Monday, August 20

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is remembered


Event honors revolt heroes, six million Jews who died in Holocaust

Every spring, many Jews celebrate Passover to remember their
struggle for freedom from enslavement by the Egyptians.

But around Passover, Jews also remember a more recent struggle
for freedom, which occurred during World War II ““ the Warsaw
Ghetto Uprising.

An event commemorating the 60th anniversary of the uprising took
place at the Westside Jewish Community Center on Saturday
evening.

A historical narration of the revolt, a musical performance and
a candlelighting ceremony took place in remembrance of the six
million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

According to this account, the Uprising followed the systematic
Nazi kidnapping and transportation of more than 300,000 Jews from
the Warsaw ghettos to death camps during the summer of 1942.

Of the approximate 70,000 Jewish inhabitants remaining, a
resistance movement sprung up led by a young Jewish fighter named
Mordechai Anielewicz.

Anielewicz formed the Jewish Fighting Organization, a 700 member
group of men and women using any means possible to resist.

“Smuggling food, combating typhoid, teaching children, and
singing old songs and making up new songs were all forms of
resistance,” said actor and singer Theodore Bikel, who
narrated the historical account.

In spite of being outnumbered and possessing only grenades,
Molotov cocktails and pistols against German tanks, artillery and
planes, the Jews of Warsaw fought against the Nazis until May 1943,
though there were skirmishes until July.

“The greatest wonder is that (the uprising) took place at
all,” said writer and musician Joanna Cazden, who also helped
recount the events of the revolt.

The event also recognized resistance movements in Paris,
Brussels and Berlin, and in the Nazi death camps in Sobibor,
Treblinka and Auschwitz.

“In Auschwitz, Jewish leaders and anti-fascists helped
people to escape and to protect infants,” said Bikel.

Though other revolts occurred during World War II, the Uprising
is distinct for more reasons than its timing with Passover.

The revolt was the largest Jewish uprising against the Nazis and
was the first armed revolt in occupied Europe, said Orna Kenan, a
lecturer of modern Jewish history.

“Unlike most other places, the Jews in Warsaw were
numerous and had a tradition of political activism,” she
added.

Other participants in the event stressed the important lessons
the uprising can teach today’s generation.

“Young Jews should have a sense of commitment to assist
others who are oppressed and be committed to liberating those who
are subjugated elsewhere in the world,” said Chaim
Seidler-Feller, rabbi and director of UCLA Hillel.

Remembering events like the Uprising is still important even
after decades have passed, Seidler-Feller said.

“Memory is essential, so that people can constantly remind
themselves of the human capacity for evil on the one hand and on
the other hand, the human capacity to overcome evil,” he
said.

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