plus a number of Polish fighters
Casualties and losses
16 confirmed, 90 wounded (German figures) [lower-alpha 1] 57,065 killed/and or captured of which approximately 36,000 deported to extermination camps (German estimate)
According to Stroop's unofficial account, 56,065 people were killed or deported.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (Yiddish : אױפֿשטאַנד אין װאַרשעװער געטאָ; Polish : powstanie w getcie warszawskim; German : Aufstand im Warschauer Ghetto) was the 1943 act of Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto in German-occupied Poland during World War II to oppose Nazi Germany's final effort to transport the remaining ghetto population to Majdanek and Treblinka concentration camps. After the Grossaktion Warsaw of summer 1942, in which more than a quarter of a million Jews were deported from the ghetto to Treblinka and murdered, the remaining Jews began to build bunkers and smuggle weapons and explosives into the ghetto. The left-wing Jewish Combat Organization (ŻOB) and right-wing Jewish Military Union (ŻZW) formed and began to train. A small resistance effort to another roundup in January 1943 was partially successful and spurred the Polish groups to support the Jews in earnest.

Polish language West Slavic language spoken in Poland

Polish is a West Slavic language of the Lechitic group. It is spoken primarily in Poland and serves as the native language of the Poles. In addition to being an official language of Poland, it is also used by Polish minorities in other countries. There are over 50 million Polish-language speakers around the world and it is one of the official languages of the European Union.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Warsaw Ghetto Ghetto in Nazi occupied Poland

The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of all the Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Europe during World War II. It was established by the German authorities in November 1940; within the new General Government territory of German-occupied Poland. There were over 400,000 Jews imprisoned there, at an area of 3.4 km2 (1.3 sq mi), with an average of 9.2 persons per room, barely subsisting on meager food rations. From the Warsaw Ghetto, Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps and mass-killing centers. In the summer of 1942 at least 254,000 Ghetto residents were sent to the Treblinka extermination camp during Großaktion Warschau under the guise of "resettlement in the East" over the course of the summer. The ghetto was demolished by the Germans in May 1943 after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprisings which had temporarily halted the deportations. The total death toll among the Jewish inhabitants of the Ghetto is estimated to be at least 300,000 killed by bullet or gas, combined with 92,000 victims of rampant hunger and hunger-related diseases, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the casualties of the final destruction of the Ghetto.

Contents

The uprising started on 19 April when the ghetto refused to surrender to the police commander SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop, who then ordered the burning of the ghetto, block by block, ending on 16 May. A total of 13,000 Jews died, about half of them burnt alive or suffocated. German casualties were probably less than 150,[ citation needed ] with Stroop reporting only 110 casualties [16 killed + 1 dead/93 wounded]. [3] Nevertheless, it was the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II. The Jews knew that the uprising was doomed and their survival was unlikely. Marek Edelman, the only surviving ŻOB commander, said that the motivation for fighting was "to pick the time and place of our deaths". According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the uprising was "one of the most significant occurrences in the history of the Jewish people". [4]

Jürgen Stroop SS General; war criminal

Jürgen Stroop was a German SS commander during the Nazi era, who served as SS and Police Leader in occupied Poland. He led the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943 and wrote the Stroop Report, a book-length account of the operation. Following the defeat of Germany, Stroop was prosecuted during the Dachau Trials and convicted of murdering nine American POWs. After his extradition to the People's Republic of Poland, Stroop was tried, convicted, and executed for crimes against humanity.

Marek Edelman Jewish resistance member

Marek Edelman was a Polish political and social activist and cardiologist. Edelman was the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and long before his death he was the last one who stayed in Poland despite harassment by Communist authorities.

Background

Corner of Zelazna 70 and Chlodna 23 (looking east). This section of Zelazna street connected the "large ghetto" and "small ghetto" areas of German-occupied Warsaw. Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-270-0298-10, Polen, Ghetto Warschau, Drahtzaun.jpg
Corner of Żelazna 70 and Chłodna 23 (looking east). This section of Żelazna street connected the "large ghetto" and "small ghetto" areas of German-occupied Warsaw.
Warsaw Ghetto Map - 1940-October-15 Warsaw Ghetto Map - 1940-10-15a.png
Warsaw Ghetto Map - 1940-October-15

In 1939, German authorities began to concentrate Poland's population of over three million Jews into a number of extremely crowded ghettos located in large Polish cities. The largest of these, the Warsaw Ghetto, concentrated approximately 300,000–400,000 people into a densely packed, 3.3 km2 central area of Warsaw. Thousands of Jews died due to rampant disease and starvation under SS-und-Polizeiführer Odilo Globocnik and SS-Standartenführer Ludwig Hahn, even before the mass deportations from the ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp began.

<i>Schutzstaffel</i> Major paramilitary organization of Nazi Germany

The Schutzstaffel was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in Nazi Germany, and later throughout German-occupied Europe during World War II. It began with a small guard unit known as the Saal-Schutz made up of NSDAP volunteers to provide security for party meetings in Munich. In 1925, Heinrich Himmler joined the unit, which had by then been reformed and given its final name. Under his direction (1929–45) it grew from a small paramilitary formation to one of the most powerful organizations in Nazi Germany. From 1929 until the regime's collapse in 1945, the SS was the foremost agency of security, surveillance, and terror within Germany and German-occupied Europe.

<i>Standartenführer</i> Nazi party paramilitary rank

Standartenführer was a Nazi Party (NSDAP) paramilitary rank that was used in several NSDAP organizations, such as the SA, SS, NSKK and the NSFK. First founded as a title in 1925, in 1928 the rank became one of the first commissioned NSDAP ranks and was bestowed upon those SA and SS officers who commanded units known as Standarten which were regiment-sized formations of between three hundred and five hundred men.

