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An unidentified Jewish boy raises his hands at gunpoint after Nazi SS soldiers forcibly removed him and other ghetto residents from the bunker in which they'd taken refuge.
The Nazi pointing the gun in the direction of the boy has been identified as SS soldier Josef Blösche.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Nazi SS soldiers lead several families of captured Jews down Nowolipie Street toward the assembly point for deportation.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Nazi SS General Jürgen Stroop (second from left in foreground wearing field cap) stands with some of his junior staff near the ghetto wall (visible in background).
Stroop commanded the Nazi counterattack against the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and wrote the Stroop Report, an account of the event.
Standing at far right is SS soldier Josef Blösche.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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A Jewish man leaps to his death from the top story window of a burning apartment block rather than face capture on April 22.
Original German caption: "The bandits escape arrest by jumping."National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Jewish resistance fighters raise their hands following capture by Nazi soldiers on Nowolipie Street.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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A housing block burns down on Zamenhofa Street as a soldier looks on.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Nazi SS soldiers of non-German origin look down at the bodies of several murdered Jews lying in a doorway.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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A woman hangs from a balcony, preparing to drop to the street, where Nazi SS soldiers are waiting below.United States Holocaust Memorial Museum/Wikimedia Commons
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SS troops capture two Jewish resistance fighters pulled from a bunker.
Original German caption: "Bandits."National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Jewish rebels of the HeHalutz Zionist youth movement line up following capture by the Nazis.
"We girls used to carry arms into the ghetto; we hid them in our boots," recalled Małka Zdrojewicz Horenstein (right), who survived internment in the Majdanek camp and moved to Palestine in 1946. "During the ghetto uprising, we hurled Molotov cocktails at the Germans."National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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SS troops stand near the bodies of Jews who committed suicide by jumping from a fourth story window rather than be captured. Photo taken on Niska Street on April 22.
Original German caption: "Bandits who jumped."National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Captured Jews line up against a wall, possibly on Wałową Street, in order to be searched for weapons.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Nazi soldiers survey the burning buildings on Nowolipie Street.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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A Jewish man emerges from his hiding place below the floor of a bunker prepared for the Warsaw ghetto uprising.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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A Nazi soldier protects his face from smoke amid the burning ruins of Zamenhofa Street.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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SS troops arrest the Jewish workers of the Brauer helmet factory on April 24.
After the start of the uprising on April 19, the workers at this factory (which made helmets for the German army) were given special privileges to continue to work and move freely about the ghetto. Five days later, the SS instead decided to arrest and deport the workers then burn the factory.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Nazi SS soldiers walk down Nowolipie Street as buildings burn behind them.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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The bodies of murdered Jews lie amid the ruins.
Original German caption: "Bandits destroyed in battle."National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Captured Jews march down Zamenhofa Street toward the deportation point.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Nazi SS troops arrest Jewish workers of the Brauer helmet factory on April 24.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Nazi SS troops force a Jewish resistance fighter from his bunker on May 9.United States Memorial Holocaust Museum/Wikimedia Commons
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SS soldiers Josef Blösche (right, foreground) and Heinrich Klaustermeyer (left, foreground) interrogate several rabbis on Nowolipie Street.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Nazi troops pull Jews from their bunker.Wikimedia Commons
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Mattresses and furniture lie piled next to a building on Gęsia Street to provide a place for the inhabitants to jump from the windows to avoid capture if needed.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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The building of the former Jewish Council on Zamenhofa Street sits in ruins.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Captured Jews march amid the burning ruins of Zamenhofa Street toward the deportation point.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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SS personnel including Jürgen Stroop (second from left) and Josef Blösche (to Stroop's right) interrogate a Jewish man.Wikimedia Commons
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Nazi soldiers pull captured Jews from a bunker on Nowolipie Street near the ghetto wall (visible in background).National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Captured Jewish rabbis stand on Nowolipie Street.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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An officer questions two Jewish resistance fighters as Jürgen Stroop (rear, center) observes.
Original German caption: "Jewish traitors."National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Jews surrender to Nazi soldiers, most likely on Wałową Street.
Original German caption: "Smoking out the Jews and Bandits."National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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Captured Jews sit on the ground after being pulled from an underground bunker on Zamenhofa Street.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
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A Nazi gun crew shells a housing block.National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: When The Jews Fought Back Against The Nazis
On April 18, 1943, the eve of Passover, the Nazis stormed the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, Poland. After sending between 250,000 and 300,000 of Warsaw's Jews to their deaths at the Treblinka extermination camp the previous summer, the Nazis had returned to finally empty the largest ghetto in Europe for good.
This time, however, the Jewish resistance fought back like never before. With approximately 1,000 Jewish fighters battling against approximately 2,000 Nazis over the course of four weeks, this clash was far more intense than any such battle yet fought.
It would come to be known as the Warsaw ghetto uprising, the largest act of Jewish resistance in the entirety of the Holocaust.
Such an unprecedented act of resistance was undoubtedly spurred on by the fact that Warsaw's Jews realized that this was their last stand. Yet, the Nazis' scorched-earth approach would quickly test their resolve.
Indeed, after the resistance used guns, hand grenades, and Molotov cocktails to kill and injure dozens of Nazis, destroy several vehicles, and even plant their flags atop the resistance headquarters in the central Muranowski Square, the Nazis responded by systematically burning the ghetto to the ground, block by block.
"We were beaten by the flames, not the Germans," recalled surviving resistance commander Marek Edelman decades later.
Throughout late April and early May, these flames drove out the resistance, turned the sky black, and ended the Warsaw ghetto uprising with the deaths of some 13,000 Jews and the deportation of approximately 56,000 others — ultimately destroying this once great center of Jewish culture in Europe.
More than anything, it was this utter elimination of an entire culture, city, and population — and the outside world's lack of intervention — that Szmul Zygielbojm, for one, could not abide.
A Jewish member of the Polish government in exile then living in London, Zygielbojm refused to remain silent as the Allied nations of the world ignored the Warsaw ghetto uprising and the larger genocide that the Nazis had been carrying out across Europe for more than a year already.
When the Allies failed to sufficiently acknowledge this problem at the Bermuda Conference, held just as the Warsaw ghetto uprising was actually taking place — and taking the lives of Zygielbojm's own wife and daughter, who'd not made it out of Warsaw — Zygielbojm had had enough.
On May 10, he took a fatal overdose of sodium amytal, ending his life in hopes that this last-ditch act would, if nothing else, call attention to a tragedy that most of the world was still ignoring.
In his suicide letter, he wrote:
The responsibility for the crime of the murder of the whole Jewish nationality in Poland rests first of all on those who are carrying it out, but indirectly it falls also upon the whole of humanity, on the peoples of the Allied nations and on their governments, who up to this day have not taken any real steps to halt this crime... 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.
Thankfully, the Allies wouldn't ignore the genocide for much longer. And while the world may have largely ignored the Warsaw ghetto uprising at the time, today it remains an eminently stirring tale of perseverance — as well as a tragic reminder of the perils of inaction.
See images from the Warsaw ghetto uprising, as compiled by the Nazis in the Stroop Report, in the gallery above.
After this survey of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, have a look at 44 heartrending Holocaust photos that reveal the tragedy and perseverance of history's worst genocide. Then, read up on feared female Nazi Ilse Koch, "The Bitch of Buchenwald" and one of the Holocaust's greatest monsters.