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Written By: Peter Ayers Wimbrow III
*Click images below to view larger versions.
Mordechaj Anielewicz, leader of Zydowska Organizacja Bojowazob.
Statue of Mordechaj Anielewicz, leader of Zydowska Organizacja Bojowazob.
Depicted, in the middle, is Mordechaj Anielewicz, leader of Zydowska Organizacja Bojowazob, holding a grenade in his left hand.
This week, 70 years ago, SS-und-Polizeiführer Jürgen Stroop delivered his report titled the, "The Warsaw Ghetto Is No More" to SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler and SS-Obergruppenführer Fredrich-Wilhelm Krüger, SS and police leader in the German occupied portion of Poland. It has come to be known as "The Stroop Report." The Report consisted of 75 typewritten pages, with more than 50 photographs bound in black pebble leather. Three copies were prepared - one each for Himmler, Stroop and Krüger. During the proceedings before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Chief U.S. Prosecutor, Mr. Justice Robert H. Jackson, told the Court that The Stroop Report was, ". . .the finest example of ornate German craftsmanship, leather bound, profusely illustrated, typed on heavy bond paper . . . the almost unbelievable recital of the proud accomplishment by Major-General of Police Stroop."
After the conquest of Poland, the Germans herded many of the 3,000,000 Polish Jews into ghettos in the largest Polish cities. The largest of these ghettos, located in Warsaw, concentrated approximately 300,000 - 400,000 people into a densely packed central area of the Polish capital. On July 22, 1942, "Resettlement Commissioner," SS Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle informed Adam Czerniakow, who was the leader of the Ghetto Jewish Council Judenrat, about the ReichÙs new "Resettlement Policy." Czerniakow was ordered to have 6,000 Jews at the train station, ready to board the trains for deportation every day by 4:00 p.m. He was informed that they were allowed to take with them 15 kilograms of baggage, food for three days, money, gold and other valuables, and the deportations would start the next day. Discerning the German interpretation of "resettlement," Czerniakow returned to his office, wrote a note to his wife reading, "They demand me to kill children of my nation with my own hands. I have nothing to do but to die." Then he took one of the cyanide capsules he had kept for just such an occasion. Between July 23 and September 21, 1942 between 254,000 and 300,000 of the Warsaw GhettoÙs residents were transported to Treblinka, where most were murdered.
By the end of 1942, most of the remaining Ghetto inhabitants had learned what Czerniakow had discerned and decided to revolt. The fighters were organized into two groups: the 220-man left wing Jewish Combat Organization, Zydowska Organizacja Bojowazob (ZOB), led by Mordechaj Anielewicz, and the 1500-man right-wing Jewish Military Union - Zydowski Zwiazek Wojskowy (ZZW), led by Pawel Frankel. Although the ZZW began as a right-wing organization, it accepted anyone who wanted to fight - unlike ZOB.
The second wave of deportations began on January 18, 1943. This time, the Jews fought. ZZW and ZOB took control of the Ghetto. Nazi collaborators were executed and a prison was established to hold and execute traitors and collaborators. Defensive strong points were established. The Nazis abandoned their "deportation" efforts.
On April 19, 1943, the eve of Passover, police and SS auxiliary forces entered the Ghetto, where they were ambushed. Two of their vehicles were set on fire by Molotov Cocktails. Two boys climbed onto the roof of a building on Muranowski Square and raised the red-and-white Polish flag and the blue-and-white flag of ZZW. It was at that time that the SS Reichsführer replaced SS-Oberführer Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg with Stroop. Oberführer von Sammern-Frankenegg was found guilty of "defending Jews," in a court-martial on April 24, 1943, demoted and transferred to Croatia, where he was killed in a partisan ambush on September 20, 1943.
Anielewicz wrote to his friend, Yitzhak Zuckerman, on April 23, 1943, "Things have surpassed our boldest dreams - the Germans ran away from the ghetto twice!"
Stroop organized a force of 2090 men, which included 821 Waffen-SS, regular Army, German police, and Ukranian, Latvian and Lithuanian auxiliary troops. When the Jews rejected StroopÙs surrender ultimatum, he ordered the Ghetto burned and razed. One of the ZOB leaders, and cofounder, Marek Edelman, said, "We were beaten by flames, not the Germans."
While the battle against the Polish Jews raged in the Ghetto, units of the Polish Home Army - Armia Krajowa (AK) - and the communist PeopleÙs Guard - Gwardia Ludowa (GA) - attacked German units outside of the Ghetto and provided some supplies to the beleaguered Jews. Henryk Iwañski led an 18-man AK group of the Security Corps - Pañstwowy Korpus Bezpieczeñstwa (PKB) - which included his brother Waclaw and son Roman, into the Ghetto on April 27, 1943. They brought ammunition and other supplies and decided to join the fight. Henryk was seriously wounded and Waclaw and Roman killed. For his help, HenrykÙs name was placed on the Wall of Honor, of the Righteous Among Nations in Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
On April 29, the surviving members of ZZW escaped through a tunnel and made their way to the Michalin tunnel. On May 8, the Germans discovered the headquarters of ZOB. Anielewicz, and others, took cyanide rather than be captured. This left Edelman as the ZOB leader. Two days later he led the remnants of ZOB out of the Ghetto through WarsawÙs sewers. He survived the war and became a cardiologist, in his native Poland, " outwit God."
Anielewicz has been honored by Israel with a statue and in other ways. Edelman was not, because having, like the Palestinians, lived in an occupied country, he identified with them, and was a committed anti-Zionist, even writing a letter of support to the Palestinians. He was active in the anti-Communist movement, and is regarded as a hero in Poland. The last living Uprising commander died in 2009.
Szmul Zygelbojm, who represented the General Jewish Labour Bund on the National Council of the Polish government-in-exile, based in London, committed suicide, on May 10, to protest the indifference of the Allies to the Holocaust.
StroopÙs report for May 16 stated that, "180 Jews, bandits and sub-humans were destroyed. The former Jewish quarter of Warsaw is no longer in existence." Stroop personally punctuated the end by pressing the button which activated the explosives which destroyed The Great Synagogue of Warsaw. He recalled,
"What a wonderful sight! I called out Heil Hitler! And press the button. A perfect explosion brought flames right up to the clouds. The colors were unbelievable. An unforgettable allegory of the triumph over Jewry. The Warsaw Ghetto has ceased to exist because that is what Adolph Hitler and Heinrich Himmler wanted."
StroopÙs report indicates that 56,065 Jews were eliminated from the Ghetto, at a cost to the Germans of 16 dead and 85 wounded. There were probably more AxisÙ troops killed. During the battle, 13,000 Jews died, with 6000 from the fires.
Stroop was among those tried during the "Dachau Trials." He was convicted of ordering the summary execution of captured Allied airmen and sentenced to death on March 21, 1947. He was extradited to Poland to stand trial for the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto. He was convicted after a three-day trial, and sentenced to death on July 23, 1951. The SS-und-Polizeiführer was executed outside of Mokotow Prison in Warsaw on March 6, 1952.
In the 2001 TV movie, "Uprising," Jon Voight played Stroop and Donald Sutherland portrayed Czerniakow.
Today, April 19 is remembered, and celebrated, for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, in Poland.
Mr. Wimbrow writes from Ocean City, Maryland, where he practices law representing those persons accused of criminal and traffic offenses, and those persons who have suffered a personal injury through no fault of their own. Mr. Wimbrow can be contacted at
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