A ceremony was held in Warsaw on Tuesday (April 15) to remember the victims of a month-long insurrection of Jewish fighters in the city's ghetto, known as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, during World War II.
Nearly half a million Jews from the ghetto had already been transported to the Nazi's Treblinka death camp when, in April 1943, a few hundred badly armed Jewish youngsters picked an uneven fight with the Nazi occupiers.
Around 6,000 of the civilian Jewish population of the ghetto, which the Germans carved out of the occupied Warsaw, died in the fighting and about 50,000 were killed after it ended. The emptied ghetto was then burned to the ground.
"World War II knows many heroic deeds of those who fought the fascist threat in different places. But the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto and other uprisings in Sowibor and Treblinka stand out among those many deeds," said Polish president Lech Kaczynski during a ceremony at the uprising memorial.
Israeli President Shimon Peres attended the ceremony after visiting the site where Jews were forced onto trains and transported to Nazi extermination camps, mostly Treblinka. "Yes, the Germans were victorious thanks to thousands of soldiers shooting without control and letting gas into bunkers. But who won from history's point of view? What did those horrible fascists leave for the next generations?
Only shame and dishonour, damnation and loss," Peres said. Stanislaw Wierzba who survived the uprising, but was too young to participate, after 65 years recalled the horrors he witnessed. "Unbelievable things happened. I still can't grasp some of the details, that I could survive such a thing, find myself in such hell." Wierdzba said. "Unfortunately, I was the only survivor from my family. I had two brothers, a sister and parents, not to mention further relatives. Everybody went to the gas chambers," he said.
As part of ceremonies marking the anniversary French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner awarded France's highest medal, the Legion of Honour, to Marek Edelman, the last surviving commander of the uprising. "There were constant problems (with France). But then it liberated itself to everybody's admiration." Edelman, 86, joked with Kouchner after receiving the medal "General De Gaulle directed the American army directly to Paris - against American orders. Warsaw was proud that great France dominated over America!," he said.
Around 6 million Jews perished in the Holocaust, including the vast majority of Poland's Jewish population, which was the biggest in Europe before 1939.
Reuters & timesnow.tv