Ludwig Hahn SS officer, War criminal

Ludwig Hermann Karl Hahn was a German Schutzstaffel (SS) officer and a convicted war criminal. A prominent Nazi official, he held several high-ranking political and security positions during his career with the SS.

The SS conducted many of the deportations during the operation code-named Grossaktion Warschau , between 23 July and 21 September 1942. Just before the operation began, the German "Resettlement Commissioner" SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle called a meeting of the Ghetto Jewish Council Judenrat and informed its leader, Adam Czerniaków, that he would require 7,000 Jews a day [5] for the "resettlement to the East". [6] [7] Czerniaków committed suicide once he became aware of the true goal of the "resettlement" plan. Approximately 254,000–300,000 ghetto residents met their deaths at Treblinka during the two-month-long operation. The Grossaktion was directed by SS-Oberführer Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg, the SS and police commander of the Warsaw area since 1941. [8] He was relieved of duty by SS-und-Polizeiführer Jürgen Stroop, sent to Warsaw by Heinrich Himmler on 17 April 1943. [9] [10] Stroop took over from von Sammern-Frankenegg following the failure of the latter to pacify the ghetto resistance. [11]

<i>Sturmbannführer</i> Nazi party paramilitary rank

Sturmbannführer was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank equivalent to major that was used in several Nazi organizations, such as the SA, SS, and the NSFK. Translated as "assault unit leader", the rank originated from German shock troop units of the First World War.

Hermann Höfle Coordinator of Operation Reinhard

Hermann Julius Höflepron. also Hans (or) Hermann Hoefle was an Austrian-born SS commander and Holocaust perpetrator during the Nazi era. He was deputy to Odilo Globocnik in the Aktion Reinhard program, serving as his main deportation and extermination expert. Arrested in 1961 in connection with these crimes, Höfle committed suicide in prison before he could be tried.

<i>Judenrat</i> "Jewish councils" in Nazi-occupied territories

A Judenrat was a World War II Jewish-German-collaborative administrative agency imposed by Germany, principally within the ghettos of occupied Europe, including those of German-occupied Poland. The German administration required Jews to form a Judenrat in every community across the occupied territories.

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, ghetto inhabitants learned that the deportations were part of an extermination process. Many of the remaining Jews decided to revolt. [12] The first armed resistance in the ghetto occurred in January 1943. [13] On 19 April 1943, Passover eve, the Germans entered the ghetto. The remaining Jews knew that the Germans would murder them and they decided to resist to the last. [14] While the uprising was underway, the Bermuda Conference was held from 19–29 April 1943 to discuss the Jewish refugee problem. [15] Discussions included the question of Jewish refugees who had been liberated by Allied forces and those who still remained within German-occupied Europe. [16] [17]

Bermuda Conference

The Bermuda Conference was an international conference between the United Kingdom and the United States held from April 19, 1943, through April 30, 1943, at Hamilton, Bermuda. The topic of discussion was the question of Jewish refugees who had been liberated by Allied forces and those who still remained in Nazi-occupied Europe. The only agreement made was that the war must be won against the Nazis. US immigration quotas were not raised nor was the British prohibition on Jewish refugees seeking refuge in the British Mandate of Palestine lifted.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the "United Nations" from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

German-occupied Europe European countries occupied by the military forces of Nazi Germany

German-occupied Europe refers to the sovereign countries of Europe which were occupied and civil occupied including puppet government by the military forces and the government of Nazi Germany at various times between 1939 and 1945 and administered by the Nazi regime. The farthest east in Europe the German Wehrmacht managed to occupy was the town of Mozdok in the Soviet Union; the farthest north was the settlement of Barentsburg in the Kingdom of Norway; the farthest south in Europe was the island of Gavdos in the Kingdom of Greece; and the farthest west in Europe was the island of Ushant in the French Republic.

The uprising

January revolt

On 18 January 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 so-called "bunkers", fighters of the ŻZW, joined by elements of the ŻOB, resisted, engaging the Germans in direct clashes. [18] Though the ŻZW and ŻOB suffered heavy losses (including some of their leaders), the Germans also took casualties, and the deportation was halted within a few days. Only 5,000 Jews were removed, instead of the 8,000 planned by Globocnik. Hundreds of people in the Warsaw Ghetto were ready to fight, adults and children, sparsely armed with handguns, gasoline bottles, and a few other weapons that had been smuggled into the ghetto by resistance fighters. [1] Most of the Jewish fighters did not view their actions as an effective measure by which to save themselves, but rather as a battle for the honour of the Jewish people, and a protest against the world's silence. [14]

Preparations

Two resistance organizations, the ŻZW and ŻOB, took control of the ghetto. They built dozens of fighting posts and executed a number of Nazi collaborators, including Jewish Ghetto Police officers, members of the fake (German-sponsored and controlled) resistance organization Żagiew, as well as Gestapo and Abwehr agents (such as Judenrat member Dr Alfred Nossig, executed on 22 February 1943). [19] The ŻOB established a prison to hold and execute traitors and collaborators. [20] Józef Szeryński, former head of the Jewish Ghetto Police, committed suicide. [21]

