Warsaw Ghetto

The Warsaw Ghetto (Getto Warszawskie in Polish; Warschauer Ghetto in German) was the largest Jewish ghetto in Europe established by Nazi Germany in Poland during the Holocaust in World War II. During the three years of its existence, starvation, disease and deportations to concentration camps and extermination camps reduced the population of an estimated 400,000 to 50,000. In this ghetto was developed Warsaw Ghetto uprising, one of the first mass revolts against the Nazi occupation of Europe.

Formation of the ghetto

The first plans to isolate the Jewish population of Warsaw had arisen immediately after the German occupation of Poland in 1939. However, the German administration of the General Government was not fully organized at the time, and there were conflicts of interest between the three main actors: the civil service, the army and the SS. In these circumstances, the Jewish Council, or Judenrat, led by Adam Czerniaków, managed to delay the establishment of the ghetto for a year, especially appealing to the military to consider the Jews as an important labor resource.

The ghetto was finally established by the German Governor General for Poland, Hans Frank, on October 16, 1940. At that time, the ghetto population was around 380,000 people, about 30% of the total population of Warsaw. Instead, its size occupying only 2.4% of the territory. During the year and a half Jews from the city and neighboring towns children were forcibly moved to the ghetto. Diseases (especially typhoid) and hunger prevailing contributed, however, to keep stable the number of inhabitants. It is considered that the food rations for Jews were officially limited to just 184 calorie s per day, while the Poles were entitled 1800 and 2400 Germans.

The Nazis shut the Warsaw Ghetto access outside the November 16, 1940, surrounding barbed wire first and then building a wall three meters high and 18 kilometers long.

Last time the ghetto

The January 20, 1942, the National Socialist leaders decided at the Wannsee Conference exterminate the Jews of Europe. The first phase of what they called the Final Solution was Operation Reinhard, for the extermination of the Jews in Poland. For this, construction began on the Treblinka extermination camp in May 1942, concluding the work in July, coinciding with the start of the liquidation of the Warsaw’s ghetto.

The July 22 began the Große Umsiedlungsaktion (“Great resettlement action”). The Judenrat was then informed that all Jews except those who worked in German factories, Jewish hospital staff, members of the Judenrat and their families and members of the Jewish police force and their families would be “deported to the East”.

The Jewish police had 6,000 Jews daily drive to the meeting point Umschlagplatz alongside the Transfertelle railways. In case of default, the Germans would shoot hundreds of hostages, including the wife of Adam Czerniaków. After trying, unsuccessfully, to convince the Nazis to withdraw their plans, the Jewish Council leader committed suicide, leaving a note that said “I can not stand it anymore.My action will show all it’s necessary to do. “. The suicide s would become a common occurrence to the harsh conditions of life: the father of Marcel Reich-Ranicki (Yiddish literary critic) would be another in the long list. The same day Czerniaków suicide on 23 July, the Jewish underground resistance meets and decides not to revolt, to believe that the Jews were being sent to labor camps and extermination.

In the fifty-two days (until September 21), 263 002 people were taken to Treblinka and to a lesser degree, to Majdanek. During the end of July, the Jewish police in the ghetto was commissioned to carry out the deportation of a total of 64,606 Jews to the death camps. From August onwards, the Germans and their allies would take a more direct role in the deportations, and in August moved to 142,223 people and 56,173 in September.

The final phase of the first mass deportation occurred between 6 and September 11, 1942. Between these dates, 35,886 Jews were deported, 2,648 executed on the spot and 60 committed suicide. After this first stage, approximately 55,000 people remained in the ghetto, either working or living German industries hidden.

During the next semester, the Jewish underground resistance was grouped into two major organizations. The ZOB (Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa, Jewish Fighting Organization) was led by Mordechai Anielewicz and had among its members between 220 and 500 people, and the other was the ZZW (Zydowski Związek Walki, “Jewish Fighting Union”), which had a similar number of members. Members of these groups believed that it was necessary to aggressively resist oppression. Its armament consisted mainly in handguns, homemade explosives and Molotov cocktails, the ZZW was better armed as a result of increased clandestine contacts with the outside of the ghetto.

Removal and ultimate destruction

On January 9, 1943, the SS commander Himmler visits the ghetto and ordered the resumption of deportations. The opening day of the second mass expulsion of Jews, nine days later, the first instance occurs armed resistance. The Jewish insurgents achieved some success: the expulsion stopped after four days, and the two main organizations fighting ghetto pass control, barricade building numerous s acting against Jewish collaborators. During the three months preparing for what would be the final fight.

The final battle would be on April 19. That day, the Germans, led by Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg, arrived with 2,054 soldiers, 36 army officers, 821 SS commandos and 363 Polish collaborators to quell the rebellion, confident that the Jews , to see them in such numbers, they would be unable and desist. As the Nazis moved through the desert ghetto, the Jewish Partisan s hidden in windows of houses and roofs of buildings, waiting armed with pistols, rifles and explosives. Eventually, troops attacked at a lower level, were exposed from many sides. The Jewish attack was highly successful and forced the Nazis to retreat without being able to arrest civilians, as these were properly hidden in underground bunkers built for the occasion.

This event drew the ire of Himmler, who replaced Sammern-Frankenegg von Jürgen Stroop, who had no experience in formal combat partisans. In the days that followed, Stroop, as directed by his superior to use all necessary means, ordered the burning of all the buildings of the ghetto to force rebels out of hiding. The area was filled with black smoke and flames, to which even the Jews resisted going to the bunkers, which will soon be shown ineffective by poor conservation of food and water, plus the stale air with smoke. Many Jews were killed by the Nazis gassed in bunkers, while others preferred to commit suicide by jumping from burning buildings.

