The Genesis of the Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto
The Warsaw ghetto uprising was the major armed exploit by the Jews against the Nazis. It had been carefully planned and was well organized despite its isolation. Three main sources of documentary material provide relevant information. First, Ringelbum’s clandestine Oneg Shabbat archive which describes everyday life in the ghetto and presents details about the Jewish fighting organizations. Second, General Jürgen Stroop’s daily record of the crushing of the revolt reports the battle for the ghetto from the German side. And third, the Polish underground press describes the revolt and its tremendous impression on the Poles. It is noteworthy that the youth movements played a very important part in the two main underground fighting organizations. Late in 1942, reports reached the ghetto of mass killings in Poland that spurred the establishment of a separate Jewish resistance. Many of the young Jews were in a dilemma as to whether to stay in the ghetto or to try to escape to the partisans in the forest. Most opted for staying. The great deportation from Warsaw commenced in July 1942, and when the fate of the deportees became known, the fighting organizations began girding themselves for the inevitable battle. When the great deportation ended, only some 50,000 Jews remained of the 350,000 who had previously inhabited the ghetto. The fighting organizations now unified themselves and began purchasing arms. However, they required the aid of the Polish underground, which in general, was antisemitic and antagonistic to the efforts of the Jews. Some small arms were given to the Jews but most of their arms were purchased from enemy soldiers. In January 1943 the second deportation occurred and the resistance groups rose up and fought — to the surprise of the Germans who stopped the action. The Jewish resistance prepared, armed, and organized itself for the forthcoming battle.