Main revolt

Resistance members captured at Nowolipie 64 near intersection with Smocza. Hasia Szylgold-Szpiro is on the right. Stroop Report - Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 08.jpg
Resistance members captured at Nowolipie 64 near intersection with Smocza. Hasia Szylgold-Szpiro is on the right.
Captured Jews are led by German troops to the assembly point for deportation. Picture taken at Nowolipie street, near the intersection with Smocza. Stroop Report - Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 09.jpg
Captured Jews are led by German troops to the assembly point for deportation. Picture taken at Nowolipie street, near the intersection with Smocza.
SS men on Nowolipie street Ghetto Uprising Warsaw2.jpg
SS men on Nowolipie street
Burning buildings photographed from the intersection of Zamenhofa and Wolynska Stroop Report - Warsaw Ghetto Uprising - 26552.jpg
Burning buildings photographed from the intersection of Zamenhofa and Wołyńska
Burning ghetto viewed from Zoliborz district Dworzec Gdanski i plonace getto 1943.jpg
Burning ghetto viewed from Żoliborz district
The Site of Mila 18 in 1964 Zamenhofa Mila Warsaw 1964.jpg
The Site of Mila 18 in 1964
Great Synagogue of Warsaw Wielka Synagoga w Warszawie.PNG
Great Synagogue of Warsaw

On 19 April 1943, on the eve of Passover, the police and SS auxiliary forces entered the ghetto. They were planning to complete the deportation action within three days, but were ambushed by Jewish insurgents firing and tossing Molotov cocktails and hand grenades from alleyways, sewers, and windows. The Germans suffered 59 casualties and their advance bogged down. Two of their combat vehicles (an armed conversion of a French-made Lorraine 37L light armored vehicle and an armored car) were set on fire by the insurgents's petrol bombs. [23] Following von Sammern-Frankenegg's failure to contain the revolt, he lost his post as the SS and police commander of Warsaw. He was replaced by SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop, who rejected von Sammern-Frankenegg's proposal to call in bomber aircraft from Kraków and proceeded to lead a better-organized and reinforced ground attack.

The longest-lasting defense of a position took place around the ŻZW stronghold at Muranowski Square, where the ŻZW chief leader, Dawid Moryc Apfelbaum, was killed in combat. On the afternoon of 19 April, a symbolic event took place when two boys climbed up on the roof of a building on the square and raised two flags, the red-and-white Polish flag and the blue-and-white banner of the ŻZW. These flags remained there, highly visible from the Warsaw streets, for four days. After the war, Stroop recalled:

The matter of the flags was of great political and moral importance. It reminded hundreds of thousands of the Polish cause, it excited them and unified the population of the General Government, but especially Jews and Poles. Flags and national colours are a means of combat exactly like a rapid-fire weapon, like thousands of such weapons. We all knew that – Heinrich Himmler, Krüger, and Hahn. The Reichsfuehrer [Himmler] bellowed into the phone: "Stroop, you must at all costs bring down those two flags!"

Jürgen Stroop, 1949 [9]

During this fight on 22 April, SS officer Hans Dehmke was killed when gunfire detonated a hand grenade he was holding. [24] When Stroop's ultimatum to surrender was rejected by the defenders, his forces resorted to systematically burning houses block by block using flamethrowers and fire bottles, and blowing up basements and sewers. "We were beaten by the flames, not the Germans," Edelman said in 2007. [25] In 2003, he recalled: "The sea of flames flooded houses and courtyards. ... There was no air, only black, choking smoke and heavy burning heat radiating from the red-hot walls, from the glowing stone stairs." [26] The "bunker wars" lasted an entire month, during which German progress was slowed. [27]

While the battle continued inside the ghetto, Polish resistance groups AK and GL engaged the Germans between 19 and 23 April at six different locations outside the ghetto walls, firing at German sentries and positions. In one attack, three units of the AK under the command of Captain Józef Pszenny ("Chwacki") joined up in a failed attempt to breach the ghetto walls with explosives. [28] Eventually, the ŻZW lost all of its commanders and, on 29 April, the remaining fighters from the organization escaped the ghetto through the Muranowski tunnel and relocated to the Michalin forest. This event marked the end of significant fighting.

At this point, organized defense collapsed. Surviving fighters and thousands of remaining Jewish civilians took cover in the sewer system and in the many dugout hiding places hidden among the ruins of the ghetto, referred to as "bunkers" by Germans and Jews alike. The Germans used dogs to look for such hideouts, then usually dropped smoke bombs down to force people out. Sometimes they flooded these so-called bunkers or destroyed them with explosives. On occasions, shootouts occurred. A number of captured fighters—especially the women—lobbed hidden grenades or fired concealed handguns after surrendering. There were also clashes between small groups of insurgents and German patrols at night.

Stroop later recalled:

May First was memorable for a number of reasons. I witnessed an extraordinary scene that day. A group of prisoners had been herded into the square. In spite of their exhaustion, many of them held their heads high. I stood nearby, surrounded by my escort. Suddenly I heard shots. A young Jew – in his midtwenties I'd guess – was firing a pistol at one of our police officers – one...two...three...fast as lightning. One of the bullets hit the officer's hand. My men sprayed the Jew with fire. I managed to whip out my own pistol and hit him as he fell. As he lay dying, I stood over him, watching his life ebb away.

On 8 May, the Germans discovered a large dugout located at Miła 18 Street, which served as ŻOB's main command post. Most of the organization's remaining leadership and dozens of others committed mass suicide by ingesting cyanide, including the chief commander of ŻOB, Mordechaj Anielewicz. His deputy Marek Edelman escaped the ghetto through the sewers with a handful of comrades two days later.

