Women of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising remembered

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Women of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising remembered

This year's commemorations celebrates the part played by women, including teenagers and mothers, who helped fight the German troops.

Women from all backgrounds took part in the uprising
Women from all backgrounds took part in the uprising

Holocaust educators in Warsaw this week launched an online campaign to commemorate the city’s famous Ghetto Uprising of 1943, with a particular emphasis on the stories of Jewish female fighters.

People around the world are posting pictures of themselves holding the paper daffodil that has become the symbol of the largest uprising led by Jews during the Second World War and the first significant urban revolt against German occupation. 

The uprising began on 19 April 1943, when German troops moved into the Warsaw Ghetto to deport its remaining 75,000 inhabitants. It lasted until May, when Nazi soldiers finally defeated the resistance, killing 35,000 Jews in the process and leaving the ghetto in ruins. In total around 300,000 ghetto Jews were killed.

Every year, volunteers pass out paper daffodils – the symbol of the campaign to residents – on the streets of Warsaw, but owing to the pandemic, supporters have this year been taking selfies with the daffodils and publishing them on social media under the hashtag #WarsawGhetto

This year also celebrates the part played by women, including teenagers and mothers, who helped fight the German troops. They played several key roles, including weapons supply, communications, and direct combat.

Among the more famous were Niuta ‘Wanda’ Tejtelbaum, known for her bunches and for saying: “I am a Jew and a communist; my place is among the most active fighters against fascism, in the struggle for the honour of my people, for the independence of Poland, and for the freedom of humanity.”

Images of the women fighting are very rare, but the SS commander who oversaw the liquidation of the ghetto was so impressed by the bravery of three Jewish women forced from a bunker with a weapons cache by SS troops that he included an image of them in his official report.

It shows Bluma Wyszogrodzka, who was shot, and Małka Zdrojewicz and Rachela Wyszogrodzka, who were deported to Majdanek, where the latter was killed.

This week, a representative for POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, said: “Many women from all kinds of backgrounds played key roles. All demonstrated great strength and courage in the face of unthinkable circumstances.

“There are so many stories that come to light every year, even now, 78 years later, and they are all really fascinating.”

Notable Jewish women of the resistance

Rachel Zylberberg 

Gave reports on the scale of the extermination of Jews in Lithuania, including the mass murder in Ponary; recruited for armed resistance.

Frumka Płotnicka

Organised self-defence units; established contacts with the Polish underground; smuggled weapons into the ghetto. Seconded to Bedzin ghetto in 1942 to organise resistance.

Rachel Zylberberg and Frumka Płotnicka

Rachela Auerbach
Worked with underground newspapers; wrote about living conditions in the ghetto; wrote about – and researched – the Warsaw Ghetto as one of the few Jewish survivors.

Mira Fuchrer

Member of the Jewish Combat Organisation; partner of the leader of the uprising, Mordeichai Anielewicz,
whom she died alongside.

Vladka Meed

Smuggled in weapons; used ID of daughter of a trusted Polish collaborator to escape; delivered money, clothes and information to the ghetto from the forest, where she hid.

Mira Fuchrer, Rachela Auerbach, Vladka Meed

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