The greatest resistance was presented on April 23 and the general uprising on May 16. On the latter date, the Germans blew up the synagogue Tlomacki (which was outside the ghetto) as a sign of the end of life in the Warsaw ghetto.

According to data contribute Stroop’s report, following the lifting 56,065 Jews were captured during the days of confrontation and 631 bunkers destroyed. Stroop estimated that between 5,000 and 6,000 Jews were killed in action, 7,000 were shot and another 7,000 were deported to Treblinka, where they died. Not captured Jews deported to Treblinka were sent to forced labor camps Poniatowa, Trawniki and Majdanek.

Later estimates point out that 300 German soldiers were also killed, despite Stroop only 16 points in his report.

Hymn of the Partisans of the ghetto

The author of the original poem in Yiddish was Hirsh Glik (1922-1944), who took the melody written by Russian composer Dmitri Pokrass. Written in the Vilna Ghetto, the United Partisan Organization took it as anthem in 1943.

It is sung in the celebrations, especially on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day).


Never say that this path is the final,

Steel and lead covers a heavenly sky

Our time as dream come

Redouble our singing, hay here!

From the snow to the palms of Zion

here we are with the pain of this song

and in the place where our blood splattered

our faith and courage have to sprout.

A dawn sun illuminates our today

our enemy in yesterday will fade

and if the dawn delay his aspiration

that emblem is always that song.

With blood and fire wrote this song

not singing bird that can fly free

between the walls without fear toppled

sings a people armed with his arm value.

Never say that this path is the final,

Steel and lead covers a heavenly sky

our time as dream come

Redouble our singing, hay here!

Yiddish (Phonetics)

Zog nit kein mol az du gueist letstn dem veg,

Farshteln blaiene himlen bloie Jotsh teg.

Undzer noj Kumen oisgebenkte vet sho;

S’vet to poikt on Undzer trot: Mir zainen do!

Palmenland grinem Fun fun biz shnei vaisn land,

Mir kumen on mit Undzer pain, mit Undzer vei.

A gefaln vu Undzer s’iz to Shprits fun blut -

Undzer dort Shprotsn gvure vet, Undzer mut.

Undz bagildn S’vet dem di morgnzun haint,

A vet nejtn farshvindn mitn der faind.

Nor oib farzamen di zun vet in dem kaior,

I saw two lid parol gein zol fun dor tsu dor.

Two lid geshribin iz nit mit mit blut one blai,

Geshribn two lid iz nit mit mit blut one blai

S’iz nit kein lidl fun to foigl oif der friars.

Two hot to vent falndike folk tsvishn

Two lid naganes in gezungen mit di hent.

To zog nit kein mole letstn as du gueist dem veg,

Bloye farshteln blayene himlen jotsh teg.

Undzer noj Kumen oisgebenkte vet sho;

Undzer ton Poik S’vet to trot: Mir zainen do!

Hebrew (Phonetic)

By na take “Hine darki ha’ajarona

et or haoim histiru smei ha’anana

od yom ze ya’al nijsafnu what ve’iabo,

or mitzadeinu iar’im od:

Anajnu po!

Hatamar Me’eretz ad iarketei kforim

be’majhovot po Anajnu ve’iesurim

sahm dameinu ve’asher nigra tipat

od ianuv rujeinu ha’lo be’gvura oz.

Amud Hashachar to iomeinu or ye’el

im ha’tzorrer iajlof tmuleinu as Tzeltal.

Aj im jalila iajer wash haor -

ie’he schism hashir burn me you dor dor

Ve’haoferet hadam hu Be’ktav nijtav

Shirat what hadror Tzipor Hu ve’hamerjav

ssaruhu noflim bei ki kol Kirot ha’am

ve’naganim sharuhu Yachdav be’iadam.

By ken at na take “Hine darki ha’ajarona

et or haim histiru smei ha’anana

od yom ze ya’al nijsafnu what ve’iabo,

or mitzadeinu iar’im od:

Anajnu po!

Another translation

Never say that this path is the final,

because the gray sky covered the sunlight.

The long awaited moment will

and hear sound of our march.

The clamor for such anguish and pain

from the tropics to the polar ring,

and blood irrigate our inheritance,

hope will grow strong and pure.

Not a happy song, is singing rifle

Nor is freedom bird,

song of a people is bound to suffer,

lead to bloody and write verse.

Famous prisoners of the ghetto

•Władysław Szpilman, whose memories form the basis of the plot of the film “The Pianist” directed by Roman Polanski.

•Marcel Reich-Ranicki, famous literary critic nationalized in Germany.

•Simon Pullman, director of the symphony orchestra of the Warsaw Ghetto.

•Mordechai Anielewicz

•Adam Czerniaków

•Marek Edelman

•Bronisław Geremek

•Janusz Korczak

•Emanuel Ringelblum

•Yitzhak Katznelson, poet and playwright.

•Irena Sendler, Polish social worker who saved over 2500 children from the Ghetto.


•Grynberg, Michal (ed.). Voices from the Warsaw Ghetto, Ed Alba, Barcelona, ​​2004, ISBN 84-8428-225-2.

•Ringelblum, Emanuel. Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto, Ed Alba, 2003, ISBN 84-8870-73-X.

•Berg, Mary, The Warsaw Ghetto.Diary, 1939-1944, Sefarad Editores, Madrid, 2010.

•Murguia Martinez, Beatriz, dark life.The Warsaw Ghetto, 1940-1943, Sefarad Editores, Madrid, 2009.

•Zimler, Richard, The Warsaw Anagrams, Ediciones Urano, 2012

Warsaw Ghetto

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