On 10 May, a Bundist member of the Polish government in exile, Szmul Zygielbojm, committed suicide in London to protest the lack of reaction from the Allied governments. In his farewell note, he wrote:

I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being murdered. My comrades in the Warsaw Ghetto fell with arms in their hands in the last heroic battle. I was not permitted to fall like them, together with them, but I belong with them, to their mass grave. By my death, I wish to give expression to my most profound protest against the inaction in which the world watches and permits the destruction of the Jewish people. [30]

The suppression of the uprising officially ended on 16 May 1943, when Stroop personally pushed a detonator button to demolish the Great Synagogue of Warsaw. Stroop later recalled:

What a marvelous sight it was. A fantastic piece of theater. My staff and I stood at a distance. I held the electrical device which would detonate all the charges simultaneously. Jesuiter called for silence. I glanced over at my brave officers and men, tired and dirty, silhouetted against the glow of the burning buildings. After prolonging the suspense for a moment, I shouted: Heil Hitler and pressed the button.

Jürgen Stroop, Conversations with an Executioner [31]

Besides claiming an estimated 56,065 Jews accounted for (although his own figures showed the number to be 57,065) and noting that "The number of destroyed dug-outs amounts to 631." in his official report 24 May 1943, Stroop listed the following as captured booty: [32]

  • 7 Polish Rifles
  • 1 Russian Rifle
  • 1 German Rifle
  • 59 pistols of various calibers
  • Several hundred hand grenades, including Polish and home-made ones .
  • Several hundred incendiary bottles
  • Home-made explosives
  • Infernal machines with fuses
  • A large amount of explosives, ammunition for weapons of all calibers, including some machine-gun ammunition.

Regarding the booty of arms, it must be taken into consideration that the arms themselves could in most cases not be captured, as the bandits and Jews would, before being arrested, throw them into hiding places or holes which could not be ascertained or discovered. The smoking out of the dug-out by our men, also often made the search for arms impossible. As the dug-outs had to be blown up at once, a search later on was out of the question. The captured hand grenades, ammunition, and incendiary bottles were at once reused by us against the bandits. Further booty:

  • 1,240 used military tunics (part of them with medal ribbons-Iron Cross and East Medal)
  • 600 pairs of used trousers
  • Other equipment and German steel helmets
  • 108 horses, 4 of them still in the former Ghetto (hearse)

Up to 23 May 1943 we had counted:
4.4 million Zloty; furthermore about 5 to 6 million Zloty not yet counted, a great amount of foreign currency, e.g. $14,300 in paper and $9,200 in gold, moreover valuables (rings, chains, watches, etc.) in great quantities. State of the Ghetto at the termination of the large-scale operation: Apart from 8 buildings (Police Barracks, hospital, and accommodations for housing working-parties) the former Ghetto is completely destroyed. Only the dividing walls are left standing where no explosions were carried out. But the ruins still contain a vast amount of stones and scrap material which could be used.

Sporadic resistance continued and the last skirmish took place on 5 June 1943 between Germans and a holdout group of armed Jews without connections to the resistance organizations.

Casualties

A man leaps to his death from the top story window of an apartment block to avoid capture. 23-25 Niska Street Stroop Report - Warsaw Ghetto Uprising - 26568.jpg
A man leaps to his death from the top story window of an apartment block to avoid capture. 23-25 Niska Street
Plaque commemorating two Home Army soldiers killed during the Ghetto Action. Eugeniusz Morawski, Jozef Wilk, Akcja Getto (Tablica, Kosciol Jana Bozego w Warszawie).jpg
Plaque commemorating two Home Army soldiers killed during the Ghetto Action.

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, almost all were captured and shipped to Majdanek and Treblinka.

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

180 Jews, bandits and sub-humans, were destroyed. The former Jewish quarter of Warsaw is no longer in existence. The large-scale action was terminated at 20:15 hours by blowing up the Warsaw Synagogue. ... Total number of Jews dealt with 56,065, including both Jews caught and Jews whose extermination can be proved. ... Apart from 8 buildings (police barracks, hospital, and accommodations for housing working-parties) the former Ghetto is completely destroyed. Only the dividing walls are left standing where no explosions were carried out. [33]

According to the casualty lists in Stroop's report, German forces suffered a total of 110 casualties – 17 dead (of whom 16 were killed in action) and 93 injured – of whom 101 are listed by name, including over 60 members of the Waffen-SS. These figures did not include Jewish collaborators, but did include the "Trawniki men" and Polish police under his command. The real number of German losses, however, may be well higher (the Germans suffered about 300 casualties by Edelman's estimate). For propaganda purposes, the official announcement claimed the German casualties to be only a few wounded, while propaganda bulletins of the Polish Underground State announced that hundreds of occupiers had been killed in the fighting.

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

Stroop Report's daily figures
  • 19 April: 1 killed, 24 wounded; 580 captured
  • 20 April: 3 killed, 10 wounded; 533 captured
  • 21 April: 0 killed, 5 wounded; 5,200 captured
  • 22 April: 3 killed, 1 wounded; 6,580 captured; 203 "Jews and bandits" killed; 35 Poles killed outside the Ghetto
  • 23 April: 0 killed, 3 wounded; 4,100 captured; 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 captured; 1,811 "pulled out of dugouts, about 330 shot".
  • 25 April: 0 killed, 4 wounded; 1,690 captured; 274 shot; "very large portion of the bandits ... captured". Total of 27,464 Jews caught
  • 26 April: 0 killed, 0 wounded; 1,722 captured; 1,330 "destroyed"; 362 Jews shot. 30 Jews "displaced". Total of 29,186 Jews captured
  • 27 April: 0 killed, 4 wounded; 2,560 captured 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 captured of whom 110 killed; 10 "bandits" killed and 9 "arrested". Total of 33,401 Jews caught
  • 29 April: 0 killed 0 wounded; 2,359 captured of whom 106 killed
  • 30 April: 0 killed 0 wounded; 1,599 captured of whom 179 killed. Total of 37,359 Jews caught
  • 1 May: 2 killed, 2 wounded; 1,026 captured of whom 245 killed. Total of 38,385 Jews caught; 150 killed outside the Ghetto
  • 2 May: 0 killed, 7 wounded; 1,852 captured and 235 killed. Total of 40,237 Jews caught
  • 3 May: 0 killed, 3 wounded; 1,569 captured and 95 killed. Total of 41,806 Jews caught
  • 4 May: 0 killed, 0 wounded; 2,238 captured, of whom 204 shot. Total of 44,089 Jews caught
  • 5 May: 0 killed, 2 wounded; 2,250 captured
  • 6 May: 2 killed, 1 wounded; 1,553 captured; 356 shot
  • 7 May: 0 killed, 1 wounded; 1,109 captured; 255 shot. Total of 45,342 Jews caught
  • 8 May: 3 killed, 3 wounded; 1,091 captured and 280 killed; 60 "heavily armed bandits" caught
  • 9 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 the 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 destroyed". Total of 57,065 Jews either captured or killed [34]

