On April 19, 1943, the Warsaw Ghetto was surrounded by German troops. The previous year, some 265,000 Jewish men, women, and children were deported from what had been the largest ghetto in German-occupied Europe to the Treblinka death camp, and another 35,000 were perished inside the ghetto. It was clear to the remaining Jews in the ghetto who numbered 50,000 that the end was near and began feverish preparations to resist those fiendish plans. Those preparations including excavating a warren of underground bunkers.
From April 18–20, the World Jewish Congress, together with its Polish affiliate, the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, commemorated the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and paid tribute to its heroic martyrs and fighters.
Amb. Lauder appeared alongside President Andrzej Duda of Poland, President Isaac Herzog of Israel, and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany.
“Everyone here today must use these brave young men and women as inspiration when we face our own challenges ahead. Let us draw strength from them, let us draw courage, and let us always remember them,” Amb. Lauder said at the event, held at the Square of the Ghetto Heroes of Warsaw.
As part of the trip, several activities were organized for the delegation, including a memorial Service at Nożyk Synagogue, in the presence of Presidents Duda, Herzog, and Steinmeier, and a guided visit to the special exhibition "Around Us a Sea of Fire: The Fate of Jewish Civilians During the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising." The exhibition showcased the struggles and experiences of the Jewish civilians who fought and suffered during the uprising.
A roundtable discussion entitled "Remembering the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto" was held to reflect on the significance of the uprising and its impact on Jewish history. A conversation with Mr. Marian Turski, a historian, journalist, and Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor, was also held.
Participants also visited the Mila18 Memorial, a significant site where Jewish resistance fighters made their last stand during the uprising. They also had a guided visit to the Oneg Shabbat Archive at the Jewish Historical Institute, which holds a vast collection of documents, photos, and other materials related to the Warsaw Ghetto.
Organized by the Children of Holocaust organization, the delegation had the privilege of meeting with survivors who shared their memories of survival.
The event culminated with a visit to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Memorial and Bunker at the Okopowa Cemetery, where participants paid their respects to the fallen heroes and reflected on the enduring legacy of their sacrifice.
About the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II. On April 19, 1943, after German troops surrounded the ghetto, Mordechai Anielewicz, Pawel Frenkel, and some 700 members of the Jewish underground staged an uprising that lasted almost one month. At least 7,000 Jews, including Anielewicz and most of his comrades, died as a result.
The Warsaw Jewish community had once been the largest in Europe. At one point, over 400,000 Jews lived in the ghetto, most of them killed by the Nazis.
It was not until May 16 that SS and Police Leader Jürgen Stroop reported to Berlin that the ghetto had been razed to the ground and that “the former Jewish Quarter in Warsaw is no more.” The SS deported approximately 42,000 inhabitants of the ghetto during the course of the fighting, and another 7,000 were captured as the Warsaw Ghetto lay in ruins. Stroop ordered that the Great Synagogue on Tlomackie Street be detonated as the final act of the quashing of the revolt.