According to Raul Hilberg, "the number cited by Stroop (16 dead, 85 wounded) cannot be rejected out of hand, but it is likely that his list was neither complete, free of errors, nor indicative of the German losses throughout the entire period of resistance, until the absolute liquidation of Jewish life in the ghetto. All the same, the German casualty figures cited by the various Jewish sources are probably highly exaggerated." [35] Other historians such as Raul Hilberg and French L. MacLean endorse the accuracy of official German casualty figures. [36] [37] On the other hand, Stroop report vastly exaggerated actual losses (and strength) of the resistance.[ clarification needed ]

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II. [38]

Aftermath

Warsaw Ghetto area after the war. Gesia Street, view to the west Gesia Street in Warsaw after the war.jpg
Warsaw Ghetto area after the war. Gęsia Street, view to the west

After the uprising was over, most of the incinerated houses were razed, and the Warsaw concentration camp 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. On 19 April 1943, the first day of the most significant period of the resistance, 7,000 Jews were transported from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka extermination camp, [39] where, purportedly, they developed again into resistance groups, and then helped to plan and execute the revolt and mass escape of 2 August 1943. From May 1943 to August 1944, Executions in the ruins of the ghetto were carried out by: [40]

Both open and secret executions carried out in Warsaw were repeatedly led by SS-Obersturmführer Norbert Bergh-Trips, SS-Haupturmführer Paul Werner and SS-Obersturmführer Walter Witossek. The latter often presided over the police "trio" signing mass death sentences for Polish political prisoners, which were later pronounced by the ad hoc court of the security police [41] [42] In October 1943, Bürkl was tried and condemned to death in absentia by the Polish Resistance's Special Courts, and shot dead by the AK in Warsaw, a part of Operation Heads targeting notorious SS officers. That same month, von Sammern-Frankenegg was killed by Yugoslav Partisans in an ambush in Croatia. Himmler, Globocnik and Krüger all committed suicide at the end of the war in Europe in May 1945. The General Government Governor of Warsaw at the time of the Uprising, Dr. Ludwig Fischer, was tried and executed in 1947. Stroop was captured by Americans in Germany, convicted of war crimes in two different trials (U.S. military and Polish) and executed by hanging in Poland in 1952 along with Warsaw Ghetto SS administrator Franz Konrad. Stroop's aide, Erich Steidtmann, was exonerated for "minimal involvement"; he died in 2010 while under investigation for war crimes. Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle who helped carry out the July 1942 Grossaktion Warsaw committed suicide after being arrested in 1962. Walter Bellwidt, who commanded a Waffen-SS battalion among Stroop forces, died on 13 October 1965. Hahn went into hiding until 1975, when he was apprehended and sentenced to life for crimes against humanity; he served eight years and died in 1986. SS Oberführer Arpad Wigand who served with von Sammern-Frankenberg as SS and Police Leader in Warsaw from 4 August 1941 to 23 April 1943 was tried for war crimes in Hamburg Germany in 1981 and sentenced to 12.5 years in prison; died 26 July 1983. Walter Reder reportedly served in the SS Panzer Grenadier Training Battalion III; he served a jail sentence in Italy from 1951 to 1985 for war crimes committed in 1944 in Italy, and died in 1991. Josef Blösche was tried for war crimes and executed in 1969. Heinrich Klaustermeyer was tried for war crimes in 1965 and died in 1976.

Jewish prisoners liberated from the concentration camp Gesiowka and the Battalion Zoska fighters during the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944 Gesiowka.jpg
Jewish prisoners liberated from the concentration camp Gęsiówka and the Battalion Zośka fighters during the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944

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 general uprising in the city, which was part of the Operation Tempest, a nationwide insurrection plan. During the Warsaw Uprising, the Polish Home Army's Battalion Zośka was able to rescue 380 Jewish prisoners (mostly foreign) held in the concentration camp "Gęsiówka" set up by the Germans in an area adjacent to the ruins of former ghetto. These prisoners had been brought from Auschwitz and forced to clear the remains of the ghetto. [43] A few small groups of ghetto residents also managed to survive in the undetected "bunkers" and to eventually reach the "Aryan side". [44] In all, several hundred survivors from the first uprising took part in the later uprising (mostly in non-combat roles such as logistics and maintenance, due to their physical state and general shortage of arms), joining the ranks of the Polish Home Army and the Armia Ludowa. According to Samuel Krakowski from the Jewish Historical Institute, "The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising had a real influence ... in encouraging the activity of the Polish underground." [45]

A number of survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, known as the "Ghetto Fighters", went on to found the kibbutz Lohamei HaGeta'ot (literally: "Ghetto Fighters'"), which is located north of Acre, Israel. The founding members of the kibbutz include Yitzhak Zuckerman (Icchak Cukierman), who represented the ŻOB on the 'Aryan' side, and his wife Zivia Lubetkin, who commanded a fighting unit. In 1984, members of the kibbutz published Daphei Edut ("Testimonies of Survival"), four volumes of personal testimonies from 96 kibbutz members. The settlement features a museum and archives dedicated to remembering the Holocaust. Yad Mordechai, a kibbutz just north of the Gaza Strip, was named after Mordechaj Anielewicz. In 2008, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi led a group of Israeli officials to the site of the uprising and spoke about the event's "importance for IDF combat soldiers". [46]

Monument to the Ghetto Heroes by Nathan Rapoport Natan Rapoport-Monument of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in Warsaw-Warsaw.jpg
Monument to the Ghetto Heroes by Nathan Rapoport

In 1968, the 25th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Zuckerman was asked what military lessons could be learned from the uprising. He replied:

I don't think there's any real need to analyze the Uprising in military terms. This was a war of less than a thousand people against a mighty army and no one doubted how it was likely to turn out. This isn't a subject for study in military school. (...) If there's a school to study the human spirit, there it should be a major subject. The important things were inherent in the force shown by Jewish youth after years of degradation, to rise up against their destroyers, and determine what death they would choose: Treblinka or Uprising. [47]

On 7 December 1970, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt spontaneously knelt while visiting the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes memorial in the 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 NATO and Warsaw Pact countries.

Many people from the United States and Israel came for the 1983 commemoration. [48]

The last surviving Jewish resistance fighter, Simcha Rotem, passed away in Jerusalem on 22 December 2018, at age 94. [49] [50]

Opposing forces

Jewish

From right: Malka Zdrojewicz, Bluma and Rachela Wyszogrodzka captured after offering armed resistance. Stroop Report - Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 13.jpg
From right: Małka Zdrojewicz, Bluma and Rachela Wyszogrodzka captured after offering armed resistance.

Two Jewish underground organisations fought in the Warsaw Uprising: the left wing Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa (ŻOB) founded in July 1942 by Zionist Jewish youth groups within the Warsaw Ghetto; [51] and the right wing Żydowski Związek Wojskowy (ŻZW), or Jewish Military Union, a national organization founded in 1939 by former Polish military officers of Jewish background which had strong ties to the Polish Home Army, and cells in almost every major town across Poland. [52] [53] However both organisations were officially incorporated into the Polish Home Army and its command structure in exchange for weapons and training. [54]

Marek Edelman, who was the only surviving uprising commander from the left-wing ŻOB, stated that the ŻOB had 220 fighters and each was armed with a handgun, grenades, and Molotov cocktails. His organization had three rifles in each area, as well as two land mines and one submachine gun. [55] [56] [57] [58] Due to its socialist leanings, the Soviets promoted the actions of ŻOB as the dominant or only party in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a view often adopted by secondary sources in the West. [53]

The right-wing faction ŻZW, which was founded by former Polish officers, was larger, more established and had closer ties with the Polish resistance, making it better equipped. [59] [18] Zimmerman describes the arms supplies for the uprising as "limited but real". [60] Specifically, Jewish fighters of the ŻZW received from the Polish Home Army: 2 heavy machine guns, 4 light machine guns, 21 submachine guns, 30 rifles, 50 pistols, and over 400 grenades for the uprising. [61] During the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, ŻZW is reported to have had about 400 well-armed fighters grouped in 11 units, with 4 units including fighters from the Polish Home Army. Due to the ŻZW's anti-socialist stand and close ties with the Polish Home Army (which was subsequently outlawed by the Soviets), the Soviets suppressed publication of books and articles on ŻZW after the war and downplayed its role in the uprising, in favour of the more socialist ŻOB.

More weapons were supplied throughout the uprising, and some were captured from the Germans. Some weapons were handmade by the resistance; sometimes such weapons worked, other times they jammed repeatedly.

Shortly before the uprising, Polish-Jewish historian Emanuel Ringelblum (who managed to escape from the Warsaw Ghetto, but was later discovered and executed in 1944) visited a ŻZW armoury hidden in the basement at 7 Muranowska Street. In his notes, which form part of Oneg Shabbat archives, he reported:

They were armed with revolvers stuck in their belts. Different kinds of weapons were hung in the large rooms: light machine guns, rifles, revolvers of different kinds, hand grenades, bags of ammunition, German uniforms, etc., all of which were utilized to the full in the April "action". (...) While I was there, a purchase of arms was made from a former Polish Army officer, amounting to a quarter of a million złoty; a sum of 50,000 złoty was paid on account. Two machine guns were bought at 40,000 złoty each, and a large amount of hand grenades and bombs. [62] [63]

Due to the nature of the conflict and that it took place within the confines of German-guarded Warsaw Ghetto, the role of the Polish Home Army was primarily one of ancillary support; namely, the provision of arms, ammunition and training. [59] [64] Although the Home Army's stocks were meager, and general provision of arms limited, [59] the right-wing ŻZW received significant quantities of armaments, including some heavy and light machine guns, submachine guns, rifles, pistols and grenades. [65]

Polish

The Polish Home Army also disseminated information and appeals to help the Jews in the ghetto, both in Poland and by way of radio transmissions to the Allies, which fell largely on deaf ears. [66] [ citation needed ] During the uprising, the Polish Resistance units from the Polish Home Army and the communist Gwardia Ludowa [67] attacked German units near the ghetto walls and attempted to smuggle weapons, ammunition, supplies, and instructions into the ghetto. The failure to break through German defences limited supplies to the ghetto, which was otherwise cut off from the outside world by a German-ordered blockade. [28]

In mid-April at 4 am, the Germans began to liquidate the Warsaw Ghetto, closed down the remnants of the Jews with a police cordon, went inside tanks and armored cars and carried out their destructive work. We know that you help the martyred Jews as much as you can, I thank you, my countrymen, on my own and the government's behalf, I am asking you to help them in my own name and in the government, I am asking you for help and for extermination of this horrible cruelty.

Supreme Commander of the Polish Armed Forces in the West and Prime Minister of the Polish government-in-exile gen. Władysław Sikorski – The content of the leaflet published in May 1943 in a circulation of 25,000 by Council for Aid to Jews calling for help to Jews. [68]

The command of the Home Army ordered its sabotage units, Kedyw, to carry a series of actions around the walls against the German units under the code name Ghetto Action. [69] [70] Between 19 and 23 April 1943, the Polish resistance engaged the Germans at six different locations outside the ghetto walls, shooting at German sentries and positions and in one case attempting to blow up a gate. [70] [71] The Polish Home Army fought in 4 units with the ŻZW in Muranowska Street having climbed into the ghetto via secret tunnels dug by the ŻZW. A National Security Corps unit commanded by Henryk Iwański ("Bystry") reportedly fought inside the ghetto along with ŻZW and subsequently both groups retreated together (including 34 Jewish fighters) to the so-called Aryan side. [72] [ dubious ] Several ŻOB commanders and fighters also later escaped through the tunnels with assistance from the Poles and joined the Polish underground (Home Army). [66]

From April 24, daily patrols against Germans near the ghetto, aimed at eliminating the Germans and training our own (Home Army) branches- up to now without own losses. Some Germans were eliminated every day.

Report for the month of April 1943 of the Kedyw, Warsaw District of the Home Army [73]

On the other hand, despite Polish fighters joining the struggle, some survivors criticized gentile Poles for not providing sufficient support. In her book On Both Sides of the Wall, Vladka Meed, who was a member of the left-wing ŻOB, devoted a chapter to the insufficient support from the Polish resistance. [75] Indeed, records confirm that the leftist ŻOB received less weaponry and no fighters from the Polish Home Army, unlike the right-wing ŻZW with whom the Home Army had close ties and ideological similarities. [60] [18] [55]

German

SS-Brigadefuhrer Jurgen Stroop (center). 2nd from right is Heinrich Klaustermeyer. The SD-Rottenfuhrer at right is Josef Blosche at Nowolipie 64 / Smocza 1 intersection Stroop Report - Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 03.jpg
SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop (center). 2nd from right is Heinrich Klaustermeyer. The SD-Rottenführer at right is Josef Blösche at Nowolipie 64 / Smocza 1 intersection
IPN copy #42"Askaris assigned to the operation"Stroop and foreign fighters at the Umschlagplatz, with Stawki 5/7 in the back. Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Umschlagplatz 1943 05.jpg
IPN copy #42"Askaris assigned to the operation"Stroop and foreign fighters at the Umschlagplatz, with Stawki 5/7 in the back.

Ultimately, the efforts of the Jewish resistance fighters proved insufficient against the German occupation system. According to Hanna Krall, the German task force dispatched to put down the revolt and complete the deportation action numbered 2,090 men armed with a number of minethrowers and other light and medium artillery pieces, several armored vehicles, and more than 200 machine and submachine guns. [55] [56] [57] [58] Its backbone consisted of 821 Waffen-SS paramilitary soldiers from five SS Panzergrenadier reserve and training battalions and one SS cavalry reserve and training battalion. The other forces were drawn from the Ordnungspolizei (Orpo) order police (battalions from the 22nd and 23rd regiments), Warsaw personnel of the Gestapo and the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) intelligence service, one battalion each from two Wehrmacht (Heer) railroad combat engineers regiments, a Wehrmacht battery of anti-aircraft artillery, a detachment of multinational (commonly but inaccurately referred to by the Germans and Jews alike as "Ukrainians" [76] ) ex-Soviet POW "Trawniki-Männer" auxiliary camp guards trained by the SS-Totenkopfverbände at Trawniki concentration camp, and technical emergency corps. Several Gestapo jailers from the nearby political prison Pawiak, led by Franz Bürkl, volunteered to join the "hunt" for the Jews. A force of 363 officers from the Polish Police of the General Government (so-called Blue Police) was ordered by the Germans to cordon the walls of the ghetto. Warsaw fire department personnel were also forced to help in the operation. [33] Jewish policemen were used in the first phase of the ghetto's liquidation and subsequently summarily executed by the Gestapo. [23] Stroop later remarked: [11]

I had two battalions of Waffen-SS, one hundred army men, units of Order Police, and seventy-five to a hundred Security Police people. The Security Police had been active in the Warsaw Ghetto for some time, and during this program it was their function to accompany SS units in groups of six or eight, as guides and experts in ghetto matters. [77]

Trawniki men peer into a doorway past the bodies of Jews killed during the suppression of the uprising at Zamenhofa 42 / Kupiecka 18. Askaris im Warschauer Getto - 1943.jpg
Trawniki men peer into a doorway past the bodies of Jews killed during the suppression of the uprising at Zamenhofa 42 / Kupiecka 18.

By his own words, Stroop reported that after he took command on 19 April 1943 the forces at his disposal totaled 31 officers and 1,262 men: [79]

Stroop's report listed ultimate forces at his disposal as 36 officers and 2,054 men: [81]

His casualty [82] lists also include members of four other Waffen-SS training and reserve units (1st SS Panzer Grenadier; 2nd SS Panzer Grenadier; 4th SS Panzer Grenadier; 5th SS Panzer Grenadier Training Battalions). Polish police came from the Kommissariarts 1st, 7th and 8th. There is also evidence that German Police of the SSPF of Lubin took part in the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto Jews. [83] as did the I Battalion of the 17th SS Police Regiment [84]

Controversy

Already during the war the influence and the importance of the right leaning Jewish underground organisation Żydowski Związek Wojskowy (ZZW) or Jewish Military Union was being downgraded. The surviving commanders of the leftist ŻOB either did not mention the ŻZW's fight in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in their writings at all, [85] or belittled its importance. [86] Also the war-time Soviet propaganda did only briefly mention the fighters as they collided with its aims of presenting the Soviet Union as the only defender of the European Jewry. [87] In addition, except for David Wdowiński none of the high-ranking commanders of the ŻZW survived the war to tell their part of the story and it was not until 1963 that Wdowiński's memoirs [18] were published.

This led to a number of myths concerning both the ŻZW and the Uprising being commonly repeated in many modern publications. [88] This was even strengthened by the post-war propaganda of the Polish communists, who openly underlined the value of the leftist ŻOB, while suppressing all publications on the Polish Home Army-backed ŻZW. [85]

In recent years, new research by historians Dariusz Libionka (Poland) and Laurence Weinbaum (Israel) on the ŻZW has called into question the validity of what has been written on the Revisionist Zionist underground that fought in the ghetto. Their monograph (Bohaterowie, hochsztaplerzy, opisywacze) cast new light on some of the Polish and Jewish accounts retold by those who wrote about the revolt. Over the years these testimonies found their way into many secondary sources – both popular and scholarly works by other authors – as well as reference books. The research by Libionka and Weinbaum attempted to deconstruct and discredit the testimony of Henryk Iwański and two others who claimed to have fought in the ranks of the organization or aided it. [89] Libionka and Weinbaum maintain that Dawid Moryc Apfelbaum, who is often credited with having played a commanding role in the ŻZW, and after whom a square was named in Warsaw, was in all likelihood an entirely fictitious figure, a product of fałszywka (political forgery). [89] [90]

Nevertheless, the stories of Apfelbaum and Iwański as heroic combatants of the ghetto continue to be the focus of commemorations. [91] In Israel, on the 70th anniversary of the uprising, a new edition of the 1963 book on the ŻZW written by Chaim Lazar-Litai was published, and retold the story of Iwański's and Apfelbaum's commanding role in the ŻZW. The retired Israeli politician Moshe Arens, who has also written widely on the ŻZW and the Warsaw Ghetto, contributed a foreword to the new edition. [92]

The uprising is the subject of numerous works, in multiple media, such as Aleksander Ford's film Border Street (1948), [93] John Hersey's novel The Wall (1950), Leon Uris' novel Mila 18 (1961), Jack P. Eisner's autobiography The Survivor (1980), [94] Andrzej Wajda's films A Generation (1955), Samson (1961), and Holy Week (1995), [95] and Jon Avnet's film Uprising (2001). It was also portrayed in Marvin J. Chomsky's NBC miniseries Holocaust (1978) and Roman Polanski's film The Pianist (2002) Based on 1946 (reprinted 1999) Warsaw Ghetto Survivor memoir The Pianist (memoir) by Władysław Szpilman. The revolt was briefly featured in the fantasy film Highlander (1986), as well as in the novel Highlander: Zealot (1997) and the video game Velvet Assassin (2009). Joe Kubert's graphic novel Yossel imagines the conflict.

Songs about the uprising include Hirsh Glick's "Zog Nit Keynmol" (written in 1943), Johnny Clegg's "Warsaw 1943", and David Rovics' "I Remember Warsaw".

The photograph of a boy surrendering outside a bunker became one of the best-known photographs of World War II and the Holocaust, [lower-alpha 2] and he is said to represent all 6 million Jewish Holocaust victims. [lower-alpha 3]

See also

Notes

  1. Jewish and Polish sources claim 300 killed
    • "One of the most compelling and enduring images of the Holocaust" [96]
    • "The Holocaust produced scores of searing images. But none had the evidentiary impact of the boy’s surrender." [97]
    • "The boy in question can be seen in one of the most famous images of the Holocaust" [98]
    • "The child, whose identity has never been confirmed, has come to represent the face of the 6 million defenseless Jews killed by the Nazis." [97]
    • "A Picture Worth Six Million Names" [96]
  1. Bundtke's Battalion stayed in the former ghetto and worked on its pacification after the official suppression of the uprising.

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References

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Bibliography

Primary sources

In Other languages

  • Gebhardt-Herzberg, Sabine (2003). "Das Lied ist geschrieben mit Blut und nicht mit Blei": Mordechaj Anielewicz und der Aufstand im Warschauer Ghetto (in German). Bielefeld: S. Gebhardt-Herzberg. ISBN   3-00-013643-6.
  • Jahns, Joachim (2009). Der Warschauer Ghettokönig. Dingsda-Verlag, Leipzig, ISBN   978-3-928498-99-9
  • Strzembosz, Tomasz (1983). "Akcje zbrojne podziemnej Warszawy 1939–1944" (eng. Armed actions of underground Warsaw 1939–1944) (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy. ISBN   8306007174.
  • Witkowski, Henryk (1984). "Kedyw okręgu warszawskiego Armii Krajowej w latach 1943-1944" (eng. Kedyw of Warsaw district of the Home Army in the years 1943–1944) (in Polish). Warszawa: Instytut Wydawniczy Związków Zawodowych. ISBN   83-202-0217-5.
  • Wroński, Stanisław (1971). "Polacy i Żydzi 1939–1945" (in Polish). Warsaw: Książka i Wiedza.